|(See Story 3)||INDEX 4||Next|
EPSILON DELTA, PART ONE: Beam & Me, Up
Rosemary Thorne tried not to panic. After all, this wasn’t the first time she’d been thrust into a bizarre situation lacking proper context. Except this time, as she looked around herself, it obviously wasn’t a beach. It didn’t feel like some fantasy math dream either.
No, she was in a cylindrical room with high ceilings, which as she looked around the circumference, contained a view screen, an area with a table and chairs, a large computer system, and a walled off area. Although the table had been tipped over, the electronics were sparking, and alarms were blaring as a red light strobed on and off.
Rose took off her headphones, and the noise of the alarm got louder. Tucking them away in her jeans pocket, she pulled up at the shoulders of her T-shirt and cleared her throat.
“Hello?” she called out. “What’s going on?”
“Sixty minutes until planetary collision.”
Rose jumped at the sound of the female voice. Looking around, she was unable to pinpoint it’s origin. “Oh, great, well, that gives us a little time, huh?” Her tone was more joking than sarcastic.
That second female voice was weaker, and seemed to be coming from the vicinity of the computer system. Walking closer, Rose finally spotted the pair of legs sticking out, over by the far console. She began to run, soon finding a girl leaning up against the hardware. Rose knelt down to get a better look.
Well, Rose mused, the girl didn’t seem too different from her. Roughly the same height. For clothing, the girl was wearing a white blouse, blue pleated skirt, dark stockings and blue shoes with a bow… which, admittedly, was quite different from her own T-shirt, jeans and running shoes. Also, the girl had long blonde hair, instead of a mess of shoulder-length red hair. And she looked a bit older, like the blonde might be in her early twenties.
Okay, Rose mentally amended, maybe they weren’t so alike. Particularly given how a cable seemed to be running from a port in the side of the computer, to one in this girl’s blue hairband.
Was she hurt? Was she even human?
Rose reached out to poke the blonde in the shoulder. At that, the other girl’s blue eyes snapped open, and her head turned, focussing on Rose.
Rose flinched again, but forced herself to continue to not panic. So far, that strategy seemed to be working out for her. “Uhmmm… hi?”
“Algebra. You must. Recalculate trajectory,” the blonde said, her tone clipped, sounding somehow artificial.
Rose cleared her throat again, and extended her hand. “Hi. I’m Rose Thorne. You are?”
The blonde blinked back. “Beam.”
“Beam, cute name. Are you hurt?”
“I am. Depleted. I used. My energy. To summon you.”
Rose pulled her hand back and eyed the cable running out of Beam’s hairband. “Okay. So you’re an android or something?”
Beam shook her head in a jerky motion. “Autonomous. Hologram. I run. Epsilon station. Now.”
“Right.” Rose exhaled. “Am I back in the math fantasy world?”
Again, Beam’s head shook. “No. But you. Have their knowledge. So I locked on. To you. You must. Recalculate trajectory.”
Rose eyed the increasingly earnest blonde hologram. “Okay, first? I’m not the math girl, my girlfriend Paige is the math girl. Second? Even assuming that me and her know some math, we’re not taking any ‘fix station trajectory’ courses at university. And third? Uh, well, there is no third. But bad news comes in threes. So there you go.”
Beam blinked at her. “You. Are not. Algebra?”
Rose winced. “Kinda sorta? But not really. I only talk to personified math. And I haven’t lately.” She frowned. “Wait, how do you even know about what I went through there?”
“Multiverse. We monitor. Fixing. Inconsistencies.”
“Ah. When you’re not busy crashing your station, you mean.”
Beam’s impassive expression became a smile. “Yes.”
Rose raked her fingers back through her hair. “You know that monitoring thing sounds real creepy, right?”
Beam tilted her head to the side. “I do. Now.”
“Uh huh. Might explain why you’re in trouble, maybe you peeked in on the wrong person. So, how do we fix your station then?”
“Yeah, tried to say I don’t know how to do that. What’s our next option?”
Beam seemed to think about that for a moment. “Crash.”
“Bad plan. Next plan?”
Beam seemed to think again. “I do. Not know.”
Rose exhaled, wiping her palms on her jeans. “Then can I at least bring in Paige, in order to die in her arms?”
“There is. Insufficient power. To teleport.”
