Thursday, July 20, 2017

Microstory 629: Fruit of Peace

Scourge of the Carriers

As mentioned before, our galaxy is not without its conflicts. When you bring together such a diverse group of people, and put them in one place, it’s no surprise that some friction arises. All of these skirmishes, however, pale in comparison to The Dodulko War. This was the first, and longest-lasting war of Fostea, having been going on for nearly an entire millennium. There are short times of peace throughout history, but only when both sides deplete their resources so far that neither one can survive even one more battle. While most hostilities are fought over territory, capital, or religion, the Dodulko War started very simply. The Dodulko was one of the last exodus ships to arrive from Earth, carrying with it the least valuable of our population at the time. No one on this vessel was capable of affording luxury cabins, or priority transport. As a result, the passengers were frustrated and restless, often lashing out at each other with little provocation. One such of these disagreements seemed rather innocuous from the outside, but gradually began to grow. People took sides, ultimately stealing resources from each other just to survive. Historical records contradict each other regarding the exact nature of the original grievance, but one thing we know is that both of these first two people were killed in freak accidents before the ship even arrived in the galaxy. These deaths angered their loved ones and supporters, sparking further violence. These battles began to escalate year by year, as each side retaliated against the other for some unprecedented attack. And it has been going on for more than 900 years, developing into a full-fledged war within the first four. This war is of little concern to most other residents of Fostea, and financially beneficial to others. The battles take place in unpopulated areas, or in their own respective territories, none of which are desirable by anyone else. People in certain industries do profit from the war, though, namely those who sell munitions, rations, medicine, miscellaneous technologies, and other assets. Still, many wish to see the conflict end, if only to find out what the galaxy looks like without it. As with others, the Book of Light’s taikon passage on the Fruit of Peace leaves some up for interpretation, but is clear that this particular conflict must end. In an unprecedented move, both sides of the Dodulko War agreed to begin peace negotiations with each other, under the guidance of the replacement for Eido Feivel, Agantai Bauriter. Though on its own unnecessary, and not her responsibility, this will be Bauriter’s first act as a new Fostean eido. It is immaterial how it eventually turns out, however, seeing as the taikon predicting this event has already been reached simply by commencing.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Microstory 628: Scourge of the Carriers

A Day of No Business

Over the centuries, and back in the history of the old worlds, science and medicine has progressed greatly. We’ve not cured every disease in the universe, but scientists believe we’ve knocked a significant portion of them out. The problem is that, upon reaching a new planet, there is always a new host of dangers. There’s a certain way to approach a world that has not yet been experienced. Surveys, tests, and experiments are required if anyone plans on staying there for an extended period of time. Each time we come across a new world, we risk unleashing a disease that has never been seen before. This happens all the time, though, and the people who normally settle new worlds have gotten pretty good at handling whatever it throws at them. This is not what happened here. Not long after the replacement for Eido Feivel, Agantai Bauriter left her homeplanet of Haplen, an infestation began spreading across the surface. Some researchers now believe these pesky creatures—which live in their victim’s hair, and overheat their head—to have been surviving in some kind of dormant state deep under the ground. They were supposedly accidentally released into the population, carrying with them all kinds of previously unknown diseases. This is something many never thought would happen on a central world like Haplen. It’s no surprise to those of us who understand, believe in, and trust the taikon, though. The Book of Light predicts an inexplicable scourge of a carrier species that has not existed before. We do not believe they came from the ground, but that nature created them from nothing. It cannot be a coincidence that they surfaced at the perfect time to match with the taikon order, and no one will be able to convince us otherwise. As for the diseases themselves, they were quickly eradicated. Only a few hundred people died first. The scripture does not say what kind of people would be attacked, or whether it would be good or bad, but it turned out to have been rather irrelevant.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Microstory 627: A Day of No Business

