Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: May 19, 2161

The group said their goodbyes to Khuweka, and also to Avidan, who only Vitalie really knew. Then they went back to The Prototype, and plotted a course for their home universe. It took them about another year to travel the distance across the bulkverse. Leona stepped out and looked at the magical watch Mario Matic had given her. It was showing that present day was May 19, 2161.
Vitalie was just stepping out as well when she heard Leona announce where they were. She scrambled back inside, colliding with Kallias in her attempt.
He hugged her, and ushered her behind him before getting into a defensive position. “What? What is it?”
Leona looked around too, but didn’t see anything. They were just standing on the outskirts of some arcology somewhere. Nothing else was around.
“I’m not going out there,” Vitalie said. “May 19, 2161. I know that date. This is the day that hundreds of innocent people are forcibly pulled up to Durus as it gets this close to crashing into Earth.”
“She’s right,” Leona realized. “I skipped over it because of my pattern, but this is the Deathspring.”
“What’s going on up there?” Vito questioned. He teleported out of the machine, and landed next to Leona. “You said something about death.”
“The Deathspring,” Leona explained. “It’s what caused a second influx of unwilling people to move to Durus.”
“Oh yeah, I remember. What time is it, though? It doesn’t happen until 10:01 PM UTC.”
Kivi came to the entrance. “We’re in Kansas City.”
Leona looked back at her watch. “If Vito’s right about when the Deathspring occurs—”
“Which I am.”
Leona continued, “...then we only have a few hours to find the Escher Knob, and get the hell out of this time period.”
“I am not leaving this thing,” Vitalie said firmly. “I don’t know if it’ll protect me, but I know what happened to my fathers will happen to me if I get stuck out there.”
“That’s okay,” Leona assured her. “Someone has to stay and look after Dubravka. In fact, no one has to go but me.”
“I’m going with you,” Dubra argued.
“No, you’re not.”
“You’re my mother, and you’re meant to take care of me.”
“That’s exactly what I’m doing. Vitalie is right, this is the safest place in the world right now.”
“I’m older than I look, by two years!” Dubra cried.
“You most certainly are,” but I made your mom a promise, and I’m keeping it. We have exposed you to far too much danger already, and that stops now.”
“You can’t hold me here!” Dubra kept yelling.
“I can,” Vito said to her, then turned to Leona. “Vitalie and I will keep her safe.”
“Thank you,” Leona said to him. She pulled her sleeve back to consult her Compass of Disturbance tattoo. “I’m heading this direction.”
“I’ll go with you,” Kallias said.
“I would love the company.” She knelt down and addressed little Dubra. “I need you to stay here and be good. Do what Uncle Vito and Aunt Vitalie tell you.”
Dubra was still upset, but couldn’t fight anymore. “Fine.”
“Where did Kivi go?” Kallias asked.
“Who?”
“Kivi,” Kallias repeated.
“She’s not here. She’s never been here. How do you even know Kivi? Wait, was Kivi just here?”
“Uhh, yeah. She’s been with you this whole time.” Kallias was confused.
Leona looked around. “Kivi? Kivi! Keep shakin’ that bush!” She waited for a moment in the silence. “Hm, she’s gone now.” She looked back down at her tattoo, and started following it forwards.
“That’s it?” Kallias questioned. “She randomly disappears, and you just shrug it off? That’s cold.”
“Nobody shrugged,” Leona replied. “Disappearing is her thing. She spends more of her time gone than she does in existence. Nobody freaks out anymore when I disappear for an entire year. She’ll be back later.”
“When?”
Now Leona shrugged. “No way of knowing.”
They walked for about a kilometer before it started feeling like this was going to take too long, so they stashed their bags under a bush, and went into a light jog, picking up the pace over time. The tattoo wasn’t telling them how far it was, but it never navigated the Prototype too far away, teleportation possibilities included. As a cop, Kallias was well in shape for this, but Leona had more motivation, so she fought through the pain. They would need to call Vito for help soon, though, since the Deathspring was nearly upon them.
Finally they came across the only structure in the whole wilderness. It was fairly small, so Leona was able to walk the perimeter, which confirmed for her that this was their destination. Once she had come back around, Kallias knocked on the door. A man poked his head out and scowled at them. “You will not have them!” Then he violently slammed the door shut behind him.
“Rude,” Leona said.
“Hold my purse,” Kallias said jokingly. He took the HG Goggles out of his back pocket, and held them against his face, which was disgusting, since they had just spent years embedded in the face of a rotting corpse. He leaned down, and stared at the door handle for a few minutes, then he leaned back, and kicked the door in with his foot.
“How did you know the goggles could do that?” Leona asked him.
“When you want something to do something, you just have to try it. If it hadn’t worked, I still would have kicked in the door; it just would have hurt more.”
“Who are you?” the man inside the building spat. “What do you want from me?” He was clutching a lockbox tightly to his chest. “These are mine!”
“We only want one thing,” Leona told him.
He hissed. The man actually hissed, like some kind of mall worker.
Kallias added, “it’s about yea big, goes on a door. Opens any door.”
