Thursday, August 31, 2017

Microstory 659: Find the First Ring

After Kamira Zapatiri’s death, her parents began preparations for laying her body in her final resting place. Tradition has it that the youngest child in the family of someone who passes is responsible for the act of digging the grave. This meant that it fell upon the shoulders of Kamira’s cousin, Enagiane Habicht. Enaji, as he was called, was provided with a simple garden trowel. Obviously there are easier ways of getting the job done, but that’s precisely why it’s done this way. The purpose of life—according to this denomination, and a few others—is to suffer. They believe in the inherent value of work. They don’t think that work should be done simply for the sake of progress, or development. The actual act of spending time and effort on something, regardless of how it contributes to life or society, is what matters here. Enaji had to dig Kamira’s grave with a trowel, because it was harder than it needed to be. That was the point. This took hours for Enaji, and unlike the way it is for less strict denominations, he was not allowed to eat or drink anything during that time. He was exhausted as he was nearing the end of his task, but knew that he had a few more scoops of dirt to get out. Upon what would have likely been his last scoop either way, something other than just soil came up. It was shiny, and clanked against the metal tool. Upon wiping it off, he realized that he was holding a ring. He didn’t know of its importance; only that it was a cool and interesting find. As it turned out, Enaji Habicht had discovered the First Ring; an immensely powerful piece of mysterious ingenuity that only its original owner could understand. Sotiren Zahir would need it back soon.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Microstory 658: See the Sky for the First and Last Time

There are many separate denominations of Lightseed, most of which are amicable with each other. There are a few bad eggs in there, but the rest of us tend to excise them from the greater collective. Denominations often arise out of a fundamental difference in the interpretation of the Book of Light, or the Sacred Savior’s teachings as whole. Some believe him to have come down from some kind of heaven; others think that he never died. Some ignore some chapters in the Book, while others ignore others. One relatively small branch, known as Lightseed Science, rejects nearly all forms of medical treatment. They believe that the Light itself is not only powerful enough to heal them, but will do so with enough dedication. The trouble with their logic is that it’s impossible to prove them wrong. If a Lightseed Scientist prays for the Light to heal them of their disease, and this fails, they can always claim that the sick person was simply not faithful enough. If ever an infection clears up without antibiotic, or nanite, intervention, they can attribute this to their prayers. And it would be impossible to argue with them about this. True science has taught us that the body is often strong enough to fight off an infection on its own. Humans have the benefit of billions of years of evolution that helps organisms recover from disease, but a Lightseed would never listen to this reasoning. They reject the truth, because it threatens the safety of their respective identities. They identify as people whose prayers the Light will answer, and anything that endangers this concept must be ignored. Unfortunately for them, they are free to believe what they wish, and no one has the right to interfere with them, not even when it comes to the health and safety of a child. Little Kamira Zapatiri was born into a Lightseed Scientist family with a regrettable medical condition. She had a number of issues, but the most predominant of these were photoallergies. She was unable to be anywhere near the sun that their planet was orbiting, nor any artificial light source with too high of brightness. For years, her family used homeopathic treatments to keep her comfortable, but in the end, there was nothing they could do. Her conditions were growing worse, and unless their prayer thing started showing some positive returns, she would soon die. The family eventually gave up their efforts, believing that the Sacred Light was calling to the child. They started thinking that she was never meant to live, and they should let her go. Of course, they had every right to let their child die, and anyone who objected would be powerless to stop it. Without even realizing that it would satisfy the requirements for the latest taikon, Kamira’s parents brought her out into the sunlight so she could see it for the first time in her life...and then they watched her close her eyes, and take her last breath.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Microstory 657: Water of Death

A not insignificant theme in the Book of Light is water. And death. Water is essential to all organic life, and it’s the first thing any living creature seeks out when it moves somewhere new. Death has historically been the inevitable conclusion to life. We fear it, prepare for it, and impose it upon others. It is only natural that these two things would be brought together for one taikon. As with many other prophecies in the taikon series, we figured this would be one of the more metaphorical kind. The exact language used certainly leads to this determination. What we didn’t know was exactly how it would turn out, and how many lives would be claimed as a result. The more important question was, of course, who would suffer for it? As we’ve seen with earlier taikon, there seems to be some kind of new force; borne from, and bound to, Lightseed faith. Whatever it is, it can spread itself across the entire galaxy, inflicting its wrath against anyone and everyone simultaneously. Since these sort