Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Microstory 1658: Exceptions to the Rules

The excelschians in Excelschiaverse are all pretty much the same. They’re like AI assistants, except that they can only be seen by the person to which they are assigned. The form spontaneously, to about half the population of Earth, and there appears to be no common link amongst the people who are chosen. No evidence has suggested that some kind of higher being is responsible for this in any way. Some see it as proof of a God, but it’s all just circumstantial. Those who study them have not come to any definitive conclusions. All they have found is that if someone were to hypothetically exchange their excelschian with someone else’s, nothing would change. It would still be able to transform itself into whatever shape the human wanted, it would still look human, and it would still not be able to interact with the real world. There are a couple exceptions to the rules. In one case, an excelschian appeared to develop some kind of personality, and personal agency. It started considering itself to be an independent being, and believed that it had the same rights as any corporeal individual would have. Unfortunately for it, and its physical human, there was no way to prove this either way. Only the human could see his excelschian, and while he made every attempt to fight for her rights, it was impossible. The human could have been lying, and no one would know. And even if the right authorities agreed to grant the excelschian her natural rights, what would that mean? How would that play out? She still wouldn’t be able to communicate with other people, and she couldn’t get a job, or contribute to society. All she could do was ask her human to let her make her own choices, which he did happily, and that’s as good as it ever got for the both of them. They even later fell in love.

There was another exceptional case, where the excelschian did not have trouble with people seeing him. Quite the opposite. Overtime, people around the human to which he was assigned started being able to see him, but only those who did not have their own excelschians. He didn’t develop his own personality, but he did end up with the compulsion to help everyone who was able to see him. He wasn’t exposed to just anyone who happened to pass by, but it was still a lot of people. So he began to serve as a sort of community excelschian, but this started causing problems. Who deserved him the most? Who decided what questions he answered, and when. It became so confusing that the original human had to run off to the other side of the country, and never come out of her apartment. The last major exception involves a human who found herself capable of seeing any and every excelschian. The world became a crowded place as she watched others ask their questions, and heard the answers. They didn’t answer her questions, which she tried as an experiment, but that was fine. The real problem was that it was difficult for her to move around in the world, because though she still couldn’t touch the excelschians, she never lost her instinct to give them space, and walk around, as she would do for anybody. She too had to run away from civilization, though not quite to the same degree. She just had to make sure she wasn’t around too many people who had excelschians. She actually tried to join a community of non-excelschianed humans on the edge of town, but those were pretty exclusive, and always at least a little racist, so they rejected her applications. These exceptions were not heralds of the future, or changes to the status quo. They were just different, and the chances of them happening were never zero.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Microstory 1657: Portrait of a Universe

Most versions of Earth advance technologically at about the same rate. This is due to the fact that the majority of them are only c-branes, but I won’t get into the specifics of how that works. The reality is that this can be altered moderately by changing a few key conditions, or more dramatically by something insane, like time travel. In Muxleyverse, an alien descended from a group of Ansutahan who were expelled when The Crossover exploded, came to Earth to decide whether it was worthy of being brought into the galactic community. He brought with him highly advanced technology, which ended up being sent backwards in time. This changed everything about human history. This one little bit of tech transformed Earth from the youngest and weakest civilization to the strongest, and most powerful. This was where the mess began, and why most bulk travelers tend to avoid Muxleyverse, even the Ochivari. Now the dominant race in the Milky Way galaxy, the humans went around exerting their will upon all other worlds. They didn’t enslave anyone, and they didn’t kill unless provoked by a resistance, but they weren’t exactly pleasant either. They knew where they came from, and how it happened. They knew that the aliens would do the same to them, if given a chance. They felt that their only hope was to keep control of the situation at all costs. Unfortunately, one you introduce time travel into the mix, control becomes a laughable concept. Eventually, a rebel group of aliens managed to steal time travel technology. They used it to go back to their early days, and become the dominant race over all others. They were especially ruthless against the Earthans, for obvious reasons. But it did not stop there. An alliance of humans, and a different planet of subjugated aliens, stole time travel technology, and went back so they could become the dominant species. Can you guess where I’m going with this?

As you know, I have the ability to witness events in other universes, but that gift gets complicated when alternate realities are in the mix. You see, since each universe operates on a completely separate timeline, I’m actually watching these other events having happened, not as they’re happening. The past, present, and future don’t just happen all at once; they don’t even exist from my perspective. It’s all just one giant picture to me, which allows me to piece together stories. Alternate realities of all kinds make piecing those stories together more complicated. Concurrent realites are all but impossible for me to see through, because they add extra layers that block each other from sight, but sequential timelines aren’t easy either. The metaphorical picture of the universe is larger than a normal one when that happens, but my perspective hasn’t changed, so every detail is smaller. The point is that I don’t know how many loops these people went through. I only know that it was bad. They just kept going, always trying to gain an advantage over each other, until things got to be so messy that it all fell apart. For the most part, unlike what you might hear in time travel movies, the universe can’t be destroyed, even by a paradox. The paradox simply won’t take place, and everything will be fine. You can overstrain the fabric of spacetime, however, especially for a brane that was never meant to have temporal manipulation in the first place. Everything that those people did, it still happened. The end of the universe didn’t negate the past, also like what you might see in movies. But it did end prematurely, and it’s a shame.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Microstory 1656: Purebloods

In the universe where Neanderthal DNA managed to survive as a higher percentage in the modern population, most people were genetically diverse. But there were a few outliers; bloodlines which they would often call pure. While knowing how much Neanderthal DNA an individual contained wasn’t something people generally knew until DNA testing became available, there were those who could detect it naturally. It appeared to be a survival trait shared by few. It would seem evolutionarily important to be able to know such information about a potential mate. Members of these so-called pure bloodlines became impure by the 21st century, because it just stopped being so important. Younger generations were making their own choices, and didn’t really care about tradition, or perceived purity. It was also getting harder to accomplish without committing incest, which was not out of the question for some people, apparently. The rest wanted to fall in love with whoever, and not worry about what people thought. One particular bloodline kept their traditions going much longer than the others, until the youngest of the latest generation met someone with the highest known percentage of Neanderthal DNA. She was 24.4% Neanderthal, and honestly, considered to be not so attractive because of it. That didn’t matter to this man, nor should it have. They had a lot in common, and they wanted to be together, but his family was not having it. At first, his parents threatened to cut him off from the family fortune, hoping that would be enough to straighten him out. He was not so easily swayed. He already had a decent education, presently had a good job, and could probably get a better one with time. He didn’t need their money. Since that didn’t work, they resorted to intimidation, and even stalking, but still he would not budge. He was in love, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. That was when they grew violent.