Replace Eido Feivel

The concept of a holiday set aside to observe the Sacred Savior’s rest after his journeys has been considered for the better part of the last few centuries. It’s been through a few different iterations, with the most recent being known as a Day of No Business. The idea is to halt all business transactions for the duration of a standard twenty-hour day. Every time it has been proposed, it has been shut down by all major faction leaders, and their constituents. Only a few minor and irrelevant cultures in the galaxy make use of this practice to any degree. One of the biggest problems with the realization of these taikon, is that many of them are difficult to achieve in a galaxy full of nonbelievers. The reason the holiday observance has never been accepted before is because our religion, though the most dominant, is not the only one here. Too many people reject the Book of Light’s teachings, making it nearly impossible to get everyone on board with something as far-reaching as this. It’s even difficult for devout Lightseers to accept the possibility of spending one day with no transactions. The economy is the source of this galaxy’s power. Without it, we might as well become dirty communists, just like our enemies. There is just no telling what kind of impact a break from labor, even for one day, would have on civilization. According to the taikon, however, this would have to happen...whether people wanted it or not. Yet, scholars have always been baffled as to how it could ever happen. Even now that it has, scientists are unsure exactly what allowed the holiday to work this year, but Lightseers are grateful. On the anniversary of Sotiren Zahir’s return to Earth—when he revealed to his followers that he had found our home galaxy—the first annual Day of No Business came to pass. But it was not what anyone had expected. An unseen force—as of now, being referred to as The Freus—not only prevented people from working, but from doing anything. For a full twenty hours, every single person in the entire galaxy of Fostea was frozen in place, unable to do anything more than blink, as if frozen in ice. Since no one was able to move at the time, no reliable research has been done on the matter, so no one knows that the Freus is, where it came from, or whether invoking the Day of No Business was its intention. The pangalactic suspended animation phenomenon seemed to have no ill effects on anyone, leaving everyone to rejoice in the fulfillment of yet another taikon.

Scourge of the Carriers

Monday, July 17, 2017

Microstory 626: Replace Eido Feivel

Eradication of the Narvalian Gardbirds

In all honesty, Eido Feivel was not a very remarkable man. Very little is known about his life during the reign of the Eidos, except that he was the first to recognize those who would reject the Savior’s teachings. He was probably pretty instrumental in, not appointing the other eidos, but in keeping them together. He is often nicknamed The Glue by his colleagues, but not much else is said about him. Following Sotiren Zahir’s Ouven Sacrifice, the eidos were technically disbanded. Many of them, however, stayed together in The Council of Wise Words, ready to guide others in their struggles to maintain decent life paths. Feivel, on the other hand, chose to leave the other eidos behind, instead traveling the known, and unknown, planets of the universe. He was given an intergalactic ship of his very own, with a minimal crew, so that he could spread the news of the Book of Light to all who had not yet heard it. He went back to the dirty communists, and found other uncivilized societies, trying to convince them to adopt our ways. His success was limited, but steady. A reliable stream of newcomers arrived throughout the decades that Feivel remained alive. He was not loud or imposing. He was not egotistical or heroic. He was just a man. A good man, and a true Lightseer. A man who believed in the Light, in the Savior’s message, and in the Fostean culture. Some sources believe that he was tortured and killed by a city of heathens in retaliation of the conversion of one of their own. Others say that he was killed somewhere else entirely. In order to replace Eido Feivel in modern times, the Highlightseers would have to seek out someone who did not stand out on too much; who was not actively seeking the limelight. It’s unclear what exact parameters they used to find this replacement, but they seem to have achieved this goal. A young, mousey librarian named Agantai Bauriter living a modest life on Haplen agreed to join the cause, and begin conditioning for her new life as an eido.

A Day of No Business

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 21, 2136

Click here for the previous installment...
Click here for the 2017 table of contents.

