Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Microstory 1253: Raphael Neville

Though he was born and raised on Earth, Raphael Neville spent a healthy chunk of his life on Durus. He was an unwilling participant in the 2161 Deathspring, which saw to it that thousands of refugees were helplessly pulled up to a passing rogue planet. This occurred in the middle of his wedding with one Wayne Crawford, so he didn’t care, because as long as he was with the love of his life, it didn’t matter where they lived. Things were difficult for the refugees in the beginning, though. The native Durune, which were all relatively recent descendants of Earthans themselves, developed a nationalist-like attitude towards the newcomers. This was only exacerbated by the bigotry that plagued the government at the time. Though society was improving, and wising up to the logic behind equality, it would be a long time before the world truly functioned properly. Still, this was where Wayne and Raphael made their life together. There was no way back, so they had to make the best of it, and find joy where they could. Though institutionalized misogyny had been abolished, there were still a lot of men who believed that women could not be trusted, and even some who outright believed they were inferior. They were objects to be owned by a man, and treated however that man wished. One of these men decided that he wasn’t going to accept how the world had changed, and mostly as an act of defiance, he raped a neighbor of his. Not only did he not try to keep her quiet about what happened, but he proudly boasted of his conquest, to anyone who would listen. Of course, he was arrested for his crime, and was never given the opportunity to hurt anyone again, but this is not his story.

The young woman belonged to a religion that didn’t believe in abortion. She didn’t have to raise the baby herself, but she wasn’t allowed to not give birth. She did not feel pressured to follow these rules; they were part of her convictions as well. But she also could not take care of the child. It was the product of rape, and she didnt feel like she could handle that constant reminder. And so Raphael and Wayne adopted the little baby girl, naming her Vitalie Crawville. Before too long, some other people came to Durus in a ship, which provided a chance for a select few to be ferried to Earth, whether they had been part of the Deathspring, or otherwise. Wayne was ecstatic. He would finally be back where he felt he belonged, and might once more get to see everyone else he loved. Raphael did not feel the same way. He was against leaving. He and his husband were both from Earth, but their daughter was from Durus. Did she not have the right to know her own home? They fought about it for months until he felt like it was no longer worth it, and just gave in. After they were all three chosen as passengers, they boarded The Elizabeth Warren, and began the years-long journey to the homeworld. Little Vitalie grew up on Durus, and then on that ship, where they learned she possessed a special time power, and then she grew up some more on Earth. She had made friends with the crew, because of her gift, so her life took her on many adventures with her new friends; away from her fathers. Raphael began to resent his husband for having forced them into this, believing that they would have had more time with their daughter if they had just stayed put. The fighting started again, and eventually threatened their marriage. Only through hard work, and professional help, did they get through it. Raphael was able to accept that his new life was here, and that Vitalie was now old enough to live her own life wherever she wanted. That was really all he ever wanted for her.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Microstory 1252: Duke Andrews

Duke Andrews was born in Grand Junction, Colorado, but he always had a draw towards the Kansas City area that he could never explain. He visited there at least once a year since he was eight years old, which his parents were happy to do for him, because they were happy to do pretty much anything. They didn’t coddle or dote on him, but they did believe it was important for their child to exert his independence, vocalize his desires, and try new things. They wanted him to see the world, so Kansas City was just one of the many places he went. His great aunt, Bubbles (real name) was a retired middle school, so she traveled with them as his tutor. She didn’t know everything he wanted to learn about, but they always managed to find a really good library for him to study what he wanted. It was through these studies that he eventually landed in the field of natural science. He excelled in biology and physics, but he liked all science, and learning in general. He moved to Kansas City as an adult, and lived their permanently to pursue his work. The career he ended up with happened because of a series of events in his life, but it wasn’t like it was all part of some plan, or a dream. He didn’t want to be a scientist when he was a kid. He didn’t really have any thoughts on the matter at all. His parents taught him to live in the present, and not think too much about the future. He was always just what he was at any moment. That wasn’t to say he didn’t have ambition; he just didn’t let himself be disappointed when things didn’t go quite his way, and he liked to practice being grateful for what he was able to accomplish, or gain. It was a big surprise to everyone when he helped found what later became a multi-billion dollar corporation. It wasn’t something his parents would have wanted for him, but again, they were supportive of their son’s choices. He didn’t do it for the money, and he didn’t do it to change the world. It all just made sense, based on everything else he had done up to that point. He lived, he nurtured his company, he met a few time travelers, and he died. This was what Duke Andrews did, but it wasn’t who he was. Duke Andrews was a learner. His instinct to understand the world around him was what truly drove him forward, right up until the very end.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Microstory 1251: Asuk Ortega

In the sixth century, by the new calendar, humans were a rare species. They were very important, and well respected by the rest of the vonearthans, however. Revered might be an even better word to describe it. Long ago, their ancestors figured out how to make themselves immortal. With advancements in biomedical science, technological enhancements, and other related fields, death was cured. Not everyone wanted to take the cure, though. There were indeed those who opposed it on moral or religious grounds, but they eventually died out, because of course, they wanted to. Each generation believed in the cause they were born into less and less, until there was almost no one left. Only one faction of purely biological humans remained, and despite the fact that other human subspecies were in various stages of biological development on other planets, these on and around Earth were the most protected. You see, the descendants of humanity realized that their species could not truly procreate. Sure, they could build other lifeforms in their likeness, but they weren’t really their children. They could be as different from their creators as the acorn is to the whale. So they no longer had bloodlines, or even an inorganic analog to them. They had creators, and their creations, which could one day become creators. Collectively, this saddened them, and they determined that they didn’t want to let go of their roots entirely. They didn’t want real humans to become extinct, as was forewarned by many futurists of yesteryear. To combat this prospect, all they did was set aside small pockets of human populations. They were free to do as they wished, but the point was to keep human life, well...alive. But this led to a dilemma. What if these biological humans, who would one day die, decided they wanted to live forever, just like everyone else? Well, they were free to do that as well. The nonbiologicals didn’t want to pose any restrictions on the younglings, as they would sometimes call them affectionately. They asked the people who desired to be upgraded to hold off on doing so until they could propagate the species themselves, but they did not require it. If extinction was inevitable, then that would just have to be the way it was. Fortunately, it would seem not so impossible. Enough humans remained on Earth, and some neighboring worlds, to maintain healthy numbers. Some did decide to eventually become technologically immortal, but others chose to live full lives, and then die.

