Thursday, December 31, 2020

Microstory 1529: Conclusion to Poems

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on these last several weeks
I wrote my poetry a little different than most
Sometimes it landed
Sometimes not
Do I regret it?
No, I wouldn’t say that
I think it just reinforced my beliefs
I am not a poet, and I never will be, even if I were to try harder

Do not mistake my resignation as some kind of depressive realization
I’m fine with what kind of writer I am
And what kind I’m not
I like prose
I always have
I prefer the video formats
But until I catch my big Hollywood break
I’m going to stick with my website, and keep trying to tell good stories

This does not mean that I will no longer be doing experimental formats
I will keep challenging myself, and my audience
In whatever way that goes
However small
Or unimpressive
I will keep making content
Not simply for the sake of putting my stuff out there
Because writing is the only thing I truly know how to do, and I can’t stop

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Microstory 1528: They Call Me

My friends call me Limerick
And do you want to know why?
It’s because that’s my name
My parents are both poets
Or rather, that’s what they call themselves
They call me The Bard
My father manufactures paper clips
And my mother clips paper, up in the paper clip factory office
And what am I?
What did I become?
Nothing, really, if you can believe it
I don’t care much about anything but drinking
And sleeping
And fighting
Why, if I could do all three of those at once
I would be in heaven
They call me the Fighting Irishman
Because I’m always getting into fights
And they assume I’m Irish
But that would be stupid, wouldn’t it?
You wouldn’t name someone after the place they live?
I guess that’s not that stupid
It’s more just not true about me
My therapist has asked me to write down my feelings
My feelings about my family
About my habits
And to do it in a poem
He calls me The Problem Patient
But he doesn’t know I know that
I tried to make this rhyme, but I can’t do it
So now I’m just telling you my story
Broken into short lines
Is that how poetry works?
I wouldn’t know, I don’t care for it
All I care about is all I have
And I’ve no intention of changing my behavior
They can arrest me all they want, but I won’t stop
This is who I am, and I’m happy with it
And if you try to lock me up, I will punch myself free
Because that’s what I do
They call me The Pugilist

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Microstory 1527: Fighting Against an Enemy I Have Always Known

I grew up oppressed
Amongst an oppressed people
In a world of desolation
What I have learned is that we are rare
Most worlds touched by the enemy are destroyed
We were spared, but not for the better
The others, they feel no more pain
Their lives are over, but they do not know that
Many did not even know it was going to end
They blinked, and it was done
They were done
I’m not saying they’re the lucky ones
I can still fight
There is still a chance to save my world
To make it a better place
For me, my family, and my descendants
But it is hard
We are not in a war
It is a rebellion
And rebellions are slow, and unpopular
Like climbing a wall with no summit
A war is easy
There’s one group on one side
Another on the other
Maybe there are more belligerents
But it is still simple
Sides fight against sides, and the winner is clear
In a rebellion, there are no sides
There are just people who oppress
And people who are oppressed
And in that second group, you have me
I am the resistant oppressed
I fight against the status quo
I fight for those who can’t
I live with them, but I am not them
They do not wish for me to lose
But they wish for me not to try
The oppression is bad, but it is stable
We slave for our enemy, but we survive
It could always be worse, and the rebellion risks that
The rebellion worries the oppressed
For if things are this bad without the resistance
How bad will they get if the enemy finds out about me?
What will they do to me once they know?
More importantly, what will they do to the other oppressed?
Am I saving them by rebelling?
Or am I just putting them in more danger?
Am I really fighting an enemy?
Or have I already lost?

Monday, December 28, 2020

Microstory 1526: Ode to Big Papa

Oh, Big Papa, you are the largest artificial structure
In the galaxy
Perhaps even the whole universe
You make the sun look like lightbulb
You make mountains look like grains of sand
You make me invisible
You were built for no purpose
But to be the largest
Quadrillions upon quadrillions of people
They could all live in your network
With room to spare
But they don’t
They don’t even exist
So why were you made?
I say that it doesn’t matter
You are large and imposing
You are beautiful and incredible
No one could match your awesome power
Your weapons are extraneous
The gravitational pull alone is enough
Enough to destroy any would-be attacker
If it is power you seek
You shall find it
If it is grace, it will be given to you
If you simply want to be seen
Know that we see you
We trust in your greatness
And weep, in awe of your potential
Oh, Big Papa, hear me
You can do or have whatever you want
Just command me
Command me, Big Papa
And we will demonstrate your wrath to the cosmos

Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Wednesday, July 20, 2135

The other eight Cassidy cuffs were waiting for Mateo and Leona when they returned to the timeline on July 20, 2135. They were on Earth, having taken up residence in what The Parallel natives referred to as a mobile home. They didn’t have the normal kind of mobile homes from the main sequence. Poverty did not exist in this reality, but efficient living did. Their mobile home was small, but highly advanced, and equipped with everything they needed to live happily and comfortably. It was a cylinder about five meters wide, and seven meters tall, which was just small enough to fit inside a standard Nexus. Unlike the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the mobile home had eight beds, but they were each smaller, and they were up against the circular wall, so it was impractical and uncomfortable for Mateo and Leona to share. Still, they were grateful to the natives for giving it to them, and it was more than they expected.
Like last year, there was a message waiting for them on their Cassidy cuffs. It was a hologram of Nerakali. “Surprisingly, I was given the opportunity to meet with the version of Jupiter Fury who picked you for his mission. He didn’t die so much as he retired. Apparently, he has other things to do with his life, and he’s pleased with his replacement. He’s talking about me. Someone is actually happy that I’m involved. Who would have thought I would end up like this? A seer I encountered once, that’s who. I didn’t believe her at the time. Anyway, I’ve been curating the list of transitionees, using what he had in there before, adding who I felt was necessary, and accounting for changes to the main sequence timeline. I left you the extra cuffs in case you ever need them. If anyone needs to make a time jump with you, they won’t be able to do it with the AOC. It’s on its way, but it won’t be here for another couple decades. The reason Jupiter always had each member of the team wear two cuffs was because that allowed them to be locked. You couldn’t take them off, or control all of their functions. That’s no longer necessary, so use the extras at your leisure.
The next transition window will be happening today, but there’s no specific time for it. Just get to the ingress point whenever you feel like it, and greet them. You will be pleased with who I’ve chosen, I’m sure of it. You can give all of them cuffs, or part of them, or just one of them, or even none. I’ll let you decide that amongst yourselves. This new team can be as permanent or as ephemeral as you would like. If you later choose to disband the team altogether, that’s okay. No one’s forcing you to do this anymore. If you do select others for the team, you’ll be able to share time powers, but like I was saying, you can remove the cuffs whenever you want without permission, or a special tool. All right, that’s all I got for ya. Be careful.
“Who do you think she has in mind for the new team?” Leona asked.
“I think it will be less new than she made it sound.”
“You think we’re getting our dead friends back? That seemed like an insurmountable obstacle. Jupiter was the one who took over that mission, and it’s probably the reason why he retired.” She used airquotes. “Something happened that we don’t know about. I can’t imagine it turned out well.”
“Let’s just go see. There’s no time limit, but I’m too excited to wait.”
Leona linked one of the cuffs with the mobile home, and let the teleporter spirit them away to the location of the next transition window, at a lovely waterfall. The cuffs beeped upon their arrival, and opened the window. Mateo turned out to have been right. Jeremy, Sanaa, and Angela spilled out of it, along with another young woman they didn’t know. After some hugs and tearful greetings, they explained how they had gotten out of Tamerlane Pryce’s afterlife simulation. Evidently, Jupiter’s rescue team never truly succeeded in their mission. Pryce was too powerful, and too well-protected. They did, however, manage to give him so big of a headache that he finally just gave in, and released all their friends. They were resurrected at the end of last year, and while some parted ways, the three of them had been waiting here for Leona and Mateo’s return. The whole time during the story, Mateo assumed this other woman was another dead person who just got caught up in all this. When he asked for an introduction, they balked.
“Who are you talking about?” Jeremy asked.
“This woman right here,” Mateo said, pointing to the stranger.
“Oh, they can’t see me,” the stranger explained.
“You’re invisible?” Mateo questioned.
“Who’s invisible?” Sanaa asked
“Actually, she’s a telepath,” the stranger said. “She can kind of communicate with me, as long as someone else helps her through it.”
“What is going on?” Mateo pressed.
“Honey, we don’t know what’s happening,” Leona tried to comfort him. “Are you seeing things?”
“Just separate yourself from the group, so we can talk,” the woman began. “It’ll make it a lot easier.”
“Yes, I’m seeing things. I have to be alone for a minute.” He walked off with the woman, but kept his eye on the people behind him. They watched him go for a moment, and then went back to their conversation, apparently no longer concerned that Mateo was going crazy.
She sighed. “My name is Aeolia Sarai. I suffer from a time condition. I’m not invisible. It’s just that time makes people forget about me so quickly that they don’t even remember they’re looking at me right now.”
Mateo looked to the ground as the recalled something from the past. “Retgone coins.”
“That’s right!” Aeolia exclaimed. “The retgone coins and I were created at the same time. I was taking them to the bank when a portal opened up, and made all this happen. It was just a freak accident.”
“Why can I remember you, and no one else does.”
She shook her head. “I’ve only met two other people who could fully remember me. One of them was already exactly like me, and the other quickly became like me too. But he could see me before that, because his time power is that he remembers things others don’t.”
