Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

Resonance: Chapter Twenty Eight

       Last updated: Saturday, January 21, 2006 10:41 EST



    Graham followed everyone into the room. Everyone except Tamisha Kent, who lingered on the landing. Graham didn’t like the way she stared at him. Her eyes had followed him all the way up the stairs, making him feel like a freak.

    It was a large room, made all the larger by the absence of any visible furniture. White sheets were draped over objects pushed back against the walls - objects that could have been tables or boxes or just about anything bulky and rectangular. Other sheets - flecked with cream paint and brick dust - protected the floor and what looked like a large fireplace.

    And there was a man - he hadn’t noticed him at first - a short man, thick set with even thicker glasses. He was standing, motionless, in the recessed window, peering down at the street.

    “Is it all clear outside?” Kevin asked him.

    “I can’t see anyone,” answered the short man, his voice gravelly and heavily accented - a hint of something east European, a hint of American. “It looks clear to me.”

    Kevin sighed and visibly relaxed. He waved a large hand in the short man’s direction and announced. “Howard Sarkissian, third and last member.”

    “Charmed, I’m sure,” said the short man, bowing.

    “Okay, so what’s happened?” asked Annalise.

    “Two new members joined the Resonance project today,” said Kevin. “Two men we’d never heard of.”

    “Observers,” added Howard, moving away from the window. “All they did was listen and make notes. They contributed nothing to the discussion.”


    “So, they were the two men who turned up five minutes after I met you and Graham.”

    “They followed you?”

    “They must have. They said they were in the area and wanted to see the new offices.”

    “You talked to them?” Annalise’s eyes widened in surprise.

    “I had to. They’d heard the noise in the basement and came down to investigate.”

    “So they said,” added Tamisha. Graham hadn’t noticed her enter the room. He watched her circle slowly behind him.

    “Did they ask what you were doing there?” asked Annalise.

    “I told them the same thing. The offices were close by and I wanted to try my new desk for size.” 

    “Wait,” said Annalise. “These two men. Did they follow you here?”

    “We’re not stupid,” snapped Tamisha. “Each of us came by different routes, we changed taxis, changed subway trains…”

    “I even went into a department store and ran out the fire exit,” said Howard, clearly pleased with his ingenuity.

    “We’re wasting time,” said Tamisha, her eyes fixed on Graham. “How do you move between worlds?”

    “Wait,” said Annalise, holding up her hand. “I still don’t get why you’re all so freaked by a couple of observers turning up at your meeting? Even if they did follow you, so what?”

    “Because fifteen minutes later they were taking my office apart,” said Tamisha. “I came back early from lunch and saw them. Luckily before they saw me.”

    “We’re the last of the Resonance project,” added Howard. “None of the others are answering their phones. If Tamisha hadn’t warned us in time, I don’t know where we’d be.”

    A reflective silence fell on the room, broken only by Tamisha’s pacing.

    “Now tell us how you move between worlds,” she said.

    Graham looked towards Annalise.

    “He doesn’t know,” she said.

    “Why don’t you let Mr. Smith answer for himself?” snapped Tamisha, glaring at Annalise.

    “He doesn’t like to talk.”

    “Well, tell him he’d better learn to like it.”

    “Tamisha!” Kevin intervened, holding out his right palm like a stop sign.  

    “I know, I know,” she said, throwing her hands in the air and walking away. “I’m sorry.” She hovered by the window like a tightly wound ball of elastic ready to unravel at any second.

    “Graham,” Kevin said softly, “how exactly do you move between worlds?”

    Graham looked towards Annalise again. He felt uncomfortable. He was the centre of attention, everyone was looking at him, strangers asking him questions he didn’t feel qualified to answer.

    Annalise stepped in.

    “He doesn’t know. He just flips, okay? One second he’s on this world, the next he’s somewhere else. He’s seen his father die three times. He’s had two different mothers. And anything you’re going through,” she looked directly at Tamisha, her voice trembling, “is nothing compared to what he’s had to put up with.”

