New Technology

Chapter One

New Technology

Ruger crept down black stone steps into a large cavern, laced with small fiery pools of lava. He cringed at the eerie shadows rippling across the rough, stone floor around him. Diomedes cursed him for his failures and left his face disfigured and grotesque. Only when Billy is dead and Diomedes is released from her prison could he ever hope to be healed.
The gnarly wizard sweated profusely from the heat as he approached a charred wooden table with seven skulls next to a cauldron.
“Diomedes!” he shouted nervously.
“Have you solved the device yet?” boomed a raspy voice from the rear of the cavern.
Ruger’s twisted and distorted face reflected his fear.
“No, I haven’t,” he said humbly.
The shadow of a tailed creature shone across the wall.
“And what of the outsider?”
“He will be dealt with soon enough.”
Ruger looked around nervously for Diomedes but saw only her shadow.
“He must not be permitted to ally himself with the Firenghians,” warned Diomedes.
“I’ll take care of it immediately.”
“If not, you’ll join your kin in hell!”
“I will do my best, Diomedes.”
“That’s not good enough! You have repeatedly failed me and now we are on the defensive.”
“I meant that I will succeed, Diomedes.”
Ruger bowed to her and fled the cavern.

Doc Smith peered through the blinds at the sunlit yard and pondered the events of the last few months. After battling for survival against the Neanderthals and the giant spiders, he now found himself at Dr. Miller’s research facility, immersed in a civilized atmosphere once again.
The observatory and the surrounding buildings were the last remnants of functional civilization that he’d know on this world.
Across the way, he eyed the mountains and forests that reminded him of wild animals eying their prey.
Joe Miller entered the conference. “Good morning! Did you sleep well?” he inquired jovially.
“Good morning, Joe. Quite well. Did you have any luck with the satellite images?”
“A little. It appears we can access the satellite only for a brief period of time.”
Doc wore a gray, wool sweater and corduroy pants provided by Dr. Miller’s people. His shaved head and big-rimmed glasses belied his true age of fifty-five.
Joe was a longtime friend and colleague. The two men jointly investigated changes in the earth, which they believed induced the frequent earthquakes that plagued the planet prior to the event that tore them away from their own planet.
Joe was older than Doc at sixty-two. He was only five feet tall and balding. Many scientists regarded him as the most brilliant eccentric in the world. His theories were quite ahead of their time and he had a rational way of explaining them.
Joe refused to let the disappearance of civilization change his routines. He continued to show up for work everyday in a suit and insisted on punctuality among his coworkers.
“We need to figure out who is responsible for this mess,” remarked Joe. “Then we have to undo it.”
“That may be easier said than done,” replied Doc.
Doc examined the icons on the computer screen then shifted his focus to the projection on the wall.
After several keystrokes, Joe made the large projection screen change from a map of the planet to four satellite images. He used a laser pointer to draw Doc’s attention to four blue patches on each of the images.
“These shades indicate very intense energy fields. They’re comprised of odd varieties of wavelengths and frequencies of light and sound. In addition, it seems like the fields are made up of energies, blended together unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”
“That’s astounding!” exclaimed Doc.
“These are the first images taken about the time your plane landed in Philadelphia. In fact, when you contacted me by radio, I was in the process of analyzing them.”
Doc focused on each of the images and tried to make sense of them. He recalled how Maggie repeatedly warned him over the years about his tendency to look too hard into problems and overlook the solutions because of it.
“Now, if I didn’t know better, what would I see?”
“Think about the big picture,” said Joe patiently.
“Each of the large fields was centered on Philadelphia and Washington. The energy fields extracted part of our continent and transported it from the Earth. That’s how we got here!”
“It does appear so.”
Joe pressed three keys and new images appeared on the screen. He pressed another key and the screen split into two halves.
The left half retained the original images, while the right half exhibited the new images.
“Look what’s happened. The large energy fields are gone except for two small pink ones. I think the large fields operated like magnets that pulled us out of the Earth and replaced us just like swapping out pieces of a jigsaw puzzle,” explained Joe.
“But what about the small field up there? It’s near my camp.”
“That’s a smaller quantity of energy. It established a different sort of field, but not a very big one. It could be a portal for transporting someone or something into the region. If I didn’t know better, I’d say someone discovered how to use ‘wormhole’ technology.”
“This is fantastic!” exclaimed Doc. “Now, if we could only find out who and how.”
He stared at the images with his hands on his hips and pondered aloud, “It all makes sense. A trio of energy beams of significant power forms the field. With this quantity of energy, a wormhole could be positioned anywhere using a positioning device.”
