Saturday, November 7, 2020

Glisnia: Flesh and Bone (Part X)

“Well, I know that body belongs to you, but that was a little jarring,” Crimson Clover said.
“I’ll make it up to you,” Hogarth replied. “Lenkida said this was a long-term project, but I’m gonna prove him wrong. I’m gonna build his matrioshka body, and I’m gonna do it all at once.”
“How is that even possible?” Ethesh questioned. “I know I’m not anywhere near as intelligent or knowledgeable as anyone here, but that doesn’t seem physically possible.”
Hogarth shook her head, glad to have it back in her possession. The upgrade was nice, but it wasn’t really her. She was more of a flesh and bone kind of gal. “You’re thinking linearly. Everything happening in order, and over time, is the exact same thing as everything happening all at once, as long as you’re looking at it from the right perspective. I can see it now. I mean, I can’t see it like Aitchai can, but I understand it better. Everyone, everything, contributes just a little bit. We’ll all become part of the Glisnian collective. It will be the body that’s made up of the whole universe.”
“I’m not sure you’re making sense,” Ethesh pointed out, “and I’m not because I’m just a dumb technician, but because you’re only giving us half the information.”
“I know,” Hogarth said with a nod. “I will explain everything. We just need to put the team together.”
“Who is on this team?” Crimson asked, like he was preparing a grocery list.
“Call everyone who’s still here. We don’t need Ambrose, Jupiter, or Hilde, but they can join us if they want.”
They met back in the room where The Shortlist and The Shorter List had their respective meetings. Hogarth, Hilde, Ethesh, Mekiolenkidasola, Crimson, Holly Blue, Jupiter, and Ambrose were there.
“Oh, God,” Jupiter said, “are we doing this again?”
“You’re not here to decide how we’re going to move forward,” Hogarth began. “I just want to tell you my new plan.”
“If there’s a new plan, then we should contact the others,” Holly Blue announced.
“I’m not going to do that, I’m done with the meetings. Holly Blue, you can leave, if you would like. Once I’m finished here, I will honor our deal, and get you back to our son, but if you don’t want to continue helping, I won’t make you. I think I can handle this.”
“Are you even capable of traveling to Declan’s world?” Holly Blue asked.
“Let me put it like this,” Hogarth said, “if I’m not capable of getting you back to Declan, I’m not capable of completing the matrioshka body.”
“How do you propose you do that?” Lenkida asked, wanting to get to the matter at hand.
“The time siphon,” Hogarth started her presentation. “You told me you wanted me to help you reach other star systems at faster-than-light speeds, so that’s how I went about tackling the problem. I saw each star as a target, but it doesn’t have to be like that. We could reach every star...every orbital around every star, in multiple galaxies. If we take just a little bit from everything—and I’m talking a molecule here and there—then it doesn’t matter if there’s life, or potential for life, or anything. No one will notice it’s gone, and they won’t miss it. I don’t see an ethical problem with it.”
The group sat in silence for a moment before Holly Blue spoke. “You wanna build a filter portal.”
“If that’s what you call it, then yeah,” Hogarth agreed. “Am I not the first to think of it?”
“You’re probably the first to think of something on the scale you’re talking about, but I know of other filter portalers. Keanu ‘Ōpūnui is a notable example. He uses his powers to manipulate the weather.”
“He can teleport individual molecules from one place to another?” Hogarth asked to make sure she was understanding her correctly.
“That’s what you do, but only with your body,” Crimson reminded her. “What makes you think you can scale it up that much? Mr. Richardson?”
“Hey,” Ambrose said, “I’m not sure I feel comfortable with that. I still have no clue how we conjured a star from another universe.”
“I don’t need you to do anything anymore,” Hogarth assured him. “I can get all the energy I need from the universe itself. Every time I reach out to a celestial body, it will connect me to the other nearby bodies, like a chain reaction, or a web crawler.”
“That’s absurd,” Holly Blue argued. “What makes you think you can do that? I can’t build something that can do that. My powers only let me invent time technology that exists as a power or salmon pattern that is exhibited by someone else. It’s a lot easier when I’ve seen it done by that someone else, and even easier when I can study them. I don’t know anyone who can filter portal the universe, do you?”
Hogarth smiled. “I do. I just met him, the Aitchai.”
“Ugh,” a few of them said.
“We don’t know anything about this mysterious energy god you claim to have met,” Holly Blue added.
“You think I’m lying?” Hogarth questioned. “Tell me, Holly, how could I have gotten rid of the star intruder if not by his hand, and why would I have not just told you that truth?”
“I dunno,” Holly Blue admitted, “and don’t call me that; you know I don’t care for it, which is why you said it.”
“We used to be friends, a long time ago.”
Holly Blue took a breath. It would seem she was having a hell of a time with her respiratory system. Hogarth had thought she was imagining it, but now it seemed real. Holly Blue could sense this realization in the others. “I’m dying.”
“I have a time disease.” She smiled quite sadly.
“Do you mean a time affliction?” Hilde asked. “That’s what we called what Piglet had before we learned she could control it.”
