Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Wednesday, July 29, 2144

Shortly after they woke up in 2144, their cuffs beeped, indicating that they had a transition window to get to. It was weird, getting back to this kind of mission. This was what they were meant to be doing, but they had just spent so much time on tangents that they had almost forgotten about it. The map was directing them back to Tribulation Island, so they requested Nexus transport, and headed off.
At the resort, they only found one person. The rest had been returned to the main sequence for Mateo and Leona’s wedding. “Mom!” Mateo shouted. He knew this version of her was not exactly his mother, but he didn’t care. He had to hug her. It had been so long since he had seen her. She was surprised at his shock, and not quite as shocked herself, for she had no memory of him as her son, and had only not seen him for a few years. That was nothing in time traveler time.
“It’s okay. I’m okay,” she said, graciously hugging him back.
The window opens up over there in a half hour,” Leona said, pointing. “It’s outgoing.”
Mateo looked at Leona, and then the direction of the window, then at his once-mother, and finally back to Leona. “Nerakali is letting her go to our wedding.”
“You’re getting married?” Aura was shocked at this.
“We already did,” Mateo answered. “This is the past for us. We didn’t know you were there, must have been disguised the whole time.”
Bran stepped forward. “Or invisible.”
“We’ve never tried to borrow your...power?” Leona wasn’t sure whether it was a power, or a time affliction.
“We call it a condition,” Aeolia clarified. “It depends on how you look at it, and how you use it.”
“Who are you talking to?” Aura questioned.
Leona reached into her bag, and retrieved one of the extra Cassidy cuffs. She handed it to her never-mother-in-law. If this works, you could be standing right in front of someone, and they will not be able to see you. Or rather, they will, but they’ll forget you so fast, that it will be like you’re not there at all.”
“Oh, interesting.” Aura put the cuff on without need for further discussion.
“They have to teach us how to do it,” Angela pointed out. “We have about twenty minutes.”
“Okay,” Bran said. “Shouldn’t be too hard happens for us automatically, and we have no control over it, and we’ve never learned anything about it.”
They asked for help from the Nexus technician who greeted them here. They needed someone who wasn’t wearing the cuffs, so they would know when their borrowing of Bran and Aeolia’s condition was working. It took them nearly the whole time they had to get it right, but just in time, the technician stopped acknowledging their presence, and walked off to get back to work, having forgotten why he had left his post in the first place. They each tried to get his attention, but nothing. Jeremy commanded him to walk the rest of the way on all fours, which he complied with, though he didn’t know why. Now that they were right invisible, for all intents and purposes, they ran back to where the map was leading them, and jumped through the transition window together.
They were standing exactly where they were before on the island, but now in the main sequence of realities. To their right, people were walking into the head of the trail that would lead them to the Colosseum replica, where the ceremony would be held. To their left, things were weird. People were waiting in line for their turn at a booth, where someone was handing out hooded robes, but that wasn’t the weird part. They were already obscured, as if they were paintings, and someone had carelessly wiped their faces off with the charcoal. When the person at the front of the line received their robe, and started putting it on, their face was briefly visible until the hood was all the way over their head.
“Don’t look at them,” Leona ordered. “There’s a reason we’re not meant to see who they are, and that reason is probably similar to ours.”
“Well, you don’t need that,” Aeolia said, glad to be contributing to the group.
“We should get them anyway,” Jeremy determined. “What if a cuff runs out of battery, or someone can break through, and takes it off of us. It’s not worth the risk. Better to be redundant than sorry.”
“Good idea, let’s get our own,” Leona said.
They waited in line for a fairly long time. Whenever someone else got in it, they weren’t able to even detect that the seven of them were standing there, so they cut in every time. That was fine, and probably for the best, as this was just for extra protection, and if there weren’t enough robes for everyone, they should wait to be last anyway. As it turned out, they were totally right about that. Only one robe was left after everyone had gone through it, and the booth operator was preparing to close up.
“You take it,” Mateo said to Aura. “If Arcadia catches you, she’ll be pissed, and possibly violent. The rest of us are okay, even Leona.”
“No,” the man at the booth said. “This is for Leona.”
“Wait, you can see us?” Bran asked.
“Yes,” the man replied. “Though not for long. I too flipped the retgone coin, but mine landed on tails. I remember no past, and have no future. All I know right now is that I flipped a coin...and that I’m supposed to hand these things out to those who need them.” He lifted up the last robe, and presented it to Leona. “And that this one belongs to you. I don’t know why I know this, I just know it. Please take it before I forget why I’m here.”
Leona took the robe, and started putting it on. The man with no memory blinked, and looked confused. He didn’t seem to be able to see them anymore. He just left the booth, and wandered off.
“That’s why you don’t flip the coin,” Bran warned. “You might think it sounds awful not being able to be seen by others, but it’s so much worse being alive with no ability to form memories.”
“Come on,” Mateo said. “Let’s go to our wedding for the third time.”
They followed the trail to the Colosseum replica. Pretty much everyone else had found their seats. Most of them were dropped off closer than the beach. Jeremy noticed someone in the crowd. It was the man who saved him as a baby, Lowell Benton. “I would much like to talk to him, if I could. We didn’t get a chance before. I guess I should say, we didn’t take our chance.”
“He looks very confused,” Leona said. “I’ll drop my invisibility for him, and lead him away from the crowd. I don’t actually need to see the ceremony again.”
“I need to,” Aura said.
“Yes,” Mateo said. “You, Bran, Aeolia, and Angela can go find seats. The rest of us will talk to Lowell. We’ll meet back up later.”
“I love you, Mateo,” Aura said. “I’m not supposed to, but I do.”
“I love you too, mom.”
They hugged again, then went their separate ways. Leona figured out how to make Lowell remember her, but kept her robe on, so no one would recognize her. Bran and Aeolia’s condition was an all or nothing kind of thing. They couldn’t control who remembered them, and when. Leona had some control over it because it wasn’t really her condition at all. This was probably why she had to wear the robe, instead of Aura, who had never met Lowell before. She took him aside, and found an isolated part underneath the Colosseum. Mateo recognized it from way back in 2079, when he was forced to watch a bunch of strangers kill each other. This was the room where The Cleanser kept them before the slaughter. That was in an alternate reality, though, and never technically happened, so all those people lived to eventually become his friends. There were surely around her somewhere.
Now that they were safely alone, Leona lifted her hood. “Don’t worry, I’m an alternate version. The Leona who’s supposed to get married has no idea I’m here, and won’t become me for a while. You and I have already met.”
“Right,” Lowell said, but he didn’t look like he believed it.
“We have already met, right?” Leona asked. “I mean, you shouldn’t have received an invitation unless we knew each other. No one here is a stranger, even if we haven’t met them according to our respective personal timelines.”
“Yeah, of course, we know each other. Lona.”
“Who the hell are you?” Leona questioned. “You’re not Lowell.”
The person pretending to be Lowell exhaled sharply. “No, I’m not. Sorry. My name is Dalton Hawk. I am salmon, and I am not possessing your friend on purpose.”
“Okay...” Leona started to say. “So you don’t recognize any of us?”
“Any of who?”
Mateo and Jeremy temporarily deactivated their Cassidy cuffs, placing them on a timer for thirty minutes.
“Uh, no. Sorry, don’t know you. Can you turn invisible?”
“Sort of. We don’t know a Dalton either,” Mateo said. He looked over at Jeremy, who was disappointed about not being able to meet the real Lowell.
“I do.” Arcadia was walking down the ramp. She placed one hand on her hip, and the other on her forehead. “Once I ran into you after the ceremony, which is about to start, I decided to go back in time, and find out if there are any more of you. It turns out, there are. There are four versions of Mateo here, and five of Leona!” She side-eyed Jeremy. “I don’t know who you are, but I’ve only seen one of you, so congratulations on that, I guess. Why do you keep coming back to your own goddamn wedding! You’re only supposed to do it once!”
“Wait, did you say there are five of me?” The version of Leona here was only the third one. And why was Mateo not with her for one of the other two times?
“I don’t care which version of you you are! I just need you to get the fuck out here!” She made one step back towards the ramp, and pointed up to it. “Are you all the people in hoods? I haven’t checked them, because I respect their temporal privacy, but maybe I should!”
“I don’t know who the people in hoods are. Yeah, they could be other versions of us, but either way, you should continue to respect that privacy, because you, of all people, understands what happens when you mess with the timeline!” If there were going to be multiple versions of her, they could call this one Bold!Leona. “Your sister brought us here, and she’s more powerful than you! So you’re gonna let us be, and not make us do some extra challenge, or something, and you’re gonna get the fuck out of here! A lot has changed since we last saw each other, and we are not simpatico.” Presumably by summoning Nerakali’s abilities, Leona suddenly teleported a few meters forward, and promptly pushed Arcadia to her ass. “I’ve changed.”
A seething Arcadia got back up to her feet, and pressed her fist against her mouth. She blew into her palm, and disappeared, but not all at once. An afterimage of her middle finger lingered for a few seconds before fading away.
“Wow,” Jeremy said. “I’m glad we’re on the same side.”
“Am I on the same side?” Dalton asked.
“You are now,” Leona said, taking him by the hand. “Turn your invisibility back on, and teleport to our team’s location. I’ll stay visible, and act as a link to the homines memorias.”
They landed in their seats just as the ceremony was starting. They watched it all yet again, and then afterwards, during the reception, they danced.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Big Papa: Claims Department (Part I)

