6.06: Perspective Shift

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“Pyon pyon. Pyon pyon.”

Trixie looked up from her cafeteria tray. She immediately regretted doing so. “Beam,” she groaned. “Now that you’re out of quarantine, could you, like, wear actual clothes? Unless you’re headed to a pool.”

The blonde holographic woman tilted her head to the side, while still leaning in across the table. Giving Trixie a very good view right down into the cleavage of her swimsuit. “No. I feel all tingly when I cover up more than this,” Beam answered. “Which then seems to make the effects of the virus worse later on.”

“Then at least make the effort to not charge up my hormones this way,” Trixie griped, now finding it impossible to look away from Beam’s heaving chest. “I need to focus, so that I can solve this mystery and get the heck out of here.”

Beam glanced down towards her own torso, then stood up straight again along with taking a step back. “Oh yeah. Sorry. Was just with Para, who’s less susceptible to my wiles than you or Fate. It DOES take a conscious effort for me to not be sexy in this state y’know, pyon pyon.”

Commission from Sen Yomi

Trixie sighed, finding it easier to stare at her bowl of melon balls now that Beam was a couple metres away. She brought her spoon to her mouth, munching in order to have a moment to consider a response.

Honestly, even if Beam wasn’t contagious – as far as they could tell – having the bunny girl hopping around the Station felt more distracting than it was helpful.

Sure, Fate needed someone to handle station work. And Alice had recently reported that, over time, Smoke could completely clear from an infected person, and revert people to normal. But the number of cases there were still in the minority, while Beam was still very much infected.

But then, Trixie reflected, maybe she was simply biased. Because she had become enraptured by the holographic girl’s coding, which was written in some programming language that she didn’t have a hope of understanding. It was mysterious, magical code, from which a lovely female personality could emerge, and blossom. Blossom, and thrive.

Blossom, and thrive, and perform skilled sexual acts on the fairer sex.

“Why do you consistently send my mind into the gutter?” Trixie finally asked.

Beam smiled and shrugged. “It’s a gift? Though when you first saw me I was giving off more lusty vibes than usual. Doubt that helped for impressions, pyon pyon.”

Trixie shook her head. “Guess I’m not blameless. After almost a week here on this Station, I’m craving more human contact. So, why are you interrupting my lunch? It better not be to hit on me.”

“It’s because Fate’s going to make contact with someone else shortly,” Beam answered. “And she thinks it might be best for all of us to be there.”

Trixie pushed the cafeteria tray away, focus restored. “Let’s hope it provides a breakthrough. Lead the way, and don’t shake your cotton tail at me.”

“No promises, but I’ll try, pyon pyon,” Beam stated, spinning on her heel as Trixie stood up.


Trixie climbing off the ladder in the main control room seemed to prompt Fate to start in on an explanation.

“Okay,” Fate said. “I ran a new character analysis. There was our initial information, which suggested to us that Trixie might have some solutions, plus the data from Alijda and Alice. All conditional on us only consulting someone with whom Epsilon’s previously interacted.”

“Isn’t that kind of a short list?” Para mused. “There haven’t been that many big missions.”

“Small missions count. Like Beam’s first archaeologist assignment,” Fate clarified. “People who have never met us, but they are aware of artifacts and the like.”

“What turned up then?” Trixie asked, coming closer.

Fate turned to the computer. “One name. Time to give this a try.”

The blonde woman reached out and tapped a few keys, then stood back as a phone began to ring.

“We’re not bringing them here, pyon pyon?” Beam murmured, leaning closer to Fate.

“According to his file, he’s got the means to get here if he wants,” Fate answered. “In a British taxicab.”

Trixie turned. “He?” she said, surprised. She’d started to take their all female cast for granted.

The sound of the phone ringing cut out, and an image appeared on the computer monitor. Trixie took in darker skin and what looked like a tan suit, before there was a flash of blinding light. Light that must have come from a swiss army like device that the man was holding. His face came into view as he looked at it, then back at the monitor.

“Oh,” he said. “This is actually a call. I thought for sure there was a malfunction.”

Fate stepped forwards and waved. “Hello! I represent a group of people who are looking for some assistance in terms of a dimensional pandemic. Possibly with a temporal angle.”

“Oh, that’s MASON,” Para said, smiling. She stepped forwards next to Fate, waving. “Hi! How have you been, friendly alien guy?”

Mason’s look of confusion was replaced with a half smile. “Oh, there’s someone I recognize. Para, yes? You still with… the Epsilon Project, was it? Guessing it hasn’t been easy to track me. I’ve been off the grid.”

“I don’t think we were trying to,” Para answered. She looked at Fate. “Were we?”

“No. Alice even put a flag on his file, but we’re in a bit of a bind here. Mason, can I send you all the data we have? For your opinion? You can decide if you want to join us in person after reading it.”

“Oh, HE gets all the data first,” Trixie muttered.

Beam took a step closer to her. “Mason has already been on this Station, and signed a non-disclosure form. Or some equivalent,” she informed her, quietly.

“I’ll take a look,” Mason was answering, as Trixie processed Beam’s words. “Kind of in the middle of something though. Include the best coordinates to phone, in case I can’t visit?”

“Will do,” Fate stated. She stepped forward to tap again at the keyboard.

“Thanks,” Mason said. “I’ll be in touch as soon as — wait, stop, good kitty. No, kitty. No, don’t jump on the–”

The connection cut out.

“Huh.” Trixie ran her fingers back through her twintails. “Well, that was informative. When can we expect him to–”

She was interrupted by a ring, and Fate reached out to tap a button on the console. The image of Mason reappeared, although this time he was wearing a fez and sunglasses.

Trixie stared, her fingers still stuck in her hair. Apparently more time had passed on his end of the phone line than on theirs.

“Hello again. Good news and bad news,” Mason remarked. He peered at his swiss army knife, then pushed the sunglasses up to the top of his head, knocking off his fez.

“Bad news first, pyon pyon,” Beam chirped.

“Hm? Ah, yes. Can’t triangulate to your location, but it’s not because of chronon particles on your end,” Mason said, ducking out of view. “As there are none. I think the trouble’s my stabilizer.” He reappeared and pulled off the sunglasses. “And the affectations aren’t helping. Oh well.”

“Did you want us to try and lock on from here?” Fate asked.

“Don’t bother,” Mason said, waving her off. He peered again at his swiss army knife, then shook it and looked back at them again. “I can deliver the good news this way. I think I know why your pandemics are happening, if not how.”

Trixie slowly lowered her hands. “Just from reading Fate’s files?”

Mason smiled. “Well, and from looking at your group. A bunch of white females. Who are, aside from the lady rabbits, human too.”

As Fate looked back around at their group, Trixie had to concede the point. Even Alice and Alijda fit the bill in terms of his description. Perhaps that’s why the algorithm had pinpointed a brown skinned male alien for them? Assuming biological sex even worked the same way with his race.

“Uh, we’re sorry for that?” Fate said, looking back at him.

Mason shook his head. “Never apologize for being yourself. Unless you’re supporting institutional racism, then do better than simply apologize. No, it just got me thinking, to a virus you’d all be the same too. Except while Beam looks the same, she is different inside. So why go to the trouble of attacking that code, and not the nearest router?”

“Um, I’m more complicated than a router,” Beam protested.

“Right,” Mason said. “You can move about. Go places you shouldn’t. Whereas a router is stuck in one place. You see it yet?”

“Hey! When I go places it’s CONSENSUAL,” Beam insisted. “I mean, I might come on a little strong with the prettiest women, but before I put my tongue–”

“Beam, stop. He means you were deliberately infected,” Trixie broke in. “That’s it, right? This wasn’t natural. Someone adapted the virus to her.” It was starting to click, and not in a good way.

Mason nodded. “The thought had occurred,” he remarked.

“Except the virus was affecting immobile technology on the adjacent world too,” Para reminded them. “Wasn’t that in the data we provided?”