of things—explained tentatively as a strange form of quantum entanglement—first began, people have decided to name it simply The Darkness. It’s not a particularly original moniker, but it works for our purposes. This mysterious Darkness has fallen upon us again, using its power to rob us of what was very likely every single water source in Fostea. This remained the dynamic throughout the duration of only a single day, but its effects will be felt to eternity. The human body can survive for weeks without water, months if it’s been upgraded. Likewise, animals and plantlife have more often than not proven themselves to be sturdy enough to withstand this deficit for phenomenally long periods of time. A single day of no water doesn’t sound like much, in the grand scheme of things. The problem was that the Darkness did not simply remove access to water, but it turned it poisonous. Those who attempted to drink on this day were met with a terrible, bitter taste. It was so unbearable that most people spit it out immediately, but the inexplicable sickness that it caused had already done its damage. For days following the water’s return to normalcy, victims remained completely hydrophobic. The mere thought of water would cause them to panic, cough uncontrollably, and sometimes even resort to suicide. The only ones safe from this catastrophe were upgraded people, and artificial beings, of which our galaxy contains relatively few. About a week later, everyone inflicted by this could go on with their lives, if they happened to survive, but they would never be the same.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Microstory 656: Steal the Scales of Tamsin the Judge

History has not painted Eido Tamsin in the best light. Many saw her as a major detractor to Sacred Savior, Sotiren Zahir’s vision for the galaxy. But her instinct to doubt everything encountered made her an invaluable member of the team. She came to be known as Tamsin the Judge, and used her natural skills to exact justice upon all who deserved it. In her possession were a special set of scales; a marvel of technology. When a subject’s hand was placed on one side of the scale, it allowed the operator to determine whether what the subject was saying was the truth. When the other hand was placed on the other side, it forced the subject to say the truth. Using only the one hand was uncomfortable, but not impossible to withstand. Having both hands on the scale at the same time, however, was said to be horrifically painful, as it somehow completed the circuit, causing a mysterious energy to pass through their body. Subjects under Tamsin’s judgment were expected to speak the truth with no scale, or with only one hand on it. If ever they drove Tamsin to force the second hand, they would severely regret not being honest in the first place. The Scales of Tamsin, upon her death, were buried with her body. As it is in any culture, even that of the dirty communists, grave robbing is a despicable sin, one that few tolerate. It was foretold, however, in the Book of Light, that the scales must be procured so that they could later be bequested to Tamsin’s replacement. The prophecy came with an unfortunate side effect; a deadly one, in fact. Whomever literally took the scales from Tamsin’s grave would be required to keep both of their hands on the scale for a period of one standard hour. The longest any subject has survived under these conditions was seventy minutes, and they died from their injuries shortly thereafter. The Savior did not explain why this had to be done, or what it was meant to accomplish, but of course, Highlightseers had no shortage of volunteers. A horde of believers arrived at Tamsin’s gravesite on Egroda, hoping to make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. A young woman named Isaura Peak was chosen out of a lottery of thousands. What they discovered after she was finished digging up the grave was a miracle. Without hesitation, she placed both hands on the scales...and somehow...experienced no sensation of pain. She could feel the energy passing through her body, but it caused her no harm. A hundred minutes later, she removed her hands with a smile, and handed the scales to the Highlightseers. We should have known. Sotiren Zahir would never ask his followers to feel needless pain.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 27, 2142

Serif was going to have to spend the entire day resting in the privacy hut, while the others were charged with getting a start on Aura’s expiation. It had been over a week from Mateo’s perspective since they had been given a regular expiation to deal with. Extenuating circumstances had lately been altering that dynamic. Honestly, as saddened as he was to lose his once-mother to Arcadia’s game, it was kind of nice to be following the original rules again. Things were still awkward between him and Leona, because of Serif’s sudden appearance, but they didn’t have the luxury of worrying about that right now. It was time to focus on Aura.
Aura had been the last of her kind to survive on the island. She was a Shaper, along with Samsonite and Téa (formerly known as Theo). Mateo didn’t know a whole lot about what they had been through together, but something he learned later was that they were not the only ones to possess that nickname. Shapers belonged to a special class of salmon designed to create the future on a more long-term basis. Instead of, for instance, jumping back in time and killing Hitler, they would join the allied powers, and gradually turn the tide of war. They often had little to no knowledge of the future, but were still responsible for adjusting it according to whatever the powers that be wanted. The trio was the most famous of these shapers, but there were many others, particularly a career soldier named Sargent, and The Overseer.
