Qbit and the Keepers of the Blue Planet- Chapters 10-13

Did you hear what happened last chapter???

Qbit and the Professor ran into Dr. Caruso in the DNA Extraction lab. She has told them about Chad’s possible plan to create armies of beasts and control them.

Before I write, “Back to the story”, I wanted to warn you that this post is kinda long. I wanted to try something that I think will help the story flow a little better. So, if you feel up to it, please let me know if you like the posts short and sweet or long and…hmm, I guess it can be long and sweet too. So, anyway, let me know in the comment section. Thanks. Now…

Back to the story…

Chapter 10

Qbit continued, “Okay, how are we going to handle this?”

The Professor moved over to one of the empty tables, backed up to it, placed her hands on the top and jump-pulled herself onto it. “What do we know, so far? She asked, not expecting an answer. “We need to analyze the data and draw a conclusion. If our lives are in danger, we need to be extra careful.” She jerked her head toward the door, “Especially with Sterling still out there.”

Qbit moved so that he faced the Professor and leaned back against the wall. He folded his arms and said, “Well, Chad probably thinks we’re still with him. As long as Sterling hasn’t contacted him or whatever, we can assume that fact hasn’t changed.” He thought for a second. “He kept mentioning that party, so I think it’s safe to say that’s where he went.”

“I agree. I haven’t seen any cameras anywhere inside the building so, again, I don’t see any other reason for Chad or anyone else, to think otherwise. That’s going to allow us to move around as long as we don’t run into anyone.” She paused and swung her legs back and forth. “Robin said that all the equipment has been taken from the lab in preparation for the move, right?”

“Yep.”

“You’d think we would have seen all that stuff stacked up by the station if they were going to use the tram to move it.”

“But there was nothing up there. As far as we could see, anyway.”

“Exactly, so it must be somewhere else. Which means there’s another way outta here. We need to find that other way.”

“Right, but staying in here isn’t going to help.” He pulled himself away from the wall and said, “So, let me go take a look around and see if I can find the room where the beasts are kept. Maybe there’ll be a map or something in there that can help.”

She jumped down off the table and replied, “Why you? Let me go look around and you wait here.” She poked him in the chest for added affect.

Looking the Professor in the eyes he said, “No, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Why not?” she replied, raising her eyebrows at him.

“Because I’m a (he motioned to himself with his hands moving up and down) and you’re a (he motioned to her the same way). Isn’t that how it goes?”

“Well played. But I still don’t think you’re an expendable crewman. We both need to go because I really don’t think it’s a good idea split up right now.”

Qbit picked up a tinge of worry in her voice. He fought the urge to push her hair out of her eyes again. “Okay, I agree, but you wait here and let me poke my head out to see if the coast is clear. If it is, I’ll only go down the hall a little way. Is that good?”

“Better, but what if someone sees you?”

Rearranging the way his quantum bits reflected the surrounding light, Qbit instantly changed himself into a perfect copy of Sterling.

She wrinkled her nose and said, “Gross. But what happens if he sees you?”

“I’ll have to figure that out if and when that statistical impossibility happens,” he replied with a smile.

“That, somehow, does not fill me with a lot of confidence. Be careful and come back quickly. I don’t want to hang around here for too long.”

He straightened his tie and said, “Yes, your majesty.”

“Wise ass.”

He went to the door and put his ear to it the same way he had in the bathroom. Satisfied that there was no one out there, he slowly pulled opened the door and stepped out into the hallway, bumping right into Sterling.

Chapter 11

In the time it takes to blink, Qbit pulled the door shut behind him and changed into someone else. He couldn’t be certain who that might be because these types of changes were more reflex than choice.

“Hey, watch where you’re going!” yelled Sterling.

“Excuse me! I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you there.”

“Who the hell are you? And what are you doing in there?” he jerked his thumb towards the lab.

“Um, just checking to see if anyone in there needed anything.” Before Sterling could reply, he added, “Hey, I know you! You’re Sterling, right? Chad’s right-hand man.”

Sterling opened his mouth to say something degrading but instead paused, then slowly shut his mouth.  

Qbit, amazed, watched as Sterling’s face went through a series of changes as his brain processed the possible consequences of agreeing to what Qbit had just said about him being Chad’s right-hand man.

The internal battle over, he straightened his shoulders and said with more authority and a slightly deeper voice, “That’s right! I’m his right-hand man!” Liking the way that sounded he continued, “What department did you say you were from!”

