WISH FULFILMENT, PART SIXTEEN: Alternative Reality
As soon as Chartreuse collapsed, Simon ran over to her. He felt for a pulse, relieved to find that she still had one. They’d been pretty sure that she would end up in Wanda’s vision once the field was activated, so presumably (hopefully) that was the case. Having verified that Chartreuse might have a mild burn, but was otherwise okay, Simon looked up at Ikky. She’d followed over after him. “Keep an eye on her?” he requested, before heading to where Azure and Pelinelneth were standing by Wanda.
Azure held up a necklace, with what looked like a tiny book on it. “The elf says this is the evil thing,” she remarked.
Simon nodded, noticing that her arm was shaking. “Are you okay?”
“Hell no!” Azure shot back, pulling her arm back down as her look became a glare. “I got FIRED at! Literally! What’s my hazard pay?” Simon barely had time to shrug, before she continued with, “And what about my sister??” She thrust her arm out again, pointing towards Chartreuse.
“She seemed okay – how long does a vision usually last?”
Azure snorted. “Time dilates. You might as well ask what number I’d roll on a die. So, pay?”
“Ahem. Wanda’s safety is still guaranteed, right?” Pelinelneth asked, breaking back in.
Simon turned to the elf, deciding he had a better chance with that conversation. “Yes. As long as she acts reasonably once she regains consciousness.”
Pelinelneth nodded. Her eyes tracked to the pendant. “And once you take that away… do I disappear?”
Simon found he could only shrug again. “Let me call Alice,” he decided. When in doubt, consult one’s superiors? He tapped at his watch.
Before there was any response, Wanda stirred, and from near Chartreuse, Ikky called out, “She’s awake!” Azure reflexively took several steps backwards. Simon held his ground, warily watching Wanda. The Royal Wizard didn’t make any immediately aggressive moves. She almost seemed to be… crying? Pelinelneth bent down, putting an arm around the brunette.
“No killing!” Chartreuse called out. Simon turned, in time to see Ikky help his partner off the ground. “Wanda’s gonna, you know, work with us!”
“Killing?” Simon asked. That had only been their last resort, after bargaining, physical restraint, and for that matter, somehow using a wish themselves. Chartreuse and Ikky approached, the younger girl pointedly glancing from him to the blonde woman and back.
It clicked. Ikky, formerly Iklius, had a vendetta against Wanda. They had said that Wanda might get hurt. Ikky could have been hoping for that. For that matter, if all the wishes here reverted, would Iklius revert? As a male, with a renewed spirit, would he then make good on his desire for vengeance? Chartreuse had sensed something with Ikky. She hadn’t been able to put it into words. That could have been it.
At a loss for what to say for a third time, Simon was glad to hear Alice respond. He became less glad at what she said. “If someone’s dead, don’t tell me much!” came the voice from his watch. “Better chance of me fixing it that way!”
“We’re not dead. In fact, we’ve got the artifact,” Simon reported. “It’s a book.”
There was a breath of relief. “Awesomesauce! I’ll open up a portal.”
“Wait – what happens here when we remove the artifact?” Simon asked. “Do the wish results remain?”
“Sure, why wouldn’t they?”
“Well then, that leaves their town in a bit of a state.” For that matter, even if the wishes WERE cancelled, it would be an issue.
“Not our problem!” Alice said, her tone far too chipper. “Their world, let them deal.”
“They can’t!” Simon objected. “We’ve put their Royal Wizard into withdrawal, we had a hand in turning their former Wizard into a statue, and the only local left who knows what’s going on is technically an escaped prisoner.” He glanced at Ikky out of the corner of his eye.
“Oh.” Alice paused. “Can you get your team somewhere private? I don’t feel like explaining myself multiple times.” Simon frowned.
They helped Pelinelneth bring Wanda back to the Wizard Sanctuary. The elf said she’d keep an eye on Ikky while Snowball (Wanda’s pink unicorn) monitored the Wizard’s condition – they couldn’t yet tell if Wanda’s presently withdrawn emotional state was solely due to the future vision, or if it was the onset of withdrawal after being separated from The Book.
Simon, Chartreuse and Azure then relocated to a small room next door.
“The Epsilon Project,” Alice explained, her voice coming through on Simon’s communicator watch. “Our last, best place for hope. This Hub is a self-regulating station, tracking right and wrong, located in neutral–”
“If it’s self-regulating, why do you have to stay there?” Azure demanded.
A pause. “Okay, the system’s not perfect,” Alice admitted. “It’s self-regulating in the sense that it can identify it’s own errors and tell me about them. Usually.”
“Also, where was our backup? My sister’s burned! And are we getting paid?”
“Azure,” Chartreuse said reproachfully. “I’m okay, and Alice and her crew were trying to, you know, help people!”
“Yeah, but it’s people who weren’t US,” the younger Vermilion shot back.
A sigh came over the communications link. “Fine,” Alice said. “You want me to admit that I’ve screwed up? Then yes, I’ve screwed up. Perhaps we should have pulled your team out, once it became obvious that this wasn’t a simple search and extract mission. Certainly we should have gotten better data on Chartreuse’s sister, as she asks too many questions. Though I guess she’s not as bad as the gaffe made last mission.”
“Why, what happened then?” Simon asked, speaking up to prevent Azure from doing so. Plus, he was curious. Also worried.
“Oh, one of their team was copyright of the BBC in the universe they went to. We should have screened for that better, so now on top of everything, we have to avoid getting sued. Two missions in, and it’s like Terminator 2 – I need a vacation.”
“You don’t sound bothered,” Azure grumbled.
“You don’t know me,” Alice said, her normally carefree tones immediately becoming more subdued.
