6.18: Over Clover

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“I will start to listen.” Alijdah cleared her throat. “That said, you mentioned negotiation. Not capitulation. Talking is hard when staring down the barrel of a gun.”

“I only remove the gun if you return our people now,” Trixie asserted.

Alijdah frowned, then again looked at something out of their field of view and nodded. She turned back. “I’ll bring them over in a shuttle. I’d prefer to talk to you face to face.”

Beam’s nose twitched before she also nodded. “Acceptable.”

Beam looked to Trixie. Trixie honestly felt a bit disappointed, she’d been wondering whether the chewing gum would have properly exploded out of her delivery containers.

But she understood, and with her own nod and a small sigh, she cancelled her interface between Rixi and the Epsilon station.



Commission from Sen Yomi

Trixie stared at the monitor in the auxiliary control room. It showed only a closed conference room door. She was toying with the idea of magically eavesdropping when Alijda walked in.

This was the “good” Alijda, the one Trixie had been speaking with about programming, not the H-one with the bunny ears currently in discussion with Fate and Beam. And presumably this Alijda wasn’t thinking about eavesdropping. But then why stand silently for over two minutes?

“You going to keep staring at my ass, or what?” Trixie finally asked, looking over her shoulder.

Alijda flinched. “Sorry. I didn’t want to disturb, in case you were doing something mystic. Uh, they making progress in there?”

Trixie gestured at the monitor before fully turning around. “Who knows? It’s early yet. I will say I’m certain your counterpart brought over that busty bunny girl not only as a personal guard, but also as a way to distract Beam. Though I doubt it’ll work.”

Alijda nodded. “You think Fate will keep Beam on track?”

Trixie smirked. “More like I think my promise of one last make-out session with Beam before I leave, contingent on the right outcome, will keep Beam on track.”

Alijda half smiled back. “Ah. You two really hit it off then.”

“Oh, not really,” Trixie said, shaking her head. “Don’t get the wrong idea. I mean, physically, sure. But any romantic feelings on my part are strictly for Beam’s sophisticated program, not for who she is as a person.”

Alijda blinked. “Hm. And are you sure Beam feels the same way about you…?”

Trixie giggled. “What, you think I got Beam hot for my human programming?”

“I just mean maybe she’s become romantically invested.”

“Mmm, as much as I’d like you say how could you NOT fall in love with this package,” Trixie stated, gesturing back at herself. “We really do have a relationship built only on needs and lusts. And I don’t get too attached as a rule, she knows that.”

Trixie eyed Alijda, trying to read between the lines.

“Why? Are YOU worried about how someone you’ve associated with at this Station might feel about you romantically?”

Alijda coughed, and changed the subject, which was enough of an admission as far as Trixie was concerned. “That’s irrelevant,” Alijda said. “I actually came in here to ask you about your name. Your real one.”

Trixie deflected. “If you don’t know, I’m not telling you what it is.”

“It’s not that,” Alijda clarified. “We both know I could probably hack to figure it out. It’s that… well… okay, so while I was stuck on the Clover station, I learned my double’s origin story.”

Trixie became curious despite herself. “Do tell, if you’re willing.”

Alijda pressed the heel of her hand to her head. “Yeah. Okay. Well, long story short, there was a point in my past when I met an alien. Mason, actually, I heard that you saw him during this mission.”

The name clicked. “Oh, the guy who called us out for being a bunch of white girls.”

“Yes. Well, ladies. Well, anyway, this Alijdah-H went with Mason in her history. Whereas I didn’t. That’s when the split occurred. Then the two had a falling out, and she returned to Earth.”

“Huh.” Trixie considered that. “So her quantum Earth is immediately adjacent to yours, or something?”

“That’s what I can’t figure out. See, as I didn’t go with Mason, I went on antidepressants, embezzled money from my corrupt company, fled to the US under the pseudonym Alison van der Land, and got teleportation powers.”

Trixie stared. “Why are you telling me all that?”

“I think largely because I want the opinion of someone with whom I share common traits and yet will likely never see again.”

“I actually meant how does your past connect to the quantum name stuff.”

“Right.” Alijda rubbed her forehead. “From what little quantum theory I’ve read, events are the cause of different Earth dimensions more so than individual actions. And external observation causes many quantum realities to blend back together. But maybe… we two were so different… she couldn’t blend, even as our worlds did.”

Trixie was reminded of her earlier discussion with Para. About whether there could be other versions of themselves running around. It had felt like the answer was no, at least until this Alijda-H issue.

“So, what, you think because you’d changed your name and location there was somehow room for both of you?” Trixie wondered.

Alijda sighed. “Possibly. Both our experiences having been so wildly unique as to prevent us from collapsing into a single dimensional existence once Epsilon observed me. So maybe my alt-self escaped detection, even came under fire for crimes I’d committed. Assuming she was even on my Earth then, and not with Clover Enterprises already.”

Trixie was fascinated by that idea. “I’d be game to investigate that for you.”

Alijda shook her head. “Oh, I could probably get that started myself. I mostly wondered what you thought about the theory.”

Trixie considered. “Seems like Mason might be a better person to ask.”

Alijda shook her head. “I know he doesn’t remember being with me. Whether by choice or by circumstance. It’s not my having a possible double that I’m wondering about here though. It’s more, under these circumstances – should I maybe return to calling myself Alison? It IS the name I go by whenever I’m not on this station, after all.”

Trixie considered again, for close to a minute. “You have as much right to your original name as anyone else,” she concluded. “Besides. Even within a single Earth, individuals are mistaken for each other on the internet a lot. I don’t think anyone here will believe you’re a Clover operative if you keep Alijda.”

“It’s not really about that.”

Trixie shifted her hands to her hips. “Then you’ll have to explain better, I’m not a mind reader.”

Alijda grimaced. “Sorry. Here’s the thing. If my history was different, I COULD have been her, been that Alijda. Right? Instead, I’m me, a changed person in all but appearance. Yet for some reason, I’m clinging to that old name. And the baggage that may go with it.”

“Presumably that’s because you still identify with the name somehow. Do you?”

It was Alijda’s turn to think in silence for a moment. “I guess I did. Before Epsilon. Because I thought I was living a lie on Earth. But after Alice moved in… well, maybe my new life as Alison is just my life. Maybe some of my suicidal thoughts are even from me continuing to wrestle with my past instead of just releasing it.”

“So maybe you have your answer.” Trixie eased her stance. “Know that I’m not saying you should forget where you come from, and remember I’m not a psychologist.”

Alijda nodded. “I get it. Do you find it weird though, people here calling you Trixie instead of whatever?”

Trixie shook her head. “No. It’s more like how someone might equally answer to ‘Beth’ or ‘Elizabeth’. Plus for me, ‘Trixie’ is a reminder of where I came from, and how I’m still in the business that I’m in.”

It had, after all, been ‘James’ who had both given her the pseudoname, and the business, once he and ‘Melissa’ had departed.

Alijda nodded. “All right. Thanks for the talk.” She glanced towards the monitors again. “I’m off. Let me know if my alt-self does anything problematic.”

“For sure,” Trixie said. Part of her was even counting on it, as she was still wondering about the effectiveness of her retooled pocket dimension armoury. “See you around, Alijda.”

The brunette woman paused at the doorway, and half smiled. “Call me Alison,” she suggested, before departing.


“The trouble with Clover Enterprises,” Fate reflected, “isn’t that they were evil, per se. They merely seemed to have a callous disregard for the consequences of their actions.”

Para frowned. “Maybe it’s because I’m not human, but is that… not the same thing…?” she wondered.

“Sometimes. The Clover group were definitely self serving,” Trixie offered up. Honestly, Para had a pretty good point, but Trixie didn’t want Fate to overanalyze it.

The group of them had congregated one last time in the main control room, after the Station Administrators had observed the departure of Alijah’s shuttle back to the Clover station. Fate had brought along a box of assorted muffins to eat.

“I’m a bit surprised by your take, Fate,” Beam admitted, who was apparently fine with continuing the conversation. “Given how you were abducted from your world and nearly brainwashed as a consequence of them giving Compton Senior dimensional knowledge.”

