Up above the hole in the ground, Ira is speaking to her watch:
"Are you certain?"
"It's not that I don't trust you. It's just that you said we didn't do this until after..."
"But this reduces our advantage-"
She needs height. And time to think. She's willing to accept Bina's word that they need to get to the Moment. She points - in a third direction, midway between the two points. "We're running that way. That way we don't lead these things to either our exit or our safe space. We'll find somewhere to bunker down and think."
"I think it's the bodies," Elizabeth observes after a while and a few things stirring in the mud. "Reanimating. There's clusters where we've cleared more, but - mostly closer to the camp."
"In this direction - there's two cleared buildings. Three-fourteen and eight-forty-six. Three-fourteen's closer, but not by much - we're in sector two right now, and we can cut towards sector three, near the camp and that 'Moment' Bina mentioned, or to the edge and sector eight. Sector eight has fewer buildings and fewer bodies, and I think is more defensible, but the stretch between two and eight hasn't been cleared at all."
They're not as good. Mostly shelving units - thinner, easier to break - but they're better than nothing, and there's a single thin desk. (Elizabeth proposes two shelves next to each other in front of the window, the third shelf behind them, and the desk pushed against that for good measure.)
"-There's something working against us. Something isn't happy with us being...here. But- There's been no messages from past-mes. And none from past-Elizabeth's. So- They won't be expecting us. They'll be expecting you to act like a Bina. Not like...Not like part of a group..."
"Good point. But - the split up plan requires us having a group? And... I think there might be something useful in the journal. Twelve put it this early, instead of in the Moment or wherever - she must've thought we could use it, but I don't think I would've been able to stop and read if I'd been running for my life."
"Uh. A portable x-ray. Maps. Potentially useful files. Water. More flashlights. Spare batteries that could fit the flashlights. There are medical supplies, in the tent on the narrow end of the camp - other side of the truck from the open air tent and the showers. It's mostly meant for if we had a major accident and trouble getting to a hospital in time, so it's specialized towards dangerous bleeds. Nothing intended to be a weapon, but there's cutting tools in the tent with the medical supplies. I have a gun on me, but I'd rather not use it when we don't know if those things can hear. Or that they won't just absorb the bullets. I don't have anything to reload with."
The journal has a sticky note affixed to the front page.
So getting this notebook to you, while avoiding any Observed areas, has been a bit of a nightmare. You'd better appreciate it!
I kid, I kid (but seriously, this truck was really hard to track down!).
Assuming our time-lines match up at all, and you're in the truck while reading this, you have about half an hour before Elizabeth returns your call.
Don't fall asleep! And when she does call back, get her to flip the crane to automatic and then RUN. I think if you do that, some really really nasty stuff won't happen.
Other then that, I won't try to tell you what to do. Eleven tried that with me and it just made a mess of things. We're looping, but everything changes each time. This situation is all the worst parts of time travel with none of the benefits! Hurrah! Weee!
I could go on, but this is getting pretty long, and I have a Thing I need to go do.
Wish me luck,
The first page opens with:
I am writing this journal for my successor because recent events have convinced me that B3 has, systematically and repeatedly, been leading us to our death.
While I'm convinced that's what she's done, I have no idea why. I can't think of a situation where I'd do this, but 3 spent at least a year, maybe more, of subjective time in the Moment, so… I don't know. I don't know why, but I do know that her actions are inconsistent with allowing us to get out of this.
Reasons I think she's messing with us:
1. The version of the Mathematical model she passed on, is inconsistent with the principles she used to create the greater Devices. This is difficult to tell, but an in depth comparison between their actual design and the designs on the blueprints reveal significant differences. Leading us to…
2. Some of the Devices contain mechanisms that limit their range or effect. These mechanisms have been added purposefully, but placed such that their removal would damage or destroy the device.
3. She appears to have developed and then destroyed several Devices that would be useful, and has left no notes as to how to recreate them. I believe she developed a method for reconstructing shattered patterns (at an enormous entropic cost), as well as a means of extending n-displacement beyond 466.2 Hz.
For these points, I have proof, proof that I will explain later, at length, in this journal. You'll be able to verify them yourself when you get to the Moment.
The last point is just a theory.
But it's the one that convinced to write this journal.
I think 3 killed 5.
Not through omission, directly.
