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Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 1, 2178

Leona returned to the timeline with Dubravka on August 31, 2177, which was even better than the end of the day in 2176. Hanging there in the closet was the emergency teleporter. Hokusai had managed to send it back to them sometime during the interim year. She took it down and placed it back in its rightful place on her shirt, then jumped back to the ship with her new friend. Once there, she learned that no one knew anything about the note about Dubravka scratched on the door, nor was Hokusai able to aim the teleporter to the right location. It somehow just worked itself out, aided by some unknown angel.
The two of them rested until the end of the day, then both squeezed into the entrance for pocket two. Dubravka still needed somewhere to live, and pocket two was likely the safest. There were no concerns about some sort of angry mob or rebellion starting up there. She could have stayed on the ship, but she didn’t want to. It was getting cramped anyway, since their janitor was deemed innocent, and the man who stole Leona’s teleporter had to be kept locked up. They had to guess that Dubravka being the chooser version of Leona and Serif was enough to allow her to jump into the pockets, and this turned out to be right. They landed there together, a full five years after Annora’s murder. Leona was determined to continue the investigation, despite everything that had happened. Based on what little criminal profiling she was able to perform just by being an intuitive human being, she guessed that the chances the killer was back in pocket one were pretty high. Still, it wasn’t safe to go back there, at least not yet, so she might as well move forward, just hoping she hadn’t encountered the culprit yet.
The people of pocket two were actually quite welcoming to them. They all appeared to have been wide awake before the sun flipped on as a side effect of their arrival, like they were waiting. When she questioned this, a preteen or early teenaged girl stepped forward with a smile. “I’m an astral projector. I can visit anyone or any place. I can observe, or I can communicate with others, but I cannot interact with the world physically.”
What appeared to be the girl’s fathers stepped up behind her, each placing a hand on one of her shoulders. One spoke, “she has been using her gift to monitor the goings-on in the other dimensions, and on the ship itself. We are fully aware of your investigation, and are proud to announce that the killer is not amongst us.”
“How do you know this?” Leona asked.
“We’ve been conducting our own investigation.”
Now another man stepped forward. “I am no police detective, but I’ve watched a lot of public court cases on LoaTV. I know what kind of questions to ask. I interviewed every single one of the residents of this world years ago, multiple times. And I’ve been watching them ever since...for any suspicious activity.
Leona looked back to the astral projector. “You can only witness present events.”
“Thank God,” her other father said. “Otherwise, we would have had to accept her witnessing the murder itself, for the sake of the truth. Though we recognize the unfortunate fact that this makes your job much harder.”
Leona nodded understandingly. “Can you take people with you?”
“One or two,” the girl answered. “It’s a little harder.”
“I would have asked her to take me to the other dimensions for more interviews,” the self-professed investigator began. “Her fathers and I agreed, however, that it would not be appropriate for the girl to participate in that.”
“We hope you understand,” the first father said. “We allow her to watch from a distance, and make her come back to her body as soon as things become too...mature. She was only eight when this all happened.”
“Of course,” Leona said sincerely, before stepping back so she could address the whole crowd. “I want to thank you all for your cooperation. I understand that this has been a difficult time, being trapped in here. Others have not been so...” she trailed off looking for the words.
“Enlightened?” someone suggested.
“Humane? Civilized?” another offered.
Leona cracked a smile. “It’s just nice to know that I’ll be leaving my new friend here in good hands, and that I don’t have to do any work today,” she joked.
They laughed.
“Three years,” the astral projector said, to her fathers’ unease.
“What’s that?”
Her tone was more serious now. “In my culture, we become adults at sixteen. Life’s harder on Durus than on Earth. We don’t have the luxury of waiting to mature. In three years, I will catch this killer, because I’ll have been freed from my leash.”
“All right, that’s enough, Vitalie,” a father warned.
“Vitalie,” Leona said, “you’ve done so much. I can take it from here. You’re not on Durus anymore. This is a nice dimension. You should just enjoy your life.”
“But I can help,” Vitalie claimed. “And I have an obligation to; to use my powers for others. It’s not for long-distance calling. It’s to connect people, and with people.”
“That’s very honorable of you, and once you’re on Earth, maybe you can find your calling. While you’re on this ship, though, I think your fathers and I can agree that you should try and stay out of trouble.”
Leona was about to say some final words to the group, then enjoy the simulated sun for a while before returning to The Warren, when Vitalie stopped her. “You can talk to Serif again.”
“Vitalie, no.”
“That would actually be lovely,” Leona said.
“I’m afraid...” her father began. He then gave the crowd this look, and it caused them to disperse, and go back to their lives. “We can’t go to that planet.”
“It’s not a planet, it’s—”
“It is,” he interrupted. “We’ve seen it. We don’t let her go often. Only to monitor its growth. And it is growing. Fast.”
“Faster every day,” his husband added. “Come next year, it probably will be a full-fledged globe.”
“And there are people there,” the first one continued. “Thousands of people, and some of them might have powers. Some of these people with powers might be able to cause Vitalie harm.”
