Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 21, 2228

Many years ago, back in the version of reality where Mateo Matic did not exist, Leona was on her way with a crew to a rogue planet called Durus. There they would find the daughter of Saga Einarsson, and her wife Andromeda. Étude would go on the be the Last Savior of Earth, which meant she was incredibly valuable to the powers that be. So they evidently decided one ship was not enough. A second vessel, called The Emma González was secretly sent behind them, presumably to support the primary team. The Failsafe Vessel never did make it to Durus, and the crew of The Elizabeth Warren were never able to make contact with them again. As it turned out, they were diverted by some mysterious force. Against their will, Captain Kestral McBride and Lieutenant Ishida Caldwell found themselves all the way at Gatewood. There they were charged with maintaining three to four major projects, one of which involved the production of all the facilities the Ansutahan refugees would need to escape their universe, and survive in this one. Apparently, this was in the works long before anyone on the ground knew it would ever be necessary.
Unfortunately, in order to protect the people of Dardius, which he was responsible for, Mateo was forced to destroy the Muster Beacon. When combined with the power of its counterpart, the Muster Lighter, it was causing a flood of duplicates, which were threatening to destroy the solar system. If not stopped, the beacon probably would have continued to add more and more to the population, and wouldn’t even stop once there was literally no more room. Its original creator was never known, with The Weaver assuring them that she would have had nothing to do with it in any reality. There was no on or off switch, and it only ever worked according to a psychic connection it made with its operator. They never had a chance to figure out why it was able to keep going unsustained by this connection, which meant the only solution was to destroy it completely. That appeared to have been enough to stop the onslaught of Freemarketeers, leaving everyone wondering whether they made a huge mistake by not starting out by trying to destroy the Muster Lighter first, since it was a hell of a lot less powerful anyway.
So here Mateo was in a different universe with Ramses, Weaver, and Goswin. They were discussing their options with Mateo’s girlfriend, Serif, their new friends Kestral and Ishida, and newcomer Greer Thorpe. Time was not the same here. Their only hope of solving this problem was to use the lighter by itself, but it featured a far smaller capacity. According to preliminary attempts, it was capable of summon a maximum of eight hundred and sixty-one people at one time. In order to save all eleven billion humans presently living in Ansutah, it was probably going to take them over two years. The good news was that two years wasn’t the worst possible solution, but it all came down to a very special girl, with a very important temporal power.
Many years ago, a woman named Melissa Atterberry went off on a quest to rid herself of her special ability. The reasons she wanted to do this were her own, but she ended up discovering what she was looking for, as did dozens of other people. Long story short, however, some of her friends were in need of getting their powers back, but of course, it wouldn’t be so easy. They began a new quest, and found themselves on a place called Eden island, where their powers were waiting for them. No one there at the time remained long enough to tell the story, but historians were able to piece together fragments of information, which ultimately told them that their plan at least worked in part. Right at the spot where they were standing, a tree grew. This tree bore fruit of different colors; each one containing one of the quester’s powers. To protect the Fruit of Power from falling into the wrong hands, a special order of humans was created. No one would be allowed to live on the island, except for this order. As anyone might expect, this could not last forever.
As the war with the Maramon of Ansutah raged on, a small group of young humans began their own quest. They sought the Fruit of Power, hoping to end the war, and free their people. They were met with no resistance upon reaching Eden Island, for this island was also being used by Serif as the location of the bridge that could transport them all the way back to their home universe. The protectors were simply too busy with trying to figure out how to get everyone through the bridge to worry about the tree anymore. Something went wrong during an attempt to recreate the power of the Muster Twins, and most of the young men and women who partook in the fruits were either lost to the multiverse, or killed. Only Greer remained, having eaten the yellow fruit, which imbued her with Missy’s original power. She was now able to create bubbles, inside of which time would pass at a slower or faster rate. Knowing it would take some time before the bridge made it all the way to Gatewood in the first place, Greer used her new ability to form a bubble around the entire planet. She linked the passage of time to Serif’s pattern, so that only days would pass inside, while the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made its way through interstellar space on the outside.
“Why would you do that?” Weaver was asking Serif. “If you thought Mateo and Leona would be on their way with the Muster Beacon, why would you try to make one of your own, especially before you had even arrived on Gatewood?”
