Part 1- Qbit: Chapters 6 & 7

Not the Gates!

{Chapter 2392 of the Book of Keepers}

Link to previous chapter- http://keepersoftheblueplanet.blog/2021/11/26/part-1-qbit-chapter-4-youve-got-a-boat/

The smell of dry grass drifted in through the open windows.  Qbit glanced at the tablet in his lap then outside. “We should be close. It’s just up here,”

“There’s the lake,” said the professor, pointing. Qbit looked up. Through a grove of pine trees, the small body of water he had seen on the map, came into view. The bright sunlight reflected off the tops of small ripples forced across the surface by a lazy, warm wind.

“Next should be a road, it’s up here somewhere on the left.” He was sitting up close to the windshield, trying to make out the road through the sun’s glare. He looked back down at the map, then up to the road. “There it is!”

The professor slowed the truck and turned onto a set of tracks barely visible in the tall grass. 

 “How far now?” she asked.

“About a mile.”

“It looks pretty rough; I don’t want to go to fast and end up banging Aura around. How’s our time look?””

Qbit checked his watch. “We’ve got time.”

The professor watched the trail carefully, trying to avoid any large rocks or washed-out areas. She occasionally snuck a glance in Qbit’s direction. He was constantly looking from his tablet in his lap to the scenery as it slowly went by.

She asked, “How does that thing work? Is it a map or what?”

“It’s a lot like a regular map app, only instead of ATMs and fast-food places, this one tracks the gates.”

She made a sad face. “Not the gates.”

“Yep, the dreaded gates.”

“Maybe I’ll feel better about them if you explain them to me again using less astrophysicist terms and more biologist terms.”

“Okay, I’ll try but first, tell me, what makes you so nervous about traveling through them?”

“Look, I don’t mind the instantaneous travel but what worries me is that when you step into the gate and put your foot back down, it could be miles, millions of miles or lightyears away from your other foot.”

“You can’t think about that when you go through a gate. You just have to go for it!”

“Easy enough for you to say, you’ve done it plenty of times. I feel like I could be torn in half if I don’t step through fast enough.”

“That would never happen.”

“So, you say but, I still worry about it.”

Qbit checked the tablet again and did a couple of quick calculations while he answered her. “Understood.”

She continued, “Last time, you said that before our universe exploded in the so-called “Big Bang” (she took her hands off the wheel long enough to make air quotes) it was a mass of dense matter, part of the fabric of space. Right?”

Satisfied his calculations were correct, he answered with a distracted sounding, “Yes.”

She looked at him. “Are you listening to me?”

“What? Oh, yeah, I was figuring something out. You were saying that the dense matter was a part of the fabric of space.”

“Right, so, this matter was connected within by hollow thingies of anti-matter that you called threads.” She looked over at him. “Ya know, I think you really need to change the word threads to tubes. I think that’s a more accurate way of describing them. I don’t picture threads being able to allow people and things to travel inside them. Tubes, on the other hand, they’re already hollow.”

“I hear what you’re saying but threads are what they are. Besides, just picture soft threads gently swaying in the breeze as they hang from a planet not inflexible tubes hanging down and scraping across the planet’s surface?”

“I picture a big old rusty needle at the end of that swaying thread ready to impale me if I get too close! I’d rather get knocked aside by a tube any day!”

He was about to say something in return but remembered that an argument with the professor could go on forever so instead, he said, “Um, aren’t we getting a little off topic.”

She continued, “Don’t think I’m letting you get off that easily but, in the interest of time, I’ll agree to stick with saying threads.”

“Thank you.”

“So then, when the bang part occurred, much of the anti-matter was blown apart including most of those hollow threads.

“Exactly.”

“However, some of them managed to survive.”

“Yep.”

“And over time some of these threads ended up connecting two different planets or were attached to a planet at one end while the other end hung free.”

He gave her a look. “Are you sure you’re confused because it sounds like you understand perfectly well.”

She scrunched her face. “Maybe, but where does that thing come in (she pointed to the tablet) and how does it know where the end of a thread is?”

“It would be better if I could show you.”

“That means stopping, do we have time?”

“We always have time for science!”

“If you say so.” The professor stopped the truck and turned to look at him.

Qbit lifted his hand, palm facing up, and a stream of glittering neutrinos flowed from it into the air just above his hand. They swirled together, eventually making what looked like a miniature solar system the size of a basketball.

“That’s so cool,” whispered the professor.

Qbit said, “I know, right?” He put his hands together and inserted them into the tiny solar system, then slowly pulled them apart. The image shifted into a closeup of two planets.

“Threads can either hang from each of them…”

Threads grew out of the two planets, dangling from different parts of each of them.

