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Authors: John Hulme

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The Split Second (33 page)

BOOK: The Split Second
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As the AV Mechanic dimmed the lights, Eve swiveled her chair around to face a flat-screen display.

“Central Command received the following transmission early this afternoon.”

The images that flashed onscreen shook like a home movie— barely focusing on a flip-flopped foot, a mound of sand, and the bright blue sky above before tumbling crazily toward something new. But whoever was operating the camera soon got her bearings, and a wide and barren landscape finally came into view.

“I hope you guys are getting this.”

Becker immediately recognized the Australian accent of Casey Lake, and deduced that the footage had been shot via the wireless Seeing-Eye attachment available on all the Toolshed’s latest optics.

“We lost radio contact with Central Command approximately one hour ago, but we’ll continue broadcasting just in case.” A gust of wind caused Casey’s microphone to pop and skip, but the audio quickly recovered. “Update is as follows.”

The camera began to march slowly up the rise of a sand dune.

“Away team arrived End of the Line to find station staff absent and no visible sign of the missing train. Initial sweep yielded no evidence of theft or intrusion, but following a hunch, Fixer Simms uncovered a set of tracks leading directly into the Middle of Nowhere—”

Becker was stunned to be looking at actual footage of that forbidden wasteland on the very edge of The Seems—especially when Casey crested the hill and peered down upon the other side.

“This is what we found when we followed those tracks.”

Stashed in the valley formed by a ring of towering dunes was a rusty red caboose, half-buried in the sand. The train it had once been attached to was nowhere in sight, nor were the rails it must’ve ridden to get there. In fact, the only other things visible onscreen were the sweeping sands and two figures scrambling around the car, both wearing Extremely Cool Outfits™ to protect themselves from the heat.

“How in the name of the Plan did it get there?” asked the white-haired old woman who was sitting directly to Becker’s right. “I don’t see any train tracks.”

“Please hold your questions until we reach the end of the clip, Sylvia,” answered a voice with a thick African accent.

“Sorry, Jelani.”

Becker bit his own tongue and refocused his attention onscreen, where a massive figure was poking his head from beneath the abandoned caboose.

“Locking clamp snapped like twig.” As usual, the Sprecheneinfaches ™ struggled to translate the Fixer known as Greg the Journeyman’s obscure Yakutsk dialect. “What could do such thing?”

“Smell that Scratch?” Casey sniffed the air, and the Journeyman did the same. “It’s London to a brick that a Brainstorm came through there.”

Fixer Lake tilted her eyes (and the camera) up to the roof, where the third member of the away team was sitting in the lotus position, eyes closed, arms extended.

“Po, you picking up anything?”

The inscrutable Li Po, #1 on the Duty Roster, silently shook his head no.

“Me neither.” Casey spat with frustration, then spoke directly to whoever might be listening to her broadcast. “If you’re getting this back home, we’re pretty much flying blind out here when it comes to the 7
th
Sense. Can only assume that stories about Middle of Nowhere are true, and will compensate accordingly—”

“Cassiopeia!”

The voice of an Englishwoman called out, and Casey turned the camera toward where the caboose would be heading if it were still attached to a train. A slender figure was emerging from a path that cut between the dunes.

“No more tracks, as far as my Trinoculars™ can see,” said Fixer #11, Lisa Simms. “But I do see puffs of smoke in the direction of the mountains.”

“Then that where we must go,” said Greg, and despite the shadow that came over Fixer Simms’s face, she agreed.

It was easy to see why the Powers That Be had assigned this particular group of Fixers. Casey was a no-brainer for team leader, and if there was any chance of 7
th
Sensing where the missing train might be, Li Po would be the one to feel it. Greg the Journeyman’s physical strength was the stuff of legend, while Lisa Simms was the only active Fixer to have entered the Middle of Nowhere and lived to tell the tale. With such a mighty collection of talent, Becker couldn’t fathom what went wrong.

He was about to find out.

“All right, mates.” Onscreen, Casey Lake was pulling a hand-painted Turf Board™ out of her Toolkit. “Let’s get after these whackers . . .”

But their departure was interrupted by the sight of Fixer #1 rising to his feet atop the caboose and extending a finger off toward the horizon.

“What’s wrong, Po?”

Casey and the others turned in the direction he was pointing to see a strange light emanating from somewhere on the other side of the dunes. Whatever the source, it was almost as bright as the sun shining over their heads.

