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?”

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