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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Proxima Doma: Backfill (Part II)

“So, instead of using my construction power, you want me to use my time traveling power?” Étude asked.
“Why would you need to do that?” Vitalie volleyed.
“The reason the original Savior program worked is because the powers that be could see the future. They would send me, and my predecessors, to save people who they knew were going to be in need of it. We don’t have that intel, so I would have to go back in time each time something bad happened.”
“Oh, I didn’t think of that. I guess I was just considering your teleportation ability, which you still possess. But yeah, of course you couldn’t have done your job all alone. But would that be so bad? I know you don’t like to time travel, but maybe for these emergencies...”
Étude shook her head. “It would get out of hand. In a few days, there could be several versions of me running around this planet. I could overtake the whole population in months.”
“I can think of worse things that a few extra Études,” Vitalie noted.
“It would threaten my identity. I still want to feel unique; maybe even more so because of what I can do.”
“Well, how do other time travelers deal with this scenario?”
“Some just go their separate ways, and don’t ever see each other again. Some Past!Versions don’t even know a Future!Version of them exists. I once found myself in this freaky dimension populated by hundreds of one person. Every time he had to make a correction to the timeline, he would step into this little pocket universe, and let his primary move on with his life. I also knew this woman who wore a suicide belt at all times, and would sacrifice herself, so there would only ever be one version of her. And then there’s...”
“Then there’s what?” Vitalie prompted.
Étude was reluctant to answer. “You can also merge. Most people merge.”
“What does that mean? Isn’t that the thing where two separate places are put together? I heard about a guy who could do that.”
“That’s a merge, yes, but a different kind. Though, I suppose you could argue they operate on the same principle. Where a triality merge—that is, a coming together of mind, body, and soul—differs from a spatial merge is in its permanence, and its existential incertitude. If two people wanted to merge—”
“You mean two versions of the same person,” Vitalie tried to correct.
“Well, I’m not really up for explaining why there’s no such thing as an alternate version, except to say that, as far as quantum physics goes, reality doesn’t consider two alternates any more alike than any other two people. So if two people want to merge, they first have to map their neural pathways. Then they have to overlay one brain pattern over the other, and find a way to fit them together, so a third consciousness emerges, based on equal parts of both. Then the soul, if it exists at all, has to latch itself to one of the bodies, while every single atom from the other body is teased away, isolated, and returned to the cosmos.”
“You mean, they die.”
Étude nodded. “Yes. One person—well, one body—has to essentially win the merge, but they sort of die too, because the resulting consciousness is no more or less them than it is the so-called loser. They both die, and in doing so, birth a new being into existence. It’s not very zen.”
“So, that’s why that woman wears a suicide belt.”
“At least she dies knowing someone who is almost exactly like her still gets to live, and without the troubling memories she formed that led her to going back in time in the first place. To her, a merge is more frightening than death.” The thought made Étude shiver.
“What if you...” Vitalie wanted to suggest something, but didn’t know if it would be appropriate.
“Go on,” Étude pressed. She wanted Vitalie to know she could say anything to her.
“What if you merged your mind without involving the body?”
“How so?”
“Well, what if you send your mind back in time, right into your younger self’s body.”
“Ah, you’re talking about consciousness travel. There are some philosophical debates around that one. I’ve heard of a few people who have that power, and the question is, is that necessarily any different than an extremely detailed and vivid method of seeing the future? We all agree that future-sight does not place one’s identity in danger, so is this any worse? You’re still killing someone, and taking over their body, though, so that’s not great. Alas, it does not matter, because I do not have this power.”
Vitalie was silent for a moment and a half. “I kind of do.”
Étude stopped to think about this. “Well, you can send your consciousness to other places, but not into other people’s brains, or something.”
“That’s exactly what I do. I can’t just send my mind anywhere. I have to attach it to a person. I’m not really standing next to them, invisible. I’m in their head.”
Étude thought about this some more. “Huh. You’re also a consciousness traveler, but without a time travel component.”
“I heard of something somebody called...cooperative magic.”
“That’s a feature in an old TV show and book series, since magic isn’t real. But I know what you’re talking about. It’s when two people with different powers combine them to do something neither could do on their own. My mother’s partner, Vearden went through that once. What are you saying, that I take us back in time, and you send just our minds, into our younger bodies?”
“If we can’t see the future, like the powers that be apparently can, then that’s our only way to restart the Savior program.”
“I haven’t agreed to that.”
“Because you didn’t think it could be done. I’m offering you a solution.”
“You’re offering a potential solution. We don’t know if it would work, or if I want it to work, or that it won’t come with its own unforeseen consequences. I have reason to believe there’s good reason I’m retired.”
Vitalie didn’t know what she meant by the last part, but she put a pin in it. “We should test it.”
Étude looked around, for no reason in particular. “If it were going to work, it already would have.”
“What do you mean?”
“We should be dead by now. Future versions of ourselves should have returned, overwritten our consciousnesses, and it would be done.”
“From our perspective, that can’t happen unless we make it happen. We have to do it first, even though it happens in the future.”
“Okay, fine. We’ll ignore the paradox, and give it a shot. Take my hands, and we shall attempt to combine our powers, and send our minds to one hour ago.”
“No, I don’t want to do it like that,” Vitalie argued. “If only one of us manages to make it through, they’re going to have to explain this whole thing to the other. Let’s do it tomorrow, so we at least don’t negate this conversation.”
Étude shrugged. “That’s fine with me. I’m not all that confident in it anyway.”
Vitalie nodded understandingly, but then she stopped and stared into space for a not insignificant amount of time.
“Are you okay?”
Vitalie blinked once slowly. “Okay, so I was right. Only one of us did make it through, but it was not the one I thought.”
“What are you talking about?” Étude questioned.
“I’m from twenty-four hours in the future,” Future!Vitalie explained. “I don’t know why you couldn’t come with me, but it did technically work.”
“It did? You’ve come from the future, into your younger body, and you have full memory of what is going to happen throughout the next day.”
“That’s right.”
“All right, now we can test it.”
“We just did.”
“We have to test its effects first, in case it’s done something weird to your brain, or mine, for that matter. Then we have to do it again, and make sure the experiment can be repeated, and its results reproduced.”
“That sounds like a lot of work.”
“You’re going to have to get used to it, because if what happened the first time happens every time, it’s going to turn out that I was not actually the last person to hold my title.”
Vitalie was confused. “Who else would it be?”
“It’s you, dummy. You’ve just backfilled my position. You are the Last Savior.”

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