The day has been saved, not because the better side won the battle, but because the more powerful side just gave up. They had given him so much trouble that he got sick of it, and decided to just let them go. He was in charge of over a hundred billion souls, in an afterlife simulation that he built, both long ago, and in the future. Resurrecting a few of them to get them off his back must have sounded like the easier option.
Missy, Tetra, Jeremy, Sanaa, and Angela are standing in a machine called the Nexus, which was capable of delivering them thousands of light years away, back to Earth where they belonged. Three of them have decided that Earth is not where they belong, however. “I’m not going,” Téa announces. “I must return to Tribulation Island in The Parallel, so I may one day be on Tribulation Island in this reality.”
“How will you get there?” I ask, concerned. Traveling between the two parallel realities is not something that just anyone can do. Someone with the power has to open a transition window.
On my way.” Jupiter Fury is the man capable of opening a window, but he is presently many light years away, and it will take him some time to reach this location. “I’ll get her where she’s goin’.
“What about you, Ellie?” Tetra asks.
“I’m going back to the matrioshka body,” I reply. “I helped come up with the original concept of the afterlife simulation, and I have to take responsibility for it, even if it means overthrowing the king.” I don’t know everything that went down, but my friends and I were in the midst of coming up with a way to go back in time and rescue every single human from their deaths, then upload their consciousness into a virtual construct, where they would never truly die. I got waylaid by a side mission, and never found out exactly what happened to my friends, but our frenemy, Tamerlane Pryce ended up co-opting the whole thing. He hasn’t done a bad job, but he doesn’t deserve the power, and I already know of a few changes I want to make to the simulation. It’s my birthright, and I’ll fight for it.
“Can I go too?” Lowell offers. Lowell was a serial killer when he was first alive, but he didn’t have the worst reason for it in the world. He was basically a superpowered version of Dexter, who could literally see the bad things that people around him had done. Like it would anyone, it made him crazy, and gave him the compulsion to do something about the things he saw. He sacrificed himself in an attempt to become the inside man in the rescue mission that has ultimately led to my freedom. Pryce gave him a new body, and stripped him of his psychic powers, so I choose to give him the benefit of the doubt, and let him start fresh. “I would really love to help. I need to do something positive with my life now that my curse is gone.”
“I would appreciate the company,” I say sincerely.
“I’ll go to Tribulation Island with Téa,” Missy steps out of the Nexus. “I don’t like the idea of her waiting here alone, and I feel like I’m meant to be there anyway.” She’s right. They both have a destiny, and it continues on that island. It’s located in a galaxy millions of light years from here, on a planet that enjoys a significant human population.
“Then I guess I’ll have to thank you now,” Sanaa says to Missy. The two of them have some kind of ever since unspoken burning hatred of each other, stemming from some incident that neither of them will actually talk about. No one seems to know what started this rivalry, but the irony is why Jupiter chose Missy to be part of the rescue mission. “Which I did, and it’s done, and now we can go. Boot it up, baby!”
“You’re welcome, Miss Karimi.” Missy says. It’s unclear how sincere she’s being.
“Just don’t ever let me see your face ever again. The temporal restraining order is hereby reinstated.”
With that, the Earth-bounders disappear.
Lowell and I then step back in. “Should we make a plan?” Lowell asks.
“Let’s just wing it.” I give him a wink, and an evil grin. Even though he’s trying to turn over a new leaf, I’m glad he’ll be with me, because I don’t plan on being delicate. If I have to take the afterlife sim by force, I will. We jump.

