Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Advancement of Leona Matic: August 13, 2159

Leona woke up next to Serif feeling rested and renewed. Today was the day, they were finally going back to Earth. There were a few people on the island yesterday who could have taken them, but that was a whole year ago. They would have to find someone with the power and willingness who was around now. It shouldn’t be that hard, though, people were pretty friendly around here. Paige and Dar’cy were in, along with Lincoln, who was looking to get his life back on track. Horace decided to stay, hoping being on the island would keep him out of trouble. Paige was disappointed, but it wouldn’t be the first time they were worlds apart. Dar’cy’s parents, Darko and Marcy had built a home for themselves here, so they weren’t leaving. In fact, they were presently on a cruise in the Morden Sea. But they could easily return to Earth whenever they wanted. So it would just be the five of them. They packed their respective belongings, said their goodbyes, and went out to look for a ride.
Their first stop was at The Overseer’s office. She was responsible for managing personnel for massive salmon and chooser endeavors, like Operation Second Wind, the Second War Battalion, or something they called The Crowd at Myrtle Beach. She knew literally everyone who was on Tribulation Island at any one time. You couldn’t get within ten kilometers of this woman without her being able to pick up your scent. If anyone was presently here who could transport them all back to Earth, she would know. “Trotter,” she said to them after thinking over their question.
“Who’s that?” Paige asked.
“He’s a planet hopper. He has...terrible aim. It’s not his fault, though. He can go to any planet in the universe in a matter of minutes, regardless of how far it is. Exactly where on that world he ends up is anyone’s guess, but he can get you safely back on Earth.”
“He can take all of us?” Dar’cy confirmed.
“Yeah, he’s pretty strong. He could probably take an entire planet worth of people to another planet. Shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Do you happen to know where he is at the moment?” Serif asked.
The Overseer closed her eyes and breathed in through her nose. “Gandren Hall.”
“I’ve never heard of it,” Leona admitted.
“It’s a venue in central Norvata,” Dar’cy said. “On the mainland. They do concerts and stuff there. Beethoven himself played last month, it was an amazing show.”
“Thank you so much for your help,” Leona said to the Overseer, who smiled and nodded.
As they were leaving, Serif noted that she did not want to have to sail all the way to Norvata. “I can put you in touch with The Caster,” the Overseer added. “She can send Trotter a message for you.”
“Thank you again,” Leona said. “You have been a big help.”
They went downstairs to the Caster, who agreed to send a psychic message to the Trotter. This place was like a well-oiled machine. Everyone had a part to play, except for the five of them. That’s why they were leaving. Fortunately, the Trotter agreed to make a quick trip back to Earth, even though that wasn’t next on his itinerary. He spent his days jumping from planet to planet, just to look around, only spending significant time on inhabited worlds. It was he who discovered Dardius in the first place, somehow intuiting its shocking similarity to Earth without having arrived yet.
“You’re going to need a little boat,” the Trotter, whose real name was Maqsud said.
“Why’s that?” Leona asked.
“It helps me expand my energy,” Maqsud explained. “I can take multiple people with me, but water makes it easier. It’s up to you, but I recommend a raft, or something, to put your stuff on.”
“That works,” Leona said. “Lincoln, there’s a door next to the water heater in our basement that used to separate the shower and toilet from the sink. It was just in the way, so we took it off. Could you run up and grab that for us?”
“Sure thing, boss,” Lincoln answered, and then he ran up the beach to get it.
“Will that do?” Leona asked Maqsud.
“That should work. You all need to understand the risks, though. My body has a natural instinct to land safely. That does not necessarily extend to my passengers. I don’t normally take people with me, so I’m just not used to it. Try to find your footing right away, and if you have to fall down, be sure to do it correctly.”
“There’s a correct way to fall?” Dar’cy asked.
“Yeah,” Leona said. “Stay loose and break the fall with your upper arms. Don’t try to break it with your wrists, that could do a lot of damage.”
“It shouldn’t be a problem,” Maqsud assured them. “I just want to make you aware that you’re not just going to disappear from this world, and suddenly be standing on the next. It involves falling. It looks like you’re falling, and you gather a tiny bit of momentum. Can we all handle this?”
Leona looked around. Everyone seemed to be ready for the risk. “Yeah, I think we’ll be okay.”
As Lincoln was slowly carrying their door raft to them, a young woman appeared from down a ways, carrying luggage, and in a rush. “Wait! Wait! I’m coming with you!”
“It’s okay!” Serif called back. “We won’t leave without ya!” She spoke sideways, “do you know who that is?”
“Yeah, uhh...” Leona went into her memory archives. “Missy. She was at the Colosseum tribulation in the alternate reality.”
“Whew,” Missy said, dropping her bags onto the beach. “Thanks for letting me tag along. A precog stopped me in the jungle and told me I had to come. She didn’t say why, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Earth again anyway.”
“Well, we’re glad to have you,” Paige said, holding out her hand. “Paige Turner.”
“Paige...Turner? Really?”
“Yeah, why?”
“Nothing.” Missy was genuinely trying to hide a smirk at the pun that Leona wasn’t sure Paige ever noticed herself.
“Welcome aboard!” Maqsud said enthusiastically. When Lincoln came up with the door, he said it again, “welcome...a board.” Not too funny. “All right, fine. Everybody put your belongings on the door, and let’s wade into the water. Oo, and almost forgot.” He handed them all sunglasses. “The future’s so bright.”
