...”And the panel's decision for the first Crosser from our universe to the parallel universe is...”
I could sense Lisa Southerly alongside me also holding her breath in anticipation. Five year's of training, research and experiments, plus testing dozens of highly qualified applicants from within the premier space exploration organisation came down to this moment – who would it be? Lisa was more experienced in space exploration than me, but her personality was more abrasive and unfriendly. More than one team member had made informal complaints about her. In any case, travelling to a parallel universe was more about first contact than about exploring space. Who would we meet? How friendly would they be? I glanced at Lisa, feeling that familiar rush of blood to my face at the sight of her, which even after repeated rejections, I couldn't resist.
She noticed my glance and glared at me angrily and I tried to focus on the lead panelist and control my feelings for Lisa, in anticipation of the pending announcement.
The rest of the afternoon passed in a blur of media interviews, handshakes, congratulations and celebratory backslaps, before I finally got back to my office just before home-time. Lisa was noisily packing up in her neighbouring office and looked up as I returned.
“So, who did you sleep with to get the nomination? I could see the way that the female panellists were making eyes at you.”
I shook my head and ignored the tone of her voice.”A simple congratulations would suffice. We still need to work together to prepare for first contact tomorrow, and afterwards. You're still expected to be the second Crosser.” I held out my hand, but she ignored it and turned away mumbling under her breath.
“Nobody remembers the second person to do anything. Edmund Hillary was the first person to ascend Mount Everest and return. Who was the second?”
I looked blankly and she continued.
“Yuri Gagarin was the first person in space, who was the second? Neil Armstrong was the first person to step onto the moon, who cares about the second? Nobody.” She answered her own question. I couldn't think of anything to say. She was right about how it would be remembered by history. I tried to console her again.
“Well, I value your support and you've pushed me all the way through training to try harder. I couldn't have achieved this without your competition.”
Her eyes looked even darker than usual. “I don't want your fake sympathy, thank you! I intend to complete this mission and I'll do my job, but don't expect any congratulations from me.” She grabbed her bag and stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind her, nearly trapping Geoff's hand as he entered as she was leaving.
He smiled at me. We had been good friends for many years.” I see Lisa's not happy about you being chosen ahead of her.” He was laughing as he spoke. We had often discussed our colleague during our free time away from the office. He came over to shake my hand.
“Congrats, hero!” He was smiling broadly now. “Can I have your autograph on our graduation photo. It'll be worth millions for our grandchildren!”
I laughed and picked up my briefcase. “Let's go. I'll buy you a coffee, if you agree to stop teasing me.”
Sleep was difficult that night, wondering about the trip into the unknown. Would I meet myself and how would we react? What about the risk of cross-contamination, or the disruption to the space-time continuum? Some experts predicted that the parallel universe would be made of anti-matter, and hence any contact between matter and anti-matter would destroy one or both universes. There had been some protests outside the labs by groups opposed to any exploration of the parallel universe, but most of the public seemed fascinated by the developments.
Those thoughts were mixed with romantic images of Lisa being disrupted by her shouting and screaming at me. Followed by conversations with Geoff reminding me to forget about her, to find someone better. Telling me to stop torturing myself by waiting for Lisa and to let him introduce me to one of his many ex-girlfriends, followed by my explaining that 'quality is more important than quantity', and I was waiting for one special lady for a long-term relationship, not a series of short-term flings like Geoff. There were plenty of nicer women. I had been single for far too long and in order to realise my dream of a family I needed to find someone else – someone who was a more supportive woman, but my mind kept drifting back to Lisa.
I arrived at the lab early the next morning. Geoff was already at the console with a cup of capuccino heavily coated in my favourite chocolate dust, and hot croissants.
“Heh, hero, your obedient slave has prepared your favourite breakfast!”
I couldn't help but smile. His exuberance was infectious, overcoming the empty feeling in my stomach. The tension in the lab was palpable, and Geoff was a key member of the team, helping to ease the atmosphere.
I sat on the preparation bench and took a bite of the croissant, while the other team members began attaching various probes, sensors and other health monitoring equipment to my body.
“You know, this trip could be dangerous. Then you'll be glad you only helped with the preparation!”
“Maybe, but if you meet the parallel version of me, I bet he won't be so helpful!”
“T-minus 30 minutes.” The computerised voice interrupted our conversations, followed by Hadleigh Summerly, the mission controller, striding purposefully across the open-plan area towards me with his hand outstretched. I stood up shakily, as I had numerous devices hanging off me, and the lab technicians were putting the final touches and checks to the equipment.
