Prolog: 4 years ago…
Devin had intended for the device to be a generator of magnetic energy, drawing in the random energies abundant in the world and merging them into a vortex of power that would be able to supply a city the size of New York. What he got, however, was something completely different. The test firing had gone as planned, those present cheering as the Combiner began pooling in energy that was randomly floating through the atmosphere, and Devin felt a great sense of pride. It was at that point that things began going differently than planned.
The Containment Chamber exploded, releasing a flood of blue-purple energy that washed over the room and brought forth cries of panic. The "Combiner Wave", as it later came to be called, inverted back in on it self, and formed a glowing sphere that showed a mirror image of the Combiner facility.
Devin Baxter starred into the sphere, amazed to be looking at his mirror-self, an almost identical version of himself. The other Devin Baxter was dressed just slightly different, in brown tones that Devin remembered Amber always preferring him in, and looked just the tiniest bit healthier, and, maybe, happier.
The existence of parallel universes had been proven.
This was it, the day of the big test, and Devin was barely able to contain his excitement, running around the main room of the Combiner facility with a huge smile on his face. Every test of the Combiner had proven the same, creating a portal to that alternate world, and had strangely coincided with identical testing being carried out in that parallel universe. Each and every test run had resulted in Devin seeing his other self, both of them apparently working towards the same goal; stabilizing the portal for travel.
At first, Devin had been intrigued by his alternate-self, his mind burning with hundreds of questions he wanted to ask his doppelganger, and he had been looking forward to the day when he would be allowed to attempt passage through the portal. But that desire to learn had been replaced by a darker, more personal desire three years ago, when he had first glimpsed…her.
She was there, still in his life. Well, in the other Devin's life. Amber Bemiller, the only woman he had ever loved, and which he had let slip from his life in his pursuit of the Combiner. A mistake that the other Devin had somehow managed to avoid, and one that Devin wanted to correct.
In this world, his world, Amber had died shortly after their separation, killed in a head on collision with a drunk driver. Devin no longer saw this as a triumph of science, it had become a chance for him reclaim the life he had never had. He it would me turning his back on everything that he was, in this world, but it would also mean that he could step into a better life…in the alternate world.
Devin had spent the last three years planning for this day, arranging 'minor' set backs until he was certain that his plan was fool proof, and that absolutely nothing could go wrong with it. He never once gave thought to the fact that, in the alternate universe, those very same set backs seemed to occur there, like synchronized clock work, mirroring his own team's progression exactly.
If things went like he had planned, and there was no reason that they shouldn't, Devin would step through the portal at the same time as his double, and exchange places with him in their respective worlds. Twenty seconds later, once the transfer was complete, a computer virus would wipe out every bit of data on the Combiner, and every program in its systems. With the Combiner operating without its control systems, it would quickly become unstable, and it would only be a matter of minutes before it went up in what should be a fairly colorful explosion.
He wasn't worried about his fellow scientists, he had left the safety protocols intact, and they would get plenty of warning to clear out of the facility. He would be in the other universe, trapped there after the destruction of the Combiner, and would undoubtedly be fully accepted by those in the other universe, falling right into the life he had never allowed himself to have.
It was perfect.
"We're ready, Doctor Baxter," announced Chung, her voice full of excitement.
"Fire it up, Annie," he instructed the girl setting at the Combiner controls.
The building quivered for a split second as the Combiner came on-line, its massive drive immediately beginning to pull in the random fluxes of energy throughout the area, and the group gathered about the room braced for the Combiner Wave. The flow of energy soon did its stretch and snap back, melding into a stable sphere of rippling energy that was a gateway to another world.
"Are you sure that you're ready for this?" asked Tibbs, Devin's chief assistant.
"As sure as he is," said Devin, nodding towards the sphere.
In the mirror world, standing before the sphere, the other Devin was talking to his other Tibbs, and nodding towards his double. It was almost more than Tibbs wanted to think about, the numerous times that they had looked into the mirror world always having showed them…well, a mirrored version of themselves.
"We have one-hundred percent stability," reported Chung.
Devin stepped towards the sphere, as did his double, and slipped a hand into his jacket pocket, as did his double. The signal went out as Devin merged with the sphere, the silent command starting the count down that would unleash the computer virus, and free him of this lonely world.
