“Wake up!” a shrill voice shouted, startling Lasko from his sleep.
“Wha-!” the man’s head jolted upright, looking around frantically. Tunnel stood above him, beaming.
“It’s time to wake up!” the young boy said, and jumped off the cot.
Lasko rubbed his eyes. Soft light was just beginning to shine in through the cloth ceiling. Sharp had just woken up as well, stretching his thin arms in a loud yawn. Tunnel scrambled to the nearby wall, and pressed his hand against a machine the size of a coffee maker. The familiar sound of running water started, and with his other hand, Tunnel dragged a nearby bucket under the flow, filling up the bucket with clear water, steam wafting upwards. Hot water?
As Lasko watched, Tunnel took his hand off of the machine panel, and the water shut off; the young boy carried the bucket to the doorway, grunting a bit as he lifted the heavy bucket with both hands. Lasko smiled at the kid’s diligent but awkward efforts. After Tunnel went outside, the sound of washing drifted in through the open doorway.
Hence their clean faces, Lasko thought.
Sharp groaned, and eased off of his bed with half lidded eyes, sluggishly stumbling outside to join Tunnel.
Lasko stood up from the bed, stretching. He felt good. His resolve to live a new life, and his logical decision to no longer fret about his mysterious past cleared his head. Of course, Lasko still had questions about his past, but those could wait. Now he shelved those questions for later, and only focused acclimating to his new world.
“Lasko, hurry up. You gotta wash up.” Tunnel yelled from outside.
The man lightheartedly headed outside. So far, he thought to himself, I like it here. These kids are good kids. And they saved my life. And Tunnel, at least, trusts me.
He couldn’t think of real a reason to leave, and in fact, in the short time that he had spent with the two children, he had grown quite attached. I should stick around, at least I can somehow repay these two.
After washing up, the three of them spent the dawn, (if the arrival of the sun-ship could be called dawn), working on repairing the larger machines that the boys had previously found. Lasko had no idea what any of them did, for now he concentrated on assisting Sharp, who seemed to be the one most knowledgeable of the two boys.
The work went quickly with Lasko there; the man was able to shift the heavier machines where the boys only struggled fruitlessly. Sharp also admitted grudgingly that with the addition of a third pair of hands, things had gotten a bit easier.
Lasko also discovered that the strange looking tools that he had received weren’t so strange to him after all; a device the size of a pen turned out to be a welding torch, while another had a strange purple thin flame that cut through metal better than anything Lasko knew from the 21st century. There was another pistol looking device that turned out to be a powerful drill with a self-adjusting drill bit.
Lasko found that once he knew what each tool did, he surprisingly adapted quite naturally, almost as if his body was very familiar with the movements.
Maybe a hint to what I did in the 21st century… he wondered to himself, while he cut what looked to be a damaged scrap of metal. Then to his surprise, the flame of his welding device sputtered out.
“Looks like you’re out of juice.” Sharp mentioned, from his location underneath the machine. The dark haired boy had been supporting as Lasko cut. “You need to charge it.”
Lasko looked at him blankly. “Charge it?”
“Yeah, don’t you know how?” Tunnel’s head popped up from the other side of the machine.
Sharp groaned. “Hold on a second…” With a grunt, the two boys pushed the machine back into a stable position, and stood next to Lasko.
“Well, you didn’t have any levels yesterday, but maybe you got some today.” Sharp said drily. He clearly didn’t expect anything.
“Just turn off your regulator.” Tunnel said, indicating the milky pale device that he wore on his finger. “Like this.” The boy twisted the ring until the cloudiness of the orb disappeared, turning translucent.
Huh. Lasko looked down at his new utility belt, which held the familiar and ionic white stone in the front.
“Like this?” He twisted the stone clockwise. PSST!!! Almost immediately the device in his hand made an odd sound, heating up instantly, and a tiny wisp of smoke appeared from the tip.
“Ouch!” Lasko dropped the tool reflexively, before it actually burned his hand.
“What happened?” Tunnel and Sharp both looked at the device, and then at Lasko with confusion.
“It just… it got hot suddenly.” Lasko tried to explain.
Sharp glared at him, and then studied the pen torch on the ground carefully. Seeing no more smoke emerging from it, the boy gingerly picked it up. Finding that it was not too hot to the touch, Sharp attempted to turn on the device. Nothing. He then switched off his own regulator, apparently attempting to charge it.
