Author's Note: I know, no more fics. Bad Bev. At any rate, I hope you guys enjoy this. I don't know how often I'll be able to update it.
Nothing moved. Within his chest, the air stagnated; he was too focused on the body, facedown in a growing pool of blood. Spots appeared before his eyes and his chest ached, reminding him he needed to breathe. Dorkus ignored the urge and waited to see whether he would stir and bounce back. The boy had an unpleasant ability to escape death. Considering the sheer amount of weapons he'd used, one would think death was inevitable.
Another thirty seconds and the boy did not move, did not flinch or wince. Satisfied, Dorkus inhaled deeply, coughing as it rattled in his lungs, and kicked the boy over so his sightless eyes stared at the ceiling. Clutched in the boy's hand was an atomic insignia on a small plate, which glowed red. The initials at the bottom read J.N.
Dorkus contemplated the initials for a second, kicked the boy in the head twice for good measure, and fled from the chamber. He needed to escape before morning, when the kingdom would be in an uproar.
Jimmy Neutron had spent the last six months unsuccessfully tracking his rogue rocket. It hadn't been finished when Sheen stole it and the tracking device was defunct. According to Vox's scans, the rocket had crashed into the surface of a planet, but beyond that, he had no information. Considering the vast amount of planets in the universe capable of sustaining life, he could spend eternity searching for Sheen and never locate him. His last hope was a chip he had implanted in the spacesuit that had so far been dormant. If Sheen was ever in true mortal peril, the chip should send out a low level frequency signal that would eventually reach Jimmy. It, like the rocket, was unfortunately not completely finished.
Sheen's family was frantic. His father begged Jimmy every day to bring Sheen back and Jimmy was doing his best but, as he'd explained, it might be easier for Sheen to come home than for Jimmy to retrieve him. Sheen's grandmother told Jimmy it was his inventions that had caused this.
What made matters worse was that Sheen's grandmother's sentiment was echoed by almost everyone in the town. The town had taken sides, one half deciding it wasn't Jimmy's fault Sheen was stupid enough to pilfer a rocket and take off. The other half had decided if Jimmy's security was better or he wasn't building those damn things in the first place, Sheen would be safe. The second half was determined to ruin what little happiness Jimmy had now. He would have thought Cindy would have instantly jumped to vilify him, but he was astonished to discover her adamantly defending him.
"You put up warning signs," she said. "You told him not to go into the lab that day. You warned him about the rocket for weeks. It's his own fault."
He was working on his homework with Vox monitoring things in the background. Life went on, even if people wanted to pretend it didn't. Scratching his head, he stared at the compound interest problem and wondered whom the teacher thought she was fooling. This was elementary, even for an advanced calculus. He was taking middle school classes on the side or had been until this calamity. Now he was taking them online.
Vox emitted a single plaintive shriek. Cindy, in the middle of reading a book for English class, dropped it and whirled around in the cushioned chair Jimmy had provided her. Cindy was a frequent visitor these days, along with Carl and Libby. Their small group had consolidated further. Carl was in the bathroom and Libby was listening to music, so neither of them had heard Vox.
"What the heck was that?" Cindy said.
"One second," he said and flipped to the background tab. Red letters flashed across the screen in a random order and it took a second for Jimmy to decipher them, because it was like the program itself had gone into a panic. The letters stopped flashing and settled. Cindy abandoned her chair to lean over Jimmy's shoulder. He could smell her apple blossom shampoo and a goofy smile settled on his face. Cindy reading aloud the warning wiped it off.
"Warning, subject's death imminent. Warning, all life systems…"
Vox beeped louder, prompting them to cover their ears, and Libby removed her ear buds in annoyance. Carl, toilet paper still on his right shoe, waddled into the room. Vox beeped once more, sounding mournful, and the message changed.
"Cannot read life systems. Repeat, life systems are not registering. Subject may be dead."
