Monday, April 30, 2018

Microstory 831: Devil and the Deep Brown Sea

People think I hate everybody, but that isn’t entirely accurate. I only hate certain types of people; generally those who aren’t self-aware, or aware of how others feel about them. I’m talking about people who smile because they’re awake, or volunteer so they can tell all their friends about how much they volunteer. I’m talking about the phonies, the hypocrites, the judgmental jerks masquerading as empathetic altruists. The douchebags, elitists, oversharers, good ol’ daydreamers, emoji-users, PETA donators, hunters, and Trump voters. I don’t like fist bumps, anyone who says yaaaaas, Nazis, or climate change deniers. And worst of all, I hate talk shows. Being on, or even having to sit through, a talk show would be my worst nightmare, my hell. I guess it’s no surprise that when I found myself on my way to an actual hell dimension, that’s exactly what it was. I’m in a transparent bubble, floating around in what I guess you could call limbo. On one side of me is the real world. All those things I’ve listed are there, but it’s also got things I love. My family, my favorite music, and the greatest city in the world. Alyssa Milano and Emma González are there, fighting the good fight, along with millions of bright millennial activists, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. To the other side of me is actual hell. I can see it playing, and hear the muffled voices of the hosts, growing clearer and clearer. They’re talking about some “lifehack” that doesn’t make things any easier than traditional methods. One of them is taking a sip of her coffee, and giving the audience a thumbs up, which causes an uproar in clapping and cheering. The other is shaking his head, pretending that one of these days...right in the kisser. I keep trying to swim towards the real world, but it’s becoming more difficult the harder I try. The coffee talk hell wants me, and it’s not going to stop until it gets me. I have to get out of here. I have to escape. I’m sorry. I’m sorry about anything bad I ever said about the world I live in. From now on, God, if you promise to send me back, I’ll only focus on the positive things in my life, and try to accept the things I cannot change, or whatever. Just please don’t make me experience even one more second of this show. Then my bubble bursts, and I begin to fall away from both worlds, into the empty void, forever denied my wish for a second chance. But it sure beats a talk show, and for this, I will literally be eternally grateful.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: Fall of 2176

Not long after Leona would have returned to the timeline in 2076, a man appeared in the ship proper, using the former’s emergency teleporter. He was out of breath, and holding onto his chest. He collapsed to his knees. Brooke left her controls, and knelt down to him. “What happened?” she asked as she was helping him up.
He was struggling to catch his breath. “They attacked us. Her,” he corrected. “They attacked her.”
“Leona?” Brooke confirmed. “Who attacked her?”
“Everybody,” he said. “They’re angry. I tried to protect her, but they were too strong. With her dying breath, she begged me to take the e-porter, and get out of there.” He sighed and stammered. “I shouldn’t have broken the news like that. But it’s true. She’s gone.” He paused for effect, as if traumatized by the event. “She’s gone.”
Paige casually walked into the cockpit. After sizing him up, she crossed her arms, and looked at Brooke.
“Sir?” Brooke offered to carry out orders.
“Put him in Nerakali’s room,” she commanded as she was turning around. “Get that teleporter to Hokusai, so she can figure out how to send it back to Leona.”
“Captain!” the man cried. “You are the captain, right?”
Paige turned back to face him, but didn’t bother answering.
“I told you, Leona’s gone,” the man continued to lie. “Don’t waste the teleporter on a dead body. Two of the people who killed her will just use it to come here, then you’ll have a real problem on your hands.”
“Why didn’t you bring her with you?” Paige asked, still as cool as a cucumber that’s been sitting in a refrigerator. “You can teleport dead bodies.”
He took a moment to come up with a reasonable lie. “We got separated. I couldn’t get to her, and...and I was in danger. I just had to go. I’m sorry you can’t give her a proper send-off.”
Paige smirked. “Not a bad attempt at recovery. It might even be believable, except for one truth you could never have known.”
“And what’s that?” he asked, almost breaking character.
“There are only two people on this ship—or any of its extra dimensions—whose lives actually matter. Leona is one of them. She can’t die. And I don’t mean that like, it would be really bad if she died. I mean she literally can’t, not until her mission’s complete, and maybe not even then.” She nodded to Brooke, who picked the lying man off the floor, and carried him kicking and screaming to Nerakali’s room, which they had successfully transformed into a fully-functional brig.

