FULL SCALE INVASION, PART FOUR: Small Problem
“Or we can not do ‘this’ at all,” Alijda countered.
Inwardly, Kat sighed. He wondered, would it really be so bad, to simply go along with the strange man in the trench coat and the fedora? Maybe the guy had come to tell them that, guess what! Everything had been solved, and they could get back to their normal lives!
But Kat wasn’t in charge. Thus, outwardly, unless there was any obvious benefit to disobeying, he resolved to follow Alijda’s lead. And not merely because he believed there might still be some sort of compatibility between them.
“You’re crazy,” the short man was saying. “No one, seeing the position you’re in, would have picked THAT option.”
“Not crazy. Occasionally suicidal, that’s all,” Alijda countered. She moved to walk around him.
Kat decided to dub their aggressor Shorty. Granted, Shorty didn’t look to be much under five feet, but this whole world was small, so height was relative.
Shorty moved to block Alijda, slipping the device he held into a pocket of his trench coat. “Last chance,” he remarked. And Shorty snapped his fingers in the air. The action prompted four other men to amble out of the alley, dressed identically to him. They began to circle around the group.
“Huh. Store must have had a great ‘buy one fedora, get four more for free’ deal,” Kat remarked. He said it not only to lighten the mood, but also to draw Alijda’s attention to the number, as she seemed focussed on Shorty.
“Really?” Alijda sighed.
“So,” Shorty stated. “The easy way, or–”
Alijda reached out to grasp the sleeve of Shorty’s trench coat. And before he could even flinch back, in a puff of purple and black smoke, the brunette was no longer there. Nor was Shorty’s coat. The guy now stood in a black button up shirt and pants.
Kat tilted his head to the side, where there was another puff of purple smoke forming. Right next to the second man. Kat was in time to see Alijda toss the first trench coat over her left arm, and reach out for the second man, before vanishing again. Taking that guy’s coat along too, while appearing next to the third man.
Kat immediately shifted his attention to who would be the fifth, and final man in the circle. Sure enough, he was looking at the guy next to him, and raising his arm to execute a punch – not at Alijda, but at where she was going to appear next. Beside him.
These guys weren’t idiots. They’d been trained. Well, either that, or they were accustomed to seeing teleporting people. That said, Kat was no idiot either. To punch, you needed to draw your arm back. So Kat stepped forward, grasping the man’s arm and continuing the movement back, throwing the guy off balance, and preventing the punch.
And then Shorty’s last friend was also without his coat, and Alijda was standing in front of her original quarry. Kat wasn’t sure if she’d even noticed his maneuver – the whole area around them was now cloaked in a purple haze, due to Alijda’s rapid teleportations. Kat wrinkled his nose. It also smelled vaguely of sulphur.
“So, as I’ve likely disarmed you now,” Alijda remarked. “Do we leave, or do I pull the same trick with your pants?”
“Hard way it is,” Shorty declared. He grabbed a bag hooked onto his belt, and swung it out in a wide arc. Sand spilled out, except it was multicoloured sand, glittering as it flew through the air… and even as Kat flinched back, he felt his legs cease to properly support his weight.
“Well, damn,” Alijda commented.
As Kat fell forwards, he saw their brunette teleporter crashing to the ground too, on top of her collection of trench coats. His landing wasn’t as soft. The last thing he registered before losing consciousness was Para’s knees giving out next to him.
The arguing, the teleporting, the throwing of the dust – it had all happened too fast for Para. As personified math, she could calculate the foci of a conic in the blink of an eye. Yet by the time she’d decided that ‘the hard way’ meant a threat, versus – for example – taking a derivative from first principles, the whole spectacle was already over.
She wondered briefly why her companions were keeling over. Then the man next to her also dropped to the ground. So, suspecting that the dust was causing it, Para mimicked their actions, letting her knees give out, and closing her eyes as she sank down.
“Oh, nice throw, Larry!” came a sarcastic voice from her left. “You knocked out Shemp too!”
“Shut it, Joe,” Para heard the short man called Larry sigh. “If I hadn’t had the fairy dust on me, we’d all be in trouble. What in hell is that woman capable of??”
“Teleporting these huge objects away from our town?” posited a third voice.
“Or INTO the town,” Joe said.
“We’ll know soon enough. Hurry up and get them out of here,” Larry ordered. “We’re calling attention to ourselves. And here, put your coat back on.” Para felt a rush of air and heard a ‘thwacking’ noise as the object was thrown over her head.
“This isn’t mine. It’s Shemp’s.”
“I don’t care! Hurry up!”
There were a few seconds of shuffling about, after which Para felt one of the men grasp her under the shoulders. He hauled her body up, then pulled her back towards the alleyway, her feet dragging on the ground.
She decided to focus more on where they were going, versus what the men were saying. Since their talk was only general complaining. As such, Para registered being brought back into the nearest building – but at some point, after standing in a room for a while, they went back out the same way.
An elevator? Then there were echoes, so it was possible that they were underground. And then she was being laid onto some sort of cart. And then Alijda was being laid directly on top of her.
