Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Microstory 332: Freedom from Debt

Click here for a list of every step.
Steady Income

People of all classes have experienced debt. Sure, there are some rich people out there who have no clue what it’s like to owe money, but it’s also not reserved only for poor people. It’s harder for the poor, of course, because it’s more difficult for them to get to a place where they can pay it off. A few years back, my favorite radio station personalities were talking about debt and saving money. One of them said that, when he was worse off, he never saved money. If ever he came into extra cash, he would immediately spend it on whatever he owed. He had lapsed on, for example, his electricity bill, or had bought something on layaway. He said that you would think someone in that position would want to set money aside when they could, but that time never came until his life changed. I’ve always been good with money only because I don’t need much. I spend on food, television, and internet. I suffer from a binge eating disorder that digs into my wallet more than I would like, but most of my life exists on the web. From my perspective, I don’t need to go out and buy a new picture frame when I can just pull the image up on my computer. This has kept me in relatively good standing, even when I couldn’t find steady work. In fact, it was only recently that I started paying for things I didn’t literally have the money for in my bank account. I don’t use credit cards, I use my debit card. I did get lucky in a certain sense, however. I received a significant amount of scholarship money from my family’s church, so college was paid off before I thought to ask my parents about it. But I can’t tell you how good it feels to not be in debt, because I’ve yet to truly experience that. I hope you one day will, if you’ve not yet.

Ability to Save Money

Monday, May 30, 2016

Microstory 331: Steady Income

Click here for a list of every step.
Competence

There are six major aspects of living in a capitalistic society that everyone needs to tackle to thrive in it. They’re interwoven with each other, and each one will help accomplish the other ones. They are, in a somewhat particular order: steady income, freedom from debt, the ability to save money, economic participation, job security, and the ability to provide for others. In the end, having a really good job is going to let you check off each one of these, or render them irrelevant, but let’s start with steady income. This can come from having any job with a regular schedule. It does not include day labor or odd jobs, or one that relies entirely too heavy on ad hoc contracts. It doesn’t necessarily pay all that well, and you might struggle with making ends meet, but it’s what keeps you from the constant fear that work will just suddenly stop being available. Temporary positions can qualify for this, as long as you’re in a position to move from one to the next. If there is too large of a gap between appointments, then it does not. On the other end, this doesn’t necessarily include fulltime jobs with benefits, or job security. This is just about getting something going that prevents you from feeling like you have to spend every non-working moment looking for something better. I have had nearly a dozen different jobs, and they all lacked something that could have made them the perfect job. It was great pay, but only temporary; it was fulltime but didn’t pay all that well; I loved every second of it but I was just a volunteer, and it couldn’t last. Right now, however, I can check off this first box. Though I can’t live without the support of my family, I go into work five days a week, and I get a paycheck every Friday. I still owe people money, though, so now I need to work on the second box.

Freedom from Debt

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 23, 2077 (Part II)

Click here for the 2016 table of contents.

Designated teleporter and salmon-chooser hybrid Rogue Makarion was doing the best he could. He wanted to tell the targets of his torture that he was the only thing standing between them and certain death. Doing so, however, would break his agreement with the enemy, effectively tearing up their contract together, placing everyone in danger. But this wasn’t working. Mateo and Leona made every effort to subvert the rules of his tribulations. Each time they did, they were taken further from his purview and protection, and closer to the hands of the one who truly wanted to do them harm. Perhaps the tribulations were no longer a viable option, or maybe they never were. If he could team up with Mateo and Leona by explaining himself, could they put up a united front against the evil? Would they go for it? Would they even listen to him?
The first step to either road he decided to take was stopping Vearden from throwing them back through time. It was only 2076, which meant that Mateo and Leona hadn’t been on their own for too long, so the contract had not yet expired. He grabbed a nearby lamp and slammed it into Vearden’s head before rushing out of the room on the Martian base. Vearden faded out of view as he tried to cross the threshold. He had been whisked away by a portal. Perfect timing. Well, it was good enough, at least. He would have to wait a whole year for Mateo, Leona, and Darko to return. The only thing that could stop him now was if The Cleanser decided he hadn’t quite fulfilled his obligations to the agreement.

