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.

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