Vonnel offers a proposition to his skilled team of thieves: make off with the most technologically advanced gadget on the planet, and earn more money than they can imagine. The gadget known as "the wrinkler" lines up the rifts in space-time and thrusts you through it, but there's a catch. They're not the only ones after it.
They set up a sting in a skyscraper hotel on the edge of The City. Vonnel's right-hand man is dressed as a woman, his techie can't get the volume right on his communications, and his bumbling diversion is doing things better left unknown. Vonnel intercepts the target in his hotel room. Problem is, the wrinkler is not inside, and the man who stole it, his old nemesis, has already used it to disappear. Now Vonnel must use all his wits to determine where his nemesis has gone, and how to procure the wrinkler for his client. It's a race up skyscrapers and through space-time for the ultimate gadget, and only one person can stop him: a man he has never before bested.
“Do you know what this is?”
Everyone leaned in for a closer look. A small oval device, no larger than a mole, lay nestled in his palm. Jet black, with sleek rounded sides and a small silver nodule in the lower center. Above this, a tiny screen, dark for the moment. Narin’s eyes grew wide, and he whistled low. Jestu nodded his appreciation, and settled back into his seat. Tannin’s nose twitched and eyes sharpened. Piro blew a cloud of smoke over it and reclined back in his seat. Gregario clapped his hands and laughed.
Finally, Tannin spoke. “It is…it is a transition device, is it not? I have never seen one quite like it but send me straight to the underworld if it ain’t.”
Vonnel withdrew the novelty and smiled at Tannin. “Of course you haven’t. No one has. This is not a working model. The screens on the real ones light up with actual images of other locations, borrowed straight from your brain by your Crancom implant. This model is in the final stages of production. However, even upon completion, its price shall be so exorbitant and its functions so extraordinary, it shall only be made available to the richest and most powerful.”
He turned from Tannin to face the rest of the troupe, leaning forward against the table. “Who here’s heard of the Harlaton Effect?” His voice, barely audible, remained stiff and authoritative.
For a moment, no one shifted a muscle; then Tannin burst out, “Yes, yes! I got it! Something to do with other realms, and the mechanics of quanta, uh, let's see…yes, I remember. It's like folding a giant blanket haphazardly, so, uh, ridges and overlaps appeared everywhere, and taking a knife and plunging it through two of the layers."
“Something like that," Vonnel said. "Gregario here farts, and a mosquito in Yaasama drops dead from methane poisoning."