What most people don’t know is that Melinda Carson knew Mateo Matic when they were just in high school. She had honestly had a bit of a crush on him, but felt uncomfortable vocalizing this since she was a senior when he was but a freshman. She went off to college without him ever having noticed that she existed. She regretted never going for it right up until the point she met Frank Delaney. He was seven years older than her, but that never mattered. Their age difference became even less of an issue once everyone started learning about the longevity escape velocity. As science and health progress, the number of years extended on someone’s life increasingly surpasses the number of years passed. That is, people are now effectively immortal. No one will care about their age difference once she’s a thousand, and he’s a thousand and seven.
Things were changing, though. Frank always seemed to be on board with this new way of life, but the situation with his daughter was really getting to him. Leona was constantly jumping through time, and he was only able to see her once a year, at best. It was like a fairytale; no happy ending. Melinda kept trying to help him through it, saying that life extension was only going to help him, but the depression was growing year by year. Of course, he was hiding it from Leona pretty well, and possibly even little old Theo, but Melinda knew him best. He never quite got over his first wife either, so that certainly wasn’t helping his mental state. There was this movement spreading across the world for people who don’t necessarily reject all technology, but do believe that death is necessary for life to hold meaning. There are multiple factions for this movement, and some of them are nasty, using their beliefs to justify killing others. Frank is not involved with these particular factions, and he was only starting to look into it, but Melinda still worried that he was on a dangerous path. She never wanted to die, and she didn’t want him to die either.
She was just about to talk to Frank about her feelings, because it was one of the days when Leona was supposed to return. She had been missing for several years, and so these were always the worst. Before she could open her mouth, a man they called the Cleanser appeared before the family and took them away one by one. Before too long, Melinda was alone in the house. Panicked, she ran from room to room, calling everyone several times, but they were not responding. There was nothing left for her to do but sit and shudder and wait.
Frank Delaney was not a suicidal man. He was just having doubts about whether he wanted to live forever or not. Seeing his daughter only once a year for thousands of years did not sound like his idea of a good time. His second child, Theo wasn’t always his. He was the reincarnation of a man who was first born in seventeenth century. At some point, he died, and came back as a baby. The first several years with him were great. He was a happy and thoughtful child, both curious and precocious. Looking back, these were the first signs that he was different. Though he had grown up with advanced technology, they always seemed foreign to him, like he was some kind of anachronism. At first, Frank thought he might have some kind of learning disability, or be on the autism spectrum, but the tests came back negative. In the end, weird was the only right word for it. And that’s exactly how he liked it. But then he started talking about things that didn’t make any sense. He would recall events in the past that could not have happened to him. This was not just a rich imagination; this was a problem.
Not long after Leona started jumping through time, putting a strain on the whole family dynamic, Theo revealed to them the truth. He had remembered enough about his past life to consider it, and the parents he left behind, to be the real ones. Suddenly Frank and Melinda were only surrogates; glorified ovens to be used for a safe home and food on the table. He was reconnected with his best friends from the past, and he was back in his old world of salmon and other time travelers. Frank and Melinda couldn’t relate to them at all, and nothing was going to change that. He somehow both quickly and gradually lost his children to time. He would never get them back, no matter how long he lived. So yes, he was seriously thinking about letting it all end eventually. He was a hundred years old. Back before all this, people were lucky to reach that age, so it wasn’t like he was wasting all this potential. At least, that’s how he justified his position. He knew he wasn’t being completely rational, but he also had yet to come to his final decision, so there was no need for Melinda to freak out about it.
At the moment, the Cleanser had everyone in separate groups, wading in the water on a beach as the sun was going down. Mateo and Leona were standing on their own. The gun he gave her was empty, but it was clear where this was going. Aura, Samsonite, and Theo were forced onto their knees, hands tied behind their backs. Darko and Makarion were standing to the side like spectators, but neither of them wanted to be there. The Cleanser teleported in holding Melinda by the neck right next to Frank whose legs he had already broken. Still, Frank tried to pull her away from their captor, but the Cleanser slapped him away with barely any effort. He slipped into his speech about how the contract had lapsed, and that a new one would have to be made, this one signed by any and all survivors. Makarion would be able to continue his games, but the movies he chose were going to have to be far more physically dangerous, and less planned out. Sticking with the plot was no longer important, but the setup to the most dangerous scene now mattered more than anything. He then said something about having to prove how serious he was, but Frank couldn’t hear it, because he knew what was going to happen next.
Melinda’s face turned red as the Cleanser gripped her neck tighter. He was squeezing the life out of her, but Frank wasn’t strong enough to stop it. He tried lunging towards them a few times, but was always kicked away. It was only after he gave up and just started crying that he realized that the Cleanser wasn’t holding Melinda by the neck at all. His arm was crossed over her chest, so there was no way he was blocking her air passage. What was he doing? Melinda yelled out in pain as her body split into literally millions of pieces. It was like she was turning to ash and drifting away little by little. Frank reached his highest octave and screamed out for her, but the damage had already been done. She was gone. Still as cool as ever, the Cleanser swung his palm up and towards Leona. Frank could hear a click in the gun. There was now one bullet in the chamber, to be used on one other person in the family. She was going to have to choose, or he would do the same thing he did to Melinda to everyone but her and Mateo.
Frank didn’t have time to worry about what had happened to his wife. Leona needed him right now. He tried to talk with her, to place the target on his own head. He was already on the back nine of his life, but everyone else was a salmon. They had jobs to do, and he was the obvious choice. He told her to wipe the tears from her face and just take the shot. It would be unfair of her to refuse and let everyone die when she could choose the lesser of two evils and kill only one. He could see the gears churning in her head as she was looking for “the third option”. The Cleanser obviously couldn’t be killed. Whatever crazy science fiction bullshit he had pulled on Melinda was far beyond any human. So she had to make a choice the Cleanser would never expect, just to show that he wasn’t in complete control. She moved the gun over and fired towards Makarion and Darko. The look of horror on her face proved that she was aiming for the former, but had accidentally hit the latter.

