lizamanynames asked for:
Something rolled beneath Charlie’s sneaker, and he stumbled back to keep his balance, fumbling the armful of books and files he’d been rushing across the campus. What on earth . . . ? Something glimmered silver and blue in the dusk; it looked like a student had dropped a fancy pen.
Charlie crouched, set down his stack of books, and reached for the object, intending to stick it in his shirt pocket to drop off at the campus Lost and Found.
The end was glowing faintly, and when he touched it, trying to figure out what was making the glow, pain shot through the end of his finger. Charlie gingerly picked up the object by its un-glowing end. It definitely wasn’t a pen; the barrel’s radius was too wide to be easy to hold, and aside from the faint light at one end, there seemed to be no tip to write with. There were, however, protrusions and recesses that could be buttons or switches--a lot of them.
Charlie resisted the urge to glance around. Technology this high-level (whatever it might be meant to do) screamed “government funding,” and he remembered all too well the last time he’d been dragged into investigating US intelligence gone wrong. He’d take this to Don, and hopefully that would be enough.
He was rooting in a pocket for a handkerchief, on the theory that he should probably wrap the object up to prevent it from shocking him before tucking it into his jacket pocket, when nimble fingers plucked the device from his hand.
“There you are!”
Charlie stared at the man who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. He was tall, with a shock of dark hair and square spectacles settled on the bridge of a pointed nose. He angled the blue end of the pen-thing at a square brass object in his other hand. Narrow fingers moved surely, touching and spinning. The light flickered, changed, and the top of the brass object popped open. The man grinned and tucked the pen-thing and his spectacles into the breast pocket of his pin-striped jacket. Then he turned to go and and spotted Charlie. “Well now,” he said cheerfully (and in a strong British accent). “You weren’t supposed to see that.”
Some kind of alarm must have shown on Charlie’s face, because the man winked. “Aww, well, I won’t tell if you won’t.”
“Wait--“ Charlie started to say, but the man was loping down the sidewalk, and he’d have to drop his books to have a hope of catching up. “Hey, wait! What was that? Who are you? Wait!”
The man didn't even pause, and by the time Charlie rounded the building, he was no where to be seen.
Don turned into the hallway that would lead him to Larry’s office, and then stopped short.
Right in the center of the hallway sat a tall blue box. A phone booth, Don might have guessed, except that it had the words “Police Box” stenciled across the top of the doors. Forgetting his errand for a moment, Don circled the object, inspecting it from all sides. Battered, blue-painted wood, little opaque windows, and a tarnished brass handle. A little metal box hung on one side. Don swung open the lid, and pulled out an old-fashioned telephone. There was no dial tone, of course.
The door to the office behind him swung open. “Don! Oh, my, I was not expecting--oh, it *is* four o’clock--but--“ Larry sounded flustered, but that wasn’t exactly unusual.
Don grinned over his shoulder before turning back to the box. “This is a step up from the usual undergrad pranking.” The wood and paint were weathered and chipped; this had stood out in the elements for a while. "How did they get it in here? Heck, how did they get it apart without destroying it?" He reached for the door handle, hoping to get a look inside.
"Don!" Larry grabbed for Don's sleeve, an unusual amount of physical contact for the physicist. "Um...what was it you wanted to speak with me about, again?"
A wheezing, groaning noise filled the hallway. Larry gave a huge, resigned sigh and rubbed a hand across his face.
Don turned to the blue box again. It wavered, fading in and out in time with the noise, growing steadily fainter, until quite suddenly it simply wasn't there, and the noise faded away. Don reached out his hand and swung it through the space where the box had been standing. "Larry?"
The physicist wrapped both arms around himself. "Would you believe me if I told you that we've been experimenting with teleportation?" He stared at Don, as if willing him to accept this clear fabrication.
On the other hand, did he really want to know? If Larry didn't want to tell him, maybe there were good reasons not to. "Sure. I could probably believe that. The experiment's working out, huh?"
Larry nodded, a single jerk of the head. "We're--working on it. Now, Charles sent you here for the final equations on the Sykes case, didn't he?"
"Yeah." Don followed Larry into his office. When he cast one last look over his shoulder, the hallway was still empty.