Story1

1.02: The Hub

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NUMBERS GAME, PART TWO: THE HUB

Mason watched as Para looked uncertainly back and forth between him and Alison. “I… could show you what I’ve discovered here?” the blonde proposed.

Morgan_Freeman

MASON (approx)
Source: Paramount Pictures

“Yes, let’s do that,” Alison asserted. Mason decided to say nothing, merely gesturing that Para could precede them to the computer bank section of the room. After all, despite offering to take them to the coordinates, he wasn’t in a rush to leave. He simply wanted to deal with the situation in a way which would minimize his interaction with the locals, since he considered his role as a Time Lord to be that of an observer, not a meddler. At least, that’s how he felt about it lately.

Para – the one with the bunny ears hairband – led the two of them back to the wall of computer displays. “You see, after finding the note on the table about the numerals, I investigated here,“ she stated. “This display was running, and as you can see it wants us to input coordinates. That graphic below, implies the system is tied into that ring on the floor, which must be some sort of teleporting device. And I presume these watches sitting on the shelf here with the similar symbol would keep us safe for the trip.”

She stood back with a tentative smile. Alison glared at the five watches, slid that gaze to Para, then turned her full attention to the monitors, poking at them to see if they were touch screens. As such, Alison didn’t notice Para’s shoulders slump, and the blonde biting down lightly on her lower lip. Which is when Mason realized something.

Para wasn’t quite human.

She seemed to be becoming increasingly distressed by the way Alison was reacting to her, and her mannerisms suggested to him that she believed that SHE was the problem, rather than the situation they found themselves in. More to the point, Para seemed to be looking to Alison for nonverbal cues that she could mimic, as if she was trying to figure out how to fit in – and she either wasn’t finding those cues, or wasn’t able to duplicate them. Was Para actually a rabbit of some sort then? Or an artificial life form, designed to make them feel more at home here?

Regardless, being a Time Lord himself, Mason knew a little something about looking the same on the outside, yet being different inside. He moved up next to the blonde, as Alison continued her technological playing around.

“I have two hearts,” he remarked quietly, attempting nonchalance but rather hoping to get a reaction. “Beating inside my chest.” He was rewarded with a wide-eyed look. “Embrace who you are,” he continued with a smile. “Humans aren’t terrible role models – for the most part, anyway – but don’t feel you have to become one of them to fit in.”

“But I’m not popular! I’m personified math!” the blonde blurted back. Her cheeks gained a touch more colour at the admission.

Mason lifted an eyebrow, wondering as to his best response. He elected to go with, “I’m a Time Lord, nice to meet you.”

Para smiled tentatively once again, then glanced uncertainly down at her hand and back up to him. Mason reached out to take the hand. “Time Lords can also shake hands,” he assured her, doing so. Her tentative smile became one of relief.

“Okay! Here we go,” Alison remarked, now typing on some sort of virtual keyboard. “NOW we’ll find out what’s really going on!” She grinned a bit evilly. “I feel like I rolled high on this attempt, so to speak.”

Mason looked over as the display flashed briefly, and then changed from awaiting coordinate inputs to what looked like a graphic of a rotating wheel, with the central hub area in indicated in red. Mason nodded… a central hub, so signing “The Hub” at the bottom of that letter made some sense. “Okay, we’re on some sort of SPACE station,” Alison realized, her finger idly tracing through the air to mimic the spinning motion seen on the display. She looked down and began to type again. “But we’re not in orbit around a planet. We don’t even seem to be in normal space…”

The virtual keyboard vanished from beneath Alison’s fingers, and the video screen went blue. The brunette looked back up as the voice of a woman came from a set of nearby speakers. “Okay! Hacking, that’s a little rude,” the voice said. “If you need more information than what was outlined in the letter, ask politely.”

“What? Who are you?!” Alison demanded, seemingly looking around for a microphone to speak into.

“I’m… ooh, hm. Let’s call me Alice,” the voice answered her. “But rest assured that such a name does NOT relate to the Umbrella Corporation. Nor is the name “The Hub” referencing some splinter group off Agents of SHIELD. The Epsilon Project is it’s own little group. Don’t panic, as they say!”

