CHANCED ERASURES: PART TWELVE
Chartreuse knew that their mission was now over. They had obtained not only information about the Academy, but retrieved Alice herself. Still, calling the Epsilon Station and requesting to be teleported out would be a problem with Sam and his friends there. They didn’t know Chartreuse wasn’t local, and were trying to handle a dimensional rift… which could be interfering with communications anyway.
“I’m not sure Alice should deliver a speech, to Shay or anyone else,” Thred remarked, adjusting the cowl of his borrowed robes. “She’s an invader from another dimension. Mentioned Para by name too.”
“Seriously?” Sue gasped. She turned towards Chartreuse, her eyes narrowing. “Ohhh. This is all making sense now. Alice is with you and Para, huh? That’s why you’re here. To get her.”
Chartreuse rubbed the back of her neck. So much for maintaining their cover. “Is it, like, too late to pretend to be from some rival school?”
Alice sighed. “Okay, let’s not exaggerate. Look at me. Not invading. If I were, I’d have at least brought a change of clothes.”
“Yeah, seriously, I don’t even want to come back to this dimension,” Marlin broke in.
“Well, regardless of their origins, someone needs to motivate Shay into switching sides,” Sam decided. “Because our Council seems to want to mess with travel between the dimensions. So, decide fast about whether that’s Alice or not, I don’t think we’ve much time before that group leave the lab and jail all of us.”
“I swear, I’ve got a plan,” Alice said. “If you trust me. Also, if you let me work with Marlin for a moment, because it looks like he has his wand back.”
“We have no reason to trust you,” Thred protested.
“Even so, we should let her do it,” Sue said. Off the stares she got from everyone else, she shrugged. “Look. If these people are here to do us harm, there were easier ways to go about it. They seem to want to close that rift, and I’m guessing they don’t want the dimensions to be shut down any more than we do.”
“Then you believe Alice, over your Council, as to what’s going on?” Para mused.
Sue paused, then nodded. “Things have felt off tonight. I’m prepared to give the benefit of the doubt. In the worst case, I’ll claim Chartreuse here had brainwashing crystals and I wasn’t in control of myself.”
Chartreuse flinched. “Are crystals like that a, you know, real thing?”
“Who knows,” Sue said. “In fact, quick word with you,” she added, moving a couple of paces away and motioning for Chartreuse to follow.
“Sweet. With Marlin’s help I’ll need less than a minute,” Alice said, as Chartreuse moved off. Thred muttered something under his breath as Sam reached out to console his friend, Para keeping an eye on the situation. Chartreuse turned to Sue.
“Okay, so, sorry for, like, not being totally honest,” Chartreuse began.
Sue waved her off. “As if you could be. In fact, I wanted to personally say I’m sorry for getting all up in your face. I realize now that you had no way of knowing this, not being from here, but Sam’s newsletter is in danger of being shut down.”
Chartreuse stared. “It is? Does he, like, know?”
“Doubt it. I only know because, as I said, my dad’s a janitor. They hear things. I was going to tell Sam after all this.” Sue glanced back towards her friend. “See, I figured, giving him an in to this group would provide a new direction for his life. Or maybe he’d find a way for his publication go out in a blaze of glory. Either way, it was something.”
“That’s nice of you,” Chartreuse said, offering a tentative smile.
Sue turned back to her. “Thanks. I guess in some sense, we’ve all been looking out for our own interests tonight. Time to pull together now, what do you say?”
Chartreuse bobbed her head. “I’m so totally good for that.”
Sue gave her a slight smile, then looked down at Chartreuse’s legs. “Neon red stockings,” she muttered. “I should’ve figured only a dimension hopper could wear such cute accessories and manage to get away with it.”
“You like?” Chartreuse asked, extending her leg.
Sue jerked her gaze back up, eyes widening, possibly unaware she’d spoken loudly enough to be heard. Before she could say anything though, Alice stepped up next to them, fiddling with some device on her shirt.
