Lothian and Borders Police Shooting Range
South of Edinburgh, Scotland
May 17, 1999
Brenda Maclaren had just finished shooting. Her father Will had been happily surprised at the improvement that he had seen. He had wondered if his twin daughters had kept up their shoot practice while they were completing their degrees. He realized that he should not have worried with their cousin Alyca around. Their competitive spirit was engaged with Alyca with her Olympic silver metal in three- position rifle and the biathlon world championship win this past winter. He expected that Alyca’s scholarly and technical achievements had done as much for their schooling as being around Jess, Alice, Marie, and Alice’s sister Marge combined. He was glad that Leslie and he had sent them to the University of Edinburgh even if they had missed them when they were on the other side of the world. He would be happy when the whole family was back in Queensland again.
“Alyca, how long would it take you to teach me to shoot that well.” Robert Maclaren asked. He had just finished an eight weeks course with Macphater Mining Equipment security. At just sixteen, he had been a dozen years younger than most of the men, but had finished third in the ranking which had surprised none of the other participates. They had originally thought it was strange for their new boss to but his teenage son in the course with them. They all had had Special Forces experience. They had wondered how the teenager was going to keep up. Many had thought that the only reason that Robert had not placed first was that he had put on twenty kilograms of muscles and grew over three centimeters during the eight weeks. They all had a very deep respect for him and his father after what they had learned of them during the two months.
“Let your parents see Mary shoot, and then we will see what you can do.” Alyca smiled at Robert. It had been three years since she had seen him on his last visit to Scotland. He had grown over forty centimeters and put on over forty kilograms. She suspected that there was not a pound of fat on him. At two meters, he topped even his dad. His sisters were slightly taller than her one hundred and eighty four centimeters, but the three of them were sleek wolves to his tiger. It would be interesting to train him. She suspected that she also might not have an edge in speed on him.
Mary watched as Alyca appraised her brother. It looked like Alyca was contemplating taking on another project. She remembered when they had arrived in Edinburgh three years ago. Alyca had looked the same way at them. If someone had told her what her next three years would be like, she would not have believed her. It seemed more like ten years with all that they had learned and done. Professor Jamie Lawson had told her that as soon as she choose a topic and submitted her thesis, she would get a doctorate in electrical engineering. She asked what about the review of her thesis. He had laughed and said that the reports that she had been submitting were better than most doctoral theses that he had seen. She would be able to teach at Edinburgh just like her aunts and cousin. She had smiled at the compliment, but told him that she was needed back at the family business. He had been aghast that she would waste herself at a mining company. She had said that Macphater Mining Equipment was a little more than a mining company and that she would be putting Uncle Jess’s latest inventions to practical use. She had not told him of the true family plans, but she knew that he was on the list for people they would ask to join them. He was in for a surprise.
Mary had walked up to the firing position. From behind, she looked just like her twin including how she wore her red hair. Only her clothes allowed one to tell them apart unless you looked at their faces and knew them well enough to know the difference in their freckles. She brought her rifle up to her shoulder. It was one of Alyca’s older designs, in fact the same rifle she had used during the biathlon world championship. She would get one of the new rifles in Dallas. In fact, Alyca was having Brenda and her test fire the guns when they got to Dallas. She wondered if her parents knew about the rail guns. They would have been all over Alyca asking questions if they did. Mom, would like it that she had something smaller that her 50 caliber elephant gun.
Mary fired. Her shoots had been rapid and all had hit on or near the bulls-eye. She was not as good as Alyca but was slightly better than Brenda was. The three of them had been training some Olympic hopefuls that had come to train with Alyca. Of them, Richard and Laura Hunt had been the best. The Hunts were expected to head up the Australian Olympic shooting team. They had sought to have the twins try out for the team but the girls had told them that they would be busy. She expected that Richard and Laura would also be too busy since Alyca had added them to the list of those who would be invited to explore the new worlds.
“Only two shots are outside the bullseye.” Leslie Maclaren had turned from the spotting scope and had looked at the three young women. “I would like to join Robert in asking for some training. Have you done much at long distances with 50 caliber guns?”
“Oh! I think that you will like the new rifle that I am having built for you, Aunt Leslie. I think that you won’t have to lug that old elephant gun around anymore.”
