The others were already in the room where naked Yuqi lay in repose and Bao was doing his impression of a ghost coming out of the wall. By the time we got there, they had excavated Bao with Cheng’s help and he lay on the floor, shivering and shaking, covered in dust.
His clothes were ripped but his body looked in pretty good shape, all things considered. He was muttering like a madman and his eyes were rolling around like marbles in a goldfish bowl, but at least he wasn’t wall-mounted anymore.
“His body will heal in time,” said Cheng, who took up most of the room. “His mind may never recover.”
I felt the same could be said about me.
The whole time travel thing didn’t make sense on many levels. But what did seem obvious was that Yuqi’s position outside of time allowed her to fuck with everyone else. The solution, or at least the first step, was to drag her out of there and back into the here and now.
“Give me your knife,” I whispered to Jenny. She gave me a look, but handed over the dagger.
“Are you going to do something stupid?”
“Mm hm,” I said. “Don’t let David kill me.” I didn’t tell her how, she could work something out. I only needed a couple of seconds, I was sure she could distract him with her feminine wiles.
I skirted around where everyone was rubbernecking the scene of what looked like a nasty accident—the whole wall would need replastering, which wouldn’t be cheap—and sidled closer to Yuqi’s defenceless body.
David’s head spun around, his beady eyes fixed on me. “What are you doing?” He stood up.
“Me? Nothing.” I raised the dagger and brought it down.
David sprang towards me. Jenny sprang towards him, shouting, “Pile on!” and rugby tackled him.
The others, without hesitation, piled on. David was buried under a sea of nerds.
She had used her wiles, and she was definitely feminine, but I wouldn’t have guessed that was going to be her play. Or that the others would follow her lead so readily. Credit to them, though, it might not have been the most elegant of solutions, but it did the job.
The dagger sliced into Yuqi’s chest. If she died, she would be sent back in time, but she would also be forced back into her body. Hypothetically.
I wasn’t a hundred percent sure this would work, but if Yuqi thought it was important she remain in a catatonic state, it made sense that bringing her out of it would thwart her plans. Since I didn’t know how to wake her up, killing her seemed to be the next best option.
Or so you’d think.
The blade entered Yuqi’s body easily enough, but nothing else happened. No blood, no blue liquid, no thwarting.
I reached out my hand placed it on her stomach, making sure not to touch the gravity-defying breasts (I could sense the eyes on me). It felt weird. Not like skin, but not altogether unfamiliar.
David threw the pile of geeks off and stumbled towards me. He stopped when he saw the dagger sticking out of her chest.
“First of all,” I said, “you can’t kill people here, especially not her. Second of all, this isn’t Yuqi, it’s a golem. Or a body made out of the same stuff they’re made of. It’s a fake Yuqi.”
The problem with trying to fight someone who existed outside of time was that they knew what you were going to do and could take steps to stop you. Sidesteps.
“By the way, what happened to 288 and the rest of the golems?” I asked Cheng.
“They were consumed by the welding,” said Cheng. “Without the tributes, they had to suffice.”
So the golem revolt never even got off the ground. So much for that idea.
“Does that mean you aren’t welded properly?” I asked him.
“I am complete.” Something about the way he said it made me suspect he wasn’t being entirely honest. Perhaps a weakened singularity served Yuqi’s needs in some way.
“If that isn’t her,” said Claire, “where is she?”
“Ah get it,” said Flossie, her eyes sparkling with epiphany. Everyone waited to hear what she had divined—sometimes inspiration strikes in the unlikeliest of places. “That’s why her tits stick up like that. Ah knew they couldn’t be natural.”
Not all people have the same priorities.
I had assumed in order for the Jester to be stuck in the void, Yuqi’s body needed to be out of commission. I assumed it because that’s what I’d been told. By Yuqi.
If she was changing things in the past to mess with me, she had people to do her bidding and the Codex to contact them. But if she didn’t need to be in a coma she could be walking around among us. Maybe that thing in the void wasn’t Yuqi at all and Yuqi was running around disguised as someone else. Maybe even someone in my party. The weretics could change form, maybe she could, too.
I looked over my gang of idiots. No way could she hope to replicate any of them with precision. This level of retard takes years to perfect.
My head hurt. I couldn’t figure this out by myself and randomly stabbing people until I got the real Yuqi would take far too long, even for a time traveller.
