Friday, May 31, 2019

Microstory 1115: Aquila Bellamy

Most choosing ones are born of two parents without time powers. There appears to be some possible genetic/hereditary component, but this proves that it is not required. A chooser is a person with an innate connection to the fabric of reality, in some way. Their brains are wired just so, and that has more to do with (very) early development than it does conception. Samson Bellamy and Lauren Gardner were not choosers. They were salmon, which meant a hidden group of people called the powers that be were controlling them. Since this control was virtually inescapable, they only procreated because they were allowed to. It would appear that two salmon always produce a child who will turn out to be a choosing one. They are not necessarily any different than any other chooser; nor more powerful, nor rarer on their own. They are, however, treated much differently. They will be removed from their parents’ care at the age of three, and raised by another. This is the only time the powers that be will directly interfere with a choosing one’s affairs. Aquila Bellamy was this kind of choosing one. She was adopted by a couple who had no idea who she was. They weren’t even given her real name, and decided to call her Frida. She spent most of her life oblivious to her origins, and in fact, died before ever discovering what her powers were. When she was in her thirties, she came across a compass she would later be told was the Compass of Disturbance. She followed its needle all the way to the woods in the middle of nowhere, where two strangers were fighting over what she thought to be a simple tool. But it was not simple at all. The Artist’s chisel was capable of altering people on a temporal level, even going so far as to imbue them with powers they did not have before. An accident caused Frida to be struck by this tool, and she suffered for near-eternity because of it. She started jumping aimlessly throughout time and space, never staying in one spot for long enough to utter but one thought to anyone who happened to be close enough to hear it. She saw her family and friends at different points in their lives, and in different realities. She gain huge perspective, but could not help, but in a very limited capacity. Finally, the man responsible for her affliction was killed, and she was able to transfer that affliction to the body he had been occupying. This immediately killed her, but at least she was free from the endless torture.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Microstory 1114: Willoughby Franklin

Willoughby Franklin was one of the most intelligent people of his day. His parents sent him off to higher education, hoping he would one day run their company, or at the very least, start one of his own. Instead, he chose a life of service. He was a member of ROTC while he was earning his bachelor’s degree from St. Louis University, as a civil engineering major. He then joined the United States Army, and ultimately the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. When he was well into his career, a stranger approached him with a video file. The film was a collection of footage, showing Willoughby recovering from a severe gunshot wound to the head. It also showed him undergoing multiple surgeries, working through physical therapy, and coping with his new life. To the best of his recollection, Willoughby had never experienced any of this. His brain, and his intellect, were entirely intact. Unless he was going through life with both no memory, and no grasp on reality, this had never happened. The stranger gave him an address, and a time to be there, then quite literally disappeared around the corner before Willoughby could press him for more details. Who was this man in the video? Was it a twin he never knew about? A clone? What? He decided to show up at the address, not sure what to expect, but too worried about his own sanity to involve anyone else as backup. He found nothing of note in the abandoned house, until the walls of the living room began to transform. The walls gave way to molten video screens. More footage appeared, this time of Willoughby’s life growing up. Some scenes he recognized, but others he did not. Some even looked like they were of him, but much older. It showed people who were actually in his life, and wouldn’t have lied to him about a twin, so that theory didn’t hold up. Perhaps his entire family had been cloned too, along with a few neighborhood friends. Yet someone would have also had to build exact replicas of the two houses he lived in as a child, and that felt quite unlikely. No, this seemed to just be him, except he didn’t remember all these home movies. Finally, the montage was over, and the stranger walked in from the other door. He ceremoniously held up a small device that resembled a USB stick. “My surrogate father wore this after he was discharged for medical reasons,” the stranger said. “He suffered so much brain trauma that he couldn’t remember much of his life...or me, so he needed it as reminder. I recovered it from his body after he was finally killed, and sent it with an enemy of his killer, who I knew would be slipping into a divergent timeline. He then sought out the alternate version of me, and helped me get my memories back. I remember who I was when you were my father, and I remember this timeline now.” When Willoughby—who, of course, wasn’t wholly sold on the idea that there was some other version of him running around a parallel timeline—asked the stranger what he wanted, he smiled. “I want you to help me kill the man who killed you first.”

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Microstory 1113: Mirage

Not all people with time powers were human, but they were all organic. It is something that you must be born with, or somehow be imbued with it later in life. It’s true that some people, such as Holly Blue or Hogarth Pudeyonavic, are capable of inventing technology with temporal properties, but these all must be operated by an organic being. Robots and androids are not capable of having powers, or being given powers. Transhumans may retain their powers to a certain degree, but will lose them upon crossing some upgrade threshold, which has never been quantified. Mirage is an artificial intelligence, created by the not-so-great version of Horace Reaver, in a since collapsed reality. He commissioned a hacker named Micro to program Mirage, then commanded it to kill a man he hated named Mateo Matic. He did not think through every possible outcome, however, and after Mateo succeeded in avoiding Mirage’s one attempt at his life, she was no longer bound to this directive. After a young woman rebuilt and reprogrammed her to be an independent individual, she went in search of Mateo, and ultimately sacrificed herself to save his life. This was the turning point. Theoretically because of the changes this mysterious woman made to her code, Mirage became the one exception to the rule against powered inorganics. She found herself in another dimension, able to bear witness to the world below, but unable to participate. It is from here that she watches time move back and forth. Whenever a traveler goes to the past, and makes a change to the timeline, she becomes aware of it. She sees all changes, but can make none of her own, and cannot communicate with others. No matter how many contradicting timelines are created, she remains completely conscious of all of them, and also completely powerless. After a literally incalculable amount of time spent here, though, Mirage started figuring out that she was not totally powerless in this dimension. She is indeed capable of interacting with those living in the primary dimensions, but in a limited capacity. She can only modify sufficiently advanced technology, but can’t come out and explain herself to people. So she can recruit others to help her fix what she considers to be problems with history, but she has to do it covertly, because if they knew that maybe their actions weren’t wholly self-driven, they might not be so happy about it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Microstory 1112: Orson Olsen