“Roscoe! Let me wish you the best of luck!” We shook hands firmly.
“Thank you, Sir. I will do my best. We've been planning this long enough to be as prepared as we can be for whatever I might encounter.”
He nodded, and stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Yes, but you are crossing a new frontier in scientific exploration – where no man has gone before etc. You need to be prepared for the unexpected.
“As do you – the LLRoscoe may also be dangerous. You need to take precautions, as well.”
“He could be nicer than you, too!” Geoff joined in, to deflate my expectations.”He might like hanging out in bars and nightclubs and be more fun than you – have one night stands and get drunk occasionally, perhaps!”
I laughed at Geoff's preferred weekend routine.”I'll be sure to ask his colleagues, and maybe I'll stay in their world so you can enjoy the LLRoscoe instead, if he sounds more fun than me!”
“Joking aside,”Hadleigh became serious,”Remember the limited time. You've got an alarm set for 2h50. You must be back in 3 hours. Any longer becomes unpredictable. The calculations show that this close encounter between our universes only happens once every seven years, and after the window closes, we may not be able to boost the confinement beam sufficiently to re-establish the link after the three hours and 7 minutes is up. While the increase in power after that period is still within our capabilities, it will exceed our maximum generation at 3h 21, and you would be stuck there for 7 years 3 months and a few days, so don't get stuck in an elevator!” The last point was accompanied by his infectious grin. Hadleigh didn't make jokes often, and it betrayed his nervousness. If anything went wrong, his neck was on the line not mine, as he was the mission controller – the buck stopped with him.
I nodded. “Yes, Sir. I won't hang around for the capuccino if there's a long queue. I'll be sure to return for another of Geoff's specials before tea-break this afternoon.” I winked at Geoff, and he smiled back.
“T-minus five minutes.” I stepped into my Hazmat suit and zipped it up to my neck.
Hadleigh shook my hand again. “Back to the controls. See you in three hours.”
The technicians moved away back to their controls, to check the remote links were established, although it wasn't expected that there would be anyway to communicate with the LLuniverse, but in any case the data would be stored locally until I returned.
I took a deep breath and walked slowly towards the link chamber. Geoff followed me, somewhat more serious now that Crossover was approaching. Reaching the chamber door, I stopped and turned round.
“Here, take this – for good luck!” Geoff handed me a rabbit's foot. “It's got a location beacon and emergency transmitter built in.”
“Thanks.” I shook his hand and accepted the gift, and placed it carefully in my pocket. “I'll be back for my capuccino at tea break this afternoon.”
“Don't worry, I have one prepared for LLRoscoe – he may need one as soon as he arrives in a few minutes.” Geoff tried to smile, but his concern was clearly etched on his face. I shook his hand again and opened the door to the Crossover chamber, stepped inside and closed the door.
“10-9-8” the final countdown started and I could hear the sounds of generators whirring, lights flashing and a white mist-like gas filling the chamber. I glanced across at the row of technicians monitoring my vital signs, and the last image was of Lisa's look of jealousy, anger and bitterness as the mist clouded my view and I felt the shaking and vibrating of the chamber wall and held on as a dizzy feeling and headache started building. I tried to move forward towards the other door, but my legs felt like jelly, trapped in treacle and my movements felt like they were controlled by someone else not by my mind. The chamber was only three metres long, but it seemed to take an absolute age for my disoriented joints to cover the short distance, holding on tightly to the guide-rails and fumbling through the mist that completely filled the chamber now. I had a vague sense that there was someone else in the chamber with me, but my mind couldn't focus as I struggled to the far end.
I finally reached the other door and the smoke began to clear, as did my head and the headache receded. Before I could reach for the door-release, it opened suddenly and I almost fell through the opening and two people in full Hazmat suits grabbed me and held me upright. The smoke cleared and I could see a room very similar to the one I had just left – rows of technicians sitting behind controls, except everyone was in full hazmat suits, and there was a thick transparent barrier between us. Only the two technicians – one on either side of me – were on my side of the barrier, and they led me carefully into a de-contamination area, where we were all subjected to a high pressure liquid spray, washing us from top to bottom. After a few minutes, we emerged and the technicians picked up some kind of hand-held detector and closely checked all over my body, hesitating by my pocket and indicating for me to remove whatever was in there – I produced Geoff's lucky rabbit foot and they carefully took it from me and opened a nearby solid-looking black box and dropped it in and closed the lid.