The Cleanser went apeshit. “Someone is going to have to die for this!” he cried out. Why he would care so much for Darko was not something Mateo understood. Leona and Aura ran over in an attempt to stop Darko from bleeding out. Mateo, Theo, and Samsonite blitzed the Cleanser, trying to fight him off as best they could. Makarion just stood there, stunned. He was definitely not part of the sadistic choice, and didn’t want any of this to happen. The Cleanser should have just teleported out, or torn them apart the same way he did with Melinda, but it didn’t look like he was thinking straight. Darko’s death had warped his brain too much. They were connected in some way, but how?
“Makarion, help!” Mateo pleaded.
Makarion looked to Mateo with puppy dog eyes, and then back at Aura and Leona who had just confirmed that Darko was dead. After looking back a few more times, he finally became determined. He came over to the brawl to pull Samsonite and Theo away. “I have this, sir.”
“Don’t do this, please!” Mateo yelled. “I know you’re not like him.”
“No,” Makarion said as he dragged two fully grown men over to the women. “I’m nothing like him. I save people, and I’m gonna save what family you have left!” He threw the men on the ground then lifted his arms to form some kind of translucent bubble around all five of them.
“Get back here, Boyce!” the Cleanser ordered, but it was too late. They were gone. He stopped fighting after they had left and sighed. “That’s okay. I’ll find him again.” He eyed Mateo with a great amount of disdain and fear. “I can’t kill you.” He looked over to Frank, whimpering on the ground and nursing his legs. “But humans are fair game.” Click here for the next installment...

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Second Stage of Something Started: Reunions (Part VII)

Click here for the first series (Seeing is Becoming).
Click here for the previous installment...
Click here for the entire story.

Vearden lost track of the number of points in time he and Makarion helplessly jumped through, and how much time had passed from their perspective. Though it had to number in the thousands across at least a week. As they had guessed, the jumps were all tied to Mateo’s jumps forward, but not for them in any particular order. Makarion seemed surprised that Mateo was still alive and kicking, but oddly content about knowing this. He seemed to have mixed feelings for Mateo and Leona. Vearden kept asking about it, hoping to find away to make things better, but Makarion kept his mouth shut. In fact, as much as Makarion liked the sound of his own voice, the two of them didn’t talk all that much. They just kept going, desperately hoping to get back to where they had begun, never quite knowing how long it was going to take, if it even ended at all. They did run into Saga a couple of times, but future versions of her, so that wasn’t all that helpful, except in letting Vearden know that she did somehow survive the gunshot. Either way, they needed to return to 2074. Neither of them ever knew what year it was at any one moment, and would have to look for context clues. They would occasionally stay four to six feet from each other to allow time for food and sleep. One time, they accidentally touched from going for the same chip, but that was all it took to throw them to a different day.
At present, it was April 28, 2416. The reason they knew this was because Leona jumped in at the same time. “How are you here?” Makarion asked.
“How the hell are you here?” Leona asked accusatively. “You should be three-hundred and eighty-two years old. It was my understanding that the powers that be don’t like us to also be transhumanists.”
Makarion stepped away from Vearden to protect them from an accidental jump somewhere else. By our powers combined, we are CAPTAIN PLANET!”
“What?”
“Wow, tough crowd.” Makarion rolled his eyes. “When we touch each other, our patterns mix together to allow us to travel through time and space.”
Force us through time and space,” Vearden corrected.
“That’s right, we have no control over it. We’re trying to get back, him to his partner, and me so I can find out how you survived that car crash back in 2073.”
“What do you mean? You already kn—” she stopped herself. “You haven’t learned how from your perspective.”
“No, that hasn’t happened yet.” Makarion looked over to Vearden with a smile. “I guess that means we get back at some point.”
“Eventually, yeah, I guess.”
Makarion continued, “we’ve been jumping into moments at the beginning, or the end of, Mateo’s day. How are you here? Your day was yesterday.”
“A lot has changed since you...” she trailed off, obviously not wanting to divulge too much information about the timeline. “We broke the rules, so we’re being punished. The powers switched me over so that I’m perpetually one day behind Mateo, which means that we don’t ever see each other. I only come back to the timestream the minute he leaves.”
“Hmm,” Makarion thought out loud. The both of them knew that this was not the situation in Leona’s future. At some point, somehow, their patterns are realigned, and they are reunited.
“It that ever changes, don’t tell me about it,” Leona insisted. “I don’t want to risk changing the future.”
“That is wise of you,” Makarion agreed.
“But I will tell you that I know who you are. I mean I know who you really are. I know why you’re doing this, and I forgive you.”
Makarion was actually touched by this, and almost speechless, but not quite. “If I didn’t—if I stepped back—things would be much worse for you.”
“We know. We find out, and we take care of that too. Don’t change your plans, but know that when the day comes when you can’t continue the tribulations, we survive. We’re still surviving. I don’t agree with your methods, but I understand why you did it.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” Makarion said genuinely.
What the hell is going on?
“Well, I guess we better be off,” Makarion went on. “We’re obviously not going to find Saga here. Not the one we’re looking for anyway.” He tipped an imaginary hat and reached out towards Vearden.
“No,” Vearden said.
“What is it now?”
“I have to help her. I may be the only one who can.”
“I don’t understand,” Makarion said.
“I do.” Leona smiled and explained, “if you and Vearden develop a new pattern with physical contact, perhaps the same could be done with him and me. He could take me back to where I belong.”
“There’s no way for you to know that.”
“I’m willing to try if you are,” Vearden said, palm face up.
“I am,” Leona said. Before Makarion could stop her, she had taken Vearden’s hand in hers.