Fate nodded. “I know. Kind of had to make peace with that to survive though. Besides, that’s what ended up bringing me here. And my helping to put the Clover situation to rest is a good note for me to go out on.”

“That’s a good way to think of it,” Trixie agreed. She had heard from Para about Fate’s concerns over not being spoken to by the Epsilon Station’s ‘God’. It was good that Fate had apparently been able to move past that.

“And we’ll be leaving the station in good hands,” Alice said, whacking Beam on the back as she grinned. “At this point, I am SO over Clover.”

“Yeah? I wish I could be as sure,” Alijda/Alison mused. “Considering how my alt-self is apparently high enough ranked with them to be able to sign off on the agreement here. Did anyone else notice that?”

“Well, sure, but I think you can be over them too,” Alice insisted. “Come on, don’t stress over what wasn’t in your history. Yeah?”

“I… yeah.” Alijda/Alison fired off a quick smile back at her roommate.

“Now, speaking of the Clover agreement, what exactly was in there?” Trixie pressed. “I need closure.”

Beam cleared her throat as she recited from memory. “Clover Enterprises are to make restitution anywhere that they have transgressed, as decided by the ethical algorithm we provided, not their own beliefs. Further, they will not initiate any further experiments without broadcasting their intentions and possible side effects to the other party. Communicating with US if needed to mediate. Pyon pyon.”

“In return,” Fate put in, “they get all Beam’s vaccine research, and we don’t get to know the size of their organization or what else they might have been doing out there in secret.”

“Good enough I hope?” Beam purred, sidling up next to Trixie and giving her rear a quick pinch. Thankfully out of view of the others.

Trixie jumped despite herself, merely nodding back as she smoothed her skirt. She honestly hadn’t expected much more. And thanks to Fate’s choice, Clover didn’t know that Trixie had broken through the scattering field technology. So Epsilon was less likely to be caught off guard by their presence in the future too.

“What about these planets though?” Para wondered. “Does Clover start their work here, or are they still going to be recruiting?”

“They’ll be making sure Tech World doesn’t transmit the pandemic any more,” Beam noted. “Though if they were to suddenly vanish, it might raise more issues on the Fantasy World than not. Fortunately, the Alijda battle might make people more hesitant to join them, pyon pyon.”

“And as to the planets themselves, I think they’ll get out of their pandemics, based on the computer projections I ran,” Trixie offered up. “Beam will be cured too, we’ve turned on the flag that purges the bunny changes over time.”

“So we’re good,” Alijda/Alison sighed. “Missions accomplished.”

“Except… wait. Clover is powering up some sort of ray,” Alice said, hurrying to where a light had started flashing. She tapped at the keyboard. “It’s targeting us.”

“What? Open a channel,” Fate said, tossing aside her half eaten muffin.

Alijdah was back on their main screen moments later. “Hi! Just thought I’d note how there’s nothing in the agreement that says we can’t give you a parting shot. So there.” She smirked.

Fate glared back. “Alijdah! We haven’t transmitted the vaccine information yet. You want to jeopardize receiving it?”

“No worries, we can wait on firing until after you send it,” Alijdah said airily. “You DO have to do that, after all. It IS what we agreed to.”

“It’s fine,” Beam declared, moving in next to Fate. “Because the agreement doesn’t specify how we transmit my research to you. Right?” Her eyes sparkled. “Trixie, one last request, if you please.”

Oh, hell yes.

Trixie swung her arm out to the side, enjoying the sense of deja vu. “Rixi? Reinitiate Epsilon interface and materialize delivery gun.”

Again, there was the globe of light, the sphere over the hub, and then the modified gun, both in her hands and large scale, hanging in space.

Alijdah stared at them with a mixture of confusion and suspicion. “You can’t mean–“

“You want the research? It’s all in this capsule,” Trixie declared. She pointed the barrel of the gun at the Clover station, then swung it off to the side. “Protrudo.”

The capsule was propelled out of the gun barrel into space in much the same way the freeze necklace had once been fired through a hotel window. It spun off into the dimensional void as a light dusting of confetti was expelled from the smaller version of the gun in Trixie’s hand. Success!

“Son of a–“

“You should be able to track that – until the capsule gets small again,” Trixie said, cutting Alijdah off for a second time. “Still want to waste time with us?”

The communications channel was shut down.

“Ziggy?” Beam announced to the ceiling. “While they’re distracted, let’s temporally uncouple and leave orbit.”

“Understood,” came the voice of the main computer. “Please disengage your interface, Trixie.”

Trixie did so, pleased that she’d been able to test out at least one of her interface objects.

She was also pleased that Beam had suggested that backup plan in the first place, that they’d come through the entire pandemic situation without any new infections, and that she’d made some new friends.

But mostly, she was pleased that she’d be going home soon.

She raked her fingers back through her twintails once more. Only time would tell if she might ever have cause to return.


Polls on character and possible plots for possible future entries…


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Had Alijdah accepted the conditions, Trixie would have fired off confetti, and the two groups might have worked together in the future (whether Clover would have ultimately screwed that up is unknown). Had Alijdah not backed down, Trixie would have fired off a computer virus to mess with their systems, while allowing Epsilon to track Clover in the future… since the Clover station would get away but without any medications. We ended up middle of the road for the second time, with a kind of agreement to disagree and Trixie firing off Beam’s data.

First, if you missed it, there was an April Fools Part in between the prior part 17 & this part 18, so check that out. With regard to the voting last time, I didn’t want the last choice and apex of our Clover plot to be decided by a single person’s single vote. So I kept things open past the end of March, which was helpful for the April Fool writer anyway. Finally got a third vote April 2nd after the usual pleading, so closed things on the 3rd. Didn’t get much of a chance to write in the following week, but it’s done now. Thank you for sticking with me, whoever’s out there. Another post coming in a few weeks about my status and what will come next on this site.

6.17: Field Work

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Alijda fought down the urge to panic. The blackness around her was complete, and when she tried to feel for the door she had come through, it wasn’t there. There was only empty space.

She couldn’t teleport without some visual frame of reference. If someone had planned to capture her, this was definitely the best way to go about it.

She shook out her sore fingers and pressed them against her side, listening.

There was a faint hiss of air.

She got down on her hands and knees so as to not stumble over anything, and slowly moved towards the source of the sound. It turned out to be a vent, against a wall. Probably not large enough for her to crawl into, but at least now she knew this was a room with finite space.

Alijda felt along the wall to get a sense of the scope. It took a while.

The room was rectangular, and maybe the size of a standard living room. She had felt what seemed to be a doorway, but with no doorknob. Troublingly, her eyes still hadn’t adjusted to the darkness, meaning there was no light anywhere.

She considered moving across the room diagonally to gauge whether there was anything in the middle.

“There’s a computer terminal.”

Alijda nearly jumped out of her skin at the breathy female voice that came from over her shoulder. She whipped her arm back, encountered nothing, and it smacked into the wall. She cursed, and cradled it.

“Oh, right. I’m not really here, pyon pyon.”

“Beam,” Alijda muttered through clenched teeth. “If you ever sneak up on me like that again, I’m going to reprogram you to be a Roomba for a day.”

“Ouch. Sucking dirt doesn’t sound as fun as sucking–”

“Just… get me to the terminal. Please.”

“Sure thing,” Beam chirped. “It’s embedded in the wall, you’ll have to stand.”

Alijda used the wall to pull herself back up to her feet. “Thank you.”

“And for the record, I’m not actually here, incorporeal or otherwise. Trixie is broadcasting me through the scattering field surrounding the Clover Base. I’m homed in on your communicator.”

Alijda lifted her communicator up to her face, despite not being able to see it. “Sorry, what?”

“We had two options,” Beam elaborated. “Trixie blasts a cancelling wave into space, to penetrate the scattering field, revealing the Clover Base. Or, the stealth method. I get programmed with the cancelling wave, then Trixie blasts my matrix into space, which lets me spot you and Alice.”

“You’re in space?” Alijda said, feeling more confused than ever.

