Saturday, May 18, 2019

Proxima Doma: Egress (Part IX)

All better now, Tertius returned the dome to normal. He erased everyone’s memories of the last few days, and prevented them from realizing there was still an impossibly giant, anachronistic tower in the middle of their universe. Ambassador Lauritz asked Vitalie and Étude to leave. It wasn’t anything they did, but she decided she didn’t want there to be a Caretaker in their midst. People were going to get hurt, and they were going to die, but that was part of life. She didn’t want anyone interfering with what she considered to be a profound truth. The whole reason they came here was to avoid the conveniences of modern life. Sure, what the two of them could do wasn’t tech; it was seemingly natural, but that didn’t mean it belonged in that world. The Oblivios needed to live their lives as they would have on Earth centuries ago.
They weren’t really needed in any of the other Doma domes either. Despite being light years away from the heart of civilization, technology here was approaching comparability. They were in constant quantum communication with Earth. The best scientists from both worlds were always talking to each other, and sharing data. If one advanced, the other did too. This was a second Earth; the only difference being the inhospitability of its surface. But even that was going to change in the future. It would seem that the Caretaker program was over. It probably wasn’t the shortest tenure, including all Saviors throughout the timeline, but it certainly wasn’t the longest. Hopefully the other Vitalie was living a more impactful life on Dardius. This was the price of anonymity, though. Even if she had done this here for the next hundred years, she would never be remembered for her contributions. It was always going to end like this. She just hadn’t realized how much that would bother her.
So the two of them just started living normal lives. They thought about leaving, and maybe catching up with Leona and Mateo, but ultimately decided against it. Neither of them knew this was where they would end up, having been born so far away, but Proxima Doma felt right now. Étude started working in construction. She didn’t use her powers to build things, but it seemed like a natural fit, and it kept her busy. Vitalie still didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life after the program ended a few years ago. She was well into adulthood, but in a universe of virtual immortals, that didn’t matter much. So she did what most people in her position do; she went to school, and tried to figure it all out. She was presently focusing most on astronomy and physics, having been inspired by one of her idols, Leona Matic.
It wasn’t like they were completely banned from the Oblivio dome, so they would regularly take the tram to the top, and visit with Tertius and Kavita. They were having their weekly brunch with them when they suddenly felt an overpowering warmth. The air around them vibrated, like it had an electrical charge. The walls cracked, the lights flickered, and the floor turned to dirt. After it was over, Vitalie felt the worst nausea ever. She keeled over, and tried to throw up, but nothing would come out. She just kept heaving, but it wasn’t doing her any good. It felt like death. She looked up to see Étude tearing off all her sweat-covered clothes. She didn’t feel any nausea, but she was burning up, like someone had turned the whole room into an oven. Kavita was gathering the clothes up in desperation, and holding them tight to her body. She was a shivering blue popsicle. Only Tertius seemed unaffected by it. The alarm was blaring, indicating a problem with the life support systems. These weren’t the symptoms of exposure, but if life support was given the opportunity to shut down entirely, things would only get worse. He thought quickly, and rushed over to open the safe, to retrieve the immortality water. He dove down to Étude first. “Drink this.”
Étude hadn’t really thought much about becoming a true immortal, but if ever there was a time to consider it quickly, it was when she was literally dying. She took two big gulps of the first bottle, but Tertius stopped her from drinking any more.
“Pass it down the line!” he ordered.
Once Étude passed Catalyst to Vitalie, she took a drink from Existence, then Youth, then Longevity, and so on, until she had reached Activator. Vitalie did the same, as did Kavita. In only a few moments, where there was one immortal, there were now four.
“Seal up this room, Étude,” Tertius commanded.
Étude called upon her power, and filled in all the cracks. Somehow, the top of the tower must have been removed from its place of safety inside of the dome, and became exposed to the harsh environment outside. There weren’t any viewports, though, and the monitoring systems weren’t working, so there was no way to get answers yet.
“We have to find out what’s going on outside,” Kavita said. “Vitalie, you can fix the computers?”
“Me? Why would I be able to do that?”
“Aren’t you studying that?” she questioned.
“No. I’m studying space and physics, I’m not particularly good at it, and I’m still early in my education. I don’t know how these things work.”
“Well, you know more than I do; I grew up plowing fields.”
“I’ll take a look at them,” Tertius said. “I’m no computer scientist, but I installed them myself. There’s one vacuum suit in here. Étude, maybe you could teleport out there, and assess the damage.”
“Of course,” Étude agreed. “Vita, help me get that thing on.”
After Étude was fully fitted with the spacesuit, she jumped to the roof of the tower, where she was immediately met by Vitalie, who was using her own power to connect to her psychically.
“The dome is gone,” Vitalie pointed out. Not only was this level no longer on top of the tower, but the whole tower was gone, as was everything else they would have been able to recognize. All they could see were dirt and space rocks.
“Or we’re gone,” Étude said. “We could have been apported anywhere else.”
“Well, we’re still in dark tide, apparently,” Vitalie said. Proxima Doma was tidally locked with its parent star, which meant one side of the planet was in permanent darkness, while the other permanently in daytime. Each one was completely inhospitable to life, even while inside a protective dome. The best place to survive was where these two sides met, though safer still on the darker edge of that. As they were orbiting a flare star, solar radiation was especially nasty. The domes were placed all over the surface, though as a collective, they were starting to form a ring, so as to remain in the safest areas. This was especially important for the Oblivio dome, as they were not equipped with redundancies, like self-contained emergency bunkers, or escape vehicles.
“We have to get those systems back up,” Étude said, shaking her head. We have to know where we are, so I can get us back to where we need to be. Whatever it was that tore us apart probably didn’t stop there. The whole dome could have been exposed.”
Vitalie could hear something from her body. “Get back inside. He has something.”
“We have power,” Tertius announced after Étude teleported herself back to the room, and removed her helmet. “The computers just needed to be rebooted, though the outside cameras appear to have been damaged. Unfortunately, I have even worse news. It can’t connect to the satellite.”
“You can’t fix it?” Kavita questioned.
He breathed in deeply. “It doesn’t need to be fixed. When I said that it couldn’t connect, I really meant that the satellite isn’t there. Or rather, no satellite is up there. This world is pristine...untouched by man.”
“We went into the past,” Étude lamented.
“That’s what you would think, but...”
“But what?”
“The first thing the computer does when it’s turned on is try to establish a connection with the network. The second thing it does is determine some reference of time. The network itself would provide it with that information, but since it didn’t have that, it resorted to calculating stellar drift. We’re still on Proxima Doma, according to all data out there, but it’s...different.”
“Different how?” Vitalie asked.
“We could be in the past. We could be so far in the past that humans haven’t modeled stellar drift information from this far back. Or it’s somewhere else, and we just don’t have the data.”
“Okay, well...” Vitalie began. “How far back would we have to go to have no sense of time?”
He continued to hesitate and stall.
“Mister Valerius, we don’t have time for niceties,” Kavita told him. “Say what you need to say.”
“This would have to be hundreds of millions of years ago, at the most recent. It could be longer. We know where the stars were pretty far back in time, especially as choosers, which have extra information that I included in my databanks when I set this tower up. We don’t know that far back, though. The fact that the computer can’t calculate an exact date means that we’re the only humans in the entire universe right now.”
Just then, there was a knock on the door.
“You were saying...” Vitalie teased.
“That can’t possibly be a human out there,” he warned.
“We can’t answer it either way,” Kavita reminded them. “There’s no airlock.”
“Étude, could you...?”
“Put my helmet back on?” she guessed. “Sure.”
She teleported outside once more, but was careful not to let whoever it was out there see that she could do that. They rounded the corner to find what appeared to be a normal man standing at the door. He wasn’t wearing a suit, or any form of protection.
Oh, hello, he mouthed. He didn’t seem to need to be able to breathe, but unlike the kind of bullshit you might find in a Superman movie, you can’t talk without air, or some other medium, no matter how invulnerable you are.
Who are you? Étude used sign language, hoping this impossible person somehow knew the language.
My name is Gavix Henderson, he signed perfectly. Do you folks need some help?
How are you surviving? They did need some help, but Étude couldn’t help but ask the question.
I can survive literally anything, he replied. If you will allow me to beam you to my ship, I’ll explain everything. Do you have any wounded?
No wounded, but we should indeed talk.
This is going to look weird, but I assure you, I’m communicating with my crew. He started drumming on his thighs, like he was in an air instrument band.
A blue light overcame Étude, and she disappeared. Vitalie then found herself in Gavix’ apparent ship, back in her own body. She stood back up. Several crew members were standing around, smiling warmly. They were all carrying something on their backs, with a liquid being sent to little gills on their necks.
Welcome to the...Besananta, did one of them say?
“I can hear just fine,” Étude said. “I used to be mute, so I know sign language.”
We can’t speak, the crew member explained.
“I can.” Gavix was here now. “These are the byrqoz. They evolved as water-dwellers, so no vocal cords. “Where are you four from?”
“Proxima Doma,” Étude answered. “Forgive us, but...what year is it?”
He was taken aback by this. “Hmm. I dunno. We don’t really worry about the measurement of time. There aren’t any humans in this universe, except the ones I created, which I know for a fact aren’t anywhere near here. I specifically avoided seeding life in the Lactean galaxy. So, tell me...where are you from?”

