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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Void: The Next Generation (Part XII)

At the end of the day, Leona and Serif disappeared from the timeline, and would return in one year’s time. Until then, the rest of her friends were going to spend every one of their waking minutes trying to convince Saga to return to Earth with them. Apparently they had been on a mission for the last several years, by orders of the powers that be, to retrieve Étude, who was purportedly the new and last Savior. A Savior was a special kind of salmon who teleported around the planet, helping people, generally by literally saving their lives. Saga had been through too much in her life to question the veracity of their claims, or the fact that Étude was physically incapable of being sent back to the homeworld through more instantaneous means. Still, when she left Earth all those years ago, it was doing okay on its own. A lot of the dangers that plagued earlier generations were no longer an issue. All forms of transportation were completely automated, and safer. Drones and surveillance were so universally ubiquitous, murder was laughable, at best. There were just too many ways to get caught that it was rarely worth it. Terrorists still existed, of course, but with all the safeguards, it was not usually logical to target human lives. Instead, they usually just destroyed infrastructure to make their points, which continued to go unheard.
The point was that surely this generation of Earthans didn’t need a Savior if the next generation wouldn’t. If Étude was destined to be the last anyway, then why couldn’t they just skip it? Camden’s sister, Xearea did a lot of good while she was in the position, but she will have been dead for years by the time Étude came of age anyway, so it wasn’t like there always had to be one.
“Unfortunately,” Paige began, “that doesn’t matter.” She was the captain of the small ship that brought them all here, and had seemingly been hardened from decades of immortality, and years of leadership.
They were sitting at Camden’s bedside, which was where Saga spent a great deal of her time. Now that the secret was out, and Étude was no longer safe from the world, she might as well honor her commitment to her partner. “Why?”
“The powers that be want your daughter, and they’ll have her,” she explained. “We encountered a trailing ship on our way here. Which means there could be a third ship, full of people who are not so nice. An entire fleet could be on their way to make sure you do what you’re told.”
“Plus,” Dar’cy said, “there’s no way to contact the powers, even if we thought we would be in a position to negotiate.”
“There’s a way,” Camden eked out.
“Cammy! You’re awake!” Saga carefully handed her daughter, who was still her usual patient and quiet self, to the ship’s pilot, Brooke’s arms. She placed her hands on Camden’s shoulders, and massaged them with her thumbs. “You’re finally awake.”
“How long has it been?”
“Two and a half years,” Saga answered him. “Did it feel like yesterday?”
He laughed and struggled to sit up a little. “Absolutely not. It was slower. Feels like centuries.”
Paige nodded. “Your brain would have been operating closer to computational speeds. Our programming prevents that from being an issue, but you’re new to transhumanism.”
“It’s like I could see the code behind the data I downloaded into my brain,” Camden described. “They were layers of blankets piled on top of me that I couldn’t get off.”
“Missy took those away two months ago,” Brooke explained, “so we could find Saga.”
“I remember that.” He nodded. “I still couldn’t wake up. I could hear you all, though. I’ve been here this whole time.”
“And you know how to contact the powers that be?” Paige pressed.
“We can worry about that later,” Saga said. “You should speak with a doctor first.”
He sat up some more. “I’m fine. Have you ever woken up after sleeping in all day, but it doesn’t feel like a waste of time, and it’s like you were making up for all the stress of the week? I feel great.”
“Your muscles have still atrophied,” Saga warned, calling upon her years of experience as a nurse.
“That’s true, but my brain is on point. Yes, I know how to reach the powers that be. Have you ever heard of The Emissary?”
“Yeah, he’s a bridge from the powers to the choosers,” Saga remembered.
“If you want to get your daughter excused from her duties, he’s the guy you talk to.”
“She’s your daughter too,” Saga realized. She took Étude back from Brooke, and handed her over to Camden. “I’m gonna need a lot of help from that Andromeda’s gone.”
“Hi,” he said in his best impression of a bubbly voice. “I’m Camden.”
Étude just looked at him and smiled.
“She’s still not talking, huh?” he asked, having heard Saga discuss it with the others sometime in the last couple months.
Saga shook her head solemnly.
“And she’s not deaf?”
Saga shook her head again, and almost thought maybe Étude was shaking her own in agreement. “She’s physiologically totally fine,” Saga said. “She just...doesn’t talk.”
