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Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: August 23, 2169

As predicted the temporal dimension closed up when Leona and Serif reached their next scheduled date of August 22, 2368. They were unable to get any decent sleep while stuck in the dimension, though, so they had to catch up on it at that point. Fortunately, nothing was going on. All of their problems had seemingly been solved. Of course, no one talked about this, for fear of others claiming they jinxed their relative good luck. Superstitions, being what they were, which was nonexistent, turned out to be irrelevant, for come 2169, the two of them discovered they had lost one of their people back home. Xearea Voss died on the twenty-first of November of last year. She was seventy-nine years old, and is survived by her brother, Agent Camden ‘Centurion’ Voss. If all went according to plan, the new savior was conceived on the following day. “Where there is death, there is also life,” Missy recited from what was essentially a powers that be slogan she heard once regarding the role of Saviors.
“How did she die?” Serif asked.
“The Gravedigger arrived to give us the news, and pay his respects,” Paige told them. “Evidently after sending us on our mission to find her replacement, she was retired. She was much older than other Saviors have been before retiring. She died of heart disease, like any other old person who wasn’t transhumanistic.”
“If she not only retires, but also dies, before her replacement is even born, what does the world do without someone for that...uh,” Serif began to ask.
“Nineteen years,” Leona helped. “They use interim Saviors, don’t they?”
“Indeed,” Missy confirmed. “They’re usually salmon who normally do other things, but they occasionally ask help from choosers. I’ve done it a few times myself. We think that the powers made a mathematical error. In the beginning, there was only one Savior, because the population was so low. As the population grew, their numbers increased, and they decided to stagger their births, so the world was never without at least a few. They maintained this dynamic, even after returning to the one Savior at a time thing, which causes these gaps in service.”
“Okay, so,” Paige began.
“Cheese,” Serif blurted out reflexively.”
Paige ignored this comment. “Leona, I would like to ask you a favor.”
“Go ahead,” Leona said.
“The gravity tower altered our schedule. We were meant to arrive during your interim, as you know. When you returned, you should have appeared on a ship already set on Durus.”
“But now that’s no longer the case?”
“It is, but Dar’cy had an idea.”
“I did?” Dar’cy asked.
“Yeah, remember, you said how it would be nice if Leona was here to help land the ship?”
“Yeah, I guess...”
“Well,” Paige said, “Brooke, Missy, and I all agree that this would be a good idea. So we’ve been gradually altering course even more, trying to make this happen. We think we’re almost there, but we could use your amazing brain to check our math.”
“You have an artificial intelligence,” Leona said, referring to The Warren itself.
“You have a superior intelligence,” Brooke returned.
“I mean, I’ll look at it. I must say that I would not have recommended this course of action. It was too risky.”
“I agree,” Paige said. “Still, we started it, and if we don’t finish it, and get it exactly right, it will have been a waste of time.”
“Very well.” Leona grabbed a meal bar, and headed for the cockpit. She spent the next two hours going over their calculations, consulting starcharts, and going over the calculations again. At this rate, they would arrive at Durus the day before Leona returned to the timestream. She would have to make one slight adjustment to push it back by only a few hours. If she pushed it too far, though, it would be late by one day, like Paige said, it will not have mattered. Before she actually changed heading, she decided to simulate it. “Computer, model our arrival now.” Wow, two days off. She pulled back a little. “Model again.” It was too close to midnight on the twenty-fourth. She needed to be there for whole thing. “Model again.” No, that was two close to midnight on the twenty-fifth, which was even worse. “Model one more time, please.” There. Without requesting permission, she dropped speed by a fraction of a fraction, and they were on the right track.
“What was that?” Brooke had returned.
Leona slid her chair over to the communications panel, which was built despite the fact that there was no one out here to communicate with. It was part of the original plans, so they included it, but never thought they would need it. Leona was confounded. “Uhh...looks like a ship.”
“Another ship?” Brooke asked. She came over, and literally pushed Leona out of the way, so she could investigate herself. “It’s another ship.”
“It’s within realtime comms range?” Leona asked.
