Saturday, September 14, 2019

Gatewood: Project Long Game (Part V)

What they learned after the departure of the Project Stargate ships was that Operation Anglo started in 2238, and went all the way through 2245. Saxon Parker cloned over a 162,000 copies of himself every year, which averaged to 445 clones per day. Because of a patented accelerated aging chemical process, by the time they were deployed for the mission, they were adults. While most of the clones were in their thirties, the eldest appeared to be 48 years old. Omega was one of the youngest, at only 25. It took a few tries to figure out how to stop the aging process once they were at maturity; a necessity brought about by a genetic anomaly Saxon happened to possess. This was still nascent technology, and its inventors didn’t realize how much adaptation rapid cloning required for each subject. He might not have needed to fix this mistake if he had asked Kestral and Ishida for their help, but he refused to let them into his secret cloning lab on a distant outer planetary moon, even after the truth of its existence was revealed. It was only after he sacrificed his connection to the present day to monitor the progress of part of the network of ships that they were able to hack access to it. It was here that they discovered his reasons for this.
The lab was enormous, large enough to both grow the Anglos, as well as house them. Records found in his office showed that he had almost nothing to do with their upbringing, but they were instead taught using a combination of neural implants, subliminal memorization stenanographs, and robotic instructors. The most disturbing part of the facility was the biowaste section. There weren’t dead bodies lining the hallways, or anything, but there was definite evidence of the operation’s failures. According to records, Saxon lost an average of one clone a day. The biomass had to be disposed of properly, discreetly, and respectfully. Ishida discovered that Saxon took personal responsibility for this nasty business, rather than having a robot take care of it for him. They had no idea what he had gone through; the toll something like that could take on a person. Perhaps they had treated him unfairly.
There’s nothing they can do about all that now. It’s been eleven years since Saxon left, and one year since Project Andromeda launched. Team Keshida and Omega have kept themselves busy as best they can, overseeing general maintenance of the cylinders and other stations. Obviously, these processes are automated, and the residents are meant to take care of most of it themselves anyway, so it only serves their psychological health. The lack of a major project coming up is starting to wear on all of them, but especially Kestral, who has a big problem with feeling useless. The two of them came to Gatewood nearly a century ago, charged with building the cylinders that would one day house billions of human refugees from another universe. Once that was achieved, and the refugees were all safely aboard, they moved on. They started writing code and manufacturing machines to build Project Topdown, Project Stargate, Operation Starseed, and Project Andromeda. All of those have successfully been sent off, and the instructive dreams directing them to these endeavors have now ceased. They don’t know what to do with themselves.
“Did you find it?” Kestral asks.
“We’re not really meant to see this,” Ishida points out to her.
“Right. But did you find it?”
Ishida doesn’t say anything.
“Caldwell.”
“Yes,” she finally admits. “It’s right here. Project Long Game. Nothing involves Gatewood, or any other colony world. They’re all about Sol.”
“Well, we have to decide what we’re doing next, so...”
“Here,” Ishida says with a sigh. She casts her screen to Kestral’s.
Kestral looks over the list. “Ring a Bell is the soonest one, and it’s not happening until 2300.”
Ishida leans back to see what Kestral is referring to. “No, those are goal dates. They’ve probably already started on it.”
Kestral frowns. “Sounds boring anyway.”
“What is it?” Omega asks. He’s wearing shutter shades. Not only is he learning everything he would have in a less specialized school setting, but he’s also catching up on Earthan historical culture. Right now, he’s mostly in the 1980s, but he jumps around.
“What is what?” Ishida asks him, “your terrible fashion sense?”
“No, what’s Project Ring a Bell?”
“Oh,  it’s a Dyson ring.”
He’s never heard of that.
“They’re going to build a whole bunch of satellites to orbit the sun, which will draw energy, and beam it back to relay stations orbiting Earth.”
“Cool beans,” Omega replies.
“Why are they building a ring when they’re just gonna build a swarm with Project Marching Locusts a hundred years later. God, that’s a negative term. They should consider changing that.”
“You can go to Earth and suggest that,” Ishida joked. “That’ll be the only way you have anything to do with any of this. No one’s heard of us. I don’t know why you’re bent on injecting yourself into long-term Earthan projects.”
They stop talking when they hear Omega chugging a disgusting energy drink. He must have figured out how to reengineer the formula using a biomolecular synthesizer, and reproduce the original can with an industrial synthesizer. The drink, and others like it, were never technically outlawed, but they’re so unhealthy that people stopped drinking them. If you want something like that, you have to program it yourself, because no one else will have thought to include them in any recipe databases. He squeezes the can, and bros out for a second. “Why don’t you guys make somethin’ up?”
“Huh?” Kestral asks.
“Well.” He opens another can he had tucked into his armpit. “It doesn’t sound like you have much interest goin’ back to Earth, though that’s where the action is. You have—” He tries to gesture around the room, but the can ends up slipping out of hand, and spills onto the floor. “Oh, shit,” he says as a robot is coming to clean it up. “Sorry.”
“What were you saying?” Ishida prompts.
“Right. You have all these resources, so why don’t you come up with a project that no one’s ever thought of before.” He belches. “I mean, you are geniuses, aren’t you?”
“That’s true,” Kestral agrees.
They sit there quietly for a few minutes. Well, Kestral and Ishida do. Omega continues to emulate what he’s seen men do in the bad 80s movies he watched by lumbering around and making inappropriately loud bodily noises.
“I need time to sit with this,” Ishida decides.
“Oh, thank God. I do too.”
“God didn’t save you,” Omega says in a low melodramatic voice as he’s letting the last few drops of his drink fall to his tongue. “I did.”
“All right, that’s enough of you,” Kestral says dismissively. “Acting like a drunkard isn’t any better than legit being drunk. There’s a reason people don’t do it anymore.”
“I’m not as think as you drunk I am,” Omega tries to joke.
“Ha-ha-ha,” Kestral says sarcastically as she’s ushering him out of the room. Once he’s been pushed far enough to go off on his own, she turns back around. She has a smile larger than any Ishida has seen in years. “One week. Let’s not see each other for one week. Work on some ideas, and we’ll reconvene and do a mutual pitch meeting.”
“I like it,” Ishida says, just as excited. Not knowing has become the fun part.