“I wasn’t responsible for that,” Serif explained. “I am not the leader of the Ansutahan humans, as you can imagine, since I only live for one day every year. Bureaucrats decided that, if the Muster Beacon could be invented once, then surely it could be invented again. I would have stopped them had a I been there. Surprisingly, though no one would call what they did successful, they did come damn close. They harnessed the power of the bridge itself, and used it like a vacuum cleaner, sucking everyone on the island into it. Sadly, most of those people disappeared into the bulkverse, but they were onto something.”
“What?” Mateo asked. “You think we can combine the technology of the bridge vacuum, and the Muster Lighter? You think we may be able to get it to work?”
Serif nodded. “If Miss Blue here helps us, yes I think we can.”
“People have been calling me Weaver, in order to distinguish me from the Holly Blue who belongs in this reality. And I’m not sure that would be such a good idea. I mean, this is alien technology we’re talking about here. The Maramon developed as a society completely independently from the rest of humanity. Even the humans here came up with their own technology, and all of it would be totally incompatible with anything I learned to build on Earth. We don’t even know where the Muster Lighter comes from; perhaps even a third universe. You may have this idea that, as an engineer, I can invent pretty much anything on the fly, but that’s not how this works. I’m going to need time, if it’s even possible. There’s also this belief that everything is possible, if the right people have the right tools, but some dogs just don’t hunt.”
“Time I can give you,” Greer said. “In a panic, I created an Atterberry bubble so big that it encompassed the entire planet. That’s what’s keeping us from suffering years of war. But the war is still going on; it just hasn’t been very long yet. I think...” she trailed off, hesitant of her own convictions.
“Go on,” Serif urged her.
“I think I can pop this bubble, and make a new one. I think I can place all Maramon in a bubble where time moves slower, and put all the humans back in real time. Except for Serif and Mateo. I can’t end your salmon patterns.”
“Speaking of people who can end salmon patterns, any word on that?” Mateo asked Weaver.
Weaver shook her head. “I’ve not been able to get the Nexus replica to take me anywhere since we saw Newt hopelessly trapped in that awful suicide vest. I may be able to get to Durus or Earth at some point, but I assume Dardius has been completely cut off from everyone. They’re on their own now, unless someone like Dave or Maqsud goes out there.”
“How did you know how to build the Nexus?” Mateo asked Kestral and Ishida. “How did you know to do anything when you got to this star system?”
The two of them gave each other this look. “The instructions come to us in dreams,” Ishida answered.
“Shared dreams,” Kestral added. “They don’t tell us what to do, but they tell us how to do things, and we decide whether we want to.”
“So we didn’t know why we might need the centrifugal cylinders, or the Nexus, or—”
Kestral interrupted, “the point is we don’t know how the Nexus works. It’s not like a real Nexus, which if what you say is correct, is from a real universe that we could potentially go to. It was just made to look like that, but it utilizes temporal energy from our universe to travel the stars.”
“We’re still not clear why you need a Nexus at your destination. You should be able to teleport anywhere in the observable universe, as long as you have its coordinates.”
Mateo turned back to Weaver. “Maybe you could use that too.”
“What?” Weaver asked. “The Nexus? You want me to combine whatever powers the Nexus, with the Muster Lighter you brought back from Dardius, with whatever crazy Maramon tech sustains the universe bridge?”
“Greer can give you time to study all three of them. Plus, you have at least two other brilliant engineers helping you out.” He gestured to Kestral and Ishida.
“We would be most excited to work with you,” Ishida agreed.
Kestral was excited too. “The cylinders aren’t finished being built, but we don’t have to maintain them manually. The robots do pretty much everything.”
Weaver sighed. “I will see what I can do, but Miss Thorpe will indeed have to change how this temporal bubble works. I’ll need to be able to go back and forth between our universes without getting stuck.”
“Give me...an hour,” Greer requested.
“Done,” Serif said, like a leader. “As for Misters Abdulrashid and Montagne, there are other considerations for this venture. While Weaver finds a way to get everyone here, we’ll need you two to figure out the kind of society they’re going to build. I understand you both have experience in government?”
“I do,” Ramses said.
“Yes,” Goswin said.
“Good. Many of the human leaders got themselves sucked into the bridge vacuum. I obviously can’t lead them, since I’m going to disappear at the end of today, after Greer changes the bubble.” She looked around at the group. Most people had something important to do, but Mateo certainly didn’t. “All right. Break!”

