Sylvia stared at the person she believed to be Violet, who was pretending to drink the coffee that she usually drank voraciously. Sylvia had prepared the coffee precisely how Violet liked it – with a splash of vanilla cream and two packets of artificial sugar. For as long as Sylvia had known Violet, she’d known her to drink a cup of coffee – prepared in this specific way, of course – every morning before she started work.
“Violet,” said Sylvia, glancing at her rolling around in her computer chair like a five-year-old, “are you sure you’re alright?”
“I’m fine,” said Violet, quickly regaining her composure. “I’m perfectly fine. Nothing to concern yourself with.” She felt like she was on the verge of letting loose and revealing her identity – not as Violet, but as Junior Mint, manufactured by Dr. Octopi to occupy Violet’s place in her own universe. Dr. Octopi, she remembered, has also manufactured a cat named Violet to complete the cover-up. Junior Mint had discovered when she arrived, however, that Violet was the name of the woman and Junior Mint was the name of the woman’s cat – not the other way around, as Dr. Octopi had speculated.
“I’m convinced something happened to you inside that vortex,” said Sylvia. “I saw you and your brother go in, but I never saw you come out.”
“Well, we came out, obviously,” said Junior Mint with a nervous laugh. “It’s not as if I were manufactured to replace your coworker. Me, that is. I’m your coworker.”
“Yes,” Sylvia said with a nod. “But I know you, Violet. You live a dull life. You wouldn’t return from a vortex with nothing to say about it. What was on the other side?”
“Nothing in particular,” said Junior Mint. “You know, just a bench, a desert, and an underground laboratory. Things like that. Nothing worth mentioning.”
“Hmm,” Sylvia said. “Was it anything like the underground laboratory your brother has worked at in the past?”
Junior Mint paused, thinking for a moment. Dr. Octopi had made it clear that she was supposed to have a brother, but she couldn’t remember what his name was.
“Your brother Sven?” said Sylvia, repeating herself. “Did it resemble the lab he’s worked in?”
“Is the lab Sven worked in the source of multidimensional vortexes?” asked Junior Mint.
Sylvia raised an eyebrow. “I guess so,” she said, growing increasingly suspicious of the woman she had taken to be her coworker.
“Then yes,” said Junior Mint. “Dr. Octopi’s lab probably resembles the one Sven has worked in.”
Sylvia glanced at Junior Mint for a few moments. “Violet, what the hell is wrong with you? You aren’t acting like yourself. That damn portal must’ve screwed up your brainwaves.”
“Not at all,” said Junior Mint matter-of-factly. “The vortex shouldn’t have affected me in the slightest. It was my first trip through, but Dr. Octopi’s methods have been thoroughly tested by a trained staff of Pillowbeaks. That is…a trained staff of lab assistants.” Junior Mint blushed and hid her face from view.
“Are you even the same person?” asked Sylvia. “Granted, you always were a little on the dull side, but you just seem to have lost it completely.”
“Lost what?” asked Junior Mint, fanning herself nervously. “And how dare you suggest I’m not your friend and coworker Violet Mahoney. How dare you.”
“You’ve lost your mind, that’s for sure,” said Sylvia, shaking her head and returning to the stack of YA books. Sylvia looked up at the main entrance to the library and noticed a bulbous man standing behind it, staring inside through cupped hands.
“Wonder who this guy is,” said Sylvia to Junior Mint, who was absentmindedly discarding used library cards. “He’s a little pudgy, but I can accept that.” Junior Mint shrugged, and Sylvia trudged to the front of the library, opening the glass door for the man in the lab coat standing behind it.
“May I help you?” said Sylvia, eyeing the man. “The library doesn’t officially open for another six minutes.”
The man stroked his beard and nodded. “I gathered that from the hours you’ve posted. I hate to intrude, but I’m inclined to believe that a colleague of mine named Sven Mahoney is in this library. You see, his sister works--”
“Yes, yes,” Sylvia interrupted. “Violet Mahoney works at this library. Her brother isn’t here, but you’re welcome to come in and chat.” Sylvia shot him a flirtatious smile. “May I ask your name? Or is that being too forward?”
The man followed Sylvia inside the glass doors and shook his head. “Not at all. My name is Dr. Lars Vanderslice.”
“A doctor?” exclaimed Sylvia, leading Vanderslice to the front desk. “I like that.”
“I don’t want you to get the wrong idea,” said Vanderslice. “I’m not a medical doctor, and I’m married.”
“Oh,” groaned Sylvia, deflated. “Well, in that case, here’s Violet Mahoney.” Sylvia got back to work on moving the YA fiction.
“Miss Mahoney,” said Vanderslice, staring at Junior Mint, who was still seated happily in a computer chair. “I have several questions for you.”
