Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Microstory 1463: Switcheroo

The last Remanoir in Durune history was Marley Allen, who was a member of the super secret organization that never bothered coming up with a name for themselves. They were friends who all believed that the system should change, and include women as equals. They did not meet each other by accident. They were brought together by a man named Anchor Nielsen who had the mage remnant power to witness events remotely by opening time windows. These windows could only transmit light in one direction, so he couldn’t use it to communicate with others, or share any other information, but he could spy on others. He used this ability to find men he knew wanted the same thing. He was no leader, though. His life was under too much scrutiny to let himself be too involved with their efforts. In fact, the rest of the people in the group never even knew who he was. He sent them messages to meet at a single location, where a single note was waiting for them, letting them know that they were safe to discuss their feelings about the government together. It was the few men here who started working on the plans to make changes, and Nielsen never had anything else to do with it ever again. Neifion Summerfield, Eskandar Aljabari, Marley Allen, and Amrit Bax weren’t the only members, but they were the only ones who ultimately became the primary leaders of government. It was an impressive feat, to say the least. Each candidate won their respective race, and two of them were joined by a second-in-command who was also a member. In the Republic, primaries and secondaries ran separately, and winners will often have opposing viewpoints. If the primary leader has radical ideas about how to run the city, then the second leader usually balances them with some moderate thoughts. They executed their lies about as perfectly as they could, knowing that they would not simply be free to take over the world, and run it however they liked. They were prepared for the backlash, and were not surprised when Allen was assassinated before he had even been in office for a year. It was time for his second, Amrit to take the reins.

Amrit Bax didn’t know what was going to happen to him, but after his predecessor’s death, security was tightened. The assassins, and their co-conspirators, were quickly found by a couple of mage remnant detectives, and locked up. Though law enforcement and the military didn’t agree with Allen’s policies, killing the primary leader was illegal, so they had no choice but to take action, and to let Bax take over for him. Bax was just as progressively radical, and he wasn’t about to let power slip through his fingers in the same way it had for all his friends before him. This was pretty much the last chance they would get to destroy the phallocracy, so if he didn’t throw down the gauntlet, no one would, unless whomever brought them all together managed to do it again with a new group. As soon as he secured loyalty from the security team, which he hand-picked himself, he went hard. He started passing executive order after executive order, changing everything about how the Republic was run. He ceased all operations against the Thicket, he reopened employment opportunities for women, and for the love of God, he let mothers take care of their own damn children while their husbands were away. People were pissed, but he wasn’t going to let anybody get in his way. They would have to kill him too if they wanted to replace him with someone else, and even though his security team wasn’t comprised of the most progressive men in the world, they stuck to their posts, and showed that they would not let anyone take their leader down. Now it really felt like a conspiracy, which was what the small group wanted at this point. They had to seem so large and daunting that there was nothing the old guard could do to stop progress. If this many men trusted women, had they lost the war already? Essentially, they had. There was still one more absolutely vital step in finally ending the Republic’s misogynistic ways, and no one saw it coming, not even Bax and his friends.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Microstory 1462: Sic Semper Honestus

Marley Allen was next in line out of the small and secret group of friends who were interested in making the world more like it was before the misogynistic Republic took over. People were not happy with the progressive decisions that Remanoir Aljabari made during his relatively short time as the main leader of the planet. It wasn’t enough to get him kicked out of office, but it was certainly too much to let him be reëlected. That was not only okay, but completely part of the plan. Aljabari never intended to campaign again, but would step aside so that Allen could take over for him. It was his responsibility to give the people a taste of what the world could be like if they let go of their prejudices, and returned to a system of equality. Now it was time for the next step. When Marley Allen replaced him, he believed he would have to lay low for a while, to backpedal on a few of his predecessor’s policies, and make himself out to be the loyal Republican everyone thought he was. It seemed he didn’t have to do that, however, and it was all thanks to Aljabari’s wife, Ceri. Ceri Aljabari was a mage remnant, who had the ability to manipulate other people’s emotions. Very few people were aware of her power, however, as they thought it was Eskandar Aljabari himself who possessed such talent. They didn’t believe that a woman could be so powerful, which gave them leverage, and even plausible deniability. During Eskandar’s administration, he urged congress to agree with the changes he wanted to make, and they didn’t push back as much as one would think. Ceri altered their state of mind, so they would be more open to new ideas. She simultaneously worked on the city residents as a whole, though to a far lower degree, because her ability was only so strong, and it wasn’t like she could create a planet of obedient zombies. By the time Remanoir Allen took his seat at the top, most citizens of Aljabara were willing to consider the possibility that women were perhaps not quite as wholly devious and dishonest as the Republicans had made them out to be for the last six decades.

