« Back
Generated: Sep 15, 2019 10:02 AM
Post last updated: Jun 19, 2019 6:54 PM
because a vision softly creeping (left its seeds while I was sleeping)
Fuschias and Palatinates continue to play with time
Permalink Eye

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-"

Permalink Eye

"Alright. Fine."

"No. No. I'll do it. -That many? I don't think the watch will..."

"I understand."

Permalink Eye

"I will call them right away."

Permalink Eye

This happens at an inconvenient but not disastrous time.

Bina's arm flares blindingly bright green.

She sways - 

But compensates as she jumps.

Permalink Eye

Jenn wraps an arm around Bina as she lands on the scaffolding. "You okay?" she asks, eyes drawn to her arm.

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

The arm's still glowing.

"It hurts. I don't know what it's doing."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods. "Let's--just get down. We can figure it out. But we should get away from here."

Permalink Eye

"Right."

She starts climbing.

Permalink Eye

Jenn keeps pace with her climbing down, but drops the last few feet and looks around for Elizabeth.

Permalink Eye

Peering into the distance, concerned.

"I think I hear something."

Permalink Eye

Jenn pauses, listening intently.

Permalink Eye

A wet, sucking sound, like something moving through the mud.

Many somethings.

Permalink Eye

"Shit. We need to move. Bina, can you run?"

Permalink Eye

"Uh, yeah, think so."

Permalink Eye

"There's an exit towards the subway, I've memorized the map - "

Permalink Eye

" - We need to get to the Moment, that's supposed to be safe. Ish."

Permalink Eye

"Let's just get ourselves some space. Which way's the subway?" (Because if it's approximately the same direction as Bina thinks the moment is in, they're not going to lose anything by aiming in that direction.)

Permalink Eye

"In Sector Seven, there's a map in that tent in camp - but I think it's that way."

Permalink Eye

"...The Moment's in the other direction."

Permalink Eye

Jenn presses a hand to her face. Can she tell what direction the sounds are coming from?

Permalink Eye

Everywhere. They're pretty much surrounded. There's more farther out.

Permalink Eye

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."

Permalink Eye

"Right. Makes sense."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah..."

Permalink Eye

And Jenn starts running. Running through mud isn't anyone's idea of a good time, but she doesn't want to walk.

Permalink Eye

Elizabeth is a good runner, too, especially for a construction site manager.

Permalink Eye

Bina is not.

Permalink Eye

Jenn notices, and adjusts her pace so that she's keeping pace with Bina. She's not leaving her behind.

She keeps a careful eye on their surroundings. Both for threats, and for somewhere to bunker down.

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

Jenn tries to remember the map she'd looked at earlier. "Three-fourteen for now." Then they can regroup, and try and figure out and actual plan.

Permalink Eye

"Right. There's an alleyway over there, by three-ten, or we can double back to camp - but I don't know if the camp bodies are reanimating, too."

Permalink Eye

"Alleyway," Jenn says. She's not willing to risk the bodies at the camp being among the reanimated. Not unless she has to.

Permalink Eye

"This way, then."

Luckily even with Bina limping and clutching her still throbbing, still glowing arm, it's a fairly short way, and they dodge the corpses. The building's two stories, with an exterior fire escape, and small and dark. There's very few windows.

Permalink Eye

Jenn considers it for a moment, before nodding. It'll have to do. She fall back so she's bringing up the rear, ushering Bina and Elizabeth ahead of herself.

Permalink Eye

They enter into the lower level - Elizabeth and Bina immediately start barricading entrances. There's plenty of shelves and furniture and unidentifiable equipment about with which to do that.

Permalink Eye

Jenn does a quick scan of the room, but providing she doesn't see any threats, she'll help barricade the entrances as well.

Permalink Eye

Nothing immediate.

Elizabeth isn't exceptionally strong, but she has a good sense for what's a good defense and what isn't. This furniture is solid, though, at least, good wood and metal.

Permalink Eye

Jenn sees the logic in that, and puts her own strength to good use.

Permalink Eye

Once they finish: "We should get the upstairs window by the fire exit, too."

There's a metallic crash from outside.

"...Fast."

Permalink Eye

Jenn finds the stairs and races to the level above, hoping there's materials for barricading the window as well.

Permalink Eye

Elizabeth follows.

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.)

Permalink Eye

Jenn thinks about it, and then nods, setting about moving the pieces into the correct place.

Permalink Eye

A hand goes through the window as they're moving the second shelf.

Elizabeth hits it with a hammer.

It retracts, hammer and all.

Permalink Eye

"-Shit," Jenn states, shoving the shelves into place with perhaps a bit more force than necessary.

Permalink Eye

"That does not seem good, yeah," Elizabeth agrees, helping shove.

There's a sort of shlopp sound outside.

Permalink Eye

"Any idea if it's possible to get to the roof?" Jenn asks, finishing up with the shelves, and starting to shove the desk into place.

Permalink Eye

"I haven't worked down here as much, but most of them had a roof ladder - exterior, though, usually from the fire escape. Only a few had interior access points."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods. Eyes the window. "I think that's as secure as we're getting for now."

And starts to head back to Bina.

Permalink Eye

Who has started trying to find ways to cover her arm better. The glow seems to be going down on its own a bit, though.

"I think the light's attracting them," she says, voice frustrated. "Or causing them. Or something."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods gravely. "We need a plan quickly then."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not sure we can safely get anywhere. At least not now. But... If they're following me. I might be able to keep them here, or lead them in circles, or trap them somewhere I can get out of but they can't. And you guys could - get supplies, or help, or something."

Permalink Eye

"If you think I'm letting you run off on your own we're going to have an argument. Look..." She pauses. "-You said I didn't make it out of the basement last time?"

Permalink Eye

"No. Not according to Twelve. I don't know if you ever have."

Permalink Eye

"-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..."

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods, a little reluctantly. "Elizabeth. What other supplies do you have at the camp? I didn't spot any medical supplies, or weapons, but I'd kill for either right now."

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

Jenn hums. "The supplies would be useful. And another map so we're not reliant on you. I grabbed post-it's, but drawing a map on those is going to leave it uselessly small, or uselessly many-paged."

Permalink Eye

Bina really doesn't like the idea of staying cramped in a box while wigglies surround her, but: "I still think me leading them away from here's a good plan. But I can also read the journal while you guys are out."

Permalink Eye

Jenn definitely doesn't seem to like that idea, but: "It's logical," she admits.

Permalink Eye

"Which? Leading or reading?" She drags her hand down her face. "Ugh. I think... I think I can do it. Lead them away. They didn't seem that fast. But if you both think it's a horrible idea..."

Permalink Eye

"Quite frankly we don't need two people to fetch supplies. It might be smart to leave one of us here, with the supplies and this journal. Another to the camp. And you potentially to lead them off."

Permalink Eye

Jenn tilts her head very slightly at Bina - it's a question about whether Bina is willing to trust her or Elizabeth with B12's journal.

Permalink Eye

She doesn't know Elizabeth, is the problem. "You know the camp better, and the area," she says to Elizabeth. "Jenn's more caught up on - everything - so might understand it better."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods (she doesn't necessarily want to be the one doing the reading, but she recognises the trust Bina is placing in her). "I think I'm gonna try and get onto the roof. Better sightlines. And you can yell if you need me?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. You can be my backup."

Permalink Eye

Jenn smiles back. "Always."

Permalink Eye

"So. Guess we should do this sooner rather than later?"

Permalink Eye

"That'd be my suggestion. I'd also like to take the backpack with me - preferably emptied."

Permalink Eye

Jenn shrugs it off, and sets about emptying it out onto one of the surfaces not finding employment as a barrier. "Finding another would be nice. But that's wishful thinking."

Permalink Eye

"We might be able to fashion something crude out of curtains, but I wouldn't want to try out in the open."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods sharply. "We've got duct tape here if you can supply the curtains."

Permalink Eye

"I'll see what I can do."

Permalink Eye

"Appreciate it." She hands over the backpack, and turns back to Bina. "No unnecessary risks, huh?"

Permalink Eye

"I promise! I'll be extra careful! But I should probably head out first?"

Permalink Eye

"Don't let them corner you," Jenn adds. "Good luck. Be back here in an hour?"

Permalink Eye

She checks her little pink watch. "Yeah, that's doable."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods again. "Same goes for you, Elizabeth. Back in an hour." (She doesn't say who she's following if they're not, although there's a definite implication she's going to follow one of them.)

Permalink Eye

"Right."

Permalink Eye

"Anything else before I head out?"

Permalink Eye

"Don't die?" Jenn manages to make her tone flippant.

Permalink Eye

"Promise I'll try my hardest." A glance at the door, a muttered, "Wish me luck," and a check there's nothing immediately outside - 

And she's off.

Permalink Eye

Jenn finds somewhere she can watch Bina's progress from, and see if the dark wiggly things are following her.

Permalink Eye

Wigglies do, indeed, follow Bina!

They seem mostly slower than her, at least.

Permalink Eye

Elizabeth slips out once the way's clear.

Permalink Eye

Well then. Jenn will have a quick look around to see if she can find roof access, keeping the journal with her, one of the flashlights, and water.

Permalink Eye

There is, indeed, a metal ladder leading to the roof, accessible from the fire escape.

Permalink Eye

Alright then. Up to the roof it is for some heavy duty reading.

Permalink Eye

There's nothing visibly alarming at first glance. Not too many of the wigglies - there seem to be only a few, indeed clustering around Bina, and they're incredibly difficult to see in the dark.

Permalink Eye

The journal has a sticky note affixed to the front page.

Hey Me! 

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,

- You

Permalink Eye

If Jenn had to guess, the 'really nasty stuff' was probably Elizabeth dying. Which: go them, they'd prevented without B12's help. She leaves the note tucked where it is, and delves into the rest of the journal.