The Nexus technician steps out of her little booth, and approaches us. “You’ve returned. According to the historical records of our species, can I guess that you...forgot something? Perhaps your keys, that appears to be a common one.” She’s human, but a lot has changed since the days of forgetting one’s keys in the bowl by the door, or the refrigerator.
“We need to talk to someone regarding Tamerlane Pryce,” I explain.
“That is beyond my purview.”
“He stole my idea for the afterlife simulation, and he’s using matrioshka body resources to keep it running. I would like to assume operations of the simulation. Do you know who I could speak to about this? I must plead my case to whoever makes such decisions.” Pryce’s work is just a fraction of what the people living here do. The matrioshka body is the largest object in the galaxy. It would cover the distance from the sun to Uranus, and houses two stars that allow it to fly through interstellar space. It also hasn’t been invented yet, so at some point, they figure out how to send the whole thing to the past.
The tech tilts his head to calculate the response. She’s organic, but there’s no telling whether she has any transhumanistic upgrades, and if so, what kind. “Please step back down into the Nexus. I will transport you to the one-gee meeting section, and inform the necessary entity that you will be waiting for them. Time will be running at one-to-one while you remain inside.” The matrioshka body is located extremely close so Sagittarius A*, which is the black hole in the center of the galaxy. Time moves a hell of a lot slower than it does on Earth, but these people obviously have a way to manipulate that as needed.
Lowell and I step back down, and jump to a different part of the body. The egress technician says nothing, but gestures for us to leave the room. It’s clear that we’re meant to follow the hallway lights, which lead us to a beautiful botanical garden. An entity approaches after we enjoy the scenery for a few minutes. “My name is Aaaddffgacar, and I am responsible for Research Approval for Organic Entities. I hear you have a claim?”
“Yes, thank you for meeting with us,” That’s a hard name to pronounce.
“You may just call me Gacar.”
“Thank you, Gacar. Tamerlane Pryce runs the—or an, if such is the case—afterlife simulation. I’m the one who came up with the idea for it, and I believe I have the right to make decisions for it.”
“If you had to estimate the percentage your ideas were used in how the present-day simulation operates, what would you say?”
“My species is not good at coming up with such numbers,” I say, just to fill time while I come up with something reasonable.
“Twenty percent,” Lowell answers for me.
I give him a quizzical look.
He continues, “five people were involved in the conception and creation of the simulation: Ellie, Trinity, Abigail, Thor, and Abby’s father, Tamerlane. Assuming each contributed equally, that’s twenty percent. Without detailed data on exactly how the sim works, or meeting minutes for the discussions Ellie wasn’t around to participate in, we have to assume all five originators have equal stake. Equal partnership.”
“You are unaware what became of these three other people?” Gacar asks.
“No.” I don’t know if that hurts my case, or helps it.
Gacar considers the facts. “All this time, Pryce has enjoyed full control over his experiment. We have not interfered with this work, and have allocated all processing power that he has demanded. An auditor has been maintained throughout, but does not provide us with the details you seek, nor do we have any knowledge of meeting minutes, as you say. We can speak with this auditor, but if I were you, I would find at least one other founder to support your claims, otherwise, the math could get tricky. Intellectual property is a delicate subject. My species has trouble grasping the concept of an individual claiming ownership over anything, let alone ownership over people’s lives—”
“I claim no ownership over the people’s lives,” I interrupt. “In fact, it is my intention to bestow more free will upon them than Pryce gives.”
“I will reach out to the afterlife simulation auditor. I suggest you find your friends. If you do not, we can proceed with your case, but your claim will be weaker. I make no guarantees, regardless of what evidence you believe you have.”
“Thank you,” I say. “This place is lovely. Are there quarters nearby that we could use?”
“Follow the lights,” Gacar says, then walks away.
“Need some sleep?” Lowell asks nonjudgmentally.
“I prefer a quiet place to work. I’m going to eavesdrop on the conversation my friends had on Lorania after I left, and that’s best done without distractions.”
“Oh, okay.”
“You’ll be there too,” I explain before he starts thinking I want him to leave. “If there aren’t any distractions, then I could focus too hard, and get lost in the soundstream. You can be my anchor.” That’s not a thing, but I want him to feel valued, and involved.
“I’m honored.”
The lights have led us to a luxurious suite, full of everything a human could need to be comfortable. The matrioshka body has existed for thousands of years, and takes whatever resources it needs from whatever system it finds. Two showers, a four-person bathtub, an espresso machine; these all take so much less effort than they did for people in my time period. Whoever designed this section probably barely gave any thought to the logistics or cost, and probably finished the plans within one second. And this particular room has probably literally never been used before. There aren’t a lot of humans here, and the machines, of course, don’t need this kind of stuff.
Lowell sits down at the table. An envelope magically appears before him. “What’s this?” he asks.
“It’s for you,” I explain. “It’s an invitation to Mateo and Leona’s wedding. It happened in 2144.”
“That’s ten years from now,” Lowell says.
“The Mateo you met has already done all that, a while ago. Everyone Mateo or Leona meets, and becomes friends with, will end up at that wedding, whether it’s their past, their future, or a separate universe entirely. You recently became one of those people, so the invitation found you.”
“And I should go?” he questions.
“Yes, Lowell, you should go. Make yourself a nice suit in the industrial synthesizer first, though.”
“All right.” I can tell that he’s pretty nervous about it.
“There are forty-eight thousand people there,” I assure him. “No one will notice you. Just blend in with the crowd.”
I see the relief in his eyes. I help him pick out a suit, and then watch him activate the invitation transporter. He blinks away, and returns immediately. He’s no longer wearing the suit, and he looks rather tired.
“How was it? I never saw you when I was there.”
“I...” he looks around, paranoid. “I don’t remember. Was I gone? What am I wearing?”
“That’s...disconcerting. You don’t remember anything?”
“No, but I feel like time has passed, and I’m exhausted.”
“Sit back down,” I tell him. “I don’t know what happened to you. I can figure it out, but I really want to do my thing first. Is that okay?”
“Yeah, it’s fine. I’ll your anchor.”
“Great.” I remove my outer clothing, adjust the bed to a sitting-up position, and get in to begin summoning sounds from the past. It’s 2134, and I need to hear something that happened back in 2118.
“You have to get naked to eavesdrop on the past?”
“No, these clothes are just uncomfortable. I’m tired of wearing them,” I answer.
“I hear bras are pretty uncomfortable too.” He’s joking, but he’s also not.
I unclip my bra. “Very well.” Watching me listen to a conversation that he can’t hear will get boring, so if this is what he wants to pass the time, then whatever. I’m technically tens of thousands of years old, so I don’t care anymore. Plus, the face he makes when I do it—and he’s not sure how to react, because I haven’t actually given him permission to look, but I haven’t said not to either—is priceless. I grin and close my eyes to get to work.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Microstory 1570: Vatutotew

Some tiny little creature has been living in my utility room, and I know it’s not a mouse. I got a good look at it once, and I saw intelligence behind its eyes.

