FULL SCALE INVASION, PART NINE: PROM, Committee
Para hesitated to speak as she walked up, wondering if it was proper to interrupt the silence between Alijda and Kat. Fortunately, Alijda spoke first. “So, Para, who’s your new friend in red?”
The blonde cleared her throat to answer. “Well, while me and Andi – er, she’s the one you’ve been calling Bonnie2 – while the two of us were out learning where the DEO’s secret exit had left us, we encountered someone she knows.”
“My name’s Michaela,” the redheaded woman announced. “I’m part of the Magic User’s Club.”
Kat blinked. “This city has a magic users club?”
“Ooh, visitors from another dimension not knowing about our magical abilities. Shocker,” Andi observed. “Of course, I’m of the opinion that such fantasy stuff’s overrated. I think we should have PROM!”
Alijda rubbed her forehead. “I’ll probably regret asking this, but… PROM?”
“Programmable Read Only Memory,” Bonnie’s double clarified. “I was starting to figure it out, when the government took it away from me. Proving once and for all that dimensional technology like PROM is more useful than dimensional magic. Otherwise, why would they regulate it so strictly?”
“Hey, magic is regulated too,” Michaela protested.
“Except the Department of Extradimensional Objects doesn’t have the authority to permanently confiscate your magical items, like they did with my PROM!” Andi countered.
Michaela sighed. “Fine, but Andi, you really need to stop going on and on about PROM. For us, magic is where it’s at.”
Para tilted her head. “So, is it the police that are out of control? Or is it the criminals?”
“Hey, guys?” Kat broke in. “Let’s not talk about this stuff in the middle of a park. Did you happen to come across a building where we can lay low for a while?”
“Oh, sure. We’re in my neighbourhood, so you can come see our magic club,” Michaela offered. “If anyone’s there, they’ll jump at the chance to meet actual dimensional travellers.”
Andi nodded. “We might as well, my meeting with Queeny isn’t for a couple hours yet.”
“Okay. Whatever,” Alijda agreed, hopping off the bench.
Para bit her lip as she looked down at her now much shorter friend. Alijda seemed to have shrunk even more since their jailbreak. Was that a delayed reaction from the earlier teleportations? Or was Alijda now in the process of shrinking away to nothing? Para wondered if she should say something.
“Don’t even,” Alijda said, as if reading Para’s thoughts. “Just lead the way.”
The house Michaela led them to was pretty nondescript. But then the club member brought them around to a large shed out back, and the people they were introduced to there seemed quite the opposite.
Of everyone in the room, Para reasoned that dark haired Andi was the oldest. Given how she was doubling for Bonnie, head of the DEO, who was in her early fifties. Michaela, with her short red hair, was perhaps fifteen years younger, and had been hard to miss, what with her bright red vest matching her pants.
Kendall seemed younger still, around the same age as Alijda and Kat. The man had flowing blonde hair and sported a practical button up shirt and slacks. Meanwhile Chris, or presumably Christine, Para judged to be in her late twenties. She had the longest hair, tinged purple and tied into a ponytail. Her blue jumpsuit and the goggles she wore implied she was a technician of sorts.
Finally, there was Tom, a twenty-something with green hair, who wore a casual shirt underneath a black leather jacket. As Michaela was finishing the introductions, he jumped up from behind a stack of tires, swinging a flail. Andi hit the ground just in time.
“Tom, stop, it’s ME!” Andi shrieked.
“Oh yeah? How do we know you’re not the REAL Bonnie, here to shut down our club?!”
“Ask the blonde bunny girl! She saw that Queeny had tailored my suit too well, and got me locked up. Though, to be fair, Para and the others also helped me to break out of the DEO earlier this morning.”
“It’s really Andi,” Michaela added. “Unless Bonnie DuChessy has intel about how much our techno-loving actress friend misses having her PROM.”
“Hmm. Okay, but I’ve still got my eye on you,” Tom said, pointing.
“Where did you even get a flail?” Andi asked, standing up and brushing herself off.
“My dad bought one. He’s a renaissance enthusiast.”
Kendall chuckled. “Tom, you told me yesterday that it was because your dad LARPs.”
Tom glared. “Shut up, spider farmer.”
Kendall simply rolled his eyes and resumed leafing through the file folder he was holding.
Para leaned in closer to Kat. “Um, wait, is that an… insult? An actual job…?” she whispered. Kat merely shrugged, making Para glad she wasn’t the only one who was unsure.
“So, you’re dimensional travellers, huh?” Chris mused, placing a cane she’d been examining onto a nearby table; the object seemed to have the image of a duck on one end. The brunette pulled her goggles up off her eyes. “I knew it was only a matter of time. How long have you been observing our society? Do you know the rules? Define ‘anarchy’.”
“Calm down, Chris,” Michaela said. “Give our guests a moment to process… I didn’t actually expect the whole Cabinet to be here, not this early in the morning.”
“Seriously?” Chris sighed. “Then did you not get my message either? Committee meeting, here.” She glanced at her watch. “In one hour.”
“She’s doing her covert ops thing again,” Tom explained, off Michaela’s look. “Publishing in the local newspaper, using code, instead of simply talking to people. Good thing I met up with Kendall last night. Chris, can you please just be normal for once?”
Chris shot him a look. “Noted.”
“I saw the message, Chris,” Kendall soothed.
Tom shook his head. “Kendall, you’re the only one who reads the paper. And you only do it so that you can get annoyed at the articles.”
“Tom, you used to read the newspaper too,” Chris protested. “Otherwise you wouldn’t have seen the ad that brought us together in the first place.”
“Ha ha ha, false. My ex used to read the paper.”
