Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Microstory 1897: It’s Like I Said, I’m Not Like All the Rest

It’s like I said, I’m not like all the rest
I don’t drink, or smoke, or poison my brain
That doesn’t mean that I think I’m the best
But I’m always me in spite of the pain

I have no place to go when I get lost
No way to leave my problems far behind
I dwell in them, and it comes at a cost
Yet I am nothing if I’m not my mind

Go ahead and take my legs, arms, and bones
My eyes, and ears, and tongue, and all my skin
My job, my money, and all that I own
I’d still say I was wealthier within

As long as I’m still me then I’ll survive
As long as I can think then I’m alive

Monday, May 30, 2022

Microstory 1896: I Was an Adult When I Learned the Truth

I was an adult when I learned the truth
Why I was divergent from everyone
I have been this way ever since my youth
It’s not like my struggles had just begun

I do not quite know why it took so long
But I had already found ways to cope
I could tell that people saw me as wrong
I just could not yet recognize the scope

I’ve never really come out of my shell
Or tried to make my brain work as theirs do
If you don’t like it, you can go to hell
Get woke, it is two thousand twenty-two

I guess I got a bit too angry there
I’m a work in progress; I try, I swear

Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 7, 2396

As soon as Mateo and Ramses jumped to April 7, 2396—or what passed for the date in this reality—the friend detector alerted them to the relative proximity of one of their people. They didn’t know which reality they were in, or who it was, but Mateo couldn’t help but feel hopeful that it would turn out to be Leona. He loved Olimpia, Angela, and Marie, but not like he loved his wife. “Is this going to work?”
Ramses sighed. “We may not have much time to think about it. I’ve done all I can to prepare. But if our target is in a hostile environment, it’s best that we get to her as soon as possible.”
“Then do it,” Mateo decided.
Scientists from the Parallel created these devices for them. The one that accessed other realities was originally designed to grapple onto the target, and pull them here. It wasn’t meant to actually go to that reality. But Ramses wasn’t satisfied with that. He wanted to leave the Parallel, and never come back. Mateo pointed out that they may still have to in the future. When Dalton separated them throughout time and space, there was no guarantee that they each landed nice and neatly in their own special pocket of the cosmos. It was neither predictable, nor necessarily evenly distributed. Leona could show up here ten years from now, or ten thousand. However, Ramses could tell that they were going to a different reality right now. Three realities, three years, each falling on a proper day on their pattern. That was a pattern in its own right. “Okay. Hold on.” He pushed the button.
It felt just as it had before, when Ramses pulled Mateo from the Fourth Quadrant, except in reverse. They were pushed across dimensional barriers, and gracelessly dropped at their destination. Mateo wasn’t knocked unconscious, but he suffered a terribly annoying headache, and was on the verge of retching. “Ow,” he said plainly.
Leona was hovering over him. She helped him off the floor. “Mateo. Do you know why we’re back here?”
“I don’t know where we are.” That wasn’t true. He looked around, and quickly realized they knew what this was. It was the wreckage of the Suadona, back in the Fifth Division. All that, and they were right back where they started. “Where’s Ramses?”
“I only saw you, but it was a blur. I’ve only just arrived myself.”
“Ramses? Ramses!”
A weak voice came from the other side of some debris, “here.”
They climbed over it to find their friend badly hurt. A metal bar of some kind had impaled him through the stomach, perhaps at his kidney. “Oh my God! What do we do?”
“We have to cut him out of it,” Leona determined.
“No,” Ramses said amidst the coughs. “Just pull me off.”
“That’s not how it’s done,” Leona argued.
“I’ll be fine, my body will heal,” Ramses insisted, “but it can’t do that until you get it out of me. Don’t worry about how much it hurts along the way. That will go away too.”
Though Leona never took the Hippocratic Oath, this still felt wrong. Even so, Ramses obviously knew more about these bodies than she did, so she chose to trust him. They carefully lifted him off of the spike, and laid him back down in a safe space. “What do you need? What kind of medical attention will help?” She opened her bag, and awaited a response.”
“I don’t need anything,” Ramses answered. “I’ve rested recently, absorbed sufficient amounts of sunlight, and consumed the necessary nutrients. I just need time.”
“Do we have time?” Leona asked.
“Matty?” Ramses prompted.
Mateo checked the friend detector. No one else was close enough to sense. “So far, so good. Just let your substrate do its thing, buddy.”
Leona was hesitant to leave him alone, but they needed to get out of the wreckage of the ship to assess their situation. There could be danger nearby. Perhaps this reality contained scavengers. They began to teleport around the ship to see if they could find any sign of more recent activity. “Report.”
“Dalton screwed up. He separated us. Ramses went to the Parallel, but didn’t travel through time. I stayed in the Fourth Quadrant, but jumped forward a year. You jumped two years, and came here. The others are theoretically elsewhere, and elsewhen. We may all have been sent to different parallel realities.”
“The math doesn’t check out,” Leona warned. “There are only five concurrent realities, and six of us.”
“How do you know that?”
“I’ve only heard of five.”
“Maybe there are more that you’ve never heard of.”
“We’re time travelers, Mateo. If anyone ever discovers a sixth reality, and if they ever return to report this development, that information can travel in both directions of time.”
“You had heard of the Fifth Division before we first came here?”
“Yes. I didn’t know anything about it, and I didn’t know we would ever come here, but it was a known unknown.”
Mateo thought about it. “What’s the last one; the one we haven’t gone to yet?”
“They call it the Third Rail. I don’t know much about it either, except that we’re—to some degree—not supposed to go there.”
“We’re probably gonna go there.”
“I know.”
“And there may be another one after that. There are a lot of things we don’t know about until we know them. I was at my own memorial service on Dardius. Billions of people were aware both of the fact that it happened, and that I survived it anyway. Like you said, information moves in both directions of time. Yet no one ever talked about it beforehand. As soon as I killed Hitler, and created the new timeline, somebody could have shown up to warn me about it, but they didn’t. They don’t tell us everything. That’s just one example.”
