Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Microstory 1158: Sila Demir

When Sila Nacar was thirteen years old, she was sold as a wife. All things considered, her husband was a nice man. He treated her kindly, and never abused her, except when he did. He wasn’t violent or cruel, but he did have sex with a child, regardless of Turkey’s stance on child marriage. The fact that they even refer to it as child marriage proves that they know it’s wrong. Before he was even sure Sila was pregnant, her husband decided he wanted a better life for them in the United States, so they immigrated to Oklahoma. It wasn’t the most lenient of states when it came to child brides, but it was a little less racist than some of the others, and he wanted to be insulated on all sides. Sila birthed her first son, Serkan in 2009. Four years later, she was pregnant again, with Alim. Over the years, living in North America changed Sila’s husband worldview. It happened slowly, but steadily. He started to actually change as a person, and the birth of his second son pushed him over the edge. He came from a society where his behavior was socially acceptable, to a degree, but he never thought that women were inferior, or that he was entitled to a young wife. He had rationalized that she wanted to be with him, and it took a long time for him to learn that this was not entirely true. The more he woke up, the more he saw how unhappy she was, and the more he wanted to do something about it. He figured the best thing he could do was to leave. He gave her practically all of his money and encouraged her to move far away from him. He even suggested she legally change her and her sons’ names, so he would not be able to find them. In his mind, this was what was best for the three of them. While he didn’t think he would hurt them if he could find them, he no longer wanted to support the distasteful practice that he once believed in. She was grateful for what he gave her, but didn’t take it that far. She retained his name, trusting that he would stay away, and wanting to honor him for having become a better person. Years later, after both of their children were teenagers, Sila’s husband broke his promise, and found her in Kansas City. He had met someone age-appropriate, but his marriage to her was still technically valid, so he needed a divorce. The judge was disagreeable, and didn’t consider their long estrangement to be good enough reason to grant divorce with only one-party consent. The two of them did not have to reunite with each other, though, as this could all have been done through counsel, but Sila wanted to see him again. They had both grown since then, and she kind of wanted to know how things turned out on his end. She never intended for either of her children to be there when it happened, but life doesn’t always end up how you like it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Microstory 1157: Kivi Bristol

The entity known as Kivi Bristol is an anomaly, even amongst all other people who experience time beyond the norm. There is no one in time or space like her...except for all of her copies. The smartest, and most well-versed, in the salmon-chooser underworld don’t even know exactly how she works. Every once in awhile, a new version of her will pop up. One is a lawyer, the other a waitress, yet another a nomadic wanderer. This version will have her own background and memories, and won’t necessarily have any knowledge of her single-timeline alternates. She always looks the same, and she always has the same name. Her personality is always about the same too, but not exactly, because environment influences an individual’s character as much as—if not more than—nature, which explains some people’s radically different life choices across alternate timelines. No one is sure how she came to be, or what the point of this all is. Sometimes it appears she was born, but other times, we think she was just randomly called into existence. Is she a chooser, or is just a salmon? She doesn’t appear to have any control over this, which would suggest that someone else does, but some have posited a different answer. They believe there is one Kivi who is the real one, and she is the one who ultimately created her own alternates. At some point, a copy’s memories and knowledge will be integrated into this master copy, but not shared with the others. This is theoretically her variation of immortality. None of the copies lasts particularly long themselves. In fact, some only appear for a duration of minutes. But, depending ultimately on how many Kivis there are, the master could carry with her the cumulative experience of thousands of years, or more. Of course, again, no one even knows if this person exists. People tend to think there are only two basic types of time travelers: those who control time, and those who are controlled by people who control time. It’s perfectly reasonable to suspect, however, that it’s possible for time itself to impose its will upon someone. After all, that’s how it works for most people. The majority of life in the universe only sees linear time, and has no choice but to see it that way. It’s clearly possible to see it differently, yet they are bound to the one way, and perhaps the only reason this is considered normal is because it’s the most common, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct. All accounted for Kivis don’t know who they are, or why they are the way they are. They just try to live their respective lives to the best of their abilities, and maybe someday, one or more of them will get some answers.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Microstory 1156: Kyle K. Stanley

Kyle Stanley first learned that some people had special abilities when he was thirteen years old. Two men broke into his house, presumably because they thought it was empty. But Kyle was an unruly child, who never considered the consequences of his actions, and just didn’t feel like going to school that day. It was his parents’ fault for moving within walking distance of his school, he figured. At first, he hid in his parents’ closet, but then he started thinking about how he would explain that to his friends. He knew his parents, and any other adult, would commend him for staying out of sight, but his peers were harsh, and would have teased him for not having protected his territory. He would grow up to realize that they would have hid as well, and would have also grown up to recognize that that was the best call, but right now, it felt like cowardice. As he heard them approaching the bedroom, he sought a weapon nearby, and settled on this long plastic thing he would later realize belonged to his mother, and that he should not have touched it. He burst through the door with his warcry, hoping to scare them off before they got into a real fight, but it just spooked one of the intruders, who instinctively pulled a gun. Kyle heard the shot, and saw that it was pointed right towards him at pretty much point blank, but it did not hit him. The other intruder had one hand up towards him, almost protectively. He noted to his partner, the shooter, that Kyle was but a child, and they needed to get out of there. The shooter took his partner by the shoulder, and they both disappeared. A neighbor two doors down claimed to have heard the shot as well, but there was no evidence of it in Kyle’s house. They couldn’t find the bullet, or the shell, or anything. He guessed that the non-shooter had powers, and used them to teleport the bullet somewhere else. The police guessed that he was just using blanks, but they didn’t see the partner’s face. He was distraught about having nearly been an accomplice to some form of murder. They also didn’t see the two of them teleport from the room.

For the most part, temporal manipulators are hard to find. When they discover what they can do, they’re almost always alone. There’s this theory going around that, even though the powers that be don’t have control over choosing ones, they exercise as much control as they can to prevent one’s secret from getting out before they even have a chance to understand it themselves. No one suddenly appears in that moment, and hands them a guidebook, or gives them a list of time travel rules, but they usually don’t want anyone else knowing about them anyway. Most of them automatically know the unwritten rules, because they’re pretty obvious. They generally reason that they can’t logically be the only ones, but they’ve also never heard of anyone else, so it’s probably meant to remain a secret. Still. Once a human does encounter enough evidence to be sure of the existence of time travelers, it becomes easier for them to spot, because they’re making a point of looking for it. Kyle didn’t tell anyone else about what he had seen, because he wasn’t being blamed for the robbery, so it just wasn’t necessary for him to have an excuse they wouldn’t believe anyway. He started researching the phenomena, and seeking others like the burglars. He ended up stumbling upon the very man himself. He was still distraught over what happened, and confirmed Kyle’s suspicions about how he had spirited the bullet to some otherwise inaccessible dimension. Kyle was okay, especially after seeing how this guy lived. He was practically homeless. He had hooked up with his partner a month before the incident, but didn’t know him that well. He was a teleporter, and a thief, whose life was totally fine without it. The Ostracizer, on the other hand, was just trying to get by. He could banish things to this other dimension, and retrieve them later, but he was not a seasoned criminal. Kyle and the Ostracizer became friends, and years later, after the former passed the bar exam, he helped his friend with some legal trouble. Kyle realized he was in the perfect position for this; protecting people with time powers against a system that doesn’t know they exist. That was when he opened his own practice. He didn’t have to do it alone, though.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 4, 2242

The present leader of Varkas Reflex was a transhumanistic individual named Eliseus Bulle. He would not be in this position for long. The governmental structure of the world was somewhat chaotic, but not anarchical. Anyone could campaign for the position. There was no voting, but the process happened quickly, and relied on popular opinion. A single entity could hold the position for up to four hundred system years, which was equal to about three Earthan years. At this point, they would have to cede to new leadership, no matter what. They could not campaign again for another three thousand years, though the people could request their return at any time. Similarly, a leader could be recalled if consensus was that they should. The government was largely a formality, and not too relevant.
