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Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 13, 2190

Vitalie admitted with no shame that she chose to print the teleporter gun in 2188, against the group’s wishes, almost as soon as they had downloaded the plans for it. She had snuck into an empty unit in another wing to use the synthesizer in secret, then she hid it in the same cabinet where she ended up stuffing Hogarth. They fought about it as much as they could after Hogarth used the gun to completely dismantle Harrison’s substrate, but they were forced to move on to more pressing matters. Harrison’s systems were still partially online, since parts of his neural network still maintained a level of cohesion. Leona and Hogarth discovered that he wasn’t transmitting any data, but also that he was supposed to. There was no telling when Ulinthra was going to send someone after him to figure out why he wasn’t checking in. They had to figure out what they were going to do with him.
They took this opportunity to hide Hogarth away permanently in this arc’s secret floor, which they found to be at the bottom of tower 4. They instructed her to do absolutely nothing with her days, except watch TV, read, and eat. She was not to invent any new machines, or study the teleporter gun, or anything. If they were going to be able to use her as a secret weapon, they needed to bide their time. That was the reasoning behind waiting on the teleporter gun in the first place, and Vitalie’s failure to recognize could be their ultimate demise. By the time Leona and Ecrin returned from dropping her off, Brooke and Vitalie were nearly finished cleaning up the mess of android body parts, and consolidating them to a pile. Leona scanned each scrap to make sure they would not be any further threat to them. Then she hacked into his central processing unit, and storage units, to erase all data entirely. Ulinthra was going to have to find out what they had done at some point, but there were details they didn’t want getting out.
They waited all day for retaliation, but nothing came. If Ulinthra and her people knew that Harrison had been destroyed, they weren’t showing it. And if they didn’t know, then why not? Brooke crawled into her stasis pod just before midnight, while the other three crawled into their respective beds. They woke up the next year to still no reaction. This was making them nervous. Perhaps Ulinthra was biding her time as well, and letting the four of them stew in their guilt, and dread their consequences. Or maybe Harrison just wasn’t as important to her as they thought. While none of them was qualified to diagnose mental disorders—certainly not from only a handful of interactions—she did show all the signs of a psychopath, and if this was true, relationships would be difficult for her. Leona had the recollection of a timeline where Ulinthra was happily married to two lovely men, though. She was violet and dangerous in that reality, but not psychopathic. Was she the same person here, or different?
Leona couldn’t eat anything for breakfast. The others were okay, especially Vitalie, who was not at all apologetic for what she had done. Leona wanted to argue with her more about it, but also not really. Harrison in this reality was not the same one she met those years ago. Hell, he didn’t even look the same, but she still felt a sense of loss at his destruction. And there was still that fear for what was going to happen to them because of it. Vitalie asked her if she wanted to go ahead and make the call, but Leona decided against it. One of the biggest flaws in their plan was that Ulinthra could eventually catch onto it. If her Round Twos were too significantly different than her Round Ones, she would start to wonder why. In order to maintain the facade, they had to occasionally act like they were as powerless as anyone else. Today was a perfect chance to do that, because Ulinthra had to hear straight from them what had happened to Harrison, even if that meant hearing it for the second time.
Leona suddenly jumped up from the table, and opened the closet door. She pulled out the hover sled that the workers had left in case they wanted to rearrange Brooke’s pod. She dragged the blanket wrapped around Harrison’s body parts onto the sled, and started to leave. “Go about your business,” she said before closing the door. “I’m doing this one alone. No pennies today.” She clipped the sled’s proximity fob to her pants, and walked out of the unit before anyone could argue.
“Let her through,” Leona could hear Ulinthra order her personal guardsmen through the radio once she had made to the lion’s den.
Leona walked in and raised the sled high enough to drop it down on Ulinthra’s desk. “Do you know what this is?”
Ulinthra stared at the blanket. “You showed it to me the first time I lived through this day.”
“So I don’t need to explain what happened to him.”
“I would like to hear it again. Let’s call it...self-corroboration.”
Leona was going to be as honest as possible, while leaving out any unnecessary information, like the fact that a genius named Hogarth Pudeyonavic had suddenly showed up in their unit through an explosion, or that she was the one who had killed Harrison. “The real Harrison would never have taken his duties to you this far. This thing on your table was an imposter, and he was a problem. I believe I did you a favor. The other Harrison would have just left, like he did before. This one would have turned on you. You dishonored the real Harrison by giving this one the same name, and it sickened me. So I killed him.”
“Non-food synthesizers are lined with a special coating on the glass that prevent external light from interfering with their sensors. This allows you to watch extraordinarily detailed objects being printed without affecting the instruments with minute changes in their environment.” This was not an entirely accurate explanation, but these high-level 3D printers were indeed built with special glass.
“Seems excessive, but okay...”
“When Fake!Harrison tried to teleport one of us to...wherever it is he would send someone, I held up a printer plate. The beam that reflected back at him was unstable, because it’s not really designed to do that. It teleported parts of him, to different places. We’re not sure where all of him is. This is just the bulk. I know we’ll be punished, but I am confident that it was worth it.” She started walking away.
“You overestimate how much he mattered to be,” Ulinthra shrugged. “He was just a toaster.”
Leona looked back over her shoulder. “You and I both know that’s not true. He was the only person in the world who knew exactly who you were, but still didn’t leave.”
“I thought you said he would eventually turn on me.”
“He would have, because everyone does. But in every reality where it’s happened, you never believe it until it happens.”
“You act like you know more about the continuum than I do. I’m the one who had her brain blended to a hundred and one percent.”
“That’s true, and it’s true that I didn’t even know that was possible. But I don’t have to know every version of you to know you. You’re gonna lose. You’re gonna lose everything.” Leona tried to leave again.
“How should I punish you? I may not have cared much for Harrison, but he was still my property.”
“I would be devastated if you killed yourself,” Leona lied unconvincingly.
This made Ulinthra grin. “I’ll think of something.”
Leona took a walk on the platform to clear her head, stopping only to grab some altitude gum. When she got back to their arcunit a couple hours later, her friends were all in the middle of naps, including Brooke. Leona was about to lie down next to her and get some depression sleep in too, but Ulinthra’s voice came on the arcwide system.
“Residents of Panama Arc Two, a few of you have decided to take it upon themselves to defy the Arianation. They have murdered a loyal supporter of mine; someone who has been with me since the beginning. But I am unable to punish them, so I have no choice but to punish you. Please direct your attention to the nearest viewscreen.”
“Everyone out of their room!” Leona ordered.
They came hustling out so they could watch together on the main screen in the living area. A drone was delivering a live stream of one of the hanging towers.
“Is that...?” Vitalie asked.
“The tower that Hogarth is in? It is, yes,” Leona confirmed.
“This is what happens when you can’t listen,” Ulinthra said through the speakers.
They watched in horror as a military drone slid into frame, and pointed its weapons at the base of the tower, which was attached to the platform. It was only a few dozen stories tall, which meant the bottom floor was still hundreds of meters up in the air. The drone fired its weapons at the base until it was enough to sever the tower’s connection to the platform. The streaming drone tilted its camera down so everyone could see thousands upon thousands of people fall hopelessly to their deaths. But then something happened. A massive portal opened on the ground below the tower, and swallowed it up. Where did they go, and who was responsible for taking them?

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