Sunday, December 31, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 7, 2428

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image Duet AI software
Ramses never told them which one was staying behind, and which would be going with them. Only the two of them understood whether the winner of Rock, Paper, Scissors would get to stay, or whether losing meant that he would have to stay. The same went for the two versions of Vitalie, who went off to make their own decision about it. Apparently, she wasn’t capable of simply sending someone else back in time. She had to go with them, which is why there were two now. Any given planet only gets one Caretaker, though, and they have to deal with that limitation, so one of the Vitalies climbed into the ship with them to help look for Lilac’s son.
The ship was extremely small. Most of it was taken up by the engine, and other functional equipment. The habitable space was limited to about the size of a stasis pod, which granted access to the pocket dimension generator. So it was bigger on the inside, like the TARDIS, but hopefully only a temporary situation, unlike the TARDIS. Lilac was placed back into stasis, and Team Matic jumped to the future, so Vitalie and Sheriff Kamiński were the only people who actually experienced the full duration of the trip. They were traveling at relativistic speeds, though, so while it took a whole year to get there, they only had to occupy their minds for about twelve hours. When the time-skippers came back to the timestream, their unnamed vessel was at its destination. It was programmed to seek an asteroid nearby, and wait until the humans could arrive to investigate. Aristotle might be here, or he might have been here at one point, or he might never have been here at all.
“What is this planet called?” Olimpia asked. They were looking at it through the viewscreen, watching it getting larger and larger as they drew closer and closer.
“It doesn’t have a name,” Ramses explained. “None of them does. They were only assigned numbers. We just came from EX-324, and now we’re on our way to EX-275.”
“It’s just one more way to make the natives miserable,” Angela figured. “They’re not allowed to have their own identity, let alone culture.”
Ramses placed the ship in orbit, and started to scan for civilization. Just as it was on the last world, there seemed to be only one region where people lived. It was hard to tell the population, of course, but it was probably larger here. They were living in high rises, and getting around via land vehicles on streets. This ship’s limited sensors were picking up multiple power sources, which appeared to generate electricity from fossil fuels, though it was impossible to tell from here. Just because a planet developed to have an ecosystem comparable to Earth’s, doesn’t mean it necessarily produced fossil fuels. It didn’t matter much. They were just trying to get an idea of what they might be up against. The people on the last planet didn’t appear to love the way they lived, even the wealthy citizens, but they were obedient to the Exin Empire. This one might be better taken care of, and more loyal, or they might be 100% rebellious. The only way they were going to get any real answers was to just go down there.
They released Lilac from stasis. Leona teleported her down to the surface while Marie took Sheriff Kamiński. Most of the rest followed, but Angela stayed with the ship. It was advanced enough to orbit indefinitely on its own, but it seemed prudent to leave someone up there at all times while in potential enemy territory. If they couldn’t figure out how to cross the 16,000 light year gap between them and the stellar neighborhood, they would probably have to keep doing things like that. It might be smart to enlarge and retrofit their new vessel to be more robust, or even build yet another one from scratch. It was too early to make that decision. Today was about finding Aristotle Al-Amin, and only that.
They were in an alleyway between what they guessed to be a hotel, and the capitol building. They still didn’t have a plan. If Aristotle was indeed here, bringing him up to anyone might place him in danger. There was no one they could trust. And also, no one could trust them. Before they had a chance to look around a little, a drone zoomed around the corner, and approached them. “Teleportation detected,” the robot voice declared. “Initiating dampening field.”
Mateo tried to jump, hoping to get ahead of the dampening field, but it started faster than he thought. It wasn’t like any he had ever experienced before. It didn’t stop him from teleporting completely, or limit him to a certain area. It made it feel like his skin was trying to rip itself apart. He flickered between the alleyway, and a different location. He couldn’t see much, but an old man was sitting in a chair, watching in horror as Mateo suffered. It only lasted for a few seconds before the field finally secured him in one place, on his hands and knees on the uneven brick road.
“Please do not attempt to escape,” the drone demanded. “An escort team has been deployed to transport you.”
While they were waiting, Leona knelt down to help Mateo recover. There wasn’t anything she could do but massage his arms and back until he was ready to stand up again. Meanwhile, Olimpia tested the boundaries of the field. It wasn’t just keeping them from jumping away. She started to feel the same pain he did just by attempting to cross the border through realspace. They were going to be taken to some kind of holding cell, but they were already in one right here. Ramses closed his eyes to concentrate. He was reaching out to Angela on the ship, but everyone on the team could feel him. Instead of using his words through the comms, which could be compromised, he went back to the emotion language they were working on. He ran the gamut of feelings, effortlessly switching from frustration to intrigue, to nostalgia, to disorientation, to vulnerability, to impatience, to triumph. Before he could finish the second word, Angela replied with understanding. She wasn’t trying to spell a word that began with the letter U. She literally meant that she understood where he was going with this.
A black van screeched by from the main street, and came to a sudden stop. A team of faceless stormtrooper-types flooded out of the door, and stuffed the team inside. They didn’t tie anyone up, or strap them down, but they could feel a mobile dampening field in here with them. They didn’t drive for very long before they reached the jail, or whatever it was. The abductors reversed what they did before, and dragged everyone out so they could stick them in a big cell together. No one on either side said a word. Once the secret police were gone, the prisoners helped each other up, and get over to the benches against the wall. They were acutely aware of the toilet that was just out in the open for them to use because someone was already using it, trying to keep herself as covered as possible. Everyone looked away politely, hoping it would be enough to make her feel safe.
Once she was finished, they thought it would be okay to talk. “We never asked,” Mateo began, looking over at Lilac. “Do you know where Aristotle was staying on EX-324? Did you meet the woman, or her daughter, or their neighbor, the old man?”
“No,” Lilac answered. “Why?”
“I saw an old man,” Mateo explained. “It seems unlikely that I would randomly go to him when I tried to teleport away, but...I dunno.”
“It’s not that unlikely,” Ramses said. “Our empathy allows us to communicate with each other, but we can still form strong connections to other people. You were desperately looking for Aristotle, and your power may have found him. That’s what I was trying to do when we landed in that alley. He may have been there at one point too.”
“I didn’t see Aristotle,” Mateo clarified. “Or anyone else.”
“His location is in your brain somewhere,” Leona said. “You can navigate back to him. When we get out of here, that’s as good a place as any to start our search.”
“How are we going to get out of here?” Sheriff Kamiński asked.