I think 5 found out something that she wasn't supposed too, and 3 scrambled her time-line by entering it on the fourteenth and killing Ant. This would have caused enough stress on the Loop to make the situation untenable, forcing the Botfly to shuffle the Loop immediately.
I know that this isn't supposed to be possible, and we're not supposed to be able to affect things beyond one loop in either direction, but it's the only thing that makes sense.
My understanding of the order of events looks like this:
4 finds the Moment, finds the first notebook, and Loops. 5's time-line starts, and at some-point she discovers something dangerous, something that 3 doesn't want us to know. 3 uses one of the Devices that she later destroys to scramble 5's time-line. The Botfly Loops.
6 starts, gets to the Moment, and finds the second notebook right away, in a place that 4 must have been several times. The second notebook contains the essay on "Probabilistic Uncertainty in Entropic Time-Loops." The essay that everyone afterwards agrees explains what happened to 5. But if we assume that 3 could reach forward into 5's loop, then it makes sense for her to be able to reach into 6's loop as well. She could have written the second notebook later, AFTER killing 5, and given it to 6 to allay suspicion.
The Second Notebook is almost all user and fabrication instructions for existing Devices. Aside from the Probabilistic Uncertainty Essay, it has no new theory, no new math, just some formalization on the entropic constant (which I think is probably wrong, and only serves to make the PUETL essay more believable).
And if Probabilistic Uncertainty in Entropic Time Loops Theory was correct, how am I here? How is anyone after 10 here? The number of events necessary to create my own time-line are immense, and as entropy has increased, probabilistic mishaps should have stopped my own time-line, and that of 10 and 11 as well.
But they didn't.
The ONLY 'probabilistic mishap' in thirteen loops happened to 5, and that was in a loop with less then 1/300th of the amount of entropy in my loop (less then 1/6000ths of the amount of entropy that B13 is dealing with).
If the PUETL essay were correct, there is only a 0.00086% chance that I could possibly exist, and an exponentially smaller probability that B13 could exist.
But she does, because I've seen her.
This is very confusing to write.
Anyway, it's wrong. It has to be.
Either we believe that 3, someone who managed to do things that none of the rest of us have ever been able to even get close to replicating, got one of her fundamental theories wrong, while also believing that 4 was so unobservant as to not notice a brightly coloured notebook on a table in the cafe, in over THREE MONTHS of walking past it every day, OR we believe that the notebook was never on that table. That 3 put the notebook on the table AFTER she'd killed 5.
If this is the case, then only explanation is that 3 had the ability to reach forward into future Loops, an ability she has never shared, and has apparently done everything in her power, including murder (and suicide?), to prevent us from acquiring.
-The idea that there's a previous Bina working against them seems... insane. But also Very Dangerous. Jenn files a note to ask her Bina if she can think of any reason she'd want to stop herself learning something. (And Jenn finds it Highly Unlikely that any Bina would miss something when she's looking for a solution to something.)
Alright then. Conspiracy theories read: What else does the journal contain?
It seems to mostly be a rebuttal of other books that Twelve's assuming they have access to.
There's at least five different models of time machine described, though, two of them labeled 'historical.'
Time machines seem to all have at a minimum a power source, a tune-able antenna, and something to handle paradox. Most of them require a piece of the future and the past.
Jenn wishes she had some sort of binoculars or sight so she could figure out what the hell was going on.
Bina has five minutes before Jenn is going after her. In the meantime: Jenn slinks off the roof to meet Elizabeth and do a reassessment of their supplies.
"No serious trouble?" she asks, narrowing her eyes at the tear in the hazmat suit.
Bina, on the other hand, is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Hour. Last five minutes.
First, the pipe adventure. Then, just when she thought she was free, Zoomy chased her up a fire escape, into a very dark building, down the building's stairs, and then she's trapped in with a garage door he can get past if she can, so she yanks on the pulley, which breaks, and she tries to slide under the door -
It lands on her ribs, driving the breath from her lungs.
Jenn might see the twitching of the door as she tries to push it off herself.
-She does. And her gut tells her that's Bina causing that door twitch. So she takes off running towards it. She drops down, fumbling to get her hands under it to try get it up, feeling her way along to try and find Bina. (If this is a not-person, she's going to be mad at herself.)
