Monday, January 18, 2021

Microstory 1541: Dreaming of Days

When I was in ________ grade, our ________ asked us to start ________ a dream journal. It was a simple enough ________. Some ________ had more trouble with it than others, because some ________ just don’t remember their ________ as well. I’ve never been one of those people. I remember my dreams vividly, though I wouldn’t call that a gift. They aren’t frightening most of the ________, but they are boring. It was during the other students’ ________ that I realized everyone else dreamed of ________ things, like a world in negative colors, or having ________ for feet, and ________ for hands. I just dream about ________; about regular daily life. I wake ________, drink some ________, go to work at a boring ________, come home, eat alone, and go back to ________. Or sometimes I come ________ to a family, or a ________, or a bird. It’s never the same ________, but it’s never exciting either. I’m not myself in my dreams, but ________ else, and I don’t even think the same someone else, because I keep taking ________ routes to different jobs. Fortunately, I wasn’t the first to do my ________, so this gave me enough time to fib. I made up ________ that were more fantastical and interesting, because no one wanted to hear the true ________ if they were going to be that sad and ________. After that, I moved on with my life, but I would continue this ________ of making up my dreams, instead of relating the real ones to ________. It’s not like the subject came up a lot, of course, but people did ________ ask me about them, and I got used to the lying. I got so ________ at it that when it came to figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, being a ________ writer made the most sense. Things were going ________, I wasn’t the most famous ________ in the ________, but I was making a ________ living sending short stories to various ________ magazines. I kind of made it my thing to claim that my work was inspired by my dreams. I don’t think there’s any legal issue with that. I hope not, at least. One ________, I even slipped in one of my real ________, just to see how it would be ________. It didn’t get great ________, but they actually weren’t that bad. There were just fewer of them this time, because fewer ________ were ________ in providing their ________. It was only an ex____, so that’s fine.

Anyway, my critics and ________ aren’t the only people who get a hold of this story. A ________ contacts me, demanding to know how long I’ve been ________ on him. I tell him I’m doing no such thing, that I don’t know who he is, but he’s not ________ it. He starts ________ my latest story, which...whatever, anyone can do that, but then he adds details that I never released to the public, because they’re even more ________ within the boring. He mentions the ________ of his briefcase, and the look of the novelty clock in the ________. This ________ was somehow in my dream, and I have to find out how the hell he did it. So against my better ________, I agree to meet him at his apartment two ________ over. It’s not just familiar, it’s exactly the same ________ I saw in my dream. He takes me back down____, and down the ________, and all the way to where he ________. I’ve seen it all before, this is from my dream. We continue on our ________ through town, trying to work out what’s going on together. I start to realize everything feels ________. All of my dreams, though no two are the same; they all apparently take ________ in this same town. I think at any ________ I will wake up, and this will also turn out to be a dream, but I never do. I go back ________ to consult my ________ journal, and I start mapping out the ________. Then I return to this town to meet other ________ whose lives I’ve borne witness to. They all exist, they’re all ________. Then we go deeper, and check the ________. I’m not just watching other people’s ________, but events that would not happen to them for another ________ days. I can see the ________, but only in this one town, and that’s what makes it the least impressive power I’ve ever heard of, because the more time I ________ here—as fascinating as the ________ itself is to investigate—the more bored I become.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Wednesday, July 23, 2138