“My perception was, for a moment,” Beam clarified. “Tied in with the station sensors. But now I’m in the room with your communicator. Terminal is about four paces to your right.”

Alijda began to move along the wall. “And Alice?”

“Next room over. Unconscious, pyon pyon,” Beam said. “Best guess, your double was expecting her to come through, and knocked her out. You were more unexpected.”

“You see all this through staring out of our communicators?”

“No. Once I saw where your communicators were, by looking past the scattering field, Trixie cast a spell. It’s projected me next to you. A variant of the spell Kat and Firestorm used to talk to you on our first mission together, incidentally.”

Alijda decided she didn’t really need to be reminded of Kat right now. “I’m sorry I asked.”

“Oh. Sorry I answered? Anyway. We need you to hack this terminal and drop Clover’s scattering field – codenamed Mirrors – so that we can have a chat with Evil Alijdah. To turn the power on, hit the button on the top right.”

Alijda had been feeling around on the terminal to figure out how to activate it. She moved her fingers to where Beam had indicated. “How can you see in the pitch black?”

“The only reason I can’t see in the dark all the time is my human programming. The magic circumvents – you’ve got it, there.”

“Gyah!” Alijda gasped, throwing her arm up. The terminal had indeed activated, shining a blinding light right into her face.

“Sorry,” Beam apologized. “Didn’t know it would do that.”

Alijda sighed into her arm. “Okay, what now?”

She instinctively turned to look for Beam, spots dancing in front of her eyes. But the hologram was truly a disembodied voice, somehow being transmitted through magic.

“Beats me,” came Beam’s ghostly answer. “You’re the hacker. Again, not really here, pyon pyon. Let me know if there’s anything more we need to do on our end.”

“Right, fine,” Alijda sighed, rubbing her thumb and forefinger across her eyes before looking more closely at the terminal. The illumination offered a better look at its control pad on the wall, and she saw there was a virtual keyboard option on the screen. Good enough.

Accessing the base system turned out to be pretty easy, given the assumption that she was up against herself – or at minimum someone who had similar thought processes.

Unfortunately, Alijda realized pretty quickly though that trying to do anything that related to base security was too heavily safeguarded. It would take hours. She said as much.

“Hmm. Trixie wonders whether you can Borg their system,” Beam supplied. “That is, don’t go for a critical subcommand, but something low priority that will achieve the result we want.”

Alijda frowned. “I mean, maybe they’d have to drop their field for certain emergencies… or for propulsion… or communications?”

She tapped at the keyboard. What she found minutes later surprised her.

“Uh, Beam? Clover Enterprises sent Epsilon the first encrypted communication. The one that brought us all here.”

“What? No, Fate thinks it was Vortex Limited on Bunny World who broadcasted a–”

“I’m telling you, it’s right here in these logs,” Alijda insisted. “Clover are the ones who brought Epsilon in.”

“What? But why would they do that?”

Alijda shook her head. “All I’ve got is a notation in the file: ‘Epsilon can handle this’. Meaning in the best case, Clover wanted someone who could fix the whole pandemic mess they helped to initiate. And we’d be the only ones equipped for it. In terms of seeing all the dimensions.”

In fact, they HAD fixed it, if Beam’s vaccine efforts using Para’s bunny-ness as a baseline was any indication. Then again, in the worst case, maybe Alijdah had selfishly wanted Epsilon to come and provide her with a cure for her own bunny condition. ‘This’ was rather vague.

“Maybe Clover have a rogue agent who know about us,” Beam mused.

Or that, Alijda granted. She couldn’t find any other details, except to verify the message had definitely been sent after the Smoke pandemic had started, meaning after Clover had finished their dealings with Vortex.

“Could also be the Clover group is still hanging around to see if we spot them,” Alijda mused. “Testing out this ‘Mirrors’ field. Recruiting in the meantime.”

“Either way, this is good. I can use my proto-vaccine as a bargaining chip when we talk,” Beam said. “Could help to divine their true intentions.”

“Maybe.” Alijda scrolled through a few more communications logs, but found no way for the system to trip the scattering field. She was going to have to try something else.

She typed in a quick program, then went to sift through personnel files.

“Alijda? While the files on people might be useful later, I think we need to stay focussed on the one goal now.”

“Kinda sorta doing that,” Alijda said. There it was. A file on her. Two files, actually… she pulled up the one that didn’t have a small ‘Epsilon’ flag next to it.

The first paragraph was very illuminating as far as her double’s origins. She only got as far as another few sentences, before the terminal glowed red and stopped accepting inputs.

“That can’t be good,” Beam said.

Alijda smiled. “Actually…”

With a click, the small terminal speaker began broadcasting a bizarre anime mashup of Rick Astley.

Alijda folded her arms. “I set the system to broadcast that on ALL internal communications if a data breach was detected,” Alijda remarked. “Pretty sure the only way for them to shut it down is a complete reboot, which should also take the scattering field offline.”

“Huh. Nice. Trixie applauds your use of an Iconian-style virus. Meaning the rebooting; I think it’s another Star Trek reference.”

“While Alice would approve, and she is the reason I know how to access that tune, tell Trixie I like her more for her tech savvy.”

Beam giggled. “Mmmmm, meanwhile I like Trixie more for her–”

“I can guess,” Alijda interrupted. And everything went pitch black again.

“Okay, stuff’s happening our end, going to need to call you back,” Beam said. “Thank you for your help!”

“Any time,” Alijda murmured. As she stood in the dark, she considered once again what she’d read in the file.



CHIBI BEAM (pre-bunny)
Commission from Gen Ishihara

Beam stepped out of the circle of sparklers, to look at the main view screen. It took up almost a quarter of the large circular room, across from the main computer banks, but there was never much cause to use it.

“That Clover station looks like us,” she remarked.

“It does,” Fate agreed, frowning.

The Clover Base had shimmered briefly, off what Alijda had done. Fate had quickly sent them a hailing communication, implying that the cat was out of the bag. And so they had dropped their scattering field technology, allowing for both a scan and a visual reference.

It was not a ship. Like them, Clover had a Hub, but instead of being central, it was more towards one side. Then four branches extended up. And instead of them being circular, they were shaped like clovers. The effect was vaguely fractal.

Beam glanced around the room to see how the others were taking it.

Para’s ears were quivering, but otherwise she kept quiet, as she had for a majority of the time during the implementing of Trixie’s plan. Fate looked all business as usual, briefly glancing down at a remote which would allow her to use the computers without turning her back on the view screen.

Trixie was bouncing on her heels, seeming quite excited at the prospect of everything finally coming to a conclusion. Or perhaps she was more excited that this might lead to her using the Epsilon system interface she’d designed.

Trixie really was delectable.

“They’ve targeted us with weapons,” Fate remarked, pulling Beam’s attention back.

“D-Do we have shields up?” Para murmured.

“Naturally,” Fate said. “But our systems are more designed for handling damage due to our surroundings, not active attacks. So I’m not sure how this will go. We don’t have anything worthwhile to arm in response, either.”

“We have me,” Trixie said, a smirk appearing. “That’s good enough.”

“Hail them again, until they answer,” Beam suggested.

Fate nodded in agreement, and tapped at her remote. Long seconds passed. Finally, there was a chirping noise, and Fate tapped another button, allowing the face of Evil Alijdah to appear, filling most of the view screen.

“I’m going to go with my double being more resourceful than I gave her credit for,” Alijdah said dryly. “Rather than you being more perceptive. That said, she’s obviously over here. Along with your Alice. If you want them back unharmed, you’ll need to accede to our demands. Immediately.”

Beam shook her head. “If YOU truly want the vaccine, YOU’LL accede to OUR demands.”

Fate took a step back, seemingly deferring to Beam’s authority. Which, Beam supposed, made sense, if the plan was still for her to take over commanding the station again. Once the current crisis was passed.

Alijdah glared. “What good is a vaccine to me? I’m already infected, obviously.”