They followed directions, and walked into the sea, holding their shades, letting the water get about chest high. It was as cold as any ocean water was meant to be, but then it started getting warmer.
“I didn’t fart, Maqsud said. “That’s just my energy, working to connect us all together, so you don’t tip over and wind up in the vacuum of space.”
Missy looked terribly frightened by this, so Serif shook her head comfortingly.
“Everybody ready? We’re nearly at critical mass.” No one answered him, which meant they were.
As the energy intensified, Leona started losing her vision. At last she saw, others were experiencing the same thing, blinking their eyes and moving their heads around, trying to hold on to their sight. The darkness that filled her eyes eventually evened out, and transitioned to a sort of gray color. Now she knew why she needed to wear the glasses. The light before them was increasing in brightness, threatening to permanently blind her. Hopefully the others eventually put them on too, like they were supposed to. She could feel her body being pulled away from the surface of the planet, but could still see nothing, like the first tunnel of a roller coaster. The anticipation was killing her. Eventually, her body acclimated to the acceleration, and now it just felt like falling, just as Maqsud had described it. Still, all she could see was gray. It was hyperspace. While movies and TV often portray faster-than-light travel as looking like stars being stretched across the sky, or pretty, cloudy colors dancing in a tunnel, it really looked like this. Just light. Blinding, relatively uniform, light.
After a few minutes, though, the light subsided, and they could see the solar system. The Earth was coming towards them fast, but they would not reach it. Mars got in the way, and suddenly they were heading towards the surface of the red planet. Though they were moving fast enough to kill them on impact, Leona could feel that they were safe. When she hit the ground, her knees buckled, and she fell to her side. She could see arms and legs all around her, as well as the luggage door. Then she saw Lincoln. He had not been as lucky as them. They had landed on the edge of a cliff, but he was just too far over it, and he fell away.
“No!” Leona screamed, but there was nothing they could do.
Missy slithered towards the edge, and stuck her arms over it. Likely fearful for Missy’s life, Serif grabbed her by the waist, and pulled her back. “It doesn’t matter,” Missy said. I think I slowed him down a little bit, but he was just going too fast. I don’t think it was enough.”
“What was that?” Paige asked. “What did you do?”
“I form time bubbles. I was trying to slow the time around him.”
“Can you do it again?” Dar’cy questioned. “Can you get us down there?”
“Now that I have time to prepare, yeah. That’ll be easy.”
“Then let’s go.”
They were probably about twenty-five or thirty meters up, which no normal person would be able to survive. Nor did it look like Lincoln would either. Though Missy likely did manage to slow his descent, she did so only minimally. He had still hit the ground with deadly force. They huddled around him, keeping pressure on his wounds, hoping for a miracle, but mostly just trying to keep him comfortable as the light left his eyes. Then something strange happened. A grayish smoke came out of Serif’s mouth, like breath on a cold day. It spread out over Lincoln’s body, moving in a completely unnatural pattern.
“What the hell is that?” Dar’cy asked.
Lincoln coughed and twitched.
“You’re hurting him!” Paige cried.
The cloud entered Lincoln’s body, and caused him to writhe around, not in pain, but more like he was just trying to scratch an itch without using his fingernails. As they watched, his bones appeared to realign, and his wounds sealed up. After only a few moments, he was back to his old self. He was completely healed. As one would expect, the first thing he said was, “what happened?”
“We have no idea,” Paige answered.
“Serif, what was that?” Leona asked her.
“I don’t know either,” Serif replied. “Did I do that?”
“I think you did,” Leona told her. She found a sharp rock and cut herself on the arm.
“Leona!” Serif exclaimed. “What did you do?”
“Breathe on it,” Leona ordered.
“Breathe on it,” Leona repeated.
Serif took a deep breath, and let it out over Leona’s cut. Another gray puff came out, and stuck to Leona’s skin. It healed her as well.
“You can heal people?” Maqsud asked. “I’ve never heard of anyone who could do that? Is that a time power?”
“Jesimula Utkin,” Leona said.
“Is that a band?” Maqsud asked, embarrassed for not knowing the reference.
“She can alter the speed of time, kinda like you, Missy. She healed Serif once.”
“She didn’t heal me,” Serif pointed out. “She just sped up my recovery. It didn’t feel good. It actually felt like I was gonna die. And it didn’t look like that.”
“I’ll have to study it,” Leona said confidently. “For now, we need to get to civilization.” She looked up. “We’re on Mars, and lucky we landed in one of the habitat domes. Most people live in the lava tubes.”
“I don’t know what happened,” Maqsud said apologetically. “My aim is inaccurate by design, but I’ve never ended up on the wrong planet!”
“It’s okay,” Leona promised him. “This is close enough. Lincoln could have fallen off a cliff on Earth. You told us the risks.”
“Lincoln didn’t hear the risks,” Dar’cy reminded them.
“I’m fine,” Lincoln said. “Thank you, Serif, for whatever you did.”
“How do we get to Earth from here?” Dar’cy continued. “Honestly, even though this seems to have turned out okay, I wouldn’t be comfortable riding with Maqsud again. At least not so soon.”
Leona frowned at Maqsud. “That’s okay. There are other ways home. Let’s get to a hospital, though. I wanna make sure Lincoln’s condition is permanent.”

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