Dar’cy Matigaris was born on February 14, 2136. As it turned out, her mother was already pregnant the last time Mateo and Leona were in the timestream. Both of her names were created as combinations of her parents names; Darko Matic, and Marcy Calligaris. At the moment, she was about five months old, and—unlike the previous poor island baby, Brooke—both of her parents were alive and in good memory. The island had changed quite a bit over the last few months. Arcadia had used a special construction team—evidently the same one that had built The Constant—to build a home for the three of them. It was a single-family cottage, barely enough to fit the three of them, but it had running water and electricity. It was just one more thing Arcadia had done to convince them, and probably herself, that she was not a monster. Her first decision after construction was complete was to exempt Darko and Marcy from an indefinite number of following expiations. She couldn’t promise, however, that they wouldn’t be asked to jump back in sometime in the future. Nor could she say whether their child would be asked to participate as well.
After a lovely breakfast in the dining area/kitchen/livingroom/art studio, the rest of the group took their leave of the family, and prepared for a challenge to return Aldona’s mother from the void of nonexistence. Cambria Buchanan, as her granddaughter told it, held one of those jobs that didn’t exist when Mateo was growing up. She started out as an amateur, but soon became one of the most desired talents for the growing industry. As drones became ubiquitous, automatous, and cheaper to manufacture, it suddenly became apparent that an entire fleet of them could be managed by a single individual. They weren’t hired to pilot each drone on its own, but to keep track of scores of them. Cambria worked a number of jobs in a number of fields; including police work, courier services, disaster relief, aerial connectivity distribution, and scientific research. This reminded Mateo of himself, who had an interest in driving, but never wanted to spend too long doing one thing with that.
“One thing you might want to remember,” Marcy said as they were leaving for the expiation, “is that my grandmother never went by her real name.”
“What did she like to be called?”
“Agent Nanny Cam. Sometimes, people even just called her Agent.”
As they were walking down the beach, Mateo saw Horace repetitively nod his head. “What are you thinking about?”
“I never actually met Agent Nanny Cam,” he replied. “Serkan knew her, though. Her first job was recording the City Frenzy. She actually ran it herself once before that.”
“You mean that race that goes all over the city, where everyone has a different starting point, and a different ending point?”
“That didn’t exist in my reality.”
“I know,” Horace said. “I remember.”
Suddenly, Arcadia teleported in front of them, standing behind a large table that was full of drones, and related equipment. Some were tiny, others larger. There were action camera, controllers, monitors, battery packs, and extra parts. There was also a box next to the table marked clothes, and a black participation that presumably hid some other things. “Good morning,” she said, in a rather normal tone. “You’ve not been training, which is gonna make this hard. But you also each probably don’t really have an advantage over anyone else. Darko would probably kick all your asses, but he’s not playing anyway.”
“What is it?” Mateo asked.
“A race. Pretty simple. You’ll all start from different places on the perimeter. I’ve used artificial intelligence to map the island, and find an equidistant point in the middle of the jungle. Simply reach the center, and you win.”
“What does winning do?” Lincoln asked.
“You get to leave the island.”
“Be the first to cut the rope, and raise the flag, and you will win two first-class tickets out of here, for good, all expenses paid. You’ll move on with your life, at the point in spacetime of your choosing, and hopefully one day, you’ll forget about all this.” She waited a little bit. “You can opt out, and operate the drones instead, but you’ll be disqualified from the prize.”
“Two tickets?” Mario asked.
“You’ll be able to choose one person to go with you,” Arcadia explained. “That person can either be from the here and now, or someone I’ve already taken out of time.”
“We don’t remember the people you’ve taken out of time,” Aura remarked.
“That’s a good point.” Arcadia snapped her fingers.
Suddenly, everyone except for Mateo haunched over and started screaming, just like Leona had when her memories of the alternate timeline were returned all at once. Fortunately, they didn’t scream nearly as long, with everyone recovering inside of a minute. Lincoln was clearly faking it once he realized what was happening to the others. Luckily, everyone whose memories were being flooded back was too busy with their own pain to notice.
Arcadia didn’t seem to love that part of it. “Okay, now that that’s done, you know what you’re fighting for. I’ll take your memories back away at the end of the race, unless you win, of course.” She smiled and looked around. “Is anyone stepping aside?”
“I am...obviously,” Mateo said. “Unless, that is, my winning would cause you to reverse everything you’ve done, and bring all my friends back.”
“I’m afraid if I do that, it can’t be a race. Everyone else would just opt out.” He was pretty sure that wouldn’t work.
“I’m stepping aside too,” Leona said.
“Leona,” Mateo said, not sure whether he approved or not, and knowing that she did not require his approval anyway.
“I’m doing this. I’m staying here,” she said plainly. “The one I love the most has to stay no matter what, so I do too.”
Mateo just nodded.
“Great,” Arcadia said. “Get dressed and warm up,” she said to the rest of the group. “Your uniforms are in this box, and instructions for attaching the action cameras are in this corner of the table.” She addressed Mateo and Leona separately while the racers were preparing. “Since two of you volunteered for this, I’ll be leaving you to it. Read up on the manuals, and my personal directions.” She disappeared.
“You’re gonna have to take point on this,” Mateo told Leona, “and help me out.”