"Uhhhhh so the wigglies are kinda slow, and I managed to lead a bunch into this building, except then I kinda. Got cornered. They weren't really chasing me was the problem, they kept circling around to drop down in front of me and that made stuff stupidly hard."
"So there was this pipe. Maybe a drain? Anyways I escaped through that. I didn't get stuck! Just. A bit momentumly challenged. And soggy. But a bunch of them got themselves wedged into it, and I got out on the other side just fine."
(Elizabeth, meanwhile, has started writing a report on the sticky notes. She probably won't be able to leave a copy in camp but this is a reasonable place to look for them, so some notes - all the parts except "what you need to know to survive" coded, she isn't an idiot - are getting left here.)
Elizabeth furrows her brow. "We used to have radios back at the camp, but they didn't work - heavy static, mostly, but also higher chance of failing badly. I don't know if they're still there. I know there's at least two places with a lot of wiring in the factory - I can make a basic radio out of that."
"Closest one's really near, I'll mark it on this map - it's a 'do not enter' though, which means there's something unsteady or dangerous. Farther one's enterable, but it's on the other side of camp."
"I'm assuming you want to go?" She drags her hand down her face. "Look, just, for the record, you have combat training? I'm assuming special forces?"
And Bina will, eventually, drift off to sleep, and dream.
(She's nineteen. She can't talk right now. If she tries, if she looks away, she's going to break, or scream, or explode, and - )
(She's on a plane and this feels like the end of the world.)
(Or the end of her and Lash, at least.)
That's alright. If Ant was here - if Ant tried to comfort her, or ask how she's doing -
It's stupid, it's all her fault, and it's dumb to be this upset, just because she and Lash are going to university fifteen hundred kilometers apart, just because she didn't ask Lash to stay even though she could tell Lash wanted her to -
She tries to breathe as the plane takes off. She can't get away from the stressor like her therapist recommends. But she can breathe, because if she doesn't she starts hyperventilating and then she throws up like last night - (like she's going to)
This'll be a bad one, enough to alarm the flight attendants, get the Air Marshall called - and none of her strategies will work.
It's almost inevitable.
The man in the seat next to her (concerned she's having a heart attack, she learns later) asks if she's alright, and that's what does her in.
She gets up. She runs, like she always does, past the empty seats (wrong, isn't it? Hadn't there been people? Numerous eyes on her, too many eyes looking at her - )
She gets to the bathroom, closes the door, and the flight attendant isn't there banging on the door.
Just Bina. Sick and alone.
Except she doesn't throw up, or pass out.
She calms down, in increments and fractions.
And wonders where everyone went.
"Yeah. She's really nice." Kind of too nice to Bina, really, too forgiving, but.
"Do you know - what happened to people? Or if this memory's just... Twisted."
She steps out.
"Or what's with that picture?" It's a red ball on a white background, bouncing.
- Except no it's not, it's two, one shadow behind the other except that's not how it was -
There wasn't a picture in her memory she doesn't think, except - she can't really be sure, now, like how she can't remember what happened at Lash's birthday party, or when exploring the bakery at summer camp, or her first kiss...
"Yeah. Don't know, here..."
She starts walking forwards. There's a curtain, separating the cockpit, which the pushes aside -
Revealing somewhere else entirely.
Blue skies. Puffy clouds. The soft thrum of an engine. The sound of a propeller spinning in the air. A repetitive thwock-thwockthwock-thwock.
A concrete wall across from them, and a little Parisian cafe table before it, with a light spread of food.
"It isn't a cockpit, yeah." For one, there's no plane behind them, nor a curtain - instead there's a door into what looks like a potential stairwell from outside. And it is food - soft bread and cheese, already cut into, and grapes, and a pitcher of something. "I'm not sure the food's safe to eat?"
"Maybe? There's two chairs..."
She walks towards the wall - and behind it are three more. Two large, on either side, and one small one in the middle, narrow slits between them. She's prepared to be annoyed at whoever being another her. (If it's the botfly she's jumping off this skyboat, see if she doesn't.)
But - "Come on," she says to Ant, and -
It's not another her.
"Oh, all of you. That first time when you come in my office. Of course, then I've not a single idea what is going on, and you're all mostly similar at that point. It's only later that things diverge, get complicated. Once things are complicated... I've only met three."
