Through the Star Gate

In 1988, the US National Research Council concluded that it "...finds no scientific justification from research conducted over a period of 130 years, for the existence of parapsychological phenomena.”
– Enhancing Human Performance


New Chicago, 2119

A young boy of eight years old tightly clutched his mother’s hand as they walked down the ramp exiting the jump-ship. The boy’s father had fallen several meters behind them, slowly pushing the carryall. The boy had never seen a carryall packed as full as this one. Mounded with nearly all of their possessions, the carryall groaned signifying that it was close to its weight capacity. The family had just arrived from Earth, excitement brimming in each of them, except for Daniel–the boy didn’t really know what to make of the new world.

As he looked around, he saw the tops of several apartment towers and office buildings and thought they were the tallest structures he had ever seen. But despite their height, they were all contained under the city’s dome.

Back on Earth his mother had told him that, without the dome, the planet’s surface would be too hot for them and they wouldn’t even be able to breathe. Daniel got scared, fearing that it would crash down on them someday after they moved to New Chicago. She had calmed him saying that the dome was transparent metal several meters thick—it wasn’t really glass. This seemed to make Daniel feel better.

On the landing deck, Daniel squinted hard at the translucent dome over a kilometer above him, and all around. He was looking for a crack in it but found none. He began to feel that his family would be safe under its protection. After all, metal was much stronger than glass.

Mr. Raymond Beim and his family, wife Haley and son Daniel, were brought to New Earth by his employer, the August-Benedict Corporation. He was to lead the sociology division and had as his first job a research and survey assignment to determine how people would be affected by the migration to dome-enclosed cities on nearby planets. The A-B Corporation was a multi-national (now multi-planetary) research and development entity that made the colonies of New Earth possible through funding and decades of scientific research.

A few days after their arrival to New Chicago, the Beim’s had settled into their furnished apartment and Ray was ready to start working. Their jobs really haven’t changed, only their locations. Ray had worked for the A-B Corporation for seven years. His wife, Haley, had been a mid-school teacher for nearly ten years and would start her job in the fall with the new semester.

His nose burns; the air is acrid. He opens his eyes; the sky is black. The outlines of dark shapes on the horizon: four behemoth jump-ships blot out the sun. Hundreds of quick skyfighters fly in formation. The dome fails. Multi-resonance harmonics weaken it; explosives shatter it. He knows, somehow. In his hands a plasma rifle. To his left, a soldier cut in two. The skyfighters dip and fire to clear landing strips. The ships’ engines overpower the screams of the defenders; their faces contort with disbelief, and pain. He fires; one enemy down, then two. Many die; he lives—

“No!” Daniel screamed, shaking from a horrible nightmare. The top of his sleep-shirt was drenched with sweat – his bed sheets and hair were wet too. His parents came running to his room.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” asked his mother, who had already snatched up the terrified boy.

“They were getting killed. All of them.”

“What are you talking about, son? No one is getting killed,” his father said. Haley’s quick glance said to him, “Just let the boy settle down,” and he backed off.

“The soldiers! Mom, the soldiers were being killed, and I smelled electrical burning, and—”

“Honey, it was just a bad dream,” his mother said. “There are no soldiers here.”

“No, it was real!” Daniel wriggled free from his mother’s embrace and ran to the window, straining to look up at the dome. “Where’s the hole. The dome has a hole. They blew a hole in it!”

Daniel kept peering out of the window, until his father forcibly removed him. Ray was afraid that Daniel might accidently deactivate the maglock (a product of the A-B Corporation) on the window and fall from the tower. To reassure Daniel that nothing was burning, Ray searched the apartment and called the floor supervisor. As he did this, Haley went to the kitchen and came back with water and some medicine that would help Daniel rest. In few moments the floor supervisor called back; there was no fire, anywhere.

Daniel’s mother changed his bed sheets and his shirt and, in about an hour, he fell asleep. Afterwards, Ray and Haley briefly discussed their son’s nightmare. They both agreed it was brought about by the new surroundings.

For the next few weeks, Daniel slept peaceably. His parents kept a watchful eye on him the first few nights after his ordeal. Everything seemed to be on track for the family. They had forgotten about the nightmare.

