Rachel in Infinity City: Part 5

“Or,” I said, “if the Julie out there had a completely different problem which was worse.”

Tara broke in before I could continue or Travis could reply. “I think you both made good points. Julie’s powerful, and we don’t know what she’ll want to do because she doesn’t have the same history as our universe’s Julie. We’ll need to be careful on the way out. Does anybody have earplugs?”

Samita furrowed her brows, concentrating, and then started to talk. “I could have blocked out the sound around us, but I don’t have any idea where to get the materials I’d need.”

Tara smiled. “I’m sure I could help. We’d have to—”

“Leave,” Rod said, “and then we’d have to walk around deaf all day. I remember that spell. You used it when we ran into the banshee, remember?”

Samita held up her hand. “I know you didn’t like it, but it worked.”

I let go of my menu. “I’ll handle it. She won’t try to control me if she doesn’t know I’m there. I’ll turn invisible and see what she’s doing.”

Someone said something, but everyone’s voices faded into nothing when I turned intangible and floated through the wall.

It felt cold, but it always felt cold when I phased out. It felt colder the deeper into what Grandpa called “phase state” I got. It wasn’t an uncomfortable cold, more of a pleasant coolness. When I was out of phase, it felt natural.

At the same time, color drained out of the world around me. Sure, that might have been explained by going through a wall, but not really. Now everywhere around me looked like a lightly tinted black and white film.

Well, except for me. I was completely in color—blue jeans, black top, and my black “purse” looked exactly like they did normally.

In a second I’d floated through the wall, and hung above the grassy area outside the restaurant. The benches, and the river lay below me. All I had to do was find Julie—

“Guest,” said a low voice that could almost have been a growl. Unlike the voices of the people below me, it wasn’t distorted.

I wasn’t alone.

Turning toward the voice, I began to pull up my arms as Lee had taught me, ready to attack, ready to defend—even though it would have been totally, utterly useless in this fight.

The restaurant had two of those strange looking lion statues on either side of the entrance. One of them floated through the air toward me. It made a regular, deep rumbling noise that didn’t quite sound like a growl.

Oh God, it was laughing at me.

“Guest,” it said, “I mean you no harm. In fact, so long as your party remains in the restaurant, I will protect you at all costs. Please relax. You should have no need to use your training.”

It made a snorting noise.

Maybe I’d have been annoyed if I thought I had any chance of fighting it off.

“Thank you,” I said, trying to keep my voice level. “I don’t want to offend you, but my friends and I were afraid that an alternate version of someone we knew might have recognized us.”

It nodded slowly. “You speak of the one you call ‘Julie.’ She is no longer on our grounds. If she should return, we will escort her away from the premises and warn you.”

“Thank you.” I began to float back toward the wall I’d phased through.

“Wait,” the lion bounded over to me, its stone legs moving as well as any live animal I’d seen.

In a low, growling voice, it said, “I’d like to give you some advice.”

“Please do,” I said. Because when guardian spirits ask you if you’d like advice, you say yes.

“Be very careful of which room you return to. If you return to any other private room than your own, I will have to remove you.”

I nodded. “I’ll remember that.”

“Please do,” it said. “My other word of advice is that you watch how deeply you venture into the in-between spaces. In this place, the distance between the worlds is quite thin. You might float into another.”

“Thank you. I assure you that I’ll do my best to avoid that.”

“Excellent.” The lion turned, and in an instant stood next to the entrance of the restaurant again.

I turned back toward the room, trying to remember which section of the wall to plunge through.

Then it flickered, and for a second I could see Travis and the others dimly.

“Thanks,” I muttered, flew through the wall, and faded into the normal world.

Travis started. “I hate it when you do that.” He paused. “Are you okay?”

“Pretty good,” I said, “considering that I just got schooled by a statue.”

14 thoughts on “Rachel in Infinity City: Part 5”

  1. Those statues seem much more protective there than they do in real life. Might just be that Chinese restaurants there mean some serious business when they set up shop. Goddamn Mongolians, always comin’ into Infinity City, messing up our Panda Wok! We get them with the sweet and sour chicken next time.

    At least we can be fairly sure Rachel just didn’t go to the room of some Mirror Universe party of people. Unless the next part has her being yanked away by the guardians.

  2. Guess I’ll hide over here for a short while now that I’ve stirred up things more over there. Alternate universes have a way of popping up with superheroes.

    There is the universe of the Justice Lords with Ultraman, Super Woman, Owlman, Johnny Quick (I think), and Power Ring. But not all of them are mirrors. The Red Son universe features Superman landing in the Ukraine and becoming a Soviet hero while Lex Luthor becomes President of the U.S. One universe features Batman as a secret agent working for President Lincoln in the Civil War west. And on Marvel’s side, they used the Ultimate universe as a whole new line of comics. And then in some Fantastic Four story, Reed Richards is actually useful in some other universes.

    Mirror universes are more popular in general though. DC has one. City of Heroes had one in Praetorian Earth, which somewhat changed when they made it a lot more playable. The point of divergence on that was at least prior to the 1840s or so, whenever Lord Nemesis would have gone on to become a supervillain in a steampunk mecha body. In Praetoria, he was instead a simple toymaker. But somehow all kinds of other things were changed.

    Champions Online also features one very prominently. There is a special set of missions where you go to a mirror universe to help out their resistance. It appears as though Dr. Destroyer’s return is really just that universe’s evil version of Defender, the premiere Tony Stark-like superhero. In the main universe, he was inspired by the Battle of Detroit to build his own suit of power armor, rebuild the city, and be a hero to the world. In the other universe, he went evil and used shadow magic instead of power armor, then defeated the original Dr. Destroyer of his universe to utilize his resources as well.

    There’s always something to seeing how things might have been had they been changed just slightly. One word said differently here, one move in another direction there. Most are just briefly glimpsed, but it is kind of nice when there’s a sense of continuity, which is a sentiment I heard expressed about Deep Space Nine’s take on the mirror universe. Kirk did have an effect on Mirror Spock, but perhaps not the best one for humanity.

    1. I’ve always loved alternate universe stories.

      It offers up the potential to get another take on a character and what they could become.

  3. I liked the “What if the Skrulls won?” about Secret Invasion. Earth seems to be better off, embracing their new Skrull masters and intermingling, what with all the peace and advances and the ability to turn into a Skrull which reverses aging and several diseases. Except several of Earth’s heroes, like Spider-man, Thor, Captain America, Ironman, Black Panther, and such oppose it.

    There was some good potential there, up until how they decided to end it. I mean, we’re used to our freedom fighter types being supported secretly and going up against conquerors who are clearly bad. But there’s some interesting emotional things you can do when the world seems to be better off and people genuinely love what their new masters have done with the place. When your friends and family prefer the new rule and may have even been converted to the alien race themselves. And where the old heroes who fought against it are something to be shamed, or #1 enemies if they continue fighting.

    We’re used to stories where good guys fight bad guys or where good guys may fight good guys but it was a set up by a bad guy or one of them goes bad or something like that. But I know from some RP that it can be much worse to know your enemy really is a good guy, legitimately. Not being mind controlled, not having a secret agenda. Just a good guy. And you, also a good guy, have to oppose them.

  4. I didn’t read that alternate. Frankly, the idea grates on my nerves like a cheese shredder covered in salsa. I understand the concept of a stronger culture eventually subsuming a weaker one, just look at the American Indian or the Prime Directive. But what you described is slow genocide of the entire human race as more and more people are ‘converted’ into Skrulls. We may not have the best genes in the universe but they’re ours, by gum!

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