Blythe's Machine
Chapter 1

Copyright© 2008 by Wandering Lanes

"Jack? I've got a job for you." Detective Inspector Charles Wilson called to Detective Sergeant Jack Adams from his office.

Jack sighed and got up from his desk. He'd just been promoted to DS status and was finding the responsibility more than he thought it would be.

"Yes Guv, what is it?" He asked.

DI Wilson took his normal place behind his desk and gestured to Jack to close the door. "It's a tricky one, Jack. We're not sure exactly what's happening and we need to find this out." He opened a file and handed it to Jack.

'Professor Paul Blythe, born 1947 in Colchester, educated ... blah, blah, blah ... degrees in electromagnetism, optics and electronics, worked for IBM until 1992 when he was fired for acquiring parts for private use, company refused to press charges and so he was released, has been working for several companies and lastly for the British Government with security clearance ... details of work restricted to level 9 clearance only.' Jack's eyebrows rose as he read the file and the last section made him look over the file to his boss.

"So what's this got to do with us? He's working for the Government and so we can't touch him," Jack said.

"He's reported several strange events and wants a security expert to check things out. And that's where you come in," Wilson said.

Jack shook his head. "Me? But what do I know about such things? I've just had basic and weapons training."

"You won't be alone; you're acting as back-up for the expert. She should be here soon." As Wilson spoke there was a knock on the door. "Ah. That should be her." He finished waving his hand.

A young woman entered and looked around; Jack immediately got to his feet and studied her. She was beautiful, with blonde hair and blues eyes framed by large glasses. Her look said she knew the effect she had on men, but that she was untouchable.

"Detective Inspector Wilson?" She regarded both men, and then concentrated on Wilson as she spoke.

Wilson got up and nodded. "You are Agent Pulse from—" But the woman held up her hand.

"Please, just call me Susan. I find that people seem to get nervous when I mention where I come from, and that makes my job difficult. I understand you will provide me with ... protection?" Coming from Susan, the word took on a different meaning.

"That's me." Jack spoke up. Finding his voice had risen an octave, he coughed and then repeated in his normal tone, "I'm DS Adams. Jack."

Susan smiled, and Jack felt his heart melt in the heat of her smile. "Hello. Jack, please relax. I'm not going to eat you," Susan said, which made Jack want to offer her the first course. He shook his head.

"Of course not. Now, why do you need protection? Has there been a problem with Professor Blythe before?"

Susan frowned and looked at Wilson. "I'm sorry, DS Wilson, but the information I have is strictly on a need-to-know basis, and although Jack here is required to know, I'm afraid you are not. If I may have use of your office... ?" Her tone was warm enough, but her eyes were serious.

Wilson looked slightly abashed."Of course. If you need anything..." He got up from his desk.

"Don't worry. We won't be long," Susan said as Wilson left the office. She closed the door and pulled down the blind so that nobody could see in.

She sat on the desk and sighed. "Sod it, I hate all this cloak and dagger stuff. Now Jack, if you can pull your eyes in and concentrate." Her tone was now serious and not at all inviting. "I have to ask you to read this and to sign it." She handed Jack a typewritten sheet of paper.

He scanned the words and looked up. "You mean it? Once I sign this..."

"Whatever you learn or hear is covered by the Official Secrets Act. If you even think about saying anything, you'll be arrested and kept without trial. If you don't sign, you will also be arrested. If you weren't needed then I wouldn't be telling you even this." She explained.

'Damned if I do, damned if I don't, ' Jack thought as he took a pen and signed his name with a flourish.

Susan smiled. "Thanks, Jack. You are now officially detached from duty here and are part of my team ... which is just you and me at the moment." She handed Jack a thicker folder from a case she was carrying.

"More information on Professor Blythe. Although he's regarded as highly intelligent, he is also eccentric in his inventions. We have several examples of his work: the x-ray glasses that will highlight weapons and bombs on a person — currently being deployed in the middle-east — the only side effects are blinding headaches if used for more than 30 minutes; the indestructible Missile, which will demolish buildings and then return to the tank that sent it, and then explodes again. He also invented the formula for a corrosive that is so powerful that we can't put it in anything." She looked at Jack. "In short, he's a real find, but his inventions have severe drawbacks.

"He recently reported finding two bodies in his house. They had identification on them that he passed on to my superiors."

Jack glanced at the two photographs she handed to him, and then looked again in bewilderment. His face — it was his — was in one picture and Susan's was on the other, but from the way they looked, it was obvious that they were both dead.

He looked up. "But..." he started.

Susan nodded. "That's my first opinion: somebody's made these up to look like us, so we've been asked to check on both the bodies and also the reason why they were in the Professor's house. He's reported some strange objects on both bodies, and has asked for somebody to check them out." She took out a requisition order which had been signed by the Chief Constable and handed it to Jack.

He read the order which authorised him to check out a pistol and two rounds of ammo, along with a taser, he looked at Susan.

"You are checked out for the weapons, are you not?" She asked.

"Well yes, but I don't really like them," Jack admitted.

"But if you have to, you will be able to use a gun?" Susan pressed. Jack nodded. "Good. Then we'd better get you equipped, and then it's off to the Professor's."

