Thursday, April 18, 2019

Microstory 1084: Milton

Viola and I were not friends in the way you think friends should be. Before either of us was born, our respective parents were really close. In fact, they all hung out together in high school, and eventually segued into dating each other. I think the four of them had this idea that their children would be just as close—and maybe even start dating too—but the only thing we had in common was them. Our families were famous for our road trips, so I spent a lot of time with her, but we didn’t talk all the much. As far as I know, she didn’t have any hard feelings against me, and I certainly didn’t dislike her. I suppose a part of me resisted getting to know her too well only because it was kind of forced upon us. Despite what you may think, most people don’t get to truly choose their friends. Every two people are brought together by circumstance and geography. Social networking is changing the way that works, of course, but you’re still going to be paired up according to some external entity. In those cases, it’s an algorithm; for us, it was our parents, and our tiny town. A little bit about me, I’m an atheist, and a skeptic. I hear all these stories about her teleporting to far away lands, and rescuing kittens from burning buildings. I tell you, I never saw a hint of anything like that. I don’t know how she would have had time to do any of it, even if she was capable of bending space. She was beautiful, and kind, and generous, but she was still just a girl. I kind of have a problem with this idea that that is somehow not enough. It’s like these people can’t mourn their loss unless the person they lost had something no one else did. A life ended. It doesn’t matter because she was such a great person, or had reported magical powers. It matters because all life is precious. She didn’t deserve it, because no one does. I know it’s not a popular opinion, but I think, if she were around today, she would agree with me. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Microstory 1083: Harry

I’ve never been one to screw up, but I screwed up. Roughly a year and a half ago, Viola approaches me, and says that she has special abilities. I didn’t immediately believe her, but I also wasn’t in complete disbelief, because like everyone else, I had heard the rumors. She was able to show me a few tricks, and prove that she wasn’t lying. She explained that she would not always be around, and needed a replacement. Evidently, she’s not the only one of her kind, though I’m still not clear on what exactly she was. She was born to human parents, but she was also something else. From what I gather, this phenomenon is becoming less and less common, so she decided to make someone just like her. I was meant to absorb her abilities upon her death. I’m starting to think she knew exactly when that would be, but I was always thinking it would be a long ways off. I don’t know who ended up taking her place, if anyone, but I know it’s not me. She started out by training me in her work, and let me tag along on her missions. We went all over the world. Sometimes we would save a life, but other times we would just help retrieve some random object someone had lost. After months of spending most of the time observing, I was finally given my very first solo mission. She was able to pass her abilities on to me temporarily, but warned it would not last forever...until she was gone forever. She actually didn’t tell me what to do with my new gifts, because figuring out what missions to take—and how to handle them—was part of the job responsibilities. When she was in this position, she didn’t have anyone telling her what to do. She didn’t receive any training, or explanation. She had to learn about her powers all on her own, with only her ignorant parents as moral support. She assumed, with all this hands-on work I was doing, I would be able to fill in for a day. She was wrong.

I used my ability to see the future, and discovered that my classmate, Elsie was fated to die in a boating accident, along with her best friend, Ingram. This was perfect, I thought. I could not only prevent this horrible thing from happening, but I would be able to help someone I knew personally. I didn’t realize, though, that the accident was being caused by a very unnatural storm. Viola never really got into it, but she always hinted that there were other things in this world; some like her, but others were very much not like her at all. They often worked against the good, and caused nothing but destruction. I was no match for the storm, and if I had understood that at the time, I might have had the courage to just go ahead and ask Viola for help. It was less important I learn how to operate on my own, and more important that we save lives. I was able to pull Elsie out of the water in time, but I could not find Ingram. I searched the surface of the water, and underneath. I even looked up into the storm itself, but he was nowhere to be found. It’s one thing to sense the life around you when you can do what Viola could, but seeking death is a whole different ball game. He must have died before I even got there, because they didn’t find his body for another two days. I should have been able to see him. I should have been able to save him. I begged Viola to make this right, but she said changing the past was far too dangerous. It was possible under the right circumstances, but one death does not justify the risk. Needless to say, she fired me. I didn’t think she ever got mad, but she was mad at me for failing. That’s what hurt the most; disappointing her. I just hope she found someone better, and did so with enough time.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Microstory 1082: Trevor

