FULL SCALE INVASION, PART SIX: FOOL ME TWICE
“We can’t go back to the station so soon, Para,” Alijda asserted. “If we leave this world now, we could end up causing more issues upon our return.” The personified parabola bit her lip, but didn’t protest again.
“That said, why not tour this place before risking your life, Alijda?” Kat insisted. “For all we know, your teleporting is causing the glitches in your size. We should stick together until we figure it out.”
Kat saw the brunette woman considering his words. While she had claimed to have suicidal tendencies, hopefully she would see the logic in his statement.
Larry cleared his throat. “You keep talking tour, yet I have not authorized anyone to wander around our facilities, LEAST of all you three.”
That statement seemed to make up Alijda’s mind. “So authorize it now. Convince us that you’re ready for the inter-dimensional invasion.”
He shook his head. “From my perspective, you might BE the invasion! Or at least the advance scouts! What possible motive would I have to show you our defences??”
“Consider that we obviously didn’t want to be here,” Kat suggested, off Alijda’s hesitation. “You had to bring us in the hard way. Plus she can teleport, and she’s immune to your dust,” Kat added, gesturing to both his female companions. “I may have abilities too. Given that, why would we invade the slow way? We’re even under a shrinkage deadline ourselves.”
Larry’s frown deepened. “Look. I’d have to make some calls.”
Kat couldn’t resist. “What, all out of minutes on your phone plan?”
The dark haired DEO agent crossed his arms, looking from Kat to Alijda to Para and back. “Fine. Give me a minute.”
Larry went back to his desk. Alijda’s no-nonsense face morphed into a quick smile, flashed in Kat’s direction. He couldn’t help but smile back. She really was quite attractive – despite wearing a black dress over a pink bodysuit. And Kat couldn’t think of anyone he knew who could even partially pull off that look.
Well, okay, maybe Alijda wasn’t pulling it off. But her attitude implied she was.
“Okay, here’s another–” Para cut herself off, as Alijda held her palms out, motioning for a quieter tone. Larry was now on the phone, speaking in hushed tones himself; Kat tried to catch what few words he could.
“Okay, here’s another thing,” Para resumed in a murmur, once she’d figured out Alijda’s gestures. “These guys aren’t high tech, right? Yet they can detect density fluctuations in the city. That implies they HAVE to employ some kind of – perimeter network? At minimum? Meaning they might have some equipment to diagnose our shrinking issue here too.”
“Good point,” Alijda muttered. “And I can probably get past whatever ancient electronic firewalls they might have.”
“What about a magic firewall?” Kat asked. As he said it, he wondered if that’s where his pyrokinesis would come into play. Alijda simply crossed her arms in thought.
Meanwhile, Larry was now on his second call. From what Kat had been able to overhear so far, this call was an escalation of the first one, where he had mostly been dealing with arguments or excuses. Of particular interest was the phrase “night shift”. How long HAD they been unconscious? Para hadn’t said.
“Uhmm, this is weird,” Para said. She’d grabbed a book from off the filing cabinet, and was flipping through it. “Seems to be about us. Going to a ‘Collections’ room.”
“What?!” Alijda said, peering at it.
Larry finally hung up the phone. “That book’s an artifact. Generates stories about the reader. Put it down.” As Para did so, Larry leaned on the desk. “Also, be impressed. You’ll not only have your tour, my boss will be leading it.”
“Okay… and who’s that?” Alijda asked.
Kat decided that it was impossible not to be impressed by Bonnie. Sure, the asian woman wasn’t that tall, and she looked to be in her mid forties to early fifties. But her posture, her practical attire and her severe expression spoke volumes before she even uttered a word. She carried herself as if she owned the place. Then again, Kat supposed that she did.
“Here’s the deal,” Bonnie said, following a period of scrutiny from the door of Larry’s office. “We let you look around. We give you one of your devices back. You leave our world.”
Para gasped, even as Alijda’s shoulders shifted back to match Bonnie’s posture. “No deal. If you’re doing something illegal, we’re not going anywhere.”
“Like hell,” Bonnie snapped. “You have no authority here. For all we know, the colour plaid is illegal on your worlds. What gives you the right to waltz in and claim the high moral ground here? How would you feel if we did that, visiting whatever land you came from?”
Alijda took a physical step back. “Look… some things are just wrong no matter where they occur,” she said, with much less conviction. Kat grimaced.
Based on Alijda’s expression, and what he knew of her, he imagined that the brunette’s thoughts were along the lines of ‘How did this even become an argument? I don’t support Epsilon being in charge of the multiverse any more than Bonnie does.’
“Only ONE device? We had three,” Kat put in, hoping to deflect the conversation.
Bonnie’s gaze fell upon him. “Our techs tried to open the others. They self destructed. Very nice failsafes you have.”
The communicator devices had a self destruct? Kat supposed it made sense. Alice hadn’t said they did, but there seemed to be a lot Alice hadn’t said. Of course, even if there was a self destruct, that didn’t mean the DEO techs hadn’t circumvented it somehow.
Bonnie’s gaze tracked back to Alijda. “Rest assured, we’re not killing and eating anybody. So, deal?”
“That’s not…” Alijda let out a breath through her nose. She resumed her earlier posture. “Deal. Under one condition.”
Bonnie, in the process of turning away, turned back. “Oh yes?”
“Oh no,” Larry muttered, barely audibly. Kat didn’t even look at him – the guy had been pretending to do paperwork at his desk since before his boss’s arrival.
Alijda set her jaw. “If there IS anything sketchy going on? We’re not leaving alone.”