A very specific type of person volunteered to be a colonist for this heavy world. Anyone unlike this type was strongly discouraged from applying. There were humans, transhumans, and artificial intelligences, but they all wanted one thing: to just hang out. They weren’t researchers, or explorers, or really even adventurers. They didn’t care if this rock was ever terraformed, and they weren’t interested in gathering knowledge. They fully embraced the automated lifestyle, and saw almost no value in work. Fortunately, the technology was there to support their ideals. Besides AI that could think for themselves, which were known as IAI, there was also the kind of general AI that possessed no personality, nor self-awareness. It was capable of calculating optimal resource distribution, and detecting technical malfunctions, but it had no drive of its own. That, along with the robots themselves, industrial and food synthesization, raw material mining, and base ingredient growth, meant no one needed to work.
Back on Earth, and in other colonies, people had jobs because they wanted to fulfill themselves. They wanted to contribute to society, make a name for themselves, and develop a legacy. They still had automation, and currency was based on reputation, just like in the Star Trek franchise, or the Orvilleverse, but they continued to make decisions for themselves, because they didn’t want to feel useless. The people of Varkas Reflex had no such qualms with inutility, and were perfectly happy just swimming around in their tanks, playing games, and enjoying free entertainment. Earth assumed that these colonists would shoot off into space, and do their thing alone. They failed to predict how enticing this would be for others. Just like in those science fiction series, it turned out there was a demand for a vacation planet. It would be nothing more than a gigantic resort, designed to help people relax, and forget about their responsibilities. Eliseus Bulle had his eyes on making this happen, but they needed a few things first.
“Your chair technology,” Eliseus began, “that the girl uses.”
“Her name is Sanaa,” Hokusai answered.
Leona was present as well, along with Loa, while Sanaa was in the restroom. They thought they were just having a chat, but apparently Eliseus was just waiting for an opportunity to talk about his true motivations. Leona and Loa independently decided on respectful stillness, and just listened.
“Right. Why did you build that for her when you seem to have artificial gravity in your laboratory? Or rather, you’ve discovered anti-gravity.”
She should have been more careful. Hokusai’s lab technically existed in another dimension, so it wasn’t bound to the gravitational pull of the planet. In fact, parallel dimensions didn’t possess gravity at all, and relied on an electrostatic field to stimulate it. She couldn’t exactly give this kind of tech to the people, because what would happen when they figured out how it worked? Dimensional mechanics were a tricky thing to mess with, and very dangerous. The galaxy was fairly peaceful at this point, after Brooke and Sharice Prieto put down most of the remaining criminal elements with Paige and Holly Blue, but dimensional technology could be weaponized, and that might regress civilization. “The chair allows her to move across the surface,” she replied simply.
“Okay, fine,” Eliseus accepted for the sake of argument. “Why haven’t you done whatever it is you did for the rest of the surface? Why did you not offer this to us?”
“I didn’t build it for you.” Hokusai felt cornered, so it was best to keep her answers short.
“Again, okay, fine. Can we have it anyway?”
“No.”
“You don’t have to do it for us. Just teach someone else to do it, and we’ll take care of it ourselves. Contrary to public perception, we’re fine with work as long as it’s necessary to achieve our goals.”
“It’s not that I would have to do it for you, it’s that I don’t want you to have it. I don’t want anyone to have it. It’s...complicated, and I can’t let it out. I shouldn’t have done it at all.”
“Well, it’s out there now,” Eliseus reasoned. “I don’t know what you’re worried about, because I don’t know how you did it. But you have changed the game, like it or not. You realize how much fuel we can save with this? It would help us build the space elevator. The reason we need it is the same reason it’s taking us so long; because surface gravity is so goddamn heavy. No one who has come here has ever wanted to leave, but that’s the worst part about it; that they have no choice. We can’t lift off from here.”
“You’re right, it would help lift spacecraft,” she agreed, “but it could also destroy them. If you focused this energy to a single point, you could cut a hole in an enemy ship, and tear it apart within seconds.”
“I don’t have any enemies,” Eliseus argued, and it wasn’t just hyperbole. He almost certainly didn’t have any enemies. He probably didn’t even dislike anybody. The power of the post-monetary world was even more powerful for people who were deliberately casual about life. War was so passé.
“I’m obviously not talking about you specifically, or probably even anyone on Varkas Reflex. Secrets get out. How would we stop it from being stolen, and eventually used this way? What happens when we meet an alien species, and they’re not so friendly? How could we resist not just ending them in the blink of an eye?”
Eliseus understood and appreciated her concern. He was a thoughtful person, which was why he was elected in the first place. In a world where the laws were so lax that they didn’t even bother coming up with a title for the global leader, people still recognized the importance of finding leaders who were a little more considerate. Carefree did not mean careless. If this were high school, they would be voting for the most responsible candidate for class president, rather than the guy who promised brawndo in the water fountains. Eliseus sat for a good long while, thinking over the options. He wanted to make this happen, but he knew she wasn’t just being an asshole. “It’s a delicate dance,” he said finally. “I’m up for recall in thirty years.” He wasn’t being recalled in the same way a president would be impeached, and removed from office, but it was the best term they could come up with to indicate the natural end of a leader’s tenure.
“Okay...” Hokusai nodded.
“The second-most promising candidate is an AI named Motherboard. She is pushing for a declaration of independence.”
Hokusai widened her eyes. “Really?”
“Yeah, she won’t win, because we enjoy the Earthan entertainment they allow us to have, certain shipments of resources, and military assurances, but she could be given an advantage if I endorsed her. I’m pretty popular.”
“Why would you being independent matter to me?” she questioned.
“We could protect your technology if Earth had no right to inspect it. They would not be allowed to take it if it belonged to an independent state.”
