Dexter may have been a genius, but he liked to think that not every part of his excellence in knowledge derived from an innate gift. Dexter considered experience as much important as pure knowledge, and that was why he carried through a good amount of experiments at once in his laboratory. He wanted to learn first-hand whenever it was possible.
And if there was something he learned about his sister DeeDee in his years of living with her, it was that no matter how long it'd take her and how many traps the little boy arranged, she'd show up at least once every day to say 'hi' to her little brother.
It was for this very reason that Dexter wasn't surprised to see the blonde pigtails slowly come into his view from above, to the point that he could no more see the wrench he was working with.
"Hi, Dexter!" DeeDee saluted as she straightened herself and came to her brother's side. "Whatcha doing?"
"I am positive you wouldn't even be able to comprehend even if I told you," Dexter replied without thinking. He kept his eyes fixed on the nut that simply didn't want to move. "Science stuff, DeeDee… as usual. Get out."
"Oh, come on! You could let that thing go for a second and talk for a few moments with me!" DeeDee said offendedly, but Dexter was unperturbed. Scoffing, the blonde girl walked away, apparently leaving him alone.
Leaving him alone…
That was not the DeeDee way.
Dexter put the wrench down on the worktable and turned around. His eyes scanned the area around him, looking for signs of destruction that could only be work of his hyperactive sibling. However, neither flames of burning equipment nor the buzzing of short-circuited machines could be seen or heard. Maybe, DeeDee had for once really left his laboratory to give him some much needed peace?
Dexter immediately frowned when he saw a figure walking some distance away from him. Of course not, he thought. Where was she going anyway?
He searched his mind for what was contained in that area of the lab, and what could possibly trigger his sister to cause havoc.
'Mmm, the bot storage could be a possible target for her, but I'm sure she would also like to break my stasis cells just by singing. Ugh… curse your love for chaos, DeeDee.
'Thank goodness that the time machine isn't standing out that much, it'd surely be a nuisance if she ever—'
"Ooooh! What is this thing? It says… 'time machine'?" came DeeDee's voice. "Wow! I gotta try this!"
Dexter was already running.
"DeeDee, NO! STOP RIGHT THERE!" he screamed as he rushed as fast as his tiny legs let him run. Where's my exoskeleton when I need it?!
"Oh, relax Dexter, I just want to turn it on! I think I've already used it once even if I don't remember exactly how!" DeeDee said, oblivious to her brother's urgency. She promptly started to press random buttons on the time machine's control panel.
Yes, it was true that she had already time travelled once by accident, and since then Dexter had made sure to make the time machine DeeDee-proof, with additional Plexiglas sheets and multiple commands needed to activate it. It wasn't, however, fool-proof to her sister attempts at turning it on by guessing the right key sequence… and Dexter knew he had to stop her before she unknowingly sent a command they both wouldn't have liked.
"DEEDEE!" Dexter shouted once more his sister's name. "You don't know what you're doing! HALT!"
DeeDee chuckled as she started using both hands to press buttons. The machine buzzed to life, but emitting worrying noises and whirs. "It's on, but it's not opening! How about this…?"
"FOR THE LOVE OF EINSTEIN…!" Dexter was only five meters away now. If only he had been a little faster in realizing the danger!
DeeDee pressed the last button, and the time machine suddenly was filled by a bright red, almost blinding light.
"EMERGENCY! OVERUSE OF POWER DETECTED IN SECTOR B2!" came the computer's voice. "SYSTEM OVERLOAD!"
DeeDee might not have been the brightest tool in the shed, but years of incursions in her brother's lab along with the various adventures the two of them had ended up in had taught her what the limit between amusing chaos and serious danger was. At first, the girl had smiled, content to have successfully turned on the contraption, but then she heard the distinct cracking of glass, and the inner Plexigas sheet inside the machine broke into a million pieces.
She unconsciously made a step back. "Uuh… Dexter… is that normal or—?" she began, only to be interrupted by the computer. "OVERLOAD IS DECLARED UNCONTROLLABLE! EVACUATION IS ADVISED!"
