Copyright 2016 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Mario V. Farina
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The course of time shifted to slow motion when someone either jumped or fell from the platform at the Canal Street Station in New York City. There was chaos, yelling and milling around. Disliking unpleasantness, I edged away from the commotion. Since it was now obvious I was going to miss my train, I decided to do some shopping. That’s when I saw it. It was a small object that looked like a man’s ring. It was lying on the platform in plain view. There was a technical magazine lying near it. I was surprised no one had picked it up before me. Curious, I stooped, and took it in my hand. I saw that the object was not a man’s ring, but some sort of a device that looked like a ring, but had buttons on it, and it seemed there was a purpose for those buttons.
The purpose of the thing was not obvious. I put it in my pocket intending to examine it more carefully when I got home. If it had any obvious use, I could try to return it. I also picked up the magazine and put it in my attaché case. It might have a connection with the device, I thought.
My name is Philip Stanton. I’m a Consultant at Chem Tech which has offices and labs on 15th Street in Troy, New York. I live only a few blocks from the office where I work. I’m a widower, fifty-seven, gray-haired, in good physical shape, and am of an adventurous nature. (I made a parachute jump last year!) I’m looking forward to retiring at sixty, so that I can spend time on the slopes in Colorado.
It was May 16. I had been in New York meeting with technicians from Arrow Labs. Returning to my home, I made dinner of chicken breast, asparagus, and potatoes. After eating, I washed the dishes, racked them, then sat in my recliner in front of the television set. I reached into my pants pocket, pulled out the device, and began examining it. “It’s like a little gem,” I mused.
I rotated the object in an attempt to deduce what it was. I saw something I had not seen before, a tiny lens near the first button. I could see no obvious use for lens or for the device, itself. I examined the three buttons and tried pressing them randomly. When I was done, I felt that I had not learning anything since nothing had happened at the time that I pressed the buttons.
I decided to try a more systematic series of experiments. Gingerly, I pressed the button that was closest to the lens and held it down for a couple of seconds. There was a dim green luminescence in the circular band. I felt a slight vibration, but could not determine its source. I decided that this button must be a sort of On/Off switch. I pushed it in and held it in for a few seconds. The luminescence went away. I pressed the button again and the luminescence came back. Yes, this must be an On/Off button.
Now that I knew the purpose of the first button, I needed to learn what the other two did. I pushed the second button in a bit and held it there for a full second. Immediately, there was a movement in my body that startled me! I released the button and the motion stopped. I pushed it slightly again. This time when I felt the movement, I did not release the button but pushed the button in a trifle more. I felt my body physically rise a few inches from the recliner!
I was unnerved and dropped the gadget into my lap. At the same time I fell back to the seat. For several minutes I sat and contemplated what had happened. How could my body have risen from the seat by my simply pushing a button on a little gadget? I picked up the gem from the recliner and tapped the On/Off button. The green light was extinguished. After a few seconds, I turned it back on, and turned the thing so that the buttons pointed straight up. Applying very little pressure, I pushed in the second button and held it in. Slowly, my body began to rise from the recliner. As it rose, my legs remained in the recline position. Conquering my panic, I continued to push the button a little deeper. When I had risen a bit, I released the button. I came to an immediate stop and hovered over the recliner.
Greatly awed, I turned the gem so that the buttons pointed straight ahead, then lightly pushed in the same button. As I had expected, I began to move forward slowly, leaving the recliner behind. I pushed a little more and found that the speed of my forward motion increased. I released the button, otherwise, I would have crashed into the television set. I hovered in place.
Feeling that I had learned a good deal, I began moving from side to side, up and down, forward and back. Finally, I maneuvered the thing in such a way that I could hover over the recliner. Releasing the button gradually, I eased myself back into the seat. All this activity had required a minute. It was time for reflection. What was this? Where had it come from? What was it for? These and other questions occurred to me, but there were no answers.
I resumed the experiments and practiced for half an hour. I found that it was easy to control the apparatus. I could float from ceiling to floor and vice versa. I could move from room to room. I could hover near appliances like the kitchen table and the television set. I learned that the third button was like an automatic pilot. Once in motion, pushing this button would keep me moving at the selected rate in the desired direction. Now, outdoor experimenting was needed.
