Story1

Behind the Scenes 2

Figured I might as well do this again. Maybe I’m taking a page from Scott Delahunt at The Chaos Beast, who reports on each of his serial entries. I’m impressed he manages the time.

Plot spoilers ahead for “Numbers Game“. Where were we in the last “Behind the Scenes”? Ah yes, Part 6, Alison had just hacked Mason’s TARDIS and proclaimed herself the leader of the group. Also, this wasn’t her Earth.

LynPlot1The nature of the world they were on was something I first hinted at back in Episode 3, with the rough trip. Naturally (and perhaps rightly) that voting decision returned to the Roman Numeral plot, rather than pursuing this. But I hadn’t forgotten my big picture, and to end Week 6, wondered if explanations might be in order yet. Nope! All about the villain, and “The Hub” was completely rejected. Onwards then.

WEEKS 7 & 8

The week that followed (Canadian) Thanksgiving Monday was pretty busy, but as usual I had to think before starting to write anyway. It had occurred to me that the villains were getting short-changed, but I felt like a cut scene was too much of a departure from the norm, hence Alison’s undercover mission. Originally she was going to pose as a Time Lord, but posing as Lissa somehow made more sense when I reached the end. (Ergo my tweet, “You can’t have seen this twist coming because I didn’t see it coming.”) This necessitated figuring out what Lissa Jous would look like, something I’d only been toying with. I actually wanted to draw Lissa that week… but I was entering a period of serious depression and futility.

Yeah, these two weeks here? It eventually got so bad I would take a day off work for a medical appointment. And before you jump to the conclusion of “THAT’S why Alison was suicidal!”, no. I wrote about Para cutting herself in Series 5 of “Taylor’s Polynomials” while relatively upbeat. (I even put up a Blog Post at the time, because some people were concerned. I guess I should be happy, it means they read something.) While I grant that depression may be why the characters received those traits in the first place, my mood is (as far as I can tell) not directly linked to that of my fiction. Real life is the problem. Anyway.

There was a 3 way tie on week 7 in terms of Phillip’s decision. (What is it about character votes and ties?) I sent out a generic Twitter plea Monday night, and a fourth vote came to my rescue. Part 8 was rather more scrambled, as the romance subplot appeared. I ended up writing the ending, not liking it, rewriting, then preferring my earlier version, and not being able to recover it. Seriously, who’s bright idea was it to make “autosave” now literally OVERWRITE your txt file, rather than keeping a ~backup somewhere else?? I tried to recover from my last save point and COULD NOT. Damn you, autosave. Also featured in real life this week? A major shooting downtown, and parent-teacher interviews. I was still having mental issues. Ultimately I finished part 8 right before I went to bed Saturday night (Sunday morning).

WEEKS 9 & 10

The poll at the end of Week 8 wasn’t going to immediately influence the start of Week 9; that was on purpose. I knew I was going to have an Alison-Para talk before plot intervened, and thought it would help me to finish the part by Friday, because I was going to my sister’s wedding the next weekend. Now, did this mean I actually started the writing earlier? No, but it was a nice thought. And at least I was starting to come out of my lowest levels of depression. The voting itself was a 2-2 tie, I shouted on Facebook/Twitter AGAIN, and it was broken. Meaning five votes, itself a tie for my all time high, not seen since my personal pleas to people back in Episode 3. So wow.

ARomanIV

Also created this graphic
before Halloween.

I actually did final edits of Week 9 online, in the airport, on Halloween, waiting to board my flight. (Normally I copy and paste a complete version into the online document.) It would then be more than a week before I came back to the story! That might sound weird for a weekly serial, but there you go – report cards were due the following Friday. I didn’t do any writing from Friday, Oct 31st until the following Saturday, Nov 8th. As a result, I left the voting open for twice as long (from Sunday through Thursday, rather than Tuesday), tossing up a tweet once per day or so. Only 3 votes, DOWN from Week 9. So I guess time to vote isn’t a factor. (Or my readers are teachers, who were similarly too busy? Or I’m dreaming.)

Come Saturday, I had to figure out what The Denominator’s backup plan was. Yeah – I’d had a better sense of how Alison’s blackmail would go, and Mason’s plan, but aside from “villains usually have a backup plan”, I didn’t have a set idea for the actual thing that got voted in. I started by scanning over EVERY part I’d written so far, and put in some extra discussion to start the story, Mason throwing in the idea of a “pocket universe”, to harken back to that big picture again. (Incidentally, the reason Mason’s device was called a ‘Transformer’ is because Phil’s device was an ‘Alternator’. Think electronics.) Ultimately, my thought became: If Phil didn’t have a backup plan per se, maybe Lissa did?

Lissa Jous was always intended to be an actual character (hence why seeing her was a legitimate possibility at the end of part four), but she got shuttled into dreams as a way of doing the undercover work (I do not know if Para is correct about the type of dreams). As I now had a device that warped reality, it seemed like I had a way to bring Lissa back. I even went the extra step towards drawing her this time. (I coloured the scanned image during “Doctor Who” Saturday evening.) No external web links in this episode; often if they don’t occur to me while writing, I’ll do cursory research, but not this time. With the UNDO button now having been pushed, the plot was wrapping up, a return to the Hub was inevitable – and so the new vote was to figure out who would be around for the finale.

WEEKS 11 & 12

I started part 11 where part 10 left off, but to my annoyance, realized that I needed a better sense of what Para and Mason had been doing to end part 10. And once I knew, it seemed like something the audience would want to see. Thus how “Tour de Force” ended up unfolding. Perhaps a better planned story would have put the start of 11 at the end of 10, and vice versa. Oh well. Week 11 got me back to Alice at the Hub, and the dramatic revelation (well, dramatic to me) of her identity, along with the many-worlds theory I’d been vaguely hinting at since the start.

Usually when writing, the idea of what choices to offer up comes to me partway through (or earlier), and so I aim to end the part right around there (and right around 2,000 words). This is not something I find terribly difficult. Here though, I actually finished the part (by Friday evening) and was stuck on what the final choices should be. I mulled it over through Saturday and finally decided to only go with 2 options. Maybe a binary decision is better than 3 options? I had no idea. Only three votes, not atypical, so still no idea. (It was also around here I learned the creator of “Choose Your Own Adventure” books had died. Couldn’t work that in.)

Closed off that last vote on Tuesday after school, and immediately started writing Part 12, because on the weekend I’d be away at another wedding (in Winnipeg). A couple hours work on that day, also Wednesday, and the last part was finished. I’d originally planned to take it a bit further in the aftermath (activating the wormhole), but Alison wanted to do some earlier character venting to eat up the word count, and I allowed it. The last part was in the buffer on Thursday night. At present, it’s been viewed a total of 7 times.

STATS

My previous behind the scenes post showed stats from the start, up to an unusual spike on Oct 5th (over 25 views when 15 is more typical); I later discovered that not all those hits were for the latest post, nor were they unique hits, so maybe one person was doing an archive dive. Below are the stats heading into the weekend following (Week 7, Canadian Thanksgiving), which were… well, yeah, over 10 hits in a day is now atypical. That said, “Causality” has become my all-time 4th ranked part (below parts 1, 2 and 3), so I don’t know. (My lowest viewed is Part 12, the most recent one.)

Second5Serial

More Site Stats 2014

The mid-week spikes after Nov 4th are a bit odd. Not much of interest (or out of the ordinary) from beyond the end of that graph to the present. So let’s shift this to the weekly summaries (below), because that way you can see how interest per part has waned since the start. (The week of Sep 1 featured no serial entries, just the start of the blog and initial votes.) Then again, I suppose I don’t need multiple ways of finding out that only five people are engaged by my writing…

WeekShotB

Light blue: Page Views
Dark blue: Visitors

 

I need to figure out how to make this more interesting. Which I struggled with for three years in my personified math serial without great success, so this may not last that long. I don’t know if my latest plan of shifting to a more fantasy setting will help in any manner. But at this point you’re probably getting tired of me saying “I don’t know”, so I’ll shut up.

ANY Qs?

