Q is for Quantum Express

Q is for Quantum Express

Kyle sat behind the counter at Particle Wave Emitters and Tableware reading the day’s newspaper. It was his first break, and the store was currently empty. The morning rush had bought all the forks and B-type Particle Wave Emitters in stock. When he had last manned this particular store, it has been the C-spine Wave Emulators and knifes. The newspaper kept his mind off wondering what the guests did with the stuff they bought at this store. He didn’t know anything that used tableware in anything.

“It only works when I manage to sneak up on you, Avera,” Kyle said without taking his eyes off the paper.

Avera spilled out of an air vent on the wall behind him and landed in a heap.

“I’ll learn your secrets one day. And then, the surprise will be on you!” Avera puffed off the vent dust onto the floor with a small weaving.

“One,” Kyle raised a finger without taking his eyes off the paper, “you are too loud and noisy, I can hear you coming from a floor away.” He raised a second finger, “And two, the mad cackling does nothing to help.”

“I wasn’t… Okay, maybe I was giggling. But only a little.”

“That wasn’t a giggle.”

“Says you!” Avera spun a chair, sat down and draped her arms over the backrest. “I volunteered you to go over to section Q.”

Kyle looked up from his paper. “Why?”

“Because they wanted us to both go.”

“So you came to get me.”

“Right!” Avera smiled.

Kyle felt his neck prickle. “And why just me now.”

“Because the last time we went to section Q, I had noodles for hair for days. Do you know how tempting that is to eat your hair?”

Kyle thought back on that one. “That’s because you…”

“Noodles!” Avera stressed, pulling on her acid green hair with both hands, “for hair!” She leaned in closer over the back of the chair and dropped to a whisper, “and she terrifies me.”

“Oooh, her,” Kyle put the paper aside and raised a quizzical eyebrow,  “terrifies… you say?”

Avera slunk lower into the chair. Kyle grinned maniacally.

“It’s not funny! She’s got some weird freaky powers or something.”

“You have weird freaky powers, Avera.”

She stared at him, eyes uncomprehending.

He sighed, “fine.”

“Great!” Avera clapped her hands, “we were supposed to be there twenty minutes ago. I’ll watch the shop.” She pushed him out the front door and slammed it shut.

Through the front windows, he watched Avera bunker down behind the counter in which he could only describe as offensively defensive. The first person going into that shop now was in for a surprise. Kyle looked around. He was in Section C. It would take him close to 40 minutes to walk to Section Q. He started off down the hallway, keeping a safe distance from the safety railing.

THERE IS A THING YOU CAN TRY.

“Is it deadly?” He kept walking.

A DISTINCT POSSIBILITY.

“What is it?”

In response, a doorway slid open to a dimly lit hallway. Kyle peered in. “Do you need to make that creepy?

IT IS MORE FUN.

Kyle waited.

The lights brightened considerably.

At the end of the hallway sat a massive machine full of pipes, tubes, conduits, cables and lights and crackling energies. Along the walls were rotary monitors spinning, panels of buttons, knobs, and switches. More lightning danced between metal spikes sunk in glass insulators around the entire room. Centrifugal governors whirled and whistled, spitting steam into the air. In the center sat a platform surrounded by a railing and a large Faraday cage.

“Okay, what is this?” Kyle walked up to the machine and poked it.

IT WILL TAKE YOU EVERYWHERE.

“At once?”

A DISTINCT POSSIBILITY.

“Did you build it?” Kyle walked around the entire center portion of the machine. A ramp led up one side to the central platform and back down the opposite side. He guessed that one simply walked across the platform.

  1. IT WAS A GIFT.

“Does that mean there is only one of these?”

BOILERS NO.

Kyle sighed. “Alright, let’s get it over with.” He stepped onto one of the ramps.

As he took the one step towards the center of the platform an intense humming buzz filled his ears. A second step and the hum turned to pain and joined with a hair-raising, static charge across his body. Instincts told him to take cover from an imminent lightning strike. Kyle took the last step into the center of the platform. An intense tug on every point of his body felt like he had ripped apart and unraveled thread by thread and then woven back together in a single moment.

He took another step onto the opposite platform and blinked, rubbing at his eyes. “I don’t think it worked.”

The machine blinked off with gouts of smoke and sparks bringing the smell of burnt metal to his nose. Steam billowed freely into the enclosed space. There was no hint of electrical feedback, and the room was dark. An alarm may have been going off somewhere. The smoke and steam forced him to stumble back out into the concourse. The entrance slammed shut behind him, keeping the disaster contained with only a small amount of vapor escaping. Guests gave him a brief pause before continuing about their own business.

RESULTS OBTAINED. SEARCH PATTERNS TO LOCATE YOU HAVE BEEN RUNNING EVERYWHERE FOR TWENTY MINUTES.

“I didn’t leave the room, nothing happened.”

PLENTY HAPPENED.

“Alright, I’ll accept something happened. So where was I then?” Kyle thought about it for a moment, “where am I?”

EXCELLENT. PREVIOUS WHEREABOUTS ARE UNKNOWN. SECTION Q AS IT IS CURRENTLY CALLED. AN INVESTIGATION WILL BE REQUIRED.

HOW DO YOU FEEL.

“Fine?”

EXCELLENT. A SUCCESS.

“Kyle!” a woman’s voice called. “I wanted you two here an hour ago! Now your job is going to be three times as hard! And where is Avera? She’s supposed to be here as well!”

Kyle waved to a furious woman on a rapid collision course. “Hi, Mollie. I got lost.”

“Lost?” Mollie pulled up just under his shadow and pointed a finger at him, “you don’t get lost. What kind of excuse is that.”

IT’S TRUE. THERE WERE COMPLICATIONS ON ARRIVAL.

Mollie grunted. “Fine, I’ll accept this. Now, where is Avera?”

“Did you know she’s scared of you? What did you do to her? I’ve never seen her act like that.”

Mollie let out a roaring laugh, “serves her right! So she’s not coming?”

“No.”

“I’ll deal with her later then. Come on, before this infestation gets any worse. You’ll be angry at Avera for not coming before you’re done here as well. An hour ago this would have been much easier for both of you to handle.” Mollie turned back the way she had come and waved him to follow. “Did you use the Quantum Express to get over here?”

“It is a distinct possibility,” Kyle said falling in step behind her as they headed into Wetware and Paper.

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