Monday, November 30, 2020

Microstory 1506: The Precise Way to Fall to One’s Future

Fastly falling, never landing; I need the rush, or I’ll be stuck here
I am not in complete control, but I am not powerless
I just need to learn the math, to be precise, and careful
Let me explain

I do not belong here, but I do not want to return home
I can skip along the river, but that requires speed
The faster I move, the farther I fall, the freer I am, the further I reach
I can try this on land, but I will not skip much

I can choose either forwards or backwards, but it always starts with down
Every time I make the jump, I fear it will not work
That those who gave me this gift have secretly taken it back
Perhaps they want me dead at a certain time, and are waiting for it

A high-rise is high, a scraper is higher
A plane can get me to the clouds
A plane is what I need right now
A plane, a plan, the mystery of a man

I could not secure what I need on my own, I do not have the currency
My only course is to take from others, and hope they forgive me
I only need four people with me, and they will have to be brave
Four canopies will protect them, should something go wrong

If something goes wrong with my own fall, then it will end as it must
I pray they forgive me
I hope they try not to understand
I never wanted the spectacle; it’s just the only way

I order a drink, and make my demands
I remain calm and clear
I free everyone who need not be here when it happens
Then we take off again, and I jump...straight down to the trees

Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Monday, July 16, 2131

Leona was sitting on a wooden chair against the wall, like a belligerent child who’s been sent to the assistant principal’s office. Pryce’s personal assistant was working away at her desk, pretending to write on a piece of paper with a pencil. Without looking up, and as if someone had just sent her a message, she said, “you can go in now.”
“Thank you,” Leona replied. She stood up, and entered Pryce’s office.
It was empty for a good thirty seconds, before his avatar resolved itself before her. He was sitting against the edge of his desk, and regarding her with admiration. “I must say, I’m impressed. You not only got your hands on a zeroblade, but you had the balls to use it.”
Leona made a quizzical face, and looked down at her crotch. “Nope, don’t need those.”
He chuckled. “Quite right.”
“What are ya gonna do with me?”
“I’ma treat you right...girl.”
“The man I killed was exactly like you. I dealt with him quite quickly, so be careful what you say to me.”
“Hey!” He was greatly offended. “I’m an asshole, but I am no rapist. I may be a fun and unpredictable guy most of the time, but I won’t abide that kind of comparison. You understand me?”
“Sir.” Her tone was about as respectful as he was going to get from her
“As for what I’m going to do with you, I honestly don’t know. Murder is incredibly rare in this world. A couple Level 10s have done it, like you, but I’ve let it go, because...they’re my purple people. You’re not a Level 10, so besides the question of how you got your hands on a weapon, I don’t know what you deserve. We are in unprecedented times.”
“You’re right. I’ve been a bad girl. I’m bad code, really. If you don’t get to the root of the problem, I’ll just infect your world, and eventually take the whole thing down. Your only option is to make me a Level 11.”
“If I were drinking, I would do a spit take right there.”
Leona took a flat squircle from her pocket, and placed it on an end table. Then she slid her finger on it, and made a glass of water appear on top of it. “Go for it.”
“A conjure coaster? What else you got?”
Leona acted like she was trying to remember the answer for a second. She stuck her hand back in the pocket, and started digging around. When she pulled it back out, there was nothing in it, but her middle finger was now standing up. “Just this.”
“You remind me of my baby mama.”
“You remind me of—”
“All right, you better not finish that sentence.”
“Are you sure? It’s pretty good...”
“I can turn off your voice, if you’d like. There’s only so much I will let you get away with. At some point, you need to remember that I still run this place, and you’re still just a green Basic bitch.”
Leona stepped forward, so he could tell she too was serious. “There’s only so much I’ll let you get away with. You think you’re powerful because you control life and death, but I know people who control reality. I know people who control the entire damn universe. You’re not as big of a deal to me as you’re used to people thinking you are. You walk around with your rainbow clothes, so people can bow, but you’re just another antagonist in my way, and I always clear my path.”
He nodded like he understood, but remained confident that he had the upper hand. Perhaps he did. He lifted his hand, and used virtual telekinesis to summon the water glass, as well as the conjure coaster. He set the latter down on his desk, and used it to summon the assignment wheel. “Spin the wheel,” he commanded dismissively as he was starting to take a drink of the simulated water.
Leona hesitated.
“Hey, man, you get black, you get black. I’m nothing if not fair.”
“This isn’t fair, you just don’t wanna make the decision yourself.”
“Spin the wheel, or I’ll prove I can make a decision by simply giving you black. The powers that be can’t reach you here.”
Leona approached the wheel, but stopped for a second. “Once or twice?”
He took another sip of the water. “You compared me to a rapist. Once.”
It was time to surrender to fate. Leona bravely reached over, and spun the wheel. Round and round it went, until it landed on the sliver.
“Holy shit!” Pryce exclaimed. “Maybe the PTB really can reach you here. Level 11, twice in a row, what are the odds?”
Leona just stared at him.
He held his breath a few seconds, and then scoffed. “Well, I’m the one who came up with the rules, I have to live by them. If I just did whatever I wanted, this would be hell, and I will not go down in history as the man who invented hell. That is not my living legacy.”

