Prelude

by Flighttime

Tags: Science Fiction,

Desc: Science Fiction Story: Frank Cardon is a curious soul. A genius with almost idiot savant proportions, he posesses no social skills. Frank's mother dies leaving him the fortune he needs to complete their life-long project to build the first anti-gravity drive. With his lawyer/partner, he pulls off a stunt that secures his name in the history books and starts humankind on its migration to space.



Frank's clip-on striped necktie laid flat like a giant pointer as it bobbed on the water's surface from where it attached to his neck. He yanked it free and tossed it away as he gain found himself in the middle of an enormous black pool, surrounded on all sides by sheer granite walls rising straight up from where the water lapped at its hard edges. He whipped his arms around, and spun his head looking for an anomaly somewhere in the rock face. There was none. The black water hid his body below the chest. The bottom could be six inches below or six miles beneath him. How many other things were lurking down there that he couldn't see? It scared him.

He swam the 25 yards from the middle in order to examine the rock wall more closely. The water had no temperature, but Frank knew he should have felt something against his body. He reached the wall, and surveyed the rock face. There was nothing to grab onto, not even the smallest ledge or crag. Edges precisely cut in the rock ran vertically, cog-like the entire circumference of the cylindrical chasm. He continued to tread water and leaned his head back to peer at the walls, which rode upward toward a cloudless blue sky above. The bright yellow sunball shined down into the hole and sparkled on the water's surface. Frank winced, as the reflected light stung his eyes. His foot skated along the slick wall looking for traction below the surface, but his feet slipped away against the algae coated surface. The jagged verticle edges encircled and imprisoned him with no horizontal irregularities anywhere along the surface.

He was tiring quickly as he pushed his arms through the water to stay afloat. He swam out into the middle, but squeezed his eyes shut to avoid looking into the black hole of water that surrounded him.

A wave surged through his heart as something brushed by his feet. It was a current, steadily swirling beneath him gaining strength. He compensated his treading as the spinning increased, but in this gigantic dark lake, he was a lost drop meaningless inside the huge mass of liquid.

With Frank at the center, concentric rings of water spun around him as the entire body of water gained speed. Though his body remained above the surface, he was sucked down into the middle of the giant whirlpool, his speed increasing as the water level dropped. He calculated the energy required to propel such a mass and logged the answer away. As a soft spinning blur along with the cone of moving water, now 30 feet deep, Frank felt himself growing lighter, sensed his mass decreasing. He was pulled deeper into the vortex, his speed increasing exponentially, but at the same time, the force of gravity had less effect on him to the point where he felt nearly weightless. Time stretched and then contracted to a single point as the massive forces controlling his body became too great. His mind surrendered to the black out and swallowed him whole.

Frank landed hard on the wooden floor, dazed and out of breath, his gray suit a mass of rumpled folds, twisted and misshapen around his torso. The sweat-soaked white shirt clung in wet patches uncomfortably to his skin. He planted his hands open-palmed as he tried to ground himself against the world still racing around in his head. He slowly opened his eyes and tried to focus on a fixed object in the room, but it just sped by. He shut his eyes and reached for the stuffed chair where he'd fallen asleep. He pulled himself into it, sank into the worn cushions, and buried his head into in his hands, waiting for everything to pull together. His mind still swirled with the feelings from the dream, but mixed in with the sensations were equations with long solutions to problems, which had plagued him for months. Finally, he opened his eyes and cautiously looked upwards. The world had slowed enough for him to reenter.

Heavy curtains were drawn over the windows keeping the living room dark. A sharp sliver of light cut through the split where the two halves met.

The box holding Mother was still there.

Frank rose from the chair, walked to the casket and raised the lid.

Emily lay there, still, her arms folded across the chest of her favorite dress. It was the one she always wore when they went out for special dinners. Frank used to love how the soft airy fabric gained a life of it's own when she walked. Now, the material was inert. The air no longer lifted it and no restaurant would ever see it enter their door again.

