Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: August 15, 2161

Things were always a little different every time Leona and Serif returned to the timestream after having missed an entire interim year. Children looked much older, spring cleaning led to rearranged households, and small shops were torn down to make room for something newer. That just came with the territory for people who lived like this, but never had they experienced such a dramatic shift. It was horrifying to at one second be looking at a perfectly normal town, and the next at that town having been leveled. Not a single building remained standing after whatever had come through was done with its job. If Leona had to guess, she would say this was the work of one of the worst earthquakes in history.
It must have happened recently, but not too recently, because nothing was left smoldering. One of the dangers with an earthquake is that it starts fires that can cause residual damage for days, maybe even weeks. As the two of them were carefully crawling over the debris, they noticed this fire damage, but in its aftermath stage. Why, after all this time, the technologically superadvanced people of the day had not cleaned this up yet? Was it worse than they could see now? How many other towns had been affected? Once near the edge of the former town, they squinted in the distance, and could see the megastructure still standing strong, having been designed to withstand the worst of the worst, so that was something. Though that didn’t explain why they had not yet raced over here and taken care of this.
“Now that we’re out, we need to find a way to communicate with our people,” Leona said.
“Agreed,” Serif replied. “I suppose our only hope is to walk all the way to the arcology.”
Just then, they heard a kind of cackling sound. Or clicking. They weren’t quite sure, but they looked around to find a blur zipping behind piles of rubble. Whatever it was, it was stalking them. They tried to run away, but it continued to follow them. It knocked Leona down to her stomach, but then flipped her over. On top of her was a creature she hadn’t seen before, and could not exist. It had skinny arms and legs, and a formicated face, with curved horns on the back of its neck. It kept disappearing and reappearing. Leona turned her head to the side to see it hunched over Serif as well. It was dashing between them, never staying too long on top of one, so it could dash back to the other at incredible speed. And it was definitely cackling, in a way that made it appear to have some kind of sentience. Leona didn’t know what it was planning on doing, or why it was waiting to do it, but they fortunately never had a chance to find out. Something reached down and pulled the creature off of her. Dar’cy was there, wielding a bo staff. The beast maintained its concentration on her, knowing her to be the greatest threat. They battled it out for a good few minutes, the beast using its superspeed to try and throw Dar’cy off guard, but Dar’cy was always ready for it. Finally, she managed to knock it to the ground where she bombarded it with blow after blow before taking a knife from a sheath, and slitting its throat.
“What in the world was that!” Serif cried scrambling to her feet.
“A speedstriker,” Dar’cy answered. She started cleaning the blood from her blade on the grass. “Sorry I didn’t get here sooner. I miscalculated the ingress thread. I’m still not as good at object threading as my father is.”
“That’s just fine,” Leona said. “We’re more worried about what happened here, and where that thing came from.”
“Was he some kind of genetically engineered transgenic supersoldier gone wrong?” Serif imagined.
Dar’cy laughed. “No, it’s from another world; one that passed into our solar system nearly three months ago. It got so close to Earth and Mars that it caused massive quakes on all three worlds. As it passed over, some Earthans were pulled onto it—at least, so we believe, since they’re missing—and some Durune were dropped here, including the speedstrikers. We think they came on purpose, though, since they’re fast enough to control where they are.”
“That’s impossible,” Leona said. “For an object to be large enough to cause gravitational disturbances, we would have to see it coming...years in advance.”
“It’s...” Dar’cy stammered. “A weird planet; full of temporal anomalies. There was apparently once a town called Springfield, Kansas that was sucked into a giant portal many years ago. Some of the residents survived and built a civilization there, and at some point, accidentally sent their planet flying towards ours, much faster than normal physics allows. Actually, from what I gather, Durus would have eventually collided with Earth anyway, but someone made it happen faster, and someone ultimately prevented it.”
“So the town...” Leona began.
“Is one of many,” Dar’cy finished. “It tore apart anything on this hemisphere that wasn’t built to survive an apocalypse. We’re lucky it didn’t happen a century ago, or the human race would probably be nearing extinction levels.”
“Where’s everybody else? Are they okay? Were they here when it happened?”