Friday, May 17, 2019

Microstory 1105: Wayne Crawford

Long before Wayne Crawford was born, the wedding industry was a dying one. It wasn’t that people weren’t getting married, but it had transformed. First of all, same-sex marriage eventually, and finally, became ubiquitous worldwide. What few people who had a problem with it were expected to keep their mouths shut. Group marriages also became common, but they were built on equality, and love, rather than child rape, indoctrination, and coercion, like a certain religion known for polygamy. The biggest change, however, was in the world’s attitude towards the institution itself, and its beginning. Weddings were still performed, though they were lower key than before. They mostly involved partying and dancing, with little emphasis on decorations and traditions. Some even opted to have no wedding at all, and there was much less stigma attached to this decision than in prior decades. Couples and grouples started realizing that the point of a wedding is to get married, and the point of getting married is to be married. Marriage is a dynamic; not an event. Once the majority of people recognized that, ceremony lost its value. Still, the planet had not suffered from mass amnesia. Some liked to do things the old fashioned way, just for their historical and artistic value. A big wedding was no longer obligatory, nor a burden, but something some people did for fun. Since money wasn’t a thing anymore, it didn’t put a strain on resources either. Wayne Crawford, and his husband-to-be, Raphael Neville were two of those people. They decided they wanted to have a real wedding ceremony, with a full audience, an authorized officiant, and all the little frills and arbitrary features. Some aspects of the traditional wedding were removed. Nobody was giving anybody away, like property, and nobody was wearing virginal white. Unfortunately, it would seem that their special day would be ruined regardless of how they chose to handle it. On May 19, 2161, the rogue planet of Durus made an uncomfortably close pass by Earth. This caused a number of earthquakes, fires, and other disasters, the likes of which the planet hadn’t seen since safety and redundancy took a front seat in the car of life. It also had the unfortunate side effect of plucking people off the surface of both worlds, and pulling them up to the other one. People with temporal abilities and patterns, such as choosing ones and salmon, were at particularly high risk of this, but the majority of refugees were standard humans. Which ones were taken, and which ones were left alone, seemed to be largely unpredictable. You would only possibly be safe indoors, though not even that was a guarantee. Raphael was sadly chosen to be thrown up to Durus, but Wayne did not accept that. The idea was, after the end of the ceremony, they would ride off the cliff together on a two person jet platform to start their new lives, so it was all ready to go for them. Wayne didn’t understand what was happening when Raphael started essentially falling up in the air, but he wasn’t going to waste time studying the phenomenon. He jumped onto the platform, and zoomed up to save the love of his life. He was moving at a pretty good clip, but Raphael was moving much faster. Luckily, aircraft were at fairly high risk of being caught up in what would later be called the Deathspring, so just by sending himself so high up in the air, Wayne ended up being taken to Durus as well, whereas he wouldn’t have, had he stayed put. It would take over twenty years, but Wayne finally did manage to rescue Raphael, and return them both to Earth, and they did so...with a daughter.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Microstory 1104: Hall Voss