“With a little help from our friends,” Marie answered.
The woman who was on the toilet perked up now. Leona noticed. “We’ll take you too. Don’t worry.”
“I can’t go anywhere,” the woman said forlornly. “I broke the law. There’s nowhere to go.”
“What law did you break?” Olimpia asked her.
“Unlawful technology. I didn’t even know what it was. Still don’t. They didn’t take it from me, though.”  She pulled a stone out of her pocket, and showed it to them. “Doesn’t look like tech to me.”
Leona chuckled. “It’s a homestone. It will take you back in time to the first moment you experienced nonlinear time.”
“I’ve never experienced nonlinear time,” the woman revealed. “That is very illegal. I don’t understand why they just let me keep it.”
“They probably know you can’t use it,” Leona said with a shrug. “When we teleport you out of here, if you ever wanna get back into this cell, at this moment in time, you can squeeze it.”
She set it down on the bench like it was carrying a disease. “No, thank you.”
“Lilac, where is home for you?” Mateo asked her. “Maqsud had never been to Welrios before, and was quite surprised to learn you were there, so it must have been somewhere else.”
“I would rather not say. Not here.”
Mateo was about to ask whether the stone would help, but perhaps that would be too much information too, so he dropped it. That way he could pick up the homestone. It was useless to everyone but Lilac and maybe Sheriff Kamiński. They didn’t know if he was born on Welrios, or what. For now, all they could do was sit tight. It was hours before Angela and a third version of Vitalie showed up to rescue them. They burst into the building, and destroyed the dampening field generator. Then everyone teleported out to regroup on the other side of the planet.
“Hey,” Vitalie!324 said.
“Hey,” Vitalie!275 replied.
“Thanks for finding the other me, Angie.”
“No problem. I got energy for days.”
“If there’s one of you on every world,” Leona began, “we’ll always be able to count on you, won’t we?”
“Every inhabited world,” Vitalie!324 corrected.
“I’m gonna go,” Mateo decided, changing subjects. “I’m gonna go alone.”
“Are you sure?” Leona asked.
“Lilac, I don’t want to get your hopes up, so I’m just gonna run down this old man lead, and get back to you if it goes anywhere. It could be just some rando Two-Seven-Fiver.”
“The rest of us will keep moving,” Leona said. “They may be able to track teleportations, even this far out. Were I you.”
“Were I you,” Mateo echoed. He teleported away, and found himself face to face with the old man from before. He was still sitting in that chair, but a quick look around showed that he was not alone. A little girl was there too, and there could have been others in another room. “Sorry to bother you, but...”
“Have you been looking for us?”
“It depends on who you are.”
“I’m from EX-324, as is she.” The old man nods towards the girl.
“So you know what my next question is.”
“Where’s the boy?” the old man assumed. “I sent him home.”
“Ex-324 is not his home,” Mateo contended. “And Welrios has been destroyed.”
“He’s not from Welrios either,” the old man started to explain.
“Oh. When you say home...”
The old man nodded.
“You used one of these.” Mateo took out the homestone that the woman in the jail gave him.”
The old man nodded again.
“Where’s the slaveowner woman?”
“Who cares?” the old man wondered.
“Well, isn’t that her mother?” Mateo gestured towards the girl.
“No,” the old man answered. “As it turns out, she’s from the same planet as Aristotle. It’s quite the coincidence, but he recognized her when that woman took him as a child slave too. They knew each other as little kids, and he tried to take them both back there during an argument in my house. But Aristotle’s powers are...unrefined. Since the slaveowner and I were in the room with them, we screwed up the navigation, and ended up on the closest planet on the same vector. You have to account for mass; he didn’t know that.”
“Where did you get the stones, and how did one of them end up with some random woman in the jail cell?”
“Who said that was just some random woman?” the old man asked.
“Shit.” It must have been the slaveowner. “Goddammit, we should have found photos, or gotten descriptions. She’s playing innocent.”
“If she got you that homestone, she was hoping you would give it to the boy’s mother, so she could tag along, and get the hell out of Exin space. I want you to do the same thing, but I want you to take the girl instead. The stones need to account for mass as well.”
“Oh, I’m aware.” Mateo looked back at the girl again. “Where did you say they were from? What’s the name of the planet?”
“They call it Verdemus. People from the generation ship Extremus colonized it.”

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Extremus: Year 72

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image Duet AI software
There are really only two outcomes when a dead man’s switch for explosives is in play. Either the explosives go off, or they don’t. If the person holding the trigger ultimately wants the bomb to explode, then fine. How Ilias handled the situation was perfectly reasonable. He was waiting for someone to trigger it, and Tinaya did, so mission accomplished. If he didn’t want it to go off, though, then he should have freaking said something! It doesn’t work as a deterrent unless people are aware that it exists. The tactical team that Tinaya and Spirit went with never said anything about it. Lataran never said anything about it. Apparently no one knew that it was there. It’s impossible to say for sure, however. Everyone in that mess hall may have been privy to the severity of the situation, but they can’t attest to that, because they’re all dead now. Spirit is dead, the tactical team is dead. Nearly everyone who was on the planet of Verdemus at the time is gone now; notable exceptions being Ilias himself, and Tinaya. He’s locked up somewhere probably, and her? She’s locked up too, but she’s not in hock. She’s under house arrest. They have to keep up appearances.
Most people on Extremus aren’t allowed to know that the crew has maintained access via mirror portal to the habitable planet that they discovered. Ilias committed an unambiguous crime, and he’s not in the public eye, so they can punish him however they please. Tinaya, on the other hand, can’t just disappear from the ship without arousing suspicion. Arqut won the election for superintendent, though there were only two choices. The passengers and crew could have either voted for or against. If they had decided upon the latter, they would have had to wait until someone else asked for the job, and then run a revote. No one else seemed to want to do it at the moment, which is understandable, given the position’s unfortunate past. It was the lowest voter turnout in ship history, but it wasn’t even close. Just about everyone who bothered to vote voted yes. Superintendent Grieves is now working to facilitate a smooth transition from the old government to the new.
