CHANCED ERASURES: PART FOUR
Alice Vunderlande knew an interrogation room when she saw one. And this was not an interrogation room. In fact, it looked a lot more like a medical room. Was that good? Alice nibbled on her lower lip – the former head of the Epsilon Station decided that the fact that she seemed to have been strapped into a chair implied that this was bad.
Having somehow realized that Alice had regained consciousness, a woman stepped into her field of view. The curves of the uniform she had on implied she was a woman, at any rate, her face was somewhat obscured by sunglasses and a shawl. Was she local security? She carried with her a clipboard, sitting down at the desk which Alice was facing. “Your name, for the record,” the woman said in a bored tone.
“Alison Vunderlande, but I go by Alice,” came the answer, before Alice really had a chance to think about it. A hint of a frown played about her features – she felt like she’d been compelled to speak there. Had she been drugged? “And what’s your name?” Alice added as a follow-up. So she could still speak freely, nice.
“None of your business,” the woman answered, still looking at her clipboard.
“Okay, I’ll call you Salt, as in Salt-n-Pepa,” Alice chirped in response.
The woman didn’t react, implying that either the singing group hadn’t recorded the ‘business’ song in this reality, or that Salt here wasn’t a fan of their music. Well, Alice was doubly pleased to learn that she could still free associate, that was useful. People often had trouble following her train of thought, so if this was about to be an interrogation… Alice let her mind drift.
Having written something on her clipboard, Salt looked back up. “Okay, Alice. Who sent you to this reality?”
“No, Who’s on first,” Alice chirped back. Again, it had happened before she’d had a chance to think, but here the ‘truthful’ answer had been on her terms.
The woman seemingly stared for a moment, from behind her sunglasses. “Pardon?”
“Oh, nice. If you’re granting me a pardon, I’m absolved of guilt. Can I leave?” Alice smiled hopefully.
“No,” Salt said, a hint of annoyance creeping into her voice. “Alice, tell me about your mission.”
“Oh, my mission’s impossible,” Alice asserted. “I’m like Tom Cruise, but better looking.”
Salt shifted her gaze to stare at someone behind Alice. “You gave her the treatment, right?” The unseen person out of Alice’s view must have made some sort of gesture in response, because Salt looked back down at her clipboard, and then back up. “I suppose Alice has been trained in resistance techniques. This a battle of wits, is it, Alice?”
Alice had no idea what resistance techniques that Salt was alluding to, and strapped into the chair as she was, she couldn’t turn around to look at Pepa. So she simply smiled back, saying “Wit’s up, Doc,” before she could stop herself.
“Mmmm. At least I understood that reference,” Salt said, setting her clipboard aside on the desk.
“Oooh, Captain America,” Alice murmured. She recognized the quote.
Salt slightly pulled down her sunglasses. “Does your world have an America then?”
Alice nodded. “Both North and South.” She wondered about bringing up Australia or Antarctica.
“Really…” Salt leaned back. “How did your civil war end?”
“Captain America had it out with Iron Man.” The movie had been okay.
“Atomic number twenty-six,” Alice asserted. The second most common metal, at least for most dimensional Earths that she was aware of… she managed to avoid saying that.
“No, stop, who is Iron Man?”
“No, Who’s on first,” Alice said, pleased for the chance to reuse the phrase.
Someone cleared their throat. “You’re losing the thread here,” came a male voice (Pepa?) from somewhere behind her.
“Yes, thank you, I’m aware,” Salt snapped back. She pressed her fingers to her forehead, glanced again at her clipboard, and then resumed staring at Alice. “Are you acting alone?”
“Oh, I can’t be acting, I never saw the script,” Alice protested. She wasn’t that much like Tom Cruise, surely.
Salt grit her teeth. “Alice, is your world trying to steal our technology?”
“It’s in a hell dimension, so I doubt it.” Alice held back a sigh – she hadn’t really been able to tangent away from that part of her past. But Salt probably lacked context.