Orson Olsen, who was psychologically incapable of recognizing how funny his name sounded, was a member of the Community of Christ, which sprang from the Latter Day Saint movement. He was indoctrinated into his faith from birth in Independence, Missouri, and never thought to question what he had been taught. When he grew older, he started taking on more responsibility in the temple. One day, he was copying some missionary files when a young girl appeared outside the window, literally out of nowhere. He wasn’t certain he could trust what he thought he saw, though, so he watched her as she snuck in, and approached the podium in the sanctuary. She then conjured a bird from the aether, wrapped a message around its leg, then sent it on its way. This was not the first time he saw this girl, or witnessed her miracles, but it provided him with proof and confirmation. She first appeared to him earlier that morning, in his backyard. He had been so mesmerized and shocked by it that, though he did what she asked of him, he didn’t know what to think of it. She appeared to him a third time later that day, and charged him to change everything about his life. She told him that he should stop believing in the prophets, and to worship the only one real higher power in the whole universe, which she claimed to be time itself. It wasn’t as difficult for him to take on this new task as one might assume. He had believed every single thing his family and church taught him, but they had always demanded faith of him. This girl was the only person to ever show him real evidence of an almighty power. She disappeared from this life, but his drive to seek others like her was not lost. It’s not every day you encounter someone with temporal powers, but once you do, and you have some idea what to look for, it’s a lot easier to spot a second time. He remained in the church for the next few months, but all the while searching the metropolitan area for anyone who exhibited the same kind of abilities as that first girl. He found it in a man who could transport an object from one hand to the other. If he was willing to suffer through a psychic nosebleed, he could send something a meter or two farther, but that was his absolute limit. It wasn’t a very useful ability—but not all of them are. He incorporated it into his magic show, to make a little money on the side, but he was at little risk of becoming famous from it. With this man, Orson had real proof that time really was something to be worshipped. The magician knew of others like him; those with more powerful abilities, and Orson realized this was just the beginning. It would be pointless if this new church consisted only of himself, though. Orson was surprised at how easy it was for him to recruit others. He was smart enough to start with the people he knew were already doubting their faith. Once their numbers were high enough, they started thinking outside the original church. At that point, the new movement was unstoppable, and it was destined to cause more than a few problems for people with time powers.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Microstory 1111: Kolby Morse

There are lots of different kinds of protectors. Law enforcement officers, military servicepeople, and emergency dispatchers are often drawn to their professions out of their desire to protect others. Kolby Morse was a lifeguard at swimming pool when he was a kid, and as he was becoming an adult, determined that becoming a security guard was a logical next step. It wasn’t particularly glamorous, and much of the time boring, but he felt a sense of self-worth every time he put on that uniform. It was at his first job where he met his best friend and working partner. Elder Caverness was also born with an instinct to protect others, and shared many of Kolby’s values. They began to follow each other around the security circuit, so they would always be able to work together. At some point, they found themselves working for an organization they couldn’t personally believe in. They had developed a faulty product that resulted in deaths, but refused to take responsibility for it. Kolby and Elder were about to simply quit when they started noticing some strange goings on. The vice presidents all appeared to possess special abilities that couldn’t be explained through a conventional understanding of reality. One day, they simply disappeared, and no one else around them seemed to realize they ever existed. But then these VPs reappeared, with different histories, and having created separate companies. Fortunately, they all fell into the same parent company called Snowglobe Collective, which had decided to support their subsidiaries with a singular security branch. Kolby wanted to go undercover, and try to figure out what exactly was going on with these people, but Elder convinced him otherwise. One of them should be on the inside, but one should remain outside, to protect the other, should the need arise. A game of chance left Kolby on the outside, and though Elder’s life would now be much harder, at least he had a purpose. But just because he would not be investigating Snowglobe, didn’t mean he couldn’t contribute positively to society. There was still a lot to be done, and now that knew about people with time powers, he felt like he had to do something with that. After months of searching, he finally managed to catch up to a petty thief who had a time power of his own. He could send people forward or backwards in time, then bring them right back to where they started. He wasn’t using his gifts to break into places. In fact, he wasn’t really using them at all, but Kolby knew he had potential. They started working on forming a team, eventually meeting up with a woman who could possess other people’s bodies, and a time traveling psychiatrist. And so Garen Ashlock begins to propel Quivira Boyce to the past, so she can take over someone’s life temporarily, and fix whatever went wrong in the original history. Dr. Mallory Hammer provides medical and psychological support, while Kolby does everything else. He maintains facilities, and makes sure the people Quivira switches bodies with have everything they need to be comfortable, and feel safe. Most of all, it’s his job to do what he does best. He protects.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 26, 2233