Permalink Eye

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. 

You. 

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.

Permalink Eye

-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?

Permalink Eye

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.

One doesn't.

Permalink Eye

What does 'historical' even mean when there's time travel involved.

She reviews the information again, but she's not sure what she can do with it, and wants to talk to Bina (...and Elizabeth) before making any plans.

She makes another scan of her surroundings.

Permalink Eye

That's probably Elizabeth approaching, off in the distance.

No sign of Bina yet.

Permalink Eye

She's not going to draw immediate attention to her presence on the roof, just in case it isn't Elizabeth. And she's not going to worry about Bina just yet. (She can take care of herself. Probably.)

Permalink Eye

Definitely an Elizabeth. Exhausted, muddy, with a tear in her hazmat suit she's hastily patched, but alive and probably not bleeding.

Permalink Eye

There's a sound of breaking glass off in the distance.

(Bina would like to register she was so being extra careful. The pipe adventure wasn't her fault. Extra speedy wiggly is even less so.)

Permalink Eye

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.

Permalink Eye

"One of the not-corpses was hanging around camp. Apparently, when you throw things at them, they absorb it and then grow. I suspect shooting them will be pointless. I did find everything I was looking for, though."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods. "You got the curtains?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. Should have enough for a rucksack."

Permalink Eye

...Jenn would start on that but.

"I'm going to go look for Bina."

(With the journal tucked inside her suit.)

Permalink Eye

"Do you want me to stay here, or come with?"

Permalink Eye

"Stay. In case she gets back before I do."

Permalink Eye

"Alright. I can start working on the sack, then."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods, and leaves the building carefully, starting to sweep in the direction she heard the glass breaking from.

Permalink Eye

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.

Permalink Eye

-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.)

Permalink Eye

Those are Bina's legs there! She definitely seems to be moving, and between the two of them they get it up just enough she can surge out - 

And fall back into the mud as a skeletal hand entangles in her hair.

Permalink Eye

Jenn wraps her arms around Bina - letting go of the door in the process - and tries to pull her away from the hands.

Permalink Eye

The hand is pretty firmly grasping, but the wiggly can't get much more of itself out with the door dropped on it.

In fact this part off the arm appears to be detaching.

Oh look it came off.

It's still moving.

Permalink Eye

Jenn grabs for it, detangles it and throws it away.

Permalink Eye

Bina's gasping for sweet, sweet air for the second time in twenty minutes, never mind that it smells like burned barbecue. 

Permalink Eye

Jenn pulls her close, so that Bina can lean against Jenn's shoulders, and counts her own breathing quietly.

Permalink Eye

Gradually Bina manages to sync her breath with Jenn's - 

There's a roar from inside, the 'hnng' sound getting larger as the wiggly slams against the gate - 

"Oh shut up!" Bina half-yells at it.

It does.

Permalink Eye

"-Neat trick. Can you walk?"

Permalink Eye

"-Actually. No. C'mon. Get on my back."

Permalink Eye

"I can walk!"

Permalink Eye

"Can and should are different things. You just had this very heavy door on your ribs. Let me help you."

Permalink Eye

"Fine." She knows she shouldn't be snippy with Jenn but her pride's bruised and her ribs are worse.

Permalink Eye

Jenn doesn't hold it against her. "I've broken my ribs," she says conversationally as she gets Bina onto her back. "Even if you haven't, bruised ribs aren't much fun."

Permalink Eye

"You have?" She settles in. "What do you do. With, like, your life?"

Permalink Eye

"This and that," she says as she starts walking back towards their current base. "I grew up all over, sometimes in warzones. Recently I've been doing a little bit of security for my mother, but she talked me into actually going to college."

Permalink Eye

"That sounds tough. But - I'm not really surprised you do security? You just. Seem to have it together." 

She's tired and maybe drifting off a bit, but fighting to stay awake.

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. It's a good job, and I'm good at it." She tilts her head back very slightly. "What about you? What do you do?"

Permalink Eye

"I'm a journalism student. At McGill. Work as a waitress." 

Permalink Eye

"What do you want to do with that?" They're nearly back now.

Permalink Eye

"Just. Find stories. Help people? My grandparents worked at the newspaper. My grandmother was always doing investigative stuff. Revealing corrupt bureaucrats and all."

Permalink Eye

"...I think you'd be good at that. You're stubborn. That's a good trait for that."

Permalink Eye

"Heh. Thanks. Need to get better at - noticing stuff. I guess. Didn't believe the weird stuff until I got eaten. Thought I was tired."

Permalink Eye

Jenn is quiet for a moment. "To be fair. With what we knew before we got grabbed by tall, red and crazy, that wasn't a bad hypothesis."

Permalink Eye

Half-hearted shrug, and a muttered 'ow.'

"Just feel like grandma would've done better."

Permalink Eye

"...Do you reckon your grandma would've figured out time machines?"

Permalink Eye

"Those're in the journal? Dunno. She was smart, though. Knew a lot."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. There's...a fair amount of stuff missing. Assumes you have access to information in the Moment. But yup. Time machines are apparently a thing."

Permalink Eye

"Kinda what I'd figured Twelve meant. With devices controlling paradox and all."

Permalink Eye

"There was other stuff as well. You'll probably want to read it yourself, but... Can you think of any reason you'd want to hide something from yourself?"

Permalink Eye

"To save someone? Or a lot of someones? If I knew I'd do something stupid with that information, or would act on it wrong, or if me finding it meant like Ira could also find it and it's better for everyone to be in the dark - "

Permalink Eye

Jenn hums. "You should read the journal," she advises. But by now they're back at their base.

Permalink Eye

"Right..."

Bina's drifting again.

Permalink Eye

"Hey. Stay awake just a bit longer. I want to check your ribs, and that'll go quicker with you awake. You can rest after, I promise."

She looks around for a surface to put Bina on.

Permalink Eye

Elizabeth's able to get them to a low table that hadn't been used too much for barricading, and which has already has assorted items removed by the survey teams.

Permalink Eye

"Ugh. They don't feel broke."

Permalink Eye

"They don't always." Beat. "You've broken your ribs before?" Jenn's hand in gently pressing over Bina's ribs.

Permalink Eye

"Ow. Yeah. Play field hockey."

Permalink Eye

"I thought ice hockey was the violent one," Jenn says with a teasing smile. "Nothing seems out of place."

Permalink Eye

"You haven't seen us play." She groans and tries to sit up. "That's good. We don't have time for them to be a problem."

Permalink Eye

"You should still take it easy...er. No more getting doors dropped on you."

Permalink Eye

"I wasn't trying to do that, or the pipe thing. Just happened."

Permalink Eye

"-Pipe thing?"

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

"-I am finding a pair of handcuffs and chaining myself to you."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not that bad!"

Permalink Eye

"Uh-huh," Jenn's tone is a bit lighter now. "Tell that to your pipe adventure."

Permalink Eye

"I can pick locks anyways."

Permalink Eye

Jenn reminds herself that niw is not the time to propose a lock picking race. "It's a useful skill."

She pulls the journal out and holds it out. "Wanna read?"

Permalink Eye

"You got the important stuff, right, we don't have time - "

And she's tired and her head's spinning enough she's not sure she'll be able to read.

Permalink Eye

"-But what if we did."

Permalink Eye

"What do you mean? Like, time travel?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes. But- So. We have designs. And most of them need a piece of the future and a piece of the past. But there's one that doesn't... And it's...it's almost like a radio? Except one picking up time rather than radio waves?"

Permalink Eye

"- At some point I'd like an explanation you know."

Permalink Eye

"That machine sounds sensible except for all the ways it's convenient."

Permalink Eye

"You're not wrong. But-" Jenn frowns. "What if we- you're expected to go to the Moment now? And I don't mind saying it. The wigglies aren't fast, but do you really think we can avoid them?"

Permalink Eye

"Probably not? And Zoomy was fast."

Permalink Eye

"I think I can make this?" Jenn says - sounding a lot more confident than she actually feels. Pauses. "Your call if you think this is too convenient."

Permalink Eye

She shakes her head. "No. It sounds like something I'd want to develop. I'm guessing it's not perfect?"

Permalink Eye

(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.)

Permalink Eye

"Almost certainly not. I think I might be able to use that fragment as a focus but...we're kinda gonna be leaping at somewhere where time is already...broken? As it were?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. That doesn't sound super good."

Permalink Eye

"No. But I'm not sure we exactly have a 'good' option right now."

Permalink Eye

She nods. "How long do you need to make it?"

Permalink Eye

"Half an hour? Maybe a little longer? I don't- exactly have experience with time machines, but..." She shrugs. "Less if I didn't have to jerry-rig a radio out of hand warmers and flashlights."

Permalink Eye

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."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods. "How close are those places?"

Permalink Eye

"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?"

Permalink Eye

"Something like that," Jenn confirms. "And I've stripped buildings for wire before. Misspent youth and all that."

Permalink Eye

"Seems to be a lot of that around. I'll hold down the fort here, how about, sort our supplies and get them in bags properly."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods. "I won't be too long."

Looks across to Bina.

Permalink Eye

Who is very stubbornly trying not to fall asleep. "I'll be fine. Won't wander off."

Permalink Eye

"Take a nap. You've earned it keeping the wigglies off us."

Permalink Eye

"Ughhhh."

She might be blushing though? Jenn's smile. Just.

Permalink Eye

"...Can we call them anything else, I'm not putting 'wigglies' in my notes."

Permalink Eye

Jenn smiles a tiny bit wider.

Then turns her attention to Elizabeth. "If you can think of a better name, by all means, feel free."

Permalink Eye

"Not-corpses. Or not-people, is what I've been using. Shortens nicely to 'naught.' Does not sound like I got high and watched too many zombie movies."

Permalink Eye

"Fine by me."

And Jenn will collect her map, and be on her way.

