“Prove it,” Norma said. She smirked at Aurelio, a chubby, curly-haired boy sitting across the table from her. Norma glanced left and right at the students around them. They sat outside in the school’s courtyard waiting for the morning bell. It was a cool, crisp Monday morning, and Aurelio had been excited to tell Norma about his weekend. “Or, let me guess,” she added, then filled her voice with sarcasm: ‘They’re too many people around’. Right?” she giggled.
Aurelio shook his head and pulled out a small glass card. It was completely transparent until he tapped on it, then a display lit up. He continued to tap and swipe the screen, slowly. He took a moment here and there to check he was tapping the right icons; he only owned the node for a couple of days.
“What’s that?” Norma asked. Aurelio shrugged without looking up, he was still navigating the menus trying to find the right sort of proof.
“It’s called a node. It’s like a phone, but better; she gave it to me. Ah, how about this,” Aurelio grinned, he looked up at Norma.
“Pause,” he tapped the node at the same time.
“Pause what?” Norma asked.
“I paused everything,” he turned and pointed at the flow of students; they were all frozen in time.
“No way….,” Norma stood slowly from the bench and made her way to the nearest group of students. Aurelio split his attention between watching her poke and prod them; and, navigating through the node. “You really can….,” Norma was amazed. Aurelio smiled and tapped the node one more time.
“You like snow, right?” he asked. Then, Norma noticed snowflakes fluttering down; her eyes shot even wider.
“Are you going to see her again!? Can you get me one!?” she asked. Aurelio shook his head; the jungle of dark brown curls on his head bounced with the motion.
“She said I’d probably never see her again,” Aurelio replied.
“But, you can find her, right? I mean, how many people can there be in the world named ‘Vanilla’?”
“She wasn’t from this Earth,” Aurelio replied.
“You didn’t tell me she was an alien!” Norma said with slight annoyance in her voice. Aurelio shook his head.
“Not an alien; from an alternate Earth. That was the other thing I was going to tell you about,” he said. But, Norma wasn’t listening.
“Didn’t you stop time?” she asked. Her eyes focused on something behind Aurelio. He grew suspicious and turned around to see a woman wearing what appeared to be a formal white coat with tails. He clearly saw a red vest under her coat, with another layer of white beneath it when she walked through the time-locked students.
“Oh no! Pretend you’re frozen!” he turned around to face forward, then tried to remain still. He was glad to see that Norma at least listened to him, even though she was clearly confused.
“Why?” Norma tried exhaling the question without moving her lips.
“Sh!” Aurelio replied. The pair of 8th-graders sat still for several minutes. All around them they heard the strange woman in white walking through the students, seemingly searching for something. She walked to where Aurelio could see her better; he spotted a red sun embroidered on the left side of her coat. He hoped he knew what it meant, and relaxed slightly. But, he wasn’t going to make any moves just yet. Then, she headed straight for him.
“Gotcha,” she said with a smile once she reached their table. “Hola, Luna…,” Aurelio couldn’t help it; his eyes made contact with hers and her smile grew broader. “…how did you do this?” she asked. He knew he was caught, but she did not seem to be angry. He shrugged his shoulders, then relaxed. Norma followed his lead and relaxed too, but the woman didn’t take her eyes off Aurelio.
“With a node,” he replied. He held up the glass card to show her.
“You did this with a node?” she asked and gestured at the still students. Aurelio nodded. Sol raised a blonde eyebrow. “May I see it?” she asked.
“No,” Norma answered for Aurelio; but, he was already handing it over. Sol accepted the clear card. She made a sweeping gesture with her arm and a larger, smokey-grey glass pane appeared hovering in front of her. She set the node down on its surface, then began moving her fingers along the lower portion of the square to type.
“This node didn’t have timeframe access initially,…,,” she mumbled to herself. Aurelio stood from his seat to look at the glass slate next to her, but he could only see the same smokey grey glass.
“Yeah, I thought that was weird. I saw Vanilla control time, so I knew it could be done; I had to program my own workaround,” he said.
“You met a Muerte?” Sol asked. She looked down at Aurelio and brilliant golden suns glowed in her eyes for a moment. “But, you didn’t touch her?” Aurelio shook his head.
“No, she told me about Lunas.” Sol smiled.
“Okay, this is why I’m here,” she said, then gave Aurelio his node back.
“Why?” Norma asked once Aurelio held the node again.
“Muertes can stop time, nodes can usually only slow it down to near stopping. But, suddenly this server started using a lot of resources so I came to find out why,” she smiled at Aurelio. “Because some genius little hacker accidentally tripled the power draw for the nanos here. I believe my boss, Ms. Sharp, would very much like to meet you,” she said.
“Am I in trouble?” he asked. For some reason, Aurelio trusted Sol; she gave off a pleasant vibe that he found comforting.
“Not at all,” Sol said. “You’re being offered a job.”