By Dr. Jeffrey A. Robinson

Part 1 - Discovery

Chapter 1

“The timefield experiments that began in the third decade of the twenty-first century and wrecked such havoc on the world for the next five decades started surprisingly enough, as a low-priority research project in an undistinguished department of a second-rate university in the Midwestern United States. More than a hundred years later, scholars, historians, politicians, and scientists are still trying to analyze the events of those early days to understand how such sweeping changes could have resulted from such innocent beginnings.”

Idoru Akali - Dean of Temporal Studies
Delphi University, Mars Colony 2184

Friday, 21 January 2028, Springfield University

Dr. Neil Tanner finished making the final connections to the power supply and checked the temperature of the crucible one more time. Perfect, he thought. The test apparatus was finally up to the required temperature. He glanced at his watch. It was nearing four in the afternoon and he had the top floor lab of the Advanced Material Building entirely to himself. Thank God, you can count on people leaving early on Friday afternoons.

Verifing the alignment of the single superconducting magnet, he logged the time in his lab notebook. God, if this doesn't work, Maggie’s going to kill me, he thought. Neil worried that he was risking all of her work on this one test, but he had to do something if he was ever going to get funding for the project. If the experiment failed, it would likely destroy the prototype magnet Margaret Schaefer had spent the last two months making from his crude designs. If it worked, it would be the proof he needed to convince Dr. Holtz to give him a grant for his research.
Since his doctoral studies were based on abandoned models of space-time, he’d never been able to get funding for his research. Every physics expert on the University’s peer review committees had discounted his proposals as preposterous. Without funding, he had no way to test his theories and prove them right or wrong. Maggie had been the only one who belived in him. She was the one who had converted his rough sketches into a practical working prototype of a time-distorting magnet. While he had paid for the materials out of his own pocket, she was the one who had designed this intricate multi-layered ceramic composite.

Inside the large magnet were two paths of superconducting wires, each winding in opposite directions. If his theories were correct, the forces created by two conflicting magnetic fields would stress space sufficiently to cause a tiny linear temporal distortion. The five-dimensional space-time model proposed by the late mathematician Dionys Holland had never been tested and had been forgotten by most contemporary theoreticians.

Neil’s post-doctoral simulations refined these theories, but his studies were so far from mainstream research that his requests for grants for experimental research were ignored. His progress, so far, consisted of the construction of this single untested, experimental device. Only Maggie’s faith in him had kept him working this past year.

As Dr. Chris Mitchell's favorite graduate student, Maggie Schaefer had access to all of the labs in the Advanced Materials Building. Together, Neil and Maggie used the University’s equipment to craft the prototype. Neil hoped that he wouldn't regret taking advantage of her privileges to conduct these tests without her knowledge. Walking over to the circuit breaker panel where he had set up the main power connections and, saying a quick prayer, he turned on the switch.

At first, nothing happened. The extremely high inductance of the superconducting magnets would prevent the magnetic field from building quickly. Neil’s greatest worry was whether or not the high currents would require special cooling before a temporal inversion occurred. If the magnet heated up too much, the ceramics could….

The entire test setup exploded with a flash of light and a deafening roar that threw Neil to the floor. Momentarily blinded, he climbed back to his feet and squinted at the laboratory bench. The pungent smell of burning insulation and charred plastic burned his nose and stung his eyes as he approached the wreckage of his experiment. The mangled crucible still glowed cherry-red and lay crupled against the wall. Flames sputtered up and grew in rapidly thickening smoke. Before he could think to act, the lab smoke alarms went off and sirens sounded throughout the building.

My God, thought Neil. The power’s still on. Hurriing over to the power panel, he hit the main circuit breakers just as the sprinklers came on. In seconds, room was awash in water. Relieved that he’d averted an electrical fire, Neil stood calmly as the flames gradually vanished in the downpour. The water sprayed down on Neil and he watched his hopes literally go up in smoke.

Almost immediately, people from distant portions of the building arrived and cautiously entered the lab to find out what had happened. As they surveyed the damage, Neil turned and walked down a nearby stairwell and the sprinklers continued to spray water which cascaded noisily down the steps beside him.


Neil stood outside the three-story lab building and watched everyone scurry around in the aftermath of the fire. Though more than an hour had passed, people were still frantically cleaning things up. Dr. Chris Mitchell, the Chair of the Advanced Materials Department, emerged from the crowd gathered at the building entrance and marched toward him. Gritting his teeth, Niel resigned himself for the worst.
“I should have known it was you, Tanner,” Chris yelled. “No one else would have dared conduct dangerous experiments like this without following standard hazard protocols.”

Neil opened his mouth to speak, but Chris held up his hand to stop him. “No, don’t even try to explain. When the alarms went off, a lab assistant paged the senior grad student and got ahold of Margaret Schaefer. When she found out there was an explosion in the lab where you were working, she called me. She assured me she’d authorized your access to the labs for this… experiment.”
“But it wasn't her fault,” Neil protested. “It was my idea. She had nothing to do with it. You shouldn’t believe her.”
Chris looked disgusted. “Of course I don't. She's far too level headed to pull a stunt like this, but she's willing to take the blame for you, though for the life of me I can't figure out why.”

Dr. Mitchell reached up to adjust his glasses, but smeared soot and ash across them in the process. Unable to see, he peered over them and glared at Neil. Gesturing at the building behind him he said, “The firemen will be leaving soon and I've assigned some students to finish mopping up, but I’m at a loss to figure out what I should do with you.” He glared at Neil and fought to remain civil. “Have you any idea how much damage you just caused?”

“I'll pay for all damages. I’ll…”

“There’s no need for that. I’ve already called Dr. Holtz. When I heard you were involved, I demanded he come right over. He’s already been upstairs to assess the damage himself.”

Neil cringed. It was Dr. Holtz, the Dean of Mathematics, whom he'd been trying to impress. Oh God, he thought. I’ll never see any grant money now.

No sooner had Holtz's name been mentioned than the Dean emerged from the lab entrance. Covered in soot, his suit coat was ruinedand his pants were soaked up to his knees.

Neil trembled. Dr. Holtz was always meticulously dressed and was very conscious of his image. Shuttereing at the thought of the trouble he was in now, Niel waited as Holtz stormed toward him.

As Holtz approached Dr. Mitchell stepped aside.

“Thank you, Chris,” Holtz said cordially. “I'll handle everything from now on.” Mitchell gave Neil one last reproachful look, then headed back to the main building to supervise the cleanup.

Holtz stared at Neil hesitating on how to begin. “Dr. Tanner, you continue to amaze me. You never give up, do you? Do you have any idea how much damage you just caused?”

“Uh, no…Dr. Mitchell was just starting to…”

“Be quiet! I know you were up to here. You want a grant for your research, you’ve connived your way into using other departments' facilities. As I’ve told you before, I've been working on getting you research money, but applied research is hard to justify for post-docs in mathematics. If you could just have been a little more patient…” Holtz stopped, closing his eyes briefly.

Calming himself, he addressed Neil through gritted teeth. “Would you care to explain to me just what you were trying to achieve up there before you blew up half the main AM lab?”

“Well…” Neil's mouth was suddenly dry; he couldn't swallow. “Margaret Schaefer, one of the Master's degree students in Dr. Mitchell's department, has been working with me for the past two months building a prototype of the time-distorting magnets I told you about in my proposal last year.”

“Yes, yes, I know about that. That proposal is what I have been using to try to drum up grant money. I'm familiar with your theories about creating local distortions of time, but what precisely were you trying to do in your experiment up there?”

“Well, sir, I figured that I'd have to come up with something pretty dramatic to get the funding for the main research, so I've been trying to think of a good demonstration. This week, I had an idea and decided to try it out.”

“And of course you didn't ask for permission first, because you figured that you'd be turned down, right?”

Neil winced and nodded. “What I hoped to do was to take pure carbon and heat it up in sealed crucible so it would be under very high temperature and pressure. I hoped I could trigger a strong linear time distortion with the prototype magnet Margaret Schaefer and I built. If I could prove time flows faster along the axis of the distortion by aligning it along the crucible I figured that…

“That what?” demanded Holtz “You'd make a diamond? Is that it? You were going to speed up time and make a diamond with this?”
Holtz held out his hand and opened his fingers to reveal the ruptured crucible. The contents had been exposed to fire and water. Runny rivulets of gray ash and black soot streamed down Allen Holtz's hand.

“Is this what you were actually thinking you could turn into a diamond?”

Neil nodded, his face taut and grim.

“You’re an idiot, Tanner. People have bee able to make synthetic diamonds in small quantities for decades, with far less trouble and expense than you’be just created.

“In the future, I’d strongly recommend that you stick to your strengths, which are mathematics and theory, not engineering. I’d also suggest you demonstrate a little professionalism and not take advantage of your colleagues to gain access to university facilities.

“Finally, I'd advise a little more patience.”
Waving a water-stained folder of papers in his other hand, Holtz sad, “While you were scheming to find ways to conduct unauthorized experiments, I've been trying to find you to tell you that I finally got you grant money to fund your project. I’ve been looking for you all day.” “Of course, the finance committee will have to reconsider this funding in light of your conduct here today.”

Neil’s jaw dropped. He’d just jeopardized the very opportunity he’d been trying to get. Shock overwhelmed any thought of protest or explanation; he stood dumbfounded.

Shaking his head in disgust, Allen lowered the soggy papers. “Go. Just, go… before I say something I’ll regret. Be in my office at 9:00 on Monday morning and we'll discuss this more.”

Neil slowly turned and walked away, leaving Allen Holtz alone on the campus green surrounded by fire trucks and their crews as they packed their equipment and prepared to head back to the firestation.


