Saturday, January 20, 2018

Void: Lost in Space (Part III)

They soon met this Hokusai Gimura, and understood why Ludvig thought they must have already known her. Everyone living on this world had been born and raised here, the most recent in a line going back seven generations. This planet was called Durus, and its first inhabitants arrived in the late 20th century, according to its oral history, but the majority of them arrived in 2016, when an entire town was sucked into some kind of portal. They found themselves on something called a rogue planet, which meant it was flying through interstellar space, having been voted off the island of its original solar system. There is no atmosphere, no sun, no water, no light. Everything it has it borrows from Earth, and possibly other worlds. Without these portal leaks, everything here would be dead.
No Earthan human had made their way here since 2016 when Hokusai came just days ago, looking for her daughter, who was in the town when it fell into the portal. Naturally, Ludvig assumed all Earthans knew each other, because he was kind of stupid, and maybe racist? Like most men, Ludvig was also always suspicious of women. Apparently, women have been involved with a number of disastrous events on Durus over the last century and a half, leading to a gradual shift backwards in gender equity. As one of Saga and Camden’s new friends here, Opal put it, “men were always there as well, and in fact, if you look closer, you’ll learn that a man was every time truly responsible for what hell was set upon them anyway. So if anyone’s to blame, it’s them.”
Hokusai was their savior, though, and this no one could deny. Durus was on a collision course with Earth for decades, but she stopped that from happening. This was what Saga and Camden witnessed in the sky, and it was also what magically brought them here. They weren’t the only ones, though. In what’s being called The Deathspring—a play on words with the original arrival, which was called The Deathfall—hundreds of other Earthans were pulled to it. Hopefully this one would come with far less danger. The first generations suffered great peril from terrible beasts, powerful and evil choosers, and the looming threat of Earthan annihilation. With the monsters gone, and the bad choosers turned over to time, maybe everyone could build a safe life here. They not only retained their connection to Earth, but formed a stronger one when they passed over it. While the sun had always provided them with warmth, it now once again featured cyclical daylight. It rained everywhere and anywhere, instead of just in one single location. The soil was rich with nutrients, and plants were back.
As far as Saga and Camden’s personal lives went, they never bothered trying to return to their home on Earth. These were the cards that fate had dealt them, and they were going to embrace that. “Here is as good a place as any,” Camden said of it. And so Durus was where they spent the next year, mostly free from excitement, but that was soon to change.
The Durune were not entirely happy with the new arrivals. They had built this independent civilization, and considered themselves to be an entirely separate peoples, perhaps even species. Of course, the Earthans didn’t want to be there either, but there didn’t seem to be any way back. Each Earthan landed in a different spot around the world, but they were eventually all rounded up and placed in a refugee camp called Pallid. They were provided with tarps, and some wood, but they had to build the shelters themselves. The only regular supplies of resources that came in were water and food, and only that by private volunteers. The new-forming Durune government did not have time to provide for the refugees when they were still trying to rebuild their own homes. One of the first things they did, however, was make sure it was illegal to house an Earthan refugee in a Durune home. It was not, somewhat fortunately, against the law for a Durune to be, or even live, in Pallid. This was nice for Hokusai, who still had familial descendants, and friends, here.
One day, a middle-aged woman approached Saga and Camden’s tent. “You are the mages,” she asked.
“We are not,” Saga tried to explain. Mages were really just choosers—people with natural time powers—who were born to an ignorant world. They once protected these lands, but died off with the monsters.
“Then you are mage remnants, at least,” the woman tried again. Some of their descendants remained today, but their powers were usually rather weak, and no more thrilling than a minor parlor trick.
“Where we come from, we do not use these terms,” Camden said to her. “Nor are the two of us like the mages you read about in your history books. We have little control over our powers. We are controlled by others. But we have since been abandoned.”
The woman shook her head. “I do not need your powers. What I need is someone who understands how they work.”
“What do you need from us exactly?” Saga pressed.
She was nervous, afraid to say too much.
“We can’t help you if you’re not honest with us.”
“It’s my daughter,” she said. “There’s something wrong with her. I think a mage remnant is hurting her somehow. Or...haunting her. Please, can you help?”
“We’ll do what we can,” Saga said, still not really knowing what they were to expect. “You will be in more trouble than us if you take us over the boundary, though.”
“I have no choice,” the woman said. “My daughter needs you.”
They quietly weaved between the tents of Pallid, careful to wake no one. One might think all Earthans would support each other, but the Durune guards that kept watch often traded favors for information. A few extra rations here, a clean blanket there, and the whole camp is the Eye of Sauron.