Permalink Eye

And Elizabeth will return to her notes.

Permalink Eye

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.)

Permalink Eye

Ant isn't actually here right now - ey's somewhere, nearby, but not actually right next to Bina.

(Ey wants to be, but it's taking em time to get there.)

Permalink Eye

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.

Permalink Eye

...Now there's a tap on the door.

"Bina?" Ant asks quietly.

Permalink Eye

She opens it.

"Ant! You're okay!"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah," Ant nods. "Guess Lash did take care of me."

Permalink Eye

"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...

Permalink Eye

Ant shakes eir head. "I don't know. Sorry." Offers eir hand.

Permalink Eye

She takes it, and looks around.

The plane's perfectly still. Quiet. Frozen. Like a chess set, not the chaotic swirling vomit-tinged nightmare it is in her memory. 

She shivers.

"We should probably try and see who's flying?" she suggests, but her heart isn't in it.

Permalink Eye

Ant nods, reluctant as well. "If anyone's flying..."

Permalink Eye

"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.

Permalink Eye

Ant looks around. "This is...not a cockpit. -Is that food? I'm starving."

Permalink Eye

"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?"

Permalink Eye

Ant pouts. "You're not wrong. But it looks like someone is waiting...for someone? You?"

Permalink Eye

"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.

Permalink Eye

"Earmuffs? That you again?" a familiar voice calls, before they round the second set of walls. Josephine's sitting there, in a yellow dress and jacket and sunhat. "Oh! There you are! You're not Earmuffs, but even better - now, which one are you? And your friend!"

Permalink Eye

"Uh. What do you mean?"

Permalink Eye

Ant shifts a little closer to Bina, slightly unnerved.

Permalink Eye

"Oh, don't play dumb - which you are you? There's been quite a number."

Permalink Eye

"...The thirteenth? I think?"

(And it seems Josephine has the ridiculous sentence structure of this situation down.)

"How many of us have you met?"

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not her."

Permalink Eye

"Her who?"

Permalink Eye

"The third one! The one you met."

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

Ant shudders a little. "That's a comforting thought."

Permalink Eye

"Isn't it just. Though you're new, too - I've seen you in the office a few times, though none of the other late Binas had you with her."

Permalink Eye

Ant shrugs. "Guess this time round's different."

Permalink Eye

Bina takes a deep breath. "Josephine - I'm sorry, but - is any of this real? This, what, sky boat? And you - you don't look the same as before. And this was definitely a dream a few minutes ago."

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

"Wait, what - you're dead?" Like Ant? "Am I dead? I thought this was about time travel..."

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

"It's just, augh! What is happening!? Why are you here? How are you here? You say you're dead and not a dream, ok fine. But then how are you here? Why are we having this conversation? Where even is here!?"

Permalink Eye

"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.

Permalink Eye

Ant eyes it, suspicious, and then follows after Bina and Josephine.

Permalink Eye

"What are you actually, really doing here Josephine?" Bina asks, letting herself be pulled.

Permalink Eye

"Oh, not much at all. Just killing time."

Permalink Eye

"-Uh. Are we being literal or metaphorical?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, metaphorical now. The dead can't affect the living quite that much. But, in life... That's another story."

Permalink Eye

Ant raises an eyebrow - almost an invitation to continue.

Permalink Eye

"Have you figured it out yet? What's going on?"

Permalink Eye

"No! Because people keep being cagey and talking in riddles!"

Permalink Eye

She sets the table, separating out food and drinks for each.

"Now, no need to be rude about it."

Permalink Eye

Bina makes a high pitched, frustrated noise.

Permalink Eye

Ant reaches out to hug Bina. "She's been through hell," ey says to Josephine. "And no-one will give her a straight answer. I think she gets to be rude."

Permalink Eye

Hugs. "Everyone's been jerking me around. Just - please just tell me."

Permalink Eye

Josephine sighs. "I'll try, but - well, it's complicated. 

Permalink Eye

"It can't be that complicated! You told me - you were doing an experiment, involving people looking at something, to make light. And something went wrong."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, something went wrong far earlier than that. But this won't be easy to explain, even then..."

Permalink Eye

Ant hugs Bina, and half-glares at Josephine.

Permalink Eye

"It's no slight, but, well, I don't fully understand it myself, and even the one you call Three had trouble - and she was a physicist."

Permalink Eye

"...How can Three be so different- No. No. That's not important."

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

"Figured out - Josephine. Whatever you're dancing around, just say it."

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

"And this. Somehow ended up with you breaking time?"

Permalink Eye

"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 - "

Permalink Eye

"I know what mercury is," Bina interrupts.

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

"I'm guessing it wasn't."

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

"-Okay. I'm pretty sure most people would be at that point."

Permalink Eye

"Indeed!"

"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.

Permalink Eye

Ant doesn't actually know what response to give to that.

Permalink Eye

"Weird," Bina produces after a long moment.

Permalink Eye

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."

Permalink Eye

"...You hadn't already looked for these things before the original experiment?"

Permalink Eye

"They weren't actually part of the experiment, you see. They were the backing to prevent the experiment from affecting other things."

Permalink Eye

Ant nods, and holds back a slightly snide remark.

Permalink Eye

"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?"

Permalink Eye

She decides to ignore that.

"The image on the special tile. It looked like a fly, didn't it?"

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

Ant nods thoughtfully. "-And it never occurred to you that you shouldn't be poking this?"

Permalink Eye

"Or that this makes no sense - it's magic, you didn't invent anything scientific, you discovered a magic image."

Permalink Eye

"There's nothing that science can't shine a light on. And by that argument, humans didn't invent fire, we stumbled upon rubbing sticks together."

Permalink Eye

"-I'm not sure there's a scientific explanation for two dead people having tea and cakes with a time traveller."

Permalink Eye

"We just haven't discovered it yet."

Permalink Eye

"Perhaps," Ant sounds dubious.

Permalink Eye

"What does any of this have to do with quantum mechanics, anyways?" Bina asks. 

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

"-Okay. I'm- wasn't Schrödinger's cat pointing out the problem with one of the interpretations of quantum mechanics? Helsinki or Oslo or something?"

Permalink Eye

"But I proved the theory it was meant to make fun of!"

Permalink Eye

"-how?!"

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

"Alright. So. Say this is true. How does this then relate to what's happening here?"

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

"It didn't matter? What are you talking about, how could it not matter - "

Permalink Eye

"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!"

Permalink Eye

"Josephine!" Bina shouts, having tried to speak up several times during the rant and failed. "That's great, but you're missing something. If it's a fundamental property of the universe, why does it need people to work?"

Permalink Eye

Josephine seems taken aback - 

And for a moment, so fast it's barely noticeable, the sky isn't so perfect anymore. Is dark and yawning like teeth - 

And then the sky is blue and lightly clouded again. Like it always was.

Permalink Eye

Ant glances up, and then back down, shaking eir head. "Bina's not wrong. That seems... Too easy."

Permalink Eye

"It requires people because that's what made the effects work."

She seems to be getting frustrated, or perhaps angry, shoulders tight and jaw tense.

Permalink Eye

"But there haven't always been people so-" Ant has no idea where ey was going with that, but it seemed important.

Permalink Eye

"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.

Permalink Eye

"Thought I was the teenager," Ant mutters to Bina.

Permalink Eye

Josephine gets up and walks away, staring into the distant sky.

The air's still and heavy and hot, almost liquid, and the engines have developed a soft, high pitched whine.

Permalink Eye

Bina sighs and drags a hand down her face. Gives Josephine a moment, but - 

This is coming to an end.

She's developing a sense for this now.

"Forty watts," she says. "You said the experiment would get only forty watts, when we talked. A whole crowd for a lightbulb."

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

"-Almost too good to pass up."

Permalink Eye

"I couldn't! Imagine it, clean energy, easily more than we could ever use! It'd be enough to end scarcity, to launch us ahead into a new age - "

Permalink Eye

"...To get the botfly's image in every science textbook," Bina says, mouth dry.

Permalink Eye

"Alien space bug. Ruling the human race. Or eating it."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, I'm sure that's not how it'd go - " she says, voice far away and almost dreamy.

Permalink Eye

"Wait - No. Look." They're low on time. Either Bina's about to wake - or she should wake - and: "You've spoken to Three, and to the others. You remember the other loops? Have you talked to them?"

Permalink Eye

"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.

Permalink Eye

"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!"

Permalink Eye

"Oh. It's the funniest thing. I don't remember."

And her smile is a skull's smile, her flesh gone, her clothes except the brilliant red scarf long rotted rags - 

Permalink Eye

Ant grabs Bina's hand again, staring up at the sky.

Permalink Eye

"I'm no thief, though, and this is yours," Josephine says, beginning to unwind the scarf from her neck.

Permalink Eye

"Won't you die?!" Bina shouts.

Permalink Eye

"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.

Permalink Eye

And Bina takes it.

(This is awful.)

Permalink Eye

Ant leans closer to Bina. "I'm sorry." Because it seems like the right thing to say.

Permalink Eye

"I'll change it," Bina says. "There has to be a way - "

Permalink Eye

" - Just, let me be brave here, alright? You can make your resolutions to yourself later."

"But for now... Let me be brave."

Permalink Eye

Bina nods.

And the sky roars.

Permalink Eye

"We should jump," Ant says, eir grip could probably be considered clinging at this point.

Permalink Eye

"Yeah - yeah - " She turns, and ignores the screaming engines behind her - 

And jumps.

Permalink Eye

And Ant jumps with her.

Permalink Eye

They fall - 

And Bina wakes, gasping and panicked.

Permalink Eye

Jenn's beside her almost immediately. "Hey," she says, quiet but insistent.

Permalink Eye

"What - "

Deep breath.

"Sorry. Bad dream."

