Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 26, 2203

Everyone at the breakfast table seemed really nervous when Leona came out to join them. They were acting like they wanted her to ask them what was up, but she decided not to. If they wanted to tell her something, then they were certainly capable of doing so. Vitalie seemed the most concerned out of all of them. “Oh my God, if you guys aren’t going to tell her, then I will.”
“Tell me what?” Leona asked, less inquisitively, and more invitingly.
“You are wearing your night clothes,” Vitalie began.
“Good observation. I didn’t know we were meant to be formal.”
“You wear long sleeves to bed.”
“Yeah, I almost always do, because I run cold at night. Is this some kind of apology? I know you had to change me after I passed out from the book, and it’s fine. I trust you all.”
“It’s not that,” Kivi said. “You’re wearing long sleeves, which means you haven’t seen your arm yet.”
“What’s wrong with my arm?” Leona rolled up her sleeve. “It looks fine.”
They didn’t say anything.
“Okay, I guess you mean the other arm. I’m sure it’s—what the fuck is this?”
“It is the...Compass..of Disturbance,” Hogarth noted.
“What’s it doing tattooed on my arm?” Leona shouted. She swung her arm side to side a little. “Holy crap, it’s moving!”
“Yeah, we don’t know why it did that, or how to get it off.”
“What happened, guys? Tell me,” Leona demanded.
“Hogarth,” Kivi started to say, “wanted to explore time and space.”
“That’s not true!” Hogarth argued. “I was looking for the Incorruptible Astrolabe.”
“Did you at least find it before this happened?” Leona questioned.
“The compass only led me back to you,” Hogarth explained. “It took to several random points in spacetime for several minutes, before just coming right back here, to your bedroom, a year from when I first left.”
“Keep going,” Leona prompted. “You’re obviously not finished.”
“The compass flew out of my hand, landed on your arm, and...uh, embedded itself on your skin. I’m surprised you didn’t wake up.”
“I was having an intense dream vision,” Leona said.
“What was it?” Vitalie asked.
“It doesn’t matter. So you’re confirming that this is the compass, rather than just some facsimile.”
“As far as we can tell,” Kivi said, “yeah. It wanted you to be our guide, I guess.”
Leona nodded. “Which means it will take us years to get this done. Otherwise, you could have collected all the ingredients during one of my interim years. The powers that be are exercising their right to do whatever they want with me.”
“I’m sorry,” Hogarth said to her.
Leona shook her head. “We all know this wasn’t your fault. We’re on a quest. If it were easy, someone else would have already done it.”
There was a pause for silent acceptance of this truth.
“So,” Leona said as she was seeing how easy it was to manipulate her animated tattoo, “how do I get this thing to take me to the ingredients?”
Hogarth took a breath. “Think about what you want. Visualize the thing sitting in front of you, and visualize yourself simply walking towards it. The compass normally sort of urges me to turn in the right direction. It’s even got haptic feedback, like a cell phone. I don’t know what it will feel like for you.”
“Okay,” Leona said. “I’ll give it a shot. We don’t know where we’re going, though, so let’s make sure we’re ready. Go to the bathroom, shower, check your go-bags. Do what you have to do, and we’ll leave whenever everyone’s ready.”
A half hour later, everyone was ready. It took some time for Leona to get anywhere with her compass tattoo. She could feel it trying to give her what she needed, but operating it was a skill that required patience and practice, just like any other. “All right, I can see a rift.”
“Where?” Hogarth asked. “Right there?”
“Yes. Can you walk through it if you can’t see it?”
“No, you would have to illuminate it for us. Normally, I would just lift the sighting wire, but since it’s two-dimensi—ugh, gross.”
“Ugh,” the other two concurred.
Leona was actually able to lift the cover with the sighting wire. It didn’t really look like flesh, more like a hologram, but it definitely did look a little like a fold of flesh pulled away from her arm. And it was gross. “Just, look at the rift, not my arm.”
“Oh, I can’t turn away,” Kivi said.
“You can seem the rift, right?” Leona asked. “The sooner we get through it, the quicker I can close this up.”
They walked through the tear in time and space.

