Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: August 20, 2166

Last year, Missy explained that she was near death when Dar’cy suddenly appeared from the future, and brought her here to be healed by Serif. Leona argued that she had no recollection of this. When she returned to the timeline after that, everyone was pretty sure she was dead. If she had disappeared without them seeing, they wouldn’t have assumed she was dead, but would have guessed something like this had happened. Why would they have lied? Nerakali then had to explain that The Warrior showed up to blend everybody’s brain, claiming that it was better for the future if they could remember both timelines. Unfortunately, from the Warrior’s perspective, it had not been long since he acquired this power from Nerakali, so he didn’t quite know what he was doing. He accidentally erased Leona’s memory of the timeline where Missy was presumed alive, replacing it with the one where she died. He also apparently erased the blending event from Leona’s memories, then disappeared before he could fix any of it. Leona asked Nerakali, who had not yet experienced the loss of her powers, and her death, for help, but she refused. She didn’t act like she was being mean, but that she was doing Leona a favor. She said that there was no such thing as a blending mistake. If she doesn’t remember something, she’s not meant to.
Things seemed to be going pretty well when Leona and Serif returned to the timestream in 2166. Missy had repaired the atterberry pods, and made sure Leona’s filtration system was in good working order. She even tweaked a few things to make it more efficient and reliable. Leona was glad to have a professional engineer back on the ship. Though she would never modestly claim to not be as smart as she was, she was not an engineer. Her experience in science helped her a little, but this could only take her so far.
At the moment, most of the crew was in a virtual world of Nerakali’s creation, while Leona opted out, and Brooke was busy monitoring the ship’s system. They were sitting in the cockpit together, but in silence. They had nothing to talk about. That was the problem with being stuck on the same small space together. No one goes out and has experiences without the others, so there aren’t any more stories to tell. And even though Leona was usually not even here, interesting things didn’t really happen, except for the crises she had to help fix. Otherwise, it was pretty boring, so everybody kind of knew everything about each other. But then Leona realized there was something about Brooke she didn’t know. “You went into an atterberry pod when the micrometeoroid hit.”
“I did.”
“But you’re pristinely ungifted.”
“I am.”
“Those things work on time power. How were you affected by them.”
“With this.” She pulled a necklace out from under her shirt, and handed it to Leona.
“What is it?”
“Gross,” Brooke answered.
It did look a little weird. It was a circular piece of jewelry, with a metal backing, and a glass front. Inside of it was a dark, and frankly, ugly substance she couldn’t decipher. It didn’t have particularly pretty coloring, so it wasn’t great, as far as jewelry went. She held it close to her face to get a better look, but still didn’t know what it was.
“It’s my umbilical cord,” Brooke added.
“It is!” Leona asked. She wasn’t grossed out by it, but was surprised at the sentiment.
“I was born without the ability to experience nonlinear time. I can’t teleport, or travel back and forth. I can’t be slowed down, or sped up, or rippled. But my mother can, and while I was still inside of her womb, I needed to be able to as well.” She took back the necklace, and held it up. “This was the literal connection between me and her. It’s not just a symbol, it was vital in keeping me more like her until I was ready to venture out on my own. Without it, I would have died. When Glaston created the merge point between present-day island, and the past, my mother would have been able to enter safely. But when she did, without this cord, I would have stayed put...as a mass of cells, fallen to the sand, like a very graphic abortion.”
Leona didn’t say anything, but let Brooke have this moment.
“The Weaver made the pendant for me, but I don’t think it took a lot of work for her. I think the important part was keeping it preserved. What she mostly did to it was allow me to turn it on and off.”
“How do you turn it off?”
“It’s usually off. I turn it on when I choose, like when I needed the atterberry pod. I won’t tell you what it takes to activate it, though. You just ate.”
“Really?”
“I’m kidding. I just have to focus. I have to want it, and I can’t have any doubts.” She started putting it back around her neck. “Otherwise, it’s just a creepy new age hormone-inspired keepsake.”
Leona smiled. “Never underestimate the power of oxytocin.”
They sat in silence for another good long while.
Leona spoke again, “so you could go into one of Nerakali’s virtual worlds.”
“I can, yes, but I don’t like them. When you know where you are—and not being tricked, like you were—the world appears in very low resolution. Since you know it’s not real, it’s sort of...hazy. Darkened. It’s hard to see people’s faces. They’re not really actually worlds, ya know. Those images aren’t stored on an external server, not even Nerakali’s brain. She’s really just slowly giving you memories of things that never happened to you, while allowing you to recognize it as a fabrication.”
“She’s not as bad as she has been, but I still don’t want her on this ship.”
“Then kick her out.”
Leona laughed. “Yeah, sure, I’ll just transfer her to another vessel when we rendezvous at Starbase Sixty-Seven.”
Brooke shrugged. “You could blow her out the airlock.”
Leona laughed again, but stopped when she noticed Brooke wasn’t so much as smiling. “You’re serious. You think I should kill her?”
