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.

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