Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 18, 2195

Breakfast the next year was quiet. Not even Vitalie was going off about what ancient film she watched, or serial she binged. Ulinthra had done a lot to them over the last two weeks, but this was the first time they felt completely powerless. Brooke Prieto was the very definition of integrity and loyalty. That she could be convinced to abandon her friends for selfish gain meant that there really was no stopping Ulinthra. She could lose her powers right now, and she would still have the upperhand on the world, not because she was stronger, but because she was good at breaking people’s spirits, and quashing all hope.
“I wanna see her,” Vitalie finally said as they were still sitting at the table an hour after everyone was finished eating. They weren’t even looking at each other.
Leona shut her eyes, and shook her head. “No, you don’t.”
“I do.”
“I don’t think that would be a bad idea,” Ecrin said.
“What do you know?” Leona questioned.
“Quite a bit, actually. I’m over three hundred and seventy years old.”
“Call me when you reach your first millenium,” Leona volleyed.
“Why are we fighting?” Vitalie asked
“I’m sorry,” Leona said. “You just don’t know what you’re asking. I’ve already seen her, and it took all my strength to wait until I could find a bathroom before throwing up. I was her guardian for...well, a long time. While I’ve never considered her my daughter, I guess she’s like a niece. She was family.”
“She’s not dead, Leona,” Ecrin reminded her.
“I know that,” Leona acknowledged. “But I don’t know that there’s any coming back from this.”
“Don’t count her out just yet,” Ecrin said, like a mother herself. “I’ve encountered a lot of people that I never thought I would trust, but circumstances forced me to take the risk, and I was pleasantly surprised sometimes.”
Sometimes, meaning...” Leona invited.
Ecrin sighed. “Maybe half the time.”
“I’ll take those odds,” Vitalie noted, having based her whole outlook on life on fifty-fifty chance.
Before the conversation could continue, they started hearing muffled voices on the other side of the door. Back in the day, this was either cause to feel fear, or go open the door to see who was there. As it were, things were generally best left to happen on their own. Leona could make out someone egging another on with, “do it. Do it!”
Inaudible chatter.
“That’s an order, soldier. Do it!”
“Leo—” the other voice started to say.
“No! No warning! Just do it!”
Ecrin suddenly flipped over the table, and tugged on Leona and Vitalie’s shoulders to get them both behind it. They heard a crash as the door was blown off its hinges, and sent flying into the room. Debris collided with the table, proving that Ecrin had at least made the right call, and had even possibly saved their lives. Somebody chuckled in delight.
After a pause, Ulinthra spoke up. “Uhh, anyone in here?”
“Yeah.”
“Vitalie,” Ecrin whispered. “Jesus.”
“What’s a jesus?”
“I’m overjoyed that you’re alive,” Ulinthra, bottle of beer and all, said as the three of them were standing up.
“As am I,” Brooke said, not as glad to be there as her compatriot was, but more sincere with her words.
“You were right,” Vitalie agreed. “I don’t wanna see her.”
Ulinthra grimaced and looked back at Brooke. “Come, Brookey. You belong at my side.” It was hard to see that, but Brooke did seem resistant to it. She was not extremely pleased with what had come to pass, so maybe there really was hope. “Now. As you can see, I’m a little drunk. People don’t drink as much as they did when I was alive. I mean, I’m alive—I just...” She closed her eyes in a wince, and tilted her head to find out whether she needed to throw up or not. “Sorry. You know how it is. What I’m trying to say is that everyone in this room understands me, and no one else does.” She was sounding more and more like the stereotypical drunk girl at a party. “You guys are my friends,” she said, like it was an argument. They weren’t bothering with any response, though. “Okay, I’ll say it. The war is not going great.
“Cranama—shit. Panama is safe. This is my stronghold, but I have lost territory. Kansas City is a bitch. She was bitch when I lived there. And she’s a bigger bitch now, ‘cause she wants me back. I need an advantage, because my strategy is no longer working. Apparently somebody spread the word about the penny trick.” She stuck out her tongue and mimicked heaving sounds, but ended up actually throwing up a bit. Once she was done spitting, she went back to her speech, “so I’m here looking for an advantage, because my strategy is no longer working.” She left her mouth opened, and darted her eyes back and forth. “Did I already say that?”
“What do you want from us, Ulinthra?” Leona asked.
“Not you,” Ulinthra shouted. She lifted her hand, and pointed out Ecrin. “Her. I need you to make a call, Ecrin.”
“It’s pronounced Ecrin,” Ecrin corrected. “It’s Turkish.”
“What did I say?”
“I’m not calling anybody for you,” Ecrin said.
“I need you to call the salmon battalion. I know you know them. They came to your planet, you worked with them when you were a,” she loudly whispered, “secret agent.”
“They’re not going to help you,” Leona argued.
“They’ll do what I say. Everyone needs to do what I say! Call them!”
Ecrin shook her head.
Ulinthra started tiresomely repeating herself, changing her volume and inflection for added effect. “Call them! Call them. Call them. Call them. Call them. Call them.”
Brooke threw something small on the floor in front of Ulinthra.
Ulinthra stopped and squinted at the shiny thing. “What’s that?”
“I don’t know,” Brooke said. “What is it?”
Ulinthra squinted more, and leaned closer. “It’s a penny. It’s on heads.”
“Good,” Brooke said.
Ulinthra stood up straight, and looked at Brooke. “You’re gonna hit me again, aren’t you?” She did not have the mental capacity to do anything but brace herself and take it when Brooke reached back and punched her right in the temple, possibly hard enough to kill her.
“Holy shit,” Vitalie said.
“What did you do?” Leona asked Brooke.
“Don’t worry, she’s not dead. I may have put a bit more force than was necessary, out of anger, but it was not a lethal blow.” Brooke looked to Vitalie and Ecrin. “You two get her to the couch. Leona, you should shower. I’m having my people come with plastic sheeting, because it wouldn’t be safe to transport.” She looked back at the entryway. “We coulda used a door, but we’ll figure it out.
“Tell me what’s happening,” Leona demanded to know.
“I know you’ve not had much time to recover, and I also know that you’re not meant to undergo a bone marrow transplant while you’re pregnant, but we’re going to need just a pinch more.”
“More for what?”
There was a hustle and bustle down the hallway; the sound of boots.
Brooke started talking to her wrist, “they’re coming. Move in. Protect this unit with your lives.” She lifted Ulinthra’s unconscious body like a suitcase, and carried her to a bedroom as the shooting started, ushering the other three in as well. Two soldiers rushed into the unit, and stood post at the bedroom door as Ecrin was closing it.
“Brooke Victoria Prieto-Matic, what is going on?” Leona repeated the question.
Brooke dropped Ulinthra onto the bed. “The end of the war.”

