On the minus side, I still don't really have an endpoint or even much of a conflict. These things tend to get more and more complicated in a desperate effort to find something on which to hang a plot. I hope that doesn't happen. I have, at least, gained one named character - Rebecca Collins. I think I may also have some idea where parts of this are going, it uses a concept I think I have already detailed on here called the 'Reality Gun'. Well, I guess we'll see.
If you really are a glutton for punishment you can read some more of this... thing after the line break.
Don't say I didn't warn you!
“I assume you read my report?”
“You assume correctly.”
“Then I assume you know that there’s no real point in my being here to have this conversation with you. I have, as I’m sure you’re aware, plenty of other duties to attend before having chats with people from outside my department.”
An amused and theatrical cough before he continued. “Ah, yes, I am very much aware of that. However, I ask that you humour my colleagues and I just for a little while. We have all read your, ah,” the supercilious smile did nothing to endear him nor exonerate him from the abject hatred reserved for him and his colleagues, “Very detailed report, Miss Collins. But, and this is rather important, we wanted to hear it from your own mouth, so to speak, and ask our questions the old fashioned way.”
“No, Miss Collins, you very much don’t.” The smiles were gone in an instant and his eyes had narrowed. At least he wasn’t enjoying the situation any more than she was and that was fine by her. “Now, if you would, could you describe in layman’s terms what it is that we have discovered.”
“In slightly more detail than that.”
“A very clever weapon. Gentlemen, this is all detailed extensively in my report and much of that is in layman’s terms. I fail to see precisely what you gain by having me here to ex-”
“Precisely, Miss Collins, you fail to see. On the contrary, we see just fine. Now, indulge me, explain what it is that we have discovered.”
“It is a clever weapon that appears to be totally humanitarian with a sense of humour, although I do not believe it to have any conscious thought that we would be familiar with.”
“It is not some form of Artificial Intelligence?” Another of the men spoke up, seemingly interested for the first time. Had he been in a movie of some sort he would have been smoking. As it was he was dressed fashionably in a well cut suit that was at odds with his badly dyed hair.
“No.” She bit back a sarcastic rejoinder. “Our experiments indicate that there is no intelligence: remote, artificial or otherwise, that is connected with the weapon. We merely noted that, in test conditions, it seemed to behave in a way that caused some hilarity to those watching the tests. This, however, was not its primary function. Our results app-”
“That ‘sense of humour’ is of seminal importance. Please, elucidate further.” The first man spoke again, “And give examples if you can.”
“The weapon is humanitarian,” she took a breath, “It replaces the target with another identical target that is close to death. These replacement targets seem to be chosen to match the target in question more than simply through genetic replacement. There is a certain...” for a moment the word eluded her, “irony in the choice. That is, we may target a muslim terrorist who feels himself devout and he would be replaced by a version of himself that is close to death from syphilis or else from AIDS. Perhaps you target a conservative politician and he is replaced by a version dying from anal bleeding brought on by a rigorous sex session with another man. A revolutionary left-wing demagogue is replaced by someone with ink poisoning from a patriotic right-wing tattoo. A lesbian protester replaced by a Stepford housewife choking on semen. You get the picture.”
None of the assembled men made any kind of move or obvious reaction to her descriptions but something about the mood of the room changed and Rebecca felt the first pangs of anxiety.
“You speak of versions. Could you elaborate?”
“Yes.” Suddenly being flippant and vaguely rude didn’t seem like much of an option. “The weapon draws energy from an unknown source and then, as far as our measurements can tell, focuses that energy around the target in all dimensions. Then it simply transposes part of what we would refer to as reality with a fragment of reality from another place, some other dimension we believe, that has a matching genetic code. That is, it sucks our version of the target from our reality and replaces them with someone of identical genetic code who is close to death. At first we thought that maybe it was simply changing the situation of the target but some of the replacement versions didn’t die instantly and we were able to hold interviews. A full transcript is available in the report, appendix two. These interviews were… illuminating.”
Another lengthy pause. Several of her audience seemed to fidget for a moment or look down at the table top. Notably no one seemed to even bother checking their watches or look bored. They seemed to be thinking. Thinking in that threatening way she had seen assassins do when planning out missions and fire angles or in that slightly off-putting way she had seen mothers doing when protecting their children. This was not idle speculation, this was consideration as a deadly art form.
“Are you proposing that, not only do other realities like ours exist, but that the weapon we have discovered has the ability to communicate with them?”
“Yes, I suppose that is exactly what we are proposing.”
“And that it draws the energy required to do this from yet another dimension?” Another man from the back.
“Can it be tracked?” This from a man with a permanent tan, the kind that came from being able to follow summers than from a sunbed, and a face that showed the difference between mere age and wisdom. “Is it possible that our tests are, in fact, being used to test us?”
“Even if we could track that kind of communication I would be hard put to answer your question with anything but speculation.” A small exultation that she had avoided adding ‘sir’ to her answer. “If it is indeed a kind of lure then I confess that we are simply not able to either ignore that lure nor wriggle from the hook once caught.”