They attacked the couple in their home, but they didn’t kill his fiancée. No, they murdered the pureblood son, and didn’t even bother covering it up. Though he was one of them, the purebloods had no qualms about murdering him, because they couldn’t risk contaminating the family tree with what they deemed to be inferior DNA. They had previously resorted to inbreeding to prevent this from happening when no viable candidates were available as mates, but that wouldn’t help in this case. He wasn’t the last in his generation, or even the parents’ only son. He was just the best choice for passing the baton. His DNA was strong, and so were his reproductive capabilities. If they couldn’t have him, no one could. Yeah, they were that sick. The others could continue on without him, though, and everything would be fine. Of course, it wasn’t fine. The public was outraged by the development, and wanted something to be done about it. Law enforcement was able to arrest the suspects, and most of them were convicted of something. Some actually carried out the crime, while others conspired to make it happen, but in the end, they were all mostly gone. That wasn’t enough for everyone. A group decided to fight fire with fire. They didn’t murder anyone, but they did chemically sterilize the survivors. The pure bloodline would end here, no matter what they did, or who they tried to introduce into the family. The sterilizers were convicted of their crimes as well, but it was too late. The very idea of a pure human would forever be eradicated from the public consciousness. A new age of enlightenment sprang from this, fostering innovative ideas, and promoting social unity. Now they were all the same, because they were all different, and there was no need to fight about it anymore. The purebloods, meanwhile, died out, and became nothing more than a terrible footnote in the history of the world.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, November 12, 2250