“He's clear of explosives, weapons or any dangerous devices, only monitoring sensors.” An electronic voice was clearly audible over the speakers.
“No detectable viruses or other unknown organisms.” Another electronic voice – presumably the other technician – could be heard.
“Bring him to the ante-room, we'll welcome him there.” The voice did not sound as friendly as the words, but I dismissed the thought and followed the two technicians to a door to one side of the barrier. One of the technicians typed a code number onto the keypad and the door silently slid open and I followed them in. The door closed behind them and they then unzipped their Hazmat suits and I copied their actions, stepped out of the suit and followed them in hanging them up. They then turned and pointed guns at me. “Geoff! Lisa!” I recognised the familiar-but-not-quite faces and held out my hand to welcome them.
Geoff looked at my outstretched hand as if it was contaminated dog faeces – a look that I had never seen on his face before, and I had known him for more than ten years.
I turned to Lisa, and was surprised by her look as after hesitating for a short while, she took my hand and shook it warmly and she smiled at me – something that the Lisa from my universe hadn't done since our very first meeting some years earlier.
“Welcome to our universe, Hadstock! How was the trip?” I had to rapidly adjust to the new personalities of my old friends and acquaintances – I had been prepared for the possibility that they could have significanty different characteristics in the LLuniverse, but it was still taking time for me to adjust my expectations after working with them closely for so many years.
“A little dizziness, disorientation and the feeling of losing control of my limbs – like walking through treacle under somebody else's control.”
Lisa nodded. “Consistent with our best guesses. We'll download your medical data and crosscheck your vital signs – assuming your similar to our Hadstock – and then Mr Summerly – our Mission Controller – would like to interview you, are you ready, or would you like some time to recover, or a capuccino, perhaps, with heavy chocolate dusting?”
I had to smile at the thought that in this universe it was Lisa, and not Geoff, who knew my favourite beverage.
“A capuccino with heavy chocolate dusting would be ideal – I can see that your Roscoe and I have similar tastes!” I smiled at Lisa, and was pleasantly surprised by the extended eye-contact and the warmth in her eyes, and the fact that she was still holding onto my hand.She indicated the cup on the table and and I sipped on my favourite drink.
“Enough!” Geoff shattered the friendly atmosphere, and I let go of Lisa's hand as if it had suddenly become red-hot. “Remember your training, Southerly, he could still be extremely dangerous even though we haven't found any explosive devices. We cannot trust him, yet. Handcuff him.”
Lisa put her gun back in her belt holster and withdrew a pair of handcuffs. I held out my hands and she cuffed me.
“Sit down, Hadstock.” Geoff's stentorian and unfriendly tone jarred on my warm memories of our numerous cheerful conversations, and I reluctantly obeyed. Geoff moved behind me and pulled my cuffed hands behind the chair and to a hidden fixing point. He kneeled down and fixed some kind of leg-irons aorund my ankles, to hold me in place.
I had to say something, this was more serious than I had expected. “Why the precautions? I come in peace.”
“Yeah, right!” Geoff was sneering in his cynicism. “We've heard that before. You expect us to believe that you're simply an explorer pushing back the frontiers of science?”
“Well...” I swallowed, “It's true!”
“Nonsense! You could be hiding an explosive device, or maybe it's even you as some kind of biocontamination, or even biobomb.”
I shook my head in disbelief.”I've no idea what you're talking about! You've scanned me yourself – you can see I've not got anything to hide.”
“You had that rabbit's foot with some kind of tracking device and communication link inside – highly suspicious.”
“It was part of our experiments to determine whether we could communicate across the parallel universe boundaries – I doubted it would even work. Geoff – the Geoff in my universe – believed we could bounce a signal off the chamber doorway, through a repeater-amplifier, and that there might be a range of frequencies that could cross the universe-boundaries.”
“He's correct – it can be done. That's how we communicate with our Hadstock in your universe.”
His words made me curious. “So, our universe is not the first time you've encountered parallel universes?” Geoff didn't answer, but his glance at Lisa told me more than words.
“So, how many other universes have you crossed over into? What happened? What did you discover?” My curiosity made me forget the strange circumstances and my restraints for a moment.
They didn't intend to answer, it was clear, and the silence was deafening – broken by the lock shifting and the door opened – Hadleigh stepped in, accompanied by two heavily armed officers pointing their weapons at me. Lisa and Geoff immediately stood up and saluted.
