SMOKE WITH MIRRORS: PART FIFTEEN
The redheaded techno-witch heard her name, but took a moment to finish her installation of the transmitter underneath the control panel. Then, after she’d finished twisting the small wires together, she took a moment to inspect her handiwork. It was good enough.
“Trixie, the other women are looking for you.”
A sigh escaped. Trixie began to shove herself back from her position, flat on her back with most of her body stuck far underneath the console. “What do they want, Para?” she asked.
“Fate wants to be able to synthesize some clothes for Alijda,” came Para’s voice. “And Beam is feeling horny.”
Trixie nearly bashed her forehead against the edge of the apparatus as she extracted herself. She caught herself just in time, shoved herself the extra distance necessary, and THEN lifted her head, staring up at the mathematical bunny girl.
Para stood there, hands clasped behind her back, looking as innocent as you please. The blonde’s head tilted as Trixie stared. “Problem?”
Trixie sighed again. She’d needed to work with Para, on account of the mathematical woman knowing about making things shrink or grow temporarily. Apparently Para had even managed to devise density suits for another mission.
And on the face of it, there was nothing wrong about working with Para. As long as it’s work that was involved. Since Para couldn’t consistently pick up on social norms.
“Could we maybe use a euphemism for that word next time?” Trixie requested.
Para frowned. “For horny? I was just repeating what Beam said.”
“I know,” Trixie assured. “But find a thesaurus. Squirrelly. Overexcited. Concupiscent, perhaps, that sounds well educated.”
Para stared, then simply nodded. “Okay.”
“It’s less distracting,” Trixie clarified. “Particularly when I’ll need only five minutes here to get Fate what she wants, before in all probability losing at least an hour of time to…” A shiver ran up her back at the mere thought of some of the things the bunny-infected Beam was able to do. “…pleasurable stuff.”
Para half smiled at that. “Okay, I think I get it now.”
Trixie stood, raking her fingers back through her twintails before reaching down to dust off her pants. “You think. You’re not sure.”
There was a moment of hesitation. “I’m more mathematical than sexual. Part of me is still trying to figure out Beam’s appeal.”
Trixie hid a smile. “Maybe you’ll find out out the hard way. If I mistake you for her in the dark some day, on account of the long, blonde hair and bunny ears.”
“Uh… i-is that likely?” Para said, sounding genuinely concerned.
Trixie shook her head. “Nope!” She reached out to pat the math woman on her arm.
“Listen. It’s not just the look, Para. It’s the attitude, and the things that Beam can do…” Trixie shook her head. “You have to experience them to understand. The way I did. It’s more than mere holographic programming. It’s somehow magical.”
This despite how the fling with Beam had started as more of an effort in self-discovery. Was sex a viable way to release tension after being stuck on this station for a couple weeks? Was the hologram’s appeal more physical, more technological, or perhaps some pull of Trixie’s techno-magic interest asserting itself?
Worse, was there a blind spot in Trixie’s own personality that Beam could reveal, to prevent future exploitation?
Their relationship had deteriorated rather rapidly into ‘yes-there-YES-oh-Gods-how-did-you-know-oh-OH’ but Trixie still hazarded that a later examination of this affair once she was back on her home world would prove illuminating. She was pretty sure she wasn’t simply fooling herself.
Plus she’d thought their recreational activities had helped Beam regain more control over herself too, furthering the goal of getting home at all. It was presumably the hologram’s hyper speed, necessary for seeking a cure to the pandemic, which had resulted in new side effects.
Trixie rather hoped Beam’s plans for her didn’t involve hyper speed too.
“I’ll take your word for it,” Para said, pulling Trixie out of her thoughts. “And sorry for being distracting.”
Trixie coughed, realizing she was now staring into space with her hands clasped together. She hoped she wasn’t blushing. Yes, time to get the rest of the Station back online.
“It’s fine,” Trixie said, gesturing vaguely as she turned and typed in her access code on the nearby keyboard. “What’s Alijda need new clothes for anyway?”
“Apparently there’s some double of her, or maybe a future version, down on the Fantasy planet,” Para explained. “So Alijda is going to pose as this Alijdah to get information about Clover Enterprises.”
Trixie frowned. That was distracting in a different way. “Here’s something I’ve wondered,” she said as she typed. “This Station exists out in a dimensional multiverse, right?”
“Right,” Para agreed.
