Saturday, April 23, 2022

Extremus: Year 41

Sixty years ago on the linear timeline, Omega made a choice. He rejected his fate, and refused to become just another one of the clones on their mission to potentially do nothing with their lives. He doesn’t know why, out of a pool of over a million men who are supposedly just like him, he’s the only one who went off on his own. But because of it, their progenitor, a man by the name of Saxon Parker, had to take his place. This is the first time they’re seeing each other since then, and it’s even more complicated than that, because they never actually spoke in person. Saxon was always far too important to have even one conversation with every single one of his clones. The only time they spoke was via radio, and if Saxon has been in stasis this whole time, this incident was only minutes ago for him.
Obviously all of the clones look exactly alike, though at various stages of aging. To avoid confusion, each one gives off a unique neurological signature. Even when Omega’s mind was mistakenly transferred to a different clone’s body, his personal signature transferred with him, so others will still know which one he is, and it will remain this way if he ever returns to that body, or takes another. Being the original, Saxon is the only one which doesn’t have one such of these signatures, which means he does have a signature, because the absence of a signal makes it incredibly obvious that he’s different. He is standing on the stage, curtains down, along with Valencia, Omega, and Anglo 83, who has inserted himself as a leader amongst equals. It’s possible that he feels entitled to some greater recognition since he presently has no substrate to return to in base reality. It’s an awkward situation, which only Valencia can alleviate. “I can’t tell you three apart.”
Saxon and Omega are staring at each other. The former reaches up, and taps Valencia on the forehead, transmitting a little bit of code which will allow her to pick up on the clone signatures. In some cases, it’s not necessary. She peeks her head through the curtain to find more diversity than she expected. Dozens of the over one million clones are already wearing different avatars, and more are selecting their own every minute. One is an anthropomorphic bunny who is trying to ride on the back of a sheep, who may or may not be another clone. Another is a three meter tall mech. A sperm whale is casually floating around in the air above the massive crowd. For a virtual simulation that only exists for an all hands meeting of clones, it sure has come with a lot of options. They’re mostly concerning themselves with finding their respective ways to stand out, and aren’t impatient about getting this meeting started.
“Okay,” Saxon says, “I’m ready for you to explain what’s going on. I have successfully driven the anger out of my body.”
Omega and Valencia take turns explaining the True Extremists. They go over it in much more detail than before, pretty much briefing him on every single little thing they know about this interstellar threat. Saxon and Anglo 83 ask about their level of technology, the size of their fleet, and other tactical intelligence, but they don’t have any of these answers. According to the logs, not a single module has encountered the enemy, which contradicts what they were told about the limits of the stellar neighborhood. So the True Extremists could be just as powerful as they’ve claimed, even more so, or almost not at all. It’s unclear why they haven’t attacked yet, but maybe the asteroid chain that they used to try to destroy the Extremus was more of a fluke, and less of an indication of their true might. Maybe they can’t attack at all. There is just no way to know without a real recon mission.
“So that’s the question,” Saxon decides. “How we proceed is dependent upon the rest of the clones. Either we conduct a recon mission, and try to figure out what we’re up against, or we just find some other way of defending the Project Stargate mission.”
“So you believe us?” Omega asks.
“Why wouldn’t I believe you?”
Omega frowns, and kicks at the wooden planks of the stage. “I just didn’t think you were capable of trusting me.”
Saxon places a hand on Omega’s shoulder. “You’re more like me than any of them. What you did was always a known possibility. But our ability to think independently is exactly why I was chosen as the basis for the cloning program. I mean, we were never gonna clone Hitler, but the perfect candidate doesn’t exist either, does it? Anyone logical and unemotional enough to guarantee that none of the clones rebelled likely would have resulted in them—not quite rebelling—but just not caring enough about the mission to carry it onwards amidst a crisis. It’s a balance, and I had to go through a lot of tests to prove myself worthy, but again, I was the best of the bunch; not the best, full stop.”
“Well, what do you think we should do?” Omega invites.
“What do you think we should do?” Saxon asks right back.
“We don’t even know where to go for a recon mission,” Omega says.
“A time traveler led us to the region of space where we would ultimately rendezvous with one of the modules,” Valencia adds, “but we saw no sign of the True Extremists there.”
Saxon nods. “That seems like a dumb mission then, flying around aimlessly, looking for their home planet, or even just some kind of an outpost.”
“Tell us about this reframe engine you’re using,” Anglo 83 asks.
They look over to him. “It’s basically a warp bubble,” Omega replies. “It forces the universe to experience the same amount of time that you are while you’re moving at relativistic speeds. You’re not actually traveling faster than light, you’re slowing down the speed of all of time, instead of only the local time as experienced by you as an observer on the ship.”
Anglo 83 nods in the same way that Saxon did and does. “Can we use those?”
“Use them for them for what?” Saxon asks.
“Project Stargate is meant to take a hundred and fifty-thousand years,” Anglo 83 begins. “Now that we have this clearly superior technology, shouldn’t we make the switch?” These ships weren’t designed with reframe engines, and it would be impossible to retrofit them, so the only way to switch would be to scrap the originals, fire all the employees, and start over. Would it be faster? Absolutely. Is it necessary? Eh, no. Anglo 83 doesn’t understand when Valencia explains as much. “Why not?”
“Even if you’re chosen to stay on the modules—which you might not, because we would probably redesign the entire thing—it will still take you 216 years total,” she explains. “You’re on the same schedule as Extremus, just earlier, and on a different trajectory. What do you care what year it is when that mission is finally over? A hundred years, a hundred thousand; that’s nothing compared to the trillions of years you’ll eventually have behind you.”
“I’m just saying, it seems weird that we would move on like this when we know there’s a better way,” Anglo 83 reasons.
Faster, not better,” Saxon contradicts. “Though not everyone back in the neighborhood knows about this mission, we are doing this on behalf of Earth, the Greater Sol System, and all vonearthans. If we message back from the other side of the galaxy in only a couple centuries, it will expose all time travelers to the truth, and that is not our place.” He shrugs, “there’s no rush. The stars beyond the neighborhood are about the same as the ones inside of it. There’s no reason to reach the most distant once quickly. Again, it will be the same amount of time for you no matter what.”
“I’m not sure about that,” Anglo 83 says, unrelenting. “You don’t want to change Project Stargate. That’s fine, I understand. But something has to be done to protect our modules, because they are not equipped to protect themselves. They do not have weapons, they do not have a crew, they do not have tactical AI.”
“Where are you going with this?”
Anglo 83 paused for effect. “Operation Escort.”
“I’ve never heard of that,” Saxon says.
“That’s because I literally just made it up,” Anglo 83 clarifies. “Keep the mission going as it is, but build those reframe engines. Normally, something catastrophic would be fatal to any aspect of the mission. But if you have a bunch of escorts who can arrive quickly, they’ll have protection, and they’ll have it in secret, over the course of the next hundred thousand years. No one who’s not allowed to know has to know.”
“How many of these escorts do you suggest we construct?” Saxon questions. “One for every what?”
“That’s not my call, I’m just the idea man,” Anglo 83 answers, shrugging, again just like his progenitor.
Saxon summons a chair out of nothing, and sits down on it to think. “I’ll need to run the numbers, but it’s a sound idea. It will allow us to maximize our technology while keeping the vonearthans in the dark about the true nature of their reality. With more ships, we might even end up gathering enough information to conduct a proper recon, like we were talking about.”
“You run those numbers,” Anglo 83 agrees as he’s walking towards the curtain, “I’ll tell everyone else about it.”
“No, wait,” but they don’t stop him in time.
He steps out, and the crowd cheers, even though they don’t know whether they should be excited, or what. Remember that he’s just another one of the clones. Unlike Saxon or Omega, or the one who prefers to look like a sperm whale, he’s not famous or notable. Not yet, anyway.
“Thank you! Thank you!” Anglo 83 announces once he’s made it to the microphone. He motions for the noise to die down. “If you think you’re happy now, just wait until I tell you how I’m gonna save all your lives!”
Not thinking it would help to go out there now, Saxon just pops up a floating screen that shows what it looks like on the other side of the curtain.
“Hi. My name is Deodatus.
“I think we know why September sent us to this particular region of colonizing space,” Valencia says.
“Did you see this coming?” Omega asks Saxon.
The progenitor looks back, and stares at his offspring. He takes an uncomfortably long time to respond. “Yes.”
“If he’s gotten this taken care of, then maybe we should go look for Captain Moralez,” Valencia suggests to Omega.
Saxon perks up. “Yitro Moralez?”
“Uhh...yeah?” Omega confirms, confused.
“Oh, don’t worry about him, I know where he is.”