Lots of people with special temporal powers or patterns are given nicknames, based either on what they could do, or what they did with what they could do. Hall Voss possessed two nicknames, however. He was both The Navigator, and The Collector, but there was a good reason for that. There were actually two of him. He was just a regular ol’ time traveler, who generally operated across a single timeline, but he also had a penchant for history, and decided to do something about all those artifacts that were lost to history, for one reason or another. He would jump up and down the timestream, rescuing objects with important historical value—from fires, and looting, and other disasters—and donate them to a time museum, which was run by The Historian. Something he learned along the way was that one of his grandsons, and one of his granddaughters, were destined to become notable temporal manipulators as well. Camden was The Centurion, who lived around the turn of the 22nd century, but worked for an intelligence cooperative at the turn of the 21st century. His sister, Xearea was one of the last Saviors of Earth, which was a special class of teleporter, who zipped all over the globe, saving lives. Unfortunately, simply having discovered this truth about his family’s future was enough to prevent it from coming to pass. Xearea was erased from the future, and Camden from both the future, and the past. Such is oft the price of time travel. He had to fix this. So he went back in time, and met up with his younger self. He sought the aid of a choosing one with the power to manipulate people’s memories, who used this gift to place a permanent block on the younger Hall’s mind. He would not be able to learn anything about the future or past that could, in knowing, prevent it from actually happening. This set the timeline right once more, and restored the lives of his grandchildren, but it came at its own price. This older version of Hall was stuck in a separate reality, and could never return, even if he wanted to. So now there are two. The ignorant version—the one that will one day have children—is so ignorant, that he does not even recognize his alternate self. As The Collector, he works with The Navigator all the time, but interprets his face as someone entirely different. If someone were to try and convince him that he has a double, he will never be able to see it, since his mind has been permanently blind to it. But this is all okay, because together, they save history on a regular basis.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Microstory 1103: Thor Thompson

On the first day of fall in 2026, Thor Thompson made the one-way trip with his family to Mars. Thor spent his whole life training for this mission, long before his parents had any reason to suspect they would be chosen as some of the first pioneers to the red planet. Both of them were highly valued scientists, who would be vital to early endeavors for permanent settlement. His father owned a private undersea habitat manufacturing contractor, which allowed astronauts to train for long-term missions in a simulated environment. He was chosen to build the first of these habitats on the surface of Mars, based on his extensive knowledge of construction for extremely harsh environments. His mother was literally a rocket scientist, who helped design the first true passenger shuttle, and several models beyond. Previous shuttles were capable of accommodating a handful of highly training space explorers, but hers could hold dozens of individuals, not all of which would necessarily possess the skills to operate the craft itself. The first airplanes were designed only for pilots, but an industry grew from that, and now, very few people on any commercial airliner have any clue how the machines work, and would not be able to fly in an emergency situation. This was her dream for spaceflight, and her passion for a future of ubiquitous access is why, out of everyone else working the problem, she was also chosen as a settler. Initial plans for colonization called for elite scientists, and it’s true that these people were vital, but exclusivity went against the purpose of outward human expansion. If this was going to work, Martians needed to be composed of families. It include children. That’s where Thor ‘Too Young’ Thompson came in. He was given his nickname when he was much younger, because he would frequently attempt to participate in things that were beyond his years. He tried to buy tickets for rated R movies, and ride amusement park rides best enjoyed by adults. He tried to run the City Frenzy race when he was only nine years old, and he never hung out with children his own age. At the time, he was the youngest chosen for Mars, but he wasn’t accepted merely because his parents were desired. The company could have found comparable experts without children, but they stuck with the Thompsons, because Thor had long ago proven himself to be extremely skilled and capable in his own right. He would go on to run that City Frenzy once he was old enough, and finally win it in the summer before departure. If there was any question he would survive on a hostile new world, there wasn’t anymore. He would grow up to become a valued member of the Martian society, and contribute greatly to its blossoming as a self-sustaining civilization. He would do this with the help of a new friend from the shuttle, who was a few years older than him, Gaius Parker.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Microstory 1102: Keuhla Derricks

Years ago, and not at all, there was a large city called Springfield, Kansas. Many people with temporal powers lived here, alongside naturally occurring temporal anomalies, and other strange phenomena. It was here that reality broke, causing parts of the city to be ripped from time itself, as well as from the memories of everyone who should have known these parts existed. Little by little, block by block, over the course of years, Springfield shrank, until only a small town remained. A woman was born there who was seeking access to the distant world the other parts of town had fallen to, though she did not know the whole truth at the time. Her machine sent the rest of Springfield there all at once, ahead of schedule. But this was a blessing, for had she done nothing, these remaining parts would have been destroyed in the journey, like all the others. However, there were a few special places from earlier disappearances that survived the trip without her help. The Springfield Library was one of them. It was a massive repository of information; larger than it appeared to be at first, or even second, glance. No, not every book that had ever been written, or would be written, was on its shelves. But every truth, every fact, every historical event, was notated somewhere here. All libraries lack some information, for they are only so large, but this place did not. It is unknown where the building itself originated. Historical records indicate that it was built in the 19th century, and maintained and modernized ever since. There’s no reason to believe it was created by someone with powers. It seems its completeness occurred later, through some other process. But that doesn’t mean it could do everything on its own. It still needed a librarian. It needed...The Librarian. She herself was born with special gifts; hyperthymesia, eidetic memory, plain ol’ agelessness. She was not entirely immortal, though, and would one day be killed, given the right circumstances. She drew her power from Springfield Library, and that power could be taken away. If it did, another would have to take her place, which is where The Sublibrarian program comes into play. Keuhla Derricks wasn’t the first assigned to the position. She was merely the last in a long bloodline of Sublibrarians, and the one alive at the time when the job needed backfill. Her life before this was fairly unremarkable. She was born on Durus, which was the name of the planet where Springfield ended up falling to. She worked as a regular librarian, at a regular library, and did not make waves. She was not an inherently uninteresting person. It was simply her responsibility to maintain a low profile, and be ready to assume her duties as full Librarian, in such an event of her predecessor’s death. In this way, she lived her life perfectly. The time did eventually come that she was called to act, but the incident that caused the original Librarian’s death, always severely diminished the Library’s own power. Some knowledge has been lost forever, which makes Keuhla’s new job harder than it ever was.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Microstory 1101: Lihtren Uluru

