Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 24, 2201

Shuhana Shenare, a.k.a. The Shepherd was not as easy to find as Kivi thought it would be, but she managed to do it. Shuhana obviously knew Leona would want to speak with her, but apparently wanted to make it a challenge. Fortunately, it was one that Leona didn’t have to worry about. When she woke up a year later, Shuhana was there, waiting to answer her questions.
“What are you?” Leona asked.
“What are you?” Shuhana sent back.
“I’m salmon.”
Shuhana shrugged marginally. “Sort of.”
“Are you gonna answer me?” Leona went on.
“I think you already know, based on what you’ve heard about me.”
“You’re Maramon,” Leona guessed.
“Yes, but don’t be alarmed. I’m one of the good ones.”
“Why does it seem like there are so few good ones?”
“We all started off as equals. Everyone was immortal, everyone was provided for, E-T-C. Then our population started giving us problems, and people had to make sacrifices. A few of us, however, never made those sacrifices, because we were...essential personnel. We were the elite, so as our brethren suffered and died, growing angrier by the day, we did fine.”
“That doesn’t sound very fair,” Vitalie pointed out.
“It wasn’t,” Shuhana agreed. “That’s why we built the machine. We were looking for more space and resources, so we could go back to the way we were. Unfortunately, that led to more complications, and the angry ones just got angrier.”
Leona continued for her, “and you kept the machine for yourself, and never went back for them.”
“It might not have been the right call,” Shuhana said, “but I stand by it. Had I continued with the initial mission, things might have finally evened out. Or, nothing would get better, but now I’ve infected other universes with the Maramon scourge. Rock and a hard place.”
“Why did you pretend to be my friend?” Kivi asked her.
“I wasn’t pretending. We’re friends.”
“But you were using me,” Kivi said. “Are you even a real shepherd?”
“Kivi, every Kivi has made her way to her friends sooner rather than later, but you were different. You were born in the center circle. You were trapped. Even on your walkabout, there was no way you would make it to where you belonged. I wasn’t using you, I was helping you. Yes, I wanted Leona to have the Compass of Disturbance, but I could have easily just given it to her myself, and convincing her I could be trusted would have been no more difficult than it is now.”
“Why do you want me to have it?” Leona asked.
“You’ll need it for your quest.”
The obvious response to this was to ask what quest she was talking about, but no one wanted to give her the satisfaction. She just needed to explain herself on her own.
“Leona, I know you’ve been remembering Mateo.”
“Bits here and there,” Leona admitted. “Fragments of memories, really. I can’t even make out his face.”
Shuhana nodded. “It’ll come back faster and faster, and the rest will return to you once he does.”
“That’s the quest,” Vitalie figured. “You’re sending the three of us off to find him.”
“Four,” Shuhana corrected.
“You’re coming with us?” Kivi asked.
“No, what Vitalie said was just good timing.”
“Good timing fo—”
Shuhana interrupted, “three, two, one.”
An explosion sent something flying towards Shuhana, who caught it in her arms with no problem. Leona realized it was a person she had just caught, and then realized this person was none other than Hogarth Pudeyo...uhh, whatever; Hogarth. It was Hogarth. Shuhana gently set her down on her feet.
“Why, thank you,” Hogarth said graciously.
“What the hell just happened?”
“She just time traveled from...the past?” Leona assumed.
Hogarth nodded.
“Does everyone time travel like that?” Kivi asked. “Looks dangerous.”
“No, I’m the only one who has to explode every time. I’m Hogarth Pudeyonavic.” That’s it.
“Kivi Bristol.” They shook hands.
“Nice to meet you, Kivi.”
“Wow, no one ever pronounces my name right,” Kivi noted, astonished.
“Gang’s all here,” Shuhana said. “So let me explain. There are some things you’re going to need if you want Mateo back. You won’t need them, however, if you don’t want him back, though. That’s up to you.”
“What are they?” Leona asked. “Let’s assume I’m interested in doing this.”
“I don’t know,” Shuhana said, seemingly honestly. “I can tell you that you’ll need the Book of Hogarth, and I can tell you that Compass of Disturbance will help you find that, along with the rest of the ingredients.”
“How would we know what the rest of the ingredients are?” Vitalie questioned.
“Did I not just say that?” Shuhana asked. “The Book of Hogarth will tell you.”
“None of this makes any sense,” Leona lamented. “It’s like P versus NP. You can’t just say that you know there’s a solution to our question, but that you don’t know what that solution is. You have to first have the answer yourself. And if you do, then why don’t you just give it to us? You can’t possibly know that the compass and book will help if you don’t know what we’re going to use them to look for.”
“I don’t know what to tell you, Leona,” Shuhana said. “Some things I know, some things I don’t. Use the compass to get to the book, and see if I’m right. There’s no need to question it. This is my gift to you, so you can take it, or not.”
“Uhhh...” Kivi began. “Isn’t her name Hogarth? If it’s her book, can’t she just tell us what’s in it, or at least tell us where to find it?”
“I don’t know where it is,” Hogarth said, turning to face Leona. “Last I saw it, you had it, in 2025.”
Leona had to think about this for a moment. “Well, as we established, my memories from that particular adventure are pretty fuzzy. I wouldn’t have taken the book for myself. Paige would have likely had it last, so where would she have put it?”
“Use the compass,” Shuhana said again, like she was talking to children.
“None of us knows how,” Leona said. “We need to use the compass to find the book, and we need the book to give us instructions for how to use the compass.”
“I wipe my hands of this,” Shuhana said. “Figure it out for yourself. See ya, Kivi.”
“Will we ever see each other again?”
“In another life,” Shuhana replied, then she walked away without looking back.
The team was silent for awhile before Leona spoke again. “This is the part where I remind everyone around me that they have no obligation to be part of this.”
“Are you going to do it?” Vitalie asked.
“I am,” Leona said with a nod. “I have to see this through. If I loved this person, and I’m really starting to think I did, I have to find out.”
“Then I’ll figure out how to use the compass,” Hogarth said proudly. “Shouldn’t be too hard.”
“You said something similar about the teleporter gun,” Vitalie said to her.
“That worked out in our favor in the end, didn’t it?” Hogarth volleyed.
“I’m in too,” Kivi said after another brief silence. “I don’t know how I can help, but I know I can make tea.”