Permalink Eye

"You seem to get those a lot," Jenn says carefully - empathy, and an offer to listen if Bina wants to talk about it.

Permalink Eye

Shiver. "Yeah. This was - talking to Josephine." Quiet, and she glances over to see if Elizabeth's around - "I think it's pretty significant. But might take a while to explain - honestly I should write it all down..."

Permalink Eye

"We've got a pen, some post its...I think there was maybe a spare page in the journal? The post its are probably a better option."

Permalink Eye

"I'll do that, yeah, at least the highlights."

Permalink Eye

"I'll go grab them for you then." Pause. "If you'll be okay?"

Permalink Eye

She nods. "Yeah. Just. Need a moment." She rubs her hand down her face.

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods and goes to do that - her gait seems off. It isn't a limp, but that it likely because Jenn is far too stubborn to limp.

Permalink Eye

...Really. Seriously, Jenn.

When she gets back, Bina asks, fake casual, "So how did getting the wiring go?"

Permalink Eye

"About as well as can be expected," Jenn says, equally casually. "I only ended up jumping off one roof."

Permalink Eye

"...Jenn. Weren't you the one threatening to handcuff yourself to me? Because I take risks?"

Permalink Eye

"Yup," Jenn says, almost cheerfully.

Permalink Eye

"And jumping off of buildings is better than escaping through pipes?"

Permalink Eye

"Harder to get...what was it? Momentumly challenged? Jumping off a building."

Permalink Eye

"Easier to break something."

Permalink Eye

"Not...wrong," Jenn admits, a little reluctantly. "It seemed the wise thing to do."

Permalink Eye

"I'm going to sit on you. See if you're jumping off any buildings then."

Permalink Eye

"Well. You're pretty tiny. I can totally carry you."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not tiny!"

Permalink Eye

"Petite?"

Permalink Eye

"You. Are a pest. And not funny."

Permalink Eye

Jenn grins, and laughs quietly. "You should write down your dream before you forget."

Permalink Eye

"...Right. Thanks."

And she'll start doing that.

(...She can't remember what happened the first time around. In the airplane. She writes that, too.)

Permalink Eye

Jenn stays nearby, going back to tinkering instead.

Permalink Eye

"Any progress on the time machine?"

Permalink Eye

"...I mean. Provided that I'm not just fumbling blindly, quite a bit. You were asleep for a while."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. I remember being surprised how long the dream lasted..."

She goes quiet, then, "The dreams are overwriting my memories. I. Think writing down everything I can remember about my life might not be a bad idea?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. That- that definitely seems wise."

Permalink Eye

"Have you been having them? The - weird dreams?"

Permalink Eye

Jenn shakes her head. "Not...really? There was...the one. Of me talking to my Dad the last time...but. Not like what you're talking about."

Permalink Eye

The thought 'maybe it didn't find enough broken places' wiggles uncomfortably into Bina's head.

Instead she says, "Maybe it's just - I saw it, got stabbed, all that?"

Permalink Eye

"Maybe," Jenn sounds upset about that for some reason.

Permalink Eye

She goes quiet, then: "In one of my dreams. I remember thinking. It's in all the broken places."

"All my places."

"I think dream me knows weird things."

Permalink Eye

"-Is it trying to communicate something?" That doesn't sound like it's reassuring Jenn any.

Permalink Eye

"I don't know! It's - it doesn't make sense, and I haven't had time to just. Sit and think?"

Permalink Eye

"Well. Hopefully we'll be able to...stop. For a little. In the Moment."

Permalink Eye

"'swhat I'm hoping too, yeah."

Permalink Eye

Jenn moves over to sit next to Bina again, nudging their shoulders together. "We've got this."

Permalink Eye

"Thanks."

Permalink Eye

"Any time," Jenn assures her.

Permalink Eye

"I'm lucky I met you."

Permalink Eye

Elizabeth chooses that moment to come down the stairs. "Hey, not to interrupt, but we may have a problem - the naughts found us again. There's a lot."

Permalink Eye

"-Shit. Guess it's time to find out whether or not this thing actually works." She gestures at her attempt at a time machine.

Permalink Eye

"I'll get our supplies." Luckily most of them are together; still, there's some they'd been using that still need packing up.

Permalink Eye

Bina gets to her feet -

And her hand lands on her grandmother's scarf.

...Well, it's convenient for tying up her hair, which she does. She'll examine the dream scarf problem later.

"What do we need to do, for the machine?"

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

"Where - well, when - are we aiming?"

Permalink Eye

"Approximately? That moment with the TV. We've got that piece to use as a...focus? I guess?"

Permalink Eye

She nods. "We might want to be careful we don't land on ourselves. I wouldn't like the backlash from that."

Permalink Eye

"I think I can avoid that? The damage... I think the big damage was done after-or-as you were leaving?"

Permalink Eye

"Then we really don't want to land on the Corpse."

Permalink Eye

"As much as I love running for my life, yeah, let's avoid that."

Permalink Eye

"Can we target location at all?"

Permalink Eye

"Kind of? I don't understand all of it, but direct n-tuning appears to be through time," she indicates one of her tuning devices, "lateral n-tuning appears to mean through space?" She indicates the other. "Unless I've got that vastly wrong."

Permalink Eye

"You'll know more -"

There's the sound of breaking glass from upstairs, and a series of thumps.

Permalink Eye

"-Shit. Out of time. Can you-?" Jenn gestures vaguely at Bina's arm.

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, flashlight's probably safer - "

She grabs one in her right hand, flicks it on, and shines the green beam at the floor. There's already growing cracks in the air, and it's getting cold. "Where?"

Permalink Eye

Jenn points at where she wants the unlight.

Permalink Eye

She'll shine it.

Permalink Eye

Elizabeth will position herself at the edge of the base of the stairs with one of the makeshift weapons she's fashioned.

Permalink Eye

And Jenn will start trying to tune in a time machine.

Permalink Eye

There's a series of breaking sounds from upstairs, some banging on their blocked windows and doors downstairs - 

And a Naught that appears to have crawled through the chest cavity of another Naught and gotten stuck that way flails to the top of the stairs.

Permalink Eye

She will not panic. This is fine. She can do this. She just needs to stay focused on finding the space-

"There's nothing," she says, her tone completely flat.

Permalink Eye

"Did you screw up?" Bina asks, grabbing a hammer in her unoccupied hand.

Permalink Eye

"What? I- no. I don't think so-"

Permalink Eye

"Then  try again."

Permalink Eye

Jenn breathes, and tries again.

It's faint, but-

But it's all she's got. And they're running out of time.

So she activates it.

Permalink Eye

She grabs Elizabeth's hand, dragging her away from the Naughts, and Jenn's -

And they're falling through time.

Permalink Eye

At least they're falling together.

Jenn isn't sure she got the lateral thing right. But she's watching for where they land.

Permalink Eye

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.

Permalink Eye

That immediately gets Jenn's attention. "-Last time there wasn't a massive hole," she says.

Permalink Eye

"This is after the not-Ant..." she says, wedging herself up and looking around - and spotting the loop of red.

"Shit! We need to go - "

Permalink Eye

Jenn doesn't question it, just looks around for the best way to go.

Permalink Eye

Too late!

Past Bina, whose knees and ribs still work, climbs out of the hole. 

"Me?" she asks, smiling.

"Me!" current Bina groans, distinctly not smiling.

Permalink Eye

And past Bina has a teenager on her back, who looks around, and grins.

Permalink Eye

"This is bad, isn't it." It isn't a question.

Permalink Eye

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!!!

Permalink Eye

"Uhhhhh, so I'm guessing this wasn't supposed to happen?" poor innocent past Bina asks.

Permalink Eye

"Crap! I don't remember any of this!" current Bina manages.

Permalink Eye

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.

Permalink Eye

Ant literally squeaks - apparently ey thinks this is completely adorable.

Permalink Eye

Jenn doesn't quite seem to know what to do with this. "Uh. Okay. You're not collapsing like you've changed something, so...this apparently happened?"

Permalink Eye

"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 - "

Permalink Eye

"Shhhhhh - " Elizabeth says. "Guys. Might have a bigger problem." She points to the other end of the laundromat.

Permalink Eye

Jenn does immediately move to help Bina support...well. Herself? Even as she looks and-

Permalink Eye

-and the Not-Ant is staring at them, unnervingly still...

No. Not quite still. Empty gaze flickering from Past-Bina, to Future-Bina, to Ant-Ant...

Permalink Eye

-And Ant is staring back.

Permalink Eye

She pushes past her into Jenn's arms. "Put her on the bench, facing towards the window - "

And runs over to the hole, jumping up and grabbing the scarf - 

Then throwing a flashlight at the not-Ant. "Hey! Ugly! Over here!" she yells.

Permalink Eye

Ant hesitates for the briefest moment before lunging at not-em.

Permalink Eye

-Which barely slows it down as it lunges after Bina.

Permalink Eye

"Godsdamnit," Jenn yells.

Permalink Eye

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 - 

Permalink Eye

Which might've worked. Except for not-Ant smashing through the edge of time, shattering it further.

Permalink Eye

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 - 

So yeah.

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.

Permalink Eye

If the Corpse is surprised to find itself falling through something apart from pitch blackness, it doesn't show. Then again. How much expression does a Corpse have? It's still laser focused on Bina.

Permalink Eye

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.

And - 

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.

...Ow.

Permalink Eye

She doesn't have time to rest. Because not-Ant has just landed on the other end of the island.

Permalink Eye

She would like to register an objection to this.

Of all the things she thought she'd have to deal with when she woke up this morning...

The island tilts towards the not-Ant, and Bina begins to slide.

Super! Not! Fair!

Permalink Eye

And not-Ant starts to claw its way towards Bina.

Permalink Eye

The island turns nearly vertical, just as Bina manages to grab onto the other edge and pull herself up.

