Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: August 19, 2165

Leona was standing in front of the water filtration system, massaging her chin, puzzled look on her face. “This is just a standard three-stage water filtration system.”
“Okay...” Paige said simply.
“But it’s in a ship. In space.”
“Is that bad?”
“Who designed this thing?”
Paige tapped on her tablet. “A man named—”
“It doesn’t matter,” Leona interrupted. “I’m starting to see there was a reason nobody used his design. It’s completely bonkers. It was built exactly to his specifications?”
“Except of the atterberry pods, yeah.”
“He was an idiot. You need a reverse osmosis filtration system when you’re operating this exposed to cosmic radiation, at least. You’ll probably want a DI filter too. Frankly, I’m surprised you lasted this long before hitting an incident that tainted the entire system.”
“Is there anything we can do?”
I guess I can build a RO filter myself.”
“You gonna be able to do that in a day?”
Leona looked over the the filter again. “I have a lot of the components I need already. I’ll have to finish it in a day. You’re suffering diminishing returns from your minimal supply. Count yourself lucky that the only redundancy this bucket has is the water, otherwise you’d be dead by now.”
“You can have everything you need, as long as it doesn’t require a store run. Just let us know.”
“I’ll make another list,” Leona said before getting on her knees and starting to get a more detailed picture of how this all works.
As it turned out, retrofitting the filtration system with upgrades wasn’t nearly as difficult, or time-consuming, as she thought it would be. 3-D printers did their magic much faster in these times than before, so the extra parts were fairly easy to come by. Since there was virtually no communications array on the ship, Leona didn’t have access to Earth’s network, but they were smart enough to have downloaded a number of useful databases, including one that contained a filter design. It took about a half day to finish this all up, but then realized she had to reprogram the ship to maintain these new parts, should they malfunction while Leona was out of the time stream. When finally the chore was completely finished, she promptly dove into her bed, and fell asleep.
She slept so long, that when she woke up, it was already 2170, and they were just approaching Durus. “How the hell did I sleep that long?” Leona asked.
“We knew you were tired. You fixed everything for us, so we didn’t need your help anymore,” Paige explained to her. “You certainly deserved it.”
That made no sense. “But...five days? I slept,” she looked at the clock, “a hundred an eight hours? Straight?”
Paige shrugged. “Like I said, you were tired.”
No one else seemed to think it was strange either, not even Serif.
But things were about to get even stranger. They could see Durus appear on the screens, and through the forward viewports. As they approached this celestial body, the ship decelerated accordingly, eventually slow enough to break the atmosphere, and begin to land on the planet. While she was watching this happen, Leona was incapable of saying anything. She tried to reason that the vessel was imbued with some kind of time power, but she had no evidence to support that. As far as she could tell, Brooke simply engaged the ship’s brakes, as if it were nothing more than a land vehicle.
“What did you just do?” Leona finally asked as they were landing on the surface.
“We’re here,” Brooke answered excitedly.
“That’s impossible. How did you land the ship?”
“What are you talking about, I just landed it?”
Leona tried to explain the physical limitations of such a maneuver, but Brooke simply shrugged off the problem, attributing their success to the advances of the day. But that didn’t work either, because no matter how advanced science progresses, you can’t just throw the laws of physics out the window. They shouldn’t be here. They shouldn’t be here at all.
“Come on,” Paige said. “Let’s go meet the new Savior of humanity.”
“You guys go ahead,” Leona said, hopefully doing a decent job of pretending she wasn’t scared out of her mind. “I’ll be there in a second. I need to run a quick systems check. Don’t want the ship blowing up from a fuel leak while it sits here, do we?” She gave Serif a kiss on the cheek, and saw everybody off.
Nerakali was the last to try to step down the ramp, which gave Leona a perfect opportunity to pull her to the side, out of sight of the others. “Watch it, lady!”
“What are you trying to do to me?” Leona demanded to know.
“What are you talking about? I’m not doing anything.”
“Wake me up.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Wake me the hell up!”
