Saturday, June 1, 2019

Proxima Doma: Capacity (Part XI)

Étude raced over to the hatch. “Oh my God, you’re back. You made it out.”
“I did,” Vitalie said as she was lowering herself down.
Tertius grabbed her by the waist, and let her down gently.
Étude tried to give her a hug, but she carefully and politely avoided it.
“I only left because these people told me they recognized me.”
“I’m the only one who recognizes her,” came a voice from above. Ecrin Cabral, a friend from long ago, jumped straight through the hole, and landed gracefully.
Another voice called down to her. “Do you want us down there too?”
“No, Creaser. Stay up there, and close the hatch,” Ecrin answered. “The Lieutenant is in charge.” She took a breath. “It’s been a long road to get her, but we’ve returned your girl. “Hello, Madam Einarsson. We never shook hands before.”
Étude took Ecrin’s hand. “Quite. Is that The Prototype up there?”
“It is,” she answered. “We’ve been traveling to other universe, killing Maramon.” She turned to face Tertius. “Mister Valerius, I was surprised when Vito did recon years ago, and reported back that you were here.”
“You two know each other?” Étude questioned.
“He’s a time traveler, I’m ageless. It was bound to happen once or twice.”
“Or three times,” Tertius said in a sultry voice.
“Stahp.” Ecrin was embarrassed, which felt uncharacteristic of her.
“I’m immortal now,” Tertius explained. “As are those two.”
“Yes, about that,” Ecrin said. “You may have noticed Vitalie is not warming to you well. My team has investigated, and discovered that she is extremely old.”
“How old?” Étude asked, worried. “How long was she over there before you found her?”
Ecrin hesitated to answer, but did. “We don’t have the exact number, but...four and a half billion years, give or take a few hundred million.”
“Oh my God!” Étude didn’t know what to think. She had met many people who had lived a long time, but no one with a span of billions of years. The Concierge, Danica Matic was rumored to be around that age, but no proof of that existed.
“Is that why she doesn’t remember us?” Tertius asked. “It’s just been too long.”
Ecrin shook her head. “Not exactly. From what we gather, Miss Crawville here loses her memory every second of her life. She can only retain the last fifty-six years of experiences”
“I’m fifty-six,” Tertius said.
Ecrin nodded. “That was my thought. You drank the immortality water first, right?”
“If she doesn’t remember that far back,” Étude began to ask, “how would you know that?”
“Like I said, Vito did recon. We didn’t know it was best to bring her back to this year. I thought she belonged earlier, because that was when I knew you were headed here. When we discovered there to already be a Vitalie on this world, we decided to come back later, so as not to disturb the timeline.”
“You could have stopped us from ever—”
Ecrin held up her hand dismissively. “She’s from a different universe, which utilizes a totally independent timestream. Stopping it would have just caused you to end up with yet another Vitalie. Nothing we do here can change what’s happened over there. Now, as I was saying, you drank the water first. Have you ever heard of backwash?”
“Yeah, it’s gross. It was a life or death situation, though. We—”
Ecrin held her hand up again. “It’s not a judgment. What you didn’t realize, though, was that you let a little bit of your memory-erasing power back into the bottles. Then when the others drank the bottles, they got a little bit of its essence. It’s not a power for her, though; more like an affliction. She calls it evanescent amnesia. Rather, that’s what her tattoo calls it.”
Before she was asked, Vitalie revealed her palm, showing that she had the words I have evanescent amnesia tattooed on it.
“So, she’s going to experience that too,” Tertius guessed, indicating Étude.
“I would imagine,” Ecrin said. Then she turned towards Étude. “But you probably won’t notice until a few years after you turn fifty-six, if you’ve not already. People don’t retain memories from that early in life anyway.”
“I’m so sorry,” Tertius said. “I should have been more careful.”
I should have been careful,” Vitalie argued. “I’m the one what gave you the water, according to some early video footage I found of myself.”
“No, you did great,” Étude assured her. “You were smart to save some of the water back. You and I would be dead, as would Kavita. Is she here too?”
“I only know who that is through my videos,” Vitalie answered. “We must have lost track of each other a long time ago, because I don’t recall meeting anyone by that name.”
Étude approached carefully. “I’m sorry this has happened to you. What’s the point of living forever if you don’t remember it? You’re always going to be fifty-six years old.”
“So will you,” Vitalie reminded her.
“That’s true. I drank the water first, though. Does that mean you also have my powers?”
“My videos called it my apropos,” Vitalie began. “I can summon objects, or I can teleport, but only when absolutely necessary. I can’t just decide I want to go somewhere, and be there. It’s kept me out of jail once or twice, but it’s not a daily convenience.”
There was a pause in the conversation.
“We’re glad to have you back,” Tertius said finally. “That is, if you are back. Is this a pitstop, and you’re intending to return with them, or what?”