Tinaya has been ordered to remain in her stateroom unless requested for a public appearance with her husband. She feels so shitty about what went down, even though she knows that it was Ilias’ fault for not explaining the stakes to them. She doesn’t really want to leave her stateroom, and in fact probably never will. It reminds her of how she felt when she was totally lost, with no hope for a better future, and no idea for a purpose in life. But this is worse, because she isn’t just failing to succeed. She actually caused harm. She got people killed. Again, she recognizes that Ilias should have warned them that that would happen if they attempted to rescue the hostages, but she feels no less responsible for those deaths. She doesn’t even know who they are. The list can’t be made public. People who go on such secretive missions are generally chosen for their lack of family and friends. It’s not like on a planet, where you can join the military, and tell the people you care about that you can’t tell them what you’re really doing. On Extremus, there’s nowhere to go, so if you walk out the door, and never come back, people are going to wonder how that could possibly be. At most, you should be several hundred meters away at all times.
Lataran has distanced herself from Tinaya for obvious reasons, and Tinaya does not blame her for that. She has to protect her reputation. It is bad enough that Verdemus is being kept secret from the people. If anyone finds out what actually happened there, she could go down in history as one of the bad captains. They could see her as worse than Tamm, which would be worse than anything. The question is, why is Lataran standing in Tinaya’s doorway right now. “We need your help.”
“My help with what?” Tinaya asks her solemnly.
“You have to go back to Verdemus,” Lataran replies.
“I’m not doing that.”
“You’re the only one who can.”
“It didn’t exactly turn out great the last time you said that to me.”
“This time, it’s no less true,” Lataran begins to explain. “We would ask Ilias, but we try not to talk to him if we don’t have to. We don’t believe he’s part of some movement, or insurgency. He was a crazy asshole with a bomb. All he should be doing right now is stewing in hock, and regretting every single one of his life choices. Besides, he may not have the information we need anyway. We don’t know what he saw, or what he noticed, from his vantage point. We’re pretty sure you’ll know.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The explosives were...comprehensive. One of the gatewatchers was blown off of his post, and the other suffered minor burns. Anyone anywhere near the epicenter was vaporized. We know who was there, but we don’t know specifically where anyone was standing in space when it happened.”
“If you needed to know this, why didn’t you ask me before? It’s been months.”
“We didn’t need to know before. Like I said, we have a manifest. We didn’t need the details until today, because something has changed.”
“What? What has changed?”
“I would rather just show you. Don’t you want to get out of here, if only for a moment?”
Tinaya crosses her arms self-protectively, but not too tensely. “I’m fine.”
“Miss Leithe...this is not a request.”
Tinaya stands up. “That’s all you had to say.”
They cross back over through the mirror portal together. The leader of a three-person tack team tries to hand Tinaya a pair of sunglasses again, but she refuses. It feels like she doesn’t deserve it. Lataran sighs. “I told you I need to show you something, which means you need to be able to see. Put them on please.”
“Okay.” Tinaya accepts the glasses, and begins to adjust to the harsh natural light. They walk down the path, and towards where the offworld base used to be standing, leaving one tack team member to guard the mirror. The base has been flattened, with only a few of the strongest parts of the infrastructure still standing as ruins. They lead her through the now fully open gate, and towards where she was when she was trying to negotiate with the hostage-taker. Lataran was right. This is something that needs to be seen. Ashes have begun to cling together over a spot on the ground, like ferromagnetic dust to a telescoping groundsweeper. They have coalesced themselves into the vague shape of a human being. It doesn’t look like anyone in particular right now, but more ash is jumping up into place by the second. Eventually, the entity could be made whole once more.
“Do you know who was standing here?” Lataran questions. “I know it’s hard to get your bearings—”
“It’s Spirit.”
“Are you sure?”
Tinaya steps around, and gestures towards the ash being. See, she’s holding some sort of shovel thing. It’s what she used to sever the shockwire that Ilias had hooked up to the woman he used to speak through, so he wouldn’t place himself in the line of fire. Spirit Bridger, and resurrecting herself.”
“That was our guess as to what was going on,” Lataran agrees. “It would make some level of sense that she would be the one to possess such power. Though—and I don’t know about you—but I’ve never heard of this sort of thing before.”
Tinaya shakes her head. “Neither have I. Some kind of phoenix power, that’s crazy. Have you asked Omega about it? He would know.”
“He’s on the frontlines of the Three Bears War right now.”
“Of course he is, because as always, I know what that is,” Tinaya says sarcastically. “All right. I’ll be going now.”
“That’s it?” Lataran asks. “You’re just gonna go back to your stateroom?”
“Well, what the hell else should I do?” Tinaya snaps back. “I’m still a danger to society, aren’t I? Or is this my new prison? Should I stay instead? Yeah, that makes sense. Is this even real?” She reaches up towards Spirit’s supposedly recoalescing body.
“Don’t. Touch that. Yes, it’s real,” Lataran begins, then falters, “I think. I just thought you might want to take a second to...” She trails off, and shakes her head before continuing, “....breathe the fresh air.”
Tinaya realizes her error. “This was meant to be a gift.”
“I still love you, Tinaya, and I don’t personally blame you for what happened. I just...I couldn’t be seen with you. It’s a very complicated and delicate situation.”
“I know.”
The tack team member pivots a quarter turn away. “Go ahead.” She tenses up as she’s listening through her comm, then she faces Lataran. “Sir, we have to go. There’s something wrong with the portal.”
“You two run up ahead,” Lataran orders. “We’ll teleport back right away. I just need to talk to her for one more minute.” It’s unclear why they wouldn’t be able to teleport themselves, but they literally run off. She senses Tinaya’s confusion. “Teleporters don’t work on this planet anymore. Ilias’ bombs destroyed the local relays. We haven’t bothered to replace them. We’re not sure what we’re gonna do here anymore.”
“Why would you be able to teleport then?”
She lifts up her shirt to reveal an emergency teleporter strapped to her chest. “Mine has a much longer range. I’m still linked to the ship, through the portal, of course. Look, I just want to—” She stops when she hears a rustling in the brush that has already begun to grow amidst the destruction.
“You heard that too?”
“Yeah,” Lataran whispers. She slowly creeps in that direction.
“Are there wild animals here?” Tinaya asks.
“A few. One species is particularly dangerous, and particularly valuable.”
“You’re not a wrangler. We should go.”
“No, just give me a second.”
Lataran continues the search, forcing Tinaya to follow. Neither one of them excelled at hand-to-hand combat in school, but the latter was always a little better at it. Though, to be fair, she didn’t go to college, so maybe the leaderboard has shifted. They approach the overgrowth, but don’t find anything, so they keep going until they hear more sounds behind more brush. They carefully pull it to the side to reveal two small children. They’re dirty, and barely wearing any clothes. They’re probably hungry, tired, and scared. “Hey, it’s okay,” Tinaya says to them gently. “We won’t hurt you. Do you understand me?”