Which brings us back to, do you have any questions for me? Either about this commentary, or about my first completed serial, written over 12 weeks, without a buffer? I’ll also accept commentary about improvements, do you have any of those?

The voting is up for the next part, has been since Friday morning, and will be through until the usual Tuesday cut off. I know it’s American Thanksgiving; I don’t know (again, sorry) if that’s a good or a bad thing. (People may have more free time, or less, depending?) Two votes came in Friday, another two Saturday, overall still only 13 views on the post.

You learn by doing. Clearly I don’t know what I’m doing.

1.12: Choose Your Path

Previous INDEX To Story2

NUMBERS GAME, PART TWELVE: CHOOSE YOUR PATH

Alison took a step closer to Alice, so that they were nose to nose. “Listen Alice, Alison, or whatever your name is…”

“You can still call me Alice.”

“We are NOT going ANYWHERE until you explain to our satisfaction WHAT this project is, WHAT you propose to do with Lissa, HOW–”

“Alison,” Para murmured, reaching out to tap the brunette on the shoulder.

“WHAT?!”

Para_embC

PARA

Para shrank back momentarily as Alison spun to face her instead. But she held her ground. “It’s just, even if this Epsilon Project is a shadowy group controlling everyone behind the scenes, I don’t think that’s Alice’s fault…” She looked to the other woman. “Is it?”

“Not in the strictest sense, no,” Alice answered. “I simply do what God tells me.”

“God?” Mason said, arcing an eyebrow.

“Well, since I’ve never met her, I think of her as God,” Alice answered with a smile. “She rescued me from a Hell Dimension and all.”

Alison pursed her lips. “I think I need to sit down,” she decided, rubbing at the bridge of her nose.

Alice gestured to the side of the room, where chairs were arranged about a small table. “We can all sit for a quick Q and A, if it will make you feel better?”

After a moment of hesitation, Alison nodded and went to sit, the others trailing after her. “Are we in Heaven then?” Para mused as she sat.

“No,” Alice answered. The side of her mouth twitched. “Or I don’t think so.”

“So WHERE…” Alison paused, to rein in her irritation. “So where are we?”

Alice leaned forwards, clasping her hands together. “The Hub. A self-regulating station, tracking right and wrong, located in neutral territory. A place of projects of deep mystery, for an unspecified number of humans and aliens. A shining beacon in space-time… all alone in the night.” She paused. “So, Purgatory maybe?”

“You mentioned different dimensions,” Mason reminded.

Alice nodded. “There’s the one you and Alison come from, and Para’s, and the one you were all just in, and a multitude of others. I mean, you could have a world with no shrimp, or with nothing but shrimp!”

“Then which world are we in now?” Para asked, growing confused.

Alice’s nose crinkled up. “You got me there. I’m not entirely sure. All of them. None of them. Does it matter?”

“Well, yes!” Alison shot back. “I mean, are you floating overhead, tracking everybody, planning to abduct any one of us again at a moment’s notice??”

“Yes.”

Alison visibly flinched. “Words cannot even describe the levels of creepiness which you have attained by uttering that one single word.”

“Oh, don’t get me wrong. You could always tell us to go to Hell, or whatever your equivalent is, and refuse to help with the problems we find,” Alice amended. “But our tracking software pinpointed you not merely because of your skill set. It also told us that statistically, you were the individuals who would be the least likely to turn us down. So, are you in?”

Alison looked to Mason and Para, her eyes widening. “Please tell me that the more she talks, the more she’s creeping you out too. That this is not all mere paranoia on my part.”

“It’s… troubling,” Mason admitted. “But at the same time, Alice, your system isn’t infallible. That letter we received said there were to be two of us. Somehow you got that wrong.”

Alice beamed at Mason. “You ARE good at the details, huh? Yes, we had everything set up to summon you, and then snare Alison from the same dimension through the wake of your TARDIS – only to discover the possible Lissa Jous connection. So my superiors-“ (Alice pointed up at the ceiling) “-roped in Para as well. And, go figure, she arrived first.”

“But then why didn’t you just talk to us then?” Para protested, shaking her head. “Why such limited information at the beginning?”

“I’ll point out that you took off before I could come here to explain,” Alice reminded. “But besides that, we didn’t know for sure that Lissa was involved. We didn’t know if you would go along with us once you knew how we’d tracked you down. We didn’t know if you would be willing to help a world that was not your own. We weren’t even a hundred percent sure of the Big Ben landing site. We’re not omniscient here. Or at least, I’m not,” Alice amended. “I can’t speak for God.”

“There you go invoking religion again,” Alison said, frowning. “Who is this God?”

“She’s…” Alice smiled and shook her head. “On second thought, I won’t tell you everything. Or you might not come back.”

“We’re not coming back either way!” Alison said angrily, rising to her feet. “Or at least, I’m not,” she amended, glancing again to Mason and Para. “I can’t speak for them.”

“You’re not returning? Not even if doing so becomes the only way to save one of their lives?”

Alison’s gaze whiplashed back to Alice. “Is that a THREAT?”

Alice shook her head, continuing to sit calmly. “Not at all. But everyday life isn’t safe. Just ask Para about Sine.” The parabola flinched. “So, Alison, what if one day your hacking skills become the difference between life and death? Would you help us then?”

Alison’s hands balled into fists. “That’s not a fair question.”

“It goes both ways. While you’re working for us, if we discover your everyday life is in danger, we’d make an effort to save you too.”

“My life is always in danger! Even ignoring the Biochemical company, and the chances that I could accidentally teleport myself into a wall, my depression could simply consume me one day and cause me to kill myself!”

“I’m sure we can recruit a good psychiatrist or psychologist to help you.”

Alison glared. “You don’t get it. At all.” She looked to Mason. “You explain. I’m out. I’m done.” She began to stalk across the room, towards the only obvious point of exit, the door opening to a walled off area within the cylindrical room.

“Alison!” Para called out, jumping to her feet and running after the other woman.

Mason half turned in his chair to watch them go, then turned back to Alice. “It really wasn’t a fair question. Alison has legitimate concerns regarding people in positions of power who are after her. Saying that the only way for her and her friends to be safe… is to give herself over to some Project that has even MORE power? It’s not a choice she should have to make.”

“True. But making the hard choices is something we all have to do at some point in our lives. Don’t you agree, Chief?”

Mason narrowed his eyes slightly at the use of his former name. He slowly shook his head. “You have the data. And your goals, I think, are noble. But that doesn’t make what you’re doing here right.”

“The right choice isn’t necessarily the most popular one,” Alice countered.

“So you’ve been told,” Mason retorted. “Tell me, the idea that you’re only following your God’s orders – is that what makes it easier for you to sleep at night?”

Alice’s expression morphed into one of surprise, then quiet sadness. “What helps me to sleep is the knowledge that I’m giving something back to the multiverse. And that I’m not in a Hell dimension.” She stood. “You know what? You and your group saved the Roman Numerals of an entire world. Let’s celebrate that, rather than dwell on the circumstances.”

She then interlaced her fingers and extended her palms out in a stretch, smiling again. “Speaking of which, are you going to let me see Lissa Jous already? Because we really don’t know how she managed a dimensional jump, or where that Phillip guy ended up. And we still want to set that right, don’t we?”

***

Para found Alison in the small, darkened storeroom, sitting on the floor next to a cylindrical container. She was hugging her knees. Not sure exactly how to help, Para crouched down and adopted a similar position. Alison glanced over. Para smiled uncertainly, and her bunny ears twitched. Alison shook her head, smiling ruefully. “You are so not-human and yet near-human that I don’t even know how to react, Miss Sexy Cute.”

“Para,” the blonde said quietly.

“Para. Sorry,” Alison apologized, looking back at her feet.

“You can call me whatever makes you feel more comfortable!” Para hastened to add. “Just… yeah. I thought we’d started using proper names and such.”

“We had. Are. Should be. You know what? Call me Alijda. I think I’ve missed that.”

“Sure, Alijda.”

They both sat in silence.

