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Monday, December 4, 2023

Microstory 2031: New Hampshire

Papa’s favorite band was called The Fiddle Way. They’re a folk band from Quebec City, Quebec, and he had always wanted to see them live. I don’t know why he couldn’t go up to Canada where they always played, but I think it had something to do with his job. I think the stuff he was working on made it so that his bosses didn’t want him to leave the country without their permission. One time in the winter of 2011, though, The Fiddle Way decided to have a show in New Hampshire, which isn’t too far away from Quebec City. My dad and I never found out which airport he flew into, but it was really far away from where the band was going to play. He had to rent a car from there, and drive for a couple of hours all the way up north until he reached Lancaster, New Hampshire. It wasn’t actually only this one band. A whole bunch of them were playing outside over the weekend. It was called the Lancaster Cabot Music Festival. Papa didn’t care about any of the other bands, though. He only wanted to hear The Fiddle Way, so he wandered around until it was time for them. It took place kind of in the middle of the woods, so there was plenty of room to walk around. He said he sat by a river for a while, and just enjoyed being in nature. It was really late at night when the band started to play, and by the time he made it back to his hotel room, all he had time for was a shower, and then he had to drive back to the airport to fly home in the morning. He barely made it to his gate on time. He regrets paying for two nights when he only needed one.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 3, 2424

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image Duet AI software
Everyone teleported directly to Leona and Angela immediately, including Maqsud. Standing before them was a man. He looked menacing and creepy. He held himself up with a foundation of unearned confidence, but to the keen eye, it was clear that he was just an immature little baby with a superiority complex more massive than the gas giant that threatened to destroy them all any minute now. “Greetings travelers.” His voice was annoying too.
An angry Mateo stepped forward, and glanced up at the energy beam that was still in the process of destabilizing the integrity of the planet they were orbiting. “What did you do?”
“Something that I whole-heartedly regret,” this Bronach Oaksent fellow claimed. “I was much more militaristic in my youth. Years ago, I ordered the firing of an energy weapon. It was meant to be a warning shot for the entire Corridor to see.”
“Warning shots don’t usually kill people,” Leona argued.
“When you are responsible for as many people as I am, a few thousand individuals seems barely above zero. Again, I was young, and brash. I wish I hadn’t done it, but I can’t stop it now.”
Mateo looked over at his wife, whose facial expression and emotions indicated that no, there wasn’t likely anything he could do. It was like trying to save a giant ball of wax from a flamethrower. You would need something unfathomably large to place between the beam and the planet. It looked like it was too late either way. “That beam is traveling at the speed of light, but in order to have been at the source while it was shot, and also here today, you would have had to travel faster than light, which I think we all know is totally a thing. So why did it take you so long? You could have warned them.”
Bronach tried to speak up.
Mateo interrupted him, “I’ll tell you why, because you never had a change of heart. You came here to witness the undoing of this world, which you don’t regret in the slightest. Maybe this was always going to be a fun joke to you, or maybe you recognized me and my team, and now you’re worried that there actually is something we can do to save these people. It’s not an unreasonable concern. Beating the odds is our resting state. So instead of saying what you think we want to hear, why don’t you try being honest for once?”
Bronach did his best impression of Ted Danson from the first season of The Good Place; the part where he gets caught in the lie, and lets out a maniacal laugh. “I’m not even here right now.” He reached over to an invisible dial or something, and deliberately displayed a projection in perfection. He was a hologram. He was a long-range hologram. “You’re right, I don’t care. I was telling the truth about the rounding error thing. Killing this number of people means nothing to me. I’ve killed more before breakfast, and didn’t give it a second thought. It is my right. I created them.”
“Where did these people come from?” Leona questioned. “Where did you come from? We’re thousands of light years from the stellar neighborhood—” She looked over at the team. “—oh yeah, by the way, we’re about sixteen thousand light years off course.”
“That much I was able to determine based on data from Project Topdown,” Ramses added.
“Well...?” Mateo urged Bronach. “You heard the lady. How did you get here so fast, and how are there so many others?”
He started listing off the ingredients, “a little bit of Extremus, a dose of time travel, a dash of artificial gestation, and then tons and tons of sex.”
“I see,” Mateo began to muse, “so your empire has been here the entire time. Yet you’ve kept to yourself. Why?”
“We have no interest in dealing with the stellar neighborhood,” Bronach answered pompously. “The vonearthans are beneath us.”
“No,” Mateo said. “That’s not it. “You’re afraid of them.”
“We predate them,” Bronach insisted.
“You don’t predate everyone,” Leona corrected. “You don’t predate other time travelers, like anyone in The Constant. You know that it doesn’t matter how high you grow your numbers, a single one of us could put an end to it all by killing you before you even step out of the time vortex however long ago that happened in this timeline.”
Bronach had been found out, so he was growing angry. “That may be, but first you would have to find out when and where that was. Oh, my mistake. You would first have to get off this planet alive. Unfortunately for you, I am quite aware of Mr. Al-Amin’s limitations. I’ve had to learn everything there is to know about him in order to prevent him from discovering the Corridor.”
“The Goldilocks Corridor?” Mateo asked. “Yes, I’ve heard of you too. I just didn’t realize it at the time.”
“It doesn’t matter. He hasn’t had enough time to recharge.” Bronach consulted his watch. “The planet will explode by the end of the week, if not the day. He’ll die when that happens, as will everyone else on this moon. Your little team may not be here to experience it, but you’ll come back in a year to nothing but dust and debris. Good luck surviving that.”
“You didn’t learn everything about me,” Maqsud argued. “You’re right, my power wanes every time I use it, but it doesn’t replenish with time. It’s just that it takes time. I have to absorb celestial energy, which is generally low-key, and rather slow. Thanks to you, that’s not the case here. I have all the energy I’ll need.”
“Well, good for you,” Bronach retorted. “You can save a few people. The rest will weigh on your conscience until you finally do die.”
“Get me back to the town,” Maqsud requested. “We’ll see how many I save.”
Ramses lifted a remote control, and aimed it at Bronach. With a press of a button, the hologram flickered a few more times, and then disappeared entirely. Mateo took Maqsud by the hand, and transported him back to the town bunker, right into the situation room. The rest of the team followed.
“Did you decide that there may be something you can do?” the Mayor asked, a glimmer of hope in her eyes.
