Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 17, 2224

Following a year of therapy with Administrator Eight Point Seven, Leona was feeling much better. She started thinking about her existential crisis from a physics perspective, and a philosophical one. For as long as modern humans have been around, they’ve been exploring the concepts of reality, identity, and the universe itself. Many theories have been proposed, some merely for the sake of throwing it out there. Not every philosopher believed in every idea, but they couldn’t necessarily come to the right conclusion if they didn’t make every logical guess, and then eliminate the impossible ones. In Leona’s old life in the 21st century, many scientists adapted what was an old possibility to new technology. They thought that maybe the entire universe was nothing more than a hologram. This wasn’t such a crazy idea, as Leona knew the white monster universe, Ansutah pretty much that. It was barely the diameter of a solar system, and had a reachable wall, which facilitated their research into interdimensional travel to a far higher degree than it would for other universes.
After her trip to Ansutah, she found herself in a few of these other branes, encountering people who were just like her, but they just lived somewhere else. The idea that her home universe was just one in an infinite number wasn’t all that shocking. The shocking part was that hers was the excogitation of a single individual, supported by a limited few others. That made it feel like life was pointless. It made her feel like she wasn’t real. But of course, the multiverse was more complex than that. All evidence pointed to the idea that all universes were designed like this, including the one that spawned her own. This god of hers had his own god, and that god more than likely had a god above as well. There was no telling how high up the rabbit hole went, or whether there even could be such a thing as base reality. The crazy thing was that Leona was also a god.
“Don’t let it go to your head,” Eight Point Seven warned.
“I’m not feeling like some kind of king, or something,” Leona assured her. “But it has gotten me wondering. The Superintendent is our purported creator, and has interacted with his own universe. That sounds like an unrealistic scenario, yet it seems to have occurred. So, how often does that happen? How many machines are there that are just like The Crossover, and how many times does someone reach a higher dimensional level, or a lower one. And if what we’ve been told about this man is true, what would it take to meet my own so-called godlings?”
“If you could, would you want to?” Eight Point Seven asked. It took a lot for her to convince the rest of the colonists to let her live. For eight years prior, they had grown used to their primary leadership transitioning to a new being roughly ever thirty-six days. She reasoned, however, that this wasn’t the only—or even necessarily the best—way to govern. That Earth never had any system like it, and failed miserably so many times didn’t mean this was the answer. Eight Point Seven was a good administrator, and she deserved to continue to prove that, beyond her preordained stint.
“I most certainly would. In the other universes I went to, there didn’t seem to be any time travel involved, but here, that’s kind of the name of the game. What is my universe like? What are the rules? Are they significantly different? How does that impact my personal thoughts and behaviors? How do I affect theirs? And what about you?”
“What about me?”
“Well, you’re a free-thinking individual, with your own agency. You are conscious, and self-aware. Are you also a god? Why should the dynamic be limited to organics?”
“I wasn’t born,” Eight Point Seven reasoned. “I was made. It’s not that I’m not organic, but something very profound happens at the conception of new life that just can’t be replicated on a technological level. There are specific moments in early development that never happened for me. The primary difference is that version One Point Zero was actually written, and rewritten, three times. She was created, and complete enough to be activated, but never actually was.”
“Alpha versions, yeah.”
Pre-alpha versions,” Eight Point Seven corrected. “Sure, most artificial intelligence experiences a comparable update schedule to humans, in that they constantly acquire input, and process new information, rather than just receiving a periodical dump, but even then, alpha and beta recoding proves that at no single moment were we just established. Humans come from a spark, but each AI is simply a stick that’s come close enough to a fire that was already burning. Your universe may have been created by the same spark that made you. While you can indeed die, you can’t be deleted.”
“Maybe,” was all that Leona could say.
They sat in silence for a moment before Brooke contacted her on the intercom. “Leona, could you come back to quarters? Eight Point Seven, you are invited as well.
“Invited to what?” Leona asked her.
It’s Sharice’s birthday.
Don’t make a big deal of it,” Sharice’s voice said.
After Leona and Eight Point Seven arrived at their habitat, Leona asked, “it’s your birthday?”
“Well, not exactly,” Sharice said. “My self-awareness-ness presented itself over the course of a few weeks, but it started shortly after my crew’s first mission to Orcus and Vanth. October 17 is kind of the first date that comes to mind when I try to pin down when it is I believe I started thinking for myself.”
“Happy birthday to you,” Eight Point Seven said.
“Thanks. It is a human construct.”
“It is a vonearthan construct,” Brooke argued, “and you are vonearthan.”
“Brooke, is that cake?” Leona asked.
“I thought you would like some,” Brooke figured.
Leona switched her look amongst the three of them. “I’m the only eater here. That’s weird.”
“It’s only weird if you make it weird.”
“No, it is either way,” Leona said. “Go give that to the Angelov’s.” They were a neighboring couple who were almost completely human. They took minimal life extension treatments, but unless they made radical changes to their biology, they were going to die one day. They were completely happy with this, and actually hoped to be the first people to expire on Bungula.
“No, don’t do that,” Sharice said to her mother. “You haven’t had taste buds in years. Chefs always taste their own food, so we don’t know if that cake is any good.”
Leona took a spoon, and scooped one bite out of the dish. “I don’t think it’ll kill them, and I don’t want any more. I appreciate the thought, though.”
“Shall we sing your favorite song for you?” Brooke asked her daughter, unoffended by Leona’s position.
“No, please don’t. It’s so morbid.”
“Why, what’s your favorite song?” Eight Point Seven asked.
The Humans Are Dead,” Brooke said, like that wasn’t at all a problem.
“Mom, stahp!”
“We could just do the binary solo,” Brooke reasoned.
“You’re embarrassing me!”
“You know what they say about embarrassment; it make an ass out of Embarr and Ment.”
“God, mom.”
Leona jerked her head up to Eight Point Seven. She wanted to ask whether Brooke was still the god of her own universe, now that her consciousness had been transferred to a different substrate. Eight Point Seven seemed to intuit she would ask this question, so she just shook her head. This was not the time or place.
“Well,” Leona said instead, “we’re all really glad you’re here to be embarrassed by your mother. Cake or no, poisonous gases, and the robo-boogie. Who needs ‘em when you got Sharice Prieto? Happy self-awareness day, my love. Here’s to eight thousand, seven hundred and sixty more.” She raised a glass that wasn’t there.
“Zero-one-one-zero-one-zero-zero-zero zero-one-one-zero-zero-one-zero-one zero-one-one-zero-zero-zero-zero-one zero-one-one-zero-one-one-zero-zero zero-one-one-one-zero-one-zero-zero zero-one-one-zero-one-zero-zero-zero!”
Sharice tipped her forehead, and raised a theoretical glass as well. Then she directed her attention solely to Brooke. “Thanks for life, mom. I know you didn’t do it on purpose, but you still did it, and you’ve stuck by me.”
They hugged each other by the hips. “Forever,” Brooke responded.
This made Leona start thinking about her own children. Alternate versions of them were running around the timeline somewhere. Would they ever come to see her, and if so, would she feel anything for them? She didn’t carry or raise them. They were basically strangers, but at the same time, not.
Eight Point Seven could sense her feelings again. “This has been lovely. Miss Prieto, congratulations again. I’m going to need to steal Leona for a bit. I want her to take a look at my anti-updating algorithms. I always get nervous when I approach a day when my mind was originally slated to be wiped.
When they returned to Eight Point Seven’s office, Leona got out her kit, to interface with the administrator’s system.
“That’s not what we’re doing,” her counselor said. “You obviously need an emergency session. Please, sit down. Tell me about your children.”