Lataran looks away slightly. “We have to go. There’s something seriously wrong in the Mirror Room.”
“You go,” Tinaya demands. “Take them, and then you can come back for me. I’ll be on my way.”
“I might only have enough juice for one jump. We’ve walked really far away now.”
“Then don’t waste it! Save the children! Obviously!”
Lataran grabs the kids by the hands, and disappears.
Tinaya has also never enjoyed running, but she’ll do it today. She races back into the ruins of the base, then towards the gate, and then up the path to the mirror. The place is swarming with people in military uniforms, but they’re nothing like the kind she recognizes. They do not belong to any branch of the Extremus security or military force. She doesn’t stop running, though. It doesn’t seem to bother them that she’s running for her life. If this is some kind of coup, they don’t consider her a threat. She doesn’t make it all the way to the mirror, anyway. It explodes right towards her, but not in a fiery storm. It’s concussive, and maybe even spatial warping. She’s thrown high into the air, back towards the base. All she can think as she’s flailing about is that there is no way she survives this. Even if what’s injuring her weren’t the portal that will no longer be able to take her back to help on Extremus, the damage will be too severe.
Only when she crashes onto the ground does she feel the sting of the glass shards in her skin. They are all over her body. She’s still alive, but hanging on by a thread. She’s fallen right on the other side of Spirit, whose recovery has been sped up exponentially somehow. Tinaya watches the wind blow the majority of the ash away to reveal human skin. It’s definitely her.
Spirit blinks, and starts to reorient herself. She looks down to find Tinaya gasping for breath, and then gurgling on her own blood. “I guess my plan didn’t work.” Her eyes lose focus, and she starts to look like she’s nodding off. Finally, she passes out, and lands right on top of Tinaya’s body. Tinaya reaches up and tries to pull the secret signal mirror from her inside pocket, but remembers that she no longer has access to it. It’s still tucked away safely in the pocket dimension, but the only way to unlock it is with her watch, or something else that can generate the right shade of green to reveal the zipper. That was taken away from her after last year’s debacle. She’ll never see her love, Arqut again, and he will never know what happened to her.
Before Tinaya loses consciousness, she sees two figures hovering over her. They look like the children from before. Damn. They didn’t make it through either.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Microstory 2050: Minnesota

Now, some of you may say that my papa never made it to all fifty states. He died in Oklahoma before he ever got the chance to see Minnesota. But my family and I don’t feel the same way that you do. After he died, we had a funeral service for him in Florida. My grandma has a hard time moving around. She doesn’t have ALS, but she’s old, and that’s just what happens. My aunt, uncle, and cousins all flew down to be there too. All of papa’s friends from college, the Navy, and his co-workers from the submarine company were there. Papa met a lot of people as he was going to every state. I didn’t talk a whole lot about that, but he didn’t just step over the borders, and take photos. He became involved in people’s lives, and they remembered him later. People heard of his accomplishment, and because of my dad’s work with the news, it made it into national news. Everyone knew that he had died, and they knew when the funeral was. They even had to move the service to a bigger room, because there wasn’t enough space in the one we had booked. When it was all over, we took papa’s cremains up to Minnesota. When you die, you might be buried in the ground, but they also may turn your body into ashes. It may be scary, but a lot of people want this to happen to them, and that’s what my papa wanted. We spread his ashes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota. Papa loved forests, so we thought that it was a good place to do it. Don’t worry, we asked for permission first. Some of the ashes are still in a little urn on our mantel. We had the special map framed, and it’s hanging on the wall right above it. The rest of the ashes will stay in Minnesota forever. I think that’s fitting. My papa went to all fifty states in the United States of America. I think that’s pretty amazing. Thank you for watching and listening to my presentation about my papa.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Microstory 2049: Oklahoma

Back in August, my papa was sitting in his wheelchair in the dining room. He was looking up at the map where he and my dad had placed stickers to show which states they had gone to. My papa was only missing two states. He had never gone to Oklahoma or Minnesota. It was hard for him to pick up objects, but he asked me to hand him a quarter. When he let go of it, it fell to the floor. It landed on tails, which he had decided meant that he would be going to Oklahoma. I think he knew that he didn’t have very much time left, because that is where he died. He was sitting in a blue camping chair, watching the sunset with his favorite people. My dad was sitting on his right, and I was sitting on his left. Grandma Daphne, Aunt Cooper, Uncle Currian, and my cousins, Nash, Osmond, and Thatcher were all there too. Even though we knew that it was going to happen, it was sad, especially since I was there to see it. Still, I’m glad that he was looking at something so beautiful when it happened, instead of just staring up at the ceiling, or something.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Microstory 2048: South Carolina

My papa didn’t want any more sadness once he knew that he was going to have to leave his family soon. He wanted to have one last really happy memory with us. He decided that we should go down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A lot of people like to go there to party, but they mostly do it in the spring and summer. This was in the winter, around Christmastime. It was the last Christmas that my papa ever saw. According to people who lived there, it was pretty cold at the time, but it wasn’t anywhere near as could as it gets up here in Massachusetts, so we didn’t mind. We couldn’t go into the ocean, but we sat on the beach, and enjoyed spending time together. We didn’t do a lot of activities, but it was nice and quiet, since the party-goers were living their regular lives in other places. We spent a lot of time in the hotel, playing board games, and just talking. I skipped a lot of school in the fifth grade. That’s okay, because I made up all of my assignments, and I wanted to be with my family. Papa was really tired all the time, but he still smiled, and he could still make me laugh. We were lucky for that too. Most people with the disease who were that far along in their journey have trouble speaking. He was sometimes hard to understand, but he could still talk well enough.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Microstory 2047: Delaware

Papa struggled with the ALS for many months, doing what the doctors recommended, and trying different medications. Nothing was working, so they decided to go see another doctor. There was a different specialist who lived in Millsboro, Delaware. This is the one who told my fathers that the disease was aggressive. That’s the word I heard my family use a lot: aggressive. It sounds really mean. Some people can live 10 years after they find out that they have ALS, and I wish I could say that my papa was one of them, but he wasn’t. He found out in 2021, and you already know how this story ends. They did everything they could, but that wasn’t much. All they could really do in the end was make him as comfortable as possible. Delaware was not a good trip either. I will probably never go to Pennsylvania or Delaware. I might not even go to North Dakota again. Delaware was the last time that my papa could walk. He had to stay in the wheelchair for the rest of his life. It was hard to see him like that, but I would rather see him like that than not at all.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Microstory 2046: Pennsylvania

You might have heard of ALS already. People were dumping ice water on their heads to raise money for it several years ago. They still haven’t found a cure, though. I really wish they had, because then my papa would still be here today. That doesn’t mean that scientists aren’t trying to find a cure. Massachusetts has some really good doctors, but my fathers heard of a specialist in Pennsylvania who knew a lot about it, so they wanted to meet with her. I had to stay with my cousins again. My fathers flew down to Philadelphia without me. I don’t know what they talked about, because no one will tell me, but they obviously didn’t solve the problem, because my papa is dead now.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 6, 2427

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image Duet AI software
Something interesting happened when Ramses started to program Lilac’s stasis pod to help her jump to the future faster. He expected to be able to start from scratch, and run his own program, but a link request popped up when he tried. He almost swiped it away, because it always carries over other default settings that he needs to alter himself, but it should not have done it at all this time. This was the only pod in operation for at least a light year. Right?