“Perhaps this is one of the keys to understanding the secrets of the universe, Doc.”
“But, the army of creatures that attacked us… What if there are thousands of them? If our theory is true, then they could come through the portal in larger numbers next time.”
“I understand your concern but do you realize what this means if we’re right?” Joe queried zealously
“Yes, I do. But think what it means if someone caused this cataclysm. It’s too much power for anyone to possess especially if they can’t control it.”
“I believe that if the energy fields are directed through wormholes, we can predict the length of time it takes before they can complete the transformation of landmasses,” suggested Joe.
“I don’t care how long it takes! How do we reverse it? How do we go home?”
“We have to keep our wits about us, Doc, and dissect this problem one piece at a time.”
“I don’t know how you can be so calm about this, Joe. We’re stranded on an alien planet.”
“We could be on the verge of understanding something miraculous!”
“The other pink field formed south of here. We could fly over the area and investigate what’s happening. Then we’ll see firsthand if it’s really a portal,” recommended Doc.
“That’s a good idea, but it won’t be us going. Our work here is more important. We’ll send scouts to investigate the field. In the meantime, why don’t you get some lunch and I’ll make the necessary arrangements.”
“Alright, but let me know immediately if you find out anything new.”

Maggie and Penny sat on an old iron bench in front of the observatory. Maggie transcribed several pages of her husband’s shorthand notes into a copybook while Penny stared quietly at the eerie mountains looming in the distance.
The sky was bright blue and the temperature was about seventy-four degrees. A cool breeze rustled the trees around them.
“This would be perfect weather to go shopping in if we were home,” said Penny.
“Yes, it would. I’m going to miss the stores,” replied Maggie.
Penny stared down at the ground and wondered what Billy was doing back at the camp.
“How are you making out without Billy?” asked Maggie.
“Okay, I guess.”
“Have you thought about what you’re going to do if you go back?”
“I don’t know. If I could be part of his daily activities, I’d be much happier with him.”
“Maybe you should take the initiative and make yourself a part of his activities. Don’t think about it, just do it.”
“That’s easy for you to say.”
“Not really. I had to make the same decision with Doc and it’s not easy. I wanted to be with him so badly that I forced myself to be a part of his everyday activities. If he took issue with it, things would have turned out different between us.”
“Do you ever regret giving up your life to be with Doc?”
“Sometimes, but that’s what love is all about. Being with him was more important than being alone. When I made my decision, I promised myself that I would never look back. The only problem I ever had with it is that people came to know me as Doc’s assistant instead of Doc’s wife.”
“I would love to be part of Billy’s life but every time we’re close to making things work, he gets spooked.”
“Maybe it brought back the pain of a bad experience.”
“If he’s still interested when we get back, I’ll have that talk with him. I’m afraid he’s already given up on me, though.”
“I don’t think so. I’m sure if you talk to him, you’ll feel much better.”
“Hey, Maggie, not to change the subject but it’s lunchtime. Are you hungry?”
“I sure am. Let’s go to the cafeteria and see what’s for lunch.”

A young Marine stood in the distance, ogling the two women. He was enamored with Penny. She was very attractive to him, wearing tight blue jeans and a white blouse. He was only nineteen and young men were scarce since the cataclysm.
When the women walked away, he decided to make his move. He rushed across the green stretch of grass and caught up with them.
“Hello, ladies. I’m Corporal Jarret Kincaid.”
Maggie and Penny were startled.
“That’s nice, Corporal, but we’re going to lunch,” replied Maggie.
“Great! Mind if I join you?”
The two women looked at each other curiously. Maggie preferred their privacy but wasn’t sure how to convey her feelings. Penny didn’t want to seem ignorant and buckled first.
“I don’t see why not. What do you think, Maggie?”
“It’s your call.”
“Alright, Jarret. You can come.”
“I promise, you won’t regret it.”
“We’ll see.”
Jarret cheerfully accompanied the girls across the courtyard to the cafeteria.
The front of the observatory was like a small park with a smooth, green carpet of grass. The walkway wound through tall trees and crossed the lawn, giving them a pleasant view of the surrounding area.
“So, ladies, do I get an introduction?” asked Jarret.
“I’m Maggie Smith. My husband is Dr. Kirkland Smith. This is my friend Penny Nichols.”
“I haven’t seen either of you around. Where did you come from?”
“A camp near Philadelphia.”
“Penny Nichols. That has a ring to it,” kidded Jarret.
