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The call from the university
was apologetic but frazzled.
"It's probably just a Halloween prank,
the professor said, "but people are
getting antsy about this outline that
keeps appearing and disappearing
in the Faraday Physics Building."
"What kind of outline?" Brenda asked.
"It looks like a door," said the professor,
"but it never seems to go anywhere."
Brenda and Darrel went to the building.
While Brenda questioned the faculty,
Darrel scouted around in search of
the mysterious outline of a door.
"There's no sign of wiring or
anything else prank-like,"
"People are studying quantum physics,
but it's all theoretical, blackboard stuff
not mad science in a lab," Brenda said.
A soft mrrow made her look down.
Rubbing against her left wheel
was a large white cat.
"Who do you belong to?"
Brenda asked, reaching for him.
"Are you nuts?" Darrel said.
"Don't pet the white cat!
White cats are evil."
"Don't be silly, Darrel,"
said Brenda as she stroked the cat.
"That's just a Hollywood cliché."
That was, of course,
when the door to nowhere
swallowed them all.
They tumbled out onto a desert
splotched with surprisingly green plants,
into which the white cat promptly vanished.
Brenda waited for Darrel
to say, "I told you so."
Darrel didn't say anything.
"I'm sorry I ignored what turned out
to be very astute advice," Brenda said.
"Apology accepted," Darrel said.
He had his gun out, pointed groundward.
"Now what do we do?"
Brenda shaded her eyes.
"That looks like a building,"
she said. "We could head that way."
"Across the whole horizon?"
Darrel said dubiously. "Big building."
They set off toward it, the thin wheels
of Brenda's everyday wheelchair
not making great headway
over the rough terrain.
"I wish I had my trail tires,"
"I wish you had your battle chair
with the extra guns," said Darrel.
Well, yes, that would be even better.
This one only had the handgun,
the tac baton, and a couple of knives.
It wasn't long, however, before
a pickup truck jounced toward them
and a very Texan-looking fellow
leaned out the window to say,
"Would you folks like a lift?
We saw your transit come up."
"Do you know what's going on?"
Brenda asked him.
"Naw, but Alex will figger it out,"
he said with easy confidence.
"Sorry this truck ain't handicap-whatever."
Brenda sighed and let Darrel
boost her into the seat,
then stow the wheelchair
in the truck bed, fastened with
some of the many ropes.
"Is that a grenade launcher?"
Darrel asked, staring into the bed.
"Might could be," the Texan drawled.
"I'm Chris, by the way. Who're you,
and how did you get here?"
Brenda and Darrel introduced themselves
as Darrel climbed into the seat beside her.
"We were in the Faraday Physics Building,
a white cat came up to us, and then
we were here," Brenda added.
Chris touched a button on the dashboard.
"Kay, it's Chris," he said. "I gotta couple of guests
who say evil!Schrodinger made hisself a gate."
"Get back here and arm up," Kay said.
"I'll pass the word to Alex and Ash."
"Evil Schrodinger," said Darrel.
"Is there a good Schrodinger too?"
"Ayup, he belongs to Alex,
and he's black," said Chris.
Soon they pulled up at what appeared to be
a building but stretched off to either side
as far as the eye could see.
"What is this place?" Brenda asked,
once returned to the safety of her chair.
"Welcome to the Teflon Tesseract,"
said Chris, "or the Tef for short.
It's kind of a grease trap between dimensions,
or if you want the long math, ask Alex."
"I'm not a physicist," Brenda said.
"I'm a private investigator of the bizarre.
I just wanted to make the weird outline
stop spooking people at the university."
"Don't look at me," Darrel said.
"I'm a cop, not a scientist."
"Okay then," Chris said happily.
"Brenda, you're on analysis with Alex and Ash.
Darrel, you can go out with Kay and help
hunt for evil!Schrodinger."
They went indoors, and
had another round of introductions.
Alex was a gorgeous blonde
with restless hands and a distracted air,
while Ash was Native American
and had a laptop going at high speed.
A Hispanic woman declared herself to be Kay,
handed Darrel a rifle that made him whistle
in appreciation, and took him back outside.
"Control room's this way," Ash said.
"Have you got any useful data for us?"
"I have my case notes," Brenda said.
In the control room, Alex pulled out
one of the wheeled office chairs.
