For a thousand years, the Prophecy of Elfhaven has predicted the arrival of a boy who would irrevocably change their world. But what does that have to do with Tom? with his dog Max? with his robot Chloe? When Tom’s mom and her team of scientists unexpectedly open a portal to another universe they discover a world where magic, not science rules. And when Tom’s robot, Chloe, is drafted into service to explore that strange new world, it unleashes a bizarre series of events. Events where dragons, wizards, ogres, trolls, elves, dwarves, magic and technology collide; events that propel Tom headlong towards a war that threatens to destroy Elfhaven. Even with the help of his new-found friends, and despite the efforts of his new-found enemies, can Tom save this world or will he inadvertently bring about its destruction?
Juanita turned to one of her scientists. “Sashi, how are the readings shaping up this morning?”
“We’ve confirmed the entry and exit particle count and as before, it’s greater than the simulations predict,” replied Sashi.
“Strange, and there’s been a steady rise in energy levels?” said Juanita absently.
“Yes, as you know, the first six months that we were monitoring, the rate of energy entering our universe remained fairly constant. This morning I was reviewing the logs and I noticed that three nights ago, Monday at exactly 11:27 pm, there was a sudden spike in the energy flow. It quickly fell back down but ever since it’s been steadily increasing. And in the last few hours it’s increased almost exponentially.”
“What power setting are we currently running at?”
“Power is at 50 percent. We just upped it to that level last week,” confirmed Sashi.
Juanita paused. “OK, let’s try bumping it up to 60 percent. The simulations show favorable results at that level.” Then turning to her son, she said, “Tom, you might find this interesting.”
Sashi pushed a large slider lever up a few notches. “Power levels at 60 percent.” At that moment there was a faint tremor accompanied by a sort of crackling noise. “Particle transfer rate has multiplied—by a thousand percent!” Sashi looked up at Juanita, shocked.
The others all stopped what they were doing and turned to face them. Juanita glanced at each of them in turn, then asked, “Any idea what could be causing this?” No one spoke. After a moment’s consideration, she continued, “Increase power to 75 percent.”
Sashi hesitated, then turned back to her control panel. She moved the slider lever once more. “Power at 75 percent.” Another stronger shudder occurred; this time accompanied by tiny green sparks that highlighted the edges of the detection grid, all the way to the floor.
“The model doesn’t predict anything like this,” blurted Cheng.
“I know we can’t explain this… It’s behaving far differently than anything we’ve seen before.” Juanita paused. “But—we may not get another chance like this.”
Suddenly she turned to face her son. “I’m not expecting any problems, honey, but I don’t want to take any chances, either. Would you please go out and wait for me in the hall?”
“No ‘but Moms!’ Now go!” Tom turned and took a couple of steps toward the door, then he stopped and looked back. His mom was again facing the sensor panel; all eyes were on her. She let out a long sigh, then said to Sashi, “Increase to full power.” Tom continued to watch.
“Wait!” cried Cheng, “this is way beyond any of the models’ predictions. We’re flying blind here. Shouldn’t we power back down and analyze the data first? See if we can figure out what’s wrong with our model? Then see what it predicts once we’ve fixed the model?”
Juanita paused. “Do we all agree that even at a hundred percent power we are way below the threshold that could tear a hole into another universe?” There were nods from all the scientists. “And do we also agree that this may be a singular event, that something in our universe, or in the other universe, is aligned in such a way that—whatever is happening, this may be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence? If we don’t try it now, we may never get another chance.” The scientists looked nervously at one another.
“I won’t go on without complete agreement. How many are in favor of raising the power to a hundred percent?”
Gradually, everyone except Cheng raised their hands. Cheng looked over at his co-workers uneasily. One by one, his eyes met each of theirs, lingering longest on Juanita’s. Finally he took a deep breath and slowly raised his hand.
“All right, then. We’re all in agreement.”