After the deed was done, Mateo sent a message through the cuffs that he needed to be alone for the rest of the day. He asked the Nexus technician on Varkas Reflex to send him to a random planet in the galaxy. There actually was a setting for that, which let the computer decide where he would go. The world it chose was almost entirely desert. A single artificially constructed oasis supported life for the few people who decided to check the place out. He was the only one there at the time, except for the world’s caretaker, which suggested the Nexus computer knew exactly what he was looking for. It wasn’t that luxurious, so Mateo didn’t feel bad about not inviting his team to be there with him. Apparently, this world was floating around the Milky Way at a pretty great distance from the black hole in the center. This was what made the place so barren, but Mateo didn’t bother listening to the whole explanation, which involved heavy elements, and gravitational disturbances. He just sat in his chair, and tried to think about anything besides the fact that he just murdered another person; and a friend, no less.
Before the day could end, he jumped back to Earth, and rendezvoused with his team on the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He just wanted to put the past behind him, and focus on the fact that Pharrell was right when he claimed that No-one Ever Really Dies, and Nerakali was just having different adventures in the simulation. He still wished that he could erase his people’s memories of what he had done, but unfortunately, what he had done had quite specifically removed brain blending from their inventory of time powers. Hopefully they would never run into another situation where such a thing was called for. The question remained, what were they going to do with their lives from here on out? Were they going to stay on this pattern, and do nothing with that? Would they change to a new pattern? Would they drop it entirely, and start fresh in 2250? Would they return to their respective time periods, or maybe choose some other time period together?
“Well, should we vote on it, or just discuss what everyone wants, and see where we end up?” Leona put forth.
“Yeah, let’s just talk about it,” Angela suggested.
“Who wants to go first?” Olimpia broke the ice.
“I’m cool with whatever everyone else wants to do,” Jeremy volunteered.
“Yeah, me too,” and “agreed” were the responses bandied about. It would seem they quite enjoyed helping people transition, but if that was no longer necessary, there wasn’t much reason to do anything else.
“I think we should go back to the past, and continue doing what we do,” Leona began, “whether it’s by transitioning people, or not. We could help the Salmon Runners put right what once went wrong, or join another transition team under Past!Nerakali’s purview. Hell, we could join the salmon battalion, I don’t know.” It actually kind of sounded like she didn’t want to do anything.
Mateo decided to allow her the possibility of doing nothing without making her vocalize it. “Or we could just stay here in The Parallel. I’m sure there’s a planet suited for our whims, where we could live forever, and not worry about responsibility anymore.” It was a selfish offer, but not unwarranted. All of them did deserve it, for what they had been through. Had they not given enough to the worlds already?
The others stood there awkwardly, and did not want to argue.
Mateo still had to be the bad guy. “Okay, let’s do that. We could always go back to a life of service later. Let’s just suppress all patterns, find a nice little planet to call home, and relax for a little bit. Or we could travel. There’s no rush. There’s no rush to do anything.”
“I’m not opposed to this plan,” Jeremy finally agreed. “Like the man said, we can always change our minds later. We have the cuffs, plenty of people here have powers.”
“I can do that,” Angela said.
“Yeah, sure,” Olimpia confirmed.
Leona just nodded. She wanted this more than any of them probably, but was too used to helping people to admit it. That was fine.
“Unfortunately, that’s not how this works,” came a voice from above. A man was climbing down the steps from the upper level.
It took Mateo a hot second to recognize him. They had met him a few times before, but were never close, and there were so many faces to remember these days. “Anatol.” The Warrior. He used to go around the timeline, killing people. Though, time travel being what it was, used to wasn’t a real concept. Which version was this one here?
“Yes, it’s me.”
“I know why you’re here,” Leona said.
“Yes,” Anatol went on. “I have been waiting to come to you for a long time now. Of course, I didn’t have to wait, but I had some other things I wanted to make sure got taken care of, and I didn’t want to cross paths with Nerakali.”
“Who is this?” Jeremy questioned. “Who are you?”
“This is the man that killed Nerakali Preston,” Mateo explained. “I pushed her over the edge of her last life, but he actually dealt the final blow. Now he has her powers. More to the point, he has Jupiter’s powers.”
“That’s right,” Anatol concurred. “I’m here to replace her, after she replaced him.”
“What does that mean?” Leona asked. “What kind of...?” She hesitated to continue.
“What kind of boss am I?” he presumed. “I’m pretty cool, but I do have a different...mission.”
“You’re going to have us kill people, aren’t you?” Mateo assumed.
“I’m going to have you correct the timeline in a way that you’re not used to doing,” Anatol pretended to clarify. “You can call it killing, if you want. I would probably also call it that.”
“I’m not going to be killing anybody,” Olimpia declared.
“The rule is, kill or be killed.” Anatol took a blade out of its sheath. It wasn’t the Sword of Assimilation, but it was just as deadly. “I’m a pretty cool a point. That...I—that wasn’t meant to be a play on words. But seriously, this is what I’ve decided, so it’s what’s happening. And the sword really is a threat. I have no strong feelings about you people. I’m not sure I know the names of you three there.”
“Well, you probably should know their names if you’re going to boss them around, and threaten their lives,” Leona figured.
“Don’t worry about that,” Mateo said. “He’s not staying.”
“Oh no?” Anatol was confused.
“I challenge you to a duel.”
“Are you serious?” Anatol couldn’t believe it. “Like a...air hockey duel, or something?”
“No. Swords,” Mateo corrected. “I challenge you to a sword duel.”
“That’s stupid, Mateo; I’ll destroy you.”
“Prove it,” Mateo said simply. “You kill me, you get to take the primary cuff, and order my team around. I kill you, and you leave us alone forever.”
Anatol wasn’t going to argue about it anymore. There was no doubt that he could beat Mateo, and there was no getting around this fact. If they were normal people, maybe Mateo could sneak a gun into the duel, and just kill him, and it wouldn’t matter anymore, because the threat would be eliminated. But Anatol couldn’t die, and Mateo didn’t think he could die permanently anymore either, so there seemed to be only one outcome to this story. There was no cheating, and no loophole. Mateo had to magically become the better swordsman, fair and square. “Fine. Deal.”
“Could we have a minute?” Leona requested.
“You can have three hundred and sixty minutes. Meet on Uluru at that time. We’ll transition to the main sequence there. Eat a good lunch. It will be your last.” Anatol disappeared.
“I thought he wasn’t so violent anymore,” Leona said once he was gone. “Didn’t you change him? If he has Nerakali’s powers, he has to be the version of him that changed.”
“He never really changed,” Mateo pointed out. “I think he just started choosing his victims differently.”
“What are you going to do?” Leona asked, shaking her head. “He’s right, you can’t defeat him.”
Mateo smiled. “I don’t have to. There’s not going to be any duel. I just needed to distract him.”
“He’s a time traveler,” Leona argued. “He can’t be distracted. Or rather, it doesn’t matter how long he’s distracted. He can always come back to the past.”
Mateo smirked, and looked around. “I don’t see him, returned from the future to ask me why I never showed up.”
“How are you going to stop him?” Jeremy asked. “Or how did you? Or how have you will?”
“Yeah,” Mateo said. He rested his chin on his palm, and smiled pensively at the corner of the ship. “How did I do that?”
The others looked between him, and the wall he was staring at, but there was nothing there. He never explained what he was talking about, and they quickly dropped the subject. They decided to program their cuffs to suppress all patterns, and keep them in the present moment at all times, at least for now. They then went to what passed for a library in this reality, and searched the directory for a new home. They tried all kinds of search parameters, switching them out when they thought of something better. They only kept the basic criteria, like a regular spherical planet orbiting a yellow dwarf with comparable Earthan surface gravity, and of course, a breathable atmosphere.
“Let’s get away,” Olimpia finally suggested. “Let’s find a remote world, in a distant galaxy, far from the reach of this Warrior guy. Let those be our only requirements.”
The team considered it. “That makes sense,” Leona agreed. “Just because he doesn’t try to get back to us in the past, doesn’t mean he won’t try to show up later.”
Angela typed in what they were looking for. “The farthest inhabited galaxy, which means it has at least one Nexus, is Krovow. Also known as the Sculptor Galaxy, or Silver Coin, or NGC-253, in the main sequence, this spiral galaxy is eleven-point-five-six light years from the Milky Way. The best planet I’m seeing here is called Flindekeldan.”
They looked over her shoulder at the specifications. It seemed a pretty good spot to escape to, if not live there semi-permanently. “We’ll send a message to Ramses,” Mateo said, “and ask him to prevent Anatol from being allowed to use the Nexa. There’s no way he’s traveling eleven light years on his own, unless he kills The Trotter at some point.”
They didn’t waste much time. They jumped the AOC back to the Nexus, gave the technician their coordinates, and asked that they be erased from the computer’s memory after they were gone. The technician agreed, though whether that was good enough was anyone’s guess. The only way to truly know information has been erased is by physically destroying the storage hardware, preferably by dismantling it at the atomic level.
They arrived on the other side just fine, but still, they were nervous. They crept out of the ship carefully, almost expecting Anatol Klugman to be waiting for them, having gone back in time, and arrived in a relativistic ship. It would have taken him over sixteen-thousand years at maximum sublight, but it wasn’t impossible. He wasn’t there, though, and everything seemed all right. The world was a beautiful place, at least it was where they landed, right next to a creek. They weren’t next to the Nexus building. It wasn’t necessary, because the egress window could drop them off wherever; it was just impossible to jump this far without starting at a Nexus. Still, it was kind of strange. The technician would have had to deliberately input slightly altered coordinates, rather than going with the default.
A woman stood before them, waiting patiently for them to climb down. “Greetings. Welcome to Flindekeldan. I am Crucia Heavy, Zora Loncar.”
“That is a Croatian name,” Mateo whispered to Leona.
“Hello, Crucia Heavy, my name is Leona Matic. This is my husband, Mateo Matic, and friends, Jeremy Bearimy, Angela Walton, and Olimpia Sangster. We hope we’re not intruding. We were looking for a new place to live, and this sounded like a great spot.”
Zora smiled. “We know why you are here. Everyone comes here to get away. It’s about as far as you can get without having to settle a new world on your own. That’s why we have no Nexus.”
“There’s no Nexus?” Olimpia questioned. “We can’t go back.”
Zora sighed, satisfied. “No need to. This is your home now. Come. I will show you around.”

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Sic Transit...Res Historia (Part VI)