“There’s another pod?” Leona asked.
“Yes,” Ramses answers. “Well, there’s another stasis program running nearby anyway, which could turn out to be any number of other pods, as long as they happen to be on the same time differential.”
“How do you know this?” Olimpia asked.
“Pods like this are self-sustaining and modular,” Ramses began to explain. “They don’t have to be connected to each other, or to some singular power source or network, which is why I was able to just pull this out of the wall in Scorpius Station, and bring it with us. But sometimes you want them to be connected, so they can share preferences, and other settings. It helps for when you have to program thousands of sleepers in the same ship. When I activated this one, it alerted me to a currently running program, which I can evidently become a part of too.”
“So, it’s like when you take your phone into a restaurant, and it picks up the WiFi,” Mateo reasoned.
“That’s a good analogy, yes,” Ramses replied. “It’s offering to connect us to a network that we didn’t know was there.”
“This world does not look like it’s advanced enough to have stasis pods,” Angela pointed out.
“Well, no matter. Where is this other pod?” Marie asked. “Or pods?”
“There’s no way to know,” Ramses explained. “But it has to be close. I’ll look deeper into the specifications to get a better picture, but I doubt it’s more than a few thousand kilometers.”
“Oh, that close?” Mateo laughed.
“If it’s a facility,” Leona began, “we might be able to track it down. If it’s a single pod underground, it might be next to impossible. These things aren’t designed to locate each other. This feature only exists to keep everyone in a given population on the same timetable. The diameter of the Earthan moon, Luna is sort of the far end of the typical ranges you might ever need. You generally don’t even need to go that far.”
“Can you change the range?” Mateo asked.
“What do you mean?” Ramses questioned.
“Can you adjust the signal until it stops picking up the other program?”
“Oh, I see where you’re going with this,” Ramses said. “We might be able to pinpoint the location once we find an exact radius. You’re getting smarter.”
“It happens,” Mateo muses.
“Give me a little time. Like she was saying, this isn’t designed as a buddy locator. I’ll have to tinker with the innards.”
“What about me?” Lilac asked, arms crossed.
“Oh, right,” Ramses said. “I forgot why I was even doing this. Lee-Lee, while I’m working on this one, why don’t you get one of the other pods set up for her?”
“I can’t do that,” Leona contended. “If I set up a new pod, and start a new program...”
Ramses realized the issue. “The linkseeker on this first pod will find the second one instead, which could make it harder to locate the one we’re looking for.”
“So, I’m screwed?” Lilac figured.
“No, no. We’ll turn it off next year. I know you wanted us to wait to wake you up once we found your son, but we really do need to investigate this.”
“Okay,” Leona said. “Give Ramses a few hours to find the radius. Once he’s done, we’ll place you in another pod. We’ll wake you up next year, and try to actually look for the thing. I’ll want to spend some time inspecting our new ship anyway, but I promise we’ll get off planet by the end of the day. Is that okay?”
They carried out the plan. While Leona was programming the nanofactory to engineer an interstellar ship for them that was capable of reaching maximum sublight, but not of reframe speeds, Ramses was trying to find this mysterious other stasis program. He ripped the guts out of the pod, and just used whatever part of the machinery, since he didn’t need the entire apparatus to do the job. This would make it easier to triangulate a position. It actually didn’t take them the entire rest of the next day to complete the work. He found the radius, which was around 1200 kilometers away, but of course, that was 1200 kilometers in any direction. So he made a random jump 600 kilometers away. This dropped him into the ocean, and also out of range, so he knew he was going the wrong way. He went back to the center, and made a jump in the opposite direction. Now he was still in range, but the radius remained at 1200, so he had to lower it until the other program reappeared on the screen. He kept adjusting it, making ever shorter jumps several times until he found the spot. It was within about a hectare search grid. There was nothing there, and midnight central was approaching, so he went back to camp to wait.
The next day, they were glad that he was able to narrow it down that much, because that was as good as it ever got. Starting up Lilac’s pod severed the linked preferences from the first time, and they weren’t able to restore them, even when they woke her up, and powered her pod down. While Leona was working on their ship, and the Walton sisters were continuing to help the Welriosians, and Olimpia was helping the natives, Mateo and Ramses started a more direct search. It reminded Mateo of the time that he and Tarboda Hobson were in Madagascar in the Third Rail. Alyssa used her teleportation ability to search for whatever they might find there that could solve their problems. It was much quicker, but if the thing they were looking for were underground, it might be virtually impossible to locate, especially with their short window of availability. They were leaving today, whether the secret pod was found or not. Fortunately, they found it.
It was underground, but not in a bunker, or something. It was just buried in the dirt, part of the top corner exposed to the elements, probably due to natural erosion. They dug it out with their hands like a dog until it was exposed enough to be lifted out of the ground by hand. Ramses tried to wipe the viewscreen clean to see who was in it, but the face was obscured from the inside. There was no data on its occupant in the computer, so all they could do was cross their fingers, and open ‘er up. Vitalie Crawville leapt out of it with a crazed look on her face. She tackles Mateo to the ground, and tries to strangle him. Ramses spared no expense when he made these bodies. Humans, for whatever reason, evolved to have pitifully fragile necks, but it was relatively easy to engineer a superior substrate. Some called them superstrates. Vitalie could squeeze all she wanted, but there was no way she was breaking his windpipe. He didn’t fight back. He just lay there, waiting for her to recognize him. She did so after fifteen seconds, and got off of him right away. “Are you okay?” he asked her.