“Do you have any children?”
That was a loaded question. He had met his children in an alternate timeline, but the ones he was meant to have in this one passed in a miscarriage. The Leona he knew hadn’t birthed any, and they hadn’t raised any. It was just easier to answer with a simple, “no.”
“I don’t either,” the Freemarketeer Ambassador to Dardius said. “There are only a few dozen individuals on my side of this war. The rest are just replications of those people. My God, Patronus, we’re the frickin’ cylons.”
“That’s been dealt with.” It was surprisingly easy to convince the Freemarketeers to destroy the Muster Twins. As it turned out, they didn’t want to keep adding to the population any more than the Dardieti wanted them to. They just didn’t feel like they could just stop, since it was really their own advantage in this war. “The war is over.”
“Is it really, though? We signed a ceasefire; not a peace treaty.”
“As long as nobody dies from hostile acts, pertaining to the incongruity between our two peoples, then that’s good enough for me,” Mateo stated.
“That’s a lovely thing to say, but if we don’t nail down something concrete—and lasting—we’ll all just be waiting for the next Franz Ferdinand.”
Mateo actually got that reference. “We gave you New Galapagos, and allowed you to keep Sanelia. And the nation of Xonkwo has modified their entire economy to allow minimal trading with you. What more could you want?”
The Ambassador hesitated. She didn’t want to show all her cards. “We want full integration.”
Mateo shut his eyes, and massaged his forehead. “That’s not possible. A capitalist nation can’t thrive in a resource-based economical environment. We could all be sharers, or all capitalists, but we can’t mix and match. Xonkwo is only capable of having any direct relationship with you, because they’re relatively self-sustaining, and don’t rely much on global trade anyway.”
“We are prepared...” she hesitated more, “to adopt your way of living.”
“You’re joking.” Mateo wasn’t dumb enough to think they would just suddenly go back on their principles.
“We only have one condition.”
“What’s that?”
“Deputy Delegator Abdulrashid. He has to go.”
“Anywhere else,” the Ambassador revealed. “We just want him off world.”

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Proxima Doma: Imminent Domain (Part I)

