Is it alright that I hate Helena?
All day she’s been popping in and out of our meetings, taking away Cassandra for hours at a time.
Each time she’s carrying different shopping bags from major cities, wearing progressively more amazing outfits and hair styles. A few hours ago she stumbled back into the room in a sakura-covered pink and white kimono that she picked up in Kyoto, unwrapping a brown candy cube before stuffing it into Cassandra’s mouth. “Bontan Ame, ne?” The universe is her playground.
That’s not the part I hate about her – she’s actually quite cool, and much more grounded than her sister. It’s just that she’s everywhere except where she’s supposed to be.
The Structure assigned them particularly choice roles at birth – Helena has dominion over Space, and Cassanda is in charge of Time.
The current theory is that complete mastery of Space/Time is too much for any one living being to handle, so their duties were split in half. However, neither of their powers really work unless the both of them act in concert. Helena can “teleport” anywhere in the universe, while Cassandra can stay in one place and yet travel to any moment in any variant. Get them together, and they can not just travel to anywhere, at any time, but they can literally modify the fabric of existence.
They can tap into both the White and Black to varying degrees, and as long as they’re not carrying too much extra mass, and stick between Point One and Point Zero, they can flaunt their powers at whim, with no negative effects on the Structure. Well, they did almost ruin a few variants with temporal micro managing, so Ai tends to keep them on a tight leash.
They have 65 distinct secret twin languages, and a connection between them that’s impossible to sever. On the other hand, they’re restless, and never can stay in the same time and place for more than a few minutes.
When she wants, Ai can change all of that in a second – her domain over every living spirit is absolute, and while she rarely revokes free will, she’s been known to puppet members of the council at Point Zero when it meets her needs.
“Helena dear, come sit down next to your sister. We need to talk.” We were all in my flat, sitting in the empty living room on the wooden floor. The Numbers were out getting everything ready for tomorrow, while I stayed behind at Ai’s insistence.
“You all know that we still haven’t found Aurora.” That was Tokie, with her Ghost visiting all of our minds via Agartha Labs tech. Instead of using pico projectors to make a hologram, she just setup a bridge into the bodyweb. “Helena has confirmed that she’s nowhere in this variant, and Cassandra?”
She was lying on her stomach, still wearing her futuristic one piece jumpsuit, playing with a cellophane wrapped piece of candy. “Aurora’s not here now. She hates October and loves December.” Helena laughed as she sat on a random, one of a kind silk scarf she took out of a baby blue paper shopping bag. “She’s hiding in a far off star.”
Aurora is the mistress of energy, with perhaps the most raw power of any of us. She can tap into the Black and siphon out all sorts of electromagnetic force.
“Miranda is still missing, too, but at least we know who has her.” Tokie looked even more annoyed and upset than usual. She started to pace back and forth, her high cuffed brown slacks showing glimpses of Halloween themed socks, with black cats and cartoon witches.
“The current question is what Number 12 has planned for her.” Ai kept brushing back her curly hair with a plastic tortoise shell comb. “My best guess is that she wants complete control of her power.” She seemed intent on straightening it by force.
The power that Miranda had to be compelled to forget was over matter. She could use the Black to change the Universe wholesale, from the smallest quark to the largest galaxy cluster. Apparently too much power for one girl to consciously handle. Whomever controlled Miranda had already won.
“I think it’s more than that.” Tokie again, now fussing with her hoodie, a virtual replica of what Phone was wearing when he died. “I think Number 12 is after the whole council, either as a free agent, or acting on behalf of the Nameless. Ai?”
Ai and the Nameless were separate, yet two sides of the same coin. The Nameless has control over what you can simplistically call “Information”, but in reality it’s the original agent of entropy. It knows everything, and seeks to subvert it for its own ends. Ai, on the other hand, is an agent of the most absolute order, life of the flesh and of the spirit.
The Nameless is the wild card that makes everything possible, more than just a perfectly balanced, homogenized steady state. It’s hard not to try to anthropomorphize it, especially when it takes human form at the end of each variant.
In any case, Ai is in constant communication with it, to make sure that neither army has broken the truce.
“Number 12 is acting on her own,” Ai assured us, “but she’s going to have to pick a side soon.”
Helena suddenly grabbed her sister’s hand and whisked them away.
“Don’t worry, I sent them on a mission. They’ll be back tomorrow.” Ai then stood up, and bolted for the door. “Now let’s square the circle!”
I looked at Tokie for guidance, but she only shrugged. Ai then slowly opened the door.
“Pizza!” The delivery man was startled, since he didn’t even get a chance to knock. Ai quickly took an €100 note out of her pocket, placed it in his left jacket pocket, and took the pizza box away with a door-closing flourish.
It was a simple, steaming margherita, baked into a perfect square.
“Sorry cousin, I didn’t order you one in Ikebukuro, but you can watch us eat!”
“I think I’ll sit this one out.” Tokie logged off with a particularly disgruntled flourish.
Ai placed the box on the middle of floor, and motioned for us to gather around it.
“Now that we’re alone, I need to tell you something with super seriousness.” Picked up a square slice and ravaged it. “Things really aren’t going well at all.”
I nibbled on a slice while I watched her wipe her hands on her FC Bayern jersey.
“Please don’t tell anyone else, but I don’t think we’re going to win this time.”
“Cassandra has seen the end, and it’s not what I expected.” Another slice, slight pause, then another.
“What are you trying to tell me?” I tried to look her in the eyes, but it was as if the light just kept on going and never bounced back.
“That you are very important. That we all need you to be brave, especially when everyone’s lives are on the line.”
She gave me a hug and greasy kiss on the cheeks, and then without additional comment went back to the pizza.
She never brought it up again all night, not even when Susanna came back to check in on us. By then Ai was already asleep, and I was curled up in the corner of the room, staring at the shadows under the bed.
Ai knows exactly what’s going to happen, something terrible, and all she can give are comforting, vague platitudes. That’s more scary to me than the most obscene horror movie – what could possibly freak out the immortal girl that rules us all?
Susanna just sat down next to me, gave me the last piece of candy from Kyoto, and said nothing while we watched Ai sleep.
Even in her dreams, Ai watched back.