EPSILON DELTA, PART TWO: How Far She’ll Go
Alijda’s home universe included Time Lords. For whatever reason, as Alice dashed back to the house that the two women now shared, that was the thought at the forefront of her mind.
It’s not that Alice thought the fact would be of any particular use. Rather, it simply meant that this universe, which she was presently in, had no “Doctor Who” episodes. Since the mythology of one universe tended to only be reality somewhere else, even if it was still debatable as to whether myths formed from other realities, or vice versa.
As a result, Alice was behind on watching that series, and so returning to the “Epsilon Station” aka “The Hub” might give her a chance at catching up. “Behind” itself being a misleading term. Given how the Station had access to all of space and time, one could theoretically watch episodes that hadn’t yet been produced in a specified “present”.
But given actor fluctuations across realities, Alice had tacitly settled on a stream of continuity not far off from her own universe. From before her Earth had been pulled into that hell dimension, at any rate.
Of course, Alice hadn’t even known about real Time Lords being an issue until that “cease and desist” letter from the BBC, which had come after running her first major populated mission. Oh well, at least Alijda’s universe did include the TV show “Wynonna Earp”.
None of those thoughts would help the Rose Thorne girl.
Alice sighed, wondering if her tendency to have a unique thought process would one day manage to target itself into whatever configuration it was that supposedly “normal” people had on a daily, good, there was the house, home again, home again, jiggity jig.
Alice burst through the front door. “Honey, I’m home!” she called out, leaning against the wall to catch her breath.
The large living room area was visible from the front door. It took a moment, but an arm came into view on the top of the leather couch, followed by Alijda’s head. The brunette thirty-something stared at Alice in silence for a moment. “Laugh track quieted down in your head yet?” she said at last.
Alice beamed. “Yes, thank you.”
“Great. I notice you did not, however, buy bread,” Alijda noted, her gaze falling to Alice’s empty hands.
Alice closed the front door. “Because I got a call from the Epsilon Project. They need me. Us.”
Alijda’s gaze returned to Alice’s face. “So you’re being pranked?”
“Pranked? Alijda, who on your Earth would even know about it?!”
The brunette’s eyebrow went up. “Anyone you’ve talked to in the six months you’ve been here? You can’t seem to stop yourself. Hell, even though I’m not actually sitting in on your job interviews, I have my suspicions there too. I’m pretty sure the reason you can’t get stable work is because, when people ask you to clarify your prior work experience, you go on about monitoring alternate realities for anomalous events.”
Alice pushed out her lower lip. “It’s not like I can talk about being the secretary for an Angel from back on my own world. That’s even crazier. And I have no references here. Haters gonna hate.”
“I hacked out a false trail on our internet for you,” Alijda reminded her. “You can claim you were the secretary for a movie studio. Not to mention employed by the same guy I used when I was under my fake ‘Alison’ alias.”
“I know. I can lead with pride, I can make us strong, I’ll be satisfied if I play along. But the voice inside sings a different song. What is wrong with me?”
Alijda’s stare became an eye roll. “Oy, I should have smacked you when we first met. You’re still dealing with our lunch.” She dropped back out of sight to lay on the couch.
Alice’s smile returned. “I love you too, friend.”
Alijda let out a grunt. Alice walked into the room, now noticing that her housemate was staring at a laptop computer on the coffee table. Probably back to writing another of her stories.
Her writing really wasn’t that bad. In a sense, the stories were more than a way of Alijda coping with her own depression, they could be seen as a way of helping others who had similar problems. Alijda had a certain dry wit about her.
If only she wouldn’t push people away so much. Or wear black dresses all the time. One of these days, Alice swore she would get the woman into a pair of blue jeans.
“What?” Alijda asked, without looking up again.
“Alijda, please, I’m serious. The Epsilon Station made me an offer I can’t refuse. It’ll crash into a planet without help.”
The brunette met her gaze again. “Alice, you’re a dear, but face reality. The whole project got shut down when we left. Okay? It’s done. And even if we assume it wasn’t, and this isn’t some stupid joke, their whole oversight thing? That was creepy as all hell. So if the new idiot in charge wants it all to crash and burn, fine, I’m in favour.”
“Rose didn’t want it, Alijda. She sounded scared. And young. Even younger than I was, when I started.”
Alijda reached out to smack her laptop shut, muttering something indistinguishable under her breath. “What the hell is wrong with your random God, recruiting the inexperienced?”
