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Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 12, 2189

Paranoid about being caught with the plans for the teleporter gun from Harrison’s hand, the gang decided they would sit on it for at least a couple days. They didn’t even want to print it out in the synthesizer, for fear of it being discovered. They all agreed that it was best to move the files to an external drive, hide it in the recess of one of the bedroom pocket doors, and pretend that nothing had changed. If Ulinthra and Harrison started to suspect what they had done, they needed the evidence of their offense to be as modest as possible.
When they all woke up the next year, their unit was empty of enemy combatants, so they had theoretically gotten away with it, but they couldn’t know for sure. “Brooke, how are we doin’ on bugs?” Leona asked over breakfast.
“We’re secure. I don’t think Ulinthra wants it to be that easy.”
“Or she’s playing the long game,” Ecrin suggested. “Maybe she knows all about the coin, and the gun.”
“Maybe,” Vitalie said. “Maybe not.”
They ate a little more in silence.
Once Leona was finished, she wiped her mouth with her napkin, and set it to the side. “You guys ready for the call?”
“What are you gonna ask her about?” Ecrin stopped Vitalie from interrupting her. “I know it doesn’t matter on a quantum level, but it does on a psychological one. You have to have a good reason to contact her. Otherwise she’s going to start getting suspicious you keep randomly calling her to talk about...I dunno, the Raiders.”
“I’m open to ideas,” Leona said.
“We could use a vacation.” Brooke offered. “Ask her for some time off. I’ve always wanted to check out the West mountains, or even Costa Rica.”
“Any objections?” Leona looked around the table, like the chairman of the board. “Vacation it is.” She called Ulinthra, and tried her hand at a pleasant receptionist’s voice. “Hi, this is Leona Matic. My colleagues and I were wondering if we could, maybe, have a quick break.—Well, we were thinking a Boquete waterfall, or Costa Rica, if you’ll allow it?—Then how about you let us out of the arcology? It’s pretty stifled in here. Since we’re not allowed to enter the virtual worlds, we feel pretty trapped. These units are great for living in the 22nd century, but only when you ha—Right.—That’s true, but—Uhuh.—Yeah, we get it, but aren’t you busy with taking over the world anyway?—I understand.—I understand.—I understand.—Okay, I appreciate your support. Thanks, byeeee.” She hung up. “Flip that penny!” she ordered, trying to keep it light.
Vitalie flipped the penny into the air, but before it could land, a powerful force propelled it towards the side wall, along with everyone else. When Leona recovered from the explosion, she saw a woman crouched on the floor, trying to recover as well.
“Holy hell!” Brooke shouted.
“Are you okay?” Vitalie offered the woman her hand.
The woman accepted it. “I’m okay. I don’t understand why it always has to come with an explosion, though. Just once, I’d like to jump through time and space, and land on my feet.”
“Hogarth?” Ecrin asked.
“Do you know me?” the woman asked back.
“We go way back.” Ecrin started working it out in her head. “This is where you went, when you touched the compass. They told me about that.”
“What’s going on?”
“Leona?” Hogarth squinted. “Is that you?”
“Do you know me?” Leona echoed.
“Yeah, in 2025. You were with a, uhh. Sorry, I’m disoriented. You were with a little girl. I’m a genius, but I can’t remember her name.”
“Was it Brooke?” Brooke guessed.
“Yeah, that’s it,” Hogarth confirmed.
“That already happened,” Brooke reminded Leona. “Why don’t we remember her?”
“Eh, time, right?” Hogarth repeated the company slogan.
“Nah, she’s right,” Leona said. “If you saw Baby Brooke, it’s already happened to us. I remember going back to 2025, but I don’t remember you.”
“There’s a reason for that,” Ecrin said cryptically. “There’s a reason you don’t remember me from that time either. You’re the one who came up with the rules of etiquette for time travel, so I implore you to call upon them now, and not discuss the past.”
Leona could do that. “I can do that.”
“As can I,” Hogarth agreed. “But what year is it?”
“2189,” Brooke answered.
Vitalie was looking at something on the floor. “The year of the tail.”
“It landed on tails,” Vitalie clarified. “We do nothing today.”
“That works, because we’ll need to figure out how this newcomer fits into all of this.” Leona directed her attention back to Hogarth. “Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?”
“Yes,” Hogarth answered simply.
“Have you ever heard of Ulinthra, or Arianrhod?”
“Arya Toad? I’ve never heard of her. I haven’t heard of the first one either. Is that a band?”
Leona laughed. “No. Ecrin, you vouch for her?”
“Oh, definitely. She’s good people.”
“Then we have to protect her,” Leona declared. “In fact, we have to get her to Kansas City. She’s the only one who can do it, if Ulinthra doesn’t know about her.”
“It’s not hard to escape Panama because Ulinthra knows who we are,” Brooke pointed out. “It’s hard because she’s halted all interarc travel for everyone.”
“We could use the teleporter gun,” Vitalie brought up.
“We’re still not sure if that will work,” Leona argued. “There could be components to that thing that don’t exist in our dimension. Maybe the synthesizer didn’t even pick up on everything.”
“Besides,” Ecrin added, “we agreed to leave that alone for a few days.”
“Right,” Vitalie said.
“A few days for us is a few years to her,” Vitalie reminded them. “What, is she just gonna hide out here all that time, hoping Ulinthra’s people don’t come in to make sure Brooke’s pod is still functioning?”
“If we’re brave enough to use the teleporter gun on her,” Brooke began, “why don’t we just use it on you three as well?”
“Because that would leave you alone,” Leona noted.
