Saturday, October 6, 2018

Brooke’s Battles: Beginning (Part I)

Things were not normal in Brooke Victoria Prieto-Matic’s life. She was born on an island millions of lightyears from where her parents belonged. She was taken from those parents at a very young age, partly because of her condition. Her father was a time traveler with no control over his own travels. He and some of his friends had angered another traveler; one with enormous power, who forced them to remain away from Earth. She was apparently, however, not without mercy. Knowing that Brooke would be born without the ability to experience nonlinear time, she arranged for a friend to transport her across the universe in a small alien ship. It took millions of years, and though Brooke was asleep the entire time, the ordeal had forever bonded her to the life. When they finally arrived safely on Earth, humans were only starting to venture out into space. Brooke always knew she wanted to be a pilot, but in order for it to be exciting, she would have to wait until civilization had progressed further. And in order to do that, she needed to live long enough to see it. While a lot of her friends were capable of reversing their aging, or being some level of immortal, or just skipping over the boring parts, she had to rely solely on science. She decided to become a transhuman, and augment her body to survive longer, under strenuous conditions.
While time travel itself was still out of her reach, its influence on people she cared about would still have an effect on her. For almost the last twenty years, Brooke and a team of friends were on vacation. They spent time in Panama, Kansas City, and a few other places, before settling on the Northwest Forest circles. But that was not the whole truth. Also for the last twenty years, they were trapped under the rule of a tyrant with the ability to rewind every day once, then use her foreknowledge to control others. They had not only defeated her, but used a special weapon to undo everything she had ever done in her entire life, leaving the few of them with conflicting memories of two contradictory timelines. She could remember her extended sabbatical, which according to everyone else in the world, was what actually happened. But she could also remember being poisoned, tortured, and even killed. And so her break from work could not be over, because she was traumatized, and tired as hell. But of course, that wasn’t how life worked.
Early this morning, a message from a mysterious stranger appeared on her handheld device, as it did for one of her friends. Ecrin was not immortal, nor was she transhuman, but she was naturally ageless, and presently a few hundred years old. “I am not doing what they ask,” Ecrin said, “and neither should you.”
“Do we have anything better to do?” Brooke asked her, just playing devil’s advocate. “Besides wait for Leona?” Leona was another one of their friends, who only lived for one day every year. She was due back soon.
“Not die,” Ecrin offered. “We’re really busy not dying. For most people, it’s a passive endeavor, but for people like us, we have to actively work at not dying.”
“This true.”
“I don’t care who this is, or what they want, I’m staying as far from it as I can. The only thing that would get me to go is if I thought someone I cared about was in trouble.”
Their handhelds beeped. This is not an option. Please come at once.
“Argh!” Ecrin shouted slightly. “They’ve hot miked us!” She broke her handheld in half. “Break yours too.”
“What?”
“Come on, just br—” She was unable to finish her sentence before she literally disappeared, which was something that happened to people in their world from time to time.
Another message came to Brooke’s device. Doubt will not be tolerated. I’m only not apporting you here as well, because you’re pristinely ungifted. Please proceed to the highlighted route. Your friend will not be harmed either way. Brooke left immediately, and started running.
She only stopped upon reaching her destination, which was a small two story building. Most of the structures were wiped from the surface of the Earth, because they were wasteful and unnecessary. People nowadays lived amongst millions of other in tight clusters in strategic locations once belonging to independent nations. The rest was given back to the plants and animals. Still, a few disparate buildings remained, some to aid communication, and safety in the wilderness, but others were just kept secret.
She had to break herself into the front door with brute strength, into a medium-sized, darkened room. Ecrin was there already, in the middle of a conversation with some woman. Dozens of others were wandering around. None of them looked like they knew what they were doing there.
“Brooke, this is Holly Blue,” Ecrin said, nodding at the woman. “From the other timeline. She was one of the leaders of the resistance against Ulinthra.”
“I was what?” Holly Blue asked. Brooke remembered the name, and the individual, but had never had the pleasure of meeting her.
Another woman began to walk towards them from across the room. “A leader, like me,” she said in a Louisiana accent. “That is why you are here. You’re also a damn fine technician.”
“Explain,” Brooke demanded. The rest of the people wanted to know as well, but in a more puzzled way, since they had no frame of reference for any of this.