They soon got the gun and taser, both with holsters and securely restrained with Velcro that enabled quick access but still held them in. Jack took Susan to his car, an Austin Allegro - it was in a faded metallic blue colour and had a number of dents and scrapes along its sides.

She wrinkled her nose. "Good grief, what is it?" She asked.

Jack turned to look at her. "That is my car. What else do you expect me to drive on my wages? I'm not Inspector Morse, you know." He said, defending his transport.

Susan gingerly pulled on the handle to open the door, surprised to see a CD radio was installed underneath a more ancient AM/FM unit. Jack sat down in the driver's seat and turned the key. The engine fired, spluttered, and then fired again.

"It always does that," he confided with a smile.

As they drove off, he noticed Susan looking around at the interior. "This is the 1500 LE version. That's why the paint is Astral Blue Metallic — that was one of the main colours available for this particular model," He said, smiling. The truth was that he was trying to get rid of the car, but couldn't afford to.

"Oh ... good." Susan didn't know what to say, so she changed the subject. "The preliminary report from the Professor states that he found some strange objects in the pockets of the man and the handbag of the woman. He seemed most happy to have them for some reason."

"Why would he be happy about finding dead people in his house?" Jack mused.

"He thought that it proved a connection to another world where he also exists," Susan said, looking back through the notes.

"How long have you been working on this?" Jack asked her when she stopped talking for a moment.

She bit her lip and looked at him. "This is my first assignment. I've only just gone through the probation period. I think you've had more time as a DS than I have in The Service," Susan admitted.

Jack thought for a moment. "So who's actually in charge of this team?"

Susan sighed. "I knew that would come up when I told you. As far as my bosses are concerned, I'm the head of the team, but I'm willing for you to take the lead," She said finally.

Jack shook his head. "Susan, you are putting yourself down too much. Your attitude in Wilson's office was perfect. You were in charge and taking charge. Just because you don't think you have the—" Jack gave a laugh. "—I was going to say 'balls' there, but I'll just say experience instead. Don't let your lack of experience put you off. You will be in charge and I'll be your second in command, but if I suggest something, I hope you will listen to me."

Susan let out the breath she was holding. "Thank you Jack. I thought that if you knew about me, then you'd just let me fall on my face."

"With a body like yours, I'd be under it first." Jack said, and then rubbed his shoulder when Susan struck him. "What was that for?" He asked.

"I've been trying to make people look beyond my body and see what I'm capable of. This is the first time I've been given the chance, and no-one can look above my tits! I'm more than that you know." She complained, her eyes flashing in irritation.

Jack shook his head. "Susan, Susan. You have to realise that you have an asset. The more they think about your body, the less they're considering your mind, and that gives you the advantage over them. Don't think of your body as something holding you back; use it," he advised.

Susan chuckled. "That's easy for you to say. I've had to put up with it for ages." She said, but by this time they were outside the Professor's house.

They rang the doorbell. Chimes sounded within the house — Westminster Sound — and a voice called out, "Come in its open."

Jack pushed on the door and it opened smoothly.

A tall man, with wild white hair was standing in the hallway. "YES! Yes, I knew it. It proves what I was saying all along," he said, punching the air with his fist. "They all told me that it was impossible, but now..." He stopped upon noticing their puzzled reactions. "Of course. You don't know, do you?"

"Professor Blythe, I'm Susan Pulse from Central Office, and this is Detective Sergeant Adams. We've been sent in regards to the two bodies you've reported. May we see them?" Susan asked.

"Why, yes. I've got them downstairs in the basement. Walk this way." The Professor turned, he had a slight limp, and Jack couldn't help but copy the walk before Susan elbowed him lightly in the side and shook her head.

Professor Blythe had been watching in a mirror. "Ha-ha! I do see you have a sense of humour DS Adams. I hope you use it well. You may need it today." He opened the door, his limp having now vanished.

Jack looked at Susan with a chagrined look on his face.

"I saw him looking in the mirror," Susan explained, "And I knew he was putting it on."

He led them down into a large basement with doors going off in all directions. Jack went to open one door, only for the Professor to call out, "Please don't. Sometimes I'm not sure what's on the other side of them," which made Jack pull his hand away.

They stopped before a large door that reminded Jack of a cold storage door, and indeed, a waft of cool air came out of it when the Professor opened it. The Professor walked into the cold store and pointed to two tables on which were the shapes of bodies covered by sheets.

He removed the sheets to reveal the naked bodies of Jack and Susan.

Susan immediately took the sheet and replaced it on the female's body, leaving the head and arms exposed. "My god, they are us!" Susan said looking at a small mole on the females' shoulder.

Jack smiled at her. "Well, at least I know you're a natural blonde." He said.

Susan looked at the male body. "Well, you've let yourself go a bit." She commented, making Jack squirm. "Now Professor, you said you found these bodies down here in your cellar. Just where did you find them?" Susan asked Blythe.

"Oh. It was by the machine," the professor said, as if that explained everything.

Susan sighed, "Which machine, Professor? You know we've only just got here, and we're not told of all your work."

