The Other Side

"Attack!" Curtis shouted.

At his command, the buzzards flew forth. Beatrix threw down her flashlight and stretched her arms towards the birds, reciting a spell. Just as they were about to reach her, the buzzards disappeared in twin puffs of maroon smoke.

"Beatrix, I'm impressed." said Roland, with such blatant sarcasm that you'd never have guessed he was completely helpless. "You've sunk lower than I thought physically possible."

"I'd hold your tongue if I were you." said Beatrix, retrieving the flashlight. "I didn't bind you to the floor so you could chit-chat with me."

While Beatrix was distracted with Roland, Jason took the opportunity to slip into the shadows. Or rather, he tried to, but as it turned out, Beatrix wasn't distracted at all. "Don't go anywhere, Jason." she said as soon as he began to move, pointing the flashlight at him. Roland began to say something, but he stopped after she gave him a swift kick in the face. To Jason, she added "You're the one I want to speak to."

"Me?" he said doubtfully, then quickly amended "I had no part in the slaying of your husband, you know."

"Don't worry; I knew who the real culprit was the moment I heard of the crime." A weary kind of smile passed over her face briefly. "By now, I imagine, you know this man at least half as well as I do. His surname is the ultimate sick joke." There was a long pause. "Wouldn't you agree?"


"No, wait a minute." said Beatrix. She concentrated for a few moments, and then she launched a stunning-spell that hit all three of the mages, who immediately went unconscious. "Now we can speak privately." She looked at him expectantly.

"Yes," said Jason after some time, "I'd agree." He wasn't sure if he really did, but that seemed like the safest response. It wasn't too far from the truth, anyway.

"I can't tell how much you actually do." said Beatrix, her voice losing its iciness for the first time in Jason's presence. "Let me direct my inquiry this way: you are attached to him, aren't you?"

"Yes." said Jason. "Well, of course. He's been a very nice foster father to me, most of the time. We've saved each others' lives once or twice, too." <What in the world is she driving at?> he thought.

"But are you familiar with his particular brand of morality?"


"Describe it."

What with the flashlight-beam pointed right at him, Jason really was in the spotlight. "Well… his chief concern is to protect the lives of innocents, 'innocents' just being people who haven't done anything wrong. But he has no qualms about killing people who have done something wrong, in his eyes."

"And are you familiar with his view of women?"

"Yeah," said Jason darkly, "I haven't seen it in action very often, but I can tell he's pretty sexist. He said that women shouldn't be allowed to learn magic because they're too… emotional, I think. He's the emotional one, though."

"And what was the reason he gave for our divorce?" Beatrix asked pointedly.

"Just that your personalities didn't mix." said Jason, shrugging. "He wanted to spend a lot of time with you and you didn't want to spend a lot of time with him. Sounds to me like the marriage was doomed from the start."

"Didn't he mention a particular event that led him to seek divorce?"

"Yeah, he said you had sex with Jake."


"Well, he didn't know who the man was at the time, and the tabloids had their own ideas, but it was Jake, wasn't it?"

"In fact, it was no one. I never violated the marriage." Jason looked at her incredulously. "He told you what thing he'd discovered that made him suspect me, didn't he?"

"Um… it was an email, I think."

"I forged the header." Jason looked even more incredulous. "I fabricated the entire message without doing much to cover my tracks. Roland is at least as proficient with computers as I am, so I knew that if he took even a moment to check if the message were falsified, he would discover the truth. As I'd expected, he didn't—and so I was as eager to leave him as he was to leave me."

"I'm afraid I don't get why you did that." Jason said with some anger in his voice. "Did you just want to make him angry?"

"What I wanted to do was furnish myself with definite proof of what I'd suspected from the beginning—that Roland Moralheart is guilty of the very crime he accuses all women of, acting without thinking. And in truth, by that time, I so despised him that I wanted to hurt him as much as possible before we parted ways. Nothing, I knew, would cause him so much pain as thinking that his woman had wriggled out of his grasp." She paused. "I remember how his eyes would flash with suspicion every time I mentioned a male classmate—which was often, since female biochemistry students are almost nonexistent in Gyeeds. He was very, very possessive."

"And you're pretty creepy." Jason retorted. "I won't deny everything you've said about Roland—he's got his own kind of creepiness—but that email was just cold! You've got at least a touch of his vengefulness, or his sadism."