It was about seven. It was still light, but I had to be circumspect. I put on a jacket, thrust the item in my pants pocket, opened the door and walked to the Bronco. I drove to Prospect Park, and walked to the rail that overlooks Troy. There was traffic on the streets forward and below but this was half a mile distant. I could see no one. I took the gem from my pocket, turned it on, and pointed it upward. I pushed the second button, that I now referred to as the Propel button, and found myself moving upward about a foot a second. I pushed the button harder, and my rate of climb increased significantly. I saw that the harder I pushed the button, the faster I moved. I suspected it if I rammed it in as hard as I could, I would rise like a jet, but I was not ready to try that experiment. I had learned that subtle movements of the Propel and Auto buttons resulted in significant movements of my body. I also found that the device seemed to create a force field that surrounded me like an invisible balloon.
With another experiment, I found myself two or three hundred feet into the air and was suspended in place. I experienced a great deal of fright when the fact hit home that I was hanging in space without any apparent support. If whatever was holding me up failed, I would drop to earth within seconds and be killed.
Gathering courage, I began moving at various rates of speed. At first, they were are cautious five or ten feet per second but they increased to about fifty. I tried the Auto button and mastered it quickly. Next, I found that I could lean in various directions and turn slowly. This allowed me to survey everything around me. These experiments gave me a feeling of power and confidence. I now believed that I had fully mastered the controls and could operate the gem safely under all situations.
I did not know what powered the gem. Nor whether the power source needed to be replenished. Perhaps foolishly, I had begun to trust the device as if I had been using it for years.
I turned the gem toward Earth, pushed the Propel button slightly, and found myself descending toward Earth at a slow rate of speed. When I came to within a few inches of the ground, I released all of the pressure and came to a soft landing on a grassy area.
Now, I was ready for a high-speed experiment. Pushing the gem upward, I pushed the Propel button moderately hard and found myself rising quickly. Within a few seconds, I was back to three hundred feet. I felt that I must rise a great deal more in order to avoid running into obstacles while in the high-speed test. I rose to about one thousand feet. The fear that I had conquered at three hundred feet returned, but dissipated quickly. I pointed the gem in the direction of Latham and counted down from three. At zero, I pressed the Propel button hard, held it there for a second, then released it. There was an instant burst of speed westward toward Latham. Though I had traveled for only a second, I felt a severe pain in my chest. It was as if I had hit a stone wall. I nearly blacked out, but recovered within a few seconds. My chest stung and my face felt hot. Instinctively I knew that the pain had been caused by traveling at a speed that was much too fast for my body.
Looking downward, I found myself directly over the Latham Circle. I knew that the circle must be about five miles from Prospect Park. As I floated over the circle watching the traffic flowing around it, I estimated that I had traveled at a rate of about 3600 miles per hour, but I knew that the gem was capable of much more. I shuddered to think what could have happened if I had depressed the Auto button at the same time as Propel. I would have voyaged to the stratosphere and probably perished.
I needed to know more about the contraption. Being a chemist by training, my scientific background helped me in understanding it, but, as of now, I had no idea what might be the scientific principle or principles upon which it worked. The inventor of the machine could, of course, supply all the answers, but who was that person? It occurred to me that the periodical I had found near the gem might provide a clue. I retrieved it and found that even though it looked like a technology magazine, it was really a professional journal. The title was The Journal of the American Physicist Association. There was a mailing label visible on the cover, but it’s outer surface had been peeled away and I could not tell to whom it had been mailed. An idea occurred to me. Possibly, this subscriber’s name could still be read in the remnant of the label that remained. I drove to my office, and flooded the label with a source of ultraviolet light. My efforts were rewarded when I saw a dim, but clearly readable name and address. This subscriber’s name was Doctor James T. Hardesty, 18081 43rd Street, New York, NY 10010. At once I knew that I would have to visit this person.
I called the Hardesty home. A woman answered. “Hello,” I began “Would James Hardesty be home?” “No,” the woman replied, “he is in Wilson Hospital. Are you a friend of his? He was hurt several days ago, and is not expected to be leaving the hospital for a couple of weeks.”
“Oh,” I responded, “this is Philip Stanton. I wonder if I could see you on a business matter.”
“What would that be?” She asked. I did not want to give away too much. “This has to do with a small mechanism that can be used to propel objects in various directions at various speeds,” I explained. “Would you know anything about this?”