“Well, looked like something was affecting those devices,” Mason granted. “Possibly a program for purging information that people didn’t want getting out. To stay hidden. Another a good way to stay hidden is to be somewhere that nobody wants to go. Like a world in the midst of a massive pandemic. Which is where I was leading.”

“Oh no,” Trixie said, a chill running down her spine. “You don’t think multiple worlds were infected merely to try and divert attention away from the one place where someone was doing experiments, do you?” Misdirection was a classic way of concealing a truth.

Mason shrugged. “Hey, I have no certainties here, only more hypotheses.”

“Okay. So we’re talking about someone trying to stay concealed,” Fate reasoned. “Someone on Bunny World, since that’s where Beam was.” She paused. “We need a better name for that place.”

“Smoke Machine?” Beam mused.

Fate rolled her eyes. “Anyway, this is progress. We can now plan to track down whomever could reprogram a holographic woman to be infected, or otherwise think she was, to keep her and other people away. Not a common thing on that world.”

“They also gave Beam the capability to spread the regular virus in the process, for plausibility,” Para added. “Since Beam gave us an initially positive test, right?”

“I feel like Alijda could do those things,” Beam mused, crossing her arms. She looked over at Trixie. “You probably could as well, pyon pyon. So you’d both be helpful for finding the real crook.”

“I could too,” Mason remarked, reminding them he was still watching. “Not that I – or any of us – would. That is, any of us in this present moment. I’m not sure how your temporal issue factors into the–” Something sparked behind him, and he looked over his shoulder. “Oh, shoot.”

“More trouble with your cat?” Fate wondered.

“You mean the Flerken?” Mason said. “No, I think this is… uh oh, I gotta go. Thanks for the chat, all the best with your problems.”

He waved his hand, seemed to fall down, and the communication line cut out again.

“I’m sure he’s fine, pyon pyon,” Beam said after a moment.

“So that happened,” Trixie said, rubbing her forehead. “Moving on, remind me whether it was confirmed that Bunny World had the first outbreak?”

“Yes, as best as we could tell,” Fate answered. “With the latency period ranging from one day to fourteen days, it’s hard to be 100% sure.”

“All right. So either it started there, and someone’s taken advantage of it to spread it further and give themselves a hiding place… or it was brought there by this individual deliberately.”

“A-Am I the only one thinking Alice could be in danger?” Para spoke up. “Like, maybe anyone who gets too close to the truth gets infected the way Beam did.”

“Alice was steering clear of where Beam had been,” Fate assured. “Precisely because we didn’t want Alice being infected, and didn’t think Beam had found anything. Though I suppose Alice IS staying in the same apartment.”

“I should go back down,” Beam decided. “Not only to help Alice, but maybe seeing me still poking around despite my infection will throw our enemy off their game, pyon pyon.”

“I don’t know. Maybe I should go,” Trixie said, crossing her arms. “Aside from how I don’t think I can stand being on this Station much longer, you said it yourself. My ability to give you this virus makes me well suited for pinpointing a like-minded individual.”

“Or maybe Alijda should go,” Para offered. “She also has programming power, we know she works well with Alice, and right now she’s on a decoy world.”

“We’d need to route her through quarantine, which would delay things,” Fate said. “Also, Alijda was seen in the past of the planet she’s on… wait, you don’t think she’d go rogue in the future, and be the person we’re after, do you?”

“If so, all the more reason to have Alice watching her,” Para suggested.

“Hello? Was I not brought on board to investigate?” Trixie insisted. “And I have magic, which Alijda doesn’t have.”

“Your field work is hit and miss,” Beam noted. “And if I was on the planet, I wouldn’t be distracting your research up here.”

Fate crossed her arms, brow furrowing. “Great. Another decision to make.”



Previous INDEX 6 Next

Recalling Alijda would have had her interact more with Trixie (and possibly call Alice) as they discussed the situation. Handling things themselves would have had Beam look into past Epsilon missions and artifacts for anything helpful (or she possibly would have visited the tech world, fanning out the group rather than consolidating them). The former character (which won) was always going to be the winner of of the poll for “Favourite One Story Character”. At the time of this writing, that was Mason (2 votes, versus 1 for the others) for the cameo. It worked well given the temporal element.

After a week online, there was only one view and one vote. Again I sighed on Facebook, which brought me to three votes, all tied. I had vague plans for working with all three, but did retweet Tuesday Serial and put out a call on Twitter (twice) for anyone wanting to tiebreak. Happened late on Thursday, so went with the Mason plan. (I’d have thought it was the first person re-voting, possible after 7 days, except it wasn’t for their initial choice.) Thanks for reading, spread the word!

6.04: Balance Beams

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“Don’t do that,” Trixie said, frowning.

Beam looked back over her shoulder, ceasing wiggling her hips. Or rather, ceasing shaking her bunny tail at the acrylic doorway separating the two women.

“Is it distracting you?” Beam asked, with a cute little smile.

The blonde holographic woman had changed since Trixie had last seen her in the video. Most visibly, she was now wearing the blue one-piece swimsuit she’d alluded to then, to match the bow around her neck and the bunny ears spouting from her hairband. She still wore dark stockings, but now they disappeared into a pair of blue heels.

“Vaguely,” Trixie admitted. There was no point in lying. “But it’s like I told that Para lady. Don’t use my own distraction techniques against me. It annoys me more than it turns me on.”

CHIBI BEAM (pre-bunny)
Commission from Gen Ishihara

“Oh.” Beam stood up fully and turned back around. “Fine. But I doubt I’m contagious, pyon pyon. And my fourteen days are almost up. We could have a LOT of fun together afterwards, before I get back to normal. Hmm?”

“You don’t even know me,” Trixie pointed out. “This is our first meeting. Why allude to wanting to sleep with me?”

Beam winked. “I’ve read your Epsilon file. I know you’re here to help us, meaning you should be rewarded. And I don’t think not knowing someone has necessarily prevented YOU from a night of passion before.” She wiggled her eyebrows, which made her bunny ears twitch too.

Trixie tightened her jaw. Beam wasn’t wrong, and yet. “So you got to read some file on ME, whereas we have to talk in person before I get access to any files about YOU? Oh, that seems fair,” she concluded, allowing her tone to imply that it definitely did not seem fair at all.

At that, Beam sighed. She turned away again, but instead of shaking her tail, went retrieve a nearby chair, which she pulled closer to the doorway before sitting down in it. She crossed both her legs and her arms, regarding Trixie.

Trixie wondered whether Beam was trying to get her to look away first, or perhaps was waiting for Trixie to offer up an apology for the outburst. She did not rise to the bait, waiting for the blonde to take the first action.

“You want me to spell out why we’re meeting here?” Beam said at last. “Or would you prefer to deduce it, what with investigations being something you’re supposedly good at, pyon pyon.”

Trixie swallowed her first response – namely ‘your bunny virus wanted a woman to hit on’ – in favour of giving the question a fair chance.

Whatever file ‘Epsilon’ had, it likely contained some information about Trixie’s habits, her investigative procedures… and Rixi, her magical technological device. Indeed, Trixie suspected that part of why they had showed Beam to her at all – a curious case of a piece of technology who could get sick from a human condition – was in the hopes that it would rope her in.

A plan which had worked.

In the end, off Fate’s final offer, Trixie had found herself incapable of turning down the chance to study Beam, even over the alternatives of looking into this Station’s advanced technology, or chatting with another female programmer who might have similar interests.

Which had to be the answer.

“You want me to see you as more than a program,” Trixie decided. “More than a piece of near incomprehensible software that might be malfunctioning. Which can only be done by talking to you in person, before looking at your ones and zeroes.”

Beam made a little finger gun, which she used to take aim at Trixie. Her smile was back. “Eighty percent of the way there. And?”

“And you wanted to make sure that I don’t have an interest in stealing your software. Given that time in my past when I was interested in a constructing a virtual person for dating purposes.”

