Giuliano residence, Queens, early Friday morning
Nasty smacked her alarm clock as it blared. She pushed herself up off her pillows to get a better look at the time. "Ugh, too early." Her head fell back down. Before she returned to sleep, a knock hammered her door.
"Tasha, time to get up!" Maria called.
Nasty rolled over on to her back. "It's summer! I don't have school!"
"You're going to miss your flight if you don't get out of bed right now."
The thought of the convention shot through Nasty's sleep addled mind. She shot out of bed. "I'm up! I'm up!" As she jumped out of bed, she tripped over her backpack. "Damn it!"
"Are you up?" Maria called from the other side of the bedroom door.
"I said 'I'm up,' Mom!" Nasty opened her door. Maria stood there, dressed for work. "See? Awake."
"And grouchy. I just wanted to talk to you before you left."
"About what?" Nasty turned to start gathering her clothes for the day.
"About you going to another city with a boy."
Nasty stopped in her tracks. "It's not what you think."
Maria walked in and sat on the bed. "Oh, good, I was hoping you'd say that. What I was thinking was that you and Eric were going to Cleveland, share a room, and sleep in separate beds."
Nasty flushed. "That was my plan, Mom."
"I remember those types of plans, Tasha. I also remember those never following through on those plans."
"I'm not going to sleep with him, Mom!"
"You don't plan on sleeping with him, you mean. Look, Tasha, I know you mean it now. But, you are in your teens. I was your age when I had you."
Nasty sat down beside her mother. "Things are different than back then."
"Well, yes," Maria admitted. "For one, we're not arguing every day about you going out on dates. I do worry about you, though. While I approve of you having Eric over for school work, I'm wondering why you're not being more affectionate."
"Hugging, kissing, cuddling, public displays of affection, nauseating everyone around you by being too cute for words. That sort of thing."
Maria held up a hand to interrupt her daughter. "That's what I mean. Tasha, why aren't you two an item? Why aren't you two trying to find a spot with no parents around so you can grope each other in the dark?"
Nasty's cheeks turned a deeper shade of red. "Mom! I don't need this right now."
"Think about it, then." Maria patted Nasty's leg before she stood up. "Better get your shower and get dressed. Want me to call a cab for you?"
"No. I'm going to Eric's first, then grabbing a cab from there." Nasty finished getting her clothes and dashed to the bathroom. She emerged a few minutes later, her hair still damp, wearing a black t-shirt and her favourite pair of jeans. Flicking a damp lock of red hair off her shoulder, Nasty returned to her room to pick up her already packed backpack. She slung the bag on her back, then head to the living room. Her mother waited there, standing up as Nasty entered the room.
"Have everything?" Maria asked. "Spare clothes? Bathing suit in case the hotel has a pool?"
"Yes, Mom. Everything is packed."
"Something to read?"
"Yes, Mom." Nasty tried to keep the frustration from building.
Maria handed a box to her daughter. "Here."
Nasty read the label. "Condoms? Mom!"
"I'm not telling you to use all of them," Maria explained. "Just keep them on hand in case you need them." Seeing her daughter's angry expression, she continued, "Count yourself lucky. How many moms would even let their daughter sleep in the same room as a boy in a different city. Pack them, okay? If you don't need them, you don't need them. It's better than needing them but not having them."
"Fine." Nasty dropped her backpack. She tossed the box in, burying it deep beneath her clothes. "Happy?"
Maria pulled her daughter into a hug. "Have fun. If there's anything you need, just call me." She kissed Nasty's forehead. "And don't destroy the city, okay?"
Parsons residence, same morning
Vicki dashed around her room as she did her last minute packing. She kept glancing at the time. Dad's going to kill me if we miss the flight. I think I have everything. Vicki looked in her backpack again. Clothes, check. Reading material, check. Sewing project, check. Pixie's costume . . . Pixie's costume . . . Where the hell is Pixie's costume? Vicki sat down at her desk to think. I can't believe I lost that costume. I wore it yesterday on patrol. Wait! Laundry basket! She got up.
The laundry basket never knew what hit it. One moment, it was in the spot it always had been, unaware of the world around it. The next, it was overturned, its recently laundered contents dumped without ceremony on the bed, then tossed aside like an over-sized plastic wadded up piece of paper. Vicki dug through the pile of clothes. "Aha!" She pulled out Pixie's costume, a blue and pink one-piece outfit that Vicki had designed and sewn together herself. I should really wear it underneath my clothes today, but I shouldn't run into problems today. Still, best be safe. She walked back to her desk and opened the second drawer. From inside, Vicki pulled out an outfit made for a fashion doll. She looked it over with a critical eye, looking for tears and flaws. Satisfied, she place the doll clothes into her carry on luggage. Beats fighting crime in the nude.