“Shouldn’t you talk to Dr. Hardesty?” The woman asked. “I’m his wife.”
“Yes, I think so,” I responded, “but I’d like to speak with you also. I could meet with you in a couple of days.”
Mrs. Hardesty agreed to meet me on May 30 and gave me directions to her home. Somehow, she seemed to sense that I would not use the roads and streets to get to her house. The directions were in terms of landmarks that could be seen from the air.
I could take the train to Manhattan, of course, or use the airlines, but I decided that there could be no greater adventure than to fly to New York via the little gem.
Even though the gem could take me there at a rate of several thousand miles per hour, this was clearly foolhardy. I thought I could get there at, say, several hundred miles per hour if my face and body were properly protected.
I took the next couple of days off from work. I had some vacation time coming and no one questioned my request for personal time. I visited a motorcycle shop, and purchased a snug fitting helmet and a double-layered winter traveling suit that covered me from chin to toe. I completed my uniform with sturdy boots and heavy winter mittens. I realized that, in order to operate the buttons of the little gem, I would need to have my fingers free. I intended to carry it within the mitten on my right hand. In my left hand, I planned to carry a cellular phone.
My next trip was to a stationery store to buy some detailed maps of New York State. I needed to know the geography of New York State better. On the way home, I heard a news report that people in the Capital District were abuzz with reports of mysterious human flights being detected in Troy and its outskirts. The public suspected U.S. Air Force training. The Air Force announced that they did, indeed, have experimental rocket equipment for humans, but were not doing any training in Troy.
On May 30, my preparations were complete and I dressed in the motorcycle suit and donned the full-face helmet. I pulled on the boots, selected an empty suitcase, and tramped out the house. Looking around, I made sure there were no faces in windows or people on the street. I started the gem and pointed it upward while pressing the Propel button. I rose into the sky at a good pace and was at five hundred feet within seconds. I was surprised to see the suitcase had no apparent weight. It seemed to be enclosed in the same force field that enclosed me.
I pointed the gem in the direction of the Albany airport and pushed the Propel button. I allowed about two minutes to get there since I wanted to enjoy the scenery. A USAir jet was preparing to take off, and I thought it would be good fun to fly along as the takeoff was being made. I understood this action was dangerous, but, somehow I couldn’t resist the temptation. As the plane was moving along the runway, I descended, and placed myself alongside. I kept myself far from the engines knowing full well that they were capable of sucking me in and ending my life instantly. There were passengers peering out the windows. The surprised looks on their faces rewarded me for undertaking the dangerous adventure. The plane accelerated to takeoff speed and I did the same. We rose side-by-side. I positioned myself alongside the cockpit’s window and waved to the pilots, then veered away. How did they tell the tower what they had just seen, I wondered?
Now, I turned my attention to New York, so I turned south and pushed the Propel button hard enough to increase my sped gradually to about four hundred miles per hour. The heavy suit kept me safe from hazards. Soon I arrived at Hudson. Since I had been born and raised in the city, I reduce my speed so that I could descend to view my hometown. My childhood home had been on McKinstry Street. I hovered fifty feet above the ground. Ellen Wilson, an old friend, was walking to Stewart’s. “Hi, Helen,” I yelled. She glanced upward and horror flooded her face. She appeared not to recognize me, which was not surprising considering the gear I was wearing.
I turned south again setting my height and speed as before. The cities of Saugherties, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, and Newburgh came and went so fast that I barely had time to recognize them. This part of the trip took five or six minutes. Increasing my speeds slightly, I observed the cities of Peekskill, Ossining, White Plains, and New Rochelle. Another six minutes went by. In another minute or two, I saw the complex of runways and buildings of Kennedy Airport. There were planes in various stages of landing and taking off, and I did not want to venture too close. I wondered whether I could be seen on radar.