Beam placed her hands on her hips. “What good? Well, supposedly the virus will run its course and you’ll lose the ears… but you could be reinfected by Smoke. Or any of its variations. You don’t know. Or perhaps this way you can travel back in time to inoculate yourself and then just fake having the disease now. Then there’s also the fact that my vaccine COULD cure any lasting aftereffects. We don’t know, as we haven’t been able to go through trials yet. All good reasons to back the hell off.”

Alijdah continued to glare for a moment, only to finally grumble, “Valid points. Fine, we’ll trade access to your medication for your people.”

“No. You returning our people is a gesture of goodwill towards negotiations for the medication,” Beam shot back. Adding, “pyon pyon” as her tongue started to feel twisted up once more.

Alijdah snorted. “No. Hell, maybe all I have to do is wait, and either you or the people on that planet will have a vaccine we can barter for, or otherwise steal. Who needs you?”

“You sent us the message,” Beam insisted. “You brought us here. You thought we were the only ones who could solve this. For that matter, you may have already caught only a variation. I haven’t heard a single pyon pyon from you yet. How much are you going to risk here?”

Alijdah muttered something under her breath. She couldn’t be sure, but Beam thought it was something to the effect of having only needed another hour, and they wouldn’t have had to haggle.

“This offer is going to expire in a minute,” Beam insisted. “Do you accept?”

“Or what?” Alijdah argued. “You may have found us, but I don’t think you have the resources to disable our station. And if you try to board us, or beam your people back, you’re basically asking for trouble. Why should we even listen to you?”

“Because of Trixie,” Beam said, turning to look at the twin-tailed redhead. “It’s time.”

Trixie’s eyes lit up. She plucked her small device from out of her blouse pocket and held it aloft. “Rixi? Epsilon interface. Authorization, alpha-alpha-three-zero-five.”

“All right,” her device intoned, in an imitation of Trixie’s voice. “Interfacing.” The red crystal seemed to glow brighter.

“Oh no,” Alijdah deadpanned. “You’re going to sic your techno-witch girlfriend on me. She’d better not try to board either.”

Trixie swung her arm out to the side, glaring at the view screen. “Rixi? Materialize delivery gun.”

Beam had wondered about Trixie’s need for Para’s expertise in density suits, and shrinking or enlarging things on a temporary basis. Apparently, what Trixie had needed was an interface that could be equally compatible with her personal magick hammerspace.

This had been the reason.

A globe of light appeared, hovering briefly over the screen of Trixie’s device. Almost immediately, it’s radius expanded, and it shot up into the air, under the control of Epsilon’s computer. Soon there was a huge sphere hanging over the central hub of the Epsilon Station itself.

Then the light was dispelled, leaving an enormous version of what had – once upon a time – been a nerf gun.

Trixie mimicked cocking the gun using her free hand, and on a display in the background, Beam saw the huge delivery gun respond to her action.

“Not. Girlfriends,” was all she added, with an impish smile.

Alijah’s eyes widened. She turned to look at something out of their field of view, and then looked back. Again there was muttering, but this time, all Beam could pick up on was curse words.

“So,” Beam continued. “Return our people. Enter into a dialogue about receiving our medication, which will naturally involve you not interfering in other dimensional worlds again. Otherwise? Trixie starts her deliveries.”

Alijah’s face twitched. “Well then,” she began.



(can we get more than one vote?)

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The direct approach would have resulted in a standoff. Alijah would have explained her origins in an attempt to distract the group, as some attempt was made to steal Beam’s pandemic research. The additional analysis route would have attempted a mind swap, during which time a successful attempt would have occurred to steal Beam’s research. We got the situation of breaking into files to see the true origin of the message, leading to this bartering of sorts. The middle ground, I suppose?

Trixie’s Mirrors project comes to a head with her interfacing Rixi and bringing back the gun from Part One. (That had to come back, right?) Meanwhile it was intended from the beginning for Clover to have sent the message to Epsilon; the talk of time travel and Fate’s suggestion of Vortex being the origins were all misdirection. (After all, Clover was the main lead-in of Part Two, and is central to this “Epsilon Trilogy” of sorts.)

Had a three way tied vote after a week, which was fortunately broken shortly thereafter. Closed the poll early Tuesday, been writing the last couple days. For what it’s worth. I hope you’ve enjoyed… site traffic has definitely not been great in general. Let me know if you think there’s a loose end in the story that I need to tie up, we’re almost done.

6.13: Ad Hoc Talk

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“Is it just me?” Para asked. “Or is this mission going on longer than it needs to?”

She hesitated then, wondering if she’d interrupted Alijda unnecessarily during her meal. Except her human friend hadn’t even taken a bite in the couple minutes since Para had come in the cafeteria, and she seemed to be staring off into the distance.

Indeed, it took a moment, but Alijda put her fork down next to her noodles and gestured to the seat in the cafeteria across from her.

“It’s not just you,” she answered, meeting Para’s gaze.


Commission by Michelle Simpson

Relived that she had ‘read the room’ correctly, Para went to sit across from Alijda. “I mean, it’s not like I had anywhere else to be,” Para added. “But it’s not like we’re doing useful pandemic vector research or sensor upgrades or anything now.”

It had been two weeks since Trixie’s interview with the scientist from Bunny World. Beam had vaguely looked into the idea of giving him asylum on Tech World, but not seriously. There didn’t seem to be a good way to deal with his ethics.

Then Fate and Jake had switched their minds back, and they’d been able to teleport him back down… along with Officer Mikoto.

They’d left Mikoto with the distinct impression that Jake had something to do with the missing persons cases around the park. It was about as far as they’d dared to go in terms of interference with another World’s issues.

It seemed like something Mikoto would follow up on, given her personality.

This meant that, with the pandemic being natural (more or less) up to and including the dimension jumping, it wasn’t their situation to help with… though Alice had continued her viral research nonetheless, while remaining in quarantine. Beam had offered her assistance; she was still afflicted.

And as of yesterday, Alice was out.

So the only thing that was really tying them to the situation any more – aside from Beam’s condition – was the mystery message they’d received about it in the first place. Plus the presence of Clover Enterprises, but that was more an incidental event.

They were making headway on neither item. Yet they were still there.

“We’re not being productive,” Alijda agreed. “But we still might be needed to distribute a cure to the worlds not directly linked to TechWorld any more.”

Para nodded. “Oh, agreed. But you and me aren’t personally needed for that.”

“No,” Alijda yielded. “Though in the mean time, I am enjoying my talks with Trixie.”

Oh, that’s right – Para had sen the two of them together numerous times since Alijda’s own release from quarantine. They were bonding over the curious programming involved in Beam, as well as Trixie’s own magical device Rixi.

“Are you two becoming friends?” Para wondered, tilting her head. Part of her wondered if that meant she was supposed to act jealous.

Alijda let out a snort. “Friends would be pushing it. I feel like my depressive nature bothers her, while it kind of annoys me that she’s doing you-know-what with the very tech we’re investigating.”

Para stared. “Doing I know what… what?”

Alijda blinked. “Trixie and Beam. Uh, you hadn’t noticed?”

Para slowly shook her head. She knew the two women had been spending some time together without Alijda, but figured it was for some magic-tech analysis. “I don’t really pay attention to whatever doesn’t concern me.”

“Huh. Well, for the last week they’ve been… uh…”

Alijda raised one hand with the thumb and index finger connected, and moved as if she’d put her other index finger inside the space created. Then she paused and made the hole image out of both her hands, looked at them, tried to interlock them, and finally shrugged.

“Whatever. They’re sexing it up, Para. I thought everyone knew.”

Para now felt embarrassed for having brought the conversation there. Human relationships were still something of an enigma to her. “Oh.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” Alijda hasted to add. “I know Trixie’s been on edge, Beam’s got bunny sexy issues, and they’re both consenting adults so, y’know, whatever helps them get through station life. But they’re passing it off as research. I figure, at least be honest about your libidos, ladies? I mean, really.”

It occurred to Para then that Alijda hadn’t exactly been honest about her feelings for Kat in their prior missions. But she got the impression that was a slightly different relationship issue… probably best not to bring it up? Yeah.

Instead, Para remarked, “Any headway on getting the virus out of Beam then?”

