Saturday, December 21, 2019

Source Variant: Moving Heaven and Orolak (Part XIV)

The six of them think they’ve found their proverbial ladder in the form of an archived set of files from the Maramon servers, but first, they have to read a little background. Because Maramon are so incredibly difficult to kill, and it’s even harder for them to die accidentally, the population grew to untenable numbers. They tried to expand to the stars, but quickly learned that they were not real. They were but a hologram on a gigantic impenetrable surface, which served as the literal end of the universe. This eventually transformed their race into an angry and hostile threat. It also galvanized them into developing technology that would allow them to travel the multiverse. Most cultures never figure out how to do this, because their own universes are too expansive for them to even truly fathom the concept of space that somehow exists beyond it. The white monsters became a huge danger to all other worlds, and for the most part, all Maramon were on board with this. They separated into factions, and formed their own agendas, but the general sentiment was an animosity towards humans, which were all free to move about the cosmos. Of course, however, Ansutah was home to billions and billions of individuals, and probability dictates that not everyone will feel the same way.
Scattered throughout the lands were good Maramon, who felt no ill will towards the humans. Some just wanted to find breathing room to live on their own, while others actively wanted to protect the innocent. They were considered irritants to the rest of Maramon culture, and were all but wiped out for it. Fewer than two hundred of these rebels survived long enough to escape their world through a universe bridge, and come into this one. They wouldn’t have been able to do this, however, if the other Maramon hadn’t collected them all in one place. Silver lining, but it wasn’t all kittens and rainbows. Though they were reportedly good people, who meant the humans no harm, they frightened the other refugees. Leadership decided to exile them to a planet many light years away, which they called Kolob. It was only later that they began a mission to find yet another planet to call home, eventually settling on what would become Orolak.
Before Dandavo Dali Dali—the Maramon equivalent of Operation Starseed—began, these good Maramon felt like they needed to protect themselves. Instead of forcing them to leave, the humans could have just killed them to be safe. The Maramon were grateful this didn’t happen, but also paranoid that the humans would change their minds later. So they devised a way to fortify their new homeworld. Well, they aren’t fortifications so much as they’re temporal tricks, inspired by some of the superpowered people they were aware of. First, based on the time powers of a man named Vito Bulgari, the star system is invisible. Anyone looking at the space where the celestial bodies are will instead perceive more empty space. This is important, but it isn’t good enough on its own. Anyone suspicious of this, knowing that the coordinates should have taken them to Kolob, might investigate further. They would use other detection methods to clearly sense that there is significant gravitational pull in that region. So the Maramon continued with their research, and created a second line of defense. Without proper authorization, anyone attempting to enter the system will be immediately transported to the other side of it. Of course, this isn’t perfect either, because now the intruders know there’s something to find, and will again, investigate further. The first line of defense thusly needed to be impossible to overcome.
To prevent anyone from following them in the first place, the Maramon moved their entire solar system somewhere else. The notes that Zektene and Saxon find don’t specify the new coordinates, which is probably a good thing, but it does imply that the jump they made was of a massively great distance. The second two countermeasures aren’t, strictly speaking, easy, but compared to this, they’re a short walk in the park. How are they going to move Orolak, its parent star, and all other orbitals? And how are they going to do it without leaving any trace?
“Maqsud Al-Amin is the only person I know of who’s capable of independently jumping through interstellar space,” Vearden!Two says. “And I don’t think he can jump a whole planet.”
“Aristotle can do it as well,” Saga!Three informs him.
“The philosopher?” Saga!Two questions.
“The Delegator seems capable of doing it in some way too,” Zektene reminds the group.
“Either way,” Vearden!Two continues. “These files don’t say anything about how the Kolobians did it. It’s not even clear whether they did it at all. Maybe it’s just a lie so anyone looking for them will think they’re looking in the wrong place.”
“It was pretty hard for us to find these files,” Saxon points out. “If they wanted to spread a lie that they moved their planet, when they didn’t really, they didn’t do a good job of getting the false information out there.”