“Oh,” Mateo said. He looked down at his Cassidy cuff. “My friend, Nerakali. She can also manipulate memories. I’m channeling her power right now. My wife can do that too, but it probably doesn’t occur to her as easily.”
“So this Nerakali would be able to see me?” Aeolia asked.
“I imagine, yeah. Tertius Valerius should as well.”
“Wow. Four new people, just like that. You have no idea what it’s like, only having Kallias to speak to.”
“Oh, Kallias Bran?” Now it made sense. Multiple times now, Mateo had brought up Kallias Bran, and no one seemed to know who that was, even when they should. The coin erased his past and future. “Yeah, he had that memory thing, I remember that.”
“Oh, this is so exciting. Can I meet your friends? I mean the other memory people?”
Mateo considered it for a moment. “That shouldn’t be necessary. I don’t know where Tertius is, I’ve never actually met him. But Nerakali is wearing the primary cuff, which means anyone else wearing a cuff can share her power, including those people you came through the transition window with. We have extras, and if they agree to join our team, you should be able to talk to them. Hell, we may not even need Nerakali if you yourself wears one of the cuffs.”
“Could we try that?” Aeolia looked like a newborn baby, who could already speak English, but had no other life experiences yet.
Mateo reached into his back pocket, where he happened to be storing one of the cuffs. He pulled it out triumphantly. “Boom!”
She smiled, and presented him with her wrist. He carefully placed it on her, and looked over to the rest of their friends. Leona was chatting inaudibly when she suddenly perked up, and looked over to Mateo and Aeolia.
She hustled over there. “I remember you. Why are we the only ones?”
Aeolia started to go over her story again when Mateo stopped her. “You’re just going to have to say it all again. Let’s get a cuff on everybody, and then you only have to do this once.”
“They may not want the cuffs,” Leona warned him. This was true. The group was all back together. It wasn’t the team they started with, but everyone here belonged. Mateo and Leona did not yet know, however, whether the others would want to continue Jupiter’s mission. They had a choice now where they didn’t before.
“Then they’ll be able to take them off later. Let us make introductions, and then we’ll give them the option to stick around.”
Leona ran off to retrieve the rest of the cuffs from the mobile home while Mateo escorted Aeolia back to the group.
“You’re having some kind of psychic conversation with someone,” Sanaa accused him. “I can feel it, but I can’t hear it.”
“You will, as soon as you rejoin the circle of trust.” Mateo stuck his fist into the center of the circle, like a sportsball player waiting to recite a huddle chant with his teammates.
“I don’t know that I want that,” Sanaa said, actually a little frightened of being judged for her decision.
“No one will force you to stay,” he assured her. “Put it on now, and you’ll see who I’m in communication with. If you don’t want to make the time jumps with us, you won’t have to. It’s not like it was before.”
When Leona came back, they each grabbed a cuff from the bin, and put them on their wrists. Even Angela didn’t hesitate, even though she had never been part of this before.
“Oh, weird,” Jeremy mused. “I can feel myself getting my memory back.”
“It usually hurts,” Sanaa’s alter ego, Debbie Downer complained. Apparently she had had her brain blended at some point.
Now Aeolia was able to explain where she had come from, and how she had lost her memories, giving more detailed information this time than she had with Mateo. She was actually from an alternate version of the Parallel, one which was not all that different than the main sequence. She met Bran and his friends, and though he was the only one who could remember her, there was a bit of a very dangerous loophole. She could control people. All she had to do was tell them to do something, and they would, without having any clue as to why. It was like the angel or devil on someone’s shoulder, whispering commands to them. Aeolia admitted to using it once or twice, but only ever to help people.
“Where’s Bran now?” Leona asked her.
“He stayed in the main sequence,” Aeolia explained. “We flipped a coin—a regular coin—and he lost, so I risked my life tagging along with you guys while he stayed behind, so we wouldn’t both be killed.”
“Well, no one’s getting killed,” Jeremy promised her. “We just need to discuss how we’re going to proceed. I, for one, am excited to get back to my life. I missed being on the mission while I was dead. Aeolia, I welcome you to stay with us, and invite your friend to come too, if there’s any way to get him here.”
“I can send a message to Nerakali,” Leona told him. She looked to Aeolia. “It’s up to you. I suppose you could stick with us just to have someone to hang out with, but you’re not obligated to help with the work.”
“No, I’ll help—we’ll help. We’ve been looking for purpose. We’ve helped out a few times here and there, but this will be a nice change of pace.”
“Sanaa?” Mateo prompted.
She took her sweet-ass time responding. “Ugh, Fine! If you really need me, how can I rightfully withhold my splendor from you?”
“It really is your choice,” Leona promised. “We won’t judge if you wanna leave.”
“Eh, my grandmother is still working as The Caster in this time period. I don’t want to interfere with her reign. And I don’t really care for this reality, so I might as well just do this.”
Now they all looked at Angela. “I don’t have anywhere else to go. I was dead for a hell of a lot longer than I was alive. I’ll stick around as well...for now. You did break me out of prison.”
“That came with no conditions,” Leona said.
Jeremy nodded in agreeance.
“I know,” Angela said. “I want to stay.”
“Cool, then it’s decided,” Mateo said. He checked his cuff. “We don’t have any more assignments today, so let’s get everybody settled into our new home. It’s not a spaceship, but it can survive in the vacuum. It can also teleport, and even drive on a road, if need be.”
“Great.” Sanaa took off towards the mobile home. “It better be able to play RPS-101 Plus.”
Mateo and Leona gave each other a knowing look. “Oh. It can.”