Now, when two best friends in the twenty-first century don’t see each other for days, they feel a bit of sadness. They miss one another. That’s not to say Kestral and Ishida don’t feel such things as well, but time has forever transformed how relationships work in general. When you don’t intend to ever die, skipping a week or two doesn’t feel like that big of a deal. This patience is only going to grow larger as more time passes. People will start to travel between stars on a regular basis. They’ll plan casual meet-ups years in advance, because it will just take them that long to get to the same planet. The two of them are so old at this point that they barely noticed the time apart. They were so wrapped up in their work that the time flew right by, and before they knew it, a week was behind them.
Kestral had some interesting ideas about building a planet, but conceded that there was no longer enough raw material in the system to make one the size they would want. They could do a moon, maybe, but the idea would be to give the Ansutahan human refugees a real home to live on, and a small celestial body won’t have enough surface gravity. Besides, whether they tried it here, or in some other system, it would probably be too large of a project to tackle at this juncture.
Ishida had a different idea, but they wouldn’t be able to do it alone. She pulls up the diagrams she created, and starts her presentation. “Lady and gentleman, I give you...Operation Extremus.”
Omega raises his hand. “Like the supersoldier virus that gives people superpowers, and then makes them asplode?” He’s currently working on the MCU continuity, and his behavior has improved significantly. These two developments are unrelated.
“That’s Extremis,” Ishida corrects. “Is. This is all about us.” She summons an artist’s rendering of the Milky Way. It’s packed with new information about neighboring star systems, but the Project Topdown telescopes are nowhere near the intergalactic voids yet to give the complete picture. She points to a distant region of the galaxy. “There is a star system somewhere in here with a planet that’s capable of harboring human life. I call this theoretical planet Extremus, because of how far it is from here. I also call the generation ship that’s going to take tens of thousands of volunteers there Extremus.”
“Forgive me,” Kestral begins, “but isn’t a Project Stargate seed plate going to get anywhere we try to go before we could get there? I mean, even at maximum sublight, we would probably only hope to get there right around the same time.”
“Not if we have one of these.” She pulls another diagram up, but this time it’s not one she created herself.
“What is that?” Omega asks.
“It’s a reframe engine.”
Kestral nods. “That could work; if you can get Hokusai Gimura to hand over the specs. What you have right there isn’t enough to reverse engineer it.”
Ishida smirks, and pulls up a more detailed diagram. “She already has. We’re friends now. Didn’t you hear?”
“I don’t get it,” Omega says. He’s an engineer himself, but he doesn’t know anything about temporal manipulation beyond relativistic time dilation. They haven’t kept it a secret, but they haven’t read him into all the particulars either.
“It’s an exploit,” Kestral explains to him. “It still only travels at sublight, but it takes the dilated time as observed from within the ship, and warps the universe to experience the same amount of time.”
Ishida continues, “so while the star is over a hundred and fifty thousand light years away, it will only feel like a couple hundred years. The reframe engine allows realtime to also only last a couple hundred years.”
Omega nods. “Got it. That’s bitchin’.”
“We don’t say that word,” Kestral reminds him.
“But I was using it—”
“It doesn’t matter,” she interrupts. “We don’t say it.”
“I apologize. I meant no disrespect.”
“So, wadya guys think?” Ishida asks, trying to steer the conversation back to her idea.
“What will be the point of colonizing the far reaches of the galaxy?” Kestral asks her. “Just because we can, and we can do it sooner? The vonearthans can’t know we’re doing it, which is obviously why you called it an operation, rather than a project. The volunteers all have to be from Ansutah.”
“The point?” Ishida questions. “There’s never a point to anything. If you want to do something, you only have to ask yourself two questions. One: is it impossible? And two: will it hurt anyone? If the answer to either of those is yes, then that is the only reason you shouldn’t do it.”
“Eh,” Omega says. “I think morality and ethics are a little more nuanced than that.”
Kestral breathes deeply. “As much as I hate to disagree with fanboy over here, I have no choice. We have to do another debate.”
“Fine,” Ishida says. “Bring it on.”
And so it was broughten. In the end, they decided to do nothing. Asking the refugees whether anyone would be interested in something like this was bizarre at best, and needlessly socially disruptive at worst. Project Extremus was scrapped for its failure to justify its use of resources. At least...it was scrapped by them.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Microstory 1190: Aldona Lanka

Aldona was an only child, born out of Cambria Buchanan by Alexi Lanka in 2042. Her mother was a drone operator, and her father a gardener. She chose a career in science, ultimately specializing in antimatter rocket engineering. By the time she earned the equivalent of a master’s degree at the age of 20, particle physicists had already devised a way to produce sufficient quantities of antimatter at practical costs. What the world needed now was to apply these methods for actual use, with rockets and auxiliary technologies that did not exist before. Her name never appeared in the history books as a pioneer in her field, but she contributed greatly to the development of antimatter-powered spacecraft, for travel to the outer planets of the solar system. This work paved the way for the refinement of that field, so that even more advanced propulsion systems could be built for interstellar travel. Though she was young enough to reach the longevity escape velocity, and live long enough to witness such engineering triumphs, she was not allowed to stick around for them. While her family had a history of being involved with people who had time powers, she spent most of her life in ignorance. They were part of secret Lanka lore, though she never believed they existed, because she had no empirical evidence. One day, a woman approached her with some information about how to make a ship travel faster than light. According to everything she had ever been taught, she believed this to be impossible, so she refused. Besides, this woman didn’t have any credentials, and that was a huge red flag. Who knows who she was working for, or what hidden agenda she had? Out of petty resentment, the woman, Arcadia Preston proved she was telling the truth by instantaneously transporting her and her family to an island on a different planet, in another galaxy. She let Aldona have some equipment, so she could verify as much by the wildly different star constellations she was observing in the sky. Arcadia was about to send them all back when Aldona’s mother starting arguing with her about what she had done. This angered Arcadia even more, and out of spite, she tore everyone out of time, except for Aldona. It was now her responsibility to complete several challenges, which she called expiations; one for each of her family members. If she failed even one of these, she would lose everyone she cared about for good. The expiations were dangerous and incredibly difficult. Arcadia was born in another dimension, completely cut off from anything resembling civilized society, and she grew up with powerful temporal abilities, which blinded her to human limitations. She made them far too hard, and after barely scraping by with the first two, Aldona failed the third. She was left to fend for herself on that island, though she wasn’t always alone. An immortal named Ambrosios was placed there as punishment as well, but he was mentally unstable, and the two of them did not get along. She lived there for over fifty years before dying of age-related causes at the age of 90. But there was still hope for her family. Arcadia’s latest victim of this sick game, Mateo Matic agreed to take on Aldona’s expiations himself. He managed to save all but one of the Lanka-Calligaris family, which is what left her as an only child in the first place.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Microstory 1189: Gabriella Perez