"Oh, no! I meant I've met three of you. Though I do believe she was one of them. But, Bina, this whole calling yourself numbers thing - it's very confusing."
"But if you're ten after her... It's just, I didn't expect everything to hold together for so long. So many iterations. Everything must be held together like grand piano dangling from a spiders thread. Just a little more weight and the whole thing falls to pieces."
"I don't look the same?" She glances down at herself. "Oh! Yes. I'm twenty-five, now, maybe younger."
"Hah. Two decades of running a sugar factory, chasing around after beet farmers and workers. A husband, friends, all those late nights in the lab. It takes a bit out of you."
She laughs to herself, a private joke. "That's one thing they don't tell you about death."
"It works wonders for your complexion."
"It's a complicated question. And you're not, the one you are right now - well, probably - though at least one of the other you's is. I'm certain of that."
"I don't think I'm a dream, either. Of course, if I were a dream who thought she was real, I'd say exactly that, wouldn't I? And you can't verify a single thing I tell you. If I was a dream it'd be exactly what you think I'd tell you. A horrible experiment all around."
"It's my house in the sky! I had such high hopes for these things. Designed this one, though I never got a chance to build it in life. Now, come on, we should all sit and talk properly, like civilized people. The brie is delicious, and you both look like you could use a drink." She comes around, takes Bina's arm, and starts leading her towards the table, and away from the unseen pattern on the concrete wall. A little slit experiment she was doing, nothing significant.
"She was much the same at first, possibly, but she might have become a physicist later. Or perhaps there was indeed some change. I'm not sure, I haven't compared your histories."
"With her - parts of it I could explain. Parts we worked out together. But we mostly got to the observable parts. The why remained as much a mystery to us as it is to you. She may have figured it out on her own, later, but by the end of the conversation neither of us were much enlightened. And I haven't talked to her since."
"It's. Well. My device, my entire experiment. It never made sense in the first place. I didn't actually start out trying to do what I did... I started out trying to prove that electrons behave in the same way as photons when fired through a pair of slits - though I doubt the experimental background is of much interest to you two."
"Well. That's further in the story. I did in fact prove my hypothesis, and - "
"That actually started as an accident. My second greatest discovery. It was almost immediately after I had finished the experiment with the electron emitter. My measuring device was not particularly large, but it was very complicated, and contained several fragile reservoirs of mercury gas. Mercury is a dangerous poison. A metal that - "
"Ah, all right, regardless. Dismantling it safely after the experiment was not a simple task and it was one I didn't feel safe trusting it to any of my assistants. I had it only half dismantled when I had to leave for two weeks. My husband and I had arranged a trip to Boston earlier in the spring, and it could not be rescheduled, so I left the emitter partially deconstructed and told our staff that they could not, under any circumstances, touch anything."
"When I returned, the first thing I did was check in on it. By that point, everyone who worked at the factory knew not to touch Madame Dubois' funny machines, not unless they had a cavalier attitude regarding the presence or absence of some or all of their limbs, so everything was where I had left it."
"I started putting things in order, I had left for Boston in bit of a hurry so everything was a bit of a mess. I tried to pick up one of the piles of reactive plating when it gave me a shock. A rather bad one."
"That was strange, but I put it down to static electricity. The plates were silver-plated and very conductive, so while it was odd, it wasn't that odd. I grounded them with a wire and went back to work."
"But it kept happening! Twice more, I got shocked, once almost immediately after I'd grounded the pile, and then again not even an hour later. Far too fast a build-up for static electricity. My lab was in the basement of the main storage warehouse and I often complained of damp. I thought it had to be a short somewhere on my work table, or maybe Chantal (she was my main assistant at the time) had left a power cell somewhere she shouldn't."
"The table itself was… busy, I am not by nature an organized person, but it was made of wood, non-conductive wood. I checked nearby and found nothing, then I checked the whole table, pulled everything off it onto the floor."
"It was clean. No batteries. No frayed wires. Nothing."
"At that point, I was tired, so I left it over night, telling myself I'd figure it out in the morning."
"Of course, the following morning was a delivery day, and then one of the haulers locked himself in the downstairs wash-room again, and with one thing and another it was the evening two days later that I finally got back to my lab."