Asuk Ortega and his family were regular humans. His parents never wanted to be enhanced, but Asuk wasn’t certain. Living forever sounded pretty enticing. To ensure he understood what choice he had to make, his parents enrolled him in a special school. It taught him the extreme of both sides; how to live like a survivalist with almost no resources, and also how to exist as a conscious piece of machinery. It was during the first half of his lessons that he encountered Paige Turner. She was a time traveler from centuries in the past. Though he hadn’t heard of real time travel before, he wasn’t too astonished by it. He grew up with easy access to anything he might have wanted, or anywhere in the galaxy he might have wanted to go. He was just grateful to finally have a friend. The life of a human that far in the timeline was lonely. The people around him didn’t shy away from upgrades completely. They still connected themselves to virtual constructs, and someone doing anything in the real world was harder to find every day. About the only way to lead an interesting life was to travel around, either throughout the solar system, or to the stars. All of the museums and historical locations were gone, unless they were natural wonders. Being a nomad was just how it had to be if one wanted to avoid boredom. But then Asuk got an idea. All his life, he knew he had to make a choice between two paths. He could become immortal, or remain human. Yet here was this other option. Time travel was the ultimate nomadic journey, and he wouldn’t be able to see everything he wanted to if he went with either of the other two choices. Time travelers weren’t allowed too many technological upgrades, but humans didn’t live very long. He had to become an immortal through some other means. And that was when his story began.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 23, 2261

