Part 5: The Crossing

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

Something was wrong in Edna’s memory of the Storm’s Heart Crossing. She couldn’t recall which parallel Earth it led to, but she was sure she’d been there - and done something impressive and uncomfortable, no doubt. Why else would her home invader have sought her out so desperately? But the list of other worlds where Edna Star had been impressive was too long to comb through at present.

Storm’s Heart was a difficult crossing, so she’d rather get turned around - and back to her life and watch - before they went through. It lives in a cloud - a big, white, fluffy one - that never dies. Wandering the whole world round, the cloud carries at its core a storm that beats across two worlds and the infinite gap of possibilities that separates them.

Edna sighed, grabbed a handful of mashed potatoes, shoved them into her mouth, and opened the door that led outside. The potatoes were warm and creamy and good. The outside was cold and wet and bad. The wind raged through the door as soon as she’d unlatched it. Her dress flapped madly behind her like it was trying to run away.

Edna stepped out into the wind and onto a narrow, metal walkway. She screamed, mashed potatoes falling from her mouth as she fell to her knees. The walkway was the sort of grated, spiky metal that was meant to grip the soles of your shoes so you wouldn’t fall. Her bare feet assured her they would not slip. Her pain called out a “told you so.”

She gripped the rail and stood, stumbling forward across the evil metal. Though almost blinded by the wind and cloud and pain, Edna could see more of the great curving up body of the ship now. It was green, with some pattern to it she couldn’t make out, but she did realize finally what sort of ship it was. She was on a blimp. (Well, almost.)

Edna marched in agony through the rushing gale, looking, feeling, hoping desperately to find a door. To her surprise, one opened just ahead. From inside, a monocled Pythagoras said something that was also silenced by the wind. She didn’t care what. She ran forward, diving in beside him - managing barely to keep on her feet. The turtoid shut and latched the door with its face.

“Edna Star!” The voice was loud as ever, but surprise ran through it. Edna looked over and saw Duke Something Or Other, his jacket and hat removed, his white shirtsleeves rolled to the elbows. He huffed worriedly toward her, and she could tell - by his continued existence, mostly - he was about to talk some more.

Hunched by the door, Edna choked on her own breath as she preempted him. “Turn around,” she managed to force out.

There was an instant of confusion in his eyes, before he spun on the spot, fists swinging into position. “What? Ha! Who goes there!” he grunted, hopping from one foot to the other.

“No,” Edna sighed, “the ship. Turn the blimp around. Take me back.” Dutiful Pythagoras started toward the controls.

Her gentleman captor dropped his fists and turned back round, embarrassed and confused. “I— the zeppelin—“ he began, then found a course, “but surely the adventure cannot be delay—“

“—I don’t care about the adventure,” Edna snapped. “I have had my home invaded. I have been kidnapped. I have been doctored by a turtoid. I have learned the word turtoid!” Pythagoras looked affronted - yet another thing robots shouldn’t be able to do - but Edna finished without a pause for the turtoid’s feelings. “And, worst of it all, I have lost my watch!”

She was growing accustomed to the sight of this man befuddled. He stood there, motionless but for his face - his eyes and mouth moving curiously. Then something set in them. With a look she didn’t understand, he reached into his pocket. “That wouldn’t be this watch, would it?” Of the many grievances she’d laid out, that was not the one she’d expected him to latch onto, but then he pulled a watch out of his pocket.

She crossed to him immediately, plucking it from his hand, but even before she held the thing she knew it was right - it was her watch. It was even a bit shinier than it had been that morning. “Did you clean it?” She asked, not looking away as she rolled the timepiece familiarly round her hand.

“Every, er, ah, every speck of it, yes.”

Pythagoras called from the too-large-to-be-purely-functional wheel, “Shall I still turn us around then?” The turbulence was getting rougher and more constant as they neared the storm. Lightning - ever the dramatist - flashed all around them.

Simultaneously, Edna and the Captain gave opposing answers. Pythagoras affected a sigh that neither noticed nor would have appreciated. Edna spoke again first, “I have not consented to this adventure, sir.”

“But you— I mean—,” he thought out loud, “No, I suppose not directly, but surely you meant— I mean, the Refusal!”

“My ‘Refusal’, as you put it, was quite literal, actually. No meaning no, and all that.” Edna tried to sound scornful but it came out as more of a gentle reproach.

“But The bag, for Second’s sake! You gave me a bag of equipment and supplies.”

Second’s sake. Edna realized now to which Earth this crossing led, though there was something still wrong about the idea. “I did. That was for you, to help you on your journey.” It was also for her, in case she ended up, well, where she was. She added, “I will admit I was intentional in letting you believe that I planned to come, so I won’t hold it against you.”

For a moment he held a solemn, thoughtful look, as the shaking of the ship increased. Edna steadied herself on a nearby instrument console. Finally he said, “I’m afraid we can’t take you back home.”

“Yes, I was afraid you’d be afraid of that. Still, I insist.”

“You don’t understand. There is no home to which we could take you.”

“I am aware of the explosion. I only mean that you take me to where my home was.” She had no special attachment to her house or the things in it. She had meant to create one, but had never got round to it - having been afforded little opportunity to actually live in the place (with all the adventuring, you know).

The Lord Whomever did not respond, only staring at her gravely for what she felt was too long. Edna furrowed her brow, or it furrowed itself. “You’re not suggesting,” she broke the silence, “that my entire home is gone, are you? My world, I mean.”

“Mm,” he offered sadly as he turned his grave stare to a condoling one.

She remembered then that the Storm’s Heart Crossing, while familiar to her, does not connect to her world. They were already on (or above) a parallel Earth then, and they were headed for another one. She took this in as best she could. Her parents. Her friends. Her mentors and teachers. A world of people she felt she had let down again and again, never quite being exactly who she thought they wanted her to be. Now she had found one final disappointment.

She tried to cry - to let herself feel it fully - but the tears wouldn’t come. It didn’t seem possible. She gripped the watch tightly. It was a small but welcome mercy that this had made it out with her.

Edna’s acquaintance could see her distress - though he didn’t understand it as he thought. The ship was shaking violently now, without respite, but over the noise (though in his gentlest voice) he said, “Fear not, Edna Star. I believe we can undo it all.”

“How?” was all she could say, staring at her warped reflection in the silver timepiece.

“That is the question to it all. That is why I have come for you - on behalf of my Adventuring League, my world, all of our worlds - for the threat spans across our entire reality.”

She finally looked at him again. “What threat!” she yelled, as much in anguish as necessity.

In that moment, the noise - and the turbulence that caused it - died. Silence ruled as they crossed into the Threshold between all worlds, but the Captain’s gaze did not waver from Edna Star as he broke this rule of silence.

“The Beast at the Center of Time.”

And as she took this in, standing there in the Threshold between realities - this place that is no place - where there is nowhere and nothing - they were attacked.

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