Monday, November 14, 2005

Fourteenth Day

I crossed the halfway word count today. I think it's probably about time this thing got a title. Anybody have any suggestions?

Chapter 18

Excerpt from An Introduction to Oneironautical Theory, by Sir Robert Fitzmorgan, PhD, OnD, FRAOS, et al, 17th edition, 1903:
To be an oneironaut is to be a voyager in the finest sense of the word. The lands and seas of our vast Earth have been explored and examined for years by countless men of many nations. But many yet are the shores of the dreamlands that remain untrodden and mysterious. The oneironaut is one of the few true explorers left in this world, for he may set foot in worlds that others see not but in their dreams.
As an introduction, the present volume is intended to provide a thorough grounding in the theories that govern objects, forces and beings in the dreamlands. The analysis of collected dream data is covered in depth, as well as its translation and relation to the waking world. A brief review is given of the modern technology available for both research and practical uses, but in-depth coverage is reserved for further laboratory courses. The material herein assumes a solid background in the sciences, particularly in Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Psychology…
[pages 12-13]

Jaden was reading from a rather hefty textbook that was part of a large stack of books lent to him by Prof. Oddbury. "Introductory background reading" he had called it. Introductory back breaking was more like it: Jaden had needed to carry them back to his own apartment in two trips. Even with one-handed trips, that was a lot. There was no way he was going to read this all before Beltane arrived next weekend. Nevertheless, he was learning a lot, and it was actually quite interesting, though some of the old-fashioned academic writing took a bit of wading through.

One small volume turned out to be the manual for Prof. Oddbury's FreeForm DreamWave Transceiver. (Jaden suspected that at that point the professor had simply been piling books on enthusiastically, without really looking at the titles.) This appeared to be the device Oddbury had used to collect – and inadvertently transmit – the dreams they had watched on the computer. It seemed to work on a concept similar to that of a radio transmitter, though it only functioned along the "soft" frequencies, which were measured in imaginary numbers. Jaden didn't entirely get that part of it, and suspected that rather more time would have to be spent at the textbooks before it would make sense.

What he was currently most concerned about, however, was the information on dream travel itself. In particular, he was growing rather worried over Chapter 13 of Sir Robert Fitzmorgan's book, which was entitled "The Physical Effects of Dream Travel on the Human Body."

In preparation for dream travel, you get attached to an IV drip containing chemicals which induce sleep, enhance dreams, and also loosen the chemical bonds between your cells ever so slightly. The exact balance of chemicals is critical, and varies from person to person, hence the need for the samples the professor had taken from Jaden. The IV remains in for the duration of the trip, though travels of more than two or three days are considered dangerous. You are then placed inside a machine and attached to various monitors to alert the mother ship as it were to any problems while you are gone. Once sealed inside the machine, it generates a dream field which radiates through your body, filling the spaces between your cells. The body in the machine is effectively asleep, and you are now equipped with a copy of it in the dreamlands.

The end result is similar to a lucid dream, in that you are fully conscious within the dream. But being physically induced like this, there is a much greater connection to the physical body, which places the dream traveler at a greater risk, should anything go wrong during the mission. It didn't make Jaden entirely comfortable.

He hauled himself and the textbook up out of the bean bag chair and went over to see Prof. Oddbury. He had been reading all morning and most of the afternoon now, and needed a break.

"So are you sure you can't come with me?" he asked, once he was over there and ensconced in his favorite arm chair.

"We went over this yesterday, my dear boy," Oddbury replied, "and I told you: I'm far too old for this sort of thing anymore. Perhaps back when I was 115, I would have leapt at the chance, but not these days. And besides, someone has to monitor you, and wake you up when you're done."

"Right. Show me again how that's going to work?"

"It's quite straightforward. You will have a device like this," the professor said, producing a small metal amulet with a button in the middle of it. "The machine will create it from dream material for you when you enter the dreamlands, and it will synchronize itself with it. You can wear it around your neck if you like. When you press this button, it signals the machine, which automatically cuts of the IV and stops generating the dream field. It also alerts me," he pulled a pager out of his pocket, "so that I can monitor you as you awake, administer stimulants if need be, etc."

"And you've really done this yourself?"

"Many times! Though mostly in the earlier part of my career. I was a spy, you know."


"Yes, indeed. One of His Majesty's finest. This was back in the time of King George V, you know, during World War I."

"Who were you spying on?"

"The Germans, of course! Who did you expect, the Mexicans?"

"Well, I know, but – in the dreamlands?"

"They dream like the rest of us, laddie, and you can learn some very useful information by spying on people in their dreams. Tricky, sometimes, to tell what represents an actual threat in our world as opposed to pure imagination, but the boys in the labs could always take care of that once you've brought the data home."

"Was it dangerous?"

"Extremely. The dream technology of the Germans was not as advanced as ours, and they did not have as strong an oneironautical force, but it was still not an easy job. They even enlisted the aid of certain demons, who were ordered to kill any Englishman on sight. On sight, smell, hearing, or feemum, in fact."

"Feemum? What's that?"

"It's like a sixth sense. Though really, for demons, I should say it's probably more of a tenth or eleventh sense. Some of them have up to 15 beyond the ones we know. Rather hard to explain."

"Wow." Jaden wasn't sure that demons were really the encouraging sort of thing he wanted to hear about just now. Luckily, Prof. Oddbury seemed to pick up on that.

"But never mind all that now," he said, turning back to his computer. "I've got something I wanted to show you. Take a look over here."

Jaden came over. "What is it?"

"Thanks to the blood sample you so kindly provided, I believe I may have been able to track down your hand."

The computer screen showed a map of a place that Jaden did not recognize. It was shaded all in red, and showed outline of what looked like a large house, or mansion. Within the mansion, a small, blue figure flashed, in the shape of a hand.

"That's my hand?" Jaden asked. "Where is it? What is that place?"

"That place is the dreamlands," Prof. Oddbury explained patiently, "and as such it can be directly adjacent to any number of places at once, which makes it hard to assign an exact location to. However, the place shown here currently seems to have a distinct correlation for our present location in this world. In fact…"

Here he pulled up another window, with a map Jaden recognized. It was mostly blue, with splotches of red on it, and outlines that matched those of his own neighborhood.

"If you remember this map," the professor continued, "you may notice that some of the outlines match up in an interesting way."

He set the neighborhood map to be translucent, and hovered it over the dreamlands map. The outline of the dream mansion perfectly matched the red shape that marked…

"250 Richards Street," Jaden said, nodding.