“Am I okay? Are you okay?”
Not a big deal. “I’m all right. How long were you in there?”
Vitalie looked back at the pod in disgust. “Hell if I know.”
“Someone put you in there against your will?” Ramses asked.
She took a deep breath. “Yes. Called himself...The Oaksent.”
“We’ve met,” Mateo said with a nod.
She looked around at their surroundings. “This world has been without my help. I hope it’s not too late.”
“Too late for what?” Mateo asked.
“To do some good. Do you know how far we are from civilization?”
“We’ll take you there.” Mateo offered her a hand.
She was confused for a moment. “Do you know how to be a navigator for a teleporter?”
“I know how to be a navigator,” Mateo answered, “and a teleporter.” He took her hand, and jumped them both to New Welrios.
I wanna take a look at this pod,” Ramses said through his comm.
“Be careful,” Mateo warned him. “There could be a tamper-proof self-destruct.”
“A lot has changed about you, Mister Matic,” Vitalie noted. “Looks like I got some competition here.”
“You don’t,” he clarified. “My team and I have to go. We’re looking for a friend, and the only thing we know is that he’s not on this world. We’re doing everything we can, but a lot of people here don’t deserve to be helped.” He jerked his head towards the Welriosians who were milling about outside the entrance to the giant residential cave. “These ones were once innocent slaves. We saved them from the destruction of their planet, then we had to save them again once the natives got their hands on them. The others live on the other side of the planet. Their society is complicated, and there’s only so much effort we’re putting into their redemption. You can do whatever you want, Vitalie, or you can come with us.”
She smiled at him while she watched the people. “My name’s Vitalie. It’s The Caretaker, and wherever you’re going, you’ll find me there too.”
“You duplicated yourself?” he guessed.
Dupe means two.” She paused, and tilted her forehead towards him. “I didn’t stop at two.”
“How many worlds are you on?”
She waited to answer. “All of them. Well, except for the ones who don’t need it, like all systems in the stellar neighborhood. I may or may not be on Earth II. I was still trying to decide when I left, so my alternates would have had to make that decision.”
“How did you get to each world, though?”
“The Nexus.”
“There’s a Nexus here?”
“I don’t think so,” she assumed. “You don’t need a Nexus to exit. You just need one to leave from.”
Mateo nodded. This was true.
Ramses suddenly appeared a few meters from them. Or rather, Vitalie’s pod appeared. It was standing up, but the bottom wasn’t stable, so it fell onto its back. He climbed out of it like a zombie from its casket. “This is not a stasis pod. It’s a medical pod with a—argh!” He ripped something out of a panel in the ceiling, “...stasis generator jury-rigged to it.”
“Is there a self-destruct?” Mateo asked him.
Ramses laughed. “No. They’re safe to use it as needed.”
“Do they even know how?” He looked at Vitalie. “Do you?”
She shook her head. “I can push a button. Is it that easy?”
“It’s easy enough to use,” Ramses said, “but difficult to maintain. A me will have to stay behind to help them, and with other things.”
A you?” Mateo asked. “Did you just said a me?”
Ramses took a breath, and approached Vitalie surprisingly cautiously. “You’re a time traveler, aren’t you?”
“I am. That’s how I replicate myself.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “Why?”
“There’s so much work left to do here. They could use a superhero like you, but...they need a genius like me. So send me back in time, just a few seconds. One version will stay behind, and the other will go on with the mission.”
“Now, hold on,” Mateo started to say. “If we have a time traveler, why can’t we just go back to before they took the kid? We could render this all moot.”
“That’s not possible, is it?” Ramses asked Vitalie.
“That asshole said it wouldn’t be. I’ve not tested it yet. I’ve been talking to you.”
Ramses shook the device in his hands like you’re not supposed to shake a Polaroid picture. “There was always a chance she would eventually escape the pod, and she could go back in time and stop the Oaksent from putting her in it in the first place. Anything that ever exists, always exists. He doesn’t have the hundemarke, so he found a workaround to prevent her from being able to undo what he did to her.”
“I don’t understand,” Mateo said.
“Let’s call it a Time Lid,” Ramses went on. “I think I read about something similar in a story once. She can’t go back any further than the moment we let her out of the pod, and disabled the stasis generator. The past is completely beyond her access now. What’s done is done, is done.”
“All we can do is move forward,” Vitalie agreed, but it wasn’t the same one they had just been talking to. It was Future!Vitalie. And she was standing next to a future version of Ramses.
“I guess you convince me,” Present!Vitalie mused.
Leona appeared, having been listening to the entire interaction through comms. “I couldn’t get away in time to stop you. Ramses, you don’t have to do this. Neither of you does.”
“It’s already done,” Present!Ramses and Future!Ramses replied in unison. Without communicating with each other, each of them placed a fist in an open palm to prepare for a game of regular Rock, Paper, Scissors. They had to play two dozen times before one of them finally chose something different.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Extremus: Year 71

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image Duet AI software
The answer was obvious. It has been right under Tinaya’s nose the whole time. It wakes up next to her every day, and it does this thing where it puts her clothes on for her in the morning. Obviously she can do that herself, but Arqut did it to be romantic and chivalrous one morning during their honeymoon, and it just sort of stuck. Now she sits there like a doll, and lets him move her around as needed. Unless she’s in a hurry, then she turns into a real girl. But the point is that he’s the one who should be Ship Superintendent. He knows just as much about the new form of government as she does, and contributed to the initial concept a great deal. She wants to leave a life of service behind, or at least take a break from it. In a few years, she may decide that she wants to go back to Park Management, or just work in the Bridger section. But soon, it will just be time for her to relax. She believes that she’s earned it.
“We don’t want to appoint a superintendent,” Council Leader Addison explains to her. “We want it to be an elected position this time.”
“I see,” Tinaya says. “What’s the term limit?”
“No term limit. The winner should expect to remain available for a lifetime. Their duties will wane in such times that they are not needed, but should they be called upon later, they will return to the conversation.”
“I see,” Tinaya repeats herself. “Well, on a personal level, how do you feel about my idea?”
“I think Arqut would do a fine job,” Addison replies.
