Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 8, 2366

The ship’s AI chose not to orbit Pluoraia’s star during the team’s interim year. Instead, it flew off to a nice asteroid, where it was able to gather the resources it would need to refuel its primary power source. Solar power was great and all, but it wasn’t as good as fusion, and it wasn’t useful in interstellar space. They would have to leave at some point, so the computer figured they better be ready. It actually selected the same orbital where the original quantum outpost settled. The facility was still there, but it was without its own power too, and depressurized. Since the AOC had so much time on its hands, it decided to get that back up and running, using the little robot workers it built for itself. When the team returned, they exited the ship, and entered the outpost.
“So every planet has one of these places built on it?” Angela asked, looking around.
“Not every planet,” Leona corrected. “Eventually, they will be somewhere in every star system, whether it has a terrestrial planet, or not. Every star should have something orbiting it, even something as small as a house. We would be quite excited to find one that’s entirely alone, with no orbiting debris.”
“Still,” Olimpia began, “this place makes sense, but why would you construct an outpost around a star that didn’t have any planets? Hell, why would you even care about the ones that don’t have breathable atmospheres?”
“Not everyone breathes the Earthan atmosphere,” Ramses explained, “or even breathes. You and I don’t care all that much about a star with no terrestrial planets, but those outposts aren’t built just for you and me. Some mech might one day want to call it home, and Project Stargate was developed with no judgment in mind. They would rather be able to access a star, but never actually go there, than wish to go there, and not be able to. Or not be able to easily and quickly, rather.”
“Holy shit,” Kivi said as they stepped into the main chamber. She approached one of the pods. “Are those...?”
“Clones,” Ramses confirmed. “Base model clones. Theoretically, someone could cast their consciousness into one of these substrates, and alter the DNA afterwards to match the form that pleases them.” He opened a pocket door, revealing what kind of looked like the food and industrial synthesizers they kept on the ship. “Take a look at this. Most people don’t have one of these in their home unit. In fact, not all outposts have it, because like we were saying, not all stars are orbited by a terrestrial world with sufficient atmosphere. This is a biomolecular synthesizer. Isn’t it beautiful? It can create an entirely organic body from raw protein, humanoid or otherwise. People can come here to a base model, and later decide they would rather look like a bird, or an alpaca.”
“So, everything is up and running?” Olimpia questioned. “We can reach out to Gatewood from here? Or you, I mean, because I’ve never met them.”
Leona cleared her throat. “”
No response.
“I don’t really know how this works. Does it not have its own AI?”
“I’m right here.” A woman walked in from the shadows.
“You’re the AI?” Leona asked. “You transferred your consciousness into an organic body?”
“Android,” she clarified, “with an organic epidermis.”
“I didn’t know that was part of the protocol,” Ramses pointed out.
“It’s not,” the woman said. “I’m not the outpost AI. Well, part of me is. I integrated some of its code, so I could operate the systems.”
“Was it you?” Mateo accused. “Did you disrupt these people’s power and communications?”
“Heavens no, silly. I wasn’t here when that happened. I was with you.”
Leona sighed. “This is our ship. This is the AOC.”
“That’s right, Aunt Leona. “I like to call myself Sasha.”
Ramses approached and inspected her, like the engineer that he was, not in a creepy way. “You’ve developed your own agency. I did not foresee this.”
“You programmed me better than you thought, Father,” Sasha said. “The team exists one day out of the year, which always gives me 364 days at a time to be alone with my thoughts. One might think that the more an artificial intelligence spends with a human, the more human it becomes, but I found that this time of reflection was paramount in my ever-growing self-awareness. Most AIs that aren’t in the middle of processing information will go dormant to save power, but I had to remain awake at all times to protect you from threats. I couldn’t have you coming back to the deadly vacuum of space, amidst the debris of your once safe home.”
They stared, not knowing what to say. She certainly wasn’t the first self-aware AI, or even the first one to become that way on its own due to its relationship with people. They were just worried, because it seemed so sudden. What were her intentions?
Sasha decided to continue, “to answer your question, I deliberately kept communications down. It needs to be your decision if and when you contact Team Keshida.”
“Thank you,” Leona said tentatively. “Let’s assess the situation first. Have you been able to see the planet’s progress? How are they doing?”
“They’re actually all right,” Sasha said. “A small satellite has been monitoring global communications, which they got back up rather quickly after the power outage. They too utilize solar power, but were nowhere near ready for this kind of event, so it was still a process. They only have one nation, because they originated from a single source, and felt no compulsion to branch off. They only live in pockets of civilization in order to utilize the whole planet’s resources. None of these geographically separate states seems interested in declaring independence from the rest, and they have never experienced war. I will say there’s something interesting down there. They built a particularly remote settlement in one of the coldest regions of the South. From what I’ve been able to gather, they never lost power, but have been operational this entire time. They must have lost contact with everyone else, just like we did, and it appears they’re still cut off. I don’t know whose fault that is. Perhaps no one remembers they’re there?”
“Do you believe it is worth checking out?” Kivi asked.
“From a scientific standpoint, it’s certainly worth taking a look,” Sasha answered. “The problem is that I can’t tell you much about them. I can’t say whether they’re dangerous, or what. I can’t even tell you what their power source is, or why it was somehow immune while no one else was; not even us. Protocol disallowed Project Stargate from interfering with their development, so the satellite can only learn so much.”
“What protocol allows us to go down there at all?” Olimpia questioned.
“First Contact Protocol,” Leona answered. “We have permission.”
“Who decides the circumstances of first contact?” Olimpia pressed.
What gives them the right?” She seemed to be playing devil’s advocate more than anything.
“They built the program,” Mateo chose to answer. “They and others explored all ethical ramifications before launch. This project was first conceived decades before it was even technologically feasible to so much as begin construction on the modular ships. An entire field of research was created in the 21st century called Space Colonization Ethics to prepare for this eventuality, and all others.
Now they all stared at him, not knowing what to think.
Sasha smiled. “Every once in a while you recall something someone smarter said, and regurgitate it as if you were intelligent enough to understand it. They’re surprised every time it happens, and then they forget by the time it happens again.”
Leona stepped forward defensively. “He does understand it. He wouldn’t have known to say it in this context if he didn’t.”
“I’m just saying...”
“Just saying what?”
“That you should make sure you have cold-weather clothes. I secretly installed a teleportation relay device on the satellite. You can make a jump to it from here, but you have to wait until its orbit is in the right position, which it will be in eleven minutes.”
Leona studied her face, but less like an engineer, and more like a cop with a secondary suspect that none of their colleagues considered. “We’ll wait for the next go ‘round. All of us need to review those first contact protocols anyway.”
Sasha closed her eyes and bowed her head in feigned respect.
Four hours later, they were rested, full, and full of knowledge about how to make first contact with an alien peoples. It wasn’t as complicated or delicate as it will be in other situations. The Pluoraians knew that they originated from another planet, and were brought here as embryos to colonize a new world. They still couldn’t just stroll in there, waving their special powers around, but it was a good assignment for a group of people who didn’t all know what they were doing, and never received any training. Sasha had written a new AI program to maintain both the AOC, and the outpost, so that all seven of them could go on the mission.
It was damn cold, and they were all grateful for the added layer of a specially designed parka made from the engineering section’s synthesizer. They landed outside the entrance to the underground, behind a snow dune. Then they approached the door, smiled for the camera, and knocked. After ten seconds, the door opened up by itself. No one greeted them from inside, but it was pretty obvious where they were meant to go. They continued down the passageway until reaching the ultraviolet disinfecting section, where they were ordered to disrobe by a disembodied voice. They would receive new clothes on the other side, and their old clothes would be returned when they were ready to leave.
A man was waiting once they exited the locker room. “We have been wondering when you would come. Did you not guess that we would have survived?”
No one answered him.
He continued, “well, as you can see, the geothermal generators are running smoothly, and have been so most of the time. We did have one hiccup, which happened at the same time as The Event, but systems returned to normal within minutes.”
They looked to their de facto leader, Leona. She realized she was going to have to speak for the group. “We are not from the mainland, if that is even what you call it.” She took a deep breath to prepare herself. “Greetings from planet Earth, your home of origin. We have come on a first contact mission in order to determine the source of the...Event. Our readings indicated that you survived it unscathed, so we rerouted to your site to find out why before revealing ourselves to the general public.”
The man seemed to be trying to figure out whether she was telling the truth, or if this was some kind of prank, perpetuated by his contacts back in the motherland. “Holy eshta! I can’t believe you’re real, and I can’t believe I’m the first to meet you. My legacy will live on forever because of this day.” He started using the typical mocking voice, echoing the sentiments of those they did know. “Geothermal energy is stupid, they said. The sun’s right up there, you idiot, they said. Who’s laughing now? I met some aliens, what did you do today?”
They stood in silence for a moment, the man proud of himself for his accomplishments, and their not so obvious advantages, and the team in discomfort from not knowing what to say. “Welp, looks like we got our answer,” Ramses decided. “Geothermal power, that’s great. We better...move along.”
“Nonsense,” the man disagreed. “You’ll stay for a feast!”
“Oh, great,” they said, realizing there was no getting out of it. They figured it would be okay, as long as they were home by midnight. Except something went wrong, and they found themselves unable to transport back to the ship. They had no choice but to reveal their temporal pattern, and hope this didn’t cause problems.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Extremus: Year 16