"The first thing I did was check the plates, with a voltmeter this time, not my hand. I was getting tired of being shocked all the time."
"The reading was negligible, exactly what it should have been in the first place, so I put everything back on the table and went back to disassembling the emitter, thinking that the problem, whatever it had been, was solved."
"Oh, not in the slightest."
"Less then an hour later, as I was placing one of the capacitors from the main housing on the worktable, bang! It exploded!"
"It was the size of a dime, so no damage done, but I noticed that it had rolled against that same pile of plates again."
"I grabbed my meter and checked again."
"It measured a high voltage."
"Before, I had been annoyed. Now I was intrigued."
"I then did what any reasonable person would do. I ran a set of experiments."
"It took a while. We were busy, fall is always busy for anyone dependent on farmers, and the results were baffling. I spent all of September and October of that year messing with them and not getting very far.
"If you left them alone, they did nothing. If you took them out of the room? Nothing. Took them too far away from the table? Nothing."
She pauses, apparently waiting for a response.
Josephine seems satisfied by that. "It was indeed weird!"
"And worse, I could never see the charge going up. I'd measure them when I got the room. Nothing. Ten minutes later, there'd be a charge! I once stood there for half an hour with the meter, staring at the needle, daring it to move, and it did nothing. Five minutes later, I checked again and there it was!"
"It was bizarre. I stopped disassembling the device, I had an inkling that the effect was connected to the electron emitter, and I was worried that taking the device completely apart would stop the effect before I understood it."
"I also tried to test if it worked with all of them. I'd had them tied with twine to a board, all forty. So I separated the stack in two. Only one stack worked. And I separated them again. And again, only one stack worked. I repeated this, until I'd narrowed it down to a single tile."
"I ran every test I could think of. Tried to see if it had a magnet, or contamination by radium, or a natural sort of battery - nothing."
"I also didn't know where that tile was from. My assistant, Chantal, had found it - she was remarkable at finding little odds and ends, but she went all over town and never kept records. Probably some pawn shop. We thought at first they made be roofing tiles, but - they had images on them. One had something about cola, one something about noodles. It seemed odd for tiles. Who'd want a drink name on their roof?"
"You know, that's the funny thing. We could never actually agree. One assistant, Leo, thought it looked like a bunch of scratches. Like someone was playing with the machine. My husband thought it looked like a star. I couldn't be quite sure what I saw; perhaps a tree? It was a funny little thing, regardless."
"But I continued my tests. Had Leo sit in the room and ignore it for an hour. No charge. Tried that again. Someone in the room, not looking at it - multiple someones not looking at it - no charge. Looking directly? No charge."
"It was indirectly that did it. Viewing it out of the corner of your eye, or through the slits in my electron emitter."
"Well, it took a lot more testing to confirm, but basically, anything with the image from the tile on it would spontaneously generate electrons if viewed through a pair of slits smaller then the amplitude of the wavelength of light you were using to view it. So, it didn't work in the dark, and it definitely had to be conductive, the surface. Leo etched it into several pieces of wood at different sizes and those were all complete duds."
"Oh! And it couldn't just be paint, it had to be embossed, or a relief of some kind. That was very important."
"I theorized that the light packages - the other you had a name for them - oh, photons, yes - well, that the photons weren't being absorbed by the tile, or bouncing off, but doing something else, and that it was the observer that mediated this - like that cat in the box, apparently a famous thought experiment in your time? In the experiment, you take a cat, and put it in a box with a vial of poison, and closing the lid triggers a trap, which contains an emitter, like my electron emitter, except it contains a radioactive atom, and a switch. You set it up so if the atom decays, it will send a particle out of the emitter, which might hit the switch, which breaks the vial, which releases the poison and kills the cat."
"But because quanta, subatomic particles, exist as a wave until they interact with something. Until they are observed, their position is probabilistic. They are somewhere, and we can guess roughly based on their origins, but we can't know. Not for sure, without reacting with them. You can't see a photon without absorbing it. You can't measure an electron without reacting with it."
"So when you close the box, you can't know if the atom hit the switch or not. Not for sure. That means that the rest of the state of the box, the vial of poison, the cat, is also up in the air. The cat's life or death is literally unknowable."
