Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Microstory 1092: Sidney

My mother worked her whole life on the farm, while my father worked there for most of it. He was a ranch hand when they met, and he was looked down upon, because he was so much older. They didn’t start dating until she turned sixteen, and didn’t get married until she was eighteen. Love is love. For all the sex positive messages people these days keep trying to spin, they sure don’t think it’s right my dad happened to be an adult when he met the girl he would only one day end up happening to marry. Nothing happened when she was five. Anyway, our lives have been pretty tough, so you can’t blame me for trying to make it better. Farming is a dying industry. People are only interested in eating organic, free from pesticides, and grown in laboratories. Ugh, it disgusts me. Who cares how much wilderness we destroyed to accommodate our pigs, and who cares how many hormones are in our milk? If it tastes good, and it keeps you alive, what more could you possibly want? I tell you, this world is going to hell, and we’re being forced to go along with it. We had to literally sell the farm, so we wouldn’t starve to death. Where was Viola then? She’s helped everyone else in town, but somehow we’re not worthy? Am I supposed to feel bad for her? I’m not happy she’s dead, and I think it was a tragedy, but she shouldn’t have gotten in the way. My God, why did I just tell you that? I mean, we had nothing to do with her death—except that we did. Why can’t I lie? I mean, I’m not lying. Or, I mean...I am lying, because we’re not not responsible for her death. Christ on the cross, this is ridiculous. You did something to me. You’re making me confess to something I didn’t not do. There I go again. You’re just like Viola and Homer, aren’t you? You’re one of them. I can’t believe I agreed to this interview. I should have known you could control what I say, like a freak. No, I couldn’t have known, but Homer should have warned me. He agreed to protect us if we helped him. Sure, we didn’t succeed, because like I said, Viola got in the way. But that wasn’t our fault; we’re not the ones who can do magic. We have to find a way to make it up to him, and complete the ritual. If Gertrude and Maud are no longer viable candidates, then we need to find someone who is. I’m leaving, and I’m warning all my friends about what you can do, so don’t even try to use your magic to get them to talk. Not all of them are as strong-willed and disciplined as me. Goddamn, I didn’t mean to tell you that. Get away from me!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Microstory 1091: Maud

My name is Maud Benson, and I am not innocent in all this, but I did not kill Viola Woods. Welcome to jail, Alma. I hope they’re treating you well. I certainly can’t say the same for me. I’ve been in here for months, awaiting trial, knowing that I should not be here. This crime totally freaked out the town’s local law enforcement. They watch a lot of television, and were worried about the feds coming through and taking over, so they were real motivated to find someone to book for it. I’m not saying they didn’t do a thorough investigation, because the reality is I have no clue what they did. All I know is that they picked me up the day her body was found down creek, and held me until they thought they had sufficient evidence to arrest me officially. They’re not incompetent, but they’re scared, yet I can’t sit here, and honestly tell you that they had no reason to suspect me. I was there that day, and unlike Gertrude, I remember everything that happened to us. First of all, I wanna talk a little bit about me and Viola. I know what she was, but I didn’t always. Once she turned five, she started using her amazing gifts to help people. She would always stay pretty close, but not too close, to Blast City. She didn’t want to be too far from her family, but she didn’t want to be recognized either. She was wise to begin with easy missions, so she would know what she was doing by the time she got older, and they started getting more dangerous. Her parents realized early on that there was nothing they could do to stop her. She was destined to do this, and when she told them she knew for a fact she wasn’t going to get hurt, they believed her, because she had long ago proven herself to know a lot more than a normal child her age should; or anyone, for that matter. But at her seventh birthday farm party, which I attended, they sat her down and told her that she needed to take a break. They were worried, not that she wasn’t being safe and careful, but that she wasn’t enjoying her life. If she spent all her time only trying to help others, she could lose sight of why it was good to help them at all. They said on the day after her eighth birthday, she could resume her duties, if she felt so inclined. This was, I guess, like one of those soul-searching adventures that Amish people go on, to decide if they want to stay in the city, or go back home.

Welp, she needed a guide, and I was the most obvious choice, because I was one of a handful of her peers who had any clue what she was up to. I actually hadn’t know anything about it until the party, and accidentally overheard their conversation. Looking back, I probably wouldn’t have believed any of it if I hadn’t been so young and impressionable. I taught her how to be a kid, and ignore all the terrible things that were happening in the world. She couldn’t completely shut off her absorption of the world’s troubles, but I helped her learn to filter out all but one at a time. She couldn’t be in two places at once, so there was no point in her dwelling on all the missions she would never be capable of even attempting. If you think FOMO is bad, you should walk a meter in Viola’s shoes. It would drive you insane. Harriet and Clarence would go on to serve these kinds of roles more permanently, and in a more official capacity, but I was her first true friend. I would have never killed her, even if she had asked me to. There were a number of times where she would give me a little job, and it was oftentimes really weird out of context, but it would always make sense in the end. But there are some lines you don’t cross, and though I can imagine a world where she knew she was going to die, and in fact, thought she had to die, but I wouldn’t have allowed myself to assist her with that. It may seem random of me to even volunteer that information at all, but when you start interviewing all the other kids that were at the creek that day, they’re gonna do everything to make you think I was at fault. Some may say I did it maliciously, but most will probably just claim I thought I was doing the right thing. I am here to set the record straight before those creatures have the chance to fill your head with their lies. Here’s what really happened that awful day—

[Reporter’s note: Maud Benson was escorted back to her cell the moment she opened her mouth to reveal her truth regarding the day of Viola’s death; suggestive of a cover-up at the police station. They have not allowed me to continue my interview with her since, but I will go on with this series—with discerning skepticism—and update if I speak with Maud again.]

