There was a metallic ching and three-inch metal claws popped out of the creature’s ﬁngertips. Josh pressed himself into a corner as the thing vaulted fully into the room. “You cannot resist my mesmer eyes!” it decreed. “Come to me, Joshua Miles! And bring your brain!”
Josh looked into its glowing red eyes. They seemed to pull him in. His will to ﬂee suddenly became a necessity to move closer. Why would I do that? he thought, confused, but unable to alter the need. The claws reached for him.
Suddenly, Josh’s bedroom window imploded! Another portal appeared. This one resembled the ﬂaming threshold Tempo had used earlier. A colossal granite block of a man leaped through; blue skin, blue hair worn in a crew cut with a long pony tail, tiny jet-black glasses mounted on a prodigious face with a square jaw and mouth ﬁrmly set. He had metal wrist guards, a broad metal belt with lights and buttons on it, and a contraption the size of a large silver microwave mounted on his right shoulder. The new arrival’s landing impact shattered Josh’s wooden ﬂoor beneath metal boots the size of dog houses!
“If it isn’t Chaos,” the new apparition said to the ﬁrst, grabbing Chaos’s wrist just in time. “Wanna dance?”
“Denso!” Chaos growled. “My pleasure, and your demise!”
With his free hand, Chaos took Denso by the throat and unceremoniously slammed him into the ceiling. Plaster fell like Kansas hail.
“Errg! Where’d you learn that dance step?” Denso rasped through squeezed larynx.
As Chaos grinned the grin of the victor, there was a ching of metal-on-metal and three glistening foot long slasher blades popped out on the undersides of each of Chaos’s forearms. Chaos was about to rake the blades across Denso’s throat, when Denso managed to say, “Better let me lead—with a left!” then he swung a ﬁst the size of a ham into Chaos’s jaw.
Denso’s massive punch sent Chaos ﬂying across the room, crushing Josh’s desk. Chaos ﬁred his metal claws at Denso like daggers! Denso whipped up his metal wrist guards and the little projectiles thunked into them like rapid ﬁre darts! Denso ﬂipped a switch on his belt and a blue beam shot out of the big metal box on his shoulder. He turned his torso so the beam raked the opposite wall, setting it, the desk, and Josh’s homework, aﬁre. The explanation to Josh’s teachers this time would be far less believable even than that of: “The dog ate my homework!”
When Denso’s death beam reached Chaos, he deﬂected it with his slashers. The redirected beam shot to the ceiling and blew Josh’s mobile of the solar system to smithereens! Chaos lunged and slashed horizontally at Denso, who ducked. This caused Chaos to over swing, so Denso took the opportunity to jump on his back. Denso threw an arm around Chaos’s throat. Chaos’s metal hair coils were alive! They reached back to envelop Denso’s head as Denso locked the choke hold in place! The two fell back on Josh’s bed. The bed collapsed!
That’s when Josh, for the ﬁrst time, noticed the chrome band on Denso’s left forearm. It was the same kind of device the girl had used to vanish.
Denso yelled, “Let’s burn!” He hit the large central button on the band. With a burst of incomprehensible energy, a patch of ﬁre opened, and the two evaporated into it. The ﬂaming portal roared like Tempo’s did, then it sucked in upon itself and vanished with a loud pop!
In the commotion, Josh was unaware that another ﬂaming portal was materializing in the wall behind him. It opened and Tempo jumped through, landing adroitly on bare feet, thankfully still in her ‘familiar form’ of Emily Kinicki, still in that purple bathing suit. She landed right behind the awestruck boy. He spun around in terror when she spoke, but was relieved to ﬁnd it was only her.
“Denso can restrain Chaos for only a short while. Fractal has directed me to bring you to him.”
“Fractal?” Josh said, perplexed by the new name added to those just introduced to his swirling mind.
“Fractal is our leader,” Tempo explained with urgency. “It’s your only hope.”
“Whoa,” Josh said through a nervous laugh, “My parents’ll go postal! They’ll never let me—”
“Their wishes can be of no concern to us. If Chaos wins it will mean the end of—existence!” The girl touched some small buttons on her arm band. The contraption began to hum, tiny lights ﬂashing. “I have set my band so we dimension burn some distance from Fractal’s location.” She grabbed the boy by the wrist. “The enemy has found a way to track us, so we must cover our burn traces.” Tempo poised her ﬁnger over the large central activation button, but Josh stopped her.
“Chill a mo,” he said.
Tempo didn’t know the words, but she understood his meaning, for holding his wrist put her in telepathic contact with him and, in telepathy, it’s the thought that counts.
Josh broke from her grasp and put on his backpack. It had three protein bars and some other stuff in it that might come in handy. He grabbed the battered helmet he wore when skateboarding. The Old Nutshell, as his dad called Josh’s helmet, had served Josh well in the past. He’d seen what happens when the big button on that burn band was pushed. It could be a bumpy ride. He had a thought, then he foot-ﬂipped his skateboard up into his hands and tucked it in the pocket for that purpose on the side of his backpack. Josh tightened the chin strap on the Old Nutshell, locked hands with Emily Kinicki and said, “Do it!”