Allen Holtz watched Neil Tanner as he walked away, completely crushed. Frowning at the insecure little scholar, Holtz actually felt sorry for him. Neil’s brilliant, he thought. But he has no confidence in himself and that affects how other people see him. While he believes in his theories, he doesn’t believe in himself. As a result, no one else believed him either; not even me. Allen chuckled to himself.
Over the past thee years, Neil had persistently filed one application for funding after another and Holtz had successfully killed them all. Perhaps, he thought, he should have given more attention to Neil's proposals after all.

Tucking the wet folder of student-grade grievances under his arm, Allen raised his other hand, the one holding the broken crucible and water-soaked charcoal. Sifting through the remains, he located what he'd found upstairs in the lab. Carefully separating it from the rest of the material, he gently lifted out a long sliver of material and wiped it clean with his fingertips. Nearly six inches long and thicker than the lead core of a pencil, the object was as smooth and as transparent as glass.

Of course he'd have it analyzed, but he was certain what the tests would show. In his fingers he held a perfectly smooth tapered needle of pure diamond.

Yes, I certainly will have to reconsider Dr. Tanner's proposals. I’m certain I still have it on file somewhere. As he walked back to his office, he began making of list of the phone calls he would make this evening. Yes, this could be very important research, after all.

Chapter 2

“Life is a process that continually operates under constraints. Most living creatures struggle and compete for essential yet limited resources, food, water, energy, shelter. Success and survival are ultimately measured on the ability of organisms or individuals to acquire and control these resources.
“Of all resources used by Man, Time has always been the one irreplaceable commodity… or, rather, it was until the creation of ‘timefields’.
“With the advent of stable timefields, Time became an unlimited resource. People could obtain as much or as little of it as they wanted. What was valuable and limited was now abundant and available in infinite supply to all.
“Of course, this changed everything.”

Eileen McCarthy, The Idea that Destroyed the World, Sokoff Press, Krakow 2127

Monday, 24 January 2028, Springfield University Administration Building

Allen Holtz leaned on one elbow and doodled with his pencil, as he listened to recorded music on his speakerphone. Scanning his hastily scrawled notes and frowning, he thought of more expenses for Dr. Tanner’s project.

The music stopped abruptly and Allen jerked upright.

“Dr. Holtz?” a strongly accented voice inquired. “Are you there? This is Ardo Singh. I am most sorry for keeping you waiting.”
Allen cleared his throat. “No problem, Dr. Singh. I understand you’re a very busy man, and I appreciate any time you can give me.”
“Let’s keepthis short. I don’t have much time, but Benedict Waterhouse has asked that I speak with you about your rather unusual request.”
“Yes thank you,” Holtz replied. “By the way, Ben and I go way back and we’ve know each other for years. Why we went to graduate school together, though he went on to become a captain of industry, while I stayed in academia.”

“Yes, yes,” said Singh. “But what do you want? We have formal channels for grant requests. Just what is so important that you feel you need to bypass that process.” Singh did not wait for Allen’s explanation. “While Benedict is the Vice President of Advanced Development here at Candescent, I am the Director of Research and Development and have final say on all research activities…”

Allen hesitated.

“…however, I’ve reviewed the details of your correspondence with Benedict and I have to admit I’m intrigued.”

Allen’s heart skipped a beat.

“Have you really demonstrated the ability to create a temporal anomoly? Can you actually alter the rate that time flows?”

“Yes,” replied Allen almost too urgently. “I have incontravertable proof that Dr. Tanner’s claims are true.” Allen reached up and touched the long, shiny new lapel pin on his suit, the one with tiny crest of the university mounted on a long, shiny needle.

“However, the temporal distortion is transient and is limited to a small, linear region of space. A temporal distortion was generated using a prototype device which was destroyed during initial tests. While the distorion lasted only a few seconds, time accelerated many thousands of times faster than normal. To create a stable temporal distortion, many such devices will need to be manufactured. This will, of course, require special funding.”

“I see,” said Singh. “This is still highly irregular. We never fund projects based on unpublished theories so far from mainstream research. Moreover, your inability or unwillingness to divulge any technical details of the work already completed raises question about the accuracy of your claims.”

Allen wondered if he would need to get Tanner in on the funding negotiations.

“One other thing that confuses me. You’ve only requested $500,000 for your proposed research project. If your assertions are true, we would be willing to provide far more than that for a practical demonstration of your claims. Indeed, you’ve already indicated that more monies would be needed, yet you rejected Benedict’s offer for greater funding. May I ask the reason why?”

Allen smiled and leaned toward the phone. “As I explained to Ben, if you provide more than a half million dollars, I’ll lose control of the project to the University Financial Steering Committee. The project will become public knowledge, and the Physics and Engineering Departments will step in and take over the whole show. This is a major breakthrough in applied mathematics and I don’t want other departments interfering and taking all the credit for this work.

“Besides, if the experiment is successful and we really can create stable temporal distortions, we’ll be able to acquire separate funding later.”
Allen’s voice rose in excitement.“Have you any idea what it would mean if we could speed up or slow down time however we wish? The impact of time acceleration on semiconductor and pharmaceutical manufacturing alone would be worth billions. And I can’t even begin to estimate what advances in pure research would result from the ability to slow down time. The development of a stasis field, within which time would be stopped, would have an incredible impact on medical science and theoretical physics. This could be one of those rare breakthrough technologies that could cause a paradigm shift in dozens of scientific disciplines and industries.”

“Dr. Singh, I knew Candescent would be interested in having an exclusive option for this technology, so I’m keeping these results quiet for now. I can make arrangements for you to share the ownership of this discovery with the University, but you’ll have to take my advice, if we’re going to keep this thing secret.”

Ardo Singh remained silent for a few seconds and then said, “All right, I’ll accept your explanation. But how will you make up for the remaining financing you’ll need?”

Allen replied confidently, “Oh, I have some discretionary departmental funds I can use. There are also other grants that I can use to get other departments to help with the project. For instance, the Applied Materials Department has a grant to develop new manufacturing processes. With a little negotiating, I can get them to use develop the special magnets that we’ll need for the project. They don’t need to know the details of the rest of the experiment. Don’t worry. I have everything worked out.

“All I need is an grant for the amount I’ve requested. I’ll keep you updated on the project’s progress and guarantee you an exclusive option on any discoveries that are made.”

Singh sighed audibly. “I understand, Dr. Holtz. This is all highly irregular, but, if your claims are true, then unusual measures may be appropriate.”

Pausing for several seconds, Ardo Singh finally said, “All right, I’ll make the arrangements.”
Allen relaxed in relief.

“I’ll also email you reporting guidlelines for the grant. Since the purpose of the project won’t be specified, I’ll expect more detailed updates on the progress of Dr. Tanner’s… timefield generator.”

“Thank you, Dr. Singh,” Holtz replied. “You’ve made the right decision. I’ll look forward to the confirmation of your funding. Just leave everything else to me.”

Singh’s good-bye was terse.

Allen broke the connection and turned off the speakerphone. Allen wanted to jump up and down but he rose from slowly from his chair and paced about his office instead.

Calming himself, he looked around. Diplomas and awards covered the rich, wood-paneled walls. The room was decorated with expensive art and elegant trappings that demonstrated sophistication and authority.

God, I hate all this, he said silently to himself. I’ve been Dean for ten years now and what has it gotten me? No place to go. No career path. Unless someone on the Board of Regent dies, that is. Sitting back down at his desk, he thought. Once I considered this so pretiguous. Now I’m just an administrator, a petty bureaucrat. He picked up a pen with the school’s colors and logo on it and studied it for a moment. Then he broke it in two, dropping the pieces onto his desk.

A look of loathing crossed his face. If I don’t get away from these fawning grad students and self-serving sycophant post-docs who follow me around, I’m going to go nuts. And if I have to sit through any more committee meetings to review more student grievances, I’ll kill somebody.

Allen worried whether or not he’d lost his edge. He hadn’t done any real research of his own in years. He merely pushed papers around a desk and watched other younger, more gifted scholars do the really interesting work. It had been years since he’d even supervised a promising project.

All of the good research grants go to the Physics and Engineering Departments nowadays. What I need is to find someway to get out of academia and back to a solid position in business. Thinking about Neil Tanner’s discovery, he grinned. No, I’ll keep this one to myself. This is the chance I’ve been waiting on for years.

Soon he was scheming. There was an old warehouse far off campus he could use. He would make the excuse to Dr. Tanner that they couldn’t use the main labs because of the danger of another explosion.

Getting all the funding that he would need was going to be a lot trickier. Though he might be able to acquire some of the necessary test equipment from other sources, it was still going to be difficult, but there were a number of sources he could tap for the rest of the money.
Allen was almost certain that Neil Tanner wouldn’t tolerate any of the financial irregularities that this project would require, but the limited budget he had to work with to keep the project secret wasn’t going to pay for half the real costs.

I’m going to need someone else to manage this project, Allen mused. I can’t do it myself. There’s too much risk. I’ll need to distance myself from the project, yet remain in control. If something goes wrong, I’ll have someone else to be culpable. If it succeeds, the credit will be mine.

Smiling silently, Allen thought of the ideal person for the tole of project leader. A grad student who had recently been caught selling answers of final exams to undergraduate students. Somehow he’d hacked his way into the university computers and downloaded electronic files containing tests and their answers. The student was resourceful and completely unscrupulous. Though the student had an outstanding academic record, Holtz now suspected that all those successes were computer forgeries. The administration had completed its investigation of the incident and the matter now awaited Holtz’s final review.

Punching a button on his desk phone, he said, “Doris, I want you to contact a student and have him sent to my office immediately. The student’s name is Joe Behr.”