They pierced the membrane, and landed in the new universe. It already looked a lot different than the first one, but that could have just been more about where they happened to come through. There was no city before them, but trees and other wildlife. They were in the middle of a great field, and there was no sign of intelligent life. “The reason I didn’t pick this universe first,” Azura began, “was because of payment. The people of Whrweh will be a lot more welcoming, but they will expect something in return for their help. It’s interesting how their society developed. They never came up with a form of currency that was accepted by all. They understand the concept, but just chose not to do it. They relied heavily on a robust bartering system all the way into their pre-singularity era. Now that they live in post-scarcity, they have everything they need, but in order to deal with alien cultures—which do exist here, for reasons I won’t get into—they continue to exchange favors. If we want power systems, we’ll have to genetically engineer a dog with two heads, or teach some random group of people how to sing.
“These favors don’t mean anything to them, they just want us to have to work for it, because they don’t think it’s fair to give away something for free. The problem is that they accept no substitutes. The council will decide what they expect of us, and that could take up to a month. We can either take it or leave it, but we can’t offer them something else. Seriously don’t even try, that is incredibly rude in their eyes, as they consider it a form of negotiating. We just have to hope it’s something that we can give. I don’t know how to genetically engineer dogs, or teach people to sing, so cross your fingers.”
“How did they advance to a post-scarcity society without ever having money?” Treasure asked, using her tiara. This was just how she was gonna talk now. Her true voice would be reserved exclusively for travel.
“Very slowly,” Azura explained, “but steadily. They remained in small and somewhat isolated pockets. Each pocket developed on its own, for if they attempted to reach out to others too much, it would make things too complicated, and they probably would have needed to devise a banking system. One thing this did was pretty much prevent all war. I mean, there has been almost no violence in their history, because people lived where they could find the resources, and operated independently. They still shared information with each other, but they didn’t collaborate directly. Their impact on their environment has been incredibly low, impressing even the Ochivari, and insulating them from attacks. They don’t live on the surface anymore. They live on the orbital ring.”
Just then, a shuttle dropped down from the sky, and landed on the grass in front of them. Azura led the crew out. “Greetings, friends,” she said. “We come on a peaceful mission, seeking power systems to repair our vessel.”
The man stepped closer to them, and sized up The Transit. “Peaceful,” he echoed. “We know what you are, this is not a peaceful mission.” It was starting to look like what happened in the last universe would happen here, or something similar.
“We discovered this ship, and are only trying to use it to return home to Universum Originalis. While this is destined for war, we are not its warriors.” Azura wasn’t technically lying, as she wasn’t part of the war yet, but she had every intention of joining, so it wasn’t the whole truth either.
“We do not interfere with the Darning Wars,” the man said, “but do not mistake that for endorsement. We do not interfere...on either side.”
“Hmm,” Azura said, only loud enough for the crew to hear. “Our database is incomplete. Obviously they’re peaceful, but I believed they would help us.”
Treasure decided to speak up, “please take our request to the council. Let them decide our fate.”
Azura looked over at her approvingly. This was the right thing to say.
“I am obligated to relay your message,” he agreed. “Payment is never guaranteed, but...I do not look favorably upon your chances. Come. You will stay with us while you await your answer.”
“Stay with the Transit,” Azura ordered Siphon and Spectra, and was met with no protest. The rest of them stepped into the shuttle, and went up to see what this orbital ring thing was all about. Treasure had never heard of it before.
It was exactly what it sounded like, a massive ring suspended in space that went all around the planet. People did not go down to the surface very often, instead deciding to leave it to the plants and animals. They mostly lived in large structures that were hanging from the bottom, down towards the atmosphere, like gargantuan stalactites. How interesting. The Transit crew stayed there for about a week, learning about their culture and history in the museum, and enjoying some of their entertainment. People didn’t seem to know anything about other universes, it was really just the representative who came down to investigate. The locals just figured they were from some other planet, if they even asked where they were from at all. They blended right in quite easily, because they were just nine out of tens of billions of people. Once the council was ready with their decision, they summoned the crew to council chambers.
“Thank you for coming,” Council Leader Ignatius said. She sat up there with her own crew, high above the floor, forcing all who seek help from them to literally look up to them. “We understand that you would like some advanced power system to integrate with train.”
“That’s right,” Azura answered. “We would be eternally grateful, and eagerly await your charges.”
Ignatius nodded. “In exchange for our technology, we ask that the first thing you do with it is to travel back to our past, and extract an important figure before his death.”
“What’s that now?” Azura questioned. It was okay to ask for clarification, just not to argue or propose conditions.
“Mizakh Bordalajner is one of the most influential leaders of our history. It was he who first predicted that we would one day live as we are living today. He came up with the idea of the orbital ring, and he fiercely argued in favor of ecological mindfulness, so our species would survive long enough to realize his dreams. He, of course, died long before singular immortality, and we would like to reward him for his efforts by bringing him up to our present, and saving him. Have no fear, time travel is impossible in this universe without the aid of a machine such as yours. We do not wish for you to alter the past. Simply remove him from his deathbed, and bring him back here, so our advanced science can keep him alive forever.”
Azura looked at the four people to her left, and the four people to her right, just to gauge their reception of the request. No one seemed to have any objections. It was fair, within their power, and unlikely to cause problems for this world, or come with unforeseen consequences. Even if it did have consequences, that wasn’t really the crew’s problem. “We accept. Provide us with the pertinent information, and we’ll go retrieve your man.”
“That will not be necessary,” Ignatius said. “One of our top historians will be accompanying you, to make sure the mission moves forward smoothly.”
Azura nodded deeply, and cordially.
The anti-negotiation stance was a two-way street. The council failed to request that their own people would be the ones to install the new power systems on the Transit. Once the council meeting closed, they could no longer amend the request any more than the Transit crew could have. It would have been unfair, and unjust. They were a consistent and thoughtful people. So the crew was able to insist that they be the ones to interface human technology with Maramon technology, and get the whole thing up and running. It took longer, but they didn’t want anyone else getting their hands on bulk travel knowledge. Causality was grateful for the limited number of parties capable of risking paradoxes for all of reality.
The historian was a woman in her late twenties named Rosalinda. Treasure’s first impression was that she was nice and talkative. She loved to tell anecdotes from history, and she probably taught them more than they could ever learn from the museums. She also knew everything there was to know about this Mizakh Bordalajner. He was exactly where he was meant to be, exactly when he was meant to be there. They even knew when he would be alone, so that no one would try to stop them from abducting their loved one. The mission was so boring that only Siphon and Spectra were sent into the field. They returned with no problems, Bordalajner was hooked up to life support, and the Transit went back to the future. The problem was that this was not the correct future. Whrweh was still there, and perfectly intact, but the Whrwehs were gone. They had died out centuries ago, and the only explanation was the absence of this one historical figure. Even though he died anyway, he must have had a significant impact on the outcome of events.
“All right,” Azura said, quickly getting over the shock. “This isn’t a problem. All we have to do is go put him back. The Transit can mask its signature from itself, our past selves won’t even know we were there. We’ll put him back in bed right after the Young!Siphon and Young!Spectra first took him. Everything will go back to normal. We’ll figure out an alternative payment later. Rosalinda here can vouch for us, and explain why it didn’t work.”
“I don’t know why it didn’t work,” Rosalinda revealed. “He died. In fact, and I didn’t want to say this before, but he went missing. This was all destined to happen. At least I thought it was. I thought we were just closing a timeloop.”
“We are,” Treasure said. “We’re closing it now. Quino and I will put him back in bed. It’s best not to run into your alternate selves.”
“I’ll go too,” Rosalinda insisted. “It’s my world.”
“Very well,” Azura decided. “Let’s go.”
They returned to the past, overlapping with their own timeline, and preparing to make the exchange. If everything went according to plan, not five minutes would pass from the time Siphon and Spectra first took him, and the time Treasure, Quino, and Rosalinda put him back. No one would ever know they were there, not even their Past!Selves. It did not go according to plan. They avoided being seen by the other two crew members just fine, and got him back to bed, no problem. It was getting out that messed things up. Mizakh’s husband came back in time to see them trying to sneak out of their house. He shouted for help, causing a number of neighbors to flood the streets. They were trapped. He was an important man even while still alive, so they were all very protective of him. They formed a circle, so that there was nowhere for the three of them to go. There was nowhere for them to go...except through another dimension. Seeing no other choice, Treasure took a deep breath, and then she screamed.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Microstory 1655: Linsetol Revealed