“Are you making fun of my name?” asked Penny, defensively.
“No, just small talk. My, you’re a feisty young lady.”
“Who’s this kid calling ‘young’? I’m older than he is by at least five years,” Penny thought.
The young corporal was captivated with Penny. He walked by her side and admired her.
Maggie felt uneasy about his presence and worried that he would cause trouble for Penny. Unfortunately, it wasn’t her place to interfere.
“So, Miss Nichols, how long are you here for?” inquired Jarret.
“Probably another week. Once Maggie’s husband finishes his work with Dr. Miller, we’ll fly back.”
“What business brings you down here? You’re not a scientist, are you?”
“No, I needed to get away for while. Things were a little hectic at our camp.”
“I presume that you’ll return to Philadelphia with Dr. Smith.”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”
“Oh, I thought you might change your mind. We still have some semblance of civilization left around here.”
“Like what?”
“Do you have a real bed to sleep in or a building to live in?”
“No, we’re literally roughing it. My friends are building huts and we just got running water in the compound last week.”
“I’m surprised you’d choose that lifestyle over this. Anyway, I do think it’s interesting that part of Washington might be the last remnant of civilization on the continent or the world for that matter. Most importantly, we still have power, even if it’s only for a little while.”
“I have friends back at the camp, Jarret. We’ve been through a lot together. Besides, I’ve grown accustomed to the camp and it’s like home now.”
“Well, it does sound more exciting than this place. I was hoping that we might get to know each other before you leave.”
Penny blushed and bit her lip.
“Aren’t you going to answer, Penny?” he asked anxiously.
“We’ll see, Corporal Kincaid. If you behave yourself, we just might get to be friends.”
Maggie fretted as she realized the game Penny was playing.
When they arrived at the cafeteria, they got in line for the grill. It wasn’t very long since there were only about sixty people at the observatory and its surrounding buildings.
Doc entered the cafeteria and quietly approached Maggie from behind. She was surprised when she turned and saw him standing there.
“How long have you been there?” she asked irritably.
“Not long. Have you had a chance to look around?”
“Uh-huh. Penny and I have done quite a bit of site seeing since we got here. Were Dr. Miller’s people able to tell you anything helpful?”
“They sure did and you won’t believe what we’ve discovered.”
“Well.”
“Wait until we’re seated.”
Doc looked curiously at the young Marine escorting Penny.
“Who’s the new kid?” he inquired.
“That’s Romeo and he’s courting his Juliet,” Maggie whispered.
“I think Penny should stay away from men. Every time she gets near a guy, she has a meltdown,” he joked.
Maggie smacked her husband’s elbow.
“Doc, that’s not nice. She has issues.”
“That’s exactly what I mean.”
Maggie frowned at her husband although she was used to his cynicism when it came to younger people. She enjoyed working with him, but regretted that they never had time to start a family of their own.
Doc and Maggie were both eager for a hot meal. When it was their turn, the cook served them cheeseburgers and fries.
“Sorry, we only have a limited selection these days. Tomorrow we’re having hotdogs and potato salad,” he informed them apologetically.
“No need to apologize. This is a big improvement from what we’re used to,” said Bob.
The four of them took their trays and sought an open table.
Doc and Maggie sat first, while Penny and Jarret took a table further down.
Conversation was somewhat strained with all the chatter. Word of the potential discovery of wormhole technology traveled quickly around the group.
Penny was silent and picked at her fries. He continued his efforts to court her.
“You can call me Jarret. Can I call you Penny?”
“I guess so,” she said coyly.
“Are you married, Penny?”
“Boy, you don’t waste time. Why do you want to know?”
“Is there any reason you wouldn’t tell me?”
“No. It’s just that I’ve known you all of twenty minutes and you’re already asking personal questions.”
“Okay. Let me rephrase the question. Is there a significant other in your life?”
Penny hesitated, unsure if she wanted to answer the question. Jarret read her reaction immediately.
“Okay, let’s try this one more time. Do I have a chance with you or not?” he inquired stubbornly.
Maggie couldn’t help overhearing the conversation. She noticed that Penny’s face was red with embarrassment.
“Penny, you may want to hear what Doc and Dr. Miller have discovered. It sounds pretty important.”
Penny was relieved that Maggie interrupted when she did.
“Sure, Maggie. We’re coming right over,”
“Penny, are you avoiding the question or ignoring me?” Jarrett relentlessly asked.
“No. I mean I’m not sure. It’s a long story and I’d rather not talk about it right now.”