“You realize saying that to someone like me will have the complete opposite effect?” Alison challenged. “Now, why have we been brought here??”

A pause. “You want context, is that it? Okay. Check out this image.” A picture flashed up on the monitor, replacing the blue screen. Mason took a step closer to get a better look. It seemed to picture two people in Western clothing standing on either side of a clock face. He reached into his inside suit pocket as the disembodied voice of Alice continued with, “Back to the Future. I forget if it exists in your realities, but this was our first sign of a serious Roman Numeral issue. You see the problem?”

back-to-future-unclock

SOMETHING’S WRONG HERE

Mason didn’t, actually. A glance at Para showed no immediate recognition either, whereas Alison simply seemed ever more agitated. So Mason finished pulling Bardiche out of his pocket – which was how he referred to his portable device. Granted, it resembled what humans called a “swiss army knife” more than it did a long poleaxe, but Mason figured a poleaxe might one day become one of the options available. Tapping at a couple buttons, a small camera extended from Bardiche’s interior mechanism. Mason used it to take a quick picture of the image on the monitor.

“I’m hoping your silence is agreement,” Alice continued. “Of course, too late to deal with that incident, those movies are now one six hour long saga. BUT our plan is to send you somewhere a bit more conspicuous, higher chance of success… though we’re not quite sure how it will all play out. Hence the limited data. Understand now?”

“No one is going ANYWHERE until you explain how I ended up here in the first place!” Alison challenged.

Another pause. “Okay, look, I can be down there in under ten minutes.” There was a click, as if the line had been shut off, and the display reverted back to the coordinate input screen.

Alison immediately spun to face Mason. “You said you could navigate us away on a TARDY or something? Let’s do that. Now.”

Para blinked. “But now someone’s coming! And you said no one was going–”

Alison turned back to the blonde. “I lied. Or maybe I’m lying now. They’re obviously listening to everything we say! We have to get out of here, it’s not safe to even talk!”

Mason stroked his beard, as he realized something else. “Alison, by any chance do you have mild paranoia as a character trait?”

She turned back to him. “By any chance do you have ‘show off elite psychoanalysis skills’ as your own trait? Now are we leaving or not??”

Mason repocketed his Bardiche, doing so with deliberate care to allow him a moment to contemplate Alison’s request. All things being equal, he would prefer to wait for that Alice to explain more. But things were not quite equal. After all, if he were to be transported via “The Hub”, he would likely be separated from his TARDIS, which was something he would prefer to avoid. Besides, he was interested in the reactions the two women would have upon seeing it.

“I’m still willing to check out the co-ordinates under my own power,” he decided. “Get in my taxi. Use the driver’s side door.”

Alison immediately marched over to the vehicle. Para remained standing near the computer banks, looking torn, glancing from Alison towards the watches they were leaving behind. “But… oh…” She wrung her hands.

“Sometimes being human means not doing what you’re told,” Mason remarked to her. “That said, you’re welcome to stay here and give our regrets.”

“Nngh…” The bunny girl did a cute little dance from one foot to the other. When Mason turned to go though, she quickly dashed ahead of him. “Following all the rules leaves a completed checklist,” Para said breathlessly. “Following your heart achieves a completed you! Ray Davis. Inspirational quote I picked up somewhere.”

“If you say so,” Mason chuckled. He followed – but was forced to pause at the TARDIS door, as both Alison and Para now stood in the way, gaping. Para was the first to move inside, allowing Mason to follow and look back at Alison’s expression. He was pleased to see that instead of the usual suspicion or annoyance, her expression had morphed into one of surprise – perhaps even admiration.

Mason took a moment to admire the control room for his ship too – he supposed it had become rather commonplace to him. This despite it being only moderately smaller than the room they had just exited, albeit in the shape of a pentagon. The door leading inside faced one of the five corners, the one which had two exits on either side, leading deeper into the ship. The wall design followed an irregular pentagonal tiling pattern, and the central control console was also five sided; some work by Mason had eliminated the need for a sixth operative.

“This is not a normal taxi,” Alison managed after a moment.

“I told you, I’m not human.”

“Mmm… larger on the inside,” Para agreed. “Extra dimension involved?”

