Saturday, August 19, 2023

Extremus: Year 53

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image AI software
Half a century ago, the original passengers and crew of the Transgalactic Ship Extremus began an intergalactic voyage across the galaxy, which was set to take 216 years. That wasn’t some random number that they came up with. That was how long it was going to take to reach the outer edge of the Milky Way. Well, only going for 215 years would have been fine, or all the way to 217, but they had to draw the line somewhere, and 216 was a nice number. Year 217 is, therefore, known as the first year in a new era. By then, the destination should be reached, and the descendants of the original people should be starting their new lives. If this is where Tinaya and Lataran are now, they have just traveled through time.
“Yes, you did jump through time,” Avelino confirms, “but not actually to the year 217. That’s what we call this place sometimes, because that is our primary focus. This is what we’re going to use to find the final destination.”
“Isn’t that what the Extremus itself is for?” Lataran questions.
“No. When the last generations of the generation ship reach the end of their mission, they will want to get off the ship, and start to build their new homes on the new world. They can’t do that if they don’t know where the new world is. There are hundreds of millions of habitable worlds out there, but we don’t know precisely where they are, or which one we’ll want to call home. So the Bridger section was sent a year ahead of time to scout. We’ll find it first. It may take us the whole year, but that should be enough time to get it done before everyone else arrives.” Avelino points back down the dark hallway. “You’ve just stepped through a portal between the two ships, which are a light year apart, and always will be.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense,” Tinaya points out. “Admiral Yenant changed course. We’re not going the same direction we were when this started. The assumption was always that you were parallel to us, at least for the people who knew that the Bridger section was an entirely separate ship in the first place. How can you be following us from in front of us?”
“Time travel,” Avelino says simply. “We’re not just a light year ahead. We’re a year ahead. That’s how the portal works. It doesn’t only jump through space; it jumps forward in time.”
“So that hallway goes back to September 5 2321, and this to September 5, 2321?”
“Correct,” Avelino agrees.
“Good. I can’t lose a year of school,” Lataran says in relief.
“You’ll have to lose time,” Avelino counters. “We need the two of you here, so you can take part in some...extracurricular training.”
“Spycraft?” Tinaya guesses.
Avelino smiles. “That’s why we chose you, Miss Leithe, Fifth of Ten, because sometimes you just...know things.”
“It’s called intelligence.”
He chuckles softly.
“You called me Fifth of Ten, as if I’m going to be a captain one day,” Tinaya began. “But that’s impossible. I didn’t get on the captain’s track. Or I didn’t stay on it, anyway. I was humiliated.”
“That’s why we didn’t take you out of school any earlier than we did. You’ve gone through enough of it that people will respect it once you do become captain. But we had to stop you from going to college, because you’re currently the perfect age to start your real training. The Extremus has never had a captain with the skills that you will possess when you begin your shift in 2337.”
“That’s not the end of Tamm’s shift,” Lataran contends.
Avelino frowns now. “It will be.”
“Okay, you exist a year in the future. That I can wrap my head around. But now you know things that won’t happen for another fifteen years? How do you have all of this intel? Do you have seers? Time machines? What?”
“That will all be part of your training while you’re on this side of the bridge.”
“Even if she agrees to this,” Lataran says, “I can’t. I have to get back to real, publicly visible, college.”
“You’ll have to defer.”
“I haven’t even finished out one year,” Lataran argues.
“I know,” Avelino acknowledges, “but the curriculum is not going to change by the time you return. Trust me, it will all be worked out. The people of the ship are gonna be a little confused, but officially, you had to take a break from school for personal and private reasons, and will be able to restart your studies right where you left off. If you had homework due tomorrow, you’ll turn it in two years from tomorrow.”
Two years?” Tinaya exclaims. “Me, I understand, “but she has people who care about her. She can’t be away from them for that long.”
“Ours is a two-year program,” Avelino explains, “just like regular college. “I assure you that you have plenty of time. Like I said, your respective crew shifts won’t start until Year 68.”
