Monday, September 21, 2020

Microstory 1456: Eleventh and Final

The forming of the Thicket rebellion did a lot more for the women’s rights movements than the government realized. It started further back then that, though, when Ladytown was first conceived. These developments inspired a lot of people in Aljabara, and made them question the roles they played in the world. If these women were strong enough to fight for their rights, were they strong enough to fight for everyone’s? That’s what one candidate to be the eleventh, and ultimately final, president had in mind. They were a republic, and there was nothing inherent about that which prevented them from being completely equal. He didn’t even have to look at Earthan history to understand that women should be treated fairly. The world had become ridiculous, and he felt that it was his duty to correct it; to make things better for the whole world, including members of the Thicket. He knew he needed to be smart about it, though. Moderates had been running for president since the beginning, and not one of them had ever won. The louder and more absurd the candidate’s platform, the more votes they received. Even in the early days, people were crying for change. It didn’t matter to them whether the promised change was good for them or not; things just had to be different than they were before. That was why no president had lasted more than a single term so far. Presidential candidate Summerfield knew that he wasn’t going to get a second term, because of the plans he had for his tenure, but he assumed it would at least last for the whole five years. Unfortunately, he came on too strong. During his campaign, he was louder than his opponent by far, and often didn’t even let him speak during debates. People liked that about him, that he wasn’t willing to even listen to the other side of an argument. Even those who were in favor of the things that his opponent claimed liked to hear Summerfield blather on. He was interesting, and exciting, and most importantly, he was new. So that won him the seat, but he wasn’t able to hold on to it, because the people quickly learned that he had been lying the whole time.

He began to pass executive order after executive order, changing the way people lived their lives. At first, this was okay. He was overruling everything that the representative congress was trying to do, and people still appreciated this behavior. Once people were used to his tactics, he started trying to slip in other things under the radar. He gave permission for a wife to travel to the store alone, as long as she made it quick, and her husband would be waiting for her when she returned. He increased the maximum age a young woman was allowed to be before her father had to hand her off to a husband. He even tried to let mothers raise their own children without constant male supervision, but people were not happy with this. This was the last straw, and they recalled him for it. He was the shortest-lasting president in history, having only been in office for a few months. He went down in history as the planet’s first and only execution. Though an awful place, they at least had a law against capital punishment, which they only waived for this one exception. People weren’t happy about this either, but there was nothing they could do about it. Sekundas Poppet Drumpf was President Summerfield’s second-in-command, and instead of pushing for a new election, or a promotion, he just declared himself the new leader. Sekundas was now simply the highest ranking official in the government. That was when the world turned to shit.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Sunday, July 6, 2121

