Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 3, 2180

Once again, Vitalie was already there when Leona returned to the timeline in pocket six, on September 3, 2180. She was still not an adult, even by Durune standards, which meant she was still going against her father’s wishes. “What do you have for me?” Leona asked, not bothering to chastise her.
“I’ll only be here for a minute. I just wanted to make sure you got in all right.” She pointed to a girl a few years older than her, who was walking towards them from the housing units.
“That’s Ecrin. She’s been assigned your guide in this pocket, and she’ll assist you with anything you need from here on out. Good luck, call me if you need me.”
“Leona Matic?” Ecrin asked, as if she could be anyone but. “Ecrin Cabral. Welcome to pocket six. I imagine you’ll want to start with Annora’s quarters.”
“Annora’s quarters?” Leona asked.
“Yes. This was her pocket. Did you not know that?”
“No, but now that I do I realize why what I’m looking for is likely here.” It made since. This dimension seemed a little bit larger than the others, with what appeared to be a more floriferous garden. “I should have known. Forgive me, my girlfriend was the investigator.”
“I understand.” They started to walk and talk. “Of course, her place is nicer than everyone else’s, but a few of us have been making sure no one squats in there. Besides not wanting to disturb any evidence for someone like you, it didn’t seem respectful to take over just because she wasn’t here. We actually figured she was dead, since the entrance was closed. Held a funeral, and everything.”
“You did?”
“Everyone here either knew her personally, or knows someone who did. She chose to surround herself with friends, which might have thrown off the compatibility math that’s causing all those problems in pocket one. I’m sorry about what happened to you in there.”
“It’s not your fault. Even the best of us can turn when put in a desperate situation. They’re just trying to survive.”
“Well, it’s not that hard,” Ecrin noted. “We have everything we need in here. Hell, we could all live and die here, and it would still be all right. You just need the right attitude.”
“Too true.” She looked at the stairway window as they were approaching Annora’s unit. “Hey, do you need help turning the sun back off? I’ve learned how to do it.”
“Everyone here has had enough sleep. We’re leaving it on for you. No one knows what’s gonna happen when you find that secret dimension.”
Leona’s temporal anomaly detector started beeping as soon as Ecrin opened Annora’s door. “Found it,” she declared.
Ecrin took a small radio transceiver, and spoke into it, “it is here. Move in.”
Leona could hear footsteps race up the stairs, reminding her of the horde of angry pocketers in pocket one. A group of people in tactical uniforms, carrying various and sundry weapons, marched into the apartment, and began to clear every room. “What the hell is this?”
“There’s a killer in here somewhere,” Ecrin explained. “We’re not gonna let him get away again.”
“That’s what I’m doing here,” Leona argued. “I’ll take him back with my emergency teleporter.”
“With all do respect, sir,” one of the tactical agents who appeared to be in charge of protecting Ecrin personally said, “we do not know what we’re up against. We don’t know what powers he has, or whether he has accomplices. We’ve been training for this for years.”
“Trained by who?”
“Whom,” Ecrin corrected.
“Trained by who?” Leona repeated.
“By me,” Ecrin answered.
“You? And where did you receive your training? Movies?”
“I was a mage protector for sixty years. Then after spending sixty-seven years in a phallocratic prison, I joined the provisional government, serving as a guardsman for diplomatic leaders for five years. I trained under the salmon battalion during the temporary military state, then became an officer in the Intercity Police Department, operating primarily at the temporal anomaly division. I did that for five more years, until The Warren left. Now I’m going back to Earth to retire.”
“Oh,” was all Leona said.
“Yeah.”
“Well, you don’t look a day over—”
“Don’t do that joke,” she pleaded. “I’m ageless, but I can still blow my brains out after hearing the same cliché for the upteenth time. It’s been hard, looking this young, expecting people to take me seriously, but I’m used to the judgments.”
“No judgment here, I just didn’t know.” Without looking, Leona pointed to the back room. “The entrance to the seventh pocket is in there. How should we proceed?”
“This is your operation,” Ecrin said. “I’ll be going in with you, but you will run point, and my people will be out here to protect the civilians.”
Leona looked at the team of many agents, still maintaining their posts around the unit. “Are there any civilians?”
“We’re not on the manifest you have access to. There are more people in here than you can see.”
“What? My investigation relied on—”
“This is what Annora wanted. She wanted her own police force, and we obliged. Take it up with her.”
Leona sighed. “Let’s go.”
Ecrin turned towards her number two. “Lieutenant, you have the field.”
“Yes, sir.”
Leona and Ecrin entered the room alone together, and closed the door behind them. Leona took the detector out, and started waving it in front of the wall, which acted to materialize a portal. It was pink and sparkly, like a vertical puddle of toothpaste.
“Remember, you have point.”
“Yes, sir,” Leona replied. She cautiously walked through the puddle, only to find herself in a jail cell, completely naked. A second portal opened in the cell across from her, through which Ecrin exited, also naked. No, it wasn’t a second portal, but the same one moved.
“What is this? Where are we?” she demanded to know.