"It's not normal!" Dexter shouted as he finally reached his sister's side, panting. "DeeDee, you-you fool! You've taken the entirety of the energy generators of the laboratory and made them power up the time machine all together!"
DeeDee failed to see how whatever her brother had said could cause such a fuss, but she simply stopped thinking about it when the second Plexigas protection was shattered as well. The red light inside the time machine was now separated by them only by the last protective panel… and soon, creaks started to appear on the last sheet as well.
"Well, then do something! Fix it!" DeeDee exclaimed.
Dexter didn't answer, nor did he move to attempt a desperate counter-measure. He was pretty sure he wouldn't even have made it to the time machine's control panel, let alone any other place in the laboratory. He simply stared at the time machine as the creaks continued to grow in number.
"Dexter? Dexter?!" DeeDee squealed in fright.
"It's too late," he simply informed, before the time machine blew up on the spot. The red light shot away in every direction, and before anyone of the two siblings could realize it, they were ran over by the wave.
It took it just one second to happen. The red light was already no more and, surprisingly, the laboratory was still in one piece. Except for the smoking remains of the time machine, everything was the same.
"The overload has foun-*BZZ*-way to release itself," the computer's voice began its report between the interferences. "No further damage is to be-*BZZ*-ported apart from the time machine, which has been annihilated by the blast. Readings suggest that the time machine has emit-*BZZ*-unknown kind of electromagnetic wave, incapable to damage electronics. What is the next course of action, Dexter?"
No answer came. Dexter and DeeDee were no more in the former's laboratory.
Dexter groaned. What he had just felt could only be described as a trip into the depths of his sister's room… he had the feeling that most of his skin was burning, even though he was sure he was not being consumed by flames at the moment.
'What did just happen? I remember… the time machine… DeeDee… oh, this is not good…'
He first had to take a look where he was. It was evident that the time machine had somehow transported him and, he guessed, his sister away from his laboratory, but where he was remained a complete mystery for now. They could've been transported back to the Dinosaur's era or once again in the future, perhaps even farther than his previous trips. The overcharge may have caused the time machine to transport them to a new dimension for all he knew… the possibilities were endless, and Dexter had to admit he was a little scared to discover what was waiting for him in this place.
When he opened his eyes, though, the scene that greeted him was pretty normal, if he had to be honest.
Dexter shook his head, in an attempt to free his thoughts, and he stood up from the ground, looking around. He was in a room… a bedroom, it seemed. There was a baby crib along with the only bed, so Dexter guessed that this couldn't be his house: he knew for sure that him and DeeDee had never shared a room, not even when they were babies.
He walked towards the baby crib, evading the various toys that littered the floor, and inspected the object. The crib was a little too high, so Dexter for the moment had no way to see if it was occupied or not.
"That's a standardized crib, I'd say," the boy genius said to himself as he turned around. "I suppose who's the other occupant of this room must not be that far from the baby's age, and…"
Dexter's mouth was left open as he finally got a glance of the far side of the room, where a full set of chemist instruments, technology contraptions and various other stuff lay in wait. Dexter rushed to it and climbed over the chair, starting to examine the objects one by one.
"Sodium bicarbonate, sulphuric acid and xenon trioxide?" he read, incredulous. "This… this cannot be the work of whoever sleeps in that baby crib. But who?" He looked at the bed… no adult would have been able to sleep on such a small piece of furniture. "Who could work with this kind of knowledge?"
He hopped down and walked towards the big wardrobe. "It doesn't make sense. One of the parents of these two children must be a scientist, there's no other explanation!" he hypothesized before opening the shutters out, revealing the contents.
Before him there were just two lines of clothing. The one at the bottom was completely full of diapers, and Dexter immediately thought that they belonged to the toddler who most probably slept inside the crib. The same couldn't be said, though, for the various cloths lined above the lower level: tiny shirts, vests and pants along with, much to Dexter's confusion, lab coats, all accurately sized for the use of a child who might have been a little but not too much younger than Dexter himself.
What shocked the boy, though, was the quantity of technology trash that was stuffed above the cloths. He only needed a glimpse to realize the complexity of them and that there was no way a kid could be responsible for their creation.
