Sabreen kept tightening her grip around Tommy as they flew higher and higher. Traveling through space was different from traveling through a planet. One can see over a long distance and it was much easier to notice that they were traveling in an arc. Folding space wasn’t like flying however, as neither of them could feel the wind whip past their face. Tommy imagined that he was spared the displeasure of having thousands of feathers driven into him as they shot through a flock of birds.
The atmosphere cleared, the stars broke out, and shining flakes of silver dotted an enormous black canopy. The Earth below was radiant blue, swirled over by white and gray clouds. It was so peaceful, and so small. All those people, living in such a small, yet beautiful place together.
Space was silent, and that’s the way Tommy liked things. Silence had been his best friend back on Earth. It helped him read his books and hear his own thoughts, and now, like two friends brought back together after a long time apart, he immersed himself in the peaceful lack of sound. It felt better this time though, more so than it ever had, if only for the hug that he was getting from Sabreen. The thought of having to face Lehnair alone would have been terrifying.
Why was Lehnair so interested in Earthling’s anyway? From what he read at the Operation’s Center, the IBoMB corporation was interested in cheap labor; but why Earthlings? And why then, would he want to poison them and make them crazy? None of it made sense, and not knowing was frustrating.
His train of thought was ripped away by a quiet whimper from Sabreen. Something was wrong. She was looking pale. “What is it?” Tommy asked quietly, not wanting to break the silence any further than it had to be.
“Na morugess neh ode calripti.” The words came out of her mouth, but Tommy couldn’t understand any of it.
“I… I’m sorry, what was that?”
Sabreen’s crying got louder as she tightened her grip onto Tommy and planted her face into his shoulder. “Na morugess neh ode calripti,” she muffled into his shirt.
Tommy thought out to the wristband, “What is she saying? I can’t understand.”
There was no reply.
“Are you there?”
There was no reply.
Not knowing what else to say, he held onto Sabreen a little tighter, hoping it would make her feel better.
They must have been traveling incredibly fast, as it wasn’t long before the Moon came into view. Tommy noticed something new this time: there was a large structure floating in orbit around the otherwise barren landscape. It was two pyramids, one pointing down on top of the other with their points overlapping to create a diamond shape between them. The diamond was what first caught his attention, as it was radiating bright white, illuminating the surface of the Moon below it.
Even Sabreen, whose head was still tucked into Tommy’s shoulder, noticeably stared at the strange satellite. Pulling her head back a ways to look Tommy in the eye, she rattled off some more words he couldn’t understand, “Moousen fer choong.”
Tommy wished the wristband would start working again. He tried responding, “What? What are you saying?”
Sabreen got a confused look on her face and glanced down at Tommy’s arm, toward the wristband. It was radiating the same bright white, and emitting little diamond shaped sparks that streaked back along the path they were traveling. He glanced back at Sabreen who then turned her head to look towards the pyramids and the diamond they formed between them. He then understood what she was trying to tell him. Somehow, in some way, that structure was related to the wristband.
The exhilarating sensation of flying turned into the horrifying sense of falling as the Moon’s surface got closer. Tommy knew what to expect, but Sabreen let out a shriek of terror and planted her face into the crook of his neck.
Both of them plopped through the gooey surface caused by folding space, and continued traveling through the ground for a few moments. Sabreen didn’t look up until they stopped.
The wristband’s glow faded, and Tommy recognized where they were. Back in the cargo bay that was loaded with all the crates and buckets.
“glreeso we there?” Sabreen quietly whispered as she carefully opened one eye.
“What? Say that again!” Tommy blurted back.
“Are… we… there… yet?” She slowly repeated, happy at the realization that Tommy could understand again.
The wristband was vibrating and glowing as she spoke.
“You’re back!” Tommy thought out to the wristband.
“Of course. I never left,” the wristband replied.
“But you weren’t translating while we were traveling?”
“Hey, you try folding space and translating simultaneously. I doubt you could even rub your stomach and pat your head at the same time.”
Making a motion to move his hands into place over his head and stomach, Tommy let out a huge laugh, “it’s great to have you back,” he roared out loud.
Sabreen looked at him funny, “sorry? Did I say something funny?”
“No, no, no,” he replied through his laughter, “it’s the wristband. I didn’t realize that he couldn’t translate while folding space.”
“Hey!” the wristband shot into Tommy’s mind.
“Just saying!” Tommy said out loud while holding the wristband up to his face so Sabreen could see which of them he was talking to.
Sabreen took a step back to get a better look at their surroundings and immediately fell to the ground. Tommy reached down to help her up but the whole room twisted on an angle, causing him to fall down beside her.
“oooohhhh… I feel sick,” she mumbled, putting her hand over her forehead.
It felt as if they had been spinning in circles for hours and suddenly stopped.
“Me too,” Tommy mumbled back.