A couple months ago, Hogarth and Hilde decided to use the Nexus replica to visit the planet of Dardius, and prepare for the living memorial services. They were met with suspicion and reluctance, as no one there knew who they were. They had no choice but to return to Glisnia, and retrieve the only two people on the planet who could help the situation. It didn’t matter that Vitalie no longer possessed her memories, or that she technically had never set foot on the distant world. She was a respected friend of the planet’s owners, as was Étude. This left Pribadium alone with her thoughts, and according to Pribadium, that was usually when she invented things. While Holly Blue was a choosing one with the ability to intuitively build technology that exploited loopholes in spacetime, Pribadium was smart enough to come up with such things on her own. Hogarth and Hokusai had proven themselves capable of doing it on their own as well, through science and hard work, but there was one ingredient they were never able to do without. They required a special part called the cylicone. It was present in all temporal objects, in some capacity. No one truly understood how it worked, but as long as it was integrated properly, it always did. More importantly, whatever the object was, it wouldn’t work without the cylicone. Until now.
Pribadium built a teleportation machine. These weren’t too terribly uncommon, of course. The people of Durus used them in their everyday lives, and Kolby Morse carried a gun that could banish his targets to Beaver Haven Rehabilitation Center. But again, they all required the cylicone, and were all based on people with abilities. What Pribadium accomplished was astonishing not only because she had come up with the idea, and executed it to completion, within a matter of weeks, but also because it was done through science alone. It didn’t attach itself to natural tears in the spacetime continuum. It didn’t adapt a chooser’s ability to teleport. It was a genuine invention, which they came to learn could have terrible consequences.
“What’s the big deal?” Mateo asked.
“Okay,” Étude began. “You’ve heard of the internet.”
“No,” Mateo joked in deadpan.
Étude ignored the snark. “There are bad corners of the internet, where bad people do bad things. They may be hard to get to, but they’re all part of the same network. Everyone uses the same network; same cables, and signals, and whatnot. If you want a separate one, then you’re kind of limited to a single building’s closed intranet. What Pribadium did was build a separate network. A new one. It’s small; it’s like an intranet now, but it could potentially be scaled up, and that could change everything. I honestly can’t tell you what that means.”
“Well, what does it change?” Cassidy questioned. “Isn’t the end result the same?”
Leona shook her head. “It could even the playing field,” she said cryptically.
“Why can only some people travel through nonlinear time?” Leona posed.
“I don’t know, why?” Mateo asked right back.
“I don’t know,” Leona echoed. “We call the people who can’t do it humans, or regular humans. They get sick, and they may even die. It could be a genetic thing; it could even be environmental, but the powers that be appear to have limitations of their own. They can’t just call anyone they want to duty. If they could, they would probably stick to people they know will do their bidding, and won’t question orders.”
No one responds.
“Look at it this way,” Leona continued. “Let’s imagine that time travelers didn’t exist. No choosers, no powers, no salmon, no chosen ones, no spawn. You can’t be born with powers, and you can’t be put on a pattern. Before you found out about all this, that was the world you thought you were living in. That was normal. But what was also normal was scientific advancement. No one here is old enough to remember a time before cell phones existed, but some of us were close. They didn’t exist, and then they did, and then they got better, and now we’re so far beyond the form factor that holding a little rectangle in your hand seems laughable to people living in the 23rd century.”
“What’s your point?” Pribadium asked. She had been impressively quiet while she tried to figure out whether everyone was upset with her for what she had created.
Now Leona focused her attention directly on her. “You invented time travel, Pribadium. You had been exposed to some of the concepts, but not a lot, and none of it had anything to do with teleportation. I mean, you just figured this out. Regular humans can now do what we do. No apparent side effects, no downsides. That’s, quite frankly, dangerous. It’s bad enough that some people can do the things they can, but if we just let that get out into the world—nay, the galaxy—then what does the timeline look like?”
“I didn’t invent time travel,” Pribadium defended. “You can’t go backwards, and change history. You can just jump to the other side of the world, at the farthest.”
Leona smiled. “The people who invented the cell phone couldn’t use it to access their emails, if they even had email accounts by then. This is a step, and we can’t be sure it’s a good one.”
“Are you telling me to destroy this?” Pribadium asked.
“Why did you build it?”
She shrugged. “I was just trying to get to the Nexus easier and faster. I didn’t give it much thought. I wasn’t trying to change the galaxy,” she said with airquotes.
“You can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” Étude cautioned.
“Why do people say that?” Cassidy asked. “Yes, you can. It happened, like, every episode of the show that was dedicated to a man and his genie slave girl.”
“It’s just an expression,” Étude clarified. “The lesson holds. You’ve done something that can’t be undone.”
“Hmm,” Vitalie began, “well, that’s not true, is it?”
Étude scoffed. “We’re not going back in time to prevent the invention of time travel. If we’re gonna base all our decisions on movies and TV, then when has that plan ever worked?”
“We just have to keep quiet about it,” Mateo suggested. “Hardly anyone else lives here, and the nearest colony is miles and miles away, on the other side of a mountain range. We’re not telling anyone about the Nexus either, right?”
For some reason, that made everything really awkward.
“It’s not like we don’t trust each other with this information, right?” He pressed.
Still awkward.
“I’m so stupid, I’ll forget about this in a week. I know I can trust Leona. Cassidy can trust her mother, and vice versa. Étude trusts Vitalie. Hogarth and Hilde trusts each other. Leona can trust both Hogar—”
“Me,” Pribadium interrupted his rant. “They’re worried about what I’ll do next. If I don’t tell anyone about this, I could still do it again, or something like it. I’m the flight risk.”
“We don’t think that,” Leona said with a shake of her head.
“It’s okay,” Pribadium lied. “I don’t belong in this group. I fell into this, and I understand that.”
“We all fell into this,” Cassidy tried to comfort her. “I spent most of my life oblivious, until someone sent me to the future. Hogarth exploded herself accidentally. Vitalie jumped through a hatch, after being rediscovered in another universe without her memories. My mom is really the only one here who was born into this life.”
“It’s true,” Étude agreed. “No one thinks you don’t belong here. We’re just worried. Holly Blue regrets a lot of the things she invented.”
“Lord knows I do too,” Hogarth chimed in.
Hilde finally decided to speak. “Has anyone considered the possibility that this is a good thing? Maybe we humans deserve this? Maybe this technology can put an end to the powers that be’s...power.” She tilted her head at the odd grammar, but moved on. “Maybe the choosing ones won’t feel so special anymore, and thusly, not so violent and annoying.”
Even though Mateo was salmon, he had always been bothered by the us versus them mentality. Even calling people without powers or patterns humans seemed so, well...racist. He never let go of his original identity. He always preferred to treat everything he had gone through, and had yet to go through, as the conditions of his life, rather than the nature of his self. All of this was what he did, not who he was at his core. It was less about being a time traveler, and more about being a person who traveled through time. So he felt for Hilde’s position, and couldn’t say that he disagreed with her on this issue. Maybe everyone else was blowing it out of proportion, and things would only become bad if the people in this room remained so nervous about it.
“Let’s set this aside, and focus on Mateo’s funeral,” Vitalie mediated, knowing that if the conversation were to continue, things could get pretty heated; worse than they were on the ultimately detoured way to Dardius last year.
“Oh, yeah, we’re not doing that today,” Étude explained. “You really need to pay attention when we go off and do things, and talk to people.”
“I’m just gonna forget it anyway,” Vitalie argued. Well yeah, in a half century.
“The Dardieti government is dealing with some internal matters right now that make holding a global memorial service too complicated. They intend to hold off on the news. As sad as it is, the event could unite the peoples, but only if they handle with care.”
“How long do they wanna wait?” Leona asked.
“For you?” Étude asked rhetorically. “Three days. Estimate.”
“Whatever,” Leona said. Mateo thought she was taking this too lightly, and was probably underestimating how traumatic the experience would be for her, even though he was as of yet, still alive. He couldn’t say that to her, though. This was her journey, and he would support her during any emotional crisis that did or didn’t come her way.
“Well, that’s good,” Pribadium said. “I have some other ideas I’m working on, and to prevent anyone from freaking out about them, I need Hogarth to help me with them.”
“What are they?” Hogarth asked, concerned but curious.
For whatever reason, Pribadium looked over at Cassidy. “I was thinking we could do something to help her.” Help her how?

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Source Variant: World Class (Part XII)

