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Backstage Pass

"Sophie!" cried Nereid again, reaching for the bell jar. Tam slapped her hands away.

"You don't know what's holding her there," Tam snapped. "It could hurt you."

Nereid gave him a baffled frown, then looked around at the others. Wire was gagging and spitting nearby. Maelstrom was looking upward with a cynically mournful expression. The Equestrian was standing with fists on hips, looking up at the ceiling as well.

Nereid looked up too. The enormous concrete blocks that made up the dome were shifting and sliding around each other as the dome slowly rotated. It looked vaguely familiar, like a special effect she'd seen in a movie once. Or perhaps like one of those sliding puzzle games she played as a kid.

As the blocks screeched against each other, a small aperture began to open in the very top of the dome.

"I don't like that at all," Maelstrom said conversationally.

The Equestrian sighed and said, "Let's find out what it does before getting down to disliking it."

"Is it... some kind of observatory?" Nereid asked, watching the tiny hole iris open to reveal a strange, vivid darkness that seethed with burning stars and indigo clouds.

"I bet you a case of Guinness that it's not just for observing," Maelstrom said.

Wire punched Nereid in the arm, hard. Nereid exclaimed and looked at her teammate, feeling very injured. Wire, one hand clapped over her mouth, pointed furiously at the door in the center of the room.

"Oh," Nereid said. Then, a little louder, "Um, everybody? The door is glowing all over and all around."

"Oh, that," the Equestrian said. "I expect that's what it's supposed to do when it unlocks."

Maelstrom stomped over, examined the door closely, sniffed it, and then pounded on it with one bony fist. When it failed to respond, he turned his back on it, lifted one leg, and kicked back at it several times.

The door remained unmoved. It was a door.

"It's sealed," Maelstrom said unnecessarily.

"I figured that," the Equestrian said. "There is, after all, no doorknob on this side."

"Does no harm to check," Maelstrom said.

"Except whoever's door it is now knows we're here," the Equestrian said, still staring up at the dome.

Maelstrom snorted. "Only if they're standing right on the other side."

Nereid stamped her foot to much less effect than Maelstrom. She pointed at the bell jar. "What about Sophie?"

The Equestrian sighed and walked over to look at the tiny figure in the jar. "Yep," she said. "Looks like Brainchild all right."

Wire, who was examining the knobs and dials on the machine, lifted her head to glare daggers at the Equestrian.

The Equestrian ignored her, as usual, and peered curiously into the funnel under the bell jar. "Hmmm," she said.

"What?" Nereid said.

"Dunno," the Equestrian said, then added, "Maelstrom, go take a look at those walls of vacuum tube thingies."

Maelstrom snorted again and slouched over. "Oh," he said as he got closer. "Oh," he said again, sniffing loudly. He tapped one glowing glass bulb in the nearest wall. It rang under his fingernail. "That glow's a human soul."

Nereid exclaimed, "All of those are souls?"

The Equestrian pursed her lips and rubbed her chin. "Well, that's a thing," she said, looking at the walls of luminescent souls, then at the funnel, then at the turning gears and opening hole in the dome.

Tam said, nervously, "They're... not for a tithe, are they?"

The Equestrian said, "I think they are, in a way."

Maelstrom spun around on his heel and stared at her. "Even a bribe this big--"

"No," the Equestrian interrupted. "Not an established trade route. I think it's a magician, trying to force the wall open. It's a good night for it."

Maelstrom replied, "It's a busy one, that's for sure. But are you referring to the Far Lands, or something further?"

"Something further, I think."

Nereid exclaimed, "Could you speak in English for the rest of us?"

The Equestrian pinched the bridge of her nose. "I think someone is trying to crack open the dimensional wall between Earth and... somewhere else... using an engine that takes souls for fuel that's stationed here, in this land, because souls can be made tangible here." She pointed at Sophie, who was drifting around inside the bell jar, apparently unable to see the lot of them. "And it's May Day on the other side, a day when the walls are thinnest."

Nereid's jaw fell open. How did they lose so many months? And... a dimensional gate? She looked at Tam, whose face wasn't registering horror so much as complete bewilderment.

Unfortunately, she didn't have time to explain it to him before the machines all around them lit up and began to emit a peculiar set of extremely irritating tones.

"What is that?" Nereid said, clapping her hands to her ears.

Wire exclaimed, "That's a modem coming online!" then turned her back, retching violently.

Nereid didn't turn fast enough -- she saw something hit the floor and scurry away, and gagged in sympathy.

The Equestrian said, "Then the connection's been made. Maelstrom, watch the door. Nereid, Wire, you know computers, see if you can figure out how to get this thing shut down."


Note from the Author:
Annnnnd if you WANT to know what's going on back on Earth with the Wonderful House crew on Thursday, I need TEN COMMENTS by Thursday morning! Otherwise you (and I) have to wait until next TUESDAY. AUGH!

Vote for WCS!

Date: 2011-09-13 06:47 pm (UTC)
finch: (Default)
From: [personal profile] finch
Well that's not a killer cliffhanger or anything...

Date: 2011-09-13 09:10 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore

Just think, she won't be able to do this to the people reading it when it's a book! They'll miss half the agony fun!

Date: 2011-09-14 03:37 pm (UTC)
finch: (Default)
From: [personal profile] finch
I suppose it could be worse. We could be waiting a month between comic book issues.

Date: 2011-09-14 03:52 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
Oh my GOD, I would DIE. (I have a bit of a patience problem)

Date: 2011-09-13 07:12 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] strumsoundly
That computer's got /soul/.

Opening portals to Really Far Dimensions by feeding souls into the process: super creepy.

Date: 2011-09-13 09:09 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
SUPER creepy.

Date: 2011-09-13 10:59 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
O holy God, poor Wire!

Frankenstein's lab meets Hellraiser

Date: 2011-09-14 12:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawndIe8v-5SfKMS6ibEa0NATSsU32Mdkg7s
When I was about 8, I had a dream in which the invading alien robots were made of big sandstone blocks, piloted by robots inside that were made of smaller blocks, recursively ad infinitum. My dream companion and I accidentally discovered that if you sprayed them with water, they dissolved very much like a sand castle. Nereid would have come in handy right about then...

I love this story! I just powered through the whole thing over the last week and I'm thrilled that you're still going strong. :-)

Date: 2011-09-14 03:26 am (UTC)
sbearbergman: a photo of my head and shoulders, dressed in a navy suit and bright blue shirt, face turned partly away (Default)
From: [personal profile] sbearbergman

Date: 2011-09-14 08:22 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Loving nereids storyline - keep up the awesome writing :)


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