Emily always said, she wasn't sure for whom it was worse. The cancer pain, which had traveled through her body for so long, was not as bad as the pain of having to watch her little boy endure her suffering. Frank never saw the real anguish she felt when she watched him leave her bedside. That pain was always more unbearable. Still, she refused to let the disease control her, and continued to go to work everyday, forcing the pain down.

Frank returned to his chair and sat alone in the middle of the living room where he had spent most of his life. The same wood floor that Emily used to pace up and back during his colicky babyhood, now supported the box holding her body.

He looked at his watch. The funeral parlor would be here soon to pick her up.

Zeta snaked figure eight's around his legs, her tail gently brushed under the crook of his knee. He reached down and picked her up, mindlessly stroking the long gray fur, and relaxing him with her soft purrs. "I think we have the answer now, girl."

Emily's death had been a certainty in their lives for the last year. But even though she had done her best to prepare Frank in every way she could, it wasn't enough. He hadn't known a single day in his twenty-six years without her. His mind tried to quantify her existence as it related to time, space and mass. He couldn't seem to grasp the fact that she occupied a space on this planet for so many years and now she didn't, her presence in this time had vanished, as unimportant as a single star in the night sky.

The yellowed walls of the old Craftsman home had witnessed the lives of Frank and Emily. They held stories of Emily teaching young Frank complicated theorems in advanced mathematics. They secreted tales of arguments and fights over astrophysics and unified field theory. They witnessed her strict discipline when it came to his schoolwork and the tedious formation and devotion to the plan. They cried tears as Frank and Emily watched the world terrorize itself into a frenzied panic. They moaned for Emily with the finality of a terminal disease.

The doorbell rang, its gong vibrated off the walls startling Frank from his fixation on the casket. "Must be them," he thought.

He straightened his glasses, and tried to smooth the wrinkles from his suit as he walked toward the door.

The bell rang again, just as loud and annoying, but his speed remained steady, calculated. He only saw a short figure outlined through the leaden door glass trimmed with lace curtain. It didn't make sense. Emily's paranoid tone whispered through his head. "Trust no one, Frank, especially the government."

"You from the government?" He yelled through the door.

"Me?" The silhouetted figure shouted back in a high voice.

Frank pulled open the heavy door and squinted into the hazy sunlight.

Ravi Bannerjee stood holding her briefcase, looking up and down the walls, as if she were assessing the house for its value. The tangle of red hair, which just touched the shoulders of her grey suit, grated in contrast to the deep chocolate tone of her skin. The clothes were almost wearing her, as the sharply cut suit advertised the curves of her body. Large dark sunglasses hid her eyes like some 1970's promotion.

Frank disliked her immediately. She reminded him of those smarmy Sitcom lawyers. Over her shoulder, he could see there was no hearse parked on the curb, only a silver Mercedes.

"You here to take Mother?" he asked.

Ravi slid the sunglasses down her nose. "Excuse me? Take your Mother? I don't understand?" Her smile was tinged with arrogance and the tone was condescending as if addressing a snail before pouring salt on it. The hint of an Indian accent slightly tainted her voice, it's original inflection trained away by years of education.

It was strange to Frank's ear.

"I'm sorry. I'm assuming that Mrs. Emily Cardon has ... passed on." She pushed the glasses back up. "Otherwise, I wouldn't be here. You are Frank Cardon, I'm going to assume, her only son and relative," she said it a little too clearly, so he would understand.

"Yes. Who are you?"

"Ravi Bannerjee, attorney. I was notified by the funeral home when your Mother died."

"Well, I don't think I need a lawyer Ms. Bannerjee. Mother and I didn't have anything that we would need a lawyer to take any part of. Good day." Frank started to close the door. She put her foot in the jam, blocking it.

"Excuse me, Mister Cardon, Frank. You don't understand. I don't want any money from you. I have your mother's last will and testament. She made it years ago."

Caught off-guard, Frank opened the door. "Mother never said anything."

Retracting her foot from the door jam, she peered over her glasses again, incredulous. "You didn't know your mother had a will? That's awfully strange."

"What are you saying Ms. Bannerjee?

Ravi was caught off guard. "I ... I'm not saying anything. What did you think would happen to all this after she passed?" She gestured to the house.

