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A Moment in Time

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“We’re about to go on the tour, Candace. I’ve got to go,” you say into your cellphone, feeling a little guilty how relieved you are to end the call. You can’t help being a little glad she turned down your parents' offer to have her accompany you on your visit to Tri-State Area University, so that you can begin thinking about what you’ll be doing in two years when you graduate from high school without having to listen the whole time to Candace talking about either Jeremy or her brothers. You love your BFF like a sister, but she does have something of a two-track mind.

You look at the group of assembled teenagers and parents. Most everybody is a stranger to you, but you do pick one semi-familiar face out of the crowd: it’s that goth girl that Ferb has a crush on, the one with the weird last name and the kickass boots. You’re pretty sure her first name starts with a V. Valerie? Victoria?

She seems to have recognized you, too, because she makes her way toward you. “Hey,” she says, “You’re Candace’s friend, right?”

“Stacy,” you agree, then add, “I love your boots.”

This earns a big grin from goth girl. “They are pretty awesome, aren’t they? I’m Vanessa.”

The tour starts with a big musical number, then goes on to cover most of the major locations on campus: a dorm, the cafeteria, the athletic facilities, the library, and so on. You end up in one of the science buildings, and are surprised to run into your sister’s Fireside Girls troop.

“What are you guys doing here?” you ask, because you absolutely refuse to say “Whatcha doin’?”

Isabella, as usual, speaks for the group. “We’re earning our Quantum Engineering badges,” she explains. “So we’re taking a trip to look at the Quantum Field Generator here at the university. You want to take a look?”

You might as well, you think, so you follow Isabella into the lab. Vanessa comes with you, looking intrigued.

Inside the lab, there’s a lot of equipment, but of course you don’t know what anything is or what it does. You turn around to return to the tour group, but everyone outside the lab is oddly frozen in place.

“Uh-oh,” you say. “That can’t be good.”

Vanessa turns to see what you’re looking about and sighs. “What did you do now, Dad?” she asks under her breath, seemingly rhetorically, then says, more loudly, “The Quantum Field must be protecting us from the effects of whatever is happening out there.”

She pulls out her cellphone. “Hopefully Dad’s cameras were transmitting when--here we go.” You look over her shoulder at the phone’s screen and see a man in a labcoat at work at some equipment, while a platypus in a hat races to stop him--except both man and platypus are frozen in place, as if someone had paused the videofeed. “Wait. Is that Perry?”

“Long story,” Vanessa says. “I can’t believe my Dad started fiddling with his freezinator again. No, wait. I can totally believe it.”

“So what are we going to do here if everyone out there is frozen?” you ask, suddenly realizing how serious your situation is.

“If only Phineas were here,” says Isabella, “he’d know what to do.”

Ginger frowns. “How come no one ever says ‘if only Baljeet were here, he’d know what to do’?”

“Because he wouldn’t know what to do,” Milly answers without hesitation. “He’d just panic.” As much as you might sympathize with your sister’s crush, you can’t really disagree with Milly’s description.

“Well, Phineas and Ferb aren’t here,” you point out. “We are. So we’re going to have to make do with just us. Didn’t you guys build a time machine before? This has to be a little similar, right?”

“We used the blueprints Phineas left behind,” Isabella reminds you. “We don’t actually understand the theory behind it.”

“Do you remember anything about it?”

The girls think. “I remember there were quanta stabilizer circuits,” Gretchen offers. The other girls agree.

Vanessa blinks, looking pensive. “If we could couple a few stabilizer circuits to the phase inverters, we might be able to extend the structural integrity of the quantum field far enough to let P--” She breaks off, glancing at Isabella. “To allow the agent to shut down my father’s freezinator.”

Finally, you think, some progress. “Do you girls think you could build some more?”

The girls confer together, then Isabella turns back towards you and nods.

“Then get at it,” you tell them. You turn to Vanessa. “You understand this science stuff?”

Vanessa shrugs. “I guess you hang around it long enough, you begin to pick things up whether you want to or not,” she concedes reluctantly.

A brief montage later, the girls have built a half-dozen quanta stabilizer circuits out of--well, you’re not actually sure where they got the parts from, but you suppose it doesn’t really matter. Vanessa explains to them how to connect the circuits to the phase inverters, and then you all hold your breath, waiting to see what happens.

Outside the field, you watch as the world begins to move again, time restored to normal. You all exhale, and return to the world of the tour.

After the tour is over, Mom’s going to give Ginger her ride home, but you decide to walk over to Candace’s, and turn to Isabella. “You want to walk with me, see what Phineas and Ferb are doing?”

Isabella breaks into a grin. “What do you think?”

After a little bit, when you're well on the way to Candance's house, Isabella says, "You did really good back there, you know."

Yeah, right, you think. “I’m not good at science or engineering like you girls or Vanessa. I was pretty much useless in there.” Part of you wonders who you are kidding looking at colleges. You've never been good at anything in particular; perhaps you should just resign yourself to the fact that seemingly pretty much everybody in Danville is smarter than you are. Well, maybe not Buford. But possibly including Perry, now.

Isabella looks over her shoulder back at you, a strange expression on her face. “You were the one who kept her head in a crisis and got the rest of us working together,” Isabella points out. “Without you, we'd probably still be in there, waiting for our oxygen to run out. You’re a great leader.”

A leader, you think. Hmm. Maybe you are good at something after all. You have always had that strange interest in Uruguayan politics.

“Here,” says Isabella, handing you something. You look down at it: a Honorary Fireside Girls Troop Leader badge. You’re surprised at how touched you are by the little scrap of fabric.

In a little bit, the two of you arrive at Candace’s house, and walk out back where you find Phineas, Ferb, and Perry lounging underneath a tree. “Whatcha doin’?” Isabella asks.

Candace sees you from inside the house, and comes out in a rush. “Stacy!” she calls out. “You simply cannot believe what Jeremy said to me today!”

You patiently listen to Candace’s story as you watch Perry next to Phineas and Ferb. He seems like just a normal platypus, but then, you don’t really know all that many platypi to compare him with.

In a little bit, Candace’s mom comes out, asking who wants snacks, and everybody shuffles into the house. You hold back for a moment, casting one last glance at Perry and giving him a wink.

He winks back, and you smile and head into the house to join the others.