Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Microstory 758: Five Spot

When Flora Canto was asked to embark on a special mission for her organization, Bellevue, she was initially hesitant. She didn’t want to leave the world where she had spent her entire life, but the chance to travel through space was ultimately too good to pass up. She was responsible for life support on their small vessel, which she did easily using her superhuman ability to accelerate the growth of oxygen-producing plants. Something sadly went wrong, and the crew became stranded on an unknown world, forced to live amongst its natives, pretending to be just like them. Throughout all of this, however, she found love, and became pregnant. She and the father were ecstatic and excited for their future, but it would not come without immense heartache. At first Flora believed that she had lost the baby, and buried the embryo in the ground. Her friends and family gathered to mourn their loss in a funeral service. Days later, one of their friends noticed that a seedling had sprouted up from Flora’s child’s small grave. Over the next several weeks, the plant grew, eventually becoming larger than any other plant they had encountered on their world, or this new one. The flower, which resembled a desert five-spot, continued to grow until it was large enough to house a human infant. One morning, the flower opened itself to the sun, and revealed their precious child, whom they named April. They were astonished, but happy to have their little one back. April grew up, and watched her parents die, as most people do. Her friends were immortal, and stuck with her through all of it. They watched her grow old as well, and eventually succumb to death. Just like they had before, they buried her in the ground, and mourned her. But days later, April’s seedling returned, and she was made anew. She turned out to be an immortal herself, dying and returning in a presumably endless cycle, but theoretically only if allowed to rest underground for a period in between lifetimes. April Canto has spent centuries on our planet, meeting new friends, and shaping history; usually without even realizing it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Microstory 757: The Devil’s Bedpost

When the great machine exploded, it expelled almost everyone inside of it across the cosmic bulk. Many ended up alone in a foreign universe, but a great many of them were sent to the same place. What they came to understand was that they did not actually fall into another universe so much as their arrival had created it. The force of the blast was so powerful that it formed a brand new big bang event, with them at its heart. Their leader was a woman named Alaha. She, with twenty-three of her closest, decided to mould their universe in the best light possible. Using what she recalled from other universes they had visited before, it was she who came up with the idea to create the stars, and the worlds they would shine upon. Her people gave her the nickname Lightbringer, and praised her, but not everyone was happy with what she had done. Instead of seeding the universe with life resembling their own people, she drew upon the genes of humans, whom she had met in other universes, and admired. One had, in fact, accidentally fallen into the universe with them, and operated as her closest advisor. They gave her the nickname of Tolerance, affectionately mindful of her ability to withstand the odd behaviors of aliens. A man named Adversary came to this universe, however, with ambition, thirst, and jealousy. He could not understand why Alaha was insistent that humans dominate the universe, and in a fit of rage, he locked her in an impenetrable cage, so that he could rule in her place. He whispered in humankind’s ear, gradually convincing them to believe in him, and follow him. He had already turned the majority of his people to his side, dispatching these dark demons to carry out dark deeds on Earth. Adversary kept Tolerance alive as his pet. Every night, he would force her into his bed, utterly confident that she wanted to be there, when she did not. After centuries of this torture, Tolerance met another human named Hazel, who had been tortured by demons, both on Earth, and in Hell. Hazel convinced Tolerance to fight back, against her demons. She broke off a piece of Adversary’s bedpost, and stabbed her tormentor fatally. He would not die right away, though, and he used this opportunity to finally spark war against the humans, hoping to accumulate enough strength to remain alive. But the humans would not go down so easily, not once Tolerance helped free Alaha, the Lightbringer, and gathered their own army of righteousness.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Microstory 756: Bullet

No one ever accused Kavita Lauritz of being normal, or of conforming to the way most people do things. She always knew she had the gift of foresight, but she could never understand the context of her visions. She was utterly convinced that the things she was seeing in her mind were predictions of the future, but these events were so far into that future that she was also fairly certain that she wouldn’t actually be there to witness them come to pass. She could never predict what was going to happen tomorrow, next year, or anything at all that pertained to her life. And calling them visions wasn’t quite doing her ability justice, because they were more like feelings. She just had this sense of what was going to happen to the universe; major, paradigm shifting occurrences that would seem small to most, if they had any way of recognizing them. The culture she was born into was completely on board with the possibility that there exists people in the galaxy with special abilities, but since she could provide no proof that her truths were real, few believed her. But there were those few, and they followed her—worshipped her, even. Unfortunately, this cult following would not be created until after her death. Though all of her predictions were important, there was one that refused to be suppressed to her subconscious. After careful thought, she realized that she was capable of having an effect on the outcome, even though it would not happen for millions of years. This would not be easy, though, for it required careful consideration, and considerable calculations. She spent years learning extremely high-level math in order to understand the problem, missing the first window in the trying. By the time she figured out what her second window of opportunity would be, it was but days away. She would not have time to plan it out very well. As it turned out, an important galactic leader was speaking on the space station where she needed to fire the weapon. Though she had no intention of harming the leader, or anyone else on the station, she was arrested for conspiracy, and placed in prison for life.