They returned to the timestream one year later. It was April 28, 2417. Mateo was staring at them, stunned by their sudden appearance. Leona removed herself from Vearden’s grasp and pushed herself into Mateo’s arms. “Oh my God, it’s so good to see you again!”
“How are you here?”
“Vearden helped me out.”
“I thank you, sir,” Mateo said. “It’s nice to see you again, brother.”
There was a tear or two in Leona’s eyes. “Where are Franka and Séarlas?”
“They’re gone,” Mateo answered sadly. “They’re gone, as you would expect, but they’re safe. I was with them for three years.”
“How?”
Before Mateo had a chance to answer, Makarion strode up in anger. “I had to wait for you for a year! Everyone has superpowers now, and I’m a cockroach ‘cause all I can do is teleport!” He took Vearden by the shoulder.

They found themselves standing in a dark room with cargo lining the walls. “Ugh. I wanted to talk to them some more.”
“You’ll have plenty of time for that in the future-past.” He walked over and picked up a tablet for information. “It’s 2075. Close enough.”
“This is not close enough! I’m trying to get back to Saga before she gets shot, to stop it from happening.”
“Well, I don’t really care. I’m headed for Mars. You can come if you’d like, but don’t touch me.”
“The hell I won’t.” Vearden reached over to turn the tables and take Makarion by the shoulder for once.
The first thing Saga and Baxter could hear after jumping back into the timestream was screaming. They rushed down the hallway and into the room to find Leona Delaney on nothing but a mattress and blankets. She was having trouble getting comfortable, and couldn’t decide whether she wanted to lie down or sit up.
“Oh thank God, you’re back,” Mateo said, one hand on Leona’s neck, and the other suffering a few fractures from her kung fu grip. “They’re coming.”
Saga smiled. Birthing babies was her favorite part of the job. Sure, they weren’t without their complications, but they weren’t about correcting a problem; they were about new life. It reminded her of when her son, Samwise was born. Labor with him only lasted about six hours, and he came out with absolutely no problems. The fact that he was the reincarnation of salmon who had already lived for decades probably meant that the powers that be were protecting him with their magicks, but still, it could have still been more painful. Baxter delivered him, just as he had with Vearden’s daughter, Laura, and just like he was right now with the twins. Was he the delivery doctor for all salmon? Jack of all trades, master of probably all of them too. She missed her partner, Vearden, but knew that they would be reunited one day, and until then, it was nice to be around someone who knew exactly what he was doing, and didn’t really answer to anyone but the emergency.
“It’s almost midnight,” Leona cried while Saga started wiping her forehead with a washcloth. “What happens at midnight? Are my babies gonna just be left here in the middle of the room...all alone?
“It’ll be fine, Mateo said. “It’s not that close to midnight.”
“Shut up, yes it is!”
“We’ll still be here,” Baxter assured her.
“You don’t know that,” Leona argued. “You’re just a salmon.”
“Saga, take out my scheduler.”
Saga removed the little device that contained Baxter’s schedule for the next few appointments, at the most. She held it up in front of Leona, hoping to comfort her.
“Your babies are my patients too, see? I will not leave them, I promise.”
“Okay,” she said. “Okay, okay,” she repeated several more times until another contraction came on and she switched back to yelling.
“Won’t be long now,” Baxter said. “You’ve been taking the prenatal vitamins I gave you, right?”
“Every day,” Mateo answered.
“And you’ve been lying on your left side during your time jumps?”
“Yes,” Mateo said. “Well, for the most part. That hasn’t always been possible.”
“That’s okay, it was just a precaution.”
“Precaution for what?” Leona asked in a panic.
“It’s okay, Miss Delaney. No need to worry.” Baxter was examining Leona’s belly with a diagnostic device. “Everything is perfectly all right. This pregnancy is going to go swimmingly.”
“Okay,” Leona said again, still in a great deal of pain.
“I’m going to place the epidural and spinal injection now, okay?” Baxter said. “It’s going to be a little uncomfortable, but it will help you manage this pain.”
“Is it not too late? I heard it can be too late sometimes.”
“It’s not too late,” Baxter said. “It’s actually the perfect time.” He removed a labor pain gun from his bag as Mateo and Saga were helping Leona stay sitting up. After disinfecting her back, he placed the gun against her spine. With one squeeze of the trigger, both injections were sent in. He let go of the trigger and flipped the release with his thumb. As he slowly removed the gun, the fixation glue formed to hold the epidural catheter in place. “All right, that’s done. You should be feeling better in minutes.”
