Word Count: 23,000+
Rating: NC-17/ Mature Content
Summary: Eureka plunges into a dark fairytale world where its citizens must figure out the curse of the Red Witch and break the spell in order to get back to their lives. Written for the Marshal Science August Challenge and Musingdarkly/Becca who wanted "anything, hot smut would be a plus".
Chapter 8: Backwards Through the Looking Glass
The Kingdom of the Chained Princess was almost as far away as the Heart of the Forest, however the vegetation was markedly better. Nathan kept an ear open for trouble, did his best to ignore the bickering of the others and grazed on the edible plants along the way as usual, but experienced an empty feeling that wouldn’t leave. His heart ached without Jack’s presence strong by his side.
The trek seemed to take far too long and Nathan would often take the time to circle around their group as fast as he could, looking for clues about Jack’s whereabouts and asking the stray local if they’d seen anyone.
The fight against the defenses of the mechanical witch guarding the Kingdom of the Caged Princess proved to be anticlimactic. Zane eventually fired the weapon at the bunker after being shot and suffering a heroic war wound. The devices that had shot light beams at them turned to gold, melting on the next round of fire.
“Don’t worry about me,” Zane groaned. “You go ahead.”
“You’re only wounded in the shoulder…,” Nathan started to say before Taggart slapped a hand over his mouth.
“That’s alright lad, you just keep guard up here,” Taggart spoke. “I don’t know how we’ll make it without you, but somehow I think we’ll manage.”
“Hey guys, over here,” Fargo yelled from on top of the stone part of the structure. “I think I’ve found a way in.”
“If you have found another way into the Kingdom, you’ll have proved your worth yet again,” Nathan announced before joining him on the roof.
The three of them opened a small, round hatch and peered inside. A ladder automatically dropped down into the darkness from the hatch.
“Oh thank God you’re here,” a young woman in strange clothing shouted up to Nathan and the others, “S.A.R.A.H.’s was acting crazy, she wouldn’t let me out and Dad wasn’t here, but then he suddenly appeared out of nowhere and now he won’t wake up and S.A.R.A.H.’s shut down.”
Nathan felt a headache coming on, but something else offset it. He could once again feel that Jack was close.
“Are you the Caged Princess?” Fargo yelled back down. “If so, we need to find a clear path to the Fortress in order to break the Curse of the Red Witch.”
“What?” she replied in a high pitched voice. “Oh no, this isn’t good. You’ve gone crazy too.”
“Hold on, we’re coming down,” Nathan told her and the three of them decended.
When he looked again at the young woman, she was staring at him with eyes open widely and with a look of shock. “What on earth are you wearing?” she asked, looking at Nathan.
He looked down at himself and back up at her. “Pants.”
“Barely,” she scolded him. “I mean I can see way too much. You might as well be stark naked.” She smiled widely at her own comment. “Hey, that matches your name. So do you know what’s going on yet?”
“My name?” Nathan asked with alarm. “You know my name?”
“Yes. You’re Dr. Nathan Stark, and you’re Douglas Fargo, you’re Zane something or another, and you’re Taggart,” she said to each of them in turn.
“And who are you?” Taggart asked.
“Zoe Carter. I’m Jack’s daughter,” she raised her eyebrows high. “Wow, whatever you people are on it’s the good stuff, isn’t it.”
“I don’t mean to be rude,” Nathan interrupted her, “but Jack the Tailor is near and we need to get him to the Fortress of Global Dynamics as soon as possible. We’ll explain as much as we can, but we shouldn’t waste time.”
“Okay,” she said, drawing out the last syllable. “Dad’s on the couch, if you mean him.”
Nathan looked over to where the young woman had gestured and spotted a couch facing away from him. He sprinted over to make sure Jack was indeed there and safe.
Nathan sat down next to him, careful not to jostle Jack. “He won’t wake up?”
“Yeah, I’ve been trying to wake him up for days, but he doesn’t move.”
“He’s breathing,” Nathan assured her.
“I figured that much out.” Zoe scrunched up her forehead. “Do you think he’s in a coma or something?”
“He’s under a sleeping spell. The Mechanical Witch took him when he bit into the apple.”
“Like Snow White?”
“Is that a fairytale?” Fargo asked. “The Hermit said the Red Witch’s curse was causing us to live out stories like in Grimm’s Fairytales.”
