Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Microstory 593: Prophet Warner Clemons’ Death Ruled Murder

This world has seen a great many Prophets over the years. They arise outside of any pattern, and they cannot be predicted. Anyone can be born a Prophet; be it a king, or a beggar, or salesman. They come with a wide variety of skills and educational background. Some are teachers, some are poets, some are musicians, some are journalists. The one thing that binds them together is their drive to spread their spiritual message to everyone willing to listen. Prophets hold the world together, providing its peoples with unconventional perspectives when they’re needed most. One of our more recent Prophets, Warner Clemons decided to take his message as high as he could by pursuing a life of politics. He started out small, as most politicians do, running for class president every year of grade school. He didn’t always win, but he always learned something new, and this was when he began to form lifelong friendships with people who believed in his words. He started out officially in local government, making sure his neighborhood’s voice was heard, and soon started to make waves on larger scales. The Council of Prophetic Scrutiny officially certified Clemons as a High Prophet amidst his first senatorial campaign, fittingly on his thirtieth birthday. This pushed him over the edge in the polls, with some detractors claiming this tactic to be unfair to his opponents. In true Prophet Clemons form, he ended up absorbing all of these opponents into his advisory board, ensuring that they retained their own voices in the government. Prophet Clemons went on to become Ambassador to the Confederacy seven years ago, but did not hold the position long, for he was soon chosen to be the organization’s Chief Mediator. He used his words to spread peace and understanding between the most unstable of enemies. His works have not been met with total support, which is to be expected. Factions of Amadesins opposed his position on world government, leading the Chief Mediator to carry with him a higher number of personal bodyguards than usual. Unfortunately, one of his own men has turned out to be the perpetrator of his murder.

Brandis Cunningham started his short life as a common criminal, robbing convenience stores with his uncles and older siblings. Over the years, his crimes became more violent, ultimately resulting in a charge of attempted murder when he was only seventeen years old. The justice system gave him a choice: go to prison, or join the Usonian military, and learn how to channel his rage productively. Interviews would later reveal him to have become a model soldier, instinctively protecting the weakest in his group. He even took the fall for misbehavior that had actually been carried out by others. But not even this was enough to keep Cunningham from going back to his old ways. He was dishonorably discharged following an altercation with a superior officer that left them both in the intensive care unit. It would have seemed that his career was over, but Prophet Clemons saw something in him. He used different tactics, and channeled Cunningham’s skills once more. He focused less on the rule-following, and more on the protector instinct, quickly fostering his aptitude for private security. It wasn’t long before Cunningham became the Prophet’s primary guard, protecting him at literally all times. They not only lived together, but slept in adjoining rooms. There were even unverified rumors that Cunningham, Clemons, and Clemons’ wife were in a polyamorous relationship with each other. Investigators do not wish to speculate, nor does this publication, as to the motives for Prophet Clemons’ murder. It has only been confirmed that Cunningham was the culprit. Shortly after inflicting fatal wounds against Clemons in front of his wife in the Chief Mediator’s office, Cunningham attempted to escape. He was met with his former comrades in arms, who apprehended him, and tried to take him into custody alive. He continued to fight, however, eventually the point of being gunned down by an unconfirmed member of his own security team. The police will be releasing further details at the appropriate time.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Microstory 592: Surviving AMF Platoon Primarily Incipiants

News brief: following the attack on our galactic military force, a small group of soldiers were left standing amongst the rubble. Only they remained of the Astral Military Force’s once great numbers. Several organizations are attempting to run independent investigations in the matter, but this small contingency has pushed them back every time. We still do not know what happened to the vast majority of AMF soldiers, but we do know that even those on other planets were affected. This led some to question how it is that anyone survived, but there is a logical explanation. The survivors are primarily, and possibly exclusively, incipiants. These are the newest recruits, having been just recently introduced the day of the initial attack. They have not even been there long enough to receive their standard-issue medical implants. This is what sets them apart from the others, and explains why they alone survived. Their authority over the galaxy is questionable at best, but for now, they maintain power of all interstellar transportation. More details to follow.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Microstory 591: Visitors Have Yet to Leave Ship