They found Trinity, in a dumpster in one of the midrange low tech circles in 2131. She evidently did not exist anywhere in the timeline on July 15, 2130.  She wouldn’t explain what she was doing there, and no one pressed the matter further, not even Lowell. Vidar left pretty much immediately, and Mateo was relieved he didn’t have to hide the truth about his fated death anymore. Leona surprisingly showed up shortly thereafter, and explained what had happened to her. They were finally back together, but that didn’t mean they weren’t going to save their friends from the afterlife simulation. They still had a responsibility, and it was something they wanted to do either way. Unfortunately, it might not be up to them. Jupiter appeared, and wanted to hold a meeting about it first.
“I don’t see what the problem is,” Missy said. They were crowded around the table in the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which was still in The Parallel.
“There are six of you now, there are ten cuffs.”
“I’m on my original pattern,” Leona tried to explain. “I don’t need a cuff.”
“Everybody needs a cuff. Everybody needs two cuffs, that is,” Jupiter insisted.
“You can’t make a couple more?” Lowell questioned.
“Me? No.”
“We don’t need a team,” Mateo told him. “Leona and I are perfectly capable of doing this on our own. We want to save all of them, including Angela.”
“Hey, I’m still committed to this,” Téa argued.
“Then you can stay, if you want,” Mateo agreed. “I think we all know who can leave, though. He doesn’t wanna be here anyway.”
Everyone looked at Lowell.
“Oh, I’m the asshole?”
“Has anyone ever told you that you weren’t?” Mateo asked, not rhetorically.
“I suppose he would be the obvious candidate,” Jupiter concurred.
“Whoa.” Lowell seemed offended. “I’m kind of committed to this now too. I think I’d like to see Jeremy again. Might be kind of interesting. I’ve never used my power on someone after this much time has passed.”
“What’s his power?” Leona asked.
“I’ll explain later,” Mateo said before addressing Lowell. “You’re not killing him.”
“I never said I would!” Lowell cried.
“Mr. Fury, if everyone wants to stay, they can stay. If they want to leave, they should be able. Your obsession with controlling this team is starting to look a little thirsty. Leona doesn’t need any cuffs. I don’t need any cuffs, and no one who doesn’t wanna be here should be forced to wear them. I know you’re a good person, let me help you prove it to yourself.”
Jupiter thought it over for a healthy period of time. “All right, I know what to do now.” He retrieved the cuff remover from his bag, and disengaged both of Mateo’s cuffs. “There we go, that’s settled.”
“Wait.” Mateo was confused. “What about the others.”
“Oh, they still need them. I have to keep an eye on them, and this is the best way. They’re off your pattern now, though, so that’s a thing.”
“What the hell is going on?” Leona asked.
“The four of them are going to go save their four friends. Missy is there for Sanaa, Trinity is for Ellie, Lowell for Jeremy, and Téa Angela.”
“What are we gonna be doing?” Mateo asked, referring to himself and Leona.
“You’re going back to your original mission. I brought you into the Parallel to save lives and help people. It’s time you continue.”
“We can still save lives and help people, but let it be our friends first,” Leona begged.
Jupiter shook his head. “No. When Pryce released Leona, it served two purposes; removing her from the list of people who needed to be rescued, and removing her assigned rescuer from the list of people who need to do the rescuing. You two are all good. It’s like you passed the class without taking the final. I’ll just give it to ya. Take the win.”
“What about Jeremy?” Mateo reminded him. “You want him with us to form the Bearimy-Matic pattern. You need this done.”
“And it’ll get done,” Jupiter said. “You two just won’t be the ones doing it. I have faith in these four. In fact, I’ll be there to help them out. I won’t do everything for them, but I’ll give them access to reality-hopping powers, and I’ll guide them as necessary. I’m afraid we are going to require this beautiful ship, however.”
“How will we know who to save, and where to save them?” Leona said, thinking she had him there.
Jupiter smiled, and handed the extra two cuffs to her. “You can each wear one, and be able to take them off at will. They’ll give you directions, and other functions. You can even lend one to someone else, so they tag along with you.” He examined their facial expressions. “I have faith that you won’t run off, and abandon your calling. Please have faith in me that I won’t do that either. I’ll get your people back.”
Mateo had to trust in that. “Thank you, Jupiter.”
Their two cuffs beeped.
“Who are we saving this time?” Leona asked, having decided to trust Jupiter as well.
Jupiter sighed heavily. “Me. You have to save me from myself.” Without another word, he disappeared, taking the other four with him.
“You know exactly what he meant by that?” Mateo asked Leona. “I mean, I have some idea, but do you have any insights?”
“He wants us to stop the younger version of himself from making a mistake,” she figured. “To the older version, it’s probably already happened.”
“Right, but do you know what mistake?”
She placed her cuff around her wrist, and started fiddling with it. “It’s 2131. This is where his friends try to kill Paige. I think it’s our job to stop Jupiter from helping them do this.”
“Then let’s hope it’s already happened, like you said, and all we have to do is close his loop.”
They went off and followed the cuff’s directions to Easter Island, where they found it far easier to access the cave system than it was in the main sequence. They made their way to a corridor where Young!Jupiter was scheduled to come through, and waited. Fifteen minutes later, he appeared, and they spent the rest of the day trying to convince him to do the right thing. He wasn’t hearing any of it, and it was looking like the only thing they could do to change the future past was by force.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Glisnia: Binary Engine (Part XIII)

