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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Missy’s Mission: Still Small Voice (Part XII)

Nine months later, everyone’s time powers were removed, all at once, whether they wanted that or not. Upon learning that the Maramon were in pursuit of them on Eden Island, the humans decided the safest location for them was Nod Plateau. There was an oasis of vegetation on the top of the plateau, which allowed them to live self-sustaining lives without ever leaving. It was a defensible position in the center of a desert no Maramon had any desire to visit. It wasn’t as much of a paradise as their original home, but it was good and safe, which was all that mattered. Unfortunately, nothing could have prepared them for, or protected them from, what would come of Savitri and Avidan’s child.
Newt Clemens was never born. Without medical equipment from a developed world, they were unable to determine exactly when he died, but Savitri reported lively kicking just days before going into labor, so it had to have been recent. The mother’s body still pushed the baby out of her body as if it were any normal birth. They knew something was wrong even before he was all the way out. Once his last toe passed into the open air, his body began to glow a deep red, like the passionate embers of a once-blazing fire. The glow soon turned orange, and expanded. Within minutes, the entire plateau was bathed in a cool yellow light. It changed to green as it covered the whole desert, blue for the continent, indigo for the whole world, and finally violet for the rest of the universe. The light slowly began to dissipate, and with it, all time powers.
Nobody could be grateful for what had happened to them. Nor could anyone who didn’t ask for this be upset. All focus was on Avidan, Savitri, and their sadness. The experience had depressed everyone. They woke up, did their chores, ate in silence, and went to bed. No longer did they dance, nor sing, nor play games. They didn’t try to get the parents through this terrible time, or tell them that everything was going to be okay. There were those who Savitri or Avidan didn’t like all that much, and those people kept their distances. Those closest to them, however, stayed close, and supported them. Everyone in between did what they could to help, and didn’t do anything they weren’t supposed to.
A month after the tragedy, Dubravka crawled into Missy and Dar’cy’s shelter, holding the map of the planet. It was created before the original artificial dimension that became this universe was separated from its parent universe. Adamina, the girl whose special time power allowed for the expansion of their once miniscule world, had an innate sense of its geography, and had relayed this information to amateur cartographers. Precisely how accurate the map was, was up for debate, but according Dubra’s calculations, they were running out of time.
“Running out of time for what?” Missy asked solemnly.
“Serif is coming back to the timestream,” she answered.
“Serif? My mother, who is not yet my mother? We have to get her back.”
“I don’t see how that’s possible without any teleporters,” Dar’cy pointed out. “It could take weeks to cross the ocean.”
“Two months,” Dubra corrected. “Which is why we have to go now.”
“What would be the point?”
“Jesus,” Dubra said. “She has the Wrench of Creation. It can take us back to the future.”
“No, it can’t. Dar’cy was the one who could do that,” Missy said. “But she can’t anymore.”
“But the wrench wasn’t in the timestream when Newt erased everyone’s powers,” Dubra tried to explain.
“That’s irrelevant,” Dar’cy argued. “Again, I’m the one who had the powers. The wrench was just a tool.”
“It’s not just a tool,” Dubra said. “It’s been primed.”
“What does that mean?”
Dubravka looked at them like they should have known what that meant. “Primed. Your father didn’t tell you about priming an object?”
Dar’cy’s father was also an object threader; the only other one known to history. He taught her how to do it, but never said anything about priming. Dubra sighed. “Like you said, most objects don’t have special temporal properties. You have to imbue any given one with the properties you want. The Weaver can do this—she’s the most famous for it—but others have done it as well, in certain circumstances. I mean, all salmon and choosers are capable of it, which is why a normal human can adopt someone’s powers with an organ transplant.”
“Okay,” Dar’cy said, trying to follow, “maybe that’s true, but I didn’t imbue the wrench with my powers.”
“Yes, you did,” Dubravka said condescendingly. “Every time you thread an object, it maintains elements of your power. Not enough to let any random person do what you do, but your brain has muscle memory for threading. Have you ever threaded an object more than once?”
“I have,” Dar’cy answered.
“It was easier the second time around, wasn’t it?”
“I guess.”
That’s because it was primed. It was like the object itself remembered you using it before, so didn’t take take as much energy.
“That makes no sense. I’ve still lost my powers,” Dar’cy nearly shouted.
“I think you can still take one last ride. Whether it works or not, we have to go get my mom back, or she’ll die on that island, and I’ll never be born.”
“She’s right,” Missy said to Dar’cy. “We have to go back to the island either way.”
“Who does?” Dar’cy asked, not without intention to go herself, but covertly asking whether anyone else should go with them.
“Anyone who wants to,” Missy figured.
“If I can only thread an object one more time, we can’t take everyone,” Dar’cy said with worry.
“Unless Savitri can do what she does one more time,” Dubra hoped.
“That’s pushing it,” Missy said. “Besides, I don’t want either of those two going. They’ve been through too much.”
“It might be good for them to get off the plateau,” Dar’cy suggested.
“It’s too dangerous.”
“I want to go,” Savitri said. There was no telling how much she had heard of the conversation.
Avidan was behind her. “Me too.” The loss of a child can create a chasm between a couple, but the two of them relied on each other more than anyone else to help them survive. Apart, they wouldn’t have made it out of the first week since Newt’s passing. “If there’s any chance of getting out of this universe, I want to take it.”
