Rachel in Infinity City: Part 12

“She’s not,” Travis said.

Rod raised an eyebrow. “How do you know?”

“Remember when she was negotiating how much the Blue Leader’s cut would be? I could hear both sides of the conversation. She’s running off to meet the guy now, and then they’re coming back here. The place might be bugged, but she doesn’t have time to pay attention to us now.”

Rod nodded.

Travis gave everyone a confident smile. “Now we’ve just got to figure how we’ll escape.”

Tara turned away from the wall to say, “But how? She took everything that might help.”

Still sounding confident, Travis said, “I don’t know, but this is our best chance. The League’s been in worse situations than this, and survived. I’m sure you have too. I’m sure if we keep our minds on the goal, we’ll get out.”

And right there, that was the football player coming out. I’d heard him with his team, oh, dozens of times it seemed like while we were together, and he’d sounded exactly like that.

I’d loved that about him—everything sounded possible. It wasn’t always true, but believing it could only help.

I looked over at Samita. “You said you could do something if you had your equipment. What?”

Samita looked up from the floor. “If I had my chalk, I could put up a protective circle.”

Travis nodded approvingly. “That’s what I’m looking for. Do you have to have chalk?”

Samita didn’t say anything for a second, but then said, “No. I could use anything that leaves a mark.”

Travis held up one hand, and watched as it turned grayish. His fingernails grew, and turned milky white.

“What about if you told me how but I drew it?”

Samita shook her head. “I have to. You won’t be able to do it right.”

Travis’ expression tightened, but he only said, “Are you sure about that?”

Samita didn’t do nearly as good a job of hiding her frustration when she said, “Yes.”

“OK. I’m not trying to push. Just trying to get us over the hump here.”

Samita didn’t say anything.

Travis looked over at me. Yeah. As if I had any ideas. Okay, I had plenty of ideas, but none of them were going to help us disarm a bomb—not to mention bombs plural. Especially if I didn’t know where they were.

I said, “I feel like we’re going in circles. We can’t try anything because we don’t know anything. We don’t know anything because we don’t dare try anything. I should phase out and find out what happens. The room might not blow up.”

“And it might,” Travis said, “How are we going to handle that?”

“I don’t know. If you can hear a hint of it, maybe you and Rod could jump through the walls backwards, so Samita and Tara don’t get hurt?”

Travis didn’t say anything. Then, “I was hoping for something a little less desperate.”

“I don’t know if you noticed, but desperate is all we’ve got right now.”

Travis exhaled, and put his hand to his chin, sitting and thinking.

I couldn’t complain. I got it. I’d just proposed something that might kill half the group—not including me, but maybe including him. You didn’t do that casually. I didn’t really want him to.

I might have sat down myself then, except that I happened to put my hand in my jacket’s pocket. I didn’t, as it happened, find a ring of invisibility (and what a relief because that would have been completely useless).

Instead I found something wrapped in plastic. I pulled it out. It was a fortune cookie.

I hadn’t taken any of the fortune cookies that came with the bill. I knew that because I haven’t liked them since I was, I don’t know, thirteen? For one thing, they’re about as Chinese as I am, and for another, they’re almost all sugar.

I unwrapped it, broke the cookie open, and ate it. It was just as sugary as I remembered.

I read the fortune. In red letters, it said, “You are your own best help.”

The other side informed me that my lucky number was 42.

It was highly anti-climactic. I’d half expected to find something useful in the cookie. It was possible after all, that the lion statue had slipped it into my pocket, but if that were true, he’d given me the wrong cookie. I’d gotten the regular cookie instead of the obliquely-insightful-if-you-looked-at-it-sideways cookie.

I threw the fortune in the bucket in the corner of the room. None of us had used it for the intended purpose.


Looking away from the bucket, I noticed the door, and I realized something.

Julie wouldn’t want to blow herself up. She’d have to turn the bombs off before she came into the room. The only question was how soon.

I crossed the room, and sat down. I pulled my jacket off, and pulled it partly over my head as if I were trying to block out the light. Then I put my fingers in my ears.

So, maybe I should have told everybody to do the same thing, but if she had any cameras in the room, Julie would notice.

