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December 15th, 2016. 1.42PM


A.S.T.R.O. Labs showroom, behind the labs proper, where they used to show off new jets and guns.


"...Which brings us to the pride of our tour, the Guardian of Infinity!"


Dr. Spencer gestured grandly to the towering apparatus, a  of aluminium tubing on either side of a sideways, elongated oval as wide across as a city street and tall as a house. Hydrogen fuel cells hummed away, connected to the titanium oval by thick bundles of cables that vanished into the complex of struts and and bars around it.


Running a good yard from it was a large black/yellow striped square. With "please do not approach the distortion of space-time" signs at each front-facing corner. The floodlights they reflected shone down on both the meticulously-curated and presented showcase floor and relics of the Lab's glorious past. Up above their heads hung replicas of various weapons and vehicles that had been the end of countless Germans. Around the guests was the future. Spacial-temporal distortions and all.


Said distortion was a remarkably mundane affair. A city very like the Freedom City outside, with people looking very like those gathered before it. The first sign of difference was the omnipresence of Arabic letters. The second was the giant mechanical eagle that crashed into the ground, causing havoc as citizens rushed to shelter. As it rose up, it was struck down again by the now-visible superhumans pursuing it.


Their host grinned and produced a spiral-shaped remote from her suit-jacket.


"Yes, citizens! A world like our own, but not! With this device, constructed by my colleague Dr. Brandtford and myself, we can see any-"


A world where domes were the major architectural style.




Crosses filled the skyline, with images of saints on every window.




At the intersection, drivers floored it on the red light.


"-we choose!" Spencer beamed at the crowd, tucking an errant lock of thick brown hair behind her ear "And best of all, we have made contact with a few alternate Labs, who had made devices nigh-identical to this one! Who knows what the future holds?"


She scanned the gaggle of visitors, the vast majority of whom were students at Freedom City University "Any questions?"


Dozens of twentysomethings glanced at each other. Spencer's grin was a bit too far that side of manic.

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In most cities, a spatial distortion like this would have been a favorite of the students. Kat's too, probably, come to think of it. The crowd seemed invested enough—it takes a special kind of schooling to make a spatial distortion boring, and Dr. Spencer seemed to have skipped it—but in Freedom City, the spatial anomaly was just another bit of weird. When caped crusaders soared through the skies and battles with supervillains went down in the streets daily, your idea of what was 'normal' was a bit skewed. A spatial distortion was just another thing that was probably going to happen eventually anyway.


Regardless, it was still a point of academic interest, since Dr. Spencer had come along to set up his dimensional viewer doohickey, Professors all over FCU had been sending their students to take a look. Most of the audience looked unfamiliar to Kat . . . She supposed that most of the students who'd taken Earth In The Multiverse Just wanted an easy A in the sciences and didn't care about the extra credit.


Maybe that wasn't fair. Not everyone could get around as easily as Kat could, after all . . .


Still, it made her uncomfortable, and she wasn't sure why. She did enough hopping around that it wasn't like spatial wonkiness really bothered her, but . . . Kat wasn't sure how she felt about this whole distortion business. It wasn't till she heard "—made contact—" that she realized what, exactly, was bothering her.


Her hand shot up, but she didn't bother to wait for being called on. "So. Other worlds can talk to us through this wibbly, wobbly . . . space thingy." She chewed on her lip. "Is that all? Like, is that all they can do? Talk?"

Edited by Freely Seek
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Eyes sparkling, Dr. Spencer took out a slim book from the messenger bag over her shoulder and held it up for all to see "What I hold in my hand is another timeline's version of the New Testament. In that world you just saw, Christianity never left Israel."


"We've exchanged books, played music, touched hands and transmitted nearly every other sense through compatible World-Windows. Don't worry! We made sure no diseases could be transmitted, a very pressing safety concern!" Her enormous grin undercut the heartfelt earnestness of her words. 


"Uh..." One of the students raised his hand cautiously "Could...people come through?"


