Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Microstory 507: Human Visitors Claim to be From Another Universe

One day, two aliens appeared out of nowhere on one of the moons of Shaouren. Though only a few scientists were present at the time, apparently everyone in the solar system felt something change. There were even reports of a gleaming light from Shaouren’s heavenly zenith. This is, of course, not Shaouren’s first encounter with an alien species, though other first contacts were that of other Concordians. Experts still cannot explain why peoples from other star systems share our basic genetic structure, but the system has become accustomed to it, even though most have come with violent intentions. Those who have met these two new aliens have expressed experiencing a culture shock. Earlier today, the aliens appeared in front of a broadcast, and explained themselves. They started off by giving their names, and a little bit about their home planets. Deeper biographical information can be found on the next page of this publication. Perhaps the most surprising revelation, however, is where their respective planets can be found. They are, apparently, from different galaxies themselves, but both are from some other universe. That’s right, the distance they traveled to reach us cannot even be measured in lightyears. Their answers to questions were confusing, but the description of their universe makes it sound like some other plane of existence, as if they were gods come down as avatars. The visitors rejected this characterization, but were unable to come up with a better alternative. They have also guaranteed that they do not come with plans of ill will or conflict, and seek only to return to their families. Details are sketchy, but the scientists who incidentally greeted them were working on a secret project that may or may not have been related to their arrival. All attempts of returning the aliens home, however, have been met with failure. Like us, their lands are presently fraught with war, and they are in desperate need of returning so that they can help protect their loved ones from an imminent attack. Their technology appears to be more or less at the same level with ours, as they were both unimpressed, and nonjudgmental, about our transportation and hospitality capabilities. They are currently staying at an undisclosed location, sponsored by the head government, but a possible visiting and exploration program is not outside the realm of possibility. There have also been talks of diplomatic discussions with their universe of origin, but experts believe this kind of prediction to be dramatically premature. I am planning a series surrounding their arrival and dealings with us, the Concordians. Keep following for more information.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Microstory 506: Amadesin Remnant Hiding in Higher Dimensions

Martian Authorities have uncovered possible evidence that the remaining sects of Amadesis have been hiding out in higher Prime dimensions. The best way to access these dimensions is through Earth, which is why the evidence wasn't readily available before. An unnamed Aviid historian first proposed this theory about sixty years ago. Though his ideas were not dismissed, they were deemed too risky to pursue at the time. During this period, Earth was steadily ramping up its efforts to either prove, or disprove, the presence of alien entities within their airspace. Though visitors from across the galaxy regularly traveled to and from Earth before then, it was decided that a greater amount of secrecy and security needed to be implemented in order to prevent any unwanted attention. It has taken this long for all members of leadership of The Core to agree that a minimal investigation of the uncharted dimensional space could be logistically possible. Details are scarce at this time, but the number of Amadesin descendants are said to number in the millions...possibly billions. A great deal of resources have been allocated to creating, demonstrating, and protecting the Right Eye Papers, but Martian representatives assure the public that a more complete investigation into this second major intergalactic issue will begin within the next few weeks. A source inside the authority has revealed that these Amadesins in particular derive from the Ellaraitch school of thought, and execute a form of indentured servitude and compartmentalization in order to attain their goals. As far as the infiltration mission goes, members of the Isala administration have all agreed that the elite team should be comprised exclusively of humans. Because little is known regarding the current level of Amadesis technology, scientists from Levida have concluded that it would be too dangerous to include Martian Arsenic suiters. Their true nature may be discovered quickly, placing the entire mission at risk. A representative from the Eridani military contingency has spoken up as well, promising the public that preventing war is of the utmost priority for all those involved, at least on our side of the dimensional brinks. The number one priority, however, is...well, Priority One; which obligates any member of deveiled society to act in the best interest of safety for everyone, regardless of cultural or developmental consequences. Specifics on the mission will be released at a later date, possibly following the effort, in order to preserve universal security.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 27, 2112

Saying that Gilbert was Mateo’s favorite person in the world would be an overstatement, though he did care about him. The real problem now was that Gilbert knew more about choosers, powers, salmon, and time than anyone else. Well, except maybe for Lincoln, but Mateo wasn’t allowed to consult with him. He was hoping—well, to not lose anybody at all—but at least to hold off on the one guy who could help them understand what was going on. Mateo guessed then that this was the point. The Extractor, Arcadia was gradually removing from him his support system, and it was only ever going to get worse. From this comes only heartbreak.
