3.17: Firing Line

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FULL SCALE INVASION, PART SEVENTEEN: FIRING LINE

“What’s your suggestion?” Michaela asked.

Kat gestured at Bonnie. “As she said, a firewall. Literally. To push back the invasion. Does anyone have magical experience controlling fire?”

Michaela shook her head. “We tend to steer clear of the elemental magic. I might be able to craft an illusion of fire?”

“That won’t convince them,” Kat sighed. “It’s fine, I can do it. I just hope it doesn’t get me fired, pun not entirely unintended.”

“How can you make a real fire which is not only big enough, but created fast enough so that the invaders don’t have time to stop you?” Bonnie challenged.

“Erm. With help,” Kat said. “Like, if Andi can run fast and drop some matches…”

The thunderclap in the air made everyone turn their heads. A second dimensional rip was appearing, roughly 100 yards away from the first one. “Oh, that can’t be good,” Para sighed.

Kat wasn’t sure if the bunny mathematician was referring to the tear itself, or the red dragon that flew through as it opened.

On the bright side, either the dragon was small, or a larger one had been reduced in size by the transition – the winged animal wasn’t much larger than the size of a house. On the down side, the dragon didn’t look happy.

It seemed even less pleased when one of the invaders let out a shriek and fired a projectile weapon at it. The dragon responded by breathing fire, setting a wide band of the grassy field by the train station alight.

“That’s… convenient?” Bonnie observed, as smoke curled into the air.

“We never know if it’s TechWorld or MagicWorld who will drop stuff,” Michaela said, rubbing her chin. “Has it ever been both?”

“Alijda and Axiom are back!” Para cried out. She pointed above the fire, to where the flying carpet had reappeared. Originally aiming for the sky, it made a quick course correction back into the smoke upon spotting the dragon.

“I’ll try an illusion, to get the dragon to go back into its rift,” Michaela decided. She held up a weed whacker, previously selected as her focus. “Can you guys handle the fire?”

“I…” Kat glanced at Para, who was already activating her Epsilon communicator. “Para! Wait, give me… thirty seconds?”

Without waiting for a response, he ran off towards the fire, barely aware of Bonnie running after him.

***

“When you sang about going down in flames, I didn’t think that’d be literal!” Alijda protested.

Their carpet had clipped the edge of the fire, in trying to avoid both the tech invaders below, and the dragon above. Clyde stamping out the smouldering material wasn’t very effective, seeing as both he and Alijda remained doll sized as compared to their surroundings.

“Hold on. I see an open door,” Axiom panted, evidently deciding that some sort of refuge was the best option.

They smashed through a flimsy screen covering, tumbling from the flying carpet onto the floor of a kitchen. Alijda automatically adjusted her fall with a teleport, and as such was the first to spot Queeny and Larry approaching.

“You’re back! You made it!” Larry said, clasping his hands. “And you have Clyde, and he’s… he’s, um, wow, very… tiny…”

“Yeah, that was not a typical rift,” Clyde said, staring up at Larry. “A reunion hug will have to wait.”

“Actually,” Alijda spoke up. “The spell that Chris – er, Axiom – used to stabilize me? And keep Kat and Para from shrinking? I was thinking it could be used to vary your density the other way.”

“Fine, talk later. Please,” Queeny said. “For now, help us search this house for anything to drive away those invaders!” She gestured outside, then did a double take. “And what the hell is breathing fire on my city?!”

Axiom let out a breath. “I’d better seal off our dimension, before anything else appears.”

“In that case, I’m off to link up with my friends,” Alijda noted. She eyed the smouldering carpet. “By teleporting, I guess. Thanks for everything!”

With a final wave and a smile, Alijda disappeared in a small cloud of purple smoke.

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Alijda (Approx)

***

Kat was worried. He had never previously attempted to manipulate any fire larger than what you might find in a fireplace. And as he exerted his will, he realized he wasn’t going to be able to handle all of it; only enough of it to move the flames towards the invaders, pushing them back towards their dimensional rift.

“I’m sorry,” he said to Bonnie, halting his advance. “I don’t think I’m going to be able to snuff this thing out. You’ll want to call a fire brigade.”

“Explain to me how you’re controlling it.”

Kat shook his head. “This isn’t something you can learn to do in the time–”

“If the spell casters can channel their spells by using technology, it’s high time someone tried to activate the technology properly, by using a spell!” Bonnie shot back. Kat watched as the older woman pulled a crystalline object out of her pocket. “This is supposed to manipulate the weather. Tell me how you’re manipulating the fire.”

