EPSILON DELTA, PART SEVEN: Goodness Gracious
Rose stared at Kat. He, in turn, stared back at her.
“It’s your call, Rose,” he said after a moment. “You wanted to come down to the planet.”
“What?” Rose flinched. “Oh. Oh, yeah. Uh, I guess I just… I figured… yeah.”
I figured, you’re the one fixing my relationships here, Rose thought to herself. Hell, I’m the youngest one on this team, what idiot would even put me in charge in the first place? Only a crazy person. A crazy blonde hologram person.
With that thought, her gaze slipped to the side, to Beam’s eager expression. No doubt eager for more than Rose’s opinion on how this mission should go. As there was also the question of how to properly make small talk with another girl that you really wanted to mack on, but were now trying to see as only a friend instead.
Gods, how was it that this hologram could be blonde, like Paige, and experienced, like Paige, and yet somehow be even more innocent than Rose herself? It made Beam way too adorable. And not necessarily in a sexy way, so Rose found herself wondering why she was now feeling some disappointment over Beam no longer seeing her as a potential sexual partner. Especially since, being undesirable, that’s what Rose had ASKED for, right?!
“Oh, flûte it,” Rose grumbled, pushing those thoughts away and shifting her attention over towards the house. Kat was right, she had to maintain her focus down here. The sooner the mission was done, the sooner the Beam stuff would become a non-issue. “Let’s go investigate.”
Rose pivoted, heading towards the structure, Kat falling into step right behind her, and Beam trailing after them. It had to be about the house. It had a symbol, like the arm. Plus she’d suggested investigating there, so if she didn’t stick with that choice, she might look indecisive.
Rose had to go up on her tiptoes in order to properly see in the window, in part because the glass itself was dirty. And not merely dirty on the outside, as the wiping of her palm on the surface revealed. Still, she could see the outline of the objects in the large room. A table and chairs, maybe a kitchen area with pots and pans, nothing out of the ordinary. Except for how the items had been tipped over and strewn about, as if there had been a search, or a struggle.
“Could be a tornado ran through the place,” Rose remarked.
“A wind spell gone wrong?” Beam suggested.
“Dunno,” Rose mused. “Wouldn’t a protection symbol be trying to prevent rampant spells?”
“We’re still lacking the necessary context for those occult symbols,” Kat reminded them. “It may protect against detection of a person inside, not the structure itself.”
Right. So maybe she should have called Alijda after all. Rose pursed her lips, but as she turned away, she caught something out of the corner of her eye. She peered back inside. “Ooh, wait, someone’s there. At least, I think it’s a someone. Not a something.”
“What do you see?” Kat prompted.
“A filthy window. Maybe one of you can boost– aww, fiddle mix.” Rose ducked back down out of sight. “I think the whatever saw me.”
“Are you sure?” Beam wondered.
“The head of the thing was looking to the window, then it dashed back out of view,” Rose admitted. She looked to Kat. “Is there a military procedure we should enact now to keep it from getting away?”
“Well, I’d suggest you and Beam burst into the front, making a lot of noise, while I circle around to the back. I’ll grab the whatever if it tries to run, and if it doesn’t, I’ll sneak up behind it.”
Rose nodded. “I like it. Good plan. Beam, let’s act on this good plan.”
“But what if the something is a robot with still one functional cyber arm?” Beam asked. “Isn’t that possible?”
Rose winced. “Okay, yeah. Not the best time to point out that we should have come down armed. That is, armed with weapons, not with actual arms.”
“Seeing weapons might antagonize this thing even more,” Kat remarked, as he moved off to circle around the house. “Also, it’s a magic world, not a tech world, so a robot’s unlikely.”
“Let’s hope it knows that,” Rose muttered.
“Rose, don’t worry, I can kung fu,” Beam assured. “It’s only, a part of me thinks that you should be the strong one protecting me. Not the other way around.”
“Then screw that part of your program, I’m good with being protected,” Rose said, smiling half-heartedly. “Though, I have been taking self defence courses too, yeah? And those can teach a girl more than just how tasty floor mats can be. So I’m not totally defenceless these days. Don’t count me out yet.”
Beam extended her arms for a hug, then seemed to think better of it. “Right. Let’s do this, girl friend.”
The awkwardness of that phrase nearly made Rose cringe, but Beam was already turning away, so Rose simply hurried with her over to the front door. She saw Beam gently try to turn the handle, but the door seemed to be locked. Beam looked back, shrugging up one shoulder.
Rose nodded. “On three,” she whispered, holding up three fingers. That’s how they did it in movies, right? She curled her fingers, one by one. As the last finger came down, Beam threw her weight in against the door. It popped open.
“Noooiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiise!” Beam shrieked as she charged into the residence.
On the one hand, it was a silly thing to yell, but on the other hand, Rose hadn’t thought of what noise to make herself. “Eeeeeeeeeeee!” she was screaming before she could think about it. Though being an alto and not a soprano, she felt it lacked the proper effect.
Her gaze swept across the room as she entered next to Beam, stamping her feet for what she hoped was added intimidation. The place looked much like it had through the window, just less indistinct. No one was there. Curiously, the cauldron on the floor vibrated unexpectedly as she screamed towards it, giving her double vision.
Perhaps due to that, the sound of a humming noise failed to draw her attention right away, and she only saw the danger coming from out of the corner of her eye.
“Rose!” Beam gasped.
Rose felt herself get shoved to the side. She stumbled, falling forwards onto the ground, quickly spinning over to look back. To confirm what she had feared. There had been a sensation of increased heat. Now there was a great big ball of fire where Beam was standing. Burning her up.
“BEAM!” Rose screamed back.
“Ha ha, I got you first this time,” came a new voice, a male voice.
Rose snapped her gaze over to the source. A doorway towards the back of the structure. There was a red haired man standing in it, wearing what looked like a monk outfit, with his hands on his hips.
“What have you dooooone?!” Rose cried out, pushing herself off the ground and charging towards him.
Caught off guard, the man lifted his arms again, Rose belatedly processing he might well be about to throw a second fireball into her face. But this could be their only shot at taking him out. She closed her eyes, turned her face to the side, and bent her body lower, but didn’t cease her charge.
It was a bit of a surprise when she connected solidly with the man’s midsection without feeling a blast of heat, and then both of them were driven backwards and down to the ground. Rose used him a mat to cushion her landing. She quickly moved to try and pin the guy’s arms down on the ground, hoping he needed them to channel magic. He didn’t resist.
“How did you DO that?” he man demanded, glaring.
“Adrenaline helps me run faster,” Rose breathed.
His eyes rolled. “No, no, how did you manipulate the fire? I heard nothing.”
“It’s actually me,” came Kat’s voice. Rose looked up to see him standing next to them. She had propelled the monk-man into the room at the back of the house, where Kat was holding his arm out and grimacing as he looked back through the doorway. Following his gaze, Rose saw that the fireball which had encompassed Beam had moved to the middle of the room, and was burning itself out.
“Beam,” Rose gasped. “Kat, she was hit, go see if you can still save–”
“Hi hi!” Beam said, stepping into the doorway and wiggling her fingers in a wave. Incredibly, she looked completely undamaged. Rose felt her jaw drop.
“It’s fine,” Beam explained, smiling at Rose after glaring at the man on the ground. “I turned myself insubstantial right after I pushed you.”
She reached out, swiping her arm right through the wall next to the doorway. Unable to drop her jaw any lower, Rose tilted her head to the side instead.
“You can do that, huh, Beam?” Kat grunted. He closed his hand into a fist, and the fireball in the other room disappeared.
“Hologram, remember?” Beam said, as if that explained everything. Only to add, “The transition is a serious power drain though, and I did it without thinking. Switching back will be the same issue, so I think I’d better stay this way until we know whether or not you need me to interact with anything.”
The only reason Rose managed to pull her attention away from Beam’s still quite solid-looking and unblemished form was that the man beneath her tried to move.
She renewed the pressure on his upper arms while looking back down. “Just stop. Ooh, you are SO lucky you didn’t hurt her, or we’d have you on trial for murder!”
“Hurt HER?” the man grumbled. “You’re the ones breaking in. And your blonde friend already knocked me out once today. Who are you people anyway? You shouldn’t be able to cast in here. The building is protected against that, unless you’re on the list.”
Kat crouched down, resting his palms on his knees. “Well, here’s the thing. You want to know about us, and we want to know about a cyber arm. Any chance we could all simply have a nice chat over some tea?”
The man shot Kat an incredulous look, but upon seeing the irritated expressions Rose and Beam were sporting, he gave a resigned sigh. “Why not. It wouldn’t be the weirdest thing that’s happened today.”
The man’s name was Firestorm, or at least that’s the name he gave them during a round of introductions. Firestorm assured them that no one else was in the house, but Kat asked Rose and Beam to take a quick look around to be sure. The place turned out to have four rooms in total.
The main room in the front seemed to be the kitchen, slash meeting room, slash whatever else room… it was all a bit of a jumble, what with the furniture and pots and pans strewn about everywhere. The smaller room in the back was the structure’s bedroom, or at least it had a comfortable mattress there, plus a dresser.