“Mistakes were made,” Alice intoned. “Truth be told, I messed up a bunch even before recruiting you for that first in-person mission. Please, Alijda.” She leaned in against the side of the couch. “This girl’s frightened. She’s inadequately prepared. You want me to say ‘I need you’? I *need* you.”
Alijda sighed. “How is it that I now know when you’re quoting something, even if I have no idea where it’s from? Fine. When is this Epsilon thing supposedly happening?”
Alice felt her phone vibrate in the back pocket of her jeans. “Now?”
Alijda rolled off the couch. “Damn multiverse whatevers are never simple. Let me grab my meds.”
Alice answered her phone as Alijda headed for the bathroom. “Hello!” the former Epsilon caretaker announced. “Know that your call is very important to us.”
“When this is all over, you’ll have to tell me what your actual voicemail is,” came Rose’s voice. “For now, please, I’m in the spare control room, how do I get at this Mr. Smith??”
“Am I on some kind of speaker phone?” Alice asked.
“Beats me, but your voice is coming from all around.”
Alice nodded. She took in a deep breath, and called out, “Mr Smith! I need you.”
She heard the musical fanfare start to play in the background. The difference in ‘need’ quoting between Captain Picard and Sarah Jane Smith, it was all in the inflection. Come to think, Sarah Jane was probably the reason she’d had Time Lords on the brain.
“Greetings, Alice,” came a deep male voice. “You seem to have become a redheaded teenager since I was last active.”
“Hi, Mr Smith!” Alice chirped. “That’s Rose in the room. We need to get me back up there to fix things. Trouble is, Ziggy may be infected with something. Can you tell if that’s the case without interfacing?”
“That would take some time,” Smith mused.
“I’m going to die in less than 30 minutes!” Rose shrieked. “Also, a talking computer coming out of the wall what now?”
“Rose, your motto is don’t panic,” Alice reminded. “Mr Smith, can we get you to reroute a teleport, done by Alijda? To get us up there?”
“If Rose creates an interface by patching in the necessary circuits, yes.”
“Meaning no,” Rose asserted.
Alice chewed on her lower lip. Interfacing might simply infect Mr. Smith anyway. She needed more data! “I suppose it’s too much to hope for that the planet you’re crashing into is the one I’m on now?”
Ziggy’s voice broke in. “It is not your world, Alice. I know that much.”
“Right.” Alice smacked her fist into her forehead. There had to be a way. She turned her attention towards sifting through the limited data she already had.
Fact 1: Ziggy still had the ability to retrieve, given how Rose was somehow there, but the main computer lacked the power. Mr. Smith had the power, but lacked the ability. Their systems ran independently, for obvious reasons.
Fact 2: Rose lacked the understanding to interface the machines, assuming it was even safe to do so. She also wouldn’t be able to program them. Meaning whatever they came up with here, it was going to have to be something automated.
Automated. The failsafe.
“Ziggy,” Alice said, spinning around. “Hypothetical. If you were to be completely shut down, would Mr. Smith take over operations? Now that he’s active?”
“Affirmative. But he would not have my scope. Access to teleportation systems would be–”
“He would automatically attempt to complete a teleport if it was in progress and putting lives at risk.”
A pause. “The teleport might abort instead,” Ziggy suggested.
“Not with Rose in danger too. Okay, Ziggy. Initiate a recall teleport based on my prior departure, relative to the months I’ve spent on this Earth with Alijda, using this cell phone signal as a beacon. When you go dead, Mr Smith will pull us in the rest of the way.”
“I have never attempted that before,” Mr. Smith pointed out.
“Agreed,” Ziggy said. “I can find no guarantee this will work. I cannot authorize it.”
“We’re out of options! Do it!” Alice asserted, falling back on a quote by Picard from the TNG episode “Heart of Glory”.
“Alice, I bet I can authorize this,” came Rose’s voice again. “Except… are you sure? As scared as I am, I don’t want to order something here that might hurt you.”
Alice decided she liked this Rose girl. “It’s okay, I installed failsafes.” Mostly. “I’m sure they’re still in place.” There was no way to know. “It’ll be fine.” This was risky as all heck. What WAS wrong with her?
“Alice?” Alijda said, narrowing her eyes as she reentered the room. “Alice, what’s with that expression? Who are you talking to and what are you telling them?”