"It was meant to make fun of quantum superposition as applied to subatomic particles like electrons and photons, by applying it to a macro-scale object and illustrating that it is counter intuitive, as if that is an argument against the truth - "
"Anyways. I proved that electrons behave in a way consistent with quantum superposition."
"I figured out how to get both cats out of the box. Rather than a particle collapsing the wave and hitting only a single target, the image it… It made the wave collapse multiple times. Possibly its shape was reflecting some… I don't know, some fundamental pattern that we haven't discovered in the movements of subatomic particles. Or something. It didn't matter."
"I didn't understand it, not entirely, but it was happening. It was observable, and repeatable, and so it had to be accounted for. Maybe I couldn't get the math to work out, or figure out how to answer all the questions it raised, but it was real!"
"I tested it, I tested it a lot but I kept getting different results. The image created energy, but how much and how quickly? I didn't know. It was very frustrating. My equipment kept screwing up. My first meter burned out with only two days of testing and my backup not much later. It was only when I borrowed some more sensitive equipment and got a proper apparatus up and running that I started getting consistent results."
"It turned out that the size of the image didn't matter, provided that the lines were clearly delineated. That was important. I theorized that you could make one very small, perhaps small enough to fit inside a pocket, if you could get the engraving fine enough. The size of the slits? They needed to be placed at a wide enough angle for the image to be entirely visible, and to be narrower then the wavelength of the light used to view it."
"But that wasn't the most interesting thing. The amount of power acquired from a single viewer was tiny. Enough to build up tiny spark over an extended time perhaps, but not enough to do actual work. A single viewer was almost unmeasurable while it was happening. I had to get special equipment from the university."
"But when viewed by two people at the same time, the effects doubled!"
"And if you added a third? Not tripled, but quadrupled! It doubled again!"
"Don't you see!? Twice a spark isn't still isn't much, neither are three sparks, or a hundred sparks! You'd need an entire city to power a building. But doubling every time? You only need eight people and that spark becomes two hundred and fifty six sparks. Twelve people? Over four thousand sparks. My first test with ten people melted to the table."
"My husband, after the incident with the table, he asked me, hesitant you know, as if it were beyond the realm of possibility, if we might, one day, use it to power the factory! Hah! Power the factory!? He didn't understand either! Don't you see? With only seventy three people, I could provide infinite free power to the entire nation! With seventy seven? The entire planet!"
"Look, I don't know, okay? I don't know! And I don't appreciate being lectured on it! The other Bina got quite huffy with me as well..."
She crosses her arms over her chest and looks away. She seems upset, now, like she doesn't know whether to start shouting or to cry.
"Don't you know how exponents work, dear? Forty-seven people is forty watts. Forty-eight would've been eighty - why I didn't look. Forty-nine, and you have a hundred and sixty. Seventy three people? Over two and a half gigawatts. Sixty seven million lightbulbs. It'd be an easy job, too, for those seventy three. Just staring. They could work in shifts. Power the entire world."
"Oh. No. Maybe. Your Three, she pulled me forward, but this is my first time in this dream... You anchored me here. Gave me this." And she touches the red scarf around her neck. "You left it behind this time. In two pieces. You don't, usually. I gave you one back, with the note. I kept the other, for a time..."
She seems vague, eyes unfocused.
"That doesn't actually explain anything!" she shouts, then -
There's a growl.
It's not the engines.
It's the sky above them.
A cloud splits, grows teeth, turns into a gaping green maw -
There's no time left, but Bina has one last question.
"Josephine!" she shouts over the wind, over the dying engine. "You have to tell me how you died!"
"Oh. I can't stop what's coming. It merely held me together long enough for this. And I am many things, not all of them good - I guess I never really figured out how to be a nice person, I never saw the point - but. I will not take this from you."
She laughs, dryly. "And for death - did you think it merely killed us? It did a great deal more then that. It killed every part of us. Up and down, left and right, forward and backward. It undid us. Excised us from the time-line. There has never been a woman called Josephine Dubois ne Gallieni, not anymore. There has never been a company called Astre Sucre. There has never been a major beet sugar industry in southern Quebec."
"All the things I've done. My experiments. My writing. My husband. My friends. Not simply gone. They never existed." Her voice, though soft and coming from a skull, is intense, and filled with despair. "My parents had no children. We were erased."
"Everyone there, everything nearby, gone. We are a hole punched out of history. A page cut from a book."
