15 The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Central Oregon Coast, August 2120

Georges barely left the lab in the next 24 hours (except to get a cappuccino and croissant, could you blame him, cherie?) The next afternoon after the CME event the cellular towers had powered up and Georges set about configuring the radio array to amplify the 10g signal and then squirt it through the tiny wormhole opening. He sent a text message to Jules to let her know the transmitters were functioning.


Several minutes passed while Georges paced.


While Georges waited for Jules to call him, he returned to the wormhole and continued his attempt to enlarge the opening using the Wand, but it remained unchanged. He was forcing himself to keep busy in order to not deal with the rising anxiety about Jules’s predicament. The lab was abuzz with other Physics team members who were running computer simulations and hatching scenarios that might lead to a solution to bring Jules home. It was all Georges could do to keep from telling PoESA that their negligent demand that the team manifest a wormhole before any of them understood how it worked had caused this catastrophic accident. But PoESA was not an organization that supported free speech among its employees and they would simply replace him with someone who agreed that ends justified the means. Probably someone taller, and less cute. Georges was not the confrontational type, anyway; he preferred a more passive-aggressive style, sprinkled liberally with sub-vocalized French insults and well-placed snark. Ultimately, they were all responsible, not just soulless assholes like Janus—all of them. Every team member who took part in this recklessness, all the while clucking at the impatient whims of a corporation.  And now Jules was paying the price for their lack of caution.

His alternately angry, anxious, and guilt-ridden thoughts were disturbed by one of the project linguists, a woman named Darin.

“Hi, Georges. You look so sad! Don’t worry, we’re going to get her back.” She said as she patted Georges’ arm. Georges looked up.

“Any news?”

“Yes!” Darin plopped down next to Georges on a stool. “We’ve been working on a particular set of symbols that we thought looked familiar.” Darin whipped out a pad that showed a two-dimensional image of grouping of symbols from the box that arrived with the Wand. “This one.” With her stylus, she circled a set of three S-shapes on their sides, overlapping. “When we see this in pictographic alphabets, we usually think ‘water’ or a body of water or some reference to a liquid. But that just didn’t seem right—in this context, anyway. It seems highly unlikely that such an advanced civilization wouldn’t have produced a more representational or phonetic alphabet. So here we were banging our heads on the wall, trying to pull language out of all the symbols. But then an engineer stopped by today and he immediately made a connection.” Darin used the stylus to drag another image next to the first one. “See it?”

Georges peered closely at the two images. “They are not the same, but very similar. What is it?”

“We think it’s a phase shifted sine wave. So we started looking at the other circles and squiggles and lines.” She panned out on the image to show connected lines and circles. “And they look like electrical notation. We think it’s a circuitry schematic.”

“The box is the power source for the wormhole, not the Wand.” Georges said. Of course! Why did he and Jules not see that? It seemed so obvious now.  Darin nodded.

“That’s the theory. We’re working with the electrical engineers to see what else we can decipher. There are some symbols that don’t appear to be a part of the diagram, so Linguistics is still working on those. And there are some really freaky ones that look like they’re connected but so far no clue what they represent.” She zoomed in on a pictograph that looked like a stylized sun that had been stretched out to an oblong, with extremely long rays. “But my team has high res images to work on, so we don’t need the unit itself. Engineering is going to be bringing the box to your lab to work on restoring its power, and maybe you can reopen the wormhole.”

Georges was visibly relieved about this potential solution to get Jules home, and he began typing a message to inform the lab team when his phone rang.

“Jules! What’s going on? Are you alright, Cherie?”

“I’m fine! When the 10g signal hit my phone, it forced an OS update that restarted it and defaulted the vibration ringer to ON. And it was—well, bad timing.” Jules blurted out, her breath short as if she was power walking. “Why? What’s new with you?” She then asked conversationally, as if she had just called for a catch up.

“We have found the power source for the Wand.” He relayed what Darin had just told him.

“No shit! But didn’t the engineers scan that thing? They didn’t detect any electromagnetic signatures. Hmmm. Oh, well. See? There you go thinking you’re the smartest quantum physicist in the room and BAM! An electrician walks in and runs circles around you. Gotta love the trades. Maybe I’ll marry one. So what’s the plan?”

“The engineers are bringing the box in here so we can try to restore the power. We’re starting from scratch here; there isn’t exactly a charging port on it and we don’t know if any power source we have is compatible. Then there is the EMP energy still buzzing around, it’s going to take a while to fully discharge from electronics board backplanes and the like. So we don’t know if that’s also going to interfere.”

“Uh huh.” Jules sighed. “Is there anything I can do on my side?”

“I don’t think so, but we’ll know more soon. Just be safe and stay close to the wormhole and the cellular signal.”

“Ok, I’ll lie low and try to stay out of trouble.”

“Oh, but that is not likely, is it, Chou Chou?” Georges teased. “Tell me about your new man friend.” Jules stuttered.

“He’s um, well, he’s an earl, but he doesn’t seem to be very good at it. He lives alone in this giant, moldy house that’s falling apart at the seams. He has this stringy, obnoxious maid who looks like a baby stealer. Seriously, if I had a baby I would keep a close eye on it with that one skulking around. And he’s growing the mother of all mutton chops on his face. I swear to you, have never seen anything like these sideburns; they are colossal. But he’s nice. He’s…” Jules trailed off. “He’s nice. Intelligent and thoughtful.” Georges detected a quality in Jules’ voice that he had encountered little in their nearly decade-long relationship. She sounded distracted and—this was the très bizarre part—dreamy. And that was not a trait that appeared frequently in the Julia James’ conversational repertoire. “Fuck!” Jules exclaimed, derailing Georges’ musings.  “That weird, chubby kitchen maid is spying on me again. She looked at me like I was a serial killer when we were at breakfast and she’s been following me around. I think she’s some kind of zealot. I have to go. Go fix the box and message me later. But don’t call, just in case.” Jules broke off the call.

Georges returned to his message for the Physics team. While he waited for arrival of the engineering team with the power unit, he made a fresh cup of coffee (his own personal stash of fairly traded, small batch roasted, organic beans—not that supermarket chaff the peasants drank), stretched, rubbed his eyes and readied himself for another long day.

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