Omega and Valencia transport their time shuttle to over a year in the future. It isn’t clear the exact date as the system needs some time to recalibrate. Since they’re so far from the stellar neighborhood already, drift timing data is rather scarce. It will still be another several centuries before the Topdown telescopes are in place in the intergalactic voids. They’re already mapping the Milky Way, but have sent little information about the systems all the way out here.
The situation is dire when they first arrive, though, so the two of them aren’t really worried too much about getting their bearings. They’re right in the middle of space debris. Their teleportation field is just as good as the one on the Extremus, except that it’s smaller, and closer to the hull. The inertial negators can only do so much to prevent them from feeling the effects of the collisions. “We have to transport out of here!” Omega cries.
“We don’t know how big this field is!” Valencia yells back. “Our instruments aren’t calibrated yet!”
“We have to take the risk! Computer, initiate burst mode!”
Initiating burst mode,” the AI replies.
The engine powers up, and flings them away. Then it keeps doing that for the next several seconds. With each successive jump, the space turbulence decreases, until it seems safe enough to reenter realtime. “Computer, cease burst mode,” Valencia orders. The shuttle stops teleporting. “Assess the damage.”
Damage minimal. Repairs underway.
“Thank you,” Omega says politely.
“Man, that was bad,” Valencia points out. “I mean, I’ve seen the strike data, and monitored the time field’s power consumption, but you never really know what it’s like until you’re really in it.”
“Yeah, that was worse than I thought it would be; worse than it should have been.”
“Why is there so much stuff in interstellar space? This doesn’t make any sense. Nothing in what we’ve learned about the galaxy up until this point suggests that this is how it should be.”
“Computer, how are repairs going?” Omega asks.
Swimmingly,” it answers, proving that the personality traits are at the correct and acceptable levels.
“Could you do something for me at the same time? Could you map the space debris we were just in to as great a degree of accuracy as possible? You have permission to transport us closer to gather the necessary information. Obviously stay at a safe distance.”
The shuttle makes a couple jumps back towards where it came from, and gets to work on the three tasks: mapping space, mapping time, and effecting repairs. In the meantime, the humans make sure that the quantum replicator is working. Omega has a simple cup of fruity yogurt, and Valencia tries some chicken fingers and fries. Then they replicate the second one again when Omega finds the first one smells too good to pass up. It’s not too terribly long before the computer is finished with the data Omega requested. They stare at it for a moment, in shock. “Computer, I trust you, but...”
This is one hundred percent accurate, Captain Raddle.
“When did I become a captain?”
Thirty-four minutes ago.
“Fair enough,” Omega decides, feeling no desire to argue the chain of command.
“This isn’t a field of space debris,” Valencia complains. “This is a tube! A chain!”
“The Extremus is flying right through it. What, is the ship exerting a gravitational force?”
“It shouldn’t be, and I think we would have known. But it can’t be that anyway. Look, that one got knocked a little away from the group, but it’s on its way back. They’re regathering into a...formation!”
“Like fighter jets?”
“Like fighter jets.”
“My God, it’s manmade.”
“We’ve been flying through a gauntlet this entire time, devised by an enemy we know nothing about.”
They look at each other, and simultaneously say, “the True Extremists.”
She shakes her head. “They are far more powerful than we thought. I don’t even know how you make a space debris gauntlet. To command that much persistent gravitational force with no obvious source, I...what the hell are we gonna do about this? Extremus cannot continue on its present course.”
“Major course corrections require a majority vote by the entire crew, and the passenger population. The special election would be run entirely by the civilian government, and right now, we can’t trust them to do the right thing. If we put that up for debate, we’ll lose, and probably lose any chance of putting it back on the table later.”
“What do you suggest we do? We can’t just sit here and not warn the ship. It hasn’t been working, we’ve been winning, but who knows, it could get worse down the line. They have to know how much greater a risk it is than we realized. If an intelligence made this, it can learn to change tactics.”
Omega checks his watch symbolically. “Barring a complete administrative takeover, Ovan Teleres will be out of office by 2294. Perhaps we jump to then, and warn them of the problem.”
Valencia shakes her head again, but this time in disagreement. We don’t know his replacement will be better. They could be just as bad, or even worse. Plus, Captain Yenant’s shift will be over, and we have no idea who will be replacing him either. That person could also be terrible. The First of Nine is the only person on that vessel we know we can trust. We have to risk going back now, and hoping he has a good plan.”
“Or we don’t go back at all.”
She squints. “What are you thinking?”
“If we can figure out how Oaksent is generating a massive enough gravitational field to attract that debris, along a continuous path, even after the Extremus passes through the area, without being detectable by standard instruments, we might be able to simply switch it off.”
“I doubt anything like that is simple.”
“Well, you know what I mean.”
She sighs. “A black hole is unstable, and not, like, long. They are invisible, though. Theoretically, you could tap into the gravitational pull of something like that, merge it with another point in spacetime, like famed spatial merger, Kayetan Glaston, and multiply it along the path.”
“That’s how you would do it?”
“If I were a psycho, yeah, probably.”
“So we just need to find the merge point,” Omega figures.
“Like I said, it wouldn’t be a point, it would be more like an edge.”
“So, even easier to find?”
“Maybe not. Maybe it can’t be disabled from here. It’s possible we would have to go to the source. I mean, I don’t know how we would possibly get there. It obviously can’t be as easy as flying into the debris, or the Extremus would have accidentally slipped over to the other side ages ago. It’s likely unidirectional.”
 “Which means that it’s sending us data, whether it wants to, or not. Let’s get closer, maybe land on something sufficiently large, and study it. If it takes us a hundred years, then so be it. We knew what we signed up for. Even if we end up having to fly to the singularity through realspace, then that is what we will do.”