“I can’t justify joining this Project to save you,” Alison said at last. “Or Mason, or even Erika back home. But at the same time, if I cut out, I’m not sure if I could live with myself, knowing my leaving may lead to your death. It puts me between a rock and a hard place, where the only viable alternative becomes killing myself-“ (Para let out a gasp) “-but I’m not willing to give in to that side of myself. Not yet. Not over this.”

“I can handle myself,” Para pointed out. “I don’t need you to save me. This Alice, she’s dealing in hypotheticals.”

Again, a short silence. “So would you think less of me if I cut and run from all of this?” Alison asked. “Potentially leaving you and Mason in the lurch?”

Para slowly shook her head. “I’d understand.”

KJ140653420939

ALISON (approx)
SOURCE HERE

“Because here’s the other thing. This Project is RIGHT. Statistically speaking, I should do this. I’ve spent most of my adult life looking back over my shoulder, wondering when my misdeeds and twisted sense of reality will catch up with me. But finally, I’ve got a corporation – or maybe religious cult – who is not only willing to protect me, but who are trying to do GOOD, if in a bad way. And is their data mining really any worse than all the hacking I’ve done, looking into people’s lives?” Alison let out a bitter laugh. “Hell, I’ve probably broken more laws than this group!”

“Laws are relative to who’s making them, Alijda,” Para pointed out. “Lots of human governments do terrible things without breaking any laws.”

“Hum. Valid.” Alison lapsed into silence again. Then she stretched her legs back out. “Para… if I join them, saying my ultimate goal is to take their whole network down, do you still think they’d want to recruit me?”

The blonde shrugged. “Seems like what they’re looking for is, for lack of a better term, field operatives. I’m not sure what harm you could do to them if you’re never around this Hub place.”

Alison turned. “Might be interesting to find out.”

***

“Then you’re pulling a Skye,” Alice said. “That’s fine. We operate on a ‘Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You’ basis anyway.”

Alison stared back at Alice for a moment. “Okay – you realize that what you say means nothing without context, right?”

Alice blinked. “Do you not have the ‘Agents of SHIELD’ show in your reality? Skye – not her real name – joined a team but had her own agenda.”

Alison sighed, pressing two fingers to her temple. “Whatever. If that means we’re done here, let’s move on.” She looked towards Mason, now standing with Lissa Jous, who was still in handcuffs. Lissa was again keeping quiet, looking about warily while scowling. “Is the Lissa issue resolved yet? Is Phil back, and is Lissa going to prison?”

“Alice took some scans,” Mason remarked. “She thinks the technology exists to restore Phil. I plan to stay until she does so. In particular, upon Phil’s return, I rather hope he won’t be too upset by the fact that all the clocks that are supposed to read IV have returned to doing so.” He glanced to the pink haired woman. “With that done, we’ll see about restoring Lissa to her own dimension.”

Lissa let out a “Humph”, but otherwise made a point of ignoring them.

Mason turned back, stroking his beard. “As to this place – I’m not the sort of person to interfere. But it’s hard to turn down a distress call. So it could get interesting.”

“While I was kinda MADE to be helpful,” Para remarked. “Particularly where numbers are involved. So… yeah. We might see each other again. Alijda.”

“That might be nice. Para,” Alison admitted, with a half smile. She looked to Alice. “Okay, I’m done here. Get me home before I change my mind.”

Alice beamed. “Easiest thing to do is dial up the coordinates from where we took you. Which was actually your house, in the instant after you teleported. But it would be better to do it with our whirlpool. You okay with that?”

“Maybe?” Alison said warily.

Alice strolled back to one of the computers. She pulled up a virtual keyboard, tapping at it. “Dialling now!” she remarked. A rumbling noise began, and the whole room started to subtly vibrate. After a few seconds of this, a light on the floor suddenly switched on. Looking over, Alison realized that the light was located within one of nine different chevrons. All of them equally spaced around a large ring device, embedded in the middle of the room. The ring itself was large enough to accommodate a small car.

A second chevron illuminated next to the first. Alison’s eyebrows shot up. “Okay, I have seen SOME science fiction shows. Surely you CAN’T mean…”

“Same planet. Different dimension. We’ve found the gateway,” Alice chirped. “Wrong show, but you get the idea.”

A third chevron illuminated. “I’m headed over the rainbow,” Alison concluded dryly.

-END?-

WHICH CHARACTER WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO SEE AGAIN?

OPTIONS:

(Alice isn’t listed because you’ll see her again for sure.)

(Feel free to explain your choice below too!)

Voting will… probably remain open, actually.
Votes for the next story and character set will occur in a week.

1.11: Tour de Force

Previous INDEX Next

NUMBERS GAME, PART ELEVEN: TOUR DE FORCE

Para had never thought that she, a personified parabola, would one day be equated with a twenty something human male. But then she, Alison, and Mason hadn’t really thought through the finer details of their plan to capture The Denominator.

The tour for Big Ben had started at 4pm that afternoon, on the ground floor. There were 334 steps to climb, which were done in stages, the guide providing information along the way. The tour group would arrive at the top with time to hear the big bell chime, hence Alison originally figuring she had an hour, from 4 to near 5pm, to track down necessary information in their present. After all, The Denominator had appeared near the top of the tower in the past, so he had to have left from there, spatially speaking.

So when the group returned to that present, it was right after Big Ben rang to signify 5pm. Mason had assumed that Phillip’s untimely disappearance would have caused the tour to descend early. He was incorrect.

MorganFreemanBW

MASON (approx)
SOURCE SITE HERE

This meant that several people in the Elizabeth Tower were witness to the appearance of a SmartCar, as the chiming of the bells ended. They then saw two security guards emerge from inside of it, along with Para, in her usual garb of a bunny girl. Both groups stared at each other for a moment.

“Okay!” Alison declared. “Mason, I leave this to you.” She immediately hurried off.

“Wait! What’s happening here?” the tour guide demanded.

“Reality warp,” Mason answered, speaking with authority. “I’ll have to ask you all to move into that corner of the room until we can get this sorted out.”

The tour guide shook his head in response. “No – we need to clear the area. Someone’s gone missing, and a security sweep is necessary.”

“I’m security. I’m performing the sweep. Also, your missing person is right here. The reality warp transformed him into this blonde woman with bunny ears,” Mason countered. Para’s eyebrows went up. “So unless the rest of you want to be similarly transformed, please do as I say.” For emphasis, he reached into his pocket, pulling out his Bardiche. He tapped at it, and a band of blue light emerged from the swiss-army like device, a light which he began to train around the room.

There was another pause. “What if I’m okay with becoming a buxom blonde?” one of the people on the tour asked.

“Let’s get in the corner!” Para declared. Waving her hands, she tried to gently shoo everyone back to where Mason had indicated. There were skeptical looks, but with a shuffling of feet, they all complied, even the tour guide. Perhaps it was to get away from Mason, who continued to train his light beam around the area.

After about two minutes of this, Mason abruptly let out a “Ha!” and moved closer to the gated off mechanisms of the clock. He fiddled with his Bardiche again, the light switching off, the device now giving off a slight humming noise. He held it aloft, waving it in the air.

Para looked from Mason to the tour group, then back. “What–” she began, but before she could finish the thought, a small device flew through the air connecting to Mason’s Bardiche with a soft ‘clink’. Immediately thereafter, there was a sudden strange sensation – as if, for a fraction of a second, Para had been squashed back into two dimensions.

“Too late,” Mason sighed, demagnetizing his device and letting the flying object fall into his hands. Para realized it was Phillip’s reality-changing Alternator device. “But with this, I should be able to get everyone on the tour to forget about what’s presently going on – except I’ll need my Transformer back.” He looked to Para. “Here, take this to Alison. She can get the necessary readings off of it, if she hasn’t found The Denominator yet. Then bring her back.”

Para nodded, moving to grab the Alternator from Mason before heading off in the direction where Alison had vanished. As she departed, she heard the tour guide speaking up again, only to have Mason shush him.

