Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: August 21, 2167

The crew was in a depressive funk when the two of them returned to the timestream a year after Nerakali’s death. None of them particularly liked her—though Dar’cy did a little, because she didn’t have any history of hostility with her—but they were apparently right about the necessity of her virtual worlds. At least, the problems losing the worlds would cause was a self-fulfilling prophecy. They were going a little stir crazy being trapped in a tin can with hardly anything to do. The database was loaded with some mindless video games, but they quickly got old. There were some books and movies, but not all of it was good, and what was good, they had already watched or read over the last five years.
Nothing had gone wrong with the ship in the meantime. It was on course, and on schedule; Leona’s water filtration system was working perfectly; and Missy’s atterberry pods were functional, though they hesitated to use them. It took so much effort to convince The Emissary to allow the pods as backup in the first place. Though this was never stated explicitly by the powers that be, they had the distinct impression that the pods were not to be used just to pass the time quickly. In lieu of this, the organic humans spent an unreasonable amount of time sleeping, or just lying in bed with their eyes either opened, or closed. Brooke and Paige, the not entirely organic beings, did have a limited ability to go into a sort of power-saving mode that tempered the dullness of this life. They could not completely shut down, but it was a vital extension of a software feature used for regulating their conceptualization of the passage of time. At some point in the advancement of transhumanistic technology, developers recognized how horrifically tedious life would be when an individual with enhanced neural processing power perceived seconds as centuries. Thus, the temporal attenuator. Without it, people kill themselves purely out of boredom.
Right now, those two were in an especially deep hibernation, while Missy was performing more tests on Serif’s healing abilities. Dar’cy was the only one free to talk, and it looked like she desperately needed it. “I think it’s punishment for us letting Nerakali disappear to her death,” she said, almost completely unprompted.
“What is?” Leona asked, worried they had been in the middle of a conversation, and she just hadn’t been paying attention.
“My powers,” Dar’cy added. “I’ve not been able to use them all year. If Nerakali were still around, I wouldn’t need them anyway, but now they’re gone completely. I can’t even jump five minutes away.”
“Yeah, your father experienced the same thing on Tribulation Island. But that was Arcadia’s doing.”
“How did he get through it?”
“You mean, how did he get his powers back, or how did he handle life without them?”
“The latter.” She was tearing pieces of skin off her lips with her teeth.
“Well, life on the island was a lot more interesting, I think. They did have some arbitrary amenities, but they also had a lot of work to do. Hunting, fishing, repairing the shelters. Then again, I think he spent a lot his life up to that point using his powers, more than I imagine you have. I suspected too that somebody blended his brain with alternate versions of himself, so he was probably rather accustomed to having them. You know, I guess I don’t know how he managed to not go crazy. Eventually, he met your mother, though, so I’m sure that helped.”
“So, I should find a girlfriend?” Dar’cy gathered.
Leona looked around the room they were sitting in, which wasn’t any less empty than any of the other rooms. She and Serif were now staying in Nerakali’s quarters, since she no longer had use for them. “Well, your options are fairly limited.”
“You and Serif got any openings?”
They laughed for as long as they could, glad for a joke that took up the better part of twenty seconds of their long journey to Durus. But also Leona had a fleeting thought that they did indeed have an opening, like there really was meant to be a third person in the relationship.
“You just need to get creative. How about a play?” Leona suggested.
“Which play?” Dar’cy asked.
“Doesn’t really matter. On The Next Generation, crew members would rehearse and perform plays for each other. The characters weren’t generally actors, but they often filled their time in between missions with the performances. Sometimes they were even originals, written by one of them. They also played instruments, and put on concerts. That would take even more time, if you don’t already play.”
Dar’cy thought this over. “The only play I know that’s in the database is Waiting for Godot. I don’t know anything about it, but I guess we could do that.”
“Probably not that one.” It would make them even more depressed about sitting around and doing nothing.
“There’s also a musical, Bridgedoom, or something?”
“Brigadoon?” Leona assumed. “Yeah, maybe not that one either.” That hit a little too close to home when it came to Leona and Serif’s real lives. “I’m sure you’ll find something in there, though. Ask the others for guidance, since they’ve spent more time on Earth, and know what would be in the library. You could perform it for Serif and me when we get back. Maybe you’ll even find something they created after our first time jump.”
“Yeah, that might be fun.” She didn’t look super convinced. She planted her face into Leona’s pillow. “Or I could just go back to sleep.”
Leona affectionately pulled her back to a sitting position. “No, don’t do that. Eight hours a night. Maybe nine. No more.”
“What is night? What is night when there is no day?”
“Do you hear that?”
Leona did think she could hear something as well.
“It’s a metal blade cutting into something else metal. Or, soldering? Or a laser etching into something? What is that?”
It grew louder, and Dar’cy’s descriptions were pretty good. Then a light began forming on the floor. They jumped up on the bed, as if it were a mouse, and as if they were afraid of mice. The light started as a pinpoint, but grew larger and larger, as the sound intensified.
“Is someone taking apart our ship?” Dar’cy asked. “Are we being boarded?”