“You’re acting like we don’t have any choice in the matter,” Tinaya decides.
“You do,” Avelino assures them. “We’re not monsters. We’ve just...never been rejected before. We choose our candidates very carefully.”
“Exactly how many students have walked the halls of your secret school on the secret ship in the future?”
“Not many,” Avelino answers. “It’s quite elite.”
Tinaya studies his face for a few moments. Lataran is about to speak when she notices this, knowing what Tinaya looks like when she’s trying to figure something out that someone doesn’t want her to know. “Bronach Oaksent was one of them. He’s a dark mark on your record.”
Avelino scoffs and shakes his head. “How the hell did you determine that? None of your predecessors knew that he was one of ours.”
“You’re telling us that the greatest threat this ship has ever seen once worked for you?” Lataran asks, horrified.
His head sank. “Oaksent was part of the program before the ships left. Before either ship left. We didn’t realize that he was a threat to us until the last second. He was...dangerous. We wish we hadn’t taught him anything. We wish we hadn’t shown him anything. So we left him behind. Somehow, he managed to change his name, and board the Extremus proper. We didn’t know until it was too late.”
“I always thought that was a fake name,” Tinaya says.
“Yeah, he adopted it from an insidious propagandist from ancient Earth history.”
“What a nutsack.”
Avelino nods, intending to shift the conversation back to the matter at hand. “I know this is a shock, but the time you spend here will be well worth it. You’ve never heard of this, not because the people we train are all anonymous, but because many of them are not. We know how to reintegrate our students. I’m sure you’ll miss your families, and they’ll miss you, but this is important. This is really important.”
“I wanna talk to him.”
“Him who?” Avelino asks.
“Yenant. I want to speak with Admiral Halan Yenant. He answered yes to The Question, didn’t he?”
Avelino sighs.
“What are you talking about?” Lataran doesn’t know the secret. “Yenant is dead.”
“We are not allowed to divulge who answered yes, and who answered no,” Avelino tries to explain. “Even if we could, we wouldn’t be able to allow crosstalk.”
She laughs. “You’ve told me that supposedly important people have gone to your secret college, but you’ve also told me that no captain has been made aware of it. It’s my understanding that there are more things that captains don’t know about the bridger section than the things they do know. If you want to have a captain in your pocket, and you think I’m the best for the job, then make an exception, and let me speak to Admiral Yenant. I know he’s alive, or you would be reacting differently to my demands.”
“How could he possibly be alive?” Lataran presses.
“You’ll see,” Tinaya tells her.
“No,” Avelino objects quickly. He pauses again and sighs. “I will log you into the system, but not her. We can explain it to her afterwards, but we cannot make a habit out of this. I will allow one exception, but not two, Miss Leithe. No captain is worth that.”
Tinaya gently closes her eyelids, and nods.
“Very well. Follow me.”
Lataran reaches out as Tinaya is walking away, but makes no attempt to hold her back. “Naya,” she whispers earnestly.
“Follow the lights, Miss Keen,” Avelino tells her without looking back. “They’ll lead you to your new cabin.”
Green lights begin to point down the other direction, but Lataran isn’t ready to go just yet. She secretly types out a quick message on her watch, and programs a beacon. She pops the memory card from it, and throws it all the way down the hallway that leads back to the Extremus proper. Then she heads for her cabin.
Tinaya makes her way there half an hour later. “Hey.”
“Did you speak to Yenant? Tell me about The Question.”
“The Question is just one part of a giant conspiracy that’s hanging over our ship like a dark cloud. There’s a lot I still don’t know, but it’s more than I thought before. This whole thing is being tailored. Free will is an illusion. The Bridger Section—Year 217—whatever they want to call it; it’s not just about finding the destination planet ahead of time. They control so much from here. No, I didn’t speak with Halan, but I never wanted to. I just wanted access so I can code a backdoor. Now I can get in anytime I want, as long as we stay here.” She points to the floor demonstratively.
“Is that wise? Is it safe?”
“Probably not.” But she has to do something. There’s too much power here. It goes against the spirit of the mission, and the purpose of the people’s journey. Tinaya thought she knew the big secret. She had no idea. She has to put a stop to it, and if that means getting in on the inside, then okay. “You can go home, but I have to do this.”

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