“Where anything we dream about might actually be happening. Personified Math, Time Lords, Magical Girls, Demon Plagues, the whole nine yards. It might all exist.”
“So it seems,” Para affirmed when Trixie paused.
Trixie took the time to look up at Para. “Then are there other versions of us running around? Like is there another me out there, Mirror Universe style, who comes from a more aggressive human society or something?”
On the one hand, Trixie rather liked the idea that if she were to die – or for that matter, ascend like her cousin – there might be some other version of her still out there. Living a full life. On the other hand, if alt-Trixie was a wallflower or a dominatrix, she wasn’t sure she wanted the association.
Para’s nose crinkled as she considered the question. Trixie resumed her typing.
“I don’t think so,” Para said, after at least a minute of thought. “From what I understand, the Station registers dimensional access points using a tethered World which is dominant. The millions of individual decisions made in the framework of said world don’t manifest in an accessible way.”
“Yet there are separate Worlds out there with related events and objects. I’ve seen resonance scans, which can be used for pinpointing them,” Trixie insisted.
Trixie wasn’t entirely sure she was supposed to have seen that data, but she’d needed a break from her work last week and the files had not been well encrypted.
“That’s possible,” Para yielded. “But there’s still the Observer Effect to contend with.”
“Ah!” Valid point. “You mean as soon as we measure something out here, like the Smoke pandemic, any other waveform versions of it collapse,” Trixie clarified. That made some sense, at least.
“It seems logical,” Para stated.
Trixie paused in her typing. “Implying that any other versions of us who once existed are simply already a part of who we are now, or are at the least not capable of manifesting along with us inter-dimensionally.”
It was an answer that was something of a non-answer, in that it implied other Trixies COULD exist, but were incapable of being perceived by anyone once Trixie herself had shown up.
“Right. Though, I mean, there’s another version of me who exists with parabolic twintails, so what do I know,” Para said, ruefully.
Trixie again glanced at the blonde. “Oh? A ‘version’ isn’t really you though, is she? Different history and all?”
“True,” Para said. She tapped her chin. “Why these sudden questions, Trixie? Do you think Alijda could be going up against a quantum version of herself?”
“What I think about that,” Trixie said, as she entered the last command sequence, “Is merely an idle curiosity. What concerns me more is what else might be out there.”
As Trixie hit Enter and stepped back from the keyboard, she took a moment to watch the data scroll across the monitor. Her new system was coming online, along with the regular Station systems she’d temporarily shut down. She’d want to run a test, but could do it later.
“Go tell Fate she has access to the systems she needs,” Trixie concluded. “I’m off to see Beam.”
“Okay. Enjoy being concupiscent,” Para said brightly.
Trixie managed to avoid stumbling as she strode out of the room.
Alijda had to hand it to her counterpart. Her Clover Enterprises version was cagey.
Despite spending a couple of hours now in her disguise, there was no new information to be had. Even talking with those individuals who had previously communicated with her/Alijdah didn’t reveal anything, because her doppelgänger hadn’t said much to them in the first place.
To maximize their efforts, as it had taken some time for Alijda to obtain a change of clothing and begin her investigation, Alice had also wandered through the village under her Avril persona. To see if she could learn more about being recruited.
Neither of them were making progress. One person had even pointed Alice/Avril at Alijda/Alijdah, which felt like backwards progress.
“At what point do we switch and go with the vaccine trial plan?” Alijda asked, speaking into her communicator.
She heard the frustration in Alice’s response. “An hour ago? Sorry Alijda, I guess this was the wrong call.”
Alijda shook her head, nearly dislodging the large hat she wore, for what felt like the sixtieth time. “No worries. As it is, I’ve been acting visibly shady. So maybe the possible recruits will be turned off, and not end up as new Clover victims.”
“But getting at the Clover organization was the ultimate goal here! We cannot allow–” Alice began, only to cut herself off. She sighed. “I should stop obsessing there, huh?”
“At some point, yes. For now, I’ll keep at this, as I haven’t run into that Jonas recruit yet, and he might know…” She stopped.
And whatever Alice might have responded, Alijda missed it, as her attention had been taken by the woman who had walked around the nearby house. That brunette was immediately staring at her, arms folded.
It was nonsensical, but Alijda briefly wondered if she’d been born a twin.
“I’ll have to get back to you,” Alijda said, lowering the communicator.
