Lacy looked at the display again. She had charted the numbers so that she could see the actual curvature of the project’s power requirements. It depicted a magnificently unimaginable arc. Still, no matter the power issues, the real problem was that she couldn’t compensate for the interference caused by the Earth’s physical properties. No amount of energy could compensate for geomagnetic distortions within the atmosphere. That was just the nature of, well, nature.
She laughed out loud as she imagined William Ferguson’s reaction to hearing that the only way to make this technology work would be to limit the scope to a few short hours and, even then, to mount the projectors on a space-based platform. She had somehow managed to add another zero to an investment that was already costing billions without actually accomplishing a thing. She imagined there would be no way he could maintain his fake southern accent during this particular conversation.
She lightly tapped her finger on her desk and looked down at her mother’s asscher cut ruby, set in its platinum “tension-setting” band. Seeing light reflect in the ring had been the original inspiration behind her entire premise. She knew that with enough power the device she was building would be able to lift the veil of time and actually, physically look into the past. She had already discovered Reflection Theory. Now she just had to figure out how to invent the corresponding Reflection Technology.
The ring sparkled in the sunlight that flickered around her mostly glass office, light that was already roughly eight minutes, twenty seconds old. It was the same light that just a few minutes ago had the potential to have illuminated Mercury or Venus.
She missed her mother. She did her best not to dwell, but there were times when she couldn’t help it and today was one of those days. It was her mother’s birthday, November 11th. Or at least, it should have been. Li Na had died of an aneurysm when Lacy was a child. She had only been six years old, but she still had vivid memories of a woman who loved her beyond measure. Maybe the word “memory” was a stretch. What she actually had was more like “feelings.”
She had pictures, hundreds of pictures, of her mom holding her, playing with her, and dancing with her. Of all of them, her favorite was one that was taken of her family while sitting on a yellow-painted porch swing at a cabin they visited every year when she was growing up. In fact, she continued to go there with her father well into her adulthood. In the picture, her father was sitting in the middle of the swing holding her. She could not have been older than two and she looked adorable in her polka dot romper. Her mother was sitting to her father’s left, as if she had squeezed in on the small swing to join them. The picture was taken at dusk, but when the sun was still bright so that the picture had an almost orange glow like they had used a filter, even though they hadn’t.
The chain that suspended the swing was framed in the picture in such a way that made two perfect triangles. Lacy imagined this was the beginning of her love of spatial geometry that dominated her taste in art to this day.
In the picture, Lacy was looking off in the distance, staring at whatever might have captured the attention of a toddler, but it wasn’t her expression that made the picture so moving. Her father was looking down at her, his expression filled with love, like he had just learned the secret to the universe and felt no pressure to share it. It was a serene look of contentment in accomplishment that Lacy would come to wear well in her own right.
But her mother… Her mother was beaming, her face lit up with the shine of a newborn star. The setting sun was hitting her like a spotlight in the dusk, and the wind had gently tossed her hair as she gazed at her baby adoringly with joy and affection and wonder as if she was the only woman in the whole wide world who had ever had a child. You could see that she was twirling a red, autumn leaf in her right hand, absent mindedly playing with her daughter without even meaning to. If Lacy looked closely at the picture she could make out the ruby ring that she now wore every day of her life.
It was candid and real; a random shot that captured her family in a perfect moment of relaxed tranquility. It didn’t matter that Lacy would grow up to be a prodigy destined to change the world: her father could not look at her with any more pride than he already showed in this picture, before he even knew who she would become, or what she was going to be capable of doing. Similarly, her mother would never know the woman she would mature into, but it wouldn’t matter because the love on her face was determined, eternal and unconditional, though their time together fated to be short.
A knock on the door snapped her out of her thoughts. Her assistant, Bobbie, had stepped inside her office. She was holding a disposable tray full of drinks.
“Hey, I just picked up some hot chocolates from Mackenzie’s. Do you want one? I got extra to share.”
Lacy smiled. There were few things that could make an unfortunate conversation with William Ferguson more bearable, but melted marshmallows over a steaming hot chocolate was one of them. “You have no idea, thank you,” she said as she waved Bobbie over and took a cup off the tray.
“Any time,” Bobbie said as she spun around to leave Lacy’s office.
As she did a single, red leaf fell off her coat and floated to the floor.
Lacy stared at it, unable to move.
She was extremely religious, devout even. She did not believe in ghosts, but she did believe in signs.
The technology she was building would never be powerful enough to look far enough back in time to enable her to see her mother again, at least not in her lifetime, but what if it could. What would she give to see her mother again?
Lacy accessed William’s calendar without taking her eyes off the leaf, suddenly certain that this project would be worth whatever the cost, no matter what. “Please make an appointment for me to discuss the project’s status with Mr. Ferguson.”
“Yes, Dr. Sylvan,” the virtual assistant replied. “Would you like to meet with him today or tomorrow?”
Lacy stared at the leaf, remembering her mom and the serenity she somehow bequeathed her. “Tomorrow’s fine,” she said before picking up the hot chocolate and gently scooping the leaf off the floor. “I’m leaving for the day,” she added. “If anybody asks, tell them it’s my mom’s birthday.”
She considered the leaf in her right hand and started twirling it as she walked out the door, happy and secure in the memory, no, the feeling of unabashed love.
Like Lacy? Read her full story in Reflection: Book One
© 2019 William Scott Causey