Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #219

Henricks crawled onto their knees and then made an effort to stand. I reached out to help them up, but Henricks shook their head.

I withdrew my hand. “It’s okay. I get it. This is pretty weird for me too.”

Henricks accepted Ms. Moon’s support, and leaning against her, they managed to stand.

“How are you feeling?” I asked.

“Better now. Are they…” They trailed off, eyes haunted.

My microscopic minions had reported that no units remained inside of Henricks’s body. They gave me reports of all sorts of biological parameters that made sense in the moment and then fell out of my head immediately afterward. Physically, Henricks was unharmed, but could probably do with a good meal and a night’s sleep.

“Yes,” I said. “They’re out. And you don’t have to touch me if you don’t want to, but technically the floor here is crawling with them. Just saying. I’ve got control and I’m keeping them out.”

Both Henricks and Ms. Moon glanced uncertainly at their feet.

I shrugged. “Would you guys feel better standing on the real ground?” I gestured to the edge of the castle floor, the last remnant of Alurian’s fortress. “No nanobots past there,” I said. “Freshly vacuumed.”

Henricks straightened up in alarm. “The Tispets!”

“Um…” Confused, I looked to Ms. Moon, who shrugged. “The what?”

“Tear In Space Traps,” said Henricks. “Tispets. Obviously.”

“You mean the vortex things? Bravo on those, by the way. I knew you’d think of something.”

Henricks turned and stared into the darkness. There was nothing to see but bare earth for miles in every direction, but I could understand the impulse. “They are each only one-millimeter square,” they said, “when they do not detect any nanobots. You saw what happens when they do.”

“Yeah,” I said. “We did. How’d you manage it?”

Calmed for the moment, Henricks turned back to face me. “It was a group effort. Fox and I, with the resources of the General’s taskforce, built them, but they also required a magical charge that none of us could provide. But when Alurian opened the portal, Eddie Truth was supposed to draw upon this slice’s magic to activate them. It looks like she did.”

My heart skipped a beat. “Did she ask for anything?”

Henricks shook their head. “No. She contributed to the project without complaint or bargaining. She was still trying to save her counterpart.”

“Oh… Good,” I said. I suppose I was still feeling a bit jumpy.

“The Tispets were supposed to be a failsafe,” said Henricks. “A backup, just in case the deal with Alurian did not go as planned. But even we did not anticipate that he would just grab the entire cell! In any event, they were placed in a dispersal device with a fail-open circuit. As long as they received the signal, they would stay inside. But on command from headquarters, or if I were to pass through a portal, they would be launched in a variety of directions. Anywhere they came into contact with nanobots, they would activate.”

Ms. Moon nodded. “I would say that they worked.”

“Well, almost,” I said. “Alurian’s little floating island trick saved us from going into the void with them.”

“Yes,” said Henricks. “And since we are no longer floating, I would suggest that we locate and deactivate them before you step on one and send us all into oblivion.”

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