“You’re right. Just because information travels, doesn’t mean it’ll come to us.”
Mateo tilted his lizard brain, which given the fact that he was now genetically engineered, he shouldn’t really have anymore. “Do you feel that?”
Leona smiled. “Yeah, he’s not feeling any pain anymore.”
“When I was shot, it happened even faster than that.”
She shrugged, but made no attempt to explain the discrepancy.
Once they were finished checking the perimeter, they were about to go back to Ramses when a small ship approached them from the mountains. Its shape reminded Mateo of a container of floss. It was smooth and rounded, with no sharp corners.  “Let’s assume they don’t know about him, and stay here.”
“Of course.”
The ship hovered before them for a moment. Then lasers came out of it, and transported them inside against their will. Before them stood a man that only one of them recognized.
“Hello,” Mateo said politely. Rule number fifteen, don’t antagonize the antagonist. Except maybe he wasn’t an antagonist at all, what did he know?
“Hi, Mithridates,” Leona said a little less politely.
“I heard you left,” Mithri pointed out.
“We came back. It was an accident.”
“Well, you’ll be happy to know that I have not wavered in my promise to be an agent of peace in this reality. Rátfrid and I have been making real progress. Xerian Oyana of the Security Watchhouse Detachment absorbed the Dominion Defense and Offensive Contingency Detachments, and they have all been standing down. Unfortunately, the Warmaker Training Detachment detached again, and declared war on the rest of us, but I have faith in the future.”
“Glad to hear it,” Leona acknowledged.
“I would like to ask if you also kept your promise, or if you found a way to age yourselves up,” Mithri asked.
“No,” Leona lied. “It’s just been awhile for us since we’ve been here.”
He squinted at her. “You’re lying. Why are you lying to me?”
“I’m not lying,” Leona dug in deeper.
“It’s okay,” Mithri said with a kind smile. “I never specified you had to stay that way. Time travelers gonna travel time.”
“Thank you. It was just...”
“Impossible to have sex? I bet. That was the joke, but I’m older and wiser now.”
“Since you’re being so understanding, is there somewhere here on Earth where we might find refuge? It seems pretty desolate, but I haven’t exactly circumnavigated it.”
“I have a place you can hide,” Mithri said as he turned to the controls. “We’ll pick up the injured Mr. Abdulrashid before we go.”
“We’re hiding?” Mateo asked while Leona was making sure Ramses was okay after he was transported inside. “Are you expecting an attack of some sort?”
Mithri placed his hand on a big lever, but waited to pull it. “Rule number sixteen, when Team Matic is involved, always anticipate conflict.” He pulled the lever.
What he didn’t say was that he was taking them through a Nexus, and transporting them tens of thousands of light years away. They were on a world so deep in the void that it would still have been outside the Milky Way galaxy proper if the stars were as spread out as they were originally. It orbited a Stage Tau Gerostar, which in the main sequence would be called a blue dwarf.
Leona placed her hands on the glass, and stared at it like a long lost lover. “How is this possible? Wait, you must have accelerated time.”
“We have only been here for tens of thousands of years,” Mithri explained, “and it was waiting for us, as was the Nexus building that we just came through. Even if we had accelerated to one second for every year, we wouldn’t have had time to make this. It would have taken two hundred thousand years. Besides, we don’t detect any temporal energy around it. You can check for yourself.”
“Could someone please explain this?” Mateo requested. “Why is it a big deal?”
She stopped gazing to address her husband. “Mateo, that thing would have to be six trillion years old, or older.”
“The universe isn’t that old, is it?”
Leona scoffed. “Uhh...no.”
“So how do we know a blue dwarf is even a thing?”
She sighed. “It’s science, Mateo, I can’t explain it.” She returned to gawking at the apparent anachronism. She surely could explain it, but she didn’t want to.
“It just looks white to me,” Mateo noted.
She growled.
“Is there somewhere I could rest?” Mateo asked Mithridates.
“Downstairs, pick any of the pods. Not the full-sized bed, that’s mine.”
Mateo giggled when he got down there. The sleeping pods along the wall were shaped just like the ship itself. The man must love to floss. Prestons were such an odd bunch. He wasn’t all that tired, so he just started snooping instead. There weren’t a whole lot of things to find here. The floors, walls, and ceilings were all white, and smooth. Pretty nondescript, he would say—aesthetically pleasing and classy, but not particularly interesting. That was until he opened the door to a pocket dimension. Inside was a full stable, with hay, and manure on the floors. He walked through it, peeking over the doors to see if there were any actual horses, but there weren’t. It wasn’t until he got to the last stable that he came across another lifeform. It was undoubtedly a centaur. She was saddled, but not wearing any other clothes.
“Oh, hello. Are you Mithri’s friend?”
“That’s a strong word,” Mateo answered. “I don’t really know him. Does he...um?”
“Does he ride me like I’m an actual horse?” she figured.
“My son is still in regular human form. This is how I get him around on our home planet. It’s only weird if you make it weird.”
“I don’t think it’s weird.” Mateo looked around the room. “Where is he, and where is your planet?”
“They’re in the same place. He’s at school right now. Mithridates agreed to help me get back to him after rescuing me from my captors.”
“You don’t seem that anxious about it?”
“My planet is safe, he’s fine.”
“I’m Mateo.”
“Delintza,” she returned.
“Delintza, we were to understand that consciousness transference isn’t a thing here, nor is cloning. No one realized after we had done it.”
“I’ve never heard of it either,” she said. “This is my real head and torso, and this was a real horse. A surgeon put us together.”
“Oh, so...the horse died? That doesn’t bother you?”
“No, why would I care? It’s just a dumb animal.”
The friend detector began to beep, which was good, because he didn’t want to have to get into an ethical debate with this stranger.
“What’s that?” she questioned.
“Sorry, gotta go.” He ran back upstairs.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Extremus: Year 46