“It is . . . werry beautiful,” whispered Greg the Journeyman, and when he turned to the increasingly shaky camera, there were tears rolling down his bearded cheeks. As if to confirm his opinion, Casey turned her gaze back toward the light, which was so bright now that it hurt to look at even in the screening room.

“Cover your eyes, people!” The broadcast was starting to flicker and skip. “Cover your eyes!”

Greg directly ignored her order, stumbling even closer to the source of the eerie illumination, while Lisa Simms had switched over to Night Shades™ and was desperately flipping to the darkest setting.

“Cassiopeia, I think we should—”

But the woman who was the first violinist for the London Philharmonic in her “real job” could not muster the strength to finish the sentence. Fixer Simms collapsed to the ground with her hands over her eyes and rolled into a little ball. And the light got brighter still.

“What is it, Po?” Fixer Lake shouted, and for the first time since they’d met three years ago, Becker heard fear in her voice.

“What’s happening?”

On the roof of the caboose, Li Po was also wiping streaks from his eyes, but from the smile on his face, he appeared to be laughing, not crying. Then the unquestioned master of the 7
th
Sense turned toward the camera and did something he hadn’t done in almost thirty years.

He spoke.

“The Most Amazing Thing of All.”

The last thing Becker saw was Casey Lake digging a hole in the sand beneath her feet—as if she might claw her way to some refuge from the unbearable brightness. And then, in a flash . . .

. . . the video went white.

JOHN HULME AND MICHAEL WEXLER

are also the authors of The Seems: The Glitch in Sleep and The Seems: The Lost Train of Thought. They accidentally stumbled upon the existence of The Seems after opening an unlocked Door in Wilmington, North Carolina, during the summer of 1995. From that moment on, they were obsessed with the curious realm and sought to pen a book series based on their discovery. Though the project was held up in administrative Red Tape for nearly eleven years, the Powers That Be finally signed off on its release, resulting in the text you now hold.

Hulme lives with his wife, Jennifer, and his children, Jack and Madeline, in a small New Jersey town with crookety sidewalks and tree-lined streets.

Wexler was recently spotted near Tatoosh, Washington. The sighting was never confirmed.

www.theseems.com

Books by John Hulme and Michael Wexler

The Seems: The Glitch in Sleep
The Seems: The Split Second
The Seems: The Lost Train of Thought

Praise for

A Kidsreads.com Best Book

“This sequel continues to develop a truly ingenious setting while proving every bit as much of a nail-biter as the first.” —
Booklist

“Hilarious wordplay, capitalized idiomatic expressions, puns, and figures of speech propel the plot along at a manic pace. . . . Advise readers to approach this book with a Grain of Salt and with Tongue firmly in Cheek for a wild ride.” —
SLJ

Praise for

A Book Sense Pick
A Kidsreads.com Best Book
A Teenreads.com Best Book
A New York Public Library 100 Titles
for Reading and Sharing Selection

*
“This is a rollicking tale, with great world-building and likable characters and a strong setup for further adventures. Unlike Garth Nix’s conceptually similar The Keys to the Kingdom series, this story is upbeat and full of humor, seeming to draw a novel from David Wiesner’s
Sector 7
template.” —
SLJ
, starred review

“The high sense of adventure and an abundance of goofball humor should appeal especially to boys.” —
Publishers Weekly

“Offbeat exploration of a universe-tilting idea.” —
Booklist

Text copyright © 2008 by John Hulme and Michael Wexler
Illustrations copyright © 2008 by Gideon Kendall

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

First published in the United States of America in October 2008
by Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers
E-book edition published in October 2010
www.bloomsburyteens.com

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Bloomsbury BFYR, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010

The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:
Hulme, John.
The split second / by John Hulme and Michael Wexler;
illustrations by Gideon Kendall.—1st U.S. ed.
p. cm.—(The Seems)
Summary: Now thirteen years old and still a Fixer in the parallel universe called The Seems, Becker Drane is called upon to repair the damage caused by an enormous bomb planted in the Department of Time, an act of terrorism perpetrated by the evil members of The Tide, a group that is trying to destroy The World.
ISBN-13: 978-1-59990-130-5 • ISBN-10: 1-59990-130-7 (hardcover)
[1. Terrorism—Fiction. 2. Space and time—Fiction. 3. Technology—Fiction.] I. Wexler, Michael. II. Kendall, Gideon, ill. III. Title.
PZ7.H8844Sp 2008     [Fic]—dc22     2008012241

ISBN 978-1-59990-676-8 (e-book)

BOOK: The Split Second
10.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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