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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Dardius: Vitalie Crawville (Part IV)

When it came to the question of home, Vitalie Crawville didn’t really know what that meant. She was born on a rogue planet called Durus in 2165, but her fathers were from Earth, and were only there as refugees. Fortunately, before too long, a small interstellar spaceship came by, and rescued a small number of people, which included her and her family. So she finally lived on Earth for a good stretch of time, until circumstances forced her to leave. She had to help a friend named Leona in her search for a husband she couldn’t even truly remember having. The journey took them throughout a few other universes in the bulkverse as they worked to procure special objects that would aid them in their quest. Once that was all over, she found herself on another ship, destined for a planet called Bungula. She never did make it there, but instead landed on its neighbor, Proxima Doma. The situation continued to evolve, and events continued to unfold—an alternate version of herself came back through time to change history—and she finally found herself on a planet millions of light years from Earth, and its stellar neighborhood. So where was home? Not really anywhere, and that was probably okay.
She came to this place with her friend, Étude, who had also been doubled due to time travel. They could have returned home at any time, but they chose not to, for Étude soon met a man, and fell in love. And soon after that, they conceived a child together. This new life changed Étude’s perspective on everything, and she quickly grew tired of the special temporal powers that she was born with. She could teleport and travel through time, and build massive objects almost instantaneously. She didn’t want to be like this anymore, and luckily, she knew someone who did. She also knew someone who could help them with their problem. Her husband, Newt Clemens had the ability to manipulate other people’s abilities. It was he who transferred everything Étude could do to Vitalie, so she could finally take her rightful place as The Caretaker.
Life was great on Dardius, but it wasn’t perfect, and there were times when certain people needed saving. Vitalie was able to provide that for them, as what few could deny was best described as a superhero. She protected the entire world from various threats. There were accidental threats, of course; faulty demolitions, and rickety staircases. There were more human dangers too, however. The populace was composed of people who had been rescued from Earth because they themselves were threatened by time travel. The rescuers made every attempt to properly integrate these people into society, but that didn’t always work out, and it was really nice to have Vitalie on the side of right, to make sure the outliers didn’t cause too much damage. She was good at it, and she was beloved for her efforts by most. Still, this took a toll on her, and it took her a long time to realize why.
Vitalie was nomadic. She didn’t like spending too much time in one place, because that was what she knew best. Circumstances had always thrown her to the next chapter in her life, but Dardius was different. It was stable. More to the point, it was too stable, and it felt to her like she was going to die there, which was something she didn’t want to think about. There wasn’t really any single moment that changed her mind about where she was, and what she was doing. She didn’t fail to save a child from a burning building, or punish someone who turned out to be innocent. These things could have happened, and would not have been available for do-overs, because time travel was illegal on Dardius. Except for one place. It was called Tribulation Island.
A man named Mateo Matic co-owned the whole planet with his wife, Leona. It was given to him by his frenemy, Gilbert Boyce, but it never really belonged to any of them. Dardius belonged to the people, and they had the right to govern civilization however they saw fit. They elected their own leaders, and made their own laws, and any accommodations they made for Mateo was predominantly out of respect. Even his status as the Patronus was a temporary solution to a terrible problem, and he was always destined to return to being less of a governmental official, and more of a symbol. These conditions, however, never applied to Tribulation Island. The Matics owned that land fair and square; like an independent nation over which no one else could have any control. It was for this reason that Vitalie decided to shed her life as the world’s Caretaker, and take up a new purpose. She was never allowed to travel back in time to help people while she was operating on the main lands, but those policies could not extend to the island, so she decided to exploit that.
There is a location in the universe called The Nucleus. No one knows exactly where it is. Some say it’s in a pocket dimension, while others think it’s literally in the center of the universe itself, though inflationary theory doesn’t really support this possibility. Some believe it exists outside of time and space, or perhaps beyond the boundaries of the universe. Wherever it is, no one in recorded history has ever accessed it by any means besides a Nexus replica. A Nexus is a special device used in one of these other universes that allows near instant transportation between planets. The design was replicated in Vitalie’s universe, but functions on vastly different principles. There are very few of them in existence, placed on different worlds for different reasons each. One of these was built on the Nucleus, though no one seems to know who was responsible. For doing so The reigning theory is that someone very, very far into the future finally discovered its true location, and went back in time to give their ancestors quick and easy access so they wouldn’t have to go to all the trouble. Vitalie moved to Tribulation Island to make use of this access.
