Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Microstory 1422: Proto-Protectorate

Now that the source mage children looked nearly twice as old as they really were, they decided it was time to assume full control over Springfield, and possibly Splitsville. The Adhocracy was nice while it lasted, but it had come to an end, and times needed to change. People had spent their whole lives since the Deathfall hoping that it would all lead them back to Earth, but the source mages knew this was not possible. The last time they were there was nearly thirteen years ago, and as the members of the Triumvirate had explained to them, no one there could even remember that they existed. Durus was their home now, and they needed to make sure everyone knew that. They weren’t just going to survive, and hope the monster never took them out eventually. They were going to make this place safe and prosperous, so that if the Earthans did learn of their existence, some might even want to move. They thought they had their plans all figured out, but when Orabela showed them they were capable of gifting other people with special temporal powers, nothing they first thought of made any sense. So they started over, and spent months working on a brand new system. They called it the Mage Protectorate. They would give other people powers, so they could shoulder the burden, and protect the towns collectively. With more people, what was formerly called the Baby Barrier would be able to grow, and give the Durune people more space. The only question then was how to choose who received these gifts, and who didn’t. They couldn’t just let anyone run around with powers, doing whatever they wanted. Sure, they could regulate them with laws, but what if insurgents banded together, and rose up against their leaders? No, it was too dangerous to make the job available to just anyone. This required some way of weeding out potential bad eggs. This sparked the idea of the Mage Games.

Anyone could apply to be a town mage, but that didn’t guarantee they would be selected. The new leaders called upon their best statistician, and other experts, to gauge how many people would want in on this, and how many winners they needed to keep things running smoothly. This was a very involved process, which demanded help from lots of other people. This was perfect, though, because by including non-source mages in the decision-making processes, they only made themselves look better. This was going to be a fair government, where everyone’s voice was heard. They were going to call it a protectorate, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t also be democratic. The initial assumption was that the Mage Games would be held every year. Maybe there would actually only be one winner each time, and that one person would go on to join the ranks of the many veterans before them. This didn’t sound so unreasonable, but it came with risks. First of all, the source mages didn’t really want to have to go through this every single year. And, if the competition was annual, they worried it would be too accessible, easily corrupted by inequality, and fraught with logistical issues. A vicennial competition, however, would make turnover slow, and hopefully discourage mages from trying to quit early. Plus, most people would end up too old to compete a second time if they failed once; though neither impossible, nor against their rules. This fostered a group composed of committed competitors, who were not taking this lightly. If they didn’t manage to get in, they might not get another chance, and if they did get in, trying to get out of it would put the whole population in danger, so it was important that they understood what it was they were signing up for, and what it would mean for their lives. This was not a car dealership, though. The standards were flexible, and sensible. If they determined, for instance, that every town mage had to be able to do a hundred pushups, and their strongest competitor could only do ninety-nine, then they would just end up with no mages, and that wasn’t helpful at all. They wanted everyone who was worthy, and if that meant everyone who applied was ultimately accepted, then so be it. The point was to prevent the wrong people from having too much power, but if those people didn’t exist, or didn’t even try—and there was enough offensive work to justify the numbers—then fine. Armed with this wisdom, it was finally time to decide what the Mage Games entailed.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Microstory 1421: Sourced

Somewhat early on after the Deathfall sent Springfield to Durus, the first ever non-source mage received a special temporal power from one of the sources. Aimo Lahti gave his older sister the ability to separate liquid molecules from each other. On a small scale, she could pour a bottle of fruit juice into a beaker of acid, and then teleport them away from each other. This could be very useful, but her family didn’t want anyone to know about it. They didn’t even know that it was Aimo who accidentally gave it to her in the first place. They kind of just thought she later developed a power of her own. It wasn’t until 2029 that the fact that these children were capable of doing this to others came to light, and it was less of an accident. Aqil may have been considered the intelligent one, but Orabela was the wisest. She was always underestimated intellectually, because of her physical beauty, which was—not only inappropriate for a twelve-year-old—but harmful to her self-esteem, and standing within the community. She was worried that the way people treated her would only get worse if she were to strike a deal with the proverters. If they made her look 23, then people would start looking at her like she was an adult, but no amount of rapid aging would make her actually an adult. That was something that came with time, experience, and maturity. She did not fault the other children for making this deal, but she wanted no part of it. They were tired of being treated as children, and figured this would help them, but it would most likely just give people the wrong idea about her. Ecrin Cabral was several years older than the source mage children, and had only recently turned 18 when the proverters aged them to look older than her. She found herself quite protective over Orabela, and her choice to remain as she was. After the deal was done, the other sources decided they were no longer okay with letting Orabela make her own choice. They thought they knew better, and that she would thank them later. They tried to force her to go visit the proverters, and she was helpless to refuse. She couldn’t take on all of them at once. But Ecrin could. At least that’s what she felt she had to do. She fended them off, even though it went against everything she was taught to believe about the divinity of the powerful children. The fight caused pretty severe injuries on her part, and left her combatants completely unscathed. She could have died if their parents hadn’t intervened, and put a stop to the fight altogether.

