Note to Readers: I will be posting about 4 chapters, rolling them out weekly. That is all I have right now. I’m requesting that readers send me ideas about where to take the story. I will take some of your ideas, giving you credit, of course, and write the story accordingly. I’ll let you know when I’m ready for your ideas, so start thinking. I’m calling this an interactive, fan fiction novel. I’m very excited about this collaboration. Thank you in advance. Robin Jill

Amelia stepped out of her intelli-car. She quickly fell into a deep sleep after  programming the vehicle to get her to the café where she was meeting Barb for coffee, the one thing that hadn’t changed in hundreds of years.  A generation ago, people gave all sorts of add-ons to the order such as a half-decaf, mocha latte, light on the froth, topped with a touch of cinnamon, shots of caramel syrup, soy milk and sweetened with agave syrup. Funny how everything comes back around; now, in 2033, it was becoming popular to drink coffee – just coffee – black or with cream. That’s it. The old timers like Barb still had to have their wild and crazy coffee drinks. Amelia ordered a small decaf and waited. She wasn’t good at waiting so she touched the screen of her wrist computer and watched an episode of her favorite comedians as they floated, life-like above the table. She was laughing so hard that she barely noticed as Barb approached the table and hugged her from behind.

“Hello, my young friend. So glad you could make it,” Barb expressed as she kissed Amelia on the head.

“Barb! I’ve been waiting for hours,” Amelia lied as a laugh lilted from her throat. “What is the excitement about? I can hardly contain myself.”

“You can hardly ever contain yourself,” Barb retorted. “Your generation has zero patience; immediate gratification is all you care about. How does that  translate into your sex life?” She sat down and pressed a few things on the screen on the table for her order.

“What?” Amelia questioned. “Whatever are you talking about? How did sex come into this conversation? I swear, Barb, sometimes I do not understand your generation at all.”

“What I mean is,” Barb said, “that if you must have everything at your fingertips immediately, how can you ever savor the moment? Anticipation is the element that makes things more exciting. Would you want to watch a movie or listen to a story where you found out everything right away? No, you have to make the reader wait. It’s called suspense. Otherwise, if everything happened all at once, there would be no point in moving through space and time.”

Amelia just stared at Barb and grinned. “Barb, you’re such a hoot. That’s what I love about you. Nothing is ever boring around you.”

“Thank you,” Barb replied. “You’re going to agree that I’m a fascinating woman when I tell you my exciting news. Ha ha!”

Braxton had been inside the goggle world for over ½ hour. It was time to emerge, but he was reluctant.“Just give me a few more minutes,” Braxton pleaded. “I’ve only been in here for a few minutes. I thought we agreed I would be inside for at least 20 or 30 minutes.”

“You’ve been in there for 37.85 minutes to be exact,” Lyle said.

“What? No way. Couldn’t be. It couldn’t hurt to stay a little longer. You said my vitals are fine,” Braxton pleaded.

“Okay. A little longer,” Lyle conceded.

“It looks like there’s something with wings. Is that right? Is that what I’m seeing? Wings? The weird thing is…it’s not really like I’m ‘seeing’ this. It’s more like I’m seeing / feeling it. It’s hard to describe. Hmm.  Yes!! Wings! Definitely wings. But why? Why would something need wings in here? Or out here? It doesn’t feel like you can actually ‘fly’ here. There appears to be other things, or… beings…or life forms maybe?? That are floating around here. I can’t make any sense of this.” And then Braxton stopped talking and just wallowed in the experience. 

Lyle got a bit concerned. “Brax. Brax!! Are you still with me?”

Slowly, Braxton answered. “Yeah. I just want to…feel right now. Not talk. Talk later.”

“Okay,” Lyle answered. “Warning though. You’ve got 5 more minutes.”

A handsome young waiter delivered Barb’s latte to the table. He wore more make-up than any woman she knew, as did most of the trans, and an elaborate outfit of hot pink and bright orange. Starbucks redesigned their coffee shops after Elon Musk brought people to the moon in his rockets. “Shoot for the stars!” was their new motto. Entering a Starscape Cafe was like entering a Comicon. Servers dressed in space uniforms, the ceilings sparkled with tiny lights in a dark background like little stars, and the place looked like the inside Elon Musk’s rockets. There was talk of replacing servers with robots, but their union protested loudly and Musk finally heard them, so they remained. 

 Barb brought the coffee to her nose and inhaled deeply, then carefully sipped the hot, foamy liquid. Looking over at Amelia, she began slowly. “Amelia, we’ve had a breakthrough.  I think we’ve figured out how to bridge the gap between dimensions. I mean..” Barb became more animated and excited as she continued. “I mean, mathematically, I think we’ve broken through. I think we might be able to hop through time and space, finally!! The next problem to tackle will be, of course, to build a vehicle that can make the journey. We’ll have to use a droid, naturally.”

Amelia was equally intrigued, having worked on this project with Barb for several years. “Barb!! That’s fantastic! Was it yours? Did you finalize the formulas? Or was it that whacko Louie? Who is getting credit for this?”

“Mine, Baby! Mine! I did it!! I figured out the final piece. And yea, you should have seen Louie,” Barb smirked. “He was not too green with envy.  I had to hide it from him for several days so I could document it before the bastard stole the glory. It’s not that I’m selfish, you understand, but I’ve been working on this formula for almost a decade.”