“Umm, food services. I was checking to see if anyone needed anything before we closed down for the day.”

Sterling looked at him for a couple of seconds then said, “Why do you look so familiar?”

Uh oh, who did I change into? All the people he had seen today ran through his head. The only thing he could think to say was, “I don’t know. I don’t think we’ve met before.”

“It’s like I’ve seen you somewhere. Like on cable or something.”

Cable? Who the heck do I look like?  He said slowly, “I… don’t… think so.”

“I’m sure of it. I just can’t place it.”

There was an awkward pause as neither one of them said anything.

Finally, Sterling said, “Whatever. Are you going to Fillipa’s party?”

“Fillipa?”

“Yeah, you know, the woman who works with the beasts. Real good sense of humor but tough. Tells it like it is. I mean the other day she lit into Chad like a lightning bolt into, uhhh, I don’t know, umm? What does a lightning bolt go into?”

Qbit thought for a second then said, “How about a lightning rod?

Sterling said, “Yeah, I guess that will work. Like a lightning bolt into a lightning rod! Yeah, we’ll go with that. Anyway, she was real mad about how he’s been treating the beasts.”

He perked up at hearing him say that. “What do you mean? What was she angry about?”

“I don’t know. Something Chad said about getting rid of them because they were too expensive to fix. She told him that he’d hired her to look after them and now he wanted her to ‘put them down’ or something like that. I think she’s real attached to them. Like I said, I’ve never seen anyone talk to him like that and still work here the next day, you know?”

Qbit wanted to be sure Sterling was getting the story right, so he asked him, “How did you find out about all this?”

“It was during lunch in the cafeteria. I overheard Chad’s administrative assistant, Ryan, I think his name is, talking to one of the other animal handlers while eating a tuna fish sandwich.”

“You or the administrative assistant?”

“Me or him what?”

“Had the tuna fish sandwich?”

“Him. I hate tuna fish.”

“Hmm.  I wonder why he didn’t fire her on the spot?”

“I don’t know. I think she might be the only one that knows how to handle them, the beasts I mean. I think Chad’s afraid she might sick one of them on him. You know, one-minute Chads going to lunch and BAM, from out of nowhere, he’s lunch for some beast!”

“Hey, that’s my job.”

“What?” said Sterling with a confused look.

“Food services.” Qbit pointed to himself. “Get it? Chad’s lunch. I’m from food services.”

“Ha, that’s a good one. Chad’s lunch and I’m from food services. Funny. Hey, I like you. Come on, we can go to the party together.”

“Um, I gotta hit the john first.”

“But, it’s on the way.”

Qbit said, “No, umm, I’m going to the one by, uhh, Chad’s office.” He cringed a little, waiting to see what his response would be.

“Damn, why is it everyone else knows about that one but me?

“Beats me.”

“Alright, you go, and I’ll meet you there.”

“Sounds good. See ya, Mr. Right-Hand Man.”

Sterling smiled and said, “Yeah, yeah” then continued up the hall. Qbit could hear him say to himself, “I could get used to that.”  

He waited for him to disappear around the corner then went back to the lab door, changed back into himself then knocked.

There was a muffled reply, “Who is it?”

“It’s me. Open up.”

“Me who?”

“What do you mean ‘me who’? Who do you think it is?”

“I don’t know. How can I be sure you’re not Sterling?”

“Why in the world would Sterling knock on this door and say, ‘It’s me open up’? I mean, how would he even know that you were in here? Now open the door before someone else comes!”

There was a pause, the door opened a crack then stopped. Qbit could barely make out an eye peering between the door and the jamb. “I heard voices out there and wanted to make sure it was you and not someone else.” She paused for a second then said, with a hint of sarcasm, “But, I knew it couldn’t have possibly been Sterling because that would have been, how do I put it, ‘statistically impossible’.”

Sighing, Qbit said, “Very funny, now let me in.” The door opened, allowing Qbit the chance to walk into the lab. He turned to her and said, “We’ve got to find someone named Fillipa.”

Chapter 12

Qbit and the Professor made their way down the empty hallway.

The Professor asked, “Did you lock it?”

“Lock what?”

“The door. Did you lock the door when we left the lab? Dr. Caruso asked us to make sure the door was locked when we left, didn’t she?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Well then, did you make sure the door was locked?”

