FULL SCALE INVASION, PART TWO: Kat Scan
“People usually have a reason for disappearing.”
“I’m aware of that,” Kat retorted. “I still want to find her.”
“Obviously. For yourself, or for the military?”
Katherine “Kat” Conway leaned forwards, resting his arms on the table. The asian woman he was speaking with – one Tara Aizawa – was drawing out their conversation deliberately. And he supposed he couldn’t fault her for her caution. Heck, under other circumstances, he might have found it charming. But at present, it was a pain.
So, apparently she knew he was military, even though his clothing wasn’t. Meaning either she was picking up on some non-verbal cues, or she had done research in the twenty four hours it had taken him to get into town. Or John had told her.
“This is personal,” Kat countered. “I knew Fate in high school. Before joining up with the Canadian military.”
“Meaning over fifteen years ago.”
“Yeah. That’s why I don’t exactly have any useful pictures to show, or handy terms to plug into a search engine,” Kat said. He wondered if he’d been able to keep the sarcasm out of his tone. “But she helped me back then. If she ended up in trouble, I want to return the favour.”
“Fifteen years later. If she wanted your help, perhaps she would have contacted you by now.”
“Except perhaps she couldn’t. Or perhaps she’s dead. And perhaps you have no useful information for me, and merely wanted to be seen out in public with a good looking guy. And if that’s the case, perhaps I should leave.”
He pushed his chair back from the table. Tara eyed him, seemingly wondering whether to call his bluff. Thing is, he wasn’t bluffing.
As Tara herself had pointed out, his friendship with Fate had been half a lifetime ago. He’d given up actively searching for her. He’d nearly given up passively searching, as his life had become rather more complicated since becoming involved with the “Doorways” project… the joint Canadian-British-American operation working out of Nevada. The project that allowed travel to alternate worlds.
Either way, the universe was far too vast to waste any more time here. Kat was pretty sure that there was a better chance of Fate having been abducted by aliens, versus hiding out in British Columbia all this time. He stood, dropping five dollars onto the table for his drink. “Thanks for nothing. Give my regards to John, I have no idea why he suggested I use my leave to get in contact with you.”
Kat turned away, only to have her reach an arm out in his direction. “Wait,” Tara said. Kat paused, but didn’t turn back. “Can you prove to me that you have a personal interest in the occult?”
Kat kept his face impassive, quickly doing a scan of the coffee shop. No one was paying attention to them. So he turned, maneuvering himself to block the view for what he was about to do. He pulled a pack of matches out of his pants pocket. Then he struck the match – and tossed the flame towards the dark haired woman.
Tara flinched back. But before the match could reach her, Kat concentrated. The match burst into brilliant light, burning up in less than a second, pieces of ash and soot floating to the ground.
“I have a personal interest.”
Breathing harder, Tara slowly lowered herself back down into her seat. “Pyrokinesis. I see.”
“So, am I leaving? Or am I sitting back down?”
“You’re leaving, but with information,” Tara decided. She pulled a card out of her jeans pocket. “There’s a new woman in town who calls herself Fate. I don’t know if it’s your friend or not, but John recognized the name on your behalf. She’s been trying to organize an occult group. Don’t call that number before 8pm.”
Kat took the business card from her. One side was all black. On the other, there was a phone number underneath some occult symbols. He pocketed it. “All right. Thanks.”
Of course, if he couldn’t call that number right away, this meant he now had the rest of the afternoon to kill. And Tara was pretty, and only slightly younger than him. He flashed her a smile. “I can still sit back down.”
“If you do, I’ll get up. Military was already a strike, now that I see your interest in fire, I’ll pass.”
Oh well. It had been worth a shot. “All right,” Kat yielded. “Though for the record, I’m not interested in fire. It’s interested in me.” He turned, and walked out of the coffee shop.
It was that same series of steps that brought him right out of his reality.
In a blink, Katherine found himself in a large, cylindrical room. He spun. Despite having just passed through the shop’s doorway, it was gone. Everything was gone. Instead, behind him there was now a pair of brunettes, standing at some sort of large computer terminal against the curved wall. One woman in a black dress, the other in jeans and a white T-shirt.
His military training kicked in, and he automatically dropped to a crouch, hand poised to grab the gun from his ankle holster. But at the same time, he’d been witness to some pretty strange things in the “Doorways” program. Was this some offshoot organization? With beaming technology? “What’s going on?”
Jeans Woman turned to look at Black Dress. “Well, go ahead and explain it.”
“Me?!” Black Dress objected. “Your station, your project, your God!”
“Yeah, well, not if the square-cube circuitry kills me.”
“It won’t do that. Unless you hacked in and messed with Para’s protocols. Kind of hoping you weren’t that suicidal.”
“Oh, well, you would know, wouldn’t you? What with tracking everybody on Earth and randomly abducting them?”
“Hey, speaking of abductions?” Kat broke in again. “What’s. Going. On?”
Inwardly, Kat allowed himself to marginally relax. The room was largely empty, and these women didn’t seem to pose an immediate threat. They weren’t armed, and seemed more focussed on each other. Also, Black Dress was attractive, and there was no point in messing up his chances for a date twice in one day.
Actually, as they both turned back to him, Kat was forced to admit that they were equally attractive – but Black Dress looked to be closer to his age, early to mid thirties. He really hoped they were both human, not aliens concealing themselves under some illusion.
