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?”

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