The group was standing in the control room of the solar chamber. Though it was called a chamber, it was not completely solid, as that would have gravitational consequences. In fact, this whole matrioshka body was composed of different parts, rotating in concert with each other, and held together via energy fields, and pressure forces. Some of them were cylinders, others rings, and some even saucers. The solar chamber was a hollow sphere, lined by hundreds of millions of thermal collectors. Once the new sun was in place, these collectors will relay power to only one component. The red dwarf they were using was now going to be used to power internal systems, while the yellow dwarf they did not yet have would only power the engine. Now that the body was essentially complete, Hogarth decided she wanted the thing to be able to move. It was called a stellar engine, and while it wasn’t the first one to be designed for the stellar neighborhood, it was going to be the absolute largest, and was destined to be completed in a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the time.
“Are we quite confident about this?” Crimson Clover asked. Hogarth later learned that the Glisnian government was not composed of literally every single entity in the system, though that was how it was designed, and intended to be. Any individual was free to disengage themselves from the collective, and they were even free to return to the fold, though only at the beginning of a new cycle. A cycle was not any set period of time, like a month, or a year. Instead, each was determined by a complex series of temporal math equations, which was needlessly complicated, but if the collective didn’t want to use it, they could stop at any time. While disengaged, an individual still enjoyed the same rights and protections as everyone else, but they would not be included in determining what these were. And each cycle, these rights and protections were up for debate, and those who chose not to contribute to the decision on them risked them being taken away. Nothing significantly negative had happened to the willfully disenfranchised before, but it always could. Crimson was one of these who had never contributed to the government, and that was how it liked it, and it was because of this that it never realized how deep Lenkida’s lies ran. Otherwise, it would have said something.
“You doubt my power?” Hogarth questioned with faux bravado.
“Oh, no, I know you can do it.” Crimson gestured towards the gargantuan world around them. “I just want to make sure that we should.”
“I think it’s more asking if we’re allowed to,” Hilde offered. She was now back in her original organic substrate. She wasn’t planning on dying, or anything. She just preferred the idea of cloning herself, and transferring her consciousness over to the younger body every time she needed it. Crimson reported considering the same immortality path, after having spent centuries in Hogarth’s body.
“I did my due diligence this time. Avalhana was telling the truth, according to a random sampling.” It was true. Hogarth spent over a month going around to as many Glisnians as she could, confirming what she had been told about how the system worked. She spoke with dermal mechs, and hard tops, and noncorporeal intelligences. She even found a few organics who she should have met before, seeing as they were relegated to certain areas, not because they were unworthy, but because organic beings were limited where they could survive. Some places had more or less gravity, and more or less air to breathe. The point was they all said the same thing, that Glisnia was run by a connected collective, that some chose to disconnect themselves but remain here, and that Lenkida had been lying to them about it this entire time. Hogarth wasn’t about to let something like that happen again, even if it all turned out okay.
“Can confirm,” Ethesh said bluntly. He was still mostly organic, but had received a number of transhumanistic upgrades, one of which allowed him to join the Glisnian collective as one of them. Whether to create new life, and what kind, was the most common decision the Glisnians made together. Whether to patriate a new citizen was the third most common. Having been instrumental in completing the matrioshka body, Ethesh was welcomed warmly. He said that he was always looking for his forever home, that Dardius was never that, and that fate only placed him there so he could eventually make his way here. It was unclear if he was planning to stay as he was for now, or if he would later mechanize himself more. Either way was fine. Death was rare on Glisnia, but not out of the question.
Speaking of which, a directed death would soon take place. For the most part, capital punishment was not considered legal on Glisnia, but it couldn’t be entirely outlawed either, because that would be incredibly dangerous. Their definition of life was a lot different than it was on Earth, and few humans could argue it wasn’t right. In fact, humans extinguished life on the daily. They took antibiotics to kill bacterial infections, and wore masks to prevent the spread of viral pandemics. This was a hundred percent normal. Anyone who argued against it was fundamentally harmful to the greater good, and warranted a swift reckoning. Computer viruses were the same thing, and they formed on Glisnia all the time. Bad code, intentional malevolent forces; they were less likely to happen in the world of quantum computing, but not impossible, and quite prevalent due to the sheer number of processes being calculated every second.
Mekiolenkidasola was bad code, according to the government, and he was to be executed for it, along with a few other key potentially destructive entities. They weren’t doing it out of spite or anger. Lenkida and his compatriots were quite literally capable of infecting the entire system with their bad code, and the only way to protect the positive was to remove the negative. Every time it came to decide on something like this, the idea of exiling the disease to an isolated location was proposed. But they never went this route, because in the scifi film about it, the evil robots always returned with a vengeance. They figured it was best to just get rid of it, and not worry about retaliation. That didn’t mean they took these decisions lightly. They didn’t just go around deleting each other when something went wrong. They always tried to look for a reformation alternative, which was of course, very different than it was for organics, but at some point, they did just give up. Lenkida was someone they gave up on, and unfortunately, that meant he was going to die for it. It was something the rest of the group wasn’t going to talk about anymore.
Today, it was about the new sun. Around a hundred light years from here there was a star that was so aptly named HD 186704. It was a yellow dwarf main sequence star; more specifically, a G0V, which made it a little more massive than Sol, and a really good candidate for a stellar engine. No terrestrial planets orbited HD 186704, so there wasn’t any life evolving there. Even if life was possible, Hogarth knew that nothing lived there, because she was capable of reaching out and detecting that sort of thing, by riding the plumes of vacuum energy throughout interstellar space. The Glisnians ran an ethical survey of this star, using data collected from Project Stargate and Project Topdown, and determined that it was okay to steal it. They were going to take a star at some point, from somewhere. If Hogarth didn’t tunnel it to their location through time travel, they would have eventually found something else closer.
The matrioshka body was fully capable of becoming a thrusting-type stellar engine as it stood on its own. They just wanted a separate engine for propulsion, so if something went wrong with one of them, they would have a backup. This followed the principles of SCR&M, which demanded safety, compartmentalization, redundancy, and modularization. It would operate differently than the Shkadov thrusters that scientists and science fiction writers proposed in the ancient days, though. They were not going to move the star, and let themselves be carried along with it. Instead, the star would be like a massive, wild fusion reactor, sending energy down to the body’s feet, and producing significant thrust there. It would also break the original laws of physics by accelerating the system to impressive speeds at impressive time intervals. If they ran at full power for a hundred and fifty thousand years, everyone inside the structure would only experience a couple centuries of relativistic time, and it would get them clear to the other side of the galaxy.
A normal stellar engine would take billions of years to cover the same ground, and that wasn’t something anyone truly felt the need to do, but this was all about kicking ass in the field of advancement. They could make it go even faster if they incorporated the reframe technology that Hokusai Gimura invented a hundred and fifty years ago. They had yet to ask permission for that. One thing at a time. They first needed to steal the star from its natural spot. Hogarth had by now decided to call it Hilde, but chose not to tell anyone about it yet.
“Are we ready?” Hilde asked.
“Mister Beridze?” Hogarth prompted.
Ethesh consulted his head-up display. “Twenty-four seconds until beacon reaches the sweetspot.”
“Sweetspot?” Hilde questioned. “Is that the official term?”
Hogarth pulled her steampunk goggles down over her eyes. They looked like the HG Goggles, but they were just highly advanced sunglasses that would allow her to look straight at the new sun without it burning her eyes out. “It is, yes.”
The others put on their own solar blockers, and prepared themselves. They wouldn’t need them right away, but they looked cool.
“Five, four, three, two, one. You have about a minute before it crosses to the other side of the doughnut,” Ethesh explained.
The easiest way to get the new star here was to drop a beacon where they wanted it to be. Obviously, it needed to happen at the center of the solar chamber, so if Hogarth didn’t do her thing right now, they would have to start over. Which would have been fine, there was no rush. Still, it was time, so she initiated her temporal power. It was becoming much easier to access, even for these massive projects. Being connected to all the universe’s energy was proving to be extremely helpful.
By the time the beacon could fly too far from the center, it was already too late. Part of the Hilde star had come through the exploportal Hogarth had opened. Yeah, now she was seeing how that wasn’t such a great word to describe it. That was what it was, though. The star wasn’t going to suddenly blink into existence. She had to take it little by little, like she was draining it from one tank, and letting it fill another. After a few minutes, they still couldn’t make out the little bit of light the nanosun was radiating without zooming in. It was going to take a long time, because that was the safest way to do it. Hogarth stared at it for a moment and a half before smiling, exhaling, and lifting her goggles. “Okay, cool. Lunch?”
“Wait, that’s it?” Hilde asked.
“For now...”
“How long is this going to take?” Hilde pressed.
“Three or four,” Hogarth answered.
“Months? Years?” Ethesh chimed in.
“Maybe five.”
“You stole that joke from another universe,” Crimson criticized.
“Did I?”
No one said anything.
“It’ll only take about a month,” Hogarth clarified. “Just in time for Christmas.”
“What’ll you do after that?” Ethesh asked as they were leaving the room together.
“I don’t know,” Hogarth replied honestly. “Maybe I’ll try to build a whole new universe. Wadya think?”