Beam pointed her finger gun at the ceiling. “Whoa! That info is not in your file, but I am hella intrigued now, pyon pyon.”

Trixie grimaced. The overshare had been a gamble, to see just what data they DID have on her. But given Beam’s reaction, perhaps she should have thought of something a bit less personal.

“Fine. Then more generally, you also wanted to see me, to judge my capabilities. Possibly my personality.”

Beam lowered her index finger again to make a shooting motion. “Bang on. Wouldn’t you want to meet the ladies who intend to sift through your unmentionables? Alijda, I know, pyon pyon. You, I did not.”

Trixie posed with a hand on her hip. “And what’s your opinion of me now?”

Beam bounced up out of the chair and clasped her own hands behind her back, leaning closer. “I know you are good at what you do. And I now believe you see me not as just a program or a person, but a balance of both, pyon pyon. Granted, the virus may be throwing off my balances… still, I think we could be friends.”

Trixie eyed Beam. “I sense a ‘but’ coming.”

“Mmmm. But I am reserving final judgement until I see whether you’ll keep talking to me, or run off to look at my less human pieces now. Since I am giving you the go-ahead for that.”

Trixie considered the proposal. And as tempting as it was to simply look at the data, Beam was as much a client as she was a curiosity.

“I’ll bite,” Trixie yielded. “We’ll keep talking. Do you know much about your own software then? About what it is I’m going to see?”

Beam shrugged. “Only about as much as you might know about your own body, pyon pyon? Fun fact, you’ve got more bacterial cells in you than you do human cells.”

“Okay. And would you normally be able to reprogram yourself?”

At that, Beam finally frowned. “Hmph. Would you be able to reprogram your gut bacteria?”

Trixie shook her head, twintails flipping back and forth. “False equivalence. That’s hardly the same thing.”

“I suppose not.” Beam started to pace back and forth. “But based on similar logic, no. I’m pretty sure I’d mess something up if I tried. I wasn’t given high tech programming knowledge, Trixie. If anything, I know more about humans. And women, pyon pyon. And how to please them.” Her smile returned, and again she winked.

“Uh huh.” Trixie refused to be baited, no matter how cute Beam appeared. “Don’t make yourself out to be some kind of programmable call girl, Beam. It’s undignified.”

At that, Beam paused in her pacing. “I’m hardly programmable,” she said, indignantly. “I have my own kinks. And I come from a world of free love, Trixie, so one of my fundamental understandings is that there’s nothing wrong with ladies enjoying sex. I got the impression from your file that you of all women would understand that?” She fluffed her chest.

Again, not wrong. Trixie worried she was starting to blush. She forced her gaze back to Beam’s smile. “Yes, well, time and a place, Beam. How about this virus situation, do you at least know how to triage yourself?”

Beam accepted the deflection and resumed pacing. “Sure. I mean, I know how to keep my hairband charged, pyon pyon. I have self-repair diagnostics, which are vaguely analogous to your leukocytes, or white blood cells. And if I’m really in trouble, I know to seek help, meaning I can identify such cases.”

“But aren’t you in trouble right now?”

“Am I? I’ve got weird cosmetic changes, a desire to wear odd clothes and say ‘pyon pyon’, a hankering for carrots, and a majorly charged libido, but my life isn’t in danger.”

Trixie considered that. “So you think that’s why no self-repair is cutting in.”

Beam shrugged. “Or maybe it needs the virus to wane more before being fully effective? Again, I’m not some interface for Goodle, or whatever your world’s popular search engine is. I can’t simply ‘look up’ a correct answer.”

“Right, right.” Trixie tugged on her own earlobe as she thought. “Well, what DO you know about viruses?”

Beam chuckled. “Human or technological?”


“More than I did a week ago,” Beam said. She stopped pacing in favour of sitting back in her chair. “It gets boring in here.”

“So what have you been learning?” Trixie pressed. She sat down herself on the floor of the hallway, cross-legged, hoping it would encourage Beam to stay seated and stop wiggling her bunny tail. “Or is it more, you’re becoming aware of subconscious things you knew on some level already?”

“Been talking to the other ladies, pyon pyon?” Beam started swinging her legs back and forth. “I mean, I’m sure my programming knows more than I consciously do, but I’m not convinced it can interpret a virus the way they think.”

“So you don’t think my examining your bits would help.”

“Oh, you can examine my bits,” Beam giggled. She leaned back and swung both legs wide open. And Trixie now regretted sitting on the floor, given what it put at eye level.

“Bits and bytes, for any viral code,” Trixie snapped, louder than she’d intended.

To her credit, Beam shut her legs shut again almost immediately. “Sorry, new libido took over. Trixie, my bits and bytes and petabytes might help. That’s why I’m letting them be examined, pyon pyon. But as I said, not convinced.”

“Why?” Trixie pressed, tugging at the collar of her blouse.

Honestly, she didn’t know whether it was the virus, Beam’s mannerisms, or something about the hologram’s very nature, but the blonde bunny really was seeming more and more attractive, the longer that they spoke.

Trixie decided to focus on a random point on the wall behind Beam.

“Because,” Beam answered. “A virus is designed to alter the way a human – or computer – operates, by attaching itself to a legitimate cell – or program – and using that other identity to spread it’s nefarious code. Via vectors or macros or whatever.”

“That I know,” Trixie said. “So you think the very act of your program attempting to analyze a virus would cause said program to become infected? Except that doesn’t make sense, because a normal computer wouldn’t be infected by a flu.”

Beam clucked her tongue. “A witch, forgetting that magic exists, pyon pyon? Not to mention how we know this thing jumps dimensions. Think again.”

Trixie’s brow furrowed. She still didn’t have a good baseline for what dimensions were. “Then, an adaptive virus? One that has some magical power to mutate depending on its environment?”

“Mutation was my first thought after being planet-side,” Beam agreed. “But in the reading I’ve done since, I think it’s more a matter of recombination.”

Trixie shook her head. “We’re beyond my expertise.”

“Recombination occurs when co-infecting viruses exchange genetic information, pyon pyon. That’s how we get a novel virus. A bit like having a viral baby, except there’s no sexual reproduction involved, alas.”

Trixie grimaced, looking sidelong at Beam. “So, what, you think this virus – does it have a name I can use?”

“The locals on the world where I went called it Smoke.”

“You think this Smoke was able to combine with some virus that already existed in your programming?”

“Not quite,” Beam clarified. “I now think Smoke was able to exchange information with something that wasn’t a virus – though magical means, possibly – allowing the creation of a new novel virus version of itself inside me, pyon pyon.”

Trixie considered that. “I don’t see how that’s more likely than a mutation.”

“Well, every virus mutates, with RNA viruses like the flu being more prone to it over DNA viruses like smallpox. But they usually mutate into a weaker version, whereas getting at me, or behaving in a non-bunny-girl way on a different world, implies a power-up.”

Trixie shook her head. “But if this virus can recombine at will, then why wouldn’t it spread itself into plants too? Or animals? Or other living things?”

“Good question. I assume it’s been given magical limits,” Beam asserted. “Thankfully.” She slumped. “Or, y’know, I’m totally wrong and looking like a bunny was truly my programming doing an over-analysis, pyon pyon. I dunno. Gawd, I need a carrot.” Her legs fell open again.

Trixie only noticed that last in her peripheral vision, and she scrambled to stand up after doing so. Could pheromones be transmitted through plexiglass? Either way, she was definitely getting too distracted. “Okay, Beam. I’m going to go have a look at your code now. Just one more question?”

“Yup?” Beam said, not bothering to correct her posture this time.

“Do we know if this virus has jumped outside humans on any other world from your briefing? On the tech world with teleporter technology, for instance?”

“No idea, pyon pyon. But Alice is still investigating in my place on Bunny World, she might have turned up something.”

“Right. Okay, thanks,” Trixie said, giving a little wave to Beam as she turned to walk down the hall.

“Byeeeeee, enjoy staring at all my naughty bits,” Beam called out.