After the deception of the man who claimed he would help her, Leona felt hopeless, trapped, and scared. The mob outside was showing no signs of changing their minds about wanting to kill her. Sweaty and freaking out, she started pacing and spinning around the room, looking for anything that could help her; a weapon, or...cash, maybe. Anything She opened the closet door, not just in the search, but also hoping one of Saga’s magical portals would appear in the frame. She found only a couple blankets. She hadn’t realized right away, but this must have been one of the guests rooms, so nobody’s belongings were in it. She was about to slam the door shut in a rage when something on the inside of it caught her eye. Scratched on the wood was an odd bathroom stall-style note, In a bad time // call Jayde Mercy // 937-724.
Well, she certainly was in a bad time, but how could she call this Jayde person? She didn’t have a phone, and even if she did, it wouldn’t likely work all the way out here. And even if it did, there were only six digits in the number, and she knew not even Durus operated like that. She started working on the math in her head, trying to figure out whether the numbers would have anything to do with someone’s telemagnet. When coming up with the telemagnet network system, the Durune knew they couldn’t rely on traditional phone formats, like those found on Earth. If contacting somebody in another time period, one first needed a four-digit year code. Since the sun was fake, the year was then broken up into one thousand arbitrary days. There were ten months in a year, ten weeks in a month, and ten days in a week; all of which led to a three-digit day code. An individual then required a full twelve digits, which would allow all of Durus history to ultimately have just under one trillion people. They probably wouldn’t even run out of numbers. Basically, all this meant that this six digit number had nothing to do with that. What else could it mean?
Before she could come to any logical conclusion, the door burst open, and the mob flowed in. Out of desperation, Leona blurted out the message, “I need to call Jayde Mercy! Nine-three-seven. Seven-two-four!”
The frontlines were about to strike her with their various and sundry weapons, but hesitated. “Say that again,” one requested.
“I need Jayde Mercy,” Leona said.
They still lunged towards her, but apparently knew they couldn’t. “What’s goin’ on up there!” someone from the hallway demanded to know.
“She’s called Jayde Mercy,” someone in the front answered back.
“This ain’t Durus,” the other one reminded her.
“But we are Durune, and we will honor that!” she said.
“We’re not all Durune!” another one shouted.
“We are honoring the mercy petition!” the leader declared. “Everyone out!” she ordered. “I’ll be acting diplomat in this matter.”
They all reluctantly left, except for the leader, and one other woman.
“You may go,” the leader said to the other one.
“I am nine-three-seven-seven-two-four,” she explained.
The leader looked back, and thought this over. “Your inmate code. That was yours?” She looked back at Leona. “Did you want to speak with her?”
“Umm...yes. Her.”
The leader left the two of them alone.
“How do you know me?”
Leona stepped aside, revealing the closet door behind her. “I don’t know you, Jayde. But I still think you can help.”
“My name isn’t Jayde,” she said, like Leona was stupid. “It’s Dubravka. You requested Jayde Mercy, which means no one can hurt you until diplomatic solutions can be explored.”
“Oh,” Leona said. “Actual mercy.”
“Yeah.”
“Then why is your inmate code scratched here too?”
“No idea. Who did this?”
“No idea,” Leona echoed. “It may not have anything to do with me, and this was left for someone else, but would there be any way for you to help me? Are you, perhaps, a paramount?”
“I’m The Slipper. I can skip over any future period of time. It’s not really that useful since I can’t go backwards.”
“It might be, if you’re trying to escape from an angry mob,” Leona pointed out.
“Oh, no,” Dubravka argued. “I help you get away from them, they come after me.”
“I can get you out of here,” Leona promised. I just need time. If we can get them to go back to their normal lives for a few hours, and forget about us, then I can find a way back to The Warren. I will take you with me. You don’t seem to wanna be here, or to deserve to be.”
Dubravka was silent.
“Please.”
They could hear a ruckus outside. People were running back up their stairs, and not in a sort of happy dancing jog, but a rageful sprint.
“Dubra, please!” Leona begged.
Just before the mob ran into the room, Dubravka took Leona’s hand, and jumped them into the future.
Hokusai spent the entire day trying to find a way to send Leona’s emergency teleporter back to her, but had no luck. She was drenched in sweat as midnight central approached, knowing that if she didn’t get this right soon, they would have to wait an entire year before it could do Leona any good. She could be dead by then, if even one part of what that lying man said was true. If she was in as much danger as she seemed, she could be dead by now. Then midnight struck followed by dozens of other midnights. It was weeks before she discovered how to send the teleporter back to the other dimension, which it did so on its own. A week later, Leona’s body fell onto the floor beside her, from out of nowhere. She stared at it shock, knowing that she had failed.
A few days after that, decisions had been reached. Leona was to receive an airlock funeral, accompanied by the man they held responsible for her death. Paige did not take her burden of deciding the man’s fate lightly, and did not relish the idea of the Warren’s first execution, but he was a danger to the crew, and the mission. He needed to be dealt with more than he needed to be punished. She reasoned that he was the one who chose this, not her.
“You shouldn’t be here,” Hokusai said to little Étude. They had already said their goodbyes to Leona, and were currently placing a mildly sedated criminal in the airlock with her. She was still too young to see something like this. “Go back to our room.”
Étude refused, pushing Hokuai’s hand away, and trying to show her a little Buddha statue that Dar’cy had given to her before they left Durus.
“Étude, please. This is for grownups.”
“It’s okay,” Loa seemed to think. “She’s old enough to know what this is, and she’ll have to decide for herself whether she was right to stay or not. Go ahead, Brooke.”
Brooke wasn’t sure, but then she lifted her hand to open the outer doors.
“Stop!” Étude screamed. This was, as far as they knew, the first word she had ever uttered in her life.
“Étude,” Hokusai said, “you spoke. Can you do it again?”
She contorted her face, indicating the one word she did say felt gross in her mouth. She just held up the statue, shaking it in front of their faces, trying to get them to understand. They didn’t, so she threw it on the ground. It was too tough to break, but this seemed to bother her even more. She picked it up, and tried again, but failed. She shook it again, and tried to hand it to Paige. Once Paige took it from her, Étude mimed smashing the statue with her own hands.
“You want me to break it?” Paige asked. “This was a gift. You don’t break gifts.”
Étude was jumpy and teary-eyed, still pleading with them to listen to her, even though she couldn’t use her voice. Please, she implored them with her eyes.
“Trust her,” Loa suggested.
Paige mulled it over some more, then squeezed it with her hand, buckling the metal into a blob. She dropped it to the floor, but it never reached it. Dar’cy suddenly appeared, holding it in her hands. She looked it over with a sad face, and sighed. “I really liked this one. You guys must really need me.”
“Dar’cy, you’re here.”
“Yeah, Étude called me. It’s a failsafe. I always thread certain precious objects to the end of their life. If something like this breaks, I know something goes wrong. So what happened?”
The crew went over everything they knew, and everything they guessed, but didn’t know for sure. Having calmed down, Étude was able to express her thoughts as well. She came up with a plan to rewrite history without creating a potentially dangerous new timeline. They would keep reality about the same as it always was, but Dar’cy would go back to before the Warren launched from Durus, and leave a message for Leona to find in pocket one. All she needed to do was make a new friend in there who could help her stay alive long enough to find the emergency teleporter when she returned to the timeline in 2177. After all the specifics had been ironed out, Dar’cy hugged everyone, and threaded the Buddha back to her own time, to before the Warren had even left. Then reality shifted into a new timeline, so that no one could remember anything about Leona’s death.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Missy’s Mission: Remorse (Part IV)