***

Whereas the rewriting of reality had seemed to involve a squashing sensation, when Alison first activated the Transformer, she was overcome by a sensation of expansion. As if there were now a fourth dimension, putting her at right angles to herself. That curious effect also lasted less than a second, but it was enough to cause momentary disorientation. Fortunately, Lissa Jous seemed to be similarly affected, throwing off her attempt to knock Alison down.

The two women ended up staring at each other, an arm’s length away. Alison wondered how Lissa was even still there, given how reality had now – theoretically – been reset. Which is when she realized that indeed it HAD been Phil she’d been talking to, up until moments ago. When he’d been replaced. When his whole history had been replaced. Indeed, a part of her still believed that Lissa had been the one their group had been tracking for the last couple days! This reality altering technology was more powerful than she’d thought.

Lissa slowly shifted to an offensive stance, arms up, eyes cold. “I’m Lissa Jous. Former commander of the Bowditch. I know how to fight with nunchaku – and without. Teleport ability or not, you really think you’re capable of stopping me??”

“I don’t– wait, what’s that?” Alison countered, pointing behind Lissa.

Lissa smirked. “I’m not falling for–”

The Alternator executed a perfect parabolic arc in the air, smacking the pink haired woman in the back of the head. She stumbled forwards, turning to regard Para. Which allowed Alison the chance to lash out and smack Lissa upside the head with the Transformer. “Oh, bloody…” the pink haired woman managed to mumble before crumpling to the ground.

***

“I think we have to return to that ‘Hub’ place,” Mason concluded. “This is unsettlingly beyond me, and I still have their coordinates.”

Alison made a face. She didn’t like that option. It felt like admitting defeat, like they were putting their fate back into the hands of powerful, unknown people. Ones who were somehow pulling the strings. But if not even Mason knew how to restore Phillip to this reality, there wasn’t anything she could think of as an alternative.

After all, Alison reflected, the Time Lord had managed a lot already. He had been able to subtly alter the perceptions of those who had been in the Tower, to prevent any future investigation. (And when even the tour guide identified Lissa as being the missing person, not Phil, Alison knew they had a problem!) Mason had then parked his TARDIS back in the Jubilee Gardens, giving her time to cross reference external computer files with the ones in his ship, which apparently hadn’t been affected by the Alternator device. (It turned out Phillip’s identity was completely gone – all the files were for Lissa.) Mason had even worked out a way to undo the prior problem of that “Back to the Future” movie – apparently a trilogy – and restore that fictional clock to using an “IV” as well.

But restoring Phillip Denomolos was another story. They had handcuffed Lissa and locked her up in the wardrobe room. She wasn’t talking. And they had no idea how to uncouple her from the fabric of this world.

“The Epsilon Project obviously has more knowledge than us,” Para ventured, looking tentatively towards Alison, perhaps sensing her reluctance. “It may be the only way we can help.”

“Let me try talking to Lissa one more time,” Alison decided.

Mason shrugged. “I’ll start on some calculations, in case talk doesn’t work. I anticipate another rough ride, but maybe I can smooth it out a bit this time.”

Alison nodded, then marched for the door leading out of the control room. She heard Para trailing along after her.

The pink haired mathematical woman looked up as they entered. Lissa was stretched out on the ground, arms elevated, her hands cuffed around a piece of the wardrobe. Her expression was neutral. It looked like she’d tried to pull free, unsuccessfully.

“How do we fix this?” Alison demanded. “How do we send you back to where you came from?”

Seconds ticked by, and it seemed like Lissa still wasn’t inclined to say anything. Alison continued to try and stare her down. Lissa scowled. “Even assuming I knew, why would I tell you?” she said evenly.

“Because, if you hadn’t noticed, you’re on an alien ship. Maybe we have something you want. Maybe we can even work out a deal.”

Lissa sniffed haughtily. “Please. There’s only one thing I might be interested in knowing.” Her gaze shifted past Alison, to look at Para. “How did YOU get out?”

Para blinked, startled. “I- I don’t know. I was just here, with them.”

“PARA!” Alison almost shrieked, spinning on her heel. “That was our bargaining chip!!”

The bunny girl looked stricken. “Oh! I… I didn’t think, I just spoke…”

Alison resisted the urge to shake the blonde, or to go to the wall and slam her own forehead into it multiple times. Instead, she turned back to Lissa, who now simply lay there with a smug smile on her face.

“Fine,” Alison ventured. “At least answer me this. Did you actually love Phil? The same way he loved you? Because he apparently loved you enough to give up his own life, his own existence for you! Can you say the same?”

Lissa’s eyebrow arched. “Please. Even if we assume he was my Rory Williams, do I look like Amelia Pond?”

Alison stepped forwards and slapped Lissa. Lissa didn’t react, other than to slowly turn her head back to face her. Alison flexed her fingers. “You’re why a woman like me can’t have nice relationships.”

“Hmm. We both know that’s not true.”

Alison clenched her jaw. It was becoming a lot harder to resist that urge to slam her head – or Lissa’s – into a wall. She turned to Para. “Let’s get back to the Hub.”

***

The central control room for the station was big. And unlike the last time the TARDIS had materialized there, this time the computer banks had an operator. Alison stared at the apparent technician via Mason’s monitor long enough to register the long, brown hair, T-shirt, and jeans, before storming out to confront her.

“Answers. Now,” Alison demanded, reaching out to spin the other woman around by the shoulder.

Her adversary blinked back, and when she spoke, Alison recognized the voice of ‘Alice’ from their earlier computer communication. “What could I possibly tell you that you haven’t already figured out?” Alice asked politely.

Alison gaped. “How about what is this place? What was the deal with that Earth where I didn’t exist? Where Phil now ALSO doesn’t exist? Where personified math DOES exist? Can you teleport Lissa home, and Phil here? Hell, is it even me who’s supposed to be here, or were the ‘two’ you originally specified in your letter only Mason and Para?! SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.”

olga-kolesnik-23

ALICE (approx)
SOURCE SITE HERE

Alice frowned slightly, sliding a hand into her pocket as she contemplated Alison’s outburst. “Huh. Okay,” she decided after a beat. “I meant what could I possibly tell you about the Roman Numeral plot. Seeing as you’ve successfully repaired the damage and all.”

“Not all the damage!” Alison countered. “Reality’s still rewritten.”

Alice quirked an eyebrow up. “Um? Oh, Phil? Yeah,” Alice agreed. “We’re still trying to figure that one out. Did you bring Lissa back for analysis?”

“Even if we did, you’re not GETTING her until we get some answers!”

“Hum. Alice, is it?” came Mason’s voice. Alison glanced over to see him approaching, along with Para. He obviously hadn’t felt the same urgency about dashing out to catch the technician before she could escape. Though to be fair, Alison supposed that Alice wasn’t acting like she was in a hurry to go anywhere.

Alice turned and nodded slowly in response to Mason’s question.

“Or is your name actually Alison?” Mason continued. “Because I notice you bear some resemblance to OUR Alison, and when you first introduced yourself, you said to CALL you Alice… not that it was actually your name.”

Alice half smiled, glancing to her fellow brunette. “Ooh, he’s good. Or he’s very aware of how the two of us violate the One Steve Limit.”

Alison felt like she’d been punched in the gut. Yet again. “You… you don’t mean you’re really… me?!”

“Oh, nothing THAT dramatic,” Alice answered, waving her hands in a cancelling motion. “But consider. What if you could find brand new worlds, right there on Earth? Where anything is possible. Same planet, different dimension! And what if you, Alijda van Vliet, subconsciously tapped into one of those other dimensions when you were setting up your fake identity, hmmm?”

The technician returned her gaze to Mason. “It’s true, my name is Alison Vunderlande. Former secretary to Angel Investigations. Presently recruited to the Epsilon Project, the multiverse’s last, best place for hope.” She idly brushed off her jeans. “Now then, any final remarks before I send you back to your respective dimensions?”
WHAT’S LAST?

OPTIONS:

VOTING WILL CLOSE EARLY TUESDAY NOV 18 EDT
THE NEXT PART WILL CONCLUDE “STORY 1: NUMBERS GAME”
(Any lingering questions unaddressed at this point, place them in the comments!)