He let everybody sleep. Paige got out of bed and they went off to get water. “Tell me about the person who’s missing this time,” she requested.
“He was a bad guy.”
“At times an antagonist, at others a villain. But then he became an ally, and then a friend. His relationship with Horace was particularly roller coastery.”
“Did I know him well?”
“Ya know, I don’t know. I leave for a year at a time, so when I return, I’ve always missed almost everything. It’s ironic that I’m the one who knows something others don’t since usually it’s the other way around. Because Horace is your father...and they were growing closer every day, I imagine you and Gilbert shared a few nice moments.”
She repeated his name, “Gilbert.” She took a zen breath and closed her eyes. “Nope, not coming to me. I didn’t expect it would, but...”
“But it was possible. I appreciate the attempt.”
“You’re lucky you have this group, Mateo. Anyone else would have dismissed your claims as total bullshit.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” he said.
“Any ideas what the challenge will be? You talked about someone called The Constructor, and then we had to build something. What might we have to do this time?”
“Well, Gilbert was founded a multi-billion dollar corporation in the other timeline.”
“You mean like Horace?”
“Yes, they were, at first, business rivals.”
“Oh, that’s interesting.”
“He ended up in prison because he essentially robin hooded their profits.”
“So, he was a good criminal.”
“As good as they come, yes. Then Horace killed him—”
“What!” she interrupted.
“Well, that was another life...literally. He came back to life and started possessing other people’s bodies, which screwed up his mind, and made him a problem. Then I killed him, and he was stuck in just the one body, and then The Cleanser killed him again, and then I brought him back through a magic mirror, and he’s been on our side ever since.”
“My father...killed him?”
“Yeah, shot him in the head.”
She looked disturbed.
“Paige, you know that Reaver was not a good guy before.”
“Well, yeah. He’s said as much...but he’s never given details.”
“That’s probably for the best. You don’t wanna see that side of him, or even imagine what it would be like.”
That did not make her feel better.
“That’s all in the past,” Mateo continued. “He’s not like that anymore.”
“But maybe he will be again. I mean, if this woman can take people out of time, she can probably change reality in other ways. All she has to do is extract evil Horace from that timeline and bring him here. Who knows what else she could do? She could destroy the whole universe!”
“Okay, okay, little one.”
“I’m older than you.”
“I know that it doesn’t do any good to dwell on what might happen. On the bright side, if she does destroy the universe, who will even care?”
“The Gravedigger, the Curator, a few other people who live in other dimensions.” Lincoln appeared from behind some bushes.
“And God,” Mateo added.
“Were you following us?” Paige asked, changing the subject.
“Just thirsty.” Then he shot Mateo a careless look, but it didn’t seem like Paige noticed.
“I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, Lincoln, but do you remember Gilbert and Baudin?”
He looked scared. “What? No, of course not. Why would I? I mean...who’s Gilbert?”
Now she was suspicious. “I’ve been alive for—” and then she coughed, but Mateo could hear the word hundred. “—years. I know when someone’s lying.”
“She erased my memory, just like everybody else’s. I still have my power, but I’m missing key facts. It’s not like with Leona where it’s fuzzy, it’s just not there.”
Paige appeared to be changing the subject again. “Who gave me this ring? Do you remember?” She held up her hand.
“Why that was...uh, I don’t recognize that,” Lincoln said awkwardly.
“Yeah, definitely lying. You remember Gilbert too.”
“That didn’t work before, and isn’t going to work now,” she said. “Tell me the truth.”
He looked to Mateo for help, but Mateo didn’t know what to do. Finally, he felt like he had no choice but to be honest. “I...yes.”
“I knew it.”
“Look, you don’t understand. You can’t—”
“Thank God I’m not the only one,” she said with a sigh of relief.
“Paige, you remember him as well?”
“Not exactly. It’s like that one movie where Jim Carrey loses his memories. They don’t just disappear all at once. He goes through a transition period where they fade, and they’re like...shadows of people. That’s what Gilbert is to me. All I see is a shadow, except that it’s not going away. I know someone is supposed to be there, but I don’t know who. I don’t know the details.”