Ecrin spent weeks in recovery. During this time, the town decided the children would have a lot of authority over Springfield, but still wouldn’t be allowed to pressure anyone to do anything against their will. They could lead, and they could protect, but they did not rule unilaterally. Smith tried that years ago, and it didn’t work out for anyone; not even him. Once Ecrin was better, Orabela admitted that she understood what her real power was. Yes, she and the others all had abilities of their own, but their true purpose was to give other people their own gifts. She knew what Aimo had done for his sister, and she realized that they could all do the same, to anyone. So she chose Ecrin as her first receiver. She bestowed upon her the gift of agelessness. Ecrin would be able to be hurt or killed when attacked, or from an accident, but barring that, she would never get older in appearance, decline in general health, or die. As the wisest among them, Orabela determined it would be best that no one knew this particular gift was given on purpose. If they were to ever do it for anyone else again, people would have to believe that it was random, and beyond the giver’s control. In fact, she saw that it was entirely possible to make it random anyway, to promote fairness and harmony in the society. While Leena Lahti would later be outed as the first true sourced mage, Ecrin held the title for a good long time. But it would not end there. This gave the other source mages an idea, and it changed everything about how they planned to run Durus from then on. This was the beginning of the beginning of the Mage Protectorate.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, May 27, 2081

Mateo and J.B. were placed in highly advanced medical pods. In a matter of minutes, the minimally invasive nanobots had repaired all of their bodily injuries, and restored them to perfect health. In fact, Mateo hadn’t realized he hadn’t been feeling great for the last week or so, but all that was gone too. He was feeling better than ever before. Unlike Leona, he was easily able to forgive Sanaa for what she had done, though he could tell that all his wife needed was time. Jericho, on the other hand, was not so merciful. He was pissed, and while the two of them were recovering, he had caused so much of a stir, that Parallel natives had to step in, and place him in a holding cell, so he wouldn’t be able to hurt anyone. It was here that he spent the rest of the day, and when the next time jump came, he made the trip with them to May 27, 2081.
By then, the AOC had been returned to them, so they could continue their mission, which was apparently taking them to Egypt. Shortly after they arrived, their next target did as well. Ariadna Traversa, also known as The Escapologist, had been living in the Great Pyramid of Giza on May 27, 2081. She wasn’t alone there. Others were staying there with her, along with an alternate version of Leona. Though Aridna was the only one who was sent through the transition window.
“Jeremy,” Ariadna acknowledged.
“Do we know each other?” J.B. asked her.
Ariadna looked around. Her pyramid was gone. They were standing in a rainforest. Some deserts did exist on this planet, because certain living organisms thrived there, but there was a lot more greenery on this version of Earth than their homeworld. The humans put a great deal of effort into insulating and seeding life on the worlds they conquered. They considered protecting the environment their sacred duty, even though their whole deal was being able to go wherever they wanted in the observable universe, and not worrying about the habitability of any one place. Ariadna didn’t know where she found herself now, but J.B. not knowing her was still not a surprise. She breathed in and enjoyed the particularly clean air. “Report.”
“Have you ever heard of The Parallel?” Leona asked.
“No, what is that?”
“It’s an alternate reality that runs concurrently to our own,” Mateo answered.
“It’s halfway between a different timeline, and a different universe,” Leona started to clarify. “Each can be changed by time travelers, but neither led to the other, and any changes to one have no impact on the other.”
Ariadna nodded her head. “I understand the concept. What am I doing here?”
“Jupiter Fury,” Sanaa said.
Ariadna rolled her eyes. “You guys are mixed up with the Springfield Nine?”
“Really just the one,” J.B. said.
She was still nodding. “How do I get back?”
Mateo consulted his cuff. “You can go back in an hour, right where you came through. Sometimes we have to get people to different places, but you can just stay here and wait.”