He hissed louder. “Don’t come any closer!”
Leona tried to step forwards, but the man held up his hand, and she was suddenly back outside of the building, looking at herself stepping forwards, and disappearing. She also saw Kallias fall back to his cop instincts, and immediately shoot at the man. But he was sent back out of the building as well, where he promptly fell to his back, and clutched his shoulder. Blood was leaking out between his fingers. Leona dove down to him. “You shot him!” she screamed back at the man.
“He shot himself!” the man hissed.
“You teleported him, and the bullet, so it’s your fault!” Leona volleyed.
“Semantics.” He opened the box as he stepped closer to the exit. “If you want me to shoot you, I will. It’s programmed to banish you outside of a several kilometer radius.”
“Is that a teleporter gun?” Leona asked him.
“You can’t have it! This is going to protect me from the Deathspring!”
“Unlikely,” Kallias said as he was struggling to get to his feet. “I’m fine,” he said to Leona. “If those are temporal objects, they are putting you in more danger. They’re going to be drawn to Durus. We have to get them out of here before that happens. You can come with us.”
Tremors started shaking the building. “It’s happening!” He scrambled to get the teleporter gun back into his box, while pulling out a rock. “Luckily, I have the Stone of Gravity.”
“I’ve never heard of that,” Leona said.
“Well, now you have.” He pointed to her body. “You can tell Durus all about it.”
She looked down at herself. She was waving and swirling, like the air above a flame. She looked back at the man, who was doing the same thing. It would seem the Stone of Gravity wasn’t working.
“What?” the man shouted. “No! He lied to me! He lied!” He started flying up towards a massive bulge in the sky, as did Leona.
She was several meters above the Earth when Kallias jumped, and caught up to her. “Save yourself!” she ordered him.
“Shut up!” Blood was still dropping out of his shoulder wound, but Kallias ignored it and took his gun back out of its holster. He straddled Leona by the stomach to free both his hands, so he could aim right above them. He fired the gun.
Leona looked up to see the lockbox fall right down to them. She lifted her own arms, and caught it. Then she rested it on her chest so she could get it open and take out the teleporter gun. She quickly programmed it to take them back down to the surface, and shot Kallias point blank.
“Mom!” Leona could hear Dubravka’s young voice scream to her.
Leona found her bearings, and looked over to the Prototype, which was only a dozen meters away. “No! Don’t!”
Dubra was already running out of the prototype, Vitalie at her tail. They were both pulled into the air. Kallias sprang into action, grabbing the teleporter gun from Leona’s hands, and aiming it towards the girls. It was clear that his wound was making it harder than normal. He fired the gun, and hit Vitalie. She appeared back at the ground. He tried to shoot Dubra as well, but nothing come out.
“It needs to charge!” Leona yelled, but it didn’t matter. It would take at least a few minutes to charge, and could take hours, depending on how efficient this particular model was.
Vito ran out out of the Prototype. “I’ll get her!” but he couldn’t do it either. Something fell right on top of his head, and started tearing at his face. It was the same kind of monster that attacked Leona and Serif when they returned to the timeline months from now. Kallias, who was now barely standing up, walked forward and empty his gun into the creature, which was more than enough to kill it. The monster was strong enough to cause quite a bit of damage to Vito. Though he was able to heal himself using the Serif-nanites that swam throughout his body, by the time he had recovered enough to try and get Dubra back, it was too late. Durus and Earth’s near-miss was over, and the former was on its way out of the solar system forever.
The group sat on the ground against the Prototype in a stupor. “I don’t know why we tried so hard to save her,” Leona said. “This was all predestined. If she didn’t go to Durus now, she couldn’t be one of the passengers on The Warren years from now, which means she couldn’t save my life. So much happened because of today. We couldn’t change it, and if we had, what would our world look like? What would theirs?”
Vito crawled over and breathed on Kallias’ shoulder to heal it. “That doesn’t mean you could have just smiled and let her go. The real question is, what would the world look like if we never tried to fight against impossible odds to protect our children?”
Hogarth suddenly appeared from one of her explosions, crashing hard into the wall of the Prototype, and falling to the ground next to Vitalie. She caught her breath, and took the Rothko Torch out of her bag. “You better keep this instead.” She tossed it over to Leona, then something in the lockbox caught her eye. “Oo, you have a home stone.”
“What? Kallias asked. He lifted the rock from the hissing man’s box. “This thing? The guy said it was a Stone of Gravity.”
“What the hell is a Stone of Gravity? No, supposedly that will take you back to when and where you were before you started traveling through time, like a one-time reset button, except it doesn’t undo everything you changed. So, that’s not the right analogy.” She started getting lost in her own thoughts.
“You should take it,” Leona said to him.
Kallias checked for everyone else’s approval with glances.
“Don’t look at me,” Vitalie said. “I just barely escaped going back to where I was born. I belong here.”
The others smiled at him kindly. He set the box down on the ground, and placed the goggles inside. “Here’s the Escher Knob, and the HG Goggles, and some other things that should be interesting.”
They said their goodbyes to yet another compatriot, then watched him squeeze the stone, and go back home.

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