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Through the Looking Glass


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Spoiler

I will be borrowing (sometimes outright copying) some concepts and names from several different sources you may be familiar with. Hopefully I will be using them in an original and exciting way.

 

Through the Looking Glass

Part I

 

Brookhaven National Laboratory, Friday June 13th 2031

 

Dr. Emily Scarborough parked her ’28 Dodge Wasp in her usual spot. She wasn’t high enough in the labs food chain to rate a reserved spot, but she almost always managed to grab her preferred spot. Unfortunately, her spot was a little over a kilometer from her work lab. Emily worked in the Nuclear NanoTechnology Annex as one of the six NanoBiologist, a still obscure and underfunded discipline but one with vast untapped potential, who worked at BNL.

 

On a good day the morning walk from her parking spot to the lab was usually a very enjoyable experience, living up to the date, Friday the Thirteenth, this morning was not a good day. The early weather reports issued not only an atmosphere and heat warning but tacked on a level three Ozone alert. It was already pushing 84F and it wasn’t even eight am yet. Couple that with the humidity and the air alerts. The walk was going to be miserable today.

 

Emily checked the sidewalk and the rack a few yards away. She sighed, all the e-scooters were gone already, she would have to walk. She put on her sunglasses and grabbed her light jacket from the back seat, it was too hot for a jacket but she was wearing a sleeveless blouse and needed protection for her arms.

 

She hit the sidewalk and started to walk toward the Annex. It was one of the more modern buildings on the campus It had been built in 2026 a long Low building nestled on  an unused parcel that had once held an old antenna array. There was parking there but not enough for even the Nuke Techs and when they stuck her lab out there it just made it more crowded.

 

She was still about two hundred meters from the building and miserable, her blouse was soaked with sweat, and it was hard to breath, there was a lot of dust in the air. She paused; she wasn’t sure why, she saw a few people, co-workers from the other lab heading inside, but something was off. She looked around then she looked north toward where the collider lay underground. She was looking at just the right time and saw the Ripple, then the ground shook and every alarm on campus went off.

 

It was 7:58AM on Friday 13, 2031

 

Brookhaven National Laboratory, June 26, 2031

 

Two weeks ago, an incident occurred during the seventh firing of the eRHIC /sPhenix series experiment. This was in the middle of the 31RUN of the RHIC at Brookhaven. There were no casualties reported, except for the collider. The Collision Chamber at the sPhenix detector point, where the particles actually collide, ruptured when a high-pressure atmosphere was released into said chamber.

 

The apparent cause of the incident is a three foot by four-foot spatial anomaly. The Anomaly is still there, and shows no sign of dissipating.

 

The anomaly, which has been dubbed the Looking Glass, for reasons explained later, seems to defy known physics. It is slightly ovoid in shape and appears two dimensional. It is invisible and literally undetectable when observing from  a north to south perspective, however observing it from the south to north side reveals an oval that is at times a shining silvered mirror and  at other times reveals an outdoor woodland scene. The time interval the woodland scene is visible is once every 28 hours and the visual remains for 88 minutes before mirroring over until another 28 hours pass.

 

Within those two weeks a lot was accomplished. The Collider tunnel was removed at the point of the anomaly and a new vacuum chamber was constructed around it. I t was determined that the atmosphere came from the anomaly and that said atmosphere was roughly analogous to our atmosphere with a slightly higher oxygen content and missing many of the impurities you find in our air. It is also a slightly higher air pressure on that side.

 

It was determined that when the anomaly is in the Open Position, that is when you can see through it to the woods on the other side, that objects can freely pass through to the other side.

 

To date we have tested this with small RC drones. Exploration with these drones is limited as we quickly lose line of sight and the drones’ crash. So far we have also sent several test animals through and brought them back with no detrimental effects.

 

We have detected no native life forms, but again our remote exploration is severely limited. Several theories have come up, but all are in the infant stage. They include that this is a wormhole to another planet, a portal to another dimension, and even one suggest that it is a portal trough time.

 

Scientific data collected from the anomaly is being studied but one very important discovery has already been made. The portal appears to be emitting particles which move faster than light. We have been unable to capture the particles, but we have observed them. It is quite possible that this is the first confirmation that Tachyons do exist.

 

So far, despite the importance of this discovery, the existence of the anomaly and what it might be, has been deemed classified. Only those working at BNL and who have reason for the knowledge, have been briefed in on the full scope of the incident.

 

Full data is weeks away but the DOE as decided that in the interest of National Security, measures need to be taken to determine as much as possible about the Looking Glass and what is on the other side. With this in mind it was decided that since remote access was proving difficult and overly time consuming, that we would put live personnel through the Looking Glass and conduct further study on the other side.