“At ease.” Hadleigh was the consummate general – in full military uniform – not the formal suit I was used to. “Sit down.” Lisa and Geoff resumed their seats and Hadleigh sat at the opposite end of the table from me.
Hadleigh looked at me, clearly appraising the possible risks. “You appear to have crossed over without any health consequences. You must have some questions before I tell you what's going to happen to you.” His words and the half-smile had a definitely dubious implication.
“Yes, of course. Like, why am I being restrained like a prisoner? I am a scientist and explorer, not some kind of invader or robot-explosive. Your scans and investigations must have confirmed this?”
Hadleigh nodded. ”It doesn't matter that we haven't discovered anything, yet. We don't believe your story. The restraints are a precaution.” The pause before the word 'yet' was deeply disturbing and sinister.
“So, how many other universes have you crossed over to?”
“Yours is the seventh.”
I was fascinated by the possibilities. “Are you still in touch with them? What happened? What did you discover? How many re-crossings? What did you do with them?” My questions poured out and I leaned forward, pulling against the restraints as if I could get nearer to the answers by doing so.
“We are a public-private partnership – controlled by the government - but exploiting other universes for financial rewards....”
“What do you mean - 'exploiting other universes'?” I didn't like the tone of his voice, or the direction this conversation was heading. A shiver ran up my spine.
He half-smiled – the same sinister half-smile I noticed before. “We convert the matter in the parallel universes into energy, which we use to power our universe – free, unlimited and easily controllable.”
I was shocked by the implication. “You mean, you destroy other universes for profit?That's despicable – barbaric!” I ran out of words in disbelief.
The half-smile reappeared. “Such a small word – profit. We are simply the more successful businesses exploiting the less successful ones – simply market forces.”
“So, you're planning to repeat this approach with my universe?” The implication was too extreme for me to comprehend.
Hadleigh nodded. “Of course. Your little universe is just above the minimum level of energy supply for conversion – we've given it the nickname of the 'Puniverse'” He laughed at his own joke, and Geoff joined in heartily, but Lisa just looked away. “As we speak, our Hadstock is planting several matter-energy converters inside your laboratory, around the space-time continuum crossover control system. Shortly after he returns, we shall remotely detonate them and....” he moved his hands in a mushroom cloud shape...”Boom – and your universe becomes our next five years energy source. Simply the 'big-bang' in reverse.” The look of satisfaction on his face, deeply troubled me.
My instinct was sending me negative signals. “So, why are you telling me this?”
Hadleigh made eye contact and leaned forwards. “Because, my dear Hadstock, you are not returning to your universe.”
“But what will happen if two of me are in the same universe? Our calculations show that cannot happen – we have to simultaneously crossover, otherwise...” I couldn't finish the sentence, but Hadleigh finished it for me.
“...one of them immediately ceases to exist. Yes – the LL version...” he pointed at me. “You. As soon as our Hadstock returns, you instantly disappear. Simple laws of physics, isn't it? No messy murdering or body to dispose of or anything.” He stood up, as did Lisa and Geoff. “Enough! You will remain here until Crossover.” He glanced at his watch. “38 minutes, to be exact. Would you like another capuccino?” He turned and left, followed by the two guards.
I just sat there in stunned silence, staring at the closed door in complete and utter bafflement and disbelief at what I'd just heard. The idea of the complete absorption, conversion and use of my 'puniverse' into the LLuniverse's energy supply system was too sudden and too huge for me to comprehend. “Yes, please can I have another capuccino.” The words were said on automatic, as if my brain could not function on the macro level, only able to make microdecisions, such as ordering a cup of coffee.
Geoff stood up, almost becoming the Geoff I knew. “Okay, I'll be right back.” He left and locked the door behind him, leaving Lisa and I alone together. I turned to look at her, but before I could say anything, she was on her knees next to me, undoing my leg-irons.
I watched her shiny long hair swaying from side to side, her lips were moist from licking them and her face had a shine from the perspiration, just inches away. I couldn't resist any longer. Three years of obsession and rejection and frustration was too much for me and I leaned forwards to kiss her as she leaned over me to undo my cuffs.
She hesitated and leaned into the kiss for a moment, and as my hands came free I went to wrap my arms around her, but she snapped back to reality and gently pushed me away. “No time for that now – we have to save your universe.”
