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Excerpt for Fountable III by , available in its entirety at Smashwords




FOUNTABLE III




By Terry Wayne Martin




MARTIANPUBLISHING


Copyright © 2018 by Martian Publishing Company

Smashwords Edition




All rights reserved.

No portion of this volume may

be reproduced in any format

without the express written

permission of the copyright holder.


This is a work of fiction.

Any resemblance to persons or

organizations, living or extinct,

is entirely coincidental.




CHAPTER ONE



"Polaxar!"

The professor paused a moment to let it sink in. "At these same Academies. In this very room, if you must know. The gate technology was started right here." He pointed at the floor to emphasize the point. "No, it was not built here, nor was it conceived in its final form here, but the student involved in that event described the fundamentals of the process in this very class." He chuckled. "Of course, he was being facetious with the formula at the time, but it became so much more."

"But, Professor, exactly how does the technology work?"

"Miss…", he paused to check the seating roster on his lectern, "… Vemlinoss, you can read the technical papers published by the Fountable Group as well as I can. Figure it out for yourself. The math is there for anyone to see."

"Yes, well, I read the papers but I still don’t see how they translated that into a workable device."

"Ah, yes," the Professor grinned broadly, "and that is the object of this lesson, young lady. How do we take a mathematical model and transpose it into the stuff of reality? It is not – or at least it should not be – a purely mechanical process. It takes some degree of genius to visualize the probabilities into actualities."

He paused to survey the young faces before him. "You are all here under the same sort of scholarships as those students had. You have the same rare abilities, the same grasp of higher concepts, as those students had." He nodded. "So you can now understand that grasping the concepts and the nuances is but a small part of the function of the mathematics.

"Sure, you can visualize a better, more pure, vision of reality through the constructs but if you cannot translate it into a workable reality, you are missing the point of the craft, the purpose of the math." He moved from his desk to the center of the small area before the seated students.

"For your first lesson this session, you will construct a mathematical formula to describe… something – whatever you wish. It does not have to be an actual workable formula but the concepts contained therein should suggest an application, which you will also describe." He quickly held up his hands to stop the chatter. "As this is entirely hypothetical, I will not insist you turn in a working model. A simple explanation of the application device will be sufficient."

"But, sir," one student stood, looking around at the others before continuing, "how are we to know what to construct? We are not all engineers?"

The professor chuckled. "I quite understand that…" he quickly checked the seating chart again, "… er, Mister Galivstoon, but surely you are not saying students beyond the engineering complex cannot practice a bit of creative imagination?"

The first student spoke again, "So, we do not have to actually design a working device?"

"That is correct. But your imagination should be constrained with this warning: though the formula and proposed device do not have to confine themselves to our present reality, they must both embrace the reality in which they reside."

Another student stood. "Professor Bernepger, did the formula actually describe the device they later constructed?"

He eyed the chart again. "No, Miss Rawlthorn, as I said, Mister Andrisn developed the formula as a way to prove teleportation was impossible." he chuckled. "Which, of course, it was believed to be so at the time. He wrote the formula as a joke. Later, he was able to use the formula to revise Leptiri's theorem. The result was the teleportation gates that are now spreading out across the galaxy."

"Is it true they used the things to escape from exile?"

"Yes, Mister Dalnripel. Not only that," he paused for effect and scanned the group, "they built the first one while on the prison planet without so much as a screwdriver, a supply of sheet metal, or a generator." He nodded at the stunned students. "So, I should think that merely imagining a device should not be too far a stretch for you. I will at least not ask you to rummage together a working model."

While the students were chewing on the problem before them, the professor walked over to the door. He rapped on the glass and motioned to someone in the hallway.

"And now, we have a special guest who has offered to answer a few questions." The door opened and a young man stepped into the room to a muffled gasp from the students.

"Professor Bernepger." He nodded to the older man.

Motioning to the class, the man announced, "Students! Please welcome Tervan Andrisn."

The questions came two and three at a time.

Tervan smiled and held up his hands. "Please, please, one at a time. Even with the gate technology I do not know how to be two places at once. We'll start with the front row and move toward the back. And don't worry!" His grin broadened. "Everyone will get a chance to ask questions." He pointed to a young woman in the first row.

"Is the Princess Furzana here with you?"

He shook his head. "Honey, I told you they'd want to see you too."

She sighed. "All right. Be right there."

"No, but I think she will be along in a short while. Next?"

"I heard that you escaped from one exile using the gates but how did you escape from the other one?"

"The gates were still instrumental in the second escape but the presence of an exploratory shuttle craft was fortuitous."

"And how did you get the craft?"

Tervan shrugged. "Dumb luck, it would seem. No formula helped us in that regard. The craft had been crippled in its landing there – they didn't know it was a prison planet – and we stumbled across it many years later." He nodded to another student.

"Is it true that you were offered the crown? Twice?"

Grinning, Tervan shook his head. "No, I was only offered the crown once."

"So why aren't you the Emperor?"

He shrugged. "Politics never interested me much."

"But the wealth! The power!?"

Tervan shook his head. "You know, those really are not very important. Perhaps to some people, but I could never be happy with that sort of life."

More questions followed but it seemed to be fewer questions than there were students. It seemed that the questions of some had already been asked by others. Then Furzana arrived and there were an entirely new set of questions for her, mostly from the female students.

After things wound down, Professor Bernepger stepped forward again. "And after all this remarkable young man has done, he is now attempting something truly impossible!" He chuckled. "He is attempting to create a new form of – for lack of a better term – mathematics. Yet the construct he envisions is a non-quantitative form."

The younger faces looked perplexed, though many students leaned a little forward in their seats.