Unfortunately, most does not ever account for all, and there were more than enough people who never wanted to see the system be replaced. Even if an individual didn’t personally feel any animosity towards women, the phallocratic government was beneficial to them. Women’s rights weren’t just limited, but men’s rights were raised. It was good to be a man on Durus during the first half of the 22nd century, and some weren’t willing to give that up, even if it was better for the planet as a whole. A few of these people got together, and they started plotting. They decided there was something fishy going on with their elections. Summerfield, Aljabari, Allen. Three out of the last four leaders were progressive, even though they claimed not to be. They had lied about themselves the entire time, and there was no reason to believe another election wouldn’t make the same thing happen again. When Summerfield was recalled, Poppet Drumpf took over, but when Drumpf stepped down himself, his entire administration was drained from the proverbial swamp. So what could these people do to fix this? They didn’t want Allen’s second-in-command to take over, because that caused problems before, but a special election was also a travesty in their eyes. They kind of had to pick the lesser of two evils, and hope that Allen’s second, the Prime Minister wouldn’t turn out to be quite as bad as Drumpf. Unlike with Summerfield, however, they did not have the people’s support. If they wanted to get rid of Remanoir Marley Allen, they would have to take care of it themselves. They would have to assassinate him. Fortunately for them, they were radicals, so they didn’t have any problem with killing. The mission was successful, and the Prime Minister took over primary leadership duties, but he would turn out to be just as progressive as his secret friends.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Microstory 1461: Special Election

Eskandar Aljabari was the polar opposite of former Sekundas Poppet Drumpf. He was kind, progressive, and most of all, a philogynist. Years ago, a very, very small group of men got together and formed an organization. Though organization was probably a strong word to use. Club might have even been too strong for it. Friends. They were friends. More to the point, they were like-minded friends. They all loved women, and not only in the way it sounded like. They believed women ought to be treated equally, just like they were on Earth. The Thicket was great as a rebellious force that was trying to change things by making a lot of noise. People needed to hear dissenting opinions, or they would just go on believing that their opinions—if only the ones indoctrinated into them by the government—were the correct ones. A rebel faction wasn’t the only way to make change, however, and this group of friends believed that their way was what was best for them. They were men, after all, so they didn’t need to fight against oppression if they managed to infiltrate the system, and tear it down from the inside. The first attempt at this was Neifion Summerfield, but he frightened people with his radical ideas about the treatment of women, so they recalled him. His downfall was what led to Drumpf’s regime, and this group didn’t want to see that sort of thing happen again. If Eskandar wanted to win the special election following Drumpf’s removal, then he needed to learn from Summerfield’s mistakes. He needed to be smarter, slower, and far less conspicuous. They had to play the long game, and though it would start with Aljabari, it wouldn’t end with him. The plan was to replace him with someone else in the next election after this one, so people could gradually appreciate the idea of trusting women without even realizing it.

There was a problem, though. One of Poppet Drumpf’s conditions for agreeing to step down as Sekundas was that his successor be a mage remnant. It didn’t matter what weak power the next leader of Durus would have, but he couldn’t just be a regular human. Though Aljabari was smart about concealing his true intentions regarding feminine policy, there were those who saw through his façade. They couldn’t prove who he really was, so they figured they should take him out of contention some other way. Then they never needed to try to oppose him at all. Aljabari was no mage remnant, so it seemed there was nothing they could do to qualify him for office. But there was. Most men had been denying the existence of female mage remnants since the very end of the Interstitial Chaos, and this obvious lie was the Republic’s official position. Some even denied that there were ever female full mages during the Mage Protectorate. The bottom line was that, if your daughter was born with powers, and you didn’t want her to be locked up for her entire life, you had to keep it a secret. You had to teach her to keep it a secret, and you couldn’t trust a soul. Fortunately, though Aljabari and his friends didn’t even reveal to their own wives that they were secretly in favor of women’s rights, his wife did confide in him about her time power. And so she gave them their loophole. She was an empath, so she had the ability to sense other people’s emotions. She could also send emotions to others. Now, this might seem like it didn’t matter, because Aljabari himself obviously had to be the one with powers, but all they had to do was use the Republic’s stance on wives against them. His wife had to be with him literally at all times, because the wife of anyone in a political position was more dangerous than the wife of a regular guy. She wasn’t allowed to campaign for him separately, because she would probably screw it up, or undermine him on purpose. So she was in the room when Eskandar was asked to demonstrate his empathic abilities. When prompted, she sent him a given target’s emotion, let him claim he was the one who sensed it himself, and he was able to pass the test. People were suspicious, since he wasn’t openly remnant before, but there was no law against that, and there seemed to be no way around his demonstration, so that had to let him through. He won handily, and began the long con towards equality.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, July 7, 2122

