Erik waved over his data pod and found the name he needed, Dr. Voguebuk. Dr. Voguebuk was one of Erik’s earliest mentors and one of only a handful of people that had the intellectual capacity to understand him. If anyone could help explain what Erik was experiencing it was Dr. Voguebuk.
After Julia’s shapely form disappeared from Erik’s peripheral, he started on his way to Dr. Voguebuk’s office which wasn’t very far from his own lab. Erik didn’t walk much, not when sky boards made physical locomotion redundant. Today, he needed it. The events of the past few hours had drained him. He felt weak and off balance. This was a new experience for him and he didn’t like feeling lost and uncertain.
The sky boards were whizzing by him, various people in all manner of unified dress were headed this way and that. Some stood motionless atop their sky board reading from their data-grams without a care in the world. They were completely disconnected from reality it seemed. The data-grams floated in front of their eyes, flashing the latest world event before them. Others were speaking into the air, conversing via electron probe-lines with colleagues or whomever. No one walked anymore and the sight of Erik making his way across the great bastion way went unnoticed. No one cared and Erik wouldn’t have either but today was not a normal day and Erik noticed a little of everything as he walked. There were weeds growing along the bastion way! There were rustic streaks of oxidation painted across the base lamps that lined the bastion. Pieces of paper flirted and tumbled across the picturesque lawns that abutted the office spaces on either side of the bastion. There was a faint odor in the air near one of the rain run offs. Erik glanced around for the origin of the foul odor. Down into the run off lay a lumpy hairy form. A cat, from the looks of it, lay sprawled along the grating, its hair and flesh rotted away. Erik paused, starring at the dead thing in amazement. He had never seen so much garbage and debris in Center City downtown. The rover bots ran on 24 hour cycles and these things should not have been missed. Erik made a mental note and continued on.
When Erik reached Dr. Voguebuk’s office, he found the old man wheezing slowly, hunched over his desk. The adjacent lab was dark but looked empty. None of his normal attendants were on hand. He was alone, something Erik found disconcerting. The professor was never alone. He always had students about. His lab was always abuzz with graduate student activity and his desk seemed perpetually surrounded by candidates seeking an audience with him. Erik approached the slumping man.
Dr. Voguebuk was 76 years old and he looked every bit of it. As Erik got closer he could see the deep lines of age etched into his worn face. He really looked old and tired. He barely registered Erik’s presence. He slowly lifted his face to look directly at Erik. His shoulders were heaving slowly as he appeared to struggle to draw enough air. Erik was puzzled by this because although Dr. Voguebuk was old, he was in very good health last he heard.
“Dr. Voguebuk, are you alright”, Erik whispered. There was a pause and Dr. Voguebuk glanced around his office and then at his lab window.
Slowly and with strain, Dr. Voguebuk replied, “No. I am not. Why are you here?” His words were barely audible.
“I saw something I cannot explain and I was hoping you might be able to help me understand what it is I saw”, Erik said. At that, the doctor’s breathing slowed. He straightened himself and looked up into Erik’s face and into his eyes specifically. Eternity seemed to pass before he spoke.
“I am afraid Erik”, the doctor wheezed. “If you can’t explain it, and the event has brought you here to my door, then I am afraid the trouble is far bigger than any explanation I provide can handle. What happen?”
Erik shared the whole story with his mentor. He left out no detail and was precise in his telling. He even shared his observations during his walk to the professor’s office. When he finished, Dr. Voguebuk’s face was pale. The professor nodded his head and looked down. Erik thought the professor was about to collapse and moved towards the old man. Dr. Voguebuk lifted a hand to stop him and pointed at his workstation instead.
“There at my workstation is the answer I believe you seek”, the professor said. His breathing grew labored again. Erik walked to the workstation and saw the various hand written notes and pages of formulas. They all looked the same as through the professor had been repeating himself over and over again, performing the same proofs with the same results. Erik sat at the work station and began pouring over the professor’s notes. It didn’t take long. Erik spun in his chair and looked directly at the professor, a look of incredulity spreading across on his face.
“Is this what I think it is Sir?”