The woman in charge turned around and stepped back to address everyone. “My name is Magnolia, but you can call me The Overseer. I have gathered you here because each and every one of you was directly involved with the ultimate downfall of Ulinthra, a.k.a. Arianrhod, whether you remember it or not.”
Someone in the crowd held up his hand, but didn’t wait to be called on. “Who’s Ulinthra?”
“Exactly,” the Overseer said. “She was a time traveler from the past...a shockingly powerful one, who used her gifts to take over part of the world. You all helped rid her of the timeline, which is why you now don’t remember it.”
A lot of people scoffed and shook their heads.
The Overseer continued, “where were you just moments ago? You were scattered all over the word—one of you was all the way on Luna—but now you’re here. How? I apported you here, using my own power. Any doubts you have about the validity of my claims will soon be eradicated, I promise you this.”
“Why do you remember her?” Ecrin asked. The few of them had had the memories blended into their brains, but no one else should have had any clue.
“I have my sources,” the Overseer answered. “The real reason you’re here is I’m not the only other one who remembers. Ulinthra was obsessed with maintaining her control. She sought a number of contingencies, should anyone exercise an advantage over her. One of her experiments involved protecting a small group of her most devout followers from an alteration to the timeline. Their job is not to find a way to bring Ulinthra back from nonexistence, but to continue her legacy and vision for a world under rule. You are here to stop that.” She gestured for both Brooke and Ecrin to stand at either side of her. “This is Brooke Prieto. She will be your pilot. This is Ecrin Cabral. She will be your leader. Both of them remember Ulinthra, and all the terrible things she did. They were both killed by her doing, and have more reason than anyone to fix this before it becomes a real problem. I have reason to believe Ulinthra’s loyalists are organizing on Orcus and Vanth, so you will be starting your investigation there first.”
Orcus was a distant dwarf planet used primarily by criminals, who rejected modern unity in various ways, for various reasons. Since mandatory work was eliminated, so too was money itself. At this point, crime was something somebody did because they liked to do bad things; not because they just needed to get by. They were the worst kind, because they couldn’t be helped. If you were looking for a bad person, there was a good chance they were on Orcus, or its moon, Vanth, or at least had ties to them. They had no limits, no moral code, no guestlist. All were welcome, including law enforcement, because they held zero sway. It was a lawless nation that the current decision-makers didn’t feel were harming the solar system significantly enough to warrant being stopped. Many disagreed.
A man stepped forward, speaking partially to the Overseer directly, but also the rest of the group. “I don’t much care what you think you know about some alternate version of me. And I don’t care what everyone else is going to do, but I’m gonna go.” He started walking towards the door. “I suggest you do the same, before this crazy person gets you killed.”
As the man was walking away, the Overseer waved her hand towards him, and created a black portal on the floor, into which he fell. “I was having my doubts about him anyway. Anyone else want to pass up a once in two lifetimes chance to save the world?”
No one said anything, because though Brooke was confident that the Overseer had simply apported the deserter back home, it looked like she might have killed him.
              “Good.” She took hold of a small, blue device attached to her belt loop, and pressed a button on it. The floor started lowering below the ground. Some of the less-enhanced humans stumbled at the sudden movement, but nobody fell over. “Then I present to you, your home for the next however long it takes for you to ensure the Ulinthra loyalists are taken care of.”
“Is that...?” Ecrin began to ask.
“Yes,” the Overseer confirmed, then went on to explain what they were looking at, but Brooke didn’t need an explanation. Before her was one of the most magnificent creatures she had ever seen. It was the kind of vessel she had dreamed of flying. Yes, it was chock-full of weapons, but it was also possessed the most resilient of bulkheads in history. Such an elegant design, and always underestimated. Lots of enemies tried and failed to destroy her years ago, before the nations were united towards the common good of the world. She was old now, but still looked as beautiful as when she was first built. Brooke actually witnessed her launch back then, and remembered reading the reports of her heroic peacekeeping efforts over time. She was decommissioned after the fighting ceased, and never brought back online, not even in the alternate reality with Ulinthra. A man named Darrow had once predicted that Brooke would be piloting something like this, but had not given a name. Today, Brooke knew that he was telling the truth about her future. Never in a thousand years did she think she would be at the helm of a warship, certainly not this one; the most glorious ever. “Ladies and gentlemen...The Sharice Davids.”

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