Chapter 12 The Operations Center

     “Ah, here we are!” Sabreen shouted with glee. “I love this place. Coytibahn!” No sooner had she said the last word, she and Tommy’s trajectory moved towards the opening door.
     “Hello? Are you still awake?” Tommy thought out.
     “Of course I am,” the wristband replied.
     “What’s wrong then? You didn’t translate the last word she said”
     “She said Coytibahn. There’s no translation available.”
     “Well, it’s not anything I understood.”
     “Then maybe you should ask her what it means.”
     “You know, you’ve been awfully quiet for a while. Are you OK?”
     “I suppose. I’m still meddling over what name I want, but more than that, you two have been chatting so much that I couldn’t interject a comment anyways. Besides, it’s rude for us to have a conversation when there’s someone else present and they can’t hear it.”
     Tommy shrugged, “Hasn’t stopped you yet, though I guess you’re right. I just wanted to make sure you didn’t feel neglected or anything.”
     “No, no. Don’t worry about me. I’ve been treated far worse by previous hosts.”
     “Sabreen, what was that last word you said?” Tommy decided to ask before they were through the door.
     “Oh, it’s the passphrase for the Operations Center.”
     “So, is that how you get through a door? You have to know the passphrase?”
     “Around here anyway. Just about every door at IBoMB is locked. They don’t want Earthlings stumbling into something that might make them uncomfortable you know.”
     At first Tommy resented the remark. Why would an Earthling feel uncomfortable? He thought he was adjusting just fine, until the door finished opening anyway.
     The Operations Center was large room, filled with, well, people? Most appeared at least somewhat human, considering Sabreen’s earlier comment about most aliens looking the same. The similarities were a relative assessment rather than an exact one. Some of the beings were extremely tall, while others were extremely short. Some appeared to have similar eye coloring as Sabreen, while there was also a wide variation in skin colors. Not only white, black, or brown mind you, but white, black, brown, yellow, pinkish-red, and even some bluish-purple. Hair colors were more varied, adding a collage of hues to an otherwise drab room.
     Most of the “people” were sitting down at stations scattered throughout the area. Tommy couldn’t tell what they were doing, as there didn’t appear to be anything in front of them to work with. They were all staring upwards toward the ceiling. One would occasionally point in some general direction, look straight ahead for a while, and then proceed to stare at the ceiling again.
     As he stepped into the room a few of the plastic-looking aliens turned in his direction. Tommy flipped around and bolted for the hallway.
     Sabreen grabbed him, “What’s wrong with you?”
     “It’s uh, they’re uh…” he mumbled as he pointed towards the staring creatures.
     “It’s alright Tommy. You had a bad experience with one of their species. That doesn’t mean that they’re all going to be mean to you.”
     Tommy examined an alien as they passed within inches. One of the others gave Tommy a quick look-over and then continued with the empty point-and-stare routine at their seat.
     “So, which one is going to help us?” Tommy asked while darting his eyes about the room.
     “Right here,” Sabreen started.
     “Sabreen! Hi there,” one of the individuals spoke as they stood up.
     She was amazing. Tommy had never seen a woman so tall before. She must have been seven feet in height (which, to someone his own size seemed even larger), and was, in his opinion, very pretty. She wore a form fitting, olive-green blouse with short sleeves and a triangle of white fabric fixed to the front. Her slacks were the same color and flared out slightly at the ankles. She had light brown skin with long, curly, jet black hair that hung in a loose ponytail down to her waist, and eyes that were a deep red.
     “Hi Leij!” Sabreen ran over and hugged her leg.
     “Sabreen,” (even her voice was pretty Tommy thought), “who’s your friend?”
     “This is Tommy. He needs your help,” Sabreen mumbled the words out of her loving deathgrip on Leij’s leg.
     Sabreen let go after one more squeeze, and Leij started towards Tommy. He might have been terrified by the giant walking towards him if she hadn’t of walked so gracefully. She appeared to glide over the floor with each sweep of her feet.
     “Sabreen, he’s an Earthling. You’re not supposed to bring Earthlings in here.”
     “Oh, he’s not a normal Earthling. Look, he’s a MeDai,” Sabreen said from close behind her.
     Leij looked down at Tommy and scanned him over, pausing for a second on the wristband. Leij’s face curled slightly with confusion. “I’m sorry, I’ve never seen anyone, so young, as a MeDai before.”
     Tommy didn’t know what to say. He didn’t even understand what a MeDai was supposed to be.
     “Yeah, pretty cool huh?” Sabreen let out.
     “Well, as a MeDai you’re welcome to go wherever you like, considering we couldn’t stop you anyway,” Leij still looked confused.
     Tommy then realized they must be referring to the Metaparlance Decipherer on his wrist. He smiled awkwardly and thought out to the wristband, “I take it that you’re a celebrity of some sort?”
     “No. More of a rarity,” the wristband replied, “which makes you the celebrity since you’re the one wearing me.”
     “Well, what can I do for you two then?” Leij asked.
     Sabreen, with no hesitation, blurted out, “He’s pinched. It must have been an accident or something, since it’s illegal to pinch a MeDai isn’t it?”
     “It’s not a law, but a MeDai shouldn’t be pinched. It can interfere with their symbiotic link.”
     “So then, can we ‘unpinch’ me?” Tommy interrupted.
     Leij took a deep breath, which told Tommy the answer wasn’t going to be a simple one: “When someone is pinched, their mind is controlled in such a way that something else, such as a Polymorphism Enabler, can send a signal directly into the part of your brain that manipulates the flow of information from your eyes. It makes you see things differently from what they actually are, or can even stop the flow entirely, making something invisible. That’s why you shouldn’t pinch a MeDai, so that they don’t fold space and accidentally land inside of something, or even worse, someone, else.”
