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CHANCED ERASURES: PART ONE
Whenever a pay phone rang near Chartreuse, she answered it. Given the number of people who tended to use pay phones in the modern age, chances were good that the incoming call was not normal, but rather, connected to her in some mystic way. This time was no exception.
“Hello, like, Chartreuse speaking,” the pink haired teenager declared into the receiver.
“Hi,” the mystery female voice responded. “Epsilon Project here… can we summon you? Through a door or whatever? Is now a good time?”
Chartreuse frowned. “Not really? When you called my house this morning, I said around 4pm would be, you know, good. D’you need me earlier?”
“Oh! No, but I only just started synching with your world. I’ll go back and make that call now. Thanks.”
Chartreuse peered at the phone. “Is this, like, a prank? Did Carrie put you up to this?”
The woman had already hung up. Chartreuse slowly replaced the phone into its cradle, glancing around the parking lot of the local cafe. There didn’t seem to be anyone paying attention to her. More to the point, the female on the other end of the line had sounded like the same woman who had called before, and the ‘Epsilon Project’ was a weird extra-dimensional association – so perhaps it was legit?
Yeah, it probably was. Carrie wasn’t the type of girlfriend who would use her time travel abilities for something silly like this. Besides, only Chartreuse and her sister Azure even knew about ‘Epsilon’, from the affair two weeks ago. Alas, Chartreuse supposed she should have asked for more details during the first call, but her mom had wanted her to do a reading on the future, after which she’d planned on meeting Carrie for lunch.
Ah well. It was generally better to tackle the unknown at the end of a day regardless, versus first thing in the morning. That way you weren’t exhausted all day after dealing with it – you could go to bed.
“I’ll, you know, figure this out at 4pm,” Chartreuse declared aloud, the vocalization helping to push the Epsilon stuff out of her mind.
Smoothing her hands down over her multicoloured dress, she continued on her way from her lunch date towards the library, to meet up with Lee. He’d turned up some information about Ottawa, which Chartreuse figured would be useful for when she and Carrie went to University in September.
It was a little after 4pm when Chartreuse remembered about the call. Still being a couple of blocks from her house, she walked over to a nearby parked car instead. It had doors, right? Finding the back unlocked, she opened it and got inside.
Nothing happened. Which included no one coming and asking her to get out of their car, so there was that.
After glancing around the interior, Chartreuse shrugged and got back out… only to now find herself standing in the large embarkation room of the Epsilon Project station. Shaped like a cylinder, the room had a set of computer banks on one portion of the curved wall, and it was there that a woman was standing. Her long blonde hair was pulled into a side ponytail, and she wore a plain black blouse, with a white skirt and thigh-high dark stockings.
“Hi!” Chartreuse chirped. “I thought you’d, you know, forgotten about me.”
The woman turned and smiled wryly. “No, but part of the point for the advance call was so you wouldn’t use a random door,” she remarked. “I realized I needed to recalibrate. Maybe this is why Alice always summoned people without bothering to warn them?”
“Oh. Oops?” Chartreuse glanced around. “Where is Alice anyway?”
The woman sighed and took a step closer. “Excellent question. That is, in fact, why you’re here. She and Beam were on a mission, and Alice was captured. My name is Fate, by the way, I’m currently in charge.”
Chartreuse widened her eyes. “Meaning you’ll need us to, like, go on a rescue mission?”
Fate shook her head. “More like a surveillance mission.” She pressed a finger to her cheek. “Though it might become a rescue mission? Eh, I suppose we’ll see what happens.”
Chartreuse nodded, then glanced around the room again. “So is Simon here?”
Fate blinked. “Who? Oh, wait, of course, the gentleman from your recruitment drive. No, retrieving him would be rather more complicated, and you’re well suited for what we want. Though if you want him on your team, that might be possible.”
Chartreuse clasped her hands. “I get a, like, team? Wow! And you’ve called for me owing to my ability to, you know, seamlessly blend into the background??”
“Eh heh. More like your ability to pick up impressions and read the future,” Fate remarked, scratching her forehead. “Leading the mission is voluntary though. Let’s go and have Beam fill you in. She’s down in the infirmary.”
Beam turned out to be a blonde girl in white dress, whom Fate introduced as being a sentient hologram. For her part, Chartreuse was becoming disconcerted by the number of pretty blondes she was encountering. At least they seemed a little too old for her to visualize them in a romantic way. Not that she’d ever consider cheating on Carrie, but it had the potential to be distracting.
“Did you hear what I said?” Beam asked, arcing an eyebrow.
“Hm? Oh, for sure,” Chartreuse said. “This project’s only lead on people who might be, you know, spreading dimensional knowledge was this mystery clover shape. You, like, followed up by going to a database from a way advanced reality, but, you know, got caught while trying to download information.”
Beam sat up a little in bed, but not so much as to jar the cable that was seemingly plugged into her blue hairband. She turned to look at Fate. “Girl’s smarter than she looks and sounds,” Beam remarked. “Is she single?”
“No, I am NOT,” Chartreuse said, a little louder than she’d intended. She quickly turned her own attention to Fate. “So when do I, like, pick my team?”