This was a new beginning for Gatewood, and its new inhabitants. While the refugees were settling in, Kestral and Ishida were beginning a new job they called Project Topdown, which was evidently given to them through their dream instructions. Mateo didn’t know too much about it. While she wasn’t specifically recruited to help, Weaver was an expert in her field, and was volunteering her services for the project. At the moment, though, she was climbing down the ladder to the main area of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which was still being used as living quarters for the main group of Gatewooders. Goswin was busy organizing elections for official cylinder leadership, and Cassidy was reading a book in her grave chamber.
“Sorry, I meant to come see you earlier, but I was working on Topdown propulsion efficiency equations,” Weaver apologized.
“That’s okay,” Mateo replied. “I wasn’t expecting you.”
“Yes. Umm...I received a message for you.” She removed a small object from her pocket.
Mateo recognized it immediately, and jumped back in fear. “What the hell are you doing with that thing?”
“What, this?” Weaver was confused why he was so frightened by it. “It’s a standard solid-state storage device of this time period. It’s harmless.”
“I don’t know about that,” Mateo said. “I’ve seen that before. The evil version of Reaver sent it, and it caused a massive explosion that nearly killed me.”
She looked at the device with a frown. “Hmm. Well, this isn’t that. It would be like being scared of all dogs because one dog bit you one time.”
“What are you talking about? That’s called a post-traumatic phobia, and people suffer from it all the time!”
“Okay, I guess that’s true, but I assure you this is perfectly safe. All I did was transfer the data from my pocket tab. I suppose I could transfer it to a USB stick. I would need to print one, though, so...”
“Well, who is the message from?”
“Leona.”
“What? How? Where is she?”
“I didn’t watch the messages. I’m just relaying them to you.”
“Why did she send them to you?”
“You don’t have a tablet,” she reminded him.
“Oh, I guess that’s true,” he echoed.
“I received a data burst just before the bridge connecting us to her collapsed. I don’t know who actually sent it out, though, since she was obviously preoccupied with trying to reach you physically. I didn’t realize I had it last year until you were gone.”
“Okay, I’ll take the device...as long as you’re sure it won’t blow up my ship.”
“Wait, is the ship gonna blow up!” Cassidy called out from her grave chamber, having hardly been listening.
“It’s fine, Cass,” Weaver promised her. “You might go down to engineering level if you want some privacy,” she said to Mateo.
“This is fine.” Mateo took the device from Weaver’s hand, and inserted it into a port in one of the terminals attached to the central table. A holographic image appeared, showing four video files, each with Leona Matic as its author. He selected the first one.
Leona appeared. “Hey, Mateo. I’m hoping that this message reaches you in a timely manner, or even at all. More importantly, I’m hoping you made it to Gatewood. I tried to go there in this new ship. It’s very small, as you can see. It was state of the art when it was built, though, so I’m making good time. Unfortunately, that time is sending me in the wrong direction.” She took a breath. “I’m here with an artificial intelligence named Eight Point Seven. She has control over most of the ship’s systems. She controls life support, and lights, and artificial gravity, and several other auxiliaries. She doesn’t have control over navigation, though. Something else has taken hold, and we can’t figure it out. I could stop propulsion, if I wanted to, but then we would be stuck in the middle of interstellar space, and I wouldn’t be able to change vector anyway. Something or someone wants me to go somewhere else.” She took a beat. “Or maybe it just doesn’t want me to see you again. It’s too early to tell where we’re headed, but Eight Point Seven is working on it around the clock when I’m not in the timestream.
“Physically, I’m fine. Emotionally, it’s been tough. I’d have gone crazy without her, though. She used to run Bungula, then she was my therapist. I’ll explain later.” She thought about her last statement for a bit, then added, “if I ever get the chance. I have plenty of rations, recycled water, and more entertainment than I have time to watch. Well, I guess I don’t know if that’s true, because if I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t know how long it’s going to take to get there. I would probably run out of raw food material by then, though. No, I shouldn’t say that; it’s too negative.” She looked a little offscreen. “Eight Point Seven, could you edit that out later?”
“Certainly,” her AI friend lied.
“Anyway, if you’re watching this, and you’re not Mateo, then...I don’t know. I’m hoping he somehow gets this. We’re moving at relativistic speeds, which makes communication a little tricky. It’s not impossible, but it’s a lot easier when you have a real station to connect to. I’m just shooting this towards Barnard’s Star, so there’s no guarantee it’ll reach anybody at all. Even if it survived, it won’t be for another eight years, or something. I dunno, I didn’t calculate the differential.”
“If you would like, I could—” Eight Point Seven’s voice started to say.
“Nah, it’s all right,” Leona stopped her. “Knowing precisely how far I am from him right now won’t change how long it takes. He’ll never be able to reply either way.” She looked back at the camera. “I hope you’re faring better. Remember the rules of time travel. I came up with a new one. It’s kind of like Rule Number Seven.”
Mateo recited the rule out loud, in sync with Leona. “Pack the essentials, and always keep them within reach.”
“Rule Number Thirteen,” she continued, “never get separated from the people you love. I’ve learned that one the hard way.” She sat there for a moment in silence. A tear rolled down her cheek.
A tear rolled down Mateo’s as well.
“I won’t keep you from whatever it is you’re doing. If I get so lucky as to land on a happy safe world, and gain access to a Nexus replica, or an interstellar teleporter, maybe none of these messages will matter.” She wagged her finger as more tears started filling up her eyes. “Don’t watch this if we’ve been reunited already. It’s embarrassing,” she said as she was wiping off her face. “I’ll keep sending these; once a day, to keep you updated. Again, don’t try to send anything back. I’m a moving target.” She was about to turn off the recording, but stopped. “One more thing. Were I you.”
“Were I you,” Mateo echoed as he was staring at Leona’s paused face at the end of the video.
“Oh my God,” Cassidy broke the silence through her own tears. “That was so beautiful, and sad.” She was out of her grave chamber, and at Mateo’s right flank. Weaver was still at his left, but didn’t say anything.
Mateo took one last look at the final frame of the first video, then selected the second one.
“Hey, Mateo. Leona here. Hopefully you haven’t forgotten about me. But if there’s a pretty girl standing by you, don’t let me get in your way.”
Mateo awkwardly looked back at Cassidy, and then at Weaver.
“We figured out where we’re going. Or at least, we strongly believe we’re headed for Varkas Reflex. It’s possible we could pass by it, and go somewhere else, but it’s prime suspect right now. It’s orbiting a red dwarf star about eight light years from Earth, and eleven light years from Gatewood. It’s so named, because the star is called Wolf 359. Varkas is...sort of Sanskrit for wolf. A reflex angle is one that’s greater than one-eighty, but smaller than three-sixty. Imagine the corner of a wall. It’s ninety degrees, right? Well, that’s just on the inside. Go to the outside of the building, and draw an arc from one wall, to the adjoining wall. That’s what we’re talkin’ about. Obviously that means there are many reflex angles, but three-fifty-nine is the highest you get before you reach a full circle. I know you don’t care about that, but I wanted you to know that’s probably where I’ll be. I still don’t know why, but it won’t be easy when I get there. I’m not expecting white sandy beaches, and fruity drinks. Or maybe I should, because of rule number one.
Hope for the best, plan for the worst,” Mateo recited alone.
“Interestingly enough,” she went on. “We’re probably going to arrive around the same time its colonists do. I can’t wait to explain that to them. Nothing else to report. Stay safe. Were I you.”
“Were I you,” he said again.
Leona looked a lot more distressed in the third video. She almost sounded drunk. “I know it’s only been a few days, but it feels like forever. I guess it’s just that...” She trailed off. “I mean, are you still on our pattern? I went back to our pattern. Did you age several years since I last saw you? I’m meant to think you got back on it, but I don’t know that for sure. I’m trying to stay positive, but I’ve gotten really agitated. Eight Point Seven is great, but there’s no independent form. I’m talking to the walls. I need...connection. I need to see a face. I haven’t seen anybody’s face but my own, and I’m starting to never want to see it again. I feel alone, even though she’s here. At the same time, I can’t get away from her. Don’t worry, she can’t hear me. I turned her sensors off. She consented to it, as long as I don’t leave the timestream without turning her back on fully.
“I didn’t sleep well last night, and she thinks I just need to rest. She’s probably right, like she always is. She claims there’s no way of fixing the ship, but I don’t wanna give up. It’s only been days for me. Intellectually, I know that she’s been working the problem this whole time, but I haven’t, so how can I just let it go? She needs me to open access panels, and check circuitry. It doesn’t matter how smart she is if she doesn’t have a finger that can turn off a governor implant, or whatever.” She thought through this a moment. “I don’t think there’s a governor implant. There’s just nowhere to hide it. I think it’s—I think, uhh—I think that the powers that be are just doing this. Or maybe a powerful chooser. That’s the only explanation for why I can’t hack back in. The powers usually give us some sense of free will. They don’t usually just take over vehicles, but maybe they’ve changed since we last started. Maybe this is that important to them, whatever it is. Or we’re dealing with the next Cleanser, who has yet to reveal themselves to me. Do you know who it could be? I want my ship back.” She grimaced. “That’s all I have. Were I you, and all that.”
The fourth video was the shortest of all. “Welp, Eight Point Seven has informed me that she has given up trying to get us to Gatewood. We’re now ninety-nine percent certain that we’re going to Varkas Reflex, and she wants me to mentally prepare for that. We still don’t know what we’ll find there, though, so who the fuck cares? It’ll take me eight days to get there. I’ll keep recording messages, but...they won’t matter. Nothing matters.” She didn’t bother saying were I you this time.
“Thanks, Weaver,” Mateo said, still looking at the hologram.
“Mateo, I know that—”
Thanks..Weaver,” he repeated shortly.
“Very well, sir.” She left the ship.
He stood there seething for a moment, then he turned around. “You still remember what you used to do to make a living?”
“Um...yes?” Cassidy didn’t know where he was going with this.
“I need to clear my head. How much for a lapdance?”