Alice flapped her free hand up and down to try and shush Alijda.
“Ziggy,” came Rose’s voice. “Initiate that recall teleport thing from the last time Alice was in charge of computers here. Authorization code, uhm, Paige-Paige-Paige.”
“Initiating, Rose,” came Ziggy’s resigned voice.
Alice ceased her arm flapping, looking to Alijda. “Change of plan. I’m headed up. I’ll bring you later.” She turned and sprinted for the nearest doorway.
“Alice! Alice, damn it, don’t you dare do reckless and foolhardy things on your own!”
As Alice began to pass through into the next room, she felt the disorientation of a teleport taking place – and Alijda’s hand seizing her wrist from behind. A dangerous and potentially suicidal act. So not exactly out of character for Alijda. Being unable to shake her off, both women ended up falling through the doorway together.
And then the house was empty.
Alice felt herself spinning through a dark void. She slammed into a wall, and a rush of air was expelled from her lungs.
“Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into,” came Alijda’s voice from somewhere else in the darkness. Above her, maybe? They’d become separated upon arrival.
Alice managed a giggle as she worked to stabilize herself in the zero gravity. “Actually, that’s a misquote. Laurel and Hardy use the phrase here’s another NICE mess in dialogue. The name of one of their films was ‘Another Fine Mess’.”
“Oh, well, I beg your pardon,” Alijda mumbled.
“Uh, did something go wrong?” came another voice. A male one.
A dim red lighting finally switched on, giving partial illumination to the large cylindrical room. Alice turned her head, spotting Alijda floating a short distance away… as well as Katherine “Kat” Conway, the military man who had been part of their last mission together.
“Kat?” Alijda sputtered. “What the hell are you doing here?”
He scratched his head. “Beats me. I thought I got back to my hotel just fine, but now I’m back here a half hour later.”
“It’s the recall feature,” Alice realized. “Because Kat left AFTER us, remember, Alijda? He wanted to make sure all of us ladies got off the station okay.”
“So you mean him leaving after we did pulled him back in before us this time?”
“Right. Could be a glitch, could be the recall order to Ziggy wasn’t specific enough to exclude him. Technically, he was the last person to leave when I was in command.”
“So chivalry isn’t dead, it simply gets you killed,” Alijda remarked.
“A ten out of ten for style, but minus several million for good thinking – on my part,” Alice sighed. “Though it occurs to me now that Kat’s chivalry is possibly the only reason Ziggy even had my phone number, since I told her to call me once Kat himself had left. So there’s that!”
Kat cleared his throat. “I feel out of the loop here, ladies. Granted, that’s somewhat par for the course when I’m with you, but still.”
“Oh, the Epsilon Station’s gonna crash into a planet real soon,” Alice offered. “I’ll head to auxiliary control now to find Rose, and see if there’s something I can do about that. I kinda hope there is.”
“No,” Alijda corrected. “I’LL head to auxiliary control. I’m the hacker, Alice,” she continued, before her housemate could protest. “I can whip almost any system back into shape. You’re the one who knows this station backwards and forwards, so you need to check to see if any physical connections are out of place. Kat? You stick close to Alice.”
“Uh, yes, ma’am,” Kat said, lifting his eyebrow. “Though if I might make a request?”
“What?” Alijda asked, looking down at him.
“Stop giving your orders from directly above me? I mean, I am resisting the urge to continually stare right up your skirt, but you don’t seem to be aware I even can.”
Alijda’s eyes grew wider as her hands moved to grasp at the material of her dress, trying to bunch it back between her legs in the zero gravity of the room.
“I keep telling her, jeans,” Alice couldn’t resist saying.
“Shut it!” Alijda snapped, her face a bright red – though that was largely due to the lighting in the room. “I’ll be with that Rose girl.” Moments later, she vanished in a puff of purple and black smoke, as she teleported herself up to the doorway in the ceiling.
What is the nature of the mystery damage? (This will also impact a new point of view, if you think about it.) OPTIONS:
VOTING CLOSES 7am EDT THURSDAY JUNE 15th
If it had been Alijda’s world, they’d have teleported up instead of using the recall, so Ziggy would still be active. If it had been Kat’s world, he would have been kept planetside for now, perhaps contacting Rose from there. We got what we got. (Do people prefer prior vote result info here, rather than compiled in a later post? Does anyone even care?)