“Leona, you must still be tired. Tell ya what, I’ll go get Brooke. She’ll run your little diagnostics, and you can take another nap.”
“I’m already asleep, so get me out of here! Now!”
Nerakali sighed, then pulled her out of the virtual world. They were back in Leona’s room, in 2165.
“Why did you do that?”
“I was trying to help,” Nerakali answered defensively.
“How was that going to help?”
“You’ve been so stressed lately. You keep showing up in the timeline, and having to fix everyone else’s screw-ups. I thought you just needed a win.”
“You thought reaching our destination five years too early would be a win for me?”
“It wasn’t that much of a stretch. Being asleep for five straight days? I’ve seen humans do it for longer.”
“No, you haven’t. It was a weak construct, full of plotholes.”
“Look, I don’t know how you land a ship on a planet. I assumed you just slow down.”
“That takes too much fuel, you have to use atmosphere. If it weren’t a rogue planet, we would be able to use a sun, gas giant, or even a moon, but aerocapture is our only option. If it were a real rogue planet, it wouldn’t have an atmosphere, and we probably wouldn’t be able to land at all.”
“Well, I’m sorry I don’t know how all this works. When I want to go to another planet, I just snap my fingers.”
“I understand,” Leona said. “What I don’t understand is why you bothered doing this for me. Why would you care?”
“Crew morale is my job. It’s my only job. I’m pretty powerless here. The virtual worlds are all I have to offer, so I take it pretty seriously.”
“That doesn’t explain why you would help me. We hate each other, more than any of the others. I certainly don’t need an escape from this place, since I’m not here that much. It’s the others who have to worry about pandorum.”
“Leona, I am thousands of years old. My approach to blame, grudges, and revenge are completely different than yours. I hold you responsible for my brother’s death, yes, but that was also centuries ago for me. So...I’m kind of, like, over it.”
“So all it takes is time?”
“Pretty much, yeah.”
“Then time is a commodity.”
“I suppose.”
“With a little more time, all wars would end before they could begin.”
“Okay, that’s a philosophical argument I’m too old to be having before my cup of coffee.”
“It’s the middle of the evening. It’s something you should be thinking about. You and your siblings were like gods. No, you were gods. You could have saved everybody, just with the gift of time.”
She smiled. “Time is not ours to give, nor were we brought up to want to help others with it. The choosers, the powers that be, my family; we all have one thing in common.”
“What is that?”
“We don’t give a shit,” she said plainly.
“I see.”
“Do you? Because you seem to be under the impression that you’re on your way to pick up someone whose sole purpose in life it is to help people. The powers haven’t done you any favors by calling her the Savior, but she’s nothing. All she is, is a tool for microsolutions. Nothing we do really makes anything better. Or worse, for that matter.”
“That’s pretty cynical of you to say.”
“You misunderstand. Powers, choosers, salmon; we’re pointless. In the grand scheme of things, the only people with any real power to save the humans...are the humans themselves. We didn’t design this ship. Even with all its flaws, it is still a testament to human ingenuity. The medical advances, transhumanistic upgrades, asteroid mining, the interstellar pre-colony probes that just launched to the nearest neighboring stars. That’s all them. We didn’t help make those things happen. Can I give you one piece of advice, Lee-Lee?”
“Only if you never call me that again.”
“Fair enough. Whatever your name is, you’re a pawn in someone else’s game. We all are. Normal humans are the only ones with actual free will. Absolute corruption, and stuff, you know how it goes.”
“What’s the advice?”
“Stay on Durus when you get there.”
“I don’t think I have a choice.”
“You do. There’s a reason the powers that be want you taking a relativistic ship to go get her. There’s a reason they sent you, and it’s not just because she can’t transport across planets, though we believe that part is indeed true.”
“What would that reason be? Rather, what do you think it is?”
“They have no power there. That’s what truly makes it rogue. If you stay on Durus, they won’t be able to get to you. You’ll still be on your pattern, but there’s a way around that as well.”
“Is any of this true?”
“It’s all true.” A very-much alive Missy had walked into the room. “I’ve seen it done. That’s why I volunteered for this job.”

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