The Quantum Cave was built into the sheer wall of a cliff. We had originally built it as a safe location to conduct our trials far from everyone else. We didn’t want anyone to get hurt in case something went wrong. That turned out to have been a good idea. I can’t imagine the devastation that would have resulted from the accident. Fortunately, I was the only one caught in the explosion. David Lovell, my partner and mentor, had been behind tons of reinforced steel and safety equipment. Even then he had still suffered a serious concussion and almost lost his arm. I think about all the people that could have died or worse turned out like me. I had thought I was going to die for the longest time, but with David’s help we had managed to make it bearable for a little while. I wish now he hadn’t spent all that time with me. If he hadn’t been in that second accident when we had the instability overload, he’d still be alive today.
That second accident had left me alone and in great pain. I was unable to move and for a while it became impossible to even think. I would have died out there if it wasn’t for Doc. If she hadn’t risked her life to check on us.
She said when she found me she thought I was dead, that I must have been. I had been lying there for over a week. But Jennifer never let a mystery go unsolved. She was just like her father in that way. She was the one that discovered that I was still alive, that I had been transformed. Using her father’s notes, she figured out a way to dispel the instability that had been growing in my body. I thank god that she did. I hate to think what could have happened had she not. It wouldn’t have mattered how secluded the Cave was.
Doc quit her job and started working with me, taking her father’s place. I tried to tell her no, but she wouldn’t have it. I assume it’s because of a responsibility she feels toward her father, finishing his life work, cleaning up his mistake. I have to respect that. I could never deny her that chance. I owe her. I know she blames me for her father’s death. And so do I.
“You need to get into The Box. You’re at 47% instability.”
“47, Doc?” I glanced sidelong at The Box. “Is that all? I think I can wait a little longer.”
Doc set her fists on her hips. “The limit we set is 60. You could do that in a few hours.”
“Or a few days,” I rebutted.
She fixed her glare on me. “It’s not going to take a few days. It never does.”
I looked away. I knew I wasn’t going to win this one, but I pressed on anyway. This was a good body. I didn’t want to lose it so quickly. “But it can. I think we can wait.”
“You know we can’t. Waiting could put everyone in danger. You need to go into The Box.”
“Come on, Doc. Do you know how often I get to be in a young, virile, MALE body? After 5 days as Grandma, it’s nice to be like this again.”
“I understand, Frank. I do. I sympathize. Really. But we can’t take that risk. If your body goes completely unstable…”
“I know. I know. Geez, you’re just like your father…” My heart stopped. What had I said? “Oh, Jen, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to say that!”
Doc rolled her eyes. “It’s ok, Frank. It’s been 6 years. I’m ok. Just get in the box so we can reboot your quantum levels.”
I didn’t argue this time. Real slick, Frank. Talk about the girl’s dead father who you killed a little more. Idiot! I stepped into the Quantum Stability Chamber and braced myself as the door slammed shut.
Doc realized pretty quickly that the methods we had been using to handle my instability weren’t going to be enough. At the time, it required daily treatment to keep in check. The second accident proved that that method didn’t work. To solve that problem, she created The Box. The Quantum Stability Chamber was not actually a box in shape but an icosahedron with a slightly awkward triangular door. It was built for a single person, which made sense since I was the only person with my condition, but inside it was big enough to hold three, four If you squeezed them.
The chamber switched on. Slowly, I could feel the charge start to build, like every molecule in my body was being individually excited. I tried not to scream, but that rarely worked. After an unending handful of seconds, the pain stopped and everything went numb. After a few minutes, I picked myself up from the floor. “Frank? You ok?”
“Just peachy, Doc.” The door popped open and I slowly try to find my way out…but I bump up against the doorway. Figuring I was groggier than I thought, I tried again. Again, I wouldn’t fit! I looked down at myself. “Oh my god!” I was so fat! I was too fat to fit through the door! Jennifer was laughing as she walked over. I glared at her, furiously. “That’s real nice. Thanks.”
“Sorry, Frank.” She was grinning ear to ear. “Let me help.” She grabbed one of my arms and started pulling. It didn’t help.
“Thank god, Jamal isn’t here,” I muttered. “I’d never hear the end of it.”
Suddenly, the alarm went off! “I didn’t break it, did I?”
Jennifer let go of my arm and ran to the computer. “No, it’s not the… It’s the temporal alarm!”
Jamal came swinging into the room, followed by his daughter. “What’s going on?” He turned to me and immediately started laughing.
“The temporal alarm,” I told him. He stopped laughing.
Jamal’s eyes go wide with terror. “Oh my god! No! Not…!” He turned his head as a woman appeared in the middle of the room. “Noooooo!” he roared. She smiled at him.
Jamal ran at her, ready to attack. He would terrify most people, but the woman didn’t even bat an eye. Instead, she waved her hand and he went flying across the room. Bouncing off the wall, he picked himself off the floor. “What do you want?”
“What do you think I want?” she replied, casually. “My daughter.”
“Nooooooooooooo!” Mathilda grabbed a machine gun from the wall and pulled the trigger.
With a gesture, the woman stopped the bullets in mid-flight. She shook her head in disapproval. “Come now, Matti. You know better than that.”
to be continued…