NOW YOU SEE IT
by Nyki Blatchley
"And how exactly," asked Ms Carver with a tone of ominous calm, "does one lose a planet?"
The two scientists facing her were not immune to the menace in her voice, but they had no choice but to tell the truth. She'd find out anyway.
"Well," began Dr Trumble, adjusting the glasses on the end of his nose, then immediately putting them back the way they'd been, "it's been happening rather a lot lately. The reports..."
"I've read the reports," snapped Ms Carver. "Ravings of madmen, if you ask me. Can you explain to me what precisely this "gremloid energy" is?"
Trumble glanced at his colleague, willing him to contribute, and Professor Dodgson obliged.
"Well, no-one's managed to solve the equations yet," he explained slowly, "but it's in essence a previously undetected form of energy that... er, hides things."
"Hides things." Ms Carver's voice would have cut solid steel, and probably made a fair job on diamond, but Dodgson seemed not to have noticed.
"Yes. Always unexpectedly, and always things that we really, really need..."
"Like a planet with resources that can't be found anywhere else in the galaxy?" suggested Ms Carver, eyes fixed behind fashionable square glasses.
"Precisely like that," Dodgson agreed. Trumble wondered whether he was very stupid or very nervous. "It... hides them behind a fold of space, and we have to work out exactly where."
"And then? Once we know, how do we get these things back?"
"We don't have to," explained Trumble, feeling that he should support his colleague. "As soon as we've worked out their location, they... just reappear. We're still working on the theory, but it seems that gremloid energy is symbiotic with the human mind. Once the problem's been solved, it releases what it's taken."
There was a very, very long silence, during which Trumble and Dodgson exchanged glances. There were stories about Ms Carver's rages and which mental hospitals their targets had ended up in. Trumble had always believed them mere urban legends. Looking at her now, he was less sure.
"So," she said very quietly at last, "how do you normally solve these... games?"
"We use the GAVA computer," said Dodgson. "It's the only one on earth powerful enough to solve the complex calculations."
Ms Carver nodded. "That's why it's called the Great And Very Awesome computer," she said. "So why aren't you using it now?"
They exchanged glances again. "It's broken," said Trumble at last. "The central processor is..."
Thirty seconds later, Trumble was fleeing for his life from a murderous Ms Carver, while Dodgson huddled whimpering in a corner, eyes glazed. In retrospect, Trumble realised, he should have made something up: any excuse would have done.
Anything but telling her that the central processor had been hidden by gremloid energy.
Copyright © 2010 Nyki Blatchley
Nyki Blatchley is a British author and poet who graduated from Keele University in English and Greek and now lives just outside London. He has had about two dozen stories published, mostly fantasy or horror. His novel At An Uncertain Hour was published by StoneGarden in April 2009.