Sashi looked at Juanita, who gave her a slight nod. Glancing once more at her teammates, Sashi slowly turned back to her console. Using both hands this time, she pushed the lever all the way to the top. “Power levels at…” Before she could finish her statement there was a loud “whoomp.” The sparks intensified; momentarily dancing around the edges of the detection grid, they swiftly expanded into a solid green sheet of light pouring from the whole space outlined by the sensor array. Slowly a blurry scene of another world appeared. After a moment, the image stabilized and the green light faded, except for a few traces around the edges of the grid. Alien-looking trees and shrubs came into focus. Their bark had deep furrows running parallel to each branch and trunk. Where the branches attached to the trunks, they were bigger and rounder, giving the eerie appearance of muscles. What made it look even stranger was the fact that, near the ends of the branches, many tiny twigs emerged in a fan pattern, resembling fingers. The twigs moved slightly, as if blown by a gentle breeze. At least—Tom hoped that was why they were moving…
Several scientists gasped.
“This should not be happening! These power levels are only a fraction of the energy needed to punch a hole into another universe!” Juanita paused, then as if to herself said, “Unless—unless there’s something on the other side—something that’s…” Sensing all eyes on her, waiting for her to decide what to do next, she said, “Quick, we don’t know how long the portal will stay open. Let’s send through some sensors; gather some data about the other world. We need temperature and barometric sensors, a gas sensor, a spectrometer, plus seismic and gravitational sensors.”
“But we aren’t prepared,” blurted Cheng. “We’d need a mobile transport platform to carry the sensors over and to broadcast the results back.”
Tom ran up behind his mom and pulled her sleeve.
“Can we rig up a radio onto each piece of equipment, then throw them through the portal?” said Juanita hurriedly.
Leroy responded, “We don’t have enough radios and it would take too long to configure them all. Besides, they might be damaged by just throwing them through.”
Once again Tom pulled on his mother’s sleeve, “Mom?”
Juanita, still looking at the incredible alien scene before her, and with a hint of irritation in her voice said, “Not now, Tom. Can’t you see this is critical?”
Then she noticed that the others were looking past her, so she followed their gaze. They were looking at Tom, who was pointing straight down—at Chloe.
“Leroy, you round up the sensors. I’ll configure a radio to interface with them. Sashi, you figure out how to attach all this gear to the robot. Tom, you instruct Cheng on how to run Chloe.” The team scrambled to accomplish their individual tasks and twenty frantic minutes later, they had completed the final tests. Chloe was heavy with the car battery and with all the new equipment attached to her, but with some effort, Cheng aimed her straight for the portal.
“We don’t know whether the electromagnetic spectrum in the other universe, is compatible with ours, or even if the portal will pass the radio signals through. This is definitely a long shot, but it could advance scientific knowledge by a hundred years if we succeed. We have to try!” Juanita turned toward her son and her face assumed a serious look. Bending over she placed her hands on his shoulders and looked him straight in the eyes. “You realize we may not be able to bring Chloe back, don’t you? We don’t even know if we can control her once she’s through the portal.”
“That’s OK, Mom. I understand.” To his robot he said, “We’re counting on you, Chloe.” Then he nodded at Cheng.
Juanita smiled, kissing her son on the forehead, then turned back to the others. “OK, one small step for mankind…” Then to Cheng said, “Punch it, Chewy!”
Cheng glanced sidelong at Juanita, shook his head, then typed in a command on the controller. Chloe took off fast—a little too fast—heading straight for the portal. Three feet, two feet, one foot away—even moving this fast, when Chloe reached the portal it seemed as if she slowly dissolved from front to back, then she disappeared entirely. For a tense couple of seconds everyone held their breath… Suddenly Chloe reappeared on the other side, moving fast, headed straight for a tree.
“Stop!” cried Tom. Cheng’s fingers flew across the tiny keyboard, but nothing happened. Cheng typed again and again, and at the last moment, Chloe slowed, then stopped just inches before hitting the tree.
Cheers rang out.
Juanita let out a deep sigh. “OK, do we have an uplink to the instruments?”
Leroy replied, “Carrier signal is strong, and… yes I’m receiving data from barometric and gas sensors… and yes, from the others as well. Barometric pressure at 30.1 inches of mercury; well within the normal range for Earth. Slightly higher oxygen levels and slightly lower carbon dioxide and nitrogen levels, but it looks remarkably similar to Earth’s atmosphere!”