Next ->

1.10: Reality Shows

Previous INDEX Next

NUMBERS GAME, PART TEN: REALITY SHOWS

Alison van der Land. Or rather, Alijda van Vliet. She was, Mason reflected, a force to be reckoned with. In the short time since their last visit to Big Ben, the woman had hijacked his TARDIS, flirted with a known criminal, befriended a personification of math, and apparently considered suicide. Yet through it all, she had managed to act in all their best interests – despite being, at least in his opinion, focussed primarily on herself. It was simultaneously infuriating… and captivating.

In the end, Mason decided that he had to trust her with his Transformer device. Given her teleporting ability, she WAS the person who could get it close enough to the Denominator’s Alternator to read the necessary frequency. Which would then allow her to undo the problem of Big Ben’s Great Clock displaying IIII instead of IV. Along with any other side effects, which might relate to TV opening sequences.

Mason DID hope that any such side effects wouldn’t include the Elizabeth Tower itself being erased from reality, as they’d previously hypothesized. Mainly because his ship would very soon be parked inside it.

“We’re on course for the location in the Tower near where we left the Denominator in 2005,” he told the others, checking his monitors. “Seeing as there won’t be time for climbing stairs.”

Para danced back and forth from one foot to the other. “Should… should I have had you make a security uniform for me after all? To blend in? Along with you? It’s just, I’m NOT used to wearing foreign clothes…!”

“Kinda late to bring that up, Para,” Alison noted. “Besides, not many security guards also wear cute bunny ears.”

“It’s fine,” Mason assured, as Para’s cheeks went pink. “No sense overtaxing my wardrobe, it doesn’t have infinite power to create outfits.”

“No? Damn. I was hoping I’d never have to go shopping again,” Alison lamented. “Not to mention this bra actually FITS properly.”

Mason glanced over. “Is that why you’re still wearing it, even though it’s padded out to Lissa’s proportions?”

“Actually, YES. Now eyes back up.” Alison shifted her gaze to Para. “Men. Alien or not, in some ways they’re all the same!”

“Right! Besides, you look fine at ANY proportion,” Para said with a smile.

The side of Alison’s mouth twitched. “I don’t. My inner self always makes me look hideous. But thanks for the compliment.”

Now Para seemed unsure about how to respond. “Okay,” Mason broke back in, having decided to return his attention to his TARDIS and ignore Alison’s jibe. “I figure I can head off anyone coming up the stairs. Para, you handle any security already in the Clock Room. Leaving Alison to locate the Denominator. Sound good?” He looked up. The others nodded. Mason hesitated, then added, “One more thing. We should consider the possibility that everything out there is really just a pocket universe, designed by this Epsilon Project to test our ability to work together as a team.”

Alison slammed her hands down on the side of the centre console. “Whoa! Ex-CUSE me??”

“Something I’ve been wondering about. It would explain why getting here the first time was such a rough ride,” Mason elaborated. “Also why Alison herself apparently doesn’t exist on this world, and why my race seems to be part of a television show.”

“You mention this NOW?!”

Mason turned to face Alison more directly. “I wasn’t sure about bringing it up at all, given your paranoia. After all, it’s only a theory. But maybe it’s important.” The TARDIS let out a whining noise. Mason glanced to the side. “We’re materializing.”

“Oh, sure! Just a theory! Mention it when we can’t talk!” Alison turned back to Para. “Seriously, men! What’s the deal with their thinking?!”

“Yeah!” Para said, nodding. She then pursed her lips. “Ah, just to be clear, we’re bonding here, right? This despairing about men, it’s not because you’re romantically attracted to me?”

Alison let out a small sigh. “Remind me to have another talk with you.”

There was a THUD as Mason moved to open the main door. “We’re here.”

***

bell_1413014i

Inside the Tower.
Image source.

Phillip Denomolos smacked the side of his temporal displacer. He’d been back for several minutes now, long enough to find a hiding spot, but for some reason he still couldn’t pick up on the alternator’s frequency. Was it malfunctioning? Perhaps he should have jumped back in time before this, to create an extra week for testing! But no. That black man and his female companions had been right about one thing. The technology could be dangerous. Lissa had been clear: One jump back, of minimum seven years in length, then a return to the present. Any more, and there would be risks to his health, not to mention time itself. He wouldn’t betray her trust.

Perhaps the problem was interference. He’d had to use the alternator briefly to get his devices past security. He nodded. Merely a matter of giving the displacer another few minutes to self-calibrate…

“Hey. Stop. Give me that.”

Phillip snapped his gaze up from the device in his palm to see a female security guard approaching, arm out, voice curiously deadpan. She seemed familiar somehow. “No, you stop!” he shouted back. “Don’t come any closer, or I’ll detonate this!” He held up his displacer, which had no explosive capabilities, but she wouldn’t know that.

The woman did stop, glancing down at a device she was also carrying – possibly a calculator. And the association clicked. “You’re one of the three from outside! Who were also in the past!” he accused. “Who ARE you people? Why are you following me?!”

She looked back at him. “We’re trying to help you.”

“Trying to help me change this clock?!” he challenged.

Her head shook. “Phil, we both know you’re trying to do more than that. And it’s going to mess with Roman Numerals everywhere. I’m sorry, but the parts you’re using in your alternator – they’re sub-par. They’re going to have a detrimental effect on reality. For the last time, I ask you to believe me. Please. Don’t do this.” To her credit, her expression seemed legitimately sad.

But he’d come this far. He couldn’t stop now. Besides, this woman couldn’t know what sort of parts he was using! The only person who knew all about that and his goals was… he froze. He pictured the security guard with pink looping hair and a tight blue dress. His mouth twitched. “You posed as Lissa.”

She visibly winced. “The remarks I made then were my own.”

“You POSED as LISSA!!” Phillip felt like he had been punched in the stomach. Maybe THIS is why he’d been tempted to stop and talk to her and the others outside! “WHY? No, no – HOW?? She’s someone IN MY MIND! Granted, I made sketches, but you couldn’t have even seen them until after we met! You never explained it that day I accused you, you simply ran off!” He almost took a step forwards to grab her, before realizing he should keep his distance. “Tell me, Fake Lissa, how long have you and your people had me and my apartment under surveillance?!?”

The brunette sighed. “Call me Alison. And we haven’t been spying. At least *I* haven’t.” She briefly glanced accusingly at the ceiling. He hoped that was merely a failed attempt to divert his attention, as otherwise, it had sinister implications. “All I know is that this whole deal is going to go sideways – and that’s why me, Mason and Para got called in.”

He stared at her, trying to figure out if she knew more than she was letting on. And for some reason, he felt compelled to state the obvious. “It doesn’t matter, Alison – I love her.”

“I know.” Alison’s expression became pained. “I’m sorry.”

The displacer in his hand let out a ping. “I’m not.” Without even looking, he reached down to spin the dial and hit the appropriate button.

***

She’d been trying to apologize for posing as the object of his affections. He hadn’t understood. That was all moot now, as whatever Phil had done must have activated the alternator. Either that, or he’d released some sort of hallucinogenic gas, as for a moment Alison could swear that the three dimensions around her managed to compress themselves down into two. The effect lasted less than a second, but forced her to gasp for air.

Then, it was as if… nothing had happened. That was it? Somehow, Alison had pictured something more drastic occurring. Though for all she knew, something drastic WAS occurring – somewhere else. The world was a big place. She had to act, had to undo things. She glanced down at what Mason had dubbed his “Transformer”. Readings told her to get closer. She took a step towards Phil.

“No, you stay THERE!” he insisted, now levelling the displacer device at her as if it was a weapon. She supposed it could be, depending on what else he’d done to it. It didn’t really matter.

“No,” she answered simply. And she teleported to a metre behind him.

In the time it took him to register her disappearance into the purple smoke, and then to realize that wafts of the same smoke from behind him was actually a tip off as to her new position, she’d gotten the data she needed. So as he turned and took a step back, she held her own device up. “This will fix it,” she remarked. “This will repair the damage.”

“Who ARE you people?!” he demanded again, this time with more frustration than anger in his voice.

