Dreams of the Queen by Jacqueline Patricks

Posted on Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Chapter 3

The rest of the day passed in a blur of work and stress as Cass pushed everyone to breaking. Her sleep deprivation and lack of good nutrition exposed the worst in her temperament, exceeding even Julian’s ability to smooth over at times. But the team did it. They completed her upgraded parameters for the generator and rewrote the software. The amount of power she required astonished them; however, due to her longstanding record of genius breakthroughs, they kept any complaints to themselves.

Starting again early the next morning, everyone squeezed into the control room and gazed through the thick Plexiglas picture window into the Chamber. Only hours earlier, the assistants had secured the revamped power generator back into the center shaft while Cass supervised, fidgeting and twitching with barely restrained excitement. She knew her instincts were correct ever since the hypnosis session had clicked several gears into place.   

“Dr. B-baros, vacuum is c-complete,” Brian said, then looked over his shoulder at her from his seat at the control board. “Power grid is up.” Its ubiquitous lights, switches, and gauges rapidly blinked, bathing his face in a shifting rainbow.

She nodded, then glanced at Julian next to her. His face was tight, lips a firm line. Had he noticed the dark circles under her eyes? Probably.

She sensed his lingering frustration with her mingling with his current anxiety, but as long as her efforts produced results today, she likely wouldn’t hear more about it. He tended to suppress his inner irritation with her in favor of scientific gains, and since her work trumped his 90% of the time, he’d stay shushed, then act grumpy later.

Julian silently uncrossed, then crossed his arms. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending upon one’s point of view, her scientific star far outshone his. They never would’ve achieved half of their goals during this project otherwise. Oh well, we all make sacrifices, Jules.

“Power levels hitting new minimum levels,” Brian said in a steadier voice.

A few assistants muttered as a low vibration started in the floor, causing them do a silly two-step. The shimmy ran up Cass’ legs, borrowing deep into her muscles and pulling her from worrying about Jules.

This is new! Cass smiled. Julian gave her a sharp look. She ignored him. The Chamber’s interior interested her, not his approval. She moved around the edge of the control panel, and the closer she got to the Plexiglas, the twitchier her skin became.

“Come on, start.” Her hands fisted at her sides, bunching her lab coat. As she spoke, brilliant blue lines shot from the power generator, hit the ceiling and then fluxed from wall to wall. Their thin wavelengths vacillated and crisscrossed, their glow intensifying as the power levels rose.

“Reaching maximum parameters,” Brian said, voice higher as the blue lines attempted to knit into a stable network. They were the first humans to witness the beginnings of a Casimir Effect! Brian partially stood from his chair, hands resting on the control panel, unable to look away from the stunning net forming. “Maximum power achieved!” he said.

Inches from the window, Cass said, “Still not there.” As the network stabilized, a counterclockwise spin initiated, yet no wormhole was developing—at least not visually. She asked over her shoulder, “What are the readings on microscopic wormhole development?” 

Several assistants forced themselves to check their gauges. Julian waited for their responses. “Nothing,” he told her. “No gravity fluctuations, no radiation readings, nothing.”

Brow furrowing, Cass turned back to the window. Maximum power, a stabilized network, vacuum intact and the visually perfect lines of networking energy formed a spinning mass of bending light in a grid pattern, in theory, an impossible task. She’d done everything right. What was missing? What didn’t she know?

“Come on, you bastard, work!” She smacked her palms to the window, leaving smears on the Plexiglas as she leaned her weight forward. The thick material didn’t shift, but everyone gasped.

“Cass!” Julian said. “There’s people…”

“Dammit! It should be working, Jules!” She focused her will upon the dazzling, but currently useless, light. Its azure glow refracted through the window, dancing in her vision.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to touch the window while ... oh my god! Cass!” Julian reached her just as a large bolt of energy leaped from the network inside and connected to her hands.

Cass didn’t flinch as it struck her. The energy repelled Julian as a magnet resists a reverse pole, knocking him back several feet to land in a pile of surprised assistants.

Another bolt of energy flashed from the network to Cass’ hands, and another and another until it became a constant stream connecting her to the spinning energy network. She kept her hands flat to the window, and her body went rigid as she stared straight ahead, unblinking. Sparks of electricity traveled over her arms and torso, and the smell of ozone snapped in the air as its spin increased, faster and faster.

“Cass, get away from the window!” Julian said as a screaming hum joined the earlier vibration, both growing so loud he had to shout.

Scrambling from the floor, he regained his footing, horrified as the energy maelstrom knitted around Cass. A few of the less dedicated assistants—likely more into self-preservation than grades or achievement—dashed for the exit, leaving only Brian, Julian, and two others.

Cass’ body trembled with exertion as the network spun so rapidly it transformed into a solid blur of blue light, followed by a loud bass boom throughout the lab. The network vanished in a blink, replaced by what could only be described as a wormhole since no human had ever witnessed one’s formation.