Lihtren Uluru was born on a planet called Haliavi, which was roughly 63,100 light years away from Earth. Because almost all intelligent life in the galaxy ultimately derives from Earth, this occurred around 70,000 years later than present-day. By then, over half of the Milky Way had been explored, and much of it seeded with new life. This life was largely unaware of its origins, but Lihtren was always a curious fellow. He was able to get his hands on some of the technology that first arrived at his homeworld, from a solar system staging area near Earth, several thousand years ago. It was there that he accessed a database of knowledge from the origin planet, and it is from there that he began a journey. He put himself in a stasis pod on a maximum sublightspeed interstellar spacecraft designed for a crew of a dozen, but he did so alone. He programmed his pod to wake him only every hundred years, so he could check on its systems, or if something went wrong. 63,100 years later, he was finally at his destination, on an Earth that no longer harbored advanced life. Over the ages, much had changed about this old world. It hadn’t been abandoned because it was no longer capable of sustaining life, but because his ancestors had simply moved on. The geography had changed as well, but there was at least one constant. A formation called Uluru, which was also known as Ayers Rock, remained standing, just as it was 126,000 years ago. He thought coming here would explain who he was, and what he should do with his life, but he discovered it to be mostly irrelevant. The fact that he shared a name with this surface feature appeared to be entirely a coincidence. He didn’t even speak the same language as the people who named it so long ago. Still, it wasn’t like he could return home. Everyone he ever knew was either long dead, or dramatically transformed by biotechnological upgrades. It wasn’t any more home for him than this place was. And so he became determined to live the rest of his life on top of Uluru. Alone. Fate seemed to have other plans. Through means unknown to him, he ended up traveling hundreds of thousands of years into the past. A woman met him there, who assured him she had nothing to do with his timeslip, but that she knew he would be coming. She provided him with food and drink, and then she walked away, never to be seen again. Lihtren later realized she had given him immortality water, which allowed him to continue living on his rock forever. He found himself in charge of the entire area, and used it to moderate duels for people with other special temporal abilities, who had personal issues against each other. A lot of people know his name, but few know where he comes from. Some of the more curious—or the more prone to studying history—have attempted to pinpoint his origins, not so as to alter them, but just to know. Yet he has never been found. The version of him in the timeline that exists now will not be born for tens of thousands of years. However, it is not only possible, but likely, that enough of the timeline has been changed by now to have eliminated this other potential version from ever existing at all. Lihtren Uluru, a.k.a The Peacemaker, is almost certainly one of a kind.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 24, 2231

