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.

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