Exactly twenty-four years ago, then-Admiral Halan Yenant introduced then-Interim Captain Olindse Belo to then-Future Captain Kaiora Leithe. A lot has happened since that day. They were so young back then, so naïve, and none of them could have predicted how much they would go through—together—but later so, so very apart. Halan is still in hock. Their dream of getting him out never materialized. Olindse is in the future, but Kaiora doesn’t know when, which is for the best. In honor of both of them, Kaiora has decided to choose her own successor on the anniversary of her own official appointment. Of course, she knew it was coming, as does Future Captain Trudie Haynes. Today was meant to be the day they made the announcement, and had a party. Unfortunately, Kaiora isn’t in much of a festive mood, so it will have to be postponed. Still, she needs to explain it in person.
The door opens upon command. Kaiora can see Trudie through it now. She’s sitting on her couch, legs propped up on the ottoman, watching something on her main screen. She’s stuffing her face with civilian grade bagged food. She jumps up, and brushes crumbs off of her sweatshirt. “Captain, I wasn’t expecting you. How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine,” Kaiora answers. “Why aren’t you dressed?”
Trudie consults her watch. “Well, since the party’s cancelled, my day should be free. I don’t have class, or any meetings.”
“Who told you that the party is cancelled?” Kaiora questions.
“The logic ball.”
“The what?”
Trudie steps over, and removes a ball from its stand. It’s barely small enough for her to cup one hand around it. “You input data points with your voice, giving it as much context as possible, and it returns the probability of a given outcome, or a selected outcome. For instance..logic ball, what are the odds that Captain Leithe drops dead within the next five minutes?”
After she shakes it, the ball responds, “the chances are three to one hundred.”
“That can’t be right, that’s far too high.”
Kaiora points at the thing. “That has access to private medical records. Who gave you that?”
“It’s just a novelty item; anyone can get one. Why? What’s wrong with you?”
“Never mind. So you just guessed that I was going to cancel it?”
“Not guessing. Logic.”
Kaiora lets out her signature sigh. “If you’re going to become the next captain, you’re going to have to destroy that thing, and hope that no one ever finds out you once owned it.”
Trudie tilts her chin up to look at her Captain at a slightly altered angle. “Logic ball, what are the chances of someone discovering that—”
“No,” Kaiora interrupts. “No more questions. I came here to talk. I mean, I suppose that’s no longer necessary. I expected to find you here in full dress, perhaps hovering by the door.”
“Sorry, sir. I’ll try not to anticipate next time.”
“No, that’s...that’s a good characteristic in a leader. I’m just...I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Trudie assures her, “you’ve been through a lot. Do you...want to talk about it? I know we don’t know each other that well, but sometimes that’s what you need; someone whose opinion you don’t care about.”
“I care about your opinion. You’re the future captain of this ship. It’s time to stop underestimating yourself.”
“I understand, sir.” She widens her eyes to open up the floor for further discussion.
Kaiora realizes this. “No, I don’t need to talk. Really, I’m fine. She was old; old people die.”
Trudie nods silently.
“Well, I’ll let you carry on. I have to go be with my family.”
“Would I be able to attend the service?” Trudie asks more than offers. “That is...do you want me there.”
“That would be great. She would have liked you.”
Trudie nods again. “Logic ball, what are the chances I vaporize the ship if I destroy you by setting you on fire?” she jokes as Kaiora is leaving.
It’s not great that this logic ball device has access to private medical data, but she doesn’t want to worry about it right now. She just wants to focus on her family. She has a right to climb out of the captain’s chair every now and then. Still, she can’t just let it go, so she sends a quick message to Lars to look into it for her. Then she takes the long way around to her destination. She retained teleportation rights after she blocked them shipwide, but she doesn’t use it.
Her brother opens the door by hand wave. He shrugs his shoulders, and stares at her a moment. Then they hug each other warmly. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Kaiora echoes. “How’s Tinaya?”
“Ask her.” He steps aside, letting Kaiora into the unit. “She won’t talk to us.”
She goes into Tinaya’s room to find her sitting on her couch, staring at her screen, much in the same way Trudie was. She’s playing Quantum Colony. While it’s more common to engage in it using virtual reality, a user has the option of interfacing using any number of means, even simply by text commands typed out on a keyboard. Her avatar is currently floating aimlessly in the vacuum. The image of the asteroid where her homebase is located is getting smaller and smaller. Life support readings indicate that her character is running desperately low on oxygen. “Are you going to do something about that?”
The controller is technically in her hand, but as her fingers are open, and she’s resting them on the cushion, she doesn’t have any real control over it. “I don’t see why I would.”
Kaiora has to resist the urge to snatch the controller from her, and jetpack back to safety. It’s her character, she can do whatever she wants with it. Instead, she just sits down next to her, and mimics the physical slump her niece is in.
“Don’t mock me.”
“I’m not. This is comfortable. That looks comfortable too.” The game is hyperrealistic, so the avatar is actually suffocating to death before their eyes...and ears. “You know, that’s not how she died.”
“Yes, she did,” Tinaya contends. “Everyone who dies of being an old fuck chokes on their own spit in their final hours.”
“Don’t call her that.”