Still nothing. Sharp threw the device down on the ground, and then advanced on Lasko in a fury. “It’s broken! How in hell did you break it so quick!? We only bought the damn thing yesterday!” Lasko lifted his hands, blocking his face from Sharp’s threatening hands, but the boy only grabbed the other tools off of Lasko’s utility belt. One by one, he tried a few. There was no responses, from any of them.
Sharp stood there, his hands clutching the tools, with a completely dumbfounded look on his face. “They’re… they’re all broken?” He asked no one in particular.
Tunnel looked on, his eyes wide and confused. “Did Leonard sell us bad stuff?” the brown haired boy asked.
Sharp shook his head slowly. “No, no. I tested them all and they were working fine today too.” His eyes fell upon Lasko, who was standing there with a guilty expression on his face.
Lasko had absolutely no idea what happened. But given his own unique status as a level zero and a person that should have only existed a thousand years ago, Lasko had no doubt in his mind that he himself was the cause. Making a careful movement, Lasko turned the regulator, until it returned to its milky white color.
Sharp didn’t miss the subtle action.
“This useless rat shitter broke them!” A mixture of absolute rage and disbelief battled across the young teenager’s face.
Lasko was scared. This was the angriest that he had ever seen Sharp; the last time the boy had attacked him, it had been a calculated show of force. Now that Sharp looked like he genuinely wanted to strangle someone to death, Lasko believed that was a very possible course of events.
Tunnel interjected, to Lasko’s immense relief. “Hey Sharp, he didn’t do it on purpose. We didn’t know any better.”
“We?” Sharp exclaimed loudly. “What do you mean, we?”
“Well, we told him to try and charge it. I didn’t know he was gonna break them…”
Sharp clutched his head, trying to sort things out in his head. After some deep breathing and a minute of staring out at the horizon, Sharp sighed bitterly.
“Yeah… but how did he break all the other ones too? Damn. You get more and more useless.”
Sharp pointed to Lasko, a little bit of anger returning to his face. “You… you get away from us for now, until we figure out why you keep breaking stuff. We don’t want you to break our stuff too.”
Lasko nodded quickly in understanding. In his mind, he had already linked the breaking of the tools to the turning off of the regulator, but he figured that now wasn’t a good time to spout theories. Immediately getting away from the dangerous Sharp just seemed prudent.
Returning to the hut, Lasko groaned, sitting on the cot heavily. He felt guilty, trying to combat the self-blame that washed over him. Lasko didn’t want to be a bigger burden to the kids who had taken him in, but more and more it seemed that he couldn’t help it.
He was out of his element. Even if Lasko had his memories, they were all from a thousand years ago. How was a man from the past supposed to make himself useful? Not to mention that he didn’t have any thetan levels. He still didn’t know exactly what levels were… From everything that had happened, he gathered that levels were linked to age? And that you used them to power machines?
Then his eyes fell upon the helmet device that they had purchased yesterday, and his listlessness turned to excitement. He had forgotten that a potential source of answers was right in front of him.
He grabbed it quickly. What was it called again? Lasko thought back. A visual device? Not exactly a very creative name, but it made the intended use pretty clear. You wear it, and it’s like a virtual reality headset?
Lasko dug the data-chip case out of his pocket and opened it, revealing the small circular disc. Gingerly lifting it out of the case, Lasko examined the helmet for a place to put it, and instantly found it, a small thin slot on the right temple. Upon insertion, the goggles lit up, and the whole thing hummed to life. Quickly, Lasko put the thing on his head, where it slid into place like it was custom-made for his head.
OK, what now? He couldn’t see anything, only darkness. Then some words appeared in front on him, floating in the darkness.
[User Interface Synchronization… 100%]
[Time-Mind Synchronization… 100%]
[Detecting data formatting………… pre-MDS formatting detected.]
[Loading Harold Washington Library Database…… 828,000 Terabytes uploaded.]
[945,843,593 folders indexed.]
[Detecting primary executable. Would you like to execute?]
Lasko wasn’t sure. Did he want to execute? I guess so. As soon as the words crossed his mind the message was replaced with another.
[Welcome to the Harold Washington Library database. Celebrating over 600 centuries of bringing history, culture, and information to the public.]
[What would you like to look for?]
Wow. Lasko couldn’t stop the excitement that was flooding through his veins. Harold Washington Library. What is this place? As soon as he thought it, the words appeared on the screen.
[Harold Washington Library.] Then a small box appeared at the side of his vision, and the words transferred to it.
Then the blackness exploded into a flurry of color, the movement almost instantly coming to a stop on a white page.