I’ve never been a good student. I don’t care about school, I don’t like it, and I don’t know what it looks like to try. I don’t criticize others for being good students, but it was just never my thing. Part of it is definitely my fault; I have trouble with motivation in general. But I also didn’t grow up in a great household. It’s funny, I’ve never been left alone, but I also haven’t been raised by two people at the same time. My dad left when I was a baby, then he cleaned up his act, and returned before I was old enough to realize anything was different. My mother took her opportunity to run off with some other guy shortly thereafter, though, so my dad had to take over. This kind of pattern has continued all throughout my life, as this bizarre unspoken custody contract. They were never married, and there’s never been a question as to who has the most rights. My upbringing was just really unstable, and I’ve had to learn a lot of basic life skills from my peers. As you can imagine, they haven’t all been gems. Except for Viola. We were still pretty young when she invited me to her house for the first time. She didn’t say what we were going to do, but it turned out she was baking cookies. I struggled a lot, and messed up a few times—the difference between flour and sugar is a lot more obvious to me now—but I got better over time. She kept inviting me over, and it became a regular thing where she would teach me how to cook. I am, by no means, a world class chef, but I can hold my own in the kitchen now.

It would be a lie if I claimed it was a passion of mine, but I sure as shit don’t like doing anything else, and at least I’m good at it. Unfortunately, I don’t have any money, so I can’t afford to go to culinary school. I wasn’t trained by some reputable chef in the area either, so it’s not like I could get a good recommendation. I think Viola knew this, though, and just before she died, she gave me another way I could use my talents to make a living. Without actually suggesting I seek a job with them, she casually mentioned that fact that Nora and a couple of new friends from Silver Shade were starting an event planning for business. The two of them would be builders, while she the boss. At present, it doesn’t appear that they have any sort of catering arm of their company, but Viola hinted that I would be perfect for it. In the beginning, they wouldn’t be able to afford one of those world class chefs I was telling you about, but I come pretty cheap. I don’t have any formal education, but I’m surprisingly good at following direction. A lot of other people who are so bad at school are also bad at their jobs, but I’m not like that. I’m always on time, I do good work, and I’m very ethical. That’s the only subject in school that I truly understood, and if it were possible to study ethics without being smart at a bunch of other things, I may have considered going to college for that. I dunno, that’s a path I’m no longer in a position to take. Right now, I just need to work up the courage to apply for a job with Nora’s company. I’m worried they won’t take me seriously, and I wish Viola were here to help me with a practice interview.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Microstory 1081: Nora

I’m known as the party girl for our class. No, that doesn’t mean I drink a lot, and get wild. I don’t even like drinking that much, but I do enjoy having company over. Ever since I was a little kid, I would invite tons of friends to my house. My parents threw the best birthday parties in town; not because they had a lot of money, but because they had creative and interesting ideas. As I got older, I started taking over the party planning, and they became so universally popular that people actually began to ask me to plan parties for them. I started realizing that this was my passion, and my forte. Like my parents, I have a knack for designing fun and engaging events that cater to a range of people, and don’t cost an exorbitant amount of money. Anyone can plan a great party with no budget, and a client who can afford ostrich races and three-story waterslides. It takes care and diligence to create something out of nothing that people will love for just that one day, and look back on fondly later. A chocolate fountain isn’t much better than a nice assortment of little cakes, so why is it so much more expensive? So this is what I’ll be doing with my life. I’m currently in the early stages of founding a real event planning business. We will be serving clients looking to make the most out of their dollar, and not waste it on fleeting materialism. The real purpose of any good event should be to make lasting memories; not just get free stuff that you’re just going to stuff in a closet. Of course, that doesn’t mean my events will require you to just use your imagination. If all we wanted was for a group of friends to stand around talking, there wouldn’t be any reason to hire me at all. That’s where my late friend, Viola comes in.

