This is very loosely based on Prompt 33, but mostly is about toasters.
Kay smelled that something was wrong before she saw it; Alex, rolling her eyes, throwing two very burnt halves of a bagel in the trash.
“Did I wake you up?” she nervously said, whirling to face Kay.
“No, you're fine. Everything okay?”
“Ugh. I don't know how I can handle the teferact day in and day out and have trouble with a stupid toaster.”
“Well,” said Kay, walking over and sticking in another bagel, “maybe I need a smarter toaster.”
The previous night was not the first time that Alex had come over to Kay's place after a long day on the job. Nor was it the first time that they'd wound up enjoying themselves, and each other, in Kay's bedroom. It was, however, the first time Alex had stayed the night.
She on the couch and Kay in her own bed. While Alex was developing a new appreciation for the variety of ways they could enjoy each other's company, she didn't see any need for either of them to take off their clothes while or before doing so.
And if that was to be their first breakfast together in Kay's place, it was off to a very bad start.
“A smarter toaster?” Alex raised an eyebrow. “Exactly how many gradients of intelligence do toasters come in?”
“Well, you know—”
“No, I do not know. Do they take toaster IQ tests?”
“You're the one who started this.”
“That was a joke, what are you going to go out there, and buy a—”
“You know, there are toasters that connect to the phone lines and print the weather on your toast.”
“Oh yeah,” Kay shrugged. “You'd need bread, obviously. Not a bagel. But you could get it to do sports scores or maybe send messages...you'd need some encryption, obviously, but it could be done. Now, the real test would be if we could use it to communicate with the alternate dimensions...”
“Nnn,” said Alex, pouring herself a glass of water. “We agreed. No bringing work in when we're...” she waved her hands helplessly, looking for a word, “like this.”
“Sorry,” said Kay. “Hey. Look! Bagel worked this time.”
“So I only wasted one. Efficiency of, what. Fifty percent?”
“Are you all right?” Kay sat down across the table from Alex as the other woman lashed into a container of butter with her knife, spreading it in blobs on her bagels.
“I don't know,” she said. “I just...Thinking about the other dimensions when I'm not at work gets to me. Once in a while.”
“All right. Well. I'm sorry, that was a joke.”
“No, you're fine.” Alex chewed, then continued. “I need to get more comfortable with this.”
“Trust me, I don't need to bring work home either. But is everything all right there? You seem okay with the teferact, I don't want you to hide it if it's going to be a problem.”
“I don't know. When we're actually there, it's okay. Like, when there's a problem we need to fix...nothing matters, we can just concentrate on getting it done.” Kay nodded along with her, without noticing. “As long as we're all working together, throwing ourselves into it, it feels like the most important thing in all the worlds. So that—work is fine, you know? But then I come home and...”
She shook her head, taking a long swig of milk, but went on. “When I was a kid, I never felt, like, even when I recognized how big the universe was, I never felt insignificant or anything like that. I was still me, still Alex. But now that we've seen...that I know that there are other Alexes out there, it's hard to feel like I matter.”
Kay reached a hand towards her, but Alex just said “Don't,” and she pulled it back.
“How's your arm?”
“My arm? It's fine, of course.”
“Can I look at it?”
“Kay, it's an arm,” said Alex, but she rolled up her sleeve. “...Huh.” There on her wrist was the outline of the restraints she'd worn the night before.
“It'll fade,” Kay said. “I was just...you don't seem to mind pretending you and I are say, an annelt and stabe from the planet Drous—” Alex blushed, remembering, “—even though you know there are a lot weirder things out there.”
“Yeah. But none of those are me.”
Kay nodded. “Okay, one more thing and I'll shut up. Remember when you were trying to explain—that—three kinds of symmetry thing?”
“When was this? Or where?”
“Oh, just in the lab, you know. A couple weeks ago.”
“Oh, not CPT symmetry? Sure.”
“Don't try and explain it again,” Kay raised a warning hand, “but, the charge and the physical differences, the inversions, no one seems to mind when we switch those around?”
“Course not. Unless there's actual antimatter-matter collisions, of course, but we can shield from those by—”
“I said don't start. So maybe...maybe the other copies of you are really just the same you, but transferred in time so that they overlap.”
“Huh. Obviously my memory would be re-formed each time, but some of those Alexes have known I was coming before I get there...yeah. Yeah, that way kind of makes sense.”
“It's like little Schrödinger. Only with a lot more than nine lives.”
“Hah!” said Alex, her smile real. “Yeah, it's a little easier to imagine that for my alter self. That does help.
“Speaking of Schrödinger, I think I'm going to bring him here to do an experiment.”
“An experiment? I thought you didn't believe in bringing work home?”
“Well, this is an important theoretical problem. But that wouldn't involve andervectors. Just good old Newtonian physics.”
“Newtonian? It hasn't been solved yet and you need Schrödinger for it?”
“Yes,” said Kay, trying to keep a straight face. “If I tie a buttered piece of toast to his back and throw him out the window, does he land on all four legs like a cat, or butter-side down like a piece of toast?”
Alex paused, then laughed. “Do it in a hundred different universes and it'll split fifty-fifty.”
“In the name of science,” said Kay. “Someone has to.”