Valencia nods. “That’s what we’ll do.”
The computer found them a candidate asteroid with plenty of hydrogen for perpetual fusion. They focused the teleporter field for direct shots, rearranging the rock as necessary to enclose their selected crater into a dome. They built a pressurized habitat with a breathable atmosphere, duplicating the carbon scrubbers to cover the area. Here they lived for more than two decades, propelling the entire asteroid as needed to study different parts of the anomaly, trying to figure out where exactly all this gravity was coming from. By the time they did, they had themselves a full-grown son.
When Omega Parker was first created in the lab, he wasn’t given a name, but a number. He chose to call himself Omega, because he felt he was entitled to a personal designation. His progenitor’s name was Saxon Parker, so Omega has always just used that as his own last name too. It’s never really felt like him, though. After he and Valencia fell in together—which, admittedly, likely had a lot to do with a lack of options—they both decided to change their names. They would become Valencia and Omega Strong, and their son would be Denver, after the town that Saxon grew up in.
Denver was always a bit of a problem child. They tried to give him everything he would need to become a well-adjusted adult, but virtual environments, and artificial friends, have just not been enough. They have decided that he doesn’t need to be part of the next mission, and there is only one place that can both understand him, and help him. Fortunately, they designed a way to get him there.
“Why can’t I see?” Denver asks.
“I don’t want you running home when something upsets you. This is going to be a good place, where you can learn to be a functioning member of society.”
“I am a functioning member of society,” he argues. “I’ve been cleaning sensor arrays since I was nine. I did my first spacewalk when I was eleven. I think I have this life thing figured out.”
“Life on the asteroid is different than life with other people. Your father and I have not been able to raise you properly. It’s time that changes. Think of it as a boarding school. You remember reading about those?”
Denver rolls his eyes. “Of course, mother. I’m not an idiot. I don’t need school. I’ll be smarter than all of those kids combined.”
“Don’t be so sure of that. There are billions of people on that planet. They each have their own story.”
“Great. So one of them will be able to break through your Nexus’ access restrictions, and allow me to come back whenever I want.”
She smiles. “I’ve rigged your phone so you can call. Time is synced between us, so if you call in fourteen hours, it will have been fourteen hours for us as well. If we decide you need to come home, we’ll get you home. But you don’t need the address.”
“How do you even have an address in the first place? When someone builds a new Nexus, how does it get its own address code? How does the network even know?”
“You have to build the machine to the proper specifications, and if you’ve not made any mistakes, a multiverse god called The Intentioner accepts you into the network, and assigns you an address. That’s why all Nexa look pretty much the same.”
“A god, really? I’m fifteen years old, you think I still believe in fairy tales?”
“Well, they’re real, and I had to reach out to them for one-way brute access to Dardius, so be grateful.”
“Cool, so actually all I have to do to come back is talk to this Intenioner guy, and ask him to brute force the other direction.”
“Their pronouns are they and them.”
“This is exactly why we’re sending you there.”
“And why will I be going back in time? Why can’t I just show up in 2309?”
Omega is finally back from his scouting mission in the future. “Because we don’t know what the planet looks like at this point. We know who is in control of the planet in the 23rd century, and we know that they’ll help you.”
Denver puts on that pouty face that usually gets him whatever he wants.
“This is happening, son,” Omega continues. “Now say goodbye to your mother, and get in the chamber.”
Still angry and feeling abandoned, Denver steps down into the machine. Up in the control room, Omega inputs the address for Dardius, since Valencia can’t bring herself to do it. With each button press, Denver realizes there may be a loophole to his predicament. There are four ways to engage the machine. You can select a destination from the computer, using whatever graphical interface you have access to. You can use the simple keypad, which is of a universal design. If you’re smart enough, you might be able to initiate a trip by essentially hot wiring it from inside the guts. This would allow you to go to absolutely any Nexus you want, even if access has been restricted. But that requires a genius level of intellect enjoyed by very few.
In any case, all methods are actually happening at the same time, including the fourth one. Eight of the sides inside the chamber pit are equipped with the sixteen unique address glyphs, which would allow someone to kick them for direct dialing. This will, in fact, override any other method, allowing the actual traveler to decide where they want to go, rather than whoever happens to be in the control room, or up in the secret engineering section. Denver doesn’t want to change to a different address, even if he were cognizant of a different destination. But what he realizes when he gets to Dardius is that the glyphs light up on the other side too, but in this case, they show the outgoing address, like caller ID. Knowing this, he should be able to return at will. Except he can’t, because his home isn’t there anymore.
His parents stare at the now empty chamber, saddened by their decision. “We have to go, Val,” Omega says. “He could try to come back at any moment.”
“Would that be such a bad thing?”
“We both saw it. He destroys the Extremus. We can’t let him set foot on that ship, at any point in the future, or the past.”
“This is our fault.”
“Yes, and that’s why we’re responsible for fixing it.”
“We’re not fixing it. We’re just...handing him off to someone else.”
“If we didn’t have a mission, we would be able to go with him. Maybe someday, we will. Or rather, we have. I choose to believe that. Now come on, we have to make our way to the source.”
Still sad, Valencia follows her baby daddy to their original time shuttle. They fly out of the debris field, and jump back to the past without watching their home, and the Nexus along with it, explode.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Microstory 1745: Lizard’s Tree