Somebody did die as a result of what the TAD officer called dimensional reestablishment. It was just the one person, but that was enough to make Missy feel absolutely awful about what she had done, and enough to prevent The Librarian from agreeing to help them. Missy and Dar’cy were not concerned about her decision, though, as the death weighed heavily on their hearts. People in their world teleported and time traveled frequently, and you just don’t hear about situations where they hurt someone in their landing. Though they can’t technically see where they’ll end up, it’s like the proverbial time gods compensate for any interference. If an amateur accidentally aims for the middle of a wall, or miscalculates the z-axis, time will usually pick the next closest safest spot to have them appear. This doesn’t always happen, but issues are rare. Generally speaking, you have to be pretty ready to die if you want your power to allow you to teleport into a volcano, or something.
Dar’cy might have been able to go back in time and prevent them from ever walking into the library, but that would have created an alternate timeline, leaving her with a duplicate of herself. “Object threading,” her father would always say, “is about exploration, experience, and adventure. It is not to be used to alter past mistakes. It would be irresponsible to have hundreds, dozens, or even just a few different versions of you running around the timeline.” Unlike other travelers, threaders were not capable of quantum assimilation, which was when two versions of the same individual merged into one, body and mind. Left unchecked, their numbers could grow disproportionately to the timeline’s historical population levels.
The Librarian and the library’s researchers were ruled innocent in the wrongful death of an elderly man named Oskari Belker. Missy and Dar’cy, however, as instigators of the incident, were convicted of a temporal crime, and sentenced to the number of years in prison equivalent to those their victim missed out on. If this punishment were legal on Earth, these years would have to be estimated, but here, there were people who knew exactly how long Oskari would have lived, if not for the two of them. Eleven years. They wouldn’t get out for another eleven years. Missy was ashamed to be grateful she hadn’t killed a child, and not for the same reason an emotionally righteous person would have. She felt like a sociopath.
Out of mercy, the court agreed to allow Missy and Dar’cy to serve their time together. Many wanted them to be separated, but the judge recognized their crime as unintentional, and she took that into consideration. Three years in, a young woman that Dar’cy recognized walked into their cell, holding a briefcase. Evidently, Kivi Bristol was a walking temporal anomaly. Sometimes she exists, and sometimes she doesn’t. She returns randomly, with different memories, from a completely different history. These aren’t just memory glitches, though. Every new version of her actually experienced the things she claims to have. A magical force reaches back in time and alters reality to account for every new version. About the only things that remains constant about her is her face, and her name. She isn’t even always aware of what she is. This one appeared to be fully cognizant.
“Good evening, I am the version of Kivi Bristol who was born on Durus.”
“It’s morning,” Missy pointed out.
Kivi looked at the sun shining through the window. Then she looked at her watch, then back to the sun. She sighed, and held her watch up to the window, deliberately pushing one of the tiny buttons, and twisting the face. Suddenly, the sun turned off, and was replaced with a night sky.
“What was that?” Dar’cy asked.
Kivi shook her head. “It’s an old trick, used to keep inmates submissive, and reliant on the guards. You eat when they say, and any hunger you feel is just in your imagination, because your mind isn’t remembering your past correctly.” This appalled her.
“I’m not sure I understand the reasoning behind that,” Missy started saying.
“You’ve been in here for two years.”
“That’s not right,” Dar’cy argued. “It’s been three.” She stepped aside to show Kivi the wall behind her. “See? We even etch away the days in stone, like a movie character who’s slowly going insane.”
Kivi pressed a button on her watch, and let the backlight shine brightly on the wall. As she passed over the etchings, about a third of them would disappear, leaving only roughly seven hundred that were truly there. “Your temporal perception has been decalibrated.”
“What would have happened when we thought we were at eleven years, but really weren’t yet?”
“You probably would have started screaming at the guards, and literally tearing out your hair.” She toppled her briefcase on the desk so she could open it. It looked like she pressed another button inside of it, and let out a bubble of distorted space. She adjusted the bubble so that it would grow, until it was large enough to accommodate all three of them. “Berg bubble,” she said vaguely. “A gift from another universe. No one can hear us outside the quote-unquote cone of silence.”
“Are you also a lawyer,” Dar’cy asked, presumably referring to another version of Kivi.
“Yes. I am, in fact, your lawyer, and I’m here to get you—” Before Kivi could finish her sentence, they could hear this extremely loud and sharp cry. It was coming from everywhere, and nowhere, all at once, echoing off the walls of the so-called berg bubble. She just waited there patiently, as the cry grew fainter, then finally faded entirely. “—out of prison,” she finished, as if having paused for nothing more than a sneeze.
“What in the actual ass was that?” Missy asked in shock.
“I heard that before, when I was stuck in a different timeline,” Dar’cy recalled.
“It’s the Time Shriek,” Kivi explained dismissively. “Don’t worry about it.”
“You were saying something about getting us out?”
“Indeed,” Kivi said. “New evidence has come to light regarding sentencing procedures. It seems the deathwatcher who predicted Mister Belker’s true moment of death was a friend of a friend of an acquaintance, who was related to the victim. An unbiased deathwatcher has come forward with the truth that Oskari would have actually died six years after the unfortunate incident, not eleven.”
“Oh,” Missy said sadly. “So we still won’t get out for another three years. Oh no, I forgot, four years.”
Kivi smirked. “This was a major violation of ethics, and a breach of this world’s judicial system. I will be appealing for early release. This revelation, coupled with the unauthorized time torture you’ve been experiencing, is enough to get you out within a week.”
“We’re getting off on a technicality?” Dar’cy questioned.
“I always hate when that happens,” Missy noted. “Usually to rich, privileged white people.”
“You’re not getting off,” Kivi told them. “Your parole would have been up in six years, which is over half your original sentence. Though you have only been here the two years, you perceived a full three. It’s their own damn fault for doing that to you, and now it works to your advantage. I never make guarantees, but we have a very strong case.”
“I don’t know about this,” Missy said with worry. “I’ll want to continue with my mission when I get out, and who knows who will be in a position to help us? Even if the system lets us go, we still have to contend with public opinion.”
“She’s right,” Dar’cy surprisingly agreed. “We need the Durune on our side. We should go through the whole six years.”
Kivi wasn’t happy about this, but she was outwomanned, and it wasn’t really her call. Still, she wasn’t going to back down so easily. “Four years,” she negotiated.
“Five and a half.”
“Five.”
“Five and a quarter.”
Kivi took a beat, then repeated, “five.”
Missy didn’t want to back down either, but Dar’cy was done. “Deal.”
“I need verbal confirmation from both of you,” Kivi said, calling her berg bubble back into the briefcase, and closing it up.
“Deal.”
Eight days later, Missy and Dar’cy found themselves once again standing in the courtroom, their no nonsense lawyer at their side. The proceedings were being broadcast on LoaTV. Their old friend, Loa had the ability to create little spatial windows all over the planet, and let others witness events at one location unfold remotely. Before she left on The Warren with everybody else, her power was adapted to technology, because people were too used to it to lose it.
Kivi began her argument, “your honor, these two have been model citizens in prison for the time they were in there. They don’t cause trouble, and they work to contribute positively to society by manufacturing emergency teleporters, and temporal anomaly detectors. Frankly, this court has failed them by allowing this terrifying oversight to force them into a sentence they don’t deserve. Furthermore, I have uncovered evidence that the facility has been using time tort—”
“Yes, yes, yes,” the judge interrupted. “I don’t need you going over this again, Miss Bristol. What’s your first name, again? Kiwi?”
“It’s Kivi. It has, like, a quicker v-b sound, uh...never mind. Sorry, go on.”
The judge went on, “Look, I know all about what went down with the deathwatcher, and I’ve been apprised of the conditions at Silversmith Penitentiary. So get on with what you want.”
Kivi looked to the defendants one last time, hoping they would change their minds. “We are requesting my clients to serve a total of five years, carried out at Westland Rehabilitation Center. We no longer trust the leadership at Silversmith, and they deserve better conditions.”
The judge widened her eyes. “Their feelings on the facility are fair, but I’m curious, why are you not asking for them to be released immediately?”
Kivi looked to her clients once more. “My clients feel a deep sense of sadness and regret at the loss of Oskari Belker. They feel it is in this planet’s best interest, and their own, that they honor his legacy by completing the majority of his sacrifice. We’re only asking for the one year to be removed because of the unlawful hardship they went through.”
The judge was impressed, but not entirely convinced. Kivi continued to explain their reasoning behind making them remain behind bars for three more years. The judge actually managed to talk them down to two. Due to pressure from public protests, they were out in one.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Microstory 830: The Hunted and the Elite