Leona started shaking Mateo, but he did not stir. He wasn’t dead, though, that much was for sure. Nerakali evidently sensed that something had happened, and teleported in to investigate. “What was he doing just before he fell unconscious?”
“We were just standing here, talking,” Jeremy explained. “It looked like his neck hurt.”
“Yeah,” Angela corroborated. “Those alien bugs stuck something in the back of his neck to stop him from jumping to the future. They got it out in the other universe, but who knows what kind of lingering effect it might have on him?”
“Nerakali,” Leona began. “You can tell when someone has a consciousness, right? I mean, if their mind was transferred to another body, and there was just nothing there, you would know.”
“I would. It’s necessary for my brain blending power to work.” She knelt down and placed her hands on either side of his head. She stopped, and pulled back, not frightened or surprised, just curious.
“What is it?”
Nerakali placed her hands back on Mateo’s head to get another reading. “It’s...very similar to how people feel when they’re asleep. Not just asleep, but dreaming. You’re not always dreaming when you’re asleep, but he definitely is, and...”
“And what!” Leona was growing impatient and nervous. Being asleep didn’t sound so bad, but it was troubling that they couldn’t wake him up.
“Oh, I remember. He’s lucid. Lucid dreaming. It reads a little bit differently, and I don’t blend people who aren’t awake, so I had to remind myself what it felt like. Yeah, so he’s fine.”
“Why won’t he wake up?” Obvious question, Leona figured.
“I have no idea,” Nerakali answered apologetically. “But he is neither dead, nor dying. Nor is he in a coma, or some kind of fugue state. He’s just...dreamin’. I hope it’s a good one. Perhaps the jump to 2139 will wake him up. Until then, I can stay and monitor him if it’ll make you feel better.”
“It would,” Leona said. She was sick of shit happening to her and her family.
Mateo could feel himself coming together, like a billion beams of light converging on a single point, and building upon one another to form a solid object. He found himself standing-floating in a technicolor void, like something out of a Dr. Strange movie. The lights spread out from him, and wrapped themselves around his body, and danced in the distance. He was alone for an eternal second, and then more figures came into view. Dozens of people were float-standing around him, enjoying their own personal color show, until the beams let them go. They all drifted in one direction, but it wasn’t down, because down didn’t exist in this crazy world-between-worlds. They smiled and waved at each other, like they were all arriving at a family reunion. It was then that Mateo noticed one man was separated from the others, shrouded in a haze. He was crouched, and probably would have been up in a corner if corners existed here.
The reunion continued without this mysterious other man. They were doing their best to ignore him, but would every once in a while look over and scowl. It took them a surprisingly long time to notice Mateo, but once they did, they realized that he too did not belong. One of them came over and scrutinized his face. “Who are you?” He looked back to the crowd. “Who is this guy? He’s not part of the family.”
A woman came up, and Mateo realized he knew her. He just couldn’t remember her name. “It’s cool, Tiago. He’s...an exception.”
Mateo finally remembered. “Sandy Clausen.”
She smiled. “That’s right.”
“What is this place?” he asked. “This is your family?”
She smiled wider. “When we met, I told you that I come from a bloodline of dreamwalkers. Once in a generation, a child will be born with the ability to transmit thoughts to other universes.” She breathed in deeply, and gazed upon her domain. “A friend built us this place so we could all be together in the same moment. We’ll be here once, and then never again. We’re calling it The Last Dream.”
“How did I get here?” Mateo questioned.
“I’m not sure,” Sandy replied, unperturbed. “You were possessed by him once, but that can’t be it. He possessed a lot of people.” She gestured towards the lonely man.
“Wait, him? That’s the guy who possessed me, and had sex with someone using my body?”
“Well, we don’t know the details, but...yeah. He is...you don’t need to know his name. He’s just the...bad egg, I guess. To be honest, I’m surprised there is but one. Look at this crowd. Fifty-six of us, and only one black sheep.”
“There are only fifty-six people in your bloodline? The power disappears?”
We disappear,” she answered. “Bloodline ends. It’s fine. Most of us aren’t there to see it, and it’s not like this big battle, or anything. We just stop makin’ babies.”
Mateo nodded, and watched the other family members enjoying getting to know each other. “I won’t keep you.”
“I’m all right,” Sandy assured him sincerely. “I’ve actually met most of them. We’re all dreamwalkers, but they’re more into creating new worlds, and I like to travel to  the ones others created.”
He nodded, and waited a moment. “Have you ever heard of the Ochivari?”
“I didn’t technically fight in the Darning Wars, but my team and I worked against them in our own way.”
Mateo reached to the back of his neck, even though he was pretty sure he wasn’t in his body anymore anyway, and this was about as real as any dream. The patch was gone, as was the pain, but he still felt some connection to it. Perhaps he always would. “Two of them put this implant thing in my neck. It suppressed my time-jumping pattern. A surgeon got it out pretty quickly, but could that have something to do with how I’m here?”
Sandy thought about it. “Hm. I suppose they could have given you some of their blood, be it by accident, or on purpose. With your history of brane possession, it’s the start of an explanation at least.”
“If this has given me some kind of universe-hopping ability, I don’t want it.”
She laughed. “I doubt it’s that powerful. I mean, there’s not enough Ochivari blood in the bulkverse to give someone the power to travel on their own. It takes one of them to open a portal long enough for just two others to pass.”
He understood what she was talking about as much as his little baby brain could.
“That wasn’t very nice, Superintendent,” Sandy scolded.
“It’s fine,” Mateo said honestly. “That asshole can say whatever he wants about me. What other god lets you get away with calling him an asshole?”
“That’s an enlightened way of looking at it.”
“I’m quite used to other people being in control of my life.” He decided that he wanted to change the subject. “How long does the reunion last?”
“Forever.” She waited a good moment before shaking her head. “No, people will start fading away pretty soon. It lasts as long as we stay alive.”
“Wait, you’re all dying?”
“Yeah, I called it the Last Dream, remember? These are our collective dying moments. We wanted to be together once, but...no more than that. We led our own lives, across centuries, and throughout the bulkverse. Most bloodlines don’t even get this.”
She was right. They started disappearing little by little. Those remaining did not frown, but let tears roll down to their smiles. And then they too disappeared, along with all the rest, until Sandy was the only one left. Oh, and that other guy.
“I hope you find your way out of here,” she said. “If you’re not dying, I really don’t know.” She did kind of frown, and then she disappeared.
Only now did the possessor stand up. He looked around, and while Mateo could still not see a face, he was somehow exuding a deep sadness. Mateo approached cautiously, growing worried he would recognize the guy from somewhere else, and it would shake him to his core. Or maybe the darkness in his soul was hiding everything about him except for the sadness, and the form of his face didn’t really matter. Mateo took a calculated breath, and let some time pass. They just stared at each other for another eternal second. “I forgive you.” The man said nothing, and then he died.

Mateo woke up in a bed, having spent an unknown amount of time in the void. The lights didn’t just blink away. They faded over time, as if also dying, until he was left alone in the remote darkness. His return to the world was a welcome relief.
Leona was beside him. It was nice to know that whatever his body looked like while he was gone, that it didn’t worry her. She sensed his alertness. “You’re back. Oh my God, what happened?”
He told her the story.
“But you’re okay?”
“I’m all right. It was hard, watching all those people die, but I’m fine. Let’s not tell anyone else about this. It was kind of a dark and personal experience. I’m not traumatized, but I need to carry it with me, and I don’t want help.”
“They’ll understand,” Leona agreed.
“These Ochivari,” Mateo began. “They’re going to become a problem in the future.”
“Angela said that our universe was safe, that we stop negatively impacting our environment, and they choose to leave us alone.”
“Yeah, but...”
“But what?”
“When I was in the void, I had a sort of special connection to the Superintendent. I couldn’t read his thoughts, or hear his narration, but I did kind of get a sense of the oncoming story. I can still kind of feel him. We have a lot of work to do in our universe, that much was clear, but...there was something else.”
“Something, like what?”
Mateo was trying to recall the feeling that the Superintendent was likely attempting to hide from him. “The Ochivari might not come back to destroy our universe, but I think we’re gonna fight in the war anyway. It won’t be tomorrow, but that train that keeps showing up and recruiting people? One day, I think we’re gonna get on that train. I think it’s just not our time yet. They conscript fighters, and we’re not that now, but we might become that over time. Hell, the Superintendent may even be preparing us for it.”
Leona nodded solemnly. “Then we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Little did they know how right she was about that bridge.
“What was that you said?”
Don’t worry about it.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Exemption Act: The Ends Justify the Means (Part III)