Doris barely got a chance to acknowledge his request when Allen turned of the intercom and leaned back in his chair. Smiling proudly, he knew Joe would be very accommodating after the alternativeswee explained to him. Yes, Joe would comply with all of Allen’s instructions, if the charges against him were set aside. As a matter of fact, if Joe was half as resourceful as he seemed, he’d be ideal.

Gradually Allen’s thoughts drifted and he imagined what Dr. Kloeppel over in the Physics Department would think when the project was over and Allen got all of the credit for the new discovery. Unconsciously he reached up and played with the shiny, new lapel pin on his suit.


Thursday, 19 April 2029, Springfield University, 7:45 am (more than a year later)

Joe Behr showed up at the warehouse early Thursday morning. Glancing around the lab he noticed Neil Tanner on a ladder, affixing long black spikes onto geodesic array. No one else was in yet. But it wasn’t unusual to find Tanner here alone. He virtually lived there. It seemed he was always the first to arrive and the last to leave. Looking more carefully, Joe noticed that Tanner had a different shirt on than he'd worn yesterday, so he must’ve gotten a few hours of sleep after all. How Tanner could handle such a schedule was more than he could fathom.
Joe picked an appropriately enthusiastic stride and walked briskly up to Neil and loudly said, “Good morning, Neil. How are we doing today?”

Neil glanced at him without pause and barely acknowledged Joe's presence. Focusing his attention to the array, he attached a cable to the end of the spike. When he finished, he reached into his work apron and pulled out another spike, repeating the task of mounting the new magnet into the next open slot.

“Almost finished, aren't we?” Joe asked.

When Neil didn’t answer, Joe figured that he must have been up most of the night working again and was probably exhausted. Not missing an opportunity, Joe asked, “So, ready for the big day tomorrow?”

Without stopping, Neil muttered something under his breath.

“What?” asked Joe innocently.

Neil gritted his teeth and replied, “Nothing, Joe.” Then he stopped and turned to Joe. “Joe, how can you ask a question like that? Of all the people on this project, you should know I've been waiting for this day for years.”

Joe smiled a perfectly practiced smile. “No need to get testy, Neil. I’m just checking to see that we’re on schedule.”
Neil’s amazing, Joe thought. It’s so easy to hit his buttons and make him respond. He’s so… predictable. Having baited Neil sufficiently to trigger an outburst, Joe ignored the acidic reply and patiently waited for Neil to crumble. Neil finally paused, sighed deeply and, once again, returned to his work, apparently giving up on Joe. Maintaining his innocent smile, Joe thought how nice it was to be in control without others even knowing it.

Joe knew that the others didn’t think much of him or his contribution to the project, but that was how Joe liked it. He liked being underestimated. It gave him a strategic edge. That was one of the tricks that he'd learned. Another was to always stay in character and never to forget the role you had to play. Joe watched Neil's anger fade and gloated quietly behind his most sincere fake smile.
“So, how many magnets do you have left to attach?”

“The last two hundred magnets arrived last night,” Neil replied. “It took most of the evening and morning but I have almost all of them installed. There are only twenty more to go. All I need to do now is recalibrate them and check the field strengths of the new batch so I can make adjustments so they match those already installed.”

“How long will that take?”

“Once we get rolling, only about a minute or two for each spike. That's about four to six hours total, depending on when anyone else ever gets here. Hey, is Brent going to be here today? He was supposed to be here yesterday, but never showed up.”

Brent Allred was a doctoral candidate assigned to the team about four months before. Joe thought Brent was a nice enough guy; not nearly as sharp as Tanner, though far more stable. Brent had been in a Ph.D. degree program in theoretical physics, until Dr. Holtz convinced him to change his major to mathematics. He was supposed to work as closely with Tanner as possible, since Tanner was often taciturn and reluctant to work with outsiders. Unfortunately, Tanner didn't work well with Brent, either. Neil remained aloof. The problem was that Brent wasn't pushy enough or smooth enough to get past Tanner's barriers.

Officially Brent Allred the spokesman for the project so that Tanner could be gently moved to a more distant backseat role. Tanner’s really done this to himself, Joe thought. Neil’s always been a loner. His smile was involuntary. Well, serves him right. He's apparently never learned that “You have to go along, if you want to get along”. And the key to getting what you want is cooperating with those in charge, Dr. Holtz in particular. Joe gloated silently. No wonder that it took Neil more than eight years to get his initial research proposal completed.

“No, I don't know when he'll be in,” Joe offered politely. “He was writing up some summaries for Dr. Holtz yesterday afternoon for the guests that have been invited for the demo tomorrow.”

“Guests? What guests?” Neil asked, a shocked look on his face.

Adopting an air of nonchalance, Joe said casually, “Oh, Dr. Holtz has invited a few observers. Dr. Holtz has real confidence that everything will work out well on Friday. He got tests back last week from the latest ceramic magnets and the physics lab confirmed that, at high power, they produce strong localized temporal anomalies.”

“Wait!” Neil said stopping his work. “The Physics Department wasn't supposed to know about any of this. We were told we had to keep this project a secret, to keep it funded.”

“No problem. No problem,” Joe said reassuringly. “All we did was give them a spike and let them to test it at full power. It was just like you predicted. At a high enough power setting, a localized temporal distortion occurs along the axis of the spike. Of course, they don't know exactly what caused their odd readings, and fortunately they can't take those ceramic things apart without destroying them, so they really don't know anything. Dr. Holtz merely wanted additional confirmation before the tests.” Joe grinned. “Now, however, Dr. Kloeppel is dying to find out what Holtz has been keeping secret.”

“Wait, where are those test results? I’ve been working strictly from simulations and could use those test results to calibrate the array. I don't have equipment sensitive enough to take accurate measurements. Was the anomaly a strictly isolinear axial distortion? Were they able to measure the radial rate of distortion decay? Did they confirm that it was an inverse square or an inverse cube relation in the field as it dropped off?”

Interrupting himself without pausing for a reply, he added “And what is this about guests? I thought no one was going to be able to be present, because of the risk of one of the magnets exploding again.”

“There’s no need to worry,” Joe interjected, smiling with glee at Neil's predictable response. God, it is so easy to trigger Tanner and get him in an uproar, he thought.

“Brent has all the results and is writing them up. Dr. Holtz is having some television cameras and a platform installed over at the far end of the lab. No one will actually be here in person. Your audience will be perfectly safe. Haven't you ever heard of teleconferencing, Neil? It'll be just like being here in person, without the risk of being blown up.” Joe laughed.

Neil blinked. Anger welled visibly, as Neil fought for control. Joe wondered whether Neil would fly into a rage or quit.

“That is okay isn't it, Neil?” Joe asked politely. “Dr. Holtz said you'd have no problem with it. Your trial test will proceed just as planned. We just get to show it off to your sponsors at the same time.” Joe's smile was genuine, now. He loved to see Neil’s internal torment and waited patiently for it to subside.

Neil finally nodded grimly and said, “Yeah, Joe. It's okay. Just go find Brent and get his ass in here. I'm tired of doing this all alone. He’s supposed to be learning about my theories for his doctoral thesis, but he can’t do that if he’s never here. Go tell Holtz that if Brent doesn't show up in the next half hour, he can kiss his Friday morning demo goodbye, and it’ll all be Brent's fault.”

Right on cue, the door flew open and in walked the blond and slightly overweight Brent Allred carrying a stack of printouts and a box of doughnuts. Escorting him were four of the undergraduate assistants who were also supposed to be helping Tanner. They were all talking at the same time and laughing.

Taking the initiative, Joe turned his back on Neil and hollered “All right, all right.” He clapped his hands loudly. “Time to get moving. We have a lot of work to do today. You two go help Neil. You come with me I need some equipment moved from the main campus. Brent, you finish whatever it is you're doing and go help Neil finish those calibrations. Dr. Holtz wants a final walkthrough this afternoon at four o’clock. Now let's hurry!”

Joe scattered the people like frightened sheep, sending them in all directions. Grabbing one of the workers by the arm, he dragged him towards one of the warehouse doors.


After Joe left, Neil took up the socket wrench and slowly tightened the retainer ring around the spike he'd just inserted in the bracket. He returned to the task of methodically finishing the assembly of the sphere.

Even as he’d snapped at Joe, Neil hated himself. Joe had a knack of bringing out the worst in people. It’s just so frustrating, he said to himself. Everyone kept changing things without notifying him. Essential test equipment that he needed was never available. The project had been run on a shoestring budget. Important tests were conducted on his field generator magnets by other departments, and he wasn’t even given the results. Strangers were being invited to the demonstration at the last minute without his permission.
Gritting his teeth, he thought this is Holtz's doing. He's had it planned this way all along. First he delayed the grant and then he demanded absolute secrecy. On top of that, Neil had to put up with Joe's constant presence and Brent's last-minute interference. Complaining to Holtz would be a waste of energy. If he was going to pull this off and prove himself to everyone, he just had to keep on working.

Trying to focus on something good that would come from all this, Neil smiled quietly at the thought of Maggie’s return. Maggie and he had worked together building the initial prototypes. They’d managed to completely redesign the manufacturing process to mass-produce all of the rest.

When she had graduated last June though, she’d taken a job at Advance Materials Corporation and moved away. Since then, she’d sent money back to him every month while he stayed behind and worked on the project. No one knew, but they had plans to get back together when the project was finished. They’d talked about marriage, but until this project was done, there wasn’t time for anything else.
When the final tests were done tomorrow, it would prove to her that he’d been right all along, and that he wasn’t the failure like everyone said he was. Ironically, it had always been Maggie who’d believed in him the most. He’d have never gotten this far without her telling him to keep trying.