I never really learned how they met, but she knew a family living in Silver Shade, who are already proving to be a perfect fit for my company. Or should I say our company, because we’re working well together, and we all need to be equal partners. A brother and sister grew up with a foreman for a father, who taught them all about construction and other craftwork. They’re a few years older than me, and once they graduated high school, they tried to start a traditional handiwork business, hoping to transition into a more expansive construction company later. As with any small business, they struggled, and they just couldn’t get enough customers. This is a rather rural county, after all, so people with that kind of skill aren’t exactly hard to find. What is hard to find around here, however, is a decent event planner with excellent builders, capable of making beautiful decorations and other ambiance enhancements. We’ve already gotten so many calls that we can’t take yet, because we have yet to secure the loan, and finish all the necessary legal paperwork. We don’t want to start out as just an under-the-table ad hoc business. We want to do this right, and make sure we’re protected from any liability. We’re not at that point yet, but we’re even thinking of adding a fourth member to our ranks. Their cousin just graduated from college, and is having trouble finding a job. Purchasing and inventory is a great entry level position that only requires a sufficiently advanced educational background if you’re expected to do the job on your own, and don’t have the guidance from a small team. We’ll only be working on one project at a time once all the preliminary work is done, so we can focus, not only on the client, but each other. We may never become famous nationwide, or even statewide, but we’re all okay with the possibility that it really just stays in Mineral County. I’m really excited, though, and I can’t wait for the school year to finally end.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 20, 2227

