#TeamDecoPunk - Part Four: Frau Only Drives the Chrysalis - @WilliamJJackson

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Love Guides The Wandering Star - Part Three - Holly_Gonzalez

Awake. Still Margritte, They haven't defeated me!

Her ears rang. The wan light of psi-space dissipated. Aunt Dagmar's gentle smile morphed into Professor Waldengrave's vulpine face, the stern countenances of the judges, the myriad lights, and the blank stares of the crowd.

The recurring patterns--she'd recognized a few this time. Cigarettes. My Ecrivain's Specials. They've appeared twice. That glass typewriter. And the earrings Dagmar gave to Ingeborg--to me. They must be a link to Fray. Are there more clues yet to come?

The Professor smiled. "Bravo, dear Fraulein! You've conquered the maze. Give her a round of applause, ladies and gentlemen."

The audience cheered on cue, but the judges remained aloof.

"A promising achievement," said a female judge in a tailored uniform coat. "However, both trials have shown a preference for German aspirations and locales."

Margritte wanted to shout. I'm German-born. Doesn't that explain it? The fools refused to admit this simple truth.

Another judge, the fickle man who'd doubted her first trial, steepled his fingers over the panel desk. "I also find this perpetual German theme...troubling. We've seen not a speck of faith in the American ideals she claims to uphold." He waved a hand in dismissal.

"Indeed." The Professor cleared his throat. "Well then, let us continue. Next is the trial of pride. We've shared your ambitions, Fraulein, now we'll witness your indulgences and fears."

Margritte gazed skyward. No stars were visible. All were outshined by the stage lights, the glimmering zeppelins, the reflections upon drifting confetti. This trial of pride was where the majority of former contestants had failed. Some woke up laughing madly, some screaming, others in convulsions. She closed her eyes and replied, "I'm ready."

The charge initiated. The Psychometer sang its psi-shredding fields into the multiverse. Margritte surrendered to the injection of the serum, the spin of dislocation, the jumble of one reality into another--the invaded reality unaware it was being spied on in the name of an American oligarchy, with a shell of a Hollywood idol as its viewing lens.

This psi-space entered her mind as a camera's gaudy flash, a turmoil of sequins and plumes and musk-scented silk. Alluring people skulked in dim, smoky shrines, cavorted where music swirled, where jazz bands hit the highs and lows of a generation. Brash trumpets scolded and come-hither voices growled in time. A time she'd once known, once worshipped and adored, lay utterly forgotten and scorned. She was now just a bumpkin with straw in her hair, reveling in dark country nights flecked with stars, a futile commander with an army of dogs barking at her heels. How she missed her simple little farm. If she could sway through this debacle unscathed, she'd go home straightaway. Hopefully with Fray at her side.

"Who do you merge with now?" The Professor's voice dwindled.

Margritte hesitated to answer. In the growing tangibility of psi-space, she stood at the edge of one of her alfalfa fields. The dogs romped around her. Ahead, in the center of the field, lay the rusted-out frame of a car. Glass lay in fragments around its dented spokes. The once-lavish upholstered seats were torn, the paint peeling, the radiator grill a corroded sneer of neglect. Only steel bones remained of the luxurious sport coupe she'd once bought as a present for Fray--shortly before Fray had gone incognito. This corpse of forsaken splendor now decayed in a farm field in Pennsylvania.

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