He thought bitterly how unfair everything was. Nothing ever seemed to go smoothly for him. Fortunately, he had faith in mathematical probability. Neither good luck nor bad luck could last forever. Eventually, long runs of either probability turned. All he had to do was wait long enough and his luck would change. When that happened, Joe and Holtz had better watch out. He thought again of Maggie’s arrival and felt a rush of unexpected excitement. Thinking about her, all his problems with the project were forgotten, and he merrily worked on completing the assembly of the timefield generator.

Chapter 3

“One of the problems with scientific experimentation is that you can never be entirely certain what is going to happen. While you may have great confidence in the outcome, ultimately there is a fundamental uncertainty about what will really occur. If you knew for sure what would happen, it wouldn’t be an experiment.”

Jonathon Brady, from a keynote address titled “Scientific Strategies at the Conference on Temporal Physics, Geneva, Switzerland, 2107

Wednesday, 18 April 2029, Springfield University 7:30 p.m.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Neil Tanner muttered to himself for the hundredth time. He grunted as he struggled to reattach an electrical cable to one of the superconducting magnets. “This was supposed to have been my project.”

Measuring exactly twenty centimeters in length, each ceramic magnet was a dark black rod about an inch across that tapered gently to a point at each end. When Neil finished tightening the clamp that held the cable, he carefully inspected the connection. The magnets drew a great deal of current when they were cooled down, and the slightest corrosion at the metal tips of the magnet could build up considerable heat. Satisfied with the status of the coupling, he carefully backed down the ladder and removed his thick gloves. He unconsciously ran his hand through his dark, unkempt hair. Despite the cold air seeping from the liquid nitrogen cooling system, he found himself sweating.

Stepping back, Neil looked at the twenty-five foot geodesic array that held the eleven hundred special magnets. With the LN system fully charged, the structure was white with frost and half shrouded in a fog that continuously formed and drifted to the ground. With the support struts hidden by the cold, white mist, it looked like a gigantic Christmas tree ornament floating three or four feet in the air.

Scanning the old, three story warehouse that functioned as their makeshift lab, Neil checked on the rest of the team that had assembled this morning for the final formal tests of the world’s first timefield generator.

Joe Behr, the project manager, near the raised wooden platform at the other end of the large rectangular room. He fiddled with a large video monitor and a camera mounted on a tripod.

Neil looked at Joe, who waited by the teleconferencing equipment and inspected his fingernails. How Joe had been appointed the project leader instead of himself was still a mystery to Neil, but Dr. Allen Holtz, the Department Chair of Mathematics, had demanded it as a condition for the project’s authorization. Joe ostensibly worked on his master’s degree in engineering, but he hadn’t taken any core courses in more than a year. He was really only Dr. Holtz’s eyes and ears on the project.

It had been more than eight years since Neil had earned his Ph.D. in mathematics based on a new theory of five-dimensional space-time. Since then, he had worked at Springfield University while trying to get funding to test his thesis.

Neil had once said that he’d give anything for a grant to get this project. Ironically, when he finally got the money, someone else was put in charge. He shook his head and consoled himself that a successful test that day would redeem his reputation and make up for all the years it took to get this project working.

At the other end of lab, by the computers and racks of test equipment, were Brent Allred and Margaret Schaefer. Brent was a last minute addition to the project. Dr. Holtz had assigned him to be the spokesman for the final tests. Neil had spent most of the last four months tutoring Brent in an effort to get him up to speed on the mathematical foundations of his temporal distortion theory. Despite Brent’s attempts to help, his presence on the team had been a burden on Neil.

Maggie, on the other hand, had been invaluable. Neil knew that without her help he’d have never gotten this far. When she looked up at him and smiled, Neil’s heart skipped a beat. She held his gaze for a moment and then turned back to some of the student assistants and continued to explain the test schedule to them.

Neil had met Maggie more than two years before, when she’d just started her master’s degree in material science. He’d been looking for help in building special magnets that could create the special stresses that his theories showed could distort time and she’d somehow taken a liking to his passion and his enthusiasm.

She was the one who’d turned his crude designs into the remarkable multi-layered ceramic, superconducting magnets that today’s tests were based on. Over time, they had grown close. With today’s final tests finally scheduled, she’d taken leave from her new job to come back and assist. Part of Neil’s excitement was that, if the tests today were successful, they wouldn’t have to be separated anymore.
Scanning the area once more, Neil saw the other undergraduate students that Dr. Holtz had recently assigned to help with the tests. One undergraduate engineering student stood yawning by the liquid nitrogen tanks closely watching the gauges that indicated the temperature of numerous locations around the geodesic sphere. He waited, ready to adjust the flow controls of the liquid coolant should any portion of the array begin to heat up beyond specified thresholds.

Another student monitored the power and stood waiting to change the settings as scheduled on the morning’s project checklist. Still another assistant scanned an array of readouts that measured magnetic field strengths around the sphere.

Neil wished he’d had their help before. His biggest problem on the project over the past few months was that he’d had to do almost everything alone. Joe was a technical incompetent and Brent was simply too new to the team. Unfortunately, Holtz had demanded absolute secrecy on the project and that had caused innumerable delays for Neil.

Nervously, Neil checked his watch. The tests would begin in five minutes. He wanted to check the power connections to the magnets one more time, but forced himself to stop. Everyone was ready; everything was in place. Both Brent and he had been here in the lab since midnight making final preparations.
Steeling himself against last minute jitters, Neil called to Brent and pointed at his watch indicating that it was time.

Brent grabbed his prepared speech and hurried over. Neil approached over to Joe and the video conferencing setup at the far end of the test assembly area. All three of them wore ties and fresh white lab coats, although Neil had never seen Joe in a lab coat before.
Brent tugged nervously at his collar and Neil fidgeted with a clipboard. There was nothing left to do but wait.

Joe's phone rang once. He flipped it open and said, “Yes, sir.” After listening patiently for a moment, he reached over and activated the camera, establishing the connection with the teleconferencing facilities in the chancellor's offices in Wallace Hall on the main campus.
The television on the platform blinked once and showed a view of a large wood paneled room across the wide expanse of a long conference table. Five dignified looking gentlemen sat facing the camera. Dr. Holtz sat in the center and two men sat on either side of him.

Joe had told Neil that Dr. Holtz’s guests would include the people who’d funded his experiment and that they were very important scientists and businessmen.

Neil assumed that the five men also had a similar TV screen at their end of the video link and that they could see Brent and him standing in front of the fog enshrouded sphere.

“Can you hear me, Joe?” Holtz asked loudly.

“Yes, Dr. Holtz, we can hear you.”

“Good, good. Let me start by introducing our distinguished guests. On my far right is Dr. Ardo Singh, Director of Research and Development at the Candescent Foundation. Next to him is Dr. Benedict Waterhouse, a renowned alumnus and the Vice President of Advanced Development, also from Candescent. On my immediate left is James Fitzpatrick, CEO of Millennium Investments, one of the leading high-tech venture-capital companies in San Jose. Finally, we have Dr. Mikio Tomonaga, Nobel Laureate, distinguished theoretical physicist, and adjunct professor from the University of Tokyo.”

Neil examined the five distant men. While Holtz was about the same age as Singh and Waterhouse, he looked far younger. The hair on the two men from Candescent were almost completely gray, but Allen's hair was dark black without a trace of the age that marked the others. The financer, Fitzpatrick, had a slight build and was balding. Finally, there was Tomonaga. While his hair was completely white, there was a youthful energy to the oriental physicist.

Turning to his guests, Holtz continued, “Gentlemen, may I introduce Joe Behr, the project coordinator; Dr. Neil Tanner, the author of the research about which you’ve been briefed; and Brent Allred, the brilliant doctoral student that I told you about, who’s working with Dr. Tanner. Mr. Allred will act as our spokesman today throughout the tests outlined in your handouts.”

Neil quickly interjected, “Uh…Dr. Holtz, I was wondering if I could say something first, I…”

“Not now, Dr. Tanner,” said Allen Holtz, giving Neil a disapproving glare. “We discussed the format for these proceedings at length yesterday afternoon. Brent will act as your spokesman, so you can be free to conduct these tests without distraction. Brent's doctoral dissertation rides completely upon the outcome of these tests. Your Ph.D. is already sound and secure. Now you wouldn't want to ruin things for him by upstaging him at the last minute would you?”

Neil bit his tongue and remained silent.

“I didn't think so,” said Holtz smiling again. “Mr. Allred, why don't you proceed?”

“Yes, Dr. Holtz,” said Brent.

“Gentlemen, today we’re going to test a theory that was first proposed by the late Dionys Holland in 2005. His controversial theory proposed that space-time is not four-dimensional, as Einstein had proposed, but rather that it’s five-dimensional. This is a variant of the Kaluza-Klein model of space-time proposed in the early twentieth century.

“In Holland's model, there are three dimensions of space and one dimension of time, just like Einstein theorized. However, Holland offered a fifth dimension that is neither time nor space. Evidence of this fifth dimension manifested itself periodically in a number of high-energy particle phenomena where Holland first noticed it. He used this model to help develop the New Unified Model now popularly accepted by the world's leading theoretical physicists.

“Unfortunately, without any direct experimental evidence of such a fifth dimension, Dr. Holland's theories remained a mathematical oddity, an exotic and questionable speculation at best.

“In 2018, Dr. Tanner, while working on his Doctorate in mathematics, came across Dr. Holland's published papers and worked on the associated math, further refining the details of the theory. While writing computer programs to simulate the hypothesized five-dimensional space, Dr. Tanner discovered that the theory offered an unexpected possibility. The model indicated that, while massive gravitational forces of stellar-sized masses might distort space-time, the application of certain types of energies might also bend it, as well.
“Dr. Tanner’s simulations indicated that, while it’s very difficult to distort space, it might be far easier to distort time, that is the fourth dimension, the temporal one, leaving the three spatial dimensions unperturbed. His results predicted that the distortion would be a linear phenomenon perpendicular to the three special dimensions of the physical universe. Today’s project will demonstrate that indicate that such a distortion can indeed be created and sustained.”