"I admit that I am vengeful, towards him." Beatrix glared at the stunned and restrained Roland. "But I'm not an especially vengeful or sadistic person in general. What malice I have is entirely directed at him. And can you blame me? He practically made me a prisoner in my own home. Not to mention that he's a mass murderer! This man kills without restraint and without remorse." She added quietly "Among his victims was my husband."

That mention of Jake reminded Jason of something else. "Your husband spent his life designing weapons that soldiers could use to kill each other." he said. "In his inventions lies a much greater potential for harm than in Roland's murderousness. How could you marry such a villain?"

"With honorable intentions." said Beatrix. "When I learned of his evil, I had already fallen in love with him. That caused me quite a personal crisis, as you can imagine. Then I realized what an opportunity I had. Jake planned to sell his weapons to Droydania alone, since he was Droydanian and his sympathies lay on his own side of the Schism. I realized that if ensured, discreetly, that Gyeeds and a few other countries also obtained his designs, the interdimensional balance would be preserved and no harm would be done. Jake was a very talented chemist, and much of his non-weapons work went to the good of the human race, so simply imprisoning him—or killing him—would've some harm as well as good.

"I did marry Jake, though over the many years we were together, I constantly kept an eye on his work. As it turned out, most of his weapons projects came to nothing, while his more benign projects frequently succeeded. In fact, the first time I began to worry was only six years ago, nine years after I'd met him. He was developing an invisible, odorless gas that was supposed to cause anyone who inhaled it to, strange as it may sound, utterly fail to recognize anything they were specifically looking for. The idea frightened me; I saw in it a potential to make war more chaotic and unpredictable, and thus more dangerous for soldiers and civilians alike. Worse, this particular weapon, out of all the ones Jake worked on, seemed to be materializing. And so I carefully sabotaged his experiments. It worked perfectly. He gave the weapon up for lost and moved on, never suspecting me."

Jason's memory reached back to last December. He did recall the particular weapon design that Beatrix had mentioned; Jake had written of it in his lab notes. Now that he was aware of the possibility, Jason realized that given the particular ways in which those experiments had failed, the failures might well have been caused by the deliberate intervention of a third party. Beatrix was most likely telling the truth.

"I admit" the chemist continued "that I was much less successful in keeping Jake's Piercers from doing harm. When he sold some on the black market, I learned of it too late. When you and Roland invaded his lab late at night last year, I was away from Gyeeds, helping design an exhibit about RNA transcription in this very museum. By the time I was next able to get in touch with Jake—a rather late time, thanks to Droydania's restrictions on communication and travel—he had already sold some Piercers to Dojum, and had taken up residence at Akolos's castle. Immediately I decided to distribute his design to various world powers, before the balance could be disrupted any further.

"In order to obtain the recipe for the Piercers, my first idea was to hack into Jake's computer remotely. But then I remembered that he never connected his computer to the Internet, for the sake of security. I told him I wanted to see him, and I had him ask Akolos if I could verseport to Dojum, but the king refused—to this day, I'm not sure why. My only choice was to travel to Rorosion the hard way. I waited until I could take a long break from work without causing any suspicion or trouble—over a month—and then I chain-verseported to a Starving-Sea island. With stealth, deception, and bribery, I slowly made my way towards Jake, even as I followed the voyage of your ship on the news. I encountered you and Roland in Jilothus by accident."

"I suppose you also pointed us out to the police by accident." said Jason.

"No," said Beatrix, "that was a deliberate attempt to keep Roland from escaping his misfortune. I barely noticed you."

"And what about when you told Jake to get us killed?" Jason asked heatedly.

"It's interesting how you've ended up interrogating me." said Beatrix, smiling slightly. "I didn't tell him to kill you: he suggested it; I consented to it. I feared that whatever authorities might get their hands on the Piercers would give them to their own government, and I wanted to protect Jake. Besides, I would never miss an opportunity to end Roland's life altogether."

"You still expressed callous disregard towards my life." Jason insisted, though he was aware how hypocritical this line of argument made him look in light of his behavior just a few hours ago.

"Jason." said Beatrix. "Look at your companions." He glanced at their limp, prone bodies. "Now look at yourself." He was as unscathed as ever. "What does this tell you?"

"That… you know I'm magically inept and unarmed?"

"But can you imagine why I've taken the time to have this extended conversation with you?"

"To tie up some nagging plot holes? No, wait, you want the in-universe explanation, don't you?" Beatrix raised an eyebrow questioningly. "Well, it's because… uh… uh-oh. You don't want me to join you, do you?"

"That's the idea."

Jason crossed his arms. "I gotta say, the Devil's offer was a lot more tempting. At least he didn't try to kill me."

