Saturday, February 26, 2022

Extremus: Year 33

Admiral Olindse Belo is a decent leader, served as a good captain, and is a great person. She listened to her advisors, and the people, and dispensed reasonable and righteous orders. She treats everyone with respect, even when they don’t really deserve it. Unlike Kaiora and Halan, she is not a manipulator. She knows how to lie, but she doesn’t know how to deceive, or steer people in the direction that she wants. She speaks plainly, and unambiguously, and genuinely cares about other people’s needs. Despite what Vice Admiral Perran Thatch tried to teach her about the art of war, Ovan and Dvronen were able to see right through her scheme. So when they were released for a week, along with Halan Yenant, they acted like model citizens, not causing trouble, or starting any revolutions. That’s not what Olindse wanted. She wanted Halan to look like a hero, so the ship would eventually agree to release him from hock. Then again, it is indeed what she wanted to happen. Temporarily releasing the other two could have spelled doom for the mission, but they were so scared of rocking the boat that they didn’t do anything even remotely wrong. In the end, that is a much greater achievement than any sort of conspiratorial deep state could hope to replicate. Peace won out after all.
Since the brief prison release experiment, things on Extremus have been going swimmingly. The people who have strong feelings against incarceration saw a little bit of justice, according to their moral standards. The people who believe strongly in favor of paying for one’s crimes saw all three long-term prisoners returned to their cells relatively swiftly. Everyone saw that their leadership was fair, open-minded, and very much not tyrannical. It was a win-win-win-ad-nauseum, and Olindse was pleased with herself for having come up with yet another great idea that turned out even better than she hoped. At the same time, she has gone back to not being needed.
Tap, tap, tap. “Hello?
“Umm...hello?” Olindse asks the aether.
Is this Vice Admiral Belo?” the mysterious voice asks. Tap, tap, tap again.
Full Admiral, who is this?”
Oh, sorry, I wasn’t sure when I would reach you. I’m in the mirror.
Olindse keeps the time mirror she uses to communicate with Thatch in her drawer when she doesn’t need advice from him. Who is this person? She pulls it out, and sets it on the desk.
“Thank you, I feel like I can breathe again, even though I’m obviously not actually in the mirror,” the man muses.
“Who are you?” Olindse presses.
“This is Captain Kaison Summerling, Seventh of Eleven.”
Oh, someone from the future. “Eleven? How did that happen?”
“Let’s just say...there was a death in the family,” Kaison replies.
“Kaison, you say? How do you—”
“K-A-I-S-O-N. It’s a family name. That’s what I want to talk to you about.”
“This is highly irregular,” Olindse points out.
“So is doing the same thing as this with Vice Admiral Thatch.”
How does he know about that? “That’s different, he has a way of erasing his own memories without anyone else’s help.”
“So do you,” Kaison points out. “It’s hidden in the mirror. Place the tips of your six middle fingers against each other, and lay the pads down on the base. Like this, watch me as I do it in the air. Anywhere’s fine. Now simultaneously tap one pinky, and the opposite thumb down. Do the same for the opposite ones. Slide your fingers apart, and a little compartment should pop open.”
He’s right. A tiny little door opens on the stem. Inside is the little green bottle of eyedrops that Thatch supposedly uses to erase his memory of an entire day.
“One drop per eye should take care of a day, maybe a little longer. If I ever need you again in the future, I plan on reaching out within seconds of our last meeting, from your perspective, so you only have to do it once.”
“I haven’t agreed to anything,” Olindse tells him.
“Please, I need your help, and you’re the only one I can trust. You’ve already traveled through time; you understand the risks.”
“Is everything that happened to me common knowledge?” she asks.
“No, it’s just my knowledge,” he answers.
She turns the bottle around in her fingers. “Fine. Just...choose your words carefully, and keep it as short as possible.”
“What’s your problem?”
“Well, you noticed how similar my name is to your Captain’s. I am Kaiora Leithe’s grand-nephew.”
“So, when you said there was a death in the family...”
“I meant it literally.”
“Is Kaiora the one who dies?” Olindse will not be able to retain this information about the future, but this version of her has her memories intact, and is dealing with the issue right now in this moment. She has to hear the truth, regardless of whether she’ll be allowed to recall it later or not.
“No. It was my mother.”
“Your mother?” Olindse questions, aghast at the possibility. “Three captains, one family?”
Kaison sighs. “Four. My father finished her shift for her when she died.”
“Jesus Christ, Kaison, this isn’t how the system was intended to work.”
“We all got here on our own merits, even my father. They met each other in school, both on the captain’s track, and he almost beat her out of the position before. You have to understand that a lot happens after Kaiora completes her own shift. Things were weird, and the people demanded someone reliable, and almost familiar. Mom fit that description, and she was excellent before she passed. No one thought about the fact that she was a legacy.”
“Still. The crew considering her in the first place, knowing she was related to a previous’s not right. And then you come along...they shouldn’t have even let you apply to the program.”
“Well, I did, and I made it, and I earned it, but some people...”
“Doubt you? I would think so.”
“I just need your advice on how to lead them without being manipulative. You’re famous for your integrity, against all other previous and current executive crewmembers.”
“My advice?”
“No matter what it is?”
“How long have you been in the seat?”
He takes too long to respond.
“A day.”
Olindse rolls her eyes. “Well. It’s not a good sign that you sought my help quite this early in your shift, but it works to our advantage. My advice is to step down. Tell them you changed your mind. The people who make these decisions chose you,but you weren’t the only one they were contemplating. There’s a runner-up. In fact, there are at least two. They just don’t release these other names to the public. There’s still time for you to fix this, but the longer you wait, the shittier you’ll look. Do the right thing, and get out of there. End the dynasty. People don’t like things like that, because the kings of old used to take their positions based purely on the bloodline, which is a ridiculous and archaic way of finding leadership.”
Kaison looks away, and shakes his head, but then he begins to nod. “You’re right, you’re right! This is unfair. And even if it isn’t, it will always look like it is, and I inherently will not be able to be a good leader. I guess I knew this, and I just needed to hear from someone which history has shown that I can trust.”
“Can you promise me you’ll do it, or are you deceiving me?”
“No, I promise.”
“Okay. Good. We should end it here.”
“Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” she says. She turns off the time mirror, and begins to open the eye drop bottle. He surely won’t need to speak with her again if he’s no longer going to be Captain.