Mr. Beim had developed a new research plan and survey for dome inhabitants. He continuously recorded his own thoughts and feelings into his new datastore (another product of the A-B Corporation) which allows him simply to think about something to have it recorded through beta-wave reception into the device. It was much easier than writing. In the next quarter, the A-B Corporation planned to mass market the device in New Chicago, when the majority of immigrants will arrive in the city. Ray eagerly waited for the company to create a device that could inject information into someone’s memory, but they were far from doing that successfully. So, despite his mental dictation, he was still required to read his notes visually, which he hated because he was such a slow reader, able to read only six standard textblocks per minute.

Haley had been going over her lesson notes, trying to keep them fresh in her memory. She never really knew where her class would take their discussions; it’s been the way students have learned since the late 21st century. When she was pregnant with Daniel, she had read about some of the old teaching pedagogies and wondered how any student could have ever been considered a vessel simply to be filled. It inherently placed a limit on the capabilities of students by presupposing the capacity of the vessel.

Daniel had mostly stayed to himself, there being no one close to his age on the Beim’s floor, or even a few floors above and below in their apartment tower. This wasn’t new to him—he really didn’t have any friends on Earth before his family left, either. He kept himself busy by playing simulation games, reading books, exploring the halls of his floor, and pretending.

One day, while day dreaming in the halls, Daniel bumped into a man dressed in a dark blue uniform. Daniel bounced off the man and fell backwards. All he could do was look up at the man that towered over him.

When the man said, “Excuse me, son. Are you okay?” Daniel’s trance was broken. The man offered his hand to Daniel, but he just sat there on the floor. Daniel knew the uniform was military, but he couldn’t recognize the insignia. Maybe those letters were “A-B-P-A”—maybe not. He wasn’t sure.

The man said again, “Are you okay?”

“Yes, sir. I think so.” Daniel was still a little shocked from seeing a new person in the halls. There weren’t many people living in the top floors of this apartment complex:  a few couples (older ones without children) and the floor supervisor. This military man was new and, to Daniel, he looked a little out of place.

“I’m Brad,” said the man as he extended his hand again. “You must be Daniel. Would you mind taking me to your father?”

“Okay, I guess.” He knew Daniel’s name! Who was this man and what did he want with Daniel’s father? Cautiously looking back at the man ever other step, the boy led him to the Beim’s apartment and said, “You’ll need to wait here. I’ll go get Dad.” A smile came across the man’s face as he nodded his understanding. A few moments later, Ray came to the door followed by Daniel.

Ray greeted the stranger and dismissed his son saying, “Sergeant Banks and I have business to discuss.” With that, the two men walked out of the foyer and into the hall, the door sliding shut behind them. After an hour, Ray returned to the apartment but he didn’t speak to his wife or Daniel about Sergeant Banks. He looked worried during supper and Haley felt he was keeping something from her. That night everyone slept a little uneasy.

Blood, he can taste it in his mouth. Pain pierces his jaw again! Muscles tremble, he’s going to die or break. No! He can’t. He can’t break, They will gain too much. His abilities are unique. That’s how the defenders became the attackers. That’s how the military knew exactly where to retaliate and cause the most damage. All he had to do was think about Them and he could see Them—where They slept, where They plotted, and hopefully where They would die. But now, They have him. He’d rather die than surrender to Their torture.

His cell is dank and musty. The brutes leave. He’s alone, barely conscious. This place is Hell. He wants to be anywhere but here. Then, light blinds him. And the smell soothes him. Apple cinnamon. Bacon. Coffee. His eyes adjust to the light and he’s at a kitchen table. A woman pours coffee into a man’s mug. They both look at each other, then at him. Who are they?

He sees eggs and toast on the plate in front of him. He’s hungry. He hasn’t eaten in days. He picks up a fork and scoops up as many eggs as possible. They taste great. Then, he picks up a strip of bacon and shoves it in his mouth. The man and woman look at him, bewildered. They say something, but he can’t hear them. Then—

Pain! The brute punches again. He’s back in the cell, his Hell. The taste of the eggs and bacon is now the taste of blood. Muffled, he hears, “He was sensing!” And then, darkness—

Daniel’s screams awoke his parents. They came to his room and saw him sprawled out in the floor, his chair knocked over behind him. He told them about the captured soldier who was hurt, but they never heard him. They stood there in utter shock and disbelief: Daniel had bruises on his face and arms. His mouth was bleeding. They were dumbfounded and it took a few minutes for them to regain their thoughts. Haley took Daniel to the bathroom and cleaned his wounds, crying almost as much as he did, while Ray called the supervisor who followed protocol and initiated an investigation. If someone were in Daniel’s room, they would know about it. And soon.