As far as Mateo’s personal feelings for his once-mother went, they had gradually faded ever since he created the alternate reality by killing Hitler. He had never been too terribly close to her, having been raised by the Gelens. Now that she had zero recollection of him, he couldn’t bring himself to keep feeling all that much for her. It wasn’t either of their faults, but there was just no way for their relationship to hold on from there. Neither one hated the other, but it was always rather awkward on the island with her, and they tended to be mostly just polite to each other. He was still going to work just as hard as he ever did to get her back from the void, but he would also be able to do it with detached precision. He considered it a blessing that he would be able to get through it without his emotions interfering with him. In the end, Hitler was good and dead, Mateo still got to kill him, and it was all for the best. He would do it a third time, if given the opportunity.
Darko fell into a trance, and started channeling  Arcadia’s words, “Aura Gardner was many things...a world-class burger-flipper, a halfway-decent lifeguard station-sitter, and an okay recycling sorter.”
“Hey!” Mateo argued. She was still his mother, even if she wasn’t.
“Hay is for horses,” Darko replied in demonic monotone. Then he went on with Arcadia’s spiel, “for this expiation, you will...not be doing what she used to do. Those kind of jobs don’t exist anymore, and I do not have any interested in sending you back to the past. So, we’re going to be doing something a little different this time.”
So maybe it won’t be like the old breed of expiations.
Puppet Darko continued, “If there’s one thing Aura wanted more than anything, it was to have a family. And a huge part of that was getting to know her daughter-in-law. While most little girls were dreaming about their weddings, she was fantasizing about planning her own children’s weddings. I know, what a weirdo, right? I think she saw some movies where parents-in-law meet their child’s significant other, and hilarity ensues. This, coupled with the fact that she had an unusual relationship with her own parents, apparently kept this dream alive in her. She probably never really got into it with you, Leona, but she had always hoped you two would develop a special relationship. Even though she never really knew Mateo, in any reality, she knew him to be her son, and that did mean something to her. So today, you’ll be having a wedding shower-slash bachelorette party-slash bachelor party. Tomorrow you’ll be planning a wedding, and on the third day...you’ll get married.”
“Now, hold on!” Leona yelled. “Nobody decides when I get married ‘cept me.”
“And me,” Darko said, on Arcadia’s behalf.
“That’s not how this works. I’m not marrying Mateo in two days.”
“Yeah, I can tell things are weird right now, but you’re just gonna have to get over that. This is happening.”
“No.”
“Fine. If you don’t do this, you’ll never see Aura again.”
“I don’t even remember her,” Leona said.
“Leona,” Mateo complained.
“That’s not entirely true,” Darko said to her. “Why, you’re already wearing her engagement ring. It’s perfect.”
“Arcadia, don’t do this,” Mateo begged.
“You guys are acting like this is the worst thing to ever happen to you,” Darko’s voice said. “You wanna get married anyway. You’ve already proposed.” He looked to Leona, “you said yes.”
“We were going to do it after this was all over.”
“Jesus Christ, I’ve had enough of this,” Darko said.
Arcadia teleported in so she could start speaking for herself. “After what is over?”
Leona gestured towards the aether. “All this. The expiations...the Island.”
Arcadia just looked at her she was insane. “Leona, this never ends. You’re salmon. When I’m done with you, someone else is gonna step up. What, did you think once you finished off this problem, things would regress to some kind of normal? Was Horace Reaver normal? Was my brother, the evil Cleanser normal? There will always be something keeping you from being happy. I’m trying to encourage you to take life by the balls. There is no waiting. There is no better time. You only ever have right now.”
“Right now,” Leona said, bobbing and shaking her head at the same time, “I’m not getting fucking married. It’s 2142, I don’t have to define myself by a man.”
“Oh my God, that’s not what this is about. Not everything is an affront to feminism.” She took a few steps back to address the crowd. “Someone is getting married in two years. I don’t care who it is, but one of them has to be Leona, and one of them has to be Mateo.” She pretended to realize her mistake. “Ya know, I guess I do care who it is.”
“Arcadia. Please,” Mateo tried again.
“The expiations are always up to you. You know the rules. As a sign of good faith, I will give you a gift.”
