Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 16, 2193

Darrow looked the four of them over, like a man with new money on the hunt for the most stylish motorcycle he can find, with no plans to ever ride the thing. He stopped at Brooke. “Transhuman, but weakened. Your body won’t be able to take much more stress. You will die one day.” He stopped at Vitalie. “A spirit walker, interesting. But you also jump through time.” He looked between her and Leona, and back again, over to Ecrin, and then back at Vitalie. The he stepped away to get a look at all three of them. “In fact, you all possess the same temporal pattern. What’s happened here?”
“Someone transplanted my bone marrow to the other two,” Leona began to explain, “to trap them in my pattern. Brooke can’t experience nonlinear time, so they put her in that pod.”
“Fascinating,” he said in an attempt to mimic Mr. Spock’s voice.
“We need to draw up a contract,” Ecrin said reluctantly.
“Against the person who did this to you, I presume,” Darrow guessed.
“Yes, but not for doing that. She’s a warlord, and a mass murderer.”
“A warlord and a mass murder? I think I’m in love,” he joked.
“Will you do it, or not?” Ecrin was not happy about having to ask him for anything.
“I’ll kill anyone you want, love,” he said. “I would do anything for you; you know that. The question is not whether I’ll take the contract, but if you’re willing to go that far.”
“This won’t be the first time I had to get in bed with the devil,” Ecrin confessed. “Not literally,” she felt the need to add when she saw how the other three looked at her.
“No,” Darrow confirmed. “But we’re a better team than she would care to admit. You see, I’m what some might call an antivillain. I’m more bad than good, but I’m also necessary. This is a perfect example. None of you wants me to kill this person, but you know it has to be done.”
“But you don’t know that,” Leona pointed out. “You took the job without any details.”
“I trust Miss Cardoso’s judgment. If she says kill, I kill.”
“Miss Who?” Leona questioned.
“Uhh...it was an alias,” Ecrin said quickly. “He doesn’t need to know my real name, though.”
Darrow smirked slowly. “I know more about you than you think, Ecrin Leyla Cabral.” He clapped his hands. “Now, you said something about a weird timeline. What’s the deal with that?”
“It’s Ulinthra. Have you ever heard of her?” Vitalie asked.
Darrow had to think about it for a moment. “The Rewinder, yes. She disappeared in 2022.”
“Well, she’s back, and she’s taking over the world,” Vitalie explained.
“Oh, that’s why you want her dead. World domination is sort of my thing, but I can dig it. I imagine you don’t want me doing it just whenever, because she can see the future.”
“We have a system,” Vitalie said proudly. “It involves a penny.”
“We flip it every day that we’re in the timestream,” Brooke continued. “Theoretically, half the time, we’re flipping it differently than we did the first time around. It decides how we proceed. And as you know, we only exist one day out of the year, so you would have to do it one of those days.”
“Fifty percent ain’t great odds,” Darrow noted.
“Can you do better?” Brooke asked him.
“I can’t increase your odds,” Darrow said, “but I can keep you out of it. Protecting my clients from consequences comes with every package. You want to keep her followers from coming after you, you best have me do this while you’re not in the timestream, so your trail goes cold for a whole year.”
“That...” Ecrin trailed off for a moment. “...sounds uncharacteristically nice of you.”
“You may be the immortal one,” Darrow started, “but I’m also immortal, and I’ve changed since we last saw each other. I’m sure you can relate. I’ll take care of your problem, shield you from blowback, and get you back to your lives.”
“What’s the cost?” Leona asked, knowing there would be one, and assuming it would be nothing as pedestrian as money.
“I’ll have to think it over,” Darrow said. “I shall return next year. I like to have multiple meetings about one contract anyway. I would rather you back out before we sign than sign too quickly, and regret it.”

