Dystopia Chapter 43

From the Story Arc: Dystopia

Previous Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 42 by Krasnaya Zarya (Tuesday, October 10, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 44 by Krasnaya Zarya (Thursday, October 19, 2006)

(posted Tuesday, October 17, 2006)

“He's good at that, getting knowledge from others,” came a rough voice from Alex's side. The owner, a weathered looking man well past his best years, approached Alex's table and rested his free left hand on the edge. His other hand was busy raising a cigarette back to his lips, only pausing to allow one more sentence to slide past his cracked lips: “We've been trying to get these things to work for twenty-four hours now with no luck... Hope your sharing knowledge with us soon.”

“Information should be free,” Alex murmured in reply, trying his best not to cough. Years in America had softened the resolve of his lungs, especially his decade in California, where smoking was virtually forbidden. He forced a smile at his new companion. “So sorry, but I purposefully obfuscated these things for this very reason; I don't want my enemies to use my tools against me.”

“No enemies here,” the zek smirked, “not yet, anyway.” It still amazed Alex just how much smoke the little cylinder could produce. “Give it a good couple months and you'll make them. In the meantime, we're all friends – or neutral – so you can share your technology. With me, especially.” He shifted the cigarette to his off hand and extended his right hand to be shaken. “Rubin, Isaak Pavlovich.”

“Aleksander Mikhailovich Rabinovich.” The hand was smaller than Alex's, but the grip firm and steady. Alex idly wondered if that would change with a day or two of withdrawal from smoking, then realized he was letting his mind wander. A moment later he was once more engrossed in his devices, plotting his escape. His intense stare did not go unnoticed.

“Do not worry, my new friend, we have not damaged a one of them.” His hand reached across the desk and stroked one of the metallic objects. “We would not harm such pieces of work, especially with the builder present to teach us of its construction.”

“Of course, of course...” Alex beamed, grabbing one of the machines and turning to Rubin. “Would you like a demonstration?”

All part of the new plan. Step one: The distraction.

Gaining the spellbound attention of the zeks took no more time than planning his escape, a brief flurry of activity caused by a look at a single gadget. Two different gadgets, as it were, for he was going to have to pull off quite the magic trick to get himself past the guards and the cameras, and magic tricks always required a bit of misdirection. Not that Alex believed in magic. He didn't even believe in tricks.

He believed in the foolishness of man. He believed that others believed. And that was enough.

Most of the contraptions laying out on the table were worthless without the PDA or the laptop to run the software prerequisite for their activation. It was something of a safeguard, a way of building in a limitation to ensure that nobody could steal his own devices and turn them against him. Without the key, not even he could get them to run without taking them apart and putting them back together again. Taking these apart would probably be seen as sabotage by the guards, and a no go.

That took his preferred method of transportation, his personal teleporter, out of his possible tools of escape. He would be going on foot, once more.

The demonstration that had drawn the attention of all in the room was, well, he couldn't find the word. Whatever was the opposite of “flashy”. He had picked up the long cylindrical wand from the table and fed a small amount of energy from his hand into a port at its base before pointing it at the next desk over. The desk promptly disappeared, much to the surprise of the pair of scientists working there, their papers and drafting pencils now appearing to float in midair.

“Astounding...” Rubin breathed slowly. “We couldn't make heads or tails of what that thing did...” Another across the table merely nodded, wide-eyed. “How does it work?”

“How do you make it stop?” grumpily demanded one of the two zeks leaning on apparently empty space, prodding the invisible desk with his fingers. “Some of us have work to finish...”

“Gleb Dmitriyevich, do not spoil the progress of science!” Rubin commanded, torn between asking to see the wand once more and examining the empty space where the desk once was.

“It will wear off within a couple minutes,” Alex answered, spinning the wand slowly between his finger and thumb. “No way to disable it until then, unless you have the ability to manipulate photonic fields.”

Gleb hemmed and hawed a moment, then gave Alex a small smile. “Combining your work on invisibility with my forcefields, and you could shift someone entirely out of phase with reality. Virtually.”