“If this is true, I do need to see it. She said she can take two, so one of you can come with me, and at the first sign of trouble, we’ll jump right back. We’ll go there as observers.” Leona directed her attention to Vitalie, “you can be invisible, right?”
“Right.” Vitalie was ready.
“Please, Mister...”
“Crawford. Wayne Crawford. This is my husband, Raphael Neville.”
“I know it’s asking a lot, but the safety of this ship, and every dimension attached to it, is at risk the larger that thing grows. Your daughter will be in danger whether she projects there or not, but I can stop it, as long as I’ve seen it.”
“Wayne,” Raphael said calmly. “She’s not a baby, and we have no real reason to believe anything can hurt her in there. Let her help.”
“She has helped,” Wayne argued.
“Let her help some more,” Raphael returned, just as calm.
“Okay,” Wayne agreed. “But I’ll be the one going with her.”
“As you wish, love,” Raphael said to him.
Leona took Vitalie’s left hand, and Wayne took her right, while Raphael went off to show Dubravka to her new quarters. Just before Vitalie projected them away, they saw the sun turn off.
They were standing on top of a butte, which was high enough to show mountains in the distance, and a city below. “They built all this that quickly?” Leona asked.
“We don’t know how they’re doing it. Somehow the space and vegetation increase seems rather normal, but yeah, the buildings are strange.”
“Serif!” they heard Saga’s voice behind them. “I see them!”
When they turned around, they could see Saga and Serif on the other side of the butte. The former was holding binoculars, while the latter was jogging towards her, holding a portable radio, which she spoke into, “Camden, they’re on their way to you.”
“This is pretty isolated,” Leona noted as the three observers were making their way across. “Do you feel comfortable letting me speak with them?”
Wayne wasn’t so sure, but Vitalie was. “I would be happy to open communication,” she said sternly.
Upon seeing Leona, Serif did that thing where she tried to hug her, only to be met with open air. “Dammit,” she said. “So close, yet so far away.”
“Report,” Leona said simply, trying to make this quick, even though she wanted to tell Serif everything she had been through without her.
“It’s growing exponentially,” Saga said. “The one good thing about it is that Adamina always creates new resources to keep ahead of the people that Esen creates.”
“Do you have any idea how we could stop this?”
“Short of killing two four-year-old children? No,” Serif said.
“Those people down there are interested in it, though.”
Leona was about to borrow Serif’s binoculars, but stopped herself when she remembered she wouldn’t even be able to touch them. “And you’re here to stop them?”
“We have no choice. The children are gods, even more dangerous than the original Durune sourge mages. They die, the world is thrown into chaos. We’ll have to protect them their entire lives. Right now, Camden’s keeping watch in the city they’re visiting.”
“Why do the people down there want them dead? This world ain’t big enough for all of them?”
“They’re humans,” Saga explained vaguely. They weren’t created by Esen’s power. They’re the original passengers of Warren pocket four, and they have no place in this new world, so they’re pretty upset.”
“Esen doesn’t create humans? He only makes paramounts?” Leona assumed.
Serif shook her head. “They’re not human at all. Esen doesn’t make scion in his own image. His...subconscious preschooler mind, I guess, has come up with something different. They’re an approximation of a human, but definitely not like us.”
Leona looked to Wayne and Vitalie, who each abashedly indicated that they knew all about this, but just hadn’t said anything.
“It gets worse,” Saga said. Then she sighed, hesitating. “Esen creates a new one of these...Maramon he randomly chose to start calling them with each passing breath.”
“What?” Leona was astonished. “How long has he been doing that?”
“One hundred and eight days. I was right, the girl developed faster.”
Leona quite nearly gulped, starting to do the math, but not having enough information. “Every breath?”
“I’ve been using my nursing skills to get his breathing under control, so he breathes less, but it’s still quite a bit. I estimate twenty breaths per minute.”
Wayne didn’t really know what that meant. “How many...Maramon would that mean there are?”
Saga ceded the floor to Leona, who had already completed the math. “Three million, one hundred and ten thousand, four hundred people...give or take a few thousand, depending on breathing fluctuations.”
Saga nodded, having already calculated this with pen and paper. “In a year, there will be over thirteen million. More, actually, because he creates them as adults, so they’ll be having their own children at some point soon.”
“By the time we reach Earth,” Leona pointed out, “there will be forty-five million of them. The good news is that their birth rate is actually lower than what we have on Earth.”
“That’s assuming he doesn’t grow up to be a power-hungry dick who wants as many people under his control as possible. He’ll start hyperventilating just to build more followers. Meanwhile, based on the curvature that I’ve done my best calculating, the size of this world is shaping up to be comparable to Earth. If this doesn’t stop eventually, they’ll just run out of usable space.”
“All right,” Wayne finally said. “We’re leaving.”
“Wait, not yet,” Leona pleaded.
He took his daughter by the hand, and urged her to take Leona’s.
“I love you,” Serif said quickly.
“Tell Hokusai what’s going on, and that she needs to get us the hell out of here ASAP,” Saga added.
Vitalie took her hand, and spirited them away.

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