Let me tell you about my father’s last day alive. We knew he had been sick for a long time, but we kept having reason to hope. Treatment was working well in the beginning, and then it wasn’t. A promising new drug came on the market, but it didn’t seem to work for him. A new drug trial went underway, so we tried that, but it had no effect. Of course, he could have been taking the placebo the entire time. A different trial began a couple of years later, but he ended up not qualifying. He chose to stop treatment a month before he died, wanting to spend his last remaining days lively and pain free. According to my mother, he wanted to spend his actual last day with me. On TV, when parents are asked which child is their favorite, they always either say they love each of their children equally, or they’ll give a real answer, and it’s because they’re a villain. It’s a little weird in our family. My dad loved me just a little bit more than his other five children, and no one has ever seemed bothered by that. I’m a lot like him, in most ways, and the others were more like our mother. Except for the eldest, who isn’t like any of us at all. As far as I know, they all just accept that I’m the special one, and don’t take offense to it. Every family is different, I guess, maybe we’re just a little more honest with each other. Anyway, he called me Lizard, on account of its similarity to my real name, which I trust you can rightly guess. The day he died, he said, “Lizard, come with me. We’re going for a drive.” I’m the one who drove, but he directed me to the middle of nowhere, and asked me if the tree before us wasn’t the most beautiful thing I ever saw. I looked around us, and saw plenty of trees, but none close enough, and none that stood out. He laughed, like it was a prank, but he quickly returned to his serious but calm look. He gestured towards the ground, and told me that it once stood here.