Before they could proceed, Saga!Three needed to know who this Cain individual was. Vearden!Two and Zektene took turns recounting how the two of them met, and how Cain was involved. He was genetically engineered by the white monster progenitors of the Gondilak. He and the hybrids were then sent to each of a very specific group of humans with time powers called Newtonian Expats, all of which were from this universe, but were accidentally sent to separate ones. Most of the hybrids rejected their mandate, and became friends with the Expats, but Cain stayed true. Or at least, if his agenda changed, it wasn’t to become a better person. They all ended up meeting up with each other at the same location. Vearden!Two was swept away with two of them, while they encountered Zektene later on her home world. Cain continued to operate against them, until he was supposed to have been killed. Though, when time travel is involved, things like that get complicated. They get even more complicated when you take into account other universes, so the Cain they saw on the monitors could be from anywhere in his personal timeline. There’s no telling what he’s been through.
After class, Zektene got back on the computer, and narrowed her search parameters. They wanted to find all instances of Cain throughout this continent’s history, and they also wanted to know exactly where he was right now. There wasn’t much to find. Since he was waving at one of the drones in the first picture, he clearly knew that it wasn’t just some bug flying around. It would be no surprise to find out he figured out how to avoid further cameras. There were a couple blurry shots here and there, but for the most part, they were unable to determine a pattern to his movements, reason for his being there, motivation for his actions, or plans for the future. In order to find that information out, they needed to speak with him first. They sought out his last known location, and Zektene tried to teleport them there instantly, but it didn’t work. The lighting was different that it should have been, which suggested they had missed time. There was also no sign of Cain, nor any way to determine how long he had been gone. So they went back to the main facility, and checked the computers. Two hundred years. They were back on their regular pattern, and Cain’s trail would have gone cold by now.
Zektene gets back on the computer once again.
“Any sign of him?” Saga!Three asks.
Zektene hesitates to answer. “No. No sign of anybody.”
Vearden!Two approaches to look over her shoulder. “Wait, what do you mean by nobody?”
“The drones haven’t been doing their jobs,” Zektene begins to explain. “They haven’t been monitoring the population for seventy years.”
“The system crashed?”
“No, the system is fine. I have weather and atmospheric data. It still knows what year it is, and the bots have been maintaining the facility. It’s just that the drones have their charging stations the whole time. And I think some of the footage has been erased.”
“Somebody disabled them,” Saga!Three presumes.
“Not someone,” Vearden!Two contradicts.
“Cain,” he and Zektene say at the same time.
“Emergency McIver hats!” Saga!Three announces.
They reach into their bags, and retrieve their respective illusion-creating headgear. “Maramon form,” Zektene suggests.
“It’s too late,” comes a voice from the hallway entrance behind them. “I didn’t see who you are, but I know you’re not Maramon.”
“Stay in character,” Vearden!Two warns his friends out loud.
“That’s okay,” Cain says. “I wouldn’t recognize you anyway, whoever the hell you are.” That’s comforting, that he at least doesn’t suspect who’s been living in this place.
“How did you get in here?” Saga!Three demands to know.
“Here’s a hint,” Cain begins, “it took me a century. Those drones did not want to be caught. I could have whipped up a trap, but that would have required technology, which I didn’t have access, because these people haven’t even discovered electricity yet. So I observed. For decades, I watched them flying around. There were a few false positives, of course. It’s embarrassing how many times I came to realize I was just studying real insects. But over time, I learned more and more about their patterns, and that eventually led me here. Then it took me some time to break in, but once I did, I had the run of the place. Unfortunately, I’ve not found what I came here looking for, so I placed myself in stasis to avoid the monotony of waiting, and programmed the pod to awaken me when something interesting happened. That brings us up to today.”
“You’re pretty forthcoming with your answers,” Saga!Three notes. “What’s your plan here. What were you looking for.”
“A very special object,” Cain answers. “I spent about as much time looking for it on Kolob first, and that’s what led me here. I don’t know where else it could be. It was stolen from Ansutah shortly before the Bridge Collapse.”
“How did you get back to this universe?” Vearden!Two asks. “You’re supposed to be in Flipverse with Lucius Deschamps.”
Cain is slightly surprised by this. “I know you’re not Maramon, so how do you know what my assignment was?”
Saga!Three fakes a chuckle. “Well, we didn’t just randomly find ourselves on this planet. We know what’s going on, and we know about how Lucius and Abel shoved you into an airlock on The Stage. How did you survive that?”
“I shouldn’t have,” Cain says. “I got lucky. The outer bulkverse is to the multiverse what outerspace is to the planets. A human would be able to survive for about thirty seconds, but they’ll lose consciousness after fifteen, so unless someone else shows up to help, those extra fifteen seconds don’t matter much. Maramon were created to last closer to eight minutes. I reckon I was out there for five when a random universe came within spitting distance, and scooped me up. It’s a one in a billion chance, so I wouldn’t recommend you try going for a naked walk in the outer bulkverse, but it can happen.”
“Then how did you get back?” Vearden!Two presses.
Cain smirks. “I started a theatre company.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“Oh, I thought you three knew things,” Cain teases. “Joseph and his technicolor dreamcoat. He’s the only one who can use it to travel the bulkverse, but if you want to contact him, you have to put on a play where you act out his life. It requires over a dozen cast members, so it’s not the easiest thing ever, but it’s almost impossible to reach The Crossover, or something, so it’s your best bet.”
“I’ve seen that musical,” Saga!Three says. “I’ve never seen a magical traveler randomly appearing on stage.”
“It’s more complicated than that,” Cain says with a shrug, “but that’s not important. What matters now is the Newtonian Glove.”
“What’s that now?” Saga!Three asks.
“Kinda yellowish-brown, five fingers.” Cain describes vaguely.
“It can suppress powers,” Zektene adds. “Yes, I’ve seen it before.”
Cain is surprised again. “You have? Where is it?”
“No idea,” she says. “I didn’t see it here. I saw it...somewhere else, a very long time ago. I don’t know where it would be now, but I’m pretty sure it’s not here.”
“Yeah, we’ve been all over this building for the last several centuries,” Vearden!Two agrees. “We would have seen something like that. I assume whoever hid it put it inside some kind of protective case, instead of just stuffing it into the back of a sock drawer.”
He doesn’t remember Cain being so cordial and understanding, but that’s where the time travel thing comes into play. “Yeah, it doesn’t look too fancy, so you would remember finding some random glove kept in a case without a mate.”
Saga!Three actually did see that once, and something told her it would be too important to just leave lying around. “Sidebar.”
The other two exchange a look with her. That’s a codeword they came up with that means they need to go into the next room together, and then teleport to a secret location. “Excuse us,” Zektene says to Cain.
He doesn’t seem perturbed as they’re leaving.
“What is it?” Vearden!Two asks after Zektene transports them to the woods.
“I saw the glove,” she divulged, “and I hid it away.”
“Why? I mean, good. But why?”
“It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. It wasn’t alone. There were other objects in there. This little gyroscope thing, what I believe is a teleporter gun, a stone. I don’t know what they were, but I was worried about letting them fall into the wrong hands.”
“Yeah, that was probably the right call,” Zektene admits. “Unfortunately, we have to give him the glove.”
“Why?” Saga!Three questions.
“We already have,” she replies. “Vearden and I are here right now because Cain showed up with that glove, which prevented Lucius from teleporting Vearden to a hospital. I took his place, and that’s when we ended up on this planet. If Cain doesn’t find that glove, nothing plays out as it’s meant to, including everything we’ve done here. That reality might be preferable to this one, but I don’t know for sure. Do you?”
Vearden!Two didn’t know what she was talking about, since he had been too hurt to understand what was going on, but he trusted her. If Cain was destined to take the glove, they had to let it happen, but that didn’t mean they had to make it easy for him. He sighs. “Okay, we’ll let him have the glove, but he obviously can’t have all those other things. Saga!Three, you’ll retrieve it, and hide it again. Then we’ll give him a hint about where it is.”
“We can’t just hand it over?” Saga!Three asks, confused. “You people say he needs it, then let’s just be done with it.”
He shakes his head. “We can’t do that. He’s expecting backlash. He’ll be suspicious if we just literally hand it to him. We’ll give him a general idea of where it is, and then we’ll jump two hundred years in the future, and wipe our hands clean.”
Saga!Three looks to Zektene, who doesn’t disagree with him, and doesn’t appear to have a better plan in mind. “All right. You’re the boss,” she jokes.
“I’ll be the one to hide it,” Zektene offers. “I can take it far from the facility, which is what we want, right? It’s best if you two don’t know where. Compartmentalization.”
“Yeah,” that’s smart,” Vearden!Two admits. He puts his hand in the middle of their little circle. “Everybody, hands in.”
No one else mirrors him.
“Okay, go team!” Vearden!Two chants anyway.
They execute the plan flawlessly, and then jump forwards in time. But this time, only a hundred years. And it is here that they meet their doppelgängers.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Microstory 1250: Enobarbus Agnelli