Oh no, this can’t be good. Arcadia lifted her arm and presented to them the sky. Out from it formed a giant ball of liquid light. It descended over the ocean, then began rolling towards them, still hovering several meters over the surface. They just stood and watched, not knowing what was going to happen. It stopped at the beach and released a burst of energy powerful enough to knock them all over, but not enough to injure them seriously. The light was gone as a fog formed on the sand. As it slowly cleared, Mateo squinted, and was eventually able to see the wandering silhouettes of several people. As it cleared further, he could make out their faces. It was them. All of his friends and family. They were all back, standing on the beach, confused as all hell. Baudin, Gilbert, Samsonite, Xearea, Téa, Saga, and Lita were there, along with some unfamiliar faces that were presumably part of Marcy’s family.
Horace and Paige walked up from behind Mateo’s current half of the group, having returned from some other portal. “Is it over?” Horace asked.
“Where’s my mother?” Mateo looked all around, hoping to see her somewhere.
“This is her expiation,” Arcadia answered with a slow shake of her head. “Beggars can’t be choosers.”
“How long do we have with them?” he questioned.
“Just the day, then they all go back. They’re here for the party.”
“Where do they go?”
Arcadia smirked. “That’s not something you would understand. Enjoy it while it lasts.”
Then almost everybody started screaming, including the returnees. They were all getting the memories of each other back all at once, and their minds were having trouble reconciling the differences. Paige and Leona weren’t struggling quite as much, because their memories had never been taken away so decisively. Leona had also experienced a brain blending before, as had Horace, so they both recovered rather quickly. Only Baudin, Mateo, and Lincoln were left completely unharmed, though the latter did his best to pretend. Fortunately, no one was paying attention to him anyway. The former was the first to be taken, so his memory was never altered.
While everybody was going through their thing, Jesi—the woman from Horace’s past, who could manipulate the speed of time—started walking towards them from the privacy hut. She was letting Serif hold onto her shoulders.
“I’m okay,” Serif said. “Thanks.”
“I was asked to expedite her recovery,” Jesi said. “Arcadia promised to let me go if I did.”
“Thank you,” Mateo said sincerely.
As if he had been there the entire time, Juan Ponce de León passed by Mateo and reached towards Jesi. “Come on, I’ll escort you to an exit point.” He turned towards Mateo. “I’ll be back for the party though.”
“Great.”
“Mateo,” someone said from behind.
“Danica!”
They hugged each other.
“I thought you never left The Constant,” he exclaimed.
“Arcadia’s pretty powerful. I think even the powers that be would be powerless to stop her.”
These weren’t the only reunions today. Mr. Halifax came too, along with Dr. Sarka, the Archivist, all of the Guards, and even Uluru. The island started getting pretty crowded, in fact. More and more people showed up, all with prior knowledge of the event. There were actually multiple versions of Gilbert Boyce, in a few of the various bodies that he had possessed. Mateo didn’t recognize everybody, but someone from the core Tribulation Island group always did.
The other Vearden arrived from his magical universe-hopping building. With him came his wife, and some people from other c-branes, like an immortal named Gavix, and a witch named Tahira. He introduced them to a man named Mercury Fletcher, who was friendly with Leona and Horace’s friend, Slipstream. Xearea’s brother; The Warrior; Detective Kallias Bran; some alternate reality version of Gilbert named Quivira; Serkan’s brother, Alim; Kyle Stanley; hackers Micro, Fairware, and J-Kuken; the original Vearden’s buddy, Garen Ashlock; and Harrison. Everybody either he, or someone he cared about, cared about, was there. Well, almost everybody. Noticeably absent were Serkan, Daria, Carol, and Randall. Overall, though, it was a great party; perhaps the best he had ever been to. Maybe this wedding wasn’t going to be so bad.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Disappearance of Rothko Ladhiffe: Chapter Two

“Rothko,” I repeat. “That’s a cool name. Now tell me, when was the last time you saw your son?”
“It was last night,” she answered. “He always comes downstairs to say goodnight before he goes to bed while we’re watching then news.”
“Was there anything strange about last night? Was he acting different, or did he act like this time he said goodnight was more important?”
She studied my face, trying to get me to reveal my secrets. “Are you saying that he ran away? My son did not—”
I decide to interrupt her, “I have to rule out the most unlikely explanations first. That helps narrow it down to what’s really going on. Now, it hasn’t been twenty-four hours, so the police won’t investigate. But I’m off-duty, and I can look into this for you.”
“Okay.”
“What is this lock-in thing you were talking about?”