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 22, 2229

While Mateo was gone, Greer Thorpe managed to alter the time bubble, so that the entire continent of Comron was experiencing real-time, while the rest of the universe was moving at an incredibly slow rate. Some Maramon warriors and spies were free on Comron, and some human prisoners were stuck on the other side, but this was never going to be an easy or perfect fix. The idea was to give a few smart people enough time to come up with something more permanent, so that eleven billion humans would survive. As for the outliers, they would have to deal with that later. Serif was spending her day mulling over some plans for rescue missions, but they would not be practical until the majority of refugees were all the way in the Gatewood cylinders.
Mateo had nothing to do. A better man might be able to contribute significantly until the timejump, but he wasn’t qualified to help with anything. Leona could do more in one day than many engineers could in a year, but Mateo was useless in the attempt to expand the power of the Muster Lighter. He had new experience as a world leader, but Ramses and Goswin were already working on that. He decided he would just wander the primary centrifugal cylinder, and see what was out there. He couldn’t get too comfortable, though, because every time he tried that in the past, some new enemy reared his or her head. So far, so good; this place was beautiful. And impressively expansive. They said it could hold nearly three billion people.
He went up to the platform on top of one of the gigantic megastructures; a design adopted from the ones built on Earth. He then stepped onto the automated train, and asked it to take him on the scenic route. All the arcs looked exactly the same, but they were surrounded by majestic vegetation. This was basically an entire continent in cylindrical form, and possibly the coolest thing Mateo had ever seen. He was enjoying his solitude, which he hadn’t felt in decades, when he noticed some light coming from one of the living units in a tower down below. He instructed the train to stop, then carefully made his way towards the light. It was pretty difficult figuring out exactly which unit he was looking for, but he eventually did, and knocked on the door.
The person who opened the door was none other than...someone he did not recognize. She was even more shocked to see him than he was to find her. “Who are you?”
“Mateo Matic. And you?” The safest way to speak to someone who was where they weren’t supposed to be was politely.
“How did you get here, Cassidy?”
She shut her mouth tight, as if leaving it open would risk letting a truth out that she wanted to protect.
“I can help you, Cassidy, but I need to know what the problem is.”
“I woke up like this,” she answered.
That wasn’t that weird for him. “You went to sleep in your own bed, and when you woke up, you were suddenly in a strange place?”
“I wasn’t in my own bed; I was in a hotel, but pretty much, yes.”
“What year is it?”
She didn’t like hearing this question, but she wasn’t too confused about it, so this kind of technology must have already caused her to question her reality. “I don’t know.”
“I mean...what year should it be, for you?”
“2019,” she finally answered. “I assume that’s...wrong?”
“2229,” he said simply.
“How long have you been here? Did it happen to you too?”
“A couple days. No, I...well,” it was hard to explain that he came here suddenly as well, but did so on purpose.
She squinted at him curiously, but decided to put a pin in it. “The sun looks different.”
He looked in the general direction of the ground, outside of which was outer space, and Barnard’s Star. He couldn’t actually see the sun from this vantage point. I’m afraid...that’s a different sun.”
“I assumed, but I couldn’t be sure. How far is Earth?”
“Five-something light years. Maybe six. I forgot my tape measure,” he joked.
“You seem to know a lot for having only arrived two days ago. I’ve been here for almost two months.”
“What have you been eating?”
“I figured out how to work the food synthesizer. This place is ready to be inhabited, but it isn’t. Are we alone?”
“There are a few others, back at ops.”
“Ops?” she questioned. “You military.”
“No. Look, I don’t know how much you know, but you are what we call a salmon.”
“What, I’m part fish?”
“It’s just a nickname, for people who travel through time against their will.”
“Are you a salmon too?”
He nodded. “Yes. So I only came here a couple days ago, but I’ve been doing this for...” That was even more difficult to explain, what with all the detours, and alternate realities, and time bubbles, and being torn out of time. So he just settled on the vague word, “longer.”
“I’ve been exploring, even though the internet always says to stay put and wait for rescue, but I couldn’t get that train to work. I thought I heard it moving over my head, though. Were you on that?”
He nodded again. “We would just need to put you in the system, and authorize voice control.”
“What the hell is this place?”
“Giant space station. Lots of people need a place to live, so my friends built this place, and a handful of others like it.”
“They did it on their own?”
“Robots did most the legwork.”
“How do I get home?”
“You complete whatever mission the powers that be want you to complete.”
“And what would that be?”
He shook his head. “Most of us don’t ever know. We usually just try to do the right thing, and help people any way we can.” He went on when she didn’t respond to this, “you’re not random, though. You must have something that someone here needs. What do you do for a living? What are your hobbies? What are your skills?”
“I’m a stripper, I don’t have any skills.”
“You can dance,” Mateo said.
“I can swing around. I’m not one of those trained dancers trying to pay her way through nursing school. I’m just a stripper.”
“Hm. Maybe you’re distantly related to someone here, or you’re destined to fall in love with someone? There’s gotta be a reason. Either the PTB wanted you here, or you wanted to come. No one travels through time and space on accident. Unless...”
“Unless what?”
“Well, there are naturally occurring tears in the spacetime continuing. Some people can access them, but they usually use some device. I’ve never heard of anyone falling into one unintentionally. Otherwise, it would happen all the time.”
“I could be a statistical anomaly.”
“Possibly. There’s one person we can ask, but he’s hard to contact, and I don’t know if he’ll be willing to come all the way out here.”
“I don’t suppose I could talk you into trying?”
“Nah, I’m glad to do it. But I’m going to need to borrow your synthesizer.”
She stepped to the side, and let him in. “It’s not really mine. This was just the apartment I woke up in.”
He took his notepad out of his bag, and handed it to her. “This is a list of every time traveler I know, organized by salmon, choosing ones, and other. Let me know if you recognize anyone’s name.”
She took a cursory glance at the list. “What does the cross symbol mean?”
“It means stay away. They’re bad guys.”
“One of them has a cross symbol, but it’s crossed out.”
Mateo chuckled. “Horace Reaver. We made up.” He walked over to the synthesizer, and requested it build for him two replicas of the game jenga.
“You wanna play a game.”
“It’ll all make sense once I have it set up.” When the printer was finished, which was faster still than the ones Leona used in the 22nd century, he started setting up the blocks. “Any luck?”
“Well, I recognize this one, but not as a person.”
He looked at where she was pointing. “Yeah, her parents didn’t live on that street, but we think they liked it as a name. We don’t have the full explanation, though. You live in Kansas City?”
“Lawrence. Is that important?”
“Is Kansas important to time travel? Actually, it is. Lots of us are from there; we don’t know why. I lived in Topeka.”
“Speaking of lots of people; this list is long. What are the asterisks?”
“Those are people who I’ve heard mentioned, but never met. There are more empty pages than filled ones. No one seems to know quite how many of us there are in total.”
When Mateo was Patronus of Dardius, one of his constituents sought audience with him, and spoke of a way to contact The Delegator. He was considered middle management between salmon and the powers that be, and since he didn’t own a cell phone, he could only be reached one way.
That’s what you think!” he uttered in feigned outrage.
The wall disappeared, and revealed Stonehenge behind it. The Delegator stepped towards the portal, but did not cross over. “Mister Matic, I’ve already told you, I’m not sending you back to Bungula to get your girlfriend.”
“Wife,” Mateo corrected. “And I’m not here for that; I’m at Gatewood, and she’s already on her way. I just need to know who this person is.”
The Delegator looked over at Cassidy. “Hell am I supposed to know?”
“She’s from 2019, and I don’t think she’s a chooser.”
He was growing more irritated, as he fumbled with his glasses. “Step closer.”
She took a few steps forward, but was wary of the portal, as she should have been.
“No, no clue. It must be a mistake. I can take her off your hands.”
She stepped back again. “Wait a minute.”
“You don’t wanna go back?” Mateo asked her.
“Well, it’s just...”
“Go on,” he prodded.
“I do recognize another name, and I don’t just mean Juan Ponce de León, which I would love to hear about.” She was pointing at one of the asterisked names.
“Asuk? I don’t know much about him, except that he was Paige Turner’s friend, and lived, like a thousand years in the future.”
She shook her head. “It’s very familiar. I mean, it’s not exactly a normal name, and I can’t place it, but I feel like I know it. I know it. I have to find him. See, I even know it’s a him.”
Mateo looked up to the Delegator.
“What, you want me to give you permission? I don’t care. She wants to stay, she stays.” And with that, the portal closed.
“Umm, if you change your mind, I can’t promise I can get him back. I didn’t summon him, I just called him. Sometimes he screens and ignores his calls.”
“I understand,” Cassidy said. “I have to find out who this Asuk is, and how I know him, and my answers must be here.”
Paige wasn’t here, though he didn’t really know where she was at this point, since the last time he saw her was in Leona’s memories back in the last century.
“I can’t promise we’ll find him either. Space and time are very big and long.”
“Well, in the meantime, maybe I can be in charge of entertainment. If you work at a place called ops, I imagine people need to relax.”
On the train ride back to where all his friends were working, he filled Cassidy in a bit more about his life, and what he had been through since leaving 2014. He introduced her to everybody, and set her up with one of the grave chambers on the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Come midnight central, he exited the timestream, and didn’t return until 2230, where he learned Cassidy had exited and returned at the same moments.”

