The Ætheric Engine creaked to life reluctantly. None of us understood its operation, so if it failed to start as it so often did, we would be hard pressed to remedy the situation. But once more, it started up. As usual, it ran rough for a few minutes, and we all felt the side effects of that rippling off its manifold as the æther pulsed unexpectedly.
Once it was warmed up and humming, it would be possible to levitate the dog.
We weren’t entirely sure why we had to levitate the dog, but we knew it had to be done.
The dog wasn’t all that happy, and kept suggesting that we should be defying Mr. Kermit’s wishes and throwing a ball for him instead. Or at least levitating the ball.
But Mr. Kermit was a stern taskmaster, and defying his wishes was not without its cost.
And even though Brunhilde and I despised each other outside of class, here we were forced to set our petty differences aside and concentrate on working together to complete our term project. One step of which was to levitate the dog.
I felt that last ripple deep in my gut, I assume Hildy did likewise. And that reminds me that I haven’t mentioned my own name. And perhaps I’ll just keep it that way.
“Danforth Oliver Goodmanson—”
I jumped. Yes, that is my name, and spoken in that special tone that Mr. Kermit reserved for those who are assumed to be guilty of something. But I’ve done nothing and I know it.
“—If you would stop staring at miss Brunhilde like a love-sick puppy, you could be done with today’s exercise and off to your next classes early.”
I glance over at Hildy. She’s staring at me, mortified. “I never knew,” she began. Or perhaps more intrigued than mortified. “I—I never thought you—I—Um.”
At that point, the Ætheric Engine exploded on the other plane, and suddenly became a puddle of molten iron and copper on this plane.
The wave of æther released washed over us and the rest of classroom, picking other students up (and some bits of furniture, lab animals, and equipment too) and rearranging them in ways that made sense to the universe at large even if it appeared more like chaos to us. Somehow, Hildy ended up in my lap, and while I have to be honest with myself and recognize that was a pleasant sensation, it clearly mortified her. Or intrigued her. She was a tough cookie to read, our Hildy.
One tough cookie all right.