Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Microstory 1217: Brian Hiddy

Brian Hiddy was a regular human. He didn’t have any time powers, and he didn’t have any salmon of choosers as friends. He was close with a classmate named Lincoln in a different reality, but the former forged a new path in the new timeline, so Brian never got a chance to know him that well. There are some that say these alternate timelines can impact each other in greater ways than what the time travelers who created them have done. Certain people are known to find each other again, or develop particular skills, even when enough about history has changed to make it unlikely. It’s unclear whether Brian picked up on the idea that there was something missing in his life; that an alternate version of him once helped Lincoln through his temporal troubles. Maybe destiny wanted him part of the world of time travelers, regardless of what role he was playing. Or maybe it’s just a big coincidence. Either way, he found his way into that world on his own. Brian always wanted to be part of something big. He knew that there must be some secret about the universe that few people were aware of. He didn’t see anything weird, or get tipped off in any way. He just sought out the truth. And he found it. He didn’t know exactly what he should be looking for; signs of a hitherto unverified macroorganism roaming the lands of South Los Angeles, aliens in the outfield, werewolves running a blood bank. He looked into nearly everything. He started out by collecting all the articles about absurd claims he could find, and searching for patterns. That didn’t really turn up much, ‘cause people be crazy. He tried to engage in conspiracy theory chat rooms, but it was just as difficult to sift through the crazy, and find the legitimate stories, if they even existed at all. He decided to go old school, spending a lot of time in the library, reading up on all the lore he could find, trying to see if anything stood out. One interesting fact about vampires he noticed was that multiple disparate ancient cultures had made eerily similar claims, suggesting that the species was real, pervasive, and consistent. He had a hard time tracing the mythology together, both to see if the stories had simply been passed from one culture to the next, or to see if they were consistent enough to be real. Again, this labor yielded no fruit. He was about to give up when he came up with another idea. He made himself go crazy.

He made a lot of noise; in public, like on the news when a field reporter was trying to talk about a newly laid pavers at the community college, or the weather. He was spouting all sorts of nonsense about ghosts, interdimensional invaders, and people from the future. That last one got him noticed. People came to his house, asking what he knew, and how he knew it. He had taken some acting classes, especially ones geared towards improvisation, so he did a pretty good job of keeping the lie going, and making it seem like he wasn’t bluffing, which he was. Well, they eventually figured him out, but not before he pressed the little red button on his old phone, which he had set up on the bookcase during the interview. He recorded their whole meeting, and the next day, was able to watch them erase his memories. This was it; his one opportunity. He took a screenshot of the mysterious people, and started hunting for them. He reached out to everyone he knew, trying to get in touch with law enforcement, or the NSA, or anyone with resources. This was how he found a small group of people who had interacted with temporal manipulators, one of which was an agent in the FBI. One of the others had also once seen the people from the screenshot, and together, they figured it all out. Their investigations caused a lot of problems for them, and they wouldn’t end up agreeing with each other, or staying together. Brian sort of broke off on his own, and decided that the best use of his time was to search for people like him. He continued to look through tabloids and conspiracy boards, for anyone claiming to have seen something they couldn’t explain. Once he found someone who fit the description, he would reach out to them, and help them in any way he could, even if that meant stopping them from exposing this truth to others.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Microstory 1216: Ladonna Buhle

