Saturday, October 31, 2020

Glisnia: Dynastis (Part IX)

Hogarth didn’t know where she was, or who this...entity before her was, but she always tried to follow Leona’s Rules of Time Travel. Rule Number Five seemed pertinent right now, treat everyone you meet with respect, as they may unexpectedly return. “My name is Hogarth Pudeyonavic. I’m not sure what’s happening here. I scanned a book that I...”
“Created with your mind?” Aitchai finished for her.
“Yes.”
“That code delivered you to me. How can I be of assistance?”
“We’re not sure of all the details, but we believe we tapped into an alternate reality, and accidentally...merged our two together? The alternate sun is bleeding into our reality, but it’s small right now, at least from our dimensional perspective.”
The man tilted his head back in thought. “Hm. Interesting.”
“Have you seen anything like this before?”
“I’ve seen overlaid realities before, yes, of course. I’ve never heard of your specific case, though. It is quite interesting. Is it growing?”
“Yes, we believe as it slowly pulls itself into our reality, it’s adopting our dimensions.”
“Quite right, except I don’t imagine it’s from an alternate reality. I believe you’ve reached another universe; one that is—to dumb it down, with apologies—smaller than yours. Did you see colors as it was first emerging?”
“I was not there. They called me in to help. One of them is indeed from a different universe. He has the power to enhance other people’s power, and he was trying to use it to help one of our people access other realities. It’s this whole thing.”
Aitchai shook his head dismissively, but still respectfully. “I don’t need to hear anything about it. Just give me a second.” And then his stood there for a moment, unmoving. “Okay, you’re good.”
“Really? It was that easy?”
“For me, anyway.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m everything.”
“Like...literally, err...?”
“Pretty much, yeah. I was a man once.” He raised his arms outward at a ninety-degree angle, lifted his shoulders, and looked down at his chest. “I looked like this. My name was Dyne Dyne Pala Pala. A few of us encountered a temporal anomaly, and it made us all immortal. We each have our own thing, though. My version is...unusual, and my essence ultimately became integrated with the fabric of time and space, for every universe in the infinite. I’m everything now. I’m really just the energy that pervades all matter. You’re talking to a high concentration of it, in a form that just makes it easier for us to communicate.” He shook his hands like he was warming up to play the piano. “I don’t normally have hands anymore, though.”
“Do you interfere a lot?”
“I’m not sure I would say a lot, as I’ve lost all concept of scale, but I suppose about as much as I feel is necessary. There are some points in spacetime that need my attention, as do some people. You are one of those people. I needed there to be a book in your world, or rather your world needed it. Most universes are just...normal. They don’t have time travel, or anything. Closest they might get are relativistic speeds. For the few with special needs, I monitor more closely.”
“Why me?”
He smiled, though as a holographic projection of a boundless metaconsciousness, it was just for show. “I don’t talk to many people, and they all ask that. The answer is...no particular reason. You’re random.” He seemed worried that sounded offensive.
“Whew, what a relief,” Hogarth said. “Now I don’t feel so pressured. Whatever I do, it’s what I’m meant to do, right? I don’t have some specific purpose or destiny that I’ve been missing.”
“No, you’re just part of the puzzle. You’re a brighter part, I would say—you stand out more—but you still fit just as snuggly in the tapestry of reality as anyone else.”
“But I have been given the chance to talk with you directly, which is rare?”
“Indeed. You’re a puzzle piece that I picked up and inspected, to stay with the metaphor.”
“Does this have to be a one-time thing?”
“It’s not a one-time thing, but it’s not a whenever you can’t find your car keys kind of thing either. Your universe has car keys right?”
“Not anymore,” she responded. “Well, don’t worry, I won’t bug you too much.”
I’m always with you, though,” Aitchai added, “as cheesy as that may sound: in the sun’s rays, in the hum of electrical lines, in the cold of winter; that’s me. I am the energy that keeps all things moving. At least, I’m the conscious element of these natural processes.”
She nodded again. “Thank you for your help with this. Are you gonna warn me about messing with things I don’t understand?”
He shook his holographic head. “Nope. I trust you.”
“I appreciate your support.”
And with that, he was gone, and Hogarth was back in the training room.
Everyone else was still staring at the space where the miniature sun used to be, the rest of the group having entered the room at some point. Now everything was fine, and they were confused. The ones here when she left were standing a little farther from the epicenter of the problem than they were before, indicating that it had grown while she was talking with Aitchai. It took them a second to realize she was back.
“How long have you been gone?” Hilde asked.
Their friends walked over to hear better.
“A few minutes, I guess. Why, do I look older?” Hogarth joked.
“No, it’s just that it’s fixed,” Holly Blue pointed out. “Did it only take you a few minutes to get your answer, and correct the issue?”
“I met someone who fixed it,” Hogarth began to explain. “It only took him a second or two. We spent the rest of the time talking.”
“Who was this person?” Holly Blue was concerned.
“He called himself the Aitchai. Crimson, I’m sure you’ve heard of him.”
“Oh, yeah,” Crimson started, but then said, “no. Why? Should I have?”
“He’s, like...the god of the bulkverse, so I guess I assumed you had at least heard the name at some point in your travels.”
“No, ‘fraid not,” Crimson replied.
“How do you know he was who he said he was?” Holly Blue posed.
“How do you know I am who I say I am?” Hogarth volleyed. “We never really know anything. I choose to believe. He did fix the sun. It was from another brane, by the way, not an alternate reality.”
Jupiter slapped Ambrose on the shoulder, somewhat affectionately, but also a little to roughly. “You boosted my power a lot more than you knew you could. You need to be more careful, brother.”
Ambrose nodded his head, horrified. “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”
“Well, it’s all right now, we got it fixed,” Hogarth reminded them.
“How can we be sure it won’t happen again?” Holly Blue was about ready to scrap the whole project.
“You mean how can you ever trust me again,” Ambrose corrected.
“I was jokin’ with you, man,” Jupiter assured him. “It takes two to Tango.”
“He’s right,” Lenkida said. “We need safeguards, and contingencies, and simulations. You have all been going through this really quickly, but this has always been a long-term project. We have plenty of resources to keep us busy for the next several years. Figure out how you’re gonna do what you need to do before you start trying to do it.”
Hogarth looked over at her lab partner. “Holly Blue. Don’t.”
“What?” Holly Blue asked. “I didn’t do anything.”
“You’re about to suggest we give up, and I’m telling you, don’t suggest that.”
Holly Blue breathed in deeply, then released it all from her lungs at once. “I need to go before I say something we both regret.” She reached over to her wrist, and activated her teleporter, disappearing in a flash of lightning that was only there for effect.
“I’ll talk to her,” Crimson said as it prepared to teleport as well.
“Wait,” Hogarth stopped it. “Take her to Declan. She doesn’t wanna be here anymore, and this is my responsibility.”
Crimson tipped an imaginary cap. “As you wish.” It exploported away. Was that a good word for it, exploportation?
There was silence for a few moments.
“Ethesh,” Hogarth began. “I could do with a technician.”
“At your service,” he replied.
The two of them walked out of the room, and headed for the lab. There was a moment during this that gave her pause. This whole facility operated on wireless energy. Solar radiation was absorbed by the conversion panels on the outer layers, and delivered everywhere else. Every entity that required electricity to survive got it from broadcast nodes that the engineers installed at strategic locations. It didn’t matter where a mech or transhuman went, there was always a node nearby to supply them with power, and the signals generally overlapped with each other, so there was no loss of constant recharge, even though everyone was equipped with a backup battery. There were a few spots, however, with no overlap. They were simply oversights that no one had bothered to correct, but again, that was fine, because constant supply was a luxury, not a necessity. The threshold separating the training room and the hallways was one such of these spots, and when Hogarth crossed it, she could feel it. It was only for a second, but her sensory detectors were sensitive enough to register it. Normally, she would move on, and not give it any thought, but now she noticed it.
“What is it?” Ethesh asked her.
“That’s the Aitchai.”
“Your magical god friend?” he questioned.
She looked around like a paranoid wallaby. “He’s everywhere,” she whispered.
Ethetsh looked around too, but only with his eyes. “Are you seeing him right now? Is he telling you to do things?”
“Everything is always everywhere, and right here.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s all connected.”
“Do I need to get a doctor?”
“Energy. Matter. Matter. Energy.”
“You’re really starting to freak me out, and I don’t freak out easily. I once met Ludwig van Beethoven backstage in Gandren Hall...in the past.”
“We’re thinking about this all wrong. We don’t need an altreal siphon. The time siphon will do just fine, as long as we use it correctly. Just a few molecules from everywhere, it’s all connected. Crimson Clover!” she shouted at medium volume.
Crimson exploported in. “Holly Blue has agreed to go meet Declan, but she has to get ready first. What do you need?”
“I need my body back,” Hogarth demanded.
“I can’t take her to Declan’s universe unless I keep it. I promise to return it immediately afterwards.”
“Don’t worry about Holly Blue right now. I can finish the matryoshka body.” She grabbed it by her shoulders, and forcefully swapped their consciousnesses.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Microstory 1485: Turn of the Century