“Saving the universe can wait, just kiss me again.” I leaned forwards, but she stood up and grabbed my hands, pulling me to my feet. I wanted to hug her, but she shook her head.
“We've only got a few minutes before Geoff returns. The capuccino will be poisoned – some kind of sleeping drug – the first one also, but you didn't drink enough.” I wondered why I felt a little dizzy and not reacting seriously to the dangerous nature of the situation.
“Quick, put on the Hazmat suit – then nobody will recognise you.” I slowly followed her lead, realising the logic of her approach. I had barely zipped up the last zip when the door opened and Geoff re-entered and the door locked behind him. Geoff looked at us hesitated, and put the capuccino on the table. He looked up to see that Lisa was pointing her gun at him and he froze in surprise. “Lisa, no!” and she shot him, 2-3 times – a silent laser burst erupted from the nozzle and he fell backwards against the wall and slid down onto the floor.
Lisa looked at my shocked face, and smiled. “Don't worry, he's only stunned. He'll be unconscious for about an hour – long enough for us to escape.”
“But why are you helping me? You've been part of the system here for many years, surely you support what they are doing?”
Lisa shook her head. “It's a job, but no – I don't agree with the morality of what they're doing, but I decided to stay – as even if I quit, somebody else would simply replace me and maybe strongly support what they are doing. I just kept my mouth shut and got on with the job, waiting for a chance to stop them – your arrival is exactly the opportunity I've been waiting for.”
“So, how can I disable the matter-energy converters before they destroy my universe? Or can you prevent them from being activated from here?”
“No, too many people here. I wouldn't get very far. I need to Crossover with you and locate and deactivate them myself.”
I looked shocked at the idea. “But you'd immediately disappear, because you'd be the foreign Lisa.”
“Unless your Lisa simultaneously crossed over. Tell me about your Lisa – is it likely? Our Hadstock is the supreme womaniser – he's slept with most of the women on the team, including the three on the selection panel – that's how he was chosen ahead of me for the Crossover.”
A thought crossed my mind. “Including you?”
She looked down at her feet and nodded. “Yes, just once. He's the master of one-night stands, but I didn't know that. It was love at first sight when I arrived, and I wanted a long term relationship, family etc, but I didn't want to believe his reputation. I thought I could change him.” She drifted off, looking wistful. I became momentarily envious of the other Roscoe.
“Well, the Lisa in my universe turned me down many times. She's dedicated to the task, cold-hearted, short-tempered and bitter to have lost out to me in the selection for first Crossover. Yes, I think she would be intrigued by your Roscoe. Her personality is incompatible with our team – you'd like our Geoff – he's my best friend, funny, a little wild, but totally loyal and makes a great capuccino. Yes – I think this could work. Could you communicate with your Roscoe to confirm the double-switch?”
“Dangerous – it might tip him off to the double-cross – I think he would be willing to take the risk – he doesn't have anything to lose, as your Lisa would simply disappear immediately if I didn't simultaneously Crossover. He wouldn't explain the genuine consequences to her, he'd lie about it to persuade her.”
“If I could rescue my rabbit foot, then I could send a coded message to my Geoff to encourage Lisa to Crossover – we'd all be glad to get rid of her!” I smiled at the thought.
Lisa was considering my suggestion. “Yes, that could work. But your communication device is primitive – it looked only capable of binary messages.” She shook her head at the idea.
I smiled.”Primitive, yes. We are not as experienced as you at Crossover. Yet. But it works by morse code. I could send a simple message, if you can retrieve it.”
“We won't have much time, between recovering the rabbit foot, sending the message and Crossover.”
“I'll only need a minute. Geoff will understand the urgency. Presumably, they are having the same kind of discussion over there as we are.”
“What about the matter-energy converters. How long before they are activated?”
“We'll have around five minutes, based on our pre-mission discussions. There are three devices located at specific locations around your lab. I have the map. But we wouldn't have time to locate and deactivate them. It would take too long.” Lisa scratched her head in frustration.
“What about the Crossover corridor repeater-amplifier device? Geoff said something about using it to communicate with your Roscoe. Is that how you'll send the remote command to activate?”
”Yes. Yes, if we destroy that before leaving the Crossover chamber, then the activation signal won't reach the devices. We should have enough time to deactivate the devices before they realise what has happened and they replace the amplifier.”
I had another idea. “Could we somehow reverse the effect and destroy this universe instead – to stop them simply repeating the absorption with another universe elsewhere?”