“Maurice,” I said, “I’m going to tell you everything I know about what’s happened so far, and you tell me where you think Yuqi is.”
Maurice nodded and got out his notebook.
“Hold on,” said Claire, “why are you only asking him?”
“Because this is the kind of useless shit he’s good at.” Seemed perfectly reasonable to me.
“We might have some insights, too,” said Flossie the tittie investigator.
“I look forward to all your input.” I may have said it with a bit too much sarcasm as the looks I got were not warm nor encouraging.
I dived in, recapping what had happened in the different timelines, focusing on Yuqi, the Jester, the Codex and anything else time-related, but filling in a lot of the other stuff since I had no idea what might be relevant. I even told them about my role in the death of millions. That earned me some dark looks and shakes of the head.
I was confident this timeline would be wiped and none of them would remember any of this, but is was still very uncomfortable to admit what I’d done.
Occasionally, Maurice stopped me to clarify something, but everyone else, including Phil and Dave, and even Cheng, listened with rapt attention. Poor Bao was left to quietly whimper on the floor.
“So you’re saying Jenny sucked your feelings out of you?” asked Maurice. I’m not sure why I mentioned that part, other than I was in the flow. “Like an emotional vampire?”
There was a sharp intake of breath from the three girls, and a cringe from Dudley. Even Dudley knew that was the wrong thing to say.
“Emotional vampire? Come on, Maurice,” I said in my best SJW. “Have some respect. The correct term is ‘woman’.” This earned me a few hisses. “What? It’s a joke. Lighten up.” I suddenly had the image of all of them siding with Yuqi and beating the shit out of me.
Maurice, oblivious as ever, went over his notes. “Whether or not the Jester is Yuqi, in order for her to change things, she had to have an agent on the ground. Either someone who can time travel, or a device that can communicate across time.”
“The Codex does that,” I said. “She used it to talk to Cheng’s dad in the past, so—”
“But how could she talk to him before she even arrived here? It doesn’t make sense.”
“Paradox?” I suggested.
“No,” said Maurice. “I don’t believe in them. But we can just ask her, can’t we?” He turned to David. “You have the Codex. Call her up.”
David took out the Codex. He seemed hesitant, as though he didn’t really want to know. I could see why. It might completely change everything he’d believed.
Maurice didn’t wait for David to open the box, he grabbed it out of his hand. “Gotcha, you little minx!” He squeezed the box in his fist. “Someone give me a knife.”
We all stared at him.
“What are you doing?” said Claire.
“This is her. This is Yuqi.”
It didn’t look like Yuqi. It looked like a small box.
Maurice shook his head. “People die here to evolve their spirits or their souls or whatever, right? They do it enough times and they become ready for welding. They do it too much, they become weretics. How many times has Yuqi died? She must have lived a thousand lifetimes, flitting around in time.”
“But she jumps back into another body,” I said.
“Yes, time resets, but one thing doesn’t, the time traveller. Her spirit, or whatever it is that gets transferred, that experiences change. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to remember what had happened, would you?”
It made sense, kind of.
“She must be a weretic by now. The most weretic weretic ever. You saw how they changed back out there. They can lose mass and leave behind that blue liquid. The same liquid she had you take back in time. I don’t think this is a communication device. It’s not the Jester you’re talking to on long distance. It’s her, talking to you herself.”
No one rushed to agree with him.
“We can prove it easily enough. That’s why I want the knife.”
I pulled the dagger out of fake-Yuqi’s chest and handed it over.
As soon as he grabbed it, Maurice’s fist started shaking. The box began to change, morphing and stretching. He dropped the dagger and used both fists, one over the other, to keep a tight hold.
There was now a small, naked Yuqi in his hands. “David!” she called out in a tiny, shrill voice. “The blue vial! Hurry!”
David seemed as shocked as the rest of us, but snapped out of it and began searching his pockets. Then he was suddenly lifted off the ground as Cheng grabbed him by the back of his shirt. He hung there, flailing.
Little Yuqi’s head tilted back and she started moaning. “Oh, you’re touching my private parts,” she said in a lewd voice.
Maurice looked horrified. He couldn’t let go fast enough.
Yuqi fell from his open hand, but she didn’t get far. Claire’s hand closed around her. She brought the hand up to her face. “Let’s see you try that shit with me.”
She squeezed much harder than she strictly needed to and Yuqi screamed in frustration and Claire smiled. It was quite chilling.