“What about seismic anomalies?”
“Only minor tremors, possibly active volcanoes on the planet, but none nearby.”
“Reading 28 degrees Celsius, 301 degrees Kelvin, also Earth-like.”
“Spectral analysis?” asked Juanita, with barely contained excitement evident in her voice.
“Spectral analysis shows—mostly a semi-normal elemental breakdown but—there’s something… They have the same number of protons and electrons as our atoms, but the atomic weight is different, implying they have a different number of neutrons. Thus their signature doesn’t match any known elements… from our universe, that is.”
“Interesting… Any idea if the differences would cause any problems for humans?”
“We’d need to do a thorough analysis to know for sure.”
“Hum,” said Juanita aloud. She thought for a moment. “As much as I’d like to, we can’t risk sending someone through. At least not until we’ve done the analysis.”
“But…” began Sashi, who was cut off immediately as another tremor rocked the building. This one was stronger than the last. Supplies began falling off shelves. The lights flickered.
“I’m losing the carrier signal!” yelled Leroy.
Juanita paused only a second. “Bring Chloe back.”
Cheng typed in a command and Chloe turned around to face them. “She’s responding sluggishly.”
At that same instant there was a crackling sound and green sparks appeared at the edges of the grid. Smoke was coming from somewhere and Tom’s eyes began to water.
“Hit the red button!” yelled Tom to Cheng. Cheng hesitated an instant, then slapped his hand down hard on the button. Chloe took off straight for the portal.
Juanita pointed and yelled, “Tom, get behind that cabinet!” She turned to the others. “Are we losing power?”
“No,” shouted Sashi, “power is holding steady at a hundred percent.”
“Then why…” butbefore Juanita could finish her thought, there was a loud “whoosh” and the green light surrounding the portal shrank to a single bright dot, which lazily danced around the center for a moment, then winked out with a soft “pop.” All that remained was a wisp of smoke and the slight tangy odor of ozone.
Everyone just stared in shock. The last thing Tom remembered was seeing Chloe’s LED “eyes” looking forlornly across the gulf at him. Now Chloe was stuck on the other side…
After a few moments, Juanita spoke, “Make sure we back up all the data. We’ll be analyzing it for some time to come.” She looked around the room at all the faces. Expressions of excitement, wonder, disappointment, triumph, and sadness were evident all around her. Finally her eyes settled on Tom as he stepped out from behind a cabinet. A tear ran down his cheek.
“Oh Tom,” she hurried over and knelt down in front of him, placing her hands on his shoulders.
“Tom, I’m so sorry about Chloe. This was an amazing breakthrough, though. You know we couldn’t have done it without her, right?”
“I know,” began Tom, trying to choke back a tear, “it’s just that—I guess—I didn’t really expect to lose her.”
“Oh, Tom.” She lowered her gaze for a moment. “But you still have James, and Max, right? And there’s always Uncle Carlos and me.”
Tom wiped the remnants of the tear from his cheek and stood up tall. His mom grinned and ruffled his hair.
A slight smile crossed his face.
“Honey, would you mind if I stayed awhile and did some work? There’s a lot to be done. I’ll call Uncle Carlos and see if he can take you home.”
“That’s alright, Mom. I’d like to stay.”
Juanita nodded, then stood and addressed her team. “Everyone, in case it hasn’t sunk in yet: we’ve just made history here this evening. You should all feel proud of what you’ve accomplished. We weren’t expecting or prepared for any of this. It took quick thinking and fast coordinated teamwork, but you pulled it off. And as a result, the world will never be the same.”
As the team pondered her words, recognition dawned on their faces as they realized what they’d actually accomplished, and what that would mean for mankind.
Juanita looked from face to face. “I know it’s late, but I’m sure you feel as eager to analyze this new data as I am.” The scientists nodded enthusiastically.
“Great! Sashi, you verify that the instruments were still transmitting when the portal collapsed. Leroy, take a look at the data for the time period leading up to the portal opening. Say—the last hour or so. See if you can spot anything unusual. Cheng, go over the sensor readings we got back from the planet. Start working on a simulation to see if the planet could support human life. I’ll take a look at our current model and try to figure out why it didn’t predict this event.” Before she could say another word, her team rushed off to tackle their individual assignments. Juanita glanced around the room—excitement shone brightly on everyone’s faces. She smiled as she briskly walked to her workstation.