Junior Mint stared up at Vanderslice and immediately noticed his strong resemblance to Dr. Octopi. “Your name is Vanderslice?” she asked him, disregarding his previous statement.
“What else would it be?” said Vanderslice. “Now, as I was saying, a few questions for you…first, where’s Sven?”
“Sven,” said Junior Mint, repeating the word and sounding amazed by it. “You mean my brother?”
“Of course I mean your brother,” Vanderslice replied. “Please, could you tell me his location?”
Junior Mint wasn’t entirely sure what to tell Vanderslice. She believed that a doppelganger of Sven had also been manufactured, but she hadn’t been made aware of its whereabouts. “He’s…he’s around,” Junior Mint said.
Vanderslice nodded. “Alright…well, the reason I ask is because I’ve heard of the experience that the two of you have recently been through. With Robert Nickel’s disappearance as well, the scientists at CERN are beginning to worry. Why are CERN scientists – particle physicists—the ones to disappear?”
“How would I know?” asked Junior Mint, who seemed to be beginning to hyperventilate under the pressure.
“You were there, weren’t you?” asked Vanderslice. “I don’t mean to overwhelm you, but I’m beginning to have suspicions about what’s going on in these portals. I’m beginning to doubt that we at CERN are the ones opening them. We’ve certainly put the Collider to use, but we see no reason to believe it would cause inter-dimensional vortexes to open. Also, considering those who have been absorbed into the vortexes—you know, particle physicists—my doubts only continue to grow.”
“You don’t mean that someone on the other side is opening the portals, do you?” Junior Mint was staring at the surface of her desk and avoiding eye contact.
“That’s precisely what I mean,” Vanderslice responded. “And as I believed Sven had returned from this dimension, I anticipated I would be able to get information from him. This is becoming a rather large crisis, and I’d like to end it now.”
Junior Mint burst. “You’re right. Someone is opening the vortexes from the other side. And for all I can tell, he could be your twin brother. Are you related to a scientist named Octopi?”
“Aha!” Vanderslice exclaimed. “Finally, something concrete. No, I don’t have a twin brother. But with that confirmation, everything is starting to make sense.”
“What do you mean?” asked Junior Mint. “Are you saying you think I’m involved?”
“I never suggested that,” said Vanderslice. “However, this does seem to fit. Early in the development of the Large Hadron Collider, I detected strange energy readings unlike anything I’d ever seen before. My best guess about this, of course, was that I’d torn the fabric of reality due to the firing of strong protons. Being the eager scientist that I am, I stepped inside the Collider to investigate further. I saw something inside that resembled the vortexes that we’ve been seeing around the world recently.”
“Fascinating,” said Junior Mint, testing out a stapler on her desk.
Vanderslice nodded. “So let’s assume that I was the first to access this particular dimension. Any speculative scientist or science fiction fanatic would say that, as the first to near this dimension, I would be reflected into it—we’ll call it a sort of inter-dimensional mirror. Which, of course, gives credence to your comment about a scientist that resembles me. Intriguing.”
“Dr. Octopi,” said Junior Mint. Sylvia was still busying herself with the books, trying to play hard-to-get while simultaneously listening in on the conversation.
“Sure.” Vanderslice nodded. “Dr. Octopi. If he’s a reflection of me, then he would be equivalent to the leading scientist on the subject of particle physics. That being me, of course.”
“He is a very capable scientist,” Junior Mint said enthusiastically.
“As I expected,” Vanderslice murmured. “Bear in mind, however, this is mostly speculation. Then again, if I could have a word with Sven, I may be able to decipher this more clearly.”
“I wasn’t made aware of Sven’s whereabouts,” Junior Mint told him, shaking her head. “I think I should admit to you that I am not Violet Mahoney.”
Sylvia dropped the stack of books she was carrying. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“My name is Junior Mint,” she mumbled. “I am a doppelganger manufactured by Dr. Octopi for the purpose of maintaining the appearance that nothing has transpired.”
“I would think of that,” Vanderslice said, gazing at Junior Mint and contemplating the inter-dimensional crisis in front of him.
“I’m out of here,” Sylvia said, picking up her purse and walking toward the door. “This is a little too much for me to handle. I think I’d rather just go flirt with the waiters at Red Lobster.” Sylvia exited the library and zoomed off in her car only moments later.
“Well, Junior Mint,” said Vanderslice, “if you could provide me with more information on Dr. Octopi’s machinery, I may be able to match him. After all, I’ve accessed his dimension before. I’m sure I have the capabilities. Perhaps we can open up our own vortex and recover those who are missing. Then, of course, we’ll have to stop this Dr. Octopi.”