9 You’re So Far Away

Central Oregon Coast, August 2120

Part 10, read all chapters here

There was a loud crash as someone in the dark lab knocked something over. The power had gone out during the EMP event a few minutes before and the automatic generator fail-over was not functioning. Georges groped along the wall for the manual switch and flipped it over. The emergency lights came on and Anthropology team leader Anne looked around to make sure everyone had made it out. She hugged Jill and Keiko when she saw them.

“Anne, where’s Jules? She was right behind me and Jill.” Asked Keiko worriedly. Anne turned to Georges, who was close to panicking.

“She’s not here! The wormhole is gone and Jules is not here.” He cried. Anne dispatched several of the team to go to Cosmology and find out the solar storm status, but before they left the room Jim and Rachael entered to share the latest update. Jim, decked out in his usual sock/sandal combination, read the status from the tablet in his hand.

“Okie-doke! The solar flare zapped us pretty good. Transformers all over the planet are off line. Fortunately, we issued our warning with enough notice for energy producers to supply protection. Our local power authority had backup units protected by Faraday cages ready to go on alternate circuits so they expect to have the grid re-initialized by morning.” A small cheer went up in the lab. Jim held up his hand. “Before you go out and party there are few other issues. It could be a few days before cellular networks are back in business, ditto the internet since a lot of data centers are dark right now. And a hundreds of satellites are also offline so you may not want to count on GPS for a bit. Most of the satellite operators had protection built in to the orbital units, but their computers shut them down when they detected the electromagnetic wave. Let’s start pulling the electronics out of the protected closets and get them ready. Make sure all the UPS surge protectors are programmed in to step-up the power gradually so we don’t fry a few billion dollars in equipment.” Jim had launched into a list of affected systems when Georges interrupted him.

“Jim, we need to call PoESA admin. The wormhole collapsed and Jules didn’t make it back.” Jim looked stricken.

“How did that happen?” Jim asked. Keiko and Jill described their meeting with Jules just before they returned through the wormhole.

“It was raining, really hard.” Jill said shakily. “It turned into a huge storm with thunder and lightning and wind. I think I saw a flash just as I went through. What if she’s hurt?” Anne sent Jill and Keiko to go change and dry off, and Jim left to call Janus and tell her about Jules’ disappearance. Meanwhile, Georges had fetched the Wand and was working to re-establish the wormhole. Since the Wand didn’t use shore power (actually they had no idea what kind of power it used), he was hopeful that he could establish the portal again. After several attempts, which resulted in a normal-looking aperture that fizzled out, he stabilized the wormhole, but it remained the size of a quarter. Still, if he squeezed a radio or microwave signal through it, he might at least be able to locate Jules and make sure she was unharmed. He sent Tony into the lab storage room to retrieve the radio equipment that he and Jules had been using for their last research project, the one that had been cut short due to lack of funding (and general interest.)

Tony helped him set up the transmitter and plug it into generator-backed power, then Georges tapped in the frequency to match the receiver on the scanner Jules had been carrying. If the scanner was within a few miles of the wormhole, it should be able to receive the signal. Georges typed a message into the console,

<ARE YOU OK?

Then he pressed the send key. He waited for several minutes, but there was no response. He looked sadly at Tony.

“She may have turned it off. Don’t worry, man. We’ll keep trying.” Tony consoled. Georges and Tony tried resending the signal for several hours, and finally Georges realized he was going to have to give it up for the night, as it was 3am. He was about to leave when he remembered that the scanners had a “wake-on-signal” mode that allowed them to be turned on remotely. As soon as he had entered the code, he transmitted the message again. 30 seconds passed then he received a reply:

<I’M FINE

<YOU WILL NOT FUCKING BELIEVE WHERE I AM