Ladonna Buhle was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on October 21, 1981. Her parents were not in a financial position to get her help when she started talking about seeing angels floating in the air all over the place. They couldn’t stop her from claiming that these things were real, but with any luck, they could stop her from telling everyone in town about them. As it turned out, her ability was similar to Vidar Wolfe’s. She could detect temporal anomalies, which included objects with unusual properties, and also people with powers of their own, or salmon patterns. She couldn’t inherently take advantage of these things, but that didn’t mean they weren’t useful to her. She was strong and formidable, and crossing her was generally a bad idea, especially not when she was grown, and figured out the truth about what she was seeing. She kept in touch with her family as best she could, but like so many others, she pretty much shed her old life, and started traveling the world. Ladonna could go to any time and place of her choosing, as long as she found the right anomaly to cross through, but she chose to stay in the present day. She wasn’t worried about the act of altering the past itself, but she didn’t like the idea of there being multiple versions of her with the potential to interact with each other. It shook her religious core, and caused her existential anxiety. So she essentially became a teleporter, except she could only go to and from certain places. Anomalies were difficult to use properly, but with enough time and patience, she could figure anything out. But her power wasn’t what made her special. Others could detect—or even utilize—natural spacetime anomalies, and temporal objects. Her greatest contribution came because she studied them, and understood how they worked on a fundamental level. She created the first map of nonlinear spacetime, and it was her research that became the foundation for The Weaver’s invention of the Compass of Disturbance. Like Ladonna, the compass could detect and access anomalies, among other things, but any human could operate it. She wasn’t sure how she felt about this development. Theoretically, it was a dangerous thing to exist, but the only people who ever used it proved themselves to be noble and trustworthy, so she made her peace with the consequences of her choices. After some years of travel, it started to get a little dull for her. Sure, there were lots of places she hadn’t seen yet, but that didn’t mean she wanted to see them. She wasn’t the type of person who could experience more awe or joy while standing in an impressively constructed building than she could just by using the right tools on the internet. She found landscapes to be beautiful and calming, but this sense of tranquility was interrupted every time she tried to go somewhere new, so she eventually decided to settle down in just one beautiful place. She chose to make her home at Brooks Lake. It was the aquatic hub of Earth, naturally connecting every significantly large body of water to this one, relatively small, body. The transition from it to another place was so smooth that she even considered the trip itself to be a relaxing experience. It was here that she lived out the rest of her days, until she was killed for trying to get others to see things her way, and carrying out her beliefs in a way that contradicted her own values.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 16, 2254