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Pryce of Heaven: Crisis Averted (Part IV)

Missy and Tetra are able to watch Téa and the many, many versions of Jupiter Fury rampage through the afterlife simulation, like it’s a movie. Even though none of this stuff is real, it does take code to generate. Every time they crash a car into a hotel lobby, or dump a literal ton of sugar into a swimming pool, it alters the code, and the system can detect that. These changes are happening all the time, because people are driving around, and they’re adding sugar to their tea, but the wackier these code changes there are, and the more they happen in succession, the more likely it is that the system will flag it as aberrant. In many simulation worlds, the laws of physics are different, and they’re specifically being used to simulate conditions that could not possibly exist in the real world. They allow users to journey to the center of a star, or have two sets of vocal cords. The main simulation, however, is modeled after the true laws of physics. They too can be changed, as long as you’re at the right level, but unfortunately, none of the Jupiters has these privileges.
Precisely because there are so many of them, Tamerlane Pryce deliberately capped all of them at Level 7 Elite. Still, this allows them to make unlimited requests for whatever they want, however absurd, as long as they follow that particular world’s restrictions. So when one Jupiter asked for one thousand airplanes that are all flying towards a single point simultaneously, they figured Pryce would take notice. He didn’t. One Jupiter requested a tank four times the size of a normal one, while a different Jupiter asked for a one alpaca that bites people incessantly, and another that bites the first one, but Pryce still did not come. The requests just kept being crazier and crazier, or more to the point, more intrusive to the harmony of the main simulation. But nothing works, until December 14, 2134 gets the bright idea to ask for a few fairly simple things. “Can I get a coke? No, a water. No, a lamp. No, a cat. Can I get a spaceship? No, one huge Junior Mint. No, a coke.” It works. Pryce finally shows up.
“Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! You said the magic words.”
“That was all it took?” December 14, 2134 asks.
“I assume you know it’s a reference,” Pryce says. “Anyone who asks for those specific things, in that specific order, and does so unironically, is awarded audience with me. So. What would you like to discuss?”

“There!” Missy declares. “Pryce is definitely in the simulation, and distracted by the Jupiters. Téa is back in full lurker mode. Hopefully Pryce can’t see her either.”
Great,” the still living version of Jupiter says. “This doesn’t mean there aren’t other defenses, but now you should be able to get to the brain. That’s where it’s possible to control the whole body, I know it.
“That’s what I was thinking too,” Missy agrees. “I don’t really know Hogarth Pudeyonavic, but that’s what makes the most sense.”
“Can we survive there?” Tetra asks. “You said some parts are completely uninhabitable.”
“That’s true,” Missy confirms, “but Pryce is still an organic human. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about him, it’s that he doesn’t wanna be a mech. He needs to be able to control the matrioshka body, so wherever exactly that is, it has to be habitable.”
“Still, we need a way to actually get up there from the ass,” Tetra reminds her.
“I’ve been multitasking,” Missy tells her. “I know enough about the section we’re in. They installed teleporter pads at strategic locations. We’ll have to make a few jumps up the torso, but it will get us to the brain eventually.”
I hope Téa and my duplicates can distract Pryce for that long,” Jupiter muses.

“We’re tired of living in the simulation,” December 14, 2134 tells Pryce.
“Okay, cool,” Pryce says. “I’ll just delete your code. Give me a second...” He starts tapping on his virtual tablet.
“No. We want to be promoted to Level 11.”
Pryce chuckles. “Why would I do that?”
“Because I asked?”
“I like to be unpredictable, and giving you what you desire simply because you asked is certainly something I would do, just to keep people from tracking a pattern to my decisions. But I’m not going to do it. And here’s why. Her.” He gestures towards Téa.
Téa thought she was invisible, but maybe not to him.
“Her who?” December 14, 2134 questions. He’s not just being protective of her. He legitimately can’t see her himself anymore.
Pryce reaches above Téa’s head, and simulates pulling down a zipper, which serves to take Téa out of lurker mode, and exposes her to the rest of the simulation. “Her.”
“What are you going to do to me?”
“Do to you?” Pryce asks, offended. “I’m not going to do anything to you. You are my honored guest; the first I’ve ever had. No one’s ever been able to hack my simulation before, mostly because they don’t know it exists. And there’s something you have to understand about that, I have no control over the living. I am Hades, relegated to the afterlife. Even though you’re in here, you’re still alive, and I can’t touch you. Your friends, who are still outside the simulation, in their bodies? I can’t stop them from doing whatever they want either. The Glisnians and I made an arrangement. I’m allowed to use their processors to run my simulation. I don’t have control over the whole thing, though. I never have. You people make a lot of assumptions.”
“The Glisnians are still here?”
“Of course! You think I stole it from them? How would I have accomplished that?”

