Saturday, June 17, 2023

The Edge: The Eagle Has Landed (Part I)

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Leona closed the door behind her, and let the portal close along with it. She turned and reopened the door on this side to confirm as much. A part of her hoped that her husband and friends would be able to join in on this special occasion, but she was not surprised that they weren’t. There was a reason they called this group The Shortlist. It will presumably be even shorter now that Ramses was dead. Either that or they’ll pull him from earlier in the timeline, which seemed a little unlikely since there was not much the two of them didn’t tell each other prior to his death. He probably would have let it slip at some point. There never had to be eleven members, though. That was just how it worked out. Perhaps they will find someone worthy of replacing his seat, or maybe they won’t. She didn’t know who was organizing this whole thing. No one was really in charge, but Hokusai Gimura often found herself in a pretty strong leadership role.
They were here to discuss the future of the Milky Way Galaxy in the main sequence parallel reality. Most of the public had seen or learned by now that there was something else going on in the universe that they didn’t understand. A message appeared in the night sky that could not have formed using conventional technology. Light just does not move fast enough to join stars together like that in a brand new constellation. Plus, the stars that were used to display the message weren’t even on the same celestial plane, as they never were. There was just no logical explanation for the message. For now, no one had to come up with one yet, but the longer they put it off, the trouble it might cause. Someone has to answer for it, and the energy god who actually wrote the message wasn’t going to do it.
“The Eagle has landed,” Thor Thompson said into his watch as Leona passed.
“Hey. What are you doing here?” Leona asked. He was intelligent, and well-versed in the world of salmon and choosers, but he was not part of the Shortlist.
“I’m just here to watch.”
Pribadium Delgado glided up, and took Leona by the hand. “He’s been saying that to everyone. Everyone is The Eagle.”
“What does he mean that he’s here to watch?”
“Come. We’ll explain.”
As Pribadium was leading her down the corridor, they heard Thor repeat the phrase when Weaver walked in through her own portal, from wherever it was she was.
They turned into a room which might have been the observation deck of a space station. A large array of windows was showing them the star that they were orbiting. “Where are we?” Leona asked.
“Altair. The locals have agreed to host,” Pribadium answered.
Leona kept looking at the beautiful star for a moment before turning her head. “I’m not familiar. Not the star, I’ve heard of Altair. I just don’t know who lives here.”
Pribadium smiled. “The Altares, of course.”
Leona chuckled. “All right.”
“Follow me. This is their diplomacy station, which they call Diplomacht.” She continued through the corridor until they came into an open space. It was a huge expanse with simulated daylight, plantlife, including trees that would be the envy of the tallest redwood, and walking paths. And these paths were being walked on, but not by humans or other humanoid entities. They were animals. They were intelligent animals. Some were wearing clothes, some were carrying on conversations with each other. The majority of them were the great apes, like orangutans and chimps, but there were plenty of canines, felines, and even birds. It was difficult to tell whether the birds were smart too, because they were just flying around and hanging out, but everyone else was definitely of comparable intelligence to humans.
“Uplifted animals. How did I not know about this?”
“You’ve been pretty busy, going to other worlds, other realities. Besides, this is a different timeline than the one you left. It’s close to what you recall, I’m sure, but you can’t trust anything you thought you knew from the past.”
“You seem to know a lot about what I’ve been up to,” Leona noted.
“Your grandfather filled us in.”
“Labhrás is here?” Leona questioned.
“We sent him back to where he belongs,” Pribadium explained. “He still has to father your father, so your father can father you.”
Leona nodded, and continued to watch the animals moving about like a creeper.
A bonobo hopped over to them. “Take a picture! It’ll last longer!”
“I’m terribly sorry,” she said to him.
“I’m kidding,” the bonobo replied with a laugh. “It’s okay to be intrigued. If I saw a cricket pushing a baby carriage, I would probably stare too.” He held out a hand. “Hello, my name is Gresham Oberti, Exalted Ten. I run this station. If there’s anything you need, you can ask me, and I’ll do what I can.”
“Exalted Ten?” Leona asked with a slight grimace, embarrassed by her ignorance.