Before the Mage Protectorate fell to the war with the monsters, a special committee formed to plan a huge celebration for the turn of the century. The year 2100 was meant to signify a fresh start for the people of Durus, and a more meaningful shift than one might assume. Other than a few stragglers, plus ageless Ecrin Cabral, there weren’t a whole lot of people left on the planet who also once lived on Earth. Some of them didn’t have any recollection of it, because they were too young when the Deathfall sent them all to the rogue world. Despite all the wondrous things that the mages could do, and all the protective measures they took against the monsters, life was hard on Durus, and life expectancy was lower than it was on Earth. Medicinal treatments, and medical resources, did not accompany time powers, so if someone got sick enough, there was a significant chance that they would ultimately die from it. So the 22nd century was very important to these people, and it was a major disappointment when it just sort of stopped mattering. The Protectorate was destroyed in 2090, and though the phallocratic Republic formed in plenty of time to maintain schedule, the government was not interested in carrying it through. They just felt it was too much work to make sure women weren’t treated equally, and to coordinate all that supervision, so they let it go, and moved on with their oppressive and joyless regime. A lot had changed by the time the 23rd century approached, and of course, people wanted to actually do something to observe the occasion. A new committee formed, and this time, they weren’t going to let anything stop them from recognizing everything they had been through, and expressing hope for everything they were yet to do.

There was just one problem. When this new party planning committee started getting to work in 2195, someone pointed out that they had just done a huge celebration for the Bicentennial fifteen years ago. That wasn’t really a problem on its own, but that thing was a rager—a week-long rager. Most agreed that this would somehow have to be bigger and better in every way. But what did that mean? Two weeks long? Faster rides? More impressive time power modifications? That was what the committee was for, and why they needed five years to plan it. All of that was exactly what they did, except that the official events would only last for eleven days, rather than the full two weeks. There were multiple groups of people who were allowed to go back in time, so they could enjoy all the celebration had to offer without concern for scheduling conflicts. They added other features, like Air Gap competitions, which was a game the source mages made up that involved running towards the objective while separating one’s opponents from it by manipulating dimensional space. People today were doing it with time tech. It was huge, and fun, and dangerous. The day pass team only had five people on it, but others were trained, so they could fill in as needed. For these two weeks, everyone was called up to be at the ready to save people’s lives before they were placed in danger. Like the Bicentennial before it, it was a hugely successful extravaganza, and everyone had a really great time. Once it was done, though, they had to put it behind them, because the time was quickly coming upon them when their little wayward planet would finally reach its goal in the Ophiuchi system. Playtime was over, and they had a lot of work to do.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Microstory 1484: Necter of the Gods

The universe is but one in a sea of infinite others. Each is called a brane, and is swimming around a sort of hyperdimensional metaspace known as the bulk. Do not confuse these with alternate realities. Any similarity between two branes only occurs because one was modeled upon the other. Some of them are natural, but some are conceived in the minds of people. The latter can last indefinitely, or collapse quickly, and are usually created through dreams, or fictional storytelling. An example of the former, on the other hand, will not resemble any other. It may have humans in it, or it may not. Its physical laws may feel familiar, but that will be coincidence, not because of some inherent interversal connection. No matter what, each universe is independent, through both time and space. And it is extremely difficult to travel between them. Interversal travel has only been invented twice in the entire histories of the entire bulkverse, and every means of travel beyond it has been based on that original technology. Because these branes do not operate on the same timeline, there really isn’t any such thing as the first, but one did inspire the pursuit of the other. They called it The Crossover, and the biggest reason the one group of people who encountered it were capable of replicating its function was because they were immortals who were billions of years old. They called their version the Nexus Network. It started out as a way to jump between systems in a galaxy, before expanding to other galaxies, and eventually all over the universe. Once the process was fully automated, and left to conquer the cosmos, its inventors decided they needed a new challenge. They chose interversal travel as that challenge, and proceeded to spend millions of years working on the problem. That was how difficult it was.