“That’s far enough.” A woman was waiting for them in the teleporter room. They were now at the shoulder of the matrioshka body, but it took some time to get there.
“We’re not here to hurt anybody,” Tetra assures her. “We can free you, though. We can take Pryce out of power.”
“You believe that Tamerlane Pryce is in power here,” the woman gathers.
“He’s not?” Tetra asks.
“Far from it,” she begins. “We allot him processing power, but his simulation is but a small part of what we do here.”
“What do you do here?”
“Don’t be rude,” Missy whispers. “First of all, let us do introductions. I am Melissa Atterberry. This is my associate, Tetra Turner, and this is our other associate, Téa Stendahl. Her consciousness is presently in the simulation.”
“I am Avalhana. I am responsible for communing with non-Glisnian vonearthans. I must ask, are you choosing ones?”
“The two of us are,” Tetra replies. “She is what we call a salmon. It’s—”
Avalhana waves her words away. “We are aware of what it means. To answer your question, we experiment with time here. That is why we are so close to Sagittarius A*. You appear to be manipulating the speed of time on your own.”
“I’m doing that,” Missy clarifies.
“Fascinating. Which is why I should stop speaking to you. As choosing ones, you are obligated to instead speak with my associate, the Afflicted Ambassador.”
“Very well,” Tetra says tentatively.
“Please step off of the pad, so that we may bring her to our location.”
As soon as they step away, the pad activates. Hogarth Pudeyonavic herself appears before them. She looks around. “Are we in standard realtime now?”
“You are inside my bubble,” Missy confirms.
“Excellent,” Hogarth says. “I’ve always found it uncomfortable, being in the black hole, watching the rest of the galaxy move on without us.”
Avalhana unceremoniously leaves the room, but once she crosses out of Missy’s bubble, they watch her going at a normal rate. This means that she’s actually traveling at an incredibly high speed, which is highly incredible.
“What year is it?” Hogarth asks.
“Twenty-one thirty-four,” Missy answers.
“What brings you here?”
“We have friends in the simulation,” Tetra says.
“Which one?”
“Multiple ones,” Missy explains. “Sanaa Karimi, Ellie Underhill, one Angela Walton, Jeremy Bearimy, and a Lowell Benton. We think he’s been shelved, though.”
“No, I don’t mean which friends; which simulation?”
“The afterlife sim,” Tetra elucidates. “If that’s not specific enough either, it’s the one that Tamerlane Pryce is running.”
Hogarth nods. “I see. You want them resurrected.”
“We do.”
“That is not the agreement we have with him,” Hogarth explains. “He can do whatever he wants with it. No one is entitled to resurrection.”
“You don’t have to break your agreement,” Missy promises her. “We’ll rescue them, and leave you out of it.”
“That will not be necessary.” Téa is awake. She rubs all over her face, like she’s showering. Then she stands up, careful to not let the VR cap fall from her head. “I will release your friends.”
You will?” Tetra is confused.
“Forgive me. My name is Tamerlane Pryce. I am borrowing your friend’s body. Don’t worry, she consented. I needed to speak with you, and my own body is thousands of light years from here.”
“It is? Where?”
“You don’t need to know that,” Pryce replies. “The point is that this is my only option. If I resurrect a few people, I avoid a terrible, terrible outcome; a crisis, you might call it. I’m willing to part with them to save the whole simulation. It’s very important to me.”
“How do you know about this supposed crisis?” Missy presses.
“I ran a simulation. If I push back, you push back harder, and a lot of people get hurt. I don’t want that, because then you’ll never know that I’m not evil. I’m sick of people thinking that about me. I saved tens of billions of lives. Me! I did that! I did that alone! Stop treating me like the villain!” He takes a deep breath, and composes himself. “Sorry. It’s just been very difficult lately. You and your friends are more trouble than you’re worth. They murdered a prisoner, let another escape, and they keep changing my precious code. So I will take you to The Cervix, and we will be done with this.”
“Um. The Cervix?”
“That’s where he creates people’s clones,” Hogarth decides to explain. “It’s a symbolic gesture, which we conceded, because...I don’t really remember why. I guess I just didn’t want to argue.”
“Babies aren’t made in the cervix,” Tetra argues.
“Well, I didn’t design the matrioshka body with a womb structure, so this is the closest thing. There’s no vagina either, but that’s what he calls the Earth Nexus, which is where the resurrected come out.”
They all look at Pryce. “Oh, don’t judge me. Most partial organics here live in the breast sections; because they need nourishment. I’m not the only one respecting the symbology of shape.”
Hogarth chooses to move on. “The Cervix is no longer linked to the matrioshka body, and is located far enough away from A* that it doesn’t experience time dilation. You’ll be able to drop your bubble.”
“This seems too easy,” Tetra notes. “We’ve been through a lot to get here, and our predecessors went through more before we were even brought in. There’s something you’re not telling us.”
“There’s a lot I’m not telling you,” Pryce admits. “But it’s nothing you need to know, and you don’t have to worry. You’re getting your friends back, and there’s no secret motivation behind this. There is no conspiracy, just take the win.”
“That’s exactly what someone behind a conspiracy would say,” Missy contends.
“It’s also what someone who isn’t would say,” Pryce snaps back. “If I’m lying you’ll suffer, but if I’m telling you the truth, you have ten seconds to accept it, or you’ll really suffer. So again, take the win, and let me go back to work. This has taken up too much of my life already. I just want it to be over.”
Tetra sighs. “We’ll take it. How do we get there?”
“We have a Nexus too,” Hogarth answers.
At that, Téa’s body falls to the floor. She wakes up five seconds later as Missy and Tetra are holding her in their arms. “It’s me. I’m back.”
“Did he hurt you?” Tetra asks her.
“No, everything’s fine. I’m fine. I saw our friends, including Lowell. He was shelved, but Pryce let him out. He’ll be coming back with the rest.”
“I don’t like this.” Missy shakes her head slowly. “I don’t trust him.”
“It’s our only choice,” Téa says. “We have to assume we’re getting what he promised. Take it one step at a time. Trust, but verify.”
Hogarth sets them back on the teleporter pad, and continues the series of long-range jumps, until they’re all the way at the neck, which is where the Nexus is located. They take that to the Cervix, where all their friends have already been placed in clone bodies. It’s a pretty quick turnaround, but they decide to accept that as truth as well.
Missy, Tetra, Jeremy, Sanaa, and Angela step back into the Nexus, and prepare to return to Earth, but the other three stay outside. “I can’t go with you,” Téa tells them. I have to get back to Tribulation Island in The Parallel. That’s where I’m meant to be.”
“How are you going to get there?”
I’m on my way,” Jupiter tells them through the Cassidy cuffs. “I will make sure she gets where she’s goin’.
“Ellie, are you going with her?”
“No,” Ellie responds. “I’m going to the matrioshka body. The simulation is mine, and I’m ready to take ownership of it.”
“I’ll go with her,” Lowell reveals, “and help. I don’t have my powers anymore. As far as I know, you are all sin-free. I need to do something positive with my life now.”
“I would love the company,” Ellie tells him with a polite nod.
“I’ll wait with Téa,” Missy decides, stepping out of the Nexus. “She shouldn’t have to be alone, and I feel like I’m supposed to be on Tribulation Island too.”
“Then I guess I’ll have to thank you now,” Sanaa says to her. “Which I did, and it’s done, and now we can go. Boot it up, baby!”
“No hug?” Missy asks.
“No hug,” Sanaa says. “I just don’t ever wanna see your face ever again.”
“I’ve been told that can be arranged,” Missy agrees.
They say their thank yous and goodbyes, and then the Earth-bounders leave, hoping to find their friends, or at least wherever they belong.
Ellie and Lowell then step back in, and prepare to return to the matrioshka body, but now outside of the afterlife simulation. “Should we formulate a plan?” Lowell asks.
“I’ve never found that necessary,” Ellie answers him with an evil smile.
They disappear.
“Welp,” Missy says. “According to my calculations, Jupiter is about sixteen thousand light years from us at the moment. If he flies here with the reframe engine at full speed, it will take him around twenty-two years to arrive.”
“I’m gonna be kind of old,” Téa points out.
“Fortunately, I can help with that. My bubbles can slow down time as well as speed it up.”
“Okay,” Téa nods in understanding. Go ahead and do it.”
Missy grins. “I already have.”
Just then, Jupiter opens the door from the outside, and hangs onto the handle. “Y’all need a ride?”

