Yvette looked around at the faces of her friends. She hadn’t thought she’d ever tell them this. She hadn’t even thought the device would fall here. It was like some sort of dark magic, having everything revolve around these kids.
A deep breath. “Well, I guess I’ll start at home. I don’t actually know how far our planets are from each other, only that it’s quite a ways.”
Doug broke in, “Well, of course it is, man. We’re like four lightyears away from even the closest star besides the sun.”
“Yes, well, we actually have a quantum mechanics method of bringing everyone here, by somehow arranging particles so that there are twins located on my planet and yours. Using these twins, we replicate exact atoms on one side, destroying the originals. This way, we can bypass relativity and the grand distances of the universe in order to send people like me to retrieve the object right when we predict its coming.”
“Less science,” Lillian said, “More story.”
“Ah yes. Well, it all started about a thousand earth-years ago. That’d only be the equivalent of fifty years for us, based on maturity of species, but that’s irrelevant. Someone created such low temperatures that a quantum device came into being. They stuck it inside a vacuum and sent it to one of our science colonies where they perform more dangerous experiments without threatening the main population, but the ship was miscalibrated.”
“So they missed?” Dieter asked.
“Correct,” Yvette replied, “By quite a long shot. So based on intergalactic motion that we’d already observed, we predicted that the quantum device would land on a small rocky planet orbiting star forty-five-twenty A. Now you see, my race had been paying special attention to forty-five-twenty A because of this planet. Your people are the only other sentient race we’ve found in the entire universe so far. By then, we’d already landed a shuttle here with a transporter-we had no idea how those worked either-and we started preparations for the coming of the quantum device.”
“Wow. You’re old,” Carrie said.
“No, I’m only a few centuries old. If you want to go into it, I’d actually be about your ages. Anyways, after learning what scientists here had found out about quantum particles, I was hoping the computer had disappeared already, and that it wouldn’t even do anything. We could pass it off as a miscalculation and not worry about anything. But of course, it had to land in a system whose structure it could manipulate. Something alive that just happens to be one of you, Noel, or Theo.”
“Oh right, Theo!” Carrie said, “Then this quantum device is the cause of his telepathy?”
“Theo has telepathy. Or as Noel puts it, he uses the internet to access the quantum particles inside of us thereby monitoring our data.”
“You didn’t tell Mrs. Johns that?”
“Well, it was a gut instinct.”
Though happy that Carrie hadn’t said anything to Mrs. Johns, Yvette frowned. Why hadn’t her friends said anything earlier? Well, of course they wouldn’t. No one would want to sound like they needed to be in an asylum.
“This is even stranger. We had expected the device to cause mild distraction, and only lower the body temperature. Possibly even to make someone incredibly brilliant because of the new speeds that could be reached in thought-processing, hence why we originally suspected Noel.”
“Sounds like a science fiction novel,” Dieter muttered, examining his rubix cube. Yvette was surprised he still had it.
“Oh,” Carrie started, “Did you get the distraction part from the day when Noel was completely out of it? That was actually Theo messing with her dopamine production. Are they recording us in here?”
Yvette glanced around the room. “No, I don’t think they’re recording us. And how did Theo manipulate Noel’s bodily functions?”
“Dunno,” Carrie replied, “He never tried with any of us.”
“Any reason for that?”
Lillian snorted, triggering outbursts of giggling from the others. “Well duh, he likes her. Like, you know, the in-love, sort of like.”
And naturally, the moment Theo was mentioned, the sound of collapsing cement echoed in the room.
Theo was clutching his stomach as he trudged towards the building. He couldn't concentrate. Everything was spinning around him, and though his glasses were still on, he couldn't see well. His head hurt like he’d gotten a concussion, and worse, Noel was gone.
He couldn't contact her. She was lost. Nothing mattered anymore; he had to get her back so he wouldn’t feel so sick.
The alarms in the lab were still resonating around the complex and Theo saw people swarming out from the nearby buildings. He quickened, trying to ignore the pain in his gut.
Upon reaching the well-dented metal door, he stopped to breathe. Please, please, please, he thought, tell me she’s okay.
From a backward glance, he knew the office workers were drawing closer. After a deep breath, Theo stepped into the cement building, almost dying from his headache.
Aside from the damage, the place really did look like a lab. It had that sterile feel that he got from hospitals. Wires slithered about the cement walls, connecting it to the outside world. Hadn’t some foreigners hacked it recently? Whatever. Irrelevant. Theo followed the path of destruction Noel had carved out for him and reached the metal door before ten minutes was up.
Here I am, he thought, I wonder if I can use the strategy Noel was about to use to break the lock.
There it was, a weak spot in the jumble of gears and rods that worked the lock. Tentatively, he poked at it, making sure there wasn’t another security system in place. Then he banged on it with his fist.
“Yeowch!” He muttered a string of curses before realizing he should probably shut up. His hand still hurt, but he tried again.
He examined the workings again to see if he could kick the door. If it were Lillian, she’d use her ultra-flexibility to kick the spot he’d picked, but obviously he was not Lillian.
Suddenly, burning fingertips brushed his neck. He ducked, breathing heavily, trying to look backwards.
“Ah, here you are. I should have know you’d follow Noel’s path.” That voice. Mr. Wills.
Theo fully turned around. “I guess I outsmarted you, huh alien?”
“Not quite yet.” The man lunged, his huge figure blocking out the white light of the lab.
Theo feinted left before circling right. He locked a foot around Mr. Will’s ankle to trip him. With a crack, the alien smashed into the metal door, breaking the mechanisms. Mentally, Theo congratulated his genius.
But as he had before, Mr. Wills recovered quickly, softly grunting about his human body. It probably hadn’t been a good idea to be so tall and bulky. The man surged forward, and Theo leapt backward, a plan already forming in his head. “Hey, old man, why don’t you show me what you really look like?”
“Fool,” Mr. Wills breathed, bringing his fists up over his head, “I know better than that.”
“Oh please, you clearly can’t beat me while you’re human. I mean seriously, old people get arthritis, and their bones get weaker and-ah!” He narrowly dodged getting crushed to the floor.
“I’m not old.”
“Oh yeah?” Theo jeered. He landed a hit on Mr. Will’s shoulder, but that wouldn’t cut it.
“Only several centuries. I’m in my prime, little boy.” The man hunched over and ran for Theo. He was preparing to lift him over a shoulder, possibly drop him on his head.
Theo wished there was more room in the lab. He had to keep going in circles, and Mr. Wills always defended the side closest to the door. There was absolutely no way he could take a six-foot-something tall man out in a shoving match, so what could he do?
Well, there was always the dump-it-on-somebody-else tactic. He liked that one, especially when it came to homework or reading Romeo and Juliet. The wall could probably take an impact.
Nervous sweat dripping from his spiky hair, Theo assumed a braced position.
“Foolish boy, you know you can’t overpower me.”
“Might as well try,” Theo teased, before ducking and turning sideways. He slipped right under Mr. Wills’s outstretched arms and left the man stumbling into the walls. Maybe he’d break something.
“Thanks for opening the door, old man,” Theo said, waving backwards while the alien tried to pull himself free from the cement wall.
Theo refocused on his goal and opened the door, hoping to see his friends, especially Noel, safe and sound.