Leona came to sometime later, feeling groggy from the anaesthesia. In this state, trying to wake up all the way, she went back over everything that had led to this. Ulinthra had gotten Brooke on her side by giving her the cure to some disease she had given her in the first place. Brooke spent two years working apparently undercover, training cadets in Ulinthra’s war against the world, and waiting for a good opportunity. This came when Ulinthra let herself get drunk, and taken hostage, while a team of her loyalists tried to reach her. Brooke evidently had her own people, though, who fought back against them. While they were doing that, Brooke was extracting bone marrow from Leona, and transplanting it to Ulinthra, presumably to even the odds. If Ulinthra ended up on Leona’s pattern, her power would be severely limited. There was still the question, however, of whether any of this would actually work. The powers that be might have taken measures against this sort of thing. After all, both Leona and Ulinthra were salmon, even if the latter seemed free to do her own thing.
The first face Leona saw when she was finally able to keep her eyes open belonged to Commissioner Isabeau Tribaldos, who was the leader of the Panamanian arcstate before Ulinthra took over. She had been reportedly killed in the initial battle, but a lot of people believed her, and other members of the representative congress, to still be alive, locked up somewhere. “She’s awake,” Commissioner Tribaldos said.
Vitalie appeared in Leona’s field of vision. “Brooke said I’m meant to give her this.” She took an injection gun from the nightstand, and shot something into Leona’s shoulder. “This should help with your recovery time. I don’t know what you remember, or what you heard when it was over, but we had a good fight about what Brooke did to you. Pregnant women are not allowed to donate bone marrow. When Ulinthra did it to you the other day, it was wrong, and when Brooke did it again, it was still wrong.”
“It’s okay,” Leona said, sitting up. “I understand why she did it. I just don’t know if it’ll work.”
Commissioner Tribaldos shook her head slightly. “It was just a contingency, to lessen her power. We took the arc back, and we have her. She won’t be hurting anyone else, time powers or no.”
Leona adjusted the pillow behind her. “Are you one of us?”
“I barely understand any of this,” Commissioner Tribaldos said, straightening Leona’s sheets. “I’m just what I believe you would call a human.”
“Well.” Leona began in a hoarse voice, which Vitalie noticed, so she went to find some water. “We’re glad to have you back.”
“I am too. We’re putting Arianrhod in the same cell they kept me in. She should be comfortable there. I mean that too; it wasn’t bad, there just weren’t any windows.”
When Vitalie came back with the water, Leona asked, “where are Brooke and Ecrin?”
Vitalie fell into a frown. “Brooke is coordinating efforts to hunt for remaining Ulinthra loyalists.”
Leona waited patiently for too long. “And Ecrin?”
“We already found a lot of loyalists. They’re dead, because they tried to get into this room.”
“Where’s Ecrin?” Leona asked once again.
“Brooke’s cadets did the best they could, but they were severely outnumbered, so they needed help. Since I’m entirely useless, Ecrin was the only one who could do that.”
“Where is she?”
“She’s at peace, in the other room. With a sheet over her face.”
“How do you know she’s at peace?” Leona asked, angry but managing.
“She told us. She didn’t...pass right away. She said she had lived five lifetimes, which she thought was more than enough.”
Leona struggled out of bed, and stood up. “She was almost four hundred years old, because she had superpowers. Most people here are immortal through tech. There’s no such thing as enough life.”
“I’m just telling you what she said,” Vitalie responded calmly. “I’m not saying I agree.”
Brooke ran into the room. “We have to get you to safety, Commissioner. You two should probably come as well.”
“Why?” Commissioner Tribaldos asked. “What’s happened?”
“Ulinthra escaped.”

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