Bulk traveler Joseph Jacobson came to me recently with a story about his adventures in Linsetolverse. He corrected some assumptions I made about the universe. It’s hard for me to get a good look at it from so far away, so it was nice to hear some details about the way they lived. He arrived, as he always does, as a human, shocking the Linsetol, who had never seen anything like him before. They knew it was best to keep this alien a secret, because they didn’t want to cause any confusion or panic. Joseph has the ability to navigate the bulkverse. That’s kind of his whole deal, so he could have made a deliberate effort to avoid showing up where his presence could negatively impact the development of the locals, but he usually just spins a metaphorical wheel, and takes his chances. He’s immortal, so he doesn’t concern himself with preparation, or vigilance. Anyway, things seemed to work out fine, and Joseph spent a few years there, learning about their culture. The language was the hardest part. As they were evolved from dinosaurs, the Linsetol have different vocal physiology, and produce sounds that are impossible for a human to replicate. With the aid of some engineers, Joseph actually managed to build a device that would translate his thoughts into a digital voice. It was not a linguistic translator, though. Joseph still had to understand the language in order for the device to not simply come out as English. He probably could have done it differently, but just didn’t feel the need. It worked both ways, allowing a Linsetol to speak in English, should the need ever arise, but this wasn’t something that Joseph needed of them. Once he was able to communicate with them effectively, he started learning their customs, because that was his favorite part about traveling. He was usually just going to a different version of Earth, so it wasn’t like the topography was particularly exciting. Understanding other people was the entire point.

As it turns out, the Linsetol are quite like humans. I was wrong about them being foreign. I think the language barrier was clouding my vision. They’re just as diverse, just as curious, and just as capable of doing terrible things. They measure time in the same way, though it’s different on prehistoric Earth, because the celestial bodies are moving differently. Shorter days, longer years. They developed fairly advanced technology, which I can see from my perspective, but they never got very far into space. Upon realizing how bad for their environment nonrenewable energy sources were, they outlawed them. They outlawed them across the globe, and pursued renewables like solar and wind power. Unfortunately, such things are not conducive to sending rockets up into space, so space exploration was pretty much off the table without fusion or antimatter rockets, which weren’t destined to be developed for many decades. They didn’t make it that far, because of their isolationistic habits. That’s one thing that I was right about. They were capable of demanding universal laws for the protection of their world, but they didn’t possess a spirit of cooperation, which stifled ingenuity, and slowed progress. They couldn’t last forever this way. They didn’t die out because they destroyed their planet, or succumbed to some pandemic. It was a population growth problem. Their drive to propagate the species was much lower than it is for humans. It was never zero, but it wasn’t enough, and over time, they just couldn’t maintain the species. Each generation was less inclined to bear children on the individual level, and that eventually caught up to them.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Microstory 1654: Wide Eyes

After Wyatt Bradley retired as White Savior, the world went back to the way it was. Cops were murdering black people, and giving free passes to civilians who wanted to get in on the action. If someone was caught committing a crime on camera, there was a decent chance that they would pay for it, but unlike the way things were handled on other worlds, there was no guarantee. It wasn’t unusual for the judge to just decide that the photographic evidence was irrelevant, and he didn’t care one way, or the other. This was pissing a lot of people off. While Wyatt Bradley’s actions were largely considered counterproductive, both his appearance, and his disappearance, gave a lot of people some much needed perspective. Things actually did get moderately safer for black people while he was around, and the fact that racist crime went back up after he left proved that it was real. To put it another way, as a problem, it was a lot harder to ignore than it once was. He shined a light on the problem, and the afterglow would last forever. No one suited up and became a vigilante, but they did start fighting for change. They organized peace rallies, and protested police violence, and a major surveillance trend began. They called it the Wide Eye Movement, after the product developer that started it all. Cops were not obligated to wear body cams, though they did exist, and they sparked the idea for regular people to wear them. They sold them at an extremely low price, and it was not uncommon to wear multiple ones, to get different angles. Whereas before, everyone had a cellphone they could pull out, and document a horrendous crime, now they didn’t even have to do that. Accountability became this world’s resting state.

Recordings were sent to the Wide Eye servers, and kept for a period of time before being overwritten. Day-length storage space was free to all, and extra storage subscriptions came at an affordable price, though they weren’t usually necessary. Anything that needed to be kept could be downloaded to some other device. If someone believed that something unjust had happened to them, they could post their experience for all to see on the Wide Eye app. They could also technically save a clip of something fun or interesting that happened to them, but they would have to download it to their own device, and upload it somewhere else, if they so wanted. That was not what the app was for, and other users helped distinguish the important, from the less important, or the not important at all. The purpose of this was to make sure no one hurt anybody without being seen. Every customer was required to have at least one trusted buddy, who would receive their footage if they were to be killed, be it by murder, or anything else. The cameras were motion sensitive, so if a user stopped moving for a week—or the cameras were turned off without being suspended virtually using proper procedures—their buddy would end up with proof of whatever had happened to them. If the police weren’t going to police themselves, then the people were going to have to do it for them, and if the courts did not accept such evidence as legitimate, then the offending party was at risk of being crucified by the court of public opinion. The problem wasn’t fixed overnight, but it made it a hell of a lot harder for racism to go unnoticed. Even snide remarks were uploaded to the Wide Eye site. They weren’t labeled as urgent, but people still saw them, and this forced many to be more careful with their words and actions. Of course, this was not without its consequences. Even embarrassing moments could be uploaded to other places, and Wide Eye Services had a hard time regulating this. They tried to exclude such behavior in their Terms of Service, but it was nearly impossible to enforce. As a result, people were afraid to be themselves around others, for fear of being ridiculed for walking around with a stain on their shirt, or tripping on the steps. Fortunately, the age of Wide Eye was limited. Offenders were weeded out of the system, and replaced by decent human beings, with good training in things like sensitivity, and open-mindedness. Policies were changed, and the right people were voted into the right public offices. Twenty years later, Wide Eye Services deliberately shutdown, and ended support for their products. Bad things still happened after that, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it was in the olden days.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Microstory 1653: Flipsides

