3.08: Half the Battle

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FULL SCALE INVASION, PART EIGHT: HALF THE BATTLE

“You can say ‘I told you so’.”

Alijda stared out at the sunrise, swinging her legs back and forth off the park bench. She’d needed help to reach the seat. As she was under four feet tall relative to their surroundings. “Why?” she asked Kat. “What would that accomplish?”

“Might make you feel better?”

Alijda shook her head. “I’m a depressive. I always feel lousy. Sure, sometimes I hide it better, but now that we’re trapped on this Earth, just wait. Without my meds, I’ll be throwing myself off a building pretty soon. Assuming I’m still tall enough to climb one.”

“We won’t be stuck here forever,” Kat assured her. “Alice is sure to realize there’s a problem when she can’t contact us. At that point, she can scoop us off this Earth the same way I was teleported off of mine. By walking through a door or the like.”

“Hah. First, you’re assuming that the scale factor thing won’t be a problem for retrieval. And second, you’re assuming that Alice is paying more attention to us than to the latest movie out of the Marvel universe. Which, come to think, is probably an actual universe out there. I wonder if she visits.”

“Alijda, don’t be like this.”

She snapped her gaze over to him. “Oh, I’m sorry. Am I acting too much like myself here? Because if you wanted happy chipper perky, you should have gone with Para to map out the neighbourhood.”

“That’s not what I meant. I’m… worried about you.”

“Well DON’T be! Okay?” With effort, Alijda managed to not grab fistfuls of her hair and yank, simply to feel the physical pain. “You didn’t even KNOW me a day ago! So don’t pretend like you really care. Or if you’re a lunatic who always cares, do me the courtesy of not saying so. I’m tired of mattering to people. It’s exhausting. Let me shrink away to nothing in peace.”

He didn’t respond that time, merely looked back out towards the sunrise, as she had been doing moments ago. His expression was neutral. She’d probably upset him. Good. Except goddamn it. Except good.

Alijda closed her eyes, resting her palms on her face. Seconds ticked by into minutes. Only when the silence started getting to her did she look back up at him. He hadn’t changed position. “Look, thank you for worrying. But don’t. It’s easier that way.”

“Easier on who?”

“On everybody.”

Kat turned to face her once more. Whatever he was about to say though, he seemed to change his mind based on her expression. “Look, there’s no question that we’ve suffered a setback. So why don’t we review how we got here. To keep it from happening again.”

“Right. Because we’re so likely to be breaking more people out of fortified government installations.”

“Maybe not. But we might end up selecting another idiotic suggestion of mine, which is at the heart of all this.”

Alijda sighed. “Oh, don’t even. It wasn’t an idiotic suggestion.”

“You did point out that we’d never pull it off without the DEO knowing.”

“I did. And then you pointed out how we might want to get out anyway.”

With that, the whole sequence of events began to replay itself in her mind.

KatjaH3_LR

Alijda Van Vliet
(actress Katja Herbers)

***

“The longer we stay here,” Kat argued, “the more we’ll end up accidentally influencing things. So, if we’re caught breaking Bonnie2 out? We merely make a run for it ourselves.”

Alijda shook her head. “Again, communicators…”

“If things go south, we have a look for them before leaving,” Kat assured. “I know where they’re keeping their technology.” He glanced over towards the radio, as if to check that it was still broadcasting static. “In fact, here’s the thing. In a hidden room at the back, the DEO are building a dimensional doorway of their own.”

Alijda, who had just thrown herself back onto the bed, sat back up. “What? Are you sure?”

Kat nodded. “On my world, I’m part of a secret interstellar program. I also remember what Alice’s setup looked like on the Epsilon station. The setup here is much cruder, to the point where I don’t know if it’s operational, but it’s portal technology. I think it was constructed using the tech that landed here from the adjacent dimensions.”

Alijda frowned. “Well, damn. Could Alice have royally screwed up? Is it possible that THESE people are the invaders?”

“Or the adjacent world is invading them, to take their technology back,” Kat suggested. “The hat and the iron could have been test items, as opposed to objects that slipped through naturally.”

“Which would be why they weren’t accompanied by a density shift and change in size!” Para offered.

“Maybe,” Kat agreed.

“Well, that changes things.” Alijda crossed her arms. “Explains why it felt like the DEO was only holding onto us until they found a reason to have us exiled or locked up for good. They probably think we’re here to shut down their portal technology.”

“Do you think that’s what the government is trying to do too?” Kat mused.

Alijda shook her head. “No way of knowing. All we know is that Queeny’s suspicious of their reports – which could be timelines for when their portal is complete.”

“How about we ask Larry?”

Alijda winced. “Para, no. Telling them we know will freak them out. Hell, maybe there is something to their fears. They’re using technology that isn’t supposed to be here. Can we really allow that?”

“Alijda, non interference!” Para reminded.

“We’d be removing an interference that’s already here!” Alijda countered.

“I don’t think that’s our call,” Kat interjected. “But I do think that, to let things play out normally, we’ll need to get Bonnie2 out of the DEO.”

“Ugh, that again. But okay, I do see the logic now.” Alijda rubbed her forehead. “Look, let’s try to get some sleep first. Partly so we’re fresh, partly because I see our best bet as occurring a little before sunrise. That’s when they’re liable to have a shift change.”

They briefly discussed a plan, then Alijda and Kat went to bed – the latter having been hit in the face with a pillow. Given his quip about the two of them sleeping together.

