*WARNING: Chartreuse in this story comes from the end of “Time & Tied” Book 4. To totally avoid spoilers, you’ll want to read that first.
WISH FULFILMENT, PART ONE: MAGIC MAN
“Are you a magical girl?”
She didn’t answer. Again. Whatever she was doing, tapping away on the large computer system, it seemed to have her complete attention. Well, fine! Simon wasn’t big on conversation anyway. Except, he had no idea where he was, or what to do now. Had he missed a message somewhere? He had another quick look around the room.
It was large, with high ceilings, and seemed to be cylindrical in shape. That said, one part of the circular floor had been walled off – though the presence of a doorway in the wall indicated that the area behind remained accessible. From said door, looking counterclockwise around the room, Simon could see a large view screen, an area with a table and some chairs, the computer being manned by the brunette, and then back to the chord cutting through that piece of the room. Maybe he should try the door? As he took a step in that direction, the technician finally turned.
“No, I’m not Becky,” she stated with a smile. “No, I’m not Becky AGAIN, and no, I’m not a magical girl. Well, not in the sense that you understand them.”
“Oh. Who are you then?” Simon asked, momentarily taken aback as he realized she’d heard him every time he’d spoken. Did she even work here? She was dressed rather casually in a T-shirt and jeans. The same as him. Had they both been brought here?
“My name… is not important. You must listen to me, or you’ll be late.”
He frowned. “But that doesn’t make sense.”
Her smile faded. “You were supposed to say ‘late for what’, so I could make a threat.”
“I had a whole Slartibartfast thing worked out in my mind there. You follow?”
Rather than repeat ‘What’ again, Simon merely shook his head no.
She sighed. “Fine. Then call me Alice.”
Simon decided to try a different tack. “How did we get here, Alice?”
“Interdimensional teleportation. But don’t confuse this dimension with your Earth’s pocket dimensions, or any of the other dimensional things being interpreted as magic there. Here at the Epsilon Project, we like to go one step beyond!”
So she did work here? And could teleport? Simon frowned. “Are you SURE you’re not a magical girl?”
“I suppose anything is possible. Same planet, different dimension, we’ve found the gateway, and we need your help.”
He decided to latch onto the last part of that sentence, as it was the first thing she’d said that he fully grasped. “Right… well, even assuming I’m able to help, I’m kind of caught up in something else at the moment. So could you send me back, please?”
“Don’t panic! We can return you to your Earth, at almost the exact same position in space and time relative to when you left. But in the meantime, there’s a neighbouring world which could use your assistance. An evil object is granting wishes, you see.”
Simon sighed. “What?” he elected to repeat. Well, perhaps he could clarify. “What neighbouring world?” It really wasn’t fair, the way Alice threw this stuff out so matter-of-factly, as if he was supposed to know what it meant. At least with Becky, there was the sense that you weren’t supposed to immediately understand her.
“Oh, don’t worry, we’ve got a biofilter, you won’t contaminate that world, they won’t contaminate yours, we’ve got pretty strict protocols. Also, your partner for the mission is already there, and we’ll be sending you through via our whirlpool. Takes less power. Okay? Ready to go?”
“No…! Please, what is going on??”
Alice rolled her eyes up to the ceiling. “We leave a note, they complain there isn’t enough information. We provide information first-hand, they complain anyway. Might as well go back to leaving notes.”
Simon fought down the urge to raise his voice. “Look, just… back up,” he requested. “Are you saying that you’ve abducted me from Earth? All because you want me to help stop an evil object which is running wild on some other planet?” He paused, but she didn’t respond. “Are you an alien? Is this a spaceship?”
Alice continued to stare, until she apparently decided he wasn’t going to say anything more. “Sure, let’s go with that,” she agreed.
Another sigh. He obviously hadn’t figured it out, but her tone implied this was as good as he was going to get. Maybe whatever this situation was, he could deal with it quickly? “Fine. So what is this evil object?”
“If we knew that, we wouldn’t need you,” Alice pointed out. “The majority of the wish hits are for a particular town though, so that’s where we’re sending you.”
He flinched. “Sending me with… a map? Any local currency? Any, dare I ask, technology?!” He managed to keep from throwing his arms out, but suspected some of his growing frustration was bleeding through into his voice. He hoped he didn’t have to master some foreign technological thing.
“It’s a fantasy world, not a technology world, hence why you were chosen. And your partner for the mission already has the supplies. That said…” Alice turned and reached for what looked like one of a set of watches, resting on a small ledge by the computer system. “This can be used to keep in contact with us.” She turned back. “Well, me, at least. That way we – well, I – can provide you with items as the need arises. Probably.” She held the device out to him.
Simon took it tentatively, inspecting it closely. It looked like a watch with a few buttons, whose digital readout wasn’t illuminated. On the back of the face, a small epsilon symbol had been engraved. He looked back up, managing not to grimace. “Does it have an instruction manual?”
“Your partner knows how it works. As I said earlier, she’s already there. So, can I dial it up already? I have other things that need handling.”
