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Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: August 24, 2170

Things were really intense when Leona and Serif woke up on the day of arrival. Brooke and Paige were stationed in the cockpit, working and reworking calculations, formulating contingencies, and running diagnostics. Missy was zipping around the whole ship, checking all other systems, over and over again. Dar’cy was just hanging out in the lounge. She could sense what kind of danger they were in, but didn’t have the education to really understand what they were in for. Serif joined her, wanting to stay out of the way of the rest of the crew. Before Leona could go help, she first had to go back to the room, and throw up. This wasn’t the first time she was on a spaceship. Hell, they were probably in the best shape than the others, since everything was so far going according to plan, but that didn’t make her any less anxious. When she entered the cockpit, everyone looked at her like she was the leader. They weren’t expecting her to give them orders, but she was chosen for this mission for a reason, because as advanced as the transhumans were, they couldn’t hope to match her skills at systems thinking. She knew everything that could go wrong, and knew how to fix it. Computers were really good at solving problems individually, but the human mind was better at understanding the problem as a whole.
She sat down at her interface terminal, and got to work checking everyone else’s math, including The Warren’s. A couple hours later, the alarm went off. Nothing was wrong, it was just alerting them that they were approaching Durus, and thusly their point of no return. “Please secure your belongings, and prepare for arrival,” The Warren commanded.
The other three crew members came in, two of them freaked out. “What’s going on?” Dar’cy asked.
“It’s fine,” Leona explained. “This is meant to happen.”
“I tried to tell them,” Missy apologized. “We need to find a seat.”
“There are jumpseats back there.” Paige jerked her head towards the corner, but kept her eyes on on the screen.
“Why can’t we see out the windows?” Serif asked.
“It’s not worth it,” Brooke said. “We’re still dealing with debris, so it’s better to protect the hull than to watch the approach. You can already see the planet, though. That screen rotates away from that wall.”
Missy pulled the viewing screen away from the wall, so the three of them could watch.
“Shouldn’t you be doing something?” Serif asked. “In the movies, they’re always frantically pushing buttons, and flipping switches.
“The aerocapture maneuver is automated,” Paige answered instead of Brooke, “just like everything else on this ship. They’ve done all they can to prepare of it, but The Warren should be able to take it from here.”
Dar’cy happened to be sitting at the communications console when it blooped. “Uhh, we’re receiving a message. Text only.”
“The González must be telling us good luck,” Paige assumed.
“It’s not from the González,” Dar’cy said. “It’s from the surface.”
“What does it say?”
Dar’cy read from the screen, “Brooke, put on your necklace.
Leona and Brooke just gave each other this look.
“Who knows about your necklace?” Missy wondered.
“You should do it,” Leona recommended.
“I already have it,” Brooke replied. “Of course I have it on. I’ll need to be able to survive in an emergency atterberry bubble if the ship breaks apart.”
“Why would the ship break apart!” Serif shouted, louder than she probably wanted.
“Murphy’s Law,” Paige said simply.
“Not helpful.” Leona looked to her love. “Serif, everything’s going great. I’m not just saying that. We’re right on course.”
The ship lurched and shuttered.
“What’s that?” Missy asked. “It’s too early for atmosphere.”
“We’re off course!” Brooke called out. Now she was frantically pushing buttons, and flipping switches.
“Oh, God!” Serif prayed.
The Warren continued to violently shake around. Leona tried to figure out what was wrong with it, but the readings didn’t make any sense, and sensors fluctuated erratically. One thing she could tell was that the planet was coming up at them at a really bad angle, not unlike the one Nerakali thought they would use when she put Leona in one of her virtual constructs. She, Brooke, Missy, and Paige shared information, but no one knew what was happening, or what they were going to do about it.
“Missy! Make a bubble!” Paige ordered.
“I’ve been trying!” Missy complained. The gravity well is screwing with my powers! I think I could make us go faster, but not slower!”
“Wait, what is that?” Brooke asked the aether, but received no answer. The entire computer system shut off. Primary lights snapped off, and were replaced by emergency yellows. The gravdisk immediately stopped spinning, which likely meant that it had broken off the ship. Serif and Dar’cy were still crying and screaming when the shuttering stopped, and everyone else realized they weren’t moving anymore.
“Nobody ask if we’re dead, we’re not dead.” Paige must have hated that trope.
“So...that’s not an angel?” Dar’cy asked.
Everybody turned in their seats to see a woman standing in the doorway. “I’ve been called worse.”
“Who are you?” Paige stood up, and stepped forward to protect her crew.
“My name is Hokusai Gimura. Let me be the first to welcome you to Durus.”
“Are we on the surface already?” Brooke asked.
“You’re floating in the middle of a cylicone.”
“Where have I heard that before?” Serif asked.
“Anisim’s boat,” Leona remembered. “That’s what got us to the mainlands of Dardius from Tribulation Island so fast. It’s some kind of temporal amplifier.”
