NUMBERS GAME, PART NINE: PREPARE YOURSELF
Alison set aside the pink wig that had turned her into a double for Lissa Jous. She then ran her fingers back through her natural brown hair, rumpling it and letting it fall back onto her shoulders like usual. That done, she put her back against the wardrobe and slid down to the ground, hugging her knees in towards her chest. “Goddamn it.” She tugged up a little on the bottom of the tight dress, ultimately just letting her knees fall to the side instead, lifting her gaze up to stare at the ceiling. “What is even the hell, Alison?” she questioned herself aloud. “You only gonna fall for guys you have no chance with?”
She grimaced. Two problems with that statement. First, she hadn’t fallen for Phillip Denomolos. Not really. Granted, he was a nice guy, and smart, but despite his technological know-how, personality-wise he hadn’t felt like her type. Too obsessed with what was “right” or “wrong”. She had more fallen for the idea that he’d fallen for Lissa. Yet right after confirming that fact, he’d made it clear that he knew she wasn’t really Lissa, so never mind. Which led to the second problem, namely that this meant she had yet to feel a spark of romantic interest with ANY man who didn’t run completely counter to her personality.
Nice guys. Happy guys. Honest guys. All things that she was not. Even David Rose, who had been as messed up as she had been in terms of being affected by that Biochemical experiment – and where she’d gained teleportation, he’d gained super speed – that had not been a good match either. Because David was a police officer. While she was effectively a fugitive. Alison looped some hair around her finger and tugged at it angrily. “Why even think about guys, Ali? Why the hell do you want to pass on your stupid, messed up genes? Because you’re over 30, and your biological clock is ticking? Screw that nonsense.” Despite verbalizing it, Alison wasn’t thoroughly convinced.
There was a knock at the door. Alison quickly pulled herself back to her feet, brushing off her dress. The door began to swing open. “I said no peeking!” Alison shouted curtly.
The pair of bunny ears vanished as quickly as they’d appeared. “Sorry!” came Para’s voice as the door closed again.
Alison sighed. “Bunny girl, come back! I need your help unzipping anyway,” she realized.
The door reopened, the blonde peeking around the corner. “Yeah?”
“Just make sure you leave the alien out there,” Alison noted. “I don’t want anything resembling a man talking to me right now.”
Para blinked. “Oh. So, you don’t like guys any more? Because of Phil? I mean, that is, it’s your life, but you shouldn’t make a hasty decision…”
Alison let out a long breath. “Para, stop. Just get your ass in here, close that door, and strip this dress off of me!” She pursed her lips. “Which I did NOT mean in an indecent way!”
The blonde slipped inside, obviously trying to hold back a smile as she closed the door. “You called me Para.”
“Yeah. I know.” Alison attempted a smile herself, but felt it came out more like a grimace. “I feel like this might end up becoming a serious chat, one which I don’t want to have with a rabbit.”
“Oh. Then… you didn’t do it because you’re feeling any closer to me.”
“Maybe, maybe not. You never know. SNAFU.”
“Situation Normal, All F-ed Up.” Alison turned to present her back to Para, pulling her hair out of the way of the zipper. “After all, I’m on some parallel Earth, trying to prevent a mathematical construct named Lissa from destroying Roman Numerals, via her influencing the dreams of a fanboy technician. Not exactly typical!”
Para moved in to pull the zip down. “Right. Well, speaking of preventing disasters, out of all the options you gave, Mason thinks we should engineer an undo for that alternator.” Alison’s dress undone, Para stepped back as the brunette began to disrobe. “It would mean we can flash forward to the present again, rather than mess around any more outside of our proper time.”
Alison stepped out of the blue dress after it hit the floor, going back to the wardrobe to retrieve her original black number, which Mason had said he would clean. “Makes sense,” she yielded. “The big question is, what then.”
“You mean how will we confiscate the alternator, so that the Denominator doesn’t try again?”
“I mean, will we magically end up back in our worlds? Or on that Hub space station? Or will Mason fly the two of us off somewhere for a new adventure? Assuming we succeed, what then??”
“Oh.” Para twisted her fingers together. “Is that what you humans would call a rhetorical question?”
“I don’t know.” This time, Alison was sure she was grimacing. “Part of me wants to end up back at home, with no memory of any of this mess. Yet at the same time… I’m learning things about myself. About my past, about depression, even about romance. It’s like the whole Powers mess all over again.” She briefly debated switching out her lingerie – becoming Lissa had necessitated a little extra padding – but then figured hell with it, and began to pull her regular dress back on.
“I’m not sure I follow.”
Alison held back a sigh. “I’m one of a few people who got accidental powers in my reality,” she admitted. “I realized that, to survive, I’d need to join forces with the others in the same position. This after giving off a terrible first impression, plus I’ve always preferred technology to people anyway. So part of me wishes it had never happened. Except, I grew as a person because of it. Same thing seems to be happening here.”
Para nodded, picking up the blue dress off the floor and looking for a free clothes hanger. “Okay, well, what happened in the other situation?”
“MBE, the Biochemical Engineering company was… persuaded to back off. Let’s say that blackmail, or the perception of such, may have been involved.” She adjusted the straps of her dress. “Which means that, while I haven’t lost touch with the others, at present there’s incentive not to hang out. Because MBE has to be looking for a new angle on us.”