“But what?”
“But nothing,” Addison says. “Why does there have to be a but?”
“There’s usually a but.”
But...” Addison begins.
“Here we go.”
Addison continues, “...I think we should stop saying the word but.” She smiles. “I really mean it, that’s a great idea. I have no issues with him, and I have no conditions to place upon it. If he can secure the vote, he can have the job.”
“I figured you would have someone else in mind, like perhaps someone who would turn out to be a traitor, and then I start to suspect that you’re a traitor too, and by the time I realize that you’re not, you’re killed in a semi-heroic act of self-sacrifice?”
“You’ve been watching too many Earthan movies.”
“More like reading the historical records of this very ship.”
Council Leader Addison nods, and then it looks like she’s had a new thought.
“Oh, no, what is that face all about?” Tinaya asks.
“But...that rule against an incumbent campaigning still applies here. The Superintendent is obviously not the same thing as the First Chair, but I still think you can’t advocate for your husband. I think you must distance yourself from the whole thing. If he wants to run, he’ll have to do so without you. Or me, for that matter, because it would be almost as much of a conflict of interest.”
Tinaya nods, and then looks over at Arqut. “What do you think?”
“I think I don’t love people talking about me as if I’m not in the room,” he says.
Tinaya puts a quizzical look on her face, and turns back to Addison. “Did you hear someone say something?”
“I don’t know that I did.”
Arqut rolls his eyes.
“Seriously, what do you think? You seemed amenable to the idea last night. Were you just saying that to appease me?”
“No, I think it’s a decent idea too,” Arqut answers. “I’ve always felt like I could do more. It wouldn’t be dissimilar to what I did before, when I represented the government during discussions between two or more departments.”
“You certainly have the necessary experience,” Addison agrees.
Arqut thinks about it some more. “Okay, I’m in.”
“Great,” Addison decides. “Then you need to leave. Or I do. We have to let you fly on your own, little bird.”
Arqut nods. “I know some people who might be able to help run my campaign. I don’t have to move out of the stateroom, though, do I?”
“It’s perfectly fine to live with your wife,” Council Leader Addison clarifies. She taps on her watch, and disappears.
“I have to get to a thing, but I’ll see you tonight for dinner, okay?”
She kisses him on the lips, and then teleports away too.
When Tinaya crosses over to the Bridger section, her handler, Spirit is waiting for her. “I wouldn’t go in there if I were you.”
“Where, the entire Bridger section?”
“Yes,” Spirit says. “They’re mad at you.”
“For getting married?”
“No. Well, yes, but we’ve already talked about that. They’re mad about you dismantling the Chair system. They’re not finished with you.”
“Well, I never learned about the Three Bears War, so I guess the Bridgers and I are even.”
“It was not our responsibility to tell you that. It’s the crew’s. You know how it works. How many secrets did Captain Yenant keep from First Chair Ebner, or especially Ovan Teleres?”
“I don’t know how many. They’re a secret!”
Spirit nods. “Look. We can’t stop you from coming over to this side. Once we gave you access, you have it for life, unless you do something so bad that you’re locked up in hock for the rest of your life anyway.”
“But you are no longer welcome here. I’m sorry, you’ve been kicked out of the program. You’ve been a great help to us. You’ve given us solid information, and helped protect both ships, ensuring the safest of its passengers, and the continuity of the mission. Unfortunately, your services are no longer required.”
“This is what you wanted,” Spirit states.
“But if no one here trusts you, except for me, you won’t be able to investigate it for corruption anymore.”
“I’m sorry?”
“Don’t be. Some of our best spies have been suspicious of our intentions. We encourage them to question authority. Ever since the Bronach Oaksent incident, we’ve been a lot more suspicious of ourselves. We don’t want people who will just blindly follow every order to the letter. You’re supposed to make your own decisions. But there is a limit to that flexibility. According to the high officers of the Bridger section, you’ve crossed beyond the boundary. Congratulations, you’re free to relax now.”
“Thank you?”
Spirit smiles, and holds up a tablet. “I think you’ll be fine. You’ve reached 101% contribution. This means that your score is the highest it could possibly be, and can never go back down. It’s locked in place, even if the government later adjusts the parameters. You’re safe...unless, again, you do something so unforgivable it lands you a life sentence in hock.”
“Cool beans. So this is it? We’ll never meet again?”
“I’m sure I’ll see you around.” Spirit steps into the corridor, and lets the hatch close behind her.
“I didn’t think you left the Bridger section. Avelino only did a few times.”
“This is true, but I’m no longer employed by them either. I quit.”
“You quit? Why?”
“I told them that I would if they let you go.”
“Why weren’t you bluffing?”
Now Spirit smirks. “A seer told me to leave. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m never going back in there.” She jerks her head towards the hatch. Don’t cry for me, Argentina. I’m as sick of my current life as you always seem to be. I’m ready to go try something else.”
Captain Lataran Keen suddenly steps up to them from down the corridor. “Good, because I got somethin’ for you both. We have a hostage situation.”
“A hostage situation?” Tinaya questions. “Where?”
“Verdemus,” Lataran answers. She tries to take Tinaya by the hand.
Tinaya keeps her hand away just in time. “What is a Verdemus?”
“It’s the gateway planet,” Lataran says before adding, “the one where we’ve been getting all of our paper?”
Tinaya looks over at Spirit, who grimaces slightly. “I told you, there are things that the crew doesn’t let you in on. It’s tradition to leave the civilian government in the dark about things that don’t happen in the residential sectors.”
“I’m different.” Tinaya faces Lataran again. “I’m different,” she repeats. “We’re friends. You could have told me that we left people there.”
“Sorry. There’s no excuse, but you’ll have to yell at me later. I really need you right now. The hostage-taker will only speak to the First Chair.”
“Where are we going?” Tinaya demands to know, still not taking the Captain’s hand. “How do we transport back and forth from this Verdemus place?”
“The Mirror Room,” she answers. “We installed the backup mirror on the other side, so the portal is open all the time, unless we need the main one for something else.”
Tinaya never knew that there was a backup mirror either. She thought she knew pretty much everything, because of her connections. If she didn’t find out about something by being a spy, then it should have been from her time as the First Chair, and if not then, then she could have uncovered any missing information from all of her unauthorized hacking. She’s slipping...or maybe she’s never been as good as she once believed. “Fine. I’ll meet you there.”
