Phone Man Seeks the Earwig by Thomas P. Hanna by Thomas P. Hanna - Read Online

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Phone Man Seeks the Earwig - Thomas P. Hanna

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Chapter 01

Chapter 02

Chapter 03

Chapter 04

Chapter 05

Chapter 06

Chapter 07

Chapter 08

Chapter 09

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Discover Other Techie Hero Books by the Author

Chapter 01

The residence was in a multistory urban apartment building in an older part of the city. Not high rent but also not shabby. It was a bachelor's place, its main distinction being a worktable against one wall, littered with small tools and pieces of electronic equipment. The resident, Bint Uldrich, thirty, five-eight, lean and fit with his brown hair kept short enough not to do a noticeable fright wig routine due to static electricity or surprise sensations. He was informally dressed in a sweat suit and deck shoes but presentable as he stood beside the table speaking on a landline phone. The multi-line phone console had a homemade pad beside it to hold the handset secure and facing up.

He adjusted what looked like a thick watch on his wrist, then examined a special ring that he held but didn’t yet have his finger inserted into. I can't put this off forever. It seems far-fetched but technically I'm convinced it might work as my tests so far suggest. The sooner I know for sure, the sooner I can stop thinking about it if it's only a fantasy.

How do I tell my buddy that he's nuts? Oh, I know I let him run his test and see that nothing happens, Reggie Quimby said from the phone.

Or that he's never seen again, dead or alive, Uldrich said

Yeah, that's my main reason for hesitating, Quimby said.

Uldrich said into the phone, In theory this'll make use of a simple quirk in the way matter works but of course nothing in quantum physics and lots of high-tech areas IS actually simple or even logical to most of us.

* * *

Quimby’s apartment building was another of many similar social structures in the same neighborhood. This was another bachelor's pad, this one notable for the computer workstation that occupied one corner of the room. Reggie Quimby, thirty-two, six-two, skinny and a bit gawky with long dark hair pulled back in a pony tail and thick-lensed glasses that he could do little without was casually dressed and looked as nervous as he felt as he stood by the sofa here speaking into his landline phone.

I have my intellectual strengths but theoretical physics, quantum or any other kind, isn't part of my gift, he said. I’m a practical applications sort of guy more or less like you were most of the time until you thought of this possibility.

I'm taking the precaution of leaving a written explanation of what I did and what I thought might happen in case this isn't the innocuous test I'm expecting. All the documents to settle my estate, such as it is, are in the drawer of the table by my sofa. Tell Cindy I like her a lot but I felt I had to try this, Uldrich said.

Okay, okay. I know all that's important but let's skim over it or I might freak and insist you either not do this or get someone else to be your possible clean-up person, Quimby said.

Here I come, ready or not, Uldrich said letting the thrill of the big moment hide the nervous edge in his voice.

Quimby suddenly looked around trying to decide what to do with the phone receiver. He placed it on the sofa and stepped back from it as if afraid to be too close.

The phone receiver seemed to twitch - then Uldrich quickly emerged from it as if he was sliding down a tube. He started his arrival on the sofa but he ended up making it a reasonably soft landing on the floor.

Both men looked around in surprised delight while Uldrich felt his arms and torso to be sure he was real and intact.

Uldrich scrambled to his feet and stepped over to give Quimby a high-five - although for a moment Quimby still doubted that this could be happening and that he would feel anything if he slapped hands with this 3-D image of his buddy.

Yeah! Oh yeah! It works!

Bint, man, this is awesome!

But of course the test isn't complete until I know it works in both directions.

So I have to do the legwork while you just zap on over through the phone wires?

Yeah, that's the idea. Stated that way it does sound kind of demanding on you but I don’t see how else to do it this first time. I promise I'll make it up to you, good buddy. Are you going now?

Quimby shrugged and exited his apartment by the door.

* * *

Not many minutes later Quimby let himself into Uldrich’s apartment with a key. He was out of breath from running. He picked up the phone that sat on the worktable at the side of the living room and said into it, Okay, I'm here. If you lived more than two blocks away this would be...

Phone Man is on his way!

Quimby looked startled, then scared. He looked all around trying to decide what to do with the receiver, then held it with both hands in front of him and as far from himself as he could, turned his head and partly closed his eyes.