The next year, Leona called Ulinthra to ask for their synthesizers back. She was just doing it to open Schr√∂dinger’s box, but much to her surprise, Ulinthra agreed to it. She did so a little too hurriedly, though, so Leona guessed that she was preoccupied. This made sense considering that her entire point of being was not to make Leona and her friends’ lives hell, but to wage war against the establishment. While she up until that point could set aside one day to devote to them, she must have been too busy today. At first Leona thought that was a good thing, but then started to doubt it.
“Are we ready to flip?” Vitalie asked.
“I’m not so sure you should,” Leona said, still working the problem in her head.
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“It’s hard to explain, but you heard, that conversation was real quick.”
“So?” Vitalie asked. “Quantum mechanics operates at planck time.”
Leona looked at her funny.
“Sometimes I read from your electronic book,” Vitalie said.
“Well, technically a particle needs virtually no time to choose its path, but we’re not dealing with subatomic particles. Our decisions are based on much broader differences that I don’t feel we have. I believe the conversation we’re having right now is fundamentally identical to the one we had in the prior timeline. I don’t feel comfortable testing that, especially not since Darrow is scheduled to fix it for us sometime this year.”
A defiant Vitalie flipped her penny anyway. “Tails. You win.”
Leona cleared her throat, but said nothing else.
“Do we have to do the cloak and dagger thing again?” Brooke asked Ecrin after an awkward silence.
“That was just to contact him. He said he’d be here, so he’ll come on his own. If he doesn’t, it means he’s rejected our proposal, for whatever reason, or he’s dead.”
“Not yet,” Darrow said from a dark corner.
“How long have you been there?” Ecrin demanded to know with a little too much fervor.
“Only long enough to hear half of your last sentence. Calm down.”
“Have you come up with your price?” Leona asked, like an intern preparing to go out and get everyone’s coffee orders.
“I have,” Darrow replied. “I’ve just spent the last seven years thinking it over, and I believe I’m ready to be done.”
“Done with what?”
“Everything,” he said. “Life. I want you to kill me.”
“Well, why wouldn’t you just—” Vitalie began to ask
“Is this one of those things where you’re immortal, except for one weakness, so you need someone’s help with it?” Leona posited.
“Yes,” Ecrin answered for him somberly.
“What’s the weakness?” Brooke asked.
“I need to be, uhh...” he hesitated.
“We’re all adults here,” Brooke said. “Except maybe Vitalie.”
“Hey.”
“I have to be dismembered, and burned separately, with my ashes sent to the four corners of the Earth.”
“Is that it?” Ecrin asked. “We can do that.”
“Ecrin,” Leona gently scolded, but only because she agreed to it too earnestly.
“Sorry, but I’m a centuries old career law enforcement officer. I don’t have the same kind of hangups with killing as you.”
“I know, and I’m inclined to agree to this as well,” Leona said, trying to explain herself, “but maybe we could stand to be a little cautious.”
“I won’t be a part of killing anyone,” Brooke said quietly.
“What?” Vitalie asked.
“I won’t kill anyone, even indirectly.”
“We all agreed to this,” Ecrin pointed out.
“I didn’t agree to shit,” Brooke reminded them. “I was grounded when you met with the resistance group.”
“The who?” Darrow asked.
“This has to happen,” Vitalie argued.
“Does it?” Brooke asked.
“Vitalie, it’s okay that she doesn’t want this.”
“No, it’s not,” Vitalie became more defensive. “Brooke you have it worst of all. We three are on a salmon pattern, but you’re sick. She freaking poisoned you. I can’t believe you’re being like this. You should want her dead more than any of us.”
“What can I say? I’m just not that violent of a person,” Brooke said.
“You used to fly a warship,” Darrow said to her.
“What are you talking about?” Brooke asked him. “No, I didn’t.”
Darrow swallowed. “Oh. What year is it again?”
“Brooke,” Vitalie continued, “you are either wankru, or you are enemy—”
“Enough with the references!” Brooke showed more emotion than she had in a long time, and to a higher degree than Leona had probably ever seen. “I watched that show! That girl went crazy and nearly wiped out the human race! I’m not your enemy, and I am not going to kill anyone. Those are not mutually exclusive.” She stood up, and retrieved the hover sled from its closet.
“What are you doing?” Leona asked her.
“I’m leaving,” Brooke said simply.
“I don’t think Ulinthra would want us to do that,” Ecrin said.
“Well, fortunately you’re about to kill her, so I won’t really have to worry about that much longer, will I?” Brooke pulled the sled over, and tried to pull her stasis pod onto it.
“That’s what this is about, isn’t it?” Vitalie asked.
Brooke continued to struggle with the heavy pod. “What are you trying to say to me?”
“Ulinthra is the only one with the permanent cure to whatever it is she gave you to make you sick. You can’t let her die, or you die,” Vitalie hypothesized.
Brooke stopped trying. “That’s absurd. I would never interfere with our plans to end this for selfish gains. Not once have I indicated that I would do something like that, and we’ve been trying for days.”
“Yes, but always to know avail,” Vitalie said, almost like she was accusing Brooke of something.
Brooke narrowed her eyes and stepped towards Vitalie, who drew back in fear. “Darrow.”
“Yes, Miss Prieto?” Darrow stood up straight, ready to serve.
“Please help me get my pod on the sled and escort me to a vacant unit. I’m not as strong as I once was.”
“Of course, right away.” For a killer, he was rather accommodating and pleasant.
“You can return when we’re finished and iron out the details of your evil master plan.”
“Brooke,” Leona tried to reason, “don’t do this. We have to stick together.”
“Do we?” Brooke asked rhetorically.
Darrow followed Brooke out of the apartment with her pod. He returned a few hours later with news that Ulinthra had learned of the separation, and had no intention of punishing them for it. She also showed no signs of having discovered Darrow to be involved at all, so at least they had their secret weapon. They worked out the details, and settled on a plan for Darrow to fulfill his contract about six weeks from now, to avoid any suspicion about their involvement. When the time skippers jumped back into the timestream in 2194, they learned that Darrow was dead...and Ulinthra was not.

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