Doc kicked his wife in the shin. She glared at him and tapped her fork on the table in a threatening gesture to her husband. He was quite amused with Penny’s current situation and grinned as she and Jarret took seats across from them.
“Our situation is no random act of nature. We believe someone has the use of advanced wormhole technology,” explained Doc.
“Does that mean we can travel around the universe,” kidded Jarret.
Doc frowned and Penny poked Jarrett in the arm.
“Behave. Dr. Smith is serious,” she chided.
“Sorry, Doc.”
As Doc ate a cheeseburger, Maggie urged him, “Don’t stop now. Tell them the rest.”
Doc reluctantly put the burger down and finished chewing.
“We suspect the phenomena that altered our world may be part of a plan orchestrated by someone with technology well beyond anything we have. Huge energy fields were created and directed with a powerful instrument to this region and the Philadelphia region. We believe that these fields were strong enough to transfer large sections of the Earth to this world.”
“What kinds of energy fields can exert that kind of power?” asked Penny.
“We’re still not sure. They’re quite complex.”
Penny was amazed by his revelation.
“Why would someone cause such a disaster?” she asked.
“That’s what we’re trying to solve. Dr. Miller has arranged for a scout to fly our plane over one of the smaller fields. If we are correct in our thinking, we’ll find an army of the alien soldiers like the ones Billy encountered.”
“How many of these smaller fields exist?” asked Jarrett.
“So far, this is the second such location. If Billy’s friends finished off the first army, then they’re safe for now. If reinforcements come, they could be in big trouble.”
“So, you think the creatures that attacked Billy are responsible for everything that’s happened to us?”
“They’re involved somehow. They seem too primitive to execute a scheme of this magnitude on their own. I believe there’s a higher intelligence involved.”
“Then we need to go back and warn the others, don’t we?”
“Yes, we do. There may be more of these things coming. We’ll wait and see what the scouts find out, first, before we make any moves.”
“These armies could be the leading edge of a much bigger invasion force,” fretted Maggie.
“It’s possible. I think the key to stopping them, though, is to understand how they’re using the wormhole technology. Only then can we focus on stopping them.”
Doc finished his second cheeseburger and his fries.
Maggie and Penny lost their appetites over the news. Jarret wasn’t concerned in the least about the situation. He focused on Penny and considered what his next move would be.
“You girls had better eat something. We may be going back today,” suggested Bob.
He got up and left the cafeteria. Maggie remained at the table and sipped from her cup of soda. She worried that their friends at the compound were in danger.
“Can I go back with you, Penny?” asked Jarrett innocently.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. Besides it’s not up to me.”
“I’ll go make the arrangements. This will be fun,” he said eagerly and rushed from the cafeteria.
“Jarret, no!” Penny hollered but to no avail. “Well, Maggie. I guess I handled that well.”
“You have to be direct with men. If not, they’ll walk all over you.”
“I should be used to that.”
“Let’s go for a walk. I’d like to take in the scenery around here one more time,” said Maggie as she stood up.
“Do you think we’ll really go back today?”
“I’m sure of it. Dr. Miller is a brilliant man. If he and Bob agree on what they’ve found, then I’m sure their assumptions are correct. We’ll need to warn the others as soon as possible.”
Maggie and Penny walked slowly through the park.
“What are you going to do about Billy?” asked Maggie.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you have Jarret in the picture now.”
“Oh, don’t worry about him. He’ll get bored and go away.”
“I’d be careful if I were you.”
“Why? He’s just a kid.”
“Have you looked into his eyes? He has lust written all over them.”
Penny giggled.
“Oh, Maggie, you worry too much.”
They returned to the observatory.
“Don’t lead him on. He’s not playing,” advised Maggie.
“I understand.”
“I need to speak with Doc about some things. I’ll see you at the plane in a bit, Penny.”
“Alright. See you then.”
Penny walked out to the small landing strip at the edge of the facility. She sat on a bench and pondered, “Maybe I can make Billy jealous and have a little fun at the same time.”
She gazed at the sky with a devious smile.

The small commuter plane landed and taxied down the gravel strip.
Penny watched passively, as she considered how to handle Billy and Jarret.
Maggie, Doc and Joe approached the plane and waited anxiously for the pilot to exit. The engines shut down and the propellers gradually slowed to a stop. The pilot stepped off the plane and approached them.
“Well, what did you see?” asked Doc anxiously.
“It was just as you said. We saw an encampment of about two hundred soldiers in black uniforms about twelve miles southwest of here. We flew over several times but didn’t see anything that resembled a portal, though.”