Hundreds of years ago, our ancestors found a way to travel from their homeworld to this one. They didn’t necessarily have to. Sure, there was some water here, but not as much as there was on the eighth planet in the solar system, Aziïr...or on two of the moons of gas giant, Polavia. At the time, Keres was uninhabitable, but it had a lot of potential, and so they set about a journey to transform themselves into an interplanetary civilization. Over time, they were able to actually become an interstellar culture, but Keresites have generally remained here. The Great Flood brought this planet the greatest exodus humans have ever seen. We’re descended from those refugees. Since then, we have made this world beautiful. Gardens spread all across the surface, with new life being created by the Azi water. This is now our home. No one living today has ever been alive at the same time as anyone who was alive during The Great Exodus. Now there appears to be some kind of new possible exodus that we can’t explain. A massive black ship, large enough to blot out the sun, has arrived in our atmosphere. After coming out of the green simplex dimension, it has done absolutely nothing. We have attempted to communicate with it, and even tried to access the vessel, but have found no success. We don’t know if they are humans from an exoplanet, or aliens from another galaxy, or even our own descendants from the future. The fact is that we know nothing about them, and this has caused a stir amongst our populace. Already the government urges civilians to remain indoors. Every city has deployed an emergency fleet of armored vehicle drivers to deliver rations to every household. Please note that each and every household will be serviced by this network. Do not leave your residence without true necessity. Anyone with educational backgrounds in engineering, electronics, plex mechanics, physics, rocket surgery, anthropology, xenopology, linguistics, or related field is being asked to contact their local representative for the possibility of assisting with our exploration into this development. We still don’t understand what we’re dealing with here, but if Keresites work together, there’s nothing we can’t get through.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 14, 2129

Juan Ponce de León—the presence of which Mateo would probably never get over, and certainly Leona wouldn’t—carefully woke Mateo up on the fourteenth day of July in the year 2129. “We have to go,” Juan whispered, not wanting to disturb the others. “This one is going to take a long time, and we only have one day.”
Mateo slipped out of the group shelter, and followed Juan towards the merge border. Leona and Brooke were already awake and boiling some water on their side. Brooke was her own person now, capable of taking care of herself without constant supervision. Circumstances had forced her to grow up faster than the average child on Earth. Her main issue was that she wasn’t getting any socialization. According to time math, Darko was her closest peer at thirty years old, which was not all that helpful. She needed to be around people her own age, so she could learn how to fight, share, and suffer injustice. Fortunately, if all went according to plan, she and Leona would leave this planet by the end of the day. While Leona would, for the most part, continue to age, Brooke’s development would be put on pause for the next few thousand years. He didn’t know what Leona would do with this child once they arrived on Earth, or even precisely what year that would be, but that was not priority. Right now, their only concern was to find Longevity water so that Leona would live long enough to make the trip in the first place.
“Do you know where we’re going?” he asked once they had said their goodbyes to the girls.
“I’ve always known where we were going. The only reason I’ve not tried to get Longevity before is because it’s incredibly dangerous, and I’ve always been alone. It’s nice to finally have someone watching my back.”
“Glad to be there for you, but what makes this dangerous? Don’t tell me I have to go back to the Cretaceous period.”
“No, worse,” Juan said as they were walking along the merge barrier. “We’re staying in the present, but in Atlantis.”
“That meant nothing to Mateo. “Okay, so it never sank? Or it did sink, but some kind of crazy telekinetic field keeps the waters at bay, and aliens live there?”
Juan laughed, even though he likely didn’t get the reference. “The idea of the island sinking is...well, it’s not really a translation error. It’s more of a misinterpretation of the facts. It didn’t literally fall into the ocean surrounding it; it was swallowed up by a giant dimensional portal. It’s still there, but not exactly there.”