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Proxima Doma: Split Level (Part VI)

The first spacecraft that humans came up with were unmanned. They were sent up to study the sky, and gather data. The first manned craft had a capacity of one individual, while other early designs allowed for only a few people. These are all incredibly dangerous, and resulted in a number of deaths. Safety was always priority but humanity did not always know what that took, so they added two more pillars of spaceflight; compartmentalization and redundancy. If one system failed, another needed to be able to take over, and possibly another, if the second were to fail as well. Sections of vessels needed to be capable of being completely cut off from the rest, either to insulate it from them, or insulate them from it. If a fire, for instance, could not be put out, the crew needed to at least isolate it as much as possible. But these three pillars could not do the work on their own. Even later in history, scientists determined they needed a fourth pillar. Modularization. It wasn’t good enough just to be able to quarantine sections. These sections needed to be able to operate independently as well, and the vessel as a whole needed to be able to adapt to virtually any new dynamic, save for its total annihilation.
Colony ships were no exception to the SCR&M rules, which was pronounced like scram. Each ship had a maximum capacity of 168 people, though it was only designed to carry 147 at a time, seven of which were crew members. Each section, which was shaped in a hexagonal prism held seven—eight in an emergency—passengers, and could conceivably travel to the nearest star, going ten percent the speed of light. Based on stellar distribution in the Milky Way Galaxy, one such of these trips should take a maximum of twenty-five years. This wasn’t an ideal situation, but preferable to death. Four sides were lined with sleeping capsules. According to necessary conditions, a passenger could sleep in one of these capsules like normal, or they could activate stasis mode for longer journeys, or they could access virtual reality constructs. Each capsule also acted as an escape pod, and could traverse the breadth of a solar system. It could theoretically orbit a star indefinitely, maintaining perpetual stasis for the passenger, until help could arrive.
Proxima Centauri was a red dwarf, which was, by the far, the most common class of star in the galaxy. But it was also a flare star, which meant it frequently experienced magnetic fluctuations, resulting in bursts of volatile energy. Through the magic of science, these flares can usually be predicted, so as to effectively schedule space travel. Unfortunately, the technology wasn’t perfect, and there were still a few surprises. No matter how well someone followed the four pillars of spaceflight, life in the vacuum would always be dangerous. And they did not work when they were not followed. When the first of the Oblivio-primitivist Pioneers arrived in the Proxima Centauri system, Proxima underwent one such of these unpredicted solar storms. A normal colony ship would be able to handle it and survive, but the Oblivios requested special modifications, so as to better align with their ideals. They were already sacrificing much about their principles just by being in outer space at all, so the engineers and regulators felt they owed them something.
Colony ships Doma 01 and Doma 02 were already within range of the star when the storm erupted. Doma 01 was able to effect repairs on the fly, and enter a safe orbit around the planet, but 02 was not so lucky. It was forced to separate into its constituent parts, and scatter in different directions. Normally, an independent artificial intelligence could pilot each section towards safety, but the Oblivios insisted the crew consist of purely biological humans. Not every member of the crew was qualified to pilot a section; not that it mattered, since most sections at the time of module separation weren’t occupied by a crew member anyway. This left dozens of Oblivios stranded in interplanetary space, totally powerless to navigate their way to safety. At least one section was destroyed immediately, and evidence suggested another lost life support within the first ten minutes. Vitalie and Étude were equipped to solve just about any emergency on the ground, but did not have the resources, nor the time powers, to help Doma 02. And then it happened. Sensors witnessed two terrible tragedies occur almost simultaneously.
Two sections were decoupled from the main vessel, which was what they were meant to do. They started drifting away from each other, but a man in one section apparently started feeling his convictions a little less deeply, and attempted to pilot to safety. Of course, with no training, he was unable to do this successfully, and ended up crashing into one of the other sections. That wasn’t terrible, because Vitalie could go back in time, and the two of them could easily steal an interplanetary cargo ship. Sadly, though, at almost the exact same time, an unaccounted for escape pod from Doma 01 burned up in the atmosphere of Proxima Doma, killing two children who were too afraid to sleep apart. Of course, Vitalie and Étude did not know any of these specifics at the time. All they knew was that fifteen people died, and they were the only ones who could stop it. But how? Étude could teleport anywhere on the planet, or within a very low orbit, but these two incidents happened much farther apart than that. She could not be in two places at once; not even when Vitalie was there as well. They were presently discussing options.
“We have to travel back in time,” Vitalie realized.
“Right, but that doesn’t solve our problem.”
“No, I don’t mean my consciousness. You have to take us back in time physically.”
“No, I’m not doing that,” Étude argued.
“It’s the only way. We need a teleporter to save the people in the rogue section, and we need a teleporter to save the person in the pod. Since we only have one teleporter, we need to double you.”
“I’m not going to allow two different Études to run around the same timeline.”
“So, you’re fine just letting these people die?”
“We can establish contact with that rogue section, and talk the wannabe Oblivio pilot down. We can convince him to not commandeer the controls, and then I can send you to rescue the pod person.”
“You can’t be sure that’ll work. We don’t know anything about this guy. He might not listen to reason. Maybe if we had time to study his profile, or even just get his last name, someone could talk to him, but not you. You’re not a trained hostage negotiator. We can’t risk that. We have to go back.”
“Why would we have to go back? It would just be me. You said we needed two teleporters, but you can remain safe in your singular identity.”
“I want to help,” Vitalie said.
“And you will. One of you will; because there will only be one of you.”
Vitalie was getting sick of how negative Étude always was about this. She took her by the shoulders, and shook ever so slightly to emphasize her words. “You talked me into this. You made me The Caretaker, when you were fully capable of doing it on your own. I’m tired of all these cryptic little hints about how I’m meant to take over for you. I’m done talking about this.”
“We just started talking.”
“I’m already done with it. You’re going to take us both in time, and once we get there, we’re going to explain the situation to our younger selves. And then the four of us are going to hash out a real plan. No one dies today. You want me to take over? Fine, but I call the shots now.”
“What happens after the mission? What do we do about our doubles?”
“I don’t know; I don’t have all the answers, but maybe all four of us can figure it out. Maybe one pair just heads off to Bungula. Maybe that’s what we end up doing; just constantly replicating ourselves until every inhabited planet has a Caretaker team. I’m only focused on the mission right now. Those people need us, so let’s stop talking, and end this before it starts.”
          Étude pulled her arms out of Vitalie’s grasp, and took her by the shoulders instead. “Fine. I hope you know what you’re doing.” And with that, she sent them both back in time one day.
Their younger selves were sitting at the breakfast table. They weren’t shocked or confused. They just patiently waited for a report.
“Eat up,” Future!Vitalie instructed. “We’re gonna need to be at maximum strength. This is the worst one yet.”