"Imagine, if you will," Tervan went to the board at the front of the classroom and picked up the marker, "a formula that seems to prove that space does not exist." He quickly wrote out the formula they had used to design the gates. He stood to one side so everyone could see it completely. "The spatial constant," he pointed to that factor, "implies variance. In this case, what we have termed 'collapsibility'. This formula was used in the construction of the teleportation gateways and yet it seems to imply that space does not exist." He let that settle a moment. "But we can see that it exists! There is distance between varying points around us… especially between the stars. There is a vast amount of space.

"But for the purposes of this formula, those distances are removed and two very far distance spaces are found to be coterminous. Were it not so, passing an object through a gate to a point halfway across the galaxy would require a vast amount of energy.

"Yet it takes no more energy to move an object that vast distance than it does to move it across a table top." He turned back to the formula. "So, a formula that works so simply in our present mathematics seems to negate the portion of the mathematical model we have used to apply to the remainder of our view of the universe. Most mathematics implies space is a physical construct of assigned points. And the mathematics has served for many centuries working under that thesis.

"This," he pointed to the formula, "seems to change everything."

"But how can space not exist?" The student quickly raised his hand. "That's ridiculous! We already know it exists."

"Absolutely!" Tervan nodded. "There is no question that it exists. But it does not seem to exist in the form we have always ascribed."

"Huh?"

"I am sure you have heard of telepathy, the exchange of thoughts from one mind to another. This can happen instantly over vast distances. The thoughts seem to leave one brain and are immediately in the other.

"This would imply one of two things. First, the brain activity between the two people is occurring outside the universe or, second, the transfer of thoughts transcends the physical distances of space."

A young lady in the front row gawked. "Are you a telepath?"

"I told you they would go there." Furzana grinned.

"Right as usual, hon." "Yes, but it does not mean I can read your mind or anything. I… we have developed the ability to talk to the others in our group telepathically." He shrugged. "You might say it is what led us to realize this collapsibility of space.

"For example: two people can view a mountain in the distance. One says it is very far away while the other says it is not so far. Distance in space varies according to perspective. The difference in perspective is a non-mathematical approach. The individual perceptions have not moved the mountain nor decreased the actual distance involved but it does show that perception of space is not absolute.

"This subtle difference – qualitative rather than quantitative – is what we are attempting to understand and develop." He scanned the faces of the students, looking for some clue of enlightenment.

"I think you've lost them, hon."

"Yes, I fear you are correct. Maybe I should work on my delivery?" Aloud, he continued, "Perhaps my explanation is a bit confusing but if anyone here has some notion of developing a qualitative branch of mathematics, we would certainly entertain your ideas."

One hand rose slowly, Tervan nodded toward the young man.

"But isn't perspective a psychological study?"

"True, as far as it goes. The basic assumption behind most science is that there are metrics involved in every human endeavor. These things can be measured, analyzed, and models constructed on how to improve the reality covered by that science. But there are areas of life that are equally real but cannot be adequately measured. When you see a painting, how do you measure the emotional impact it carries? And what about those people who react completely different to it?"

"But that's subjective, not scientific."

"Exactly, in this case. But what about creative thinking. We all know it occurs – in some people more than others," he looked around the classroom which elicited a few chuckles, "and yet there is no way to adequately measure the process."

Another hand shot up. "But isn't that as subjective as the painting exercise? What one thinks of as creative may not seem such to others."

"All right. In a specific sense, a particular case, it might be subjective but overall one must admit to the existence of creative thinking, correct?" The student nodded. "And there is no way to measure it." He looked around. "All these things in life contain true power… the emotions, the intellect, and so forth have no way to be measured. And yet they each have an enormous impact on our lives.

"The transfer gates are the same way. We can see the effects but we have no way of measuring what is occurring. Nor do we completely understand how or why the space is suddenly collapsible. That it occurs precludes its impossibility. But to get a better grasp on what is actually occurring, we need to understand what is going on. Since our present forms of mathematics cannot express the principles, I can only assume we need a different form of mathematics, one that moves beyond measurements in the traditional sense. We believe there is a need for a theory to measure qualities rather than quantities." He nodded. "We need a qualum theory."

There was thoughtful silence for a time before a voice came from the back, "Have you devised any new symbols or terminology for the new conceptualizations of mathematics?"

Tervan smiled as he recalled the scales they attempted to work out ranging from "soft" at one end to "red" at the other. "No, we still do not have anything like a workable model of the qualum theory just yet. Are there any poets present? Artists? Dancers?"

A few very tentative hands rose, nervously glancing around.

"No need to be shy about that," Tervan says. "One of the mathematicians working on our project is also a poet. His understanding of the medium has helped us a lot. And my wife is a dancer and that has also helped.

"One thing we tend to forget in our pursuit of mathematics is that it is not separate from the rest of the universe. Cold and calculating numbers cannot wrap around the emotions and subtleties of reality. That is the sort of math we are trying to create."

There was silence. Tervan added, "If we continue thinking of the universe as only something that can be measured, we will learn nothing except the dimensions of the box in which we are trapped."

After another silence, Tervan turned toward the professor. "I believe I have bewildered them enough for one day, Professor. I'll turn them back over to you before further mayhem ensues."

"That's my husband. Always leaving them clamoring for more."