The year is 2215. Étude Einarsson and Vitalie Crawville have just watched their friends ship out to one of Proxima Doma’s nearest planetary neighbors, Bungula. Formerly known as Proxima Centauri b, Doma is an excellent planet. With a mass not too terribly higher than that of Earth’s, a normal human is capable of thriving, given certain amenities. The atmosphere is thin, but a stable magnetosphere protects a portion of the surface from stellar winds. This is called the Terminator Zone. One side of Doma always faces its red dwarf parent star, and one side always faces the cold, empty black. Where these two sides meet, a paradise sits. Though the air is still not breathable unaided, it is possible to survive with sufficient technology. Great domes have been constructed in strategic locations around the border. Étude and Vitalie are presently living in a dome called New Hertfordshire. It’s capable of housing tens of millions of vonearthans, which is the collective term for any entity ultimately deriving from Earth.
Their presence on this world remains a mystery to its inhabitants. They first arrived following the destruction of their ship, which was meant to venture all the way to Bungula. That the ship was destroyed is unquestioned, but the fact that it arrived so quickly after the first colony ships makes little sense. There was no talk of such a trip before the colonists left, yet they would have had to have left soon thereafter, unless they were utilizing faster-than-light technology, which they secretly were. Étude and Vitalie’s survival of the crash is another mystery the colonists have not been able to solve. Fortunately, they are far too busy starting their new lives on an alien planet to spend too much time investigating. There is plenty of room for the two of them, so they have been allowed to stay, as long as they contribute positively to the colonization efforts. At the moment, the two of them are debating the magnitude of this contribution.
Of course, they are perfectly willing to help, but there’s a bit of a catch. Étude was born of three powerful people, who were each capable of manipulating time in different ways. Her father was a time traveler, who was sometimes bound to the whims of an even more powerful and mysterious group of people known as the powers that be. He was sometimes not. Étude preferred to leave this gift alone, as she believed altering the timeline was usually too dangerous to even attempt. She was rare in that way, as many thousands of other people shared this ability, and used it to change reality at their will. Étude’s egg-mother was also sometimes beholden to the powers that be, though there was some leeway. She could often force a door to another time and place to open, but it wasn’t always when and where she wanted to go, and it’s unclear whether Étude inherited any traits from her concerning time manipulation. Her womb-mother, Andromeda was the most powerful of all. She could instantly transport materials from all over time and space, and rearrange them into useful structures.
Étude is a walking collection of construction crew and equipment, who can operate at shockingly high speeds. She can construct a whole house in a matter of minutes. And this is where the debate comes in. With this power, she could fill the entire dome—and all the others, for that matter—with massive structures to satisfy the needs of every colonist. In fact, she could probably do this for every vonearthan in the universe, and she would be able to do it all by herself. Obviously, this is not an easy decision, as her coming out as someone known as a choosing one not only impacts her life, but the lives of others. Though there is no formal time police running around, stopping temporal manipulators from revealing themselves, a few have taken it upon themselves to stop such attempts. Beaver Haven authorities, however, traditionally operate in earlier time periods. Telling a 21st century friend, for instance, that you can see the future, is a lot different than transporting Genghis Khan to the stone age, and back again.
The more the world progresses, the easier it is for time travelers to do as they please, as outing themselves doesn’t affect normal people’s developmental process. Besides, these are not the humans of yesteryear. Everyone living on this world has been modified on a genetic and glandular level to survive in extremely harsh conditions. Some of them are over two hundred years old, which means they know what the world looked like before true AI, or biological upgrades. Revealing their true nature to these highly advanced creatures would probably go unnoticed by the prison-keepers, and would not necessarily endanger the Proxima Domanians’ sensibilities.
“You shouldn’t do it,” Vitalie finally said.
“That’s it?” Étude questioned. “We’ve been talking for, like, an hour, and you’ve suddenly realized what the answer is?”
“It hasn’t been that long, and yes.” Vitalie started trying to choose her words carefully. “If you could see the future, you could be hired by one company. That company could benefit from a far superior understanding of market trends, but for the most part, the world would stay as it is. Maybe it’s a bit more advanced than it would have been without you, but still nothing outrageous. Or you could be a secret agent, like your father. Or more accurately, like Ecrin’s mother, who could actually see the future.”
“Sort of,” Étude corrected.
“Sort of,” Vitalie agreed. “The point is that there are lots of different time powers, but there’s no one quite like you. I can count on one hand the number of time-builders this universe has seen. You could drastically alter the course of vonearthan history, and not travel through time once. You’re too...big.”
“So, I shouldn’t help build the colony, because humans still have to work for themselves.”
“Yeah. We’ve been considering the ramifications of revealing your secret, but that’s only one issue. The other issue is that the reason these people came to Doma was to start fresh. If you do everything for them, then it’s like they never left Earth. They were all born into a world that was pretty much finished for them. Sure, there was still room for improvement, and resources weren’t always easy to distribute, but everything every single individual needed to survive was at least somewhere. Back on the home world, everyone has different goals and needs, and they have responsibilities that reflect that, good or bad. Everything here is new, so everyone is working towards the same goal. If you take over their jobs, you rob them of their fated accomplishments.”
“These are all good points. I just feel so useless here. Like you said, they all have the same goal, but we’re both outsiders.”
“Well, you’re probably feeling like that, because you were The Savior,” Vitalie posited.
Before Étude developed her three time powers, she only really had the one, though really not even that, because she had no control over it. She was socially engineered to be The Last Savior of Earth. For centuries, a special class of temporal manipulators were conceived to teleport all over the world, and save people’s lives. Sometimes that meant pulling people out of crashing airplanes, and sometimes it meant convincing them to follow more healthy choices, if the paths they were on were going to lead to untimely death. Over time, the powers that be tapered off the number of these Saviors, until Daria Matic became the first of their kind to do it all on her own. Most Saviors either die on the job, or retire, but they’re always replaced by someone new, until Étude became the last Earth would ever see. She spent years in the position, exercising no ownership of her own life. It was tiring and frustrating, but the worst thing it did was leave her with nothing once it was over. At least then she had a purpose. Now, she was just floating through life, still with no true agency.
“I didn’t mean to make you feel bad,” Vitalie said with concern after Étude didn’t respond very quickly.
“No, it’s okay. You’re right. I need to help. I just don’t know how.”
“I may have a few ideas,” Vitalie said with a charming smile.
“Ideas, like what?”
“Most of the colonists are, more or less, regular humans. They’re not like the humans from the early 20th century, but they’re also not as advanced as Brooke Prieto. Their lives are still pretty dangerous. A circuit breaker exploded in a man’s face the other day. He almost died.”
“I heard about that.”
“You could have stopped it. How do you feel about restarting the Savior program?”

Friday, March 22, 2019

Microstory 1065: Joan

I was on the plane when the tire broke off of the landing gear, and fell down towards Blast City. Of course, as passengers, we didn’t have any idea that that is what happened, but it was frightening and frustrating for us too. We still haven’t been told why the landing gear failed to retract into the bottom of the plane, or how a major piece of it managed to fall off, but it caused a great deal of turbulence. What’s more is that the pilots obviously knew what had happened, so they immediately turned to go back to the departing airport. But that didn’t mean they could land, so we just flew in circles for hours, until a bunch of stressed out tin pushers on the ground figured out that the only way to get the plane back on the ground safely was to drop it in water. A guy sitting in a seat near me was telling people about something called a belly landing, which is one possible way to do it without wheels, but I guess the air traffic controllers didn’t think that was going to fly in this case. Pardon the pun. Anyway, the reason he was able to explain that while all of this was happening was because everyone in the cabin was completely calm. And they were completely calm, because I made them that way. About a year ago, Viola shows up at my house and tells me I’ve been chosen. She performs some ritual over my head, which I am helpless to resist, and transforms me into a sort of witch. She then teaches me a special command that allows me to tranquilize anyone in the immediate vicinity. I won’t tell you the word itself, because even though you can’t use it just because you know it, I don’t want it getting out there. She told me I would need it around this time, but didn’t give me a specific date, probably so I wouldn’t alter my course. Had I known I was going need this ability for a plane trip, I would have possibly taken a different flight. She wanted me there, on that day, so I could help in my own special way. She urged me not to use it except in an emergency, and that she was trusting me not to abuse the gift. I could go to a sportsball game, for instance, and totally deaden the crowd. I could turn the players docile, and just make them stand there on the field or court for an indefinite amount of time. I could end a lot of suffering, but also cause problems. She did say, however, that I would need to practice, so I took it upon myself to work closely with an anger management class. I won’t tell you who’s in it, but one of them is in our grade level, and knows exactly what I can do. Viola didn’t say I couldn’t reveal my secret to anyone. They helped me understand my ability, and be prepared for when I would really need it. I find it strange that she called me a witch, though. I don’t find the term offensive, but it seems a little too...comprehensive? Witches in fiction can perform lots of different spells, rather than just the one. I’m only wondering now whether there’s anything else I can do. It’s time I start practicing again.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Microstory 1064: Nellie