“Uh, yes. Yes, I did.”

“That didn’t sound to positive. But I guess you know if you did or not.”

Qbit stopped in his tracks, turned to her and said, “Do you want me to go back and check?”

“No, you said you did, so you must of. It’s just when someone asks me to do something, I make sure I do it, that’s all.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake! I locked it!”

“Okay, okay! Don’t get all huffy. I’m just sayin’.”

Qbit turned back and continued walking. I’m pretty sure I locked it. I mean, I must have, right? Man, this is going to bother me all day!

The doors became fewer and further apart and the air developed a slight musky smell to it. They stopped in front of a metal door. Qbit said, “I think this might be it.”

“You said the same thing at the last two doors.”

“I have a good feeling about this one.” He pulled gently on the metal latch inside the handle. Thankfully the door clicked open. He slowly pulled it outwards and they both looked in.  The musky smell of beast poop and fresh straw filled their nostrils. Qbit recognized hints of fear and despair mixed in as well.

The professor was about to step inside when Qbit grabbed her shoulder and said, “Hold on. We don’t know what’s in here. Let me go in first and check. I’ll come and get you when I know the coast is clear.”

She turned to him and said, “Why do you always say you’ll go first. Don’t you think I can handle myself? I’m not some helpless female!”

“Professor, you have to remember. There are things that I can do that you can’t.” She was about to say something, but he stopped her. “I know, I know. You can do anything but let me finish. I’m a computer, nothing more than quantum particles. I can’t be mauled, beaten, shot, stabbed, set on fire or hit by a car. But you can. It’s only logical that I go first. Believe me, if it were a situation where we knew the worst that could happen to you is you’d get hit by a water balloon, then I would gladly let you go first. But we don’t know what or who is in there.” He gave her a chance to let that sink in. “I know your not helpless, I mean, you did manage to survive without me around.”

“It’s easy to forget that about you Q. We’ve been together for so long and been through so much that I think differently about you. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” They looked into each other’s eyes. Their thoughts their own.

“Besides, it’s dark in there,” she said with a smile. “But don’t be long. I don’t want to miss anything.” She backed into the hallway then grabbed his shoulder before he went through the door. “Wait, what if someone in there recognizes you?”

He changed his form. “Is this good?

“Who is that?”

“I don’t know. I used it with Sterling, and it seemed to work.”

“You look familiar.”

He walked through the door and said, “That’s funny. That’s what he said.”

He silently pulled the door closed behind him, it made a slight click as he released the handle. The room was dark and cool. He paused for a second to let his eyes adjust to the low light. To his left he could make out a large cage. He could hear what sounded like raspy, shallow breathing. It was also the source of the ear and pain he had sensed before. He moved towards it and was suddenly lit by the beam of a flashlight. He froze.

A person yelled, “Leave her alone!”

He swung around toward the voice, threw his hands over his head. He took a chance and said, “Fillipa?”

There was no reply.

“Fillipa, I’m not here to hurt her.”

“Then what are you doing here?”

Grasping at straws he said, “I’m here to help you save it.”

He heard footsteps head towards somewhere to his right. The lights in the room suddenly went on.

A woman appeared by a bank of light switches. She flicked the flashlight off as she walked over to the cage, putting herself between Qbit and the cage door.

“How do you know my name?”

“Sterling told me about you.”

“He’s an ass.”

“He has a crush on you.”

“Like I care.”

“He lowered his hands and said, “He said you were the only one he’s ever seen put Chad in his place.”

“Chad’s an ass too.” She paused for a second, staring at him. “You look very familiar. Do I know you?”

That makes three. “No, you don’t know me.”

She walked a couple of steps closer, “Now I remember, you’re the pizza guy.”

“The pizza guy?”

“Yeah, hot and ready in twenty.”

Who the heck is the pizza guy and where did I see him that I could change into him? He said, “Let me guess, you think I’m an ass too.”

“No. To be honest, I think your pizza is really good.”

“Oh, okay. Thank you, I guess.”

Realizing how odd all this was she said, “This is all very weird. You’re acting like you don’t even know who you are. Who do you think you are?”