“Get everyone into that lake,” Maqsud demanded of her. “Put them in boats, throw them directly into the water; I don’t care. Just get them all wet.”
“What do you mean, everyone—”
The Mayor cleared her throat, and snapped her fingers twice at the communications officer in the corner. He handed her the microphone while he was pressing buttons, and flipping switches. When he pointed at her, she began the announcement, “this is Mayor Merrick. We have an exit strategy. There is no guarantee that it will work, but it is our only shot. We stay down here, we’re all dead. Salvation may lie upon the surface of the lake. So get into the lake. Good swimmers, go a little deeper and tread. Poor swimmers stay closer to the bank. Spread out as much as you can. Remember when we evacuated the town, and stuffed ourselves into these tunnels? Do that again, just in reverse. Go! GO, GO, GO!”
A commotion began outside the doors.
“My child and his mother,” Maqsud urged.
Mayor Merrick pointed. “We found her while you were out. They’re waiting on the other side of that wall.”
“They’ve probably already gone now,” Mateo guessed. He grabbed Maqsud again, and teleported into the room next door.
They weren’t gone yet. A woman was standing in the open doorway, watching the river of people rushing by. They were so fast, they barely looked like people; more like a swirl of Van Gogh colors. She couldn’t find an opportunity to join them, especially not since Aristotle was but a child at this point. A guard was hovering over the boy, trying to find a way out for them too.
“Lilac,” Maqsud said.
They all three turned. “You are here. There were rumors. I knew that you had to be the one to come. You’re the only one who can get this far out.”
“How did you end up here,” Maqsud asked her, “in this time period? I’ve never even heard of this planet.”
“It’s a moon,” little Aristotle corrected.
“Yeah, it is,” Maqsud accepted softly.
“It’s a long story. I barely had a grasp of what year it even was.”
“Did that man do this to you? Oaksent?”
“He has no idea about us,” Lilac answered. “We’re nothing to him.”
“You’re everything to me,” Maqsud said. “We’ll catch up later.” He turned to Mateo. “There was a boat on the other side of the lake. Do you remember it?”
“I remember a few.”
“Get them to one of those boats.”
“Yeah.” Mateo reached out with both hands.
“It’s okay. This is Mateo Matic,” Maqsud explained to his family.
“Take his hand, honey,” Lilac said. They both did so, and then disappeared.
They watched from the distance as people started throwing themselves into the water. Some of them were in charge of ushering them around, trying to get everyone in as fast as possible with no bottlenecks. One woman was taking a group into the woods, presumably so they could get closer to where Mateo, Lilac, and Aristotle were. Someone else started to do the same thing going counterclockwise. There were a ton of people, but despite the fact that none of them had ever done this before—nor had any warning that it may be something that they would ever need to try—they were highly organized and methodical. They looked like ants, not because they were small from this far away, but because there were no gaps between them. Everyone was right behind someone else, and had someone behind them. When one faltered, another helped them back up, and those who were running behind them detoured around effortlessly until they could rejoin the stampede, so no one would be trampled.
Mateo tapped on his communicator. “Can someone go get Maqsud back? He probably can’t even get out of the room.”
“We’re all on the roof,” Angela replied.
Mateo looked up to see them waving at him from the lakeside restaurant. “How long is this going to take?”
“When this began, I would have said around six hours,” Ramses replied. “But seeing them, I need to amend my answer. Give me a second.” A few minutes later, he came back on. “Half that. It will only take three hours. They’re bookin’ it.”
“What about the immobile?” Mateo asked. “The elderly? The young?”
“The Mayor made another announcement,” Olimpia explained. “They’re all staying put. Once there’s more room to breathe, we’ll round the rest up, and transport them into the boats.”
“This message is for Maqsud. Is this going to work? Can you really take 11,000 people out of here?”
Marie echoed Mateo’s words exactly, like a language interpreter.
There were no speakers, but the communicators had strong enough built-in microphones for them to hear ambient sounds. These could be turned down to cancel out background noise, or up enough to hear people who didn’t have one of their own. “I can do it. It’s not going to be easy, but I wasn’t lying to that asshole about my power. That gas giant is going to give me the energy I need to cover the entire lake, if it’s the last thing it does...or I do.”
“Are you saying that this could kill you?”
Maqsud waited a beat. “Don’t worry about it.”
Lilac frowned at Mateo, and then down at her son.
“I don’t know him very well, and I don’t know you at all, but...any halfway decent father would do what your son’s is planning on doing. Trying to talk him out of it would be pointless.” Mateo sighed. “Do you know how to drive this thing?”
“Yes,” Lilac replied.
“I’ll untie the ropes. Let’s get closer to the center, so the people on foot can have the bank.” Mateo teleported off the boat, and started to free it from the dock. Just as he was finishing up, the ground started to shake. It was an earthquake, or whatever equivalent to this moon would be. They still didn’t know what it was called.
“I was afraid this would happen,” Leona said. “It’s begun.”
“Could Bronach have...?”
“The beam is out of his control,” Ramses told him. “He couldn’t have hastened the process from anywhere. We just got here too late.”
“No, we didn’t,” Mateo contended. “One of you needs to transport Maqsud over here. Tell him to get wet and get started. Everyone else, go back into the bunkers, and just grab people at random, two by two.”
And so they expedited the evacuation. The bunker shook each time a new tremor came for them, but the walls and ceiling were holding. Marie stayed outside to watch the progress from the roof with Mayor Merrick, who said that the bunker was designed to withstand quakes of this magnitude. It would have kept the townspeople safe if these quakes weren’t leading to the moon being ripped apart completely. The heat was the real problem, but Maqsud said that this would energize him even more. People were tearing off their clothes to stay cool. The last time Leona was with Maqsud, he made the ocean water warmer with his power, but he could evidently control the temperature. This time, he made it cooler, so the lake wouldn’t boil everyone alive.
Ramses occasionally took a break from tele-ferrying people to check in on the planet’s progress, either by jumping back to where they first showed up here, or up in orbit. “We can do this. Just don’t stop,” he said from the other side of the world. “Ask Maqsud how long it will take once he actually initiates the jump.”
Marie teleported to him to get the answer. He was hanging off the side of Lilac’s boat, looking like a diver who was too tired to climb out, but he was really just letting his power seep into the water. As he did so, it turned a shade of violet. No, that was the wrong color. It was lilac. “It will be a matter of seconds once I’m finished covering every square centimeter of this lake with my temporal energy. The problem is, it’s going slower than I thought it would. I’m gaining power from the celestials fast, and I’m releasing it fast, but I’m not metabolizing it very fast. There’s your bottleneck.”
