Saturday, May 22, 2021

Sic Transit...Labor (Part I)

Freya and Limerick watched in horror as her mega dragonfly babies flew away. He reached up, and prepared to start plucking the strays out of the air, but was hesitating. “I...uh.”
“What are you afraid of?”
“Do you want me to kill them, or...?”
“Yes, of course!”
Limerick grabbed one, and smashed it in his hands. It was a hell of a lot larger than a regular dragonfly, but as a newborn, still small enough for him to destroy in one move. He was able to snatch five more, but the rest managed to escape. “Sorry, I just...”
“Do you think that I think of those as my babies?” Freya questioned.
“Well, I don’t know.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Freya said, shaking her head. “It’s not like you could have killed them all. And we both know what becomes of them. This is where the Ochivari begin. We did it. We created them.”
Limerick frowned. “Stable time loop. Engineers of our own fate.”
“Yes.” She frowned as well. Then she winced. Then she screamed.
“What? What is it?”
“It feels like a contraction.”
“There are more in there?”
“It’s different. That was incredibly uncomfortable, but not really painful. This is pain. It’s starting to be the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.”
“Okay,” Limerick said, calming himself with some deep breathing. “I remember what you taught me when we thought you were just pregnant with a human baby. We have to assume this is that human baby, and work from there.”
“Whatever it is, get it out of me!”
She had technically been in some form of labor for the last several hours, so the real baby came out in a matter of minutes. She was crying and screaming, as any good baby should. Ten fingers, ten toes, and most importantly, no wings. The problem was that she wouldn’t let up. She just kept screaming and screaming. Both of them had heard babies before, but imagine the loudest baby in the world, and then turn that up to eleven. Finally, the scream seemed to reach some kind of apex. It was so powerful that it tore a hole in the fabric of spacetime, and sent all three of them to a different universe.
Once the technicolors faded, the baby’s cries stopped, like she knew she was in a safe place, or even knew how to navigate here. They found themselves in a very small clearing in the woods. It was beautiful and peaceful. Limerick rested his chin on his fist, and admired his little girl. “She must get that from you,” he joked.
“You make light of it, but this could be a problem.” Freya was still in a lot of pain, but being here made her feel safe and comfortable.
Limerick kept smiling. “She knows what she’s doing.”
“I don’t doubt it.” A young woman appeared from behind a tree. “You should name her. It’s bad luck to travel without a name.”
Now Limerick was defensive. “Who are you?”
“Thack Natalie Collins. I’m the one what brought your little team together. I see the goingson in other universes. This is where Landis is from.”
“Voldisilaverse,” Freya uttered.
“Your baby is a hundred percent safe here,” Thack claimed. We will always protect her.”
“We?” Freya questioned.
Thack reached up, and twirled her finger in the air. Other people started coming out of the woodwork, and approached nonthreateningly. They kept a little distance, though, presumably out of respect. “We are all voldisil. I foretold your arrival, and I gathered only the best, and most virtuous, among us, to help me create a haven for the little one.”
“They look like they’re waiting for something,” Freya pointed out.
“We’re waiting to take you to your new home,” Thack explained. “You really should name her first, though.”
Freya looked down at her precious love. She recalled a personal conversation she once had with Diamond Zek. Zektene was a teleporter Freya met a couple years ago, who was accidentally transformed into a diamond in the attempt to boost her abilities. They were talking about Freya’s new name, and Zek pointed out that the goddess, Freyja from Norse mythology bore two daughters of lore. One was named Hnoss, and the other Gersemi. Both of them meant treasure. Diamond Zek admitted to thinking it would be a good name for a girl. They weren’t really thinking about Freya having an actual child at the time, but looking back, it felt like destiny. “Treasure.” She sighed blissfully, and looked up at her daughter’s father. “Treasure Hawthorne.”
He smiled gratefully.
“Treasure Hawthorne,” Thack echoed, as if addressing the heir apparent. “This will be your home...for now.” She took a beat. “Come. You should see a doctor. Your physiology may be too different from ours, which could potentially lower the efficacy of the panacea. Once we determine that it will work, you are welcome to start taking it like everyone else.”
“This is the Landis panacea, correct?” Limerick figured. Landis Tipton was another member of their crew on the Cormanu. He had many abilities, but one of them allowed him to heal any wound or medical condition. He used it to cure millions of people on this version of Earth, and only stopped because biomedical scientists were finally able to synthesize a drug that people could take whenever they needed it.
“Yes. We call it Tiptokois.” Thack turned, and started walking away. The others waited until Limerick was able to help Freya up. They formed a security barrier around them, looking out for all dangers. Voldisil was a general term for anyone who was born with some kind of ability in this universe. They could be good, or they could be bad, and some chose to be bad. Neither Freya nor Limerick knew much about the culture here, or how prevalent bad voldisil were, and even if Landis had given them details, they didn’t know how much time had passed since he left to join their crew. These could all, in fact, be bad people pretending to be on their side. They didn’t know anyone here, though, so they had no choice but to trust them, and hope it didn’t backfire later.
They walked for maybe a kilometer before Thack stopped, and turned towards one of her people. “Are these good?”
A man stepped forward, and carefully inspected two trees standing opposite each other. He waved his hand in the space between them. “This will work. Gather inside.” They all crowded around, and waited. The man continued to wave his arms around, this time like he was dancing without his feet, or like he was playing a game with the wind. This wind picked up, and after a minute, blew them away. They instantly transported to a pair of different trees in an urban setting. They were spaced about the same distance apart as the first trees, and as they looked around, Limerick and Freya could see other pairs, at different spacings. It was an interesting form of teleportation that was unmatched by anything in Freya’s universe, despite the fact that a lot of people there could do it in some way, or another. Tree portals, she presumed to call them.
