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Maya Fox stepped out of the time machine. The smell of old books bombarded her senses. Her eyes watered as they adjusted to the high levels of dust in the old office. After making sure she was alone in the room, she stepped outside. A small plaque announced that the office belonged to Albert Einstein. Satisfied, she reentered the room.
She dug through the papers on Einstein’s desk, looking for a clue to where he might be. She was desperate to find him. The papers were shuffled, crumpled, and completely disorganized, but she failed to remember where they came from. Hopefully, she thought, Einstein would accept her apology when she presented her request.
She was making a clumsy attempt to reorder the papers when something caught her eye. It was an envelope addressed in English. Upon closer inspection, she gasped with amazement. She was holding a letter written to Einstein, sent by Princeton University. It was the letter in which Einstein himself was invited to speak there. Maya was ecstatic. She had arrived in time to postpone the lecture, which she could tell by the unopened letter. Trembling with anticipation, she slid her fingernail under the flap in the envelope.
A rustle alerted Maya to the presence of another person in the room. Whirling around, she saw nothing in the shadows from the desk lamp. She glimpsed a bit of wild hair when the shadows darted across the wall like frightened rabbits.
“Sie brauchen nicht Spion, Schrödinger.” Albert Einstein’s harsh German tone froze Maya in her tracks. Slowly, as slowly as she thought was safe, she turned around. Einstein was standing dramatically in the doorway, flanked on either side by fierce-looking police officers. With a quick gesture of his hand, he sent the officers towards her. They removed her from the room quickly and efficiently.
As they walked outside, Maya caught a glimpse of the alley where she had left the time machine. She decided that if she could get away from her captors for only a few seconds, she could outrun them into the machine and go back to her own life. There was no need to negotiate, only to run. She racked her mind for ideas, and, after quickly realizing she had no other options, she stopped walking. The stronger-looking man on her right was not prepared when she crushed his toes with the heel of her shoe. While he was leaning over, she turned on the smaller man and hit him as hard as she could right below the ribs. He doubled over, coughing. Maya whirled around and started down the alley.
She could see the time machine far ahead of her. Even the footsteps following her were becoming fainter and fainter. But as her hope reached its apex, a cold hand grabbed her wrist, wrenching her shoulder and stopping her in her tracks. The other wrist was caught as well. She pulled, but she could not escape the powerful grip on her arms. Hesitantly, Maya lifted her head. She had been captured by Albert Einstein. He glared at Maya with a cold hatred in his eyes, a sharp dagger that killed her pride.
She was heartbroken. Einstein had been her role model. He was thought to be mentally retarded in his childhood, and even his teachers didn’t believe in him. Still, he rose above their expectations and became the most famous, influential physicist of his time. But now, from what Maya could see, he was really a harsh, unfriendly person. It devastated her to know that her idol despised her.
Maya was painstakingly transported to a room in a small red building. A bright light illuminated the room, showing her the sparse arrangement of furniture. The limping officer seated himself on a small stool in the corner, while the coughing one stood in the doorway next to Einstein. An intimidating man joined them in the room, a frown plastered on his face.
“You... you speak English?” he queried hopefully. Maya nodded, too frightened to speak. The man continued in broken English. “You are... a bad girl. These men take you here and you hit them. They are hurt. You see this?” He gestured wildly towards the officers, who seemed to be in a good deal of pain. One had removed his shoes and was slowly, painfully moving his toes. The other was sipping water from a glass, trying to calm his coughing.
She looked back up at the man. Satisfied, he went on with his accusations. “That is bad. You have done wrong. You will learn from what you did.” Maya’s eyes widened. She couldn’t afford to waste any more time in the past, especially after discovering that she wasn’t safe in Berlin. If she could only get to the time machine, she would be free. But she was losing hope. “For six months, you will go to... what is your word? Jah... jall...” Maya looked down, terrified. She put her head in her hands. “I see you know what I mean. Go now, to your jall.” He spoke to the three men. “Verlassen!” he shouted.
Einstein, still until now, held up his hand. He held Maya’s wavering gaze for an endless moment. Then he spoke. “Schrödinger would not send a girl to do a man’s work. Perhaps I have more enemies than I thought.” He scrutinized her as he contemplated his situation. She could almost hear the gears turning in his brain. The five remained in the room until Einstein broke the spell. Abruptly, he turned on his heel and left the room.
The smaller officer smirked and pulled her to her feet. As he towed her down the hallway to her cell, he looked down at her. “Poor child.” She was numb to his sarcasm. She was caught, forever in the past.