“Then I can go through too,” Jericho suggested. He had long ago calmed down, but they were still controlling his movements through proximity settings. He couldn’t be more than ten meters away from at least one of the others, and he couldn’t stand within one meter of any of them. “It’s only been three years, I can still go back to my life. I won’t tell anyone about this place, I promise.”
“We’re not worried about you exposing us,” Leona assured him.
Sanaa continued, “the prison will lock you up if you try.”
“You can’t go through the window either way,” Leona finished.
“Why not?” Jericho demanded to know.
“Yeah, why not?” J.B. questioned. “Is it because he still has a chance to stop the changes to the judicial system?”
“It’s not that,” Leona replied. “Ariadna, when did Adolf Hitler die?”
“I don’t know,” Ariadna answered, “like 1949, or something.”
“You sure it wasn’t 1945?”
She thought about it a moment. “Yeah, because he had that scandal involving the Argentinian ambassador that definitely happened after the war ended. Why?”
“That’s why you can’t go through, Jericho,” Leona said to him.
She was right. It wasn’t going to work. If they tried to send Jericho back with The Escapologist, he would end up in the wrong version of 2081. In fact, she shouldn’t return either. This was the last day of reality before it collapsed to make way for a new timeline. Since Mateo was the one who killed Hitler, and created the new timeline in the main sequence, he chose to be the one to explain this to both of them.
“Well, fine,” Jericho said, still frustrated. “Then I’ll go back in 2084. Will that work?”
They looked to Leona, who shook her head. “The next window won’t be until 2100. I’m sorry.”
“This is bullshit!” Jericho cried. “I didn’t ask to be here!”
“Yeah, that’s the deal,” Mateo volleyed. “Sanaa is the only one who came here on purpose. The rest of us are salmon, and aren’t given a choice of how we experience time. Except for Ariadna, who’s basically been kidnapped, just like you.”
“Well.” Jericho didn’t understand. “Can’t you just make the window go back to the other, other 2081?”
“Can you?” Sanaa asked of him.
“That guy,” Jericho pleaded. “That guy I saw you talking with. He’s the one in charge, right? He can do it. He’s in total control of these window things anyway, isn’t he?”
Now everyone looked to Sanaa, who had spent the most time exploring her Cassidy cuffs. She probably knew more about them than Leona did. “There’s a Help feature, just like you would find on a regular computer.” She started to tap on her cuff. “When I select it, it shows me the options for Call, Chat, and Summon. But they’re all grayed out, as if we need to wait until business hours. I’m sure that’s how we would contact Jupiter, but he would have to clock in to work. I’m glad he’s not there, though.” She addressed Jericho alone, “I wouldn’t want you to go back to the main sequence. Hell, I don’t even want you going back there in 2100. Don’t worry, I won’t stop you guys, but I won’t help you either. I vote we find a way to strand him here.”
Leona sighed. “We’re not doing that. We will send you back on June 15, 2100. Until then, you will both have to stay here. Miss Traversa, I’m afraid I cannot allow you to return to a reality we know is about to collapse.”
“Of course not,” Ariadna said. “I’m glad you have a choice, and Jupiter isn’t forcing you to do it.”
They stood there awkwardly for a moment. J.B. broke the silence, first by casually sucking his teeth as if it were a music instrument, and then with words. “So...do you want a tour of the ship?”
“Sure, why not?” Ariadna asked rhetorically.
“Perhaps you can tell me about this other version of me you evidently met.”
“Yeah, all right.”
“Mr. Hagen, I know that you are angry. What my associate did to you is unforgivable. I hope you will one day understand why it is she made her choice, as dangerous as it was. I believe that you would benefit from a little history lesson. Our ship possesses the repository of human knowledge within its memory storage. I can show you what the world goes through up until 2100, especially in adjudicative related topics. I can even show you beyond that, though it may be best you don’t learn anything about the future. Would you be interested in that? It might help change your mind.”
“I don’t want to change my mind,” Jericho argued.
Leona nodded. “A lot of people have held the same conviction. I’m not saying you’re evil, but it’s unquestionably the reason we had the Crusades, and the Spanish Inquisition, and the Witch Trials, and the Great Wars, and all the other wars, and McCarthyism, and all the other bad things that our world has experienced!” She didn’t yell too loudly, but she was impassioned. “The inability to surrender to the possibility that one is wrong has led to so much death and heartache that it is quite literally impossible to quantify. If you’re not open to learning more information, and becoming a better person, then you’re not a real lawyer...you’re just a walking law book. And a book is no better than a paperweight if the lessons inside it aren’t used to make the world a better place.