Mateo understood about as well as he thought he could. He had actually learned a lot from Leona over their time together. He was no physicist, but he could follow a complicated science fiction story as well as anyone. Dimensional portals made sense to him now. “So, is that a good thing, or a bad thing?”
“It depends on who you ask” Juan explained. “The sinking of Atlantis was the defining moment between two factions; one that solidified one side’s ability to maintain their power over others. Those in the other faction were not harmed by this, because they could not be controlled either way, but they didn’t exactly want it to happen.”
“What factions are these?”
“Mateo, this place is what makes you who you are. It separates the salmon from the choosing ones.”
“What?” If Mateo wasn’t awake before, he certainly was now.
“We are going to the home of the powers that be.”

Mateo had more questions, but was unable to vocalize them to who he now realized was basically his history professor. His mind wasn’t so much racing as it was just repeating Juan’s revelation over and over again. The powers that be were this mysterious group of people that others had told him existed, but of which he had never seen any real proof. He didn’t know if they were gods, or if they were just so powerful that there was no better descriptor, but he had never considered going against them. Sure, he had supposedly defied their wishes on certain occasions, but not really. In the end, he had been beholden to them the entire time, and he had absolved himself from any obligation to try and change this dynamic. Now things were different, though. They were on their way to the physical location of these people. He might be able to see them, be close enough to touch them, and maybe—if he could allow himself to call upon his darker demons—be in a position to kill them.
He followed Juan through another series of points in space and time in a convoluted pathway, until they had reached somewhere familiar. “I’ve been here before,” Mateo said. “This is under Easter Island.”
“That’s right. It’s called The Agora; where the powers that be lived before they became what they are today.”
“They weren’t always in control?”
“They were more of a council, trying to figure out what to do about all these time travelers. Fortunately for them, the travelers at the time weren’t all that creative. And one of them created this sort of temporal barrier that prevented anyone from the future from entering their time period. Otherwise, Zeferino probably would have gone back in time and killed them all before any of this happened.”
They started the journey down the steps of the giant stone amphitheatre, Mateo slowing them down to admire the time window on the ceiling. Juan continued, “One of their more powerful chooser allies modified this place for them so that they could harness its temporal properties.”
“Oh yeah, I knew about that. A bunch of non-salmon jumped forwards in time with us just because we were in here.”
“Back then, it wasn’t so easy. It’s a mostly natural rock formation. Yes, it could trap time energy, but it was as erratic and unpredictable as you would expect; like trying to hammer a nail with an unmolded stone. It can be done, but it’s more difficult than it would be if you had a forged tool. The Miner carved details in the rock for them that channeled its energy. They only needed it for one thing; to transport them all at once to Atlantis, which was by then already in the other dimension. They have been there ever since.”
“So...” Mateo hesitated. “Do you think we’ll be able to...”
“Get you out of your contract with them?” Juan guessed. “Umm...no. We have to get in and get out. Water can’t last in the other dimension for more than a couple weeks, making it their most precious commodity. They haul it in through a sluice from right here, but it still takes a lot of effort. They do not give it up easily.”
“I understand. Now that I know where they are, I may be able to do something about it. But I know that it can’t be now.” He took a deep breath and walked up the steps to the stage, partly worried that he would start suffering from temporal sickness, like Gilbert’s men did eighty years ago. “I assume the time rift is up here?”
“You assume correct, sir,” Juan said. “Before we head off, I wanna make sure you’re ready. Remember—”
“In and out,” Mateo interrupted. “You can trust me.”
With that, Juan lifted his compass in the air. “This breach is different than the others. You gotta finesse it.” He swung his arm back and forth, like a fan at a rock concert. He did this several times, eventually generating a faint bluish light growing more and more vivid, and also larger. When it was big enough to encompass both of them, he closed up his tool, and flashed them away.
