Hampstead Heath, London: 17 April 2128
"He should have been back long before now," Alec Garter hissed. The grim set to his face only partially betraying the turmoil within.
"We all understand that," said Krista Hartmann. "Could anything have gone wrong with the DTM, Alin?"
"There are countless things that could have gone wrong," Alin Yan said with a shrug. "Should I make a list?"
Garter sniffed his disapproval. The man was so damned annoying and far too complacent. Morton should never have put his trust in him. Outside, despite the earliness of the season, trees in full summer bloom swayed in the light breeze. One area, completely cleared of growth only weeks before, was already knee deep with the constant onslaught of jungle. Only twelve days had passed since it had held the DTM. The unease Garter had felt back then had increased every hour of every day that Fisk had failed to return.
"Morton was all too aware of the possible risks, as were we all," Yan continued, deliberately catching Garter's eye for that last point. "Indeed, I did on several occasions attempt to dissuade him from being the pilot or to take another with him. So, which of the many possibilities of failure has overtaken him is, unfortunately, open to conjecture. Even those in the Tree say they cannot detect whether or not he and the DTM still exist."
"Their power is already far too diminished," Hartmann said.
"We should have made the trip years ago," Garter snapped.
"Impossible," Hartmann retorted, "as you well know. Not since the splintering have any of us been able to successfully probe the barriers between the worlds, let alone traverse them. And only in the past ten years have the electronics started to become a viable option to perform the traversal. The tests demonstrated that, even at this late stage, they are barely up to the task."
"It is possible, then, that Morton Fisk is alive and well, but a breakdown has trapped him in one of the alternates," Alin Yan speculated.
"Regretfully, given the state of the skills of your engineering team, there is far greater chance that he is dead," Garter spat. "We should have engineered a method of electronic communication between the worlds."
Yan smiled. "Without doubt," he said calmly, "my engineers achieved a precarious result. However, that result, as small as it was, far exceeded your own abilities in achieving anything remotely similar. And, regarding inter-world communication, it was, as I know you are fully aware, investigated most thoroughly. Unfortunately, in that area, we had as much success as your adepts."
Hartmann looked from Yan to Garter, expecting another outburst from the latter, but Garter grunted but kept his lips shut.
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