Saturday, June 16, 2012
The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 44
In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, the Trespassers are being tried in Judge Willa Fortune's courtroom and it's not going terribly well, especially since the defendants do not have a lawyer and the only way they can address the judge is through a lawyer. Abner Kedaver drops in briefly, leaving behind an odd post-it note that had been stuck to his shoe - a limerick. Meanwhile, outside the courtroom, Sebastian Crevecoeur looks up his old friend Johann Nepomuck Sauerbraten who has been working on his own version of a Time-Travel Device.
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"Ah, that was a good trip, Sebastian, a good trip," young Sauerbraten said, clapping his friend on the back.
It was the general perception in Harmonia-IV that Time-Travel was old technology. The librarians decided to restrict its usage, playing down its availability to any resident. Over the years, it became frowned upon since it was too tempting to meddle in the past. The physicists of Newtonia-VII were trying to devise an up-grade that would make it a "read-only" device, allowing you to go back and observe but not interact. So far, fortunately, they hadn't succeeded.
"Too bad we ran afoul of Old Doppler – well, Franz, anyway. Karl, I'm sure, would've been cool with it..."
(The Doppler Brothers, both well-known flutists as well as composers in their day, served as Master Librarians for the PMC, the Posthumous Manuscript Collection where Sauerbraten worked. One of Franz Doppler's responsibilities was dealing with infractions in the Time-Device Room.)
Sauerbraten knew that if the replica he'd made himself was discovered, they'd confiscate it. For now, technically, it wasn't illegal: the software wasn't easily accessible but nobody owned the patent for it, not the way things worked here.
Of course, the big fear was somebody would take one back to the Other Side, then scientists and artists would be flocking through the Time-Gates in droves to go back into the past – "all in the name of science, of course" – and wrecking everything. It's only a matter of time before the technology itself will be declared illegal.
Sebastian admired his friend's handiwork. Unfortunately, a little more cumbersome, while it worked on the same principles, it took up more space, twice the size of one of those cell-phones the most recently arrived residents tried to use. It made him think, since that technology didn't work here, yet, would Sauerbraten's?
"So, where all have you gone on this thing," he asked as they hurried across the plaza to the library's side entrance. It would be easier getting in with Sauerbraten's ID card in case the police had locked everything up, though he doubted that.
Sauerbraten pointed out the hub-bub going on over at the Court House and they wondered what that could be at this time of night. The place was all lit up and there were several police vehicles along the side.
"Well, truth be told, nowhere, yet."
"You mean you don't know if it works?" Sebastian stopped short in the hallway.
"Oh, it works, Sebastian, it works – I just haven't had the time to try it out. Too busy fiddling with it, you know..." He pulled it out of his pocket and admired the sleek case he'd made for it, stolen, he said, from some discarded phones.
"The funny thing is, the final touch was found right here in this old smart-phone. Everybody back on Earth has what you'd call a prototype of it right in the palm of their hands – they just haven't found the app that works for it, yet."
"App? What is that?"
"It's an abbreviation for the term 'application.' Don't you keep up?"
"Well, I try to, but what's the point since so few people here talk that way? By definition," Sebastian continued, "our Parallelian society is very old-fashioned. But I've figured out 'LOL' means Laugh-Out-Loud, and 'BFF' is Best-Friends-Forever. 'IMHO' is In-My-Humble-Opinion – I like that one – and 'WTF' means 'Where's-the-Food'..."
With that, as Sauerbraten laughed at his friend's pseudo-savviness, they arrived at the more restricted entrance to the PMC. It wasn't unusual for someone to come in late at night to get caught up on their work – some of them claimed to work better at night when the place was even quieter – but bringing friends along was strictly forbidden.
"Look," Sauerbraten said, "if anybody stops us, you've submitted a job application here at the collection and I'm just showing you around."
"I get it – I'm an app!"
Sauerbraten sighed as he pushed open the door.
Passing by the Dopplers' darkened offices, he punched in the access code for the staff elevator that led deep down into the vaults, the heart of the collection.
Sauerbraten processed the newest scores before finally stamping them with the security code that made them invisible if they should be taken back to the Other Side. He was proud he'd developed the technology that transferred this code through a simple data interface to all copies and parts as long as they bore the library's official seal from Harmonia House, the library's official publishing and distributing unit.
He was also the one who'd coined the term "Ark of the Manuscripts" for the PMC's vaults. The Dopplers, ever reverent of tradition, naturally argued this was far too flippant but when it got out among the other composers, suddenly everybody started calling it that. The bureaucrats were thoroughly annoyed by this but Sauerbraten loved every minute of it.
Still, despite his youth – or, as he viewed it, because of it – while Johann Nepomuk Sauerbraten was very highly thought of among his peers, should anyone see him near the Time-Device Room, it would unfortunately raise some official eyebrows, perhaps even cost him his job, getting caught a second time. Naturally, that made Sebastian's plan all the more enticing.
Whatever they did, he had to be very careful to keep out from under the Dopplers' radar. In the end, it would be a heroic act for universal security, but for now, he knew it was trouble.
"Amazing," Sebastian said, "considering everything going on tonight, the police still haven't secured this part of the library."
"That's a good thing." Sauerbraten smiled, pointing down the hall at the blinding flash visible from beneath the Time-Device Room's door.
"Come on, Nepomuk, that means they've just left. We've got to hurry."
"What makes you think they didn't just return? They'll be back in a second anyway."
Not a sound: did they end up landing somewhere else, again? Sauerbraten said when the units are over-stressed like this, they can become unreliable – more unreliable, he corrected himself.
Sauerbraten went straight for the sign-out book.
"She just wrote in 1765."
"O-M-G," Sebastian blurted out, noticing the console was devoid of any limericks.
"No, first of all, they type O-M-G, they don't say it that way..."
"Whatever, but how do we know where she's going?"
"Piece of cake. So, what say, my friend – one last joy-ride for old-time's-sake?"
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To be continued…
- Dick Strawser
The novel, "The Doomsday Symphony," a music appreciation thriller written between 2010 and 2011, is the sole supposedly intellectual property of its author, Richard Alan Strawser.