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Proxima Doma: Roundabout (Part X)

“We’re..from...home,” Kavita answered him, like there was no better way of explaining it. But we are ultimately all from Earth.”
“I was born on Durus,” Vitalie corrected.
“Honduras?” Gavix asked. “Never heard of it. Never heard of Earth either.”
“We need to find a way to get our bearings,” Tertius suggested.
“How old is this universe?” Étude asked Gavix.
“Oh, yeah,” Tertius realized. “Assuming each of our universes was banged out with the same start values, knowing the age of the universe would tell us our temporal distance from our present.”
“Right,” Gavix said, “but I don’t know how you perceive time.”
Tertius thought about this for a minute, but couldn’t come up with an answer. Vitalie knew what to do. “One-elephant, two-elephant, three-elephant, four-elephant, five-elephant. That was five seconds. There are sixty seconds to a minute, sixty minutes to an hour, twenty-four hours to a day, and three hundred sixty days in a year.”
“Five,” Étude had to correct, recognizing that Vitalie was not from Earth, and had her own way of measuring time. “Three hundred and sixty-five days in a year.”
Gavix tilted his head for a moment. Any normal person would have no clue what to do with the data he was just given, but this guy would clearly be able to internalize, and use it properly. “The universe, at this moment, is roughly nine-point-three billion years old.”
Tertius just shook his head.
“How old is the universe for us?” Vitalie asked him.
“Thirteen-point-seven-something, or other. This is billions of years ago.”
“In a different brane,” Gavix reminded him.
“A what?”
“Brane,” he repeated. “Uh...universe.”
“That’s worse. It makes it even harder to swallow,” Kavita pointed out.
“No, it doesn’t,” Gavix assured her. “The truth is that it doesn’t matter what year it is in one universe, as compared to another. This may resemble where you came from in many ways, but it operates in a completely independent timestream. You didn’t travel four and a half billion years into the past. You just crossed over to our brane, incidentally at this point in our history. When you cross back, it can be at any point in your own history. Our timelines have nothing to do with each other. When I take you back, you’ll be fine.”
“You can take us back?” Étude asked, astonished.
“Yes, of course.”
“What do you mean, of course? Do you have access to The Crossover?”
Gavix breathed in deep, and sighed, as he looked to his crew with an expression of only mild distaste. “My ship was the one built to navigate the bulkverse. The engineers who created the Crossover didn’t so much as invent it as they progressed enough to send a message across the bulk. We received this message, and followed it out of curiosity, which was when they stole our technology. That’s also how come we knew you were here. We detected your arrival, and jumped right away.”
“What if we were going to steal your technology, just like the Ansutahans did?” Étude asked.
Gavix shrugged. “They didn’t just steal the plans for bulk travel technology. They stole the engine itself. What we’ve been left with wouldn’t be able to accommodate an army the likes of which we found ourselves up against before. Honestly, I’m not sure all four of you can use it either. It’s only so big.”
“Is it some kind of time pod?” Vitalie guessed.
“Uhh...” It’s like Gavix didn’t want to say. “No.” He looked at one of his Byrqoz people, and signed for him to go open the safe. After the guy left, he prepared to defend himself. “Okay, it’s not going to look like much, but I promise that it works. It wasn’t designed to do what it can do. It’s this unbelievable story that involves rubber bands, a particle accelerator, and my lunch.” He used airquotes for the last word. “I was wearing it at the time, and it became imbued with the power to cross over.”
A crewmember standing nearby caught Étude’s attention, and signed, he stole it when he was drunk, snuck into engineering, and ended up being exposed to exotic matter.
The Byrqoz alien person returned with a colorful garment draped over his arms. You might even call it technicolor. He presented it to his leader like it was the world’s most precious item.
Gavix accepted it. “We call this the dreamcoat,” he said. “It’s virtually impossible to navigate. It can only take you to a brane you’ve already been to before. Obviously this shouldn’t be a problem for you, since you’ve not been to any oth—”
“I have,” Vitalie interrupted, knowing what he was going to say. “I’ve been to five. Total,” she added, “including home. I don’t know if this one we’re in right now was one of them, though.”
Gavix was surprised. “Oh, well...then I can’t promise the coat will take you to the right one.”
“She can be a passenger,” Tertius said. “One of us will drive.”
“It doesn’t work like that,” Gavix said. “There’s no driver. It attempts to send you back to where you’ve been. The more branes you’ve been to, the bigger the crapshoot. You can’t control it.”
“We can handle making three or four pitstops,” Étude said. “That’s not a big deal.”
“It would only not be a big deal if you were immortal, or at least ageless. It requires time to charge after each use.”
“How much time?” Kavita asked.
“In your terms, I would estimate a thousand years, and that’s a very rough estimate. Like I’ve explained, I’m quite immortal, so I never kept track when I was using it.”
“You guys think we can handle a thousand years?” Tertius asked the gang.
“Wait, you are immortal?”
Étude ignored the question, because the answer would grow obvious as the conversation continued from here. “It could be up to four thousand years.”
“That’s not entirely true,” Gavix contended, worried someone would shoot the messenger. There’s nothing about this coat that prevents it from doubling back. You could end up back here for another thousand years, and then in one of the others again. I repeat...crapshoot. I probably wouldn’t have suggested it had I known about your friend here. I spent a lot of time lost throughout the bulkverse.”
Kavita sighed, and put her hands on her hips. “Lost for how long?”
“I wanna say...a million? Maybe two? I never really made much attempt at returning here, though, because it mattered little to me where I was. I guess you could try to navigate by thinking about your universe real hard, but it’s not, like, a psychic coat, or something.”
She took the universe-hopping garment from him, and spread the corners out with her arms. It was a fairly large coat, but four people might have been pushing it. “Someone has to stay here anyway, and I’m not really up to the whole crapshoot thing. If I’m gonna live forever, I may as well do it here. Maybe this is exactly where my life has been leading me.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Vitalie said with a frown. “There’s no reason for us to worry about it. All your problems will be solved if I just don’t go with you.”
“We can’t leave you here,” Étude argued. “Nor you,” she said to Kavita.
“No, I wanna stay,” Kavita argued back. “I’m not doing this just to be a martyr. When I volunteered to be a cognizant for my people, I fully intended to live amongst them, and just pretend I didn’t know about technology. But then I became friends with the three of you, and we started spending a lot of time together. I would be lying if I claimed it wasn’t nice using the food synthesizer, or watching a movie in air conditioning. I guess I’m not as much of a primitivist as I thought I was. So there’s nothing for me back there. None of the Oblivios could ever truly know who I am, or what I’ve been through.”
“We would be there,” Tertius said. “We know who you are.”
She smiled sadly. “And I will never forget the gifts you’ve given me. I consider this universe the culmination of all that. I really do wanna stay.”
A moment of reverent silence.
“And you,” Étude said, like a protective mother. “She’s already used the new life, new path explanation. I won’t let you off that easy.”
Now Vitalie was the one smiling sadly. “You remember what I said when I gave you the water?”
Tertius didn’t respond.
“I wasn’t the one what procured it for you, but you insisted you pay me back. I’m collecting. Take Étude. Take the coat. And go.”
“I’m the one who got the water.” Étude was raising her voice with each word.
“That wasn’t really you,” Vitalie said.
“Well, it certainly wasn’t you,” she fought.
“I was delirious,” Tertius said to Vitalie. “I didn’t know what I was promising you. If you would like to collect at a later date, I would be happy to...give you a back massage, or beat up your ex. I’m not stranding you alone in a frightening new universe.”
Vitalie plopped her arm around Kavita’s shoulders. “I’m not alone, it’s not scary, and these seem like good people.”
Étude shook her head. “It could be a thousand years, it could be a million. We have the time, so we’re gonna take it. You’re coming with, and that’s that.”
Vitalie could see that nothing she said was going to change their minds. Their only hope was to remove all alternatives. “Mister Henderson. You have no stake in this. I’m asking you first, before they can. Teleport those two back to the surface, with the coat, and then, like, spool up the FTL drive, or whatever.”
Étude and Tertius both shook their heads. “Don’t.”
Gavix looked amongst them, weighing his options. Then he nodded tightly to one of the crew.
Étude tried to stop the Byrqoz, but Gavix held her back.
“Don’t do this,” Tertius pleaded. “You won’t ever see your coat again.”
Gavix shrugged. “It was never mine. I stole it. I just thought it looked cool.”
Vitalie wanted to say her goodbyes, but the strategy wasn’t allowing enough time. Gavix did what she asked of him, and sent her two friends back down to this other version of Proxima Doma. Then he jumped his ship so far away that there was no hope for Étude to teleport them back.
She might have tried to travel back into the past, and stop them from leaving at all, but that could have resulted in disaster. In the end, they were forced to respect Vitalie’s wishes, and just leave. They didn’t really know how to operate the coat, but they didn’t have to. It started glowing as soon as Tertius put it on. She slipped underneath and held onto his chest, which was a little awkward, but it worked. They removed it when it stopped glowing, and found themselves on the penultimate level of the tower in the center of the Oblivio dome. Above them, where the top level used to be, they could see the hologram of an open sky the Oblivios were shown to make them think they weren’t really inside of a dome. On the ground, a crowd had gathered around the tower base, just like last time, when Tertius was too sick to erase their memories. Only an hour of time had passed since they left.
While he was working on correcting this yet again, a ceiling spontaneously appeared over their heads. A hatch popped open from above. Vitalie stuck her head through it. “Oh, hi. I was told I know you. Is this true?”