“You couldn’t bring her to us?” Camden asked.
“She cannot leave the house,” the mother explained.
Once they were at the boundary, she stopped and looked around. “The guards will be changing shifts in a few minutes. That is our best time to make our move.”
“That’s not entirely true,” Camden said suggestively.
“Camden,” Saga scolded.
“Do you have a better idea?” he asked.
“What if they have glitchhounds?” These were the only monsters that still existed today. They could sniff out temporal disturbances, like dogs with powers.
“If they did, then they would probably be at this woman’s house already.” That was a good point.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” Saga worried.
“I believe in you.”
“You shouldn’t.”
“Give it a try.”
Give it a try?” Saga echoed. “And if we end up in the vacuum of space? Again?”
He smirked. “Then I’ll rescue us. Again.”
“I don’t know what you two are discussing,” the mother said, “but if you can get to my daughter safely, then I’m in.”
Saga stepped between them, and took each of them by the hand. “Don’t hold your breath,” she warned. “I mean that literally. It could cause an aneurysm.”
She stepped forward, over the boundary line, but not to the other side. She let her time power pull from the thoughts of the woman standing next to her, using them to try to transport all three of them to the house, without traveling through the space in between. It did not work. They ended up in a house all right, but not the one they were looking for. This was of far older design, and cleaner, like it wasn’t built out of reclaimed wood. Saga had seen the houses people lived in these days, and this was not it.
Three people were standing in front of them, not too surprised to see three others suddenly appear. One of them was a younger man, and was quite protective of the other two. “They are my responsibility,” he said with authority. “If you want to question them, you’ll have to go through me. I am prepared my denounce my oath if it means stopping you from harming them.”
“We don’t plan on harming anyone,” Camden assured him.
“We must have gotten lost,” Saga said. What year is this?”
He squinted at them. “New Age seventy-four,” he answered.
“2090 in Earthan years,” the mother translated for them.
“You’re from Earth?” the homeowner asked. She was intrigued. “What’s it like these days?”
“What do you want?” the protector questioned.
“Morick, calm down,” the man who appeared to be the homeowner’s husband said. “They’ve told us they won’t hurt us.”
“And you believe that, Jörm? Sadie, I suppose you do too.”
“We are from 146 NA,” Saga told them in her calmest voice.
“I’ve never heard of anyone traveling through time that far,” Morick said. “Not since our people lived on Earth.”
“Things have changed,” Camden said. He addressed Saga only, “you need to try again. If this is the past, we should not stay.”
“Isn’t going to the past kinda your thing?” Saga asked with a smile.
“Not anymore. Let’s go. Open that door.”
Just then, a small object flew through the window. “Memory grenade!” Morick yelled.
On instinct, and recalling his training in the agency, Camden threw his whole body on the grenade, and let it go off. Morick pointed both hands at the window it had come through, and sealed it up with drywall, like the window had never been there. He then did the same to the other windows. “We need to go!” He tried to pull Jörm and Sadie towards them.
“I can take you so far from here, they’ll never find you, but you have to help me with his body,” Saga pleaded.
“He’s not dead,” Morick said.
“Well, he’s unconscious, so help me get him up!”
Jörm and Morick lifted Camden off the floor while Saga opened the door to a portal. They could see a different house on the other side. A woman was curled up in the corner. “Mom?”
Saga ushered everyone through the portal. She stepped through herself just as the walls were coming apart. She closed the door, and knelt down to feel for Camden’s pulse. “What’s wrong with him?”
“He protected us from the memory grenade,” Morick explained. “He’ll wake up later, but he won’t have any memory of who he is, or what’s going on.”
“You must be in big trouble for someone to throw one of those things at you.”
“It only lasts a few hours,” Morick clarified. “It just makes it easier to transport people for questioning.”
“Mom, who are these people?” the woman in the corner asked. Suddenly, a bed sprung up under her body. After a few seconds, it disassembled itself, and disappeared.
“They’re from Earth. They can help us stop this.” She tried to approach her daughter to comfort her, but the bed reassembled itself again, and got in the way.
Morick chortled once. “She’s a builder.”
“A what?”
“Special class of mage,” Morick went on. “They’re the ones who construct all the buildings in our towns. I’ve never seen anyone manifest their powers so quickly after the mage games, though.”
“She wasn’t part of the mage games,” Saga reminded him. “This is the future.” She tore off Camden’s shirt to inspect what she hoped was a superficial wound on Camden’s chest from the grenade itself. “There are no more mages.”
Morick took something out of his breast pocket and climbed on the bed to the frightened woman, who shrunk even deeper into the corner. “It’s fine,” he said. “You can’t hurt me, and I won’t hurt you.” He showed her the little pouch he was holding. “This will suppress your powers. Just temporarily, so we can get a handle on them.”
Still afraid, she tentatively took the pouch.
“What’s your name?” he asked of her.
Despite wanting to focus on Camden’s health, Saga couldn’t help but notice what a beautiful name that was...for a beautiful woman. Andromeda.

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