“I wouldn’t say that if I were you, Violet. Look around,” said the Clearing Man. Violet suddenly realized that while she had been so immersed in asking the Clearing Man questions she had failed to realize that they had walked into a circular clearing, surrounded by trees, deep in the forest, and that there were monkey-like beings were perched on branches, glaring at her. Violet jerked back and gasped. She stopped trying to pull away from the Clearing Man and instead inched closer to him.
“These are pillowbeaks, Violet. According to Billy, you’ve seen them before, but I’m guessing the ones you saw were not quite so large,” the Clearing Man whispered to Violet. “It’s alright, my furry friends. She’s on our side,” he shouted to the pillowbeaks who immediately relaxed. Violet wondered what “on our side meant.” She wasn’t sure she trusted any of these strange beings. The only person she trusted here was Sven, and where was he? Violet felt a lump form in her throat but pushed it down.
"What are we doing here? What are these pillowbeak creatures? Where’s Sven?” Violet asked.
“My dear, Violet, these are the exact questions we wish to address. Please take a seat.” The Clearing Man pointed to a rock, and slowly Violet sat down.
“Right now you have been brought to a secret meeting." Violets brow was furrowed as she listened to the Clearing Man talk. "These nobel pillowbeaks have left the league of Dr. Octopi, a mad scientist who wishes to destroy planet Earth, and are now are on our side. But there are some pillowbeaks who remain loyal to him, unable to see him for what he really is." At the mention of Dr. Octopi the pillowbeaks jumped up and down, angrily beating their hairy chests and screeching. “But destroying your world is not all Dr. Octopi plans to do. We have reason to believe that once Dr. Octopi destroys Earth he will proceed to destroy this world as well. Indeed, the man will keep destroying worlds until he has found the perfect universe where all the creatures in it are loyal to him and believe in his ‘mutations.’” Upon this last word, the Clearing Man spread his arms and bowed. “Being half man half monkey is no way to live,” whispered the Clearing Man as he stared off into the distance. “These honorable pillowbeaks were once in the service of Dr. Octopi, for he created them, but they have since realized the dark intent of Dr. Octopi and have joined me and Billy in forming a plan to stop him.” Violet heard a rustle in the leaves, and saw the boy, Billy, emerging from the low-hanging branches of a tree.
“But why did you bring me here, and where is Sven?” she asked.
“Patience. At this moment, we believe that your brother has been summoned by Dr. Octopi to aid him in his endeavors to destroy the world.”
“But Sven would never do that,” Violet shouted, her face turning red.
“One can only hope, but there is no telling what lies Dr. Octopi has fed him. Your brother is extremely passionate about science, is he not? He has been known to forsake people on behalf of his research, correct?”
Violet’s mind suddenly shot back to a hospital room, a place that she did not want it to go. She was sitting in a chair between two beds; one had an older man in it, the other an older woman. She was talking in a soft voice to their motionless faces, holding one of each of their hands in hers. Her face did not match her soothing tone. Suddenly, her cell rang, and she got up to answer it.
“Sven, where the hell are you? I’ve been at the hospital for two days by myself. You were supposed to get here last night. The doctors say they don’t think, they don’t think . . .” Violet saw herself start to cry on the phone. “The doctors don’t think Mom and Dad will last much longer. There are too many internal injuries from the car crash. “
“Violet, I’m getting there as fast as I can,” came Sven’s voice from the other end. “It’s not my fault that my phone was off when you tried to call me. The International Convention of Scientists is not the place for a phone to ring. It’s like you think I don’t want to be there.”
“Well, you didn’t want to be here, did you? You knew Mom and Dad were driving all the way from Main to see us for Christmas, but you weren’t going to take the time to fly back from your conference and see them, were you? Now look what happened. You might never see them alive again! It’s all you fault.” Violet saw herself snapping the phone shut and throwing it on the floor. This memory made her cringe. Oh, how she wished she hadn’t said those words to Sven.
When Violet came out of her daydream she noticed the Clearing Man looking hard at her, his eyes penetrating into her mind. “Ill take that as a yes then,” he said, but his voice was quieter than it had been, and his eyes were softer.