“Well, of course. Good thing I was kidding about dying.”
“Humour!” Beam’s smile returned. “Rose. I think. I like. You.”
“Yeah, well, sorry. I don’t know you well enough to die in your arms instead.”
Her smile slowly faded. “A shame.”
Rose eyed the blonde girl on the floor. She seemed genuinely depressed now. “Don’t act so broken up about it. I’ve been trying to imply we’d better live through this, right? Sorry if my implier seems to be broken.”
Her smile returned. “Rose. Like you. I prefer. Girls. You are. Cute. Funny. Someone I. Would gladly. Die with.”
Rose glared. “Except I’m taken, and we’re not gonna die. What, are you saying you’re actually a lesbian automatic hologram?”
Rose rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”
“I am. Yes.”
“Flûte.” Rose ran her fingers back through her hair again, tugging this time. “And we are SURE I’m not trapped in some new, warped aspect of my own personality?”
“Yes. I am. Sorry, Rose.”
“Great.” She glanced over her shoulder. “So, about our new plan. What happened to all the other techs here?”
“It is. Only me. On the station. No others. No techs. Only me. Now.”
“And there’s no power left here to bring in ACTUAL techs.”
“Correct. You were. My last chance.”
Rose turned to scan the room again. “What even happened here?”
“Unknown.” Beam licked her lips. “Possible. Sabotage.”
Rose shuddered. “Except you just said you were the only one here.”
“I should be. But sabotage. Would explain. Power loss. And computer. Malfunction.”
“Great. Your station DID tick off the wrong people.” Rose got back to her feet and looked around. “So now it’s up to two lesbians to save the multiverse or something. Thank goodness this all happened at around five in the afternoon, if it was before nine in the morning, I’d be half asleep and we’d be SO screwed.”
Rose turned back. “One what?”
She stamped her foot. “Damn it, Beam, you JUST told me that you–”
“Computer,” the blonde interrupted. “Transfer control. Of station. To Rose Thorne.”
The urge to panic clawed at Rose again. “Oh no. No, no, nononono.” She bent back down, reaching out to grasp Beam by the shoulders. “No, Beam, no.”
“Acknowledged,” came the disembodied voice that had first warned of the planetary collision. “Provide authorization code.”
Rose shook the blonde. “Beam, no, please, I’m not even twenty years old yet. I can’t handle this alone. I don’t even UNDERSTAND this. That’s why I’m joking around.”
“Authorization. Janeway Pi. One One Zero,” Beam stated. The computer chirped, and Beam’s eyes focussed on Rose again. “I am. So sorry. Rose Thorne. Perhaps I. Should have. Brought… in….”
Her blue eyes closed and her head slumped to the side.
Rose shook the holographic girl again, but she remained unconscious. Or unpowered. Or whatever caused holograms to no longer interact with their surroundings.
Before Rose could stop herself, she had let out a scream. She quickly buried her fist inside her mouth to silence the noise, sat back on her behind, closed her eyes and counted slowly to ten, rocking back and forth.
When at last she reopened her eyes, and found that she was still in the cylindrical room, she decided she was going to have to do something about that. She stood back up.
“Computer?” she called out, after pulling her fist from her mouth.
“Acknowledged, Rose. Welcome to command.”
“Thanks, we’ll bake me a cake later. Do you have a name?”
There was a pause. “I was once called Ziggy.”
A weird name, but good enough for creating the illusion that she wasn’t truly alone in this completely insane situation. “Ziggy, hi. Why can’t YOU recalculate our trajectory?”
“Necessary functions are offline.”
“Darn. How do we get them online?”
“Great. Well, who had Beam been talking about bringing in just now?”
“I guess there’s no power anyway. Do you even have a user’s manual for me?”
Rose stamped her foot. “Damn it, Ziggy, why is everything I desperately need to know unknown?!”
“Yeah, yeah, figures.” Rose began to pace the length of the room. “Tell me something known, just for variety.”
“Forty seven minutes until planetary–”
“NOT that,” Rose admonished. “Something happy.”
There was another pause. “Our missions have been reasonably successful up until now.”
“Okay. Okay, missions, let’s focus on those. Has Beam been the only person or hologram or whatever who led these missions?”
“The Epsilon Project has recruited from across the multiverse.”
