Alpha Taxonomy

From the Story Arc: The Charge of the Labcoat Brigade

Previous Story in the Arc: Bound Morpheme by Krasniy Zakat (Friday, March 30, 2007)

(posted Monday, April 02, 2007)

((co-written with Garent and Tobias))

Sofia shook her shoes out, pouring sand onto the immaculate floor of the little hidden laboratory, watching the group of three irritable and uncertain magicians paw through her equipment. They had done wonders warily inspecting the portal which Garent had professed as their salvation, and one of them was staring up at Aleksander with an expression on his face that said, clear as day, 'abomination before the Lord'... or at least something to that effect.

"Why did I agree to return them to their homeworld, again?"

"'Cause we had the only portal out of that hole in the wall?" Tobias commented as he picked bits of sand off of his leather jacket to ensure they didn't damage it any further. They were all covered in sand, a remnant of their trek back through the desert of the other world. Memory of miles upon miles of trudging through sand, even with Garent's occasional ability to carry them, as well as Shrike's teleportation. The ziggurat itself, despite its dilapidated state, had only managed to get them dusty and somewhat salted with white powder, but now the hair of the Sofias, as well as that of Vickie, was ash-grey instead of blonde, and Garent himself could no longer boast green and brown attire, but rather a grey one.

He shook his head, slightly embarrassed by the behavior of his allies, who were so far unable to pierce the mysteries of the alien magic at work around them. "Sorry about the inconvenience. I would have gotten us all out myself, but there was some sort of magical blocking."

"How inconvenient for you," Sofia noted dryly, returning her shoe onto her foot, "that you were saved by – mostly – a plethora of technophiles. Remind me to leave you to your predicament next time."

"Speaking of saving me. I suppose I've actualized my own prophecy that you two would be relied on for support in the future," Garent replied, not minding Sofia's tone.

"Since when did you become a feckin' Seer?" Tobias asked. He had undone his hair and was shaking out more sand despite Sofia's scowls.

"It was pretty obvious even without my ability to sense the pool. Luckily, it's been thirty minutes since everyone last ate, and they're all back in it now," Garent joked blandly. Tobias buried his face in his palms and shook his head, smiling at Garent's first joke in his presence. Sofia, however, favoured him with a sour look and a vague blink. Apparently, the linguist didn't frequent swimming pools much, and the joke went right over her head.

"Support to your poor mother," the alternate Sofia – or was it the real one? Garent couldn't quite tell – remarked as she reentered the room with a large vacuum cleaner towed in one hand. "Careful – this thing doesn't like people in its course. It snarls and bites." The Rabinoviches' household could not help but be interesting, one supposed, what with the currently absent Alexanders constantly tinkering with household appliances.

"I'd like to get these three back to their home dimension. They haven't seen it in a few thousand years and I want to avoid too much contact between cultures. Shouldn't Alexander be taking care of this?" Garent asked, preferring to ignore all other comments – in light of one of his expatriates’ attempt to poke her finger into an electric socket – as one of the Sofias began wielding the fearsome vacuum cleaner with an unnerving fervor.

"He – they – are," one of the disconcerting twins answered, flipping a hand casually over her shoulder in the direction of the Portal room. Out of which, needless to say, they had been all evicted. The even more disconcerting mention of the second "Alex" Garent preferred to let slide completely. "They're coordinating the portal right now. And it couldn't be fast enough for me. One trek through a desert is enough and plenty, but two, all spread out in a large triangle, are far too much."

"It's not their fault," Vickie commented from her corner, where she was busy lovingly polishing the sword, "that they were stuck in that camp, exactly in the opposite direction of where we were going. You wouldn't really have left them there, Zarya, once you'd found out."

Sofia grunted and rolled her eyes. Garent's mouth took the first step towards a grin, though it dared go no further. "If possible, I'd like to escort them back. There's someone I want to talk to over there."

Garent's fear of misplaced concern became incarnate as all three females in the room reared their head instantly. "What, again?"

"Oh c'mon man, we almost lost ya in one version of your reality." Tobias treacherously joined forces with them. "I'm not letting you disappear into another one!"

