Cadmus didn’t really understand what Galen had in mind for Lonesome but, since he never went anywhere without his dagu, he felt no need or inclination to ask.
“I really don’t see how we could be of any assistance to you,” Cadmus said to Galen. “I really don’t.”
Galen answered him matter-of-factly, “I don’t know why you finally agreed to come with me, although I’ll know as soon as you think of it, but I see across the three dimensions of time all the way to the event horizon and you and Lonesome join me in this journey.”
“You see me in the future?”
“You might say that.”
“I might not say it either,” Cadmus answered. He thought the future was the set of all things that hadn’t happened yet or maybe the set of all things that might happen.
“Time is just another set of coordinates in one or more dimensions, past, present, and future. The coordinates of time may be seen as easily as the coordinates of space if you have eyes in those dimensions. We are just a bunch of meandering vectors through volumes of space-time with beginnings and ends, and continuum in between.”
“That’s the way you see us?”
“Yes. Does that bother you?”
“Well, yes. So you see Lonesome and me meandering off with you?”
“Yes. That’s what I see.”
“So what happens to us? Do we survive? Do we beat the Frats?”
“I don’t know.”
“What? What do you mean you don’t know? I thought you said you could see into the future.”
“I can only see up to the event horizon. What happens to us beyond that is farther than I can see.”
“Farther than you can see?”
“Sight is linear but time is curved. None of us can see beyond the curves of time or space.”
“I wonder whether the Frats can see beyond the curves of time or space,” Cadmus said pessimistically.
“Yes, that is the question,” Galen agreed.
“So much for the element of surprise,” Cadmus offered hopelessly.
“We would not be able to surprise them, but you might.”
“When do we leave?”
“We already have.”
“Do you mean that I agreed to go?”
“Why did I agree?”
“Because you realized that the element of surprise confers a ten percent advantage for a short window of opportunity. Actually it’s only a five percent advantage.”
“Are you parked at the terminal? Shall I call us a shuttle?”
“No need. Just call Lonesome to come to you.”
Cadmus whistled through cupped hands. Lonesome came loping, ears flopping counter to his paws pulling down the hill.
“Can you lift up Lonesome and hold him in your arms?”
“Yes, at least I think I can.”
Cadmus bent down, put one arm under the dagu’s belly while his other arm wrapped around the dagu’s flank, and tried to straighten up under Lonesome’s weight. Cadmus started to lose his balance.
Galen scooped them both up into his strong cobalt blue arms. “Close your eyes a moment,” he told a very surprised Cadmus who felt himself being flipped over. His arms thrust out instinctively trying to protect himself from the fall and Lonesome jumped out of his arms, pushing sharply against his chest, but when he opened his eyes, what Cadmus saw didn’t look anything like his island in the middle of the lake.
“Where are we?” Cadmus asked, “and what is that?”
“We’re still on your island but I had to flip you and your dagu bodily into a volume where my portal is,” Galen explained. “That structure over there is the portal.”
Galen led Cadmus over to the portal door while Lonesome tagged along behind sniffing the ground furiously. He put his hand on the door and it shimmered away. They walked through it into a large octagonal room.
The portal door shimmered closed and disappeared into the curved wall. The large windows on one side of the room were filled with strange constellations of stars Cadmus had never seen before. Through the windows on the other side, he saw a huge irregular structure where their sun, 763, should have been. It throbbed like a beating heart in shades of ultraviolet.
“What you’re looking at through that window is a Dyson hypersphere. We use it to power our portals and terminals in this solar system, and to conserve stellar fusion.”
After some time Cadmus turned away from the windows and began looking around the octagonal room they were in. “Why is the room so empty,” he asked his host.
“It’s not. You’ll see later. Anyway it’s time to get you and Lonesome suited up.”
“Yes. You first. Walk over to that scanner in the corner and remove your clothing.”
“Everything? My socks and underwear too?”
Cadmus did as he was told. After he had undressed the scanner powered on and moved around him slowly projecting a blue light against his skin. When it finished whatever it was doing to him, it produced a shiny blue suit through one of its orifices.
“Please put this on,” Galen said. “It is a robotic exoskeleton programmed to allow you free movement through all eleven dimensions. You’ll be able to command it verbally or, eventually, by your thoughts. It is also designed to protect you from harm.”
“Thank you,” Cadmus said looking admiringly at his arms and legs. One of the walls opposite him turned into a mirror and he admired himself fully in it. “But how can I move through the upper dimensions if I can’t see where I’m going?”
“That’s what these are for,” Galen smiled and tossed some goggles over to Cadmus.
Somehow Cadmus managed to catch the goggles in his gloved hand.
“Those are all-dimensional,” Galen explained. “They allow you to perceive all dimensions but, since your brain can’t represent more than a three-dimensional volume, they project the upper-dimensional structures into a three-dimensional representation. It’s like shining a light through a three-dimensional wire sculpture onto a two-dimensional wall.”
Cadmus put the goggles on his head and over his eyes. At first he couldn’t see anything. Then it powered on. What he saw made him nearly lose his balance and fall. He saw a room full of structures he never could have imagined before. They were positioned at impossible angles that made him queasy to look at. His hands shot out against something, anything, to steady himself to keep upright, whatever that was anymore. He removed the goggles from his head and the room became empty and familiar again.
“You’ll have to get used to them,” Galen said kindly. “After a week or so, it’ll become second nature. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea for you to move around in the suit until you get used to the goggles.”
Cadmus looked around the empty room and saw a reclining chair by one of the windows. He couldn’t move. Then he remembered what Galen had said about the suit. He told the suit to walk over to the chair by the window. Halfway there he was able to walk just by thinking about it.
Just like moving around in my body, he thought.
He sat down tentatively in the chair and put on the goggles again. The things he saw went crazy again. He watched Galen walk over to one of the consoles and press some buttons. He looked over at Lonesome, who was looking up at him from a strange angle. He was panting and sniffing the air, but he was smiling. Galen came over to the dagu and asked him whether he was hungry. Lonesome looked up at him. Galen poured some kibble into a bowl in the corner by the scanner. While the dagu was eating, Galen powered on the scanner. Lonesome didn’t seem to pay attention to the scanner moving around him or to the blue light. After the scanner and Lonesome had finished what they were doing, the scanner spit out another suit, this one for Lonesome.
Galen wrapped the two pieces around Lonesome and zipped them together. Lonesome didn’t like the idea of his suit at first and wasn’t very cooperative, but soon he forgot about it and loped over to Cadmus, lying down by his reclining chair.
Galen walked over towards them and stooped down to slip the goggles over Lonesome’s head and eyes. The dagu raised his head and looked around, sniffing.
Cadmus watched Lonesome get up awkwardly, almost falling, and walk uncertainly over to the console and sniff around it. He remembered he hadn’t seen it before putting on his goggles.
He looked up at Galen, who was standing over him and smiling.
“I can see,” Cadmus said softly, “but I’m not sure I understand what I see.”
“Time,” Galen answered, “give yourself time.”
from Out of Time