Everything seemed to have worked out great for the human Ansutahan refugees. At least, for most of them. By the time everyone on Comron was evacuated through the universe bridge, some of the Maramon warriors who were near the border of the temporal bubble when it was established were able to break through. There were a few casualties, but this was not an unexpected development, so they were quickly contained. Once everyone was through who could get through, two military contingencies of volunteers were called into action. First, a defense force maintained an extremely strong presence around the entrance of the bridge, to prevent any Maramon from crossing over. A rescue force was sent out to retrieve as many human prisoners of war as possible, if not all of them. Technology was fairly advanced at this point in the universe’s history, so there were indeed means of gathering intelligence, but it could never be perfect. It was impossible to know if everyone was saved.
On the day of Mateo and Serif’s return to the timestream, one last mission was dispatched before the universe bridge would be closed forever. They returned with an unusual group. Some of the people they rescued were human, but some were Maramon. The rescue team was seeking guidance from the small group in charge of Gatewood, as opposed to the Ansutahan human leadership, which didn’t really hold that much power on the cylinders. They convened in an instructional room in the library on Eden Island, not far from the bridge. Kestral and Ishida were the ones in charge here, since they were primarily responsible for the Gatewood cylinders. Ramses and Goswin had devised the initial system of government. They couldn’t just rely on what the Ansutahan humans had made, because this was an entirely new environment, of which they knew nothing. Greer and Weaver were part of the discussion as well, in a more limited capacity. Serif was there as a highly respected individual, whose minimal exposure to the timestream was the only thing keeping her from being elected King of the World. Mateo and Cassidy were invited as a courtesy, but were expected to stay quiet.
One point five hundred Maramon—as Ram liked to call it—sat in the auditorium seats, awaiting judgment. Kestral stood at the podium and studied their faces while they waited for her to speak. “My name is Kestral McBride,” she announced to the crowd. “Who speaks for the Maramon?”
They all looked to one man, sitting in the front row center. They weren’t called white monsters for nothing. Their skin was a powdery white, but his was noticeably darker. He somewhat reluctantly stood up, and approached the stage. “I am Brahim Beytilsedivm. I’m also known as Begetter. I can speak for the group...for now.”
“Why were you imprisoned by the other Maramon?” Kestral asked him.
“We are human sympathizers,” he explained. “We’ve always known what humans really are; that you are not gods, nor enemies. We did not agree with our people’s attempts at taking over other universes, and tried to stop them.”
“Forgive me,” Kestral began, “but there are billions of Maramon on this planet, yet one a hundred and fifty dissenters? It’s hard to believe there are any, but even harder to believe there are so few.”
Brahim cleared his throat and leaned in to the microphone. “There are a hundred and fifty of us...left alive. Across time, there have been millions of active opposing voices. Many more opposed in silence.”
Kestral thought about what he just said. “Do you expect to integrate into the society we’re building here?”
Brahim took a beat. “We expect nothing. We believe that everything we’ve done in the name of humans has gotten you here. We protected the last applied brane cosmologist, so that he could build the bridge that saved you. What you do with us is your choice. If you would like to keen us back in Ansutah, we are prepared to accept that without contention.”
Kestral thought some more, and this time, for a long time. “I need a list. Give me the name of everyone in this room. First, last, and any woxa.” Woxa in Maramon was best translated to nickname. It was given to a Maramon upon being raised to a special social class called the notables. Basically, one had to be famous, or have contributed greatly on a personal level to historical developments in the universe. They were always English words, always alliterative with their natural names, and not necessarily positive, or positive in everyone’s eyes. “I also need to know what they did to get locked up,” she continued. “Do not lie.”
The outcast Maramon stayed in the classroom to compile the requested information, while most of the Gatewooders retreated to the attached office to discuss options further. Greer and Weaver stayed back to supervise the Maramon. Mateo and Cassidy decided there was nothing they could do. Before they left, though, he heard Ishida say something about someone named Margerie.
About an hour later, Weaver knocked on Cassidy’s door. Cassidy had been given a place to sleep in the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but the ship was presently the most dangerous place on the cylinder, so everyone was staying in other units. “I could use your help,” Weaver said.
“With what?” he asked as they were following her up to the train platform.
“They’ve decided what they’re doing with the Maramon,” Weaver answered.
“They’re not keeping them in that awful world, are they?” Cassidy asked.
“No,” Weaver promised, “but they can’t come here either. No matter how woke the few of us are, they’ll make the refugees feel uncomfortably.”
“They’re also refugees,” Mateo pointed out.
“I know,” Weaver agreed, “and they’ll have to remain that way for a little bit longer.”
“We’re exiling them, aren’t we?” Mateo guessed.
“We’re giving them a home,” Weaver reasoned. “That home just happens to be...far from here.”
“I can’t endorse that, nor help with it.”
“No one’s asking you to,” Weaver assured him. “We know we can’t send them back to the mainland of Ansutah, and all intel about humans left in that universe has dried up. It’s time to close the bridge, and it’s a two-person job.”
“There are three of us,” Mateo said. “Which two do you mean?”
“It’s a three-person job, actually. We need a lookout, and maybe a little muscle.”
“You’re lying,” Mateo realized. “Why are you lying?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“What did they really decide in that meeting?” Cassidy questioned.
Weaver sighed. “They are keeping them there. It didn’t take them long to decide that, even before they Begetter gave him his list.”
“What did the list say?”
“There are a lot of violent people in that auditorium. They had to be. Some call them terrorists, but they were revolutionaries, and they shouldn’t be punished for that.”
“Who’s Margerie?” Mateo asked her. “Can she help?”
“That’s not a person; it’s a colony ship,” Cassidy told him. “The way Kestral and Ishida told it, it just showed up in the system one day, as if it were trying to deliver colonists to Gatewood. It was empty, though.”
Weaver continued the explanation, “the weird thing about it is the dimensions. It’s larger than most colony ships, which are all designed about the same. Even the individual sleeping-slash-escape pods are bigger. They’re big enough for Maramon. I very much believe it was sent here for the Maramon.”
“Who would do that?” Mateo wondered.
“I don’t know, but I know what it’s like to be in a world where I don’t belong. The Dardieti felt it necessary to save me anyway, and I’m here to pay it forward. Will you help me with that, or not?”
“Of course,” Mateo pledged.
Cassidy just nodded.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen when the Gatewooders learn the bridge can’t be reopened, but every human, and every outcast Maramon, is coming over here for good.”
“How are you going to get everyone back to this side of the bridge, including all those soldiers?” Mateo asked.
“Same way they got here before, with the Muster Lighter. One of you is going to have to light up in Velox Park. It’s not too far away, but far enough that no one will be able to rush back and undo my work before it’s complete.”
“I can do that,” Cassidy volunteered. “You need him to protect you from anyone who doesn’t want you to do what you’re about to do.”
“Thank you.”
Cassidy shook her head. “No, thank you. You helped me understand what I am, and gave me purpose. I can become a genius just by shaking your hand.”
Weaver smiled.
No one was guarding the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which served as the exit point for the universe bridge. They stole the Muster Lighter from the safe on the bottom level of the ship, and sent Cassidy on her way. Then they snuck into the other universe, and into the control room. Mateo kept his head on a swivel, while Weaver did whatever it was she was doing on the command console. Just after she determined she was ready, they got the call from Cassidy that she was in place.
“All right. I’ve set the parameters,” Weaver spoke into her communication device. “It’s programmed to take every human and Maramon on Eden Island, except for Mateo and me. Flick the lighter on my count.!”
Nothing happened from their perspective. A few second later, Cassidy came back on comms, “they’re here. They’re confused.
“Okay, teleport back to your room,” Weaver ordered. “We’ll be there in a second.”
“I’m afraid not.” A Maramon they didn’t know cooly walked into the room, along with a handful of other humans, of varying ages.
“How did you survive the Muster Lighter?” Weaver asked.
“By the grace of the primary gods,” the Maramon said. “We happened to be close enough to the two of you. Otherwise, everything would have been ruined. Get in place,” he ordered the humans.
They assembled into a single-file line in front of the stairs to the bridge.
“What are you doing?”
“It has nothing to do with you,” he said. “We just need to borrow this right quick. You can destroy it when we’re done.”
“I’m not gonna let you through that bridge,” Mateo argued.
He scoffed, and effortlessly knocked Mateo to his ass. He then pushed Weaver out of the way, so he could insert some kind of device into a port on the console.
“What are you doing? Stop!” Weaver cried.
The Maramon pushed a button. The image of the AOC on the other side of the bridge shuttered, and changed. It was now showing what appeared to be a mountaintop. “Cain, go!” After the guy name Cain ran through, the Maramon pushed the button again. City streets this time. “Abel, go!” Abel left, and the scene changed to a rooftop. “Seth, go!” A boat. “Luluwa, go!” The forest. “Awan, go!” A laboratory, maybe. “Azura, go!” A cave, “Lilith, go!”
The Maramon fell over, blood leaking from the wound in his head. Serif was the one holding the gun. “Weaver! Get us back to our universe.”
Weaver was just staring at the Maramon’s body.
“Weaver! Now!”
She snapped out of it, and started desperately pushing buttons. “I...I...I don’t know how to work this thing now!” The scene kept changing to what were presumably various other universes, until Weaver seemed to figure something out. She was now switching them to other points in time and space in their own universe. Mateo recognized some of the other people.
Young versions of Horace and Paige made one appearance. “Protect this thing!” he shouted at them. Then he threw some small object at them, but before it made it through the bridge, the scene changed once more.
Leona was in another. “Mateo!”
“Leona!” He ran up to get her, but the scene changed again.
“Get her back!” He screamed at Weaver.
“I can’t,” Weaver said.
“Get her back!”
“The system is overloading,” she warned them. “We need to get out of here.”
“Open anywhere,” Serif ordered her. “Stabilize the bridge long enough to get through, and then just go!”
“What about you?”
Weaver did what she was told. They ran through as fast as they could. Before Mateo could look back to see what happened to Serif, the bridge was closed, theoretically forever.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Proxima Doma: Rebidden (Part VIII)