“That doesn’t make much sense,” Hokusai began. “I see your logic, but aren’t you hoping to use this to build a vacation planet? Would Earth allow any of its citizens the sixteen-year minimum vacation time they would need to come here, and go back?”
Eliseus bobbed his head side to side. “We’re not asking to become rivals. Hell, we could even say it’s to protect our—meaning your—technology. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be able to negotiate the modern equivalent to free trade.”
“So, you want to cede control to Motherboard, let her declare independence, ask me to build more anti-gravity structures, construct hotels and roller coasters, and whatnot inside of them, negotiate a new and unique relationship with Earth, and open your proverbial doors to long-term vacationers. Did I get everything?”
“That sounds about right,” he said.
“That may—may—protect my tech from Earth, but not from anyone here. One spy, and it’s over. It just takes one person to make a mistake, or to deliberately share the design with the wrong person. And by wrong person, I mean anyone else.”
He did not deny this. “Hypothetical. How long would it take you to build more?”
“Of course it depends on how many square meters you need. I can’t un-mass the whole planet, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Eliseus shook his head. “No, no, no; just enough to get us started. We’ve not really drawn up any plans, but let’s say a one-block hotel, two olympic-sized swimming pools, and a concert venue. No roller coasters for now.”
Hokusai considered this. “How long would it take to build those, ignoring the AG tech?”
“With our limited resources?” he asked rhetorically. “Probably a whole Earthan year.”
“A year,” she answered. “I would have to incorporate it into the designs, but the process wouldn’t extend your timetable. The more you want to do, though, the more it stretches, because I could never allow a single other entity to even so much as take a peek at the designs, let alone help me work. The only people I trust are in this lab right now, and there’s one person here that I don’t trust.”
He looked away to give it thought. “Two blueprints. One official, and public record, and the real one, which only you four have ever seen. I think I can work with that.”
“I still don’t know,” Hokusai admitted.
“I can dig it,” Eliseus said. “So, let’s keep talking. Personally, I don’t care how it works. You could be an advanced alien from Pi Canis Majoris for all I care. I just want us to build something here. I want the rest of the stellar neighborhood to stop looking at us like a big joke. If we have something they don’t, they might take us seriously. So, you see, I don’t want the technology getting out any more than you do.”
“I can dig it,” Hokusai echoed.
Leona left the timestream at the end of her day, after which Hokusai and Eliseus kept talking. By the time she returned a year later, they had come to an agreement. He was still leader of Varkas Reflex. They changed the government itself in order to maintain a better level of continuity, which was always going to be their biggest problem using the original system. Today was their Independence Day.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Bungula: Blue Skies (Part V)

On the 27th day of July, in the year 2236, a man named Belahkay Teel stepped out of his protective dome on the planet of Bungula, and breathed in the air. It wasn’t the absolute first act of respiration on an alien planet, but it was the first time to be carried about by an organic human. Belahkay was only seventeen years old, which meant he was born on Bungula, but only ever knew an artificial environment. He was never given transhumanistic upgrades, or even acclimatization treatments. He was just a normal person, breathing off Earth, and that is what made him special. Sharice picked him out somewhat at random, but there were criteria that not every colonist fit. He was of the right age, in good health, adventurous, and a little wise beyond his age. Plus, he had a pretty cool name, so that certainly wasn’t working against him. It could have been anyone, but it wasn’t; it was him.
The composition of the atmosphere is nearly identical with that of Earth’s. At the moment, there is slightly less oxygen, though in time, there should be slightly more. The skies are blue, and the clouds promise rain. Belahkay is smiling upwards, thankful for having been chosen for this gift. He spends fifteen minutes out here, mostly standing in one place. He’s then pulled back inside, where he spends another fifteen minutes, closely monitored by doctors. He goes out for thirty minutes more, and then it’s back in for the same amount of time. No ill effects. No trouble breathing. No worrying changes in blood pressure. No drop in body temperature, or rise, for that matter. One hour, then two, then four, then eight, then the pattern falls away, and he gets to stay for an entire Earthan daily cycle, sleeping under the stars. Then, and only then, is he joined by the next test subject, who goes camping with him for two full days. Two additional pioneers join them two days later for four days, and then four more for a week. They’ll come to be known as the Auspicious Eight, and be cherished throughout history. They didn’t do anything special, except not get sick or die, but that won’t diminish their fame. To some, they are the first true aliens, for this is the month that unaided survival on a second planet is proven possible.
A whole new way of life will have to be debated, and decided upon. Up until now, all colonists have remained on an Earthan schedule, with sixty minutes to an hour, twenty-four hours in a day, etc. Sure, they’re living on other worlds, but since they’ve been relegated to covered habitats, there was really no point in adjusting that dynamic to a new planetary cycle. It didn’t matter how fast the planet was spinning, or how long it took to revolve around the sun, because most of the time, they weren’t seeing it happen. This has now changed, but that doesn’t mean they can just automatically switch to something new. They still need to communicate with other worlds, and consider the evolutionary status of organic entities here, whose biological clocks aren’t so easily altered. But that is a problem for tomorrow. Today...is for dancing.
After the test month is complete, the doors are opened, and all colonists are free to cross the threshold at will. Word is sent back to Earth, and all other neighboring exoplanet colony sites of their accomplishment. There is at least one party on each world. The one on Bungula itself is the most epic, except for a few that took place on Earth, but that’s no big surprise, since there are tens of millions times more people there. The three leaders of this enterprise are sitting in their private habitat, enjoying a night of quiet reflection, away from the hubbub, when there is a knock on the door. It’s Belahkay.
“Mister Teel, what a pleasant surprise,” Brooke says after she answers. “Come on in. Would you like something to eat or drink? We keep some provisions here for visitors.”
“No, I’m stuffed,” Belahkay says. “I just wanted to hand you this.” It’s a physical piece of paper, which is obviously rare these days. On it is a photographic representation of famed actor, Keanu Reeves. Superimposed on the top is text, what if air is actually poisonous. The punchline appears on the bottom, and it just takes 80 years to kill us? “One-twelfth of one year down.”
They laugh.
“Technically, you only spent half a month out there,” Mirage points out. The other half was spent inside, making sure his lungs didn’t explode.
He shrugs. “One-twenty-fourth. Anyway, that’s not really why I’m here.” He takes a deep breath, as humans are wont to do, and now can more easily here. “What I really wanted to tell you is that I’m in.”
“You’re in what?” Sharice asks.
“I’m in to go with you guys to the next planet.”
“What planet?” Brooke presses.
“I dunno. What planet were you thinking? Teagarden? Glisnia? Or should we stay close, and just hop over to Proxima Doma?”
“Belahkay, what are you talking about?” Mirage is too intelligent, and thus rarely confused.
“You’re gonna keep doin’ this, right? You’re gonna terraform other worlds.” He looks at them like this is an obvious next step.
“Hm,” Sharice says. “We hadn’t planned on it.”