"Mother didn't like to talk about that stuff. She was in pain ... And my concern wasn't about money."

"I wasn't suggesting ... may I come in, so we can talk? Mr. Cardon?"

"If you must." He opened the door all the way, forcing himself to be gracious.

"I understand how you feel. This is an emotional time for you." Ravi removed her glasses, walked into the living room and stopped when she saw Emily Cardon's corpse in the open coffin. Her knees went.

Frank instinctively grabbed her small frame as she fell back towards him.

"Ohhh. I didn't expect," her swooned.

Frank helped her walk to the Learning Parlor and into one of the molded plastic chairs. "Can I get you some water?"

"Yes ... thank you." She pulled a tissue from her pocket and wiped her face.

Frank walked to the small lab sink. He grabbed a beaker from the counter and filled it from the chrome, goose-necked faucet.

Ravi took a long drink and several deep breathes, like she'd done this before. "Frag it! I hate when that happens ... I'm a little squeamish ... don't handle the dead that well ... I sense that's what you meant by 'come to take her'."

Ravi surveyed the Learning Parlor. It was an odd mix of schoolroom and laboratory. Books covering a multitude of subjects crowded the ceiling high shelves. A model of the solar system, each planet precisely detailed, slowly rotated. A thin layer of dust coated the top of each globe. Complex, intricately detailed models of rockets and spacecraft of every size, shape and design hung from the ceiling on cloth strands caked with dust. Elaborate electronic components crowded the tables and counters, a labyrinth of wires and cables running haphazardly between them. Piles of file folders and stacks of random paper were strewn about every other unoccupied piece of counter.

Ravi knew the microscope, the telescope, and maybe a computer, that was all. The rest of it, was as foreign to her as a legal brief was to a chimp. She was impressed.

"What is this? It's pretty elaborate."

"Just a hobby, Ms. Bannerjee." Frank gazed at the books and equipment he and his mother had shared. "Mother and I did them over the years."

"Impressive. Were you working on anything in particular?"

"This is just the playroom. Ms. Bannerjee, the will, please?"

"Yes, yes, I'm sorry. And please, call me Ravi." She placed her briefcase on the table and dialed in the three-digit combination on the front. The gold latches popped open. She pulled out a large, thick manila envelope.

Frank recognized his mother's writing on the front. A wax seal embossed with an ornate imprint secured the flap. Ravi took out a pair of reading glasses from the breast pocket of her jacket and put them on. They softened her face, a slight redemption to Frank.

She slid her finger under the flap, breaking the seal and removed a pile of legal papers, two business size envelopes and a safe deposit key. One envelope had Frank's name and the other, Ravi's.

Frank picked up the key and examined the attached white tag. "That's her bank."

Ravi handed him the envelope and then looked over the will. "Pretty standard as I remember it."

Frank read the envelope- 'Frank, open this when you're alone and after you have been to the bank. Mother.'

"She left you the house and anything in the checking account..." She flipped through the pages. "No bequests." She looked up at Frank. "Did you have a father, or was there a Mr. Cardon?"

Frank stared blankly at his envelope. He answered, detached. "No," but then realized and answered again, belligerent, "No, of course not."

Ravi withdrew into the documents.

Frank stared at the envelope, admiring his mother's fine writing style. He remembered watching her sweeping style along the page. It was dead now, lying in the other room.

Emily prided herself on good penmanship, but that was her generation. She never stressed it with Frank, he always had a computer. She knew where the priorities of his future were.

"Nothing very complicated here, Mr. Cardon." She closed the papers and opened the envelope with her name. Her little lawyer eyes went wide. Inside was a tri-folded piece of paper containing a cashier's check for $50,000 and a note.

Ms. Bannerjee,

Enclosed, you will find a retainer check for your future services as required by my son, Frank Cardon.

I have spent most of my life educating and training Frank in the sciences. He is different from everyone else, He thinks differently. Trust him, follow his lead and you will do things you have, until now, only seen in the movies.

She pondered the letter for a moment. The ranting fantasy of a crazy dead woman? The check was no fantasy that was for sure. She hadn't remembered Emily as being out of the ordinary when she prepared her will. She put the note and check back in the envelope and tucked it inside her briefcase. "Your Mother was a surprising woman."