"Oh no! Not at all!" Spencer for the first time looked a little less than delirious with joy "We tested with petri dishes, and nothing living survived the transmission. And without matching to another Window, we can't do more than watch, we're too out of dimensional sync. Even touching requires that neither person cross the threshold."

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From almost the moment Buffy had set foot in the building, her head had been swimming. Her sixth sense, wibbly-wobbly-reality-awareness or whatever the academic name for it would be, was in overdrive. She'd felt similar things before, on the occasions when she encountered people with powers similar to hers, but never this intensity and never this constantly.


It hadn't come as a complete surprise, given the nature of the event she was covering. A device that could open windows to other worlds was a hard topic for any aspiring journalist to pass up, even if it did run the risk of reminding their elders a little too much of the Terminus Invasion. And with Buffy's own rather...unique history with alternate realities, she had figured that it couldn't hurt to learn as much about them as she could.


And there they were, right in front of her eyes. Even as she stood there, old-school notepad in hand and book bag over her shoulder, she half expected to see a murderous clone of herself come charging out of the portal at any second. The professor's words didn't reassure her much, nor did they distract her from the incessant tingling of her exradimensional senses that was coming from the device, the so-called "Guardian of Infinity."


Raising her hand quickly, she asked, "You say nothing living can come across. What about something that's not living? I mean," she looked around at the others in the crowd, "I can't be the only one here who's seen Terminator, right? Even though that was kinda the other way around."

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Kat pressed both hands over her eyes and exhaled through her teeth because blood and fire this felt /fishy/ but she couldn't tell if it was because something untoward was going to happen or just because she'd spent too long thinking like a hero. When she was in Claremont, Kat went on a day trip to an ordinary aquarium that got raided by men in scuba gear in a fancy sub and weird natical weapons. It was hard to take a walk down the street sometimes without wandering if someone was about to turn into a spider and spout some drivel about an unholy sacrifice, grabbing someone and trying to scale a skyscraper.


So, it was hard for her to share Dr. Spencer's enthusiasm, but she couldn't say for sure her doubts had any foundation. Her first instinct was to throw her voice in with the other stranger, but dammit, scientists in Freedom went on weird experiments that would have Icarus raise their eyebrows every day, and usually it turned out fine. There was a reason that people like Dr. Spencer kept getting funding. Kat had no idea what the odds were between 'monstrosity that must be stopped' and 'boon to all humanity' was but it had to be pretty favorable.


Still, she had concerns. “And, like, the stuff they send through. There's no diseases in it, sure, but it's not unsafe in other ways, is it?


Between blinks, she saw flares of red, dark power. Worlds burning. Skies full of marshalled Omegadrones, thick as a second cloud cover. The wails of




Breathe in. Breathe out.


Not everyone out there wants to make friends,” Kat said, eyes downcast. But this time her voice wasn't high enough to carry over the murmurs of the other students.

Edited by Curious Key
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The questions fazed Dr. Spencer not at all, in fact she quickly regained her jittery good cheer. "Very good points, both of you!"


"It might come as little surprise that the Guardian was created on contract from Daedalus, specifically to forestall such possiblities! With the Window's remote, we can change our point of view to almost anywhere in these other realities! We thoroughly explore them before even thinking about contact!"


As she spoke, Dr. Spencer culled the spiral-shaped remote in her palm and manipulated it like a hand-held writing ball. As her fingers flew, the view changed, sweeping out over a downtown Freedom very like the one they knew. In a flash, the

Guardian had turned to regard the massive towers rearing above the city. In another, it had come close enough for the audience to see they were shelters for a cloud of drones hovering over the city.


"In this reality, one of those where people go on the red, the United States is an effective military dictatorship. The ASTRO Labs here is an arm of the government, and everything they do is watched. Another Earth contacting them would be an implicit threat in their view, according to extensive study of their relationships with other cultures on this world."


"And just in case, if we do make contact and want to make sure...one moment, please!" Dr. Spencer dashed into the darkness beyond the floodlights, grumbling snd cursing as something squeaked.


