Chapter One

The Antarctica Convention held some of the most famous and well-known scientists of the day. They came from everywhere once a year to gather thus and converse over their choice of foods and usually coffee about their most recent findings, discoveries, failures, or political intrigues. They sat five to a table - any more than that and the arguments would be heard on the North Pole. Each day of the Convention, which lasted exactly a week, the scientists switched tables. The goal was to meet and converse with as many different points of view as possible. Each night, the Congregation blessed its attendants with 'guest' speakers - in other words, those scientists whose need to showcase their findings was greater than the rest.

Tonight's first guest speaker was an ambitious, enthusiastic young man by the name of Roger Reiss. Throughout the scientific community, he was known as the black sheep. Few knew more than a little about him, though. They saw his flamboyant attitude, his bright green hair, his lab coat with orange lining, his blue sneakers, and the mischievous sparkle in his eyes, and couldn't take him seriously. For years, he had come to the Congregation, and had done one thing - pull pranks on the older, more reserved members of the 'accepted crowd.' As Roger nearly skipped up to the microphone and lavishly thanked the young woman that introduced him, he grinned smugly. Tonight, he would prove that he was every bit as good as the rest of them. He had something they could never have dreamt of. But, they would dream of it tonight.

Dr. Reiss flashed his cheesy, outgoing smile across the room and winked at someone in the back. He introduced himself, his many fields of study (chemistry, biology, radiology, pathology, and various other "-ologies"), and an anecdote about the giant, demonic, and incredibly cute, furry hamster living in his basement. Then, after reminding them of his role in last year's Congregation, he introduced his discovery. Dimensional pockets.

"The existence of 'pocket dimensions' has been discussed and generally thought of as irrelevant and irrational. Well, I have proof. Last year, I was rather disappointed because I couldn't fit enough gags and pranks into my pockets. You all remember that, right?" Roger gazed around at the guests, who collectively groaned a "yes." He smiled. "Well, for the past five years, I have been working on something to fix that. You all might not care that I have infinite room in my pockets now; however, you will be rather interested to know that this 'extra room' is part of another place, another reality. Another dimension. If we can harness the power to create new dimensions, we can learn to navigate them. If such power exists, then that means that other dimensions existed in the first place - correct? We can reach worlds that surpass those of the far reaches of space. We can create our own worlds. And I can finally have enough room in my pockets."

The room remained silent, its inhabitants waiting to hear what it is that he can do with these "pocket dimensions" as he called them. As always, half of the room stared back skeptically, the other half expectantly.

"My immediate discovery - or, invention, really - to do with dimensions is Dimensional Tape. No, this doesn't patch holes in broken dimensions - yes, they can be broken. It creates small pockets of dimensions. You line your pockets or suitcases or duffle bags with this stuff, and you can be like Mary Poppins. Watch this." Roger beamed as he removed his jacket and pulled an oval of yellow tape from within a pocket. He held it up and turned it in circles. It looked empty, it was light-weight, but when he stuck his hand into it, his hand disappeared. He pulled it out slowly, bringing with it a rather large - and to the scientists' surprise - rather decorative floor lamp. "Behold - ladies, you will never again need to buy a bigger purse!" Literally, he invented a pocket dimension. Always, Roger's main focus was amusement. How he ever finished anything was a question that plagued the established professionals to no end.

Such an occurrence could only be described as magic, and the scientists in the room exploded like children watching a magician pull fluffy pink bunnies out of an empty hat. This discovery - if it was a discovery and not just a magic trick - could change the known world, the known universe, the unknown. Then, the question: Where did it go? What happened to the stuff inside? Roger explained that he was still experimenting with that, but he was almost positive that new dimensions could be created and contained, and that many already existed. After he hopped lightly off the stage, the celebration of chatter and amazement began in earnest, but it didn't last long.