We have learned from the mistakes of our past, but we have not forgotten their value. When we overthrew the king, we knew we would have to come up with something else, and do so rather quickly. Fortunately, we already had everything we needed at our disposal. Over time, people have noticed that objects, and sometimes people, often mysteriously fall into our world, from distant places. We used to believe these events to be random, or at least unpredictable, but a few smart people did the math, and now they can be forecast with extreme precision. This gave our group an advantage over the others, but we did not all keep these treasures for ourselves. We just control them, and we decide who gets what. The treasures are a commodity; a resource. If you know when and where they’re coming, you don’t have to work for anything. We call the people who receive most of these treasures The Elites. All Elites have everything they need, and we protect them from the dangers of the world. But this life comes with a price, in that it’s dull, and uneventful. They don’t have access to some art, like film and theatre. They don’t have interesting jobs, full of stories they can go home and tell their families. Sure, they live in luxury, but when choosing your place, you have to decide whether that’s really worth it. If the answer is no, then you can choose to be The Hunted. Though they do not live in luxury, they too are provided with enough food to survive, at no cost to them. Except they have to find where that food is hidden, and fight to keep it out of other people’s hands. Meanwhile, they are being hunted by our world’s criminals, so they’re also fighting for their survival. It can be a lot of fun, though, if you form the right alliances, and come across the right treasures. We don’t know if this is the best way to maintain a civilization, but it’s the best we have ever had. It perfectly blends elements from our past, and we will not give it up easily.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Microstory 829: Broad Side of a Barn

My squad is by no stretch the imagination an elite team, but we are known for being reckless and crazy. We move into dangerous situations without thinking, we disarm bombs without blast suits, and there was even one time we attached our ankles to the back of a train, and let it drag us. You kind of had to be there for our choice to make any real sense. If we were part of a real military force, we would each and every one of us have been relieved of duty long ago. But this isn’t your average contingency, and we’re not fighting an average war. Technically the people we’re fighting are aliens, but technically they’re not. Experts aren’t sure how it happened, but ancient aliens appear to have displaced half of our populations thousands of years ago. They progressed scientifically faster than us, and recently came back. Their first target was the real military. It was gone before we knew what hit us. Fortunately, their plan to dismantle our government was about as far as they had figured out, so after they succeeded, they didn’t really know what they were going to do, or what they were up against. New military factions sprung up to fill the void, and though we were less trained, our enemy no longer had the benefit of surprise. In response to our persistence, our alien brethren just up and left the planet, and for a time, things were okay. The only active members of the military were people like us, who had grown too used to the life, and fancied ourselves new ad hoc police. We didn’t do our jobs very well, though, because a new conflict began right under our noses.

Known as the Barn Wars, these were fought between opposing factions, many of whom did not personally fight in the Human Aliens War. Resources were thin on our blue planet, and everyone started realizing the only way they were going to live was if they became farmers. The cities were just too torn apart to do anybody any good. There wasn’t enough farmland to go around,though, so the fighting continued. My squad and I found ourselves in the middle of a fight in an actual barn, perpetuating a more literal interpretation of the name of the war. We quickly realized we had fought in this particular barn many years ago. A member of our squad, and one of my best friends, sacrificed himself so that the rest of us could escape. But he was here, alive and fighting, as if no time had passed for him, except now he was on the other side. Though he was completely okay with killing anyone else, he hesitated to do me any harm, so this gave me time to ask him what the hell was going on. All he said was that he had been against us the entire time, but he didn’t say why, or what he was meant to accomplish by infiltrating our group. The battle ended, and we went our separate ways. It was one of the last of the Barn Wars, because few people were even left alive to fight, and those that were had little competition. Anyone who still wanted to farm was able to do so in peace. A few weeks later, my former friend hunts me down, and admits that he was actually a double agent; that he was just trying to gather information for us. I don’t believe him at first, but then he says he’s discovered the Barn Wars were fabricated by the alien humans. They were designed to lower our population, so they could come back, and more easily take over. This is apparently going to happen in only two more weeks, so now I have to decide if I don’t believe him, or if I’m going to agree to work with, and try to warn all surviving factions.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Microstory 828: Spitting Image

It’s not uncommon for people in here to claim that they’re innocent, and don’t belong. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m guilty...mostly. I wasn’t holding them for a friend, and I didn’t just find them on the street. They were mine, and I planned to take every single one of them eventually. It’s not like they go bad, or anything, so yeah, I bought in bulk. But the Divided States of Bullshit arbitrarily decided that carrying some threshold of product meant there was intent to sell. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Needless to say, I think I’ve overstayed my welcome in this joint, and I’m ready to get out. I was supposed to be paroled, but the committee didn’t think I showed enough remorse for what I had done, so they rejected me. These people, who had no idea who I was, what I’ve been through, or what I’m gonna do next; they chose my fate for me. So I resolved to leave on my own accord. Luckily, my cellmate feels the exact same way. Long ago, we agreed that there was no point in letting the rest of the prison know how close we were. We have so much in common, I almost feel like I met my husband the day I walked in here, and we were put together. Unfortunately, our races don’t mix well in this particular facility, so we have to pretend to hate each other. He’s in here for life, because of a total misunderstanding, and I don’t really have anything to lose anymore, so the plan is on. Or at least, it will be on, as soon as we figure out what it is.