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Proxima Doma: Safety Officer (Part V)

And so Vitalie becomes The Caretaker of Proxima Doma for the next year. Every day, she and Étude keep track of everything bad that happens on the whole planet. She develops memorization techniques, reminiscent of when Horace Reaver and Ulinthra would do the same nearly two centuries ago. She then sends her own consciousness to the past, and takes over her younger body, relaying the information to Étude. The latter then apports her anywhere she needs to go, so she can save people’s lives. In order to protect their secret, Tertius alters memories of the event for any witnesses. Even if the nature of Vitalie’s assistance wasn’t inexplicable to those witnesses, they didn’t want her developing a reputation. As far as anyone knows, Proxima Doma simply never experiences any fatal, or near-fatal, accidents. After the first year, though, people have started getting suspicious. They can remember spontaneously avoiding dangerous situations, with no real reason. The fact that nothing truly awful ever happens on a colony planet was always bound to get noticed, and this is something the two of them should have predicted. Their wards, as they would come to call them, have no way of knowing anyone was protecting them from the danger, but they still questioned their lives.
A new decision had to be made, which Vitalie and Étude never even considered could possibly become an issue. Even at its peak, the Savior program on Earth was never capable of saving everyone. It was probably technically feasible, but the powers that be were likely never interested in creating a perfect, hundred percent safe, world. Some people still got hurt. They couldn’t be saved, not because it wasn’t possible, but because life doesn’t come without risk. The powers probably assumed humanity could not accept a world where nothing bad ever happened. That didn’t mean they were right, though. It was time for Vitalie and Étude to decide whether they would find a way to go back to the old ways, or just stay the course.
“One of my biggest regrets,” Étude began, “or should I say, many regrets I had, were that I couldn’t save everyone. Even with the Salmon Runners, and the Kingmaker, and the Doorwalkers, and the IAC, and all the other time travelers who used their abilities to protect people, we could not save everyone. There were just too many people on Earth, and the only reason I’m not still doing it, is because a shadow government of people who don’t know what life is like for mere mortals arbitrarily decided it would stop. Yes, Earth is safer now that it ever has been, but safer doesn’t equal safe. People still die needlessly. But we have an opportunity here, to build a better world. The population is small right now. I don’t think we should just keep doing what we’re doing. I think we should scale our operations, as need arises. When the population on this rock starts numbering in the millions, we’ll probably need some help.”
“Is that fair to them, though?” Vitalie argued. “Are we taking something from them by becoming gods? Do they not deserve to do at least some things on their own? Should they not learn to save themselves? This isn’t Earth. They don’t need thousands of years to develop safety protocols. The protocols are already in place; they just need to be better. I’m starting to think they don’t need me at all. I’m starting to think we should quit.” That came out of nowhere. It wasn’t like Vitalie was feeling tired of this work, or didn’t realize what she was getting into. It just kind of dawned on her that it was possible they were doing more harm than good.
“You want to quit?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You kind of did.”
“The whole secret thing makes this strange. These people don’t know anyone’s looking out for them, so they go through life, thinking the risks they’ve been taking weren’t all that risky. They don’t ever learn from bad experiences, because they’re not having any. A species develops, and evolves, according to valuable life lessons. Early humans didn’t take samples of all the plants around them, and study them to find out which ones were edible, and which were poisonous. People died finding out that information, and it was really sad, but now they know what not to do.”
“You’re talking about the Prime Directive.”
“Well, that’s more about not exposing mine and your powers to the people. I don’t care what they know, and don’t know. We’ve been looking at the idea of helping people as meaning literally going out and doing things for them. But there are other ways to help.”
“You’re right, but you need to be careful about where that line of thinking leads. I met a lot of choosing ones who use their abilities for selfish gain, and they’ve done so following some revelation that this is exactly how the world works. They can all logic their way out of any argument against their behavior, because they’ve decided anyone in their position would do the same. I didn’t have a choice when I was Savior, but you do. If you can quit anytime, but don’t, that shows others that we can actually change the way the world works, even if they’re right about it how it is now.”
“That’s a lot of pressure to put on me, Étude.”
“I know, and I didn’t mean to make you feel like you had no choice. If I guilt you into not quitting, then I’m no better than the powers that be. I just think we have a good thing going here, and I don’t want to stop, especially not since our hardest job is about to begin.”
“You’re talking about the Oblivios,” Vitalie guessed.
“Their lives are going to be more difficult than we’ve ever seen. Who knows how many Saviors there were at one time back when humans on Earth were living like the OPPs are going to live.”
“Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about that, because their arrival actually supports my position. I’ve been reading up on Earthan history, since that’s where everyone here is from. These pioneers are recreating a time in history where couples—as terrible as it sounds—planned to have extra children. Their families were so much larger, only because they felt the need to hedge their bets, and wanted to be prepared for when some of them died.”