Friday, May 24, 2019

Microstory 1110: The Escapologist

Atlantis is the place that houses the powers that be. These people are...complicated, but they live in a universe with quadrillions of others, most of which are not at all cognizant that this small group of children have control over another universe. They are the ones who manipulate salmon, moving them up and down the timeline, and all throughout space, recruiting them to complete various missions. For the most part, there are only a few ways of traveling to these other universes, which are known as branes. You can take The Crossover, or its predecessor, The Prototype. If you’re lucky enough to catch a junction for the massive Universal Bridge Collapse, you might be able to get to another brane, but it would be practically impossible to get back. Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will grant you access to certain branes, but not just any. If you want to go from the salmonverse to Universe Prime, there’s a special permanent connection that very few people know about. The Escapologist is one of these people, though she did not go by this name at the time. She was born Ariadna Traversa; a perfect name for what she would come to do later in life. She discovered the Prime Bridge—which was actually more like a tunnel—after years and years of searching for it. Most people don’t go looking, because they don’t know about it, but she intuited that it must exist. Lots of people had heard of the powers, but no one had ever seen them. They were expected to exist in some other dimension, but there were those who could see in more than the usual three dimensions. They reported seeing nothing of the kind, except for The Gallery, which was something different. No, if the powers that be were to have any influence on her world, they would have to be both detached from it, but be utilizing some link to it.

Since her return from this place, she has refused to divulge where the access junction to the Prime Bridge is located; not to prevent anyone from learning the truth, and keep it to herself, but because she barely escaped with her life. There was nothing particularly dangerous about Universe Prime itself. Most people she encountered there were going about their day, and had no problem with her. It was the bridge itself that was the problem. Unlike the bridge between Ansutah and the salmonverse, it is long and treacherous. It isn’t merely a connection between two points, but an actual bridge with significant dimension. It is here that reality breaks down, and time is difficult to calculate. It can simultaneously feel as if you’ve been there for one second, and one thousand years. It can cause you to lose all memories, and any sense of who you are, or any drive to move forward. And your destination can appear infinitely far away. These are not obstacles created by some intelligent entity who doesn’t want you to pass. It’s like this because you are crossing through something called the bulkverse, which is the collection of all universes, inside of a hyperdimensional construct, which was not designed to be hospitable to life. The matrioverse, as it’s called in metaphysical terms, was never meant to be traveled, or even perceived. You are meant to live in your brane, and your brane alone. Your identity—your self—is tied to your environment. If that environment changes, then you change. The more dramatic the change, the more of the original you can be lost. Ariadna had to fight against every instinct she had to just remain inside the Prime Bridge, for her will to do anything but stand in place was all but gone. Going through the first time was bad enough, but the return was even worse, because now she was scarred by the trauma from having learned the true nature of the powers that be. She took up the moniker as a reminder of what she went through, but she has never told anyone else about it, and she never will.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Microstory 1109: Dardan Lusha