He’s a master strategist, so I know he can come up with something brilliant, but that ends up being the least of our worries. Not long after my parole falls through, the system moves us both to different cells, in different wings. This place is real strict with the schedule, so now the only time I ever see him is when I’m leaving the yard, and his line is walking towards it. The guards watch us like hawks, so there’s no way to pass any notes either. They’ll just get read in front of the whole class. I don’t know what we’re gonna do, and frankly I’m losing hope, but every time we pass, he gives me the stinkeye, but with his left eye, which is our code for everything is going according to plan. I have to believe that he’s telling me the truth, and that he still has something up his sleeves. I just wish I knew what it was. Then one day, he picks a fight with me, which we’ve done on occasion to cement other people’s belief that we can’t stand each other. We don’t do it too often, though, because I still needed to be on my best behavior. Now that that no longer matters, we can go all out. We just start hitting and kicking each other relentlessly. Normally, the guards would pull us off right away, but it’s magically not inciting a riot, so they let it go on for a long time. He wipes his middle finger across his forehead, which tells me this is supposed to end with him in the infirmary. Then he growls in my right ear, which tells me I’m supposed to go to solitary for this. I start winning the fight, and he starts letting me on purpose. Then he does something that’s never been part of a code. He spits in my face, and I swear it burns a little. In a fake rage, I sweep the leg, and jam my foot against his neck; not hard enough to kill him, but hard enough for him to need medical treatment. I can’t get the spit off my face, and then I realize I shouldn’t even try. I start getting a vision of blueprints, guard shift schedules, and other relevant images. I have no idea how it’s possible, but he’s somehow provided me with the prison break plan, which now also includes his new cellmate. Now it really is on. Tonight.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Microstory 827: Worst of Both Worlds

The world is severely overpopulated, and our leaders have decided that the best way to combat this is death. We’ve tried incentivizing people to have fewer children, but that didn’t work. We tried punishing them for having too many children, and that made things a little better, but we still didn’t have enough resources to sustain everyone. We executed all of our criminals whose offenses suggested the chances of recidivism were above some established threshold. That helped for many years, but then things started getting bad again. Military conflict, blight, pollution. There are only so many safe places to live, only so much room in them, and only so much food to feed everyone. A mysterious collective, known only as The Universe—by their claim that they speak for the needs of the cosmos itself—has come up with the most recent resolution. All other remedies have merely staved off our demise, but they believe this will fix the world, and usher in an era of peace of prosperity. Many just hope it lasts long enough for us to migrate to other planets, or come up with other technological solutions. According to them, in all of history, only one thing has helped cleanse the world of the weakest was war, and so a new one was artificially generated to recreate this scenario. You don’t get to pick side; instead The Universe chooses for you. You’re either provided an allotment of all of the planet’s current resources, including weapons, or you’re given nothing. It is the former’s responsibility to rid the world of those who have been chosen to die. These crusaders are assigned targets, and must complete their missions within some specified timeframe. If they fail, they themselves become targets, and must submit to death. Of course, most of the chased don’t submit so easily, because they have no real motivation to do so. They now have nothing to lose, and will do anything they can to stay alive. Due to a clerical error, however, I was chosen both as crusader, and chased. I tried to get this situation resolved, but they said my only hope of surviving was to accept missions, as any other crusader, as well as try to stop others from killing me. If I refused, I would be stripped of my status, and simply become another chased. This put me in an interesting position; one the Universe clearly did not think through. Armed with the resources of a crusader, but the heart of a chased, I formed a rebellion against the status quo. We started fighting back, and stealing the crusader’s weapons, medicine, and food. But we did not have to do this alone. Just because someone was chosen as crusader, didn’t mean they enjoyed the life, so many of them have joined our cause. Change is coming to this world once again. And I am the spearhead.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Microstory 826: Hurt a Fly

Today is the day. I’m more nervous about this than any other time in my life. I thought I had accepted what was going to happen to me, but as the hour approaches, I start doubting my resolve. Four years ago, the King of this country came across a movie scientists eventually realized had come from another universe. We either don’t know how the DVD got here, or they never revealed this to the general public, but it changed our lives forever. In the story, all crime is legal for one night, including murder. This inspired the King to adopt a similar structure. His people made the connection between this movie, and a short story we came across seventy years ago. Though technology hadn’t advanced enough back then to determine the story’s origin, we now believe it too originated from some other universe, because no one by the author’s name ever existed in ours. It was about a small village where one individual is chosen every year to be stoned to death, upon the superstition that there was some correlation between that, and a good harvest. Our King decided to combine these stories into one. He would draw one name in a lottery every year, and make all crimes against the winner legal for one day, so people could purge them from the world. Of course, in a kingdom of millions, the odds of your name being drawn are almost negligible, but someone has to be chosen, and this time, it’s me. But I have a secret that no one else knows.

Though purge day lasts for twelve hours, lottery winners usually die within the first, because there is nowhere to run. But I don’t have to run, because I can fly. I take a deep breath and step up onto the stage. Wearing my ceremonial grey suit, I smile for the cameras, which is something I’m required to do, so people know who they’re trying to kill. There’s been a history of illegal murders on this day, because people pretend to be the lottery winner, just to die famous. I stretch a little and loosen up, do a little dance to make the people laugh, and wait for the bell. As soon as it dings, I launch into the air, surprising the entire world, all at once. I’ve never met any other human who could fly, so it appears to be impossible, and it certainly isn’t easy for me. It’s not like in the movies, where they just have to jump up and go. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of energy, and I’m not entirely confident in my ability to sustain myself for as long as I’ll need to. When I fly, it’s like I’ve turned the wind into a slippery hill. I have to constantly climb up that hill to stay above the surface, and it’s always only a matter of time before I slide back down.

