C. A. Pack

Musings & Brainstorms & Rants

Library of Illumination - The Orb - Chapter Two

The Library of Illumination - The Orb

Chapter Two

          Johanna paced nervously. “Let’s be logical about this. Where do you think the device might have come from?”
          Jackson shook his head. “You’re the curator. You tell me.”
          She nudged a piece of lint with her toe and then bent down to pick it up. “Do you think someone could have broken in while we were in the antechamber?”
          He looked at her in disbelief. “I doubt it. You know how hard it is to break into this place.”
          “Maybe they knew to ask for illumination,” she hedged.
          “Maybe the sphere came out of a book,” he answered.
          “Spontaneously?” she mocked him.
          “Why not?”
          “Because a book wouldn’t just fly open.”
          “Are you sure?”
          “Right now,” she sighed, “I’m not sure about anything.”
          Jackson tried to touch the orb again. This time the shock was not as mild. “Maybe we should call the police.”
          Johanna shuddered. “The police will ask too many questions. They might poke around and start opening books. It could be a disaster. And after what happened with the pawnbroker, I’d rather not call them.”
          Jackson could not understand her reluctance. “If it’s dangerous...” he said with emphasis, then paused realizing he sounded confrontational. He changed his tack. “Maybe it’s from Mal,” he speculated in a quieter voice.
          “Like a fount of knowledge,” she said wistfully. She reached out to touch it, but Jackson grabbed her hand.
          “I would think a fount of knowledge would be... I don’t know... friendlier?” He realized he was still holding her hand and blushed as he dropped it. “You don’t want to touch it.”
          “Do you think it came from another planet?”
          Jackson made a face. “You mean like the planet Krypton?”
          Johanna rolled her eyes. “I meant from a planet with intelligent beings on it. Maybe it’s a communications device.”
          “Or maybe H.G. Wells visited to the Library again in his Time Machine. You told me that once happened here, right? So maybe he dropped it off while we were in the back.”
          Johanna narrowed her eyes at him.
          “You look sexy when you do that.”
          “I didn’t mean to say that out loud.” He had the good sense to look embarrassed. “Sorry.”
          She took a deep breath to regain her focus. “The first thing we have to do is determine if it’s dangerous. I just don’t know how to do that without getting any authorities involved.”
          “Why don’t you just open up a book about Albert Einstein?”
          Johanna’s face lit up. “Jackson, you’re a genius!” She walked over to the science stacks. “Of course, you should take that compliment with a grain of salt, because if you really were a genius, we wouldn’t need Einstein.”
          She found a manuscript of Einstein’s
Relativity: The Special and General Theory and opened it. A man with dark, wiry hair who looked like he had just stuck his finger in a live electric socket, materialized in front of her. He had a dark mustache that matched his hair, and was wearing a shapeless cardigan.
          Einstein stared at Johanna for a moment before breaking into a warm smile. “I’m Albert Einstein. What is this place? I don’t remember traveling here.”
          “Dr. Einstein, we’d like your opinion of a worrisome object that, as far as we can tell, has appeared out of nowhere. It’s giving us cause for concern.” She led Einstein to the blue orb.
          He studied it for several minutes before trying to touch it. Like Jackson, his hand was repelled. “It contains a great deal of energy.”
          “Yes, but what is it?”
          “Do you have notes or drawings outlining the construction of this device?”
          Jackson shook his head.
          “Formulas?” Einstein continued. “Schematics? Without those, I can only theorize that what I see before me is extremely powerful.”
          “Is it a bomb?”
          “Perhaps?” Jackson practically shouted. “Is that the best you can do? You’re freakin’ Albert Einstein!”
          Einstein looked at Johanna. “Who is this young man?”
          “Jackson.” She lowered her voice to a whisper, “He works here.”
          Einstein turned to the boy. “Everyone should be respected as an individual, but no one idolized.”
          “What does that mean?” Jackson asked more calmly.
          “Why do you think I, more than you, should know what this is?”
          “Because you’re a genius.”
          “The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”
          Johanna, who was still holding the manuscript on Relativity, closed it. Einstein disappeared. She removed a later work by the physicist.
          A white haired version of Einstein appeared to them. He looked at the blue orb and smiled. “I remember this from earlier in my career. It’s still here.” He studied Johanna and Jackson. “You, too, remain and have not aged.”
          “We’re trying to determine if the sphere is dangerous?” Johanna continued.
          “Where did it come from?” Einstein asked.
          “We don’t know,” she said.
          “This technology, while intriguing, is not within my field of expertise. If you believe it to be a bomb, then may I suggest J. Robert Oppenheimer as a suitable expert? He is a theoretical physicist with a great deal of knowledge in the area of explosive devices.” He paused. “How long has it been since I was here last?”
          “Just a few minutes,” Jackson said.
          Einstein smiled. “Then it’s true. The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
          “Who is this Oppenheimer guy?” Jackson asked as Johanna re-shelved the second manuscript.
          “He was the director of the Manhattan Project and is known as ‘the father of the A-bomb.’”
          “So you agree, it’s a bomb?”
          “You’re the one who said it was ticking,” she observed.
          “So where would I find a book on Oppenheimer?”
          “I’ll get it,” Johanna said, taking the stairs to the second story. “Look around to make sure no one got in while we were in the back room.” It took her several minutes to find the right book. “Here goes nothing,” she said, opening it to a page at random.
          Instantly, a small group of scientists, engineers and mathematicians appeared. They were deep in conversation and scarcely noticed that their surroundings had changed, except for one man. He was lean, with thick hair, bushy eyebrows and clear blue eyes. He took a deep drag on the pipe he held clenched between his teeth, before speaking. “I will not even hazard to guess how we got here, when mere moments ago, we were sitting in my office at Project Y. I do wish to know what you want with us?”
          “Are you J. Robert Oppenheimer?”
          “I am.”
          “Albert Einstein told us you might be able to help us. We need to know what you think this is?” Johanna pointed to the blue orb. The others had already noticed it and had gathered around it.
          “Where did it come from?” Oppenheimer asked, mesmerized by the pulsing blue light. The hypnotic strobe cast a ghostly pallor on the faces of the men gathered around it. Oppenheimer reached out to touch it. He felt the energy of the force field, but not the sphere itself.
          “Spooky, huh?” Jackson asked. “I tried that, too. There’s a force field around it.”
          “It would seem our esteemed director has been warned off.” The others began talking excitedly about what could create such an energy shield.
          “It just appeared,” Johanna told Oppenheimer. “There was nothing here an hour ago when we went into a back room to work on an illuminated manuscript. We found it when we returned. The Library is a locked facility and there are no signs of a break in.”
          As Oppenheimer listened, he surveyed his surroundings. The words ‘Library’ and ‘illuminated manuscript’ piqued his curiosity. “What is this place?”
          “It’s the Library of Illumination,” Johanna answered. Her attention was diverted as a scientist who tried to touch the orb for the third time, cried out when the shock became painful. She moved closer to him to make sure he was all right.
          The diversion didn’t faze Oppenheimer. He walked over to the nearest shelf to see what treasures it might hold. On it, lay the Gutenberg Bible, which had not yet been placed in the display case. He gently ran his finger across the richly tooled brown calf cover that carried the scars of more than five centuries of use. He gently lifted the front cover. Recognizing the history and value of the book, Oppenheimer carefully turned the pages to the book of Genesis. It wasn’t long before Adam an Eve sprang to life, standing naked before him.

To be continued…