“I wouldn’t worry,” she comforted. “This stuff isn’t that hard. If you’ve played video games, you can do this.” She started inspecting some of the equipment. “Most of these are pretty damn autonomous. We’ll really just be here to make sure they’re going where we want them to.”
She seemed to be right about that. While the racers were stretching and hopping around, Mateo skimmed the instruction manuals, realizing that Arcadia could start the process at any moment. They appeared to be rather foolproof, so it looked like he was gonna be okay.
Leona didn’t bother with the manuals, though. She just started testing features, and making adjustments. She approached a drone on the other side of a partition that was as large as an adult human. She activated it and sent it up into the air. “Motherdrone,” she said, as if she had done this many times before. “Here.” She handed him a pair of sweet glasses. “That puppy’ll give us an aerial view, and these glasses will augment our vision.”
Mateo had used augmented reality goggles before, back when he was breaking evil Reaver out of prison, but these were far more advanced. He could control where they went with his mind. Just by thinking, the view bubbles hovering in front of his face cycled through various angles of various drones, most of which were still sitting on the table. The motherdrone, however, was already in place, giving him a bird’s eye view of Tribulation Island. “This is amazing,” he couldn’t help but say out loud.
“Just wait for it,” Leona said. She was opening up a tub that was also behind the partition. Mateo quickly figured out how to control one of the minidrones, and retasked it to watch Leona work. She smiled at the camera while presenting it with a handful of what looked like jacks game pieces. “Talidrones,” she said. “We don’t need any of those others when we have these.” She crawled over and pulled out a second tub, opening it up to show it was full of more of these talidrones. She then picked up a handheld device from the table, and scanned each tub.
“Tell your audience what’s goin’ on here, Leona,” Mateo said, doing his best impression of a sports event color commentator.
She held an individual talidrone to the flying drone’s camera so he could get a better look. “Smaller than a microdrone, but larger than a nanodrone, this beauty is useless on her own. But together, they work to provide a clearer picture of an area. Like smartdust, but with actual cameras.” She pressed one more button on her device, and the entire swarm of talidrones flew out of their tubs, and started arranging themselves around the island. “Tell those glasses to enter immersion mode,” she ordered.
“Enter immersion mode,” Mateo echoed. Suddenly he could see the whole island in a new light. He wasn’t just viewing one angle at a time, but any of them. Instead of flipping through these angles, he would just seamlessly drift in any direction he wanted to, at any speed he wished. The talidrones apparently compensated automatically. Basically, he could fly. It was only then that he realized all the racers were already in their respective corners of the island, ready to go. Mateo shifted his perspective into realspace, as Leona was stepping up next to him with her own glasses.
“Once this is all over, we’ll be able to enjoy future tech like this all the time.”
Mateo switched back to the immersive view. “One can only hope.”
Arcadia’s voice came out from the aether. “On your marks..get set...go!”
They started running over the beach, and through the woods, using their own augmented reality glasses that were giving them the general direction of their destination. Aura was fighting for Samsonite; while Mario was fighting to bring back his love, Angelita, so they could both start their lives with their daughter, Brooke. Horace and Paige were racing for each other, just trying to increase their odds of winning. Mateo didn’t know who Lincoln was racing for, if anyone, but it looked like he had the best chances. Aura and Mario each started out way too fast, and might not have hydrated enough. By the time they reached the first mile, they were too exhausted to keep running. Horace and Paige—theoretically having learned from professional runner, Serkan—were pacing themselves better, but they just weren’t in the best shape. Neither were they as tall as Lincoln, who almost acted like this was nothing to him.
This went on for more than two hours, with Lincoln only gaining even more ground with each passing minute. Mateo and Leona could do nothing but watch, not that they had any preference. They loved all these people equally, and couldn’t choose who they wanted to get their lives back. In the end, it was the anticipation that would have hurt the most. This was steadily becoming less and less of a problem, as the contestants moved beyond the point when any of them could catch up, barring Lincoln twisting his ankle, or something. When his nearest contender in Paige hadn’t even started mile eight, Lincoln Rutherford reach the bamboo table. He picked up the complimentary machete, and started hacking at the rope. Once it was cut, it zipped away, and dropped a flag that had the trademarked name of a popular reality television series on it. Lincoln removed his shirt and used it to mop the sweat out of his eyes. By the time he removed it from his face, Arcadia had apported all remaining racers, along with Mateo and Leona.
“Congratulations, Mister Presidents,” Arcadia said to him jokingly. “You’ve won the money!” She took out two actual plane tickets. “Who else do you choose? Anyone?”
He took his time to catch his breath. “Horace and Paige.”
“Sorry, you can only choose one.”
Lincoln handed the tickets to Paige. “Horace and Paige,” he repeated. “I’m staying here.”
Arcadia seemed rather indifferent to this decision. Still, “are you sure about this?” she pressed.
“I’m fine here,” he said, shaking his head. “I ain’t got nobody.”
“Thank you, Lincoln,” Paige said. She planted what was only a half-platonic kiss on his lips.
Horace did the same.
“I might let you come back and visit,” Arcadia said to the two about to depart.
“That will not be necessary,” Mateo asserted.
Horace, Paige, and Arcadia disappeared, leaving the rest to walk back to camp. They had made it out. They had actually managed to escape...which meant it could be done again.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Puzzle of Escher Bradley: Chapter One