Alijda shook her head. “Latest attempt was her shifting incorporeal. No dice. So we’re back to monitoring the planets to see what they come up with regarding the pandemic in general.”

Para nodded. “And any idea yet why you were in the past of Fantasy World? That one with the magic uprising?”

“Oh.” Alijda frowned. “I’d kind of pushed that out of my mind. No, nothing there. Though now that you mention it… huh. What if we travelled back in time to have me close that circuit? Maybe it would reveal how we’ll send that message. Maybe that’s all we need to finally close the books there.”

Para nibbled her lower lip. “Meaning the Epsilon crew don’t find more on Clover.”

Alijda shrugged. “That’s hardly my issue. Aside from, yes, Alice obsessing over it, and how she’ll presumably return to being my roommate.” She shook her head. “Thing is, we’re not superheroes, Para. Our powers notwithstanding. We can’t do it all.”

Para considered that. “True. And it would be nice to get home. I think that’s how I’m feeling about things now.”

Alijda smiled. “Me too.” She picked her fork back up. “Okay, going to actually finish my lunch, and then talk about the Fantasy World angle with Trixie. If I’m going back there, I could use her magic expertise.”

Para stood back up. “I’ll leave you to it then. Thanks for the chat.”

“Thank you,” Alijda noted. “We might actually have a plan for once.”


Para decided to head to the control room next, to see if Fate was there. Beam was there instead.

“Hello fellow bunny,” Beam said, grinning and motioning for Para to come in, before the mathematical woman could retreat.

Para entered timidly. “Hi, Beam. I was just wondering if you administrative types had made progress on… well, anything.”

Beam bounced on her heels, her ears twitching. “Well, you might notice I’m not dressed in a swimsuit any more. And I no longer have the pyon pyon vocal urges to the same extent. It’s either due to time, or to Trixie. Either way, calling that a win.”

Para blinked. “Trixie programmed it out of you?” She recalled what Alijda had said. “Or are you talking about how you two are… uhmm…”

“Doing the horizontal hula?” Beam quipped. “Yeah, the latter. Seems to keep my viral hormones at bay. Though Trixie’s still treating it as research, of course, so probably not a good idea to raise it with her. Okay?”

Para frowned. Then their coupling WAS research? It made Para wonder to what extent she might take things with someone on the station in the name of her own investigations of humanity.

As if sensing the uncertainty, Beam added, “Like, Trixie’s research is both into my code, and also the way I ‘charge up her hormones’. She doesn’t want this to be a weakness with her clients for in any cases she has in the future. Or something like that, I was a little preoccupied as she tried to explain.” Her tongue ran over her upper lip.

“I feel like this is more than I need to know,” Para said. “I was mostly asking about progress in case there was something I could do to help.”

“Oh, sure. Sorry,” Beam apologized, looking sheepish. “Can I blame part of the overshare issue on the virus too? You look like me, but without the horny bunny stories we can swap.”

Para pursed her lips. “Yeeeah. I have my ears for a VERY different reason.” She smiled weakly.

At that, Beam looked thoughtful. “And you know what? That’s an angle we haven’t tried. You and me, neither of us are human, both of us are part bunny… yet you’re normal. Maybe whatever passes for your DNA could be used to tweak my coding. You think?”

“I… maybe?”

Beam nodded. “I gotta raise that with Trixie and Alijda. Thanks, Para.”

“Okay.” Was she being helpful then? Para couldn’t tell any more. She edged back. “I guess there’s nothing you need me for?”

“Nope. Unless you want to check on Fate in the artifacts room. She was looking to see if something else might be helpful to get at the Clover angle. Alice is still freaking over it, to the point of investigating bringing Science Guy back to make a deal. Bad plan, right?”

“Ooh, right,” Para agreed. “And you can’t talk Alice out of it?”

“No luck yet, pyon pyon.” Beam made a face. “Damn it, that slipped out…”

“I’ll go check with Fate then,” Para agreed.

“Thanks,” Beam said, smiling and wiggling her fingers.

Para offered back a partial smile, then headed out of the control room.


She found Fate in the hallway next to the artifacts room door, leaning against the wall. The blonde woman looked up as Para approached and offered a halfhearted smile. “Beam send you?”

“Kinda sorta,” Para admitted. “I was looking for you anyway though. Are you okay?”

Fate sighed and shook her head. “Honestly? Not so much.”

Para nodded. “Anything I can do to help? Because I’ve been wanting to do something for a while now, but I haven’t been sure what.”

Fate crossed her arms. “Right. We’re sort of stringing you along at this point, aren’t we. Sorry. Did you want to leave?”

Para shook her head. “Not necessarily. I know things are unresolved, and I’m happy to help. Just feel like we’re not making much progress lately.”

Fate sighed. “Yeah. I keep looking – hoping – for a breakthrough, and… it’s not happening. But I don’t want to jump us out of time, or call the mission off either, not while there’s loose ends.” She brought her hands to her hips. “Para, am I being stubborn now? Not wanting to end my Epsilon association on this note?”

Para blinked. “You’re retiring?”

Fate gestured. “This was never meant to be a permanent position. I needed some time and something to do, and Rose Thorne thought I’d be a good fit, so… yeah. But much more and I’ll overstay my welcome.” She turned to look at the artifacts room.

Para followed her gaze. “Nothing in there that would be useful here, I take it?”

“Hm? Oh. Not without consequences, no,” Fate said. “Except, I was thinking about the phone in there. And God. And how She’s not talking to me, when she’s communicated with both Alice and Beam in the past.”

Para tried to put two and two together. “Then you want to go out having at least heard from the maker of this station?”

Fate flinched, then rubbed the back of her neck. “Huh. I guess so? Assuming the message that got us into this pandemic situation wasn’t from Her. Thing is, I don’t have Alice’s memory or Beam’s holographic abilities. I’m normal. Why would She talk directly to me?”

“Why wouldn’t she?” Para insisted. “Fate, everyone has their own skills, supernatural or otherwise. Maybe you’re doing such a good job, She hasn’t felt the need.”

Fate chuckled. “It’s nice of you to say that. Though it has crossed my mind to look more into the virus on Fantasy World, where people can have latent magical powers activated… who knows what I might get? Maybe something to see a path through this.”

Para stared. “Um. I don’t think infecting yourself is a good plan. Alijda’s report said their magic came with a dark side.”

“Oh, no worries, I wasn’t giving that SERIOUS thought,” Fate said quickly. “It’s only…” Her voice trailed off, and she looked thoughtful.

After a minute, Para decided to risk interrupting. “Only what?”

Fate refocussed on her. “Clover went after Bunny World because of the scattering field technology. Yes? So what if they could be enticed to go after Fantasy World because of the magic power activation.”

Para stared. “You want to lure them there?”

“Maybe. Yet maybe they already ARE there. We’ve been neglecting that world ever since Alijda left, that’s been a heck of an oversight.”

“In fact Alijda was talking about going back into that world’s past,” Para admitted. “To close out that doppelgänger loop.”

Fate pushed herself away from the wall. “Riiight. We need to do more investigation in the present first though, I’d say. Send Alijda to reconnect with that mystery man from her cell. See what other dimensions might know about the place, if anything.”

Para nodded. “I guess that makes sense.”

“So who should we send down with Alijda?” Fate wondered. “Trixie? They’ve been working together – or does that make it seem like I’m trying to get Beam away from the pretty redhead. Hmm. Alice then? She’s all over the Clover angle. Though we might want her help on the station instead.”

“A-Are you asking me?” Para said, surprised.

“I’ll be asking everybody,” Fate corrected, heading for the control room.



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If they’d gotten Jake asylum on Tech World there would have been a condition attached, and we’d have gone to that planet. If they’d gotten the info from Jake another way, it would have involved a bluff and staying on the Station. With getting at Clover another way, we head back to magic/fantasy world… and I’m trying to start tidying up the bits too, let me know if you see other loose ends.