Her heart went out to him. In a sense, they were both pawns in a larger game. “I’m someone who’s interested in returning home.” She shifted her attention back to the ceiling, regretting that she had no better way to communicate with her abductors. “You hear that, Alice back with the Epsilon Project?? I can repair everything… but I’m not going to! Not until you somehow guarantee safe and IMMEDIATE passage for me, my companions – and Phil here! Because as compensation for being caught up in this, I think he should also be allowed to go wherever he wants!”

Phil glanced up, then back down. “Who are you talking to?”

Alison decided that answering would only make herself seem more crazy, so she elected to continue shouting upwards. “You understanding me, Alice?? We can solve your little problem for you – in our own little screwed up way! So what was your endgame? For that matter, what proof do we even have that Phil’s actions aren’t correct for this reality??”

“Are you saying that your device can undo all my efforts rewriting the Roman Numerals?”

Again, Alison didn’t answer, though she began to wonder whether hacking some sort of communications channel on the TARDIS might not have been a better plan. Actually, scratch that, it definitely would have been a better plan – always go for the data! Somehow, personal interactions never went the way Alison hoped.

“Then you leave me no choice.”

For instance, she hadn’t anticipated that Phil might have a backup plan. As soon as he’d said that, she reached out to grab for him. To prevent whatever he was keying into his temporal displacer. To keep him from somehow escaping through time. Her arm connected with his elbow. There was again that momentary squashing sensation, as three dimensions seemed to become two. Then she reaffirmed her grip on Lissa’s arm.

Then she did a double take.

LJousC

LISSA JOUS (approx)

It wasn’t so much a physical double take as a mental double take. Her past didn’t make sense. Why had she dressed up like that guy named Phillip Denomolos in order to gain access to Lissa’s apartment? Why had doing so necessitated Mason’s wardrobe creating fashionable boots for her to wear? More to the point, why was she currently holding off on resetting everything for Lissa’s sake, when she really felt no sense of attachment to the woman?

“Alison!” Para called out from somewhere nearby.

Lissa grabbed for Alison’s arm, trying to pull her in closer, the woman’s other hand reaching for the Transformer device. Alison immediately teleported out of reach, making the conscious effort to do so ALONE, as was necessary when she was in physical contact with other people or objects. Though she made sure to maintain her grip on the object in her hand. And as soon as she had reappeared, and saw that Lissa was charging for her again, she keyed in the ‘Undo’ feature, setting aside her plan of blackmailing the Epsilon Project.

Whatever was going on, it had just become a whole lot bigger.

WHAT’S NEXT?

OPTIONS:

VOTING WILL CLOSE EARLY TUESDAY NOV 11 EDT

Next ->

1.09: Prepare Yourself

Previous INDEX Next

NUMBERS GAME, PART NINE: PREPARE YOURSELF

Alison set aside the pink wig that had turned her into a double for Lissa Jous. She then ran her fingers back through her natural brown hair, rumpling it and letting it fall back onto her shoulders like usual. That done, she put her back against the wardrobe and slid down to the ground, hugging her knees in towards her chest. “Goddamn it.” She tugged up a little on the bottom of the tight dress, ultimately just letting her knees fall to the side instead, lifting her gaze up to stare at the ceiling. “What is even the hell, Alison?” she questioned herself aloud. “You only gonna fall for guys you have no chance with?”

She grimaced. Two problems with that statement. First, she hadn’t fallen for Phillip Denomolos. Not really. Granted, he was a nice guy, and smart, but despite his technological know-how, personality-wise he hadn’t felt like her type. Too obsessed with what was “right” or “wrong”. She had more fallen for the idea that he’d fallen for Lissa. Yet right after confirming that fact, he’d made it clear that he knew she wasn’t really Lissa, so never mind. Which led to the second problem, namely that this meant she had yet to feel a spark of romantic interest with ANY man who didn’t run completely counter to her personality.

Nice guys. Happy guys. Honest guys. All things that she was not. Even David Rose, who had been as messed up as she had been in terms of being affected by that Biochemical experiment – and where she’d gained teleportation, he’d gained super speed – that had not been a good match either. Because David was a police officer. While she was effectively a fugitive. Alison looped some hair around her finger and tugged at it angrily. “Why even think about guys, Ali? Why the hell do you want to pass on your stupid, messed up genes? Because you’re over 30, and your biological clock is ticking? Screw that nonsense.” Despite verbalizing it, Alison wasn’t thoroughly convinced.

There was a knock at the door. Alison quickly pulled herself back to her feet, brushing off her dress. The door began to swing open. “I said no peeking!” Alison shouted curtly.

The pair of bunny ears vanished as quickly as they’d appeared. “Sorry!” came Para’s voice as the door closed again.

Alison sighed. “Bunny girl, come back! I need your help unzipping anyway,” she realized.

The door reopened, the blonde peeking around the corner. “Yeah?”

“Just make sure you leave the alien out there,” Alison noted. “I don’t want anything resembling a man talking to me right now.”

Para blinked. “Oh. So, you don’t like guys any more? Because of Phil? I mean, that is, it’s your life, but you shouldn’t make a hasty decision…”

Alison let out a long breath. “Para, stop. Just get your ass in here, close that door, and strip this dress off of me!” She pursed her lips. “Which I did NOT mean in an indecent way!”

ParaHead

PARA (it’s actually her name)

The blonde slipped inside, obviously trying to hold back a smile as she closed the door. “You called me Para.”

“Yeah. I know.” Alison attempted a smile herself, but felt it came out more like a grimace. “I feel like this might end up becoming a serious chat, one which I don’t want to have with a rabbit.”

“Oh. Then… you didn’t do it because you’re feeling any closer to me.”

“Maybe, maybe not. You never know. SNAFU.”

“Snafu?”

“Situation Normal, All F-ed Up.” Alison turned to present her back to Para, pulling her hair out of the way of the zipper. “After all, I’m on some parallel Earth, trying to prevent a mathematical construct named Lissa from destroying Roman Numerals, via her influencing the dreams of a fanboy technician. Not exactly typical!”

Para moved in to pull the zip down. “Right. Well, speaking of preventing disasters, out of all the options you gave, Mason thinks we should engineer an undo for that alternator.” Alison’s dress undone, Para stepped back as the brunette began to disrobe. “It would mean we can flash forward to the present again, rather than mess around any more outside of our proper time.”

Alison stepped out of the blue dress after it hit the floor, going back to the wardrobe to retrieve her original black number, which Mason had said he would clean. “Makes sense,” she yielded. “The big question is, what then.”

“You mean how will we confiscate the alternator, so that the Denominator doesn’t try again?”

“I mean, will we magically end up back in our worlds? Or on that Hub space station? Or will Mason fly the two of us off somewhere for a new adventure? Assuming we succeed, what then??”

“Oh.” Para twisted her fingers together. “Is that what you humans would call a rhetorical question?”

“I don’t know.” This time, Alison was sure she was grimacing. “Part of me wants to end up back at home, with no memory of any of this mess. Yet at the same time… I’m learning things about myself. About my past, about depression, even about romance. It’s like the whole Powers mess all over again.” She briefly debated switching out her lingerie – becoming Lissa had necessitated a little extra padding – but then figured hell with it, and began to pull her regular dress back on.

“I’m not sure I follow.”

Alison held back a sigh. “I’m one of a few people who got accidental powers in my reality,” she admitted. “I realized that, to survive, I’d need to join forces with the others in the same position. This after giving off a terrible first impression, plus I’ve always preferred technology to people anyway. So part of me wishes it had never happened. Except, I grew as a person because of it. Same thing seems to be happening here.”

Para nodded, picking up the blue dress off the floor and looking for a free clothes hanger. “Okay, well, what happened in the other situation?”

“MBE, the Biochemical Engineering company was… persuaded to back off. Let’s say that blackmail, or the perception of such, may have been involved.” She adjusted the straps of her dress. “Which means that, while I haven’t lost touch with the others, at present there’s incentive not to hang out. Because MBE has to be looking for a new angle on us.”

