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Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 6, 2183

True to her word, Paige was waiting for Leona on the surface of Earth when she returned to the timeline on September 6, 2183. With her were Brooke and Ecrin. Camden had jumped himself back to 1982, hoping to find some way of reconnecting with his old team that he left back in 2002. Ecrin had apparently gone back with him, and had returned to this time the long way around. She was now 371 years old. A distraught Saga reportedly opened the door to a hall closet, and never came back out, so she was either off on one of her Freelance missions, or looking for a way to skip right to when her daughter retires. Hokusai and Loa had kept in contact with the others. They were swamped with their new jobs as sort of independent social workers, still in charge of all the Durune passengers. They thought this work would only last a few months, but it was proving to be more difficult than they believed, and they felt like it would never end. While almost all of the passengers had climbed aboard The Warren wanting to live on Earth, they had varying expectations of what that looked like. Brooke was working on a cargo ship, operating primarily on the Mars-Belt run, which was a pretty simple life. She took some vacation time so she could return to Earth and see Leona again.
Hokusai never did figure out how to reopen the dimensions permanently, so they reactivated her original invention. The castaways were all prepared for this endeavor, and were packed and ready to leave at the right moment. Loa and Vitalie combined their powers again to let Paige and Brooke back into the pocket seven prison blocks, so they could retrieve the inmates. They then contacted professional designated security guard, Kolby Morse, so he could send them to Beaver Haven, which was the only place suited to hold them. Justice for Annora was finally officially served, and the case was satisfactorily closed. The dimensional destroyer freed the ship from its extra dimensions, then left to report to Team Hokuloa. Now, with no current missions, it was time for a little rest and relaxation, and what better place to do that but the beautiful country of Panama?
After a long hammock nap, Leona joined the rest of her current band of friends on the beach. Ecrin used only a fraction of the massive wealth she had accumulated over the decades to secure them a luxurious resort. They didn’t have the whole place to themselves, but since this was the off-season, it was close. Leona stood next to them smiling, glad for this respite, growing paranoid that it was but an illusion. She had already lost Serif, and still hadn't taken the time to mourn her, or figure out whether there was any way of saving her. She could use this time to think that over, and maybe find someone to help. That wasn’t going to be easy on its own, but interference for some mission would complicate matters even further. When would the powers that be step in, and ruin this nice break? Right now. Still smiling, Leona keeled over, and threw up all over the sand.
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” she assured the others when they jumped up to help her. “I was just thinking about Serif.”
“I’ll go get some water,” Ecrin offered, running off to the bar.
As strange as it seemed, lying on her stomach, with her head hanging over the top of the lounge chair was the most comfortable position at the moment. Ecrin also found her a really long straw so she could sip on her water, and not have to move.
“We can try to contact Vearden,” Paige suggested after a few moments. “If pocket four is now its own independent universe, then The Crossover is the only thing capable of reaching Serif.”
“Sounds great,” Leona said through mild moans of discomfort. “How do we contact him?”
“Maybe through that door that just appeared in the middle of the beach?” Ecrin guessed. She had presumably never encountered the Crossover before, but a freestanding door was very out of place.
Leona struggled to flip over to her back and get a look. “Oh, look; a deus ex machina.”
A woman—no, a man—no, a woman walked out of the door. He or she kept changing faces, like they were an amalgamation of dozens—possibly hundreds—of different people, cycling one by one. It walked right up to the four of them, noticing their reactions. “Oh, sorry. Give me a second.” It closed its eyes and concentrated, slowing down the transitions until finally settling on the single form of a woman. She took a breath. “I apologize for that, I forget how disconcerting I make people. I hope this is a form you are more comfortable with.”
“It didn’t make us uncomfortable,” Brooke said. “We were just surprised you showed up unprompted. Are you the current owner of the Crossover?”
“I am,” she said proudly. “My name’s Monster.”
“...that my real name?” Monster interrupted. “Actually, it is. You can call me Erin, if you want, though.”
The three of them looked at Ecrin. “No, Monster will be fine.”
“Monster, how did you know we were wanting to speak with someone from your machine?”