Once the light had receded, they found themselves standing in a corner office, overlooking a city from at least twenty stories up. “This is not what I expected,” Mateo said.
“No, this isn’t right,” Juan said The powers that be reject most technological advances. They barely use electricity.”
“You are not in Atlantis,” came a voice from the other side of a chair. It spun around, revealing a man smirking at them. “When I was a child, I always wanted to do that...say something ominous, then reveal myself to have been there the whole time.” He adjusted his position to be more laid back and casual. “I admit, its novelty wore out some time ago.”
“Where are we?”
“Why, we are in Kansas City, of course! The only city that matters!”
“You hijacked the portal,” Juan accused.
“No need to thank me, I am here to serve.”
“Why would we thank you?” Mateo asked. It was clear they weren’t supposed to like this guy, but he still didn’t know exactly why. He’s tried to be better about judging people upon their first meeting. Rule Number Five, treat everyone you meet with respect, as they may unexpectedly return.
He shook Mateo’s hand with international businessman precision. “Hello, my name is Tauno Nyland.”
Juan was neither impressed, nor interested in showing any level of respect. “I know who you are. Why have you brought us here?”
“The powers that be asked me to use my ability to travel between dimensions on their behalf. Normally I don’t help anyone but me and mine, but I figured I ought to take this job since it’s given me the chance to meet the great Mateo Matic.
It’s generally not a good sign when someone already knew him, but Mateo held firm with Leona’s fifth rule of time travel. “You humble me, sir.”
Tauno seemed to appreciate this. “You know Paige Turner Reaver-Demir?” A lot of people had a lot of really long names, usually from having been raised at different times by different guardians.
“I do, yes.”
He nodded. “She helped me a long time ago when she didn’t have to. When I didn’t deserve it. I owe her a favor. So I’m going back on my deal with the powers. Well, at least I’m using a loophole.” He strutted over to a large painting of purple roses, and pulled it from the wall to expose a safe. He started inputting the code on the pad. Mateo lost count of how many digits it required at around fifteen. “They asked me to stop you from getting to Atlantis, theoretically so you couldn’t get your hands on any Longevity water. My guess is they want Leona to die since she is a major threat to their power.” He finally finished the code, and opened the safe, which let out a flood of vapor. “They forgot to ask me to make sure you don’t get the water in some other way.” He reached inside and took out a water bottle, presumably the very kind they would need.
“Wow, really?” Mateo asked, still intent on not pissing this guy off.
“What’s the catch?” Juan asked rudely.
“The catch is that there is only one bottle, for one person. I’m not doing this to force you into a choice. I honestly could only get my hands on this much. Those people aren’t very welcoming.”
Juan closed his eyes and sighed, then looked at Mateo. “I’ll find my way there some other time,” he said. “Atlantis is probably less dangerous for me than it would be for you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Don’t ask that when you know there’s no way you’re letting me have it over Leona. She’ll die if she doesn’t get it. I have a few more good years left in me. I’ll be okay.”
“Thanks, Juan. We do owe you. So much.”
“There is...one stipulation,” Tauno said. And it looked like he wasn’t too happy about telling them this. “You have to promise to not flip out when I open that door. I can’t take you back home, though. For that, we’ll need someone else.”
Oh God, who is it? “I can’t really promise anything, except that whoever it is, I won’t take any anger out on you.”
Taun0 thought about it. “This is acceptable.” He pressed a button on his desk. “You can come in now.”
The door opened, and none other than Kayetan Glaston walked through. It was he who locked Mateo in a pocket dimension. He also toyed with him during the Doctor Strange Tribulation. Though to be fair, those were two versions of him from different realities, and the second one ended up sort of switching sides. He couldn’t be trusted, and he was kind of a dick, but he wasn’t evil.