Travis gave me a look, his expression carefully blank. He’d noticed.

It wasn’t more than ten minutes before she came back, and that was good, because keeping your fingers in your ears for more than a few minutes gets old quickly.

I’d taken them out for a second when Travis said, “She’s opening the door in the alley.”

I put them back in, creating the best seal I could.

Not long after, Julie started saying something to all of us in the room. I don’t know what. I couldn’t understand it, but, that didn’t stop me from feeling strangely relaxed when she spoke.

I wondered for a second why I had my fingers in my ears, but then I remembered.

I sat there, and I might have sat longer, still wondering when I should start to do something, but she didn’t let me.

Julie said something, and then everyone started walking toward me.

I phased backward through the wall.

27 thoughts on “Rachel in Infinity City: Part 12”

  1. I do think the whole “turning off bombs ahead of time” thing would have been useful to say in combination with “plug your earholes” but then Rachel’s not Nick.

    As for Travis’ football speech, I would like to say, “Oh fuck off, grasshopper.” Especially if he was saying stuff like that to teammates while his girlfriend was around. Couldn’t he just hug a naked teammate and then proceed to do this weird cheerleader run in the locker room like the rest of us? Seriously, it’s not a football team unless you’re acting gay with a teammate just to mess with the regular people.

    And we got both a Lord of the Rings reference and a Hitchhiker’s Guide reference in this one. You still need a Star Wars, Star Trek, and Dr. Who reference to complete nerd bingo.

  2. Don’t forget, Mr Gecko, a Harry Potter one too.

    Although I don’t think the internet could handle Lord of the Rings, Hitchikers, Star Wars/Trek, Dr Who and Harry Potter references all in one bit of prose!

    It might well explode. In a shower of butterflies.

    Ah hell, do it Jim. For science! (Portal reference was feeling left out)

  3. well the two references i got. would have gotten star trek and star wars, not necessarily dr. who, and seriously harry potter counts. that seals it, i am way behind my times not having read those.

    1. Yes! I was waiting on the obvious ‘draw it in blood’ conclusion. Maybe blood magic is a separate thing/doesn’t work for Sam?

  4. It’s too bad Travis can’t shape shift enough to plug his own ears. Also, I’m sure somebody has a pen or pencil Samita could have drawn with since they wouldn’t have thought of such being useful for escape.

  5. Travis is a clawed shapeshifter with regenerative powers. He could have popped his own eardrums.

    And if we’re including Harry Potter in Nerd Bingo, then Portal and Monty Python are required as well. Symphony of Science might go down as a Wild space.

    I’ve got to draw the line at Halo though. If a 12 year old is cussing at you over the internet on a headset while you play it, it probably shouldn’t qualify.

    Anyway, Rachel, this next part of the story is very dangerous. To help you remain tranquil in the face of almost certain death, smooth jazz will be deployed in 3, 2, 1…

  6. So why didn’t Travis just cut his nails? I have to do it on my dog every so often… ok, he probably didn’t have a knife, but he could bite one off or maybe Sam could hold his hand?

    Next if Travis burst his own eardrums then he wouldn’t be able to coordinate with the others very well…

    But now, let’s hope Ghost can phase into the correct reality or maybe call her alt-mom… oops, no phone.

  7. Well, I’d lose on the Portal stuff, or just about any other video game reference beside Rogue. And I’ve never even heard of Symphony of Science. But you can’t have such a game without Monty Python. For wildcards, I’d go with Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon. (And if you haven’t read it, you really should.)


  8. Symphony of Science is a series of videos where they remix science lectures and programs, auto tune a few voices, set them to music, and include good visuals. Quite a big of Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson in some videos, and maybe some Bill Nye and Richard Dawkins in places, depending on the subject of the video. Heck, there’s a song with a great opening that’s about quantum theory.

    Some of the more inspiring ones are “We Are Star Dust” (rather repetitive though) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8g4d-rnhuSg

    and “Children of Africa” (if you don’t mind the environmentalist message at the end) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0vlrTVC2tQ

    Hard to pick just a few to push on y’all. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is good, as is “The Quantum World”, “The Poetry of Reality”, “A Glorious Dawn,” and, of course, “The World of the Dinosaurs”.