I think I’m scared to look at it again, because I don’t want to see just another grisly rat corpse on my kitchen floor. Or to know what it is that has been chewing up my animal crackers. The rats in the basement have been a constant thing. I’ve bought things that deter rodents, and I put small amounts of poison in the walls and floors. It’s always the same: for three weeks, they are gone. Three weeks. Then they come back. The wads of mouse poop in the utility room? I’ve never seen that before. I know I haven't been in the basement for a while. There are doors in the walls leading into the house, I think to keep me from getting killed. I think I should have all of my meals in the kitchen. Not so much for convenience’s sake, but because there are mice. I can’t find my glasses. I have one set, and one set that I am pretty sure they aren’t in. I’m pretty sure that they are in the damn utility room. And, you know what? I know my husband bought another pair of glasses, and I...

...have to wait until my birthday before he’ll give them to me. He probably hid them in the utility room too, which means, if I want to get a better look at the weird creature living in there, I’ll have to go in there first to retrieve the glasses. Even though I won’t be able to see very well, I can still protect myself, with a long-sleeve shirt, and elbow and knee pads. I look like an idiot, but I’m not taking any chances. If it turns out to be a mouse, then fine. If it’s a rat, then not as fine, but I’ll still probably survive. If it’s an evil alien bent on the destruction of the human race, then...then I don’t know, but I’m not going in there unprepared. I have a bat. I slowly crack the door, but then throw it open. It’s easier to see tiny animals when they move, so I would rather it scurry away fast than sneak behind me so I can’t even tell it’s there. Nothing. I see no movement. I lift the laundry basket, nothing moves. I open all of the cabinets, and shine a flashlight in them. Not there either. I open the dryer, but it’s insane to think something that small would exert enough force to get inside. I bend down to check the washer too, confident in the same assessment. It’s in there, staring at me, not like it’s scared, but confused as to why I’m in what it must think is its territory. It looks like a little furry human, gray, with a tail. It turns its head slightly, and looks at me more with one eye, which is something a person would do when sizing somebody up. It is as smart as I thought, or maybe even smarter. Finally, it extends an arm. “My name is Vatutotew,” it says politely. “Have I misidentified this room as abandoned?”

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Microstory 1569: Killer Katz

Ever since all of the cats started deliberately killing the humans, I’ve been saving up for a boat, since cats hate water.

And I finally got one, so I’m very happy and I want to sail. I have a rule that if any other person should read this, they will have a legitimate claim for sole ownership of my blog; as I cannot control other people. The guest, however, claims that they found this post, and they were so amused and amused they decided to check to make sure the ID was legit. If so, I’d like to give a heartfelt thanks. A big red heart to go with it. It’s very warming. I’m amused. This post reminded me a lot of something that happened to my sisters and me when we were very young. We got a kitten when we were maybe two or three. We were out with our family for my grandmother’s birthday. This was before we could actually read, but we were very good at mimicry and my aunt, my dad’s sister, was babysitting us and brought the kitten into the living room for us to see. My sisters and I climbed onto her lap, and when we saw the kitten, we all said “Oh, kitty, kitty, kitty.” She understood what we were saying, and she said “Kitty is a boy cat,” which was very funny to us, since we had thought kitties were a girl cat. We didn't quite grasp that we were actually saying that kitties were also...

...a genderless species. We didn’t understand back then, about gender, and sex, and sexuality, and identity. We had to learn these things as we grew older, which takes time, and time is something we no longer have. I’ve sailed my boat into the middle of the ocean. I don’t want to find an island that’s too close to the mainland, because the cats could continue to evolve. They could develop opposable thumbs, and then they could sail as well. My family wanted me to fight, but I won’t do it. The cats are going to win, because they now literally have nine lives, and they’ve been watching us for thousands of years. We’ve been completely ignorant about their intelligence, and they’ve used that to their advantage. They weren’t just learning our behaviors and weaknesses either. They were around when we were punching in our safe codes, and hiding our keys under the planter. They’re gonna win, and I’m gonna be far from all the destruction. If they ever do find me, it won’t be for a very long time, and hopefully they won’t worry about what I’m doing, because they will have totally taken over the world by then. I anchor my boat, and paddle to the shore of the island. There’s no sign that this has ever been inhabited. It’s small, but it will have plenty to sustain me alone. I smile as I’m breathing in the fresh air. I didn’t abandon my family. They refused to come with. If anything, they abandoned me. I have no guilt about doing what I must to survive. I walk up the beach, and head for the treeline, but I stop when I see something out of the corner of my eye. It’s a panther, or something. We stare at each other for over a minute, and then I swear to God, it grins. More panthers, and other large cats, come out of the jungle.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Microstory 1568: By a Dog

Because of my horrible allergies, I have a poor sense of smell, but I can smell poop and popcorn, and I can’t tell the difference.

I thought there was popcorn in the seat of the grocery cart, but then I didn’t smell it. The smell was different, like rotten popcorn, but not quite. The smell disappeared about the same time as the smell of poop. He was leaning forward into the cart so he could see the screen and as soon as he heard me, he tried to hold his finger over his nose. I guess the dogs would be more sensitive to dog farts if they were in the cart with you. I’ve heard that border collies can smell out drugs but I wonder about different breeds. Does it depend on the breed? I was a black lab, lab retriever mix, but probably mixed with some other breed since we got her before we started breeding labs. My parents only got me when they already had three dogs, and I was somewhat self-sufficient. I had a job, but mostly I just kept to myself and did my own thing. I used to follow my parents around and go to their bed when they were asleep. I still do that sometimes, but they let me now. I went with them when they went to visit my granny and the park she lives near. I wanted to go home with them but they wouldn’t let me, so I waited for them at the house. I got my mom’s last bite of chicken. I...

...don’t normally get to eat human food, but they each sneak me some when the other isn’t looking. They don’t know that the other one does this, and think it’s just our little secret. That’s fine with me, I get more chicken this way. My friends around the neighborhood often ask me how my owners are, and what it’s like to be me. In fact, they ask me this question every single time that they see me, because they don’t have much in the way of memory. I don’t know why I’m different than the other dogs; why I’m so much smarter, but it is both a blessing, and a curse. My humans regularly walk around without any clothes on, which makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know why, I’m not wearing clothes either, but I guess my fur makes me feel less self-conscious about it if, at least it would if I were them. I sometimes catch myself dreaming of leaving the house, and going off on my own. I would be able to survive just about anything. It’s only my fingerless paws that would make things problematic. Though, I suppose I could teach the humans I meet to understand me, and help me out when I need it. Why would I do that, though? I love my humans. They give me food and water, a nice place to sleep (even if it’s my bed or cage, instead of theirs), and I don’t get as distracted by the crazy smells all over the yard as my friends do. No, I don’t think I would give up my life for anything, even if I do have a little more potential than the average pup.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Microstory 1567: An Assassin’s City

All of my friends are dead now, and I’m the only assassin left. I’m just waiting to be taken out next.