“Is it the ring?” Mateo asked Lincoln.
“Well, that is what you could call a remnant, but I’m not sure it’s the ring doing this. She is spawn, maybe it just plain doesn’t work on her.”
“Ah, dammit,” Arcadia’s voice rang out before she teleported to them. “I thought I had this program figured out. Either there’s something wrong with the code, or you’re right, and it doesn’t work right on spawn.”
“But I don’t remember Baudin at all,” Paige said.
“Then it does also have something to do with that remnant you’re wearing. That is protecting you, but it only works on you because you’re different than anyone else.”
“So, it’s both because she’s spawn, and because she’s wearing something given to her by someone you kidnapped.”
“Yes,” Arcadia agreed.
All Mateo could think about was Leona, but he didn’t want to say anything. If he brought her up, she would just be in danger.
“I know what you’re thinking, and I won’t stop you,” Arcadia said to him. “You still can’t speak with Lincoln, but Paige and Leona are weak spots that I did not predict. I would dishonor myself if I changed the rules on you just because of how inconvenient they’ve turned out to be for me. That’s something Zeferino would do. If you can figure out how to get help from the spawn, then I have no choice but to allow it.”
“Thank you,” Mateo said to her graciously.
“I told you that I’m not a monster.”
“I know, and you’ve proven that today.”
“I’m going to leave now so I can alter the plan. I’ll make the expiation easier so it only requires two days, and give you today to discuss these...developments.” Arcadia approached Lincoln. “And I’m giving you a pass because you were caught off guard. I will not give you another one. You best learn how to lie, because if Leona tries to talk to you about this, things could go south real fast. You are still bound to your silence.”
“I understand.”
She eyed him to make sure he was serious, and then teleported away from them.
After Lincoln was satisfied that Paige would not slip up like he did and reveal what he knew, they all three ran off back to the new camp. It was only then that he noticed the sign attached to the roof. It read CAMP BAUDIN. “You named it after him?”
“Of course they did,” Leona said as she was putting on her shirt.
“You’re welcome,” Vearden said with a cutesy bow.
“But you people don’t even know him.”
“It’s his shelter,” Mario said. “We hope to know him one day.”
Vearden was doing his morning stretches. “It feels like everybody’s here, but I assume somebody’s missing. So come on, Mateo, out with it.”
“His name was Gilbert Boyce. And...” He paused to make sure everyone was anticipating his next words. “And Paige Turner remembers him.”
“You do?” Horace asked, shocked.
“Well, not exactly,” Paige explained. “I have memories of times with someone, but I don’t remember the man himself. He’s been cut out, but Arcadia wasn’t able to do the thing where she patches up the timeline so we don’t even care who’s missing.”
Horace gave her a small hug. “It’s because you’re spawn, isn’t it? Serkan is helping us, even from the grave.” Then he dropped his face into a frown. “Oh my God, am I gonna forget my husband?”
Mateo shook his head. “I don’t think she’s ever going to delete memories of someone who wasn’t here when this whole thing got started.”
“That’s a relief,” Horace said before adding, “if it’s true.”
“Hold on,” Leona said. “Question.”
“What is it?” Mateo smiled.
“Who the hell is Gilbert Boyce?”
“Wait,” Darko said. “She is spawn as well, should she not remember?”
“Right, well, it’s also because he gave Paige a gift that she had on her at the time.”  He took Paige’s hand in his and held it up. “He didn’t give Leona anything like this.”
Darko jumped out of the shelter. “Objects!”
Téa jumped out too. “Clothing.”
“That’s what we were thinking,” Mateo said.
“I’m lost,” Mario said. “What are we doing?”
Saga understood perfectly. “Paige and Leona can both remember people who have been taken from us. If each of us gives each of them something of ours, they’ll...bond to it, and be able to remember us when we’re gone.”
“I can’t imagine a world without me,” Mario said. He went on when they looked at him funny, “I mean that literally. Philosophically. Can you picture—I mean, really picture a world where you don’t exist? Rather, can you picture yourself not existing.”