 

Over the last three time periods two different Volunteers have gone through the Looking Glass, separately, and returned after spending less than thirty minutes on the other side. Both were subjected to intense examination on their return, both were unharmed. The reported that the other side consisted of a thick forest of Mostly coniferous trees and several unknown plants of which they took photographs and samples. Neither Volunteer traveled more than twenty meters from the looking glass. The third trip through with the same two volunteers was together and they were instructed to stay through a full period and to return the next day.

 

Again, this experiment was successful. Both volunteers spent a night on the other side which was uneventful amounting to a glorified camping trip. They did search a larger area, about a hundred meters from the looking glass, but again all they encountered was dense forest and undergrowth. No animals, birds, or even insects.

 

At this point it was decided to expand the exploration of the other side. The DOE still insisted on total secrecy and ordered that everything be kept ‘in house’, thus all persons to go through the Looking Glass would be chosen from the BNL staff. At this time no outside specialist, even military, would be involved.

 

To that end a quick but extensive study of the Personnel currently working at the Laboratory, with needed or useful skill sets, were selected for interviews. Almost all of those interviewed had no knowledge of the nature of the accident nearly two weeks ago and none of them except the original volunteers had any knowledge of the existence of the Looking Glass. None of those interviewed were informed of the reason for the interviews other than that BNL and the DOE were looking for Volunteers for an extended research mission which could be hazardous. Of the approximately 120 interviewees, the field was narrowed to twenty, and those twenty were then asked to sign High- Level Non-disclosure forms.

 

Those that signed were divided into groups of five and led to a briefing room where they were informed of the nature of incident two weeks prior and of the existence of the Looking Glass. They were told the nature of the mission and the possible risks. They were then asked to volunteer. Several declined and the groups were shuffled until there were three groups of five. Again each group was led to a separate briefing room and briefed.

 

The man who stood at the podium before them was dressed in neatly pressed dark grey trousers, sensible shoes and a white short sleeved pull over shirt, polo style, with a DOE symbol on the left breast of the shirt. He was clean shaven, with short brown hair and he was slightly chubby. He looked down at the podium reading something there.

 

Emily looked around she was the only member of her original group of five left, and she hadn’t met any of this group yet so far, though she did recognize Dr. Verges whom she had seen around campus and had attended one of the nuclear symposiums last year that Verges had spoken at. Aside from the five volunteers and the guy at the podium, there were two other men present. One a very tall, very fit, and very good looking, blond man and the other was shorter, darker, and not nearly as good looking but just as fit. Those two were wearing what looked like tactical police uniforms and though neither had a visible weapon, they looked as if they should. She looked back and caught Verges looking at the two men as well.

 

The man at the podium cleared his throat. “Ahem. Alright let’s get started. So far all of you have been shuffled around and almost none of your questions have been answered, so we are going to see if we can do that.

 

To Start off my name is Stuart Timmons, and I am an agent of the Department of Energy. Currently DOE is in charge of this operation although depending on what you find that may change.

 

The five of you, please stand when I call your name, Dr Emily Scarborough.” She stood, somewhat awkwardly and glanced around, when she looked back at Timmons, she saw him motion her to sit back down which she did. “Dr Scarborough will be your general Biologist. Dr Riley Vergas. Dr Vergas will be conducting some other side experiments on the Looking Glass; she is also a trained mechanical engineer among other things. Next is Bret Smith who will serve as your medic should you need one and can’t be evacuated back to here. Next is Dr Lance Heughs, team Botanist,” the lone African American in the room stood halfway before plopping back into his seat.  “ And then we have Terry Gains who will be covering environmental sciences, “ A short woman with Asian feature and a full figure stood and smiled at everyone.  “And last those two gentlemen in the back are James Mcleod,”  the blond gave a little wave, “and Steve Biggs,” the smaller dark man just grinned. “They will be your team’s security element and just an FYI both of them have been through the Looking Glass and even spent a whole night on the other side.  

 

This group has been designated as the Alpha Team and you have been selected to be the primary group to go through the Looking Glass and to establish a base camp on the other side. Now because of the unique nature of this mission, you will each receive aside from a nonstandard monthly Hazard pay increase to your salary, but you will also receive a one time bonus of fifty thousand dollars.”

 

Timmons paused and looked around then gestured at Mcleod and Biggs, “You two can sit if you want. Now before I get into any specifics and schedules are there any questions you want to ask?”

 

 

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This wasn't exactly in RJ's bailiwick, but when she finally learned about the Looking Glass, she knew she couldn't pass up the opportunity. And if they could actually confirm the existence of Tachyons, the ramifications... She really hoped Sabrina would understand, depending on just how long this exploratory research mission was expected to last.

 

She glanced around at her fellow members of Alpha Team, lips curling in a small, wry smirk. She may have grown up on military bases, but she wasn't military. "Plenty of doctorates here, when the one who can patch us up is a medic. How about we drop the 'doctors' and titles and whatnot, yeah? I'm good with RJ or Verges."