They were standing on the edge of the endeavor to replace old Kansas City with wildlife. It wasn’t quite finished yet. They were only here to make the transition to another parallel reality called the Fourth Quadrant. It made Mateo wonder, if the main sequence was the first reality, and the Parallel was considered the second, and this was the fourth, what was the third? And were there any more that he didn’t know about? Being alternate realities, but not alternate timelines, these apparently always existed, yet he only heard about them recently. He learned a long time ago that the word recently literally meant nothing. Were these other worlds really so secret that he spent years as a time traveler having not heard so much as a hint about them, or had people just been deliberately keeping him in the dark?
He shook off his introspection, and started to focus on the task at hand. According to Ellie’s calculations—which Leona handily verified for her—when they landed, the people in the Quadrant would believe that it was June 12, 2031, and that they had been stuck in this city for nearly seven years now. Also according to their calculations, for every day that passed in the main sequence, only an hour and forty-three minutes passed inside the temporal bubble. If they didn’t fix their problem within that span of time, they would return to find it to be July 7, 2121. This meant that Leona would no longer be in the timestream, and wouldn’t return for a whole year. It was unclear how the Cassidy cuffs worked in this scenario. It wouldn’t be the first time the wearers were separated by time. Jupiter had some means of toggling them on and off, or even adjusting how wearers were connected to each other. They shouldn’t have to worry about that, as Missy’s power was pretty much instantaneous. As soon as they got there, she could do her thing, and take down the bubble that Tauno Nyland created to trap the duplicates of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. Mateo had a feeling, nonetheless, that their mission was going to end up being a lot more complicated.
“Everybody ready?” Ellie asked.
Everyone answered in the affirmative.
“Would you like to do the honors?” Ellie asked directly to Ariadna.
“You purposely put those cuffs on your wrists,” Ariadna began. “Seems a waste for me to just do it for you anyway. You think you can figure out how to travel to another reality, have at it.” It was both snarky and sincere.
Ellie centered herself with a deep breath, and took Mateo’s and Missy’s hands. Missy then took Ariadna’s, and Mateo took Sanaa’s. Ellie opened the window, and sent them all through.
It was freezing cold, though there was no snow on the ground. It was just bitter and biting and a huge shock to Mateo’s system. Time travel and teleportation always came with a little bit of shock. Instantly switching environments wasn’t something humans evolved to do, even the people who were born with the ability to do just that. The more experience a traveler had behind them, the easier it got, but they could always feel it, and the greater the transitional difference, the sharper the shock. There was something else here too, though. It kind of felt like he was standing in a river that wasn’t quite strong enough to knock him over, but still moving past him.
“Mateo, what time is it?” Sanaa asked.
Leona lent Mateo her special time-teller, which recalibrated immediately following any temporal jump. “Ten-nineteen in the morning.”
“Ten-nineteen is always in the morning,” came a voice behind them. It was none other than Mateo’s best frenemy, Thor Thompson. “Because there are twenty-four hours in a day, not two half-days of twelve hours each.”
“Mister Thompson,” Mateo said, “how nice to see you, looking so young.”
Thor smirked. “My name is Dupe!Thor.”
“So, you’re aware,” Ellie presumed, “that you’re quantum duplicates, stuck in a new reality?”
“Of course we are,” Dupe!Thor confirmed. “Can’t you tell that time is moving so much faster?”
Ellie narrowed her eyes, and filled her cheeks with air. “I kind of do feel that. Why would I feel that? This should feel like the right pace, that’s how time bubbles work.”
Dupe!Thor cleared his throat, and held his hand up loosely, like a tongue-speaking Christian holding his hand up to God, but expecting God to meet him halfway. He bounced his arm quite slightly. “If you move just right, you can feel the veil between our world and yours, and almost stick your hand right through it. It flows all around us, and that’s why we can sense the passage of time. It’s unsettling until you get used to, and it starts to feel normal. I’ll tell ya what, though, it makes sex feel amazing.”
“Can you fix that, Missy,” Sanaa asked, “or does the thought of time sex distract you too much?”
Missy sighed. “No, I can do it.”
“You’ll do no such thing,” Dupe!Thor ordered. “We didn’t ask you to change the speed of time.”
“That’s why we’re here,” Ellie tried to explain to him.
“Well, the white men were here centuries ago to kill all the indigenous peoples, and steal their land. That doesn’t mean that’s what they should have done, or that the tribes wanted it to happen.”
“He has a good point,” Ariadna said. “You didn’t even consider the possibility that these people don’t even want your help.”
Ellie brushed this off her shoulder. “Who do I have to talk to?”
Dupe!Thor breathed in, and exhaled a few raspberries. “The president?” he finally said at the end of the stream.
“The president of...Kansas City?” Sanaa guessed.
“Novus Metro,” Dupe!Thor corrected. “That’s what we call this whole region now. President Orlov will be quite interested in meeting some newcomers. It’s been awhile.”
“But there have been others?” Ellie pressed.
“How long will it take to get there?” Mateo asked once it was clear that Dupe!Thor wasn’t going to answer that last question.
“The Capitol is maybe three hours from here?” Dupe!Thor figured.
“We have an hour and forty minutes,” Sanaa argued.
“We have far less than that,” Ariadna contended. “Once we get there, we still have to speak with this president, convince her to agree to the plan, and then carry it out. We might have an hour.”
“The speed of time isn’t that bad,” Dupe!Thor said. He shrugged. “So you don’t get back home for a few days. Is it that big of a deal?”
“It is,” Mateo said. “What can we do to speed this along?”
“I can help,” Missy jumped in. “I’ll create a nested time bubble, which speeds up time even more, but only for us, so we have enough of it to reach the Capitol.”
“Would anyone object to that?” Ellie asked Thor.
“I don’t see why not,” he replied.
And so they started walking across the metropolitan area, on their way towards the heart of the city, while everyone else was just about frozen in place. Dupe!Thor talked to them about the things they had to do to survive in this new world. Unlike fictional stories about this kind of thing, like Lost, Under the Dome, or The Society, the Novus Metrons came here with a lot of resources. They had shelter, water, manufacturing plants, equipment, and plenty of space. The weren’t completely self-sustainable, however. Though there was more than enough farmland to go around, most of it wasn’t useful. They were stuck in perpetual winter, so few things would grow. They ended up inventing and deploying vertical farming techniques so much earlier than it happened in the real world. Lots of other things came early to them, because they had to, and because the right people were motivated. Necessity had so many children in Novus Metro that she could have started a town of her own. Were this not a temporal, as well as spatial, dimension, they would have surpassed technology in the main sequence in many ways. They seemed to be doing okay. Life wasn’t the best here, especially not in the beginning, but they figured things out, and made it work. They accepted their state a long time ago, and Dupe!Thor couldn’t promise anyone would agree to try to change it.
It was surprisingly easy to be admitted into the Capitol building, and to gain audience with President Natasha Orlov, who earned her position in a fair and legitimate election a few years ago. She was fair herself, and very much loved by her constituency. Missy and Ellie both implied that they had heard of her before. Mateo was ashamed to be surprised that they elected someone who was so obviously Russian.
“Only on my father’s side,” the president explained. She asked to be called Natasha. “ well as my mother’s.”
“Madam President—I mean, Natasha, we were hoping to speak with you about the speed of time in your reality. This is my friend, Missy Atterberry. She has the ability to create time bubbles herself, and we believe we can undo the one that Tauno Nyland trapped you in.”
Natasha nodded, not in agreement, but understanding. “Will she be doing this by creating a new bubble, or by dismantling the one that’s already here?”
“Oh, I should be able to dismantle it,” Missy assured her. “I’ve never done it before—”
“Yes, you have,” Mateo corrected, “on Durus.”
Missy was confused. “I’ve never been there before,” she told him. “You may be thinking of a future version of me.”
“Oh, right.” Yikes.
“I’m afraid we cannot do that,” Natasha apologized. “I’m sorry you made the trip, but it is simply not possible. We need it.”
“You do? For what?” Ellie questioned.
“You didn’t tell them, Representative Thompson?”
“I didn’t think it was my place,” Dupe!Thor responded. “It is dangerous knowledge.”
“That it is,” Natahsa agreed.
“You’re a representative?” Mateo asked.
Natasha went on, “there’s a reason we know that we’re in a temporal bubble in the first place. Scientists studied a phenomenon for weeks before they realized what was happening, thanks to a few people who had experience with temporal manipulation, giving them a little insight. The main reality is flowing all around us.”
“Yes, he did tell us about that,” Ellie said.
“Well, that’s not all it does,” Natasha continued. “This flow is more than just something that makes sex feel better.” Why does everyone keep talking about that? “It’s energy. It’s ambient energy.”
“Oh,” Ellie said. She literally slapped herself on the forehead. “You’re using it to power the city.”
“It’s the ultimate renewable resource,” Natasha said with a nod, “time itself.”
“Why didn’t I think of that?” Missy lamented, having realized something important about her own time power.
“Because you’re an idiot?” Sanaa alleged.
“Why do you hate her so much?” Mateo asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” they said in unison, as if having rehearsed it.
“It doesn’t bother you?” Ariadna went back to the conversation with Natasha. “You can’t go to space, or even another continent. And if you ever did want to go back to the main sequence to visit, it would make switching back and forth really difficult.”
“This is how we live now. Yes, it sucks to be in the snowglobe. I wouldn’t mind going back to see my childhood home in Russia, or checking out Machu Picchu, but we’re realistic. We’re already too far behind. We don’t belong in your world anymore. If we tried to return, people would wonder who the hell we are, and it’s not our place to reveal time travel to them. We’re stuck here whether someone unlocks the gate or not.”
Missy separated from the group, and started pacing the room.
“What is it, Atterberry?” Ellie asked her.
Missy took her time before answering. “You need a bubble of time that moves faster than the time around it, so the point where these two dimensions collide generates energy. I never thought about the fact that I’m doing that. Well, if that’s what I’m doing, then I can do for you.”
“What’s the point?” Dupe!Thor questioned. “Like she was saying, this is just our lives now.”
“This Tauno’s world,” Missy explained. “But it shouldn’t be. I can give you freedom. I can cut him out of it, and give this world to the people.”
“Won’t he be upset about that?” Natasha assumed. “We know who you’re talking about. He hasn’t done anything too terrible, but he has made it clear that we’re under his thumb, and that there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“You let us worry about that,” Mateo promised her. “We’ll lead him away from you. I’m pretty good at antagonizing antagonists...when I want to, at least.”
“You would do this for us?” Natasha asked Missy. “You would stay here, and build us these temporal energy generators?”
“It would be my honor,” Missy pledged.
“You won’t have to do that,” Sanaa said, apparently upset about suggesting something that might help her sworn enemy. “Someone get me a phone, and a pen and paper. It’s a lot easier to regurgitate the fifty-two digit number when I write it down first.”
“Who in the worlds has a fifty-two digit phone number?” Mateo asked. He knew of people who could be reached across time using special means, like a lucky penny, or a jenga set, but this seemed excessive.
“Who do you think? Holly Blue.”