    The two women glared at each other. Kevin ignored them, stepping closer towards Graham, his huge hands hovering over Graham’s shoulders.

    “What do you mean exactly by ‘flip’? Do you travel through a portal?”

    Graham shook his head.

    “He doesn’t even notice it’s happened,” said Annalise, calming down. “It’s like his consciousness beams out of one place and into another. Then suddenly he notices that something’s different. He’s had a haircut or his clothes are different or he’s moved house or … or his father’s dead.”

    Annalise bit her lip and Graham wished she wouldn’t keep mentioning his father.

    “Your consciousness can cross dimensions?” asked a startled Sarkissian.

    Graham nodded.

    “How many times has this happened?” he continued.

    “Many times,” answered Annalise, “but it’s getting more frequent, isn’t it Graham?”

    Graham nodded.

    “How frequent?” Kevin asked.

    Graham and Annalise looked at each other. “Go on, Graham, you can tell them.”

    He took a deep breath. “It used to be every month or so, sometimes as long as a year. Now,“ he paused, “now it’s more frequent. Yesterday I flipped twice.”

    “Twice? In one day?” asked Kevin, astonished.

    “And those are just the ones he knows about,” interrupted Annalise. “When something around him changes. I bet there’ve been other times when the changes were less noticeable.”

    “But you have no inkling about what triggers these flips?” asked Sarkissian. “You have no warning at all?”

    Graham shook his head.

    “Except the last time,” said Annalise. “Remember? You told me about the little girl and the headaches?”

    “What headaches?” asked Kevin.

    “I had to deliver a disk to the trade talks but I saw this little girl. We were caught up in the riots. They had New Tech weapons…”

    “Who had New Tech weapons?” Tamisha shouted, moving speedily away from the window. “How do you know about New Tech weapons?”



    “Because he’s been there, Tamisha,” said Annalise. “Haven’t you been listening?”

    “Where have you been, Graham?” asked Kevin. “What trade talks?”

    “The London Trade Talks,” replied Graham. “They were at St. James’s Palace. They were trying to break up ParaDim but…” He could still see it. The riots, the smoke, the bodies. He shook his head - as though somehow that would clear the images from his brain. “They were everywhere - the rioters - they had these weapon platforms like tiny UFOs that hovered in the air and guns that whined and blew things up.”

    “He’s seen the London Riots.” Howard Sarkissian shook his head in disbelief.

    “He was in the London riots,” said Annalise. “He was a courier for the Brits. This is the guy that had to walk through the middle of Hell ferrying disks between the delegations. And he didn’t even know why!” Her voice began to break. “Can you believe that? He flipped into the middle of a riot, with no idea what was happening. He was shot at, chased, saw people killed all around him. And yet he keeps going. Doing a job that wasn’t even his.” She could hardly speak. “He’s the bravest man I know.”

    Graham gulped and looked away. He wouldn’t have described his actions as brave.

    “I’m sorry,” apologised a tearful Annalise, turning away from the group.

    “The headaches?” said Kevin. “What about the headaches.”

    “I had to get this girl to safety. She’d been abandoned. The rioters were coming. People were falling. I had hold of her hand. We were running and suddenly my head felt like it was going to explode. I had to get the girl to safety but the pain was too much, she kept flickering in and out.”

    “You saw her image flicker?” asked Kevin.

    Graham nodded. “At one stage it was like I was looking at her down a long dark tube. I tried to fight it but the pain became too great and I must have let go.”

    “I saw him change,” said Annalise, sniffing hard. “I was in the park on the other side. He was walking along the path and suddenly started acting drunk - staggering, pitching forward, falling over, you know? He was disorientated for several minutes.”

    “You always materialise at the same location you flip from?” asked Kevin.

    “I guess. I don’t know.”

    “But you’ve never blacked out and found yourself miles away from where you thought you should be?”

    Graham shook his head.

    “It must be some kind of bridge,” Kevin said, turning to Sarkissian.