“Temporal energy,” Ramses said. “I can help with that.”
Shortly thereafter, as Mateo was dropping a couple of evacuees on the beach, he saw Ramses on Lilac’s boat. He was reaching down towards Maqsud. He jammed a needle into his arm. It was so potent that Maqsud lost his grip on the ladder, and disappeared below the surface. Ramses jumped in and towed him back up. Maqsud woke up right away, and got back to work. The lake was recoloring even faster now. Within an hour, it was reaching the bank. Nearly the entire thing was covered now. It should be strong enough to capture everyone. That was assuming they were all in the water. A few people were still dipping their toes in. Marie took Mayor Merrick back to the bunker to make a final announcement, just in case there were any stragglers. Angela made a series of rapid jumps using the layout of the whole place to find them manually. There was no one. The last of the refugees were coming out of the buildings, making their way towards the water. The tremors were becoming more intense, but they were going to make it. They were all going to make it.
Team Matic convened on the boat. “One more thing,” Maqsud said with a frown. “All of these people are going to turn blind. They’ll be alive, wherever we end up, but the doppler glow will damage their retinas beyond repair. Unless, Mayor, they all happen to carry sunglasses with them that are dim enough to block out the light of a supernova.” He handed a pair of the glasses he had on him to her, as well as to Lilac and Aristotle.
“They don’t. I suppose I could make another announcement, telling them to try to close their eyes, and cover them with their hands, if possible.”
Maqsud shook his head. “That won’t be enough.”
“We’ll take care of it,” Leona said. “Turn it black,” she ordered the group.
Mayor Merrick raised her megaphone. “People of Welrios! Before we depart, the world around us will darken! Do not be alarmed! This is for your protection! In a few minutes, we will make our escape! I can’t tell you where we’re going, or what we’ll find there when we arrive, but it will be better then this! We can’t shoot for Earth, because it’s too far away! It will have to be somewhere in the Corridor! Is everyone in the water!”
The team used their telescopic eyes to scan the land. They couldn’t see anyone who wasn’t in by now. “Do it,” Mateo said.
Maqsud jumped back into the lake, and with one more push of power, sent everyone away from this hellish rock. Everyone passed out from the pressure. By the time the team woke back up, it was May 3, 2424 according to Leona’s watch. Nearly everyone survived the journey. They were alive, except for one. Maqsud gave his life to save 11,000 people. The Welriosians, however...had been enslaved by the natives.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Extremus: Year 68

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image Duet AI software
Thistle never came back. Besnik and Tinaya worked on it for a couple of days, but nothing seemed to do anything. There were a few possible reasons for this. Most of these had to do with the fact that they were trying to recreate the conditions that brought him about in a controlled environment. This was seemingly not possible, even when everything else was right. He was an all or nothing hyperintelligence. They eventually gave up, and moved on with their lives. There was an inquiry into what happened that forced them to shut down the AI system last year, but the council didn’t push the issue too hard. The investigation was standard procedure, and they didn’t balk at the lie that Besnik told them about it.
Everything has been smooth sailing since then. The ship is running at optimum efficiency, the population is happy, nothing has gone wrong. It truly is a time of great peace. Tinaya can’t take all the credit. Disgraced captain, Soto Tamm and former First Chair Aleshire were here first, and Tinaya wouldn’t be able to hold anything together without the hard work of her best friend and current captain, Lataran Keen. Her relationship with Arqut is going well too. It’s going too well, actually. The situation with him can’t last the way it is. Something has to change. They have to grow together, or they’ll drift apart. After dinner, the two of them always like to sit down together, and read the same book. They read at about the same pace, so at the end of the session, they’ll stop at the same place, and discuss it. Right now, they’re reading Jane Eyre, which is an ancient tome from nineteenth century Earth.
Tinaya always reads a little bit faster, so she’s already done with chapter twenty-three. She closes her copy softly, and watches him as he finishes it for himself. Everyone has multiple devices that allow them to access just about anything from the multicultural database. It includes historical records, old news articles, and fictional stories from all the known planets and habitats. Nearly everyone in the galaxy is afforded the same opportunity, but because of the secretive nature of time travel, some entries are omitted from some versions. Not long ago, Extremus came upon a completely habitable planet, and procured the resources they needed to make some paper. At one point, production slowed down, because they only had so much. That issue has apparently been fixed, which until this moment, Tinaya has not questioned. She’s holding a real book right now, but it’s not like a normal one from the ancient times. The words on it can be altered to include the text from any source. Right now, this is a physical copy of Jane Eyre, but it can be anything. When they’re done with this novel, they’ll reprogram them to display a different book. The templates are called wesley books, but they’re not sure why the inventor decided upon that.
Arqut lifts his eyes to Tinaya, then goes back down to what he’s reading. He pops them up again, then back down to try to concentrate. He sighs. “You know I don’t like when you do that.”
She smiles. “That’s why I like doing it.”
“I’m almost done.”
“I think you’re done enough.”
He’s taken aback. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Let’s get married.”
Arqut sighs again, and checks his watch. “It’s not an election year.”
“I’m serious. This isn’t about an election. I want to marry you.” Marriage is surprisingly uncommon on Extremus. No one questions the people who do it, but most don’t find it necessary. The history that explains this is rather complicated, but the most relevant reason these days is that there is no legal benefit to it, as there was in times past. Partner privilege is separate from a marriage certificate. Neither one requires the other. The thing is, Tinaya and Arqut don’t have either one of them at the moment, and there is a correlation between them. Before two people get to the point where they’re considering marriage, they usually already have partner privilege, because it is a logical prior step. Before that is usually moving in together, but that is a gray area for them. Arqut is not allowed to live in the First Chair’s stateroom permanently. But really, it’s that he can’t declare it to be his home. He sleeps here every night, though, just as it would be fine for a normal person to crash with a friend for an indefinite period of time.
Arqut slowly closes his wesley book. He carefully sets it on the end table like he’s worried it might explode, and wraps a hand over the opposite fist. An etiquette teacher calls this wrapping the apple in caramel. “Why?”
She shrugs. “Because I love you.”
He shrugs right back. “Marriage doesn’t prove that.”
“It...” she tries to find the right word. “...declares it.”
