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Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 9, 2186

A Doctor Mallory Hammer showed up when called using her special pager number. Ecrin shook her hand like they were friendly acquaintances, though Mallory obviously had never met her. The pager was designed to pull her from a time after encountering the person making the request, but that feature wasn’t always reliable. She ran the standard battery of tests on Leona, confirming that she was indeed pregnant. She also had advanced instruments that would give more information than even today’s technology could. As far as they could tell, Leona was carrying two genetically healthy babies. If the human doctor had known it was twins, she never said anything. Mallory also possessed a tool that could seek out the father of the children, even across time and space, but it came up with nothing. She said that she had never seen that before; it was like the father didn’t even exist. Paige guessed that it was due to some corruption in reality, but they had no way of detecting that, let alone correcting it.
Mallory did all she could that day, then fitted Leona with a wristband that would monitor her status before, and after her jump into the future, and also any time in between, if there was any at all. Come the next year, the doctor was there, waiting to run some follow-up tests, to make sure the time jumps weren’t having a negative impact on the fetuses.
“How are you holding up?” Mallory asked while listening to Leona’s lungs.
“I just learned I’m pregnant with twins who have no apparent father. I’m not great,” Leona replied.
“Well, there’s one test I’ve not done, because it’s experimental, and not necessarily ethical. It’s been requested before, though, so I feel I need to mention it. I am in no way recommending it, though. It’s important you understand that.”
“I can’t really understand that until I know what it is.”
“That’s fair.” She took a few notes on her tablet before continuing. Then she made a point of facing Leona straight on, and got all serious. “I have the ability to show you what your children will look like in the future.”
“Any time in the future?”
“All times.”
“Would I be able to speak with them?”
“You said you’ve done this.”
“Other patients were too nervous to try actually talking with them. I only bring it up because you’re salmon. Sort of.”
That Leona did understand. “If the father is also salmon, they could be born as choosers, and taken away from me.”
“Yes. Before you answer, I’m sure you realize this might be your only chance to meet them. If they’re not like you, three years will go by like that. Someone else will have to raise them, whether they’re choosers, or not.”
Leona was nodding solemnly. These were good points, but there was something unnatural about meeting an older version of your own kid before they’re even born. Coming across people going different directions in the timestream happened all the time, but this would be very different. In the end, she had to decline the offer, which Mallory seemed relieved to hear.
“Hello?” came a voice from the other room. Then he appeared from around the corner.
“Dr. Sarka?” Mallory asked, surprised to see him, but not bothered.
Baxter wasn’t bothered either. “Dr. Hammer, I was assigned Leona’s case.”
“I came as a favor,” Mallory explained. “I’m not here to step on anyone’s toes.”
“No, it’s quite all right,” Sarka assured her. “Can’t hurt to have three medical professionals.”
Right on cue, a very young Saga Einarsson came through, carrying Sarka’s medical bag.
“Saga?” Leona questioned.
“Oh,” Saga said. “If we meet sometime in my future, be sure not to tell me about it.”
“Yeah, you’re right, I wo—” she stopped herself to work out the math in her head. “Actually, it’s not a problem. You’re the other Saga.”
“There’s more than one of me?”
“Something changed in the past,” Leona explained. “Something big. It rewrote everyone’s history, but a few of us remember. And a few of people actually survived the transition. You and your partner, Vearden were two of those people.”
“I had a partner?” Alt!Saga asked. “With a name like that?”
“I guess you never met in this reality. I guess you’re not even a doorwalker.”
Alt!Saga looked to Sarka, who appeared to know what that meant either. This was the curse of blending one’s brain.
“It’s about to get even more awkward.” Ulinthra was there, Harrison in tow.
“I’m sorry?” Sarka asked, confused.
“Wait,” Ulinthra said. “I timed that wrong. “Restart the conversation, I’ll come back in when you get to the right point.”
An exasperated Leona sighed heavily and loudly. “I thought I was supposed to try to catch you. Why do you keep attacking me?”
“Attack?” Ulinthra was offended. “How is this an attack?”
“Because I don’t want you here. This is a private moment.”
“I understand that, but it concerns me too,” Ulinthra claimed.
“How so?”
“I have been fascinated you since we first met,” Ulinthra began.
“In which reality?” Leona jumped in.
Ulinthra shrugged. “This one. I didn’t quite see what I could as powers. I had excellent intuition, like everything I was experiencing had already come to pass, and I just couldn’t quite remember. Turns out, that’s exactly what was happening. Keep in mind, that’s before I got my brain blended, and figured out how to use my full powers. But you know those movies where the hero meets some random person—often an old gypsy woman?”
“Racist. Where are you going with this?”