What looked like a ten-foot-tall fridge hove into view, Dr. Spencer shoving it along with teeth gritted and shoes turning out to be the cause of the squeaking.


Pausing to rest when it was next to the Guardian, the woman grinned at the audience and gestured to the thing she'd been hauling "Behold! A full-spectrum analysis device! I call it Geordi! It lets us examine the makeup and state of any object on the other side of the Window, lensed through the dimensional distortion for perfect accuracy!"


She banged a fist against its side. The sound it made was impressively solid. "We've prevented a shape-shifting infiltration with this bad boy, three d-frequency tracing bugs and a bonded spirit from getting on this side. And that was before we got more cautious!"


"Any further-further questions?" She asked eagerly.

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Good . . . That sounds . . . totally safe.” Kat tilted her head to the side a bit, tested her thoughts for sarcasm. Nodded slightly. “Like. Really, actually.” She grasped nervously at her wrist and fidgeted. Just sit back and enjoy the presentation, Kat. Put Warp away and pay attention. She took out her phone, opened a memo and started punching in some notes.


But, she had to wonder . . . no one could really jump dimensions using this device. But, could she? She'd undergone so many examinations at Claremont, so many people sitting her down and trying to explain how exactly her powers worked. Maybe she could. But, in spite of how excited this Spence was about exchanging books, Kat couldn't imagine why she would want to try.


One world had enough problems already. Why mess around with more?


That reminded Kat of the prompt her professor had asked her to answer in essay. “So, what can we learn from all this?

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Raising a finger, Buffy added a question of her own onto the red-haired girl's. "It seems like historians would kill to get in a room with this thing. You said that you can use to to view universes based on any divergence you choose? Does that mean that you could actually find out what the world would be like if X had happened instead of Y? I mean, how precise is it?" Can we see a world where zeppelins became the main mode of transportation? I love zeppelins.


Already, she was trying to decide on what angle she would go with in her paper. The cultural impact of this kind of technology was probably more her wheelhouse than the technological impact - current events were her thing, not the tech scene. But then again, given who much weird crap happened on a daily basis in Freedom, there might not actually be that many everyday citizens out there who would care about a development like this. It wasn't any stranger than half the stuff that went on here. This might not be as much of an easy A as I thought.


Edited by R. Bluefish
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Dr. Spencer surveyed the sky full of robotic eyes. "Biggest takeaway from all this, for me, is changes to history require countless choices, not independent turning points. Just imagine all the ways you influence the world around you. Buying, talking, hearing, seeing, feeling, going, every choice has impacts far beyond what any of us has the capacity to fully understand. Even the hero Foreshadow confines his insights to fending off large disasters and violent crimes, which are themselves largely byproducts of billions of choices or abstentions. Humanity is often likened to bodies of water, where I feel it's more accurate to look at us as an avalanche. Maybe an avalanche under water and capable of slight self-direction..."


A blood-red eagle insignia briefly filled the screen before the drone carrying it darted into the city far below. For the first time, Spencer stopped smiling as she watched the flow of traffic and people, only a few thousand feet away and impossible to reach, in a world whose familiarity made itself alien.


"As for precision, we can track individuals between realities. Single persons, leave them for a month, come back and find them instantly. One of the first people we chose was Mark Leeds, the Centurion. We never found one of him. I suppose it goes to show how different a world it would be where he wasn't dead. A tribute to the exactitude of my mathematics! Let's keep this rolling, people, to the prototype GENIE ENGINE!"


Spinning on her heel and once again beaming from ear to ear, Spencer began moving down the dotted line, only to stop, swivel around and march briskly up to Buffy. Reaching into her suit coat pocket, she took out the Window remote and handed it to her. "Here, airship-aficionado. This zooms in, this out, these pan, this follows, yadda yadda, these ten change which segment of the multiversal angles you're solving for so you can see some of the other worlds. Give it a shot, you can hardly break anything!"