“I’m psychic,” she said simply. “You ever heard of the cocktail party effect? It’s when you can hear your own name from across the room, even when the person who said it wasn’t trying to talk to you, and you didn’t hear anything else they said. Your name is just that important to you. My ancestors could form psychic bonds with people, but I’m bonded to everyone, so the universe is my cocktail party. Now that I operate the Crossover, all the universes are.”
“If you’re psychic,” Ecrin began, “you know what we’re after; where we wanna go?”
Monster frowned. “Yes, and I debated whether I should come or not, but I figured it was my duty to speak with you, so you can move on, to other options, or with your lives. I’m afraid I can’t take you where you want to go.”
“Why not?” Paige questioned.
“The Crossover can’t get to the universe in question. It’s a no-fly zone.”
“You can’t make an exception, just this once?” Leona pleaded. “I only need a minute to get someone back.”
“It’s not possible.” Monster shook her head. “That world was locked out of the system almost as soon as the machine was created.”
“Because it’s a dangerous place?”
Monster waited to answer. “Because it was built there. Other branes aren’t like yours and mine. They can’t just alter time on a whim. Without the temporal stabilization factors that keep your universe together, these other universes could collapse. The Crossover won’t go back, because that could screw up its own creation.”
“Well, there was someone else. They can also travel between branes. I think they use their dreams?”
Monster nodded knowingly. “Yes, and it’s possible they’ll be able to help. But more than likely, they’ll only be able to send your friend a message, or bring one back. They can travel the bulkverse; you can’t.”
“Shit,” Leona said.
“I wish I could be of more help,” Monster went on. “I just wanted you to understand that even we have limits.”
Leona closed her eyes in defeat, used to this by now. “We understand. You better get back to...doing whatever it is you’re doing.”
Monster gave Leona a sad panda look. “You can kill me, if it’ll make you feel better. I hear it’s cathartic.”
“What?” Paige exclaimed.
“Don’t worry, I can’t die. See?” She took a glass dagger from her breast pocket, and prepared to plunge it into her neck.
“No!” Brooke stopped her. “We don’t need to see it, we believe you.”
Monster shrugged. “Then accept this as a gift.” She handed Leona the dagger ceremoniously. “This is made of ardusite. I have died more than three thousand times, which means that one of those times was due to being struck by lightning.” She pointed to the dagger balancing on both of Leona’s hands. “That was created from the ashes left behind. You stab someone with that, you can erase their entire history.”
Leona looked at the dagger, impressed but confused. “Lightning doesn’t turn you into ash. No strike has ever been that powerful.”
Monster smiled. “It does if you’re a phoenix.” She stepped back and snapped her jaw shut. Foam started spilling out of her mouth, then she burst into flames, and was reduced to a pile of ash. The door had disappeared sometime in the hubbub.
“And I thought our universe was weird,” Brooke noted.
“How many universes are there?” Ecrin asked them.
“All of them,” Leona answered.
Before Ecrin could question exactly what this meant, a helicopter appeared out of nowhere and landed on the field next to the resort. A horde of soldiers spilled out of it, and began sweeping the resort. One of them went straight for the four of them, who were the only ones on the beach at the moment. She fired some kind of nonprojectile weapon at Paige, who immediately collapsed to the ground. She did the same to Brooke before placing Leona and Ecrin in zip cuffs.
“What the hell is goin’ on?” Leona demanded to know.
“We have declared this a staging area for the Arianation,” the soldier answered in an authoritative tone. “You are now prisoners of war.”
“Oh, crap,” Ecrin lamented.
“What in the world is Arianation?” Leona asked, pulling away from her captor.
“That’s exactly what it is,” the soldier replied. “The Arianation is the world. The day of reckoning is here, and the arcities will have to answer for what they’ve done to this planet.”
“And Nazis are gonna make ‘em answer?”
In retaliation for this remark, the soldier punched Leona right in her stomach. “We are not Nazis! It’s a linguistic coincidence. It’s Celtic.” She placed a third zip cuff around the two of theirs, so they were bound together, and started leading them back up to the resort.
Once they were to the top of the hill, they could see the nearest arcology towering in the distance. It was being attacked by fleet of aircraft. They really were at war. But with whom?

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