“And so… you’re not sure you want to lose touch with me and Mason the same way? Is that it?” She slid Lissa’s dress back into the wardrobe.

“Kind of. I DO know that I don’t want to stay with you if it means doing things at the whim of this Epsilon Project.” Dress in place, Alison pointed her toe. She decided to keep the boots on too. “I guess I’m wondering if there’s any way we can turn the screws here, maintain the ability to ‘undo’ the ‘undo’, should the Mystery Group not agree to return us to our regular lives. After we save the world and all.”

Para’s nose crinkled. “You don’t think the Epsilon Project would do that anyway?”

“I don’t know, that’s the thing! But I’m also not convinced that Mason would be cool with me playing with his technology to engineer such an undo. At best, he’ll think I’m “joyriding” again, and at worst, he could think I’m in league with Phil. Given how I was maybe playing up the romance angle a bit much, before my last two temporal visits.”

“Maybe? Alison, before leaving us the last time, you said that the best way to figure out if he was truly in love with Lissa would be to kiss him on the lips!”

Alison winced slightly at the memory. “Oh. Yeah.”

The two women stared at each other. “So… did you?”

“No!” Alison felt her cheeks warm as she turned away. “But I was going to. Not because I loved Phil, it’s more that he loved Lissa, and I was Lissa, and it was… nice to feel loved. Besides, let’s face it, you can’t find a safer environment to experiment in than a universe where you don’t actually exist.”

Para crossed her arms. “Then are you truly sure that NO part of you wants to see the Denominator succeed? Because forgive me, you’re not making yourself an easy person to trust right now. And for me, saving Roman Numerals is more than just preserving a bunch of numbers.”

Alison turned back, opening her mouth to protest, but in the face of Para’s resolute gaze, the words died on her lips. “You’re right. I can’t guarantee it,” she finally admitted. “But I’d like to think I have more than my own interests at heart.”

Para continued to look at her for a few seconds before smiling again. “That much I believe.” She moved to grab the pink wig, to put it into the wardrobe as well. “Either way, don’t worry about keeping in contact after this – if Lissa can appear in someone’s else’s dreams, there might be some way I can appear in yours!”

katja-herbers_339624crop

ALISON (Approx)
Source Still Here

Alison finally managed a true smile. “Or not. No offence, Para, but I don’t love you in quite the same way Phil loves Lissa.”

“I guess.” Para froze in place. “OH,” she breathed. “Do you mean he was having THOSE sorts of dreams about Lissa??”

Alison’s smile faded. “What?” Her eyebrows shot up, seeing Para’s expression. “Whoa! No! I don’t know! Gods, why would you even go there?!”

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around someone loving personified math!” Para said, her eyes growing wide. “Maybe the only way you can truly love one of us is if you get to… you know…”

“Stop! Bunny girl! No!” Alison made emphatic cancelling motions with her arms. “Not where I wanted your sexy cuteness to take me! I mean, does that imagery even make SENSE in two dimensions?!” She let out a long breath. “Oy. How about we just go help Mason with his anti-alternator plans. Alright??”

Para nodded mutely back at her, her eyes still large and wondering.

***

Alison adjusted her new belt. “Just to be clear then,” she remarked. “This whole time, you’ve had a wardrobe that can make proper fitting clothes given almost any specifications… and we’ve only NOW used it to create disguises to get into the Elizabeth Tower?”

“Yes. Because we’re only now trying to undo an interference,” Mason countered. “When we arrived at the Tower that first time, we were observing, not interacting.”

“Mmm. You know, I could probably hack into the government system and actually give us credible backgrounds too.”

“These security uniforms will be quite enough,” Mason assured. He tugged at the cuffs of his shirt. “Besides, I thought you said that we’d have to deal with the alternator device almost immediately upon our arrival back in the present.”

“Point,” Alison yielded. “Though now that you’re here, and you know how the TARDIS controls work, you could take me back to a week before, where I could plant a virus to…”

“No.”

“Is our plan really to fully materialize a London taxicab inside the Tower?” Para questioned. “It doesn’t seem safe.”

Mason turned. “Oh, didn’t I mention? I think I’ve got the chameleon circuit partially fixed. My ship will have the appearance of a SmartCar. Should fit in the building okay.”

“We don’t have a choice, there’s no time to run in from outside,” Alison explained. “We’ll be arriving only moments before – maybe even after – Phil, er, the Denominator arrives back in the present. And I’ll need to get this,” she held up the device, resembling a calculator with a small satellite dish on it, “close enough to his temporal displacer to read the alternator’s charged frequency. With that, we can undo his misguided efforts, once he triggers it.”

“I’m still hesitant on letting you be the one to manage that thing,” Mason admitted.

“I know him better than you two. I can get closer. Plus, I suck at running interference.”

“I trust Alison,” Para assured him. “Remember, she saved the both of us last time.”

Mason looked towards her, frowned, then nodded. “All right then. Let’s get this trip over with.” He reached out to throw the switch.

Alison tensed a little at the motion, then looked down again at the device in her hands. Regrettably, she didn’t really know how it worked – only Mason did. She only knew the buttons she would have to push. Her lips thinned. What she did know was that she wasn’t going to push that last button, not until she knew for darn sure that “The Epsilon Project” was going to let them all go free. Including Phillip Denomolos.
WHAT’S NEXT?

OPTIONS:

VOTING WILL CLOSE THURSDAY NOV 6 EST

(That’s not a typo. Marks are due Friday, not writing until then.)

Next ->

1.08: Perchance Romance

Previous INDEX Next

NUMBERS GAME, PART EIGHT: PERCHANCE ROMANCE

Phillip Denomolos frowned. The pink hair was correct, but the ovals didn’t seem to be the right size. The overlapping waves shown on the blue dress also seemed wrong, even if the boots were accurate. Or were they? “Lissa Jous?” Phillip repeated back to the woman.

Lissa nodded. “I’ve heard about your efforts. I’m here to help you.”

He wasn’t buying it. But at the same time, ‘Lissa’ had to know something, otherwise how could she look so much like the real deal? The one who had been appearing in his dreams? He kept his face impassive. “All right,” he said after a moment. “Join me upstairs.” It didn’t hurt that her features were easy on the eyes.

Yet the woman hesitated again at his invitation. “It might be better to talk somewhere more public, maybe a park…”

“All the stuff for my device is in my flat,” he pointed out. “I can even order us a pizza.”

Her lips pursed, and he thought he heard her stomach rumble. “Food would be good.”

***

“They’re going into the building!” Para realized, leaning against the central console of the TARDIS as she peered at the video monitor. “Can you still track them? Let us see into his apartment??”

“I’m not a magician,” Mason countered. “My Bardiche can act as a micro transmitter, but Alison elected not to bring it with her. And if we try to sneak in to observe in some more mundane manner, we might blow her cover.”

“But what if he sees through her disguise and assaults her or something?” Para protested.

“She can teleport away,” Mason reminded. “Besides, Alison is a grown woman. We have to trust she knows what she’s doing.” Even so, his tone implied he was still less than happy about her joyriding in his TARDIS.

“But… oh…” Para felt her shoulders slump. “I guess you’re right.” The blonde managed to resist the urge to rock on her heels. “I really hope I remembered the legend of Lissa Jous correctly.”

Mason leaned back against the console. “You want to take another look at the mathematical files I’ve got? See if they trigger any other memories?”

Para_embC

Para reflects
(Invariant in y-axis)

Para immediately shook her head. “No. First of all, seeing the people I know back home reduced to little more than lines on a grid, while understandable, is vaguely creepy. Second of all, some math legends like Lissa may be better left hidden – I don’t want to witness some kind of logical nightmare that I can’t unsee. And finally, if it turns out I DID screw something up in recalling Lissa’s appearance… at this point, I don’t think I want to know about it.”

Mason nodded. “Don’t forget, any visual errors might not be on you. While my wardrobe can custom make items, it’s only as good as the person programming it. And I haven’t had much cause to make outfits for women.”