After a small group of human Ansutahan refugees stole the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and laid in a course for Gatewood, the rest of Ansutah was in the midst of war. Some conservative Maramon were hesitant to fight the humans, especially since they were living in what was considered holy land, but there were plenty of progressives fully willing to kill, kill, kill. The human leadership, living on the continent of Comron, had declared that every able-bodied human over the age sixteen was fit for military service, whether they possessed any prior training, or not. A group of mostly fifteen year olds, wanting to contribute to the effort, made their own decision. There was a special location that was capable of ending the war altogether.
While Comron was only deemed holy to protect its inhabitants from the Maramon, Eden Island was legitimately sacred, and site of the original human settlement in this world. Over time, the human population outgrew their little home, so they moved out to other lands. White monsters were not allowed to return, and neither were the humans. There was a rumor that a great power lied in wait there, though. Most people dismissed this as mere superstition, but this group of children thought it was their only chance. They stole a seafaring vessel, and set about on their journey. They were led by a young man named Alcide Makar. He was nineteen years old, but suffered permanent spinal cord damage when he was a boy, so he was never conscripted into the human army. At present, he and his friends were just pulling up on shore. It was here that they discovered they were not alone.
“Turn back now,” a monster said, pointing towards the ocean. He was an unusual creature; not human, nor sufficiently Maramon. His hardened skin was entirely black, while his brethren were all white. He should not be alive.
Alcide stepped forward to protect his people. “Move aside, Exile.”
“How did you know my name?” the black Maramon questioned.
“I did not know that was your name. You are an exile, though, right?”
“I am. My birth name is Enarkased Edcubijmohjac. What are you doing in this holy place?”
“We seek the Fruits of Power,” another boy said. Sakil Tamboli was a runt, and Alcide’s best friend. He considered himself to be Alcide’s commanding lieutenant, and Alcide never had the heart to disabuse him of this belief.
“Don’t tell him that,” Alcide scolded.
Exile lifted his chin. “I can show you where the Tree of Power stands. But are you worthy to eat its bounty?”
“We are here to end the war with your people,” Alcide explained. “We believe this is the way.”
Exile shook his head. “They are not my people.” He should have been killed as a baby for being born black, but someone must have rescued him, and brought him here. There was definitely as least one other person on this island. Whoever it was would be very protective of him, and the Tree of Power.
“Will you help us?” Alcide asked of him.
Exile took a beat, then nodded his head. “Follow me. It is clear on the other side of the island. The Planters arrived here from the mainland.” He turned around and started walking.
The most cautious of them tugged on Alcide’s arm. “Are we sure about this?” Orla asked. “Can we trust him?” She was eighteen years old, but hailed from a rich family, and was able to negotiate her way out of military service.
“I would trust any black Maramon to hate the whites more than we do. In fact, Miss Tengrove, I trust him more than you.” He began to follow Exile into the jungle. “Keep up, Hekabe.” He required two canes to walk, but Hekabe was always the one to slow them down, because she was so easily distracted. “Elias, you got Zan?”
Zan Ikin wasn’t completely blind, but she still needed help navigating somewhere she hadn’t been before. The path they were taking would surely be rough and unpredictable. Elias Waller was usually there to keep her from tripping, or stepping into mud. “I got her!”
And so Exile guided them through the jungle, and to the far shore. They couldn’t go straight there, though. Apparently, the original human village remained standing. The villagers were responsible for keeping watch over the Tree of Power, so that no one attempted to eat its fruits. They were said to give anyone who consumed them special abilities; those of its Planters. There was no proof in this, but the humans who first came here did so in order to be rid of the powers they were born with. It was strictly taboo to even consider the possibility of eating the fruit, or even going anywhere near it. That was another reason humans emigrated out of here, just to make it that much harder. These children were breaking a number of moral imperatives by coming here. If the villagers discovered them, they would not hesitate to use lethal force.
“We’re here,” Exile said.
Irini MacFarland looked around. “I don’t see anything.”
“Well, we’re not quite there,” he clarified, “but it’s not far. This is as close as I have ever been allowed to get, and it’s been strongly suggested to me that I don’t ever venture even this close. If we take one more step towards the Tree, we are inviting death into our homes. Do you really want this?”
“Let’s skip the speech,” Irini said, “and get right to the end. We had the entire boat ride out here to back out. All of us has agreed, even Greer.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Greer complained.
“We’re all in this,” Alcide announced, trying to stop any fight before it happened.
“Very well,” Exile said. “It’s just up here.” He turned around again, and led them the rest of the way.
They were soon upon a wondrous tree, that was even more beautiful than the ancient drawings of it. It wasn’t very big, but colorful and amazing. The bark was sparkling silver, and the leaves were clear; like glass, but flowy and flexible. It did bear fruit, of many colors. A flock of birds, and a collective of land animals, formed a circle around the tree. They were watching it intently, but made no attempt to approach, so they were more like decorative statues. They made no attempt to stop the humans from walking towards it. There were no animals in all of Ansutah but here, which further cemented the island as a hallowed place.
“My God, it’s real.”
“Of course it is. It’s magnificent.”
