Beth hugged her father goodbye. She put on what she hoped looked like a brave face for him. She was leaving to allow him to pursue the villain they’d been chasing. In the real world that was more than a little dangerous and they both knew it.
“Tell your Mom I won’t be long,” her father said. “Tell her there’s only a few pages left, she’ll understand.”
“She’s not going to be happy,” Beth said.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure she’d like another chance to stab de Rais,” her father said. “Third time’s supposed to be the charm.”
He smiled and nodded to the two women standing behind Beth.
“Thank you for traveling with my daughter,” he said, nodding to Lagressa and Starshine.
“We will keep her safe,” Lagressa said.
Beth smiled. It was a nice offer on Lagressa’s part, but Beth had plans that had very little to do with staying safe, or allowing her companions to risk themselves for her sake.
“We’re almost in port,” she said. “We should get going before anyone’s around to notice us leaving.”
She reached out and took Lagressa and Starshine’s hands. Both previous times when she’d left the real world she’d held a copy of the story she was journeying into in her hands. Holding an actual piece of the world in question made the trip much easier.
One moment the blue skies of Earth and the cry of seagulls surrounded them and then darkness swallowed them.
It took a moment for Beth’s eyes to adjust to the dim moonlight streaming down on Lagressa’s pond in Elgamire.
“I thought we were returning to your home?” Lagressa said, her voice gentle in deference to the forest that surrounded them.
“We are, eventually,” Beth said, keeping her voice low and quiet too. “I can’t move us straight there though, so I thought this would make a good pitstop in case anyone tries to follow us.”
“Wait, so you really are giving up on your poppa like that?” Starshine asked, louder than the other two but quiet enough that the forest didn’t react immediately.
“Oh, definitely not,” Beth said, running her hands up and down along the shaft of a moonbeam.
“But there was some special danger in his actions, was there not?” Lagressa asked.
“Yeah,” Beth said. “That world we were just in? That was my world. His too. We’re just normal people there. I think. That’s why I had to leave. I can do a lot more him here, in the Unread, than I can do back there.”
“Like what?” Starshine asked.
“Like find the person who’s responsible for this and make them stop,” Beth said.
“And there won’t be danger to you in doing that?” Lagressa asked.
“There’s danger in anything I do, including doing nothing,” Beth said. “I’d rather own that danger and be able to do something about it than wait and let it catch me when I’m not looking.”
“You’d make a good smuggler,” Starshine said.
Beth spent a moment imagining that. A life among the stars. Or creeping through a forgotten tomb. Adventure in any flavor she desired. Books had always been magnetic to her, but to be able to live inside them? That was more than a dream come true.
For as tempting as it was to run away and live the life of excitement and wonder she’d always wanted though, she could feel her steps turning back towards her own world.
A length of moonbeam shimmered in her hands. It felt like a breezy gel, just for a moment.
She wanted to stay, she wanted to explore, but she couldn’t imagine a world where she left her father to fight a serial killing monster on his own. She couldn’t imagine fleeing from that without looking back and not having terrible visions plague her till the end of her days. She could help him, and that’s what she was going to do. It’s what her mother would have done, and her mother kicked ass.
“So how are you going to find the guy who’s causing this trouble?” Starshine asked.
“I think that part will be easy,” Beth said. She drew her fingers down the moonbeam for a final time and plucked it out of the air, holding a softly glowing blade in her hand.
“You are going to cut a path to them?” Lagressa asked, eyes narrowed as she inspected the blade in Beth’s hands.
“I think it should work,” Beth said.
“It is possible,” Lagressa said. “Though that does open the question of what we will do when we find him.”
“I’ve got two answers for that problem,” Starshine said, twirling her beam pistols in her hands. “Of course if we find him somewhere other than his home psychoplane, he probably won’t be all that killable.”
“Yeah. Killing is out. I mean, maybe they deserve it, but I don’t know if it’s even a possibility,” Beth said. “I think the best we can do is to trap them somewhere.”
“If they can move between world like you, where could they be trapped?” Lagressa asked.
“Maybe in a world they can’t understand,” Beth said. “I know of a place, or I guess I’ve read of one, where there’s nothing and no one. No books for them to hold onto and no wars for them to connect with. If we can get them there, then maybe they won’t be able to come back?”
“That’s a lot of maybes,” Starshine said. “How dangerous is this place you’re thinking of? It sounds like the inside of a black hole.”
“It’s not far off from that,” Beth said. “Before we worry about that though, let’s see if we can find him or if we need to come up with a ‘Plan B’ or something.”
“Do you need help with the blade?” Lagressa asked.
Beth felt the moonbeam crackle in her hands. It was as potent as the last one she’d held but far less stable.
“That might be a good idea,” she said.
Lagressa put her hand on Beth’s over the hilt of the blade and nodded for Starshine to do the same.
When the cut, the world screamed, louder than the birth of a sun. They didn’t so much step through the portal that resulted as they were pitched through it.
Beth shook her head and rose, air thick with smoke and oil and rust filling her nostrils.
On the other side of a destroyed house a giant robot, at least nine feet tall lay. It’s chest was an exploded crater and its head was a hollow shell on its shoulders.
A woman in form fitting metal armor descended from the night sky above them, shining lights from her shoulders that illuminated the wings on her back.
“We’ve got survivors,” Silicon Traces said. “The NME didn’t get everyone on this block.”