Across the Thousand Expanses—Part 2

The next thing he knew, Joey was lying on a big lumpy couch in a small cluttered office. A dingy old lamp sat on a small, messy desk with a paper covered chair next to it. A peculiar woman with a long red braid was looking down on him with concern. “Are you all right, Dr. Sorton?”
“Where am I?” asked Joey. He was feeling rather tired and sick to his stomach.
“You are in the official headquarters of the OPERRAW, the Organization for the Protection of Earth’s Resources by Retreating to Another World. We would like you to help us improve our ASHEWST, the Atom Splitting High Energy Wrinkler of Space and Time. That was how we got you here.”
“So you teleported me here and you want me to help you improve your teleporter?” clarified Joey.
“Not precisely. We used certain top-secret technology to transport you through the fabric of space and time. Of course, we’ll tell you all about it if you agree to help,” replied the woman. “Now, if you’ll just come with me, I’ll take you to see the boss. You might have heard of him: Dr. John Wheeler.”
Joey had never heard of John Wheeler, but he did not say anything and followed the women to a larger, neater office. A heavily built man sat on a swivel chair with his feet on a large desk. As they entered, he swung his feet off the desk and leaned forward to peer at Joey.

“So you’re the famous scientist we’ve heard so much about! Come, sit down.” He indicated a chair sitting in a corner. The red-haired woman fetched the chair and placed it in front of the desk, and Joey sat down.
“Sir, I’m afraid —” he began. He had realized that the stranger who had kidnapped him had mistaken him for his father, a well-known scientist. He hoped that he could explain it to the people here and get them to take him back home. He was considerably less frightened now that he knew what had happened. “Call me John,” the man interrupted.
“But I’m not actually a scientist. You must be thinking of my father. We have the same name, only he goes by Joe, and I go by Joey.”
“You what?” He turned to Kylie. “Is this true? Did you get the wrong man?”
“I don’t know. Zach said the kid’s name was Joseph Sorton, but I guess Sorton’s son was named Joseph as well.”
“How could you do this?” John Wheeler cried. “You failed me! Now I have to deal with this kid, in addition to finding Sorton!” He stood up and grabbed the woman by the collar, hauling her up against the desk.

Joey realized it might be wise to leave. He crept out of the office as John Wheeler continued to rage at Kylie. Once he was outside, he made his way back to the office where he’d first woken up. On the desk was the device the stranger had used to get Joey here. Joey opened the lid, wondering if he could figure out how to get himself back home. As he did so, he heard a girl’s voice in the doorway.
“Don’t touch that.”
He turned to see an older girl in a lab coat with a pair of large, round glasses. She was standing in the doorway to the office.
“That’s a dangerous device,” she continued. “But I guess you’re a scientist, and you would know. You must be Dr. Sorton. No offense, but you look rather young.”
“I’m actually his son. We have the same name, and someone mistook me for him.”
“Really? I suppose not everyone here is all that smart. And by the way, my name is Beth.”
“Hey, do you know how I can get out of here? I was sort of brought here against my will, and I’d like to get home.”
“Well, the stairs are down the hall on the left, and the exit is on the ground floor in the lobby; you can’t miss it. But you probably don’t live near here. We are in Dallas, Texas.”

“Texas? Oh, wow. That’s pretty far. Is there any way I can teleport myself back?”
“Well, I’m not sure if that’s a good idea. By the way, where’s Kylie?”
“Dr. Wheeler was pretty mad when he found out that I’m not my dad. He started yelling at her and I sneaked away.”
“That was probably pretty smart. But once Dr. Wheeler finds out, he’ll be even madder at you. Maybe it is a good idea if you leave.”
“Please, can you help me?” begged Joey. “My parents will be worried if I’m gone too long. And who knows what they’ll do to me if I stay here?”
“All right,” agreed Beth. She took the device from Joey and began fiddling with some dials and switches. “This should take you right back where you came from,” she explained. “But there’s always the risk that something could go wrong and you could be killed. That’s always a risk when using the shoes.”
“The shoes?” asked Joey.
“It’s our nickname for the ASHEWST, or Atom Splitting High Energy Wrinkler of Space and Time. This thing.” She indicated the black box. “Are you ready?”
“I guess so,” replied Joey.
“Here it goes.”
Then everything went black.

© 2014 Christina Smith. All rights reserved.

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