Warpt Factor, installment three

Or “I should be sleeping because I just worked over nine hours and have a busy day ahead of me tomorrow/today (because it’s past midnight)” with a hint of “I’m terrible at setting real, proper adult-like priorities, which explains a lot about me”.

Here’s installment three in Warpt Factor. It features a really horrible/great time travel pun. Oh, and more fun character development and stuff. So much for doing these at a reasonable pace, though.


            Robin Parker, listed in the credits as Opening Sequence Victim, jiggled the light switch experimentally. The lights remained off, and eerie violin music crept into the background as she ventured down into the basement anyway.

            “It’s like they’re actively trying to get killed,” Izzy said, encased in her pillow-and-comforter armor.

            “Sure makes Earth girls look dumb,” Ursula said between bites of popcorn-flavored nachos. “I wonder if people really said ‘dude’ so much back then.” A masked figure stepped out of the shadows, knife raised, and the screen was splashed with the blood from the first of many victims in Teenage Slaughterfest Summer Camp: Buckets of Blood Edition. Izzy retreated further into the blankets while Ursula cackled at the old movie.

            “He’s holding that knife all wrong,” Ursula said. “Lucky for him that she’s practically skewering herself, I guess.” Izzy chuckled, emerging from the layers of covers and pillows to grab a handful of nachos.

            “I wish I’d met people like you back home,” Izzy said, munching on the chips. “Maybe this is my inner homeschooled only child past talking, but where have you been all my life?”

            “Persephone the Lesser,” Ursula said, wiping her hands on her pajama pants. Izzy leaned closer, squinting at Ursula’s forehead. Ursula leaned back, an eyebrow raised.

            “Sorry,” Izzy said, smiling. “I just thought Persephonians all had a third eye in the middle of their foreheads.”

            “We do, usually. I was born without one,” Ursula said. “No mind-reading either. My mom still coddles me. The worst part? I ended up with a heightened sense of smell, and the Universe rewarded me with three younger brothers.” Ursula pinched her nose, frowning, and Izzy laughed.

            “Based on how my mom and my aunt act around each other, I’m happy my parents took the one and done approach to parenting,” Izzy said. She yawned, suddenly aware of how late it had gotten. “Guess I better head over to my room and get some sleep.” Ursula looked up from the nachos, clearly disappointed.

            “Oh, okay. If you really want to walk all the way back to your room, that’s fine,” Ursula said. “Or we could throw together an awesome pillow-fort to celebrate being the two coolest neighbors in Spiral Reach Academy history. No pressure.” Izzy shrugged lazily, falling backwards onto the heap of throw pillows Ursula had stacked on her bed.

            “Sure, why not?” Izzy said. “I can’t even begin to warn you about how intense my snoring can get, though.”

            “Honestly, I just want some company,” Ursula said, shrugging. “I think I’m a little homesick already. Being one of the only students moved in didn’t help. Hell, I might even welcome your snoring.” Izzy shook her head, smiling.

            “You’ll regret that comment in a couple hours,” Izzy said. Ursula switched her room controls to the lights, which she then dimmed until the room was almost completely dark. They finished the remainder of the nachos, joking about the different group activities they’d be skipping. Both Izzy and Ursula shuffled off to the bathroom, brushed their teeth, and returned to Ursula’s room.

            “I’ve got about fifty pillows, so I think we should be all set,” Ursula said, surveying the floor. A sudden, loud burst of snoring caught Ursula’s attention. Izzy had dozed off, slumped face-first into a heap of pillows. Ursula picked up a loose pillow from her bed, eyeing the pile Izzy was propped up by carefully. She took aim, and threw the fluffy projectile carefully. It met its mark, and Izzy fell forward into the bedspread.

            “Huh? I’m awake!” Izzy said. She looked around, bleary-eyed, and grinned sheepishly. “Sorry. Once I get tired, that’s it for me.” Ursula chuckled.

            “It’s cool,” Ursula said. “Help me set up a cozy comforter palace on the floor and you can snooze and snore all you want.” Izzy nodded, smirking mischievously. She bombarded Ursula with any pillow she could get her hands on. Ursula lunged towards the bed, grabbing the covers Izzy sat on. With one strong pull, she dragged the thick comforter, and Izzy, to the floor. The two girls fell into the pile of pillows, laughing.

            “Hey, Izz?” Ursula said, sitting up amidst the bedding debris. Izzy sat up, eyebrows arched.

            “What’s up?”

            “You think we could try to make this a weekly thing?” Ursula said. “Once classes start, I mean, and we’re both pulling all-nighters to get work done, do you think we could still make time to hang out?”

            “Do sharks have the right to vote as active members Earth’s Congress?” Izzy said, smiling. Ursula cocked her head, an eyebrow raised. “Definitely. Yes to both of those things.”

