Para

5.01: Taken

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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.

CHARTREUSE VERMILION
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.

OPTIONS:

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!

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3.17: Firing Line

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FULL SCALE INVASION, PART SEVENTEEN: FIRING LINE

“What’s your suggestion?” Michaela asked.

Kat gestured at Bonnie. “As she said, a firewall. Literally. To push back the invasion. Does anyone have magical experience controlling fire?”

Michaela shook her head. “We tend to steer clear of the elemental magic. I might be able to craft an illusion of fire?”

“That won’t convince them,” Kat sighed. “It’s fine, I can do it. I just hope it doesn’t get me fired, pun not entirely unintended.”

“How can you make a real fire which is not only big enough, but created fast enough so that the invaders don’t have time to stop you?” Bonnie challenged.

“Erm. With help,” Kat said. “Like, if Andi can run fast and drop some matches…”

The thunderclap in the air made everyone turn their heads. A second dimensional rip was appearing, roughly 100 yards away from the first one. “Oh, that can’t be good,” Para sighed.

Kat wasn’t sure if the bunny mathematician was referring to the tear itself, or the red dragon that flew through as it opened.

On the bright side, either the dragon was small, or a larger one had been reduced in size by the transition – the winged animal wasn’t much larger than the size of a house. On the down side, the dragon didn’t look happy.

It seemed even less pleased when one of the invaders let out a shriek and fired a projectile weapon at it. The dragon responded by breathing fire, setting a wide band of the grassy field by the train station alight.

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3.16: Perchance to Dream

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FULL SCALE INVASION, PART SIXTEEN: Perchance to Dream

Kat watched as Alijda and Chris – or rather, Axiom – flew through the dimensional rift on what appeared to be a throw rug. He didn’t question it. Partly because he didn’t know the specifics behind the current magic-technology blend, but more because he didn’t have the time to think about it.

Four masked men (women?) had emerged from the rip between Earths, carrying some sort of ray guns.

For a moment, the arrivals seemed disoriented. Possibly an effect of being shrunk down, Kat reasoned, given the difference in scale between TechWorld, and the world they were on now. Either way, that moment gave Tom the time he needed to act. He sat up from the ground and took aim with his walkman.

“Click,” the young man with the bright red hair intoned, pressing the eject button.

Instead of spitting out a cassette, when the walkman popped open, a pulse of energy shot out. It travelled the 50 metres necessary to strike the first of the masked men. In the process of reaching for his head, the guy seemed to freeze in place.

Tom slapped the walkman closed and took aim again. He managed to get off two more paralysis spells before the last of the individuals realized what was happening, ducking behind one of his companions, out of Tom’s line of sight.

“How many shots do you have with that?” Kat asked, on the ground next to him.

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3.14: Bad Plan

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FULL SCALE INVASION, PART FOURTEEN: BAD PLAN

Para wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. She wasn’t upset by that though, as the only person in the room with access to the entire story was Chris – the member of the Magic User’s Club who had interfaced with the USB drive taken out of the Department of Extra-Dimensional Objects.

Granted, Kat and Queeny seemed to know at least part of the story as well. Para wondered whether Tom, also sitting at the conference table, was as confused as she was. At the least, she knew that Larry, the DEO agent and most recent arrival, was completely in the dark.

“What do you MEAN the truth about what happened to Clyde?” Larry sputtered. “He died, because of our premature use of portal technology. We shouldn’t have been so arrogant as to try and generate our own method to traverse dimensions without proper testing.”

“Oh, drop the front!” Queeny shouted. Fortunately, the head of government hadn’t shouted it into her megaphone. “We know Clyde’s really alive.”

Larry gripped the door frame. “How DARE you! Bonnie has been doing her best this past year, there’s no way Clyde is pulling the strings!”

“That’s NOT what we mean,” Queeny declared. “If you keep playing dumb…” She waggled her finger.

“Queeny, isn’t it possible he truly doesn’t know?” Para ventured. “I mean, I don’t really know what this is about Clyde, and I’ve been in the room longer than Larry.”

“You mean Bonnie could have been keeping the truth a secret?” Kat mused.

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3.13: Transformation

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FULL SCALE INVASION, PART THIRTEEN: Transformation

It’s strange, the common bonds that can bring people together. Kat was reminded of that fact after their retreat to City Hall. With the shrinking Alijda having been brought to a convenient break room with Para, Kat had set his goal as having both Queeny and the Magic User’s Club on board with helping him to save his companion… his friend.

“We can argue later about who was in the wrong here,” Kat began. “Right now, our focus HAS to be on keeping that woman from shrinking away to nothing!”

“Wrong!” Queeny shouted into her megaphone, making Kat smack his hand against his ear. “You’re not even from this world. You can’t waltz in and tell us, the local government, what our priorities should be!”

“She’s right!” Chris asserted. “Society has to have rules. We can’t break them without considering the consequences!”

“Are you two willing to let someone die because you delayed?” Kat protested.

“Magic and technology seem to be going haywire,” Chris noted. “Unless we know more about what’s happening, we could make your friend’s problem worse.”

“Exactly!” Queeny agreed. “Maybe this mystery spell I have will go wrong, and make that woman grow to be the size of that thimble, destroying this whole building. We don’t know!”

Chris eyed Queeny. “You know, for being a government person, you’re making more sense than usual.”

Queeny lowered her megaphone. “And you seem a lot more practical to me than I’d expect of someone who believes in magical abilities.”

“Awesome lesson, individuals aren’t necessarily the same thing as their collectives, blah blah, can we leave yet?” Tom asked, stifling a yawn.

Kat saw the opening. Despite having some reservations, he decided to take it. READ MORE

3.12: Thimbolism

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FULL SCALE INVASION, PART TWELVE: Thimbolism

When you’re under three feet tall, objects sized for a more typical person will appear to be much larger. Thus any object which is truly out of scale, such as the house-sized thimble Alijda saw hovering in the air, seemed gigantic – more like a spaceship.

It was hard for Alijda to judge how the others around her were reacting to the object’s arrival. Largely because she couldn’t hear anything over Queeny, the city’s head of government, shouting “Go away! Go away!” into the megaphone she was holding. Yet the thimble maintained it’s existence.

Alijda’s companions, Kat and Para, drew closer to her. It seemed like Kat was doing so protectively, Para more seeking reassurance, but Alijda figured it was equally possible that she was merely seeing what she expected of them.

Honestly, the most pressing concern seemed to be one of gravity.

“We can’t hold it!” Tom yelled. He had joined hands with Michaela and Andi, the three of them standing in a line, both women with their arms in the air.

“Wait, I’ve got this!” Chris hollered back, trying to drown out Queeny. The hand she didn’t have interlinked with Kendall was tracing shapes or symbols into the air. “The rift, I can–”

The thimble smashed down, covering them, the lawn and wiping out the edge of the motel building too. Bricks and mortar rained down. Thankfully, the thimble’s opening was at the bottom, meaning everyone was simply engulfed by it, rather than flattened outright, and no one was seriously injured by debris.

There was a brief silence. The blue glow from the magic five pointed star on the ground made for an eerie light, coupled with the sun being filtered in from above, through the thimble holes. Then the magic went out.

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