Saturday, June 19, 2021

Sic Transit...Pueritia (Part V)

The Transit pierced the membrane, and crossed through to the other side without an issue, but they couldn’t go straight to their destination. Hyperdimensional physics is too complicated to fathom for most people, but thinking in terms of a bunch of universes floating in a vat is good enough for analogy’s sake. Looking at it this way, it’s easy to see that some branes are close to each other, and others are not. Meliora, Limerick, and Treasure can only travel to nearby branes. If they tried to go further, they would probably die in the equilibrium of the outer bulkverse. It is not a hospitable environment, and since there would be nothing protecting them, they wouldn’t last long enough to reach another membrane. Zoey Attar is different in that she wears a special suit that keeps her alive, but the further she wants to travel, the longer it will take. She’s still a little limited, because she can’t get up and move around while she waits. Fortunately, time in the outer bulkverse does not pass the same way it does inside of any given universe. Again, hyperdimensional physics. It does still pass, but people don’t age, and their bodies metabolize chemicals much slower. All that being said, according to clocks inside the ship, about five days passed before they were at the pit stop.
“This universe doesn’t have a name,” Azura started to explain just before they pierced the second membrane. “All I know is that its human inhabitants successfully made it through their Great Filter. Barring Ochivari invasion, they would be virtually impossible to destroy as they have now spread out across their galaxy. Their proper physics are reminiscent of what you might find in the Composite Universe, or your home, Universum Originalis.”
“What’s proper physics?” Gamma asked. “Isn’t all physics proper? Or am I translating that word wrong?”
“Proper physics refers to the set of physical laws specific to a given universe. Some laws are multiversal, like the fact that light moves faster than sound, or temperature usually flows spontaneously from hot to cold. Others can change. Not everyone has plex dimensions that they can use for interstellar travel. Treasure’s mother’s brane doesn’t. Her father’s doesn’t even have any form of FTL. This universe does.” She turned to watch the show. They broke through the barrier, and started flying through the air of whatever planet they were now on. Azura switched on the viewscreens, so they could see the trees before them, and a city off in the middle distance. They were pretty low to the ground. “And they use it well.”
Apparently through an automated subroutine, the Transit’s horn blared for presumably the entire frickin’ solar system to hear. Treasure wasn’t sure why the Maramon would want to announce their arrival, but it confirmed that its shape was no coincidence. They really did design it to be a space train. As they were slowing down to come to a stop, the viewports finally became transparent, and showed them the outside. They saw people stopped on a highway, watching this alien vessel fly by. As they slowed down more, they could make out faces of people who were surprised, but not frightened. They didn’t know this was coming, but they weren’t too worried about it.
Just as planned, they stopped at the entrance to an architectural marvel. It wasn’t designed with any practicality in mind, but to mostly be a giant art piece that people could walk in. If Treasure had to use one word to describe it, she would probably go with palace. As they were exiting the ship, guardsmen filed out, and took position up and down the steps. A woman in fancy attire stepped outside, and walked forward with a strong air of authority.
Azura approached her as nonaggressively as possible. She spoke into Olkan’s tiara, which could evidently amplify sound as well as translate thoughts. “Oh, Wise Leader, we come to you, tails between legs, hearts on sleeves, and as honest as the sun. We were marooned on a foreign world, with only enough energy to make one final jump. We chose to come to you, hoping that you should see fit to aid us in our attempt to return home. We require multiple advanced energy source replacements, and will do anything you ask as payment.”
The leader walked up to a microphone as the lectern rose up from a trap door. She cleared her throat. “We are cognizant of The Transit, and its purpose. And we understand the nonlinear nature of adjusted time. Is this the origin of The Transit Army?”
“We do not know,” Azura replied. “Our current plan is to return home. As for what happens to this vessel after that, we could be part of it, or we might not. We too know what becomes of it, but we are unaware of our level of involvement. Myself and this one here are the most likely to stay on board, we admit.” She indicated Treasure.
The leader chuckled once. “I would like to speak with Miss Hawthorne alone. The rest of you will be escorted to visitor housing.”
Azura didn’t see this coming, and didn’t like to be left out, but she kept her composure, and remained respectful. She nodded, and started to walk away.
“But first,” the leader stopped her, “please give her back her tiara. Her bare head makes me uncomfortable.” That was weird.
“Your future is in their past.” Azura placed the tiara in Treasure’s hand, but didn’t let go right away. “Be careful what you let them tell you. Causality breaks down when you travel the bulk.”
Treasure remembered the warning as she was following the leader into the palace, Quino right at her flank.
“No, no, no,” the leader argued. “Just her.”
“I am her bodyguard,” Quino defied. “She goes, I go.” That wasn’t the truth, but it was probably a good idea, seeing as that Treasure avoided combat training as she was growing up. They made it available to her, if she wanted it, but she never did. She wasn’t a pacifist, but she wasn’t a fighter either.
“Very well.”
“Thank you for the invitation, Wise Leader,” Treasure said once they were in the office, hoping it was the right and polite thing to say. “We appreciate it.”
The leader closed her eyes gently, and nodded slightly. “I am Principa Hoyvanen, and I knew you when I was a little girl. You never told me that I would become Principa one day. You acted like our meeting was an accident, and could have happened to anyone.”
“Perhaps it was,” Treasure acknowledged. “And perhaps, we shouldn’t be talking about this. It could be dangerous.”