Once Trixie had turned the nearest corner, she paused, and took a couple of deep breaths.

“Get a grip, Trix,” she muttered to herself. “It’s opposites that attract, not whatever the hell that was.”

She raked her fingers back through her twintails and considered what additional information she had.

First, while the Epsilon people were very shady, they did seem to be playing it straight as far as their situation went. Or they were incredibly good actresses.

Second, there was no way they were going to get all of their answers to the virus mystery by staying on the Station. Even if Beam’s programming turned up something, they would still need more data regarding the potential for those viral recombinations. As well as possible natural immunities.

Perhaps, Trixie mused, she should even suggest that they gather data from the other viral worlds? They didn’t have a defined point of origin yet. And sending Para might prompt an illuminating response, if they recognized her state as one possible mutation.

Finally, irritatingly, Trixie knew that was going to have to be careful not to get swept up in the novelty of everything going on around her. After all, these people knew her better than she knew them.

Even with everything being on the level, she would still need to be cautious.




Previous INDEX 6 Next

Had Trixie talked with the computers, we would have looked more into the Station history (possibly what the project more routinely scans for). Had Trixie talked with Alijda, we would have explicitly brought our teleporter into the fold with both virus and Epsilon talk. With Beam being the choice, we focussed mostly on the virus, moving forward there. (Even as Beam got more forward too, I swear she’s worse than Peaches.)

There were no views on the previous part in the 10 days after it was posted. Possibly a new record of some sort? There was one vote though, which I suppose answers the question of whether subscribers voting counts for views. Once report cards were in last week, I posted to my personal facebook looking for more votes, which is how we got to where we are now (and why this post is a few hours late). Thanks for sticking with it out there. Let me know if you have a particular viral preference.

6.03: Bunny Can’t Buy Happiness

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“I’m in here for at least fourteen days?” Beam sputtered.

Alice clasped her hands behind her back, leaning closer to the large, clear wall that had been erected in place of a doorway. She scrutinized their colleague and friend. “I did say I wanted to teleport someone here, remember? Before you went down? So I created this area. You’ll have everything you need.”

“Sure, but when you said you’d bring me back in quarantine, I didn’t expect THIS, pyon pyon,” Beam protested. Her gaze shifted to Fate, who was staring, wide-eyed. Despite her own obvious irritation, Beam smiled. “And what are you looking at?”

Fate took a half step back, a blush starting to colour her cheeks. “Nothing? Just, maybe the bunny ears suit you?”

Beam’s omnipresent hairband now had two bright blue bunny ears sprouting from it, one of them partially flopped down. And her normal outfit of a dark blouse, blue skirt and dark stockings had been accessorized with a neck choker containing a bright blue bow.

The blonde holographic girl did a quick spin then, lifting her skirt to reveal a blue bunny tail poking out through a hole she had cut in her panties. “Do you like my tail too?” She wiggled.

Fate cleared her throat and turned her attention to the clipboard in her hand, idly spinning a pencil in her fingers as she stared intensely at the paper before her. “Irrelevant. You’re in quarantine.”

Beam spun back. “But I won’t be contagious forever, even assuming I am now.” Then her eyes opened wide. “Oh NO… this is two weeks without any hugs, isn’t it. I don’t know if I can handle that.”

“You have before,” Alice pointed out dryly. “Running this place all alone.”

“Yeah, but I think maybe now I have a stereotypical bunny libido?” Beam said, chewing her lower lip. “I’m thinking about sex more than usual. Come to think, thank goodness the virus didn’t switch my sexual preferences, pyon pyon. Makes me wonder about the guys it infects.”

Fate rubbed her forehead. “Back on topic, please. Beam, do you know how you, a hologram, caught a virus that, as far as we know, only targets humans?”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” Beam admitted. “Remember my programming is meant to emulate human physiology as much as possible? I sweat when I work out, I bleed when I’m cut, and so on. It’s likely that an accidental exposure to the virus triggered these bunny changes, to help me blend in with the locals.”

“But you’re not sure,” Alice pressed. “It could be some new mutation.”

Beam shrugged. “It’s possible. But I even caught a cold once. This isn’t too different. And as I said when I contacted you, I’m willing to ride this infection out so that you get some data, rather than trying to reprogram myself, pyon pyon.”

Fate nibbled on the end of her pencil, then finally brought her gaze back up to scrutinize Beam. “So, the tail. The ears, the bow. It’s become part of your program? You woke up one morning and had them?”

“The same way it happens to someone on that Earth, yeah,” Beam affirmed. “Though for humans, the bunny ears come from the scalp. Also, this bow collar?” She tapped it. “It didn’t appear, it’s an accessory. I just had this… compulsion. To buy it.”

“You felt compelled to accessorize?” Alice said, lifting an eyebrow. “How?”

“It’s like how I’m compelled to say ‘pyon pyon’ sometimes,” Beam explained. “My tongue starts to feel funny, until I do it. Likewise, my neck felt funny until I put the bow on. Even now, part of me feels like I should wear a one piece swimsuit too.”

Alice crossed her arms, looking thoughtful. “I wonder. Could the initial virus have been created by some clothing corporation?”

Fate rolled her eyes. “Any other physical changes for you, Beam? I mean, given that the males who catch this apparently change sex?”

“Like what, a bigger bust?” Beam mused, smirking. She shook her head. “Not that I’ve noticed. Did you want me to strip down and let you take my measurements, pyon pyon? Hmm?”

Fate pressed the heel of her hand to her forehead. “Oy, I should never have let our relationship get unprofessional.”

“For now, let’s just have you type up a more detailed report for us,” Alice interjected. “Okay Beam? It will be important if I’m going down there to replace you.”

Beam’s smile vanished. “What? Alice, no. It’s not safe for you there.”

Alice brought her hands to her hips. “Why? Were there riots in the streets or something?”

“Well, no. At least, not that I saw,” Beam admitted. “It’s just, the virus. Right? It apparently takes at least a day to incubate, so you can have it, and transmit it, and not know it. And I’ve seen what happens to people who catch it, pyon pyon. They’re socially shunned.”

“I’ll wear a mask,” Alice soothed. “Besides, it won’t be for long, just to get any additional data we need.”

Fate looked to Alice and shook her head. “What? No way. Once you’re down there, the only way you’re coming back is through quarantine. We’ve got to have a closed border policy in place.”

Alice opened her mouth as if to protest, then seemed to think better of it. “Valid. I guess I should be glad we’re not talking Andromeda Strain deadly here.”

Beam looked hopeful. “Then Alice would join me in here after? Ooh, so maybe Fate should go down instead?”

“Fate is still in charge,” Alice objected. “As to the rest, we’ll figure it out before I leave. Your job for now is that detailed report. Understood?”

Beam’s expression became a pout. “Pyon pyon,” she mumbled, her bunny ears visibly drooping.


The second video finished playing, and Para closed the file. She then turned back to Trixie, to see the redheaded witch had taken two steps back, and was now glaring at her.

Para glanced down at herself, smoothed out a wrinkle in her purple dress, and looked back up. Trixie was still glaring. “What?” Para asked.

Trixie pocketed the device she had called ‘Rixi’ and then crossed her arms over her chest. Her posture seemed to convey that the problem was obvious. Except it really wasn’t.

“Trixie, what?” Para reiterated.

Trixie sighed, shook her head, then raised her hand to point. “You’re infected.”

Commission by Michelle Simpson

Para blinked. Then reached up to the bunny ears on her hairband. “Oh! No, I said these were because I’m a quadratic function.” She smiled in what she hoped was a conciliatory way.

“Uh huh. The last guy I chatted up in a bar said he was allergic to latex,” Trixie shot back, while lowering her arm. “Could be true, sure, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a red flag to continuing a conversation.”

Para nibbled her lower lip. She’d never been stereotyped on account of that part of her appearance before. “Okay, well… what can I do to convince you? Should I calculate the arc of a thrown object real fast or something?”

