FULL SCALE INVASION, PART TEN: STATION AIRY
“What does it feel like… when a person is losing their mind?”
The response came instantaneously. “Ms. Vunderlande, your inflection would imply that you are not asking seriously, but rather quoting Lieutenant Commander Data from the ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ episode ‘Masks’. Is that the case?”
Alice smiled. “Mostly. But maybe not? I don’t know.”
“I have registered no signs of delirium since you woke up,” the female voice continued, echoing around the fitness room. “You do seem a bit distracted, but that is understandable given the peculiarities inherent to Epsilon’s current mission. Shall I give you a test of mental acuity today?”
Alice stood back up and wiped at the sweat on her forehead, before walking over and tossing her towel into the room’s laundry chute. She idly wondered when she’d taken to running on a treadmill early in the morning. It had to be after her recruitment to the Project. Meaning less than a year ago. Whatever a ‘year’ really meant now. She needed the exercise though, as she didn’t see a lot of activity up here.
Up here. On the Epsilon Station. Well, it beat living in a Hell dimension.
“No, it’s fine,” Alice answered. “But I wish I had someone else around, you know? I wait so long for my love vibration, and I’m dancing with myself…”
“Billy Idol, a song with an initial release of 1980 on most Earths where it exists.” The tune began to play through the overhead speakers.
Alice sighed. The station’s computer had a near 100 percent track record on her references, yet still failed to understand her at times. “Ziggy, that wasn’t a cue. I’m done working out.” She began to strip off her workout clothes.
The music cut off. “I am sorry if I have not provided you with enough companionship this morning.”
Alice shook her head. “Don’t get like that. That’s not what I meant either. I probably got too used to Para being around those last couple days, that’s all.”
“Perhaps you would like a video link to another world today? Or if your preference is to reach out and touch someone, a visit to the holography deck?”
“No, no, I’m not going to start goofing off during an active mission.” The brunette technician kicked her pants aside. “You’re sure there’s been no word from Alijda or the rest since that one communication device self destructed last night?”
“I would have told you.” The computer’s voice sounded petulant.
“Right. I know. Sorry.”
“Should I override protocol and do a scan?”
Alice threw her clothing into the laundry chute after the towel, then stepped towards the showers. “Ohh, that’s so funny, I forgot to laugh!”
Ziggy didn’t respond that time. Alice passed into the adjacent room, twisting the nearest available knob before leaning both palms against the wall. The water sprayed down on her, making her shudder at first, before it warmed up. A hazard of not using the sonic facility, but for whatever reason, real water felt better after a workout.
Slowly, her hands curled into fists. “Gorram, frakking, frelling Shroedinger!” Alice shrieked, using up her quota of scifi swears for the day.
The problem with a scan was in how the station existed outside of regular space-time. Or simultaneously in all space-times? Either way, as soon as the Epsilon Project registered something actively, rather than passively, the probability waveforms surrounding that Earth would collapse, making the event all but inevitable. Whereas parallel time tracks remained an option until that moment.
Put another way, so long as Alice didn’t know her team’s fate, they had every chance of succeeding. But if she looked, and saw that one or more of them were dead, she likely wouldn’t be able to prevent it.
Alice drew in a sharp breath, then put the usual smile back onto her face. “Fake it ’til you make it.” She reached for the soap. “Sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows, that’s how this refrain goes…”
Alice jogged for the central control room with toast in her mouth. Not because she hadn’t had time to eat it. It was more a form of research into how things worked on an anime style Earth. One never knew when such things would come in handy.
As such, Alice almost choked when the internal alarm went off, simultaneous to the woman in her late twenties wearing a blue jumpsuit appearing in the corridor.
“Alison Vunderlande?” the woman asked.
Alice grabbed for her toast as it fell from her mouth, flinging it at the apparition. The food passed right through the woman’s body. Which told Alice two things. First, Purple Hair Woman was some sort of hologram, or magical projection. And second, given how the intruder failed to react, there was a lack of visual acuity on her side.
“Silence alarm!” Alice called out, after swallowing. The noise stopped. “What is your name? What is your quest? What is your favourite colour?”
The projection blinked. “Uh, I’m Chris. I’ve been hired by your friends to tell you that they’re shrinking down to nothing. And lavender, I guess?”
Alice felt her pulse quicken. “What’s the deal with their communicators? Why send you?”
“Their stuff was taken by the DEO. The DEO loves new technology.”
“I’ll need proof you’re speaking for them. Tell me what reference I made to Alijda when she first arrived on your world.”
Chris turned her head. “Your Alison wants to know the first reference she made when you got here. … Attack of the 50 Foot Woman? Is that seriously what this invasion is going to be?”
“Enough,” Alice said. She began to sift through the new data that had been provided.
Fact 1: This world was at a higher level of technology and/or magic than initial scans had implied. She had suspected as much, but for Chris to communicate this way, there had to be a greater awareness of the dimensional weaknesses. Perhaps other trips had occurred, either into, or out of, that world? She would get Ziggy to boost the sensors to verify.
Fact 2: According to her watch – Alice had aligned the Station to the time frame of that smaller Earth – they were now too close to the third incursion event for her to recall the group by any conventional means, or even to open a portal to send them supplies. Not without interfering on a greater scale than regulations allowed. But there was a way around that.