Carbrey spent about a month studying this universe’s technology, so he would understand how it worked before he even thought about engineering something real. He picked it up pretty quickly seeing as the tech wasn’t too dissimilar to what he was used to, but he said he would rather be safe than sorry. The laws of physics, he claimed, were exactly the same, so that was nice. The facility they were staying in was mostly a gigantic underground hangar, with a few other rooms attached to it. They each had their own place to sleep, but it was nothing fancy. This place was obviously not designed for boarding. Freya wondered what they once kept in here, and why it was abandoned. While they were relatively close to the nearest population center in Kansas City, Khuweka assured them that no regular human would show up. A few temporal manipulators were aware of it, but none had much reason to use it in this particular time period. There appeared to be at least one, though. They were eating lunch together in the middle of the hangar when a ceiling suddenly appeared above their heads, starting from a single point, and then extending outwards. Of course, there already was a ceiling, but it was many stories above them. This one was only a few stories up, and while that was more than enough room to clear their heads, the force of its abrupt arrival knocked them all to the floor.
“What the hell just happened?” Limerick asked as he was sitting up and massaging his head.
“I don’t know,” Khuweka said honestly. She had been thrown down as well, but Maramon were physically superior to humans, so she wasn’t hurt at all.
Andraste, on the other hand, was very hurt. Blood was seeping out of the back of her head, and spreading out on the floor. Her eyes were closed, and she wasn’t moving. When Landis saw this, he started crawling towards her. His wing appeared to be hurt as well, perhaps broken, but he knew that Andraste was priority. He took a deep breath, and exhaled over Andraste’s body. “Injuries heal faster than terminal diseases,” he explained, “but it will still be a few minutes.”
“What if she’s dead already?” Zektene asked. “I don’t mean to be negative, but can you cure death?”
“Death is a process,” Landis answered. “It doesn’t happen in one moment. I can’t go digging up graves, but if she died, it was quite recent, so it should be fine. She will not have even experienced permanent brain damage, which is the one thing I cannot repair.”
“Khuweka,” Carbrey began, “what is that thing?”
“I think it’s a ship,” Limerick assumed right.
“Zek,” Khuweka said, “could you take Mister Genovese to investigate? Jump back here at the first sign of trouble.”
“Okay,” Zek replied. She took Carbrey by the hand, and teleported away.
A minute later, Andraste sat up, and checked the back of her head, not out of pain, but because it was still wet with her blood. “What happened?”
They told her.
“Do you feel okay?” Freya asked.
“I feel great,” she answered. She started opening and closing her hands. “I think my arthritis is gone.”
“Yes,” Landis said. “I’m a holistic healer. I couldn’t cure only one disease or injury if I wanted. It’s all or nothing.”
“We should all get treated,” Limerick suggested excitedly. “I know my liver could use a little TLC. You guys know what that acronym means?”
“Yes,” they replied in unison.
Five minutes later, Zek and Carbrey reappeared before them. “It’s an interplanetary warship called The Sharice Davids.”
They all looked to Freya. “I’ve never heard of it. Sorry.”
“Is there anyone in it?” Khuweka asked.
“Totally empty,” Zek said.
“Based on what little of the system I saw,” Carbrey started to say, “an emergency escape maneuver recently completed its sequence. It was traveling all throughout time and space, spending only seconds at any one point, evidently so no one would have time to board it. It had to stop eventually, though. This last jump depleted it of all its power, except for what little was able to eke out in order for me to get this information, but then it died completely.”
Limerick was staring up at the bottom of the vessel admiringly. “We should keep it.”
“It isn’t ours,” Khuweka argued.
“Why did you choose this hangar?”
“Because no one else was using it.”
“No one else is using this ship either.”
“You don’t know when they’ll be coming back,” she contended. She turned to face Freya. “It is your job on this team to know these things, or find out. Please make some inquiries for us. Meanwhile, Carbrey, power up some of the internal systems, just to gather more information. We’ll only refuel if we all decide we’re allowed to.”
“How do I...?” Freya began to ask, but thought better of it. She was right, this was her job. She had to figure this out herself, or she should just quit. Out of everyone here, she was the most dedicated to the cause. Not even Zek totally wanted to be here. She mostly joined the mission in the first place because she didn’t want Freya to be alone. “I’ll take care of it.”
“I’ll go with you,” Zek offered for the upteenth time.
“Good, because I need a ride to Giza.”
They teleported to the benbenet of the Great Pyramid of Giza, which was invisible to all who did not know it was still there. A man was standing before them. “Stargazer,” Freya began, “you once told me that you owed me a favor, even though I had done nothing for you.”
“Not you, per se,” Stargazer corrected. “I consider alternates to be equals. Another version of Saga helped, and I honor that.”
“But if you do me a favor, am I not taking it from her?”
“You are not. What can I help you with?”
“We need to find someone familiar with advanced temporal technology, specifically in regards to a spaceship,” Zek said.
“This is my friend, Zektene Cormanu,” Freya explained. Stargazer was polite and accommodating, but wary of strangers. “She’s cool.”
He nodded with his eyes closed, then turned to Zek. “What time period?”
“This one, I think,” Zek answered. “It’s called The Sharice Davids.”
Stargazer was taken aback. “That should not be here in this moment. You must take it away. It is too dangerous. The future depends on no one else ever finding out it survived. I didn’t even know, and must now have my memories erased once you leave to protect it.”
“We’re sorry,” Freya said with a frown.
“No, it’s quite all right. It’s good that you came to me, since I know what to do with this information.”
