The Music of the Gates

Jacine called her brother. "Michael."

Michael sleepily grinned at the comscreen. "Jacine, you forgot about the time difference again."

Glancing at a chron readout, Jacine blushed. "Sorry about that. Should I call back later tonight?"

Yawning, Michael sat up and ran a hand through his hair. "This morning. No, thatís alright. Howís Austria?"

Her face brightened up with a grin that sparked her eyes. "Oh, itís wonderful. The people are nice, German wasnít hard to learn -- and itís a good language for technical terms. The project is going well so far. The other Engineers Iím working with have a good grasp of the basics and for once the management actually knows whatís going on."

"Thatís nice." Despite his fondness for his sister, Michael was having problems working up enthusiasm in the middle of the night about a project he didnít understand.

"Why I was really calling, though, I have some tickets for the new musical, ______________________. Iíve heard itís really good and was wondering if you and Rhin wanted to come."

"Just Rhin?"

Jacine looked slightly ashamed, "The tickets were given to me. There are only four, and Lars and I are using two. I tried to get more through normal channels, but the tickets have been sold out five months in advance. Weíre going to the third-ever show. I figured that it being a musical, Rhin should have first grab at the ticket."

Michael was waking up and getting a bit more enthusiasm. "Youíre probably right. When is the performance?"

"This Saturday."

"This Saturday!! Jacine. Thatís tomorrow!"

She cocked her head as she looked at him. "Thatís right. Is there a problem?"

Sighing with resignation, Michael looked upwards. "Not really. Iíll talk with Rhin and let you know."

"Great! Iíll reserve the Gates for you."

"___________________? Iíve been dying to get a look at the score! I was so upset that Iíd have to wait for a year ítil itís released in the U.S.!" Rhin was practically dancing around the room. She stopped every time she passed Michael to kiss him enthusiastically.

Azami looked over at Tamlynn, who had stopped by while delivering the latest diskettes of virus updates to Valdoon. "I guess that means we donít have a chance."

Tamlynn grinned as she watched Rhin. "I guess not. No paper-scissors-stone on this one." Neither was particularly upset. It was share and share alike with them, and Rhinís delight was also a joy for them.

23 looked on enviously from across the room. He had been listening when Michael told Rhin about Jacineís offer, but he then excused himself to obstinately go back to work. Instead, he sat at the terminal with nothing entered. He wondered what Lars looked like. And what implant color he was. And if Jacine went home with him at nights. 23 stopped that line of thought. He should be happy that she had recovered enough to be dating again. But he wasnít.

Rhin abruptly stopped mid-dance. "Wait a moment. Do I have enough credits for a Gate to Austria? Zam -- can I borrow from you?"

Michael spoke before Azami could answer. "Donít worry about it. Jacine is paying for everything."

"She is?" The trio looked at each other, then back at him.

Michael shrugged, "Contracting pays better than the RCF."

All three women laughed with heartfelt sarcasm. "That's for sure!"

Jacine paced in the Austria main Gate Terminus. Other people waiting gave her strange looks as she limped around, but Jacine didnít notice. The line boards kept a constantly changing record of incoming and outgoing Gates. Finally, the one her brother and Rhin were coming in on flashed on the screen. She limped to the cubical and watched as the wall flickered, then showed Michael and Rhin on the other side. They stepped through, and Jacine greeted them with hugs.

"This way. Iíve got a Gate to the Opera House reserved as well. Weíll be quite early, but it beats the rush."

Michael and Rhin looked at each other in amusement. Jacine hadnít commented on their nice clothes, as usual, and had turned away before they could compliment her dress. Rhin noted that even with formal clothing, Jacine kept her implant covered up, and instead, wore a necklace of Jade and Hematite over her high-collared black velvet dress. Rhin admitted that it looked very nice. The contrast of stones on velvet was a change from all the crystal on flesh. They followed after Jacine.

"What about... uhh..." Michael tried to remember the name of Jacineís date.

"Lars." Jacine flashed a grin at him. "Sheíll met us there. She got a later Gate in."

Rhin and Michael stopped dead in their tracks. "She?????" they exclaimed simultaneously.

Blinking, Jacine also stopped and looked back at them, puzzled. "Yes. Sheís my partner on the test cycles."

Rhin started walking again with a sigh, and the tug on Michaelís hand prompted him to moved forward as well. Well. There goes that assumption!

"Isnít íLarsí a male name?"