“Hm, so it was that sort of dimension… how did you get here, Alice?”
Alice made an effort to shrug. “Oh, well, I assume you brought me here.”
“You mean we pulled you into this dimension?”
“No, I meant you brought me in this room.”
“I didn’t mean the room, I meant how did you get to our dimension.”
“Carefully?” Salt hadn’t quite asked a question that time, which was why Alice felt like her non-answer was reasonable. Care had certainly been required.
Salt snickered back. “Not carefully enough.”
“We were a few emotions short of a full care bear stare,” Alice yielded. Great her free association was working again – those animated bears did care fully.
Salt straightened. “Wait, you know emotional magic?”
“Oh, I was never THAT invested in Magic: The Gathering,” Alice said dismissively. It was hard to get into a multi-player card game when you mostly spent time by yourself. Wow, rambling thoughts were easier when she had only a vague idea of what Salt was talking about anyway.
Salt seemed to grit her teeth. “Alice, is your world magic based, or technological?”
“Yes,” Alice hedged, given the ambiguity.
Salt leaned forwards. “It’s both?”
Alice frowned. “No, I think ‘Both’ is a Drake song.” Or maybe Drake was featured on the song? She honestly wasn’t sure.
“That’s a…” Salt pulled off her sunglasses. “Damn it Alice, WHAT is your DEAL?”
“Three green mana, a blue-eyes white dragon, and the jack of spades,” Alice fired back quickly. “Do I win?”
“No.” Salt leaned back again, crossing her arms and staring.
“She seems to have won so far,” came a mutter of the male Alice had dubbed ‘Pepa’ from behind.
“Shut it,” Salt snapped. “Let’s try this. Alice, tell me about your home.”
“It’s between my lungs, above my diaphragm.”
Salt stared. “…the hell?”
“Also an apt description of my home, a hell dimension, we discussed this earlier,” Alice agreed.
“She means home is where the heart is,” Pepa snickered.
“Look, are you going to help, or laugh at me?” Salt shot back at her partner.
“You said you had this,” Pepa remarked. “As long as she’d been treated.”
“Treated?” Alice gasped. “I think I was tricked. Is it October 31st?”
Salt slid her palm down her face, dislodging her sunglasses. “Listen, Alice,” she began anew. “Either you answer my questions, and probably get a simple memory wipe and a zap back to your own dimension, or you go with HIM,” – she gestured back towards the unseen Pepa – “back to the Council, and you are potentially never heard from again. Now, which will it be?”
Alice licked her lips. On the one hand, that was daunting, on the other, she really couldn’t let talk of Epsilon slip out. And who was this Council? Maybe she needed to know more about that. “I thought I was answering your questions,” she managed to say.
“Answer my questions SENSIBLY,” Salt clarified.
“Sensibly,” Alice repeated, swallowing.
Salt nodded. “Now, what was your mission to this school all about?”
“Sensibly.” It was the only answer Salt had seemed to want, right?
Salt seemed like she wanted to punch something. “Oh, you are good.”
“And you haven’t even seen me in the bedroom yet,” Alice said, stifling a giggle. There hadn’t hadn’t been a question there, after all, so she could speak freely. Though she did start to wonder if she was getting delirious.
Salt clenched her fist. “Good grief, Alice, how can you still be such a pain?!”
“Sensibly.” That had been a question.
Salt threw the sunglasses she was holding onto her clipboard and stood back up. “Fine. I give up. You win. Shay, take her away and do whatever you like.”
Pepa – or rather, Shay – stepped slowly into view as Salt stalked off. He was a dark skinned man with a moustache, also wearing shades. His clothing implied that he was a doctor of some sort, but for all Alice knew, that was a disguise to get him in the room.
“So you can handle a mental battle,” Shay remarked. “What about a magical one?”