“Every year, the new senior class sneaks into the high school and goofs off. They open all the lockers, ride bikes in the gym, have rolling chair races in the hallways. It’s against the rules, of course, but most of the teachers and administrators went there when they were kids, so they allow the tradition to continue.”
“So Rothko is seventeen? Eighteen?”
She shook her head. “Sixteen. He skipped fifth grade.”
I nod, hoping to exude as much sensitivity as possible before continuing. “Lots of smart kids are picked on by their peers, especially if they—”
Now she interrupts me. “The kids don’t pick on him. He’s friends with all the seniors. I didn’t think he was the type to go to the lock-in, but they could have convinced him. And I know where you’re going with this, they wouldn’t have hurt him, or anything. Like I said, the other parents don’t even remember their senior children.”
“None of them?” I question.
“Well...I dunno, I only called this core group. A clique of friends called The Alphas. I know it makes them sound like they’re bullies, or something, but it’s not like that. Every clique at that school has a self-aggrandizing nickname.”
“Okay, I’m gonna need their names, but first, how many students would you say are in next year’s graduating class?”
“Maybe a hundred-fifty.”
“And were they all at the lock-in, or just these Alphas?”
“Most of them would be there. Only a handful of kids wouldn’t have been able to sneak out, or convince their parents.”
I take out my business card and write on the back of it. “Okay, my niece persuaded me to get a cellular phone. This is my number. Go home in case RL comes back on his own. Will you be alone there?”
“No, my husband is there doing just that already.”
“Okay, good. I’m going to do everything I can. Try not to think of the worst. Anything could be keeping him from coming home. He could be drunk and embarrassed...or they locked him in a janitor closet as a prank.”
“I sure hope so.”
She gives me her number and address as well, and then we go on our separate missions, with plans to meet up and regroup. My first stop is the school. For most missing persons investigations, you would go to the place where they were last seen, and try to retrace their steps, but when time manipulation is involved, that’s not always the best. You start with the weirdest, and work your way forward from there. All nine parents that Mrs. Ladhiffe called were unaware of their supposed senior children. Some of them did have kids, but they were safe and sound at home, and wouldn’t have been at the senior lock-in. I would be interested in knowing exactly who those people are. RL might not have actually disappeared from the school, but his is the one parent that has intact memory, so I know it has something to do with that place.
I follow the directions to Springfield Central High School only to find that it isn’t there. The block of houses is meant to lead right up to it, but it’s not there. All I see is an empty field. In fact, it looks like the edge of town, but that doesn’t make any sense. I know for a fact that the city boundaries extend far beyond this. I mean, it’s called Springfield Central, which means there should be plenty of development in all directions. I need information, and now the only place to get it is the district building. I just hope it hasn’t been swallowed up by another dimension, or whatever, as well.
“I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re talking about,” the secretary says. “What school are you looking for?” She and I are looking over a map of the city.
“Central. It’s in...the center?”
“We do not have any school by that name. We have Northwest, North, Northeast, East, and Southeast.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. Why would you build a Southeast, and not a South?”
“We followed the trend of the development over the years. We only build where we’re needed.”
“Look at this. Southeast High is on the edge of the city limits. Why would you do it like that. Why isn’t this here the center?” I point to what’s roughly the middle of the map.”
“I don’t understand.”
I try to explain a different way. “If this is Northwest High, then this would be about the center, right? Because then here’s Southeast, and East. But all this over here on the western edge is just nothing. I was just there, it’s perfectly suitable land, why wasn’t that developed?”
“Well, I don’t know.”
“Cities don’t start on one side, and then move out in half of the directions. They move out in circles, barring any geographical features, like a mountain or river.”
“I believe you,” she said, not believing me.
“Half the city is gone. I know it’s bigger than this. I’ve lived here for a decade.” She says nothing further, and I just continue looking at the map, darting my eyes between the various landmarks.
“Sir?”
“It’s shrinking. Maybe it started with that first house, but it’s bigger than that now. Rather, it’s smaller.”
“Sir, what are you talking about?”
“It’s spreading, like a virus. Eventually, all of Springfield will be gone. You could be next!”
“Sir?” she calls to me as I’m leaving with the map I stole from her. “Sir!”

I rush back to the police station with an immense feeling of relief that it even still exists. It does seem a bit short staffed, though. There is more space between the desks, and even a few officles that weren’t there before. Reality is changing before my eyes, and I may be the only one who knows it.