Frank continued to stare blankly ahead, but nodded slightly, in acknowledgment. His head spun around. The front door glass rattled under someone's hard knocks. "That must be them." Frank stood.

Ravi followed him.

"Well, Ms. Bannerjee, we're going to take Mother to the cemetery now."

Ravi quietly studied Frank's rather unremarkable features, and wondered what lay inside? What had Emily Cardon done?

"Frank? Would you mind if I came along? I'd be happy to drive."

"That would be fine, Ms. Bannerjee." He walked out of the Learning Parlor.

"Please, call me Ravi," she said to his back.

"Perhaps one day, Ms. Bannerjee." He opened the heavy door.

Ravi stood baffled by Frank's completely incongruous nature, but it just intrigued her more. Frank Cardon lightly triggered something in her. It wasn't looks. She sensed an oddly appealing energy around him.

She watched the two dark-suited men carefully guide the coffin past the Learning Parlor and out the front door.

"We're leaving Ms. Bannerjee," Frank called from the other room.

Ravi followed the hearse onto the freeway entrance ramp west, for the short ride to Forest Lawn. Frank stared out the window, silent.

She turned on the radio and punched in soft music thinking it might relax him, but Frank promptly reached over and turned it off without saying a word.

The hearse passed under the heavy wrought iron arching gates of the cemetery with Ravi close behind. White memorial markers shone on the emerald green hillside on each side as the two vehicles crept respectfully along the small road deep into the cemetery. Ravi was beginning to get annoyed when the hearse finally slowed and stopped. Emily's prepared grave waited off to the right.

Frank got out of the car and paused to watch another funeral taking place while Emily's coffin was removed from the hearse. A large white canopy protected a flag draped coffin and a large throng of darkly dressed people poured their grief out around it. Green Astroturf hid the neatly piled mounds of dirt taken from the ground and lined along the edges of the hole. The casket was suspended over the opening, hiding any evidence of its final destination, six feet away.

In contrast, Frank and Ravi stood silent and alone in front of Emily's box. Frank didn't cry, speak or show emotion of any kind. He just stared at the ordinary polished wood box.

Ravi felt compelled to say something, but she barely knew Emily Cardon. She'd met with her once, about two years ago. She handed her a manila envelope and instructed her very specifically as to what she wanted. That was it. Emily had called her a couple of other times and asked some questions, but Ravi couldn't even remember what they were about.

"You know Ms. Bannerjee," Frank began, "Mother was the most enlightened person I knew."

His sudden voice startled her, but she seized the opportunity. "How so?"

"She taught me there are only two kinds of people in the world, decent and indecent." Without uttering another sound or any warning, Frank started to walk away from the grave-sight.

Ravi watched him walk away, stunned by his abrupt departure. She grabbed her bag and scrambled to catch up with him.

Frank stopped about 200 feet from the other service and watched the large group, their heads bowed in reverence. "Ms. Bannerjee, do you think any of those people think about the future beyond the next tank of gasoline their cars will burn?"

Ravi was having difficulty keeping up with him, but knew she had to consider her answer carefully. "I think now, at this point in time, Frank, everybody is asking where the next tank of gas will come from. What they want to know is, what's it going to cost and will they go broke paying for it." She thought she answered well, purposely playing to his sensibilities.

Frank managed a little smile at her and from inside, she smiled back. She answered correctly.

He turned back to watch the funeral. "Ms. Bannerjee, do you have any children?"

"Me? Children? No, I was married for a short time, but it didn't work out because..." She stopped herself. "It just didn't. Why do you ask?"

"Because children are the only way we can shape our future..." He looked back over towards Emily's coffin, "At least that's what Mother said."

"No, I uhh ... don't have any kids, yet."

Frank turned to her, "Well, Ms. Bannerjee, I have to be going. Thank you."

Ravi looked into his eyes and was immediately struck. One eye was blue and the other was green. She was astounded she hadn't noticed it before. It wasn't a subtle variation in hue or tone, but a bright color shift. It made her feel as if she was looking at two different people. Her lawyer voice told her to shut up, don't say anything, be careful with this relationship right now, but her human curiosity thought different. "Frank, I just noticed your..."

