Sunday, April 25, 2021

The Advancement of Serif: Tuesday, September 1, 2178

Serif stood there next to the central table, staring at grave chamber four, but she didn’t know why. She felt like something important had just happened, but nothing was coming to mind. She popped off her back foot, and prepared to make a step towards it, but then she heard a cough at her flank. She stumbled a bit, and looked back. A one-legged Angela was on the floor, breathing heavily, and massaging her slowly-forming stump as the wound was sealing up.
“What the actual fork just happened?” Jeremy asked, climbing onto the platform.
“Angela’s hurt,” Serif answered, still distracted by the mysterious mystery of grave chamber four.
“I can see that,” Jeremy said, kneeling down, and hovering his hands over the healing leg, hoping to figure out some way of helping her. “She’s missing a leg! How?”
“I don’t know,” Serif replied, not letting up on her fixation. She tried heading for it once more.
“Serif!” Jeremy scolded. “Come down here and help her!”
She didn’t bother looking back this time. “I obviously already did.”
“No, it would help if you built her a new leg. All you’ve done is close up the one she has left.
“I can’t regrow limbs,” Serif apologized. “My abilities have limits. I don’t know who cut it off, or how, or where they went, or what they did with our memories, but I’ve done all I can for her.” She took another step.
“If you do not get down here right now, and try it,” Jeremy began, “so help me, Michael—I will end your life. You won’t die, you’ll just go somewhere else.”
“The afterlife simulation is only in the main sequence,” Serif reminded him, finally starting to be able to divide her attention.
“Right, but the Parallel has death subversion redundancies of its own; better ones, actually.”
“Well, I don’t,” Serif explained. “Her leg is gone. I’m sure it can be replaced, but not by my breath.”
“In that case, get down here, and help me help her up, so we can transport her to the nearest medical facility.”
“Where’s Olimpia?”
“I don’t know, stop coming up with excuses not to help. Let’s go!”
Serif sighed, and relented, but thought better of it immediately. She hopped over right quick to take a look inside grave chamber four, which she found to be nothing more than a space for sleeping. There was no stowaway hiding in there, or some kind of magical MacGuffin. It was just a hole, like it was supposed to be. “Okay, sorry, don’t yell at me again. I’m coming.” They lifted her off of the floor, and carefully lowered her down into grave chamber two. “I thought we were taking her to a facility,” Serif questioned.
“Yes, we’ll teleport her from here. Didn’t you read the specifications update?”
“What update?” Serif asked.
“Never mind,” Jeremy said. “You can stay here all you want, but I’m taking her to get help.” One arm around Angela’s shoulders, he used the other to open the panel, and activate the emergency teleporter.
The next day, still alone, Serif decided to explore her surroundings. She knew everything she needed to know about this ship, but none of it felt familiar. It was like someone once told her all about it using pictures, but she hadn’t been here until now. She climbed down the steps to the engineering section. She didn’t know how to work any of this stuff. They always just used an AI. She went back up, and then up again, to the next level, where microponics, hygiene, and the airlock were. It all made her feel very strange and uncomfortable. She shivered, because she hadn’t been alone here before. Or maybe she had never been here at all, and these were all fake memories. It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility, especially since they already knew their memories were indeed tampered with.
She climbed back down to the main level, and went over to sit at the table, but something stopped her. A cloud of insects spontaneously appeared before her, though there was no buzzing sound. She watched as the insects flew into each other, and grew larger. And larger, and larger, and larger. She realized they were coming into the form of a person. The process only took about a minute before the image was clear. It was Olimpia Sangster, after having been transported at the molecular level.
She too shivered. “That..was...actually kind of amazing. I would have never thought, but I guess it’s like a roller coaster.”
“Where were you?”
“Nowhere,” Olimpia answered. “I just skipped time.” She glanced around. “I don’t know how long, though. Where are Jeremy, Angela, and Leona?”
“Angela’s hurt, so Jeremy took her to hospital. I don’t know who Leona is.”
“She’s your girlfriend, or something, I think.”
“No, she’s not.”
Olimpia narrowed her eyes. “Your memories have been deleted.”
“I know, but...there’s no way I had a girlfriend, and just don’t remember her at all.”
“Well, you did,” Olimpia said both condescendingly, and matter-of-factly. “But I’ll drop it, because I can’t restore memories, and I’m sure it’ll all work out.”
Their Cassidy cuffs beeped. They had a new transition mission, this one apparently on the moon. “This thing can teleport there, can’t it?”
“I dunno, I haven’t been here that long.”
“Me neither.”
“I know.” Olimpia looked up into the aether. “Hey, hey, ship? Hey, ship computer?”
Yes?” the computer offered.
“Could you take us to the moon?”
“Would you like me to transport you to the coordinates on your wristbands?”
“Yes, please and thank you.”
The engines revved up, and eventually delivered them to their destination. Serif and Olimpia climbed up, and headed for the airlock. They started to try to figure out how to put the vacuum suits on, when the AI stopped them. “The artificial atmosphere is pressurized, and breathable. You are in a lava tube.
“Oh,” Olimpia said, dropping the helmet back in its cubby. “I don’t know what that is, but cool.” They stood before the outer doors. “You’re sure about that, right?”
Quite certain,” the AI responded. Then it opened the doors, and let them out.
A man was approaching from a building down the way. He held out his hand and greeted them. “Welcome to Raivoe Tube. Do you have a transition window nearby?”
