Uncle Ed's Surprise

by Howard Faxon

Tags: Science Fiction,

Desc: Science Fiction Story: My mysterious inventor uncle disappeared seven years before. He was declared dead and the will was read. I got his retreat up on the lonely Michigan shoreline. The burglar alarm sterilized the grass. Within I found folders marked "Too dangerous for public dissemination".

It had been seven years since he disappeared. His sister finally had him declared dead so that she

could get her hands on his bank accounts.

Uncle Ed was a degreed mathematician with an innate sense for electromagnetic theory. For example, he was a contributing author to the theory of the Stellarator, a plasma storage device that mimicked the flows around our sun and while he was on the team, crated a practical fusion-based electrical supply. He held several patents in audio theory and audio power transmission. He was the one that applied digital filters to the THX audio reproduction system.

As a teen I’d been fascinated with what he was working on at the time. He always seemed to have time for me. I pretty well owed my Master’s in electrical engineering to our Sunday afternoon conversations.

Aunt Inga (He used to call her Aunt Bell for the constant high volume she always emitted) finally got her comeuppance at the reading of the will. She received a land rover with a high power audio system and a broken volume control. He’d hot-wired the ignition control processor to the sound system, so that if the volume control was repaired the vehicle wouldn’t start.

Her husband received a very nice pair of noise-canceling ear plugs.

All but a quarter million of his accounts were distributed among his various nieces and nephews, except for me.

I was willed his patents, a quarter million dollars and his retirement home on Lake Superior, with all taxes and transfer fees pre-paid. Nobody knew where he went, but he sure prepared for it.

I’d never been to his vacation cum retirement home. Absolutely nobody else had either. It was waaaay up there, on the lake shore outside of Sutton’s Bay. The package I received held three keys and a rather hefty alarm dongle, along with a sheet of paper bearing a rather long and involved deactivation sequence. The dongle opened on a hinge like a clamshell cell phone to expose a tiny keyboard. It came with a very thin probe.

After transferring his patents to my name and registering my legal address to the lakeside home I began the multi-day trek to one of the few places in the lower 48 that was North of portions of Canada.

I wanted to see the place with fresh eyes, so I stayed the night in Traverse City. Since I’d not visited the area before I had no feeling for the grade of the local restaurants. I took my father’s advice and walked around the restaurant’s building of the place I chose. If they don’t keep a clean back end, and if the fumes coming out of the hood smell appetizing--not foul, then you’ve got a good bet of not being poisoned. His other advice along that line was to look for the evidence of policemen, truckers and garbage men in the parking lot. They don’t make a habit of going back to places that poisoned them or charged too much for their fare. I stayed the night in a Best Western motel and left early.

All the property the house sat on was covered by native grasses. The house itself sat alone on a hill, and was encompassed by a circular security fence. Something struck me as strange. Then I noticed that all the vegetation within the fence line was dead. I could see the house up the hill. Something gave me the feeling that it could see me as well. Every couple of minutes a dark red light rotated around the tower from under the widow’s walk. As the light passed over me I felt my teeth shake and a heard a deep “thrumming” noise. Whatever it was, it felt armed and dangerous.

I dropped the truck’s tail gate for someplace to sit, then pulled out the dongle and its key sheet. I entered the master code, which involved the current date and time. I heard a pervasive climbing whistle that got quite a bit louder before it faded out. The light beneath the widow’s walk changed to look like a yard light. I unlocked the gate, drove through and locked up behind me. The driveway was in darned good shape for not being used for over seven years. I suppose that I should mention that it was late June when I arrived.

The house was designed after an old gothic pattern with an encircling first floor porch. The entire building was supported by a maze of thick rock walls. The driveway led to a wide bay under the porch. From there a broad stone stairway led up to a double door, all of which was wide enough to easily move a king-sized bed or a tremendous piece of lab-ware. I climbed the stairs in silence, unlocked the door and pushed it wide open. The silence was pervasive.