“You guys are sitting on a goldmine here, if..ya know, gold still had that much value since a shit-ton of it was found on TC 2211 OZ42. No one else can do what you do.”
He has a good point. They considered the ramifications of expediting the terraformation process, but never thought about what would happen next. If they stop here, things could become so much worse, because people might question why they aren’t sharing.
“We can’t do that,” Mirage says.
“Why can’t we?” Sharice asks her.
Mirage is shaking her head. “It’s the prime directive,” she reasons. “We can’t interfere in their development.”
“We already have,” Brooke argues. “That party out there is all about our interference. They’re celebrating our interference.”
“That was an emergency,” Mirage fights back. “If we keep doing this, what kind of galaxy are we going to be living in? When any world is habitable within fifty years, and you can go anywhere, what are people going to do? I can’t calculate those consequences, and I’m a genius.”
“Beaver Haven approved it,” Sharice reminds her.
“They approved this one time. They might not be so keen on a paradigm shift the likes of which you three are suggesting. What we did had an impact on the future, sure, but doing more would create a future no one has ever predicted, or tried to make.”
Belahkay clears his throat suggestively. “Um, excuse me? Are you aliens?”
“What makes you say that?” Brooke asks him.
“You’re talking about the prime directive, from the Star Trek franchise. That implies you’re from somewhere other than Earth, and you’re trying to decide how to deal with us.”
Mirage smiles at him. “We’re highly advanced inorganic superintelligences. We’re not aliens, but we’re of course, not human. That’s all we mean.”
“But...” he begins cautiously, “AI was invented in order to solve our problems. You fixed global food distribution, climate destabilization, and energy sourcing. You built interplanetary and interstellar ships. You mined resources on asteroids, and gave the Earth back to the wild. Now you’ve created realtime terraforming. The next step is to share it. That’s what you do.”
We did none of that,” Brooke responds, indicating the three other entities in the room at the moment.
“I did some of it,” Mirage admits, theoretically referring to her time in the higher plane of existence.
“The prime directive doesn’t apply to you, because you wouldn’t exist if humans hadn’t come up with the technology that sprung you. So yeah, maybe you’re the ones who figured it out, but by extension, we were vital to it. The tech is ours.”
That’s not quite what happened, but this kid doesn’t know about observation dimensions and time travel, so he can be forgiven for his logic path. He simply does not have all the information. And that’s really what the conundrum is here. His logic is going to be replicated by others following this achievement. Most people are going to be thinking the same thing. They’re not going to understand why the three of them could do this once, but never again. “We have to leave,” Brooke decides.
“Right now?” Sharice asks.
“Not this very minute,” Brooke replies. “I mean, we still have to oversee the wilding effort anyway, but we can’t stick around much longer after that. Once this is completely complete, and self-sustaining, people are going to expect us to go somewhere else, just like he is. We have to disappear, and never be seen again. They’ll be pissed, but at least they won’t be able to pester us about it.”
“Where would we go?” Sharice continues. “I don’t just want to live on some dead world a hundred light years from the stellar neighborhood. I still wanna be in the mix. I wanna contribute.”
“There are a few options.” Mirage’s face looks like she’s drawing from her godly experiences. “There are places in this galaxy where we would be able to hide in plain sight. People there could use our help anyway.”
“So, we just have to choose,” Sharice assumes.
“Not right away,” Mirage claims. “There’s a reason they called the collection of orbitals around Barnard’s Star Gatewood. It’s the entry point for numerous unrelated missions. Much of how the galaxy forms will be decided by what they do on Gatewood. We would go there first, and then decide where we go next.”
“Are we really doing this?” Sharice questions. “Are we abandoning the human race? I’m not convinced that’s the right call. We can do so much here. Screw Beaver Haven, and screw the timeline; let’s make our own destiny.”
“This is our destiny,” Brooke says calmly.
“Oooooohhhh-wa,” Belahkay exclaims, like he’s just had a revelation. “You’re not aliens. You’re time travelers. Now I definitely want in.”
Crap.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Microstory 1155: Jai Quelen

When Jai Quelen was in the United States Army, he was always looking out for his fellow soldiers. Of course he did this in the physical sense, because he had a duty to do so, but he went beyond that, and protected their ethical standing. He was always concerned with filling out reports properly, and making sure the reality of a given situation was fully understood by those who were not there to witness it. This could have been annoying to them, but he wasn’t overbearing or nitpicky—he was a true advocate—so they were grateful for him. After he had served, he began college, and worked towards his undergraduate degree in Philosophy, with a focus on Ethics. Shortly before graduation, he was asked to participate in a presentation at a local middle school, to show kids that military service wasn’t only about guns and bombs. An eighth grader there named Cassidy Long took a liking to him, though of course, it was literally just a middle school crush. The feelings were not at all reciprocated, and in fact, Jai didn’t even notice she wasn’t really interested in service. He didn’t think much of it; meeting a 13-year-old when he was in his mid-20s, but he nearly killed himself when he encountered her again barely four years later—after she turned 18, and started working as a stripper—and developed feelings. He had moved on with his life by attending law school, earning his J.D. Degree, and then landing a job at Veterans Affairs. He wasn’t just surprised to see Cassidy again, but also that he recognized her. The age difference alone would have been enough to make him uncomfortable, but the fact that he knew her when she was so young was enough to push him over the edge. He had his service weapon against his temple when his roommate came home early, and got him some help. He spent a year in a mental health facility before he felt well enough to reenter the world. As it turned out, his attraction towards Cassidy was the least of his worries, and his counselors encouraged him to accept the fact that everyone who is at one point 18 years old was, at another point, also 13 years old. He moved on with his life yet again, deciding that the best thing to do was go back to school, and try to earn his PhD. Fate intervened once more, however, when he and Cassidy crossed paths a third and fourth time. He saw her in the grocery store, while she later noticed him in line for concessions at the movie theatre. They only learned of the coincidence when she connected with him on social media, and engaged him in conversation. Through all of this, Jai’s primary problem was loneliness. He was never that close with his family, and they did not approve of his career choices, which was how he ended up in Lawrence, Kansas in the first place. He finally let go of his hangups, and the two of them entered into a nonsexual exclusive relationship. They were living together, sharing rent and chores, and even sleeping in the same bed together, but they were not having sex. The nature of their unconventional relationship made things quite difficult for him when Cassidy disappeared from their temporary hotel room without a trace. Fortunately, that old roommate happened to be a practicing lawyer named Kyle K. Stanley.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Microstory 1154: Lamar Prebensen

When the town of Springfield, Kansas was swallowed up by a portal, and spit out on a rogue planet that would come to be known as Durus, much of Earthan culture tried to go with it. Smith was an unfair tyrant, but he wasn’t particularly creative, nor intelligent. He didn’t come up with a new system of government and law; he just corrupted and exploited what he already knew. Over the decades—as society stabilized—many policies and laws had to be changed to accommodate the new environment. People with time powers, and people with the power to give people time powers, were not things any Earthan government had to deal with—at least not in an official capacity. As time marched on, and social equality was dismantled, the laws changed again, until the system only resembled its predecessor in superficial ways. They still had judges, attorneys, juries, and trials, but they were discriminatory, biased, and ineffectual. When the phallocracy was finally overcome, the Provisional Government worked to resolve these issues, but it was a slow and messy process, and their biggest problem was finding people who knew what they were doing. Law professionals from yesterday weren’t very good, because they were stuck in their old ways. New refugees from Earth weren’t all that helpful either, for Durus and Earth had diverged from each other around a hundred and fifty years ago. This meant law enforcement for them had become a streamlined process, which required little interpretation and daily interference; not none, but not much. Still, they did their best, and everyone just kind of had to be patient with the transition. One thing they had going for them was their newfound transparency. A woman with the ability to provide remote viewings to anyone in the world allowed court proceedings to be witnessed by the masses on LoaTV. This allowed for crowd-sourced checks and balances, and kept further corruption at bay. Lamar Prebensen loved to watch these, hoping to learn a thing or two about the field, because it was something he didn’t have the opportunity to do before. Of course, watching television, even of real life, is not an effective means of learning something new. The deck was stacked against him from the beginning, and he didn’t feel things would ever get better as long as he remained on this planet. Gender-based inequality was not the only kind of discrimination on Durus. Lamar chose to leave, because he was never afforded a decent education. But if he had asked, someone might have told him that lawyers didn’t really exist on Earth anymore. It would seem that he was wasting his time in the attempt to make a better life. On his way to his new home, however, he used his limited knowledge to help solve a murder, which earned him points with the crew. When they finally arrived at their destination, most of the passengers were given new identities, so they could live out their lives as they wished, but they decided to make an exception for him. Since he would not be able to fulfill his dream in that time period, they sent him back to 2019, and set his identity up there instead. He was then able to go to law school, pass the bar exam, and apply for a position at a law firm. He went on to have a full and happy career.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Microstory 1153: Elder Caverness

