FULL SCALE INVASION, PART FOURTEEN: BAD PLAN
Para wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. She wasn’t upset by that though, as the only person in the room with access to the entire story was Chris – the member of the Magic User’s Club who had interfaced with the USB drive taken out of the Department of Extra-Dimensional Objects.
Granted, Kat and Queeny seemed to know at least part of the story as well. Para wondered whether Tom, also sitting at the conference table, was as confused as she was. At the least, she knew that Larry, the DEO agent and most recent arrival, was completely in the dark.
“What do you MEAN the truth about what happened to Clyde?” Larry sputtered. “He died, because of our premature use of portal technology. We shouldn’t have been so arrogant as to try and generate our own method to traverse dimensions without proper testing.”
“Oh, drop the front!” Queeny shouted. Fortunately, the head of government hadn’t shouted it into her megaphone. “We know Clyde’s really alive.”
Larry gripped the door frame. “How DARE you! Bonnie has been doing her best this past year, there’s no way Clyde is pulling the strings!”
“That’s NOT what we mean,” Queeny declared. “If you keep playing dumb…” She waggled her finger.
“Queeny, isn’t it possible he truly doesn’t know?” Para ventured. “I mean, I don’t really know what this is about Clyde, and I’ve been in the room longer than Larry.”
“You mean Bonnie could have been keeping the truth a secret?” Kat mused.
“Wait. Para brings up a good point,” Chris realized. “The conclusion was obvious to Minerva – er, that’s the consciousness of the USB – because of the data she was storing. But if the DEO agents weren’t sure how to interpret those numbers… they might have truly thought Clyde was vaporized, instead of transported.”
“Transported?” Larry choked. Para noticed that the DEO agent was now holding onto the side of the doorway, seemingly to keep himself from falling down.
Chris nodded. “I’m certain that Clyde was sent to an adjoining world. The very one this USB drive originated on, in fact. That’s why Minerva recognized it.”
At last, it all started making sense for Para. “Oh, okay! So Clyde’s arrival on TechWorld alerted them to the dimensional weaknesses. Which led to that world’s subsequent tests. Meaning sending those large scale objects to this world.”
“Which also led to Alice and the Epsilon Project noticing the problem,” Kat added.
“Which will eventually lead to an invasion,” Chris concluded. “As TechWorld plunders us for who knows what reason. The good news is that I can now prevent it. The bad news is, that would strand Clyde on the other side.”
Larry swallowed. “H-How do you even know that Clyde is still alive over there?”
“The fact that all the huge incursions were in our town, and nowhere else in the world, is a hint that he’s got a hand in things,” Chris explained. “But even if we assume that’s related to the original breach, Clyde stored some personal data on Minerva too. When we correlate it with the objects that arrived, namely a hat, an iron, and a thimble, well…”
“Oh my God.” Larry sank down to his knees. “Me and Clyde used to love playing that ‘Monopolize’ board game together. How did I miss that?”
“Good thing they didn’t send through a racecar,” Kat observed.
Para pushed her chair back to keep the DEO agent in view. “Um, Larry, you okay? You want a glass of water or something?”
Tom leaned forwards. “Just a vibe I get, but, dude, did you have a thing for Clyde?”
“What?! I… no… I… I’m fine, that is…” Larry pulled himself back up to his feet with the help of the wall, stammering incoherently.
Tom smirked. “Okay, yup, you totally did,” he concluded, before lapsing back into silence. Larry looked like he wanted to run.
Kat frowned. “Wait. Larry, Clyde was your BOSS, right? And yet Tom is saying you two–”
“Being his BOSS is your issue? Clyde’s also another GUY!” Queeny cut in. “What freaky stuff was going ON in that department?!”
Para stood, moving for Larry even as she spoke to Queeny. “Isn’t it true that, when two people love each other, it doesn’t matter what–”
“Shut it, or I’ll throw you in jail!”
“We’re kinda losing the thread here,” Chris said, raising her hand. “Invasion?”
“Yes!” Queeny said, grabbing her megaphone to yell into. “Which you can prevent. So go do that. Never mind about Clyde, the good of the many and all that.”
“Hold on! Didn’t you say the DEO ran less shady with him in charge?” Kat wondered. “We’d agreed–”
“Changed my mind! Now you can shut it too!”
Para reached Larry’s side, gingerly taking him by the hand. “Do you really think Bonnie didn’t know?” she murmured.
Larry shook his head. “I don’t think she would have kept something like that from me. Besides, when Clyde died, the whole project got a rebuild from the ground up. If she’d known he had been successful, why she would have done that?”
“You can’t blame yourself then,” Para stated. “There’s no way you could have known.”
Larry sniffled. “Oh, Clyde… you were the only one who liked my poetry…”
“Look, Queeny,” Chris said, rising to her feet. “It’s very possible that Clyde is being tortured over there for information about our world. The fact that all TechWorld technology in this city went offline after that thimble came through can’t be coincidence. So retrieving him isn’t merely the humanitarian thing to do, it’s also the best thing strategically.”
Queeny narrowed her eyes. “Killing Clyde would also fix that problem.”
Kat whistled. “That escalated quickly.”
“Either way, we would need a mission to find him,” Chris countered.
“What’s your proposal?” Larry asked, squeezing Para’s hand as he straightened out his posture. “I gather that’s why you wanted Bonnie here? To discuss bringing Clyde back?”
Chris didn’t speak, still staring at Queeny, so Kat cleared his throat. “Two rescue options are available. The first, which I’m pretty sure is a no-go, would be us getting our communicators back. With those, we contact Alice, and she sends us, or some other rescue party to TechWorld.”