A review of the hall monitors and maglock logs showed that no one was in the hall that night and none of the maglocks had been disabled. A security sweep of Daniel’s room turned up nothing as well. Spatters of blood on the floor were determined to be his and his alone. By early morning, the Beim’s could only conclude that their son had inflicted the injuries on himself.

Not knowing what to do, Haley cooked breakfast in which, as a treat, she included some spiced apples. Daniel liked those, and she hoped that the treat would help him feel better. She was still in shock over their discovery.

The family ate their breakfast without saying much. But when Daniel aggressively shoveled a fork full of eggs into his mouth and followed them with a whole strip of bacon, they told him not to act like a savage and to eat slowly—it was better for digestion.

After breakfast, Ray and Haley discussed what they should do with their son. They were very worried about him now. New Chicago did not have a full complement of doctors at this time. In fact, they only had regular physicians who were not equipped to deal with the serious mental state of their son. Ray suggested an alternative: perhaps he could take Daniel to the scientists at the A-B Corporation. They would be better than any doctor would at diagnosing Daniel’s brain activity and determining if there were any abnormalities. Some of them were noted psychiatrists and psychologists; even the company’s sole Neuroweaver had moved to the facility in New Chicago. Ray told Haley that he believed the research scientists were the only people in this dome that could help Daniel now. Reluctantly, Haley agreed, not wanting to bear the rigors of space travel to reach another city.

*        *        *

New Chicago, 2119

Agent Beim’s childhood was typical; at least, he thought so. He remembered most of his childhood, except for the first few months after his family had moved to the dome-city of New Chicago. That was the only blemish on his otherwise spotless parapsychic agent record. That is, until now.

The inhabitants of a nearby planet had been skirmishing near the atmospheric borders above New Chicago’s dome. They were relentless and savage in their attacks, and the dome-city’s defenses were starting to weaken these last few months. Agent Beim used his parapsychic ability of remote sensing to locate the leaders of the savages, but it seemed as they did not follow any chain of command – no matter how many were targeted and killed, their coordinated attacks continued. His superiors at the company pressured him to give them the Achilles’ heel of the enemy. He could see the enemy, but something blocked him from seeing any landmarks or stellar alignments. For all his abilities, New Chicago was going to fall.

The company increased the pressure after the Breach of 2118; they threatened to kill his mother, Haley Beim. The Breach had taken the lives of hundreds of soldiers before the enemy was repelled. Daniel had fought alongside them, patriotism charging his courage. The fear of his mother being killed for his mistakes only served to keep him in a daze. Disorientation in war has never been good, at least not for one side, and he fell in battle. It took him several weeks to heal from the injuries he sustained. Despite Daniel providing the location of the harmonics engineer and dome saboteur, the company and government analysts began to blame Daniel. He was making too many mistakes; they thought perhaps he was a spy for the enemy. But he knew he wasn’t a spy.

After he was released from the company’s hospital ward, he discovered his mother was dead—a casualty of the Breach—killed two months after the enemies had been pushed back through the crack in the dome. His father had died from a heart attack several years before, though he thought that his father’s death was more than just a little suspicious. His father had worked for the August-Benedict Corporation, just as he does. He was their Seeker, the only one in New Chicago.

On Earth, beginning with the age they called the Cold War Era, the United States government initiated programs time and again to unleash the full potential of the human mind. Despite the findings of the US National Research Council in 1988, the Defense Intelligence Agency established Project Star Gate a few years later, hoping to provide accurate military intelligence through parapsychic sensing. Before the decade was over, the project was shut down. Their clairvoyants’ accuracy was a disappointing 20%. In comparison, Daniel’s accuracy was nearly 90%—before the Breach. Of course, a hundred and thirty years had passed since Project Star Gate; and the A-B Corporation had made great strides in all sciences since then.

None of this mattered to him, now. The savages had captured him and they had been torturing him, trying to make him turn sides. He was bound in a steel chair in a cold, moldy cell. He hadn’t eaten in days. The brutes would come in and beat on him, strike him in the face, kick him in the gut, whatever their whim fancied. They did this every hour, since his arrival. He was in pain, sleep-deprived, and hungry. He didn’t want to be there.

