Hello, and happy Saturday, y’all. Last weekend my Author Spotlight interview on /r/books went fantastically so thank you to everyone who posed a question. It was a lot of fun. If you missed the chance to read the interview or ask a question, here’s a link to it, and feel free to ask more questions if you have them because I’m always on reddit while I’m doing the work that pays my bills and I’ll be sure to see your question and answer it to the best of my ability.
Now back to the story. Today we’re joining Roo again as she tries to help poor Mike find his jumpie mom and in the process finds the Human Family. See what Roo has to think of the Family by reading on here and now, and don’t forget to pick up a full copy of the novel through this link or to leave me a review for any of the novels you’ve already read in the series. It would mean a lot to me.
Thanks for your time, dear readers. Here’s Roo.
Roo had lost herself again in the fourth dimension. Although there was no longer a beautiful tapestry of timespace to act as her guidepost, it was easy enough to retrace her path back to the place where the tapestry had originally been produced. This, Roo thought, was where the woman with the gun who was now sitting in Roo’s secret lair had come from. Roo changed the exit path from her lair to the family home—or whatever Kara was calling it—and returned to Earth to see once and for all where exactly that was.
“I still don’t see why I have to come,” Mike said, obviously uncomfortable in his still wet pants.
“Nor do I,” Kara said. “Just open the door and send me home.”
Roo scoffed. “You need me,” she said to Kara. “That’s why you’re taking us with you. And you’re the only one who can identify your mom,” she said to Mike. “Which is why you’re coming. It’s quite simple, really.”
“You can’t talk to me like that, girl,” the woman said, grabbing her gun again as if she would use it.
“And you can’t force me to go with you,” Mike said, crossing his arms.
“I can, and I can, actually. In fact, I already have. There’s no way for you to go home home now so you’ll join us or you’ll wait right here until I get back.”
“You opened it?” the woman asked, dropping her gun to her side and stepping through the wall.
Roo followed close behind while Mike hesitated, still trying to decide if going or staying would be worse, then called, “Wait up!” before chasing out after them.
What they stepped into didn’t look like a house. It was one big room, with cement walls and floor, that was lined with electronic rings—one of which they had just stepped through—leading Roo to believe that this was where some serious bending took place. The spacetime tapestry she couldn’t stop picturing in her head was probably woven right here at these two consoles.
Two consoles? Roo couldn’t believe her eyes. She thought it would take at least four benders to hold together something so complex as what she had seen, but taking a step closer to get a good look, she could see that no more than two people at a time could possibly control these six portals with the way they were wired up. That couldn’t be right, though. Whoever these benders were must have some sort of remote console system set up so more than two people could work on the transporters without having them all in the same room. That had to be it.
“Uh, Roo,” Mike said, tapping her on the shoulder to break her away from her intense investigation of the console and ring system. She turned around to find Kara gone and the room empty save Mike, her, and the transporter system. “I don’t like the feeling of this place,” Mike went on. “Maybe we should go back home.”
“But we haven’t even looked for your mom, yet,” Roo said, though she wasn’t in the least bit concerned about that. All she wanted was to figure out who operated this system and how they had done what she had seen them do. She couldn’t come outright and ask that, though, bending being so frowned upon—not to mention illegal—but the search for Mike’s mom served as perfect cover—which is why she couldn’t really let him leave just yet either. “You came to me asking for help,” she reminded him. “Well, here it is. I’m helping.”
“Yeah, okay,” Mike said. “Well, what do we do now, then? If you’re so confident my mom’s actually here.”
“We follow Kara upstairs and go look for her. That’s what. Now come on.” Roo waved for him to follow and started up the stairs.
“No, wait,” Mike called. “But what if they—” But Roo didn’t stop to listen. She climbed the stairs, and as soon as she got to the door, it swung open to reveal two old ladies looking down on her. Roo almost fell down the stairs, jumping in surprise at the sight of them.
“Woah now, child,” one of them said. “We won’t hurt you.”
“What are you kids doing down there?” the other asked, sounding angry where the first was only surprised. “And how did you even get in?”
“I—uh—” Roo’s heart beat faster and faster. She couldn’t remember why she was there.
Luckily, Mike found some courage for once, climbing up the stairs behind her to say, “My mother.” His voice cracked as he spoke, but he still somehow managed to sound resolute in his words. “We came to find my mother and bring her home.”