Though the life Briar’s mother ended up living wasn’t the one he would have chosen for her, given the opportunity, he couldn’t be sure she would feel the same way. She was a loving and protective mother, so in fact, if he could ask her what he should do right now, she would definitely tell him to not go back in time. The more he thought about it, the less he believed she would want him to erase himself from her timeline and memories. He didn’t know who his father was either, so even though she ended up losing him too soon as well, she might feel grateful for having met him in the first place. In the end, it wasn’t his right to alter history. He was just going to have to make peace with the fact that what happened wasn’t anybody’s fault. He still couldn’t help but feel a little hostility towards Trinity, but she didn’t seem too concerned about it. She understood that she couldn’t understand what he was going through. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. Her life had been upended by accidental time travel, just like his, and she also had to say goodbye to her parents—her real parents, by the way; not the two who conceived her in the 1950s, and never took care of her.
By the time Briar was confident in his final decision, it was nearing midnight central. They had yet to discuss what they were going to do with the time cave, but Trinity wanted Leona to be around for that. They determined it was okay to wait another year for the conversation. The only people who knew anything about it were the three of them, plus Eight Point Seven, Ellie, and Sanaa. The colonists still hadn’t come anywhere close to touching land on that continent, so it was highly unlikely they would have to worry about some random person stumbling upon it. Something did need to be done, though, because they had no control over what the ancient Earthans would do with the cave. They needed to be protected just as much.
“Can we cave it in?” Sanaa put forth.
“First of all,” Trinity said, shaking her head, “we would need to go into the cave to accomplish that. That would make coordinating detonation—not impossible—but not easy. We also don’t really know how close Briar’s father’s village is to the entrance. They might notice the explosion.”
“Are we even sure we should try to prevent people from crossing over?” Ellie asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” Ellie continued, “it’s presumably a naturally occurring phenomenon; one that predates even Trinity’s involvement on this planet. It has only negatively impacted three people’s lives. Actually, I can’t say whether that can be called a negative impact; Briar wouldn’t even exist without it. Do we have the right to do anything?”
“We don’t know that it’s natural,” Eight Point Seven pointed out. “Nothing else on this world is natural. No judgment, Trinity.”
“No offense taken,” Trinity assured her. “Both you and Ellie make some good points. We’ve not yet proven the ethics of closing the cave at all. If we combine what you two said, perhaps it’s not natural, and that’s exactly why we shouldn’t do anything. What if it’s meant to serve a purpose? Maybe someone important will need it in the future-slash-past.”
At this, Ellie made eye contact with Leona, and gave her a wink. It was one of those winks that a time traveler will give to another to suggest they know something about the latter’s personal future, but can’t reveal specifics. Leona tried to shake it off, because even that was enough to cause problems with the timeline. Her mind was elsewhere anyway. In one day’s time, she would finally see Mateo again, and hopefully it would mean never being separated from him again. She hadn’t felt this nervous since she was a high school kid with a silly crush on a time traveler. How much had he changed since they last saw each other? How much of himself had he kept hidden when they briefly saw each other on Tribulation Island in the past? He seemed to want to tell her something, but was hesitant. Was it bad? Good? Shocking? Was she just reading too much into all of this, and was worried about nothing? More importantly, was there something about her own life that he might not like a whole lot when he arrived?
“Leona?” she heard in a muffle, which grew clearer. “Leona,” the voice came louder. “Are you still with us?”
“Yeah, sorry. Did you ask a question?”
Trinity was noticeably perturbed. “Did you see evidence that anyone else had ever traversed that cave?”
“No,” Leona said. “We suspect Irene had to spend an extended period of time there with Briar, so they could end up in more recent days on Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida, but I didn’t see anything that supported that supposition. The cave looked pristine, as far as I remember, but I wasn’t looking for such evidence either.”
“Is it easy to see and access from the Earth side?”
“It’s easy to find if you came from there,” Briar finally entered the conversation. “If you hadn’t been there before, though, I think it’s pretty well hidden. It’s fairly close to a path that others have walked, but no one seems to have found it.”
“That could change,” Sanaa said. “As the world develops, they might build a fast food restaurant right on top of it.”
“Or a library,” Ellie randomly added.
“I believe now,” Eight Point Seven began, “that we have a responsibility to close it up. If it’s not natural, and someone needs it there for a reason, they should have left a note. It would be one thing if it were just a bridge between Earth and Bida—even with the temporal component—but we can’t risk people losing years of their lives with their loved ones, just because they spend too much time inside. It’s not fair. Look at it this way, now that we know it exists, we’re liable if something happens, and humans are exposed to time travel. That could land us all in Beaver Haven.”
“That’s reason enough for me,” Sanaa agreed. “I ain’t goin’ to the pokey.”
“I’m inclined to agree,” Trinity admitted, “but I’m still worried about using explosives that close to veiled humans.”
“I could do it slowly,” Eight Point Seven offered. “I could just kick rocks, and shovel dirt. I could always make sure that no one’s watching.”
“You would get stuck over there,” Ellie told her, knowing Eight Point Seven was fully aware of this unfortunate consequence.
Eight Point Seven shrugged. “I can’t die. I’ll just wait and hitch a ride on one of the colony ships centuries later. Hell, Future!Me could be roaming around here right now, waiting to show back up here after Present!Me enters the cave.”
“That’s very kind of you,” Leona said, “but it’s not possible. You could survive all that time waiting, but the timeline can’t necessarily. What if something goes wrong with your internal mechanisms. You might be able to repair yourself, but what if a human sees? We can’t let you, as such advanced technology, be that close to ancient humans.”
“I’ll do it,” Sanaa said, surprising everyone.
“You’ll do what?” Trinity asked. “Go to bed? Eat a sandwich? What exactly are you trying to offer here?”
“Don’t be an asshole,” an offended Sanaa said. “I know what I would be getting myself into. All I ask for...is a sweat photo.”
“No,” Trinity argued, like it was the dumbest thing she’d ever heard. “No.”
“Why?” Leona asked.
“What is that?” Briar followed up.
Ellie and Eight Point Seven didn’t seem to know what it was either.
“You know I can travel through photographs, right?” she asked rhetorically. “Well, I’m not really traveling through the photographs themselves; I just need to see where I’m going. Anyway, I can take people with me, but like most choosers, I can’t...give my ability to others. Unless I use a sweat photo. It’s dangerous, though. It’s like carrying around a stick of dynamite. If you don’t use it right, or at the right time, it could tear you apart. When I first stepped through that Stonehenge portal in 1971, and became a spawn, my body was altered on a molecular level. I am designed to teleport and time travel. Other people’s bodies are not. One person died trying it, and I had to go back in time and change history to save his life. He sent his head, but not the rest of him. I won’t let anyone try that again. I believe my alternate did it to The Cleanser, but no one would have cared had he died.”
“I’ve traveled through time before,” Sanaa reminded her. “My body has been altered as well. That guy was completely inexperienced.”
“I told you about this, in confidence, in a vulnerable moment a few years ago. I know I didn’t specifically ask you to not tell anyone, but I think it was clear I don’t like people knowing about it.”
“I know,” Sanaa said apologetically. “But we need that cave closed, and I need to have a way back home.”
“I could just go with you,” Trinity said. “Solves every problem.”
“You’re too important,” Sanaa said to her, more serious than Leona had ever seen her before. “You have to protect these people from Pryce, and other threats. If I get stuck there, I won’t be super happy, but the timeline will go on.”
“Sanaa...” Trinity trailed off.
Sanaa sighed. “Give me a photo, and get me a shovel. I expect you to seal the Bida entrance yourself.”
“You don’t have to do this.” Leona wanted to ensure she understood.
“It’s really no big deal,” Sanaa promised. “I’m in the mood for some physical labor. I’ve been too sheltered all my life. Trinity will take a photo of the distance, so I don’t reappear before I’ve left, and risk a paradox. I’ll be gone for for mere minutes, from your perspective.”
They continued to discuss the details of the mission, so that they weren’t rushing into anything recklessly. It was also going to be a hell of a lot of work. Sanaa kept guaranteeing that she recognized the risks and consequences. Leona couldn’t help but be proud of how much she had grown and changed over the years. It felt like everything Sanaa had been through since they met was leading to this heroic moment. Finally, after hours of preparation, and nap for the hero, it was time to do this. They could have done it on any day, really, but Leona wanted to be there to see her off, and to see her return.
Sanaa packed her essentials, took Trinity’s magic photo, and stepped into the time cave. They watched from the entrance as she practically froze in place. For her, time was moving much, much slower than it was for the rest of them. Future!Sanaa would be back before Present!Sanaa could be witnessed stepping around the corner. Except that wasn’t what happened. After a few moments of watching a boring movie on pause, they turned and headed for the other side of the lake, where Future!Sanaa should have been waiting for them. She wasn’t there, though. It should have been pretty much instantaneous, but she was nowhere to be found. Something had gone wrong, and there was nothing they could do about it. As they were trying to get back to the cave to stop their friend from possibly walking into a trap, the entrance exploded, and caved in. What just happened?