“I know,” Amelia concurred.  “You deserve it.”

“Hey,” Barb offered, touching Amelia on the shoulder warmly, like a surrogate mother. “Don’t think I’m going to forsake my faithful colleague. I’m putting you in the credits with me.”

“I didn’t doubt you for a moment,” Amelia replied, although she did have a moment of doubt. “Tell me more about this. Where do we go from here? How do we move forward? Is there funding?”

 “So many questions at once,” Barb laughed. “We will need to find someone to create the vehicle. That’s the next step. Once my papers are published, the funding will come. I have no doubt about that. But there’s time for that. Right now, let’s get something stronger than a latte and really celebrate.”  She threw her biodegradable cup in the compactor at the end of her table. The trash would be used by the restaurant to generate the fuel for their building. Sometimes petty thieves would take the trash with them to use for their own vehicles without leaving ample compensation for the establishment, but most places of business chalked it up to the cost of doing business. Whoever would have thought that trash would be a commodity?

Several months previously: Gabon, a translucent entity who lived in the 7th dimension, wandered into the space-time of Dr. Barb Angostino, who lived in the 3rd dimension on a planet called Earth.  Entities in the 7th dimension were often attached, in a symbiotic relationship, to several beings in the 3rd dimension. These beings were able to “be” with more than one 3rd dimensional creature at one time, a concept that was difficult for the 3rd dimensional creatures to comprehend.

 Gabon floated almost invisibly (he-she was perceptible to the well-attuned eye) in the lab where Dr. Angostino worked tirelessly on her work with some kind of symbols (mathematical formulas). When Gabon looked closer, he-she could see that these symbols were common figures that floated through the 7th dimension. He-she listened intently to Dr. Angostino’s thoughts and noticed a similarity to another one of his-her symbiotic Earth-dwelling pairings, a Mr. Braxton Schaeffer.  “Aha!,” thought Gabon in his-her thought-forms, “I should share these symbols with Mr. Braxton Schaeffer. I think he has been searching for these for some time. Won’t he be pleased to find them?”

Braxton took off the goggles. He was manic from the experience. “Lyle, that was incredible! I’ve never experienced anything like it! But…” he hesitated.

“But what?” asked Lyle impatiently? “But what??”

  “How do I know it was real?” Braxton asked nervously. “How do I know that wasn’t some kind of virtual experience I created with those goggles?” Braxton rambled on for several minutes before Lyle could stop him.

  “Brax! Braxton! I think you’re hysterical. Maybe we should get some rest. Just settle down. Maybe even have a celebratory drink. That would calm your nerves.

“I don’t know,” Braxton countered. “I don’t think I should start drinking again. Last time I got involved with drinking it turned into a two year disaster.”

         “If you say so. But I’m not asking you to get loaded. I don’t think you have a problem. You were just having a rough patch in your life. I’m sure you’ll be fine. But hey, it’s up to you. Maybe just a good night’s sleep.”

         “Are you mad?” Braxton screeched. “I can’t go to sleep! I’m on fire. My mind is racing. You’re right. I’m fine. Let’s have a nightcap. It will calm me down.”

         They locked up the goggles and equipment and opened a bottle of fine brandy Braxton had been saving for such an occasion. “Here’s to you, my loyal partner,” Braxton toasted.

“And,” Lyle offered, “I happen to have some cigars that were gifted to me. I rarely smoke them, but they do go with the brandy, so, here you go my friend.” Lyle retrieved his special, hand-made cigars that he hid, since he told no-one that he smoked. But everyone understood that good cigars and fine brandy went together in a long-standing tradition of celebration.

         “To you,” Lyle responded. “To the genius of the century.” They clinked glasses, swirled the brandy in the snifter, inhaled deeply, and took a swig, then sat back like fat, powerful men at a Roman orgy, puffing on their cigars, watching the smoke spiral around the light in the room.

“And by the way, I meant to ask you…how did you finally come up with the winning formula? How did you figure it out?”

         Braxton took a long drink, poured them another and answered, “It was one of those epiphanies, y’know.  I was lying in bed, going over the math in my head for the umpteenth time, just a few months ago, and voila, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I mean, literally, hit me, bam, in the head. I just saw the symbols like they were floating in the air.”

         “But don’t you always see the math in your head, my good friend?” Lyle remarked. “That’s how I do my work. I see the math. Some people see words, I see mathematical symbols. It’s what we do. How was this different?”

         “I don’t know,” Braxton pondered. “Maybe because this was the formula I’d been searching for for 20 years. I mean, math for me is like breathing, or driving a car, right? Automatic. Don’t think about it anymore, really. It just comes in. But this… THIS! This was like…like something tangible. Like the symbols were tangible. They came floating in like iridescent objects. Almost as if…okay, this is going to sound a bit mishegatz.”

         “Mishegatz?” Lyle interrupted. “What’s that? Yiddish?”

         “Yeah,” Braxton continued. “It means crazy. It was almost as if the symbols were given to me by some divine being, you know, or like Jung used to talk about – the collective unconscious – where everything that exists in the universe is just there for the picking, and I plucked it out.”

         Lyle gulped the rest of the brandy in his glass and poured a bit more. Breathing out he said “You never know. You just never know.”

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