The flash of light made Ethan see spots. His stomach flew up into his chest. He felt dizzy, disoriented and weightless, like he did when an airplane got caught in sudden turbulence. That feeling vanished when the imaginary plane hit the runway, hard, and Ethan’s vision cleared. He found himself sitting in a field of tall grass under a perfectly blue sky, and he did not appear to be alone. Something went pop in the distance. It sounded like a gunshot, but then his desk and cubicle returned with another bump and brilliant flash of light. He heard Randy, the office jerk, run for the men’s room, no doubt to throw-up. That made Ethan smile.
“Ethan!” Tasha called from the next cubicle and scampered around the corner. “That’s twice.” She tried to keep her voice down, but did not entirely succeed. She stared at him, wide-eyed, as if he should produce an explanation. All Ethan could do was shake his head. “Well?” Tasha sounded impatient. “My clothes are getting grass stains.”
“What do you want me to say? I don’t know any more than you do,” he responded quietly, while his mind searched for answers that did not exist.
Tasha grinned. “You can’t fool me. I know you did investigations before you started to work here. I know you started poking around after the first time.”
“Shh! Not so loud. I only studied investigative journalism at the university. One class.” Ethan hushed her and then raised his voice in case anyone might be listening in. “Now I do marketing and public relations, same as you.”
“Bull.” Tasha spoke softly, but with determination.
Ethan sat up straight and frowned at his co-worker. “What do you want me to say?” He repeated himself quietly before he raised his voice again. “You know we aren’t even supposed to talk about it. Upper management said they were looking into it.” Ethan shrugged.
“Bull.” Tasha also repeated herself, but now the word came out as a whisper.
This time Ethan grinned. It occurred to him, if he pushed the right button, Tasha might help. She worked for the Company for years and had plenty of contacts that he did not have. “Don’t you remember the Company’s oath of secrecy, that thing we all signed when we were hired because of the government research and all?”
Tasha frowned and stomped off to her own cubicle while Ethan noticed that his computer had crashed. He cursed. How was he going to find out what was going on if he could not access the company database?
When Tasha returned, she wheeled her chair into Ethan’s doorway to block his only avenue of escape. “Look,” she spoke as she sat. “I’m not talking to the big wide world out there. I’m talking to you. So far, I have heard everything from alien technology to Bigfoot; but I know you are looking into this, for real.”
Ethan shrugged again before he let his grin return. He made a show of looking around as if he was about to divulge some great universal secret. He figured Tasha wanted the secret, spy routine, and he even whispered to enhance the effect. “It’s only a hunch, but I hacked into certain company records. I also talked to Big Mary in accounting and found out that Doctor Grimly down in research and development has spent twice his budget in just the last three months, and his power use is off the scales.”
“I figured R&D had to be involved.” Tasha whispered her agreement in return before she backed up and a playful look spread across her face. “Are you sure this doesn’t have anything to do with Jill Lucas? You talk about her in your sleep.”
Ethan’s private thoughts turned his grin into a smile before he defended himself. “I don’t sleep at my desk.” He picked up a pencil and tapped it a couple of times against his keyboard while he considered his words. “Doctor Grimly’s research assistant is only a bonus. Seriously, Doctor Grimly is the only anomaly I have been able to find. The trouble is, the people in research and development are totally secretive about their work. I think it is a holdover from the cold war.”
“I hear that.” Tasha nodded in full agreement. Public relations tended to be a nightmare in a company where no one knew what was going on.
“If I could figure out a way to get in there I might come back with some real good information.” Ethan planted the seed, and Tasha responded.
She looked pensive at first. “That might not be so easy.” Then her face brightened. “I’m gonna call Big Mary myself. Maybe we can do some brainstorming.” She picked up her chair for the return trip. She became a woman on a mission.
Ethan stood, stretched and called after her. “I’ll be in the break room in case your brainstorm produces some lightning strikes.” He let his feet move slowly across the carpet, and he rubbed his eyes as he remembered the flash of light just before he went God only knew where.
Someone pulled one chair in the break room up to the lone, dirty window. Ethan sat there so he could stare out on the parking lot. No field of grass in all that pavement, he thought, before his mind asked the question: So what do I know?
Doctor Grimly left the university the same year Ethan graduated, but Ethan never had a class with the man; not that the man did not have teaching assistants for that sort of thing. He never met the man as far as he could remember, and in fact, he could not even think of any fellow students who studied physics. That was not his crowd.
He paused and looked up when he heard a sound.
Jill got her coke and turned briefly to smile at him. “Hello,” she said.
“Hi,” Ethan responded, and their eyes met. They had been dancing with their eyes for several months, but neither had taken the next step.
Jill left before things got awkward, but Ethan could only think, God! Just to look at her made his every sense tingle. Then he reacted, but it was too late.
“Damn! Why didn’t I say something? That was the perfect opportunity to weasel in on Grimly.” He felt like banging his head on the table, but refrained when he had a second thought. In another world, she would be mine.
Welcome to the first post of Guardian Angel, the story of two people who cling to each other as they travel the worlds–other earths, alternate universes–and face terrors too big for one universe to contain.
Guardian Angel will be posted, each chapter in three parts: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday over the next 23 weeks at 8AM, a quick shot to start your day. Enjoy, and Happy Reading