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Source Variant: Rock God (Part V)

Not long after Saga!Two, Vearden!Three, and Saxon find a diplomatic solution to the disagreement between the two Orothsew, another portal door opens for them. They quickly learn that it’s been another two hundred years. A pattern has formed, which possibly answers some questions they had earlier. The Orothsew could have used their help many times while they weren’t in the timestream, yet the powers that be did not allow them to be there. This pattern does not suggest some major issue will arise every two hundred years that only they can solve. It only suggests that the mysterious people controlling them have some idea of how often the three of them should show up. It doesn’t matter what happens in the meantime, or what mission they could possibly complete now. They’re going to appear every two hundred years, even if that means relaxing in the lab for a few days, because there just isn’t anything required of them. The powers don’t seem to care about protecting the Orothsew population. They just want the humans to watch them periodically. Any aid they provide is just gravy.
Something they learn about the magical hats that allow them to look like Orothsew is that they have a few features they weren’t told about. Number one, it instantaneously translates the Orothsew language into English for them. It also translates their own English words into Orothsew. This was greatly helpful when they were trying to get the two men who were about to duel each other to open up a dialog. Alyssa failed to mention that the hats would do this, but they failed by not asking about it. How else would they have communicated with the aliens? This time, it worked out, but they needed to be better at getting the whole story, and planning ahead. The hats can also make them invisible, which is good when they just want to observe without interfering with the natural progression of things.
While they were gone, the lab continued to gather data from the insectoid microdrones, and kept up with the Orothsew society’s progress. The population is now at about five thousand people, and there are even more villages than before. Almost all of them stayed in the same valley, but two groups broke off. One settled hundreds of kilometers away, near the coastline of the ocean. They didn’t leave because of any disagreement they had with the rest of their people. They wanted to see what else was out there, and once they discovered the ocean, they decided it would be their new home. The other group had the same idea, but they instead went south, into the mountains that could be seen in the distance if one were high enough on the original mountain range. They never found any place that felt like home, so they just kept moving. They eventually determined that this was just their lifestyle. They were nomads, and no place they came across would be good enough to settle down. The rest of eventually society forgot they even existed.
A more involved monitoring system was dispatched by the lab’s AI to keep an eye on the nomads indefinitely. The microdrones weren’t capable of doing their job that far away, so a mobile station was necessary. It was designed to resemble a boulder, and this had some consequences that the AI didn’t predict. The rock was capable of hovering above the ground up to a meter, and carried with it every instrument necessary to track the nomads movements. For the most part, it tried to keep its distance from people, so they wouldn’t see what they would most certainly consider to be supernatural in nature. If ever one drew too close, it could still land back on the ground, and look normal. This worked for a good long while, but recently, one particular individual noticed something strange. Or rather, she noticed the rock at all, which she wasn’t meant to. At four times, she has come across the boulder more than anyone. The first time she saw it was an occurrence. The time after that was a coincidence. This was kilometers away from the last, so surely it couldn’t have been the same one. After she saw it for the third time, though, she thought she was going crazy. Either some rocks look exactly alike, or this thing was following her around. Though she feared what people might think of her, she told them what she believed. A handful of them took a look at the boulder themselves, but of course, it wasn’t moving at the time, so they had no reason to believe her. Still, they didn’t burn her as a witch, or anything. They waited until the fourth time.
For many, they were seeing the boulder for the second time, and could confirm that it absolutely had to be the same one. After decades and decades of roaming the lands, their journey was over. Now that they knew something was up with the boulder, they thought it might stop following them around, and they didn’t want this to happen. If they didn’t want to lose the boulder forever, they would have to stay right here. They began to worship it. It became a holy idol; something to be admired and protected, but also feared. They built a sort of Stonehenge-like structure around it with other rocks. Some evidently wanted to construct an entire temple, but the boulder was a component of nature. It needed to remain free, and out in the open, where it could enjoy the warmth of the sun, the tickle of the wind, and the smell of the dew.
It is forbidden both to touch the boulder god, or to not idolize it. Boulder prayer is a daily exercise, punishable by a violent practice they call single-stoning. Anyone who misses their prayer session by fall of night must choose someone to throw a hand-sized rock at them. It’s not meant to kill them, or cause permanent damage, but it does provide incentive to respect the universal beliefs. Exceptions are made for the ill, or hunters who are not able to return in time, due to weather, or whatnot. They are still expected to pray; just not at the boulder. The three humans who are just now learning about these developments can’t help but be impressed by it. Failure to effectively worship the boulder god could be met with so much more violence. The expectations the now former nomads have for each other are not as bad as they could be. You’re allowed to be female, you’re allowed to have a different shade of skin, and you’re allowed to be attracted to members of your own sex. As unyielding as they are about their religion, they are leagues beyond more accepting than humans were after thousands of years of so-called progress. Even their form of punishment isn’t as brutal as the myriad of ways humans came up with to hurt one another. Still, it’s savage, and needs to be stopped. It is up to Saga!Two, Vearden!Three, and Saxon to find a way to change it.