Tempo smiled Emily’s smile, then touched the large central button. Josh’s ears throbbed from the incredible sound, for inside the energy ﬁeld created by the burn band the sound was much louder, like the pounding pressure of a deep sea dive. Josh suddenly found himself ﬂying, more like ﬂoating. It was like being caught in the rush of a waterless tidal wave howling down a never-ending corkscrew tunnel. Dancing prismatic lights of every color imaginable coursed through the walls of the twisting pathway.
“What’s this—tunnel we’re in?” Josh shouted.
“A dimension burn!” Tempo explained. “Fractal is waiting for us in Durratta, a dimension of geometric illusion. It’s continuum is slightly warped, so the enemy will be unable to track us there.”
“What are you guys?” Josh wailed, at a loss for poise, “Some sort of—DimensioNoids?”
“DimensioNoids? I like this term, Joshua Miles! DimensioNoids!” Tempo shouted as if testing the sound of it.
“Hey,” Josh shouted back, “I was kidding. You know, DimensioNoids? Kinda lame?”
Tempo smiled through Emily Kinicki’s lips. “I like it!”
Josh had no way of knowing that his parents, roused by the noise, had ventured down the hall and into Josh’s room. They gasped at the sight. Wrecked desk smoldering, crushed bed and ﬂoor, ceiling ripped open to expose the lath work. Most of one wall and its window were completely gone!
“My God!” Josh’s mother exclaimed. “Did a tornado go through here?” Then Mrs. Miles called out, “Josh?” then to her husband she whispered worriedly, “He’s—gone!”
Josh’s father sniffed the acrid, hazy air. “And he’s been smoking!” he scowled.
As Josh looked down the winding interdimensional pathway, another thought occurred to him. He held up the ﬁst that was their two hands clenched together. “Can I let go?” he said to the morph that looked like Emily Kinicki.
“Yes. The burn will deliver us both, now that we’re in the tube,” Tempo said, a bit bewildered.
“Cool!” Josh grinned.
Josh let go of her hand and grabbed his board out of his backpack. While in free fall he mounted the skateboard, bringing the wheels into contact with the twisting walls. Sparks ﬂew off the wheels of his board like pinwheel ﬁreworks on the Fourth of July. It was an incredible run! He did a full 360 around the inside surface of the tunnel. He shredded it!
“Awesome!” the boy shouted, drawing a smile from Tempo that was more of a puzzled wince.
As he boarded along, Josh wondered, Was he trying to show off for Emily? Trying to get her to smile? But this wasn’t really Emily. This was a mass of silver ooze with the ability to look like Emily! Suddenly, the tone of the incredible roar within the tube changed.
“Uh, Joshua Miles,” the girl in the purple bathing suit called out, “we’re about to reach terminus.”
“Terminus?” Josh gulped, looking back from his board as he rode up one wall. “I don’t like the sound of THAAAAT!”
The dimension burn reached terminus, which is what interdimensional travelers called achieving ﬁnal destination. Tempo landed deftly on her feet. Josh, unfamiliar with terminus velocity, came ﬂying out of the portal on his skateboard! He crashed and burned, doing a major face plant in a dune of oily black sand. Josh spat out some of the black stuff, and looked over with awe the dimension called Durratta.
Until now, Josh’s mind had been able to grasp most of what was happening to him in relatively familiar terms. Upon arrival in Durratta, all logic fell away. No earthly perceptions presented themselves to solve the riddles of this unresponsive land.
Towers of what might be considered trees grew up out of the black sand. They had scaly bronze trunks that stretched forever, telephone pole thin, straight as arrows, up into clouds that were orange. The clouds bore a stiff and unmoving resemblance to the lumpy sweet potatoes Josh’s grandmother made every Thanksgiving and, only by her smiling demeanor, forced everyone to eat and to compliment her on. Limbs grew out of the trees at perfect right angles, and the leaves were perfect circles. Furry creatures resembling pure white monkeys frolicked in the trees, whooping peculiar haunting whistles. The monkeys had perfectly round heads and eyes and mouths that, too, seemed to be perfect circles.
Tempo scanned the strange domain worriedly, “Hurry,” she said, with urgency unnecessary, for Josh was ﬁlled with fear—fear that Chaos, the creature with the vengeful claws and serpentine hair coils, was out there somewhere, intent on stealing his brain!
“Why does he want my brain?”
“Chaos used a device provided by The Evil Cluster to look into the future. There he discovered the seeds of his destruction had taken root in you. Ever since, he has been searching for you. Searching for Solaria.”
“Your dimension,” Tempo smiled. “You are its champion, Joshua Miles. Soon, you will join with champions from other dimensions and you shall lead us all to victory.”
“Wa-aay! We’ll all be your—” she squinted those beautiful eyes of Emily’s as she searched for the word. Then she beamed like sunshine and said, “Posse!”
Josh rolled his eyes at the thought. “Look at me!” he sighed, “I’m no hero!”
“But you are. You are the hope for the universe,” Tempo sincerely said, then she turned and jogged off.
Josh pushed himself to follow.“Really, I can’t be any help. I’m—just a kid!”“You will ﬁnd us the way to win.”