She holds out the scarf.
"It needs 'unlight', which, I think, means your arm woo-woo. And then I kind of...try to tune it in? To the break? With these," she indicates the relevant pieces, which are a bit makeshift. "They should kind of...vibrate? When I find the right place with the n-tuning. It's...a little imprecise."
The landing's pretty hard - Bina slams into what appears to be a washing machine knocked over on its side. There's mud on the ground, slimy and smelling of brick dust.
It's the laundromat, and it looks like there was a fight - or a chase - in here.
Also one corner, where the front wall meets the side meets the ceiling, is missing, a gaping hole lined with green. There's a little loop of red around one of the jagged edges.
Current Bina makes a high pitched noise, just. Waiting for her brain to start melting.
Except nothing happens for several long moments.
...The sensation of being embarrassed at something you're going to do to your past self in her future is. Weird. Bina's sorry about the knees. Really.
And - no.
No no no no no!
She's blushing, why is she blushing! She's about to be splattered by temporal paradox and the last thing she's going to do will be blush!!!
Past Bina finishes climbing out of the hole, and lets Ant down, then siddles up to her future self. "Soooo, who's that?" she asks, pointing at Jenn. "She's really cute!" Then a pause, while future Bina sort of looks like she wants the floor to swallow her already: "So is this the part of the dream where I make out with a cute girl? Please tell me this's that part of the dream, the earlier part kinda sucked. Or me, that'd be new - Oh, or I can watch you two make out - "
Future Bina makes a noise that rises several octaves in a second.
"I think - and this isn't a dream!" Future Bina says.
"That's what a dream would say," Past Bina points out.
"No - this is real, it's - time travel - " Future Bina grabs Past Bina's shirt -
"A dream'd say that too - uh, I don't feel too well - " Past Bina says, blood beginning to leak out her nose right before she collapses.
Future Bina catches her. "Crap! Fantastic time to go unconscious, past-me!" she says. "Jenn, help me with her - "
She would like to note her plan is not as stupid as it looks.
She's gotten not-Ant's attention - and not-Ant has momentum, while Bina has a magic scarf anchored to the laundromat. All she needs to do is jump, holding onto the scarf, and swing out of not-Ant's way, like so, and not-Ant will go sailing past her -
Bina will admit she possibly should've seen this coming.
She falls, red scarf trailing after her, attached to a broken piece of reality, time glinting ever farther away in the distance.
She's getting somewhat concerned over how much breaking of time's been going on lately.
It's an infinitely dark void right now, her and her scarf and not-Ant, which is weird, shouldn't there be other holes, Twelve'd said the damage isn't resetting -
Some tiny part of her notices she's falling to her death and now would be a tremendously excellent time for a panic attack.
The rest of Bina, which was the part throwing a flashlight at a quantumly entangled undead duplicate of the ghost of a teenager who apparently moved into her dreams - like camping out on her couch but somewhat more uncomfortable - glares at it. Yeah, so, she's falling through time, the monster is only meters away, she's tired and beat up and aching, she's swallowed an unhealthy amount of possibly-radioactive muddy rainwater, the monster can shoot lasers from its mouth that make her feel like she's staring into the eye of a vast and alien god -
That's all happening.
No argument here.
But how exactly is panicking going to help the situation? It's not like she can change any of that.
The small part of her advocating panic admits that the rest of her makes a very good point.
Well good, the rest of her thinks. Glad we've reached an arrangement.
...What was she thinking about again?
Right! Falling! Holes! Where are the holes in reality, and -
Jenn sees it differently. Josephine saw it differently. The Bina in the dream said she used to see cracks...
(She hopes Jenn leaves. Takes Ant and Elizabeth and gets out of there. Maybe calls whoever Elizabeth works for. Maybe throws Ant at Ira so Ira will stop this and be happily reunited - )
She thinks B-Three, or Twelve, or Josephine would say their unusual angle was because of the time machine. That it left the hole, and allowed them to land on their feet (...ish) rather than just being there -
This Bina doesn't think so.
She thinks it's because who she was with. Jenn, who knows what she's doing (probably), Elizabeth, who's the sort of eminently sensible Bina's never managed and wouldn't ever leap without looking -
Because Jenn and Elizabeth both expect to land. That reality won't just betray them.