Unless it was another genius like him.
Dexter stepped away from the wardrobe, shaking his head. He was getting out of track! He still needed to understand where he was… in the unlucky case that the time machine had just sent him to another dimension, he could ask this apparent genius for assistance to find a way back, but he first had to locate if he really was in another version of reality, or he had simply been sent to another time… if not timeline.
"Focus, Dexter! I am still yet to understand the gravity of this situation!" he thought out-loud. "There must be some way to make sure I'm still in the same timeline or plane of reality…"
He noticed a time watch located right above the desk with the scientific gadgets, and he took note of how the time and date were just a few minutes late compared to his last check back before the incident. No time travel, then… let's hope that's the end of it.
Dexter finally decided to continue his investigation out of the room. He marched up to the door on the other side, ignoring the chalkboard filled with integrals and differential equations, and prepared himself to straight his back in order to reach the doorknob.
But his foot stomped over something before he could so, and Dexter heard the distinct noise of crunching paper. He raised his boot and inquisitively picked up what he had not noticed before.
It was a simple drawing paper sheet, and over it there was a fresh pastel drawing, a clear result of a baby's first artistic spurs. Dexter gave a glance to the crib which was not to his right side before continuing to examine the paper: the baby was obviously still very young and deciphering the forms would have been very difficult for most people.
But Dexter was a boy genius, and even baby-talk wasn't a mystery to him. What he saw were the crude silhouettes of what could only be described as human forms. There were lots of them though… he mentally counted them and reached the number of thirteen.
Why would a baby draw a group of thirteen people if there are only two siblings here? Dexter thought. Perhaps it was a party of sorts? But the figures had all different heights and given the higher size of a couple of them he guessed that those were the parents and the others were younger than them. Maybe a family reunion with a lot of cousins?
Dexter wanted to see through all of this. He placed the drawing into the pocket of his lab coat and made a step forward, only to be startled by the sudden opening of the door.
"HI, DEXTER!" DeeDee greeted, marching into the room. "I heard you talking! How's it doing?"
Dexter was too much stunned to say something coherent at first. "Dee… DeeDee... what… how…?"
"Oh, remember that time machine thingy? Guess what, it didn't do anything bad!" DeeDee explained happily as she walked around the room Dexter had been inspecting. "I've found myself in this room I've never seen before in my life, but you had to see it! It was full of stuff I didn't even know they existed! Make-up sets, dresses of all types—everything!"
"Wait, wait, hold it! You were in another room in this house? Has anyone seen you?" Dexter demanded.
"Not even a fly, Dex! The other doors are all closed, by the way!" DeeDee said as she gave a glance to the chalkboard. "Geez, how long have you been here Dexter? You sure have already settled yourself!"
"That's not mine! It's… I don't know, I'm still trying to figure out where we are," Dexter replied.
"Hey, it's not that difficult!" DeeDee turned around and smiled at him. "We're in another house!"
"Thank you very much, DeeDee, but I already knew that," Dexter said coldly.
"But I'm sure you don't know of the family living here, do you?" DeeDee asked.
"No, of course, we just got here…" Dexter answered, tilting his head. What did she mean with that?
"Well, I do!" DeeDee exclaimed. "Not personally of course, but come with me!"
"Hey, wait, DeeDee! Quiet!" Dexter protested, but his sister acted like he didn't hear anything as she grabbed hold of him and pulled him out of the room. Dexter just had the time to take a look at the hallway he was in before he was placed right in front of a wall. DeeDee took him by his labcoat and lifted him up. "Look at the photo, Dexter!"
Dexter would really have liked to tell her sister off, but shouting at the moment wasn't an option: it was already a miracle someone had not heard their footsteps of DeeDee's loud talking yet, so he resorted to simply satisfy her desire and get it over with. He looked… and once again, he was astonished by what he saw.
Inside the portrait stood the figures of thirteen people: two adults, one boy and ten girls. Dexter couldn't deny it: they were the same of the drawing he had found back in the room… those were the current occupants of the house.