Kavita spent the rest of her life calculating the third window of opportunity, which would likely be the last. She scratched her formulas into the walls, and drew them in the dirt, only later being allowed paper and pen. This one was proving to be far more difficult. The celestial movements would have to line up perfectly in order for it to work, much more so than with the other two chances. Astral travel was increasingly interfering with stellar activity with each passing year, stretching her predictive capabilities to their limits. Before her death, she discovered that the third window would not arrive until long after her death. All hope was lost, and she died believing everything she had worked for was meaningless. Centuries later, however, her plans were discovered. Believing her on faith alone, a cult was born with the sole mission of carrying out her final wish. They purchased land on the moon in question, and remained there so they would not be bothered by anyone. After another few centuries, the cult had all but died out, along with the rest of civilization, which had warred itself into oblivion until there was almost nothing left. Only one member was still alive. Fighting against his death throes, he made sure the aiming instruments were aligned correctly, cleaned his gun one last time, and set it in its place. Sweat dripping from his brow, death calling him to sleep, he waited patiently for his alarm to signal at the exact right second. He fired into the vacuum, and died. The Bullet of Causality started on its journey, which would last millions of years, ultimately hitting its target in a distant galaxy.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: August 16, 2162

“Wait,” Leona said, “start over. Why is the new Savior on Durus?”
“And what’s Durus again?” Serif asked.
“Durus is a rogue planet,” Xearea began. “It was ejected from its star system millions of years ago, and has been flying through interstellar space ever since. It carries with it unusual temporal properties, kind of like all of Kansas. Speaking of Kansas, it somehow formed a random connection to a city that used to exist called Springfield. Over the course of decades, it slowly started leaking into the new planet, until it was all gone. A society formed there, of people struggling to live on their new world, fighting monsters, and each other.”
“If it’s a rogue planet,” Leona asked, “how are they even able to breathe?”
“It maintains its connection to Earth. Air moves freely between the two worlds. There’s a region called Watershed where it literally always rains, and is their only water source. Over time, people developed powers, which allowed them to even share the light and warmth of our sun. Unfortunately, these days, the air is thin, Watershed is drier than ever, and the sun is all but gone. They’re stuck in perpetual twilight, but the people are still there. Hell, even some Earthans were sucked up into it when it passed within miles of us, including Saga Einarsson.”
“Saga?”
“Yes. She is currently on a path to mothering  The Last Savior in 2169.”
“Wait a minute,” Missy jumped in. “She’s on the path towards it? Meaning her child hasn’t even been born yet? But we’re going to get her now?”
“It will take many years to reach her,” Xearea explained.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Serif argued. “We have powers. Can’t you just teleport someone there to grab her? I know some people can travel to other worlds. The Trotter just did that for us, and we were in another galaxy!”
“I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that, not with the Savior. Saviors can’t travel any other way beyond orbital teleportation, or, like, on a ship.”
“How far away is it?” Leona questioned.
“Right now?” She looked at her notes. “About point-one-eight lightyears away. Now that it’s overcome the effects of our system’s gravitational disturbances, it’s moving at a steady rate of point-one-eight lightyears every year.”