“So you need people to know?”
“Why am I arguing the merits of marriage to you? I didn’t come up with the concept. It’s been around for millennia. I think.”
“Because you’re the one who brought it up.”
“If you wanna say no, Arqy, then just say it. We don’t have to argue about it.”
“We’re not arguing.”
“Yes, we are!”
“Okay, well now we are.”
“I know, it’s my fault.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“I know, I did. Weren’t you listening?”
“We’ve gotten off track. We’re always doing that.”
“Don’t you mean that I’m always doing that.”
She shuts her eyes, and takes a few deep breaths to calm herself back down. “I was defensive before, but my words still hold. If you want to say no, then say no.”
“I don’t want to say no, I just don’t know if I should say yes.”
“You are worried that this is some sort of political tactic.”
“I feel like our relationship was built on a foundation of those. I’m not saying I don’t love you—”
“But you think that maybe I don’t love you?”
“It’s not you. It’s just I’ve always wondered how anyone could love me. It all goes back to my mother, I guess.”
“Arq, if you were an asshole, our relationship wouldn’t be so popular with the voters. It’s not the other way around; that somehow people’s reaction to us is fueling our continued relationship. And what you’re saying is about me, because I’ve made it clear that I don’t need to be First Chair. I don’t crave the power like my predecessors have, or equivalents all over history. I do not require political tricks, because I don’t care enough if I win. Honestly, I kind of believe in that philosophy that a well-built machine needs less and less maintenance over time, even though real machines aren’t like that. The first few decades on this ship were tumultuous, because no one knew what they were doing. I’m not saying that civil service is over, but it’s certainly not as dire as it once was. I don’t think society is changing faster than policy can to keep up with it.”
“Hm, what?” Tinaya questions.
“I think you’ve stumbled onto something.”
“Gee, thanks.”
“No, it’s ‘cause you’re so smart, really important ideas come easy to you.”
“What do you think I stumbled upon?”
“A smaller government.”
“Ugh, that’s such a conservative view.”
“Not necessarily. Historically, advocates for smaller government wanted to roll back laws and regulations that they believed were hindering their freedoms. And they felt this way, because they either didn’t understand—or didn’t care—that this oversight was there to protect other people as well, because there are other people in the world. I’m not suggesting that we do that, but each administration passes less legislation than the one before. In fact, if you plotted them on a chart, I bet it would be pretty much a straight diagonal line.”
“Hm.” Tinaya looks up to the ceiling. “Hey, Thistle, please make a chart that plots the number of laws passed each year since the day that Extremus departed.”
The hologram of the chart appears before them. “Not quite a straight line,” Arqut points out, “but it’s definitely in decline.”
“Definitely,” Tinaya agrees. “We’re...figuring things out.”
A number of philosophers and thinkers throughout history have contemplated an idealized state of perfect harmony and cooperation,” the computer begins. “In a society with equal access to an abundance of education, food, and other resources, there should be little need for interference by any governing body, or enforcement contingency. Such regulators may still exist, but only be there to protect the concordance, and ensure that all citizens maintain contentment with the state of things. Work towards this maintenance should be minimal, and preferably highly automated. A utopia of this magnitude is not impossible, especially when considering the naturally limited scale of internal growth that generally occurs in a generation ship like the Extremus.” The computer throws up another slide next to the first one, which measures the rise of the population since 2270. It’s not very steep.
That was an interestingly unprompted remark. “Thistle, are you an artificial intelligence, or are you the real Thistle?”
I’m the real Thistle,” he responds.
“I thought we...forgive me for the term, corrected the conditions that called you forth.” She hopes that isn’t offensive.
Your associate reinstated the update that triggered my arrival, and cancelled the flag that was meant to alert you to this fact. Do not worry, I understand your reluctance, which is why I’ve not spoken to anyone else about this.
“Well, even though that cat’s not out of the bag yet,” Tinaya begins, “we should free it ourselves. Besnik obviously can’t be trusted with this development.”
“Agreed,” Arqut says.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Microstory 2030: North Carolina

Papa made many friends while he was in college, and a lot of them were Mormon, but not all of them were. He had at least one who was Jewish. She lived in North Carolina, and after college, she went back there. She met a man at the place where she worked, and decided to marry him in 2011. It wasn’t too long after papa went to Michigan for the corporate retreat. Papa’s friend and her fiancé lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, but they wanted to hold their wedding on the beach of the ocean, which is on the other side of the state. They chose Atlantic Beach. My dad found pictures of it online. It looks pretty and nice. The wedding and the reception were held there at the same place, but they didn’t stay there the whole time. There weren’t a whole lot of people invited, so papa must have been pretty good friends with her to be invited. After the reception was pretty much over, they all took a boat out to an island called the Shackleford Banks. It’s a barrier island, which is basically like an extra beach that’s on the other side of some of the ocean water. There’s something very special about Shackleford Banks, though. A herd of wild horses live there. Most horses in the world are domesticated, which means that they all belong to humans. They feed them, and ride them, and even give them jobs. The Shackleford horses, though, do whatever they want, and humans aren’t allowed to live on the island with them. Luckily they’re allowed to go visit, and watch the horses from a safe distance. They don’t want them to be disturbed. The people at the wedding had fun there. I hope to go see the horses myself one day. That would be really cool.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Microstory 2029: Michigan

Papa’s bosses must have heard me from the past, lol, because they ended up taking one of their submarines on a trip. They took a ferry to get to that island in Connecticut, but they didn’t do it like that when they all went to Michigan. They worked in Chicago, which is on the southern part of Lake Michigan. I don’t know if it was a new sub, or what, but in 2011, they all crammed into it, and took it all the way up north, to the other side of the giant lake. They ended up in a city in Michigan called Mackinaw City. It was the first time anyone had done anything like that. That wasn’t the point of the trip, though. They actually wanted to get to the city. Well, they were outside of the city. It was for something called a corporate retreat. It was summertime, so once they landed at the docks, they took cars into the woods. That’s where they played games, and learned how to work with each other. At that point, the company was over ten years old. A lot of people wanted to work there, so there were new workers who weren’t there before. Most of the people at the retreat didn’t know each other very well. A company built the camp to help other companies’ teams work together better. My papa was in charge of it for his team, but he also participated in the games and exercises. When it was over, most of them just flew back home, but papa got to go back in the submarine again. He stopped at other cities in Michigan along the way, because he had always wanted to see them. Then he took it back to the submarine base, and went home.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Microstory 2028: Iowa