“I don’t have anything to throw at you,” Trixie pointed out. Para still couldn’t figure out if the woman was bluffing. “Is this some sort of a test?” Trixie pressed on. “Is that Fate woman watching us now, to see how I react?” She glanced furtively around the room, possibly looking for cameras.

Para slowly shook her head. “Fate went to take a call from Alice. Whereas she brought me to the Station in part for my expertise – more on vectors than on bunny girls, by the way – and in part because I’ve worked on the station before. In case an emergency situation comes up with Beam in quarantine.”

Trixie continued to stare for a long moment before relaxing her stance. “Fine, whatever. I’m staying over here. Further if you cough. Since studies vary in terms of how far away I need to be.”

Para nodded. “Are you at least taking the case? You seem to know a bit about disease transmission.”

Trixie’s expression became hard to read once again. “I know a little about a lot of things,” she said eventually. “And I still have questions.”

“I’ll answer as best as I can?” Para offered. She wondered if she should keep smiling or not.

Trixie mumbled something under her breath. It sounded like ‘bet she won’t answer questions about this place until we talk virus’. Before Para could speak up, Trixie was speaking aloud once again.

“Three obvious problems, Para. First, everyone’s been talking about this thing as a virus. What about this realm-hopping thing being a bacteria? Was that ruled out because bacteria are larger, or what?”

“I don’t know,” Para admitted. “Though I guess something smaller might more easily slip through a dimensional crack.”

“Except a virus can’t exist without a host,” Trixie continued, taking a couple steps sideways to slap at the wall. She then pointed at Para again. “Which is probably a lot LARGER than a bacteria. Can you explain that?”

Para winced. “No? Again, not a biology expert, more in this for the math.”

“Uh huh. Second problem, that holographic lady.” Trixie gestured towards the computers. “I’m thinking she could catch a cold because her programming recognized the virus type, and as such she runs some program to act accordingly. Yet in this case, the virus would be unknown… so how would her software know what program to run? Or did it only change her appearance?”

Para shook her head. Here, at least, she and Fate had discussed the situation a bit. “It’s more than cosmetic. One possibility is that Beam’s program was able to do an analysis of the viral effects at a very high level. Meaning she’s got valuable data we can use somewhere in her subconscious.”

At that, Trixie leaned against the wall with her elbow, resting her hand back against her head. She looked thoughtful. “Really? The technology buff in me kind of wants to talk to this Beam now. Is her fourteen days of quarantine up yet?”

“Not yet, but the talking is easy enough. Oh, there’s also been talk of bringing Alijda back on board to look at Beam’s programming,” Para added. “She’s a woman who was even able to hack into alien technology on my first mission here.”

Trixie stared. “You’re making this sound more and more interesting, and part of me hates you for that. But before I commit, third problem. Did anyone run a check on how you first noticed this virus thing? Alice said something about tripping a scan, but that detail was swept aside.”

Para winced. “We’re back to me not having an answer. Um, good job picking up on that?”

“Thanks, I know,” Trixie said. She glanced around the room. “So when DO we get someone in here who can answer my questions?”

“Now,” came a voice from above.

Trixie’s head tilted up. Para followed Trixie’s gaze, to see Fate was looking down at them from the hatch in the ceiling. The central control room was a couple stories tall, so the only way she could join them would be to shut off the artificial gravity, or–

Fate flipped a switch, and a short ladder swung into view. She hopped onto it as it started to telescope down. Bringing the ponytailed blonde close to the floor, as she was standing on the bottom rung.

Para turned back to Trixie. The techno-witch’s expression had resumed being inscrutable. “How long were you listening in?” Trixie asked, as Fate jumped off the ladder.

“Long enough,” Fate said, brushing off the lapels of her suit jacket, before offering up a smile of her own. “And Para’s right, good job. I can give you access to Ziggy and even Mr Smith, to track down the origin of the initial scan. Or I can look into it, while you talk to Beam about technology and the virus.”

“Sensing a big ‘if’ coming,” Trixie remarked, as Fate paused.

Fate shrugged. “It’s contingent on you agreeing to join our cause and take the case, of course.”

“Which is now a double barrelled statement,” Trixie pointed out.

Fate’s smile faded. “Yup,” was all she said.

Trixie grimaced. She looked back at Para, then the computer banks, then up to the hatch in the ceiling, then Fate again. “Will you guarantee my safety?”

“Wish we could,” Fate answered. “Know that we’ll do our best, and aren’t trying to lie to you. For that matter, maybe you’d prefer to chat to Alijda about not simply programming, but also about how much we suck? That can be arranged too.”

Trixie stared. Finally, she nodded and made her decision.




Previous INDEX 6 Next

Had Beam been injured or damaged, Alice would have been dispatched to the planet right away to help out. Meaning they would both be planet-side. Had Beam vanished, Alice would have enacted the ST:TNG episode “First Contact”… so might have been on the station, might have been consulting with someone planet-side to find Beam (I hadn’t worked out details). We got Beam having caught the virus, meaning an inversion: Beam’s back on the station (in quarantine) and Alice is off investigating in her place.

Only 1 vote by the end of last Sunday, so I kept the voting open an extra couple days (busy time of year at school anyway). Thanks to those who boosted the count. I’ve also started posting to Tuesday Serial, we’ll see if that does anything for us.

6.02: Viral Video

Previous INDEX 6 Next


“What the hell just happened?”

Para smiled tentatively at the redheaded woman who had been teleported aboard the Epsilon Station. She had just dropped into a wary crouch. In her defence though, the Station really didn’t have a good way to warn their targets before retrieval.

“I – we – brought you in,” Para explained. “Because you accepted the virus case.”

“The hell I did,” came the woman’s sharp response. She now seemed torn between shouting at Para and looking around the circular control room. “I phoned your number to get more information, only to get a recording saying ‘Thanks for your interest’ or some such. Decided to go to the kitchen to make myself a snack – and now I’m here?”

Para pursed her lips. “Oh.” Apparently there had been a miscommunication. “Well, Trixie – er, should I call you Trixie? Professionally? Or would you prefer–”

“Trixie will do,” the redhead interrupted. She finally settled her gaze fully onto Para as she drew herself up and folded her arms over her chest. “And you would be?”

“Para. I’m a personified parabola.”

An eyebrow went up. “Quadratic equations are blondes with bunny ears?”

Para instinctively reached up to touch the parabolic rabbit ears of her hairband. She had normal ears too, to be sure, but the hairband was almost an extension of herself, the long ears reacting to whether her depression was at a minimum or a maximum. “Yes? Or we can be? I do have a twin-tailed variation.”

That seemed to cause Trixie to reach up and run her fingers quickly back through her own twin-tailed hairstyle. Para idly took note of how Trixie’s red hair was much shorter in comparison to her own, yet it did manage to reach her shoulders, even tied as it was.

“Hmph. Okay, so math can be seductive,” Trixie decided. “Doesn’t explain this abduction.”

Para felt caught off guard. “Seductive?”

A partial smile graced Trixie’s features. She posed with a hand on her hip. “I know math can reel a person in, Para. Practically taught it to myself because high school classes went so slowly. And I know seduction too. Because why have people like you only for your brains? So don’t you try to use my own distraction techniques against me.”

Indeed, with the light dusting of freckles on Trixie’s face, the schoolgirl-style blouse and skirt outfit, and the stance, Para could see how the redhead might be called… well, funny enough the first phrase to come to mind was ‘Sexy Cute’. The same moniker that her first human friend, Alijda, had once used to describe Para herself.

Of course, Trixie was human, whereas Para was a amalgamation of various theoretical concepts, given human form. Still, Para had always suspected that her curves were to make her more appealing to those who didn’t like math… were there humans like Trixie who saw quadratics as appealing already? Is it that she didn’t pick up vibes from them as often?

Still. “Trixie, wouldn’t I look more, um, male? If I was trying to seduce you?”

