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After Dr. Faraday released the straps Darian sat up. It felt almost strange being in the chair without being strapped into it, almost like he might fall out. He rubbed at his wrists, although he had been in the chair many times and the straps hadn’t truly been on him that long.
“I recognize that saying, kind of like beware what you wish for?” Darian began as he collected his thoughts.
Dr. Faraday’s eyebrows rose, “You recognize the saying? It’s kind of niche saying for people in my line of work, no one remembers the origin.”
“I did once, I think,” Darian shook his head as if trying to rattle up some memories.
“It’s possible, after all, you are what you are,” Dr. Faraday responded.
Darian blinked, “And what am I?”
Dr. Faraday chuckled,” You know who I am? But you don’t know who you are?”
“I’ve only heard your name once, from my roommate,” Darian admitted.
“I’d be interesting to know how your roommate knew, “ Faraday contemplated for a second, “ But either way, my name is Phineas Faraday, I’m a scientist under contract from the Taerren government performing experiments on temporal radiation.”
“Darian, my name is Darian Standon,” Darian replied, “Temporal? Time, you mean time?”
“Yes!” Dr. Faradays eyes brightened up, “Of course, the name is a little misleading, the radiation itself affects time but doesn’t come from time itself. It’s quite an interesting discovery, I must say. It was theorized in the Dictations of Morodon Barnes that…”
“But, what are you saying I am?”
Dr. Faradays blinked, a moment of confusion spread across his face before his brain seemed to catch up, “Oh, I’m sorry, right, I do wonder sometimes. You are a unique test subject. You came from a newly discovered planet that we believe was occupied by the Iridians, a race of alien beings that we were involved in a war with about a thousand years ago. You don’t remember the war?”
Darian scratched his head, “I, I don’t remember much. What you did, I’ve forgotten a lot of my life before being here.”
Dr. Faraday lowered his eyes, a look of shame on his face, “I apologize for the part I played. You should have had a place of honor, scientists from around the world should have been allowed to talk with you, learn from you, but instead you were used in this useless experiment, and now everything you knew is gone. But I guess that’s what happens when you kill the Regent’s son.”
“Regent’s son? Who?”
“Oh, you don’t remember that either? Well, you killed Demetry, son of the Lord Regent Swansa Boramont the third. I heard you stabbed him in the back or something.”
“I think… I think I remember. He had braided hair.”
Phinease nodded, “The braided hair is an empiric marker. Only nobles can get their hair braided and only the Bormant’s family has that particular braid style.”
“He killed the people I was with, he had a sword, and he was going to kill…”
“The Lancers. They are a group of terrorists, politically reformists that demand change within the government. Primarily, they want the Regent disposed and restoration of the democracy that hasn’t existed since before the Iridian war. Nasty people and they’ve only gotten nastier. In the past, they had a no-kill policy, but since the daughter took over, they have become quite bloodthirsty.”
“The Iridian war, you said I’m from an Iridian world. So I’m an Iridian?” Darian asked.
Dr. Faraday barked out a laugh, “No, of course not, you’re human, just like us. What they were doing with you on that planet is beyond me. However, you are from the time of the Iridian War, we presume. That was our first contact with the Iridians after all. You were probably a fighter pilot or civilian on one of the conquered worlds. They imprisoned you with their technology, and we unearthed you,” Dr. Faraday explained.
“But, how did I survive, if that was a thousand years ago?” Darian inquired.
“A Temporal web, it’s the kind of thing I’ve only dreamed of creating. It’s actually part of the reason you are part of this experiment in the first place. The Iridians used temporal weapons, shields, energy systems. We hope to one day learn what they did and how they did it,” Phineas continued.
“I think I remember hearing about the Iridian war, from my roommate. They just up and disappeared right?” Darian continued to question.
“You’re correct, the war lasted three brutal years, we were nearing the point in which we began the Nargar Contingency and then they were gone. In a thousand years since we have had yet to find a single shred of evidence of their existence. Their technology, their ships, even their cities just vanished overnight.”
“Nargar Contingency?” Darian asked.
“Coined by Dr. Nargar, it was a contingency plan in the event of an unbeatable war. Simply put, a jump gate is destroyed, preventing any travel to that system. The actual contingency calls for the destruction of all jump gates, essentially destroying the infrastructure of interplanetary commerce and communication, but smaller versions of it exist as well. The plan has only been used once, shortly after the Iridian War, in something known as the Wraith Scourge.” Dr. Faraday explained.
Darian scratched at his head. This was a lot of information to hear at once, and he almost felt a bit overwhelmed. He needed to talk more about what was important, what he needed to know.
“So what temporal experiments have you been doing to my roommate and me?” he finally asked.
Dr. Faraday sighed, “And that question is a very long one. Do you know the principals of interstellar travel?”
“Humor me,” Darian responded wryly.
Phineas rolled his eyes before continuing, “Faster than light travel isn’t possible, but the closer you get the speed of light, the slower time gets for you. Some ships can go pretty close, about 90% the speed of light. At this speed, a year of travel will feel like only about a minute on board. In the early days, people took one-way trips across the galaxy to find new planets.”
