Name: Ann Braden
Title: Sciencetastic SuperGirls
Genre: MG Mystery
On the whiteboard, the large block letters spelling MR. TROLP slant toward the floor at what’s got to be a 40° angle. I haven’t seen that kind of downward drift since the substitute who only walked on her tiptoes, and that time my graph and I were dead on about predicting how loud the class would get. Looking at the angle of those letters, I’m sure we’ll make it to art-teacher-comes-up-from-the-classroom-below-us-to-deliver-a-lecture territory again. I’ve got to get the graph out. If only Mr. Trolp weren’t leaning across the lectern, staring right at me.
His eyebrows are twitching. “You never know who’s going to be out to get you in life.”
Really? This is how he’s starting class? It’s not even worth taking the graph out. Even Carly McDonald could tell you the art teacher’s going to show up.
“You’ve got to stay on your toes. Always looking behind you.”
OK. He’s even loonier than the tiptoe lady, and she spent half the class talking about leprechauns. Look at someone else, Mr. Trolp. I get it. I’ll be on my toes. I’ll even wear high heels. Look at someone else, so they can benefit from this juicy morsel of very-important-advice-instead-of-actually-having-English-class.
“It could happen anytime – next Tuesday, for example – when you think everything is going fine.”
Jeff Harkiss tips back in his chair, his hat perched on top of his head, so he can claim he’s not actually wearing it. “Just start the DVD, dude.”
There’s always a first time to agree with Jeff Harkiss.
Mr. Trolp sticks his jaw out like a cow and opens the DVD case on the front table. Finally. But then he’s back to the lectern, staring me down again, the DVD around his finger like it’s been taken hostage. “It’s like dark energy.”
Right. Even Jeff Harkiss puts all four legs of his chair on the floor for this one.
“You think you know what the universe is like, and then BAM!” Mr. Trolp smacks the lectern. “You find out most of it is made up of this invisible stuff that we didn’t even know existed. And while that stuff has been forcing the universe to expand faster and faster, you’ve just been sitting around, twiddling your thumbs.”
Ben Michelson looks up from his drawing. “Like the Big Bang?”
Mr. Trolp at last turns away from me to fix his stare on Ben. “More like the Big Rip.”
“Except,” I mutter under my breath, “for the fact that the universe has somehow managed to go for 13.75 billion years without ripping apart.” The man’s making it up like a wackadoodle.
“Except,” Mr. Trolp says loudly, looking back at me.
“Except dark energy didn’t exist for the first 4 billion years.” He lowers his voice, and his mouth turns up in a sneer. “But since then it’s been popping into existence pretty damn fast. You don’t end up as 73% of the universe without a fight.”
I look down at my desk where long ago someone had tried to carve out IDK but gave up halfway through the K. Seventy-three percent. That’s like thinking you know what the earth’s like and then finding out there’s this little thing called oceans. How have I not heard of this stuff? Sixty-seven meetings of the Sciencetastic SuperGirls, two freakin’ physicists for parents, and it hasn’t come up once? I dig my pencil into the groove of the D in the desk. Whatever. There’s no chance it’s true because this guy’s clueless. Everyone knows energy doesn’t just pop into existence. But no way am I going to be the one to explain to him how E=MC2 applies to the conservation of energy – not with the way he keeps staring at me and twitching like a chicken.
I look at the clock. One hour and thirty-seven minutes until the next Sciencetastic SuperGirls meeting. I sure know what I’m going to propose for today’s agenda.
When I look back up front, the DVD has been rescued from its hostage situation and has been inserted into the safety of the DVD player. Mr. Trolp turns out the lights and settles down at Mrs. Hamshaw’s computer. Because after thoroughly freaking people out, it’s always good to check your e-mail.
* * *
Maddy puts on as solemn a face as you can have when you’ve got a pink pen stuck behind your ear. “As president of the Sciencetastic SuperGirls, I hereby call the Sciencetastic SuperGirls to order. Now for the oath.”
The four of us, sitting around our corner table in the deserted cafeteria, repeat together: “I will pursue the truth that is science, and I will not be distracted by the boys in that other, way lame science club.” We all put the appropriate emphasis on “way.”
“OK, SuperGirls.” Maddy says, “Let’s get to business. Caroline, what’s on our agenda?” Since Caroline has just popped an entire mini doughnut into her mouth, she slides a piece of paper over to Maddy. I bite my tongue as Maddy looks it over, tapping the pink pen against her temple. If I can keep from interrupting protocol, Maddy with her two million club rules tucked in her backpack will be a whole lot happier.
Maddy’s pink pen migrates to her mouth. “Tessa, how’s ‘Assignment: Get Dry Ice’ coming along?”
Tessa takes a bite of her snackycake and shakes her head. “It’s a no go. Too expensive if you include shipping. We only have $13.75 in our budget.”
Maddy mutters “snazzifrass Swedish fish” under her breath and draws a pink box around ‘Acquire dry ice.’
“Anyway,” Tessa continues, “I still don’t see why we don’t first do my question about how to make a fireball with common household cleaners. If we’re going to go dangerous, we might as well go big.”
“And it’s free,” Maddy says, nodding. “That okay with you, Caroline? The dry ice was originally your question.”
Caroline nods as the last mini doughnut disappears into her mouth. She’s the type who can eat a dozen Twinkies a day and still not gain a pound.
Maddy looks at me. “Sound good to you, Julia?”
The opening I’ve been waiting for. I look at each of them. “Something’s come up. Something we need to look into.”
“Whatever it is, we can do it after the fireball,” Tessa says. “Everything’s more fun when your eyebrows have been singed off.”
I swallow. “It needs to happen now.” Why am I so worked up about this? “Even if it’s just to check online to make sure it’s not true.”
Caroline takes out her phone. “What is it? I’ll pull up Wikipedia.”
Tessa squints at me. “What, like witches and stuff? What’s gotten into you, Jules? And come on, people. If we’re going to get into black magic stuff, we better have a fireball ready to go first.”
“It’s not witches,” I say. “It’s like space and the universe...astrophysics stuff.”
Maddy writes ‘Dark Energy’ down on the agenda. Somehow it seems less intimidating when it’s in pink. “What do you know about it?”
“Just what Mr. Trolp said at the beginning of our English class today–”
Maddy looks up from the curlicue doodle forming around the words. “Wait Mr. Trolpalump told you about this? The Trolpmeister?"