Rachel in Infinity City: Part 1

Grandma Vander Sloot told me about the city, how it existed simultaneously in an infinity of alternate dimensions, how an alley could lead you somewhere Kaiser Wilhelm and Germany won World War I, and you might meet the version of yourself that lived there.

She told me about the people imprisoned there, exiles from too many universes to name.

You’d think a place like that might put you in mind of Victorian Gothic novels—Wuthering Heights’ moors and ghosts, a decaying aristocracy, and their uneducated, superstitious servants.

If you did expect that, it would only be the first of a long list of disappointments.

It was a Stapledon weekend, and on Saturday morning, they’d put the older students on a bus, and drove for twenty minutes. They started at seven in the morning.

We’d been staying in the Defenders underground complex that was somewhere in the Great Plains. Where? Nebraska? Iowa? I couldn’t tell—someplace with a lot of grass.

At first I couldn’t see the city. Fifty foot tall, grey concrete walls rose out of the grassland. Barbed wire ran across the top, and guards stood with rifles on their backs. Sometimes they looked out. Other times, they looked in.

It looked like a prison.

Next to me, Travis (my ex-boyfriend) closed his eyes and sniffed the air.

Amazingly, weird habits like that weren’t why we broke up.

He opened his eyes. “Hey Rach, you okay?”

I leaned forward, resting my arms on the seat ahead of us. “Doing great. We’re going on a field trip to an actual field. I’m so excited I can barely control myself.”

He gave a snort. “You know it’s not really a field, right? It smells like New York City, but weirder. A lot weirder.”

As he said it, the sun came out, and the scene ahead of us changed. Buildings stood behind the walls. The nearest had flat roofs and architectural styles that made me think of France.

Behind them rose skyscrapers, but not close behind them—miles behind them.

The bus began to slow, stopping in front of the entrance. Wide and made with chain-link, it had barbed wire on the top. Men in green fatigues stood on the other side.

In the front of the bus, a man in a blue suit stood up. In his mid-50’s, he had that square-jawed look that all superheroes in movies seemed to have. In costume, we called him Bullet. Today we called him Mr. Krantz.

I wasn’t sure if that was his real name or not, but it didn’t matter. Either way I wasn’t impressed. It seemed like he got off on playing the authority figure.

And okay, I might have been reading things into what he did.

He stepped up and stood next to the first row of seats, blocking the aisle. “Do I have your attention?”

He paused, looking up and down the bus before continuing. “Good. I’m going to reiterate your instructions before you leave. As you know, Area 551, or as the residents call it, Infinity City, is an extra-dimensional anomaly. It exists in an unknown number of alternate universes at the same time.

“You may at some point in your career be called upon to catch a former resident of the city. It’s important therefore that you become familiar with the major neighborhoods and factions.

“This morning we’ll separate into groups and lead you on a tour through the major sections of the city. In the afternoon, we’ll allow you some free time to explore the core city.

“The core is the most stable part, and so there should be no reason for you to leave our universe, but as we all know, accidents happen. Therefore, each of you will be loaned a CDPS. In case you become separated, the CDPS will allow you to contact us, and find your way back to our universe.

“Now, any questions?”

No one asked anything.

Bullet nodded. “Good. Then I have one more thing to say. DO NOT lose your CDPS. First, we have a limited number, and they are quite expensive to manufacture. Second, it will be very difficult to get back.

“If you do lose your CDPS, your best bet is to backtrack immediately. You will probably get home. Plus, we are in communication with various groups that control the city in various versions of the city. If you give yourself up, they will likely be able to bring you back as well. I tell you now, though, that you will likely be quarantined so that we can determine whether you are yourself, or merely another version.”

He gave the bus a quick once over. “Alright. Stand up and get ready to exit. It’s time.”

21 thoughts on “Rachel in Infinity City: Part 1”

  1. Infinity City…never will you see a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Pollution. Nighttime muggings. Alleyways you wouldn’t want to walk through in the light of day.

    Bastards got rid of all of it.

    But you turn down one street and there’s them damn Top Knot gangsters and the flag has 51 stars on it. Turn down another and you’re in the Cherokee Nation. I swear, one time I poked my head in a cabinet and wound up in a giant cupboard with huge boy and and an Indian trying to kill me. Oh he looked impressive, but I just pulled out a gun and shot him.

    Though the time I wound up in some medievel fantasy place with some stony troll policeman with his badge carved on him was fun.

    The good news is, not a bad place to sell 18 tons of pure Austrian milk chocolate.

  2. Of course, there is no potential here for things to go really, really, badly, wrong. [grin]

    Multiple realities introduce all sorts of fun problems. What if you get a plea for help from an alternate you? What if you find your alternate thinks your life looks a lot more attractive than their own? And, if you are female, you can’t rely on the ‘Mirror, Mirror’ evil beard to give you warning. [grin]

    You might wonder if any of the worlds are ones where the Dominators have been a bit more successful. Then there might be worlds where mind swaps, or Manchurian Candidate options (such as hidden, waiting to be triggered, secondary personalities), are a lot more practical. What happens if you come out with no CDPS and there are several other ‘yous’ all claiming to be from your home universe? Can you tell you’ve got to your home universe, or just one that looks really similar?