"My eyes..." He cut her off. "It's interesting you noticed. Mother said not everyone would."

She wanted to look behind them, wanted to drill deep into his head and find out exactly what made him think. "Frank, your mother..."

"Gave you a retainer. Yes, I know. That's seems like something she would have done."

Ravi was unaccustomed to being a step behind her clients. "She, uh, seemed to feel that you would be needing my services at some point ... So, if you need anything, just call any one of the four numbers on my card and you'll be sure to get through to me."

"I'll keep that in mind." He stepped off the grass carpet onto the road.

"Where are you going? Can I drive you?" She didn't want to leave him.

"No, thank you. I prefer to walk." He turned left and walked stiffly away.

"What do you mean, walk? You're in the middle of Forest Lawn. You live in Pasadena. You can't walk home."

Without stopping, Frank waved the back of his hand at her. "Thank you, Ms. Bannerjee. And please be sure to take care of the house paperwork."

Ravi stood there, off-balance from the day's events. Behind her, the cemetery workers lowered Emily's reliquary into the ground. It settled quietly at the bottom of the hole.

Still clutching her briefcase, she walked back to her car. Something wasn't right, and the feeling began to churn itself inside her gut. At 35 years old, she had wrestled with this type of feeling once before during a tumultuous event, which caused her to abandon her family forever. But that situation gave her a clear, tangible path to follow. This one felt like stepping off a cliff. Ultimately, she knew there was no choice. Whatever was going to happen was meant to.

She moved the shift lever into drive and slowly pulled away.


Four days had passed since Emily's death and when Ravi had last seen or spoken with Frank. During that time, barely an hour ticked by without him crossing her mind. The experience of meeting him, and Emily's burial, the will and letters, a fifty thousand retainer; it all was an almost surreal experience compared to her staid corporate life. It consumed her to the point that none of the other cases piled onto the corner of her desk had received the slightest attention since then. She had tried in vain to search for Frank and Emily Cardon on the Internet, but every search dead-ended. There was nothing, not a driver's license, no marriage certificates, nothing. She experimented with every combination she could think of and still come up blank.

Ravi turned the desk chair in her small two-room office and faced the window. She dialed his number again and counted out the eight rings until the machine answered and again she shivered hearing Emily's recorded voice. "This is the Cardon residence. Leave a message, please." It was the 12th time she'd heard it.

After the beep, "Hi Frank, it's Ravi again. Just wanted to see if you were okay ... again. I'll try later. Bye." She tried to strangle the receiver as she hung it up. "Shit."

The legal folder with the papers from Emily Cardon's estate sat squarely on the desk in front of her. The lined yellow pages with her notes sat on top. She examined the notes trying to gain some addition insight or knowledge beyond what she already knew. Something in the corner of the paper caught her eye.

She quickly transferred the words from the note into the search window. Several entries piled one after the other onto the screen. Her fingernail moved down the screen and stopped on an entry that matched. She threw her things into the black leather case and hurried out the door.


The orange glow from an early sun illuminated the side of the garage as Frank snapped the lock shut on the door and walked up the path to the house. After the burial, he'd gone to the bank, as per Emily's instructions, but then came home and closed himself in the garage until now.

Zeta trotted along side rubbing up against his leg and meowing from hunger. He picked her up and yawned deeply. "I'm sorry Zeta. I got caught up. You know how it is. Let's go see what there is for you."

He walked into the kitchen and retrieved the last can of cat food from the cupboard, and scooped the contents onto a plate. Before he could put it down, Zeta eagerly dashed at the mound of food and purred as she grabbed mouthfuls.

Frank walked into the living room and stood there watching the early sun stream through the windows. He always liked how the morning light made the room glow orange. It reminded him of when Emily used to get him up early for schoolwork in the Learning Parlor.

He looked through the doorway and stared into the empty space where they had spent so much time. The letter and papers were on the table where he left them the day of the funeral. The letter. He'd forgotten about her instructions to read it after going to the bank.

