FULL SCALE INVASION, PART FIFTEEN: RESCUE STRANGERS
Some people were good at waiting. Alijda really didn’t understand those people. After all, it was during the waiting that the demons would creep in, telling you that you were worthless and alone, making you second guess all of your decisions. In this case, the key decision burning at Alijda was the one that had her accompanying Chris on the mission to retrieve Clyde. Why had she insisted on that?
Alijda burst into tears about 36 hours after telling Kat and Para that she was going, bar none, so that any consequences would all be on her. Alijda’s sobs attracted the attention of Chris herself, who was sitting on the other side of the room. After a good couple of minutes of crying, the brunette drew in a long breath, and strode up to the Magic User.
“I’m sorry,” Alijda sniffled. “This was a bad idea.”
Chris dropped the magazine that she’d been busy ignoring. “What was?”
“Having me here.”
“Because I’m a damn DOLL!” Alijda said, rage surging up through the sadness. “It takes forever to cross a room, I can’t handle doors, I’m bathing in a sink and drinking from a thimble – what use am I going to be on your rescue mission?? If I were a character in my own fiction stories, I bet a majority of readers wouldn’t even want me to be the one doing this. You better go find Para instead.”
Chris half smiled. “Bit late for that,” she noted. “The tech glasses were fitted for someone of your size. Besides, didn’t you insist to me that you’d be the best person to deal with a technological world?”
“I have an exaggerated sense of my own importance,” Alijda concluded. She pulled the glasses off her face, wiping tears from her cheeks. The spectacles had been fitted with a microchip and imbued with magic, to allow the wearer to take readings of things like the dimensional tear.
“Para can re-fit these. She’s great at that square-cubed stuff. Here.” Alijda tossed the glasses onto the floor, then turned away. “Go find her, I’ll be hiding in a cabinet somewhere until this is all over.”
“Alijda, wait. Look at me. Please?”
Alijda hesitated, but turned around again. Chris had leaned forwards. Despite the purple haired woman sitting on the floor – or rather, on a sleeping bag – she still towered over the brunette hacker. Or that’s what it felt like, being around eight inches tall.
“Would you like us to find you some medication?” Chris offered. “Kat mentioned that you were a depressive, and that cutting off your communications with Alice might pose a probl–”
“NO! I would NOT like that, I’d like you to LISTEN to me and do as I SAY! Understand?!” She stamped her foot for emphasis.
It was a bit hard to interpret Chris’ reaction to that. While there was a bit of shock in her expression, the best word Alijda could find to fit that expression was bemused. Perhaps bewildered. “WHAT?” Alijda fired off, before she could stop herself.
“Well,” Chris began, “first, you say you’re upset that you’re too small, and then you start issuing orders. You’re torpedoing your own argument, by making it clear size doesn’t matter, only strength of character. And second… second, Gods, Alijda, you look super adorbs! I guess I don’t know how to take seeing you cry. Sorry.”
“I look super–” Alijda wiped at her cheeks again, then crossed her arms. “Exactly WHAT ELSE has Kat been mentioning to you?!”
“Nothing! I swear, only the meds thing, because he was worried about you. And while I grant some of the ‘adorbs’ factor is your size – I used to play with dolls growing up – you’re obviously the sort of woman who doesn’t have to do things like dye her hair lavender in order to get noticed. Kinda envy that about you.”
“Well, don’t. I’m dateless in my mid-thirties, on track to being forever alone. Which is just as well, I’d hate to inflict my kind of misery on a parter. Or worse, a daughter.” She laughed. “Can you imagine how awful THAT would be?”
Chris continued to stare. “You don’t have to lie to me, Alijda,” she said. “I mean, when this is all over, you’ll probably never see me again. So why not be honest?”
“I am being honest!”
“Really? Then how did daughters even enter this conversation? Is it because you’re lying to yourself too?”
Alijda found herself doing a mental double take. She didn’t enjoy it. “Shut up. Para’s on my mind, and she’s a bit like a daughter to me, that’s all. What with needing an adult to explain to her about human interactions and all that nonsense. Don’t change the subject!”
Chris tilted her head. “Okay. And what was the subject? You, deciding to send your surrogate daughter on this dangerous mission with me, rather than going yourself? Because you somehow think she’s more qualified? Explain to me how that makes sense.”
It felt like Chris was twisting her words, yet at the same time, she wasn’t. “K-Kat then,” Alijda said. She winced at her much less assertive tone.
Chris pushed herself up onto her feet. “Or how about this idea. I see about getting you some medication, and then we chat for a bit about how life kinda sucks no matter what Earth you come from.”
“That sounds like a terrible plan!” Alijda said, kicking her toe at the floor as she eyed Chris’ giant shoe.
“Even so, let’s try it. I’ll be right back. Please don’t go anywhere?”
For at least a minute after Chris’ departure, Alijda continued to stare at the rumpled sleeping bag on the floor. Eventually, she walked over, picked the glasses back up, and replaced them on the bridge of her nose. “I bet these make me look stupid,” she declared to the empty room.
They knew where the invasion would come through – the fairy mirror had identified the new weakest dimensional spot as being near the train station. They also knew the approximate time of day – a vision potion some weeks back had shown Kendall a bunch of masked men charging through a fissure at either dusk or dawn.