“So you can sulk until you go back, and you can plan your revenge against time travelers, which puts you at risk of being placed in a prison no human could escape. Or. You can come with me back to the AOC, and find out how to practice law in the new system.”
Jericho took a moment to reply, but it was clear he was about to, so no one interrupted him. “Very well.”
Mateo and Sanaa watched them head for the ship as well. “Wow, she said. Remember what I told you about us never having a threesome? I’m actually considering it now.”
“Keep it in your pants, Karimi.”
Nothing interesting happened for the rest of the day. J.B. and Ariadna proved to be fast friends, which wasn’t that weird, since the latter already knew some other version of the former. Jericho studied what was originally meant to be his past, and while no one would have said he had some kind of revelation, he was a little more flexible about the law by the end of the day. They let the transition window come and go, once again without having anyone actually use it to go back to the main sequence. From now on, people would only be coming from the reality that existed after Mateo assassinated Hitler. That was what most of them thought, anyway. Leona explained that it was more complicated than that.
People were regularly going back in time and changing history, and since the main sequence was less a separate reality, and more of a series of realities, it was entirely possible someone would come through the window with a slightly different recollection of events than they had. These differences would most likely be imperceptible, like what color shirt they wore when they first met, or whatever. It could theoretically cause problems with causality, however. So Leona recommended they really do try to send people back through the windows, if at all possible. Keeping the main sequence separate from the Parallel was something they ought to be striving for. Hopefully that would start to feel as easy to do as said.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida: Turtle (Part I)

My alarm goes off, but I just let it play. The persistent beeping is almost pleasant to me now. It reminds me that I’m still alive, despite everything. I don’t even know how old I am now. I should know, and I would if I were younger, and I will once I’m younger again, but my mind is too hazy. That’s when I know, though. That’s when I know it’s time to go back and start over. My counterpart—the one you would be forgiven for calling the real Paige Turner—is immortal too, but in a different way. She upgraded her substrate with technology. Nanites repair damages, organs regrow themselves, or can simply be replaced with no rejection problems. She can interface with other technology, and even download information into her brain. I thought about doing this, but it comes at a cost.
I was born a human, but when I was a child, I accidentally stepped through a portal, and was accidentally granted special time powers by my soon-to-be adoptive father. I learned that I could travel anywhere in time, as long as I could see it, usually with a photograph. It has to be real; I couldn’t simply ask someone to paint me a picture of what they think the year 40,000 might look like, and then jump into it. I can teleport by line-of-sight too, but I find myself not doing that very often. I don’t really know why. The point is that when my other self upgraded herself, she lost this power. It made her immortal, yeah, but it also forced her to live through linear time, unless she finds someone to take her to some other point in time. I couldn’t live like that. I had a job to do, and it required the ability to go back and forth between Earth and where I live now, Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida. This is a beautiful world, though saying that is a bit self-aggrandizing, because I am responsible for people’s ability to experience it. Nearly everything on this planet was toxic to humans when I arrived. I spent decades modifying the genetic structure of every living creature, so that would no longer be the case. But in order to do this, I needed my own form of immortality.
During my travels, I came across a special object with temporal properties of its own. It’s not the only way to stay youthful, or live forever, but it’s the way I chose, and today is the day I go through it all again. If something goes wrong, however, I have to make sure my partner is prepared to move on without me. “Stop alarm.” I slide my legs across the bed, and let them fall to the floor. I make a lot more noises when I move now; yet another indicator that it’s time to use the stone. I struggle to get my nightgown out from under my ass, and pull it off. Then I stand up and walk over to the closet. My robe isn’t there. Did Ellie take it? Why would she do that? I step into my slippers, and shuffle outside, down the hallway, and into Ellie’s workspace. Man, why did I build this place so damn large? Oh, that’s right, it’s designed for young whippersnappers.
“You have forgotten your clothes, Lady Trinity.” Ellie chose a different way to stay young. She’s not completely immortal, like Paige is. She only drank Youth water, so if someone goes after her with a spear, or something, she’s in trouble. She started calling me Lady Trinity once I got old enough, and says she’ll stop once I reyoungify myself.
“Did you take my robe?”
“Oh.” She grows solemn, even though it’s not a bad day. “Is it happening?”
“I’m not dying, Ellie. I just need my robe. It’ll be fine.”
“You switched rooms years ago, remember? You left some stuff in the old one.”
“That’s right.” I remember now. I start shuffling that direction.