Nothing in Elder Caverness’ life was ever easy, but he thought that was exactly how it needed to be, because he was always taught that hard work was all that mattered. He was raised with so-called traditional values, and it took him a long time to get over the terrible conventions his family indoctrinated him to believe. If it don’t hurt, his father would always say, you’re not doin’ it right. Well, being gay must have been the most right thing he could have done, because that same father sure made sure Elder was hurting pretty much every day. He was one of those people who claimed to be from a different generation, so even in time, he never accepted his son’s identity. But time should have worked, if nothing else, because it’s less about where you’re from, and more about where you are now. In the world of Elder’s day, sex positive was the name of the game, and no excuse for being anything less than a moderately compassionate individual was an excuse. Nevertheless, he managed to get away from that toxic atmosphere, and move on with his life. He joined the Navy right out of high school. He served two years on active duty, four years in the reserves, and two more in IRR. When he wasn’t actively working in the military, he worked in private security, as many in his position will do. There he met, and formed a bond with, Kolby Morse. They connected with each other for their similar viewpoints on the world, and how people should behave in a civilized society. Their primary concern seemed to be corporate corruption, which they discovered in the company they were already doing security for. They felt they had to do something about it. To insulate them both from scrutiny, Kolby remained outside the investigation. While Elder was on the inside, should anything happen to him, Kolby would be there to pull him out. They weren’t trying to take down the people they perceived as criminals in any official capacity, so they had no further support in this matter. The executives they were monitoring had special temporal powers, which gave them a virtually insurmountable advantage over anyone who would try to compete with them. Elder’s assignment was long and taxing, but they were playing the long game here. They couldn’t just arrest anyone they thought was involved. He was carefully and delicately collecting evidence, while simultaneously preventing the rest of the world from uncovering the truth about their abilities. If these bad people had powers, then surely others would too, and Elder didn’t want those hypothetical innocents to be exposed if they hadn’t done anything wrong. It took a long time for him to make headway, but he did, and his efforts proved to be vital to sending the guilty to other side of some heavy bars.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Microstory 1152: Micro

Valentine Avalon Duval hated her real name. First of all, people would constantly tease her about being named after a holiday. Some more thoughtful people would assume she was named after the martyr, which was probably true, but they were no less impolite about it. Plus, all three of her names contained the string val, which her parents must have thought was pretty cute. The worst part came when kids started going to health class, and realized that her initials were VD. Many other people experienced this issue—even more had similar problems—but that didn’t make it any easier for her. Sensing her disdain, her parents started calling her Micro. She was a rather small child, and more importantly, she liked to sing, so it was more about her vocal interests. As she grew older, she began to find joy in computers, particularly in doing things she wasn’t supposed to be doing. If there was no easy way to find information, that was the kind of information she wanted. She chose Micro as her online alias, but of course, everyone assumed this referred to microchip, or perhaps a certain ubiquitous technology company. To combat this, she would embed a small microphone symbol in her work as her signature. The more she learned, the more people she met in the underworld, and the more people she met, the more dangerous her life became. She was never evil, but she certainly took her exploits too far. She would frequently use her skills to expose corporate corruption, but she wouldn’t steal any money, or hold their data for ransom, and she would never put individuals at risk. In her mind, people had the right to be safe, but not necessarily the right any and all information. She wanted to know all the things herself, but she didn’t usually reveal people’s secrets, unless those secrets put innocent people in danger. It was her achievements, and moral code, that drew the attention of Countervail. Here she was able to protect the rights and privacy of the average U.S. citizen, and make sure the government wasn’t overstepping their bounds. She would later to be read into the world of salmon and choosers, so she could help in even more ways. In earlier days, a time traveler was free to move about the world as needed. As long as they sufficiently blended in, there was little danger of getting caught. They could always escape pretty easily, unless the powers that be didn’t want that to happen. As technology progressed, however, anonymity grew more difficult, even for temporal manipulators. She helped cover up any inconsistencies. Rumors would always pervade the global consciousness, and she never had the power to stop that, but at least she would get rid of any proof that these people existed. All this work came to a head when she was abruptly taken from her world, and relocated to another.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Microstory 1151: Uhyiopa

Many light years from Earth, there is a planet. This planet has slightly lower gravity, and slightly higher tidal forces from an orbiting moon. The planet itself orbits an adolescent main-sequence star, and revolves fast enough to produce a strong magnetosphere, which protects it from solar radiation, and maintains a breathable atmosphere. Though it did not produce evolved life, it is fully capable of supporting it, which is good, because it was chosen as a colony site for, not one, but two separate species. The Orothsew and Gondilak, through some bioengineering, evolved independent of each other on isolated continents. Because of the stronger tides, both species developed quite significantly before they progressed enough in a maritime respect to survive travel across the vast ocean. The Orothsew were more advanced, and quickly overcame the Gondilak, even though the latter were more difficult to kill. But this was carried out by the leadership, and though their laws didn’t allow them to do anything to stop it, the people did not want war. A rebellion formed, composed of both Orothsew and Gondilak, who were seeking a peace. The conquest for land was pointless, as there were plenty of resources to go around, and the differences between their species was irrelevant. One such of these rebels was named Uhyiopa. She did not actively recruit new rebels, but protected battlefield deserters, from both belligerents. These did not fight like most revolutionaries. Their main purpose was to show the world what it would be like if they all lived in harmony. The plan did not work completely, when a tyrant rose up and ended the war simply by declaring himself ruler over both nations. But her efforts, and those of her people, were not wasted. Two humans witnessed her actions, and respected her vision. When they were sent to the deep past to correct the world’s problems before they even began, they used Uhyiopa’s model as a foundation to help build a more productive civilization. She would not be born in this timeline, as much of its history was changed, but her legacy lives on in the billions of people who would come to find peace on Orolak.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 3, 2241

It took some doing, but Sanaa did manage to warm up, and open up, a little to Leona. Leona did the same to her as well. They had more in common than they realized. Their hostilities towards each other, especially on Sanaa’s part, didn’t make a whole lot of sense to begin with. As it turned out, she struggled with meeting people who genuinely wanted to be her friend, and didn’t just want to use her powers. Lots of choosers were called upon to do jobs for others, but that was different, at least in her mind. For someone else, it was more of a skill that others valued. For Sanaa, she was really just the middlewoman, who people only spoke to so they could connect with those they actually liked. It was unclear whether people were turned off by her because of her attitude, or if she developed a bad attitude because she felt underappreciated. Regardless, she wasn’t an unpleasant person on the other side of her protective emotional walls, and Leona was getting to know that.