“Not really.” The physicist took a screwdriver from an old rusty toolbox and put it to the a small seam at the base of the wand. A flick of the wrist wedged open a small panel, revealing the screw that held the case together. “Invisible and invincible, sure, but not outside reality; our devices only serve to divert and deviate.”

“True, true,” Gleb agreed, a slight tinge of sadness in his voice. The small personal forcefield he had been repairing lay open on the desk, recently ignored in favor of Alex’s photonic Faraday cage emitter. “Sooner or later I will get the phase shifter working, but they won’t let me test my prototypes: they’re afraid I’ll use it to escape.”

“Enough, Gleb Dmitriyevich,” Rubin ordered, leaning over Alex’s shoulder to stare at the now exposed innards of Alex’s device. “Ignore Comrade Kagan, Comrade Rabinovich, he has been here just long enough to want to work, not long enough to want to laze.”

“They’re right, though.” The screwdriver was replaced by a soldering iron, making and destroying connections in the circuitry.

“Oh?”

“I will be using the prototype to escape.” Alex smiled softly, the last few sparks leaping in front of his round glasses. There was a slight pause, followed by a slap on his back and hearty guffaw from Rubin. The cigarette was down to a nub, but the man seemed unfazed by the fire approaching his fingertips. Alex replaced the case and the screw and calmly put the tools away. “But it’s no joke. I’m leaving, and I’ll take whoever wants to come with me, if you’ll lead me to where my wife is being held.”

Alex still didn’t think of the alternate Sofia as his wife, even if some part of him held a strange attraction to her. It was just easier to call her that than it was to explain the long and sordid tale.

“Keep it down! Are you mad?!” The man across the table was trying to yell as quietly as he could, hunching his shoulders and darting his eyes to the guards to underscore his urgency. “Everyone knows where the cells are, but nobody is mad enough to follow you. You can’t escape through five floors of ISB soldiers!”

“Can. I already did, once.”

“What?”

“Well, I only made it to the entrance of the base…” Alex grimaced slightly, ignoring the incredulous stare of Rubin, the sarcastic roll of the eyes of Kagan, and waved his hand over the table. “But I didn’t have my tools, then. Now, it will be easy.”

“By turning desks invisible?” Gleb Dmitriyevich Kagan snorted.

“Something like that…” Alex smirked and flipped the wand around in his fingers, relishing the feeling of all these eyes watching him, waiting for him to do something, anything. The whole time, he was feeding small traced of energy into the receptor, recharging the device at a rate that wouldn’t bring the blackouts.

The wand hummed, gave a small flash of light, then vanished into thin air.

Along with the desk, Alex’s things, and Alex himself.

Rubin stared, wide-eyed at the space where Alex had just been, his cigarette falling out of his fingers onto the hard concrete floor. The other scientist experimentally stabbed at the air with his fingertip, confirming his hypothesis of the continued existence of the desk by nearly his finger. Meanwhile, Gleb took a step back, shook his head softly, and murmured something softly to the air around him.

“Are you sure?” replied the air, sounding a lot like a certain red-haired ponytailed physicist. “I can bring along everyone…”

“Certain,” Gleb whispered. “We have family – wives, children – that Viy will take great pleasure in bringing in to replace us. You will be free, we will continue to be slaves.”

“Then we can get your families…”

“No.” Gleb watched, amused, as his coworkers searched the invisible table, finding that everything had been removed, including the old toolbox. “Too many unknown informers here, who would betray us; too many connections to our families, tethering us and them; we cannot just get up and leave this dimension.” Gleb sighed. “Viy would just find others to replace us: our freedom brings suffering to others.”

“I see…”

“Go.” Gleb made an effort not to turn his head or reach with his hand or any of the myriad other things that might give away Alex’s position behind him. “You are not Moshe, come to bring out the Jews – and the Almighty knows most of here are. Just be a Noach and get your family. The cells are back down the hall you came in from, up the elevator on the right, and onto the third sub-basement. Can’t miss them.” Gleb smiled sadly. “Now go.”

“Thank you…”

“Go.”