“In a way. Time And Relative Dimension In Space. TARDIS,” Mason answered, now grinning broadly. “Close the door, please, Alison. Para, you have those coordinates?”

The blonde nodded, ceasing her own look around to hand him the letter. Mason began to throw some switches to input the information, and after Alison shut the door, he pulled down on the largest lever on the main console.

The lighting in the room changed from standard yellow to green as the ship departed. Mason then turned his attention towards fine tuning the route they were taking. Which is when there was a lurch, throwing all the occupants off balance. It was followed by a larger one. Mason looked to his stabilizer – it seemed to be functioning. So why the rough ride?

“Is that supposed to happen?” Para questioned, grabbing for a convenient railing next to him on the central console.

“Not exactly,” Mason admitted. “But come to think, I ran into this turbulence on the way into that Hub place too. Ah!” He snapped his fingers. “That’s probably what knocked out my chameleon circuit, reverted the TARDIS back into taxi form.” He smiled again, pleased at having made the deduction, only to have the biggest lurch of them all throw Alison down onto the floor.

“Seriously?” the brunette shouted. “And you only mention the problem now??” Which was when the lighting in the room switched from green to emergency red. “Mason,” Alison continued with an edge on her voice, “do you have any idea what you’re making me feel like doing?”

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1.01: The Gathering

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NUMBERS GAME, PART ONE: THE GATHERING

The central control room for the station was big. Large enough, in fact, to allow a person to park a car on the floor in front of the main viewscreen. Which was fortunate, all things considered, seeing as that’s where the taxicab from 1950s London began to materialize. It flickered insubstantially a couple of times, the “For Hire” sign flashing on and off in a strobe effect, before the vehicle’s existence finally stabilized. Seconds passed in silence. Then the door opened, and a brown skinned gentleman in a tan suit stepped out, idly stroking his beard as he looked around the room. He paused as he caught sight of the car he had exited, and he slammed the door shut. “I thought I had that circuit fixed,” he said aloud, his tone one of mild irritation.

Taxi_sgo916

TARDIS (approx)
Source site here

The gentleman frowned, now faced with a decision. Should he bother trying to repair his Model 47 TARDIS, so that it would appear more inconspicuous? Or should he simply investigate the place where he had rematerialized, having traced an inter-spatial call for assistance to this location? As it turned out, those questions swiftly became moot, as a woman drew his attention instead. It happened the moment she appeared less than five metres away, in a cloud of purple and black smoke, along with the faint aroma of sulphur.

***

Alison stumbled post-teleport, pulling a hand up to her head. “Whoa! That did NOT feel right…” Her voice trailed off as she realized that she was not in her house, and further that there was a guy in a suit standing before her. The first question she had, namely ‘Who the heck are you?’ died on her lips. Because the guy looked familiar. And he seemed to be having a similar reaction upon seeing her.

“I’ve seen you before,” he affirmed, looking her up and down.

The brunette steeled herself, brushing some of her long hair off of one shoulder. She was glad she had chosen to dress conservatively today, sporting a knee length dress in black, with a pair of equally black stockings and unheeled shoes. Surely she looked just like any of a dozen other women. “Oh yes?” Alison said, even as she began to riffle through her own memories to place her companion’s face. She hoped that doing so would help in explaining her presence here, even as she wondered if the identification she had in her purse would match whatever this well dressed man thought he knew.

“Lucy Chadwick?” he said after a moment. “Is it you?”

“Uh? Not even close,” Alison fired back, relaxing a little. But having heard him speak again, she was able to connect the dots. There was a memory there, one she was a little leery of recalling, but she elected to speak up regardless. “But you, you’re Chief.”

He grimaced. “Mason. I don’t use the Chief title any more. Not since…“ His eyebrow went up. “You’re Alijda. Alijda van Vliet.”

Alison immediately tensed up again. “I’m Alison. Alison van der Land.”

“No, I’m pretty sure I got it right that time,” Mason said, crossing his arms and nodding. “It was that psychiatric unit on Earth, we both checked ourselves in on the same day.”

“Regardless, call me Alison,” the brunette countered. “That’s my name now. I can prove it.” She reached for her purse.