“Guys, me and Michaela are here now, that’s what matters,” Andi offered. “So, what’s the magic club meeting about? Here to debate pizza versus poutine?”
“No,” Tom said. “Chris is worried about the imminent zombie uprising.”
“Alien attack!” Chris corrected, visibly exasperated. “Tom, you know the Magic User’s Club is Earth’s only defence against the aliens.”
“Whoa!” Para gasped. “You have space aliens attacking this world too?”
“No.” Kendall closed the file folder, tossing it onto the desk next to the duck cane. “Aliens, as in anyone who arrives on our Earth illegally. As in, you three qualify. Unless you’ve got government papers explaining your presence?”
“So not happening. Our decisions on this mission never seem to involve the government,” Alijda admitted.
“But as aliens go, we’re mostly harmless,” Kat added. “Granted, we’re now kind of stuck here. The DEO took away our communicators.”
“Oh?” Chris smiled. “Did you want a spell caster who can communicate with another dimension? For a very reasonable price? Granted, you wouldn’t be able to talk directly, only through me. And there’s a waiver you’ll have to sign, signifying you’re not trying to call Cthulhu, while exonerating me from any side effects you might experience.”
“Yeah, hey, make sure you stand completely inside her magical symbol,” Tom noted. “My hair hasn’t been the same since I accidentally bent over during her last spell.”
Para had to do a double take, as she realized that at some point, the young man’s green hair had shifted to being a very vibrant red.
“That sounds really great,” Alijda admitted. “But first, about the dimensional invasion – why exactly does your club think it’s imminent?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?” Kendall fired back. “Aren’t you the aliens’ advanced scouting force?” He was seeming more and more like the leader to Para, though she saw no signs the group was that structured.
“No. Granted, we can’t prove we aren’t,” Alijda admitted, anticipating the next question. “Though if we were, we’re doing a pretty lousy job of it. What with telling people the invasion is coming, losing our communicators, and me shrinking down to two thirds of my usual size due to faulty density circuits.”
“For real?” Tom asked. Alijda nodded. “Man, that sucks out loud.”
Inwardly, Para winced. She wished she knew what had gone wrong between her mathematical theory, and it’s practical application. Alijda’s teleportation ability had to be a factor.
“Either way,” Alijda continued, “You obviously scheduled this meeting before knowing we were coming.”
“Touché,” Kendall conceded. “Very well then, we believe it’s imminent because of a potion which gives whoever drinks it a hint of the future. Other signs point to the invasion event being less than a week away. We met this morning in large part to give the information to Michaela to do the math.”
Para perked back up again. “Oh, math? Maybe I can help with that.”
“Be my guest,” Michaela said. “Trouble is, while we are really close to a magical method for temporarily blocking off dimensional travel, we can’t get the readings we need. I mean, sure, there’s a fairy mirror that shows us where the weakest spot is in town with respect to the next incursion… but we never know when the next event is going to take place. So we never know when to cast our spells.”
Para found she was getting better at looking to Alijda before blurting things out. “It’s happening mid-morning today,” Para said, off Alijda’s shrug. “Roughly 24 hours after our arrival yesterday.”
Chris gasped. “This morning?”
Para nodded. Then Tom yelped, as Chris stepped on his foot in her hurry to get to a box of assorted items sitting in a corner of the shed. “Great!” the purple haired technician declared. “I can set up my monitoring equipment with no danger of it being confiscated! That way we’ll know exactly when to cast!”
“Confiscated? Oooh, Chris, are you breaking the rules?” Andi teased.
“Hey, I have permits for all this stuff,” Chris protested, hauling the box back to the main table. “Thing is, my documentation doesn’t stop the authorities from impounding it for days at a time, citing ‘verification purposes’.”
“Well, at least you always get it BACK, unlike my–”
“Don’t say PROM,” Tom groaned.
”Is that a clarinet?” Kat asked, pointing to an object inside Chris’ box.
Chris looked down. “That? Is an oboe,” she corrected. “With a special mouthpiece sent in from Orleans.”
Para tilted her head. “Wait. You play French reeds?”
“We’re getting off track here,” Kendall interjected. “Focus – this is the first and possibly only time we’ll know both the location and timing of a dimensional incursion. With luck, we can get the necessary data to block off any future invading force.” He turned to Alijda. “What do you recommend we do? What’s landing on our world this time?”
Alijda leaned against the table. “Pray. And we don’t know. The person running the Epsilon Project doesn’t give details. Now, we could try the spell Chris mentioned to contact her – in fact, we kind of need to, and soon, to fix my whole shrinking thing – but no guarantees.”
“No way! I’m the only one who can perform that spell,” Chris objected. “And I’d have to do it here, and I can’t, not if I’ll be busy setting up my equipment!”
“The rest of us could set up your equipment for you,” Michaela offered.
“Oh my God. Do you even know how to position the oboe??”
“On the other hand, Chris, if you know what’s coming through in advance, the data you’ll obtain will be more useful,” Tom pointed out. Chris frowned.
“Tom’s right,” Kendall agreed. “But at the same time, we don’t want to lose our one shot at getting any data at all, by someone positioning the equipment incorrectly.” He looked to Alijda. “Any thoughts on that?”
Alijda looked down at her smaller body. “No, but I think we’re sticking with Chris either way.”
“What? Hello!” Andi gasped. “I’d like to revisit my Queeny meeting. Just because you’re all keen about dimensional magic, doesn’t mean we can ignore the country’s politics! What if the DEO turns out to have technology, like the PROM, which renders all of your efforts completely moot? Alijda and her friends need to come with me, to learn more about what Queeny and Bonnie are up to!”
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