There wasn’t a speck of dust in the place. That was spooky as hell. As a bachelor I knew how fast a place gets dirty. What was even stranger, the food in the refrigerator, freezer, bread box and larder was perfectly edible. Obviously Uncle Ed had done something rather unusual with his “burglar alarm”.

I set about exploring the first floor. I began to get nervous when I realized that every window showed a totally different environment, and there were many more doors in the outer walls than I expected--six of them on the first floor alone. I found a well set up first floor bedroom next to a modern bathroom with a Japanese plunge tub. While climbing the stairs to the second floor I noticed a dramatic drop in temperature and humidity. I found four bedrooms and four bathrooms that appeared not to have been updated since 1900. Each bedroom had a door leading out to what should have been a small walk or access to a common porch, a door to a bathroom and a door to a walk-in closet. A window sat adjacent to each door in the outside wall. The broad circling stairway led further upwards to a much smaller floor, made up of one large room a bit larger than an Olympic pool. It looked like a ballroom one would find owned by the French sun kings or by the Romanov royalty of historical Russia. It was cold as an Alberta winter morning in there. It held four more doors--one per wall. I saw a light rime of frost in the corners of each of the window mullions. At one end a locked door led to another stair well leading further upwards. Upon opening the door I saw my breath in front of me and found it difficult to breath, not only from the cold but from the lack of air pressure. The heavy door at the top was completely sealed with ice and frost rime. I didn’t open it for fear of needing an oxygen tank and an insulated mountain suit. I didn’t even approach the thing. I closed the bottom door and re-locked it.

I found a stack of some rather scary monographs in the first floor library, all neatly piled up on a table. Each one had a stamp on its cover, “Too dangerous for public dissemination”. The top one was labelled, “Theory and implementation of achronic fields”. the first line in the monograph warned against operating it while inside the radius of the field’s generator. The diagram looked suspiciously like a stellarator with some odd cyclical alternate paths. Another monograph was titled, “Obtaining power through a harmonic field power siphon”. The frontispiece read, “All theories herein acknowledged to have been derived from the working papers of Nicola Tesla.”

Yet a third was labelled, “Visiting parallel universes for fun and profit”. Yet another was titled, “Construction notes for building a man-portable fusion generator”. There were several more bound monographs beneath that but those few were the cream of the crop.

I carefully boxed them up and stored them on a high shelf, behind a locked glass-mullioned door. Someday when I was wiser I might take them down again, but combine any one of them with a raging drunk with a grudge, namely me when I got hammered, was just asking for Gotterdamung.

While exploring the kitchen for access to a larder I discovered the most dangerous place on the planet, and no doubt within the solar system. I found Uncle Ed’s laboratory.

A side door which was built like a battleship hull was covered with warning signs and required both of the keys I’d been left to open. Nobody was going to profess ignorance on going through that thing. Once inside I found a 3-D model of the house. Each floor had its own console, as did each hallway, each room, each door and each window, along with two more consoles pointing to the house itself. Another desk held several analog meters and manual dials. I noted that one of the largest gauges was scaled in hundreds of megawatts. The meters were live. This was well beyond my level of understanding so I reversed course and locked the door behind me. I felt a pervasive atavistic fear while in there. He’d done something to generate a deep down lizard-brain class of terror within any visitor to that room.

Another room held a fabrication shop with an industrial-sized doorway, apparently leading outside.

I returned to the library to see if I could find some sort of letter or journal addressed to me. The large library-style table upon which the dangerous monographs had sat possessed a drawer in front of the one chair. Within I found a simple little journal with my name written on the cover. I opened it to read,

“Dear Adam. Among all of my relatives, you have proved over time to be the least narcisstic, self-serving or psychopathic. You surprised me at nearly every turn. I found that watching you mature and helping you over the rough spots brought a breath of fresh air to my life. You incorporate several rare abilities--driving intelligence coupled with intuition, the wisdom to know where to stop pursuing a concept lest it come back to bite you in the ass and the perseverance to approach problems from multiple directions when stymied. Hence, the house and the inventions herein are yours to experiment with.

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