After the crowd gets over their shock from what I’ve done, they start running after me. They can tell that it isn’t easy, so they’re just biding their time until I come back down. I’m just glad that the King decreed that guns were illegal for this event, because of how impersonal, and effortless they are. He wants a show, and it’s supposed to be my job to give it to them, which I believe I’ve delivered, and I think that entitles me to become the first lottery winner to survive. I stay up as best I can, but man am I getting tired. I move like a heart rate monitor. Up, down, up, down, up, down. But I never fall, and I never land. I try to rest on roofs of the castle towers, but people are always waiting for me there. I try to seek refuge in the Keserint Forest, which no past winner has ever lasted long enough to reach, but I find a horde or rebels there who are just as interested in killing me as any law-abiding citizen. After three hours of this, I’m just not physically capable of staying up. I gracelessly drop to a meadow, and try to massage my shoulders, and my pelvic muscles, which support most of my weight when I’m flying. I look into the distance as a band of excited killers come to claim their prize. They’re happy that it’s finally over, but appreciative of how much more thrilling this year has been. Everyone always wants to be the one to make the final blow, but the stakes are even higher for me. They’re but meters away, but I’m even too tired to try to run. I place my arms behind my back, and close my eyes to yield to my fate. Suddenly, I feel arms grip my shoulders, and lift me into the air. I turn my head to find another human who can fly, carrying me away from the crowd. It appears to be far easier for her. She smiles at me. “We’ve been looking for you your whole life. Let’s go back to our universe.”

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: August 30, 2176

Leona wasn’t upset about losing Serif back in pocket three, because she had already resolved to go back at the end of the day. She calmly handed Étude off to Hokusai and Loa, who were best suited for taking care of a child, and debriefed the rest of the crew on the situation she had left. Then she sat down against the former entrance to the Ubiña pocket she had just come from, and waited for midnight.
About a quarter ‘til, Paige strolled up with her arms crossed, looking at her like she was a sad puppy. “Honestly, I was skeptical that your little plan to investigate Annora’s murder was at all viable.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Leona replied.
Paige squatted down, wincing as if she felt any strain from the move. Cybernetic programmers believed these microexpressions to be so ingrained in the human cerebral experience, that they happen even when they shouldn’t be needed. The appearance of pain is brought about by an evolutionary trait that promoted survival within a tribe in man’s early days. See someone else get hurt by something, and you know to avoid it. Researchers compare this to phantom limb syndrome, wherein an amputee continues to feel a missing body part, even once it’s removed. Paige felt nothing when she commanded her muscles to contract in such a way to misalign her center of gravity, and destabilize the support of her body weight, but she made it look like it did for Leona’s benefit. She was trying to endear herself to Leona, as an adult would to a child, so she could get something out of her. “That’s not I meant.”
“What did you mean?”
Again, in order to ingratiate herself, Paige lovingly pushed a lock of Leona’s hair behind her ear. It was a silly and predictable tactic; one that can be found in any given romantic comedy film, but only because it was effective. “I didn’t believe in this mission before, but I believe in you now. And I believe you have an obligation to continue on without her. Going back for her is not what she wanted. It’s up to you to move on to the next pocket, and gather more information.”
“And I’ll do just that,” Leona agreed. “Come tomorrow. After I get Serif back.”
“We don’t have that kind of time. It’s one day to you, but three hundred and sixty-five for us. The trail goes cold while you’re gone.”
“Trails go cold after a matter of days,” Leona argued. “By that logic, this whole endeavor is pointless. It’s a cold case now, so it might as well wait another year.”
“That’s horrible logic, and you know that. Someone may die before you get to ask them any questions. They may have a heart attack one year and one day from now, and they had critical information, but you failed to get to them in time.”
Leona scoffed, but had no retort.
Paige eyed her carefully. “My systems tell me that you are not being persuaded, and that any future words I try have little chance of success.”
“Your system’s right.”
Paige took Leona by the shoulder, but not affectionately. “Then we do this the easy way. Well...easy for me.” She used her considerable strength to peel Leona off the floor, and swing her over to pocket one.
Leona tried to fight against it, but quickly had to resign herself to the fact that resistance was futile. She knew Paige’s upgrades fairly well, and unlike in the movies, there was no cleverly placed thermal exhaust port to exploit. Transhumans were built for resilience, with multiple redundancies. She was on her way to pocket one, and that was that.
Before midnight hit, Hokusai came over. “It’s okay. We can tell her the real reason she can’t go back and get Serif.”
“What would that be?” Leona asked.
“I believe she has to save my life tomorrow.”
When Serif returned to the timestream in 2176, the pocket dimension that the substandard teleporter had stranded her in was noticeably larger. The boundaries had expanded beyond where they once were, leaving new land, full of vegetation.
Saga approached as Serif was admiring it with fear. “It wasn’t always like this. When the walls move, the land is born barren. Only later do things begin to grow, but they do, and they do it spontaneously.”
“Isn’t the dimension increaser still just a baby?”
“She is,” Saga confirmed, “but her power may never be controlled. It...emanates from her. I don’t think she’s a choosing one, or a paramount.” She paused. “I think she’s salmon. Her ability to make this place bigger is being done to her, rather than her using it willfully.”
“And the other one? The one who can make people out of practically nothing?”
“He’s done nothing so far, but that gives us little hope that it won’t ever start automatically.”
“Why?”
Saga turned away from the boundary, and prepared to go back to her housing unit. “Because girls generally develop faster. It’s science, I can’t explain it.”
As if on cue, someone turned the sun back off, which was apparently something that always happened whenever someone returned from outside the timestream, and not just when they originated from outside the pocket dimension. Saga started walking away.
“Do we have any ideas for what we’re gonna do about this?” Serif called up to her.
Saga did not stop walking, nor did she turn around. She simply replied, “no.”
The next morning, she found herself being shaken awake by Camden. “I think you’re gonna be needed!” he cried.
“Damn, son! Needed for what?”
“It’s time to close the loop.” He dragged her out of her room. The door that was supposed to be leading to the outside in the pocket dimension, was actually leading to somewhere else entirely. It looked like they were in some kind of small town, but it had been demolished by something terrible. Saga had used her salmon chooser power to open one of her special shifted timespace doorways. She was just running back through to the other side, to help carry what appeared to be a body. As the group drew nearer, Serif could see that Hokusai was injured by a freaking arrow, and being carried by Loa, a different version of Saga, and a woman Serif recognized from a photo as Saga’s late wife, Andromeda. This was some moment in the past, on Durus.
“I’m sorry, you can’t come through,” Future!Saga said to everybody. Then she closed the door. “You have to help her,” she then said to Serif.
Serif was frazzled, and still trying to wake up.
“Come on! Please! Her future is not set in stone just because you know she ends up on this ship in the future. She can still die in the past and create a new timeline.”
“No, I know,” Serif stammered. “But...I need that out of her body. I can heal her fine, but I don’t know what to do with that thing!”
“I do,” Camden said, presumably due to field medical training he received while working at the IAC. “Sit her up,” he instructed. Once she was held up in the sitting position, Camden place his ear on Hokusai’s chest, and delicately twirled the arrow.
Though still mostly out of it, Hokusai began to scream in pain.
“Why the hell did you do that!?” Serif yelled in a matching pitch.
“I had to see if the head was still on, which it is, so we’re lucky for that. But this is the bad part. Well...one of them.”
“Why?”
In response, Camden indelicately jammed the arrow further into Hokusai’s chest, so that it would come out the other end. Now she was fully awake, but only for a few seconds. The pain was so unbearable, she fell completely unconscious. Camden masterfully whipped out a pocket knife, from the pocket of his sleepwear shorts, because he apparently slept with it. He used the pliers to break the...uhh, feather part off. Just as quickly as before, he then pulled the rest of the arrow out, and breathed a sigh of relief. “Do not do this at home, kids,” he said to the two of them. “I only did it, because you have superpowers. Use them now.”
Serif and Saga laid Hokusai onto her side, so the former could breathe her magical healing nanites into both of her wounds. In minutes, she was almost fully healed, and totally awake. They vaguely explained what happened, but said nothing that could alter he decisions for the future. Then Saga reopened a doorway portal, and sent her back to her own time period.