Mason waved her off. “I don’t care what your ID card says. If I’m right about you, you had a way with computers, while I probably have some psychic paper stored away somewhere. What’s written down is irrelevant.” He grinned. “If it makes you feel more comfortable though, I’ll call you Alison – so long as you call me Mason.”

“Mason? Like freemasonry?”

He seemed to consider the reference. “More like a reasonable approximation of my name in your English.”

Alison pursed her lips. “You still going on about being from another planet then?”

“I still am from another planet.”

“Riiight… that’s why you decided to visit an Earth psych ward.“

“It was nice and out of the way. Incidentally, did your issues with depression manage to sort themselves out?”

katja-herbers_339624

ALISON’S LOOK (approx)
Source site here

Alison purposefully ignored the question, deciding that it was high time to take in the rest of the scene around her. The room was big. Really big. Well, okay, not Roman amphitheatre big, but likely big enough to accommodate over a hundred people, even before you considered the high ceilings. School cafeteria style big, Alison decided. Yet the room itself wasn’t rectangular. It was shaped more like a cylinder.

One portion of the large curved wall seemed to be dedicated to a large viewscreen – a direction which Alison decided to denote as “North”. Opposite to it (“South”) was a large wall of computer banks and technical displays. Off to her left (“West”) was a small circular table, along with maybe a dozen chairs with wheels on their legs. A number of them were placed haphazardly, as there were too many to fit around the single table’s perimeter. And to the “East”, cutting across the circle like a chord, was a straight dividing wall. There was a door within it, slightly ajar, which allowed Alison to see what looked like an unlit area for storage. And, for just a moment, Alison fancied she saw movement in the darkness of that other room. She frowned.

It looked like the only way to get out of this cylindrical room, other than through that East door, was through a large ring device in the floor. At least, Alison assumed it was an exit – it looked functional, not decorative. Situated in the very centre of the room, it seemed to have been closed off with an iris, almost like an airlock. The ring device also had nine chevrons spaced at equal intervals around it’s perimeter, to what end Alison couldn’t fathom. Looking up at the ceiling, Alison noticed a similar device there, minus the chevrons. But there was no obvious ladder with which to reach the ceiling. How did they change the lightbulbs?

There was also an old British taxi parked in the room. Alison supposed that the ring on the floor was large enough to accommodate the vehicle, but why bring it in here? The whole place was very foreign, vaguely science fiction, and definitely not where Alison had intended to teleport. If she hadn’t recognized Mason as being someone familiar from her past, she might have been more creeped out by the whole setup. Though perhaps she should be creeped out anyway. Had Marshall Biochemical Engineering somehow stepped up their game? Was Chief, or rather Mason, now working for them? “So, have you abducted me?” she challenged.

“No,” Mason responded, leaning idly back against the taxicab. He now seemed to be watching her with curiosity, and a hint of amusement. “I gather you didn’t send the call for assistance that brought me here either.”

“No,” Alison fired back. It was tempting to try and teleport away, to simply return home, but that felt foolhardy until she knew why she’d ended up here in the first place.

“I didn’t do it either.”

Alison nearly jumped out of her skin, spinning to face the blonde who had spoken. The teenager – or perhaps early twenty-something woman – had seemingly emerged from the storage area; Alison shouldn’t have turned her back on it. This time, Alison’s knee-jerk accusation of ‘Who the heck are you?’ morphed as it hit her lips, becoming, “You’ve got bunny ears!”

The approaching blonde reached up to touch the fuzzy ears pointing straight up above her head. No, Alison corrected herself – not straight up, they were curved outwards slightly. In a parabolic manner. “Yeah – hi! I’m Para,” the blonde said, smiling hesitantly. As the bunny-girl reached them, Alison finally noticed that the long ears were on some sort of hairband. The woman had perfectly normal ears too, partly hidden by her long hair. Alison’s fears of this being a genetic engineering facility now briefly allayed, she eyed the newcomer a bit closer.