Everything became white, and Devin had a vision of being in a short tunnel, walking towards himself, the room he had just left now before him, beckoning for his arrival. He traded curious glances with his doppelganger, unsure if they should interact while traversing from one world to the other, and continued on with out saying a word. He wasn't sure of it, but Devin thought his double wore the same knowing smirk that he did, as if holding in a private joke that the world would never know.
Devin emerged from the sphere, stepping into an identical world of his own, the only difference being that Amber was standing there, waiting with the others. He looked about the facility, smiling as he saw that everything was identical. Not one person was different, other than Amber being alive, and he knew that he would be able to slip into this Devin's life with no problem at all.
And then the alarms began going off.
"What's wrong?" asked Devin as the techs began running to various machines.
"I don't know," replied Annie #2, her hands dancing across her keyboard. "We're losing stability in the Combiner's programming."
"Computer systems are shutting down," cried Tibbs #2.
That devious bastard, thought Devin. He wanted to leave this world as much as I wanted to leave mine!
"WARNING, FIELD COLLAPSE IMMINENT" came the synthetic voice of the facility's safety system. "IMMEDIATE EVACUATION IS ADVISED."
"We're losing stability on the sphere," shouted Chung #2.
"Everybody out," yelled Devin, grabbing Amber by the arm and directing her towards the exit.
"But you, and…and Devin…you have to go back," said Tibbs #2.
"There's no time," shouted Devin, sparkling bolts of energy beginning to lash off of the sphere as it lost its cohesion. "When the sphere collapses, it'll take the whole building with it!"
"But this isn't your world," argued Tibbs #2.
Devin looked about, shrugging his head. "I really can't say that there's anything different. It looks like I stepped right back into my own world."
The sphere began swelling as it amassed power beyond its design, the view of the alternate world fading in its purple glow, and the point became moot.
Devin followed Tibbs #2 through the exit door, hesitating for a moment as he saw that the sky was a deep green instead of the blue he was so accustomed too, then followed the man to where the others had gathered. Retreating to what everyone hoped was a safe distance from the building, Devin took his place at Amber's side, and watched as the purple-blue energy of the sphere enveloped the building.
The explosion that Devin had been expecting turned out to be an implosion, the entire facility collapsing in on it self in rush of wind that knocked several of the scientists over, and left nothing behind except a rounded crater that appeared as if a giant scoop had simply delved into the earth. The Combiner, and all of its technology, was gone, and it would take decades to replace.
If anyone so desired.
"I should have known that even the double of a screw up would screw this up," bitched Amber, glaring at Devin.
"My love, I can assure…"
"Don't 'my love' me, you aren't Devin," she nearly spat out. "Though you seem to be as completely incompetent as him. And even if you are an exact double, what in the hell are we going to do now? Our entire lives were tied into that facility, and the Régime isn't going to be happy with your failure."
"The Régime?" asked Devin, perplexed. "What are you talking about?"
"Oh, that argument's going to work," she continued, her sarcasm thick. "They won't buy this for a minute."
"Well," said Tibbs #2, "we could blame it all on him."
Amber and the others looked at Devin, slowly shaking their heads in agreement.
"We could say that he had a break down and destroyed the facility," suggested Chung #2. "We would be assigned to other projects."
"What are you people talking about?" demanded Devin. "We're a team! We've been together for seven years!"
"Maybe in your world," said Amber, "but not here."
"But I wanted to come here, to be with you," he said, looking at her with pleading eyes. "I love you!"
"We'd better get our report filed," said Amber, coldly. She turned and walked away, followed by the others, leaving a confused Devin behind.
"No," he shouted at them. "We can rebuild it! You can send me home!"
They continued walking, ignoring his pleas.
Devin #2 sat at the rear of an ambulance, sipping at some coffee that had been handed him as he, and the others, were checked over after the explosion that had destroyed the facility. The others, though identical in appearance to those he had left behind, differed vastly from their doubles, and had surprised him by welcoming him with open arms and friendliness. They had quickly agreed, before the arrival of rescue teams, something unheard of on his world, that they would keep his point of origin a secret.
Thankful for the new chance that he was being given, Devin had agreed to offer what ever technology he could from his world, though he doubted that it would be much different from what ever this world already had. Surely they had developed things such as clean fusion, matter teleportation, and nanite technology.
But then, looking up at the startling, blue sky, he thought that maybe things might be more different than he suspected.