No one argued with them on their position, so the matter was brought to rest of the plateauvians after dinner. Somebody brought up the possibility that their powers would return as soon as they left, and most others agreed that it was too much of a risk. Theirs wasn’t the best place to live, but it wasn’t the worst, especially not compared to other conditions they’d experienced. Some people considered the possibility of trying to go to the future, but ultimately gave in. Only a few people ended up wanting to make the long journey across the land, and over the ocean. Lucius and Curtis wanted to come, because they never wanted to lose their powers in the first place, just like Savitri, Avidan, and Dubra. Dar’cy never showed any resentment for having been caught in the blast, but if her powers came back as the result of this trip, she would probably be happier. Lincoln might have wanted to come, had he not randomly disappeared shortly after Newt’s stillbirth. So Missy was the only one in danger of reverting to her original state. She had to, though, because Serif was her friend, and all her other friends were either going, or back in her home universe. More than likely, this plan wouldn’t work anyway, and the trying was pointless.
It would seem that Dubravka’s calculations were a bit off, or rather they were too far on the optimistic side. She failed to account for the amount of time people would need to rest in order to keep going. You can’t just measure how long it takes you to walk a mile, and multiply by the number of total miles, because walkers can’t maintain the same pace perpetually. Still, they rallied towards their goal, and ended up reaching the water only one day behind schedule. Things got worse when it took them a bit longer to steal a boat than they thought it would, and once they did, they found themselves being chased by angry Maramon. On the bright side, they had all the more reason to make up time on the water. There was no room to relax, but as long as they remained steady, and navigated properly, they would reach the island before their pursuers. The only questions to answer now were whether they would make it before Serif disappeared again, and would any Maramon be waiting for them? The answers to those questions were no, and yes.
One of the monsters was indeed waiting for them on the beach as they pulled up in their dinghy. It was alone, and wasn’t standing in a threatening position. It stood patiently, and then waded into the water to help pull the boat on shore once they were close enough. It almost seemed familiar, and spoke in a distinctly feminine voice. “You must frightened. Do not worry. Not every Maramon has it out for you. There are three camps. The majority of us believe that your are gods, while the majority of those believe that, as secondary gods, you must die. Some believe, however, that you are either just as important as the primary gods—i.e. primary gods as well—or that all gods matter.” Yeah, she definitely sounded and looked familiar, but it was hard to tell these creatures apart, so maybe Missy was just being racist.
“Please tell me that you fall into that last camp,” Missy hoped.
“No,” she replied, then snickered. “I’m in the third camp.” She turned towards the treeline, and gestured for them to follow. “A very select few of us know that you’re not gods at all.”
“Were we lucky that you happened to be on beach when we arrived, or are all the Maramon here like you?” Dar’cy asked once they were out of sight of the enemy vessel, still on approach.
“You were lucky, sort of. Your friend, Serif appeared yesterday.” Missed her by that much. “She left you this.” The monster took the Wrench of Creation out of her pocket and handed it to Dar’cy. “She says to go without her; that this is exactly where she wants to be. And I’m saying that I will protect her. Not everyone on the island right now feels the way that I do, and now we have those newcomers on the boat to deal with, but I’ll spend all year correcting that issue. Eden Island will become a place of refuge for humans. No Maramon shall set foot on it.”
“How will you do that?” Savitri asked.
“I’ll turn it into a sacred spot...a holy place. I’ll use their religion against them.”
“What’s your name?” Missy asked, wanting to be cordial and respectful, and without letting on that she thought they might have met before.
“Khuweka,” she answered. That was the Maramon they met supposedly thousands of years in the future, who helped them find the Wrench of Creation in the first place. Upon remembering that, Missy knew for sure that it wasn’t just a shared name, but the same individual having lived an impossibly long life.
“Oh, you’re the—” Curtis started to say, but was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Dar’cy’s elbow against his side.
Dar’cy cleared her throat. “You’re the best,” she finished. Nice save.
“Where can we hide for the next year?” Missy asked. “Because we’re not leaving without Serif.”
“She was clear that she needed to stay,” Khuweka said.
“That’s my mother!” Dubra shouted.
“Keep your voice down,” Khuweka urged. “I understand that you care for her, but she didn’t want you to leave just because it would be too dangerous for you to wait here for an entire year. She wanted you to leave her behind, because she wants to be here.”
I don’t, and if she stays, I’m born in this wretched universe all over again, and we never break the cycle!”
“I brought you deep into the woods so that no one would see you disappear.” She pointed to the toy in Missy’s hand. “We’re deep enough. You should go.” She took a bucket-tubey sort of thing from her bag and held it up. “Who wants their powers ba—oh, shit!” She dropped the bucket onto the ground. The lid slipped off, spilling a silvery orange, powdery liquid. Fumes drifted up from it, and headed for everyone. Missy tried to run away from it, but she could already feel it working on her. A bubble formed from the Wrench of Creation, still in Dar’cy’s hand, and began heading for Missy. She continued to run, but only out of instinct, because she did still want to leave this time period. Fortunately, she wasn’t fast enough anyway. Dar’cy’s bubble overcame her, and spirited them all away.

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