Just before Tinaya teleports away, she hears Lataran start to ask, “Where are y—”
She’s back in her stateroom. “Arqy.”
He turns around. “Hey, hon. That wasn’t long.”
“You were right, we still have access to the planet. They call it Verdemus.”
“Because it’s green?”
“I’m about to go find out. Someone’s been taken hostage, I guess. They’re asking for me. I never thought I would go off world, but in case it ever happened, I’ve been prepared.” She walks over to her dresser to open the bottom drawer. “I swiped these from the Bridger section. I don’t think anyone noticed.” She reaches deep into the back, and unlatches the hidden panel. When her hand comes back out, she’s holding two flat fern green cases. She holds one of them tightly between her middle and ring fingers. She holds the other one loosely between her thumb and index finger, and shakes down to let the glass slip out into her other hand. “Time signal mirrors,” she explains. She hands Arqut the other mirror, so he can take it out. She holds her own in front of herself so he can get a look at her pretty face. “You can’t turn them off. It always shows you what the other mirror is seeing.”
“What is this for?” Arqut peels a thin film off of the back that Tinaya has never noticed before. She didn’t spend that much time with them. They were always meant to be used in an emergency, like this. He swings the film over, and sticks it onto the other side. The image from its partner mirror is gone. Now it’s just a regular reflection.
“Oh. I guess they can be turned off. But there’s no sound either way.” She peels her own lid off, and flips it over to the other side. “I’ll just say it’s a makeup mirror.”
“You don’t wear makeup.”
“Please.” Tinaya frames her jawline with the back of her fingers. “No one believes that about me, even though it’s true.” She starts to take her clothes off so she can put on something more durable and outdoors-worthy. She’s been to the Attic Forest a million times, but she’s never truly been outside. Almost no one on this ship has. She’s only learned survival skills academically. School teaches it because, even though no one alive today will ever reach the Extremus planet, they’ll need to be able to effectively pass this knowledge onto the next generation, and not because they will see the planet either, but because eventually, someone will.
“I love you,” Arqut says to her once she’s ready to go.
“Love you too.” They kiss. He grabs her ass for luck. She disappears.
The guard in the Mirror Room does check her for contraband. He doesn’t find the time signaler, though. Tinaya remembered that her coat has a hidden inside breast pocket dimension. The zipper is invisible to anyone unless they hold a particular shade of green light up to it, which she can generate on her watch. It’s called a spectral lock, and as soon as she gets the chance, she’ll change it to color combo, instead of singletone. No weapons, she’s good to go. The mirror technician, which is a job that didn’t need to exist before, reaches behind the mirror to activate the portal. When she gives Tinaya the go-ahead, Tinaya follows the security team through. Spirit crosses over behind her.
Extremus has lighting, of course, but it’s never brighter than it needs to be to see. Energy isn’t as precious of a resource as it was on Earth in the 20th century, or the early 21st century, but there’s no point in wasting it. Studies have shown that a lightly used corridor only needs about 100 lumens to navigate, and rooms need less than 200. Until paper was developed here, no one ever raised the brightness above that, because devices all produce their own lighting. The host star is extremely bright compared to what she’s used to. A security officer notices how much Tinaya and Spirit are struggling. He takes out a spare pair of sunglasses to give to Tinaya, and elbows his teammate, who takes out a pair for Spirit. They help her immediately, and as the group is carefully heading towards basecamp, the gradient adjusts accordingly until they’re barely dim at all. It’s probably not that bright by a normally evolved human’s standards.
The officers tense up as they approach the camp. They’ve built up the infrastructure quiet a bit. An electric fence surrounds the whole area, which a gatekeeper has to open for them. There must be dangerous animals around here. They keep going until they’re in the middle of town. The grounds are completely empty, except for one woman standing patiently in the middle distance. When Tinaya gets closer, she sees that the woman is chained up with a line that goes all the way to the building behind her, and through the doorway. “Report!” the team leader orders.
“I speak for Ilias,” the woman replies. Where has Tinaya heard that name before? The woman taps on an earpiece in her left ear. “I mean that literally. I have to say what he says, as he says it. I’m wired up.” Tinaya does see a wire threaded through the chainlinks. “I’m even saying what he’s saying right now. This woman is a stupid bitch.”
Tinaya seethes through her nose. “State your demands...Ilias.”
“First Chair Leithe. Thank you for coming. I have immense respect for you, and I regret having to involve you in this. You were always really great to my father, and he needs you now more than ever. I want a posthumous pardon for him.”
“I can’t unilaterally make pardons,” Tinaya replies. She remembers who this guy is now. Or rather, kid, because he can’t be older than twenty at this point. It’s Ilias Tamm. Disgraced former captain, Soto Tamm was his father. “Even if I could, your dad was a member of the crew. That’s a whole separate thing.”
“I understand that, but I need you to advocate for him. Please, you’re my last resort here. I have exhausted all other options.”
“Violence was a bad choice,” Tinaya warns him.
“I’ve not hurt anyone yet,” Ilias explains. “I’ve only threatened. And that’s as far as it will go unless I don’t get what I want. Soto Tamm did nothing wrong, and it’s time that the ship knows that. It doesn’t matter that he’s already dead. His good memory deserves to be restored.” Soto Tamm died in hock a couple of years ago. No one but his family went to his memorial service.
“When I give the signal,” Spirit whispers, “I need all four of you to run towards that building to the right as fast as you can, brandishing your weapons.”
“He’s in the mess hall,” the team leader argues. “We’ve confirmed that.”
“Exactly,” Spirit replies. “, go.”
Not knowing exactly what the plan is, but trusting Spirit Bridger, the guards run off like they’re about to attack someone who doesn’t exist.
“Where the hell are they going?” Ilias questions through the hostage’s voice.
Spirit teleports a few meters forwards holding what kind of looks like a shovel. She jams it into the chain, which hopefully cuts the electric wire. “Go get him, soldier!”
Tinaya teleports into the cafeteria, and spots Ilias. She barely recognizes him from the one time she saw him years ago, but he’s holding a gun, so it’s not that hard to tease him out of the crowd. She teleports a second time, and wraps her arms around his shoulders, then she teleports one last time. It’s a blind jump, which means she has no idea where she’s going. She’s just trying to get as far away from the building as possible. It’s far enough. In fact it’s too far. But it’s still close enough to see. A mushroom cloud rises to the sky after a huge explosion. Shit. He was on a dead man’s switch.