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Naomi, Jen, and Sarah had moved from the trashed living room to the kitchen. Naomi and Jen sat at the table while Sarah brewed a fresh pot of coffee.

“I didn’t ask you to make coffee,” said Naomi.

“I’m being nice,” said Sarah. “Plus, it’s part of my biological imperative or whatever.”

“Making coffee is?”

“No. Being helpful.”

“You weren’t very helpful in the elevator,” said Naomi.

“Oh, I was,” said Sarah. “I was being real helpful to CPSI. But now I’m helping you.”

She turned to Naomi and Jen and smiled brightly.

A biological imperative to be helpful? Naomi could have maybe bought the idea if she hadn’t met Sarah’s sisters, but those vicious, sadistic women definitely hadn’t had any helpful imperatives.

“I’m not going to drink anything you make, just so you know,” said Naomi.

“Me either,” said Jen.

“Aw,” said Sarah. “Why not?”

“Um, ’cause it might be poison?” said Jen.

“All you’re doing right now is wasting my coffee,” said Naomi. “If you actually want to help, you can tell us more about the Pit.”

“Suit yourself.” Sarah dumped the coffee pot in the sink, then began rinsing it.

“Stop,” said Naomi. “You don’t have to wash it. Just sit down and tell us more about what we’re up against.”

“Fine.” Sarah sighed exaggeratedly, walked across the kitchen, and took a seat at the table. “Anything specific you want to know?”

“I have a question,” said Jen. “That hot guy said something about a device?”

“The IDLD,” said Sarah. “It basically anchors you to a specific place in our reality and pulls you out of the Pit. It’s kinda like an inter-dimensional grappling hook, hooking onto a preset location at the correct point in time.”

“Ohhh,” said Jen. “I get it. I think.”

Her expression suggested she did not get it at all.

“Hottie Hotster didn’t think there was a way out of this Pit place without one of those devices,” said Jen. “Is that true?”

‘Hottie Hotster’? Naomi resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

“Technically, no,” said Sarah, “but in practice, yeah. Pretty much.”

“What do you mean?” said Naomi.

“There are certain weak points, intersections between time and space, where our reality’s floor gets real thin.”

“I have no clue what you’re talking about,” said Jen.

“Honestly, I barely get it myself,” said Sarah. “Basically, in certain places at certain times, it becomes possible to fall in and out of the Pit without ripping a big ol’ hole in reality.”

“Is there a way to know what places and at what times?” said Naomi.

“There are certain places where there’s a lot more activity than others. The poles, the Devil’s Sea, the Bermuda Triangle, Borgo San Severino. CPSI has some kind of system that forecasts the weak points, but I’m not allowed to access it.”

“Wait. Back up,” said Jen. “The Bermuda Triangle is real? I knew it! I used to be so interested in the Bermuda Triangle, and Sam made fun of me. He said it was a manufactured pseudo-mystery perpetuated by books.”

“I mean, some of those ships probably disappear in storms and stuff,” said Sarah, “but at least a few of them ended up in the Pit.”

“Wow,” said Jen.

“I can guess what Naomi here is thinking,” said Sarah. “She’s hoping she can use one of the weak points to get in and out of the Pit without relying on me.”

“Can I?” said Naomi.

Sarah shook her head.

“Like I said, the weak points are unpredictable without the forecast system. Plus, they’re not always stable. There’s no guarantee you’d survive the ‘fall’ into the Pit even if you found one,” said Sarah. “Even if you could use the weak points, you’d want my help for another reason.”

“What’s that?” said Naomi.

“Safety in numbers. You need all the help you can get in the Pit,” said Sarah. “My sisters, the immature ones we ran into, are the least of what lives in there. I’d suggest recruiting st59 or Falcon or whatever he’s calling himself too.”

Naomi frowned.

“You’re after Falcon. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to let him anywhere near you.”

“I was after him,” said Sarah, “but not anymore. I keep trying to tell you I’m on your side now.”

“I’m still not exactly sure who Falcon is,” said Jen, “but maybe you could let him know what’s going on, and then he can decide whether he wants to help.”

Naomi nodded.

“That’s not a bad idea.”

Naomi opened her laptop, then selected Dominic’s name on her instant messenger friend list. She would give the message to Dominic and ask him to relay it to Falcon; that way, Dominic wouldn’t hold her responsible if anything happened to Falcon. She didn’t think she could handle someone she admired so much blaming her for his boyfriend getting hurt.

Before she began typing, she fixed Sarah with a hard look.

“For whatever reason, Dominic trusted me to help keep Falcon safe. If you do anything to him, I will make sure you wish you were never born, or grown in a test tube or whatever–“

“It was more like a vat or a chamber actually,” Sarah interupted cheerfully.

Whatever. My point is, I’ll make you wish you never existed.”



There wasn’t much food in the house, but Chelsea had managed to find some cheese, stale crackers and cookies, and a few jars of olives and mushrooms.

She sat on the couch with a plate of snacks on her lap. Belfry sat next to her, leaning against her side and eating an olive like it was apple.

She sighed, absently stroking Belfry’s head.

Where was she? How had she gotten here? What were the creatures that had chased her? Nothing made sense, and she had so many questions.

“Belfry,” she said.

He–was Belfry a he? She didn’t want to assume, but she wasn’t sure if it would be rude to ask–looked up from the olive and turned toward her, yellow eyes wide. He held the olive up to her with one hand, offering her a bite. She smiled and shook her head.

“No grazie.” She laughed gently. “I was wondering…”

She paused. She’d been about to ask if Belfry knew where they were, but she noticed something on the inside of his leg. A small white mark.

“What is… cos–uh… your leg?”

She didn’t know the Italian word for leg, so she pointed to the same spot on her own leg.

Belfry nodded and said something she didn’t understand. He pointed to the mark and moved his leg so she could see it better.

She could see the mark clearly now. It was the CPSI logo, tattooed in white on Belfry’s skin above a tiny bar code.

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