Saturday, March 12, 2022

Extremus: Year 35

Omega and Valencia decided that they needed some help. Fortunately, they potentially had that in the form of over a thousand of Omega’s clones. It’s their job to wake up in case something goes wrong with Project Stargate, and while they’re mostly expected to be responsible for things like transferring antimatter from a cracked pod to a replacement, this situation qualifies as a moment of need.
The modular quantum seeder ships were only made as large as they needed to be to get the job done. There are corridors, ventilation shafts, engine rooms, and a few interface consoles, but the majority of the space is taken up by three-meter tall seed capsules. There was simply not enough room for all current clones to convene for a meeting, and it was never the intention to hold such meetings at all anyway. To do this, they had to activate a special virtual construct. Anglo clones were meant to be asleep throughout their respective journeys, but the engineers wanted to be prepared for any eventuality. Bonus, they’ll get some time to wake up and stretch their legs.
Once their minds are all connected to the simulation, Omega and Valencia step on stage, and go over the bullet points.
“So, you think you’re, like, our leader, or something?” one of the Anglos asks.
“That’s not what I said,” Omega defends.
“You think you’re better than us because you have a name,” another guesses.
“No, he thinks he’s better than us because he has a life!” a third counters.
“Please, please,” Valencia says after taking the microphone. “This is not about what Omega did. You have lives, and you have purposes, and those are both under threat. We ask for your help with stopping this. The True Extremists are more powerful than we even know, and they’ve sent some kind of contingency to destroy you. We don’t even know what. We’re not saying he’s your leader. No one is. We have to fight against this together.”
“Are you a girl clone?” a fourth one questions.
“Don’t you worry about who I am.”
“That sounds suspicious.”
“I just mean...ugh.”
“Look,” Omega begins, “a lot has happened since I abandoned the program. Yes, I’ll admit that, I abandoned you. But I did a lot of growing up during all the happenings, and I’m back now to prevent catastrophe. Saxon made us for a reason, and we can’t let him down just because I was the weakest of the bunch.”
“Hey, he’s right!” one of them cries. “Why is this guy on stage! Saxon Parker is our creator! He’s our leader!”
Valencia takes the mic back again. ‘That’s enough with the interruptions! I understand that you’re confused, and I get that you’re mad. But Omega and I are the only ones who can explain to you what is going on, and why these people have to be stopped. I’m sure Saxon is a great guy, but he is not cognizant of the True Extremists. You’re here, and only you can end this.”
The crowd starts to murmur and argue. Who knew that a bunch of people with the same DNA, same basic neural makeup, and same purpose, would have so much to fight about? It’s hard to say what they’re so upset about, because they don’t have any life experience to draw upon, so they probably don’t know either. That must be what it is. They’re scared, because they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re not equipped to make such decisions. Valencia is wrong. As he listens, Omega realizes that this isn’t going to be good enough. These clones are clearly on the front lines, but it doesn’t only affect them. It affects the entire clone population, and they all have the right to decide what to do for themselves. He can’t say exactly why September directed them towards this particular voussoir, but this has to just be where it begins. “I propose a Town Hall.”
They all hush up as if they know what he’s referring to. Valencia wraps her hand around the microphone. “What is that?”
“What is that?” another one of the clones asks for all to hear.
“It’s like meeting. I’m suggesting we enter a joint virtual environment, where everyone can hear the problem, and contribute to the solution.”
“Will Saxon be there?”
“Yes, Saxon is in my pod, so he’ll be there,” Omega promises.
“I think that would be a good idea.” This clone is different. He walks with confidence and independence. Without asking, he climbs on stage, and approaches the duo. “Hi, I’m Anglo 83, and I believe that you stole my body.”
Yitro Moralez’ body is on fire, which is funny, because he’s entirely submerged in some kind of fluid. Oh yeah, it’s probably acid, and probably isn’t all that funny. It’s burning him, but not damaging or destroying his skin cells. It’s like it’s just bad enough to hurt, but not bad enough to call upon death’s comforting touch of painless oblivion. No, he can’t think like that. Death is not the answer to this problem. He just has to get out of this acid vat. He doesn’t know how long he’s been in here, screaming in agony. He can’t even tell which way is up. But even if he could, up doesn’t necessarily mean out.
What’s this in his mouth? Oh that likely helps him breathe. And this on his eyes? Goggles to breathe. And over there? That’s the framing of his pod. And that? Glass. Well, it’s clearness. Is there anything on the other side of the glassic clearness? Hazy figures meandering about, gawking at him, and monitoring his vitals. He doesn’t really know that, but there are definitely people out there, and they know he’s being tortured, whether they’re the ones in charge of the torturing, or not.