Not everyone who participates in the City Frenzy event is a runner, or has any plans to win the race. Gabriella Perez is one of these people who has other ways of entertaining the viewers. Technically, the Frenzy is not the place to showcase one’s other talents. A kid isn’t allowed to sign up, and then just perform a cooking show in front of the cameras at their starting line. There is a time and place for such things, and this isn’t it. Gabriella and Celestine are kind of exceptions, but there are some rules they have to follow. First, they have to satisfy all the physical requirements for entry, which they are always able to do, because they’re very athletic people. They also have to pretend like they plan on racing this time, even though everyone knows they won’t. They also can’t remain right at the starting point the entire time. They have to at least gradually move closer to their respective destinations, but like any race, there’s no minimum speed, so they can dawdle. Still, they don’t fight this restriction, and instead consider it a challenge to figure out how to work it into their routines. As with all racers, the two of them don’t necessarily start at the same place, and in fact, because of the nature of their acts, the Frenzy council makes a point of keeping them separate, even though the routes are meant to be randomized. They generally stay within two hundred meters of the starting lines. They dance non-stop for what’s usually just under two hours, until they’re given word that the winner of the race has finished. This demonstrates their talent as dancers, and their stamina. As the time grows, so too hopefully do their audiences. Viewers will watch remotely with split screens, deciding which one they like best. At some point, a fan will leave the television, and head for one of the dancers, to watch them in person. Agent Nanny Cam even worked closely with engineers to design a drone projector screen, so people in the back can still see what’s going on. Yeah, they patented a new technology, just for these two faux racers. Throughout, and at the end of, the competition within a competition, artificial intelligence within Agent’s drones will count the number of people who showed up to each dancer. Full statistics are monitored, such as audience engagement, and particularly well-received moments during the performance, but the last figure is what matters. The dancer with the largest following when that real racer breaks the finish line is a winner in her own right. While it sounds like something like this wouldn’t be allowed, because it remains separate from the rest of the event, it makes a hell of a lot of money for Kansas City, so the council, along with the local government, are perfectly happy with to make that concession. Without it, viewers may tire of watching the runners themselves, who are, most of the time, just going forward at a steady pace. Since they began this subevent, each of them has one twice, and the ninth City Frenzy will be the last for both of them.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Microstory 1188: Alexi Lanka

Few people could understand what someone like Alexi Lanka went through in terms of anger. He wasn’t mad about his upbringing, or his family. He wasn’t mad at the world for treating him poorly, or for lost opportunities. It was just all too easy for something most would call minor to irritate him. His brain would then associate that irritation with similar experiences in his past, and remind him of how he felt in those moments. The anger would compound itself until he was mostly a boy made of rage. He was never violent or threatening, and even as a child, he made a deliberate effort to shield others from his wrath, but they still saw, and they still felt it. He needed a way to convert his anger into something positive, so his father got him into boxing. Well, boxing made things ten times worse for Alexi. Every punch he threw went straight into his memory archives, where he could dwell on his imperfections until he fell asleep from exhaustion. He was never good enough for his own standards. Furthermore, his coach taught him to be contemptible to his opponent, and that was not the right way for him to live. His mother wasn’t exactly a saint, but she did not appreciate the violence, so when she returned home from a particularly long survey, she pulled him out, and gave him something better to do. She turned him into a runner, so he could still get out his aggression, but do so while maintaining a fairly large personal bubble. His failures continued to eat away at him, but it was different than before, because they drove him to do better next time, rather than harp on a past he could never change. He was never the best, but he never gave up. Of course, his anger issues weren’t completely fixed by this either. He still had to work through his problems in healthy ways, utilizing advice from his therapist, and trying new medications when the old ones proved ineffective. Fortunately, running wasn’t something he would try forever. When a terrible accident forced him out of the game indefinitely, he finally found his true calling.

Alexi’s physical therapist liked to garden in her backyard. She invited him over to help, hoping it would take his mind off the pain. Part of it was just that she had enough work for two people, so there was never some master plan to change his life. He found himself in love with the hobby, and it calmed him down even better than his girlfriend, Agent Nanny Cam. Plants always did exactly what they were meant to. They did not argue with him, or stub his toe, or illustrate his inadequacy. They grew when they had the nutrients they needed, and they flowered accordingly. He also felt like an idiot when he was venting his frustrations at them, so it just didn’t make sense to vent anymore. He turned this hobby into a career. He worked at a number of places, all involving plants and wildlife. He was never fired, and never really wanted to quit any one place. He would just get the urge to start something new, but would often return to an old job when that was what felt right. He married Agent Nanny Cam, and together they had a daughter named Aldona. He never stopped creating life. As technology marched on, and people started wanting to live in vertical megastructures, the towns of old needed to be torn down, and replaced with wilderness, as it was always meant to be. Alexi wasn’t the primary force in this effort, but he did dedicate his life to it, and was partially responsible for the world’s salvation from the negative impact of climate breakdown. Once that was finished, he moved on to his greatest challenge yet: terraforming Mars.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Microstory 1187: Joanna Zegers

Joanna Zegers wasn’t the only person who could be invisible, but she was the only one who couldn’t turn visible. She was a normal baby at birth. Her parents took fine care of her, and had no reason to believe something was wrong. When she was six years old, she thought her family was playing a trick on her when they started acting like they couldn’t find her. She kept hopping around and laughing, trying to get them to see her, but they couldn’t. They, in fact, thought someone was playing a cruel trick on them, and had perhaps hidden little speakers around their house. They could hear Joanna’s voice, but not see her. She never got over this affliction. In this universe, invisibility did not bend light, or form illusions. All it did was take take a snapshot of a region of space, at some point in time, then overlay that in front of what people should be seeing when Joanna was standing there. To explain another way, even when an individual is standing in front of a box of tissues, that box still exists. It doesn’t get removed from reality just because no one is observing it. What Joanna’s power—if you could rightly call it that—did was show what the table and tissue box would look like if she weren’t blocking its view. The Zegers didn’t know what they were going to do with her. The library didn’t have any answers for them. There were no publicly-known cases of something like this having happened. They couldn’t send her to school in this condition. They couldn’t even take her to any medical professionals. Doctor-patient confidentiality might not have extended to a transdimensional alien robot from the future, or whatever she was. Instead, they kept her home, claiming to neighbors that she contracted a disease that prevented her from being able to go out in the sun. It wasn’t entirely untrue anyway. Then the world changed, and they gained access to a whole new resource.

