Dystopia Chapter 2

From the Story Arc: Dystopia

Previous Story in the Arc: Dystopia - Sofia's Journal by Krasnaya Zarya (Tuesday, July 04, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 10 - Cont. by Krasnaya Zarya (Saturday, July 08, 2006)

(posted Thursday, July 06, 2006)

“It worked!”

The exuberant shout filled the laboratory, ringing off the metallic walls and echoing down the hallway. There was no response to the cry, nor was one expected by the only occupant of the abandoned base. Only the low hum of the power generators and the silent throb of the portal system accompanied the lone scientist, so long as one did not count his counterpart, staring back at him from another dimension.

He raised up a hand in warning to his other self as he quickly moved about his workspace, flipping a couple switches and grabbing various odd-looking devices, pocketing them into his long white lab coat. Once satisfied that he had all the equipment necessary for the task ahead of him, he approached the ominous vortex, the entryway into another space-time. He paused at the threshold, whipping out an apparent Geiger-counter, a long metallic rod attached – via some thin cable – to his PDA. The antenna stabbed through the portal, causing various numbers and figures to flash across the screen. Satisfied, he folded both objects and returned them to his jacket.

His alternate self waited with an amused expression, hands clasped behind his back.

Grinning, Alex ran his eyes across the edge of the portal, admiring the powerful energies that were able to perform such wonders, and possibly grant him the miracle he'd longed for these past few decades. He stuck out a hand through the tear, giving a small test of the portal he'd designed. When he brought his hand back and checked to be sure he still had all his fingers, he nodded and took the final steps into the other world.

He was immediately struck by how different the other side was. The air was a little thinner, much more artificial, tasteless – like being in a clean room. Yet this was unlike any clean room he'd seen, but rather like an old science fiction film; large mechanical devices lined the walls, seemingly random tesla coil-like structures jutting out at odd angles. It looked like the parts were stolen from the Clockwork by the Freakshow, and put together by Dr Vahzilok. If any of those groups existed in this universe...

His gaze focused on his alternate self. Apparently this alternate world had more advanced medicines, probably contributing to his alternate self's survival, for this Alex looked younger – mid-thirties, perhaps? Only a little older than he had been during the Chernobyl accident. The fashion was much more spartan here, more like in the old Soviet Union, with his alternate self wearing an old corduroy suit. His hair was cropped short, something he couldn't manage, with his highly charged self causing his hair to grow wildly. Hopefully, the languages were still the same...

“Greetings from my dimension, Alex,” Alex said in Russian, extending his hand out to his alternate self. Did they shake hands here? I've been in the States too long... Am I still in the States, now? The questions raced through his mind, but he held back his curiosity; his alternate self was probably having the same questions.

“Welcome to mine. But I go by Aleksander,” came the response. They went through the ceremonial handshake, both of them nodding their heads in time with their arms. They stared at each other a moment, entirely unsure how to proceed. After a few pregnant seconds, they both burst into laughter.

“Where to begin... Want to see my lab?” The native Aleksander asked, gesturing around the room. He turned and walked over to a nearby console, covered in switches and levers and little blinking lights. He waited for the other to follow, but gave a look of surprise as he watched him push a few buttons on his PDA, and the portal closed, reverting to a small vortex of darkness before winking out entirely. He raised an eyebrow at him. “What did you do that for?”

“Oh, that should be obvious. I know better than to leave an open portal laying around.” Alex chuckled, sliding the PDA back into the inside of his labcoat. The white fabric hung heavily as he walked across the room, loaded down as it was by so many gadgets. “Sofia would kill me if she knew I'd left it.”

“Sofia?” Aleksander paused, eyes closed for a moment or two. He opened them and saw the worry on Alex's face. “Oh, she exists in this dimension. I was just surprised to learn we were close enough to both have married her.”

Alex nodded, smiling softly. “Yes, well, I specifically chose similar worlds. Specifically, something that wouldn't have diverted from mine until after my birth. I was going to make the difference be after Chernobyl, but that might be too hard to find.” He stopped moving as he reached the console, staring down at it. His eyes followed two large coiled pipes that led from it back to where he came from. It was only then that he noticed the massive tripod that had stood just behind his portal, large tesla coil jutting out of the top. “Is that what you used to intercept my portal?”

“Of course! Good to know I'm not stupid in your world...” Aleksander snickered, broad grin on his face. He turned back to the console, ignoring Alex's scowl. “This panel controls the disruptor pylon, and it is what sent the interruption signal. Over here are the feeds – for electricity – to the whole system. This is, of course, just a small part of my lab.” He waved to even large cables jutting out from the wall. They were in a small sealed room, with massive double-doors closed tightly. There were large vents in the ceiling, probably providing the artificial air that Alex had noted earlier. He ambled over to a small panel next to the door, which appeared to just be a small plate of glass, with a green backlight.

“I'll have to find a different locking mechanism, with you around,” Aleksander mused out loud as he placed his palm on the plate. The green backlight flared momentarily, then dimmed out entirely. The sealed doors slid open, bathing the room with yellow light from the bulbs that hung in a line down the corridor. Alex noted that the room, as well, as light by incandescent, not fluorescent, light.

“But why would I keep secrets from myself?” Alex jibed back, following his other self through the massive doorway and into the hallway beyond. Just like previous area, the hallway was built not of the smooth panels and pillars that were favored by the Crey, but of bare concrete. He had a pretty good hunch that it was all steel-reinforced, especially after the mistake at Chernobyl. He looked at his companion. “Are we still in Russia?”

“Yes. Siberia, of course.” They slowly marched down the hallway, their feet in perfect time. They passed a pair of small doors, without stopping. There were several more on both sides, which Alex assumed were all for running different experiments. Aleksander seemed to be leading him to second pair of large double-doors at the other end of the hallway. “It's one of the few places where it is easy to be alone, outside of Antarctica. Or America.”

“America?” Alex laughed, shaking his head. “People say you can get lost in the crowd, and it's true... But it's not possible to be alone there. I've tried very hard to run the portal in silence, but that's tough in Paragon Ci... ty?” He froze, noticing Aleksander had done the same thing. He raised an eyebrow, quickly putting two and two together. “Aleksander... In this universe... What happened to the United States?”