Friday, July 19, 2019

Microstory 1150: Braxton Cosworthy

They say that everyone has a doppelgänger in the world, but even if that were true, the chances of two lookalikes meeting each other are extremely low. Yet, extremely low does not mean never. When he was still a baby, Braxton Cosworthy was placed at a home daycare with another boy who looked remarkably like him. To make matters worse, an apple juice accident led the supervisor having to redress half of the children she was monitoring. She foolishly chose to do so with identical sailor uniforms, which she would normally use for fun photoshoots. Braxton and Hyram were switched that day, and lived with each other’s families for nineteen months before the real Hyram experienced a medical issue, and the doctors discovered the error. Depending on how you look at it, this debacle was both fortunate and unfortunate. The two boys were immediately switched back, and reverted to their real names, which didn’t seem to be too hard on them, since they were still so young. It wasn’t too long, though, that all four parents began to feel a sense of loss they couldn’t quite understand. They were now with their real child, but they had bonded with the other, and now missed him deeply. After weeks of pretty much everyone being in therapy, a decision was made to form an unusual blended family. They pitched in on what was basically a mansion, so there was enough space to accommodate everyone, and then they just lived together. Braxton and Hyram grew up as brothers, along with their other siblings. The name thing remained a complicated subject, though. Despite their young age upon switching back, both Braxton and Hyram easily answered to the wrong name; the latter being worse at it than the former. Similarly, Braxton felt equally connected to his temporary name of Kaveda as he was his real name. He alternated between them randomly, making legal forms a confusing matter for others to interpret. Despite the complications, everyone was fairly happy and well-adjusted, and their love for each other was most likely a unique dynamic. Braxton was a racer, and a tracer, though he did not join the tracer gang, because they were a little too close to being a branch of law enforcement. He was a fierce competitor, however, and it got him into trouble once or twice. He made a healthy name for himself in high school and college sports, and spent the rest of his life running in 5Ks, 10Ks, marathons, and other things of this nature.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Microstory 1149: Téa Stendahl

Literally in another life, Téa Stendahl was a tailor. She was originally born a man named Ed Bolton in the late 1700s. Years after the turn of the century, Ed jumped forward exactly one year, and there he remained for precisely three seconds, at which point he jumped forward again. He spent three minutes here, until it happened yet again. He continued to do this unwilling, both increasing the number of years he passed over, and the amount of time he spent upon his return. He would skip years according to the Fibonacci sequence, and spend three somethings (minutes, hours, days, etc.) there, before moving on. In the mid-20th century, he died in a car wreck, but he was an old man by then, and felt he had lived a decent life. He had eventually accepted his new pattern, and helped a lot of people along the way. He would never see is best friends again anyway, as they were traveling through time in the opposite direction, so it was all right that it was finally over. Except it wasn’t. Téa Stendahl was born a normal child, into a lovely family. She enjoyed fashion and sewing, but had no clue that this was not the first life she had experienced. As she grew up, though, she started recalling events that never could have happened to her. Her parents figured she just had a grand imagination, but they still sought help from a child psychologist. He was unable to understand what was happening with her either, but she eventually no longer needed his help. As time went on, she remembered more and more of her former life—or perhaps, more accurately, her former lives. While most jumps allowed him to retain all his memories, there was one thing that never stayed the same.