Permalink Eye

The Corpse seems...vaguely unaffected by the tilt. Still able to start to pull itself after Bina, looming, surreally large-

Permalink Eye

-And Jenn lands next to Bina and hits the Corpse in the skull with a hammer.

Permalink Eye

Elizabeth lands in a somewhat less epic manner, but does reorient herself and start going for her gun.

Permalink Eye

Apparently a couple of hammerstrokes to the skull is enough to dislodge the Corpse. And it starts to fall.

Permalink Eye

Jenn whirls to Bina, pointing at her. "Handcuffs."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not the one with the hammer!"

And the island starts to right itself.

Permalink Eye

"I didn't jump into a break in- wait. Okay. I did."

Jenn starts to scramble onto the...top?? of the island, holding out her spare hand to Bina.

Permalink Eye

Bina takes it.

Permalink Eye

And Elizabeth follows.

Permalink Eye

"Where'd Ant go?"

Permalink Eye

"Not...entirely sure? Ey. Kind of vanished?"

Permalink Eye

"...Ey probably couldn't have ended up in my head otherwise."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods. "Alright. So. Where do we go now?"

Permalink Eye

"We don't want to stay here long. I think it's bad. So. One of the pools of water?"

Permalink Eye

"So...do we think they're gateways to different places in time?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. I think they're the holes."

Permalink Eye

"Alright then." Jenn goes to look into the one on their island to see if it gives her any clue where it leads.

Permalink Eye

It's opaquely blue. 

"I think that's just a visualization. We'd probably have to actually stick our heads through."

Permalink Eye

Jenn considers it. "Are we going to have an argument if I ask you to keep a hold of me while I put my head through?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes."

Permalink Eye

"...Okay. Why do you think it should be you instead of me?"

Permalink Eye

"I was involved in more cracks, so might recognize if it's dangerous or where it is. If I get stuck I have my arm and can unstick myself more easily."

Permalink Eye

"...I'm sure there's a flaw in your logic. But it unfortunately makes sense. I'm still keeping a hold of you."

Permalink Eye

"Let's move, then," she says, and goes to kneel by the pool.

Permalink Eye

Jenn holds the back of her top, firmly enough that she isn't going to loose her grip, but loose enough that Bina can still move.

Permalink Eye

And Bina leans through.

It's dark, where she winds up.

Permalink Eye

But not pitch black. Dark in the way of the early morning. And there's someone moving. With a glowing-green watch.

Permalink Eye

She yanks back. Takes a deep breath.

Permalink Eye

She hasn't been noticed. Ira's attention is ahead of herself, on the edge of the pit. On Elizabeth.

Permalink Eye

She leans back into the between-times. Pauses. Says, "I need to check something," and leans back in, assuming Jenn lets her.

Permalink Eye

Jenn clicks her tongue, but allows it.

Permalink Eye

-And she exits at exactly the same moment as she had previously.

Permalink Eye

She returns back through the portal. "Time's not passing out there; I exited at the same moment both times. But also Ira's there, and it looks like it's just before she snuck up on Elizabeth, I'd be worried about changing something there..."

Permalink Eye

"Hard to change it without killing Elizabeth as well," Jenn says thoughtfully. "Or without us seeing ourselves..."

Permalink Eye

"I would strongly prefer we not kill me," she says, voice dry. "What about the other portals? I can see many directly below us, and the shine of even more."

Permalink Eye

"Not-Ant went through one of the ones directly below us. Let's...not go through that one."

Permalink Eye

"...I suspect I know where that one ended up. The not-Ant was - off, or something - at the bottom of the ramp when Ira was chasing me, and was about this size..."

Permalink Eye

"Okay then. I...think I know which island it went through." Jenn squints at the islands below them. "Probably."

Permalink Eye

There's a green thing far at the bottom, a distant many-armed spiraling being - 

Permalink Eye

Jenn jerks back, alarmed. "Gonna guess that's our space bug down there."

Permalink Eye

Bina peeks. "Yeah."

Permalink Eye

Elizabeth peeks. "Of all the genres I expected to be accurate it wasn't timetraveling scifi Lovecraft."

Permalink Eye

"...is that actually a genre?"

Permalink Eye

"There is at least one book. More meant the collision - are you guys actually seeing the scifi parts, given the lovecraft parts I'm not expecting that to be consistent - the portals sort of look like something out of Stargate, embedded in metal or stone usually?"

Permalink Eye

"No, I'm seeing islands. With pools of water. But it's different between people, I can explain later - we really need to jump soon - I don't know how long we have to be picky, either - "

Permalink Eye

Jenn considers. "I- might be wrong. I don't know how these things are arranged. But if...if this is Ira trying to kill Elizabeth, and that," she points, "is the not-Ant landing in the construction site, I think that one," she points again, "might be the TV?"

Permalink Eye

"We'd have a pretty narrow range to get out of there, but - it might work."

Permalink Eye

"At least we know we're not going to run into Ira or not-Ant, and it's before the naughts show up."

Permalink Eye

"Pretty big potential to scramble our own brains, but - maybe not Elizabeth's. You feel up for dragging us?" she asks, the attempt at a joking tone falling flat.

Permalink Eye

"I'm not too tired or badly injured so I could maybe? Get you guys to some semblance of safety? But I'm also not sure every spot won't have that potential, if every crack is where time travel's already occurred."

Permalink Eye

"We'll need to move quickly, but if we already know that... Probably our best bet. And we haven't completely scrambled our brains yet..."

Permalink Eye

Bina nods, and smiles a bit. "Yeah. Jump on three?" She winds the new scarf piece into her hair, around the one already there.

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods, quirking an eyebrow.

Permalink Eye

Bina goes to the edge, confirms their direction - doesn't stare at the botfly - and begins the count.

"One... Two... Three!"

And, holding both her companions' hands, jumps.

Permalink Eye

Jenn's right there with her, letting out a cry of exhilaration.

Permalink Eye

Okay Elizabeth will admit there's something fulfilling about jumping through a timetravel Stargate. Just a bit.

Permalink Eye

They wash into an empty tunnel in a blast of water (or, from Elizabeth's perspective, swirling glow clouds), landing in the thick, cold mud. The TV's face-down.

"Come on!" Bina calls, surging to her feet and starting to slog out.

Permalink Eye

Yup, Jenn's moving as well - she's had her brain scrambled once, she's got no desire for it to happen again.

Permalink Eye

Elizabeth follows.

Permalink Eye

There's a flash of green behind them.

Permalink Eye

(Past Bina, luckily, was facing the other way.)

Permalink Eye

Past-Jenn was not.

Future (or current?) Jenn, feels the horribly familiar vertigo-tilt of something not going to plan.

"Bina-" she manages.

Permalink Eye

"Shit - move - " She'll drag Jenn if she has to, she doesn't want them both getting caught - 

Permalink Eye

Jenn manages to lurch to Bina, and manages to keep her feet, but barely.

Permalink Eye

She does her best to steer Jenn to around and behind the pile of junk, oh god she can't get her out of the mud the platform's going to be occupied - 

Permalink Eye

Elizabeth helps.

Permalink Eye

Jenn makes it behind the pile of junk before her knees give way completely.

Permalink Eye

She's bigger than Bina, and mostly uninjured, and can drag Jenn up out of the mud - it involves a bit of precarious balance, and holding her in her arms, but it's doable.

Permalink Eye

History has changed. Follow the cracks.

Permalink Eye

Jenn isn't out of it for long, waking abruptly, but with enough presence of mind not to pull away from Elizabeth.

"Sorry," she mumbles as she gets her legs back under her.

Permalink Eye

"It's okay. You alright?" Bina asks. "I have a small headache, but I don't even remember anything changing for me..."

Permalink Eye

"Think I flinched," Jenn supplies, stepping back from Elizabeth. "M'good. Not as bad as last time."

Permalink Eye

She nods. "I think past me's still dragging you..."

Permalink Eye

Yeah, Jenn is morbidly curious enough to look, very carefully, around the pile of junk.

Permalink Eye

Past Bina hasn't gotten very far. Past Bina is much, much smaller than Jenn like this.

She trips, and twists so Jenn's head stays above the mud. Her own doesn't.

It takes her a second to get back up.

Permalink Eye

Current Bina curls into a ball around the backpack. This wasn't pleasant to experience. It isn't pleasant to remember.

Permalink Eye

-Yeah. It's hard to watch. Something in Jenn feels like she'd be doing Bina a disservice if she looked away.

Permalink Eye

Elizabeth glances, but doesn't watch, instead surveying the area around them as much as she can.

Permalink Eye

Eventually (and it takes a good long while) Past Bina gets them up on the island and stops moving.

Permalink Eye

"I did say thank you for that," Jenn says, "didn't I?"

Permalink Eye

"...I don't remember."

Permalink Eye

Jenn turns, and hugs Bina. "We'll thank you. You did- something pretty spectacular to save me."

Permalink Eye

Clingy hug. "I couldn't not."

Permalink Eye

Jenn doesn't say any of the things she could, about how most people wouldn't have (about how Jenn isn't entirely certain she wouldn't have). Instead, she hugs Bina tighter.

"We should get a move on," she says, but makes no move to let go.

Permalink Eye

Bina's pretty thoroughly hugging her back. "Yeah. I think we're asleep. But I don't know for how long."

Permalink Eye

"I think...maybe half an hour? Not entirely clear. Still. We need to use that time."

Permalink Eye

Nod. Reluctant unhug. Then, to Elizabeth, "Can you get us to the office from here? Without going through camp?"

Permalink Eye

"I'd want to skim around camp for safety, but to be honest it might be better to walk around the outside - less likely to get us lost. We haven't explored the area with the office yet, other than marking it unsafe."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods sharply. "Let's do this then."

Permalink Eye

"It's past them, so we'll want to swing out a bit, but shifting back towards the wall shouldn't be difficult after that. I can lead the way."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods again, and takes the rucksack off Bina. She will totally do an insistent, stubborn thing with her eyes if Bina tries to resist.