Étude nodded solemnly. “Yes, I know about that.”
“They’re going to have an even harder time accepting a world where nothing bad ever happens. It doesn’t matter how much Tertius alters their memories, they’re not going to understand why no one’s ever fallen off a cliffside, or been trapped in a sinkhole. Plus, they’re going to develop religious superstitions, and I don’t want to be a part of that. Can you imagine them worshipping the invisible fairy sa—”
Savior?” Étude filled in. “You were going to say savior. That’s okay, I realize my place in history unavoidably came with this mystique I can never live down.”
“I’m sorry.”
This was all news to Étude. She thought they had made the right decision, and that Vitalie was on board with it. Had she been miserable this whole time, and was just too polite to say anything? “Why? Why did he tell me to come here? And why did he tell me to pass the torch to another?” She lived her life by the guidance of a man who could see the future. He had never been wrong before, but now she was wondering who was benefiting the most from his advice. The concept of right was a subjective one. “I mean, this was your idea.”
“I know, and I’m not saying I give up. I’m just having doubts.”
Étude needed to find a way to convince Vitalie to get back on track, and let go of these doubts. “Have you ever heard of a safety officer?”
“Like a cop?”
“No. A safety officer is a member of the construction crew who makes sure everyone is working safe. And when something inevitably goes wrong, they’re there to tend to their injuries, and get them more advanced help.”
“Are you saying I’m a fancy safety officer, and I should just treat this as any normal job? I have a special set of skills that no one else does, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it? I have a responsibility to help others as no one else can?”
Okay, Étude wasn’t expecting her friend to jump to the right to her conclusion. She was laying out this whole speech in her head, but would apparently not need most of it. “Companies hire safety officers all the time. Nobody on the crew freaks out, and claims they can take care of themselves.”
“Limited medical training is a far cry from time travel and teleportation,” Vitalie said. “I don’t treat people after they get hurt. I stop them from getting hurt. All I’m saying is maybe they should get hurt. If humans didn’t feel pain, they would constantly hurt themselves, and they would never learn to prevent it, because they wouldn’t be able to see the consequences. Even if only subconsciously, we’re letting these Domanians think they can do  no wrong.”
“I feel like we’re just arguing in circles.”
“Me too.”
“Look. The first of the Oblivios aren’t going to arrive for another year. For diversification’s sake, colony ships are designed to accommodate a hundred and forty-seven passengers, but there are a lot more Oblivios than that. The first to land are going to live with their memories intact until everyone is here. Just wait until then to decide whether you want to quit or not. Give it one more chance.”
Vitalie wanted to think it through more, but she understood that Étude’s suggestion was not an unreasonable one. She still felt the need to contribute positively to society, and being the Caretaker was currently the best way for her to do that. She agreed to keep going until the Oblivios lost their memories.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Microstory 1085: Buster

Viola Woods was my girlfriend for a time. Now that we’ve learned so much about what she really was, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I know she can manipulate time in some way, or perhaps the perception of it, but it still seems like she wasted so much of it on me. I mean, I’m a decent human being, but I’m no prize. My mother says I am, but the truth is that I’m unremarkably average. She couldn’t have been dating me as some kind of project, so she could fix me. She also couldn’t have been dating me so we would be a status couple. I get mostly Bs in school, I’m going to a respectable in-state college, and I know how to catch a ball. You know that, even though you haven’t quite released this interview series, people are already talking about its contents. I’m not so surprised about all the supernatural rumors going around, though I definitely didn’t know about them at the time. I keep racking my brain, trying to come up with some way that she changed my life. I asked her out the first time, and she accepted unenthusiastically. We never did anything, if that’s a question you were dying to ask. She implied that she was asexual, but I don’t actually know if that’s true. We broke up, I think now because she realized she couldn’t be totally honest with me. I was okay; not devastated. It didn’t make me stronger, or give me new perspective. It didn’t inspire me to turn my life around, or find my passion. All in all, I believe she had relatively little impact on me. As egotistical as it sounds, I think I simply didn’t need her help. I suppose it was bound to happen, right? No one can get through life all on their own, but I’m not alone. I have a good support system from my family and friends. I was born into middle class privilege, on the good side of town, but I see what the world is really like outside my bubble. As powerful as she may have been, she wasn’t capable of saving every individual on the planet, so I’m just another one of those people who missed out on her personal attention. I’m nothing special, and I’m totally fine with that. She did a lot of good for a lot of people here, but I guess I’m just the exception to the rule.

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.”