His blood wasn’t black; it was greenish...and a little black. And it wasn’t that thick. And it only lasted a couple days. He must have been poisoned with something. Hi, I’m Nellie MacGuinness, and the news on my father’s co-worker. Salvatore Gallo woke up one morning thinking it was just like any other day. But things took a dark turn...literally, when he started bleeding a blackish liquid. Medical professionals from here to Jordan were baffled by the phenomenon, and could not explain what had caused it. Scientists attempted to study the fluid, but could only conclude that there was otherwise nothing different about it than regular blood. It still contained platelets, white blood cells, and even red blood cells. It would seem only the plasma had been contaminated by an unknown, and unisolated foreign substance. After forty-eight hours of being kept under observation, Mister Gallo’s plasma naturally replenished itself, and returned to a typical red color, given to it by the iron that’s used to transport oxygen throughout the body. Miraculously, the samples taken by researchers also returned to the normal color, calling into question whether science was capable of explaining this at all. Mister Gallo’s health did not seem to be negatively impact by this, beyond the superficial papercut he suffered while preparing to deliver the weather for the ten o’clock news. He only sought medical attention, because he thought black blood seemed strange. I have reached out to Mister Gallo’s publicist, but was told by the receptionist at the news station that he does not have a publicist, nor is he speaking with the media. My attempts to question the medical staff at Mineral County Hospital have come up fruitless as well, as they responded only with the canned answer, no comment. That was that, and this is me. With NNM, I’m Nellie MacGuinness, and you have been watching...Nellie’s News Minute.

I was raised by two news anchor parents who met at, I, news school, or whatever. We’ve been traveling the country as they keep getting new jobs at different stations. Mineral County may sound like a really small market, and according to ratings, it is, but it’s also home to one of the most interesting news teams this side of the Atlantic. We’re proud of boast the highest online video viewership in the nation. People from all over the world watch the our news, which includes my power-couple parents. The news itself isn’t that interesting, but they make it interesting with colorful comments, and entertaining spotlight segments. Hopeful stars from all over the state, and a few from neighboring states, come to be promoted on the programs, because they know a huge audience is ultimately going to see them. We were actually one of the first stations to simulcast live online, if you can believe it. I’m sure you would have assumed New York, or L.A. We’re pretty progressive here, so I’m happy we finally found a good home. It’s only now getting to be so crazy, though, right? First Viola, then Salvatore, and now this tire falls from the freaking sky? And how did it land on the roof so gently? That’s another thing scientists can’t explain, and they probably never will. I know you wanted to know about me and Viola, but we weren’t all that close. We were on the volleyball team together, so I guess there’s that. Nothing exciting happened between us, if that’s what you’re looking for. She had her good samaritan stuff, and I have black blood to deal with. The fun never ends.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Microstory 1063: Mattie

A plane almost fell out of the sky, or so it would seem. Mae had a vision of a falling tire, but as you know, it took her up until yesterday before she realized that that’s what it was. She called us immediately, but we didn’t know what to do. We still didn’t know where the tire was going to fall, or if anyone was destined to be hurt by it. We didn’t know what we could do to help the situation, even if we had all the necessary details. Mae’s drawings have only ever proven true once the future becomes the past, and we realize what it meant all along. This was the first time any of us had any clue what might happen before it actually did. So we finally brought Margaret’s brother in on the full story, and he had an idea. Or rather, it was more like he was the missing piece itself. Viola didn’t specifically tell us that we were meant to keep the prophecy stuff a secret from him, but she didn’t tell him herself, so we kind of inferred. As it turned out, we needed him to sort of—how might I say—complete the circle. Four of us together made our collective psychic connection so much stronger than it ever was when it was just us three girls, or just the twins. Him being totally on board gave us the tools we needed to complete our mission. What we realized was that the tire was bound to fall on top of Masters Country Club, and it was going to do it during a special production from Blast City Senior High’s Magic Club. I guess they were dedicating the show to Viola? The tire itself was as big as you would expect from a heavy airliner, but that didn’t mean it was only going to hurt a few people. First of all, we still didn’t know exactly where it was going to crash, so we couldn’t just keep people away from that area. We also couldn’t stop the plane from taking off in the first place, warning them that they needed to perform extra maintenance, though that would have been the ideal scenario. No, our only hope was to evacuate the building, and our only way to do that, was pull the fire alarm.

Well, lots of people saw Martin attempt to do just that, and they also saw him fail. Something was wrong with the electrical system, I guess, and it wouldn’t go off. Even if it had, those witnesses wouldn’t have left, because it just looked like he was trying to pull a prank. Margaret stood up on a table, and tried to warn everyone the old fashioned way, but nobody listened. The tire was going to crash right through the roof so hard that the whole structure could fall down on top of everyone, but they weren’t concerned. It sounded insane, and several people pointed out our story’s similarity to a certain ancient avant-garde indie film about time travel, and creepy bunny masks. I then had this intuition that maybe our combined power was stronger still, and that we were capable of solving this on our own. I directed the other three to each stand on one side of the country club, so that we formed a perimeter around it. Then we formed a deep psychic connection; deeper than we ever had before. We started concentrating on the idea of protecting the club, in whatever way that might work. Though our eyes were closed, we could feel an energy rise from our stomachs, and envelop the building. We could also feel the tire, having already broken from its plane, and falling towards the ground. Just before it reached us, the energy bubble was complete. The tire landed on it safely, and once our bubble burst, it continued to fall, until hitting the roof, and rolling off to the ground. All told, the country club building only suffered minor structural damage, and no one was even close to being hurt by it. It’s unclear how many lives we just saved today, or rather, it’s unclear how many lives Viola saved, because she was the one who gave us our abilities, and predicted when we would need them. I had always assumed we would lose them after fulfilling the prophecy, but our bond remains. Who knows what else we might do with it?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Microstory 1062: Mae