“Sue, Sam says you can make invisibility,” Alice remarked. “Want to stealth me in there? Or should I just jump in the door and say ‘Heeere’s Johnny’?”
Sue jumped on the change in subject. “I can’t help, my power doesn’t work very well when I’m both extending my personal field, and moving.”
“Want me to, like, act as a distraction first then?” Chartreuse asked. “They might not shoot me on sight, having never, you know, seen me before.”
“Too risky,” Alice mused. “But, okay, derivative idea, let’s have you put on that cloak-” she motioned to Thred “-and take me in. If I look subdued, Shay may want answers first, unconsciousness later.”
“Hold on. Why should we trust that you and your friend won’t grab a dimension device and run off?” Thred countered, having approached with the others.
“Because Para’s staying with you, and Chartreuse can pick up impressions of people, which might come in handy,” Alice countered easily.
“It’s fine, Thred, I can invisibly tag along, if I’m not extending the field,” Sue added. “I’ll make sure they’re keeping up their end of the bargain.”
Thred glanced to Sam, who simply nodded, and with a roll of his eyes up to the ceiling, he began to remove his robe.
“Remember that magic charge will only work once,” Marlin remarked. Alice simply gave him a thumbs up.
Soon after, Chartreuse headed for the lab door, with the Council robe obscuring both her face and build. Still, she felt her heart beating a bit faster. Alice kept her hands behind her back, as if she was being restrained.
“Hey! Look who I, like, found,” Chartreuse announced as she walked in. Inwardly, she winced; she’d hoped to keep her remarks brief enough to not have valley girl speech creep in.
Fortunately, Shay was too interested in Alice to remark on Chartreuse’s dialect. His eyes widened from where he was addressing the small group of scientists. “You? Again?!” he sputtered.
“Here’s the thing though,” Alice said, smiling. “Me and Marlin just want out, while you’ve got a dimensional rift creating cats or something in your reception room. So, how about we work together on a solution? In the end, I’m out of your hair, and people like your brother don’t get stuck off world.”
Shay pointed at her, and began striding across the room. “You are not going home.”
Alice gave up on the pretence of her arms being restrained. “Why not?”
Shay glared. “I’ve read the Council texts, I know how that played out in the past.”
“Enlighten me then,” Alice said, standing her ground. She gestured at one of the scientists. “Not to mention some of your friends here, who are looking confused. What happened in the past?”
“As if you don’t know. People stumbling in here from other dimensions, who either wanted to stay, or return to bring their friends,” Shay said. “Such immigration would be the ruin of our society. Dimensional people coming and stealing our jobs… people on technologically inferior planes have to stay in their own lane. You’re not bringing anyone else over, not on my watch!”
“Oh-kay,” Alice said slowly. Chartreuse saw the brunette woman’s eyebrow twitch. “And you figure shutting down travel helps things… how? Because my being stuck here seems like the last thing you’d want.”
“You’ll have company,” Shay growled. “All our ancestors had wanted to do was erase the memory of dimensional travellers before sending them back, but the big magic war had made mind manipulation illegal. We couldn’t send your type back. We couldn’t keep you either. We’ve had to store your kind, and we’re almost out of space.”
Chartreuse hadn’t expected the truth of the situation to be more chilling than her earlier thought of erasing memories, but there it was. Where were they storing dimensional travellers? Hopefully not the morgue.
“Right,” Alice said. “Three points then. You’re worried about jobs? If you shut down travel, lots of people connected to dimensional research will lose their jobs. Like these scientists here, for instance.”
“Ooh, she’s got a point there,” one of the researchers in the room mumbled to his friend.
“Also,” Alice continued, “if someone’s trying to escape a hell dimension, you really don’t think anyone in your society would be willing to show them some compassion for a change? That strikes me as unnecessarily cruel. Maybe adoption is even happening off the books, ever heard of witness protection, or non disclosure agreements?”
“They do have those agreements,” Chartreuse put in, remembering what Sue had said earlier.
