Born an only child in the liberal 1960’s San Francisco, Cutter Slade had a very relaxed childhood. His parents put little pressure on him to study, but they did impress upon him the importance of a number of values: frankness, respect for the weak, tolerance, and justice. Apart from his gift for foreign languages (and a liking for history), during his college years, Cutter realizes his aptitude for sports. He is very good at athletics in general, but excels in American Football. He quickly becomes indispensable as the quarterback in his college football team, so the College authorities overlook his poor academic record.
In 1987, Cutter secretly joins the Navy. Although he is rather put off by the military discipline, only the Navy can offer him the chance to experience the action and adventure he craves. Cutter excels during training and he is naturally selected to attend the Navy SEAL’s training camp. His career is a reflection of the shadier areas of American foreign policy; Panama, South America, and the Middle East are frequently the scenes of his activities. Cutter is able to indulge his love of adventure and action in the SEALs, but his various operations leave him wondering whether the violence and reasoning behind his missions are justified.
Cutter returns to the SEAL camp after being injured during a mission. While regaining his strength, Cutter is assigned to lead a public relations mission with reporter Marion Wolfe, the daughter of Senator Clare Fitzgerald, and her photographer. During the mission, the photographer dies in an accident. Much to Cutter’s surprise, Senator Fitzgerald blames the photographer’s death on Cutter, calling Cutter an irresponsible adventurer. For two years the Senator conducts an investigation looking into Cutter’s activities. The picture she paints is that of a violent solider who has gone AWOL and drinks heavily. With the help of her lawyers, the Senator forces Cutter to resign at half-pay in September 2002. Cutter’s abilities as a "war machine" slowly decline as his time away from the SEALs increases. The only thing that prevents him from indulging in his love for Vodka is his friend Doug Dawson (now an Admiral).
The President of the United States asks Admiral Dawson to create the PROWLERS, an unofficial team of capable, anonymous and trained men who carry out a variety of secret and dangerous missions. The Admiral naturally recruits Cutter as Commander in charge of Operations.
Marion Wolfe was born an only child in 1974 in Philadelphia. Her mother, Clare Fitzgerald, is the heiress to a local Philadelphia fortune, the Fitzgerald Bank. Her father, Sir Randolph Wolfe is an Englishman whom her mother met in Monaco in 1972 and married in London in 1973. Marion’s parents divorce in 1975. Clare Wolfe is Senator for the State of Pennsylvania (under the name of Clare Fitzgerald). On her mother’s recommendation yet again, she is commissioned by National Geographic to make an important documentary on the last Indian civilizations in South America. Clare Wolfe uses her connections to grant her daughter military protection due to the dangers of such an expedition.
Raised is a brilliant student and early on she shows great interest in the study of foreign civilizations as well as a gift for science. After leaving high school, Marion studies biology at Yale, then ethnology in Chicago where she obtains a Ph.D. in the year 2000.
Although she had intended to go into research, Marion’s mother persuades her to enter a profession in the media, and she becomes a journalist. She writes several reports on the threatened civilizations of the world.
Marion and her team participate in a month long intensive training at the SEALS camp. One session includes a full week of parachuting practice with Cutter Slade as the main instructor. One jump from the plane to reach an oil platform turns into a complete disaster. A sudden storm unloads unexpected stress on the team. A wind stroke blows the cameraman out of the normal path. His parachute becomes stuck on a nearby crane. Against Cutters’ orders, the panicking rookie unties the straps and has found a precarious refuge in the crane’s transportation jaws 130 feet above the raging waves. Cutter stabilizes the jaws by holding two dangling steel chains. Sending the closest person to him – Marion- out to move a lever on the control panel, which will return the crane’s jaws to the platform before lowering it to the ground, proves to be a disaster. Under a heavy panic attack, Marion pushes the wrong lever. For a split second Cutter finds himself hopelessly looking at the jaws slowly opening and the trainee’s bewildered eyes as he slides from the crane into the sea. Mark Tilfont’s lifeless body was found the next morning and the whole operation cancelled on the spot.
When Marion returns to the United States, Clare accuses the Pentagon of deliberately endangering the lives of the trainees. She finds out about Cutter Slade and vents her anger on him with a long legal battle.
For the first time, Marion and her mother have a serious disagreement. Marion explains to her mother Cutter’s real role and how deeply she is in his debt, but her mother refuses to listen. Clare refuses to allow Marion to see Cutter again, even though Marion only wants to explain that she does not agree with her mother.
Marion moves away from her mother and gives up journalism. She becomes a bio-ethnological researcher. She starts to travel widely again and in 2003 she publishes an Encyclopaedia of Terrestrial Nutriments (Earth Feeds. Encyclopaedia Terrestrial Nutriments. Cutler & Merchand. 2003).