Somebody invented this technology called the world wide web, which allowed them to seek information from all over the globe; as far as they knew, anonymously. Most of the info out there was garbage. People thought they were just making up an unoriginal story. Others played along, just to troll them. There was one man, however, who knew what they were talking about. The leader of an intelligence cooperative named Demcov Sands reached out, and made every effort to prove that he was legit. He said that he could help Joanna understand what she was, and lead a healthy life. He couldn’t promise he could figure out how to make her visible again, but he would help in anyway possible. There were no other people in the Interagency Alliance Commission who had time powers, but Sands had knowledge of the future, and knew it one day would. He took Joanna in, and helped her continue her studies in a safe environment, surrounded by people who specialized in keeping secrets. Her parents were worried about letting their daughter live at a spy agency headquarters, but Sands promised them she would never be in danger, and that he was not intending to groom her for spycraft. It was the best place for her to be at the time, but once she grew up, she could decide what she wanted to do with her life, just like everyone else. True to this promise, the IAC taught her everything she would have learned at a normal school. She didn’t want to become a spy; a decision everyone knew she would make. She did want to help, however, so Sands started teaching her about the world of salmon and choosers. He introduced her to some friends, and made the entirety of time and space available to her desires. She chose to move to the future, where she worked as Head of Security at Beaver Haven Rehabilitation Center. She became responsible for the daily ongoing safety or hundreds of prisoners from all over spacetime, and those whose lives they would threaten.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Microstory 1186: Vasanta Gadhavi

Vasanta Gadhavi loved toys. He was raised to be very materialistic, always looking out for the newest gadget and gizmo. His parents grew up poor, and found money somewhat later in life, so they never wanted their children to ever feel like they couldn’t have whatever they wanted. Vasanta liked to tinker around with electronics, and learned how to build and repair them pretty much on his own. There was really no limit as to what types of things he bought, which meant firearms were included. When he was old enough, he joined the British Army, and ended up working with the enemy in some less than savory ways. He specialized in getting prisoners to talk when they didn’t want to. He continued to use toys to do this, which earned him the nickname of Santa. His brothers often joke that he always had presents for the bad little boys and girls. During the Second Great War, Vasanta found himself in the middle of a deadly battle against Japanese forces. He retained little memory of the event, but he did remember being on the battlefield one second, and then suddenly being safe in a hospital bed the next. In the bed across from his was the Japanese soldier he was trying to kill, and who was trying to kill him. Now, Vasanta had no personal grievance with the enemy soldier, nor the enemy with him. They were both just following orders, and whatever was happening now, it didn’t look like they were meant to keep fighting each other. They did not attempt to communicate with one another, though, as automated machines came through and treated their wounds. Vasanta attempted to leave one time, but when he discovered the door to be locked, he made no further attempt to escape. Anyone with the level of technology he was seeing in the mid-20th century was probably best left unantagonized. Once they were both doing all right, a man came in named Adolphe Sargent. He explained in both English and Japanese that they were reportedly missing in action, according to historical records. They were extracted from the timeline, and transported to the 23rd century, where they would train together in something called the salmon battalion. Again, they had no problem fighting together. Neither of them personally believed in the war they had just come from. But that principle would likely extend to any other war. How could they travel through time, fighting people for reasons that were so profoundly removed from them? Sargent saw this in them during their training, and decided the powers that be who chose them for their new lives had made a mistake. Fortunately, he had some autonomy with how his battalion was run. After all, if he didn’t, then The Emissary might as well lead it himself. He selected Vasanta and his new partner, Rokuro Yamauchi for an elite force within the battalion. They would not be fighting, on either side of a conflict. Instead, they would take part exclusively in rescue missions, pulling innocent people out of dangerous situations, and occasionally delivering a prisoner of war from their cage. Vasanta and Rokuro easily became friends, ultimately teaching each other their native languages. It didn’t seem strange at all that they were once at odds, nor had they been forced to suffer some Hell in the Pacific scenario together. They felt a lot more comfortable with their new lives as rescuers than they ever did as fighters.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 10, 2248