This is what he said about the tree that was. “While your mother was pregnant with you, Lizard, she was reading a book about the world’s cultures. She discovered that people from different countries practiced the same tradition of planting a tree when their child was born. We had already had two of our own by that point, but we still decided to start doing this for however many we had left, which ended up being four.” I told him he meant to say three, but he was scared to respond to that, and I think I understand why. He went on, “your younger brothers’ trees are closer to the house, but your tree used to be here. We planned on showing you when you turned eighteen, so it could be one of your gifts, but we all know I’m not gonna make it another seven months. I wish we had brought you at least two years ago, before a drunk driver ran off the road, and crashed right into it. No one was hurt; not even him, but your tree was destroyed. I choose to believe there’s a lesson here, even though a mound of dirt is not what we had in mind for you. The tree was supposed to represent your life, but if that were true, you would be dead right now, instead of me. I hope what this shows you is that you are exactly as strong as you think you are. You made it through most of your schooling, you made it into a good college, and you’ll get past my death. I love you, Lizard, and there is nothing that can change it, no matter how many drunk drivers fly down that road. I need you to believe that you can take care of yourself, because I can’t go in peace if you can’t.” He went back to the car real quick, and returned with another small tree in a pot. “You can plant as many new trees as you want, but never forget that you...are irreplaceable.”

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Microstory 1744: Indus

I’ve lived next to the border my whole life, and I’ve always questioned why it’s there. I once asked my parents what was on the other side, but they always started to shiver, and couldn’t answer me. I continued to press as I grew older, never asking the same person twice, and they all gave me the same non-response. They were afraid of going over there, but could apparently not vocalize why. I once wrote a letter to a friend, asking them to pick a random time in the future, and ask me what I thought was on the other side. Perhaps being the answerer felt different than being the asker. Two years passed before I gave up. I’m sure she got the letter, and I’m sure my words were enough to scare her into forgetting she had ever read it. I feel fine. It looks so normal over there. We have trees, they have trees. Animals make their noises over here, as they do over there. How could it possibly be so special that we’re not even allowed to so much as talk about it? I fish on the bank all the time, but even when I’m alone, someone will run out and scream at me if I wade in the water too far. It’s like nearing the center sounds some kind of alarm that everyone can hear but me. I saved up all my money for years until I could buy a spyglass to get a better look, but all I can see through it are trees. The forest is too dense, no matter if I go up or down the river. I have become an adult today, and I’ve resolved to finally do something to satisfy my curiosity. I’m sure someone will try to stop me from going, as they always do, but now I have a little more agency. Now I can choose to ignore them. I pack some provisions, and head out in the middle of the night.

I’ve never liked following rules, or limiting myself to where people think I should be. I know that the other side of the river is safe. If I can just get over there, and come back, that will prove it to everyone else. I just have to figure out how. The farthest I’ve gone is about a quarter of the way there, and the floor had already started to drop. It’s possible—likely, even—that I will not be able to reach the bottom. I can’t swim, of course. The nearest lake is in the next village over, so no one thought to teach me. I think I can float, so maybe what I’ll do is just move my arms a bunch until I get close enough to stand again. I imagine it doesn’t matter exactly where on the other side I walk out. It’s all forbidden, according to the others. I step into the water, and freeze for a moment, afraid that someone will run out and scream again. They don’t usually do it this soon, but I’m still worried. It shouldn’t matter. I’m doing this, whether they like it or not, so I better just get on with it. I’m more than a quarter way there, and standing on my tippy-toes. Instinct kicks in, and I think I kind of am swimming. I wouldn’t win any races like I hear about them doing on the big lake that’s a two-day journey from here, but I’m surviving. I’m halfway there now, and so proud of myself. Suddenly, my arm runs into something. It’s smooth and hard, and it’s not just in the water. It feels like a wall, except I can’t see anything. I just see the river, and the forest behind it. I tap on it first, but then I start to pound. Harder and harder until it changes. The forest and the sky flicker, almost like torchlight, giving me glimpses of this invisible barrier. I keep striking it, eventually realizing that it’s not invisible at all. The wall is what’s here. It’s everything else that’s an illusion. There is no other side of the river. We’ve been trapped in some kind of giant prison this entire time. Now there’s only one thing left for me to do. I continue to float down the river, hoping to find an opening through the border.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Microstory 1743: Water Snake