After Sanaa was done sending her time message through the phone using a fifty-two digit number, Holly Blue appeared. “Boy, am I popular today,” she said.
“We don’t mean to disturb you,” Mateo said to her.
“Don’t worry about it,” she replied. “Susan knows when my line’s busy. What can I do for ya? Where’s Leona?”
“She’s back in the main sequence,” Ellie began. “You see—”
“Yes, yes, yes,” Holly Blue interrupted. “I’ve known about the four concurrent realities this entire time.”
“You have?” Ellie questioned. “Did you not tell anyone about them?”
“Weaver strongly recommended that I keep it a secret,” Holly Blue said, referring to her alternate timeline counterpart. “What year was it for you when you left the main sequence?”
“July 6, 2121,” Sanaa answered.
“Ah,” Holly Blue said, “there’s no hurry in getting back in that case. Leona won’t be returning until July 8.”
“Really? Where is she?” Mateo was worried, but not in a panic.
“Oh, it’s fine. She just had to get to a meeting in the future. Mr. Fury approved it. Or rather, he doesn’t have much of a choice when it comes to her and her friends.”
Mateo wasn’t entirely sure what she was talking about, but he would discuss it with Leona later. They needed to return to the issue at hand. Time was running out for him to leave the Fourth Quadrant, whether Leona would be waiting for him or not.
“You seem to have some understanding of our situation here,” Ellie said to Holly Blue. “Do you know why we called you?”
“I don’t, but give me a second, and I may be able to guess.” Holly Blue narrowed her eyes, and looked around at everyone, letting her genius-level intellect fill in the blanks for her. “Based on the people who are here, I can surmise that Ellie has finally begun to realize her mission to save the residents of this reality.”
Ellie looked surprised.
“Yes, Miss Underhill,” Holly Blue went on, “I have access to information from alternate timelines. I know more about you than you care for others to remember. Don’t worry, I have no interest in divulging any of your secrets. Judging by the Cassidy cuffs on your wrists, I know that Jupiter did not fully approve of this mission, but he is allowing it. Or perhaps you actually need the cuffs, because everyone knows that Ariadna doesn’t use her powers herself.”
“Does everyone know what I can do?” Ariadna questioned, upset.
“Just everyone in this room,” Holly Blue answered. “Since Missy is here, obviously your plan is to reset the speed of time. It must be pretty important to you people, or Sanaa would not also be here. Do you guys know what she did to her?”
Ellie nodded, but everyone else shook their heads.
“Anyway, you called me, because President Orlov needs the energy that the time discrepancy provides—”
“Wait, you didn’t say anything about me,” Mateo pointed out, but he regretted it immediately.
“Do you really want me to answer that?”
“No,” Mateo said. He wasn’t there because he served some purpose, or was a clue to their situation in any way. He was just there because he had to be somewhere.
“How did I do?” Holly Blue asked the crowd.
“Can you help us?” Missy asked of her. “Can you adapt my ability to make temporal energy generators?”
“They would be more like a converter,” Holly Blue said, her voice rising in the end, like it was a question, but it wasn’t, because she was the one who knew what she was talking about. Then she sighed, and looked between Missy, and for some reason, Ariadna. “Your ability isn’t good enough,” she finally explained. “You can create temporal pocket dimensions.” She looked around, indicating the world in general. “This is a spatio-temporal pocket dimension. Or. Well. It’s not a pocket anymore, but whatever. My point is that you can neither create nor control spatial dimensions.” Now she quite deliberately faced Ariadna. “You, on the other hand...”
“Why does that matter?” Ariadna asked.
“I would need to adapt both of your time powers, and put them together.” Holly Blue raised her hands in front of her chest, and moved them to lock her fingers together at medium speed. “Both of you need to be involved in order for this to work. Otherwise, the bubbles won’t do these people any good.”
“Why not?” Ellie asked. “We don’t need to access the main sequence anymore. That’s just what they’re using now, because that’s how this reality was designed. If we separate from the main sequence, you can just build something that uses time bubble energy.”
Holly Blue shook her head. “You’re not getting it. The main sequence is self-sustaining. You’re stealing energy from it. The fact that they’re moving at different speeds is what powers the grid in this reality, but that only works because time flow on the other side is in turn powered by natural entropy. If Missy were to go off and create her own bubbles, they could not generate any power unless she continued to funnel energy into it from her end.”
“I’m lost,” Mateo said, “as per yuzhe.”
Holly Blue prepared to clarify herself. “Well, let me make a car analogy. Why don’t cars have small wind turbines, instead of using gas or batteries? While the car is driving, the wind flows into the turbine, which spins, and powers the motor.”