He blacked out for a second. When he came to, he could taste eggs! And bacon! The pepper, he could even taste the pepper. And what was that smell? Cinnamon?

A brute burst into the room and punched Daniel between the eyes. The taste of bacon faded into the taste of blood. “He was sensing!” Daniel heard one of the brutes yell. Wait! He was sensing! Just then, Daniel slumped in the chair, unconsciousness enveloping him in complete darkness.

Daniel awoke in a stupor. His hunger pangs were not as sharp as earlier. He could feel the IV needle in his arm. They must be sustaining him. He believed several ribs were broken, his jaw fractured, and his right cheekbone chipped.

The brute was right, though. Daniel remembered sensing! Maybe he could reach out to that family again, and tell them where he is so they can alert the company. First he had to know where they were keeping him. He reached out with his mind...0ut of his cell...out of the building...out into the sky...he could see everything...he recognized the building...it was August-Benedict Corporation...he was being held by his own people! Anger snapped his mind back to his body. He looked up at the cell door and saw a familiar face staring back at him, a face from his past—the Neuroweaver!

*        *        *

New Chicago, August-Benedict Corporation Facility

Ray and Haley decide to take their son, Daniel, to A-B Corporation’s department of cognitive and developmental sciences. Samuel Kietch, the renowned Neuroweaver and scientist, heads the department and they hope that he can help Daniel. It has been two days since their son woke them up screaming after hurting himself. The bruises have faded slightly, but they still serve as a reminder that their boy is in grave danger.

Sam Kietch leads the family to an isolated room where an examination table was being prepared for the boy. Daniel is scared. Kietch explains to him and to his parents that there is nothing to fear, this procedure was completely passive and simple. To get an accurate reading, however, Daniel will need to lie perfectly still. Kietch suggests to the parents a mild sedative for Daniel and, perhaps, minor restraints. The Beim’s don’t want Daniel to hurt himself anymore and, reluctantly, agree.

 

Daniel climbs up onto the table, eager to please his parents. Kietch has two attendants prep him, swabbing his temples with alcohol pads and placing the wireless sensors there and at other spots on his head. Deep down, Daniel is worried, something just doesn’t feel right. The attendants put his arms and legs into the restraints. He tries to keep his spirits up and looks over to his mom and dad. Tears crawl down his mother’s face; her smile tells him “everything is going to be alright – we love you.”

The Neuroweaver steps into the room and speaks with determination, pausing between each word, “Agent Beim. What have you done?”

Daniel is barely able to talk through the pain, “What?! What have YOU done!”

“Time for theatrics is over, Agent.” The Neuroweaver sighs and says, “You showed so much promise when I first saw you as a child. It will be a pity when I kill you.”

Daniel’s eyes widen and he remembers.

The sedation drugs are starting to take the fight out of Daniel; his parents wish they had something for their anxiety. Kietch steps over to a control terminal and begins connecting the sensors’ input into the main computer. Above Daniel, the ceiling opens and a large tapered cylindrical machine descends. Ray and Haley give a start—Kietch had left this part out! What is that? It looks like an old x-ray imager. They move toward Daniel, but an electric field stings them as they approach.

“What the hell are you doing, Kietch?” Ray yells.

“My job.” That is all that Kietch says. Of course, Kietch never tells them that he discovered Daniel’s extraordinary mind through Ray’s new datastore. It had picked up abnormal beta-waves and an inordinate amount of gamma-waves coming from Daniel. The datastore, in fact, is more much more than just a repository for notes or thoughts; it is also a transmitter that sends data to Kietch’s mainframe. With each datastore’s sensor good up to five meters and the impending market flood of thousands of datastores, they will be able to listen to virtually everyone’s thoughts in New Chicago.

Agent Beim remembers now. How Kietch had strapped his younger self to the exam table. How Kietch duped his parents into allowing him to sedate the young Daniel. How Kietch erected an electrical field that prevented Daniel’s parents from freeing him.