By the surprise on her mother’s face, Mary had known that the new guns were a surprise.
“Robert, I will have to switch you up to the bigger gun also.” Alyca had said with a straight face. The twins had laughed since they knew how Alyca could be a tease when she surprised you with one of her new designs. The rifles had been a major surprise.
“Larry Smith asked me what type of stock Leslie would like on her new gun, but wouldn’t say anything more about it.” Will had smiled. “I take it that these are not ordinary guns, if you expect Leslie to give up her elephant gun.”
“No. I have come up with a rail gun design using a compact AJ power generator. The needles that it shoots are small but with a muzzle velocity adjustable up to Mach 10. The smallest magazine is 100 so that you have plenty of shots, even on fully automatic.”
“Mach 10 is above escape velocity. You will be putting these needles in orbit.” Kevin Gilbert, one of the members of the pilot/security detail that Will had with them, had commented.
“Oh, you could shoot a satellite if you could track it.” Alyca smile showed Leslie that she probably had been considering how to do just that. “We will need to check the guns out where we won’t hit anything.”
“Alyca let us see you shoot next, then Robert.” Will stopped the conversation before it got to topics that they were not ready to discuss in public. What had Alice and Alyca discussed that had led to the design of the rail guns?
Alyca walked to the firing position. She did not raise the rifle to her shoulder but fired from the hip. Her shots were fast but before she had fired, the third shot, her cell phone started to ring. She continued without hesitation or physical reaction to the distraction. Will was impressed by that more than he was by where the bullets had hit. He expected that all the shots were on bullseye, which Leslie quickly confirmed.
Alyca had stepped back from the firing position and answered her phone. “We’ll be right over.” She had hung up and looked at Will. Where the ringing of her cell phone had not affected her, the content of the message had. “Aunt Alice is dead. That was Marie. I told her that we would meet her at the house.”
All of the family had been shocked at the news, but especially Will. He had grown up with Alice and his cousin Jess. They had been inseparable throughout school. When the deeper relation between Alice and Jess had started to develop, he had felt like a third wheel until Alice and Jess had realized what was happening and had again included him, but it was at a different level than before.
Will turned towards David Ridgeway, the senior pilot. “Dave, the three of you go back to the hanger and take care of the guns before securing them. We will be at my cousin Jess’s home in Balerno. I will let you know what we will be doing when we know more.”
“Yes, sir.” Dave had met Dame Alice a couple of years ago in Brisbane. She and her family had been so happy after the disaster of her presentation. He had not understood until Will had recently informed him of what the family was planning. What would her death mean to the plans? Will had spoken of her as the leader of what they planned to do.
Alice and Jess Maclaren’s home
May 17, 1999
In the Maclaren’s kitchen, Jess, Marie, and John were sitting around the table. Sue entered from the shop.
“Ned needs about 15 minutes to do the paperwork. Inspector Hayes has arrived. Jim is referring to it as an accident. The sprinkler is holding up as the source for the water. They did not mention it as the source, but the Inspector looked at it when he came in and shook his head.”
Jesse had sighed. “I will have to correct that with Paul soon, but it will be after the report is written and we have a chance to talk privately. I’ll have to have a press conference sometime but I want to make the windows safer.”
John shook his head. “Things are out in the open. Like we have discussed this has security consideration once it gets out. I will go and tell Prime Minister Blake.” He had first met Charlie Blake when his dad held the Carlisle seat that he now held. “I’ll call and set up an appointment for tomorrow.” John had started to get up.
“Make it for later in the day. Use Marie as the excuse that you couldn’t get down earlier. I will take the flight that Alice and I had planned to take to see Kim. I want to tell her personally about her mother’s death. Also, there was a fish that came through the window with the water. I am going to take a sample of the fish to her. I think that she will want to get it to the lab to look at even if she has just delivered. You should take another sample to the PM as proof.”
John went to another room to make the phone call.
Sue realized that they had had a plan for the window to the other world. “You all knew the other planet was there.”
Marie smiled. “We have planned this for months before mother presented her paper. Dad and I reviewed her work. There was never any doubt about the equations and that there was an adjacent world.”
“What about all the talk in the press about how the theory was wrong?”
