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 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.
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.

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