The planet of Durus was named such that it could survive the harshest of conditions. The survivors of the Deathfall in 2016 fairly quickly realized that they were on a rogue planet, meaning that it was no longer in orbit around a parent star. Yet even without a blue sky, its atmosphere remained, and it was somehow perfectly suitable for humans to live. It wasn’t until later that they learned it was a series of temporal anomalies that allowed organic life to survive on the surface, but the name was already there, and it would come to mean many things over the years. Governments rose and fell, but the flame of humanity on Durus was never snuffed out. There were good times and bad, and depending on who you ask, one regime could be both at the same time, if only it retrospect. After the phallocracy fell, and democracy slowly began to come to the towns, most of the people who hated where things were headed preferred the way things were when men ruled, and women served. Also known as Barbwire, for his sharp attitude, Enobarbus Agnelli did not like what was happening to his world now, but not because of any nostalgia for his childhood. He never believed women were inferior—or that they couldn’t be trusted, which was the line used by the former leadership as a canned response regarding the matter. He didn’t really even believe in inferiority, or at least didn’t use such terminology to justify his stance. He just wanted to go back to the way things were a long, long time ago. During the Mage Protectorate, people with powers were revered, and the honor of having them was coveted. True, back then, most people had to earn the right, but just because Enobarbus was born with abilities didn’t mean he didn’t deserve them. The mages brought order to a planet defined by chaos, and he believed the only reason Earth wasn’t ruled by them was because the Earthan equivalents were far outnumbered by people with no powers at all, and no hope of receiving them. So he started a movement. There would still be a democracy, but it would be led by paramounts, like him. He wasn’t looking to become a dictator, but he was the one with the vision, so for now, he should be first in line. He failed in his mission before it even got started, and ended up being banished, not just from the planet, but the entire universe. He unwillingly joined a group of warriors fighting against a multiversal threat that didn’t have much to do with his former life, or his old plans. This was where he belonged, though. All that nonsense about paramount dominance fell far behind him, and is a mere footnote in the story of his life.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Microstory 1249: Aqil Saqqaf

Until Valda Ramsey’s mother returned to the timeline from the past, and finally gave birth to her child, Aqil Saqqaf was the youngest source mage in Springfield, but it was not originally meant to be like this. Aqil’s father went on an extended business trip shortly after he was conceived. He was gone for four months, and returned to find his wife pregnant. About a month after the Deathfall sent the entire town to Durus, the baby’s due date came and went. Then more time passed, and then more. Aqil ultimately gestated in his mother’s womb for a total of 380 days, which they would never have access to the internet to discover was the longest overdue pregnancy in recorded history. The father didn’t believe it anyway. He was completely convinced that his wife had cheated on his while he was away, even though she claimed that she was always faithful. At first, things were bad. He refused to take care of the boy who was indeed his child, but the survivors were all in this together, so little Aqil was not lacking in love and care. They would get through this as long as things didn’t escalate beyond this. The problem was that things got much, much worse. His father’s anger grew as time went on, and possibly thanks to the influence of the time monsters that plagued this world, he fell off the deep end. He eventually killed his wife for her supposed infidelity, leaving poor Aqil with no parents. Smith tried to take responsibility for him, but Dar’s parents, the Treslers knew that Aqil would grow up maladjusted if they allowed this to happen. They took him in instead, and raised them as Dar’s brother. They quickly realized how intelligent Aqil was. Had school, in the traditional sense, existed on this hell world, he would have skipped at least three grades by the time he graduated from high school. He actually struggled with finding the resources to satiate his thirst for knowledge, and understanding of how things worked. With no way of reaching Earth, there were just some ideas he couldn’t explore beyond reading about them in library books. Still, his limitations didn’t stop him from being the driving force in curating the Mage Protectorate’s laws and policies. He borrowed from preexisting constitutions, and other law documents, but a lot of the way the government on Durus would come to function safely and effectively were from his new ideas. He ignored past procedures he felt were detrimental to a progressive society, and enjoyed the benefit of being born at a time when equality was at least already established as desirable. He never, for instance, had to give white land-owning men exclusive civil rights, and then gradually start including everyone else. These rights existed for all citizens, right from the start, which made moving forward that much easier. People almost even thought being portaled to the rogue planet was a good thing; a way to start fresh. Aqil wouldn’t take it that far, but he did want to make the best of their situation, and the new world was better for him having been part of it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Microstory 1248: Bhulan Cargill