I have a high view of the city, and I like to spend time out of my window. However, in this case, I didn’t even see a thing... A nice breeze is blowing by as a gust of wind... There are no screams or fire or anything, yet...I glance around and notice that my balcony door is open, and the light is on in my room. I think to myself for a moment and rush over to my room... I see that my body has disappeared. I sense something of course, but I had never suspected this... I race through the dark building into the grass field where everyone has been getting slaughtered. I throw up all the bodies I see... Bodies of the villagers who have been stabbed, stoned, burned, and who have been eaten alive. And some other stuff. I walk towards the stone monument and begin building a city, and for the first time I do it without killing anyone. In the end, I have an entire town, and have even created an army... This is going to be fun! All it takes is one round to read it, but I took my time to enjoy it. It sounds a little bland but it is a fun read anyway. It is quite a tale and I look forward to the next installment. This is a different style of writing than anything I have...

...seen before, and it’s slowly becoming my favorite. Still, I have so much work to do, so I put the book down, and get back to it. I crawl back into my body, and head for the town square. The city is holding a parade in honor of me, to thank me for building their city without killing people. I don’t want to go, because that’s not my kind of thing, but I’m obligated, because this is actually more about them than me. I sit there waving, and pretend to smile, and let them applaud me. When the celebration is over, I decide that my time here is as well. I must leave now, and let these people thrive on their own. I am designer and creator; not god and ruler. Perhaps I shall make a new city after this, which can trade with my first one, and they can teach each other new ways of living happy. I did this to protect myself against the rival assassin team, but that was centuries ago, and I don’t think I have to worry about them anymore. I slip away without telling anyone, and hope that my people do not feel abandoned. I hope they understand that this is what’s best for them now. As I’m crossing the outer border, I take one last look at what I have created, and smile for real, full of love and peace. A paralytic arrow comes out of nowhere, and strikes me in the back. I’m about to fall, but my archnemesis catches me, and forces me to watch as his sons and daughters burn my beloved city to the ground. Then, and only then...does he cut off my head, and let me die.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Microstory 1566: Fresh Start

My wife left me the day we got back from our honeymoon, but she didn’t steal my money. What was her reason?

And what would I do with $6.1 million? This is a really cool question that I never really thought about in all of my years as a family man. We’ve been together for 13 years, and you’ve been there for 10 of those years. So why did your wife, Valerie, divorce you? I have no idea. I assume that she did it because I put my foot in my mouth one day and said something that she took the wrong way, and now she’s moving on and making out with some loser she met on her motorcycle. For the most part, though, I would not change anything about my marriage. So if I suddenly came into $6 million, what would I do? I think it would be nice to take a year to see the world. I’d head out to the moon, or maybe off to Mars, or maybe just jump in a private jet and take a couple of sweet helicopter rides. Then I’d come back, and I’d spend some time at my house in Los Angeles, where I’d have a spectacular view of the ocean and a really nice movie theater. I’d sit in the theater and watch “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “A Chorus Line” and “Fargo”. I’d probably also watch some soap operas like “Days of Our Lives” and “General Hospital,” because Valerie can’t stand soap operas. I think I would...

Conclusion whatever the heck I wanted, and wonder why I ever got married in the first place. Oh, and hiking. I would travel the world, and hike all over the place, because I would have no responsibilities. Of course, Valerie would come back to me if I ever won the lottery, but I’m better than that. You don’t like me when I’m poor, you won’t like me when I’m rich; you may just like my money. I think it’s okay to dream, but I have to come back to reality, and focus on my future. I had it all planned out with her, and now that she’s gone, I have to come up with a new plan. It’s actually kind of exciting, being able to start over. When we did it together before, we were young and dumb. I’m wiser now, so the plan will be much better. Perhaps her leaving was the best thing that ever happened to me. I feel like it’s a fresh start, a new chance. I don’t feel like I wasted my time either, which is how a lot of people in my position would feel. It would devastate them. But I’m fine. Really, I’m fine. I just need to text her right quick to find out where she hid my jerseys. She hated me in them, and said they made me look fat, but now I can wear whatever I want. We need to talk about which restaurants each of us can go to, so we don’t run into each other. You know what, maybe I’ll just call.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Sunday, July 28, 2143