With such advanced technology, the trip from the lab to the boulder worshipers is shockingly fast. They have to land far enough away from the settlement so as to not be heard. It would be ironic and problematic if they created a new religion for them to follow because the Orothsew saw a gigantic metal bird in the air before they even invented the aerosol can.
“Well, it shouldn’t be hard to introduce ourselves,” Vearden!Three says. “We’ll just say we’re from a different village. It broke off a hundred years ago, and then the three of us broke off, say, ten years ago.”
“Yeah, that could be our way in,” Saxon agrees. “It wasn’t so easy last time, but they’re so far removed from society that they won’t know what’s been going on since we left.”
“Okay, good. That’s settled,” Saga!Two says with a nod. “Now we to figure out what our objective is. Are we trying to steer them away from this religion, end their beliefs in religion completely, or just try to get them to stop throwing rocks at each other?”
“It’s neither ethical, nor our place, to prevent them from believing in anything at all,” Vearden!Three replies.
“I’m not convinced that’s true,” Saxon disagrees. “What if we’re here to erase religion? What if it’s our job to introduce them to rational thinking, empirical evidence, the scientific method, e-t-c?”
“They’re too young for that,” Saga!Two argues, referring to their developmental condition, rather than their literal ages.
“Who decides what’s too young, and what’s advanced enough?” Saxon poses. “Waiting until they invent warp drive technology is just as arbitrary as any other time. There’s no universal rule for this. The ethicists in charge of Project Stargate didn’t plan on exploring any inhabited planets for millenia.”
“You’re right,” Saga!Two admits. “I don’t know when the Orothsew will be ready to learn about aliens and stuff. I just know it’s not right now. I know that, if we try to dispel religion for them, it will make things worse. They will reject our claims, and probably dig deeper.”
“Well, then what right do we have to do anything for them at all?” Saxon asks. “Sure, this single-stoning thing is terrible, but why should we stop it? If we’re worried about how they develop, shouldn’t we not interfere in any way?”
“The boulder their worshiping is our technology,” Saga!Two contends.
“To be fair,” Saxon begins, “it’s my technology. Well, it’s more mine than it’s yours. I helped build and deploy it. If anyone’s responsible for what that survey boulder has done, it’s me.”
“When I say ours,” Saga!Three says, “I mean humans. Earthans. And I won’t let you take all responsibility for it either. We’re a team now. I need to make sure you understand that, and accept it.”
“I’ve been part of a team before,” Saxon assures her. “I’m not trying to dismiss you. But I’m going to continue to feel more responsible for this mess, because I could have prevented it. The Orothsew should never have suspected that rocks can move.”
Vearden!Three nods disagreeably. “The AI should have thought it through better, and been more careful. But that doesn’t matter. It can’t be undone now, unless we...ya know, go back in time, or something. Our best move now is to get them to stop using violence to solve their problems. As of three years ago, the nomads are the largest independent population on the planet. In another two hundred years, their numbers could rival the rest of the villages combined. Their urge to increase the number of devout followers is phenomenally strong. Once that happens, they’ll figure out what war is. I can’t tell you why they’ll go to war, but they’re developing separately, and when two separate cultures meet each other, it almost never goes well. They may have evolved from a source variant, but they’re still ninety-seven point six percent human, and we all know how poorly humans can treat each other. I don’t care if we have to land in a spaceship to get them to stop throwing rocks. I just want it done.
“The powers that be haven’t told us why we’re here, but that’s the benefit and burden of being Freelancers. We get to choose what we do, and how we do it. I see this as an opportunity to protect the Orothsew from all the mistakes our species made. I sincerely wish someone had done it for us, even though it would logically mean history would be different enough to prevent me from ever being born.”
“That’s an untenable goal,” Saxon says to him sadly. “We’re here every two hundred years...evidently. We can help them in isolated missions, but we can’t guide them on a long-term basis. The powers that be can clearly stop you from trying. The way Saga!Two explains it, you don’t always walk through doors to travel spacetime. Sometimes it just happens.”
“We’re not going to land in a spaceship,” Saga!Two declares. “Nor are we going to rob them of their convictions. We just need to show them that worship is a personal experience, and that there is more than one way to practice. If they think people can still follow the boulder god without mumbling prayer to it every day, in public, it will be easier for the nonbelievers to go on unnoticed until they’re strong enough to reject what they’ve been told...publicly.”
Vearden!Three takes a deep breath to center himself. “Okay. That’s a little more, uhh...subtle than I’m used to, so we need to come up with a plan.”
“I think I know what we can do,” Saxon says. “It’s not gonna be painless, though.”

