Archive | July 12, 2011

Keys, two variations, for jeriendhal’s prompt

For jeriendhal‘s prompt “You mean it was supposed to have a key?” First, an Addergoole Year Nine – Ceinwen and Thornburn, then a Planners.

“There’s no lock.” Ceinwen sat in front of the mirror, staring at the plaque Thornburn had put around her neck. She’d known that when he sealed it there, but today, with classes just moments away, it seemed more real, more permanent.

“No, there isn’t,” he agreed. He was giving her space this morning, letting her feel her way around this new relationship. What part of her wasn’t busy hating him appreciated the room.

“There’s no way to take it off,” she said, trying not to panic.

“No, there’s not. I will take it off you when I free you.”

She wrapped her hands both around the damned thing, tugging on it, even as the pulling pressed it against her windpipe. It wouldn’t budge. “Why isn’t there a lock? If there was a lock, there’d be a key!” She knew she sounded hysterical, and wasn’t sure she cared anymore.

He wrapped his hand around her wrists gently. “You mean it was supposed to have a key?” he teased.

“It was supposed to have a way out,” she whimpered.

Bauer was particularly proud of the work he’d done on the vaults.

Sure, Elder Jasmine had sent him here, to work with Elder Oliver, mostly to keep an eye on a man who was past his dotage and into “how is he still standing upright?” But Bauer was every bit as much a member of the Family as Jasmine and Oliver, albeit a bit (eighty years, in Oliver’s case) younger, and with fewer descendants by an order of magnitude or two. Even if he was here to spy, he couldn’t help but do his best work, too. Besides, the Family might need it. That was what this was all about, right? The Family, the world, might someday need this planning.

So he’d put everything he had into the security on the vaults, even if he had no idea what was in them (All of the elders were secretive, but Oliver took it to extremes. Bauer wasn’t sure he told his wife what he’d had for dinner). They were supposed to withstand a nearby nuclear blast, but none of that meant anything if squatters and other intruders could just waltz in. So Bauer made them secure. So secure he was pretty sure his own wife wouldn’t be able to make it in, if he hadn’t given her the back door (Family was Family, but a wife was a wife).

He worked with the contractors (a different team for each section, and a few pieces he did on his own), under minimal supervision from Oliver, who just wanted to be sure the vault doors were always closed, for eight months. They set up locks and labyrinths and puzzle traps, all designed to funnel the unwary back out somewhere far from the central vault. They encoded everything in Bauer’s own complex cipher, and then
finally he brought his aging boss to the front door of the new catacomb, where even the lock was encoded.

“Impressive,” the Elder creaked. “Sturdy, and the ciphers here look to be uncrackable without the key. So give me that for my office file, and we’ll call it a job well done.”

Bauer couldn’t help it. He grinned at his difficult uncle. “You mean it was supposed to have a key?”

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Trouble in Doubles – Facets of Dusk – from kc_obrien and elfling_eryn’

From [personal profile] kc_obrien‘s request for Josie/Facets and [personal profile] elfling_eryn‘s prompt: “There’s only so much trouble you get into in a day…unless, of course, you have a clone or two at hand.”

Facets of Dusk, which needs a landing page.

Josie was holding on to Alexa’s hand this time, and they were both pretending that they just hadn’t gotten around to letting go, both pretending the other one needed the hand-holding. They’d gotten good at it, and in this world… this world, they both needed it.

It was like coming home, walking down the street in a neighborhood you’d known, and finding it blasted and destroyed by war. More than any other of the worlds Josie had seen, it looked like home. The signs were almost the same – hell, some of them were the same; there was the ruins of a Krispy Kreme, and she was pretty sure that was a FedEx office. The road names were mostly the same, or similar. If they turned that corner, they’d see one of the bars Cole thought they didn’t know he went to, or a bombed-out pit where it should be.

They turned the corner, because they were here to explore, and none of the instruments Peter was waving about, nor the charms Aerich was wielding, were suggesting danger. Josie’s senses were saying something different – saying Run. Leave. Flee. But she couldn’t pinpoint it, and she didn’t want to let down the team by panicking too soon. She held tighter to Alexa, which was good, and not just for the comfort the other woman gave her.

Because when they turned the corner, Alexa stared back at her. Alexa harder, dirtier, dressed in scavenged clothing that doesn’t fit perfectly, but nonetheless Alexa.

Josie backpedalled, swallowing a gulp of panic, reaching for the center of her calm and not quite finding it, scrabbling until she backed right into Peter.

“Easy, easy…” He hadn’t seen the Alexa clone yet, but he set his hand on her shoulder, trying for calming, she supposed. She could feel from the way his fingers tightened when he realized what she was panicking about. And then it got worse.

By that point, Alexa was looking at herself cautiously, the two of them so very calm about it. The dirtier version whistled sharply and, from a doorway to a mostly-standing building (that would have been Cole’s bar, back home), stepped… Josie.

They stared at each other, both of them breathing raggedly, uncertainly, both of them reaching for their Alexas, although her doppelganger had no Peter, no team watching her carefully (not true. The team was watching both of them, all four of them, but the clone-Alexa and clone-Josie had no other friends with them).

“No.” Even the voice sounded the same, the high, reedy panic Josie was trying to swallow. “No.” She glared at her Alexa angrily. “No. I know you’re a clone, but I’m not.”

Clone!Alexa shook her head. “Well, are you a twin, then? And if so, menina, your other half is totally screwing you. These guys look like they took a bath today.” Her diction was nothing like Alexa’s – lyrical, laid-back. Clone!Josie, on the other hand, sounded a lot like her.

“I’m not a twin. Not a clone.” She was, Josie noted clinically, starting to really panic. “I don’t know who she is but she’s an imposter.”

That just made Clone!Alexa bark out a laugh, one that Real!Alexa shared. “Come on, who do you think would want to be us? Up there in the shining places, maybe, but down here on the street?”

Josie was listening in awe. Behind her, Cole muttered to Aerich, “did you know this could happen?”

Instead of an answer, Aerich murmured back “Saints forefend we meet another of you. Can you imagine how much trouble two of you could get into?”

“Or more.” Xenia offered helpfully. “Since they have clones.”

Josie ignored them and stepped forward, offering a hand to Clone!Josie. “Hello,” she greeted her, using the calm tone of voice she knew helped her when she was freaking out. “So, ah, which would be better? A clone, or traveler from another world?”

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