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A Helping Hand

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Taylor

Jun 17, 2011

The mission was a success. We hadn’t anticipated Triumph and Prism being there, and I had to use my new paralysis bugs -which I would have preferred to keep a secret longer- to take Triumph down, but the job was done. I’d sent Trickster and Genesis to report back to Coil with the excuse I wanted to check back on my territory. It wasn’t exactly untrue, but I also wanted to get some distance so I could give Tattletale a call. She said they were going to try to kill me, but nothing happened. I wanted answers.

She picked up on the first ring. I’d barely gotten out my side of the code, “Pear, B-” before she cut me off in a panic.

“Cherry, N- What did you do? Coil just rushed out of here like a bat out of hell!”

“...What?”

x

Interlude 1

Coil

Twenty minutes earlier

It bothered me some, devoting both of my realities to running the job with the Mayor and not having a control reality in case the job didn’t go well, but Skitter needed to be dealt with. And she was too tricky to not have some insurance.

It was a shame I had to get rid of her, as she was one of my most effective and resourceful assets. Unfortunately, second only to the one she asked of me. And she had a powerful asset of her own now. Her morals got in the way and I knew she wouldn’t wait much longer before she made her move. So I had to act first.

In both realities I sent them to talk to the Mayor, but in one reality I gave Trickster an extra order. To make sure that Skitter didn’t survive the job. I couldn’t be sure he would succeed, so I wanted the insurance that if he tried and failed I could close the reality and still have the job complete in a reality where I had her still.

Assuming they completed the job in either reality.

Hence, my discomfort.

So now I was sitting in my secure office with no less than twenty armed soldiers between myself and the heavy metal doors. I was safe, but I couldn’t be sure my plans we-

A sharp, sudden pain in my ankle. I glanced around in surprise as the pain spread through my body.

Then everything went black.

 

In my other reality I flinched back against my chair. What was that? What had happened?

I kept the other reality -the one in which I had ordered Trickster to kill Skitter- open a few moments longer to see if I could gather more information, before closing it when I was only greeted by more blackness. The fact it hadn’t closed of it’s own accord at least told me I hadn’t died, but whatever had happened wasn’t good.

I immediately opened another reality and jumped out of my chair while I stayed seated in my first.

Nothing more happened after a few moments so I took some time to think. The only difference between my two realities had been the orders I gave Trickster, so whatever happened should have been a result of that. Trickster would have no reason to do anything like this so that would likely mean he failed and this was a retaliation from Skitter? But how could she do something like this here…

In both realities I started looking around the room. My room was very minimalistic; only featuring a simple bed, a trunk with some essentials and supplies, my desk with its computer set up for research, and simple concrete floor and walls. After a brief search I noticed a strange, distorted lump blending in with the concrete floor.

In the reality where I still sat at my desk I clicked what appeared to be just a part of my desktop wallpaper and the bottommost drawer popped open. I quickly pulled out the handgun I kept there and shot the lump.

I saw some strange yellow fluid burst forth from the lump as the bullet pierced it and blew it apart. Just as I was beginning to make out the form of some sort of bug among the remains I felt the pain slice across my ankle again.

Then black.

 

My breath quickened in my remaining reality as I closed the one where I shot the bug and opened another.

So she had some sort of insurance in place. If I kill one then something else does it.

One reality: I stood in my office trying to calm my breath.

The other: I open my door and go to the central chamber to find Tattletale talking to some of the mercenaries. “Tattletale, I’d like to discuss some matters. Come with me.” She seemed confused at first, then quickly suspicious. I turned to begin walking to another room down the hall before she had a chance to get a better read on me. On the way I gestured for Mr. Pitter to follow us, still trying to avoid giving Tattletale anything.

We reached the other room, another unassuming metal door with a plain concrete room beyond it. We entered and Mr. Pitter closed the door behind us. As soon as Tattletale took in the gurney and the tools beside it, she was already turning back to the door; only to see Mr. Pitter had already drawn a handgun and trained it on her.

“Tattletale, I have some questions.”

“Finally done with me, huh?” She turned back to me. “No, you’re planning to drop this timeline aren’t you? Using it for information. Going to interrogate me, then make it so it never happened?”

She did this every time. “Knowing that won’t stop you from telling me. Make this easier on both of us. Skitter has some way of extending her range and some new bugs. Tell me how.”