Tinaya folds her arms, and mutters an apology, but it’s too uncomfortable with the controller digging into her underarm, so she opens back up, and hurls it against the far wall. Kaiora takes this opportunity to pull Tinaya into a hug. “No! No!” she fights, but it’s not really what she wants. She gives up quickly, and accepts the embrace. She begins to cry upon her aunt’s shoulder. “Goddammit. She was so old. Why am I so upset?”
“Because you were close,” Kaiora answers. “Because you loved her.”
“People like us, we’re not allowed to cry.”
“Why do you say that?” Kaiora asks, releasing from the hug only so they can speak face to face. “People like us?”
Tinaya tries to wipe the tears from her cheeks. “Captains.”
Kaiora tears up, but smiles. “Captains are allowed to cry.”
“No, you’re not.” In private, Kaiora is right, but in public, Tinaya is.
“Well, my mother just died, so—” Kaiora interrupts herself with her own tears. “So I think they’ll understand.”
Tinaya returns the favor from before by initiating a second hug. They hold there for a while before Tinaya speaks again. “Do you...”
They separate. “Do I what?”
“Do you wish you could talk to her again? Would that make you feel better, or worse?”
Kaiora looks for answers on the floor. “I honestly don’t know. I guess...if I had to choose between seeing her one more time, and never again, I would choose the former.”
Tinaya studies her face to see if she’s telling the truth.
Kaiora squints her eyes, confused. This doesn’t sound like a hypothetical. “Why? Do you have a—you couldn’t. You don’t have a time mirror, or something, do you?”
“No, no,” Tinaya promises. “It’s nothing like that.”
“What are we talking about, Ti-ti?” That’s her pet name for her niece.
“Just don’t freak out, Titi.” That’s her pet name for her aunt. Tinaya prepares herself emotionally, and then retrieves a tiny box from her desk. It opens to reveal something called a visitor’s pass.
For the most part, the people on this ship are just normal biological humans. They’re almost completely organic, with no upgrades or enhancements. Some exceptions to this aren’t even really exceptions. Their organs are stronger, and more resistant to disease. Their bodies age slower, and their chemicals generally stay better balanced. But this is part of genetic engineering that started before the ship took off to combat the couple thousand years of isolated evolutionary divergence that shortened human lifespans. No one here has been too drastically altered. Except that they have, because that’s what medicine is. And nanochips definitely qualify, because they provide everyone with the ability to interface with technology directly with their brains. Some use this more than others. Why, it’s what allows Kaiora to summon or banish people using teleportation. She doesn’t have to select on a screen who she wants to transport, or where she wants them to go. She just thinks it. This still requires a physical component, but it wouldn’t really work without the chip. Regardless, chip or no chip, people have a right to private computer processing. The visitor’s pass will allow Kaiora to access Tinaya’s personal data, and then Tinaya will revoke it simply by taking the pass back.
It’s a little gray transcranial electrode that attaches to the temple to minimal pain. Within seconds of attaching it, Kaiora has been transported to a quantum terminal. In the game, this is where access to each new star system begins. Players generally do not travel via ships, because they would be limited to sublight speeds. To get around, they quantum cast their consciousnesses from one terminal to a distant one, assuming they’ve been granted access. This must be Tinaya’s world.
I’m on my way back,” Tinaya says through the comms. She must have connected with her avatar, and is trying to return to base.
“Do you need me to come get you?” Kaiora asks.
No, it’s fine,” Tinaya replies. “I keep a drone nearby with extra oxygen. I just...didn’t use it. I’m using it now.
“Why don’t your characters have short-range teleportation capabilities?”
That’s not part of the game,” she explains.
Once Tinaya gets back, she has to inject herself with a stabilizer because of the amount of time her body went without oxygen. Apparently, players have the option of building themselves wholly organic substrates, wholly mechanical, or something in between. “That’s what I wanted to show you,” Tinaya says.
It’s only then that Kaiora catches herself in a mirror. She’s wearing her own face, rather than a temporary android’s. It’s not her regular face, though. It’s about half the age she actually is now. She gently places her hand on her cheek. “How did you do this?”
“DNA can be digitized,” Tinaya answers like it’s no big deal.
“Still, I didn’t...give you permission, or anything.”
“Yikes. Then you’re really not gonna like this.” Tinaya raises the transparency of a cryopod, and reveals another human figure.
The face is hard to make out, but then becomes clearer. It’s her mother—Tinaya’s grandmother. It’s a violation to create the likeness of someone without their permission, but Kaiora can’t help but be grateful for the opportunity to see her. She too is younger than she was when she passed a few days ago. This was how she looked when Kaiora was growing up. She snaps back to reality. “Why did you do this?”
“I was hoping you old people would join me one day. I have one for all of us. Mom, dad, even grandpa.”
“Why would you make one for grandpa?” Kaiora questions. “He was gone before you were old enough to play this game.”
“That’s what I’m actually showing you,” Tinaya says. “These are not just statues.”
“What do you mean?”
“They’re dormant now, of course, but...they’re copies. I downloaded their consciousnesses from the database.”
“What database are you even talking about?”
“The database,” Tinaya repeats. “Of all the minds of all the people who live, or once lived, on Extremus.”
“Where did you find this database?”
Tinaya shrugs. “I dunno, I just linked with the ship.”
“Did you tell anyone else about this?”
“You said you wanted to talk to your mom again. Now you can. It’s actually her.”
Kaiora’s patience ran thin quite quickly. “Did you tell anyone about the database?” she asks once more.
“Good.” Kaiora sighs. “You weren’t meant to find that. I’m going to have to do everything I can to protect you from them.”