Deciding that it would be better to come clean he said, “I’m…

(The Professor stood outside the door trying to hear what was going on. Worried that Qbit might be in danger, she had looked around and found something that she thought might work as a weapon. She gathered her wits, put on her best mean face, and pushed through the door…)

The professor ran into the room with an umbrella held high over her head. “Nobody move!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. She gripped it from the opposite end, allowing the curved wooden handle to become a formidable, blunt object. It was a powerful entrance, however, the yellow smiley face pattern and the words ‘HAVE A NICE DAY’ printed on the folded, pink fabric, tended to dampen the affect somewhat.

Startled, Fillipa and Qbit both took a few steps back. Qbit recovered first, he threw up his hands and said, “No, no, no Professor. It’s okay! It’s okay! This is Fillipa”

She slid to a stop and looked back and forth at both. She settled her gaze on Qbit and said, “Are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m fine, really.” He motioned toward Fillipa. “This is Fillipa. The one we were looking for.”

She lowered the umbrella and turned toward her. “Oh, sorry, this is embarrassing.” She turned back to Qbit and said, “I got worried. You seemed to be taking so long so I thought I’d better get in here.”

“With an umbrella?”

“It was either this,” she raised the umbrella and shook it menacingly, “or a dirty mop. I went with this.” Her gaze suddenly shifted from him to the beast in the cage. Her mouth dropped open, “A Gryphon. Oh my God, it’s a Gryphon!” She ran past Qbit, dropping the umbrella on the way. She reached the cage and dropped to her knees. “What’s wrong with it?” She turned toward Fillipa with a worried look on her face.

This time it was Fillipa’s turn to throw up her hands, “Woah, woah, woah! Let’s take a second here folks! First, I find the pizza guy sneaking around then a maniac Mary Poppins barges in! Who the hell are you two and what are you doing here?”

The Professor stood, wiping the wood chips off her knees, then looked back at Qbit. “The pizza guy! That’s it!” She turned back to Fillipa and said, “Thank you! That was going to drive me crazy! She turned back to Qbit, “I think now would be a good time to be yourself.”

Fillipa screwed up her face in confusion. “Wait, you just called him Qbit and you called her Professor?” She paused for a second then said, “Don’t tell me (she pointed at the Professor) you’re Professor Sattler and (swinging her finger at Qbit) you’re Qbit? The Professor Sattler and her quantum computer, Qbit?”

Qbit switched back to himself and a smile came over the Professor’s face.  She extended her hand towards Fillipa. “Yes, and yes”

Fillipa’s expression quickly went from confused to angry. She moved past the Professor’s hand and got right up into her face. “Why, why did you do it! Why couldn’t you leave those poor animals alone? Look at what you’ve done!” She pointed toward the Gryphon laying on the cage floor.

The Professor was taken aback. She looked back to the cage then to Fillipa. “What? What do you mean?

Fillipa pushed past her and walked over to the cage. She knelt and stuck her hand in between the bars and ran it over the gryphons feathered head. She stood and said angrily, “Them, (pointing at the stricken beast) the animals that sacrificed their lives so that you could make her. You killed them, and her!”

The Professor stood there with a confused look on her face. “Me?” was all she could say.

“Yes, you! All you’ve ever been concerned about is you, ‘the great Professor Sattler’!”

The Professor’s demeanor shifted, “What are you talking about? I’m the one that stopped that from happening when I started using the DNA chains! I knew that was wrong, so I discovered another way!”

“I can’t believe you’re so ignorant. Do you think the old way stopped just because you changed how they were made? Do you think all those other companies just said ‘Okay, we’ll stop doing it the less expensive way and switch to the more expensive just because Professor Sattler and The Company said so?’  Are you so blind that you don’t think beasts are still made from the parts of animals? Do you think that those greedy bastards all stopped just because of you? Hmm? You chose to forget about those poor animals and move on. You chose to step over their carcasses and, what, make yourself feel better by creating a new way to mess with nature? A way that would make you feel less guilty? I watched the videos. I saw the news reports on the suffering of those defenseless animals!”

“That’s not what happened!”

“Oh, no? Did you ever stop to consider if what you’ve been doing is right or wrong? Did you ever ask the animals for permission to do what you did to them?” Motioning toward the Gryphon, she continued, “Did you ever ask her permission to do what you thought was right!”