Friday, October 18, 2019

Microstory 1215: Vidar Wolfe

It took a little bit of time for Vidar Wolfe to discover that he had temporal powers, or rather, it took some time for him to reason what they were. Alone, he was never capable of traveling through time or space. It was only when he interacted with others that he could do it. He realized when he was in his mid-twenties that he could sense the energy that other people left behind when they used their own powers. Not only could he siphon that energy off to use for himself, but also follow them through. If he gathered enough temporal energy, he could travel wherever he wanted, but he had to find that energy first, and it would dissipate eventually if he didn’t use it for something in time. He came to be known as Tracker, using his abilities in the most expected way, by tracking time travelers and teleporters wherever, and whenever, they might be. He was eventually hired by Beaver Haven Rehabilitation Center to hunt fugitives. He was one of the few choosers-for-hire to take cold, hard cash for their troubles. Other people wanted trips to times and places of their choosing, payment-in-kind, or other gifts and favors. Some didn’t require payment at all. They could always get their hands on whatever they wanted with no one’s help, so they didn’t really see any point in getting people to pay them. Vidar had ways of going wherever he wanted as well, but that was the extent of his exploitation of his gifts. He didn’t want to rob banks, or steal from others. He wanted money so he could live comfortably, using his real identity, in the time period that he was born into. When he wasn’t working, he was watching a sports competition, or reading a good book.