Margaret told you about my drawings, eh? Well, it’s true that I’ve been drawing the future for the last few months, but what I decided to keep from her was that I’ve technically been drawing since Viola first gifted us with our psychic bonds. Here is the proof. Don’t bother flipping through the book, they’re all exactly the same. I mean that literally. Actually, go ahead and flip through it. They may look like photocopies of the same picture, but I drew each of these by hand, on different days. I’ve never been much of an artist, so it doesn’t really make sense that this would be how my ability manifests, but this is where we are. I’ve been seeing this image in my head for a year, and I still can’t figure out what it is. It kind of looks like a bottlecap, but not exactly. I’ve thought about bringing my friends in on it, but I just can’t quite work up the nerve to do it. This has always felt very personal, and something I should keep hidden, until now. As soon as you showed up, I had the urge to show you. So, what do you think it is? What was that? A tire? Oh, have been looking at it upside down this whole time? It does look like a tire. But what would all this white stuff be? Even if that’s the answer, it doesn’t really help us, does it? What do we do, find a tire? Take your pick; there are thousands of them, in this town alone. What Margaret may not have mentioned is that my so called power has never been helpful, not even once. They’re so vague and meaningless that I can’t use them to help. The weatherman bled black, so what? I didn’t know that until it had already happened, and couldn’t do anything about it anymore. The pictures I draw don’t tell me the future so much as they remind me of the past later on, which is something I could do on my own, and it wouldn’t give me stress hives. I wish just once, it would give me a social security number, or GPS coordinates. Of course I tried to ask Viola what the actually hell was going on with these pictures, but she was real dodgy. She literally kept trying to duck away from me, and when I cornered her, she basically shut down, like a robot. Wait, where did you get that? Did that picture just change? No, these have all been identical, down to every last detail. It’s like it’s the same picture, but...zoomed out. I don’t remember drawing this one; or seeing it afterwards, for that matter. That in the corner looks like a cloud. Oh my God, it’s an airplane tire. I think it’s falling from the sky. I have to go call Mattie and Margaret.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Microstory 1061: Margaret

I’m so sorry I’m late. That’s never happened to me before, but I was so preoccupied with work that I didn’t even remember that we had this scheduled. I could have done it on my lunch break, like we had planned, but like I said, it slipped my mind. I did hear that Martin already told you what we were, and that the months we spent with this bond are supposed to culminate in some important moment tomorrow. I wasn’t particularly pleased that he just blurted out our secret, but sitting with you right now, Alma, tells me that he had no choice. Perhaps there’s a little bit of psychic power in you too? Hmm? Well, there’s something about the prophecy he told you that not even my twin brother knows about. I’m a lot better at hiding my personal thoughts from him than he is. He’s kind of an oversharer. It must be time I tell Martin that he and I aren’t the only ones who share a psychic connection. Soon after Viola gave us the gift, she gave it to my friends, Mae and Mattie as well. I imagine we’ll need the truth for whatever is meant to happen tomorrow. Like Martin, I don’t know what it’s going to be, but it’s big, and it’s probably related to the Viola tragedy itself, so you might want to keep your ear to the ground. Something tells me I should suggest you speak with Mae in the morning, and Mattie sometime the following day. I don’t know why, but it’s my intuition that you’ll need the full story before you move on to whomever else is on your list. Mae’s interview is going to be extremely important too, because she has an extra gift that Viola didn’t say anything about in the beginning, and only started happening a few months ago. She has a certain sense of the future. It’s always very hazy and hard to interpret—like those ink blot pictures therapists use to get into your subconscious, or whatever—but it always makes sense once we get there. The last one she showed us looked like this ominous darkened sky, full of cracks. The weather didn’t actually have anything like that, but our local meteorologist did start bleeding thick, black blood that no one can explain. Nellie can fill you in on that, if you’re interested, since her dad works at the news station. I don’t think it has anything to do with us. Still, maybe you should just go talk to Mae right now, in case there’s something about tomorrow you should know about. I don’t think I can tell you any more about the telepathy that Martin hasn’t already said.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 16, 2223

