Only fifteen minutes into their plotting, Theo had barged in and interrupted. Carrie was mildly irked that she didn’t get to steal all the glory, but at least she was free.
“Someone hold the door open while I look,” Theo commanded, stretching forward to see through the glass.
Carrie willingly obliged. Yvette, however was less keen on him seeing it. “You don’t want to," she said.
“Well why not?” Theo sounded on the verge of yelling.
“Do you want Mrs. Johns to know you’re here? She already knows we’ve been hiding in a corner of the room that she can’t see, brainstorming ways to escape. Do you want her to suspect we’ve left, or that you’re here with us?”
“I’m glad you understand,” Yvette said coldly, “Now let’s move.”
Carrie waited for Theo and Yvette to stop arguing, and for everyone to leave before closing the door and taking in the new room. It was still white, and Yvette was already giddy over some funky contraption in the middle of the room. Carrie figured she’d be at least slightly helpful if she stood guard while their alien friend used the machine.
She peeked out the well-dented door to see Mr. Wills pull his gigantic frame free of a wall. Theo had certainly done a number on him. But he recovered just as quickly as Yvette had from the torture. The man shook cement remnants from his shoulders and turned to see Carrie pull the door shut, panting.
“What’s wrong?” Dieter asked, solving the last part of his rubix cube.
“Mr. Wills is coming.”
The door flew inward, sending Carrie skittering across the floor. Dieter was closest to the door, and Mr. Wills’s bony old hands shot out for his neck.
Yvette’s maniacal typing froze. Theo looked up.
“Hook Theodore up to the machine or this one dies,” Mr. Wills threatened. He looked almost comical, holding the itty bitty Dieter in a headlock, but Carrie knew he wasn’t joking. Glancing uncertainly at Yvette, she wished Dieter would suddenly get super buff and free himself. But what was the likelihood of that? Theo was useless as a steroid dispenser without the internet.
Lillian glanced Yvette, same as Carrie, but she was at least in a fighting stance. Doug stood dumbfounded in the far corner of the room.
Theo cut Yvette off. “Do it,” he said with equal force.
“What? But Theo, they’re going to kill-”
“Anything to stop them from killing my friends! Besides, this’ll get Noel out, right?”
“Hurry up!” Mr. Wills bellowed.
Yvette hurriedly tapped out a sequence, and the machine spluttered to jacob’s ladder-esque life. It sprang open, shooting silvery rods and robotic arms out its backside. A cloth stretched itself over two parallel rods, and the robotic arms pulled yet more machinery from the bottomless pit inside the machine.
“Lie down,” Yvette yelled over the whirring.
Theo did so willingly, concern growing on his face. Yvette kept on tapping.
Carrie wondered what else the machine did, and it was out of her mouth before she could even stop herself.
“Why,” Mr. Wills said, smirking, “It does everything we need it to.”
That was it. “So,” Carrie began, hiding her confidence, “You guys use it to talk to your higher-ups, right?”
Mr. Wills narrowed his eyes and hugged Dieter’s neck tighter. “Shut up, girl, or I’ll kill this one and grab you next.”
Carrie shut up, but she looked hopefully at Yvette.
Within the tangle of metal, Theo lay silently, completely accepting of his fate. Man, what an idiot.
She pushed herself from the floor, sending Mr. Wills a look that said “just try it.” She wandered slowly to Yvette and peered over the alien’s shoulder to see what she was looking at. It was all mumbo jumbo, and Yvette wasn’t muttering in English. That was for sure.
Leaning backwards, she met Lillian’s gaze. They nodded at each other, and Lillian began talking instead.
“So Mr. Wills,” she said, “I know this sounds totally crazy and stupid, but does that machine read the mind of whoever is being… examined?”
“Of course it can.”
Under Carrie’s chin, Yvette straightened. She tapped a little slower before shaking her head and frowning.
Whatever Theo had been thinking wasn’t the right thing. Carrie tried to remember how Noel had explained everything. She glanced back at Lillian and shook her head slightly, hoping to get the message across.
Lillian patted her arm frantically.
That was it! Carrie shot a hand into the web of machinery, grabbed Theo's arm, and thought the same thing over and over again. Hack it, hack it, hack it, hack it, hack it.
Suddenly, Yvette inhaled and stiffened. Her typing quickened again.
“What have you found?” Mr. Wills asked. His grip loosened; the machine must have blocked his view of what Carrie was doing.
“The numbers aren’t quite what I thought,” Yvette droned. Man, she was a great liar.
Everything silenced at once. Yvette looked up. “Sir,” she said, “Theo has fewer quantum particles than Noel did.” A printer buzzed to life on Yvette’s side of the machine and she bent down to retrieve the paper.
“Yvette, what are you saying?” Carrie whispered, grabbing the alien’s shoulder.
“It’s true though. Theo will be let go with the rest of you. Leave Noel to me.”
Violently, the machine tossed Theo from its cot and retracted into a column. Yvette handed the numbers to Mr. Wills, who true to his word, let Dieter go. The man looked over them and chuckled. “You all are free to go. I assure you that if word gets out my superiors will dispose of you, so don’t say anything. Yvette, I assume you’ll be staying to help with the extraction."