That was then.
And this is now.
Storm driven winds shrieked around the Research and Development department buildings, wailing like an animal in distress. The door banged open, blowing in swirling snow, and a figure shrouded in a cloak. General Cross stamped snow off his boots and cast a wary eye over the …thing on the platform occupying half of the room. It hulked like some primeval monster, wires and sensors trailing out in all directions.
"So this is your big secret, is it, Ginger? What does it do?"
There was a thud and a muffled "Ow!" from within the bowels of the machine, and a lanky young Lombax emerged, rubbing her head. Grease and dust streaked her flame red fur.
"Sorry General. You startled me!" she said, wiping down her over-alls and adjusting her glasses. The chief engineer of the Lombax Praetorian Guard reached over to a table and selected a piece of equipment that, to the Generals eyes, was indistinguishable from the others.
"Well, with any luck, General" she said, tightening some mysterious doodad, "it should create a temporary, stable, one-way portal. A jump-gate, if you will"
The General blinked.
"You mean like a Dimensionator?" he said, hardly daring to believe it.
Ginger winced at the mention of the Lombaxes most notorious invention.
"Not exactly, General. Not at all, as a matter of fact. You see, unlike the Dimensionator, which ripped through the fabric of the universe, the Jump-gate opens a portal between them. Its much safer. Though some features I did model on the Dimensionator. Just because it was dangerous doesn't mean all of it was useless!"
"And how" he steeled himself "How does it work?"
Gingers frightening intellect was legendary, rivalling that of Kaden himself, but she had a tendency to forget that others were not as intelligent as she was, and baffle them with a flood of geek-speak.
She cleared her throat.
"Ahem, well, when quantum energy is condensed through the crystals here it re-calibrates the thigmo-hexodroid and….."
The General drifted off at this point.
"…which re-aligns the beam, thus bringing it to the focal point and you're not listening to me are you?"
"This beam goes through the crystals, a lot of complex stuff happens and a portal opens up. Simple!" She gave it a friendly pat.
The General leaned closer to the jump-gate. At first glance it seemed to be no more than an over-sized holo projector, but up close…
Up close you could see the strange, eye watering glow, the impossible angles, and the way components seemed to pass through each other. It hurt the eyes just to look at.
"But, you said it was one-way. If we send someone through, how will we get them back?"
"I've thought of that, General! Behold!"
She held up what seemed to be a miniature version of the jump-gate, barely the size of a toaster.
"Guard goes through with this, gathers the crystals it needs, puts them in place, this little fella sends a signal to the main gate and voila! Instant wormhole! It's fool-proof!"
"Why not just send the crystals through with the Guard?"
Ginger frowned and shook her head.
"Even with the beam focused there's going to be a lot of unfocused energy swirling around in that portal. The crystals can withstand physical punishment for the most part, and the portal has more focused energy which does less damage, but the raw stuff? No way! It'd make 'em useless. As it is it's going to be tough on the lombax we send through"
The General picked up a wrench, tossing it idly from hand to hand.
"In terms of danger, what are we looking at?"
Ginger consulted a clipboard.
"My calculations show a 95% chance of no more then a bumpy ride, a 3% chance of catching fire and a 2% chance of arriving as a circle, 50 feet wide"
"Well that's OK if we send them somewhere with lots of room…"
"You misheard me. They'll arrive as a circle. 50 feet wide"
He gave her a stern look.
"I hope you've double-checked your calculations for this. You know what happened during your last experiment"
Ginger blushed. Although she was the brightest of the Guards inventors, Ginger had one small failing. Nearly every experiment had one tiny miscalculation or flaw, never picked up on until it was too late. The nuclear powered bathtub, the exploding boomerang, and everyone knew the story of the last attempt she made to break through the dimensions.
"He's regained the use of his fingers, sir!"
He turned towards the jump-gate.
"It's risky, but it's the best chance we have. The lombaxes can't survive here"
"But sir, who's going to volunteer for this?"
"In the Guard?" He chuckled "The question is, who wouldn't?"
He gave her a friendly pat on the shoulder.
"Keep up the good work. Oh, and send a message out to the Guards. I want them all to meet in the main hall of the building tomorrow morning. Priority alpha. Make sure its up and running by then"
"You bet, sir!"
The General left, lost in thought. He was halfway down the hall before he recognized the feeling fluttering in his chest. A feeling he had not had in a long time.