SMOKE WITH MIRRORS: PART ELEVEN
“Stop right there.”
Beam froze in place. The police officer had reached for the stick she had on her belt. “I’m stopped,” Beam said, adding, “I wasn’t about to jump on you and smother you with kisses, pyon pyon.”
The police officer walked closer, her hand still on the end of the baton. “That’s good,” she said, voice slightly muffled by her mask. “Why were you approaching my position in the first place?”
Beam took in a deep breath. “Here’s the thing. There’s been suspicious activity in the park. I was hoping you could help me look into it, pyon pyon.”
When a transparent lie was likely of no use, best to tell the truth. To a degree. After all, they merely needed the police officer to go elsewhere, so that Para could set up the final pylon undisturbed.
The officer stopped about four metres away, sizing Beam up. Beam could now read the label on her uniform, identifying her as Officer Mikoto.
“The park is closed,” Mikoto reminded. “What activity do you mean?”
“Drones,” Beam answered. “Possibly magic as well, pyon pyon. I was just walking through, and well, it’s something that I definitely shouldn’t handle by myself.”
Mikoto frowned. “Wait. I think I’ve seen you around here before, haven’t I? A couple weeks back, before you, uh, caught the virus?”
Beam bobbed her head eagerly, clasping her hands. “Yes! My name’s Beam. I was away doing self-quarantine. Now that I’m not contagious, I’m back investigating, pyon pyon. It’s partly why I think there’s something going on here. Can you help me out? Mikoto, I’m so, euh, so worried.”
Beam cleared her throat, glad she had managed to catch herself before saying she was so aroused. Mikoto really was very pretty – even given that Beam’s definition of such had loosened considerably since the virus. The officer had short, dark hair, intense brown eyes, moderate curves and looked good in her uniform.
“Officer Mikoto,” the woman corrected, even as her stance relaxed, her hand moving away from her baton. Apparently recognizing Beam from earlier had added further credibility to the story. And although Beam had protested it less than an hour ago, perhaps wearing the large overcoat while on this mission, to cover her swimsuit, had been a good plan too.
“Okay,” Mikoto granted. “Okay, Beam. Can you show me what you saw safely, without us being detected? Or for that matter, without us being closer than two metres apart? No offence.”
Beam smiled. “None taken. And I think so. Follow after me? We’ll go in the same way I did.”
She walked off, looking back over her shoulder to verify that the officer was following. Behind Mikoto, she then saw Para poking her head out from around the corner and applauding.
Feeling her cheeks going pink, Beam quickly brought her gaze forwards again.
She quickly led Officer Mikoto around and into the park, trying to keep an eye out for drones or other activity… surely there would be something here, right? As whomever it was who had Alice and Trixie, they’d probably want to be doing surveillance for others… particularly if the Epsilon Team had tried some sort of bluff, about calling police. It was why Beam and Para hadn’t planned on going into the area at all.
Beam stopped a short distance away from the bench she’d formerly used as a place to sit and think. She again looked back at Mikoto, and gestured towards it. “It was over there, pyon pyon,” she said, mildly annoyed at not having seen anything specific yet.
Mikoto peered towards the trees and bushes where Beam had gestured. Beam wondered how long it would take Para to set up the last point of their triangle, working all by herself. Likely not that long? She might be done already.
“I’m not seeing anything now,” Officer Mikoto said, starting to peer around suspiciously in all directions. Her hand was back at her baton. “Are you certain it was a drone, Beam? Not some sort of animal?”
Beam nodded her head. “Oh, yes. At least, I’m sure it wasn’t an animal.”
“Hmmm,” came the uncertain reply. “And you said something about magic too? What exactly gave you the idea that it was operating?”
As if in answer, a purple beam of light shot through the area some distance behind them in the park. It was followed by another, and another, on the exact same bearing.
Mikoto’s baton was immediately in her hand, as she crouched. “Holy…”
‘That’s our triangulation!’ Beam realized. Para must have set up the last pylon… but was there a reason they were activating the field now? Was Para in some sort of trouble? She had to get back to the mathematical blonde.