“Can we lay her back down, doc?” Mateo asked.
“Yes, of course.”
Not twenty minutes later, the first baby was on its way out. Saga looked down and could see little red hairs peeking out during the crowning that clearly did not belong to Leona. She was no longer screaming because Baxter’s pain medicine was the best of all time...literally. After the first baby was all the way out, they noticed something strange. A little hand was wrapped around its heel. His twin sister had no interest in spending any time in the womb without her big brother. “Hold onto the boy!” Baxter ordered.
Saga took the boy in her arms and held him in place while her boss went about delivering the girl. It was too dangerous to try and separate them at this point. An arm-first birth was risky enough, they didn’t need to aggravate them. She tried to whisper, “are you going to have to break her arm?”
Leona heard that. “What? Why would you do that? What’s wrong!”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Baxter said definitively. “It’s an unusual birth, but not one I can’t handle. Just don’t move. Baxter became laser focused as he gently worked the second little baby out. “She’s entering this world like Supergirl,” he said, trying to lighten the mood. He was right. Only the one arm was on her brother’s leg. The second was down at her side, just as Kara Zor-El was known to fly. If she didn’t know any better, the babies were laughing. They didn’t seem to be upset, or in any discomfort. Even though it was one of the oddest births she had ever been a part of, it really was going well.
“More like Jacob,” Mateo said, making a reference to the bible.
Saga was not Christian, but she certainly had to pretend to be one for a long time because of how tricky life was centuries ago. Saga and Vearden had to remain vigilant, and not draw attention to themselves. She had to fake her faith, and avoid revealing the fact that she wanted nothing more than to just wear pants. She knew of the story of the birth of Jacob and Esau. The former was born immediately after the latter, holding onto his heel as presumed foreshadowing to their quarrelsome lives. Esau had even been born with red hair, which was another interesting coincidence. Due to all this time travel, Saga wondered whether the powers that be were making this happen because of the story in the bible, or whether this event came first, and will ultimately go back to inspire the story.
“Twenty fingers, twenty toes. Two happy and healthy babies,” Saga said.
“Let me hold them,” Leona said with beckoning arms.
They handed Leona’s twins to her one by one.
“She needs water,” Baxter noted.
“There’s some in the other room,” Mateo responded without breaking his gaze at his lovely new children.
“I’ll get it,” Saga said.
“See if you have find some more towels too,” Baxter said as she was walking away.
The door turned out to be a portal that returned her to the island through the little cottage they had built. “Oh, great.” Click here for the next installment...

Friday, May 27, 2016

Microstory 330: Competence

Click here for a list of every step.
Natural Skill

The last story I wrote was about natural skill. It was about figuring out what any given student can do best, and fostering that skill within them so that they can pursue happiness in their own way, and at their own pace. It was about the beginning of the race, whereas competence is about the race itself. This is about what someone does once they’ve found their calling. Whenever my father and I got in an argument about my future, he would always say that I had this fantasy that I would “write the next great American novel”. I never admitted it, but that was true. I would hear these stories about Rowling, Paolini, and even Meyer. It’s not that they didn’t struggle, but once they hit that sweet spot, man did their career just take off. I kind of always assumed that, if I were going to be successful as a writer, it was going to be in the same vein. It never occurred to me that my writing would ever just be good enough to get me by, so I’ve warped my entire reality to the fantasy, and it ended up taking me just that side of nowhere. I’ve finally come to grips with the extraordinarily real possibility that this is it for me. I’m going to post very short stories, I’m going to send out little nanofiction jokes, and I’m going to add word origin of the day entries. I’m going to do that for fifty-two years, and I’m not going to do anything else of value. All my research on the future, and of this thing called the longevity escape velocity, has made me okay with that. Because I don’t plan on dying, so I have plenty of time. I’m a competent writer, and this blog is my outlet for that; something I was worried I would never, ever find. As great men say, we can’t all be winners. That doesn’t mean we can’t find success.