“We’re straying from the point,” Simon decided. He glanced at Chartreuse. “Uh, what was the point?”
“MY point,” Alice cut back in, spirits seemingly restored. “Is that MY job is to react to dimensional anomalies. That’s the whole reason for the Epsilon Project. But at the same time, it’s the EPSILON Project! Making next to zero alterations! Not the Delta Project, which would be all about incremental change.”
“Wait, dimensional anomalies?” Chartreuse asked.
“Supernatural bleed through. Stuff that’s not where it’s supposed to be. For instance, in our first case, someone named Lissa Jous was influencing another dimension through someone’s dreams. In your case, the wishing artifact doesn’t belong in that fantasy dimension, it came from… well, I don’t know exactly. Likely one of the worlds adjacent to Death Note Central. We’ll do some resonance scans to pinpoint it.”
“Oh! So your Project is trying to, like, keep one type of Alternate Earth from affecting another,” Chartreuse decided.
“But,” Simon objected, “you can’t simply remove something like the Wish Book from here and expect that doing so will have a negligible impact. Not once it’s been around for months!”
“Contrarily, if it had been there for less time, it wouldn’t have registered with us,” Alice stated. “Sometimes, you can’t get around paradox. But now that you’ve GOT it, you all need to GO. Like I said to Simon earlier today, we have to trust that things will naturally get back on track!”
Simon looked at the Vermilion sisters. “It feels wrong,” he said, suspecting that his own expression was a mirror to theirs.
“I get that,” Alice answered. “Look, how about this. I’ll open a portal – send Azure through to me, with the artifact. You and Chartreuse can stay until midnight. In the meantime, I’ll consult with God, to see if there’s anything here I’m missing. We DO hope you’ll be willing to sign up with us on a more permanent basis, after all.”
She continued without waiting for acknowledgement. “All I ask is, please, PLEASE, don’t start any revolutions, and for goodness sakes, don’t make any promises we can’t keep!!” The connection clicked off. Just as well, because Simon wasn’t sure what more he could have said.
“Hello!” Ikky said brightly as Simon and Chartreuse walked back into the Sanctuary. “Have we met?”
Simon blinked in surprise. “Met? You don’t rem–”
“Ikli!” Pelinelneth said. “Could you alphabetize the lower bookshelf for me? Me and Snowball need to have a word with our guests.” Ikky (Ikli?) nodded, Pelinelneth guiding Simon and Chartreuse away from her, with Snowball trotting over to join them. Wanda, Simon noticed, had moved up to the bed. She now looked to be asleep.
“We’ve totally missed something,” Chartreuse observed.
“Yeah. Us, fixing things,” Snowball stated. “It seemed like you were going to leave. Or did you have some plan? Where’s the blue haired girl anyway?”
“She’s returning the artifact,” Simon said. “As to a plan…” He exchanged an uneasy glance with Chartreuse before shaking his head. “No.”
“Good. I’d be suspicious of one anyway,” Snowball admitted. “Even if you did fix the wish thing, you’re obviously not locals.”
“So what did you do?” Simon asked.
“We got Wanda to give Iklius a memory wipe,” Pelinelneth murmured. She seemed troubled, but whether it was from that spell occurring, or merely from admitting it to them, Simon couldn’t say. “Because of Ikli’s natural resistance, it knocked Wanda out completely, but it worked. We’ve told Ikli that she lost her memory due to being hit on the head.”
Chartreuse’s eyes widened. “That’s horrible!”
“No, no, it’s the same spell that I had, back when I told Wanda I wanted to be let out of the castle,” Pelinelneth added. “Harmless, really.”
“But her MEMORIES!”
“Keep your voice down,” Snowball snapped. “Look. We need Ikli’s help. She’s one of the few who can use her power to easily cancel out the more severe wishes, yet she didn’t seem inclined to help us willingly. Besides, this way she won’t remember being in prison, or the deaths of her friends. That’s good, right?”
Simon’s gaze drifted over to where the blonde woman was rearranging books. “Except won’t she simply cancel out your memory wipe?”
“That’s the sticking point,” Pelinelneth admitted. “But Wanda had already started working on the problem, while Ikky – Ikli – was in prison. She was hoping for triple redundancy, a spell, a charm and a false memory… we currently have two out of three, and it seems to be working. Besides, we told her the loss was natural causes.”
“No. I don’t like it,” Chartreuse said, biting her lip. “Are you sure you didn’t, you know, explain that–”
“Chartreuse. It’s not our call,” Simon reminded her. Though truth be told, he didn’t feel happy with this idea either. Playing with someone’s mind, without permission? Worse, Ikky wouldn’t have been subjected to this if he hadn’t taken her out of her cell! It was Qifarihm all over again! Or was it? If Wanda had already planned to do this… Simon shook his head, aware he was now rationalizing away his own involvement.
“Meanwhile,” Snowball said. “Pelinelneth has some illusion and nature magic, enough to prop Wanda up until she feels able to continue on in her role in the castle.”
“And if she doesn’t feel up to it?” Chartreuse challenged. “What if withdrawal makes her go nuts?”
“We’ll hold a Wizard trial for a replacement.” Snowball managed the horse equivalent of a shrug.
Chartreuse opened her mouth to object again, but then couldn’t seem to find any words. And Simon realized it was as Alice had said: The people of this world were picking up the pieces without their help. Had she known that would happen? Had she known HOW it would happen? He grimaced, but also said nothing as Pelinelneth turned and went back to talk with Ikli.
There were still problems here. But what could they do to solve them, aside from get out of the way? On the bright side, Simon supposed that the place was overall better off for their having been here. Wasn’t it? He glanced at Chartreuse, wondering what had been in her future vision… then wondering if she should do another one. They had changed things for the better here, right?
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