Alice nodded. “Bringing me to my final point, why are you so sure everyone on Council’s been storing dimension people on slabs? I bet there’s more mind erasures going on than you’re being told about. I’ve seen the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Workforce”. I know how memory tampering can create cheap manual labour.”
Shay had stopped a couple of paces away from Alice, fuming at her. He now frowned, seemingly pondering the arguments she was making. Without touching him, Chartreuse had no chance of picking up an impression, so all she could do was hope that he’d see the light.
“No,” Shay said at last. “I resist your temptations. How could a dimensional visitor ever understand our situation? Go to sleep.”
He snapped his hands up, and a series of sparkles erupted from his palms. Chartreuse partly turned away from the glare.
“Lyrical reflection,” Alice said simply, pointing back at him.
With that, the sparkles bounced back towards Shay. And then they bounced off of him, and started to careen around the room.
“Look out,” came Sue’s voice from out of nowhere. The next thing Chartreuse knew, she was being pulled down onto the floor.
“He’s getting away,” Alice called out. There was the sound of running footsteps.
It took a moment, but once she got her bearings, Chartreuse was able to piece events together. Shay’s ‘sleep sparkles’ had somehow targeted everyone else around them. Only she and Sue were unaffected, from lying down on the floor. Alice was also unaffected, and had run to the door, through which Shay had presumably escaped.
All the other occupants of the room were unconscious.
“Agh, I’d better not chase him,” Alice muttered. “Marlin only juiced up this personal shield for a duration of a few seconds.” She adjusted the device on her shirt.
“Okay, well, at least you got him out of the room,” Sam remarked, as he walked in. He pointed to the technology at the back. “We can take the dimensional devices now. They’ll have to let us go, because they need them to shut off the rift.”
“There’s also that thing,” Sue remarked. As she stood back up, she flashed Chartreuse a quick smile, which was returned. “Under the sheet there. A took a quick peek while Alice was talking, I think it’s relevant to all this.”
“The device for shutting down dimensional travel?” Para deduced, the rest of the group having filed into the room after Sam.
“Going with a strong maybe,” Sue affirmed. She glanced at the sleeping scientists. “Pity there’s no one we can ask to be sure.”
“We also won’t be able to ask them how any of this stuff works,” Marlin groaned. “Please don’t tell me we’re screwed.”
“What do you think?” said a voice that Chartreuse recognized, but couldn’t immediately place.
Getting back onto her own feet, Chartreuse looked again towards the door. A woman in uniform stood there. Of course, that was Usa Staling, the head of security, who had interrogated Alice in the holo-recording, and then more recently brought Thred into the facility.
“Sensibly,” Alice chirped at the woman.
Thred sighed. “Am I about to be knocked out and interrogated again?”
Usa leaned back against the door frame, crossing her arms. “I’ll give your group this. When Shay Milds increases security even before the dimensional visits from an enigmatic brunette and a stupid old wizard, I have to wonder. When I later see Shay himself actually fleeing across the area away from the lab, I have to wonder even more. Now, your turn, give me a very good reason not to lock down this room.”
Sam stood a little straighter. “We have reason to believe there’s a conspiracy to shut down dimensional travel. Possibly using that device,” he added, pointing towards the sheet that Sue had mentioned. “Also, there’s a rift in the other room, which we can seal, under condition that we go free.”
Usa chewed on her lower lip. “You have my attention. Show me the device.”
VOTING CLOSES 7am EST MONDAY DEC 24th
PATHS NOT TAKEN:
If Shay had helped them, it would’ve been because Usa arrived with suspicions to back up their accounts, and Alice’s reflection plan would’ve only knocked out one or two guys. If Shay had been knocked out, it would have been because his defences were down on Alice’s rebound, and the Cat Woman (who does have a name, but I don’t think it’s come up yet) would have been their main antagonist. As it is, we got Shay escaping, and nobody left to interrogate.
I anticipate two more parts. That said, I didn’t anticipate it taking almost two full parts for Alice to boomerang Shay’s attack back at him (the vote for Alice’s idea at the end of part 10), so things can still change. Incidentally, thoughts on what the device looks like?