The following takes place after Interlude 32B, in which Pace-Lies was found by Seller, Miranda, and Abigail and they agreed to work together to free Pace from Lies in exchange for information on Manakel. It is also after Lies took up the name of Theia.
“Are you girls sure you’re going to be okay here by yourselves?” The clear worry in Abigail’s voice was evident even to Theia, as the woman stood by the door of the hotel room.
Seller, who was standing next to her, laid a hand on the woman’s shoulder. “They’ll be fine, Abigail. Trust me, we lost any pursuers and there’s enough spells up over the room right now, as long as they stay in here, there’s no way anyone could find them. And even if they do, there’s warning spells for that too. We have spells up to let them and us know if anything goes wrong.”
“And we have the phone too,” Miranda pointed out from where she was sitting on one of two king-size beds in the room. “It’ll be fine. Trust us. We’ve got the emergency teleports, the phone to call you, and we can protect ourselves too. Not to mention… well, me.”
Another Miranda poked her head back in the room from where she’d been watching the hall. “Exactly. If all else fails, that me will give a tug so that I-me absorbs her again. Then I’ll know everything that’s going on. See, redundancy upon redundancy upon redundancy. It’s cool.”
“It’s as ‘cool’ as we can make it,” Seller confirmed. “We can’t take Pace back to Garden with us, and we need to check in. The others need to see us around. If nothing else, it’ll throw the scent off about Pace being with us. Trust me. Trust them. They’ll be okay here for a couple days.”
“Right,” Abigail muttered unhappily, “I know. We need to look around Garden and see if there’s anything there that could help separate Pace from Theia. And they can’t come with.”
Not that anyone expected there to be some specific ‘separate Lie from host’ spell, since even the Seosten didn’t have anything like that. But the hope was that there might be something that could be appropriated and adjusted that way, with both Pace and Theia being willing subjects. Maybe there would be a way to make a second body for them, like Miranda’s duplication power, only permanent, and then shift each of their minds into one of them. Or… something. They weren’t sure yet. But looking around the archives couldn’t hurt, considering they didn’t have a lot of other options.
Theia, who had been laying on her back, half-hanging off the bottom of the other bed with her head near the floor as she watched the group by the door from her upside-down position, nodded. “Can’t go back to Garden without the hidey-choker. Or Heretics get cutty-stabby-shooty. Not very nice.”
Inside her own head, Pace silently muttered, That or they’ll just enslave us. Remember, Crossroads is the kill on sight one. Eden’s Garden likes to make people like us useful for awhile first if they can. They might kill us, or they might just throw us in a cage to see if we could make decent cannon-fodder later. Depends on the tribe.
“Oh, don’t get me started on them being ‘not very nice’,” Abigail all-but growled before heaving a sigh as she looked to them once more. “Okay, fine. But remember, no leaving the room unless it’s an absolute emergency, right? You stay in here, have food delivered. That’s why we came to a place with room service and a good pizza place nearby. Stay in the room where it’s… safe-ish.”
Theia gave a thumbs up at that, before belatedly realizing that in her current position, it looked like a thumbs down. So she awkwardly turned her hand over a bit to correct it. “Stay in the room. It’ll be like a slumber party-oooh! Can we have a pillow fight? And play truth or dare? Or spin the bottle?”
Before the Miranda on the other bed could respond to that, Abigail quickly put in, “Just don’t do anything to attract attention, okay? Keep things nice and quiet and calm. Watch TV, talk, whatever you need to do. But stay in the room and stay… calm. The last thing we need is for someone to get uppity about why there’s a couple teenage girls alone in a hotel room together.”
“Dear Penthouse,” Theia began to recite with a wicked grin.
Stop that! the horribly embarrassed Pace blurted, even as Miranda’s foot kicked her in the leg from the other bed. Both of their reactions made Theia cackle out loud.
“Again,” Abigail reiterated. “Be nice, be quiet, and don’t get in trouble. And don’t–”
“–attract attention to ourselves,” both Mirandas finished for her in chorus. “We know. We all know.”
The Miranda by the door pulled Abigail by the arm. “Come on, the sooner we look through everything we can find back at Garden, the sooner we can get back here, right? So let’s go.”
Abigail couldn’t argue with that, and so the three of them headed out. As the door closed behind them, the Miranda on the bed and Theia-Pace were left in the room, looking at one another.
“So,” Theia started easily, “was that a no to truth-or-dare?”
“So what do you want to have for–Theia, what… what the hell are you doing?”
The question came from Miranda, as the girl stood in the open doorway of the bathroom, staring in confusion.
Theia, meanwhile, was once more laying on her back, this time in the bathtub. The tub itself was void of any water, which was a good thing since she still wore all of her clothes. Her head was under the faucet of the tub, as she stared curiously up into it.
See? Pace pointedly informed her, I told you this was weird.
Aloud, Theia replied, “We wanted to see how the faucet worked, and Pace-I said that taking it apart was a bad idea. So we’re trying to see.”
“She’s right, it would be a bad idea,” Miranda agreed instantly. “But how are you going to–”
While the other girl was in mid-sentence, Theia reached up and turned one of the handles, sending a spray of cold water down into her already open and waiting mouth. She swallowed rapidly, gulping the water while squinting up. After a few seconds of that, she turned the handle off once more.
“It didn’t work,” Theia lamented mournfully, “we still can’t see how the water comes out.”
“You should Google it,” Miranda advised before coming into the room. Carefully putting the lid of the toilet down, she sat there. “That or ask a plumber. They could probably explain it. Actually, you come from a super-advanced spacefaring civilization, and you don’t know how plumbing works?”