“Holy. Shit.” Julian leaned toward Cass, but hesitated as the improbable looked back at him. Whatever his fiancée had done, whatever had just occurred, no words formed on his lips to explain it.

The monster gaped throughout the entire Chamber. Its filmy edges roiled inward and downward, continuously turning in on itself as one rolls down a tube sock, except toward the center rather than outward. Julian first wanted to call it black, but as he walked closer to the window—in the abrupt, shocking silence—he detected a strange instability of color as if the wormhole was colorless and all colors at once.

Cass gave a deep, shuddering gasp, and he jumped forward, catching her as she dropped from the glass, her body crumpling. “Cass,” he said quietly as he cradled her flaccid form against his chest.

She lolled into him, giving him a weary smile, which faded a second later. “I did it, Jules,” she said in a raspy voice, then passed out. 

Speechless, he exchanged a wide-eyed expression with Brian and the two other flabbergasted assistants before they looked back to the unconscious Cass, then to the swirling, self-devouring vortex secured safely inside the Chamber.

“She did it,” Brian echoed, amazed, his chair creaking in the freakishly quiet room as he slumped back.

“Yes, but what exactly did she do?” Julian’s arms tightened around her as he gazed at the wormhole. More occurred this morning than a newly proven theory. Whatever had happened, however it had happened, she’d interacted physically with the wormhole and survived.  


Cass awoke to a migraine ice-picking her brain and a terrible ringing in her ears, yet her first thought centered on her successfully formed wormhole. The twenty by twenty twisting morass of inter-dimensional energy should be powerful enough to transport half a dozen human beings in individual, self-contained spacesuits. That was the traversable portion of her theory, at any rate.

She squinted in the fluorescent lighting and squirmed on the lumpy cushions.  Why was she lying on her office couch? Her last clear memory consisted of being intimately connected to the energy network ... how long ago was that? She checked the wall clock—almost 9 a.m. The test had started just after 8 a.m. She’d been unconscious for more than half an hour? It felt like seconds.

Sitting up slowly, she rubbed her temples and moaned as the pain increased. She didn’t recall anything after the wormhole activated and numerous questions sprouted, which she desperately wanted answered.

Was the wormhole still viable? Had Jules kept the power flow stable? What had actually happened? Did she really activate it? How?

Her overactive brain started clicking over a new theory. Cataloging the moments before she touched the window, she recalled hearing the alien man’s voice urging her forward, telling her to interact with it. The blue energy reminded her of the glow produced between them. And when she’d touched the energy, it had produced that similar, conflicting feeling of being energized and drained. Julian opened the office door, startling her, and she coughed to cover her gasp.

“Cass, you’re awake, thank God. I was starting to worry. Thought I might have to take you to the hospital soon,” Julian said as he sat on the edge of the couch, next to her. He wrapped his hands around hers, his bloodshot eyes and pale face betraying his emotions far more than his flippant tone. “How are you?”

“Headachey,” she said, sitting upright and swinging her legs over the side. Her lab coat slipped down onto her lap, no longer a blanket. She shivered at the rush of brisk air. “How’s the wormhole? I do remember it right; there’s a real wormhole in the lab?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Good.” She blew out a puff of air, closed her eyes and laid her head back against the couch. “Just keep the power source constant, and it should remain open and stable.”

“I know.” He leaned his head back too, facing her. “So what the hell happened?” 

“I’m not sure. I just felt ... something ... right about it.”

His lips thinned, and his brows rose. “It felt right to commune with zero point energy? Dammit, Cass...” He ran a hand through his hair, disturbing his glasses.

She slumped further into the lumpy cushions and bit her lip. “Sorry.”

He gently pulled her hand onto his lap and rubbed his thumb over her knuckles. “Just don’t do, whatever that was, again.”

Head jerking up from the couch, she said, “But we’ve got to run tests.” She grunted at a spike of pain, then ignored it and the subsequent blurry vision. “Need to find out what happened, send a probe, take readings and samples—”

“Whatever you did, it could’ve killed you!”

“But it didn’t. I’m fine!”

“Besides ... we’ve got to report this to Dr. Janson before we do anything else.”

Crap. She’d forgotten their boss, their department head and the man who technically signed their grant-supported paychecks. Never her strongest supporter over the years, Janson often called her an obsessive, control-freak—one of the less offensive names he admitted to labeling her. Well, she was obsessive and rather controlling about her project, but that didn’t change the fact he was a dried up, narrow-minded ass-hat.

“Fine, inform Janson, then we move forward with the testing.”

“You won’t do anything without me. Deal?”

She gave a dramatic sigh. “Deal.”

“Good.” He squeezed her fingers and started to stand. “Let me track down Janson, see if I can get him down here a.s.a.p. He really does need to see this.” Then Cass tugged on his hand, and he paused, looking down at her. 

