The ceiling fell on Manomar’s back. He had pushed Jill and Ethan down and covered them with his body, and now, to avoid crushing his master and mistress, he screamed and stood which strained and almost broke his back in the process. The bits of ceiling fell to the sides, but he collapsed. Ethan checked. There was still a pulse, but it was light. He turned and saw Jill with the transitional watch in her hand and the laptop open and booting. Fortunately, the watch was still wired and only needed plugging in.
“Damn software.” Jill whispered in her softest voice before she began to type furiously. Ethan heard someone in the room, rooting through the rubble. A blue streak of energy shattered the glass in the case over Jill’s shoulder. Ethan and Jill ducked to escape the flying glass
“Ready, set, go.” Jill grabbed Ethan by the arm, just like the first time they hopped from one world to the next, and Ethan still held Manomar by the hand. He expected the light flash this time, but instead, he found himself floating in a kind of space or non-space. He felt squished to a pin and a hundred feet long, not tall.
“The house.” Jill spoke in a dreamy voice. “My instructions were to send us back to the Company location if my ex-husband sent troops and blocked our passage to Lela’s ship.”
“I thought you said there were some things he dared not do.” Ethan countered. He listened closely to his own dreamy sounds, which he hardly recognized as his own voice.
Jill shrugged not unlike her sister, except Jill’s shrug rippled across Ethan’s mind. “Archon was never good at playing by the rules. God willing, he will get in trouble for this.”
“Is he behind this?”
Jill shrugged again even as they landed on someone’s front lawn with a thump. “Maybe.”
“What did we just go through?” Ethan asked, ready to stand up and look around. She kept him seated.
“Worm hole,” she said, and she let go and began to type again. “But they will trace it and be on us in a second. Hold on.” She grabbed him by the elbow once more while he continued to hold Manomar and then she hit the enter button. Ethan heard the words. “Dimensional shift is much harder to trace,” and then the light came and they landed.
Ethan got up this time. They were in Doctor Grimly’s lab room, or one just like it. Evidently, she had planted those coordinates in her chits and pulled them out when needed. “But how can we be on the third floor?” Ethan asked the obvious question.
“The transitional unit has some capacity for spatial movement,” she said, as she stood more slowly with Ethan’s help. She had held the watch. “Keeps us from appearing inside a tree trunk or in the middle of a wall.” Of course, Ethan had not realized that before. He was sure his own nano-chits would have told him as much, but he felt there was so much he still did not know because he did not know what to ask.
Manomar moaned, and Ethan bent down while Jill turned on the lab lights. It was near enough to the end of the day, so they were not surprised to find no one in the room, but then they did not expect to find the room empty and spotless either, as if no one had been there in weeks. Jill paused. She did not understand what she was seeing.
“Are you alright?” Ethan asked Manomar.
“My back.” Manomar winced as he tried to sit up. Ethan helped the big man lean his back against the lab table. He wanted to help Manomar stand, but Manomar was in no condition for that yet.
“This isn’t right. It’s eerie,” Jill said. “We need to find out what is going on?”
“Won’t Grimly find us?” Ethan asked. “If he is the guardian of this earth, he has to have noticed our shift into this world. Shouldn’t we just stay here and wait for him. He won’t be long if he is in the building.”
“No,” Jill said. “This isn’t right. Something happened here, and we need to find out what.” Ethan questioned her with his eyes, so she explained. “The man never kept a neat office, certainly nothing like this. It looks like no one has worked here in some time.”
“I don’t follow.”
“I don’t either,” Jill said as she bent down to Manomar. “Your chits will have you back on your feet soon enough,” she told him. “We won’t be gone long. Just enough to get some answers, depending on who is still at work.”
Manomar grabbed her by the wrist. “Be careful, my Lady,” he said. She nodded as he let go and she captured Ethan’s hand. Ethan was thinking about parading around the company halls dressed in a mini-skirt.
They found no one in the hall outside Doctor Grimly’s door, and that actually made Jill feel a little better, to think that it was not just the Doctor’s room that was empty. The other research and development lab rooms were all empty, too. She checked. It was Wednesday and not a holiday. Still, she could not imagine where everyone went until Ethan suggested that maybe someone had something ready to show. That usually attracted a crowd.
“Like Doctor Martin and her light processor,” Jill said and understood. If everyone was off seeing some demonstration, that might explain some of it.
When they walked past the reinforced research and development doors and into the main part of the building, they heard some conversation down the hall by the nearest restrooms. Jill got ready to head straight for the voices, but Ethan grabbed her. He did not have a good feeling about things either, and he thought he might go up to Marketing where he could access a computer in more private surroundings. He guided her to the elevator and waited for the doors to close before he spoke.
“Something is not right. Grimly should be on our trail by now if he is anywhere near, unless his chits are damaged or something.”
“Not possible,” Jill said as the elevator doors reopened. Ethan looked first, and then he guided Jill to the copy room beside the break room where a computer sat in a back corner. He sat her down.
“Try the bulletin board and then the internet,” he suggested. “I’ll be right back.” He had caught sight of someone out of the corner of his eye. He saw Randy Marlow, the office gossip and all around jerk, and trapped the man in the back of the break room.
Randy backed up and banged into the refrigerator with a very curious comment. “You’re supposed to be dead,” he said. “Please don’t hurt me.”
“Why would I hurt you?” Ethan asked. “I’m just looking for a little information, that’s all.”
“Just because I took Susan out on a couple of dates, that doesn’t mean there is anything between us.” Randy spoke fast to save his own skin from some perceived retribution on the part of Susan’s jilted lover.
Ethan shook his head. “What are you talking about?”
“But what are you doing here?” Randy asked. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “You’re supposed to be dead.”
“Randy. I am not dead. I have just been away. What made you think I was dead?”
Randy relaxed a little, as much as any office gossip on the edge of the story of the year could relax. He started to guess. “Toga party? Go to the Islands? Some uptown sex club? Man, look at you.”
“Randy. What made you think I was dead?” Ethan had to repeat the question.
“The explosion.” Randy blurted out even as Jill walked into the room and Randy’s eyes almost fell out of his head. “Woah! Hill, how did you manage that! Jesus! Wait ‘till Susan hears.”
“There was an explosion the day we left,” Jill said. She completely ignored the little man. Her eyes were red and Ethan reached out and held her while she cried for the man she had known and cared for over all those years.
“Jeez!” Randy could hardly take his eyes off the beauty, but he scooted past them and shot off down the hall before Ethan could stop him.