Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: August 25, 2171

What Leona and Serif learned during their research was that this world was first visited by a boy named Escher Bradley in 1990. Over the years, others arrived, until it all came to a head in 2016, when an entire town was sucked into a portal. Springfield, Kansas was actually one of the largest cities in the state at one point, and had been systematically pulled into said portal, bringing with it no survivors, and while erasing everyone’s memories of it. Those who survived that final fall battled time monsters, and opposing human forces, starting as a despotocracy, but eventually developing a somewhat stable society. They soon found themselves led by a group of choosers they deemed the source mages, who were each capable of turning others into mages, making this planet likely the highest concentration of chosen ones in the universe.
Later on, the Mage Protectorate fell too, as the monsters were nearly wiped out in one final war. The destruction this war caused was blamed on a woman, which led to a twisted Republic designed to be formally misogynistic, retroactively termed the phallocracy. But this too fell, and—after a transitional period with a provisional government, and a brief salmon battalion military state—was replaced with the Democratic Republic, which better resembled most nationstates on Earth in the mid-21st century.
People they either knew personally, or had one-degree personal connections with, contributed significantly to the changes this world experienced over the decades. Hokusai, for instance, was responsible for preventing Durus from colliding with Earth. This close call was what cased Saga to be sprung up onto the world, and eventually meet Andromeda, who was responsible for using her time powers to literally build the cities of today. Andromeda recently gave birth and died, which was why her widow, Saga chose to hide from the world. For the last year, while Leona and Serif were gone, the rest of the crew of The Warren spent their days trying to look for her, completely unsuccessfully. Time was running out too. If they didn’t leave for Earth soon, they wouldn’t get back by the time the new Savior turned thirteen, and if that happened, well...what were the consequences of that? If this was so important, how come the powers that be let Saga go to Durus in the first place? Or was that unavoidable? Was her daughter the Savior only because she was born here, under these circumstances, with Andromeda as her carrier? Even so, the rule was that Étude couldn’t teleport beyond the confines of the planet she happened to be on, but Andromeda possessed no such limitation. Why was she not simply transported before giving birth? Maybe then, she would still be alive.
“Do you have any leads?” Leona asked.
“We don’t,” Dar’cy answered. “And we never did. We haven’t been trying to figure out where she would go, because her friends were already doing that before we arrived. We’ve really just been traveling to other cities, literally looking for a mother and her infant daughter. We knew we would have the whole year. It’s not like there are billions of people here. Someone should have seen something, and I believe we have collectively spoken with nearly everyone in the world...except for the only person who matters.”
“What about her friend, Xearea’s brother, Camden Voss?”
“He’s still in a coma.”
“Wow—” Leona said, realizing the irony, but stopping herself when she started thinking it wasn’t ironic at all, but completely planned. “Nerakali. She could have communicated with Camden.”
“Oh, that’s probably right. And you killed her.”
“I did not.”
Dar’cy was loudly silent.
“Okay, maybe I did.” She didn’t open the airlock, but she was the reason Nerakali chose to jumpstart her own fate. “Well, maybe we can bring her back. Is there an extraction mirror here? Or an extractor? Or we could contact The Warrior.”
“One does not...contact the Warrior,” Dar’cy disagreed. “One simply hopes the Warrior does not find one.”
Leona sighed. “You’ve checked everywhere? Every city, really?”
“Every street in every city.”
“What about the non-cities? I was reading about the thicket, which covers the majority of the globe.”
“We thought about that. Hokusai got her ship airborne again, and has been using that to scan for signs of life. She did find a few people, but none of them was Saga; just hermits who don’t want to be part of society.”
“You’ve checked the whole world...in this dimension.”
Dar’cy smiled knowingly. “We thought of that too. We looked in another dimension called Eboritur that the source mages used to live in.”
“No other dimensions, though?”
“There aren’t any that we know of.”
“What about ones we don’t know of? Who here can create other dimensions?”
“A few people, probably. We don’t have that data.”
“Then let’s get it. What would be the easiest point of access to the government’s internal network?”
“You mean, besides Camden’s mind?”
“That’s right, that’s perfect. He still has that thing in his head, right?”
“It’s probably the only thing keeping him alive.”
“Missy and I could interface with it,” Leona hoped.
“Yeah, and maybe kill him in the process,” Dar’cy warned.
“I have confidence in our abilities.”
“I doubt Camden shares your faith.”
“Dar’cy, we have a job to do. Now, you’ve been leading this charge for the last year, using the same people. It’s time you get some fresh perspective. Isn’t that why we’re talking here right now?”