“Tch. Again, you can’t spirit me away and claim to know my actual name, and then pretend not to know about certain other aspects of my personal life. Honestly, it’s not like you’d be my first choice, Para. But if it’s for a case – or a dreary Friday evening – I’d be game to see what’s under that dress you’re wearing. The math aspect makes me curious.”

Para felt her cheeks getting red. “Oh.”

It occurred to her then that she had never considered any relationship entanglements with humans. But was it possible that others she had encountered might have seen her in a romantic way? Could that be partly why Chartreuse had saved her on their last mission together?

“See? I play the game better. So.” Trixie snapped her fingers in the air. “Abduction, Para. Why?”

Wait, had Trixie been bluffing? Para couldn’t tell. She shook her head. “Sorry. Um, you gave me something to think about there.”

Trixie’s smile became a smirk. “Fantasize about me later.”

“That’s…” Para shook her head, and decided not to bother correcting the woman. “Look, the Epsilon Project didn’t mean to abduct you. Per se. Phoning that number was enough to indicate agreement that you’d take the case. Or that’s what I was told, at any rate. Hence the summons.”

“Told? You’re not in charge?”

“Oh no,” Para said, raising both hands up. “I’m more of a… consultant? Though I suppose I go on missions too. Either way, Fate had something to take care of, so she asked me to fill you in on all the details.”

“Uh huh.” Trixie’s gaze had resumed wandering around the room. “I’d prefer to speak to Fate. Or whomever’s in charge.”

Para nibbled her lower lip. “Could I at least show you the video first? You’ll see her – everyone – on that. It might also answer the questions you had about the mission. And it will mean that I’ve done my job properly.”

“One moment.” Trixie walked over towards the one visible door in the room. She paused, then wrenched it open and looked into the storage closet. Seeing no-one there, she glanced around once more and sighed. “Fine, video. But I reserve the right to be returned home after.”

Para smiled. “Thank you.” She then gestured towards the computer banks on the wall. When Trixie approached, she cued up the file that Fate had left for them.

“For reference, the woman in the T-shirt and jeans you’ll see is Alice,” Para supplied. “The one dressed a bit like you, but with a darker blouse, is Beam. And the one in the business attire – when she arrives – is Fate.”

“Thanks.” Trixie pulled a device out of her blouse pocket. “Rixi, active recording. I assume you have no objection, Para?”

Para shrugged. “No. The others might ask you to erase it later, is all?”

“Well, they can ask,” was Trixie’s final word on the matter as the video started to play.


“I did hear you the first time,” Alice admitted, following the third time Beam cleared her throat. The brunette woman finally turned away from all of the sheets of paper she had stuck up on the wall of the auxiliary control room. “Something wrong?”

“Well, you?” the holographic woman said tentatively. “Between the recent alcohol intake and, er, this…” Beam said, gesturing at the wall Alice had been scrutinizing, “…Fate and I are worried you’re getting too emotionally invested.”

Alice’s lips tightened. She looked back at her wall of sheets, then Beam, then the wall again. “But they’re OUT there,” she declared, pointing. “We know they are.”

Commission by Cherry Zong

Off Beam’s silence, she turned back to the blonde. “The organization that provided one world with the means to abduct people like Fate. Who were getting funds from another world, to the point of that Earth thinking they had to shut down dimensional travel to get away. What else is this ‘Clover Enterprises’ involved in? We have to know.”

Beam clasped her hands behind her back. “With all due respect, we don’t. That’s not Epsilon’s job. We’re meant to clean up dimensional irregularities, artifacts that have become accidentally displaced. That’s all.”

“That’s FATE’S job,” Alice argued. “She’s the one in charge of the Station. We were both fired, remember? And later recruited by Fate to look into this very thing?”

Beam winced. “Technically, I resigned. But listen, after a month of us turning up no new leads? Fate’s been looking into returning control of the station to one of us. Remember, this was never meant to be a permanent position for her,” she added, as Alice seemed about to protest. “She has a world she might want to return to, unlike us.”

Alice frowned. “Are you saying I wouldn’t like to return to living with Alijda?” she accused, crossing her arms.

“You know I’m not,” Beam sighed. “Just, your original world became a hell dimension, while mine was all about free love, making my lesbian self an outcast. So neither are an option. You’re welcome to go back living with your friend, while I take over again here. Kinda the very thing I was trying to bring up.”

Alice again turned from Beam to the wall, and then back to Beam. “But we’re close to something! Right? I mean, look here.” She began to gesture and point at the sheets.

“This world has no clovers. While on this world, four leaf clovers are the norm instead of three leaf ones. The dimensions between them when we do a four dimensional projection contain THIS cluster of worlds where magical leprechauns are either a rumour, or fact, even if they don’t call themselves that. Now, if you draw a rainbow from that set over to these dimensions where the ‘Star Trek’ franchise didn’t have its first prequel known as ‘Enterprise’, you can see that a shadowy influence might have caused–”

“Mr Smith?” Beam interrupted.

“Hello, Beam,” came the male voice of the Station’s auxiliary control computer. Its control panels had been previously opened, the artificial intelligence offering assistance to Alice wherever possible during her analyses. Alice paused in her gesturing and turned at the remark.

“Hi,” Beam chirped back, wiggling her fingers in a wave. “Could you show Alice what she looks like lately? That picture I suggested from before?”

“Indeed,” Mr Smith said. An image came up on his main screen.

Alice made a face. “My face on Charlie Kelly, ha ha. Never watched that show, weirdly enough, so I’m not certain what you’re trying to say about me.”

“Oh.” Beam rubbed the back of her neck. “I thought you’d know it. He’s a guy who loses himself in fantasies, as you seem to be doing. Now, don’t get me wrong, your ability to free associate has its merits, just… maybe not here.”

“Then again, maybe Alice IS on to something,” came a new voice. Fate walked into the room then, looking down at a clipboard.

“Ungh. Way to spoil my vibe, girlfriend,” Beam said, hands moving to her hips.

Fate looked up then, seeming momentarily flustered. “Please don’t call me that when we’re on duty, Beam. It’s unprofessional.”

Alice’s eyebrows shot up. “Whoa! I was gonna simply dismiss the remark, given how Beam’s programming still has trouble differentiating girlfriends and girl friends. But now? What DO the two of you get up to when I’m not around?”

Fate’s cheeks got pinker. “Alice, it’s not what you think. I’d had a few drinks and… um, look, let’s just say this job can get stressful, and it’s important to relax.”

Beam smiled, running her tongue over her upper lip. “And women have needs. And I have–”

“OH-kay,” Fate said pointedly, waving her clipboard. “Listen. I came here to say that the scan you recommended? It’s turned up key information. About an airborne virus. Jumping dimensions.”

Alice and Beam immediately stopped looking sidelong at each other, coming to attention.

“A virus can’t do that,” Beam stated. “Not based on everything we know.”

“Not without outside help,” Alice agreed, pounding one fist into her other palm. “Excellent, a clue. Now, what was this scan you ran, Beam?”

Beam blinked. “I didn’t run one. Isn’t Fate referring to something you ran?”

Alice frowned. “I don’t think so? I’ve been running a few things though, so maybe I tripped a scan in the process.”

“Well, someone put it in the system,” Fate stated. “As we wouldn’t normally have picked this up. In particular, the virus causes different reactions on different Earths. But now that we have the data, well, it’s highly suspicious.”

She turned the clipboard around, allowing both Beam and Alice to glance over the printout and her written notes.

“Arranged by most infected,” Alice remarked after a moment. “Could mean one of the three at the top is the virus’ origin… do we have ANY vector data?”

Fate shook her head. “Not yet. Ziggy’s still running an analysis. Could take days.”

“Scope as origin is kind of a dangerous assumption,” Beam cautioned. “Still, I can go down to that world at the top of the list, to learn more. With my holographic matrix engaged, I should be protected.”

“Should be?” Alice objected. “Also, your hairband is still a tether, we know you can get hurt that way even while insubstantial. It’s like the a mobile emitter on Star Trek: Voyager.”