The Professor had heard enough, “Hey, wait a minute here! Where do you get off forming an opinion of me without knowing any of the facts? You said you watched videos and listened to news reports. Did you ever meet me? Talk to me? Try to ask me directly or did you just read the comments sections of those videos and form your opinion from them? Was your opinion based on hard facts and not gossip spewed forth from morons who don’t know their ass from a hole on the ground? How do you know I didn’t try to stop the others? How do you know I didn’t stop to think of the consequences before I continued!” The Professor stepped over to her, inches from her face, “I’ll have you know that I fought for laws to ban the old ways of creating beasts. If it wasn’t for my (she swung towards Qbit) and his efforts it would still be lawful to butcher those poor defenseless animals!

Fillipa moved even closer, “Are you blind? Do you think just because it became unlawful, it stopped? What do you think Chad’s been doing here? He’s been supplying buyers with animals to continue that old way! He’s making too much money to stop.” She paused for a second to catch her breath then added, “What do you think happened to all the animals that were here! Where do you think they went to?”

“What?” The Professor turned to Qbit and they both looked at each other realizing their worst fears had just been confirmed.

Qbit said, “We were right.”

“What do you mean you were right. About what? And don’t try to change the subject!”

“You have to believe us. We had no idea! It wasn’t until we came here today that we started to suspect something was wrong.”

Fillipa paused for a second, thinking about what they had just said.

Qbit added, “We came for a tour. We came to see how things worked here. We came to make sure the animals and beasts were treated humanely and the procedure to gather the DNA samples was done correctly. But after just a short while here we found that nothing seemed to add up. We didn’t see any animals at all, nothing. Then, Chad gave us a bogus presentation about how things were done.

The Professor jumped in, “Plus, I found this flyer on the tram that was all about the animal auctions. She pulled it out of her pocket, unfolded it and handed it to Fillipa. “Later, we ran into Dr. Caruso…”

“Dr. Robin Caruso?” interrupted Filippa, glancing at both sides of the flyer.

“Yeah” said the Professor.

“Like the book!” chimed in Qbit, hoping to get a reaction.

Fillipa said, “Oh, yeah. Robinson Caruso. Hah, I never thought of that.”

Qbit was all smiles.

She handed the flyer back, “I’m not sure she can be trusted”

“Anyway,” continued the Professor, “Purely by accident we ran into her as she was coming out of her lab. (She decided not to say anything about how she felt so privileged to carry on her work) We showed her the flyer and she said she had no idea about the auctions either. She thought they had gone back to their original owners. So, if someone who works here doesn’t know what’s going on, then how do you expect us to?” Fillipa didn’t have an answer to that so the Professor asked, “Just out of curiosity, you knew about the move, right?”

Filipa seemed to be deep in thought. She said, “Yes, but I don’t think I’m going. I’ve been told I’ll oversee the level two beasts as they hatch. I’m not sure I can do that, you know, get attached to them again. I don’t trust Chad and I’ve been hurt too much.”

 She could see the pain in her eyes, “Fillipa, you have to believe us. We didn’t know what was going on. We thought what we had had put a stop to it.”

Fillipa replied, somewhat softer now that she had vented her anger, “That’s what I mean about not looking back as you went forward. Just because a law is passed it doesn’t mean everything suddenly stops. It’s never that easy and you should have known that.”

Qbit could see that the Professor was at a loss for words and struggling with the realization of what Chad’s been doing. He said, “Ladies, I think we need to discuss this further but at a later time. I also want to say this, Fillipa. To be fair, I’m to blame just as much as she is. I was standing next to her through everything. But you need to know that we had no idea. It wasn’t until today that our eyes were opened to the blatant mistreatment of the animals and beasts, old and new. You can call it ignorance, but to us, moving ahead was the right thing to do. Our answer was to continually develop ways to create beasts that were safe and addressed their needs. It’s true we got caught up in the science and not the big picture, but we see now where we went wrong and we’re ready to help make it right.”

She looked at both and said, “How do I know you’re telling the truth? How do I know you won’t leave this place and continue as before?”

The Professor answered. “Well, I can’t give you anything but our word. Perhaps our actions from here on in will be enough proof. But you may not have to worry about us if Chad has his way.”

“What do you mean?

“We think we’re in a lot of danger,” replied Qbit. “‘A lot’, as in losing our lives ‘a lot’. We think Chad didn’t bring us here to see how things are run, he brought us here to get rid of us. I mean, he has everything he needs to continue without us. Why keep us around?”

“Hmm getting rid of you. Why didn’t I think of that?”