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Glisnia: Out-of-Body Expo (Part III)

The good thing about dealing with a mech was that it had the ability to erase memories from itself. Hogarth was free to tell the candidates for her associate all she needed about time travelers, her former affliction, and the Nexus replicas. There was no guarantee that they actually would erase their memories of the interaction afterwards, but she was pretty confident that they would. People lied a lot in the past. They lied about having completed tasks they didn’t want to do, or liking people they hated, or whatever. Vonearthans of all types didn’t generally feel the need to do that anymore. Prosocial lying wasn’t completely obsolete, but it wasn’t usually necessary. People rarely felt embarrassment or awkwardness. If someone asked them to do something, and they agreed to it, then it would get done, because if they couldn’t make it happen, then they would just say no. They would be able to say no, because there was little incentive to not be honest about one’s intentions. It probably all came down to the fact that each generation since the mid-twenty-first century bought less and less stock in judgmental people, until being judgmental was far too out of fashion for it to be instilled in the young.
Hogarth interviewed dozens of candidates, and only one checked all the boxes, and passed all the tests. Its name was Crimson Clover, and it preferred it as its pronoun. It didn’t say a word about its old life as a human, except that it possessed extensive knowledge of human biology/anatomy/physiology, and went through the background to back it up. It also implied prior experience with time travelers, though did not confirm it. Hogarth just felt comfortable opening up to it about everything that had happened to her and Hilde.
“So, this is it, huh?” Crimson said as it was standing over Hogarth’s old body.
“Yeah, you don’t think it looks the same as I do now?”
“I can tell the difference,” it replied.
“So, what do you think?” Hogarth prompted.
“Well.” It started to go over the body’s specifications on the interface screen. “You call it a time affliction, correct?”
“Yet you did eventually learn some control?”
“Yeah, kind of like how a person with allergies can hold back a sneeze, or anxiety can be treated with certain stress-reducing activities. I suppose I never tried too hard to fix it with science.”
“And you think this is our best avenue for getting the resources we need from other star systems, or interstellar space?” It asked.
“We could use the replica, but I don’t want to give vonearthans faster-than-light technology. If anyone is going to do that, it’s going to be my colleague, Hokusai Gimura.”
It nodded, and confirmed, “that’s Hilde’s mother, yeah?” As a mech, Crimson had perfect memory, so the question needn’t be asked. It was just exercising social grace, and keeping Hogarth part of the conversation, instead of internalizing its thoughts.
“Yeah, and she’s in charge of what the galaxy knows about space travel. I’m in charge of transdimensional work.”
“Why isn’t she here, then?”
“I don’t know where she is in this time period.”
Crimson nodded again. It opened a small panel on the back of its neck, and removed a syncing disc. “Well, the best way for me to understand your old body is to take it for a test drive.”
Hogarth stared at it, but said nothing. It wasn’t a surprise, but it was a shock.
“Do I have your consent to upload my consciousness into your former substrate?”
Hogarth stayed there, narrowed her eyelids, and stared at it. She stared into its eyes for eleven minutes. Neither one of them moved a micrometer the entire time. This was a test; a test of Crimson’s patience and commitment. She didn’t know why she felt the need to do it, but she barely knew this person, so she had to do something to give her peace of mind. She was going to let it upload its consciousness, as it asked, but she couldn’t let it be as easy as asking the question once, and receiving an immediate affirmative. Finally, after the time ran out, she responded. “I consent to the temporary use of my former substrate.”
“Great.” Crimson made all the necessary connections, then performed the upload. It was a lot quicker, and a lot less involved, than before. Technology had come a long way, even in the future, where a lot had long been invented.
Crimson woke up in Hogarth’s body, and took a couple minutes to acclimate. It was much lighter, and more fragile now, and it had probably not been so squishy in centuries. It walked around the room to get a feel for how the muscles worked. “Fascinating,” it said, like some kind of alien who has made a moderately interesting discovery about another species. “I can feel it.”
“You can feel what?” Hogarth asked.
“The power,” it continued cryptically. “The energy.”
“I didn’t feel energy,” she contended. “It was more...pressure. Like I was a covered pot about to boil over. It never built up, though, so I couldn’t ever predict it. I suppose when I figured out how to control it a little, I was just tightening the pressure on purpose.”
Crimson shook Hogarth’s head. “Nah, it’s not pressure; it’s moving, flowing. I can work with this.” It slowly lifted its new hands from its sides, and spread its fingers. It closed its eyes, and released some air from its lungs, through its nose and mouth at the same time. As it gradually turned its lips into a smile, tiny pieces from its fingertips began to disappear. Her body was breaking apart at the molecular level.
“Where are you going?” Hogarth asked.
“I’ll be back before you know it.”
It appeared to be right. A couple meters away, tiny pieces were popping into existence, and coming together to form larger pieces. There was something wrong, though. Present!Crimson started demolecularizing from its hands, but this new shape was forming from the feet up. Was this an entirely different being? What was happening? Still, they were traveling at the same pace, so when a quarter of the first body was gone, a quarter of it had reappeared. And when half of it was gone, half had returned. Now it was even clearer that there was something different about the returning figure. It was wearing different clothes, and standing in a different position. The fact that it was happening at the same time was a complete coincidence. Present!Crimson was on its way to somewhere in the past or future, and the fact that it returned to this very moment revealed nothing about how long it spent away. That was how time travel worked.
Just as the last of its feet faded, the last of its head appeared. “Did I get the timing right?”
“That was perfect,” Hogarth replied. “For how long were you gone?”
“Centuries,” Crimson answered.
“How is that possible? This body looks as young as it did, and I wasn’t immortal.
“You were anything you wanted to be,” it started to explain. “You had no idea the kind of power you had. You gotta try this thing out. I can teach you.”
“Maybe later,” Hogarth said. “I’ve agreed to do a job for the Glisnians. I need to see that through before I think of doing anything else. What did you learn, besides how much more complicated my condition apparently is?”
“I learned that your ability sprouted from your brain, and rewrote your DNA. Adapting it to technology in order to create a time siphon may be more difficult than you thought, or impossible. You were smart to keep it alive, for we may need it to power the machine.”
“I know someone who might be able to help. Adapting powers to technology is her thing. If it can be done, she can do it. To put it a better way, if she can’t, it means no one can.”
“Do you know how to contact this person?”
“I don’t suppose anyone in this system has a phone.”
“Like, with a dial pad?”
“Yeah, it has to have physical buttons.”
“Well, I mean, someone could build one for you, but you wouldn’t be able to call anyone. We use a completely separate communication network to stay in touch with each other now. You may as well ask me to sign you up for cable television. All those shows have been cancelled, so you’ll only get static.”
“It doesn’t have to be on a network. It just has to look like a phone, and generate electrical signals. The signals don’t have to go anywhere; they just have to exist.”
“Yeah, sure, that’s easy.” Crimson walked over to the industrial synthesizer. “Hey, Thistle. One obsolete push-button telephone, please.”
“Thank you,” Hogarth said. She graciously accepted the phone replica, and prepared to dial. “I’m glad I got these upgrades. Her phone number is really difficult to remember. She made it so long to keep the riff raff from reaching her.” She then proceeded to push the buttons. There were fifty-two digits in total.
Crimson tilted its lizard brain jokingly while she was still in the middle of it. “I recognize that number. That’s the code Data uses in episode three of season four of Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
Hogarth shrugged while she was waiting for her friend to answer. “Just because it’s hard to remember doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Her direct line is a hundred and eight digits long, and completely random.”
“If this isn’t her direct line, what is it?”
“This line lets you put in a request for me to come to you. My direct line would take you to me, and I only give it to the people I know won’t give it away to a stranger.” She was here. Holly Blue.
“Thank you for coming,” Hogarth said to her.
“Why are there two of you?” Holly blue asked.
“Oh, that’s just this thing. We were hoping to procure your services. Do you think you could turn my ability into a gadget? If you do, I’ll get you back to your son.”