“It’s only an interplanetary ship,” Zek pointed out. “Where could we possibly hide it?”
He shook his head. “It was designed to protect against external threats to the solar system, but it eventually became outdated, and time travelers later retrofitted it with interstellar capabilities. It was destroyed before reaching its first exoplanet, so if it was put back together, it means some very powerful people came back to reclaim it for themselves. You cannot let that happen, so you cannot trust anyone.”
Freya looked for answers in the layer of sand on the floor. “There might be a way to get rid of it.”
“Tell me nothing,” Stargazer warned before she could continue. “I’m happy to erase my memories, but the less I ever knew, the safer the information will be.”
“Understood,” Zek said. “But just to be clear, there is no one in this timeline who deserves this? Does it not belong to someone else?”
“It does,” Stargazer confirmed, “but it is best that they also believe it was destroyed. The knowledge should not go further than you two.”
They winced.
“You’re not the only two, are you?”
Freya straightened up, and put on her poker face. “I will tell you nothing. No comment.”
He smiled. “Good. Carry on.”
They returned to the hangar, but no one was there. A hatch was open on the bottom of the Sharice, suggesting that everyone made their way into it while they were gone. Zek transported Freya up to the bridge, and then began sweeping the corridors using a series of rapid jumps. A minute later, she returned to ferry Freya to the group. They were in an auxiliary control room, which Carbrey said was where the emergency temporal displacement drive was housed. Based on its remoteness and lack of signage, he guessed that very few people were made aware that this TDD existed. Freya and Zek relayed what they had learned from Stargazer, and it seemed to mesh well with what Carbrey was able to learn from the computers.
“So, not only can we take it, but we actually should?” Limerick was happy to hear this.
“I’m not sure that’s true,” Khuweka disagreed. “Stargazer wants us to get this thing out of the timeline, and the safest way to do that is by sending it to some other universe. That’s not something we can do, and even if we could, we need a ship to get to Worlon first, and this can’t do that if it’s supposed to remain a secret.”
“Aren’t we going to Worlon before anyone else arrives?” Andraste reminded her. “We should be able to keep it secret until the mission is over. Perhaps this is fate. It certainly came at the opportune time. Mr. Genovese was just about to start building us a new one, and now he doesn’t have to.”
“It’s not that simple,” Carbrey said, pulling himself away from the screen. “I was working on a minimalist design. It would incorporate the reframe engine, but it was otherwise only large enough to accommodate the seven of us. This thing is far more than we need, and I don’t think it has a reframe engine.”
“We don’t need it if we can travel through time,” Limerick noted.
Carbrey shook his head. “The TDD is gone. It was only ever meant to be activated once, and as it was sending the ship to this last location, it evidently self-destructed somewhere else in time. The logs called it a...” he squirted at the screen, and rediscovered what he read before, “Lucius last resort. Whatever that means.”
Something was distracting Freya from the conversation. “Landis, are you still hurt? Can’t you heal yourself.”
“I can’t,” Landis answered. “I cannot heal myself. After I got my foundation going, my security detail was composed of hundreds of people.”
“Anyway. I think we’re destined to use it.” Limerick was so sure of himself. “Build the reframe engine thing, put it in here, and let’s get on with it. I know it’s not easy, but you still have two years.”
“That doesn’t help us with the real problem,” Khuweka reminded him. “Once we destroy the Ochivari, someone would have to take the ship to the Triangulum galaxy, or something. I’m not sure anywhere is safe, not when considering time travelers.”
“I thought you said I could travel to other universes,” Limerick said.
“Yeah, you can, and other people can follow you through. You can’t create a shatter portal large enough for a spaceship, and even if you could, you can’t breathe in outer space. You would have to be outside the ship to make it happen. Look, the Sharice came back here for a reason. It believes this is the safest place for it. I say Carbrey builds us what he was going to all along, and we just leave it alone.”
“I can’t accept that,” Limerick fought. This is a warship, and we’re in a war. And who knows, maybe our mission will change enough about the future to stop these evil future people from even existing? I say the ends justify the means.”
“I agree with him,” Freya finally said. They looked at her, a little shocked, but not completely surprised. They knew she was all gung ho about killing the Ochivari, but she was also quite protective of her universe, and if keeping this ship around put it in danger, was that worth the risk? As they were arguing, she was working through that conundrum in her head, and ultimately decided that yes, it was. “We don’t know what we’re going to encounter out there, and this is our best shot at surviving. If we don’t succeed, we can use this in the war, and we’ll always keep it far enough away from whoever is trying to steal it. I don’t know how we’ll actually get the damn thing to another universe, but that’s not our problem at the moment. Let’s stop the Ochivari, then worry about that later. Hell, we might even find a solution on Worlon. We still don’t know how it is they were born with the ability to bulkverse travel. Perhaps it has something to do with their home planet. We can take whatever that is for ourselves.”
“I think it’s too dangerous,” Khuweka said, shaking her head slowly. “But I am nothing if not a fair leader. I will concede to whatever the group decides.”
They continued discussing, letting Andraste moderate the debate. In the end, they decided to use the Sharice Davids towards their own goals. At least if they always had it with them, they could control other people’s cognizance of it. They figured it was better than just leaving it here, and hoping that no one happened to show up.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Microstory 1540: First and Last Blood