Getting out of one’s current brane was the easy part, but navigating the bulkverse, and finding somewhere to land was all but impossible. The best computer in any universe is usually not anywhere near good enough to make the necessary calculations. Once those calculations are made, however, the system that utilizes the data doesn’t have to be very large, or even all that complex. After all that time figuring out how to travel to other universes, this small group of immortals had to come to terms with the fact that their latest challenge was over, and they had nothing more to do with the rest of their eternal lives. There was talk about building more systems in these other universes, but they weren’t sure that it would be worth it. Their home universe had quadrillions of people in it, spread across many galaxies, and they needed a way to reach each other quickly and conveniently. In these other branes they visited, the population was always a lot lower. They expanded within their galaxy, and into neighboring galaxies, in some cases, but their levels never reached a meaningful fraction of the number the immortals were used to. Even further down the timeline, they seemed to be doing okay with their own technological advances. Still, there were a few cases where the group’s means of instantaneous intergalactic travel would be quite useful. In salmonverse, they didn’t build a full network, but they constructed a handful of them in strategic locations. One of them was Durus. The Durune were aware of temporal manipulation, and psychic abilities, and even a hint of other branes, so they were deemed worthy of being connected to this very small network of replica Nexa. It was constructed in secret at some point, and discovered in 2195. But they weren’t allowed to go anywhere yet.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Microstory 1483: Time Tech Rises

For five years, the best of the best scientists and engineers buckled down on research in order to figure out how to translate all useful paramount powers to technology, or even implant them in other people. They didn’t want to try that second thing too much, though. They were not transhumanists, at least not most of the Durune. Some of the Earthans who came during the Deathspring already had technological upgrades on their bodies, and this actually helped further the research. But the main purpose was to give people what they needed to live their lives. Everyone on Earth had clothes and ways of communicating with each other, and they had access to these conveniences pretty much all the time. The existence of people with powers had always hindered some of that progress on Durus, though of course, it wasn’t the only reason. They were cut off from civilization, and doing what they could with fewer resources, so that slowed it down too. Now that the government was stable, and society was thriving, it was time to make comparable—or maybe even superior—technology to what people had now back on the homeworld. Around 2190, they started coming out with a line of products that people would use as needed. They rated them according to a ubiquity scale that they came up with. Everyone would have a teleportation wristband, which would allow them to jump to any point in space on the surface of the planet. In order to protect privacy, and ensure safety, though, some locations were blocks from some people. They could set up something called a spatial lock, which was like the teleporting equivalent to a door lock. If one were not authorized to be in a particular area, they could not jump there. People’s homes, bank vaults, doctors offices; all these required their own spatial locks, which were regulated and protected by a governmental body.

Other advances had less ubiquity. They came up with something called speed school, which would place students in time bubbles that moved faster than the time outside. Someone could learn a skill or topic at about the same speed as they would in the regular dimension, but once they stepped back out, very little time would have passed for everyone else, which allowed any education program to be greatly reduced in terms of total time taken. People were given agelessness pils, and transdimensional living spaces, if they wanted it. Different people wanted, and needed, different things, but the technologies were there to let everyone survive and be happy, without worrying about a lot of the inconveniences of yesteryear. There was one particular invention that had a lot more trouble coming through. They called it the day pass. It would allow a user to travel back in time one entire day, but not physically. This was consciousness transference, so people would be able to start their day over again. This had such a low ubiquity rating, that it was generally just treated as a zero. Only a select few people would be given this privilege, and only for certain reasons. Life was still dangerous, and the day pass allowed a small team to fix problems that happened; people’s deaths, and other accidents, namely. Scientists and law enforcement worked together, and lobbied the government to give them permission to use this new technology. Time travel was illegal, so it wasn’t easy, but they did finally get their day pass. World leadership had some conditions, though. In fact, they had rules and regulations about all these inventions, but that was okay, because no one wanted them to result in chaos. This was only the beginning.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Microstory 1482: President From Earth

Things were pretty bad after the Deathspring sent a bunch of people from Earth to Durus. The Durune didn’t want them there, and the Earthans didn’t want to be there. Two seemingly contradictory things were happening at the same time, which sort of fed into each other. Durus was trying to get rid of all the misogynistic laws of the past, and become a more just society, but they were struggling to accomplish that with all these refugees here. So they treated those refugees poorly, and didn’t really give them that much thought. They tucked them away in isolated camps, and got to work on rebuilding their government from the ground up. It was years before they started listening to the people who were trying to explain to them that the Earthans would be able to help them do that. After all, they had just come from a world of equality and fairness, so maybe they had a few pointers? Well, it took some time, and a military state, but society eventually figured it out. Some of the Earthans went back home with the Elizabeth Warren interstellar ship, along with a few Durune who wanted to start new lives, but for everyone left, there didn’t appear to be much chance of further rescue, so the best thing to do for the Earthans was to dig in, and get used to the here and now, instead of dwelling on what might have been. That got easier over the course of the next two decades as policy adapted to the diverse population. One major thing to further this philosophy came in 2185, when the first person to have been born on Earth was elected as president of the Democratic Republic of Durus. They were long past the elitism and bigotry that formed in 2161, but it was still a huge step for the original Durune. On the other side, the Earthans had mostly accepted this as their new home, and that was impressive as well. Everyone was a native now. As for the new president himself, things were a little rough. Earth had moved so far beyond a standard representative democracy by then that he had some trouble understanding that Durus was not technologically advanced enough for a comparable system. He had to make a lot of mistakes, and reach some compromises, and he only lasted one term, but it was a decent start.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Microstory 1481: Time Tech