Horace Reaver was a salmon, born with the pattern of going back to his younger body, and living every day a second time. At first, he didn’t realize other people weren’t like him. He called the first time he experienced a day the practice, and assumed everyone around him went through the same thing. One day, he accidentally killed his friend, Dardan Lusha on the playground. This didn’t bother him much, because he knew he would be able to prevent it from happening after the day reset to its beginning, as it always had. This was when he first learned normal people were not like him at all, and did not perceive time the same way. Dardan lived through that day, totally unawares of what had happened before, and went on to continue living long after that, but his relationship with his only friend was forever changed. While the trauma was completely erased from Dardan’s memories, Horace could remember vividly, and could not get past the fact that he was alone. Dardan would always remind him of that, and he just couldn’t have it, so he purposefully cut ties with him. Though Reaver would go on to become quite the prolific killer, there was no reason to suspect he felt any animosity towards Dardan. In all likelihood, he had all but completely forgotten about the incident. Still, Reaver’s daughter, Meliora didn’t want to take any chances. When Dardan was a young adult, she took him off Earth, and made him the first tenant of Sanctuary, which she built on a planet that would eventually come to be known as Dardius. Then the timeline changed. A traveler went back, and altered history enough to create a new reality, and a new Dardan. She came to realize that this would never stop happening. She couldn’t just rescue people who had been negatively affected by time, then leave their alternates to their own devices. Some people, in these new realities, will have escaped their terrible fates, and that was fine, but someone at constant risk, like Dardan, would have to be saved no matter what. Over the years, she continued to save him from the potential of her father’s wrath. Every once in awhile, a new Dardan will take up residence on the planet named for him. The most recent one was elected Agriculture Administrator, and was responsible for feeding billions of people, including the world’s enemies. And no one beyond Meliora knew why he had been saved, not even Dardan himself.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Microstory 1108: Meliora Rutherford Delaney-Reaver

Meliora Rutherford Delaney-Reaver was born in a different reality. Most people with time powers, really only have one specialty. This specialty may come with necessary secondary powers, or they may have multiple applications, but they’re usually all related. Someone who can travel back and forth in time often also has the ability to jump through space as well, but this is because space and time aren’t as separate as most people perceive. They won’t also be able to create pocket dimensions, though, because that’s an entirely different set of skills. There are indeed a handful of choosing ones out there who can manipulate time in multiple ways, however not all are created equal. Holly Blue, for instance, can invent different kinds of time-based technology. The Apprentice can quite literally learn other people’s powers, though he’ll lose any he doesn’t utilize often or recent enough, just like when a normal person’s brain loses neural connections. Of course, The Cleanser possessed the body of an entity known as The Mass, which was originally designed to maintain a balance in the timeline, and exhibited several characteristics in order to accomplish this. Meliora was special in that she natural came with a host of powers, and there’s never been a satisfactory explanation as to why. Her birth father, Horace Reaver was a salmon, who lived each day twice. He had no control over his pattern, and though there was only one person in histories like him, he wasn’t particularly remarkable. Her mother, Leona Delaney was spawn, and depending which reality you’re talking about, she was imbued with different patterns, but nothing astonishing either. Shortly after Meliora’s third birthday, Reaver was arrested for killing the man who killed his wife—along with a dozen or so innocent bystanders. She was subsequently sent to live in foster care, with a man named Lincoln Rutherford, who already had one adopted son.

A few months before she turned six, Meliora realized what she could do, when she found herself accidentally twenty years in the past, and she wouldn’t return to her date of egress until experiencing twenty years of life, but not all in order. She continued to jump around time, practicing her skills, and exploring history. The original plan was to go back to before her mother died, and stop it from happening, but she realized it was her birth father who needed to make a change for his own life. So she went back to the exact date she first left, and confronted him in his prison cell. Unbeknownst to the two men, her foster father was a guard, and happened to be stationed just outside his door at the time. When she sent Reaver back to his own younger body, Lincoln went through as well, and started making his own changes to the timeline. What Meliora discovered, though, was that no matter what she did, history could never reach a state of good. Every change came with an unforeseen cost, and any attempt to correct these new problems simply resulted in new costs. But through all these years, she realized the people who suffered the most were the normal humans, who often had no clue what was going on. So she became determined to find a place where all those negatively affected by other temporal manipulators could find peace and safety. She recruited the help of a spawn named Gilbert Boyce, who happened to have ownership of a planet millions of light years away that was shocking similar to Earth. It was here that she built The Sanctuary. It started with a single hotel, but grew from there, until the world became home to billions of people, many of which didn’t even know she existed.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Microstory 1107: Judy Schmidt

There was nothing particularly special about Judy Schmidt. She grew up with a normal family, in a normal town, and ended up with a normal job in marketing. She was raised as an atheist, and after careful study of the world’s religions when she was older, decided she still was. She wasn’t superstitious, and she didn’t believe in anything that hadn’t been officially recorded in history. She believed in dinosaurs and meteorites, but not ghosts, and definitely not time travelers. After a few years of working for the company, she finally felt comfortable with her career status. She wasn’t interested in doing the same job, for the same rate of pay, forever, but she wasn’t overly ambitious either. She was ready to hold steady for awhile, and maybe focus a little more on her personal life. Her friends had been wanting to set her up on a blind date, so she agreed. She and Rebecca started off slow. First they had coffee, then lunch, then dinner, and then they had a date that took place in two locations. This occurred over the course of a month, and it seemed to be going so well, that they both decided they wanted to take the next step. On the first night that Rebecca stayed over, she disappeared...literally. They were sitting up in bed, just talking, and in the blink of an eye, she was gone, right in the middle of her sentence. A frightened Judy immediately called poison control, thinking she had ingested something bad, but there was nothing they could do for her if she didn’t specifically remembering taking something. They directed her to urgent care, where the doctors and nurses were unable to find anything wrong with her. There was no sign she had been given a hallucinogen, or anything else. There wasn’t even any alcohol in her system. She finally had to surrender to the odd, but still plausible, possibility that she fell asleep, and by the time she woke up, Rebecca had simply left. Sure, her recollection of what the clock read didn’t account for this, and sure, Rebecca wasn’t picking up her phone, but that didn’t mean she was magic. But she was, sort of. Two days later, Judy was getting ready for work when Rebecca suddenly returned. She was wearing different clothes, and covered in mud. As it turned out, she had just spent the entire time in 2011, providing aid for families displaced by the Sidoarjo mud flow in Indonesia. Judy had a hard time believing it, but couldn’t deny the fact that she never did receive a more reasonable explanation for Rebecca’s disappearance. Three days later, it happened again. This time, she was only gone for about eight hours, and returned apparently from the same time and place as before. This continued to happen every day. She was sent off to work, as if it were any other job, except it was taking place over thirty years in the past. She tried to break up with Judy, but Judy wouldn’t accept it. Though this was all new to her, Judy could tell that her relationship with Rebecca was real, and it would be unfair to the both of them if she just ignored their potential. So she stayed, ultimately forever, and she never regretted it.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Microstory 1106: Xearea Voss