After a half-hearted attempt to clean up her room, Vicki darted downstairs. She heard her mother in the kitchen. "Hi, Mom! Is Dad up yet?"
"He's getting dressed. Have everything?"
"Yep! Made sure before I came down."
"The cab will be here in half an hour. You better get some breakfast. Is your brother up?"
Vicki stopped and listened for a half-minute. "Doesn't sound like it." She set her luggage down and entered the kitchen. Her mom sat at the kitchen table, sipping a cup of coffee. Vicki grabbed a bowl from the cupboard, then looked in the pantry at the selection of cereals.
Louise looked over at her daughter. "Can you remember to look for something for Ben while you're at the con? He'll appreciate it."
"Sure, Mom. Get him to text me a list and I look in the dealers' room when I'm there." Vicki pulled out the box of Frosted Flakes and started pouring the cereal into her bowl.
"Did you remember your camera?"
Vicki paused in her breakfast making. She went through a mental checklist. Crap. Dropping the box, she sprinted out of the kitchen. "Be right back!" She returned with her digital camera in hand. "Thank, Mom. I can't believe I almost forgot that."
Louise smirked into her coffee cup. She took a sip before saying, "Better hurry up and eat. The cab will be here soon."
Keith's Yugo, Interstate 90, Pennsylvania, same morning
Meredith stretched her arms and legs the best she could in the tiny car. She ran her tongue around her mouth, trying to clean the taste of the morning away. "Keith?"
Keith sat in the driver's seat, glancing around at the mirrors, the road, and various readouts he installed. "Yes?"
"Where are we?"
"Pennsylvania. You fell asleep shortly after we crossed the border."
"I never expected a Yugo to be comfortable."
"Mine is. I improved the seating because I can't take the vibrations well."
Meredith shifted in her seat. "Good work. Want me to take over the driving?"
"Nah. I'm fine. I turned on the autopilot once we got on the Interstate. Empty enough to risk it."
"I tied in hardware to the steering column, a GPS, and a few computer chips of my own design. Don't worry, I stayed awake to make sure we didn't hit anything."
"Oh, well, I feel much better now." Meredith rubbed her arms. "Can we stop somewhere? I could use a bite to eat."
"Should be a rest stop up ahead. I could use a stretch, myself.
Meredith reached for the radio. "Mind if I put something on?"
Meredith turned on the radio. Static came out of the speakers. She played with the tuner dial, running up and down both the AM and the FM frequencies, trying to find something to listen to. After a few minutes of tuning, Meredith settled on a classic rock station that wasn't threatening to fade away. "How's that?" she asked as Black Sabbath's "I Am Iron Man" played.
Keith glanced at her from the corner of his eye. "How do you manage that?"
"Manage what?" Meredith put on her most innocent expression.
"How do you find the most appropriate music without trying?"
Meredith grinned. "Maybe I'm an altie and that's my power."
East 30th Street Heliport, New York City, Friday morning
Nasty handed her cab driver the fare and a little extra for being able to push through the morning rush hour. Eric handled getting their luggage out of the car. Between them, they each had a backpack, with Eric bringing along an extra upright suitcase. Nasty looked around, trying to figure out which way to go. Signs pointed her in what she hoped was the right direction. She walked inside to the information desk. The woman at the booth looked over the teen. "Hi," Nasty started, "I'm supposed to be picked up here."
"The cabs are outside," the woman answered, her Brooklyn accent coming through strongly.
"I know. That's how I got here." Nasty closed her eyes and counted to five silently. "I'm looking for the Eagle Foundation's helicopter. I'm a passenger."
The woman pointed to her left. "Down the corridor, on the left. Look for the sign."
"Thanks." Nasty turned on her heel and returned outside. Eric stood alone with the luggage, the cab having already left. "I think I know where. Is that everything?"
Eric nodded. He started picking up all the bags. "Do you know if they're here yet?"
Nasty reached out to take her own pack. "I just know roughly where to look."
"Lead the way." Eric fell in behind Nasty as she entered the heliport again. She followed the directions she received from the information booth and kept checking on her left. The only way she knew she was in the right spot was the uniform the helicopter pilot wore.
"Hi, Natasha Giuliano and guest?" the pilot asked.
"That's us," Nasty said.
The pilot offered his hand. "I'm Mitch. Is that all your bags?"
