Chapter 3: Meeting The Onion, 1912

Welcome to the serialization of my humorous scifi novel, The Bore of Babylon, Book One: Nate Blackpool, Time Pilot. Please enjoy the story and I welcome your feedback. Start at Chapter 1

“Why do you have to phrase things like that,” Nate said. “You have no idea how intimidating you are.”

“Am I phrasing things in a confusing manner?” Flah-psi walked toward a large vault cemented into the back wall and proceeded to stow the Gilmanson’s case inside. He turned to face the client. “Will you need the case back?”

Gilmanson started. “Oh, no, well, I mean it was a gift from my mother. And she’s dead now. But if it will cause you inconvenience.”

Nate put a hand on his shoulder, trying to calm the man, but failing. “We’ll return the case when we come back.” He took a deep breath, readying his typical speech to the client that just got overloaded on stimuli. It was Nate’s idea to have Flah-psi bring the clients back to the Onion. It minimized the amount of questions people asked about the machine, questions he couldn’t answer. He could proceed with his usual pitch while they eyed the rabbit. Their curiosity was normally overtaken by Flah-psi and Nate could answer their questions himself, most of them. There was a lot about the rabbit that he didn’t know, even after all these years. His knowledge about the Onion was even less, but the machine never tossed him a withering look when he concocted an anecdote or two.

“Anyway,” Nate said clapping Gilmanson hard on the back, “you’ll have plenty of time to talk to my partner later. Let me introduce you to the Onion.” He turned his client around and, on cue, Flah-psi switched on three arc lights all pointed into the deep recess of the garage. A golden orb glowed in the darkness. Etched above the indentation marking the door, the words “Tempus Linnus”.

“Latin?” Gilmanson asked.

“Mostly.” Nate answered. “It’s not our Latin. It’s a Latin.”

Both men looked to the giant rabbit whose face remained unreadable.

“I call it the Onion because, well look at it.” Nate ran a hand along the side of the orb, which bulged a bit at the center. The brass panels were narrow, each merging to a point at the top and bottom, giving it a variegated look like its eponymous vegetable. “I’m not going to go into all the mechanical details right now,” Nate continued, adding under his breath, “You wouldn’t understand the computations anyway.” This last part was for show since Nate had no idea what computations could possibly let people travel between dimensions.

“Yet travel isn’t the right word,” Nate said.

“I didn’t say anything,” Gilmanson offered.

“Yet it’s wrongness remains. No, what the Onion does is shift. It shifts through the ethereal veil that hides our other selves from our current selves and gives us a taste of another life.” He patted the panel nearest the door and the latch popped. The group watched as the metal door slowly opened, filling the garage with possibility and the scent of oranges. Nate took a long sniff, turned toward Flah-psi who said nothing.

As they waited, the door stopped slightly ajar and as if pushed by a gust of air coming off the river, it just as slowly shut itself, with no ceremoniously clank of metal on metal, but a tiny “tink.”

Nate heard an embarrassed voice in his head. “I will tighten the bolts before we leave.” He nodded, keeping his eyes on Gilmanson but hoping the disappointment reached Flah-psi.

Gilmanson, whose fear passed so far into the realm of inevitable death that the idea of asking questions seemed novel, stared at the rabbit. Mr. Blackpool’s pitch seemed too rehearsed to be true and he couldn’t hid his curiosity behind fear any longer.

“You must be from another universe, Mr… uhmm…Rabbit.”

“I am. I am from an Earth not unlike this one, with some minor changes.”

Gilmanson wished he still had the attache case so he could clutch it fearfully to his chest.

“Minor?” He looked the beast up and down, no, thought Gilmanson. Beast is not the right word. Although this person was at least seven feet tall, covered in a mottled soft grayish brown fur, had hands with extended fingers, but undoubtedly paws and hidden claws, although the elongated face was regal in appearance it was unmistakably a rabbit. The long, silky ears hung down the back of his head, pinned together with ornate needlework and beads. While everything about the being felt completely alien to Gilmanson – there’s is no way that this being could be a beast. In a definite sense, the presence before him was the most distinguished and formal person he had ever met.

Flah-psi looked down at the client. “I am not representative of my race, just as you nor Nate are representative of yours,” he said flatly. “I am considered,” he wrinkled his nose, “small.”

Gilmanson stammered. “Surely, you’re joking.”

“My family are psimatists and emphaths. We read moods and minds. My family name is Flah, my specialty is psimatism. My name is Flah-psi.”

Gilmanson wasn’t sure he could hold on. Between the initial fear, the subsequent longing to scratch his rabbit head, and the desperate laugh that was queuing up in his chest, the little man thought he would be killed on the spot if he did anything other than croak out a quiet “pleased to meet you, Mr. Flah-psi.”

Nate, a human with no remarkable empathetic powers outside of the ability to read a room in which one party is very close to losing their life, jumped in and said “Great! Now that that’s over with, let me take you on a tour of the inside of the ship. Also there are a few ground rules to go over before we even think of leaving.” Nate grabbed his client by the shoulders, held him at arm’s length and looked him up and down. “First, I have to ask. Is that what you’re planning on wearing?”

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