She spent the rest of 2240 in the waters. The great thing about the technology was that the most skeptical and reluctant individual will still adapt surprisingly quickly. And they required no body modification in order to thrive in it. Some random guy from the nineteenth century would be able to dive into one of these tanks, and spend an indefinite amount of time there with no problem breathing. It was quite peaceful in the water, except when she was being bombarded with questions. The colonists somehow got wind that she was partially responsible for the construction of their habitats just before they arrived. Of course Eight Point Seven did most of the work, while she wasn’t in the timestream, but they still considered her to be a worthy celebrity. Unfortunately, they wanted to communicate with her using the sign language they developed, which was designed to be used inside heavier water resistance, and slight visual impairment. That was really the only thing that would hinder the hypothetical nineteenth century man from thriving. His eyes would never truly adjust to the way light bent in the underwater.
Leona was a highly intelligent person, with knowledge from three separate timelines, but even she wasn’t capable of learning the sign language within a day. Despite her seeming misanthropy, Sanaa had picked it up already, and was able to interpret for her when the colonists wanted to talk. This solidified their bond, because now Sanaa didn’t feel so alone and overlooked. They were having so much fun getting to know each other that Leona didn’t realize midnight central was approaching. Even if she had, she probably wouldn’t have thought to break the surface for her time jump. There was no reason to believe anything strange would happen to the environment as a result of her sudden disappearance, or her sudden reappearance a year later. When she tried to exit the tank at that point, the waters followed her out. Her gravity regulator was malfunctioning, which acted to envelop her in her own little aquatic atmosphere that she couldn’t shake. It was kind of cool, but a little annoying.
“Can you modify my gravity field remotely?” Leona asked.
Hokusai was fiddling with her tablet, trying to solve the problem. “It’s having trouble connecting. Like, it will connect, but it won’t let me do anything.”
“And you’re sure you can’t open up the panel on my leg?”
“The water has already damaged your systems enough. It’ll make it even worse if we open the floodgates. That could render your legs completely inoperable, and because of your pattern, it could be virtually impossible to build new ones for you. You weren’t on your pattern when you got these ones here, right?”
“Yeah,” Leona answered sadly.
“Your body needs time to adjust, and time is something  you have far less of than most people.”
Leona tried to use her hand to scrape the water from her face again, and from her legs, even knowing it wouldn’t work. Despite the fact that the planet itself should have been exerting a greater amount of attraction than her artificial gravity legs, it was like trying to scoop the water from a bucket with strainer. “What if I got back in the tank, and then got out some other way? What if I got dressed, or I dunno, started to dance?”
“I don’t think we’re gonna find a home remedy for this. Just give me a minute. If I can only connect for one second, that will be enough to deactivate your regulator.”
Loa came in and walked up. “How do you feel. Can you breathe?”
“Well, I’m not technically breathing, since that’s what my lungs are for, but yes, I feel fine. I just don’t want to feel like this forever.” She redirected her attention back to Hokusai. “Heat?”
“No.”
“Cold. Maybe we could freeze it, and chip it off?”
“That would kill you. Just let me figure this out.”
“It’s not going to connect,” Leona tried to tell her. “It’s broken. You’re going to have to open up the panel, and switch it off manually.”
“No, I told you I can’t do that.”
“I’ll do it myself,” Leona decided. She knelt down to access the panel.
“Stop right there, young lady!”
She complied, secretly relieved that Hokusai stopped her. “If I wait until my next time jump, will that fix it?”
“It’s possible, though not likely. If I’m to understand your history correctly, you and Mateo once made a time jump while you were in a tent?”
“Yeah, it was weird. If we’re standing in a room, we don’t take it with us through time, but I guess the powers that be interpret tents like they do clothing.”
“How would they interpret a magical water blanket?”
“Good point.”
“How about you try sending an electrical pulse through the water; disrupt its tension?”
“Where did you get your degree?”
“In two thousand and twenty-four,” Leona replied.
“Now, that’s a good point.”
While it was true that Leona’s education and experience as a physicist and a science fiction buff combined allowed her to understand future technology to a higher degree than most, it only took her so far. She tried to keep up on modern advancements, but there were only so many hours in the day, and she just didn’t know how everything worked. She either understood the creative concepts based on her breadth of film knowledge, or the mechanics from her master’s degree, but if Hokusai tried to ask her for help with the new reframe engine, she would be all but useless.
“Where did Sanaa swim off to?” Loa asked. Perhaps she was merely trying to get Leona’s mind off her predicament.
“I dunno,” Leona answered. “Probably living her best life.”
“I’m right here,” Sanaa called up from the other side of Hokusai’s lab.
“What are you doing out of the water?” Loa asked her with deep concern. She ran over to help her carry this giant machine. It had wheels, but it sounded like they needed some lubricant. Tubing was dragging behind it.
“I’m fine,” Sanaa answered, though she was grateful for the help. “The gravity in this room is at one-point-four-g, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Hokusai confirmed. “I need it higher than Earth gravity for some of my experiments, “but you had to walk clear across the dome, and it’s much higher out there.”