He walked over to the table and sat in one of the chairs. He picked up the envelope and studied Emily's written words. 'After the bank' was neatly written in her sweeping cursive style.

Frank ripped open the end of the envelope and pulled out the paper. He gingerly unfolded it, feeling nervous about reading the last words she wanted him to hear.

My Dearest Frank,

Undoubtedly, you have been to the bank by now, so you know you will have enough funds to complete the project. Remember what we discussed. Don't tell anyone about anything until you are ready except Ravi Bannerjee. She has by no doubt at this time noticed your eyes. As I told you, only those whom you can trust will notice. You will have to bring her to the next level soon in order for everything to fall into place. Her mother was my best friend when we were in school. You will have to trust her.

Involve no one else with the project until the patents are in place and the rest of the plan has been accomplished. As I've always told you, be especially beware of the government. They will try to take it away if they find out.

Frank, you are a singularity on this Earth. The world's future has a special place in it for you. But you know that. Also know that I love you very much. Thank you for making my life a pleasure.

For the last four days Frank had sequestered himself in the garage applying the answers given to him in the dream. Before Emily died, they had been on the verge of completing the final equations that would tie all the physical elements together. Her death did not stop that process from occurring. Frank was fully aware that Emily's genius continued to flow into his sub conscious through his dreams. She told him it would.

He clutched the paper with the last words she wanted him to hear. His mind was as overworked as his body and the residual effect of everything began to rush over him. He laid his head on the table and held the letter in front of his face reading her words over again. He wanted to tell her in the worst way of the incredible progress he'd made in the last four days. He wanted to share the wonderful news. "We did it, Mom." Fatigue rushed over him and Frank closed his eyes as the words from Emily's letter played through his head. Small drops gathered on his eyelashes and gravity forced the pooled tears to run over the bridge of his nose and drop onto the table. "We did it... ," mumbled from his lips incoherently as sleep took over his mind.


Ravi parked her car on a side street in Old Town Pasadena, about a block from her destination. Pasadena had such an honest old world character, unlike Beverly Hills.

She walked down Union Street and turned right, looking at the Google map print out. It should have been somewhere on this block, in the middle. She continued down the block and stopped in front of a small storefront. "You've got to be kidding me." A tired neon sign barely flickered 'Buck's Café.'

A little bell tinkled when she opened the door into a small, dingy cafe. Ten tables were scattered on top of a cracked, broken tile floor. Behind a small counter, a short stocky man, dressed in less than white clothes, shoveled grease and food around on a sizzling black grill. A few unkempt patrons huddled into themselves, hoisting forkfuls of the grilled grease into their mouths. It made Ravi slightly queasy. She had stepped into a 40's noir movie.

She approached the counter wondering if her suspicions were right. "Excuse me..."

The grill man turned to face her, spatula in hand, and sure enough, as she expected, a toothpick hung loosely from his mouth surrounded by a rough dark scraggle of beard. She had to stop herself from laughing.

"Yeah? What can I do for you?" He looked Ravi up and down, like he was inspecting a slab of meat, which in his case, he was. "Well, what do we have here? Aren't you a little dish of curry." The toothpick shifted from one side of his mouth to the other as he grinned at his joke.

"I'm guessing that your food is as greasy as your comedy." Ravi wiped the blacktopped silver stool with a napkin before she took a seat in front of the counter. She felt redeemed. "My name's Ravi Bannerjee. You're Buck?"

"Yeah, I'm Buck. How can I not be of service to you?"

Ravi was undaunted, "Did Emily Cardon work here?"

"Yeah. She used to. But it's been days since I last seen her, so I don't know anymore." He wiped his hands in the multi-stained apron hanging off his waist.

"Didn't you call her home?" she asked.

"Sure, I did. But the damn machine picked up and no one ever called me back. So I figures she blew me off. You know something?"

"Yah, I do ... She died."

Buck's rough face softened. "What?" Something instinctual made him slide the little cooks hat off the top of his head out of respect and look down. "I'm sorry. She was a nice lady. I guess I kinda' expected it."

"So, you knew she was sick?"