The attractive blonde turned her attention back to the DOE man, Timmons. "I have a couple of questions. What's going on with the Collider? Was experiments with it what caused the Looking Glass? And are they constructing a new tunnel to continue experiments with it?" There had always been noise, however small, about the infinitesimal chance a large-scale collider might form a black hole. Now it seemed, one had at least punched a hole in the fabric of space-time. Would try to make another? "And the Looking Glass, since it... formed, has there been any measurable change, positive or negative in its dimensions?"

RJ wasn't sure if an answer would change her decision, but she did want to know if there was the possibility that the Looking Glass might close behind them.

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Timmons nodded as Verges asked her questions and looked down at the podium after she finished. There were several moments of silence as he was obviously reading something, then he looked back up. "Those are good questions Dr Verges, and complicated ones." His eyes kept darting to the podium as he continued, "I am not  physicist so I can't get into the math of all of this, and with your back ground I am sure you understand this a hell of a lot better than me." He paused as if looking for a reaction from the rest of the team but didn't get anything.

 

"Right, Okay Let tackle these sort of out of order. Since we established Observation of the Looking Glass there has been no change in dimension or output. We so far cannot confirm that the activity in the collider was , in fact, the cause of the anomaly. While the s/Phenix Detector was not damaged, the data at the time of the incident was, due to the radiation burst from the event.  

 

At this time the collider experiments are on permanent hold. Continuing them would require the building of a new collider and that just isn't in the cards. As long as the Looking Glass is where it is, the RHC is out of commission. That doesn't mean that there isn't work to be done here. Our primary job on this side is to move the STAR Detector from its location to here so we can use it for more precise data gathering from the Looking Glass.

 

Any other questions?"

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Having already been to the otherside and spent the night there, James wasn't really hearing anything new besides the introduction of the other members of the team.  Of course he was in, he'd already agreed and signed on.  The fifty thousand dollar bonus was great of course.   He put off thinking about that, there'd be plenty of time to think of what he'd spend it on when he got back.   Of course he'd never be able to tell anyone about this. The thought made him smile, because it gave him one more thing in common with his Ranger father, who to this day, still had things he'd done that he couldn't talk about either.
 

What had really disturbed him about the other side was how quiet it was.   In a forest, and there were no sounds of animals, even insects.   Only the wind blowing through the trees.   That was odd, and something he'd remarked on as soon as he'd returned.  He'd looked under rocks, fallen logs, and there was simply nothing.  He'd never experienced being poked and prodded like he had been after the previous trips, but somehow he remained stoic and calm.  
 

He nodded calmly to each of the others as introductions were made, and was thankful RJ was one of those who didn't insist on all their titles.   "If everyone agrees to that,  it will make things alot easier, thanks."
 

When Timmons asked for more questions, he looked to the DoE man.  "Has all the gear we'll be taking through with us been fully checked out?  If not, I think it a good idea for us to get a chance to do so before we go through."  It seemed like something the answer should be obvious, but nearly a decade in the military had taught him that going over and familiarizing yourself with all of your gear could often mean living or dying.   
 

"Also, have any of the other members of the team had any firearms training, or Wilderness Survival training?  I know most of you are Doctors of some form, and that, as yet, we have not encountered any sort of threat on the other side.   That doesn't mean it will remain that way, and I'd rather we all be prepared."

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4 hours ago, James McLeod said:

"Has all the gear we'll be taking through with us been fully checked out?  If not, I think it a good idea for us to get a chance to do so before we go through."  It seemed like something the answer should be obvious, but nearly a decade in the military had taught him that going over and familiarizing yourself with all of your gear could often mean living or dying.   

 

Timmons nodded and didn't look down for once, "Yes, we don't intend to send you through until next Wednesday, that will give you time to spend with families and such. I won't sugar coat this. We don't know what is going to happen on the other side, we don't even know where the other side is. It could be some plce in the wilderness of Canada or Sweden, or it could be another world orbiting another sun. As for the gear while we will be send as much through between now and then it mosr supplies and bulky equipment that you will need to assemble. Personnel Gear you will be able to inspect at your leisure."

 

4 hours ago, James McLeod said:

"Also, have any of the other members of the team had any firearms training, or Wilderness Survival training?  I know most of you are Doctors of some form, and that, as yet, we have not encountered any sort of threat on the other side.   That doesn't mean it will remain that way, and I'd rather we all be prepared."

 

The small Asian woman, Terry Gains, raised her hand and after receiving surprised looks spoke, "I was a Navy Brat, my dad made sure all of us kids could  safely handle weapons and take care of ourselves."

 

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Brett raised his hand when Firearms and Wilderness skills were mentioned. "I'm decent with firearms, more rifles than pistols. Also, I've been training in wilderness survival skills since I was young. I also can teach others some wilderness skills while we camp, at least a little bit. One thing I need to know from the rest of you is any allergies or underlying medical conditions. Knowing that can make a difference in treatments and treatment time can be key." He paused, and seemed to be gathering his thoughts. "I know some of you must be wondering, why a medic and not a doctor. I'm an advanced certified Paramedic. I'm trained in most procedures that can be done outside a hospital, and I can diagnose the need for the rest. Plus, I'm good with wilderness skills, as mentioned earlier. They wanted someone who could be more than a one trick pony for this. I hope that explains it. " He smiled and nodded to the rest of the team. 