“Do you want help?”
I stop, and look over at the tank. I know she asked me a question, and I even know what it was, but my mind is too degraded for me to reliably carry on a continuous conversation. “He looks ready.”
Ellie walks over and gently caresses the tank. “I’m not sure how old he was when he died, but yes, it’s about time for him to be reborn. We’ll do it today, right after you get back. You’ll have the same birthday.”
I giggle. That’s not really how it works. The body in the tank is in a completely different situation than me. He doesn’t need to be reyoungified. In fact, the reason why it’s taken us forty years to bring him back is because we wanted him to be older, just as he was when he was murdered. It is indeed time to finally end the process, though. “Start the preparations. I’ll only be gone a couple minutes. That’s how long it’ll take me to get to my old room.”
“You have the stone?” she asks.
I open my hand, and show her.
“Be careful.”
“As always.” I get moving again, back to where I used to sleep. I don’t recall why I switched rooms. I think it had something to do with our associate. He’s not a good guy, and I was sick of living so close to him. Or maybe he had nothing to do with it, and I just needed a change in scenery. The automated cleaning systems have kept it in perfect condition, like I never left. “Hey Thistle, open the closet, please.” I would normally just do it manually, but I’m anxious to confirm my robe is in there. I could just print a new one; it’s not a big deal, but every time I decide to reyoungify myself, I’m worried something will kill me at the last second. It’s this last day each time that stresses me out the most.
“Can I come with you?” I didn’t realize she was in here. She doesn’t like her father any more than I do, so I shouldn’t be surprised this is one of the places she likes to go to get away from him.
I sigh. “Go home, Abby.”
She stands up. “Please. I want to see it. I want to know what you look like when you’re young.”
“And you’ll see me when I get back.”
“Can I at least be in the photo you take?”
I sigh again. “If you must.”
“Here. I’ll help you put that on.” She comes over, and places the robe over my head. Then she tugs at it to make sure it’s set right. “So ominous. Why do you do it again? I mean, it’s not like you don’t know who the people in the other robes are.”
“A wink, or a twitch, or a scar under my eye,” I start to explain to her. “It could give something away. I don’t want to know what my future looks like. It’s best if we just stay robed up. Besides...” I pull the hood over my head. “I have to wear the robe, because one thing I do know about my future is that every version of me always does.”
I forgot my photo device, so Abigail lets me use hers. I’ll literally only be gone a few seconds, from her perspective. “Say homestone!”
I hold up the camera, and smile. Then I snap the photo, squeeze the stone in my hand, and disappear.
The portal my now-fathers brought me through was at Stonehenge on October 8, 1971. The homestone has allowed me to travel back to that very moment, and in doing so, it also returned me to the age I was at the time. I’m back to being a twelve-year-old girl, which means I’m smaller, and the robe doesn’t fit as well. But that’s exactly what I want, because it obscures my face. Several other people are standing around in identical robes. But they’re not really other people. They’re me. They’re all me. I’ve done this many times already, and I will do it again in another seventy years or so. I can see a few of them from under my hood, but I don’t want to be able to count them. There aren’t millions of us here, so I know I’m not destined to live hundreds of millions of years. At some point, I give up my pursuit of everlasting life. That could mean I will upgrade my substrate, just like Paige!One. Or it could mean I manage to get my hands on immortality water. But the most likely explanation is that I eventually die, and the cycle finally ends.
This is the sixth time I’ve used the homestone. I don’t always let myself get as old as I did this time. One time, I was poisoned by a turtle-like animal on Bida, and had to jump back, even though I was only in my thirties. In all those times, I have not yet become the version of myself who’s over there, talking to The Delegator. Stonehenge is like his office. He’s responsible for giving a certain type of time traveler called salmon their assignments. I don’t come here on purpose. The homestone will always bring me back to the last place I was before I traveled through time for the first time. So I don’t know why this other Trinity feels the need to converse with him, and I definitely don’t know what they’re talking about. Presumably, none of the others do either. We’re watching them, even though we know the whole point of the robes is to avoid altering the timeline by knowing too much about it. One by one, they all look at their photo devices, and disappear back to their future. I need to follow suit, and go back to 2300, where I belong. I take one last glance at the talkative Trinity, then gaze at the photograph Abigail and I took together. Just before I jump into it, I see something that I have never been here long enough to notice. One of the other Trinitys attacks the talkative one. I have no clue why, and I’m gone before I can find out.
“You’ve been gone a long time,” Abigail says to me.