"The Devil?"

"Forget I mentioned it." Jason said offhandedly.

"You'd agree" said Beatrix "that there's no reason for me to threaten you, time and time again, if Roland is the only one I'm hostilely disposed towards, wouldn't you?"

"Well, yeah."

"My point is that it's senseless for us to work against each other at all. I'm sure that Roland has construed me as a monster and an alien, a thing apart, but you must realize that in fact, you and I are more than a little alike. Two of a kind we are, contrivers both."

"I'll grant you that last one, at least."

"We share goals, as well. I'm trying to find Leela Aranin myself."

Jason was aghast. "How did you know we were doing that?"

"Because you just told me, silly boy!"

Jason's mouth hung open in shock and embarrassment for a short while. Then he said "Dang."

"I figured that was what you had in mind when you visited her son's house. I'm looking for Leela—and I imagine you are as well—because only she may know where all these monsters came from. Whatever supernatural agents were behind them will almost certainly cause war to erupt across the Schism if they aren't dealt with."

"Well," said Jason, "I suppose you could join our little gang, in theory, but I don't think you and Roland would get along very well."

"On the contrary, I'd give him a proper cremation, and then I'd treat his ashes with the utmost care."

"Well, if you're looking for my permission to kill him, you're not going to get it. He's my foster father, and… a decent person at heart. I think. More to the point, I know I can trust him with my life, but I'm not nearly so sure when it comes to you. If you wanna kill him, you'll have to kill me first."

"That can be arranged."

The boy and the woman stood there and glared at each other for a while.

"You have two options." said Beatrix. "One, Roland dies and I accompany you on your adventures. Two, all four of you die. It's your choice."

"See, it's that kind of threat that makes me unfavorably inclined towards you."

"Your choice."

"Can't you just kill Roland and leave the rest of us alone?" Jason cried, exasperated.

"And let the witnesses to my murder just walk away? Please give me credit for more intelligence than that. I am, after all, a Thought mage."

"You're at least as psychotic as he is!"

"Only because he drove me mad. Now choose, before I change my opinion of you and take away the better option."

"You're not giving me a choice!"

"Choose anyway."

Jason considered his surroundings. It was really dark in here, and the museum, in addition to having an architecture that was more aesthetically pleasing than it was conventional or practical, was filled with obstacles of all shapes and sizes. Running wasn't an option.

"Well…" said Jason "I guess…"

And then, without warning, he ran up to Beatrix and threw a punch, hitting her in the side. She cried out, but as soon as she'd digested the surprise, she tossed aside her flashlight, flew at him, and proceeded to give him the beating of his life. She wasn't particularly strong, but she was fast, and boy, did she know how to hit. After a minute or so, a very bruised, battered, and bloody Jason was lying on the floor not far from the rest of the party, and a quite unhurt Beatrix stood over him, looking at the boy with great disapproval.

"That'd be―" Jason began, but then he was interrupted by a great violent cough, which ejected a bit more blood. He winced. "That'd be" he said again "one way in which we aren't alike."

"Have you decided now?"

"Y'mean option (a) is still open?"

"Why not? I understand your frustration. You did me no great harm."

Jason sighed. He tried to think, but it was hard for him to hear any of the little voices in his head while all his nerves were flooding his consciousness with distress signals.


"Look, can ya gimme… fifteen minutes? I need to get ahold of myself. And say my prayers, I guess."


With some exertion, Jason painfully picked himself up and came to a cross-legged seated position on the waxed wooden floor. To his right were his companions, still stunned and bound. Before him was Beatrix, sitting on the edge of the raised platform that held up the giant chromosome, her feet dangling just above the floor. She had the flashlight pointed at Jason; she was watching his face. He looked away.

Well, how was he going to trick his way out of this one? He'd never matched wits with another trickster before; his confidence in his own cunning shrank at the memory of how this woman had already tricked him once. This much he was glad of: Beatrix wasn't taking the current opportunity to kill Roland. Jason might very well defeat Beatrix by pretending to go along with her for a while and then backstabbing her, but he was afraid that she'd slay the adventurer as soon as he made his decision. Roland was a main character, but if this adventure was a season finale, there was some chance he could die. Jason simply couldn't pick either of Beatrix's options safely.

After a few minutes of thought, Jason suddenly remembered something: the Antimnemonic! And after a bit more thinking, he finally came upon a way to put it to good use. He took it out of his pocket and slipped a finger through the hole, then rested it on his knee—it was pretty big, after all. He made sure that the front faced Beatrix.