Another word entry appeared in the new dark side-menu.
[Over 3,000 matches found for Harold Washington Library….]
[Displaying most viewed file for searches with “Harold Washington Library”]
Lasko looked at the white page with astonishment, seeing a picture of a red brick building with a green roof. The words [WIKIPEDIA – the free encyclopedia] appeared at the top of the display.
Lasko stared at it in shock, then began to laugh in amazement as he realized what he was looking at.
The entire internet of the 21st century, was encapsulated on a tiny disc the size of a thumbnail!
He tried to think of something else to search for, but too much was running through his head. I need to make a list. He decided. If only I had something to write with, and a notepad…
The two open windows instantly resized, moving to the right of his vision, while another window popped up on the left. It was empty except for a blinking text cursor.
Lasko was impressed. Again. This thing could read his thoughts, and could basically interpret everything that he wanted. He tested out the typing tool, concentrating on making words appear on the box. They appeared in an instant.
[This thing is amazing and it has officially blown my mind and this is typing insanely fast whatever I am thinking that didn’t make sense?]
Wow. With a thought, Lasko wiped the sentence away, then restored it, adding in proper punctuation for good measure.
This thing is amazing and it has officially blown my mind. This is insanely fast typing, and it puts down whatever I am thinking. It makes sense now.
Lasko smiled to himself. He could get used to this.
A text smiley, [:-) ] popped up on the screen.
He erased the entire thing, and started over. A title appeared, followed by a list in numerical order.
[Things to research and find answers to:]
[1. What happened to modern civilization (after the 21st century)?]
[2. What is Upper and the gates?]
[3. What are thetan levels?]
[4. What are units? Why do they glow?]
Lasko paused a bit, before typing in the last entry.
[5. Who is T. Lasko?]
Alright, let’s do this. Lasko focused on the Wikipedia page. Find me the wiki for the “21st Century.”
A page with a bunch of different results popped up.
Not the song by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lasko thought, and he selected the option that said, [Common Era, 2001-2100].
The text instantly appeared on the page, and Lasko began to read, starting from the top.
[The 21st century was the 100 year period from Common Era 2001 to 2100, later called by historians as
The Next Century. Time magazine, in its November Issue 2234, called it “…the century when mankind’s future turned from inevitable destruction into a world of, truly, infinite possibilities.”]
[The Next Century was a period of unparalleled growth in technology and culture; marked by large achievements in space travel and computation capacity. Computers became commonplace and even essential in developed countries. Man reached Mars in the late 2030’s. It also marked the beginning of the rapid decline in stability of the Earth’s ecosystem. ]
[However, all historians unanimously agree that what ultimately made the 21st century so pivotal as to be called “The Next Century,” was the discovery of the Aubin Stone]
[The finding of the Aubin Stone sparked the beginning of the research that eventually led into the discovery of Thetan forces, which in turn led to the unprecedented rapid development known currently as “The Age of Neo-Technology.”]
Well, Lasko thought, I guess the first and third question are pretty related. He used his mind to indicate the Aubin Stone.
[The Aubin Stone was a unique meteorite discovered by Michel Aubin, a French climate researcher in the year 2042. When initially found, this hunk of metal weighed in at 115 pounds, and was the first and only naturally occurring DVG discovered by mankind. It was markedly the most important discovery of the century, and it birthed an entirely new field of research and development.]
[Michel Aubin, while conducting research on the rapidly receding ice sheet in Greenland, (now known as The Northern Polar Territories), stumbled on the meteorite in a large crater that had been revealed by the retreating ice. Upon touching the stone, the man received an electrical shock. Incorrectly perceiving the meteorite to have a standing electrical charge, Michel dragged the mass back to base camp for further study. Upon closer examination, the researcher quickly realized that the rock did not hold a standing charge, and in fact, only generated electricity upon touching the object with bare skin.]
[The discovery of this stone is somewhat marred by tragedy. When he discovered of the unique properties of the rock, Michel Aubin invited his fellow researchers to touch the stone. Eric Chesterfield, an aging professor (82 years old) visiting the research site for the season, suffered a larger than typical electric shock, went into cardiac arrest and died consequently.]
[Although this development was unfortunate, the publicity that followed propelled the Aubin stone and its oddities into the spotlight with the global scientific community, and ultimately resulted in the UN collaborated research to primarily answer the two following questions:
Why does the stone generate electricity when touched, and why do people of greater ages invoke a greater charge?]
