Violetta Cantagalli

by Luca

Chapter 1

"Of course you wouldn't believe it." He scrutinised Zachary. "You probably won't understand anything I explain."

"I'm not stupid, Emile," Zachary glared at him. "I'm not sure I trust you, but that's another question."

"Funny, because you seem to have confidence in Touma. Maybe that's because you are closer with the boys that you are attracted to?" Emile twisted his head in an odd expression of questioning and disdain.

"You might be right. How would I know, I'm too close to see. Can you drop all that and just explain what you have to... explain."

"I'll make it simple," he smirked. "Let's start with time. Time is not a linear measurement that exists. You only perceive time through your own perspective when you appear to observe it. You age and attribute some kind of measurement to this and you deem that measurement to be fixed. Yet you are only too aware time can speed up or slow down, a day may be long or over quickly. It's relative. Relative to you. Time does not actually exist."

Zachary listened intently. He did not interrupt. He had no reason to.

"You will say, maybe, the earth circles the sun," Emile continued. "This measures out the days. Which is true. Still it's only energy. The spinning and rotating is energy being used up. It's not time. Look at speed. You can measure how fast you travel, but only when you move. Stay still and speed does not exist. Unless maybe, something flies past you, then speed is there again. For a brief moment."

"Where is all this going?" Zachary finally interrupted.

"Well!" Emile seemed exhausted by his own explanation. "Let's admit there are multiple universes. Hundreds, thousands, they all exist together, but you exist in only one of these universes. Now imagine there is a way to glimpse these other universes. When I say glimpse I really mean theoretically there is a door into every one. Which there is, only its closed. Or rather it's open, hence you can kind of see, but you can't go there."

Zachary nodded to show Emile he was still following this convoluted explanation.

"Using a particle accelerator, a VR headset and a simple camera, it was possible. Is possible, to see these entrances to other universes. That they exist has already been proved mathematically, but now we know for sure because we can sort of... see it."

Emile took a deep breath.

"Simply put. Using the accelerator you see the doors. Next step was to send someone in. You know, like sending a man into space for the first time. No one really knew what might happen. So that is what was done. And what was discovered was something like a superfast spinning ball that gave the person inside a second to jump. Jump where? Through one of the doors. Only the person thought they might easily choose any door but the one back to the universe they had left. A panic set in for almost every experimental voyager. They would choose the wrong universe and be lost forever. Unless perhaps in the other universe they found a way back. Highly unlikely and irrelevant. Because every time the person jumped they came back here."

"So," Zachary studied Emile, "let me get this straight. There are multiple universes, entrance doors to them, but you can't go through."

"Right!" Emile smiled. "And logically you can't go through because you have to occupy the space you came from in the universe you came from."

"Alright, so how did we get to where we are now and two universes have been mixed up or we've jumped between, or I don't know what?"

"Yeah, let's look at that. The answer is Lowerstoff, James McAdam Lowerstoff. He was sent into the particle accelerator with his double. An exact replica which had been made from his own body cells, DNA, a duplicate."

"Is that even possible?" Zachary asked.

"Yes. A clone. That's what happened and that was in... Let's call it universe one. The one where Lowerstoff got shot. Okay."

"I guess," Zachary was still puzzled about how this would work, but he decided to accept what Emile was saying. For the moment anyway.

"Then you have two Lowerstoffs in the accelerator and the clone jumps. Because the clone is to all intents Lowerstoff, he jumps back to universe one where he came from. Which leaves the other Lowerstoff to jump anywhere or nowhere, they didn't know, but he was plugged in to be followed. If it worked. And it did!"

"It did?" Zachary repeated.

"Yeah, Lowerstoff jumped into another universe. And this is where it gets complicated, because even the second Lowerstoff should have only been able to go back to universe one, where the two Lowerstoffs existed. But only one came back, so the other one went somewhere else. To another universe. It seemed like a quantum anomaly. And it was why Hamilton shot and killed Lowerstoff. It is why Lowerstoff insisted he wasn't real. He could not exactly explain what he wanted to say. The I'm not real , was a fail safe implanted in the clone. A way to distinguish the real Lowerstoff from his duplicate. You still with me?"

Zachary nodded.

