FULL SCALE INVASION, PART THREE: Whirlpool
“You hate the suit?”
“I didn’t say that.”
Para frowned, trying to read Alijda’s expression. “Then you like the suit?”
“I didn’t say THAT either.”
“How about we agree that it’s good our normal clothes can be worn overtop,” Kat broke in. “Since pink’s not really my colour.”
The group had assembled in the station’s control room, prior to heading out on the mission. Part of their preparations had involved each of them putting on a specialized jumpsuit, so that the shrinking process would be non-lethal. Para had helped design it, but it had been Alice who had actually had the clothing synthesized. And who had used pink material.
Para wondered if she should say as much. Being math personified, she tended to second guess her human interactions. Would they take the information as a statement of fact? Or as an accusation on Alice? Kat in particular was hard to read. The women had suggested to Para that she be out of the room for his initial arrival, so she didn’t really have a baseline.
Para settled for, “I think pink could be anybody’s colour!”
“It does the job, that’s what’s important,” Alijda said, running her hands over her waist once more before gesturing dismissively.
It occurred to Para then that the pink showed through on Alijda’s legs and arms, while the brunette wore a black dress overtop. Was that bad? At least Para’s dress was a similar colour. But the suit could be mistaken for leggings. Should she say as much?
Before she could, Alijda continued. “We CAN remove the body suit for short periods of time though, right? Like call of nature?”
Para bobbed her head. “Oh yes. The main issue here is density. After all, if you remain the same mass once you’ve shrunk down, your density’s going to increase.”
“Right. More density, making us stupider,” Kat stated.
Para felt her bunny ears twitch. “Not that kind of density. Compactness. Mass divided by volume.”
“He knows, Para,” Alijda sighed. “He’s trying to hit on you or something.”
“Trying to lighten the mood, actually,” Kat countered. “To hide the fact that I’m getting unnerved by all this.”
“Oh. S-Should I stop talking?”
“No, please, finish your thought,” Alijda said, smiling.
Para ventured a smile back. It was hard to stay mad at Alijda. Even after effectively betraying Para’s faith in her, in hacking the station’s computers, Para couldn’t help but feel like the woman meant well. She hoped that they were moving on from that new low point in their friendship.
“Right, so, increased density would be a problem,” Para continued. “Not neutron star levels of problem, but problem. Yeah? Thus, as you lose volume, you need to lose mass too, in order to maintain your density. This suit helps your body deal with that process, preventing you from losing any vital organs. That said, after the initial transference to their world, it’s mostly doing a checks and balances thing. So you can remove the bodysuit temporarily.”
“So, this mass issue…” Kat mused. “Exactly where does it go? I mean, if we simply threw any untreated objects into the portal, would sublimation occur, as mass got expelled?” Kat glanced to Alijda. “Sublimation refers to going from a solid to a gas with no liquid state in between.”
“Yes, thank you, I took grade school science,” the brunette woman retorted.
“I guess the objects would at least distort?” Para hypothesized. “Though, as long as they’re within the same field now surrounding all of us due to the suits, they’d be fine. Like how our clothing and supplies will be fine. The suit itself is more a living tissue necessity.”
Kat nodded. “Which brings up that mystery field. It would be…?”
Para glanced towards Alice, who was typing something over at the computer banks. “Classified, I guess? Alice didn’t show me. The initial schematics weren’t mine.”
Alice glanced over her shoulder at them. “It’s MAGIC! So baby, don’t kill, don’t kill the magic. Ohhh!”
Alijda’s brows knit. “Alice, was that another cryptic allusion?”
Alice beamed. “Why you gotta be so rude?”
“Hey, if you think that was rude…”
“Wait!” Kat pointed at Alice. “I understood that reference. Canadian band.”
Alice clasped her hands together. “Yes! Alijda’s SO much better at setting me up than Simon. I think on some level, she really gets me. If only we got along better, we could have a real ‘Skye’ and ‘Agent Coulson’ vibe going. You follow?”
Kat eyed Alice’s eager expression, then slowly shook his head. “Lost me again.”
“Okay, not Skye, Daisy. Maybe? No?”
Alijda crossed her arms. “She’s mentioned Skye before. Something about ‘Agents that YIELD’.”
Alice sighed. “I should probably track which of your realities include the pop culture things I like, but I can’t be bothered.” She reached out to hit the enter key on her virtual keyboard, and the whole room began to marginally vibrate. Para watched as a light around the central ring in the floor switched on.
Para hadn’t seen a whirlpool activation since their first mission. Along with teleportation, it was one of the things in the station that took a fair bit of power, thus was done sparingly. Or so she had been told. This was why testing of the square-cube circuits would be done in tandem with the start of the new mission.
A second light switched on; Para noted how there seemed to be nine chevrons in total. Then a third – but Alice had approached and was now talking again, diverting Para’s attention.
“So, I’m bending protocol a bit,” Alice admitted. “You’ll be arriving on their world roughly twenty four hours before the third incursion. You can’t stop it – and my God, for the sake of causality, don’t try – but predicting it for the locals might give you some credibility. Also, if the new circuits DON’T work, this gives us a window to try again.”
Kat frowned. “Back up. Incursion being…?”