Friday, December 25, 2020

Microstory 1525: The Best Luck is Not Luck at all, But Skill and Understanding

I have the best luck
Except that it’s not luck at all
I can control reality
Rather, I can control my own reality
Nothing can hurt me if I don’t want it to
There is always a chance to escape danger
Or at least that has been my experience
If there is a chance of anything, I can exploit that
I can rig the chances so they fall in my favor
The greater the chance, the easier it is
But the difficult ones are still possible
nd I’m one of the best at finding those preferable outcomes
Put me in any bad situation
I will find a way out of it
Even if it’s crazy, like a fall from a skyscraper
Even if no one else could have thought of it
Because that’s the trick that they don’t know
I don’t have to come up with the best way to alter reality
I just have to decide on my outcome
I look to the future, seeking out what I want
I send my thoughts to that eventuality
And the path I take there opens up on its own
You see, everyone else makes it really hard on themselves
They concentrate too hard, and it keeps them from succeeding
They want to control every little detail about the world around them
But you don’t have to do that
Just surrender to the world
Let it help you find your way
Live this regulated life as you would an unregulated one
Be present in the best reality, which already exists
Don’t try to create it yourself
That is the only way to survive as one of us
Or rather, it’s the only way to be truly happy

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Microstory 1524: What Else Do We Have to Learn?

I never knew there was this much life on this world
I couldn’t see it all, from my little corner
These tiny islands, so rich with history
But it has all been kept from us, and us from them

The dwarves; sturdy and strong
They were built to build, and to dig for what they need
The elves; tallest and slenderest
Made to run and fight, but they are peaceful
The sea children; they are different
No one seems to know where they come from
The vampires here are different too
Having never tasted human blood; they know not what they’re missing

They were all sent her so long ago
Our world is completely foreign to them
They have never even seen the standing wolves
They do not understand a skyscraper, nor a car
Nor the electrical devices, nor even paved roads
They can learn so much from us
But we can learn from them as well
They can teach us what we have forgotten
They can remind us who we once were
Armed with that knowledge, we can move forward
And become better people; a better peoples
Because the real question has not yet been asked
If we did not even know they existed
And they were just right next door
What else is out there?
And what else do we have to learn?

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Microstory 1523: When You Go Back to Change the Past, There Are Now Two

There are two of us
There must only be one
Well, that is not entirely true
Two may exist, but one must leave
Only one can lead our life
And this is not only because it would otherwise expose us
There should only be one life per life

We have a number of options
One of us can go live on a new world
Or in a new time
Or a new space
He could live closer, of course, perhaps on the outskirts
But he would have to be very careful
Careful not to interfere
Or damage our reputation
He would need a new identity

He can also die
Sacrifice himself so the other may live free
His mind would be gone
His thoughts
His hopes
But he could die knowing that the other lived
This sounds like a bad option, but it has been done before

The most common outcome is assimilation
The two could become one
The minds melded together so they are no longer independent
One body, the other disposed of
Both will exist, but also neither
A third individual will rise, and take our place
This can also sound scary
But it has been done as well
You always think your mind will be the one to win out
That you will continue, no matter what
But the truth is that even people like us don’t know

We don’t know the answers to these philosophical questions
What is identity? How do you define it?
All I know is that I don’t want to die, or leave, or be assimilated
I want to be the one to continue in this life
He can be the one to leave
I must find a way to make him

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Microstory 1522: You Have No Idea What It’s Like to See What I See

You have no idea what it’s like to see what I see
To know what others have done, to feel their pain
To feel the pain that they have inflicted upon others
They call me a psychopath, but I can’t imagine any other way
I can’t imagine anyone else would be any different than me
Did I have to become a killer? Who can say?
I certainly could have used my gifts to help people directly
To free them from the evil, and show them out of the darkness
But there are plenty of people in the rescue business
And they don’t have my curse; they don’t see what I see

