Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 14, 2191

           As Leona and her friends were frozen in place, watching the screen that was just playing the disappearance of entire arcology hanging tower, four other people stepped up beside them. It was the Warrior, Nerakali Preston, another man, and another woman.
“This is going to be a lot of work,” said the man.
“Did the entire planet see it?” Nerakali asked.
“We cut the stream before it could reach Mars,” the Warrior replied, “but we think it got as far as Luna.”
“What’s going on here?” Leona asked them.
“Miss Matic, it’s nice to see you again,” the man said to her. “When I learned a few of our people were so close to the incident, we wanted to drop by first, and make sure you were okay.”
“We’ve not met for me yet.”
“We have,” he said with a smile. “I’m The Repairman. Your memories have been messed with, but it’s already happened for you.”
The other woman presented her hand. “And I’m The Stitcher. He and I do pretty much the same thing. The work just sometimes takes more than one person.”
“This time we need to the whole team.”
“The whole team for what?” Vitalie questioned. “What is it you do?”
“We fix noticed temporal anomalies,” the Repairman began to explain. “When normal humans witness something outside their comprehension of the way the laws of physics should work, we step in and make them forget that it ever happened.”
The Stitcher continued, “historically, it’s been enough for Nerakali to modify people’s memories. With something so pervasive, like this, or the Deathspring, it requires more drastic measures. Which is where we come in.”
“Drastic measures, like...?” Ecrin trailed off cautiously.
“Quantum overlap. We can merge realities. There’s a microreality out there where Ulinthra doesn’t massacre thousands of people, and those people don’t slip into a massive portal. We have to sort of...borrow that chunk of timeline, so people move on without a care. It’s not always pretty, but we try to make it as seamless as possible.”
“And Hogarth?” Brooke asked.
“Hogarth?” the Stitcher repeated?
“One of the Durune precursors,” Nerakali informed her.
“Ah, yes. Was she in the tower?”
“At the very bottom,” Leona said.
“If she wasn’t on one of the top floors, then she would still have been there when the tower fell. The Savior only rescued those who were in danger of people killed by the weapons,” the Warrior explained.
“Well, where did it go?” Ecrin asked.
The four visitors looked to each other. “We don’t actually  know,” the Repairman ended up saying.
“How could you not know?”
“There are other forces at play,” the Stitcher said.
“If it makes you feel any better,” Nerakali began, “it’s unlikely the people in that tower are dead. Very few choosers would be capable of generating a portal that large. Whoever it was wanted them alive.”
“Yes, but for what?” Leona asked, knowing she would receive no answer.
“We have to go,” the Warrior said definitively. “When you return next year, you four will be the only ones with any memory of this. We’ll even erase Ulinthra’s, so she doesn’t try it again.”
“If she doesn’t remember punishing us, she’ll just punish us some other way,” Leona pointed out. “Actually probably the same way, with some other tower.”
Nerakali shook her head. “She won’t. She’ll think she’s already done something to you, and I promise it won’t be as bad.”
Much to both hers and Nerakali’s surprise, Leona gently took Nerakali by the arm while she was trying to leave. “What do you know?”
Nerakali’s eyes darted towards the Warrior, who would have already killed her in the past of his timeline, or he wouldn’t have had her time power today. He didn’t look sorry about it, and she didn’t seem to have any sore feelings against him either. “Everything. This won’t be the last time you see me, so to stop you from asking me that question yet again, know this one thing.” She paused, struggling with the truth. I used to live in another dimension. The first thing I learned when I fell to your plane of existence...was how I was going to die. I’ve always been at peace with it, and have really just been going through the motions.” She smiled warmly, and tipped an imaginary hat. “I’ll see you on The Warren.”
“Anatol,” the Stitcher said, “please open a portal for us. We’ll start with Kansas City, and work our way through the spiral.”
 The Warrior drew a black hole in the middle of the room, through which the four of them disappeared.