Bhulan Cargill was born in 2069 to a world that she didn’t like, but thanks to her, it no longer exists. She spent years there, though, trying to collect all the data she could, to figure out what went wrong. She realized that a number of people in her family were either part of what caused history to turn out as it did, or would be in a position to help fix it, if only they were given a little nudge. Once she was finished gathering this information, she went back in time, and executed her plan. She visited her family, and other key people, throughout time. She helped them out of tough situations, sometimes without them even knowing, and directed the timeline where she wanted it to go. This was her temporal power. Sure, she could jump through time, but lots of other people could too. Her real gift was a keen insight into the way events unfolded, and the necessary skills to account for the plethora of variables. Something called the butterfly effect made it so that, for most people, history alteration is predominantly a one time deal. Once a traveler goes back in time, and starts making changes, everything they knew about the future becomes irrelevant. The more changes they make, they less their knowledge of what happened in the other timeline can help them make further decisions. Bhulan’s power was limited as well, but her ability to predict what kind of unintended consequences her temporal revisions would have far exceeded the average traveler. This allowed her to make multiple jumps; first all the way back to the earliest important moment in time, and work her way forwards. After all this, things were so much different than they were in the alternate reality she came from, that the world was unrecognizable. In fact, her actions had the effect of preventing her from ever even existing. It was unclear to her, or anyone else privy to the truth, whether she wanted to erase herself from history, or not. No matter what she did now, this version of her already existed, so it was probably better that she didn’t have some other self, running around the timeline.

The mission was finally over. Things could obviously be better, but with the butterfly effect in play, the variables would have been impossible to calculate. So now the question was, what was she going to do with her life in this new timeline? Other travelers have experienced this conundrum. They spent so much time focused on their goals that they didn’t consider what would happen when they succeeded. There were several options, a couple of which were not possible. There was no way for her to assimilate her consciousness with that of an alternate, since she was the only Bhulan here. That also meant she couldn’t destroy or exile her alternate, and take her place. Free from these ethical dilemmas, she could have integrated herself into society, and do whatever she would have done if the mission hadn’t been her sole focus, but she didn’t want that. She had interfered in the timeline enough, and she also wasn’t interested in going far enough into the future to avoid undermining her own prior actions. She could just go off and hide out somewhere, perhaps on an undiscovered planet, or so far in the past that she didn’t run into anyone else, though that didn’t sound enticing either, so there was only one last option. Time travelers who kill themselves generally do this so the timeline’s native version of themselves can be the one to live out their lives in peace, which again, wasn’t necessary in Bhulan’s case. Still, every time she thought about it, this was the idea she kept coming back to. She felt it prudent to remove herself from the equation, now that both sides were proverbially balanced out. It wasn’t the right thing to do, and few would have told her to do it, but her suicide was what happened, and it could not be undone. Her sacrifice was not a complete waste, however, as the act simultaneously saved an unknowable number of innocent people, none of whom would ever know what she did.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Microstory 1247: Sadie Kovak

It was kind of a taboo subject, but the truth was that some people just weren’t capable of having special time powers. No one really understood why, and those who might have had the tools to investigate, weren’t living on Durus. It was rare, though, so people didn’t really worry about it much. When Sadie Hartoria was nineteen years old, it was time for the Third Mage Games. Every twenty years, a new batch of contenders battled it out on the competition floor in an attempt to prove themselves worthy of becoming town mages. She had trained for this her whole life. In its forty year history, the highest number of mages were aged sixteen to twenty-two. People were at their competitive and athletic prime during this range of their lives, so parents would actually plan their pregnancies around it. Sadie was destined for greatness, everyone believed. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that she would be one of the winners, and be selected for service. She proved everybody right when she came in first. Sadly, she was born different than normal people. Each one of them tried, just to make sure, but the source mages were unable to bestow powers upon her. Some people’s bodies and minds simply reject the transformation. She could not serve if she didn’t have powers, which she ultimately came to think was a ridiculous rule, because plenty of mage selects ended up with noncombative abilities, so they weren’t any more qualified than she would be as a regular human. She and her parents appealed the decision, but it was pointless. The rules were the rules, and nobody was going to make an exception for her. Fortunately, this was not the only way for her to contribute to society. There was still one other option that would effectively harness her skills and experience. Ecrin Cabral was one of the first mages ever, and enjoyed a special level of autonomy from the other divisions of the Mage Protectorate. She had created a small but important police contingency that would enforce the internal laws of the towns. For the most part, people followed the laws on their own, and the largest threat came from the time monsters, but there were still some issues that good old fashioned police work could handle. Sadie was perfect for it, so this is what she did for her career. But now there was something missing from her life, and it wasn’t her husband, Jörm. She realized she had another dream that she didn’t know if she would ever be able to reach, and had kind of let go before. Sadie wanted a child more than anything. She considered herself lucky to have found a husband who felt the same way, but gradually became more and more disheartened the longer it took for pregnancy to take hold, until there was no hope left. She would come to believe, however, that everything happens for a reason. She and Jörm discovered a child in desperate need of care, and this was when things got interesting.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Microstory 1246: Kayetan Glaston