The children looked amongst each other, and then all to Alcide, waiting for his direction. He looked right at them, and then back at the tree. “Let’s go.” He ran up to the tree, and felt himself drawn to the white-colored fruit. Each one looked the same; kind of like the ancient stories heir ancestors passed down of pears, but the white one was calling to him. He bit into it, and savored its juices. The skin stuck to his teeth while the flesh spilled down his throat. Only after he was done with his first bite was he capable of looking over at his friends. Sakil had reached for the red fruit, Hekabe the green, Zan the pink, Elias the violet, Greer the yellow, and Irini the indigo fruit. Even Exile couldn’t help but partake, though he had spent more time than any of them resisting the tree’s temptations. He chose the black one, perhaps to be ironic. Orla succumbed the most by choosing to take both the blue fruit, and the orange one.
“Eat the whole thing,” Alcide ordered. “It’s like medicine. Don’t let any of it go to waste.”
They did as they were told, and finished their fruit, except for flaky Hekabe, who also checked for the silver bark’s edibility. Sakil tried it too. It wasn’t really until then that they realized there was one fruit left. It was all the way at the top, which wasn’t that high, but still not within reach from the ground. It was also the most glorious. It didn’t just appear as all the colors in a fantastic rainbow, but shifted them around its skin. The other fruit each had a glow to them, but the colors weren’t changing like this.
“I got it!” Orla shouted.
“No,” Alcide pulled her back from her climb. “Each fruit clearly represents one of the nine Planters, but that one obviously gives you all powers combined.”
“Yeah? Your point?” Orla questioned.
“No one should be that powerful,” Alcide warned.
“Says you!” Orla accused. “I’m not going to eat it. I’m just going to get it down here, so we can decide who should get it.”
“We should share,” Zan suggested.
“Yes,” Hekabe agreed. “We each get one bite. I have some green left over too.”
“No!” Alcide cried. “No one gets any more fruit, especially not Orla. You already ate two, you greedy little shit! Except you, Vartanian. Finish your green.”
“Screw you!” Orla screamed back at him. She instinctively raised her hand to him. The air between her and him started to warp and oscillate. They knew what this was. A Planter name Lucius had the power to destroy anything in his path by separating the molecules from each other.
“Stop!” Elias, the bravest of them yelled. He stepped in front of Alcide, and took all of Orla’s blast. His friends watched in horror as he disintegrated into a million pieces, and disappeared into oblivion.
They were speechless.
“I...I didn’t mean to,” Orla whined. “You saw, I just did it on instinct!”
“You didn’t mean to kill Elias,” Alcide began, “but you did mean to kill someone. You are the last person I ever wanted to eat the Lucius fruit. It is going to be the absolute most useful in the war against the Maramon. We should been more careful. We should have figured out which color represented which Planter.”
“You just wanted it for yourself!” Orla accused. “Well, it’s too late now! I was the only one smart enough to eat more than one. That doesn’t make me greedy; it makes me a winner. I’m gonna get that rainbow fruit, and I’m gonna end this war myself. I don’t need any of you.”
“No,” Zan said. “You killed Elias, but you can bring him back. Everyone knows Lucius learned to reconstitute the atoms.”
“He could do that to objects,” Orla argued. “Elias is dead. Even if I rebuilt his body, he would still be dead. I’m not proud of what happened, but we have to move forward. I’m getting that fruit, and unless you want to end up like him, you’ll step away from the tree.”
“You mean this fruit?” Hekabe asked her. She was now standing near one of the big cats, who was still watching the Tree.
“How did you do that?” Alcide asked.
“I must have eaten Curtis’ fruit. I can teleport. You were wrong, though. I only took a few bites, and I can still do it. Though, to be fair, it wore me out.”
“Give me that now,” Orla demanded. “Or I’ll end you.”
“If you Lucius me,” Hekabe said, “you’ll Lucius the fruit too.”
“You’re right, so I’ll just kill your best friend.” Orla lifted her hand again, and pointed it at Zan.”
“Don’t you dare,” Greer said, also holding her hands out on instinct.
Orla froze in place, and couldn’t move.
“Greer, you ate the Missy fruit. You can make time bubbles.”
“We can’t leave her in there forever,” Alcide reasoned. “We need to find a way to keep the rainbow fruit from Orla.
“I can take it anywhere in the world,” Hekabe said. “Eventually,” she added. “Like I said, just those two short-range jumps took a lot out of me.”
“It’s not enough,” Alcide said, shaking his head. He thought about all the planters, and what power each of them possessed. Molecular teleportation, standard line-of-sight teleportation, and time bubbles were all taken. That left most of them, so which one could help them now? “Who ate the Dubra fruit?”
“You want them to take the rainbow fruit to the future?”
“It’s the only safe place,” Alcide pointed out.
“It must be that black Maramon. He’s gone.”
“What? No, I’m right here,” they could hear Exile’s voice.
“Where? We can’t see you.”
“Hm.” A few second later, Exile reappeared. “How about now?”
“Invisibility?” Sakil wondered. “None of the Planters had that power.”
“Maybe someone did,” Zan offered. “Maybe they were invisible.”
“I guess there were ten fruits,” Sakil noted.
“That’s not important right now,” Alcide reminded them. “We still need Dubravka to get us out of this.”
“I think I ate that fruit,” Irini finally said. “I just...I kinda feel it.”
Just then, the Time Shriek echoed throughout the entire area. They could feel a heat all around them, and a fire, burning perpetually in their periphery.
“This is it,” Alcide realized. “They figured out how to get all the humans across the universe bridge, all at once. We’re leaving Ansutah.”
“Yeah,” Zan said, “I see the Muster Lighter. “It’s calling to us.”
“What are you talking about?” Exile asked. “I can’t see anything.”
“That’s because you’re Maramon,” Irini explained to him with sadness. “They’re not going to save you.”
“I can’t see it either, guys,” Greer told them. “I think I’m having to focus too much on keeping Orla locked in a time bubble. Or am I standing too far away?”
“I know what to do,” Sakil said as he was walking towards Greer. “I  have Avidan’s holistic diagnosis power. Hekabe, hold onto Exile. Hold on tight.”
Before Sakil could reach her, Greer watched as all of her friends, as well as Orla, disappeared in a fiery flash. Only she was left standing alone by the Tree of Power.

