Thanks to everyone who read my last post, the first half of the first chapter of my wip, Killing Kessler. I appreciate everyone's suggestions and encouragment! I didn't realize readers would be so concerned about the mouse. But since many of you asked what happened to him, I decided to post the second half of the chapter. If you haven't read the first half yet, please click here.
"Violent process, isn't it?" Murphy stood up and dusted glass splinters off his jeans. "Kind of makes you wonder what happened to the mouse."
"When you invent a time machine that rides like a Cadillac, you be sure to let us know," Adam snapped. Adam had no sense of humor under the best of circumstances, and having the fate of the entire human race resting on his ability to make the machine work wasn't helping his mood. Deep laugh lines creased Murphy's face as he suppressed a chuckle.
Leila sniffed. "Is it supposed to smell like burnt rubber?"
Murphy's laugh lines deepened as Adam glared at her.
"When will it come back?" Tabitha asked.
Adam glanced at the remote control. "I programmed it to come back at 4:15 this afternoon. That's just over a minute from now."
Tabitha nodded. "And how will we know if it actually went into the past?"
"We won't," Adam said. "All we'll know is if the mouse survived the trip. If he does, I'll test it out myself."
"Not a chance," Murphy said, his tone suddenly serious. "I'll test it out. If you end up getting stuck in the middle of the Ice Age or World War II or whenever and can't get back, then the whole world is screwed."
Surely Murphy knew right away what he'd said, but if not, Leila's gasp made it clear. Murphy looked uncomfortable as he ran calloused fingers through his short brown hair. "We'll get your dad back," he told Leila. "We'll stop the Virus first, and then we'll get him back."
"We can't stop the Virus," Leila said. "But we can get Dad back."
"Leila," Tabitha said, her voice a low warning.
"What?" Leila croaked. "Yes, the machine may work, but that doesn't mean we can reweave the entire fabric of the universe to fit our own agenda. We should be concentrating on getting Dad back. That is something that was not meant to happen, and would not have happened if he hadn't been messing around with this dumb machine in the first place."
Leila's stubborness infuriated Tabitha, but it also frightened her. Though only fourteen years old, Leila had inherited a double dose of intelligence from their scientific genius parents. If she thought their attempts to alter the past were futile, then maybe they were.
"We should concentrate on getting Dad back," Leila repeated, a quaver in her voice this time. Tabitha felt a pang of sympathy. Leila had been only four years old when the Virus struck and their mother disappeared. Their father was the only parent she'd ever really known, and she'd been most affected by his disappearance two years ago.
The floor began to shake again.
"Here it comes," Adam said.
The hatch slid open, unleashing the same earsplitting racket and whirlwind of cold air as before. Again, Tabitha fell to her knees. Sharp pain pierced her hand as a glass shard cut into her palm, but she barely noticed. Finally the machine thrust through the hole in the floor, hovered in the air just long enough for the hatch to slide closed, and then landed with a loud clunk. The room went still.
"I can't believe it came back," Tabitha whispered.
"Your confidence in me is overwhelming," Adam muttered.
The lights blipped: yellow, blue, red, yellow, blue, red. Then they went dark.
"Well?" Murphy said after a few seconds. "Are we going to be cleaning mouse puree out of there or not?"
A vein pulsed in Adam's forehead as he stared at the machine. "What if he's dead?"
"We'll never know unless we open the door," Murphy said.
Adam took a deep breath and held it as he pushed the black button at the top of the remote. The machine opened. The mouse ran out, scurried to its cage, and found the hunk of cheese Adam had left out.
Murphy hooted a triumphant laugh. "Well, how about that? Looks like it worked."
Like I said before, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Please be honest!
Also, I'm going to be unplugged next week. I'll miss you guys, but it's time for a break. Happy spring, all!