“Well, they’ve tried to build them, and they do exist, but they’re inefficient, because the turbines create drag, which means there’s more demand for more wind, and you can’t get over that. The more wind you try to put into it, the more drag you create, and it never ends.”
“Exactly,” Holly Blue agreed. “For Missy’s bubbles to be used to generate energy, she has to keep adding energy, which is fine, assuming her power is infinite, but that’s not what you’re asking me to do. My invention would not be self-sustaining. You wouldn’t be able to get more energy than what you put in to power the converters themselves. If you want me to build you something, it has to extract energy from a separate supply, just like they do now. Otherwise, you could plug  a surge protector into itself, and have infinite energy for no reason, and without paying into it.”
“Bottom line,” Ellie said, “can it be done?”
“Not without Ariadna. She has to consent to let me study her.”
They all waited patiently for Ariadna’s response. She never wanted to be involved in any of this, but from Mateo’s perspective, it was a no-brainer. She had the power to help, and she wasn’t doing anything else with her abilities, so who could say no? “Well, who could say no to that?” she revealed after building a little suspense.
Sanaa reached over, and nearly twisted Mateo’s arm off to check Leona’s watch. “We don’t have long to get out of here, or we’ll be stuck here for a month. So if this is all you need of us, we’re gonna slip back through.”
“How do we do that?” Mateo questioned. “Ellie needs Ariadna to get us back to The Parallel, but Holly Blue needs her to stay here, for however long until she finishes her new invention.”
“I can finish in a month,” Holly Blue said. “My invention can be built and tested within that time frame. She doesn’t have to stick around for us to mass produce it.”
“I really would love to see this all end,” Ellie announced.
“I can hang out here for a month. So can you,” Mateo scolded Sanaa.
Sanaa frowned. “Fine. But I want to stay on the opposite side of the city as her.” She didn’t gesture towards Missy, or even look at her, but she was the established target of all her hatred.
Holly Blue, Missy, and Ariadna stuck around, so President Orlov could find a lab for them to work in. She mentioned something about Duke Andrews, but something in her voice made Mateo worried that she was talking about a dead person. He, Sanaa, and Ellie followed their own escort to the suburbs, where they would be allowed to stay until it was time to return to the main sequence. They were only half surprised to find out that they were assigned to Fletcher House. Based on how Horace talked about it, a few people were left untouched when their enemy, Tauno Nyland created this reality. He copied every single person from Kansas City, and placed them here, except for him, Serkan, Paige, and maybe some others. The true owner of this house, Mercury Fletcher, was always assumed to be one of these other exceptions, but there wasn’t enough data to prove this one way or the other. Until now.
A man stepped out of the house to greet them in the driveway. A presumably different version of Mercury was at Mateo and Leona’s engagement party, so even though they didn’t know each other well, Mateo recognized that this was him.
Ellie shook his hand. “Congressman Fletcher, it is an honor to meet you.”
“Congressman?” Mercury asked, impressed. “It’s nice to know I go places.”
“I figured I ought to call you that, even though it was technically an alternate version of you who ran for office.”
“Please, just call me Mercury, or Dupe!Mercury. Or hell, even Dupe!Merc.
“Will there be anything else, sir?” the driver asked of him.
“Nah, go on and go home. Make sure your batteries are full, though. I would like to take these fine folks on a tour of our fair city tomorrow.”
“Very good, sir,” the driver said before leaving.
“We appreciate you letting us stay here,” Mateo said. “You have a lovely home.”
“Especially the basement,” Mercury agreed. “You each have a room down there. I don’t need to use it as a secret headquarters anymore.”
At the end of the summer in 2024, Mercury Fletcher sold his house, and downsized to something more appropriate while he pursued a career in civil service. Having been outed as the vigilante who was largely responsible for bringing gun violence statistics in the metropolitan area to nearly zero, he was lauded as a hero, and became quite popular around the country. Shortly after he left, a small team of time travelers moved into Fletcher House, and started using its facilities to save lives in the past. The Fourth Quadrant was created about a month before any of this, however, so this version of Mercury was still here.
Holly Blue was finished with her new creation in three weeks, but the window was not yet ready for them to return to the main sequence, so the stayed for the rest of the month. Unfortunately, calculations were a little fuzzy, so it turned out that Ellie was unable to see Missy take down the temporal bubble. Jupiter stepped in, and pulled everyone with a Cassidy cuff back to reality, which was July 7, 2122. They quickly jumped forward a year to find out the plan changed while they were gone. The temporal bubble wasn’t destroyed, but reversed.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Glisnia: The Shortlist (Part IV)

