Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Advancement of Leona Matic: August 14, 2160

After a quick check-up for Lincoln in the hospital, which proved he was in perfect health, the team booked passage on an interplanetary ferry to Earth. Of course, they didn’t have to pay for it, but they also didn’t need to present documentation, or show any evidence that they were either born on Mars, or traveled there at any time in the past. It was actually as if the ship owners knew that they were coming, even though they made no indication that they had any awareness of the time travel underground. Leona asked them if they liked to eat salmon, which was the secret question often used to tease out their brethren, but they just said they were vegetarians.
Leona and Serif weren’t around for most of the trip since it still took far longer than one day to travel between the two planets. The others were worried they would die in the vacuum of space, but a friend many years ago assured them that they could survive. Sure, they was in another reality, but it should still apply. And if it didn’t, and this was the end, then at least the powers that be couldn’t control them anymore. As it turned out, it was perfectly fine. Come August 14, 2160, the women they left behind returned to the hangar where the ferry was being stored—again, as if the owners were told it was necessary—to meet up with the two time-skippers. Lincoln had already moved on with his life, so he was not there, but he reported that Serif’s magical healing was permanent. In his stead was someone Leona hadn’t seen in a long time. “Brooke!”
“We have a mission,” Brooke said, giving Leona a hug.
“Oh, down to business, eh? What’s it been, decades? You must be a robot by now.”
“Pretty close,” Brooke said. “Not being able to travel through time makes my options rather limited.”
“Kind of lucky from some perspectives,” Serif noted.
“What do you have for us?” Leona asked, breaking an awkward silence that formed after the brief greetings.
Brooke referenced her phone. “We’re supposed to go to Stonehenge.”
Leona looked around. “We all are?”
“Me included, yes. That’s why The Delegator can’t just open a portal here. We’ll have to go the long way around.”
“Is this time sensitive?”
“Very. Like, we should go.”
Leona scratched her ear and exhaled. “We have a ride then?”
They did. Brooke led them to a 22nd century flying machine, far more advanced and efficient than anything she had been in before, except for that one time she was in an intergalactic spaceship for thousands of years. It took them less than an hour to reach the United Kingdom, which had dramatically changed in the time it had been since Leona had seen it. Cities were replaced by massive megastructures that stretched more than a kilometer into the air, freeing the majority of ground space to be replaced by wildlife. Pollution of all kinds had been removed. Life was incredibly more automated. Many people spent the majority of their lives in virtual systems, which had the power to be literally anything its inhabitants wanted. Stonehenge was still here, though, and looked exactly the same.
The Delegator was waiting for them, as he always was. Leona had come here on multiple occasions, as nearly every salmon did at some point, but this was the first time she went there manually. She almost felt like a tourist.
“Where do you pee?” Kivi randomly asked him. “And what do you eat? Do you eat? Were you born immortal, and are you immortal, or do you just jump through time, but really you’ve just been doing this for, like, two weeks, or something? Are you an alien?”
The Delegator cleared his throat. “I do not live here, I just work here. I have many homes throughout time that I access using the stones, each one tailored for my mood on any given day. I do not recall what made me immortal as I have suffered brain damage, but I am currently in year seven-hundred-thirteen. Otherwise, I’m a normal human.”
Leona was impressed that he answered her insensitive questions.
He continued, “thank you all for coming. I’ve gathered you here today because someone will be arriving shortly. I don’t know how she’s going to react to this, but she will have missed a hundred and eighty-nine years, so I’m not expecting gratitude. I was grumpy when I met her. She wasn’t supposed to be there, and she was acting like a brat. So I banished her.”
“What will we be able to do?” Serif asked.
“I like all of you. I’ve been keeping track of how you handled Arcadia, and Tribulation Island.”
“What’s an Arcadia?” Dar’cy asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” Leona comforted her.
The Delegator went on, “I figured a group of strong, independent women would be able to talk her down from her anger. I’m not going to be here when she arrives, but I’m hoping you can steer her towards a...productive outlet for her emotions. Besides, one of you knows her. Well, I mean, technically Paige was there when it happened, but I don’t think you saw anything.”
“You’re talking about Ulinthra,” Paige said.
“You were there?” Serif asked her.
“I was a child, on holiday with my parents at Stonehenge. Kallias Bran was there too, for the same reason. Anyway, Serkan and Ace—sorry, Horace showed up, trying to get answers from the Delegator here. They brought Ulinthra with them, but she he said, being obnoxious. Anyway, Serkan and Horace ended up stepping through the wrong archway when they were trying to leave, which made them skip about a year of time. I happened to be walking through it simultaneously, and it pulled me through. That’s how I’m here with you today. I never actually saw Ulinthra, though, since they were all invisible. They just told me about it later.”
