Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: August 26, 2172

It took the crew of The Warren that remained in the timestream days to convince Saga to leave the safety of her pocket dimension. Once she and her daughter were out, they spent a lot of time in Camden’s hospital room, and Saga was still hesitant to agree to go with them back to Earth. She wanted to stay on Durus, where they had built a life. Her wife had used her time powers to construct a lot of the buildings in the world, and that wasn’t something a loved one just turned their back on. The crew desperately wanted to respect her wishes, but they were at the mercy of the powers that be. If the Warren didn’t take little Étude to her responsibilities, someone else would be called in to do so, and they might not be so pleasant about it. When Camden Voss finally woke up from his coma, he helped them contact The Emissary, who served directly under the powers, and it worked, but the Emissary refused to hear them out. Saga had to come to the realization that she never had a choice. And now that Leona and Serif were back, it was time to leave.
While Leona was running her own check of the ship’s systems, just to double check everyone else’s work, Paige and Missy approached.
“Could we have a word?” Paige asked.
“Sure,” Leona agreed, but kept working. “Is this a good word, or a bad word?”
“More like a sad word,” Paige answered. “We need to catch you up on what we’ve already been discussing.”
Leona lowered the wrench, and hung her arm down. “Should I be sitting?”
“It’s not a multitasking kind of conversation,” Paige explained. “Let’s go into one of the cabins.”
They went into Leona and Serif’s room, and closed the door.
“There have been some changes to the ship’s manifest,” Paige started back up. “We won’t be leaving with the same people we came with. Some are people are boarding.”
“Like who?”
“Missy and Dar’cy.”
Leona looked to Missy inquisitively. “You’re staying on Durus.”
“I came here for a reason. I’m trying to get rid of my powers.”
“Why would you do that, you’re not salmon?” Leona questioned.
“She has her reasons,” Paige said solemnly.
“That’s okay, Paige. I’m not keeping it from her.” Missy took a moment to gather her thoughts. “I have a stalker. A time stalker.”
“Who is it?”
“It doesn’t matter, but he wants to kill everyone with time powers, and he seems to be heavily focused on me, at least from my perspective. I knew if I were on the ship, the powers that be would protect me, but that won’t last forever. There’s a way to get rid of powers somewhere on Durus. I don’t know what it is, but I’m gonna stay here, and try to figure it out. He’ll leave me alone if I’m just a normal human.”
Leona shook her head with general disappointment in humanity. “He sounds like The Cleanser.”
Missy squirmed in her chair, and Paige sat up straighter.
“Holy shit, is it the Cleanser?”
“He’s a time traveler,” Paige reminded her. Just because Gilbert killed him, it doesn’t erase him from the past of his own personal timeline. Before he goes back in time and gets himself killed, he jumps around the universe, working on his...mission. That’s what she’s experiencing now.”
Leona closed her eyes and leaned back to face the ceiling. “My God, it never ends.”
“Like I said, she’s been talking about it for awhile. We’ve looked into our options, and she feels this is her best way to survive. Obviously, we can’t kill him, because his death is a fixed point in history.” Paige took Missy’s hand, like a protective mother showing affection and care. “This is how it has to be.”
Leona got out of her chair and gave Missy a warm hug. “I’m sorry you’re going through this. I feel responsible.”
“You’re not,” Missy said. “I was part of this before you were born.”
“Weren’t you born after me?” Leona asked.
She grunted. “Eh, time, right?”
Leona gave her a respectful moment of silence, then said, “looks like we’re gonna be out an engineer.”
“Actually, we have that covered,” Missy said.
“Hokusai Gimura, Saga’s friend,” Paige said. “She and Loa will be joining us.”
“Along with the woman who created Saga’s pocket dimension, Annora. She’ll also be replacing me. I need to be there for the atterberry pods to work properly, so we converted them to Ubiña pockets. You’ll have six dimensions to choose from at any one time. I guess that means she’s replacing Nerakali too.”
“Are the powers that be okay with you doing that? On our way here, you weren’t meant to use the atterberry pods the whole time.”
“Screw ‘em,” Paige said with a shrug. “They’re getting Étude on Earth, so they can be happy enough with that. What we do on our way is our business.”
“Yeah, Étude is, what, three years old now? Must be talkin’ a mile a minute.”
This made the other two uncomfortable. “She appears to be mute. She’s never said a word. The doctors don’t know why.”
“Oh. That reminds me of baby Dar’cy, though. Why is she staying? Is the Cleanser stalking her too?”
“She’s staying for me,” Missy said. “She’s appointed herself my personal bodyguard. If all goes well, we’ll find a way back home later. Hell, we may even beat you there.”
“Well, I’m glad for the new friends, but we will miss you...Missy. Is that why that’s your name?”
Missy started to laugh, but was cut off by the sound of the ship’s alarms. They ran out of the room to find Serif standing in the cockpit, shaking with fear, and holding little Étude’s hand.
“What happened?” Paige demanded to know.
“An attack,” Serif answered, unable to elaborate.
One by one, all the crew members, new and old began to emergency teleport here. Loa, then Brooke, then Dar’cy and Annora together, and then Hokusai. Finally, Saga arrived, freaking out. Upon seeing that Étude was already here and safe, she picked her up, and started crying.
“Report!” Paige ordered.
Brooke was busy working on making sure the ship was secure. “A horde of people. They found out we’re leaving today, and they want a ride.”
“And they just attacked you?”
Brooke looked around. “It would seem they attacked us all at once. They were organized, and watching us.”