Mateo decided that there was no need to rush off back to his home universe. Leona would still be there waiting for him, and theoretically, no time will have passed for her. He possessed some of her memories, which meant he could recall her meeting his daughter, Dubravka, but he had never actually met her himself. She grew up in Ansutah, and spent her latter years in a different universe that he had never heard of, so this was a gift he would never get again. She couldn’t return with him since she had work to do, along with her cousin, Dar’cy—though they had never considered themselves related to each other, due to some timeline discrepancies.
They spent the whole day together, getting to know each other, and catching up. By the time it was over, Mateo was so calm and confident that he only needed to meditate for a few hours to be ready to slip back home. Meliora was impressed, having often spent days priming passengers to go with her. She was not born with the natural ability to travel the bulkverse, like Limerick, and she didn’t use technology, like The Crossover. It was something she learned to do after centuries of study and discipline, and even then, it wasn’t something she could simply do at a moment’s notice.
Things weren’t quite what they should have been when the two of them made it back home. It was indeed 2141, and only seconds had passed since Past!Mateo left the group with Nerakali and Imzadi. Those he left behind looked around for him for a bit, hoping he would come back immediately, but that wasn’t what happened. Mateo and Meliora were stuck in some kind of observation dimension. Time was moving at the same speed, and they could hear everything their friends were saying, but they couldn’t talk back, or interact with them in any way. “It’s okay,” Mateo assured her.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Meliora lamented.
“I’m not worried about it,” Mateo said. “We’ll get out of here eventually. Until then, let’s just watch over them.”
“Like a creeper?” she asked.
“If that’s your truth.”
“What is going on with you?”
“I’m a new person. Amber didn’t just give me my memories back, she helped me let go of my insecurities, and my guilt. Even though Hitler was a terrible person, I always felt a little gross killing him. I spent my whole life never having murdered someone, and then it happens. And then it happened so many times afterwards. I buried my feelings, but they were always there...until now. Now they’re gone, and I feel totally good about it. I no longer hold a grudge against Zeferino, or Arcadia. I’m no longer mad at the powers that be for having turned me into this. I’m just...”
“Chill?” she finished.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “I’m just chill.” Intellectually, he knew that not being worried about anything could get him into trouble. After all, risks were still there, as they were a part of life. But it was a nice change of pace, knowing that everything would turn out okay, if that wasn’t true. “I have you to thank for it. I was already feeling a lot better after I got my soul back, but your meditation technique really pushed me over the edge. Meeting my daughter helped too, I can’t forget that. She’s where she needs to be, as is Imzadi. They’re good, Leona’s good, the two of us are good. It’s all good.”
Is Leona good?” Meliora questioned. “She looks depressed.
Leona was lying in bed on the mobile home, fully clothed. She wasn’t sleeping, or reading. She just lied there, still.
“Nah, she’s good. She’ll be fine.”
It was true, Leona was fine. Ramses showed up, and asked for her help engineering some time travel something or other for The Sharice Davids. It was something that needed to be on the ship, but also needed to be kept secret, or something bad could happen in the future. This proved to be slightly more difficult than they thought, so they had to come back a year later to finish the job. Mateo and Meliora continued to watch them, as if they were stars in a really boring television show. Nothing interesting happened until they were finished with the temporal displacement drive, and someone showed up to complicate matters. Only one of them seemed to recognize him. “Tal’at?” Sanaa questioned.
“Hello, sister.”
“Sister?” Leona gasped. “You have a brother?”
“Yes.” Sanaa was regarding Tal’at with moderate unease, but not hatred.
“Why didn’t you tell me? Why don’t you ever talk about him?”
“Do you talk about it every time you poop?”
“You don’t really think that’s the same thing, do you?” Leona asked.
“She’s always been jealous of me, and my life,” Tal’at explained.
Sanaa nodded ever so slightly, and made no move to contradict her brother’s statement.
Tal’at went on, “I was born with a freedom she always wanted. I didn’t have any psychic powers, and that allowed me to pursue whatever life I wanted.”
“I live the life I want now,” Sanaa argued.
“I know,” Tal’at agreed. “It’s not come without consequences, however.”
“What do you mean?” Sanaa asked. “What consequences?”
“Our great grandmother,” Tal’at started to explain. “She’s the psychic in this time period, and your presence is interfering with that.”
“Oh, yeah, that makes sense.” She was never supposed to become a time traveler, but the consequences from her having done so were always assumed to be limited to her having lost her telepathic abilities. At some point, she got them back, and it would appear this caused more problems. “I didn’t mean to.”
“We all know that,” Tal’at acknowledged. “The problem still must be corrected, however, and I was dispatched to see that that is carried out. We’ve let you go on for a while, because we didn’t have very many options. We didn’t want to solve a time travel problem with more time travel—that felt so...hypocritical—but now we think we’ve found a good compromise.” He looked at the walls of the ship’s corridors, almost like he was admiring them.
“The Sharice?” Sanaa guessed. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“It has an interesting future,” Tal’at replied.
“Yeah, it’s destined to be destroyed,” Sanaa confirmed.
“We’ll program you to be released before that happens.”
“You’ll program me to be released from what?”
Tal’at grinned, and banged on the wall twice with his fist. A secret door fell open, like a broken grade school locker. “I had it installed before you guys got here. That’s why Ramses had to wait until last year.”
“What is it?” Sanaa asked, getting annoyed about this whole thing.
“It’s a temporal stasis pod,” Leona answered.
“You won’t even think five seconds have passed,” Tal’at said, like that should give her comfort.
“I was here in the future,” Ramses began. “I was here when this ship is destroyed. She wasn’t rescued.”
“You sure about that?” Tal’at widened his grin. He reached into the pod, and flipped the ceiling down, revealing a bunch of mechanics that most people couldn’t recognize.
“It’s also an escape pod,” Leona realized. “If programmed appropriately, it should clear her of the blast and debris.”
“Then what?” Ramses pressed. “This isn’t going to get her back to Earth, or even Proxima Doma.”
“It will take time,” Tal’at said, “but that doesn’t matter. In fact, we want it to take time. The other Sanaa is destined to travel through the time cave in 2254. This Sanaa can’t wake up until after that, or she’ll just end up interfering with her own past self’s psychic responsibilities.”
“This is crazy, it’s crazy. It’s stupid, and I’m not doing it,” Sanaa complained.
“It’s either this, or you’ll be shunted.”
“Do you mean shunned?” Ramses asked.
“Time shunting,” Tal’at clarified. “You don’t have that in your reality? She’ll be placed in a pocket dimension, where time loops every day, or even every minute. And she won’t be let out until 2255. Do you want that? That’s your only other option. Either you jump right to the future, or you let yourself be tortured while you’re waiting. Kai Parker did it, and it made him even crazier than he already was. So I recommend...the pod.”
Sanaa huffed. “What do you think I should do, Mateo?”
“Mateo?” Leona asked, looking around. “You’re communicating with Mateo.”
“Yes,” Sanaa answered, acting like she had already been over this, which she hadn’t.
“Have you been able to connect with him this whole time?” Leona pushed.
“Of course,” Sanaa said. “You knew I could reach out to The Superintendent’s universe.”
“Well, yeah, but you didn’t say anything. How is he? Is he okay?”
“He’s fine, don’t worry about it. He’s here, he’s been watching us from an observation dimension. Meliora doesn’t know why they’re stuck there, but the barrier weakens every time we jump to the future, so they’ll probably be free next year.”
Mateo didn’t know that she could read his mind from there, but he wasn’t surprised, and he wasn’t shocked, and he certainly wasn’t going to let the development harsh his mellow.
“I’m not tryna harsh your mellow, dude-broh,” Sanaa said. “Just give me your opinion about the time pod, broh.”
“Do you trust your brother?” Mateo asked. “I mean, would he possibly be doing this to hurt you?” They were both talking out loud, but technically she couldn’t hear him. She was just listening to his thoughts.
“Yes, and no,” Sanaa answered. “He would not do this to hurt me.”
Mateo shrugged. “Then get in the pod, man. Sounds fun.”
You get in the pod,” Sanaa snapped back on instinct.
“All right, cool.”
“Get out of the pod, Mateo,” Meliora ordered, shaking her head in disappointment.
“Did he get in the pod?” Leona asked Sanaa.
“He’s just screwin’ around, he’s out.”
“What about you?” Tal’at asked her. “Are you out?”
“Who am I to question the wisdom of Surfer!Mateo?” Sanaa reasoned. Poorly.
“I don’t know what that means,” Leona said, “but you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. We’ll find another way. Hell, the easiest way would be to just call Nerakali, and have her ferry you to the future.”
“I can’t read Tal’at’s mind like I can other people’s. All of our family’s non-psychics learn to ward their thoughts. Still, I can tell that he’s keeping something from me. There’s something he can’t say.”
“Is it that his intentions aren’t entirely pure?” Ramses figured.
“It’s that there’s more to this plan than just getting me to the future,” Sanaa corrected. “It’s where this pod ends up that’s the point. I do have to do this. I don’t know why, but this is where I get off.” She stepped into the pod, and stood there, waiting.
 Tal’at nodded gently. “Seal it up, make sure no one finds her, just like you did with whatever it is you built here.”
“Wait, you don’t know?” Ramses asked.
Tal’at stepped over to another wall, and reached down to open a portal like it was just a really big zipper. “We understand the value of discretion. It is your secret to keep.” He stepped through, and sealed the portal zipper behind him.
“Go ahead, Lee-Lee,” Sanaa said to Leona. “Start this thing up, and...let me go.”
“Do you have any idea where you’re going?” Leona asked. “July is almost over. For us, it’ll be 2256 in three weeks.”
“I don’t know,” Sanaa said honestly. “I don’t know if we’ll ever see each other again. But that’s okay. You helped me become a better person, and now maybe time will give me the chance to use what I’ve learned to help others.”
Mateo smiled and nodded, like a proud big brother who had to help raise her.
“Don’t give yourself so much credit, Matty,” Sanaa said.
Leona and Ramses inspected the pod, and made sure it would do what Tal’at claimed it would. Sanaa trusted him, but they didn’t know him, so they needed to see for themselves. After some more farewells, they closed the hatch, engaged temporal stasis, and covered it up with more walls, so no one would ever find it.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Exemption Act: Stable Time Loop (Part VIII)