With a laugh, Uldrich smoothly emerged from the phone like he was shot out of pneumatic tube and landed neatly in a standing posture with a ta-da flourish.

He took the phone from Quimby who sagged and then sank onto the sofa, relieved that that was over. My invention works, Reggie. I'm a success.

So now I can admit I was a nervous wreck worrying that you'd somehow disappear into the phone and never be seen again. Then I'd have to try to explain what happened to the police, your family, and the world, knowing that no one would believe me, Quimby said.

I'd kiss you for standing by me in my hour of need for a backup but we're not that kind of friends. Are you ready to do the other test? I'm going to type up some notes on this first trip so you can take your time going back to your own place. No need to run. One thing I just learned is that I need to wear goggles or something. Traveling that way makes my eyes sting. He felt his cheeks and then the backs of his hands before he added, It seems to dry my skin so maybe I’ll need to use some lotion.

* * *

A short time later, Quimby took a deep breath and braced himself, then speed dialed his living room phone. He picked up a sheet of paper and folded that into quarters as the phone rang.

The call was picked up at the other end on the second ring. Bint Uldrich's residence. How may I direct your call?

Quimby said into the phone, I'm ready to place an order. Please connect me with the loony bin. He jumped with surprise as Uldrich's left hand reached out of the receiver as Quimby held the phone and stared at that impossible-but-there-it-was appendage. When Quimby didn't immediately provide it, the hand gestured for him to hand over something. Quimby shook himself out of his state of staring in wonder at that and remembered what they were doing. He handed the page to the hand. The hand disappeared into the phone taking the paper with it despite an initial resistance until the paper crumpled enough to fit such as it did.

Quimby wasn't sure what to do. Clearly he was reluctant to put the phone near his face right now to ask.

Uldrich's right hand was thrust out from the phone, held so it was signaling that Uldrich wanted to shake Quimby's hand. Quimby hesitantly reached over and shook.

Thanks so much for your help, Reggie. You have a good night now. Hang up when you hear the dial tone.

* * *

A smiling Uldrich emerged from the phone receiver in his own apartment living room at the worktable and slid neatly into the chair. He had the folded page of paper in his left hand. After a quick check that he was intact, he hung up the phone then sat back and contemplated the paper. He took off the watch-like thing and the ring and placed them on the table.

He put on a headset microphone connected to a digital voice recorder, adjusted the volume level, and said, "This audio diary is intended to be a permanent record of what I did and why in case something goes wrong and strangers need to understand the situation later. As far as I can I’ll try to keep this current about what happens, the limits that I know of at each stage, and which of those I hope to overcome and maybe which I’ll recognize are actually potentially useful factors that I should more fully develop rather than scrap.

"So far I know I can transport through the phone lines but before I tell the world about this I need to find out if there are longer-term harmful effects. Also what the system's limitations are. I know that with the system as I’ve made it so far my body plus paper and plastics can transport but metals won't. Making the system entirely of plastics was a challenge but I’ve worked that out.

"The technology is safer for now when it needs both the large unit that looks like it’s only a clunky geek's wristwatch and the ring that only activates the system when it's on my finger. None of it was possible before some clever people made 3-D computer printing a reality. I could never have made the many small plastic parts any other way. They’re too small and have to be too precise. It’s challenge enough to assemble those tiny bits into the working system. Thanks be that I have steady hands and patience.

Also that I have enough income that I could skip a vacation trip and buy the 3-D printer I need to make each component and a backup. It avoids a lot of questions that I don’t want to answer to have few people know I have that. So many things like that I wasn’t thinking at first would be important but turn out to be. Don’t let anyone except those who need to know even what equipment I own. There's so much I need to learn and try.

"I admit that for now I can’t see how to make the theoretical jumps to extend what my system can do into some obvious goals. The biggie there is going wireless. I can’t imagine how to get there based on what I think I barely understand about what I’m learning I can do through the continuous landline systems. Wire or fiber optic transport seems to work pretty well but each medium feels different as I pass through it. It’s very important that I keep what I can do secret while I work at figuring out how to keep it from being badly misused by others. I can’t even patent some parts to protect them until I can describe what effect they produce since I don’t know that. I tried stuff on a hunch and found amazing things are possible but I can’t explain how those can happen and I’m not sure anyone can at the present state of our scientific knowledge. It’s a great scientific achievement but if the wrong people get control of it and use it to do a lot of harm I won’t be praised, I’ll be sued into my grave.

