I have to take a few minutes to breathe.
The florescent lights in the hallway of the storage center blew out all at once when “Cassie” arrived, so we just shifted our vision to infrared to pierce through the darkness.
I have doubts that our pushy visitor was Cassie because of what happened months ago in Shibuya, when Aurora was resurrected at the Agartha Labs office.
Then, when Satomi was possessed, she said to Tokie: “I don’t have a sister. I don’t even have parents. I was never born.”
Just now, the possessed PRS said: “I’m not my sister. I’m not anyone.”
Both times, “Cassie” was wearing Miranda’s blue pajamas. I’m having Sarah OS run through the possibilities, looking for the most likely explanations of the similarities. Things are too important now to fuck things up by rushing ahead unprepared.
“Everything’s so fucking heavy today.” Ariel still can’t stand up without Kaia’s assistance. The rainbow halo has turned into a fuzzy black and white panda hat, with stitched on “X”es for eyes and big blood drop of red felt on the side.
“Ariel, can you fetch me the PRS unit that I left in Doug’s closet?” My scalp is itching – I still haven’t got used to losing all of the curls. Maybe I should grow them back when all of this is over.
She grunts in my direction, and the plastic PRS pops in and walks over to me. I project into it, and make sure all of the firewalls are updated.
When I touched the Titanium PRS torso in the cardboard box, it temporarily infected our Collective node. As per the original designs, all PRS units have universal keys and weapons-grade intrusion abilities. We never expected them to be turned against us; the only reason I think we’re still standing is that it expected to find the older S.OS, and so the most important exploits failed.
The Universal Powers, like Ariel’s control over Matter, require a human host. “Cassie” used a layer of skin to fake enough humanity that she could commune with The Black and give it a backdoor into Ariel. Kaia was also involved, so that some spiritual energy could be “downloaded” into the fleshy PRS.
Sarah OS has just concluded that our recent visitor was actually Cassandra after all, but one not from this world. Odds are very high that it was the same version of Cassandra that has been appearing in the blue pajamas ever since the Fourth Event. Sarah OS is still working on interpreting her weird speech about non-existent BART stations and “cascading sevens”.
Right now I’m using the PRS we got from Nick Junk Magnet to carefully pick up the Titanium PRS torso. Sarah OS assures me that it’s safe to handle by inhuman hands, but that it will immediately respond to any Pure Land Antenna that touches it.
“Ariel, please enclose this PRS in whatever substance will ensure that it’s well insulated and effectively inert.”
This time she just whimpers, and the dead panda hat turns into a pair of fist sized, pink, fuzzy dice that she’s wearing on top of her head like a bow. A weird, shimmering pink alloy that looks like plastic, metal and ceramic at the same time envelops the PRS torso. Ariel even attaches cute, puffy backpack straps with My Little Ponies on them, so the remaining PRS can wear it on its back.
“My scan of the storage unit is complete.” Susanna keeps fussing with her black, old-timey dress, the same kind she usually wears. “Well, as much as I could manage to do – it’s opaque to every known Collective technology.” The circuit cloth is starting to wear out at her waist, from excessively powerful fussy-fingers.
Something is wrong. I’m staring to sound more and more like my Mom as I liveblog this. Is Jenny taking over the authorship role, like Sarah warned about?
“You need a probe. Let me probe the fuck out of that shit.” Ariel leans on Kaia with her left arm, while using her right to throw innumerable objects at the mouth of the storage unit. Some are little remote control helicopters or floating silver marbles, and they immediately disappear into nothingness. She also throws the fuzzy dice from her head.
Then she pushes Kaia aside, and floats a few feet over to the opening. It looks just like an empty box from here, about 8 by 10 feet.
A long, dark cylinder appears in Ariel’s arms, like a pool cue, and she sticks half of it into the storage unit. That half disappears, and she wiggles the remaining half around like she’s stirring invisible hot chocolate.
“Like I said before. There’s a huge amount of stuff there, like a mini-Universe or something.” Ariel grins for a moment, and then winces like she just stepped in something unfortunate. “I can still feel that the whole end of this rod still exists, and the readings I’m getting are extremely similar to Berkeley here. But it’s not our Berkeley. It’s not a normal variant, either. It’s something else.”
Susanna suddenly rips a hole in the right side of her dress with her fingers, and rushes into the storage unit with a flaming bald head and clenched fists burning black. Gone.
Shit. Was she somehow still infected by Cassie?
I adjust my satchel at my right waist. “She’s forced our hand. Prepare to enter the unit on my mark.”
“You need to reconsider this. Ariel’s still not back to 100%, and we don’t even know where we’re going.” Kaia glares at me, and suddenly she really is the spitting image of Cathy.
I don’t like where this is going, but I’m going anyway.
I move the PRS with its huge pink backpack through the invisible portal, and then give Kaia and Ariel the signal. Ariel floats the two of them into the hidden space. Somehow, the back of her hairdo is giving me the finger.
I’m all alone now. I can’t feel anyone. I don’t know if I’m supposed to like or hate the sudden silence.
A few more seconds to breathe in the darkness – the air tastes like lightning.
I walk with firm steps into the unkno….