Click here for the entire story (coming soon)

The first thing I notice when I step into the the police station is that there is nothing different about it. The vending machine is still eating people’s money, with Sergeant Mackle as angry about it as ever. The chairs are still squeaking, and the air still sweet. It’s me. Only I’ve changed. I’ve just become detective. This wasn’t exactly my dream growing up. I always looked up to the “boys in blue”. I thought of them as the ones on the front lines, the ones putting themselves in danger. It was only in the later years as a teenager that I realized I was one hundred percent correct about this. Even then, though, I never thought I would end up in law enforcement. As I’m striding through the “pit” I imagine my old mentor, Detective Pender, watching me from the coffee maker. But he’s still working in Kansas City, and I know that this is where I’m meant to be.
“Congratulations,” my captain says to me. “You’re the first person to make detective in Springfield the 1990s.” He drops a load of files in my arms, and sports a half-smile. “Here’s a bunch of paperwork.”
“Thank you, sir. And there were actually a lot of us—”
“Don’t call me sir,” he interrupts me to insist. It’s not that he’s a man of the people, he’s just so apathetic that formality makes him feel inadequate.
After the captain walks away to grab a nap, the hair on the back of my neck stands up. I can tell that Hummel is on his way to me. I turn around, and immediately say, “Officer Hummel, I’m detective now. I don’t have time to help you anymore. You should have this figured out by now.”
“I know,” Hummel says, “but I have this call. They didn’t call 911, they called the station. It’s a man. His son is missing.”
“How long?”
He’s not sure if he wants to answer, but does, “an hour. But there’s something weird about it.”
“Weird how?”
“I can hear a woman in the background, saying something about the caller being crazy. I dunno...”
I sigh and hand him my paperwork. “Do as much as you can with this, and get me that address. I’m goin’ out.” I pick up my coat, and leave. First day on the job, and I’m already responsible for a possible new case. It feels good, but I’m worried. The case could get real bad real quick, and I can’t mess it up. The media would eat me alive.
Once at the address, I park on the street and get out for an initial impression. There are boxes and other crap in the driveway, and on the lawn. A moving vehicle is parked up a little too close to the garage overhang. Either these people just moved here, or they’re trashy as all hell.
A woman comes out of the house, wrapping a shawl across her stomach. “I’m sorry my husband called you,” she says to me. “We are perfectly all right.”
A man comes bursting out of the house. “We are absolutely not all right, Cheryl, our son is missing!”
Cheryl keeps looking at me and shakes her head, “no, he’s not.”
“Yes!” the man screams. “He is!”
I keep my left arm back at my hip, ready to loose my gun, in the event it’s necessary. This case is already weird. I present to them the international gesture for calm down with my right hand. “My name is Detective Kallias Bran. I’m here to help. First thing I need to where is your son?”
“He’s missing,” the man claims.
Simultaneously, the woman says, “he doesn’t exist.”
“I’m sorry?” I ask.
“We don’t have a goddamn son,” Cheryl insists.
“The hell we don’t!” The father is only growing angrier.
“Sir,” I say in an authoritative, but soft voice, “I’m gonna need you to keep it together. Now, Mister...”
“Bradley,” he says, still angry, but holding back. “Tyler Bradley.”
“And what’s your son’s name?”
“He doesn’t have a name,” Cheryl interrupts as Tyler is trying to answer.
“Ma’am,” I warn her.
“Escher,” Tyler is finally able to say.
“That is...a great name,” I say to him. “How old is Escher?”
“He’s eight,” Mr. Bradley says, feeling a little better just from having someone believe him. “He’ll turn nine this year.”
“Okay,” I tell him. “He probably just wandered off. I assume you just moved here?”
“That’s right.”
“This is bullshit,” Cheryl says, shaking her head once more. Her default setting.
“Ma’am, I’m going to need you to hold off on the swear words.”
She pointed to herself as she drew closer to argue with me. “I’m not crazy. I would remember if I had a son. But we’ve never had a son. We’ve never had kids at all!”
“Then why did we get rid of the two-seater?” Tyler jumped in.
“It got old,” she reasoned.
“It was running great,” he countered. “We got rid of it, and bought this van, because it’s more practical when you have a family. But make no mistake, Detective Bran, we are not van people. We just need one to get Escher to soccer practice...should he ever finally agree to try soccer for me.”
“Oh, you love this van!” Cheryl yelled.