Friday, September 18, 2020

Microstory 1455: Institutional

For a few years, The Thicket rebel force didn’t do anything. They were there, and defying the Republic, but they weren’t attacking the city, or rescuing women, or even protesting. They were hiding, and they were training. This was getting on the nerves of some of the members, though. They wanted to make real change in society, and better the lives of everyone in it, even their enemies. Well, that was the problem. There was little they could do, because the easiest course of action was to rise up and fight against the establishment violently. They didn’t really have any rights. They weren’t allowed to walk down the street alone, so they certainly weren’t going to be able to march on the Capitol. After half a century under this form of government, things were pretty well defined, good or bad. A lot of people had been alive during the Interstitial Chaos, and the Mage Protectorate, but the majority of Aljabaran citizens these days had only ever known the Republic. So getting the public on their side was not going to be easy. No one in the Thicket wanted to go to war, and no one wanted to make a big public demonstration. They wanted their voices heard, but maybe kind of in secret. Maybe they didn’t even want anyone to know that they were involved in whatever it was they ended up doing. What could that be, though? Statues. The government had erected statues, glorifying the worst criminals and leaders Durus had ever seen. They couldn’t even argue that the statues themselves were an important part of history. The one they built last year made Smith look like Superman. There were so many statues of that man that you would think he invented air. But no, Keanu ‘Ōpūnui was the one who did that, but he only had one statue, and it wasn’t even in the city; it was at his gravesite.

Earth had enjoyed a long history of protestors tearing down statues, so that sounded like the most reasonable next step for the Thicket. It was something they could do in secret, under cover of darkness, while most people were asleep. If they procured the right tools, and had enough womanpower, they could get it done quickly, and get out before anyone saw them. If anything went wrong, they could bolt and scatter as needed. They started with the latest Smith statue, then worked their way down the line, but they stopped at four. By then, the government had figured out the pattern, so in order to avoid being caught, they started randomizing their vandalism, not always going after statues, but other buildings. But they were only able to destroy a handful of things before it became impractical. The government was tired of trying to guess which statue or building would come next, so they just positioned guards at every single one of them. Aljabara wasn’t exactly the largest city in the galaxy; just the largest on the planet. It wasn’t that hard to protect all of them simultaneously. It wasn’t a piece of cake either, though. Seeing this, the Thicket switched gears, and developed their own version of the underground railroad. With personnel stretched thin, the Republicans were unable to cover all of their bases. They were so obsessed with only letting men perform the important jobs, and only promoting the best of the best for the most important jobs, they ended up with too little manpower. Of course they realized their problem, and corrected it by filling up their ranks. They obviously still didn’t allow women, but they didn’t worry too much about skill or experience. It was too late, though. The escape network was by then entrenched, and primed to rescue a lot more lives for the next two decades.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Microstory 1454: Growth of the Thicket

One of the rules that the government on Durus set forth in regards to the Ladytown outpost was that Aljabarans would be allowed to visit whenever they wanted. As it stood, this had never actually occurred. The condition was there to make it so that they could enter the town limits in case they ever needed anything from the townsfolk, not to encourage camaraderie and community. For any Aljabaran to leave the city, for any reason, they needed explicit permission from someone pretty high up in the ranks, and no one had ever been granted this permission in order to travel to Ladytown. So while life was difficult in the outpost, and the Republicans had made numerous to destroy them, they were generally free from prying eyes. This all changed in the year 2140. A psychic spy sought audience with a government official, and claimed to him that he had heard the sound of crying babies through a vision. Now, he was only a mage remnant, and not a very good one at that, so no one believed him without question, but it was enough to spark an investigation. A team was sent to visit Ladytown, to see if it was true. This visit turned into a raid, and although they saw no actual babies, they did find signs of young life; cribs and the like. It was a miracle that they didn’t find the stolen books, or combat training paraphernalia. It would seem the psychic was telling the truth. Having been built on top of the old town of Hidden Depths, there were a lot of secret passageways the Ladytowners could use to keep their secrets protected, but that wasn’t going to be good enough forever. The government was going to send more goons, and they knew that it was only going to get worse. They were right.

A second team came through with a life signs detecting mage remnant, who found the babies for them. Without orders from on high, this team attempted to abduct the children, and the women were forced to show their skills by fighting back. No one was seriously hurt, but the proverbial shots were fired, and unless a remnant was born with the ability to reverse entropy, the bullets were not going back into that gun. This changed everything. Whereas before, they were training to defend themselves, now they were training to actively work against their oppressors, and drive real change for women on Durus. When Ladytown was founded, people just wanted to live how they pleased. And when the men were wiped out, they just wanted to prepare for the worst. But the government was forcing their hand, and building a real rebellion was the only response at this point. The town itself still needed to be preserved, however, so they could no longer maintain a base of operations there. Many would stay behind, in case another team came by to threaten the children, but the rest would move away. They set up shop so far from Hidden Depths that the government could not make any reasonable connection between the two groups. They could no longer live in houses, for they were too easy to spot, and impossible to move when one area became too dangerous. They lived in the wild, and scrounged for food wherever they could find it. When one campsite lost its value, or the government was too close to catching them, they packed up, and headed to a new location. Most of the planet was now covered by a sea of plant life that had always been referred to as the thicket. So this was what the insurgents decided to name themselves. This was the start of The Thicket Revolutionary Faction.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Microstory 1453: Last Man in Ladytown

It took eight years for the smartest women in Ladytown to figure out how to save young Cletus Márton’s life, which was about as long as it took the Aljabaran scientists to synthesize the haemophilia virus in the first place. They brought him out of stasis, and started treating the infection. It cleared up right away, but now he had haemophilia itself, so he had to receive further treatment to stay alive. He spent the rest of his life with the disease, but he was also well cared for, and only partially because he had a job to do. Since he was the last man in Ladytown, it would eventually turn into a ghost town, once the last remaining girls grew up, and either died off as well, or just moved to Aljabara. The city wasn’t letting anyone else immigrate there, so if they wanted to keep the dream alive, Cletus was their last hope. Before they revived him, a group of the townsfolk built a luxurious house for him, and provided him with constant medical attention, and just about anything he could ever want. Each month, he would meet a new partner, and attempt to impregnate her with a child, so they could restart the population. He was fortunately not the only participant, or everyone in the next generation would have to choose between full and half-siblings. Two paternal bloodlines wasn’t the most genetically healthy, but it was better than one, and really all they had available. Fulcrum Nielsen, the man who helped train the Ladytowners in combat skills, had a son who was coming of age, and he wanted to contribute to the cause as well. Anchor Nielsen was not a fighter, but he was empathetic, caring, and fully against the misogynistic government. Fulcrum raised him to be open-minded, but he probably would have come to the same conclusions about social justice on his own eventually. It was wrong what the Republicans were doing, and he wanted to help. If that meant having a bunch of children with strangers, then so be it. For a few years, Cletus and Anchor did their civic duty, which may sound like a big win, but neither of them would have been interested in sleeping with that many different people if they didn’t need to do it to save the human race. They were both extremely monogamous, and hoped they would one day be able to settle down with just the one partner, and be happy. They persevered, though, and did what they could to protect Ladytown. The government was enraged when they found out that their plan to destroy them had failed. They knew that at least two men were involved, but they assumed they had somehow survived the virus, and had no idea that Anchor had had anything to do with it. He went on to continue pushing boundaries, expressing outcry, and changing minds. His work was instrumental in ultimately ending the phallocratic republic, though it would not happen for a very long time, and he didn’t do it alone. Meanwhile, once his paternal duties were complete, Cletus went on to live a very simple life in Ladytown. Though being there was itself an affront to the Republic’s values, he didn’t actively work against them, like most people around him did. He helped the effort further when he could, but he had already done so much that no one expected him to do anything more.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Microstory 1452: Nevertheless, They Persisted