"Once upon a time, there was a thing called freedom. There was a thing called justice. There was a thing called liberty. These words are strangers to us now, strangers we might run into on the sidewalks and stumble past with heads hung low and collars upturned. Strangers whose eyes we'll never meet. Once upon a time, there was only one America. There was peace, and there was justice. Once upon a time, this wasn't just a story a grandmother told her grandchildren; this wasn't just a dream, a wish, a prayer. Once upon a time, this was our world. I don't know what happened to it, but it was here. And now it's gone."

The Congregation, at its beginning, had been granted permission by all the countries to meet in Antarctica, the only neutral piece of land on the planet. The most important countries to give their opinions on the matter gave it last. The States of Western America (also known as the New California), the Eastern United Peoples (mostly New York, which spanned from the former Connecticut to the former Virginia), and the Confederate States of America (governed by Texas) eventually granted permission, but only on the basis that their rules were upheld. No political discussions, no union-style organization, no experiments dealing with government-related issues. Ten years ago, the Congregation signed the pledge to keep the meetings "clean," and the promise had been relatively upheld. Of course, there would always be a problem child. Throughout history, there was always a problem child. That's how history was created.

History could be created, destroyed, manipulated, and twisted. However, history could never actually change. It could only be "adjusted" to fit the purposes of the historian, individual, governmental body, or mass populace. This little piece of history happened in a disturbing twist of events that none of the three countries wished to discuss. Yes, the United States of America split. It was divided into three large pieces, with only a little unclaimed territory in the middle - the "bread basket" of the former United States was almost completely destroyed in the years of warfare over the territories. Chicago, which had spread as far as St. Louis by the time the United States fell, was destroyed in the battles, but the region's people continued to resist.

Now, the three dominant countries of the Western Hemisphere discovered that a number of scientists at the Convention were from the Chicago region. With some media manipulation, they justified a reason for their interference in the otherwise neutral Convention's activities. New York reached Antarctica first.

Roger Reiss barely had time to flirt with the young woman by the punch bowl before the outside doors of the Congregation Hall burst open, spraying snow and the cold Antarctic air over the formally dressed -and formerly warm - Congregation members. The soldiers filed in, holding their weapons possessively.

"Everyone here is under military arrest and supervision until further notice." The captain, throwing his shoulders back, strutted through his unit and waved his gun menacingly, as if daring the unarmed crowd to challenge him.

The crowd, despite containing a large part of the world's intellectual and scientific elite, wanted nothing more than the doors to close and the party to continue. Living in such a militaristic time produced a general indifference toward the military. Such arrests were not uncommon and lasted only until the target members of the arrested party had been questioned or removed.

This time was different, though. "I take it the government wants extra help in the war. Looks like they need it." The comment came from the stage area, and the cynical tone caused the cocky, pimple-scarred military captain to thrust his chest out farther and snort in disgust.

The captain's eyes roamed furiously around the room, searching for the vile creature that dared speak of his government. The voice continued, but this time it came from the other side of the room.

"If you can't beat the civilians with brute strength, get the scientists to do it. It's been a while since the last biological war, hasn't it? They're here to ask us for help - politely, as always."

The room had fallen silent, and several people coughed uncomfortably. The pimple-faced captain glowered around the room in an unsuccessful attempt to locate his prey. He could demand the speaker to be pointed out, but most of the crowd looked confused and curious, sure signs of their ignorance. He could command the speaker to step forward, but he would only make a fool of himself. If he did such a thing - he wouldn't because he loved his government - he certainly wouldn't step forward. But, the possibility of the idiot being brave and stepping forward, and the pimple-faced captain didn't have the authority to deal with such a situation. So, he glowered silently for a full five minutes before a young sergeant finally piped up.

"Sir? We're supposed to -"

"I know that, Jones," the pimple-faced captain snapped at his sergeant before addressing the Convention again. "Prepare to leave. You're all allowed to pack your luggage, but you have to surrender it to Sergeant Jones, who will be on the stage, there," he gestured toward the stage, "to collect it. You will then be seated in here until further notice." He ushered the unit to get moving while he "checked up on" the rest of the unit in the aircraft outside.