Some need to be punished, for they are too far beyond redemption
The court system, I know will fail us, if it hasn’t already
Not everyone who is guilty is caught, and I know that better than anyone
And what is a crime anyway? How do you define it, and what doesn’t count?
I see a lot of twisted histories from my victims
Not all of them were criminals, at least not in any official way
But that is how the legal system fails us on a general level
You can only convict for a particular crime, and only with proof
I have no proof, but that does not mean I don’t see what I see
I can see the whole person; who they are completely, and not just in one instance

I see the worst thing they have ever done
And if I look again, I see the second worst thing
If I look at them enough, I start to see the picture of their life as time paints it
I start to know them entirely, and they are criminals because of it
One little thing here, and another minor thing there
None of it seems too bad if you only know about a few of them
But most people are pretty despicable when you total their lives
I am the totaler, and therefore, the judge, for I could tell no one else
And even if I did, they would not be able to do anything with what they know
I can—I can act upon my knowledge, and I must

I am the only one who can exterminate the disease of humanity

Monday, December 21, 2020

Microstory 1521: Three Empty Raps

I’ve been beaten and battered
Tattered and torn
Sent to the afterlife where it’s never warm
Tortured and cheated
Teased and transformed
Walked with dark demons and weathered large storms
I’ve multiplied, amplified, horrified, glorified
Stolen from, called a bum
Raced to the top and fallen back down
Told I’d be shot if I made a sound
And what was it for? Tell me, what was it all for? 
I'll never know, never
My life is no more

If you fell into a well
Ring a bell
Use your cell
But don’t dwell in hell
Or yell
I can tell
What you smell is not gel
That you can rub on a shell
Which will swell and rise up your eyes
To the skies
With the flies
As God cries for you guys
And then dies
With her head between her thighs
As you become wise
Win a prize
For your large pies
Filled with fries

‘Cause I’m blind like Fisher; drive your car around the block
Class like Bernthal before he learned to walk
Fat like Pratt..before he GOT G
And Alison’s alibi before she found Community