“Thanks, Jules,” she said, smiling.

It trapped him for another few seconds, and he leaned down to peck her on the forehead. “You’re welcome, Cass,” he said softly. “Come out when you’re ready.”

Laying her head back on the couch, she stared at the humdrum whitish ceiling tiles and defocused, allowing her mind to drift off to her dream man, the energy network and her mysterious connection to both. Holding back part of the truth from Julian started a twisting in her stomach, as usual. But if she explained her suspicions too soon, he would misunderstand and would likely be jealous and pick over the details, causing more friction between them.

She disliked the way he’d been giving her more sidelong glances lately, pretended a supportive role when he’d rather run the show—her show. She knew he cared about her, loved her, but he often undermined her efforts when inspiration struck the hardest, acting as a parent rather than her partner. She hated that. 

“God, so now what?” She rubbed the back of her neck, wishing away the sharp, invasive pain at the base of her skull. Should she wait, when every cell vibrated to work? “To hell with Janson.”

Cass scrubbed her face with her hands, got up and grabbed a chocolate protein shake from the small fridge and two aspirin from the desk, before reentering the lab. She’d just run a few tests; get the process started to save time. Knowing Julian, he’d take at least an hour anyhow.


Her assistant’s head popped out of the control room’s open door. “Dr. Baros, you’re feeling better?” His smile showed the entire top row of his large teeth. The other two remaining assistants stood behind him with similar looks of mixed concern and relief. “You’re not going to the hospital?” Brian asked.

“No, of course not, I’m fine,” she said between sips of her shake after downing the pills. “I want  full diagnostics run on the wormhole immediately, and the scout probe prepped for deployment.”

“What? Now?” He did a double take between her and the Chamber. “B-but Dr. Saunders said to wait...”

“I’m in charge if you’ll care to remember, and I say we start now.” Using the shake can in her hand for emphasis, she gestured toward the Chamber. “That monster is pulling an enormous amount of power to keep open, and I want to be traversing it with a human team before we’re told to shut it down.” She glared at each assistant until they dropped their gazes and counted dust-bunnies. “Got it?”

“Yes, Dr. Baros,” all three said in unison and rushed to their workstations in a jostle of lab coats and squeaking shoes. A massive amount of data required compiling in a short span of time by a severely reduced staff.

“This is it, team,” she said, walking to the window to admire her work as she sipped the shake. “This is everything I’ve worked for.” 


Julian wasn’t surprised to find Cass working the team at diagnostics when he returned with Janson. She rarely listened to him on her good days, and now with her dream a reality, he hadn’t really expected her wait for him before she started verifying data. Still, it irritated him. She could at least pretend to listen to him. 

But as Janson became awestruck before the dimensional whirlpool, Julian reminded himself to forget Cass’ personality flaws for the present. Results counted more than personal feelings, and Cass always delivered. All that mattered right now was keeping Janson happy. His behind the scenes tap dance between Janson and Cass was about to be center stage, and Julian didn’t expect it to go well.

“You did it,” the elderly Janson said. Standing close, yet not quite at the window, Janson’s hand shook slightly as he cupped his clean-shaven chin.

“I told you I would,” Cass said, smirking and jutting a leg out.

“Yes, but,” he stepped closer to the violently spinning mass of variegated energy, “a wormhole ... in a lab ... it’s ... it’s unprecedented.”

“But not impossible, Dr. Janson, just as I said,” she said, leaning a shoulder on the window. 

His awe reflecting off the Plexiglas changed to doubt. “But is it traversable?”

“Only one way to find out,” she said.


“I agree with her, Dr. Saunders,” Janson said, turning from the window. The fascinated scientist evaporated, and all business, he said, “Complete your preliminary tests as quickly as possible. I want all data forwarded to my office, then the human traversable team assembled and prepped to go as soon as it’s ruled safe.”

“You can’t be serious!” Julian said. What is he thinking moving so quickly?

“I’m quite serious,” Dr. Janson continued. “This project has produced a great deal of interest outside of MIT, and the sooner we see results the better.”

“Outside of MIT?” Cass straightened from the window. “We never told anyone but our team members.” Julian returned her questioning look but didn’t say anything.

“Where do you think your substantially generous grant came from, Dr. Baros?” Janson said.

She bit her lip and glanced at Julian again. He kept his arms firmly crossed over his chest. “Well, I-” she said.

Janson cut her off with a curt hand gesture. “You will contact me as soon as your team is ready to go. I’ll give you further directions at that time. Good day, Dr. Baros, Dr. Saunders.” Proclamation complete, Janson spun on his heel and marched from the control room with his customary air of superiority while Cass scowled at his back every second.

Julian exchanged grimaces with her and could easily guess what she was thinking—What the hell had Janson plotted behind her back? Why save it until now? If only I could tell her, but she’d never accept my explanation.



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Genre – Science Fiction / Romance

Rating – R

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