“We did not stay here,” Dar’cy held back a giggle. “It’s nice and all, but nothing interesting happened in towns like this, ya know...until the last thing that ever happened to them. We didn’t really go our separate ways, but we did have our own lives, keeping in touch only as possible. Paige has been in charge of a small group of present-day shapers, which is weird because you generally think of them as living in the past, but for them, this is the past. Brooke is a ferry pilot between Earth and Mars, but is considering transferring to the Ceres route. Missy was an engineer where she comes from, but that was a long time ago, so she’s studying to catch up on today’s technology. And me? I’ve just been meditating and practicing. I don’t even thread objects that much. I’m not only not as good as my father, but I also don’t have the same passion for it. What have you two been up to?” she joked.
“Living on the island,” Serif started, “I forgot what it was like to come back to such dramatic changes. Back then, the biggest thing to happen in the year was Lita finding a new edible plant, or Aura finishing a quilt.”
“I’m sure this is quite daunting, and disheartening,” Dar’cy said, nodding. “I wish there was something I could do.”
“It’s fine,” Serif promised. “These is our lives now.”
“Well, we should probably get going,” Dar’cy said. “It’s taken some time for the Earthans to figure out what they’re going to do about the speedstriker problem, but I believe they’re ready to take this all away.”
They boarded an aircraft and flew away from Ireland to return to Kansas City for the first time in two decades/three weeks. It looked about the same as it had back then, but much greener. The only major man made structure in the area was another arcology; one of the largest in the world, according to Dar’cy. They met Missy for lunch at her place, along with her roommate, Curtis, one of the teleporters from Leona’s tribulations in the other timeline. They served a dish of crickets, which was the first and last time Leona would ever eat that. Paige showed up later, and couldn’t stay long. She couldn’t talk about what her shaper team was doing, because it gave away too much about the future, which was ridiculous, because there were plenty of ways to find out what the future held.
Though they did not know Missy very well, and Curtis even less, they were invited to stay with them the night, in a room usually used for exercise. “One night a year to accommodate two new friends is not anywhere close to being an inconvenience,” Missy said about it. “Consider this your home, from now unto eternity.”
Leona and Serif lay in bed next to each other as midnight approached, unable to sleep, even under all this modern comfort. “You’re still a wake.”
Serif just grunted.
“Are you as worried as I am?” Leona asked.
“Every time we get comfortable and confident, something comes in to rob us of our delusion.”
“That’s true.”
“We took care of Reaver, then he came back as our friend, Horace. The Cleanser died, then he returned briefly as regular ol’ immortal, Zeferino. But he’s all dead now. For his death, his sister, Nerakali came after us. She’s dead too, and never came back. But because of time travel, she could show up at any point. Now you tell me they had a sister named Arcadia who tortured us for weeks, but she was torn out of time, probably permanent, but hell I know?”
“Decent summary of our lives.”
“You mean to ask me what my point is?”
“I know what you’re point is. Do the Prestons have some other sibling we never knew about? Is some fourth version of Horace Reaver gonna turn out to be the most evilest of them all? Is there some new danger lurking in the shadows? Are we rapidly approaching a time period of great strife and death, that we have to somehow defeat? What’s this Durus place, and are the speedstrikers the worst it has to offer, or are they just the tip of the iceberg?”
“Decent summary of my point.” They held the silence for a good long while. Serif continued, “aren’t you going to assure me that everything’s gonna be okay?”
“Why would I lie?”
“You wouldn’t.”
They fell asleep before midnight hit, and woke up with everything as it was before. Missy and Curtis were waiting for them in the living room when they came out. They reported no problems over the course of the interim year. Dar’cy arrived during breakfast with similar unexceptional news. A couple of hours later, though, a much older Xearea Voss teleported in.
She let them hug her real quick before getting down to business. “I’m here to remind you that I am not going to live forever. The powers that be have discovered where the next, and last ever, Savior will be born.”
“Where?” Leona asked.
“And what does that have to do with us?” Serif furthered.
“You are being tasked with retrieving the young one from her homeworld,” Xearea said, “Durus.”

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