Bolton stopped going by his original name, instead adopting a new variation each time he jumped. In different time periods, he was called Ned, Teddy, Eddie, Edward, and Theodore. He could always remember the names he used to use, but was unable to revert to them at will. The people in charge of his time traveling were messing with his brain. They must have been messing with the minds of Téa’s new parents too, because her newest name couldn’t have been a coincidence. As the powers that be would have it, Téa was able to see her friends again. After they too were reincarnated, they suddenly jumped in the opposite direction, and met back up with her near the middle of the 21st century. They were surprised to find their companion with a new gender assignment, but not bothered by it. Téa felt that she was a woman, and it was unclear whether the powers that be transformed her on purpose, or if at least part of the reincarnation process was out of their hands, and subject to nature’s whims. Either way, she was happy. She later returned to her roots as a tailor, opening a clothing shop on an island on another planet, in another galaxy. There were others like the three of them, who were sent to various time periods, completing various missions. They weren’t always wearing the right clothing to blend in with the natives, so she was there to provide them with authentic clothes and accessories. They couldn’t just look like they should, like one might find on the set of a historical film. They needed to utilize materials and dye that could be found in any given time. Sometimes, her customers wouldn’t remember that they had ever gone to The Hub at all, instead believing they blinked, and were just suddenly wearing new clothes in the past or future. She even did this for the past version of herself, which was an interesting opportunity to gain rare perspective.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Microstory 1148: Mandis Romagna

Many have questioned how psychic abilities fit in a world of temporal powers. There is a surprising amount of diversity when it comes to special abilities in the universe, but they all involve some kind of manipulation of time and space. This prevents certain theoretical abilities from taking shape. Nobody can fly, because flight requires an alteration in the laws of physics that don’t have much to do with spacetime, or a magical form of propulsion that simply does not exist. Similarly, no one is born with the ability to breathe underwater through some kind of mutation, though they may indeed be able to accomplish this through other means. If they could teleport breathable air from one location to another, then practically speaking, there would be no difference. Psychic powers seem to be a class of exceptions to this rule, and people have been studying the phenomenon throughout time. Are telepaths teleporting their thoughts to other people’s minds, and visa versa? This seems unlikely, because that’s not really how neurophysiology works. The prevailing theory amongst the few who have experience traveling between separate universes is that humans are naturally capable of establishing telepathic connections with each other. One universe has people who can fly, while another is full of demons and angels. They each have their own set of rules, but psychic potential is not just universal; it’s multiversal. Whatever the truth, Mandis Romagna is one of the psychics, though he does have his own specialty. He can’t read your mind under normal circumstances, but he can place you in a pocket dimension, which is designed to read your mind. More specifically, it’s designed to tease out your deepest fears. He became a target once people discovered what he could do, by those who would either use him to hurt others, or would hurt him to stop him from exacting the harm. Hoping to use his skills to interrogate their enemies, the government tried to force him to work for them, but soon found themselves suffering profound regret, when he immediately turned on his captors, and showed them their own fears instead. In fear of these fears, they decided to leave him alone, and let him pursue his life ambitions. He chose a career in mental health, helping others overcome their fears by facing them in a controlled environment. The dimension would read their mind, and create a scenario for them to get through. Over time, he developed the ability to manipulate these scenarios, raising or lowering the difficulty level at will, or pulling the patient out when the obstacles overwhelmed them. He was given the nickname of Jaydecaster, based on the practice of adding the name of historical figure, Jayde Kovac to places or objects as a warning to stay away. Mandis didn’t appreciate it, as he grew up knowing the truth about who Jayde Kovac was, but once the public started calling him that, there was really no living it down. At least he was still helping people.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Microstory 1147: Freeley

The first of the New Gangs of Kansas City, starting around the year 2020, were the Gunbenders, and the Tracers. These two were inextricably linked to one another, ultimately sourcing from the same team, which arose to combat gang violence in the area. They were sick of all the death and danger, and they were tired of their elected officials not doing much to stop it. It was only later that they separated, but this was not due to ideological differences, or infighting. They felt it necessary to become two separate gangs, because one needed to focus more on exacting social change through public opinion, and legislation. The other were the boots on the ground; an enforcement branch, whose primary objective was to physically monitor the implementation of new policy. Their actions were generally illegal in the beginning, though the police did temporarily cede control to them, making their actions...still pretty illegal, since the cops did not have the authority to do this. Either way, the consequence of this was the emergence of new gangs. Most were merely extensions of completely lawful preexisting clubs, which