“Yes, so, I think we should leave now,” Beam said, all in a rush. “Get going before something bad happens here that puts us both in–”
Everything went white. And then Beam found herself standing in the small set of rooms that Epsilon had sealed off as quarantine. She knew them all too well after her recent time spent there.
“–danger,” she finished.
Beam barely had enough time to register that standing around her there was Para, Alice, Trixie, some guy in a lab coat, and Officer Mikoto. Then the lights went out, dropping them all into pitch blackness.
She heard a door open, but no light accompanied it.
“Ziggy,” came the voice of Alijda van Vliet. “Lights on? Please?”
“It’s as I told you when you insisted on the activation,” came the calm female voice of the station computer. “Some systems are going to blow out.”
“The LIGHTS? Really?”
“There is a reason we do not do wide area teleportations as a matter of routine,” Ziggy said, with a hint of petulance. “Particularly when a scattering field is involved. Be glad that the lighting circuit is separate from the door locks.”
“Great. Fate’s body is still contained?” Alijda pressed.
“Naturally, as is the seal on your quarantine,” Ziggy answered.
“Lovely,” said an unknown male voice, which could only be the individual Beam had seen in the lab coat. “Though I had better be locked up too, since as I recall this mental effect has a randomized time-out.”
“Okay,” Officer Mikoto put in. “Well, before you time out or whatever, someone had better explain what in the hell is going on.”
Beam’s eyes had already adjusted to the darkness by now; she suspected that the only reason there had been a delay was the elements of her programming that made her seem more human. As such, she could see that Mikoto had taken up a defensive pose, and was edging backwards.
“Careful Mikoto, you’re going to trip over an ottoman, pyon pyon,” she warned. The police officer was heading for the comfy part of the room.
“Officer Mikoto,” the policewoman corrected, though she also froze in place. “And again, barring an explanation, everyone here is under arrest. For, at minimum, abduction.”
“I feel like this would be a good time for me to apologize again,” Alice remarked. “Fate, if I’d known it was you trying to get into my head, I wouldn’t have rejected it. I thought it was him doing something.”
“Yes, well, if I’d known the attempt would jump me to the nearest person on a rejection, I never would have enacted this plan myself,” the strange man said, crossing his arms.
Para cleared her throat. “Maybe I’m partly to blame for this new situation? Alijda just told me to get in the field, that we needed to break through with a teleport before the scattering elements took hold again.”
“Ugh, all I know is that none of this is MY fault,” Trixie asserted. “Though I am in awe of how randomly you people operate. I’ve half a mind to simply transfer the rest of the files Rixi has over to your Ziggy, and then leave your group before something more terrible happens.”
“I hope the other half of your mind wants to talk to me before that,” Alijda remarked. “Very curious about that whole tech-magic blend thing, and we have yet to properly chat.”
“There is that,” Trixie yielded.
“We would also appreciate your input in putting the pieces together, Trixie,” the man in the lab coat added. “You are good at your job.”
Trixie sighed. “And I’m not immune to flattery. But unless I miss my guess, all of us are both in quarantine and under arrest anyway? Soooo…”
“Yes. Arrest. This hasn’t been much by way of an explanation,” Mikoto said, sternly.
“If I might?” Beam said. People turned to look in her direction. Beam hoped that everyone else was starting to see in the darkness, and weren’t merely homing in on her voice.
“Go ahead,” Alice chirped in encouragement.
“On account of my situation, I can leave quarantine, pyon pyon,” Beam said. “Which means I can fix things like putting on the lights. I can even interrogate whomever’s in Fate’s body. Moreover, if I’m forced to stay in here instead, I may find myself hitting on Trixie soon, in part due to her tight leather pants. Pyon pyon.”
“She makes a strong case,” Trixie said dryly. “Anyone against?”
“Possibly,” Mikoto insisted. “I still don’t–”
“Look, we’re sorry you’re here, but you don’t want lights? Really?” Alijda interrupted.
Mikoto sighed. “Fine. But no one here try anything funny.”
Beam hurried for the exit before anyone could change their mind. Ziggy unlocked the acrylic barrier at her touch.