“Still,” Vearden!Two contends, “no one here has much hope of doing it, whether it’s a replication of something once done before, or the first time anyone has done it.”
“He’s not wrong,” Vearden!Three says in support of his alternate. “I’ve been to loads of other universes, and I’ve never heard of anyone teleporting a planet, let alone an entire system. They move them, but it takes time.”
“Who says we can’t take time?” Saga!Two asks.
“We don’t know how long it’ll take the Ochivari to get here.”
“Yeah, but we’re time travelers,” Saga!Two says. “We can create time where there is none.”
“Well, if that’s the case,” Vearden!Three says, throwing up his hands, “why don’t we just send Orolak to the past, long before the Ochivari even exist?”
“We don’t want to screw up the timeline,” Saxon says. “There aren’t meant to be any aliens until the Earthan humans advance enough to create the source variants.”
“I wasn’t suggesting we actually do that,” Vearden!Three volleys.
“I think we’re relying too heavily on what we found in the Maramon archives,” Saga!Two notes. “These don’t seem to explain how they accomplished any of this. Hell, they don’t even promise they followed through at all. They’re just ideas. We don’t have to do it just like them.”
“Well, what would you suggest?” Vearden!Two asks.
“Look, Saxon is obviously a genius. Zektene ain’t all that dumb neither,” Saga!Two begins. “The four of us, though? We’re not all that useful in this scenario. We need someone whose experience goes beyond learning computers, or being an engineer. We need someone who we know has moved a planet before.”
“Who the hell has done that?” her counterpart, Saga!Three questions.
“Her name is Hokusai Gimura. I once traveled to Earth with her on a ship called The Elizabeth Warren. We were coming from Durus, which is a rogue planet she quite literally steered away from its collision with Earth.”
“That’s...impressive,” Vearden!Two acknowledges. “Do you have any means of contacting her? That was centuries ago.”
“Zektene just said it,” SagaTwo says. “The Delegator can travel to other planets, at least in some way.”
“The Delegator came to us voluntarily,” Vearden!Two recalls. “Did he tell you three how to reach him in case of emergency?”
“He didn’t need to,” Saga!Two claims. “The other Saga knows.”
Everyone looks at Saga!Three, who hesitates slightly. “I technically know his phone number,” she says with airquotes. “I’ve never cared to call him before, so I can’t promise it will work, but Dr. Sarka did once give me the instructions. How did you know that?” she asks Saga!Two.
“I have my sources,” Saga!Two answers cryptically, and it doesn’t look like she’s interested in elaborating.
“Okay,” Saga!Three starts. “I just need to make use of the synthesizer.” She looks around at where they are. “I’ll need someone to program it, though. I doubt what we’re looking for is already in the Maramon’s database.”
“I should be able to help with that,” Zektene volunteers. “I know the system pretty well.”
“Did you have the game of jenga in your home universe?”
“Can’t say I’ve ever heard of it,” Zektene admits.
“We’ll all work on it together,” Saxon assures them. “It’ll only take a few minutes.”
A few minutes later, they have their game blocks 3D printed, and assembled on the table. Saga!Three takes a deep breath, hoping that what she learned wasn’t a lie, or a prank, or that she’s just remembering it wrong. She throws one of the extra blocks, and shouts the magic words, “that’s what you think!
Everyone looks over at the far wall, which hasn’t transformed into a portal, but it kind of looks like it’s trying to. The metal is waving and warping, but it’s not quite opening up.
“Maybe we should try again,” Vearden!Three suggests.
Just after Vearden!Two hands Saga!Three the block she threw, the portal opens up, but it doesn’t reveal Stonehenge. It’s just a darkened room. It kind of looks like a storage area. All kinds of things are there, sitting on the shelves, and tables. They immediately notice a set of jenga blocks, constructed to mimic the look of Stonehenge, just like the one Saga!Three set up. A woman is standing there. “Yeah, the Delegator’s not responding to you. I think he’s pretty butthurt about something. I wouldn’t normally intervene, but you’re from pretty far in the future, and I’m terribly curious.”