The other students instantly, if subtly, gave Buffy a certain berth. Of all the looks she could see, not a one was envious. Part of being a Freedonian was a jaded air, the other was a good instinct not to push the big red button.


"You too, Rare Cautious Cate." Her raptor-like eyes pierced Kat's like gimlets "It's just looking, nothing you see can get through or hurt you if you don't ram into another Window. Please do not or you will have ample cause to regret it."


"Off we go, folks!" Waving over her shoulder, Dr. Spencer marched the troupe off into the cavernous gloom.



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Reflexively Kat was reminded of a villain she'd heard of through the grapevine in Claremont who could l switch places with someone by looking into their eyes, but before she could even think of articulating it off Spencer went, flouncing on to her GENIE ENGINE, or whatever. I mean, her machine seemed safe enough! But there was the principle of the thing! 


It would have taken someone truly daft to miss the little pool of empty space that gathered around Ms. Airships, but while Kat made wariness her habit, she was actually relatively confident she could handle anything that went south. She took a step in toward her unwilling partner and leaned in sideways toward the stranger. "I don't know about you," she said in her best stage whisper. "But I'm feeling kind of like I'm being picked on right now."

Edited by Freely Seek
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Buffy eyed the device in her hands with undisguised apprehension. "I feel more like I'm being given way too much credit. Like, I need help just setting the DVR." Raising her voice, she said, "I want it on record that I am not to be held responsible if this thing breaks!" Lowering her voice again, she added in a mutter, "or if I push the wrong button and the world ends. Not my fault." It's one thing for the world to end. It's quite another for it to be my fault.


Hesitantly, she followed after Dr. Spencer along with the rest of the group. Okay, Stein, you got this. It's just like a video game. Presumably. Positioning her fingers on the controls, she braced herself in case something exploded, and tried to ignore the buzzing of her extranormal senses. "So, what happens if I do...this?" She tweaked a control.

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At Buffy's touch the Guardian blinked shut. It opened like an eye, revealing another Freedom City. But this one was a little more unusual. In that is was a shattered ruin. The familiar greens, browns, blues and greys of the seaside city were gone, everything was red, black or white as bone, with a dully orange sky that let in the stars without impediment. Only the skeletons of buildings remained. Skeletons and a faint, far-off flickering where A.S.T.R.O. Labs in their dimension had the building in which they stood.


Around the desolate derelict were the footprints of some giant monster, each bigger than Pyramid Plaza. The shriveled trickle that was the South River washed over a skull the size of city hall.


Other skeletons, partly-buried in the red sand, could be dimly perceived. One had a rib cage that was too easy to mistake for a mountain range.


All was eerily quiet. Still. Nothing but the wind blowing and the soft murmur of the blackened Atlantic.


A formerly-overlooked bit of UI blinked: Earth-F (extinct) 4. Kaiju invasion. A dizzying list of other, more attractive options appeared. Echo's senses were burning now. A feeling like unfriendly eyes were staring right at her.

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"Yeah," Kat said, raising an eyebrow as she shoved her her hands into her pockets. "This, uh." She bit down on the inside of her lip. "Is . . . Reassuring? How about we go . . . literally anywhere else?" This place . . . well, Kat didn't like the look of those skeletons. Or those bodies. Or those . . . Anything. She wasn't exactly a pushover, but this . . . Made her distinctly uncomfortable. "I know it's supposed to be safe, but . . ."

Edited by Curious Key
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Buffy blinked at the display. "Kaiju invasion? Cool. I mean," she looked at the devastation surrounding them, "not cool, but...quite something." Something about the scene sent a shiver down her spine. This could easily be us. Everything we have, just...gone.


She shook her head, suddenly woozy. Yeah, her senses were really kicking into overdrive now - probably from being in such close proximity to the device. Although there was also a vaguely menacing edge to it, one that put her ill at ease. "Yeah, let's get out of here. This place is bad." Hastily, she tweaked the control again.

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Switching to another, less apocalyptic sight was so simple it was almost unnerving. With a blink all that horror vanished.


