Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: October 4, 2211

The Prototype powered down. The lights flipped off, and new ones came on, almost like the house lights at a theatre. All of the instruments and monitors were blank, suggesting that this was the end of their journey. They did apparently only need one more item on the list. Leona lifted her arm to check her tattoo, but it was completely gone. The regular Compass of Disturbance was sitting on the floor by her feet. Hopefully the Cosmic Sextant was nearby, because they probably wouldn’t find it otherwise. Vito walked over with confidence and opened the door. Hogarth and Leona followed him through. Vitalie took up the rear. A man was staring at them with wonder, in what looked like a cargo hold for a spaceship.
“Can I, uhh, help you?”
“We’re looking for the cosmic sextant,” Hogarth told him honestly.
“What is this thing?”
“The Prototype.”
“Oh.” He was in too much awe to fully process a machine suddenly just appearing out of nowhere. He tapped his comms badge. “Cargomaster Hargesen to Captain Prieto. Come in, Captain.” Prieto? As in, Brooke? Was this The Sharice?
Go ahead,” an unfamiliar voice responded.
“There’s a, uhh...ship here. I guess that’s what it is. It just appeared in the cargo bay. They’re looking for a tent.”
A tent?” the voice questioned.
“Yeah, for sex, apparently.”
A sex tent?” the voice asked him after a pause.
“Yeah, look if you could just come down here, that would be great. I’m not equipped to handle this.”
Why not, you don’t have genitals?” Okay, that one was definitely Brooke’s voice.
Sorry about that,” the other voice said. “I’m on my way.
A woman appeared in the form of a hologram. At the same time, Étude teleported in, holding Brooke Prieto, and a Maramon. “Brooke, is this your family?”
Brooke went over and gave Leona a great big hug. “She is, at least.” She nodded to Hogarth. “It’s nice to see you again, after all this time.”
“Likewise,” Hogarth replied.
“I recognize you two from The Warren,” Brooke said, looking at Vitalie and Vito.
“Brooke Prieto, this is Vitalie and Vito. Vitalie and Vito, this is Brooke, and our friend, Étude. Is this the famous Sharice Davids?”
“Please,” the hologram said. “Sharice Davids is my namesake, and my ship. I go by Prieto.” She and Leona pretended to shake hands.
“In another reality,” Hogarth interrupted the pleasantries, “you took our sextant before we could arrive, and it ruined our mission.” She immediately regretted saying that. “Sorry, I just went through a lot creating this timeline. From extending that game of Go, to hacking into your liveware. I’m exhausted.” This was all news to Leona.
“That was you?” Brooke asked her. “You hacked my brain.”
“I’m sorry, I had to.”
“That’s okay,” Brooke said. “I understand why you did it. I can take you to the sextant.”
Ecrin walked into the room and greeted the newcomers as well. “Is this it?” she asked the Maramon after she was finished.
“Yep,” he answered. “The Prototype.” Was Ecrin and this guy part of the team that fought against the Maramon all over the bulkverse? Did they work with Smith and Vito? Or rather were they going to?
“She’s all yours,” Leona said. “It doesn’t seem to be responding to me anymore.”
“I’ll give you the tour,” Vito said in delight.
“Go on, Relehir,” Ecrin said. “I’ll catch up.”
Vito and the Maramon went into the Prototype, while the cargomaster was asked to go about his business in one of the airlocks. Ecrin tapped her badge. “Holly Blue, Weaver. Please come down to the cargo hold.”
“Holly Blue and The Weaver?” Leona questioned. “You know, I always suspected that—”
“They’re one and the same?” Ecrin guessed. “It’s been confirmed.
Two different versions of the one person showed up, and the greetings had to start again. Evidently, this Weaver was the one from the alternate timeline where Leona and Mateo met all the way back in 2016. That was before the latter went back in time, killed Hitler, and erased himself from history via the butterfly effect. They weren’t fully vocal about how they had gotten her to this timeline, or why.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for everything you’ve done. Over the years, I’ve—”
She was interrupted by a portal that randomly opened a few meters from them. Leona could see a younger version of herself on the other side. Little Paige was there too, as was Ida Reyer, Slipstream, Hilde, and another Hogarth.
Young!Hogarth hopped to it, and headed for the portal. “Bye, Felicia!” she jokingly said to the other Hogarth.
Future!Hogarth scrunched up her face with just as much fake disdain. “You said my line! Bye, Vicki!”
“See you in the red for—” Young!Hogarth tried to say.
“The moment has passed, it’s over.” The portal closed, leaving them with this older version of Hogarth, who was missing an ear. She jerked her head up at Leona, like a thug greeting another thug. “Yo, you got something for me?” she asked, also like a thug.
“What would I have?”
“Looks like a watch.”
Leona looked down at her watch. “This thing?”
“Nah, man. That just tells time. I’m talkin’ about the Paradox Ticker.”
“I don’t know what that is.”
“You mean from the lockbox?” Vitalie asked. “There’s a watch in there.”
“That’s the one,” Future!Hogarth nodded.
Vitalie ran back into the Prototype, then came out holding one of the special temporal objects they found with the hoarder, who also had the home stone and Escher Knob. “This?”