"You can use this station," she said.
Brenda fitted herself into the space.
It was a little high for ideal comfort
but she could work with it.
Then Ash dragged over some kind
of thick floor mat, and that was better.
"So here's what the physics guys
were working on," Brenda said,
showing them the blackboard photos
that she had taken with her smartphone,
followed by her interview notes.
"They swore it was all theoretical."
"Theory to them, practice to us,"
Alex said as she copied the information.
"Sadly evil!Schrodinger also does quantum physics."
"Don't worry, we'll figure out what he did
and how to get you back home," Ash said.
"And how to make the door go away?"
Brenda said. "That's my case."
"Oh, we are definitely taking
the door away," Alex said
Less than half an hour later,
Kay came back towing Darrel,
who was wearing what looked like
about half a box of bandaids.
"I swear, you are even more
accident-prone than Chris," she said.
"Now you stay indoors and just ...
don't touch the desert."
"What happened?" Brenda asked,
trying not to smile or laugh
at Darrel's hangdog expression.
"A mesquite, a prickly pear,
two different rocks," Kay said,
ticking them on her fingers.
"And the fire ants," Darrel added,
stomping one foot. "Don't forget them.
On the bright side, we flushed evil!Schrodinger
and Kay thinks she knows where he'll go next."
"That line of prickly pear lets out
by the dry wash," Kay said.
"Chris and I can corner him there."
This would have been a lovely plan
if not for the fact that evil!Schrodinger
let his minions into the Tef.
"Are these football players?"
Alex asked as she sidestepped one.
"Yeah, from the university," Brenda said
as she grabbed her tac baton and
flicked it into full extension.
"Try not to kill them."
Darrel footswept one onto the floor,
then turned and punched another.
A black cat weaved through the room,
deftly tripping only the enemies.
Brenda used her baton with ruthless precision,
striking knees and diaphragms, leaving
the football players groaning behind her.
The last one slammed into her,
trying to knock the wheelchair over,
but even Brenda's everyday chair
had angled wheels for stability.
She assisted him over her lap
and headfirst onto the floor.
"Don't move," Ash advised,
tapping him on the back of the neck
with the muzzle of a Mossberg shotgun.
Darrel already had the others secured.
"These guys are trouble," he said,
"and I'm out of handcuffs."
He only carried two pair usually.
"So not a problem," Kay said
as she came into the room.
"I never run out of handcuffs."
She passed Darrel a bundle
of jangling metal restraints.
"Got our real culprit too,"
Chris said, plunking down
a heavy canvas bag that yowled.
"Little prick had this on him."
He held out the tiniest remote
that Brenda had ever seen.
"Excellent," said Alex.
She took the remote from Chris
and resumed the program that
she had been working on
when all hell broke loose.
It took surprisingly little time
for Alex and Ash to hack through
the protections on the remote,
send evil!Schrodinger back to
his home dimension, and then
prepare the gate for Brenda and Darrel.
"After you're all through, we'll close it
behind you, and there shouldn't be
any more trouble at your end," Alex said
as Ash and Kay slung the football players
through the flickering outline of a door.
"Thanks for everything," Brenda said,
shaking hands with Alex.
"It's been quite a trip," Darrel said to Kay.
"Sorry about your, uh, fence thingie."
"It will grow back," Kay said with a smirk.
Darrel stepped through the door,
and as promised, it vanished.
"So glad I won't be there to see that
monstrosity grow back," he muttered.
"Fucking cactus tried to kill me."
Several of the physics professors
ran into the room, attracted by the noise.
"What the heck happened here?"
the senior one demanded,
looking at the heap of jocks.
"Halloween prank," Darrel said lightly.
"They were playing around with electricity.
I'll just run them down to the station
and explain why that was a bad idea."
"You shouldn't have any more problems,"
Brenda said to the professor.
As they left, she heard someone say,
"Is this prickly pear fruit?
Where did that come from?"
She had no intention of telling them.
* * *
The physics building is named after Michael Faraday.
The Evil White Cat trope appears in Right Hand Cat and cat of the day.
Mesquite is a tough, frequently thorny bush or small tree throughout much of the southwest.
Prickly pear is a type of cactus used for living fences and edible landscaping or burglar alarms.
The Mossberg Tactical Shotgun is popular and practical for home defense.