Permalink Eye

Bina is fully capable of doing insistent, stubborn things with her eyes, too! And of clinging very tightly to her backpack.

Permalink Eye

-They really don't have time to argue. Jenn is very tempted to just pick Bina up. She resists the temptation.

"We trade if you need to," she states.

Permalink Eye

"Fine."

Permalink Eye

Alright then. Off they go?

Permalink Eye

Off they go indeed. Elizabeth's fine leading the way.

Permalink Eye

And Bina is very stubbornly not flagging. Much.

Permalink Eye

Jenn is keeping a very close eye on Bina. If she sees one stumble, so help her whatever god isn't green and tentacly and time-travelly, she is picking Bina up, consequences be damned.

Permalink Eye

Bina is being very careful! And also starting on filling Elizabeth in - mostly skipping over the 'I think the botfly grants wishes' because she super doesn't want that getting out.

Eventually she catches up to stuff Jenn hasn't heard yet, like the most recent dream.

Permalink Eye

Jenn fills in a handful of things from her perspective - mostly to make it clear that all three of them are seeing the time shenanigans in a different way. But mostly just lets Bina explain.

Permalink Eye

Elizabeth does eventually ask Jenn, "I'm moderately curious how she managed to catch you," during a lull while Bina gets some water.

Permalink Eye

...Where's a distraction when you need one?

Jenn looks somewhat cagey. "She's surprisingly fast," she says, which does not really answer any questions. "And she cheats."

Permalink Eye

"I would like an elaboration, I've had less opportunity to actually face her."

Permalink Eye

"If you must know, she hit me with a trash can. That was pretty successful in putting me off my game. I suppose I should just be thankful she didn't actually kill me."

Permalink Eye

"Wonder why. No offense, but according to Bina she would have killed James if given the opportunity - which matches with the messages we'd found in the office - and he's less of a threat."

Permalink Eye

Jenn smiles, and her whole demeanour changes, and suddenly, she almost resembles a college student, and her accent as she switches back to French suggests she's from France rather than Canada "But I'm just a lost tourist, just in town, why on earth would I be a threat?"

Permalink Eye

"She's bad at reading people then?" Elizabeth will ask, also in French, with an accent strongly implying a different region of France and not, actually, Quebec as she usually does.

Permalink Eye

Jenn laughs quietly and switches back to English. "I'm not really sure, but certainly not good at reading people who are presenting something different to what she's expecting."

Permalink Eye

"She hasn't seen me act seriously. I'm not sure she's aware of me as anyone other than a flustered girl with a clipboard. Might make for an edge."

Permalink Eye

"Perhaps, I think I might've blown my cover by lamping a flashlight at her head and hitting from a distance."

Permalink Eye

"Might make her more wary in general, too. She doesn't know I have a gun, though, I'm sure of that."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods. "Although she is also on the side of the Lovecraftian nightmare responsible for all this, and we don't know what it knows."

Permalink Eye

"Or how well it can communicate with her."

Permalink Eye

"Or that," Jenn agrees. "As much as I want to think we have an advantage with the gun, I'm not sure it's safe to make that assumption."

Permalink Eye

"We quite frankly have no idea what its informational advantage looks like. Is it perfectly precognitive? Is it capable of modeling humans, or is it just doing the equivalent of beating a video game with keysmashing? Does its memory continue across loops?"

Permalink Eye

"We need more intel."

Permalink Eye

"Some of the other me's might have left more journals? Or Twelve might've left more of her cryptic notes everywhere. Unfortunately I don't think I'm getting another chance to question Josephine anytime soon..."

Permalink Eye

"There was a note of notebooks left in the Moment."

Permalink Eye

She nods. "Hopefully the cryptic bullshit was just Twelve..."

Permalink Eye

"What, not given to bouts of cryptivity yourself?"

Permalink Eye

" - I usually either just give people information or don't. Not these hints and clues... Unless I guess I thought something was interceptable?"

Permalink Eye

"We do have tall and crazy to worry about. Although she doesn't appear to know French and you've got at least some, so why not leave the notes in French?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't know. I know Twelve didn't trust Three? There might've been more backstabbing going on elsewhere. But anything I could figure out Three probably could, or any of us could."

Permalink Eye

"And here is one of the many problems of time loops."

Permalink Eye

"Hiding information from some versions of myself but not all does, in fact, sound like a nightmare. I'm not clear on why Twelve wouldn't trust Three, though? In my experience people tend to assume even hypothetical versions of themselves have noble intentions."

Permalink Eye

Bina shrugs.

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..."

Permalink Eye

Jenn watches her quietly for a moment. Then figures, screw it, Bina needs the distraction, and scoops the small girl up.

Permalink Eye

She flails and just barely doesn't shriek.

Permalink Eye

Jenn adapts around the flailing and keeps a fairly firm hold - although if Bina really wants to escape, she'll put her back down.

Permalink Eye

Bina seems very insistent about this 'being self sufficient' thing, and will eventually flail herself free.

(She does seem thoroughly distracted though - she's more pouty than depressed.)

Permalink Eye

Jenn'll take what she can get.

Permalink Eye

They do eventually come upon an intact duplicate of the garage Jenn got the wiring from, then other - less intact - duplicates of buildings they've seen elsewhere.

Like temporal shadows.

Permalink Eye

"...Spooky," Jenn murmurs, after confirming it is the same garage. "I think we were right about this place being duplicates of itself."

Permalink Eye

She nods. "With the factory dream, the other me was talking about temporal shadows - or how there shouldn't be any from moving the factory." But of course a Bina was the one to screw up.

Permalink Eye

Jenn thinks about that, looks around. "It does make landmarks a little less... stable, than I would like."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. I think there's only one courtyard, though."

Permalink Eye

"That makes... a weird amount of sense actually."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "Ugh. I kind of hate the - way? This stuff makes sense? It's convenient."

Permalink Eye

"...Yeah. It is. Worryingly convenient."

Permalink Eye

"It should either make sense in a conventional science way or not make sense in a Lovecraftian way, it's - like it's running on story logic."

Permalink Eye

Jenn hums. "I feel like there should be a way we can turn that to our advantage. But I'm unsure enough of what rules we're playing by as is."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. Or if they're even stable."

Permalink Eye

"I hate the rules getting changed on me."

Permalink Eye

"Same."

Permalink Eye

"If it can change the rules at a whim, we do need to know - it's possibly worked around then, but that'd require having an idea of its psychology."

Permalink Eye

"...That's assuming we can comprehend it."

Permalink Eye

"I'd assume if it can model us we can likely model it, but that might not be true, yes."

Permalink Eye

Jenn hums neutrally.

Permalink Eye

Silence falls.

Trudge trudge trudge.

The area around them starts getting unstable, more buildings heavily damaged enough that their roofs have collapsed, or gates are leaning, and there's more debris buried beneath the mud.

Permalink Eye

Jenn gets more cautious as the buildings are more damaged, back to watching Bina carefully - although subtly.

Permalink Eye

She's not happy, but she isn't struggling too much, either.

Permalink Eye

Okay, that's something. How much further do they even have to go? They have to be running out of time before the naughts show up.

Permalink Eye

A few minutes and another bend later: "Hey, I recognize those! I think we're close," Bina says, pointing to two smokestacks, one of which has lettering on it. "None of the other smokestacks had words."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods. "Alright, it's... probably going to get more dangerous here. I don't know what kind of defences there'll be."

Permalink Eye

"Assuming Ira doesn't have allies? Hopefully none."

Permalink Eye

"She didn't particularly seem the ally making type."

Permalink Eye

"It doesn't seem likely the botfly's independently ensnared anyone else, too."

Permalink Eye

"It does seem...at least somewhat constrained in terms of location."

Permalink Eye

"Exactly. That people were having to be actively brought to it is a major indicator."

Permalink Eye

"Hm. The fact that people have been brought to it might give it foot soldiers. How good are you with that gun?"

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

She hums. "It'll have to be good enough."

Permalink Eye

"I'll probably want to lean for closer, too, there's low visibility and I suspect I won't get too many attempts."

Permalink Eye

"We aim for stealth. If we don't have to fight it's better."

Permalink Eye

"Not arguing that." No matter how much she likes the 'winning a shootout with the bad guy' fantasy, she can acknowledge reality.

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods. "Okay. I think we should stay quiet from here on out."

Permalink Eye

Thumbs up.

Permalink Eye

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."

Permalink Eye

"Botfly's in the courtyard, yes?"

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

Jenn sneaks another look. Can they get into the office from this side?

Permalink Eye

Through the window, or maybe through the collapsed building beside it.

Permalink Eye

Is the window already open or broken?

Permalink Eye

No, but it looks like it's on a track and can be slid up.

Permalink Eye

"Window," she murmurs, barely audible. "Should be able to get inside through it."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah," Bina whispers, and starts trudging forwards. The stretch before the office is mostly clear, at least.

Permalink Eye

Small mercies. Jenn's still keeping a sharp eye out.

Permalink Eye

The window is very, very faintly squeaky, but they're able to get inside without incident - 

A glance back towards the hole, clearly visible from here, will reveal the crane beginning to move.

Permalink Eye

Jenn starts a countdown in her head. (She has suspicions now, about the green flash they saw while they were ascending.)

She looks to Bina. "Your show," she murmurs. "Where would you hide something in here?"

Permalink Eye

"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.

-B12

Bina groans.

Permalink Eye

Elizabeth, meanwhile, discovers two discarded hazmat suits.

She suspects she knows where Josh and Kate went...

And then there's a metallic rattling outside, as if something is brushing up against the gate.

Permalink Eye

"Down," Jenn hisses.

Permalink Eye

Because that's the Corpse out there.