Now I needed to find the World Trade Center. I turned east and saw the towers in the distance. In a few seconds I was above them. I eased myself down and came to a gentle stop on the roof of the South Tower. I took off my motorcycle gear and placed the items in the suitcase. Then I tried a nearby door and found that it was locked. Using my cellular phone, I dialed the security desk. Soon the door opened and a puzzled guard approached. “How in hell did you get out here?” He asked. “I dunno,” I responded. “I had no difficulty getting on the roof but couldn’t get inside. I’m glad you answered my call.” The guard was suspicious and seem to be on the verge of calling the police, but he finally allowed me to go inside the building after I had identified myself and showed what was in the suitcase. I left the building, and despite the fact that the streets were crowded, started the little gem, pointed it upward. Suitless, I rose to about 1000 feet. A sea of startled faces stared as I did this. Looking around, I could see the landmarks that Mrs. Hardesty had mentioned. I arrived at 43rd Street and saw the beige colored apartment house that she had described. Standing at the front door, I rang the bell. The door was opened by a slim, gray-haired, middle-aged, woman. She was dressed in a conservative but elegant brown suit.
“Hello, Mr. Stanton.” She smiled graciously. “I estimated that you would arrive at about this time. I see you’ve learned how to use the Levitator.”
“I call it the little gem,” I ventured.
“My husband invented it, and he named it Levitator,” Mrs. Hardesty commented tartly as she led me into a spacious living room, impeccably furnished. There was a fireplace against one wall. “Would you sit down,” she said. “Tea?” I nodded, and sat in a velour-covered armchair.
My hostess was gone for only a few moments. She came back with a serving tray, and placed it on a low table near the armchair, then sat on a sofa facing me. She gazed at me intently. “My name is Kathleen,” she said. “I feel I know you because of the Levitator. It’s been missing since my husband was injured. How did it come in your possession?”
I told Mrs. Hardesty everything that had transpired since I had found the contrivance. She listened attentively. “You’re so like my husband,” she observed. “There is a wild side to him. I’m sure he will enjoy meeting you. Maybe we can go to the hospital together with the Levitator.
Your husband was hurt?” I inquired. “Did this happen at the train station just before I found the little… Levitator?”
“Yes, probably,” she responded. She lifted the lid on a small case that lay on the table, and uncovered several instruments similar to the one in my possession. She picked up one of them. “Look,” she exclaimed. “My husband made several of these, each an improvement over the previous one. He’s an atomic scientist and, researching independently, discovered how to start an atomic reaction within a very small space. The Levitator operates on nuclear power. There is a tiny power source embedded in it. It will last for years.”
“My husband has been working on an apparatus that can safely be used to take travelers into space,” she continued. “The one I’m holding is a duplicate of the one that brought you here. In testing the one you found, he was planning to be hit by an oncoming subway train.”
My mouth dropped. “He was planning to do what?”
“Yes,” she replied. “You heard me right. I tried to dissuade him about this, but he was adamant. He needed to know whether the Levitator’s force field would protect him against a heavy blow like that delivered by a locomotive traveling at forty miles an hour! He went to the station and hid the Levitator inside a magazine he was carrying. Then, he went to the platform and waited for a train to arrive. It was his plan to turn on the Levitator, then jump in front of it. He expected that he would be tossed aside like a balloon but not be hurt. It wasn’t long before the train became visible coming out of the tunnel.”
“And he jumped?”
“No, he was pushed. It seems that a young man, standing near Jim, was inexplicably moved to take that moment to shove him off the platform before he had a chance to do what he had planned. The Levitator had fallen on to the platform. The train attempted to stop but it was too late. Jim was hit and thrown about one hundred feet. He was in a coma for three days, but came out of it and is expected to recover. The young man is being held for attempted murder. It is thought he might be insane.”
“Then we don’t know whether it works,” I commented.
“That’s right, she agreed. “I have a hunch that when we see my husband, he will ask you to do him a favor.”
“Oh?” I said, fearing to ask my next question. “What would that be?”
“He will ask you to stand on the platform and do what he may never be able to do,” she responded. “Let us visit Jim, then go to the station. This time, I’ll hold the Levitator until you are ready to jump. I’ll hand it to you as you actually make the leap! If it works in keeping you from harm, then this device will, indeed, be a little gem!”
Philip Stanton finds a little device that he discovers is able to transport people over great distances at high speed. He names the device, "Little Gem." He learns how to use it and travels to Manhattan to meet with the wife of the inventor of the device, James Hardesty. It seems that Dr. Hardesty was injured while testing the device and will now ask Philip to do something that requires a great deal of courage and a penchant for adventure. This is Science Fiction as you've never seen it before.