    The older man agreed. “A bridge between the dimensions activated by,” he paused, thinking hard. “Two Graham Smiths being in the same relative position on their respective worlds?”

    The two men appeared to have forgotten everyone else in the room as they exchanged a barrage of ideas, their heads turned together conspiratorially.

    “No, not that simple or else every time he climbed into bed he’d be transported to a different world. It must be something else.”

    “Something which is affected by the resonance wave. That would explain the recent increase in frequency.”

    “This is getting us nowhere,” snapped Tamisha. She turned to Graham. “Can you control these flips of yours?”

    Graham looked down at his feet and shook his head.

    “Can you communicate with your other selves?”


    She turned to Howard and Kevin. “So what use is he? What you want is a combination of him and her.“ She pointed at Annalise. “A telepath who exists on every world. Then you’d have someone who could make a difference. Someone who could organise a co-ordinated action - maybe create their own counter resonance wave.”

    She held up her hands. “But as it stands you’ve got nothing. She can only talk to two hundred worlds. That’s right, isn’t it, honey?” There was something patronising about the way she emphasised the word ‘honey.’ She looked at Annalise, waiting for an answer, maybe daring her to respond in kind. But Annalise only nodded reluctantly and turned away.

    “And he,” Tamisha said, pointing at Graham, “doesn’t even know where he’s going to be tomorrow. He could flip to a world where none of us exist. All his knowledge is transient. The Graham Smith who occupies that body tomorrow might be totally ignorant of what’s happened here today. You’d have to explain everything to him again from the beginning.”

    A resigned silence descended while Tamisha looked from face to face, challenging anyone to disagree with her assessment. A silence eventually broken by Graham.

    “Can I ask a question?” he asked Kevin in a quiet voice.

    “Of course.”

    “Did I make things worse? I had to deliver a disk to the trade talks but I tried to save the girl instead. Did the trade talks collapse? Was it my fault?”

    Howard and Kevin looked at each other.

    “No,” said Kevin. “I don’t think you could have made a difference. Sometimes the trade talks collapse, sometimes the politicians claim success. But the result is always the same. Within six months, everything breaks down. Everyone interprets the agreement differently and countries go their own way. The West moves against ParaDim, ParaDim imposes a technology ban on the West. America revokes all of ParaDim’s patents and licenses, Asia retaliates against everything American.”

    He sighed, his face looked tired and drained.

    “Anarchy, weapons proliferation, war and chaos. Every crackpot with a cause has New Tech weaponry and the world descends into a destructive spiral. Tens of millions die.”

    “That’s the resonance wave?” asked Annalise.

    “That’s the result of the resonance wave. It’s like there’s this massive conveyor belt that nobody can get off.”

    “With a huge chasm at the end of it,” added Sarkissian.

    “And four years to wait and watch while you sit on the damn thing,” said Tamisha. “With everyone powerless to get off or stop or do anything but give in to the inevitable.”

    “Can’t you stop it?” asked Annalise.

    “How?” said Kevin. “We can’t even tell people what’s happening. There’s no proof we can give them. We can’t show anyone a picture of a parallel world. We can’t take anyone there or bring anyone back. All we can do is download data. Data which, to all intents and purposes, could have come from anywhere.”

    “That and ask people to trust us,” said Tamisha, her tone becoming sarcastic. “We’re scientists, we know what we’re talking about. Forget the fact we’ve been lying to you for three years, telling you about our wonderful new AI engine that doesn’t exist. Who’s going to believe a word we say let alone do anything we ask them?”

    “Can’t you stop the weapons proliferation?” asked Annalise.

    “It’s not only a matter of weapons - it’s everything,” said Kevin. “The pace of change, the collapse of old industries, the shifts in power. It’s …”

    “Technological and economic melt down,” finished Sarkissian. “The genie will not go back into the bottle. The technology is out there and people are going to use it.”

    “Can’t you sabotage ParaDim? Stop the new technology?”