“No, I don’t. Neither of us do. Escher offered to sit on the roof of a cool car so we could get rid of our embarrassing van.”
“Who the shit is Escher?” she cried. “Stop saying that.”
“Ma’am, language.”
“Oh, fuck your language!”
“All right, that’s enough. You’re going to have a timeout in my car while I discuss the situation with Mr. Bradley. I reach out, but I do not touch her.
“Get your hands off me!” She overdramatically pulls her arm away. “I’m not getting in your car, like a criminal.”
“It’s either the cuffs or the cruiser. You are not being arrested,” I promise.
She purses her lips and inhales. “Fine.” She starts walking towards my car. “You go have your chat, and look around. You’ll see that this Escher Bradley kid is just in my husband’s imagination.”
After letting Mrs. Bradley into the back of my car, I pull Mr. Bradley to the side. We start walking through the lawn. “Look, she may be angry enough for me to put her in a car, but I’m having trouble with the both of you. You say there’s a kid, but she doesn’t. I don’t see a kid.”
“He’s missing.”
“I know you think that, but where’s your proof?” I start mumbling a bit, because it’s a bit of an overstep. “I mean, I don’t want to say that either one of you is crazy, but either there’s a kid, or there’s not. One of you is wrong.”
“Okay,” he says, speeding up to enter the house. “Let’s go find some proof.”
He leads me upstairs, and into the only room besides the kitchen that actually has things in it already. I take a look around. There are a few boxes here and there. Trinkets, clothes, music band posters. There isn’t any furniture yet.
“This was gonna be his room. That’s all his stuff.”
I take a sweater out of one of the boxes. It does look small enough to fit a child. I sift through the rest of the garments, and they’re all for children. That isn’t proof, though. Anyone can buy these things. “I dunno, Mr. Bradley.”
“Tyler. These could be yours from your own childhood, or a nephew’s...or you bought them in hopes of having a child one day. It’s a pretty thin argument.”
“They’re his; they’re Escher’s,” he emphasizes.
I just shake my head slowly. I don’t know what else to do. “I don’t know what to tell ya.”
He thinks for a moment. “Pictures! I have to find the pictures.” He runs and trips back downstairs, and I hear him moving things around as I’m following at a more reasonable pace. The house is pretty big for just two people. Again, that doesn’t mean a whole lot. They could be planning a family for the future, or some people just have more space than they really need.
When I reach the bottom, I see him having found what he was looking for. It’s a brownish leather-bound photo album. “This is mostly him.” He smiles and opens the book. There’s no child in the pictures; just the two of them, and a few relatives or friends. “He’s not in any of these.” He turns the page. “No, not these either.” He turns the next page. “I could have sworn he was in this one.” He turns another.
“Is that him?”
“That’s my boss’ son. We had them over for dinner.” He continues to turn page after page, desperate to find one that featured this Escher, but none of them did.
Finally he stops, and I notice something weird. “What’s up with this one?”
“You’re right,” he agrees. “Why are we so far apart?”
I stare at the photo. It looks like a family portrait, but there’s entirely too much space between the two of them. “There’s supposed to be a kid between you.”
“Yes, there was!” he says excitedly. “So you believe me now?”
Not necessarily. I take the album from him and start looking through it more discerningly. It’s not the only one like that. Many others show too much dead space, either between people, or on one side of them. Some of the photos are just of doorways, or picnic tables. It’s crazy to think that an entire individual was ripped from a boy’s mother’s mind, and also physical evidence. Either this is an extremely elaborate prank that could potentially go back years, or this is really happening.
“Where did you last see him?” I ask, knowing that I have to explore this, regardless of which one of them is telling the truth.
“He’s a little young to be all that helpful in the move, so we let him take a break. He went straight for that empty lot next door. I turned around and he was gone, though.” He takes the photo album back and starts concentrating on filling it with his missing child.
“What empty lot?” I ask.
He keeps his eyes on the pictures. “To the North.”
I walk across the dining room, and peer out the window. The house next door is about as far from this one as any two houses ever are in the suburbs. “I don’t see what you’re seeing. There’s a house there.”
He comes over, a little frustrated by the tangent, and looks out as well. “No. There’s not.”
“Holy shit.”