“We have been informed of our alternate versions,” Tauno said as Kayetan kept quiet. “We are not proud of them. He put you in a pocket dimension, but I’m the one who created it. I’m just glad you killed Hitler and altered our own destinies.”
“I didn’t kill Hitler. A friend of mine did.”
Tauno laughed and winked. “Right.” He looked over to Kayetan, who still hadn’t uttered one word. “Go ahead and send them back. Destroy that merge barrier as you’re doing it. I’m sure Arcadia won’t mind. That chapter is over.”
Kayetan held both hands up, and literally pushed Mateo and Juan away with one hand, like he was just practicing Tai chi in the park. They floated backwards, and soon slid onto the beach of Tribulation Island. Kayetan continued to push them away, letting the view of the office get smaller and smaller. They were now standing next to Leona, Brooke, and Arcadia.
Leona immediately took Mateo in a warm embrace. He could feel little hands on his back as well. Little Brooke needed to be part of it too.
“We have the last of your water,” Juan said, holding up the bottle.
“You have done well,” Arcadia said. She took the water and presented it to Leona. “You know what to do.”
Leona nodded. It was only then that Mateo realized that they were standing next to what must have been the spaceship. It was about the size of a fighter jet, but without the wings.
As Leona entered the ship with the bottle for just a moment, Arcadia delicately told him to say his goodbyes. “There’s no way around it. Glaston will have to close the merge before they leave, so you won’t actually see them take off.”
“How much time do we have?” Mateo asked.
Arcadia looked at her wrist. “Until midnight central.”
Mateo and Leona took advantage of the time they had together, and then she disappeared behind the merge with Brooke.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Flurry: The Man in the High Castle (Part VII)

It wasn’t that much farther through the secret castle maze, though Serkan and Ace did get turned around a few times. The map wasn’t so much a map as it was a vague set of instructions. Imagine directions for the assembly of a piece of furniture that are in English, but with the words out of order. That’s kind of what it was like to read the map, but they eventually found their destination, though they still weren’t quite sure exactly what it was that had found.
A thirtysomething man was sitting at his desk in the middle of a field outside, his assistant off to the side, busy with her own work. They were halfway outside, but also not. The space above them would listlessly drift between a ceiling and the open sky, like something out of a Harry Potter movie. The man was casually talking on the phone, and did not appear to be at all surprised to see two strangers just waltz into his magical field office. He waved them towards him with his fingers as he was finishing up his conversation. “Yeah, don’t worry about. I’m sure ol’ Rothy boy is okay. All right, well give me a call when you find it. Thanks, Moomoo.” He cradled the phone and smiled at the two intruders. “You finally made it. I would love to say you made it record time, but the truth is you’re on the wrong side of the spectrum.” He glanced at his watch. “Most people find this place faster. That map there was stunting your intuition.”
“What is this place?”
“My home. Welcome to prehistoric Kansas City.”
“We went back in time?” Serkan asked.
“It’s more that we brought the past up to us, and merged it with the present.”
“Were you expecting us?” Ace asked of him.
“I knew that someone would notice the bad weather we’re havin’. I figured Kolby, or someone else from Beaver Haven, would show up, though.”
“What’s Beaver Haven?”
“A prison.”
Ace tried to get them back on track. “You’re the one creating the snow?”
The man looked at him like he was being just so rude, but then extended his hand. “Hello, I’m Keanu ‘Ōpūnui. Nice to meet you...you who would break into my home and toss around accusations.”
“You’re too young to be the founder of this company.”
Keanu shrugged. “My friend, Moomoo keeps me young, and also I think you already know that I didn’t really found this company in the 60s. I wasn’t even born yet!”
“Does that even matter?” Serkan asked.
“No, in our line of business, I guess not.”
“You treat time travel as a business,” Ace said, again accusatorily, and not in the form of a question.
“What else would the point of it be?”
“Does there have to be a point?”
“Good point.” He smiled at his own joke. “Look, that company website didn’t lie entirely, just about the details. I really do want to fix climate change.”