Permalink Eye

Bina drops to a crouch. Doesn't whisper, but does think - there's no maps - it might've been something there originally - 

The globe.

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.

-B12

Permalink Eye

Not-Ant is outside, looming outside the window, obviously looking for something-

Permalink Eye

Jenn keeps low to move over to Bina, looking to make sure Elizabeth is following them.

Permalink Eye

She does.

Permalink Eye

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 - "

Permalink Eye

Jenn doesn't necessarily like that, but she obeys, and reaches for Bina, watching for-

"Shit."

Permalink Eye

The Corpse has stuck its head into the office, and is looking directly at them.

Permalink Eye

Bina starts undoing her bandages - 

Permalink Eye

And the Corpse starts to move towards them-

Permalink Eye

She yanks her bandage down - has to let go of Jenn's hand - 

Permalink Eye

Jenn shifts her grip easily to Bina's shoulder, but looks and-

And the Corpse is too near, and they need a moment more, so she shifts, blocking Elizabeth and Bina-

Permalink Eye

The Corpse tries to bat her out of the way, while swerving around her, clawing deep into Jenn's shoulder-

Permalink Eye

Bina screams. 

Does not manage to unbind her bandages just yet.

Permalink Eye

And Elizabeth yanks her out of the way - the only way out's just past the corpse, where it broke through the wall, or the window which's too slow - 

Permalink Eye

"Moment," Jenn manages, and it sounds, rather, like she's about to lose consciousness again as she collapses towards Bina, reaching out to get back in contact with the pair.

Permalink Eye

Bina lunges for her - 

Permalink Eye

The Corpse manages to get in the way.

Permalink Eye

Elizabeth picks her up and hauls her out of the office - they can't go towards the courtyard - 

Back into the mud.

"We'll circle back!" she says, as Bina struggles.

Permalink Eye

The Corpse goes to scramble after them-

Permalink Eye

Jenn isn't moving.

Permalink Eye

They didn't hear a gunshot, the first time.

So she drops Bina, says, "Run that way," and throws a brick at the Corpse.

And runs the other way from Bina.

Permalink Eye

She's stood, outside the cafe where Bina works (...except that isn't right? She doesn't know which cafe Bina works at, this isn't where she was before.)

Bina gets off work soon, and they'd agreed to meet.

Permalink Eye

Bina waves goodbye to her coworkers, and runs out to see Jenn, smiling and clearly only a little tired.

"Jenn!" she calls. "Uh - hey - " she blushes a bit, then, "How've you been?"

Permalink Eye

Jenn smiles and gives a small wave. (Bina's blushing is, as ever, adorable.)

"Hey you," she greets, holding out her arms for a hug. "Good, good. Mama's been keeping me busy, but that's the way of things. You?"

Permalink Eye

"Glad summer classes are just about over. I'll have more time... For a few weeks, at least."

Permalink Eye

"That'll be good. Do I get to steal you for some of it?"

Permalink Eye

"Hopefully!" She brushes up against Jenn. "So, want to go anywhere in particular? You look like you could use something to eat, but I'd rather not have my coworkers hovering over me, you know."

Permalink Eye

Jenn drapes a companionable arm around Bina's shoulder. "You know where's good to eat, and you're not wrong. I'm starving. My treat, so price isn't an object."

Permalink Eye

She smiles, her skin radiant in the city's green glow, and leads the way. "I know just the place. This new soup shop."

Permalink Eye

"Now that sounds perfect."

(...Perhaps a little too perfect?)

Permalink Eye

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.

Permalink Eye

The sense of wrongness intensifies.

(Wasn't she just in the office? With Bina and Elizabeth, and not-Ant and-)

"You're not Bina," she says, staring at the soup.

Permalink Eye

"What do you mean? Are you feeling okay, Jenn - you really should eat - "

Permalink Eye

"No. I don't think I am okay. I don't think any of this is okay. I met Bina when we were chained together under a laundromat by a psycho. Not-"

Not how? How had Jenn met Bina.

Permalink Eye

"Jenn, we met three weeks ago, remember? You were on my campus. It's a month from now. That didn't happen."

Permalink Eye

"And there," Jenn says, looking to not-Bina. "That phrasing. 'A month from now'. How can it be a month from now? It's either now, or it isn't."

Permalink Eye

"It makes perfect sense? Please eat, Jenn, who knows what'll get into you if you don't - "

Permalink Eye

"Who know what'll get into me if I do."

Permalink Eye

"Something that'll help you."

Permalink Eye

"Or something that will help you. Whoever, whatever you are. Is this how you win? When you win?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, Jenn. There's nobody to look anymore."

And the restaurant, the streets are suddenly empty.

Like they've always been.

Permalink Eye

Because that's not creepy at all. Jenn would, she thinks, like to wake up now.

"Except you need people to look. Why?"

Permalink Eye

"Who says I did this?"

And the dream ends.

Permalink Eye

Jenn surges awake sucking in lungfuls of air like she'd just been drowning.

Permalink Eye

"Jenn! Jenn, it's okay, we're in the Moment - don't move you'll hurt yourself - "

Permalink Eye

'How is she even conscious' is a question Elizabeth would like answered.

"Bina's right. You've lost a lot of blood."

Permalink Eye

"I'm fine," she bites out, harsher than she intends, but she needs to shift, needs to move-

-Except she shouldn't be fine. She remembers getting clawed. She tries to twist to look at her own shoulder where she'd felt claws rip into her.

Permalink Eye

"You weren't moving - "

The shoulder is still raw and open, still bleeding, and going by the amount of blood on and spreading around her Jenn really, really should be doing much worse. Bina's trying to press already bloody fabric against a part that's spurting.

Permalink Eye

"Hey, I'm alright," Jenn reassures her, admits that if she wasn't currently losing blood at a rapid pace that would probably be a lot more reassuring. She isn't entirely sure how she's conscious.

Permalink Eye

"Then let me stop the bleeding."

Permalink Eye

"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.

Permalink Eye

As Bina stems the bleed, Elizabeth says, "...I don't think you should have that much range of motion. There's. A lot of damage."

Permalink Eye

"-High pain tolerance?" Jenn suggests. "Does it look like the muscles and tendons are severed? You'd be surprised what people can work through."

Permalink Eye

"Your collarbone's shattered. The muscles and tendons over and around it are badly torn."

Permalink Eye

"...It doesn't feel that bad. And like. Not in an 'adrenaline is a hell of a drug' way."

Permalink Eye

She manages to hold pressure on whichever artery's spurting for long enough that it kind of stops. Or maybe it's out of blood. Still, Bina retracts bloody fingers, then shifts to trying to stop the rest of the bleeding.

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

"Pretty sure if I was going to die, I'd be dead by now."

Permalink Eye

"I doubt stitches would hurt."

Permalink Eye

"...Possibly quite literally."

Jenn chuckles at her own words.

Permalink Eye

She quirks an eyebrow, while Bina mutters 'not funny.'

"I'll leave you to the hopefully not dying, then," she says, and starts her search.

Permalink Eye

Jenn sobers at little at Bina's words. "I'm gonna be okay, Bina," she says. "Although I was worried earlier that I'd go out as anti-climactically as my previous iterations."

Permalink Eye

She appears to be sniffling a bit.

Permalink Eye

"-Hey. Hey. Damnit- Bina, c'mere, let me hug you."

Permalink Eye

"Gotta keep pressure on it..." she mutters, but does look like someone who really needs a hug.

Permalink Eye

"No see, if you come around here, you can pull against the wound rather than push. You can still keep pressure up."

Permalink Eye

She leans in, kind of awkwardly rearranging herself to still keep a continual pressure.

Permalink Eye

Jenn hugs her. "Are you okay? Things get...hazy. After that thing hit me."

Permalink Eye

"It didn't catch us. Elizabeth got me out then distracted it, so I could go back to you. She got it away then came back. Then we traveled - here."

Permalink Eye

"I'm glad you're okay. Makes this worth it."

Permalink Eye

"You're - really badly hurt, that's not - "

Permalink Eye

Jenn hugs her tighter. "I'm alive. And you and Elizabeth are gonna get me stitched up and I'll be fine."

Permalink Eye

"You're not allowed to die."

Permalink Eye

Jenn's quiet for a moment, and then kisses Bina's hair. "I'll do my best not to."

Permalink Eye

She blushes, not that it's super visible. "You better," she grumbles.

Permalink Eye

"I promise." Those aren't words she uses lightly.

Permalink Eye

Nod. (She believes her.)

Permalink Eye

Well. In the meantime. "I think I might've met our antagonist."

Permalink Eye

"...The botfly?"

Permalink Eye

"I mean. Not in that form. But..."

And Jenn starts to explain her dream.

Permalink Eye

Awkward squeeze. "That sounds horrible. You - weren't having any weird dreams before?"

Permalink Eye

"No. Not really. Not that I've slept much..."

Permalink Eye

"Ugh. I hate these - cryptic mysteries."

Permalink Eye

"You and me both," Jenn agrees tiredly.

Permalink Eye

Quiet, then: "I think the other me's might've. Been wrong about stuff. I don't think it's - playing by physics."

Permalink Eye

"I think you're right. Not much of any of this is... Scientifically sound."

Permalink Eye

She nods. "The - symbol with Josephine. The dreams. Ant. It's all - Twelve thought math applied."

Permalink Eye

"I mean. Twelve was...pretty paranoid. But this?" she gestures vaguely back at her shoulder with her head. "This doesn't make sense either."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. You can kind of pretend time travel obeys physics, but - I don't think that does. It's - a different set of rules, if it's any rules at all."

Permalink Eye

"It would be nice if it did. But-" Jenn sighs. "This thing is definitely not constrained by the laws we are- were?"

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

And Elizabeth starts to approach. "Hey. We found a medical kit. Isn't much, but..."

Permalink Eye

"Better than nothing." Pause. "...we?"