Holly Blue stood there reverently and quietly. She didn’t look surprised or pleased at Hogarth’s offer to help her find her son. Neither did she look perturbed that this might have all been a ploy, and Hogarth wouldn’t actually be able to deliver. “He’s in another universe. How do you have access to that?”
Hogarth gestured towards Crimson, who was still inhabiting Hogarth’s original body. “My name is Crimson Clover. I borrowed this substrate so I could experiment with Madam Pudeyonavic’s time power. I’ve been traveling the bulkverse, visiting strange new worlds, meeting interesting people. Hogarth, I didn’t get a chance to tell you any of that yet. How did you know?”
“I took a guess,” Hogarth replied. “I’ve been traveling through time in this universe, and the people I meet either know about my past, or a believable future. No one has so much as hinted that an entity going by the name of Crimson Clover has been traipsing around the timeline with my face. The idea that you just jumped to other universes was a far more logical answer to where you were while you were gone for the last several centuries.”
“Are you bothered by this truth?” Crimson questioned.
“I only hope,” Hogarth began, “in all that time, you managed to meet someone by the name of Declan Aberdeen.”
“He might be going by something else,” Holly Blue said. “He hadn’t settled on one yet, but he was thinking—”
“He goes by Declan,” Crimson interrupted. “He didn’t use a codename; none of us did, though of course, everyone thought mine was made up. Since we were all from different universes, it didn’t seem necessary to hide our identities.”
“You worked with him?” Holly Blue asked.
“Yeah, we had a whole team; me, Declan, the Fruits...”
“How did you leave him? Was he okay?”
“He was...all right when I left,” Crimson answered.
“Why did you leave at all?” Hogarth asked.
“It was time,” Crimson said. “We accomplished what we set out to do, and once it was over, we went our separate ways.”
“Did he go to another world,” Holly Blue started to ask, “or do you know where I can find him that wouldn’t disrupt the timeline?” Traveling to other universes is dangerous, and not just due to physical limitations. Each universe operates on an entirely independent timeline, and is meant to remain as such. Any external force threatens that more than internal time travel ever could.
“I can take you to him,” Crimson promises with a nod.
“But I have to build you something first,” Holly Blue acknowledged.
“No,” Hogarth insisted. “If you want, we’ll skip that part.”
“That’s not what we agreed upon,” Crimson reminded her.
“I’ll find another way,” Hogarth told him. Holly Blue wasn’t the only way to invent a special time-siphoning device; she was just the easiest.
“You guarantee my safety throughout the process,” Holly Blue began, “so I don’t die before I find Declan, then I’ll build whatever you want.”
“You don’t wanna know what it is first?” Hogarth wondered.
“I trust that you’re not trying to get me to make you a bomb, or something,” Holly Blue said.
“Definitely not,” Hogarth, “though it does technically involve blowing up.”
“This ability isn’t about blowing up,” Crimson started to say. “You only perceived it that way, because you didn’t understand it. You were moving so fast that it felt like an explosion, but as I’m sure you saw, you can do at a slower pace. Someone I knew long ago called it molecular transportation, but there might be a better term for it.”
“You want me to adapt that power into something that anyone can use?” Holly Blue guessed.
“Sort of,” Hogarth said. “We want to siphon resources from distant star systems, without crossing the distance, or even teleporting to their locations. We just want the stuff.”
“Have you considered the ethical ramifications of such an endeavor?” Holly Blue pressed.
“Perhaps not all of them,” Crimson replied. “There’s absolutely the possibility of abuse, but we plan on sticking to the stellar neighborhood, and maybe a little beyond that. We’ll only take from uninhabited worlds.”
“How will you know which worlds are inhabited, and which aren’t?”
“Data from Project Stargate and Project Topdown,” Hogarth answered.
She nodded. These were semi-secret projects that involved sending automated ships across the galaxy. The idea was to explore these other systems, and catalog anything found in them, including life. Not every vonearthan was aware of it in Hogarth’s time, but this was the year 2400. Things might have changed since then. The ships were traveling near the speed of light, so at this point in history, they had already traveled a hundred and fifty light years from their starting location at the Gatewood Collective.
Holly Blue needed more information. “So, you wanna pick a target within a hundred light years, and take whatever you need from it; hydrogen, metals, whatever?”
She looked around the room, but more in a general sense. “You don’t have everything you need here, wherever this is?”