"In Germany. Lars isnít German and itís her nickname. Larsenka." Jacine chewed on a non-existent fingernail. "The other tickets were for her brother, his wife, and their son. Unfortunately for them, Miska went into labor yesterday. They're all down at the hospital waiting for the kid to be born."

Rhin and Michael looked at each other, at Jacine, then back at each other.

"Are you pulling our leg?"

"Of course not. And you all have four legs between you."

They reached the local Gate cubes, and Jacine showed them the wait list. The Opera House was chock full of people from all over the Continent. The Austria main Terminal had one Gate on a constant open for the House and was just assigning numbers to those people waiting, as the cube would only fit four people abreast. Either Jacine had timed things closely, or the line was going faster than expected, for they were able to get at the end of the line immediately (the Stewards allowed forty people in line at a time). Knowing his sister, Michael suspected she had timed it too closely and only the fact that the line was running over time allowed them to make their scheduled Gate.

The three of them stepped though the Gate together, and arrived in the Opera House. Rhin stumbled as she reached the other side and Michael also halted, looking pale.

Rhin gasped, "By the Goddess of Apernal! What the bloody-blue-blazes was up with the Gate??!!!!"

A tone sounded, and a synthesized voice spoke from behind them, "Please move on. There are people waiting. Please move out of the cube."

Jacine had already limped out and was waiting with her head tilted, studying Michael and Rhin with a concentrated frown on her face. As the other two walked out to join her, she spoke, "What was wrong with the Gate?"

Rhin shuttered, "As I stepped through it, my vision blurred and I saw nothing but a swirl of colors. I heard the sound of... something. I canít recall it!" She clenched Michaelís hand tightly, at that point more frustrated than frightened -- for a musician with perfect ear not to recall a tune... . Michael squeezed her hand and also spoke.

"Me too. Also, it took a long time to get through. It felt like I was wading through molasses. Trying and trying to finish the step, but not being able to."

Jacine turned in their tickets and accepted the programs for the nightís performance. She led them up a spiral staircase. "How very interesting. Michael, when have you ever waded through molasses?"

Both Rhin and Michael ignored her question and focused on her statement. Michael was incredulous, "Are you telling us that it wasnít like that for you?"

Not looking at them, Jacine moved down the aisle to their seats. "No. Iím telling you that itís always like that for me." She sat down. "Whatís it normally like for you?"

Rhin sat down, silently stunned. Michaelís mouth dropped open and he forgot to help Rhin as a gentleman should. They both looked at Jacine, who was still frowning, but had calmly opened the program and was reading the highlights. Then they looked at each other.

Michael finally spoke, still looking at Rhin. "Itís like walking through a doorway. No sounds, no colors, no molasses. Just take a step and youíre there. Sometimes a moment of disorientation, but thatís all." Rhin nodded her agreement.

Jacine closed the program and leaned back in her chair. Putting the program to one side, she folded her hands into a triangle and stared through it. "Thatís very interesting." Her eyes were dis-focused and Rhin and Michael knew they wouldnít be getting any conversation out of her for a long time. They also knew that there probably would not be an answer to why the differences in Gate experience, so they shrugged and forgot it for the meantime.

Rhin opened her own program and grew intent on the singers and musicians. Michael leaned over and watched as she pointed things out, not so much interested in them himself, but he was interesting in paying attention to Rhin.

After several minutes had gone by, Jacine looked up. "What do you people know about Gate Theory?"

Rhin and Michael looked up. "Not much," Michael said.

Jacineís voice adapted a lecturing note. "The Gates are outgrowths of the Energy Shield Theory. Energy Shields, or Force Fields as they were called in original design ideas, were being theorized before the Meteor crash. The concept that they were working with was that of the atom." She looked over at them, "Iím going to mention basics, just so youíll know where itís coming from. I know you know general physics." Her hands folded into a more complicated triangle as she continued the lecture. "Atoms are made up of electrons, protons, and neutrons. Protons and neutrons huddle together in the middle while electrons whiz about them at a considerable distance, relatively, and an incredible speed. Much of what makes up the area of a whole atom is space. Yet atoms are solid to our touch. This chair is made up of mostly space, yet is whole." Jacine placed her hand on the chair in front of her and the elderly matron sitting in it turned to glare at her. Jacine smiled disarmingly at her and continued the lecture to Michael and Rhin. The woman looked disconcerted, then turned back in her chair, whispering in German to her companion.

"Electrons being so small, yet creating such solidarity, seemed to be an idea for force fields."

Rhin murmured under her breath to Michael, "I didnít know you could use ísolidarityí like that." It was almost a question, but Michael just shrugged in response.