    “People have tried,” answered Sarkissian. “On one world a couple of ParaDim scientists killed the entire core research team. They blew up the labs, destroyed all the data and then turned their weapons on themselves. The entire planet’s knowledge and ability to access data from parallel worlds was obliterated overnight.”

    He paused.

    “And ten months later a new start-up company appeared out of nowhere.” Sarkissian took his glasses off and wiped the lenses. “A new team had spontaneously discovered the ability to access data from parallel worlds.”

    “Resonance?” asked Annalise.

    “Resonance,” he replied.

    “But… “ Annalise looked confused. “Surely the people at ParaDim - the ones in the know - they must see all the evidence from the other worlds. They must know the dangers. Why don’t they slow things down? Why all this aggressive growth and marketing.”

    Kevin smiled. “Because everyone thinks their world will be different. They won’t make the same mistakes.”

    “And, anyway,” added Tamisha sardonically, “they have four years to solve the problem. A lot can happen in four years. Someone might stop the resonance wave. If there really is such a thing.”

    “And if they don’t push for expansion,” said Sarkissian, “the board will soon find someone who can - so, goodbye big fat bonus.”

    “How did we get on this conveyor belt?” asked Annalise.

    “You mean what started the resonance wave?”


    “Good intentions, honey. The road to Hell’s paved with them.”



    “Is that true?” Annalise asked Kevin.

    “It’s true,” he said. “It started out as a simple plan to learn from other’s mistakes. Simple and brilliant.” He shook his head and looked wistfully into space.

    “They’d been trying for years,” said Howard Sarkissian, “to prove the existence of parallel worlds. They had the theory, they had the technology. All they needed was a slice of luck.”

    “Who?” asked Annalise. “Who needed a slice a luck?”

    “The original ParaDim team,” said Sarkissian. “One hundred and two years ago. Not on this world, obviously, but on a parallel one.”

    “A very advanced parallel world,” Kevin added. “They wanted to communicate with a parallel Earth. They sought to set up a dialogue and prove to the world that other Earths were out there.”

    “But they couldn’t do it,” said Sarkissian. “They found a way to access electronically-stored data from other worlds. They even found a method of determining which parallel world the data came from.”

    “They mapped the entire dimensional spectrum,” said Kevin. “It was inspired work.”

    “But,” said Howard, “they couldn’t transmit anything back. They could receive but they couldn’t send. It was a one-way gate. If they wanted to transmit they’d have to practically throw away what they already had and start again.”

    “And then along came Lucius Xiang,” said Kevin. “He was a junior member of the team.”

    “A student barely out of grad school.”

    “And he said, ‘Why not use the information downloaded from other worlds to help solve the great problems of our day?’

    Kevin’s eyes took on a distant look as he almost changed personas - presumably thinking himself into the mind of the young Lucius Xiang.

    “’Think about it,’ Xiang said. ‘All those billions of worlds at various stages of development. Some are certain to be more advanced than we are. If not technologically, then perhaps socially, or culturally or economically. Worlds where they’d faced and found solutions to problems that we’re still wrestling with. How to live together, how to cope with ageing nuclear arsenals, which lines of research to outlaw, which drugs to avoid.’

    “’Think about the benefits,’ he said. “The ability to know if a certain drug in development today would later be found to have harmful side-effects. To know which diseases can be cured and how. To learn from the successes and failures of a billion worlds. To peek into the future.’”

    “So what went wrong?” asked Annalise.

    “Haven’t you guessed yet, hon?” asked Tamisha in a world-weary voice. “Haven’t you been on this planet long enough to know where all the shit comes from?”

    For a second, Graham thought Annalise was going to march over to the window and put Tamisha through it. She wavered visibly before turning back to face Kevin.

    “Greed,” he said. “That and curiosity. They were scientists, they wanted to know the answers to everything. They wanted the formulas, the theorems, the knowledge. They downloaded everything they could find. There was so much data, they couldn’t keep up. They had to farm out the work, bring in more computer capacity, to scan, to sift, to search through the data from tens of billions of worlds.”

