Saturday, February 12, 2022

Extremus: Year 31

It took a shockingly long time for Omega to realize who the photographer, September was, and what her weird cryptic messages meant. Her name was no random coincidence. There is a woman from Earth with the ability to travel through time—fittingly, through pictures. Sometimes when she does this, she will just be completing a loop of destiny. She hasn’t changed anything about the timeline; she stayed in one reality, and did everything she was destined to do. Other times, however, she’s able to change the past, and when that happens, it will generate a brand new timeline. The problem is, now there were two versions of her in this reality. It’s unclear how it occurs, but there are a few options to deal with this situation. Her method is for all the alternates to coexist in the same timeline. They usually avoid any confusion or complications by going off in different directions, and the traveler will give herself a different name to distinguish themselves. The original was and is named Paige. The second one is Dyad, the third Trinity, and so on. September is the seventh incarnation. How and why she ended up on Extremus, and how involved she is in its goingson, is something that Omega isn’t cognizant of. That’s not his concern right now, though. He’s on a mission of great importance, and the key to completing it lies in the comments that September made just before the detachment team left.
Omega was a clone. The original, Saxon Parker, was given his own mission, along with a few others. They were tasked with installing an outpost in every single star system in the galaxy. His superiors decided that they wanted a human touch to the automated ships. Thusly, the clones were grown. They were each given a number, Omega’s being the last, which inspired him to name himself accordingly. Omega also didn’t want to go through with the mission, so Saxon was forced to fill in for him. But this isn’t about Omega’s number. It’s about number 83. That’s what September offered them, so to the location of number 83 is where they’re going.
The team doesn’t want to travel through time, and Captain Leithe strongly suggested that they not anyway. Still, they needed to cover over 20,000 light years, and they needed to figure out how to do it in a matter of years. So instead of sending their whole ship back in time, they sent the original time shuttle on its own. Once there, it would take the long way around to finally reach the location of Anglo 83, which shouldn’t be too far from the border of what was deemed Earth’s stellar neighborhood. This neighborhood spans a radius of fifty light years in all directions, and the True Extremists have decided—without telling anyone, naturally—that everything beyond it belonged to them.
Surely they would claim that they were protecting fragile Earthans from the existence of their distant cousins by not actually telling them about the border, but this is a ridiculous stance. Sure, it’s fine for when the people of Earth were young and naïve, but when they began to try to spread out to the stars, the True Extremists should have made themselves known. As explained by famous futurist Isaac Arthur, if you don’t want people to come to your backyard, you don’t hide from them. You warn them that you’re there, and you do it loudly. No civilization capable of galactic colonization would ever dare trespass against a neighbor who has proven themselves strong enough to be seen for as long in years as they are far away in light years. That is, if the Earthans could witness the might of the True Extremists, they would know how powerful the aliens were based on their ability to be witnessed from 50 light years away at least 50 years ago. It’s even in the freakin’ handbook. According to protocols developed by Earthan scientists before they so much as passed the heliosphere, first contact with a superior alien force is to be made at those aliens’ discretion; not the other way around.
“Is it finally ready?” Captain Moralez asks.
“Yes, it’s arrived at the destination, currently pilot fishing Voussoir Splitter Seven,” Valencia answers.
“Any explanation for why it cut it so close? We have been ready to cast for over four years.”
Valencia shakes her head as she’s looking over the data. “Best guess, it went slow. It wasn’t traveling at maximum reframe. I’m not really seeing that in the logs, though.”
“Did you do this?” Yitro questions Omega.
“Why would I do that?”
“Your little riddle that the photographer had for you. She must have given you the impression that we shouldn’t arrive until now. So you programmed the shuttle to go just a little bit slower than it could have.”
“September told us to find clone 83. She didn’t say when. This had nothing to do with me, I don’t know what went wrong.”
The Captain isn’t convinced.
“He’s telling the truth,” Valencia argues. “Stop looking at him like that.”
“I’m still not convinced he should be here,” Yitro says to her. “It’s his brother out there on that ship. That could be a conflict of interest.”
Omega can’t help but laugh.
“We don’t have the split schedule,” Omega tries to explain, “but we know that Anglo 83’s module hasn’t had time to split apart that much yet. There could be as many as 1100 people on that thing right now. They should all be asleep, but...we don’t know that.”
“Even more cause to be concerned about you going on this mission,” Yitro reasons.
“No offense to you, honey,” Omega says to the mother of his child before switching his attention back to the Captain, “but I’m the smartest person on this detachment. You need me.”
“Someone has to stay here anyway,” Yitro contends, knowing it to be a weak argument.
“Yes,” Omega says with a condescending nod, “the navigator, and the casting engineer, as well as the medic, and our amazing auxiliary crewmember. The rest of us are on the away team. This was decided long ago, why are you fighting it now?”
“I don’t know,” Yitro admits. “I’m just worried about what’s waiting for us on the other side of that quantum casting pod. I don’t like that we’re four years behind. But you’re right. Intelligence aside, having a clone on the team is an asset. Let’s go.”
“Not quite yet.” Kaiora wanted to send a doctor with them, but Extremus couldn’t afford to lose anyone right now. The crew was having a surprisingly hard time backfilling medical positions. Dechen Karma was the best medic currently licensed, so that was the compromise. “You need a fitness approval from me.”
“And I need to finish running diagnostics on these pods,” engineer Hardy Gibson adds.
“Oh, good,” Yitro says sarcastically. “Anyone else? Navigator Trimble?  Yeoman?”
They shake their heads, a little in fear.
“Great, then I think we’ll just be going. It’s been four months, there’s nothing wrong with the pods, or our bodies.” Yitro starts taking off his uniform.
“You don’t need to do that,” Gibson assures him. “It just hooks up to your brain.”
“I knew that, I’m just...getting comfortable.”
“Is he okay?” Omega whispers to Valencia.
“A lot can change about a person in four years,” she replies. “This is a small detachment ship. Cabin fever, if I had to guess.”
“Maybe he should be staying behind.”
The three of them climb into their respective pods. Gibson and Karma link them to the computer, and prepare to cast them thousands of light years away. “It’s just like playing Quantum Colony,” Gibson says, “except we’ll be sending your consciousness there intact, rather than having you pilot a surrogate.”
“Very well,” Yitro replies. “Do it.”
Omega tries to give Valencia another knowing look, but they can’t see each other from inside their pods. So he just closes his eyes, and lets himself go.”
Omega awakens in the destination pod, but it’s not what he expected. His new body ought to be tilted at a 135 degree angle, just like his real one. Instead, he’s fully flat, and fully encased. This looks less like a casting pod, and more like a stasis chamber. No, this doesn’t make sense at all. He slides the hatch above him open, and pulls himself up to look around. This doesn’t look like the time shuttle either, but it does look familiar. He tries to speak, but it’s always a little difficult at first, so he clears his throat profusely. “Computer, report.”
It is February 12, 2300 at closest estimate to realtime. Cruising at point-nine-nine—
“I get it,” Omega interrupts. “We shouldn’t be time dilating yet. We should still be at reframe speeds.”
I’m afraid I do not understand,” the computer says.
“Hey, computer! I wasn’t talking to you.”
Okay, well I’m sorry to have bothered you. Sorry, Anglo Eighty-Three. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.
“What did you just call me?”
I was programmed to recognize your designation as Anglo Eighty-Three. Would you like to provide me with a different name?
“Where are we?”
This is Voussoir Splitter Seven of the Project Stargate Quantum Seeder Program for the Milky Way Galaxy Colonization Initiative.
That’s not right. He’s not supposed to be on the modular ship yet. He was just supposed to be cast to their time shuttle, where they would investigate from the outside, only intending to board the splitter if necessary. Omega has to work through this logic with the computer. “Why am I awake?”
I’m afraid I do not understand.
“Anglos are not meant to wake up unless something is wrong with the ship, so why am I awake?”
The computer took a moment to respond. “Unknown. Revival process triggered from inside the stasis chamber.
“Doesn’t that seem a little odd to you, since I was asleep, and couldn’t have prompted said revival process myself?”
Hmm.” That’s an interesting response.
“Computer, did you detect a quantum casting event prior to my awakening?”
Checking logs. Yes, recent casting event detected.
You’re not Anglo Eighty-Three, are you?
“No, I’m a different Anglo.” a problem.
“Yeah. Do you detect any other vessels in this region of space?”
One, traveling at incongruent relativistic speeds. Communication impossible.
“Not impossible, just a shorter time frame. I’m gonna teach you how to reframe your communication protocols. I absolutely must connect with my Captain, and my...Valencia.” They never really did fully define this relationship. They have the same last name now, but never married.