“She’s already dead, Leona. All you would be doing is sending her to her fate.”
“Her fate is in the past.”
“Yeah, and she would go there, and she would be angry at you for it, which is what we need to preserve the timeline. If she goes to face her death, but you’ve become friends since then, how much of the timeline will change?”
“I’m more worried about how much I’ll change by sending someone to death, good or bad.”
She shrugged again. “Like I said, it’s already happened.”
“By that logic, we’re all already dead. Well, maybe not you and Paige, since you’re posthumans, but I certainly am. Just because it hasn’t happened to me yet—or even because no one here has seen my death yet—doesn’t mean it’s any more in the future than Nerakali’s death. When time travel is involved, everything has already happened, hasn’t happened yet, and is happening right now.”
“I’m just sayin’...”
“I hope that’s all you’re doing...saying.”
“Pshaw,” Brooke said. “She’s your problem, not mine.”
“She’s everybody’s problem,” Leona argued. “Her death is fixed, she can’t stop it. But she can kill everyone who was involved—or people who are friends with those involved—without creating a temporal paradox. Again, time travel changes the rules. I’m scared every day that Serif and I will come back, and you’ll all be dead. And you can die, Brooke. You’re still mostly organic.”
“I’m a pretty good actor.” True to form, Nerakali turned out to be listening to them at the entrance, having been there for however long.
“What?” Leona asked.
“I can act. I can pretend I’m still mad at you. When I go back to 2107, I can pretend I’m trying to hurt you.”
“That’s not what we’re talking about,” Leona said. “We’re worried—”
She’s worried,” Brooke interrupted to clarify.
I’m worried,” Leona went on, “about what you’ll do why you’re here.”
“I know,” Nerakali said, “which is why I’m leaving.”
“Why would you do that?”
“You can’t trust me, and you’re making me feel worse. I’d rather just die and get it over with.”
“You’re out of your mind if you think you can willfully walk towards your own death when you have an infinite amount of time before you actually have to be there.”
“We’ve already established that I am.”
“Am what?”
“Out of my mind. You think this is easy? It may be a little fun, but seeing other people’s memories is pretty taxing. I know everyone at their worst, even when they can’t remember it themselves. If you assumed my powers made me crazy, you would be completely correct. No single brain should have to go through what I’ve been through. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. There’s a reason you don’t hear of the Warrior using my powers very often. He’s got the right idea.”
“So, you’re ready to die?” Brooke asked.
“I’m ready for peace.”
Leona closed her eyes and sighed. “The idea of peace in the afterlife came from a peoples whose lives are defined by a span of linear time. If I weren’t an atheist, discovering time travel would cause me to doubt my religion. I can’t reconcile the possibility of heaven when you can be born in one year, and die billions of years before it, and I don’t know if any superior being could either.”
Nerakali smiled at her, almost warmly. “That’s what you never understood about Mateo. It’s all about faith.” She coolly walked out of the room.
“Who the hell is Mateo?” Leona asked.
Brooke shrugged yet again.
Considering the possibility that Nerakali might have been serious about marching towards her death, they started trying to leave the cockpit. Brooke first had to make sure the ship would be able to continue on present course on its own.
They could hear Paige barking orders down the hall. “Preston, get out of there. Preston, it’s too dangerous. There are protocol for entering that room. You need magboots, and a tether.” She was on the safe side of the airlock while Nerakali was making sure the cargo being stored in the airlock was secure. Serif and Dar’cy were there too.
Missy came up behind Leona and Brooke. “What’s goin’ on?”
“She’s about to kill herself,” Leona said.
Paige spun around. “What? Why would she do that?”
“She think it’s what I want,” Leona answered.
“Do you?”
Leona said nothing.
Paige changed her attention. “Missy, you need to make sure that outer hatch never opens.”
“Oh, that’ll be easy,” Missy said. But as she was reaching for the control panel, someone else’s hand held her back. It was Nerakali. Another Nerakali. “Are you from the future?”
“I’m a quantum duplication,” Alt!Nerakali said. “I’m from a temporary alternate reality. My stay here is also temporary. I’m just here to stop you from stopping her. She’s made her decision. The powers that be found a way to keep her on the ship, but the Hundemarke is more powerful than that. This is her only escape.”
“She opens that hatch,” Missy began, “we change course.”
“We have faith you’ll figure it out.”
Paige removed Dar’cy sidearm from her hip and pointed it at Alt!Nerakali. “Open the interior hatch. Now.”
“That’s like threatening to dump a bucket of water on a swimmer. As soon as she disappears, so do I.”
“I’m ready,” the Nerakali in the airlock said.
“You have a duty to The Warren,” Paige said with authority, “and to this crew.”
“I’m fulfilling my duties.”
“Any final words?” Alt!Nerakali asked.
“Say them for me,” Nerakali requested.
The alarm went off, and the outer hatch prepared to open. Nerakali closed her eyes, turned her chin to the side, and lifted her arms, like Jesus. She disappeared just before the hatch opened.

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