Then there were two smaller rooms off to the side, one a storage room for a mop and numerous potions, and that what seemed to be a washroom, implying some form of indoor plumbing. Beam used her insubstantial form to push her head through the doors before Rose opened them, to check for traps or other occult symbols.
“It’s no good if the room is totally dark,” Beam remarked as she did so. “But enough light’s filtering in through the cracks.”
“Except, uh, how does that even work?” Rose asked. “To see the world around us, light needs to hit our eyes, so if your eyes are no longer in phase with the world…”
“My eyes are also light now,” Beam said, turning back with a smile. “I don’t sink into the ground very much either. Don’t think too hard, Rose. I know I don’t.”
When they got back to the main area, Kat was finishing setting up the chairs from where they had fallen, as Firestorm peered in the cupboards. “Destiny’s out of tea,” he remarked. “Do you want macaroons?”
“Let’s just compare notes,” Kat suggested. “How long have you known Destiny?”
Rose frowned. She almost spoke up to ask about the name ‘Destiny’, but then realized what Kat was doing, and bit her tongue. It stood to reason that if Destiny was the true owner of the place, Firestorm might think she’d authorized them to be here. Admitting they didn’t know this Destiny woman could mess that up.
Firestorm turned, adjusting his robes before leaning back against the counter. “Several years now. And she’s never mentioned you.” He focussed in on Beam again. “Why did you knock me out?”
“I was after a cyber arm?” Beam answered.
Firestorm sighed. “Is that the technology you were talking about before? When I said I didn’t know what you meant, and told you to leave, you instead knocked me out with some lightning attack.”
“I did?” Beam rubbed the back of her neck. “I guess I didn’t want you in my way as I searched.” She glanced around the room. “Wait, I didn’t mess this place up, did I?”
“No worse than it was already, when I got here this morning,” Firestorm said. “I’m worried that something’s happened to Destiny. At first I thought you were involved in taking her away, but if you were, why would you come back? Twice? Particularly after finding whatever you’d been looking for.”
“So that cyber arm WAS being kept in here then,” Beam said, her eyes lighting up. She moved to lean in against the table, but of course passed right through it, and ended up sprawled on the floor. “Derp.”
Firestorm rolled his eyes. “Could be? When I came to, I discovered someone, presumably you, had pried up part of the floor. There was a secret storage place down there that I hadn’t known about. Thanks for leaving behind the diary, by the way, it gave me something to read after I regained consciousness. And it helped me realize that I didn’t know Destiny as well as I’d thought. Which brings me back to, who are you, and how long have YOU known Destiny?”
The question was addressed to Kat, but instead of answering it, he shifted his attention to Rose. She wasn’t sure if he was deferring to her being “in charge” for the more pointed question, or if he was trying to give her some sort of signal that he wanted her to be a distraction, but Firestorm was now looking at her instead.
Rose squared her shoulders. “We’ve never met Destiny in person,” she said, figuring truth was the way to go, even if only a partial truth. “But we know things.”
“Is that the diary?” Kat asked, pointing to the book on a corner of the table as Beam pushed herself to her feet. She ended up standing in the middle of it.
Firestorm shrugged. “Yeah. Recognize it?”
Kat walked over to have a look, Beam moving out of the way. He flipped the book open, and frowned at whatever he saw there. Then he picked the book up, scanning the passage closer. A haunted look came into his eyes, and he grabbed for his communicator watch. “Alijda? Alijda, are you there? Alijda, come in!”
There was no answer.
Kat looked to Rose. “Try yours.”
Rose looked down at her wrist, and attempted to open a communications frequency. “Hello? Alijda? Alice?” Again, there was no answer.
“Mine won’t work unless I switch back,” Beam remarked. “It’s phased with me.”
“Well, we need them to do a scan,” Kat said. “An in-depth scan, NOW.” He jerked his gaze over towards Firestorm. “You! Do you know any communications spells?!”
We’re going back to the Station, probably for an Alice POV since she’s been used already, but if anyone would prefer Alijda, feel free to comment. The vote is for how communications get restored. OPTIONS:
VOTING CLOSES NOON EDT SATURDAY AUGUST 5th
PATHS NOT TAKEN:
Talking to the local, they would have been arrested or detained for suspicious behaviour. Consulting with Alijda would have revealed Communications are indeed out, and so shifted the action to the Station POV earlier. We got what we got, including a house occupant who I hadn’t had in mind initially, but I realized it would streamline things a bit in terms of them finding stuff out, over simply reading the diary. Plus it gave Beam a reason to phase (which was always a planned thing for her character).