“Holy crap, that’s fast!” Leona asked to clarify.
“It is. I believe they’re working on a way to stop that, slow themselves down, or even reverse course, but for now, that’s how it is.”
Leona stood in silence while she calculated some extremely high level math in her head. The others stared at her, except for Serif, who was smiling at her genius.
“Hello?” Curtis asked, not understanding what was happening.
“It’ll work. We have to leave today, but I believe it’ll work. I assume we have a ship available, and that it’s capable of traveling by present-day standards?”
“Point-two-two-c, yes,” Xearea confirmed. “That’s right.”
“It will take the vessel just under eight years to get there,” Leona confessed to them, like the leader of a new heist team that's ready to find out what they signed up for. “Which is fine for us…that’s only eight days. I imagine it’s all automated?”
Xearea laughed. “Sorry, you’re not that lucky. You’ll need a crew.”
“Crew who?”
Xearea turned her head.
“Missy?”
“Me?” Missy asked. “Why me?”
“You’re an engineer, ain’t ya?”
“Well...yeah, but.”
“It’s perfect. You’ve spent the last couple years catching up with today’s technology, and now it’s time to put them to the test. Do you accept, or are you going to be difficult about it?”
“No need to get snippy. I’ve done things for the powers that be from time to time. Believe me, I know the drill. I’m in.”
“Who else?” Serif asked.
“The other three are waiting for you on The Warren.”
“The Warren? That’s the name of the ship?” Leona asked. “As in...”
“Yes,” Xearea answered. “It was named after her.”
“Hold on,” Serif stopped. “Why aren’t we using the ship Leona brought here from Dardius? Doesn’t that go faster than light, or something?”
“It could approach lightspeed,” Leona corrected. “And it was destroyed, because...never mind.”
“Only Earthan technology for you,” Xearea said. “We should get going to meet up with the rest of the team.”
“Am I part of the team?” Curtis asked enthusiastically. “What can I do?”
Xearea half-frowned at him. “You can teleport one of these three to the elevator.”
He sported a full frown. “I can only teleport by line of sight.”
Xearea shrugged. “Then sky jump it.”
“What does that mean?”
“You’ve never sky jumped?”
He obviously hadn’t.
She stepped over and pointed out of the window. “You can see the sky. So teleport up there, then before you fall to your death, teleport back down to the surface, but somewhere else.”
He looked scared out of his mind.
Xearea continued, “or you can stay home while the womenfolk go to work.”
He didn’t say anything, but that was exactly what he wanted.
Xearea formed a small warp bubble around the four of them after everyone was finished packing the essentials. This was something a Savior needed to be able to do to save a group of people all at once, but it required a lot of energy, so they didn’t do it often. She transported them right inside the egress station for the Balikpapan Space Elevator. No one noticed their actual arrival, but workers didn’t seem surprised to see them, and never asked for any credentials. “We’ve been working on this operation for months,” Xearea explained to them. “Well, by we, I mean a small team of cleverly placed salmon charged with protecting the whole of our species space program. They’ve been expecting us, and are prepared to ascend whenever you are. This is where I leave you.”
Unlike the space elevator Leona used with Darko to ultimately travel all the way to Mars in 2076, this one was designed to only take a few hours to reach station orbit. Interstellar ships were built exclusively on Luna, even ones designated for Mars, or the outer orbitals. Shipyard architect Kristiana Freese is quoted on a plaque in the carriage as saying, the moon is responsible for tides, and really that’s it. It has some water, but no hope of forming a sustainable atmosphere, like Mars ultimately will. It is thusly only good for two other things: deep space telemetry, and building ships. It simply wasn’t practical to build them on Earth, and have to waste fuel fighting through the atmosphere. Vacuum departure was the only logical technique. They would not have to go all the way to Luna, though, since the Warren was docked on the Seager Elevator Station.
