5.11: Loose Thred

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CHANCED ERASURES: PART ELEVEN

“And stay there,” Shay said. He slammed the door, leaving Alice sprawled on the floor. She heard the lock engage behind her.

“That could’ve gone better,” the brunette mused. She slowly pushed herself up into a sitting position and looked around at her new accommodations.

It seemed to be some kind of interrogation room. The door behind her was the only way in or out. There was a table with two chairs on either side, a large mirror that probably led to a hidden observation room, and not much else. Also, sitting in one of the chairs was a tall guy with red hair, staring at her.

ALICE VUNDERLANDE
Commission by Cherry Zong

“Okay, state your name for the record,” she began.

The guy blinked. “Uh, well, like I said to the last guy, I’m Sir Thred. I’m a student here.”

Interesting. This was the guy that Shay and Cat-Woman had mentioned. Also, last guy? Did he think Alice was the next interrogator? Alice used one of the chairs to help pull herself up to her feet. She felt a bit woozy, having been smacked around during her second capture. “And I suppose you know why you’re here?”

“Of course not,” Thred said. “All I did was grab that security guy’s hat. Over-reaction much?”

“We know you weren’t acting alone though,” Alice said, leaning hard into the chair. That was what Shay had implied, right? “You came here with someone else.”

Thred now refused to meet her gaze. “Come on,” he muttered. “Why would anyone else have been at school after hours?”

“Well, either it’s the breakfast club, or because there’s a conspiracy,” Alice stated. She pointed dramatically. “Which you heard about from Beam.”

Thred turned back to face her. “From who now?” He seemed genuinely confused.

“From Fate, I meant,” Alice back-pedalled.

Thred frowned. “Are you saying I was fated to be here?”

Alice’s pointing finger started to waver. “You heard about the conspiracy from Alijda. Or Alison.”

Thred shook his head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Alice dropped her arm. “Kat then. Or Para. Or- no, wait, got you with that one,” she declared, raising her hand again as he visibly flinched at Para’s name.

“Para’s an educational assistant at school, I’ve merely heard that name,” Thred said defensively.

“Oh, IS she now,” Alice mused, bringing her arm back in to rub her chin. “Good, good, we’re finally getting somewhere. Next question, do you remember how you got into this base?”

“Of course not,” Thred repeated. “You people knocked me out.”

“Pity. Okay, so how do you plan to get out?”

Thred sighed. “I don’t suppose asking politely would do it.”

“Probably not. All right, I’ve heard enough.” She pushed off from the chair, pleased to discover that she could stand on her own. “Okay, Thred, how about we move this table over and up against that mirror.”

Thred stared. “What?”

“I’ve got an idea,” Alice explained. “For getting out. You thought I was with the Conspiracy Council because I’m wearing one of their robes, right?”

“There’s also the fact that you’re, you know, here… wait, are you defecting or something?”

“Nope, robe’s from a wardrobe. I’m trapped, like you, and like Marlin,” Alice stated. “Speaking of which, they’re probably not watching us directly, because they locked us in. Bet they’re checking on Marlin’s status. So, a little help with the table?”

By now, she had moved to grab one end. And while she judged that she could push it into position, Thred’s assistance would make things go so much faster.

Obligingly, he went around to the other side, helping her to lift it. “What are you then, a substitute teacher? Did you solve the puzzle of those symbols in the rooms and end up stuck here? And who’s Marlin?”

“Oh, let’s say I’m more of a secretary,” Alice said. “I did solve a puzzle, but all it’s done is give me this new escape room puzzle to figure out. Er, not counting the puzzle of being stuck in a room under a cat woman. Failed that one. Also, Marlin’s his own story. Okay, up against the mirror?”

Thred helped her tilt the table, and they rested it against the majority of the mirror, cutting off the view from the adjacent room. Alice quickly began to pull off the mystical robe she was wearing.

“Whoa, um, hey, that’s not, uh…”

“If you think this is a strip tease, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Actually, do you know of the webcomic Striptease? Not what you think, but there is some lesbian romance, eventually. If you like that kinda thing.” She kicked the robe towards Thred as it hit the floor. “Put that on.”

“Look, whatever your name is, I’m… trying to draw the connections here. It’s not easy.”

“I’m Alice. Connection is Beam’s a lesbian. Look, don’t think too hard about how my mind works, just dress yourself in the robe, pound on the door saying the prisoners got out, and we’ll knock out whoever comes to check.”

“The prisoners got out?”

“No, no, say it by the door, and louder,” Alice insisted. She grabbed one of the chairs and went over the door herself, managing to continue moving in a straight line. The wooziness was almost gone.

“You think they’ll believe me?”

“Doesn’t matter, at this point they won’t be able to check by looking in the mirror. Also, keep the robe on so that you can pretend to be taking me to some other part of this facility after. But also, actually take me to some other part of this facility after. Ideally the part that contains my stuff.”

“I don’t know where that is,” Thred protested.

“Me neither, but based on what I saw out there, I’ve got a pretty good guess.”

Alice hefted the chair, standing so that a guard would need to lean inside before seeing her. She also hoped that Shay wouldn’t be the one who came back, given his ability to knock out with magic. She was pretty sure the only reason he hadn’t done that already was so that Alice was awake for questioning, once they’d determined whether Marlin had escaped too.

They were lucky. As a man poked his head in to check on the shouting, they were able to knock him out and drag him inside in under five seconds. Alice immediately noticed that he wasn’t wearing one of the robes – maybe they were for elites only? Alice rifled through his pockets for his keys.

“Looking for this?” Thred wondered, pulling out a small device and holding it up. “You need the morphing codes if you want to lock this room back up.”