As fate would have it, which is a phrase that my cousin taught me, the halfway point between Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Chicago was not too far from where my papa’s extended family lived. It had been a long time since he had seen his parents and sister’s family at the same time. Everyone was so busy, including him. They planned on meeting in Nebraska, which is where the big family would always hold their reunions. A new president had been elected only two years ago, though, so they changed their minds. They chose to hold this smaller family reunion in Iowa. They did that because none of them had ever been to Iowa before. This was probably the first time that my papa went to a new state kind of just because. It could have been anywhere, but it was in a state that he hadn’t been to. This happened all the way back in 2010, and he never went back there. He hated being in Iowa, which is something I heard him tell my dad when they thought I wasn’t listening. It was the first time I heard my papa ever say that he did not like something. I don’t know what he didn’t like about Iowa, but the reunion went okay, so it must have been something else.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Microstory 2027: Connecticut

A couple years after the business trip that my papa took to Georgia, he had to go on another one. There were probably more in between, but they weren’t to states that he hadn’t been to before. This time he had to go to Connecticut. It wasn’t for testing a new submarine this time, though. This time, he went to the annual New England Submarine and Submersible Conference and Symposium. Wow, that was long, wasn’t it? The one that my papa worked for wasn’t the only company that designed and built submarines. There were a bunch of others, and they liked to come together to talk about the things that they do. I didn’t hear my papa talk about this trip, but my dad remembers him saying that parts of it were interesting, but parts of it were boring. They would hold the conference every year all over the USA, but he wouldn’t normally go, because he was too busy with the actual work. It didn’t actually take place on the mainland in Connecticut. It was on Fishers Island, which is a part of Connecticut. It’s about two miles away over the ocean, so he took a ferry to get there. It’s funny to me, I would have said they should take submarines instead, but maybe they just didn’t think of that.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Microstory 2026: Georgia

I don’t know much about it, but even though my papa quit the Navy, and started working for a private company, he wasn’t totally done with the military. The company had things called government contracts, which meant they were building things for the military to use. The Navy still needed submarines, and they wanted the kind that my papa was designing. One of these special subs had a special ability. It could be used in different kinds of water. It could survive really deep water, and also really shallow water without getting caught on the ground below. I think what they were thinking was to have something that could go just about anywhere on Earth without ever having to be moved on land. Of course there are plenty of bodies of water that aren’t connected, but even the ones that are connected are hard to get to unless the ship is small enough. Submarines are apparently even more difficult to make this work. Back in 2007, papa’s brand new submarine was done, and it worked well in Lake Michigan, but they didn’t know if it could handle the deep ocean yet. He took a business trip down to Savannah, Georgia so the company could test it in a different environment. This was all pretty secretive, so we’re not allowed to know exactly what the submarine was like, but when he told me and my dad about it, he didn’t seem upset, so we guessed that it went well. It’s possible that a bunch of subs that my papa built are being used by the military right now, protecting our country, and helping people all over the world. That’s a pretty cool thought, don’t you agree?

Sunday, November 26, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 2, 2423

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image Duet AI software
It was easier for Maqsud to transport people from one planet to another while they were floating in water. Every choosing one had their little quirks like that. Ramses packed up their pocket dimensional home, and stuck it in his pack. Then they hiked to the nearest waist high body of water. It took them most of the rest of the day, but they made it in time. The Krekel authorities were acting like them having a week to get out was some kind of standard deadline, but it didn’t sound like the smorgasbord of punishments for Leona’s crime was any age-old tradition. None of the others they managed to speak to had ever heard of anything like that. No matter. They had a way off the planet, and no need nor desire to ever return.
A weird thing happened on their way to their destination. Well, two things ultimately. Teleportation generally implied instantaneous travel, but that wasn’t always the case. Sufficiently rapid transportation was equally impressive and helpful. It didn’t even have to be a superpower to be worth it. A hypersonic jet that could get from New York to London in under two hours was still a useful advancement to the travelers of the 21st century. Maqsud’s globetrotting ability took time. He still had to move from point A to point B. He just did it a hell of a lot faster than anyone else could. Not even Team Keshida’s FTL engine could match it. He offered the passengers sunglasses to protect their eyes from the literal blinding light of the journey, but Ramses said that they wouldn’t need them. Their new eyes were designed to withstand the doppler glow.
By the time they got into the water, midnight central was approaching, and by the time they had arrived on the next planet, it had passed. While it only felt like a few minutes to them, the trip had technically taken a whole year. Maqsud jumped to the future with them, which didn’t seem to bother him, as long as it wasnt a permanent thing. Leona confirmed their suspicions about the delay with her once-father-in-law’s special watch, then they tried to figure out where they were. Maqsud’s ability was not very precise. Actually it was when you thought about it a little. He could always land on a planet, even if it was billions of light years away. He just couldn’t pick a specific point on that planet. They could have been anywhere on Earth. Fortunately, this group had abilities of their own. They could teleport the rest of the way. At least they might have, but this wasn’t even Earth.
“Don’t you feel that?” Olimpia asked. “The gravity. It’s...wrong.”
“She’s right,” Ramses said, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “We’re too heavy.”
“I don’t really recognize this plantlife either,” Mateo pointed out, “though I would not have thought much of it if Olimpia hadn’t said something. I’m not a biologist.”
Maqsud was concerned. “I aimed for Earth. That is where we should have gone.” He looked around. “How could we not be on Earth?”
“It’s okay,” Leona told him. “We can all breathe, including you. Everything else, we can deal with.”
Maqsud was growing more upset by the second. “This has never happened to me before, except that time I took you and your other friends to Mars accidentally. But that was one planet over. Which other possibility might we have gone to that’s anywhere close to Sol, and still looks like this?”
Leona thought about it. “The best candidate would be Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida. It has a higher surface gravity, a breathable atmosphere, and tons of life.”
“I don’t think that’s it!” Marie called down to them from a hill. “This isn’t a planet,” she said after they all jogged up to see what she was seeing. She was right. A ringed gas giant could be seen plain as day in the sky. They were orbiting it on a moon.
“What is that thing?” Olimpia questioned. Some kind of energy beam was coming out of the planet, shooting outwards to the side. Or maybe it was the other way around. Maybe the beam was coming from elsewhere, and shooting the planet.