The darkness was replaced with a shining, crystalline vision. Ribbon-like things darted between sparkling towers, fish and whales gamboled in the North Bay, and people floated above the earth with an easy, careless joy.


Something in the Wharton Forest sent a million birds scattering into the sky.


Then the image shook, a red flash passed over the screen, and the scene blinked.


It opened onto a flickering, crackling uncertainty, flashes of a metal room, an inhuman face with staring eyes. But anything clearer was impossible to discern. A deep, growling voice barked out


"Hello! Is anyone there? Can anybody hear me? Answer!" the words' curt authority was undercut severely by the tone of fear and desperation. Please, please answer, they seemed to say I don't know what I'll do if you don't


"I know you're there! If your heart is not stone, help me!"

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Kat opened her mouth, closed it. Looked at the stranger for a single, baffled moment before turning back toward the window. I mean, she had said that people could talk across universes, right? It had happened before. Sometimes. "Did you make it switch again?" Kat whispered, then answered her own question with a shake of her head. "You didn't make it switch." Whoever this was, they had managed to wrest control of the window. They were looking into this room, at this strange face, because it was their will.


Clenching at her thigh, she breathed through her teeth. Who was this . . . She didn't know. And they had power. But . . . What was this desperation? It felt real. She reached a hand and let its palm fall over her heart. This could be bad. Real bad.


"Can you even hear us?"


But if it was bad? She could handle it.

Edited by Curious Key
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Well, that can't be normal. Buffy could feel her shoulders tensing, as if they hadn't been tense enough already. "Who's there?" she asked. "Do you need help? I'm...not really sure what the heck's going on here!"


As the strange voice gave its chilling plea, she was starting to get the feeling that she was in over her head. Her one previous tangle with extradimensional shenanigans had come to an inauspicious end - and on top of that, the various Buffys of the multiverse had good reason to fear out-of-universe threats. She looked at Dr. Spencer slightly helplessly. "Has this ever happened before?"

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But Dr. Spencer and the rest of the school group had gotten ahead. And the glaring floodlights made it nigh-impossible to see beyond each dazzling pool of radiance and into the gloom necessary to disguise the cramped state of the A.S.T.R.O. warehouse.


Meanwhile, the voice burst into a feverish laugh "Yesss, at last! Please hear me out!  I am Raul, greatest of the Republic's minds. You have some sort of trans-Coil quasi-portal, I beg you, let me come through. Your atmosphere is breathable to us, you have other planets in your system, we won't stay long enough to bother you!"


"My world is dying, my people are under seige and my children will starve if I can't find a new home!"


The flickers cleared long enough for the two women to get a good look at this "Raul". He looked like a monstrous dinosaur, but scaly and stark red instead of brilliant plumage, dressed in heavy red and black armor. Out of the skull loomd a distended, grotesquely-enlarged brain that pulsed sickeningly. It was unlikely that either of them had ever seen a more miserable, pitiable creature; filthy, eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep, clearly injured through a gash in the breastplate and with an air of desperate terror that clung to every one of their curving teeth and every tremble of an armoréd limb.


The hideous thing looked pleadingly through the window at them. For an instant a glitch replaced a corner of the screen with the image of Kaiju-stricken Freedom.


"Please. This is my last chance."

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Kat breathed in through her teeth and narrowed her eyes. The possibilities fought for purpose in her head. She stared, watched the way he stood, moved . . . This smelled bad. This smelled so bad. But . . . "He's not lying." She said. She bit down on her lip, hard. "He means everything he's saying. But . . ."


Warp's hand clenched into a fist. A dark light shone in her eyes for a moment . . . She could see him, even if he didn't seem to be able to see her. She could teleport to places she could see! Maybe she could . . . Kat shook her head and released a long breath out. "But living people shouldn't even be able to pass through this, right?" She turned to the conductor of their little adventure. "What can we do?"


. . . Without ripping reality like a wet paper towel?