“Missy, are the power dampeners operational?” Paige asked.
Missy just stood there.
“Missy! Are they working!”
“I haven’t tested them since the upgrades,” Missy said honestly.
“Brooke, turn them on anyway.”
“Already done,” Brooke replied.
“Too late,” said the voice of a man behind them. They turned to find him holding a knife to Saga’s neck.”
“They took her,” Saga said. “Before Brooke turned on the shield, one teleported in and took her from me.”
“Well, we need hostages on both sides of the barrier, don’t we?” the man asked rhetorically.
Paige stepped forward. “My name is Paige Turner Reaver-Demir. I’m the captain of this vessel. State your demands.”
“I wanna get the hell out of here,” the man answered.
“Did you forget to ask nicely?”
“Depending on how many there are of you, we may have agreed to take you. Was your first thought to kidnap and threaten people? Or did you even consider that we could have done this civilly, and nonviolently?”
He was flabbergasted by the question. “We’ve been through this before. The salmon battalion—or whatever they were—refused us outright.”
Paige stepped closer, but stopped when the man adjusted his blade. “We’re not a military contingency. We do things differently. You should have tried. Now I’m just pissed off.”
He was still stammering. “It..doesn’t matter. We have the little girl, and I have you. There are two hundred of us, and we all want in. If that means some of you can’t go, then I guess that’s what we do.”
“We can’t take two hundred. Does this ship look that big?”
“Screw you, we know you have a pocket dimension creator.” He nodded in Annora’s direction.
“Not enough for two hundred,” Paige argued. Then she asked Annora, “how many could you take?”
Annora kept her attention on the hostage taker. “My dimensions are small, especially if I’m going to be maintaining six at once. I estimate a hundred. And that’ll be tight. The point is to have room to breathe, so we don’t feel so claustrophobic.”
“That’s sixteen per,” Leona noted, but regretted it when Paige looked to her and shook her head sharply.
As the hostage-taker thought this over, it was becoming clearer that someone else had organized his group, and he was more brutish than intelligent. They’d probably intended more people to teleport in, but he was the only other one who made it through. “A hundred and fifty,” he proposed. “I think I can trim some fat.”
“This isn’t a negotiation,” Annora argued. “I can only make the pockets so big. My powers have limitations, just like anyone else’s.”
He still didn’t understand what she was saying. “Hundred-twenty. Final offer.”
Annora sighed and threw up her hands in defeat. There was no reasoning with someone like this.
“Yes?” the man asked, tilting his head to indicate he was speaking with someone using an earpiece. He listened for a moment. “Okay, we’re gonna wait you out, let you sweat. We know you have to leave by the end of the day.—What!” He was interrupted by the person on the other end of the line. “Well, if you don’t want me telling them something, you should tell me not to...tell them.” He listened some more. “We’re gonna wait until you give us the answer we want.” He started backing up, still holding onto Saga.
“You have my daughter,” Saga told him. “You don’t need to threaten my life when you’re already threatening hers.”
“But I do need to protect my own life,” he said, backing into Nerakali’s room. “Close and lock this door,” they could hear him say once inside. The door closed.
“I don’t suppose Étude has telemagnets,” Paige suggested.
“No,” Serif answered. “Saga says she’s too young to use them properly. Which she is, according to this world’s conventions.”
“Does she at least have a tracker we can use?” Brooke asked.
“I don’t know,” Serif said. “And we can’t ask Saga, or it’ll tip of the hostage-takers.”
“Goddammit,” Paige said. “Son of a—shit! Dammit! Son of a bitch, goddammit, shit!”
“I’m sorry,” Dar’cy said sadly. “I should have protected her. I should have protected all of you. That is my one job.”
“You can’t take on a whole army, Darce,” Paige said, still rattled. “Shit!” Everyone let her calm down, and try to think clearly. “Is there any way you can stretch the pocket dimensions to fit two hundred people. What if they’re on...multiple floors of a building inside of it?”
“Ten people total, on multiple floors in any one dimension is what’s normal,” Annora explained. “Maybe fifteen. You double that, and you’re just huddled together. There’s no privacy. You think this situation is bad? Just wait until thirty people have to share that small a space. People start getting hurt. Like that Earthan TV show, Snowpiercer that Loa got me hooked on a few months ago.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Serif said. “We shouldn’t be trying to figure out how to accommodate these evil people. We should just be trying to get Étude and Camden back. If we help them, something like this is just waiting to happen again.”
“She’s right,” Leona agreed. “We can’t help them. Not if we wanna stay alive for the next several years.”
“You mean, if we want to stay alive,” Brooke corrected.
“Exactly. She and I get to leave the timestream every year. You don’t have that luxury, so you have to choose carefully who you spend that time with.”
“We don’t know who’s out there. They’re not necessarily all hostage-takers. Some, I’m sure, were against it,” Missy pointed out.
“Yeah, sure. We’ll just ask them to send us only the good ones,” Paige spat.
They argued about this for most of the rest of the day. Eventually, they all realized there was no way they would be able to solve this problem by the time midnight central hit. They would have to wait to leave in a year. Things were headed in the direction of letting some, if not most, of the mob come on board. In order to do this, though, Annora would need more time to get clever with the architecture of her pockets, and maybe garner some help from someone else. They would need to look through the paramount database that Paige lied about deleting from her memory. Once Leona and Serif were gone, hopefully things would settle down a bit. It was impractical to hold Étude hostage for the entire interim period, and it wasn’t like the crew of The Warren could leave before then anyway.

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