“Do you imagine that it’s working?”
“Well, this is just the testing ground,” Keanu said. “I’ll take care of the whole planet after we gather enough data.”
“This can’t possibly work,” Ace said. “You can’t just turn on the world’s air conditioning and expect to fix the climate. The underlying problems are still there. We’ll still have pollution, poor regulations, and other concerns. All you’re doing is covering it up. Will your weather machine last forever?”
“What weather machine? Do you think I’m just doing this with technology?”
“You’re not?” Serkan couldn’t think of any alternatives.
“We’re time travelers, of course it’s not just tech. You think my teleporting friend, Ophir ever drives electric cars?”

“Well, I can’t speak for Ophir,” Ace said. “But we assumed you stole the machine from the future, which is something a normal person couldn’t do.”
“Ah, I guess that makes a sort of sense,” Keanu admitted, “but no. That’s not necessary; not when you can mesh instead.”
“What’s meshing?” Serkan was feeling dumb with all these questions.
“Meshes are like time windows,” Keanu said, excited to have the opportunity to explain this. “But instead of the proverbial glass, the window is opened. You can’t get through, like with a time door, but the environment can cross the barrier.”
“The window screen,” Ace said in understanding.
Keanu pointed to him like he’d won a gold star sticker. “Exactly. I open time windows, but leave the mesh in place. So I didn’t actually create the weather. We’re just sharing it with a different time and place; 1740s Arctic, to be exact.”
That was kind of cool, Serkan had to admit, but only to himself.
Keanu went on, “it’s a good thing I’m limited to this, otherwise I’d probably be like Kayetan, and not try to save the planet.”
“How many time manipulators do you know?”
“All of them,” Keanu answered ominously, but then he winked, as if to say, not really.
“You’ve still not explained how your time power can fix climate change. If you’re doing this yourself, rather than by a machine, then it’s even worse. You will one day die.”
Keanu opened his top drawer and removed an object from it, setting it on top of his desk. “Do you know what that is?”
Serkan peered at it, but it didn’t look familiar. Ace, on the other hand, thought he recognized it. “Well, it looks like the old Analion building. The one that shut down after a bunch of people died from their products, and the building itself.”
“That’s right. I actually once worked there, as one of its many vice presidents. But the building itself is what’s important. It houses what we in the business call an echo chamber.” He turned it over, like a professor at a technical institute, explaining the intricacies of a particular part. “A cone inside of a cylinder. Seems simple enough, but that’s just its basic shape.” He used his pinkie finger to point to various details. “Every line matters, though. Every corner, every room’s dimension; it all helps us focus our energy.” He tossed it at Serkan who had to think fast enough to catch it. “Here ya go, you can keep that one, I have loads. It might come in handy one day.”
Serkan looked it over himself. It seemed innocuous enough. “What does it do again?”
“I’ve told you that I’m a time mesher. That’s all I can do, but my friend can cross dimensional boundaries.” He removed another replica of the Analion building; one that was much nicer and sturdier. “We trapped his power in this thing so I can show you how people are reacting outside.” He smiled smugly and pointed his toy to the side like it was a remote control, but nothing happened. “I said, this is how people are reacting outside!” He inspected it to make sure it was working. Apparently what he didn’t know was that Serkan had the ability to prevent other people from using their own time powers.
“Having trouble performing?”
Keanu’s assistant stopped what she was doing, calmly stood up, and took a hammer from her desk. She began to walk around like she was in some kind of uncontrollable stupor.
“Wait, wait! Don’t do this!” he ordered her, but it was pointless. He directed his attention back to Serkan. “What did you do?”
“Oh, did you not know what I was?” Serkan asked him haughtily, smirking in a way that was a bit out of his character.
He went back to trying to stop his assistant, “nope! Don’t! I’ll get my powers back, and you’ll regret this.”