“I have? Oh my God! How long?”
“I’m kidding!” she assures me. “It’s been two seconds.”
“Don’t scare me like that. Jesus.” I pull the robe off, much quicker than I could before, because I’m strong and youthful again. This makes her a little uncomfortable. A naked old woman isn’t the most appealing thing to see, but it’s a whole lot less problematic than the body I’m sporting now. “Sorry. I should have prepared another set of clothes.” I grab the first outfit I find, and throw it on. It’s a dress. I’m wearing a dress. I’m wearing a dress that’s three sizes too big for me, and I’m about to go back to the lab. I hate being quite this young. I’m always at my best when I’m in my twenties. But the homestone wasn’t invented to make people immortal, and I’m never given a choice of how old I become when I use it. It was designed to let people go back to the beginning. Perhaps time travel screwed up their lives, and this is the next best thing to an actual reset button. It doesn’t let them undo everything that happened to them up until that point, but it does give them a second chance to lead a better life, starting right where they were when it all went wrong. In some cases, their loved ones won’t even know they were gone, since no time will have passed for them. The reyoungification feature is only there to help facilitate this ruse. I found another use for it, though.
Abigail and I leave the room, and head back to the lab. Ellie is there, running a diagnostics check on the machine. She’s further in the process than she should be already.
“Ah, Turtle Toes, you’re here.” This is what Ellie calls Abigail. “Did it go okay?” she asks me.
“Perfectly,” I answer. I choose not to tell her about the Trinity fight. If I could forget it myself, I would. “I’m a little young for this mission, though. Maybe we should wait.”
“His body will be too old by that time, and people will notice. I can do it myself.”
“No, that wasn’t the plan. I was just an old woman, and I was too cognitively impaired to think this through. This is wrong. We have to extract him together.”
Ellie smiles at me, and leans down to get on my level, which I just kind of find insulting, because I’m not really only twelve. “There’s something I never told you.”
“What’s that?” I ask.
“I’m, like, nine hundred years older than you.” She converts the smile into a smirk, activates the time chamber, and disappears into it before I can stop her.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Microstory 1420: Proversion

On March 18, 2029, the first ten of the source mage children were twelve years old. Valda Ramsey was meant to be the oldest, but because of her mother’s time jump before she was born, she was only seven years old. They were starting to feel like it was time for them to take over Springfield and Splitsville. They were each developing powers beyond just being able to repel time monsters, and they figured they were old enough to lead the people of Durus. The problem was, even though everyone loved and respected them, they were still being treated as children. They could protect Springfield, but they were not thought to be fit to make any decisions, and that just wasn’t good enough for them. By then, a catalog of the time monsters was written up. They knew the differences between rothkillers and roiders, bygoners and speedstrikers. Each type had its own special power, and one of them in particular would be useful to them. The verters were the most intelligent monster—or perhaps, really, the only intelligent ones. They could alter the age of a target, in appearance, and to some degree, level of maturity. The children tried to get people to take them seriously for a few weeks, months, but no one was biting, so the verters were their only hope. There was no difference between a proverter and a retroverter. It all depended on which alteration they were using on a subject at any given time. An old person, of course, would only be interested in being young again, and that was the most common desire, so they were generally called retroverters. That was not what the source mage children wanted, or needed. The mages would one day welcome the gift of youth, but for now, it was only holding them back. If they were just a little bit older, they believed people would follow them into a new era. This was what was best for their people, whether they knew it or not. And so, shortly after Valda turned eight in November, most of the children set off to find the proverters in the thicket, to strike a deal with them. Orabela Vinci stayed behind. She did not want her age or appearance to change. She was perfectly happy as she was, and was patient enough to wait for her own natural development. The proverters were glad to give them what they wanted, but warned it would come at a cost. Aging someone took time; up to three weeks, in fact. While they were gone, they would be well taken care of, but Springfield would not be. One of the other kids, who was a few years older than them, had gone with to make sure they all stayed safe. Once the deal was set, they sent Ecrin back to Springfield, so she could warn everyone else to be on alert for monsters for the next three weeks. They were gone a month, and by the time they returned, they found their absence had caused some problems, and people were not happy. They were fully prepared to accept their new leadership, but if they were going to do that, these leaders would be expected to step up, and fix what they had broken. They might have overestimated how easy it would be to be the rulers.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Microstory 1419: Splitsville