"What's that?" Beatrix asked suspiciously. It clearly wasn't a weapon, since otherwise Jason would've used it before trying to punch her, but she was careful all the same.

"Prayer device, if you don't mind."

"For what religion?"



"It's the most popular religion on Earth. Haven't you heard of it?"

Beatrix seemed to search through her memory. "Roland may have mentioned it once or twice. I never understood his interest in that verse."

They fell silent, and Jason waited. He didn't really know what the consequences of this trick would be; the idea was basically to bide time and hope his situation improved. He succeeded at biding time, at least. After about ten minutes, Beatrix asked about the Antimnemonic again—she'd forgotten even seeing it. And after another ten minutes, she asked again. She didn't tell him his time was up because she kept forgetting the passage of time. Jason was very lucky that she wasn't wearing a watch.

Hours passed. Jason did his best not to arouse Beatrix's suspicion through his tone of voice or body language. Sitting there cross-legged on the floor without allowing his growing restlessness to show was amazingly taxing. Meanwhile, he figured that the mages might regain consciousness; he hoped they'd have the good sense to pretend otherwise. As it turned out, Roland and Simon both did, but Curtis wasn't so careful. When he awoke, about three hours after Jason had gotten beaten up, he looked around (so much as he could with his body stuck to the floor) and demanded "What's going on?". Beatrix stunned him again, muttering something about how she was sure she'd made the first stun stronger than that.

Time dragged on as slowly as molasses flows down a hill in January as Jason waited, and waited, and waited. Slowly the hours wore away at his sanity, and his thoughts became confused and nonsensical. Past memories and future possibilities flickered before his eyes; he seemed almost to hallucinate. He wanted to cry out in pain, to stand up and leap about, to do anything but keep sitting and waiting and pretending he'd only been doing so for five or ten minutes. But he held firm; exerting more willpower than he'd ever imagined he possessed, he kept his legs crossed and his eyes closed—at first pretendingly, but now more and more honestly, in prayer.

There was one entity that Jason feared might give the game away, and which he had no hope of controlling: the sun. Gradually the sky grew lighter, and as it did so Beatrix was more and more perturbed each time she lost the last few minutes of her memory. Jason prayed she would only realize the truth when it was too late.

"Did it just happen?"

The voice was Curtis's. Jason blinked; he saw not the smooth wooden floor of the museum but the rough brown soil of the forest. He looked up. The whole party was here, sitting in a circle on the same old patch of forest they'd met at before. Beatrix was nowhere to be seen.

"What in the name of Quetzalcoatl?" said Jason. "How'd we get here?"

Without a word, Roland handed Jason a slip of paper. It was a note in Jason's handwriting, written in Common, except for the postscript, which was in English.

Dear Jason and friends,

Beatrix took the Antimnemonic, and you guys all saw the front of it. Bummer! At least she had to let Roland, Curtis, and Simon go when the guys who work at the museum came to work. She panicked as soon as they turned all the lights on. Before they got to the room you were in, Beatrix ran away, and you guys teleported back here. Then Jason had the foresight to write this note. Aren't you thankful for that?

Your pal (or in one case, yourself),

[Here appeared Jason's only faintly legible signature.]

P.S. Yes, Jason, you really did write this as recently as five minutes ago.

"Dang," said Jason, "I'm good."

"I would've preferred if you'd found some way to keep this relatively potent weapon out of that witch's hands," said Roland, "but you did save my life, and for that I am thankful."

"Man," said Jason. "y'know, when you called her a witch that other time, I didn't know you really meant it."

"I didn't." said Roland darkly. "This most recent encounter with her was the first time I ever saw her cast spells."

"Jason?" said Simon.


"Would you mind telling us what happened while we were still unconscious?"

"Uh, no, I will." What he told was essentially the truth, but he didn't tell the whole truth: he didn't mention his admissions that Beatrix's criticisms of Roland were valid.

"The email was fake?" said Roland. "That's an idea to keep me up at night."

"What is it with you two?" Curtis asked.

"They've always had a feud." said Jason. "After that experience you just hate Beatrix more, right, Roland?"

"That would be right."

"So circumstances may turn even more dire the next time we bump into her—and we're sure to bump into her again. That's troubling."

"What's more troubling, I think," said Simon, "is that we've gained nothing from our experience at the museum, and lost a potentially useful object. It's beginning to seem that every attempt we make at finding or reaching Leela ends in failure. What are we to do?"