Alice cleared her throat. “Vunderlande power, make up! Let’s play, pretty cure modulation! Raising Heart, onegai!” she fired off. Nothing happened. She hadn’t really expected any of those to work, but when in travelling in another dimension, you never knew.
“Mmm hmmm,” Shay concluded. He snapped his hands up. A series of sparkles erupted from his palms. The light was intense enough that Alice tried to turn her head, closing her eyes – only to find that she couldn’t open her eyes again. Moments later, she slumped back in the chair, unconscious.
That’s when the holo-recording turned off.
Para didn’t speak at first. She knew she needed a way to ask questions about the video (holo?) content they’d just witnessed, ones which didn’t reveal that she had no idea of the answers. After all, both she and Chartreuse were supposedly familiar with the school. Yet what had all that been about?
Sam spoke first. “Okay,” he mused. “Apparently the incident a couple days ago might have been a bigger deal than I thought. Was that Alice girl caught by Usa? And who was this Council she referred to, why wasn’t Usa at the top of the chain of command here?”
“Usa?” Chartreuse said, canting her head.
Sam turned to her. “Usa Staling, head of security?”
“Ohh, that Usa,” Chartreuse said, bobbing her head.
Apparently that had been the name of Alice’s interrogator. Para was tempted to ask why this school needed such a high level of security, but maybe it was related to the multiverse work of the “gifties”. She opted to take the conversation a different direction.
“I didn’t recognize the last guy, that Shay,” Para stated. Which was a bit of a gamble, but based on what Sam had said…
“Yeah, me neither,” Sam admitted. He shook his head. “Anyway, I’m going to get a copy of this, it could be a massive scoop…” He pulled a device out of his pocket and plugged it into the base of the disc.
“Are you done there then?” Thred asked, taking a step closer and jerking his thumb towards a corner of the room. “Because you might want to take a look at this next.”
The something that had caught the attention of Sam’s friend turned out to be on the far side of one of the security filing cabinets. When Para went to check it out, she saw that someone had engraved things there, much like on the wall of the Clover Club. And again, it was a symbol, the letter “E”, and a room number. Notably, it was hard to see unless you were peering into the corner at just the right angle.
“That’s the room number for…” Para paused, as if trying to recall.
“Yup, the infirmary,” Thred supplied. “Same place where that holo-recording was playing out.”
“Which is interesting,” Sue broke in, having turned from her scan of the video monitors. “Because I can’t seem to pull up anything from said infirmary. There’s interference. Weird, huh?”
“Our next stop is totally the infirmary then,” Chartreuse concluded.
Sue rolled her eyes. “Joy. Granted, we only have about five minutes before someone comes here for a systems check. So whatever our destination? We should get a move on.”
Sam put down the holo-disc as he uncoupled his device, glancing towards the filing cabinets with a sigh. “Agh, I really wanted to have time to go through those… but okay, it sounds like this story continues where the doctors hang out. I’m game if the rest of you are?”
“Lead on, great one,” Thred said, gesturing towards the door with a bit of a bow. Sue simply shrugged, while Chartreuse and Para simply nodded.
As the three students filed out, Para took a moment to exchange a glance with Chartreuse. For the moment, it seemed like their hunt for clues about Alice was aligning with the hunt that Sam and the others were on for conspiracies in the school – yet what were they to do if the two groups found themselves at cross-purposes?
VOTING CLOSES 7am EDT MONDAY AUG 27th
PATHS NOT TAKEN:
I’d had the prior Alice poll in mind since the start. On the face of it, a physical battle would have resulted in a tie (maybe she’d be left in a cell), whereas Alice could win a mental battle (maybe get away) and would lose a magical battle (having no magic). With both the last chosen (tie vote), I effectively chose to show mental – but she still lost in the end. There was also some behind the scenes maneuvering for who was involved in taking Alice in those decisions (the Council), but we’ll see more on that later. Please do spread the word about the serial, the votes are close. Thanks for reading.