Steady Income

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Microstory 329: Natural Skill

Click here for a list of every step.
Sanctum Sanctorum

I grew up in a world where every child is told that they can do anything they put their mind to. I remember the first time I was given a participation trophy, and thinking that this plastic would be better off as part of a car, or some medical instrument. I, even at that age, thought it was stupid to commemorate nothing more than showing up. I personally felt just as strongly about the awards I received for actual achievement, but they were at least a logical conclusion. Telling a child that they’re capable of anything is not only a lie, but is also detrimental to their development. No matter how hard I tried, I could never be a great mathematician. Math is not my strong suit, and I don’t really have an interest in turning it into that. Would I like to be better, smarter? Yes, but it’s healthier for me to pursue my field of expertise. Now, I might have gotten lucky. I discovered my skill as a writer relatively early on. I started noticing high marks for work I scratched out at the last minute. I’ve written college-level papers on books I never read, and movies I never saw, and I’ve never earned anything lower than a C. But no teacher encouraged me to chase after my dreams to be a writer. You know why? It’s not their fault. The educational system is designed for teachers to teach to the test, and to teach the same thing to every student regardless of natural skill or passion. In an ideal world, we would put far more focus on finding that one thing the kid can do. We wouldn’t do away with the idea of a well-rounded education altogether, but we would put more effort in helping a given student excel in their best field. Your kids shouldn’t dream big, not because they’re not good enough, but because they can’t go anywhere until they find a starting point.

Competence

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Microstory 328: Sanctum Sanctorum

Click here for a list of every step.
Sewage

Sanctum Sanctorum is supposed to refer to “the holiest of holiest”. It’s a specific location of profound religious value. Well, I don’t really care about your religions, so I’m using the term more as a synonym for home. The only reason I separate these two is because people like the phrase “home is where the heart is”. This means that the home is wherever you feel safe; it can be multiple places, or really just refer to the people you’re with, or even a state of being. A sanctum sanctorum, however, is a physical location. This place must belong to you and only the closest of your associates (read: family), and you should have the reasonable expectation that you neither be disturbed nor molested while inside. The first thing we need to do, of course, is to make sure everyone on the planet has a safe place to go so that they can eat, sleep, and live. Trailer parks, homeless shelters, halfway homes, camping grounds, and yes, even prisons qualify as a place that people can live. Once you have this, you should be in pursuit of a sanctum sanctorum. Most people enjoy the company of others. We like to be out and about and having fun. We like exploring, learning, and experiencing new things. But some people appreciate these activities more than others, and some don’t like it at all. I’m not going to tell you that’s okay, because if you don’t already know that, please return to first grade. What I’m telling you is something not even adults necessarily realize. Everyone also likes to be alone sometimes. Again, some more than others, but we all need the ability to be ourselves with absolutely zero risk of judgment or basic expectation. The sanctum sanctorum gives you this. It’s not as important as a room away from rain, and it’s not as lofty as a room with a view, but it’s good for the soul. Find your sanctuary.

Natural Skill

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Microstory 327: Sewage

Click here for a list of every step.
Civilization

I know you’re going to laugh about this, but only if you don’t read the explanation. Back in the dark times of this world, we did not have centralized sewer systems. Hell, we didn’t really have any sewer system. People would throw their waste out onto the street...where people were walking...and they would do nothing more than shout gardez l’eau, which means “watch out for the water” and inspired the English word loo because British people gotta Anglicize everything in sight. No matter where you went in the city, you were probably walking on someone’s urine. Like I said, dark times. The moment we started dropping our waste into tanks and processing it was the same moment we became a truly civilized society. I’ve used the word civilization before, and I’ve done so in more general terms, but that’s why I’m calling this truly civilized. Only when we decided to stop shitting where we were eating, were we able to transcend our savage natures, and start on a path towards enlightenment. Yes, you’ve all been led to believe that we were always higher than the pig, but it was only relatively recently that people thought it was a good idea to get that crap as far from us as possible. Original sewage treatment methods allowed us to be more sanitary. It was quite literally a cesspool of disease and other filth. This careful segregation supported a healthier and faster-growing population. Soon, cities were being designed with these concepts in mind, rather than tacking them on ad hoc. Sewers were not the first step towards cultured society, but they were fundamental to it. Advances in water treatment are being made every year; from the backend of the processing plant to the toilets in our homes. Brave men and women handle your sludge every day so that you don’t have to. If you ever encounter one of them...probably don’t shake their hand, but do thank them for their service.