The professor rose, his legs shaking, weak with strain and said, “Yes, it is. One of my graduate students came across a particular effect after applying the Third Theorem of JorgonBass. We had never encountered this particular effect and started running tests to confirm the results”, said the professor. The Third Theorem of JorgonBass suggested that when anti-matter was held at zero molecular activity, a chain reaction occurs that produces solar radiation equal in proportion to the mass of the anti-matter being held at zero molecular activity. It was JorgonBass’ theorem that made the great skybridge possible. It was a breakthrough in modern quantum physics and it was one that Erik himself often applied in his many inventions.
“We ran countless simulations and always the same results”, said professor Voguebuk.
Erik asked, “what was the effect Dr. Voguebuk?”
“Adhesion breakage across the fifth and sixth parallel”, responded Dr. Voguebuk.
Erik’s jaw dropped. “But that’s not possible Sir, it can’t be”.
“You’re looking at the results in your hand my son. You saw it and I didn’t have to explain anything. You saw the results for yourself Erik”.
“Professor”, Erik began to pace the office as he spoke, “If there is adhesion breakage, and across the fifth and sixth parallel…that means, that means that our world could phase into…” he couldn’t bring himself to say it.
“Immaterial sludge”, the professor finished for him. “Once the fifth parallel collapses, our world will cease vibrating at its present frequency. Once that happens and the sixth parallel cracks, we will start a wobble that will change our solar orbit and bring us into complete phase with the dark realm”, the professor finished and sat back into his chair.
“Sir is it possible that we’ve already started a glide path into the dark realm”, Erik asked.
“Erik, I, yes I suppose it is possible”, said the professor.
“Could that explain what I saw and experienced today?”
“Son I believe it might. You didn’t imagine this. Given our current phase and influxuity, you may have experienced inhabitants of the dark realm but since no one has ever encountered any of these entities this is speculation on my part”, explained the professor. “The question I would want answered were I you is why you? Why and how did it find you and appear to you? Why was it so personal in its attack?”
Erik mulled over the professor’s statement silently. Something had to be done.
“Sir, have you shared your findings with anyone else”, Erik asked. I noticed your office and lab are completely empty. Where is everyone?”
“Erik…what I didn’t share with you is what happened after each experiment. Each time we ran a model simulation and reproduced the effect of the Third Theorem, we would lose an attendant or a graduate student. They would just vanish. It was as if they were never here. We simply could not find them or account for them in any physical or meaningful way”, retorted the professor.
There was silence between them. Except for the low hum inside the professor’s lab, the office and surrounding area was completely still. Then Dr. Voguebuk spoke.
“I may have solved part of the effect Erik. I started working a reduction on the effect, something that would not involve any other person or put anyone else at risk. Each time I ran the reduction however…it cost me. I can’t explain it, but parts of my internal organs have started phasing in and out of the present space. My heart stopped last week and had it not been for my health tech-bot, I would not be here speaking with you now”.
Erik’s face brightened. A problem had presented itself and now he had a purpose, something he could devote his immense intellect towards solving. “How can I help professor”, Erik said, hoping rising in his voice.
“My derivations are inside my lab along with the last reduction model. I also have additional notes on my system processer”, professor Voguebuk exclaimed. The professor started to rise again when sirens started blaring inside his lab. The whole room began to shudder and the floor beneath them vibrated violently. The whole left side of professor Voguebuk started to pulse and shimmer then vanished in a bloody shredding of flesh and bone. The horrified scream of the professor lasted but an instant as he collapsed in a heap upon his office floor.
Erik stared in utter disbelief. His mind was being assaulted. His ears were overwhelmed by the sirens screaming from within the lab. He felt paralyzed with fear. He had to move, he had to do something. He closed his eyes…and the sirens stopped. The floor stopped moving and all that remained was the twisted ragged remains of his mentor, Dr. Voguebuk. The floor was thick with his blood but Erik stepped cautiously through it and made his way to the lab. Looking back at his mentor’s form Erik felt a sudden pang of loss. He couldn’t really process it but it was a new sensation for him. He felt something. He couldn’t dwell on that right now. The professor died trying to solve the effect of the Third Theorem. Erik would see to it that he did not die in vain. The answer was in Professor Voguebuk’s lab and that’s where he needed to start if he was going to save Cold World.