“Yes!” Thinking quickly, Larry pulled into a gas station. “We’re here. Out you go.” The man unlocked the doors without turning off the car. The strange child locked eyes with Larry using the rear-view mirror. The ethereal glow from the sphere reflected off the boy’s green eyes.
“No we are not,” the child, a red-headed pale boy with a galaxy of freckles across his face, replied with a flat voice.
“Do you know where you’re going?” Larry asked. He needed to stall while he grasped the situation. When he got in his car there was no child in the backseat, he doesn’t even have children. He checked the mirror many times while on the highway on the way to work and the backseat remained empty. It was not until he exited the highway that he heard the small voice. He felt glad the surprise didn’t panic him into another car.
“Yes,” the boy replied.
“Then why did you ask if we were there yet when we obviously aren’t?” Larry felt emboldened by the fact he had no idea who or what this boy was.
“That’s what children do,” he replied. A flash of doubt crossed his face, his freckles seemed to darken for a split second. “Isn’t it?”
“Are you a child?” The question left Larry’s mouth before he thought it. Once he heard himself he realized how desensitized to the unusual he’d become. “I forget how awesome my job is,” he smiled to himself. In response to his question, the boy nodded eagerly and smiled for the first time.
“A human child?” Larry corrected, not at all surprised that he needed to make the clarification. The boy’s smile evaporated and his head turned less than an inch from side to side.
“Well, at least you’re honest. What’s your name, and what are you doing in my car?”
“I like the name, Toby.”
“You don’t want to tell me your real name?” Larry asked. He decided having the conversation through the mirror was rude and turned in his seat to see the boy face to face. “I’m Larry,” the man smiled.
“I don’t have one,” the boy said. He looked down at the chrome sphere in his hands.
“Toby it is. So, what are you doing in my car, Toby?”
“Away from what?”
“Parents,” Toby said.
“They make me do bad things,” Toby said. Larry turned forward again and backed out of his spot. He drove out of the gas station back on the way to work.
“I’ll help you, but I have to know. What kind of things?” Larry asked the rear-view mirror.
“I have to pretend to be someone’s child. They make me ask about Earth’s defense systems. They want to conquer it, but I like humans. I don’t want to do it anymore.”
“Why me?” The boy shrugged and lifted the chrome sphere to show Larry in the mirror. It glowed brighter as if to introduce itself, then dimmed again.
“The ball told me you could help.”
“Does it talk?”
“To me,” Toby said. Larry slowed down in front of a large three-story building. A tall chain link fence surrounded the perimeter.
“Hey Toby, can you turn invisible by any chance? I have to get through security.”
“Yes!” the boy smiled, eager to show off. Toby faded away as Larry approached the security booth. He stopped in front of the lowered barricade and an armed guard stepped out of the small booth.
“Morning, Sir,” The security guard smiled and presented Larry with a tablet.
“Morning, Ralph.” Larry placed his flat palm on the tablet. The display came to life with a green light around his hand. Satisfied the guard nodded and stepped in the booth to raise the barricade.
“C’mon out, Toby,” Larry said after passing through the gate. Bright red freckles appeared first, hovering in place, then the rest of the boy filled in around the dots. Larry parked in his reserved spot, turned off the car, then turned around to chat with Toby.
“What does the ball think I can do for you?” he asked. He had some ideas already, considering his work, but he did not want to give more information than he needed to.
“It says you can help me leave.” Larry nodded.
“What makes it think that?”
“Your frequency is wrong,” Toby said. As if to prove a point the ball’s glow shifted to a neon purple color. An aura appeared around Larry, it was the same shade of purple.
“Alright, enough of that,” Larry said. The ball’s glow transitioned back to a warm ethereal light and Larry’s aura disappeared. “Yes, I can help. But what’s going to happen when you don’t report back to your parents? And more importantly, how can we be ready for them?” Toby lifted the sphere again.
“They can’t do anything without this. It’s not an invasion force, it’s just my parents thinking they’re higher life forms. Your current technology is enough to fend them off without the ball.” Larry nodded.
“Okay Toby, here’s the deal. I want to help you, but I need a token of faith in return. I’ll help you leave this Earth if you let me study your ball before you leave.
“I need to be gone before my parents come to pick me up. If I’m here they can teleport me back to them no matter where I am,” Toby said. A square slot opened in the top of the sphere and ejected a small silver ball at Larry. The moment he caught it a voice filled his mind.
“I’ll stay with you. Let him go,” a bright female voice said in his head.
“Good enough. C’mon Toby,” Larry pocketed the small silver ball and opened the car door. “Let’s get you to a different universe.”