Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #237
My nanobots poured into the space between universes. As they left me, I could feel their shared computing power diminish.
Soon, my reserves were so depleted that my earlier abilities felt a dream. The kind where you wake, positive that you’ve discovered the secret of happiness, only to find it slipping through your fingers like smoke. Coming down from sponge used to feel like that. The drug delivered insight, but more than that, it delivered certainty. It is the “Eureka” moment in chewable form. Then, when the moment passes, you’re not even sure if you want salt on your eggs.
When Alurian first handed over control of his nanobots, I’d been able to feel the entire city all at once, as though it were my own body. I could sense the moisture content of the air around the tallest towers, and I could see the molecular structure of a broken statue lying on the ground three miles away.
As I poured the little bastards into the space between dimensions, my horizons shriveled up like an old helium balloon. I felt as though I were sinking into dark water, watching the light of the surface grow dimmer and dimmer.
Actually, that’s not quite true. It felt that way at first, but then it started to remind me of a show I’d seen once. It hadn’t started yet; the house lights were up, people were still finding their seats and chatting amongst themselves. A young woman came out and stood in the center of the stage, but she didn’t say anything. She just peered up at something in the ceiling as though she were checking the stage-lights. The audience continued talking.
Slowly, the lights began to dim. People didn’t even notice at first, but as more of them figured it out, the audience gradually found their seats, gradually grew quiet. The lights continued to dim, all but one: a single spotlight, shining center-stage. In one long transition, the rest of the world faded away, until the entire universe consisted of this one girl.
That’s what giving up the nanobots felt like. I may have been losing the rest of the city, but that just allowed me to focus on the things I could see with my own eyes.
I saw a police detective and his informant. I saw a feathered alien. I saw a grouchy mad scientist piloting a robot suit, and a seven-foot bruiser that looked like he should be a nightclub bouncer. Coming out of the little hospital room I’d built with the nanobots, I saw a pair of elves, brother and sister, holding hands.
The last nanobots to leave my body came out as a single tear, which I know sounds cheesy, but consider the alternatives. Henricks scanned me, and pronounced me clean.
I thought that meant they would be opening up our portal home, but instead, they picked up a small box and handed it to me.
“What’s this?” I asked, then at their urging, I opened it.
It was a new portal generator. It didn’t look exactly like my old one, but it was pretty close.
“Should be a little more stable than your last one,” Henricks said, winking. “And it’s a clip-on. So you can put it down sometimes.”
I strapped it to my left forearm, and it fit. I glanced around to the group. “Should I do the honors?”
At a chorus of nods, I opened a portal, and we all walked through it together.
When I started this story, I told you that, when you’re at the end of your rope, slack just lets you sink lower. I meant it when I said it and it’s still true, but it’s not the whole story. When you’re hanging off the edge of a cliff like that, what you need isn’t slack.
It’s someone to pull you back up.
Tags: Phyllis Esposito