They heard a man laugh next to Leona’s cell, which was but one of a whole block. Across from him, Leona could see another man, who was not so joyful. He nodded towards Leona. “Your new clothes are on the bed. There’s a privacy switch on that wall.”
So Leona was locked up yet again. No biggie. She had escaped every time, so this would surely be no different. She didn’t bother using the privacy switch, but Ecrin did as she changed her clothes. It created a full wall in front of the bars.
“What is this place?” Leona asked.
“Passenger jail,” the man Leona couldn’t see responded. “What are you in for?”
“Nothing,” Leona said. “I came in here looking for Annora Ubiña’s killer.”
He laughed again. “Well, ya found him. Forgive me if I don’t let you handcuff me. My arms don’t bend that way.”
“You’ve been stuck here all these years?”
“I thought I had figured out how to get in here without going through one of the cells. I was wrong.”
“Why did you do it?” she questioned.
“If you’re a cop, then I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, but it really was an accident. I was planning to turn myself in. I just...needed to get him out of here before the dimensions were sealed off. I failed.”
“So you knew she was alive when you left her in microponics, and that her death would close the entrances,” she scolded.
“There was nothing I could do. I hit her too hard.”
“My girlfriend has the power to heal people, even from the brink of death!” Leona yelled.
“Well, I didn’t know that!” he yelled back. “My cousin was locked in here, so all I could think about was getting him free! If I had known that, I would have tried to save her. I don’t wanna be in here any more than you do.”
“I came in here with an emergency teleporter. What happened to it?”
“Shoot, I don’t know,” he said. “If you didn’t see a pile of my clothes in front of the entrance, the things we’re wearing or carrying are probably destroyed during transit.”
“Leona,” Ecrin began. “What about Vitalie? She can go get help.”
“She’s already said she can’t project into here. Besides, my lucky penny was apparently destroyed en route. I have no way of contacting her, even if I thought that might work.” She took a beat to think things over. “At least the murderer is locked in here too, which was everything I was trying to do.”
“I spent half my life in prison,” Ecrin lamented. “I don’t want to be here anymore.”
“It’s not ideal, but Hokusai will realize something’s wrong, and she’ll find a way in here. Even if we have to wait until the Warren lands on Earth, we’ll get out.”
“Easy for you to say,” Ecrin contended. “You’ll only have to be here for a few days.”
“What?” the killer’s cousin asked.
“You asked to come,” Leona volleyed. “Rather, you insisted on coming. I would have been perfectly fine coming in by myself. We both knew that we didn’t know what this place was.”
Ecrin massaged her eyes. “I know.”
“How do we eat?” Leona asked the men.
“Food appears on that ledge three times a day,” the cousin explained. “It’s not bad. There’s sewage, drinking water, and a sonic shower that activates once a week. The music will start back up before too long. It turns off so new inmates can go through orientation, which...of course, you can’t actually do.”
“What did you do?” Leona asked him. “What made your cousin desperate enough to kill a woman to get you out?”
“I wasn’t chosen,” he said to her. “I’m a stowaway. Annora found out, and put me in here.”
“I don’t understand why she didn’t tell me about this place,” Ecrin wondered.
“She was going to, actually,” the stowaway said. “You were going to be head guard here. I guess she didn’t get a chance.” He looked over to his cousin with mixed feelings.
He wasn’t laughing now. “I apologize again for that. My name is—”
“Vito Bulgari and Jarrett Grier,” Leona interrupted.
“Uhh...right on the second one, but I don’t know who Vito is. Hadron here isn’t on the manifest, remember?”
“Right.” So where was Vito Bulgari?
Vito Bulgari was staring up at the moon, which had begun appearing in the night sky over the last month. It appeared to be complete tonight, Adamina’s power having increased the size of this dimension enough to include the whole thing. It was cloudy and ominous, though.
Serif and Camden came up to him. “Ever seen anything like that before?” she asked of him.
“Durus didn’t have a moon. Not even a simulated one. Never seemed necessary, I guess. Not without oceans. It’s beautiful.”
“How did you last in this pocket so long without being detected?” Camden asked, doubting his own skills as an intelligence-gathering agent.
He never stopped looking at the moon. “I can be invisible. Literally. Just...make it look like the space I’m occupying is as empty as it is when I’m not in it.”
“Did you kill Annora Ubiña?” Serif interrogated.
He shook his head slowly. “No, but I was scared of getting in trouble. I know it wasn’t illegal for me to travel between the pockets, but when the entrance closed up, I thought maybe I had made some mistake. By the time I realized it had nothing to do with me, you had already taken attendance, and I was then scared about coming forward with the truth. You might have caught me had this place not been growing, but everyday it gets easier and easier to avoid people.”
“It’s still dangerous for you in here, as a human,” Serif warned him. “You should come with us.”
“I thought the Maramon think of us as gods?”
“If we’re gods, they’re Titans, and they want us dead. I don’t suppose you can make other people invisible.”
Vito smiled, and finally looked down from the heavens. “I can make anything invisible.”

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