“Hello? Admiral Belo?”
Olindse stops, and looks down at the mirror. He looks older—he looks a lot older. “Kaison, what the hell are you doing? You were supposed to step down.”
“I did. After we hung up, I literally transported right up to the Consul’s office to declare my decision. Nobody tried to talk me out of it. I basically got an annulment. The real Captain even just went by Seventh of Eleven, instead of twelve. Things were great, it was the right decision. Unfortunately, it did not come without its consequences, at least as far as we’re concerned. I kept the mirror, because...who else can be trusted with it? But I don’t have any other privileges. I’m not even allowed to join the crew in any capacity. It would reflect poorly on everyone. I accepted this, and things were great for twenty-four years, but I kind of need to be in a position of power now, because of the new, new captain.”
“I don’t think I should hear about this.”
“You have to,” Kaison insists. “You’re still the only one I can trust. He is bad news, Olindse, I’m tellin’ you, they made a big mistake. He is—I mean, if you thought Ovan Teleres was a problem, you...he—like, Ovan is a sweet puppy dog compared to this guy. He’s gonna get us all killed. He is clinically insane, and I don’t think anyone can stop him.”
“Who else knows about this?” Olindse asks.
“Just you and I would guess the scattered few others who have picked up on the signs. I haven’t discussed it with anyone, though.”
“So he isn’t outwardly evil?”
“No, but I can tell. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. He’s like Ovan, but he’s not Ovan. Please, this is bad.”
“Kaison, I can’t do anything about it, and neither can you. If he hasn’t done anything wrong, then it’s over, he’s Captain.”
Kaison is shaking his head. “You don’t understand.”
“Come to me with proof,” Olindse advises. “Something I can hang my hat on. That’s the only way you can get anything done. But if you commit a crime to accomplish it, you’re not doin’ the ship any favors, so you have to think long and hard about every single move you make from here on out. If he’s as dangerous as you believe, you can’t get caught looking for evidence.”
“Okay,” Kaison says with a nod. “I’ll begin my own investigation, but I’ll do it slowly, and carefully, and methodically.”
“Good. Contact me when you have something.” She takes a gander at her watch. “In a few seconds. I’ll hold off on the eyedrops until I know you’re safe, and whatever problem may arise has been resolved.”
“Thank you again.”
“You’re welcome again.”
Seconds later, a figure appears in the time mirror, but it isn’t Kaison. It’s a woman. “Admiral Belo?” she whispers. She seems nervous and frightened. A light above her flickers, and she jumps in a panic, darting her eyes to make sure she’s still alone.
“Can I help you?”
“You were the one that dad always used to talk about?”
“Kaison Summerling.”
“Uhh, yeah.”
“Your advice was good, but...he wasn’t. He couldn’t pull it off. He’s been in hock for years. The good news is that his crazy theories were right, so he’s been validated.”
“What happened?”
“We’re running scared. I was able to get a message from him, but all it said was to find this mirror, and talk to you. The hock is in a section of Extremus that we can’t get to. There’s a border separating us. On one end is the real bridge, and on the other is the original bridge...the one they called The Perran Thatch. Each side controls some systems, but neither controls all of it. We’re in the middle of an internal conflict. It’s a war.” She shakes her head, still scared, even though it sounds like the enemy can’t get to her. “It’s a war we can’t win.”
“If the border separates the bow from the stern, that means the Extraction Room is on your side of it. Is that true?”
“It is,” the unnamed woman confirms.
Olindse takes a second to think about if she really wants to do this. This isn’t her fight. Her fight is decades prior; it’s now. But there is no fight now. Things are fine, and it’s the future of this mission that’s at stake. Kaiora will have to understand. They’ll be fine without her. They won’t even notice that she’s gone. She disappeared for months, and people just moved on. It seems as though that was a dry run for the mission that begins today. “Extract me. I’ll come and help.”
“Open the portal before I change my mind.”
“Thank you.”
Olindse takes out a slip of regular old paper. The portal opens up on the other side of the room. Before she can scribble out a goodbye note, the normal door opens up.
Captain Kaiora Leithe is on the other side. She darts her gaze over to the portal. “What’s going on?”
“I’m not needed here, but I’m needed there, in the future.”
“Olindse, don’t,” Kaiora commands.
“Take care of my ship, so it’s still there when I get to the other side.”
“Admiral Olindse Belo, I order you to stand down. Do not step through that portal. I mean it.”
“I’m sorry.”
Kaiora places herself between Olindse and the portal, but the thing about portals is that they connect two points in spacetime together. There is no reason you can’t use one in tandem with other time technology.
Olindse activates her teleporter, and jumps right through. In a second, the portal is closed, and the only living admiral this ship still had left is gone.
Kaiora looks over at the desk, and eyes the memory-wiping solution.

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