[For the next decade, the Aubin Stone was hailed as the future of green, renewable energy, however, after years of research without any noteworthy results, the UN eventually dismantled its joint project, and ended up selling pieces of the stone to the private sector; many colleges, researchers, and private tech developers had been requesting and petitioning access to the stone. The findings from the UN were published publicly, and highlighted the physical properties of the stone, rather than the theoretical.]
[1. The Aubin Stone is confirmed to be a meteorite by examination of the object’s surface characteristics and chemical makeup (Fe, Ni and Co make up more than 95% of mass). There is nothing measurably different about the elements (their chemical actions and reaction are completely ordinary, and are otherwise completely identical to normal elements).]
[2. Cutting and splitting of the rock does not affect the production of electricity. All pieces of the stone produce electricity when touched, in an amount corresponding to the mass of said piece. However, when chemically reacted with another substance, the material loses it capacity to generate electricity.]
[3. The lifetime length of an animal will produce a greater charge the older the subject is. People of the same age produce almost an identical charge, with the exception of a very few individuals (less than .2% of the test group). Variances tend to increase marginally with increasing age. Newborns generate a tiny charge that is almost identical in charge, measured at five pico-Volts.]
[4. Other animal lifeforms can also produce an electrical charge when brought into contact with the stone, but seems to be limited to creatures of a certain intelligence (hypothesized to be those with an understanding of self-awareness). There have been examples of species that only evoke a response after a certain age (most commonly experienced with certain types of fish). The same rules regarding age apply, regardless of species.]
[5. As long as contact is maintained with the stone, electricity is generated indefinitely. Longest measured time is 75 days.]
[No more discoveries relating to the Aubin stone occurred for the next 45 years, until a piece of the Aubin Stone fell into the hands of a German researcher, Otto Dauser, a leading expert on elementary particles. It was given to him as a gift by a fellow scholar, and on a whim, Otto placed the Aubin stone into a particle accelerator. What he discovered inside the stone’s atoms was completely unexpected.]
[When measuring the subatomic particles, there was an overwhelming presence of particles that consisted of four quarks and one antiquark.]
[For the first time, solid evidence had been discovered for pentaquarks, a theoretical subatomic particle, of which prior evidence for had been dismissed in the mid-2000’s as being statistically insignificant.]
[With further testing, it was determined that while almost every atom present had pentaquarks, only atoms of the same element had identical formations of penta-quarks. Dauser hypothesized that the presence of the pentaquarks, when present in an atomic structure along with other specific pentaquark formations, must be the cause of the electrical production. Otto Dauser, in light of his confirmation of the theoretical particle, renamed the pentaquark after its mathematical representation, the Theta particle. (It is usually represented by a theta-plus symbol)]
Finally a connection to thetan levels. Lasko thought. Now we’re getting somewhere.
[This new discovery sparked another flood of research. The market value of a piece of the Aubin Stone skyrocketed due to the newfound demand. At the peak of the pricing surge, in year 2143, a ninety gram piece of the Aubin stone sold for the astonishing price of 8.2 billion dollars.]
[With a logical theory of how the meteorite was fundamentally different than any other chemically identical rock, much attention was now directed to the other question; why did people of different ages produce different reactions from the stone?]
[A bevy of theories flooded the scientific community; but to date, there is no substantial evidence to support any of them. However, a series of well documented observations were eventually published by the MIT Technology Review, which included a basic theory to explain the phenomenon; this published piece became the foundation for current public opinion, and to this date remains the most popular explanation.]
[The contents of the publication was split between the observations and the theory. The observation portion became commonly known as The Six Laws of Activation for Theta Particle Effects, or The Six Laws of Activation for short. The theory became known as The Soul Ether Effect.]
[The Six Laws of Activation are as follows: (as quoted by National Geographic)]
[1. The subject must have a certain level of intelligence to activate. (No insects or plant life have ever been found to qualify)]
[2. The activation effect increases with age with no exceptions.]
[3. The activation effect increases exponentially. (The more activation effect the subject can evoke, the faster the effect will grow.)]
[4. The activation must occur through direct contact with the subject (not transmissible through the air). However, when direct contact is established through a medium with a corporeal substance, activation can occur, albeit with a reduced effect. (Similar to the laws of conductivity)]
[5. The activation can occur through the contact of any living tissue connected to the subject. (Hair or fingernails, or waste products do not qualify for direct contact, but are relatively good conductors).]
[6. Upon death or physical separation of any activating tissue from the subject, the activation is immediately suspended.]