Étude acted like she knew her parents were talking about her, and even understood what they were saying, but was unmoved by it. She always had this, almost unsettling, old soul demeanor, like the reincarnation of someone who had lived many lives.
They sat in respectful silence for a while, then Saga looked around. “Obviously you all want to continue with this conversation about the Emissary. I know you’re all dying to get back home. What I want you to understand is that I am home. Everything here reminds me of her, because she had a hand in building everything, if not the only hand. I don’t wanna lose that. And I want Étude to see what her mother did, what she created. If I let you take her away, she’ll never see this world. She needs to see all of it, to grow up here, to live in a house that Andromeda made for her. She didn’t think I knew, but she constructed a place just for us in secret, deep in the high thickets. It was meant to be our home. I’ve not been able to go there yet, but Étude deserves to live there. Camden, how do we contact him?”
“We’re gonna need her.” He pointed to Dar’cy, who was one of only two choosing ones in this world.
“I mean...” Dar’cy stammered. “He contacted me specifically about this mission, but that doesn’t mean I know how to get ahold of him.”
“Have you ever meditated?” Camden asked.
Dar’cy burst out laughing, then stopped herself in embarrassment. “Sorry, it’s just, if you met my mother, you would know how funny that question is. Yes. Yes, I meditate every day.”
Camden smiled. “That’s great. It takes years to learn how to communicate with the Emissary, but if you’re as experienced as you sound, it should go pretty quick.”
“That’s all you do?” Dar’cy asked.
“It can’t be that easy,” Paige argued.
“Most choosers who have a way to contact them make it easy, because why would it be difficult? His method is the hardest, because he doesn’t want a bunch of salmon running around asking him to get them off their pattern. Like I said, though, Darcy shouldn’t have a problem.”
“It’s Dar’cy,” Brooke aggressively corrected.
“It’s fine,” Dar’cy said. “Do I seem like the kind of person who gets bothered by that?” She switched gears back to the conversation. “Tell me how the meditation works,” she requested of Camden.
“It’s best done by a large body of water.”
“That is not going to happen.” Dar’cy’s lakeside meditation worked. In only a few days, the Emissary had arrived to ask them what they wanted. He was not being particularly accommodating, or understanding, though.
“You mean the powers that be won’t agree to that, or you won’t talk with them about it?” Saga asked to clarify.
“Both,” the Emissary replied bluntly.
“Why not?”
“I think you misunderstand my purpose. I’m not a diplomat. It’s not by job to nurture relations between powers and choosers. I am here on their behalf. I only do anything on their behalf. I don’t come to them with requests, or news, or help. I just tell choosing ones what the powers that be want them to know, much in the same way The Delegator does with salmon. This is the one thing that everyone has trouble figuring out. Regardless of what power you have—what you can do with time, or how many people you can control—they control everything. And everyone. Your needs are completely irrelevant, as are everyone’s in the universe, at all times.”
“What, they think they’re gods?” Dar’cy questioned.
“Aren’t they?” the Emissary asked rhetorically.
“The Superintendent might have something to say about that,” she noted.
“Do not speak his name.” He was supremely offended by the mention.
“That’s not his name,” Saga assumed.
“If you do everything on behalf of the powers, then why did you come when I called?” Dar’cy asked. “Why is it even possible to contact you?”
“I came at their command.” He smirked. “You didn’t summon me. I got your message, and they told me to respond, but only to remind you that this is not a voluntary mission. You know what you need to do, and you’re going to do it. I’m not sure if I said this before, but you’ve been told to extract The Last Savior. Saga’s participation is completely optional. If you have to take that child from her, then do it. Oh, and as for why there’s a way to contact me, what you did, you can do with anyone. You’ll only get an answer from those who have a way of replying, but anyone with your patience and experience can see anyone at any point in time. I can’t stop that.”
“Which means that I could see the powers that be using the same technique.”
“You would have to know what to look for.” He turned to leave, “and trust me, you don’t know who you’re dealing with.”
“When Leona and Serif return to the timeline, two people need to be on that ship: Leona, and Étude. Everyone else can space themselves, for all we care.”
“Saga, I’m sorry,” Paige said after the Emissary was gone.
She started on some breathing exercises. “It’s okay. I don’t know why we thought that would work. Come on, I want to see what Andromeda’s house looks like. There’s plenty of room for everyone.”

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