“They’re just looking for family,” the nicer woman said. “I told you.”
“And who might your mother be?” the angry one asked.
“Melody Singer,” Mike said.
“And what makes you think she’s here?” the angry woman asked.
“Well, I—uh—” Mike looked to Roo, losing his cool, but it was okay because he had stalled long enough to let Roo regain hers.
“She said something about a family, or a home—or something—when she left last. She was very vague,” Roo said, smiling a little but trying not to grin—she always got the two mixed up when she was trying to be sneaky.
The angry woman eyed Roo suspiciously. “Is that so, child?”
“Now now,” the nicer woman said. “Enough of this stairway interview. Let us at least take this to the office. Or—better, yet—the kitchen. I’m sure our guests here wouldn’t mind a little bite to eat while we speak. Am I wrong?” She looked down at Roo and Mike, expecting an answer.
“Oh, well, I guess I could eat,” Mike said, unsure of himself.
“I’m not hungry,” Roo said. Then she smiled and added, “Though a seat might be nice. Thanks.”
“There’re seats in the kitchen,” the nicer woman said, shepherding them the rest of the way up the stairs and past the angry woman who eyed them as they passed. “And you’ll be hungry once you smell the food. I promise.”
“I guess so,” Roo said, letting the woman push her through a short hall into a large kitchen where she sat Roo and Mike on stools at the bar and set to cooking something up. The angry woman followed in last and stood off to a corner, staring in Roo and Mike’s direction.
“So,” the nice woman said as she chopped some bell peppers. “Your mother has told you about the Human Family, then?”
“The human family?” Mike repeated.
“She’s not my mom,” Roo said.
“But I thought you said—” the angry woman tried to say from her far corner of the kitchen but the nice lady shot her a look that shut her up.
“I’m helping him find his mom,” Roo explained. “I’m just doing him a favor. His mom mentioned some family home so we came here to see if we could find her.”
“Is that right?” the woman said, turning her back to toss some bell peppers into the pan and grab an onion to chop. “Your mom mentioned it?” she asked Mike who nodded.
“This is the place, right?” Roo asked.
The woman nodded. “This is the Family Home. Yes.”
“Then have you seen my mom?” Mike asked, hopefully.
The woman nodded again, adding the onions to the pan. “She’s been here. Yes. You haven’t seen her recently, though? I don’t think she’s been on duty for some time.”
“On duty?” Mike said.
The woman nodded. “For the Family, child. For all Humankind. It’s a noble thing your mother’s doing.”
“And what exactly is that?” Roo asked.
“Fighting the robot menace,” the woman said, stirring the vegetables to send them sizzling then adding some sausage to the mix. “Destroying the walls between our human brethren. Protecting the Human Family.”
“Robot menace?” Mike said.
“Destroying the walls?” Roo said.
The woman smiled, adding canned beans to the pan and letting it simmer in silence. When it was set and cooking, she crossed to the bar and stood across from Roo and Mike, smiling. “I think it’s time I ask a question.”
“I—uh…” Mike said.
Roo just nodded. Sometimes questions revealed more information than answers.
“How did you get into the basement?”
Mike looked to Roo who didn’t break eye contact with the woman, Roo who didn’t respond to the woman’s words in any way, when it became clear to everyone there that no answer was forthcoming, the woman spoke on.
“Let me venture a guess,” she said, back turned again to stir the pan once more and let it simmer. “You jumped in.”
Mike sounded like he had choked on his own spit with his gagged coughing. Roo still didn’t respond.
“Oh, don’t worry,” the woman said, crossing back to the bar to stare into Roo’s eyes. “I’m not even mad about it. In fact, I’m kind of impressed. For two children to jump back into my Home, carrying the very same Family member we’ve been searching for without success—why that can only be a blessing from above.”
“Who are you?” Roo asked, not impressed by the woman’s obviously insincere attempt at flattery.
“My name’s Anna,” the woman said, extending a hand across the counter. “And you are?”
Roo hesitated then took the woman’s hand. “Roo.”
“Hello, Roo. So nice to meet you.”
“Is that your transport system in the basement?” Roo asked, ready to get down to business now that all the subterfuge was uncovered.