“Hashtag worth it,” Sanaa said. Once she was right in front of Leona, she lifted one of the tubes, and pointed it directly at her. Then she switched on the machine, and everybody watched as it sucked all the water from Leona’s skin.
“A wet-vac?” Hokusai asked after the deed was done.
“Yes,” Sanaa said. “I have demonstrated their weakness may be found from a less sophisticated approach. You are no longer capable of such thinking.” This was a near direct quote from an episode of the ancient series, Stargate SG-1. She was a good person.
“Thank you so much,” Leona said. “You’re right, we did not think of that.”
Hokusai sat Leona down in the nearest chair, and examined her leg. “Remaining droplets are continuing to stick to your skin. This is fascinating. You’re like a little planet, with your own gravity.”
“Are you calling me fat?” Leona joked.
“She’s not a planet,” Sanaa said. “She’s a star.”
Leona smiled. They were friends now. Who knew?
“I have a mini-tank over there.” Hokusai jerked her head in its general direction, but kept her eyes on Leona’s leg as she opened the access panel. “Get yourself right, and we’ll talk. I took a break from my reframe engine to build you something. It’s not a perfect solution, and you may hate it, but it’s an option for anytime you want to get out of the water.”
“What is it?” Sanaa asked, though her own weight was already getting to her. It was a miracle she managed to walk across the dome on land, lugging that huge thing behind her. Even though gravity here was a significant improvement, her time in the tank had lessened her ability to withstand even this high of gravity. It wasn’t the weight so much as it was the distribution.
“You’ll see,” Hokusai said, still working. “Loa can you help her?”
Shortly after Loa helped Sanaa into her tank to rest, Hokusai was finished repairing Leona’s gravity regulator. “Okay. You’ll be able to get back into the water, if you need to, or want to. Prolonged exposure, however, is not ideal. Obviously these are meant to be waterproof, but it’s not worth the possibility of a recurrence. We seem to have learned a little bit about your time jumps, which may make you feel worse about them.”
“I’m the kind of person who wants to know, even if it’s terrible.”
“I would need to study it more, but based on yours and Eight Point Seven’s accounts of earlier attempts, I doubt it would be safe to do so. It would appear that time doesn’t so much as open up for you as it opens you. My hypothesis is that microfissures form all over your body at midnight, allowing temporal energy itself to flood your system. In this case, it’s how the water seeped in as well. How these heal afterwards, I can’t say, but seeing as you’ve never heard any of this before, they don’t seem to be hurting you. Now, if you felt pain every time it happened—”
“I don’t technically feel pain, but Mateo and I both get real tired. We’ve gotten used to it, and the more sleep we’ve had, the better, but I still feel it every time.”
Hokusai tilted her head in thought. “Hmm. When your skin cracks open, perhaps you suffer a temporary oxygen loss, which drastically diminishes your energy. This could bad, incidental, or quite necessary. We’ve always framed your pattern as jumping forwards in time, but maybe time jumps aren’t possible, or aren’t possible for you. You could be placed in suspended animation in another dimension that doesn’t support diatomic oxygen. These are all just guesses, of course. I have no real idea what happens to you or Mateo when you disappear. I don’t even know if you and Mateo experience the same thing, or if your body relies on a workaround, since you weren’t born this way; you were made. Hogarth Pudeyonavic would understand it better. I’m more of a space girl.”
“Oh, you know Hogarth? Did I know that you knew her?”
“I don’t know.”
Loa walked back up. “She’s sleeping. Let’s wait to give it to her until tomorrow.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” Hokusai agreed. “I wouldn’t hate taking one last look at the power source.”
“No, I’m up!” Sanaa exclaimed through her mouthpiece.
“Why do you keep hearing us from so far away!” Hokusai shouted.
“Hello!” Sanaa shouted back. “Psychic?”
Hokusai went over to a half-door next to Sanaa’s tank, and pulled out something that looked like a fancy wheelchair. “I don’t know if you would prefer swimming to lying down, but if you ever wanna be dry, this will help. It’s a gravity regulator, but like I said, it’s not perfect. You have to be at a pretty steep incline to distribute your weight effectively, but one thing it has going for it is that it doesn’t require a medical procedure, so it shouldn’t interfere with your powers.”
Sanaa pressed both palms, and her face against the glass—I mean, polycarbonate window. “I love it.”

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Bungula: Breathing Space (Part IV)

Brooke, Sharice, and Mirage are sitting around a table solemnly. The fight is over, but they are still feeling the trauma. Brooke is this close to deleting the memory from her brain, but she can’t, because there is work to be done.
Mirage finally speaks, “I think it’s important to—”
“Shut up,” Sharice interrupts.
“Nobody died,” Mirage manages to say.
“If you don’t shut your mouth,” Sharice begins, “you’re going to find out what my namesake did for a living before she became a civil servant.”
“Wasn’t she a lawyer?”
Sharice stands up threateningly.
“It’s fine,” Brooke stops her daughter from doing something else she would regret. “It was a billion to one incident. And Mirage is right. Nobody died.”
“They did die,” Sharice argues. “We’re lucky their respective consciousnesses were uploaded to an underground server. Plenty of fairly normal humans were in that dome. Had they been exposed, they would have been lost forever.”
“We had ample warning time,” Mirage reminds her. “The biologicals were rescued first.”
“You made me complicit in a tragedy,” Sharice complains. “Had this happened to Dome Three, dozens—if not hundreds—of people would have been killed.”
“It didn’t happen to Dome Three!” Mirage’s anger is growing. “It happened to Dome Four! If you would like, we can talk about going back in time to prevent it from happening, but what we’re not going to do is go back in time and make your worst fears come true. There’s no point in worrying about a past that never occurred. Life is dangerous anywhere in the galaxy, but in a colony, on a world that doesn’t naturally support human life, it’s even more dangerous. There is literally an endless supply of bad things that might have happened, or bad things that did happen, but could have been even worse. I take most responsibility for the meteor strike, but I won’t take all of it. I put you in charge.”
Sharice’s anger rivaled Mirage’s well. “You glorified 3D television set!”
Brooke has to hold her back, like this is a rap battle gone awry.
“I’ll disassemble you right now!” Sharice continues.
‘That’s enough!” Brooke declares. “Nobody is disassembling anyone, and nobody is going back in time. As terrible as this was, I don’t allow time travel. I don’t just mean that because I can’t do it myself. No matter your intentions, temporal manipulation is always bad. It’s caused so many more problems than it’s solved, and I stayed here to be free of it. Most of my family is off elsewhere, but Sharice and I made the decision to let them go, because their lives are just too insane and unpredictable. Mirage, if I ever hear you suggest that again, or if I even suspect we’re living in a timeline of your creation, you’re gonna regret ever becoming an avatar. The time you spent in that omniscience dimension has damaged your perspective.