"We had already split the atom by then -- Atom Bombs and Nuclear Energy. But to separate electrons out and then to infuse them with the necessary energy to excite such speeds as to produce solidarity..., well, that was another question. Hypothesises abounded and many paper-plans, but physical creation of a device that could do such a thing was not done. Then the meteor hit. O-Storms started. And suddenly, the need for a Energy Shield propelled force-field research to one of the front lines."

Michael growled under his breath (but both girls heard him), "And the need for youth drugs for the remaining humans."

There was a hesitation and a false start on Jacineís part, as she started to comment on that, then reconsidered. "The O-Storms solved one of the problems, creating an enormous source of energy to draw from -- once Energy Converters were created as well. Small force-fields, as we use for doors of prison/containment cells, were almost instantly created. Electrons were shot in continuous streams from one side, absorbed on the other and diverted and reused. The larger Shields, as Island City uses, were much harder to design, mostly because of the curves. But thatís another story.

"While electrons were being experimented upon for force-fields, scientists were also experimenting with other particles and hypothesises. One crazy person who was looked down upon in the scientific community for impractical ideas and wasteful of resources was experimenting beyond electrons."

Jacine stopped for a moment as an average woman well padded with flesh, intelligent eyes, and a face well groved in laughter lines, slipped into the seat beside her. Lars grinned at her test partner and without saying a word, encouraged her to continue her lecture. Michael watched, impressed with the understanding she showed his sister, and also impressed with the way her dark eyes evaluated him and Rhin in a single glance. He was relieved that they, also, merited a welcoming smile. But the lecture was continuing, and he drew his attention back on it.

"He was experimenting with quarks. In particular, íUpí quarks." Jacine frowned and relaced her hands in the familiar triangle. "I have no idea why he was so obsessed with íUpí quarks. Nobody else does either. He never kept notes, and he disappeared when the youth drug went public."

"He went Rec?" Rhin asked as a normal question. She didnít tiptoe around Michael and the issue of his being half-Rec and, in general, Michael appreciated it.

"No. And the evidence was that he didnít die. He just up and disappeared. Anyhow, because of his sloppy science, weíre not even sure how he managed to split the quarks. We barely know how to split atoms without bashing them to bits, let alone a single electron! But he managed it, and created a field of íUpí quarks in the same manner the force-fields were created. Unlike the force-fields, when an object was tossed against a quark-field, the object passed right through it, apparently unharmed. Now, whatever might have been expectations, this was definitely not an appropriate response to any hypothesis you might come up with. An apple tossed through might not necessary be repelled, but it at least should have come out as some form of applesauce. The device was placed in the hands of an international team of scientists who were eager to find out what made bumblebees fly."

"What? Oh. Never mind." Rhin subsided quickly as out of left field she caught the reference to something that by traditional aerodynamic laws shouldnít fly, but did. The musicians were filing out into the orchestra pit below the stage and were warming up. She craned her head to see if she could see the people whose names sheíd recognized.

"The machines were able to be replicated, even if nobody knew quite why they worked. Eventually, the team came up with an idea to feed coordinates through phone lines connecting two machines and see what happened." Jacine grinned happily, "You wouldnít believe the sort-of things they were trying with those machines. With no reasonable hypothesis behind it, literally everything they tried was on a hit or miss basis."

"And you would have loved every minute of it." Lars spoke with a fond twist to her lips and a tolerant sparkle of the eyes.

Jacine mimicked a straight-laced scientist for a moment, but couldnít contain it. "Who, me?" She giggled and Michael also laughed.

"Of course I would have."

The lights dimmed twice in the traditional manner of warning that a show was about to start. Jacine hurriedly abbreviated the rest of her lecture.

"The phone coordinates produced some interesting effects and Gates were born. End of Prolog to a Continuing Tale."

"But, Jacine!" Michael protested.

"What?" His sister looked at him with eyes that were more blue than green at the moment.

"What did any of that have to do with why we experience the Gates differently?"

Jacine blinked in surprise. "Why, nothing at all. You said you didnít know much about Gate theory, so I thought youíd like to hear it. I have no idea why the experiences were different."

Michael very nearly screamed in frustration, but the lights dimmed for the final time and the curtain was being brought up slowly. He would have settled for strangling his sister, but Rhin was sitting between them, and he didnít think she would appreciate being disturbed from the musical. With a long-suffering sigh, Michael settled back in his seat and prepared to watch the show.

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