“Hi!” Black Dress chirped. “Welcome to The Hub, the main station for a scary oversight organization tracking dimensional anomalies across a multiverse. I’m Alijda, and I’ll be your commanding officer.”
Kat frowned. Dating was out then! “What’s your rank?”
“My RANK?” Alijda frowned back, then turned to Jeans Woman. “Do we have ranks?”
She shrugged. “Katherine’s probably referring to how he’s a Sergeant on his Earth.”
“Of COURSE he is.” Alijda faced Kat again. “This is Alice, by the way. She doesn’t provide any useful information until AFTER we need it.”
“‘Just bring him in,’ you said,” Alice remarked, half smiling. “I could have given you lots of data, but you said–”
“Yes, fine, I elected not to be a creeper, point made,” Alijda interrupted. She looked back to Kat, and sighed. “Yeah. So. Mind if we conscript you for a while? We have a ‘small’ problem.”
“Actually, yes.” Kat decided that his patience had worn out. This obviously wasn’t a military program. And while that potentially put a date with Alijda back on the table, he really did have more important things to do. “I’m in the middle of an investigation. Please return me back to that town I was in.”
“Fine.” Alijda turned to Alice. “Who do we try next?”
The younger brunette shook her head. “It doesn’t work that way. The station targeted Katherine. We need him.”
Alijda made a sound of exasperation. “Fine. So put him back now, and pick him up later in his timeline. When he’s more amenable. After all, I get the impression that less time passed for you up here than it did for me, between my visits.”
Again, a shake of Alice’s head. “Waste of power. Too many variables involved. Also…” Her voice trailed off.
“Also?” Alijda pressed.
“Also, we aren’t able to retrieve Katherine on the occasions when he’s away from his Earth.”
With effort, Kat kept his expression neutral. Somehow, Alice knew about “Doorways”! Yet based on Alijda’s surprised expression, she did not? Kat decided he really needed to get out of here. Because he would now have to report this, and based on what they were saying, he was in danger of drowning in paperwork for the rest of his leave, instead of potentially seeing Fate again.
“Return me,” Kat asserted, drawing himself up to his full height.
“Is he an astronaut??” Alijda asked.
“‘Just bring him in,’ you said…”
“Oh, shut the front door!” the older brunette snapped. She spun away from Alice, and took a few steps towards Kat. “Look, stalemate. We apparently can’t ‘return you’. So you can either hang around here until me and Para have dealt with the Lilliputians, or you can join us, and thus potentially get back to your life sooner. What do you say?”
Kat gave the brunette woman another once over. Neither option seemed preferable. Yet if he was truly stuck here, should he start making the best of a bad situation? “Join me for dinner, and I’ll consider it.”
“Join you for…” Alijda turned back to Alice. “The hell? Is this guy for real?!”
“‘Just bring him in,’ you said…”
“Oooh, I hate you SO much right now!”
“A coffee, at least? Or tea?” Kat requested. After all, Alijda seemed like the better prospect in terms of getting him information. And if they actually had a pleasant interaction on top of that, it could be win-win.
Alijda shot him a look. “I’m a teleporter with suicidal tendencies. You really, REALLY don’t want to be chatting me up.”
“That wasn’t a ‘no’.”
Her eyes rolled. “Fine. We’ll have a tea, then go to Lilliputia Earth.”
“I still go under protest,” Kat noted.
“Whatever.” Alijda gestured to one side of the room, where there was a table and some chairs on wheels. “After you, Katherine.”
“Call me K.C.,” he offered. “Or simply Kat.”
Kat found himself sipping his tea slowly, and deliberately drawing out the conversation. He could only assume that Tara would have found this reversal HILARIOUS. A twist of irony, or karma, or something. At last, Alijda sat back to glare at him, with her arms crossed and an annoyed look on her face.
“You know what? I’m done talking,” she stated. Kat smiled amiably, and took a sip of his drink. In doing so, he mentally sifted through what his ‘mission leader’ had revealed so far.
This whole “Epsilon Project” wasn’t too dissimilar from “Doorways”. It merely involved teams travelling to other dimensions, instead of to other worlds. And it seemed to be for the purpose of cleaning up “anomalies”, rather than for exploration or trade. This project was also relatively new, with not many personnel. All reasons why they might have targeted him.
All of which meant that, had Fate been abducted by aliens, it probably wasn’t these aliens. He wondered idly what the non-human “Para” looked like. At least Alijda was human. And although she had been born in the Netherlands, she was also Canadian, like him. And she seemed nice enough, for a depressive. Maybe a little paranoid. Which wasn’t necessarily bad.
“Know what? You’re an interesting woman,” Kat remarked, lowering his cup.
“While you’re becoming an annoying man. Finish your tea already. Or, better plan, how about you tell me more about the secret program YOU’VE been alluding to?”
“It’s classified,” Kat apologized. Her jaw tightened. Okay, she’d been pushed to her limits. “But maybe another time.” He downed the rest of his tea. “For now, on to your ‘Lilliputia’! These circuits that you said will adjust our size, you’re sure they’ll work?”
“Hell no,” Alijda countered, rising. “That’s why I’m going through first, as Alice’s guinea pig. I’ll let you know if it kills me.”
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