“The floor just leads to the deck below us,” Leona explained. “If we’re being boarded, they’re already in.”
The light continued, until it was large enough to reveal a portal, out from which came to hands than pulled a woman into the room. She struggled to get her feet all the way through. “Verdammt! Scheisse!”
Leona helped her the rest of the way through, while Dar’cy became combat ready.
The woman looked around and got her psychological bearings, then she took out the Compass of Disturbance, and tried to get her literal bearings. “Wo bin ich?”
“What did she say?” Dar’cy asked, still ready for a fight, even though the intruder looked like she was over sixty years old.
“I don’t know,” Leona said.
“Don’t you speak Russian?”
“That’s German, and no, I don’t speak either of them.”
“Obviously you do, because you know which language it is.”
“That’s not how that works.” Still. Leona tried to remember what few things she picked up in college. “Uhh....dein name?”
“Ida,” she answered. “My name is Ida Reyer.”
“You do speak English,” Dar’cy pointed out, suspicious of her.
“Yeah, sorry,” Ida responded, still in a German accent. “It’s not my first language, though. I still don’t think in it.”
“Ida Reyer?” Leona echoed. “I feel like I’ve heard that name before.”
“I got a Wikipedia blurb,” Ida said, only halfway proud of herself. She shook their hands. “I’m an explorer. From Austria.”
“You have Juan’s compass.”
“No,” Ida said. “Juan has my compass. I’ve yet to go back in time and leave it for him to find. The Weaver bequested it to me originally.”
“How far out of your time period have you gone?” Dar’cy questioned. “This is a space vessel.”
Ida nodded and inspected the bulkhead. “Yeah, it’s okay. Not the best I’ve seen. The first thing I did was go hundreds of thousands of years in the future, to a planet of two kinds of aliens called the Eloi, and the Morlocks. They themselves didn’t have any working ships, but I came across an ancient crash site or two while I was there.”
“The Eloi and the Morlocks?” Leona asked, wide-eyed.
Dar’cy had no reaction.
“Yeah,” Ida laughed. “My friend, Helena bastardized that story so the 19th century dum-dums could understand it better. Don’t worry, she gave me some of the proceeds from the book.”
That was a lot to unpack.
Ida went on, “anyway, you’re Leona, right? Which means I’m here on time. Looks like we have about of year to adjust heading just enough to avoid the cataclysm.”
“What cataclysm?”
“The 2167 gravity well.”
“It is 2167,” Dar’cy said.
It took a second for this to register with Ida. “Wait, what, are you serious?”
“Well, relatively serious.”
“Ah, crap, I’m late. She ran out of the room. “Shut off the engines! Shut ‘em off now! Plan B!”
“Computer,” Leona ordered, running out after her. “Awaken Brooke.” She ran into the cockpit to find Ida hastily tapping and swiping at the computer interfaces.
Brooke comes out of her standby and tried to get her off of her precious machines. “Hell you doin’?”
“Brooke, we have to stop right now.”
“What do you mean, we have to stop? You can’t just stop a vessel traveling at a hundred-forty-seven million miles per hour.”
“We don’t need to stop the ship, just attitude control and thrusters. And mostly everything else.”
“What are you talking about?” Brooke protested. “Who are you?”
“A really good friend of yours. I’m sorry you’ve not yet been introduced to me, but I implore you to trust me. If we don’t take systems offline right now, the sheer will tear the hull apart. We have to let The Warren fall into the well without resistance. It’s the only way we’ll break free of it.”
“Are you crazy, we’ve got a schedule to keep.” The computer had woken Paige up as well.
“You won’t be able to keep it. Better late than dead.”
“Miss Matic, who is this woman?” Paige asked.
“A famous explorer. She’s using the Compass of Disturbance.”
“Yes, thanks for reminding me,” Ida said, taking the compass out, and placing it on the interface table. Circles emanated from where the compass was placed, along with tangential and radial lines, the bridges connecting information between the two devices. Ida seemed to be able to read the data. “Okay, so we still have time, but we have to do it now.”
“Captain,” Brooke asked.
“I’m not doing it,” Paige said. “I don’t know who the hell you are, but I’m not compromising the safety of this crew, or the importance of the mission, for you.”
“Don’t you see,” Ida said, “that’s exactly what you’re doing. There’s a tower out there that Saga’s wife, Andromeda created. A choosing one used his power to levitate it off the ground, and away from the planet, but it’s been gathering gravitational energy ever since.”
Paige wasn’t relenting.
Ida turned her face to stone. “Warren, override operations, authorization two-one-six-seven-plaintiff-temple-bachelor.”
“Transfer complete,” the computer responded.
“What did you just do?” Paige argued.
Ida ignored her. “Warren, shut down all operations besides life support, and minimal internal lighting.”
“No!” Paige screamed, but it was useless.
The lights dimmed, and the engines cycled down. With the gravdisk below them decelerating, they were lifted from the floor, and started floating around aimlessly. Not used to life without some level of gravity, Leona found herself hitting her head against the wall. And then nothing.

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