  9. Um, I think I missed the LOTR reference, but I caught Hitchhikers Guide one. Then again, I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen any of the LOTR’s movies and I only read one and a half of the books.

    Finally. I’ve been hoping they’ll try to escape eventually. Fuck it, if I was about to get sold into slavery, I would’ve phased out and tried to escape straight away. Fuck everyone else. But I’m just nice and caring that way.

    Rachael should just become solid behind Julia and snap her neck and be done with. This no killing thing is starting to get ridiculous. It’s almost like these kids have no self-preservation instincts. If it’s me or you, bitch, you are going down and never getting back up again. That’s how it should be.

    Them kids need therapy. Some homicidal tendency inducing therapy. I can recommend someone.

    Nice chapter, Jim.

    1. Raven, you react far too quickly.

      Rachel should be prudent and remain intangible except for her fingers that she materializes inside of Julia’s vocal cords as she crushes them.

      Murder, murder, kill, kill can be fun.

      However, pure MMKK lacks class and style.

      Julia needs to speak for her powers to work. Imagine what would happen to her if you take that away. Lonely, destitute, disheartened, and psychologically destroyed, I picture her at the corner of Infinity Avenue and Slum Lord Avenue turning tricks for a few pennies. “Will work…err…sign and pretend to speak for food…”

      This assumes that the Blues will let her live.

  10. Ah, how did I miss that? That’s obvious. The damn ring.

    Ah fair enough, Evil Twin. I do tend to be quite rash, and I have never been a big fan of psychological torture and the sort. It’s too terrifying of a concept and worse than murder. Death is merciful and gets the job done.

    But yes, it does lack class and style. It’s effective, though. Also, remember what kind of tale this is. A dead person can’t seek revenge, and that is how I like it.

  11. Raven, dead men may tell no tales, but killing is actually one of the fastest ways to turn the relatively harmless into a murderous revenge machine:

    Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

  12. Raven: Thanks. I’m always nervous about whether or not things work.

    Everyone: As for the references question more generally, I worry when I put them in that I’ll put in too many and make things inaccessible to people who don’t catch the reference. The ideal is to make it something that (as programmers put it) “fails gracefully”–by which I mean that even if you don’t get it, you still get something.

    Ideally, for example, someone who missed the Hitchhiker’s Guide reference would ideally read it as Rachel thinking “Oh look, more stupid fortune cookie crap,” while the person who got the reference would be amused.

    On the issue of other ways to create a circle… Good ideas, actually. Maybe they’ll be used in other situations.

  13. Luke Licens, revenge comes in all forms and for many different reasons.

    If someone happened to, say kill, my mother, I’d probably go on seeking revenge against the responsible party, and the end result would be hours of suffering for the said person (or just as likely, quick death – I used the ‘hours’ part to add some drama for my murder), and imprisonment for me.

    Then again, if someone would maim, or preform something of the psychological torture variety against a loved one, I’d spend quite a while scheming and patiently preparing my counter attack. Which would be horrifying beyond measure.

    Dead is dead. Damaged is a whole lot of heartache and pain. I don’t like heartache. It’s slightly alien for me, and I’d like to keep it that way.

    My point is, it doesn’t matter whether you kill or maim, revenge is a possibility. But if you kill, there is one less person to worry about. Plus, this is not murder – it is self-defense. Badies tend to have less loyal followers and loving family members, me thinks.

    As for not killing or maiming at all, that’s just horrible. Hurting people that hurt you just feels nice. I know, it sounds horrible, but it stands as an argument if we are honest with ourselves. Also, how many badies return to take another shot at you? Too many. How many end up breaking out of prison or sending others after you? Also, way too many.

    Kill them. Kill them all.

    If something I’ve just said doesn’t make much sense, and if you realize that it sounds like I have homicidal tendencies – I do, and I use all I can to justify it – even if it makes no sense! Muahahahaha.

    Jim. I’ll just say it. Want to live, but need a circle? Don’t want to cut yourself or a friend open? There are other bodily products on offer. Someone had to say it. I’d watch every single episode of Barney if it means I can stay alive long enough to escape – they might as well draw a circle with poop. Sacrifices and priorities, people!