"Even seemingly casual use might turn out to be devastating to my health in the fairly short term. So far I know that I didn’t disappear into the phone system never to be seen again and didn’t fall dead within minutes of emerging from the wires since I’m still talking into this recorder about that but I don’t have more than wild guesses and wishful thinking about what will happen in the next hour or day or month. Could using the system sterilize me? Or alter my genes so my children, should I survive long enough to have any, will be genetic disasters or monsters? I say for the record here that I can’t say what the answers are but I have freely decided that I must risk those scary possibilities.

"Heck, with my limited testing so far I can’t even be sure but I suspect I don’t breathe while I’m in the wires. That might explain why I gasp for air when I emerge and become uncomfortable hovering inside for any length of time. And, catch twenty-three and a half, there’s no equipment I can take in with me to test that. Or it might all be my nerves. I can’t block out the constant thought that by many measures what I’m doing in the phone can’t be possible and therefore isn’t so where am I and what is actually happening? I do seem to be able to transfer over long distances almost instantaneously.

"I’d describe my self-awareness while I doing that as that I sense I’m in an altered condition but since probably no one else is in a comparable condition or ever has been until now there’s no standard vocabulary to describe it. I’d say that the process involves me dematerializing at the initiating phone and rematerialzing at the other end if I emerge all or in part. In between, and as long as I don’t emerge, the best I can say is that I seem to be held together in code form. Among other things that explanation allows for the fact that my body and whatever else is transported with me can fit into and out of any standard phone handset no matter how many or what shapes the openings in it are. I’m not passing through the holes by one kind of technical magic, I’m rematerializing outside it by a different and no less amazing and hardly believable kind of what I have to call magic because I don’t know a more exact word.

So, dear digital diary, I have a lot to learn and I’ll make an effort to keep you up to date as my awareness of answers and new questions work their way out of the darkness of my conciousness. I’m going to stop for now to get something to eat. See, there are new questions all the time. Will any foods interfere with what I can and can’t do while I’m phone traveling? That could be a major problem so I need to try to stay aware of it as I test the limits of this expanded world.

* * *

Eugenie Cabrey, thirty-seven, considered herself to be a hard woman, a description and mental self-image that she took pride in. Many who had to deal with her agreed that that described the impression she made on them. She was someone who couldn’t be bothered with more than the basic civilities but who expected to have her every whim instantly responded to and generally obeyed.

She was on the short side of average height for American women but a bit on the heavy side of average weight. Possibly she accepted how tough a challenge it would be. Possibly it was simply too much trouble. Whatever the reason, she had seldom concerned herself about impressing anyone with her looks beyond projecting her hardness and determination to have her way.

At the moment she sat alone in her car parked at the edge of a shopping center lot. Here she could see anyone approaching from any direction but was far enough away from anyone else to not be heard if she got loud as she got excited - which she often did while she talked openly to herself.

For more than half her years she had been plotting out elaborate plans and scenarios for getting rich and powerful without the need for special skills or smarts, only the willingness to steamroll, squash, or otherwise stymie those who had what she wanted or got in her way. Unsuccessful scheme after unsuccessful scheme she had come up short although in her own mind she never thought of her efforts as failures. Each time she failed, she then spent time alone identifying the persons or factors she could satisfy herself were responsible for ruining her clever and careful plans. The persons went on her hate list for future retribution if she could administer that without distracting herself from the necessary focus on her current route to great fortune and total control. Fame for its own sake wasn’t of interest to her since that brought scrutiny and scrutiny was an annoyance at least, a significant threat in the many cases where she got what she did by her standard strategies of cutting corners, lying, or cheating.

What she had evolved was a plotting process based on her talking out the details with herself in advance where she would question and argue each motivation, step, and subtlety - although those latter weren’t common elements of her plans. Her intent was to justify each element and step so she didn’t make things harder than they needed to be. She considered the relevant dates, the recognized restrictions and standard procedures, and debated with herself which of those were barriers if you were ready to go by the unconventional and therefore unexpected path. It was important to her sense of security to have these think-it-through sessions but not to record them so they couldn’t be used against her later. She trusted herself to remember the bottom line decisions, which were all she needed to operate by once the latest plot was under way.