“Don’t have to know how it works to use it,” Theia recited, tilting her head a little to look at the other girl. “Never had to learn. Besides, space-plumbing is different.”
“How is space-plumb–you know what, never mind.” Miranda’s head shook. “I can’t believe I’m even having this conversation with you.”
“You still don’t like Theia-me very much,” the girl murmured, hand playing idly over the faucet as if trying to feel out its secrets.
“You tried to kill my best friend,” Miranda snapped. “You’ve been helping the people who have been making her life hell all year and who, oh yeah, are responsible for a hell of a lot more bad things than that. Like, for example, the entire Heretic situation. Your people have been fucking with humans since you got here however long ago you showed up. Yeah, maybe you’ve had problems too, but you still tried to kill Flick. You still hurt her. You still hurt a lot of other people.”
We did, Pace silently confirmed. We did a lot of bad things. It’s… kind of a miracle that they even want to help us at all, you know. Abigail is pretty much a saint.
There was a moment of silence from the girl in the tub, before Theia corrected aloud, “You did not do bad things. Theia-I did.”
“What?” Miranda blinked. “I know–”
“Not you, Pace-me,” Theia informed her before sitting up. “Theia-I know that I did very bad things. Very evil, very nasty, icky, terrible things. That is not what Theia-I was confused about. I was confused about… why are you here now? Because of Pace-me?”
“It’s not that I–” Miranda paused before nodding. “Partly that, yeah. I want to help Pace. But…” She paused then, considering her words. “I don’t know if I like you or not, okay? You’ve done evil stuff, but you had reasons. You’ve suffered too, I get that. You’re kind of… it’s hard to…”
Again, she sighed. “It’s hard to explain. Even to myself, okay? I… want to like you. I think you could be smart, and funny, and all that. But every time I start to relax around you, I remember the other stuff you’ve done. You’re playing nice now, but what if you change your mind again and start hurting people I care about? What if your old bosses say ‘hey, all is forgiven if you kill that Abigail person’, and you–”
“I would never kill Miss Abigail!” The sudden and almost violently forceful interruption made Miranda reflexively jerk back, even as Theia found her way to her feet. She continued, the lack of prefacing her ‘I’ with Theia showing just how out of sorts she was by the suggestion. “I would never hurt Miss Abigail! I will die before I hurt Miss Abigail. I will gouge my own eyes out and tear apart my spleen before I hurt Miss Abigail!”
Our spleen, our eyes, Pace reminded her. And I agree. Never hurt Abigail. Never hurt Miranda. Never hurt Seller. They’re our friends. We get that. But calm down, Theia. Don’t scare her. Don’t freak her out.
Listening to her host’s words gave Theia pause enough for Miranda herself, who had also stood up by then, to speak up. “Okay, okay. I get it. You care about Abigail. Probably because she was the first person to really…” She paused, grimacing. “I get it. No hurting Abigail.”
“Never,” Theia reiterated firmly and pointedly.
Fists, Theia, Pace silently reminded her.
Realizing belatedly that she had balled their hands into fists, Theia relaxed them as best as she could, wincing visibly. “We… we are both sorry. Theia-I and Pace-I. We did not mean to… scare you.”
“It’s umm…” Miranda paused before clearing her throat. “It’s okay. I get it. I shouldn’t have said that you might hurt or kill Abigail if they told you to. But… but do you see why I’m still afraid of–why I still don’t know how much we can trust you? You worked for them for a really long time. They have to mean something to you. They’re your people.”
The other girl’s voice was soft. “Theia-I was never one of them. They would not allow it.”
Miranda was quiet for a second, before she gave a single nod. “You’re right. You’re not one of them. You’re better. You can be better. Just… make sure you remember that, okay? Remember that you’re better than they want you to be. Whatever happens, this whole… cure or… separation thing? However that goes down, it doesn’t matter. You’re still better than them. You’re better than your psycho piece of shit mother. All those people that hate you just because of how you were born? Fuck them. Worry about the people who actually care about what you think.”
Like me, Pace reminded the Seosten girl who was sharing her body. Believe it or not, I do care about what happens to you, Theia. I’ve seen your past, remember. Parts of it anyway. And she’s right. Those people, they don’t matter. Fuck them. Abigail, Miranda, and Seller. They matter. Maybe it’ll take awhile to prove ourselves to Miranda and Seller. But we’ll do it. You worked your whole life to convince your own people to give you a chance, and they never cared. They just used you. But these people are giving you a chance.
Theia was quiet once more, listening to what both of the others were saying, before she lifted her chin. “Yes,” she said simply. “Miss Abigail matters. Mr. Seller matters. You matter, Miranda-person. Even if you do not like Theia-me very much because of the bad things that I did.”
“I…” Miranda paused, then simply replied, “I came in here to find out what you want for dinner.”
After a brief consultation with her host, Theia piped up, “Cheeseburgers? One with only ketchup and mayo, and one with everything. And extra onions.”
Miranda shrugged. “Whatever floats your boat. Err, boats. Now come on, let’s order it.”
Obligingly, Theia stepped out of the tub to follow the other girl out of the bathroom. “And maybe we can call a plumber so they can tell us how the water comes out.”
Heading for the phone on the nearby desk, Miranda shook her head. “We’ll just Google it, Theia. Google knows everything.”
Standing there, Theia considered that. She thought about what they were trying to do, the whole reason they were working together. “Hey… do you think…”
Miranda replied without looking back, “–that Google might know how to separate a Seosten with SPS from their host?”
Clearly confused by that, Theia echoed blankly, “SPS?”
“Sticky-Possession Syndrome,” Miranda informed her. “It’s better than calling you or… or people like you Lies. And no, I promise that Google doesn’t know how to fix it.
“…. because I already checked.”