A week later, Greer found herself in the main section of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “Mateo Matic,” Serif said, “this is Greer Thorpe. She’s been single-handedly slowing down the war with the Maramon by keeping the entire planet in a time bubble. If you’ve destroyed the Muster Beacon, and the Muster Lighter is all we have to rescue the humans from their home universe, we’re gonna need her.”

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Proxima Doma: The Hinterland (Part IV)

The thing about the original Savior program, and which Étude herself didn’t always know about, was that most of the people saved had no recollection of it. There was a lot of secret power behind the whole operation, and it involved a lot more than one person teleporting around, getting people out of bad situations. The sheer number of people who were ultimately helped by one of the Saviors throughout history would have resulted in the secret of it, well...never actually being a secret. At the very least, as soon as internet message boards started existing, rumors would have been so consistently accurate that it would be hard to argue against their veracity. Chances are high that you know someone who has been rescued by a Savior at some point in their life. In order to protect the secret, people’s memories had to be altered, and in modern days, other—more inescapably reliable—forms of evidence had to be changed too. It was unclear whether the powers that be what controlled Étude’s missions were themselves responsible for proverbially flashy thinging witnesses, or if they got choosing ones to do it. However it was done, it was something Étude and Vitalie could not. After some thoughtful discussions, they both agreed that they needed to find a different way.
“The problem is we’re so isolated here. We’re living in the hinterland.”
“This is true,” Vitalie agreed, “but I’m not following your point.”
“If we were on Earth, we would have access to the chooser network,” Étude answered vaguely.
“Is that a TV thing?”
“If you need something done, and it requires a time power to do it, and you don’t have that time power, and you don’t know someone who has that time power, then you know someone who knows someone who has that power. Or you know someone who knows someone who can find someone who has that power. All you gotta do is ask for help, and hope that your reputation—from both the past and future—hasn’t ruined your relationship with the right people. Take Arcadia, for instance. She tormented Leona and all her friends on Tribulation Island. She tore them out of time one by one, and forced them to compete in challenges to get them back.”
Vitalie nodded, “yes, I remember the stories.”
Étude went on, “she would often watch them covertly from another dimension, or she would teleport in, or control someone else’s body, so she could talk through them. Well, she alone wasn’t capable of doing most of these things. She really only had the one ability, so whenever she needed any of the others, she got someone else to do it for her. Now, she used threats and violence to get what she wanted, but you get the idea. This is a roundabout way of explaining that, if we were on Earth, or were capable of contacting the right people on Earth, there would be a time power solution to our memory problem.”
“Well, I might be able to contact someone on Earth. Who do we need, do I know them?”
“I thought you had to know them to communicate remotely, and I didn’t think you could reach all the way to another solar system.”
“I can’t go that far on my own, but fortunately, we have a workaround. I can piggyback on a signal that’s being sent to Earth, and talk to anyone I want, whether their near their own QM, or not. That’s how I’ve stayed in touch with my dads without anyone here knowing about it.”
“I didn’t know you were talking to them,” Étude said. “Well, what about that other question? Don’t you have to know someone in order to send you consciousness to them?”
“I can do it if I’m with someone who does know them. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t always work, but it’s possible.”
“Well, I suppose it can’t hurt to try, am I right? I knew a guy who could manipulate memories. He couldn’t blend people’s brains, like Nerakali or The Warrior, so he can’t make you remember alternate realities, but he can reconcile temporal corruptions. If you were to teleport someone out of a fire, he could make them think they found their own way out, or a firefighter rescued them.”
Vitalie nodded. “If you believe he can help us, I’m willing to give it a shot.”
“Do you need to be...” Étude didn’t know how this worked.
“No, I can do it from here,” Vitalie explained. “The QM is pretty much always on. Take my hands.”
