Chapter Thirty: Absolutely Fascinating

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James couldn't help but mutter to himself as he kicked at some of the trash in the back alley. He'd been trying to figure out what to write to the Whitmores next but his brain was coming up empty. Maybe he needed coffee or something. Or more drugs, but that cost money. Anything was possible. Except writing another note, apparently.

Why did there always have to be little setbacks? It just wasn't right. Here he was, trying to make a semi decent dollar, and things were just not going well. He wasn't even sure how much he should ask for the little whelp. At least a couple thousand, he mused. Maybe a hundred? Two hundred? Why not go for five hundred thousand? That was a much nicer sounding number than just a grand.

But it would be more prudent to do some kind of test on the doting parents, right? He'd send them another note asking for a goodwill token towards paying the full amount, which would reward them with a video, or maybe just a picture of the young tyke, so they'd know he was okay. Yes, that's what he'd do.

James grabbed up a clean piece of paper, his fingers covered with latex so he didn't leave fingerprints. Even if the Whitmores hadn't gone to the police, something he somehow doubted as he'd listened to the police scanner, he didn't want to leave any evidence behind they could use to track him down. He was even being careful to write out each letter in a manner atypical of his usual brash handwriting. The low buzz had cleared enough that he was thinking straight for once.

Licking his lips, James held up the paper and looked at what he'd written. The cheap pen had bled a little on the paper but that was okay. Cheap ink meant it would be harder to track. Anyone could get an identical pen at any of the hundreds of discount stores in the area. He nodded in satisfaction. That would do. Now to deliver it to the waiting family.

..............................................

Data stared at the drawings he'd found. They were back from his short spout of time spent with Hiro only a day or so prior. After searching for their whereabouts for a good part of the night, he now contemplated them.

It had started out as sort of a game, creating pictures of places they'd been. Data's own drawings were decidedly easier to understand than the scrawling of the much younger hero. But there was something decidedly fascinating about them. Especially when he recalled some of the comments made by others in their party.

"What's this suppose to be?" Counselor Troi had asked the boy, pointing to the drawing Data now held. It depicted an interesting conglomeration of colors, mostly blues, purples, and pinks.

"Cwouds," Hiro had answered. "Pohtaw cwouds."

It had been a bit difficult to understand what the young boy was saying at the time, but upon retrospection, it became easier. What was it the blue-clad Doctor had said? Oh yeah.

"We do know some very fundamental things. Even if this energy isn't the power of Q running rampant, it is somehow still connected. Didn't we tell you earlier? Your two realities have collided, and in ways they were never meant to. It's not like when Rose went over to an alternate dimension through a portal. The two dimensions seem like they're actually trying to switch places. That, I think, is why all the chaos is happening."

What if Hiro had been trying to say portal instead of pohtaw. Young children did tend to have trouble saying the letter L and R. From previous conversations, Data could also extrapolate the possibility that Hiro had gone through a portal of some kind into something he'd heard called the Rift. What if Hiro's 'pohtaw cwouds" were clouds from inside the portal, or, more specifically, the Rift in question?

Then Data recalled what the other man called Doctor had said. "I still think the Ley Lines are somehow connected. Do you think it's possible the energy from the Rift is being drawn out into this dimension, trying to purge the alien threat? We all know Ley Lines are conduits of energy. Why wouldn't they attract whatever's trying to balance things out?"

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