Garent held up a hand as if to stave off their worry, "Trust me on this one. We won't get a repeat of previous events. I promise I [i]will[/i] be coming back this time. It will only take a few minutes."

The vacuum noise died abruptly as Sofia simply stared at him in utter and final perplexity. "At least we learn from our mistakes," she muttered enigmatically, wiping a forearm along the line of her hair. "When we get imprisoned on some dystopic world, we learn to get a backup team. This one never learns. And what," she demanded more loudly, staring at Garent directly, "will you do if someone chooses to try and turn you into an impersonation of Spartacus, again?"

"Like I said, trust me. I can tell the future after all," Garent explained, though he knew full well it wouldn't be enough to rationalize his actions to her.

"I'm almost inclined to let you try it, and if you get stuck in there this time, I won't come and get you out... But, your mother would kill me. That's one. And it was Alex and Aleksander who did the coordinate work, for two. So at the least I know you will be going where you want, this once." Garent had come to the conclusion a few weeks ago that his ability to sense the pool was completely useless, and the current situation was more evidence for that as everyone in the room could tell where the conversation was headed as Sofia had reached the limit of her flexibility. Not to say that she was inflexible, but once she reached her limit, that was the end of it.

"Look... if you're sending them home, Garent, they don't need you as an escort." Tobias leaned against the wall and had pulled a small novel out of his pocket, reading it as he spoke. "It's their dimension to leave them to. Cope with it; you can't ease them in any more than they could themselves."

Garent assessed the expressions of Sofia and Tobias before continuing, "It's not them I'm worried about. There's someone there that I want to talk to. What do I need to do to make that happen? Bring another person with me? Carry some sort of device that will allow you to forcefully pull me back to this dimension?"

Tobias quickly stowed away his novel and was standing straight again. "Sure Garent, I'll come with you to your home dimension. Let's get goin'!"

Garent turned to Sofia in anticipation of her coming dissatisfaction with his suggestion. Sofia merely provided Tobias with a slightly unnerving smile, and arched a cynical eyebrow. "Fair enough. You will protect Garent... as you have done so well this last time. And in order to satisfy the requirements of one old, feebleminded woman, we shall provide you with a tracker that will report to this little fellow." She patted with one hand a very dusty, round robot with solar cells glued to its top.

Garent raised an eyebrow at the meager machine, "I was born here, so I'm not quite as clueless as these guys." Garent gestured towards the three refugee elementalists. One of whom had recently pressed a button on a small box and found himself with a face full of green liquid, he blinked in confusion as it quickly evaporated into a purple mist, and the rest of whom had taken up zoology as they studied the vacuum cleaner. "So I have to ask what purpose a steel ball with silicon attached to it serves."

"In and of itself," Alex answered, slowly striding into the room, rubbing the small of his back, "it's just a relay. It receives signals, and reports them back to the portal. A portal, you see," the man could not help but lecture, "is never really closed while the connection to the other universe remains. We keep a very small opening always around, so whatever this robot picks up, he reports to us. If someone decides to try and gobble you up... Or, I suppose, drink you with their croissants… we'll know about it."

Tobias doubled over laughing at Alex's joke.

Though he showed no evidence of it, Garent was enjoying that the Rabinoviches were taking him less seriously than most. His cryptic droning had no effect on them, and that suited him just fine, "Since you're here, I can guess that you've either finished the portal or almost are."

"Just about," Alex smirked smugly. "You all, gentlemen, if you're quite finished tormenting my gadgetry, may proceed to the other room, and fasten your seatbelts."

"And ladies," Sofia murmured, exchanging, for the first time, a more or less benign look with one of Garent's co-worlders.

"Oh, that... Sure, sure." Alex waved the notion off, and the rest of them in.

The three dumbstruck dimensional travelers followed Alex through the doors into a mostly empty chamber. Directly in the middle was a giant purple glowing ball of energy, surrounded by convulsing and spinning rings containing and controlling the dimensional rip between the worlds, telling it exactly which worlds it was meant to disrupt and where.