I had a couple votes in November. Decided to keep things open, send out another tweet, went in Tuesday Serial. And nothing, through to when I closed the poll on December 19th. So I feel like only going a week isn’t going to change much; it’ll let me put out another part to start January, which is sure to be insane for teaching remotely, and we’ll go from there. As always, thanks for reading through to this point.

6.11: Before the Dawn

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“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 image

CHIBI BEAM (pre-bunny)
Commission from Gen Ishihara

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?



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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.

6.10: Mind Games

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Beam felt violated. It was one thing for an individual to not be cautious and catch a virus. It was quite another for that individual to be targeted and infected. Simply because Beam was (presumably) unable to catch the disease otherwise, and someone felt paranoid.

Despite that, Beam was trying to remain impartial. And not stare too much at Para’s curves, even as her libido kept telling her to.

“These pylons should work much like the amplifier Alijda and I installed in the station, right?” Para remarked, breaking Beam out of her thoughts.

Beam looked down at the one she was carrying, as the two of them walked along the sidewalk. “Close enough,” she agreed. “We simply anchor them in a triangle and use the field they generate to punch down through the interference, pyon pyon. Should let us get a lock on our team.”

They had already set one pylon up at a telephone pole, their arrival site, and roughly the location of Trixie’s mayday call. Their scanners implied something existed inside the pole itself – an elevator? – but they had no idea how to gain access. It likely required magic.

Para nodded, her bunny ears bouncing. Beam found herself wondering if her extra ears did the same.

“We could split up and each do one then, right?” Para continued. “That would be faster.”

“But not as safe,” Beam insisted.

Para nodded again. She seemed to want to say something else, but wasn’t sure how to phrase it. Or perhaps wasn’t sure if she even should say something.

Beam sighed. “Speak up, pyon pyon,” she prompted. “If nothing else it keeps my mind occupied more on the mission, and less on how sexy you are.”

Para’s cheeks bloomed a bit pinker. “It’s not exactly about the mission though,” she admitted. “It’s more, when you say safe… I was wondering if you meant, without me, you’d be inclined to wander off and find someone to… um… you know. Get satisfaction.”

“What, on account of every lady on the station turning me down?” Beam quipped.

Para seemed unable to meet her gaze.

Beam sighed. “Don’t worry about me, Para. While I grant that sex is one of my primary tools for solving problems, I am a professional. And as much as I might want to get it on, pyon pyon, for now I care more about rescuing Alice and Trixie. Okay?”

Para nodded. “I didn’t mean to imply–”

“No offence taken,” Beam assured quickly. “I’m not exactly myself.”

“Right. Okay.” Para nibbled her lower lip. “Meaning it’s more me that you’re worried about, should we split up.”

Again Beam shook her head. “I trust you to get the job done too. But one, I know the area already, and two, I worry that there’s a drone out there with a knockout dart. Or worse, pyon pyon. I’m not merely scanning our surroundings here for pretty girls, you know.”

“OH,” Para realized. Beam could only assume Para had thought that their plan to move around the perimeter of the park, rather than through it, was enough to keep them safe. “Sorry. I… I didn’t…”

“Para, stop apologizing,” Beam insisted. “We’re stronger together is all.” She realized her eyes had wandered south again. “All I ask is that you don’t suddenly decide to take me up on any prior offers. I don’t want to have to run a willpower check, pyon pyon.” She smiled.

Alas, Para’s face became even more red. “That’s SO unlikely,” she blurted. Then she flinched. “I mean… it’s like I’ve said before, you’re not undesirable, it’s… uh… I… um…”

Beam could tell Para was trying not to say ‘sorry’. “Ugh, again, no offence taken,” Beam broke in. “Calm down, Para. I get it. You’re not human. Possibly not bi either. My remark was more an attempt to defuse tension, pyon pyon. Along with being a commentary on… how do I put this.”

Beam paused to find the right phrasing. “Listen. I think certain people infected with the Bunny Virus are more prone to want to engage with other infected, rather than the general population.”

Para considered that. “Then you want to, er, be with other bunnies,” she clarified.

Beam nodded. “The pull is stronger. Now, maybe that’s because I, as an individual, would rather not spread the virus, pyon pyon. Even though I’m not contagious. Might be different for others, particularly if they had strong emotional ties, and wanted someone in particular to be converted with them. But if not, well… we stay together.”

Para fell silent, seemingly thinking about that as they continued their walk. “Does that mean if we run into other infected, they might try to jump me?” she said at last.

“Didn’t want to come out with it, but yes, maybe, pyon pyon,” Beam concluded.

“Ah. Thanks for being here then,” Para decided.

They reached the second point of the triangle then and set up Para’s pylon in silence, before continuing to walk around the park to get to the optimal site on the other side. They were walking, rather than running, to avoid drawing attention to themselves.

Beam checked her scanner. Ideally, they’d wanted their points to form the largest possible equilateral triangle. They didn’t know how big the underground complex was.

It was as they turned the final corner, that Beam was forced to shoot out her hand to keep Para back.

“Heck,” Beam muttered. There was a police officer down there. A female one. And while anchoring down their pylon wouldn’t take long, there was no way it wouldn’t be seen as suspicious, particularly since it would seem like infected people were doing it.

“What do we do about her?” Para murmured, peering past to see the issue.

Beam handed her devices over to Para. “I’ll try to lure her away, pyon pyon. When I do, you set up the pyon. Er, pylon.”

Para looked unconvinced. “You think you can?”

Honestly, Beam wasn’t sure. She couldn’t rely on her sexual wiles to manage it, that was the one thing everyone would be guarding against with an infected person. But a transparent lie such as ‘come here, someone’s been mugged’ might not hold up.

Para didn’t have to know any of that though. “I think so,” Beam answered. “Unless you know of some alternative?”

Para winced. “We could hope that Fate and Alijda are having better luck on the Station?”

Beam shook her head. “We’re not going to wait around on their plan, pyon pyon. Er, my plan. My plan that they’re enacting. Whatever.” She took in a deep breath. “Here goes.”

Beam headed towards the officer.


“This was a good idea,” Alijda remarked. “Working two angles simultaneously, in case one fails.”

“Except this splits our focus at a critical time,” Fate lamented. “Plus Beam knows the Station’s history a heck of a lot better than me. But she needs to be down there, as she presumably cannot get infected.”

Alijda (as chibi)

Alijda van Vliet (chibi).
Commission from: Shirochya

Alijda noticed Fate continuing to work through the security locks for the Station’s artifacts as she spoke. She could watch the other women via the Pad being carried, but was, of course, still stuck in the quarantine room.

“Don’t beat yourself up over it,” Alijda said. “Besides, this beats sitting up here spinning our thumbs.” She looked back down at the artifact listing on her terminal.

There was a click, and Fate headed into the next room. “I will admit,” Fate said after a moment, “every time I walk in here I half expect that phone to ring, and discover that God is on the other line.”

“Phone?” Alijda asked, without looking up.

“The one on the wall here. I don’t think it’s real,” Fate added. “But it wasn’t listed in artifacts either, so it must be part of the station. Unless the other administrators weren’t that great at records.”

“Ooh, don’t let Alice hear you say something like that,” Alijda remarked. “She can be a real stickler for the rules at times.”

There was a pause, as Fate presumably looked at the physical items while Alijda continued her scrolling through the catalogue. There were only around a dozen artifacts whose home dimension had not been located yet, but there was a fair amount of detail to go with them.

“Alijda?” Fate asked after a moment.

“Mmmm hmmmm,” Alijda answered.

“Did Alice ever talk much about that God? The one who, I guess, set all this up?”

Alijda shook her head, finally taking a moment to look back at the monitor. “Just, female, rescued Alice from a Hell Dimension, never met in person, seemed to give good advice. Depending on your definition of good. Granted, I never pried. It didn’t seem right, given how Alice revered her, yet got fired.”

Fate nodded, looking troubled. “Okay then.”

“Why, do you know something about this God that we don’t?” Alijda asked.

Fate sighed. “No. If anything, I know less. I’ve never received orders, the few items retrieved in my time have been due to scans we made. I’ve been wondering though, whether She is the reason we picked up on this dimensional pandemic in the first place?”

