Dr. Octopi approached Sven from behind, moving slowly so as not to interrupt his thoughts until the last moment. Sven’s work on the collider needed to be put on hold, since the patrol was out. Dr. Octopi struggled to control his excitement at the prospect of a completely working collider in his very own universe. His hands wavered as he reached out to tap Sven’s shoulder.
“Sven, don’t you think you should take a break? You’ve been at this for a while now.” Dr. Octopi’s voice was smooth as butter despite his state of excitement; his world-destroying mind was keeping his bodily functions reeled in while it was still necessary.
“Oh no! I could do this all day! I love science. Oh, science.” Sven could hardly bear to break his concentration to even answer Dr. Octopi’s question, let alone stop working altogether. Breaks are for those in the humanities, and besides, he had never had an opportunity like this before. Once he got back home everyone would know the name Sven Mahoney and he would have thousands of job offers, all of which he could turn down for the job he temporarily held here: the head of the collider.
“Truth be told, Sven, you must stop working for the time being. When the patrol is out, its signals interfere with the capabilities of the collider. It isn’t safe for either of us to be in here or working with the machine. You should give your brain a rest.”
“Oh..but..I don’t mind the risk! For science! You go ahead and I’ll stay here.” Sven knew once he left the tunnel his mind would turn to Violet, and he didn’t know how to help her or even find her.
“Sven. You must go. My assistant will take you down to the city, there’s plenty there for a young man like yourself.”
Dr. Octopi snapped his fingers and three pillowbeaks appeared from the shadows, ready and willing to escort Sven to the city.
“All-all right, then. I suppose they’ll bring me back once the patrol is over?” Sven presented his question warily, searching for an answer in the doctor’s eyes.
“Naturally. I’ll see you out.” Dr. Octopi was concerned with his own dilemmas. The collider was perfectly safe with the patrol out, but Sven wouldn’t be able to work on it. The vortex created by the patrol could ruin his cloned machine. He knew that the clone would only last as long as Sven were in this world, and direct interaction between Sven and the clone had clearly made it stronger. Now his only concern was the looming possibility of the clone trying to join itself to its original. As long as Sven was away from the machine while the vortex was open above them, there was a much reduced possibility of this occurring.
Robert Nickel stumbled through the alien forest, trying to make sense of where he was. He certainly felt like he was on a different planet than Earth. Here the treebottoms were up in the air, and he had seen flora and fauna not seen outside of imaginations on Earth.
Colorful birds similar to the beautiful Birds of Paradise but without beaks and with mouths full of gnashing teeth swarmed above him and used their finger-like claws to wrestle mid-air. He caught glimpses of tiny, furry mammalian creatures small enough to fit on a ring on your finger, and he heard their tiny cries of “flipplewippleflipplewipple eeeeooo!” and was thoroughly convinced he was no longer on Earth.
Robert felt like Alice as he wandered beneath large, fibrous canopies of dense, mushroom-like material. The organisms above him flexed in the sunlight, expanding and contracting as though they breathed, but showing no signs of lungs or any oxygen intake. Robert started as the scientist in him wondered about the atmosphere–it must be primarily oxygen for me to be able to breath, he thought, but something here is different. The air feels thicker, loaded with something we don’t encounter back on Earth.
It was only now, when he considered the air that he also considered his hand. Where was it? Although there had initially been some blood when his hand was severed by the vortex, it had healed almost instantly. Since he had had no bandage, Robert wondered if there was something in the air that might have helped to heal him.
As he pondered this strange new world, he ignored all else around him, even the patrol which managed to swallow him up. Once inside, he felt the similar desperate desire for air and the rush of confusion, along with a curious development: voices. He heard his colleague Sven’s voice reading off computer commands and wondered if he was dreaming, right before a small mammal banged him on the forehead and put him right to sleep.
Violet strained to hear her brother’s voice. Sven, I need you to hear me! she practised what she felt would be the way to project one’s thoughts across the universe, but found little progress. She could hear Sven when she tried really hard, but it seemed like he never heard her. Violet knew defeat was always easier than conquering a challenge, but this one was really starting to bug her. The clearing man had told her some helpful facts about the new universe, but she still felt like something had been withheld.
“Stop leaning out of the vehicle! It’s not safe to lean over this desert,” Shawty’s voice raised in irritation. “You can never know what’s lurking beneath the surface of the sand of the Tocloc Desert.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing worse than what we can imagine back on Earth,” Violet replied. She had read countless science fiction books at the library, many of them dealt with huge, terrifying creatures. “Oh!” Violet gasped in terror as a mutation of one of the monsters from her books shot straight up out of the sand.
The creature writhed about, finally turning to face the two travelers with a menacing sneer. Violet contemplated its connection to the patrol, and its possible use of telepathy, but ruled it out almost immediately when the creature doubled on itself to start gnawing on its own side, even to the point of bleeding.
“Um...yeah. Some of the beings who live under the sand aren’t as horrible, as long as you stay away from them. Most of them are stupid from baking under the sand in the heat all day.” Shawty tried his best to comfort the ashen girl, but she was still reeling in terror at the base of the back of the vehicle. “Well, how about some good news? We’re almost there!”
At this, Violet felt relieved. Besides, the creature was still chewing on its side several thousand feet back. Her state of relief soon ended. Violet remembered their reason for traveling to the collider and began to tremble slightly inside. How would she be able to destroy the collider? Or would she have to? Perhaps she could still convince Sven of Dr. Octopi’s evil nature. She let her mind wander and surveyed the desert-side, which actually had some plants growing in it, similar to cacti. They clustered in groups with small pools of water glistening within each, and small fish (or something) were flopping around in the pools. Here and there she glimpsed a severed hand or a piece of something that looked like it belonged on Earth.
“Well, here we are. I guess we better get going.” Shawty picked up several bags that lay in the vehicle and started towards a building in the distance.
“Here? We’re not any closer to anything.” Violet looked around, expecting to see something apart from cacti and sand, but was disappointed
Robert Nickel woke up outside a building he thought he recognised. This is the collider building! he was astonished by his initial reaction, but continued to feel its truth. A hazy purple light lingered around the edge of the building, but apart from that he felt right at home. He continued to be astonished and confused, while still feeling at home a little, when Sven Mahoney walked out of the front door.
“Sven! Sven Mahoney? Is that really you?” Robert’s excitement at the sight of his colleague was evident, especially to the other man who emerged with Sven.
“Nickel! Why, yes sir it is me! How’s your hand? Er–lack of hand?” Sven reached to shake his colleague’s hand, but had to switch at the last moment in a fumbled movement.
“Well, there’s no bleeding, so I should be fine. But I’m no doctor. I mean, I’m no medical doctor. Anyhow, anyhow. What are you doing here?”
“Saving Earth! This collider needs to be turned on so that we can save our planet from being sucked entirely through these vortexes. I’m sure Dr. Octopi here wouldn’t mind an extra hand on the job, eh?” At this, Sven turned to Dr. Octopi for approval, which he sort of received.
“Mmyes... I think your friend here could certainly be of use to us,” Dr. Octopi agreed, twisting his hands around and around. “For now, why don’t you two take a trip out on the town?”