They were standing in a half-lit room. There was a printer, and an ATM, and filing cabinets. “We should spread out. Does everyone know what an astrolabe looks like?”
They nodded.
“I do too,” came the familiar voice of a man from the hallway. He turned the corner and walked in. It was The Forger.
“Oh, it’s you. You have the Incorruptible Astrolabe?”
“I do not,” he replied. “Not anymore. How did you know to look here at all? Ennis and Kallias would never have told anyone something like that.”
Leona pulled her sleeve back down to reveal her compass.
The Forger pulled his steampunk goggles down from the top of his head, and got a better look. “Brilliant work. Did Fury make this for you? Or was it Holly Blue?”
“What does Holly Blue have to do with anything?” Leona asked. She was a freedom fighter from the Ulinthra reality, who worked to take her down from the inside. In this version of the timeline, she was working with Brooke and Ecrin on a former warship, solving crimes across the solar system.
He continued to examine Leona’s tattoo. “She can imbue time powers to objects, including tattoos like this one, even though tattoos aren’t really objects.”
“That sounds like The Weaver,” Leona pointed out.
The Forger turned his lenses up, but kept the goggle frames on his face, as he let Leona’s arm go. “Uhuh,” he agreed. Was Holly Blue the Weaver?
“Would you be able to tell us where the astrolabe is, or are we not, like, worthy?” Kivi asked him.
“I will tell you where it is if you answer this one riddle.”
This could be anything. “Very well,” Leona said.
“What do you call a white woman at a Black Lives Matter rally?”
This wasn’t a riddle, it was a joke, and a tasteless one at that. “I don’t know. What do you call her?”
The Forger feigned offense.“You call her by her name, racist.”
Kivi frowned. “So we lost?”
He laughed. “No, you’re good.” He took out a notepad, and scratched something on it. “I gave the astrolabe to a man named Hall. He’s currently living in the Bran safehouse, but younger versions of you two are about to move in, so he may be busy packing boxes.” He indicated Leona and Hogarth.
“We two?” Leona asked. “What year is this?”
“It’s 2025. March. Don’t mess with your own timeline, and don’t try to remember what happened to you during this time period.”
“Of course not,” Leona said. “Never. This is at the Ponce de Leon, right?”
Vitalie accepted the piece of paper from the Forger, but didn’t look at it. “How do we get it from him? Do we just ask?”
“That note’ll do. Let’s call it your hall pass. Get it? Get it? All right, get out of my office. I have a client coming in.” When they started to leave, he stopped them, “that way, please. Through the back.”
They took a driverless ridesourcing vehicle to the edge of the Plaza, and walked the rest of the way to the condominiums where Leona had once lived with a young Brooke Prieto. It was technically located in the Southmoreland neighborhood, but Leona had never treated it as separate. She had fragments of memories of this period in her life, but nothing substantial. Her group at the time had encountered a woman with technology capable of erasing memory, and she had never fixed this before Leona found herself being sent back to the future. She recalled leaving to help Mateo, which was part of a large collection of memories she was gradually trying to retrieve.
They went up to the unit and knocked on the door. A man opened it. He did appear preoccupied, but seemed welcoming of the distraction. “Hi, can I help you?”
“Good day, Mr. Hall. We were told you were in possession of a very special astrolabe?” Leona asked.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. He then read the note the Forger had written after Vitalie handed it to him. “Oh, that astrolabe. Come on in.”
“Thanks, Mr. Hall,” Hogarth said.
“Hall is my first name. My last name is Voss.” He must be related to Camden and Xearea in some way, likely a grandfather.
They walked into the unit, where they found stacks of boxes throughout the open floor plan, all the way up to the ceiling. There was so much more than there should have been for a single condo. No one person would own this much stuff, or even a whole family, unless they were hoarders.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Hall said. “This stuff is part of my job. I was storing it here while they converted the Ponce into the Museum of Alternate Histories.”
“It doesn’t look like a museum,” Kivi noted.
“Because it’s not,” Hall clarified. “They changed their minds. The logistics of underlaying a secret museum in the middle of a city were too complicated to be worth it. We’re moving everything to Tribulation Island.”
“Wait, are you The Historian?” Leona asked.
“No. I’m more like The Navigator, but instead of exploring, I save precious artifacts. They sometimes called me The Collector.”
“Is the astrolabe in one of these boxes?” Leona asked him.
“I can tell you which one,” Hall said, “but I can’t tell you where it is. Box 34B-dash-94.”
“It could be any one of these?” Vitalie asked, not excited for the prospect of hunting through each stack. They were well-labeled, but there were hundreds of them.
“Yeah, or it could be in the closet,” he trailed off.
“Let me guess,” Leona began, “slightly larger than a normal closet?”
Hall nodded with a hint of embarrassment.
“I don’t get it,” Kivi said. “How much bigger?”
“Bigger than the rest of this apartment, I’m sure,” Leona lamented.
“Leona, try your compass,” Hogarth suggested. “It might narrow it down for us.”
Leona lifted her sleeve yet again, and tried to work her tattoo, but came up short. It looked just like any other tattoo, completely static and everything. “No go.”
“I may be able to find it faster,” Vitalie said.
“Are you sure?” Leona asked. “I thought your power could seek out people, but not objects.”
Vitalie smiled, and started opening her bag. “Who needs powers...when you have technology?” She removed a small drone.
“Why do you have an inventory scanner in your go-bag?” Leona asked her.
“For just this such occassion, my dear,” Vitalie answered. She turned the device on, and started fiddling with the controls. “Um.”
“Do you know how to program that thing?” Leona asked her. “It’s not exactly designed to scan these products.” She looked at one of the stacks. “He’s not even using barcodes. It’ll need to be able to read Arabic numerals and Latin script.”
Vitalie reached out to hand Leona the drone. “Help, mommy.”
Leona took it. “Give me a few minutes.”
A few minutes later, they had the astrolabe in hand, and were making their way back home through a rift.

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