APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 1 December, 1998


The Return


She saw Mark sitting all alone at a table in the commons. She often saw him sitting alone in the commons during the week. He wasn't the most sociable of people. But through it all, Loyse mangaed to get through to him. She was much more sociable than Mark, especially in the face of hostilities. Mark didn't take critiques very well, especially from his peers.

Loyse also noticed that Mark had forgotten to shave again. His sideburns were beginning the slow metamorposis to the elizabethan lambchop style of beard. She told him it made his chin look small, but he always forgot to shave the sides of the cheek. Loyse gave him a hard time for it on a regular basis.

"Hey scruffy!", she yelled across the commons as she glided up to his table. Four journals were spread across the table haphazardly. As Loyse drew nearer she noticed that Mark's brow was deeply furrowed. She also noticed he hadn't heard her and Loyse decided that it was time to get creative.

"Pi to twenty places, now!" she said as she sidled up to his table. Mark responded quicker than Pavlov's dog, murmuring "3.14159...huh...who would? What? Did you just... It's you Loyse. Did you just... Oh, that again."

"It works every time," she laughed. "It's like the nerd mating call. Are you okay? You look kinda scatterbrained, you know? Hey I got a pop quiz for you, 'Does anyone at this table know why the sky is blue?'" she said sarcastically.

Mark squinted his eyes at her, muttering under his breath, "The last thing I want to hear about is Spectroscopy right now. In fact the last thing I want to hear about period is science. I'm sick of this whole thesis thing." Loyse was known to be quite talkative at times.

"What thing, Mark? Is this about that thesis paper of yours?" Calling it a paper is an understatement, he mumured, More like a short novel. Hell, I wish it was a novel. Then I could just make the whole thing up. Unfortunately for me, science papers require a little thing called references."

Loyse grabbed the chair opposite Mark and swung it around backwards. She threw one leg over the seat and crashed down. She crossed her arms in front of hair, her hands hanging down the back of the chair. Mark noticed she was wearing a strange metallic bracelet. It was about a centimeter in width and looked as if is was the same shade as tarnished orange.

"What's that thing for? I thought you hated jewelry?" he said.

Loyse laughed at his question, "I do hate jewelry don't I? It's part of my research."

"What's it made from?"

"It's bronze and it's part of my psych project. I told you I wanted to be a psychology major. So many questions Mark, one would think you're trying to get off the topic of your overall grumpy mood."

Mark harrumphed under his breath. His neck had more knots than the rigging in an ancient sailing vessel. He had been ear deep in various technical journals all day. He was still amazed in the fact that alot of the ancient journals were still in bound form and not transfered to crystal matrix memory. Reading from paper always gave him a throbbing migraine. He had grown up reading all of his texts off of a glowing computer screen.

"Your research may help me get out of this mood. This is about my paper. I want...hell, I need a topic by tomorrow. I mean I had a topic but it's too weak. I just can't substantiate it. I made too many guesses in the calculations. I have got to find a new topic, but it's no use. I've looked at almost every journal for some hint of assistance. I know what I want to work with, I just don't know on what specific subsection I will be focusing on. You know?"

Loyse's lip began to curl upwards, "I have no clue what you just said. You managed to take me on a verbal rollercoaster that led me for a wild ride but ended up going in a big circle."

"Okay, now I'm confused. But nevermind that, Mark said. My paper will be involving a variation on early attempts at a grand unification theorem. I just need this one piece of evidence to substantiate some of my derivations. It's like a instability in space-time. A small tear in the cloth of the universe."

"Sort of a 'Wrinkle in Time'?" said Loyse with a small chuckle.

"Leave it to the English minor to make a literary allusion," Mark said.

Mark started to smile. It was almost painful to do after all of his frustration. It relieved him, those corny jokes of hers. She always managed to calm him down. His studies had somehow managed to push away most of the girls in the University. He hadn't had a steady relationship in several years. Loyse tried to understand him, she tried to understand his devotions and obsessions to astrophysics. Secretly, she had a little bit of a crush for him.

Mark was a bit of a loner. He got his first telescope when he was a young boy. He had stayed awake the first night trying to count the stars. Mark had to give up after seven hours because his eyes were becoming sore and bruised from being pressed so hard against the telescope lens. His school teacher had called the police the next morning. She saw the bruise around his eye and thought his parents had slapped him around. The police didn't believe them until the young Mark gave the Sergeant on duty a thrity minute lecture on the moons of Saturn.