“Actually, that’s feasible,” Larry said. “I can spin it as you getting your gear and leaving, which was frankly our preference from the beginning.”
Kat shook his head. “That’s not what I meant. Doing that would mean we’re actively helping you, and I don’t think that’s the point behind ‘Epsilon’. It’s more likely that you’ll need to do it without our help.”
“So what’s plan B? Try to reconstruct Clyde’s original portal designs?”
Queeny finally blinked first, meaning Chris shifted her gaze over to Larry. “No, there’s no time,” she sighed. “We’ll need to piggyback a rescue on TechWorld’s invasion itself.”
Larry stared. “That’s a bad plan.”
“You’re damn right it is!” Queeny asserted, sounding increasingly desperate. “We need to seal ourselves off now, and–”
Tom reached out, grabbed the megaphone out of Queeny’s hand, and walked over to hurl it out the nearest window. “Loosen up, el Presidente!” he snapped. “Did you ever think that maybe the problem isn’t that people can’t hear you, but rather, they don’t like what you’re saying? Try listening for a change.”
Queeny stared, open mouthed, her fingers twitching.
Chris flashed Tom a quick smile, then nodded at Larry. “The plan isn’t perfect,” she admitted. “But if we’re in and out fast enough? TechWorld won’t gain a foothold here before we block them off for good.”
Para saw a problem with that. “Um, but Clyde is the same size as the rest of us. No bigger than a small bird on TechWorld,” she pointed out. “How are you going to find him?”
“We’re hoping we can adapt the DEO’s density sensors,” Chris admitted. “Another reason we need Bonnie’s co-operation.”
“And what if Clyde’s in a jail or something over there?” Larry asked.
“Well…” Chris pulled out the USB drive from her pocket, turning it around in her fingers before turning to look at Kat. “Would borrowing your friend Alijda’s teleportation ability be allowed, as a method of non-active assistance?”
Para walked over to turn off the sound of the oboe coming from the phonograph in the corner. “Is that better?” she asked.
“Yes,” Alijda responded. “Also no.”
Para blinked. “No?”
“No, I can’t teleport someone of your size,” Alijda sighed. “I just tried to teleport along with this lovely silky pillow here, and I nearly passed out. I think I’m stuck teleporting doll sized items until my scale problem gets fixed.”
“Guess that’s what happens when you’re shrunk. I take it that’s a problem?”
“Possibly?” Para said, wringing her hands. “Again, not sure I’m the best person to explain…” Which was when Kat walked into the room. Para let out a breath of relief – it didn’t take long for the military man to bring Alijda up to speed.
“Okay,” Alijda said, once Kat was finished. “So, the hope was to be able to teleport Clyde, because Chris’ communication spells allow her to bleed spell effects off of fellow Magic Users?”
“Assuming they give consent, yeah,” Kat affirmed. “Of course, no idea if it would work with us, since we have abilities, not spells, but then, Chris is already interfacing with otherworldly tech so…” He shrugged.
“Except it’s all moot, since I can barely teleport a banana,” Alijda concluded.
“Apparently,” Kat agreed.
Para glanced back and forth between her two companions. She hesitated to bring it up AGAIN, since they never seemed to like the option, but wasn’t it the right thing to do?
“So shouldn’t we leave?” Para asked. “I mean, I’m not saying I’d be happy doing that, but Alice said to warn these inhabitants. We’ve warned them. They now believe us, and seem to have a plan going forwards.”
“Valid point,” Kat acknowledged. “Plus here’s an extra conundrum – when Chris seals off dimensional access, will that seal off our way home too? I’m not keen on wearing this pink under-suit for the rest of my life.”
Para had to do a double take. She hadn’t expected Kat to support her. Alijda seemed less sure though, crossing her arms and glaring at the floor.
“Know what though?” the brunette woman said, after a moment. “We should get some up close readings on these dimensional weaknesses. Could be really valuable information for future “Epsilon” missions, since the project itself doesn’t seem to be as good at monitoring us as I thought.”
Para should have known. Her human companions never did the rational thing. She wasn’t upset, of course – merely confused. “I thought you wanted the project shut down!” she reminded Alijda. “Why do you want to HELP Alice now??”
“I think Alijda has thought of a convenient excuse to stick around,” Kat said, smiling. “Because on the inside, she’s much prettier than she believes herself to be.”
Alijda rolled her eyes. “Hey Kat! Speaking of ‘Monopoly’, you are sorely tempting me to access your world’s computers and program a bank error very much NOT in your favour after all this.”
Kat winked. “At least I’ll know you’re thinking of me.”
Gesturing dismissively at him, Alijda turned her attention back to Para. “Here’s the thing, Para – Chris apparently saved my tiny little life. So I’m not comfortable simply running away if she still needs us. Besides, can you tell me the data WOULDN’T be useful?”
Para half smiled herself, as she realized more fully what Kat had been saying. “I can’t. Okay, I’m still with you both then – but if we all join Chris, we’ll just be in the way. Right? So which one of us should go with her?”
“The person who can fare the best on a technological world,” Alijda concluded. “Me.”
“We all have different strengths though,” Kat countered. “You’re good with programming, but Para’s good at technical designs, and I’m decent at actual hardware configuration. Moreover, none of that might be even relevant to a rescue operation.”
“So who?” Para reiterated, her bunny ears twitching.
VOTING WILL CLOSE LATE ON TUESDAY MAY 31st EDT.
(EDIT: Keeping this open an extra 24 hrs.)