As the first generation of paramounts was coming into their own, people figured that disparity was unavoidable. They could treat non-powered people with respect, and give them all the same rights, but at the end of the day, there was a difference between them, and it was noticeable. When an individual introduced themselves as one way or the other, people made judgments about them; again, not necessarily borne of bigotry, or anything like that, but there was no denying there was a difference. By the mid-2180s, some people were feeling this more than others. They were more sensitive to the nuances of social interactions. They weren’t worried a war was brewing, or that the paramounts would form some sort of caste system, but they realized the distinction was outside of everyone’s control. One could be born with time powers, or without, and there was nothing anyone could do to change that. Not since the source mages disappeared in 2090 was there anyone who could give other people abilities. Even when they did exist, they chose who was worthy, and who wasn’t. Whether their criteria were fair or reasonable was irrelevant; they controlled everything, and if someone didn’t like it, they would just have to suffer through. This was no longer the Mage Protectorate, however. It was a new era, under a new democratic government, and they couldn’t use the past as the foundation of a better future just because it was prosperous and peaceful. Progress was about making things different, and always being receptive to new ideas. Thanks for the Deathspring, people from Earth had come with new skills, and a longer history. Technology had improved so much since Springfield became trapped on Durus, and maybe that could help level the playing field. The people in a new movement didn’t want to start giving everyone their own powers, but make those powers obsolete. Instead of contacting a teleporter for transportation, for instance, they could just activate a transportation device. If they wanted water, they could simply open a filter portal to their location. Hell, filter portals could replace water bottles and breathing tanks altogether, and allow anyone to go anywhere they wanted, and always have everything they needed to survive. There were lots of applications for time technology, and if given the permission and resources, this group knew that they could make real change in the world. Fortunately, they were supported by the new president of the Democratic Republic, who did not merely sympathize with their cause, but believed in it completely herself. They had already done things like this before, like with the emergency teleporters, and when they placed the Capitol building in another dimension. So it was obviously possible, they just needed to expand the research, and make this kind of technology as ubiquitous as the family car in the 21st century. They had a long road ahead of them, persuading the public to be on their side, and convincing the government to give them the resources they needed to accomplish their goals, and this would only be the beginning.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Thursday, July 11, 2126