They evidently could not, but most of them didn’t really want to talk about that sort of thing since it meant risking their heads exploding. Instead, they listened to Mateo’s description of Gilbert Boyce during breakfast. He talked at length about what Gilbert had been through in all of his many lives. He explained Gilbert’s motivations, mistakes, regrets, and redemptions. He went over his relationships with each and every one of them, however little, and explored his own feelings towards him.
After the meal, Téa and Darko got to work. They led the group in what was almost a game. Everyone still around was asked to remove one item of clothing, or an object belonging to them, that Leona and Paige could keep on their person at all times. It was a little weird that Kivi had to give her bra to Leona, and her underwear to Paige, while Xearea did the same in reverse. It was necessary, though. It was far too hot for the two spawn to have to wear, like, ten shirts. Most of them had at least two things that they could give up and contribute to the cause. Mario was both proud and scared to bestow Leona with his sentimental watch. Aura was the same with her engagement ring. Vearden had only the one shirt, and not really anything he could part with. The others in the group weren’t all that upset that he had to go shirtless, though. Vearden could have borrowed an extra shirt from someone else, but no one wanted to suggest he wear more clothes. In the end, Paige and Leona had what they needed to survive the time tears, and provide Mateo with some much-needed psychological support. The day ended on a pretty high note, but 2113 brought them danger.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Voyage to Saga: Rule of Eleven (Part II)

The face of Saga was waiting for Vearden once he walked through the portal. He was about to hug her, but was immediately wary of the whole thing. She looked like Saga, but she didn’t look like her. She didn’t hold herself, or look back at him in the same way the real Saga would. No, this had to be an imposter.
The imposter turned her chin slightly, sensing his doubt. “Wow,” she said. “That has to be a record. No one has ever figured out that I’m not really their loved one, let alone right away. You’re good. You might actually get through this.”
“Take off that face,” Vearden ordered.
“We do this—” she tried to say.
“Because you think it’s a form I’ll be more comfortable with. Yeah, that’s all well and good, but here’s the thing, I don’t really have time for that, and it isn’t. I do not appreciate seeing my friend played by anyone other than her. Original cast or bust. Take off her face so we can have a real conversation.”
“Very well.” She shook her body, letting bits of Saga form drip off, revealing just another person he didn’t recognize.
“What is your name?”
“They just call me The Shepherd,” she replied.
“Where are you taking me?”
“To your destiny.” When she saw he wasn’t impressed, she dropped the act entirely. “Okay, work with me here. I kinda have a bit. I don’t get a lot of visitors, so I spend my time rehearsing. It’s really important to me.”
Vearden pointed to himself. “Look at my face.” He turned his pockets out. “Look at my pockets. Frisk me, if you will. I assure you that I do not have any fucks to give.”
“Can’t argue with that logic, can I?” she said sarcastically.
“What do I have to do to get Saga back?”
She paced around a bit for dramatic effect. “Has anyone ever told you the reason the powers that be do what they do?”
“I thought I told you I don’t have time.”
“It’s relevant, I promise.” When he restrained himself, and stopped arguing, she continued with her speech. “Most salmon think that they’re doing great things; that they’re saving the world—and that’s true, to an extent. But the motives of their controllers are not so noble. Just watch any movie, and who wins in the end? Sometimes it’s the antagonist, when that writer has decided to be particularly pessimistic about how things are. Maybe he’s trying to hold a mirror up to society, or some other fartsy bullshit. But for the most part, the hero needs to win. He may die in the end, and it won’t work out the way he planned, and he definitely loses a lot along the way, but in the end, his efforts will not have been in vain.
“So when the powers that be jerk you around time and space, they are trying to get you to do things, but only because that’s the kind of movies they like to watch. Why did they let The Cleanser keep torturing Mateo Matic and his family? Why didn’t they just reach down, grab that dark knight, and knock him off the board? Well...because that isn’t very interesting. The only way the good guys win is if they come this close to not.”
“They’re just watching us on a TV screen.”
“Nothing so...pedestrian, but yes.”
“Makes a level of sense. What does this have to do with Saga?”
“I am not a power that be,” the Shepherd said. “I do, however, identify with them.” She made her face all creepy. “I like to watch.”
“Meaning that whatever you make me do to get Saga back won’t have any real connection to my goals. You’ll just come up with dangerous situations to throw me in so you can have a good time.”