“Wait, one minute…Brent, is it?” asked the white haired man on the far left. “Are you saying that you can control time? Do you mean that you’ve created a time machine here?”

“No, no, not at all,” replied Brent. “Yes, we think we can control time, but not the way you mean. Time travel is still an impossibility, except in the most exotic fantasies. When we say that we can control time, we mean that we can distort it, stretch it, or shrink it. This would result in changing the rate at which time flows. In theory, if we can create a sustained temporal anomaly, we should be able to generate a localized, stable distortion of space-time within which we can change the rate that time passes. If we can, we’d be able to create a region of space where time flows faster or slower, at our discretion.

“The device behind us is based upon Dr. Tanner's prediction that we can create such a condition where this distortion of the fourth dimension of time can be sustained.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Allred,” asked the Asian physicist on the far right of the screen, “How do you create this distortion in the first place?”
“Yes… ah…yes,” stuttered Brent. No longer reading his prepared script, he seemed uncertain how to proceed. “That’s the tricky part. Ah…what Dr. Tanner speculated, more than eight years ago, was that if space-time could be stressed enough, then space-time would buckle into this fifth dimension, which is neither time nor space. The way he proposed this was to create conflicting magnetic fields that opposed one another, like magnets that push against each other harder and harder as you push them together.

“With Margaret Schaefer, over there,” Brent gestured to Maggie, “Dr. Tanner designed and built special superconducting magnets that create these opposing magnetic fields. Inside each of the eleven hundred ceramic rods in the geodesic array behind us are two different paths of conductors. Each path winds itself from one end of the rod to the other across many overlapping layers, but each path also winds in the opposite direction from the other. Two different magnetic fields are produced, each opposing the other.

“Dr. Holland's calculations from his particle theory model indicated that if such a push-and-pull of energies were strong enough that the temporal dimension would buckle. Ah…it would buckle just like…ah… pushing two ends of a piece of paper on a table toward one another causes the center of the paper to bulge up.”

Brent began to sweat, but continued. “Dr. Tanner's calculations indicated that structural limits of composite super-conducting materials might just be strong enough to cause this distortion to occur.”

Neil noticed Brent whither under the cross-examination of the visiting scientists. Neil thought it must feel like he was undergoing an unannounced oral defense of his doctoral thesis.

Brent lost his train of thought and froze, apparently uncertain what to say next or how to continue.

Everyone looked back and forth at one another. Neil smiled quietly.

After a very long pause, Dr. Holtz turned to his guests, “I’ve spent considerable time and resources over the past several years developing prototypes for this device. More than a year ago, the first successful super-conducting magnet generated a small temporal anomaly in a campus laboratory. However, when the power was raised to create a larger field, the super-conductor literally tore itself apart and exploded.”
And that’s why we never got to use the campus’s main labs, thought Neil.

Holtz continued, “Dr. Tanner and the rest of the team have since redesigned the magnets to be stronger. They’ve also designed and built an array of these devices so that a stable temporal anomaly can be generated and sustained, even though a single magnet alone cannot do so. If these tests are successful, we should create a large contained field that we can experimentally verify.”

Turning to the television screen Holtz addressed everyone in the lab. “Dr. Singh and Dr. Waterhouse have underwritten the $500,000 grant that allowed the construction of this apparatus.”

Neil blinked. This didn’t make sense. He knew that each of the special superconducting magnets cost more than a thousand dollars in raw materials alone. That would make the project costs at least $1.1 million. If he took into account the labor that it took to make them in the Applied Materials Labs, the LN cooling system, the test equipment, and the materials for the geodesic array, there was no way that this project could have been paid for with a mere $500,000.

Stunned, Neil looked over at Maggie. She shook her head at his incredulous look and shrugged.

Neil turned quietly to Joe who simply crossed his arms and smiled smugly. Neil began to understand why Joe’d been assigned as the project leader.

Turing his attention back to Holtz, Neil realized that he was still talking.

“… and Mr. Fitzpatrick has expressed interest in providing further funding depending on today's results. Finally, Dr. Tomonaga has been invited to witness these tests and provide input at his discretion.”

Dr. Holtz continued. “Mr. Allred, are you ready to proceed?”

Brent stuttered uncertainly looking at the pages of presentation that he hadn't had a chance to read. “Uh, well…”

Neil turned to Brent and asked, “May I speak?”

“Uh, sure,” said Brent stepping back.

Confidently, Neil stepped to the center of camera's field of view, quietly displacing Brent off to the side. “All right then, gentlemen. I’ve cooled down the magnets and have them powered with a low-level battery current. With superconductors, this is sufficient to generate a reasonably strong magnetic field. However, to trigger a timefield inversion, we’re going to need to increase the power to much higher levels. For that we’ll draw on the external utility power grid.” Neil gestured over to the student standing at the panels of circuit breakers and panels of readouts when large power lines entered the warehouse from a nearby substation.

“Wait,” piped Dr. Tomonaga. “Precisely what do you mean by a timefield inversion? And do you expect this inversion to speed time up or slow it down?”

Neil responded, “Nothing will happen until the magnetic field strength becomes great enough to cause the temporal dimension to buckle. When this happens, everything should occur very quickly. When one of the magnets initiates a linear distortion, which we call a temporal inversion, it should cause a cascading effect and trigger the nearby magnets to invert in the same direction.

“Unfortunately, we can neither predict nor control which way space-time will buckle. It could invert or buckle in either direction. That is, the resultant timefield might be faster or slower than the surrounding space. We’re hoping that our experiments here will give us more information, so that we can control that transition better in the future.

“What we hope to do is create a stable but discontinuous, three-dimensional, isotropic distortion of Holland's five-dimensional space along the foruth temporal dimension.”

James Fiztpatrick’s jaw dropped, and the financier said, “What?”

Holtz stood and interrupted. “Dr. Tanner, why don’t we save the explanations until after you’ve completed your experiment? If your test fails, the explanations will be quite useless, in any case and these gentlemen are more interested in results than in theory.”
Neil sullenly obeyed, gritting his teeth.

Turning to the camera, Holtz said, “Joe, let’s begin.”

Joe took center stage on the camera, standing by to relate whatever occurred in the lab to the telepresence of the visiting guests. Brent stood off to the side with his unfinished speech fidgeting with uncertainty about what to do next. Neil Tanner briskly trotted over to the control consoles on the other side of the test floor to make his mark on history.

Friday 20 April 2029, Springfield University, afternoon

For Joe Behr, the morning stretched on with agonizing slowness. The tasks on the project checklist proceeded as scheduled. Max Bernard, the student manning the power controls, turned on the external power and increased the current to the timefield array.
Neil and others measured magnetic field intensities at pre-designated points, logged the values and made calculations, but nothing happened. Over and over again they increased the power and took measurements. Several times they had to change the flow of liquid nitrogen to the array as the higher power levels started to warm the super-conducting magnets. Twice they turned the power off to let the system cool down again.

The system was beginning to draw a massive amount of electricity from the public utility grid. About noon, Holtz had to make a phone call to make special arrangements for electrical power to be increased.

Dr. Holtz and his four associates watched patiently from the distant conference room. Most of the time, they were absorbed in conversations about funding and possible applications of timefields. Joe listened periodically before returning to the experiment that was proving so uneventful. Joe didn’t participate actively, since they didn’t do anything except steadily increase the power and to take more measurements as they waited to see if a timefield inversion occurred. Joe was excluded from the high-level discussions involving the Holtz's distinguished guests and he found himself bored.

After nearly five hours of this fruitless drudgery, Joe figured the experiment was a bust. He silently reviewed plans on what he was going to for his next job.

Suddenly, there was a flash. The test sphere lit up and as quickly went dark, like a giant strobe light or a flashbulb. All the overhead lights went off and the television and computers went dark. A wind from nowhere rushed past him and tore at him like a thousand grasping hands. Papers flew towards the sphere as if racing to out speed the gale force wind. He was thrown off his feet and felt himself being sucked toward the sphere. Falling and half blind from the flash of light and the subsequent loss of lights, voiceless terror climbed up his throat.

As quickly as it began, it was over. A piece of paper slowly fluttered to the floor next to him. Joe picked himself up off the floor and looked around. Vision returning, he saw a technician nearby also regaining his feet. Papers from nearly tables and workbenches littered the floor. The sphere was hauntingly silent and strangely dark.

No one spoke. Something had gone wrong. All the power in the building was off.

After a few seconds the lights overhead flickered back on and the computers began to reboot. A humming noise arose as test equipment powered back up. Someone had reset the circuit breakers.

Then he heard someone shout. It was Neil, screaming in pain. “Oh God, he's hurt!” thought Joe. No, wait, Neil wasn't screaming; he was cheering. Others joined in.

“We did it! We did it!”

“It worked! It worked!”

The exclamations degenerated into wordless shouts of joy that echoed off the warehouse walls. Everyone was swept up in a spasm of excitement. Joe heard an urgent voice behind him.

“…Tanner, are you there? Can you hear me? What’s going on? Somebody answer me!”

It was Holtz on the television. In the confusion, Joe had forgotten about Holtz and his guests in the distant conference room. The television was undisturbed but the tripod and camera had fallen over. Joe turned them upright and ran in front of the camera so he could be seen. Confused, he looked at the television instead of the camera as he said. “Yes, Sir. Yes, Sir! We can hear you.”

Joe saw Holtz back away from the camera, his image receding toward the others at the table. All the men in the distant conference room were leaning forward, trying to make sense of the details in the TV set at their end of the link.

“Everything’s okay here. There was a minor explosion. No one seems to be hurt, and I don't know if the equipment is all right. Wait, I'll go get Dr. Tanner.”