“We can’t let her hurt him, no matter her reasons,” Ace said to Serkan. He tried to approach the woman, but she effortlessly pushed him to the ground.
She lifted the hammer in the air, and Serkan squinted as he was helping his boyfriend back up, not wanting to see this happen, but also conflicted by how he was supposed to feel about it. His worry was unwarranted, however, for when her arm dropped, it was nowhere near Keanu. Instead, it landed on what was presumably the handle to one of his other desk drawers. Still in a sort of autopilot, she sifted through its contents, and retrieved what she was presumably looking for.
“Put! That! Down!” Keanu yelled to her like a disappointed father.
It was just a piece of paper, so Serkan wasn’t sure what danger it could pose, though to be fair, they couldn’t see what was on the front. The other two seemed to feel that it was important. She looked at him with a seething rage, and Serkan wondered if she was considering going ahead and using the hammer against him physically, even though she had theoretically gotten what she came from. She ended up deciding against it, but did feel the need to slowly raise her arm and show him her middle finger. To him she said, “you have already regretted this.” To Serkan and Ace she said, “it was nice to see you again as little babies. Adorbs.” She then switched her gaze to the paper, and literally disappeared.
As soon as she was gone, Keanu began to scream. He lifted his right arm, which was already bubbling in the midst of a strange temporal disturbance. The tips of his fingers disappeared, and then the rest of his fingers. The hand went afterwards before the effect continued up his arm, accelerating by every second. Time was somehow gobbling up his body, or at least part of it. The bubbling did stop once it reached his shoulder. The pain seemed to go away fairly soon thereafter, but his panic was not yet over. He kept screaming from having lost that arm. “Bitch paradoxed me!”
Serkan and Ace didn’t know what to think, but a part of them couldn’t help but be pleased.
“What are you so happy about? You’re about to die. Newsflash: this building never existed! It’s been paradoxed out of the timestream!”
“You mean...” Ace began.
Keanu nodded emphatically. “Yeah. You’re evidently immune to time powers, so I guess you’re stuck with the temporal corruption.”
“What is exactly is going to happen?”
No sooner that Ace uttered the words did the sky around them began to warp and collapse. The grass and trees before them shriveled up and disappeared. This destruction followed them from the distance, like a horde of oncoming langoliers. Once it had caught up to them, Keanu disappeared along with everything else, leaving them stranded in the middle of the sky, thirty stories up from the ground. They began falling towards the roof of the High Castle building, but it too disappeared before they could reach it. One by one, the floors and ceilings of every floor bent, shuttered, and blinked away so they could continue to fall towards their inevitable death.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Microstory 590: Operator Halts All Ploutonic Enterprises Operations

Our new overlord, proclaimed by some to be the incarnation of God, has decided to cease all operations at Ploutonic Enterprises. Ploutonic began in the early-to-mid 20th century with one goal: to give the people what they wanted. Their slogan was the same yesterday as it was when it first began, “Always there, hands open.” What exactly does this mean? Well, as time marches on, society and its peoples develop different priorities. At times of war, Ploutonic manufactured uniforms, munitions, battle transport, etc. At times of great peace, such as following the Stockton Nuclear Disarmament, Ploutonic designed innovative toys. Their original toy factory remains standing today, and has occasionally been used as a Bellevue outpost. They have had their hands in a number of wildly different industries, sometimes overlapping each other, but often after shuttering one division in favor of the next. Their unorthodox strategy has led to great profits, but have recently seen a decline in success. A quote from business analyst Riva Holsten, originally posted on her newsblog, is below.