            “Great,” Ursula said. “I hate to admit it, but after spending so much time talking to myself alone in the dorm, I’m already a little homesick. I probably won’t get to go home again until after my second year of studies.”

            “That’s rough,” Izzy said. “Maybe we’re a little early into the friendship for such bold offers, but you’d be a welcome addition to the Warpt family fiascos around the holidays. I’ll have to ease my parents into the idea, though. They might have some sort of mental breakdown if I told them I made a friend who isn’t the product of my imagination. Anyway, we’ve got a whole week worth of time to get into all sorts of crazy shenanigans.”

            “Sounds good to me,” Ursula said. She lay down amidst the covers and quilts, surrounded by all sorts of pillows. “Goodnight, Izzy. Don’t let the masked murderer hiding in the closet get you.” Izzy buried herself in the mess of covers as quickly as she could.

            “Goodnight, you scoundrel,” Izzy said.

            The next week sped by in a blur of lunch outings, sleep-overs, and bad horror movies. Ursula, despite Izzy’s protests, stealthily helped transform Izzy’s dorm room into a home away from home. Small, handmade decorations would appear after Ursula’s visits. On the Sunday night before the first day of classes, Ursula set up an old tent on top of Izzy’s bed.

            “Ghost stories? Around a hologram camp fire?” Izzy said. “Sure, why not. Nothing says ‘get ready for the horrors of exams’ like refreshing my irrational fear of the dark.”

            The early hours of Monday morning arrived far more quickly than Izzy would have liked. Ursula fell asleep halfway into her second story, still sitting up with her eyes wide open, which prevented Izzy from getting any sleep. Only minutes after she dozed off, or so it seemed, Izzy felt something shaking her.

            “Izz, wake up!” Ursula said. Izzy half-opened her eyes. Ursula’s toothbrush hung from her mouth as she hopped around, getting dressed in her cadet’s uniform. “Neither of us set an alarm! We’re going to be late! Move it, slug-ass!” Izzy blinked the sleep from her eyes

            “Slug-ass? That’s new,” Izzy said, noticing a particularly unpleasant taste in her mouth. She processed the rest of what Ursula said, and her eyes shot wide open. “Shit. Late already? She leapt off the bed, flinging her pajamas around and grabbing her cadet uniform in a flurry of scattered clothes.

            “You’ve got your pants on backwards,” Ursula said. A gob of toothpaste fell from her mouth and landed on the floor with a slick plop.

            “Setting the Course for Cadets is in the Solarium, right?” Izzy said as she made sure she put her pants on facing the right way.

            “Sounds right,” Ursula said. She tapped the door open button on the room’s control panel, dropping her toothbrush in the process. “With Instructor Grant Emerson. Sorry, I’ll clean up the mess I made later. Promise.” Izzy groaned loudly.

            “Emerson? This day better only improve from here,” Izzy said. She and Ursula ran to the nearest free telepod. Ursula cycled through the options as quickly as she could until she got to the Solarium. Izzy felt the familiar sensation of carbonation in her brain as the telepod instantly transported her and Ursula from their dormitory. The vast expanse of the Solarium opened up before the telepod, its massive protective dome letting in a great deal of sunlight while filtering out much of the harsh radiation that bombarded the Martian surface after the original, failed terraforming efforts wrought havoc on Mars’ atmosphere. In the distance, Izzy spotted a collection of cadets around Instructor Emerson, whose back was turned to the telepod. Ursula and Izzy leapt out and joined the group as quietly as they could.

            “Of course,” Instructor Emerson said. He, and the group of cadets around him, blurred into static in the air, vanishing completely. Izzy spotted everyone who she thought she was about to stealthily join standing about ten feet away, amidst the shade of a Venusian palm tree. “That, students, is another effective use of Warp Drive Data Storage. Aside from being an invaluable tool in negotiations with any potentially hostile species, it can also act as an easy distraction to simple-minded miscreants. Thank you for your demonstration of such a use, Warpt.” Ursula snapped to attention, offering a crisp salute.

            “Oh, you,” Izzy said, wagging a finger in the air. “Sorry, teach. Won’t happen again.” Instructor Emerson glared at Izzy.

            “I should certainly hope not, Warpt,” Instructor Emerson said. He waved Ursula and Izzy over to join the rest of the group. Tristan offered a quick, subtle wave to Izzy as she and Ursula approached. “Where was I?”

            “The proper applications of Spiral Reach technology in the field, sir,” Tristan said, stepping forward.

            “Very good,” Instructor Emerson said. He snapped his fingers and pointed at Tristan. “What’s your name again, cadet?”

            “Tristan Marquist, sir,” Tristan said, saluting.

            “Good listening, Marquist,” Instructor Emerson said. “We’ll be discussing much of the technology Spiral Reach Academy uses to chart the uncharted as this course continues. Make no mistake, this will push you all to your very limits. Some of you will fall short of my standards, and fail miserably.”