Mateo sat on the edge of the stage, and watched the presentation from there. Their moderator was a woman by the name of Angela Walton. She was no angel, though. She died centuries ago, and was recently promoted to Level 8, Counselor Class. She went over the levels, so the people under her care would understand that life didn’t end after the end of life, as she said it. As Mateo already knew, everyone here was dead. They had, in fact, all died on the same day. Most of them were living in the Primitivist Circles, but others were from the North Korean Isolate. It was harder to die anywhere else, though in 2126, still not impossible. This was not the real afterlife, if such a place even existed. The Designers created a virtual simulation in order to allow almost everyone to survive their death by being uploaded into the construct. They did this covertly by altering the brain structure of every human being, beginning thousands of years ago. Everyone was a cylon, reborn after death, on a Riverworld.
There were eleven levels, like membership tiers for some kind of product or service. There was a Level 0, but it wasn’t really part of the others. If you were a Level 0 Oblivion, it meant that your identity code was permanently deleted, and you really were dead. This was reserved for the worst of the worst, like Hitler, Franco, and cops who kill innocent black people; those who the Designers determined could never learn to change their ways. Level 1 Iced members were not much better off, but there was hope for them. Their code remained intact, but dormant, so they could be reactivated later, but only at the pleasure of those in power. Level 2 Statics were isolated as well, but still conscious. They persisted within the confines of a dark room. They could sleep, and ask to be set free, but there was nothing to stimulate their minds. There was a debate whether it was worse to be Level 1, or Level 2. Level 3 Hock members were prisoners, kept locked up in what looked like an actual prison. They could interact with other prisoners, and visitors, and they could work towards freedom. People came out of hock all the time, and joined the ranks of normal society.
Most people awakened as Level 4 Limited. They were free to move about public environments, but they were limited as to what they could do with what they could see, and they were not provided with their own homes. Privacy was reserved for Level 5 and above. Level 5 Basic was kind of like living in base reality. Everyone started out with a basic home to call their own, but they could upgrade to more luxury by contributing to afterlife society in some positive way. If an individual contributed enough, they could be bumped up to Level 6 Plus, and this would give them the ability to ask for many amenities, but not absolutely anything they wanted. If they wanted unlimited requests, they had to be promoted to Level 6 Elite. Think Janet from The Good Place. Level 8 Architectural allowed members to design and build their own structures within a preexisting world, while Level 9 World-Builder allowed them to create entirely new worlds. Level 10 Unrestricted was the highest possible within the simulation. A Level 10 could do pretty much anything they wanted: create worlds, destroy them; delete other people’s code, promote them, demote them. As one might imagine, this was incredibly rare, and reserved predominantly for the Designers themselves. Level 11 Resurrected wasn’t just rare, it was nonexistent. No one had ever been returned to base reality in a new body, yet.
Angela never did say who these Designers were, but it seemed obvious. This was exactly what Trinity, Thor, and Abigail were working on when Ellie left them. They must have gone back in time and realized their goals without her. Or they wait until Ellie is done with all this sometime in her personal future, and include her in their plans, just like they were meant to. That didn’t explain where they went when they disappeared from the Parallel Tribulation Island. Welp, they were about to find some answers either way. Mateo was standing in front of the Head Designer’s door, waiting for him to be ready to talk. Leona was there too, along with Sanaa, Ellie, and J.B. They hadn’t gotten a chance to catch up with each other, but there would be plenty of time to do that. They were dead now after all.
As they stood there, the double doors before them cracked open, but not in the way they expected. The doors stayed together, and spun around like a Scooby Doo castle. The floor turned with it, and swept them to the other side. Trinity wasn’t the one in the room, though.
“Pryce,” Leona snarled.
Ellie and Sanaa looked none too happy either. Mateo never met the guy. When he was on Bida, Pryce was always somewhere else, and their paths never crossed. He was a bad person, though, according to stories, so Mateo knew to agree with their revulsion.
“Welcome, my nonlinear friends,” Tamerlane said with literal open arms. “You have fought hard to get here, and you shall be rewarded.”
“What did you do?” Leona questioned.
“Leona,” Mateo urged, “Rule Number Fifteen.”
“Mister Matic, I’m hurt,” Tamerlane said. “I am not an antagonist, I am your friend.”
“What..did..you..do?” Leona repeated.
“Well. I suppose we can do away with the niceties. It’s true, I’m an antagonist, at least from your perspective. But bear in mind that, from my side, you’re the bad guys here.”
“We haven’t done anything wrong,” Ellie argued.
“Okay, fine, you’re more of a mere nuisance.”
“I won’t ask a third time,” Leona stated.
“My daughter and her friends had a great idea. Save everyone’s life, and bring them here. It’s quite a beautiful thought. Now, I know what you’re thinking.” Pryce shrunk into an exaggerated sarcastic face. “You must have twisted it, and corrupted it, and now everyone’s miserable!” He returned to his own side of the argument. “No, I didn’t do that at all. I followed their design pretty closely. I made some tweaks, and it’s evolved over time, but for the most part, this is what they had in mind.”
“Then where are they?” Sanaa asked.
“Hell if I know,” Pryce answered, and it kind of sounded like the truth. “The Norse god and my daughter ran off together. Trini opened a photo, and disappeared. She never came back. I’ve had to do this all on my own.”
“You managed to get yourself in charge of the entire human race,” Leona began. “How inconvenient for you.”
“I’m nothing if not resilient.”
“Like a cockroach.”
“An honorable creature. That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.” Pryce was really enjoying himself. “You notice that you’re all wearing black?”
They were. Angela said this was the color of unassignment. They had not been classified yet. The rest of the people at orientation had woken up wearing yellow.
Pryce grew more serious as he sat down in his mogulchair. “If you keep that on, you’ll eventually be deleted. Black is the color of oblivion. You will experience the true death. If you want any other color, you gotta come through me. Now, if you’re ready to go into the great unknown, you can keep ‘em on. You’ll last at least a day, maybe a bit more; enough to say your goodbyes. But if you wanna keep livin’, I suggest you get the fuck on your knees.” Rule Number Fifteen really did apply here. “I’m sorry, did you think that was a metaphor? Get on your knees!”
He was the one with the power here, so they all did as he asked.
“You too.”
Angela didn’t know she was a part of this, but she conceded quickly.
“Great,” Pryce continued. “I have a rule here, something which the other Designers didn’t think to include. Time travelers get special treatment. I like people like you. I think it’s amazing. If you had powers before you died, you’re automatically assigned Level 7; the Elite. If I really like you, I may even make you Level 10. Wouldn’t that be wild? For people I don’t like, they spin the wheel.” He reached under his simulated desk, and pulled out a simulated tri-fold display board. In the center was a wheel. On this wheel were twelve wedges. They were not of equal size, however. The black wedge was the largest, and between that and violet was barely a sliver of white. White was the color of resurrection. Typical. Mateo had not yet learned all of the colors, but given enough time, he could probably surmise which were which. The larger the wedge, the lower the level. There was more of a chance of spinning something bad.
“This is sick,” Angela protested. “This wasn’t in training.”
“You didn’t need to know about this in training, and just for your outburst, you’re gonna spin the wheel too!”
“I’m Level 8,” she pressed.
“For the second outburst, now you only get to spin once. I was gonna give you two chances to land on a high wedge, but now you’ve lost it. If you say one more goddamn thing, I’ll spin for you, and I’ll warn ya, my hand prefers blue.”
Angela shut her mouth.
Mateo felt responsible for getting her, and everyone else, into this mess. “Sir, could I propose something?”
“Let me guess.” Pryce smirked. “You’ll take blue or red as long as everyone else gets pink.”
“I was thinking they could get white?” Mateo hoped that wouldn’t piss him off.
“Ha!” Pryce exclaimed. “No one gets white. I mean...if someone here spins, and lands on white, I will honor that, but...no one gets white.”
“Then I’ll accept pink.”
“Oh.” He bobbed his head mockingly. This guy hardly knew how to be sincere and forthcoming. “Oh. Oh. He’ll take pink. Please, sir, could I have some more pink?” He went back to his regular face. “Everyone spins. Ladies spin twice, because I like tits. Understood?”
They were just going to have to move past his crude remark. He was too powerful here, perhaps the most powerful enemy they had ever faced. Mateo looked over at Leona, who looked back at him. They were gonna get separated again. Even death would give them no peace.
Pryce had everyone stand up again, so they could start spinning. They would all spin once, and then the women would go back for round two. He even did end up deciding to allow Angela a second spin. However, instead of taking the better of the two, she would have to risk the second one being worse than the first. Or she could skip it, and go with what she had. She got red, which was the color of Hock, and even though that was scary and humiliating for her, she couldn’t take the chance that the next spin would be black. Her shirt immediately turned red, handcuffs appeared around her wrists, and she disappeared with a whimper. Ellie got Plus indigo on the first spin, and Oblivion black on the second, so her assignment reverted to the first. That was good, she would be free, and have her own really nice place to live. Sanaa spun Limited yellow on the first try, and refused to spin again, because she was a rebel.
Leona and J.B. both spun Basic green. They too would have places to live, though not as fancy as Ellie’s. And Mateo? He spun white. Before he could try to negotiate for his friends, Pryce snapped his fingers, and whisked Mateo away, so he could receive his new body.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Glisnia: Superstardom (Part VIII)