The future source mages were a godsend for the people of Springfield, Kansas after it was sucked into the Deathfall portal, and dropped on Durus. Without these special children, the entire town would have been lost in under a month, with only a few people surviving. It was no surprise, then, that the children were extremely popular amongst the townsfolk. They all disagreed on how to divvy up resources, and what rules to institute, but one thing they could agree on was that the kids were amazing, and ought to be revered. Still, many did not believe the Baby Barrier they used to keep the monsters out was a sustainable solution. While everyone protected the children at all costs, even beyond their respective families, there were still some limitations to their lives. They had to live on the perimeter of the habitable zone, and while travel within and without the zone was possible—and quite necessary when journeying out to gather water—for the most part, they had to stay put. If they were free to roam around wherever they wanted, a monster could slip through, and attack someone before others could get to them to help. No, it was too dangerous to break the front line, even for a few hours. When one needed to leave, the rest always had to pick up the slack, and the coordination alone was taxing for all those assigned to the team. Of course, when they were babies, this was fine. They weren’t going anywhere anyway, and their parents fully understood the danger. As these children grew up, however, they started making their own decisions. And as they grew even older, they started feeling rebellious, as children always do. While still in single digits, the town could keep them in line, but that wouldn’t necessarily be true once they became preteens, and it would only get worse as time went on. Obviously, the best way to avoid the unsavory disciplining they worried would come from this was to make the children no longer necessary. That way, they could live their lives however they wanted, and not concern themselves with protecting the town border, unless they happened to decide to train with the general border security team. Fortunately for them, their best scientist was dedicating all of her time towards making this a reality.

In a couple of years, Hogarth Pudeyonavic was ready to deploy her own border protection solution. They could erect towers around the perimeter, which would mimic the repulsive power that the source mage children somehow exhibited naturally. It was not without its engineering issues, however. Some of the town was powered with geothermal energy when it was on Earth, and while experts were eventually able to recreate this situation on Durus, capacity was limited, so everyone had to conserve. They probably would have been okay using fossil fuels, even though Earth was trying to lose its dependency on such things, but no one knew how to do it, or what kind of geological resources the planet held, so that didn’t really matter. With no sun to power solar cells, their only other option was water power, directly from Watershed, which meant that they would need to build a dam. It didn’t have to be a particularly fancy dam, at least not at first, but it was going to take some effort. They spent years laboring on this, even before Hogarth showed up. The Baby Barrier was later cut in half—which forced the habitable zone to shrink with it—so some of the future source mages could protect the workers at Watershed. People had to be trained to construct all the necessary infrastructure. Luckily, everyone wanted this, so it wasn’t like there was some kind of internal disagreement about the project as a whole. They did disagree, however, with what to do with their newfound source of energy. Some just wanted to use it for the town itself, while others wanted to build Hogarth’s towers. The former was composed predominantly of people who almost worshiped the special children, and saw them as their saviors. The latter camp loved the children as well, but saw the Baby Barrier as more of a burden for them, and less of a boon for Springfield. By 2025 the dam was ready to start generating energy, and they had not come to a consensus. They did come up with a compromise, though. Those who wanted to live inside the Baby Barrier would be able to do so. Those who wanted to live inside the tower perimeter would be able to do that instead. They sliced the town in half, and lived on opposite sides, with a no man’s land in between them. The two towns were separated not only by geography, but also systems of leadership. Springfield formed the basis for a new society, which would ultimately be called the Mage Protectorate. The second town fell under its governance as well, but enjoyed a level of independence seen in most distinct municipalities. They called it Splitsville, at first as a joke, but then it stuck.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Microstory 1418: Take As Needed

For a few months, adhocracy in Springfield was successful. Some were responsible for transporting water, while others tended the garden. Some were responsible for preparing the food, which they then handed off to the distributors, to make sure everyone had their fair share, and only that. The families of the future source mages continued to live on the perimeter of the habitable zone, and protected the town from time monsters. They were the only ones exempt from contributing to food production responsibilities. Only a few families chose to isolate themselves from the community. They either already had their own backyard gardens, or built them after the Deathfall, so they wouldn’t have to rely on anyone else. They were allowed to transport as much water from Watershed as they could carry, but they weren’t sent there with a special child for protection. They had only themselves to rely on, but they were still required to follow the basic laws. There was no constitution, and though they figured town probably had a charter written up at some point in its history, it didn’t survive until today. No, the laws they needed to follow were the basic ones that everyone over the age of ten understood. They didn’t have to go out of their way to help people, but they weren’t allowed to harm them either, and the line between these conditions was often thin. Whatever belonged to any given individual was theirs to do with what they wanted, and no one had the right to take that from them. Unfortunately, this didn’t mean there weren’t complications. For instance, not all families treated each other with respect, and they were often found fighting amongst themselves. Inter-family relationships created a new level of complexity that put some ownership into question. Who would handle these internal disputes? The Baby Barrier was there to keep threats out, but there was no one on the inside who was in charge of making sure everyone was safe from each other.

