19: Trees and Tempests (part 2)

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19.2 Decay

Invergloy, Scotland: 23 February 2120

Alin Yan and Morton Fisk communicated silently. They sat on the bank of Loch Lòchaidh. The wind was whipping the patches of snow that surrounded them into the air but, though dressed in thin cloaks, they did not appear to notice the cold. Behind them, and further up the slope that, despite the winter weather, was already wild with new spring life, sat the decayed remains of a structure that barely held up against the elements. Thirteen years had reduced Ross Nunn's cabin to a ruin. The pine tree that grew through its centre looked more than thirty years old. It had been a seedling only six years previously.

"It's true, then," Morton Fisk said.

"Yes," his companion replied. "It's subtle, but the trend is proven. One of my teams in Beijing has been dedicated to the analysis for over five years now."

"Reintegration."

"Indeed, by all accounts. Reintegration. Recombination – whatever we choose to call it, it needs guiding. But we are, as you know, increasingly powerless to provide any such guidance."

The wind rose to a howl and a branch cracked from a tree to be swept into the waters of the loch.

"We are like that branch," Fisk observed, "increasingly more fragile and adrift in a current far stronger than we can handle."

Yan sighed and, using his voice this time, said, "Indeed. Ten years ago I could teleport from China to Scotland with ease. A year ago I could barely travel between Hong Kong and India in a single jump. Yesterday it took more than twenty jumps to get here and it exhausted me, even with those of your Tree guiding me."

"The abilities fade," Fisk agreed. "We will soon be down to pre-disaster levels. But if reintegration is inevitable we must find a way to achieve it without destruction. We need to work with the tempest, not let it dictate to us. We therefore need to know what's happening on the other worlds. But that is now a task beyond even the adepts in the Tree."

"Agreed," Yan said. "The worlds appear as locked off from us now as we are from the Moon."

Fisk nodded. "Before the disaster, we could move items out of this plane into others."

"But never ourselves," Yan added.

"Individually, I concur. The splintering proved that a group mind could achieve it."

Yan dipped his head in agreement as he stared out across the loch. "Though it also aptly demonstrated all that could go wrong."

They sat silently for a while before Fisk said, "Only in those few hours after the disaster when the worlds still exhibited some tenuous linkage could we traverse them individually. If that had not been possible we would not be here now."

"All of us who comprehend what you achieved back then remain thankful."

Fisk nodded again. It wasn't pride, more to do with pragmatism – if he hadn't managed that feat, there would be nobody around to be thankful.

An icy blast cut across the water of the loch, slicing into the waves, hurling water into the air. A flock of Canada geese, bouncing on the surface, took such assaults in their stride. It had been interesting, Fisk thought, how the lower animals had recovered from the disaster without any human intervention. Creatures that had relied fully upon instinct had barely been affected.

Alin Yan, fingering the motif of three concentric red circles sewn into his cloak above his heart, broke the silence. "When the organisation first started they made much use of electronics to pinpoint the origins of the abilities and engineered devices to enhance them."

"Indeed they did. Although not widely documented, the evidence can still be found by those who know where to look," Morton replied. "But, while we still have far greater abilities than were ever available on the original world, we no longer have the luxury of the accompanying electronics."

Yan allowed the slightest smile to play across his lips. "Almost true."

Morton raised an eyebrow. "Explain?"

"I have many teams working on the various effects caused by the splintering. It is surmised that silicon no longer allows the transmission of electrons in exactly the same manner as before. Especially not at the miniaturisation levels that had become prevalent in the years before the disaster."

"That is well known," Morton said.

"Yes, but, as I am sure you are also aware, as reintegration nears, the effects are becoming less deviant. And there are some materials that, though they were once severely affected, are now verging on normality."

"Go on."

"Germanium is one. It appears, as far as we can determine, to have returned to the characteristics it always had."

"Germanium?"

"It was one of the materials used to fabricate the initial diodes and, later, transistors in the twentieth century."

"Does that mean we could use it to build something to access the alternates?"

Yan paused for a moment. "The ability to generate the required harmonic patterns for transference might, in theory, have been possible to achieve using once-conventional electronics. I was once advised that utilising germanium for the same task would be far trickier."

"But possible?"

Yan pursed his lips and, after a moment, nodded once.

"How long do we have?" Morton asked.

"The current indications would suggest that reintegration is likely at some point between 2127 and 2129."

Fisk thought for a moment. "So," he said, "we may have a mere seven years to build a system that might have been impossible to construct using working electronics, and we have the inconvenience of requiring to do it using barely working electronics."

"That is about the size of it."

Morton looked directly at his companion. There was a look on Alin Yan's face.

"When did you start building it?"

Yan laughed. "We have, in the past few months, devised an initial circuit that produces twelve of the harmonics required. They are hard to synchronise but we are improving the techniques required."

"Twelve? How many are needed?"

"A hundred, possibly more. It is also likely that transference will burn them out, especially to and from this world. We will need plenty of spares."

Morton thought for a moment, his eyes watching the turbulent waters of the loch while he did so. "Seven years, Alin. Will it be enough?"

"We have to try."


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