Jess replied, “We didn’t want the theory to be taken seriously at that time. We just wanted to have the theory spread around so that no one could cover it up. The government is not going to hide what everyone knows cannot be true. Man needs frontiers. This world is getting too civilized. Marie will explain things for Ned and you.”
Marie had taken her best friend’s hand. “We are planning on exploring and colonizing a new world. Only those involved in the preparation knew anything. You and Ned were on our list of people that we planned to invite to join us. Mom’s accident led to you finding out before we had a chance to tell you.”
“Live and explore on a new world! We would jump at the chance.” Sue exclaimed.
“Our plans have been thrown in to disarray by mom’s death. We need to keep a low profile until we find out how the government will react. We planned to present them with a fait accompli, but they will have the lead for a while.”
“You will definitely need to tell us more, but we trust you and your dad. The only thing that anyone will hear from us will be about how the loss of your mom has hit you very hard. Meanwhile we may look into some good hiking clothes and medical supplies.”
“That sounds good. Just plan on personal items but your input on emergency medical will be useful. Dad, do you want to make copies of the videos to take with you.”
“Yes, also make two copies for John and two copies for Uncle Will. Everyone involved should watch it. Believing is one thing but seeing is another. We will show it here later when the others get here. I want to make sure that Kim gets a chance to examine the fish. Since she is a Yank now, the government may try to keep her out. They will want to put a lid on this. That serves our purposes until word gets out. I want to reduce the danger of using the window as soon as possible. Alice’s equations are out there and making the equipment to create a window is not that hard. Not as good as our system, but it is still doable. This equipment was designed to collect the data so that she could complete her calculations.”
Sue got up and went to the bathroom.
As soon as she left the room, Jess leaned closer to Marie. “We opened windows to three worlds.”
“Did she figure out how many worlds were accessible?”
“Your mother said that the data showed that Earth is part of a larger cluster of worlds. There are more worlds but you will have to figure that out. You need to take the data and determine the settings for all of the worlds. She also mentioned settings for windows to return to this world. I was surprised that that had never come up in our planning. We need to have a set of data showing four adjacent worlds in the cluster to give to the government. That is plenty for man right now. The public will learn about the window to an adjacent world. The accident made it impossible to keep that secret. We won’t need to slip the information to them. A single adjacent world as Solomon White wrote about should keep the public busy. It will be number four, the one with the lake and the fish, but we will leave it to the government to suggest that. There is no reason for us to appear sneaky to them. Oh, this is world one as your mother was counting. World two was cold with the window just above the sea. Sea level seemed to be the same as ours. We saw no land. On world three, all we saw was dirt, so we may be only a little way below ground level. So if we start off at a higher level we shouldn’t have too hard of a time exploring on worlds three or four.”
“Sounds good, Dad. You have never been one to show all his cards unless you had to. On the equations, you or I can do that. You are not that poor of a mathematician even if you pass yourself off as a tinkerer.”
“No, you should do it. It will be your guarantee of inclusion. You took over your mother’s chair at the university when she retired. Now you are taking over her final work. In addition, it will be better to make them think that you need a university professor and not just a tinkerer to understand them. I am not in the same class as the two of you. Alice said that you were going to pass her one day.”
“I will never pass her. No mathematician or any other scientist has ever found anything like a world right next to ours.”
“Don’t be so sure. Your mother gift was seeing the future. That is why she put so much energy into this work. However, she was slightly wrong too, because she saw herself there. She said that it was her and also that it wasn’t. Whatever that means?”
“Well, no one else had understood the equations but the three of us. Kim and Uncle Will took them on faith. Solomon White was the next closest and he thought that there is only one world.”
“No, there is at least one group out there that understood them.”
Marie had looked startled, but Sue came back into the room halting the discussion. “We just got another call but we will be back after we get off at four.”
Marie got up and hugged Sue.
“Thanks. I will sit down with Ned and you and answer questions about what is going on. Keep any discussion of this between yourselves.”
Sue left as John came in from the living room.
“All set up for three pm. I talked to dad first and he will join the discussion. We figure we need to be upfront about our plans to explore.” John announced.
“Sounds like the right thing to do, but it is four other worlds not one.” Jess responded. “We opened windows to three of them. The third one is where the water that killed Alice came from. We need for the government to decide to only tell the public about the one world when word gets out. It would be good if it were their idea to keep the other three secret. No need to have them thinking that we want to keep secrets. We want the governments help not their distrust.”