Sanctum Sanctorum

Monday, May 23, 2016

Microstory 326: Civilization

Click here for a list of every step.
Love

I’ve spoken on this subject before with my Safety from Chaos story, but that was more in terms of being free from libertarians who want to murder you because it’s more convenient, or because there’s a market for it. In retrospect, I might have been better off putting this before that one, but I guess I’m going to have to resign myself to the fact that even I am not going to be happy with the order I’ve chosen. I’ve defined civilization as “any group of people that combine their resources in a deliberate and mutually beneficial way in order to support the common good and propagate healthy living” though that may be too broad, because that would include tribes. Tribes have hunters and gatherers, and when food becomes scarce in one location, they must move on to the next. The first civil society sprung from the ability of these tribes to grow agriculture. Suddenly tribes could delegate certain responsibilities to certain people, leaving the rest to develop further both technologically and culturally. We started to create art, study the sciences, and plan for the future. It was through this that nations were born. Tribes built villages, villages came together as cities, and these cities became a collective inside of a country. But civilization did not stop there. Humans have a drive to make things ever better. Countries trade with each other, form alliances, and share ideas. The world is not without its enemies, and patriotism can get in the way of peace, but people tend to like each other. The majority of us have empathy, and do not enjoy the pain of others. We want to be protected from threats, and independent nations give us that security, but they also allow us to see the value in protecting others, regardless of what it has to do with us. Libertarians would have us lose our civility and become savages. I charge you to not let them.

Sewage

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 23, 2077 (Part I)

Click here for the 2016 table of contents.

“It’s nice to see you again too, Commander Parker,” Leona said lightly but confidently.
Julius tried to rub the stress out of his eyes. “Why me? Why is it always me?”
“Because we trust you,” Mateo answered.
Julius shook his head. “You barely know me.”
“That’s the point,” Leona began to explain. “We’re on the run, and the person chasing us knows who our allies are. They don’t know about you.”
“We at least don’t think they know you,” Darko clarified.
“So you’ve put me in danger to avoid endangering people you care about,” Julius criticized. “How kind of you.”
“It’s not like that,” Mateo said. “It’s unlikely that Makarion knows anything about you. We just need a place to lay low for a few decades.”
“I’m not going to be here for a few decades.”
“We’re going to burn that bridge when we get to it,” Leona said.
“I’ll let you stay here for two years,” Julius said plainly. “Then we will reassess.”
“That sounds fair,” Darko jumped in before Leona could protest.
“I suppose,” Julius started to say while he was putting his stuff down in the corner, “that you’ll be needing some food, what with you still being mostly human.”
“Are you not human?” Mateo asked. “Have you turned yourself into a robot?”
“No,” Julius said with a chortle. “Nothing so undignified. I have been upgraded, though. Nanotechnology, synthetic blood, and neural interfaces have made me better, faster, stronger.”
Mateo’s eyes widened. “Like the Six Million Dollar Man.”
“Yes, that is not a bad comparison,” Julius agreed.
“That’s cool,” Mateo said shyly, like a child meeting his hero.
“Some food would be lovely,” Leona said, “as long as it does not raise suspicion.”
“Many people still eat,” Julius confirmed. “And I do too, just not as much. Not everyone is a transhumanist like me, not even all early Martians.”
Julius returned later with some food from the cafeteria. Mateo had expected food cubes—and they certainly weren’t eating organic—but it did still look real food. They crowded around a table meant for only one person and gobbled it down, as if they hadn’t eaten in days. And actually, though they had gotten some food here and there, it had been a long time since a decent meal. He probably would have hated this Martian food before, but now it tasted like heaven.
After they were done with their meal, Mateo sat down in front of Julius so that they could have a talk. He wanted to explain to Julius about his brother, Richard. The Rogue had extracted him just before his death and placed him with Mateo temporarily. They spent months on a lifeboat together, living through the Life of Pi tribulation. He then accompanied Mateo for the Gulliver’s Travels tribulation, later making the ultimate sacrifice when Mateo opened up a portal to Reaver just before his death. It was ironic that Richard was pulled out just before he was blown up only to be blown up in Reaver’s prison cube. But that incident had ended with The Rogue’s death as well, and could very well have saved Mateo and Leona’s life. Richard was instrumental in stopping the Rogue from his games. Though Makarion was still a problem, he was less powerful, and that was not nothing. Mateo felt that Julius had the right to the truth; to understand what really went down. “Do you know what happened to your brother?”
Julius nodded. “He died in an explosion. The vessel was supposed to be unmanned, but Horace Reaver broke the rules. All of these secrets came out years ago. It’s part of history now. I suppose it was just yesterday for you.”
“That’s not the entire story,” Mateo said. “You obviously know that we’re time travelers, and you’ve probably guessed that we’re not the only ones.”
“I’ve met others.”
“Who did you meet?”
“Immediately after you left Luna back in 2036, two more appeared. I didn’t catch their names. They disappeared just as quickly as they had come.”
“Could you describe them?”
“Well, I guess I don’t need to, do I? This is the future afterall.”
Back in 2046, artificial intelligent android, Harrison had used technology to read Mateo’s mind and create a picture of a man he had met in an alternate timeline. They did this so everyone could see what The Cleanser looked like, in case he ever showed up later. That following year, they used the same technology to create composites of Samsonite and Aura’s daughter, who turned out to be Mateo’s old neighbor, Frida. And now in 2076, that technology still existed, and was actually even more sophisticated. Julius reached into his memory archives and generated extremely detailed pseudophotographic frames from when he met two other salmon. He then spliced each of these together to make a movie they could watch on a computer screen. It looked like someone had actually filmed the occasion. All that was missing was the sound, but Julius also had memory of the conversation, and was able to lip sync for them.