“So what do you want with me,” Violet demanded, collecting herself.
“We want you to help us destroy Dr. Octopi and consequently his Hadron Collider. You have heard of that haven’t you? Violet nodded. Sven had mentioned more than once.
“We need an inside man (or woman) who can shut it off,” the Clearing Man continued.
“I’m still not understanding.”
“Listen,” the Clearing Man said as he squatted down in front of Violet, “we have days, maybe only hours, before Sven finishes the collider and unknowingly destroys Earth. Dr. Octopi opened the vortex specifically to bring Sven to himself to help him make the finishing touches on the collider, knowing Sven’s extensive understanding of it. He used the patrol wave to separate you two, and to bring Sven to himself. Dr. Octopi has probably told Sven that he will save Earth by fixing the collider and that the collider is the way to stop the vortex from sucking more innocent people into it. In reality, the collider will first destroy Earth and then this world, along with you, Sven, me, and all the others beings here as soon as Dr. Octopi leaves. Our theory is that Dr. Octopi has created doppelgangers for you and Sven who live back on Earth so that your absence goes unnoticed while you are here to avoid CERN workers from exploring the vortex more thoroughly."
“How do you know all this?” Violet asked.
“Like I said; these pillowbeaks are on our side, and they happen to make good spies,” he said motioning towards the furry creatures.
“And what exactly am I supposed to do about all this?” Violet asked, her voice shaking.
“We want you to sneak into Dr. Octopi’s lab and destroy the collider before it is too late."
“How?” Violet screamed, shaking her head, “I don’t know anything about sciencey stuff, and I don’t even know where this Dr. Octopi is.”
For the first time the Clearing Man smiled. “The one mistake Dr. Octopi made then summoning Sven was that you came along too. You can hear Sven’s voice in your head when you really try, can you not?
“Well, yes sometimes, but I cannot control it.”
“You will learn, and once you tell Sven the truth about Dr. Octopi he will telepathically tell you how to shut the collider down.”
“But, how will I get there?”
The Clearing Man stood up, clapped his hands twice, and shouted “Chip, Chip.” All of a sudden a pillowbeak stood before Violet. “Violet, meet Shawty, our secret agent.”
“Doppelgangers! Really, what an interesting idea. I must remember to make a note of it,” Sven mumbled to himself before Dr. Octopi.
“So you meant to tell me, Doctor, that you want me to finish the collider by working on this beam charged quark particle in it so that the Earth will not be sucked away into this alternate universe? And in doing so I can save my planet while bringing back the most unique data concerning vortexes that the world has ever seen!” Sven said, his voice rising, temporarily forgetting Violet.
“That is correct, Sven. I chose you specifically for this job, knowing how fine your research has been. Truly, you are dedicated to a degree most other scientists are not. I dare say you remind me of myself when I was young,” the doctor replied.
At this Sven blushed. “And the doppelgangers? How do they fit into this?”
“Well let’s just say we didn’t want too many people back at CERN to miss your presence.”
“You have thought of everything, Doctor. Let’s get to work! Where is the collider?”
Dr. Octopi grinned, his eyes narrowing into dark slits, and lips curling upon yellowing teeth. “Right, this way.”
Sven practically floated down the hall. He could just see it now, the President of the United States handing him an award in front of the entire world. Everyone would be there. Everyone. Sven thought of his parents, and the daydream was ruined. The he thought of Violet.
“Say, Dr. Octopi, where is my sister, Violet?”
“No need to worry about her, Sven. The sooner you finish the collider, the sooner you can find her and you can go home to your safe planet. First things first!”
Sven started to protest. Wouldn’t it make more sense for her to be here with him? He felt a sudden desire to see Violet; only she could make this moment complete. Saving the world with Violet by his side would surely make her forgive him for missing her phone call. “Doctor, maybe I should find her first, just to make sure she’s okay.”
Dr. Octopi’s voice strained, “Sven, what did I say!” Then Dr. Octopi regained his composure. “I mean, I will send out someone to find her if it would make you feel any better. She will be perfectly fine. You trust me don’t you, Sven?”
Sven hesitated then said, “Yes. Yes, Your Scientific Greatness, I do.”