By this time Mikiria was a young woman in her twenties, lonely and feeling utterly adrift in spite of the efforts of her affectionate (if bemused) foster parents. At one point she had gone so far as to enroll as a "foreign" student at California University/Fontana, where Wilorian, now Wilbur Barton, was pursuing his aerospace studies.
To her dismay she found herself in the same advanced mathematics class as him, and her first impulse had been to drop the course. But her desperate longing for his company won out, and when he had timidly asked her out to a concert near the end of the semester she had accepted all too willingly. They had attended several concerts and movies together, and by the end of each date she was finding it more and more difficult to say goodnight afterwards. Nor was he of much help, his interest all too apparent.
Rapidly finding her emotions winning out over her judgment, she had finally used the end of the semester as an excuse to gently break things off. To both her relief and sorrow he had during all this shown no signs of recognition, either of his "Aunt Mickey" or from his earlier life.
Afterwards, back on Qozernon, with him thirty-five light-years distant, she had shuddered at how easily she could have led the Brizali to him, and she had sworn not to let it happen again, or at least not until she was ready to at last bring him home. However, she had also discovered the pleasures of academic studies as a way to while away the otherwise dreary weeks on Earth. She had deliberately avoided any but the most casual friendships during her extended stays, although as she became more experienced in the ways of Earth she had managed to purchase several homes for her use when visiting, and made arrangements with various businesses for their maintenance during her absences.
It was during a visit several years later that she had gone back to the university at Fontana and discovered that Alan Brinkman had joined the faculty the previous spring. A child prodigy who had held a top security clearance at Lawrence Livermore while still in his late teens, the physicist had a reputation that even reached Qozernon, whose theoreticians kept a close eye on developments on their ancestral planet.
Her first attempts to enroll in his physics seminar were scornfully rebuffed by the admissions department, who informed her in cold bureaucratese that entrance to the seminar was by invitation only. She had quickly settled that by writing him a personal letter outlining a few discreetly chosen aspects of her hyperspace developments, carefully phrased in purely theoretical terms. She had received an invitation by return mail practically begging her to enroll.
She soon found herself entranced by the physicist, and not only intellectually. Consumed with loneliness, hearing only secondhand reports of Wilorian's first efforts in his chosen career field, she had quickly found herself attracted to the man's dry wit and physical magnetism. At the time still in his late thirties and not yet the notorious pursuer of freshman bimbos he was later to become, he had proven irresistibly attractive to her, and before she knew it their relationship was as much physical as intellectual. Nor was she consumed by guilt; Qozernans and Deshtirans tend to be realistic about such things, and she knew there was no hope in the foreseeable future of her becoming closer to Wilorian (even assuming he was ever able to regain his memories).
It was the first time she had ever pursued a physical relationship, and after years of loneliness the warmth and depth of her feelings had led her to confide far more in Brinkman than she had intended, to the point of telling him who she really was. Naturally he had assumed that she was delusional, or at least seriously disturbed, and only when she had driven him out to her ship, safely hidden at a house in the hills above Fontana, and taken him up above the planet, had he finally believed her. After that they mostly kept no secrets, although it was only many years later that she told him, in guarded terms, about Wilorian.
It was in fact a humiliated and chastened Brinkman who had finally broken off the affair, explaining shamefacedly that he had been called into the Provost's office and privately warned that student-teacher relationships were not acceptable at California University/Fontana and that he could either discreetly break off the relationship or seek other employment. After that they saw each other only in class, or in neutral ground such as the university library.
It was during her early studies with Brinkman that she had become intrigued by a Qozernan researcher's report describing how she had managed to create a small bubble of space-time, the interior in effect being located in one of the infinite number of available simultaneous universes. Working with Brinkman, pursuing the mathematics far beyond anything the original researcher had managed, she had developed what on paper should be a way to not only access such a bubble, but to control its shape and size, and to configure the interior to match the laws of physics of her own universe.
Ultimately, after returning to Qozernon, she had built what amounted to a prototype of a gateway into such an alternate bubble, which could be opened and closed like a doorway. Realizing that the only way to find if it worked was to test it, and being all too aware of the dangers to her and her surroundings if her calculations were off by so much as a decimal point, she had quietly written up a will and left it where it could be easily found, and set out in her little ship for a distant star system well away from Bashti and Exor.
There she had configured the newly created bubble as a large rectangular space several hundred feet long, about ten feet high, and eighty feet wide. The atmosphere she set to match that of Qozernon's (and not incidentally Earth's), and to the boundaries of the bubble she gave the properties of steel. Although her instruments provided her with reassuring readings, it was nonetheless with not a little trepidation that she slowly opened the doorway and shone a torch into the interior.
She found herself peering into what might have been a long, very wide hallway. Gingerly she set a foot onto the "floor" of the bubble, and found it to be reassuringly solid. Soon she had walked from one end of the enclosure to the other, reflecting with awe that as far as she knew she was the first human to ever leave her own universe.
On the trip back her head was filled with exciting visions of the announcement she would make of her discovery, as one possible application after another emerged from her fertile mind. And then, as she had neared Qozernon, she had tuned into the news and heard for the first time about the nightmarish creatures which were to become known, with macabre humor, as the Liquidators. That was when she decided that for the time being her own discovery might be best left unpublicized, for she had only then recognized the potential hazard it could hold for her adopted world.
She of course showed her "bubble" to Kurinton and Gelhinda, whom she trusted without reservation. It was Gelhinda who suggested laughingly that with a bit of refurbishing it could become a "home away from home," and Mikiria had seized enthusiastically on the idea. For years afterward she would be adding new rooms and decorating them with souvenirs of her frequent trips to Earth.
MIKIRIA. Copyright © 1998, 2000 Lamont Downs. All rights
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