“That shouldn’t be too hard to do considering some of the people that will be at the meeting.” John saw the advantages of Jess’s plan. John’s father had held a couple of ministry and a number of shadow ones when he was in the parliament. The press expected John to be named to head a ministry fairly soon. That is what John and Marie had planned for until the opportunities of other worlds had come up. Now their plans were to migrate to another world. He expected to work with the government but for their families in assuring that things went smoothly. Much more rewarding since it was important both to the families and to all of mankind. “I’ll make some sandwiches. I think we will have a long day here getting things in order.”
John made sandwiches while Marie and Jess discussed what they would need to do.
There was the noise of hurried feet as the shop door opens. The first to appear could be Jess’s twin, but it was his cousin Will. He was more heavily muscled and weathered but the thing that really set them apart is that he looked like someone you do not mess with. His years in the SAS had changed him from being a twin to Jess to something more deadly. Both were a couple of inches over six-foot and had the same red hair that they had passed down to all their children and grandchildren.
Behind him were his wife Leslie and their twin daughters Brenda and Mary. Taking up rear guard had been Robert, only sixteen but a younger copy of his dad. All of them moved with the assurance of people that knew how to take care of themselves. Will had learned that there were many bad people in the world. He had made sure that his family was not going to be prey to them.
There were hugs and kisses all around.
Will gripped Jess shoulders. “Jess, I am glad to find you holding up. I do not know what I would do if I lost Leslie. The two of you set up the plans for the other worlds. We can take a few months before going further.”
“She started things in motion and I am going to make sure that we succeed.” The look in Jess’s eyes showed that he was driven to complete the work that they had started so many years ago. “I am going to see Kim and the family tomorrow. We …”
Leslie jumped in. “We will take you. The girls can skip the graduation ceremony. We were going to Texas next but it will be good to stop by Washington and see Kim.” The twins nod their agreement.
“Yes, we need to see my god daughter and her new one. It will help to keep you from the reporters.” Will added.
“Reporters?” Jess and Marie said in unison.
“Aunt Alice was a very popular and important person around here.” Brenda remarked. “We were always having people ask about her when they found out that we were related. Her death will be sad news to many. They will want to know.”
The shop door opened and a young woman with the same red hair runs into the room and hugged Jess. “Uncle Jess, I had to see Aunt Alice, but that wasn’t her any more just a body.” She started to cry which caused Jess to start to cry also. He had held off but now his niece had broken his final reserve. Will moved them to the couch in the living room. John guided Marie, who was now also in tears, to join them.
After a few minutes, Jess stopped but the driven look was again in his eyes. “Alyca, Alice is gone but we need to continue her project. She saw her theory vindicated. She died as we opened a window to the third new world.”
“Third new world! Yes!” Alyca was transformed. It was sometimes hard to reconcile her volatile personality with the accomplished women that she was. Doctorates in both mechanical and electrical engineering, Olympic silver metal in three position rifle, biathlon world champion, race car driver, tinker, and Jess’s protégé.
Jess turned to Will, “Ok, what flight are you on. I’ll see if I can get a ticket.”
Leslie laughed. “Dad had us take the Gulfstream. We are picking up a load of controllers in Texas on the way back. You can’t believe how many of the AJ power generators we plan to use. Willy and the others are redesigning all the equipment to make use of them. I don’t know what they like best. Savings, safety, more power, or lighter equipment. We knew they were going to be useful in the mines, but they exceeded all our expectations. We have ordered four times our original order. I am glad that you have that family gets priority clause in you patent assignment to TI.”
John added. “Dad is reporting good results with the equipment S-I designed. We have gotten an order from the military for ATVs with the all wheel electric motors system that Alyca designed. They like the quietness and not having to refuel them. They were shocked at the speed and control that they have. Trail Drive worked from our design and has a larger model that they showed to the US Army. This sharing of designs is letting us get a lot of different designs into productions.”
Jess almost smiled. “Well we are going to have to jump the controller production up again now that we know for sure that the windows to the adjacent worlds worked. That is what killed Alice. We opened up at the bottom of a lake.” He brought everyone up to date on the experiments.