“So you did jump in then,” Anna said, laughing and dishing out two bowls of red beans, one for Roo and one for Mike. “You admit to that.”
“So who besides the two of you controls the consoles?” Roo asked, ignoring Anna’s statement. Of course they had jumped in. How else could they have gotten into that basement? “Or do you have some remote units hooked up somehow? I’d like to see them, too.”
The angry woman in the corner scoffed while Anna chuckled. “Remote units?” she said “What makes you think that?”
“I saw the bending you were doing,” Roo said as a matter of fact. “Complexity of that level is too much to handle for two benders alone, especially for as tiny of a space as you were holding those wormhole exits inside of.”
Anna smiled wide, almost blushing, then let out a short burst of laughter. “Oh? Well, there weren’t two of us. I’ll tell you that much.”
“Then there were remote units,” Roo said, confident she had figured it out without having to be told. “I knew it.”
“No,” Anna said, straight faced. “No remote units, either.”
“Then how did you get more than two people to control the transporters? You only have two consoles down there.”
“There weren’t more than two, either,” Anna said. “There weren’t even as many as two.”
Roo shook her head in disbelief while the angry woman chuckled in her corner. Mike went on eating, oblivious to the world around him now that he had been assured that his mother was safe and at home.
“Then that means…” Roo said.
“That I created the symphony you witnessed all by myself.” Anna laughed.
Roo couldn’t believe it. It was impossible. No one person could maintain that all by themselves. This woman was obviously a liar. “Prove it,” Roo said.
Anna chuckled. “Now? But you haven’t even touched your beans.”
The angry lady cackled behind her. “I’m out of here,” she said, kissing Anna on the cheek. “I trust you can take care of this, my dear.”
“I didn’t come here to eat,” Roo said, standing from her stool, and the angry old lady ruffled Roo’s hair as she passed to leave.
“Nor to find your friend’s mom,” Anna said, “from the sound of it.”
“Hey!” Mike said, finally back in the conversation at the mention of his mother.
Roo shrugged. “We’ve already found her. You said she was here before and hasn’t been on duty since. Is there any reason I should disbelieve your word? I don’t know. Maybe there is. Maybe demonstrating that you actually are capable of holding six transporter paths together on two consoles—by yourself—will help me believe you. What does it matter what I came here for anyway? We’re here now so let’s move forward. Shall we?” She stood as if to go toward the basement and waved for them to follow along behind her.
Anna smiled and nodded, clearing Mike’s empty bowl and Roo’s untouched one. “You know, I don’t mind showing you because you seem to have a rather advanced knowledge of the system, but in the future, you’d do better for yourself to be less pushy in your demands when made upon a complete stranger. I don’t have to show you anything if I don’t want to. I have nothing to prove and others might not be as accommodating as I am. That being said,” Anna went on, rinsing her hands and drying them on her apron. “I’m curious to see how much you would actually understand about a demonstration so, please, lead the way”
Roo started to protest before she realized what Anna had said. When she did, it took her some time to process the information and get her feet moving toward the basement for the others to follow. Downstairs, Anna went straight to the consoles and Roo stood looking over her shoulder. Mike sat on one of the bottom steps, bored and uninterested in a beauty he had no way of deciphering.
“So, uh, what about my mom?” he called from the stairs as Anna booted the consoles up. “How am I supposed to get home?”
“I’ll send you along presently, dear,” Anna said, pressing the consoles’ various buttons and levers to get them going. “And with six paths to choose from. That ought to satisfy your curiosity. Eh, girl?” She smiled at Roo who nodded, staring in awe as the woman’s hands flicked unconsciously across the screens, buttons, and levers of the consoles, untangling the universe even as the old woman spoke. “Now, what can you see me doing here, child?”
“I—” Roo gulped down spit. “Uh—You— You’re not even looking. How could you be using two separate consoles if you’re not even looking at the screens?”
“How could I be using both consoles at once if I had to look at the screens?” the woman asked, still swipping and swiping, sending space into flux, and forcing it back down into submission. Not at two points alone, though, creating one path between them, but at twelve points along six separate and nearly intersecting paths. Roo couldn’t imagine the sheer feeling of power emanating through Anna’s body at being able to exert so much control over the universe. “Which screen would I look at?” Anna continued. “No. You see, I could do this with my eyes closed if I had to. In fact, I will.” She closed her eyes and kept swiping and typing.