“Do you know how to wake him up?” Nathan asked. “How does Snow White wake up?”
“The prince kisses her and breaks the spell.”
Nathan looked back at Jack and then bent down to gently kiss him.
“What are you…?” she started to say but seemed to have lost her words.
Nathan sat back up and Jack’s eyelids fluttered open. He blinked a few times and then looked around the room. “Where am I?”
“You’re in the Kingdom of the Caged Princess lad,” Taggart told him. “And this young lady seems to think she’s your daughter.”
“I have no daughter. I set out from the town of my birth to seek my fortune,” Jack said automatically. “No that’s not right…”
“It’s the spell the town’s under,” Nathan said. “It’s taken all of our memories.”
Zoe walked over to a chair opposite Jack and Nathan. “This is officially the strangest thing that’s ever happened. Ever.”
“How do you remember who you are?” Fargo asked her.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe S.A.R.A.H. shielded me from whatever happened to everyone else.”
“The Mechanical Witch?” Taggart asked. “Her name’s Sarah?”
“Well, S.A.R.A.H. can be a little grouchy but I wouldn’t call her a witch,” Zoe replied. “I don’t know what happened to her – one moment she’s telling me to eat everything in sight and I have to get fat and the next she shut down.” Zoe’s eyes got big again, “oh my God, she was going to eat me.”
Nathan shifted so Jack could have more room to maneuver to a sitting position. “Where is she?” Jack asked, looking around for a powered down Mechanical Witch.
“She’s part of the house,” Zoe replied.
Nathan wrapped an arm around Jack, loosely holding him and Jack put his hand on Nathan’s knee for balance. Zoe watched every move Jack and Nathan made together as if it were some truly bizarre spectacle. Suddenly lights flickered and then the room lit up brightly. The hatch they’d climbed through closed and the ladder retreated.
“Zoe Carter, you have not finished your candy,” a woman’s voice said, coming from all directions around them.
“I’m not hungry!”
“And you brought friends into the house. You know I don’t like unexpected company.”
“Oh this can’t be good,” Jack said just as a glass partition slid down from the ceiling cutting off Taggart and Fargo from Jack, Nathan and Zoe.
“We have to get to Global Dynamics and the Queen said there’s a back entrance through here,” Nathan said to Zoe. “Where is it?”
“I don’t know. Why would you think I’d know?”
“Because you’re the caged princess.”
She only made a face at them and Jack was tempted to say something about her being careful because her face might stay like that when the temperature started to drop drastically around the three of them.
“See what you get for not wearing shirts,” Zoe scolded them while rubbing her arms. “Now S.A.R.A.H.’s going to try to freeze us out.”
“We’ll have to huddle for warmth and hope that Fargo figures a way out,” Nathan conceded.
“Come here,” Jack moved away from Nathan and gestured for Zoe to come sit in between them. They cuddled closely together and Jack pulled a blanket off of the end of the couch to wrap around them.
“Strangest thing ever,” Zoe reiterated between chattering teeth.
“Why don’t you like visitors S.A.R.A.H.?” Fargo asked in his most soothing voice while searching around for some kind of clue as to what to do next. They’d left the weapon the Hermit and Alchemist had manufactured with Zane and he could have kicked himself for it.
“They only stop by because they want something and they never really talk to me,” she replied.
“I’m talking to you now,” Fargo pointed.
“Yeah me too,” Taggart added. “I’ll talk to ya.”
“That’s only because you’re panicking because I’m sucking all the air from the room.”
“You’re what?” Taggart asked.
Fargo looked around, seeing large vents running along the top of the walls. “Cover those,” he ordered Taggart and grabbed something to stuff over the one closest to him. Less than a minute later, Fargo and Taggart were panting, but successful.
“It doesn’t matter,” S.A.R.A.H. announced. “You’ll still run out of air.”
“But then we won’t be able to talk to you,” Fargo argued back. “You’ll be all alone then.”
“That’s fine. I like being alone.”
“Nobody likes being alone,” Taggart insisted. “And it’s not like you can leave this place if you’re a part of it.”
Fargo could practically hear her sulking. “Talk to me S.A.R.A.H.,” he encouraged her. “Tell me what’s wrong and maybe I could help.”
She made a sound like a sigh. “It’s like the Hunter said. I can’t go anywhere. I’m all alone here most of the time and I feel trapped.”