“Perfect. Plan B then,” Alice sighed. “Or rather, Plan J at this point, I don’t know. Come along.” Alice slapped her hands to the back of her head and had Thred lead her out, with his cowl up. They simply closed the door behind them.

“What’s going on?” said another security guy (or was this one a scientist?), approaching them.

“Ha ha, my escape attempts keep failing,” Alice said, smiling. “They’re moving me again.”

She thought she heard him mutter, “Why is this all happening tonight,” as he moved away.

Alice continued to backtrack in the general direction that Shay had hauled her, reasoning that the mystery room was still near the prisoner area. Thred followed her lead, presumably because he didn’t have any better ideas. Fortunately, the room beyond the obvious entrance to the detention area, was ajar.

“Jackpot,” Alice muttered, as they walked in. It seemed to be some storage area for artifacts. It didn’t take long for her to find her Epsilon communicator. It took even less time for her to discover that it was either broken, or there was interference preventing her from using it.

Behind her, Thred let out a low whistle. “What IS all this stuff?” he muttered, looking in a drawer.

Alice turned her attention back to him, and what had caught his attention. “Huh. Laser screwdriver. The remains of a faster than light drive. Possibly part of a quadcorder. OH, personal shield. Yoink.” She picked it up. “I can put this to better use than Lucius or Rodney McKay.”

Thred stared. “Are you SURE you don’t work for these people?”

“Pretty sure,” Alice assured him. She pocketed her communicator and the shield, then went back to the door. Seconds after poking her head out, she pulled it back inside. “Whoops. Shay’s there now, and it looks like he’s rounding people up. Search party for Marlin, I presume. Means he removed his listening device, good.”

“Alice, seriously. Is Shay a pitcher for the Miami Marlins or something?” Thred said, throwing up his hands.

“No, Shay is the guy who’s bested me twice so far,” Alice explained. “The only positive he’s got in my books is that he didn’t hit me directly. He left that up to Cat-Woman. Who pulled my robe over my head, so I don’t even know how I even got out of that room, for the record. Bet you’re confusing Shay with Shea Stadium.”

“I wasn’t, that’s the Cubs, not the Marlins.”

“Ahh.” Alice shrugged. “I’ve never really tracked baseball though the dimensions.”

Thred flinched again. “Wait, you… you’re… from another dimension? Are you the one who put the campus on high alert??”

“Beats me, I’m just trying to get out of here,” Alice remarked. “This whole mission has been a major fail– oh, duh. Hey, are you part of the Clover Club?” She had been passing up an obvious source of local intelligence. Better late than never.

Thred shook his head. “I don’t have a special power.”

“Do you know if they’re behind shutting down dimensional travel for good?”

“I… kind of doubt that? Half their curriculum is rumoured to be about dimensional observations. Wait, someone’s shutting down travel?” He frowned. “Why am I even telling you all this stuff if you’re an invader?”

“I have a very trusting face,” Alice said, wiggling her eyebrows. “Besides, as I said, I’m more of a secretary.” She turned to peek out the door again. “Okay Thred, everyone’s going into that lab area. So either Marlin’s in there, or it’s a place he won’t be able to hear them plan, or it’s a place that needs protecting. Either way, we can make a dash for the… huh.”

“What now?” Thred said. He’d seemingly resigned himself to Alice’s whims, at least until he thought of his own plan. Which didn’t seem likely any time soon.

“Group of five. I think one’s Marlin. Passed their stealth check, they entered that big area right after the lab door closed. They’re headed that way.”

Thred came over to look for himself. His face brightened. “Sam!” Before Alice could stop him, Thred had hurried out the door and towards the other group.

“Plan K,” Alice muttered. She followed him out.

At least Thred had the sense to keep to the walls, which were more in shadow. He reached the group of five as the guy whom Alice judged to be their leader was saying something about checking the interrogation area.

“Hey Sam, Sue, you both come to rescue me?” Thred said, grinning ear to ear.

“Thred? Is that you?” said Sue. At least, Alice assumed the unknown female was Sue, as she’d met both Chartreuse and Para on their previous missions. “What’s going on?”

“We’re getting out of here,” Alice suggested.

“Except there’s, like, a dimensional rift in the other room that we’re on the hook for,” Chartreuse said. “We, you know, should fix that on the way out.”

“Related, Marlin here says there’s a plan to shut down dimensional travel,” Sam said. “And we need to get him home.”

“Yeah, Alice here said the same thing,” Thred agreed.

Alice sighed. “So, what, someone’ll need to make a motivational speech to Shay and his friends before we go?” she reflected, trying to spot the path of least resistance back to the Epsilon Station.

“Whatever we do, I don’t think it should be hanging around here talking,” Para said, wiggling two fingers in the air. “We need to act.”

Sam rubbed his forehead. “Okay, well, did you have a motivational speech in mind, Alice?”

WHAT’S NEXT?

Options:

VOTING CLOSES 7am EST MONDAY DEC 10th

Previous INDEX 5 Next

PATHS NOT TAKEN:
Storming in and making threats would have led to a standoff, probably broken by the Cat Woman. Talking to Usa would have revealed she’d already had suspicions, and they would have charged in with her, six on five. We got Alice though, and her plans, which may come to fruition soon.

EXTRA ASIDE:
I spent November doing NaNo, more or less. You may be pleased to know that “Time Untied” is now over 75,000 words, and the halfway point (aka end of Book 5 and start of Book 6) for that story is kind of in view. So there will definitely be something with Carrie, at some point… but 2019 will start with more reruns. Any preference for more Virga, versus Rose, versus something else?

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