Located nearly twelve light years from Earth, Tau Ceti enjoyed a strikingly high number of low-mass rocky planets in orbit, but only one of them coalesced satisfactorily within the star’s habitable zone. This planet was named Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida, which is Arabic for ostrich egg. Surface gravity was a little higher than Earth’s, but still well within acceptable parameters for an unenhanced human. It had a magnetosphere, liquid water, and oh yeah, a breathable atmosphere. It was the only world within spitting distance known to harbor life on its own, and for that reason, more colonists signed up for the journey than for any other stellar neighbor.
When Leona came back to the timestream, Sanaa was gone, but it looked like she parked The Radiant Lightning in a warehouse. The soothing voice of a young woman she once met was flowing through the internal speakers of the ship, as well as those in the warehouse. As Leona walked towards a small structure built on the floor inside the wide expanse, she could see the broadcaster inside.
But for those of you who don’t dig polka rap, I got somethin’ for ya that I think you’ll really love. This is from a mid twenty-first century Korea twang band called Alliterative Spoonerism. Here’s their most popular single, What Was Jenkem Used for Again? It’s seventeen minutes long, so I can take a break to talk to my friend, who’s visiting from out of town. I’m DJ Mount Alias, and this...is Salmonverse Radio.
Leona stepped into the studio just as Ellie Underhill was finishing her segment. “What is this? You broadcast music across time and space?”
“I do, yes,” Ellie replied.
“How come I’ve never heard it before?”
“It’s geared more towards shapers, or displaced salmon who are on long-term missions. They often need a taste of home, or at least modern life. You’ve not really had much need.”
“How long have you been doing this?” Leona asked.
“From my personal timeline, three years. This region of Bida is fairly remote, so we don’t have to worry about interfering with the colonists.”
We?”
“She means me.” It was Paige Turner. She crossed the room from the other door, and presented her hand. “Hi, I’m an alternate version of Paige Turner Reaver-Demir. You can call me Third!Paige, or Trinity.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Trinity. You’re telling me there’s a second Paige out there I’ve also never met.”
“Well, it’s complicated. The three of us met you back in 2025, when you went back in time to save Brooke Prieto from Tribulation Island. It was only after that moment that we split. It’s this whole thing that involves going back in time to stop myself from killing someone, and then going back in time to try again, because I failed the first time.”
“You’ve been here ever since?” Leona asked.
“For the most part,” Trinity replied. “It’s been about two hundred and thirty-five years, but I wasn’t always alone.”
“I don’t know that your math is right,” Leona questioned. “You said we met in 2025, which means you would have had to go back even further—”
“I technically did,” Trinity interrupted. “I can move faster than light, but light moves at a constant. I teleported here from Earth, which is twelve light years away. So when I was looking at Tau Ceti, I was looking at it as it was twelve years prior. I first appeared on Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida in 2013.”
Leona nodded. This was sound logic. “What have you been up to this whole time, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“I’ve been terraforming.”
This confused her. “Are you telling me this world is only habitable by your efforts?”
Trinity shook her head. “No, it was habitable, but inedible, and in some places, toxic. I’ve been gradually manipulating the plantlife and water composition to make it so that people can live here carefree.”
Leona didn’t know what to say.
Trinity went on, “you can’t eat everything, but if you do, chances are you’ll be all right. There are no deadly pathogens, or poisonous animals, or anything like that. It’s the closest thing to paradise you’ll find.”
“That’s...amazing. What made you think to do that? And how?”
“I got both the idea, and the technology, from the future. In my timeline, Bida was a terrible place to live. Humans came here with such high hopes, but found themselves profoundly disappointed when they started running chemical tests. Just about everything here would make them sick, if not straight up kill them. All the water had to be filtered to an impractical degree, and it just wasn’t worth it. They abandoned it for centuries until someone got the idea to tailor the ecosystem to human needs.”
“Is that ethical?” Leona asked. “I mean, if life evolved here to be the way it was, did we have the right to change it?”
“It’s not ethical, no,” Trinity agreed. “That’s why I did it myself before a single colonist arrived. That way, vonearthans are free from all moral culpability.”
“Do the colonists know? I mean, I’m sure they don’t realize you exist, but are they aware that the ecosystem was recently altered?”
“Well, they don’t know Barnard’s Star was once orbited by a low-mass rocky planet, so I doubt they’ll figure it out.”
“Huh?”
Trinity didn’t elaborate on that bombshell. “It was going to happen. Unethically terraforming a world isn’t the kind of thing the powers that be would have sent a salmon to correct, and it’s not like there are lots of other choosing ones running around making things better. I could have either exercised some futility in an attempt to prevent the vonearthans from manipulating the properties of life on this world, or I could just do it for them, and save their souls.”
Leona realized it wasn’t her job to police the people around her. Choosing ones and humans alike are always going to be running around, making bad choices. As far as questionable ethics went, at least this was in question, and not so undoubtedly wrong. “I understand, and I appreciate the precarious position you were in.”
“And I appreciate that.”
Leona just wanted to change the subject. “Where are Sanaa and Eight Point Seven?”
“They got stuck on the other side of the planet,” Ellie explained. “They were wanting to be here when you returned, but an unexpected storm appeared, and held them up. Don’t worry, they’ll be fine, but they won’t be back until tomorrow.”
“You don’t have emergency teleporters, or anything?”
Trinity chuckled. “Ellie’s broadcast is the only exception to a rule I came up with. There will be no time powers on this planet while I’m in charge.”
“Are you in charge?” Leona questioned. Surely the colonists wouldn’t know that she had been here for two centuries. They would get that she was an upgraded human with an indefinite lifespan, but they wouldn’t understand how she traveled twelve light years in the early 21st century.
“I’m in charge of all salmon and choosers. They’re welcome to come, but they have to follow my rules. I’m not alone in this position.”
“I don’t mean to argue with you, because I’m totally fine with that. I’m just curious what your rationale is. I don’t know what went through in your timeline.”
“Leona, this is an isolate. Did you not know that?”
“It is? No, I didn’t.”
“Yeah, the colonists who are coming here wish to remain separated from Earth, the rest of the stellar neighborhood, and anywhere else in the galaxy the vonearthans end up traveling to.”
“Oh, wow. I try to keep up with current events, but I never heard anything about that.” Leona must have fallen behind.
“The first colonists left in 2235, and arrived this year,” Trinity began to explain. “On the day of that arrival, the last three exodus ships left Earth, bound for Bida. Once they get here in 2260, no one else will come, ever again.”
“Why?”
“They want a fresh start. They’re not going back to pioneer days, or anything, but they’re hoping to free themselves from humanity’s past. They want to live on a world that hasn’t seen bloody wars, and nuclear bombs, and segregation, and all the other bad things we’ve done in our history.”
“They do realize they can’t escape that, right? No matter how far they go, or how much they cut themselves off from the rest of their people, the past will always remain right where it is.”
“They don’t see it that way.”
Leona wasn’t finished, “if they tell stories of the world that came before, it will continue to impact their lives, and if they don’t, it will probably repeat itself. They can’t win.”
“Again,” Trinity argued, “they don’t see it that way. Anyway, I’m not here to judge them, or poke holes in their logic, and neither are you. I’m here to protect them. What they definitely don’t know is that they can’t control what time travelers do. I can. I don’t want any Kingmakers, or Door-Walkers, or Saviors, or Caretakers. The timeline began on Year One, which is 2248 by the Gregorian calendar, and it will not be manipulated, even to save lives.”
Leona suddenly got real nervous. “You didn’t specifically list me and Mateo—partially because we were never given a cutesy nickname—but should we be on it? I came here on a ship built by a human, retrofitted by another human to be essentially faster-than-light. Mateo is on his way here on a different ship, with two other choosing ones. Unlike other salmon, the powers that be don’t give us definitive missions, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have them. We weren’t explicitly sent here, but they may want us here, just the same.”
Trinity didn’t know where she was going with this. “What’s your point, Leona?”
“What if I’m here to manipulate time, in my own way? What if Mateo will be coming here for the same reason? What do we do about that?”
“If you’re worried you’re going to break my rules, then you should get back in that thing right now, and leave,” Trinity decided.
“I’m not leaving without my husband.”
“I’ll send him your way. You can go to Glisnia, or better yet; YZ Ceti. It’s only a light year and a half away. He’ll be with you in no time.”
“None of YZ’s planets is habitable enough,” Leona contended. She did keep up with some current events. “And Sanaa doesn’t have the resources to orbit a flare star for years on end.”
“You don’t know that Sanaa would want to go with you. She’s agreed to not use her telepathy.”
Leona took a deep breath. “I suppose that’s true. But I also don’t want to do that. Mateo is coming here, and I’m staying put until he does so. One-point-six light years might as well be a million if something goes with either of our ships.”
“I’m not gonna let you interfere with these people’s lives, or their life choices.” Trinity was starting to raise her voice.
Leona matched the new volume. “I don’t think you have a choice. Just think about what the p stands for in PTB.”
“That’s enough!” Ellie’s voice supernaturally boomed throughout the entire warehouse. “Leona, no one’s trying to keep you from Mateo. Trinity, the rules don’t apply to her, or him. They never have, and you won’t be able to change that. You would have to break your own rules, and use your own power, to have any hope of going against the powers.” She stopped talking for a moment, but it was clear she wasn’t finished yet. “Now. Any two versions of you are friends at any point of time, in any reality. Kiss and make up, and I don’t want to hear any more about this. Que sera, sera. The Bidans will survive.”
“Bidians,” Leona and Trinity corrected in unison.
“There,” Ellie said in relief. “The fight is over. And so is the song, which means I have to get back to work. Trinity, perhaps you can give our new guest a tour of the planet?”
“That can be arranged,” Trinity said.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Gatewood: Project Stargate (Part IV)

