Six-year-old Billy grinned at his classmates from the front of the class. It was his turn for show and tell and he knew he had the best thing to show off.
“Today I brought my grandpa,” the dirty-blond boy pointed at a wrinkled, silver-haired man in a black suit. The elderly man leaned against the back wall; he smiled and waved when a dozen tiny heads whirled around to face him. “He’s retired now,” Billy continued. “But he used to be in the B.A.A.” Several of the students giggled and the teacher spoke up from her desk beside Billy.
“Did you mean the F.B.I?” she asked. “I’ve never heard of the B.A.A.” Billy shook his head but his grandfather was already walking between the tiny desks.
“That’s how good they are,” the man said with a deep voice and a smile. The teacher almost rolled her eyes but she seemed to remember where she was at the last minute. She managed to turn away and pretend to focus on some paperwork.
“What’s B.A.A.?” a young voice asked as the old man reached the front and turned around. He did not know who asked the question but it didn’t matter; he was there to give answers.
“It stands for Bureau of Alternate Agencies. Who knows what a Bureau is?” he asked. A red-haired girl with freckles and baby-fat cheeks raised her arm.
“It’s where my mom puts my clothes away!” she said. Billy’s grandpa smiled and nodded.
“You’re right!” The girl’s smile lit up the room. “That is also called a bureau, but it’s not the one I was talking about.” Her smile dimmed, but she nodded.
“The bureau I mean is the same one as the F.B.I. That stands for Federal Bureau of Investigation, it’s like an organized group.”
“Like a gang?” a dark-haired boy asked.
“They can be,” the man said.
“What did your bureau do?” the red-haired girl asked.
“We organize all the other groups and help them where we can. If the F.B.I. was a football player, the B.A.A. is the coach.”
“Do you know a lot of secrets? Tell us!” a chubby kid demanded. The old man nodded.
“I know lots of secrets. Too many to explain before school ends,” he chuckled. “So how about you guys ask me what you want to know and If I have an answer I’ll give it to you.”
“Are aliens real?” the question was blurted out so fast that the old man did not see who asked.
“There was no proof they existed when I retired,” he replied. The class stayed quiet for several minutes after that last question. Billy’s grandfather got the impression they didn’t know what to ask about other than aliens. “Any other questions?” he asked. The group of six-year-olds seemed to be growing bored already. He wanted to impress Billy’s friends but he hoped they’d have more interesting questions for him. Luckily he had a secret weapon. The old man reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small glassy rectangle.
“What’s that?” one of the children sitting at the front asked. The man held up the transparent pane.
“This is called a node. It’s like a cellphone but better.” He tapped the front of it and numbers lit up on the front to show the time.
“What makes it better?”
“Well…,” the old man said. He turned the node around and began swiping and tapping on it. “You know how your phones can make phone calls and send texts?” he asked the class while his attention was focused on the node. He used his thumbs to type out a message. None of the children said anything but he assumed they nodded. “Nodes can do that too. But, if you know what you’re doing you can send texts to other universes.” He looked up from the glassy gadget and saw a classroom full of confused looks. He expected more of a reaction at the mention of other universes, but then he remembered they were six. They barely had a grasp on the universe they were in. “Anyone like pizza?” he asked to change the subject; it was time for his secret weapon.
“ME!ME!” More than a dozen hands shot up; several kids raised both hands.
“I just ordered pizza from another universe,” he said. “It’ll be here any-“
“Minute,” a girl’s voice said behind him.
“WHOOOOAAA!” awe swept over the class. Billy’s grandfather turned around. A teenage girl wearing a red hoodie stood between him and the blackboard. Her hood was down showing white hair and she held three pizza boxes stacked in her hands.
“Okay, class,” he turned back to the kids. “Everyone who wants pizza say thank you to Cherry.”
“THANK YOU, CHERRY!”