Milo casually sauntered into the library as soon as school ended on Monday. Amanda was sitting at a table in the middle of the room, surrounded by a gaggle of other kids. She looked to Milo a bit like a general briefing her troops. “Bradley, I need you to organize the ballots.”
Bradley nodded. “Sure, Amanda.”
“Mort, you did a good job running the show last year,” said Amanda, “I’d like you to do that again.”
Mort nodded. “OK,” he said.
The gaggle of kids turned at the sound of approaching footsteps. “Hey guys,” said Milo with a wave.
“Oh, hi Milo,” said Amanda. She waved to an empty seat directly across from her. “Have a seat.”
“Thanks, Amanda,” said Milo. He slipped off his backpack, pulled out his chair and sat down. Milo tucked his backpack under his knees.
Bradley shot Milo a scathing looking. “What is Milo doing here?” he asked skeptically.
“Bradley, I asked him to be here,” replied Amanda, slightly annoyed.
“But the WIBAs are next month,” protested Bradley, “and Milo will ruin everything, as usual. Last year, Milo couldn’t even make on stage to accept his award,” Bradley exclaimed.
“I remember,” growled Amanda. “What’s your point?” The previous winter, Milo had been nominated for a WIBA for Greatest Perseverance. Murphy’s Law had struck as he has been about to enter the auditorium along with the rest of the nominees, however, and Milo had been accidentally locked out of the building as a result. He had been forced to climb in through a window and had been completely unable to escape from the basement until after the award show had finished.
“So, ummmm, Amanda,” asked Milo, “what exactly did you want me to do?”
Amanda looked down at list of tasks in front of her. “Milo, I am going to put you I charge of counting all the ballots, tabulating the votes and drawing up the winners list.”
Bradley looked as if he were going to have a fit, “but that’s a really, really important job and you want Milo to-,”
Amanda nodded emphatically. “Yes, I do Bradley,” she said. “Despite what you might think, Milo is usually really, really organized and he works really hard. It’ll be fine.”
Bradley continued to look deeply skeptical. “Well, alright,” he said, “but I’m going definitely to say I told you so, when he screws everything up as usual.”
The following Saturday, Milo stood in his driveway early in the morning with his backpack slung over his shoulders. As usual, he was dressed against the early morning chill In his heavy winter coat, boots, spikes, winter hat and thick gloves. The predawn darkness was broken by the sound of Cavendish and Dakota’s beaten up van as it rumbled up the street and pulled into Milo’s driveway, its engine grumbling in the darkness. Milo pulled open the side door and climbed in next to Phineas, Ferb, Zack, Melissa and Amanda. He sat down next to Phineas and tucked his backpack behind his knees. “Hi Phineas,” said Milo with a stifled yawn. “How was Europa?”
“Morning Milo,” replied the young savant excitedly. “Europa was fabulous. We’re already talking about going back. We didn’t find any direct signs of life, but we did find a liquid ocean and lots of organic compounds. You should come with us next time,” continue Phineas. “You’d love it.”
Milo was suddenly and unwillingly reminded of the last time he had gone into space. He had been abducted by aliens, who had wanted him to save their planet from an uncontrollable build up of Murphy’s Law. Zack and Melissa had briefly thought that he had died. He pushed the thought away with some effort. “No thanks, Phineas,” he said. “Murphy’s Law and spaceflight don’t really mix.”
Phineas looked a little disappointed. “Well, OK,” he said, “but you’re always welcome, if you ever change your mind.”
At the same moment, the van lurched into motion and backed out of Milo’s driveway. “Morning Milo,” said Dakota, with his usual energy, “breakfast?”
“Hi Dakota,” said Milo. “Thanks.” He took the usual bag of fast food from Slushy Dawg and tore into the two breakfast wraps. “So where are we going this time?”
“Out of town again,” replied Cavendish.
“Really?” asked Melissa. “Again?”
Dakota nodded. “Yeah, the Bureau is sending us out the middle of nowhere again.”
Cavendish continued. “It seems that someone has phoned in a tip.”
“What kind of tip?” asked Milo.
“The Bureau thinks that someone has stumbled across another Shrinkatron,” replied Dakota.
“You mean another one of those things that we ran into a few months ago?” asked Amanda. “Didn’t you say those things are dangerous?”
Dakota chuckled mirthlessly, “Yeah, those things are dangerous,” he said. “You can shrink the entire planet down to size of an atom if you’re not careful-,”
“Plus the Bureau thought that all of them were accounted for,” continued Cavendish.
“And there are aren’t all that many of them to begin with,” said Dakota, “as they’re really are to make, well safely at any rate.” He shrugged. “Its technically out of our jurisdiction, but we’re the closest team, so we got the call.”