Friday, April 26, 2019

Microstory 1090: Lee

Seventy-three years ago, I was having a pretty bad time, and I didn’t think I would survive. When I woke up, it was any normal day in the 1940s. Back then, I was working full-time at my family’s farm, having dropped out of school, because it wasn’t like I was going to university anyway. I completed my morning chores, and was heading back inside to eat when I noticed something dripping from my eyes. Back then, it was pretty much illegal to have hay fever, so I was very worried watering eyes would negatively impact our revenue. I reached up, and discovered it not to be tears, but blood. I felt a little moisture on my ears, and found them to be bleeding as well. Then I noticed it coming out of my nose, and filling up my mouth. I wasn’t coughing up any of the blood, but I did have to keep spitting it out. I won’t gross you out with the details, but I was eventually bleeding out of every orifice. I wasn’t injured anywhere, so there weren’t any cuts, but if an opening already existed in my body, I was bleeding from it. This would have frightened the strongest of us, in any time period, so I was scared out of my mind. Though I wasn’t very well-educated, I did intuitively understand that I was too ill to be around other people. Whatever was doing this to me was most likely contagious, so I needed to get away from everyone. Unfortunately, that also meant I wasn’t going to receive any medical treatment, because remember, this was ancient days, so I couldn’t call someone on my cell phone. We had just built a new barn, closer to the farmhouse, but the old one was still standing, so I ran across the field, and hid in there, so I could plan my next move. Suddenly, I wasn’t alone. A young woman about my age appeared out of nowhere with a frown. She looked me over, and explained that she was trying to invoke a cure, but quickly realized that there was nothing she could do. She was apparently not born with the qualifications for this kind of job. She knew someone who could help me, but it would require me to leave my family, and never see them again. Recognizing that there was no better outcome, I agreed to let her send me away. She literally pushed me into one of the horse stables. I closed my eyes as a reflex for one second, and when I opened them, I found myself standing on a city street.

Another young woman was there waiting for me. She placed her hands on my neck, and cured me, just like the other one couldn’t. I still don’t know what it was I had, because I’ve never heard of anything quite like that before. I never felt sick; I just could not stop bleeding. Anyway, the second woman was obviously Viola Woods, and she reminded me that I would never be able to go back home. Time travel is something she was capable of doing, but while going forward is easy, the further back you want to go, the more difficult it is. And so she set me up with a new life in the here and now, urging me to restart my schooling as well. It’s taken a lot for me to get up to speed with my peers, but luckily I look a little young for my age, and enrolled as a freshman. Viola tutored me over the last four years, and even adjusted people’s memories for me. People don’t actually remember me living here as a kid, but they kind of get the sense that I’ve always been here, and they don’t ever question the fact that they can’t recall any specifics. In an attempt to pay her back, I would help Viola whenever she came back from her missions with physical injuries. I would treat her wounds, and while we waited for them to heal on their own, I would apply makeup, so no one would notice them. I have a new job now, doing the same thing as before. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say who it is, but someone we all know has replaced her. I hope we both make Viola proud, and I hope someone gets justice for Maud, because if there’s one thing I know, it’s that she didn’t do it. If you’re finally just now talking to me, then she should be your next interview. Get her side of the story before anyone else.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Microstory 1089: Clarence

