“Now arriving on Oubliette-333.”
She had heard the announcement two-hundred and fifty-four times now. It was happening erratically. Sometimes it was two hours and sometimes it was four. Other times, it was a few minutes, and sometimes it felt like a full day had gone by.
Ever since the ship began looping repeatedly to this dimension, it was becoming nigh-impossible to tell how much time had passed in the brig. She estimated it had been weeks since this began—maybe a month, going by her pregnancy.
Whatever was happening, it had taken Jeanette’s full attention: since their first arrival in Oubliette-333, she had not seen the woman. Given that Jeanette never missed an opportunity to remind Tabitha of her intentions to steal the baby, she was almost grateful for the reprieve, but now she wanted answers. Had Jeanette’s experiments brought about the end of the Elpis’ voyage of destruction? Did these announcements mean that her home world was now spared the fate countless worlds had suffered?
It was when the ship announced their arrival on Oubliette-333 for the three-hundredth and eighty-sixth time that someone descended into her cell—phasing through the ceiling. At first, she suspected it was Jeanette—come to demand Tabitha offer her aide in stopping this madness. If the ship were truly trapped in this dimension, however, Tabitha was not about to offer them any assistance.
It was not Jeanette who came, however. Instead, it was one of her son’s other classmates.
It was Martin Curie.
“Martin?” Jeanette asked, confused by his appearance here. Were the New Vindicators somehow responsible for the ship’s repeated shifting? “Is Jay with you? What’s happening?”
“Ve haf to hurry.” Martin winced and the scar over his left eye pulsed and paled with the exertion. “Mozer is strong unt I am doink all I can to contain her. She has almost discerned how to escape this infinite loop.”
“You… You’re not Martin Curie…”
“Nein. Mein name is Martin Erlenmeyer. Mein mozer absorbed me back home on our world vhen ze ozer students stopped Laputa’s plan unt… unt I destroyed my fazer. She zought it would be my destruction but I’ve been in her mind, watching her interactions for many monz now. I’m… I’m sorry for what she zreatened your baby wiz.” His compassion was short-lived as he took Tabitha by the hand. “Come,” he said as he walked her through the wall of her cell, into Katrina’s.
The woman didn’t look good: months of solitary confinement didn’t agree with the Russian. Her initial reaction was to transform and assume a threatening stance. Then, she saw Tabitha and seemed to relax herself. Then she saw her belly. “You—you’re pregnant?”
Tabitha nodded. “Maurice’s,” she said.
Katrina let out a low growl. “I’ll kill him.”
“I asked him to,” offered the other woman. “A medical condition that couldn’t be healed in one visit was the only way I could think to get Chen Lei to grant me time with Jeanette.”
Katrina looked to Martin. “So, what’s this?”
“Martin Erlenmeyer,” offered Tabitha. “He’s helping us escape.”
The trio set off for the docking bay, determined to make it to a ship. “Martin, what’s going on with the ship? Why do we keep shifting to the same world?”
“Mozer was trying to control where and when the Elpis goes, but it’s failed. We are stuck in an infinite loop… but she is close to solving it. When she does… Tabitha, it is not only your vorld zat needs saving. I haf seen the data, and zese experiments she’s performed… Ze Elpis is no longer slipping zrough ze space between dimensions—it’s ripping its way across dimentions. She managed to plot a course to zis dimension, yes, but now we can go nowhere else. Once we leave—once we force our way zrough zis…
“Zis may be vhat Argus truly wanted: ze annihilation of all of creation.”
Without hesitation Tabitha asked, “What can I do to help?”
“You mentioned zat I, your Martin, met a much different fate on your vorld? Perhaps my doppelganger can be of some assistance.” Martin stopped and placed his hand on Tabitha’s stomach. For a moment, it was hard to tell where his appendage ended and her belly began.
Before Tabitha could finish gasping, Martin pulled his arm back. “Vhen you make it home, find your vorld’s Martin, and tell him zat zere is a message for him inside your daughter.”
Martin led them to the docking bay without incident. Soon, he was leading them onto the ramp of a scouting ship—a crew of grey men at the helm. Here, he dropped to his knees, clutching his head. “Sorry, she is fighting me…”
Martin forced himself to stand and—fighting through the pain—made his way to the controls. “I vill plot a course for your dimens—argh!” Again, he came close to collapsing. “I’m sorry,” he said, sweat dripping across his brow, “I must leave you. If she overpowers me…” The scar over his eye turned a deep shade of violet as he strained himself to concentrate on maintaining control. “I’ve not ze strengz to form ze new element again, Martinium, unt a highly radioactive explosive decompression vould not be as good here as it vas to take out Dieter, Sphinx, unt their pawns. Still…” He looked to the force field that separated the bay from the void they were adrift in. “I zink I vill let mozer get some air. Ve never took enough trips as a family.”
The pain-induced rictus grin he wore took on an almost demonic appearance as he phased through the wall of the ship, leaving the women to escape the Elpis once and for all.
“Can we trust him?” Katrina asked as Tabitha sat in the captain’s chair.
“Do we have any other options? Just keep an eye on the greys…”
The ship lurched to life and pierced the energy barrier that separated the bay from the void. Tabitha’s eyes swam across the monitors displayed before her, swiftly interoperating how to control the ship. As she figured out how to initiate a shift, the ship shook violently.
“They’re onto us,” she said, looking at one of the monitors. “We’ve taken a hit.” She barely had the words out before the ship shook again. Alarms were going off all around them. “Almost…”
The ship accelerated and suddenly they were sailing through the sky… straight for mountains. “Everyone, brace-”