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Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: August 27, 2173

The two year-skippers were happy to learn that the whole hostage situation was resolved within the week. The violent-leaning members of the rogue group that terrorized them were excluded from all negotiations, but most of the rest were accepted as passengers of The Warren. Though Annora’s dimensions were a little too small for that many people, she was able to garner help from other paramounts who had the ability to create pocket worlds. That combined with the technological expertise of Missy and Hokusai, they were able to retrofit the ship so that this would all work. Leona agreed to skip her own system’s check, and just trust that all the other smart people who had been working on the launch for the last several months, and beyond, had accounted for everything. The passengers were assigned their pockets, while most of the crew gathered in the cockpit. The passengers were generally expected to police themselves, and were only allowed within the ship itself while crossing into each other’s pockets, but Loa was assigned liaison between them and the crew. Had Dar’cy still been a part of this, she would have handled security. Instead, she and Missy were remaining on Durus, hopeful for a way to remove the latter’s time powers.
A paramount on the ground was hired to apport their entire ship from the surface, into orbit, and it was there that they began their long journey back to Earth. They watched on the screens as Durus grew smaller and smaller, and they ventured out into the dark nothingness. Eventually, since the sight was so dull, the adrenaline from the launch wore off, and all unnecessary personnel dispersed. Leona decided she wanted to get to know her new crewmates better, while Serif wanted to check out one of Annora’s pocket worlds.
“So, how long have you two been together?” Leona asked.
They looked at each other for the answer. “We’ve been off and on for about twelve years,” Hokusai answered.
“How did you meet?”
“Umm...” they stammered a bit before Loa took over the story. “She was not welcome here when she arrived. The world was quite different from what you see.”
“I heard that. Quite the misogynistic government you had,” Leona said, hoping to not sound too judgmental, but also kind of wanting to.
“Yes, well, she changed all that. People were afraid of her, because they knew she would. My father was different, always has been. He and I share the same power. We can create windows across the vast reaches of space, and he used that to study Earth. Your ways inspired him to rise above the conventions of our world. He imparted those beliefs on to me, raising me to be a feminist. Tried to do the same with a friend of mine, who never quite understood that I wasn’t promised to marry him. Anyway, my father was known for his sympathy for women, and appreciation of the Earthan lifestyle, but they couldn’t do anything about it. They had honestly written very few laws governing the lives of men. We have such a long history of oppression that they didn’t want to hinder any man’s desire to do what he wanted, even if what he wanted was to oppose them.”
Hokusai took over, “I don’t know how it happened, but when they first captured me, I asked if there was anyone there that would be willing to be on my side, to advocate for my needs. Despite what was obviously not an obligation for them, they allowed me to meet her dad. A bunch of things happened, there was a battle royale,” Hokusai said casually. “I ended up back at his place, seeking sanctuary, and she opened the door. Then we all worked together to get back to my ship, and stop the world from colliding with Earth.”
“Oh yeah, your ship. What’s become of your ship? Did you just leave it there?”
Hokusai shrugged. “Can’t take it with us. It fits one person. Don’t worry, though. I removed all of its guts. It’s just a hunk of fancy metal now. The Durune can’t exploit it. Not that there’s anywhere they would need to go. The planet is constantly moving away from its last position in empty interstellar space. You try to leave, you can’t come back.”
Leona nodded in understanding. “So, what about you, Loa? Now that women are legally equal there, are you gonna miss it? Did you hesitate, or did you know you would want to leave? You’ll never see your father again.”
She became sad. “He’s passed. I’ve no one there. My family’s right here.” She wrapped her arm around Hokusai’s shoulder. Just the four of us; Saga and Étude included.”
“And you,” Hokusai added. “And the rest of the crew.”
“So tell us about you,” Loa suggested. “What’s the deal with you two skipping a year every day?”
“It’s been this way since I was twenty-eight years old. On my birthday, midnight hit, and it was suddenly a year later. That’s how salmon do. We’ve no control over it, it just happens. You don’t seem to have salmon on Durus, which is interesting.”
“But you and Serif are the same. Did you know each other before it happened?”
“That’s complicated,” Leona admitted. “I mean, you’re very familiar with how...paramount powers work, but it’s gotten a little crazy, even taking that into account. I have memories of meeting Serif not long after this happened to me, but the truth is that all of that is a lie. We only met a few weeks ago, actually, from our perspective; barely a month. There’s someone with the power to create entire people out of, generally clay, I think. A friend of mine isn’t quite sure how it happened, but he was trying to build someone else, and before he finished, the statue came alive, and poof, Serif suddenly exists.”