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"I want to insure you that we have the utmost faith in Paramedic Smiths abilities," injected Timmons, "He is along to render first aid and to handle any medical emergencies that may arise when out of contact to this side. If there are any serious medical situations, we will evacuate you back to this side as soon as we are able."

 

Heughs raised his hand and was recognized by Timmons. "What can we tell our wives and the rest of our families?"

 

There was that nod again as Timmons took a moment to consult the podium, "This is a delicate situation, one it is without a doubt a historical event, but there are also National Security issues. We will adopt the same procedure that our special forces use.

 

For those of you who are married and living together, not separated or going thru a Divorce, you may take your spouse into your confidence. You may, without compromising classified data, discuss the mission with them. But you need to make sure they also understand that their discretion is as important as your own. You may not discuss it with anyone else, Not parents, not girlfriends or boyfriends, not children.

 

We do not expect to keep any team on the Other side for any extended periods. Our Schedule calls for rotating the teams every three to four cycles of the looking glass.  We will follow this schedule until we have reached some pre-determined milestones in the mission."

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James was happy at least some of the rest of the team had at least some familiarity with firearms, and the outdoors.  Sending a medic with them was another good idea, and he nodded to Brett. He'd make sure to run a few things by Dr. Gains and Brett when he got a chance.   

Allowing those with spouses to tell them was actually surprising, but this was truly unprecedented.   "I would like to make a request of the other team members.  I know that time with your families will be precious, and likely there will be other briefings and meetings for everyone.    Few of us have worked with each other outside the lab, and certainly not in the conditions we will be doing so on the other side.  While having a team full of great minds and highly skilled people will give us a good starting point, I feel that it would be in our collective interest to  spend time each day together, going over gear together, and maybe a little training, getting to know each other better.  On the Other side, it will just be those of us in this group, and making an effort to not still be a group of total strangers might help.   It was a glorified camping trip before, and that's all well and good, since those of us who went were accustomed to such activity, but making it so everyone on the team has some familiarity with each other and  the different gear can only benefit us.   I would also like you all to experience just how loud gunfire is in real life, especially those who haven't really been around live weapons.  Maybe hold a little training on proper wilderness survival. "

He smiled a little bit.  "We could make an even trade of it, where we all share abit of what we know.   I don't expect miracles,  like me understanding advanced particle physics suddenly, but I'm sure Brett has some first aid tips we can all use in a pinch for instance."

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RJ gave Smith a nod and a small, two-finger salute. In the field, she'd prefer a well trained medic rather than a doctor used to having all the staff and toys available to them in a hospital. She might have been an army brat, but she hadn't ever been a girl scout, and had spent most of her time in garages over the wilderness or firing ranges, and then later, the lab. She'd taken Judo classes for a few months as a teenager and could throw a punch, but that was about it.

When Heughs mentioned what they could tell their SOs, RJ glanced down at her wedding band. She had designed hers and Sabrina's herself, simple bands of tungsten and tantalum and meteorite. She let out a breath she hadn't been aware she was holding, blowing a lock of blond hair from her face. She was glad she'd be able to tale her wife something. She still wasn't sure what Sabrina would think about it.

RJ glanced over at the tall James McLeod, giving him a small grin. "I can get behind all that. Time might be a bit tight leading up to our first foray, what with turning over the other projects I'm working on to make way for this one and all the other preparations, but I'll see what I can do." She hadn't joined the military like her brother and sister, but her dad had talked often about the comradery the you developed in a squad. "What do all think about gathering together for a BBQ sometime before our first time through the Looking Glass as a group?"


~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~


RJ sat curled up in the corner of the couch, one hand holding a glass of red wine, the other scratching Harley's ears, her Samoyed's head in her lap. Vincent, the long-haired black German Shepherd was growling at Strudel. The fat, Maine Coon/Norwegian Forest Cat mix, bigger than many dogs, sprawled out on the ottoman, preening, ignoring the much larger animal with all the imperiousness of an Emperor to a serf. Strudel had been Sabrina's since she was six. Despite being distinctly overweight and at least twenty years old, he was still in surprisingly good health, though he didn't jump much. RJ presumed it was the concentrated doesn't-give-a-fuck the cat was composed of.

RJ's stormy blue-grey eyes lingered on her wife over the rim of her wineglass. Sabrina was sitting in the love seat, going over the NDA. Short, fit and solidly built, she'd been a gymnast as a teen, and she still kept in shape between catering gigs. RJ wanted in on the Looking Glass project, but if 'Rina said no, she didn't think she could gainsay her.

"Are you - Are they serious about this NDA?" Sabrina asked in near disbelief, glancing up to look at her wife. "What is this, exactly?"