were now adding a more criminal element to their activities. The two most prominent—the kind that were pretty much already gangs to begin with—were the Grammers, and the Taggers. The former were grayhat hackers, who originally provided technical support to the proto-gunbender-tracer alliance. The latter were just graffiti artists, who sought to fill the void left when the system of street gangs were gradually being dismantled. They largely operated alone, but when they realized law enforcement would rather let people tag a few buildings than deal with all the guns and drugs of yesteryear, they started organizing. Eileifr Blomgren was the one who saw this future. He was not the founder of the tagger gang, however. Just because he knew what the city was going to look like in a few years, didn’t mean he wanted to be part of it. He tagged for himself, and he liked to be alone while he was doing it. At the time, Eileifr was using an anglicized interpretation of his name, and drawing a unique design of a leaf to sign his artwork. Once the initial taggers started asking him to join, he decided to rebrand himself as Freilei, which was an anagram of his real name, hoping they would get the message that he was not a joiner. They continued pestering, though, mostly because they didn’t know how it was meant to be pronounced, so he anglicized again, and finally became Freeley. Still, he was proving himself to be one of the bravest taggers in the metro, and his signature piece came when he painted all over the front of a mayor’s private residence...while she was home. The leader of the taggers was on her way out, to attend an art cliché in Paris, so Freeley was the obvious choice to replace her. He soon discovered that maybe he was indeed a joiner after all.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Microstory 1146: Orabela Vinci

Orabela Vinci was one of the source mages on early Durus, and considered to be the most beautiful. Even as a child, people would rave about her physical appearance, and make claims that she would be a heartbreaker. They believed their remarks to be harmless and innocuous, but they were unproductive and irrelevant. They were ignoring her more important qualities, like the fact that she was a beautiful person. She saw the beauty in the world, even a lowly insect, and the good in others, including those who probably didn’t deserve it. As terrible of a leader as Smith was, he always recognized her potential as a contributing member of society, and completely ignored her physical characteristics. She knew that he wasn’t just born evil, but he saw the world they were trapped in for the dangerous powder-keg it was—monsters or no—and while he went about it in the worst ways, he legitimately wanted to protect his people. She was not much for leadership herself, and left those decisions to the other source mages after Smith disappeared. However, in retrospect, they probably would have benefited from a little more of her insight. She was relegated to being the face of the source mage movement; like a mascot with more agency. It was astonishing how much easier it was to get people to listen to them when their words were coming from Orabela’s aesthetically pleasing visage. When the group decided to seek the proverters, who had the power to make them grow up at an alarmingly fast rate, Orabela was the most vocal against it. She was already treated differently because of how she looked, and that was when she was only twelve years old. If the monsters made her look twenty-three, now people were going to be having inappropriate feelings for her, and that would make things worse. They wanted to age themselves up, so people would take them more seriously, but it would most likely have the opposite effect on her, and it would be artificial either way. The proverters were capable of manipulating the age of a target’s body, but could have no impact on their mind. So whether they accepted it or not, they source mages were all still twelve-year-old children, or even younger, in Valda’s case. Natural born protector, Ecrin Cabral had a huge problem with forcing people to do things they didn’t want to do, so she guarded Orabela from the others, and the proverters. She was able to escape this fate while the rest of her friends were magically turned into adults. Sure, this limited her influence on the society they were building, but she was still one of the source mages, and no one could take that away from her. She awarded her older friend, Ecrin with agelessness, as a gift for her bravery and loyalty. Ecrin was thusly one of the first humans to be granted temporal powers on Durus, and she didn’t even have to compete in the mage games to earn it. Of course, this would come with its own consequences, as she would forever be underestimated for her own young appearance, but she would still go on to do great things for the Mage Protectorate, and beyond. Orabela, meanwhile, remained grounded as their civilization grew. She continued to focus on its citizenry, and largely ignored her status among the elite. She would come to be cherished for her accessibility, even after the world fell into the phallocracy, and most women were treated as unequals.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 2, 2240

The Christmas Colonists, as they would come to be called, arrived on Varkas Reflex on December 25. This was just under the wire for the 2239 projection date. They were meant to land months earlier, but had some technical difficulties on the trip across interstellar space. This turned out to be a bit of a good thing, as Eight Point Seven and Hokusai hadn’t quite finished their habitats. The special oxygen-rich liquid they were suspended in wasn’t the easiest or fastest substance to manufacture. They weren’t extremely happy with the name, but would eventually surrender to its humor. Christians became an endangered species many decades ago, and by now, they were largely considered extinct. Those religions which hadn’t already fallen out of favor were on their way out as well, giving way to a civilization based on equality and rationality.