I have never been to the ________ before. Or should I say that I’ve never been to any sort of medical ________ for any reason. I haven’t even ever needed to go to the ________ nurse for a tummy ________. I’m twenty-five years ________, and I’m only now starting to realize how ________ that is. It’s not something most ________ are aware of; how often they don’t have ________ problems. I should have kept it to myself, but my old college ________ is in town, telling me about her recent ________ surgery, and it came up. Now she’s ________ by me. She tells me she’s seen this movie, and that I have super____. I’m supposed to start walking through ________, and lifting ________ above my ________. I don’t know about all that, but if it’s true, I don’t suppose it could ________ to let her cut my ________ real quick—or try to, anyway. If I’ve just been lucky all my ________, then the worst that can happen is I need to wrap the wound up in a ________. But if she’s right, who knows what will become of my ________? Maybe I should be a ____hero. I can’t believe I’ve never thought to ________ this before. We leave the ________, and head to my ________, because we don’t want anyone seeing us do it. She grows more excited the ________ we get, and she can barely contain herself by the ________ we reach my door. I roll my ________, and take a kitchen ________ out of the ________. I hand it to ________, and before I can lay down some ________ rules, she slides the ________ across my ________. It ________. I don’t know what I ________ was going to ________, but not this. This hurts. This is what ________ feels like? ________ feel this all the time? I have to say that I’m not a fan. She seems even more ________ than me, and that’s saying a lot, because this is my first ________ ever. I tell her it’s okay, that we can ________ it up, but she’s watching the ________ flow out of my ________, and she can’t handle it. She desperately tries to cover it up with a paper ________, but it soaks through, so she grabs another, and another. Then she uses a ________ towel, but it’s no good either. She calls ________ services, but I don’t think they’re going to make it here in time. I don’t know how much blood the human ________ is meant to hold, because of course, that’s not something I’ve ever considered before, but this looks about that amount. The ________ is drenched in a matter of minutes, as is much of my living room ________. She apologizes, and tells me she was ________ about everything. I still don’t understand what’s happening. Is this why I’ve never been ________ until now? Am I actually more susceptible to injury then other ________, and some unseen force has simply been protecting me this ________ time? I’ve never just not been hurt before, but I’ve never gotten close. I never fell off my ________, or ran into a ________ ________. This must be why. Something out there has been guid____ me through life just so this very thing wouldn’t happen, and now I’ve gone and ________ it. The last drop of blood leaks out of the unstoppable cut, and the world turns black.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Microstory 1539: The Case for Skipping College

I did not like ________, so I’m not sure why I’m being asked to attend ________, let alone speak to my ________ class about some nonsense or ________. I wasn’t bullied, or ________, but I was always very ________. The subject ________ never mattered to me, and I barely ever tried. You can actually make pretty good ________ as a car ________. Some treat it as this really ____y job you have to get if you’re not ________, but that is not ________. First of all, you do ________ have to be educated; it’s just the kind you’re not going to get from ________ school. Sure, some ________ have special programs, but that takes up a lot of ________, and costs ________. It’s much easier to ________ by having a car—preferably a really old and beat up ________ that needs a lot of ________—and working on it on your ________. I could not convince my ________ to let me opt out of college, but I’m doing it ________, so they’ve pretty much disowned me. They’re only here ________ because they’re hoping ________ across this stage is somehow going to magically change my ________. It’s not. I’m not going to spend ________ years and thousands of ________on a waste of ________. It’s 20__, we don’t have to do this stuff anymore. Plenty of ________ don’t go to ________, and they lead very ________ lives. Not ________ can be the CEO of a multinational ________, and it’s foolish to dig yourself into a mountain of ________ just on the fraction of a ________ chance that it all comes ________ for you. I choose to be ____istic, and I won’t ________. Don’t worry, I’m not going to say any of this during my ________ speech. I just have to get it out so it doesn’t weigh on me. The ________ is that I don’t care about any of ________, or any of these ________, and nor do ________ care about ________. I was only asked to speak because I managed to ________ up the highest number of ________ service hours. I did it on my own, and didn’t tell my ________ in the hopes that she would have me recognized. I was just trying to explain why I never got into ________ or other after school ________, because I was too busy. I don’t know how to talk about ________, or the things that I ________. I was just trying to ________, and the way I see it, getting ________ for it publicly defeats a lot of the reason I do it. So, what do you ________? What should I tell these numbnuts that’s both what they want to ________, and what still lets me stay true to ________?

