There’s another one of us—Sofia. She’s from Italy and she was there, too. She didn’t almost get killed though. But she did help save us.

Man, this e-mail sounds so stupid. By the way, you can call me Tick.

Have you figured out the magic words? I just don’t get it—I’ve studied that first letter backward and forward and I don’t see anything. I’m really hoping you know something I don’t.

I don’t really know what else to say. It’s good to know there are at least three of us now. May 6th is coming soon.

Your new friend,


Feeling kind of dumb because he didn’t say much worthwhile, but not knowing what else to do until he knew the guy better, Tick hit the SEND button, hoping Paul would reply quickly since he lived in the same country.

Tick then sent another e-mail to Sofia, telling her everything and asking her if she received the package of four clues.

On Monday, Tick sat in Mr. Chu’s class, anxious for it to be over. Tick wanted to ask him about quantum physics, see if he could learn anything new that would give him a hint about what the “kyoopy” had to do with Master George. A warm sun beat on the windows, making the room hot and stuffy. Several kids had given up long ago, their heads making ridiculous jerking motions as they kept falling asleep and waking up.

Tick had yet to hear back from either the new kid Paul or Sofia. He must’ve checked his e-mail at least twenty times on Sunday, with no luck. He didn’t get it—every time he got an e-mail, he responded in a second, excited to keep the conversation going. Oh, well.

The bell finally rang and the students filed out of the room, at least three of them bumping into Tick’s desk and knocking off his things. Each time, he picked them up without a word and put them back on his desk. The bully stuff seemed so silly now compared to the other things he was dealing with that nothing bothered him anymore. He defiantly adjusted his scarf and waited for the classroom to empty.

“Tick?” Mr. Chu asked as he finished erasing the whiteboard. “Aren’t you going to your next class?”

Tick stood up. “Yes, sir. I just wanted to know if you’d have any time after school to talk about . . . something.”

“Sure,” Mr. Chu replied, raising his eyebrows in concern. “Is anything—”

“No, no, nothing’s wrong. I’m just wondering about a subject we talked a little about a while back and I want to know more about it.”

“What is it?”

Tick paused, nervous that somehow saying the two words would reveal everything about Master George and his mysteries. “Quantum physics,” he finally sputtered out, as if ashamed of the topic.

“Oh, really?” Mr. Chu’s face brightened at the prospect of sharing information on his favorite science subject. “What’s sparked your interest?”

“I don’t know—just curious I guess.”

“Well, okay, I’d be happy to talk about it. Come by after school, okay?”

“Okay. Thanks.” Tick gathered his things and headed off to his next class.

Long after the last bell had rung, Tick and Mr. Chu sat at his desk, discussing the many theories—all of them confusing—of quantum physics. The stale smells of dried coffee and old books filled the air as Tick leaned forward, his elbows resting on top of several messy piles of papers that needed grading. Through the window over his teacher’s shoulder, Tick could see the long shadows of late afternoon creeping across the parking lot, where only a few cars remained.

“It’s basically the study of everything that’s teensy tiny,” Mr. Chu was saying. “Now that doesn’t sound like a very technical term, but that’s what it’s all about. Forget about the atom—that thing’s huge. We’re talking about electrons and protons and neutrons. And stuff that’s even smaller—quarks and gluons. Sound like fun?”

“Well . . . yeah, actually,” Tick answered.

“The basic thing you need to know is that all the stuff you think you know about the laws of physics—like, what goes up must come down—goes right out the window when you get down to particles that small. It’s been proven those rules don’t apply. Everything is different. And did you know that light has properties of both waves and particles . . .”

Mr. Chu went on to talk for at least a half hour straight, telling Tick all the basics of quantum physics and the experiments scientists had done to establish theories. What it really sounded like, though, was all a fancy way to say no one had a clue how it worked or why it was different from the big world.

“ . . . and so by observing an electron, you are actually deciding where it is, what position it’s in, what speed it’s moving. And another person could be doing an alternate experiment at the same time, observing the same electron, but in a totally different position. Now, this is getting on the fringe of what the real experts say, but some people think an electron and other particles can literally be in more than one place at once—an infinite number of places!”

Tick felt like he was a pretty smart kid, but some of Mr. Chu’s words made as much sense to him as an opera sung in pig latin. But that last sentence really made him think. “Wait a minute,” he said, stopping his teacher. “You keep talking about these little guys like they’re in a different universe. But aren’t those tiny things inside my body, inside this chair, inside this desk? Isn’t the big world you talked about just a whole bunch of the little worlds?”

Mr. Chu clapped his hands. “Brilliant!”


“You nailed it, Tick, exactly.” Mr. Chu stood up and paced around the room in excitement as he continued talking. “They’re not really separate sciences—they have to be related because one is made of the other. An atom is a bunch of tiny particles, and you, my friend, are nothing but a bunch of atoms.”


“This is where all the crazy, crazy theories come in—the ones that are so fascinating. One theory is that time travel is possible because of quantum physics. I don’t buy that one at all because I think time is too linear for time travel to work.”

Tick’s head hurt. “Are there any you do believe in?”

“I don’t know if believe is the right word, but there are some I sure love to think about.” He paused, then sat back down at his desk and leaned forward on his elbows, looking into Tick’s eyes. “One theory says there are different versions of the world we live in—alternate realities. An infinite number of them. If it can happen on the teensy-tiny level, why not on the big fat level too? All it would take is some vast manipulation of all those little particles that make up the big particles. Who knows—there might be some force in the universe, some law we don’t know about, that can control quantum physics and even create or destroy different versions of our own world.”