Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 15, 2192

As instructed, they didn’t approach any of the people giving each other butterfly signals in 2191. First of all, they didn’t know what it meant. It seemed shady, but it could also be some strange new form of greeting that they weren’t privy to since they only existed one day out of the year. They couldn’t even be sure if the people were trying to say butterfly at all. To communicate the word in sign language, one was meant to wave their hands, as the flapping of wings, which none of them was doing. Vitalie, of course, was entirely convinced that this was some underground resistance movement, presently working against the Arianrhod occupation. They should have done better at keeping themselves informed about the events they missed during their interim years, on the arc, and elsewhere. If any rebels attempted to fight back sometime in the past, they definitely lost, and Ulinthra would have buried it. Now they had too little intelligence to go on. That night, they got together to discuss how they were going to proceed, ultimately deciding to wait until the next year, so they could have a fresh start.
“All right,” Leona began near the end of their latest breakfast meetings. “Brooke, you’re sure these heart trackers aren’t also listening devices.”
“I’m certain,” Brooke answered with a formal nod.
“Then on to Vitalie.”
“On to me?”
“I know your power doesn’t work with Ulinthra, and we think she has some time power blocker, but we’ve not until now had reason to use it elsewhere.”
“We should have tested it at some point,” Ecrin said.
“I’ve tested it,” Vitalie said, as if it were obvious. “I can go anywhere on Earth. It’s not easy, because I think that blocker she uses has minimal effect on me no matter what, but like you said, there was nothing to see.”
“In that case, you think you could stomach a trip to one of the common areas, like a shopping mall, or restaurant?” Leona asked.
“I could,” Vitalie said.
“Do you think you could take one of us with you?”
“I could take both,” Vitalie answered. She looked at Brooke with guilt. “Sorry, I don’t think I could take you.”
“I’m used to it,” Brooke said, not feeling left out.
“Then let’s go back,” Leona said, “and find someone giving what we think is a butterfly sign—”
They were suddenly in the marketplace.
“I didn’t mean right away,” Leona said.
Vitalie shrugged. “No use in waiting.” She took off her shirt, and started swinging it around like a lasso. “We’re invisible, by the way!” she shouted.
“Are our bodies just slumped in our chairs, back at the unit?” Ecrin questioned.
Vitalie pointed at her. “Uh, you fell to the floor. Don’t worry, you’re not hurt, and Brooke is carrying you to the couch.”
“Do you maintain a presence in both locations simultaneously?” Leona asked out of scientific curiosity.
“It’s like I’m wearing bifocals. I just adjust my focus to one or the other. It takes less than a second, and I can always kind of see both at the same time. I don’t think you can do that, though.”
Leona nodded understandingly. “Let’s walk around while we’re invisible. Keep your shirts on, though.”
“They’re not real shirts, Leona,” Vitalie needlessly reminded her.
“Look for a butterfly,” Leona continued. “Call out when you see it.”
It was a half hour before Ecrin saw two people give each other the secret sign. They seemed to be doing it a lot less than they did yesterday. A lot can happen in a year, and there was no way of knowing what these people had been through. Vitalie allowed the man and woman to see them, but no one else, so they could have a secret conversation.
“What does it mean when you do that?” Leona asked of them, trying to be careful about broaching the subject.
“When I do what?” the man asked.
Leona mimicked the movement. “When you interlock your thumbs like that.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He tried to leave, but Vitalie teleported Ecrin’s image right in front of them. “How did you do that?”
“You first,” Ecrin said.
He looked around in paranoia. “Not here.”
Ecrin swept her hand downwards, like a model at a game show. “Lead the way.”
“What are you?” the man asked after leading them to an empty storage room.
“We can’t be here physically,” Vitalie explained. “Ulinthra planted tracking devices on our hearts, so we have astrally project to have this conversation.”
Someone in the early 21st century would have needed that term explained to them, but enough science fiction had become science fact since then. While astral projection was not something other people could do, it was a concept that audiences these days would find easier to grasp. “Who is Ulinthra?”
“That’s Arianrhod’s real name,” Leona said.
His and the woman’s eyes widened as they looked at each other. “How do you know this? Do you use your...ghost powers to spy on her?”
“We go way back,” Leona replied. She looked to the other two, hesitating. But the cat was out of the bag, and they needed allies. “We’re time travelers, and so is she. If you’ve ever tried to do something against her, there’s a reason she always wins. She’s already been through it.”
He lifted his chin to think this over, not sure if he believed it, but wanting to entertain the possibility. “Then we have to be unpredictable.”
Vitalie shook her head. “She’s already lived through this day. Every time you try to be unpredictable, you could just be making the same unpredictable choice you did in the first timeline.” She surrounded the word in airquotes.
“I assume you don’t use real names,” Ecrin said, briefly changing the subject, and recalling her time in the IAC, where everyone had a callsign. “What are your designations?”
“I’m Gatekeeper,” the man said.
“Holly Blue,” the woman finally spoke.
“Are those butterflies?” Vitalie asked.