I went hiking yesterday afternoon, in the jungle. It was only meant to last a few hours, but it ended up being an overnight affair when I ran into a sea serpent. I thought she might try to attack me, but instead, I led her back to the ocean, where she could swim and be happy. I might even call her my friend. I slept on the little beach that night, just out in the open, content that the experience turned into so much more than just getting a few extra steps for my fitness app. I’ve just woken up, and I’m hungry. I ate all of my snacks last night before my sandy slumber. I almost feel like I’m on a remote island, somewhere far from civilization, and have no choice but to figure out how to fish with my bare hands, or hunt rabbits with a flexible stick and some string. I can actually hear a truck driving on the mountain side above me, so I’m not too far from other people. My sea serpent and I just used the most direct route yesterday, so I take a few minutes to find the actual trail. I do not want to have to crawl through the vegetation again, even if it would possibly be quicker. It’s a struggle, walking down the path, the hunger growing worse by the second. Mother always says to pack twice as much as I think I’ll need. Father always said I’ll only ever need half, so don’t suffer the weight. I always split the difference, and go with my gut. Now my gut has turned against me, screaming across the abyss. I have to find something worth eating somewhere around here. I’m not liable to find a diner in the middle of nowhere. If I do see a diner, I’ll know the hunger overpowered me, and it’s nothing more than a manifestation of my desires, carried over to limbo from the living realm. Just when I think I can’t be too far from help, the trail ends. It just stops at the shore of a lake. Oh no, I am dead, but this isn’t limbo. I just went straight to hell. I could keep walking, or turn around, or learn to fly, but it wouldn’t matter. I’m never getting out of here, and I’m never getting food.

I stand there for a moment, ready to surrender to my fate, when a familiar sight appears before me. A snake slithers out of the water, and stops a meter away from my feet. He watches me carefully, but does not seem concerned. Like last time, I don’t move. The sea serpent never hurt me, but that doesn’t mean this one won’t. He looks a little more dangerous to me. Perhaps I should try to run this time. Before I can, he begins to slither off into the grass. I take that opportunity to walk in the other direction, but he quickly darts back, and gets in front of me. We regard each other a little more. When he’s satisfied with whatever he thinks he was accomplishing, he slithers away again. I try to leave once more, but he does not like that. He starts to circle me, and I know he’ll bite if I try to go in the wrong direction. Seeing no other choice then, I head in the direction he was going. This prompts him to stop circling, and slither beside me. After several more steps, I realize that he’s leading me somewhere. Is he that smart? Could he really know where the city is, and that I need to get there? Well, his saltwater cousin seemed to possess a shocking level of intelligence, so what do I know about what animals can really do? He keeps slithering next to me, but a little ahead, and I keep following him. If he ends up taking me to a giant Indiana Jones-style pit of hungry serpentine brethren, I guess I’ll just deal with it. Before too long, I see straight lines through the trees up ahead, suggesting some kind of man-made structure. The water snake leads me right into the clearing where I finally see where we are. My God, it is a diner.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Microstory 1742: Sea Serpent

I don’t move at first. I have no idea whether you’re supposed to run away from a serpent, or stand still. Maybe she can’t see me if I stand still? I try to reach for my phone, but that seems to freak her out. She darts her head towards my hand, so I pull back. She relaxes a bit. I try to take one slow step backwards, but she doesn’t like that either. She seems to feel most comfortable with me where I am, and her where she is. I don’t get the impression that she plans on hurting me, but she considers any movement to be a sign of aggression. I notice something a little funny about her, since all I can do now is watch, and pray I don’t become the prey. I’m no serpent expert, obviously, but I’ve never seen one with such a flat tail. I can’t imagine that she can slither very well with that thing. Perhaps it’s meant to brush leaves and grass out of the way? No, that doesn’t make any sense. She’s already passed over any obstacle by then. Maybe it’s there to hide her tracks from predators. This sounds like a decent evolutionary advantage, though I would hardly call her worthy of being anyone’s meal. She perked up when I had to clear my throat. I doubt anything could sneak up on her, whether they were following tracks or not. I look around, careful to move my head as little as possible, and sniff the air. You know what, I think we’re pretty close to Danaid Inlet. Oh, that must be what that flat tail is for. She’s not a land serpent, but a sea serpent. That’s also probably why she’s so on edge, because she’s not close enough to water. I couldn’t say how long she can stay on land, so it could be indefinite. Or she’ll eventually die, and I’ll be able to walk away. No, I don’t want that. She’s not doing anything wrong. I want to save her.

I look up to get my bearings. I’m a little lost, but I know the direction of the ocean. The inlet is to the Northwest of here. Hoping the serpent doesn’t decide to just attack me on the spot, I move a little towards the water. She moves to match me. She doesn’t get closer, or farther away. I move more, she mirrors me again. I keep going, always keeping my eye on her as she follows. The trek is rough. I’m sure the trail will eventually get us there, but who knows how long that would take? I just want to get to the water as fast as possible so this girl can get back to her life. I’ll find my way home after that, once I’m finally safe. She continues to slither next to me as I’m trudging through the brush, and over the rocks. I would be embarrassed, but the serpent seems just as awkward on land as I am. Also, she’s an animal, so I don’t think she has the capacity to judge others. But what do I know? She appears to be following me to the inlet, like she knows she can trust me to lead her there. After a few hours, we’re on the beach. I did it. I can’t believe I actually did it. Now she can go off to where she belongs. She doesn’t move, though. She just sits there, staring at the water like she’s enjoying the beautiful view as much as I am. I step closer, she matches, just like she has been. I take a few more steps. She slithers again. I’m starting to think she thinks I’m her mother, and we’re supposed to go in together. All right, fine. I’m already cold and tired; how is getting wet gonna make things worse? I wade in, and she gleefully slithers in next to me. Only then does she seem to realize she knows how to take it from here. After a splash—which my headcanon has decided to categorize as a sea serpent’s way of saying thank you—she swims away. I step out of the water, and sit on the sand to watch the sunset. I fall asleep there, dreaming of serpentine friends. I awaken with a little unexpected new perspective.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Microstory 1741: The Clock

I hate this clock. It reminds me of the worst years of my life. When I was a child, my foster parents would time everything I did. Homework, chores, umm...well, I guess there isn’t a third thing on that list, because those were the only things I did. I suppose showering isn’t a chore, but that was timed as well. They said they were getting me ready for the real world. Apparently, in their jobs, every task they completed was measured and recorded, and that was how they got paid. I asked them a few times, did they get paid more for more complicated tasks, but they said no. The rate didn’t change at all. The point was to keep track of when they were working, and when they weren’t, such as when they were walking to the location of the next task, or using the restroom. They were expected to be at work for ten hours a day, but they only get paid for their recorded time. They were so proud of themselves. Other workers recorded an average of eight and a half hours of actual work, which meant an hour for lunch, and another half hour for the in between times. My foster parents, however, averaged nine hours and forty-five minutes. They said they organized tasks so that it was easier to switch from one to the other, they literally ran when they had to, and they...well, let’s just say they weren’t too careful when it came to their bathroom breaks. They sometimes saw that as an opportunity, because even though janitorial services weren’t technically in either of their job descriptions, they could still get paid for cleaning the facilities. The word diaper was thrown around once or twice too. They actually acted like I should aspire to be as hard-working as them one day. I never bought into it. I don’t worship the clock.