“Just be patient,” Ulinthra said. “Wait, is there a reason you three are still here?” She was looking at Mallory, Sarka, and Alt!Saga.
“Harrison, did you have enough time with that gun that that, guard uses?”
“Mister Morse?” Harrison confirmed.
“I believe I did.”
“Shoot them, please.”
“Now, don’t you dare!” Leona tried to fight them, but it was no use. Harrison removed his index finger to reveal the business end of a weapon. He fired a laser at his three targets, and they disappeared.
“Are they in Beaver Haven?” Leona asked, referring to the salmon-chooser prison.
Ulinthra smiled. “I can build my own jails, thank you very much. Now, where was I? Gypsy women, yes. They always give the heroes this weird look—sometimes they’ve been upset by them—but they curse them, or tell them some prophecy. Then the movie continues, and you don’t know for sure if she was the real deal, but then the future comes to pass, and it was, not quite like we all thought.”
“You’re not great with words.”
“You’re not great with your face!” Ulinthra volleyed.
Harrison couldn’t help but smirk. Leona might have an in with him.
“That was wrong of me, I’m sorry. Your face is actually amazing. My point is that I met a sort of gypsy woman when I was very young. I won’t bore you with the details, but I ignored her words at the time, as you’d expect. It wasn’t until I started learning about people with time powers that I suspected she may have been telling the truth.”
“And what was it that she told you?”
“She said that the Daughter of the Lion would be my downfall. That’s why your baby means something to me. She’s going to kill me one day.”
Leona pinched the bridge of her nose like Stan Marsh. “You just said said that the prophecies in those movies never turn out like you thought. Whoever you talked to said this...entity, let’s say, will be your downfall. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll die. And it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s my daughter, or even a person. Maybe it’s an actual lion. You can’t know if that’s all you have to go on.”
“Which is why you’re still alive,” Ulinthra said. “I have to know for sure if I’ve subverted that warning.”
“There’s another possibility,” Leona put forth.
“And what’s that?”
“That this person who told you this was nothing more than a charlatan, or mentally unstable. Maybe it means nothing, and the only reason you think it has anything to do with me is because my name means lion. If you had met a pregnant girl with a lion tattoo before me, you’d probably have obsessed over her, and not even given my name a thought.”
“That’s a good point,” Ulinthra said. “I may be freaking out over nothing. Then again, we’re all time travelers. Well,” she said as she was looking at Harrison, like he didn’t matter much. “Except for you.”
“Quite,” Harrison said simply.
“There’s one thing you have to remember, though.” She started walked around to the side of Leona’s bed.
“Oh no. Whatever you’re about to say can’t be good.” Leona was genuinely scared.
Ulinthra took out a knife and held it to Leona’s throat, and whispered into her ear. “I’ve already had this conversation.” She pointed to the corner. “And there’s a camera up there.”
“So what?”
Ulinthra swung her arm away from Leona, and aggressively jammed it into something right behind her. Then she swung the rest of her body around, revealing Paige to be the victim. A violently angry Ulinthra twisted the knife with her one hand, and forced her to her knees, which was something Paige could probably still survive. Her upgrades would keep her alive until she made it to medical attention, but Ulinthra had no intention of letting this happen. She lifted her other hand, and balled it into a fist, engaging a whistling electrical charge. Then she struck Paige right in the forehead, and electrocuted until the energy had reached critical mass, and the gauntlet lost all power.
Ulinthra’s rage was very gradually dissipating as Leona tried very hard to react. She couldn’t, though. She just sat there in fear and disbelief. Ulinthra continued to catch her breath, watching the motionless Paige on the floor, sparks still popping out of her mechanical parts. Then she looked at Leona. “I still don’t know if you planned this. If you somehow coordinated this...attack. I don’t even know why there’s a security camera in your room. But this is good proof that I will do what I must to survive, and keep what is mine. You remember that first reality; the one where I was a killer?”
Leona was unable to answer at first, but did eventually. “I don’t remember you as a serial killer. Horace just told me about you two later.”
“Well, there’s something you might like to know. That wasn’t the first reality. The only person you know who even existed in the first reality was Darko Matic. Are you two related, or something?”
“Whatever. My point is that the you have memories of three independent timelines.”
Ulinthra nodded. “Well, I remember all of them. And in most cases, I was worse than you’ll ever know, because if you ever meet that version of’ll have no more than five seconds to live.” She started walking out of the room. “Clean that up, Harrison, then shoot Leona to the hock. I’ll see her again next year.”
“Hey, Yuli,” Leona said bravely.
Ulinthra turned back around.
“I don’t know what that fortune teller thought she knew, but I can tell you one thing.”
“Go on.”
“You’ll be dead before my daughter is even born.”

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