"Thanks a lot." He scowled as they left the room.



~~~~



CHAPTER TWO



"How did it go?" Merlok was waiting by the gate when the pair returned from the Imperial Math Academy.

Tervan shook his head. "I don't think we should hold our breath waiting for converts to come streaming through." He shook his head and looked at his wife.

She responded, "I don't think it went as bad as all that."

He scowled.

Iranjo clapped him on the back. "Don't take it so hard, Chief. If I hadn't lived through the adventure myself I think I would have a tough time believing it myself."

"Same here," Merlok added, "and I still wouldn't know how to start explaining how the thing works."

"I don't know," Furzana took hold of Tervan's arm. "I think you made a good case for the non-mathematic nature of the quest. Since there don't seem to be any scientific terms available you left the idea wide open enough for them to try and interpret it any way they wish. Whether or not anyone can wrap their mind around it," she shrugged, "only time will tell."

"Thanks, hon." He grinned. "We're the closest to this thing and if we can't figure it out I shouldn't expect anyone else to either."

"Right. We'll come up with something, I'm sure. Especially now that all the pesky political distractions are out of the way. Until then, I better get back to baby Kinzi." She raised up on her toes and kissed his cheek. "See you later?"

He nodded.

The three math wizards watched her leave before getting down to business.

The plans were resting on a table in the mess hall aboard the Kalithoa. As their future offices were not yet ready and the majority of them still lived aboard the ship, most of their time was spent there. Though the majority of the partners from Falthok and Wukimel had already found suitable habitation in town, the math people seemed a bit slow in that regard and had not moved toward establishing a residence nearby.

Tervan rubbed his hands together. "So, how is the setup going?"

"In the hour since you left?" Iranjo grinned. "Not much farther, I assure you."

"I wouldn't say that, Jo-jo," Merlok said, "the girls have finally decided which office they each get."

"Right, there is that." Iranjo grinned. "They were all fighting over the corner offices, you'll remember." Tervan nodded. "So, Merlok and I have devised several more corners to contain offices."

"Let me guess, everyone gets a 'corner office'?"

He grinned. "Yes, Lerinthis, Filitha, Evie, Goswinth, and Berabra all have their own corner office. And we did not have to bend any laws of the universe to achieve the result."

"That's good news!" Tervan laughed. "I have a hard enough time trying to explain the few universal laws we have bent already." He looked at the plan laid out on the table. "The configuration for the manufacturing space looks a little odd." He pointed.

"Odd to account for creating more corners…"

"Oh, yeah, never mind then. I think it looks pretty good for now. As the enterprise grows we will probably encounter more issues that will require adjustments but it seems most of the square footage is for manufacture, as it should be." He glanced around the plan.

"Looking for your office?" Merlok grinned.

"No, actually I was looking for the design section… you know, Jo-jo's offices."

Iranjo reached under the table to bring out another large sheet of paper. "This is the second floor." He spread it out.

"Oh, that seems almost too easy, Jo-jo." He pointed to the office spaces. "This one's mine, there's Furzana's, and the rest of it seems to belong to research and development."

"Yeah," Merlok grinned, "Iranjo's domain."

The mathematician blushed. "I just thought…"

Raising a hand to cut him off, Tervan shook his head. "Hey, I've got no complaints. A small office next door to my wife is really all I need. I really think the majority of the space should be for manufacturing – which it is – and the second most should go to development – which it is. It looks perfect, Jo-jo."

"Are you certain?" Iranjo still looked a little worried.

"Absolutely! And if anyone tries to give you a hard time about it, send them to my office so I can give them the scoop. The enterprise is primarily concerned with manufacturing gates which requires most of the space. And trying to produce the next phase of the product is vital. I would imagine someone else may try and edge into the market and we'll have to stay ahead of any competitors." He grinned. "Although I am certain this thing is going to take off fast enough that manufactories will need to be built all over the galaxy."

"Really?" Merlok looked around. "Don't you think that the need for having these gates between planets all over the galaxy will diminish after more and more planets get them? I would think our work would be done."

Gratt had come in during Merlok's comment and he answered it with a laugh. "Merlok, you don't seem to know people very well. If they get a gate to go from Avlingorre to Polaxar they are going to wonder why they have to fly to the opposite side of Avlingorre. Why not just gate there?"

"That's right," Tervan said, "and once they get that gate in place they will wonder why they need to walk to the local grocery? Why not have a gate at every corner to take them wherever in the universe they need to go?"

Eyes wide, Merlok blinked from one to another. "Ya think? Are people really that lazy?"

Tervan clapped him on the shoulder while Gratt said, "You don't get out much, do you, Merlok?"

"Well, I…" He shrugged while the other three chuckled.

"That's okay," Tervan said, "even the best minds encounter simple concepts they have overlooked. Believe me, I know." He turned back to the plans on the table. "One thing I wonder about, Jo-jo. You've spent a lot of time accommodating all the inner circle in this enterprise but what about the other hundred and fifty or so of the others who are partners in the company? I don't see any office space for them."

"Honey, have you got a minute?"

"Sure, be right there." "Sorry, guys, a higher duty calls." He grinned and left.

The other three exchanged glances for a moment.

Merlok scowled. "Isn't that just like him? Here we are so worried about what sort of space we would have and he is worried about all the others."