Viola and I spent a lot of time together, but only out of necessity, and it’s not what you think. She’s well known for helping people through terrible times, saving their lives, and all sorts of things, but she needed help too. Harriet was a really good friend, who is destined to be a world-class therapist one day; I’m sure of it. I assisted Viola in a similar capacity, but in a completely different way. As you may have heard, she knew things about the world without having learned them. She knew that a man was hanging by his fingers off a building in Venice. She knew an oil tanker was about to spill in the Atlantic Ocean. No one told her about these things, nor did she reach out and hunt for them. Her brain just absorbed her environment, much in the way normal people do with their eyes, except her environment was the entire planet, and she didn’t need eyes. While she was born with extraordinary abilities, she was also part human. In fact, she was two-thirds human, which means a lot of her biology wasn’t fit for the life she chose to lead. I won’t get into the physical toll it took on her, because dealing with those issues was Lee’s responsibility. I was in charge of Viola’s mind, and I wouldn’t have been her friend had I not been born with my own gifts. You see, normal people go to sleep because their brain needs that time to adjust itself after all the input it received throughout the day. It needs to make sense of its host’s experiences, organizing the important events and knowledge into long-term memory, and dumping the erroneous. You need to remember that two plus two equals four, but you don’t need to know how many branches there were on the tree that overlooks the meadow behind your house. Believe it or not, if your eyes receive the light from those branches, your mind registers that number, and their shapes, and all sorts of information that you cannot use in your daily life. Your brain is capable of ignoring some of this input, and dumping it while you’re awake, but the majority of it happens while you’re sleeping. Now imagine that you’re Viola Woods, who was incapable of not receiving information from all over the world. Do not misunderstand me, she was not completely omniscient. There were plenty of goings on that she had no clue about, nor would she have wanted to know. Her mind sought out terrible pain, and planned for ways to help alleviate it. But once the present becomes the past, and all those people she wasn’t able to help—because she was preoccupied with helping someone else—can no longer be helped anyway, those memories are just sitting there in her brain. They’re useless now. Sleep just was not enough to consolidate all the good data, and purge all the data that has no bearing on her own future. That’s where I came in. We were able to link our minds together, and share memories. With our combined brainpower, we could do what most people do on their own without even thinking about it. Naturally, people assumed that we were either best friends, or in a relationship, because I moved into the Woods home when we were children, but that’s not at all. We slept together every single night, because that’s the only way she survived without going completely insane.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Microstory 1088: Harriet

I was one of Viola’s best friends, and I knew everything about her. I was her confidante in a way that no one else in the world could be. Yes, she could tell her parents anything about what happened to her, but she could never reveal how she felt about it. She could sense in me my innate talent to listen to others, and help them through difficult times. I didn’t need her to tell me this—I would have figured it out on my own—but it was useful to get a bit of a headstart on my therapy skills. She’s seen as this rock, who always knew what was going to happen, and how to handle it, but her job required a lot more thought and guesswork than you would think. First of all, bad things are happening all over the world, all at the same time. She had to consider a number of extremely complex factors, including who needed her help the most, who was most likely to accept it, who would not waste it, and most importantly, who would be missing out on her services because she was somewhere else. Once she settled on any given mission, she had to figure out how best to solve the problem. She didn’t want it getting out that there was this superhero jumping around the planet, so subtly and brevity were key. All this put a lot of pressure on her decisions, in a way that no one her age could have understood, or anyone, really. It’s easy to forget, since she died as an adult, that she’s been doing this nearly all her life. There’s evidence to support the idea that she influenced people’s lives in her special way from birth, but we know she started actively doing fieldwork from the age of five. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for a five-year-old to get people to take her seriously. Believe it or not, she made mistakes. She didn’t have anyone to train her, or explain how her gifts worked. She had no direct examples to emulate, or books to consult.

Viola wasn’t a normal human being, but she still felt the depth of human emotion. She still knew what it’s like to lose someone important; perhaps more than any of us. I was there for her, to talk her through it. She suffered from anxiety, and had her fair share of panic attacks, which I helped alleviate. In one instance, she was single-handedly holding up a boulder on a mountain that was threatening to fall on a hiker who was taking  a nap down below. Meanwhile, the other hand was holding onto the nest for three babies of a rare bird species. She used all of her remaining energy to summon me to her, so I could take the babies, so she could destroy the boulder without alerting the hiker. He was a vlogger, and an influencer. She would have been exposed via his live feed if she had tried to sweep him out of harm’s way. She was an amazing person, but she wasn’t God, and she couldn’t do absolutely anything and everything. And she craved human connection on a personal level, just like anyone else. And there were those she didn’t like. Take, for example, these so-called friends I hear you have yet to interview. The people who were at the river when she died were anything but, no matter what they tell the authorities, or how they manipulate reality. She despised them, because they had access to similar gifts that she had, but used them for terrible ends. Whatever they’ve said about how we lost her, they are all equally responsible. In fact, out of everyone in the Blast City Senior High graduating class of 2019, Maud is probably the most innocent. She was framed, in the worst way. I hope you’re careful when you talk to them, because they are going to do everything they can to protect their secrets.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Microstory 1087: Ethel

Viola and I are not the same thing, but we are similar. I’m not sure how to phrase that sentence, since, to most people, she’s a were and I’m an is. She was born with her own gifts, given to her by one of her parents, but I am the way I am just because. I know you’ve already spoken with Edgar, Carrie, and Earl, but I don’t know how much they told you about that. It was a sickening situation that Viola confided in me about. Edgar suffered from reverse empathy, so that he would always feel the opposite emotion as the people around him. This caused him to develop unhealthy habits, and form urges to hurt people. I always called what I had reverse empathy as well, but it’s a totally different thing. Unlike him, I can’t feel other people’s emotions at all. This does not really mean I don’t have empathy for others, because I can still feel bad for someone who’s going through something terrible, or happy for someone who’s enjoying life. My problem is I have my own emotions to deal with, and until Viola came along, had no way of keeping them in. Before her, whenever I was feeling extreme, I would unwillingly force others to feel the same, no matter what they themselves were dealing with. The stronger my emotion, the worse it was for people around me. Like any child, I used to throw temper tantrums when things didn’t go my way, and instead of being able to handle it appropriately, all I did was make my parents throw their own tantrums. We just kept fueling each other’s anger, and it only subsided for any of us when I tired myself out. The only time my family found any sort of relief from the whirlwind that was me was when I was sleeping.