“Let me guess,” Evil Alijdah said. “You’re wondering if I might be some future version of yourself. If so, you’d be immune from harm, lest I become the cause of my own past discomfort. Yes?”
Alijda didn’t answer.
The corners of her counterpart’s mouth turned up. “Allow me to correct your thinking.”
It was largely instinct that caused Alijda to teleport away as her counterpart brought out the weapon. It looked to be some sort of ray gun.
As Alijda reappeared behind her double, she saw that Evil Alijdah had fired anyway, a laser passing through the purple cloud of her teleport smoke to strike the nearby building.
A small fire began to burn.
Evil Alijdah was then quick to pick up on Alijda’s new position. “It seems like we can’t talk about this?” Alijda managed to say, before teleporting away again.
She appeared on the roof. Her counterpart’s gun started another fire.
This wasn’t what Alijda had pictured when she’d worried about everything going sideways. And even as she wondered why Evil Alijdah was damaging the village, she realized that her counterpart could later pin the blame back on HER as having been the one with the gun.
Maybe even use this event as a reason to leave with her recruits.
“I can do this all day,” Evil Alijdah shouted, not having immediately spotted the teleport this time. She then fired into a nearby tree, perhaps owing to a rustling of the branches.
Okay, that gun had to go.
Taking in a deep breath, Alijda teleported right next to her counterpart, reaching out to grab her arm. They struggled, Alijda attempting to get the other woman to drop her weapon, with Evil Alijdah trying to draw a bead on her.
In the process of shoving back and forth, Alijda felt her hat fall to the ground… and vaguely wondered why that hadn’t happened yet for her counterpart. In fact, why the large hat at all?
Along that line of thinking, perhaps she was fighting a robot double, or a hologram. Perhaps with a power source contained inside the hat, much like how Beam’s hairband was a control point for her. Maybe it was even a weak point?
Alijda decided to risk it. Giving up on the gun, which threw her counterpart off balance, she grasped the hat and yanked it away.
Two bunny ears unfurled from beneath it, twitching as Evil Alijdah let out a string of curses.
It looked like somehow, she’d been infected with the pandemic from Bunny World.
‘This changes things,’ Alijda thought, even as she quickly teleported back to her rooftop. But Evil Alijdah saw her this time, necessitating another teleport to behind the house.
A new plan was forming. Perhaps they could try to bargain with Evil Alijdah, using their vaccine? They could cure her, in exchange for leaving this World (maybe even the multiverse) alone.
Then again, the bunny effects WOULD disappear in time (supposedly), and her counterpart didn’t seem to be in a bargaining mood. Success there depended on how annoying the virus had become.
Alternatively, they could try to capture Evil Alijdah. Her double hadn’t teleported herself in pursuit. Perhaps because she couldn’t? The circumstances which had led to Alijda’s power were bizarre enough to be impossible to duplicate.
So Alice could come in from behind, and zap the woman somehow… but perhaps Evil Alijdah had other forms of backup. How big was Clover Enterprises?
A fake-out seemed like the only other option, somehow appearing to die – maybe by have a building collapse on her? – after which Alice could pursue Evil Alijdah when she left. Hopefully returning to wherever she’d come from.
Which was all well and good, assuming Evil Alijdah wasn’t inclined to search for a body.
Whatever the decision, Alijda had to make it fast.
VOTING CLOSES MONDAY FEBRUARY 22nd.
PATHS NOT TAKEN:
The tied vote was artificial (see Aside below) so we got violence escalating between the two Alijdas. Had Alice posed as Avril, she would have been a little over eager, possibly falling into a trap (and a reveal we’ll still get later)… I still gave a nod to that, of sorts. Had they attempted to recruit for the vaccine, there would have been a reveal that they were playing into Clover’s hands (given Alijdah’s condition), but with the chance of a reversal.
As usual, we had the one initial vote when the last post went up. Towards the end of January I made another social media call, and got a couple more… including a message that someone had meant to vote for Alijda and had voted for Alice. I can’t take back votes, but CAN vote myself (though I never do) so I voted for Alijda. Meaning the vote SHOULD be 2-1-1 but is instead 2-2-1, hence paying some lip service to Alice/Avril. Closed the vote Feb 5th but was still tied up in report cards, so only started writing Feb 13th. I do have more time to write for the moment, so we’re returning to posts every two weeks until mid-April. Thank you for getting this far!