Friday, November 27, 2020

Microstory 1505: Touched

I am not touched, I bear full control of me life
I am not paranoid, I just know that danger is all around
I am not alone, I have all of time and space before me
I am not apathetic, I live separate from others
I am not the enemy, I protect myself against threats
I am not a liar, I tell stories that are true

I am immortal, I cannot die
I am a powerful man, I bend to no one
I am a seeker of understanding, I detest ignorance
I am honest, I will not coat with sugar
I am struggling, I do not know perfection
I am a runner, I never hide

I am, I am, I am
I bear, I just, I have, I live, I protect, I tell
I cannot, I bend, I detest, I will, I do, I never
I am not touched
I am the apex
I am Ambrosios

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Microstory 1504: Savitri’s Reality

Were I not so young, I could have written this expression before
I barely know my tongue, and had no one to speak with until recently
I was alone when I came, and totally uneducated, so things were confusing
I do not recall my family’s name, or anything about them
I don’t know where I’m from, but I know it was not here
I grew up feeling numb, and surviving on what I could find

There were times when I wanted to end it all, and say goodbye to the loneliness
I climbed and climbed, and planned to fall, but a memory stopped me
No one would have felt my loss, for that is why I would have done it
I had to push away these dark thoughts, and continue on for a better future
I’m still alone, that much is true, and there is nothing to do to change that
But if today is something I can get through, then I’ll just have to do that again tomorrow

There’s food to eat, and it’s all mine, though it does not taste good, it’s all I have
There is nothing in this world that shines, but I can see well enough to move
The water never seems to completely run out, and I can drink whenever I want
But every puddle ends up in drought, and I eventually have to find a new one
So it’s a journey every day, but it’s one that I take gladly, for what else would I be doing?
Fortunately, whoever made this world liked to do it flatly, so I know it could be harder

I entertain myself with song that I invented, from skills I recall from life before
Were anyone here, I would sound demented, for I know nothing beyond these lands
The tune changes, but words stay the same, the ones I made up to describe my world
It’s just my version of a game, to pass the time, and keep from going crazy
There’s someone coming from the falling water, but I know not how, they just appeared
It could be friend, or foe, but now, I’ll prove myself to him, so I won’t be alone anymore

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Microstory 1503: Amber’s Lament

I lost my life
To Amber White
Two gave it back
The Ambers Black
A few Ambers Violet each turned up their nose
To me and several Ambers Indigo
And here are you
One of dozens Ambers Blue
Will you please save me
From hundreds Ambers Green?
The ones who chose to leave me in a huge burnt up meadow
With thousands Ambers Yellow
With painful cries we cringe
As millions Ambers Orange
Come beat us up and leave us dead
With billions of the Ambers Red

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Microstory 1502: Blackbabbler

I am not a killer, not a violent man
But when I see pain, or injustice, or betrayal
When I see a man treat a woman like a gaarkania thorn
Or a leader lead his people into darkness
I will strike
I will become the blackbabbler
Lining his brood spawn with a toxic layer of bubbles
Snapping at anything that dares swim near

I will become anything and everything to her
And to all other innocents
Being taken advantage of
Being stepped on, and pushed around
I will be doing the pushing from now on
If that means towards a better path
Or off a cliff
I will what I must

He slides slowly through the air
And for a time, I wonder if he’ll land
I wonder if someone will reach out and pluck him from his death
Is this a waste of my time?
No, for this is happening
What I have done cannot be undone
And if he shall survive, he will still know it was me
He will know that I judged him guilty
He will know that he is guilty

I am guilty too
I know that taking a life is not right
But what’s wrong is not always wrong
Unlike him, I will take ownership of my actions
I will not lie, or slither, or hide outside the river of time
I’ll accept the consequences
Because that is right

They will say that I am isolated, and do not understand the world
But this is my world, and it has belonged to me longer than anyone
Now she belongs to me, not as a possession, but as a responsibility
If I can only save her once, at least I did that much
And I know what it means