RJ took a healthy sip of wine. "They are completely serious about this, 'Rina. And what this is, is more unprecedented than the Manhattan Project. Than the first manned spacecraft to Mars. And I can't say more unless you sign it."

"If I don't, are you still doing it?"

RJ grimaced and didn't say anything, covering her silence by finishing her glass of wine.

Sabrina gave RJ a level look, than took a sip of wine of her own. She gave a sharp shake of her head, then savagely signed the NDA.

"Fine. Now, what's up?"

RJ sat down her glass, patted Harley to let her up, then joined 'Rina on the loveseat. "Let me tell you about Looking Glass..."


~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~


"... how dangerous is this, RJ?"

RJ snuggled up to her wife, her legs over her lap, an arm around her shoulders. "I deal with nuclear reactors, babe. I mean, this is more like field work, but so far, the potential for catastrophe doesn't seem any higher. And, it's like nothing else we've ever seen before. I can't pass it up."

Sabrina leaned her head against RJ's shoulder, a hand teasing the small of her back. "What if this door to Wonderland closes behind you, hon?"

"All this time, nothing suggests it will. And if it does, I'll find another way to punch a hole in the fabric of spacetime to make it back to you. And if I can't, well, the life insurance benefits are pretty impressive. Just promise to mourn me for a couple of years before finding someone else to share the sweet life with, okay?"

Seeing her teasing smirk, Sabrina gave RJ a wap to the back of the head. "I want you back, RJ, not the insurance." She pursed her lips in feigned contemplation, eyes flicking towards the NDA for a moment. "Although, it would enough to set up a nice little boutique bakery to run in my early retirement."

RJ sucked in a whistling breath between her teeth. "Speaking about that, what do you think about hosting a gathering, a BBQ, for Alpha Team. We're going to be spending a lot of time together, figure this can be a bit of team building. And it'll give you a chance to met the others and their SOs, the only ones you'll be able to talk to about all this."

"And I expect you want me to cook?"

"You are the best cook I know, 'Rina." She gave her wife a quick kiss on the lips. "And while under your harsh tutelage, I've come a long way, do you remember my early molecular gastronomic experiments?"

Sabrina shuddered. Her wife might have a degree in materials science and was more than capable with chemistry, she still didn't understand just how bad RJ had been at cooking when they first started going out. What RJ made now was at least edible, but if she hired her for her catering business, it would only be a pity hire. "Nuclear chili, never again." She sighed. "Fine. For the intestinal security of the team."

Edited by Asarasa
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James didn't really have a family to go home to.  He'd agreed to go to the barbecue, that sounded fun actually.  Instead, he'd gone home to his two pets, a grey tabby named Sachi, who had it in her head that she was the boss around the house, and Suki, a vocal and hyper black and white husky. Both were pets he'd adopted after moving in.   They were both well-trained, and obedient, as much a cat could be expected to be in Sachi's case.  
 

He made arrangements with Mike to come feed them and clean up after them each day.   "I'll bring my daughter, let her run Suki around abit."   "That sounds great Mike, she'll love the attention.   They should easily have enough food for a week.   If something happens, take care of it, and I'll pay you back, please."
 

To his credit, Mike hadn't asked where James was going, or what he was doing, he knew James probably couldn't say.   Still, as they shook hands Mike could see the excitement in his friend's eyes, along with a tinge of worry.
 

"Don't worry Mike, I'll be back."

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Team building began the very next day and answered a few questions about the environment.

 

Air samples and plant samples had so far shown no obvious contagions or incompatibilities. The plant life in particular proved most informative. It was earthlike but the analysis so far had not identified them as any particular species, but the samples were so similar to Redwoods and Pines, that it was almost impossible to believe that they were not from some remote part of earth.

 

With that in mind the Doctors had created a cocktail of immunizations to cover just about every conceivable disease, bacteria, or infection. The shots were administered the next day in three series and made all seven team members ill with a fever and nausea. The ill feeling passed by the next day and their mission briefing begins.

 

Alpha Teams first foray would be short, no more than two periods, and would consist of a lot of physical work and little science. The first order of business after setting up the camp would be the erection of a high gain radio tower to facilitate communications after loss of LOS through the Looking Glass. Not only would this allow the team to remain in contact with the Base side of the Looking Glass but would allow base side to hopefully be able to operate the drones.

 

The second main job would be for Dr. Verges to assemble and install a set of remote sensors for the Star Detector with the intent of determining what effects the Looking Glass was emitting on the other side.

 

The rest of the time would be spent with sample collections and local survey. It is considered a priority to get sight of the local nighttime sky to determine star positions and to help verify where the Looking Glass led to.  While a priority, the team was also told to limit excursions away from base to no more than one kilometer, to stay in radio contact, to always travel with at least three team members, and not to stay away from base for more than three hours.

 

Restrictions would be loosened on subsequent trips.