Thack continued to lead them forward, all the way to a small hospital. It looked like something out of an old timey one-horse town, but this was clearly a big city. Freya figured that made sense, because most people here would have access to Landis’ panacea, which mostly negated the need for traditional medical practices. The receptionist greeted them kindly, and then stood up from her chair, showing that she was wearing a lab coat. The others stayed behind while she led Thack, Freya, Limerick, and little Treasure to the back, where she revealed herself to be the doctor as well. Again, with such little need for medical infrastructure, there wasn’t much reason for anyone but a doctor to work in what might very well have been the only hospital on the whole planet.
They spent the rest of the day being examined, and undergoing tests. Blood draws, CAT scans, and urine samples; they were all quite familiar to them. Once it was over, the doctor sent them on their way, saying that the results would be ready in the morning. Thack and the voldisils accompanied them to their new home. It was just large enough for two people and a baby, but very nice and clean. This world was all about simplicity and efficiency. It didn’t need to be luxurious to be comfortable, and to have everything they needed. Their only neighbors were Thack and the other voldisil. There was no telling how long they had been preparing for their arrival. Different universes operated on totally unrelated timestreams. The moment they left salmonverse, and the moment they arrived here felt consecutive, but there was no telling how much actual time these people had to plan for this.
Time was simultaneously important, and not all that important. Freya and Limerick wanted to get back to their friends, but again, it didn’t matter how long they waited. There was no rush to leave when this world was perfect for them right now. So they stayed. They stayed for over sixteen years. All three of them were taking the monthly tiptokois pill, and keeping a stash of emergency class pills at all times. The former kept them young and healthy, and they never found themselves ever needing the latter. According to the history, volidisil once kept themselves hidden, working in the shadows to either make the world a better place, or a worse one. Landis was the first to step into the light, and show people what he could do. It inspired others to use their own gifts out in public. This transformed society, creating a one-world government, and shedding a lot of the pain and suffering that most civilizations lived through.
On a personal note, Treasure was a great child. She was nice, caring, and affectionate. She was disciplined, patient, and interested in learning. Thack taught a special study program at a community college on exoversal cultures. It was generally limited to adults, but they made an exception for Treasure for obvious reasons. Everyone loved her, but she didn’t have any close friends. This world loved and accepted people who were different, but she still always felt so foreign, and never really got over that. People didn’t realize either, or they probably would have tried to help. She was just so popular that no one noticed she didn’t hang out with a specific group, and didn’t have anyone outside her parents who she could trust fully, and confide in. She wasn’t depressed exactly, but she wasn’t super happy either, and that was a realization she had to come to herself. It happened this morning.
“Treasure Lydia Hawthorne, get in here right now!”
She knew what her mother was angry about, but she was going to hold firm. So she took a deep breath, and prepared for battle.
“What is this doing on the table?”
She couldn’t yell, because if she yelled, it would give her mom even more reason to think that she needed it, which she didn’t anymore. She could control herself just fine. “I’m sick of it, and I’m over it.”
“It doesn’t work that way. This necklace is for your own protection.”
“It’s not a necklace,” Treasure argued, “it’s a collar. Your flowery language doesn’t work on me anymore.”
“I don’t understand, you used to be fine with it. You know what it’s for.”
“I control my voice. I’ve taken it off before, and didn’t have a problem.”
“What is this right here?” Freya asked, pointing.
Treasure sighed, realizing her mistake by claiming there was never a problem. “That’s my elbow,” she recited in monotone.
“We left that scar to remind you that if not for the panacea, you could be dead right now. That weird bird creature was this close to eating the rest of you. Your father found you in an uncharted universe after making four—four!—shatter portals. You realize how hard that is for him? It wears him out, he could have died trying to rescue you. He got lucky that time, because of Miss Collins, but if you scream just once, you could end up too far away for even her to detect. If you see a spider, or a boy gets too handsy, that could be it. You could be lost forever. That is why the amazing scientists on this planet built you that necklace, and that is why you can’t ever take it off unless he’s there to go with you. Which you’re not going to do until you turn eighteen, which you agreed to ten years ago.”
“I’m not asking you to let me train with dad. I just don’t want to wear the collar anymore. I’ve spent my whole life not raising my voice, I think I’ve been conditioned enough.”
“Or maybe you’ve been stifled for so long, it’s all just waiting to burst out all at once,” Freya argued.
“All the more reason to let me get used to taking it off!” It wasn’t a scream, but her voice was indeed louder than it had ever been since that time she got stranded. She was still a baby back then, though, and had no memory of that.
Steam came out of Freya’s ears. She held up the collar. “Put this goddamn thing back on this instant, before you do something you regret. I’m your mother, and you’re going to listen to me.”
“I’ll show you,” Treasure claimed. “I’ll show you that I can control it.”
“Yeah, you will, because you’ll be wearing your necklace.”
“Stop calling it that. It’s a collar, and I’ll put it on in five minutes.”
“What are you going to do in the next five minutes?”
“I already told you, I’ll show you that I can learn control. I’ll be back before you know it.” She ran down the hall, and into her room, ignoring the complaints from her mother. And then she screamed.

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