“And so… you’re not sure you want to lose touch with me and Mason the same way? Is that it?” She slid Lissa’s dress back into the wardrobe.
“Kind of. I DO know that I don’t want to stay with you if it means doing things at the whim of this Epsilon Project.” Dress in place, Alison pointed her toe. She decided to keep the boots on too. “I guess I’m wondering if there’s any way we can turn the screws here, maintain the ability to ‘undo’ the ‘undo’, should the Mystery Group not agree to return us to our regular lives. After we save the world and all.”
Para’s nose crinkled. “You don’t think the Epsilon Project would do that anyway?”
“I don’t know, that’s the thing! But I’m also not convinced that Mason would be cool with me playing with his technology to engineer such an undo. At best, he’ll think I’m “joyriding” again, and at worst, he could think I’m in league with Phil. Given how I was maybe playing up the romance angle a bit much, before my last two temporal visits.”
“Maybe? Alison, before leaving us the last time, you said that the best way to figure out if he was truly in love with Lissa would be to kiss him on the lips!”
Alison winced slightly at the memory. “Oh. Yeah.”
The two women stared at each other. “So… did you?”
“No!” Alison felt her cheeks warm as she turned away. “But I was going to. Not because I loved Phil, it’s more that he loved Lissa, and I was Lissa, and it was… nice to feel loved. Besides, let’s face it, you can’t find a safer environment to experiment in than a universe where you don’t actually exist.”
Para crossed her arms. “Then are you truly sure that NO part of you wants to see the Denominator succeed? Because forgive me, you’re not making yourself an easy person to trust right now. And for me, saving Roman Numerals is more than just preserving a bunch of numbers.”
Alison turned back, opening her mouth to protest, but in the face of Para’s resolute gaze, the words died on her lips. “You’re right. I can’t guarantee it,” she finally admitted. “But I’d like to think I have more than my own interests at heart.”
Para continued to look at her for a few seconds before smiling again. “That much I believe.” She moved to grab the pink wig, to put it into the wardrobe as well. “Either way, don’t worry about keeping in contact after this – if Lissa can appear in someone’s else’s dreams, there might be some way I can appear in yours!”
Alison finally managed a true smile. “Or not. No offence, Para, but I don’t love you in quite the same way Phil loves Lissa.”
“I guess.” Para froze in place. “OH,” she breathed. “Do you mean he was having THOSE sorts of dreams about Lissa??”
Alison’s smile faded. “What?” Her eyebrows shot up, seeing Para’s expression. “Whoa! No! I don’t know! Gods, why would you even go there?!”
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around someone loving personified math!” Para said, her eyes growing wide. “Maybe the only way you can truly love one of us is if you get to… you know…”
“Stop! Bunny girl! No!” Alison made emphatic cancelling motions with her arms. “Not where I wanted your sexy cuteness to take me! I mean, does that imagery even make SENSE in two dimensions?!” She let out a long breath. “Oy. How about we just go help Mason with his anti-alternator plans. Alright??”
Para nodded mutely back at her, her eyes still large and wondering.
Alison adjusted her new belt. “Just to be clear then,” she remarked. “This whole time, you’ve had a wardrobe that can make proper fitting clothes given almost any specifications… and we’ve only NOW used it to create disguises to get into the Elizabeth Tower?”
“Yes. Because we’re only now trying to undo an interference,” Mason countered. “When we arrived at the Tower that first time, we were observing, not interacting.”
“Mmm. You know, I could probably hack into the government system and actually give us credible backgrounds too.”
“These security uniforms will be quite enough,” Mason assured. He tugged at the cuffs of his shirt. “Besides, I thought you said that we’d have to deal with the alternator device almost immediately upon our arrival back in the present.”
“Point,” Alison yielded. “Though now that you’re here, and you know how the TARDIS controls work, you could take me back to a week before, where I could plant a virus to…”
“Is our plan really to fully materialize a London taxicab inside the Tower?” Para questioned. “It doesn’t seem safe.”
Mason turned. “Oh, didn’t I mention? I think I’ve got the chameleon circuit partially fixed. My ship will have the appearance of a SmartCar. Should fit in the building okay.”
“We don’t have a choice, there’s no time to run in from outside,” Alison explained. “We’ll be arriving only moments before – maybe even after – Phil, er, the Denominator arrives back in the present. And I’ll need to get this,” she held up the device, resembling a calculator with a small satellite dish on it, “close enough to his temporal displacer to read the alternator’s charged frequency. With that, we can undo his misguided efforts, once he triggers it.”
“I’m still hesitant on letting you be the one to manage that thing,” Mason admitted.
“I know him better than you two. I can get closer. Plus, I suck at running interference.”
“I trust Alison,” Para assured him. “Remember, she saved the both of us last time.”
Mason looked towards her, frowned, then nodded. “All right then. Let’s get this trip over with.” He reached out to throw the switch.
Alison tensed a little at the motion, then looked down again at the device in her hands. Regrettably, she didn’t really know how it worked – only Mason did. She only knew the buttons she would have to push. Her lips thinned. What she did know was that she wasn’t going to push that last button, not until she knew for darn sure that “The Epsilon Project” was going to let them all go free. Including Phillip Denomolos.
VOTING WILL CLOSE THURSDAY NOV 6 EST
(That’s not a typo. Marks are due Friday, not writing until then.)