Before Leona disappeared from the timestream last year, Hokusai managed to figure out how to alter her personal gravity using her legs. Back on planet Legolas a century and a half ago, Leona was forced to cut both of her legs off to save herself from an infection. She was rescued by humans of the day, who were able to basically regrow her limbs. They could have made them a hundred percent organic, but she chose to incorporate a little bit of technology into them, so she would have greater strength. She went through hell living alone on that planet, so she considered them to sort of be cosmic reparations for that. These upgrades were evidently not enough to remove her from Mateo’s salmon pattern, so she had mixed feelings about them now. Still, they were making it a lot easier for her to walk on this heavy world. Time-delayed gravity regulator drugs were installed in her legs as well, which provided support for the rest of her organs.
“You can’t do that for me?” Sanaa asked after this was all explained to her.
Hokusai stepped closer to the glass.
“It’s not glass,” Sanaa argued. “It’s a polycarbonate.”
“What?” Hokusai questioned. “I know that.”
Sanaa sneered. “I wasn’t talking to you.”
Hokusai looked behind her. Only Leona was there.
“I know that too.”
Sanaa rolled her eyes. “I was talking The Superintendent.”
I know that as well. I was using the word more generically. The glass of your tank is what separates you from dry land, but allows you to see through it...like glass.
“Okay, but that doesn’t make it glass. There are lots of clear things that aren’t glass.”
Leona stepped forward as well. “Sanaa, are you really communicating with him? He’s in another universe.”
“So?”
“So, you’re communicating to other universes. No one can do that.”
“The Emissary can,” Sanaa contended.
Leona tilted her head. She hadn’t spent much time thinking about how the Emissary was able to be the intermediary between salmon and the powers that be. She now knew they lived in the Superintendent’s universe, so he would have to be quite powerful. “Still, it must be rare.”
Sanaa shrugged. “You were saying...about getting me out of this water?”
“Okay, we will circle back to this,” Hokusai said, drawing a couple circles in the air. “Do you like having powers?”
Sanaa shrugged again. “People are always talking to me, and I don’t love that. I would much rather be a teleporter, so I can leave when people start pissing me off. Can you turn me into a teleporter?”
“Uh, no. I can’t give you powers, but I can take them away. I would probably have to if you wanted to walk on land. You’re so tall and thin.”
“Body shame much?”
Now Hokusai rolled her eyes. “It’s not conducive to high gravity.”
“Oh, so you’re calling her fat.” She pointed at Leona.
Leona wasn’t offended, because that wasn’t what Hokusai was saying.
“Christ, you just can’t listen to what people are saying to you. You just have to be an unmannerly contrarian. The time gods screwed up when they gave you the ability to communicate with others.”
“They sure did,” Sanaa agreed.
Leona looked away. She met those people. None of the characters the so-called time gods came up with were well thought out, because those characters’ lives didn’t matter to them.
“I’ve spoken at great length about this, with lots of people. Paige Turner, Brooke Prieto, Mallory Hammer. It would seem that the more powerful you are, the less likely you are to keep those powers when you receive transhumanistic upgrades.”
“Leona’s been upgraded,” Sanaa argued.