 

The BBQ at Dr. Verges Home over the weekend was a success in team building perhaps more for the spouses than for the team, however. After an awkward beginning showcasing the number of things the members of the team didn’t have in common the food which was excellent broke the Ice.

 

Eventually the spouses , Janelle, who was married to  Heughes ,  Sonny, Terry Gains husband, Lillian, who went by Lilly and was married to Steve Biggs, and Sabrina all ended up in a circle together where they discussed what their spouses had told them and compared notes. The four bonded and actually seemed to like one another and promised to get together during and after to compare notes.

 

Finally the momentous day came and to be honest, if you asked them afterward, it was kind of anti-climactic.  The put on fitted overalls , no other special clothing was needed, the personal gear they would each carry and in single file marched up the ramp and through the Looking Glass.

 

There was not sensation, no flashing light or sense of falling through space. It was just like stepping through a door from inside to outside. The only immediate change was the air and temperature.

 

It was very warm probably in the mid nineties and humid, the air was heavy and smelled odd (this was due to the absence of air contaminants we are used to breathing daily) but was strangely invigorating. Biggs and McLeod  checked the camp which was full of unopened Plastic boxes and crates. Everything was in order and the team sort of milled around not sure where to start.

 

 Then the Looking Glass turned.

 

It was Terry who noticed it first when she was opening a box labeled Shelter 001A. She glanced up and the blood drained from her face, she was staring at the mirrored oval of the closed Looking Glass, and suddenly it struck her, I don’t know where I am anymore. “Guys,” she called out pointing.

 

Everyone looked.

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At Terry's reaction, James turned, hand dropping to his gun, out of habit at that level of alarm.  He turned back to her, and saw her looking at the closed Looking Glass.  He pulled hand away from the gun silently, knowing there was no direct threat.
 

He moved up to where she was, and laid a hand on her shoulder, giving her a reassuring squeeze.  "That's just the window closing.  It'll be twenty eight hours before it opens again."   He had already set his watch to this effect, holding it up, and letting her see the countdown.
 

He removed his hand from her shoulder, and nodded.  He remembered wondering if it would reopen again, how sleeping wasn't the easiest thing   "It's not easy, knowing you're here, and can't go back for a while.  Still, let's focus on what needs to be done."   He looked to the others, knowing that the others were likely having some issues.   "Everyone take a few minutes, we all knew it would be closing, that we'd be here, and then Let's get back to work.  I don't think anyone wants to sleep outside tonight."

He tried his best to sound reassuring, having already been through this before himself.

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RJ sat down her own box, Camp 101B, stood up and knuckled her back. She looked at the silvered, opaque Looking Glass, her heartrate accelerating despite trying to affect a blasé nonchalance. Signing onto the project, they were already committed, but seeing that argent oval sealed the deal. She glanced toward where the horizon should have been, but there was only the trees thickly packed and almost impenetrable. Her stormy blue-grey eyes went up to where the sky should be visible, but even though the small clearing the camp was in was like an oasis in the trees, the sky was still invisible hidden by the packed canopy of forest, what light filtering through the leave making it seem as iif it were evening instead of near noon.

 

That thought made her frown as she glanced at her watch. Was it noon here?

"Right," RJ said, switching her gaze down to McLeod. "How long is the day/night cycle here, anyway? Is it an even, or never split? Does it follow the 28 hour cycle of the Looking Glass, or lines up the 24 hour cycle we're used to?"

Whatever Wonderland the Looking Glass had sent them, if it didn't feel like home, RJ couldn't say it didn't feel like Earth, it didn't feel alien.

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"It follows what you'd expect of a regular cycle, as far as we know."    He shrugged.  "Once we are able to clear this wooded area, we'll have alot more sky to see, and be able to more accurately measure things like that."  James replied calmly.   

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"Are we meant to clear this place, or are we supposed to interact with the environment as little as possible, I can't remember right now. We could also send someone up to the top to look around, too. Anyway, let's not worry about things that are out of our control for now. We need to assume the Looking Glass will continue on it's cycle, and that it'll open at the appointed time." He hefted box 29A and opened it, looking inside to see a shelter that needed to be assembled. The look on his face was one of concentration as he read over the instructions contained within the box. 

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The cycle did indeed continue, as did the work. That first night sleep was fleet for the place as normal as it seemed as so very different as well. For one thing there was the silence. It was utterly quiet with only the wind moving through the trees to supply any sound whatso ever. No insects, no animals, just quiet.

 

The next day was better, especially after the LG cycled and they had a connection back to base. They finished the camp and did their experiments and explored within the limits of their instructions. The radio relay worked which meant that the small drones could fly and be piloted from the other side and communications would work for when the teams would be cleared to travel beyond the current limits. They slept better the second night and then they returned  to be replaced by the next team.