That proved to be distracting. Para couldn’t help but become aware of the ways her own curves differed from Alijda’s human ones, not to mention the properties of friction that came into play as the cart began to bump it’s way down what was likely a tunnel. Something about Alijda sliding against her felt strange.
Para managed to keep her eyes shut. She strained to hear – her bunny ears were chiefly cosmetic. It did sound like Kat and Shemp were enjoying a similar ride behind them.
More than five minutes later, but less than fifteen, they were unloaded from their carts, and the “elevator” process was repeated. This time, as they emerged (even lower down? higher up?) someone said “Password?”. The response was either mumbled, or non-verbal… either way, Para didn’t catch it.
More dragging. Then a female voice: “They’re UNCONSCIOUS?”
“They resisted,” Larry’s voice retorted. “And the brunette female can magically relocate. It was fairy dust or nothing.”
“What a waste of several hours. But very well. Confirm your readings, grab any devices they might have, then throw them all in a closet somewhere until they wake up.”
The woman didn’t seem to want to dignify that with a reply. And ten minutes later, after nearly giving herself up with a yelp when a needle jabbed her arm (seemingly drawing blood), Para found herself dumped into a tiny room. Alijda ended up on top of her again.
Consciousness returned quickly, once Alijda realized there were people around her. But she resolved to make no movements or noises until she had more information. After a minute or so of stillness, the voices resolved in her head, and she realized it was only Kat and Para talking.
“You’re right,” Kat was saying. “Katherine isn’t a typical boy’s name. But my parents thought I’d be a girl, and then my mom died giving birth to me. Complications, no hospital, you know how… actually I guess you wouldn’t know how it is.”
Alijda had decided to open her eyes to learn more about their situation. They seemed to be in a small, white room, around seven feet in every dimension. There was a light in the ceiling, which was on, and a door, which was closed. Nothing else.
She reached for her wrist. Their communicator watches were gone. “Yes, I’ve been awake for a minute or so,” Alijda said. “Figured I’d fake unconsciousness, in hopes of learning something.”
“Great idea!” Para said. “I faked being out myself, ever since that Larry guy first threw the fairy dust on you.” She smiled.
Alijda sat up fast, a bit too fast. She smacked her palm into her forehead. “PARA. You did NOT just say that.”
“Um, yes? Why, should I have tried to escape? I’m sorry, I didn’t want to leave you…”
“No, it’s not that,” Alijda sighed. “It’s more that our captors are probably monitoring this room, and so now they know that too.” She stumbled to her feet, leaning against the wall.
Para’s ears twitched. “Oh. I… I never considered…”
“To be fair to Para,” Kat broke in, “You weren’t exactly hiding your teleportation power. Is that ability commonplace out in the multiverse?”
“What? No,” Alijda said. She tried the door. Naturally, it was locked. “Where I’m from, I’m it. And people want to catch me and dissect me to replicate the accident that made me this way. But hey, I’m not there now, so I figured…” Her voice trailed off.
“You figured different people could catch us and dissect us?” Kat mused.
“I guess. Shut up.” Alijda rattled the door handle a bit harder, then banged on the door with her fist.
“Sorry,” Kat apologized. “That wasn’t funny. Here, look on the bright side! If they wanted to dissect us, they’d probably have done that while we were knocked out.”
“I think they believe we have information they can use,” Para ventured.
Alijda looked back over her shoulder. “What information?”
Para shrugged. “I don’t know? I didn’t hear as much as they think I did.” She cupped her hand to her mouth and called out at the ceiling, “You hear that? I really didn’t!”
“If we’d simply gone with this Larry, we might know their motives,” Kat pointed out. “Maybe we can try that next time?”
“Oh, well, pardon my paranoia,” Alijda said. “I figured we were safer dealing with things out in public versus wherever this is.”
“Alijda, there’s… something else you might want to know,” Para ventured, her bunny ears twitching. “Something strange. But I don’t know if I should say, if they’re listening.”
Alijda sighed. “Come here and whisper it then.”
Para nodded, and did so. Alijda’s eyes widened. She felt her mouth go dry. She grabbed Para by the shoulders, looking her in the eye. “No. No way. Are you SURE?!”
Para nodded. “I felt you, when you landed on top of me. Definitely smaller now.”
Alijda took a step back, staring down at herself. From the corner of her eye, she became aware of Kat’s eyes also tracking down over her body. “Um, what’s smaller?” he wondered.
Alijda swallowed. “All of me. Para says I’m still shrinking.” She pressed her hands against her belly. “Merely slower than what happened through the whirlpool.” She looked back up. “What about you two? Is this some delayed problem with the circuitry?”
“I don’t have a good frame of reference for myself,” Para said, wringing her hands. “If we contact Alice, she could check.”
“Which we can’t do while trapped in here,” Alijda said, fighting down a rising panic. “More to the point, if I’m going to die, I’d rather it NOT be by getting stepped on!”
She resumed pounding her fist against the door. “Hey! Trenchcoat boys! You hearing this? Let us out before we shrink away into nothing!”
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