“Leona is spawn, linked with a salmon. She’s unique, and it’s unclear what it would take for her to fall off her pattern, if anything. Besides, what we did for her is a temporary solution, but it will only need to last a few days. You, on the other hand, are an extremely powerful choosing one. One of her days is a year for you. If it’s true that you can reach other universes, then you’re even more powerful than we knew. It’s a miracle you can even receive a flu shot.”
“I’ve never had the flu shot.”
“I can give you nanites,” Hokusai promised, “so you can walk around here, but is that what you really want?”
“Yes,” Sanaa said excitedly. It looked weird, because Leona didn’t think she was capable of experiencing enthusiasm. “I hate it in these tanks.”
“You will quite likely lose your powers permanently, even if we try to remove the upgrades later. But what would be the point? Are you planning on staying here? I was to understand you were trying to get back to Earth.”
“That doesn’t seem possible,” Sanaa lamented. “Truthfully, I’m a little afraid to step foot in another ship. Where might it take me next?” She spoke with a degree of sincerity that Leona, again, didn’t think she possessed.
Hokusai placed her hand on the...polycarbonate.
“Thank you,” Sanaa said to the Superintendent.
Hokusai went on, “I’ve been working hard on my reframe engine.” She glanced over at Leona. “Yeah, that name has grown on me.” She turned to face Sanaa. “I’m quite confident that it will work. Now, it will take me some time to gather the right materials, build a prototype, test it, and incorporate it into Leona’s ship, but you could go with her.”
“But she’s not—” Sanaa started to say.
“She might not be going straight to Earth, that’s true. The beauty of this thing is that takes days to get anywhere within twenty-seven light years. Beyond that, we’re still only talking weeks. You would have to be sixty light years away for the trip to last longer than a month. You understanding my point here? Leona Delaney doesn’t always get to choose where she goes, but the powers want her alive, so she’s virtually invincible. She’s the safest person for you to be around.”
“We call that plot armor.” Sanaa appeared to be rather genre savvy. As a film scholar, this was something Leona liked about her.
Hokusai didn’t care about it. “Yeah, fine.”
“Leona’s ship is only designed for one person,” Sanaa complained.
“You are only one person,” Leona reminded her. “You would only have to suffer my presence one day a year. Not that it matters, because like she said, you’ll arrive in days. I’ll return just under a year later, so you’ll be long gone by then. It will be like I was never there.”
Sanaa looked between them, and thought this over. “If I’m long gone, then the plot armor argument doesn’t hold much...” She stopped herself, and cringed.
“It doesn’t what?” Leona asked. “Hold water?”
“Too soon,” Sanaa said sadly.
The conversation paused. Honest hour, Leona was feeling the urge to be submerged. Sanaa seemed to detest living in the tanks, but the human Christmas Colonists seemed to be genuinely happy in them. Were they that bad, or was Sanaa just a joyless person?
Sanaa continued after the reverent silence. “How long will it take for you to invent this new engine? To be done with it entirely?”
Hokusai didn’t want to answer. “Honest hour? Years. Up to a decade. These things take time. Believe me, you don’t want me rushing something that can explode if it’s not engineered properly.”
“I understand,” Sanaa said. She didn’t want to get exploded, of course. Her own life was important to her, if nothing else.
“You think you can stomach this place that long?”
Sanaa looked at the hatch behind her. Each habitat was designed about the same way. Individual, couple, or family tanks lined the perimeter, while communal tanks sat in the middle. Landwalkers, which were mostly inorganic, could visit water-dwellers in the dry area of their private residence, like the indoor section of a zoo aquarium. They could also socialize on the beaches and piers above the public tanks. Water-dwellers were still capable of surviving outside the water for hours at a time with little problem. In the eleven months that other people were living on this planet, besides Hokusai, Loa, and Eight Point Seven, Sanaa had reportedly never ventured beyond her own personal tank. “I guess I’ll have to find some level of happiness here until then.”