Alex held his hand out to Garent, cupping in his palm a matching pair of two small tags. There were no pins or other ways of attaching the little, round objects to one’s clothes that might actually prove useful, and Garent sought about his uniform for a pocket, or at least a nonexistent fold. Tobias had no such problems, dropping the tag into his beloved jacket.

“Inorganic beings first,” Alex murmured as the purple hue of the portal resolved itself into a steady image on a flat grassland. He unhooked the little spherical robot off his arm, patted it on the back, and tossed it through, as if it were a bird of prey.

The three refugees jumped through the portal, eager to do resolve their millennia old home-sickness. Garent looked over those present before stepping through the portal. Damascus Shrike nodded as Garent's gaze passed by, and he returned the nod. The pool told him that Shrike had helped immensely while he and Booster were gone. He would have to personally thank Shrike for that later. Vickie seemed alright. She, for some reason, saw potential of sorts, in both Garent and Tobias. Tobias had a lot of magical energy within him that was ripe for the picking, and she had pegged Garent as a high magic user. Garent decided to ask for her input on both of those topics later.

Alex and Sofia were a complex little puddle; they seemed to be drawing away from the CCCP, or were being left behind as it kept moving. It was hard to tell with a constantly moving body of water, and his connection to them was only the sum of a few conversations. As for the other pair of Rabinoviches, they were a lot more complicated than Garent had originally guessed. His original guess was a robot with a copy of Alex's brain uploaded to it and a clone of Sofia. Watching the robotic Aleksander lean casually against a computer panel, rapturously gazing at a compressing and stretching slinky, Garent revised his first impression; into what, he was not yet certain.

Tobias made sure the pocket holding his novel was secure and gave everyone behind him a thumbs up. "I'll be sure to bring Garent home before bed time." The two exchanged smirks as they stepped through the portal.

The duo came out the other side to find that the three refugees had already found an ecstatic welcome. In the opposite version of this dimension they were trash, on Primal Earth they were refugees, but here they were the legendary warriors spoken of in myths.

Tobias took in the surroundings. In the evil dimension everything was desolate except for the arena. Here, every building was a ziggurat taking wide, methodical steps towards the sky. Garent smiled as he watched Tobias take everything in. He wished that he could show everyone what this place was like and why he was proud of it. Garent wished he could show them that it was nothing like the blasted ruins of its dark reflection, but he cared too much for this place to risk it. Maybe it was an irrational fear, but when it came to his father's home, he would take no risks.

Tobias' eyes glazed over for a moment as he realized how dangerous it was bringing him here. Hadn't Garent mentioned this place was a peaceful utopia? He gave his inner demon and angel warnings and promises of their destruction if they jeopardized his friend's paradise-like home. Both responded by slinking back deeper into his mind, at least for the time being.

Garent joined his friend in looking over the beautiful city while the crowd eagerly asked the mythical heroes questions about the stories written about them and their experiences since they left. "They have a unique culture here. I've heard that all of the dimensions only have one minor difference from the others that gave rise to all of the changes and differences they have today. Here everyone can use their abilities to defend themselves and fight others, and that changed our culture drastically. We enjoy fighting, not because we like violence, but because that's how we most easily get to know others and learn their way of thinking and overcoming problems. It sounds barbaric, but because of it none of us ever saw the need to have wars. Fighting was something between friends. Even if we did have a war, we aren't capable of killing eachother. There's a spell to remove a person's magic from their souls, but it's forbidden. We're all capable of it, but no one knows how to do it because it stopped being passed on. It's kept that way by only social pressure."

Garent glanced to Tobias briefly to make sure he hadn't lost him two sentences into his oration. He was pleased to see Tobias deeply interested in what he was saying, "Maybe the only difference between this dimension and its reflection was that the spell continued to be used and passed on. You take people who enjoy fighting, add an easy method for them to kill eachother, and you create a blood lusted society that believes the weak should be removed and replaced by the strongest."

"Making them no better than animals with bigger teeth," Tobias nodded.