Six years ago, Kestral and Ishida bid farewell to their briefly-known new friends, Étude and Vitalie. “May the Fourth be with you,” Saxon enthused to them through his comms device, from his doghouse. It was indeed the fourth day of May, according to the present calendar. Way out here, time was a little harder to keep track of. Of course, all three of them were literal geniuses, but they were no longer orbiting the home star, nor paying much attention to the Earthan calendar. Their transhumanistic enhancements allowed them to exercise greater control over their circadian rhythms, so not even the day-night cycle meant much to them. They really only cared about the time when they had a new mission to launch, which was today, six years later.
The year is 2250, and it’s finally time for the main event. Project Stargate. There’s another major project coming up in another ten years, but its endgame won’t happen for millions of years, and there’s a lot less work involved leading up to it. They’re really just waiting for present-day technology to catch up with their needs. Ninety-nine with four more nines tacked on after the decimal point is the fraction of the speed of light humans figure they’re allowed to move. Add one more nine, and experts treat the difference between you and a photon as a rounding error. They assume that to be impossible. Having been introduced to the world of time travelers, Team Keshidon is fully aware that faster-than-light travel is not only possible, but almost kinda common. People like Maqsud Al-Amin jump to other stars without breaking a sweat—other galaxies even. That’s what Project Andromeda is all about. A relatively small and unassuming unmanned vessel will be sent towards the nearest galaxy, joined only by a few backup ships. They’ll be going almost as fast as light without breaking any natural laws. But for now, two nines after the decimal point will have to do.
Project Stargate is the most ambitious thing humanity has ever endeavored. Billions of modules will attempt to reach every single star system in the Milky Way. It’s gonna take a long-ass time, but the majority of vonearthans are essentially immortal now. This gives them a degree of patience previously unfathomable to even the most forward-thinking futurists. The fruits of their labor could come to them more rapidly, however. Experts estimate as much as two percent of the stars in the galaxy are capable of supporting a biological human, and maybe three percent some other form of life. If these numbers sound low, keep in mind there are at least two hundred billion stars total, and probably many more. That’s upwards of a couple billion habitable worlds, some of which are likely to be within only a hundred light years. A respected scientist once noted that the chances of not finding intelligent alien life within 3,000 light years are approaching zero. On the dark side, her partner mused that the chances of finding hostile aliens within 4,000 years are approaching one.
By now, Saxon has been fully relieved of his duties in the doghouse. After many serious conversations, Kestral and Ishida came to accept the idea of Operation Soul Patch. They didn’t entirely agree with it, but their gripes were mostly about being lied to. That was less Saxon’s responsibility, and more due to the direction of Earthan leadership. The three of them are now on Gatewood to do Earth’s bidding, so complaining about their demands is a bit like whining about one’s boss. They could quit at any time, and no one would be able to stop them. They don’t want to do that, though, because they believe in the mission as a whole. The galaxy is full of wonders and secret knowledge, and humanity has a right to that information. They have a right to know what else is out there, and Team Keshidon should just feel lucky to be a vital driving force for that enterprise.
“Are ya gonna act like you did ten years ago?” Ishida asks affectionately.
“Whatever do you mean?” Kestral immediately regrets responding in this way. She does remember her outward anxiety when they were launching the void telescope array. She doesn’t want to prompt any further discussion on the matter. Everything for Project Stargate and Operation Starseed has been checked, double checked, triple checked, and then some. It’s ready to go, and she’s never been more sure of anything in her life, including all those days on Earth when she trusted the sun would come out tomorrow.
While Kestral’s words might sound like she’s willing to joke about her past behavior, Ishida knows her partner better than she knows herself. Kestral doesn’t wanna talk about it, so Ishida drops it. She takes a deep breath and marvels at their craftsmanship. Well, they weren’t the ones who actually built the damn thing. Robots did all the work, but they wouldn’t have been able to pick up a single screw without being programmed, and properly maintained. The countdown has begun. All they’re waiting for now is to watch the vessels head off to the great unknown.
Right now, they’re staring at two turtle shells—also known as quad carriers—floating one on top of the other, the backs of which are facing opposite directions. The initial coordinate system broke the relatively flat galaxy into two planes, each about five hundred light years thick. So, like the two separate telescope arrays, each shell will handle one plane on their own. They’ll separate further, into eight tier droppers, one of which will handle their own planar quadrant. These will break apart into sixty-four arc distributors, then a thousand and twenty-four voussoir splitters, over seventeen thousand rankfile movers, more than a million sector senders, and more than a hundred and forty million seed capsules.
Each of these modules is capable of self-propulsion, to decreasing degrees, but a seed plate will rely primarily on the momentum afforded to it by the capsule that released it. It will only decelerate by the gravity of the celestial bodies in the first star system that it enters. If it needs to increase speed, or alter direction, it will expand its solar sails, or sparingly use maneuvering thrusters.
“Saxon, are all your people in place?” Kestral asks.
Saxon is frowning at his tablet. “Everyone is in stasis, except for one.”
“What’s he doing?”
He taps on the screen a few times. “Anglo one-one-three-two-six-two-two, is there something wrong with your stasis pod?”
Yes,” Anglo 1132622 answers.
“Can you repair it, or do you need assistance?”
It is in perfect working order. It is not in need of repair.
“You said there was something wrong,” Saxon reminds him.
There is. I don’t wanna get in it. Get me off this ship.
“Is he claustrophobic?” Ishida asks Saxon, off comms.
“I’m not, so he can’t be.”
“You don’t know that,” Kestral informs him. “He’s an independent being.”
Saxon sighs in frustration. “No. He’s not.” He goes back to the microphone, “Anglo 1132622, please explain.”
That’s not my name.
“No, you don’t have a name. That is your designation, though.”
My name is Omega,” Anglo 1132622 claims.
“Why? Because you happen to be last in designation? That doesn’t mean anything. Your rankfile isn’t even the farthest from the stellar neighborhood. The numbers are just to tell you apart.”
You can tell me apart,” Omega begins, “because I’m a different person from all the other clones.
Now Saxon is getting really upset. “No, you aren’t! You were grown using my DNA. You were given enough mental faculties to put one foot in front of the other, and fix a fucking fuel line. You don’t have any memories, you don’t have any desires, and you don’t have a soul!”
“Calm down, Parker,” Kestral orders.
I do have a soul!” Omega screams.
“No!” Saxon cries. “You are Anglo one-one-three-two-six-two-two! You have been assigned your rankfile, and will fulfill your duty. Step into the stasis chamber, activate it, and go to bed! Right now, mister!”
The Nazis assigned prisoners numbers during the second great war.
“Who the hell gave him access to the historical records,” Saxon asks rhetorically.
“Parker,” Kestral says, not getting angry herself. “You can’t trust him anymore. If you force him into that pod, and something goes wrong with his rankfile ship, he won’t do anything to fix it anyway. He might not even have the sense for self-preservation.”
“I think he’s proven he has a strong instinct for self-preservation,” Ishida argues. “He’s scared, and he doesn’t wanna go.”
“Either way,” Kestral says noncombatively. “He’s an unreliable worker. Quite frankly, we should all be surprised there’s only one dissenting voice, and that he hasn’t appeared to form a rebellion.”
“We don’t have time to make another clone to replace him,” Saxon reminds them. “I’ve been growing them for twelve years. The most successful rapid aging technology is only about six times faster than average development, and I only have access to times four.”
“His ship won’t have an Anglo unit,” Kestral determines.
Saxon scoffs. “We can’t do that.”
“Yes, we can. I wasn’t originally planning to have any clones. I had never even heard the idea before your secret got out.”
“Kestral, he’s in charge of a hundred and twenty-eight capsules.”
She knows this.
“That’s almost thirteen thousand plates!”
She knows this as well.
“Hundreds of thousands of star systems,” he says in a quieter voice, hoping the high number is enough to make them shiver.
“They’ll have to do without him.”
“I can’t accept that.” He drops his arms to his side in exasperation, but he does it with so much force that his tablet falls to the floor. He makes no effort to retrieve it. He can see that Kestral and Ishida aren’t going to help him, and also that there’s not much they can do, even if they tried. “No. I can’t let this project fail. It’s too important.” And with that, he runs off as fast as his legs will take him.
“Are we chasing after him?” Ishida asks.
“I’m not sure where’s he going,” Kestral says with one popped eyebrow.
They watch as an escape pod releases from their observation ship, and heads for the turtle shells.
“He’s going out to force Omega into that chamber,” Ishida notes.
Kestral shakes her head, and opens up a channel. “Saxon, I’m telling you. He won’t do you any good in that rankfile ship. If something goes wrong, yeah, he might fix it to save his life. But he also might sabotage the whole damn thing, and just find somewhere to land. This a pointless pursuit.”
Saxon doesn’t reply.
Kestral is still shaking her head. “Ishida, emergency teleport.”
“I’ve been trying,” Ishida says. “Saxon knows how to block the signal.”
“I’m not talking about him. Get Omega here right now.”
“Really?”
Do it! Parker just docked with his turtle shell.”
“Okay,” Ishida says, desperately trying to make the calculations. It’s easy to teleport someone if they have a location device tailored for that function, but there was no need to design the ships with the feature. She has to figure out exactly where he is, then draw him to them manually. It is not an easy task.
“Ishida, now!”
“I got it!” She presses the execute button.
Omega appears right where Saxon was standing moments ago. He looks around, relieved.
Kestral goes back to her comms. “Parker, Omega is with us. So if you want to talk to him, you’re gonna have to do it here.”
He still doesn’t say anything.
“Parker, you have thirty seconds to get off that ship. I can’t stop the launch.”
Nothing.
“Parker, get the fuck off that thing! You’re gonna be moving at lightspeed in a matter of minutes! You won’t be able to leave if you don’t do it right goddamn now!”
Still nothing.
“Parker!”
This isn’t Parker,” Saxon finally responds. “It’s Anglo Alpha.
“What?” Ishida questions.
He’s the replacement,” Kestral realizes. “Saxon—”
Anglo Alpha!” he corrects.
“Anglo Alpha. You don’t have to do this. I designed the systems myself, and I designed them to be self-sufficient. You don’t have to be there.”
He waits to say anything more as the seconds drop uncomfortably low, but they can hear him exhale deeply through his nose. “Yes, I do. Omega is a child. Teach him how to be a good person. Don’t let him grow up to be a dick like me.
“Saxon, come back,” Ishida begs.
“It’s too late,” Kestral says.
I love you both,” Anglo Alpha says just before blast off. The ships leave so fast, it almost feels like they were never really there.
Omega is staring out the window in horror. “I didn’t mean for him to do this.” He starts tearing up. “I just wanted to live a life.”
Ishida places her hand on his shoulder. “We understand. He gave you that opportunity.”
“Yes, he did,” Kestral agrees. “Don’t waste it.”

