Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #235

The first order of business was to establish a few boundaries while Henricks set up their scanner. They asked that I keep my nanobots out of their circle while they closed the portal, and that I should refrain from any sophisticated manipulations while they assembled the equipment. Meanwhile, the others would stay on guard, watching me with their electromagnetic weaponry in hand.

I didn’t begrudge the time or the conditions. From their perspective, the idea that I might have been compromised by Alurian was a very real concern. To be frank, I would have thought less of them if they didn’t take precautions.

Besides, it gave us time to catch up.

I explained what had happened with Alurian and Ms. Moon, accepting as a given that my credibility was pending verification. Then Henricks apologized for leaving without explaining their plan.

“I can only assume that you thought I had abandoned you,” they said. “And I will not pretend that the possibility did not occur to me. If I were to leave and not return, the nanobot threat that Alurian represented would be isolated, perhaps forever. Any new portal to this dimension would risk that stability.”

“Makes a lot of sense,” I said. “So then why did you come back?”

“You took the same risk when you came here to try and save Alurian. I suppose that I was inspired by your example. And so were we all.” They gestured to Fox, Eduin and Pensky.

Pensky nodded. “You would have done it for us. You did, in fact.”

“That’s right,” said Eduin. “We owed you one.”

“Well,” I said, “I’m looking forward to when we can all hug it out without ray guns between us.” I glanced over to Fox. “How about you? I don’t think you really owed me anything.”

“Heck no,” he said, grinning. “You owed me! And hell if I was going to let you slink away into some corner of the multiverse without returning the favor.”

“Oh come on, Fox,” I said, returning the grin. “You know I’m good for it!”

“We’ll see about that,” he said. “I think I’ll stick close just the same.”

Even once the scanner was up and running, proving that I wasn’t compromised turned into a bit of a negotiation on its own. After all, my body was crawling with the little critters, and I could not separate them from my brain entirely without risking a loss of control.

They walked me through a series of scans, where I would remove all the nanobots from the left hemisphere of my brain, and then from the right. In each state, he asked me various questions about our experiences together. All the while, the scanner verified that I was complying and monitored my biorhythms.

To be honest, it was all a bit beyond me, but Henricks was apparently satisfied.

“Good,” I said. “Where’d you come up with all this stuff anyway?”

Henricks heaved a resigned sigh. “I returned to the Taskforce workshop and made some promises.”

I raised my eyebrows. “I thought you didn’t trust them.”

“Yes, well,” they said. “Do you remember scolding me? After we were nearly robbed by Graham’s mercenaries? You said that I had to trust the team, because going off on my own only made it harder for you to protect me. I don’t know if this Taskforce or its General are entirely trustworthy, but… I’m tired of being on my own.”

I nodded. “Yeah,” I said. “I can understand that.”

“So…” Fox leaned in, awkward. “I guess we won? Sort of? What now?”

“Now,” I said, “We’re going to dump the rest of these nanobots through a hole in the universe, and then, I don’t know, maybe lunch?”

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