The transporter rings hummed into action. The noise was loud but Roo welcomed it. It drowned out the rest of the world so she could focus more entirely on the masterpiece being created in front of her eyes, a masterpiece on the scale of the one she had witnessed earlier, and this tapestry was clearly created by a lone bender using two consoles at once—with her eyes closed!
Roo was falling headlong into the four dimensional masterwork when a cold hand grabbed her from behind and jerked her back down into 3D reality.
She flailed her arms and legs and screamed in protest, but there was no response to her fighting. Before she knew it, she was no longer in the basement of the Family Home. Instead she was lying on a cold, hard floor, watching the hole she had been pulled in through disappear behind her. She climbed to her feet and slammed her fists on the elevator doors which took the place of the hole in spacetime.
“Where am I?” she demanded, turning to find a big metal arm with a too human hand waving at her as it rolled back and forth on thick treaded metal tires. “W—What are you?” She backed up to the elevator doors and the door across the hall opened. An old white lady in an old white coat came through, smiling and nodding.
“Very good, Popeye,” she said. “Thank you so much. That’ll be all for now.”
The metal arm waved and went out through the door that the white coated woman had come in through.
“Who are you?” Roo demanded, trying to back closer to the elevator doors she was already pressed flat against. “Where am I?”
The woman chuckled. “Settle down, dear. There’s no need to be alarmed. You’re safe here.”
“Where am I?”
“You’re in my lab, dear. My home. Now, please. Come with me. We have so much to discuss.”
“No.” Roo stood her ground. “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me why I’m here.”
The woman stopped crossing the hall and turned back to Roo with a smile. “And what if I didn’t answer?” she asked. “You could be standing there for quite a while, you know.”
Roo shook her head. She hadn’t thought about that possibility. She turned to the metal, handle-less elevator doors behind her and tried to pry them open with her fingers but it was useless.
“You see,” the woman said with a chuckle behind her. “There’s no point in trying to escape. And you have nothing to worry about, anyway. I’ll tell you everything you want to know, but I’d rather do it in a more comfortable setting. Could you agree to that much at least?”
Roo gave up on trying to open the elevator doors and turned slowly to face the woman. Roo didn’t like the lady’s white hair or coat, or the wrinkles on her face, or anything about her really—especially the whole kidnapping thing—but she didn’t really have a choice in the matter, either, and maybe if they went somewhere else, Roo’d be able to find an escape.
“Well, come on, then,” the woman said, waving for Roo to follow her down the hall. “Let’s have a seat and chat.” She opened the door and Roo went in.
There were no more exits on the other side of the door than there were in the hall. In fact, there were less, only one, the door she had come in from. Other than that there was a big desk and some puffy chairs around side tables that were next to a giant window that looked out onto a huge wilderness scene—probably a video played on a fake window, or something like that, because nothing so beautiful could possibly exist in real life.
“So, what do you think of the place?” the woman in the white coat asked, taking a seat in one of the puffy chairs and indicating for Roo to sit in the chair across from her.
“Pretty cool graphics,” Roo said, nodding at the window as she sat down.
The woman chuckled. “Oh, it’s pretty cool alright, but they’re not graphics. That’s the real world out that window. I assure you of that.”
“No way,” Roo said. “That kind of wilderness doesn’t exist anywhere but stories.”
“It does,” the woman said, pointing out the window. “There it is.” She smiled.
Roo scoffed. “Yeah, right. So I could just walk out there right now and see it for myself? Show me.”
“You would have to take the elevator there,” the woman said, “if you decided that was what you wanted. But we’ll get to that later. Didn’t you have some questions you wanted answered first?”
Roo shook her head. She had more and more questions the more she experienced. At this rate it seemed like none of them would get answered. “Yeah,” she said. “So what?”
“So how about we play a game? Would you like that?”
Roo shrugged. “Depends on the game.”
“This is a game of questions. I ask you a question and you answer it, then you ask me a question and I answer it. Simple as that.”
“Any question?” Roo asked.
“And you have to answer it?”
“As do you.”
Roo nodded, thinking about it. “And why can’t I go first?”
“Well my first question will be simple, an opener. So essentially you will be first after you answer it.” Roo tried to protest but the woman went on speaking anyway. “What’s your name?”