“Huh. You think our mystery message was sent by God?” Alijda tried not to sound incredulous. It seemed even less plausible than their current ‘message from the future’ theory.

“I don’t know,” Fate said, visibly frustrated. “But if it was Her, well…” Her voice trailed off.

“Well?” Alijda prompted, her attention having gone back to her item list.

Another sigh. “Well, if there is a God, doesn’t that imply the existence of a Devil?”

Alijda frowned. “Huh. I’m… not the best person to be talking to about religion. Are you implying the Devil started the pandemic though?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what to believe about all this,” Fate said. She pressed her palm to her forehead. “I need more sleep.”

“We all do,” Alijda agreed. Her finger hovered over the current item. “Hold on. Something here, maybe. Found on an Earth denoted… PX-75309?”

“I’m listening,” Fate said, sounding more business-like.

Alijda cleared her throat. “It’s a helmet that lets you swap minds. You merely need an item belonging to the other person to make it work. And Alice has stuff up here, yeah?”

“Hmmm. You’re thinking I could briefly take over Alice’s body to learn the layout down there,” Fate deduced. “While she could be up here debriefing you.”

“It’s a thought,” Alijda agreed. “It’s unclear whether the range works when we’re not on the planet, but nothing can block mental brainwaves, right?”

“It’s worth an attempt,” Fate decided. “Reminds me of a gun enchantment in Chartreuse’s last mission, actually.” A pause. “Nothing in the room looks like a helmet though.”

“This says helmet, but the image is more like a metal fruit bowl,” Alijda clarified. “Also, uh oh, Beam’s notes say that the transfer time is random. Moreover, the person you swap with now has the helmet. If they swap with someone else, you could be stuck in the body you transferred to.”

“Unless I got the helmet back,” Fate reasoned. “Though I guess a lot of damage could be done in the interim.”

“Yeah. I think that’s what happened on PX-75309. Anyway. To activate you simply concentrate on the item you have, and on what the other person looks like.”

“Okay. I’ve got it now,” Fate said, holding up the mind helmet.

“You do,” Alijda confirmed.

Fate turned to exit the room. “I’ll get some clothing of Alice’s and bring it to an isolated area of the Station to activate. Just in case.”

“That’s prudent,” Alijda agreed. “Keep me on video to monitor the situation.”

Fate had everything set up less than ten minutes later. Alijda tried not to laugh as the woman lowered the bowl onto her head; it covered most of her face.

“Okay then. Does this look as silly as it feels?” Fate asked, as she sat down and clutched a pair of Alice’s jeans to her chest.

“Would you believe me if I said no?”

“Not really. And no word from Para or Beam yet?”

Alijda shook her head. “No, though they’re still on sensors. Should we wait?”

“No point. This might not even work.” Fate drew in a deep breath. “So here’s wishing that I could swap minds with Alice.”

“Mmmm. At times, we all wonder what goes on in her head,” Alijda joked.

At first, nothing seemed to happen. But then, Fate sat up straighter. “What is this?” Fate’s voice demanded. She pulled the helmet off of her head and looked around. “Where am I? Where the hell did my underground lab go?!”

“Oh. Oh, that’s great,” Alijda muttered.



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No one chose contacting Vortex Ltd, which would have brought us back to an Alice or Trixie POV. We might have obtained more information, but one of them would have been infected, what with mentioning putting them in more danger. Instead we had a tie. Sending down Beam and Para would have resulted in an error, potentially extracting the scientist down there as well. Exploring the station was giving us the mind swapping as seen, except it would have worked… swapping with the scientist seemed like a reasonable compromise for the tie.

I’m not sure about prophesied, but early drafts had Fate and Alice already having swapped minds (likely if we’d gone the romance angle). It seemed like a useful device to have during a pandemic, when the limitation is your body cannot leave the house. Nixed when we started with Trixie.

I kept the last vote open to see if the tie would be broken, and because it was my first full week of classes under our new pandemic teaching model. So I was busy. Closed it Friday, but before I could start writing in earnest, my daughter got sick, and gave us her cold, and we all needed Covid-19 tests to avoid being at home for 14 days which was not a feasible situation. Hence the part is late. Thanks for waiting, and reading through to this point.

6.09: Elevator Pitch

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How concerned should a bunny be about a bunny-making flu? It was a question which Para had pondered for weeks, ever since being summoned to the Epsilon Station. More so since Trixie had assumed that Para was one of the infected.

Could Para catch the virus? If she caught it, would she grow a second set of bunny ears? If so, would they be partially tied to her mood, as her parabolic ears currently were? Or given that she wasn’t human, would there be no physical effect, only mental problems?

Ever since Beam had been out of quarantine, Para had endeavoured to engage the other woman in conversation about the non-physical aspects of the disease. Just in case.

But that only tended to result in Beam getting seductive. Of course, it now felt questionable in terms of usefulness, as for all they knew, Beam might have been infected with some holographic variation in the first place.

Para was now spending her time trying not to think about it, instead working to improve the Station’s sensors.


Commission by Michelle Simpson

Granted, she didn’t know that much about the technology, but she’d asked Alijda for some help. And while her first human friend was more of a hacker than a sensor specialist, it gave the both of them something to puzzle though while Alijda was quarantined, after her return from the magical world.

The initial reason for Para’s work had been better communications in advance of future teleport retrievals. A larger part of the logic now was the encrypted message the Station had received, the one pointing it towards this pandemic problem in the first place. Perhaps they could locate the source? Or find more such messages out there?

Either way, it was fortunate that she’d put her efforts there. Because this meant that it registered right away when Trixie and Alice disappeared from routine scans for their communicators.

Para double checked. She attempted a triangulation from their last known position, and it looked like they’d been headed towards some sort of park. Somewhere Beam had frequented. An attempt to scan more directly revealed a blind spot in the sensors.

“That can’t be good,” Para muttered aloud.

Para wondered about calling Fate, but the poor woman was finally getting some rest after having sent Trixie down to the planet in the first place. So she opened an internal communication to Alijda instead.

“Hey, do you think we could finish our upgrades fast?” she asked.

Alijda’s head bobbed. It looked like she was sitting up. “Maybe,” she yawned. “Why?”

“I’ve lost track of the team on the planet,” Para explained.

Alijda flinched. “Go to Auxiliary Control and illuminate a panel there. So that I can see what you’re doing.”

“I’m already here,” Para remarked. “I’ll set it up straight away.”

They were collaborating in less than five minutes, Alijda visible on the panel from the waist up as she peered at what Para was doing.

“Okay,” Alijda said. “I think as soon as the amplifier is hooked in, we’ll get a signal boost.”

Para peered at the wires, making sure not to hook a positive to a negative. “You’d think the station could access the best equipment,” she mused aloud. “Or at least be able to replicate it or something.” This amplifier had been assembled from parts in a storage bin.

“There’s probably some law preventing them from grabbing the best dimensional technology,” Alijda remarked. She grinned. “They have to make due with temporarily grabbing the best people. Or, er, beings. Meaning us.”

Para half smiled herself as she completed the hookup. “Even though we’re in the dark. It makes me wonder about the God that Alice referred to in our first mission. Like, why can’t they help out more?”

“Or as Alice would say ‘what does God need with a Dimensional Space Station’,” Alijda remarked. “All I can say is her take was that we still needed to have free will to fix things. Or screw up. Or both, considering how she was fired. They’re good questions though, I’m glad you’re asking them.”

“I’ve been questioning more than usual lately,” Para sighed.

“Okay, that should do it,” Alijda said, as Para moved back. “Flip the switch.”

Para stood back up, dusting off her skirt. “Great. Let’s see if we can learn more about the blind spot.” She reached out to activate the enhancements.

“This area didn’t show up unless you were looking right at it, yeah?” Alijda observed. “Implies there could be more down there.”

“That’s unsettling,” Para said, frowning. “Also, it’s still there… albeit smaller. Oh wait, I’m picking up…” Para twisted a knob.

“Hello? Hello?” came Trixie’s breathless voice.

“Hello, Trixie?” Para asked.

