5 stepped lightly over the two dead bodies and shrugged.
"Get 'em out of here," 5 said in a voice that everybody found surprising the first time they heard it.
They found it surprising because second, it was a high-pitched, quiet, voice, not at all the kind of voice you imagined 5 would have.
And they found it surprising because first, 5 was an abstract number representing a given quantity of items in some numeric systems, and so the fact that 5 spoke at all was surprising.
But that was in the olden days, before the Imagination Room had been broken wide open and everything fell all to heck. Back in the time before even abstract concepts could come to life and begin taking over the criminal underworld, ruthlessly killing everyone who got in their way, even Jimmy Earwig, poor guy.
But Jimmy had a secret, too.
He wasn't dead.
Probably the helicopter was not to blame. But maybe the helicopter pilot was. That was how it began, anyway.
Jimmy Earwig looked down through the windshield of the helicopter he was riding in. The night vision goggles made the landscape below perfectly clear, albeit green-tinged and ghostly looking.
Suitable, Jimmy thought.
In his ear a voice crackled: "Target spotted," the copilot said. Jimmy nodded and looked where everyone else on Seal Team i was looking.
Seal Team i doesn't exist in the "real world," the world of schools and jobs and roads with potholes in them, the world of taxes and shopping malls and Orange Juliuses. Juliuses? Julii? Hard to say. Whichever it was, the members of Seal Team i didn't get them, because Seal Team i did not live in that world. Created years ago by President Thomas Dewey during his third term, Seal Team i had served the Royal Municipality of Manhattan and the subadmiralties of the rest of the continent loyally for over 100 years -- called on by President Dewey and his wife, Queen Kim, whenever otherworldly threats arose, threats that promised to destroy any number of multiverses, threats that only Seal Team i could handle.
"It takes an abstract concept to destroy an abstract concept," was their motto, but they said it in Latin so it sounded cooler:
"Malis conceptus abstractus perdere conceptus abstractus."
Or, shortened into their battle cry: Malis abstractus! "MALIS AB!" Seal Team i members would shout in battle, battle against whatever weird new thing had arisen for them to fight.
Jimmy Earwig thought to himself, now, Malis Ab, as he glared down at the rickety old house in Louisiana. There it sat, old, worn down, the white paint glowing a faded, peeling green in his night-vision goggles. They were set to night vision right now, but they could be set to other kinds: heat vision, infrared vision, invisible vision, in which everything normally invisible became visible, and vice versa.
"What a piece of crap," someone said in his ear.
He motioned for radio silence, but he agreed. Old, ramshackle, overbuilt, a yard with cracked stones in the back, a weathered old shed off to the side. Who would want to live here?
It was not the house they were here for.
It was that shed, off to the side, the shed that threatened the equilibrium between many of the multiverses, some of which had existed for eons, some of which were born yesterday, some of which had not yet come into being but were threatened anyway, and all of which were the sworn duty of Seal Team i to protect, even this universe, with its taxes and Orange Juliusi, and its little kids with magical powers living in a broken-down old house that just happened to sit next to a portal that linked every single dimension that had ever or would ever exist, linked them together and worked as a portal between them all.
A portal that needed to be closed.
A portal that, if not closed, would destroy everything, even those things that did not exist. Even those things that might never exist.
Jimmy Earwig leaned down and looked more closely.
A kid ran from the shed into the house, as he watched.
"Great Scott!" he mumbled, radio silence forgotten. "They're using it right now."
He looked at the pilot, and the copilot. "We've got to move. SEAL TEAM i, ready."
The plan was simple. The team would slide down their ropes, attach magnetic grapples to the shed, insert laser separators underneath the foundation of the building, and the helicopter would pull the entire building up. The bottom floor didn't matter. It was that top floor, built around and somehow containing the portal, that was important. The portal should have never been opened. It should have never been enclosed. It should have never been used by kids, for crying out loud.
But all those things had happened and now, the portal had to be stolen.
"I hear they call it the "Imagination Room," one of the team mumbled.
Jimmy Earwig, like the rest of his team, snapped his clip onto his rope, ready to jump out and slide to the ground. In the rearview mirror of the helicopter, he caught a momentary glimpse of himself and reflected, as he always did, on just how much he looked like Ryan Gosling.
"Let's move, before things get worse," he said. "SEAL TIME i, GO!"
"MALIS AB!"they shouted, and all 10 of the members of Seal Team i leapt simultaneously out of the black helicopter, sliding like ninjas down the ropes to the ground. Working like the perfectly functioning team they were, three set up a perimeter while three attached the magnetic grapples. Jimmy Earwig sighted through his laser rifle at the door of the house, ready lest one of the occupants come out, as the final three members inserted the laser cutters that would sever the building from its foundation. In seconds it was done and Jimmy Earwig made a hand gesture. Go, it meant.
The laser separators crackled to life, flashing through rock and dirt. The building was free.
The magnetic grapples sparked on. The ropes pulled taut. Each Seal Team member grabbed his rope.
Then the helicopter crashed into the building, a direct hit, dropped on it like a rock full of explosive fuel, which was exactly what it was. In the microseconds before the explosion, Jimmy Earwig had enough time to drop and roll and as he rolled over he saw what appeared to be a pterodactyl made out of electricity flying away into the night.
Then the helicopter blew up, instantly demolishing the building.
Then the portal itself blew, instantly combining every single multiverse and dimension that ever had and ever would exist into one place... here... and instantly bringing to life every single thing, every single idea, every single concept that had ever been thought of, however momentarily, by any sentient creature.
This... this... was going to be bad, Jimmy Earwig thought.
CLICK HERE TO GO ON TO PART TWO, 'THESEUS' SHIPS COME HOME'