“That’s right,” Hokusai said. “I built this as a landing pad, in case anyone else needed to come to Durus. Then last month, I get word from a seer that that’s exactly what’s going to happen. I’m glad I did, too. It needed some repairs. I kind of forgot about it.”
“We had a way of landing,” ever-suspicious Paige said to her.
“I realize that, but this was safer.”
Missy had been looking through some things on her terminal. “Are you sure about that? The gravity disk broke off.”
“What?” Hokusai was shocked. “No, my calculations were perfect. You should be completely intact.”
Leona checked on her terminal. “Well, we’re not. It’s gone.”
“Shit,” Hokusai said. “I should have warned you what I was going to do. You could have decelerated the disk beforehand, and it wouldn’t have been a problem. I’m so sorry. I’ll help you fix it.”
“We have all year,” Paige said. “Leona and Serif can’t leave until then anyway. In the meantime, perhaps you can help us find our friend?”
“Who are you looking for?” She asked with a customer service-worthy smile.
“Her name is Saga Einarsson.”
Hokusai went right back into a frown. “That might be rather difficult.”
“How so?” Paige asked. “Do you know her?”
“I knew her, but I haven’t seen her in a year. Ever since her wife died, and her partner...” she trailed off. Then she continued, “I’ll help you look, but she really doesn’t want to be found.”
“Again. We have a whole year.”
“We can leave your ship in suspension,” Hokusai said, turning around. “If you don’t have the kind of lockout protocols I did with my ship, we don’t want it sitting on the surface, where any curious cat can get to it.”
“We’ll have to clear out,” Brooke said. “Another ship is coming in seventeen days.
Hokusai looked confused. “It shouldn’t be. No, the seer was very clear. One ship. Only one. The next one won’t arrive for another few decades.”
Paige turned to Missy. “Send a message to The González. Tell them to run a full diagnostic on their systems, and rerun their simulations. They might be in trouble.”
“Will that get to them in time?” Dar’cy asked.
“Maybe,” Paige said. “I don’t know what goes wrong.”
Hokusai spoke into a communication device. “Loa. Do you have a teleporter on your hands?”
“I have a telekinetic,” came the reply.
“That’ll work. Can you have them pull the ship out of the cylicone lander.”
Brooke disengaged the window shields so they could see themselves being pulled out of the cylicone, over the edge, and gently down to the ground.
“Telekinesis is real?” Leona asked. “I’ve never heard of that.”
“It’s more like extremely precise and rapid teleportation. My wife will set you up with some nice quarters. I need to go meet with that seer again to find out what’s going on with your companion vessel.” She took something out of her pocket.
“Thanks,” Paige said, almost out of character. “For saving us. We don’t know whether the aerocapture would have worked.
She frowned a third time. “It didn’t in the other timeline.” She pushed a button on her device, and disappeared.
In her place appeared another woman. “I’m Loa. Let me be the second to welcome you to Durus.” She took a hockey puck-looking thing out of her bag, and tried to place it on the wall.
“What is that?”
“This world is dangerous for visitors. Everyone is going to want something from you. Some might want whatever technology is in here. Some will want your weapons.”
“We have no weapons,” Dar’cy said defensively.
“Some Earthans will want to go home.” Loa glanced around. “You do not have the space for them.”
“That doesn’t explain what that thing is.”
“I’m going to be giving each of you an emergency evac clip. Push it, and it’ll teleport you right back here. This thing here is just the beacon. It’s harmless. I’ll give you one to tinker with, if you want.”
“That would be great,” Missy said excitedly.
There was silence for a bit.
“I hear you have somewhere we can stay,” Paige put forth.
“I do,” Loa confirmed. “They’re quite nice.”
Paige turned to the crew. “Missy and Brooke, I need you to stay here and make sure no one but us can get into The Warren. Serif and Loa, we’ll be leaving you at the hotel, or whatever it is. Dar’cy, you and I will be doing some recon.”
Everyone nodded with formality.
“Are we just going to be sitting in the room? Leona asked.
Paige addressed Loa, “do you have some sort of...historical database, or something?”
“We have the metanetwork. It’s like your Earthan internet. There’s a terminal in your room.”
Paige went back to Leona, “research this planet. I wanna know what I’m dealing with here.”
“Then get some rest. I don’t know what you two will be waking up to next year.”
“Next year?” Loa asked, confused.
“Don’t worry about it.”
They left the ship for the first time in days/years, which meant it was less of a relief for Leona and Serif than it was for the others. At first she thought she was hallucinating when she walked onto the surface of a rogue planet, but no, it was apparently real. There was a sky, with a discernible sun, and a raging stream a few meters away. She had heard they had some kind of an atmosphere, but this was crazy. She was glad to be assigned the task of figuring out what this place was.

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