    Of course, maybe they’ll have a nice, quiet, day trip, and nothing will go wrong, and they’ll learn all sorts of interesting and useful things. Hello Mr Murphy! [grin]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror,_Mirror_%28Star_Trek:_The_Original_Series%29

  3. area 551. lol. Mr. Krantz. Mr. Ros N Krantz. So what is the acronym for the communication device i did not get that clear. i think that this can only end badly. i like this concept, apparently every superhero story must cover alternate realities at some point, is this even the real Rachel, or are the real rachel and Nick fans of the super popular book “The Legion Of NOthing”? Ya thats right I want you to go meta Jim.

  4. Tastes vary on the subtleties of comma usage, most definitely, but I’m thinking this is slightly off:

    “Next to me, my ex-boyfriend, Travis closed his eyes and sniffed the air.”

    To my mind, either the comma after ‘ex-boyfriend’ needs to be removed, or another comma after ‘Travis’ should be added. Flow-wise, I’m inclined to the former.

    Now, story-wise, I’m super-stoked. Love it, love it, love it! What an awesome idea, totally underdone in superhero stories. (More common in Science Fiction and Fantasy, but not in this sub-/cross-genre.)

    Hg

  5. Wow, Jim, I’m psyched! I love stuff like this — like the Legion’s alternate evil counterparts, the Excalibur Crosstime Caper, Sliders, and the Age of Apocalypse, just for a few examples.

    I broke my “hiatus” rule and woke up from my emotional coma enough to comment, too!

  6. someone needs to tell me this chocolate reference. google has failed me. then again the search term of “austrian chocolate parallel universe” is quite odd.

  7. [quote]
    Next to me, my ex-boyfriend, Travis closed his eyes and sniffed the air.
    [end quote]
    I agree with Hydra- any other way i read it makes my head itch inside.

    [quote]The bus began to slow, stopping in front of the entrance.

    Wide and made with chain-link, it had barbed wire on the top. Men in green fatigues stood on the other side.[end quote]

    Something about these being separated bothered me but it might be residue of the itch from the other.

  8. captain mystic – that has to be a Cross-Dimensional Positioning System. What good would GPS do, after all?

    Cities require lots of inputs from outside to work well – food, water, power, construction materials and raw materials for manufacturing at least – so either it’s Gaza inside, or not all the versions of Infinity City are surrounded by 50′ high walls and armed guards.

    On the Gaza analogy, I understand digging tunnels out is a profitable business there.

  9. Roger Wilcocks/Hg/J.L.Dobias: Did a little editing of the points brought up. Hopefully, it works better now.

    AVR/Captain Mystic: Cross-Dimensional Positioning System is more or less what I had in mind. Citywide Dimensional Positioning System also works.

    Gavin: I love this kind of stuff too–which is why I liked Roger’s story, and why this kind of thing will be appearing from time to time.

    DWwolf: I had to think a little bit about how I planned to handle Rachel’s abilities in this context.

    Hg: The city originally came about in my mind as a place to run a science fiction RPG. It wasn’t connected to Legion of Nothing. The thing is, I could so easily justify fitting it into Legion I decided to include it.

    I’m likely to use it as a setting for its own stories one of these days.

    Dreamer: There are a lot of possibilities for this setting. I’m not going to even touch a hundredth of them in this story.

    Also, I don’t know if this will work everywhere, but, here’s a link to the full episode of Mirror, Mirror:
    http://www.startrek.com/watch_episode/6PMQlhVH6SY_

    PG: The other stuff has the potential to appear but not the Indian in the cupboard–which isn’t to say I didn’t laugh.

    WA_side: Yeah. This is going to be different. Hopefully in a successful way.

    Para: I hope so.

  10. Captain mystic : last week a lorry with 18 tons of chocolate got heisted in Austria. This bit news got a fair amount of attention worldwide. If not on a completly serious tone.

  11. P. Gecko: You’re the one who stole Sandy Island?

    I don’t suppose there’s any way I’ll get my secret Hero’s lair back from you?
    Didn’t think so. Probably why you took it in the first place…

    However, if you could just forward the contents of locker B13-49-Z2-C to me by attaching one of the pre-programmed vortex generators from the cabinet on level 6 near the escape trunk, I’d really appreciate it.

    No need to look inside the locker…
    Don’t bother looking in the locker…
    Please don’t look in the locker…

  12. Wanted: One valuable henchman. Ability to see, open doors, and speak required. Great health benefits offered. Must be willing to look inside a locker.
    Contact 555-SPR-VILN and tell the whoever answers, “My bearded lady has a better mustache than me.” Secrecy is important.

    1. Yep. It was briefly mentioned when Ray appeared for the first time. They’d broken up at Travis and Haley’s family’s Christmas party.

  13. I see the comments above where there was some sentence structure stuff about the Travis sniffing sentence.

    “Next to me, Travis (my ex-boyfriend) closed his eyes and sniffed the air.”

    I don’t think it’s wrong but it looks weird. Why not simply:

    “My ex-boyfriend Travis, who was sitting next to me, closed his eyes and sniffed the air.”

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