Edited by Curious Key
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Buffy had gone through unease and out the other side, straight into full-blown apprehension. "Look, buddy, we'd like to help you, but..." she fumbled for the right science-y words, "this thing isn't really a portal. It's just a viewing device. Like she says, nothing can come through."


She was doing her best not to react to the creature's bizarre, disturbing appearance, because doing so would probably seem pretty rude. It wasn't like they were the strangest person she'd ever met in her brief career. Top three, easy, but not gold-medal material. At the very least, the dinosaur thing looked too pitiful to be truly dangerous.

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The saurian bared their teeth "Yes I know! I-" their grip, which had tightened hard enough to bend the metal of their command console, relaxed sharply. Taking a deep, slow breath, Raul began again "Yes, I am aware. Quasi-portal, accepts finer matter and energy only. I can transmit a drone to expand...make it a true interdimensional tunnel. Needs both of us to physically touch our respective ends. Sort of...relay of matter" Raul shed a gauntlet to put a claw, holding a slim silver shape, against the 'window', causing it to hiss and crackle fiercely.


Visibly, the skin began to blister "It will be painful, only briefly, I am sorry but I know no other way. Please. Just a moment of contact, and my world, my people..."


Raul's jaws began to shiver, and further talk seemed nearly impossible for them. Their claw bled, but they kept it against the spitting barrier.



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Kat recoiled bodily away from the window, her hands twitching backward as she imagined what would happen to her hands if she touched that . . . thing. That dinosaur was bleeding. What would happen to her hand? Kat avoided getting hurt by never getting hit. But there was no getting away from this. He didn't even wait, he didn't ask for other solutions, he just put his damn claw on the portal and burned. It was moving too fast, now. Kat's eyes swung from the stranger to the window and back again.


Should she just bite the bullet? She was a damn mutant, and a superhero. It was practically Kat's job.


But Kat wasn't any tougher than other girl! She ran her hands over her face, muttered in indistinct panic and tried to muster to courage.

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Buffy could tell that the other woman wasn't any more eager to touch that thing than she was. Times like this, she wished she was bulletproof - or at least, in some way more resilient than any other squishy mortal. But she wasn't, and she had a feeling that coming into contact with the 'window' would really, really suck.


Well, running into things that sucked was kinda part of the job description. And it was something the other woman hadn't signed up for, which meant it was up to her. "Okay," she said, grimacing. "Let's do this quick." Shrugging out of her coat, she wrapped it around her hands, in the hopes that it might provide some sort of protection. Then, stepping forward, she stretched out her wrapped hands to accept the silver object.

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  • 2 weeks later...



Wrapping her hands did help a little, but it was like touching red-hot iron with pot-holders, the barrier between dimensions searing her hands as the small object slipped out of one reality and into another.


It looked like an arrowhead, or a shark's tooth. It was glossy and hard and emitted a faint, piercing whine. A single red light lit up.


As it did, the interference cleared on the dimensional window, and Raul's entire face changed. A stunned, incomprehending glassy stare.




A sudden realization, a flicker of anger 




Raul's face twisted into bestial, humiliated rage as he screamed 




He slammed his bleeding claw onto the control panel, moving like lightning across buttons, turning switches, flicking touch-pads as he raved


"I begged for help, I spilt my blood, all for humans?! Your slave-race will know the might of your masters, wretched apes!"


A flash burst from the object, and suddenly the long-dead weapons and machines of wars past came to life, twisting and rearranging and changing into a rapidly growing horde of robotic raptors!

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  • 1 month later...





On the other side of the portal, the air stank and stung with alien chemicals and the strong reek of blood. The floor hummed with power and the walls, floor and ceiling blinked with busy electric signals. 


Raul had been flung from his seat at Kat's arrival and was crouched on three limbs on the floor, one claw holding some entities and slender instrument. 


"What now?" The other world predator glared at the small, weaker creature who still held his world's fate in her hands. "Will you condemn every sssoul in thisss  universsse? Kill millionsss for nothing?

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