 

This would continue for sever weeks each team spending about  70 to 80 hours on the far side. The night sky, finally seen by climbing one of the towering redwoods and spending a night above the forest canopy, was very unknown. The stars were sparse, and not in any configuration the climber had seen. There was no moon the whole night. Pictures were taken and a remote camera was lashed to the tree for constant observation. Visually scanning the horizons found that the forest stretched for dozens of kilometers to the east and north to tall snowcapped mountains while to the west the sun glinted off what appeared to be the waters of a river some ten or twelve kilometers away. To the south the forest simply ended about 18 kilometers away with nothing visible beyond except mists or clouds.

 

At the end of the second month two teams were virtually permanent on site. Dr Vergas was to have been replaced as her expertise had truly no longer been needed but she made a discovery. On her last scheduled deployment while taking a now routine reading she detected a previously undetected stream of unknown particles going into the LG from the side they were on!

 

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The sheer silence had been the hardest to get used to. The initial excitement about the project had grown disappointedly dull with routine surprisingly swiftly. The Looking Glass was one of the most fantastic discoveries in human experience... and RJ was bored.

She was practically relieved when she being reassigned. Another routine reading that would show nothing ne - Her breath caught in her throat! Her eyes widened. Hands still for a moment, she checked the sensors to make sure they were calibrated properly, that they weren't malfunctioning. Everything showed green. It wasn't an error.

"Stop! Stop, don't go through the Looking Glass!" RJ called out sharply before even looking up to check if the Looking Glass was even open, though by now she was used to its cycle. Several pairs of eyes turned her way. She pointed exaggeratedly at the sensor array. "I don't know how, but we have a particle stream of unknown origin and characteristics flowing into the Looking Glass." Her blue-grey eyes narrowed as her gaze flicked from one display to another. Nothing detected from the Prime Side. "No, not going into it, but... reflecting off the plane of the anomaly."

"What do you have, Verges?"

"I really don't know." The striking scientist and engineer sounded less worried and more excited than when the project was first underway, despite the unknown. "I haven't seen anything like this before. Nothing from the RHIC, nothing at CERN. I think, I think, the particles are some type of bosons, but they are oscillating in a way they shouldn't. And the particle stream is coming from..." RJ turned from a monitor to look around, then back at the monitor, twisted around again, then pointed "... that way."

"What passes for East, here," MacLeod drawled.

"Whatever. I can't tell, yet, if the particle stream is doing anything to the Looking Glass, but as this is the first really anomalous reading I've seen since we stepped through the damned thing, we can't ignore the possibility."

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James didn't quite get the science, but since this was the first time for something, he could understand the alarm, and interest.   "Do we have some way to follow the stream back to its source?"   It seemed obvious that they needed to try and find the source, and have a team maintain watch over the Looking Glass, in case there was a change in it and to advise Command about it when possible.

When RJ shook her head, he sighed.  "Damn.   Well I can try and track down the source, but I'd ask for a volunteer to come along, since this is something that's not happened before, nobody should be doing anything alone."

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"I'll go with you. If something happens, you'll possibly need me, and it's better to be on scene. I'm also getting stir-crazy for not having much to do in this crew." Brett says. He smiles and gathers up the things he will need for the hopefully short excursion. 

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"The sensor array is too bulky and delicate to operate on the move," RJ confirmed, nodding at the her setup near the Looking Glass. "But I can give you the precise direction it's coming from. It'll be up to you guys to keep to the same heading away from the camp and out in the woods."

The blond doctor began repacking her pack for an excursion. It had been packed in the expectation that she was back to the Prime Side for the foreseeable future. Settling the pack on her shoulders, then slipping a few extra things into the loops, clips, and straps of her jumpsuit, her brows rose when the men looked at her.

"Oh, I'm coming too. Unless the particles are coming from beyond the atmosphere, thanks to the curvature of planet, the stream can only be coming from so far. The particle stream seems too... coherent to be natural, and with the rather distinct target and the fact this is the first time it's been noticed, it suggests the source might be, man - er, constructed, rather than a natural phenomenon "

She tapped herself on the breastbone. "Might be handy to have an engineer and physicist on hand." An excited smirk bloomed on her face. "Besides, I'm not about to miss out on a chance to put my name to boson to join Higgs."

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Mostof the two teams not occupied were listening in on the coversation. It was agiven that the prime teams members would be calling the shots as that was the hieriarchy that base had established.

 

Emily frowned and raised her hand in a wait a minute hold on gesture, "I don't think that is a good idea, just the three of you traipsing off into god knows what. If anything the whole team should go. They put us together as functional teams for a reason. Short term division is a necessity when your working near camp, but you don't have any idea how far away this will take you or what you may find that the three of you have no expertise in.

 

we havn't even been further than a kilometer from camp in the two months we have been here we really don't have a clue as to what is out there or where we really are. Splitting up is not a good idea and one I am vehemently opposed to."

 

Others standing around nodded. Dr Sheridan, leader of the Beta Team, stepped up. "Dr Scarbrough is right. Something like this shouldn't be done half assed. If you are determined to go take your whole team, and use one of the wagons to haul the supplies and the right equipment."