He lands, but he doesn’t
It’s more like the land landed on him, just upside down
I watch for a moment to make sure it truly happened
My legs are shaking, I’m nervous
I fear that if I keep hovering this close, I too shall fall
And that too shall be my fault
I step back, and I walk away
I catch a glimpse of a woman, across the way
She did not get here in time
She could not stop me
And now it is done
And I can rest

Monday, November 23, 2020

Microstory 1501: Land of Monsters

I am a monster, and I come from a land of monsters
But I am not the same as them
Amongst the crowd, I stand out
They are all white, and I am black
Though I am not in the crowd, am I?
I was exiled
I am Exile
The humans do not accept me either
So I am alone

My protectors, they say that I am stuck between two worlds
But this is not true—it cannot be true, and it does not feel so anyway
I am of no world, of no home
A train came once, and asked if I would like to leave
But I did not
I thought, if I stayed here, maybe I can find happiness
Everyone keeps talking about it, it must exist

They all try to understand me, but it’s impossible
The humans are oppressed, but united against
The monsters, they are a monolith

I was wrong to stay, I should have taken a chance
If no place is my place, then I ought to be always on the move
The next opportunity I get, I must go
It might be the train
It might be where the rest of the humans live
Or it may even be the Land of Monsters

I know only that I cannot be here anymore
I think I see a boat on the water

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Saturday, July 15, 2130

They were standing at the top of a very steep set of basement stairs. The lights weren’t on, and Mateo felt a great chill. There was something evil down in that basement, and it was just waiting for the horror movie to enter its second act. “What are we doing here?”
“We’re waiting,” Missy didn’t explain.
“Waiting for what?” Lowell asked.
“You don’t need to be here,” Missy answered. “As for you, Mateo, you want to find Trinity, I know the man for the job.”
Mateo thought about it for a second, running through all the usual suspects. “Vidar Wolfe,” he soon realized. “He’s here?”
“Not yet,” she clarified. Then she consulted her watch once more. “Twenty-four seconds.”
“How do you have that accurate of an arrival time?” Téa asked, impressed.
“I have my wily ways,” Missy said.
A few more seconds passed before Vidar appeared from a spacetime breach a few steps down. He wasn’t expecting to be on stairs, so he immediately started falling backwards, and it was unclear whether he was going to tumble down those steps, or back into his own portal. Missy reached out her hand, and caught him in a time bubble, which she gently laid down on the landing below.
Vidar stood up, and nodded, as if she had done nothing more for him but hold open a door. “Thank you. I appreciate your support.”
“You can pay us back with a tracking spell,” Missy said with a single nod of her own.
“I suppose I am honor-bound. Who are you looking for?”
“Trinity Turner,” Mateo replied.
“Does it have to be Trinity, or can it be Quinn, or what?” Vidar asked. “I think I just know where Quinn is.”
“It has to be Trinity,” Mateo confirmed. “Besides, I’ve never met Quinn.”
“All right,” Vidar agreed. “Where did you last see her?”
“We haven’t,” Téa said. “We need to know where she is today, regardless of where that places her in her personal timeline.”
“Okay.” Vidar yawned deeply. “This shouldn’t be too hard, and then I can take a nap, right?”
“Fine with us,” Lowell answered.
Vidar cracked his knuckles. “Gimme a minute.”
Meanwhile, over 25,000 light years away, Leona was being fitted for a new avatar. This one looked like Nerakali—even at its core code—so when she went out into the main simulation world, Pryce wouldn’t know that it was her who caused the prison break.
“Just give me a minute, and you’ll be good to go,” Gilbert said. “Maybe ten.”
“Is this going to work?” Jeremy asked.
“Wait, Jeremy?” Leona questioned.
“Yes, what?”
“I thought you went by J.B.”
“I don’t think so,” Jeremy said, confused.
Gilbert and the real Nerakali were giving each other a look.
“What?” Leona asked them.
“I’ll try to explain,” Nerakali volunteered. “The simulations are run on quantum computers. They’re a little...unpredictable when it comes to time travel. I mean, if someone were to go back in time, and stop you from dying on whatever day you died on, that doesn’t mean the simulation keeps this version of you here, outside of time, or something. It will still save your life, and this reality will be erased. But it’s capable of processing some of the more minor discrepancies. Somebody went back, and changed something about the past, which caused your friend to end up using a different name, and you’re aware of it, because the afterlife simulation is capable of recognizing both quantum states. Jeremy; J.B. They’re from slightly different realities, and your memories are muddled, because the simulation isn’t sure which one is standing before us right now.”
“Did you follow any of that?” Jeremy asked Sanaa softly.
“I wasn’t listening,” she replied to him dismissively. She probably was, and she probably understood it, but she had a reputation of being a rascal, and she had to protect it.
“Don’t worry about it...Jeremy,” Leona said. It wouldn’t be that hard to get used to the new name. This was just how life worked.
“To answer your original question,” Gilbert began, “yes, this is going to work.”
“How will she get Angela out of prison?” Jeremy pressed.
“I cannot make someone else Level 10,” Gilbert explained. “That’s like using one of your three wishes to ask for more wishes. That’s how Pryce put it during my orientation, anyway. I can make her Level 9, though, and she should only need to be an Eight to get out of prison. She can come up with her own plan, but she could construct a bunch of holes in the prison walls, for instance, and just run right in. Or, she could do something more elaborate, and less noticeable, and sneak her out of there. Again, she can do it however she wants.”
“I think I should go with her,” Jeremy offered.
“That’s very kind of you,” Leona said, “but let’s try to minimize the damage here. I’m already not sold on the idea of throwing Nerakali under the bus.”
“It was out of an airlock,” Nerakali corrected, “if you will recall.”
“That might have happened a long enough time ago that it’s funny to you, but for me, it feels like yesterday,” Leona scolded apologetically.
“Don’t worry about it,” Nerakali echoed, then she gasped. “Ah. You look so beautiful.”
Unable to contain herself after the surprising humor, Leona burst out laughing. Gilbert had just put the final touches on his work, and now Leona looked exactly like Nerakali.
“What happens to you when you get her out of the prison?” Jeremy continued. “Her clothes are still orange, aren’t they. Even if she gets out of the building, that doesn’t fix her level.”
Sanaa reached behind her head, and pulled out a giant duffle bag that wouldn’t have been able to hide back there in the real world. “That’s why she’s got this.” She dropped the bag on the table, and pulled out this long plastic-lookin’ thing with a button on one end. “It’s a portable recodifier. This will turn Angela into a Level 1, but before you freak out, it’s only temporary. Pryce is capable of monitoring the actions of anyone in the simulation, except in a few cases, like this little virtual subworld of Gilbert’s that we’re in right now. Level 1s are not in the simulation, though. It’s like tucking your flash drive away in a drawer, and expecting to be able to pull files from it on your computer. You gotta plug it in first. Level 1s still exist, but they’re unplugged.” She waved the recodifier around. “The cool thing about this is that you can unplug her in the prison, and plug her back in once you get back to VioletSpace. Pryce will be able to see you, but he won’t know that you have an Angela in your pocket.”
