The laboratory was focussed around a complicated piece of machinery in the middle of the floor. Inside its central pincers a ball was balanced, the surface an oily, swirling grey-tinged rainbow of colours. Felix Kemmerson was the only person in the room who knew what the ball was and he had invited all the others, students and colleagues both, to observe.
“So, Kemmerson,” that was the Dean, a tall man who disapproved of many theories, including Dr Kemmerson’s, because he considered them to be bad science, “why have you called us all here today?”
“Thank you for asking that, Dean Yallop.” Dr Kemmerson beamed at his audience and grasped the lapels of both his lab coat and the suit he wore under it. “You see before you the successful first step in the proof of my theories concerning universal generation. I thought you would all want to be present when I took the next step in that proof and stimulated first phase physical constant step down.”
“Wait,” broke in Colin Anderson who shared an office with Kemmerson, “that thing in your machine is a…universe? You mean you actually got this crazy idea of yours to work?”
“I don’t know if it’s a universe,” harrumphed Dean Yallop, “but it’s certainly something.” He almost sounded impressed. “So what are you planning to do next, Dr Kemmerson?”
“According to my calculations,” enthusiasm brimmed over in Kemmerson’s voice, “if I add more power to the closed system, then that will trigger the step down. We won’t be able to observe it directly, of course. What we will see is its expansion in direct proportion to the power input.”
“Aren’t we rather close?” That was Matty Delbridge, a female undergraduate widely considered to have gotten into the university on her father’s reputation by those who hadn’t taught her.
“If we stay outside the blue line on the floor we will all be perfectly safe,” was Kemmerson’s bright reply. A number of people who’d moved closer for a better look at the central piece of machinery and the ball moved back hastily until they were behind the chalk line on the floor again.
“If we’re all ready?” Kemmerson had moved behind a control panel and looked around the room. Apparently satisfied with what he saw he said, “So, feeding power, now,” and did something to the panel.
The universe blinked. A curved surface an oily, swirling grey-tinged rainbow of colours sat where the blue line had. A second one was behind the onlookers. The machine was no longer visible. Anything electrical between the two surfaces that had a power cable was dead.
“I think your expansion calculations need some work,” commented Dean Yallop.
“We’re inside an interface membrane,” added Matty Delbridge. “If you calculated the universal expansion correctly-.”
“My data pointed to an interface, not an interface membrane,” replied Kemmerson thoughtfully.
Someone up the back tried to walk out and found, “Hey, this thing won’t let me out! Turn it off Kemmerson, I have things to do.”
“I can’t turn it off,” Kemmerson pointed out. “No power.”
Extensive testing showed that they could not get out through the outer barrier. During that trial and error they discovered that large gashes did not bleed. Then they realised that no-one was hungry, thirsty or had a heartbeat.
“Wait,” put in Colin Anderson, “If we’re in a null-space-.”
“Then I am because I think,” finished Dean Yeager. “Our current perceptions of ourselves are artefacts of our thought? I think I need the Philosophy Department and a good lie down. So, what do we do?”
“We can’t get back out, we can’t turn it off and if we stay here,” summarised Professor Prasad, “we might stay like this for eternity or dissipate if we fall asleep. What if we went in?” He looked at the inner barrier.
“We could die instantly or turn into falling bowls of petunias?” That came from cluster of graduate students.
“I don’t think I want to be here, right here and like this for ever.” Matty Delbridge had a determined look on her face. “I’ll try it.” She turned and walked straight into the inner surface. It was a bit, she thought, like falling into water if the surface was a bit stretchy. Then she was through.
And time began.