“No,” Holly Blue answered. “It’s an actual disease.” She breathed heavily again. “It’s the kind of thing that humans go through when someone messes with their linear pattern, and they don’t receive the proper treatment. It happened to me, ‘cause...because time and I have been working against each other for a”
“What does this mean?”
“It’s a unique cerebrovascular disease that affects my autonomic nervous system.” She reached up, and tapped on her eyeballs, removing two contact lenses from them. “It started out by blocking my pupillary response. I had to invent these things to regulate how they constrict and dilate, because my brain can’t do it on its own. The disease then moved on to my urinary system, which I imagine you don’t want to hear about. Now it’s gone after my lungs. Eventually, if I survive long enough to reach the final stage, my heart will just stop beating. Even if you implant artificial organs, my capillaries will stop exchanging chemicals with my tissue, and I won’t be able to transport water, nutrients, or oxygen. Can’t replace those, not all of them, anyway.”
Lenkida reached over and placed his hand upon hers. “Yes, we can.”
Holly Blue nodded negatively. “Yeah, but I’m not going to do that. I have to see my son, even if it’s the last thing I do. I don’t know if I can jump universes as a mech, but I know I can as a choosing one. I might consider upgrading afterwards, but...”
“But what?” Hilde encouraged.
“The disease might follow me through any transhumanistic upgrade. That’s why I called it a time disease, because it doesn’t respond to medical treatment. It...disappears, and comes back in the future. I think it’s literally traveling through time.”
“Have you spoken with Dr. Hammer or Dr. Sarka?” Hogarth suggested.
“Both,” Holly Blue said. “They tried, but they couldn’t do a thing.”
Hogarth looked over at Crimson. “How do you navigate the bulkverse? How can you find Declan?”
“Give me back the body, I’ll take her,” Crimson requested.
“No, I want to take her,” Hogarth insisted. “Just tell me how.”
“It requires calculating hyperdimensional metamathematics,” it responded.
Hogarth accidentally let out a belly laugh. “I sent an entire town to another planet when I was a kid. You think I don’t know metamath?”
“You did that on accident,” it said to her.
“Can you teach me, or not?”
“Yeah, I’ll teach you,” it promised. “Of course I’ll teach you.”
“Thank you.” Hogarth returned her attention to Holly Blue. “I’m sorry I’ve been hard on you.”
“No, I should be apologizing,” Holly Blue contended. “I’ve been grumpy about it. When you’re a time traveler, the future seems inevitable, as does the past. You can live in 1992, and then jump right to 2400. It can really feel like you’re immortal, because you see how things change. But I didn’t watch history unfold, I just skipped a bunch of parts. I’m just as prone to death as anyone else, and I can accept that. It’s just been tough. So many people have promised to help me find my son, and they have done so with the absolute best intentions, but they have not been able to deliver.”
Hogarth glanced over at Crimson for a half second. “I can deliver. I will. I wasn’t trying to be dismissive earlier. I can do this without you now,  because you’ve been invaluable thus far, and not just on the technical side. Your sense of ethics is unmatched by anyone I’ve ever met, and I won’t forget the lessons that you taught me. But it’s time for you to go home.”
Holly Blue looked like she was tearing up, but nothing came out of her ducts, probably because of the disease. “Thank you.”
Hogarth tabled the discussion on the intergalactic time siphon thing, and focused on helping her friend with her dying wish. Crimson spent the better part of the next week teaching her how to transport her atoms to other universes, and more importantly, how to navigate to a specific point in spacetime. Then it showed her the coordinates to Declan’s location specifically. Once Holly Blue was packed, and ready to leave everything she had ever known behind, Hogarth embraced her, and dismantled every molecular bond in their bodies and belongings.
Declan was waiting for her on the side of a road, apparently having settled on this moment as a rendezvous with Crimson Clover long ago. It warmed Hogarth’s heart to witness the reunion, and reminded her that the point of doing anything in life was to progress, and support others. The matrioshka body was great and all, but it wasn’t the only path to the future, and it wasn’t essential. She would still do it, for sure, but at least she was no longer so anxious about getting it done. She had all the time in the worlds, which was nice, because that allowed her to hang out with her friends for a good month. When she left to go back to their universe of origin, Holly Blue was still alive, and actually kind of doing okay. It was possible that her time disease couldn’t follow her here, but Hogarth would never know. Holly Blue asked that she leave before seeing proof either way. She wanted her friends to move on with their lives without knowing how things turned out. She somehow took comfort in that, and Hogarth did too.
When she returned, a few days had passed for everyone else, indicating that the calculations Hogarth had come up with were a little off, and she needed to really nail those down before she tried something like that again. For now, they had work to do, and Ethesh was eager to show her the prototype that he had built in her absence.

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