After the haemophilia virus wiped out all of the men and boys trying to live in Ladytown, the women were devastated. They knew that this was no accident. Haemophilia was a genetic disorder, and did not spread like a contagion. Sure, it was possible that the rogue planet of Durus came with diseases that didn’t exist on Earth, but there was no logical reason for it to spread at this point in history. This whole area had been dug and altered to make way for the old town of Hidden Depths, as well as the irrigation system. It was just far too unlikely that they somehow managed to unlock something now. The Trojan horse woman disappeared shortly after the virus ran its course, so obviously they suspected her to have been involved, but they possessed no evidence, let alone proof. The Aljabaran government got away with it, but that didn’t mean the survivors were just going to roll over and let this destroy their way of life. The Republicans weren’t going to win, no matter what they did. They wanted the women to come crawling back to Aljabara, and not because of any particular affinity for them—in fact, the government considered them damaged goods by now—but hopefully the act would solidify the Republic’s hold on the city, possibly forever. The Ladytowners couldn’t let that happen, and they were willing to go to war if they had to. The tragedy galvanized them into action. They were content to just stay on the other side of Watershed, and leave Aljabara be, but if a plague was their first attempt to end them, what would be their second? They had to be prepared for everything. They started to come up with new responsibilities for the townsfolk, even though they were already stretched thin with their labor force. 

Some were tasked with dressing themselves up like men, making the rough journey across the thicket to Aljabara, and infiltrating the city. They weren’t there to make trouble, or sabotage the government; they just needed resources. In particular, they needed books. The one male survivor of the virus was still in his mother’s stasis bubble, and in order to save him, they needed to understand what exactly was wrong with him, and how his symptoms could be treated. Perhaps they would even be able to cure him one day. While the infiltrators were stealing information, and handing it off to the scholars, the rest were leveling up. They forged weapons, and trained in combat, and studied wars of the past. Everyone had to contribute to the lasting prosperity of the town itself, as well as future war effort. Unfortunately, as always, research was no comparison to practical experience. They needed someone who knew how to fight. Now, the reason none of them knew was not because women weren’t capable of being warriors, but because these women were never allowed. They went to school as children, just like the men, but they learned very different things, and military tactics simply wasn’t on the list for them. Fortunately, they weren’t completely alone. A man by the name of Fulcrum Nielsen was sympathetic to their cause. He wasn’t raised to be misogynistic, and he wasn’t raising his own son to be that way either. He was a well-trained martial artist, because he was completely free to learn whatever he wanted. He was also a teleporter. He had to be able to see where he was going, but it only took a few jumps for him to reach Ladytown during his off hours, where he would help the women learn what they needed to protect themselves. For years, the oblivious government left them alone, content in their belief that there was nothing that Ladytown could do but wait to die out. Little did they know...

Monday, September 14, 2020

Microstory 1451: All The Queen’s Men

Ladytown was a success, and that seemed great for the people living there, but that caused problems for the Aljabaran Republic, because that was not what they wanted to happen. It was meant to be a total failure. What these leaders did was fail to consider the consequences of their own actions. At the time, it seemed prudent to require that a population of men move out with the women, but that ultimately put their whole evil plan at risk. In 2119, the fifth administration passed a new law that forbade anyone from leaving Aljabara. According to publicly available documentation, Ladytown was fine out there, but if it was going to survive, it would have to do it on its own. They were not allowed to benefit from Aljabara’s hard work, and advancements. Behind closed doors, the truth was that they didn’t want to lose their entire constituency to this new settlement. If they weren’t careful, they would lose power altogether, and letting Ladytown exist would have been the biggest mistake they ever made. By halting immigration, they would have to persist through later generations. Well, some twisted men did some bad math, and discovered that the immigration laws were only going to help protect the Republic’s power in the short term. Later administrations ran the risk of being overtaken by what they called the unchecked propagation of the species by a whorish race with no regard for resource limitations. Basically, they said that, given enough time, Ladytown would grow far beyond their control, because women couldn’t be trusted to not just have babies left and right. Of course, people were having children at a reasonable pace for their current population size, and living conditions, but that didn’t matter to the government. The women had to be stopped, and the only way to do that was to kill. That wasn’t usually their style, but they were paranoid and desperate.

They didn’t wipe out all of Ladytown, though. They only decided to kill certain people. The problem was that the Republicans still couldn’t simply go to war with these people, because it would reflect poorly on them, and make them out to be the bad guys. So how does one go about targeting an entire sex, and only that sex? The answer the doctors came up with was haemophilia. This was going to be no easy task. Haemophilia was an inherited trait, and no one had been diagnosed with it since the year 2020. They still had a sample of the boy’s blood in the archives, but they couldn’t simply inject people with that, and wait for them to contract the disease themselves. They had to synthesize the disease itself, and attach it to a virus, so that it could spread. It had to spread quickly, and die out on its own before it could reach Aljabara, however, or the whole human race on Durus would be doomed. They spent years working on this problem, until they finally came up with a viable solution in 2128. It was devastating. Like a viral blanket, they dispatched a very loyal woman to claim to be a refugee, seeking asylum in Ladytown. She was not able to get sick from the virus herself, but she managed to infect half the town, and by the time anyone knew what was happening, the other half caught it as well. It was the first truly violent thing that the Republic ever did, but unfortunately, there wasn’t anything they could do about it. Everyone pretty much knew that the government was responsible, but they couldn’t prove it, and no one was brave enough to try. Nearly every single male died of this extremely aggressive viral form of haemophilia in a matter of days. They didn’t have the resources or expertise to stop them all from bleeding out. They were only able to save one. A mage remnant placed her teenage son into temporal stasis, until medical treatment could be developed to combat the disease. And that young man went on to save Ladytown.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Friday, July 5, 2120