Beam shrugged. “I’ll be careful. Besides, this says all the virus does is turn people into bunny girls. That’s not so bad, it’s even kinda sexy.”

“On the more standard Earth it’s doing that,” Fate pointed out. “Which, I add, is preliminary data, and it has the potential to become bad. Once all the males have become female bunnies.”

“Meanwhile, on that fantasy world, it seems to be activating more latent magical abilities,” Alice mused, peering closer at Fate’s clipboard. “And on the tech world it’s causing teleporter malfunctions. This is WEIRD. Are we even sure it’s the same thing?”

“According to our data, yes,” Fate confirmed. “Only slightly mutated. Giving us insight that those worlds don’t have.”

Alice frowned. “I’d say we should just teleport someone here, but I’m not sure how far I trust the bio filters on this station.”

“Who? No one on those worlds popped up in the recruitment folders, that I know of,” Beam pointed out. “We can’t risk revealing ourselves. It’s fine. I’ll go. What’s the worst that could happen?”




Previous INDEX 6 Next

You might think the vote last time would have indicated the situation Beam was going into (catgirls, spells, teleports), but I only determined those after the fact. That vote was more about a possible overall setting, and how well equipped Beam would be, given she’s a more technology-based character. Of course, despite her preparations, bad things will happen to her. As this part was starting to run long, giving a vote earlier than I’d thought.

5.14: A Mew Sing

Previous INDEX 5 Next: TBD


Alice considered doing something to act against Mary-Lynn, as the cat woman stood across the room. Two things made her hesitate. First, there was the fact that acting against Mary-Lynn herself wouldn’t serve to stop the dimensional shutdown device. Second, there was the issue of not being native to this world, and an “Epsilon” member being active in a key moment like this… well, it was how Alice had lost her job once already.

Fortunately, Alice didn’t have to do anything.

As the unconscious guy behind the desk let out a groan, everyone looked in that direction. That’s when Alice felt Sue grasping for the invulnerability badge she had on. She felt Sue, rather than saw her, because Sue had used her invisibility power again.

Alice let Sue take it. Moments later, Sue was standing right next to Mary-Lynn, and kicking the gun out of her hand. The cat woman snarled in response, rounding on Sue with a punch – that bounced off the invulnerability field, causing Mary-Lynn to let out a mewl of pain. Would that end up draining it for good? Well, Alice now noticed that Marlin had a hand on his wand, so could probably help out if necessary.

There was no need. In a clever move, Sue managed to twist Mary-Lynn’s arm back behind her, putting the cat woman into a hold. Fortunately, that only took one hand, leaving her other hand free to grab the tail, right before she said, “Tell us how to fix this.”

“Ow! Ow, ow! I already said there’s nothing you can do. Let go of my tail, that hurts!” Mary-Lynn hissed.

“Shay could probably help,” Usa suggested. “He’s the sort of person to have had an emergency override installed.”

“Except he’s unconscious, like Chartreuse here,” Para remarked, where she was softly stroking Chartreuse’s hair.

“Oh, my gun was set on sensory stun,” Usa said, holding it up. “Shay’s merely frozen, he’s still able to hear everything that’s going on. It’ll wear off in less than five minutes. All we need to do is use that time to somehow convince him that Mary-Lynn here is the real enemy.”

“You think we can?” Sam asked. “Shay wouldn’t listen to reason earlier.”

“Wait, um, is Chartreuse also aware of what I’m doing?” Para said, pulling her hand back. Usa simply smiled at her.

Alice turned her attention back to the dimensional device. “So, I can’t be sure, but I don’t think we’ve got much more than five minutes anyway.” Another plush cat hit her on the head. “Also, I feel like that rift is getting more aggressive, maybe due to the proximity of this thing.” In her part of the room, the small toys were stacked above her ankles.

“So how do we get Mary-Lynn to confess… wait,” Sue said. “The Hypno drug used for interrogations, is there more of it around here? We saw some in the infirmary.”

Before Usa could answer, Sam was stepping forwards. “I have some, I grabbed a vial, remember?” he said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his handkerchief. “Would someone like to do the honours?”

Sue flashed her friend a smile. “Usa, you know how to administer that stuff, right?”

“Th-That drug won’t work. Cat genetics make me immune. Go fly a kite,” Mary-Lynn yelped.

“It’s worth a try,” Usa decided. She took the vial from Sam and advanced on Mary-Lynn.

“No, this is illegal on so many levels. If you do that, you’ll never work for the Council again. Let go of my damn taaaail!” Mary-Lynn mewled, struggling against Sue. But either Sue’s grip, or the invulnerability field, or both, kept the cat woman in place.

“If you’re one of the leaders, I don’t think I want to be working for you anyway,” Usa concluded. “Thanks for your help with restraint, Sue Morts.” She administered the drug.

Alice took the opportunity to get closer to Para. “Do you know how good the shielding down here is?” she murmured, crouching. “Because you might be out of here either way.”

After all, the Epsilon station had temporal circuits. If the dimensions were to close off, Fate could, in theory, bounce back to just before that moment and initiate a retrieval. Alice kind of hated to piggyback out that way, but there was only so much they could do to influence things before they became part of the problem. Right?

Para could only shake her head and shrug back though. So Alice resigned herself to standing back up and watching as Usa stepped back from Mary-Lynn, staring her in the eyes. Hopefully there was still more they could learn.

“Your name, for the record,” Usa stated.

“Mary-Lynn Emrys, and for the record, go take a flying leap,” the cat woman snarled.

“Who sent you to this reality?” Usa continued.

“I was born here, nitwit,” Mary-Lynn said. “You know, you’re not going to trip me up this way. You don’t know the right questions. Give up now, let the device finish, the dimensions will close, and we will be safe.”

“Safe from what, from whom?” Usa pressed.

“Anything or anyone out there who’s a threat,” Mary-Lynn answered.

“But especially from the Clover group,” Alice decided to suggest. “What is it they’re calling themselves?”

“Clover Enterprises, duh,” Mary-Lynn said. There was a brief silence. Then, “Aw, hell.”

Alice smiled quietly. At last, after all this, a solid lead.

“Is that something related to this school’s Clover Club?” Sue asked.

“No, idiot, the similar name just makes for a good smoke screen,” Mary-Lynn said. “I’m not saying anything more.”

Usa had glanced over towards Alice; now she turned back to the cat woman. “I think you will say more. Because you’ve had dealings with Clover Enterprises. Right?”

“I have not, not personally.”

“But for some reason, they’re after us,” Usa insisted.

“Sure, in a sense.”

“Can you explain why in five words or less?”

“We owe them money.”

“Why’s that?” Usa challenged.

Mary-Lynn attempted to shrug. “How the hell would I know? Do I look like the top brass?”

“If it’s only a money issue, why not pay off this Clover Enterprises?” Sam spoke up, from where he’d returned to check on Thred’s unconscious body. “Is it too expensive?”

“Not really, it’s more that the CEOs want their pay raises,” Mary-Lynn stated.

Sue leaned in closer to Mary-Lynn’s ear. “Wait. Wait, let me see if I’ve got this straight,” she said. “The Council has had extra-dimensional dealings with Clover Enterprises. Some pretty long-standing dealings, as you’ve had years to use school Clover Clubs as a smokescreen. And now, instead of paying a debt, our Council is funding a dimensional closure device, which will isolate our world and hurt our economy. All this, merely so CEOs can keep their pay raises? And you’re okay with this?”

“I might be getting a cut,” Mary-Lynn said sullenly. “Besides, no worries, there’s this trickle-down effect for the cash, whereby–”

“Oh, shut it,” Usa snapped. “I cannot believe that our organization has become so corrupt.”

“But this doesn’t make sense,” Sam protested. “Why take the drastic step of shutting down all dimensions, rather than just the one where this Clover Enterprises exists?”

“Because we can,” Mary-Lynn snarked.

Sue looked towards Alice. “You mentioned the group in the first place, do you know?”