They walked up the ramp to see a few familiar faces, each running through their respective preflight checklists. Of course Brooke Prieto-Matic was their pilot. Her experiences as a child when Leona was tasked with transporting her from ancient Tribulation Island, to Earth, had inspired her to go into the field. She had spent the last several decades learning and practicing her trade. Dar’cy, with martial arts blood running through her veins, was their security officer. Their crew was small, and they were all friends, so they did not foresee any internal conflicts warranting security intervention, but her skills could come in handy. Paige, with her many years of experience as a leader, was the captain of the Warren. She greeted them warmly, but not too warmly. She regarded them professionally, knowing they needed to understand the chain of command. As recently decided, Missy was their engineer, so she started her own checklist, so they could get going, letting the unassigned newbies get to know where they were going to be living for the next couple weeks.
“You’ve come a long way since we last saw you,” Leona said.
It’s been longer for me than for you,” Paige said. “Longer than even Brooke, or Dar’cy. I’ve done some time traveling in the meantime. I’m not even sure how old I am now. At least three hundred years.”
“How long have you known you were going to do this?” Serif asked. “How long have any of you?”
“A few months. Warren was built in only that amount of time. You would be surprised how fast nanoconstructors can make something these days. The design is actually rather old, though, so they just needed to be programmed. Let me give you a tour.” She turned and started pointing at things while they followed. “This is the cargo bay. We shouldn’t need it, but again, it was easier to use a preexisting design, than to create a new one. In here are half of the stasis pods. The other half are on the other side, since we didn’t want to put all our eggs in one basket.”
“I thought this was a real-time ship.”
“It is,” Paige agreed. “The pods come with great danger at this point in history, so we won’t use them unless we absolutely have to.” She continued with the tour. “Here’s the med bay, canteen, and kitchen. And the lounge area, and bathrooms for the humans.”
“How long can our supplies last?”
“We have enough meal bars for everyone who eats for twenty-eight years. Medical supplies are another story.”
“What other story?”
“Let’s just say...don’t get hurt.”
“Aye aye, sir,” Serif said.
“One aye is sufficient acknowledgment, Ensign,” Paige said. She could’ve been joking...or not. She went on, “quarters are upstairs. You two will be sharing a room with Dar’cy. She probably just won’t sleep one day out of the year.”
“How few rooms are there?”
“Only two. Brooke and I don’t sleep, so more would have just needlessly taken up space. We’ll spend most of our time on the bridge.” She opened a door to reveal the primary controls.
Though a lot of the ship reminded Leona of Serenity, or the 6-1-6 Globemaster, the bridge looked more like a cleaner version of the cockpit from the Eureka Maru. It was very minimalistic, with two chairs, and three computer interfaces. “It seems like it would take more than this without an artificial intelligence.”
“It has AI,” Paige contended. “It’s just not deep enough to make decisions. That’s what we’re here for. Don’t look at me like that, Leona. This isn’t a you thing. This is a sanctioned mission from the powers that be. We were all chosen independently.”
“We see that,” Serif said. “The question is not why you’re here, but why we’re here. As smart and badass as Leona is, she can’t help you most of the time. And I can’t help you at all.”
Paige spun around in her chair, and started tapping on the screen. “That I could not tell you. We’re happy to have you, though. Go ahead and get settled in. We’ll probably take off in an hour.”
“Are we certain we won’t appear in the middle of space come midnight central?” Serif wanted to clarify.
“We are,” Leona assured her, distracted. There was something Paige wasn’t telling them, and she had the feeling it had everything to do with the one room in the ship she pretended wasn’t even there.
Three hours later, they separated from Seager Station, and started accelerating out of the system. They were in bed when their time jump sent them to 2163. Alarms were blaring.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Void: Falling Skies (Part II)

Saga and Camden lived together for years, starting in 2157. They both continued to try their powers to return to 2102 every once in awhile, but it never worked. Camden could only ever jump forward to 2257, or back to 2057. Saga couldn’t use her powers at all, though. She kept arbitrarily opening doors, picturing her destination in her head, but never succeeding. It was always just a door. Several months into this, a much older Xearea showed up during one of her floating holidays. Unlike most previous Saviors, she wasn’t expected to be on the clock 24/7. Life wasn’t as dangerous or difficult as it once was. There just weren’t as many accidents to save people from. Even when people were hurt, medical science had progressed enough to treat them successfully for pretty much anything. There just wasn’t much need for the position anymore, and since the powers that be could see the future, they always knew this was coming, and had come up with an endgame. Come Xearea’s death, they would choose one last Savior to serve Earth, and then completely shutter the program. At that point, if someone’s life was in danger, they would have to call upon the Kingmaker, the Runners, or some other traveler.