The professor’s eyes widened, and she said with some alarm, “What?”

She threw her hands up in front of her and waved them back and forth, “Oh no, no, no, not the getting rid of you part! I’m sorry! I meant the carrying on by himself part.”

Qbit breathed a sigh of relieve and said, “Phew, I thought I was going to have to make a play for the umbrella!”

They all chuckled. It seemed to help break the tension they all felt.

Fillipa continued, “What I mean is, what if he feels the same way about me? If he doesn’t need you because he has everything he needs, then why would he need me to help him with the level twos?”

“But, according to Sterling, he’s scared of you. He’s worried you’re going to sick a beast on him.” said Qbit.

“I don’t think Aura is in any shape to be a threat to him.” she said as she gave the stricken beast another stroke.”

“Is she the only beast here?” asked the Professor, noticing the sadness in Fillipa’s eyes was back.

“I’m afraid so.” A tear ran done her cheek.

“Fillipa? Qbit said gently, distracting her from her thoughts.

“Please, call me Pippy. It’s my nickname.”

“Okay,” said Qbit with a smile. “Pippy it is, then. One last thing, Dr. Caruso mentioned something about creating an army of beasts and controlling them. Do you know anything about that?”

She stood up, brushed some saw dust from her hands, and said, “No. I haven’t heard anything about that? Control them, how’s he expecting to do that?” She turned to the Professor and asked, “Your new egg doesn’t make that possible, does it?”

“No. No way. I couldn’t even imagine how that would be possible.”

“Well, let’s hope she didn’t mean anything by it.” said Qbit. “I guess the next question is how are we going to get ourselves and Aura out of here? Is she well enough to travel?”

The Professor had moved over to the cage and was stroking her the same way Pippy had. “What’s wrong with her?”

Pippy said, “I can’t be sure, but I think her body is rejecting the changes made by the new DNA strings. It’s happened to all the beasts that have been brought here.”

“All the beasts brought here?”

“Yes, their buyers were returning them because they’re sick. Chad accepted them as a down payment on a pre-order of a level two beast.”

“Where are the others? Are they someplace else on the complex?” asked Qbit.

Pippy shook her head, “They’re all gone. Dead. It seems the rejection is fatal. Aura is the last beast and I don’t think they’re going to make it.”

“Did you just say ‘they’?” asked the Professor. “I thought you just said that none of the others made it?”

“Aura’s the ‘they’. She’s pregnant.”

“What? She’s pregnant? How is that possible?” The Professor stood and then began to pace. “This doesn’t sound right. Q and I ran through all the calculations and tested repeatedly to make sure there would be no rejection issues at all. I don’t understand at all how that could’ve happened plus at such an advanced time in the animal’s life. I knew the animals could have offspring, but I never thought two of the same species would ever be together, the odds of that happening are incredible.” She stopped and asked Pippy, “Do you keep a chart or any type of records on the beasts?”

“Of course, it’s right here.” She went over to a desk and picked up a tablet. “I keep detailed records of all the animals.”

“Do you mind if I look at it?”

“No, not at all. Let me log on first.” Once she was in, she handed it to the Professor.

“Wow, these are really detailed records. You’ve done a nice job.”

“Thanks. All my animals mean, meant, a lot to me. They were all very special.”

“Maybe we can do some thing for Aura and her child, but we need to get her out of here,” said Qbit.

From somewhere in the room a loud speaker crackled, “Professor Sattler and Mr. Qbit. We know where you are!”

They all froze in place and looked at each other.

“Will you please make your way back to the tram. The tour is now over. The tram will be leaving in five minutes!”

Qbit spoke first, “I don’t think they know where we are. If they did, they would have sent Sterling to get us.” He looked around the room then asked, “Pippy, I need a map of the complex, is there any in here?”

She grabbed one off a bench that was next to a large door and gave it to him. Qbit went over to the door and looked it over. He put his hand on a chain that hung next to it. He turned to Pippy, “This opens it, right, so you can get Aura out through here and not that door,” he pointed to the door where they had come in.

“Yep.”

Qbit opened the map and ran his finger over it. Both Pippy and the Professor moved to either side of him. “Okay, we’ here and we want to get…here.” He poked a spot with his finger. “Pippy, can you get Aura out of here and meet us here?” He showed her where he was pointing.

“The dock? Hmm, yeah, I think so. I’ve got an electric cart that should get us there. But how do you expect to get us on the ship? That place is going to be covered in people, all waiting to leave.”