Roger stretched his arms over his head and yawned, partially listening to the woman next to him rant. He knew he could have been caught, yes, but he was a master prankster, well-educated in the art of ventriloquism and imitation. The voice he used in the interesting commentary about the Confederate military was that of Dr. Orin Somme, one of Roger's former science professors and a great annoyance to the student population. It had the drawling, gritty quality of painfully proper articulation and a strong (but often misunderstood) sense of humor. Only three other people in the room of a thousand or more scientists actually recognized the voice, and two of them found the situation amusing. The other… well, the other was unamused, uninterested, and trying to find a way out of there before the soldiers found him.

As usual, the soldiers milled around, tried to look pompous or intimidating, and ate the food. Jones settled himself down in a chair on the stage and unhappily began the process of collecting luggage. The captain stalked out of the room and into another, which he quickly dubbed his "office." There, he thrust himself into the "spinny-chair," propped his feet lazily up on the desk, and waved an officer to continue with his business.

This brought about a series of random questionings that were characteristic of every military takeover, as they called it. One scientist referred to it as "an abomination, a crime, a pity that mankind has to deal with such idiotic, foolish, power-hungry sons-of-bitches." Those at his table agreed as they were led down the hall and to the pimple-faced captain's office.

The questions asked followed similar patterns. Not much was learned except that people could lie rather well under pressure. Or that the military had no idea what it was doing. Generally, the opinion was split.

The young woman next to Roger continued to rant until it was her turn to be questioned. As soon as she was out of sight, Roger found a new place to sit. She wasn't that good-looking. He hid his feeling of apprehension behind a nice cup of hot chocolate and his big smile as he struck up a conversation with the Nobel Prize winning man next to him.

Soon, Roger was led off into the office like everyone else had been or would be. He continued to smile until he sat down in the chair in front of the desk. The pimple-faced captain glared at him in silence for nearly ten minutes. That silence bothered Roger, who knew better than to speak. Roger had been getting into trouble with the "law" since he was a child and had learned some rather vital tricks of the trade.

Finally, the captain spoke. "Don't these people have a dress code or something?" he asked, referring to Roger's hair.

"Nope. I don't think I'd be here if they did." Roger smiled, imagining himself without green hair. Frankly, he couldn't see that happening.

"Huh." The captain swung his legs off the desk slowly and sat up. "Your name?"

"Roger Reiss."

"Your occupation?"

"I'm here, aren't I? That means I'm a scientist. Have you asked everybody that?"

"Some people have more than one job, buddy. Where do you live?"

"The middle of nowhere. In a basement."

At this, the young captain smirked. "Your mother's basement, perchance?"

"No, my landlady's basement. My house burned down a few months ago, and I had to rent a place to live in. It just so happens that that place is in some crazy woman's basement. Any other questions?" Roger would have glared daggers at the man, but felt it wiser to just stare blankly at him with an unconcerned expression. He knew from experience that that expression while making eye contact generally drove the questioners nuts.

"The name of the 'landlady.'" The captain frowned and stood up straighter in front of Roger's calm gaze. The captain wanted to seem worthy of such a position. He had only been promoted several days before and needed to keep his ego high.

"Sure. Her name is Desota Miles. I'm moving out of her house in another couple of months, though. My house should be repaired by then."

"Oh. What are your political opinions?"

"My political opinions?" Roger debated this question in his mind. He could inform the good captain of what he really thought and feel much better about himself, or he could play it safe and choose no side. Roger made his decision and spoke it with ease. "Well, I'm not sure about you, but I think politics are dull. I'd rather not get involved, and I have no problems as long as I can hide in my basement and work on crazy science projects." He waited for the most common response to that.

"Like your hair, huh?" There it was. Roger hid a smirk as the captain dismissed him. People could be so predictable.