Sunday, May 9, 2021

The Advancement of Serif: Tuesday, September 7, 2184

Their group having nearly doubled all of the sudden, sleeping arrangements were a little complicated on the AOC, but they figured it out. Jeremy and Avidan shared a grave chamber, as did Angela and Olimpia, and the children, Adamina and Esen. The rest had their own, but things would be better soon, once the new members were put where they needed to be. Nerakali didn’t open any more windows in 2181, but hopefully she would know what to do three years later. After an early breakfast, the Cassidy cuffs beeped, showing them that they had a date on Dardius.
“We don’t have time for a regular transition,” Angela argued. “We have to find a way to get these people back to their destinies.”
“This might be our chance to do that,” Jeremy said. “Just because no one here needs to go to Dardius, doesn’t mean we won’t find help here. Nerakali is a lot more helpful than Jupiter was. When she took over, she started recognizing when we were the ones who needed help, and she’s delivered.”
“You don’t think the next transition is irrelevant?” Angela questioned.
“I don’t,” Jeremy answered.
“This is what we do,” Serif agreed. “We have to assume we’re meant to be there, whether it helps us or not. Adamina and Esen will be fine, as long as they stay on the ship.”
“How do we get the ship all the way to Dardius?” Olimpia asked. Getting to a planet millions of light years away was pretty easy in The Parallel, but taking their ship with them made it a little harder. They had to first request permission from the Earthan leadership. Parallel natives were starting to grow uneasy about their relationship with the transition team. This might be one of the few remaining favors they would be allowed to ask, which would be a problem, because they were approaching the beginning of human exoplanet colonization. The first quantum probe, in fact, landed on Proxima Doma just last year. If the transitions continued, they would probably begin happening throughout the stellar neighborhood, and nothing could cross those distances in the span of a day, save for a Nexus, and but a handful of temporal manipulators. For some reason, trottingas it was called—was a rare power, even in this reality. No one was sure whether the power-granters came up with the restriction deliberately, or if it was some kind of universal limitation.
Earth granted them permission at least this one more time, allowing them to interface with the Nexus from outside the building. The trip took them to this reality’s version of Tribulation Island. Jeremy agreed to babysit the children, while the rest of them went out to find the transition window on the mainland. They didn’t really want Tamerlane Pryce to go with them, but they didn’t want to leave him behind either. On the foothills of a mountain range, two people came through the window, standing in one place, and unconfused, like they knew it was coming. It was a man, and a child about Adamina and Esen’s age. The man smiled, and reached out his hand. “Thank you for coming. My name is Dardan Lusha.”
“Dardan?” Serif asked. “As in, the namesake of this planet?”
Dardan chuckled. “That was technically a different Dardan, but yes. I’m one of his alternates.” He looked down at the child. “And this little guy is Newt Clemens.”
“What?” Avidan was taken aback. “Is that a coincidence?”
“It’s not,” Dardan began to explain. “He is the alternate son of an alternate you. He’s a very special boy, and unique. He’s here to help your own young ones. You see, you didn’t come here to save us with a transition window. We’re here to save you. He can remove people’s powers, and will do that for Adamina and Esen, so they can lead happy lives here with us. We’ll also take that pocket dimension generator off your hands, and give those Maramon a good home somewhere here. The solutions to all your problems lie here.”
Serif was hesitant. “I don’t know you, and I don’t know that boy. How can we trust you?”
“We can trust him,” Kivi assured her. “He’s good people.”
Serif waited, not wanting to concede so quickly—after no argument, or discussion—but if they could only trust one person in the whole universe, it was Kivi. She had been part of this mission since the start, and had proved herself time and time again. “I suppose...if she says you’re okay, then you’re okay. Is this real, though? Can he really take powers?”
“Yes,” Newt answered for himself. “I’ve done it before.”
“You understand the need to keep him safe, though,” Dardan said. “You can’t tell anyone you did this, that this happened. We can’t have people coming to our planet, hoping to exploit his gifts.”
“We won’t tell anyone,” Serif agreed.
Dardan nodded. “You may bring the children here, or we will accompany you to your vessel.”
“We’ll bring them here, but there’s something you should understand first,” Serif said.
“What is that?”
“We don’t do nonconsent. I recognize that, as children, they may not know what is best for them, but I will not violate their rights. We temporarily suspended their abilities with these cuffs, but if they don’t want to make it permanent, I will not force them, and I will not let you force them.”
“Like I said, we’re here to help, not force anything.” Dardan promised. “We do believe that we have a good way to convince them, though.”