What if he pounds on the clearness? Pound. Nothing, it’s too strong. Okay, well what if he pounds again? Pound. No, it’s not gonna do him any good. He’s just wasting time and energy. What does he need energy for? He’s stuck in a vat of acid! The only thing he can do is try to get out of it. That’s true. Carry on. Pound, pound, pound. The figures on the other side of the clearness seem to be reacting to this now.  Yitro imagines that one is assuring the others that the clearness will hold, and can’t break, but after each pound, gulping, and wondering whether this is an accurate statement. He doesn’t want the others to see his doubt, but he wears his emotions on his sleeve, which is why the other guy is pissed off that he was promoted to Head Torturer when he clearly can’t handle his shit. Pound, pound, pound, pound, pound. They back up. The clearness may not be as strong as they originally thought. Maybe they should go run for help. But if they do that, all the other departments will know that the torture team is composed of incompetent people who skimped on the clearness budget so they could have a coffee maker in their breakroom, which they probably don’t even deserve a break room anyway, because they’re are only four people on the team, and they could have just shared with the bioweapon developers.
Pound. That one was weaker, and it took him a long time to try again. Yitro is losing his strength. He’ll have to give up eventually, even if the clearness was bound to break eventually. The acid is doing its job. He’s trapped and being tortured and he’ll never get out of it. Pound, pound, pound, pound, pound, pound, pound, pound, pound, pound, pound, pound, crack! They jump back in unison. Oh yeah, there it is! Now they’re scared, but they’re too scared to do anything about it. It’s time for Yitro to get out of here, if it’s the last thing he does before he passes out. Sure, they may just throw him in another vat of acid, but at least he will have proven himself. At least he’ll have gotten out, and they will never be able to take that away from him. Plus, he’ll just break out of the next one, and the next, and the next. Give him a million vats, and he’ll give you a million broken vats. Pound, crack, pound, crack. Pound, crack, pound, crack, crack. Crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, shatter!
Yitro tumbles out with the acid. He isn’t able to watch the hazy figures in the chaos, but he imagines they finally did run away for their lives. The glassic clearness rips into his legs, and while he can feel it, nothing compares to the anguish from burning acid that covers his whole body, and from which there is no escape. Except there was an escape, and he’s just illustrated that.
He recognizes that he can’t just lie here, because then he’s lying on a floor covered in acid, and the whole point is to stop doing that. He gets up, and stumbles around. Jesus, someone should really put a wet floor sign down here. He doesn’t mean to literally be asking Jesus to do that, but as he’s hunting for the exit, he can’t help but imagine an actual man named Jesus tossing things around in his little janitor closet, desperately trying to find the wet floor sign so no one else gets hurt. It’s a funny image, and it’s the only thing keeping Yitro from throwing in the towel. A towel! There’s a towel there. He grabs it, and starts drying the acid off his body, as well as he possibly can. It’s not a towel, but a lab coat, so it’s not very absorbent, but it’s better than nothing.
Lab coat spent, and acid dried mostly from his skin, Yitro keeps on running. Out of the lab, down the corridor, and through the first door he sees. Now a light burns his eyes like a vat of acid. He’s outside, and that’s the sun. Well, it’s a sun. He’s never seen a sun before. Stars, sure, of course. The doppler glow of relativistic travel? Every single day; filtered, obviously. But he’s never stood on the surface of a planet, and looked up at the blue sunlit sky. This. Is. A...time to leave. He can’t afford to stop and admire the beauty of a spherical world with a natural oxygenated, nitrogen-rich atmosphere. Still, he does have a second or two to breathe it in and be thankful that, amidst the torture and threat of death, he still got to see this. No one on Extremus can say as much. The few still alive who could recall Ansutah lived mostly in caves to avoid detection.
“Stop!” A woman is standing several meters away, but closing in. “I’m not gonna hurt you. I just wanna make sure you’re okay. Are you on drugs? What did you take?”
“I didn’t take anything! I was tortured in a vat of acid!”
“Okay, okay. I believe you. What’s your name?” she asks.
“Yitro Moralez.”
“That’s an interesting name.”
“What planet am I on?” When she doesn’t answer, he repeats himself loudly.
“Earth. You’re on Earth, like everyone. Like always.”
“What year?” He sighs and has to repeat himself again, “please, what year?”
“It’s 2022. You’re in Kansas City. Well...Kansas City Metro. And you’re naked out in public, where a child could show up at any moment.”
Shit. Not about being naked, or being in Kansas City. That’s the one saving grace.

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