“Oh, thank goodness,” Trixie sighed. “Hurry. We’re trapped in the elevator with valuable information. Can you beam us up? Like, we don’t need Beam but… you know what I mean, yes?”

“Um, let me check,” said Para. She looked towards Alijda, hoping her friend had some way to know.

Alijda looked at the ceiling. “Hey Ziggy, you clued in?” she asked the main computer.

“More or less,” the computer responded after a moment. “Parts of me go inactive during your work, given that I don’t entirely want to know what surgery it is you’re trying to perform on me.”

“Can we do what Trixie asked?” Para wondered.

A pause. “No, there is a scattering field in place. You will want Trixie to move further away from that location.”

Para cleared her throat. “Trixie, there’s–”

“I heard. What part of us being trapped in an elevator did you not get?” Trixie complained. “And yes, there’s an emergency hatch, but it’s stuck. In much the same way that my elbow is stuck in Alice’s side.”

“At least it’s not poking me in the breast any more,” came Alice’s deadpan voice for the first time. “This is not a large space.”

“Hey, waving my wrist communicator around WORKED, didn’t it?” Trixie shot back.

Para decided not to mention the sensor enhancements. “Ladies, you’re on the edge of a strange blind spot,” she explained. “Maybe instead you can provide us with information to shut it down, or get around it?”

“Information? Well, there’s a whole secret base down here under the park,” Trixie said. “Funded by Clover Enterprises.”

“Indirectly funded,” Alice elaborated. “It’s local, run by Vortex Limited, who have been making their money through magical upgrades to the world’s technological systems. Upgrades obtained through Clover.”

“Right, right,” Trixie agreed. “Though you’re the one who thinks this is all some global Clover Enterprises experiment.”

“Taking advantage of the locals, why wouldn’t it be?” Alice argued. “Besides, we DO know that some aspects of the magic have been less than compatible with indigenous biology. Which led to the current planetwide situation.”

“Oh, damn. The pandemic,” Alijda gasped.

“Right,” Alice confirmed. “The Bunny disease is natural, except not, because it came from components that never should have interacted. Clover is at fault.”

“Kind of makes your Epsilon Project sensible,” Trixie admitted. “Keeping items out of dimensions where they shouldn’t be. You never know what might happen when they mix.”

“But then how is the disease jumping dimensions?” Para asked. “And mutating?”

“That? Not sure,” Trixie said. “This Vortex scientist has been playing with different strains here, in an attempt to find a cure. Could be his corporation also has the ability to jump dimensions? We didn’t find evidence of that – yet – but it would account for the spreading.”

“I wonder if these guys offered a biological sample to Clover Enterprises,” Alice said. “Clover themselves could be the ones spreading it. After all, the first file we saw was for a trade, not a cash payment. Might have been for items to be provided later.”

“I feel like Clover wanted some of this blended magical technology up front though,” Trixie noted. “I mean, from what little I’ve learned through working with your Epsilon group, tech and magic fusions are not that common in the greater multiverse. Even on my Earth, it’s not as simple as it might appear.”

“Maybe,” Alice said, sounding unconvinced.

“The blend was certainly messed up on the tiny world I went to with Para,” Alijda recalled.

“These Vortex people have certainly mastered their fusion to the point of infecting Beam,” Para reminded. “I’m starting to think we DON’T want them getting their hands on Trixie, and all the extra information she has.”

“I’d settle for getting my hands off Trixie right now,” Alice remarked. “No offence.”

“None taken,” Trixie mumbled.

“So far I haven’t heard anything that would get us past the scattering field,” Para pointed out.

“Can I transmit Rixi’s files to you somehow?” Trixie suggested. “You might find something there.”

“That’s an idea,” Para agreed. “Can we link her device with Ziggy, or have it send the information as an attachment?”

“I will attempt to set up a link through this channel,” came Ziggy’s voice.

“Rixi, try to coordinate. Para, there’s a bunch of files, and we haven’t had time to read each… wait, the elevator’s moving again,” Trixie realized.

“Going down,” Alice sighed.

“Oh no, he’s calling us back,” Trixie yelped. “Beam us up, beam us up!”

“We’ll start working on an extraction plan,” Alijda noted. “No worries. Stall if you can.”

Alice sighed. “It’s my fault we’ve been caught,” she admitted. “I insisted we stay long enough to get the files. So, know what? Even though I’m not the one in those pants with that perfume, I’ll try to seduce him to get us free. Okay?”

“Ha ha, good joke,” Trixie grumbled.

“I’m totally serious,” Alice insisted. “He’ll be so confused by my doing it that you might have a chance to escape out the front. With all your tech-magic intelligence. No elevator there to slow you down. Right?”

Trixie sighed audibly. “As amusing as … fine with taking point on … clarify our cover story?”

Para frowned. The communication link was breaking up.

“We could … members of the Vortex Limited team following up …” Alice stated, just before the channel went completely dead.

“That’s not good,” Alijda said, redundantly.

“I was able to obtain a few files before we lost the link,” Ziggy commented. “Shall I pull those up for you?”

Para nodded. “Yes please, and I guess we’d better wake up Fate.”


Only fifteen minutes had passed since they’d lost the communication link. It didn’t feel like that much time to Para, but she suspected that it felt longer to Trixie and Alice, down on the planet.

Fate had tentatively labelled them as hostages, though for all they knew, the two Epsilon employees were running a convincing con job.

“I see three options,” Fate said, pacing back and forth. “First option is sending Beam and Para planet-side, to evaluate the situation. Possibly set up a signal booster on site to cut through the interference, and we get everyone back that way.”

“Don’t you need Beam to help with the Station?” Para wondered.

The blonde hologram shook her head. “Stuff I’m dealing with is routine enough that Alijda could handle it from her room for now, pyon pyon. Plus I know the planet and would blend right in.”

“Also, Para, I don’t want to send you alone,” Fate noted. “I won’t lie though, it might be dangerous.”

Para felt her bunny ears quivering. “Second option?”

“We contact the Vortex group,” Fate stated. “There’s enough information in the few files Trixie transmitted for us to do that. We could even pretend to be with Clover Enterprises. There’s less risk to us this way, and if we do it right, we can get our people released as well as obtain more information about both groups.”

“But if we mess up, we could end up putting Alice and Trixie in even more danger,” Alijda chimed in from the monitor where she was observing the meeting.

“Possible,” Fate yielded.

“And the third option is my idea,” Beam remarked. Fate gestured at her to continue, and Beam smiled. “Thing is, we do have some artifacts on this station that have not yet been returned, pyon pyon. Between those and the sensor upgrades, we might find a way to punch through all the interference and get our ladies out without interfering with anything else happening down there at all.”

“Might?” Para wondered.

“Yes, well, it’s still half a plan,” Beam admitted. “But it emphasizes our non-interference policy and could mean we get a useful tool for later use.”

“We’ve already interfered,” Alijda pointed out. “And what if your plan turns into a wasted hour?”

“Look, sorry, we don’t really have time for a debate here,” Fate cut back in. “I’m going to choose. This meeting was mostly to see if there was an obvious flaw in any of the plans, and I’m not hearing anything I didn’t already consider. So unless someone had any other ideas or input…?”

Everyone exchanged uncertain glances. It didn’t look like there was anything else to say.

Para turned her attention back to hear Fate’s decision.



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Confronting would have revealed more plot to you, the reader, at the expense of both of them being knocked out. A rescue team would likely be needed. Hiding would have resulted in only one of them being captured (tentatively Alice, since Trixie would have been on the hook in a prior vote, and fair is fair). The other (Trixie) would have had the information out – that we got here – after some delay. Since they tried to get out, I had that they’d be captured but only after reporting, hence the Station POV. In retrospect, I guess there was always going to be a hostage situation of some sort here…

Already over 50 spam messages for September. Really? Contrast just over 10 actual page views. As for voting, three way tie until late Sunday. I guess it’s nice that there’s no one clear path I should be following? (Which would make things too predictable, right?) Though I sometimes wonder if people who don’t get their choice are annoyed. (Is it even the same people week to week? Who knows?) Either way, thank you all for sticking with it.