Valencia sits before the computer, staring at the camera. “Engineer’s log, February 14, 2300. It has been two days since I arrived alone on the time shuttle. Still no word from the Captain, or Omega. I cannot reach the Perran Thatch. I have been monitoring the progress of Voussoir Splitter Seven, which is traveling at maximum relativistic speeds. So far, nothing has gone wrong. I am detecting no other vessels in the vicinity, nor any reason to believe that the True Extremists are anywhere near here. I have been able to make short jumps to confirm this. If they’re planning to come here at all, they’ve not arrived yet, though I can’t rule out the possibility that the casting problem is the result of some kind of sabotage. I may end up becoming the victim of survivor’s guilt, with my two crewmembers lost to the quantum void.” She sighs.
A message pops up on the screen, reading turn off the reframe engine, love.
“Computer, turn off reframe. Match relativistic speed with the voussoir splitter.”
After the computer complies, another message arrives, but video this time. “Valencia, you made it.”
“You’re on the splitter. Why didn’t I think of that?”
“It’s only been a few minutes.”
“It’s been a couple days for me.”
He shrugs. “I’ve heard it both ways. Where’s Captain Moralez.”
She sighs again. “Shit. I was hoping he was with you.”
“No. Hopefully he’s just back on the Thatch.”
“Are we ever that lucky?”
“We found the source of the meteor chain.”
“That took us twenty years.”
“I’ve heard it both ways.”
“We need to find him.”
“We will.”

Not too far away, but still out of sensor range, Yitro wakes up to find two weapons trained on him. They wait as he coughs profusely. “Oh, man, pardon me. Good day, I’m Captain Moralez of the Perran Thatch Detachment Ship. Got any water?”

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