The drive to the clean up site took the better part of an hour and a half. The site was located in a very remote corner of Danville Forest. By the time Cavendish turned off of the highway and on to the muddy dirt track, the sun was well above the horizon and peeking through scudding grey clouds. The van pulled to a stop at the edge of the field, Cavendish shut off the engine and everyone clambered out. Cavendish pulled open the van’s rear doors and handed out coveralls, trash bags and picks. They collected their tools and set to work. High above the field, virtually invisible against the dull grey clouds, a drone hovered silently watching as the two former time agents and their charges set about cleaning up the so called alien garbage. The drone’s in board computer received a data packet from the various sniffers and motion detectors that had been hidden in the forest on the edges of the clear. The drone focused its shifted its camera to a very minute degree and focused its electronic gaze on a slender figure wearing a backpack. It beamed the image down to the ground and received an immediate confirmation. The image was then beamed up to satellite, which then beamed it to a computer in a nondescript office building in downtown Danville.
An alert message flashed on Wolinsky’s computer screen. Negative probability field detected. A file with a picture opened in a separate window.
Name: Murphy, Milo D
Address: 5521 Druid Drive, Danville, USA
Phone Number: []
Date of Birth: October 24, 2003
Weight: 94 pounds
Blood type: O positive
Wolinsky turned and called over his shoulder. “Sir,” he said.
Director Niblet turned at the sound of Wolinsky’s voice. “What is it Major?” He walked over to where his subordinate was sitting in front of the computer. “We have eyes on the target.”
Niblet nodded. “Good,” he said approvingly, “alert the ground team.”
Wolinsky nodded and picked up the radio on the desk in front of him. “Base to ground team,” he said, “heads up. We have eyes on the target.” He got two clicks on the radio in reply.
Milo had just deposited his third full bag of trash in the back of Cavendish and Dakota’s van and returned to the field when it happened. He was standing in the middle of the field around mid-morning when he saw a silver coloured cube the size of a baseball. He waved Zack over to where he was standing. “Hey Zack,” he said, “I found the Shrinkatron.” He bent over and picked it up. As soon he did, it registered Milo’s negative probability and several things happened at once,
A second alert flashed across Wolinsky’s computer screen. He turned and addressed Director Niblet. “Sir, the target has taken the bait.”
Niblet nodded. “Alert the ground team. Tell them to be ready to move.”
Wolinsky nodded. “Yes, Sir.” He picked up his radio. “Base to ground team, get ready to move. The target has the bait.” Again, he got two clicks on the radio in reply.
Hidden in the undergrowth, Tennant watched as the target picked up the metallic silvery cube. He heard Wolinsky’s voice in his earpiece, clicked his radio twice in reply and flashed a hand sign to the extraction team. Stand by. Somewhere off to his right, he heard the quiet whir of servos as a dart gun homed in on its targets, followed by the almost inaudible hiss of compressed gas as it began firing.
Milo was about four feet away from Zack when he felt something strike him in the upper arm. It was as if someone was jabbing him with a white hot needle. “Ow,” he said. He rubbed the spot on his arm and his hand brushed against something hard and cylindrical. He pulled the hypodermic dart of his arm. Milo and Zack looked at each other in confusion. “What do you make of this, Zack?”
“Milo, are you OK?” asked Zack. As he said it, Milo swayed visibly.
“No, Zack, I-,” Milo didn’t get any farther than that, his words suddenly became slurred, as though his tongue was too big for his mouth. Everything was suddenly going foggy and Milo tried to speak again. “Zack, I don’t feel-,” he began. Milo tried to take a step and started to stumble. Zack lunged forward and just barely caught Milo in time before he hit the ground.
Zack thrust his hands under Milo’s armpits and held him upright. Milo’s eyes were mostly closed. “Milo, can you hear me?”asked Zack. Milo’s face flickered a little at the sound of his name, but other than that he didn’t respond. Something’s really wrong, thought Zack. He quickly looked around and saw Dakota fifty feet away standing over something on the ground. Zack squinted and looked closer. He saw a mop of red hair and a purple winter coat. Whatever’s happening has happed to Melissa and Phineas as well, he thought. He turned and thrust his arm across Milo’s shoulders and pulled his unconscious friend onto his back. He staggered slightly under Milo’s weight. Milo was slightly shorter than Zack, in addition to being thin and lightly built, but with his body armour and fully loaded backpack, Zack figured that Milo weighed close to a hundred and fifty pounds. He waved with his free hand, opened his mouth and started to shout, “hey, Dakota!” but before he could get words out, Dakota swayed drunkenly and collapsed, landing face down in the frozen dirt. Fighting down his rising panic, Zack started to run toward where the former time agent had fallen. He had taken perhaps five steps at most when he suddenly felt a white hot stabbing sensation in his chest, as though someone had stuck a white hot needle under his skin. Zack felt himself becoming drowsy. Everything was becoming foggy and his limbs felt heavy. He was dimly aware of his body pitching forward and of figures running out of the trees. The last thing Zack remembered for several hours was the ground rushing up to slap him in the face.