“We have exhausted our resources,” Crimson explained. “We are trying to build something truly gargantuan, and no star system in the galaxy alone possesses enough material to accomplish it.”
“What is it?”
And so they went about explaining the matrioshka brain, and the matrioshka body. It was an absurdly ludicrous goal, but if they could accumulate the materials they needed, there was no reason not to. It would be possible to see the matrioshka body from light years away, including Earth. People could look into the sky, and see the largest structure that vonearthans ever created. It would be a magnificent sight once it was finished, and everyone who looked upon it would know how powerful they were. Should an alien race gaze into the void, in the right direction, they too would see it, and both know that aliens existed, and would prove to be a formidable force. This would either scare them into staying away, or excite them with the prospect of new friends who might share knowledge with them. It was a better form of communication than any golden disc or degraded radio signal could provide. It also followed the rule of cool, and maybe that was enough.
“A time-siphon,” Holly Blue echoed. “I don’t see why not. I only have one condition, besides your promise to get me to Declan.”
“Naturally,” Crimson agreed preemptively.
“It can only be operated by The Shortlist.”
“What’s that?” Crimson asked.
Hogarth blended a scoff with a chuckle; not in disgust, but more out of surprise. The Shortlist was a self-serving and pretentious—obviously quite small—group of people who partially declared control over what people in this galaxy were allowed to have, and when they were allowed to have it. A day might come when the general public would be informed of the truth about time travelers, but if that timeline ever came to pass, it would be at the pleasure of the Shortlist. Because of time travel itself, no one really knew who came up with the idea of the list, but membership did not require consent. If you were chosen to be on it, you were on it, whether you wanted to be or not. Being short, it was rather easy to list every member. Hogarth Pudeyonavic, Hokusai Gimura, Holly Blue, Weaver, Brooke Prieto, Sharice Prieto, Kestral McBride, Ishida Caldwell, Pribadium Delgado, Leona Matic, and Ramses Abdulrashid made up the entire ensemble. Eleven people. Eleven people either decided they were in charge of the scattered trillions, or were told they were responsible for them, in some capacity.
Being smart or important was not enough to qualify someone to be on the list. Plenty of very important people were off it, like Meliora Rutherford, and Étude Einarsson. They also had to be a scientist or an engineer, and have become that way predominantly because of their exposure to time travel. Not everyone wanted to be on it, or actively contributed to its efforts. Weaver was just an alternate version of Holly Blue, and following a few adventures upon first arriving, kept herself pretty well out of this timeline’s business. Sharice was an artificial intelligence. Though that was no reason to keep her from the list, she actively protested her inclusion, for her own reasons. Ramses was the only man, which was an interesting fact. Leona was the least knowledgeable out of all of them, and her lack of credentials should have barred her from membership, but she was the special pet of the powers that be, so they kind of needed to be able to trust her in an emergency. Her husband, Mateo was an honorary member, who needed to be available for the same reasons.
There were probably some people who deserved to be on the list, if it deserved to exist in the first place. The doctors, Sarka and Hammer were more than qualified in their own field. Trinity and Ellie Underhill were never formally trained in the sciences, though they were extremely intelligent, and experienced, and some noticed evidence that the latter knew a whole lot more than she let on. Thor Thompson, Saxon Parker, and Mirage probably had a place somewhere too. So it wasn’t a perfect list, but it was the one they had, and few would argue with it. Members weren’t chosen because they had the potential for a technological breakthrough that could either destroy or save the universe, but because they actually had created something which fit that criteria. The justification for the group was that it was less about wielding power, and more about keeping each other accountable for the power they found themselves in possession of anyway.
Still, Holly Blue mandating a Shortlist limitation was a big deal, and something which most of the members were required to sign off on. Some wanted a decision like this to be unanimous, but gathering all these people in one place at the same point in time was difficult at best. If they wanted to hold a legitimate vote, they would need help from a couple people who weren’t even on the list, and Holly Blue had to be sure she wanted to go down this road. “Yes,” she confirmed confidently. “Call a vote.”
“Very well,” Hogarth said. “I’ll see who we can get for a quorum.”