“Really?” Loa asked, eyes wide.
“She’s five months old?”
“Yeah, pretty much. My memories were altered to remedy the temporal inconsistencies, as were her own,but yeah, she’s almost like a baby.”
“So, is your love for her real?”
No one had asked her this before, and had presumably not asked Serif either. It was true that her feelings towards Serif would be forever coupled with an asterisk. The fact that no one else around her had memory of Serif existing before the statue was carved didn’t seem to matter. In their world, people come from alternate timelines, with full lives and histories that never took place, so in the end, how was Serif any different than that? Leona could remember being married to a different version of Horace Reaver too, as did he, even though neither one of them actually experienced any of that. But did that sort of thing justify hers and Serif’s love? These memories were entirely false, not just extracted from a different reality. Had they taken the memories and emotions for granted? Had they been wrong to not question them? Should they sit down and have deep discussions about whether their relationship had any merit?
“Oh, that was a bad question,” Loa said apologetically.
“Yes, very rude,” Hokusai scolded.
“No, it’s a very valid question,” Leona assured them. “I’m only not answering you because...I’d never deigned to ask it myself. But I should, shouldn’t I?”
“We all have different stories,” Hokusai said. “Different origins. Your relationship isn’t any less valid than ours just because it started a little strangely. Why, I know a guy back on Durus who fell in love with a quantum duplicate of himself. They grew up separately, and didn’t meet until they were in their twenties, so they’re very different people, but they’re also somehow compatible. And they seem to make it work, I don’t know them that well.”
“That’s a lovely story, honey,” Loa lied transparently.
“I’m just saying, we’re not living in the same world normal people do. We don’t have nine-to-fives, and mow our lawns. People have powers, and reality is more fluid than we can even comprehend. Love is love is love is love, right?”
Leona smiled and nodded. “Yeah, you’re right.”
“And hey, I love these meal bars,” Loa said. “They’re ingenious.”
Leona stood up. “You’ll get over that when you notice how few flavor tabs there are to choose from.”
“What flavor tabs?” Loa questioned. They were practically flavorless without them, so Leona wasn’t sure why she liked them so much.
“I’m gonna go check on Serif. Do you remember which pocket she went into?”
“I think it was pocket three,” Hokusai guessed.
Leona went over to the Ubiña pockets, and tried to enter the third one. She was met only with the back of the cold black half-pipe. She backed out, and stepped back in, trying to get it to activate. Still nothing. She looked over at the console, and started messing with it. “Energy levels normal,” she muttered to herself. “Doors should be open. I thought we decided to keep them open at all times, for safety reasons.”
“We did.” Paige had heard her, and had come up to see what was wrong.
“They’re closed.”
Paige tapped on the console as well, but of course, came to the same conclusion. She then went over to another pocket. “Try all of them.” Now she was getting worried.
Together, they tried to each each of the six different pocket dimensions, and gathered information from their respective consoles, but they were all the same. The dimensions appeared to not have collapsed, but the doors on them somehow closed back up, and they were unable to open them through tech. They would have to go straight to the source. They walked into Annora’s cabin, which was where Nerakali used to sleep, but it was empty.
“Computer, locate Annora Ubiña.”
“Unable to comply,” the computer responded, likely as a joke. “Annora Ubiña cannot be found on The Warren.”
“What the hell happened to her?”
“Direction unclear. Please repeat request.”
“Drop the Star Trek jokes, and just...” Paige tried to think up the right way to communicate what she needed. “What was Annora Ubiña’s last known location.”
“Annora Ubiña was last seen in microponics.”
“Let’s go,” Paige ordered Leona.
The ship was very small, so the microponics lab was about as remote as you could get, except maybe the gravity disk interface terminal nook. Had Annora stepped into one of her pocket worlds, which the computer wouldn’t necessarily be able to detect, she would have at least been clocked somewhere in between here and the Ubiña pockets. They walked in and looked around, until Leona found why the computer hadn’t recognized her lifesigns. Annora was dead. Obviously they would need a full investigation into what happened, but judging from the lack of blood on the edge of the seed table she was laying right next to, it was unlikely due to a fall. Her face looked bashed in. Blood had pooled around her head, and was still slowly spreading further away, so the death was relatively recent. And they could almost be certain it was murder.

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