They eventually caught on that something was wrong with me, and tried to give me drugs to even me out. These drugs made me feel numb, which was completely fine with me, because I did not like the way I made other people feel and act. When I was about seven or eight, though, Viola came to my house to announce to my parents that I would be ceasing all medication immediately. She would instead treat me, so that I could learn to control my effect on others myself, and not need any external help. Of course, they argued that what she proposed didn’t make any sense, but they were also concerned about stopping medication so suddenly. She claimed to be able to diminish any withdrawal symptoms I might experience, and once she showed this to be true, they were convinced that I really could help. She came over everyday for months, inducing various emotions, and training me to overcome my body’s instinct to spread them. When she wanted to switch me to a different emotion, she would first touch my temples, and send me these beautiful images of twinkling lights, which she called neural palate cleansers. She wasn’t just helping me keep my emotions in check, which was what the drugs were doing. She was helping me figure out how to accept whatever it is I’m feeling at any moment, but express it responsibly, and not alter other people’s brain chemistry at the same time. Even after our training sessions were over, and I was capable of controlling my—you could call it an ability, though I certainly wouldn’t—she continued to hang out with me. A lot of people are sad that she’s gone, because it’s sad when anybody dies. But I know Viola, and I can tell you that she’s not really gone. Power like that doesn’t just go away. Her soul lingers on this plane, and I know this for a fact, because I can still feel her.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Microstory 1086: Signa

Let me tell you a little story about how Viola Woods powered two towns, all on her own, and potentially saved thousands of people from freezing to death. Before you moved here, we had what was probably the worst winter storm in our local history. By the second day, people were trapped in their houses. This wouldn’t have been the worst thing ever, since we knew it was coming, and authorities urged us to stock up on supplies, but then the power went out. For one slow and terrible hour, almost everyone in both Blast City and Coaltown was without heat, and it would not be for another week until everything was back up and running. My mother runs the power plant that serves both towns, so she and a ton of contractors worked tirelessly day and night to fix the problems, but Viola had a temporary fix for us that very few people were aware of. As the storm was brewing, my mother shuffled the entire family to the plant, knowing that it would be the most protected building throughout the ordeal, and that she would more than likely be needed. So, thirty minutes after the lights went out, Viola showed up and pulled my mom into her office alone. Fortunately for us, my brothers and sisters all learned long ago of a vent in the custodial closet off the break room that has decent access to secret office conversations. Viola revealed to her—and by extension, us—that she was capable of patching the system herself while the technicians worked on a permanent solution. Of course, this was highly unorthodox, and mom had no reason to believe anything Viola was claiming was real, but I think you can guess where the story is headed. Desperate for a miracle, mother let Viola physically place her hands the power generator. Despite how I grew up, I don’t know how the power station works, but maybe she was touching the voltage regulator? Whatever it was, it worked, and my mother decided to only allow a skeleton crew work on the repairs in that area, so that not too many people would find out what was going on. She had to come up with a good lie to tell them about how they were supplying temporary power. We were reportedly relying on the goodness of the next power station over to help us out, which meant the head of that facility had to lie as well. The reality is that randomly supplying power to two towns that your plant wasn’t designed for is even harder than it sounds. Otherwise, they probably would have just stepped up and helped. There’s no way to know for sure how many lives would have been lost that day had Viola not been there, but I’m confident it would have been over zero, so it was worth it. Everyone here owes her a lot, and they don’t even know it yet. The day after power was restored completely, my whole family worked in the kitchen, cooking thank-you food. Then we went over to the Woods house, and gave them to her. She and I were friends from that day on. I never asked her how she did what she did, nor did anyone else in my family, and she never told us. I guess she was just waiting for you to run this series.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 21, 2228