“There’s that.” Para half smiled, remembering how Alison had refused to give Mason her measurements, demanding to be able to enter those numbers herself – despite the fact that he could probably look them up later, if he wanted to. The blonde looked back at the monitor, which still showed the building outside. She stared at it for a full minute. “Well, Alison hasn’t tried to make a hasty exit yet,” she concluded. “So if the Denominator’s not sold on her act, he’s at least going along with it.”

Mason nodded. “Want to help me program in our next little time leap then? I might not be able to impress Alison with my ship now, but you’re another story…”

***

“Whelp, we were wrong on a lot of counts,” Alison stated as she re-entered the TARDIS over an hour later. She closed the door behind her and leaned back against it.

Para resisted the urge to run and give the other woman a hug. She settled for a bright smile and the remark, “You’re safe, at the least!”

Alison nodded. “Also fed. Guy has good taste in pizza.”

“When you say we were wrong, do you mean you don’t look like Lissa?” Mason inquired.

Alison shook her head, the wire ovals of her wig wobbling slightly as she finally pushed off from the door to approach them. “No, I do look like her. Or I think I do. Or Phil thinks I do. But you remember how I thought that coming here would start the whole Roman Numeral process, closing up a causality loop? Ixnay on the ooping-lay. Lissa’s apparently been appearing in Phil’s dreams for months. So the sequence of events leading up to our future encounter might not have been altered too much by our showing up here.”

Mason let out a breath, his entire posture now seeming more relaxed. “Thank goodness. I was rather dreading doing a cleanup of the time streams.”

Para was rather more concerned by something else she heard. “Phil?”

Alison turned. “What, bunny girl?”

“Not Four I’s? Not even Phillip? You still call me bunny girl, but you’re now calling him Phil?”

Alison pursed her lips. “Huh. Interesting. Alright, yes, I suppose I am. I mean, we had a long chat and… he doesn’t seem like a bad person, really. In fact, he’s quite bright. If I were to explain the dangers of that temporal displacer to him in my current guise, I dare say he’d listen. I don’t think it’s his fault he was targeted. So it doesn’t feel right to use that nickname to mock him any more.”

Para wondered if she should reach out to grab Alison’s arm, but elected not to. “Um, you DO remember how this guy will rant about how we’re supposed to ‘bow to his wisdom’ though, yeah?” she reminded. “He could be psychotic.”

“He’s not,” Alison fired back defensively. “Or not any more than I am. Besides, I don’t want to blurt out ‘Four I’s’ when I’m in the middle of speaking with Ph– with him, do I? I mean, I almost did when I first saw him, and I need to keep up this charade through at least one more encounter. If not three or four.”

“Three or four?” Para protested. “I thought you said you’d only need a couple visits! The first to see where he was at, and the second to provide him with the devices he would end up with!”

“That was before I knew he was pretty much inventing the things himself, as opposed to receiving them,” Alison countered. “Granted, some of the materials he’s using have been scavenged in rather suspicious, even mystical ways…”

“To that end,” Mason interrupted. “Do we actually have confirmation that this Phillip will be messing with the alternator device? Trying to change the Great Clock along with rewriting the Roman Numeral opening for this television show he likes?”

Para pursed her lips, not sure she wanted to move on from the topic of Alison’s interpersonal relations with ‘Phil’ – but Alison was already answering Mason before Para could even figure out how to vocalize her concerns.

“Yes and no,” Alison stated. “He definitely wants to fix clocks to have four I’s, Big Ben in particular. He’s also obviously a fan of this ‘Doctor Who’ – he’s got merchandise, T-shirts, all that stuff. But I’m not sure he’d screw with the alternator to try and do it all at once. He would know that it’s risky, even after a trial run.”

“Unless…” The other two turned towards her as she spoke, making Para flinch a bit. She tried to quickly unscramble the thoughts in her brain. “Unless maybe he felt he had to do it? To impress someone? Humans can do that sometimes. I know of one guy who suddenly started studying me – well, parabolas – very intently, merely because he wanted to be smart enough to tutor someone else.”

Alison frowned. “You think Phil is going to screw up all the Roman Numerals in the world because he’s trying to impress a girl?” She shook her head. “Kindly keep your romantic notions out of this science fiction story.”

Para was almost tempted to fire back with ‘I will if you will’, but she restrained herself. “It doesn’t have to be romance. Maybe he’s got a dying relative who really hates the show’s new opening sequence, I don’t know. I’m just saying, humans can be driven to do crazy things.”

There was a slightly awkward silence. “She’s got a point,” Mason finally offered up.

“I guess,” Alison sighed. “Okay. Let’s do the time hop, two weeks forward, as scheduled. Once there, I’ll get more from Phil about his family and friends, along with whether he’s had any more dreams about me. About Lissa,” she amended quickly. She then looked to Para. “And I shouldn’t change dresses? You math personifications, you always wear the same clothes?”

“Not the SAME,” Para corrected. “But we have multiple copies of our outfits, yes. After all, changing clothing styles generally means a form change, like standard to vertex. Not something you’d do on a whim.”

“Mmm. All right then,” Alison concluded. She pointed her toe out. “Though personified math might want to reconsider it’s clothing policy. Trying new styles can lead to new discoveries – for instance, I’m liking these boots a lot more than I thought I would.”

***

“He knows I’m not Lissa.”

The admission hung in the air until Para finally asked, “How?”

Alison rubbed her nose, then headed from the TARDIS door through the control room, towards the wardrobe area. “Lissa apparently appeared in Phil’s dreams again last night, telling him it was time to test the alternator. I obviously didn’t know this, and was unable to fast talk an explanation.” She paused to lean against the wall near the back doorway, the corners of her mouth twitching. “Truth be told, I think he’s suspected me of being a fraud since our second meeting. Maybe even the first.”

Mason cleared his throat. “Do we at least know whether–”

“Yes, yes, it’s confirmed, Phil’s in love with Lissa,” Alison cut in, anticipating the question. Para almost fancied that Alison wanted to add ‘and not with me’, but what she actually said was “So yes, it’s equally likely that his upcoming acting like an idiot with technology is an attempt to impress her.”

“He’s in love with a personification of math,” Para said, feeling like she actually had to say that out loud in order to believe it. “That’s so WEIRD. Most humans HATE us!”

Alison crossed her arms. “Put on a bikini, go to a beach, and then tell me how much the guys HATE you, Miss Sexy Cute,” she countered. “Heck, appearances aside, even I like you more than I thought I ever would.”

Para took in a deep breath, deciding to finally call her out. “Yet… I notice you’re still not calling me Para.”

Alison’s gaze darted over to a random corner of the control room. “True. But at this point, the fact that I’m using pet names to your face, rather than behind your back, is probably more of an attempt to push you away from me. For your own good.” Para felt her eyes widen at the admission.

“Regardless, this means Phillip is going to play with technology he doesn’t understand,” Mason summarized, steering the conversation back to their mission. “Leading us to the question of whether we can prevent that, without interfering with events as we’ve already seen them.”

“We can.”

Again, Alison’s remark implied a follow up that never came. Para exchanged a glance with Mason. He shrugged. “Well?” Para ventured again.

Alison looked back at them. “The problem is actually with his alternator. He’s swapped in some parts, which he doesn’t think will affect the shielding – but I have my doubts. And if there’s bleedthrough, more than just clocks will be affected. In fact I’m starting to suspect “Back to the Future” wasn’t a six hour epic, but rather a series of movies, separated by Roman Numerals.”

“Okay,” Mason said slowly. “But then what’s your solution to preventing the problem?”

“We repair his device,” Alison stated. “So it works properly. Or, if you prefer, we sabotage it, so that it doesn’t work at all. Or we use what I know about it to devise some countermeasures, fixing the problem after it occurs!” She spun on her heel. “Whatever, I don’t care. I’m going to change. No peeking.” With that, she completed her march out of the room.

Para took a step after Alison, but upon realizing she didn’t know what to say, thought better of it and looked to Mason instead. “Well, you’re the time expert,” she observed. “Which of those options do you think is the best?”

WHAT’S NEXT?

OPTIONS:

VOTING WILL CLOSE LATE TUESDAY OCT 28 EDT

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