Para’s ears twitched. “Alijda, the field put out by the suits won’t–”
“Hush,” Alijda said, raising her palm in Para’s direction. “Understood, Ms. DuChessy?”
The women now seemed determined to stare each other down. Bonnie blinked first. The only evidence Kat saw that the older woman was displeased by that was in how the side of her mouth twitched. “Understood, Ms… what IS your last name?”
“Van Vliet. Here with Kat Conway and Para, um, Bola.” Alijda quickly recovered from the stumbling uncertainty of whether Para had a last name. “Hoping that you’ll return our honesty with more of your own.”
Bonnie resumed her earlier scrutiny. “Mmm.”
A throat cleared. “Well, hey, my full name’s Larry Appleson…”
“They don’t care, Larry.” Bonnie spun on her heel. “All of you, follow me.”
Kat let Alijda and Para leave the room first. Though when it became apparent that Larry wasn’t about to let Kat depart last, he fell into step behind the blonde. Larry locked up behind them.
“I’ve heard Bonnie’s voice before,” Para whispered at him as they walked. “She’s the one who said to throw our unconscious bodies in a closet.”
“I gathered, based on your gasp when she spoke,” Kat admitted.
“Oh.” Para’s bunny ears twitched. “I’m the worst Epsilon agent ever, aren’t I.”
“I wouldn’t say that. You’re our best math tech.”
She perked at that. Kat was glad – in the brief time they’d had to talk before Alijda came to, he’d decided that Para was a decent sort of person. Or, well, being. Granted, not really the sort of woman he would date, even assuming math was date-able, her ingenue vibe was too strong. Just as Bonnie’s attitude leaned too far in the other direction to be appealing. No, Alijda was the only one here whom Kat felt was worthy of taking out to dinner.
He rubbed his forehead. Okay, he really had to stop going off on such mental tangents. Particularly such female centric ones, it was kind of sexist. As if to atone, Kat glanced over his shoulder and tried to picture a dinner date with Larry.
Their trip took them all the way down the hall, towards a reception area. They bypassed the guy in the fedora at the desk, proceeding directly to the elevator. “Oh, hey Larry,” the secretary said, waving as the other man passed. “Want to see my new business cards?”
“Not now, Shemp,” Larry said curtly.
Bonnie produced a key from her business suit. Once everyone was in the elevator, she inserted it into the main panel and turned it before pressing and holding the button for the lowest floor.
“So. In the vein of honesty, how about you tell us more about Simon?” Bonnie asked, as the elevator lurched down. “The guy who showed up here last April 1st.”
“We don’t know anything about that,” Alijda said. “Our boss doesn’t give us any particularly useful information.”
“Hmph. Smart woman.”
“Hah. Matter of opinion,” Alijda muttered.
The elevator doors opened on another reception area. A bored looking military man stood there. Granted, he was in regular clothes, but Kat recognized the signs. “Passwhoa, Ms. DuChessy, I… I didn’t expect…”
“As you were.”
There were two passages out. Bonnie led them down to the right. “The other way is an emergency exit,” she stated. “I’ll show you the main rooms, if you promise not to bother anyone.”
They passed through a vault-like doorway, where there was another man sitting, doing a crossword. Bonnie pointed to the placards next to the doors in the wall as they approached. “Research and development. Figuring out what the stuff that falls onto our Earth does. Also how we can use it to boost our tech – and repel an invasion.”
There was a window in the door, but Bonnie opened it anyway. Kat let the women look in first before giving the room a glance himself. It seemed to be set up like a laboratory. There were two techs on duty, one of them glancing up from a microscope. Kat barely had time to wave before Bonnie was moving on.
“Filing and records,” Bonnie stated at the next room. It did seem to be mostly filing cabinets. Next came “Storage”, which contained windowed cabinets and a ladder on wheels. Kat found himself wondering as to their databasing. Something about it bothered him. The crudity of it, maybe?
Then there was some sort of break room, containing a pool table, a couch, and a few individuals. Then a larger open area that stretched at least two stories up – some people were on catwalks above. No windows; Kat was now pretty sure they were underground. The larger area did contain a number of tables, desks, cables for phones, wardrobes… and weapon lockers.
“Central hub,” Bonnie said airily. There were a couple of additional passages out of the large room. She strode briskly towards one. “Down here, cafeteria, weight room, holding cells… we might have left you in one, were it not for the teleportation.”
The rooms weren’t anything out of the ordinary. It wasn’t until they were headed back to the central area that Kat realized what had been bothering him about the storage room. The colour coding. Green and blue. Green cabinets had held vials, bags, and crystals… while a lot of the blue ones had been empty. What had they held?
Kat scanned the central hub area – and saw what he’d expected. But would they simply let him wander over there? Larry in particular was keeping a close eye on them. It seemed unlikely. And then, they’d passed into the opposite passage.
“Medical bay,” Bonnie said, pointing out the first room.
But there was his best chance. Kat decided he had to do this – if he was wrong, he could always claim he’d gone rogue. He grabbed the canister by the medical room door, the one labelled as containing hallucinogenic gas, and bashed it against the doorframe, fracturing the seal.
“What the hell?!” Bonnie said, spinning.
Holding his breath, Kat dropped the canister and ran.
“Kat, what– whoa!” Alijda said, stumbling. “Okay, trippy… I-I’m now seeing that story Para had before? Collections! Black market?”
“A candle?” Larry said, tilting his head.
Kat didn’t slow down. The hallucinations wouldn’t fool them for long.
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