Meanwhile, in the past, Yitro is finishing up his 72-hour mental health hold. He doesn’t know exactly where he’s going to go. The authorities tried to investigate the location of the lab, but of course, they found it completely abandoned and stripped of all evidence. Whoever was hiding out in there surely used temporal technology of some kind. Or maybe they were never really there, and the door he ran out of three days ago was actually a portal that sent him back to the year 2022. If that portal’s now closed, then there’s no going back. If true, that begs the question, why haven’t those people come after him yet? If they’re powerful enough to store him in a vat of acid that’s strong enough to cause him agonizing pain for an extended period of time without killing him, why don’t they just teleport into his hospital room, and pluck him out? What did they ever want with him in the first place, but also, did they get it, or what?
Yitro doesn’t have any ID, and isn’t in any kind of system, since he’s from the future, but besides some clearly accidental public indecency, he hasn’t broken any law. The facility is just going to let him go, and the cops aren’t going to pursue him. He’ll apparently be on the streets, just like any native homeless person would be. All he has now is a set of clothes that the nurse retrieved from the lost and found, a single packed lunch, and a cup for panhandling. They actually gave him a paper cup; like, they’re not even gonna try to provide him with any sort of social service. “The past sucks,” he says to himself out loud as he’s tying his new old shoes. He’ll be fine, because he’ll find someone to help, but a normal person would be totally screwed in this situation.
“You should try going back even further in the past. That’s where I’m from.” It’s a young woman. She’s dressed in what looks like a company uniform, but she’s not hospital staff. Her shirt says Tractus Delivery.
“Everyone’s from the past,” Yitro points out.
She smirks. “Too true. Except for you. What year are you from?”
Yitro is smart, he didn’t bother telling anyone that he’s from a spaceship in the future, because it wouldn’t do him any good. How would this person know anything about him? As suspicious as this is, he may as well be honest, because they’re legally not allowed to keep him here for a minute longer. He sighs. “What year was I born, or what year was it when I left? For the latter, it was 2300.”
She nods understandingly. “Okay, I think we can get you back there.”
“Lemme show ya.” She steps forward, and takes him by both shoulders. “Call me an n-word.”
“Which n-word are we talking about?”
She laughs. “I’m kidding, I’ve learned to get my heart rate up on my own.” She tightens her grip, and pushes him forward, all the way into a wall of fire that has spontaneously appeared before them.

No comments :

Post a Comment