The two of them held both each other’s hands, and closed their eyes to concentrate. “Okay, think of the person you’re trying to contact,” Vitalie instructed. “Think about his face; the shape of his jawline, color of his eyes. The fall of his hair. Think about the sound of his voice, and the manner of his gait.”
Étude did as she was told, and tried to remember everything she could about one Tertius Valerius. They could feel their minds being torn from their respective homes in their brains, and traveling across the planet, right to the Oblivio dome.
Tertius was standing in front of some kind of electrical box, messing with the wires. He stopped and looked over at them. “Oh, hi, babes.”
“Tertius? You’re on Proxima Doma.”
“That’s right,” he confirmed. “Where are you?”
Étude was very confused. “We’re here too, in Dome Four.”
“Isn’t that the one that collapsed?” he asked.
“That was Shelter Forty-One, and also...not..real.”
Tertius nodded, and started eying the electrical box. A part of him wanted to get back to work; doing whatever it was he was doing.
“So, what are you doing here?” Étude questioned.
“I work here,” he said. “In life support.”
“You’re not a systems engineer.”
“I’m learning,” he said with a shrug. “They needed my particular set of skills, so I’m working as an apprentice.”
“What skills do y—” Étude stopped herself. “You’re making the memory wipe technology work.”
He smiled. “They couldn’t figure it out. Sure, they can erase everyone’s memories of their own pasts, but that leaves so many gaps. Where did they come from? Who are their families? Do they like chicken? They don’t just want people thinking everyone in their literal microcosm suddenly appeared out of nowhere with amnesia. They want to fabricate an entire history. That’s where I come in. Should anyone in this dome start to remember things they shouldn’t, or question the nature of their reality, the environment can correct it in realtime. Life support.”
“The Oblivios know what you can do?” Vitalie asked. “They know about time powers, and choosing ones?”
Tertius laughed. “I came to them with revolutionary technology that I refuse to allow anyone but them to utilize. They have no clue I can just do it with my mind. They’ve been...quite grateful.”
“Well, they’re not the only ones who could use your help,” Vitalie began the pitch. “We’re restarting the Savior program.”
“You’re coming out of retirement?” he asked Étude.
“She’ll be taking over,” Étude said. “We’re calling it the Caretaker program.”
He nodded again, and yawned. “So, you want my help keeping your schtick under wraps, I dig it.”
“You can dig it, but can you do it?”
It was hard to tell what he was thinking as he was staring at them, but it felt like he wasn’t going to agree to help them unless he was getting something out of it. “I can, but I’m not sure I should. I’ve committed to the OPP dome. You’re asking me to divide my attention.” Okay, that wasn’t an unreasonable concern.
“What do you want?” Vitalie asked.
“Vita, careful,” Étude whispered to her, but it was loud enough for Tertius to hear.
“No, let’s not dance around this,” Vitalie argued. “He doesn’t work for free, this much is clear.” She directed her attention back to Tertius. “So name your price.”
“I want a house—no, a mansion—no, a tower!” He sought answers in the space before him at a forty-five degree angle. “A Sauron tower, with a panopticon.”
“You wanna rule over Proxima Doma?” Vitalie questioned.
“Not Doma,” he said. “Just this...doma. And I don’t want to rule them; I just want to live in a tower.”
“Aren’t the Oblivios meant to not have any technology? Surely they would notice a giant tower lording over them from the center of their world.”
He literally handwaved this problem. “I can make ‘em forget. I can make ‘em forget they saw a tower while they’re looking at the tower. I can basically be invisible.”
“Wull, I can’t build towers,” Vitalie said regrettably. “So, it’s not up to me.”
“I want this fix just as much as you do,” Étude told her, then she looked back at Tertius. “But you better be right the Oblivios won’t be able to see it. If you make me part of destroying an entire culture’s worldview, I’ll knock you off that tower. My mother did that once, and I inherited more from her than just her blood, so don’t think I’ll hesitate.”
He mimed cutting an X into his heart.
“I need verbal confirmation.”
“I solemnly swear that I am up to all good. Believe it or not, I feel for these primitivists. They’re sacrificing everything they have to start new lives, and they’re going to great lengths to unburden the rest of humanity from them. I’m not getting paid for this. I’m helping, because I want them to have what they need to be happy. It also reminds me of where I grew up, back before the common era.
“Then we have a deal,” Vitalie said with finality. “Let’s shake on it.”

