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951 Gaspra

External view of the asteroid housing the High Energy Teleportation Experiment.

Kari Woz turned her face away from the view portal of the flux chamber and waited for her eyes to adapt to the change in incident light. Now her peripheral vision was exposed the glare being emitted from the chamber, and by force of will she tried to make some hint of motion or change in luminosity occur at the heart of the teleportation experiment. But, as always, her wishes had no effect on the laws of physics. With a sense of disappointment made no less painful by years of repetition, she let all hopes for success in this experiment slip away. She pulled off her heavily polarized goggles and started taking small shuffling steps towards the lab bench as her high acuity vision began to recover.

Suddenly the room went dark and Dr. Woz stood perfectly still. "What-" That single word escaped the control exerted by her disciplined mind. Very little ever came as a surprise to Kari Woz, but now her heart rate quickly doubled as she spun and turned back towards the quartz window of the chamber. The inside of the chamber now seemed completely dark. The gauge that reported the level of bombardment flux still indicated that energy was pouring into the chamber. Then why no light from the particle interactions? Woz quickly saw why. The pressure indicator was now back at one atmosphere -somehow the vacuum had collapsed. And the air temperature in the chamber was now rising rapidly as the bombardment energy was being converted into heat.

Woz rushed to the lab bench and started pounding on the keys of the master control computer terminal. Within seconds the particle beams for the experiment were deflected away from the chamber. Woz realized that the delicate liquid crystal detectors in the chamber were in danger being fractured by the heat. The only way to quickly cool the inside of the chamber was to pop open the access hatch.

The access hatch was in the floor of the chamber. Woz ran out of the control room, down the hall to the stair well, down to the sub-basement. The utility room held "dump targets" for the particle beams and the door would not open when the dumps were in use. Woz checked the radiation meters: they showed the expected exponential decay since the experiment had been terminated. The radiation levels were still in the yellow zone, and normally the door would not open, but Woz could do a yellow zone over-ride. She pounded the codes into the data pad and the door hydraulics started cycling. It took twelve seconds to retract the door.

Woz had nothing to do for ten seconds and time finally seemed to slow for the first time since the experiment had gone bad. She noticed that she was breathing hard and her muscles were twitching in response to the panic hormones leaking into her blood. She slipped a hand into the crack between the door and the wall as the door continued its slow, steady retraction. As she forced her face into the widening gap she wondered how the chamber could have pressurized so rapidly. One moment the chamber had held a high vacuum. How long had it taken to turn and read the gauges?

Suddenly Woz was able to squeeze through and run towards the access hatch. Maybe the hatch had blown? Ignoring the set of steel steps, Woz vaulted up to the platform under the access hatch. She quickly confirmed that the hatch was still sealed and so she had to turn the wheel on the hatch to release the interlocks. The hatch started to swing down, its motion restricted by heavy springs. There was an immediate sensation of warmth emanating from the interior of the chamber, but she began to think how best to force cool air up through the opening. Vaguely, she recalled some fans near the dumps, but before she could go in search of them, an arm dropped out of the chamber.

At first, Woz was startled as if she had just found a bug in her breakfast, but then she was struggling to grab on to the sweaty body that tumbled out of the chamber. Before thought became possible, Woz found herself sprawled in a tangled heap under the lanky body of a panting, trembling girl. Woz struggled into sitting position and looked into the girl's flushed face and fear-filled eyes. Odd sounds came from the girl's mouth and she started gesturing weakly towards Woz. Quickly recovering her rational thought processes, Woz spoke fragments of all the languages she knew, but the girl responded to nothing Woz said. Finally the girl stopped babbling, sat up and looked around at the clutter of cables, pipes and equipment in the utility room.

As reflexive bewilderment faded, Woz finally allowed herself to acknowledge what had happened. The teleportation experiment had been a success, but rather than retrieve the microscopic target sample from the mirror chamber on the far side of the asteroid, an entire chamber full of spacetime had been grabbed from somewhere else. Woz suspected that there was no subadult closer than Archeworld and she wondered if such a massive teleportation could have happened over such a vast interplanetary distance. She had never fully accepted the idea that the governing class of Archeworld consisted of invaders from a parallel universe. But if that was true, if people really could move between universes, then such inter-universe travel was a possible explanation for what had materialized in the teleportation chamber.

Woz stood up and held out a hand to the girl. "Come on. Get up."

The girl took one last look around then reached up and took Kari's hand.

Woz kept a firm grip on the girl's hand and jammed the thumb of her other hand into her own chest. "Koz". She then pointed at the girl who understood and said, "Dana. My name is Dana."

Koz assumed that "Dana" was a name and tried to give a reassuring smile. "Okay, Dana. Nice of you to drop in. Now let's see if we can figure out where you came from."

Chapter 2

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