Eric shook Mitch's hand. "Eric," he introduced. "That's all."
"I'll get them stowed. Go get whatever you need, coffee, a bagel, and I'll be back in ten minutes to help you on board. The coffee shop here isn't that bad." Mitch grabbed the bags and disappeared through a door.
"Coffee sounds good to me, Tash," Eric said. "I think I saw a sign back there."
Nasty started walking back, joining Eric in the quest for caffeine. She looked over at him. /Great. Thanks a lot, Mom. Now I'm wondering whether there's a hotel room for us and how many beds there are and how comfortable the couch is. If there is a couch. I know Eric's going to sleep on it if there is one, too./
"Something wrong, Tash?"
"Huh? No, no, nothing wrong. Just thinking. About the convention. Since I've never been to one before. I hope I'm not going to bore you there." Nasty felt her cheeks grow warm. Shut up, girl.
Eric shrugged. "You won't be a bore. I'll be there for your panels and such and I can show you around to the other stuff."
"I'd like that." Nasty stopped in front of the small coffee shop and read over its menu. "The prices aren't as bad as I thought."
Eric stepped beside her, his shoulder touching hers. "Get whatever you want. My treat."
"Eric, I couldn't."
"You're getting me all the way to Cleveland and into the con. This is nothing."
"But," Nasty started. She racked her brain, trying to find a reason to tell Eric. I don't deserve it. I'm not who he thinks I am. I'm . . . I'm me. She just shrugged. "Sure. Extra sugar." Eric disappeared into the small cafe. Nasty sat down on a near by bench. Okay, Natasha. This is going to be a very long weekend if you keep getting flustered around him. What does Mom know, anyway? She sighed. Right, discount advice from the woman who had you at seventeen and goes out partying every weekend. But that's her, not me. Until she gave me that fucking box, I wasn't even thinking about doing anything with Eric except having him show me around the convention. Damn it!
Eric returned with two steaming Styrofoam cups, one in each hand. He handed one to Nasty. "Here. I have extra sugar packets in my pocket if you need them."
"Thanks." Nasty took a sip. "Just the way I like. Ready to go?"
"I'm ready if you are."
Tori fidgeted, tapping the dashboard in time to the music playing. "Why couldn't we have taken a flight?" she complained.
Natasha fought the urge to smack her partner. "Have you seen how tight air security has gotten these days? Last thing we want is paperwork following us. Now that we're out of the city, we can slip off everyone's radar." She glanced over at Tori. "Will you stop that? It's annoying."
"Excuse me." Tori folded her hands on her lap. "I still don't get why you planned on fighting our counterparts. How would they know we're going to be in Cleveland and why would they care anyway?"
"They don't know."
"Then why worry?"
"I wish you'd read what I send you. Look, this is the way it works. Whatever city we're in, they're in."
Tori rolled her eyes. "I did read what you sent, until you turned it denser than Mom's cooking. I don't get why our counterparts will be there. Did we make them go by going to Cleveland ourselves."
"No." Natasha tapped on her horn before passing a slower blue station wagon. "Somehow, our world and their world are connected. Other dimensions are harder to reach; theirs isn't, relative to the rest. Still takes a lot of energy. However, this connection also means that for everyone here, there's a counterpart there. With me so far?"
Tori nodded. "Okay, there's a mirror me, a mirror you, a mirror Omega, and a mirror Cleveland."
"Close enough. Now, my research shows that there is a correlation between where someone from our dimension is and where that person's counterpart is. Both version of that person are, roughly, in the same location at the same time. Not necessarily in the same building, but I couldn't get data that accurate, but the same city."
"So, by us going to Cleveland, we are making our mirrors go there, too."
"No. We're going to Cleveland to establish a fresh building point for our takeover scheme. Our 'mirrors', as you put it, will have their own reasons for being there. I have no idea what they will be. For all I know, our counterparts are there to find husbands."
Tori settled back in the passenger seat. She began tapping her fingers with the beat of the music. "Where did you learn about this shit?"
"Language, please," Natasha admonished. "And you'd be amazed what you can find in the Eagle's database in Rochester."
Micki crossed her legs, her pant legs whispering against each other. "How much do either of you know about alternate dimensions?"
Meredith shook her head in disdain. "Geek. Oh, look! There's a dance tonight! You never told me there was a dance tonight. Why didn't you tell me there was a dance tonight? Keith, we're going."
Natasha turned back to face the blonde. "They have food on the other side, too. I've heard that something other than Beavertails," she grimaced at the thought, "are available."