Xearea assured Camden that there was nothing he could do to get back home. She had already experienced 2102, and 2103, and so on. He never went back home, nor did she. At best, he could have had a few days with her before she had to go off on her own job, and they could enjoy those days together now instead. Sure, it wasn’t the same, and it certainly wasn’t fair, but it was also hopeless. All this had already happened, and going back in time would alter history too much, according to her. She was perfectly happy with how her life had turned out, and counter herself lucky to be seeing him now. As the Centurion, working primarily in the 20th century, Camden was never allowed to undergo longevity treatments in his original present, so he would have likely died by this point in history. What happened, happened, and could not have happened any other way, for they were all still alive. At least now he had broken his connection to the powers that be.
Over the years, there was a hint that there could be something romantic between Saga and Camden, but nothing came of it. Though she could never be as close to anyone as she had been to her one and only true partner, Vearden, Saga saw Camden as her new partner. They got to know each other well enough to develop a shorthand, and an unbreakable friendship. Today was May 18, 2161. They were walking back from the natural human grocery store when a van pulled up next to them, and matched their speed. The sliding door opened up, and a girl called out, “your ride’s here!”
Saga tensed up. “What?”
“Saga! It’s me!”
Saga got a better look, not having recognized the voice at first. “Paige? Paige Turner, is that you?”
“It is,” Paige replied. “Get in.”
“Where are we going?”
“The future. Tomorrow’s a bad day for salmon and choosers. Everybody needs to skip it.”
“What’s so bad about it?” Camden asked.
“We weren’t told that,” Paige answered.
“We think it has to do with syzygy,” a voice from inside the van said.
“We don’t all think that,” Paige argued.
“What’s Ssssssiiiiii—” began to ask, not even sure how to pronounce what the other one had said.
Another girl peeked her head out the door. “Syzygy. It’s when celestial bodies line up. Tomorrow’s Syzygy is important, though. All eight planets are going to line up, on the same side of the sun.” She stuck her arm out. “Hi, I’m Dar’cy.”
“Nice to meet you, Darcy,” Saga said, shaking her hand.
“No, it’s Dar’cy. My mother, Marcy is weird. I was named after her and my father, Darko Matic.”
“You’re Darko’s kid?” Saga asked.
“Yes. I was born on Tribulation Island...after you were torn out of time.”
“Oh,” Saga said quietly. Years ago, she was kidnapped by a very powerful choosing one, and forced to live on an island on another planet, along with all her friends. It was meant as a punishment for Leona Matic, who she held responsible for two of her siblings’ deaths. Every few years, she would remove one of Leona’s loved ones from the timeline, only keeping Leona’s memory of them intact. She would have to complete challenges to get them back, calling upon the aid of everyone who was still left, even though they literally didn’t know who they were fighting for. Once they were all finally returned to the timeline, very few people had any memory of the ordeal. To the ones without it, they believed they had lived on the island almost completely carefree the entire time. Saga had been removed from the timeline once before, though, which she assumed was why she knew the whole truth about that corrupted timeline. She came back to find Vearden had died while she was gone, so she immediately opened a portal to 1947 Bangladesh, and dedicated her life to helping people. This was why she had never had the pleasure of meeting this Dar’cy.
“What do you keep going on about?” Paige asked as one of the lucky ones, who couldn’t remember anything about the corrupted timeline.
A third girl showed her face. “And my name is Missy Atterberry. I don’t have anything to add to the conversation otherwise.”
“I’m Camden Voss,” he chimed in.
Paige nodded her head. “Xearea’s infamous brother. She didn’t tell us how hot you were.”
“Same for you,” he said, like he had known Paige’s inappropriate remark was coming.
Paige smiled. “You’re not on the list, but you’re salmon, so someone was likely scheduled to pick you up too, but you should get in, just in case you were missed.”
