Saturday, December 28, 2019

Source Variant: Moving On... (Part XV)

“I’m sorry about your friend,” Hokusai Gimura says. “Is there anything we can do to get him back?”
“No,” Saga!Two says sadly. “This is fate. It’s his fate. I was hoping to stave it off as long as possible, but the truth is that he’s already dead.”
Hokusai nods her head reverently. “Well, maybe you’ll see him again one day. For now, we should get to work.”
They all eye her cautiously. “Get to work doing what?” Saxon asks her.
“I don’t know,” Hokusai answers. “You’re the ones who called on me.”
“You stepped over the threshold,” Vearden!Three points out, “like you thought you were supposed to be over here.”
Hokusai gestures towards both versions of Saga. “My friend obviously needs my help. I don’t know with what, or what I can do, but I trust that.”
“We’re not gonna hold a memorial, or something?” Zektene questions.
“Miss Gimura is right,” Saga!Two says. “We have too much work to do.” She directs her attention to Hokusai herself. “Saxon Parker here can fill you in on what we’re after, and hopefully you’ll have everything you need to handle it. This facility is equipped with a Calibre 8 industrial synthesizer, but the humans left a megastructure synthesizer in orbit, so you’re only limited by your imagination.” She’s trying to hold it together, but recent events have forced her to relive one of the most tragic moments of her life. She didn’t exist when her Vearden died, which was perhaps worse, because they always kind of thought they would die together. She remembers feeling bad when she was returned to the timestream, and her first thought was that she wasn’t there to see it happen. It really just made her feel powerless, and rational or no, seeing Arcadia take him to meet his destiny gave her the same pit in her stomach.
“Come on,” Saga!Three says kindly. “Let’s go talk this out alone.”
Vearden!Three leaves when the two Sagas do, because he doesn’t know how to feel about all this. It’s another Vearden, and not one he’ll become, or once was. He was a completely different person. But it’s still him, right? I mean, it’s like he died as well. How is he meant to live his life now, knowing what he knows, and having witnessed what he did? This is all too confusing, and he wants to talk with the Sagas about it, but this isn’t about him, so he just goes off on his own. He returns only minutes later, because everywhere in the building he tries to go to feels uncomfortable, or unsafe. Saxon is in the middle of explaining to Hokusai what’s going on.
“You want to move the planet?” Hokusai asks.
“No, the solar system,” Saxon clarifies. “They’re still gonna need a sun.”
“Well, I can’t do that,” she contends. “I can’t even do the first one.”
“They say you did it before, with the rogue world, Durus.”
“Yeah,” she admits, “I had a magical object called a Rothko Torch to do it for me. Everyone seems to give me credit for it, but all I did was switch it on, and point it towards the sky.”
“You can’t build this torch again?” Saxon suggests.
“I didn’t build it; I found it.” She looks around, but knows she won’t find anything. “I don’t imagine you have another one just lying around.
Vearden!Three continues to half-listen to them discuss the early stages of the plan, even though he has no idea what they’re talking about. His mind wanders as he’s thinking about everything that’s happened since that day he had the urge to travel to Kansas City, and met his first two time travelers, Serkan and Ace.
“I suppose we could use an adapted Caplan thruster. I’m sure the designs are in your database somewhere. I would need to modify it to account for this properties of this star, and it’s not going to be easy, but also not impossible.”
“Won’t that take too long?” Saxon figures. “Those operate in the millions of years.”
“Well, what’s our time table for this Ochivari invasion?”
“We don’t know,” he says, “but probably not millions of years.”
Hokusai takes a deep breath. “We could skip acceleration. I could design a cylicone-dependent velocity jumper that gets us to maximum speed in a matter of weeks. Months would be safer, but either way that’s only a light year every fifteen hundred years. I might be able to make it go a little faster, but not too much. There’s also the issue with the overall design of the Caplan.”
Saxon nods, knowing exactly what she means. “The dyson swarm we use for energy redirection would be visible from the surface of the planet. The Orolak would know we’re doing something.”
“Can’t you make this swarm thing invisible?” Vearden!Three didn’t know he was going to say anything until he already did.
The two geniuses seem open to the concept. “We have to make the system invisible anyway,” Saxon acknowledges. “It doesn’t matter where we move it if the Ochivari go looking for what they see is missing. We could blanket the atmosphere in a hologram to make it look like everything is copacetic.”
Hokusai smiles. “One glitch, and it’s over. They could wrap their religion around it.”
“Yes,” Saxon says, “we’ve seen that already. We accidentally made them worship a rock.”
They keep talking over the possibilities, while Vearden!Three tunes them out again, knowing he probably can’t contribute much more than he already has. Thirty minutes into it, Saga!Three comes back into the room. “Where are they?” Her eyes are puffy and red, indicative that she’s been mourning with her alternate self. Hopefully it was a productive cry for the both of them.
