NUMBERS GAME, PART THREE: HER PAST
Alijda van Vliet had not had the easiest life. Going through high school in British Columbia, she’d often lacked focus, and showed little interest in social activities. Instead, Alijda’s time was spent daydreaming, or programming computers – or challenging societal norms, such as the time she’d been caught shoplifting. But it wasn’t until second year University, after her parents had moved away, that she finally decided that beneath it all, her real problem was one of depression.
That was when she’d first met Mason. Or rather, “Chief”.
“That place any good?” the dark-skinned man asked.
Alijda snapped her gaze over towards him, crumpling the page she was holding for the psychiatric retreat in her hand. She wasn’t sure why she bothered; he’d obviously already seen it. More to the point, why was there a man in a suit spying on people in this coffee shop? “Who wants to know?” she shot back.
“Me,” he responded with a half smile.
“And who might you be?”
He seemed to consider the question before responding. “My real name’s not easily pronounceable in English. I go by ‘Chief’. Mind if I join you?”
Alijda glanced around briefly, taking in the rest of the tables in the establishment. There were a number of other seats available. “Yes.”
Chief tilted his head slightly. “Why?”
“Because,” she sighed. “I’m bad news. Run off and save yourself.”
“Saving myself is why I decided to come to this part of the planet, actually. In fact, I think I’ll join you regardless what you’re expressing verbally.”
Alijda frowned, peering a little closer at Chief as he sat down. Upon closer examination, she realized he looked… tired. Perhaps even a little depressed himself. Did she look anything like that? Wait a moment, the clinic WAS only a couple of blocks away. “Are you a patient from this psychiatric place??” she challenged, slightly uncrumpling the paper in her hands and laying it back down on the table.
“Not yet,” Chief said. “How about yourself?”
“No!” She looked down at the page, then back up. “No,” she repeated, softer. “And I probably won’t be. Places like this, they want referrals. Worried friends. Family members staging an intervention. I don’t have any of that. Nobody cares, least of all me. Besides, I probably can’t afford to sign up anyway.”
Chief leaned forwards. “I don’t have any of those things either, yet I’ve decided to give it a try,” he remarked. “Maybe that’s why I was drawn to you.” He clasped his hands together on the table. “So, did you have a strategy for your initial approach? Because if you won’t use it, perhaps I can try it out instead.”
Alijda almost retorted that her plans were nobody’s business, but checked herself. No need to be such a downer if he was a depressive too. “I doubt you could,” she snorted instead. “Seeing as I figured I’d march in and say ‘Hi, I’m Alijda van Vliet, university dropout and computer hacker extraordinaire. I hate people, myself, and society in general. Kill me now.’ Not pretty, but it would doubtlessly provoke some sort of reaction. What do you think?”
He grinned. “I think I like your flair for the dramatic. Pity I’m not meeting you under better circumstances.” Something about his tone caught Alijda off guard – he was speaking soberly, not snarkily like her, but with the same aura of truth about his words. Who was this Chief?
There was a lengthy pause, as the two of them did nothing but silently regard each other. “I’m seeing three options here,” Mason continued at last. “First, we both go our separate ways, me to counselling, and you to wherever. Second, we both go and check ourselves into that establishment for tips on grief, depression, the works. Third… I take you to my spaceship, and we take a trip among the stars.”
Alidja’s heart sank. ‘Crud’, she realized, ‘This guy is a loon.’ “Spaceship?”
“I’m actually from another planet.”
“Riiight…” Alijda pressed her fingers to her forehead. ‘What did you expect, dummy? That you’d actually attract the attention of someone worthwhile?’ What particularly annoyed her was how, the way Chief spoke, some part of her still felt like his words retained an element of truth about them.
She slid her fingers back off her forehead, raking her hands back through her hair. Fine. If this ‘Chief’ was indeed some sort of madman, he needed help. And, as much as Alijda didn’t like to admit it, she also needed help. She had come this far. Why not see things all the way through, for “Chief”’s sake if nothing else. “Let’s take door number two then,” she stated.
Mason opened his mouth as if to protest, but then closed it again, nodding. “Right. That’s probably best,” he said after a moment. “I really need to start observing more, and doing fewer parlour tricks for the locals.”
“Uh huh.” Alijda downed the remainder of her (now cold) tea, and then rose. “Then let’s both get to it, before I change my mind again.”
At the time, the therapy had helped. As had the prescription medication. By the age of 24, Alijda had become more social, even to the point of getting a job as a typist/secretary for a local company. But through it all, she remained something of a computer hacker, which occasionally got her into trouble… and was the reason she discovered that the company she was with had become involved in some rather less than legitimate business practices. Of course. Who else would have hired someone like her, after all?
It made her question her life choices all over again. In fact, it made her question whether she even wanted to continue being the woman that she was, since she’d already been toying with a new online identity. As such, she made her decision. Within one week, Alijda had embezzled money away from the already corrupt company, and then disappeared.