The reality correction team was not lying when they said Leona, Ecrin, Brooke, and Vitalie would be the only ones to remember what happened to the hanging tower come next year. Common knowledge was that a software error caused one of the Panama arcs to be built with one fewer hanging towers than others of the same style. People accepted this completely, and just ignored the asymmetrical blank space on the bottom of the platform where it was meant to be.
Ulinthra seemed to be under the impression that she punished the group for Harrison’s murder by taking away a few of their amenities, like their synthesizers, as well as embedding tracking devices on their hearts. She didn’t explicitly say this, but these devices were almost certainly capable of killing them if they got out of line. Still, the group took a vote, and decided to recommence their plans to work against her by flipping a penny every day. Leona called Ulinthra to confirm what they were allowed to do, and where they were allowed to go, but of course, this was just a way of forcing Schrödinger’s cat to make up its damn mind about whether it was dead or not. When Vitalie flipped the coin, it landed on heads. This left the question of what they were going to actually do. It wasn’t like they had created a list of offensive maneuvers. Their only move was to steal the teleporter gun plans. They did still have those, but since their movements were now being tracked, it would be nearly impossible to access the nearest synthesizing machine, and build another one. Plus, they were now missing their engineering ringer, Hogarth, and Leona didn’t have the time or resources to make a full-functioning gun.
“There’s only one thing we can do from our current position,” Vitalie said.
“And what would that be?” Leona asked, having no clue what she was talking about.
“We have to tell the truth,” Vitalie replied.
“The truth about what?”
“About everything. About us, about her, and what she can do. We have to tell the world what we are. Isn’t that against some time law?” Vitalie asked.
“In a way, it is,” Leona said. “We’ve talked about this. While there is no formal law prohibiting revealing our powers—which is why you’ve always been free to tell your loved ones, if you so wished—if you take it too far, Beaver Havens steps in.”
Vitalie nodded once. “That’s exactly what we need.”
“Brooke had it right before. We would be locked up, instead of Ulinthra, and she would be free to continue.”
“Right now, Earth is not my concern,” Vitalie said. “Right now, we are the ones in the most danger. At the moment, I would rather be in prison than this arc.”
“Are we really considering sending ourselves to jail?” Brooke wasn’t convinced. “Even if that’s the safest for us, that doesn’t change the fact that we’ve exposed all choosers and salmon. There’s a reason they would lock us up.”
“We could find a way to threaten exposure. We’ll do just enough to get their attention, but not actually say anything,” Vitalie suggested.
“I don’t see how we could fake it like that, and besides, Brooke can’t go,” Leona reminded them. “Anything we try like that will automatically exclude her.”
“Well, don’t make decisions on my account,” Brooke groaned. She was getting tired of feeling like a burden.
“I’m all out of ideas,” Vitalie said, literally throwing up her arms. “I came up with the penny thing. I guess I didn’t consider what we were meant to actually do on head days. If you’re not willing to go to prison, then I can’t even.”
Leona looked over to Ecrin. “You’ve been quiet. What is your opinion on this whole thing?”
“Do you think the penny thing is just dumb?” Vitalie asked as well.
“No,” Ecrin replied clearly. “We have to be able to take action, and the penny is our best vehicle for that. But Brooke can’t go to prison, and I’m sorry, Brooke, but we are going to take that into account with everything we try. You guys are missing the obvious answer, though.”
Leona tried to think. “What would that be?”
“You keep looking for some time power solution. But look at where we are. No one in Panama wants to be controlled by the Arianation. In fact, most of the Arianation on the whole wants nothing to do with her. It’s just that her followers are too powerful.”
“We need to connect with the resistance movement. The human resistance movement; the ones who don’t know she has powers, and are trying to get rid of her.”
“Great. Do you know where they are, or who they are? Because I haven’t heard a single mention of such a group.”
“I don’t know anything about them,” Ecrin admitted, “but I know they must exist. They couldn’t not. There must be a way to find them, though. All we need to do is figure out who is hurting the most from her being here.”
“I’m sure they do exist,” Leona agreed. But they would be squashed in a second, because Ulinthra will always see it coming. Always”
“That’s because they don’t have our penny advantage.” She smiled at Vitalie. “We find them, we tell them—and only them—what we know. Beaver Haven won’t care if we just do that. We don’t even have to be there. The humans will do the work for us. In one year’s time, this could be all over.”
“Or it isn’t over,” Brooke argued. “Because even without her power advantage, Ulinthra still has a lot of loyalty. Overthrowing governments is always difficult.”
“I think we should try,” Ecrin said.
“I do too,” Vitalie said, always ready for a fight.
Leona didn’t see how this could make any difference. People had been fighting against her this whole time, and even Ulinthra wasn’t invulnerable. She only ever lived through each day twice, so once she gathered all intelligence on her enemies, everything would be altered as soon as she made a single move. Once she changed the timeline, she would lose that foreknowledge. Yet she was still not only in as much control as she had been, but more. In just the last few years, she was already making moves against the smaller Class D arcstates, like Rwanda, and Ecuador. She was showing no chance of slowing, and her opposition was showing no hope of keeping her at bay. “Brooke, if you agree with me, the penny will need to be the tiebreaker.”
Brooke stared into space for a pretty long time. “No need.” She looked at Leona with a hint of embarrassment. “I think we should go for it.”
“Okay,” Leona said, knowing she had been beat, and deciding not to argue the matter further. “Since they took our synthesizers anyway, we have a great opportunity to do some recon. Let’s go shopping, in pairs. Don’t talk to anyone, don’t ask anyone how they feel about the Arianrhod regime. Just observe. One thing we’ve been missing these several days is social interaction. We need to know better what it’s like to live in one of the arcs when you don’t know the king personally. Look for recurring tattoos, or multiple people wearing the same ribbons on their belt loops. It could be anything; just as long as it’s suspiciously prevalent, but not glaringly conspicuous. Again, do not approach anyone. We’ll report back to each other at the end of the day, and decide what to do about it tomorrow, if anything.”
They went out to look for clues, and returned that night having all noticed the same literal sign; the one for butterfly.

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