This whole time, Zektene has been looking through the Maramon database, in case the good monsters left anything behind that might help. “Where are what?”
“The Ochivari,” Saga!Three clarifies. “Where is their home planet? What planets have they conquered?”
“We don’t have that information,” Saxon replies. “We know where Worlon is, but we lost all quantum communication when I had to destroy the uplink back at the vonearthan base, so we don’t know anything beyond that.”
“But they’re really advanced,” Saga!Three presumes. She steps forward slowly as she’s talking. “They have spaceships, and aerosol cans, and firearms.”
“Yes,” Saxon says. “Where are you going with this?”
Vearden!Three stands up, also wanting to know the answer to this, and worried about what she’s saying.
“If they have all these amazing things, then they probably have really simple things. Things like...doors?”
Zektene looks horrified. “Saga, don’t think like that.”
“Doors like that one?” Saga!Three jerks her head over to the door that leads to the section of the facility that once housed the Gondilak growth pods.
“Don’t even think about.” Zektene almost looks defensive.
“We need intel,” Saga!Three reasons. And if we can, we need to slow them down, or hell, even destroy them.”
“You’re not going to be able to do that with a door,” Saxon tries to reason right back, “unless you can find one large enough to fit the Death Star, or Lexx.”
“I have to do something,” Saga!Three explains. “I can’t just sit here. I can’t help you build your magical protection machines. I don’t even care much about it. This is so much bigger than this one little planet. Has anyone on Earth ever considered that? Are they going to war?”
“Way I understand it,” Saxon regrets saying, “no. Some disagree, but the vonearthan leadership has decided against interference.”
“You mean they’re sticking their heads in the sand,” Saga!Three spits. She drew closer to the door.
Zektene jumps a few meters over to block her path.“Do not go through that,” she nearly orders.
“I wouldn’t mind having a teleporter at my side,” Saga!Three says to her.
“We can’t fight these creatures by ourselves,” Zektene excuses.
“You’re right, which is why I’m not going straight there. We need a few things; fighters, scientists, weapons, maybe even transportation.” The list is obviously not comprehensive, but she couldn’t have been thinking about doing this for very long.
“I can get you transportation,” Vearden!Three volunteered. “You may need to travel to other universes, and I happen to know a little bit about that.”
“We don’t want to take The Crossover from whoever’s operating it, or The Prototype from the Laymen,” Saga!Three says.
“No,” Vearden!Three says. “Those wouldn’t help you much anyway. They can make jumps, but they’re not spacefaring ships. What you’ll need is The Transit.” He steps over, and opens the door for them. There’s a room on the other side, but not the one that’s meant to be there. “If you truly want to do this, that’s where you should start.”
“Wadya say, Zek?” Saga!Three offers. “While they go on the defensive, you wanna help me take offense?”
Zektene sighs, and considers it. “If you’re going to anyway, I guess I have to.”
Saga!Three smiles, and wipes her face of the remaining evidence that she was crying. “Are you coming too?” she asks Vearden!Three.
He shakes his head. “I have my own mission.”
Saga!Three nods. She takes Zektene’s hand, and leads her through the portal. Vearden!Three waves one last time, and closes the door behind them.
“Are they gonna be okay?” Hokusai asks.
“You can count on it,” Vearden!Three replies.
“You’ve already seen it, haven’t you?” Saxon guesses. “You know what happens to them.”
Vearden!Three smirks, and prepares to open the door again, but this time for himself.
“What’s your mission?” Saga!Two has just stepped into the room, but she was listening to the conversation the entire time from around the corner.
Vearden!Three looks back at her. “I’m gonna go get your friend.”
“No, don’t,” Saga!Two reaches out towards him. “You can’t change the past. I mean, you can, but you shouldn’t. My experience, it’s...it led me here. It resulted in my daughter.”
He smiles at her. “Vearden!Two doesn’t have to die. You just have to think he died.” He looks back at the door that had the potential to take him anywhere in time and space, as long as he was worthy of making it do that. “I finally know my purpose.” He opens the door, and closes it behind him before the other three can see much of what’s on the other side, other than the woods, presumably on Tribulation Island, where he plans on switching places with his alternate self.
A second later, the door opens again, and Vearden!Two walks in from the beach. His face is unreadable. “Saga?”
“Vearden,” is all that Saga can say.
“What did I just agree to?” Vearden asks.
“Self-sacrifice,” Saxon answers.
“What do we do now?” Saga wonders. She’s still trying to work up the nerve to hug her best friend.
“There’s nothing more you can do here,” Saxon says. “Why don’t you try to open that door too, and see where it takes you?”
“Everybody’s doing it,” Hokusai adds.
They laugh. And then Saga walks over to try what they’ve recommended. She and Vearden take hold of the handle together, and pull it open.
Two beautiful and amazing women are waiting for them on the other side of it. “Mom?” one of them asks.
“Grandma?” asks the other.

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