“Uh—” Roo hesitated. “Roo,” she said. “What’s yours?” And she held her hands to her mouth, regretting the wasted question.
“The Scientist,” the woman said. “Nice to meet you, Roo.”
“The Scientist?” Roo scoffed. “What kind of name is that?”
“It’s one I’ve chosen,” the woman said. “And I didn’t have to answer that question because it’s my turn, but I’ll let it slide this once. You should be more careful in the future. Think about what you’re going to say before you open your mouth.”
Roo nodded solemnly.
“Okay.” The Scientist nodded. “Good. Then question two: What were you doing with those women I found you with?”
Roo frowned, shaking her head. “What? Those human family jerks? Nothing. I don’t even know them.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“I—uh—I don’t know. I was helping a friend look for his mother.”
The Scientist eyed Roo suspiciously. “Is that right?”
Roo nodded. “Yes,” she said. “She got addicted to jumping, and she was doing it with that family—or whatever—so we went there to look for her.”
“How did you know she was there?”
“It’s my turn,” Roo said. “I don’t have to answer that.”
The Scientist nodded with a smile. “Go on.”
Roo thought hard about what to say next. She wasn’t going to waste another question on something stupid like she had done with her previous turns. When she was satisfied she had formulated something vague enough to extend her turn as long as possible, she said, “Why me?”
“Why you?” the Scientist repeated.
“That’s what I said. Why me?”
“Why you what?”
“Just why me?”
After a moment’s thought, the Scientist said, “Because you know about the walls.”
“Yes, the walls, the elevators, the other worlds. Because you know about jumping, or whatever you want to call it. That’s why.”
“I—uh…” Roo hesitated, not sure how much it was safe for her to reveal to this woman.
“Am I wrong?”
Roo knew she couldn’t lie, not about this at least. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “But how do you know?”
The Scientist laughed. “I control the walls, dear. I have my eyes everywhere. I know about every little thing that happens on either side of my babies.”
“So why did you bring me here then?”
“Technically it’s my turn,” the Scientist said. “But answering this leads into my next question, so in answer, I’m impressed by the knowledge you’ve gained through self study. Yes, I’ve seen your work, and yes, I’m impressed by it. How couldn’t I be?”
“Ummm.” Roo tried not to blush. She had never been complimented on her bending before. “Thanks… I guess. But I’m still not sure what all this means.”
“It means I want to train you, dear. I think you’ve got what it takes. I want to teach you all the secrets of the fourth dimension.”
Roo scoffed. “You don’t know all the secrets.”
“I know a good deal of them—more than anyone, I’d venture to say. I certainly know more than that Anna who I’m sure you were quite impressed by.”
Roo’s eyes grew wide. “You know about her?”
“Everything on either side of my walls,” the Scientist reminded her, nodding.
“And you know what she can do, then? All alone, operating two consoles at once, six paths with one brain.”
The Scientist chuckled. “Yes. It’s quite impressive with her limited technology. I’ll give you that much. But what if I told you that I could control every single wall in existence, all by myself, using only a single computer?”
Roo scoffed, shaking her head. “Impossible.”
“Not impossible,” the Scientist said. “That’s how the worlds work. That’s what I can teach you. That’s my question for you, dear. Are you willing to learn?”
Roo shook her head. “I don’t believe you.”
“You don’t think any human created the walls? Maybe you think they were always there. Or is just that you think they’re beyond human powers to control?”
Roo shook her head. “No, I didn’t say that.”
“You think it takes more than one person, then?”
“Well, dear, I have the technology, you see. I have everything you would ever need to reshape the universe on the scale that I do, and I’m offering you the opportunity to use it.”
Roo shook her head. She didn’t know anything about this woman. She still didn’t know where she was or why, not to mention how she was supposed to get home, so she didn’t respond at all.
“You have nothing to say, then?” the Scientist asked.
Roo shook her head, lips held in a straight line.
“You do understand what I’m offering, don’t you? With my equipment here you’ll be able to do things you could never imagine. Haven’t you ever dreamed of having this level of technology at your disposal?”
“No,” Roo said. “I bend just fine with what I’ve got. I never even knew this level of technology existed until you just told me about it, so how could I have dreamed of having it?”
