Zero Help

“I’m so sorry!” Clara apologized to the black-suited man. She fell to her knees and began to help him gather the mess of papers sprawled on the floor. The school’s hallway was empty except for the two of them; Clara was running late to her next class. While rushing, she turned a corner without paying attention and head-butted a short stranger. He dropped his briefcase then it popped open on impact and sent papers flying.

“Accidents happen,” the man said. He did not make a move to help Clara collect his papers; he was too busy rubbing the sore spot on his forehead.

Investigation of Sharp Development,” the thought flashed in Clara’s mind when she grabbed a form. Clara considered her gift to be another sense. She had simple control over it and for the most part, could avoid reading things if she made an effort. She had never heard the name “Sharp Development” but it was an investigation. The short man rubbing his head and looking down at her definitely resembled an investigator. His suit alone screamed, “Secret Government Agency” and Clara grew curious enough to make an effort to study the sheets she was collecting.

“Are you someone’s older brother?” Clara asked him; she hoped some conversation would give her an excuse to collect the papers slower. As far as she could tell the first one was a cover-sheet of some sort; there was no other information on it.

“No. Why?” he asked. Clara shrugged and grabbed another sheet.

“You look like you’re too old to be a student, but too young to be a parent of a high-schooler,” she said.  “Student-teacher?” she asked. “B.A.A. Recommendation: Continued monitoring of Sharp Development. Prevent contact with Middle-men at all costs.” flashed in Clara’s mind when she grabbed another sheet. She got the sense it was the last sheet and she missed everything in the actual report. The short stranger shook his head and finally crouched to help her gather the stray papers.

“I’m here looking for someone,” he said, then looked at her with a curious expression. “What’s your favorite number?” he asked.

“People have a favorite number?” Clara giggled her reply. She meant to ask him his favorite out of curiosity, but she was distracted by the next paper she grabbed. “B.A.A. – Bureau of Alternate Agencies.”  She found out more from that one sheet than she thought was even possible. The text went into detail about the Bureau itself; they were from an alternate universe. He was from an alternate universe. The Bureau coordinated information and handled multi-versal threats. Clara gave a slight tremble; she realized there was probably a threat at her school. Her friends were probably in danger and she decided she wanted to help.

“You okay?” the stranger asked; he noticed the sudden, fearful look in her eyes.

“Uh…,” Clara stalled, then took a deep breath. “You’re used to weird things popping up, right?” she asked quickly, but did not give him a chance to answer. “I mean you’re from a different universe so you’ve probably seen all kinds of strange stuff. You believe in it?”  Most of the papers had been gathered by then; he looked up into her eyes and nodded slightly.

“Yeah. How do you know that?” he asked.

I can help,” Clara reminded herself, then she pointed at the briefcase. “I can read things just by touching them, the ones I picked up talked about the B.A.A.”

“Huh,” the short man said. His papers were back in their folder and back in the briefcase. He locked it and stood up, then offered Clara a hand to help her back up. “And you don’t have a favorite number?” he asked. Clara shook her head. “Prove it,” he said. The reached into his coat pocket and grabbed a small black notepad and pen. He scribbled something on a sheet, tore it off, then folded it and gave it to Clara.

“Fuzzy wuzzy was a woman?” she asked and grinned with amusement.

“No leads,” a deeper voice said behind Clara. She turned around to see a tall man in the same uniform as the short one she bumped into. Black suit, black tie, white shirt.

“It’s okay, I know why,” the short one said. Clara turned back to the short one in time to see him nod at her. “She’s a Zero.”

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