Tommy stood and backed away from the console, keeping particular attention on the purple-skinned aliens.
“What did you see?” Leij asked, right before he backed into her.
Sabreen was awake now, and Leij was standing at her full height again, making it difficult for him to look up at her. Picking the angle that would be easiest on his neck, Tommy replied, “they’re horrible. All of these purple-skins are horrible. They lie, they’re selfish, they’re…”
“No they’re not!” Sabreen snapped back.
“But they are! I saw it!”
Leij kindly interjected, “Tommy, what you saw was only one of their species. You can’t judge them all for what one of them has done.”
Tommy’s breathing was heavy, and he was fighting the urge to run out of the room.
“What did you see? We need to know,” Leij spoke as she cupped her hand around the back of his head and calmly stroked Tommy’s red hair with her thumb. His panic oozed out through her fingers.
“Why do you need me to tell you? Sabreen told me that you knew everything.”
Leij gave Sabreen a sideways glance and replied, “we learn a lot from monitoring the known universe, and we can often see truth in watching people’s actions, but Lehnair used the Metaparlance Decipherer to scramble our monitoring streams over him.”
Thinking back to what he had seen at the console, Tommy realized that although Lehnair hadn’t fully activated the MeDai, he had been able to use the black tablet and crystals to some extent. He had teleported Klibold’s designs to his boss, which meant he may have done much more.
“I didn’t want him to use me,” the wristband projected into Tommy’s thoughts, “but I couldn’t stop him either. He knew how to control me. And that’s how you ended up here – he pre-programed me to bring Mr. Gholab to company headquarters in case he succeeded in activating me.”
“How did he find you in the first place?” Tommy thought back.
“On that barren planet, when Lehnair worked at the factory, he found me buried in one of the mines.”
“Are you feeling well?” Sabreen interrupted.
“Yeah, I was just thinking.”
“There was something that Lehnair did that was pretty bad, wasn’t there?” Sabreen whispered.
“I think there were a few things he did that were pretty bad,” Tommy spoke so more people could hear it.
“What do you mean?” replied Leij.
“I think Lehnair caused that factory explosion, and he used the MeDai to cover it up so no one could see it was him.”
“Why would he do something like that?” Sabreen said amid audible gasps of air.
“He likes being in control of things, of other people in particular.”
Leij put her other hand onto Sabreen’s shoulder to keep her from crying. “Some people crave power above everything else,” she said while shaking her head.
“I think it’s more than that. I think he wants to be rich. Something his father used to tell him – forever the rich, and forget the poor. I think he took it to heart.”
Leij stared down at Tommy with a confused look on her face.
Sabreen spoke first. “The saying actually goes, forever are the rich, and forgotten are the poor, or that’s how my Dad always tells it.”
“What? That’s a terrible thing to tell someone,” Tommy snapped back as he pulled himself away from Leij’s calming hand. “Why would anyone say something like that?”
“It’s not terrible,” Leij began, “…if you know the meaning of it.” The last part sounded like a question rather than a statement.
He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “What story could make that right? It sounds as if someone should be dismissed just because they’re poor!” His curt reply showed no attempt to hide his temper. His mind flashed back to the simple home he lived in and the old car his parents shared between themselves while everyone else he knew had so much more. They weren’t poor, but they weren’t rich either, at least not by Earth’s standards, or even their neighbors.
“Yes Tommy, and no, it’s not what you’re thinking,” Leij continued, “I realize that Earthling’s have a hard time understanding it.”
“What’s so hard to understand?!”
Leij took a sighing breath, “Most Earthling’s have a different idea what being rich really means. A person doesn’t need to have things to make them rich. It’s about friends, family, and loved ones. Someone who has good friends is not only rich, but is also never forgotten.”
His temper cooled down ever so slightly. Tommy missed his parents, and even though he was going to be in oodles of trouble, he wanted more than anything to get back and be with them again, at home, where he felt safe. “Lehnair doesn’t really understand it either then? Does he?”
“I’m sure he does, but he doesn’t want to think of it that way,” Leij offered. “People often see things the way they want to see them.”
There was a moment of awkward silence as Tommy tried to take it all in. Until it dawned on him: the Time Crystal! Lehnair kept one of the crystals – the one they referred to as the “time” crystal. Tommy thought out to the wristband, “can you actually fold time right now? Or just space?”
“I can fold space AND time, thank you very much,” the wristband sounded hurt.
“Are you sure? I don’t think I had all the crystals when I activated you.”
“You couldn’t have activated me without all the…”
“What? What is it?”
“It’s, it’s missing. You were right: I can’t fold time, only space.”
Breaking out of his thoughts, Tommy spoke out loud to everyone in the center, “why would a Time Crystal be so important to Lehnair?”
Leij looked around at the other Operators, waiting for anyone to respond. After several of them shrugged their shoulders, “we don’t know,” she finally replied.
Tommy thought back to the underground trees, and the buckets of ink. Why was the company headquarters on Earth raising underground forests and cutting them down? What had Glibs said to Lehnair? Something about delivering paper that made Earthlings go crazy? They must be using the trees to make paper!
“What about the paper though? What would he be doing with paper and time?” Were the buckets of ink poison perhaps? Was he poisoning the Earth’s paper supply? “Is he planning to destroy us?” Tommy blurted out.
“They’re not mind readers. They’re not going to know what Lehnair’s planning,” Sabreen said, trying to calm him down.
Looking at the vacant expression on Leij’s face, Tommy waited for a solution, or at least, an answer. “Then I have to find out,” he said with a hint of nervousness in his voice.
“No, you don’t!” Leij started in, “you need to get back home to your parents. While you were reading about IBoMB I had one of our Operators check in on them. They’re worried sick!”
It was too late. While Leij was attempting to convince him not to do this very thing, Tommy was asking the wristband to take him back to the Moon station.
“Calculating crease distance and trajectory,” the wristband replied.
The room began to illuminate a soft white color coming off of Tommy.
Sabreen cried out, “Stop! Where are you going?”
“I have to find Lehnair. He’s the one that needs to stop,” Tommy’s voice echoed back as he began to fade out of sight.
“And what are you going to do when you find him?” Leij tried.
“I don’t know yet,” his voice was almost gone along with the rest of him.
Sabreen tore away from Leij and jumped, “then I’m coming along too!”
Leij grappled towards Sabreen, but she had already wrapped both arms around Tommy’s neck.
“Recalculating mass index,” the wristband thought out. “…beginning fold.”
At that moment the room snapped into place and stretched upwards. Tommy and Sabreen began floating through the gooey molasses that had once been the ceiling. To everyone else, they simply faded out of existence.
…on to Chapter 16 The Meeting