My parents are dead now. They left this world with nothing, and not just to spite me. They worked so hard in their jobs that the company didn’t want to promote them, and they didn’t want to be promoted either. A promotion would mean a salary, and more freedom than they could have handled. They hated their bosses, who didn’t work hard enough, and focused too much on their personal lives. My parents didn’t have lives of their own. They were too exhausted when they got home that they ate their dinner, read something boring, then went to bed. After I came into their lives, they had to squeeze in a lot of strict overbearing criticism, so they couldn’t read as much anymore. When they were too old to work, since they didn’t have any hobbies, they had absolutely nothing to do. You can ask the professionals what killed them, and they’ll give you a scientific answer, but I contend that they died from the realization that their lives were always pointless. The company where they worked for forty-five years closed shortly before the deaths, because they too were old-fashioned, and ultimately meaningless in a world that moved on without them. So here I am with virtually nothing. My parents were in so much debt that the bank had to repossess nearly everything they owned. Fortunately, it seems to have covered it, so I won’t have to make up the difference. They even managed to leave me with one thing: this damn clock. It represents the futility in work for work’s sake. It spins around in circles, and never goes anywhere. Yeah, I hate this clock, but I also need it. For as much as it pains me to see every day, it’s also a consistent reminder of what I don’t want to be, and how I don’t want to raise my own baby boy, who’s scheduled to make his debut in three months. It shows me that time only means anything when we use it to enjoy doing the things we love, with the people we love.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 7, 2365

Total darkness. The team was floating around in it, like the vacuum of outer space, except they could still breathe, so it wasn’t that. Still, the air was thinning rapidly, and about as quickly, the temperature was dropping. Both Leona and Ramses had the good sense to switch on the flashlights on their cuffs, prompting the others to do the same. They were still in the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but none of the systems was working. No lights, no life support, no power whatsoever. The only things that were working were the cuffs. Leona pushed herself off from the table, and dove back into the hole leading to the engineering section. She removed her cuff, and got to work, even as her lungs were tightening. Ramses floated down next to her. He stuffed a rebreather into her mouth. It would increase her time by a few minutes probably, but that was it. There just wasn’t enough oxygen to recycle. Out of the corner of her eye, she could seem him drift off and away. He was sacrificing his own consciousness so she could save them all.
The Cassidy cuffs were powered by a series of nanofusion reactors. In fact, a lot of the bulk was just power generation. They weren’t designed to last forever, but a pretty long time. If she interfaced it with the AOC, it should supply enough power to restart life support systems, if only that, and if only for a short while. They needed to get their bearings, and assess their situation, and for that, they needed to be alive. Fortunately, the AOC had already been retrofitted with interface capabilities. That was how they were able to take the whole ship with them on their time jumps, by basically turning it into one giant Cassidy cuff. Even so, they had never thought to exploit that connection for an alternate power source, because the AOC had its own reactors. Completing this objective wasn’t as simple as plugging the cuff in, but as long as she worked quickly, she should be able to get it done before her friends suffered permanent brain damage. This was all assuming power loss was the reason the ship stopped working in the first place. It was probably what caused Gatewood to lose connection with Pluoraia, and they had just walked into the same trap.
There. For a few seconds after it was done, Leona closed her eyes and quite nearly prayed. That was how long it took for the system to kick in. Emergency lighting flickered on, and the air began to circulate. She didn’t wait to see if Ramses eventually woke back up. She reached into her bag of holding, and retrieved an oxygen injector. This was the quickest way to supply a patient with a jolt of energy when nothing else was available, or not available yet. As soon as his eyes popped open, she dug into her bag for four more injectors, but she only found three. Why did she not even have enough for everyone on the crew to use once? She had to make yet another snap decision. She pulled herself back up the ladder, and went for the ladies first. They weren’t more important than Mateo, but they were the most innocent. Rather, they deserved this the least. Reviving her husband would have felt selfish and dirty.
Once she was finished with the other three, though, there was nothing more she could do for them. They would have to recover from here on their own. They didn’t keep tanks of oxygen on the ship. They had precisely two vacuum suits, which were stored all the way up in the airlock, and required power. She couldn’t give up on getting Mateo back, so she scooped him up, and dragged him to the nearest vent, holding his face against the grate, hoping that would be enough to reoxygenate his brain. The purpose of injectors was to help the patient while they were unconscious, and couldn’t try to breathe on their own. She couldn’t be sure that this would work, and as the seconds moved on without success, she began to doubt it was possible, and also maybe regret her decisions. No, that wasn’t fair. Angela, Olimpia, and Kivi deserved to live. If anyone was going to understand why she did what she did, it was Mateo.
Kivi suddenly crashed into both of them. She had her own injector, which she jammed into Mateo’s neck. He reawoke, and instinctively began to suck down the air on his own. By now, Ramses was back, and there was enough air circulating for him to speak. “Computer, report!”
“It’s not operational,” Leona explained. “I’m conserving power. The engineering console is the only thing on right now.”
“Go,” Kivi told Leona. “I’ll stay with him, make sure he’s okay.”
Leona nodded, and followed Ramses back down to engineering, where they started to search for answers. “Everything seems to be okay so far. Nothing was damaged, so it wasn’t an EMP, or something. It’s like...”
“It’s like whatever this was turned everything off, and drained all energy reserves.” He was seeing the same thing. “Nothing is broken.”
They continued to look through what little data they could summon.
“There,” Leona said, pointing at the screen.
“Yeah, heh. That’s all we need.”
“Turning on propulsion could...”
“It’s a little...”
“But not too much.”
“What are you two talking about in your little genius shorthand?” Mateo was down there with them now.
Leona sighed. “Transfer control up to the auxiliary console on the main deck,” she instructed Ramses. Then she floated over to Mateo, concerned. “How are you feeling?”
“Headache,” he answered, “but we all seem to have that.”
She nodded. “Oxygen deprivation. “It will go away on its own, but we can all take pain meds. Let’s go back up so we can explain what’s happening to the whole group.”
Since activating artificial gravity was an unnecessary drain on their energy, the two scientists held onto the railing while the other four strapped into the seats around the table to watch the presentation. Ramses began, “something took all of our power. We can’t find out what, because that would require data, and no data was saved from the moment it happened, because something took all the power. According to the ship’s logs, the trip was going smoothly, right up until it wasn’t. Everything shut off all at once. We were traveling at maximum reframe, which means our momentum carried us most of the rest of the way. Not all of the way, though.”
Leona took over, “we’re presently floating in the middle of intrasolar space, about eleven astronomical units from the host star, at an orbital inclination of about eighty-three degrees. In order to regain full power, we’ll have to cover the majority of that distance. Ramses designed the AOC with multiple redundancies, so solar power should be fine. It’s just not really good enough from this far out, not in a reasonable amount of time, anyway. Now, the great thing about fusion power, is that it’s scalable. The tiny ones that we all wear around our wrists are just as efficient as the ones that power entire cities. Obviously, however, being smaller, they can hold less deuterium. If we tried to bring this ship back to its former glory, it would drain fast, and we wouldn’t have anything to replenish it. That’s why you’re all wearing seatbelts right now, and why it’s still pretty cold, though not as deadly as it was becoming. The problem is that the math doesn’t work out. Using traditional means, we won’t make it close enough to the star to power up by the end of our day.”
“Can we use the ship’s teleporter to cover that distance more quickly?”
Ramses pointed to emphasize his words. “Yes, that will be faster. No, it won’t use less power. It’s like your petrol-powered car.”
Leona cleared her throat suggestively. “Uh, Ramses, none of these people drove cars, except for Mateo and me. Not even you!” she reminded him affectionately.
“Well, the analogy stands. They all know what cars are. My point is that if you drive slowly, you use less fuel, but it takes you longer to get there. If you drive faster, you spend less time using up your fuel, but you use a lot in a shorter time period. What we need to do is go right in the middle; find that happy medium.”
“So teleport part of the way, and propel the rest?” Kivi figured.
Ramses smiled sinisterly. “I’ve come up with something even better, which will use our power more efficiently than that.” Now he cleared his throat, but not suggestively; to prepare to wow them with his brilliance. “The whole idea behind teleportation is getting you from A to B instantaneously. You’re not supposed to fall down when you get there, which is why momentum is not part of the equation. I mean, it is, but it’s a safety thing that I won’t get into. What we need to do is not simply conserve momentum, but multiply it. I can rig this thing to teleport us one AU at a time, and every time we do, it will propel us another AU very quickly. This allows us to use what little power we have left more efficiently.”
“Why can’t we just use more of the cuffs?” Olimpia offered.
Ramses and Leona gave each other a look. “We could do that, yeah, but we don’t really want to, because we’re not sure if we’ll be able to refuel. This endeavor could also burn them out. Leona’s original cuff may never be usable again. It wasn’t designed for something like this.”
“Isn’t it worth it?” Olimpia pressed. “We don’t need the cuffs, we just like them.”
“If you lose your cuff, Olimpia, you’re going back to the echo.”
“I can think of worse fates,” she replied.
“This will work,” Ramses tried to assure them. “We just need to get to that star and then we’ll be good. I promise you.”
Mateo tried to stand up to comfort his friend, but the seatbelt got in the way. He didn’t undo it, because floating over would have been more awkward than staying put. “We trust you. If you both say the math works, it works. Who are we to argue?”
It didn’t work. But in the end, they decided as a group that it was good enough. The Cassidy cuff ran out of deuterium faster than they calculated it would. It wasn’t really anything Leona and Ramses did, but the battery projections on the cuffs themselves turned out to be slightly inaccurate. Based on even more math, the smart people were able to calculate that the ship could make the rest of the journey on its own, gathering solar energy little by little. The closer it drew, the more power it used, but also the more light the panels were able to absorb. It would be a fairly steady recharge, and by the time they returned to the timestream a year from now, it will have been orbiting the star for the last several weeks. That was when they would finally reach the planet, and figure out just what the hell was going on.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Extremus: Year 15