Fourteen years later, there was no sign of Past!Étude or Past!Vitalie. They both traveled back to Earth using one of the colony ships, which an engineer retrofitted to move at present-day speed standards. If all had gone according to plan, they would have returned in 2228, or maybe 2229, if they ran into trouble while looking for the Cosmic Sextant. The fact that they were still not back, and hadn’t sent them some kind of message, suggested something tragic had befallen them instead. They were never likely to see them again. This was proving to be an even more dire problem than they thought. At the moment, Tertius was gravely ill, and was unable to maintain his memory blocking powers, and recover at the same time. The more he tried, the worse it made him, until it just wasn’t feasible to keep going. His continuous hold over the Oblivios inside their dome finally let go, and they were able to not only see the tower in which they lived, but remember it later. They were shocked by it, some considering it to be the tower of God. Étude did what she could to treat him, but they were still on a world with limited resources, and there was only so much she could do.
Since the Oblivios had no memory of technology, they had no idea what the tower really was. No manmade structure had ever been so much as dreamed of by them. There weren’t even that many mountains within the confines of the dome, and none of them was even this tall. Only one woman seemed unafraid of it. Étude and Vitalie watched on the view screens as this old woman, holding some kind of box, bravely approached the hidden entrance, punched in an access code she shouldn’t have known, and rode the elevator all the way up to the top, where they were.
The doors opened, and she walked into the room. “Is Tertius dead?” she asked.
“You know him?” Vitalie asked her.
She closed her eyes. “Is he dead?” she repeated impatiently.
“He’s sick, but still alive.”
“Good. I can save him.”
“Who are you?”
She placed her box on the table, and removed a key from her neck. “I’m a very old friend.” Her weak hands were shaking as she attempted to unlock the box.
“Here, I’ll help,” Vitalie offered.
“We don’t know what that is,” Étude warned.
“She’s not a terrorist, Étude.”
“Thank you, my dear,” the old woman said graciously.
Once Vitalie opened the box, vapor hissed from the cracks, and revealed it to be some kind of cryogenic case. Inside were eleven water bottles, kept preserved for who knows how long?
“Is that what I think it is?”
The old woman smiled and nodded. “Immortality water. It took me years to gather it all together, and a lot of money to preserve it like this.”
“Did you get it for him?”
She nodded again. “I wasn’t able to hold onto the Cosmic Sextant, and now it’s lost to...well, the cosmos. So I decided to find us the next best thing.”
They were confused.
“What’s your name?” Étude asked.
“What’s your name?” the woman volleyed.
“Étude Einarsson.”
“How funny. That’s mine too.”
Vitalie gasped. “You’re the other one. The other Étude.”
Old!Étude laughed and pointed at Young!Étude. “She’s the other one.”
“You look like you’ve been gone longer than we’ve been waiting. What happened to you?” Étude asked, not sure how to feel about this situation.
“A great deal,” Old!Étude said, trying to pull a chair up for herself.
Vitalie helped her. “I’ll give this water to Tertius. I can still hear you from the other room.”
Old!Étude began to tell her story. “Everything went fine on Earth. We got there when we were supposed to, The Concierge let us into The Constant, and she gladly handed over the Cosmic Sextant. Then we got back in our ship, and headed on our way. Something went wrong, though, proving how foolish it is to go on an interstellar journey without a pilot, or at least a mechanic. Our only hope was to activate the Sextant itself, and take it all the way to Dardius. We were there for...a little bit, not as long as I look now, but we started a life. We found who we were looking for. It wasn’t an animal. His name was Newt. Newt Clemens. I fell in love with him, and he did us a favor. He transferred my powers to the other Vitalie. She is, as far as I know, presently still on Dardius, doing her thing for those people. She doesn’t even need my help anymore.” She paused to rest her eyes for a moment. “Anyway, Newt and I had a child, but that child was not safe there. It’s funny, Newt was rescued from his timeline, because that was the safest place for him, but it wasn’t safe for our child...not anymore.
“He sent the two of us away. We snuck into the Nexus replica, and traveled back to Earth. But not just any Earth...he sent us to the past, because no one would be looking for us there. It was there that we lived in peace for eighteen years, which was when I finally found the last of the immortality water. I was pretty old by then. It was millenia after Tertius was first born, and decades before he would arrive in the future. The early 21st century was just a pointless time period for me if I wanted to get this stuff to him. If I was going to survive, I would have to let myself die first. I spent the rest of my money on cryonic preservation, scheduled to be released at the right time to get back here to Proxima Doma. Well, not all my money. I spent a little on euthanasia. If I had let the disease that was killing me run its course, people in the future might not have been able to revive me, or just might not have bothered. I left my daughter; abandoned her, all to protect these people here.” She gestured towards the outside.
“I’m so sorry you had to go through that,” Young!Étude apologized. “Forgive me, but, why wait all this time to approach us?”
Old!Étude giggled. “Because, dummy, you erased my memories. Like I said, I was already old by then. I was...having trouble with my mind, and wasn’t able to identify myself in time. I’ve been living here in blissful ignorance, thinking I was born to a world with a blue sky, like everyone else. I only got my memories back when Tertius got sick.”
“What was your daughter’s name?” Vitalie was standing at the doorway, having finished spoon feeding Tertius the immortality water. “Is,” she corrected herself.
Old!Étude smiled once more, but this time was different. She was remembering all the love she felt for her child. “Cassidy. Cassidy Long. That’s my last name too; I had to change it, obviously.”
“So she’s...” Young!Étude started to say.
“She could be alive, or dead. She was young to reach the longevity escape velocity, but I don’t know if she chose it. I didn’t have time to look her up before the Oblivio colony ships left Earth. The company I paid to freeze me didn’t wake me as early as I wanted them to.
“Why didn’t you seek someone to send you to the future instead?” Tertius was out of bed, and standing behind Vitalie.
She stepped to the side, and helped him to the table. She had given him the water, but it evidently still needed a minute to take effect.
“I purposefully avoided all temporal manipulators. I didn’t want anyone knowing who I was, or who she was. You have to understand, protecting her was my—”
Tertius interrupted her, “I was just curious. I would have made the same choices.” He paused. “Thank you for doing this for me. I’ll never be able to pay you back.”
Old!Étude leaned back in her chair, in apparent deep thought. “I’m dying again.”
“Oh.” Vitalie jumped. “I didn’t give him all the water. We could give you some too,” she suggested.
Old!Étude shook her head. “I don’t wanna live forever. I’m tired, and I’m ready. I just want one thing before I go.” She fell asleep again. “I wanna know what happened to my girl. If you could access the network.”
“Of course,” Tertius said. He looked up at the ceiling. “Hey, Thistle.”
Yes, Mister Valerius?” the artificial intelligence assistant replied.
“Please run a historical search; parameters Cassidy Long, from...”
“Lawrence, Kansas,” Old!Étude filled in. “Social security number six-six-six-zero-zero-one-two-three-four.”
Seconds later, the AI responded, “Cassidy Long, born Lawrence, Kansas May 11, 1997. Last seen in the Champagne Room of Wonderberries Club on May 11, 2019.
“She disappeared on her birthday.” Vitalie noted.
“That was a fake birthday, Vitalie,” Young!Étude reminded her. “Wonderberries. Is that where she worked?”
“Not when I died,” Old!Étude answered. “I know that place, it serves alcohol, so she wouldn’t have been old enough. She was at a different strip club before, I can’t recall the name.”
“Miss Long...” Tertius tried to say, but trailed off.
“I know. There are only two options in our world when it comes to people disappearing. She was either killed, or...” Old!Étude trailed off too.
“Or she was sent to somewhere else in time and space,” Young!Étude finished for her.
“Did she have powers?” Vitalie asked.
“I don’t know,” Old!Étude replied. “I never even told her where we come from. As far as she knew, I was born in 1940-something, and looked younger than I was because I ate right and exercised.”
“I’m sorry,” Vitalie said reverently. “She may come back, though. She may walk through that door in ten seconds, and no time will have passed for her.”
The four of them looked at the door in hope. Ten seconds passed, and no one came through it.
“Or in another ten seconds,” Vitalie added.
“I appreciate the sentiment,” Old!Étude thanked her. “I’m going to choose to believe she’s a chooser, like her father. I’m going to choose to believe she jumped through time on purpose, and wherever she is..whenever she is, she’s happy, and safe. I’m not even going to think about the possibility that she was dancing for a sketchy client who—nope, I’m not gonna think about it.” She kept nodding her head, focusing on the good times, and trusting that her daughter was alive and well, or died old and content a long time ago. Perhaps she just ran away from her old life, like her mother before, and started a new one somewhere else. “One more thing.”
“Yes?” Young!Étude asked with a frown. Her alternate self was not looking good.
“The lid, of the case I came here with.” She tried to reach for it, but could barely keep her arms in the air.
Vitalie hopped over, and got to the case first. “I’ll find it. What am I looking for?”
“A vial,” Old!Étude said.
Vitalie pulled the lining from the lid, and retrieved a vial from behind it. “Got it. Who’s is this?”
“It’s Newt’s blood, with a little somethin’ extra. You infuse that in your body, and any child you conceive is guaranteed to be born with your powers. You’ll also lose those powers.”
“Why would we want this?” Young!Étude interrogated.
“It’s for him.” She jerked her head up to Tertius. “Just because he’s immortal now, doesn’t mean he’ll always want to do this. If he ever wants to pass the torch, he can. I even think his immortality will be passed on to his offspring. Now, put it back in the case and close it. It still needs to be preserved.”
Vitalie quickly did as she was told.
“Mister Valerius,” Old!Étude said, “could I possibly borrow your bed? I’m frightfully tired.”
“Of course. Here, let me help you.” Apparently back to full strength, and then some, Tertius lifted the old woman in his arms, and carried her to the other room. He returned ten seconds later. “She’s gone.”