Everyone who didn’t need to be in Glisnia anymore left. There was no reason for Katica to stick around, since she wasn’t really welcome here in the first place. The rest of the hopefully now disbanded Shorter List, and the remaining members of The Shortlist needed to return to their lives as well. Holly Blue was still around, though a lot grumpier than before. Futurology Administrator Viana Černý wanted to conduct some business here, and she was welcome to do so. She was welcome pretty much anywhere she wanted to go in the stellar neighborhood. She probably wouldn’t be too involved with Operation Starsiphon. Ambrose Richardson, who evidently hailed from an entirely separate universe, was here to help Jupiter Rosa realize his full potential. Jupiter could access alternate microrealities. These potential worlds only existed for fractions of a second, within a higher dimension, and represent what might have been if different decisions were made. It was possible to steal matter and energy from these realities, because they were going to collapse anyway, so no one should miss them. Most of the time, Jupiter could use his power to make a copy of himself, or in rare instances, many copies. He couldn’t siphon wholesale resources from an alternate version of Gliese 832 without a little boost from Ambrose. Or rather, a huge boost.
According to Ambrose himself, he had never boosted anyone’s ability to quite this degree before. If they were going to pull it off, he would need time to practice and prepare. The two of them went off together, while Hogarth and Holly Blue started working on the technological side of this endeavor. At the moment, they were trying to figure out if there was any way to boost Jupiter’s power even more. They needed as much as they could get, and there was no reason they couldn’t tackle this problem from more than one angle. “Are you mad at me?”
“Why would I be mad?” Holly Blue questioned.
“Because Jupiter gave me this project?”
Holly Blue adjusted her magnification goggles to get a better look at the logic board she was making. “Aren’t we calling this an operation?”
“You know what I mean,” Hogarth noted.
She stopped working, and looked up for a moment, but didn’t remove her goggles, so she couldn’t really see Hogarth’s face. “Do I strike you as some kind of narcissist? Is that really what you think of me?”
“Well, you’ve been really antagonistic lately, so I didn’t know if it was something I did, or...”
Holly Blue went back to work. “I just didn’t agree that we should steal resources from elsewhere in the galaxy. I’m allowed to have a different opinion.”
“I know that. It just felt very personal to me.”
“It wasn’t, Hogarth. I assure you, we’re good.”
“That’s nice to hear.” She went back to triple checking her fusion equations for a bit, but couldn’t do it for long. “It’s just...what do you have a problem with exactly? Those star systems aren’t inhabited. Brooke and Sharice Prieto have a method of detecting future life potential, so that shouldn’t be an issue either.”
Now Holly Blue figured she had to stop working, and take off her goggles. She sighed heavily. “Take a look around, what do you see?”
“My lab? I mean, our lab.”
“This is a matryoshka brain.”
“It is.”
“And you’ve started on the neck of a matryoshka body.”
“Indeed.”
“This whole system is here to benefit the Glisnians.”
Hogarth narrowed her eyes. “I suppose so, yeah. But the whole neighborhood will benefit in the long run. With this much processing power, we could make so many breakthroughs, it’s...it’s beyond what we can even fathom today.”
She nodded, like she agreed, but then she said, “bullshit.”
“What?”
“It’s bullshit. This project is about ego, and peacocking. The mechs are no more sophisticated or evolved than humans were four hundred years ago. They all just want to show off, to be better than everyone else, and make a mark. People thought that people would lose ambition once they cracked immortality, but that hasn’t happened. They’re even more obsessed with making a name for themselves, because now there’s too much competition, and it’s all so fleeting. Tens of billions of independent conscious entities, it’s impossible to be famous. Who’s the one who wants this from us, the one who asked you to build him the time siphon?”
“Mekiolenkidasola, a.k.a. Lenkida.”
“Yeah, he’s gonna get credit for this. I’m not saying he’ll steal all the glory, or anything; he won’t have to, because you and I don’t have the same goals as him. He’ll go down in history as the person in charge of making the matryoshka body happen. What he doesn’t realize is that it’s a fruitless pursuit. He’ll be big for a while, but then someone will come up with an artificial great attractor, or a singularity siphon, and he won’t matter anymore. Used to be, a man could die, feeling like he was the most important man in the world. Now, though, everyone lives to see themselves drift into obscurity. That’s gonna start causing a lot of problems. Immortality has downsides that they did not predict. You understand what I’m saying?”
“Sorry, yes, I did hear you. I’m also thinking about the black hole siphon, and the hypergravity generator you mentioned. I understand your meaning. You don’t seem to take issue with Project Stargate, or Operation Starseed, though. Aren’t those designed to do the same thing? Boost ego?”
“I disagree with the time siphon exactly because of those two endeavors, Starseed especially. It was created to create life. Civilizations will rise on those planets. If evolved aliens existed, I would probably be against it, but it would seem we are the only ones here, and our species has a right to those worlds. Because when new life springs up on them, they will make it their own. They will work hard, and make mistakes, and they’ll fail each other, and they’ll create amazing things. The time siphon would have interfered with that. The way I see it, Starseed is like the modern day version of turnover. We don’t die anymore, but if we seed life somewhere else, and don’t interact with them for a long time, it’s like we’re dying, and making room for new generations. The only good thing about death was its ability to force new ideas. Starseed fosters that; the time siphon hinders it. That, Madam Pudeyonavic, is why I pushed back so hard.”
“Why didn’t you say any of that during our first meeting?”
Holly Blue turned back towards her work, but didn’t pick up her tools. She stared into blank space for a few moments. “I didn’t understand it myself at the time. I felt it, but I didn’t know it, and I couldn’t formulate my argument yet.”
She nodded. “Well, we’re not doing it. It was a tough road, but we got here. We have an alternative, and I think it’s good. I’m glad you pushed back. Unregulated science leads to mad science, and I don’t wanna become that.”
Before they could get back to their work, Hilde rushed into the lab. “You need to come quick. There’s something wrong in the training grounds.”
They jumped up immediately, and ran off to follow Hilde down the hall. She led them past where Hogarth thought Jupiter and Ambrose were training, and into a different corridor. They came to a room so large, that it looked like they were outside. Holographic imagery simulated the sky, and the sun. They quickly redirected their attention to the middle of the field, where something Hogarth wasn’t certain how to classify was hovering over the artificial turf. A glowing orb was spinning and pulsating before them. Jupiter and Ambrose were watching it from opposite sides, and holding their arms down and behind themselves, as if anticipating being knocked over. By the time the three of them made it across the field, the orb was already larger. It was growing.
“What is this?” Hogarth demanded to know.”
“We’re not sure,” Jupiter cried. “We were hoping you could tell us.”
“Back up!” Holly Blue ordered. “Stop letting it catch up with you.”
There was a way to figure out what this was, and how it got here, but it might be impossible for Hogarth in her current condition. When she was a child, time itself spoke through her. It compelled her to create a special book. She didn’t have to write it. She drew on a door with a pencil, and once she was finished, the seemingly random assortment of lines and curves lifted from the wood, and combined with each other to essentially make the book out of nothing. They called it the Book of Hogarth, and if you had a question about the universe, and how it worked, it would have the answer. You weren’t necessarily entitled to read it, and find that answer, but it would be in there somewhere. She could once summon her book at will in desperate times, but that was in her OG body, so she might have lost her ability to pull off that trick. The worst that could happen was the attempt overloading her neural network, and killing her permanently. So no big deal.
Out of instinct, Hogarth stretched her neck out, and shook her arms and legs. Holly Blue apparently recognized this. “Don’t do that. We don’t need your book.”
“This thing could explode at any moment,” Hogarth contended.
“True, but your book isn’t going to help us with that,” Holly Blue tried to explain. “I think we all know that this is the sun. We’re looking at it as filtered through some kind of dimensional barrier, which is why it appears so small right now, but it is bleeding into our reality, and we will eventually be able to detect it in three spatial dimensions. I don’t know what happens when two versions of the same star suddenly occupy the same space as each other, but it is not good. We have to evacuate.”
“The book can help us stop it,” Hogarth argued. “It will have the answer. There’s a specific page that I know will help.”
“This shouldn’t have happened,” Ambrose apologized. “I’m not that powerful. I was only trying to help him gain access to another reality, not bring a whole star into ours.”
“No one could have predicted this,” Hogarth assured him. “You were doing what we asked. Now, everybody stop talking. I need to concentrate.” She took a deep fake breath, and closed her artificial eyelids. As she was standing there, the temperature rose slightly, indicating that the mini-sun had grown yet again. A hand landed on her shoulder. She opened her eyes to find Ambrose.
“It’s okay. I can help.”
The book was never meant for her. It was designed to help others, which was something she knew deep down inside, even though no one ever told her that. Still, she had an unbreakable connection to it, so if she needed it, she should be able to get it. Ambrose added the extra energy she needed. She held out her arms, and let the book fall into them from the invisible portal it came through. She flipped it over. Back in the day, she would have needed to procure a scanner from somewhere, or make one from an industrial synthesizer. Her new sensory detectors, however, were capable of scanning anything, from optical signals, to RFID tags, to QR codes. It was that last one that she needed right now. She tried to scan it a long time ago, but a voice in her head warned her that it was dangerous, and that she should only do this in a terrible emergency. This surely qualified as that. Before she activated her scanner, she just stared at it in the visible light spectrum. “Start the evacuation procedures,” she ordered no one in particular. “I don’t know what this is going to do. It may not even be our best option, but it’s the one I got, so get everyone else out.”
“Wait,” Hilde tried to stop her, but it was too late.
Hogarth toggled her retina, and scanned the code. She could feel a darkness overwhelm her from behind, and tear everything in the room away from her. She was standing in a void, and she wasn’t alone.
A hazy violet figure appeared before her, but she couldn’t tell if it was small, or far away. It either grew, or drew nearer, until it was about Hogarth’s size, and looked like a man. “Hello. I am Aitchai. What can I do for ya?”