Friday, May 27, 2022

Microstory 1895: There is Something That Is Wrong With My Life

There is something that is wrong with my life
It has been this way for the last five years
Each day that comes is like twisting the knife
Being stuck might just be my greatest fear

When I was younger I so wanted this
To be a part of something that would last
But now it’s come it’s anything but bliss
I wish that I could go back to the past

I work quite hard, but never feel quite pleased
I’m thinking now I should just go back out
And hunt for greener grass to feel at ease
But I’m sure once I’m there, I’ll find a drought

So I’ll just suffer until it all ends
Or ’til a Deus ex machina descends

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Microstory 1894: I Want to Lose the Weight That I’ve Accrued

I want to lose the weight that I’ve accrued
To melt the fat that’s made my clothes too tight
The problem is that I eat too much food
That’s no surprise to you—no rare insight

I have started a diet to fight back
It’s too early for it to have worked yet
Calories are the main thing my meals lack
But I could always find more; that’s the threat

The best thing I can do is just buy less
It will help save money while I’m at it
And that’s the key to relieving my stress
Giving all of my weight to my wallet

Temptation has been a slippery slope
But I think it might stick this time, I hope

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Microstory 1893: The Grass Will Grow Until I Mow Again

The grass will grow until I mow again
The rain will fall, and make it taller still
If it’s too wet, I can’t even begin
How shall my duty ever be fulfilled?