Para’s outfit consisted of a deep pink, almost purple dress. But unlike Alison’s more conservative choice in black, Para’s dress seemed designed to accentuate the blonde’s reasonably impressive curves. The fabric scooped down low, albeit not so low as to emphasize her cleavage, while the skirt portion rode high on her thighs, yet not so high as to risk flashing anyone. Her matching shoes had heels that helped to elevate the blonde to almost Alison’s height. In addition, Para’s hair was much longer, trailing all the way down her back, and then as if to play up the “bunny” look, Para had chosen to accessorize with a pink bow tied around her neck. Cute. Sexy cute.

Alison wasn’t sure they’d get along.

“Do you at least know what the problem is?” Mason was now asking Para.

“Maybe!” the bunny-girl responded. She held up a piece of stationary. “This was on the table over there when I arrived.”

Alison leaned forwards to look at the page, as did Mason next to her. The first thing that struck her was the letterhead. It didn’t read “Marshall Biochemical” or even “MBE”, rather it read “The Epsilon Project”. With the tagline, “The last, best place for hope”. Some new organization out to get her? Frowning, Alison scanned down further.

’Someone is stealing all the Roman Numerals of the world.’ (the letter read) ‘I cannot directly interfere. But the two of you can. Having determined where and when the next theft will occur, I have summoned you both here in the hope that you can intercede on my behalf. The consequences of inactivity could be disastrous. The coordinates for your trip are as follows:’ Which was followed by a sequence of numbers. The letter was simply signed ‘The Hub’.

“Did you write this?” Alison challenged the newcomer.

Bunny-girl shook her head. “No, I swear, I only found it on the table! I got here maybe five minutes before Mason. When I walked through the doorway to Maud’s bar, POOF, here I was instead. I was exploring that storage area over there when I heard the rest of you arrive.” Alison bristled, as she realized that this meant Para had heard all of her earlier personal information as well.

“Interesting,” Mason remarked casually. “Yet the letter says ‘the two of you’, while there’s three of us here.”

The blonde shrugged helplessly. “Yeah, weird! Maybe someone’s bad at math. I guess that’s all the more reason for me to help out!”

Alison made a face. “This is HARDLY comforting. If ‘The epsilon project’ is truly the ‘The last, best place for hope’… and it’s partially failed!”

“Failure is a part of learning – perhaps it will become something greater,” Para asserted.

Mason shrugged. “Well, there might be more information at those coordinates that were provided. Let’s get on board my TARDIS, I can attempt to navigate us there.”

Para blinked. “Oh, but The Hub here is all set to teleport us!” she assured. “I’ve figured out that much.”

Alison frowned. ”I think I want to know more about this place BEFORE we simply engage in whatever mission ‘they’ might have in mind.” She made a point of giving Para a very suspicious look.

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Numbers Game INDEX

ɛ PROJECT

WB (Writing Bufferless) presents…

STORY 1: NUMBERS GAME

LynPlot1

Story 1 of ???

PRELUDE:

The epsilon project was their last, best place for hope. A self-regulating station, tracking right and wrong, located in neutral territory. A place for projects of deep mystery, for an unspecified number of humans and aliens. A shining beacon in space-time… all alone in the night. It was the dawn of the third blog of mathtans, the year the great experiment was posted up for all.

This is the story of that smallest of the greek letters. The year is 2014. The name of the place, is The Hub.

 

STORY #1:

The Epsilon Project has detected that someone is going to destroy all the Roman Numerals of the world. An elite force is assembled to fully diagnose the problem, and then solve it… but how elite are these people, really? And who runs this Project?

 

CAST:

MASON … A Time Lord

ALISON VAN DER LAND … A Teleporter

PARA … A quadratic function

(For more in-depth character information, see this page.  Each instalment is roughly 2000 words.)

 

EPISODE INDEX:

1. The Gathering

2. The HubARomanIV

3. Her Past

4. IIII

5. No Plan

6. Lead Time

7. Causality

8. Perchance Romance

9. Prepare Yourself

10. Reality Shows

11. Tour de Force

12.  Choose Your Path

STORY #1 CONCLUDED!

Plot Voting 1

Following are three options for a plot, and five options for characters.

The top plot will be activated. The top two characters (they are described here) will be chosen to resolve the plot.

Feel free to comment below if you have a suggestion or some feedback that does not immediately match!

If you don’t vote, I’ll have to pick something myself, and that will be boring.