Chapter 8 (or, "Answers")
Rhiannon was certain Komari was doing her job.
When she had come to in the sand, tthe first thing she had identified was not the sand or the bizarre sky, but Komari. From there, Komari hadn't hesitated to coordinate the entire effort, locating all of the other people who had been in the room. There had been Arashi, Henry, and Liana -- the contest winners -- and Liana's extra guest Sierra. Then there had been Canberra, Rikimo, and Erika and Kyara, now all accounted for. Nathan had been included somehow as well, as well as Jaci, who was shaken up probably the most out of the bunch. All of the people had their navigators in some sort of physical form on them, and Rhiannon had had Komari catalogue all of them and their addresses. Even without the Internet, Komari had been able to connect to all of them just fine.
They had all been waiting at the only landmark around -- a huge rock at the shore -- while Rhiannon and Komari had found each person and taken them back. And from there, Rhiannon was fully prepared to make a plan. But two things she hadn't counted on: that Erika would seem like such a leader in this situation, or that there were six other people who knew Erika already, six people who hadn't been in the room at the time of...whatever that glitch was.
Or had they?
"Which one of you is the leader of your group?" she asked, pointing to the kids of mixed heritage.
The Hispanic girl in the green mimono and penguin socks that didn't match raised her hand. "That would be me," she said. "I mean, technically for these five Tama's their leader, but I'm their guide for this mission."
"Do you have any clue who I am?"
"I do. You're the one who created the Digital Merge card game and was about to give a conference on it when..." The girl bit her lip. "I'm not sure how much of this we should be talking about."
"You might as well just tell them at this point," the goggle boy next to the Hispanic girl said. "I mean, our cover's blown, Dvorak's in on this, and if we do this right, we'll get out of this no trouble."
Another sigh from the girl. "Okay. But we should tell it to everybody. Miss Rhiannon, Miss Erika, the rest of the people whom were in that Green Room...are they here?"
"Yes," Komari answered for Rhiannon. "Do you suggest we should return to their locale?"
"Then it is so," and Rhiannon wasn't used to this part yet. Komari was doing only what she knew how to do -- jump from file to file, or zoom through cyberspace -- but it was the equivalent of being teleported. And without any warning, Rhiannon, Erika, and the Hispanic girl and her companions were all teleported to the meeting rock.
"You have to start warning me if we're going to continue with that," she muttered in Korean to Komari.
"Yes, ma'am," Komari answered, not breaking form.
Rhiannon rolled her eyes and surveyed the group. Liana and Sierra were sitting with Henry and Arashi, thankfully keeping up conversation and not freaking out like Kiiroka Jaci was. The ganguro was huddled over in a corner with her purple feathered budgie navigator. Canberra was talking to a mid-sized red dinosaur, his navigator, while Rikimo sat still in a trance, meditating. Rhiannon had been sure Rikimo hadn't had a navigator until Komari had announced it was the sword now strapped to her belt. And, of course, now Kyara was no longer clinging to Nathan and was now clinging to Erika instead.
"Oh my -- what kind of crazy cartoon is this?!?" Rhiannon heard behind her, and, turning, saw the new mixed group there.
"It is not a cartoon," Komari answered to the boy named Jason (American? Rhiannon figured, as he didn't look to be from anywhere else). "This is our reality now."
"And we're gonna have to find a way out of it," the Hispanic girl said. She clapped her hands over her head, and it got everybody's attention. "Now. My name is Isabel Louisa Maria Gonzalez, and I'll be temporarily be taking over this group for our debrief."
"What's that name?" Liana asked.
"What's a debrief?" Kyara asked.
"Calm down," Rhiannon said. "This girl might have answers as to where we are and why we're here." She stared at this Isabel girl. "Or, at least, I hope she does."
The girl nodded. "You can call me Isabel. These are my friends Tama, Rifka, Jason, Rosa, and Jen. Yeah, they probably look a little weird to you, and we don't know where we got these clothes from. But I reached out to headquarters, and while I don't understand everything, I've got a better idea as to what's up. The first thing is first: this is still Earth. This is the world as you all have known it. For all intents and purposes, we're still in Shibuya."
"This is still Shibyua?" Jaci's voice came in from around the crowd. "Where's the Cerulean Tower? The subway lines? The markings on the street that tell us where to walk?"
Rhiannon watched Canberra walk over to Jaci and put his hand on her shoulder. "Everything's going to be fine," he said to her.
Isabel continued. "The best way I can explain it is this: there was a strange virus that was somehow in Rhiannon's tablet. When she unlocked her tablet to start your press conference, it unlocked the virus."
"Do you have computer viruses that can infect your tablets?" the Chinese one, Jen, chirped in.
"Affirmative," Komari said without Rhiannon's input.
"It's kind of like that. The person who put the virus on your tablet, Rhiannon -- he has a history of doing stuff like this. He's the voice you heard coming from the speakers in that green room of yours. We've dealt with him before. You could call us a virus busting team, I guess."
"When it comes to Dvorak, that seems to be all we do," the blonde girl in the furisode mimono said. Rhiannon didn't recognize the strange name she said.
"So this virus infected my tablet and turned Tokyo into a mess? No offense, but that's not how reality works," she said to Jen.
Jen looked stumped, but the other Asian, the one with the goggles in his hair, spoke up. "Unfortunately, it's more than than. Are you aware of alternate dimensions?"
"Alternate dimensions, a common science fiction concept detailing other worlds that are parallel to ours and can often be traveled to," Komari stated from her backup. "No scientific evidence has been provided and it is offered as fantastic theory."
"Not theory. It happens. Your world is one of several, and sometimes these worlds collide. That's what's happening to your world right now. The reason reality is so weird is because reality is changing for your world. In two weeks time, the worlds will merge, and the world as you know it will be gone."
Jaci, Kyara, and Arashi all started crying. "That's crazy!" Canberra yelled from where he was sitting by Jaci. "Are you expecting us to believe this?"
"You have to." The boy sighed. "The same thing happened to our world. Everything was fine one moment, and the next, it just disappeared. We were lucky, and we're here to warn you, if we don't fix this, there could be dire consequences."
"The world you see right now is a result of the worlds trying to mix," Isabel cut in. "Dealey Five team, this is what remains after our friend Dvorak pulls everything else into limbo."
"EVERYTHING else?" the tall girl asked. "¡Bebes pobres!"
"Relax," Goggle Boy said. "We've got this. If we all work together, we'll get your world back. We have the power to fix this -- not directly, but with help. One of you has been chosen to help us get your world back." And, with that, he pointed directly at Erika. "And you are that person."
Erika's eyes widened. "Ehh? Me?"
"What are you gonna do with Erika?" Kyara yelled from her spot practically on top of her best friend's shoulders.
"I'm not going to do anything. But Erika has the power to stand up to the one who made your world this way. If we all rally around her, and if we give her the right instructions, none of you have anything to worry about. I promise." The boy seemed certain in his choice of words, and Rhiannon found herself able to trust him. “So, Erika? Will you help us?”
The ground shifted beneath Rhiannon’s feet, and before she knew it, the entire beach was caught up in an earthquake. She forgot about the boy, about Erika, and forced herself to try and stand again. But the sand kept pulling her down, farther and farther into the reaches of darkness.
“Komari!” she yelled, hoping if Komari was here in this strange world, she might be the only hope she had to escape.
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