Friday, September 6, 2019

Microstory 1185: Danica Matic

The Gallery was created to protect inconsistencies that arose when time travelers altered events in the past. Much of what they do and did involved making sure certain peoples were born in the new timeline, even if prior events would have naturally negated their existence. They even sometimes adjusted later life events, so a given individually can develop to serve the Gallery’s needs. There is at least one case, however, when the Gallery specifically targeted someone from one reality, and prevented them from existing in all others. Such is the case with Danica Matic. She was only born once, and in no realities that came after. She was destined to become The Concierge, of a special location on Earth known as The Constant. Her life started out somewhat normal, with her having no idea what she was. She didn’t know her birth parents, but it was never this big mystery she was trying to solve. She assumed her father didn’t know she existed, and her mother abandoned her to live a carefree life. She was adopted by the Salingers, led a happy life, formed healthy relationships, and ended up with a satisfying job as a police detective. One day, she met a man named Mateo, whose last name happened to be the same one she had at birth. She was curious and suspicious, but didn’t jump to any conclusions. It wasn’t the most popular name in the world, but it wasn’t unique either, so it very well could have been a coincidence. After he showed himself to be a time traveler, who only lived for one day every year, she knew they must be related. She had never before considered the possibility that she had temporal abilities, but this encounter just reeked of fate.