Daniel reaches out with his mind…into Kietch’s… Kietch is evil…his mind strong…not defenseless…time was running out…just a few more synapses…he needs this one…and that one…ah, there they all are… he understands how…he can save his younger self. Daniel returns to his body, knowing that Kietch is about to focus a sensory nullification emitter on him. He would feel nothing and could go nowhere with his mind. Then Kietch would slowly kill him. The time is now!

Again, Daniel reaches out with his mind…back through time…into young Daniel’s mind…a stepping stone…tough because of the drugs…but not impossible—

Daniel cries out on the exam table. His parents scream and try to push through the electric field. Again, it stings them and Haley falls back. Determined to free his son, Ray pushes and pushes. Slowly, he inches through the field. His hands go numb, then his forearms. Pain shoots up his arms into his chest, into his heart. He feels it flutter. He knows it can’t take any more electrical current. Ray falls back, tears now streaking down his face, his hands and arms shaking uncontrollably. “Daniel! I’m sorry!” he cries out.

Ray’s bravery and limited success surprises Kietch, as did Daniel’s scream. The boy is practically unconscious from the sedation. Then Kietch turns his eyes to his viewscreen. “Eh, what’s that? That’s impossible!”

Kietch pours over the brain wave patterns coming from the sensors. They are not the brain waves of a thoroughly sedated eight-year-old boy! They are the brain waves of someone highly skilled and trained in parapsychic ability. Kietch thinks, the boy didn’t even show this much aptitude in his initial tests. That must mean there’s another, someone with far greater talent, but who? And where?

Don’t you mean ‘when’, Kietch…you see my effects…on the boy’s brain waves…but if I do this…now they’re normal…now to leapfrog…Dad’s datastore…luckily it was insulated…from electrical charges…all of the information…Daniel’s family…himself…the floor supervisor…Sergeant Banks…he knew!...but...must focus now…from the datastore…to Kietch’s computer…feels strange…but basically the same…impulse here…impulse there…now to finish it—

Kietch stares at the viewscreen again, strange code blinking at random spots on the screen—someone is tampering with his computer! He quickly taps out several commands at the terminal. As he completes the last sequence, he shoots his eyes to the helpless boy. Now is the time!

The multi-phasic wave canon hums to life and a beam flashes out of the end into Daniel’s skull. The beam fires for three full seconds, but it seems longer for Ray and Haley. What is happening to their son? They can only watch in horror.

Kietch watches too, until the beam stops. Then shock and anger jumps onto his face. He mumbles and turns back to the viewscreen and terminal. Sabotage! The beam should have lasted much longer!

The viewscreen becomes a flurry of multicolored flashing lights and sparks leap from the terminal. The wave canon starts moving erratically, and then stops almost as suddenly, lifeless. The electric field, separating Daniel and his parents, fails. The lights flicker. The attendants flee. Kietch stands in disgust, watching years of work decay before his eyes.

The wave canon starts to hum again. Haley runs over to her son and unbuckles the straps holding him to the table. He has passed out from the ordeal. She scoops him off the table and returns to Ray, whose arms are still shaking. The two of them look at Kietch and the hum of the wave canon catches their ears. It’s intensifying, growing louder. Smoke starts to billow down from the canon’s hideaway. It’s going to explode! They run out of the room, Ray stopping for half a second to look back. Kietch is gone! Several meters away from the door, they hear a loud explosion and are shaken to the floor.

The Beim’s descend several floors before asking for help. Emergency medical responders are called to the facility and the police are dispatched. After the medical responders triage the family, they take them to the nearest hospital. Haley is given a clean bill of health, receiving only minor cuts and bruises. Ray is not so lucky; the prolonged exposure to the electrical field has damaged his heart. It shaves years off his life. As far as Daniel, the doctors say that he has suffered brain damage, but they tell Ray and Haley not to worry—the damage is located in an inactive area of the brain.

A few hours after the Beim’s escape, the police begin a manhunt for Samuel Kietch. He is wanted for industrial espionage, kidnapping, and attempted murder.

The A-B Corporation issues a news release stating that Samuel Kietch has been under investigation by the company for industrial espionage. The company has terminated his employment and will seek significant punitive damages for the trade secrets he sold. The company also assures the public that this incident will not delay next quarter’s release of their new datastores, the 10 and 20 ZebiByte ELFpod©™.

That night, Ray and Haley tuck in their son, grateful that they are all alive. Daniel goes to sleep and peacefully dream.