     “That would be painful for everyone involved,” the wristband interrupted.
     “Unfortunately, there’s not a cure to being pinched,” Leij said with an apologetic look on her face. “Not an easy one anyway.”
     Easy? Was anything ever going to be easy again? Tommy was getting used to being challenged and pushed harder than usual. “So what is it I need to do?”
     “The mind is an amazing thing…”
     “Even an Earthling’s?” Tommy couldn’t resist.
     Leij’s face took on a sympathetic look, “especially your’s Tommy. You’re still young, and so your mind is adapting and growing. Given time, it would probably compensate on its own against the Polymorphism Virus.”
     “So, I just have to wait then?”
     “No, there are ways to speed up the process, but it’ll take some effort on your part.”
     Tommy stared up into Leij’s eyes, waiting for her to volunteer the information before neck was permanently kinked.
     “The truth Tommy. You have to learn the truth.”
     “So how do I go about doing that?”
     “How about you try sitting at my station for a while? You can teach yourself how to use it.”
     “You can’t show me?”
     “Because the truth, like many things, can only be believed if you have to figure it out for yourself.” Leij paused before a sudden burst of information. “After you get in, why don’t you try tracking the history of a certain alien named Lehnair.”
     “How will that…”
     “You might just find it enlightening.”
     Tommy gave a worried look over in Sabreen’s general direction.
     “Go for it Tommy. Leij is trying to help you,” she offered.
     Tommy looked over at the empty station. Then, glancing around the room, watched the aliens perform the point-and-stare dance as they had been since he arrived.
     “Take a seat,” Leij said while gently pushing him towards the chair.
     Sitting down, Tommy looked around at the three short walls that made up the station. He pulled himself and the chair in closer.
     There was nothing to see! There was nothing there!
     “Are you going to help?” Tommy thought out to the wristband.
     “Nope, sounds like this is for your own good,” it replied.
     “You sound like my parents.”
     “They must be very wise for Earthlings then.”
     Tommy continued staring forward for several minutes, focusing his eyes to different spots in the cubical, searching for something that wasn’t there.
     Maybe he was imagining it from trying so hard, but after a few more minutes a faint shimmer of a ball slowly came into view, hovering straight ahead, barely out of reach. Concentrating harder, he squinted to see more detail. Was it spinning? Tommy tried to follow the rotation with his eyes to focus on a single point long enough to make out what it was. He couldn’t keep up with it though. How fast was it moving? What was it? It had to be more than some ghostly ball hovering in mid air.
     He reached out as far as he could, trying to touch the device. His hand rubbed against the far cubical wall. Had his hand passed through it? Or was it somehow farther away than the wall was? It looked like it was right in front of him. Tommy again focused his mind, trying to see something, anything, on or inside the ball.
     There was something there, but he couldn’t make it out. It looked like a speck of color that was spinning in the opposite direction within the sphere. What color was it? Black? No, it was purple. No, it was green! Wait, there was two of them now, spinning side by side!
     Before his eyes, Tommy saw the specks of color breaking apart, spinning in all directions within the ball. The axis, there was something wrong with the axis. Had he done something wrong? The sphere was shaking and spinning off center. Did he break it? How? He hadn’t done anything. The ball continued to shake and Tommy could see a small crack forming across the surface. Without thinking, Tommy reached out to grab the ball and hold it together. This time he was able to firmly grasp it with both hands, causing his arms to shake back and forth with the movement.
     Looking around the room, Tommy was puzzled that no one else had noticed his predicament. All the aliens continued pointing and staring at the emptiness as they had been. Even Sabreen and Leij didn’t notice what was happening as they stood off chatting with each other.
     Tommy didn’t know what to do. The crack was growing, so he tried squeezing it back together. He could feel his fingers pushing into what felt like dry pizza dough. Then, without warning, Tommy’s hands slapped together, shattering a thousand specks of color throughout the entire room. Red, green, blue, yellow, black, white, bright, dim, florescent, neon, everywhere. On the walls, on the ceiling, even on the people. Tommy and his chair fell back onto the floor.
     From his new perspective of the ceiling, he finally understood what everyone else had been doing. The specks of color where shaped like galaxies, solar systems, stars, and planets. It was a scaled down map of the universe.
     Leij stepped over Tommy and helped him back up. “Are you alright?”
     “Uh, yeah, I think so.”
     “You’re doing great Tommy. Keep concentrating.”
     For the first time, Tommy noticed that when Leij spoke to him, the wristband wasn’t translating. She spoke English. The wristband only vibrated when she spoke to Sabreen.
     Tommy lifted his chair up off the floor and climbed back in. By following the same movements as the other aliens he learned how to point to what he wanted and have it zoom across the room for closer inspection. Galaxies became solar systems, solar systems became planets, planets became cities. There were strange lines that connected some planets to others, and symbols that made a path from one location to the next. What had Leij said he needed to do? Oh yes, track the history of someone named “Lehnair”…

on to Chapter 13 History of IBoMB

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