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Monday, July 19, 2134

They didn’t have time to process the letter Hua managed to get to them before their Cassidy cuffs began to beep. It was not a new transition location, though. An icon of an envelope was bouncing in the corner, indicating that they had a message. Leona tapped on hers, which released a full-sized holographic image of Jupiter Fury. “Dear Mateo and Leona, I left this message for you in the case of my death, or extreme temporal absence. I am a time traveler, which means even if I become preoccupied with something, I should be able to go back to the right time period, and coordinate assignments. If you’re watching this, it likely means my death, because I would have little other reason to not return at some point, and help you carry out your mission. I’ve set contingencies on these cuffs. Should they lose their connections to me for a given period of time, they were programmed to transition you back to The Parallel, where you will have a choice.
This reality provides you the best chances you’ll have at finding happiness. The powers that be cannot get you here. Tamerlane Pryce cannot get you here. Technology is millennia beyond anything we have in the main sequence. You can finally be free to live your own lives, and make your own choices. As you know, you are capable of removing your cuffs at will, or reprogramming them for other purposes. Leona, I’m sure you’ll think of something. You may instead choose to continue the mission. If you do, the cuffs can give you a list of the people I intended to help, and when they need that help. I make no judgments about which you choose. I’m dead afterall, and I probably shouldn’t have compelled you to wear the cuffs in the first place. Finally, if you are continuing, you will need something else, for it’s something that the cuffs alone will not be able to handle.” At this point, Jupiter’s hologram lifted his hand, and snapped his fingers. Two tiny SIM card-like slots popped out their cuffs; one on each. Inside of Mateo’s was a few drops of blood. Inside of Leona’s was what appeared to be a small shard of metal.
This is my blood. It is poured out for you, and with it, we make a new agreement. This is the tip of the Sword of Assimilation. Eat these as a way of absorbing my temporal powers. This will allow you to transition to and from the Parallel at will, and help the people from the list. You can add to this list, or make a new one, if that’s your thing. Or, I suppose, you can absorb my powers, and just go take over the world, or whatever. That’s something I’ve always been able to do, and I doubt you would be any more interested in it than me, but again, I don’t judge. I apologize for how we met, and how I approached the mission. I should have tried to recruit you. That would have made it a lot easier on everyone. Thank you for showing me that.” The hologram disappeared.
They stood there in silence for a few moments.
“You wanna vote?” Mateo finally asked.
“We’re not like the other salmon,” Leona began. “Rather, you’re not; I’m not salmon. But one thing I’ve noticed about our lives is that we don’t receive assignments, or mandates. Responsibility presents itself to us. At first, all we needed to do was learn the ropes. Then Reaver showed up, and we were asked to capture him. Boyce gave us the Tribulations, at the behest of Zeferino. Then Arcadia showed up in retaliation, and while you were suffering the consequences of your defiance, I was retrieving Étude, stopping Ulinthra, and getting you back. After that, we just kept ending up on other planets, with various tasks to complete on them, under little sense of formality. No one has been sitting around, thinking of things for us to do, but they do keep needing us just the same. Jupiter asked for our help—in a very unfair manner, but we would have helped either way, because that’s what we do. It’s...our calling. I don’t think we need to vote, Mateo. There’s only one option.”
“I’m lookin’ at this list.” He was scrolling through his cuff. “This isn’t just our assignments; it’s all of them, for these mysterious other teams that we don’t know anything about. He’s not asking us to transition people back and forth. He’s asking us to coordinate all the transitions. I don’t know how our pattern lets us do that.”
“Jupiter never had to be present for the transition windows,” she said. “He somehow set them up ahead of time, and directed his teams towards them. If one of us absorbs his powers, we’ll do the same.”
“If that’s the case, why didn’t he just set them all up? How does his supposed death even affect this?”
She had started looking through the list as well, but with a more critical eye. “There’s a limit. He can only predict so far in the future. Every time someone transitions, it changes the timeline, and each one runs the risk of impacting the next one. You’re just looking at the current list, but we can also see the revision history. Some people were removed, presumably because their transitions were no longer necessary. Likewise, new ones have been added that weren’t necessary before. This guy here? He was supposed to transition in 2103, but he was moved back to 2107, at a different location.”
“We’re on our original pattern now,” he reminded her, “because that’s how Pryce wanted it. Those changes are going to be even more complicated to follow for us. We can’t do this. I am all for continuing the mission as he wanted, but...we’re terrible candidates to replace him. We could never be promoted, not in these bodies. We’re just not cut out for management.”
Leona sighed, somehow letting more air out than she took in. “You’re right. I know you’re right. I don’t know why he chose us.”
“He chose us, because he trusts us. We still don’t know who these other teams are, but maybe none of them could handle it either. We’re just the best out of a roster of bad candidates.”
“Right.” Leona was in the middle of finding an idea. “That’s right. We’re all bad candidates.”
“Yeah, what are we gonna do with that?”
She smiled with her lips, but not her eyes, like a sad clown, but she wasn’t really upset. “We just need to expand the labor pool.”
“Who did you have in mind?” he asked.
Leona was smiling at her cuff, but this time with her eyes, and not her lips. “How about the transitionee from July 19, 2134.”
After realizing she wasn’t just going to say the name out loud, Mateo scrolled back up on his own cuff to hunt for the right date. “Huh. I’ve never believed in fate.”
“Why would you? You’re a time traveler. I have to admit, though, it’s quite fitting.”
“Do you think she’ll go for it?”
“Well, we don’t know who she is. What has she gone through? How many times has she died at this point? Are we even friends?”
“I’d like to think we were always friends,” Mateo decided.
Leona laughed. “Well, we better get back to Earth to find out. She’s supposed to come through soon. Everyone below her on this list is grayed out, which suggests that she was the last transition he prepared for before losing his connection. If we don’t get this blood, and this shard, into someone, we’ll start losing people. Then it really will have to be one of us, because I can’t think of anyone living in the Parallel who could take up the mantle.”
They took the Nexus back to Earth, and a short-range transporter to Belle Fourche, South Dakota. They arrived just in time to witness the transition window open up, defenestrate their candidate, and close back up again. She looked around, unimpressed. “Who dares summon me?” she said in a vocal fry. “Bwahaha.”
“What is the last thing you remember about us?” Leona asked her.
“This is 2134 still?” Nerakali inquired.
“And is this...your original 2134, err...?”
“This is our second time around,” Leona confirmed.
“Okay, great. That’s perfect. The last time I saw you was the last time you saw me. We are simpatico.”
“Do you mean that we’re all friends, or is that a time travel term?”
“I dunno, maybe bolth?”
“That sounds like a reference.”
“Kinda. But yes, we’re friends, and because our respective personal timelines have no inconsistencies, we are considered simpatico.”
“That’s nice,” Leona said. “And it’s helpful. Because we would like to interview you for a new position.”
Nerakali was intrigued. “You’re hiring?”
“We developed an understanding with Jupiter. We don’t know what happened to  him, but he can no longer perform his duties.” She removed the shard from her cuff, and then reached out silently so Mateo could hand her the blood from his. “These will give you his powers, so you can do what he did.”
Nerakali took the slides to examine them closely. She chuckled. “I once asked Anatol what happened to the tip of his sword. He said he lost it in a game of Rummikub. Now I know who won.”
“As I recall,” Leona said, “the tip was there when you died. That thing killed you.”
Nerakali grinned kindly. “And now it’s going to give me purpose.”
“So, you’ll do it?” Mateo was hopeful, and ready to be grateful.
“I can’t say no to you two.” She reached out, and took them in a bear hug. “Oh, I missed you so much. Do we have time to catch up? I don’t know what this is gonna do to me, so I would rather we conversate prior to it.”
“I think that can be arranged,” Leona told her. “Pick a star, any star. We’ll find the closest restaurant, and do brunch.”
“Okay. Then you can tell me exactly where we are, and how there are restaurants on other planets.”
Nerakali said that she wanted to eat as far away from Earth as possible, while still being in the Milky Way Galaxy. The Nexus technician knew exactly where that was. They went to a world called Extremus, which both Leona and Nerakali thought they had heard of before. They ate, and they drank, and they were merry. They told her about their adventures with the team, helping people coming through the transition windows, and not always sending them back. They brought up The Transit, which conscripted fighters for some great war. Surprisingly, Nerakali had never heard of it, but she was interested in meeting the people who operated it. They had a lovely time together, and at the end of the night, she consumed the blood and metal, and became one of the most powerful people in the galaxy. Then she disappeared to start her first day on the job.