 

The wagon she spoke of was one of of three electric buggy's built to haul material they were about the size of a large desk, long and wide enough to just barely fit through the LG.  They ran on six balloon tires and were all terrain. They were slow and full speed they could run at the speed of a slow trot, but their batteries could operate for almost seventy two hours of constant operation and could be charged with built in solar panels. assuming you could find a patch of ground that let some sunlight through.

 

"We can take one of the portable gas generator the small one we can use that to recharge the batteries until we get some sunlight." This was a suggestion by Lance Hughes. "Assuming you want the rest of us to come along"

 

 

 

 

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Seeing how the eggheads were so opposed to sending out a smaller team, James nodded.  "The whole Team then."  James held up his hands, forestalling any further outbursts.  "Grab your gear and let's get ready to go.   We don't know what we'll find, so plan accordingly.   We'll load a wagon, and carry everything else that doesn't fit.  Let's try to be ready in half an hour, an hour tops."  He turned to head to his own quarters, to prepare what he would need for this.   He didn't thinking bringing so many people was wise, butin the end, he wasn't really the one in charge.  This hadn't yet devolved into a security concern, but with it being something new, he wasn't planning on taking chances.  

He caught Biggs' attention and nodded.   "We go fully loaded.   It may look aggressive to the others but if there is a threat, I want us to be able to handle it."

The shorter man looked at him  "And if we can't?"

"Then I buy time and you get the docs back to the Looking Glass and hold the fort until it opens and get them through.   Their knowledge is going to be vital if there's a threat on this side."   The fact he was talking about sacrificing himself, and if need be, Biggs doing the same to protect the scientists wasn't lost on either of them.   "Hopefully it won't get that bad. Besides, we'll do alot better with both of us holding the fort."

James chuckled.  "Damn right.   We could be jumping the gun, but I'd rather be loaded for bear and find a mouse than than be loaded for mice and find a bear."

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The terrain didn’t pose an insurmountable obstacle, sure it slowed them somewhat due to there being no large trials but there were what James called game trails. Though they had seen no animal life since coming through the LG there was evidence that animals of some sort did exist here. Thus, the small game trails.

 

The largest obstacle was following Dr. Verges’ directions. The trails meandered but she wanted to stay as close to her imagined line of sight as she could therefore it took longer than it would have  but eventually, a little over two hours after leaving camp they were approximately five kilometers from the LG, more than twice as far as any of them had traveled since arriving at this place, it was then that they crossed an important line.

 

They had just stopped so that Verges could check her compose to make sure they were still on course when Emily called to them in a whisper. “Guys Look!”

 

She was pointing at the base of a giant redwood and there sitting up on a root was an animal, nibbling on an acorn. It looked like a large rodent, about the size of a dog, fifteen maybe twenty kilograms.

 

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The animal froze in mid nibble as it noticed all the humans looking at it.

 

It was at that precise moment everyone noticed the sounds of the forest.

 

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The hike hadn't bothered him at all.   Still when Emily called out and pointed, his gaze immediately followed to where she pointed.   James didn't quite raise his rifle into line with the giant rodent, a cursory threat analysis told him it wasn't threatening them, even though it was unusually large.   

"Well, that's not something you see every day."   It was then that he realized, he finally heard the sounds he expected to hear from the forest, well some of them.  He could hear the sounds of different insects, or at least what he would say were insects if asked, but still no birds, or anything else.  "Mark the distance we are from the camp.  We'll need to see if this is uniform at some point."   

His gaze never left the rodent.  "Thing's bigger than a nutria,and looks way more muscular."   

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RJ had never been a girl scout, let alone done anything remotely like SERE training. There was probably an easier, more efficient way of noting direction and heading, but she didn't know it. Walking along next to the buggy - still idly wishing she'd been able to talk the powers that be into the suitability of motorcycles - she kept looking at the compass, then her surroundings, back at the compass, then making notes and diagrams on her tablet, trying to make sure they were staying on track. Her notes looked less like a map and more like an engineering schematic, but they made sense to her. 

It was only after Dr. Legs and Boy Scout spoke that RJ noticed the sudden return, or rather, the sudden appearance, of ambient wilderness sounds. She looked up sharply from her tablet, brushing a damp lock of dark blond hair from her face, then cocked her head as she studied the first bit of fauna they'd seen this side of the Looking Glass. Did the Looking Glass emit some type of field bugs and animals could sense and were wary of? Were they wary of the particle stream they'd been following?

RJ carefully shifted her wait. She was sure it was just her imagination, but it felt like animal was staring back and was deciding if it was annoyed or not. She was glad her dogs were at home, because they would have tried to play with the damn thing, and it looked strong for its size.

"Um, is the mutant beaver thing dangerous?" RJ asked, glancing over her shoulder in case there were more, or something else bigger and more dangerous that considered the thing food.

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