"Yeah," Iranjo nodded, "that's why he's the Boss."

Gratt leaned over the table. "Do we even know what the rest of the partners want to do?"

"Not a clue." Merlok shrugged. "I guess that means we're gonna have to ask."

Gratt drew back in surprise. "Merlok, you all right? It's so unlike you to submit to the easy…"

"And correct," Iranjo added.

"… answer so quickly."

"Knock it off! I'm not that bad." Merlok's glare dared them to comment further.



*****



Tervan walked into Furzana's fabric empire to see her busily sorting through… well, fabric. "Okay, hon, what sort of help do you need?"

She held up two different fabrics. "I'm going to make you a business suit. Which of these appeals to you more?" She glanced from one to the other before looking back at him.

"A business suit? Do I really…" He cut off the comment. If she said he needed one, he knew she was probably right. "Never mind. What do most people wear?"

"Usually some darker color. Do you remember the suit Mister Sorimbal was wearing when he came to finalize the papers?"

"Uh, not exactly."

She grinned. "Yeah, like you've ever noticed what anyone wears, right?"

"Except for that tight little suit you wore at the gymnastic competition."

"I thought all you remembered were my green eyes?"

He felt his color rising. "Well, of course, there was that…"

"Relax, silly." She grinned. "I think we'll go with the basic black suit. I think that should be functional regardless of the type of business meeting you are in."

He stepped close and took the bit of fabric from her hands. "It feels nice. But what do you mean 'business meeting'? Won't I be too busy running the business? And I can't see any of the others wearing something like this."

"No, silly, this isn't for working here. This is for business meetings with government officials and other industry leaders."

He bent down and picked up Kinzi from his small playpen. The lad was getting bigger – and heavier – by the day. "Don't we have a public relations department to handle that sort of thing?"

"Yes, to handle the media and advertising, marketing and such but for meetings with government leaders of various planets and other corporate leaders you will need to meet with them in person."

"I don't understand."

She threw up her hands. "Tervan Andrisn! Surely you're not that much of a farmer to know how these things work."

He grinned. "Actually, that's about right. How do these things work? Can't we just take orders and put up gates around the galaxy?"

"Basically, yes, but someone has to pay for the gates, don't they? And who do you expect to be the buyers? Private citizens?"

He thought a moment, nuzzling Kinzi's nose with his own. "Yeah, I guess that's the way I was thinking. But… no, I can see that it will have to be planetary governments and large commercial enterprises. And that means," he nodded at her, "you are absolutely correct again. Woman, I can see you dragging me kicking and screaming into the mainstream of the galaxy."

"And you fighting every step of the way?"

"Heck no!" He placed the baby back in his pen. "Submitting weakly to your every direction, of course." He grinned. "Besides, I think you get the greatest enjoyment of showing me off whenever you can. And in the best-dressed way possible."

"You got that right, mister."

He leaned forward and kissed her lightly. "Have I told you lately how lucky I am to have you?"

"Yes, but not often enough." Her 'evil grin' appeared.



*****



Heading back toward the mess hall where he left the other mathematicians, Tervan wondered how such business meetings might go. It was not as if they had any competition in the area. Glandring's Imperial Edict had given them an exclusive license for the gate manufacture and distribution. He was sure that most people who even heard of the Edict would wonder what the heck the Emperor was talking about. Although they had displayed the capabilities of the gates to an extremely large audience many were still probably thinking it was a trick with lights and cameras.

It would probably be some time until the galaxy at large learned what was heading toward their future.

He knew they did not have the wherewithal to actually operate each of the gates all over the galaxy. They were going to have to partner with local transport companies in every system where gates were to be established. The local operators would run the local gates and gain the revenue from that service.

How they would share the revenue with the operators of the gates at the receiving end was something Sorimbal and the legal team would work out – probably already had, he thought – and his only job was going to be closing the deal.

He was certain it would be an easy sale. Compared to the length of time it took traveling from one planet to another by traditional means it was no contest. The public would clamor for the gates and the pressure would make the sale before they even got a chance to make the offer.

He had already worked with the primary group to hash out the price for the gates. A cozy profit was assured the enterprise and all the partners from the original team to the last joiner from Wukimel would be richly rewarded.

Life was good.

Just as he reached the mess-hall, another call came from Furzana.

"Honey, your Mom just called? Dinner at home?"

"Sure, sounds good. Is it that time on Urgifal already"

"Yes, and only early afternoon here. There's a difference in rotational speeds, you know." He heard the smirk.

"So right you are! Since I skipped lunch, dinner sounds good about now. That is if you're at a stopping point."

"See you in a couple of minutes. We'll need to get dressed and clean up Kinzi."

"Sounds good." He entered the room to see his friends still laboring over the plans of the Ojeelah facility. "Well, guys, I guess that'll do it until this evening. Mom's invited us to dinner."

"All right, Boss."

"See ya later."

Making an about face, Tervan headed for their quarters amazed at the progress his mother had made with telepathy. So far, she could only connect to him and Furzana but it was a start. She usually called Furzana, knowing he was always busy even though he told her he never minded the interruption.

His father, though, had still made no progress.