“I likely was. Missed, that is. I don’t know that I’m salmon anymore. I fell off my pattern.”
“Believe me,” Paige began, “they will find a way to get you back on it. Leona has fallen off hers many, many times.”
“Yeah, and we need to get going,” Dar’cy said. “We’ve yet to pick up Ulinthra.”
“Where have I heard that name before?” Saga wondered. “I associate it with...Harrison. Harrison the android, yes. He was on Tribulation Island long before any of us, I believe.”
Awkward silence since there was no reason to reply to that.
“Well, we should go,” Missy said.
Saga and Camden gave each other one look. “No, thanks,” she said politely.
“What?”
“We won’t be joining you. Safe travels.”
“I don’t think you understand,” Paige said. “You’re in danger here. It’s only for one day, though. You’ll blink, and it’ll be May 20th. Maybe the 21st.”
“That’s okay,” Camden said. “We’re fine here.”
“But you don’t know what’s gonna happen.”
“Ya know, people who can’t see the future do that all the time,” Camden told them. “That’s just...life, for them.”
“You’re not one of them,” Dar’cy pointed out. “Is it a pride thing? No one’s going to think less of you for avoiding something dangerous.”
“No,” Saga said, “we just don’t find it necessary.”
“Saga, it would be like me telling you there’s a cliff ahead, and you just continuing to walk towards it anyway. That’s not rational.”
Saga shrugged.
“Well, we’re not in charge of you, but we strongly urge you to get the eff out.”
“We appreciate the concern,” Camden said. “If something bad is coming, we’re gonna wanna be here. My sister certainly is.”
Another silence, but this time not so awkward, just reverent.
Paige frowned.
Dar’cy didn’t seem to care one way, or the other.
“Kay, byeeeeeee,” Missy said.
They left Saga and Camden to continue their errands.
The next day, they started feeling a strong vibration all over their house. It intensified, gradually becoming a full-on earthquake. This was it. This was what their friends had been talking about. Why would they need to skip over the day, though? Earthquakes don’t happen all over the planet at the same time. They really just needed to travel somewhere else, if even that. This wasn’t so bad. They had the impulse to go outside and look around, though. As soon as they stepped out, they could feel a warmth bearing down on them from the sky. They looked up.
“Do you see that?” Camden asked.
“What is that?” The sky was rolling like waves, floating from one direction, to the other. No, it wasn’t waves, nor was it the sky itself. It was just the shape of an object, coming towards them. An invisible object. An invisible, massive object.
“Is that, like, the fraking moon, or something?” he asked in shock.
“I have no frelling idea,” she responded. “It’s almost like the sky is falling.”
“What’s happening to you?” he now asked of her.
“What?” She looked down at him. His body was rolling and waving also, like an invisible force was warping all around him. She looked down at her own body, which was doing the exact same thing.
“I think this is what the ladies were talking about,” he guessed.
Pretty soon, they could feel themselves being pulled from the ground. The object in the sky was luring them to it, like a magnet. They flew through the air, completely helpless to it, and moving faster with each passing second.
In moments, they were standing safely on the surface of a different planet, watching the Earth fly past them now. This wasn’t the first time Saga had traveled to another world, so there was no need to panic. But somebody needed to tell Camden that, because he was currently freaking the freak out, having never experienced anything like this in his life. He was looking around like a paranoid chicken in a slaughterhouse.
“Calm down,” she tried to tell him.
“What is this? Where are we?”
“Somewhere new.”
“You’ve never been here before?”
She took a deep breath. “No, I don’t think so, but it’ll be okay. Feel that? That’s air. We can breathe, check. Vegetation, check. We’ll have something to eat. Water? There’s vegetation, so probably. Probably somewhere.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s safe! We have no idea what’s going on, or what’s going to happen!” he cried. “And where’s Xearea? Did she come here too? Is she back on Earth? What if a bridge fell on top of her?”
She took him by his trembling upper arms. “Camden. You were a secret agent...in a secret agency...protecting humans...who didn’t know you existed. You can handle this.” She started the patterned breathing techniques she had taught oh so many mothers in labor when she was a time traveling nurse.