Friday, July 14, 2017

Microstory 625: Eradication of the Narvalian Gardbirds

Appointment of the Loctener

Narvalian Gardbirds did not evolve anywhere naturally. They were genetically engineered in a laboratory by a strange geneticist with a flair for the dramatic. When the first wave of exodus ships arrived in the galaxy, factions began claiming territory. They believed that, since there were plenty of habitable planets, there was no real problem in that. But these claims did not come without their disputes. Military conflict spread across the stars. People sometimes didn’t even know who or what they were fighting for, the theatre became so confused and complicated. This was not what the Sacred Savior had in mind. He was not concerned about all the killing and death, but these conflicts were making it difficult for anyone to establish their lives anywhere. If allowed to continue, we would destroy ourselves before we even got started, and the dirty communists we escaped from would win. So he convened a summit on what’s largely considered to be the most beautiful planet in the universe. The Narvali Summit was not designed to discuss peace, but resolution. It was time to decide who was owed what, and how much they were willing to pay for it. These were not decisions that could be made by the pawns with sticks and stones. They required the intellect and strategic insight of the elite. After weeks of negotiations and dealings, boundaries were drawn. All those deserving possessed their own territory. But there was one important property that was yet to be decided upon. Narvali itself could be a source of great advantage over rival factions. Of course, we believe that Sotiren Zahir, and his Lightseeing followers had the right to it, but our wise Savior knew that demanding the system would cause an unnecessary protraction of war.