~~~~



CHAPTER THREE



Mother greeted them on the porch.

"Is this some special occasion?"

She smiled and gave him a peck on his cheek before embracing Furzana. "Nothing too special. Your brother wanted his girlfriend to meet you and," she held the screen door open, suppressing a grin, "Halrid, is home for a visit."

Tervan grinned at his wife. "My older brother's home! You've gotta meet him!" He rushed inside.

Introductions were short as dinner was already on the table and everyone seemed as hungry as Tervan felt. Once the initial hunger pains had been sated, the conversation developed.

Anstin sat next to Lorena, his girlfriend, and quietly gave her a running history of his older brother's adventures, through both exiles and escapes. If Tervan did not know better, Anstin's brother was some sort of super human being.

Tervan was more interested in Halrid's tale. The last he heard, an industrial accident had put his collegiate schedule on hold.

"It was rough at the start. Old man Eshitor's company covered the medical bills but the time lost from my classes looked to completely derail my graduation from college. But then," he winked at Furzana, "news of my brother eloping with a princess arrived and everyone – professors, college admins, all of them – were bending over backward to accommodate my continuing education." He paused to wolf down another bite of food.

After a sip of water, he continued, "They set up a terminal in my hospital room so I could keep up with the course work and gave me a proctor when I took the tests. Of course, that only took care of the semester I had already paid for and I would have to fully recuperate to get back to work and pay for the next term."

Mr. Andrisn looked concerned. "But you passed the courses?"

"Sure thing, Dad. But Mister Eshitor offered to loan me the course money and the college even wanted to waive the cost but I said I'd rather pay my own way." He took another bite. "I missed one semester while I got caught up again but then it was right back to the books."

Tervan patted him on the shoulder. "That's my brother!" He grinned. "So are you still studying accounting?"

Yep." He nodded. "And I'll graduate in two more semesters."

"That's really great."

"My two very accomplished sons!" Mrs. Andrisn beamed and looked at Anstin, who blushed.

"Hey, my grades may not be as good as those two but I'm going to graduate easily."

"I'm sure you will, Scoop." Halrid grinned when Anstin winced at the use of his nickname. Turning to Tervan, "And I hear you're getting up some sort of transport business."

"Yeah, sort of. And we could probably use an accountant when you finish your courses."

"I'd love to," he grinned and blushed in turn, "but with all the assistance Mr. Eshitor has given I've sort of already promised to go to work for him."

"No problem." Tervan laughed. "But if it doesn't work out, the offer will remain open."

"Thanks."

Mother clasped her hands and leaned her elbows on the table. "And tell us a little about your girlfriend."

The blush came again. "Oh, yeah. Erinna is the boss' daughter and I think it's starting to get serious."

Furzana smiled. "I suppose this Eshitor is trying to get some insurance for your future employment?"

The blush deepened. "Looks that way, doesn't it? But actually we were going out when the accident occurred. And her father had already been hinting about a job at that time." He reached for the serving tray of vegetables. "It's not like he's going to have me run the company, he's got three sons already on board to take over when he retires."

"Still," Tervan nodded, "the offer will always be open."

"Thanks."

When there was a lull in the conversation, Lenora barraged Furzana with questions about being a princess.

"And you thought she was going to be starry-eyed by my presence, huh?"

"I still think so. This is probably just a diversion to make Anstin think she's more interested in me."

Tervan grinned. "And nothing I say will change your opinion on that, huh?"

"Of course not!"

While Furzana was talking to Lenora, Tervan's mother said to him, "Oh, and there was a fellow around here looking for you."

"Me? Who is it?"

She shrugged. "No one I know. He first showed up a couple of weeks before you fell out of the sky. Isn't that right, Rannik?" The father grunted and nodded. "Anyway, he came by again yesterday, driving a wagon this time. I remembered him from before but I had thought he was just someone dropping by to view the local celebrity."

"Local celebrity?" Tervan glanced around. "And who might that be?"

"You, silly." She laughed.

"Oh, yeah." Tervan blushed. "I guess I am that."

"But when he came back by, he seemed more a local though no one I have seen before."

"And he was looking for me?"

"Yes, dear," she nodded, "said you were old friends."

Anstin added, "Seems like he bought the old Mifineres place."

"'Bout time," the father said, reaching for the bowl of steamed vegetables. "Another year or two and the barn would have probably collapsed." He sighed. "You know, I made an offer on the place last year but they held firm with their price. They wouldn't negotiate and I couldn't raise the extra funds. But as it seems I may not have any son taking over this place after me…"

The mother waved off the comment. "Oh, you just knock off that kind of talk, Rannik, you know very well that Tervan has expressed an interest in the place if his younger brother decides not to take it."

"That's right, Dad, if I don't get this place I know I'm going to be doing some farming somewhere."

The father nodded and kept eating.

Presently, Furzana was regaling the group with talk about dance, a subject dear to the heart of Lenora who listened with her eyes wide open.

After dinner, most the family adjourned to the porch to greet the twilight. The mother came out drying her hands on a dishtowel.

Father looked up, "Finished the dishes already?"

"No, Anstin and Lorena are finishing it up." Her eyes turned toward the right where a wagon was coming along the road. "And there's the fellow now."

He had on a straw hat, overalls and a shirt stained by sweat. His wagon was full of hay. And he was bearded, rustic, tanned, and broad-shouldered. Though he looked like many in the neighborhood, Tervan could not place the fellow. He descended from the porch for a closer look.

Smiling, the stranger nodded and pulled on the reins. "Evening, folks." He stopped before the house and climbed down from the wagon.

"Pleased to meet you. I'm Tervan Andrisn. I hear you’ve been asking about me." He extended his hand. "Do I know you?"

"No, we've never actually met." He took Tervan's hand and shook, nodding toward the porch where Furzana sat with the baby. "But I am very well acquainted with your wife."

"Furzana?" Tervan stared at his wife, wondering how she could have had an old boyfriend on Urgifal.

"Silly," she thought back at him, "I never heard of Urgifal 'til I met you." She handed the baby off to his grandmother and descended the wooden steps to join the two men.

"Hello. Do I know you?"

The stranger grinned and tipped his hat. "Yes, I should hope you would remember."

She stared intently at him a moment. Her eyes tightened and there was a sudden catch in her throat. She drew back a couple of steps, her hand clutching her throat. "No!"

Seeing her reaction, Tervan stepped between her and the fellow. "Who are you?"

He removed his hat and bowed. "I am Acoordes, former Crown Prince of the Empire, and your brother-in-law."



*****



Furzana could not stop shaking. They were sitting in the front room of the farmhouse to which Furzana had fled. Tervan's usual suggestion of taking the restorative breaths went unmentioned. He held her close and rubbed her arms, making soothing noises while she battled the demons within. This was, after all, the brother who had suggested her father abort the baby and marry her off to a suitable noble house.

