Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Advancement of Serif: Tuesday, September 4, 2181

Serif could remember Jeremy and Angela telling her about Tamerlane Pryce, and all that they had gone through after death. It all seemed very jumbled and sketchy, though, now that she was thinking on it. There were a lot of plot holes in their story, suggesting not that they were unreliable narrators, but that their memories had indeed been erased. There was at least one person they were missing, and if they ever got their memories of them back, these stories would probably start to make a hell of a lot more sense. For now, Jeremy and Angela didn’t think they could trust this guy, so they were going to proceed with caution. It was then that she noticed Pryce’s wrist. “Where did you get that?”
“Oh, this?” Pryce admired his Cassidy cuff like someone who had just been proposed to. “Do you like it? I think it’s pretty.”
“Where did you get it?” Serif repeated, agitated.
“It was in a bag on the couch.”
Angela scoffed. “Ugh. I don’t understand why I’m always in charge of them. Back in the simulation, if I forgot something at home, I could snap my fingers, and it would appear. I can’t get used to making sure things are where they should be, when they should be there.”
“It’s okay,” Serif assured her. “All he needs to do is take it off.”
“No, I don’t wanna do that,” Pryce said, as if Serif was giving him a choice.
“Take it off before I cut off your arm.”
“Such violence,” Pryce pointed out. “What’s your name again?”
“Serif,” she answered.
“Serif...” he waited.
“I’m Serif.”
“Serif what?”
“Your last name is What?”
“Goddammit is right, goddammit. Now take off the Cassidy cuff!”
“Is that what these are called?” Pryce asked. “Who’s Cassidy?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“All right, look, I’m not the Tamerlane Pryce that you know. When he went back in time with his weird little heaven robot, he created a new timeline. The way he tells it, everything played out almost exactly as it did in his timeline, but it’s still technically a different branch. And because of that, there are now two of us. I’m the other one. I’m the one who hasn’t done all those things you hate him for. I’m innocent!” Innocent was too strong of a word for a man like this to be swinging around recklessly. It was irrelevant that he was an alternate version. Someone who declared himself in charge of tens of billions of dead people—in any reality—could never be trusted.
Serif’s cuff beeped, but no one else’s did. She tapped on the envelope to read a message from Nerakali, which told her to let him stay. “It seems I have been overruled.”
“Serif,” Jeremy started to argue.
“We’ll see what happens,” Serif interrupted. “Until then, we keep an eye on him.” She started off for the AOC. “Pryce, you walk with me. Somebody get Olimpia up to speed about him.”
They got some sleep in the AOC, but stayed on the moon. They probably wouldn’t know where the transition would be until after midnight central, so there was no point trying to go anywhere until they had that information. When Serif woke up about ten hours later, she could feel the familiar hum of the reframe engine. She opened her grave chamber to find everyone else was already awake. “Where are we going?”
“Best guess,” Olimpia said, “back to The Elizabeth Warren. Sorry, we didn’t want to wake you, and didn’t think you would object to us getting into position.”
“What do you remember about this time period?” Jeremy asked. “None of us was there. What is the significance of September 4, 2181?”
“I have no idea,” Serif answered. “I’ve never been to this time period before.”
“Oh, I thought you were from the future, and had already been through all this. Maybe I’m thinking of someone else,” Jeremy said.
“We know we’re missing people,” Serif reminded him. “We can’t think about that right now, though. We have a mission to get to.”
“We’re nearly there,” the ship’s computer reported.
Jeremy started tapping on the cuffs. “It’s not incoming. It’s an exit window. We’re supposed to travel to the other side.”
Serif was nervous. “I don’t like that. I’m getting a bad feeling about this date.”
“As am I,” Angela agreed.
“I may be able to clear some things up,” the computer announced.
“What do you know?” Serif questioned.
“The sequence of events is already in my database,” the ship began. “I know what happens on this date, and I know that by being here, Serif, that sequence has changed. As you know, Ubiña pocket four is experiencing a dimensional disturbance, brought on by two special children inside. One can increase the size of the space, and the other can create entire conscious beings, seemingly out of nothing. The instability of this dimension was threatening to destroy The Warren, and perhaps the universe. So they severed the link entirely, which served to create a whole new universe, which would come to be called Ansutah.”
“Oh,” was all Olimpia said.
Serif took a half step forward, as if she were somehow getting closer to the artificial intelligence they were communicating with. “Tell us everything. Start from the moment I left pocket four, up until now.”
And so the AI went into the story, helping them understand what had happened, and what was about to happen. It only served to fuel their suspicions that they were missing key members of their team, who should have been able to tell them all this, especially since Serif’s presence on the AOC was not what happened in the original timeline. Things were changing—minor things, yes, at least according to the story—but it still proved that it was possible. This dimensional destroyer woman was about to cause a terrible headache for people all across the bulkverse. It obviously wasn’t her natural power to create whole new universes. She had to have done that accidentally, and now that they were here, they had the chance to do it differently. The link between the real world, and the pocket dimension, still needed to be cut, but they had to do it more carefully this time. They had to find a better end result.
“Can we travel freely between these dimensions?” Angela suggested. “Or are we bound to the same barriers?”
“I’m not sure,” the AI answered. “I have no control over the transition windows.”