Not all of the dichotomies from Flipverse were bad, or hostile, or violent. There was one in particular that was pretty innocuous. It wasn’t without its controversies, but it was created with the best of intentions, and designed just to be fun and entertaining. They called it Flipsides, and it was a reality show that featured a tournament style competition, which pitted two different types of people against each other. Every season was about two somewhat opposing lifestyles, if only superficially. The first, for instance, was city-dwellers against rural-dwellers. The second season was athletes versus scholars. You might imagine the criticism that the producers endured over the years—accusations of playing into stereotypes—but for the most part, it did okay. It lasted for eleven seasons, and mostly only ended because of other social changes that were going on in the world at the time, which made pursuing any entertainment endeavor difficult. The contests were varied. They took place in different locales, all over the world, and no specific contest was ever repeated. Some were in swamps, others in the mountains, and they even went into orbit around the planet. The audience would vote on various things, such as which contestants would compete in which location. Anything could happen, including the rules being changed mid-game, just to make things more interesting, but no one was ever given an unfair advantage, unless they earned it in some other way. Many tuned in, not just for the competition itself, but the drama that surrounded the contestants. How they lived together during the season, even after people were eliminated, was an important aspect of the social experiment; perhaps most important. There were group challenges, and bonus challenges, and these led to secret advantages, or better accommodations, which could result in social complications. People fell in love, and fell out of love, and had fights, and were occasionally kicked off for causing too many problems, or quit. The impact of the show went beyond the broadcast itself. Many contestants were elevated from it, and started getting noticed for the other things they did in their life. The final season spawned a documentary, where some of the most favored contestants were followed around in their daily lives, as they kept in contact with each other. While proper physics of Flipverse always had a little bit of scifi stuff going on with it, it was actually the leads of the docuseries that uncovered until then unknown secrets of the cosmos, and changed the course of history for the entire world.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Microstory 1652: Safe as Houses

I’ve decided to give you some details about how the Bicker Institute survival facilities are populated, and how they operate. Forty-nine people are rescued from each of three generations. They are protected from birth, all the way until they age out of the program at 42. If all goes according to plan, they are unaware that they are Inheritors, or that they are being watched, until it’s time to populate the Houses. As medical science progressed, the method used for selecting the next generation of inheritors became more sophisticated, but the basic idea remained the same. Thirty-one girls, and eleven boys per generation per House are meant to be able to repopulate the planet, should all other life be extinguished, for whatever reason. They would be joined by seven people they deem wildcards. These wildcards are not closely monitored by Sentinels, and their genetic makeup is kept a mystery. They are chosen to better simulate real life, where people do not choose mates based upon genetic health or diversity. The wildcards also rotate in and out of the program more often, as things change about their situations. Inheritor housing assignments are part of a complex process, later aided by an artificial intelligence. One might be placed in a House on the other side of the world, should their genes be compatible with a group there, and there is also a social component that they try to account for. Wildcards, on the other hand, are selected based on their proximity to any given House, and should they move, they might be taken out of contention without ever knowing it. Older generation wildcards are chosen specifically for their useful professions, which the Institute believes could help the Houses prosper. Two soldiers, two law enforcement officers, two doctors, two nurses, one paramedic, one EMT, a midwife, a doula, a cook, and a leader.

The breeders are not alone in the facilities. Seven people who belonged to the Institute the entire time will be there to help guide the inheritors, and maintain order. These include a leader, a primary medical professional, an engineer, an electrician, a mechanic, a gardener, and a logistician. As for the Houses themselves, there is a standard design foundation, but each one is unique, and they are not all bunkers. There are some commonalities that they need for the people living in them to be safe, and feel comfortable. Of course they all have sleeping quarters, with extras for a growing population. They will also have a gym, kitchen and cafeteria, bathrooms, microponics for food production, and storage for non perishable food items, as well as other necessities, such as water treatment, sewage, ventilation and climate control, and extra supplies. As far as the actual bunkers  go, they’re a lot more comfortable than one might expect. They could have made things simple, just by burying one large building underground, and letting people sleep on cots. But they spent the extra money, and went the extra mile. Everyone gets their own room, until they pair up, and start moving around. The furniture is nice and new, and everything is well-maintained. Like any good survival strategy, this system includes redundancies, and even modularization. The different sections of a bunker won’t physically move away from each other, but they can be closed off, and last independently, for a period of time. The three biggest concerns are radiation, incursion, and flood. Though no system is perfect, this one is pretty thorough, and well planned. There is even a smaller bunker section in the deepest part of the facility that’s filled with those cots, should the rest of the structure become compromised. Not all of the Houses made it through the end of the world, but enough of them do to keep the human race alive, and when it all comes down to, that’s all anyone in the Bicker Institute was hoping for.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Microstory 1651: Wiping the Slate Clean

When the bladapods first showed up in the brane that would come to be known as bladapodoverse, they didn’t do anything but breed. Once they were discovered, they seemed to have felt so trapped that they just kept having offspring at an alarming rate. It was only when they were distributed across the world to make them feel safe that they started releasing their bladapod gases. Since then, studying the bladapods in captivity was both dangerous, and illegal. They were sentient creatures, who deserved to be left alone. Yes, the gases they produced into the bladosphere were causing problematic base modifications, but there was no telling how bad things would get if anyone attempted to interfere with their natural habits. Of course, this being a world with eight billion people on it, curious criminals were bound to figure some things out. After a lot of work, and some unfortunate side effects, a team of rogue researchers managed to kill and dissect a bladapod. Eventually, they were able to synthesize bladapod blood, so they could replicate the effects of bladapod gas without actually needing the gas. They started selling wipes that a customer could wipe on their body, which would transform them in unpredictable ways. After further study, they hoped to create a line of wipes that were designed to modify people and things in predictable ways, so they could make some real money, but they never got to that point. The global authority found them, and shut down their operation. They stuffed all the scientists, and other workers, into blacksite holding facilities, where their secrets could never get out. They destroyed all the evidence, so that no one could do this again. They weren’t able to find a list of customers, so the wipes that were already out there could not be brought in, at least not right away.