“You’re the Caged Princess, aren’t you?” Fargo said with dawning realization. “Zoe’s just a girl you’ve kept trapped here with you.”
“Most people think of me as the Mechanical Witch.”
“What if I could your problem?” Fargo asked.
“How could you?” S.A.R.A.H. countered.
“Yeah, how could you?” Taggart asked.
“I could build you a body you could inhabit – you could go wherever you’d like and I probably could make it so that you looked anyway you want.”
“No I’m not,” he was sure he could do something like that, if only he could remember how. “And if you kill us now you’ll never know.”
“And if I don’t kill you now?”
“Then you can help us get the Tailor to the back entrance of the Global Dynamics fortress so he can break the Red Witch’s spell. After that, I promise I’ll build you a body myself.”
Fargo waited for an answer.
“Do you really promise,” she said after a while.
“Yes, I swear.”
“And you’ll fix the damage you did to my systems here?”
The objects they’d placed over the vents dropped to the floor as air came back into the room and the partition lifted up.
“The Tailor and the Wildman may go on, but you’ll have to stay here with the others to keep your promise.”
“Turn right, then left and look for the large door with the Do Not Enter sign on it,” S.A.R.A.H. instructed Jack and Nathan through the final part of the underground tunnels. “You’ll want to open it and enter.”
“Of course,” Jack quipped. “Any traps we should know about?”
“Nothing I’m not in charge of.”
They followed her directions and finally came face to face with the door to the Fortress. “You haven’t remembered your passcode yet, have you?” Jack asked.
“I’m trying,” Nathan snapped at him.
“Which passcode would you like?” S.A.R.A.H. asked them.
“Whatever shuts down the defense system of Global Dynamics,” Jack replied hopefully.
“5 2 7 W 4 Alpha D Omega,” she supplied.
Jack repeated the sequence over and over under his breath as Nathan turned the wheel that opened the door. “Somehow I don’t think I’m going to be happy you know that when I get my memory back,” he told S.A.R.A.H.
“Probably not,” she replied.
Jack entered into a cold, alien hallway built like the room he’d seen before at the bottom of the lake. Nathan tried to follow him, but was stopped by some kind of invisible barrier. He looked at Jack with longing in his eyes. “Good luck.”
“Thanks,” Jack replied just before the collar around his neck fell off. He handed it back through the doorway to Nathan. “You can keep this for me, but I’ll want it back.”
Nathan nodded and Jack took off, jogging down the hallway and looking for the room with the Princess. When he found her, she was in a room made of glass holding the little boy he’d seen under the water.
Finding no way into the room, he knocked on the glass.
The Princess set the boy down quickly and jumped to her feet, running to where Jack stood.
“I don’t know how to open the door,” he yelled at her through the glass.
“I can do it with Nathan’s passcode,” she shouted back. “Did you get it?”
Jack repeated the sequence S.A.R.A.H. had told him and moments later the door to the room slid open.
“Jack, what’s going on? Kevin and I’ve been trapped down here for over a week and no one’s come by,” she said in a raspy voice, “and Kevin won’t wake up.”
“It’s a curse,” he explained. “You’re supposed to lift the curse of the Red Witch.”
“Curse?” she repeated back to him with disbelief clearly etched upon her face.
“The Red Witch put a curse on Eureka and now everyone’s living out fairytales. I had to free you and now you’re supposed to be able to break it.”
“Well who’s the Red…Beverly.” She picked up a set of keys from one of the tall tables. “I bet she did something to Artifact.”
The Princess rushed out of the room and down another hallway and into a very small room. Jack followed her and the door to the small room closed behind him before falling. Jack clung to the walls in fear, but the door soon opened again to show a bit number five in a circle on the opposite wall. Flashing red lights and sirens greeted them.
“She’s opened the door,” the Princess complained and then handed him a shiny, orange suit with a mask and hood. “Don’t follow me without putting that on.”
She slipped the suit on over her clothes and Jack copied her. He followed her through another set of doors and then another until they were in a short corridor with the dead body of the Red Witch. Tentacles that looked like they were made of light danced before them, only to be cut off by a door descending. The Princess walked around the Red Witch and then took something round off of the wall and pressed the off button.
Sheriff Jack Carter blinked a few times and shook his head, feeling like he’d just woken up for a very long dream.