    Okay, I am highly sleep deprived and I apologize in advance if I say something that I shouldn’t. I’ve gotten a bunch of new video games on Steam sale and now I can’t seem to find any time for bed.

  14. Now I’m imagining a circle drawn in poop. I think I’d have to be really desperate to do that myself, but it’s got a lot of potential for humiliating a story’s main character.

    Definitely something to keep in reserve…

  15. What about a circle drawn in blood? You could get Travis to cut himself (which, given his regeneration, shouldn’t be that big of a deal), and hand it to Samita.

    Of course, given that Julie came back so quickly, and cutting and bleeding takes time, this is probably not going to work.

  16. Or Travis could have scratched the design with a finger that Sam controlled. The whole power setting off the room thing was false as Travis could hear Julie talking outside of the building–caveat: Julie does not consider enhanced senses to be a sufficient threat to set off the Boom Box. <– Insert Banshee/Mockingbird/anyone with an an enhanced destructive voice, etc

    @Raven: I agree with the whole kill your enemies thing. That is why I do not write action novels. They would be really short. Very, very short. But, my whole make Julie a homeless trollop would be much more fun. Just picture her hanging out on a street begging for scraps.


  17. Hmmm…. so reading all this gave me a few more ideas of things Rachel could do and brought up a question – Is Julie susceptible to her own voice? Or even to an alt-Julie’s voice? Meanwhile, being less of a ‘kill first, maim later’ than Raven, what about grabbing a shirt and stuffing it in Julie’s mouth? Or what about writing a note and dropping it in front of Julie in the hopes that she will read it aloud – thus commanding her captives to retrieve their valuables and go free or better yet, commanding herself to release her captives and never again be involved with human trafficking? At the least, maybe Rachel could grab and return everyone’s stuff. Oh she could come into view right in front of Julie and start yelling “Ghost, ghost, ghost,….” at the top of her lungs. Of course this all assumes she doesn’t panic and phase into the wrong reality – one where Julie is a kind and sympathetic friend who has just created a beautiful gourmet dinner for the whole group.

    And I will eagerly await hearing what 4-2 really meant as an answer to their problem… 4+2 is 6 = number of people involved in this episode, however the assumption is the 5 people are good and 1 is borderline evil, but maybe there is a traitor in their midst… OK, yup, I’m really bored and/or really don’t want to think about my own life.

  18. Notto, people have been trying to figure out 42 for a long time. Once, Arthur Dent randomly drew letters out of a hat in hopes that somehow he would instinctively chance on what the Question is that 42 is an answer to. He got a math problem (“What do you get if you multiply six by nine?”) where 42 wasn’t the answer except, as one person noted, in Base 13. To which Douglas Adams responded “I may be a sorry case, but I don’t write jokes in base 13.”

    That quote may clear up anyone remembering that little bit of cryptology-related goodness over in Worm’s comments the other day. I’d still like my bust of Douglas Adams looking down at me disapprovingly, if anyone wants to give me one.

    There’s some mystery and differing stories on just why he chose 42 as the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, but to this day no one, except possibly Stephen Fry, knows why he chose it. Or what the Question is.

    All I can say to you right now if you hunt it down is Don’t Panic.

  19. All very true, but I still think those lions might have had another joke tied in… like maybe, you need to go hitchhiking…. they just seemed like the type to make extremely cryptic suggestions, but not to say something useless. (unlike Douglas Adams)

  20. The question is “What is the meaning of life?” and the answer made no sense to anyone after the computer worked on it for several millenium. People try reading much more into the answer than Mr. Adams intended.

  21. I also missed the LOTR reference; in my defence, someone calling Samita’s ring a +3 ring of luck in earlier comments had me visualizing nethack. So, as Jim said, still getting something.
    What I found weird was the use of the fortune cookie. Instead of saying, “hey guys, I have a fortune cookie, maybe Samita can do something to make Julie OD on sugar”… Rachel eats it. Even though she just said they weren’t her thing. Then she throws away the paper. This does not strike me as making the most of the materials you have available.

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