For a moment, Kat was reminded of Tara, the woman he’d encountered right before this whole “Epsilon” escapade began. Except instead of him looking for occult information from an asian, Bonnie was now looking to him for the information. The information which he had first learned about from Fate, way back in high school.

It made him want to get back to his Earth, to continue his search.

“Clear your mind,” Kat suggested. “Focus on the flame, or rather, your device there. Making any physical motions can actually help, as you’re learning. Say whatever comes to mind.”

As he spoke, he pushed his own arms out, making the grass fire leap forwards. Although he couldn’t see all of the invaders due to the smoke and flame, the fire was in some sense an extension of himself, and he sensed that they were back-pedalling. Back towards the dimensional rift.

Bonnie said something that he didn’t catch. That’s when the griffin appeared in the sky.

***

“It’s an eagle-lion?” Para wondered.

Michaela swung her weed whacker in a wide arc. “Griffin,” she explained. “Enemy of dragons, if the fantasy stories I read as a child are to be believed. I hope I made it look convincing.”

“That will scare the dragon away?”

The redheaded woman cut through the air with her garden implement again, making the griffin move. “Maybe? I’ve never made such a massive illusion before, and dragons are smart. Still, he may decide our world is too crazy to be worth investigating.”

“Right.” Para finished counting down the rest of Kat’s thirty seconds, then initiated communication with Alice.

“You’re all alive, right?” was the first thing Alice said. “Please?”

“Uhm, yeah!” Para assured. “But we need extraction, is there a doorway somewhere we should use?”

“This isn’t ‘The Librarians’! No matter what it looks like down there,” Alice countered. “Tell me when you’re within two metres of each other, with nobody else around. Oh, and make that happen fast?”

Para nodded eagerly. “Will do!”

A small cloud of purple smoke puffed into existence on the ground. Para crouched down. “Alijda! Great timing – we need to get to Kat, fast!”

“Riiight. I’m teleported out, give me a ride?”

As Para offered her hand to Alijda, a gust of wind blew through the area, resolving into the form of Andi. The older woman was breathing hard. “Invaders are… are leaving…” She rested her hands on her knees. “Oof. I’m spent. Does Bonnie have any extra PROM?”

“The dragon’s leaving too!” Michaela added, narrowly missing Andi with the weed whacker as she continued gesturing. “Though I’m a little worried about the storm clouds forming…”

Para glanced into the sky, but only briefly, as that’s when Alijda grabbed onto a fistful of her hair. “Sorry, nearly slipped. Just go, get to Kat,” the brunette suggested. Para nodded, and began to run, Alijda perching on her shoulder.

***

Kat knew better than to ask Bonnie if she was the one affecting the clouds. Since if she was, any disruption in her concentration could cause things to go haywire. Instead, he did his best to try and dampen down the grass fire, to keep it from spreading. He hoped the last of the invaders had departed.

“Kaaaaat!” came Para’s familiar voice.

Thunder rumbled overhead as Kat turned to see Para approaching. It had probably been longer than thirty seconds, hadn’t it. Before he could shout an apology, he noticed that Para seemed to be gesturing vigorously off to his left. He turned.

“SEALING MODE,” came a voice that Kat identified as Minerva, the consciousness which had been born of Chris’ transformation into Axiom. Then he saw the magical girl (woman?) herself, standing in front of a nearby house, her arms outstretched.

Which was when Axiom’s USB staff grew in length. It seemed to be mechanically transforming as it did, getting larger and larger… Kat turned away and started to run to meet Para.

“I think you’ve got the hang of it, good job!” he tossed over his shoulder back at Bonnie.

They were done here. The invasion was no more. The fire wasn’t exactly under control, but a few drops of rain had started to fall. Between that, and the static charge that seemed to be building in the air, a swift departure seemed to be in order.

Para obviously concurred, because as Kat reached her, she shouted into her communicator, “Alice, we’re good to go!”

The last thing Kat heard as a blue portal opened up in the ground under them was Minerva’s voice intoning, “ANGELIC BARRIER.”

***

The trip through the whirlpool was becoming standard fare for Alijda. What was different was being spit out into zero gravity, with her momentum sending her up towards the ceiling.