Mateo and Leona argued yesterday. The latter demanded to go with the former and Ellie to The Fourth Quadrant, and Mateo wasn’t having it. In the end, she had too many cards to play, what with him constantly abandoning her, and his indiscretion with Cassidy. She also had a point that she knew more about the cuffs than he or Ellie did. But then Sanaa caught wind of their plans, and argued that she was actually more proficient with them. They never did figure out how to co-opt Jupiter’s power, or so much as contact him, but she knew everything else about them. The next year, Ariadna asked where they were going, and there was even more arguing, because she didn’t understand how they were going to get into this new reality.
“Oh, that’s just this thing,” Ellie assured her.
“You’re not gonna dismiss me,” Ariadna said. “You know, don’t you? You know what I can do. How? I’ve worked really hard to curate a timeline where no one knows who I am, and what I’ve been through.”
“I’ve been doing the same,” Ellie explained. “Lots of people have told me lots of things without remembering it, because it never happened.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Sanaa jumped in. “You’ve been able to cross back to the main sequence this whole time?”
“What?” Ariadna asked. “No. I mean...I don’t think so. Dimensions and realities aren’t the same thing. Right?”
They all looked to Leona, who was surprisingly unsure of herself. “I don’t know everything about physics. Asking me that question is like asking me whether black holes exist. No one knows.”
“Black holes don’t exist?”
“Maybe, maybe not.”
“Let’s get off of whatever this is,” Ellie said. “Madam Traversa, I’m sorry I wasn’t honest about why I was here, but as I understand it, my ability to adopt your ability does not affect you. It doesn’t drain you of your energy, or force you to be a part of it. These cuffs just copy and paste your code, so I can borrow it.”
“Why didn’t you tell us then?” Sanaa questioned.
“I wanted to do this alone, so no one else would be in danger.”
“How very noble of you,” came a voice from outside the circle. It was Jupiter.
“Thank you for coming, Your Grace,” Sanaa said to him jokingly.
“I’ve been listening to your conversations—”
“You have?” Mateo asked. “How?”
“There’s a microphone in each cuff, obviously,” Sanaa explained.
“Obviously,” Jupiter agreed.
“Are you gonna try to stop me?” Ellie asked Jupiter.
“Nope, but I have some conditions, one for each of you. Ariadna, after this mission, you must relinquish your cuffs, and give them to Mr. Bearimy.”
“No, I’m the one wearing J.B.’s cuffs,” Ellie reminded him.
“That doesn’t matter,” Jupiter contended. “I was not aware of the extent of The Escapologists’s time powers. I can’t have you people slipping back and forth at will. So Aria, you have to leave, and you can’t involve yourself with this team ever again. Ellie, if you do this, you have to remain on the Bearimy-Matic pattern. While she has to leave, you have to stay. You wanted the cuffs, you got ‘em.”
“I can do that,” Ellie promised.
Leona frowned. “El, are you sure? He hasn’t said how long we’re doing this.”
Ellie shrugged. “I ain’t got nothin’ but time. I’ll get back to my other friends later, and it’ll be fine.”
“Leona,” Jupiter went on, “you can’t go.”
“I’m sorry?” she asked, perturbed.
“If the others do this, you have to stay behind with J.B., so if something goes wrong, the two of you can rebuild the team.”
“That’s bullshi—”
“Leelee,” Sanaa stopped her. “Rule Number Fifteen.” It was a relatively new entry into Leona’s Rules of Time Travel. Don’t antagonize the antagonist. Mateo didn’t consider Jupiter an antagonist anymore, but the others could be forgiven for continuing to believe as much.
Leona bit her lip, and didn’t say anything else.
“Sanaa, that brings me to you,” Jupiter began. “The people living in the Fourth Quadrant have created a new society. They wouldn’t belong anywhere else. If you try to bring them into the main sequence, Beaver Haven will just find a way to lock them all up again, so the two realities don’t interfere with each other.”
“Cool,” Sanaa sassed. “What does that have to do with me? This is Ellie’s mission.”
“You’ll still be able to save them, but you’re going to solve the problem in a different way. In order to do this, you’ll need to extract someone else from the main sequence. Kismet has it that today is perfect for the side mission. This individual doesn’t need to be rescued, but you need their time power.”
“Again, cool,” Sanaa repeated, “and again, what does that have to do with me?”
“You specifically don’t like this person, but you’re going to have to ignore that, and extract them anyway.”
“Who?” Mateo asked, more curious than anything.
“Finally, Mateo.”
“Oh, no.”
Jupiter smirked. “You have the power to cancel this whole mission, and if you do, you’ll be able to get back to the Vearden mission instead.”
“You won’t let me save him if I do this?” Mateo guessed.
“No, you’ll still be able to try,” Jupiter swore, “but there is a new limitation. You can’t transfer his mind to a clone.”
“What?” Leona shouted. “That’s the whole point! We can’t get him out without changing the timeline unless we do it this way. A clone is the only option.”
“You can’t transfer his mind,” Jupiter said again. “I have no particular reason for this, but I’m trying to disincentivize you from going against my brother. You said it, Rule Number Fifteen; I’ll let you risk it, if you really want to, but it’s gonna cost you. Ariadna, you can save this whole group by overriding my power to force you to stay in this reality. Ellie, you have to put yourself in danger. I know you think it doesn’t matter, since you’re a time traveler, but the more you live in one time period, the greater the chances are that you’ll die. That’s just how life works: older people have had more time to die, so be thinking about whether you want to risk never getting back to Trinity. Leona, you hate feeling useless, so you’re sitting this one out. Sanaa, you hate people, so...that’s it, that’s how I’m discouraging you. And Mateo, you either fail to save the Fourth Quadrant, or you fail to save Vearden. Choose.”
“I choose to save both,” Mateo said.
“Mateo,” Leona almost scolded, “there’s no other way. We all watched him die. We have to transfer his consciousness, or what happened, happened.”
“Trust me,” Mateo asked of her. This was something he had been thinking about for a while now. While he didn’t think of Jupiter as an antagonist, that didn’t mean he wasn’t an obstacle. He worded the new proviso in a specific way, and it wasn’t clear if he did it on purpose, or if Mateo was just the smarter one here, who came up with a loophole all on his own. If the latter was true, then he had to keep it all a secret. From everyone. “I know exactly what I’m doing.”