"Oh yeah, she didn't talk about it, but I could tell.

"And her son Frank didn't call to tell you?" Ravi didn't waste any time.

"That kid? Nah, I wouldn't have expected him to."

"What do you mean?"

"I used to let her kid come and eat dinner here most nights. It was part of our deal ... He was weird, that's all. Kinda' shy, quiet ... not real good manners."

Ravi couldn't help but finish the joke, "unlike you" in her mind. Instead, she kept on, "What did Emily and Frank talk about?"

Buck straightened up, suddenly becoming tense. "Why do ya wanna' know? You a Fed?"

"You ever seen a Fed dress like this in real life?" Ravi placed her hand delicately on her waist and turned her hips slightly.

"Well, if you're not a Fed then you must be a lawyer. Hate them too."

"Actually, as it turns out, I'm Emily Cardon's lawyer and there are a few things I'm trying to piece together. Namely, what Frank was all about." Ravi pulled a twenty-dollar bill from her pocket and placed it on the counter.

Buck looked down at the cash, "Lady, you may be stunner, but a twenty spot barely gets me hard."

Ravi frowned, reached in her pocket and placed two more twenties on the table.

"Now we're gettin' somewhere. I can tell you this. That was one brainy kid. He and Emily used to sit and talk about all kinds of science crap. I never knew what the hell they were talkin' about."

"Emily?"

"Oh yeah. She was one smart lady."

"What about Mr. Cardon? Did she ever talk about him?"

"Not much. All I ever found out in the ten years she worked here was that he was a sorry sonofabitch. He took off when Frank was little. Left the house to her ... paid for."

"That explains how she could afford such a nice house," Ravi muttered. "What else about Frank?" she said to Buck.

He continued, "She used to talk up a storm about what a genius he was. How he was gonna' change everything. He may have been smart, but he never went to college or nuthin'. Least' that I was aware of. She was always afraid of the government ... Didn't want Frank's mind spoiled by what she called, 'Polluted Thinkers' or some such crap."

"So ... did Frank ever have a job or anything?" Ravi was pushing as far as she could.

"Not as far as I know. He just stayed in the house and studied science stuff or watched television and then come here for dinner. Listen, you got a lot more questions Ms. Bannerjee? If you ain't noticed, I got a lotta' orders waiting." He gestured with his spatula to the room.

Ravi looked around at the empty tables and got the point. She picked up her briefcase and headed to the door. "Oh Buck..." She pulled the knob before stopping and turning back toward him, "Did you ever notice Frank's eyes?

"Yeah, he had two. That what you're after?"

"Yes, exactly. Well, thank you for your time ... and your ripping sense of humor," she fake smiled at him.

"Sweetheart, you and your money are welcome here, anytime." Buck smiled back at her as the bell over the door signaled her departure.

Sitting in her car, Ravi hesitated behind the wheel. She knew damn well where she was going next ... Then why did she just sit there? What was Frank Cardon going to do that made her so scared? She had learned practically nothing she didn't already know, it just deepened the mystery. Emily Cardon couldn't have supported the two of them on the waitress paycheck from a sleazy cafe and clearly Frank didn't work. What was it with Emily and all the science stuff? Buck made her out to be some kind of doctorate.

She picked up her cell phone and speed dialed the number. Again the machine picked up. "This is the Card..." She jabbed her finger as hard as she could against the 'END' button and threw the phone against the passenger door. "Frag it. That's it."

She started the car and drove off.


Frank swam back out into the middle again and looked around the entire granite perimeter of the chasm. He was tired and breathed heavily as he continued to keep himself afloat, treading water. The immense body of water was dead calm, except for the turbulence his movement created. He watched the expanding ripples from his effort work their way toward the rock wall.

Something caught his eye on one part of the wall. A line in the rock that seemed to horizontally intersect the vertical lines carved into its face. Frank peered hard at what might be a door outline. He couldn't tell.