They tell me just to catch and throw away
To make straight lines like a professional
My lawn will look nicer, or so they say
But I think that’s just harder, and it’s dull

The clippings add nutrients to the soil
Which makes the baby blades grow big and strong
I know I said that this means endless toil
But it will be winter before too long

Of course, the snow, it needs maintenance too
But I could also just let it melt through

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Microstory 1892: When I Was Young, I got a Puppy Girl

When I was young, I got a puppy girl
I brought her home and gave her all my love
To me, Sophie was the best in the world
It felt like God had sent her from above

She lived outside and kept watch over us
But she could melt my heart with one sad glance
We’d let her in when she put up a fuss
The squirr’ls and rabbits would have one more chance

It wasn’t long before God took her back
I’ll never forgive her for all that pain
But Soph wouldn’t want my heart to turn black
So I try to be good and not complain

I always act with patience and courage
‘Til we meet again on the rainbow bridge

Monday, May 23, 2022

Microstory 1891: Introduction to Sonnets

About a year and a half ago, I tried my hand at poetry. It wasn’t the first poetry I ever wrote in my life, but it was the first time I thought maybe someday someone might read them. Here we are again, but while those were free verse, these are sonnets. Sonnets are a very rigid format that somehow let you go anywhere you want. Fourteen lines, every other line in a stanza rhymes, until the last two lines, which rhyme with each other. That’s not all, you have to have ten syllables exactly in each line. But even that doesn’t explain it, because iambic pentameter is more about rhythm too. Unlike my first poems, which were from the perspective of some of my characters, I believe that these ones will come from me. I’ve already written the first one; half months ago, half today. That’s probably not really how you’re meant to do it, but I think I ran out of time, and forgot about it. The idea was to have them locked and loaded before my last series ended, but when has that ever worked out for me? I’m more nervous about these than my last poetry series, since they’ll be about my personal life. The first one is about my first dog, and the last one will be about my current dog. I have no clue what I’ll write about in the meantime. As before, please be kind—I’m at my most vulnerable here. I think I’ve mentioned at some point that I am not a wordsmith. My strengths lie in the narratives; not the execution of the text. Still, I had to do these, because the math works out too perfectly. After today, there are fourteen days left this year before I get to my huge Mateo Matic project. It just made sense to write fourteen sonnets of fourteen lines each, and then likely never again. They’re obviously going to be short; nothing I can do about that, so the whole thing will be a quick read. Wish me luck.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 6, 2395

