This story was first serialized in 30 daily parts during September 2022 via the @InternetofWords Twitter feed @ 9am. It is now reproduced in this complete form, with a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

I produce fiction bi-weekly on Ko-Fi: this includes flash fiction (250 words) which is being put together to form a long-form narrative, plus a bi-weekly full novel presented in episodic format. I also record weekly videos.

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Stan misses San Francisco. Everything was chill there, calm; relaxed. Sitting in a marble bunker is none of those things, but this is where he and Cat must now hide themselves. Sometimes, you just have to go with the hand you are dealt and then hope that Chaos understands its job. Chaos not only gets the mission brief on this, but has been doing legwork for several weeks… or is it for several seconds? That’s the bit of the puzzle he struggled with in this version of linear time, for a while. What lasts for an hour might be a year in another quantum realm.

In this bunker, time does not exist. The amount of energy required to maintain it is beyond comprehension… like several suns, for several years, but because time does not exist, any pre-existing requirements in linear space also become largely redundant. Stan misses coffee a LOT. Caffeine made all of this easier to fathom. His reality remains, in a quantum fracture, where potentially an infinite number of outcomes can and might occur simultaneously, no truth at all. Everything is almost reassuringly infinite. It is the humans inside that are the problem.

The humans are not supposed to exist in quantum space. They are, for better or for worse, an irritant… almost an infection. That’s why the bunker has to be marble. Otherwise, they just keep being spat back out again… well, most of them. One is stuck. He’s the one causing chaos. Gregory Jones has fractured his existence through a portion of quantum space because Gregory Jones is the next stage of human evolution. When all this is done, he has to remain and everything else has to vanish. Otherwise, Stan NEVER gets back to great coffee near Russian Hill.

The irony of Stan never being born, or meeting Cat, or encountering the Tachyoscope Foundation is the biggest quantum mindfuck of all, when all is said and done. If Gregory Jones can exist in multiple forms and as multiple entities, so can everybody else in this glorious shitshow. This is all part of the point, the plan, the outcome and the final result… and simultaneously, it is not, which doesn’t help the slightly advanced ape with an urge for caffeine. This is why we all need to evolve more, Stan thinks, not realizing Cat is back in reception range.

Sometimes he’s embarrassed that they share the same empathic, communicative space, especially when he knows he’s thinking like a dick. Right now, however, there’s just a grateful comfort he’s not having to cope with this level of mental stress alone. That would indeed truly suck.

“I have coffee, Stan, try to contain your excitement.”

She does, too, two cups that are similarly made of marble, which are brought and placed down on the marble table, before sitting on the stone bench opposite.

“Does this mean coffee also requires protection from probability?”

“My ass needs that… these benches are fierce, am I right?”

“Yes you are, as always, and this is damn fine coffee. Explain to me how this can exist here.”

“I made a deal with a cat. That’s all you need to know.”

“Is that a cat on our side?”

“No, that’s the cat on both sides.”

The Cat with No Name, just Tabby, is capable of moving in and out of quantum fractures with ease, a fact all of his brethren view with clear disgust, as none of them can exist in the Earth known as Cramond. It then required them to seek out an alliance with another race for help. Cats do not form alliances. There is one, however, who has looked past their genetic pettiness, who has been positively confirmed as a splinter from what the Foundation finally identified as the Prime Gregory Jones. There has been a lot of unexpected chaos to get to this point.

However, the amount of predictable chaos has become reassuring. The Universe, it appears, once you possess more knowledge about it than most people on Earth currently have access to, is… there is a pattern. That’s what they told Stan, and now he knows it to be completely true. When he had The Briefing, something extraordinary happened inside his brain. There wasn’t a need to accept the subtleties or a want to explain the complexities to himself. It all just clicked. A piece of his psyche aligned, as if it has always been that little bit outta place.

The Briefing has only been given to ten other people, including Cat. It acknowledges that to solve this current situation, an entire organization will effectively disappear. Billions of lifeforms must vanish forever. The Earth will become a single planet again, no longer a Nexus. It also suggests that to ensure this takes place, all those involved in the process may also cease to exist. The alternative however remains the formation of a dark matter expulsion point, if the quantum disturbances are not eliminated. Nobody wants a Black Hole in this galaxy.

Gregory Jones is the deal. He alters humanity’s path for the good. The cats start talking in about a thousand years, birds are identified as highly sentient, and coffee doesn’t get wiped out due to climate change. Really, truthfully, that’s the game here, at least it is for Stan.

This coffee tastes really good. It’s the little things that matter sometimes…

“You know how this needs to work. We act like we know nothing, and we hand Tabby the perception of a tactical advantage. I told him the coffee would keep you out of his head, so don’t blow it, okay?”

“I am considerably less likely to screw all of this up thanks to the caffeine in the first place. Your perception of priorities is always appreciated, Cat. However, I think I might need to find you a better nickname, surrounded as we both now seem to be by a surfeit of felines.”

“When you talk about me, I know. Other people can just work it out for themselves.”

Stan looks forward to a time when he’s able to stop worrying about everybody else’s perception of reality and focus on his partner’s. That will be the best time of all.

They need to leave soon.

Cramond’s aquifer was a triumph of natural evolution and modern application. The underground layer of water-bearing, permeable rock had for millennia provided the town with unprecedentedly pure and clean drinking water. Humans had settled here soon after the end of the last Ice Age. Archaeological excavations undertaken before the water pumping plant was built in the 1850s indicated that early settlers carved drinking vessels from local hardwoods, that pools were dug where the water could be accessed by goats and sheep for drinking, and for crop irrigation.

However, no-one was aware of what lay beneath the aquifer. The chamber was so mathematically precise as to defy initial identification. There was no indication of any construction tunnels, how anyone could have reached that point beneath the rock strata.

It was a perfect sphere.

The Tachyoscope Foundation’s modelling relied on Gregory Jones’ Earth being the source of the initial quantum disruptions, that his experiments had caused the formation of multiple versions in the same portion of space/time. They were wrong: Cramond, it seemed, had come first. Jones had caused a loop, with Cramond at its centre. 108 versions of the same time period began and ended in the spherical chamber beneath the aquifer. Literal universes created and destroyed, over and over, but there were never more than 108 of them. Then, a connection was made.

When the chamber was finally mapped, its composition became apparent. A quantum centre, surrounded by layers of organic material that had somehow grown around the nucleus, which in turn were surrounded by layers of unidentified particles. The sphere also appeared to be sentient. Jones’ DNA-covered baseball evolved in the quantum universe, the 108 divergences matching the same number of stitches in the ball’s original construction. The Foundation would never have known where to look for this chamber had it not been for a sharp-eyed woman called Ida Morris.

She’d found what was initially thought of as a new form of microbial life in the aquifer, but on closer examination it became apparent they too were tiny, perfect duplicates of the same baseball, which would then immediately disintegrate when passing through the pumping station. Something in the extraction and purification process prevented infection in Cramond’s population: agents were sent to determine where this took place. What they found was yet another revelation, altering the entire focus of the Tachyoscope Foundation’s non-intervention ethos…

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