“…and as they orbit each other in an elliptical path…”

The two planets started to spin and rotate around each other; the threads stood out straight like the arms of a squid.

“…eventually a thread hanging from one planet will touch the other planet.”

The small planets moved close to each other as they continued to rotate; the threads brushed up against the surfaces of each planet.

“They can stick to the planet’s surface, allowing this tablet to pinpoint their exact location or they can slowly glide along the surface which means their positions need to be constantly updated.”

One of the threads stuck to the surface.

“If it sticks, like this one, it means that at some point it will have to snap away as the planet continues to rotate because they will stretch only so far.”

The thread was pulled taught until, suddenly, it snapped away from the planet’s surface.

“You can never be sure exactly when that ‘snap’ will take place. Those are the tricky threads because once a thread snaps free, you can’t go back through the gate until the rotation of the planets brings the thread around again.” He zoomed into a thread. “Each end of the thread is a gate.”

She made a face and said, “Great, now I have worry about snapping threads and being ripped apart!”

“It’s never happened.”

“So far, right!”

Qbit shook his head. “It’s not going to happen.”

She made an overly dramatic “Pfft!” then continued, “Anyway, you still haven’t told me how the tablet keeps track of the gates.

“When the existence of the threads was first discovered and people learned how to use them, beacons were placed at each end. This made them easier to track and assured that they always led to the same place.” He held up his tablet. “The only way to see those beacons is with a tablet like this.”

“Okay, now I see. She paused for a second and got a worried look on her face. “But can you fall out of an end and into space or somewhere else dangerous?”

“Sure, you always need to prepare for whatever’s on the other side of the gate.”

She sank down in her seat, “Now it’s up to three things.”

“You worry way too much.”

“Someone’s got to.”

“We need to get moving.”

She sighed as she put the truck in gear and started off. They drove in silence for a couple of minutes then the professor asked, “How many threads are there.?”

Qbit smiled and shrugged. “Probably countless.”

“And what about those tablets, are there a lot of those around?”

“There was a time when we knew exactly how many there were and who had them, but now, we’re not so sure.”

“So, anyone with one of these could use the gates for good or bad.”

“Exactly.”

She turned to him. “Like Chad.”

Qbit looked back at her. “Like Chad.”

Chapter 7- A Huge Fireball…

{Chapter 2394 of the Book of Keepers}

The tablet beeped again, a little differently this time.

Qbit said, “We must be here.” Looking down at the screen and then up through the windshield, “Up there by those pine trees. Stop up there, as close to them as you can.” The professor found a place where the limbs were high enough to fit the entire truck under. She cut the engine then they climbed out and went around to the back of the truck. Qbit lowered the tailgate and pushed the rear cover up and over the canvas canopy. The professor jumped in then came back out leading Aura on the leather lead. It took both of them to get Aura onto the ground.

Qbit said, “You two wait here for a second. I’m going to make sure I can find the gate before we go too much further.” He walked over to a clearing just a few feet away. He turned back to them and said, “I see it, it’s over by that other tree.” He noticed that Aura was lying down, and the professor was kneeling next to her. He walked back and stood next to them and asked, “Have you got anything to help her.”

“Yes, it’s in the bag in the back seat. Can you get it, please?”

Qbit went around to the driver’s side, got the bag, and brought it to her and opened it up.

“I’ve got something I can give her that should help. It won’t last very long, though.” She pulled out a syringe, flicked off the cap, inverted the needle and squeezed enough liquid out to make sure there was no air bubble left in the syringe. She stroked Aura’s neck and said, “There’s going to be a little sting.” She pushed some feathers out of the way then inserted the needle into the exposed skin. Aura seemed too weak to have any sort of reaction.

Qbit said, “We’re going to have to use a series of gates to get us where we need to be. They’re very close to each other…”

“How close?” asked the professor. “She’s not going to make it if there is a lot of walking.”

“I’ve found a route that has gates that are almost right next to each other. The most we will have to move is a few steps.”

They gave the medication a minute or two to take affect then helped Aura stand. The professor made sure she was okay then they moved to a spot right next to the largest tree in the grove. There was an oval-shaped shimmer suspended in the air. It measured about eight feet at the widest part, big enough to allow them to all enter at the same time.

The professor said, “I can see how these things would be hard to miss. It almost looks like heat coming up off a paved road on a hot day.”

He lifted the tablet and said, “That’s why these things are so valuable to have.”

The sound of a powerful explosion thundered from a short distance away. Qbit, the professor, and Aura all jumped then turned toward the sound. They watched as huge fireball folded in and around itself as it rose into the sky.

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