"They were worse than animals. They were capable of killing for fun," Garent paused a moment as he composed himself internally, "What I'm afraid of is that these people will realize that there are powerful opponents in our dimension and seek them out to test their abilities. When you say 'fighting' over there, people think of arguments, wars, and death. I'm afraid that there would be too many misunderstandings."

"I understand." Tobias stared at his feet a moment, "They won't disrupt this, I promise."

"Thanks," Garent smiled at Tobias again, "I know I have a problem with not letting people make their own decisions, but I think this is a situation in which a choice shouldn't be presented."

Tobias held up his hand and shook his head. "You talk too much, mate." he reached up to adjusted his sunglasses and found that they weren't on his forehead... he sighed. Apparently, the sunglasses were resting somewhere in the Rabinoviches’ lab. He merely hoped that the labcoat twins would not decide to appropriate the expensive pair.

A young, blond girl stepped out of the crowd in front of the two and waved at Garent, who returned the wave affectionately. Tobias tilted his head sideways at her and smirked. "You got dibs on the hot blonde or is she fair game?" He asked before the girl had time to come within range of their quiet voices.

Garent's head snapped to face Tobias like a whip. Tobias wasn't sure what to do as Garent displayed the most complicated mixture of emotion to date as he struggled to growl out a sentence, "That's my sister."

Tobias blinked, looked at Garent, then the blood girl, then Garent. He decided to turn around and pretend to be very interested in his novel. To himself, however, he managed to think. Fair game, then.

Garent's sister looked to Tobias as she stopped in front of them, "This is the guy, huh?"


"I'm sorry."


Tobias looked up from his novel unable to ignore the complete and total lack of coherence in the conversation behind him. "What are you two talking about?"

"Oh nothing. My name is Sophie by the way.” The blond smiled at him enticingly – at least Tobias judged it to be enticing – gaining points in his ranking system for already showing more emotional depth than Garent in the minute that he knew her.

"Tobias Dragon." he nodded at her, smiling back while looking like he's plotting something.

Sophie turned back to Garent and gave him a less fake smile, "I heard from those three over there that their fourth was killed."

Garent nodded, "Right, along with everyone else we sent over there minus father."

Sophie’s expression dropped, "I guess we'll have to rewrite the myths, then."

"Don't think of it that way," Garent reassured her, "Leave them as they are and make it an opportunity for you to write a new chapter."

Tobias, having already become lost in their conversation went back to reading his book.

Sophie’s face brightened slightly and she continued, "Your connection to the pool is full now. You almost lost it completely though."

"That's right. I still can't see as far as you, but I seem to have one advantage no one else does. Normally the pool can't be used to scry events beyond a decisive battle since it's impossible to predict the results of it. This restriction doesn't seem to apply to me." Garent explained. He wondered what his sister’s odd namesake – Sofia – would make of that little determinism. Probably tell him again that, the future being a mutable and unstable thing, there was no spoon. Maybe for her, there really wasn’t.

Around them, the crowd dispersed as they decided it would be a good idea to show the mythical warriors how things had changed in the years they'd been gone.

"I see," Sophie remarked, showing little shock, "So you have the potential see farther than me. Can you see the coming event that will change this place?"

Tobias rolled his eyes catching bits of the conversation; he felt like Garent was blowing smoke.

Garent nodded, "In the other version of this dimension father took power and ruled over everyone. That was the first time in their history that a person ruled over others."

"And the same thing will soon happen here," His sister concluded for him. "You can see further than most. Impressive considering only half of your blood line is from this dimension."

Tobias wouldn't notice, but the two of them were having a conversation with a conversation. The natural questions in the situation would be 'who is the leader' and 'what will be the consequences of their rule'. By purposely avoiding both of those questions, Garent and Sophie inferred to the other that they already knew.

Garent looked over at the awkward contraption floating beside him, the little robot drew numerous looks, and its glued-on solar cells looked downright amusing. "I should head back. There are people waiting for me."

Sophie nodded in understanding, " You were only here for a few minutes and you already want to leave home?"

Tobias smirked. "He has ripples to make elsewhere, sorry but he can't stay."

"Yeah. Besides, I'm not leaving home. I'm going home."

Sophie simply smiled as the two of them stepped back through the portal.