The Phil Phorce is a fictional periodical featuring my favorite characters from my own writing. It comes out in episodes, once every three months or so. To find out more and to read previous episodes, please go to these two pages: About the Phils and the Phil Phorce. Please enjoy Phil Phorce, Episode 6: Soap Opera.
Percival cut the connection and pocketed the phone. “I gave him two minutes to get Isaac,” he told Jordan. “After that, you can activate the receiver.”
“Two minutes might be too late,” said Jordan. “We might be completely too late. We’ve always used this sort of device instantly, activating the transmitter within minutes of the receiver.”
“But you also knew exactly who was going through the transporter,” said Percival. “We don’t know if Isaac will use the soap or not, or if he’s already used it.”
“If he’s already used it, he’ll just come out here.”
“If he used it much earlier, yes,” said Percival. “If he just used the soap, the disintegration might be so slow that not all of him comes out this end. He’s already blind—I don’t think he wants to be crippled, or dead.”
“My men were both perfectly healthy,” said Jordan. “I don’t want them coming out with kidneys in their skulls and noses on their feet.”
Percival winced at the image. “You’re right. We have a minute left.”
Percival’s phone rang. He slapped it against his ear. “You’ve got Isaac?” He motioned toward the receiver, and Jordan started activating it.
“Is this Bertha?” asked a strange voice.
“No, it isn’t. I think you have the wrong number.” Percival hung up and pulled Jordan back. “It wasn’t Quirk,” he said.
“He’s got thirty seconds,” said Jordan.
“I know,” said Percival.
Jordan motioned his men up to the control panel on the receiver. “When I give the signal, activate it as quickly as you can. Twenty seconds.”
Percival was sweating. He wiped his forehead on his sleeve.
“Fifteen seconds. Ten seconds.”
“Can we wait for Quirk to call?”
“I have a duty to my men,” said Jordan. “Do you want to argue that again?”
“No, but I have a duty to Isaac,” said Percival. “I need to know I won’t kill him by allowing you to save your men. We can save both.”
Jordan looked at Percival. “Three, two, one. Activate it!”
The machine hummed to life as the Blanks pushed buttons and pulled levers. Percival sighed heavily, hoping beyond hope Quirk had actually made it.
Between the two tall pillars of metal in the center of the floor, dust began to collect. A chill hit Percival like a fist. He began to shiver so much it was hard to breathe.
“This is much bigger than our receiver,” shouted Jordan over the noise of the machine. “Ours is the size of a small car, but this is easily the size of a tugboat. Let’s hope it doesn’t explode.”
Percival could agree with that, but his teeth were chattering too violently to speak.
The piles of dust between the two pillars were growing. There were four of them, growing upward rather than outward. They weren’t tan like the piles of dust left behind when the two Blanks disintegrated before, but black. They looked like shoes. They were shoes. Percival recognized the black running shoes of the younger Blank.
All the lights in the room went out abruptly, and the noise of the machine grew into a crescendo. A brilliant flash of light seared through Percival’s eyes.
When he uncovered his eyes, the lights were slowly coming back on to reveal two figures standing between the pillars. They stood tall for a moment, then collapsed.
Jordan rushed over, checking their reflexes and making sure they were all there. Percival breathed a sigh of relief. Their job was finished.
His phone buzzed in his pocket. Isaac. He had almost forgotten.
Quirk sounded breathless. “We got to him in time,” he said.
Percival let out a sigh of relief and gave Jordan a thumbs-up. “Excellent,” he said finally. “We’ll be along soon.”