These customers quickly discovered that any base modification they experienced from a wipe, as opposed to the gases, was only temporary. So good or bad, it would only last a few weeks before everything reverted back to the way it was. This only gave people more incentive to try them out, because it shouldn’t do any permanent damage to their lives. The problem was that when someone underwent a base modification, but then reverted back, it would be immediately obvious that they were a black market customer. It wasn’t technically against the law to modify yourself on purpose, but there were consequences. The government wasn’t obligated to help if you chose it for yourself, because you would be taking resources from innocent people, who had no other choice. Over the course of the next few months, nearly all of the customers were caught by the authorities. Again, what they did being not illegal, they couldn’t be arrested, but their stashes were seized, and destroyed. One man avoided capture for a pretty decent amount of time, but then he came across a wipe that changed him in a way that no bladapod gases had ever changed anyone before. He could undo other people’s base modifications, and put things back as they were. As a somewhat decent human being, he knew he couldn’t just sit on this. He walked right into the nearest Base Modification Center, and turned himself in for testing. They studied his new physiology every day for weeks, trying to figure out how to replicate his ability. While he wasn’t undergoing tests, he would help people who wanted to be transformed back to their natural state, in case the scientists never figured it out. They never did. His ability wore off, just as it always did, and though they continued to test him, he never got that ability back, and was not able to help any more people. The clients who got to him in time were grateful, but in the grand scheme of things, it probably would have been better if it had never happened at all, because now they knew it was possible, but likely forever inaccessible.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, November 9, 2247

