From the 'Taur's Mouth (part 3)

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Posted by Lucius Appaloosius on October 10, 2003 at 14:40:50:

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In Reply to: From the 'Taur's Mouth (part 2) posted by Lucius Appaloosius on October 08, 2003 at 21:40:33:


(NOTE: Dear reader - if you are in fact still reading this - this chapter contains about the only real action in the entire staury; don't blink, or you'll miss it.)

I awoke the next morning in my little annex, determined to find out the secrets of this so-called 'Portable Hole'. After a quick brushing of my hair, plus what I could reach of my coat, I stepped out into the corridor, eager to explore.

However, I was immediately buttonholed by one of the Professor's assistants, a human named Millmoss, with orders to fetch some breakfast from the University cafeteria. Burdened with a pair of battered plastic panniers, I was directed to the kitchen entrance; where I was laden with bottles of juice, jugs of coffee, several boxes of doughnuts, and a large pot of oatmeal with stewed apples (for the Professor and myself). By the time I returned, as weary and sweaty as a pack mule, I found that the door to the lab which had so intrigued me was shut and locked.

Indeed, I was to see nothing of that room for the next few weeks: my role at the Physics department seemed to be that of gofer and general dogsbody. When not hauling meals, laundry and heavy electrical equipment across campus, I was expected to 'make myself useful'. This involved sweeping and mopping floors, delivering incomprehensible memos from office to office (remember, this was in the pre-email period); anything, in fact, that the lab staff considered beneath their dignity.

However, one day, the monotony was broken when Millmoss took me aside after lunch. I had already resolved to quit my menial position and head back home: in fact, I had packed what few possessions I had brought with me (including a few family mementos) into my saddlebags, when I was startled by his sudden appearance by my side.

"Hey Loosh," he said cheerily ('Loosh' was his nickname for me), "I got a treat for you. We're going to fire up the Hole for a test this afternoon: want to watch?"

"Sure," I replied. Not only would I get a break from my chores for an hour or so; but I would be able to see the mysterious 'Hole' in action. If I could not go adventuring among the worlds, perhaps I might get a fleeting glimpse at the wonders of the Multiverse; at the very least, I could expect an entertaining technological light show.

The lab was packed with staff, University board members and a few (I supposed) Government observers, humans and 'taurs alike. Millmoss whispered some explanations into my ear; which, to this day, remain my entire knowledge of interdimensional physics.

He began with a very simplified description of the Multiverse (which I have, rather awkwardly, summarized in my Preface); then he went on to explain the 'Hole's' intended purpose.

It seems that a point of coincidence between universes, while usually occurring in some inaccessible region of space-time, could, according to Prof. Selbstreiter's theories, be shifted to, and indeed controlled within, a fixed
and convenient location. This much I understood: the technical jargon which followed was beyond me. But the implication was clear enough: as I had guessed, the 'Hole' was, indeed, a portal between worlds.

The chatter of the crowd died down as the Professor himself, his rather meager tail held proudly high, clattered into the lab. In a few words , even less comprehensible than Millmoss's, he recapped the explanation I have so far given, adding a few self-congratulatory phrases by the way. His next words, however, took me completely by surprise.

"I see, gentlemen, we have the youngest member of our research team, Lucius, present at this historic event. Perhaps he would do the honor of switching on the ICMVV?"

I shuffled forward, taking care not to step on the toes of human bystanders, and entered the circle of dignitaries gathered around the device. As I approached the stand, the professor leaned toward me and whispered:

"Just push the button, kid, and don't screw up."

Now, in most science-fiction tales (or at least, in those I had read), the primary control for the Mysterious Machine was a massive lever, a spark-showering knife switch or some other important-looking piece of machinery. The ICMVV, however, was actuated by a simple, unassuming chromium toggle. With no more ceremony, therefore, than a flick of the finger, the deed was done.

"Gentlemen," the Professor declaimed, as the circuits began to warm up, and as he shoved me once again into the background, "a new era in exploration begins here; thanks to the bold folks at -"

(This is the action I mentioned)

He broke off suddenly, as the electronic hum rose to an (apparently) unexpected pitch. Feet and hooves were flying, as the assembled company dove for cover. It was as much as I could do to prevent myself from being crushed in the panic.

The next moment, I found myself hurtling, croup-over-crown, into oblivion.

(There: is that melodramatic enough for you?)


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