The two of them struggled to stand up as they rubbed their various wounds. Freya felt heavier than before, and was quite off balance. It wasn’t impossible to get upright, but not easy. They were in the middle of a forest. Limerick breathed deeply through his nose. “Wow. Is it easier to breathe?”
Freya took a breath as well. “It’s much easier. Perhaps...almost twice as easy?” She bounced her knees a little. “Surface gravity higher, oxygen level higher. Trees look a little short. This is Worlon.”
“We jumped back to the planet? I thought we weren’t ever going to the surface.”
“Maybe some kind of emergency teleport. Zek should have brought us all together, though, if the ship was destroyed.”
“What destroyed it?” Limerick asked.
Freya started pacing, not so it would help her think, but so that she could get used to the new gravity.  She did need some time to think, though. “Backwards. We were backwards.”
“How’s that?”
“I don’t know how. That’s just what happened, it’s the only explanation.”
“I haven’t heard an explanation yet.”
Freya got back down on her knees, and found some visual aids; a leaf, and a pebble. She tore a hole in the middle of the leaf that was large enough to fit the pebble. “This is what we were supposed to do.” She slowly swung each object in front of her, parallel to each other. After a few seconds, she quickly pulled the leaf in closer to her, so it was encapsulating the pebble, just like they did up in space with The Cormanu, and the probe. “But this is what I think happened.” She started out just as before, with the objects flying parallel, but this time, when she teleported the leaf over to the pebble, she turned it around, and pulled it in the opposite direction, serving to tear the leaf all the way open. “The probe kept going forwards, but since it was facing the wrong direction, it shot right through the back of the ship, and back into space, where it either continued on its journey, or was damaged enough to start drifting. We were almost sucked into that hull breach, except we ended up here.” She looked around some more. Then she reached into her back pocket, and removed two sticks of gum, one of which she handed to Limerick. “This is gravity gum. It will help your body acclimate to your increased weight. If it’s just us, and we stay on schedule, the pack will be enough for us to adapt, and not need it anymore.”
“And if it’s not just us? Where are they?”
“Zek? Zek?” Freya spoke out loud, but was really just trying to send a psychic signal.
“Could she have transported all of us, but not herself.”
“She could have done that, yes, but why would she have? We could have gone back to the ship later, if that’s all she wanted to do; save it.”
“Well, you said it was going the wrong direction. It would have eventually flown out of her teleportation range, right?”
“I guess.” Freya took out her device. “But I don’t see anyone else.”
“Is that a tricorder? Does it show life signs?”
“No, that’s stupid. It can ping other devices, though. I know Carbrey had his, and Khuweka would too. I would say about half of the others would happen to have kept it on their respective persons.” She kept pinging the others, waving her hand around, looking for a good signal. Nothing.
“Maybe she just saved us, because we were the only ones in danger.”
“So was Carbrey, and she should have just transported us to a safe section of the Cormanu.”
“He might have flown out of range, through that hole.”
Freya dropped her arm in sadness. Then she decided to try one more thing. She switched to a different menu item, and held the device back up towards the sky to measure stellar drift. Preliminary data came through pretty quickly. “Oh, no.”
“What is it? What do you see?”
“It’s still calculating a date, but...”
Limerick figured out where she was headed. “We didn’t just teleported, we traveled through time.”
“The past.” She kept watching the screen. “The deep, deep...deep, deep, deep-deep past. It’s still going.” She dropped her arm back down. “It’s slowing down, and it won’t be exactly accurate, because it requires more data, but millions of years. A few million, at least.”
Limerick smiled, and cracked his neck. “That doesn’t matter to us, though, does it? When I shatter this portal, we can go to any time period we want, in any universe.”
“In any universe touching ours. That limits you. You see, in the outer bulkverse, time is not a temporal dimension, but a spatial dimension.” She held up her fists as more visual aids. She placed her right index knuckle against her left pinky knuckle. “They have to be touching at the right point, which for us, is a moment in time. Now in the future, it’s constant. All the universes you could ever need to get to, are touching each other. I think someone did that on purpose, they call them bridges. Back in this time period, though...I don’t know. Do you detect any thinnies? Do you sense any nearby universes? Or are they all too far away?”
He held up his hand, and searched for a place he could make a portal. He stopped moving and closed his eyes to focus his senses. “I can feel one, but you’re right, I think it’s too thick. Or too far away, or whatever.”
“I don’t suppose you have an ETA on when that gets closer, if ever. It could be drifting away from us.”
“No, it’s getting closer. It hums a certain way, but I can’t predict the time table. We’ll just have to wait and hope, I guess.”
Freya shrugged her shoulders and sighed.
“Wait.” He seemed excited. “Can’t you get a message to them?”
“No, not from the past. That’s just impossible.”
“But why did we end up here, in this moment? You said, millions of years, but you’re not sure exactly when? Aren’t you, though? The probe was supposed to start sending its data to the past. That room is designed to send time messages.”
“Oh, you’re right. That’s why we ended up here. I mean, it doesn’t explain why we were able to make a physical jump, but it must be the exact same time period that we chose. Oh, but no, we’re not on Earth. The message is going to prehistoric Earth, not Worlon. It doesn’t matter that we’re closer, it’s quantum communication. It’s actually really weird we’re on Worlon. It doesn’t make much sense.”
He placed his hand back up to the invisible barrier. “Then we’ll just wait and see.”
The two of them grew closer over the three years that they were alone together. They continued to look for others, but there was no sign that anyone else came with them. This had something to do with the quantum Faraday cage, rather than Zek, and they were the only ones within its boundaries at the time. The other universe continued to draw nearer, according to Limerick’s beliefs, but it was hard to tell because of how faint the connection was, and how slow it moved, if it was doing so at all. He just kept measuring it as best he could, waiting until it was close enough for it to be useful to them. They made a life for themselves here, and as the only two people on the planet, of course, they had sex regularly. They had no birth control, but they were extra careful about it, because they didn’t want to raise a child in this environment.