Simon decided that at this point, he might as well simply play along. Maybe the person he was supposed to be working with would have answers. For that matter, maybe it was Becky! “My partner… is SHE a magical girl?”
“She’s… something,” Alice yielded. She turned and tapped what Simon assumed was an ‘Enter’ key on a virtual keyboard. A rumbling noise began, and the whole room began to subtly vibrate.
A light on the floor suddenly switched on. Simon realized that the large ring in the middle of the room actually contained nine chevrons. As he stared, a second one of them lit up. Some sort of airlock? The ring was large enough to fit a small vehicle. He put on the watch device. “Do I want to know where that leads then?”
Alice finally flashed him another smile. “Down the rabbit hole.”
The trip through the whirlpool wasn’t instantaneous. It was sort of like going on a trip down a water slide. Except it wasn’t wet, and it didn’t dump him out into a body of water, but rather into a field of grass. With the wind momentarily knocked out of him, Simon rolled to the side and looked up. He was in time to see a swirling portal of blue in the air… even as it shrunk down and collapsed into nothing. He had apparently arrived.
“Hi!” came a female voice off to the side.
Simon turned, and pushed himself back up to a seated position. There was a teenager there looking at him. The first thing that leapt out about her appearance was the pink hair, with the brightly coloured bodice to match. At least the shirt she wore underneath it was a more plain white, and her skirt was black, and her shoes were sensible. In terms of her physique, she was a bit shorter than he was, and perhaps a few pounds overweight for that height. Though Simon supposed that such an opinion was relative. She also had bows fastened in her hair, which otherwise had enough length to fall about her shoulders.
“I’m, like, waiting for Simone!” the girl said brightly. “Are you her security detail, or something?”
Simon shook his head to clear it. He then turned his head to look around the area, noticing that they were in a field, not far from a roadway. Yet the teenager was the only other person within sight. There was also a small tent off to the side, which he supposed belonged to her. Or to Alice. “I’m Simon… are we supposed to be working together?”
Her eyes widened a little. “Simon! That could totally have been it. Whoops.” She frowned. “Except you’re, like, old.”
“What? I’m not even thirty!” Simon protested, now feeling defensive. “It’s you who’s young!”
“Hey! I’ve graduated high school!” she countered, her hands going to her hips. “I’m totally ‘of age’, you know! Also, age aside, I’ve saved the world from massive evil with my family, and temporal hijinks with my friends, so, like, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and all that.”
Simon felt his eyebrow twitch. “Why are you talking that way?”
“Like, what way?”
“That way, with the likes and the… who ARE you?”
She beamed. “Oh! Sorry. Chartreuse Vermilion.” She reached out to take his hand and pump it twice before he could prevent it. “As to my speech, that’s, like, a long story, and it works better as a, you know, cautionary tale about succumbing to mystic forces and the like. Let’s not go there.”
For a moment, Simon found he could only stare as she released his hand. In the end, he supposed it couldn’t hurt to ask. “Are you a magical girl?”
“Hm?” She pursed her lips and raised a finger to them in thought. “I suppose I’m magical to my girlfriend, if that counts?” she answered. “And before you ask, I’m, like, bi, or bi-curious, not strictly a lesbian. You won’t have a problem with that, will you?”
This conversation was starting to make his head hurt. “What, with you not being a lesbian?”
“No, with me, you know, playing for both teams, or whatever people say.”
“No, of course not.” She smiled again off his answer, which made him realize she hadn’t even properly answered his questions yet. He frowned. Whereas Alice had given off the vibe of knowing much more than she was telling, this Chartreuse – if that was indeed her real name – created the impression that she knew less. Maybe this whole thing was some experiment designed to drive people crazy? Simon pushed himself back up onto his feet, brushing off his jeans. “Have you been here long?”
“A day,” Chartreuse answered. “Needed time to, you know, align myself to the cosmic forces of an entirely new world. This Epsilon Project is smart for, like, realizing that! That said, I’m totally ready to go into town now, to have a shower or something.”
The pink haired teenager raised her finger to point. Simon turned to look in that direction. He realized that the field they were in was actually on the fringe of some sort of farming district. The nearby road led off towards a set of houses, which seemed to increase in frequency the further you went, and there was even some sort of castle visible on the horizon. This was a medieval civilization of some sort?
“I would have, like, packed up the tent already,” Chartreuse added. “Except I figured you would probably want somewhere to, you know, change out of your clothes and into something more period appropriate. Like I did. Oh!” She clapped her hands together. “Those outfits Alice gave me make so much more sense now! I thought Simone was dressing kinda butch.”
Simon decided to ignore the last part of that. “So, you were thinking of going into town? Checking into an inn?” he clarified.
She nodded back. “Don’t people in role-play games always learn the stuff they need to know at the inn?”
Simon crossed his arms, looking again towards the houses. He shook his head. “Might be better to scout about the town first,” he advised. “Maybe even try to stay with one of the locals. If we go straight to an inn, we’ll be branded as outsiders, and people might not want to tell us anything.”
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