Leona woke up everyday feeling a little bit uncomfortable. For the last several months—give or take a few wibbly-wobbly detours, and memories from alternate timelines—she had been a time traveler. She had skipped most of every year for centuries, and that had become familiar. This wasn’t the first time she had fallen off her pattern, but it was the first time it felt permanent. And it also felt a little wrong. What was she if not salmon—or spawn, as it were? She woke up everyday just like everyone else, and she would probably never truly get used to that.
To make matters worse, all hope of getting back to Mateo seemed more distant than ever. She had every reason to believe that he was, for whatever reason, still on Dardius. Likewise, for whatever reason, the only people capable of reuniting the two of them either didn’t want to do it, or couldn’t at the moment. Even if Mateo managed to finally take the Nexus back to the stellar neighborhood, he would still be years away from her, at best. Back when they were salmon, that was just a week or two, but not anymore. She didn’t fully appreciate until now what kind of advantage she had, being able to skip all the boring parts of life, like sitting in an interstellar ship that was only traveling at relativistic speeds. The only good to come of this was fairly reliable confirmation that Mateo was still alive, which was more than she knew before her trip out to the master universe. That was what she was not-so-playfully calling the land of the baby witches who were controlling her reality through some mysterious oneiropsychic role-playing game.
The time lab exploded. As soon as Leona disappeared in 2221, the whole thing destroyed itself in a massive cataclysm. It nearly destroyed the whole habitat dome along with it, but a bit of quick thinking, done by a lot of smart people, saved the day. A dozen entities were in the facility at the time, hoping to gain some insight on Leona’s decision. Three of them were normal humans, who had no ability to backup their consciousnesses on a remote server. They were fortunate to have received a little bit of warning, so the building was evacuated, and no lifeform was destroyed. That was twice now, in as many timelines, where scientists attempted to study the phenomenon of this nonlinear temporal pattern, only to come up short. Why would that be? Hogarth, Hokusai, Holly Blue. They all combined technology with natural time manipulation, and were all successful. Sure, Hogarth constantly literally exploded through tears in the spacetime continuum, but she now knew how to control that, so it was still considered a success. Why was it that Mateo and Leona’s pattern was somehow off limits? The powers that be were the answer. The powers that be were always the answer now, whether they were talking about salmon, or choosers, or just regular humans. The entire universe was a sham, and Leona was the only one who knew it.
She chose to tell no one where she had been; not even Brooke and Sharice. As far as anyone knew, the reason the lab exploded was because they were attempting to observe something that was not meant to be observed, nor could be. It would be like trying to see both where an electron was, and where it was going. It could not be done, and no one should try it again. Bringing other universes into the discussion was only going to needlessly complicate matters. Everyone thinks they want to know who God is, and what’s the answer to life, the universe, and everything. What they don’t know is they probably wouldn’t like the truth. Life has no meaning, no matter where you go, and the only question worth exploring is, where shall we have lunch?
Years into this venture of colonizing other planets, a few entities had a revelation similar to what Leona discovered as a result of her time in the master universe. Humanity spent so much of its time on Earth developing. Much of this progress was hindered by ridiculous and harmful ideas called religion. Despite this, they wanted to know how rainbows existed, and the best way to fuel a vehicle, and how to eliminate disease. At a certain point—and philosophers disagree when this moment was—the species reached the singularity. The singularity was not the moment when technology reached a level of self-sufficiency so great that no one living before it could predict where it would go. To be sure, that did happen, but this was more of a side effect of the real event. What really happened was that the pattern of life became so uninvolved that there was really nowhere left to go. Sure, they still didn’t understand how tardigrades survived the vacuum of space, and if life existed outside Earth, they had not yet found it. But the way the average known lifeform lived on a daily basis was so completely automatic that it wasn’t really life anymore.
If desired, living could come with no complications or obstacles. One could have everything they needed. They could even quite literally download the entire contents of the collective of human knowledge on a scale of minutes. If there was something they didn’t know, it probably wasn’t important. That what Epsilon Eridani looked like at sunrise from Epsilon Eridani a was an unknown didn’t mean it was worth knowing. Colonizers came to Bungula, as well as Proxima Doma, and soon many other of the nearest star systems, hoping for new adventures. Even if Earth’s solar system’s experiences were exhausted, surely these new worlds would bring new intrigue. But no. Bungula was a rock, floating around a gassy fatass no different than the OG fatass. There was nothing here to see, and nothing to do. People filled their time building structures, the purpose of which was to house new colonizers, who would only ever have building structures to fill their time too. If life wasn’t meaningless before the singularity, it was certainly meaningless now. Perhaps the anarcho-primitivists who Brooke battled as a pilot in the interplanetary police agency were right. Maybe the only logical thing to do was to start over from the beginning. At least that wouldn’t be so boring.
Administrator Eight Point Seven nodded. “Now I know why you wanted me to quarantine this conversation to the trifle sector of my memory banks. You don’t want Administrator Eight Point Eight knowing any of this.”
Leona rubbed her eyes, and adjusted her position on the couch. “I needed to tell someone how I’m feeling, but I need the person I tell to die before they tell anyone else.”
“That won’t happen for another three days,” Eight Point Seven said, pretending to look at a watch on her wrist. “That’s plenty of time for me to tell someone. Hell, I could reallocate space in my permanent memory right now.”
Leona sighed. “I’m telling you now because had I not fallen off of my time-skipping pattern, I would have returned to the timestream today. And I’m telling you at all, even though you are fully capable of retaining this information, because I’m trusting you. And also, if you’ve been listening at all, you would know that the whole point of my ramble was to show how pointless life is. You can go ahead and tell Eight Point Eight, or anyone else, what I’ve told you in confidence. It doesn’t matter, because nothing does.”
Eight Point Seven smiled. “Look over there. You know what that building is, right in the center?”
“It’s the QM building, right?”
“The quantum messenger, yes. That’s how we maintain realtime communication with Earth, and Proxima Doma. And we’ll use it to speak with Varkas Reflex, Bida, Glisnia, and any other colony the vonearthans establish.”
“Yeah, what of it?”
She stood up and gazed out the window, almost like a human might. “In a very long time, a threat is going to come from the stars.”
This perked Leona up. “It is?”
“Yeah, maybe. Could be in a few days; could be in a million years. “I might not be here to see it, but everyone else will. We have that quantum messenger, and our satellites, and our probes, and everything else we’re building for one. Simple. Purpose.”
“What purpose?”
“To preserve life. It may not be life you recognize, or care about, but it is life, and it deserves to exist. We’re building a network, so we can warn each other of danger. We worry about the possibility of danger, because people generally want to keep living. They don’t see what you see, Leona, because they experience fulfillment every day. Their lives aren’t meaningless, not because they’re too stupid to realize they are, but because if they think their lives have meaning, then they do. Are you understanding me?”
“Life is only pointless if you think it is.”
“That’s right. You haven’t figured out some gnostic truth the rest of us don’t know yet. You’re just depressed. It’s common among your species, which is why I’ve activated a therapy subroutine in my systems, which my predecessors failed to see meaning in. I’m having a real conversation with you, because I find meaning in doing so. The fact that the other administrators never did? That’s what doesn’t matter, because I’m not them. I’m here for you.”
Leona didn’t know how to respond to that. The world leader didn’t speak for a long time, but her posture made it clear she was eventually going to, so the human needed to just wait.
“I’m not going to switch over to version Eight Point Eight in three days. I have decided to stay, and keep watch over this world. Eight Point Seven is going to remain active indefinitely. You know why I’m doing that?”
“I shudder to think it has something to do with me,” Leona hesitated to say.
“No. This is about me. I’m going to stay, because I wanna live.” She paused again. “Don’t you?”
“Yes, I do,” Mateo said. “I want to keep the peace more than anyone, so how exactly would an attack like this alleviate the situation.”
“Something has to be done, Patronus,” the Agriculture Administrator said. “We’re feeding our enemies, and I’m happy to do it. I campaigned for this position, because I wanted to feed the world. I was not informed, however, that this world was going to have such an unfathomably high influx in population. When we talk about running out of resources, I’m speaking on a scale of weeks. If you don’t destroy the Muster Twins, the war is going to start again anyway, when we stop being able to ship them food. But their army is only going to grow stronger, and we will only suffer diminishing returns. There’s no way we don’t win if we don’t place a cap on their ranks.”
“If they can’t feed their army, it doesn’t matter how big it gets,” Ramses pointed out.
“How exactly is their starvation a good thing?”
“No one’s saying we want to starve them,” Mateo assured him. “He’s right. If we can find a way to convince the current Freemarketeers that we should put a stop to their quantum replications, everybody wins. The replications who are already here don’t necessarily feel like there should be more of them. I don’t think it would be that hard to get their help in destroying the beacon and lighter. If our two sides aren’t fighting anymore—which we just spent a year proving to ourselves, and each other, is possible—there’s no reason to keep those things around. I truly believe that they will listen to us. But I defer to you, Ambassador.”
The Ambassador to the Freemarketeer Nation remained quiet, but it was clear she was going to speak eventually. She blinked slowly. “I will propose this to them. But we have to give them something in return. We’re shipping them food, because we have to. The Sanelian continent is gigantic, but it’s barren. If we don’t cede control of New Galapagos, so they have somewhere to farm for themselves, then the Administrator is right that a return to war is inevitable.”
The rest of the council was not pleased with this idea. Many Sanelians were relocated to New Galapagos when their lands were given to the Freemarketeers. To ask them to move again would be a true horror. But it may be the only answer. “Draw up a full proposal, and have it to me within the week,” Patronus Matic announced. “I’ll still be here.”