Another message came from Nerakali, once again only to Serif. Go to bed, choose your graves wisely. That was it. That was the answer. There were six Ubiña pockets on The Warren, and six grave chambers on the AOC. If they wanted to transition directly to a given pocket, they would need to be in its corresponding grave chamber. “We have thirty minutes until the window opens. Give me ten to come up with a plan, and then we’ll discuss it.”
Twenty minutes later, they could do nothing more than to hope their plan was a good one, and wasn’t going to go wrong. Predicting other people’s reaction to their interference was the toughest thing to guess, and they would never know the reality until it was happening. Serif wanted to go back to pocket four, where she was before, but that wasn’t good for the plan. They needed Pryce and Jeremy to be there, so they could kidnap the children. Yeah, that sounded bad, but their abilities were causing huge problems, and something had to be done about that. The best way they could think of was to snap Cassidy cuffs on all four of their wrists, and suppress their powers.
Meanwhile, Angela would stay in the ship proper, so she could interface with the crew of the Warren, so they understood what they were doing was for the best. Olimpia has a special job to take care of in pocket six, which wasn’t vital to the plan, but important on a personal level. Lastly, Serif had to go to pocket one, so she could talk with the dimensional destroyer about what she was about to do for them. The team climbed into their respective grave chambers, and waited for the window to open.
Serif found herself standing on the grass next to the residential building, looking down at a trail that led out into the wilderness. A woman was several meters away behind her, having an argument with someone that Serif couldn’t see. She walked up to her, and called out to Vitalie, who she knew to be an astral projection right now. “Miss Crawville, I am from an alternate reality. Could you please show yourself to me, so we can talk?”
Vitalie made herself visible to her, along with another young man. “I know who you are, Serif.”
“Indeed. The plan needs to change, but just a little,” Serif told them.
“How so?” Vitalie asked.
Serif faced the dimensional destroyer. “We can’t just have her sever the link. She has to keep the pocket dimension inside our universe.”
“That doesn’t solve our problem,” Vitalie argued. “The whole point is to get it away from our universe.”
“That’s no longer necessary. Our colleagues are in pocket four right now. We have a way to stop Adamina and Esen. We can suppress their abilities. The growth will stop.”
Vitalie was shaking her head. “I would have to talk to Leona about this.”
“She...she can’t know I’m here,” Serif contended.
“She won’t, we can’t find her. My point is that we can’t just change the plan. Hokusai, Saga, Camden. They all need to know. I don’t know where you’ve been, or what you’ve been through, but the plan is the plan.”
“Please,” Serif begged. “Please trust me.”
Vitalie turned towards their diagnostician. “Avidan? Can she do that?”
“It should be easier. Creating a new universe would be the hardest obstacle here. If all she needs to do is close the portal, that should be a piece of cake.”
“How would we access it again?” Vitalie questioned. “I mean, if they’re going to stay in our universe, we have to be able to get back to them. They’ll run out of resources.”
“Hokusai will be able to do that,” Serif promised. “Have her switch pocket four to the dimensional generator she built, just like she’s going to do with the other five pockets. All we’ll have to do after that is close the door.”
“We have people in there,” Vitalie reminded her.
“Once we get them evacuated,” Serif amended, “we’ll close the door. This will work. You don’t understand what happens when the new universe is created. I have a chance to stop that, and I’m taking it.”
The dimensional destroyer finally spoke up. “If it’s easier, that’s what I’m going to do, because quite frankly, I don’t give a crap either way.”
Vitalie kept shaking her head, uncomfortable with the whole thing.
“You don’t have a choice,” the dimensional destroyer continued. “This is what I’m doing.”
“Will you?” Vitalie pressed. “Will you try to help us, or will you just sit here on your throne, and keep command over pocket one?”
“I’ll do what I say,” she spit. “I do have some integrity.”
Vitalie sighed, and turned towards Avidan. “When I get back, you need to make sure she’s ready. First, I need to warn everyone else, regardless of the fact that I can’t stop it.”
“They already know,” Serif explained. “My colleague is on the ship proper, having a similar conversation.”
“How many colleagues do you have?” Vitalie asked.
“Enough.” Serif gazed into the distance. “But still somehow...not enough.” Leona was the person they were missing, and this was something she knew in her heart. A past version of her was in a secret seventh pocket dimension right now, but that was useless to her. Serif needed the future version of her. She needed the one she lost, and the other one needed to be able to move on with her life without her. Hopefully they would have time to look into that in three years.
“Ooookay?” Vitalie disappeared, along with Avidan.
In the end, the sequence of events played out shockingly close to the way they did in the original timeline, according to the AOC’s logs. They had to break Leona out of her little jail, there was a huge ordeal trying to get Adamina and Esen out of pocket four, and the dimensional destroyer severed the link. The difference was that Adamina never used her uncontrollable powers to enlarge The Warren, the crew was able to keep everyone in their respective pockets, only releasing the few people they needed to complete the mission, and Serif never ended up getting stuck inside pocket four. The Maramon alive at the time were still all in there, but their numbers would grow at a reasonable rate, and they now had time to figure out how they were going to deal with them. The real challenge made itself apparent when the window opened up to take them back to the Parallel. The seven of them, including the children, weren’t the only ones to transition. Avidan came through too, as did Vitalie, who had a huge destiny in the main sequence that they knew she had to get back to.

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