Dalton Hawk looked different. Sure, his face was the same, and he was at about the same age as he was when they last saw him, but he held himself differently. He stood up straighter, which made it all the more interesting that he was also carrying a cane. Upon closer inspection, they saw that this was unlike any cane any of them had seen before. A humongous diamond was affixed to the top of it. Leona realized as he was walking towards them, though, that she had indeed seen it before, just not in its completed form. A long time ago, Dilara Cassano, a.ka. The Arborist asked her and her then team to procure the diamond for them as payment. She used her ability to muster a version of Horace Reaver from an old timeline, along with Lincoln Rutherford as a bonus. They were both apparently paradoxed out of reality after the former deliberately erased Tristesse Ulinthra from all histories.
“You can?” Mateo asked. “Aren’t you just a body hopper? I mean, I don’t mean to say that’s all you are, but...”
“It’s fine,” Dalton promises, “no offense taken. And no, I don’t have that ability anymore; not since I was reborn from the afterlife simulation.”
“What can you do now?” Leona asked.
Dalton spun his fancy cane like a professional baton twirler. He ended by moderately gently dropping it on the floor, where it stood up to gravity. “I can’t do anything, but I can use this.”
“What can it do?” Angela pressed.
“It invokes and harnesses a special flavor of temporal energy. I should be able to send you anywhere, anywhen. Or I could give you powers, take them away, saddle you with a time affliction. I could theoretically rewrite reality to my will.”
“What do you do with it?” Olimpia questioned, worried.
“Nothing much so far,” Dalton answered. “I’m still figuring out how it works. It comes with a learning curve, and a downside.”
“Doesn’t everything?” Ramses asked rhetorically.
“I can’t use it on myself,” Dalton explained. “Well, I could, but then I would lose the cane, because someone else would have to do it for me. My arm doesn’t reach that far.” He demonstrated the idea by holding the cane from the bottom, and trying to point the diamond at himself. Humans weren’t anatomically set up for that. The thing was too long.
The Presidents and Vice Presidents looked amongst each other. “We don’t know who he is,” Skylar told the team. “We’re assuming he’s good people because of your reception of him, but could you confirm that?”
Leona shrugged. “We don’t really know him that well, but he seems cool.”
“We can help you then,” Lucy said. “Have you tried reflecting the energy off of a mirror?”
“Yes, I have,” Dalton replied. “It just consumes the mirror. It doesn’t care that it’s reflective.”
“Our mirrors are different,” Oliver told him. “If we were to be transported to the barrier at the edge of the metro, we could show you right now.”
They took each other’s hands, and teleported to Stilwell, Kansas. It sat on the southernmost edge of the dimensional bubble they were in. Beyond this was nothing, or maybe they just couldn’t get to it. The team had never actually questioned anybody what happened if they tried to cross over. Surely someone had tried in the last 370 years. It was weird to see. The barrier was a mirror, just as Oliver had described it. They could watch themselves as if they were in a giant dance studio. The image faded as they looked upwards, and eventually gave way to the sky and clouds.
“It goes all around,” Kostya explained. “It used to be the entire dome. You could stand here and watch things happening miles and miles away, on the other side of hills and buildings. We don’t know who did it, but we don’t think it was the man who made the snowglobe itself. We think one day the reflection will disappear completely, and we’ll be able to expand beyond the borders.”
Some people think that,” Oliver contested. “It’s kind of a religious thing.”
“How do you know that this will reflect temporal energy,” Dalton asked.
“We’ve seen it before,” Skylar answered. “That’s all we’re gonna say about it.”
Dalton smiled with little confidence. “I’ve sat through trigonometry class multiple times.” He turned his cane, and aimed it at the barrier. A blast of energy came out of it, bounced off of the barrier, and landed in Olimpia’s chest. She disappeared.
“You better have sent her somewhere safe,” Angela warned.
“I did. The only question was whether the reflection would work.” With that, he shot her with energy too. He then proceeded to do the same for Marie, Ramses, Leona, and finally Mateo.
Mateo woke up on the ground. He didn’t think it was possible to be knocked unconscious in this new body, but then again, temporal energy was probably some pretty powerful stuff. He got himself to his feet, and looked around. No one else was there; not Leona, nor anyone else. He was completely alone in the middle of a field. He gazed up at the sky, and saw the stars, but there was something odd about them. He kept staring, looking for what was wrong. As he adjusted his angle, he realized that there was a slight distortion in the light coming down from them. The sky wasn’t perfectly transparent. A dimensional barrier was between the land and the heavens. He was still in the Fourth Quadrant. What evil trickery was this?
Before he could teleport to civilization, to figure out what was going on, he felt something wrap itself around his waist. He looked down to find a lasso, or perhaps a whip. It tugged him backwards, through a tunnel of flashing lights. He landed on his feet when it stopped, but couldn’t get rid of the momentum without falling on his ass. It didn’t really hurt, though. Ramses reached down, and helped him off the floor.
“Where are we?” Mateo asked.
“The Parallel. I’ve been here since yesterday.”
“What’s yesterday?” Mateo went on.
“It’s just been a day for me. Whatever Dalton did, he sent us to different points in spacetime; I believe to different realities. I came here last year. You were simply thrown forwards in time one year. The others are elsewhere.”
Elsewhere,” Mateo echoed. “Elsewhere is where?”
“I don’t know yet. I’m still looking into it.” Ramses turned and addressed a woman who had been watching them. “There’s your proof of concept. Please allow me to seek the others.”
She seemed very unappreciative of their inconvenient situation. “We will not allow you to travel through time...in any reality. We will let you seek the others, but you must wait until you catch up to them on your own before you may bring them here.”
“What if they’re not on our pattern anymore?” Ramses tried to reason. “What if they’re a day behind, or a day ahead, or centuries in the past? What if we never catch up to them?”
“We will not allow you to travel through time,” she repeated like a robot. “You must wait until you catch up to them on your own.”
“Real mature, asshole,” Ramses said. “He pulled one device off the counter between them, and handed it to Mateo. He then grabbed the second device.
“What are these?” Mateo asked him as he was following his friend out of the room.
“What you’re holding is basically a kin detector. Obviously we all have unique DNA, but the way I engineered our clones was consistent across the six of us. That thing will alert us when it senses another one of us in the same moment of time. It even works across realities.”
Mateo flipped a switch on the side of the detector. An alarm started to blare, and until Ramses could take it away from him, and turn it off, Mateo thought he was going to lose his hearing.
“Sorry, I should have said don’t push any buttons.”
“Does that mean someone else is here?”
“No, it’s still not calibrated to ignore you,” Ramses replied. “That’s why it was so loud, because you’re so close to it.”
“It’s okay.”
“But we don’t know when we’re gonna find the others. Maybe never.”
“This universe is not exactly a unified empire. We’ll find someone who can help us eventually, I promise you that. I would modify it myself, but it is so far beyond me, Matty, like you don’t even know.”
“Why did Dalton do this to us?”
“I don’t know that it was on purpose. He may have looked confident, but I could see anxiety in his eyes. He had little experience with that cane. There’s every chance the first time he tried to use it had somehow backfired, and trapped him in the Fourth Quadrant in the first place. We should have talked to him more.”
The two of them were given a full suite to stay in, but they ended up just sleeping in the same bed, so they could both hear the alarm. Neither knew how faint the volume would be once it did go off. Ramses said it could even potentially be infrasonic. Of course, that was a relative term for them now. They were capable of seeing a wider range of frequencies on the light spectrum, and of hearing a wider range of sound frequencies. Also due to their new bodies, they didn’t need to sleep much, but they did need a little. Their skin could absorb and convert solar radiation into chemical energy, but as it was organic, it was only so efficient at this conversion.
They woke up a couple of hours later, fully rested. The friend detector log did not indicate that they had missed their window. It was still April 6, 2395, at least inasmuch as that meant anything in this reality. “Can we go anywhere in the universe, or do we have to remain close to Earth?”
“Comparatively speaking, it shouldn’t matter too much,” Ramses answered. “Other realities are further away than you or even I could fathom. Plus, we don’t know where Dalton might have sent them. It could be Earth, or somewhere else. Why? Was there somewhere you wanted to go?”
“I was just thinking about checking in on Flindekeldan. I know it’s stupid, but I’m feeling a little nostalgic.”
“Better leave them out of it. Besides, that’s particularly far away. In no other reality is that populated. I doubt anyone’s that far out, and we don’t need to test the limits of this thing.”
“I understand.”
“As do I,” came the voice of another Ramses. He hadn’t bothered to knock on the door. He waltzed right into the bedroom, and outstretched his arm. “Pleased to meet you, Ramses, I’m Parallel!Ramses.”
“Likewise,” Ramses said rather unconvincingly, but surely rather innocuously. “Here but for the lid of Schrödinger’s box stand I.”
Parallel!Ramses chuckles. “If that’s the way you wanna look at it, then I won’t try to stop you.”
“Oh, I’m sure you understand it better,” Ramses said, worshiping him with a wave of his arms. “We’re not worthy.” It was starting to look a lot less playful.
“I just wanted to make sure these accommodations are too your liking,” Parallel!Ramses began. “I see that you two have finally hooked up. I always thought it might happen.”
Mateo looked back at the bed, and then over at his Ramses. “Really?”
“He’s messing with you.” Ramses retrieved the friend detector from the nightstand. “This thing is amazing, but I have feedback.”
“And I would love to hear it,” Parallel!Ramses lied. “Unfortunately, I have a lot of work to do. It’s a big universe out there, you understand.”
Ramses squinted at his alternate self. “I always knew I would become you...if I ever got power. That’s why I try to stay away from it.”
Parallel!Ramses glided back towards the door. “It would seem as though you chose wisely.” He left.
“Well,” Mateo said awkwardly. “That was a pointless conversation.”
“He was trying to gloat,” Ramses said, still staring at the space his alt once occupied. “He thinks he’s finally won.”
“Has he not? He has all that power. I don’t want to compare the two of you, but if this really is all you ever wanted...”
Ramses finally looked over at his friend. “He doesn’t have everything he wanted. He barely has anything. He doesn’t have you and Leona. He believes that these arbitrarily restricted devices will keep us from ever getting out of this reality. He believes you’re stuck here with him.”
“Are we?”
Ramses rifled through his bag until he found his toolkit. He removed one small tool, and flipped it in the air before catching it again. He used it to pry the casing off of the lasso dimensional extraction device. “We’re not just gonna bring our friends here. We’re gonna go to them, and even if we end up in a reality not of our choosing, we’ll be together.”