“When they got there, they built jump gates. A jump gate essentially squeezes space, or space-time, depending on who you ask and allows you to cross compressed space, allowing you to pass vast distances in seconds. Knowing where a jump gate always exists, they would use their jump gate to establish a connection. Once a connection is established, several jump gates are built and a system becomes inhabited.”
“Most systems, like the one we are in right now, the Navu system, have anywhere from 4-6 jumpgates so that they can connect with any potential incoming gates. Each of the colonies has its own list of systems. The Taerrens inhabit eighty-two or eighty-three systems, depending on who you ask.”
“Some of the jump gates are tasked with trying to establish connections. All day long, all they do is select star after star, trying to make a connection. This was a practice set up from many thousands of years ago when the original colonies were separated. It was a way to reestablish contact with lost colonies. Few do this anymore, but each colony keeps one or two gates running with this purpose.”
“How could you be that exact?” Darian interrupted, “I mean, would your connection need to be perfect?”
“No, I suppose the best way to describe it would be to say the gates are magnetized. That’s not really true, but for your purposes, let’s just say if a gate is even in the ballpark, say an entire solar system, they will simply attract to each other and snap together.” Phineas described.
“Anyway, your story, in particular, starts ten years ago. One of the jump gates suddenly established a connection. When an exploration probe was sent through, it was instantly destroyed. Explorers, eager to see what they had connected to, built ships to try to make it into this new realm. It became a kind of contest. Several ships were destroyed and many people died. Each ship gathered a little bit more data from the last, and eventually, a ship was sent in that survived the cosmic tremors and radiation.”
“A red giant had collided with a black hole, and they had erupted in a supernova. The explosion destroyed both the black hole and the star, spreading radiation, matter, and destruction across lightyears of space. For some reason, the particular environment created by this supernova made an impromptu jump gate and allowed us to bend space and travel there.”
“This was an incredible opportunity for us. We had the first and only chance to study the end of the life of a star and black hole, and potentially the beginnings of the formations of a new star. We’d be able to learn so much, things we never thought possible. This information could hint at the very creation of the universe.”
“So the scientists set up equipment, ready to learn and gather data, and what they found was that some of their equipment would not function properly. Worse than even you’d expect from a supernova mess. Scientists far smarter than me managed to pinpoint the source. It was a small piece of metallic like substance floating harmlessly through the cosmic destruction before them.”
“They gathered it and took it home. Some data were acquired before the jumpgate inevitably collapsed, but that’s not important. What they had brought home was unlike anything they had ever seen before. It was completely unaffected by gravity, simply floating around in the containment they had gotten for it. After they had done a significant amount of research and study, they came to a final conclusion. It was compressed photons.”
“Photons?” Darian asked, “You mean light?”
Dr. Faraday nodded excitedly as he continued, “Yes, exactly! Light acts like both a particle and a wave, but in this case, we found a particulate form of light having been put under so much pressure that it simply balled together like flakes of gold. Now can you guess what could cause that?”
“The black hole? So you’re saying that all the light that goes into a black hole and never comes out actually forms into something?” Darian responded.
“You are a smart one I see, absolutely. All that light, years and years of light, it got compressed. We’d never have known it either if that black hole wasn’t torn apart by that star. However, many of the people working on the photon particle began to become ill. No one could understand why or what was happening.”
“Temporal Radiation?” Darian inferred.
Dr. Faraday snapped his finger excitedly,” The closer something gets to the speed of light, the slower time moves. So something that is the speed of light, let’s say, light itself, wouldn’t move at all. But take light in a solid form, and it releases a kind of Temporal radiation, something strange that affects organisms and objects around it.”
“We believe that these photonic particles are the source of the temporal energy used by the Iridians. Therefore, we study its’ effect on people. That isn’t direction I wanted to take my particular research, but it’s a start and it’s what I am funded to do.”
“What do you desire to research?” Darian asked.
A grin broke out on his face, “I hypothesize that we are always exposed to temporal radiation. I believe that temporal radiation is time. In other words, light, or the radiation emitted from photonic particles, is what drives time to move forward. These compressed photonic particles emit far higher doses of temporal radiation than what is considered normal, and thus they warp the environment around them.”
“So you have been exposing me and my roommate to temporal radiation?” Darian continued.
The smile left Dr. Faraday’s face, “Yes… I suppose that is the brunt of it.”
“So, this is causing me to age rapidly?” Darian asked.
“Well, that is what we were trying to determine. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Not in you and not in the other people that were part of this experiment.” Phineas answered.
“There were originally twenty people involved in this particular experiment. Of them, only three survived, and only two of them will be alive by the end of the month,” the scientist replied.
“My roommate and I?” Darian pressed, eager to learn more about the situation he was in.