“Bran, you’re not supposed to be here today,” Hummel asks. He’s a Sergeant in this version of the timeline, and he’s been this way for a while.
I ignore him and walk straight into the conference room where they’ve hung a giant map that spreads across the entire back wall.
“Bran, what the hell are you doing?”
Still without acknowledging him, I start frantically opening the cabinets, finally finding what I’m looking for. I hold the yardstick against the wall, and shift it down little by little to confirm my suspicions.
“Detective, I’m going to need an explanation. You’re acting even stranger than you normally do.”
“Look,” I say, pointing to the map. “Look at these rough edges. Look at how this block goes a little farther than the next one over.”
“Seems normal,” he says impatiently.
“Then look at this side. A straight line. It cuts right through the city. Each block is exactly long enough to fit perfect inside this diagonal line. Why aren’t there houses over here?”
“Should there be?”
“Look at it! I just said that it’s a straight line! Since when do cities grow like that. Is there wall blocking us off from the world over here? It’s looks ridiculous, like someone sat down and planned each house they would build for the next century.”
He takes a drink from his coffee and looks at me like I’m crazy. “Mackle puts his binder clips over the right corner of his paperwork. Some things are just weird.”
Now I look at him like he’s crazy. “What!”
“This is how the city has always been.” He shrugs. “It kinda looks like Nevada, and I don’t know why you’re questioning it now. I need to get back to work, and you need to go back to doing whatever it is you do when you’re not giving me shit.”
“Hold on, hold on, hold on. Two years ago, we went bowling, remember?”
He sighs and throws up his free arm. “Yeah, why?”
“Where was that?”
“I...I don’t remember. A bowling alley, I would suspect.”
“It was called Pin Drops, and it was right there.” I point to an area of the map that’s now on the outside of the city, but wasn’t always.”
He takes another sip. “I think that’s Farmer Aristein’s property. He got a bowling alley?”
“Jesus Christ.”
“Get the hell out of my station, Bran,” Hummel says as he’s leaving the room, “before I suspend you.”
I know I’m never going to be able to get him to understand, so I just start staring at the map, hoping to find some answers there.
A few minutes later, someone says, “I overheard your conversation.” It’s Officer Shaw. Her father is on the force as well, and her grandfather retired from it a couple years back. They’re all good people; reliable, sincere, and compassionate towards the minor offenders.
“Oh, yeah? I know I’m weird.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but my dad met someone a while back who might be able to help you out.”
“Who?”
“This guy; a cartographer, I think. He’s...unstable, but he knows maps, and he’s good at finding things. And...”
“And what?” I press.
“He’s also apparently a conspiracy theorist.” She smiles. “So if anyone’s gonna get you, it’ll be him.”
Not my only lead, but maybe my best one. “Do you have his contact information?”
“You’ll have to ask my dad for it. I never met him myself, it was before my time.”
“Thank you, Melantha.”
I start to leave so I can find Shaw Senior.
“Hey, Kal?”
“Yeah?”
“What is this about?”
“Missing kid.”
“Have you not escalated that? It’s not on the board.”