* * *
Chloe raced forward but the portal collapsed in a shower of green sparks before she could reach it. Speeding through the space where the portal had just been, she stopped at the edge of the clearing. Her platform slowly rotated around in a full circle. She let out a forlorn chirp. Suddenly the sound of footsteps thundered from off to her left. Chloe turned toward the sound. The crashing footfalls grew louder. Chloe backed up under cover of a large tree. A moment later a dark beast with huge muscles and natural rock-like armor came crashing into the clearing, then abruptly stopped, its beady eyes scanning the area. Chloe stood still. The creature raised its head and sniffed the musty humid air, looking right, then left. It took a step toward the robot. As it did, it brushed a small tree with its forearm. Twigs from the tree quickly wrapped around the beast’s muscular arm, then seemed to tighten. Idly the creature snapped its arm away, uprooting the tree then flung it off without even looking. Sniffing the air once more, it quickly turned and stomped away. Chloe’s platform rotated slightly, her LEDs pointing in the direction that the beast had gone. She made another weak chirp.
Goban (a dwarf lad, always hungry, speaks hip-hop) also drools when he hears: My Songs Know What You Do In The Dark by Fall Out Boy www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkIWmsP3c_s
Kiran’s (8 year old precocious elf lad. Avani’s younger brother) favorite song: The theme song from Lord of the Rings www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMInqyumZ3I
Prince Devraj (15 year old conceited elf boy who’s engaged to Avani) is enthralled by the Main Theme from Aliens by Ivan De Jesus: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-jGrL7U09Y
Bellchar (The troll) enjoys smashing elves while listening to: “You Don’t Dream in Cryo” (Avatar) by James Horner www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hus7Iv47YwE
Max (Tom’s enormous, slobbering St Bernard) happily drools whenever he hears: “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang (Probably because it was in one of the “Beethoven” movies.) www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GwjfUFyY6M
Juanita (Tom’s mom. A brilliant theoretical physicist who is trying to prove the existence of parallel universes) works out to the theme from Stargate SG1: www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5F_PIm5vR4
Professor Snehal (Grumpy, sniveling magic teacher) thinks he could sing better than Snape in: “The Snape Song” by Kayla Kreger: www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi6BpwSfqoU
King Dakshi (King of the elves of Elfhaven) listens to “The Best of Robin Hood 2010 (Original Soundtrack)” www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GMHzge6c-I as he goes into battle!
Bellchar is a critically acclaimed author in Elfhaven. That’s in a parallel universe, for those of you who don’t know. Obviously, Bellchar is a rock troll. As this is his first novel published on the planet Earth, and due to the fact that there appears to be strong and continued prejudice against rock trolls on this planet, Bellchar has wisely decided to publish on Earth using a “quill name.” The author has chosen to write under the name of a human who befriended him some years back, K. M. Doherty. The two first met when, due to an unfortunate series of mishaps, Bellchar journeyed to the planet Earth. But that’s another story…
K. M. Doherty grew up in eastern Oregon in the shadow of the blue mountains. When he was a young lad he and his dad would stay up late at night watching old movies. But watching movies wasn’t enough. No, they’d painstakingly analyze them, searching here and there for little bits that didn’t work, and then discussing how they could fix them. Perhaps a bit of foreshadowing here, getting a character to stay in character there, adding or removing clues, etc… They especially loved mysteries and who-done-it’s, trying to figure out ahead of time who the real murderer was and what they did wrong that got them caught! Likewise with heist movies: how the crooks screwed up and how they could have gotten away with it. That was the catalyst that finally led to writing this book. However there were a few detours along the way. For instance, skiing, motorcycling, playing lead guitar in a rock and roll band, aikido, tai chi, acting, drawing, a master’s degree in engineering, working for a time as a hardware and software engineer, racing small sailboats, poker, and pool. Lastly, he loves to read science fiction and fantasy novels and he’s seen way too many movies…