So all Bina needs to do is change her expectation.
She closes her eyes. Expects to see something else when she opens them -
It doesn't work.
So she tries again. Instead of 'anything else' she pictures - something. A model. A more useful lie.
She can't change what is going on, there's facts somewhere out there, but she can change what she's perceiving, what parts of the facts she knows -
There's a sense of down. Something imminent and hungry at the bottom.
There's holes, or cracks, or little collapses in reality.
There's maybe, just maybe, somewhere to stand.
So she imagines islands, floating in the void, little clumps around pools of water leading elsewhen -
And she opens her eyes.
And they're there.
The featureless void is now glowy and somewhat peppy and full of little globs of light.
Well, if she's falling to her death, at least she's doing it in style.
There's an island, like she pictured, clear blue pool of water in the middle.
It's below her - all she has to do is -
Miss the pool by five feet.
She slams into the earth, and sort of crumples.
Then stops walking.
Quietly: "I haven't been doing this a day. I've. Already had a bunch of memories changed. In the dreams. Three was looping for at least a year. I... Don't know how much can be changed."
She's scared and anxious and wants to run, so she starts trudging forwards again. Stupid mud. "Whatever. I'm sure she left more notes around somewhere..."
"I'm not going to be doing any impressive tricks, but I can consistently hit a stationary fifteen centimeter target at twenty five meters, given time to aim. Moving targets - better at ten meters or less. The majority of my training has been within seven meters, though."
Bina nods too.
The terrain's increasingly treacherous as they go, and increasingly slow, until Bina signals for a halt, leans around a corner, and points.
There's an iron gate, flanked by two small buildings, and a horrible sweet smell. Like rotting meat, almost.
"The courtyard's through there," she whispers. "Building on the right's the office. Next to it, with the collapsed roof, had a door into it."
"The hole," she whispers. "Where the note was."
And indeed it's bigger than it was, plaster chipped away, and deep, to the point where Bina has to shove her arm all the way in, and her fingers brush straw before finding a slip of paper.
(The door has 'What kind of maggot grows in the corpse of a day' scrawled on it, but the material's run in black streaks down the door, and there's a turpentine scent and an oily, chemical film over the mud.)
The note reads:
To find the place inside the time you must find the key inside the world.
Bina drops to a crouch. Doesn't whisper, but does think - there's no maps - it might've been something there originally -
She crawls over to the desk to try and look for it, and when she does it comes apart at a touch -
There's a stopwatch inside, and another note.
You know what to do.
Bina, not knowing what else to do, checks the time.
...That's not a watch.
It's a time machine, the parts incredibly, impossibly tiny, crammed into the space in a way that just shouldn't work.
She pushes it at Jenn. "It's a necklace," she hisses. "Put it on, I'll use the unlight - both of you take my hand - "
She shyly takes Jenn's hand, then leads the way.
The soup shop has a tasteful sign with green lettering - none of the neon most other shops favor - named "All Night Soup" (they're opened twenty-four-seven, Bina explains - she likes them after work). The prices are reasonable for a college town, and the soup is a goupy static.
"Okay, okay," Jenn agrees, shifts slightly, because the position she is in isn't the most comfortable, and to try and give Bina better access to her shoulder. She shifts her arm into her lap without even thinking - it moves as though completely uninjured. Jenn doesn't even notice.
"It looks that bad, and we can't find medical supplies easily - there might be some in the bin but I'm hesitant to move around what're probably time machines on top of all it. And I didn't know if Bina'd need more medical advice, but if you're not dying - I might go help with looking in the houses."
"Yeah, apparently. At the time didn't think I'd ever need it unless I, like, forgot my keys or something though..."
...Bina turns a sort of curious blotchy red under the mud when it occurs to her that showers are in bathrooms, and people don't shower in their clothes.
Coming out of the house. "I found clothes! They might not fit well, I was kinda eyeballing and don't have much selection..."
She's doing a remarkable job of walking while not looking at Jenn. "So! Should I go find Ant? Since blood's all dealt with - or maybe wash the sidewalk first..."
"I don't remember it, either. The first time, from past-me's perspective. And past-me thought she was dreaming. And, yeah, it was like - the not-you couldn't decide who to go after? It charged at me pretty determinedly when I threw something at it, though, but it was definitely staring at you."