Leona removed all her clothes, and started up the stairs that would allow her to access the surface of Sanaa’s tank. “I’ll join you. I know you and I aren’t friends, but at least you know me. You don’t know any of those weirdos at all.
If Leona didn’t know any better, she would think Sanaa cracked a slight smile.

“Okay, Mateo, the smile is a bit creepy,” Cassidy pointed out.
“I’m just trying to be more positive,” Mateo explained.
“Why are we, uhh...sitting around like this?” It’s not mealtime, and this is kind of freaking me out.”
“I think he just called a reverse intervention.”
“That’s good, Weaver. That’s a good term for it. That’s kind of what’s happening.” He surely still had the uncomfortable smile painted on his face, and he was probably nodding too much. “I gathered you here to apologize. I understand that my behavior as of late has been..less than pleasant.”
“You were a [sic] asshole,” Thor remarked.
“Thompson,” Goswin scolded.
“No, no,” Mateo assured them. “That’s okay. This is a safe space. I was a asshole. I hear you. I recognize that. I appreciate your candor. I was under a lot of pressure when I was Patronus of Dardius, and I missed Leona deeply, but honest hour? I legit miss that too. I was in charge, of like, billions of people. Gos, you know what I’m talking about.”
Not really, Goswin said with his facial expression, like he didn’t want people thinking he and Mateo were anything alike.
I admit that things have been rough since I got back. I’m just a few light years away from my wife, but I still can’t reach her. The ship is going off to God knows where, and I’m kind of freaking out here. That is not your problem, and I am sorry for any stress that I added to your lives.”
“It’s okay, Mateo” Weaver consoled. “That was weeks ago.”
“Speak for yourself,” Thor said to her. “I ain’t over jack. People have been talking to me like him my whole goddamn life. They did it on Earth. They did it on Mars. And they did it everywhere else I went. I’ve been underestimated and dismissed so much that I put it on my résumé. But I keep my shit together, because people are counting on me. Do they count on you?”
“I hope so,” Mateo said, losing a bit of his smile.
“Then keep it together, bro.”
Mateo breathed in. “I can do that. Thank you for your truth.”
“And stop sayin’ stuff like that. It’s like a white person saying namaste. You don’t know what that means.”
“Thor, you are not the most pleasant person to live with either,” Cassidy asserted.
Thor stood up quickly. “I know. Why you think Saxon wanted to get rid of me?” He started to walk away. “I’m going back to bed. When I wake up, we better—” Then he continued with his mocking tone, but his words devolved into unintelligibility, like an adult on Peanuts.
“Well,” Goswin said. “Progress takes time.”

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Bungula: Buffer State (Part III)

The team of scientists and engineers constructs gargantuan domes on Bungula’s fully coalesced moon, using material from the oblong second moon. They then turn the heat up all the way, and convert the ice caps to liquid water, where they test the dark algae they created in a lab. It fares just as Mirage hoped, rapidly reproducing itself using the energy it collects from the mysterious dark matter, and microbes as a catalyst. Brooke was right to make Mirage test it, though, because it proves to be harder to maintain in its large numbers than they originally thought. This experiment allows them to come up with a better way to make sure the dark algae doesn’t get out of hand, and remain on Bungula’s surface forever. Mirage’s scientists spend what remains of a year studying their creation before transplanting it to the planet.
It takes another good year for the algae to spread across the entire surface, but its impact started months earlier. It produces minimal oxygen as waste, but it’s too thin to breathe. It will remain this way until something is put in place to hold the atmosphere together. The planet already does have a magnetosphere, but it’s weak—though not as weak as the one on Mars—and insufficient for human life. In order to make it stronger, Mirage came up with Operation Buffer State. Her team has been working on it for years, and now that it’s ready, it will turn out to be one of the shortest endeavors.
“They’re giant electrodes,” Sharice points out, looking at the design Mirage’s team created years ago.
