“You do realize this is illegal, right?” Noel asked, buckling her seat belt. She wasn’t sure how Theo had convinced her to run with this particular plan, but she couldn’t back out. Theo had threatened her with Tinnitus if she abandoned him.
“Of course I know this is illegal.”
Noel grimaced, feeling awkward in Theo's rather cramped car. “Do you even have a permit yet?”
“I got it last week.”
“That doesn’t make me feel any better.”
“Relax, I drove home yesterday after math club practice.”
“You had an adult telling you what to do! I know absolutely nothing, and what if you get pulled over? I won’t have a way to bail you out. I’m not a licensed driver.”
“We’ll be fine.”
Despite her preconceptions, Theo was a pretty good driver considering he’d only had his permit for a week. Maybe that was what came from having that supercomputer in his brain. He was probably a superstar at multitasking.
The freeway was clear, and Theo’s driving was smooth, so they settled into conversation.
“So,” Theo began, “Why did you suggest we start at the lab?”
“Well, there’s an underground laboratory by my dad’s office. You said your telepathy relies on wireless internet, and I know for a fact that the internet down there is wired and they can’t receive a signal below the first floor.”
“Why would you know about the networking system of a government lab?”
“Dad took me there for take-your-daughter-to-work day. We saw a demonstration of liquid helium.”
“It was super cool. Did you know that liquid helium can travel upward against gravity? It’s actually a superfluid.”
“You’re not listening, are you?”
Noel crossed her arms and tried to pout, but she couldn’t blame Theo for not caring. This was their friends they were racing to save, so liquid helium was a distraction.
“Say, Theo,” Noel said, leaning with the turn of the car.
“How do you suppose we’ll get into the lab? I mean, you need a badge to get in there.”
“We’ll probably break something.”
“It’s a metal door.”
Noel was regretting bringing this up already. She knew Theo would come up with some way of forcing her to break down a metal door, however impossible it sounded.
“I’ll give you pins and needles. You can’t feel the pain of over-exerting if you’re numb.”
She knew it. It was good that Theo cared about their friends, but he could at least show her some sympathy. “I think I’ll break something, whether I feel the pain or not.”
“Then I’ll force your body to use its reserves and heal itself.”
“Don’t worry about it! I’ve got enough on my mind and I’m driving!”
Noel was going to ask about how that would work if she crushed a bone, but now she’d never know.
The rest of the ride followed in silence, but Noel knew what was running through Theo’s mind. His face was twisted with concern and fear. As quickly as his mind allowed, he was simulating every scenario, altering Noel’s body to fit any problem. Smiling to herself, Noel thought happier thoughts, hoping to cheer Theo up before they reached the lab.
It wasn’t long before they did, and Noel’s happier thoughts cleared upon seeing the mound of dirt that covered the first floor of the lab. She gulped before pushing the door open. “Stay here,” she said, before mocking a salute at her spiky-haired friend.
She slammed the door and sprinted to the lab, knowing from track that she was the faster of the two. That didn’t stop him from trying, obviously, and he did, in fact, start playing white noise in her ears.
Noel slowed. “Please don’t give me Tinnitus, Theo!”
The ringing stopped as Theo pulled to a halt beside her. He grabbed her shoulders and shook them, hard. “What do you think you’re doing? If you go in alone, I won’t be able to help you!”
Theo was strong, Noel would grant him that, and he was by all means forceful. “B-but,” she started, “from what Carrie saw, we know they’re after you. What if they plan to do something awful to you? You’ll be caught in their trap, with no internet to save you.”
She could see him racing through possibilities, calculating the risks. He relented, releasing Noel’s shoulders. “Fine, be that way. But if you go unconscious, I’m following you.”
“Don’t worry so much,” Noel chided, before smiling at him and heading off, her feet pounding the grass.