Xearea Voss was one of the last Saviors of Earth. No one knows how the powers that be who control the system of salmon choose who will be the next Savior, but it doesn’t appear to be random. A lot of people in the world of salmon and choosing ones are capable of teleporting, but the Savior is in a class of their own. They can’t control when or where they jump, or where they land. Once they arrive, they have an innate sense of what they’re meant to do, and they almost never fail. Some believe that a Savior is detoured to a pocket dimension after each egress, and given mission parameters by someone, then sent off to the new location without conscious memories, but no real evidence suggests this. Their minds are probably encoded with subliminal instructions, using a psychic connection of which they are not fully cognizant. Unlike most Saviors, Xearea was aware of her destiny before it came to pass. Her older brother, Camden was salmon as well, whose pattern regularly pushed him back in time exactly one hundred years. He wasn’t given a specific job while there, but he ended up being recruited by a secret task force composed of competing intelligence agencies from a handful of allied nations. Xearea had always believed she would one day be called to action as well, though she assumed she would begin working with Camden. It wasn’t until a mysterious enemy from her future came back to kill her that she learned she was something else. When he and a group of his men attacked her when she was a child, a group of other men showed up to protect her. They continued to do so for the next few years, until it was time for her to begin her work as Savior.

Several years into her new life, Xearea was tasked with protecting a political leader from an assassination attempt on the steps of a park in the middle of the city. This sort of mission was usually handled by a salmon known as The Kingmaker, but for some reason, she was chosen instead. Perhaps they believed the leader would respond better to an unassuming teenage girl. This leader was well-liked by most, but hated by a select few, who believed humans should be the only intelligent species on Earth. This far into the future, the world was now home to a plethora of others, like androids, transhumans, and genetically engineered so-called designer babies. He was an advocate for the rights of these others, and not anywhere near alone in his beliefs, but his assassins considered him to by the linchpin in the movement towards equality. It wasn’t really a movement anymore, though, since they had long been accepted into society. The assassins were not convinced things couldn’t be changed. Most of a Savior’s saves cannot be undone, but this was an unusual case. A choosing one whose name remains unimportant was the man responsible for the attempt at the leader’s life. Time travelers altered history all the time, but they didn’t purposefully meddle too much in human affairs, because they just didn’t care all that much. He kept trying to go back into the past, and providing back up to himself on those park steps, but Xearea defeated him in every reality. No matter how many versions of him he sent after her, he just couldn’t win. So he decided to go back further, and kill her before she ever had the chance to stop him. We all know how that turned out, though. Xearea wouldn’t die until many years later, at the age of 79.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 25, 2232