“How much do you know about these creatures, Doc?” asked Joe urgently.
“The soldiers are primitive and appear to be controlled by a higher intelligence. They wear transmitters on their wrists like a watch. The leaders are tall and I hear they have some special mind-altering ability. One of them attempted to use it on a friend of mine. He is back at the compound and has met them up close and personal.”
“How soon are you leaving?”
“I should go right away. I’ll contact you by radio if we find out anything new. What’s your next move?”
“I’ll speak to our resident Marines and see what they can do about dismantling the alien army. I’d prefer if you stayed, but I understand your concern.”
“Thanks, Joe. I’m worried that the camp may be in danger, otherwise I’d stay longer.”
“Call me on the radio when you can.”
“Thanks, I will.”
The pilot informed Doc, “I need time to gas the plane. It’ll have to be by hand so give me an hour or so.”
“That’s fine. We’ll come back.”
Doc left them and returned to the projection room.
Maggie sat with Penny and they stare blankly at the mountains.
“Are you alright, Penny?”
“Yeah, I’m wondering what to expect when I get back.”
“Just relax and let nature take its course. You’ll be fine.”
“I hope so, Maggie. I really hope so.”
When Doc returned with the pilot, Penny became excited. There was no sign of Jarrett and she‘d see Billy again.
“He’ll be so surprised to see me return. Should I play hard to get? No, maybe I’ll just go for a romantic kiss. Perhaps he’s realized how much we mean to each other.”
Maggie couldn’t help noticing the grin on Penny’s face and was glad for her. Her sister, Celia, was killed in a car wreck when she was about Penny’s age and Maggie couldn’t help thinking about how much Penny reminded her of her sister.
“I can see you’re looking forward to going back, Penny.”
“Yeah, I can’t wait to talk with Billy.”
Maggie and Penny arrived at the plane first and waited anxiously.
Doc arrived a few minutes later, carrying a large folder, full of maps and notes. He handed them to Maggie.
Maggie quickly stowed it in her carry bag. “I hope this is it, Doc? I’m out of room,” she complained.
“That’s the last of them.”
Jarret raced toward them and called out, “Penny!”
Maggie pretended not to notice him. “Come on, Penny. Let’s get on board,” she urged.
“I’m right behind you, Maggie.”
Jarret caught up to Penny and grabbed her by her hips.
“Hey, Penny, did you think you could sneak off without me?”
“Jarret! What are you doing here?”
“I’m going with you. I told you I’d work it out.”
“But, Jarret, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“It’s got to be more exciting in your camp than this stuffy old place. Besides, I’d like to see some of those creatures that Dr. Smith told my friends about.”
“Jarret, I don’t…”
Jarret cut her off with a quick kiss on the lips.
Penny was stunned and speechless. She looked to Maggie and Bob for help.
Doc shrugged his shoulders and smiled. Maggie was appalled by the boy’s brashness but left Penny to handle her own affairs. They boarded the small plane without saying another word.
Penny sat in the last row of seats, waiting curiously to see what Jarret would do next.
Maggie and Doc sat in the front seats. Doc wanted to be close to the pilot in case he saw anything on the ground that required a closer look.
Jarret entered the plane last and sat next to Penny. She immediately realized that she made a mistake with Jarrett.
Maggie wasn’t sure how to help Penny with her predicament.
Doc sensed her concern. “She’s a big girl. She can take care of herself,” Bob reminded her.
“But, Doc. That boy is so bossy.”
“Penny will be fine. She’s an adult.”
Maggie sat uneasily in her seat.
The plane took off smoothly into the blue sky.
The pilot leveled off at five hundred feet so Bob could survey the ground below.
Jarret wasted no time in his relentless pursuit of Penny. He placed his arm around her. “How do you know you wouldn’t like me? I may be younger than you, but I would do my best to take care of you,” Jarrett explained.
“You don’t understand, Jarret. Things are complicated right now and I don’t want …”
She became silent and stared into his brown eyes. Jarret seized his moment of opportunity and kissed her.
At first, she wanted to push him away, but then realized how much she missed the warmth of a man. She relaxed and enjoyed Jarret’s advances.
“Jarret, I want you to know that there is someone else in my life.”
“I can wait,” he said coolly and kissed her again.
Penny responded with a long passionate kiss of her own.
“But what if I don’t want you to wait?”
“I’ll wait anyhow.”
During the remainder of the flight, Jarret and Penny coddled and kissed. Penny missed being romanced as Billy had done in the past and was anxious to make up for it.