Loyse had begun to unpack her shoulder bag, spilling th contents all over the table. She spread napkins, makeup, and other assorted purse contents all overs Mark's journals. She pushed the pile from side to side, which did nothing but move the piles around. Mark let out a long groan. He knew that she was somehow going to rip a page or mess up one of the precious science journals. The library did not take kindly to the desecration of these ancient tomes.

From the voluminous heap of junk she plucked out a small metal box. It was about 10 centimeters long on each side and a perfect square. One side of the box was covered with small dials and knobs. Mark recognized it as a minature tv set. It was old, very old.

When holographic viewers had replaced flat televisions, the countless manufacturers of flatscreens desperately tried to make money by perfecting minaturization. Minature tv's on keychains were all the rage among adolescents about five years before Mark was born.

"Where on earth did you get that?" Mark asked.

"Me and some of the other students were trying to clean out the basement of the Literature building." she said.

"That building has a basement?"

Loyse grinned, "It has three actually. It's one of the older buildings that had a space for the network hubs. But since they shrunk down the connections a hundred years ago, it's all been a bunch of empty closets. They used it as storage space for the theatre department. They kept all the old props and costumes down there. It was like walking through a museum!"

"So how on earth did you get your hands on that?" asked Mark.

"Five-finger discount, my man."

Mark eyes widened to the size of grapefruits. Loyse seriously thought she saw several veins appear in Mark's forehead. She hadn't seen him this shocked since he saw a picture of a naked woman for the first time the year before.

"You did what? You stole that!" whispered Mark, as if it was a government secret.

"I stole it. The rest of the people weren't looking so I stuck it in my bag. Oh come on Mark. Don't look so surprised, Mark. We were all doing it. And don't you even start with that whole, "Would you jump off a bridge..." crap with me. I heard it before and it's not going to make a difference." Loyse said with her hands placed firmly upon her hips.

Mark had stopped listening to Loyse. He was transfixed on the small box she had left on the television. Mark had always liked to take things apart when he was younger. He was always able to figure things out but only if he had seen the innards first.

Loyse continued to drone on, "...and I can't believe you wouldn't like that gift I got..."

Mark heard enough of her monologue to determine that she was not happy so he refused to pay attention. He fiddled with the mini tvbox and tried to look guilty. If she knew he was ignoring him then she was going to get even worse.

"..it's only a little box, it's not like anyone even knew it was..." said Loyse.

He flicked a small button and the tv box sprang to life. The screen was not very big but the detail was uncanny. The manufacturer had wired the circuitry so the tv box could receive both flat and 3d broadcasts. He moved another small dial until an image appeared before him. It was the local news channel. They had interrupted the midday programming for another special news broadcast. Mark had turned down the sound so Loyse couldn't hear, but the image on the creen told him everything.

The news was you generic international relations stories. Some politician got mad at another one for insulting their country. There was always a story about the economics of interplanetary trade and such. Mark had no time for buisness and politics. He was consumed by science.

Mark had stopped watching tv both flat and 3d the year before. There was a big budget cut for the sciences. The governemnt had thought that the money would be better spent on tax relief. Mark was so disgusted he turned the tv off and he hadn't turned it on again since. This antique box intrigued him enough for him to put aside his past opinions.

It was a shot of a space ship. This wasn't your average run of the mill Lunar shuttle. This was the probe. They had sent the probe to go visit the spatial anomaly and it had disappeared. It must have returned somehow. The news reporter stood in front of a video that ran a video of the probe appearing into normal space.

Mark had long speculated on how and why it disappeared. He had done some calculations and he had a way to unify some of the fundamental forces of nature, but these calculations were based on a couple of assumptions about the spatial anomaly.

Mark thought that the anomaly might be a hole in space-time. It was like a gate of sorts. If this anomaly was really a portal, it justified some of his assumptions about space and flexibility. He had made some rogue assumptions in his work but the truth about the anomaly would verify his work. If he could do this it would be a great thesis paper. It would be a great physics paper. It would be revolutionary.

He stared at the screen and it all fell into place. He was right all along. The anomaly was a gate and he could prove how it worked. He could even prove it mathematically. He started rubbing his hand up and down his leg. He needed to go and finish his work. He needed to show it to his professor. He needed to get it published. He needed to get out of the commons and get to his room.

Mark stood up very quickly and darted towards the door. When he stood up the table was bumped and all the journals and junk tumbled onto Loyse's lap and the floor. She let out a little yelp, but Mark was already at the door to the commons.

Loyse screamed, "Markius Tannhauser, you get back here!"

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APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 1 December, 1998