He wasn’t all that adventurous, and didn’t care much for exploring spacetime He didn’t have any particularly strong feelings about his work. To him, a job was a job, and it didn’t matter much who the prison was asking him to go after. He wasn’t uncaring, but he tried not to ask for too much information, so he could keep a healthy distance from his targets. Nonetheless, he had a strict code of ethics that he created himself, to make sure what he was doing was at least moral in a generic sense. He never wanted to hurt anyone physically, so if they were fighting against him too hard, he would let it go, and try again later. He avoided regular humans at nearly all costs. He didn’t want them getting caught in the crossfire, or being used as leverage. He also didn’t want his abilities to be exposed to the public, especially since it would be ironic, considering it was his job to apprehend people who were doing just that. Every day was a little different than the last, but he fell into a rhythm, and in later years, found the work to be somewhat tedious. One day, he was asked to capture a regular human; one who had been mixed up with salmon and choosers. She wasn’t a hundred percent innocent, and there were plenty of reasons to send her to a normal jail, which she avoided, because law enforcement considered her a necessary tool to alleviate the crime around Kansas City. Still, she didn’t have abilities, and she didn’t try to expose anyone who did, which meant she absolutely did not belong in Beaver Haven. He was disgusted when he learned that they had sent him to take her under false pretenses, and came to hold her for a whole year. That was when everything changed.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Microstory 1214: Oskari Belker

Oskari Belker was an old man. He wasn’t always old, but almost always. On the planet of Durus, everyone was aware of time powers. The first of these on their world were the source mages. They were able to bequest abilities to others, which they selected using a series of challenges called the Mage Games. Those mages who survived the final days of the war with the time monsters were stripped of their powers, but not of their ability to procreate. This was against the law while the Mage Protectorate was standing, but after it fell, the policy was abandoned; or at least it was unenforceable by anyone who still believed in it. Amongst the descendants of mages, a random few of them were born with limited temporal powers, which earned them the name mage remnants. Due to reasons not fully understood—possibly involving environmental factors—some mage remnants weren’t born with time powers, but instead time afflictions. They experienced time beyond the normal linear way, and had no control over this, like salmon. Unlike salmon, however, their patterns weren’t being controlled by an intelligence. Their afflictions caused various problems for their lives, making it difficult for them to live productively, and interact with others. Oskari Belker was one of these people. Everything seemed perfectly fine when he was born, but about a year into his development, he started aging rapidly, and showing no signs of slowing down. Even worse, his family was of a lower class, so it took them weeks for them to find someone who could help stop this horror. The government finally gave them permission to go into what was normally illegal territory, to seek the retroverters. They were a politically neutral type of monster with a long history with the source mages, and the Protectorate. They attempted to reverse Oskari’s aging, but were unable to. The best they could do was halt it in his current condition. Had they tried it a couple weeks ago, he might have become ageless and undying, but perpetually being so close to death made his life unbearable at times. He was constantly fighting off age-related diseases, and was at risk of death with every passing minute. He used to say that he was on borrowed time.

Oskari continued with his life for thirty-years, trying to be as positive as possible, despite his shortcomings. Though he appeared elderly, he first had to develop and mature, just like any child. When it was time, his parents attempted to send him to school, but this proved hard for everyone. The children were not purposely mean. They understood what had happened to him, and accepted him for it. But what they didn’t understand was his perspective. He saw time, life, and the world in a unique way, and they just couldn’t relate to him. They never mocked or deliberately exclude him, but none of them made the level of effort required to be his friend. Many would grow up to regret their failure to try just a little bit harder. Still, Oskari persevered, and made it through. He found companionship with the proverters who once tried to help him, because aging was their specialty, and they knew how to make an effort. He graduated from school, and landed a job at the tax building. It was tedious and boring work, but it allowed him to sit at a desk all day, instead of being out and exerting himself. Like his friends, the retroverters, taxes were neutral, and didn’t require him to judge others, or to be judged. He spent his adult like cross-referencing data, and filling out paperwork, but it could not last forever. Unfortunately, it didn’t even last as long as it should have. Oskari never did find love, because people had trouble getting past how he looked, and he couldn’t be expected to be interested in potential mates who looked more his age. One of his former classmates, however, did contact him about six years before he was meant to die. They started getting to know each other better, and maybe with a little more time, the relationship could have transformed. Tragically, a temporal accident involving a library from another dimension took his life too soon in the middle of a picnic with his friend. A paramount—which was what mages were now called—determined when he would have died had this not occurred. This would have given him more time to live, but also more time to be in pain. His family would note that this might have been the best ending for Oskari Belker. It was quick and painless, and it could have happened to anyone; normal or not. History would remember him fondly, even by people who didn’t know him at all.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Microstory 1213: Darrow Ness