"Hamilton shot the clone with the intention of creating the space for the real Lowerstoff to return. But what we've got is two mixed universes and increasing anomalies."

"Okay, but why did he do all that? I mean, why did he want the real Lowerstoff back in his own universe? Anyway, how did he know who was real and who was the clone? And while we're piling on the questions, is Lowerstoff real or a clone?"

Emile smiled. "The last question is easy. He's real, the clone got shot. I'm not real , remember. It identifies the clone."

Zachary watched Emile as he began pacing around, like an old academic deep in thought, his head bent, looking at the floor, or his own feet. "Why did Hamilton want the real Lowerstoff back in his own universe, why did he do all this? That's more difficult to answer. But... It wasn't Hamilton who did the universe hopping experiments. It was the US military. Why? I suppose for some kind of purpose, but what? Well, all those types are crazy."

"Touma wants me to kill my father!" Zachary announced like a bolt of thunder from a cloudy sky.

The brew was volatile, a mix of bizarre events, emotional attachments, and a mission to achieve something which nobody yet had worked out exactly what. The only sure thing was to stop Hamilton, but from doing... what exactly?

"Why?" Emile asked, looking up, his eyes staring wide at Zack.

"Maybe because he tried to assassinate your mother... before. Maybe, with no Hamilton, we put an end to things?"

"No, it's nothing like that. For one thing he only wanted to frighten Violetta. Secondly, nothing turns around Hamiton. If anybody is the centre of events it seems more likely it's Lowerstoff."

Emile was standing by the window, not facing Zachary any longer. It annoyed him a little, how Emile was here and how he supposedly knew they nearly succeeded last time, on the ship. A ray of sunlight pierced the dim room and drew a line across the discoloured ceiling.

"Maybe it all turns around nobody," Zachary spoke to Emile's back, whilst his eyes followed the beam of light as if like a rainbow there would be something at the end. A hidden reward, an answer. The idea amused him and his concentration waned.

"There are armed police down there!" Emile turned and shot a concerned look at Zachary.

"Don't worry about that," he replied smugly. "I've been here before. Follow me!"

They exited the little bedroom in the Foyer Des Jeunes Travailleurs De La Cité Des Fleurs and as they made their way along the corridor Zachary stopped and knocked on the door of the adjacent bedroom. Inexplicably he had an image of Michel Lafarge in his head and all the memories that went with that relationship. If it was a relationship? Michel wished it was, but there was nothing reciprocal on Zachary's part. Michel had been his introduction. To what you may ask. Everything, gay life in Paris, the clubs, and with the clubs his encounter with Hamilton Gode.

"What?" Lowerstoff asked as he opened the door.

His voice shocked Zachary back to the reality of the situation.

"Touma's with you?"

Lowerstoff nodded.

"We need to go. Repeat performance. Come on!"

Lowerstoff and Touma sprang into action. Touma grabbing his backpack and hoisting it over his shoulder. The little group followed him down the corridor and through that door which led them underground and out of danger. For now!

They sat at a table on the terrace of the bar in the Rue Cardinet. They were in the shadow of the large awning that protruded from above the equally large glass window and covered half the pavement. People strolled by, traffic buzzed in the distance, it was all so normal.

Zachary ordered four blonds when the waiter, dressed in black and white, arrived carrying a tray. He seemed different this time around, but he couldn't quite explain why he thought that.

"Are you perving the waiter?" Lowerstoff threw at him.

It was water off a duck's back, Zachary was used to his boyfriend's sarcasm. If anyone was put out it was Emile.

"It's kind of irritating you know," he said to Lowerstoff.

"What?" In all honesty, Lowerstoff hadn't a clue what he was talking about.

"The gay banter, idiot!" Emile snapped.

"Ooh! Isn't she the one," Lowerstoff answered with his best impersonation of a drag queen. He did it to wind up Emile, who he found hard to like. Especially because of his attitude which whilst not obstensively anti-gay, he definitely had this presumptuous air. As though whenever he was talking to them he regarded them as deficient.

Emile ignored Lowerstoff and Zachary gave him a long hard look.

"I know what we need to do this time," Touma announced.

The others sat back and awaited the revelation.

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