"I thought that monster was exiled!"

"Apparently not."

"Perhaps that is an oversight we should correct!"

Not having a suitable response, he simply continued his comforting.

"What does he want? Why is he here!?"

"Perhaps we should ask him."

"You ask him. I never want to see that monster again!"

He glanced at his mother. She nodded and came over to take his place while he headed outside again.

Acoordes was standing beside his wagon. "I take it she's not happy to see me." He wiped his brow and scowled.

Tervan nodded. "That's an understatement. But can you blame her after what you suggested after I was exiled?"

Acoordes drew back a little. "And what is it that she thinks I suggested?"

"You were suggesting she abort the child and marry some noble 'for the good of the Empire'."

He stared blankly and blinked before a short dry laugh. "I am afraid that wasn't my doing. I never suggested any such a thing. That sounds like something Father would do. Apparently he was trying to shock Mother, drive a wedge between us, showing her that he completely owned me." He saw the skepticism in Tervan's face. "You probably never wondered where I was when you returned from your exile to take Father down."

Tervan shook his head.

"When I complained to him about your exile, he sent me away on a fact-gathering tour. Really, just a way to show his disfavor. It was the closest thing he could do to exiling me without actually disowning me." He shrugged. "And he told me to think long and hard about my future before he summoned me home."

"Well, Furzana got quite a different impression about what went on." He turned to look back at the house.

Acoordes stepped toward his wagon. "Well, I'd probably better be going."

Tervan touched his sleeve. "I did want to thank you for trying to intercede with Glandring. That took some guts. Weren't you afraid he would exile you as well?"

Acoordes chuckled. "Actually, it would have been more courageous if I had done it earlier. As it was, I waited until after the very public execution of Alaran and the backlash from that. I think Glandring was already trying to reform his image by the time I petitioned."

"Still, I think it was a thoughtful gesture."

He looked back at the house and sighed. "It's a shame it didn't play out differently. And I can't think of any way to prove to Zani that it wasn't me who wanted to harm her."

Tervan shrugged. "I think she's going to need more time, regardless."

"You're probably right." He climbed up on the wagon and took up the reins.

Stepping close, Tervan asked, "But why are you here on Urgifal?"

Acoordes' shoulders slumped. He stared down at his feet and shook his head. "For so much of my life I was just goofing around. I never had any idea about what I wanted to do with myself." He looked at Tervan and sighed. "The worst part was not even thinking that I needed to do something with my life. I had pretty much avoided anything productive. But that soon changed.

"Slandash got involved in a rebellion and got himself executed for his trouble. Father needed another heir – for some reason, I thought I was the logical choice – and he picked Gedarkti.

"Now I know Father can be pretty caustic to people in many ways but I have never seen him be as diabolically cruel as Gedarkti was when I was younger. He was five years older than I and he tormented me – and anyone else, come to think of it – just for fun. I realized that if I was to get Father's notice I would have to get involved in the administration of the Empire." He shook his head again.

"I just really did not want that cruel tyrant sitting on the throne. It bode far more ill to the Empire than even Father's reign had been. Historically speaking, Father was no worse than any of the previous Emperors but he would be a paragon of virtue in retrospect when Gedarkti reached the throne." He paused and stared down the road. "I figured I had several years to ingratiate myself with Father knowing in that time Gedarkti was bound to screw up like he always did."

Tervan cleared his throat. "All right, but what brought you to Urgifal?"

"Pardon me." The prince chuckled. "I tended to ramble away from the question didn't I? Well, when Adonistar returned from exile and was made Emperor, I was inspecting the harvest storage tanks on Binteron. The Commander of the vessel asked me what to do. I could have rebelled with the limited forces at my disposal and try for the throne but to tell the truth after your exile I realized maybe I really did not want the type of life that would get me noticed by Father. What he values is a far remove from my own view." He shrugged. "I told the commander to return to Polaxar and swear his allegiance to the new Emperor. And I headed for Urgifal, hoping to meet up with the two of you here.

"Before I arrived, the news came that you were exiled again. This time with my sister. So I went back to Polaxar and petitioned the Emperor for your release. After that effort stalled, I came back here to see if it had stalled because you were already released. Since you were not present, I tried to find a place to stay but…" he grunted.

"Yeah, I know." Tervan nodded. "Try to find a hotel nearby."

"So I found a place down the road. Loratsa's farm. It's nearby," Tervan nodded, "and he offered room and board and I kept an ear out for your arrival. Funny thing was, it reminded me so much of helping tend Mother's gardens back on Polaxar, even before Furzana was born… I actually began to enjoy living and doing something. When I found out the farm near yours was for sale…" He shrugged. "I've gotta tell you, it is a much more fulfilling life than I have ever known."

Tervan nodded, remembering Furzana talking about happier times with Acoordes and that gardens. "I'm glad to hear you've found a purpose in living. Thanks for explaining all that to me." He glanced over his shoulder. "Speaking of Furzana, I'd better get back in."

He nodded. "Thanks for listening. I don't know if it will mean anything to Zani but you know where to find me."

"Good evening, then."

"And good evening to you." He flicked the reins. "And you're welcome at my place, anytime."