Jupiter seemed almost impressed, even though Mateo hadn’t done anything yet. “Very well. If no one objects, please ask the transporter tech to return the four of you to Earth. Once you arrive, the map will direct you to your next transition window. Good luck.” That being said, Jupiter disappeared through his own window.
They bid their farewells to Leona, then went back to Earth, where their Cassidy cuffs directed them to the Kansas City area. They ate a meal, and played a couple rounds of RPS-101 Plus on their tablets while they waited for the window. About three hours later, the field around them flickered, revealing the terraces of Crown Center. It quickly ended, and deposited one Missy Atterberry into this reality. She wasn’t scared, but curious about what had happened. She didn’t have much time to make some guesses, though. Sanaa stood up, and stared at her with a passionate hatred. This was her? This was the person Sanaa hated so much? Mateo didn’t know her all that well. She died quickly after they met in the pre-Hitler assassination timeline, and every memory he had of her since was from Leona’s perspective, because he didn’t exist for that period of time. She appeared just after he left, and was gone before he came back to life.
“You,” Sanaa growled.
“Oh, crap,” was all Missy could say.
Like a bull in a stadium, Sanaa leaned forward, and literally charged at her opponent. Were they actually going to get themselves into a fist fight? Surely not. And no, they didn’t. Missy raised her hand instinctually, and pushed Sanaa into a time bubble. She hovered there, nearly frozen in place, but still technically moving.
“Report,” Mateo said to Missy.
“I agreed to stay out of her personal timeline,” Missy defended. “She was born in 2203, and I promised to never go back to the 24th century, so if I’m here, it’s not my fault. Someone else brought me here.”
“It’s 2120,” Ariadna clarified.
“That’s impossible,” Missy argued. “She’s not supposed to travel through time. That’s why it’s been this easy to avoid her.”
“She broke that rule,” Mateo explained. “Why does she hate you so much?”
Before Missy could answer, Sanaa disappeared from inside the bubble, and reappeared just outside of it. The now empty bubble remained, however. “You can’t slow me down! I can escape any dimension now!” She tried to attack Missy, but didn’t get far before something caused her to collapse, and reach for her ears.
Out of the corner of his eye, Mateo could see Ellie’s lips wrapped around a whistle. No sound was coming out of it, so she must have been teleporting the waves directly into Sanaa’s ears. She opened her mouth, and let the whistle fall down to her chest. Then she spoke for all to hear. “You’re gonna talk first. You try anything like that again, and I’ll make you go deaf. You’ll wish you were still psychic, so at least you could talk to people again.”
Sanaa stood up, her face still contorted, but she nodded once to agree to Ellie’s demands.
“Now,” Mateo started to say, kind of sounding like he was trying to take charge. “I’m outnumbered here. I’m gonna sit on the sidelines, and let you ladies work it out. I’ll be nearby if you need anything, though.”
Ariadna stuck her index finger up, like she was trying to delicately summon the waiter. “I’ll come with.”
“Do you know what happened between those two?” he asked once they were away from the other three.
“I make a point of staying out of people’s business.”
“Yeah, why is that? You’re such a nice and even-tempered person, yet you seem just as isolated as Sanaa is. Do you not like people?”
“People think that about me. I mean, I live in a frickin’ pyramid, so I can’t blame them. The truth is that’s hard to explain.”
“I’m patient, and understanding.”
“I know that about you. I’m just...better at observing than I am interacting with others. I don’t like to...” She sighed. “I don’t like to do things.”
“Anything. I don’t have any hobbies, and I don’t care for social situations. I don’t dislike people, but I don’t get anything out of conversing with them most of the time. I just wanna sit in my little corner of the world, listen to classical music, read trashy romance novels, and maybe watch a little TV. I’ve never had any interest in going out to restaurants, or seeing a rock concert, or visiting a museum.”
“Well, that’s not that weird,” Mateo said. “Extroverts think that sounds like a really sad life, but I get it. Not everyone’s days are filled with mystery and intrigue.”
Ariadna went on, “I remember when I was a kid, my mom tried to sign me up for some sports team. I don’t even recall which sport, but it wasn’t attached to my school, it was the county, or something. Either way, I told her I didn’t like to play sports, but she said that wasn’t the point. She said it was a great way to meet people. So I’m like, so what? What’s so great about meeting people? She shook her head, like I was nothing more than an insolent child, but that wasn’t a rhetorical question. I really wanted to know what intrinsic value there was in meeting new people.
“Well, she didn’t have an answer for me, because there isn’t a good one. Two full days later, she came back to me and claimed it was about building a network. I may be stranded at a movie theatre in a blizzard one night, and I’ll wish I had someone to call who liked me enough to give me a ride. I pointed out that this was a selfish reason to try to meet people, so the conversation ended there, and we never talked about it again. I was an adult before I realized on my own that I should have been looking at it the opposite way, and she should have framed it that way instead.”
“How’s that?” Mateo prompted.
She sighed again. “I should have made friends, so I could be available when someone else needed help in a blizzard.”
Mateo nodded, but didn’t say anything.
“Anyway, by then I was too used to being alone, and can make friends as an adult unless, that is, you never did it as a kid. New adult friends expect you to already have friends, because they want to meet them! I just couldn’t make any connections. So I gave up, and went back to the way I’ve always liked it, sitting comfortably in my pyramid.”
“Are you going to go back when the Fourth Quadrant is over? The pyramids don’t exist in the Parallel, but I suppose that doesn’t matter to you anymore. You’re free to travel wherever you want.”
“Well, I don’t use my powers, because they feel just as pointless as skydiving or having sex with people. But I’m not sure if—”
“Okay,” Ellie interrupted them. “Sanaa and Missy have signed a temporary ceasefire, and Missy has agreed to help us with the Fourth Quadrant. I guess all that Jupiter will let us do is adjust their speed of time. That’s kind of besides the point,’s what we got. Get some rest. Busy day tomorrow. Could be our last.”