“But you do know now,” the Scientist said. “And you can use the technology for yourself if you want to. I’ll even teach you how. Don’t you want that?”
“That would be fine,” Roo said, nodding.
“Then what’s the problem? I don’t understand.”
“Well, ma’am.” Roo paused, trying to formulate her thoughts into something that could be translated into words. Honestly, she didn’t have a particularly logical reason why she distrusted this scientist, but Roo knew that something was off about the conversation that had been going on between them so far. “I can’t accept your offer when I don’t know what it will cost me,” she said. “I don’t— I just don’t like to owe someone like that.”
The Scientist chuckled, shaking her head. “No, dear. It won’t cost you anything. This isn’t a deal. It’s an offer.”
“No, ma’am.” Roo shook her head. She had been taught better than that. “There’s no such thing. It’ll cost me something. You’re just not telling me what that something is yet. That’s why I can’t take the deal, ma’am. I’m sorry.”
The Scientist smiled, standing from her chair. “You’re a clever girl, you know.”
“I ain’t stupid,” Roo said.
“No.” The Scientist shook her head. “You’re not that. And you deserve to know the truth, what this would actually cost you. Though I’ll say now that it’s not me who you’ll be paying, it’s yourself. But come along. You’ll see. I’ll show you.” She extended a hand for Roo to grasp.
Roo looked at it for a second, hesitating. “I’ll pay myself?” she asked, standing but not accepting the Scientist’s assistance.
“You alone will have to deal with the knowledge I’m giving you,” the Scientist said. “You’ll pay in your responsibility to your own conscience, the most miserly fee collector you’ll ever encounter.”
“My conscience?” Roo tried to say, but the Scientist had already left the room. Roo followed her, and the Scientist closed the door behind them.
“Do not speak when I open this door again,” the Scientist said, looking deep into Roo’s eyes. “These people cannot know that we’re watching them. If they see you, even I may not be able to keep them from punishing you.”
Roo nodded. What was this crazy woman talking about?
“And don’t try to step through the door,” the Scientist added. “It’s a long fall from up here, and I’d hate to lose such a promising young prodigy to their glitz and glamour.”
Glitz and glamour? The more she spoke the less sense the Scientist made. Roo shrugged. She didn’t see herself stepping off a cliff any time soon, and she didn’t really need anyone warning her not to.
“Well, then, dear,” the Scientist said, opening the door. “Open your eyes to the worlds.”
Roo looked down into a steep drop off over a mass of the biggest, fattest people she had ever seen, all dressed in the same black and white outfits and wearing too tall hats. They were seated at massive tables, stuffing their faces with mounds of food, and laughing, joking, and drinking as they did it—mouths full or not. Roo almost wanted to barf watching them. Why was this woman showing her these disgusting beasts?
“Disgusting, isn’t it?” the Scientist said, chuckling and shaking her head.
“What does this have to do with me?”
“Look at them down there, oblivious, all enjoying the food that you and your family grew, shipped, and prepared for them.”
“Is this some more of that human family shit?”
“Oh, no no. I mean your nuclear family. Your mom and dad and brothers and sisters.”
“So now you know. Now you have to live your life with the knowledge that they take everything you produce so they can live like this, like the disgusting fat beasts you see down there devouring everything you’ve ever created.”
Roo looked down at them one more time then slammed the door. “So what? What do you want me to do about it?”
“Do you think you could do anything?”
Roo scoffed. “I am the greatest bender any of the worlds have ever seen. I can do whatever I want.”
“Then prove it,” the Scientist said. “Show the worlds that you can master the fourth dimension. Use the technology you so want to use. Use it to shape the universe into the image of what you think it should look like.”
“And if I just want to bend for the sake of bending?”
“Then be my guest. But I’m sure you’ll think of something more creative to do with your time and newfound power than tinkering with wormholes.”
Roo shook her head, chuckling. She still didn’t trust this woman, but she did like the possibilities presented by what she was offering.
# # #
And so Roo has met the Human Family and the Scientist both, and both have offered her a spot at their table. Keep coming back every Saturday to follow the exciting conclusion of the story and see what Roo decides, or pick up the full novel through this link and finish it today if you like. Your choice.
Either way, thanks for following along, dear readers. I really appreciate it. We do nothing alone. Now have a great weekend.