“I’ve spent billions of years in that universe, but I only remember half a century. You would think that would be enough to make a place feel home, but not really. I travel around a lot, and probably always have. So this universe, that universe; is there much of a difference? I’m fine staying here I guess.”
“That would be lovely,” Étude remarked with a smile.
A man suddenly teleported into the room. “Did you ask them?” he demanded to know from Ecrin.
“Go back to the Prototype, Vito.”
“Did you ask them,” he repeated, more earnestly.
“They can’t help you,” Ecrin warned. “No one can.”
The hatch reopened. “Captain, I asked him not to do this.”
“It’s all right, Burton. No one blames you.” Ecrin directed her attention back to Vito. “I don’t blame you for what you’re feeling either. You are in an impossible position. I know what you’re going through. Arcadia and I were born this way, you were made under unique circumstances, these three drank some water.”
“Yeah, and one of those ways is reproducible,” Vito argued.
“Are you here looking for immortality water?” Étude asked.
“Do you have any left? Vitalie’s videos didn’t have any details.”
Ecrin sighed. “We’re here to return your friend. He’s hoping to...”
“Not lose the love of my life,” Vito finished.
“We are protecting him,” Ecrin reminded Vito.
“You can’t protect him from time.” Vito was getting more upset. “I have been searching for this since I met him, and you have been zero help. Now we finally have a lead, and you’re doing everything you can to stop it.”
“I’m not getting in your way,” Ecrin reasoned. “We’ve not been helping you, because that’s not the purpose of this crew. We exist to fight the Maramon. That’s it.”
“Burton has done more for this cause than you ever will!” Vito screamed. “He’s a fragile human, and he’s been fighting them in his home universe longer than we’ve been on mission. He deserves this.”
“No one is arguing against that.”
“And I’m not that fragile.” Ironically, Burton was struggling to get through the hole, and into the room. Tertius helped him down too.
“Class,” Ecrin started, “this is Vito Bulgari, my Number Two. This is his love interest, Burton Jameson.”
Burton started shaking people’s hands. “Hi, I’m not really part of the crew. I’m more of a refugee passenger.”
“You don’t have to tell people that,” Vito complained.
An evil person named Ulinthra stuck her head through the hatchway now. “Where da party at?”
“Shut up,” Ecrin and Vito said simultaneously.
“Hi, Ulinthra,” Burton chirped instead, apparently having less animosity towards her. He’ll get over that eventually.
“Hi there,” she replied, almost sincerely.
“Close the hatch,” Ecrin ordered her. “Vito, teleport Burton back to the Prototype, and stay there. I’m going to make sure Miss Crawville has everything she needs. Then we’re leaving.”
Vitalie needed nothing. All she ever kept with her was her little satchel, and the clothes on her back. This was the time traveler’s kit of essentials, and evidently a convention that never went out of style, even after four and a half billion years. All she needed to do was go back up to the ship, and say her goodbyes. It didn’t sound like she had spent too terribly much time there, but it must have been short enough to retain complete memories of them, and long enough to form real connections. After she was safely back in the tower, the Prototype disappeared, leaving them once more with the open air.
Right at the last second, though, Vito teleported back down to them with Burton. “You guys are gonna help us find what we’re looking for,” he said menacingly.
“Don’t be like that,” Burton commanded.
“I’m just trying to save your life.”
The Prototype reappeared above them, and the hatch reopened. A woman Étude didn’t recognize jumped through.
“Arcadia,” Vito lamented. “I thought you were covering for us.”
“I covered for you for two weeks,” she claimed. “The Captain was bound to realize you were missing eventually.” She pointed upwards. “You do realize that thing is a time machine, right? Anyway, she’s ordered me to bring you back, and if I don’t, she’s gonna follow through on her threat to abandon me in a dead universe. I know what it’s like to love someone so much, it makes you crazy. You’re the one who saved me from killing him, but right now, I’m going to do what I’ve been asked by any means necessary, ya dig? I suggest you jump yourself right back up there before I show you what I have in mind. Burton doesn’t age while he’s in the bulkverse. We’ll figure it out. You might even want to consider option two.”
Vito reluctantly teleported himself and Burton away.
“What’s option two?” Étude asked. It didn’t sound good.
“Option two is him shedding his own immortality so he and Burton can grow old together,” Arcadia responded. “Have you been to sleep since you drank the water?”
“No,” Étude answered. “Why?”
She nodded. “I have a little bit of experience screwing with people’s memories. The timer begins the next time you wake up. I can almost guarantee that that’s how this works.” She nodded once towards Tertius. “Maybe he can help you get your memories back. Maybe he can help you too, Vitalie.” She waited a beat. “Maybe he can’t.”
“Thank you, Miss Preston,” Vitalie said to her honestly.
Arcadia didn’t seem like the horrible ghoul Étude remembered her mother telling her about when she was a child.
When Étude woke up the next morning, she couldn’t remember a single thing that had happened to her before the age of nine.

No comments :

Post a Comment