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Microstory 1538: Lost at Sea

I’m lost at ________, and I don’t know how I got ________. The last thing I ________, I was trying to wake ________, only able to catch ________ of a ceiling passing by. ________ must have been wheeling me down the ________ on a gurney. Before that, I was just ________ my own business at the ________ shop across the street from my ________ building. I don’t know if I was ________, or rescued, but whatever these people’s reasons, something seems to have gone ________. I saw fire on the ________, and dark shapes in the darkness. It was hard to tell where the ship ended, and the sky began, if it was a ________ I was seeing at all. I’m sure it was, but what do I ________? I’m dehydrated and starving, but at least I’m not ________, presumably because I slept pretty much all the ________ here. I look ________, and scan the horizon, hoping to catch ________ of land, or some other survivor, if only so we don’t have to ________ out here alone. Even if it’s one of my captors, it would be ________; they might be ________ to give me some answers. There is nothing, and no one. I mean, all I see is ________; not even one piece of debris. It all sank or ____ed away by the time the ________ came up. The ocean is so still, and so ________, I feel like I can see the curvature of ________. I lie ________ and watch the clouds go by ________, like ceiling tiles in a strange ________. I am acutely aware of the passage of ________. My ________ and hunger grow worse with each passing ________. An hour, another hour, two more. Several more after that, and then half a ________. The sun does not disappear. It does not even ________. It’s stuck in the ________ as much as I’m trapped on this ________. I think at any ________ that I should ________ up and discover this is nothing ________ than a ________, but that never happens. Perhaps a ____ulation? The ceiling ________ belonged to a virtual ________ company. Yeah, that must be the ________, right? I call out to the simulation ________, begging them to let me out. I don’t want to ________ anymore, or they’ve made their ________, or they’ve learned something about how people react to their ________. I don’t know, I’m just ________. Desperate for anything that ends this ________. My skin is ________ and peeling, and may even be bubbling. This all feels pretty ________ to me, and the virtual reality angle seems a little unlikely, even though being ________ abducted for no clear reason, and then ________ surviving a sinking ________, also seems unlikely. After another two ________ come and go, with no end to the sun’s harsh death rays, I start to ________ slipping off this ________, and letting the water fill my ________. I recall ________with similar premises. The hero always survives—or at least one of them does, if there’s ________ than one—and they move on with their ________. This is not a ________, and I am not a ________. I don’t die, though. The sun keeps ________ me, and I keep ________ here, and the ________ barely ever moves. After a few weeks of this, I realize that the reason I can’t ________ is because I already have. And I can’t ________ through the water either, because my ________ just won’t go that way. This is just my own ________ hell, and it will never end.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Microstory 1537: Grave Error

I’ve always loved going to ________, and in fact ________ to when I’m feeling ________ from work. They make me ________ calm because of how remote they are. Even the ones they ________ inside the ________ seem distant from ________ else, as if crossing through that ________ puts me in a different ________ altogether. I suppose I could just go ________ through nature, like the ________, or ________ ________, because it’s not like I ________ this fascination with ________. Then again, maybe I do, because I do like ________ the names on the tomb____, and especially the ________. I like looking for the ________ grave in the ________, and the most ________ life spans. I guess I can’t say that I ________ it; more like it’s a compulsion. I want to ________ who the youngest person is in ________, and who the ________ is. I saw one a few ________ back where the ________ date was the same as the ________ date. What ________ there? I mean, I ________ what happened ________. But how did the ________ react, and what became of ________ afterwards? It ________ have been heart____, I don’t know what I would have done if I were a ________ of that ________. The oldest ________ I’ve ever found up until ________ was a hundred and ________ years old. I can’t ________ that either, seeing all your ________ ones die as you go ________. I did a ________ research into her and her ________. All five of her ________ passed before her, and all but ________ were pretty old at the time. No one would have scoffed at their ages, but she ________ outlived them, and that must have been pretty ________. Now I’ve found someone who appears to be so much ________ than that, and I don’t know if I can ________ it. This guy’s marker reads ________ 1812 to ________ 1979. That is a hundred and sixty-seven ________. I mean, come on. The marker itself looks ________, so I’m thinking it has to be some kind of prank. I lift up on it, as ________ as that sounds, because I figure if it’s ________, it won’t be stuck in the ________ very well. The marker does move, but not because it hasn’t been ________ for long, but because it’s some kind of switch. The ________ where the grave ought to be ________ over like a trap ________, revealing a ________. A small group of ________ are sitting around a ________. They look up at me, unsurprised by my arrival. “Welcome,” one of them says. Now that you’ve found this ________, you must join us. Or ________.”

Monday, January 11, 2021

Microstory 1536: Talking Animals

This was probably the best ________ of my life, and that’s saying a ________, because I have had a lot of ________ great ________. My life is ________; I don’t let things get me ________, and I don’t suffer ________ who want to make me work too ________, or get ________. I was sitting on the ________ in my backyard when a little ________ came up to talk to ________. And I don’t mean that proverbially. He ________ started talking to me, as if we ________ the same language. It ________ English—in fact, I couldn’t tell ________ what it was—but it was absolutely a complex ________. I could make out separate words, and there were even a ________ cognates in there like ________, ________, and ________. Things seemed to be going ________. We were using ________ gestures to get our respective points ________, and picking up a few words here and ________, just based on ________ context. He appeared to be enjoying the ________. I was trying to hide how ________ I thought this was, for obvious reasons. I didn't know that ________ could talk, but I’ve always ____ed to * with ____s. I've been so ________ curious what they're ____ing about, how ________ they are, and most importantly, what they ________ of humans. I am no linguistic ________, but I did study it in ________, and this is a ________ opportunity. I try to work with ________, so we can have a better understanding of each ________, but I know I’m going to need some ________. I try to convey this to ________; that I’m going to need to contact a real ________ to help us, but he freaks ________. He starts ________ faster than he was before, and I stop being ________ to tell the separation between words or ideas. Then he ________ up to attack me, and I’m forced to ________ back. That’s why I’m here, doc. This isn’t just  any ol’ ________ that could be put down. You have to ________ him. He might be unique.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Monday, July 22, 2137