He felt the swirl of a current begin to twist around his legs. Looking at the point where the wall and water met, he could see the entire body of water moving to the left, starting to build into the vortex. He remembered seeing ballerinas hold their heads while spinning and he tried the same trick to study the outline closer. He was sure there was something different about that part of the wall. But if he tried to swim away from the center, the inertia of the spinning water would hurl him into the wall, most likely killing him. He was now sure the anomaly he detected in the rock face was a door. He dug inside himself for every joule of strength and swam as hard as he could against the current toward the irregularity. The entire body of water moved around the chasm against him as he gained against the force, but it served to strengthen his resolve. The harder he swam, the stronger the current seemed to pound against him. He swam hard toward the door. At the very last second, he lunged for the outline and managed to grab it with his fingertips. The force of the water sprayed up around him as it tried to rip his grasp from the wall. He closed his eyes and with the last of his strength, pushed against the outline, which fell away. On the other side was the deep black infinity of space with the Earth's moon looming large and bright.

From above, he heard a sound. It was familiar, but the words were faint and unintelligible. The voice spoke again, this time more clear and distinct. It called his name. He looked up at the sky toward where the voice emanated and then back through the door at the moon shining against a background of stars.

"Frank! Can you hear me?" Ravi yelled into his numbed face and shook by the shoulder. She watched him have the dream, witnessed his face contort and twist to the unconscious images pummeling his slumped body on the Learning Parlor table.

"Frank, wake up!" She shook him harder.

Ripped from his dream, Frank sat up straight into consciousness and tried to focus on the spinning woman in front of him, but his brain stilled drifted between worlds. The feeling of the vortex pushing against him was still strong as was the image of the moon hanging in space on the other side of the door. He closed his eyes again and laid his head back down until the sensation began to subside.

"Ms. Bannerjee, how did you get in? ... What time is it?"

"It's six-thirty and you left the door open. Are you okay? That must've been some dream."

"I suppose that's one way of putting it."

"Do you ever listen to your messages?" She neglected to say that most of them were from her.

"I've been in the shop working, there's only a high speed..." He snapped his head up at her. "I don't particularly recognize your authority to question me, Ms. Bannerjee."

Ravi was incredulous at his audacity, even though his blue/green eyes glaring back. "Recognize my ... Listen, Mister Cardon, you didn't even have the courtesy to call Buck when your Emily died." She took a moment to calm herself, but then continued, "I went and had a long talk with him this afternoon. He had a lot of interesting things to say about you and Emily..."

Frank cut in, "Like what? Did he tell you that I used to eat dinner there every night? Or that Mother and I used to talk about scientific gobbledy-gook all the time? Buck's a good excuse for a cliché and not quite yet a human being."

"You are one arrogant jerk. you know that? Do you believe everything revolves around you?"

Frank, clear headed now, rose from his chair and walked toward the door. "Maybe not now, Ms. Bannerjee. Will you come with me?" he turned and looked at Ravi. "It's time I showed you."

Ravi stood for a second, her face still angry. "Where are we going?"

"Out to the garage, I want to show you something."

Ravi showed no reaction, but inside, wailed with delight, because she knew where he was taking her. She followed him out the door.

They walked along the porch toward the garage. "Ms. Bannerjee, I don't expect you to agree with everything I do or say, or even to understand the principles of my intentions. I do expect you to trust my instincts in the same way you trust your own. I understand that I seem like an arrogant man. I think perhaps a person needs a certain amount of arrogance if they feel determined about achieving a goal."

Ravi held her tongue and let him sermonize.

Frank stopped at the end of the porch and studied a brass wind chime modeled into the nine planets of the solar system. "Mother found this at a garage sale years ago. We used to sit out here and watch it spin around itself." He blew against the chime, causing it to spin faster and louder. "Do you know what it's like to be the wind, Ms. Bannerjee? To be such a great force that the very spin of the planet hangs on your will? Let me ask you a question. What does the world revolve around?"

His endless exposition clashed with her simplistic mindset as Ravi's patience meter went into the red. "I'm guessing the Sun isn't what you're referring too. Frank, would you get to the point?"

"This planet centers around attention, Ms. Bannerjee. In short, we are going to do something spectacular. We will become the center of the globe."

Frank's words rolled over her and quickly sunk in as Ravi responded with the most natural response. "How?"

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