“Great. Could any of your OTHER employees get us out of this? Unknown,” she answered herself, in tandem with the computer. “Fine.” Rose decided that, instead of pacing back and forth, she would pace in a circle around the large ring in the middle of the room. “How about this. When did Beam become your primary tech?”
“Time in the multiverse is relative.”
“Okay, well, I guess I don’t even care about that, my real question is did anyone work computers on this station before Beam?”
“Yes. Alison Vunderlande.”
“Good. Now, is this Vunderlande woman the same one who caused the sabotage? Unknown,” Rose again chorused the word with Ziggy. “Could she fix our problems? Unknown. Can we at least give her a call? Unkn–”
“Her number is on file.”
Rose spun. “Ziggy? Phone. Her.”
“Alice poses a security risk. She interfered with an important mission. Friendship cannot take precedence over–”
“Ziggy?” Rose interrupted. “Am I in charge here?”
Again a pause, as if the computer had to double check. “You are.”
“Further, isn’t it likely that Beam had been thinking about bringing in that Alice to help, and only grabbed me instead owing to your stupid security whatevers?”
Pause. “It is possible.”
Rose made a point of clearing her throat. “Ziggy? Phone. This. Alice. Now.”
“Acknowledged. Connecting to the appropriate world line. Please wait.”
Rose hoped the lack of a pause that time was a good sign. She marched over to the section of the huge room with the chairs, grabbed one, and hauled it over towards the computer banks. Instead of sitting though, she leaned against the back of it, gripping the wood tightly between her hands as she stared at the machine. This would not be the last thing she ever saw. It wouldn’t be. COULDN’T be.
“Connection established,” Ziggy asserted.
“Hello! Know that your call is very important to us,” came a bright, cheerful voice immediately after.
An answering service. Rose bowed her head, worried that if this kept up, she might soon lose her mind. “Alice, when you get this message, PLEASE call back. Otherwise I might die alone on some mystery space station.”
“Oh, this isn’t my voicemail, your call is simply important!”
Rose snapped her head back up. “Alice?”
“Speaking. Mystery science theatre what now? I heard they’d returned.”
Rose circled around the chair, looking for a working video screen and not finding one. “I’m talking to Alice, Alice of the Epsilon Station, that Alice?”
“Um, I was kinda fired from there, but yeah.”
Alice sounded a little flaky, but Rose figured she was hardly one to throw stones there. “Alice, my name is Rose Thorne, and your former station’s gonna crash into some planet in a little over half an hour and I don’t know what to do about it. Help! Mayday! Emergency!”
“Oh? Wow. Um. It’s been a while. Can you transport me up to have a look? Is that allowed?”
“I can probably allow it but we don’t have the power. Can you talk me through trajectory calculations or something?”
“Uhh, Ziggy can’t do that for you?”
“What about Mr. Smith?”
Now they were getting somewhere. “Mister who?”
“Mr. Smith. When you’re this big, they call you Mister. Oh, right, I shut him down, but he runs independent of the main computer system. So if you reactivate him, he might be able to run the calculations. Once you explain the situation to him.”
“That’s good, except I don’t understand the situation myself.”
“No, I only got here, like, twenty minutes ago! Now somehow I’m in charge.”
“O-kaaaay. Can you at least get to auxiliary control, where Mr. Smith is? He should have a useable power supply to patch into the grid for a teleport.”
Rose looked at the ceiling. “Ziggy, can I get to auxiliary control?”
“Affirmative, I can direct you.”
“Alice, I can get to–”
“Heard that. Okay. While you do that, lemme get to Alijda. If the power thing doesn’t pan out, maybe she can teleport us to you somehow. Don’t worry, Rose!” Alice added brightly. “As the guide says, don’t panic!”
“Yup, that is pretty much my motto right now,” Rose sighed. “Do I call you back when I get there?”
“Call me,” Alice agreed. “On the line, call me, call me any, anytime, call me.”
There was a click as the line went dead.
“Curious,” came Ziggy’s voice. “Is this sensation what it means to have… missed someone?”
“Ziggy, if you don’t show me auxiliary control pretty darn fast, you’ll end up missing me too,” Rose asserted.
A doorway in the ceiling irised open, and gravity cut out, allowing Rose to flail her way up towards it.
VOTING CLOSES 7am EDT THURSDAY JUNE 8th
|(See Story 3)||INDEX 4||Next|