Amaranti went through the shatter portal first, along with their bug alien prisoner of war. Angela went through next, followed by Mateo. The punching guy took up the rear, in case the portal closed on them, and he had to create another one. They all apparently made it through just in time. The five of them were now standing on a moon in another universe. A ship was destined to come retrieve them at some point, but scheduling anything at a certain time was difficult when accounting for multiverse travel, since different universes ran on different timestreams. This rock wasn’t uninhabitable, but the atmosphere was a little thin, and not suitable for long-term survival. They got themselves into an outpost, where they found a little jail cell, enough supplies to last months, and breathing apparatuses, which just helped them get enough oxygen to be more comfortable. They reiterated that they would get them to July 22, 2137, but that Mateo’s best chance of getting this thing out of his neck was here.
Amaranti was hesitant to explain who it was they were, and what their mission was. Mateo didn’t care for any specifics, but they were evidently fighting an enemy that was well aware of the world of salmon and choosers, and he needed to know more about that. The other guy, Limerick pointed out that Mateo was clearly not completely oblivious to how the bulkverse worked, and their contact protocols did not bar them from reading him into the situation. Those secrets were mostly there to protect people who had only ever seen a little corner of their own universe. Mateo, on the other hand, had been to many other universes, perhaps even more than these two had. When he told them that, they were quite surprised, and flatteringly impressed. Their excitement grew when he added that his mission involved assassinating eight alternate versions of Adolf Hitler. There was clearly no issue when it came to telling Mateo about the war.
“They’re called the Ochivari,” Amaranti began. “They’re the basic bitch race of the bulkverse. Different factions have different exact motivations, but one thing they all have in common is that they want to destroy all evolved life, everywhere.
“It’s more than that,” Limerick continued. “They want to kill anything that impacts their environment too much. On my world, we have a species called beavers. They build these things called dams—”
“We know what beavers are,” Mateo interrupted.
“Well, that’s apparently enough to make the Ochivari try to wipe them out. They think they’re protecting the plantlife, and little critters that keep more to themselves. Birds build nests, that seems to be okay, and bees actually spread plants, so that’s great. Ants are fine, as are snakes. Humans, beavers, meerkats; they all just do too much to the planets they live on. We’re obviously the worst offenders, which is why they focus so heavily on us.”
“Beavers are a keynote species,” Angela pointed out. “They actually help the environment.”
“We don’t know if the Ochivari don’t realize that, or if they simply don’t see it that way. They just go in and try to kill anything that alters the ecosystem to a high enough degree.”
“Why have I not heard of them before?” Mateo asked.
“Beavers are never going to change,” Amaranti said. “They’ll keep building dams until evolution tells them not to. There are, however, based on what little evidence we’ve been able to find, some human cultures that have abandoned their old ways, or otherwise improved. They eventually develop technology that allows them to restore their planet’s wildlife, and stay out of its way. The Ochivari leave these worlds alone.”
Mateo recognized what they were talking about. People were already living in megastructures that avoided damaging large swathes of land by going more vertical. There were plans to take this further, and start hanging all of their structures from orbit, so they never had to touch the ground at all. “We do that on our version of Earth.”
“Exactly,” Amaranti agreed. “That’s why those two were there. They were surveying your Earth, and tracking your development. They have a large presence in your universe, because of your multiple timelines. Normally, they can just jump to the future, and find out how the people there end up progressing. It’s a lot different for you, they’re not sure how to handle it.”
“We were sent to capture one, and kill all others,” Limerick said.
“Like them,” Angela noted.
“How’s that?” Limerick questioned.
“You kill the Ochivari like they kill us,” Angela went on.
“That’s what war is, buddy.”
“Has anyone tried talking to them?” Angela suggested.
Limerick was shockingly offended by this. “You want us to do what!”
“Calm down,” Amaranti told him. She turned back to Angela. “It wouldn’t matter. If we went back to the Ochivari’s homeworld of Worlon—back to before they did any of this—we could conceivably convince them not to attack us. We could stop them before they decided to become what they become. It might work. However, it would create a new timeline, and as great as that sounds, the old timeline still existed. As we said before, different universes have completely different timestreams. When you left your Earth, it was July 21, 2136, but that’s only by your calendar. It’s the sixteenth century on this moon, according to a different calendar. And it’s not time travel. When you cross the boundary of one universe, you may enter another at any point in time, in any reality. Because metatime, which is time that exists outside of any universe, is not a temporal dimension, but a spatial dimension. There has been at least one reality where the Ochivari left their universe, and that can’t be undone, because as soon as they stepped out, they started experiencing metatime, and were no longer beholden to the logic of serial causality.”
Angela looked at the floor and nodded. “How do the Ochivari come to the ability to travel this bulkverse, as you call it? They build a ship, or something?”
“They’re born with the ability to do it,” Limerick explained. “It’s...it’s hard on them, though. Their method is extremely unpleasant, which I find quite satisfying.”
“They’re kind of like him,” Amaranti added.
“No, not like me!” he fought.
Amaranti pursed her lips, and nodded, actively avoiding making eye contact with Limerick.
Angela was still nodding, theoretically on to a great idea. “So they’ll become bulk travelers no matter what.”
“Yes,” Amaranti said, not seeing the purpose of this line of questioning.
Angela smiled. “Then why don’t you create an alternate reality where the Ochivari are good...and ask them to fight with you?”
Amaranti and Limerick didn’t know what to think of this suggestion. They had clearly never thought of it themselves. Before they could agree with her, or not, the door swung open. A man came through with a comforting smile on his face. “Y’all need transport? Oh, looks like we have a couple new recruits here.”
“We rescued them,” Amaranti replied. “They’re not recruits. One of them requires medical attention, and then we have to get them to their version of July 22, 2137.”
“Not yet,” the man said. “They’re not recruits yet. Hi, my name is Chase Palmer. Let’s get you home.” He offered his hand. Angela took it.
Chase led them out of the outpost, and about a kilometer away to a clearing, where a spaceship was waiting for them. They embarked, and strapped themselves in. “Take us up, Cassie. Head for Torosia.”
“Sure thing,” the pilot, Cassie said. She flew the craft up out of the atmosphere, but they didn’t go far before something changed. Mateo’s heart sank quickly, before springing back up to its place in his chest. Through the viewports, they could see an ocean of beautiful colors, but all of them shades of orange. Mateo guessed it to be some form of faster-than-light travel.
In about an hour, they were at their destination, so Cassie dropped them out of FTL, and landed on a planet that was presumably called Torosia. There, Mateo went under surgery to have the pattern suppression patch removed from the back of his neck. It was reportedly fairly easy to do, but wasn’t something he could have handled on his own. He was given the greenlight to travel after a few hours of rest, just to make sure nothing went wrong. Limerick had to go off on some other mission, so he wasn’t able to transport them back to their home universe. But that was okay, because he wasn’t the only person capable of doing it. A young woman in a fancy futuristic vacuum suit showed up wielding a knife. She introduced herself as Zoey Attar, which was a name Mateo immediately recognized. She was present at his wedding with Leona, and had helped flower girl and ring bear, little Dar’cy Matigaris find the rings after the latter accidentally mixed them up with the flower petals.
Zoey used her knife to tear a hole in the spacetime continuum, which they crawled through to get back to their universe. She did not follow them through, though, evidently confident that they were in the right place at the right time. They were standing at the top of a hill, and since they didn’t have any clue where they were meant to go, they just sat down and waited, spending the time tearing apart blades of grass, and talking about their lives. A few hours later, the world around them blinked away, leaving them seemingly at the same place, but in a different reality. Leona, Sanaa, Jeremy, Kallias, and Aeolia were trekking up the hill, headed right for them.
“Oh, thank God,” Leona said. “I was hoping it would be you.”
“We were all hoping that,” Sanaa corrected.
“Where have you been?” Kallias asked.
“We’ll tell you all about it. But first, how did the transition go last year?”
“It was fine,” Jeremy answered. “It’s probably good you weren’t there. That lunar hermit did not like being around people. Fortunately, he couldn’t see Bran or Aeolia, because the three of us were stressful enough.”
“The lunar hermit?” Angela questioned. If the transition was on the moon, why did the map send us to the Mariana trench?”
“The trench was two days ago,” Leona explained.
“It’s not Monday, July 22, 2138?” Mateo asked for clarification. “We were told very specifically that we would be delivered right to you.”
“Whoever you’re talking about overshot their target,” Aeolia said. “It’s 2138 now.”
“Ah. I guess that’s not that bad.” But then Mateo instinctually reached up to massage his neck, having felt a sharp pain back there.
“Are you okay?”
“I don’t know.” He saw the world around him change colors, like two dozen lamp filters flashing in front of his eyes, which started feeling heavy. Then he fell down and passed out.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Exemption Act: Necessary Evil (Part II)