This is what happens in the memory splice movie.
“Not again,” Julius says. “I just got rid of you people. Literally ten seconds ago.”
“Where are we?” Makarion asks.
Julius points to the window where they can see Earth.
“Is this the moon?” Vearden asks.
“No, it’s Mars, dipshit,” Julius answers. “I am Commander Parker, King of the Mascos.”
“Who like us have you met?” Makarion asks.
“I dunno, a bunch of people. I didn’t care about their names,” Julius replies.
“Was one of them named Mateo?” Makarion asks.
Julius sighs. “Yeah, I think that’s what they said.”
“Just as I suspected,” Makarion says with a nod.
“Shut up,” Vearden spits.
“We’re jumping into important moments of Mateo’s timestream,” Makarion says. “God, that guy’s so important, and I do not know why.”
“Well, how do we get back?” Vearden demands.
“All we can do is keep trying.” Then Makarion takes Vearden by the cheeks, and they both disappear.

“So Makarion is going after Vearden, just like us. Or he did. Or he will.”
“Damn.” Darko turned away to pace around a little.
“This is not good,” Leona said, even more upset than everyone else.
“No kidding,” Mateo answered.
“No, this is really not good.” Leona shook her head violently. “There’s something I never told you, because I was worried about disrupting the timeline, but I think it’s time I speak up.”
“What is it?” Mateo asked, not wanting to jump to any conclusions.
“This happened to me once,” Leona tried to explain, but she was very shaky. “Makarion and who I now know to be Vearden appeared before me. It could have been just before this, or just after. I obviously didn’t know who he was at the time, but he warned me about paradoxes, and me being genre savvy, I agreed with him that I should keep quiet about it.”
“When was this?” Mateo asked, not upset with her for having kept this from him.
“It was after our kidney transplantation surgery,” she replied, still afraid of the truth. “After the security guards sent you off to the police station, they continued their rounds, and I had a window to sneak out of the warehouse. The two of them jumped into the timestream just before I could. Makarion did seem to recognize me, but I couldn’t really tell. Now it makes sense that he had already met me from his perspective, because he knew exactly what to say to make sure I didn’t say anything about it. I’m a fool.”
“You’re not a fool,” Mateo tried to comfort her. “You did exactly what you should have. That was not pertinent information until now. You understand the timeline better than I do, so I trust that that was the right call. Now is not the time to doubt yourself.”
“It’s just a pattern of behavior. Another time travel protocol has gotten me in trouble. Reaver knew my secret time travel passphrase because I decided to tell him in an alternate timeline. All these rules I’ve set up,” she said through tears, “they’re all garbage!”
“No, they’re not,” Mateo disagreed. “They’re just not perfect. We’re literally dealing with forces beyond our control. The rules are there to protect us, and I believe they’ve served us better than we even realize.”
She didn’t stop crying. “I should have told you. I was angry at you for having killed the Rogue, but I may have just killed us all.”
“You didn’t kill us, Leona,” Mateo said. “Everything is going to be okay. So he knows that we know Julius? He might have known anyway since the original Rogue was aware of our connection to the family. Coming here was always going to be a risk.”
“It sounds like the two of them are uncontrollably jumping through the timestream,” Darko said with authority. “And that they’re somehow tied to Mateo. Makarion might show up out of sheer bad luck, no matter where we ended up going.”
There was a knock at the door. Julius ushered the three of them to the wall and opened it with caution. “Oh my God.”
Makarion’s voice came from the hallway, “my ears were burning.” Click here for the next installment...