Tervan returned to the house deep in thought.



~~~~



CHAPTER FOUR



Looking around the small gathering in the mess hall on the Kalithoa, Tervan sighed and said, "I think most of you are already aware that it was Furzana's brother, the Crown Prince… or rather, ex-Crown Prince Acoordes who had been the one to petition Glandring about rescinding our exile to Wukimel."

Derter glanced around. "Yeah, I think we all were brought up to speed on that point even if it was really his fault that all this crap happened."

Gratt tapped his brother on the shoulder. "How do you figure that, huh?"

"Well, to start off, if he hadn't ingratiated himself with his father to be named the heir, Furzana would not have been put in a position that excluded her from marrying Tervan." He shrugged. "Because he was named heir, the Emperor called in Tervan and told him to back off."

"Yeah," Merlok interjected, "as if even the Emperor could rule over hormones!"

"I see your point," Tervan nodded at Derter, "but I don't think the fellow was thinking that far ahead, or at least not considering how his sister might be affected. He was – just like everybody else – trying to live his life in whatever way he thought best."

In the silence that followed, Lerinthis cleared her throat. "So, I take it that Furzana's a little upset about his sudden appearance? I recall she wasn't too pleased to hear he was the one who petitioned the new Emperor."

"That's an understatement!" Fralik laughed. "After what her dear brother had said about wanting to abort her baby and marry her off to some noble… I'm surprised she didn't simply tear his face off when she saw him again."

Tervan grinned. "If she hadn't been in such a state of shock…" He shrugged. "But after hearing his tale, I was wondering if he really did say such awful things."

His gaze drifted to a corner of the room. "Vernithia?"

"Yes, son?"

"Mom, I was wondering about the things Acoordes had said about the abortion… Do you know for a fact that he said it? I mean, did you hear him say it?"

There was a pause. Everyone present could sense the demons being battled. "No, I did not hear him say it but I heard about him saying it from a couple of sources."

"Unimpeachable sources?"

Her laughter carried light to all listening and it seemed to dispel the tension. "Not hardly! One was Aravikar himself – not the most trustworthy source on any matter – and the other was a friend who I know from previous experience loved to pass along any disreputable gossip that came her way." She sighed. "I think it was perhaps the extreme nature of the reports and the lack of personal contact from my son that cast an even darker light on the events. If he had only tried to see us… see his sister during that trying time… Well, it would have shown him in a completely different light."

"He certainly did himself no favors." Lerinthis sounded smug. "But is there any way we can verify any of this story? The version from then as opposed to the new improved version."

"I don't know…"

In the pause, her husband, Krinzel, joined in. "I believe the Empress is at a loss to know of anyone currently on Polaxar who would have been close enough to the Emperor at that time to know what transpired between the Heir and his father."

"Thank you, dear."

"And we thank you for your input, Mother." Tervan chewed his lip and moment before speaking. "So, we can decide to either trust Acoordes or not but either way I think it would be best to move slowly toward inclusion until the truth of the matter is made a little more clear."

Merlok grinned. "So, you don't trust him completely either?"

"My first inclination tended that way but I trust Furzana implicitly and she is having trouble with the idea." He cocked his head to one side. "For all I know, he might be trying to get on our good side just to further some political ambitions."

"By farming?" Merlok laughed.

Lerinthis spoke, "We know you think everyone can turn their life around – and Prince Acoordes might – but I don't really think someone like Aravikar is capable of anything like that. He's been doing bad for longer than most people have been alive."

Furzana came in with young Kinzi and took a seat next to Tervan.

"Inertia." Iranjo stood up. "It's going to take a very powerful action to pry him out of the mold he has established."

Tervan chuckled. "That's Iranjo, trying to reduce everything to some formula."

Iranjo continued, "And his attitudes could actually be reinforced by others' opinions of him."

Furzana scoffed, "You mean if everyone suddenly began to see what a great guy he was he would change? I don't think so."

"Well… You're probably right," Iranjo shrugged, "but if all that reinforcement was removed, it might be easier for him to change."

She scowled. "If he wanted to change."

Iranjo nodded. "Yes, well, that is the major thing, of course. He would have to want to change."

Tervan shook his head. "I don't see it happening but I am open to it if it does." He saw the look from Iranjo. "Call me a skeptic."

Gratt laughed. "That doesn't seem to do much in removing any reinforcement. We still don't trust the guy."

Everybody laughed at that.

Fralik changed the subject, "So, other than the students at the Math Academy oohing and ahhing over the Princess, did anyone have anything substantial to add to our theoretical discussions?"

Grinning, Tervan shook his head. "Actually, I saw more fright and confusion than anything else when I was discussing the direction we are going. Just like most of them, I suppose, we went to the Academies to learn the practical applications of mathematics…"

"Or to marry a Princess," Furzana interjected with a smirk.

"That was not planned," he smirked back, "it was just a fortuitous circumstance." He got serious again. "The plan was to sharpen the tools of the craft, not to become actively involved in philosophical discourse. I seriously doubt any of them had considered the subject any more than we had."

"Actually, there was one fellow…" Furzana nudged her husband with an elbow.

He saw the look and took the sleeping baby from her. "Which fellow are you talking about?"

"The one who tried to describe the transport process out of some science fiction novel." She grinned.

He nodded. "Oh, yeah, I forgot about that one entirely. He must have read the same books I had." He returned her grin.

After a moment with nothing more coming, Fralik asked, "And what was this process about?"

"Well, this student was wondering about the transferal process we used and if it was like in the stories that de-molecularized the object – or person – in order to reconstruct it at the other end."

Several responded at once with "What!?"

"That's the process as usually put forth in novels."

Filitha shook her head. "And what? They beam the molecules through space or something?"

He nodded. "Yes. Either that or by simply sending the data so the object can be reconstructed at the other end."

"Whoa!" Merlok shuddered and said, "I don't think I would like that at all."

Derter nodded, "I wouldn't want to be the first guinea pig..."