The new team continued talking, asking questions, and arguing. Freya was used to being conscripted for missions, and fighting for causes she didn’t know anything about. It was just part of her life, so even though she wasn’t sure she wanted to do this, it was no longer in her nature to try to get out of it. These other people had no such experiences. They were polite and careful, but didn’t just agree to this blindly. If there was one thing Freya learned about the Maramon, it was that they weren’t very cunning, and they did not play the long game. If one of them approached you, and asked for your help, they were probably—honestly—one of the good ones, and knew that you were good too. Good Maramon like Khuweka were rare, and seemed to only become that way after spending time with decent human beings, but they were not raised as such. They developed in a universe that was literally smaller than most, and suffered a lack of resources beyond most people’s conceptions. They were angry and spiteful, and they only ever showed potential for change on the individual level, when they were removed from society, and their people’s bizarre worldview.
As one might expect, the ethicist, Professor Spellmeyer was the hardest to convince, while Limerick was the easiest. He didn’t know anything about the Ochivari, but he deliberately chose to think of them as insects, rather than insectoids, which would make wiping them out less like genocide, and more like large scale pest control. The Ochivari were somehow dragonfly-based, but they were not dragonflies, and did not evolve from them. According to what little data people were able to gather on them, their skin looked like that of a bug’s, but it was not an exoskeleton, and they were shaped like humans, complete with arms, legs, fingers, and toes. Their wings were not useless, but they did not allow them to fly. They used them in battle, to blow gusts of winds at their opponent, or to dodge attacks. They were very fragile, however, and even though damaging one didn’t cause too terribly much pain for the victim, they weren’t likely to heal, and doing so did lessen any advantage they had.
Freya called all this the source variant, which was a term one of her friends coined to refer to a subspecies that developed on an alien planet. They originally came from human DNA, which was shipped across the galaxy, and seeded on other habitable worlds. So they came from humans, but each unique environment shaped each unique population in unique ways. By being exposed to a different atmospheric composition, being fed different foods, and possibly by interstellar radiation, their genetic make-up was transformed into something different; probably always humanoid, but rarely—if ever—passably human. Freya and Zektene spent time on a planet with two of these source variants. The Orothsew were human-based, and the Gondilak Maramon-based. It was kind of a coincidence that both parent species chose to seed life on the same planet, except it wasn’t that far-fetched, because there were a finite number of hospitable worlds available, and humans wanted to live everywhere they possibly could.
The Ochivari were created in the same way as the Orothsew, but on a second planet that they called Worlon. One of them came to Orolak once, intending to bring death and destruction to all inhabitants. When Freya and Zek left, the people they left behind were working on defending Orolak from this threat. The two of them made it their responsibility to go on the offense, so while they weren’t happy about the temporal genocide, it would accomplish what they set out do, and bonus, they weren’t going to have to do it alone.
The engineer, Carbrey was either massaging his eyes, or trying to pluck them out with his fingers. He was not being gentle, because this was stressing him out so much. “Let me get this straight. You want me to build a spaceship from scratch that can travel at superluminal speeds. We don’t have that on my Earth.” He was more concerned with the logistics than the ethics, which was fine because they probably needed a break from the intense debate.
“Well, you won’t have to build it from nothing,” Khuweka clarified. “The humans in this time period have interstellar ship technology today. They’re just lacking our speed requirements, which I will procure from The Shortlist. I just don’t want to take a preexisting ship, because we would have to steal it.”
“What is the Shortlist?” Limerick asked, interested in it because it sounded ominous and cool. Freya didn’t know either.
“The Shortlist is a group of incredibly bright and busy women who are responsible for time travel technology in this universe,” Khuweka explained. “Most of the galaxy is not allowed to have their technology, because it would screw things up. If we want the specifications of the reframe engine, we will have to put in a request to them. Or at least, we might. I’ll contact the inventor first. She may be able to sign off on it without a full council meeting.”
“Okay,” Zek said, “who is this inventor, and how do we get in touch with her?”
“Her name is Hokusai Gimura,” Khuweka revealed.
“Oh, we know her,” Freya realized. “She’s the one trying to protect Orolak from the Ochivari.”
“Yes,” Khuweka began. “While that won’t happen for another two thousand some odd years, I believe the Hokusai living on the Earth at the moment has already experienced that in her personal timeline. I’m not sure, though, so careful what you say.”
“She’s on Earth right now?” Zek asked.
“Yes,” Khuweka began, “living alone on the beach in a place formerly known as Dounreay, United Kingdom.”
“She’s alone?” Freya pressed. “Does she want visitors?”
“If she wants us to leave, we’ll leave, and if we have to do that, we’ll try to reach the Shortlist, and perhaps a younger Madam Gimura will be more agreeable. For now, Miss Cormanu, could you please teleport us to that location?”
“Dounreay?”
“Dounreay.”
“I can only take two by two,” Zek explained.
“That’s fine.
They made the trip halfway across the globe, and ended up on the shore of the North Atlantic Ocean. A little hut had been erected several meters away, really just large enough for one person; two, if they were fine being close to each other. Someone was lounging back in a chair on the approximation of a front porch. They approached, and found her to be Hokusai Gimura, but a much, much older version of her.
“Madam Gimura,” Khuweka greeted her. “My name is Khuweka Kadrioza. You may also call me Keynote, if you’d like.”
“Just set it over there,” the old Hokusai said, haphazardly pointing to the ground beside her.
“Set what over here?”
Hokusai finally turned to look at who she was talking to, tipping her sunglasses down to get a better view. “Oh, I thought you were a...never mind. What can I help you with?”
“We were hoping to procure the plans for the reframe engine. I’m sure you have reserva—” Khuweka interrupted herself when she noticed Hokusai tapping on her wristband. “Umm...”
A flashcard popped out of the wristband. Hokusai sighed as she removed the card from its slot, and dropped it into Khuweka’s hand. “There ya go.”
“You don’t wanna know what we’re gonna use it for? I have this whole speech about necessary evil.”
“I don’t give a shit anymore. I’m tired.”
“We’re sorry to have bothered you,” Freya jumped in.
Now Hokusai perked up. “Madam Einarsson?”
“Miss,” Freya corrected. “Never married.”
“Oh, you’re the other one, that’s right. Anywho, I have a very busy day of not engineering any inventions. You may stay if it strikes your fancy, but when the sunglasses go on, the mouth goes off, ya dig?”
Khuweka carefully dropped the flashcard into Carbrey’s hand, like it was radioactive. “Maybe someday. You take care of yourself, Madam Gimura.”
Hokusai just nodded her head. She must have been through a lot since Freya last saw her. Time travel will do that to you, and who knew who she lost along the way? Her wife, Loa was conspicuously missing.
“We’ll be on this planet for the next two years or so,” Freya told her after the rest of the group had started walking back down the beach, even though they could teleport from anywhere. “I don’t have a phone number or anything, though...”
“I won’t need anything,” Hokusai promised. “Thanks for the sentiment.”
Freya just kept watching her with a sad panda face, even as Zektene started transporting the team back to home base.
“Really, I’m fine. Don’t you worry about me. Just kill those dragonfly mother fuckers. Kill them all.” So she already knew.
Zek offered to leave Freya there, so she could have a deeper conversation with Hokusai, but they all knew that wasn’t what Hokusai wanted. They just went back to where they were, an underground facility in what was once called Kansas.
They watched as Carbrey inserted the flashcard into the reader, and opened up the files. It took him a moment to get used to the system. Different universe, different way to use computers. He picked it up pretty quickly, and started looking over the data that Hokusai had given them. “Hmm.”
“What?” Khuweka asked.
“No, it’s just...it’s an interesting way to look at faster-than-light travel. I mean it’s just warp speed, but the math works out a lot easier this way. Anyone with a second-level higher degree would be able to decipher this, except...”
“Except what?” Limerick asked.
“I don’t know what this thing is.” Carbrey pointed at the screen.
“Oh, that’s the cylicone,” Khuweka started to explain. “Vital to any time tech. It’s what makes it work, and why a post-grad has no chance of stumbling upon the secret.”
“People aren’t allowed to know about this?” Carbrey questioned.
“Time travelers only,” Freya answered.
“For now,” Khuweka added cryptically. “Can you do it? This world has nanotechnology and ninety-nine automation. All you need to do is make sure everything runs smoothly. Two years should be no problem, but if we don’t make that goal, we really will have to go back in time. I don’t want that seed plate landing on Worlon, and so much as starting to create the Ochivari.”
Carbrey took in a breath, and looked back at the data. “I don’t know how your tech works, so there will be a learning curve. I can’t promise two years just because of that. I’ll go as fast as I can, though.”
“I think you can do it,” Khuweka said confidently. “Like I said, it’s all automated. Spaceships aren’t run by pilots, or even astronauts. They’re run by AI, regulated by engineers, like yourself.”
“All right,” Carbrey said. He went back to the computer.
“What are we going to do for the next two years?” Limerick asked as the group was stepping away to give their engineer some space.
“Hopefully we’ll be discussing this matter further,” Andraste recommended. “It’s fine he starts working on that thing, but we are nowhere near done yet.”
Khuweka was trying very hard not to roll her eyes. “Very well, Professor Spellmeyer. Let’s do an exercise called Devil’s Advocate. Professor, since you’re so adamantly opposed to this idea—”
“That’s not what I’m doing here,” Andraste argued.
“How do you mean?”
“I’m not opposed to the idea,” Andraste continued. “I just want to make sure you’ve considered the ramifications of your choices. Ethicists don’t take sides. We provide facts, or provide ways of determining facts.”
“Well, is anyone actually opposed?” Khuweka opened up the floor. “The Devil’s Advocate exercise only works when someone wants to do it, and someone doesn’t, so they can switch places, and argue each other’s position.” She waited for someone to say something, but everything they had heard about the Ochivari, and what they had done, had seemed to erase any true reservations they had. Andraste would probably always be wary—as would peaceable healer, Landis—even after the mission was over, but that didn’t mean they weren’t going to go through with it. “Okay,” Khuweka said with an air of finality. “We will continue to refine our methods, and contemplate the ethics, but I think it’s time we agree that this is happening, in one form or another. For now, let me introduce you to this fun little game I found out about called RPS-1o1 Plus.”