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Extremus: Year 45

The Kaiora Leithe that is still around and running Extremus is technically eighteen months old. She was cloned into existence back in December of 2312. But of course, that’s not how it works; not in this case. As she has all of the original’s memories, she’s actually 41 years old. This is where the problem lies. Cloning is a delicate process. The safest and healthiest way to do it would be to let the body grow at its normal rate. It’s generally accepted that a biological human specimen is at their peak physical condition in their twenties. At least that used to be the standard. With life extension technologies, and other biomedical advances, that number is essentially meaningless, but all things being equal, this is when it happens. Present-day culture tends to favor age 24, so that’s become the sort of default target for most of these such endeavors. Life expectancy runs to about 108 these days, which means if an individual wants to survive by transferring their consciousness to a clone, they should begin the process by the time they’re 83, to account for prenatal development. And some people do do this. In lieu of transhumanistic implants, they choose to stay young by body-hopping, which is perfectly okay if that’s their thing. But again, the best way to do it is by waiting patiently. Kaiora did not have this luxury.
They needed a way to draw at least one of the impostors out, and their means of accomplishing this was to turn Kaiora into one of them. Or a pair, rather, because both of them were legitimately real. Their plan did not work. No one revealed themselves as impostors, either because they knew this was all a trick, or because they didn’t realize there were two Kaioras. Or maybe they just needed more time, which the original Kaiora wasn’t able to give them. Kaiora!Clone wasn’t able to get any decent information out of Elodie or Greenley, but her original disappeared, with the implication being that she was never going to return. So the clone took over all duties, and basically went back to the way things were. Except it hasn’t been that easy. Kaiora!Clone is sick, and it’s because she was produced too quickly, and possibly also because the people who did it do not stand at the top of their fields.
Dr. Ima Holmes stares at the results, baffled and horrified. This is the woman she loves. They’ve been together for the last six years. How could she not know? How could she not have realized? She doesn’t have a normal weapon, because this is an infirmary, but she does have binding gel. It’s a special solution that seals up wounds, and fosters a rapid healing process in patients. It’s perfectly safe to use anywhere on the body...except for the eyes. She picks it up, and trains it on Kaiora!Clone’s face. She has to stand real close, because the delivery instrument wasn’t designed with distance in mind. She’s also not a fighter, so her hands are shaking, and she probably doesn’t have the nerve to do it. After all, this faker looks exactly like her girlfriend. “Who are you?”
“Ima, relax.”
“If you were my Kaiora, you would know that I hate when people tell me that!”
“Please quiet down, someone will hear you,” Kaiora begs.
“And what would be so bad about that?”
“They wouldn’t understand. I’m hoping you will.”
“Who...are you?” Ima repeats.
“I’m a duplicate.”
“No doy.” That’s a funny thing for a doctor to say.
“I mean...I’m a copied consciousness,” she clarifies. “I am Kaiora Leithe.”
Ima loosens her elbows, but doesn’t drop the impromptu weapon. “How do I know that? How can you prove it? Say something only she would know.”
“That test doesn’t actually work,” Kaiora explains. “If you have the ability to map and copy a person’s mind, you necessarily have the technology to read it, and capture any data you need to impersonate the victim. You taught me that.”
Ima loosens up a little more. She did say that to her at one point. “Okay, then why. Why do this?”
“Because there are impostors on this ship, and we’re trying to root them out.”
“You and the other you are doing this?”
“Us, and a secret team of quarantined experts. Though, expert is a strong word.”
“Obviously! Look at you, you’re dying!”
“Don’t shush me. You’re not Kaiora.”
“I am.”
“Identity means one.”
“I think we both know it’s more complicated than that. Are you the same person you were fifty years ago? Five years? Five seconds? Everyone is always changing—”
“...down the river of uninterrupted experience and atomic transposition. Yes, I taught you that too. I just...feel violated.”
Kaiora takes Ima’s hand in both of hers, but makes no move to take the binding gun. “I remember when we met. I remember when I professed my love to you. I don’t mean I recall the story. It happened to me, and I still feel it. I’m just in a new body, that’s the only difference.”
Ima gently pulls away, and carefully sets the gun down. “Where’s the other one? Where’s the one who’s in the body I’m familiar with?”
Kaiora hesitates to answer.
“Tell me!”
“I don’t know! She disappeared. She went off on some secret mission.”
Ima begins to pace, and itch herself out of stress. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“She didn’t tell me where she was going, or even that she was leaving at all. I only found out because I went back to the secret quarantine section for a periodic check-in, and realized that something was up. She had been gone for a week by then.”
“How long ago was that?”
“Fourteen months.”
“Jesus Christ. My girlfriend’s been dead for over a year, and I didn’t know.”
“We don’t know that she’s dead. And I’m your girlfriend. I’m just as much her.”
“Oh, yeah? You’ve been sleeping next to me for fourteen months, right?”
“I have.”
“And what about before that? Did you two share me?”
Kaiora hesitates to answer again.
“This isn’t gonna work if you’re gonna hold things back. Spit it out.”
“No. I...I didn’t touch you. Our cabin door is a portal. If I punch in a special code, instead of unlocking it, it will open that portal, and transport me to a dark and unused area of the ship. Even someone in the hallway watching me step over the threshold would think I just went inside. But I slept elsewhere, alone.”
“So for however long after you were created, we weren’t together. And then you assumed the responsibility of being the love of my life, only because you happened to be the only one left.”
“Well, yeah, if you wanna twist it up like that, you can make it sound horrific.”
“It is horrific! My girlfriend is dead, and I barely know you.”
“That’s not true. I explained, I’m a copy.”
“But when we had conversations that stemmed from moments we shared months prior, you didn’t know what I was talking about, so you had to guess.”
Kaiora sighs. “Yes, there were times I was a bit lost, and I had to use context clues to fill in the blanks.”
“The first time we met, our relationship started with a lie, because you told me the reason I hadn’t seen you in a week was because you were so busy with confidential stuff in the Bridger section.”
“Again, that’s not when we first met.”
Ima starts to shake her head. “I knew this wouldn’t work out. You’re too much younger than me. You’re too young. And now it’s even truer, because you’re, like...” She looks back at the results real quick. “Eighteen months old. My God, I’m a pedophile.”
“Don’t say that, goddamn. That’s not how it works, I’m not a baby!”
“That’s something a baby would say.”
“No, she wouldn’t!”
Ima takes off her reading glasses, and rubs the bridge of her nose. “I know. This is just...a lot.”
“I know,” Kaiora echoes.
“I feel like I just lost someone. The fact that you’re...it doesn’t mean I didn’t lose her.”
“I know,” she repeats.
“Will we ever see her again?”
“Looking at the future is illegal.”
“So is this.”
“It’s not,” Kaiora assures her. “We covered our asses.”
“No, you didn’t,” Ima counters. “Kaiora Leithe was selected as Captain of this ship, based on that river of uninterrupted experience we were talking about earlier. When she was cloned, her river continued as it normally would, but you’re not on this same river. That moment was a conflux, which branched out into something new. You are not the captain.”
“I would hardly think of it this way.”
“The crew might disagree.”
“Well, then it’s a good thing you’re going to tell anybody about it.”
Ima shakes her head at the tablet. “I have to report this. You’re not fit for duty until we figure out how to repair the cellular damage. Normally, doctor-patient confidentiality would allow me to get by without explaining thoroughly, but what little information I’m obligated to disclose is probably enough for them to figure it out. This level and type of degradation really only has one cause.”
“What exactly is that cause?”
“Kaiora, your body is aging rapidly. Outside, you’re still fine. For some reason, the epidermis is hardier than other organs. But inside, you’re about my age.”
“Perfect, that’s what we always wanted.”
“Don’t joke about this.”
“What’s the prognosis?”
“Kaiora, you need—”
“What’s the prognosis?” Kaiora interrupts. “Clone or no, I’m entitled to bodily self-determination, and I deserve all pertinent data to make informed decisions.”
“With proper treatment, ten years, but you would have to step down in order to undergo such treatment. It’s pretty intense and involved.”
“What kind of treatment can you give me if I don’t step down?”
“Kaiora—” she tries to answer incorrectly again.
“What kind of treatment!”
“With regular injections, you could keep going for half that. You’ll be dead in five years.”
Kaiora slides off the table, and strips off her gown. “I only need three years and seven months.”
Ima tilts her head to consider this number. “No, you’re not going to just stay alive until you can finish your shift. We’re fighting this. I might be able to get more than ten years out of you, especially if we can find your original. She can help. I mean a kidney transplant alone could give you another extra year.”
She stops putting her clothes back on, and wraps Ima in an embrace. “I don’t need eleven years. I need four. That’s all that matters.”
“Kai-kai, I can’t...outlive you?”
“In a couple, someone always outlives the other.”
Ima begins to cry. “But it’s not supposed to be me. I’m more than three decades older, that’s preposterous.”
“You have more than eleven years out of you anyway,” Kaiora reasons.
“I really don’t. Especially not now. You know how many people decline and die of a broken heart? It’s a lot more common than you think. The loss of a significant other reduces life expectancy by an average of five years.”
“Five plus five is barely less than eleven. And let’s face it, we’re not finding my original. So it’s back down to ten, so we would go out at the same time.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Ima argues, “and these are just numbers. You don’t have exactly ten years. I need to run more tests, and you have to not give up. That will kill you faster than anything.”
“I love you too,” Kaiora says.
“I’m not there yet. This is still hard.”
“I understand.”
Kaiora puts her clothes back on and leaves the executive infirmary. That went better than she thought, but it’s not over. No one else can find out. She’ll be fine if she can’t be an admiral, but she can’t lose her seat before her time. She can’t let what happened to Halan happen to her. It would be a political tragedy. She realizes as she’s walking down the hallways that there’s something very important she needs to start thinking about now. Even if she weren’t dying, it’s about time for her to consider who will succeed her. There are surely any number of amazing candidates at the academy, or recently graduated, who would be great for the role. She’s not been paying much attention to them, though, which is just another way she’s not lived up to Halan’s example. It’s okay, she still has time; very little of it after the diagnosis, but enough.