“Well, there’s a shadowy Clover group that’s been behind at least one other dimensional incursion,” Alice admitted, exchanging a glance with Para. “Meaning I doubt your Council knows which other dimensions do or don’t have ties, hence the decision to go totally dark.”

“Actually, here’s a thought,” Para piped up. “Could this Clover Enterprises have been involved in the magic wars on this very site? Maybe the company even suggested to ‘Fenduro’ that a school be put here, along with that puzzle to solve for access to the base. Could things go that deep?”

Usa frowned, and looked back at Mary-Lynn. “Well, could they?”

“I can’t say ‘no’,” Mary-Lynn said, mouth twitching. “Which actually bothers me, why am I getting creeped out?”

“Attack of conscience?” Sam suggested.

“Hi, so, the dimensions are about to get shut down,” Marlin said, speaking up again. He’d spent the last few minutes alternately looking inside the device, glancing up at the rift, and eyeing the dimensional control item that Sue had clipped to her belt.

It occurred to Alice then that Marlin could probably have rushed Sue and grabbed it by now, if he’d wanted to. It was nice that he wasn’t interrupting the interrogation with magic either. Then again, maybe the issue was Marlin had no clear idea what was going on.

That’s when Shay mumbled something.

Sam moved closer to him. “What was that?”

Usa placed her hands on her hips. “Given what we just learned, along with Shay’s brother being off-world, hopefully it was an override code.”

Sam leaned in closer. “He said… ‘Video Err’.”

“Another anagram,” Marlin muttered. “Not helpful in actually giving us an override.”

Alice snapped her fingers. “Except where it just might be.” She peered at the inside of the device again. “Heck yeah, just need to uncouple the video. Fun failsafe. Seems you can’t shut down what you can’t see. Jolly good.”

The rectangular box showing the pulses went dark. At which point the dimensional rift opened wider, and even more cat plush started pouring out.

“Aaaand pretty sure that’s coincidence,” Alice remarked.

“Okay, so, any way we can still shut THAT dimensional connection down?” Sue asked.

Mary-Lynn rolled her eyes. “You people. A regular dimensional device can patch that, at least temporarily. Release me, and I’ll show you how.”

Sam blinked over at the cat woman. “Huh. While I realize that has to be the truth, why are you offering up the information…?”

“Leniency? Also, I’m starting to question my own place in reality, given how I seriously didn’t think there was a way for you to screw with our plans. But here we are. Will you let go of my tail already?!”

“Fine. Help,” Sue said, finally releasing Mary-Lynn, “And if it’s any consolation, I don’t see any reason that the results of this interrogation should get out.”

“Otherwise the CEOs will see you coming for their blood money?” Para wondered.

“That, and the fact that we’d prefer to deal with this little problem in-house,” Usa remarked. She looked at Sam. “So this better not end up in your newsletter.”

“Don’t look at me,” Sam said, raising his hands. “I’m not sure anyone would believe me. Also, I’d prefer to stick around at least until that device is disassembled. It’ll help me sleep nights.”

“S’fine,” came Shay’s slurred voice from the floor. “Saw rye for every ting. ‘N yer in, Sham.”

Sam blinked down at Shay. “In? You mean, you won’t wipe my memory? That’d be nice, because I actually have some suggestions. Chief among them, writing instruction manuals.”

“You see?” Sue said brightly, looking over at her friend. “This has all turned out for the best.”

“Spike for yersluf,” mumbled Sir Thred, still face down on the floor.

“Great, keen, lovely, can I please get out of here before we all drown in plush cats?” Marlin pleaded. “I’ve been nothing but helpful, seriously.”

Alice flashed him a smile. “In fact, it’s high time Para, Chartreuse and I were clicking our heels together three times. We can bring Marlin along, if that’s okay.”

“Maybe you could even make it such that we were never here?” Para suggested. “I suspect the school records will automatically wipe anyway.”

Usa nodded. “This is plausible. Paperwork can get misfiled, and we’re rather busy right now dealing with this plush cat infestation.” She gestured at where Mary-Lynn was reconfiguring Sue’s gadget. “So if you have your own means of departure…”

“Say no more, say no more, say no more, squire,” Alice burbled, grasping Marlin by the sleeve and pulling him towards what she hoped was the nearest exit. Marlin didn’t resist. Para lifted Chartreuse, who now seemed to be slowly regaining the use of her limbs, and followed after. Once they reached the music room, they were able to contact the Epsilon station almost immediately.


“And you never looked back?” Fate asked, scribbling on her pad.

“Nope, we’d already overstayed our welcome,” Alice reported. She clasped her hands behind her back, wondering if they’d be able to sit down any time soon.

“Also I wasn’t, you know, able to turn my head at that point,” Chartreuse added.

“Right.” Fate made another notation, then looked up. “Well, that takes care of the report then. Good work out there.”

“I’m just soooo glad you’re all back safely,” Beam said, bouncing into the room after having gone to return Marlin to his proper world. “The fact that you got Clover information is a bonus. Ooooh, I want to kiss you all!”

“Down, girl,” Fate said, shaking her head. “Lesbian hijinks later, for now, we should get Chartreuse and Para back home too.”

“Then you’ll be continuing your Clover investigation alone?” Para mused.

Alice nodded. “For now. I mean, on the one hand, the fact that Clover Enterprises never showed up on our radar at all is significant. On the other hand, we still don’t have a specific way of finding them. But that’s for us to mess with, you all have your own dimensions to handle. Don’t worry, we’ll let you know if we need your help again.”

“Don’t forget, there’s still regular dimensional issues to monitor as well,” Fate reminded them.

“Well I’m always willing to, you know, do what I can for friends,” Chartreuse said, smiling. She looked at Para. “Speaking of that, it was nice to meet you. Thanks for, like, all the help.”

Para found herself smiling back. “Thanks for accepting me on your team, and taking that hit for me at the end.”

Chartreuse dropped a quick curtsey. “I do what I can.”

“Group hug with everyone before you go!” Beam squealed, throwing her arms open wide. “Please?”

Alice rolled her eyes, but followed the other women into the embrace. Personally, she hoped that the next stage of their investigation would involve bringing in Alijda, their super hacker. Or at least, she hoped to connect up with her roommate again soon. Might she even get a few days of relatively normal every day life then? Only time would tell.



Preferred POV character from Story5? OPTIONS:


Previous INDEX 5 Next: TBD

If it had been Sam, he would have dimensionally jumped away using Sue’s device, then come back in a position to use the serum on Mary-Lynn. If it had been Marlin, who’d thought Alice’s “Mr. Wizard” remark had been a reference to him, magic would have been used as the restraint. We got Sue, which also included keeping everything quiet – so perhaps that’s a bad end? I should have seen it coming though, since Marlin doesn’t have much personality yet, and no one wanted Sam to figure out the room code a few votes back either. I’m still learning here. Feel free to elaborate about your prior votes.

Usa’s vote from a couple parts back had a secondary consequence about Sam’s Hypno drug. I didn’t want to bring up then, lest readers had forgotten about it. If Usa had helped them find Shay, they’d have used the drug on him, to learn more on using the device (recall they could have found files for what Mary-Lynn had said here). If Usa knew how the device worked, the drug for sure would have been used on Mary-Lynn, similar to what we saw. Since they improvised using the device, I was still improvising on who would get the drug… and it turned out to be the cat woman.

As a coins follow-up, in the first couple days of 2019, I got one of the new 2018 $10 bills with Viola Desmond on it, so that was kind of cool. Going forwards, I plan to edit the old Melissa Virga archive – any preference between longer parts every two weeks, or shorter parts weekly? Looking back, would people prefer if I stopped changing the point of view each part? Let me know. There’s a final Behind the Scenes here, looking at anagrams and stats. Thanks for reading!

5.01: Taken

<-To Story 4 INDEX 5 Next


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.

Commission by Ruuari

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.



<- To Story 4 INDEX 5 Next

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!