“What the hell?” Griff asks no one in particular.
I stare at the empty space, which had at one point been The Wizard, in dumbfounded silence.
“What the hell?” Griff asks louder, still having no one to direct his question to.
I feel tears well up in my eyes. An overwhelming sense of panic fills my body as it starts shaking.
“What the hell!?” Griff shouts, turning to the robotic version of himself, grabbing its lapel, and shaking it roughly.
I slowly turn my attention toward Griff and his mechanical-me, the whole experience taking on the feeling of an impossible dream.
“You told us we were supposed to go on this stupid journey back in time. I knew the next time we used that stupid device we were going to get stuck even worse than when we started. I told Chelle, but we still ended up being taken back to the middle of no-when and now—“
“Griff,” I say softly.
“Now we’ve got no way to get anywhere, no way to get any-when. I was supposed to take this kid back to—“
“Griff,” I say more firmly, feeling the numbness recede.
“Back to her parents, back to her home. She doesn’t deserve any of this. Me? Sure, I’m a horrible person but Chelle? She’s—“
“Griff,” I yell. “Shut up already.”
Griff looks at me blankly, still holding the lapel of the android.
“It’s not his fault,” I state. “It’s mine, okay?”
“Oh no it’s not, kid. We were in a freaking train station that could have taken us to anywhere and anytime. Instead, this stupid thing took advantage of the situation and sent us back in time to a place where we couldn’t possibly get away, just to find out we were the reason The Wizard was unleashed upon the world in the first place. It’s—“
“Griff,” I scream. “It’s not his fault. He didn’t tell us to come back to now. I chose it, not him. I’m the one you should be getting mad at.”
“But he knew. Yeah, you knew, didn’t you?” he growls at the robot. “He knew The Wizard and Christopher were the same person. He had to know, because I know, and he looks like me, right? Isn’t that how it works?”
“It’s not his fault,” I say softly.
“Actually, miss,” Robo-Griff says, his head turning to look at my feet. “It is.”
All three of us take a step away from the robotic version of Griff in response to his statement.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Griff asks.
“It means you are here by my creator’s design, and that he was the one who knew precisely how to convince all of you to come back here to the one place you would be unable to remove yourself from.”
“Wait, I thought you said The Creator was Griff,” I begin. “There’s no chance Griff would get himself stranded back in 300 B.C. And even if he did, how would–
“I never stated the man who designed me was, in actuality, The Creator.”
“But, the note in the bottle,” I say to myself, “it said—“
“That the robot is on your side?” Robo-Griff completed my sentence. “Oh how simple it all truly was.”
“It was all a scam?” I question. “A big old con to get us stranded back here so The Wizard could begin his evil task?”
“I assure you my designer is entirely grateful for the part you played in his development.”
“You rat bastard!” Griff yells, running to the robot and punching it in the chest. His hand recoils in pain as it makes contact with the metallic being. Noll stops Griff from falling to the ground and then places himself between us and it.
“Tell us how t’ git back,” he says firmly. “You tell us how t’ git back to dat station or I promise you, I will tear you apart using whatever means I need t’ on a metal man likes youse.”
The robot responds with a tinny laugh, before silencing itself erratically and then looking Noll in the eyes. “Your threat would not mean anything even if I were not scheduled to be destroyed after relaying to you how you have fallen victim to my designer’s schemes.”
An alarm sounds from somewhere within the metal man. “I would suggest removing yourselves from my immediate location,” he warns.
A new voice sounds from somewhere within him. “Five seconds until self-destruction.”
Griff is the first to respond, pulling me with him as he bolts out of the shack and into the blinding sun outdoors. Noll follows hot on his heels just as the world explodes in a series of loud booms and red heat, followed by a shower of wooden splinters.
My face hits the ground roughly, a series of debris landing all around me. I look up as the world regains normalcy, and see the familiar shape of the Reprobian Sphere lying directly next to my face, minus the image of the questionably-sainted Christopher.
Go to Chapter Fifty