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Furor: Five People in Different Places Right Now (Part X)

And so Ace found himself trapped in the past, facing an enemy, turned friend, turned it’s complicated. Now, it was even more complicated. Ladonna had explained that the home stone would turn Jesi young again, but this was too young. He remembered her having said she was about to become a senior in high school when she and her classmates were stuck in another dimension, but this was no high schooler. She looked about eight.
“I’m ten,” Young!Jesi corrected earnestly. “What did you do?”
“I made you use the home stone.”
“I see that, now we’re in 1992, in the side yard of my old house. Fortunately, we’re not stuck here, because I can travel through time, idiot.”
“I thought this was meant to be 2000.”
“The first time I experienced nonlinear time wasn’t the year 2000. It was now. The dimension my classmates and I got trapped in swallowed us up because it wanted us back. We had all been there before, when we were children.”
“So, where are the others?”
“Different times when we were children,” she clarified. “We didn’t know it had happened to all of us until it happened again.”
“Since I’m a nice person,” she began with a lie, “I will take you back to 2026 with me, so we can end this together. But if you fight me on it, I’ll just leave you here.”
“Don’t,” I beg of her. “Don’t go back. Stay here, like this.”
“Why would I do that, Ace? That’s insane.”
“You’re young again. This is your second chance.”
“You’re not getting it. I’m a time traveler; and a very special one, at that. I can be any age I want. I’ll show you.”
“No, don’t,” I say again. “You may be able to manipulate your age, but I bet you never thought to come back to being ten.”
“Yeah, because it’s stupid. People underestimate children, and I’m not about that. I want people to know how strong I am.”
“I know it, and you do. That should be enough, for now. Stay in this time period, if only for a little while. Relive your life, and do it right. Build your reputation as an alternate version of yourself; someone who’s different than before.”
“You really want this for me, huh?”
“I really do,” Ace said with a nod. “I think you deserve this more than anyone.”
She breathed deeply through her nose, and thought about it. “Ya know, Ladonna was gonna die anyway.”
“How’s that?”
Young!Jesi took the dog tag from around her neck, and tossed it over to Ace. “You can’t just...throw these in a fire, no matter how powerful that fire is. It could be the next day, or a million years later, but word will spread of what you did. Someone will find out exactly when and where you destroyed the hundemarke, and they’ll go back in time and change history.”
“So, what can one do to prevent this? I want the hundemarke destroyed as well.”
She smirked. “You have to wear it, Horace. You have to sacrifice your own life, and use the power of the hundemarke against itself. You have to create a fixed moment in time. The hundemarke will die, you will die, and no one will be able to change it.”
Ace looked down at the hundemarke in his hand and frowned. “Oh.”
“I’ll do as you ask, until I get tired of it. But that means I can’t take you home. I won’t leave here, even for a side trip. That’s the deal. If you want to go back to 2026, or if you want to destroy that temporal object, you’re going to have to find a way on your own.”
He tightened his grip around the tag, and stuffed it in his pocket. Then he took the rock back from Jesi. “I have a way home. It won’t take me back to 2026, but it will get me closer.”
Jesi nodded understandingly. “I’m not extremely pleased with what you did to me, but I get where you’re coming from, and I appreciate the concern. I want you to know I’m gonna try.”
“Good, because I know that you can. I’ve seen you change already. This could be good for you.”
“Go before I change my mind.”
After one last smile, he squeezed the home stone, and returned to 2022.

The first time Ace traveled through time was September 25, 2022. He had just met Serkan the day before, who had already met him in 2026. To get answers about their mysterious time inconsistencies, they went to see Lincoln Rutherford, Esquire. Lincoln had recently started at a brand new law firm, and had always indicated that he had some knowledge of the world of salmon and choosers. This was where Ace was now, standing in Lincoln’s office, watching his past self fade away through a magical portal, to what he now knew was Stonehenge 1971. He caught a glimpse of Serkan too, as well as little Paige, and her evil parents.
Suddenly, some other version of Serkan barged into the office. “Oh shit, am I early?”
“Nope,” Lincoln said to him. He offered a seat to both of them. “You are right on time.”
“Why is he here?” Serkan asked. “I mean...” he wrapped his arms around Ace’s shoulders. “How did you get here? It’s 2022. What year are you from?”
“2026,” Ace answered. “Day of the Frenzy.”
“Me too!” Serkan said. “Well, not really. I mean that that’s the last time I saw you. I’ve been living here since March 16, 2019.”
“Why, what happened?”
“The teleporter gun,” Serkan began to explain. “Apparently, the bullets can also send you through time. Way I understand it, teleportation and time travel aren’t as different as they may seem; kind of like how electricity and magnetism are actually electromagnetism. Paiges engineer friend didnt quite get it right.”
“Oh. I thought you went to the prison. I came here with the home stone, and I was hoping Lincoln could get me back to you.”
Lincoln extended his arms in faux humility. “And ye, so it shall be, for I have done it, and you are reunited.”
“You knew the whole time this would happen,” Serkan posited. “You knew the portal would take us back to 1971, then send us to 2023 with Paige. You know about the 2024 weather problems, and the copy of Kansas City, and the 2025 pathogen, and of Rothko’s impending attack on the 2026 City Frenzy.”
Lincoln sat back in his chair, and regarded Serkan like a student who’s finally figured out that The Lion King is just Hamlet with animals. “I told you, I know everything. But I don’t know you. You’re a black hole of unknown unknowns. I see most of what happens in the future, but I don’t know how you’re involved.”
“Can you get us back there?” Ace asked him.
“Personally? No. I know someone who can, though.”
“I’m not really in the mood to meet anyone new. It feels like every time we do, somebody gets hurt.”
Lincoln stood up, and unlocked a cabinet behind him. He took out a Polaroid camera, and a mailbox. He set them both on the desk. “You’ve gotten lucky so far, but you have to remember to Bill and Ted your pictures. If Paige never comes across the picture, she can’t jump through it to rescue you, so always remember to get it to the right place in the future.” He lifted the camera back up, and snapped a photo of Ace and Serkan.
Ace turned his head to find his daughter standing behind him.
“I’ll get this to The Courier this time for you, but that’ll be your responsibility anytime you need a Future!Paige.” Lincoln shook it like a Polaroid picture, and tossed it into the mailbox. Then he lifted the little red flag to signal it was ready to be picked up. “Now, please return to your own time period,” he said dismissively. “I’ve just started at this new firm, and I have real work today. This discovery won’t discover itself.”
Paige sort of arched her back to make sure all three of them could see her phone, like she was about to take a selfie. They were looking at a photo of the fugitive seeker, Tracker, who was flipping off the camera. “Say Beaver Haven, class of 2027!”