He blinked. "Of course, of course. Now, the machine is what I called the looking-into-other-places machine. It was something I considered for spying on places overseas, but when I started it up, all I could see was the same room, so it didn't really work. I just switched it off and left it alone. The more important thing is how those two of you, I mean them, died. All I can find is a small puncture wound on each, which made me think they had been poisoned by high pressure darts. It was something I was thinking of, but never built, as the gun would only have two shots before it had to be recharged, and it would take three weeks to recharge it."

Jack was still examining 'his' body. He noticed a tattoo of numbers and figures on the wrist and then he moved to the dead Susan. There was a similar tattoo on her body. He called the live Susan over. "Do you have a tattoo on your wrist?"

Susan shook her head, and then looked closely at the arm of the female. '231165F34/6/L' was imprinted on the wrist. "Well the first 6 numbers are my date of birth. I suppose the F means female, but what the rest means I've no idea."

Jack nodded. "My body, I mean the dead one here, also has my date of birth and an 'M'. It also ends with an 'L'," he said. "What do you think this means Professor?" he asked.

Professor Blythe shook his head. "I don't know. A form of identification perhaps?" he suggested, and then pulled Jack over to where clothing had been placed. "They were also wearing these clothes."

One pile contained a dark jacket and trousers, and the other pile was a dark jacket and a long skirt. Jack examined them both and the other items.

The collection reminded Jack of uniforms. On the lapels, there was a metal badge with the initals BP and a number. Jack turned his attention to the other items. There were two cards. One showed a picture of Jack's face. It was printed as Britische Polizeieinheit Detektiv-Offizier Jack Adams. The second had Susan's picture, and she was called Vorlagenoffizier Susan Prague. Both were stamped with an eagle holding a swastika and signed by some person who was called Leitender Besetzungs-Beamter, but his name was blurred.

"Susan, what does the surname Prague mean to you?" Jack called out to where Susan was still checking the two bodies.

Susan looked up sharply. "That was my grandfather's name, but during the war he changed it to Pulse ... why? What have you found?" Jack held up the card, and Susan looked at it in puzzlement. "Vorlagenoffizier? Master ... officer?" she walked over to the clothing and tried on the woman's jacket. It was a perfect fit. She looked at Jack's card and frowned. "British Police unit, Detective Officer Jack Adams." She studied the signature and shook her head not being able to decipher any but the last part. "Chief Occupation Officer." She looked up at Jack in puzzlement still.

Professor Blythe took the card. "Perhaps the machine wasn't broken after all ... perhaps it actually works?" he said thoughtfully and rushed out of the room. After exchanging glances, both Jack and Susan followed him.

Blythe walked quickly down the corridor of doors until he came to a particular door, which he unlocked and opened. He hesitated before entering, giving Jack and Susan time to catch up with him.

Inside the room, Blythe was moving switches, causing a steady hum to start up in the area. Electrical sparks started to play across what seemed to be a large square area like a doorway without a door. The sparks began reaching across the area until they joined up and formed a bright ball of light suspended in the area, a ball that started to expand until it filled the framework.

After a few more seconds, the brightness of the light started to dim, and it was as if they were looking at the other side of the room through a dark glass, but there was something different about the scene.

Jack walked around the frame and looked through it. There was no sign of Susan or Blythe. He moved to one side and there they were, standing in the same place as before, but through the frame, nobody.

Jack stepped through the frame to see what would happen.

"Don't do it. I'm not sur—" Blythe's voice was cut off abruptly. Jack stepped back in. "How do you feel?" Blythe asked.

Jack frowned, "I feel fine. Why?" He asked.

Susan touched him. "You vanished! You stepped into that place and we couldn't see you. Then you reappeared again," she said.

"But all I did was to..." He thought for a moment and then walked into the frame again. He was in the same room, he knew it, but the Professor and Susan weren't there. He looked to the frame again and he saw a hand, then an arm, then Susan's chest — it had to be her; no one else had that rack — then the rest of her appeared.

"That felt weird. So where are we?" Susan asked, but then the door opened and there was Professor Blythe, holding some form of weapon in his hand.

"What the blazes? How did you get back here and why are you still alive? Drat! That means that this thing is only short term. Well, I showed you what you wanted to see. Now get out!" He grabbed hold of Jack and Susan, pushing them out of the room, up the stairs, along the hallway and out of the door.

"Hold it, Professor. You don't —" Jack began.

"I am Doktor Blythe, and I've told you everything I know. Goodbye, Herr Adams, Fraulein Prague!" He closed the door. Jack pressed the doorbell. The sounds of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" could be heard in the hall.

Jack pounded on the door, but it wouldn't open. He turned to Susan. "Just what was that all about? First he was trying help and then he threw us out. Just what's going on around here?"

Susan shook her head. "It was as if he was a different person. Why did he call himself Doctor Blythe?"

Jack shook his head while looking around. "Not Doctor but Doktor; the 'k' was well- pronounced. And where the hell is my car?" He asked, not seeing the Allegro. Then a dark shadow moved across them making Jack look up. "And what the hells is that?" He asked pointing.

Above them, a large dirigible was floating almost soundlessly. On the tail of the ship was a Swastika.

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