a tale in weekly parts
“Wha-… who… where… when… how did I get here?” Kr’veth’neq’is asked, in what can only be described as a state of confusion. [there are, of course, many ways in which her condition could be described: shock, surprise, astonishment, consternation to name but a few. However, we’ll stick with confusion for the sake of good order, eh?]
“You had strayed into Mendatian space,” Albert replied. “They had snared you and ported you to Menda City.”
“But Mendacium is in the Lambda dimension,” she protested, “I was exploring in Ksi.”
“Have you forgotten the reach of the Mendatian influence? They control a dozen cubic parsecs of space in all dimensions.”
“Hades’ molars!” she exclaimed.
“What?” Xander asked.
“Oh, it’s just an expression I picked up on an Earth analogue in Ksi. Probably the same as our Hell’s teeth.”
“But who says that any more? You’ll be saying Heavens to Betsy next!”
“What have you been reading, Xander?” Albert asked.
“Oh, just some old archives from a thing called Urban Dictionary.”
“Wow,” Kr’veth’neq’is replied, “I didn’t think anyone took that seriously, even in its heyday.”
“And there’s another one,” Xander breathed.
“Never mind that,” Albert interrupted the siblings, “you were reacting to the extent of the Mendatians’ influence.”
“I was. I know about their strict prohibition of just about everything we stand for, but not that it spanned dimensions.”
“And now you do,” Albert replied.
“Are there any charts I can memorise that will show the prohibited area in all dimensions?”
“When are we now?”
“2316, Alpha Earth reckoning.”
“When were the appropriate charts produced?”
“3105 or thereabouts.”
“Lets go then, then.”
Jarvis had been monitoring the conversation [he could hardly not, given his and Albert’s relationship] and interjected, “That might be a bit tricky. To get to the target date, we’d need to pass through the Great Expansion.”
Xander was flummoxed. [isn’t that a fabulous word?] “What great expansion? I’ve never heard of it,” he said.
“Not great expansion,” Jarvis intoned, then switching to a deeper, more resonant timbre he added, “the Great Expansion. It was a time when fear stalked every being in every cubic millimetre of every dimension. A time when the malevolence of the marauding Mendatians blighted the benefits of the burgeoning business boom that was even then pulling the penurious proletariat from perennial poverty.”
“What?” Kr’veth’neq’is asked.
“The citizens of Mendacium found a way to expand their influence beyond their dozen cubic parsecs, to include the entire multiverse.”
Xander looked pensive. “When was that?”
“In Alpha Earth terms, between the twenty-sixth and twenty-ninth centuries,” Jarvis explained.
“Can we by-pass it?”
“I need Albert for this. We’ll talk it through with Eddie.”
“How long will that take, Albert?”
“About three months,” Albert said, as he morphed into his slug-like state and reincorporated with Jarvis.
“Three months?” Xander shouted, but there was no reply. He turned to his sister and asked, “What are we supposed to do with ourselves for three blooming months?”
Kr’veth’neq’is shook with laughter.
“What’s so funny?” he asked, which served only to make her worse.
“You are,” Albert replied.
“I thought you were going to take three months,” Xander said, incredulously, “were you just playing with me?”
“Why would you think that?” Albert asked.
“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Xander said, with perhaps just a modicum of bitterness, “So how long did the talks take you?”
“We had hoped to get our answer in three months, but it ended up taking nearly five years,” Albert confessed.
“Xander; what is time?”
“According to the Oxford English Dictionary, time is ‘the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole’.”
“And according to you?”
“The fourth element of spacetime.”
“Dimension Alpha. And where are we now?”
“So what is time here, in Dimension Lambda?”
“You tell me. According to what you said before, Mendations experience time in the same linear way we do.”
“That’s how they experience it. That’s not the way it is. Here, Xander, time is an allusion. It can’t be measured directly, only by its effects. And that suits us why?”
“Because your relationship with time is casual, not causal.”
“So you’ve been gone for five years?”
“Enough of this,” Kr’veth’neq’is interrupted, “What’s the answer?”
“That,” said Jarvis in his most imperious manner, “depends on what the question is.”
“The question, Jarvis, is the one you’ve just spent nearly five years discussing with Eddie. Either you know what it is, or your memory is failing, in which case perhaps you need to be looked at by… I don’t know… whoever looks at decaying bitek. Or could it be that you are simply being a nob?”
“I think your third suggestion is probably the right one, Kr’veth’neq’is,” Albert said, “In fact, we find that it is possible to by-pass the Great Expansion. The calculations and resultant manoeuvres are rather complex, which is why it took Eddie almost five years to discover the way. Don’t ask me to explain it to you; I’m not sure we understand it fully ourselves.”
“Thanks, Albert,” Kr’veth’neq’is said, “The how is not too important to me at the moment, only the when.”
“And,” Xander added, “the can we get back again afterward.”
“The answer to your question, Xander, is yes, we can – in fact, that’s what took most time to work out – and your answer, Kr’veth’neq’is, is right now.”