Friday, May 10, 2019

Microstory 1100: Salmonverse Profiles Introduction

Back in 2007, I came up with this story about a group of people with special abilities. Several of the characters I just thought up myself, because of my previous exposure to superhero movies. Those became my core characters, but I wanted to have dozens of others, so I did a lot of research. The idea was to focus on the main group for the first season of a television series, and then start exploring the others, one episode at a time. I ended up with roughly a hundred in total, which ultimately proved to be perfect when I was trying to come up with a series to do for this website. I have a lot of mixed feelings about Bellevue Profiles, though. On one hand, I had a solid idea of who these people were, and their backstories were predetermined; I just needed to fill in some detail. On the other hand, I felt like I was locking myself into canonical plot points, and I didn’t have a whole lot of freedom to come up with some more creative choices. I think it worked out, but by the time I was done, I was already regretting the decisions I made for some of them, and have had to find ways to incorporate the developments into the larger mythology without ruining the overall vision. Anyway, my salmonverse stories are set in an entirely different universe, which I never thought I would create, and they’ve come with an explosion of new characters I never thought I would have. I decided it would be fitting if I revisited the idea of posting profiles for each character. The problem is that I have a hundred and sixty-eight slots for the series I’m introducing to you now, but I’m still in the middle of compiling every character, and I’m already at two hundred and forty-two. I don’t want to profile characters we don’t really care about, like say, a retailer who tries to cheat the main character, but whom we never see again. I also don’t want to profile characters who are already important in their own stories, because I don’t have the room, and they’ve been taken care of anyway. I have to make sure no one is left out who should be there, or included who shouldn’t.