Friday, April 12, 2019

Microstory 1080: Elsie

When I was growing up, my family was so close to the family next door that they actually built an adjoining addition between our two houses, to make it one. The four parents constructed it by their own hands, using designs my architect father drew up. A sky bridge will allow you to walk from one house to the other from the second story, while the first floor retains some open space in the center to walk through, and access our joint backyard. The boy next door was my best friend for years, until he died in a boating accident that Viola should have been able to prevent. I know, I know, beggars can’t be choosers, but I never understood why she was able to save me, and not him. It was the summer after middle school, and Ingram—that was his first name—and I wanted to do something fun, just by ourselves, before classes started. We were dreading going into high school, because though we always had each other, we didn’t really get along with anyone else, and this giant place seemed so threatening back then. This was not anywhere near the first time we went out in that row boat without adult supervision, so we were pretty confident in our abilities. We even checked the weather for the rest of the day, because we were so careful and thoughtful. The storm literally came out of nowhere, right on top of us, like an evil force was trying to attack. Ingram and I did everything we could to reach the shore, which wasn’t that far away, but those waves made it impossible to control the boat, and the rain and clouds made it impossible to see. Naturally, we tipped over, but that shouldn’t have been the end, because we were both wearing life vests, we knew how to swim, and storms don’t last forever. We held hands as best we could, but we were eventually separated from each other. As I was trying to get back to him, I felt two arms lift me in the air, and then I watched as the entire lake swam over to the side, so that I could land safely on solid ground. By the time I looked back, Viola was gone. I actually don’t have any proof that she was the one who raised me out of there, but I can’t think of anyone else who would be capable of it. Following this ordeal, Viola started following me around, like some kind of emotional support animal. Obviously this was the most traumatic experience of my life. People got it in their heads that Viola and I were friends, but it wasn’t that easy. I was grateful for what she did, but I also couldn’t help but resent her for what she didn’t do...couldn’t do. She never did admit to being on the lake that day, but I’ll always know that she chose to let Ingram die, while I have to live without him. So was Viola a great person? Well, yes, she was. But she also wasn’t perfect.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Microstory 1079: Ada

I have seen first hand what Viola could do. She never used her gifts to help me directly, though one could argue that being included on some of her missions was exactly what I needed. She was capable of transporting herself, and others, to far away locations. It wasn’t quite instant, but it was a hell of a lot faster than flying, that’s for sure. She would later tell me she actually could indeed teleport instantaneously, but it took too much energy, and it wasn’t worth it. She chose to travel all over the world, solving other people’s problems, but she didn’t have to wait for them to cry for help, or anything. She could also see the future, so she would be able to be at the right place, at the time time...mostly. For my second mission, we helped a guy who got stuck in the snow when his wheelchair seized up. He was buried up to his waist by the time we found him. Her orientation skills weren’t always perfect, otherwise we might have stopped it before it even got that bad. I didn’t understand why Viola chose me to be part of what she used to do. She implied I would take up the mantle once she was gone, but I wasn’t born with powers, so how would that even work? It works...because I absorbed her gifts upon her death. She never said that I wasn’t meant to reveal myself to the world. Of course she never said anything, but you must be one hell of a field reporter, Alma, because I just can’t lie to you. Right now, I’m in training. Viola didn’t leave any instructions on exactly how I was meant to use my new abilities—mostly because she didn’t tell me about this at all—so she also didn’t do much in the way of instruction. When I was on those missions, I had no idea she was grooming me to be her replacement. I’m actually working with Martin, Margaret, Mae, and Mattie, since they apparently have some experience with this kind of thing. I guess we’re going to start a team? Maybe I am giving away too much. No, people should know about this. Viola’s story deserves to be told, and if my story is part of hers, then I’m just going to have to deal with those consequences. Now I’m getting all worked up about this. I’m headed to the gym to blow off some steam.