            “He may be talking to us,” Ursula said quietly.

            “Oh yeah?” Izzy said, waggling her eyebrows. “Well, to that I only say challenge accepted.” Instructor Emerson turned to Izzy, failing to hide his irritation.

            “Do you have something to contribute, Warpt?” Instructor Emerson said. Izzy opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off by what sounded like metal grinding against metal. A second Izzy appeared next to Instructor Emerson, a dachshund in each hand.

            “Yeah, teach,” the second Izzy said. She handed Emerson the dogs and smirked. “Don’t mess with time travel, or you might wind up with a pair-o’-dachs!” Several cadets laughed, while others looked at each other with mixed expressions of confusion and concern. The second Izzy winked, giving a thumbs-up to Izzy and Ursula. She tapped a small screen wrapped around her wrist. Just as quickly as she’d arrived, the second Izzy disappeared.

The brief moment of red, contorted anger on Instructor Emerson’s face was quickly replaced by shock. He handed the two dachshunds off to a cadet and stood at attention. Izzy recognized the elderly man and Pleiadian woman walking towards the group as High Chancellor Bennett Kadimova and High Chancellor Cecilia Amadeus Driscol. She quietly damned herself for leaving her Spiral Reach Inspiration trading cards back in her dorm room.

            “It is such an honor and privilege,” Instructor Emerson said, only to be cut off by High Chancellor Driscol raising a hand.

            “What a delightful play on words,” High Chancellor Kadimova said, smiling.

            “To think it only took at least half a dozen violations of the Temporal Code of Conduct,” High Chancellor Driscol said. She shook her head, and the delicate silver quills amidst her long, graying hair, swished gently side to side. Izzy stared at High Chancellor Driscol, her eyes full of wonder.

            “You’re even more beautiful in person,” Izzy said. She clapped her hands over her mouth, and High Chancellor Kadimova chuckled.

            “Maddie has that effect on people,” High Chancellor Kadimova said. High Chancellor Driscol glared at High Chancellor Kadimova. “Oh, lighten up.” Instructor Emerson stepped between Izzy and the two High Chancellors.

            “I’m terribly sorry for Cadet Warpt’s behavior,” Instructor Emerson said. “I will see to it myself that she is disciplined appropriately. Expelled even, if that is what you feel best. I dream about the day one of you dusty old senators shuffles off this mortal coil so I can take your place as a High Chancellor.” Instructor Emerson gasped, his mouth agape. The High Chancellors exchanged glances.

            “That’s quite enough, Instructor Greg,” High Chancellor Kadimova said, waving his hand in front of Instructor Emerson’s face. “If you would be so kind, I’d like to borrow this mischievous young cadet for a moment. Objections, Driscol?”

            “I suspect my response will have no impact on your decision,” High Chancellor Driscol said. “Yes. Walk with us, Cadet. I’m sorry, your name again?”

            “Isabelle Warpt, ma’am,” Izzy said. “Preferential to Izzy, but I’m also known as little terror to my family. I don’t know why I said that last part, ma’am.” High Chancellor Kadimova laughed.

            “With us, Izzy,” High Chancellor Kadimova said. He looked around the cadets, snapped his fingers, and pointed to Tristan. “You there. Name, please.”

            “Tristan Marquist, sir,” Tristan said.

            “Good lad, Tristan, volunteering to take notes for Cadet Warpt here,” High Chancellor Kadimova said. High Chancellor Driscol sighed, massaging her temples. The two High Chancellors began walking towards the airlock doors leading out of the Solarium, and Izzy followed quickly behind them. Izzy could hear Instructor Emerson quietly mutter something about his first name not being Greg.

            “Your skin is such a lovely light blue, and so shiny,” Izzy said, staring at High Chancellor Driscol. She blinked a couple times.

            “Oh, thank you. I’d almost forgotten,” High Chancellor Kadimova said. He reached into his shirt. There was a quiet, metallic click. “There we go. Simple Neuronal Disruptor Field. I’ve found it’s easier to avoid being lied to when you make it impossible for the people around you to tell lies.”

            “Depending on the planet I’m on, and how light interacts with the atmosphere, my skin takes on a number of appearances,” High Chancellor Driscol said. “And very subtle of you, Bennett.” The Solarium opened into Terminus Major, the Education Sector’s main hub. Hundreds of telepods lined the walls, flashing as their occupants moved throughout Spiral Reach Academy.

            “This is amazing,” Izzy said, looking around the vastness of Terminus Major. “Not to sound ungrateful for a chance to walk with two of the greatest minds to ever spend time here, but where are we going?” High Chancellor Driscol pointed at a large, metal disc positioned high above the center of the Terminus.

            “After the little display of your exploits, I think it is only appropriate we take you to the Headmaster,” High Chancellor Driscol said. “I may not agree with expulsion, but I have some ideas of my own on how to handle a cadet like you.”

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