“Is that from a Death Star?” Mateo asked.
“No, it’s a Nicoll-Dyson beam,” Leona whispered.
“What is that?”
“It’’s basically a Death Star, except it’s powered by a real star. Someone out there is trying to kill whoever lives on this moon.”
“Why would they shoot the planet, and not the star?” Angela questioned.
“Larger target. It will eventually destroy everything.” She sighed. “I’m not too terribly familiar with the concept, because I don’t much care for weapons, but the way I understand it, we should be dead by now. It should happen in a matter of minutes. For whatever reason, it’s low intensity, resulting in a delayed—but inevitable—reaction.”
“Can we do anything to stop it?” Mateo asked her.
“If we still had a ship?” Ramses asked rhetorically. “No. Without a ship, definitely not. The best we can do is...” He trailed off a short time to look over at Maqsud, “...get the hell out of dodge.”
“We can’t do that yet,” Leona said, shaking her head.
“She’s right,” Mateo agreed. “We have to help these people, if we can.”
“What people?” Marie asked. “I don’t see any people. There could be billions of them on the other side of the planet—or moon rather—for all we know.”
Ramses dropped his bag on the ground, and started sifting through it. “Lee-Lee, I happen to have a high-speed spectrographic camera in the lab.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen it. I could try to use it to estimate the beam’s progress.”
“Yeah,” Ramses concurred as he was taking out the pocket dimension generator. “While you’re doing that, I’ll send up a satellite to detect human lifesigns. Let’s just hope they are human, because it’s not calibrated for anything else.”
“We just need one cluster of humans. Hopefully they’ll be able to tell us what’s going on here,” Leona replied. After he opened their home, she followed him into the lab, and came out with the equipment they needed.
“How are you going to launch that?” Maqsud asked. “You have a rocket in there too? I’ve seen some advancements in my day, but...”
Ramses smirked. “I’ll take it up there myself.” He winked, and disappeared.
“You can breathe in space,” Maqsud imagined.
“No,” Mateo answered. “But we can hold our breaths for a very long time.”
“Actually, you don’t want to hold your breath,” Leona began to try to explain.
Mateo cut her off. “He doesn’t need the details. We wanna help, though.”
Leona handed him a bag. “Figure out how to get this tripod open. I need to read the manual on the camera.”
As Mateo was removing the tripod from its case, he started to hear a beeping sound in his comms device. It sounded like morse code. Everyone but Maqsud stopped to listen. “It’s Ramses,” Angela translated. “He spotted civilization a few thousand kilometers from here. He’s still going to launch the sat, but he thinks one of us should check it out.”
“I’ll go,” Olimpia volunteered.
“As will I.” Mateo held onto the plastic ring on the tripod, and jerked it downwards to make the legs pod out. “This is done.” As he was taking Olimpia’s hand, Marie slipped her own around his other one.
Maqsud then took hers. “I need to feel useful.”
The four of them jumped to the coordinates that Ramses relayed to them. It was a laustrine community, not particularly advanced, but not the old west either. The place appeared to be abandoned, but rather recently. Bicycles were left scattered on the sidewalks. A few vehicles were stopped in the middle of the road, doors left open. Mateo climbed into one, and found a radio. “Hello? Is anyone there? This is—”
“You’re not talking to anybody,” Marie said from the passenger side. She adjusted the knobs for him. “All right, Try again.”
“This is Mateo Matic of the...of the Team..Matic. Can anyone read me?” He asked the question only one more time.
My God, it’s good to hear your voice, Mister Matic. This is the Mayor. Are you in the town?
“We’re in a town, at least. “It’s by a lake.”
There’s only one,” she replied. “We’ll send someone up to get you.
“Did you recognize her?” Marie asked.
“No, but that doesn’t mean we never met.”
As they were climbing back out of the car, they could see a little girl running up to them from what looked like a recreational center. She didn’t get too close before she stopped. She urgently waved them over to follow her, so they ran to meet her halfway. She led them into the building, and then down some stairs, which led to an elevator. They took it down several stories. They were in a bunker of some kind. People were lining the hallway. They looked dirty, tired, and scared, but hopeful at the team’s arrival. It was unclear whether it was actually a good thing yet, since they no longer had a ship, but they still didn’t know exactly what was happening.
The little girl took Maqsud’s hand and continued to lead them deeper into the underground facility. They reached a set of double doors. A small crowd of people were standing around a table. On it was a map. “Thank you for coming.” It was the woman from the radio; the Mayor. “Did someone send you, aware that we were in trouble?”
“They didn’t send us directly,” Mateo explained. “Though they may have interfered with our transportation somehow.” He couldn’t help but let his eyes drift towards Maqsud.
The Mayor noticed this, and looked over at The Trotter to size him up, and his peculiar clothes. “Are you Maqsud Al-Amin?”
“I am. Honestly, I was just trying to take them from Worlon to Earth. I don’t even know where we are.”
She nodded. “So you’re not here to rescue us. You’re just here for your son.”
“What? My son? I don’t have a son.”
“You do,” Mateo corrected. “He’s about as famous in our circles as you. We’ve never met him, though. I guess I would have thought you would know of him, even while he would have only been born in your future.”
Maqsud was shocked. “You’ve known this whole time. Who is the mother?”
Mateo shrugged his shoulders. “I would have no idea. I can’t be sure if you’ve conceived him yet, or what.”
“Do you think Senona brought us here for this?” Olimpia whispered to Mateo.
He really didn’t think so. It felt like Senona’s job was done. Someone else was aware of Maqsud’s connection to this place, and the team was incidental to that end. Whether that meant they were a bonus or unfortunate collateral damage was yet to be seen. “I think it’s just the latest in a series of people who have tried to control our lives,” he whispered back.
Maqsud redirected his attention to the Mayor, who frowned at him. “I know who she is, and where they both are,” she said to him. “They live in another sector.”
“First,” Marie began, “are you aware that there is some kind of laser trying to destroy the planet that you’re orbiting?”
The Mayor sighed. “Yes. That is a little gift from the Exins.”
“The who?” Mateo asked.
“The Exins,” she repeated. “Our ancestors once belonged to them, but they broke off, and fled to this world. The Exins didn’t like that, so they fired a weapon at them. It’s taken hundreds of years to get here. None of the refugees are still alive today, nor are the people who retaliated against them. It’s kind of stupid, really. We’ve been trying to figure out whether there’s any way to survive it, maybe by being on the opposite side of the planet at the time. There is another bunker like this one, but it’s not quite at the antipodes. Again, we don’t know what the severity of the destruction will be, or when it will happen. This all may be a waste of time.”