“It may not be real,” I say cryptically, knowing that it most certainly is.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Microstory 655: Beginning of the Famine

The Sacred Light is an unforgiving power. Many people flock to our religion in hopes of finding security and serenity. And it’s true that the warmth of the Light can bring peace to all who let it shine upon their souls. But it can also be dangerous, violent, and hurtful. Lightseers, and Fosteans as a whole, have a long history of being history of being persecuted and mistreated. We’ve talked a lot about the dirty communists who once plagued our leadership, but what we’ve not explained is that our past is what defines us. We could not be as powerful and self-assured today had we not suffered and struggled. During one of our holiest of observances, we recognize the battles our ancestors had to go through; clawing their way from the darkness. We call it Dimbaz, and it is during a period of three days that we remember their sacrifices by emulating them. We purposefully hide our eyes from sources of light that are too intense, generally by wearing masks, visors, or other headgear. We also practice a level of fasting, where some will keep themselves from food the entire time, while others will merely eat sparingly. This year’s Dimbaz fatefully fell just after the Week in One Day taikon series, and during the fulfillment of the fifty-fourth taikon. Fittingly, Sotiren Zahir foretold that soon the galaxy would find itself in the middle of a great famine. This was hard to believe seeing as food is such an easy commodity to come by. No one lives on any orbital without preexisting, or terraformed, life. We’ve advanced food science to the point of being able to manufacture nutrients from almost nothing, so there isn’t any logical reason that we would have to experience a famine. Sure, there are parts of the galaxy where people live on less, and certain peoples don’t work hard enough to earn a decent amount of sustenance, but these are isolated cases. Even if there were some kind of famine, surely it would affect only the sinners, and our rivals. We believe in the Light, and all its glory. Surely we would be protected. But we weren’t. What occurred next was no simple food shortage. It wasn’t just that we weren’t growing or processing food at a reasonable rate, or suffered a blight that somehow managed to spread between the stars. Food just started spoiling too quickly. We eventually found an explanation for this horrific turn of events, but knowing the science behind it did nothing to detract from the fact that it happened. As terrible as it was, it was a necessary step towards the next chapter of the story of the taikon.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Microstory 654: A Blind Man Made Guide

Back in ancient times, a number of conditions caused people to be seemingly irreparably blind. It was often the result of a bad connection between the eyes, and the brain. Medical advancement eventually solved all of these issues so that today, blindness is all but impossible. Even the poorest of us have access to the right treatments to cure, or at least work around, a lack of sight. Arkeizens are little good as thralls if they can’t see, so they too are provided with the necessary medical care. Many people are born without the ability to go blind outside of some kind of physical trauma, because any genetic predisposition to poor eyesight is usually weeded out. Lightseers have long questioned the realization of this taikon, because a blind person, even if they existed, would ultimately be fully capable of becoming a guide. We weren’t even sure what that word, guide meant in this context, but none of the possibilities would be prohibitive to blindness. The ability for a blind person to do anything in our worlds could never be rare enough to qualify as a taikon, because as previously stated, a cure should be easily available. But again, the Sacred Savior has proven himself to be complete infallible, his words ringing just as true here as they do elsewhere in the Book of Light. When the recent converts first touched down on the new Kesliperia, they were welcomed by the light of two stars. The second had recently come into existence, with no decent scientific explanation for how that was possible. One of the passengers on the exodus ship was a woman who never had the privilege of a name. She was born in the Caves of Dormancy, a system of tunnels in one of the moons orbiting Raista where a strange light-hating cult lived. She had rarely seen the stars, and had never beared witness to the majesty of a sun. This one would be her last. So enamoured with the wondrous sight, she stared at the two suns in the sky, ignoring the words of warning from those around her. Everything seemed fine once she found the willpower to pull herself from it, but the damage had been done. Not two days later, she discovered herself to be blind. Doctors could have fixed her, but quickly learned that they should not even make an attempt. The blinding light of truth had manifested itself in a profound way, providing the unnamed cavedweller the powerful gift of clairvoyance. Upon realizing this, she immediately pledged loyalty to Lightseed, and began a mission to guide new Lightseers to the truth and peace that she had finally found.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Microstory 653: Forgiveness of the Sinners

The religious order of Lightseed has had its fair share of naysayers, rivals, and outright enemies. Though we are the largest religion in the galaxy, said galaxy consists of more than a trillion people, so it’s just statistically unlikely that we would have all of them. Sotiren knew this the entire time while he was working through his belief structure in the beginning. He wanted there to be something that all Fosteans could find comfort in, but did not require they actually do so. There are those, however, who actively operate against our interests, and they have only become more invigorated by the initiation of the foretold taikon. Whereas before these were isolated, or at least segregated, groups, they have now come together in a more official capacity. They began to call themselves Lapsar, a true insult to our devotion to the Light of Truth. This new organization has been giving us the most trouble during our attempt at rearranging the galaxy in our image. But that doesn’t mean that they are winning. We have been steadily depleting their numbers and resources every day; sometimes through war, but also through conversion. Their ideals are actually not all that different than ours. Some believe the reason they exist is out of an instinct to not conform with reality. Once they see the true light, they often realize their mistake. The most dramatic of these conversions, however, has come with the occurrence of these last taikon; the ones belonging to the Week in One Day series. They caused the largest faction of deniers remaining to start questioning their previously held convictions. Just as the Day was coming to an end, an exodus ship fell out of the interstellar simplex dimension in orbit. Former Lapsarians began transporting their numbers down to the surface of the new Kesliperia, hoping to find a new home. Seeing as the original Kesliperians were already dead, there was no harm in allowing the converts to stay. We were happy to have them, and now they will be able to move on with their lives in true peace.