    “After a while,” said Sarkissian, “people lost interest in the social data. They didn’t want to know how worlds solved the problems of inequality, prejudice, hatred and war. That took too long. They wanted the easy stuff - they wanted the formulas, the equations, the patents, the money.”

    “So, Xiang was sidelined and a new project manager was brought in to put the project on a more sound commercial footing, and the ParaDim that we all know was born.”

    “That was enough to create a resonance wave?” asked Annalise.

    “Not in itself, “ said Kevin, “Human nature created the resonance wave. As other worlds evolved technologically, they stumbled upon the same one-way gate. They downloaded the same data and came up with the same idea. Not every world had a Lucius Xiang, but every world had a scientist who saw an opportunity and grasped it with both hands. After all, if you can access all that data, what are you going to do with it? You’ve got to look, haven’t you? What would you do if you downloaded a file and found a formula for a drug that cured cancer? File it away? Or push for its development?”

    Graham nodded in agreement. He could see the appeal. You couldn’t turn your back on information like that.

    “But why the subterfuge about the AI engine?” asked Annalise. “Why not go public and tell the world about parallel dimensions?”

    “Fear of public reaction,” said Kevin. “People in power have a very low opinion of the average Joe Blow. The assumption is that once people know there’s a hundred billion parallel worlds out there, they’re going to panic and do something stupid. And if they don’t, then the leaders of every other country on the planet will. There’ll be an arms race like you’ve never seen before. Each country will know that if they get their hands on the doomsday weapons of the future first they’ll be top dog. So, they’ll all demand their own ParaDim project, except they’ll concentrate purely on weapons technology. They’ll trawl the parallel worlds looking for the meanest, evillest, son of a bitch killing machine they can find, and the world blows itself apart in three years.”

    “So ParaDim keeps quiet,” said Annalise quietly to herself.

    “Inventing something innocuous,” said Sarkissian. “Like Artificial Intelligence or Quantum Simulation.”

    “But it still goes wrong?” prompted Annalise.

    “It still goes wrong. They go too fast, too soon, and push the planet beyond its limits.”

    “And then the resonance wave kicks in.”

    “Exactly,” said Kevin. “A resonance develops. As each world chooses the same path, the pull of that path on future worlds strengthens. A critical mass is achieved. Worlds that shouldn’t have the capacity to start a ParaDim project spontaneously develop the technology. We, on this planet, shouldn’t have the ability to build a dimension discriminator. We’re a century away, at least, from such technology. But two years ago, it happened. Inspired research, we thought. A mixture of genius, persistence and luck.”

    He shook his head.

    “Resonance. The ideas were dropping too pat. The team did not make one single mistake. Not one blind alley. They went straight from idle thought to working model in a matter of months.”

    “And from there it develops,” sighed Sarkissian. “ParaDim grows, new technology proliferates, the rate of change accelerates, old industries become obsolete, companies go under, political systems can’t keep pace, a power struggle begins and anarchy descends.”

    “You were our last hope,” Tamisha said to Graham. ”A lot of good people have died trying to figure out how you fit in. There are billions of project teams researching your every move this very minute. And now,” she paused, “and now I wonder if our interest in you is real or influenced by resonance.”

    “Shhh!” said Kevin. “What was that?”


    “Shhh!” he said again, cutting Sarkissian off. “Downstairs,” he whispered, pointing at the floor. “I heard something.”

    No one moved. Graham could hear a police siren a long way off, a background hum of traffic, a creak from somewhere in the house.

    Tamisha crept closer to the window and peered outside. A few seconds later she turned to the others and shook her head.

    Another creak from inside the house - louder this time and … was someone on the stairs?

    Tamisha stood on tip-toe and pressed her face against the window, peering down at the pavement by the front door. She drew back almost immediately, terror written all over her face.

    They’d come.

Home Page Index Page




Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image