Kayetan Glaston wasn’t the best person in the world, but he wasn’t the worst either. His alliances would shift constantly, not according to the highest bidder, or anything, but based on whoever asked him last. He didn’t really have an agenda, or any goals, of his own. He was given the nickname of The Merger, but he didn’t ask people to call him that. Merging was an ambiguous word, which required contextual specificity, and he was only a spatio-temporal merger, so he didn’t feel it properly distinguished him. He had the ability to bring together two different locations, across time and space. If he concentrated hard enough, he could merge more than two, and he was one time able to summon an entire Colosseum full of people from all over spacetime, but it required a special booster, and he was in a coma for over a week because of it. Anyone close enough to one of these merge points would be able to cross from one location to the other as if turning down a new street. He was often called to action by other choosing ones who either weren’t capable of traveling themselves, or had some special reason for wanting to do it his way. He didn’t care who was doing the asking, but if he didn’t feel like responding, then he wouldn’t. He didn’t care about money, or payment of any kind. He could go anywhere and anywhen he wanted, so like many other temporal manipulators, static worldly possessions seemed mostly pointless to him. People like him understood better than anyone just how temporary any given object was, and how foolish it was to covet anything. He was particularly disinterested in gathering things, though. He spent his days wandering around time and space, and when there was nowhere he wanted to go, he was watching TV, or reading a book. Apathetic was probably the most common word used to describe him, though it wasn’t accurate. Neutral would be a better one. He did care what happened to people, but he wasn’t always good at choosing the right side, and that got him into trouble. Still, there was no one instance where he switched from sometimes working with bad people, to working exclusively with those with good intentions. He just slowly phased out the unsavory clients in favor of the more benevolent ones. However, this is time travel we’re talking about, so exactly when he did anything was simply a matter of perspective. If contacted, there was no telling where in his personal timeline Kayetan happened to be, or what he had been through up until that point. At no point in his history, however, was he evil, so there was at least that.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 22, 2260