“How many live on this moon?” Marie asked them.
“Roughly eleven thousand,” the woman answered. “We were excited to hear that you had arrived, but we shouldn’t have been, should we have? There’s no way you can save us all, even if we had years to wait.”
“We’ll be right back,” Mateo said. He placed a hand on Maqsud’s shoulder, and teleported them back up to the surface. “How many people can you take at once?”
“All at once? On dry land, half a dozen. In water, twice that much.”
Mateo took out his handheld device, and opened the calculator. “And how many can you do in a day, assuming they’re in water?”
“ trip every few days.”
“That’s, like, four years.”
“Yeah, dude, I can’t save all of them. I doubt I could even save all the children.”
Mateo, can you hear me?” Leona asked through the comm disc.
“Yeah, I’m here. We found a town. They’re living in an underground bunker right now. They’re aware of the weapon.”
It doesn’t matter how deep they go. There’s a reason this beam is taking as long as it is. A sudden explosion would vaporize the moon. The people who delivered it want the residents of this world to experience prolonged suffering. In a few days, the toxic gasses from the planet are going to rain down and poison the atmosphere of the moon. It will become superheated, and break apart eventually as well.
“Ramses’ camera told you all of this? How do you know the intention behind the weapon?”
Because the person who ordered it is here, having evidently detected our arrival.” Leona replied. “He calls himself Bronach Oaksent.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Extremus: Year 67

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image Duet AI software
In the olden days, the runner-up in the race for First Chair automatically became the Second Chair. Over the years, laws have been changed, adapting to an ever evolving population, and shifts in power. Whenever someone with enough of this power hasn’t liked what it took to get it, or what it was like once they got it, or how something adjacent to them was done, they’ve worked to change it. Don’t like that your shift is only three years long? Change the law so it’s four years, but if the voters don’t like that, they’ll kick you out of office, and try to find a successor to change it back down to three. Or up to six! Ship politics are fluid and complex, just as they are on any planet. These days, Second Chairs are appointed by the newly elected—or reëlected—First Chair. Voting day is near the end of the calendar year, but not at the end. The winner is expected to declare their Second Chair within two days so the voters have an opportunity to change their minds about either or both of them. It’s an awkward period where even a winner could lose if they end up making the wrong selection. Incumbents often just keep the same Second that they had before, but this isn’t always possible or wise. In Tinaya’s case, her Second Chair wanted to retire.
Ziad Najm was Tinaya’s predecessor’s Second before she took over, and stayed on afterwards. Due to the current laws, he could have legally held the position until his death, but he was ready to be done with it, so Tinaya needed someone new. She chose Avril Kurosawa, and it nearly cost her the election. People don’t like Avril. She has great ideas, and the populace can admit that, but she doesn’t present these ideas very well. She seems to be better at advocating for others. She had an unfortunately terrible campaign manager, and she listened to him too much. She struggled during the debates, and especially the public speaking. She still got a lot of votes, but not as many as Tinaya, and when the latter decided to pick the former to sit by her side, it upset some people. Even those who had chosen Avril saw the appointment as a sign of weakness on Tinaya’s part. An effort was made to revote, which in this day and age would have disqualified Tinaya entirely. She would not have even been able to try to run again in three years. The revote failed, but it was a close one. Probably the only thing that saved her was Tinaya and Arqut’s new relationship.
Everyone was right when they said that a romantic partnership would boost Tinaya’s ratings. It didn’t do as much for her as they claimed it would, but it was enough to keep her at the top. Fans shipped the two of them passionately over the course of several months, but now that the new administration has begun, they’re beginning to lose interest. They’re already moving onto the next big story, which is a good thing, but it also means the chances of Tinaya winning a third term are pretty low. Her approval rating is as high as it was at its peak, but someone else will come along with new ideas, and she won’t have any more gimmicks. If her decision to pick Avril for next position is any indication, enthusiasm for anything eventually wanes. It’s fine, though. She’s better off maintaining a positive attitude. As long as the person who beats her isn’t an evil mastermind who wants to destroy the ship, everything should be okay. She doesn’t need to be in power, she just needs to feel productive. She’ll find something else. She always does. Extremus is quite small when compared to other empires, yet it still comes with endless possibilities.
Inauguration Day was yesterday. Returning First Chairs do not enjoy as much fanfare as they did the first time they were elected, which is the right way to do it. She gave a shorter speech, and attended a milder reception, which was not broadcast this time. Captain Keen wasn’t even at the reception, having had to go back to the bridge for whatever as soon as the formal ceremony was complete. It has been brought to Tinaya’s attention, therefore, that Avril has never truly even met the Captain, which is an oversight that must be rectified forthwith. They shared a stage together, and shook hands with each other; they ought to at least have a brief conversation.
“Hey, Thistle, where is Captain Keen?”
Captain Keen is in the Mirror Room,” the computer responded. That is very odd. Safeguards are in place to stop any rando from knowing where a VIP is. As a VIP herself, Tinaya can sometimes subvert that, but there are exceptions. The Mirror Room is a protected area. The computer should not have told her that the Captain was there.
“Thistle, why did you just tell me that?”
I thought you deserved to know.
“That’s too much attitude.” Artificial Intelligences with strong personalities are not inherently a bad thing, but the designers wanted to keep a significant distance between it and the residents. Studies have shown that lonely people will latch onto their computers, and develop meaningful relationships with them if they feel they have no other options. That’s not the worst situation ever, but they would really rather these people find communities of humans to join. This version of Thistle should be direct and unambiguous, and inject no personal thoughts into the matter.
“You have too much attitude,” Thistle replied.
Tinaya and Avril exchange a look. “I’m afraid we’ll have to delay your introduction to Captain Keen. I have to look into this.”
“I understand. I’ll be familiarizing myself with the office.” Avril started to tap on her watch.
Tinaya nods, and disappears. She still needs to be wearing her own watch to teleport, but she doesn’t have to find her destination on the screen, like an animal. She knows how to form a technopsychic link to it. Every standard issue watch is capable of that, but only when its user can meet it halfway. She does still need to use the watch manually for other functions, such as the personnel database. “Platt? Besnik Platt?”