“Hi!” Vearden!Three approaches confidently. “We’re the Sagas and Veardens; plus our friends, Saxon and Zektene.”
The woman steps up to the edge of the Maramon facility, but deliberately doesn’t step over the threshold. “Hello, my name is Susan Glines. Some people call me The Switcher. I’m responsible for connecting people through time and space. You can’t call anyone directly. You’re always just calling me, and I call the person you’re actually trying to reach.”
“Oh, that’s cool,” Vearden!Three says. “Does that mean you can help us find someone?”
“It depends on the someone,” Susan replies.
Vearden!Three looks back at Saga!Two. He remembers the name of the woman they’re trying to contact, but Saga is the one who knows her, so this is her show.
“Hokusai Gimura.” Saga!Two reports. “It should probably be sometime after the year 2182, by the old Earthan calendar. That’s the last time I saw her.”
Susan pursed her lips as far to the left side of her face as possible. “I’m not so sure.”
“We’re friends,” Saga!Two tries to explain. “She might not be able to help us, but she’ll be willing to listen, at the very least. You control the environment. If you’re worried you’re not meant to connect us with her, you can close the portal at any time.” She hopes she’s understanding how all this portal stuff works.
Susan continues to think it over. “You’re the doorwalkers, right?”
“Yes,” all four of them reply in unison.
She breathes in deeply through her nose. “Okay. I will allow one of you to step into my office—briefly,” she makes sure they understand. “You may knock on Miss Gimura’s doors over there.” She points to a set of double doors on the other side of the wall. “You will then immediately cross back through the portal. She can choose to open it, or not.”
Vearden!Two nods his head. “We will accept any outcome.”
“Good,” Susan says. She presents the door like a gameshow showcase model. “Then you shall have the honor.”
Vearden!Two nods cordially, and steps over the threshold. He playfully knocks on the door in a particular pattern. The door immediately opens. “Can I help you?” a man asks.
Susan rolls her eyes. “Sorry, Murdoch. Wrong door.”
“No worries,” the man replies sincerely. He closes the door.
“Where did you hear that pattern?” Susan asks Vearden!Two.
He frowns and shrugs. “Iono.”
“You can knock any way you want; just not like that,” she directs him.
He tries again, but this time, just goes with the traditional three firm knocks. He tries to step back through the portal, like he was told to, but he can’t. “What? What is this?”
“What the hell?” Susan asks.
Hokusai Gimura opens the door, and also has questions. “Hello? What is this place?”
“Vearden,” Saga!Two begs. “Come back.”
“I can’t!” Vearden!Two insists.
“Vearden!” Saga!Three cries. “Come back through.”
“I’m telling you, I can’t,” he repeats. He continues to struggle against some kind of invisible barrier.
Zektene approaches, intending to help.
“Stay back!” Susan commands. “Something’s wrong here, and I don’t know what. Miss Gimura, you should leave. It may not be safe here.”
“Okay,” Hokusai says, but misunderstanding her, she crosses over into the facility, as if there were no barrier at all.
“No, not there!” Susan yells. “I don’t understand what’s happening!”
Just then, a woman only Saga!Two recognizes teleports in. “I’m terribly sorry about this, but I’m gonna need him for something, and for some reason, I can’t go to the year 4066; howbow dah?”
“Arcadia,” Saga!Two mutters, fuming.
“Madam Einarsson,” Arcadia says with a smile. “You remember how I trapped you on Tribulation Island for years, and made you complete a bunch of challenges?”
“Umm...yeah? That’s why I’m looking at you like this,” Saga!Two says.
“Yes, well...” Arcadia begins, “Mister Haywood here has not yet done that. So, it’s his time. Byeeeeee!”
“No!” Saga!Two screams, but it’s too late. The portal closes up right between them.
“What’s going to happen to him?” Saga!Three asks.
Saga!Two lowers her head in sadness. “He dies,” she answers. She waits another minute, then repeats herself more quietly, “he dies.”

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