Many years ago, back in the version of reality where Mateo Matic did not exist, Leona was on her way with a crew to a rogue planet called Durus. There they would find the daughter of Saga Einarsson, and her wife Andromeda. Étude would go on the be the Last Savior of Earth, which meant she was incredibly valuable to the powers that be. So they evidently decided one ship was not enough. A second vessel, called The Emma González was secretly sent behind them, presumably to support the primary team. The Failsafe Vessel never did make it to Durus, and the crew of The Elizabeth Warren were never able to make contact with them again. As it turned out, they were diverted by some mysterious force. Against their will, Captain Kestral McBride and Lieutenant Ishida Caldwell found themselves all the way at Gatewood. There they were charged with maintaining three to four major projects, one of which involved the production of all the facilities the Ansutahan refugees would need to escape their universe, and survive in this one. Apparently, this was in the works long before anyone on the ground knew it would ever be necessary.
Unfortunately, in order to protect the people of Dardius, which he was responsible for, Mateo was forced to destroy the Muster Beacon. When combined with the power of its counterpart, the Muster Lighter, it was causing a flood of duplicates, which were threatening to destroy the solar system. If not stopped, the beacon probably would have continued to add more and more to the population, and wouldn’t even stop once there was literally no more room. Its original creator was never known, with The Weaver assuring them that she would have had nothing to do with it in any reality. There was no on or off switch, and it only ever worked according to a psychic connection it made with its operator. They never had a chance to figure out why it was able to keep going unsustained by this connection, which meant the only solution was to destroy it completely. That appeared to have been enough to stop the onslaught of Freemarketeers, leaving everyone wondering whether they made a huge mistake by not starting out by trying to destroy the Muster Lighter first, since it was a hell of a lot less powerful anyway.
So here Mateo was in a different universe with Ramses, Weaver, and Goswin. They were discussing their options with Mateo’s girlfriend, Serif, their new friends Kestral and Ishida, and newcomer Greer Thorpe. Time was not the same here. Their only hope of solving this problem was to use the lighter by itself, but it featured a far smaller capacity. According to preliminary attempts, it was capable of summon a maximum of eight hundred and sixty-one people at one time. In order to save all eleven billion humans presently living in Ansutah, it was probably going to take them over two years. The good news was that two years wasn’t the worst possible solution, but it all came down to a very special girl, with a very important temporal power.
Many years ago, a woman named Melissa Atterberry went off on a quest to rid herself of her special ability. The reasons she wanted to do this were her own, but she ended up discovering what she was looking for, as did dozens of other people. Long story short, however, some of her friends were in need of getting their powers back, but of course, it wouldn’t be so easy. They began a new quest, and found themselves on a place called Eden island, where their powers were waiting for them. No one there at the time remained long enough to tell the story, but historians were able to piece together fragments of information, which ultimately told them that their plan at least worked in part. Right at the spot where they were standing, a tree grew. This tree bore fruit of different colors; each one containing one of the quester’s powers. To protect the Fruit of Power from falling into the wrong hands, a special order of humans was created. No one would be allowed to live on the island, except for this order. As anyone might expect, this could not last forever.
As the war with the Maramon of Ansutah raged on, a small group of young humans began their own quest. They sought the Fruit of Power, hoping to end the war, and free their people. They were met with no resistance upon reaching Eden Island, for this island was also being used by Serif as the location of the bridge that could transport them all the way back to their home universe. The protectors were simply too busy with trying to figure out how to get everyone through the bridge to worry about the tree anymore. Something went wrong during an attempt to recreate the power of the Muster Twins, and most of the young men and women who partook in the fruits were either lost to the multiverse, or killed. Only Greer remained, having eaten the yellow fruit, which imbued her with Missy’s original power. She was now able to create bubbles, inside of which time would pass at a slower or faster rate. Knowing it would take some time before the bridge made it all the way to Gatewood in the first place, Greer used her new ability to form a bubble around the entire planet. She linked the passage of time to Serif’s pattern, so that only days would pass inside, while the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made its way through interstellar space on the outside.
“Why would you do that?” Weaver was asking Serif. “If you thought Mateo and Leona would be on their way with the Muster Beacon, why would you try to make one of your own, especially before you had even arrived on Gatewood?”
“I wasn’t responsible for that,” Serif explained. “I am not the leader of the Ansutahan humans, as you can imagine, since I only live for one day every year. Bureaucrats decided that, if the Muster Beacon could be invented once, then surely it could be invented again. I would have stopped them had a I been there. Surprisingly, though no one would call what they did successful, they did come damn close. They harnessed the power of the bridge itself, and used it like a vacuum cleaner, sucking everyone on the island into it. Sadly, most of those people disappeared into the bulkverse, but they were onto something.”
“What?” Mateo asked. “You think we can combine the technology of the bridge vacuum, and the Muster Lighter? You think we may be able to get it to work?”
Serif nodded. “If Miss Blue here helps us, yes I think we can.”
“People have been calling me Weaver, in order to distinguish me from the Holly Blue who belongs in this reality. And I’m not sure that would be such a good idea. I mean, this is alien technology we’re talking about here. The Maramon developed as a society completely independently from the rest of humanity. Even the humans here came up with their own technology, and all of it would be totally incompatible with anything I learned to build on Earth. We don’t even know where the Muster Lighter comes from; perhaps even a third universe. You may have this idea that, as an engineer, I can invent pretty much anything on the fly, but that’s not how this works. I’m going to need time, if it’s even possible. There’s also this belief that everything is possible, if the right people have the right tools, but some dogs just don’t hunt.”
“Time I can give you,” Greer said. “In a panic, I created an Atterberry bubble so big that it encompassed the entire planet. That’s what’s keeping us from suffering years of war. But the war is still going on; it just hasn’t been very long yet. I think...” she trailed off, hesitant of her own convictions.
“Go on,” Serif urged her.
“I think I can pop this bubble, and make a new one. I think I can place all Maramon in a bubble where time moves slower, and put all the humans back in real time. Except for Serif and Mateo. I can’t end your salmon patterns.”
“Speaking of people who can end salmon patterns, any word on that?” Mateo asked Weaver.
Weaver shook her head. “I’ve not been able to get the Nexus replica to take me anywhere since we saw Newt hopelessly trapped in that awful suicide vest. I may be able to get to Durus or Earth at some point, but I assume Dardius has been completely cut off from everyone. They’re on their own now, unless someone like Dave or Maqsud goes out there.”
“How did you know how to build the Nexus?” Mateo asked Kestral and Ishida. “How did you know to do anything when you got to this star system?”
The two of them gave each other this look. “The instructions come to us in dreams,” Ishida answered.
Shared dreams,” Kestral added. “They don’t tell us what to do, but they tell us how to do things, and we decide whether we want to.”
“So we didn’t know why we might need the centrifugal cylinders, or the Nexus, or—”
Kestral interrupted, “the point is we don’t know how the Nexus works. It’s not like a real Nexus, which if what you say is correct, is from a real universe that we could potentially go to. It was just made to look like that, but it utilizes temporal energy from our universe to travel the stars.”
“We’re still not clear why you need a Nexus at your destination. You should be able to teleport anywhere in the observable universe, as long as you have its coordinates.”
Mateo turned back to Weaver. “Maybe you could use that too.”
“What?” Weaver asked. “The Nexus? You want me to combine whatever powers the Nexus, with the Muster Lighter you brought back from Dardius, with whatever crazy Maramon tech sustains the universe bridge?”
“Greer can give you time to study all three of them. Plus, you have at least two other brilliant engineers helping you out.” He gestured to Kestral and Ishida.
“We would be most excited to work with you,” Ishida agreed.
Kestral was excited too. “The cylinders aren’t finished being built, but we don’t have to maintain them manually. The robots do pretty much everything.”
Weaver sighed. “I will see what I can do, but Miss Thorpe will indeed have to change how this temporal bubble works. I’ll need to be able to go back and forth between our universes without getting stuck.”
“Give me an hour,” Greer requested. “Maybe longer.”
“Done,” Serif said, like a leader. “As for Misters Abdulrashid and Montagne, there are other considerations for this venture. While Weaver finds a way to get everyone here, we’ll need you two to figure out the kind of society they’re going to build. I understand you both have experience in government?”
“I do,” Ramses said.
“Yes,” Goswin said.
“Good. Many of the human leaders got themselves sucked into the bridge vacuum. I obviously can’t lead them, since I’m going to disappear at the end of today, after Greer changes the bubble.” She looked around at the group. Most people had something important to do, but Mateo certainly didn’t. “All right. Break!”

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Proxima Doma: Safety Officer (Part V)