They were famous. “Yeah, it appears to be about thirty meters that way,” Serif answered, pointing.
He nodded understandingly. “Great. Well, I’m here if you need anything. You picked the best tube on the moon. We’re minimalistic and laid back, but we still have plenty to see. Please enjoy our Main Sequence Lunar Museum, if you have time. Did you know that the first human to set foot on the moon in the main reality did so only two hundred and nine years ago?”
“Thank you,” Olimpia said. “And yeah, I think I did know that.”
He laughed. “Wild. Their lives must have been so boring until then.”
“We had a lot of war to keep us busy,” Serif pointed out.
“Yes, of course. I keep forgetting about that.” He was still laughing. War must have been such a ridiculous and foreign concept to him.
“Well, we better go,” Olimpia said to him awkwardly. “The next transition is only in...” she took a peek at her cuff, “four hours.” Now it was really awkward.
A little bit of a frown, but he hid it fairly well, and they hid their recognition of it even better. “Of course, go do your thang. I’ll in my office. Alone. As per uzhe. Nah, I’m kidding, it’s fine. I am lonely, though.” He stood there for a moment. “Sorry to leave you so abruptly, but it seems I need to do the daily test of my emergency teleporter.” He reached up, and pressed the button on his chest, which spirited him away.
They found a pit not too far away, which they could sit in, and have something to lean against. And there they sat for the next three hours until Jeremy and Angela found them. Serif jumped up. “Are you okay? I’m so sorry, I was just so distracted. I don’t know what came over me.”
“Our memories have been erased,” Angela acknowledged. “The doctors discovered at least that much. We still don’t know what we forgot, but it probably happened immediately after my leg disappeared. It was a trying time for all of us.”
Serif looked down. “It looks good as new. Is it a prosthetic?”
Angela shook her head, and then shook her leg. “Full regrowth. It’s mine. A doctor in the 21st century wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.”
They stood in silence for a moment.
“Pardon our manners,” Olimpia said. “Come on into our pit. There’s plenty of room, and we’ll give you the comfortable spot.”
“That’s okay,” Jeremy said. “We have a better solution.” He removed what looked like a toy gun from his bag, and started tapping on its little touchscreen. “One of the human medical practitioners snuck us one of these, so Angela always has a place to rest. She called it a gun-of-holding.” He found what he was looking for, so he pointed it to the ground, and squeezed the trigger. A couch appeared out of thin air, and beckoned to them. Once they were all seated, he squeezed the trigger again, and summoned a television in front of them. They had enough time to watch one episode of Teen Wolf before the window opened.
The augmented reality on their cuffs showed them that some kind of meteor crashed through the window above them, and was heading towards one of the buildings in the main sequence. Dozens of people appeared, narrowly escaping the small celestial’s wrath. Some of them were luckier than the others, though. Some were on the upper level, and once the floor disappeared beneath them, they fell, often on top of those below. No one died, and they would all be fine with medical treatment, but it wasn’t the most elegant transition that had happened.
The four of them ran over to help the people up. “We have three minutes to get to the next window!” Jeremy announced. “Why so soon?” Olimpia asked.
Angela was holding up someone with a broken leg. She started leading him towards the window coordinates. “They don’t know about time travel. They have to survive the meteorite without anyone wondering how.”
Serif started to breathe on people, but it was going to take too long, they just had to go. “If you can walk, grab someone who can’t, and help them over to the next spot. It’s only a hundred meters away. We have to get you back to your time!”
At normal pace, a normal walker could cross the distance in about two minutes. With all these limping people, though, they had to book it, and they still barely made it before the window appeared. As they were moving, Serif came up with a somewhat believable lie. All of them happened to decide to take a walk when the meteor came down. They also happened to be far enough away from the impact to avoid being crushed by it, but not far enough away to avoid superficial injuries. She would have rather they gotten more time to explain how important it was for them to lie, but perhaps that would have just spelled more time for the ignorant main sequencers to start questioning how it was they were being rescued. Their confusion and sense of urgency was hopefully going to muddy a lot of their memories, and any claims of time travel would be received under the assumption that it was the result of minor brain damage.
Once it was over, they breathed a sigh of relief. This mission came with a lot of hurrying up and waiting, and then it just had a bunch of hurrying. But they made it, and everything was fine. Sure, maybe one or two of them were fully in their right minds, and starting to think more deeply about the nature of reality, but hopefully it wasn’t enough to land them a spot in Beaver Haven, or risk exposing all time travelers to the general public.
The team walked back slowly, knowing that there was nothing left for them to do. When they arrived back at the couch, they found it occupied. A young man was sitting on it comfortably. He was smiling, and watching the second episode of the show that they were all trying to catch up on. There was no way he didn’t notice them standing there, but he was purposefully ignoring them, like a pickup artist trying to get the upper hand on his prey. “Hey,” he finally said, still not bothering to stand up. “I am a young Tamerlane Pryce. I have just been waiting for an opportunity to come here, and find out what you’re all about.” He nodded like he thought they were receiving him well. “Do you have any turkey jerky?”

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