Perdita had made the weapon as best as she could, well the basics of it at least. She could use the observatory, take aim, and shoot any one of the versions of her and that would start a chain reaction that would destroy all versions and, in theory fix every single timeline that had been broken up, eaten, or destroyed because of the direct or indirect actions that Perdita had taken. But for her to do this, it would mean that she would die too, and she knew that she could find a way around it if she could just have more time to think.
So, they spent a lot of time inside the boundary in the country walking among the gardens, eating fruit, and traveling to places that were long gone in their own world. Ophelia grew in age and so did Perdita within the false world. To the observers, Perdita and her daughter were aging rapidly, but the work they had done so far had been more than Madam Lux had ever considered doing before she left. They didn’t complain or worry about what they did on their own time, if the answer was coming, or at least they thought it was coming, they wouldn’t kill them. And if they failed, they would be thrown into the vats and used with the rest of those like them.
Perdita knew that those that had them trapped in here were watching closely when they worked on the weapon. So, when she finished, she didn’t make any announcements but instead started working on a shield that, like the false world they lived in, would push Perdita out of all the realities and the theoretical beyond. She knew that there was something more out there than these strings and Ophelia knew what it was, but she wasn’t going to wait until she was dying to find out. If she could remove herself from the entire thing, then the bullet wouldn’t harm her.
But the formulas weren’t adding up and she couldn’t figure out exactly where she was going wrong. The more she worked, the less that she could make sense of the makeup of the multiverse that they had been moving throughout. She was a woman of numbers and rules, though she broke some, and each formula or calculation would always end up with different answers or no answer at all. She didn’t like that the Truth that she had sought for might not be what she thought it was. It angered her that Ophelia wouldn’t tell her what was beyond.
One evening they sat at the dinner table with a plate rolls, different jellies, and tall glasses of milk. It was a dinner that they enjoyed most when the day at work was hard. And that day Ophelia had kept cutting her hands on the sharp metal pieces of the weapon that she was sure was just for flair at that point and Perdita had thrown her tools across the research area and screamed at a board littered with formulas.
“Tomorrow will be better,” Ophelia said. “I’m just sure of it.”
“I don’t think so,” Perdita replied. “You know what I’m trying to do.”
Ophelia didn’t know but she felt that she should have known so she didn’t say anything at all.
“You know what’s going to happen to me if I use this weapon,” Perdita said. “I’ll be destroyed and taken from you.”
“All of you will be destroyed,” Ophelia swallowed the biscuit.
“And you don’t want to help save me?” Perdita asked. “You own mother?”
“That’s not true,” Ophelia pulled apart a biscuit. “I want to save you.”
“Then tell me how to get out of this place,” Perdita said. “What do we have to do? What do we have to break to get through that boundary to whatever is out there?”
“I don’t know,” Ophelia said. “I really don’t know.”
Perdita stared at her daughter for a long time. She had changed when she had journeyed away and to the center of whatever this whole thing was. There was a chance it wasn’t even her anymore as callous as she acted. But there was no way of telling and there was no point in trying to find out. Instead, she had to figure out how to keep herself alive so she could keep going. If Ophelia wasn’t her real daughter, then that meant her real daughter might have been out there somewhere trapped, waiting for her mother to save her.
“I really don’t want you to leave me,” Ophelia sobbed. “But I don’t know what to do.”
“Just tell me what is over there,” Perdita said. “What is beyond.”
Ophelia had said she would wait to tell her mother when she was dying, but something in her broke. Maybe there was a way that her mother could find a way to escape. Maybe they could leave the entire thing and start lives as new people in an entirely new place.
“If I tell you,” Ophelia said. “You promise not to go crazy?”
“I will try,” Perdita said.
Ophelia leaned forward and described what she saw and how it worked and how much time the entire thing had left before it would cease to exist. Perdita first laughed because she thought her daughter was lying to her. Then she laughed harder because she knew that her daughter wasn’t lying to her. It made all the sense that her formulas didn’t work because none of it would work. She was, sadly, the smartest woman in the entirety of everything and she felt small, powerless, and insignificant.
“That’s it then,” she said. “That’s what this whole thing is.”
“That’s what this whole thing is,” Ophelia answered.
Perdita didn’t like it. Part of her wanted to take back the need to know what was out there. For the first time in her life, she wanted to step backwards in time to unknow something. But in this place, it would have caused her brain to hemorrhage.
“This is going to be a lot of work,” Perdita said. “And I don’t know if I can succeed.”
“You’re not supposed to,” Ophelia said. “But I hope that you do.”
The moment that Perdita was told the truth, it did something to her so deeply that every single version of herself felt a ripple of madness and fear streak through them. Each one turned in the direction that it had come from confused. It caused one to die in a car accident, another to be hit by a train, and a third to discover a new planet through her telescopes.
But there was one that knew that something had changed for better or worse, that her time, and Perdita’s time was coming to a point. Perdita Prime shuddered as she felt the emptiness of whatever her counterpart felt washed over her. There was, also, deeper inside, a hunger for knowledge and travel that almost overwhelmed her. She knew that if she could make it to her, that they could find the answer and move beyond this world.
She stepped through the realities into the world swallowed by darkness. At the center was a spherical structure that held one of her counterparts. She was like one of the ones that Perdita had outwitted and killed, but this one had lost their sanity years ago. There was no point in talking with her, so Perdita Prime slipped through the metal sphere, shoved one of her tentacles into the woman’s body and drained her of her essence.