The Rising(2)

Wilder pulled away as far as the cab would allow, suddenly discomfited by Donati’s proximity. “We have people you can bring this to on the extraterrestrial-communication side.”

“This isn’t about communication, no,” Donati insisted. “Communication would fascinate me, not scare me.”

Wilder looked down at the wad of papers. “So this scares you?”

Donati nodded. “Taken individually, no. Taken together in the aggregate, yes.” He whipped a marker from his pocket and drew a circle on the elevator wall. “Picture this as the Earth. Here are the locations of the stimuli I just mentioned.” Donati proceeded to draw X’s to accompany his continued narration. “Tibet, the South China Sea, the northeast Pacific Ocean. A neat line,” he finished, drawing his marker across the elevator wall to connect them, “perfectly following the curvature of the Earth.” Donati popped the cap back onto his marker. “You asked me if I’m scared? I’m terrified. The prospects of this make me feel like I’m walking a tightrope with the lights out.”

“Colorful metaphor.”

“Accurate, in this case. We’re talking about seismic levels of quantum disruption accompanied by radical spikes in the discharge of electromagnetic radiation. You see what I’m getting at here?”

“No, not really,” Wilder said impatiently.

“Our lab exists on the same plane as these apparently random events. Our work could be causing disruptions leading to ripples in the time-space continuum. Or…”

“Or what?”

“The pattern could indicate contact from the other side of the doorway we’re trying to open, a precarious proposition, indeed, no matter how exciting it may be. Now do you see what I’m getting at?”

The elevator stopped. The door opened. Neither man made any motion to step out.

“All right,” said Wilder, “what would you recommend?”

Donati hesitated before responding. “Shutter the lab.”

“Our lab?”

“Until we have a better idea of what we’re dealing with.”

Wilder thrust the pages out between them. “What does this have to do with that, even remotely? And I couldn’t shutter the lab even if I wanted to.”


“You know full well why.”

“I guess I don’t.”

“You think we’re the ones in charge here, making the decisions, pulling the strings?” Wilder shook his head slowly, better to make his point. “Not even close. It’s the people pulling our strings who call the shots from behind a curtain that would make the Wizard of Oz proud.”

Wilder started to step from the elevator, but Donati latched a hand onto his forearm, restraining him. “They don’t know what we’re dealing with here; we don’t know what we’re dealing with here.”

“Are you trying to scare me, Doctor?”

“Inform you.”

“And now you have.” Wilder looked down at the hand still clamped to his suit jacket. “So if you don’t mind…”

But Donati left it in place. “Shut the lab down, Orson. There’s one more indicator I left out.”

“And what’s that?”

“The last energy readings for the quantum field displacement grids registered at an eight-point-five on the eigenstate of the wave function.”


Donati’s eyes bore into Wilder’s. “So our generators are only capable of producing slightly over seven.”

He released Wilder’s arm but the facility’s director made no effort to leave, holding a hand before the door so it wouldn’t close again. Wavering for sure, until his expression hardened anew.

“I’ll take this under advisement, review your findings in more detail, Doctor.”

Wilder had stepped out of the cab when Donati’s voice chased him back around. “Just keep this in mind.” He had his marker back out and ready by the time Wilder turned, adding a fourth X to the neat line around the Earth. “This is us, right here. I can’t explain what’s happening any better or clearer than that. I just know you need to shutter the lab until we understand this phenomenon better.”

The elevator doors started to close and this time it was Donati’s hand that stopped them.

“Under the circumstances—” Orson Wilder began.

But the sudden shrill screech of the emergency alarm blaring throughout the facility cut him off before he could continue.



The Present

A hero is no braver than an ordinary man,

but he is braver five minutes longer.




“ALL RIGHT, VISITING CAPTAIN, the call is yours.”

Alex Chin watched the referee toss the ceremonial coin into the air, watched it spiral downward upon the St. Ignatius College Prep turf field set on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the Sunset section of San Francisco.

“Heads,” he heard the captain of the Granite Bay Grizzlies say.

“It’s tails,” the referee said, stooping to retrieve the coin. “Home captain?”

“We want the ball,” Alex said, long hair matted down inside his helmet.

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