Leona took it from Sanaa’s hand. “When did you have time to become in charge of supplies?”
“I have my wily ways. Gilbert built them during or interim year, but I came up with the ideas last year, and told him what to do.”
“There are some other goodies in here too,” Gilbert said as he pulled the bag’s opening towards himself with his middle finger. “You might need all of them, or none of them; it depends.”
Gilbert showed her his creations, all of which Sanaa had come up with herself. They accounted for contingency after contingency, and a lot of them were pretty dangerous, even in a virtual world. Full, the bag was impossibly light, and folded in on itself until it was small enough to fit in her back pocket. When she ready ready to go, they realized Jeremy was nowhere to be found, theoretically because he didn’t think this was going to go as well as they planned. They couldn’t blame him for it, but this was kind of how she and Mateo operated. They made half a plan, and then let fate fill in the rest. It always seemed to work out for them. Then again, the powers that be, though highly restrictive, were on their side, and were never looking for them to fail. Pryce was an antagonist, and though he hadn’t zeroed anyone yet—which was a term in here that referred to permanent death—it was likely only a matter of time before their opposition pushed him far enough over that line.
It looked like Sanaa wanted to say something as they were sending Leona off on her mission. She waited patiently until Sanaa reached over, and gave her a hug. “Don’t go getting yourself killed, you asshole.”
“I love you too,” Leona said back.
She stepped out of the secret world, and into the main one. While time travelers weren’t the only ones with Level 10 privileges, they were incredibly rare, and everyone noticed when one walked by. Way the real Nerakali understood it, Trinity and the original designers wanted there to be a way to reward good behavior, and restrict those who misbehaved. The prison definitely existed in their concept, but there were fewer levels above that, and they didn’t agree with each other whether it was ethical to zero anybody, for any reason. Pryce was the one who came up with the color schemes, so people could distinguish themselves from others, and the elites could avoid the dregs. So when Leona started walking through the city center, dressed in royal purple, everyone turned to watch. She ignored them, not so as to keep her head down, but to give off an air of superiority to them. They expected her to be proud of her station, and acting like her regular, humble self would have caused even more of a stir.
She still didn’t really have much of a plan as she was walking, but Jeremy’s disappearance made her realize something about him, and changed everything about what she had already come up with. She quickly took the magic bag out of her pocket, retrieved only one item from it, and attached a quick note to the outside. She then  walked right into the prison, and started opening every door and gate in her path. She didn’t need authorization, or prior notice, or even to sign a check-in sheet. She could go anywhere she wanted. Now, this didn’t mean she was invisible, but that was totally okay. The guards, both NPC and career correctional officers, noticed her just as much as everyone else, and every single one of them felt compelled to alert Tamerlane Pryce to her presence. This was exactly what she wanted. Now a stir was a good thing, because it was just a distraction. Her plan hinged on something she had no control over, but she could mark that down in the half of the plan she didn’t know, and that wasn’t going to stop her from carrying it out. Finally, she had her first target in her sights. It was the NPC guard from when she was here to visit Angela, and case the joint. She had freed him from the prison of his own mind by giving him consciousness, and it was time for him to pay her back.
She covertly slipped the bag out of her pocket, and slipped it into his hand. He would know what to do with it, and the great thing about it was that she didn’t need him to do anything beyond it. His job would be quick and easy, and then the contents of the bag would take care of the rest. Hopefully he wouldn’t squeal later, but even if he did, they would probably be long gone by the time the consequences rained down on them. She continued on, and headed for her final destination. Guards kept their eye on her as she passed, and grew more earnest the deeper she went. She was in a more restricted area now, where the worst of the worst lived that Pryce still didn’t consider despicable enough to zero. Leona would beg to differ on at least one count, but his decision was going to allow her to feed two birds with one worm, or since it involved violence, maybe it should be kill two birds with one stone. No, because she only wanted to kill one of the birds. So she would kill one bird with one stone, so the other could have the one worm all to herself. Did that metaphor make sense?
She was here, but before she entered the room, she dropped the façade, and returned to the avatar that resembled her true self. She decided she wasn’t willing to let her friend get punished for her actions. She opened the door.
“Did you come here to get closure?” he snarked.
Leona stood there and stared at him menacingly. “You’re a rapist.”
He let out an irritated sigh. “She was my wife! You can’t rape your own wife!”
“Yes! You can! And you did! And you’re gonna die for it!”
Maniacal laugh. “Haven’t you heard, Sugar Tits? We’re all dead here.”
Leona took the knife out of her other pocket. “Some more than others.”
“What do you expect to do with that thing? I don’t need pain dampeners. I have complete control over what my mind perceives. I’ve been standing in a field of poppies since you came in.”
Leona spun the handle in her grip. “Then upon poppies you shall die.”
Either she was really committed to the bluff, or the knife wasn’t as harmless as he thought. The truth was that it was a zeroblade. If they got stabbed with this, it wouldn’t matter what level someone was, their consciousness would be extinguished, and there was no coming back from that. Dead is dead is dead. Erlendr Preston was about to become the first person whose death Leona was directly responsible for, and if it couldn’t be Hitler, at least it was a rapist like this piece of shit.
“You don’t wanna do that.”
“It’s why I’m here.”
“No, I studied your timeline, and I’ve seen your mind. You can’t do this.”
“In a different timeline, a man named Ed was reincarnated as my brother, and started going by the name Theo. He said something to me once that was powerful enough to cross the dimensions. He said, anyone who is physically capable of something is psychologically capable of it. We are all violent. Some are just better at restraining themselves.” She took a deep breath through her nose. “I’m tired of the restraints.” She pulled her elbow back as she stepped towards him, and then she buried the knife in his gut, forcing him to gasp. She creepily placed her mouth at his ear, and whispered, “that’s for Savannah.” She twisted the blade, releasing a whimper from his throat. “That’s for Nerakali.” She gracelessly pulled the knife back out, letting out a scream, and a geyser of blood. “And that’s for Arcadia.” She watched his body begin to blacken and char. “You’ll never hurt anyone ever again.”
He died...for good this time.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Glisnia: Body Politics (Part XII)