He mirrored her breathing. “All right. You’re right. This is nothing.” They could hear footsteps approach them from the side, moving quickly. Camden tensed up again, and sent his body into the fight stress response. “Why didn’t I bring my weapon?”
“Because you didn’t know you were coming here,” Saga reminded him, knowing it wasn’t a real question. She prepared for a fight as well.
A man stopped a few meters in front of them. “Did you see something fall?” He started searching the ground. “I was on my way to Watershed when I swear I saw a bright twinkling object, coming straight from Earth. I must have horribly misjudged where it landed.”
“Uhh...no, I believe that was us,” Saga said tentatively.
“You’re from Earth?” he asked them.
“Yeah, you’ve heard of it.”
“Of course. From the histories. What are your names?”
“Saga Einarsson. Camden Voss.”
He shook their hands. “Ludvig. Now that we apparently didn’t crash into Earth, I believe I can take you to your friend.”
“Our friend?”
“Yeah. Hokusai Gimura. You don’t know her?”
No.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Microstory 755: Seed

Many fictional stories suggest that, at some point in our future, we will develop faster-than-light technology. We will use this to travel to the stars in a matter of a few years, or several months, or even in a matter of weeks, days, minutes, or seconds. They come up with various explanations, perhaps the most popular being the idea of a hyperspace, which is some other dimension where the “rules don’t apply”. Sometimes you fold (read: wrinkle) time. Sometimes you warp space around a vessel. In the end, all these ideas get around the implausibility of FTL by nothing more than waving it away with their hands. To be sure, warp drive is our best bet if it’s possible at all, but I’m still not putting money on it. Because of our speed limitations, traveling to our neighbors would be exceedingly unreasonable. Let’s say you can approach the speed of light, but not surpass it. That sounds pretty damn fast, right? Well, the nearest star to us is aptly named Proxima, and it’s about 4.25 light years away. To make it clear, that means it takes 4.25 years for light to travel from the star, to a pig’s eye on Earth. If we were to move just under that speed, it would still take us, say, 4.3 years to get there. Now, Proxima Centauri b is a fairly promising planet—and we’re rather lucky to have it—but it would still be harsh, if not one hundred percent uninhabitable. Scientists would be able to learn a great deal studying a second solar system, so it wouldn’t be a waste of time to go there from mankind’s perspective, but most individuals would get nothing out of it. Still, let’s say people want to fly by it for vacation; that’s a pretty long vacation for the average human lifetime. Advances in the biosciences will allow us to live much longer, rendering a decade vacation not all that big of a deal anymore. But still. It’s one star system, and the chances of finding life in any form are negligible. But what it we crank that lifetime extension up to eleven? What if we eliminate the nuisance of death entirely? If you do that, taking a hundred thousand plus years out of your life to visit the other side of the galaxy isn’t so much as an inconvenience, but the trip itself would also be uneventful. So why don’t we stay here, and let automated ships take care of that for us?