Dar’cy was reluctant, but had to concede that they needed some way of finding her, and nothing so far had worked. Serif had been wearing the same clothes for the last several days since she hadn’t packed enough, so Loa and Brooke were taking her shopping. Leona and Missy went to the long-term care ward of the hospital, along with Dar’cy and Paige. They had to examine the cybernetic technology that had been merged with Camden’s brain, so they could figure out how to safely interface with it. Then they had to go back to Missy’s lab on the ship to build a device that could do such a thing. A few hours later, they took the device to back to the hospital, and plugged it into a human being. At first, it didn’t seem to have a good connection, but then the database started populating, and they had what they needed. A doctor named Pereira was nearby to make sure this wasn’t doing Camden any harm.
The database wasn’t organized in any comprehensible way. The original one was probably tagged, categorized, and searchable, but when it was downloaded into Camden’s brain, the information seemed to have rearranged itself into an association matrix. Perhaps both fortunately and unfortunately, this was not integrated into the rest of his cognitive system. This was presumably the reason he fell into a coma, because it was like his head now housed two separate consciousnesses—which it wasn’t designed for that—but it would also allow them to extract the information back to a computer, and free his mind of it. Paige and Dr. Pereira weren’t exactly on board with this procedure, but admitted they hadn’t come up with any better solution. Missy quickly wrote a compression program from scratch, and started the process. A few minutes later, the database was out, and Camden was actually showing signs of improvement.
“I am bound by my oath to protect my patients,” Pereira said. “To that end, I don’t think I can disclose the fact that you are now carrying the last unaccounted for copy of a database that was stolen from the government. As soon as he wakes up, though, I don’t believe my obligation to his mind will any longer extend to that...annex you have. I’ll be forced to report that the data was safely removed, so if you want something off of it, you better get it now.”
“Feel free to do whatever you want, whenever you want,” Paige said, taking the tablet from Leona’s hands. “I’ll only need a few moments.”
“What if what happened to him happens to you?” Leona asked out of worry.
Paige laughed as she was jacking the tablet into an interface port in the back of her neck. “Don’t hold your breath.” Her eyelids fluttered as she was assimilating the database into her own neural network. “Four candidates.”
“Four?”
“There are actually dozens, but many of them of them are already dead. Many more have not yet been born. Wow, this thing is extensive. It goes all the way to the year...never mind. Only four people are alive today, and older than fifteen.”
“What about younger than fifteen?”
Dar’cy shook her head. “Saga wouldn’t exploit the powers of a child. She’s getting help from an adult.”
Paige clicked her jaw, making it look like she was closing off her connection to the new information. “That is, if she’s getting help from anyone. Pocket dimension or no, she could have travelled to the past or future, or hell, even another planet, and this database wouldn’t tell us.”
“We’ll split up,” Dar’cy said. “Each pair will question one of the candidates. We need to regroup first, though, so everybody knows each other’s most recent telemagnet codes.”
Leona and Serif were assigned to speak with a man living in a city called Jaydecaster. Yes, he could create pocket dimensions, but there was absolutely no way Saga and her daughter would be in one of them. She was clear in a note written to her friends that she was leaving by her own free will. Mandis Romagna could only generate fear dimensions. It read the mind of anyone who entered it, and create their deepest fears to torment them. Theoretically these could be used as prisons, or tools of torture. Mandis, however, chose to pursue a life as a mental professional. He regulated the dimensions to help people face, and ultimately rise above, their fears. He was quite accommodating and understanding of Leona and Serif’s needs, and even offered them a free session in one of his dimensions, but he couldn’t help them. Just as they were leaving, Brooke and Hokusai announced to the group chat that they had finally found the woman they were looking for.
They activated their telemagnet devices, and teleported to the rest of the group. Annora Ubiña could also create dimensions, but these were more traditional, and limited in scope.
Dar’cy was already holding Annora’s arms behind her back, which she called a necessary measure. “You’re going to take us to Saga’s dimension, and only her dimension. If I so much as suspect that yours are as inescapable as the last guy’s, you and I are gonna have words.” She pulled Annora’s arms higher when she didn’t respond.
“Dar’cy!” Paige rebuked.
“Ow, I’ll do it!” Annora cried. “You don’t have to hurt me! I need my arms, though.”
Dar’cy held firm.
“Okay, I don’t need my arms. Goddammit.” She looked up, and formed a bubble around them. When the seams were fully smoothed out, they were all the way into the other dimension, in front of a nice little home.
Hokusai knocked on the door impatiently. They could hear voices on the other side, “...I’ll get it, since we don’t know who it is.”
Some other woman opened the door, but they could see Saga behind her, nursing her daughter. “Let her go!” Saga screamed.
“Whatever,” Dar’cy answered, doing what she was asked. “It’s not like I need her anymore. We finally found you...after a year!”
Paige stepped forward, composed. “We’re here to take you back to Earth.”
Saga had this look on her face that unambiguously told them, hell no.

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