“So we’re not leaving you behind. The teleporter gun is so we can banish her somewhere, not so we can escape.”
“I can take care of myself,” Brooke said. “You’re not my surrogate mother anymore.”
“Everyone can die, and Ulinthra likely will kill you. It doesn’t matter whether I’m your surrogate mother, your real mother, or just a friend, I’m. Not. Leaving. You. And like I said, the teleporter gun is dangerous, and we don’t understand it. If something goes wrong, I sure as hell would rather test it on her than anyone in this room.”
“Sorry to interrupt,” Hogarth jumped in. “I wasn’t exaggerating when I said I was a genius. If you need me to take a look at this teleportational technology, I could probably get it working in perfect condition. But why is a year for me shorter for you than it is for me?”
They explained to her what Leona’s pattern was, and how the other three were now, if only essentially, trapped in the same boat.
“That’s not how it was in 2025,” Hogarth said.
“I was given a break so I could take care of Baby Brooke.”
“I’ve always hated that term,” Brooke mumbled.
“You love it.”
“So wadya say?” Hogarth asked. “Why don’t you show me that gun?”
“We just the plans for the gun,” Leona said, “that we can reupload to a synthesizer created by humans who don’t know anything about time travel.”
“That’s why you got me.” Hogarth smiled. “I’m not a chooser, or a salmon. I’m where I am today because I built a transdimensional portal from scratch, based on a brief glimpse of a natural spacetime rift. And I transported an entire town of thirteen hundred people to another planet before they were erased by time.”
Leona walked over to the door, pulled the drive out, and handed it to Hogarth. “Okay. If you do this, you’ll have to go somewhere else. Vitalie is right. We can be fairly certain they’re not listening in on us, but if they come in while we’re gone, and they find you, none of what you do matters. You’ll be locked up, put on my pattern, or killed.”
“I understand,” Hogarth said, taking the drive. “So where should I go?”
“She can live in the 329th floor,” Ecrin said.
“There are only 328.”
Ecrin shook her head. “Not exactly. Each arc was built with one secret floor, in one of the hanging towers, that the original designer could stay in without being disturbed whenever he wanted. I mean, all the towers have something underneath the bottom floor, otherwise you would be able to measure which one was longer than all the others, but they others are used for storage and maintenance. Only one of them has a finished and habitable section that’s about a hundred and seventy square meters.”
“And do you know which one that is?”
“I met him when he was young, and he told me how to read the code he was planning to hide in every arc. But I’ll need to see one of the official wall maps.”
“Wait, he hadn’t even designed them yet? They were just an idea?”
“He’d sketched them out, but no, he was just some high school kid I met when I was undercover for the IAC. I’m from the future, so I knew who he was. I’m confident the room exists. Guy liked to be the smartest man in the room, and thought he was inventing the future for everyone.”
“All right, I guess it can’t hurt to walk down the hall and check one of the maps. Just make it look like you’re looking for a good froyo place, or something.”
“While she’s doing that, Hogarth, would you like to print some new clothes. I can teach you how to use it.”
As Leona was showing Hogarth the machine, Ecrin opened the door to the hallway. Harrison’s voice came from it. “There was a report of an explosion,” he said.
“Really? That’s weird,” Ecrin replied coolly.
Leona silently gestured for Hogarth to stay completely silent.
“I need to come in and take a look,” Harrison urged.
“I don’t think you need to do that.”
Leona mouthed the f-word, and then the word hide. Vitalie stuffed her into the cabinet.
“I really must insist,” Harrison continued as Hogarth was hiding.
Even though Hogarth couldn’t be seen, Harrison’s sensors were too, well...sensitive. Leona needed a good distraction. For much of her life as a scientist, Leona often found herself boring to sleep by reading technical specifications, and searching for interesting hacks. It would seem this model of synthesizer was designed with a catastrophic flaw. The programmers sent out a patch over the air years ago that prevented it from being a further problem, but it was still possible to exploit the error, if one knew what they were doing. Leona had removed the general safeguards two days ago, in order to have the option to build unauthorized objects, like firearms. She hadn’t used it for that yet, but the safety protocols were still down, so the dangerous feedback loop could be triggered manually. She used all of her strength to bend the nozzle bundle in random directions, and hastily programmed the machine to print outside its parameters. Then she waited for it to heat up, hoping that Ecrin could stall him long enough.
Brooke was watching from a neutral zone, and seemed to be picking up what was happening. Leona could hear Harrison push past Ecrin, but the machine wasn’t ready yet. Brooke thought fast. “We wanted to blow you up. We were gonna lure you to the kitchen, then overload the food synthesizer. We tested it, and it worked, which is what our neighbors heard. But if you come in here now, you will die, because we have figured out how to control it. We still have one more printer left.” Apparently warning him what Leona was planning to do was part of Brooke’s crazy scheme.
“Shut it down,” Leona could hear the android say.
“He has Ecrin,” Brooke said in defeat. “Turn it off.”
Leona disengaged the power, and stepped out from around the corner. “We’re gonna stop you one day.
“Let her go,” Brooke ordered, stepping back further back into the livingroom.
Harrison released Ecrin with no argument.
“Duck,” Hogarth shouted from behind them.
Leona ducked down, but looked up to see Harrison get shot with something. His body stiffened, like he was being electrocuted. Then parts of him started disappearing randomly, some of which appeared only a few meters away, one of which was embedded in the wall. In a matter of seconds, Harrison was destroyed, and in dozens of pieces, spread out who knows where.
They all looked back at Hogarth, who was holding what looked like a teleporter gun. “Yeah,” she said, nodding. “I can fix this.”

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