"Sure they could move the physical body that way," Lerinthis said, "but what about the mind and the spirit? How are they supposed to tag along?"

Tervan threw up his hands. "I'm afraid you'd have to ask the authors of the stories, not me. I'm in Derter's camp. Not only would I not want to be the first, I don't think I would like the idea even if it was well-tested." He shuddered too. "It just feels wrong."

"I think," Gratt added, "that most of these people seem to think the spiritual and emotional parts of a person can be reduced to some sort of chemical components."

"Or computer code," Ganerini added.

"From my experience," Furzana leaned back in her chair, stretching her legs out, "anyone can learn dance moves – training their muscles and learning the steps – but the artistry of dancing comes from something else entirely. I've seen too many dancers who were good, mechanically, but had nothing of artistry."

"So once again we are pressed up against this same construct." Iranjo looked around the group. "It is almost as if there were two parallel structures in the universe: there is a mechanical structure that is the universe that chugs along fine by itself. Just as we can design a factory requiring only the input of raw materials in one end for it to belch out completed product on the other, the universe works fine without sentient involvement.

"Then there is another – call it 'parallel' – realm wherein these other beings reside and crossover to inhabit physical constructs – bodies – on this side. Most religions claim that it requires the interposition of sentience – many call it spirits or souls – who seem to occupy the mechanical constructs."

"But," Gratt added, "many believe the spirits do not actually 'occupy' the physical because they are in a separate dimension or something, so the involvement is more like an interfacing with the physical."

Filitha nodded. "I have read that many cultures have religious beliefs that say only the intelligent species have this spiritual capacity while others claim it is only living creatures. Some exclude one or more types of lifeforms for various reasons but some even include vegetation in the class of inspirited beings.

"Still others include the concept that all things are capable of being interfaceable. This means rocks, landmasses, planets, and even stellar objects. Every single thing in the universe is capable of being… inhabited or whatever, by the spiritual."

"And I've read that some people," Gratt moved up to the edge of his seat, "extend this also to groups of objects; just as a planet includes many rocks and landmasses that might each be 'possessed' – for lack of a better word – there are those who believe whole tribes, clans, nations or races can have a form of 'guiding spirit' as well."

"So…" Tervan worked it out loud as he sorted it in his head, "it is as if the universe works fine along all by itself… but does that mean the bodies we have and the other living creatures don't feel or think anything? I mean, without this outside interfacing?"

Filitha shook her head. "From what we have found," she glanced at Lerinthis, who nodded, "most cultures believe the physical side of the equation feels the full range of emotions. They feel and think as a matter of course without any interfacing."

He puzzled. "So if the spirits inhabit bodies that already can do everything… what does it mean to us if there is any spiritual interfacing going on at all?"

She grinned and Gratt took over. "The physical constructs are part of the mechanical side of the universe and are fully governed by the laws of the mechanism."

"And which laws are those?"

"The laws as defined by physics. They have studied the mechanism down to the most minute details and their laws and such apply to the machine. All the anomalies seem to lay outside that bailiwick. Telepathy? A part of the machine cannot do such a thing, governed by the constraints of the mechanism. But spirits? No such constraint."

"So, you're telling me that we can do telepathy merely because we are actually inhabiting a separate dimension or something that does not have the same rules as this universe?"

Gratt nodded. "That's one theory, at least."

"But can we develop any working hypotheses on that premise that will work in this universe? A problem I already see to that theory is that we can collapse space in this universe, because we already have. The telepathy and such may be happening in some otherwhere but the gates operate fine in this where."

Opening his mouth, Gratt stopped and then just shook his head.

"In some philosophical texts I have seen," Iranjo said, "it has been theorized that the universe is nothing but a single point." He paused a moment. "All the energy in the universe is normally conceived as being based on matter. Especially matter in a gravitic field but others – inertia and kinetic – energy works fine without the gravity. But what if the energy was based on space – the universe is spinning, the galaxies are spinning, solar systems spin, planets spin. The spinning is like centrifugal force, forcing the expansion of the galaxy while gravity is the opposite force as every spinning unit has a 'gravity well' at its center, trying to pull everything back. This equilibrium is the mechanical construct in something close to a balance.

"What if time was nothing more than a way to define or to view space? Moving from one space to another denotes the passage of time…"

Holding up a hand, Tervan said, "I think you're moving a bit too fast for me."

Gratt scowled. "Are you saying that if you moved from one space to another more rapidly at one instance and slower in another… does time change?"

"Or," Tervan grinned, "if you remove the space altogether – just as what we accomplished with the portals – perhaps time…" He paled, staring at Iranjo. "Don't tell me you…"

Iranjo shook his head. "No, I have not experimented with it yet," he grinned, "but I have thought we might explore the idea in the theoretical phase."

"Please!" Tervan laughed. "Wait until after my passing before you try anything like that." Baby Kinzi started to stir. Tervan began a rocking motion still shaking his head.

"We're getting a bit derailed," Filitha said, glaring at Iranjo. "Let's save the time travel experiment slash destruction of the universe for another day."

"Hey, it was just a theoretical…" Iranjo started.

She overrode him. "The stuff of the physical universe comes in several forms. In its steady, 'gaseous' state we call it space. And, yes, I know, Jo-jo, space is not as undefined as most people think. The vast reaches of interstellar space is not as empty as assumed. There is movement of space itself.

"But most people ignore space. They see through the space to focus on their destination. Our creation of these gates is going to radically alter everyone's concept of what space actually is.

"The second stage of all this… stuff is its 'liquid' phase, which we call energy. Perhaps it is the confluence of spaces – if there is such a thing – creates energy and it flows throughout the 'void'." She held up a hand to forestall Merlok's interruption.


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