“Is this normal after folding space?”
Tommy thought back to the last time the wristband had transported him. He arrived in a dark cave and couldn’t see anything – no spinning, and no dizziness apparently. “I don’t know. I couldn’t see anything last time.”
“Last time? You make it sound like you’ve only folded space once before?”
“Well… actually… yeah.”
“What?! How long have you been a MeDai?” she blurted out through closed eyes, while still grasping her head.
“Including today?” he replied with a sheepish look on his face.
“Yeah, including today.”
“Then… It would be… well… about a day and a half.”
She just stayed on the ground moaning.
After a few minutes, the room stopped spinning and Tommy carefully picked himself up off of the floor. He reached down, grabbing Sabreen’s hand and hoisted her up to her feet. She still had the other hand over her forehead as she steadied herself.
“Come on. We’ve got to find Lehnair.”
“And what are we going to do when we find him?”
A large rush of air sped past them as the door to the warehouse room swished open. “Yes, what ARE you going to do once you find him?” the dark, four-armed figure spoke out across the room.
Tommy’s heart sank. He honestly didn’t know, but he had hoped for more time to plan.
Sabreen wasn’t going to wait for Tommy to say something, “the Operations Center knows we’re here Lehnair. They’ll know if you hurt us.”
The shadowy figure stepped into the light, revealing his dark purple skin and bright single eye. Tommy could still see a transparent silhouette, forming the plastic doll figure he as before, but now he could see through it, to what Lehnair really was. He was dressed in a fairly normal looking business suit, with a tie and a sleeve for each arm. His lower-right hand was holding a briefcase, and his lower-left was fiddling with something Tommy couldn’t make out.
“Where I’m going, it won’t matter,” Lehnair replied matter-of-factly.
Tommy’s face cringed into a scowl, “and where is that?”
“Away, I’m afraid. I just received notice from the Operations Center that someone,” he glowered at Tommy as he spoke the word, “has decrypted several files concerning my history and laid out some rather unfortunate accusations against me.”
Lehnair continued walking along the edge of the room around Tommy and Sabreen, heading for the docking ramp. Tommy saw a small ship sitting there, like the one he and Sabreen had used to return to Earth. “So, you’re going to run away then?”
“Oh no. I never run from a good challenge,” Lehnair replied without looking at them.
Sabreen couldn’t contain herself, “then what’s your plan?” she blurted out.
“Tsk, tsk,” Lehnair spoke while shaking his head back and forth. “Secrecy is my best strategy now.”
Tommy looked hard at what Lehnair was fiddling with in his lower-left fingers, until he remembered what it must be. “Time! You’ve found a way to travel through time, haven’t you?”
Lehnair chuckled, “ah! So some Earthlings are actually intelligent? I’ll have to remember that.”
“And what about your plans to poison Earth with paper? Are you going to continue?” Tommy shot back accusingly.
“What?! And to think I just paid you a compliment for being intelligent. I guess I was wrong.”
Tommy clinched his hands into fists. “Then why are Earthlings losing their minds when they get your paper?”
“Ah, it’s more than losing their minds! They go stark raving mad!” Lehnair was looking straight into Tommy’s eyes as he spoke the last few words. “They can’t control themselves when they have it. They’ll argue and debate, lie and cheat! They’ll drop every pretense of being good or nice. But most importantly, they’ll worship anyone who controls it, and they’ll do anything to get more of it.”
“What have you done?”
“What have I done? Nothing! That’s the beauty of it. I didn’t have to do anything,” he spoke as he dropped his briefcase into the cargo-hold of the ship.
“You had to have done something…” Tommy replied in wonder.
“I only give Earthlings what they want, and in turn they do whatever I want,” Lehnair shot back.
Tommy was confused. “What are you talking about?”
Lehnair laughed and walked over to a large panel near the forcefield at the end of the ramp. As he reached out to press a large button, Tommy grabbed onto Sabreen, expecting something awful.
The inner walls of the room slid open, revealing their secret. There were stacks and stacks of paper, piled from the floor to the high ceiling. There were different colors. Most were hues of green, but there were reds and purples, yellows and browns. Tommy walked over to one of the walls and took a closer look.
“Be careful Tommy!” Sabreen spoke barely above a whisper. “Don’t you lose your mind on me.”
Tommy reached out and took a few pieces into his hands. It was money. Euros, Dollars, Marks, Yen, Won, and every other kind of currency he had ever read about. Millions, perhaps even billions of dollars worth of cash was stacked along the walls of the cargo bay. He remembered the envelopes his Dad received from the company, the ones filled with money. Tommy’s Dad would give him his allowance from those envelopes every week before paying their bills and setting a budget.
“But money is more than just paper Lehnair. It’s valuable because it represents something. Work, Gold, silver,” Tommy spoke so Lehnair could hear him. He nearly leaped out of his shoes when the reply came from directly behind him.