Not waiting for a reply, Joe bolted into the crowd around the sphere. Grabbing Neil's arm, he half-dragged the exuberant researcher over to the camera and pushed him into the field of view.

Turning away, Neil shouted, “Max, is all the power back on line?”

“No,” a distant voice answered over the noise. “There was a power surge and all the breakers tripped. I only turned on the normal utilities so far. I didn't know if I should turn on the power to the sphere. Should I?”

“No! Leave everything shut down till we find out what happened.”

Finally turning to the camera, Neil announced, “Dr. Holtz, I’m proud to announce that we have successfully achieved a temporal inversion, and we are maintaining a stable timefield.” He paused to give Holtz a long gloating grin.

“At this time, however, I don't know if it’s a fastfield or a slowfield. I think Brent’s working on that, now.”

“What happened there? We lost our connection for a few seconds. Is everything all right? Joe said there was an explosion. Did one of the magnets blow up again?” Holtz demanded.

“No, no, no. There was no explosion.” Neil glared at Joe who receded out of the camera's view. “When the field inversion occurred, a power surge tripped all the circuit breakers. We lost contact for maybe twenty or thirty seconds. There was a flash of light and a big rush of wind, but all the equipment is intact.”

Tomonaga spoke up, “Dr. Tanner, did the wind rush toward or away from the sphere?”

Neil thought for a second, remembering. “Toward the sphere, yes, definitely toward the sphere, why?”

“Then I think you will find, Dr. Tanner, that time will be flowing slower in your field than normal. What I can't figure out is why the field is still in place. It should have collapsed.”

Neil stopped, lost in thought, “That's right. If the ambient time field were rigid enough that it could remain in place, then it would have been too rigid to distort in the first place. It should have collapsed.” He paused again, mystified. Then in a flash of excitement, he turned around again and shouted to the student manning the power controls. “Max, are you sure all power to the sphere is off? Check the warmup batteries and see if they’re still connected.”

After a moment, a reply came from across the lab. “You're right, Dr. Tanner. The batteries are still connected. They were on a separate circuit than the utility power. But, Dr. Tanner, they’re drawing an awful lot of current. I don't think they’re going to last very long.”

“Max, turn the external power to the sphere back on and increase the power just enough to match the current of the batteries. Then let the batteries recharge. Don't change anything else, though. We don't know how stable the field is, yet.”

With all of Neil’s shouting, the cheering had stopped and people were hurriedly picking up all the papers and equipment the wind had blown around.

Neil turned back to the camera and said, “Thank you, Dr. Tomonaga.”

Brent appeared and stepped close, so he could be seen. “Neil, we've confirmed that we have a 'slowtime' field, but we haven't finished the measurements yet to determine the time dilation factor.”

Neil turned and addressed Tomonaga, “Doctor, how did you know?”

Tomonaga smiled gently and said, “Let me answer that by asking Mr. Allred a question. Brent…is it? What is the first indication of a slowtime field?”

“Uh…time moves slower inside the field than outside,” Brent said hesitantly.

“Hmmm…that's not quite what I meant. Let me ask it another way. If you generate a field in which time is, say, two times slower than in normal space, and if you consider the behavior of individual air molecules, would air enter and leave the sphere at the same rate?”

Thinking carefully this time, Brent finally answered, “No, air would enter the field at twice the rate that it could leave. Air would flow into the sphere until two atmospheres of pressure occurred and then re-establish equilibrium.”

Brent smiled proudly, but slowly his smile faced and was replaced by a look of shock.
Joe also stood amazed. He realized that a stranger had figured out in minutes an elementary fact that Brent, as the resident physics expert, had not considered after working on the project for four months. Brent grew sullen and quiet.

Tomonaga nodded and smiled at Tanner. Neil grinned from ear to ear and beamed with pride. He glanced at Maggie and saw her quietly smiling, as well.

James Fitzpatrick, the financier, spoke. “Wait a minute, Dr. Tanner. Your explanation of these ‘timefields’ was interrupted before. Unlike my distinguished colleagues here,” he said, gesturing at the others, “I'm not a scientist; I'm a banker and an investor. Frankly, I don't understand what you’ve just done here. Could you explain it to me in laymen's terms?”

“Sure,” said Neil. “Let's use Brent's earlier analogy of that piece of paper that bulges when you push the ends toward one another. But this time let's make it a huge piece of canvas stretched out flat on a giant lawn. Each of these magnetic spikes creates a linear distortion of the time field, the canvas. That changes the shape of the canvas, as if someone crawled underneath it and propped it up with a tall wooden pole. The canvas wouldn’t be flat anymore. It would have one spot sticking up higher than all the rest. If the canvas is Time, and up and down is Holland's fifth dimension, we would’ve just created a temporal anomaly.”

Neil gestured at the nearby equipment in the room. “What the apparatus behind me has done is make many of these small anomalies in a spherical pattern. This would be like many men with poles standing under the canvas in a circle. When this happens, you can imagine the shape of the canvas. Not only isn’t the canvas flat anymore, the central region has been lifted off the ground like the canopy of a giant circus tent.
“In the same way that the roof of the tent is at a higher elevation than the surrounding canvas, the energy level of the time within the sphere will also be changed.”

Smiling, Neil concluded, “The result is that time, inside the Mantra, now flows at a different rate than outside it. Does that answer your question?”

“Mantra?” asked Tomonaga. “What do you mean by a Mantra?”

Holtz interrupted Neil's reply, “Oh, that's just the stupid nickname Dr. Tanner uses for the timefield generator array. It's isn't important.” Holtz glanced impatiently at Neil in a silent admonition. Neil clenched his teeth.

“No, I’m interested,” said Tomonaga. “Please explain.”

Neil grinned and said, “Well, last semester an undergrad working to earn some lab credits looked at the support structure before any of the cables, spikes, or tubing were attached and nicknamed it the Mantra. He said it looked like one of the intricate circular religious drawings from his humanities class that monks in the Far East are supposed to stare at when they recite their prayers.

“I haven't a clue if that's correct or not, I just liked the name. After all these years, the sphere is half ritual and half prayer. While I don't exactly worship it, I figure I spend more time with it than priests or monks do with their gods. So the name just stuck. Everyone calls it the Mantra”.
Allen frowned.

“Well, almost everyone,” Neil said in a failed attempt to hide a grin.

Tomonaga smiled and said, “Thank you, Dr. Tanner. I have one final question. If the temporal dimension is so easy to distort, why haven’t we seen it in natural phenomena before?”

“Well,” answered Neil, “we’re not sure. The energies and magnetic fields in the Sun, for instance, are certainly strong enough to create such distortions. But the distortions there would be random, and they wouldn't be stable. They’d appear and disappear almost instantly and average out to nothing overall. Their size might be no greater than a few molecules, and they’d vanish as quickly as they occurred. What I’ve designed here is a special array that’s created a stable, standing wave in space-time. Standing waves don't occur in nature.”

“Not correct, young man,” asserted Tomonaga. “There are solitons.”

Neil nodded eagerly. “Yes, I know, naturally occurring standing waves in the ocean, sometimes hundreds of miles long, but these occurrences always fade and decay over time. They remain transient phenomena. Only man-made standing waves are stable, like those in resonant cavities or like electromagnetic waves in a microwave oven.” Neil stopped abruptly, concerned that he'd gone too far off on a tangent.
Tomonaga nodded in approval.

“Dr. Holtz,” said Neil. “I don't mean to be abrupt, but we’ve a lot of work to do.” Bowing slightly to Tomonaga in what he thought would be proper acknowledgement of his new respect, Neil turned and hurried back to the researchers and technicians awaiting instructions.
Now, the real work would begin.

Brent wandered back to the main test area with the others, and the gentlemen in the distant conference room started talking among themselves in tones too low for the distant microphones to pick up.

Joe stood sullenly off to the side. He couldn't think of anything to say to contribute to the discussion.

Chapter 4

“When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science.”

Lord William Thomson Kelvin, 1891

Friday, 20 April 2029 evening, Springfield University

Margaret Schaefer printed off the summary of test results. As the others had conducted the tests, she'd diligently and quietly logged them and prepared a narrative of the process. Unobtrusively, she not only recorded specific test results, she tried to capture ideas and conclusions, speculations, and wild ideas as the excitement of the day faded into evening.

Compared to Neil and Brent, her day had been relatively easy. While she sat typing, those two had been running around in a frenzy of activity, inserting probes into the field, climbing ladders and measuring different places on the sphere, performing tests with lasers, and conducting experiments with a few poor lab mice that Joe had procured from the biology department. The team had conducted more than forty tests and collected a host of measurements. All scheduled tasks were done. A final wrap-up meeting with the team was the only item left on the project schedule.

Joe somehow found a conference table and set it up in front of the television so that everyone could sit. It had been a long day. Maggie realized no one in the lab had taken a break or eaten all day. The visitors disconnected after the intial tests and been gone for most of the day. They only reappeared when Joe called to inform them that the final results were finished.

Exhausted, she took the final copy off the printer, shutdown the last active computer station and turned to join the others at the table.

“I have the summaries,” she announced and all eyes turned to her. She caught Neil's excited gaze and felt a pang of old jealousy kindle like a smoldering fire in the back of her mind. She noticed the boyish enthusiasm in his eyes and, despite the painful memories, she was truly happy for him. She saw the first real joy on his face in the two years that she’d known him. While Neil and she had grown close over the two years they’d worked together, she'd never been able to compete with this project of his. She'd never been able to fully deal with that reality, either. Her heart ached as she pushed her loneliness aside and, with practiced resignation, she took a chair at the end of the table. She passed the reports around.

Holtz asked wearily, “Ms. Schaefer, would you be so kind as to read the key summaries and conclusions from today's experiment before we conclude?”