She had a folder of papers open beside her and now and then she would read something off one of the pages to make a point with herself. Every so often she would force herself to stop and take a time-out to calm herself since she recognized that her anger could make her overlook important problems that these planning sessions were intended to make her think about so she would be ready to sidestep or otherwise neutralize - or even on occasion twist into useful tools for her purposes.

Okay, now I have to go back and start at the beginning. It feels good to curse the fools and those who get in my way but as long as they didn’t do that deliberately since they don’t know what I’m planning to do it’s not practically useful and it slows up the process. Managing my anger would make more sense if letting myself vent with rage now and then wasn’t so satisfying. Same way that it’s not really a bad idea to go on a bit where I’ll be overheard so if a jury ends up having to decide whether my actions mean I’m insane, not just really determined to have my way, I’ll have some leeway. Obsessive is supposed to be bad but whacko is okay. Go figure. But if it works for me why would I fight it?

She gave a snorting laugh. "Starting at the real beginning would mean dredging up old Pisser and starting a new round of angry meomories. What I put up with from him. Neither of us ever really enjoyed it either even if it gave him some relief and me the basis for my expectations that he’d pay for it in the long run, with or without the pressure of some blackmail. I let him fantasize that he was a sugar daddy enough that he’d blab too much to people who’d testify in court that he said that. Poor naive me. I thought I had what I wanted when he had written me into his will even though we both expected he’d be around for longer than I’d have preferred. Since I’m used to twisting the truth to fit my purposes and therefore expect others to try to do the same, I remember my surprise when I found out for sure that was true. Me and his two kids with equal shares of his estate, whatever much that would be.

"Then he applied some squeeze and bought his way into a business deal that many thought was pie in the sky but the Pisser was sure was the opportunity of a lifetime. I had no say in that, I only realized that by doing that he had tied up his loose money to keep it out of the hands of anyone else, especially mine. In only a few months that company got red hot and his stock in it became worth many times what he invested in it but still he left no cash lying around. Then with no warning, one of damned Walter’s companies announced a new product that instantly made the Pisser’s company’s main product obsolete so his on-paper wealth, and therefore mine, shrank to very little almost overnight.

His dumb-assed kids didn’t protest him including me as an heir since they were successful on their own and didn’t expect or need money from dad and actually had expected his estate to be a pile of overdue bills. They didn’t rush to get back in his good graces when his bonanza came in either. They stayed listed in his will to inherit two-thirds of his estate though. Therefore over a period of two years I spent a chunk of money I hadn’t inherited yet on fees to lawyers hired to find ways to squeeze the kids out.

She gave another humorless laugh. Fate’s joke was on me. Shortly after his investment tanked and therefore his on-paper worth evaporated he died and I ended up having to shell out most of my inheritance from him to pay the lawyers I hired to get me in line to get that money. That leaves me with little except my hatred for Walter Doebley and a loose pile of change when I ought to be rolling in dough.

She banged her fists on the steering wheel. No, damn it, unlike the Pisser’s kids, I don’t accept this flip-flop of Fate with a shrug. Walter caused my loss and my current sad condition so he’s going to pay for it. I didn’t get rich by inheriting from Jason so I’ll get rich from Walter’s estate instead. The business news reports say he’s worth millions because of some patents he owns so I’ll make that money mine. It means more work and more delay but my perfect revenge will be to trick Walter out of his money and arrange for him to die soon after he signs it over to me so he can’t realize what he did and fight the changes in his will. It all has to be solidly legal. I don’t know yet who I’ll have to contend with to inherit his estate but that’s tomorrow’s problem, first I have to get his name on some new papers.

She looked at two photos of building entrances taken from behind the wheel of this car when it was half a city block away. I did my homework which at least saves me from wasting time on what won’t work. He has a center city high-rise condo that’s likely pretty swank since all the units in that building are but those who live there pay those big fees for strong security and that’s what they get. I’d never get inside without at least leaving a wide trail and more likely not get in at all.

She moved the second photo to see it better. He has the center city office but even from the hallway I could see there’s no privacy in there and when I called saying I wanted to make an appointment it was clear that he doesn’t keep regular hours there. They probably don’t know from day to day when he’ll be on the premises. If I’m going to give up my anonymity I’m gonna be damned sure he’ll be there for me to pitch to.

She closed the folder of papers and tried to relax in