Flipping her body around, Alijda spotted Alice holding onto a console with one hand as she typed with the other. They were back in the main control room of the Hub. As Alice finished typing, the whirlpool below them was covered by the familiar iris, and then Alijda felt the tug of gravity gradually reasserting itself.

“Okay!” Alice said, turning to look up at them. “There should be just enough time left for us to get Alijda back to her normal size before we all have to evacuate! In fact, Kat, Para, I can return you to your worlds right away if you want. Well, once you remove the density suits.”

“Evacuate?” Alijda asked. She blinked as her descent pulled her past a console display. “Wait, what the hell is that about?”

Alice looked at where Alijda was pointing, namely the screen which read in big letters, ‘YOU’RE FIRED’. There was a timer underneath, counting down past three hours.

olga-kolesnik-23

Alice (approx)

“That? Oh, well, I’m fired. Fired like Future Marty McFly.” Alice swallowed. “See, I told myself, hey, I’ll simply look in on Smallville, to see if we’ll need to send another team. To replace you guys. But after I looked, I had Mr. Smith run some extra calculations, and it all led to, well…”

Her voice trailed off. Kat’s feet reached the floor first, and he walked towards her. “The convenient dragon – was that you?”

Alice smiled sadly. “Bingo. And a dragon is about as far from a tiny alteration as you can get! Of course, I’d already bent protocol, sending you off with knowledge of the third incursion, so maybe my getting kicked off the station was a foregone conclusion?”

“But if you leave, who will run the ‘Epsilon Project’?” Para protested.

Alice shrugged. “Don’t know. Maybe no one? I do hope Ziggy and Mr. Smith will be okay, not that they even have emotions b-but…” The brunette technician let out a choking sound, then quickly ran her arm over her eyes. “N-Nevermind. Let’s get you home.”

“No, stop, this is ridiculous!” Alijda shouted. Her feet finally touched down, allowing her to stamp her foot. “I’m not turning over any dimensional information from these tech glasses unless you’re reinstated!”

Alice shook her head. “Oh, Alijda, don’t insist. Please, no. God has spoken. Besides, I deserve this!” She again tried to smile, spreading her arms out. “Look at this this way, you got what you wanted – we’ve been shut down.”

Alijda swallowed. The worst of it was, Alice was right. And yet… “It shouldn’t be happening like this. Not like this. I mean, where will you go?”

“Oh, not back to my hell dimension, so that’s good. I’ll find some quiet world somewhere, I guess. It’s fine.” Alice sniffled.

“It’s not fine!” Alijda objected. Then, without even thinking about it, she added, “How about you come to my world.”

Alice’s eyes widened. “I… I’d love to. Except you hate me.”

“Actually, Alijda hates herself more than other people,” Kat put in. “Meaning I might feel better knowing she had someone else around.”

“Alijda also pushes away the people she likes the most!” Para agreed. “So she might like you even more than me.”

Alijda glared at her companions. “Stop helping. I’m not asking Alice to move in with me, I’m thinking I can hack up an identity for her, and give her someone she knows on an otherwise foreign world. Which seems to be more than this Project is doing for her.”

“Oh, no. No, I’m not going to be a charity case!” Alice asserted. “If I go with you, it’s going to be as your friend, or not at all!”

“Hah! Kat, Para, tell her how I’m a terrible friend.”

Kat shook his head. “You said to stop helping.”

“Oh Alijda, no matter how small you shrink, your heart stays huge!” Para declared, clasping her hands.

Alijda rolled her eyes. “Look, Alice, I’ll give you the lowdown on my world as you unshrink me. That itself may be reason to change your mind.”

Alice simply nodded, though the genuine smile spreading across her features implied that she wouldn’t be so easily dissuaded. Alijda sighed. So, hopefully having a friend wouldn’t be so bad? As long as Alice could tone down on the pop culture references.

–END OF STORY 3–

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VOTE WILL LIKELY REMAIN OPEN INDEFINITELY.

Will “Epsilon Project” return? Perhaps. But after some bonus content this Wednesday, including an explanation of the conclusion, we’re returning to “Time & Tied” for Book 3 – I hope you stick around. There’s time travel.

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2 comments

    1. Thanks so much for letting me know! Kat’s actually doing much better in the poll than I’d anticipated, so this gives me a sense of why. I also feel like maybe I do more with plot, so it’s nice to hear that I can pull off characters as well. 🙂

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