Dexter had a bad feeling about it all. "DeeDee, please… put me down and let's get back to the baby's room," Dexter whispered.
"Why?" DeeDee talked without even trying to tone down her voice. "Don't you want to get to know who's living here?"
"All in due time, but for now that'll have to wait, like after we leave this place undiscovered! Put me down!"
DeeDee turned his brother around and grinned. "Aww, quit it, Dex! It's not the time to be your usual social-evasive type! What could they even do to-…"
"Lola… did you hear something?"
The voice came from the door behind them, on the far-left corner of the corridor.
"I did! WHO'S THERE?!" another voice shouted. The tone was so threatening that DeeDee immediately let Dexter fall down. The boy quickly stood back to his feet and pushed his sister away, "Get moving! QUICK!"
They barely managed to get back to the baby's room and shut the door behind them before the heard the other door being slammed open. "I SAID WHO'S THERE?!" the voice repeated.
"If there was anyone here, they've left for sure… you must've scared them off, with that tone of yours."
"Cut it out, Lana. I feel that they're still here… I can smell them…"
"Smell? What are you, a hound of what? And people tell me I'm the one who acts like an animal."
Dexter and DeeDee waited, looking at each other in fright. A couple of footsteps were heard, then there was a knock on their door.
"Lisa? Are you still there?"
DeeDee opened her mouth to speak, but Dexter placed his glove on her mouth before she could emit any sound.
"Lisa? Say something or I'm breaking down this door!"
"She's probably working, maybe she can't hear you… or she doesn't want to."
"She has to! LISA! OPEN THIS DOOR RIGHT NOW!"
Dexter started munching on the tip of his gloves in panic. They had to make the two girls go away… but how… how?
"Ahem… I'm so sorry! I didn't hear you! I'm just doing my thing, carry on!" Dexter said in the most ridiculous impression of a four-year old girl. DeeDee brought a hand to her forehead, exasperated. "I was going to do it earlier, dummy! At least I have the right voice!" she whispered.
"You didn't know that she's a child prodigy!" Dexter whispered back. "Let me do the talking! I was working on this… on the chemical reaction yield of a couple of new compounds I've recently obtained. I ask, therefore, for patience and to be left alone since I need peace and quiet!"
Dexter prayed that his imitation would work. He was sure that he would have fooled them only by using a few uncommon words… and to be fair, he was much nearer to his target that he even knew. The accent could even have worked to his own favour.
Too bad he didn't know of the peculiar lisp.
"THERE'S SOMEONE IN LISA AND LILY'S ROOM!" they heard the shouts of Lola and Lana go through the walls and reverberate around the entire house. And soon they heard the approaching horde as it answered to the call.
"What did you just say? Someone who?"
"I don't know! But he closed himself – or herself – inside! I'm sure that was not Lisa talking!"
"What's all the fuss about?"
"Are you fully sure? It's no mystery that Lisa has produced every kind of disgusting broth – maybe she modified her own voice!"
"Lisa, come on, open the door, we don't have time for this! I gotta finish my comic book!"
DeeDee grinned. "Now it's my turn!" she uttered and before Dexter could stop her, she said with her most fluent, and exaggerated, imitation of a four-year-old, "Oh, excuse me, I waz just a little distracted! I am tired really, so would you petty pleaze let me rest for a little while?"
This time it was Dexter's turn to bring a hand to his forehead. "Oh, that was just perfect…"
From the other side, for a few seconds, it was silence. Then, a not well-defined amount of hands started to bang on the door.
"OPEN THE DOOR!"
"LET US IN, YOU MANIACS!"
"LISA! ARE YOU IN THERE?! LILY!"
"What is going on – WHAT IN THE…!? WHO'S BEEN IN MY ROOM?!"
"Someone has broken into the house! They closed themselves in Lisa's room!"
"GET THIS DOOR OPEN NOW OR YOU'RE GONNA REGRET IT!"
"Guys, I… *off*… I can't find Lisa, nor Lily!"
"They've captured them!"
"We need more strength! Where's Leni when you need her?! LENI! COME HERE, WE NEED YOUR ARMS HERE!"
"OPEN. THE. DANG. DOOR!"