But the day itself was a mystery. Which was why Chris and Alijda were effectively camping out in an abandoned house, with everyone continuing to prepare the best defence possible in whatever time they had left. They needed something that wouldn’t make the invaders turn around completely, at least not right away, but rather something that could contain them long enough to allow for the rescue of Clyde.
“The most impressive thing,” Kat remarked to Alijda, when he stopped by one afternoon, “is how this whole ‘being united against a common enemy’ thing is working out. Bonnie even gave Andi back her PROM.”
“Oh yes?” Alijda smirked. “I’m thinking the fact that said PROM is now useless, without having some sort of magic to blend with it, might have been a factor.”
Kat chuckled. “Cynical, yet probably not wrong. Still, I wonder if Queeny, Bonnie and Kendall will continue to work together like this in the future. And if the techno-magic limitation will even hold once the dimensions are sealed.”
“We’ll never know,” Alijda shrugged. “We’re already overdue with Alice. I’m actually starting to feel bad, what with keeping her in the dark for this long.”
Kat’s eyebrow went up. “Wait. You’re feeling bad for the woman who you claim watches our every move? Who can abduct us without warning, and who puts us into these life or death situations in the first place?” He leaned in closer. “Is your new medication working out?”
“Ha ha, you can shut up,” Alijda suggested.
“Not before I tell you how sexy you look in those glasses.”
“And now you can leave,” Alijda concluded with an eye roll.
“All normal then. Excellent,” Kat said, giving her a thumbs up before departing.
The invasion began the next morning. As soon as the loud thunderclap sounded, Chris was grabbing for her USB. “Pretty Phlebotinum, Henshin Go!” she blurted.
A glowing circle formed on the floor, and Alijda heard music playing as she ran for the window. As the song faded out, she heard Chris’ voice declare, “Technical problems? I’m the cure. Cure Axiom! So it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames.”
Alijda glanced over her shoulder. Axiom was dressed as Kat had described, wearing a dress of purples and blues which was covered in bows. Her hair was held back by a hairband with a small blue witches’ hat stuck onto it. “New catchphrase?” Alijda mused.
“I guess?” Axiom sighed. “These songs are stored on Minerva’s drive, I’ve never heard them before. Am I really a nightmare dressed like a daydream?”
Alijda shrugged. “Talk about it later?”
“Right.” Axiom stepped forwards, next to Alijda. She tapped the end of her staff, which remained in the form of a USB cable wand, onto the throw rug beneath them. The rug lifted off into the air.
As their magic carpet shot out of the window, Alijda tapped at her glasses, chanting “I spy with my little eye…” Scrolling text lit up on her lenses, and a glowing keyboard appeared in the air in front of her.
“Rift bearing at 50 degrees left of straight ahead, right above the train tracks,” Alijda noted. “It’s expanding.” She began typing, to take more in depth readings.
“I see it,” Axiom noted. “Looks like everyone else is getting into position too.”
Alijda risked a quick glance down at the ground. She immediately regretted it, as her flight through the air, coupled with her size, made her feel like she was falling from a great height. On the bright side, she had been able to spot Para’s bunny ears, registering that the blonde was waving at them.
“They’re coming through,” Alijda noted, as the numbers started to surge up.
“That won’t stop us,” Axiom countered. The rug went into a dive, and Alijda barely had a chance to register the masked people appearing amid a crackle of energy before they were over their heads – and into the dimensional rip.
Naturally, this was the cue for things to go very wrong.
Axiom let out a shriek of pain, the rug spinning in a circle as it blasted out into it’s new environment. Alijda herself felt a bit like throwing up. “Mass error! Emergency density shield activated!” came a female voice from the USB staff.
‘Oh, hell,’ Alijda realized, as the scene coalesced around them. ‘The size conversion – it’s not attached to the stuff and people that TechWorld is sending. They’ve somehow baked the scale differential into this rift itself. Meaning we’ve been enlarged, and are now the same size, relative to them. Complete sitting ducks.’
“Axiom! Go up, up, UP!” Alijda shrieked. She had registered enough to know that they were outside, rather than confined to a building. Thank goodness for small mercies.
The light on the cable wand flashed. “Up, up, up, can only go up from here…”
The rug stopped it’s spin, and immediately blasted towards the sky, on a path perpendicular to the ground. Alijda was pretty sure that the only thing that kept them from being shot at by the dozens of military-looking men on the ground was the element of surprise.
The sky itself wasn’t devoid of hazards though. A number of flying drones were zipping back and forth, and there was no way of knowing if any of them were armed or not. It was all happening too fast.
“Density shield will fail in under two minutes,” Minerva’s voice warned.
“Of course it will,” Alijda groused, typing furiously.
“And it’s taking all we have to maintain the carpet and the shield,” Axiom croaked. “We can’t handle any more spells.”
“Of course you can’t,” Alijda reiterated. She tapped at her glasses. Finally, some good news – she had a bead on Clyde. Meaning he was not only in the vicinity, but in order to appear on her scan, he had to still be shrunk down relative to TechWorld. Alijda supposed that meant he was about her size. Well, that was potentially convenient.
But with Chris, aka Axiom, being a big, obvious target – how were they going to get everyone safely back through the rift?
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