" 'May be'?" Cindy echoed. The shrill tone had ceased for the moment and Jimmy heard her beyond the pounding in her head.
"Jim, who's the subject?" Carl said quietly.
"Didn't you say you planted a chip in the spacesuit Sheen took?" Libby said. Her voice was soft, with an edge under the surface. She stepped forward and her eyes flashed. She shoved aside the cushioned chair she'd had and all three stood behind Jimmy's chair. Jimmy swallowed hard, shaking, and unable to grasp logic.
Jimmy's throat constricted.
"Didn't you say you planted a chip in Sheen's spacesuit?" Libby snarled and Jimmy's chest tightened too. He grabbed the armrests and dug his fingers into the palm rests. The warning message remained on the screen on top of his Calculus. The box had cut off the word 'result' from the question 'what is the end result?'
"I…I did…" Jimmy said faintly.
"Then Sheen…" Carl trailed off.
Libby grabbed Jimmy by the collar and snarled at him, "Sheen's dead, isn't he?"
Jimmy didn't answer.
"I…there's a statistical probability the chip malfunctioned and it's misreporting Sheen's true state…" he said weakly. "It wasn't finished when Sheen-"
Libby slapped him across the face and dropped him back into the chair. "He's dead because he stole one of your stupid rockets."
"I didn't…it's not…" Jimmy's stomach cramped and he felt like he was going to vomit. Cold sweat sprang up on his brow and he missed the blow by blow between Cindy and Libby. Carl crept closer to Jimmy and stood at his right side.
"He's not dead, is he?" he murmured in a wounded voice with his forest green eyes wide behind his glasses.
Cindy and Libby stopped arguing and Carl's question fell into the awkward, pained silence.
"You wouldn't let Sheen die."
"Is he dead?" Cindy said in a softer voice, more conciliatory than usual. Jimmy had no idea how he looked, but it must have been awful to merit Cindy standing at his left side and squeezing his shoulder.
Jimmy swallowed several times. Goddard trotted up, produced a glass of water, and Jimmy swallowed past the large obstruction in his throat. He blinked several times and words fled him. Cindy cupped his chin and forced him to look up. He coughed, shuddered, and looked at Libby.
"Statistically speaking, it's unlikely he's still alive," he said. "The odds are about .02% the chip misfired."
The words hung in the air like the proverbial sword above the table and Jimmy's stomach cramped violently. He swallowed back the urge to vomit and shut his eyes. He couldn't stop shaking. Cindy's hand was warm in comparison, albeit dry. He drew little comfort from her ministrations. Behind his closed eyelids, he saw the message blinking and thought of the rocket Sheen had stolen.
"We're going there," Libby announced. ".02% is better than nothing."
In a bitter, broken voice, Jimmy said, ".02% is almost nothing."
"We're going there," she snapped. "So you'd better equip your rocket to fit all four of us. Or I'll steal one and go off myself."
Jimmy didn't mention the fallacies in her argument. He didn't mention that .02% was an optimistic guess, because there were few things truly impossible. He didn't mention how wretched he felt now, wondering if it really was his fault. People in the town had pointed out he was his best friend and therefore, should have realized Sheen was prone to ignoring orders and running roughshod over commands. They said it was like Jimmy had wanted Sheen to steal the rocket with his pathetic preventative measures. And the creeping doubt he had ignored whispered they were right. A deep shudder wracked him.
"It wouldn't be the first time Neutron's inventions didn't work right," Cindy said, more to convince Libby than because it was true. She knew the same as Jimmy did what had happened.
He curled into a ball and vomited, cracking an eye open to discover Goddard had produced a bucket. Once he was done, Goddard gave him a breath mint, let him wash his mouth out, and wiped his forehead. Jimmy was too weak to do more than incline his head in thanks.
"It doesn't…" Libby faltered and frowned. "It doesn't have to be right now. I mean, maybe someone else found him and he'll be okay."
The words stuck in his throat and he was grateful he couldn't speak them.
He's dead, Libby.