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.”
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. of them.”
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 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.

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