“Oh yes, I didn’t forget. The only thing Earthling’s value more than paper happens to be something they dig out of the ground like dirt.” Lehnair was towering over him like a juggernaut ready to smash something, or someone. “So that’s the trick? I need to use specific kinds of dirt to control the Earthlings? Tell me, do these different dirts and rocks work better than paper?”
Lehnair’s plan was sinking into Tommy’s mind, “not… not all Earthlings are like that,” he stuttered out.
“Oh yes they are Tommy. And the ones who are not, easily become subjected to the ones that are. Whoever has the most paper and dirt has the most power on Earth.” Lehnair chuckled as he spoke. “It is so easy.”
With tears welling up in his eyes, Tommy replied, “you have nothing of real worth in your life do you? Don’t you have family or friends?” He had obviously said something wrong – or perhaps, it was right.
A growl came from deep inside Lehnair’s chest as he gripped Tommy around the neck with one of his large upper arms, holding him up against the stack of money. With his other large arm, he grabbed Tommy’s wrist above the Metaparlance Decipherer, and then restrained Tommy’s other wrist with one of his lower arms. He began tugging at the wristband with his last free hand.
“Let… me… down…” Tommy struggled for breath as Lehnair tightened his grip around Tommy’s throat. “Please… let… me…” The room was growing darker, and Tommy started to wonder if this was the end. What had he been thinking anyway? How could a small child have possibly stopped this monster? What about his Mom and Dad? He so much wanted to see them again. Maybe he should have just gone home?
Lehnair suddenly jarred to the right and loosened his grasp.
He dropped Tommy’s wrist with his small arm as Sabreen batted him over the head with a bucket again. The green dye spilled out over his suit and onto the floor. Lehnair, with his small arms free, pushed Sabreen with a casual swipe that sent her flying into a stack of buckets.
“Give me the MeDai!” Lehnair shouted into Tommy’s face as he began tugging at it again. Tommy tried fighting back with his loose arm as Lehnair once again tightened his grip.
The wristband thought out, “I… I don’t want you to get hurt Tommy.”
“Then fold space and get us out of this!” Tommy thought back in a panic.
“I can’t. We already used all the energy I had to get here.”
Tommy was seeing spots as he gasped for air, kicking and scratching at Lehnair’s leathery arms to no avail.
“You’ve been a great friend Tommy,” and with a snapping sound, the wristband lit up and loosened from around his wrist. Lehnair stopped tugging and stared in anticipation, focused entirely on the glowing MeDai. Tommy didn’t have the strength to fight the massive alien. His head was pounding, and his neck felt like it was about to snap. Tommy closed his eyes and let his loose arm fall limp to his side… and discovered something he had forgotten.
“NO!” Tommy cried out and started kicking again with all the strength he could muster. Lehnair didn’t budge. He was so large that Tommy might as well have been a mosquito trying to push an elephant. A gap in the wristband opened, falling off of Tommy’s arm and landing into Lehnair’s greedy hand.
“It’s mine!” Lehnair shouted with a grin.
“No Lehnair,” Tommy calmly spoke as he slipped his free hand into his pocket, “it doesn’t belong to you, or to anyone.”
The entire room shook, and Lehnair looked at Tommy in amazement. “What?” Lehnair couldn’t finish the single word as hordes of money shot out from behind Tommy, pushing the giant back. Tommy snatched the wristband out of Lehnair’s hand and dropped to the ground, splashing green ink in every direction with his feet.
Sabreen held her head as she slowly stood near the buckets she had been thrown into.
“Get down!” Tommy yelled at her as he lifted his hand out of his pocket to reveal the Cellulose-pulp Degravitator on his index finger. The device emitted bright blue sparks as the whole room became dense with flying money.
Lehnair groaned from the floor, “you little…” and he jumped through the air like an ape to grab the Degravitator. But with a flick of Tommy’s finger, an entire stack of money pulled from the wall and plummeted into him, sending Lehnair staggering across the room and landing near Sabreen.
Tommy piled stack after stack of money on Lehnair, knocking him back down as he tried to get up.
Catching on to the game, Lehnair grabbed a bucket and hurdled it into the flying pile as another stack of money came zooming across the room, breaking apart the bills and sending them in a thousand directions. Lehnair picked himself up, and Sabreen screamed as he grabbed her around the neck.
“Let her go Lehnair!” Tommy shouted.
“Come and get her!” Lehnair responded as he ran towards the ship.
Slipping the MeDai back around his wrist, “You there?” Tommy asked as the smooth material wrapped itself tight around his skin.
“I’m back,” the wristband replied. “Let’s go save our friend!”
Tommy grabbed a few pieces of the currency as they floated to the ground. “I’ve got an idea.”
…on to Chapter 17 Rescue