“You’ll know it when you see it.” Alice handed out WristWatch devices. Their digital readout was blank, and a small epsilon symbol was engraved on the back. Behind Alice, a fifth light switched on. “These can be used to keep in contact with me. Try not to split up, turning me into messenger girl, okay?”
“Hold on. I thought you sent someone to this world already,” Alijda noted. “So do we have any contacts or other inf–”
“No,” Alice interrupted. “We got nothing. Beyond the fact that the place might be a matriarchy. So, warn them and protect them from the invaders from the fifth dimension!”
Para flinched at that. “FIFTH dimension?” Despite all her talk of volume, she was still two dimensional at heart. Thus handling the third dimension – outside of the theory – was still was a struggle, never mind a fifth.
“Yeah, okay, not really,” Alice apologized. “Watch ‘Bride of Chaotica’. But not now.” She pointed at the floor. Para looked back in time to see the covering on the ring iris open. For an instant, the huge circular gap revealed only an inky blackness, the portal/door big enough to drive a vehicle through.
Then the ninth chevron lit up, and a shimmering blue light rushed in from the portal’s circumference, covering the ring’s interior, making it look a bit like a pool. “Good luck!” Alice declared.
Alijda shouldered her backpack of supplies. “Right. So, don’t any of you come through until I radio with an all clear.” She eyed the shimmering circle. Five seconds passed, then ten.
“Want a push?” Alice chirped.
Alijda bristled. “Want a smack in the face?”
“Look, I can go first,” Kat offered.
“No, I’m the most expendable one,” Alijda sighed. And with a cry of ‘laten we gaan!’ she jumped forwards into the whirlpool.
Alijda had been through the whirlpool once before. It was a bit like travelling down a water slide. Her hesitation hadn’t been about the journey itself, more how it might feel while getting miniaturized.
Was the pink body suit pinching in a bit harder? Was this head rush a symptom of a bigger problem? What if parts of her stayed regular size, while the rest of her got tiny? And why did she even care, given how she felt like killing herself anyway?
She’d barely had time to think about it, before she was being shot out of the swirling portal of blue light – and into a tree. Or nearly into a tree. Without really thinking about it, some self preservation instinct kicked in, and Alijda teleported herself back and to the left.
Her velocity was preserved, so she still hit the ground rather hard. But not tree trunk hard, not enough to knock her senseless. Indeed, the brunette woman managed to roll, then came up on one knee. She looked around.
No one had noticed her. She was on a pathway, between two rows of trees. It looked like a park – good thing she hadn’t ended up several metres to the right, where there was some kind of children’s play area, right out in the open.
Alijda took off her backpack and patted herself down. Everything felt like it was in the right place. And relative to everything else around her, she seemed to be the right size. Her lips pursed. Okay, relative to ALMOST everything else around her. But first things first. She tapped at her watch device. “Alice?”
“Hi!” came the technician’s voice. “You re-enacting ‘Attack of the 50 Foot Woman’ yet?”
Alijda was glad that the connection was audio only. Because she couldn’t immediately mask her surprise at understanding a reference. “No, I’m not,” she shot back. “In fact it’s looking good. The circuitry hasn’t caused any immediate problems. Want to wait five minutes to be sure?”
“Nope, whirlpool’s a power drain. And shutting it down means it might move. So I’m sending the others now.”
“Okay. Oh! Tell them to watch out for that tree!”
“George, George, George of the jungle…” The connection clicked off.
Alijda shook her head, and hurried to stand in front of the offending tree trunk. As long as Kat and Para came out one at a time, she could teleport them – her limit was somewhere around 300 pounds.
Yet as she watched, the swirling portal rotated left about ten degrees, so that when the others emerged, they fell on the path running between the trees, rather than partially into them.
Alijda moved to help Para up, as the portal shrank and vanished into the air. Para smiled up at her. “Thanks! Wow, so do you feel smaller? I don’t, but I’m kind of used to vertical stretches and compressions.”
“I feel normal,” Alijda answered. ’Or as normal as I can be, given what I’m wearing,’ she mentally added. With Para standing, she looked over towards the brown haired military man. “Kat?”
“I seem to be fine.” He was already brushing himself off. His gaze shifted to past Alijda’s shoulder. “Also, I think I know now what Alice meant by incursion.”
“Right.” Alijda turned herself, to look back at the enormous clothing iron. Way out of scale with everything else, it towered in the air, perhaps a couple blocks away. “I guess that would look normal size, if we weren’t shrunk?”
“You want me to do the math?” Para offered. Alijda slowly shook her head.
“I think I saw this anime,” Kat noted. “Not really a fan.”
“Oh, don’t you start referencing,” Alijda grumbled. She moved to retrieve her backpack. “Okay, best guess, it’s mid-morning. Let’s try to figure out who’s in charge around here. If we’re not done with the mission by sundown, we’ll need them to give us lodgings.”
There weren’t many people out wandering the streets. At first glance, Alijda judged this world’s technology level to be early 20th century – some vehicles, no television aerials – but fashion seemed to trend closer to the 1960s. So she and Para shouldn’t stick out too much. Their group did get a couple raised eyebrows, but they also got directions to City Hall.
About a block away from their destination, a short man in a trench coat and a fedora stepped out of an alleyway, directly into their path. He looked down at something in his hands, then up at them. “Come with me,” he asserted.
“Why?” Alijda shot back.
The man sighed. “Look, we can do this the easy way, or the hard way.”
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