Fiction: To Coin a Phrase

“So, you can see that use of the C13PDD can clearly indicate the proportions of C13 present in any given biological sample.”

“See-pid?” asked the man in the black suit. He exchanged a vaguely amused look with the other suits in the room.

“Well, uh, yes. Easier to say, I suppose. It’s an acronym. Carbon 13 Proportion Detection Device. See-pid, you see?”

Smiling, he hoped the American audience would find his English accent charming.

Blank, bored stares. Except for the man in black, who looked annoyed.

Ellington could feel the mood of the room get even more tense. He was losing them. If, in fact, he’d ever really held their attention or interest.

Doctor Ellington never felt comfortable in front of committees, especially governmental ones. Half the people in the room held security clearances that didn’t even have names, which did nothing to make him feel better. The rest, sitting in the half darkness, were high-ranking politicians. He suspected that they didn’t want him to see their faces because he’d recognize them. Some of these people were well-known public faces. He didn’t want to see their faces either, to be honest.

The man in the black suit was something else, however. Ellington thought that he was probably a high-level CIA operative. Or FBI, or DIA or NBC or something. He made Ellington feel uncomfortable.

“What does it mean, Doctor,” asked the man in black impatiently. “What’s the point of the device?”

Ellington blinked, surprised. He had honestly thought they would understand. He dialed back his estimation of his audience’s intelligence.

“Ah, well, it means that we can tell what variation someone comes from. If we have a biological sample, of course. Hair, saliva, you know.”

The tension in the room seemed to ease a little. Ellington had proved his worth, if only a little.

“I have a full technical breakdown of the device and its capabilities, along with a summary of our research to date,” said Ellington, lifting a manilla folder and preparing to hand out the contents. “We discovered quite a lot during our time in Wales.”

One of the shadowed faces moved forward slightly, and cleared her throat.

“You said “variation,” Dr. Ellington. What do you mean?” she asked.

She sat back into the shadows, but Ellington had already recognized her. The National Security Advisor, he realized. She’s got her work cut out for her now.

Ellington nodded, shrugged.

“Ah, well, it’s what I call the parallel dimensions. It seemed, uhm, lyrical,” he said, somewhat lamely. “The entire structure doesn’t have a name yet, though I have identified some interesting causal relationships, especially on the nearside of the modal topography, and …”

The man in black interrupted. He waved his hand dismissively towards Ellington and chairs scrapped throughout the room as everyone started to leave.

“Thank you, Dr. Ellington, but we don’t really need to know all the scientific details about this ‘nearside project’ of yours. You’ll be stationed at Wright-Patterson and given the resources you need. We’ll convene again in a month.”

The room cleared in seconds, leaving Doctor Ellington with his slideshow. He sighed, shrugged and scribbled “The Nearside Project” on the front of his folder. At least it has a name, now. He gathered his materials and left the room.