“Essentially, yes,” Mirage confirms. “Current flows in one direction, and is resisted by the core of the planet, which heats it up, and gets it moving faster.”
“You’re trying to produce a stronger dynamo effect,” Brooke says, though everyone in the room understands that this is the point.
“Indeed.”
“I thought we already made a magnetic field?” Sharice questions.
“We did,” Mirage agrees. “We placed an artificial field generator between Bungula and Rigil Kentaurus, but that is only a technological solution.”
Brooke laughs. “These are all technological solutions. What else would we use to terraform the planet? Magic?”
Mirage shakes her head. “No, I mean that it’s a permanent tech solution. If we use the generator we have up there—which isn’t entirely working at the moment, by the way, since the atmosphere isn’t holding—then we have to leave it up there forever.”
“What’s the problem with that?” Sharice asked.
“Wait,” Brooke stops, “we’ll circle back to that. It’s not working?”
“It’s deflecting the radiation from the sun, but the atmosphere is still dispersing in space,” Mirage explains. “Radiation stripping particles away is not the only problem an atmosphere has.”
“Well, the algae is lowering the surface’s albedo, but it’s not really designed to generate a full atmosphere. Once we do that, will the magnetosphere still not be strong enough?”
“It could, if we strengthen it, but that’s not what I want to do.” She tries to think of how she wants to word this. “The algae is man made, the domes are man made, and the field generator is man made. Well, they weren’t made by men, but you know what I mean.”
They laugh.
“If aliens were to come to this world, they would see these things, and say, hey, people are, or were, here.”
“Okay...”
“The point of terraforming the world is to be able to remove those things, and the planet still be completely hospitable to life. We won’t need domes when we have a full atmosphere, and the dark algae is only here to warm it temporarily, before we can create a greenhouse gas effect. The plan was never to create an algae world, obviously. Once we’re done, all the vonearthans should be able to pack up every single artificial object—small and large—and then leave it to that hypothetical nineteenth century man we were talking about when this all started.”
Brooke turns her head. “Again, you’re not actually wanting to transplant people from the past, right?”
“Right.”
“And you’re not planning on people leaving, right? We’re building a world for the colonists who all already here; not for someone else.”
“Of course,” Mirage says. “You make me sound like a bond villain. The idea is to  make a world that can support itself, just like Earth is. It doesn’t need humans to survive, so I don’t want Bungula to need them either. That doesn’t mean they’re not sticking around; just that they shouldn’t have to do any work to keep it alive.”
“Have you done your studies?” Brooke asks, like she always has to.
Mirage nods. “This will not harm the planet in any way. It’s not going to cause the mantle to shatter, or set off a global EMP. It’ll happen quickly, too. We’ll know if it’s working or not pretty much right away.”
“I assume you’ve already built these things, haven’t you?”
“I’ve decided that I require your guidance on every dynamic-shifting action. Building them before using them was harmless, however. I won’t activate them if you can give me a reason not to.”
Brooke bites her lower lip in thought. “Welp, I can’t actually see a downside to this. I mean, sure, you could electrocute every conductive being on the planet, but what are the chances of that happening?”
“I could provide you with the chances,” Mirage notes.
“That’s quite all right. I’ll allow you to do this. I understand your logic. First of all, technology can fail, and then this planet is screwed. Even if it doesn’t fail, it makes sense that we wouldn’t want to be totally dependent on it.”
“Good,” Mirage says. “I’m glad we’re on board.”
“I kind of have to be,” Brooke realizes. “After all, this mission doesn’t require us to manipulate time and space in a way the vonearthans don’t understand. This is not true for Operation Icebreaker.”
Mirage was hoping she wouldn’t bring that up. “It would take centuries to bring all those icy planetesimals here if we do it the usual way. We have a solid cover story; I think we’re okay. Speaking of which, Sharice, how is that coming?”