[The basic idea behind the Soul Ether Effect is that creatures with self-awareness possess a spirit, and that over time, each spirit collects an unseen force called Ether, which causes the activation effect.]
[The following Spiritual Ether Effect description is a brief transcript of dialogue from Julian Finch, online celebrity, and host of the internet series, Theoretical Science for the Masses. “…the vast universe is itself is floating in an even bigger ocean of this “thetan energy.” We are literally swimming in it, and this invisible energy is like, passing through us as we speak. Tons of it are just, whoosh, passing right through. And as it does, for some reason, tiny bits of pieces of it are getting stuck in our, like, let’s call it “spiritual essence.” It is going through our spiritual essence, which is picking up pieces of these thetan energies. And the more energies that get stuck, the more the spirit attracts them, its magnetic, more and more just pile up…”]
[Although some other explanations and theories have been offered, none of them gained much traction, and with lack of any actual evidence, any real objections to the theory never took place.]
[After the emergence of this ‘Soul’ theory, the use of the terminology “thetan levels,” (to describe the differences in activation effect in people,) became popular. There was some initial resistance by scientists, who claimed that the term “thetan levels” was misleading, (since what actually caused the differences was ether levels, and not the thetan particles.) They were supported by the Church of Scientology, which eventually sued every offending organization for copyright infringement. The lawsuits were all struck down, and thetan levels eventually became a part of the Common language.]
Lasko was mind-blown. This was some crazy stuff. Thetan levels? Particles? No wonder the world is so different now, Lasko thought. Common language? What’s that?
Lasko indicated the word, and yet another page popped up.
[Common language is the official language of the United Western Nations, and is currently the most used language in the world. It contains over two million words, the majority of the language being comprised of the English language, while the rest having its origins from the assortment of national languages within the UWN.]
[In the late 2200s, the explosion of violence between ethnic groups that followed the unification of the nations of western world prompted the national government to focus on the creation of a national identity that all of its citizens could embrace. A large governmental committee was formed, called the-]
Wait, what? United Western Nations? No more United States? Holy crap… I gotta… I gotta think for a bit. When the thought of taking off the headset occurred to him, another blinking notification instantly popped up.
[De-Synchronization… 100%] The windows disappeared and everything returned to black. Lasko took off the device, his heart beating quickly.
Lasko took deep breathes, trying to calm his agitated mind. It was just too much information, too quickly. He stood up. I need a break. How long was I reading? He walked to the doorway, peering out in the bright light.
Sharp and Tunnel had their heads over the broken tools, Sharp carefully trying to fix them, while Tunnel looked on, scratching his head. As he watched, Sharp angrily threw the tool he was working on into a nearby pile of trash. The repairs did not seem to be going well.
Lasko decided to quickly retreat out of view back into the cabin.
Ok, let’s process this information. “There’s a new power source that humans discovered. And every single person has it. So why don’t I?” Lasko said out loud to himself. “How come I can’t use these thetan levels? If it’s based on age, then… I should have at least more than Sharp and Tunnel right?
Hold on a second… Lasko paused. There was something not quite right about that statement. “If it’s based on age…” he said, his mind processing through the idea. “…if it’s based on age, then technically… I’m pretty old. 1000 years…” Lasko stopped. Could it be?
“I’m really old. Then according to the laws of activation, I should have quite a bit of Thetan levels. Then the reason that the level readers didn’t work wasn’t because I had no levels…” The logic slowly began to take shape in Lasko’s mind. “…but because I had too many?”
He looked at his now empty waist. “And the reason my tools all broke, was because I overloaded them with too much juice?” It sounded somewhat reasonable. “Is that even possible?”
Lasko’s eyes wandered the small hut, looking for something to test his theory on, and his eyes quickly fell on the humanoid robot machine that Tunnel had tossed on the pile the previous day.
The kids said that they weren’t able to turn it on because they didn’t have enough levels…
He fished it out, untangling a stubborn wire, and placed it standing upright on the cot, facing him.
“So how do I turn this on…?” Lasko murmured to himself, scanning the torso for clues, but nothing stood out. “Oh, that’s right.” Lasko had forgotten to turn off the regulator around his waist. He turned the milky white orb, and it faded to clear. He tried again, grasping the torso firmly.
To his amazement, the robot instantly jumped to life, and the machine’s single eye sensor began to move, scanning the surrounding room quickly, before focusing in on Lasko.
“Hello there.” A very human female voice sounded out. “Why are you man-handling me?”