"Ooh, you better open yourself to our request!"
A collective groan was heard, but the banging and the angry shouts continued as the mob outside continue to try to burst into the room.
DeeDee and Dexter were with their backs on the door, trying to pin it where it was and fighting against the collective strength of nine angered sisters and brother. "Well, congratulations DeeDee for messing everything up once again!"
"What? It was you who tried to imitate a girl's voice in the first place! Did you really think they would buy that?"
"Excuse me if I try to think over what I do! Something that you apparently do not, since that was all but what a little girl like the one in the photo would speak like!"
"Oh, yeah?! How about you actually try to care for what I do instead of pretending I don't exist all the time? Maybe this wouldn't have happened if you did!"
"How about you stop annihilating half of my lab everytime you SHOW UP!?"
Dexter and DeeDee froze in their place and slowly turned their heads. There was a baby looking at them from the baby crib with half-closed eyes. And she looked vexed.
'Oh, no, no!'
"Nice baby! Quiet, quiet! We won't hurt you!" Dexter tried to wave at her, but her face contorted as she struggled to prepare her vocal cords.
"Hey, look at me, look at me!" DeeDee called as she left Dexter alone, ignoring his protests. "I'm here! I'm a girl! I'm not a monster, and I'm here for you!" the blonde chanted, dancing all around in front of the baby's face, trying to use the little experience she remembered since Dexter's early days.
It was a pity that she was a little rusty.
"LILY!" the voices came all together from behind the door. The banging stopped.
"THAT'S IT! Get out of the way!" one voice commanded.
Dexter barely had the time to throw himself away before a force he'd have quantified as the one of a tsunami crashed into the door, sending the wooden object flying to the other side of the room, knocking the chalkboard down and ending its flight into the open window. It remained stuck there, halfway out of the room.
The boy turned around just in time to see the horde coming through. He barely managed to yelp a frightened 'Mommy!' before he and DeeDee were overrun.
When Lisa Loud opened her eyes, she was greeted by the sight of an indefinite blur in place of her room. Instinctively, the four-year-old reached out for her glasses, but her hands quickly found out that there was nothing resting on her nose.
'Well, that is good news from a certain point of view… it means that the neurons of my optical cortex didn't just die out. Unfortunately, the headache still hurts…'
She slowly stood up, trying to feel if there was anything else wrong with her. She couldn't look at her surroundings, but even without her glasses she could make out the generic size and colours of the place she had ended up in… and it definitely was too big and too blue to be her own room. Lisa pinched her nose while trying to remember what she was doing. She had a very fresh memory of a particularly complex equation she was very close to solve, then there was… annoyance. Someone had been bothering her. Who could—
"Oh, hi, Lisa!"
Lisa turned around and crossed her hands, looking at the approaching sister with her usual neutral stare. Not that Leni was able to discern sarcasm or anything like that, usually, but Lisa wasn't going to act any different with her than she did with any of her siblings. "Hello, Leni," she said informally. "Before I try to approximate what our current location is, I'd like you to tell me if you've found my glasses lying around here."
"Well, I don't know why you want to exterminate something, but about your glasses… I have them right here! Can't really miss them, the floor of this lab is perfectly clean anyway!" Leni happily informed before handing out the glasses. Lisa was going to take them when realization suddenly hit her. "Wait. Have you just pronounced the word 'lab'? As if, 'laboratory'?"
"Of course, silly! It's your lab, after all, isn't it? I didn't know you needed an explosion to get here, though."
Lisa snatched the glasses. "Leni, I have no laboratory but the ones the university lets me-…" she was unable to complete her sentence. In a very rare occurrence, Lisa Loud did nothing else but gape at the spectacle in utter amazement.
"What do you mean no lab? If it wasn't a sudden secret passage with added explosion that got us out of your room, then what happened?" Leni wondered.
"I… I may have a few hypotheses that may or may not be true, but one thing is for sure, older sister," Lisa said. She continued to stare at the various contraptions that filled the enormous lab, unable to comprehend how was anyone able to put so much technological and science marvels all in one place.
"We're no more home."