The next mission took them to Varkas Reflex, where an egress window opened up, not to bring someone else in, but to send them to the main sequence. They stood by patiently until the timer transitioned them over. They found themselves standing in the control room for a launch pad, where a pretty small ship was waiting. Hokusai was at the controls, operating the buttons, while Loa stood next to her as an assistant. They looked over. “ you want us to scrub the launch, errr...?”
“No,” Leona said casually. “That version of Leona needs to go where she’s going, as do Sanaa and Eight Point Seven.”
“Okay,” Hokusai said. She leaned into the microphone. “Launch in eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, good, luck.”
Unlike the rockets that silly ancient humans used to get off the surface of the planet, the Radiant Lighting shot straight into the sky without sound, and without damaging the surrounding area. The hull, and pad, both glowed, but that was about it. It disappeared from sight quickly, and went on its way towards Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida. It would arrive in less than a year. There, Past!Leona would have a few adventures with Trinity Turner, Ellie Underhill, and a few other people, until Mateo showed up seven years later, and further complicated matters.
Hokusai made sure everything was still going smoothly, and then finally exhaled. “All right. Report.”
Leona took the explanation. “We’re from as far into the future as 2278, but we went back to 2019, and have been moving forward on a new pattern ever since. These are our new team members: Jeremy Bearimy, Angela Walton, and Olimpia Sangster.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Hokusai Gimura, and this is Loa Nielsen. We just watched Leona, Sanaa, and Eight Point Seven leave for a planet called Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida.”
“I remember her telling us about this,” Angela said. “Sounds like a beautiful place.”
Hokusai agreed. “We may go ourselves one day. Don’t say anything if you know something about our future that contradicts this.”
Leona pantomimed zipping her lips shut, not that it mattered. Nothing about what they knew of Hokusai and Loa’s future prevented them from one day traveling to Tau Ceti. They, in fact, did not know much about what would become of them. They lost touch.
“Do you need help with anything?” Jeremy asked. “Or were we just sent here to watch the launch?”
“Who sent you here?” Hokusai asked.
“Nerakali,” Leona answered. “She sends us on missions. People usually come to us, but sometimes we go to them. And sometimes we’re not expected to do much. This could be more like a vacation, just so we can relax, and catch up with old friends.”
“I see.” Hokusai nodded.
“Who’s hungry?” Loa asked. “We were just about to eat.”
“We don’t want to impose,” Leona said.
“Nonsense,” Loa assured them. “It’s not like food is a scarce commodity. Can you imagine a world like that?”
They gathered in their home, and started eating a lovely lunch together. It was cooked by a friend of theirs, who liked to do it the old-fashioned way, instead of using a food synthesizer. It was his passion. Loa asked them about this new mission they were on, so they took turns explaining how it came about, and how things were going now.
“Yeah,” Hokusai agreed, “I can’t imagine it’s a sustainable pattern. A lot of people needed help with a lot of things in the past, but not so much anymore. But you seem to suggest that you have a choice of patterns now. How’s that, just by switching off these special cuffs of yours?”
They hadn’t said anything about dying, and going to the afterlife simulation, which made their patterns a little more complicated, and a lot less tied to the whims of the powers that be. The cuffs alone weren’t completely necessary, but they were a good excuse. It was just better for them to not reveal any secrets about how life and death worked in the universe. “Yes, the cuffs. We could suppress Jeremy’s pattern, and return every year, like we used to. Or we could suppress mine and Mateo’s pattern, and come back every Tuesday and July. Or we could suppress both, and just be present all the time, or even go wherever in the timeline we want, assuming we find a traveler to help. I don’t know why we haven’t done that. Surely Nerakali wouldn’t try to stop us.”
“I know why we can’t do that,” Mateo’s anger was bubbling, just a little bit. The pot would have needed to sit on the burner longer for the water to be considered boiling. “The Superintendent. He’s responsible for everything.”
Like all these people, Mateo had free will. He wasn’t in complete control of his own life, but he wasn’t helpless either. That was just how the world worked. You’re always bound by responsibilities, and urges, and biological imperatives. You live under social expectations, and community rules. You can’t just do anything you want to do, and you are not omnipotent. Perhaps salmon were a little bit more beholden to a higher power than others, but that power is generally not abused. Except in cases like this. I won’t allow the argument to be rehashed, and I’m getting tired of writing myself into the story, so while Mateo has traditionally been free to speak his mind on the matter, that changes here.
Everyone’s memories of the last few moments were erased, and the rest of the conversation was able to continue. They didn’t talk about their present, or even current, lives. Nearly everyone here had a life before time travel, so they shared stories about those times, when they were ignorant, and things were normal. Jeremy and Olimpia didn’t have many stories like that, but they did their best. While their respective lives revolved around something they couldn’t control, there were days when they could just live in the moment, and be happy. Once the party was over, Hokusai and Loa went off to do their own thing. That was when Nerakali showed up, sporting a somber expression. She sat down at the table with the transition team, and started picking at the remaining food.
“Are you okay?” Mateo asked, concerned.
She took her time responding. “You picked up on something that I’ve known for quite awhile.”
“What is that?” Leona prompted.
“There is an expiration date on this whole mission series, just like Étude, and the Savior of Earth program. It’s also why Beaver Haven Correctional only goes for so long, and why time travel in general dies down eventually. The future belongs to the vonearthans, and the starseeders. It’s not that you can’t travel that far into the future. Plenty of us do, but there’s a lot less activity than there is in previous centuries. The troublemakers don’t find it fun anymore when the rest of the population has their own superpowers, and the helpers like us don’t have anyone to save anymore.”
“Where are you going with this?” No, now Mateo was concerned.
“I’m saying that it’s over. I put off this conversation, but those dumb farmers were the last mission, realistically speaking. I could keep transitioning people for you, but I wouldn’t have much reason to, and you wouldn’t be serving much of a purpose. My other teams are experiencing similar problems, but it was easier to tell them, because I didn’t have personal relationships with them.”
“It’s over,” Jeremy echoed, nodding his head with his hand cupped over his mouth.
“It feels like we weren’t doing it for very long, but I know you had a lot of missions under Jupiter’s supervision,” Nerakali continued. “I’m sorry I didn’t have some special series finale as a send off, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Danger sort of always just fades away, slowly to be replaced by safety, compartmentalization, redundancy, and modularization.” She was referring to a characteristic of space travel that was designed to lower the chances of something going wrong, but the idea had wider implications.
“What do we do now?” Angela asked. “I’m centuries old, but I feel like all that time, I was just preparing for this part of my life. Can we go back? Can we start a pattern?”
“Everything’s been taken care of,” Nerakali said with a single shake of her head. “I can’t tell you what you should do from now on. I can only tell you what I’m going to do. I’ve been the ultimate procrastinator, and it’s time to face the music.”
“Nerakali?” Leona asked, assuming they would all know what question she didn’t want to ask.
No one said anything.
“Nerakali,” Leona repeated, “how many steps do you have left?”
Nerakali smiled. “One more. If I try to travel away the next time, the universe will just straight up not let me. I’ll be within the hundemarke’s spatio-temporal range. Trapped. Trapped in the inevitable.”
“Well, that’s okay, because—”
“Don’t tell me, Leona, what you know of my future. I know it has something to do with Ellie Underhill. It’ll make it easier if I go in blind.”
“Why did you bring this up?” Leona went on. “You can put off that last step all you want. We’ll take you to a safe planet, and protect you from harm. You can live centuries just fine, I’m sure.”
“It’s like I said,” Nerakali contradicted, “it’s over.”
“Don’t do this.” Leona wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
I’m not going to be doing anything,” Nerakali said. “I need Mateo to do it for me.”
“Me? Are you asking me to kill you?”
“You did it for Boyce, and my brother.”
“Yeah, and I don’t wanna do that again.”
Nerakali nodded, acknowledging his feelings. “I don’t need you to push me so much as I need you to erase my memories just before I fall. Someone else can push, if they want, or I can try to rig up some kind of Rube-Goldberg Jigsaw death machine.”
“Okay, I’m not saying I approve of your suicide,” Mateo began, “but why would you need someone to erase your memories?”
“Because I love you, Mateo,” Nerakali explained. “I have to go back to 2107, and be your worst enemy. I have to be trying to take revenge for my brother’s death. I can try to pretend, but it would really help me out if you just...make me hate you again.”
“I don’t understand why you have to do this,” Leona said. “We already know that our actions have altered events in the main sequence.  Zeferino died twice, even before our transitions began, which I don’t really understand, but it happened. When he stabbed himself, his body didn’t disappear, and return to the Colosseum.”
“That’s complicated,” Nerakali said. “I don’t actually understand it myself, but I was told to ignore that apparent paradox. That doesn’t mean we make another one. This is what I want. Please.”
Mateo did indeed know about her future. Death was a lot less problematic than everyone throughout history thought it was...or at least the atheists. The truth was that the afterlife existed. People didn’t go up to sit on clouds and play the harp with angels, but their consciousness persisted, and Nerakali was no exception to that. He didn’t want to erase her memories, and he didn’t want to kill her, but he knew she would survive it. She already had.
Fortunately, Mateo knew quite a bit about what he could do given Nerakali’s brain blending abilities. He didn’t have to erase her memories, and in fact couldn’t if he wanted her to be a good person when she went up to Pryce’s afterlife simulation. All he needed to do was suppress them, and let their return be triggered by something. This could be a code word, or a gesture, or an image...or a traumatic event. Back in 2107, The Warrior didn’t kill Nerakali instantly. He stabbed her through the chest, and only decapitated her once he managed to get his hands on the hundemarke, which was what prevented them from changing this event. Mateo could work with that. Once she experienced that first wound, there was nothing she could do, and she no longer needed to hate them. Her memories could come back in those final seconds, so she would be able to take them with her.
“Okay,” Mateo said. “I’ll do it.”
“Mateo,” Leona said. “We have to talk about this.”
“It already happened, Leona,” Mateo argued. “She’s ready. We have to respect that.”
“Thank you, Mateo,” Nerakali said warmly.
“Just me,” he demanded. “No one else needs to see this.”
Nerakali transitioned them back to The Parallel one last time, but then the group stayed behind while Mateo and Nerakali took a dimensional gravity platform towards the nearest remote cliff. The surface gravity on this planet was far too high for them to stand on. Certain buildings were designed with lower gravity, and this platform was just a mobile version of that. They drove out there in silence, only speaking once they arrived.
“You know what you’re doing?” Nerakali asked.
“Exactly,” Mateo said. “Take all the time you need, though.”
“As you said, I’m ready.” She started tapping on her Cassidy cuff. Then she took it off. “Let’s switch. You still need my brain blending powers to do this, but before you push me off the ledge, you’ll need to steal the cuff back, so I don’t take it with me. Press this button here on the primary, and it will release yours from my wrist.”
“I understand.”
“I’m really grateful for this,” she said sincerely. “I just wish I would die feeling that way. I wish I could die remembering myself, and who I became, and how I grew.”
He smiled. “You will. I told you...I know what I’m doing.” Without another word, he reached up to her temples, and stuffed the last however long amount of time into the darkest parts of Nerakali’s mind.
When it was over, she had changed. She looked at him with a seething hatred. “You.”
“I love you too, Nerakali Preston.” He tapped a button on the primary cuff, which unhooked the one he usually used from her wrist, and summoned it to him magnetically. Then he pushed her off the edge, and watched her disappear.