Hogarth Pudeyonavic was sitting alone in the Judgment Room. Glisnia was designed to be a perfect democracy, or at least as perfect as was possible. Literally everyone had an equal say, or at least it was supposed to be like that. Mekiolenkidasola and Crimson Clover misrepresented how the system worked, leading Hogarth to make decisions that maybe not everyone would have wanted. There was absolutely no law against her and Hilde being human, and no reason that she couldn’t help them if she was. Best guess, Lenkida spun her that lie to get her on the hook. She needed to be told something that would cause her to believe that he somehow spoke for the Glisnians, and was responsible for securing their interests in this matter. The truth was that he probably operated within some rebel faction, which opposed the greater good in some way. She didn’t have all the facts, though, so she needed to be patient. Right now, the Glisnians were here to gather her side of the story, so they could figure out what to do about this mess.
“State your designation, for the record.” It was a dermal mech who was talking to her, but she was channeling the will of everyone. The surface data of literally every single person in this matrioshka brain was being sent to her for processing, except for the opinions of the defendants. When enough of them had a question to ask, she was obligated to ask for them. When even more of them agreed upon a decision, that was the decision they would make, and it would be carried out by individuals like this mech. That was how the government worked, and that was what Lenkida purposefully kept from her. The judge’s name was a hex code as laid out in a fractal pattern, but for the sake of the non-mechs, like Hogarth, she went by Avalhana.
“Hogarth Meridia Pudeyonavic.”
“World of origin.”
“Earth, November 21, 1994.”
“Please only answer the question as it is posed, with no flourishes or extraneous information.”
“The record will show that the third question was answered, but unasked. Remove the line from the database.”
“Removed,” came a symphony of voices from the aether.
“At what point did you first arrive in Gliese 832 space? Please note that Gliese 832 space refers to the boundary—” Avalhana tried to begin.
“I understand what it means,” Hogarth interrupted. “Just because I’m human, doesn’t mean I’m a total moron. It was 2245.”
“Please refrain from interrupting, and from flourishes and commentary.”
“Look, like I said, you’re talkin’ to a human, which means you’re gonna have to be more flexible. Go on and tell your little mechs that we don’t process data the way you do, and I’m not going to roboticize my speech for the sake of efficiency. We’re all immortal here, who gives a shit how long this takes?”
Avalhana did not respond for a good few minutes, which could be centuries from her perspective. “We will...attempt to reach your level of communication.”
That was needlessly condescending, but okay. “Okay. Next question.”
“When did you first learn that you had the power to spontaneously fabricate multi-solar system-sized objects with little but your own strength and will?” Avalhana asked.
“About a month ago.”
This disturbed her.
“I don’t have an exact timeline for you. As you are well aware, organic beings store associative memory, rather than categorical memory. It is...less efficient, but more beautiful, and I stand by it.”
“Very well. Where did you learn this skill?”
“I didn’t learn it so much as I was accidentally imbued with the power when I absorbed the force of a blast that sent my entire town to a planet that was about one-point-seven-eight light years from Earth.”
She paused again. “There is no planet at such distance.”
“It was a rogue world. It has since moved on.”
“Understood. And you survived on this planet using your, umm...?”
They did not say umm very often, because they were not surprised or stumped very often. “Powers? No, not mine, other people’s. I don’t have the details.”
“There are others like you?”
Now Hogarth was the one to pause, but she knew she had to answer. It was the 25th century, and this wasn’t the first case that suggested that temporal manipulation would be revealed to the rest of the vonearthans sometime in this time period. Many time travelers claimed to have seen it in the future, and many more deliberately avoided traveling this far forward in the timeline, so as not to be caught in some time war. There would not likely be any war, but that didn’t make it perfectly safe. Others didn’t necessarily believe the rumors, but they exercised caution just the same, because people finding out about them was probably ultimately inevitable. “Yes, and before you ask, I don’t know how many, and I don’t know where they all are. We are not a monolith. They can travel through time, and I believe that they are mostly this time, because of you...who threaten..their secrets.”
“Are you at liberty to discuss these matters with us?”
“Who’s to say? There’s a prison for people who spill the beans, but I am about fifty percent sure that this time period is beyond their jurisdiction, for reasons I could not tell you.”
“Understood.” These answers probably altered Avalhana’s questions greatly, so she took a moment to reassess with the population. “Who asked you to build this—as it’s been called—the matrioshka body?”
“Was he your only point of contact for this project?”
“There was another, named Crimson Clover. I know that Lenkida lied to me about how much influence he had over this system, but I’m not clear on Crimson’s involvement. He may be almost completely innocent. He didn’t tell me how your government works, but perhaps it simply never came up.”
“We are not cognizant of the truth about him either.” She moved on, “have you ever heard of The Iunta?”
“I have not. Would you be able to explain?”
“They are a small faction within our population that seeks to form a hierarchy of control. We believe that Mekiolenkidasola is a member, and are attempting to ascertain if Crimson is as well, and whether you are.”
“I’m not lying, I’ve never heard that word before. I assume it’s a new formation of junta?”
“I’m sorry to have been involved with them, but I promise you that I was not cognizant of Lenkida’s affiliations, or his group’s existence, let alone their motivations.”
“It if exists, your ignorance would have been established by design.”
“My ignorance does exist.”
She nodded. “Please tell us about your other associates, and whether anyone is missing from this list. Hilde Unger, Ethesh Beridze, Holly Blue, Jupiter Rosa, and another man whose only name here is Richardson.”
Ambrose Richardson,” Hogarth added. “There are others, but I am not at liberty to discuss them. We have formed a council of sorts called The Shortlist. We determine whether a technological advancement that involves temporal manipulation is safe enough to be developed.”
“Why does this particular group form the council, and why not others?”
“We are the ones capable of these advancements. When we encounter someone else with such knowledge, comprehension, or ability, we place them on the council with us. I hope you understand that I will tell you all you want to know about time powers, but I will do so using generalities, and anecdotes; not specifics, and targeting language.”
“We believe that we can accept that,” Avalhana said. “We recognize the importance of discretion, and unlike humans, we do not possess an entitlement to know the truth about everything. The only question I’m hearing now is...are you a threat to us?”
Hogarth didn’t know the answer, not with any stable level of confidence.
“You may specify, if necessary. Are you, as an individual, a threat to us? Is this Shortlist? Is the greater population of your subspecies?”
“I, personally, am not,” Hogarth began. “Nor is the Shortlist. Like any population, however, there are those who would seek to destroy, improve, control, or otherwise impact that which they encounter. You are something that can be encountered, and I cannot guarantee that no one will attempt to insert themselves into your society, for whatever reasons they have. This is true of anyone, however, and I implore you not to attack any potential threat without diplomacy first, and a clear violation of your rights. I think we all know what the humans fear about your potential. Earthan entertainment is riddled with cautionary tales about fictional artificial intelligences who rise against their creators. I can tell you, however, that I will do everything I can to protect you, just as I would protect others from you.”
“This is a fair analysis,” Avalhana, and the collective, decided. “We will not depend on your protection. We would, however, appreciate your guidance in matters of temporal manipulation, and ask that you remain on Glisnia in order to serve as our liaison to anyone with the same, or similar, abilities.”
“That’s...not what I thought you would say.”
“You were expecting to be exiled or extinguished?”
“I was.”
“That is not how we do things. Had Mekiolenkidasola been honest with you, you would have known that about us.”
“What will happen to him, and Crimson, and my friends who are still here?”
“Your friends will be allowed to stay with you, should they choose. My collective is eager to make you aware that you are not obligated to remain either. You act on our behalf upon your own volition, and you are under no contract to maintain your position for any specified period of time. We do ask, however, that while you are in this position, you endeavor to protect Glisnian interests, and develop a strong enough sense of loyalty in pursuit of this condition.”
Hogarth smiled at the formality. “I can do that. And of Crimson?”
“He will be judged shortly, as you have been.”
“I have one request.”
She extended her hand to offer Hogarth the privilege of continuing. “Lenkida and Crimson are aware of certain details about me and my people, which I would rather remain unknown to all others.”
Avalhana waited to respond as she listened to the collective opinion. “It is our understanding that you possess reasonable technical skills, and would be able to use these skills in order to delete targeted memories from a mechanical entity?”
“Umm...I’m not totally comfortable with that. Can’t you just conduct a preliminary hearing to determine their guilt, and then erase the sensitive memories afterwards? Does every judgment have to include the entire Glisnian collective? I’m all right if one or two other people know some stuff about me, just not everybody.”
They discussed her proposal. “We agree to your terms. We will adjourn for one standard Earthan hour to develop a new plan, and to give the humans time to rest.”
“Thank you.”
Avalhana nodded slightly, but said nothing further.