Permalink Eye

"Ant's here. Ey was just - in the street when we popped in."

Permalink Eye

"...Huh. Okay then."

Permalink Eye

"Another nonsensical thing," Bina says, shifting so Elizabeth can get to work on making Jenn's shoulder at least look less gruesome. "I think ey's avoiding the blood, though."

Permalink Eye

"I don't blame em. It's a lot of blood."

Permalink Eye

"Kind of is."

Permalink Eye

"If you're not going to die I'd actually like you to shower before we bind this," Elizabeth says. "So we don't run out of supplies, and so you're moderately less likely to get a major infection. I'm not sure how - whatever - will handle septic shock."

Permalink Eye

"I think I can manage that. Point me in the right direction?"

Permalink Eye

"There's houses all around. We're in front of the laundromat right now, and most of the rest of this is residential."

Permalink Eye

"Okay then. Point me away from where Ant is?"

Permalink Eye

She points to a house right across from the laundromat.

Permalink Eye

She climbs carefully to her feet and heads in the direction of that house.

Permalink Eye

Bina helps her.

Permalink Eye

She's pretty sure she doesn't need the help, but she expects Bina would completely ignore her if she tried to claim that. Anyway! Great shower finding mission! They don't need to contend with door locks do they?

Permalink Eye

Apparently not, but there's signs someone's gone through and picked this lock already.

Permalink Eye

"Lock picking a skill of yours?"

Permalink Eye

"I told you about that party, right? I guess other me's might've gotten better at it."

Permalink Eye

"It's a useful skill to have."

Bathroom?

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, apparently. At the time didn't think I'd ever need it unless I, like, forgot my keys or something though..."

Bathroom!

...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.

Permalink Eye

"I think I'll be okay from here," she says carefully.

Permalink Eye

"...Are you sure?"

Permalink Eye

"Eh. As sure as I can be about anything right now..."

Permalink Eye

She nods. "I'll be right outside the door, okay?"

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods, smiles gratefully. "I'll yell if I need you."

Permalink Eye

"You better!" And she'll disentangle herself, and then sort of awkwardly sidle out of the bathroom.

Permalink Eye

Jenn has to admit, the shower is appealing. Still, she's quick about it, washing thoroughly, and hissing a little as she cleans her shoulder.

"-Their towels are all white," she calls through the door when she's done.

Permalink Eye

"They'll have bleach! Or someone will! Or we can get more towels!"

Permalink Eye

"-True."

Jenn uses one towel to dry herself off, and a dry one to wrap around herself, sticking her head out the door. "Gonna need to hunt up some clothes as well. Once I'm not bleeding"

Permalink Eye

Blush! "I'll just go do that then!" Bina almost squeaks. "Uh - Elizabeth has the medical stuff - "

Permalink Eye

"I'll go directly to Elizabeth," Jenn assures.

Permalink Eye

Nod, and she'll sort of rush off.

To find clothes.

And not to have a panic attack, brain, come on get it together.

Permalink Eye

And Jenn will go find Elizabeth.

Permalink Eye

Elizabeth's out on the street, inspecting a giant series of bins of machines. There's medical supplies laid on the stoop of the house Jenn went into, which Elizabeth points at. "Bandages are there. You doing alright? Where's Bina?"

Permalink Eye

"I feel surprisingly fine for the fact that I've lost...probably most of my blood. Bina's gone in search of clothes."

Jenn sets about bandaging herself up.

Permalink Eye

"Let me know if you want any help. Shoulders are awkward for bandaging even someone else."

Permalink Eye

She stills for a moment, self-reliance and bullheaded stubbornness warring with logic and practicality. "If you don't mind," she says when practicality wins out.

Permalink Eye

"Right." And she sets down what she was examining and comes to help.

"I'm assuming this whole 'not bleeding out' thing is new?"

Permalink Eye

"If we're being technical, I think the problem is more me bleeding out and not dying."

Permalink Eye

"You don't die when you bleed out. Bina has - some sort of temporal anomaly embedded in her arm. Ant is a ghost. Ira has - some sort of control over the Corpse and the Naughts."

"No one else has been popping up with superpowers."

Permalink Eye

"Not so far."

Permalink Eye

"Everyone we know of has interacted with the botfly somehow. Ira works for it. Bina was stabbed. You looked at it."

Permalink Eye

"You looked at it."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. I don't know if I've got something. I don't know how it's assigning things, if it is."

Permalink Eye

"Don't know how to test it either."

Permalink Eye

"If it is... Likely they advance its cause somehow or they're an inherent property of the creature - or it otherwise has no choice."

"We should at least try to - figure out connections between people, and possible applications."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. But we all need to get some rest first. We've been running full tilt at this since we started."

Permalink Eye

She nods, and finishes tying the bandage in place. "Sensible. There's food, here, so I suppose we have time."

Permalink Eye

Jenn checks her range of movement, finds it acceptable. "We need to figure out something resembling a plan."

Permalink Eye

"Yes. We also need to go through what past Binas have done - hopefully they left records."

Permalink Eye

"I'm pretty sure they have."

Speaking of Binas, any sign of theirs?

Permalink Eye

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..."

Permalink Eye

Jenn's not going to be fussy about sizing right now. "Mm. Probably clear the blood off first. Seems...polite." (Exactly what is the etiquette for pretty much bleeding out in front of the ghost(?) of a dead teenager?)

Permalink Eye

"Right. I'll - try to find a garden hose or something." She hands over the clothes.

Permalink Eye

Jenn ducks back into the house to trade towel for clothing, and then goes to see if she can help find a hose.

Permalink Eye

Bina's found one, but it doesn't stretch far enough, and she's having less luck with extenders.

Permalink Eye

"-Buckets and try and aim the flow of water into the nearest storm drain?"

Permalink Eye

"Probably best, yeah." She scrubs at her face, further smearing mud and a bit of blood.

Permalink Eye

"You should go wash your face. And we should clean up your knees as well."

Permalink Eye

She opens her mouth, pauses, then deflates. "I should probably shower and change. I think I saw some clothes that'd fit me. Probably Twelve's."

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods. "I'll clear up the blood and go see what our options are for food."

Permalink Eye

"Thanks." And off to shower.

Permalink Eye

And Jenn washes the blood off the street as best she can.

"You said there was food?" she asks Elizabeth.

Permalink Eye

"Yes. That I can see. I'm hesitant to touch most of this without a more thorough cleaning, though. And there might be more inside the houses."

Permalink Eye

"I'll go see what I can rustle up. Maybe take a break and shower."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, that seems reasonable. And food sounds good. I'll also let Ant know the blood's gone?"

Permalink Eye

Jenn nods. "Thanks."

Permalink Eye

"Thank you for managing food." And she's off to notify Ant, find clothes, and shower.

Permalink Eye

Well. With the blood gone, Ant will actually explore.

Permalink Eye

And Jenn goes to see what food they have and make some kind of dinner.

Permalink Eye

It's mostly non-perishables, but there's some wrapped fresh fruits and vegetables.

Bina and Elizabeth both emerge fairly soon.

Permalink Eye

Jenn has a fairly simple, but perfectly acceptable dinner put together for them all by that point.

Permalink Eye

"Thanks! This looks like the most delicious thing I've ever seen," Bina says as she comes in.

Permalink Eye

"Can't promise that, but after the morning we've had, I know the feeling."

Permalink Eye

"Oh gods, that smells good."

Permalink Eye

"...Ant, you get hungry?" Elizabeth asks, also coming in.

Permalink Eye

"I mean. Not until I was here? When I was just... In Bina's dreams? Not so much?"

Permalink Eye

"I remember you being hungry in the Josephine dream..."

Permalink Eye

"-Oh. Yeah. I'd forgotten that."

Permalink Eye

"Speaking of forgetting... Do you remember, that first time we met, after climbing up, landing in the laundromat and seeing an older me and these two?"

She super doesn't want to bring that up, but it seems important to know what happened.

Permalink Eye

"...should I?"

Permalink Eye

"We time traveled, and saw younger me climbing up with you on her back. You were there, in - like, the real world. And then you apparently vanished - there was a complicated thing with me jumping into a time hole, I didn't actually see what happened..."

Permalink Eye

"...no. I don't remember that."

Permalink Eye

"Something did happen with you and the not-you."

Permalink Eye

"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."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. No. No memory of it at all..."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "I'll need to get you caught up too on - everything, I guess."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. That-that seems like a good idea."

Permalink Eye

She'll start eating, then, and: "There's been a lot." She bites her lip.

Permalink Eye

Ant nods, and starts eating. "Start at the beginning?"

Permalink Eye

She nods, and does so.

Permalink Eye

Jenn helps out where she can.

Permalink Eye

Ant's mostly quiet as ey listens, occasionally grimacing when Ira comes up.

Permalink Eye

Bina's exhausted by the time she's done - more emotionally than physically, but still.

Permalink Eye

"We should write all this down. Then we don't have to talk it through each time."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not sure we should - add too many more people. But writing's a good idea, s'long as we leave it somewhere Ira can't get. Or write it in French."

Permalink Eye

"French, and maybe coded."

Permalink Eye

"That'd hinder showing it to anyone else. And I'm not good at codes - but it's not like there'll be a loop after this to leave notes for..."

Permalink Eye

"Fair," Jenn agrees. "French will probably do the trick."

Permalink Eye

"Hopefully we'll be able to just keep everything here."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. About that. Is it just supposed to be like...a block? There's kind of an abrupt...nothing?"

Permalink Eye

"...I don't think so. That sounds. Moderately freaky."

Permalink Eye

"It was a bit freaky yes."

Permalink Eye

Jenn rubs a hand over her face. "We're gonna need to look at that. And find these journals."

Permalink Eye

"There were books in the boxes outside. Seemed to be a mixture of journals and reference manuals."

Permalink