It wasn’t the worst possible place to live, but it wasn’t civilized either. They built a latrine in the ground, and wiped themselves with leaves, and no matter how intricate they made their Crusoe dwelling, the toilet situation wouldn’t ever get better. There was plenty of food to eat, and infinite fresh water, and none of the animals gave them any significant trouble. They chose not to eat them, partially because they couldn’t effectively estimate any given creature’s intelligence level, but mostly because they didn’t need to. Their vegetarian diet was doing them well. What passed for insects were larger here due to the greater oxygen content, so that was a lot of fun; not creepy at all. Today, everything changed. Like cicadas did on Earth, Freya and Limerick woke up to find giant flying bugs crawling up out of the ground. There was no telling how long they had been there beyond the three years they had never seen them before. They looked a lot like dragonflies. Shit. This was it. This was where their enemies came from. Five million years in the future, these little fuckers would somehow transmit their DNA into the developing human scions that Operation Starseed planted here, and create a source variant species capable of raining hell down on countless other worlds.
They were witnessing the early evolution of evil, and there was nothing they could do to stop it. The bugs ignored the humans at first, or perhaps didn’t see them. But one took notice, and then they all did. They started flying towards their prey, forcing the couple to seek refuge in their hut. They were able to keep the mega dragonflies out for a few minutes, but the walls were buckling, so they had to fall back to the little panic room they built. It was stronger than the rest of the place, though not fit for anything but this kind of situation.
“We should have run. They’re gonna get in here eventually,” Freya lamented as the creatures bashed themselves against the walls.
“They would have caught up with us. We live longer in here. Maybe they have a really short memory. Best to keep ourselves out of sight for as long as possible.”
The wood started cracking. “Not long enough.”
Limerick regarded her. She felt like such a pathetic little nothing, sitting there so frightened and hopeless. He apparently had an idea. He grabbed her wrist, and held it up to his mouth. “Hey, Thistle...where’s my hex phone?”
Pinging hex phone,” the watch announced.
The bashing stopped, and they could hear the little song Freya’s device was playing on the nightstand. The sound of wings flapping grew fainter.
“Stay here,” Limerick told her.
“No. We do this together.”
“Better they get one of us than both. If you find an opening, then run. Otherwise, please stay here.” He took a beat. “Please.”
“What are you going to do?”
He literally rolled up his sleeves. The Maramon promised me I would get to punch someone. Here’s my chance.”
Freya connected her watch’s hologram to the camera on her device outside, which allowed her to see what Limerick was doing. He really was punching them, like some kind of The One in a sea of well-dressed agents. They kept flying at him, and he kept knocking them away. He always knew which one was the most pressing target, and exactly where it would be. It was a magnificent show, but Freya knew that it couldn’t last forever, because he would grow tired, and there would always be more, waiting in the wings, so to speak. But then something happened.
He punched one of the cicada-dragonflies, and it disappeared, almost as if it had been sucked out of an airlock. He punched another, it did the same. The more he tried, the clearer things became. He was creating small fractures in the universal membrane, sending them out into the void, where nothing could survive. They were not yet close enough to another universe, so they were just...lost. The survivors started taking notice, and even though they obviously weren’t as intelligent as their descendants would become, they were able to take the hint. They rose up from underground to breed, and this fight was both a distraction from that goal, and not doing them any good. They flew off before they could kill Limerick.
Freya came out of the panic room, and dove down to help him.
“I’m all right. I just need to rest. Water?”
“Of course.” She retrieved some water from the barrel, and handed him the drinking gourd.
He took his drink, and caught his breath. “Whoo! That was amazing. You have no idea how good it feels to fight an enemy you’re allowed to destroy. I’ve been in a lot of brawls, but I’ve never actually wanted to kill any of my opponents. They were human. I know I’m not supposed to think this, but so far, it’s been the best day of my life.”
She smiled. “It’s okay to feel that. It’s your truth.” She stood up to look out the window, where the evil dragonflies were starting to perform their mating rituals in the distance. “We’re both alive, and that’s what matters.”
Out of nowhere, a flash of darkness overwhelmed Freya’s eyes, and grappled onto her face, knocking her to the floor. She was being attacked, presumably by a cicada-dragonfly that didn’t want to give up. She reached up to get the facehugger off of her, but it wouldn’t budge. It just wrapped its whatevers around her tighter. Freya could taste some kind of disgusting fluid forcing itself down her throat. It didn’t last forever. Limerick managed to stab it with his walking stick, and tear the corpse off of her. Together, they wiped the viscera away as much as possible.
Without warning, he jammed two fingers into her mouth, and pulled out as much retch as he could. “You swallowed something. In thirty minutes, we’ll do that again.”
“That’s not science,” Freya argued.
“We don’t have medicine, so inducing vomit is the best option available.”
Freya drank a lot of water, and then a half hour later, retched it all up again, hoping that cleared whatever it was the cicada-dragonfly put in her. Like they had both said, this was not necessarily going to solve their problem, but without any means treating a disease, or even diagnosing one, this was all they had. They spent the rest of the day building a ring of torches around their entire hut, hoping the fire scared the creatures enough to keep them at bay. Tomorrow, they would try to break a thinny one last time, and then move out somewhere else. Perhaps there were places where the cicada-dragonflies didn’t thrive.
Until then, Limerick wanted to have sex, as they did every night.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
“I thought you were feeling better.”
“Oh, I’m totally fine. I could be infected with something, though.”
“I’m not worried about that.”
“Better it gets one of us than both,” she echoed him from earlier.
“If you give me a space STD, then so be it. If you die, what am I gonna do without you anyway? We might as well get in the same boat. If you’re not up for it, that’s fine, but I am, and I’m not afraid.”
She was into it too, and the risks seemed worth it, what with this world looking more and more like the place where they would die regardless of when that ended up happening. “All right, let’s go to bed.”
Seven months later, literally about a thousand baby cicada-dragonflies flew out of her vagina, and off into the world. No, this was it. This was where her enemies came from. The Ochivari never had anything to do with Operation Starseed, but were spawned by Freya herself. She was the mother of evil.