Serif didn’t press for clarification, choosing to be patient instead. She sent Kivi and Vitalie back to retrieve the children. Meanwhile, Avidan went off for supervised visitation in the main sequence—thanks to Nerakali’s intervention—with the son he might have had. His real parents agreed with no objection, but wanted to make sure Avidan didn’t try anything funny. Alternate selves was a complicated concept that fictional representations of time travel took for granted. Someone who looked exactly like you, and had a similar history to you, was not really you. There could only ever be one you, and anyone else could be no more than an approximation. Still, they felt that Avidan had some rights as that approximation, and chose to honor it.
By the time the girls came back with Jeremy and the kids, three more strangers had joined them. One of them was wearing a tiara. Dardan knelt in front of Adamina and Esen, and told them how dangerous it could be for them to keep their abilities. He spoke well, not dumbing himself down for the children to understand, but still using language they would respond to. After he was finished with his spiel, it was time for the demonstration. “I introduce you now to a woman from another world. Her name is Thack Natalie Collins.”
“Thank you, Mr. Lusha,” Thack said graciously. “And I will introduce you to my friend, Lochan. What I do is see other worlds from a distance, and what he does, is show you what I see. Do you understand?”
Adamina and Esen nodded their heads.
“Then let us join hands,” Thack said, taking Adamina and Lochan’s hands in hers, while Esen held onto Adamina’s and Lochan’s. The four of them closed their eyes and lifted their chins. Everything seemed okay at first, but grew worse as they shared the vision. It started out looking like REM sleep, with their eyelids bulging and twitching. It continued on from there, as they started to struggle more, and Serif realized that the kids were horrified at what they saw. Serif didn’t know enough about it to know what it was they were witnessing, but they clearly wanted it to stop. She had to do something. She reached over, and broke Adamina free of Thack’s grip. Angela did the same for Esen.
“What did you show them?” Serif demanded to know.
“I showed them the universe of Ansutah,” Thack answered. “I showed them what the Maramon do, to each other, and to the humans.”
“They’re too young,” Serif fought.
“I was younger than them when I first saw it,” Thack said. She looked down at the kids. “Do you want that to happen? Do you want to cause it?”
The kids, still saddened and scared, shook their heads.
“You have your answer,” Thack went on. “Bring in the lizard, and take your cuffs back. Avidan will come with us.”
“Why would he go with you?” Serif questioned.
“I know where he belongs,” Thack answered. “I know where his home is. Or rather, I know who it is.”
“I can’t stop him if it’s where he wants to go,” Serif said.
Their cuffs beeped, alerting them that a transition window would be opening up in ninety minutes. There was something different about it, though. “It’s two-way,” Jeremy said, knowing they all had the same question. “Whoever’s standing at the coordinates will go to the main sequence, and whoever was in the main sequence will come here.”
“All right,” Serif began, “let’s order lunch, and wait for Avidan to finish his visitation with his would-be-son.”
They ate, and they waited. Vitalie pointed out that she needed to get back to the main sequence, so she could continue on with her life on Earth. This was true, she had things to do there before too long. So when the time came, she and Dardan took the children to the middle of the coordinates, and switched places with Avidan. Olimpia walked up to him, and placed a hand on his shoulder. They spoke privately for a few minutes, while the others looked on. They didn’t know each other very well, but it kind of felt like Olimpia knew what it was like to leave someone she cared about behind. Once they were ready, they walked over and joined the group.
“Did you wonder?” Thack asked cryptically. “Did you wonder who his mother was?”
“Yes,” Avidan said, distraught about leaving his alternate child, but not wanting to talk about it much.
“I can take you to her. Time travel has created two versions of both of you. Two of you are together, traveling the multiverse with their friends. Like you, the other version of her, is still alone. Would you like to meet her?”
“Will she know who I am?” Avidan asked.
“She will. She will be grateful to get back to you, even though you’re not the same you.”
“Then okay. There’s nothing left for me in this world.”
“Okay,” Thack said reverently. “Treasure? Get ready to scream; Frequency Four.”
Serif perked up. “What the hell does that mean?”
“Don’t worry,” Thack said, “it’s fine. This is how we travel. You should get back, though.”
Serif, Jeremy, Angela, Olimpia, and Pryce walked backwards in one direction, while Thack, Avidan, Lochan, and the tiara-wearing traveler named Treasure walked backwards in the other.
“Oh, and one more thing!” Thack called out to them. “Let him walk through the cave! It’s just easier that way!”
“Who are you talking about?” Serif shouted back, but she didn’t receive an answer.
Treasure turned away from them, and stretched out her neck. Once she was ready, she screamed. She screamed so loud, the ground shook a little bit. Serif noticed that Pryce had been acting a little fidgety this whole time, but now they knew why. Seeing his opportunity, he bolted. He ran right for the travelers as fast as he could. He apparently wanted to go to another universe, and there was nothing they could do to stop it. Treasure was already mid-scream, and if the team tried to run after him, they could get caught up in that scream themselves. He reached them just in time to disappear through the portal with them, but not everyone made it. He took Lochan’s place, leaving Lochan stranded here.

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