Chapter 10


Time stamp: 21.28 26.10.1172
Path: path name hidden
Sender: epic_epinephrine

Body:
Ethan! Are you okay? I haven't had time to check up on you because I've been doing some stuff for my dad. Are you alright? Is my lab okay? Are my inventions still there?

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Time stamp: 03.56 27.10.1172
Path: 12.54--rest of path name lost
Sender: theawsomistethan

Body:
phinny? it took me a long time 2 get home bt yes i am fine miz cho helpd me wen i got home and now im ok. her grrls helpd me even more tho! wat iz so importnt that u had 2 w8 so long 2 ask?

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Time stamp: 15.11 27.10.1172
Path: path name hidden
Sender: epic_epinephrine

Body:
Sorry. Like I said, I've been doing something for my dad. I have to invent something for him--that was the agreement so he'd let you go. I'm glad you're okay.

Your spelling is really terrible. Really.

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Time stamp: 22.06 28.10.1172
Path: path name encrypted
Sender: theawsomistethan

Body:
well i never got 2 go 2 skool like sum ppl u shuld b happy i no how 2 type at all!

wat r u making 4 ur dad? hez a bastird u shuld'nt help him w/any thing.

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Time stamp: 10.24 29.10.1172
Path: path name hidden
Sender: epic_epinephrine

Body:
I know you didn't get to go to school. I'm just saying, there's a spell check option on your email client and maybe you should make friends with it.

I can't really talk about what I'm working on, but it's not anything to hurt people, I promise. Besides, I don't really have a choice. If I hadn't offered, you'd probably be dead and forgotten and I can't go back on my word. Dad'd be pissed and then I'd have to dye my hair brown and get a crew cut or something, and that's if he's in a GOOD mood.

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Time stamp: 17.52 29.10.1172
Path: data erased
Sender: theawsomistethan

Body:
i stil think its' a bad idea 2 hlp ur dad w/nything bcuz he will probly use watevr u make 4 evil. mz cho thinks that he will kill me if u and i write lik this but i told her u no if its' safe or not.

thats' true, rite?

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Time stamp: 22.46 29.10.1172
Path: path name hidden
Sender: epic_epinephrine

Body:
You don't need to worry about my dad anymore. To be frank, he no longer has any interest in you, and I think he's starting to believe that there's nothing he doesn't know about my stay at my lab a few months ago. So he doesn't think you're a threat anymore. Besides, he promised and even though he's a real jack ass sometimes, he doesn't go back on promises.

I miss Madam Cho. She's really nice (and there's always good food nearby when she's around).

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Time stamp: 09.19 30.10.1172
Path: path name encrypted
Sender: theawsomistethan

Body:
miz cho is only nice 2 u bcuz ur cute. shez not nice 2 me most of the time but ur rite about the food thing

wat r u working on tho i am rly curius. just give me a hint at leest.

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Time stamp: 11.02 30.10.1172
Path: path name hidden
Sender: epic_epinephrine

Body:
I really can't talk much about it, but when I got dad to let you go, I offered to make something for him in return. I was nonspecific about what it would be, and so he thought about it for a couple weeks and finally told me what he wanted. I'm not really happy about what he asked for, but it's not really anything that'll hurt people. I hope.

There's even a possibility it might not work. At least, that's what any mainstream physicist would tell you. It uses electric frequencies and light in a way that's really only theoretical, but I'm confident it'll work. I really don't see any reason for it not to, and the fact that I believe it will is enough proof for me. It helps when no one's around to tell you what you can't do or the right way to do stuff. I almost hope it doesn't work, though.

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Time stamp: 18.40 30.10.1172
Path: data erased
Sender: theawsomistethan

Body:
THAT TUK 4EVER 2 REED U SHULD RITE SHORTR MESSAJEZ!

u culd sabotaj it culd'nt u? but that wuld probly b unsafe cuz itd make ur dad angry. i hope evry thing turns out ok tho.

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Time stamp: 05.46 31.10.1172
Path: path name hidden
Sender: epic_epinephrine

Body:
I hope so too.

I won't be able to write you for a few days. We're getting into the last stage of my invention and it's going to be getting rather busy here. Don't worry though. I'll let you know when everything's over how it went.

Stay safe and look into that spell checking thing. For real this time.

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Phineas stared at his terminal screen blankly for a few minutes after sending the message, then stood up and left his room. Making his way through the compound, he didn't bother trying to repress the mixed elation and dread that were making him nauseous. If his machine worked, it might possibly be his greatest achievement yet and that was saying something. And there was no reason why it shouldn't work. Sure, the whole thing was theoretical and he'd never tested it, but there was still no reason for it to fail.

If he was honest with himself, he knew that the apprehension he felt had nothing to do with whether or not the machine would work; it was what would happen when it did that made him want to throw up.