Following a trip through a portal, Danica suddenly found herself in something she called an isolation egg. It was an extremely advanced spacebound vessel that was shaped like a chicken egg, and designed for only one person. It contained a bed, a stasis chamber, water, and a universal biomolecular synthesizer, among other essentials, like thousands of years of video and audio entertainment. It could land on some kind of celestial body, extract the elements it required to persist, then move on. She was living in 2029, so this was obviously from the future. The egg was capable of faster-than-light travel, and of sustaining its occupant indefinitely, but Danica didn’t need to go anywhere, and she would not have to stay for long. She watched as other machines arrived, presumably also from the future. They started building something on their own, incredibly quickly. Within the day, an entire structure was out there in the middle of the space dust. The egg piloted itself towards it, and docked. She stepped inside to find what best resembled a hotel. It had a lounge, and a bar, and guest rooms. It had exercise machines, a swimming pool, and closets full of clothes from all eras. It had a garden, food, water, and everything else she, and a hundred of her closest friends, might need to survive for many lifetimes. There she lived for thousands of years, with no interaction with another soul, nor instructions for what she was meant to do. She watched TV and movies, she read books, and she studied. She learned every language, and all the other things too. Eventually, she realized that the windows which once showed her outer space were being covered up. The accretion disk orbiting the sun was slowly forming larger and larger chunks, and were including her new home in that enterprise. A planet was forming around her, gradually increasing its own mass, and gravitational pull. She immediately sought out the entertainment archives, and watched an account of this sort of thing happening in fiction. The vessel in the story survived, and she assumed she would too, so she was able to relax.

Millions of years passed as she remained underground, as she learned everything she could about where she was. She knew every square millimeter of it. She continued to entertain herself, study, and do anything she could to stay busy. Hundreds of millions of years. And billions. She stayed in The Constant, almost entirely alone, for the entire development of Earth, until people evolved, and started showing up, seeking shelter. It was her job to provide them a respite from their travels, then send them back on their way, for missions, or whathaveyou. Again, no one told her to do this, or to do anything. She just figured she was placed there for the responsibility. Pretty soon, she started realizing her knowledge was growing well beyond what she had learned from her research pursuits. She could remember historical events from the outside without having actually gone up to witness them. She could even recall discrepancies from alternate timelines. It is her job to be there for any and all other time travelers. Only she has met every single temporal manipulator in histories, at one point or another, though she is never allowed to leave. The powers that be maintain their control over her, just like they do all other salmon. She was only permitted to set foot outside the Constant once, and that was to pay her last respects to the woman she would come to realize was her mother, in her original timeline, who never willingly abandoned her at all.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Microstory 1184: Andar ‘Jiminy’ Jeffries

There once was a child who was living in an unsafe environment, being raised by unfit parents. He was forced to feed and entertain himself whenever they were out doing whatever. One day, he was pretending to be in a war. Lucky for the neighborhood, he did not have access to any real firearms, but he did make-do with what he could find strewn about the yard, like tools and pieces of a torn down shed. He started throwing them around, making believe that they were bombs falling to the ground, shrapnel bursting from an explosion, or bullets flying from a gun. One such of these items was a mallet, and he threw it so hard that it soared all the way over the fence, and landed on the head of a four-year-old boy named Andar Jeffries. Andar’s mother rushed him to the hospital, where he was treated for a head injury, and found to be far less hurt than he could have been. He had a particularly strong head, and was healing quickly. It was nothing supernatural, but it was impressive, and fortunate. Andar’s parents might have sought retribution against their neighbors, and even severe punishment for the child, Braeden. Instead, they contacted family services, and began the long and nasty process of taking the neglected boy in as a foster child. Once this process was complete, the Jeffries moved to Kansas City, so they could all start new lives together. Their compassion and magnanimity molded both boys into loving, understanding, and generous people. They became brothers, and never had to see Braeden’s birth parents again. Word somehow got out about what happened, and Andar was given the nickname of Jiminy, since his story was not entirely dissimilar to that of the Talking Cricket’s in The Adventures of Pinocchio. He didn’t care for it much, but no one could ever know this. He was too thoughtful and agreeable to let anyone believe they were doing something he didn’t like. Braeden was the only person he could confide in, and be completely honest with. Not even their mom and dad would be good sources of support, because they would always just suggest he remain helpful and courteous anyway.

Though they were both taught the same values, Andar and Braeden were very different individuals. Braeden was creative and energetic. He continued to leverage his imagination, though now in far healthier ways, but still involving mallet-throwing. He would grow up to work at a place called Wreckreational Therapy, where customers could relieve stress by damaging assorted items. Braeden would come to run the place, and later open three more branches in Kansas and Missouri. Andar, on the other hand, was cool and observant. He preferred to sit quietly with a good book, or engage in an interesting conversation, especially with someone who was smarter than him. His parents were actually concerned for his sedentary lifestyle, and pretty much demanded he exercise, in whatever way he wanted. He decided to become a runner, because it was fairly inexpensive, and easy to start and stop at will. As it turned out, though, he was pretty damn good at it. Before he knew it, he was racing in competitions, and focusing a hell of a long more on it than he ever wanted to. But again, he didn’t feel he could voice his resentment to his loved ones, because he didn’t think they would understand. He quickly became a contender for the City Frenzy, though he would never win, because his heart just wasn’t in it. He never felt that rush that came from victory, or the exhilaration from the competition itself. He only really did anything because it made others feel better. He grew up too, and had to spend some time in regular therapy, as well as his brother’s wreck rooms, to change for the better, and start taking care of himself. He eventually realized he didn’t have to run anymore, and never did in the first place. He dedicated his life to academic pursuits, and eventually became a moral philosophy professor, which is where he found true happiness.