Some time later, Alison van der Land turned up south of the border, in Seattle, along with a letter of reference from the private detective “Liam Doyle”. According to computer records, Alison had been his secretary in LA for the last few years. Not long after her arrival, she got another secretarial job, this time for a college Professor. In fact, after a couple more fairly positive years mood-wise, Alison decided to settle down, going so far as to buy herself a house.
If the accident hadn’t occurred, giving the brunette teleportation abilities, and making her a person of interest to Marshall Biochemical Engineering, her mild paranoia over her past catching up to her might have even faded away. Of course, if that accident hadn’t occurred, she might not have attracted the attention of the Epsilon Project.
The project that led to her meeting “Chief” once again.
“Seriously?” Alison shouted. “And you only mention the problem now??” Which was when the lighting in the TARDIS control room switched from green to emergency red. This was all becoming far too much for Alison to handle. She felt her fingers curling into fists. First, this ship was larger on the inside. Second, Mason apparently really was from another planet. Third, this ship was LARGER on the INSIDE. Fourth, Mason apparently REALLY WAS from another PLANET.
“Mason,” she continued with an edge on her voice, “do you have any idea what you’re making me feel like doing?”
“Hm?” he responded, apparently a bit more interested in something on one of his flashing display screens.
Alison flexed her hands. She pushed herself back up into a standing position. Then, in a puff of purple smoke, she teleported over so that she was standing right in front of the alien man. To his credit, he looked a bit surprised at that, even as she threw her hands around him in a hug. “This is for being honest with me all this time,” she breathed near his ear. “And for being smart enough not to talk about whatever this ship can do back where they were monitoring us.”
She pulled back, and then smacked him soundly across the face. “But THAT’S for not making me goddamn believe you back when we first met! To think I could have run off with you and avoided all of my… my… everything!” To her shock, she felt tears starting to roll down her cheeks. Great, now her depression meds were malfunctioning. “I mean do you have ANY idea how much better things would be now if I could have simply left my life back then before I… I… well, left my life?! But no, now I’m a new person, one with crazy abilities, who has been hijacked by a mysterious group, and we’re on a crashing spaceship, and I’m going to die with an alien and a rabbit aren’t I, oh GOD FINE just LET IT END ALREADY!!”
The TARDIS lurched again, and Alison didn’t even try to catch herself, collapsing onto the floor once more. She closed her eyes to try and stop the tears from coming, but they stubbornly continued to fall. She sobbed openly. Her whole life was a mess again.
A hand touched her shoulder.
It was Bunny-girl. Alison knew that without even opening her eyes – the hand was too small, the touch too tentative for it to be Mason. “I used to make cuts on my arms,” the girl said quietly.
The non-sequitur was enough for Alison to crack an eye open. Bunny-girl – Alison couldn’t quite bring herself to assign the cutesy name Para – was now sitting on the floor next to her, regarding her with sad eyes and a hopeful smile. “You?” Alison found herself answering. “Miss Sexy Cute? You think you know what I’m going through here?!?”
The blonde quickly shook her head. “Oh, no. No way. I’m not even human. What I DO know about is getting down on oneself. About believing that the world is out to get you. Because as a personified quadratic equation, I know there are a lot of people out to get me. Or who simply wish I’d never been created.” She paused. “I also have a conic clone, which gives me occasional inferiority issues. It’s complicated.”
“It’s always complicated.” Alison fished in her purse for a tissue, realizing that the bizarreness of the conversation had stopped her from crying. “Also, you’re a what? How does that even make sense??”
“How does any of what’s happening make sense?”
Alison supposed she had to grant the bunny at least that much. Which was when the lighting shifted from red back to green, and Mason let out a loud “HA!”. Alison looked over in time to see him collapse down a tool in his hand, and place what looked like a swiss army knife back inside his inner suit pocket. “No one’s going to die now! Or, not due to my TARDIS anyway.”
The ride smoothed, even as a background noise filtered in. Like someone was trying to drive, except they kept pumping the brakes every three seconds. The tube in the centre of the console now also seemed to be pulsing in time with the noise. Mason rubbed his chin. “I wonder if that’s why he does it that way,” he mused aloud.
“Who does what?” Alison asked. Next to her, Bunny-girl stood, offering a hand to help Alison up. After a momentarily hesitation, she accepted the blonde’s offer.
“Let’s not speak of him,” Mason decided. “Concentrate more on the fact that we’re landing.” He put his hands in his pockets, leaning back against the console. “But for the record, Alison, I wasn’t going to abduct you that first time we met. Just give you a little adventure. You might have ended up in your present situation either way. Or even worse off.”
“Oh yeah?” Alison mulled that over for a few seconds. “How comforting.” Though it really wasn’t.
“Where is this ship landing then?” Bunny-girl asked, seemingly looking to change the subject. “Do you know what’s at those coordinates ‘The Hub’ gave us?”
Feel free to name the villain or suggest the “someone”.
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