This continues an excerpt from Mad Science Institute, a novel of calamities, creatures, and college matriculation. The novel will be available 12/16/2011, but you can read the beginning here first!
Chapter 2 Continued…
When she looked up at him he saw deep, dark circles under her green eyes. She was smiling, but her mouth was strained. “What’s wrong,” he asked. “Is it your heart?” Her blouse covered the scar that had long since faded into a nearly invisible white line down her chest, but he knew it marked the implantation of the tiny electronic pacemaker that corrected her congenital heart defect.
“My heart’s fine. Listen, I have a lot to tell you and not much time. First of all, I sent a letter of acceptance to your cousin, Sophia. She should be getting it any day now.”
“Is that what this is about?” Dean rolled his eyes. “Look, I told you, I’m not that close to her or anything. You didn’t have to take her on my account.”
“That’s not why I accepted her. Believe me, she’s more than qualified. She’s…extraordinary.”
“Okay, you didn’t come all the way out here just to thank me for the recruiting tip. Spill it.”
She seemed hesitant to speak, hesitant even to look at him. “I need a favor,” she finally said. “A really, really big favor. Dean, I need you to run my school for me. I need you to be the Dean of Students at the Mechanical Science Institute.”
Dean just looked at her. He couldn’t imagine why on earth she would want him, of all people, to run a science college. He could disconnect a sparking car battery and predict the movements of flames within interior walls, but he wouldn’t have been able to pick out the difference between Avogadro’s number and Newton’s Laws if his life depended on it.
“I’m sorry,” McKenzie said “I wouldn’t have come to you if I had any other choice.”
“This is one of your games, isn’t it? Another one of your Mensa brain-puzzles? You’re always over my head with these things. You have to tell me plainly: what’s going on?”
She didn’t answer. He held her at arm’s length so he could study her face, hoping to find some clue that would help him unravel the riddle or catch the joke. But the only clues he found were the dark circles under her eyes and the worried crease in her brow. Dean felt confused and worried, and the more he tried to figure it out the more he felt like there was a giant hand inside his stomach making fists with his guts.
“Hey, Dean!” The booming voice of the fire chief called to him from the engine. “Were you planning to join us?”
Dean glanced back to see that the rest of his crew had finished loading up and were ready to go. McKenzie took that moment to pull away from him.
“Tomorrow morning, after your shift ends, meet me at that sushi place where you took me the first time I came out here.”
“McKenzie, wait.” He reached out to her like a blind man trying to find a doorway. “Whatever it is, let me help. I’ll get you a doctor or a lawyer—or a hit-man, if that’s what it takes.”
She gave him a slight smile, her green eyes suddenly sad. “The Institute,” she said. “I need your help with that.” And then she was gone.
This concludes chapter 2. Chapter 3 begins tomorrow with Soap at a science fair. Hilarity and destruction ensues.