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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,, 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.”
“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.
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.

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