Friday, September 25, 2020

Microstory 1460: Nothing Civil About It

People were not happy with Sekundas Drumpf declaring himself the Republic’s dictator. It didn’t make any sense, and it wasn’t right, and it wasn’t fair. The voters distrusted women as much as he did, but that didn’t mean he had the right to pass whatever laws he wanted, or to punish however he saw fit. People were dying, even though capital punishment remained illegal. They had to get him out of office, and that meant sparking a revolution. This rebellion force had absolutely nothing to do with the Thicket. They didn’t feel that women should be equal, but if the city was going to develop any policies regarding what a woman could and couldn’t do, then it would develop them as a collective, not by a single voice. Unfortunately, unseating Drumpf was not destined to be the easiest thing in the world. He was extremely good to the military. He allowed them to use whatever means they deemed necessary in the fight against terrorism, but also made their jobs as easy as they wanted. He didn’t force them to work, but when they did work, he let them do it however they pleased. He had no interest in commanding the troops, but left that responsibility to the Commons. By the way, Common was the Durune analog for a General, due to some English linguistics becoming lost in translation over time. They loved him, and they would do anything for him, and the only way to stop him was if they switched sides, or if dissidents started an internal conflict. For two years, this so-called civil war raged throughout the city. Soldiers on both sides died, as did innocent bystanders.

The Thicket rebels didn’t know what to do. They could see some great opportunities to make real changes while Aljabara was distracted and in chaos, but they were afraid of making things worse, or stooping to their level, because that was the kind of thing that their enemies would do in their shoes. In the end, they did nothing. They stayed in hiding, and let the Aljabarans work it out themselves, for if they tried to help the dissidents, they would just be painting a larger target on their own backs. No one really won this conflict. Drumpf ultimately stepped down, deciding that he would rather not be in power than see the city fall, and the women rise from its ashes to take their revenge. Before he left office, however, he made one final speech, where he warned the citizens of the last prediction that his hidden seer made for him. He claimed that a great subversive force was on its way, that this force would destroy everything they had been working towards for the last sixty years, and that they would come crawling back to him in the wake of its destruction. He said that he would gladly return to office when that day came, and would not hold these recent events against them. It was the only thing he ever asserted that ultimately proved to apparently be true. Years later, a woman from Earth showed up, and helped take down the established republic. In response to this, Drumpf was indeed returned to leadership, in an albeit different position, with smaller scope. Until that day came, however, the Republic still needed to continue, and someone had to be in charge around here. The dissidents hadn’t really thought about who would do that, or how they would go about finding this man. They decided they needed an emergency election. That actually went pretty well, and marked a turning point in the planet’s history. The thirteenth top leader of the Aljabaran Republic secretly studied under former President Summerfield, which gave him the insight to learn from his mentor’s mistakes. Before the Republic ended, social justice was already leaning in that direction, thanks to Remanoir Eskandar Aljabari’s initiatives.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Microstory 1459: A Continuation

Starting in the year 2154, the city of Aljabara was gearing up for another election. They expected to elect Sekundas Drumpf for a third term, but there was no guarantee of that, and there were plenty of hopefuls who sought to unseat him. He had no interest in seeing this happen, so he made an argument for cancelling the election altogether. He was already in charge, and things were going great, so why mess with a good thing? According to reports, the war against the Thicket terrorists couldn’t be going any better. The truth was that he had made little to no progress on this front, but the people didn’t need to know that. He inflated numbers, and reframed narratives, and spun the truth, and also just made up flat-out lies. He made himself look like the best thing that had ever happened to this planet. He made it seem like people barely survived before him, and that they wouldn’t survive the future without him. He claimed to have a mage remnant seer in his pocket, who regularly warned him of oncoming events, and that only he knew what to do to protect his constituents. He swayed a lot of people using these tactics, but he couldn’t convince everyone. That was okay, because he didn’t need everyone. He really only needed the military. He had no legal authority to get rid of the election ballots, but get rid of them he did. He declared himself the autonomous authority over the entire planet, and challenged anyone to disagree with him on this matter. There were a few takers, but they were swiftly removed from their mortal coil, and no one dared push him towards the edge again. It didn’t bother him at all that his actions meant that they were no longer living under a republic, but a dictatorship. He wanted more power, and the only way to get it was to hold onto what he already had. Democracy could go take a hike for all he cared. He insisted they continue to call it The Republic, however, to make him look good, and to make the city look good, in case Earth ever found out about them. The history books didn’t even acknowledge a change in governmental type when looking back at this period of time, for all the official documentation suggested that nothing had been altered. The Durune were now living in a totalitarian state, and it didn’t feel like anything could make it the least bit better.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Microstory 1458: New War on Terrorism