The timeline, when it came to the universe of Ansutah, was hard to follow. One thing Mateo was told was that its timestream flowed completely separately than that of their own. If, for instance, Mateo were to go back in time and change history, so that the events on The Warren that led to Ansutah’s creation never happened, it wouldn’t matter; Ansutah would still exist. Its existence was totally independent, and no amount of time travel could stop it. But on its own, the rules of time travel continued to apply. When Leona traveled to Ansutah many years ago, she ended up there in some point in its history, but when Serif came here just a few years ago, it was at some point earlier. This meant that Serif’s reunion with Leona, which had already happened from Leona’s perspective, had yet to come to pass from Serif’s perspective. There was no way she could escape that universe if she ever wanted that moment to occur, which she did. Though it was physically possible to alter history, and was done all the time, when dealing with other universe, it was best to let things play out as you knew them to. It was even more dangerous than time travel across a single spacetime continuum, because it added an extra dimension of unpredictable outcomes. At least this was how Weaver explained it when Mateo demanded she reopen the universe bridge, so he could get Serif back.
“I can’t do it anyway,” Weaver said. “All the instrumentation is over there. There’s no bridge to open. It had to be created, and I have no means of doing duplicating it.”
“It was done before, so it can be done again.”
“Not by me,” she argued. “You saw me in there. We barely escaped with our lives, because I had no idea what I was doing. It’s beyond me. You asking me to do that would be like me asking you to design and build a spaceship.”
“Given enough time, I could build a spaceship.”
“Maybe...because there are manuals, and other ways of gaining the education. There’s no universe bridge-building expert to learn from over here. They don’t exist either. I’m sorry, Mateo. She’s gone. She was always going to be gone.”
Mateo didn’t want to surrender to that, but he knew he had to. “Where are we?”
Weaver started tapping on her wrist screen. “Cylinder Four. It’ll take a few hours to get back to Cylinder One.”
“I don’t even know how close we are to midnight. Will I make it in time?”
“I’m not sure you have to worry. It’s 2232. You skipped over your last jump. You may not get another one until the end of the day.”
They made contact with the rest of the group, and proceeded to the transport station, where a ferry was ready to take them to the primary centrifugal cylinder. Cassidy was waiting for them at the airlock when they arrived.
“How bad is it?” Mateo questioned her.
“It’s fine,” she replied. “The Maramon have been living with extremely restricted movement, but there’s no talk of an uprising, or anything like that. No one is mad at us for what we did. You protected us from any more Maramon coming through, so they’re choosing to be positive.”
“Did you tell them about my plan for The Margerie?” Weaver asked her.
“I did. They’re waiting to use it.”
“Waiting for what? Us?”
Cassidy laughed a little accidentally. “No, Kestral and Ishida have been upgrading its systems. They want it to move at point-nine-c.”
“Do they know where its going?” Weaver asked.
“Do you know where it should go?” Mateo asked her.
“Until Project Topdown takes off, our dataset is limited. I have two ideas. It all depends on how far from human civilization you want them to go. Wherever they end up, I assume they’ll want to make their star system a no-fly zone.”
“What’s Topdown?” Mateo asked Cassidy privately as they were heading towards the command center.
She shrugged.
Mateo and Weaver watched the Gatewood welcome video on their way. Apparently, it was only the first in a series designed by Ramses and Goswin to help ease the human refugees into their new lives in a new universe. This approach was reportedly working.
Once they arrived, Kestral tried to say something to them, but Weaver immediately spoke to the computer. “Please run program Weaver Two-H.”
The presentation screen drew up of the solar system.
She stepped through the program as she explained what she was thinking. “Psi Draconis Bc. It’s slightly more massive than Earth, and orbits a star slightly more massive, and slightly hotter, than Sol. It’s companioned by other planets, particularly a gas giant slightly more massive than Jupiter, which would have assisted Bc’s development into a rocky world. Bc is not tidally locked with its parent star, and is believed to hold both a suitable atmosphere, and magnetosphere. Scientists have been studying it extremely closely since the early 23rd century, and believe it to be well habitable. It’s seventy-five light years from Earth, so we’re at less risk of running into them again. I know you’re worried about that. I’m not going to apologize for what I did. Trapping them with their enemies would have been wrong, and you, frankly, had no right to do it. I had to act, and I’m glad I did. The Margerie is perfect for the journey. There are just the right number of people, and if you’ve upgraded propulsion, they won’t have to remain in stasis for too terribly long.” She finally took a breath.
Captain McBride looked at the screen for a moment. “Okay. We can plot a course, but there’s a problem.”
“What’s that?” Weaver asked.
Ishida stepped forward. “We can stock the Margerie with only enough resources to last the Maramon about twenty-five years, assuming they don’t try to procreate while they’re en route.”
“I just said, they can stay in stasis,” Weaver reminded.
“No, they can’t,” Ishida explained. “The stasis pods don’t work. We’ve been trying to fix them this whole time, with Maramon volunteers. You proposed the Margerie was sent here by someone with knowledge of the future, for the Maramon, but we’re not sure that’s the case. We don’t know why they’re larger, but they are most definitely designed for human biology. The Maramon can’t stay asleep. The longest anyone’s made it was nine days, and that was because she was a child, and not as strong to resist. But her body eventually did overcome, and break out.”
Greer stood up. “I didn’t know about this.”
“You’re not a scientist,” Kestral said to her. “There was nothing you could do.”
“Yes, there is,” Greer contended. “Atterberry pods.”
“What? No,” Kestral said dismissively. “We’re not doing that.”
“Why not?” Mateo asked.
“Because she would have to be on the ship, to make sure they remain in working order. You would have to go with them, Miss Thorpe.”
“I recognize that,” Greer said.
“What are Atterberry pods?” Cassidy asked Mateo in a whisper.
“She gets her power from a woman named Missy Atterberry, who once used her abilities to create her own stasis pods. They trap you in a time bubble, so they don’t have to freeze you, or put you to sleep, or anything. You step in, and suddenly, it’s years later, or longer.”
“Oh.” Cassidy looked worried.
“It’s okay,” Mateo said to her. “No one is going to suggest you absorb Greer’s power, and do it yourself. Even if you were somehow more expendable, we don’t know if people’s powers wear out, and fade away for you. She’s the only one who can do it, if anyone does it.”
“Listen here,” Greer began. “I grew up in their world. I fought against the Maramon...in my own way. What these people did; betraying their own kind, for humans, which are undeniably inferior to them, is nothing short of amazing. If I can do anything to help them find a new home, then I have to. I want to.”
“You would have to stay awake for seventy-five years,” Weaver said, shaking her head. “You couldn’t use a bubble yourself, or a regular stasis pod, even for just a little bit. Nah, it would never work.”
Ramses jumped in, “it could work...if you have this.” He walked over to the wall, removed a panel, and revealed a secret safe. He opened it, and retrieved a small vial from what was obviously a freezer.
“What is that?” Kestral questioned.
“Blood of Newt. It can transfer powers from one to another.”
“So, you want to take the job on yourself?” Kestral asked him, not thinking he would say yes.
“Actually, I think I should go, yes.”
“I can do this,” Greer said.
“You would have to,” Ramses agreed. “You’re the only one with the power. If Cassidy were to do it instead, she could run out of Greer juice after too long. And this blood doesn’t just transfer powers to anyone. It only transfers them to offspring. You can do the job for awhile, and then when you get tired of it, you can pass it on to your child.”
“So, why would you need to go?” Ishida interrogated. “Are you just trying to get in her pants?”
“I should go, because she shouldn’t have to be alone. It’s 2232. She can be artificially inseminated. Of course...you would have to agree to that,” he said directly to Greer. “It’s not something you can just say yes to immediately. In fact, I forbid you to answer today. Whatever your decision, I respect it. Personally, I have no problem with the Maramon just staying here. I don’t know why we have to get rid of them.”
“We’re not getting rid of anyone,” Kestral announced. “True, enough of the human refugees don’t feel comfortable with them here, but the Maramon want to leave too. They want a home. We can find a suitable planet that’s twenty-five light years away, but if Greer and Ramses decide they want to help them get farther, I won’t stand in the way.”
“Think about it, Greer,” Ramses said in a woke voice. “Then we’ll talk. Then we’ll think about it more, and then we’ll talk again.”
After a beat, Kestral spoke again, “all right, well, in the meantime, Ishida, Weaver, and I will search for alternatives. If you choose to take this on, Miss Thorpe, and Mister Abdulrashid, you better be sure. There’s no turning back. You will either die on that ship, or on whatever planet it lands on.”
“I understand,” Greer said.
Ramses just nodded.
After the meeting broke, Mateo pulled him aside. “My man, are you leaving me?”
Ramses looked over at Greer, who was staring back from the other side of the room, blushing. The plan wasn’t to have them make a baby together, but if they went ahead with it, they would be raising it together, and that wasn’t something to be taken lightly. “It’s up to her. But...if we choose a closer planet, someone still has to go. We can’t have them just flying off wherever.”
“If they decide to kill you,” Mateo began, “they can fly off to wherever anyway. This is not a safe mission.”
“Are any of them safe?” Ramses volleyed.
“When we met, you were just a guy who was there. You hadn’t known Leona very long, and I didn’t know her friends, who hadn’t known you for super long either. When you followed us to Dardius, you were still..just a guy. I didn’t know we would become friends, or how close would be. I can’t just let you disappear from my life.”
He laughed, “oh, but you can disappear from mine?” He was being more playful than mean, but he had a good point. Mateo was rarely available to help him through all those little obstacles life threw at him. The reality was that Mateo could never be that good of a friend to anyone but Leona. Maybe he would never be there for her again either.
“This is just sudden. It’s not going to take over a year for you and Greer to decide. After midnight central hits, if you end up leaving, I’ll never see you again.”
“Don’t be so sure of that. We’ll be moving at just under lightspeed. You may randomly show up, having reached us going faster than light.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Mateo knew that was a bit of a longshot. He and Leona often found themselves in far away places, but for the most part, it took them as long as humanly possible to get around. This was going to be a one-way trip, and today was all they had.
“Well, anyway,” Ramses started, “if this is it, we should make the most of it. How about a game of Vector in Velox Park? Humans versus Maramon. It’s the only open space they’re allowed to be in.”
“All right, sure,” Mateo agreed. “I don’t know how we can win, though.”
Ramses scoffed lightheartedly. “Nah, man, we never win.”
Come the next year, Mateo returned to the timestream in a Ramsesless Gatewood.