We’ll build two gigantic turtle shell ships, measured in kilometers, each divided into four quadrants. Each turtle shell will be responsible for one plane of the relatively flat disc of the Milky Way, and each quadrant responsible for, well, a quadrant. They’ll fly off to their destinations, and once there, break further apart into tiers, arcs, voussoirs, rankfiles, and sectors. The smallest vessel would be a shallow hexagonal prism, called a seed plate, which is measured in centimeters, and is composed of nanobots. A plate will break ground on an asteroid, comet, meteor, moon, or planet (in that order of preference) and use the material to build infrastructure. We’ll need it to construct survey probes, a network point, interplanetary vessels, and interstellar ships. The latter is required since one plate is responsible for seven to twenty-eight area star systems. In an astonishingly short time from an immortal’s perspective, the entire galaxy can be conquered by the successors to humans. Using quantum entanglement, anyone will be able to instantaneously send their consciousness to any world, easily subverting the light barrier, which is already proven to be completely scientifically sound. If necessary and ethical, the nanites could also build terraforming technology, potentially seeding life on billions of worlds all at once, further cementing ours as the dominant species in the Milky Way. From there, maybe we even go to other galaxies, which would take millions of years. When time is defeated, the possibilities really do become infinite. That’s Brooke Prieto-Matic’s wild dream, anyway, which is good, because the quantum seeder project she conceived is very real. Ladies and gentlemen...Project Stargate.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Microstory 754: Pedro

Pedro Gomes was born with a quite unusual medical condition; one that made his daily life extremely unpleasant. He suffered from completely uncontrollable internal vibrations during all waking hours. Lying down to rest seemed to lessen his symptoms enough to allow him to fall asleep, but anyone who placed their hand upon his skin while he was in bed would still feel the vibrations. This came with other problems, including numbness and weakness, dizziness and vertigo, and difficult visual focus. Basically nothing around him would stand still well enough for him to get a clear picture of it. At times, these vibrations would rise to the surface, and he would demonstrate external tremors, but often these would be done on purpose. Sometimes the best way to relieve the pain from his vibration was to keep moving around, be that jumping, swinging, or even rolling on the floor. His family gave him the nickname of Holy Roller, partly out of affection, partly out of insensitivity. As he grew up, though, he decide to adopt this moniker, but he would not maintain its attachment to his true identity. He ended up joining a group of supervillains who were purporting themselves to be superheroes. Upon leveling through the ranks enough to learn the truth behind this organization, Pedro started secretly fighting back, aligning himself with a small group of rebels who too knew what they had really signed up for. He worked under the leadership of Stuntwoman, who was highly trained in not only stunt work, but also martial arts. She wore a flame resistant suit that burned to the touch, but only to her opponents. She kept with her sidegliders, a parachute, and landing padding that softened her falls. Stuntwoman’s cousin, Bolster wore special boots that could spring her high into the air. Her cousin taught her some hand-to-hand combat, as did her mentor, whose intentions were not so honorable. As for Pedro, a.k.a. Holy Roller, he learned to focus his body’s vibrations to use them against others. Though he couldn’t be rid of them entirely, he could draw the vibrations to a single point, say his fist, and expel the force against enemy combatants. Of course, he wore hybrid roller skating boots, with wheels that could descend, or retract, as needed. An associate of theirs later built for him a poison dart gun that resembled a snake to cement his flare identity. Pedro never had an easy life, even after discovering his calling as a champion of justice, but he owned his weaknesses, transformed them into strengths, and became a feared name in the criminal underworld.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Microstory 753: Triadamant

One to die. One to fight. One to run. Walk under moonlight, stop at the sun. If danger comes for you, remember this pledge. It’s written in blood drawn from your own edge. Protect not each other; that is not your role. Saving the sovereign is your only goal. So it says in the first part of the Pledge of the Resolute. There is a galaxy where this credo codifies the military force that formed upon the beginning of the war with an enemy galaxy. The organization is built in threes. There are three major branches of the military: aidsmanship, defense, and assault. Each soldier carries with them three primary weapons: their gun, their blade, and their body. And each unit is composed of three warriors. They study together at the academy, and train together after full conscription. They eat at the same table, sleep in one bed, and travel together on missions. To see one member of any given triadamant apart from the other two means something is wrong. The idea of maintaining groups of three is an old one, and was not done to protect the group itself. If attacked, hopefully one of them will die before the other two. The survivors do not both start fighting back against the enemy. Instead, one of them will draw upon all their might, fueled by an adrenaline rush—a technique every soldier learns allows this to happen inorganically, if necessary—and keep the enemy distracted. The third will run off and return to the nearest friendly stronghold to warn them of the assault. Of course, this approach was more effective in the days before aerial and orbital battles, when fighting on the ground was the only thing that ever happened. And of course, it was never thought to be totally perfect either. It was always entirely possible for all three members of a triadamant to die before one of them can run away. And it was also possible for an outpost to be attacked by a larger consistency all at once, as opposed to minor ambushes. Yet the sentiment was kept through the centuries as technology advanced warfare. Soldiers still operate within an internally democratic triadamant. And they still use the first line of the Pledge of the Resolute as a battlecry: one to die! One to fight! One to run!