“They’re all on their way. That, along with the factories you’re building, should be enough to produce greenhouse gases sufficient for a healthy, warm atmosphere. We are right on schedule.”
“It’s still strange that we’re causing global warming,” Brooke laments. “I lived on Earth when that was one of our biggest problems.”
“We’ll be able to control it this time,” Mirage assures her, “from the start.”
“I know, I know. It’s still the project that concerns me the most, though. Not only are we using time powers to move the ice closer to us much faster, and not only are we smashing them into a colonized planet, but we’re also hoping we can retain any level of control over it. How can I be confident in that?”
“Just have confidence in me,” Mirage offers, “and more importantly, in your daughter.”
“There is no going back with this one,” Brooke warns. “We could destroy the algae, or shut off the electrodes. But if we realize we made a mistake with those planetesimal impacts, we won’t be able to stop it.”
Mirage places what she hopes will be a comforting hand on Brooke’s shoulder. Brooke isn’t human anymore, and Mirage never was, so touch doesn’t have the same intrinsic utility, yet inorganics continue to do it instinctively. Experts can’t explain why. “We have taken all the necessary precautions, and then some. Nothing is going to go wrong.”
Something goes wrong.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Microstory 1145: Makarion Dimitrios

In an earlier reality, Makarion Dimitrios was chosen as one of the last Saviors of Earth. His career was different than those of his predecessors. He was less involved with choosing ones and other salmon, and more linked to the powers that be. To be sure, he never met them in person, but he did meet with The Emissary more often than one might expect. His tenure did not last long, however. In an attempt to free himself from cruel torment, Mateo Matic tried to kill his torturer, who was a man named The Rogue. But the Rogue had a secret, that he could subvert death, by transferring his consciousness to the body of anyone else with temporal powers. In this case, the Rogue didn’t have time to hunt for a suitable host, nor did he have any control over which body he possessed, so the nature of his attempted murder changed his powers permanently. He found himself in possession Makarion’s body, but unlike with his previous hosts, he was unable to leave. This was his last body; he would be stuck with it until the day of his death. Masquerading as Makarion, the Rogue continued to force Mateo and his friends into challenges, one of which involved them both traveling back in time, and killing Adolf Hitler before he would have died on his own. This act elicited a new reality. Mateo no longer existed, and since Mateo was instrumental in his creation, nor did the Rogue. So now there were two people running around the timeline with Makarion’s face. This seemed okay, because it allowed a version of Makarion to fulfill his duty as Savior, having no idea that he died in a different timeline. But there were consequences. The Rogue had made a deal with an even more powerful man named The Cleanser, and the Cleanser felt this deal had been broken, so he finally ended the Rogue’s life. It turned out, maybe the Rogue wasn’t so bad after all, but his death was not the worst of it. The Cleanser’s sister was known as The Conservator, except when she wasn’t; she was instead The Extractor. Their entire family was born with some ability to perceive alterations to the timeline, and they used these powers to manage certain outcomes. Sometimes, a time traveling act did, or undid, a particular event in history, even if only accidentally. It was their job to manipulate the timeline again; to correct what they believed to be a mistake. This family was egotistical, narcissistic, and uncaring, so the Extractor decided no Makarion would live past the moment the Rogue died. At the exact same time the Cleanser was killing him, she was killing the new Makarion herself, even though there was no real justification for this—and, in fact, no link to it at all. Even though the Rogue looked like Makarion, they had nothing to do with each other, so this was completely pointless. Makarion wasn’t the shortest-lived Savior in the long history of the program, but he certainly didn’t live the longest. His untimely death had a major impact on the future of the program, totally changing who was chosen next, and perhaps more importantly, who was chosen to be The Last. Had Makarion survived the Extractor’s morbid logic, neither Xearea Voss, nor Étude Einarsson would have become Saviors themselves, and maybe their lives would have been that much less dangerous. Then again, maybe those two were exactly what the Extractor had in mind when she murdered him.