To say that Cassidy was upset about being left in the dark about Mateo would be an understatement. She felt particularly betrayed by Leona, with whom she spent hours in the wilderness, working through their tension. The worst part of it was that everyone else on the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez knew that he was alive, as did Thor. Explaining to her that the others, like Ellie and Trinity, also weren’t told the truth wasn’t helpful at all. She wasn’t impressed by Vitalie reminding everyone that she didn’t care, so it didn’t matter that she knew. Étude tried to comfort her daughter, but Cassidy wasn’t having it. She hid herself away in her grave chamber, and didn’t come out until November 22, 2260. Mateo stayed in his own grave too, as Leona was still not yet ready for them to sleep that close to each other on a regular basis.
He didn’t wake up until long after midnight central, so the AOC had already landed on the surface of their new planet, Glisnia. The planet was a super-Earth, orbiting a star called Gliese 832. Surface gravity was far too high for the average biological human to withstand, so they were required to remain inside one of the ever-growing facilities, or be en route to another. Each was equipped with special technology called a transdimensional gravity platform, and while a Higgs-Boson field could generate artificial gravity to support an otherwise zero-g environment, something like this was necessary to lessen the gravitational pull of a celestial body’s core. Leona’s friend, Hokusai Gimura had utilized it on Varkas Reflex, but it was invented by Leona’s other friend, Hogarth Pudeyonavic, who was set to be one of the few humans living here. Though this amazing technology would allow anyone to survive on this world, Glisnia was allocated for artificial entities. It wasn’t particularly well-suited for nonbiological life, but it was good enough, and so far, many of the other colony planets had been set aside for biologicals. Leona believed better star systems would come about later, but in the meantime, plans were being drawn up for a Dyson shell, in order to gather most of Gliese 832’s energy output, and use it to power the inhabitants.
Ever since the Varkas Reflex incident, standard colonization procedures were drastically altered. Back in 2238, Leona discovered that the factory ships that were sent off to build habitat structures on Varkas had malfunctioned. Their communication with Earth had also gone haywire, leaving the world unfit for settlement, and quite dangerous, actually. Worried that this sort of thing might happen again, it was decided that all colony ships would be preceded by something called a Forerunner. It was a small ship designed for two to five people, and capable of near lightspeed travel. These people were meant to arrive in orbit ahead of the colonists, and solve any problems that Earth might not have been notified about. While automation was originally meant to account for all issues on its own, neighborhood leadership now felt it necessary to maintain a human touch to these endeavors. It was Hogarth and her wife, Hilde’s responsibility to do this here, even though no other biological people were scheduled for transport in the near future. As of now, besides a few mission-necessary automated systems, humans were the only people on Glisnia. The colony ships were not set to arrive until next year.
“Where are we going?” Mateo asked. They were riding across the alien desert in a land vehicle. Though the thing was completely enclosed, they were still required to wear vacuum suits for protection, and be able to attach their helmets at a moment’s notice. He found it more comfortable to stand, and hang onto the grips, rather than sit in the seats like everyone else.
“We’re headed for the Nexus replica,” Leona explained.
“Why didn’t we land closer to it?” Mateo asked. “Honest question; I’m not criticizing.”
“There’s nowhere to land. The replica was placed far from landing zones, specifically so no one would likely discover it accidentally. It’s situated on a bit of land that’s large enough for the structure itself, but no larger, and it’s pretty well hidden.” She was able to treat Mateo like a friend now, but it was as of yet unclear whether she would ever be able to interact with him on a romantic level.
Mateo was willing to accept the possibility that their marriage had suffered too much to continue. Perhaps this was it, and even though it would break his heart, he wanted to do what was best for her. “Again, I’m not trying to be difficult, but how did you find it if it was hidden so well?”
Hogarth threw a looped string at him, which he caught. “I call it the Lanyard of Disturbance. I don’t know with certainty that it was originally attached to the Compass of Disturbance, but it certainly appears that way. You can’t control what it finds, and it doesn’t allow you to do anything with whatever you find, but it can point the way to temporal anomalies. It’s like a divining rod for spacetime tears, and in this case, an interstellar teleportation module.”
“Got it,” Mateo said. Surprisingly, he understood every word she said, even the big ones. He was getting smarter, if only a little.
Cassidy almost looked like she was reading his mind, like maybe the smile from his pride was enough to let her know what he was thinking. And she rolled her eyes because of it.
“Hey,” Mateo began to ask a question, but thought better of it.
“What?” Cassidy asked.
“Nothing,” he tried to backpedal. “I’m sorry.”
“Spit it out!” she demanded.
He sighed, knowing he had to say it, but also knowing how much it would piss her off. “Do you want a year?”
“Do I want a what?” she sassed.
“We can take you off our pattern, temporarily, right? You could have a life, for a year; I’m sure these fine people would protect you.”
Cassidy didn’t respond for a moment, but scowled. “You think all I need to get over this is time?”
“Well, that’s probably true, but you’re not trying to help me. You’re just trying to skip over all the grief. Let’s say all I need is one year, that means you only have to deal with me for one more day, and suddenly we can be friends again.”
“Okay, I suppose that’s true,” Mateo had to admit.
He looked to Leona for guidance, but she was staying out of it. Her facial expression said a lot about her, however. She was still upset with him for the lapdance, and slightly uncomfortable with Cassidy for giving him the lapdance. She felt bad about lying to Cassidy, and sorry for Mateo for experiencing the most backlash over it. She secretly felt that it was a good idea to have Cassidy go through her stuff during their interim year, but she also understood how offensive this proffer was.
“I’ll still have to go through it,” Cassidy argued, “but you’ll be able to move on quickly. No, no, no. I’m not giving you the satisfaction.”
“That’s why I decided to not ask you,” Mateo contended, “because I realized it was a dumb thing to suggest.”
“You should have just not opened your mouth in the first place,” Cassidy said.
“I know.”
“That should just be your resting state,” she went on, “shutting the fuck up!”
She stopped talking for a moment, but the anger didn’t stop building. “Goddammit!”
“Cass—” He tried to say.
“No!” Cassidy interrupted. “I can’t imagine what you’ve been through; dying...Jesus! That must be a horrific memory for you. I know I shouldn’t be pissed off, I just can’t help it.”
“I understand,” he insisted.
“No, you don’t. You can’t, because I don’t!” She didn’t want to go too far, so she found her calm before getting back to it. “It all happened so fast. I didn’t have the chance to confront Briar about this. I kept putting it off, because I was grieving first. If I had known you were alive in some..weird, magic mirror...thing, I might have been able to say something. I might have been able to speak my peace. You robbed me of that, because the fact is that even though you’re still here, you’re also dead, and he still killed you. I don’t know how he’s gonna answer for that, but he didn’t answer to me!”
Mateo didn’t know how to respond to this, so he just sat down and wrapped his palms around his face.
Leona stepped up, literally and figuratively. She approached Cassidy, and placed a hand on her shoulder. “It was my decision to keep it a secret. I’m sorry you went through that. It wasn’t something I considered, and that was unfair.” She pivoted, so she could address both her and Mateo. “The three of us are bonded; not in the way we were with Serif, but it’s undeniable. We all have to find a way to get through this, because we all deserve to be happy; even you, Mateo.”
He lifted his face, but avoided eye contact, and sent a telepathic message that what Leona said to him was probably untrue. He felt a gloved hand on his, and thought it was Leona’s, but when he looked, he saw Cassidy, crouched in front of him.
“She’s right; you do. I don’t understand how this works, but we’re gonna put off your death until we have absolutely no other choice. And I’m gonna be here for as long as it makes sense. I won’t promise it’ll be forever.”
Leona crouched down as well. “I can promise that, though.”
“Why am I the one being comforted?”
“We’re all hurting, Mateo.”
Leona gave him a hug, and then gave one to Cassidy. Then she looked between them. “Okay, it’s actually weirder that you’re not hugging. Please, let’s just pretend that this is a normal relationship.”
They sat in silence for another ten or fifteen minutes, at which point Hogarth announced that they had arrived. After repressurizing the airlock, they exited the vehicle, and Mateo noticed that it looked exactly like the one they had just come from.
Leona noticed too. “This is not a likeness. Did you turn around?”
“I did,” Hogarth answered. “No one is up for a funeral today. Let’s all get some rest, and put it off until tomorrow. Does that sound okay?”
“I think that’s a great idea, hon.” Hilde hugged her wife from the side.
“It’s probably for the best,” Leona agreed.
So they postponed the trip to Dardius in favor of a quiet day of reflection and conversation. Mateo, Leona, and Cassidy tried to talk about anything other than the bad and awkward things that had happened between them. They figured the key was to move on from it, and stop dwelling. It appeared to be working, at least for now. Étude and Cassidy also took the chance to get to know each other a little better. There was so much Étude wasn’t before allowed to tell her daughter about where they came from. She might return to Dardius to her own fanfare, and she had to be prepared for that. In the end, it was a very nice day, and possibly vital to the process. Tomorrow was going to be hectic, and none of them really knew how things were going to shake out.