“Yes, with the exception of the two of you, everyone else exposed grew sick and died. But neither you nor your roommate seems to be ill. Memory loss you say? This is the very reason these experiments are so ridiculous. We can observe you, in your room, and we can scan you, but they forbid me from having any other contact with you. I’m not allowed to talk to you, and as a result, I don’t learn anything.” Phinease replied, fidgeting with his lab coat uncomfortably.
“And what’s changed?” Darian asked.
“Why did I stop? I assume you’ve realized I stopped exposing you to radiation two weeks ago. I couldn’t take it anymore. These people, we essentially murdered seventeen men for no reason. We could have used animals, we could have used cell cultures, but the damned Lord Regent decided it was quicker and more edifying to use real people.” Phineas replied.
“I went along with it though. It was my research, and I wanted money to fund my research. In order to do so, I needed to do things the way I was told. As a result, this is what came of my research. Still, I had someone that depended on me. My wife. I could comfort myself when I came home at night on the grounds that I had someone that needed me, someone that could be hurt if I refused to do my job.”
“Well, I won’t go into the bitter details, but we finalized the divorce exactly two weeks ago.”
With that, Darian burst out in laughter. Dr. Faraday jumped and stared at him in disbelief as he bent over in his chair, laughing at the ridiculousness of this situation. After a few moments, a forced smile appeared on his lips, with sympathy painted in his eyes.
“I suppose you’re right,” he continued, “In your situation, something as silly as a divorce ending over a year of experimentation, would seem stupid. For me though, something snapped. I stopped caring; at least, I stopped caring about my own well being. I meant what I said, if there was anything I could do, I’d do it.”
“And then it clicked, the least I can do is stop the torment. I recovered old videos of previous experimental sessions, and I simply play those. Everyone thinks I’m doing my job, and you can recover. It won’t work forever. I will be caught eventually, and most likely imprisoned myself. But it’s about all I can do.”
“Can’t you end the experiments?” Darian asked.
“If I do, the test subjects would be ended too. I lie, send out false reports of no progress, but eventually, the plug will be pulled, and our little farce will be exposed.”
“Can you get us transferred, moved into something else?” Darian inferred, leaning forward in thought.
“Like what?” Phineas asked, scratching at his chin.
“Prison?” Darian asked, his eyes intent on Phineas.
The scientist’s eyes opened wide at that. “Prison? Why would… well, I suppose prison is a better place than here. There would be no legal way to do it, but it might be possible.”
“If anyone can make it happen, I know you can,” Darian stated, sitting back in the chair, “The guards are on their way right now, you need to tie me back up and get out of here before they come.”
Dr. Faraday blinked, “How? Right, of course.”
The scientist quickly buckled Darian back up, “We will speak again, I will do what I can; I just need time.”
Darian nodded and the man left the room. After another minute a guard was back to return him to his cell. When he got into the cell, he saw that Devin was asleep in the bed. Devin would be awake in a few minutes. Darian looked inward, trying to bring out the strange intuition from deep within himself.
It has seemed like a cloud was lifted from his mind. He could think clearer than he had as far back as he could remember. Dr. Faraday would help him, he knew this. The man would come through for him and his roommate. First, he had to learn things, things he didn’t know before. He needed to prepare himself.
Devin finally rose from his bed to find Darian pacing back and forth across their small space. After pulling all of his blankets off of himself he tossed them to the ground. Finally, he rose and stumbled over to the counter grabbing a bowl of cold gruel that had been pushed through the service hole.
“What are you doing?” he mumbled in irritation over a mouth full of porridge.
“Isn’t it obvious?” He responded with a chuckle stopping and staring at the door leading out of their cell.
“What is obvious?” the old man responded, his mouth sounding muffled.
“What I am doing…”
“What are you doing?” he mumbled in irritation over a mouth full of porridge.
“You’ve already asked that,” Darian responded, wondering what the man was playing at.
“I most certainly have not. You just woke me up while mumbling to yourself.”
Darian turned around and his breath caught. Devin was lying in bed, still tangled in his sheets. He looked up sleepily at Darian, a confused look on his face. Darian glanced over at the counter, the bowl of porridge still sitting where it was when he had entered the room, uneaten and untouched.
The old man finally peeled the blankets off of himself, tossing them to the side of the bed. Finally, he rose and stumbled over to the counter, grabbing a bowl of cold gruel that had been pushed through the service hole.
“What are you doing?” he mumbled in irritation over a mouth full of porridge.
Darian blinked at the sudden déjà Vu. He realized he had been staring at Devin for the last few moments and quickly turned his head.
“I, I just…” Darian shook his head to try to make sense of what he had seen.
“Another premonition is it?”
“Premonition?” Darian asked.
“You’re full of those, aren’t you? If you’re so eager to try to tell the future, then why don’t you summon up a premonition and get us the heck out of here?” Devin replied.
Darian sat back down on the bed. He scratched at his chin, thinking meticulously about the events leading up to now, and the events that would come next. He saw them clearly, almost too clearly, as if he could remember things that haven’t happened yet. It was strange.
“Get us out of here?” He finally responded, “That, I might do.”