“Exactly.”

Looking confused, she said, “But like I said, how are we going to get past all those people and onto the boat?”

“We don’t need to get on the boat. We just need a vehicle that will hold all of us and get us to the other side of the island.”

“I see, and how do you propose we do that?”

“I don’t know, that’s why it’s going to be your job.”

“Oh, great.”

The Professor said, “What are we going to do?”

“You heard the man, we have a tram to catch.”

Chapter 13

Ryan hung up the mic to the PA system and walked quietly over to the window. He let out a lengthy sigh.

“Oh, cheer up. You got to meet her in person, right? You couldn’t have asked for more than that,” said Chad.

“You don’t understand, she was perfect. We could have been great together.”

“Yeah, right. Get real. She’s a highly acclaimed professor and your nothing but an overpaid administrative assistant. Plus, if it weren’t for you being family, you wouldn’t even be that! So, get over it! Now let’s get back to the business at hand. Is everything ready?”

 (Sigh) “Are you sure we really need to do this?”

Chad rolled his eyes. “I’m not going over this again! Now tell me, is everything in place?”

“Yes, yes. Everything is ready.” (sigh)

“Fantastic. No more obstacles!”

Ryan slowly shuffled over to a rolling chair in front of a table holding up a bank of five monitors. He slumped down into it and slowly pushed his way down the table. As he passed a monitor, he reached forward to hit a button. A little blue ‘power’ light sprung to life each time. He pushed his way back to number one as a different image slowly filled each screen. Monitor number one showed the Professor and Qbit walking along the concrete path towards the tram station.

He put his fingers on the image of the professor and said, “Departing is such sweet sorrow.”

“What did you just say?” yelled Chad.

“I said, ‘departing is such sweet sorrow.”

“It’s not departing, you idiot. It’s ‘parting’. ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow.’ You can’t even lament correctly.”

Too low for Chad to hear, he said in a mocking tone, “you can’t even lament correctly. ‘Lament.’ Who the heck uses the word ‘lament’ anymore? Man, I hate that guy”

“Did you say something?”

“No, no, must be the wind.” When he looked again, the Professor and Qbit were no longer visible on the monitor. He quickly rolled to monitor two and caught them as they walked into the tram station. They seemed to be engaged in a heated conversation. He rolled to number three. It showed them entering the tram. Camera number fifty-two wirelessly sent the image of the two of them sitting down in the front row. He could see the professor pointing to a poster stuck to the wall. She smiled at Qbit and said something to him. It looked like he rolled his eyes in response, but the camera was a little too far away for him to be sure. The doors closed in the background.

“Sigh.”

“I heard that!”

For one last time he rolled back past each monitor again, this time turning all of them off, except number five.

He lifted himself out of the chair and walked back to the window. He reached out with one arm and placed his hand on the pane in front of him, hanging his head so that his chin was resting on his chest. “I can’t watch this,” he whispered, a single tear slid off his cheek.

Chad shook his head as he walked past him on his way to the monitors. He sat down in the chair Ryan had just vacated, gave it a spin, pushed off with his hands and rolled past the row of blank monitors. He grabbed the table and stopped in front of number five. “This is going to be good.” He reached over to a switch built into the table, flipped open the opaque cover marked OPEN and held his finger overtop of the exposed plastic, green button.

Monitor five showed a piece of the trams curved track where there had been several rollover accidents. Chad had blamed the construction teams each time for doing shoddy workmanship but only he knew that the subpar building materials were to blame.

As soon as the tram entered the screen, he started the count down, “Five… four… three… two… one and… he pushed the button…zero.” The tram exploded throwing up a huge ball of fire. He raised his arms high in celebration. “Yes!”

Ryan lifted his head just enough to see the fire roll up from behind the trees a short distance away. A muffled thump reached his ears. He shook his head, turned from the window and said, “I think I’m going to be sick” then ran out of the room.

Chad watched Ryan’s reflection in the number four monitor as he ran past.  “Oh brother.” His turned his attention back to the remains of the burning tram.  With an exaggerated pout on his face he said, “Oh my goodness. Yet again, there has been a horrible accident. How sad.” He paused for a second then laughed out loud and spun himself around in the chair so fast that he almost tipped it over. He grabbed the table just in time.

“Woah,” he said.

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