Days later, all faction leaders realized that they were at a standstill. No way was anyone giving up their commitment to seizing this territory. In the end, the only conclusion was for no one to have it. All travel to the Narvali system was completely banned, and for decades, this remained the status quo. But following Sotiren’s death, new plans began brewing. New faction leaders, some of new factions, circled back around to the concept of taking ownership of Narvali. At this point in history, our peoples were well established in the galaxy, with the majority of us identifying themselves as Fosteans. The war for Narvali would no longer put our independence from the communists in danger. Fearing this war, and worried about his loved ones, the aforementioned geneticist released a small flock of avian beasts that he had created into the Narvalian wild. They were nearly indestructible, and were capable of replicating their species faster than they could be killed with our weapons. They were also engineered to destroy the environment each time they were under threat, in a sort of instinctual scorched land policy. The campaign to take control of Narvali would be pointless if, by the time they overcame the Gardbird obstacle, there was nothing but barren lands anyway. And so Narvali was once again left alone...until now. Under orders of newly appointed Loctener, Luvras Seldasic, scientists began to rework the problem of eradicating the Gardbirds. They came up with a virus that spread so quickly, the birds barely had any time to react before swiftly spiraling into extinction. Now Narvali was not only free from this terrible blight, but also controlled by Lightseers, and their Sacred Light.

Replace Eido Feivel

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Microstory 624: Appointment of the Loctener

Ascension of the Humble

The Loctener may be the important taikon out of all of them. It is certainly the most important one yet. It refers to the second highest position in the galaxy, and it’s also never been held before. Sacred Savior, Sotiren Zahir—in his unmatched wisdom, and capacity of humility—came up with the idea during the first exodus from Earth. He wanted someone with unparalleled loyalty, who would never betray him, and who would be able to act on his behalf. By the time the exodus ships reached Fostea, however, he had changed his mind. He determined that his eleven eidos would be good enough to manage the galaxy in his stead. Yet he kept the concept of the Loctener in the back of his mind, and decided that such a position would most likely need to be filled during the fulfillment of the taikons. And of course, as always, was he right. With the forces of the Lightseer military spread across multiple battlefronts, as well as other related war campaigns, even the great Sotiren Zahir needed help. The Loctener was designed to be the Savior’s right hand, but also to lead the war efforts, so it needed to be filled by someone with basically the same qualities. He needed someone who was just as loud, just as passionate, and just as strategically intelligent. The Book of Light, in other passages, speaks of the divinity of humility; that those with little had just as much chance of gaining power as someone born with it. The galaxy was founded on this principle, making it the only consistent concept amongst the belief systems of all residents, regardless of religion. Literally everyone here believes that no one has unfair advantage over anyone else. Perhaps there is no one more humble than the Grelvo citizens who rose against their oppressive dictator, and usurped his power. They were led by a man named Luvras Seldasic. He was one of Grelvo’s youngest warriors, but was a force to be reckoned with. As a born leader, he was instrumental in breaking the giant wall that separates Townville City from Castle Palace. It was his unorthodox and masterful strategy that caught the Sacred Savior’s eye. Only Seldasic could become the first and only Loctener, but only after proving himself by completing a task of strength and bravery. He would have to find a way to eradicate the gardbirds of Narvali. Fortunately, he had some experience getting through walls.

Eradication of the Narvalian Gardbirds