It had been an hour. Beam had decided to stall the others in quarantine, leaving them in the dark, once she’d learned that Trixie had resumed transferring the files from her device.
After all, it had not escaped Beam that she was technically in command for however long Fate was out of commission. Not to mention how Fate had been looking into relinquishing control of the station in any event. Bunny infection or not, Beam knew she had to step up here.
Particularly in light of what was turning up in the files.
“Ziggy?” Beam said, leaning in against the console. “Is there any other explanation here aside from them making a dimensional doorway, pyon pyon?”
“None. Vortex Limited made a dimensional doorway,” Ziggy agreed. “With the common sense to restrict it using decontamination chambers. Trixie must have been correct in her assumption, this is how the pandemic spread between Earths.”
Beam drummed her fingers. “Okay. So. Vortex gets a bunch of magic from the mysterious Clover Enterprises after trading their tech. In particular giving them things like the scattering field, which even we cannot punch through, pyon pyon. They use the new magic to, among other things, set up this underground bunker. From there, they punch a hole through to Tech World.”
“All before the pandemic,” Ziggy remarked. “And technically outside our policing, as Earths in the multiverse can do their own dimensional investigating.”
“Except for how Clover Enterprises was involved,” Beam pointed out.
“That’s why I said ‘technically’.” Ziggy’s petulant tone was back.
Beam rolled her eyes. “Anyway, Smoke soon becomes a thing due to the tech-magic-dimensional soup, and very soon after, Tech World catches a novel version. The virus must have made it through more conventional quarantine procedures, which have since been upgraded, pyon pyon.”
“Logical. This also explains how you were able to be infected,” Ziggy remarked. “Both sides were working on a computer simulation of the effects in the aftermath.”
“But that stopped a few weeks ago,” Beam continued, pointing at a date. “When Tech World cut off the link, leaving Bunny World to it’s own viral analyses. We know from our scans that Tech could then use the pandemic as cover to purge information, pyon pyon. Likely details about any dealings with other worlds, including Bunny World, the one Alijda went to, and more.”
“Another logical assumption. A world with teleporters would have had the capability to extend on the dimensional technology too, after all.”
“Loverly.” Beam hooked some hair behind her ear. “Still, two things these files don’t answer.”
“Only two?” Ziggy mused.
Beam ignored the remark. “First, why one Vortex scientist was left working on all this down there in his secret lab, alone, pyon pyon. I mean, why not a whole team?”
“I would hypothesize that Vortex Limited does not want their dimensional dealings or their part in the pandemic to go public,” Ziggy remarked. “Don’t forget, over time Smoke clears and people return to normal.”
“Except there might be side effects. And don’t enough people know about this, such that it would get out in the end?” Beam wondered. “It’s better press to say you’re working on a fix, pyon pyon. And second, while it makes sense that one of these planets would seek help by sending a dimensional message, I don’t see how we managed to be the ones to receive an encrypted communication from them. If they were the origin. A fluke?”
“I have no answer for you,” Ziggy stated, not pleased by the admission. “Though we could now apply some of the techniques in these files to attempt a better trace.”
Beam pushed away from the console to pace. Given this new intel, what was her next step? Well, probably to restore the lighting to the quarantine room, and get some help from her friends. But even then, what should she be proposing to them?
VOTING CLOSES SUNDAY OCTOBER 11th (probably).
PATHS NOT TAKEN:
Beam would have also succeeded in the path where Alijda physically subdues Fate’s body. With the team still in the lab, they would have had Fate pose as the lead scientist; of course, Alijda would have broken quarantine with possible repercussions. Conversely, Beam would not have succeeded if we got Alice’s mind into Fate. It would also have meant the scientist was in Alice and Fate was still in him… but Trixie would have knocked everyone out. Leaving Alijda (and Alice’s mind) to hack, and possibly Para to get Beam out of jail. Of course, we got the everyone back on board angle, as seen.
Closed the vote on Oct 1st as promised, most writing done on Oct 3rd. At what point do I give up on more readers? At least we avoided another tie. Whoever you are, thanks for reading through to this point. Hope you’re enjoying.