Chapter 3, Part 1

A boy sat alone in a small, unlit room. He was seated at a cluttered desk, which was curiously filled with paper and other obsolete forms of data storage systems. When one considered that this room belonged to a house on a university campus – one of the few institutions that still made regular use of analog devices such as printed books – it was perhaps less surprising. However, even these arcane places of education did not go so far as to use processed plant material.

To further mystify an already peculiar situation, the boy, who was no more than a teenager, seemed to be studying the materials across from him intently, despite the lighting in the room being by far insufficient for such an endeavor. His young eyes were narrowed like a hawk, casting an illusion of maturity over his pale face.

“Ah…” Joshua sighed. “I can’t make sense of it. How did you tackle such a concept, professor?” He spoke into the empty room. When no one responded, he sighed again, more wistfully.

“It just doesn’t make sense. How can so many arbitrary conventions be packaged into a century of science? And what sort of nonsense naming is ‘Higgs’? This isn’t fair, professor!”

Years of living alone had left Joshua with the habit of talking to himself, or to his lost father figure. Sighing for a third time, he smushed his cheek against a bony fist and regarded an open book with a funny look on his face resembling that of a married man glowering at his wife’s provocations.

“Would you scold me, professor, if I were to hack into the Central Government information vault. This stuff just doesn’t fit. There’s no context to it.”

The teen’s continuing conversation really reflected his inner loneliness, especially when he began to imagine the sort of responses the professor would give.

“Oh come on! You know I could. Besides, don’t you want to prove your little pet theory? That our science and technology is founded upon the knowledge of those ‘lost’ civilizations? At least, more than you were taught.”

The sighs were interspersed at almost regular intervals, punctuating the boy’s unusually heavy breathing like, well, punctuation in text. Something which was sorely lacking in the scattered notes of the old resident of this home. The professor, bless his soul, combined two completely incompatible idiosyncrasies: preferring handwritten records and being too lazy to make them look presentable.

Josh’s head suddenly erected itself off of his hand. It then tilted, as if listening to something odd.

“What’s this?” he muttered to himself. “Only two weeks this time, and they’re back for more?”

He stood up, and instantly the lights in the room turned on. The fact that they had been off went to show just how long he had remained mostly stationary in his chair. As he left the room and made his way to the front door, he continued his soliloquy.

“Ah, professor. Why did you have to leave me alone like this?”

A pause.

“These two are new. And what’s with that one’s annoying buzzing? Hmph.” Josh pouted, looking fully his age.

After a few moments, Josh sensed the two new arrivals had stopped in front of his door. There was a moment of hesitation, which he assumed was due to them being confused as to how this home had no electronic system of informing the inhabitant of a visitor. Of course, he could find this out for certain if he just reached out a little, but not knowing things kept life interesting for the teen.

The moment of hesitation was shattered by three crisp knocks. With a lazy and ultimately unnecessary flick of his hand, Josh convinced the old-fashioned door mechanism to turn on its own volition and the door to swing open. He was greeted by two figures in odd clothing, one an acutely curved female and the other a dark-skinned colossus.

“…can I help you?” the boy deadpanned.

The young woman’s eyes flickered from his face to the door as she squinted at it, trying to determine the mechanism that caused it to open automatically. Josh chuckled to himself. Finally, the agent turned to her partner.

“James?”

The imposing man cleared his throat, muscles stretching his clothes tight over his arms as he brought a closed fist up to politely cover his mouth to lightly cough.

“Agents of the Peripheral Branch of Public Safety, safety officer James Washington and investigator Faye Waller, at your service. We are here to investigate the possibility that you have, perhaps unintentionally, become an inherent danger to yourself and those around you. If so, we have the means to…”

“Wait a second mister,” Josh cut him off. “You’re not going to make me listen to all of this while standing here with my door open are you? It’s a cold day.”

James and Faye shared a bemused glance.

“Well, don’t just stand there! If you’re gonna stay, come in. And close the door!”

 

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