Tattletale just smirked and crossed her arms. “This isn’t the first time you’ve done this. That many times, really? Then you must know how this will go. I may break, but I’ll take as much of your time as I can, first.”

I sighed. She was right, as usual. One of the many reasons these rooms were soundproofed. “Mr. Pitter.”

A gunshot as Mr. Pitter shot her in the leg and she screamed. Then, almost immediately after-

Sharp pain. Darkness.

 

Back in my office I clenched my hands and closed that reality and split again. I hated having my two realities so close together, but I needed to escape this. I may not have learned as much as I’d like from that reality, but I at least learned whatever this was, was not restricted to my office and there were other ways to trigger it. Was it Tattletale being hurt? The gunshot?

One reality: I sat at my desk and began checking mission reports, trying to find out anything I could of her capabilities to explain this.

The other: I left my office and went straight for the room next to mine. Opening the door revealed a girl laying on the cot in her simple white gown.

“Candy?” She blinked up at me as the light from the hallway spilled over her.

“Not right now, pet, I have some questions.” I spoke maybe a bit more rushed than usual, but I felt it could be excused given the circumstances.

She sighed but patiently waited for my questions.

“Chance that there are any problems in the next hour?”

Her face scrunched up as she seemed to be thinking harder than usual. “Forty-seven point eight four nine? It hurts. Something is making it hard.”

I took a sharp breath, unnerved by how high the number was. Usually it was in the single digits. I expected this given current circumstances but… As for her troubles, it was probably because I was using my power so much. It skewed the numbers. Which if anything, made me nervous the number could actually be higher.

“Chance of problems in the next hour if I stay here versus if I leave the base?”

She sat up, thinking hard again. “Sixty-four point nine two four if you stay and...fourteen point three one eight if you leave.”

Still higher than I’d like, but at least it gave me a good idea of what to do next.

“Come with me, pet.” I waved for her to follow me and turned to leave.

“We’re...I’m going out?” I heard faintly, behind me.

“Yes, now hurry.” I needed to get out of here, but I couldn’t leave her behind or I risked losing my greatest asset and leverage. “Mr. Pitter, watch the girl. Captain Travis, assemble your men as an escort for me.” I called to the two men as I led my pet to the central chamber, her scurrying along behind me.

They all hurried to obey, not used to seeing me so hurried myself, likely. We made it out of the base and into the parking garage. Just as I was climbing into one of the vans-

Pain.

Dark.

 

“What!?” I slammed my fist on my desk, back in my office, closing the reality again. What triggered it this time? Was it me leaving? The girl said my odds were better that way! And nothing was in the mission reports that would explain this. Maybe something new she learned when dealing with the Nine? I had stayed out of that for the most part. Or...was it Panacea?

I knew her power could do more than just heal, but I didn’t think it could do anything that would cause this. Especially not so soon, but there was no other explanation.

Skitter’s power could reach me here at the base, and she had some new bugs that easily infiltrated my sanctum and could easily incapacitate me; hanging over me like some Sword of Damocles. I had to escape.

In both realities I rose from my desk and hurried from the room.

One reality: “Captain Travis, Captain Samuels, Captain Baker, with me.” I called to some of my soldiers, barely stopping as they scrambled to follow me out.

The second: I just hurried out without saying a word to anyone, heading straight for the parking garage. Only stopping to wave for Creep, my usual discreet driver.

First reality: We pulled out of the parking garage in a trio of vans and I still hadn’t been taken out yet. It must have been the girl; she didn’t want me leaving with my pet. Then I would just have to get a different pet. I turned to the driver.

“Take us to the Boardwalk.”

Second: I went for the white, electrician’s van and Creep obediently hopped in the driver’s seat. “Usual drop-off point Creep.”

It was handy having obedient soldiers like Creep that didn’t ask any questions and wouldn’t try anything stupid. If my other plan failed, I would just change back into my civics and have Creep drop me off and return to hide in my civilian life as I think of a new plan.

First: A short drive later and we were coming into the boardwalk. Skitter’s territory. If I couldn’t have my pet, I would take hers.

I ordered them to stop about a block from her lair and we began piling out, guns at the ready. Just as I was about to follow I heard gunfire and looked up.

Red body armor.

Assault.

There was a crunch as he struck the front of the van and it flipped, with me inside.

I closed the reality.

Second: “Fuck.”

Well, time for the backup plan.