Seeing that none existed on the internet already, I had to devise a way of codifying a sliding scale of character importance. A character coded at Zero is not really a character at all. They surely must exist, but only to serve the existence of some other character. Examples include parents, or the teacher of a class in which the main character recalls learning something vital. Generalized terms like classmates or even parents itself fall into this category, since they’re dismissed as unindependent and irrelevant collectives, so they can’t qualify for true character status. Level One characters are mentioned, but unnamed (e.g. security guard, bank teller). Level Twos are mentioned by name, but only because the context of the story requires they be named (e.g. ancillary students called out at a graduation ceremony). Level Three is for characters who appear, but are unnamed (e.g. a flight attendant who notices a weapon, and has to seek help from the air marshal). Level Four characters are named, but they’re one-dimensional, and hardly worth remembering. Level Five characters have a greater impact on the story, but won’t likely last long, and aren’t likely to return once they leave the narrative. Levels Six, Seven, and Eight are reserved for tertiary, secondary, and primary characters, respectively. The lines between each of these are hard to pin down, and can fluctuate. Spinoffs, for instance, often come about when a secondary in one story is ascended to primary status in a different story. I still have several stories to read through, so I can get the entire list of characters I’ve even so much as mentioned since 2015, and am only excluding Level Zeros from this list. I then need to determine which category they fall into, and figure out which ones out of those will get profiles. There’s still a lot of work ahead, and I don’t even know which character gets the first profile, but fortunately, I have all weekend. I have a cold, so it’s not like I would be able to go to a movie.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Microstory 1099: Viola

My name is Viola Woods, and I’m dead, writing to you by Dolly’s hand. Don’t worry, though, because dead for me is not what it’s like for you. I am called a voldisil. Most people have two parents; their father produces the seed, and their mother the egg. But there is a third, much rarer gender out there that occasionally helps create life in secret, and when it does, something like me comes of it. I was born capable of perceiving more dimensions than you, and with the ability to sense and channel certain universal energies. I can look to the past, to other places in the present, and to the future. What I do with that information is entirely up to me, but the expectation in my house was that I use my abilities to help others. After all, they’re called gifts, because I’m meant to give them out. My mom and dad weren’t fully briefed on what I was, but they reportedly felt something different during my conception than normal, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. My third parent’s involvement was evidently not completely consented to, or at least not in the way humans treat consent. They did recognize that I was special, and were able to raise me right, but only I, and others like me, fully understand the nature of my species. One thing they didn’t know was when I would die, but I’ve known it my whole life, and it took me a hot minute to realize that this is a trait unshared by my peers. Growing up with this kind of information may be unsettling, or even debilitating, but it made me feel free. Everything thing I’ve done has been part of a plan; my plan, and nearly everyone around me executed it pretty well. But I am not the only one of my kind, and not every voldisil has other people’s best interests at heart.

The way I understand it, voldisila are few and far between, for a number of reasons, including the fact that it’s metaphysically difficult to conceive one. Blast City seems to have a higher concentration of us, and I was never really able to determine why. What I do know is that the more people you have in any population, the greater your chances of finding some bad ones, which is what Homer was. This little town would have become the epicenter for an unstoppable movement of darkness if I hadn’t intervened, and recruited a number of other voldisil, who seem to not fully understand what they are. I wouldn’t be telling you this, Alma, but I need you to understand what’s at stake moving forward. You don’t know this yet, but you are pregnant now. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to do this with your consent, but a new voldisil must be born to take my place. Ada is lovely, but she can only ever be a temporary solution. My abilities can’t survive forever without me, which is why I introduced her to the others; the psychics, the witches, and the medium. I’m hoping they take their responsibilities seriously. You and Ralph were my best options to take on the challenge of nurturing the next generation of voldisil. I will not leave you, but I can only do so much to help in my current form. Protect and prepare her, Alma, and trust Ralph to be a good father. I literally know that he will be. She is destined to be the strongest of our kind, but since she was not planned properly, it will be much harder for her than it should be. She won’t have as much innate knowledge as I did. Everything you need to teach her has come through clues from the interviews you conducted. Thank you, and if you ever need to speak with me in person, you can contact Dolly. One last thing, it’s up to you if you publish this letter as part of your series.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Microstory 1098: Della

Thanks for coming to see me, Alma. The truth is that I’m glad to take the fall for Viola’s death, because I’m just as responsible as any of the others were. Well...maybe Homer was the worst of us. Nevertheless, I wanted to get my truth out there, because though I’m the only apparent survivor from our side of the cave fight, it wouldn’t be fair for everyone to go on believing I was working alone. Plus, out of everyone in Blast City Senior High’s Class 2019, I didn’t want to be the only one you didn’t interview, besides Homer himself. Or Viola. Or that guy that no one can find. I’m not going to be able to explain my actions to you, because I don’t fully understand them myself. It’s true, I was under his spell. The others were convinced to help them using their own vices and emotional traumas, but he handled me a little differently. I was technically his first recruit, but I didn’t know it at the time. When we met, he treated my kindly, and made me feel like I was the only person in the universe who mattered. For over a month, we would sit and talk under the beautiful sunset sky. He seduced me, not just for sex, but for my entire soul. By the time I realized what he was, it was too late. I was in love, and I couldn’t just throw that away. I thought I could fix him. I knew that I couldn’t. I should have listened better to my head. I stayed with him, and I helped him with his plans, because I was desperate to believe that we could overcome his urges. His powers were a curse, and there is always a way to lift a curse. Eventually, I realized there was nothing I could do, but I felt trapped. I understand now that all his talk about how important I was managed to instill the opposite message in me. I was actually not important at all. I couldn’t stop him, or help him. I couldn’t be free of him, and I couldn’t become a better person. In my mind, I was an accomplice to something so heinous that there was no reason to quit now, and there was no hope for redemption. I know this doesn’t absolve me of what I’ve done, but you should know I wasn’t like the others. They wanted to be there, completely. He might have lied to them, but he didn’t manipulate them. I wish I could go back in time and be stronger. I wish apologizing for my actions had any impact on what’s happened. All I can hope for now is that Viola has some trick up her sleeve to correct me of my behavior. So I have two favors to ask you. Please extend my gratitude towards Alice for healing me. She didn’t have to heal any of us, but it’s better that at least one of us answers for these crimes. Also, if at all possible, please ask Dolly to come see me. I would like to make contact with Viola’s spirit.