Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #226

Fox and I settled on a time, place and dimension to meet. A little coffee shop in a slice not too far removed from the ones we’d lived in. It was a mixed neighborhood, kind of like Little Narnia, so a feathered grey alien shouldn’t attract too much attention. If everything went according to plan, we’d meet up there in a couple of weeks.

As far as I was concerned, this concluded my business with Taskforce, and I closed the portal before I could think of more reasons to miss the slice I was leaving behind.

I’m sure that the General wasn’t happy about my cutting off communication so abruptly, but she could open her own portal back here if she wanted. I planned to be gone by then.

Of course, for all my cheery positivity, Fox wasn’t wrong that there would be difficulties. Either of us might be held up by circumstances beyond our control. The Taskforce might try to pull something. The city health board might close down the coffee shop for unsanitary conditions. You never knew what might happen, and it wasn’t like I’d be able to just text him if we missed one another.

And of course, all of those things were contingent on me still being me in a couple of weeks.

As far as I could tell, I was maintaining my sense of self, even with the constant chatter of the nanobots in my head. It was tempting to believe that I would not be corrupted by them. After all, according to everything I’d discovered so far, Alurian hadn’t been the nicest guy even before they took him over. Surely, I could handle the power without them changing me. At least, that’s what I wanted to believe.

Was that why “the goddess” had chosen to help me? She had healed me, and granted me immunity to the nanobot control, only to revoke it at the critical moment and use me as a Trojan Horse to get through his electronic defenses. Had she just manipulated me into this position?

“Events have been set into motion,” she had said. “You have become ensnared in the workings of fate,” she had said.

But who had initiated those events? Who had set the snare? Was I just a chess piece in some larger game?

In my more paranoid moments, I wondered how far back the machinations began. For all I knew, it had been the goddess that tricked Alurian and Ms. Moon into betraying their “Caltheah” in the first place, leading to a string of events, all of which were in the service of a humiliating but ultimately harmless prank on the Sorceress.

To be sure, the goddess hadn’t shown up to explain herself. Perhaps I was nothing but an Act 2 bit player in her story, showing up to deliver a message and then shuffling off the stage, forgotten.

But you can’t live your life dwelling on questions like that. It’s possible to miss the forest for the trees, but it’s the trees that you actually have to work with.

So there I was, in control of my own mind for the moment, with a bunch of nanobots burning a hole in my pocket. I had one more thing I needed to do with them.

“Okay, Ms. Moon,” I said. “Now how about we go and get your real brother.”


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