“But you have time powers, don’t you?” Missy asked. “You were one of us either way. Not to diminish the trauma.”
“No, wasn’t a trauma. Best thing that ever happened to me was being adopted by those two amazing men. But to explain, I am spawn, like Leona. I didn’t have powers until Serkan inadvertently gave them to me.”
Missy was about to ask another question, but she was interrupted by a woman suddenly flying out of one of the archways so fast, she collided with one of the other stones. She screamed in pain. The Delegator was gone before he could answer for his abuse of her.
Ulinthra was holding onto her arm. She was wincing and breathing in through her teeth. “I think it’s broken.”
When Leona just touched her skin, Ulinthra yelped loudly. “Yeah, it’s almost certainly broken.” She paused. “Serif?”
“What, you want me to try and heal her?”
“The scientific method requires you be able to repeat the experiment for it to be valid,” Leona explained.
“She’s not an experiment,” Dar’cy pointed out.
“You know what I mean,” Leona said.
“What are you talking about?” Ulinthra asked, still in a great deal of pain.
“Serif, look at it this way, if it doesn’t work, the worst you’ve done is breathe on her. You can’t make it worse.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Serif,” Leona scolded.
She knelt down as well, and deliberately breathed on Ulinthra’s arm, releasing her magic puff of gray smoke. In seconds, her pain was gone, and it looked like the bones were starting to mend. Moments later, it was done, and Ulinthra was able to stand up, completely healed.
“Wow, that was amazing. What was that?”
“Her new power,” Missy said.
“Well, thank you,” she cordially said to Serif. Then she drew a frown on her own face. “Now, where’s that asshole?”
“The Delegator?” Leona guessed. “He’s gone. It’s 2160.”
“I’m in the future?” she questioned.
“Yes, look, I know this must be hard fo—”
“Whatever,” Ulinthra said, brushing that dirt of her shoulder. “Can’t be worse than my uneventful life back in Kansas City.”
“This seems easier than we thought it would be,” Serif said to Leona out of the corner of her mouth.
Leona wasn’t convinced. “We knew you in an alternate timeline.”
“Did you now?” Ulinthra used her best Scottish accent.
“Actually, I knew you in two different timelines,” Leona clarified.
“You’re being serious.” Ulinthra stated.
“You were a murderer. I tell you this, hoping that hearing it doesn’t give you any ideas about going back to those ways. Instead, I hope it shocks you into being more careful than the average human being has to be. We can help you; put you in touch with The Forger. He’ll make you a new identity, and give you a life in this time period. Or we can find a time traveler to send you somewhere else. You have to promise to be good, though. I mean this, Ulinthra. I’m going to be watching your every move, and if I get the hint that you’re up to something bad, you’re gonna be in trouble.”
“And what exactly will you do to me?” Ulinthra asked skeptically.
Leona hardened her expression. “I’ll kill you.”
This frightened Ulinthra, but she maintained her skepticism. “You wouldn’t. You couldn’t, you were just talking about how distasteful murder is to you.”
“I killed Hitler,” Leona explained. “You have the power—literally, a time power—to become just as bad as him, so if I have to take you out before that, I will. I swear to God I will. I’ll make that sacrifice on my soul.”
Ulinthra waited to answer, showing she was taking this seriously, or at least trying to convey that she wasn’t too eager to prove her worth. “I agree to your terms. I’ll be a good girl. Now, who’s this Forger you mentioned?”
They spent a good several hours working on Ulinthra’s new identity. First they had to summon the Forger; a task designed to mimic the dreadful boredom of the DMV. Then they had to wait for him to verify that he was even allowed to do this for her. More cautious than he was before—or perhaps less trusting than he could be with Darko’s request—he had to contact The Emissary to confirm with the powers that be that he was free to go ahead with the job. They escorted Ulinthra to an Irish town that refused to shut down and clear out for an environmentally-friendly arcological megastructure. They were a bit less advanced than much of the world, choosing to maintain what they believed to be healthier lifestyles, complete with actual jobs that weren’t being done by robots. There were similar movements across the globe—some even less advanced than developed countries were in Leona’s time—and though they were allowed to live like this, their impact on the global stage was minimal.
The gang of girls spent the rest of Leona and Serif’s day wandering the town as well, nostalgic for a simpler time. They woke up pretty early that morning, and were taking a stroll in the town square park when midnight central hit. Their friends were gone when they returned to the timeline, as was much of the town. The place was a disastrous mess, collapsed buildings and debris scattered around them. It looked like the devastation from an earthquake, but that couldn’t be. Advancements in science allowed experts to predict, and even prevent damage from, seismic activity. Something terrible had happened in the interim year. They had to figure out what, but for now, they just had to find a way out of here, and make contact with their friends. Hopefully they hadn’t been here when it happened.

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