Hogarth spent half the day tinkering with the Compass of Disturbance, only slowing down upon being reminded that Leona would not have enough time to do anything until next year anyway. While Kivi was preparing their dinner, Leona and Vitalie went into the other room to talk.
“What do you want to talk about?” Vitalie asked.
“You’ve been doing this for a long time.”
“Doing what?”
“Helping me.”
“You think I should stop?”
“I think you’ve not seen your fathers much this whole time.”
“You’re remembering the corrupted reality. In actual reality, we spent plenty of time together after The Warren arrived on Earth.”
“That’s true, but the way my time works—and meeting all these immortals—I just think you need to appreciate what little time you do have. Unless you all plan to start upgrading to better bodies, you might regret spending their final years on a snipe hunt.”
“What is a snipe?”
“Don’t worry about it, I’m just saying that you’ve done more than enough.”
“Leona, I talk with them nearly every night. Astral projector, remember?”
“It’s not the same thing.”
“It’s good enough. Children leave their parents. Nowadays, people are moving out to other planets. Why are you so focused on finding a reason to kick me out of your club?”
“I’m sorry it feels that way. I just...I remember what it was like to be young. I don’t have a choice but to be here. Everyone I cared about when I was your age has been long dead. You should leave, because you can. It’s why Brooke hasn’t spoken to us more than once since the Orcus and Vanth incident, and why we haven’t seen Paige since we fixed reality. People shouldn’t spend so much time with me. I’ll expect Hogarth and Kivi to leave when they can as well.”
“I’ll make you a deal. I promise to leave the circles, and visit my fathers in person for the whole year that you’re gone, and I’ll continue to do that each year. I’m coming back on your days, though. Is that a good enough compromise?”
“It’ll do, pig,” Leona conceded.
Suddenly, Hogarth popped into the room. “I figured it out! And I’m the piglet.”
“You figured out the compass?” Vitalie asked.
“Yeah,” Hogarth confirmed. “It’s not that hard once you get the hang of it. What time is it?”
“Almost 17:30,” Leona said, looking at her watch.
“Oh good, I was worried I kept you waiting for, like, years.”
“Hogarth, did you go somewhere? Where have you been?”
“All over,” Hogarth said. “I’ve been gallivanting around time and space for three years. Vitalie, I think should go see your father tomorrow.”
“Yeah, it may be the right time.” Hogarth started pulling something from her bag. “By the way, here’s my book.”

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