“We always suspected Arianrhod to be a fake name,” the woman now said enough for it to be clear she had an Irish accent. “It’s the name of a Celtic goddess, and means silver wheel. Who breaks the butterfly upon the wheel?”
“No one,” Leona understood. “Not if the butterflies fight back.”
“Assuming we believe you about the time travel thing,” Gatekeeper tried to begin, but was stopped when Vitalie walked right through the wall, and soon thereafter appeared through the other wall. “Okay, that’s pretty convincing, unless we’re having the same delusion.” He looked to Holly Blue, who indicated that she had seen it too. “You mean to tell me Arianrhod can go back in time, but only one day?”
“It’s not that she can do it,” Leona explained. “It’s that she has to. She experiences every day twice. And only twice. She can’t control it.”
“Well, what hope would we have?”
Vitalie then started in on the explanation of what they were doing with the penny; how their only hope of changing the timeline was by using Ulinthra.
The two revolutionaries understood the logic, and recognized the flaws. “What did you flip today?” they asked.
“We didn’t flip today,” Leona replied. “Our biggest problem now is that we don’t know what we can do against her. And we’re afraid of what she’ll do in retaliation. Whatever move we make, it has to be a final blow, because the consequences last time were too great.”
“But you said that was reversed?”
“They’re not gonna reverse the next one,” Ecrin said.
“We may be able to get something done,” Vitalie started, “if we work together. Now that we know about you, we stand a chance. How many are there in your group?”
Holly Blue and Gatekeeper looked at each other again. “Three,” he finally said.
The two of us, and one other,” Holly Blue added.
“How is that possible?” Leona asked. “Only three of you signed up?”
“Lots signed up,” Gatekeeper said. “They’re all dead now.”
“You act like you already know each other. Why the hand signal?”
“It’s not just to prove we’re rebels. We also use it to indicate that we need to talk, and that the coast is clear to do so.”
“Where’s the last one right now?”
“Monarch is our designated survivor,” Gatekeeper explained. “No one knows who they are. He or she stays out of sight until something goes wrong. If we all die, it’s up to them to start it back up again, which they’ll probably soon have to do. You seem like lovely people, but you’re still just three recruits.
“Barely recruits,” Holly Blue noted.
“Isn’t there something else you can do?” Gatekeeper asked. “Someone you can talk to? You said there are other time travelers. Can they help? Can you contact them?”
Leona knew a few people with potential. Unfortunately, Ulinthra never let her touch land, so she couldn’t dig a grave for Mr. Halifax. The Forger might be willing to help? Ecrin probably knew many choosers, so this was a good question for her to answer. She looked at her inquisitively, completely forgetting that Ecrin hadn’t been involved in her own personal thought process.
“What?” Ecrin asked.
“Do you know someone? Maybe you know someone that we don’t? Maybe someone that Ulinthra doesn’t know?”
“Ulinthra has the memory of countless versions of herself, from indefinite timelines. I don’t know who she knows. There may be someone, though. You’re not gonna like it, but he may be our best chance. There’s one thing we’ve not yet discussed, but I think we all know it needs to be on the table.”
“You’re talking about killing her,” Vitalie realized.
“I’m not killing anyone,” Leona said. “Not again.”
“That’s what I’m saying. You wouldn’t have to. When I was working for the coalition, there was a team we came across. They were deadly travelers, and we spent a lot of resources trying to catch them. I stepped into the field myself to work on it, even though I was mostly in administration.”
“Who is it?” Vitalie was intrigued.
“The leader is called The Maverick; his team, The Mavericks. Not very original.”
Leona nodded her head solemnly. “I met one of them once. Darrell, or something. He helped Gilbert go back into the extraction mirror, for his death.”
“Darrow,” Ecrin corrected. “We would probably want to deal with him only, since he can be reasoned with. The other two can be rather..insufferable. But we all have to agree to it, including Viceroy.”
“Viceroy?” Leona didn’t know what she was talking about.
“Yeah, the other one in our group...since we’re using butterfly codenames?”
She meant Brooke. “Right. Viceroy, yes. We’ll ask her, but I don’t see her taking issue with it. I suppose I always knew it would have to end like this. If the powers that be don’t step in, we may have no way of getting her to Beaver Haven.”
Vitalie was totally on board, as were Holly Blue and Gatekeeper, who assumed that was what everyone was going for anyway. After going over some secret protocols with their two new allies, the three of them jumped back into their own bodies. They needed a couple of things to reach the Maverick, though, so Ecrin went out in physical form to shop. She came back with a cloak, and a dagger. She hung the cloak up on the door, and used the dagger to cut a symbol into it twice. They looked like bird tracks. Once she was finished, she jabbed the dagger into the cloak, sticking it into the door.
Within seconds, the cloak started billowing out, until the figure of a man appeared inside of it. He reached behind him and pulled the dagger from his back before turning around. He smiled and shook his head when he saw it was Ecrin. “I bet you just loooved doing that.”
“I don’t love that you’re here,” Ecrin said. “But we need your help. We just don’t know when.”

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