Lisa looked sad, and wistful. Then she shook her head. “No, I can't help with that. While I don't approve of what they're doing, I couldn't take revenge on them in that manner, even if it was possible, no. Two wrongs don't make a right. I've got too many friends and memories here. I'm sorry, I won't go that far.”
I thought for a moment, then had another idea.
“Why don't I go back early. Then your Roscoe would suddenly disappear. I could then encourage our Lisa to Crossover at the agreed time.”
Lisa shook her head. “You don't know how Lisa would think. She'll only Crossover to be with Roscoe, not simply to escape your world. In any case, I don't want to kill our Roscoe, just to get away from him. No, we need to simultaneously crossover together for this to work.
My alarm sounded, and I cancelled it quickly. “Ten minutes to go.”
“Okay. Let's go.” Lisa bent over Geoff's body and removed his ID card and clipped it on my shoulder. “This will activate the doors for you. By the time they realise you're not Geoff, we will be in the beam.”
“But Hadleigh said I was to stay here and surely they aren't expecting anyone to Crossover. Why would they allow the two of us to go?”
Lisa stopped for a moment. “Good point. I hadn't thought of that.”
“Could you access the mission logs and submit new commands to the team, purporting to be Hadleigh? By the time he realised what was happening it would be too late.”
Lisa sat at the console and began accessing the system. “I would need Hadleigh's access code to do that, and I don't know it. “
I smiled. “I do – assuming he used the same codes as my Hadleigh – his son's name, Devereux.”
Lisa looked up at me surprised for a moment, then turned back to the keyboard and continued typing. “Your code worked, I'm in!” She quickly retyped the new mission logs, indicating two people would Crossover shortly, and received team acknowledgements.
“Okay, done. Now to get your rabbit's foot.” She stood up and walked to the door and paused while her ID code was scanned and the door slid open. We both stepped through and the guards saluted. We saluted back and I followed her through the main doors into the Lab area. She went to the storebox where my rabbit's foot had been placed, typed the passcode, opened the lid and reached inside to retrieve the comms device and handed it to me. I turned with my back to the transparent barrier and quickly typed a morsecode message to indicate two people for Crossover and to encourage Geoff to allow Lisa to Crossover as the second person. Lisa turned her back as well and carefully picked up a hammer lying on the workbench and folded her arms to obscure its view.
“T-minus one minute” - the electronic voice prompted Lisa to pull me towards the Crossover chamber and opened the door. We entered and it silently closed behind us.
“10, 9, 8...” smoke started filling the chamber and the feeling of being outside my body and losing control took over as we slowly inched along the chamber towards the other door. Around half-way, I was aware of Lisa moving in slow-motion, raising her arm and hitting a grey flashing box with the hammer, trying to destroy it, but she was not strong enough. Any moment now and the door to my universe would open and it would be too late. I shook my head, to try and focus and grabbed the hammer from Lisa and used all my strength to fight the disembodied feeling and smash the amplifier, finally succeeding on the third hit, and grabbed the wreckage and pulled it off as the door to my universe slid open and we fell out onto the floor.
I was relieved to see that Lisa was lying alongside me and slowly trying to pull herself up and hadn't disappeared. Geoff and Hadleigh joined us to help us to our feet and to unzip our face vizors and helmets and the first thing I saw was Geoff's smiling face. “Welcome home, hero!” and he held out his hand, which I gratefully took with both of mine and shook strongly.
“It's good to see you, too, Geoff, my old friend.”
“So, the other Geoff wasn't as friendly as me, then, old friend?”
Lisa removed her helmet and shook her head, swinging her long hair loosely around her face. “No. definitely not. I had to shoot him!” Geoff looked surprised.
“Sounds like your trip report is going to make interesting reading.” Hadleigh added.
“No time for that. We've got less than five minutes to find and deactivate three explosive devices that LLRoscoe planted around the lab.” Lisa reached into her pocket and produced a map.
Hadleigh and Geoff exchanged glances and nodded at one another.
“LLRoscoe explained they were an improved design of controller for our systems, based on their greater experience. He said it was a gift from the LLuniverse for us, but we were suspicious, so immediately isolated and disconnected them after he left. Looks like we were right.”
Hadleigh turned to Lisa and held out his hand. “Welcome to our friendly team, I hope you will enjoy working with us.” Lisa shook hands warmly and tears were running down her face. I put my arm round her to comfort her and squeezed.
“Now we've saved the universe, can I have another kiss?”