“There are degrees to which an organism may be uplifted. Level Ten means that I have the tools I would need to elevate myself to superintelligence status, but I have not actually done that. In my opinion, Ten is the best. I don’t wanna know everything, and I don’t understand anyone who does. Anyway, I have to introduce myself to the rest of the Shortlist, but remember what I said, I’m here to help.” He ran off.
“Altair,” Leona repeated. “Exalted ones. Cute.”
“We didn’t name them that, or choose this as their homestar. They chose for themselves, and the migration was authorized by the Earthan government. There are plenty of them who still live there, of course, and on the other worlds. They just wanted a home of their own, as we all do. You’ve been gone a long time, and as I said, this is not the timeline that you remember.”
“Yeah. Our actions changed a lot.”
“Not just yours. There were other teams crossing the parallels, creating new timelines. I’ve done it a few times myself.”
“What does any of this matter?” Leona asked. “The meeting, I mean. You know what’s about to happen, don’t you?”
“The Reconvergence? Yeah, we don’t have to worry about that.”
Leona shook her head. “I’ve spoken to people who know the fate of the universe. The main sequence will be taken into the Sixth Key. If there was ever any hope that the public could be kept in the dark regarding time powers, it has been sent down the drain. It will happen. If nothing else, the Parallel and the Fifth Division will see to that.”
“It’s complicated, but don’t you worry,” Pribadium began. “We’re not going to be in the Sixth Key. We’re staying right here. Now let’s keep going. We’ll be convening tomorrow in Lylla Hall. It’s across Town Square.”
Leona looked back to see Weaver in the middle of a conversation with Thor and Gresham. Everyone on the Shortlist was probably taking the same route. This was all planned and structured, but by whom? They walked across Town Square, and entered the double doors under the huge sign that read Lylla Hall. They first entered the vestibule. Standing there in full military dress was General Bariq Medley from planet Teagarden. He was once in charge of the Quantum Colony game that millions of people played without realizing that it wasn’t a game at all, but they were in control of real star systems light years away, some of which were inhabited by clueless natives.
“Madam Matic,” Medley said. “It’s nice to see you again.”
“Likewise, I hope,” Leona replied. “I did not expect you to be here.” She looked over at Pribadium, who wasn’t looking back. “I did not expect any of these people.”
Pribadium cleared her throat. “Is she free?”
“She’s inside, finalizing the audience roster,” Medley told her.
“Audience?” Leona questioned. “What audience? Pribadium Delgado, who is she, and what audience are we talking about? Will people be watching us?”
The door to the meeting hall opened. A familiar face stepped through. It was Divinia Tiongsong. They met her in the Third Rail, but she didn’t say who exactly she was, or why the global brain scanner logged her as an error who had experienced an unusual amount of time for someone in the rather primitive reality. “It’s okay, General, I’ll take it from here.”
He nodded, not just respectfully, but reverently. She was more powerful than him. “Ma’am.” He walked away with his entourage of officers.
“I could hear you talking from in there,” Divina said to Leona. “Yes, there will be an audience, and no, it was not our idea. Members of the Shortlist made this decision. Why you were not involved is not something that I can answer, but in your absence, they convened a quorum, and requested certain things from us. Firstly, they did not want to hold the meeting on Earth, Teagarden, or other politically charged locations. They chose Altair, and the Altarens obliged, following my facilitation. If you take issue with his, I suggest you speak with the others. As the term goes, the public has been deveiled. It’s my job to keep everyone safe while you decide what that means.”
“Okay.” It seemed wrong and weird, but what could she do? Leona wields the least amount of power and influence amongst the group. Honestly, she’s always felt that her inclusion was more out of pity than anything, so if this is how the others want to do it, then she won’t object unless someone else does first. The question was, who would be in this audience, and would they have any say in the decision-making process?
Weaver and Thor came into the vestibule. The former was just as confused as Leona was. Thor just acted fortunate to be included. Right behind them was Ramses Abdulrashid. He did show up. “Oh hey, Lee-Lee. Shocker I know. I’ll explain how I survived the destruction of Phoenix Station. But first...I found Olimpia.”

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