The Nucleus is capable of accessing any point in spacetime, again for reasons no one who even knows for sure it exists understand. It’s an incredibly hostile and dangerous place, and is quite inhospitable to life. The temperature throughout most of it holds steady at a half degree above absolute zero, which is literally the coldest anywhere could ever possibly be ever. The Nexus replica building possesses a central heating system, but no matter what, it can never raise the temperature any higher than negative forty. External forces are constantly trying to freeze the whole place, so this is as good as it gets. If a traveler were to enter the only safe location on the Nucleus, they would want to do so with extreme-weather protection, and still probably not stay there for very long. Yet Vitalie has technically experienced the environment billions of times.
“What are you doing here?” Old!Vitalie asked. Old!Vitalie was a very different version of the Vitalie who lived on Dardius as the Caretaker. She was billions of years old, but only had memories going back for the last fifty-six. After all this time, she was finally confronting her alternate self. Well...one of them, anyway.
“I’m waiting for everyone to stop using the Nexus replica,” Young!Vitalie answered so I can get back to work. Every second counts. Literally.”
“Explain,” Old!Vitalie demanded.
Young!Vitalie prepared to go into her whole thing. “I was the Caretaker of Dardius, but before that, I was the Caretaker of Proxima Doma. Eventually, people stop needing my help. So I’ve had to find new purpose. Now, I may not look it, but I am over two hundred and sixty years old.”
“I’m much older than that,” Old!Vitalie pointed out.
“True, but I’m also much older than people realize. You see, I came here looking to help people, but I realized a few things about my skills. Number one, they become obsolete. I could go to any planet I want, but the people there will eventually stop needing me. Number two, these other planets do exist, and they do need me. Number three, as powerful as I am, I’m not immortal. I’ve been able to remain young, but I didn’t take immortality water, like you did. My time will eventually run out, so I can’t just keep hopping from planet to planet. I’ll die before I’m even finished with one. So I determined that my only course of action would be to go to all these planets, most of which will not even be inhabited for thousands of years, and extend my services all at once. What am I doing here, my alternate self? I’m generating billions of more alternate selves, and dispatching each one through the Nexus replica.”
“Where do they go?” Old!Vitalie asked.
“They go to a very special place called the Nucleus, and from there, they can move on to their respective final destinations. I can send about eleven alternates every single second, and I’ve been doing that ever since they built this damn thing in 2095.” Young!Vitalie gestured towards the Nexus replica.
“Didn’t people notice you doing that?” Old!Vitalie asked.
Young!Vitalie breathed in deeply. “Yes, which is why I’m still not done. I keep having to take breaks, and let other people use it—or simply hide away so they don’t discover me here. Why, you coming through has already set me back about three thousand planets.”
Old!Vitalie just stared at her. “That’s stupid. What you’re doing is stupid. You’re sending your alternate selves to save people in the future after they colonize planets in the galaxy?”
“Well, not this galaxy, but yeah.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little...?”
“Narcissistic?” Young!Vitalie guessed. “Self-obsessed? Vainglorious? Whatever the difference there is between those three words, and others like them, then yes, all that. But I’m fine with it. Now, if you and your friends are quite finished with this thing, I would like to return to my job.”
“Don’t you wanna be there?” Old!Vitalie questioned.
“For what? Mateo’s funeral?” Young!Vitalie asked back.
“Yes.”
Young!Vitalie shrugged. “I barely knew the guy.”
“Well, maybe you want to be there for his wife?” Old!Vitalie suggested. “It might be kind of nice for her to interact with a version of us who actually remembers the day we met. I have no recollection of that myself, as that day rests far beyond my memory threshold.”
Young!Vitalie could see her point, but this was really important work, and she was almost done with it. Though maybe that was what made it okay. She could probably stand to take one more break, and finish up in the next several years. What’s one day to celebrate the life of someone she did legitimately care about? Well, it was about nine hundred and fifty-thousand planets, so... “Okay, I’ll do it. I just hope I don’t die before I reach the outer edges of the Milky Way galaxy.”
“We all hope that,” Old!Vitalie agreed, though it was hard to tell the difference between sincerity and sarcasm when it came to her delivery. The two of them took each other by the hand, and headed towards the exit together.
Pribadium Delgado vigorously scratched the part of her head just above her ear. “I’ve seen a lot of weird shit since I met you time travelers, but that might be the most bizarre conversation I’ve ever heard.”

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