At the office they set him up in an inner room, one with no windows. Bryan liked it; it was dark. It had only the desk, deskchair, and a couch. The people guarding him set up right outside the door. He collapsed into the chair and fell asleep, and only woke when Harper returned with a pizza. As expected, he didn’t dream and he felt worse than before he had fallen asleep.
“Shit,” he mumbled, swiping the screensaver off his – Hussein’s – laptop and checking the time. “I can’t believe I slept for…an hour?”
“You were exhausted,” Harper said, setting down the pizza.
“It didn’t help. And the group’s capturing. I should be…tracking them or something. I don’t even know.”
He ate as he read emails. The media was having a field day with the news that the gates would funnel in extreme numbers of demons in a few days. Connors had been right – everyone thought it was a grant grab. And everyone else thought it was an exciting end-of-the-world prank. The academics seemed to be arguing it seriously as a culmination of rising demon populations, but no one was listening to them.
He was getting notifications of who was capturing what where, but the call center seemed to take care of the bulk of things. Still, he had to coordinate clean-up. Harper helped, putting calls in to the clean-up crew, taking notes on how many dead and any property destroyed. Towards the end of the night Wei came in to talk about media coverage. At eight AM Connors showed Doctors Rollins and Maclin into Bryan’s cavelike office.
“What happen to you?” Maclin said to him. “You get hit by a bus?”
It wasn’t far off from how he felt. He had been run ragged that night with work he had no prior experience with, still on no sleep. It crossed his mind at that moment that he hadn’t shaved in days.
“No time for pleasantries,” he sad. “Let’s get down to business. We need solutions on how to close these gates.”
“Easier said than done,” Maclin said. “Readings of the gate generally confirm what I already suspected. There was a faint electromagnetic signature to the thing, radiation readings, bending of light…”
“Which means?” Bryan waved his hand impatiently.
“It means we’re likely to be dealing with a wormhole. Something we’ve only recently begun to produce in a lab in infinitesimal size.”
“Fine, it’s a wormhole. How do we close off a wormhole?”
“This is humanity’s first experience with these on such a grand scale. I mean this is incredible. To be able to view such a thing at regular intervals in stable conditions. This isn’t something you just ‘close off.’ We’re talking about exotic matter, non-baryonic particles…”
“Basically,” Rollins interrupted, “items we can only theorize about. We need time to study the gates. This is only the beginning of the discovery process.”
“We don’t have time.” Bryan stressed each word.
“Right,” Rollins said. “The gates will…allow more demons through in a few days.”
“Yeah,” Bryan said. “Secret’s out.”
“People are saying it’s enough demons to destroy society,” Maclin said. “I don’t see how that’s possible.”
“It’s not just demons we’ve been battling,” Bryan said gravely.
Rollins and Maclin watched him skeptically, waiting for him to give more information. He didn’t.
“Say we theorize,” he said. “How would one close a wormhole?”
“That’s just it,” Rollins said. “With our current knowledge, current technology, if you want it in a couple days’ time there’s no way.”
Bryan growled. “Will you stop saying no and – ”
“Hold on,” Rollins interrupted. “Let’s look at this another way. What do we know? That demons can cross over through the gate from one planet to another.”
“From one Earth to another,” Bryan said.
“Either way, can – could a human cross from here to there?”
“The gate isn’t stable enough. They wouldn’t make it.”
“That gate,” Maclin broke in “is unstable in the direction of there to here. But that instability doesn’t necessarily go both ways.”
“How could it not?” Bryan said.
“Who says it does?” Rollins asked.
“Well obviously…” Bryan stuttered, “of course it…it just would be!”
“You’re supposing the gate looks like this.” Maclin picked up a sheet of paper from Bryan’s desk and curled it to make a tube. “Equal at both ends. Uniform throughout. But if it were like this…” He made one end larger, the other smaller, almost a cone. “Say this smaller end is the other Earth. They go in there and come out this other larger end, and somewhere in this big space is our Earth, but they could end up anywhere in this end of the cone. But if we went in, and came out this smaller exit on the other Earth, there’s only one spot – or a far smaller amount of spots – we could end up at.” He let the paper unfurl and set it back on the desk. “This is, of course, purely guesswork. We have no way of knowing whether this gate is a tube or a cone or a cone on both ends.”
The room fell into silence.
Bryan shot up out of his chair, so that everyone jumped.
“There’s a way,” he said, and left the room.