Fortunately, the room they had all been left in was equipped with a clock, a bowl of fruit, and an adjacent bathroom. So they were up, fed, and ready to go at 5am the following morning.

Kat started by sabotaging the toilet, then asking the guard at the door to use another bathroom. “Plan A” continued to work, as the guard was subsequently convinced to take Kat somewhere else, saving the trouble of knocking the man out.

The guard did lock the door after he left. But since Alijda could see through its window, she was able to teleport to the other side. Then to the end of the corridor. Then, somewhat trickier, across the DEO’s central hub, towards where the holding cells were. Alijda found she also had to teleport past the cafeteria, as someone was eating breakfast by the large picture window.

By the time she reached the cell block, teleporting past the lone guard at his desk, her equilibrium felt off. She ignored it.

“Hey, Actressy,” Alijda hissed. What was Bonnie2’s name anyway? In another cloud of purple smoke, she teleported into the cell to shake the Bonnie lookalike awake.

“Don’t make me read Shakespeare,” moaned the semi-conscious actress. “I don’t like the bard, I prefer playing a cleric…”

Alijda shook harder. “Hey! Wake up. We’re trying to get you out of here.”

“What?” The asian woman opened her eyes. “You? You got me in here.”

“Things change. Stand up, I’m going to teleport us out, then towards the exit.”

Bonnie2 shook off the remnants of sleep. “Great. Can I do my reconnaissance first? I need to get paid for this gig.”

Grasping Bonnie2 around the shoulders, Alijda teleported them both out of the cell, back into the corridor. “No,” she answered. “But we had a tour, we’ll give you the gist of things – if you can give us the info about today’s meeting.”

“Queeny already told me the layout of this place.”

“Even the location of the secret room?”

Bonnie2 raised an eyebrow. “That was on your tour?”

“Hold onto me.” Alijda teleported them again, out past the guard, then again past the cafeteria. Back at the central hub, they hit a snag.

“What are we waiting for?” Bonnie2 asked.

“There’s a couple agents talking where we’ll need to teleport next. They’ll see us.” Alijda scanned the area for an alternative route. It didn’t help that her head was starting to hurt. Naturally, that’s when their luck ran out.

“Hey, what the hell are you two doing there?”

Alijda spun – the agent in the cafeteria had come out, and seen them. She tried to think of a way to talk them out of the situation. After all, Bonnie2 looked like the head of the DEO…

“We’re escaping, what does it look like, idiot?”

Dammit, Bonnie2. “Plan B,” Alijda sighed, grasping the asian woman by the shoulders again. She teleported them out to the next corridor, right by the two agents she’d seen. Without even watching for their reaction, she continued on her way to the break room, throwing the door open upon arrival.

Para turned, then gasped. “Alijda? Y-You look…”

“I don’t want to know! Plan B, get Actressy out front, I’m going for Kat.”

“But if your teleporting is messing with the sizing circuits, you can’t–”

Alijda teleported away. They were committed to Plan B now. She was going to see it through. They’d reasoned that the nearest other bathroom would be over by the medical bay – and indeed, Kat was now being escorted back from that vicinity by their guard.

Alijda teleported over, grabbed Kat, and teleported him over towards the hidden room he’d investigated before. She then teleported randomly, to draw everyone’s attention to the purple smoke, then teleported up to the second level. Where the railing seemed too high. Her head was now pounding from the frequent teleports. And because of something else?

“I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know.” It was fast becoming her mantra.

As soon as someone spotted her, she ran. And stumbled. And teleported again, down next to the guard taking aim. He was taller than she’d expected. Alijda grabbed his gun on her second attempt. But now agents were mobilizing for the weapons lockers. Why had she signed off on this plan again?

Alijda teleported back to where she’d left Kat. A doorway now stood ajar. “Kat! Time’s up!”

“It’s been, like, thirty seconds! All I’ve found is this–”

As soon as she saw Kat poke his head out of the opening, she grabbed his shoulder, and teleported back across the central hub. Startled, he dropped a flaming chair leg that he’d been holding. It fell right in the passage, which would buy them a bit more time, so Alijda decided to try running instead. But again she stumbled. Then was horrified to see how much bigger Kat’s strides were…

On her third step, she fell to the ground. Kat spun. “Alijda! Are you okay? You look–”

“I DON’T WANT TO KNOW!”

She hadn’t meant to scream. She bit down on her lower lip. Hell with it.

Alijda pushed herself back up and slapped her hand against Kat’s back. She teleported the two of them further down the corridor. Kat quickly took out the guard questioning Para and the DuChessy Double at the entrance.

They ran most of the way after that, Kat helping Alijda along. But five more teleports were required, because the final doorway had been locked down, and Alijda could only bring one person through at a time.

***

“What I SHOULD have done,” Alijda decided, resting her head against the back of the park bench, “was tell Bonnie2 to impersonate the real Bonnie from the start. Instead of telling her it was a jailbreak. I’m the idiot. So I’m paying the price.”

“Still might not have worked,” Kat asserted. “Hindsight is 20/20.”

“Fine. Apply the same hindsight to your suggestion.”

“Well, fine.” Something in his tone made Alijda think he wanted to say more, but again, he didn’t. In fact, the two of them said nothing more until Para returned.

WHAT’S NEXT?

OPTIONS:

UPDATE: VOTING WILL CLOSE NOON ON FRIDAY APRIL 22nd EDT.

(Play week at school. No way am I thinking about plots before Friday.)

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