And so Vitalie becomes The Caretaker of Proxima Doma for the next year. Every day, she and Étude keep track of everything bad that happens on the whole planet. She develops memorization techniques, reminiscent of when Horace Reaver and Ulinthra would do the same nearly two centuries ago. She then sends her own consciousness to the past, and takes over her younger body, relaying the information to Étude. The latter then apports her anywhere she needs to go, so she can save people’s lives. In order to protect their secret, Tertius alters memories of the event for any witnesses. Even if the nature of Vitalie’s assistance wasn’t inexplicable to those witnesses, they didn’t want her developing a reputation. As far as anyone knows, Proxima Doma simply never experiences any fatal, or near-fatal, accidents. After the first year, though, people have started getting suspicious. They can remember spontaneously avoiding dangerous situations, with no real reason. The fact that nothing truly awful ever happens on a colony planet was always bound to get noticed, and this is something the two of them should have predicted. Their wards, as they would come to call them, have no way of knowing anyone was protecting them from the danger, but they still questioned their lives.
A new decision had to be made, which Vitalie and Étude never even considered could possibly become an issue. Even at its peak, the Savior program on Earth was never capable of saving everyone. It was probably technically feasible, but the powers that be were likely never interested in creating a perfect, hundred percent safe, world. Some people still got hurt. They couldn’t be saved, not because it wasn’t possible, but because life doesn’t come without risk. The powers probably assumed humanity could not accept a world where nothing bad ever happened. That didn’t mean they were right, though. It was time for Vitalie and Étude to decide whether they would find a way to go back to the old ways, or just stay the course.
“One of my biggest regrets,” Étude began, “or should I say, many regrets I had, were that I couldn’t save everyone. Even with the Salmon Runners, and the Kingmaker, and the Doorwalkers, and the IAC, and all the other time travelers who used their abilities to protect people, we could not save everyone. There were just too many people on Earth, and the only reason I’m not still doing it, is because a shadow government of people who don’t know what life is like for mere mortals arbitrarily decided it would stop. Yes, Earth is safer now that it ever has been, but safer doesn’t equal safe. People still die needlessly. But we have an opportunity here, to build a better world. The population is small right now. I don’t think we should just keep doing what we’re doing. I think we should scale our operations, as need arises. When the population on this rock starts numbering in the millions, we’ll probably need some help.”
“Is that fair to them, though?” Vitalie argued. “Are we taking something from them by becoming gods? Do they not deserve to do at least some things on their own? Should they not learn to save themselves? This isn’t Earth. They don’t need thousands of years to develop safety protocols. The protocols are already in place; they just need to be better. I’m starting to think they don’t need me at all. I’m starting to think we should quit.” That came out of nowhere. It wasn’t like Vitalie was feeling tired of this work, or didn’t realize what she was getting into. It just kind of dawned on her that it was possible they were doing more harm than good.
“You want to quit?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You kind of did.”
“The whole secret thing makes this strange. These people don’t know anyone’s looking out for them, so they go through life, thinking the risks they’ve been taking weren’t all that risky. They don’t ever learn from bad experiences, because they’re not having any. A species develops, and evolves, according to valuable life lessons. Early humans didn’t take samples of all the plants around them, and study them to find out which ones were edible, and which were poisonous. People died finding out that information, and it was really sad, but now they know what not to do.”
“You’re talking about the Prime Directive.”
“Well, that’s more about not exposing mine and your powers to the people. I don’t care what they know, and don’t know. We’ve been looking at the idea of helping people as meaning literally going out and doing things for them. But there are other ways to help.”
“You’re right, but you need to be careful about where that line of thinking leads. I met a lot of choosing ones who use their abilities for selfish gain, and they’ve done so following some revelation that this is exactly how the world works. They can all logic their way out of any argument against their behavior, because they’ve decided anyone in their position would do the same. I didn’t have a choice when I was Savior, but you do. If you can quit anytime, but don’t, that shows others that we can actually change the way the world works, even if they’re right about it how it is now.”
“That’s a lot of pressure to put on me, Étude.”
“I know, and I didn’t mean to make you feel like you had no choice. If I guilt you into not quitting, then I’m no better than the powers that be. I just think we have a good thing going here, and I don’t want to stop, especially not since our hardest job is about to begin.”
“You’re talking about the Oblivios,” Vitalie guessed.
“Their lives are going to be more difficult than we’ve ever seen. Who knows how many Saviors there were at one time back when humans on Earth were living like the OPPs are going to live.”
“Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about that, because their arrival actually supports my position. I’ve been reading up on Earthan history, since that’s where everyone here is from. These pioneers are recreating a time in history where couples—as terrible as it sounds—planned to have extra children. Their families were so much larger, only because they felt the need to hedge their bets, and wanted to be prepared for when some of them died.”
Étude nodded solemnly. “Yes, I know about that.”
“They’re going to have an even harder time accepting a world where nothing bad ever happens. It doesn’t matter how much Tertius alters their memories, they’re not going to understand why no one’s ever fallen off a cliffside, or been trapped in a sinkhole. Plus, they’re going to develop religious superstitions, and I don’t want to be a part of that. Can you imagine them worshipping the invisible fairy sa—”
Savior?” Étude filled in. “You were going to say savior. That’s okay, I realize my place in history unavoidably came with this mystique I can never live down.”
“I’m sorry.”
This was all news to Étude. She thought they had made the right decision, and that Vitalie was on board with it. Had she been miserable this whole time, and was just too polite to say anything? “Why? Why did he tell me to come here? And why did he tell me to pass the torch to another?” She lived her life by the guidance of a man who could see the future. He had never been wrong before, but now she was wondering who was benefiting the most from his advice. The concept of right was a subjective one. “I mean, this was your idea.”
“I know, and I’m not saying I give up. I’m just having doubts.”
Étude needed to find a way to convince Vitalie to get back on track, and let go of these doubts. “Have you ever heard of a safety officer?”
“Like a cop?”
“No. A safety officer is a member of the construction crew who makes sure everyone is working safe. And when something inevitably goes wrong, they’re there to tend to their injuries, and get them more advanced help.”
“Are you saying I’m a fancy safety officer, and I should just treat this as any normal job? I have a special set of skills that no one else does, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it? I have a responsibility to help others as no one else can?”
Okay, Étude wasn’t expecting her friend to jump to the right to her conclusion. She was laying out this whole speech in her head, but would apparently not need most of it. “Companies hire safety officers all the time. Nobody on the crew freaks out, and claims they can take care of themselves.”
“Limited medical training is a far cry from time travel and teleportation,” Vitalie said. “I don’t treat people after they get hurt. I stop them from getting hurt. All I’m saying is maybe they should get hurt. If humans didn’t feel pain, they would constantly hurt themselves, and they would never learn to prevent it, because they wouldn’t be able to see the consequences. Even if only subconsciously, we’re letting these Domanians think they can do  no wrong.”
“I feel like we’re just arguing in circles.”
“Me too.”
“Look. The first of the Oblivios aren’t going to arrive for another few months. For diversification’s sake, colony ships are designed to accommodate a hundred and forty-seven passengers, but there are a lot more Oblivios than that. The first to land are going to live with their memories intact until everyone is here. Just wait until then to decide whether you want to quit or not. Give it one more chance.”
Vitalie wanted to think it through more, but she understood that Étude’s suggestion was not an unreasonable one. She still felt the need to contribute positively to society, and being the Caretaker was currently the best way for her to do that. She agreed to keep going until the Oblivios lost their memories.