In 2007, Marion is Director of the Exobiology Laboratory of the University of Chicago and is recognized as one of the leading specialists in her field.
William Kauffman comes from a good New England family. His grandmother, who was born a Van Den Straaten, claims that her own grandparents came over on the Mayflower. His father was a professor of science at Harvard. His mother died while giving birth to William, who was 3 months premature. He grew up a sickly child.
While still in his teens Kauffman served as a medic in Vietnam. There he is injured and sent home having been awarded a Purple Heart. After attending Harvard, Kauffman begins research in quantum physics, which at this time is a newly developing field of knowledge.
Kauffman was married twice and has two sons, one by each wife. He is a good father when he has time to see his sons, but his involvement in his work relegates family life to a distant second place. After completing "Supercord" theory, he wins the Nobel Prize for science. He sits on many committees and on the Boards of some of the most powerful American companies (particularly a merchant bank and a Life Sciences group). After publishing a paper on the existence of an infinite number of parallel worlds, however, he is not taken seriously.
The military approaches Kauffman and propose to fund his ideas and introduce him to Anthony Xue. Xue and Kauffman don’t get along but they need each other to complete their research. The first successful test of the "Sidestep" project goes wrong and generates a black hole. Kauffman isn’t sure of precisely which element has malfunctioned and wants only to fix the problem so he can continue to further develop his theories.
Anthony Xue is born in 1970 into a poor family in the South. His parents run a diner for truckers on the highway to Tampa Florida.
From an early age, Xue shows an exceptional gift for anything scientific. Although he is clever enough to win scholarships, his parents (to whom he is nothing but a source of cheap labor, washing trucks for customers, and serving in the diner at busy times) will never let him leave Tampa to study. He graduates high school at 16 and heads to a town college. Xue obtains a BA in Physics (with the highest possible grades) at the not very high-standing university in his home state. Xue never goes any further with his studies.
In 1993 he joins a research group headed by the successor of Professor Amato (Nobel Prize for Physics 1969), a Dr Albert Ross. Although only in the very minor capacity of a research assistant (a sort of information officer), for the first time Xue enters the prestigious environment of the MIT and the numerous scientific opportunities it offers. During the first few months of his collaboration with Ross, despite his inexperience and lack of qualifications, Xue clearly eclipses the rest of the researchers. He quickly becomes an object of envy, as such.
He starts experiments on matter/antimatter reactions. The results he achieves by 1999 are extremely promising and for Xue the prospect of recognition by the whole of the Scientific Community now seems to be within reach. During 1999, Xue’s thirst for recognition compels him carry out more and more experiments and to take fewer and fewer precautions. He is obsessed by a desire for more and more results. On 24 October 1999, catastrophe strikes. The researchers lose control of the matter/antimatter reaction and 11 people are killed in an explosion in the laboratory.
Although the law does not consider Xue responsible for this tragedy, the scientific community takes its revenge for the previous success of this iconoclastic researcher, by accusing him of irresponsible behavior in his work. Life soon becomes impossible for Xue, and in April 2000, shunned by the research community, he leaves MIT.
However, Xue is not going to be deprived of continuing his research for long. The American Army has been interested in his work for years and soon provides him with a new laboratory and funding ... in return for absolute secrecy. Although Xue can now carry on with his work, he is still condemned to remain unknown.
In 2003, after three years of work and further experiments, the army asks Xue to get into contact with Professor Kauffman, who has been trying to demonstrate the existence of parallel worlds. According to the Army’s scientific committee responsible for monitoring Xue’s work (and according to Xue himself), energy produced by matter/antimatter reactions could provide access to the parallel worlds described by Kauffman.
Overcoming his reticence and his distrust of Kauffman, who seems to Xue to be the incarnation of the scientific establishment that has always rejected him, Xue meets Kauffman and suggests that they work together. Kauffman hesitates at first (he knows of course about Xue’s past, and is wary of carelessness in a new scientific area such as the exploration of parallel worlds) but then agrees to work with Xue.
During the next four years the two men collaborate closely. The combination of their skills produces results that exceed even the most optimistic forecasts (the American Army has not scheduled any life-size experiments before 2015 at the earliest). But no relationship, other than a strictly professional one, is formed between the two men over the years. On the contrary, every day Kauffman finds a new reason to deplore his colleague’s exaggerated haste, whilst Xue finds it increasingly hard to tolerate being considered by his employers as Kauffman’s assistant, a mere "sub-contractor" responsible for energy problems.
- Ranzaar (World of Snow)
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