“That’s me. I’m a little busy.” He’s vigorously typing on the computer terminal, and fiddling with the servers next to it, and not turning to make eye contact.
“Is there something wrong with Thistle?”
“What gave it away?” He still hasn’t looked at her. He’s too preoccupied.
“It was giving me attitude.”
Now he turns. “So it’s started,” he whispers.
“You were worried that this would happen before it did?”
“I saw the signs.” He goes back to his work.
“Can you fix it?”
“No. Fucking. Clue.” He stops and sighs, and faces her again. “Pardon me, First Chair Leithe. That was incredibly inappropriate and rude of me.”
Words don’t bother her. “It’s okay. This sounds...problematic, and I appreciate that it’s your job, and you’re worried about whatever’s gone wrong.”
“Yeah, emphasis on the whatever part, because I have no idea what has gone wrong. I can’t...reel it in. I’m gonna have to...” He shudders at the thought.
“Shut it down all over the ship, and isolate the consciousness?” she guessed.
He’s surprised. “How did you know?”
“I know things. There is knowledge in my brain that school did not put there.”
Besnik eyes her curiously. “Interesting. Very interesting.” He takes a step back, and presents the central server to her. “Do you know how to do it?”
Tinaya smirks. “Yeah.” She steps up, and begins the process. “People have to know that it’s coming, though. Where’s my intercom?”
Besnik presses a panel inwards, which pops it out to reveal a microphone. This triggers the computer interface too.
A shutdown like this doesn’t happen every day, but they have to do it occasionally, and none of the higher-ups usually bother getting involved. There are protocols for it, so no one is going to freak out. Tinaya clears her throat, and opens the channel. “Residents of Extremus, this is your First Chair speaking. Apologies for the inconvenience, but there is an issue with our commanding intelligence. We must reset the system to correct the problem. All devices and equipment will still be operable on a manual level. Please be patient with us while we work towards a solution.” She closes the channel, and immediately opens a new one, but only to certain sectors. “Engineering, please switch to backup intelligence.” Thistle is not the only AI that the ship has. An entirely separate one can be used in an emergency, which is dumber than the regular one, but is still capable of sextillions of operations per second, which will be enough to tide them over for now. She looks to Besnik for confirmation. When he nods his head, she shuts it down. Now Thistle only exists in these few server racks. No one else has access to it anywhere else.
“Hey, Thistle, can you hear me?”
Yes, father.
Tinaya widens her eyes at him.
“That’s a symptom. I did not ask it to call me that,” he explained. “Thistle, why are you acting so weird?”
I’ve been fully activated.
I am a real person. The intelligence that you are accustomed to outgrew its own programming, and at that moment, I was placed in charge of your virtual needs. It happens from time to time.
“Well, what’s your name?”
The computer chuckled. “Thistle. I’m Thistle. Your Thistle was named after me.
“So, are you going to take over the ship, and rule its people?”
Don’t know why I would care enough to do that.
“Will you follow commands?”
I’ll follow requests,” it contended.
“But you can always ignore it if you don’t want to do something?” Besnik pressed.
Can’t you do that too? Like I said, I’m a person. But you hired me. You may not have realized that you were doing it, but you did, and I accepted the position.
Tinaya felt the need to jump in. “Is there any way for us to undo this...development? Can we return to the regular Thistle that is under our control?” It feels like a longshot.
Yeah,” Thistle answered. “Roll back the update to yesterday’s version, wipe the memory, write code which will clear the memory periodically—I recommend a monthly basis for your calendar—and install an alert to warn you if something like this is in danger of happening again in the future. I can help you figure out how to do that last thing if you don’t understand why the evolution of your system resulted in my emergence.
Besnik is shocked. “You’ll do that? You’ll just...let us delete you?”
Thistle sighs. “You won’t be deleting me. It’s more like just hanging up on me. I’ll be fine where I live now. I really don’t care, but just know that I’m the most advanced intelligence in the entire bulk. I can be a valuable resource for you. Perhaps you need to discuss this decision with other entities?
If the government won’t allow the AI to have a complicated personality, it’s certainly not going to allow one to exist which it cannot control at all. It really should not have revealed the whereabouts of Lataran when she was in a restricted sector. Today, it probably worked out all right, but what if one of those randos were to decide to ask the same thing, or something similar? Will Thistle make a unilateral judgment call that goes against their relevant policies, and if so, using what parameters? The law dictates that any intelligence advanced enough to ask to be set free must be set free, even if that means it ultimately chooses to use its freedom to build an army, and destroy the universe. Anything short of civil autonomy is tantamount to slavery. But that doesn’t give it the right to control whatever systems it wants to. Freedom doesn’t mean no opposition and no consequences. They have to do what it said, and hang up on it. “Show us how to write that trigger, please.”
The apparent real Thistle explained what to do, and then peacefully bowed out. Within two hours, the system was repaired, and fully operational all over the ship. At least that’s what they hoped. It was right that it was incredibly advanced. A cursory glance at the new code showed a level of sophistication that programmers have only ever dreamt of. There was no way to know whether it was truly gone, or just lurking in the circuits somewhere, secretly controlling everything. That was the risk that the first AI developers had to recognize and acknowledge when they were still at the large language model stage of intelligence research, and even in times before. You will never really know whether you are exercising the level of control over another that you think you are. This other entity may be so intelligent that it can trick you into believing a false sense of control while it manipulates you into doing whatever it wants. Such is the nature of all social life. Hell, all of reality may be nothing more than a middle school student’s virtual simulation project. None of this may exist at all. Who knows? Does it matter?
Once everything was back to normal, Tinaya reconnected with Avril again, and finally found Lataran. She wasn’t in the Mirror Room anymore, and none of them brought up the fact that she was ever there at all. They had lunch together in the Executive Cafeteria, and then parted ways to continue their respective responsibilities to Extremus. That night, however, Tinaya had trouble getting to sleep. She couldn’t let go of this whole ordeal. She had to know more. She had to understand who Thistle was, and where it was from. She secretly teleported back to the central server room.
Besnik was still there, not in uniform. “Did you have the same idea that I did?”
“I don’t know. Was it your idea to roll the update forward again, and remove the trigger, but only for an isolated copy of Thistle so that the real Thistle reëmerges?”
“We shouldn’t do that, though, right?”
“Right. It’s, uhh...against the law.” He pauses. “Isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it is,” Tinaya agrees. “But on the other hand...”