It was for a good cause though, right? It was to save Ethan's life that he'd made the offer in the first place, and he hadn't known what his father would decide to have him build. Sure, he'd had a good idea it would be something that would be potentially harmful to someone, but his intentions had been good.

And if his father had asked him to make a weapon? An instrument of torture? What then?

The questions circled in Phineas's head and he shook it as though to dislodge them. People didn't go back on promises they made to James Maxwell. Not if they had any sense of self-preservation, at least. He knew from experience that even as the man's adopted son, he wasn't anywhere near exempt from the man's anger.

That was only part of what had kept him from admitting defeat during the theoretical stages of his machine's creation. It had required more research than he really appreciated having to do in subjects he had only a passing knowledge of. Scientific genius or no, one of his main strengths as a scientist and inventor was that he had never been presented with any limitations on what he could do and thus he was willing to try anything he could think of.

Research had dulled that unreserved ability to innovate by throwing rules and empirical statements at him. Though he now had a better understanding of wave-particle duality within the spectrum of quantum physics, knew the wave frequencies specific to various elements, and had learned quite a bit about colored light, the new knowledge seemed to have displaced some of whatever it was that kept him from being too skeptical of the workability of his own ideas. Since then, he'd second-guessed himself every step of the way on this project, though it hadn't been difficult to figure out what to do with the information itself.

It was as though he had reached his mind's critical capacity to store information and so the earlier, instinctive reasoning skills had been written over by more or less useless trivia about physics. As he'd worked on the contraption, erecting a cell made of thick plastic sheeting, installing lamps with red bulbs, bundling cables and wires and connecting them to a single terminal, he'd begun to consider possible solutions to the problem of too little memory space in his head. He'd come up with several possibilities, but with this project demanding most of his time and energy, he reluctantly did nothing more than make scribbled notes of his ideas and vow to come back to them another day. It was difficult to stay so focused on someone else's project to the detriment of his own ideas.

And then, of course, there were still the vague feelings of guilt that plagued him, making it difficult to even want the machine to work.

He sighed deeply as he stepped into the elevator to go down to the hidden floor and ruffled his own hair. There was nothing to be done about any of it at this stage. The machine was built and the chances that, once activated, it would fail were slim at best as far as he was concerned. He'd just have to hope, like he always did, that things would turn out for the best. They usually did, in his experience, but he had a feeling that his idea of the best outcome was far bleaker than that of anyone with a different surname.

The room in which hed built the device was empty when he got there. He was at least three hours early for the trial run.

He was grateful for the solitude; it would give him time to get his thoughts straight and resign himself to what was going to happen. He set to work making adjustments and running diagnostic checks, and was surprised when he turned to see his father waiting in the doorway.

"Oh, hey," Phineas said not bothering to mask the hint of weariness in his voice. Long hours of work on the machine and the anxiety that had developed during them were taking their toll. "Ten o'clock already?"

"A quarter till," Maxwell replied. His tone was neutral, but his eyes gave away his excitement. He approached the machine and began to look it over as though he knew what he was looking at.

"Where's Ashe?"

Maxwell shrugged, as though his assistant's absence were perfectly normal. "He said he had some work to catch up on."

Phineas made a skeptical face at his father's back. He doubted that Ashe would ever have anything to "catch up on"--he got things done before anyone else even knew they needed doing.

"Everything's running according to schedule?" Maxwell asked over his shoulder as he peered at the display on the terminal screen.

"Yeah, more or less," Phineas replied, and at a pointed look from his father added, "I mean, if it's going to work, it definitely will."

"Is that supposed to reassure me?"

"If you take into consideration the fact that pretty much all science is theoretical at best? Yeah."

Maxwell ignored that and checked his watch. "Alright, it's close enough to time. You can start whenever you'd like."

Phineas nodded and returned to the terminal. With a few keystrokes, the machine buzzed to life and the room was bathed in eery red light.

"...That's it?" Maxwell was looking around the room with an almost disappointed expression.

"I know, right? Shoulda been way more flashy," Phineas agreed. "This makes me feel like I was building a fort out of blankets."

Maxwell began to answer, but was interrupted. There was a noise that was almost a loud crackling, but could be felt in the bones like a buzz or vibration, followed by the oppressive scent of concentrated o-zone.

Phineas whirled around to stare at the cell he'd built. He and his father both looked mutely at a thin young man in a black coat, who was staring back at them through blue and yellow bangs tinted red by the lights. He pressed his hands against the thick plastic but didn't speak. Small left over arcs of electricity crackled in his blue and yellow hair and around his fingers before dying.

Phineas stood in awe for a few moments. Elation eventually beat down the guilt that was rising in him, and he finally sprang into action, letting out a whoop of joy and hugging his father with enough force to make the man stumble a few steps.

"I did it, dad! I caught the Surge for you!"