[In our last episode, Sarah had finally had enough...]
The Diner went silent.
Sarah was standing in the middle of the dining room. All patrons had stopped eating, drinking and talking.
"There's only one explanation for this. MASON?" she shouted. But there was no answer.
"May'yam?" A small voice asked.
Sarah looked down at the short, wizened man holding a *large* key ring. She barely controlled her temper. "Yesssss" she hissed.
"Ah've got th' Men's Room unlocked." There was no answer. Sarah continued to stare at him. "Ah'm the *locksmith*" he pronounced it 'lahk-smee-ith'. Still no response. "Baen sent me?"
Sarah took a deep breath. There was no sense in getting mad at *this* fellow. "I'm sorry. Yes, you unlocked it. What was the problem?"
"Well…" he paled, "Ah cain't rightfully say. Ah've seen some strange contraptions in mah lahf, but Ah hain't nevah seen one lahk this!"
With mutters of 'Rex' and 'Mason' and 'lunatic' the entire Diner tried to crowd into the hallway leading back to the restrooms. There was only room for a few. Speaker was closest, quickly followed by Sarah and Laura. Being the *smallest* in the Diner, the locksmith, LabRats™ and The Drool also managed to squeeze in.
It was a Plumber's Nightmare. Pipes led everywhere. Many of the configurations were simply impossible – that one just *couldn't* turn inside out and still keep the water inside. The pipes were of many types: lead, copper, PVC, glass, plastic. Where the liquid was visible it glowed in eye-hurting colors: bright purple-green, deep indigo-yellow, intense cyan-red. Water dripped, pooled and ran all over the fixtures and floor.
No one dared approach any closer, either. Off to one side stood a Jacob's ladder, bright blue sparks climbing up the wires, then jumping into the air, only to ground out on the wet piping and run blue-white and crackling down to the floor.
There was a faint breeze blowing out from the apparatus. There was a clear area in the center surrounding one of the stalls, and on the closed door of the stall was the diner clock that had once hung on the wall over the kitchen window. The rapidly spinning hands were the source of the moving air.
The sparks stopped. The water slowed to a trickle. The colors faded. The stall door opened and out stepped Rex Mason leading a man with white hair and long flowing white beard. Normal for Rex, he didn't notice the audience and continued talking to the man as fast as possible:
"…and you should see the tanks – I just love the tanks – although yours needed more guns – you should definitely have more guns – did you know that if you have enough guns and you fire three adjacent guns you don't even need a motor? – It's just like a rocket drive – fire the guns and the tank moves in the opposite direction – Newton's third law – did you know Newton? – helicopters – I just *love* helicopters – although they need to go faster – you didn't need that corkscrew thingy – but it needed to go faster – you could have put guns on the ends of the blades! –fire the guns and it's just like rockets – rocket assisted helicopters – that's a great idea – and if we use just the *right* rockets I'll bet we could get the blades to go faster-than-light – FTL helicopters – and since the blades are going around in circles the vectors will all cancel out and there'll be no problems with causality – speaking of vectors I was looking at the Vitruvian Man and you definitely needed to draw more arms and legs – I mean you were on the right track, but if you want to make him faster and stronger he needs more arms and legs…"
Rex finally looked up and noticed the crowd.
"Hi Sarah! – look who I found – I told everyone I needed to find someone who appreciated my genius – I just needed another genius! – master da Vinci, this is Sarah – Sarah, this is Leonardo da Vinci – I'm sorry, I don't speak Italian, but isn't that a little bit like Portuguese? – Say hi to him in Portuguese, Sarah – I don't want him to think we're *strange* or something!"
Back in the crowd someone muttered "That boat has already sailed."
Sarah was visibly trying to calm herself. Speaker offered a small silver flask and whispered, "it's the Oban 21."
Sarah took a sip. Then swallowed. Then drained the flask. In a tight, controlled voice she said, "Rex. What. Have. You. Done?"
Rex beamed with pride.
"It's a Time Machine – I didn't have all of the parts I needed after Chris took off with my FTL ship, so I thought 'Time only flows in one direction, and water only flows in one direction!' – If I could get the water to flow in several directions then I might get time to flow in several directions, too! – I worked all night on it – sorry about the Men's Room, but I needed lots of water and I knew Laura would never let me build it in the kitchen – so I thought 'Where can I find plenty of water and pipes – and I was just sitting here in this stall and it came to me – so I made all of this and then I installed the clock and made it go backwards but I needed electricity and I thought we had this old spark machine and it's kind of like lightning so I put it in here but it makes all of the pipes act funny and you feel all tingly when the water runs backwards so I closed the door to keep the LabRats™ out and I …"
"Stop. Rex, you have to send him back."
"But Sarah! He just got here! It isn't Fair! I just wanted someone who would understand my genius!"
"Rex! He doesn't understand you. He doesn't understand what you're saying. He Doesn't. Speak. English!"
"Oh, that's okay! – that's why I worked at night – Speaker's here – Speaker's here every night past midnight – I figure if he can talk to the LabRats™, he can talk to Master da Vinci!"
"Rex! He has to go back! Your machine has had too many side effects – I've got Musketeers and poets and English Royalty and even Vlad the Bloody Impaler running around the Diner. It *has* to be put back!"
Rex's expression fell. It was a terrible thing to see. One minute, manic and with the brightest expression a human face cold hold, the next, it was lower than The Drool. It was a shameful, wasteful thing to do, but it had to be done.
In a quiet voice Rex answered " 'kay."
"Rex. All the way back – do you understand?"
"No little windows in time, no cell phones to the future."
" 's ma'am."
"Good. Fortunately I *do* speak Italian." Sarah turned to da Vinci and spoke with him briefly, then Rex led him back into the stall, closed the door, and every stood back as the pipes gurgled, sparks jumped, and the clock began to wind backward.
"So what did you tell him?" Laura asked Sarah.
"She told him it was all a bad dream and that he should lay off of the pepperoncini and no more than one limoncello before bedtime!" Speaker answered with a wide grin.
It was past midnight. Once Rex had returned and dismantled the machine, things had returned to normal. Laura had cleaned up the kitchen, Dick and Eeyore returned to the Tavern for a nightcap, but not before sending over an unopened bottle of twenty-one year old Balvenie Portwood for Sarah. The other patrons had gone home, leaving s2la at his laptop and a dejected looking Wolfie.
"Lifted it again?" asked Speaker.
"Damn right" said Sean. "and thanks again for the ride."
The rats had finished cleaning and were playing with the new floor. They'd set the friction coefficient all the way down and were playing their own version of air hockey. "Set it back, guys, time to pack up" called Speaker.
"Sure, Boss!" replied Ratley.
Once it was safe to walk on the floor the rats hopped back to s2la and found their places in the pockets of his vest and coat as he put on his calfskin gloves and top hat then picked up his walking stick.
After locking the door, Speaker turned to Sean and said "One thing I've wondered, though…"
"What's that?" Wolfie asked, donning a set of gleaming brass and glass goggles. He settled into the plush passenger seat of Speaker's conveyance as the steam release valve hissed.
"Why did Rex think he needed *electricity*?"
[This concludes our "filler" entertainment. Speaker and the Lab Rats' Guide to the Brain should be back later this week with the final 3 segments of How to Write a Research Grant Proposal, More MONDAY FUNNY, and the newly renamed SCIENCE FRIDAY news and comment feature. Thanks for your attention!]