“No problem,” I replied, breezily. “We’ll just create a quantum stability chamber, right, ALAN?”
“Negative,” ALAN replied. “There are insufficient materials.”
“Insufficient? How can we not have enough materials? You understand that I mean to use your new body to make the chamber, right?”
“Affirmative. That would be the only way.”
“Then I don’t see what the problem is. You’re clearly got enough mass to spare.”
“There are several key components that are unavailable to us at this time.”
“You can’t create them with this new body?”
“Negative. I cannot”
Doc gave me a look that said, ‘and you thought you were so clever’. It was a look I had seen often. “Now what are we going to do, Frank?” she asked.
I smiled at her, not wanting to give her pleasure. “Don’t worry, Doc. We’ll think of something.”
She shook her head and rolled her eyes. I swear she was this close to saying, ‘Men’ in an exasperated tone. Instead she said, “ALAN scan Frank for quantum instability.”
“Scanning…Quantum instability at 32%.”
“32% Frank!” Jennifer exclaimed. “What are we going to do? If we don’t do something you’ll be dead in a few days!”
I didn’t like seeing her that concerned. I wish I had an answer that could have solved everything, but I didn’t. Instead, I tried to underplay it. “Don’t know, Doc, but I think we’re all getting tired. Maybe we should get some sleep.”
“Sleep?” Jennifer responded incredulously. “Sleep!”
“We’ve all been up for a day and a half, except Jamal who almost died and switched bodies. I think sleep might do us some good.”
Doc reluctantly agreed. I don’t know about her, but I didn’t get much sleep. I was too busy trying to figure out a way to solve my stability problem. Fortunately, my restless night brought with it a solution. If recreating the box wasn’t the answer, then we would just have to go for a simpler device. Before we created the Box, David and I had used what we called the Stabilizer. The Stabilizer had been a lot less permanent solution. There were 2 main problems with the Stabilizer, 1) to keep from building up too much instability, it needed to be used on a daily basis, and 2) the instability extracted from my body remained within the Stabilizer. The instability would then build up and need to be discharged somehow. Sadly, this was not a problem we ever solved.
It was also the cause of David’s death.
By the time Doc woke up, ALAN and I had constructed a working Stabilizer out of the future metal that now made up ALAN’s body. “I think it will work,” I told her. “I just don’t know what we’ll do with the castoff unstable quantum particles. If we’re really trapped here, we’ll have to deal with them.”
“We’ll deal with them later,” she replied, knowing full well what would happen if we didn’t. “Does it work?”
I shrugged. “Only one way to find out.” I turned the Stabilizer on.
I could feel every particle of my being begin to shake, my skin was like electricity, my insides were ready to explode. Existence became a blinding, searing light. There was a loud screaching sound, so shrill it grated my brain. I realized it was me screaming. When the world came back into focus, I was on the ground, huffing and puffing like I had just ran a marathon. “Did it work?”
“Scanning…” ALAN droned. “Quantum instability at 14%”
“Well,” I gasped. “I guess it works…sort of.”
to be continued…