They realized that the adhocracy was a nice idea, but the reason bureaucracy was more common was because it allowed policies to be carried out and enforced. They needed a more formal system, so people knew what was expected of them. The bureau-adhocracy. That was a mouthful, though, so they kept the name as it was. Now there was a police contingency, which settled disputes, and conflicts as an unbiased third party, and actively prevented people from breaking the rules. These modifications to the system changed over time. Month by month, year by year, a real system grew from the simple peace. Leaders began to reemerge, and people started to want someone to tell them what to do. This was working just fine, but society wasn’t going anywhere. Nobody shared art, or ideas. They were still limited to a small perimeter of protection, yet each family was somehow also so isolated from everyone else. There were other considerations too. People weren’t taking showers or baths anymore, because transporting water was such an arduous task. If they wanted to develop a piping system of some kind, well, that was going to take a lot more organization, and an adhocracy wouldn’t cut it. Yes, the Springfielders wanted their town back, and they wanted to thrive. So by the end of the era, the Adhocracy was not really an adhocracy anymore. They elected officials, and drew up a real charter. But they kept the name. They were worried that, if they started calling the government something else—whether accurate or not—dissenting voices would rage against it, just because some people don’t like to be told what to do. That wasn’t to say there weren’t disagreements, or that this would all last forever. By the year 2025, technology advanced enough to make the so-called Baby Barrier obsolete, and this caused Springfield to split in two.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Microstory 1417: Power Vacuum

Shortly after Hogarth and Hilde returned to the timestream in 2021, Smith was found missing. Many blamed the two of them for his disappearance, but most credited them for it. They didn’t like living under Smith’s rule, and they wanted to start fresh. Of course, it could not be that easy. Smith’s power didn’t come from within. He only stayed on top because he made friends with the right people. No one was a better friend to him than a man by the name of Kosta Montero. Smith and Kosta didn’t agree with each other on every idea in the beginning, but their differences quickly melted away. Kosta became fiercely loyal to Smith, and even saved his life a time or two. He was undeniably second-in-command, so when Smith was no longer around to lead them, he figured he better step up. He used up a great deal of resources looking for his former boss, though. It wasn’t like he had been waiting for his chance to take the main seat, and the only reason he was trying to take over now, was because he didn’t think anyone else would be capable of—or even interested in—honoring Smith’s vision for a better Springfield. Unfortunately for him, many of Smith’s other followers were not so loyal, and one by one, they relented to opposing forces. A small war broke out, which ultimately resulted in no victor. Councilwoman Hardt’s supporter, Mia Padmore had a lot of people on her side, but by no means half. There were a lot of other people who threw their hats in the ring, while some reluctant natural leaders had their hats thrown for them. Hogarth, for one, had a following that formed when she wasn’t even there. They wanted her to lead them, for they believed she could use her technology to protect the town without utilizing the Baby Barrier.

The violence wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but the whole population could sense that it was about to get worse, so a group of families put a stop to it. More specifically, the families of the special time children got together, and sort of forced everyone into a new plan. They decided there would be no more rulers. Law would revert back to how it was before the Deathfall portal swallowed up the town. It was illegal to hurt people, or steal from them, or otherwise cause harm to society. That was pretty simple, and there wasn’t any reason to do things much differently. The Baby Barrier would remain, until such time that a technological solution to keep the time monsters away arose. Other than that, it was kind of every family for itself. Everyone who wanted food from the community garden had to support the garden, or some related endeavor, such as transporting water from Watershed. Anyone who wanted any other resource would have to pay for it, in some reasonable way. It was not chaos, but it was also not about constant government oversight. People in a normal small town peacefully went about their days without worrying whether things were going to work out on a grand scale. They didn’t have to worry about survival. The source mage families figured that was the kind of life they ought to be striving for, and letting the maintenance of all that happen in the background. Everyone had a job, and everyone had what they needed. Their initial plan worked out well in the beginning, but it ran into some issues later on, as enforcing these policies became difficult without a formal police contenginency. It continued to evolve over the next decade, until the source mages felt old enough to form something more substantial.