Principa Hoyvanen dismissed this. “Have no fear, it is a stable time loop. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. I’m only here to bring the truth to the surface of your consciousness. That tiara you wear, the man who once owned it no longer needs it. He speaks all the languages he’ll ever need. It is yours now, and you will need it. As you’ve learned, every time you speak, you release a little bit of bulk energy. It disperses from there, spread so thin that it cannot be used. In order to conserve this energy, you must silence yourself. The less you speak, the less you lose, the more you have to power your trips. It is almost worthy of a song.”
“How does the tiara help me with that?” Treasure asked
“It can boost this energy. Well, that’s not the word you used. It was...”
“Sharpen,” Treasure guessed. That was the word she would have used, had she figured all this out herself.
“Yes, sharpen,” the Principa echoed. “It doesn’t let you make any more energy than is already there, but it helps you focus. When you scream, and release all that bulk energy, some of it goes into opening a portal, and delivering you to your destination. Some of it is wasted. The tiara cuts down on that waste. It’ll help you only release as much energy as you need to reach your destination. You’ll still need to learn to control it better, but you will. I know it as fact.”
“Well, thank you. However, that can get me home. You say nothing of The Transit.”
“The Transit is not my problem.” Hoyvanen gestured around her in general. “We have found harmony with our world. The Ochivari will not attack us. When you are ready, you will transport these people back to their respective homes, and then you will move on with your lives.”
“The Transit then stays here.” Treasure realized this was what the people of this world wanted all along.
“Do not concern yourself with the Transit,” she said, hoping her position as leader would prevent Treasure from questioning any further.
Treasure was sixteen Earth years old. She was not quite an adult, and still had a lot to learn about the worlds. She thought she was ready to go out, and make her own choices. She came to the realization while she was brooding in her train car alone that this was the wrong call. She should have trusted her parents, and surrendered to the process. None of that could be undone now, though, and she had no other choice but to act like the adult she once thought she was. This Wise Leader was the ruler of a foreign world, and while she deserved respect, she was not Treasure’s ruler, and she didn’t have to do what she said. “Azura lays claim to it. My mother was seeking it. And I control it. I can leave here right now, with all my crew, and go find another world that will provide us with the tools it needs to keep going. It doesn’t actually need these tools, however, as long as it has me. I won’t leave it behind until I’m sure it can run independently, and that it’s in the right hands. I do not believe yours are those hands.”
“That may be,” Hoyvanen began, “but this is my world, and I am holding all the cards.”
“I have a few cards myself,” Quino revealed. “It’s already been programmed to deliver you to your evacuation planet. The trip will be short.” He removed a sort of kazoo-lookin’ thing from his breast pocket, and slammed it on the ground. An orange light shot out from the larger opening, and overwhelmed Hoyvanen and the two guardsmen behind her. In a flash, they were gone, along with every object and piece of furniture that was on that side of the room. He lifted his wrist, and spoke into his communicator, “Badjob, fall back.” He then took Treasure by the hand, and escorted her out. He didn’t rush, or look panicked. The guards they passed had no idea that their ruler had just been spirited away to another planet, so they just assumed the conversation was over, and the two visitors were on their way somewhere else.
Once they were outside, they moved a little quicker, worried that someone would start to get wise before they retreated into the Transit. Azura and the Verteans were coming out of visitor housing, and on an intercept course. Two of them were carrying something that looked pretty heavy, but it was covered with a tarp. This was what aroused suspicion. The guards took offensive positions, and sought out orders from their superiors. They were too late, though. The crew made it into their ship, and closed the doors before anyone could fire a single shot.
“Problem,” Treasure said simply once they were all safe inside.
“You’ve been talking too much,” Azura guessed. “You don’t have enough bulk energy to get us out of here.
“Based on what little experience I have with this,” Treasure said, “I don’t think so. I could probably get all of us out of this universe, but not the whole Transit. Kind of the whole reason we have to bail is because the Principa was hoping to steal it, so I feel like it would be counterproductive to leave it behind.”
“We’re not doing that,” Azura agreed. “This thing is far too important to hand it over to just one brane. It’s destined to save all of humanity, and the only two people I can confidently say will work towards that goal are myself, and your mother.”
“Can they break through?” Hadron questioned. “Is the bulkhead strong enough to withstand their attacks?”
“Over a prolonged period of time?” Azura assumed. “Probably not. It’s strong, it’s powerful, but it’s not impregnable. They’ll find its weakest spot, and once they’re in, they’re in.”
“Will this help?” Gamma asked as she and Alluvia removed the tarp from the object they stole. Treasure had no idea what it was.
“Fusion reactor.” Azura gave it a quick inspection.
“Take it to Onboard Weapons. “Hopefully we’ll deter retaliation until Treasure is ready to take us out of here. Speaking of which.” She turned to face her.
Treasure mimed zipping her lips shut, and locking them up.
“Good girl. Breathe, though. I think breathing will help. Don’t power up weapons!” Azura called over to the ones taking the fusion reactor away. “I don’t want to make the first move, just get it connected!”
Breathing did help, as Azura predicted, but it wasn’t nearly enough. She had just been talking too much, and it was gonna get them killed. The guardsmen fired the first shot, and while they were frightened by the Transit’s onboard weapons system, they held their ground, and strategized. If Treasure was going to get them out of here before a hull breach, she needed to accelerate the absorption of bulk energy that her body could accept. Her instinct was telling her to cut herself. It was like the opposite of bloodletting, or trepanation. Instead of wanting something out, she wanted to let more of something in, and honestly, if felt amazing. If she wasn’t careful, she could probably become addicted to it.

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