Sekundas Drumpf won reëlection for leader of Aljabara, which was the first time that ever happened on Durus since the Republic was founded. People liked change, and he gave it to them, and five years later, there was no reason to believe he wouldn’t keep changing things. He even promised to undo some of the policies he himself came up with in the first place, as if his past self were less of a man than the version of him in the present. People didn’t see this as contradictory or bizarre. The past was always worse, no matter what, even if this was objectively untrue. He had their confidence, and he had their votes. There was some evidence that the ballots had been tampered with by Drumpf’s loyalists, but no proof, and there was definitely nothing connecting him to this alleged crime. He would later get rid of any semblance of democracy altogether, but for now, he had work to do. He wanted to make this the best planet in the galaxy, and in order to do that, he had to take control over the whole planet. The first change he made was to his own administration. They were no longer going to call this the government of Aljabara, but of Durus, so that if they did one day expand beyond this one city, they would have control over everything. It wasn’t just about the future, though. It also made it a lot easier for him to go after what he considered to be man’s greatest enemy. Now that younger generations of girls would be indoctrinated into the belief that they could do nothing on their own, it was time to deal with The Thicket. These women could never change—never be taught. He figured they needed to die, like a household pest. He and his closest allies desperately wanted to go to war, and to leave no prisoners, but it wasn’t going to be easy. Surprisingly few were in favor of violence against women, or anyone. There was only one way to change their minds, and that was to reframe the narrative. The Thicket was already labeled an insurgent organization, but had yet to be fully recognized as a terrorist group. Making this change required diplomatic addendums, but starting there would have been a waste of time. He needed to make sure the public was on his side first, so he just started slipping the word into his speeches, increasing frequency each time, and boosting applause every moment he could. Once the civilians were convinced that the rebels were terrorists, it was easy to get it changed in the official documentation. That in turn made it easier to get the necessary support to start physical attacks. Until then, they had been trying to protect the city’s borders, but had yet to go on the offensive in any significant way. It took Drumpf several months, but he finally got approval. Then it took even longer for his army to find their opponents, who had grown used to hiding deep in the thicket. The War on Terrorism began in 2151, and never really technically ended, even when Hokusai Gimura showed up, and forced huge changes to the government. They never reached a peace treaty, or a ceasefire, or anything. They just kept fighting when they could, and taking strategic breaks when the intelligence dried up. A lot of other things happened in the meantime.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Microstory 1457: Extremist in Command

Sekundas Poppet Drumpf was, in no uncertain terms, an extremist. A lot of people were happy with their little misogynistic society, because they didn’t know of a better way, but he was into it. He was super into it. He hated women, and thought that they were only good for making babies. There were many tasks that men didn’t want to have to do, like laundry, and keeping the household clean, but Poppet wasn’t like that. Men did everything better, and he was willing to do the dirty work if it meant a woman wasn’t involved. If he had it his way, every woman would be locked in a little room with the bare minimum: a bed, sink, shower, and toilet. They would gestate the babies, birth them, and then go back to their bed to start the whole process over again. There weren’t a whole lot of people on Durus who agreed with him to this degree. Sure, women couldn’t be trusted, but they shouldn’t be locked up, and not because that was inhumane, but because at the very least, they were useful as slaves. Still, he was popular, because just like President Summerfield’s lies, he was loud and unrelenting, and people absolutely loved that in a leader. The only reason Summerfield allowed him to run for the second-in-command position was because the insanity would hopefully distract from Summerfield’s attempts at pushing the world towards progress. When he was removed from office, his whole plan backfired, for once Poppet found himself in the number one spot, there was no stopping him. He decided to not take the position of President. Earth had a lot of presidents, and they also had a lot of women in power. He didn’t want any part of that, so he decided to keep his old title, even though it obviously indicated he was meant to be second, and not first. He then proceeded to win the election four years later, and became the only two-term primary leader the Republic had ever seen. He wouldn’t stop there, but that is a story for another day. Until then, he wanted to make some changes in Aljabara, whether the people wanted him to or not.

The biggest changes he made were to the education system. He decided that women weren’t the issue, but the way they were raised as girls. They weren’t taught to be independent, but they weren’t taught to be submissive either. He deemed this too problematic. He knew no one would go for his crazy locked half-room idea, but education was the easiest avenue towards getting close to his goals. People cared deeply about education, but they also easily conceded to the fact that they didn’t know what the hell to do with it. If someone in power told them schools should be run a certain way, well, then they just sort of trusted that, as long as that person said other things that they liked. So he knew he would be able to get away with preventing girls from being educated the right way. He didn’t stop them from learning at all, but he only let them learn the things he felt weren’t important, or useful. Language was an acceptable subject, because it was irrelevant to their everyday lives. Understanding grammar wasn’t going to help them rise up, and demand equality. Maybe they could conduct impactful speeches, but without any understanding of politics, their words would be empty, and people would recognize that. Likewise, they could make all the art and music they wanted, but it wasn’t going to make them any less inferior to men. Education wasn’t the only thing that Drumpf went after in his first few years, but it was the most significant. He did all these terrible things, and he still got reëlected. He was unstoppable.

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.”