She looked around, surprised at the unexpected honor. She wondered why and then realized that Neil, Brent and Joe had been up for more than twenty hours without a break. They were like runners spent after a long race; none of them had any energy left.

“Gentlemen, at 13:45 p.m., a stable timefield inversion was created. The first physical manifestation was an implosion as a volume of air, approximately five times the volume of the time generator sphere, was drawn in from the surrounding plenum.
“Visual characteristics and appearance of the field is as follows:

“The field appears to be darker than the surrounding air. This is due to the Doppler shift of visible light toward the red end of the spectrum as light leaves the slowtime field and the increased absorption of light from the greater density of the air within the field.

“The field refracts light as predicted, bending light as if the field were a large glass sphere, indicating a significant increase in the index of refraction. This effect is altered by the fact that the field has no distinct edge. The field transition is gradual, with the timefield gradient changing from 1.0 to 5.23 in a space of approximately twenty centimeters, precisely the length of the associated super-conducting magnets that sustain the field. The resultant appearance is like that of a giant, floating, crystal ball made of smoky glass that has no edge.”

She paused, looking around and, finding no objection to her accurate, albeit unscientific, description continued reading the summary.

“Measurements indicate that the time dilation factor of the field is approximately 5.25 at its greatest and is uniform to within 1.3 percent over more than 90 percent of its volume.

“Time dilation measurements have been verified by the several methods; Doppler shift of lasers shining across the sphere, by the red shift of lasers shining from within the sphere from equipment lowered into the field, by dropping items through the field, and by tracking the trajectory of low-velocity objects fired across the sphere. Also viscosity measurements of six known fluids have been measured within the field. All confirm the same dilation values within the limits of experimental accuracy.”

“Ms. Schaefer?” asked Jim Fitzpatrick.

Maggie smiled and said, “That means that we’ve verified ten different ways that time really is flowing slower inside the field.”

She continued to read. “Ambient temperature of the air within the field is higher than expected but may be due to the fact that energy is also entering the sphere faster than it leaves and to increased absorption of the denser air inside the field.

“Crude initial tests on living creatures indicate no adverse effects to lifeforms. Mice, sealed in a pressure vessel to prevent adverse affects of high pressures, were lowered into the sphere and removed after exposure of an external duration of sixty minutes. A chronometer accompanying the mice verified a subjective elapsed time of less than 11.5 minutes.”

She remembered that sometime during the afternoon, Joe had left and returned with a metal pressure cooker. The original experiments had called for the use of a cage. Those poor mice would have been crushed and cooked from the pressure and heat, if they hadn’t changed the details of the experiment at the last minute. She looked briefly at Joe, Neil, and Brent, shook her head slightly and read again.
“The energy required to trigger field inversion was nearly twenty-five percent greater than predicted by theory, but was less than eighty percent of the maximum field capable of being generated by the ceramic superconductors.”

She smiled. This was her contribution to the project. She'd exceeded the project design requirements of Neil's original models. The magnets had held up to the stresses, after all.

“The energy needed to sustain the field is less than one percent of the energy needed to create it. However, we don’t know for sure, since we haven’t yet collapsed the field.”

“Tests indicate that increasing the field generators increases the time dilation linearly. That is, a tenpercent increase in energy increases the time dilation factor by ten percent. The effect is not, however, bi-directional. Lowering the energy of the magnets does not diminish the dilation factor of the field.”

During the day, Dr. Tomonaga had speculated that there was hysteresis in the temporal surface and that there was a minimum field threshold below which the field would collapse, like kicking the tent poles out from under the circus tent. When the field collapsed, it would release the high-pressure air contained inside. For that reason and others they hadn’t dared increase the field further. The results could be devastating when the field dissipated.

“The magnets sustaining the field are drawing more current than can be account for by the magnet fields they generate. Dr. Tanner suspects that energy is bleeding off into five-space in a heretofore unknown manner.

“Phase One of the experiment was successful in generating a slowtime field. Subsequent experiments will be conducted to attempt to generate fastfields in which time should flow faster.”

Looking up she asked, “Is there anything else that should be added to this summary?”

No one spoke. Everyone looked at each other waiting for someone to say something profound. Maggie looked at Dr. Tomonaga expecting something special from him, but he seemed withdrawn and sad.

James Fitzpatrick finally spoke. “Dr. Holtz, I'm quite satisfied with the project’s results. Perhaps we should conclude our discussions privately.”

Holtz turned to the team. “Joe, with all due care, collapse the field and measure the level at which it disappears.”

With nothing left to say, Neil walked to the power console and Brent walked, clipboard in hand, over to the bank of readouts. The student standing near the power console stepped back as Neil disconnected the batteries and slowly tuned down the external power.

Everyone knew what to expect. All the computers and equipment had been turned off and secured. Everyone backed toward the edge of the room and waited.

The end was anti-climatic. A sudden, muffled explosion of wind and a large whoosh pushed everyone back. A rush of hot air raced past and faded away. The sphere was empty once again. The dark smoky field was gone, as if it had never been there.

Holtz spoke, “Excellent. Joe, shut down everything, and everyone go home. This project is concluded. Testing will resume at a future date. Brent, note that the experiment concluded at…11:32 p.m. I want a full write-up on my desk by Monday morning. Congratulations to you all, and thank you.”

The undergraduate student manning the cooling system shut down the liquid nitrogen tanks. A faint whistle started up as the cold nitrogen gas vented through an outlet outside. Joe turned off the television and walked over to the exit to turn off the lights.

No one said anything. They’d always assumed that there’d be a big party to celebrate after the tests, but everyone was too tired even to consider it.

Without a word, Maggie walked over to Neil and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Not knowing what to do or say, Neil simply smiled and stood in silence as everyone filed out the warehouse door and left him standing in the dark staring at the Mantra. Neil said a long private prayer of thanks.

Finally turning to the exit, he saw Maggie waiting. Silhouetted in the dark doorway, holding her notes and books in one arm like a schoolgirl, she held out her other hand to Neil. He came over, took her hand and, they walked together out to the parking lot.

Chapter 5

“Historians used to debate which invention had the greatest impact on man's history. Some argued that it was the discovery of fire or the invention of the wheel. Others that it was the yoke, which allowed man to more easily plow the ground and changed agriculture, or the stirrup, which revolutionized the nature of war. Still others have suggested it was the discovery of gunpowder, the creation of the printing press, the discovery of electricity, or man's harnessing of the atom. In modern times, however, few will disagree that the invention of timefields has had the greatest and most abrupt change on man and society.”

The Eternal Quest - Man's Search for Knowledge, Jeremy Synrek, Mancuso Arcology, Mid-Atlantic Trench, 2167


Saturday, 21 April 2029, Springfield University

Allen Holtz rarely came into his office on weekends, but in light of the pervious dya’s success at Dr. Tanner’s warehouse lab, he had a lot of work to do. Entering his large office, he placed his briefcase down on his large desk and took a seat in his soft leather chair.

Opening his handheld computer, he displayed the telephone numbers of his contacts at Candescent to continue the negotiations for control of Tanner’s new technological discoveries. He lifted the receiver to make his first call, when he was interrupted by a knock at the office door. Looking up, he saw Joe Behr cautiously peeking in through the partially open door.

Joe looked haggard and obviously hadn’t gotten much sleep since the completion of the experiments the day before. “Dr. Holtz? You left a message for me to come see you this morning.”

Allen hung up the phone and waved Joe in. “Yes, I did, Joe. I need to give you some additional instructions to wrap up yesterday’s tests.”
Joe obediently entered and sat in the chair in front of Allen’s desk.

“I know you’ve already worked hard on this project, and you’ve managed to keep quite tight security on Dr. Tanner’s work, but we’re not done.”
Joe listened and nervously placed both hands in his lap.

“We need to keep this project under wraps for just a little longer,” Allen continued. “I can’t afford to let Dr. Kloeppel from the Physics Department get wind of these research results until after I’ve completed negotiations with Candescent.

“I want you to change the locks on the lab and make sure all of the undergraduate assistants who were present at the tests yesterday know they aren’t to discuss the project with anyone.”

“But won’t Dr. Tanner and Brent wonder why the lab’s locked?” asked Joe.

“I’ll handle Brent. I have work to keep him busy. Make up some excuse for Tanner. Better yet, get him working on designing further research or writing up papers. Just keep him busy and keep that lab locked. If I’m successful, Candescent engineers will be taking over the facility soon, but I need Tanner out of the way, or he’ll ruin everything.”

Allen leaned back on his desk and crossed his arms on his chest.

“Benedict Waterhouse and Ardo Singh were very impressed with yesterday’s results. The University Finance Committee isn’t even aware of the experiments yet, and no one but President Sterling even knows about the project. Until we’ve signed a contract with Candescent, no one is to know anything. Do you understand?”

“But, why?” asked Joe.

Allen sighed. He didn’t want to explain all of the details to Joe. He followed every instruction faithfully, but Allen didn’t completely trust him. Maybe he didn’t trust anyone enough.

“Joe, the technology that we demonstrated yesterday is very important. Frankly, the University doesn’t have the capital to develop applications adequately and we’re in a delicate stage of negotiations with the Candescent Foundation.

“Just keep a lid on everything and report back to me, if you get any hint that anyone’s going to let the cat out of the bag too soon. Understand?”

Allen face grew as hard as stone and Joe flinched at the intensity of Allen’s gaze. Joe mutely nodded acknowledgement.
Standing up again, Allen gestured dismissively. “That’s all, Joe. I’ll call you again if I need you.”

As Allen redialed Waterhouse’s cell phone number, Joe slipped out of the office and glanced back briefly, a look of resentment plainly visible on his face.