Friday, October 23, 2020

Microstory 1480: The Serpent and the Bear

Ever since Durus avoided a collision with Earth by a hair, scientists had been trying to figure out where they were going. There wasn’t any particular reason for this. They could alter their speed using time powers, but altering direction was an entirely different matter, and could lead to disastrous results. Calculating the exact vector of the planet’s journey through interstellar space was quite difficult, what with its random accelerations and decelerations, and the lack of proper equipment. It wasn’t until 2183 when they were sure they knew where they were headed. If they continued on their present course—which they expected to—they would eventually encounter a binary star system that the Earthans called 70 Ophiuchi. While the speed they were traveling was constantly going up and down, the average was pretty steady, so barring any dramatic change, it would take them over a hundred years to arrive. Now, there was nothing wrong with waiting this long. Not only did they still have the connection with Earth that kept them alive, but the close encounter seemed to have made it stronger. The borrowed sun was shining, there was now more than one source of water, plantlife was spreading at an alarming rate. Perhaps all of this was exactly what drove the people of Durus to want to break free from their mother world’s protection and support. They wanted to go off on their own, orbit their own sun, and provide for themselves. It was what they were supposed to do. This was going to be the largest endeavor they had ever tried, and if they wanted to do it faster, it was going to be even more difficult. Not only did it give them far less time to prepare, but they were going to push the speed of the planet faster than it had ever gone before. They were already traveling at relativistic speeds, so time was passing faster for anyone outside of the planet, but the disparity was going to grow so large. If they went through with this, they would reach their destination by 2200.

Of course, the first thing they needed to do was to make sure the majority of Durus was on board with this. There was no election coming up, but they wanted to decide on it quickly, because the longer they waited, the faster they would have to accelerate the planet in order to make their timetable. Well, things didn’t go according to plan. People were not happy about being forced to respond to the question quickly, without any real discussion, or time to gather all of the evidence. Plenty of people were against the idea, and if the proponents wanted to convince them, it was going to take time. They still had two years left until the next election, so they were just going to have to be patient with this, and get it right. Like always, the people weren’t going to simply say yes, and leave it at that. There were questions about how they were going to accomplish their goals, and whether they needed to rethink those goals in the first place. After careful consideration, they realized that the 2200 deadline was not a viable option. As powerful as the paramounts were, and as durable as the rogue world had proven itself to be, they just could not handle such high speeds. The speed itself wasn’t a problem, but acceleration was a tricky thing. Any change in velocity would seriously throw off any normal planet’s stability. If the Earth were to start spinning or revolving just a tiny bit faster, or slower, it would cause mass destruction all over the world. It’s not the speed that kills you, but the changes in speed. The only thing allowing Durus to fluctuate this much was its unique relationship with time. Still, there were limits for how far this time magic could go, and by the time the vote went through, if it passed, and everything was set up, 2204 was a far more realistic goal. They did vote, and it did pass—with the necessary conditions and precautions—and Durus did reach 70 Ophiuchi in 2204.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Microstory 1479: Social Harmony

In the late 2170s, the first generation of Durune born post-Deathspring was coming of age. Many of these adults-in-training were paramounts, with some of them even having no lineage that could be traced back to the mages. It would seem that time powers were becoming less hereditary than they once were, and a lot of people attributed this shift to the Deathspring, or rather to the fact that Durus was no longer on a collision course towards Earth. They were finally becoming their own civilization, free from many of the horrors and burdens of the time before. A sort of religious movement was forming, founded upon the idea that the paramounts were part of some grand design. They didn’t claim to know what this presumably conscious entity would be, or where it was, but they could see patterns. There were paramounts who were helping build the outposts, and ones who were securing society through law enforcement. Some were making transportation faster and more convenient, while others were designing therapeutic pocket dimensions, or treating patients using psychic connections. The seers were protecting the future, while the retrocognitives were teaching students about their past. Some were born with the rare ability to alter the aging process, which would ultimately create a population boom, because death was no longer such an inescapable certainty. Everyone had a place, and it sometimes felt like they were placed there on purpose. They weren’t religious zealots yet, but they did have their spiritual beliefs, and for some, it kept them going. There were those who were concerned that this could lead to class warfare. They wanted to make sure that the paramounts weren’t treated as gods, and that they weren’t raised to believe they were superior. In order for this to go smoothly, they had to work together, and everyone had to believe that everyone else mattered, because they did.