“Hold on,” Fate soothed. “Let Beam finish her story.”
Chartreuse looked back, to see Beam grinning. “Pardon my programming. Thing is, I got away from the place with enough information to hack the system. I can make you a member of this place’s academy, along with one other individual. You can decide who that will be.”
Chartreuse pursed her lips. “And so I, like, run around and try to learn as much as I can about what they’re doing, whether they’re connected to your clover people, and, you know, what happened to Alice?”
“Essentially,” Fate agreed. “We’d send Beam herself, but they might be able to detect her again, after what happened.”
“Um.” Chartreuse picked a random spot on the ceiling to look at as she rocked her body up onto her tiptoes and back down. “Seems harmless enough? Do I get, like, extra hazard pay?”
“I… oh.” Fate looked at Beam. “Wait, does the Project… pay people?”
“Not really,” Beam said. “Only in adventure, a better life, favours to be named later kind of deal. Or that’s how I understood it.”
Fate looked back at Chartreuse, rubbing the back of her neck. “No? You can back out though, if it’s a real issue. Or just not be the leader.”
Chartreuse refocussed, then smiled. “It’s fine. I should probably get more experience with crazy things anyway, given the direction my life has taken. So, I get to buddy with one other person out there?”
Fate nodded, and Beam added, “One thing I might suggest?”
“Sure,” Chartreuse chirped.
“Not Alijda, also known as Alison. Her close personal ties could be an issue. And I’m not only saying that because of how I made things awkward with Rose.”
Chartreuse adjusted one of the bows in her hair. “Since I don’t know who that is, or what you’re talking about, sure. Actually, someone logical would, you know, probably be a good counterpoint to me – got anyone in mind there, Fate?”
Fate half smiled. “Possibly. How do you feel about personified mathematics?”
Chartreuse was pretty sure that, despite her best efforts, she’d somehow lost the thread of the conversation. “Personified what now?”
Fate turned. “Let’s pull up her file, and if you’re okay with it, call her in.”
“So you’re a, like, personified parabola,” Chartreuse said slowly.
Para reached up with her hands to adjust the bunny ears on her hairband. She was another blonde, because of course she was. At least her pink dress seemed normal enough. “For the third time, yes?” the woman replied.
“Okay. Just, you know, still wrapping my head around it.” Chartreuse forced herself to change the topic. “Do you know any more about this advanced reality we’re going to than I do then? Like, math-wise?”
Para shook her head. “I only know what we both read in that report. There’s some sort of academy for multidimensional education, and they don’t like unauthorized people snooping around. But that Beam girl can give us IDs, and I’m pretty good at doing calculations on the fly, if need be.”
Chartreuse fingered the pendant hanging around her neck. “Right. Well, I know a thing or two about crystals, if that, you know, comes up.”
“We’re set then!” Para said, clasping her hands together. “I hope we can be friends.”
Chartreuse grinned. “Me too.” The bunny girl was nice enough, after all.
“Okay, I’m coming down,” came Fate’s voice from the circular opening in the ceiling. With a click, the gravity temporarily switched off, Fate bobbing down to join them back in the circular embarkation room. “Here,” she said, holding out a ring towards Chartreuse with one hand, as the other used a remote to reactivate the gravity.
“What’s that?” Para asked, as Chartreuse took the small ring and slid it onto her finger.
Fate looked towards Para. “There’s a note in Chartreuse’s file that says she needs time to acclimate her power when entering every new environment. However, that artifact should reduce any ill effects, if not fix things up for her entirely.”
“Should?” Chartreuse asked, holding her hand out at arm’s length. There was a small jewel inside the artifact, possibly jade.
Fate scratched her forehead. “Mysticism isn’t a fine science?” she offered. “But we can recall you if you hit the emergency button on your communicator. If things get bad.” She gestured towards the watches that Chartreuse and Para were already wearing.
“Meaning Alice could become trapped forever in, you know, their evil clutches,” Chartreuse sighed. “Okay, let’s do this thing. No point, you know, waiting.”
Fate seemed to look at her for a moment, as if judging her sincerity, then she walked over to the main computer. “I’ll try to avoid calling you, but feel free to call in at any time. Again, surveillance might be enough for us to get a read on the situation, you don’t need to rescue Alice yourself.”
Chartreuse nodded. “Gotcha.”
Para made a little salute. “Roger!” Then she leaned in towards Chartreuse. “That’s something humans say, right?”
Chartreuse bobbed her head. “For sures.”
Fate tapped away at the keyboard, and chevrons lit up on the floor as the portal system activated. Shortly after jumping in, Chartreuse found herself on what looked like the rooftop of a school campus. Seemed like she was headed back to school earlier than she’d anticipated.
VOTING CLOSES MIDNIGHT EDT SUNDAY JULY 15th
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PATHS NOT TAKEN:
My plots were deliberately vague. Surveillance would have involved the mystery clover group, rescue would have involved retrieving Alice, so with a tie we got them both. Escort mission would have had a princess or something, probably? I’m not sure how this will develop. Your votes really do matter, please spread the word!