Leona was not received well in pocket three. Some of the most unruly passengers were placed here. There was this whole mathematical algorithm to determine who they could put where. Sprinkling the most dangerous ones in with everybody else risked creating issues in all pockets, but putting them all in one place wasn’t a great idea either. They ended up employing a little bit of both, doing everything they could to avoid grouping those who could poorly influence each other, or incite unrest amongst the people. Still, pocket one was definitely the worst, and the worst one for her to be trying to continue this investigation without Serif’s enthusiasm. She tried to calm them down, but they were not happy. They were positively convinced that they lived in more unfortunate conditions. Of course, each pocket was one hundred percent identical to the others, for this very reason. But that didn’t stop these people from claiming theirs was smaller, or had more durry snails, or just smelled bad. Their stories were ever-changing, and constantly contradicted each other. It was just impossible to please them, and this news of murder wasn’t helping anything.
Many had assumed the portals back to the ship proper would eventually reopen. Upon learning from Leona that this might not be unachievable, their anger only increased. One man. One. He was not like the others, and fortunately he was strong too, because he was the only thing standing between Leona, and the mob who wanted to tear her apart. He helped her upstairs, and into a room that he could lock. He then lifted up the bed and barricaded the window with it. They could already hear people climbing up the side to get in.
Leona caught her breath, and inspected the severity of her wounds. Just a few scrapes and bruises. It could have been so much worse. “Thank you. Thank you so much. I knew people wouldn’t be happy, but I didn’t think it would be like this. Pockets three and four were no picnic, but they were at least civil.”
“Yeah, no problem,” he said, pushing his dresser in front of the door. “I’ve done what I can to keep them out, but they’ll probably get in eventually.”
“You’ll be able to hold them off, though, right. And they have to get tired, and see reason...at some point.”
“Yeah, maybe. But I won’t be able to help you.”
“I know it’s asking a lot,” Leona began, “but if you could just—”
He interrupted her, “it’s not that.” He was slowly walking towards her. “Believe me, I would love nothing more than to save the damsel in distress.” He tried to do the hair behind the ear thing, but she slapped his hand away.
“That is not happening!” she declared.
He laughed. “No, it’s not. This is.” He reached over and tore Leona’s emergency teleporter off of her shirt.
“No, don’t!”
“I hope you survive,” he said to her. “I really do. But I gotta get the hell out of here.”
“The ship is smaller than this dimension!” she insisted.
“Goodbye.” He activated the teleporter, and disappeared.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Missy’s Mission: Short Story Long (Part III)