[Ploutonic] always positioned themselves to take advantage of relevant opportunities. No one could accuse them of not understanding the future, that’s for sure. They’re always one step ahead of the trends, leading some to believe its founder to possess anomaly abilities to actually see the future. This would certainly explain their deep connection to Bellevue. But all the future studying in the world can’t help you if people begin protesting your brand. The fact is that Ploutonic has had to lay off more of its workforce than most companies of its calibre, and it’s done so in order to make room for these new opportunities, not because it had to. And their aggressively passionate stance in support of disloyalty finally caught up to them near the end of the millennium. Few employees were sticking around past a year, and even fewer people were applying for the vacancies. The enthusiasm just wasn’t there anymore. What always baffled me was how baffled they were about this turn of fortune. Honestly, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. I surmise that the only thing that kept it afloat was the number of people who were able to stay on board based on their qualifications, regardless of what direction the company went in. Accountants and marketers, for instance, can account and market for any industry. Unfortunately, many jobs aren’t like that, and this made people angry. If the organization didn’t close artificially anyway, I would have estimated their longevity at three years.

Godlike anomaly Operator—who possesses the ability to manipulate the physical movements of anyone and everyone on the planet simultaneously—has finally decided that enough is enough. Ploutonic Enterprises, and all of its divisions, have been completely shut down, effective immediately. Most people still working there have been transitioned into Operator’s universal basic income program, which draws its fund from the no longer necessary defense budget. Most recent president and CEO of Ploutonic declined to comment in detail regarding the new development, saying simply, “I didn’t want it to end at all, but I definitely didn’t want it to end this way. Operator was able to make my fingers type the email blast that laid off my entire workforce at once, but she couldn’t stop me from crying while I was doing it.” Early reports suggest that Operator will convert Ploutonic Enterprise’s headquarters into a reformed education academy.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Microstory 589: Extinct Human Civilization Discovered on Exoplanet

For thousands of years, our people believed humans to be the only species in the universe. But as we were progressing towards enlightenment through astronomy and computer science, we started questioning this belief. Scientists of the day thought it unlikely that, out of the trillions and trillions of stars in the observable universe alone, we would be, well...alone. Not too long later, we developed the ability to travel beyond our lonely star system, and visit other planets. On one such of these trips, we encountered a race of aliens. But they were not what we expected. We assumed they would have more than two arms and two legs, be able to fly, or breathe underwater. Some of them actually can do these things, but then again, so can we, but that’s just because of science. Strangely, these aliens were human, having evolved on a planet of their own...at about the same time we did on ours. The only reason we were even likely to meet each other that early in our technological history was that their galaxy collided with ours not too long after the humble beginnings of our respective evolutions. They were supposed to be living in a separate galaxy, but it has been scientifically determined that we now belong to the same one. This angered a number of loyalists who did not appreciate sharing a home with outsiders, and so the scientific community came up with a compromise, referring to this single entity as the Justean-Nectean Bigalaxy (for reference, the Necteans call it the Nectean-Justean Bigalaxy).

We didn’t at first understand why humans would evolve so far from us. Simple genetic investigation taught us, however, that we were actually separate subspecies; genetically incompatible with each other, but there is still no denying that we are all in all the same. We would later learn that humans, and their variants, are the most common species in the universe, with very few capable of being excluded from this general categorization. We now know that Justean humans evolved naturally, however, while others are ultimately descended from genetic engineering. So okay, these were all extremely important discoveries, but also rather logical. In simple terms, Justean humans were meant to exist, and others had to be created. Certain terrorist organizations use this as an excuse to provoke war amongst our brethren, but the popular opinion is that we should just leave each other alone. A recent discovery has turned our notions of humanity on its head once more, however, and it threatens our status as the so-called legitimates. Explorers have uncovered evidence of an ancient civilization on a planet that would have been originally counted in Justean territory. Further research has shown that they were genetically identical to us, and evolved completely naturally. There is also no evidence that they are the result of some long since forgotten interstellar migration. After months of investigation, experts have concluded that these Justean humans evolved on their planet simultaneously as we did. The explorers have not yet revealed what happened to them, but their existence has opened a plethora of new questions about why we even exist. How many other legitimate civilizations were once out there, and more importantly, do any of them remain today?