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> Natasha in Plureality

Natasha shouldered her way through the line blocking the store entrance.   

“That’s bullshit,” she said to Abhay. “I don’t want to have them staring in at me all fucking shift.”  

Abhay folded the sleeves of the sweater slowly and precisely, eyes focused on the creases. He nodded at Natasha in sympathy. She hopped up the steps behind the counter.  

“What’s worse is that when it’s over they’re all gonna file past the window and some dumb fuck is gonna shout something loud enough and spoil what happens.”  

Abhay gently laid the sweater in the pile with the others. “So basically you’re mad because you want to be in that line tonight?”  

The crystal imbedded in Natasha’s forehead rotated along the Guidance axis and channeled the following: Note how your trajectory crosses then achieves a threatened stasis alongside // Posture #83.  

Natasha signed in, checked the tallies, the numbers in the register. “Abhay, stop working and come and talk to me about the Threshold movies. I have all sorts of theories.” She glanced at the front windows. A couple, arms around each other, older than what she always assumed the demographic was but she was always happy to be proven wrong – she wanted everyone in the world to love Threshold and wanted to be the only person in the world that knew about it.  

The crystal channeled: Note the polarities of conditional validity – dispersion or intimacy // Posture #04.  

Abhay disagreed with her that the third movie contained all the foreshadowing of the team’s final destinies. He said that their meetings with the Master were more character moments than plot points. That the scenes were so divergent from the previous two storylines they could only be symbolic. And that it would be too obvious if everything the Master said came true.  

Natasha shook her head, eyes frowning but her mouth smiling. “You’re assuming that the missions we saw in One and Two are the status quo for the story, the baseline. What if their encounters with the Master are the reveal that what we thought was true isn’t? I bet the new one has more stuff like that in it, and we figure out that there’s really been a whole other agenda to the team the entire time. It would explain the time distortions from One and the psychic phenomena in Two. And besides, destiny is supposed to be obvious; that’s the point.”  

“You really love them don’t you?”  

She looked shy. Crystal along the Embrace axis: holdingouthopeforahomeVersion welcomehome.  

“But youre projecting,” he continued. “You’re trying to make the series into this grand epic coherent tapestry when it’s really a cobbled-together market-driven franchise. With all sorts of plot-holes and inconsistencies and weirdness and noise in the signal.”  

“Fuck Ab, why do you have to shit on-“  

“No Tash, listen. That’s what makes the movies so beautiful.” He held her look for a moment. She felt the crystal change colour. “Go get in line,” he said. “I’ll cover your shift.”  

She waved to him when the line finally started moving and she passed by the store. He smiled and struck a pose that she assumed was supposed to be Kendra doing martial arts. Natasha laughed and had such a feeling of friendship for Abhay, a surge of wondering how her co-worker could give her a sudden kindness, a sense of awe for the way lives become entangled, and really they knew so little of each other outside the store, the crystal shifting to Map and flashing a brief image of a vast web, and she found herself kissing her fingertips and tapping the window. One of those clean clear moments without connotation or implication or doubt or misinterpretation, like a root syllable. The line moving, the friends smiling, then inside, the lights dimming, the movie about to start.  

The audience cheered when the opening credits – the same needle thin font on the soft white screen, the gentle then persistent music, rising, rising – faded into a loud shot of Simon crashing through the door. His return had been guessed at, but seeing it now meant that it was all coming true, that Natasha was right, that everything was in place and perfect. Simon rescued none other than the Laboratory Infants from Two before transmitting to… Carpenter! So there had been a secret agenda all along, but who knew and who didn’t? As Carpenter was about to signal to the team – would he tell them about Simon? – the Complex was breached, massive gunfight and explosions, and – all within the first 10 minutes of the movie - Carpenter was killed. By the Master.  

She didn’t stop crying until the song had changed part way through the end credits. She wanted to run out of the theatre, didn’t want to move. She felt like everything was different now and if she didn’t act it would change back, but if she acted it would change back. She thought that the crystal would transmit, but somehow wasn’t surprised when it didn’t.   

“It was awesome. Really great. Thanks so much.”  

“Yeah? As good as you hoped?”   

“Better. You got to see it tomorrow so we can talk about it."

“I don’t mind spoilers – were you right about the Master stuff?”   

“I can’t say. It would be cruel. So, let me cover your shift tomorrow. Reciprocity.”  

The crystal didn’t transmit again until three years later, after the end of school, the depression, the relationship, the strange way it ended, until Natasha was at the movies and she saw the trailer for Threshold Five, and the crystal finally figured it out. What it was supposed to do.