“Computer, mauve alert,” Brooke ordered. The lights turned a shade of purple, and an alarm rang out.
“Is that necessary?” Leona asked.
“I don’t know,” Brooke said, “which always means yes.”
Paige ran in. “What is it?”
“A ship,” Brooke answered. “It’’s following us.”
“It’s hailing us,” Brooke said.
Everyone just stood there.
“Well, answer it,” Leona suggested.
Paige closed her eyes in support. Brooke opened a channel. “Audio only.”
Chaperone Vessel Warren,” came a voice from the speakers. “This is Failsafe Vessel González. Are you in trouble?
“We are not,” Paige answered professionally. “Who are you?”
This is The González. Are you having trouble reading me? You’re five by five.
“No, just...what are you doing out here?”
We’re following you. Why have you altered course?
“New schedule better coincides with staffing arrangements.” Paige contorted her face, not knowing how to answer the question without saying something about Leona being a time traveler.”
After a beat, the voice responded, “what?” She went on, but it sounded like she was talking to someone else in the room, and had accidentally left the channel open. “Who?—Leona Matic, yes.—And when will that be?—That’s our scheduled arrival. We weren’t supposed to get there at the same time, that defeats the whole frelling purpose.—No, they didn’t know.—I know, but I had to find out what was wrong! They could see us anyway.—Okay, I’ll ask.” She cleared her throat, and then said nothing.
“Failsafe Vessel,” Brooke echoed through the silence, but just to everyone on The Warren. “I’ve heard of tho—”
The voice came back, “ to do it, I just had the toggle switched. Goddammit. Warren, can you hear me?
“This is The Warren,” Paige replied.
I guess the cat’s out of the bag,” The González said. “We have been following you. In the event that you should be destroyed, or incapacitated, we were meant to complete the mission in your stead.
“We always said we wanted redundancies,” Missy pointed out.
“Yes,” Paige agreed. “I suppose I’m most upset about being kept in the dark about it.” She nodded to Brooke, so she could address the other ship. “What is your name? How many are on your crew?”
I am Captain Kestral McBride, pilot and engineer. My first officer is Lieutenant Ishida Caldwell, engineer and astrophysicist. Say hi, Ishida.
“You only have two crew members?”
Do we require more?
“I suppose not,” Paige answered. “And I suppose you don’t need us to introduce ourselves.”
We have your manifest,” Kestral replied.
“How far away are they?” Paige asked Brooke.
“Three hundred and eighty thousand kilometers behind us...and change.”
Paige stood up straight to open her diaphragm. “González, please adjust your heading to arrive on Durus seventeen days after we do. If you would like, I can have my own astrophysicist perform the necessary calculations to accomplish this, and relay them to you.”
“Does she have to follow your commands?” Serif asked of her.
Paige shrugged.
Seventeen days. Confirmed,” Kestral answered. “We can perform the calculations ourselves, but would welcome a third opinion.
“Leona?” Paige requested.
“Yes, Captain. I’ll get right on that.”
As Leona was sitting down at a terminal, she saw Dar’cy pull Paige aside. They were whispering, but she could make out some of the words: trust, security, mission, safety, and weapons.”
Leona spent the next hour working with Missy, Brooke, and the two González crew members, to make sure everyone was on the same page with what was going to happen. They had to wait until later that night to make an course corrections, though, because that was just how the math worked out. They used this time to get to know each other better. Kestral and Ishida were just regular humans, who had gotten minimally involved with time travelers. They met when they were both assigned to help design the probe ships that would be sent to the most promising nearby star systems, and were still around to see the ones that left for Proxima Centauri and Rigil Kentaurus. At present technology, these vessels would not arrive at their destinations until the 2180s, but current trends suggested the nanofactory ships sent later would make the trips much faster, and the colony ships after them faster yet.
When the time came, The González broke formation, and set about on their own schedule. Eventually, they were so far away, the delay between messages made further communication impractical. It would be another two years before Leona and Serif encountered them again. But for now, they needed to focus on the task at hand. Come tomorrow, they would have to hit the ground running, and land this piece of machinery without killing everyone on board. It was time for some more sleep.

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