Across the Thousand Expanses—Part 3

The next thing he knew, Joey was lying on floor near the living room couch. He felt rather tired, and got up. He remembered that he had been sitting on the couch looking out the window. Then he had seen the stranger, who had come into the house and teleported him away. He concluded that he must have fallen asleep on the couch and dreamed it all. He had rolled off the couch in his sleep. It was the only explanation that made sense. Teleporters were only found in science fiction, and of course dead scientists couldn’t come back to life. It had all been a very realistic dream.
Then he heard the garage door opening. His parents were back from their shopping trip. He got up off the floor and went over to open the door for them. As he helped his family bring in the groceries, he told them about his strange dream.
“You’re so weird,” his little sister Susie told him. “Only weirdos like you dream about scientists and teleporters.”
“Susie, don’t call your brother names,” admonished Joey’s mother.
“All right,” groaned Susie, rolling her eyes.
Joey wisely ignored her and went off to play some games on his laptop.

Later that afternoon Joey’s mother came up to his room to talk to him.
“Did anyone call while we were gone?” she questioned.
She looked very concerned, and Joey wondered what was wrong. “I don’t think so. But I was asleep the whole time, and could have missed it. Is everything all right?”
“Your father isn’t home yet. Normally he calls if he’s running this late,” his mother replied, wringing her hands.
“Then you should call him at work and see where he is. He probably got wrapped up in something and forgot to call,” suggested Joey.
His mother immediately brightened. “Of course! What am I thinking? That’s a wonderful idea. Thank you, Joey.” She left his room and headed downstairs.
A few minutes later she was back, looking even more worried. “I called his work, and the secretary said he left half an hour ago. Apparently he had an unscheduled visit with two men, which worried him a lot. Something about a singer, maybe.”
“The opera?” asked Joey. He hoped his thought was just a crazy idea, that his dream had been real and the OPERRAW was now after his family out of revenge for him.
“Yeah, that’s right. Something about the opera.”
Joey gasped. “Then maybe it wasn’t a dream. Maybe they’re out to get revenge for what I did. They’re out to get Dad, and it’s all my fault!”
“Are you referring to that dream you were talking about earlier? That can’t be real. It’s probably just a coincidence that the secretary mentioned the opera. Though I think it’s about time I call the police. Joe could be hurt or in trouble!” With this she hurried back downstairs.

As soon as she left, Susie came in. “I believe you, Joey,” she said. “I know it wasn’t a dream. I knew all along.”
“But what are we going to do? If the OPERRAW is really after Dad, how can we stop them?”
“Call Beth,” replied Susie confidently. “She’ll help you.”
“How do you expect me to do that?” asked Joey.
“You mean you met a nice, cute girl and you didn’t even ask for her number?” Susie exclaimed incredulously. “Boys really are senseless! You don’t even know her full name, do you?”
Joey pulled out his laptop. He decided to start searching the internet for Beth of Dallas, Texas. Unfortunately, it was impossible to find anything about a kid in a big city without even a last name. He tried adding the word OPERRAW, and was directed to the OPERRAW’s website, where he found a list of employee email addresses. Unfortunately, no names were listed. Then one email caught his eye: lizylittlesci@operraw.org.
“I think that’s her!” he told Susie. He opened his email and composed and sent a message to her, asking if she was really Beth and explaining that he needed her help.

A few minutes later she replied, and told Joey to call her with a phone number she provided. Joey immediately went downstairs to see if his mother was still on the phone. She was not, and was instead cooking dinner in the kitchen. Joey snagged the phone and headed back upstairs to call Beth.
“What’s going on?” Beth asked once Joey had called her. “You made it home, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, but my dad went missing. Apparently some people from the OPERRAW came to see him at work, and he never made it home. They might be getting revenge for me escaping them.”
“More likely, they just want your dad to help with our project, and he refused. They’re probably forcing him to help them.”
“So they have him hostage at the headquarters?”
“I think so. But please, don’t tell the police. I would probably get in trouble, and I’d lose my job. Please, I like working here, and I can make money for—” Here she abruptly stopped.
“Then how do I rescue my dad?” Joey asked.
“I’ll transport you here,” she replied desperately. “Then you can find him and teleport him back. Just don’t call the police.”
Then Susie, who had been listening in, spoke up. “Don’t forget me! I want to help too!”
“Oh yeah,” Joey said to Beth. “My little sister wants to come along too. Is that OK?”
“Little by a little, or little by a lot?”
Joey looked at Susie. “Only a year or two.”
“I suppose it’s all right. It’ll be easier if I come to you first, then take you back with me. Where do you live?”
“Saginaw, Michigan.”
“Man, that’s pretty far. Is there a big empty field near your house? It’s much safer to go somewhere flat and empty.”

Fifteen minutes later, Joey and Susie had arrived at a nearby soccer field which they and Beth had agreed on. His mom had agreed to let them go for a walk, assuming they took a cell phone and would be back in half an hour.

© 2014 Christina Smith. All rights reserved.

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