“Why not? You do that too. Weren’t you just watching LOST? Those people’s lives were terrible.”
“Those people aren’t real.”
“You sure about that? How do you know that you’re real? How do you know that some dude isn’t just writing your story while naked in his home office, eating unsalted nuts and listening to, oh I dunno...maybe Civil Twilight?”
He sighed. “Is he?”
She shook her head. “Not anymore, the album just ended, so he’s listening to VAST.”
“This is a fun conversation; we should do this more often.”
“Yeah, well, when I’m done with you, you’re gonna wish all we did was talk.”
“That may be. I can’t see the future, unfortunately, so for now...let’s just get on with it.”
“Fine. What you experience next will be the first of eleven trials.”
“Did I stutter...literally? Sometimes I do that, human is not my first language.”
“You said there would be eleven trials. There are only ever three trials. It’s the Rule of Three.”
“These may or may not be based on the eleven Labors of Hercules.”
“There were twelve labors.”
“There were? Then I guess I’m an all-powerful being with the ability to return people from complete non-existence, and no limit to the number of trials she can come up with!”
“Okay, okay. I’m sorry.”
“Plus, there are kind of eleven dimensions.”
“Oh, I think I’ve heard that.”
“I mean...it doesn’t matter how many dimensions there are, it’s not like I’m going to be sending you down the manifold. What I am going to be doing, however, is sending you to other universes. If you’re lucky, and you get through all of them, you’ll find yourself in what’s known as base reality. It is there that you will be given what you need to retrieve Saga.”
“I know you appreciate watching people struggle through these things, but can’t you just skip it this once? She doesn’t deserve this. How about I take her place? Yeah, how about that? A one-to-one. Let’s do it.”
“I don’t make the rules. I’m implementing them in my own fun way, but they’re not mine. I can’t personally give her back to you. Only The Superintendent can.”
“Okay, let me talk to him.”
She was exhausted from having to explain herself. “He’s in base reality, which takes time and a hell of a lot of work. This is how it’s happening, I don’t know why you’re questioning it. You told The Delegator that you wouldn’t.”
“That’s true,” Vearden said. He did say that. “I did say that.”
“It’s okay. I can tell that this is stressful for you, and you’re a lot different than other people I’ve shepherded. I want you to know that I’ll be there with you, every step of the way. You may not see me, and I may not help, but I’ll be close by.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good thing, or bad.”
“It could go either way, depending on what happens,” the Shepherd said honestly.
“So what is my first...trial?”
“This was it,” she answered as she was nodding to herself, like she had just decided on that in the moment. “There’s one universe I was planning on sending you to, but it’s having some, uh...developmental issues, that I don’t really want to deal with.”
“And you’re good people, so we’ll just say that having to talk with yet another cryptic and frustrating choosing one is a hard enough trial on its own.”
“I appreciate that.”
“I’m not as bad as you might think either.”
“I am starting to see that,” Vearden admitted. He waited the appropriate amount of time, maybe a little longer. “Then what’s the next one?”
“Ah, this one will be familiar. You see, these universes bleed together, but they’re not seen for what they are. They’re interpreted as fiction, if you can believe it. This particular universe has been depicted in film, television, and other media quite a bit in our universe.”
“Let me try to understand this, are we talking about alternate realities?”
“Oh, no. That’s a different thing. Alternate realities, and alternate timelines, refer to some kind of point of divergence. They take place in the same universe, but with conflicting events. In our universe, they can run concurrently, but usually don’t.”
“Wait, back up. What’s the difference between a reality and a timeline?”
“The latter addresses historical differences, while the former is really just about the perceived differences in the so-called present condition.”
“Okay, now I’m up to speed...kinda. Go on.”
“Parallel worlds exist simultaneously with ours, like bubbles in an undrained sink, and sprouted from a different start condition. That is, the universe was created from some other big bang, or maybe not even a big bang at all. I won’t be sending you to that second kind, though; they’re weird. And they’re harder to get to.”
“This is all very confusing. I feel like I’m understanding it, but also that I’m going to be completely lost when I wake up tomorrow.”
“It’s funny you say that, because you will be lost.”
“What does that mean?”
“No, you won’t be lost tomorrow, that’s later.”
“What does that mean?”
“Never mind. You better get some sleep. Your trial starts tomorrow.”