Hilde was waiting for her in the other room. She was noticeably shaking.
“Hey, hey,” Hogarth said calmingly. “Everything’s fine. We were lied to, but the mechs are not unreasonable people. Nothing’s gonna happen to us.”
“Are you just trying to make me feel better?” Hilde questioned.
“Does that sound like me?”
“No, but—”
“No more butts. We already got two; we don’t need any more. I assure you that we’re good. We can stay here. They even wanna give me a job.”
“You’re joking.”
“Really. I told them about time travel. They’re worried someone else with powers is gonna come along, and they won’t know how to handle it.”
“We are not staying here, Hogarth.”
“You don’t want this for me?”
“There are billions of mechs on this world—station—brain, whatever you call it, and they’re probably going to replicate themselves exponentially to fill out the body that you built them. We can’t be the only humans here, it’s just not safe.”
“It is safe, and you know that it is, because I’m telling you that it is. If something goes wrong, I can jump us out of here at a moment’s notice.”
“You mean you can explode us?”
“I can exploport us.”
Hilde rolled her eyes. That term was not catching on.
Ethesh rolled up. “Yo, is everything okay?”
“Yes,” Hogarth replied. “You can stay here, if you want.”
“Cool,” he said casually.
“Good answer,” Hogarth told him, then switched her attention back to Hilde. “Your turn to try.”
Hilde inhaled and exhaled melodramatically. “I will approximate an acceptance of the situation.”
“Close enough, we’ll get there.”
“What are we gonna do now?” Ethesh asked.
“I have a few ideas,” Hogarth said with a smirk. “We could do with another sun to make it work, though. I’m thinkin’ a yellow dwarf this time.”
“Oh, no.”