28 April 2029, Springfield University

Neil slept better than he had for months. Savoring the chance to linger in bed, he yawned and stretched as he squeezed his eyes shut against the late morning sun that beamed through the ineffective apartment blinds. Reaching over to Maggie’s side of the bed, he felt only a pillow, and his eyes opened. He sat bolt upright and squinted in the bright morning light, finally recognizing Maggie standing by the dresser.

His momentary panic subsided, until he realized that Maggie was dressed and was packing her suitcase.

“Hey,” he said loudly. “What are you doing?”

Maggie turned and smiled. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m going back to Texas.”

“But you just got here! The project worked. You don’t have to go back. You can stay here.” Neil realized that he was whining and stopped. He hurried out of bed and pulled on a pair of blue jeans.

Maggie closed her suitcase and set it on the floor, just as Neil approached and took her in his arms.

Smiling, he said, “You really don’t have to go, you know. We could stay together, now.”

He tried to kiss her, but Maggie pulled away.

“No, we’ve had this discussion before. I have to go.” Maggie pushed the words out as if they physically hurt her to say them. “I can’t compete with this project of yours. I’ve been here a week, and I have to get back to my job. Maybe when you’re done here, you can meet me in Texas, and we can pick up where we left off before.”

Maggie looked back at him, her eyes filling with tears. “You’re not finished here yet, are you?”

Neil started to deny it, but paused instead. He put his hand on her cheek and wiped away a tear. “No, I have to write up the test results and prepare an article to publish.”

Maggie turned her head away again.

“It should only take about a week,” Neil insisted.

Maggie sniffed, pushed herself away and, reached down for her suitcase.

Neil took her arm and she pretended to resist, but found herself holding Neil desperately. She pressed her face against his chest and Neil slowly stroked her light brown hair with his fingers as he wrapped her in his arms.

“I promise. When I’m done with the article, I’ll join you in Texas.” Leaning back, he looked Maggie in the eyes. “Honest, I’m through with this place, Maggie. Dr. Holtz has played with this project and me for too long. All he wanted was to milk it out for as long as he could without others finding out. He was terrified that the project would be taken over by the physics or engineering departments and that he’d lose all the credit for its success.

“But it’s over, now. He can’t keep it secret anymore. As soon as I publish, I’ll be able to get a tenured slot in any University I want. And I want you there with me.”

Neil tried to get Maggie to look at him. “Maggie! Maggie? Isn’t that what you want, too?”

She nodded silently, but she pushed herself away from him and picked up her bag. She opened the door and stepped outside. She hestitated, turned back and said, “I’ll be waiting for you when you’re done, Neil. Just be sure not to forget about me.” She turned and walked away.
Neil stood looking at the open door and anger began to well up inside him. All he’d wanted to do was prove that his theories were right, but it had taken eight years of effort and it had cost him the only thing he’d ever loved. Why did it all have to be so hard, he thought? Why couldn’t things work out right for him just once?

For moment, he considered running after Maggie. Then he decided that he had to finish up here first. All he wanted to do was get this behind him. Sitting down as the desk, he started writing notes on a large pad of paper.

Within minutes, he was lost in the mathematical explanations of his theory and Maggie wasn’t on his mind at all.

Chapter 6

“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

Wednesday, 16 May 2029, Springfield University Administration

Neil Tanner burst into Dr. Holtz's office followed by Allen's secretary, Doris. She shouted, “I told you Dr. Holtz is busy and can't talk to you right now.” She caught up to Neil, but she was too late.

Turning away from Neil, she addressed Dr. Holtz. “I'm sorry, Sir. He wouldn't listen. I tried to keep him out.”

“It's all right, Doris. I'll handle Dr. Tanner. You go back to work and try to see that we aren't disturbed.”

Backing out of the office, Doris pulled the door shut and sneered at Neil as she left the room.

“Well,” said Holtz calmly to the red-faced researcher. “You must have something very important to tell me, if you have to barge in this way. What’s so urgent that it couldn't wait for an appointment?”

“Appointment?” Neil roared. “You’ve been avoiding me and putting me off for three weeks, now. Brent and I submitted our report to you within days of the experiment, and I’ve written an article to publish. I turned it in to Doris for your review, but she just told me I’m not going to be allowed to publish. She also told me I don't need to turn in the patent application, either, because you decided that I shouldn't apply.

“Finally, I find that the locks on the lab have been changed, and Joe tells me I'm not allowed near the equipment anymore. So what the hell’s going on? And where the hell do you get off telling me I can't publish and I can't file for a patent?”

“Now, now, Neil,” said Holtz patronizingly. “You were briefed on these possibilities back when the project started.”

“What? Are you crazy? You never said anything about any of this. I made it clear from the start that I planned to publish and patent. The opportunity to publish is all that's kept me around this damned university. If I’d known you were going to pull this, I would’ve taken my research somewhere else. I could have taken my ideas to any one of a dozen other institutions.”

“Yes, sure you could, Neil… as if anyone would have given your outlandish proposal any consideration at all. Remember, it’d been rejected a half dozen times before I took over as your doctoral advisor. No one else would even read it. It was poorly conceived and inadequately justified. I was the only one who saw merit in it. I was the one that pushed through your doctorate on untested work. I was the one who carried you and your idea past all the obstacles in your way. It was me who got you funding and took care of you all these years.”

Neil’s face grew redder. “Yeah, like hell you did. You're the one who buried the project and demanded that I keep it secret. You nursed it along at a snail's pace and even made someone else the project lead. You've done everything in your power to take credit for my work and you're not going to get away with it. I put up with your interference for years, but now that I've been proven right, I'm not going to stand for it anymore. I don't care what you say. I'm going to publish my results and apply for a patent and you can't stop me.” Neil spit the words at Allen and poked his finger in Holtz’s face to punctuate each syllable.

Dr. Holtz simply smiled condescendingly and said, “Oh, that's not true, Neil. Remember those papers you signed when you accepted the grant from the Candescent Foundation? Those papers clearly state that the university and Candescent own the intellectual property rights to any and all ideas springing from this grant. That’s a standard clause when private, instead of public, monies are used to fund research. It means that the project’s results are the University's and Candescent's joint property, and it’s their prerogative, not yours, to determine whether or not a patent is applied for.

“In this case, Candescent has decided not to make a public disclosure of these experimental results. They’ve given the University quite a sizable endowment, and they’ve purchased exclusive manufacturing rights for products resulting from these theories.

“Instead of applying for a patent, a paper will be written called a defensive publication. This is a paper written in an obscure engineering journal somewhere that no one ever reads. I think we’ve selected a journal in Kansas that focuses on odd ceramics applications. It has a total, and declining, subscription numbering barely 200 and is likely to be the last thing they publish.

“Brent’s already written the paper and I’ve already edited it. It’s poorly written and incomplete, so no one will be able to duplicate your research, but it will prevent anyone else from claiming discovery rights and filing a patent of their own.

“You see, if a patent is filed, the discovery becomes public knowledge and anyone can duplicate your work. Candescent doesn't want that to happen. They consider this matter to be of the highest importance and have classified it as a Company Industrial Secret.

“Under the terms of your grant agreement, you cannot disclose any details without their permission and I'm afraid that will not be forthcoming.”
Neil clenched his fists at his side and fought to restrain himself. “Why you dirty son of a…”

“Now, now Neil,” said Holtz innocently. He held his hands up as if everything was out of his control. “I didn't know this was going to happen. I was on your side, really. This is the risk we had to take to get funding. No one else would touch your project.

“Now, I promise that I'll make it up to you. If you go see Doris, you'll find that I’ve assigned you to a very plush teaching position next semester. You’ll be the envy of the mathematics faculty. Moreover, the university has exclusive R&D rights for any research done outside of Candescent and I promise you’ll personally lead all of that research. We expect big things from you, Neil, and a lot of money from Candescent is going to flow through this institution.

“What I need for you to do now is to take a few days off and think about all this. I know it's not what you expected, but it really is best this way.”

Neil exploded. “You bastard! You dirty, stinking, lying, bastard!” He stepped around the desk and grabbed the lapel of Holtz's expensive silk suit. Drawing Holtz to him Neil shouted, “You won’t get away with this. I'll sue you. I'll get every faculty member at this institution to sign a petition to have your slimy ass fired. I'll go to the president of the university and appeal to the Board of Reagents. I'll go to the press. I'll ruin you before I sit back and let you do this to me!”

Holtz slowly took Neil's hands and pried them off his suit. He glared at Neil, and his entire demeanor changed. He smiled like a shark looking at dinner and then he whispered, “No, Neil, I don't think you'll do any of those things. The Board of Reagents is the one who approved the final agreements with Candescent this past Monday. President Sterling is having a new wing added to the science building that will bear his name. You have no legal standing to sue on any grounds, and I have it on good authority that you can't afford a car, let alone an attorney.
‘Moreover, you’re on pretty shaky ground here at the University. I’d be careful it I were you. As a member of the faculty, you haven't taught a course at this institution in nearly three years. You’ve never published a single paper and the only project you ever worked on didn’t produce publishable results.

“Now listen, Neil, and listen very carefully. I can make this sweet for you and everything can work out nicely, but if you cause any trouble, any trouble at all, I’ll see you terminated from this university for cause. With that on your record, you wouldn't be able to get a job at an elementary school. Now get out of my fucking office before I call security and have you arrested for assault.”

Walking calmly to the door, Holtz opened the door and called to his secretary. “Doris, Dr. Tanner is done now. Can you see who’s next on my appointment list?” Turning his head to Neil, he asked insincerely, “Is there anything else I can help you with, Dr. Tanner?”

Neil stood stunned. His mouth opened and closed a few times as if he was going to speak, but no words came out. He finally managed an inarticulate “You… ” Then, gathering his composure, he walked out the door and never looked back.