“Now. That being said, there’s a reason humans developed technologies beyond interstellar travel. Our ancestors long ago started realizing how much it sucks to be a standard human. Humans die too easily, and they don’t come back, which is why we decided to improve upon ourselves, so we would be more resilient. Sharice, this could not have happened to Dome Three, because it’s fully encased in a lava tube. Dome Four wanted a better view of the sky, but that’s why there aren’t many fully organics in there, because it’s not safe. All colonists came here knowing their lives wouldn’t be easy. Earth is the safest place for any vonearthan. Or at least it comes with the highest chances of survival. I’m not saying they asked you to lose control of an icy planetesimal, and smash fragments of it into the side of their dome, but they knew you were dropping them in this orthant. Unfortunately, the process of seeding the planet with an atmosphere wouldn’t have worked if we focused our work on only one hemisphere, or something. Right, Mirage?”
“That’s right,” Mirage replies. “That may have worked if we were willing to wait centuries...”
“Why did we not just wait centuries?” Sharice questions. “Why are you so eager to get this done so fast? Is something coming? Is something about to happen. You’re obsessed with 2245, like all is lost if we don’t make it in time.”
Mirage’s silence is deafening.
Brooke nods for no apparent reason. “It’s time, Mirage.”
“What?”
“Yes, what?” Sharice agrees. “What are you talking about?”
“It’s time to tell her,” Brooke says.
“What do you know?” Sharice is feeling offended. “She told you some secret?”
Mirage emotes to Brooke, but they don’t exchange words.
“Fine,” Brooke resolves. “It’ll make her angrier hearing it from me, but if you don’t want to admit it, I will.”
“No,” Mirage stops her. “I didn’t realize you knew. It’s my truth to tell, so I better tell it.”
Sharice folds her arms impatiently.
Brooke actually had no idea what Mirage’s secret was, but she knew she wouldn’t give it up by request. Mirage had to think Brooke figured it out on her own, so she’d finally spill it. It was a tricky gamble, and it’s a miracle it was going to pay off. The problem is she has no way of conveying her gambit to Sharice, but perhaps that’s for the best, so her daughter can authentically express her surprise, and possible outrage.
Mirage prepares to explain herself. “In the year 1815, roughly seventy thousand people die in what history considers to be the most devastating volcanic eruption on record. Over two hundred years later, Meliora Reaver comes in possession of something known as the Muster Beacon. It’s capable of generating a massive portal, or thousands of single-serving portals simultaneously. Before this, Sanctuary was designed to save one person at a time. She would send her employee, also known as The Chauffeur to travel directly between Dardius and Earth, ferrying humans she felt needed to be protected from time travelers. Brooke, I know this is something you can understand. The Muster Beacon, however, was a huge win for her, because now she could save high numbers of people at once, without forcing Dave to cross his own timeline, and risk creating a paradox. Unfortunately, she and her team of scientists did not fully understand the technology. Early attempts resulted in nothing happening, but there was one time where it worked half way. They didn’t realize it at the time—and probably don’t even now—but they did manage to spirit away ten thousand would-be victims of the Mount Tambora eruption.
“Tens of thousands more died of related causes, but they couldn’t be saved, because the world would notice them missing. These closest ten thousand were pulled into a portal, but never made it out to the other side. They were, effectively, dead anyway. The Muster Beacon started functioning properly from then on, but that does the missing Sumbawa people no good.” Mirage closes her eyes in sadness. “I tried to rescue them myself. Bungula is destined to become hospitable in no later than four hundred years from now, so I figured that was the best place to put them. It looks like Earth, it has a good star, and...”
“And what?” Sharice presses.
“The Bungulans abandon it. I never did understand why, but they just up and leave, and vonearthans don’t ever come back.”
Brooke nods again. “It’s the life. They leave so that life can evolve on its own. Those bacteria you discovered are heralds.”
“No, but I told you that the bacteria doesn’t evolve.”
“Yes, you said that, didn’t you?”
“Okay, I didn’t see every single possible future. The point is that something went wrong on my end too. They’re scheduled to arrive in 2245 now, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I came down to your plane of existence, because I need this place terraformed before they show up, or they’re dead.”
“You’re trying to clean up your own mess,” Sharice notes. “And you? You knew about this,” she accuses Brooke.
Brooke sports a sort of hybrid smile-frown. “I did not. That was just my way of teasing the information out of her.”
Mirage should be upset by the trick, but she’s probably just relieved to finally be open and honest. “I should have realized.”
“Why didn’t you just tell us this,” Sharice asks.
“You heard your mother. She hates time travel. It’s bad enough that we accelerated the ammonia bombardment, and used dark algae from the future. If she knew the whole reason we were doing this was to fix a mistake I made when I thought I was a god, she might have put a stop to the whole thing.”
“You severely underestimate me if you think I would let ten thousand innocent people die just to feel morally superior,” Brooke says, saddened.
“I couldn’t risk it. They’re coming, in 2245. This world has to be ready for them. I don’t know how they’re gonna handle it. Will they realize they’re on a different planet? Will they freak out about it? Can we integrate them into society? This is just my only option.”
“Well, maybe it’s not ideal, but Sanctuary was going to reveal secrets about future technology to them anyway, so why didn’t you just build them a special dome?” Sharice proposes.
“I don’t know exactly where they’re going to land; if they’ll be the same distance from each other as they were when the beacon took them, or if they’ll be in one spot. Maybe they’ll be randomly spread across the surface. The whole world needs to be able to support human life.”
“It will,” Brooke assures her. “I don’t know the answer to your questions either, but if we can protect them from physical and emotional harm, then we have to try. The ammonia bombardment and factories are working. The atmosphere is thickening as we speak, the magnetosphere is holding, and the temperature is rising. By 2245, this rock will be ready for life. Though that does leave the question of what we should do with the colonists. I don’t think the Sumbawa would get along well with them. If they realize they’re on a different planet, they’ll probably form a whole religion around it, and the more advanced colonists hanging around would just make it too complicated.”
“Are you suggesting they actually leave?” Sharice asks. “Like they did in the other timeline that Mirage saw?”
“Perhaps.”
“We would have to tell them why,” Mirage reminds her.
“That’s not such a stretch,” Brooke says. “They already know something’s up, and we’re fooling ourselves if we think they remain oblivious. The absolutely most optimistic estimates for terraforming any planet within twenty light years of Earth is two hundred years. Life takes time. Nature does it several orders of magnitude slower. Nothing and no one does it in eighteen years. We have to face the reality that the world is waking up. Many vonearthans already know specifics about salmon and choosers, and more grow suspicious every day. They were never going to stay hidden forever.”
“I guess you’re right,” Sharice acknowledges. “As long as Beaver Haven doesn’t lock us up for our crimes, then things should be fine.”
“Yes,” Mirage agrees. “And the worst of it is over. Now we just wait for the atmosphere to fully form. The next few years will be mostly about monitoring and adjusting. We can start wilding the surface after that, just like they did on Earth a hundred and fifty years ago.”