In the early 2180s, this generation was starting to take ownership over the future of Durus. They were born without their ancestors’ prejudices, and bad blood. They could see that they had to become a single population, with the goal of doing what was best for the world, even if they disagreed about what that meant. Being a paramount became a huge responsibility, and while it opened up certain career opportunities, it also closed some off. It might seem like this would discourage feelings of equality, but there were other issues to consider. Sometimes a paramount’s powers gave them an unfair advantage in the workplace. If one could read minds, for instance, they would always be one step ahead of the competition, or they could otherwise violate people’s privacy. Their potential for job promotion was hazy and difficult, but if no one kept them in check, then their influence over others could grow out of control. If a mindreader were to be a therapist, it would make it harder for a patient to reveal their secrets on their own time, and could make them feel uncomfortable, or prejudged. On the other side, some of the more dangerous jobs were being left to the paramounts, who were often better equipped to protect themselves. When one could teleport off of a cliff at a moment’s notice, it seemed a little irrational to make anyone else go up there. This would stop being a problem in the future, with developing technologies, but for now, this was the way things were. And it was pretty good, considering how problematic things had been before. They called it the social harmony, and even though the Durune had more tribulations ahead of them, they would at least be mostly taking them on together. Not everyone wanted that, but their time would come later, and they would get what they deserved.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Microstory 1478: Bicentennial

The first known human to set foot on Durus was a little girl named Savitri. In 1980, she fell into some kind portal, and ended up here alone. She had to figure things out, and fend for herself for ten years before anyone else appeared. Even though the Deathfall wouldn’t happen until 2016, many believed that 1980 should be considered the dawn of man on Durus. They wanted to honor and respect Savitri, for all she had been through. Sure, technically the Bicentennial should mark the beginning of a city, or some other form of civilization, but this was their own planet, and they felt entitled to make up whatever rules they wanted. They could celebrate the start of the new Springfield later, if they even really wanted to do that at all, since life was pretty crappy back then. In the 2175 elections, people voted for the Savitri Act, and preparations were able to begin for a massive worldwide celebration, and it would indeed be massive. Their population had always been in flux, as most populations are, but in general, their numbers increased predictably. It was estimated that there would be 500,000 people living on Durus by the time 2180 ended. The celebration would mark this occasion, as well as the Bicentennial, hopefully appeasing those few who disagreed that it had been 200 years since the beginning. The party was huge, spread out across the surface, in Aljabara, and the other towns. They had rides, dinners, time power games, music, and other entertainment. They also had quiet, reflective events, mourning those they had lost, and remembering the heroes of yesterday. There was something for everyone, and everything for a precious few. A paramount with time traveling abilities offered his services to a select group of people. Many entered, but only ten people won tickets in the lottery. If you wanted to enjoy every single event that the week-long Bicentennial celebrations had available, even the ones that conflicted with each other on the schedule, you had to be one of these eleven people. The paramount took the group back in time as many times as it was necessary in order for them to participate or watch everything. For the most part, time travel was illegal on Durus. It was dangerous, and possibly paradoxical, and the government agreed that no one should change history, even the bad things that happened. But for this one time, one paramount was given the freedom to use his powers. He had to stay within the loop, however, and take all necessary precautions against messing something up with the timeline. It was a success, however, as was the Bicentennial in general, and it had people already starting to think about what they might want to do for the Tricentennial.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Microstory 1477: Reconstruction

For the 2175 elections, the people of Durus were not only voting for the people they wanted to lead them. There were certains laws and projects the current administration wanted everyone to decide on. One of these projects proposed that the city start rebuilding all of the towns that they lost during the final battles of the war against the monsters, and afterwards, when the remaining structures were all pulled together into the city of Aljabara. By this time, there were already several outposts built away from the city. Before powerful builder Andromeda retired, and later died, she agreed to help people spread out into new communities. There was nothing wrong with these towns, but some thought it might be nice if they went back to their roots, and honored their history. They weren’t intending to break Aljabara apart, but construct new buildings where they were once standing. It wasn’t necessary, but it could be kind of cool. This would be yet another symbolic gesture, to signify the rejection of the former Republic, and a return to the glory of the Mage Protectorate, though with more democracy. Polls suggested that it would be a tight race, because not everyone was convinced. Sure, these towns were part of their history, but their downfall was no less part of that, and some were worried people would forget that. If they just ignored the last eighty plus years of their past, and made it look like it would if it had not happened, were they doomed to repeat their mistakes? No one was really worried about who their next elected leaders would be. The incumbents were fine, and their competition was fine. They weren’t going to end up in some kind of fascist state because of them, so the 2175 elections were more about debating the reconstruction issue. People from both sides made arguments in the streets, and in more organized forums. The news was dominated by the topic, and everybody had their own opinion. The more people talked about it, the more they realized that this was far more complex than just a single yes or no response. Some of the original town sites were already being used for other things. Ladytown was already built on top of Hidden Depths, and even though that had a history of its own, it was still standing and still going. The original Springfield was already being revitalized, the Earthan refugee camp that came up after the Deathspring was built right next to where Shieldon used to be, and they were already starting construction near Watershed. In reaction to these arguments, the vote was scrapped, in favor of a more long-term approach. They would still consider doing this, but they weren’t going to be able to figure it all out by the time election day rolled around, so the next administration would be in charge of solidifying whatever plans they were going to go through with. One thing was for sure, they weren’t going to remain exactly as they were. They were absolutely going to build new outposts, so it was just a matter of what and where, and whether they would have anything to do with the old towns. This didn’t mean they wouldn’t make any decisions at all when it came to the reconstruction effort. Everyone agreed that they wanted to move forward with the completion of Town Sixteen, which was famously unfinished by the time the war ravaged the lands. They just needed to know what to call it. The people chose Gimura.