Nothing in this new library was moving. A few dozen people were frozen in place; in the middle of walking down the aisles, opening books, or looking through catalogs. Upon careful inspection, they realized the library patrons weren’t completely frozen, but were moving incredibly slowly. Missy was feeling sick to her stomach, like a roller coaster was trying to pull her forwards, but her shirt was caught on a nail. Gradually, the people around them began to accelerate. Missy postulated that they needed time to catch up to Missy and Dar’cy’s speed, but then she realized the two of them were in their house now. It was actually they who needed to slow down to everyone else’s speed. After a few moments, they had reached their goal, and the world around them started looking a lot more normal. A few people noticed they were there right away, while others took notice as they walked by. Some smiled, others waved, but most people just moderately acknowledged their presence.
Before they could find the information desk, or The Librarian, they heard a crackle from speakers on the ceiling. Somebody cleared their throat. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have two new arrivals. Please join us for storytime in Collaboration Room C.
“Oh my God, not again. I’m busy,” said someone in the middle of what looked like important research.
“You have to go,” someone near him said.
“It’s not mandatory.”
“It could help with your research.”
He sighed. “Very well.” He did give Missy and Dar’cy a glare, though.
“What’s going on?” Missy asked as everyone began heading in the same general direction, to the other side of the library.
“I think the story is meant to be coming from us,” Dar’cy guessed.
“That might be difficult.”
“Yes.”
A woman was walking in the opposite direction as everyone else. She approached the newcomers. “Come on, you’re the guests of honor.”
“Uh...we’re not from Durus,” Dar’cy tried to explain.
“We’re Earthans,” Missy added.
“Great!” the woman said to them. “Then you’ll be able to give us news of Earth. No one ever comes from there! Oo, this is gonna be a real treat. Follow me!”
“We’re just looking for information,” Missy stopped her. “We’re not really here to tell any stories.”
The woman stopped and turned around ominously. “Everyone who comes here contributes. We’re stuck in a different time dimension, so there’s no way to communicate with the outside universe. If you want information on how to get rid of your chooser powers, you will give us what we need. And you’ll do it first.”
That was intense. How did she know why they were there?
“As I said, follow me,” she repeated.
It was an exhausting ordeal. Some of the people in the audience were fascinated with them, and wanted to learn every little detail of their lives. Others couldn’t care less, or at least wanted to play it cool. Missy and Dar’cy updated them as best they could of the goingson of Durus, but the last storyteller was from fourteen years ago. Though Saga and their new friends filled them in on a little bit of what happened before The Warren arrived, there was still a lot they couldn’t explain. As that woman had said, they were fairly interested in Earth. Most people in the library had never been there before, and a couple of them even thought it to be a myth told to children to encourage imagination and hope. By the time they were done telling their stories, and fielding everyone’s questions, over an hour had passed. It was now probably roundabouts September of 2174.
The woman who had forced them to do this, who they now realized must have been The Librarian smiled and allowed everyone to go back to what they were doing before storytime. Once everyone had left, she faced Missy and Dar’cy with a sad face, but no frown. “Thank you for that. It’s been awhile, but you’ve given many people something to look forward to. They left that world when it was in shambles. I’ve already heard whispers about going back, now that they might be able to actually build a life there. Unfortunately, I lied to you earlier. I will not be able to help you remove your powers. I’ve done that before, and it has not turned out well. I’m afraid I cannot bring myself to do it again.”
“You don’t need to help personally,” Missy said. “Just point us in the right direction. Tell us where we can find a book, or maybe someone here right now who knows something.”
She shook her head. “No, I can’t do anything. If you’re not here to do other research, I recommend returning to realtime before too much of it passes. Please request whomever told you to come here to no longer send people my way who need what you’re asking for. I will not be able to help them either.”
“Do you like it here?” Dar’cy asked before the Librarian could turn away.
“Pardon?” she asked.
“This dimension,” Dar’cy clarified. “Do you like that time moves slowly here? Did you do that on purpose, or are you just living with it?”
She was taken aback, apparently never having been asked such a question. “Well, Durus is a very strange place. People have powers, like you, but the planet itself alters physical laws, almost like it’s a person too. So no, we don’t really want it to be like this, but it’s what we have. We would rather be protected and missing out, than in a regular dimension, and exposed.”
Missy jumped in, “but this is a repository of knowledge. Knowledge should be shared. Why are you hoarding it?”
“I suppose you’re right,” the librarian conceded, “but like I said, this is life.”
“How did you know we had powers?” Dar’cy questioned.
“Some things I know, some things I don’t,” the Librarian gave a nonanswer.
“Do you know what our powers are?”
“No, but it doesn’t matter. I have made a vow to myself to never help someone be rid of their powers again. And I thank you to stop trying to change my mind.”
“We can get you out of this dimension,” Dar’cy claimed.
“Darce,” Missy warned, worried about where this might lead.
“You could do that?” the Librarian asked, with a glimmer of optimism for the prospect.
“Well, she could,” Dar’cy admitted.
“We don’t know that,” Missy said. She could create localized temporal bubbles that operated under different speeds of time, but she had never tried changing the speed of a dimension she had nothing to do with in the first place.
“You could at least try,” Dar’cy said to Missy, then directed her attention back to the Librarian. “If she does, you will promise—with no lying this time—that you’ll give us whatever we need to complete this mission.”
The Librarian thought over this proposal for about six real days. “I don’t know if that would be wise. This temporal dimension is a headache, but it’s the only protection we have.”
“You heard the stories,” Dar’cy argued. “The world has changed. You don’t need protection anymore. There’s a real government, and when you go back, you’ll be given certain rights. What Missy said is true, you shouldn’t keep knowledge from others. You’ve been here for what, a few months?”
“A week.”
“Jesus Christ,” Dar’cy couldn’t help but say. “Well, it’s been two centuries for everyone else. It’s time to go home.”
“All right,” the Librarian said. “If you can put us back on realtime, I’ll give you anything you ask for. But if this is some kind of trick, and it’s not really as great out there as you said, you get nothing.”
“We can live with that,” Dar’cy agreed.
Missy pulled her friend over to the side. “By the time I get this done, it’ll be two years since we left. You’ve seen how quickly things shift. We don’t know what 2175 looks like.”
Dar’cy put her hands on Missy’s shoulders. “Nothing will ever get better if we don’t think it can.”
Missy had no response to this. She turned to the Librarian. “Take me to the center of the library.”
The Librarian led them out of the room, to a grouping of study tables. She stood over one of the tables, and looked up to the skylight, which was showing nothing but darkness. “This is it, right here. Unless it has to be the exact center, in which case I’ll need to find the blueprints.”
Missy spun around for perspective. “No, this should be close enough.” She climbed onto the table, and sat cross-legged on it. She interlaced six of her fingers, but kept the other two pointed outwards, in the vague shape of a handgun. She closed her eyes and began a breathing exercise that Dar’cy had taught her, imagining that her teacher was smiling at the sight. Once she felt like she too was centered, she outstretched her arms to search for the energies permeating this dimension, and the building within it. She concentrated on harmonizing her body’s vibrations with those of her environment, and its occupants.
She maintained this position, gathering all the vibes from the dimension, bundling all of them together with her mind, then seeking out the world beyond. What she needed to do was destroy everything holding this place together, and force it to revert back to the rules that governed the universe as a whole. As she predicted, even though this was the first time she had tried this, it was nearly an hour before she was successful. All barriers were removed. She could feel herself, and everyone around her, speeding back up. Before this connection was broken, she could also feel everybody in the building throw up. It was a jarring experience.
Once she opened her eyes, she found the Librarian on her hands and knees, trying to catch her breath. Others were doing the same, hovered over piles and puddles of their bile. Only Dar’cy remained standing, perfectly fine, likely because her mother taught her how to adapt to new situations at the drop of a hat. Or because she was an object threader, and often instantly found herself in new places.
The Librarian stood back up and started coughing. “I hope your new government employs some good janitors.”
Grossed out, Missy timidly peeked over to see the floor better. “I think you’ll just want a good carpet installer.”
“Welcome to 2175,” Dar’cy said. “I think, at least. I’m not the best at math, I grew up on an island.”
“Now we know how Leona and Serif feel.”
A group of people suddenly barged into the library from the outside, holding their badges up, like they were raiding a strip club known for laundering money. “This is the Intercity Police Department, Temporal Anomaly Division!” the leader called out.
“TAD?” Dar’cy giggled.
“We are here because of an unscheduled dimensional reestablishment!” the cop continued. “You have interfered with the stability of realspace, and caused severe structural damage! We are still investigating casualties! Please congregate in one place, so we can take your statements! Resistance is not recommended!”
“Shit,” Dar’cy said.
They both looked at the Librarian, who looked back with a poker face. “I can’t give you what you want until this is resolved, if it ever is. If you killed someone,” she said to Missy, “even just one person, the deal’s off.”
“Shit,” Missy echoed.