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Glisnia: Body of Theseus (Part II)

Consciousness is a tricky thing. For as long as computers have existed, people have been trying to draw comparisons between hard drives and human brains. The analogy certainly seems reasonable. Both of them store information, both allow that information to be accessed, and interfaced with. But there is a huge difference between how the two operate. Computers process information in binary code, through logic gates that really just boil down to on or off. Brains, on the other hand, are a chaotic mess of neurons and synapses. Memory is retrieved through associations and connections. Each one is unique. In the 21st century, many researchers believed they were capable of mapping a given human brain, and recreating the structure in a computer model. But it was nothing more than a copy, and a copy is not the original.
The science behind mind uploading was always a gray area, and the problem of mind transference felt insurmountable. If you were to attempt to upload yourself into a new substrate of some kind, there is a fifty percent chance that you wake up in the new substrate. There is thusly a fifty percent chance that you wake up to find yourself still in your old body, while some rando copy of you is waking up, thinking they’re the real version of you. It’s just a copy, though. That doesn’t mean this copy isn’t real, but it  hasn’t solved your problem of wanting to shed your old substrate, and become something different. It doesn’t matter how many times you try this, in each attempt, there is also a version of you that’s the copy, and a version of you that’s just failed in getting what they wanted. There will always be someone left behind. And the reason that is is because a human brain is not a computer. Files can’t be transferred to some other location, because thoughts and memories aren’t stored as files in the first place.
Experts came up with a somewhat viable workaround to this issue. If the mind wasn’t designed with files and folders, then it had to be converted. They called it Project Theseus. The Ship of Theseus is an old thought experiment, which questions whether a ship that’s had every part of it replaced over time is even the same ship as before. The rational answer seems to be...sort of. Mostly. We hope. Even though none of the parts were there in the beginning, some of the parts are older than others, and they were around to be connected to even older parts, and those older parts were there with parts that are older still. As long as they’re replaced gradually, each new part can claim to be a component of the whole, and that doesn’t change even when all its nearby parts are also replaced themselves.
Project Theseus took this interpretation of the experiment, and applied it to the human body. You replace a patient’s hands, and let them use them for a few weeks. Then you replace their arms. Then their feet, then their legs, then their internal organs. By not doing it all at once, each new part can integrate itself into the system, so that that system has a chance to consider it a constituent, rather than a foreign extension. After discovering that this seemed to work, the experts decided it was time for the next step. They now hoped to apply the Theseus technique to the central nervous system, though they recognized that it would be far more complicated. It was going to take a lot more research, heaps more patience, and an uncomfortable amount of trial and error.
The Theseus technique worked well for decades, but it wasn’t perfect. The time it took to complete the whole thing wasn’t much of a problem for most people. The average human being was going to live for a century without it, so even if they decided to become inorganic later on in life, there was usually plenty of time. There were some people, however, who couldn’t wait that long. Even after all this, there were still some medical conditions that science couldn’t fix, and brain uploading was the only solution. These people needed a completely new technique, which scientists started referring to neurosponging. An artificial brain is first synthesized, which perfectly resembles the patient’s brain. Electrical signals are then basically absorbed into the synth, just as they’re being lost from the original. It was like Theseus on a profoundly shorter timeline, but it alone did not solve the problem. Though artificial, this new brain was still organic, and still prone to degradation. Fortunately, it could be programmed to rewrite itself, until it exhibited an easier to organize filing system. Then that could be transferred to something more durable. This was the route that Hogarth Pudeyonavic and Hilde Unger chose to take.
In a matter of days, the process was complete, and they were both mechs. There were two primary types of mechs in the stellar neighborhood. Some were artificial intelligences, while others were transhumans who passed the singularity when they were upgraded so much that they became mechs. There were no terms to distinguish these two types, however, because internally speaking, a mech was a mech, and they treated each other as such. Hogarth and Hilde now belonged to Glisnian society, and would be allowed to contribute to the cause.
“Why are we keeping your former substrate?” The mech they met when they first returned was going to remain their associate. His full name was Mekiolenkidasola, though he sometimes just went by Lenkida.
The tech from Dardius was still human, and named Ethesh Beridze. “Yeah, your dead bodies are freaking me out.”
“They’re not dead,” Hogarth reminded him as Hilde was closing the drawer that contained her body. “They’re in stasis. In order to help the Glisnians crack superluminal travel, I need to study my old body. How did I do it? I explored the answers all I could while I was still alive, but now it’s time to perform a dissection, and really figure out how it worked.”
“You don’t understand why you were capable of traveling through time?” Lenkida questioned.
“It wasn’t so much something I was capable of as it was a medical condition that was thrust upon me. I’m not the best candidate for this research. If you want to study someone who can travel the stars, you’re gonna want The Trotter. He’s not here, however, and my body is all we have right now. Still, I once jumped here from another universe, so this should at least give us a start.”
“There are other universes?” Lenkida wasn’t shocked, but he was surprised. It was practically impossible to shock anyone in the 25th century.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Wait, why do we need your body at all, if we’re just going to build more Nexus replicas?”
“I’ll be studying the replicas too,” Hogarth explained, “but I don’t want to just make more of them, not after what I’ve learned. I’ll go over my reasons later.”
“What do you need?” Lenkida offered.
Hogarth slid her metallic fingers over her old fleshy arm. “I need you to find me an assistant. Someone who was once human, understands both human physiology, and the human condition. Obviously they need to be discreet. I’ll build you a resource extractor, but not a stargate network. That’s my requirement.”
“Understood,” Lenkida said. “Let me go find you some candidates.”
“I’ll come with,” Ethesh asked.
While they were off doing that, Hogarth and Hilde took some time to get used to their new bodies. They chose a humanoid design, with a synthetic skin overlaid. It probably wasn’t too terribly common, but it wasn’t unheard of either. Many of the formerly organic mechs preferred this, because it made them look as they always did. Most eventually shed this facade, however, and just went with the robot look, because skin didn’t serve a utilitarian purpose, and faces only helped in certain social settings. The two most recent mechs weren’t going to make any rash decisions in that regard.
“How does it feel?” Hilde asked.
“I could ask you the same thing,” Hogarth said. “We’re in the same boat.”
“Not really,” Hilde contended. “You were the one with a time affliction. I haven’t lost anything I’ll miss, but your ability got you out of a lot of sticky situations, even if you weren’t in control of it. How many times did you almost die, only to be spirited away at the very less microsecond?”
“I don’t need to worry about that anymore,” Hogarth assured her. “My consciousness is constantly being backed up to eleven locations.”
“Still,” Hilde went on, it was a part of you, and now it’s gone forever.”
Hogarth smirked, and opened the drawer where Hilde’s body was resting in stasis. “Is it? Who says I can’t just jump back in whenever I want? Who says you can’t do the same?”
“Mech law—”
“Mech law can suck it. I haven’t ever followed anyone else’s rules, and I’m certainly not going to start now. I’ll do what I promised, and get them the resources they need to complete their matrioshka body. I may not do it the way they want it, and they’re just gonna have to accept that.”
“What didn’t you want to say when Lenkida and Ethesh were here? Why aren’t we just using the Nexus replica?”
“I cannot allow anyone the ability to travel faster-than-light. We’ve seen what humans do when they get a taste of a new world. They do whatever it is they want with it.”
“They’re mechs, though.” Hilde argued.
“Same same, but different. Vonearthans all come from the same place. Why, we’ve already seen it. Glinsia was a planet, with a surface, and a core, and satellites. They destroyed it, which is fine; there wasn’t anything living on it, but eating up resources is what people do. I have to be the one to control what they take, and where they take it from. I’ve seen too much not to.”
“What happened to you? When we jumped here from Dardius, you were on the floor, and you weren’t okay. Did you see something?”
Hogarth simulated a sigh. It felt strange, since she wasn’t breathing, and didn’t even possess any mechanism to pump or transmit air. She just let out a sound that sort of sounded like breath. “That jump is what destroyed, and will destroy, the Nexa. My affliction happened one more time, and combined with the transport. When that happened, it rippled all throughout spacetime. Every Nexus that’s ever been mysteriously destroyed, and each one we hear of from now on, will have been caused by what I did.”
“So what?”
“So what, Hogarth, who cares? It’s like you said, vonearthans abuse the powers they receive. They don’t need the replicas, and the time travelers don’t need them either. No one needs them. They’re just more convenient.”
You don’t understand. I didn’t just destroy the replica network. I destroyed the entire thing. The explosion reached across to the originating universe, and is destroying all of those too.”
“Yeah, that sucks,” Hilde agreed, “but they’ll be okay. Or they won’t. Maybe people will die from that, or maybe people will survive because of it. Maybe a villainous force is on its way to invade an innocent planet, and you saved those people because the villains weren’t able to reach them. You keep using the word affliction, but you also keep trying to blame yourself for it. This isn’t something you’ve done, it’s something that happened to you, and in this case, it happens to have impacted other people. Again, it sucks, but you didn’t really do it. We have to find a way to move past this, because I know you, and you’ll brood for years. If the only solution is I hack into your episodic memory files, and erase the issue, I’ll do it.”
“I don’t want to forget anything,” Hilde. “My memory is everything.”
“Well, I guess therapy is your only other option. We’ll do that instead.”
“Did you just haggle me?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She shook her head, happy to be with someone who understood her. “I should get to work.”
“What are you planning? What will studying your organic body do for us? You use the word extraction.”
“I don’t know yet, but if I learn enough about how I was able to jump across dimensions, I might be able to come up with a new solution. I don’t like the word extraction, now that I’ve thought about it. I believe I would call it...time siphoning.”