Sidestep

Sidestep

“The simulation is complete. Creation of an artificial singularity is deemed viable. Do you wish to repeat the simulation?”

I sat back, frowning at the screen. A phone began ringing in the background but I ignored it.

“Do you wish to repeat the simulation?”

“No, no, that’s fine. Leave it there.”

The computer interface closed down and I turned to my work space. Everything looked fine but I couldn’t shake off the feeling that we were missing something. Director Massingbird was a brilliant theoretical physicist, but sometimes I felt we were all dazzled by that very brilliance, blind to the obvious.

That damn phone was still ringing and I was irritated that one of the nightshift hadn’t bothered to answer it. Then I realised the ringtone was wrong. It didn’t match the internal phones and the whole lab was encased in a giant Faraday cage, which blocked all mobile signals. I stood and turned, moving my head from side to side, trying to get a fix on the source, as the caller seemed in no mood to hang up.

After a moment I swung round – the sound was coming from behind me, from within the reaction chamber itself. Bemused, I left the control area and walked across the access gantry to the armoured glass sphere which housed the initiators, even though there couldn’t possibly be a phone in there. I passed through the access airlock and paused. The air in the chamber pulsed rhythmically in time to the ringing, a palpable change in pressure that made my ears itch. I checked for system anomalies, in case this “phone” was actually an unfamiliar audible alarm, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I looked around the chamber, bathed in the cool blue glow of the Tesla coils. There was a hint of frost on the interior glass, caused by the cryogenic cooling net, but that would vanish when the system came online.

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Stage Fright

Stage Fright

“My name is Vigo Hanesh and I’m a conjurer.”

The auditorium reeked of late-afternoon apathy and crushed egos. Everyone – the production team, stage security, the three judges – looked sweaty and tired.

The judges stirred in their seats – Ms Simper and Messrs Gushing and Hardass.

Gushing spoke between sips of tepid mineral water. “Well, Vigo, what are you going to show us today?”

I removed my frock coat to reveal rolled shirts sleeves and a tight-fitting waistcoat. “I’ll forgo the usual hocus-pocus in favour of brevity. Simply put, I’ll produce any three items you care to name, as long as they’re small enough to fit under my coat.”

Simper stared at me, dull-eyed and listless. Hardass looked up from his notes, tapping his gold-plated pen. Gushing licked his lips. “Anything? How can you possibly know what we’d ask for?”

“Any three objects you care to name.” I smiled. “Ladies first.”

Simper blinked, seemingly unsure of what was happening. “Ah, well… flowers. A bunch of flowers, that’s what you’re supposed to make appear, isn’t it?”

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