Fact 3: The shrinking circuits had misfired, been somehow incompatible with the density suits Para had designed, or… something else had set them off. Insufficient data. How could she get more information there, without completely collapsing any probability waveforms?
“Is the shrinking problem affecting all of them equally?”
Chris shook her head. “Just Alijda, she’s now about as big as–”
“No superfluous information,” Alice snapped. “Please. Just answer my questions.”
“Wow, calm down. Okay, and Para now says it’s affected all of them, but it’s less noticeable for her and Kat. So far.”
“Do their clothes still fit?”
“Did I stutter? Do. Their. Clothes. Still. Fit.”
It had to be the teleportation. Alijda must have teleported almost immediately upon arrival, before final calibration. Now the density suit was constantly changing it’s baseline, whenever Alijda transported herself – and the suit – through space. Which could also affect Kat and Para, if she teleported with them, due to the field extending out past their clothes.
The chances of this happening had been very remote. But now that it was occurring, the error could accelerate exponentially with subsequent teleportations, perhaps to the point where it would be a problem every time the suit did a systems check. Worse, Alice didn’t know how to fix something like that.
But she knew where she could find relevant information.
Now Chris was saying something else. Something nonsensical. “Alijda and the others already told you everything,” Alice answered.
Chris shook her head. “No, they said only YOU might know what this third incursion item would be.”
Oh, that. Alice shook her head. “Even assuming I knew, I couldn’t tell you.”
“Then we have a problem,” Chris said, crossing her arms. “Because that information was my payment. This isn’t a free spell. Rules are rules.”
Alice matched Chris’ posture and tone. “Having information about the future could be extremely dangerous. Even if your intentions are good, they could backfire drastically! You’ll find out through the natural course of time.”
“Not good enough. After all, you’re willing to tell us about this ‘invasion’, and that’s in our future.”
“That’s an issue external to your world, with unresolved probability waveforms.”
“And this new huge thing landing on our planet is different how?!”
Alice grudgingly yielded the point to Chris. “Fine. That information will be included in the package I will have sent to your world to deal with all these issues.”
“Fine. When are you sending it?”
“Have sent. Space is warped and time is bendable. Thank you for choosing the Epsilon Project for all your household needs. Please proceed to the site of the third incursion, and use your magic fu to obtain the package.”
Without waiting to see Chris’ reaction, Alice spun on her heel and dashed back towards the auxiliary control area. “Unsilence alarm!” she shouted as she ran. The klaxons didn’t start up again. “I said unsilence–”
“The apparition has departed, so there is no need for the alarm,” the computer’s female voice assured her.
“Awesomesauce. Ziggy, prepare for a rollback in time of approximately five days.”
“Warning! Loss of space-time synchronicity may result in–”
“Override. Authorization code Picard-Four-Seven-Alpha-Tango.” Yes, this was why she ran the treadmill every morning. So that she could still talk through these sorts of emergencies without getting too short of breath. “Also, increase sensor gain by 500% and re-scan for dimensional incursions in Smallville over the last, let’s say, two years. We’ll also want the identity of the next major item, the one Chris referred to.”
Alice burst into the station’s auxiliary control room and skidded to a stop. “Mr Smith! I need you.”
A musical fanfare began to play. With a whoosh of air, one wall panel lifted up, two more panels swinging out into the room, revealing a large alien computer behind them. “Good morning, Alice. What seems to be the problem?” came a male voice.
For obvious reasons, Mr. Smith ran independent of the station’s main computer. So he wouldn’t know the situation. Fortunately, it wasn’t necessary to tell him everything. “Scan all known databases for problems with miniaturization feedback, and solutions involving a baseline density reset that can be achieved through technological injection or mystical spell casting,” Alice ordered.
“By your command.”
Alice turned her attention to the main computer console in the room, setting up the sequence that would phase shift them through time. The greatest headaches would come from activating the dimensional bridge upon arrival in the past. It was a huge power drain. So if there were other incursions going through on that world, and she could piggyback…
Alice froze in place. Her eyebrow twitched. “Ziggy,” she rasped. “Please confirm. Over a HUNDRED dimensional breaches in the last two years?”
“Holy Hannah. How did we miss that?!”
“We weren’t scanning for events on a scale proportionate to the size of their Earth. It required your increase in sensor settings to spot them.”
“Son of a motherless goat. When this is over, remind me to put some fractal protocols in place to fix that!” She resumed typing. “Okay. First, we turn the time circuits on…”
“Scan complete,” came the voice of Mr. Smith. “No solutions found with a hundred percent effectiveness. However, there is a ritual spell that is statistically viable, with an error margin of only 3%, 19 times out of 20.”
“Can we synthesize the components for that spell on this station?”
“We can indeed.”
Alice smiled. “Perfect. And Ziggy, the third incursion artifact was?”
“Okay, I got this!” Alice hit the enter key, then made a swooping motion with her arm, as if she were wearing a cape. “Let’s get dangerous.” With a maniacal grin, the brunette woman fled the room.
For a moment, there was silence. Then, “Ziggy, has Alice had any caffeine today?”
“She has not, Mr. Smith.”
“I recommend you keep it that way.” His advice dispensed, the computer system retreated back behind the wall of the auxiliary control room.
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