Very little is known about Darrow Ness, a.k.a The Maverick, and that’s saying a lot, because given enough time, pretty much anyone’s story can be uncovered. People are aware of him, and they have memories of their encounters with him, but no individual has enough of an understanding of his life to truly know who he is. First off, there’s reason to suspect Darrow wasn’t always his name, mostly because he doesn’t immediately respond to it; at least not as quickly as most people do. He’s apparently revealed multiple origin stories to those who have asked him about it, all of which contradict each other, so the assumption among people who know him is that he’s purposefully misleading them. He has the ability to travel through time, and he seems to be able to detect death, but there’s one power that he’s never told anyone else about. He can erase people’s memories. It’s unclear what his limits are, but he can exercise this control over seemingly anyone, and he does so to protect his own timeline. Darrow doesn’t erase the memories of everyone, for every thing he does, but he does like to keep himself wrapped in mystery. And no one is immune; not even The Superintendent. Nothing he’s claimed about himself can be verified or debunked. He is a killer, who uses his time traveling ability to assassinate targets, usually upon the request of someone else. This is all anyone knows of him, though again, there’s evidence to support  the idea that he has spent entire timelines displaying no violent behavior. Perhaps the secret to him lies in these alternate realities.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Microstory 1212: Faustus Lambert

When the Deathspring came for a seemingly random scattering of Earthan residents, most were unhappy about it, but not as unhappy as one might assume. While the magic portal seemed to take people at random, it often took multiple people within a community sphere; as if it were being controlled by some kind of intelligence. Entire families were swept up, even if they happened to be standing nowhere near one another. The worst losses the refugees felt were the people they loved, but many of their loved ones were taken along with them, so it could have been far worse. This was why—despite how difficult life was on Durus—not everyone lobbied to be transported back to Earth when the opportunity arose. Only a couple hundred people expressed interest in making the journey, and out of those, only about half had come in the Deathspring. The rest were born on Durus, and just didn’t want to live there anymore. Faustus Lambert did not fall into either of these groups. He saw the arrival of the interstellar vessel, The Elizabeth Warren as a means of furthering his own agenda, but its flight plan didn’t matter much to him. He was an entitled prick, to be quite crude, but appropriate and accurate. Durus, Earth; he could live anywhere, as long as there were those who would give him what he wanted most, which was attention. Under the guise of being an advocate for his people, he orchestrated a violent attack on the of the Warren, and demanded they let them tag along as passengers. The truth was, however, that their feelings and desires were of little consequence to him. They were just tools. Faustus didn’t care who his people were. They could be puppy-kickers, Nazis, or serial killers. He just wanted to lead. More to the point, he wanted people to follow him—not because he thought he knew best, but because it made him feel relevant.

Faustus lived a rather comfortable life from the very beginning. He was born male, so he had that going for him. He outright rejected the idea that women were systematically treated unequally, while simultaneously treating women poorly. His beliefs were no less true anywhere than they were on Durus during its phallocratic era. He wasn’t a violent rapist, but unfortunately, that was more problematic in its own way. Had he committed even one assault, it would have at least been possible to arrest him, but he just continued with his life, never breaking the law, but never following the spirit of the law either. He abused his girlfriends psychologically, but too subtly for them to prove anything, even to themselves. He cheated on his partners frequently, and while he didn’t ever do anything with a minor, he sure did like them young. He had an unwritten rule that he couldn’t date anyone over the age of 20. This lasted until he was 35, and could no longer “score” so young, so he raised his limit to 25, but only because he had to. When the public learned that the only ship on the planet capable of transporting more than one person was scheduled to leave within a matter of months, Faustus took his shot to get those precious followers. He quickly changed his tune on a number of sociopolitical causes; pretending to champion women’s rights and Earthan refugee living conditions. Anytime anyone brought up his history of bigotry and misogyny, he simply denied their allegations. Anytime anyone presented proof that he was lying, he doubled down, and claimed that it was nothing more than fake news. Faustus took control of the movement that was trying to get to Earth, and nobody felt like they could fight him on the matter. His new people thought he could get them on that ship, and if that meant they were following a dishonest clown to do it, then so be it. In the end, the majority of the people who wanted to go were allowed in, but all the violent people—the ones who took the crew hostage—were completely excluded, including Faustus himself. He was finally sent to prison for his proven crimes, and this was where he died, alone and unremembered.