Future!Hogarth was ecstatic. “Perfect!” She turned the crown carefully, then held it up to her temple, and pressed the button down. Seemingly painfully, her ear reconstituted itself completely. She breathed a sigh of relief. “Glad to be done with that chapter. You have my book too?”
Leona reached into her bag, and retrieved the Book of Hogarth.
“Great.” Future!Hogarth took the book graciously, opened it up, tore out a page, and handed it to Leona. “Here are the instructions for assembly. Remember, there’s a back side.”
The instructions were short, but to the point on how to put all the ingredients together to get Mateo back. Leona flipped it over. “There’s nothing on the back.”
Future!Hogarth tossed the Paradox Ticker in her bag, but carefully laid the book inside. “There will be. Now. It’s been real.” She threw her bag over her shoulder, and gave them all a salute. “Tell that demon in there to go fork himself. Don’t worry, he’s not evil, but we have personal beef.” She took a few steps back, shut her eyes tightly, and sent herself into a temporal displacement explosion on purpose.
“Wow, that was weird,” Sharice noted after a long silence.
“What was I saying?” Ecrin asked.
“Goodbye,” Sharice answered bluntly.
“Yes, that’s it.” She composed herself after that crazy timey-wimey stuff. “It has been an honor serving with you all. I wish good luck to you in your endeavors. Leona, I hope you get your husband back. Vitalie, I wish we had more time to catch up. Sharice, you will one day learn to play Go without cheating. Holly Blue, remember that you are responsible for what you invent. Weaver, remember how influential you are to your alternate and younger self. Brooke, I love you. You and your daughter take care of my ship. No explosions, please. And finally, Étude.” She deliberately faced the former Last Savior of Earth, and stared at her intently. “There are no words.”
Étude rolled her eyes.
Ready now, Ecrin fought back tears, and walked into the Prototype. With no warning, the door closed behind her, powered up its engines, and disappeared.
Vitalie squinted and frowned at the space the machine once occupied. “I left all my shit in there.”
They heard a loud clap behind them. Sharice had her hands clasped together, and looked different than before. She was no longer a hologram, but a physical individual standing before them. “With Ecrin gone, I am officially the only captain of this ship. Now that we have what we need, as do the Vespiarians, we will be departing in a half hour. Anyone wishing to remain here should disembark now.”
“Yeah, uhh...” the cargomaster struggled to fit back through the airlock hatch, which wasn’t open all the way. He tripped, and fell to his hands. “Oh, shit.” He got himself back up. “Yeah, sorry, yeah. I’ve decided to stay. Magic doorways to Earth, disappearing ships; if that’s the kind of stuff the communists have access to, I want no part of Bungula.”
“We don’t call ourselves communists,” Holly Blue explained to him.
“Right, sorry,” he apologized. “Who is going to Earth?”
“No one,” Brooke said to him. “The Sharice is going to Bungula. The Vespiarians are staying here on Vespiary.”
“Are we sure about that?” Leona was looking more carefully at the instructions that Hogarth passed off to her. “If there’s a way to get me back to Earth, that would be wonderful. I didn’t think it mattered, but it says here I have to assemble these in The Constant.”
“We can take them back.” A woman was walking towards them. “We’ve discussed things with our Plutonian team, and have decided to go back home. This experiment is over. Besides, I was told someone really was interested in this sextant.” She held it up in her hands.
“Yes, that’s what I came here for. Oh my God, I have everything I need.” Leona went over to take a look at the last object.
Brooke frowned at the woman. “Farhana, did we contaminate the experiment?”
“Technically, I suppose you did, but that’s not why we’re leaving. We’ve received word on new rogue planet detection technology. We’re starting a new project in true interstellar space.”
“Would you be able to leave in a year?” Leona asked them. “For reasons I can’t quite explain, I have to leave either today, or a year from now.”
“We’re leaving an automated contingency to gather data on the Oort cloud,” Farhana replied. “Which means we don’t have to strike the base. My team can be ready to go within the hour.”
Leona was grateful for the circumstances. “That would be amazing.”
“I would like to go as well,” Holly Blue said. “I have family I would like to see again on Earth.”
“You do?” Weaver asked her. Something was apparently different about their respective personal timelines.
“Yes,” Holly Blue confirmed simply.
“Where is this ship going?” Vitalie asked.
“Bungula,” Brooke answered.
“What’s that?”
“It’s a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri, one of the closest stars to ours.”
Vitalie looked at Leona sadly.
“It’s okay if you want to go, love,” Leona said sincerely. “I’m thankful for everything you’ve done, but like I keep saying, you owe me nothing.”
“I think I’m just ready for the next chapter of my life,” Vitalie added.
Leona smiled and nodded. “I agree.”
Sharice clapped her hands loudly again. “Great. Sounds like everyone has their assignments. You have ten minutes to get your affairs in order before we start the preflight checklist.”
Ten minutes was not nearly long enough, especially since both Holly Blue and the cargomaster needed time to clear out their rooms, and move over to the other ship. Sharice ended up extending the deadline by twenty minutes for them. The Vosa was smaller than The Sharice, but was now just as fast, excluding any temporal manipulation add-ons. The trip back to Earth would take them the better part of a year, which meant Leona would only be on it for the rest of the day. When she returned to the timeline, it should already be on Earth, or be very close to it. For some reason, though, it wasn’t.

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