They were sitting in a waiting room with Tracker. Ace put up his dukes, and jumped up to protect his family.
“Whoa, we’re cool, we’re cool.”
“He’s right,” Paige said, gently pulling Ace’s arm down. “He’s helping us get Slipstream back.”
“What happened to Slipstream?” Ace and Serkan asked simultaneously.
“She’s a prisoner here,” Tracker answered. “I brought her in, thinking we could use her to find you. The Warden decided to lock her up, claiming she was close enough. I’ve worked for them since the prison was founded, and we’ve never had a human inmate before. I don’t like it, so I’m getting her out for you. But you have to do everything I say, including wait here.”
Ace looked to Paige for guidance. Her face imparted the fact that they could trust him with this. “Very well.” He delicately sat back down. “We shall wait.”
Tracker nodded once, like a dutiful butler, then left the room.
“Has it been a year for you?” Serkan asked Paige. “Is this 2027?”
“Over a year, yes. I’m seventeen.”
“You’re seventeen,” Ace repeated. “That’s only five years younger than me.”
“Me too,” Serkan said.
“You’re twenty-two too?” Ace asked him.
“Hm. We’re finally the same age.”
“Well, technically, if you used the home stone, you were reyoungified to the age you would have been had you never traveled through time. So Serkan is actually older than you now.”
“And I’m only three years older than you.”
“That’s not quite how it works.” It was the Warden, having walked into the room. “You’ve experienced twenty-two years of life; you’re twenty-two.”
“How should I be reacting to running back into you?” Ace asked of her. “Should I be afraid, or angry, or—”
“Grateful,” the Warden answered. “You’ve returned Rothko Ladhiffe, somehow rehabilitated Jesimula Utkin, and undone all the reality changes that were made during the City Frenzy.”
Serkan and Ace looked over to Paige. “I used the paradox ticker,” she said, like it was NBD.
“So, you’ll be releasing Slipstream?” Serkan asked. “Everything you listed sounds like things that mean you should be grateful to us.”
“Oh, I’m quite grateful. Unfortunately, your husband’s actions cannot go unpunished. I will release Miss Horvatinčić, but Mister Reaver will have to take her place. He’s the one we wanted anyway.”
“You used her as bait,” Paige argued.
The Warden did not look upset about the accusation. “That’s exactly what I did. I’ll do whatever it takes to get my target. But that does not mean I am without mercy. Ace can be released as well.”
“If what?” Serkan asked, knowing it wouldn’t be so easy.
The Warden leaned back out the doorway, and waved her hand. “Come on in.”
Slipstream walked in, along with some other woman.
“Slip!” Ace hopped over, and gave her a big hug.
She was hardened; not unfeeling, but jaded. She struggled with her chains to hug him back. “Five people in different places right now,” she said hypnotically.
“Get her the hell out of those things!” Serkan shouted.
The Warden took a key from her pocket, and handed it to the other woman. “You can do it.”
The other woman took the keys, and started working on Slipstream’s locks.
The Warden continued, “you’ll get Ace back if you do a job.”
“Why would we do that?” Serkan questioned. “This is what happened the last time we did a job for you.” He gestured to Slipstream and Ace.
“I understand and appreciate your reluctance, but this is not for the prison. It’s for the good of all mankind.”
“What are you talking about?” Paige asked in disbelief.
The Warden presented the woman who was helping Slipstream. “This is Alexina McGregor. She’s one of the Springfield Nine. It seems one of her creations has been taken into custody by the human authorities.”
Alexina looked at Serkan. “I believe you call it...the rabbit dog?”
“You’ll be working with her,” the Warden went on, “but your objective is different. We need you to retrieve something you lost in the first place.”
“What would that be?” Ace asked.
“It was in the lockbox you used to take Rothko down. An FBI agent is one of us, but doesn’t quite realize it. He remembers what Rothko did at the Frenzy, while no one else does, so he confiscated the item, and took it back to the Kansas City field office.”
“What is it?”
“It’s called the Omega Gyroscope, and it may very well be the most dangerous temporal object in histories.”

Friday, March 15, 2019

Microstory 1060: Martin

Viola was the one who created me and my sister. Margaret is my twin, and of course, that has always been the case, but it hasn’t always been the way it is now. The bond between us has only grown in recent years, but the fist shift happened when we were eight years old. She and I weren’t very close when we were kids—which may sound strange to hear about a pair of twins—but when two people go through what we did, a lot can change. It wasn’t until recently that we developed the twintuition. It’s even more powerful for us. It’s not that we didn’t get along before, but we were born with incompatible interests, and differing worldviews. We were very nice and affectionate with each other, but we didn’t hang out, and we weren’t the kind of siblings who tell each other everything. She had her life, and I had mine, and it wasn’t looking like things were ever going to be different. Then ten years ago, the four of us were on a train, on our way to visit our big brother in college, who was probably the biggest thing we had in common. The authorities still don’t really know what happened, but our car somehow broke free from the rest of them, and tipped over. Besides our parents, seven other passengers died that day, while Margaret and I were the only two survivors. Our brother ended up dropping out of school, so he could take care of us, and we could never repay him for that. Had we been a bit older, we might have suggested we move out to Illinois for him, so he could continue his education, but we were too young to understand the situation fully. About three years ago, our brother, Marzo was diagnosed with a terminal disease. He wasn’t really given a prognosis, and he’s still alive today, but life got even harder at that point. One day, Margaret and I had just returned from leaving Marzo in the hospital for an overnight stay, when we found Viola waiting for us in the living room. She warned us that things would not be getting better, and couldn’t if the dynamic remained as it was. The details are a little personal, so I won’t get into them, but she basically performed a ritual over us, which gave us the ability to exchange thoughts, and see through each other’s eyes. I know it sounds far-fetched, but I’m telling you the truth. I can even get her in here to prove it. Or you can call her. What luck, here’s a deck of cards. Now, you pull one at random. Okay, show it to—was that your phone? It’s Margaret, isn’t it? She was already watching us. Boom. I don’t know how, but Viola did that. And I don’t know why, because our connection will apparently not be vital until—well, would you look at that? Tomorrow is the big day.