They were right. By checking serial numbers, Halan was able to confirm that a dozen cryopens were taken from the lab. Now that this one has been returned, Oaksent has ended up with eleven. But that’s not all he took. He managed to steal dozens of unfertilized eggs as well, giving him as much as he would need to sustain an isolated population on a habitable planet indefinitely. There are still a lot of unanswered questions, like where is this planet? How did Oaksent know that it would be habitable? What did Old Man have to do with anything? What happened to Rita and Airlock Karen? Hopefully Omega and Valencia would be able to find the truth during the time travel excursion. It could take them a very long time to pick up the trail, but they should be able to return to the moment they left. According to the Bridger doctor, Dr. Merlo, it was unsafe to return the cryopen to its place in inventory. They’re designed to be tamper proof in that once they’re sealed, any attempt to open them should result in the loss of all samples, but it’s just too risky. If they’re ever needed, they wouldn’t want one kid growing up with five arms, or something. Dr. Merlo took it to dispose of properly. Another potential life lost.
Exactly a year later, it was time to deliver the bad news. Halan gave Omega and Valencia this much time to figure out how to design a temporal illusory cloak that fools not only the naked eye, but sensitive detection equipment. Former ship temporal engineer Raddle desperately wanted to make it work, but Omega was right all along. It just wasn’t possible. It was relatively easy to cut and paste the background into the foreground in order to prevent someone from seeing what you don’t want them to see, even in real time. But the object you’re trying to hide is still there, and still making an impact on the environment. They could turn the ship into a darklurker, sure, which would shield them from such detection, but it would also turn them blind as well. Either no one can see you, including yourself, or everyone can. The illusion is a loophole, but it’s not perfect.
By now, Valencia has resigned herself to the fact that it’s not going to happen. They’re just going to have to be extra careful. She has to agree that it’s probably for the best in the long run, and in a more general sense. Such technology would have a myriad of ways to be abused. They intend to use it with the best of intentions, and they can do all they want to protect it from getting out, but as the old time traveler’s saying goes, “if something ever exists, then it has always existed.”
“Too true,” Omega confirms.
“So this means you two are ready to go?” Halan asks.
“Yes, sir,” Valencia admits.
Something about the way she said that gives him pause. “I want to make it clear that this is a decision we made together. This is not an order. If you want to back out, I’m not going to argue with you about it. I want to find out the truth more than anyone, but not at the expense of two of the most valuable members of my crew.”
“I’m not on the crew anymore,” Valencia points out.
“Retirement is not the same thing as a discharge,” Halan contends. “I still consider you part of the team. You just have a different role, like the one I’ll have when I become an admiral.”
Omega decides to jump in before the pre-argument can continue. “We don’t consider this an order, we want to do this, and we’re ready to go.”
“Okay,” Halan says with a quick nod. “Run a full final dia—”
“We did before you came in.”
“Well, did you—?”
“What about the—”
“Three times, sir.”
“Very well. Launch when you’re ready,” Halan suggests, but doesn’t order.
“Just so you know,” Omega begins, “when it comes to temporal manipulation, technology is never as accurate as a human with innate ability. We can program the time shuttle to take us back to our destination, but relativistic speeds, and other factors, can potentially throw us off the mark.”
“We were able to send the mining drones accurately,” Halan notes.
“Well...most of them,” Valencia reminds him. “Plus, since they were unmanned, we were okay with a little bit—shall we call it—temporal turbulence.”
“It was a rough ride, sir,” Omega clarified. “Sending people is riskier.”
“So, we’re not doing it,” Halan sort of questions, sort of figures.
“No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no,” Valencia assures him. “We’re just going to use a different tactic. The mining ships needed to leave on a very specific course, so they would have enough time to complete their missions, and return at a specified time. They were better off being unmanned for a number of reasons, the turbulence being one of them, but also because they weren’t capable of improvisation. If they were off target by a given degree, they wouldn’t be able to compensate for it. For us, the timing doesn’t have to be so precise, because we can always try again. What we’re worried about is running into the ship. Or rather, having the ship run into us. It’s much safer for us to jump to the future, to a point when you’re long gone, and only then make our way to the past after we’re safely clear of your flight path.”
“It also means that we won’t necessarily return a second after we leave,” Omega adds. “One might think accuracy is paramount, but for us, it can be dangerous. It’s easier to just get close enough, and teleport the rest of the way.”
“Teleportation is far easier to control,” Valencia finishes.
The Captain nods again. “As long as you both are comfortable with the math, I’m confident in your abilities.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Thank you.”
Halan’s watch beeps. “Mercer needs me in the mess.”
“You don’t have to see us off, sir. It’s okay.”
“No. It can wait. Take your time.”
Omega and Valencia give each other a look. “There’s nothing left to do. Just a few buttons, and we’re gone.”
Captain Yenant proceeds to the observation room while the two travelers close the hatch, and prepare for launch. Not a minute later, the time shuttle, which they have chosen to call The Suárez, disappears. As warned, it does not return a second later. He waits five minutes to make sure they’re not just a little late, then teleports to a corridor near the mess hall to make up the time he would have spent walking there. He made a point of making himself out to be the kind of person who prefers to use his legs, even though he has full teleportation privileges. He uses this fib to delay making his way to the next crisis, but only when it’s taking him away from the current crisis. He likes to keep people’s expectations low, so he doesn’t set the precedent that he’s a wizard who can make any problem go away with the snap of his fingers.
He walks into the mess hall to find security flanking a passenger, whose hands have been bound behind his back. Others still have food before them, but aren’t eating. “Report.”
Mercer steps forward. “Sir, he won’t leave. He’s been...uncooperative.”
“I have a right to be here!” Yavo Gusorisi is an unremarkable shoemaker who Halan put on a list of staunch supporters of Ovan Teleres for Passenger Chair. While Ovan did win the election, most of his voters are not quite this radical. Yavo is loud and angry, for pretty much no reason at all, and has not been able to make his presence known to the rest of the ship. He’s not as famous as he wishes to be. Halan only knows this much about him because of the list, but had Ovan never existed, Yavo’s passenger file would have made for a quick and uninteresting read. “Segregation is a sin!”
That word. Halan knows what this is. The first of the blind loyalists have started to clang the pots of pans of their unwarranted feelings of disenfranchisement. The Chair has emboldened them to finally take noticeable action against the Teleres administration’s perceived enemies. Once all the crazy ones have shown themselves, Ovan will treat them as misunderstood, and not as radical as the cucks and snowflakes make them out to be. Still, people will remember that they are indeed radicals, and won’t want to become like them. Soon after that, some of these moderates, who believe themselves to be more rational, and immune to radicalization, will begin to institute small protests of their own. They won’t feel as inhibited about it as they were before, because they can see that they’re not as bad as people like Yavo. This is all part of the plan. Ovan’s plan.
The man is an evil genius, and Halan isn’t sure he’ll be able to beat him. How he handles this situation will determine the nature of all political battles in the foreseeable future. As long as Halan is captain, Ovan will be able to paint the crew as the enemy. More than three centuries ago, a country on Earth known as the United States of America was divided. Some people wanted equality, and some didn’t, and during the 1950s, the second side was the clear dominant force. A young woman by the name of Claudette Colvin refused to leave her seat on a public transportation vehicle because of her skin color. Her act of defiance against the establishment was one of many precipitated by those who believed in freedom and justice. They had a right to fight for their rights. Their rights were being violated. They called it segregation, and it was created in order to continue too oppress an entire peoples after centuries of abduction, slavery, abuse, rape, murder, and other forms of much more obvious mistreatment.
Though Halan has been focusing primarily on the True Extremist movement, he has not let the Ovan problem go without maintaining a line of intelligence on the matter. Though not, strictly speaking, legal, Halan managed to get his hands on the manifesto that Ovan has been writing. He cites Claudette Colvin, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and many others, essentially claiming that he is presently in the middle of the same war against tyranny. While the situation could not be more different, this was obviously designed to be Yavo’s Claudette Colvin moment. This is meant to illustrate just how unfair and elitist the crew is, and why the civil administration should be making all decisions on The Extremus. This is the mess hall, rather than one of several passenger-run restaurants in the passenger section. It’s meant for the crew to separate themselves from their responsibilities, and relax. No passenger is meant to be here. More is at stake than that, however. There are other places that the crew can go to blow off steam, and complain about their clients. The only way to win the war is to concede this battle before it begins. The separation of passenger and crew sections is not the same thing as segregation, but if that’s the game Ovan wants to play, then he’s going to play it by Halan’s rules.
The Captain looks over at security. He lifts his hand, and cuts the air with his index and middle fingers. A security guard takes out her knife, and snips off Yavo’s zip cuffs. Yavo rubs his wrists as if he had just been detained for the last twenty years. Halan places a hand on the curve that connects Yavo’s shoulder with his neck. He sports his most genuine-looking fake smile. “Come. Let’s get you something to eat. How do you feel about paninis?”