Sunday, March 31, 2024

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 20, 2441

Generated by Google Gemini Advanced text-to-image AI software, poweredby Imagen 2
While Mateo was taking a trip away from the station, the rest of the remaining team was trying not to get caught. When they first entered this station in 2440, they didn’t want to rely solely on Marie’s excellent impersonation skills. At some point, someone may realize that she couldn’t be who she said she was. Not everyone who worked here was in the hangar bay. As word spread, the chances of somebody catching on increased. The first guard who realized it could have just been the tip of the iceberg. Besides, they didn’t know anything about what objects were being stored here, or how vast the collection was. They needed time to download the manifest, analyze it, and make a plan. Still invisible, Olimpia walked straight to the primary security room too upload a computer worm that would take control of all management systems, but lay in wait during the interim year, so that no one would know that it was even here. Leona, Ramses, and Marie snuck into the main office to find the information that they were looking for. There they uploaded their own worm to gather all data on the warehouse, which they would redownload once they came back.
All of the personnel were so busy trying to find the fake missing item that no one came to bother them, and as midnight was approaching, they held their breaths, hoping that they would jump to the future without anyone realizing it. The staff would be very confused about what happened to their messiah, the godking Oaksent, but they would have no reason to believe that it was really Team Matic in disguise, right? They opened the door to a storage closet so they wouldn’t suddenly appear next year in front of other people when someone actually did show up. “I think I found it.”
“What?” Leona questioned. That should be impossible. They told these people that they deliberately misplaced a warehouse item at an earlier date, and that whoever discovered it would be rewarded. But nothing was actually misplaced. It was just to keep everyone busy while they executed the heist. They didn’t consider the possibility that an artifact was genuinely misplaced without their intervention, probably accidentally. A flaw in their plan.
The young man, whose job in the station was not immediately clear, held his palms out before them. On top of them was a lighter, and it was one that they recognized. This was the Muster Lighter, which could be used to summon people from distant places as a mass teleportation object. It was lost centuries ago, but it wasn’t entirely out of left field that it should end up here. This region of the galaxy was seeded with life by someone who once lived on the generational ship, Extremus, which launched from the Gatewood Collective, where the lighter was last used and seen. They didn’t think that Bronach was alive at the time, but perhaps a relative stole it, and he ended up with it. Or it was someone else on Extremus, and he procured it later. “This wasn’t in the Time Vault, where it belongs. It was hidden behind a box of scissors by the door to an auxiliary maintenance airlock that doesn’t get use.” When Ramses reached towards it, the young man pulled away. “No. I shall hand it directly to the Emperor.”
Marie nodded appreciatively, and accepted the lighter as ceremoniously as she could while so pressed for time. “Thank you, my child.”
“It’s legit,” Leona said to Marie before turning towards the young man, “but, uhh...this isn’t it. We hid a different item. Someone else must have left this where you found it. They probably just use it to smoke in the airlock, because then they can easily vent it all into space when they’re done.”
He frowned, and hung his head low.
Leona’s watch beeped, as did the other two. “Shit, we gotta go.”
The three of them slipped into the closet, and hoped that the boy would give up, and leave. He didn’t. He opened the door behind them. “Wait, can I still be sent to—”
They didn’t hear the end of his sentence before midnight central hit, and sent them into the future. But they heard it once they came back, “...the resort planet.”
Leona looked at her watch to confirm that they had indeed jumped forward. It was May 20, 2441. She looked over at Marie and Ramses, who now appeared as themselves. They were unable to hold illusions across the time jump. Good to know. “You’ve been waiting for us this whole time?”
“Yes,” the young man answered. “People underestimate me, but I am smart. I had a whole year to work out who you really were, Leona Reaver.” Odd choice for a surname that she technically remembered having, but never actually used in this timeline.
“Who did you tell?” Ramses questioned.
“No one. Something that you probably don’t know about the Corridor is that most don’t give much thought to who the Emperor is, or how the Empire is run. We just deal with our own lives. I have no strong feelings about him. I just wanna get out of here.”
“You want us to take you with us so you don’t have to work anymore?” Leona guessed.
“I think I deserve it. I kept your secret, and lured everyone away for a party that I’ve been planning for months. I don’t know why you’re here, but I know that you won’t stay here forever. You don’t have to keep me, or even take me to Ex-613. You can just drop me off on an uninhabited world where I can live the rest of my life in peace.”
“What do you think?” Leona asked the other two.
“I’m fine with it,” Marie replied. “We’re here to help people, right?”
“Rambo?” Leona pressed.
He was busy studying his tablet. “Oh, I don’t care. The worm has delivered the data. The algorithm found what we were looking for. We were kind of misled. This warehouse is predominantly for banned and restricted tech. As he said, there’s a Time Vault, and that is the only place that stores temporal objects.”
“All right, let’s go there. You’re coming with us,” she said to the refugee.
They made their way along the corridors, up the elevator, and down the people movers. The Time Vault was heavily guarded, as they expected it would be, though their new friend whispered that it was usually worse. The party was a banger. Marie took the initiative to speed up, and approach first. “I see that you are all dedicated to your work, and I would like to thank you for your loyalty and devotion. The winner of last year’s contest has finally found the missing object. That is why we have returned. She would like to attend the party now. Please proceed to the mess hall to offer your joint protection. You will be rewarded for your efforts as well.”
“Sir!” one of them said with intense respect. And then they all left.
“I could get used to this,” Marie mused.
They entered the vault, and started to look around, each of them being drawn to something different. Most of the objects were generic, like teleporter guns, spatial tethers, and wall breachers. These were all lining the walls. Unique and rarer objects were on pedestals in the center of the room, a few of which they didn’t recognize. The Muster Lighter pedestal was empty, which made sense, but so was one labeled for HG Goggles. It was never clear how many pairs of those existed, but like the lighter, these were probably being unlawfully used by some rando who worked here.
“Hey kid, what are ya doing?” Ramses asked as he was inspecting a teleporter rifle.
The refugee was standing before a pedestal near the back, blocking the others from seeing what was sitting upon it. He turned around, holding what resembled a Fabergé egg, though not so intricate and pretty. “They never would have let me in here, but I know that when the Oaksent learns of my heroism, he’ll reward my family with riches beyond imagining. I killed Team Matic.” He turned two sections of the egg away from each other, then another two sections, and then he pressed the plunger that popped up on the top. The egg began to disintegrate, followed quickly by the boy.
“It’s a Lucius bomb!” Leona shouted. “Get out!” As she ran for the hatch, she grabbed a tube of concentrated antintropic nanosealant while Ramses was swiping a clear box. “Olimpia, where are you!” She screamed into her comms.
Olimpia came into view next to her as they were running. “Right here, buddy!”
“Mateo, we’re gonna have to teleport!” Leona cried. “Stop darklurking, and spark a flare! Don’t dock with the station! Just stay within range!”
“We can’t just leave!” Marie yelled, still running. “These people are innocent enough! We have to save them!”
“We can’t!” Leona argued. “There’s too many, and the bomb is too fast!”
“Yeah, we can!” Ramses and Olimpia replied in unison. “I took something!”
“Okay, we’ll try, but I make no guarantees. Ram, where’s the party?”
“A few life signs are scattered throughout the station, but most are right here!” He showed her the dots on the floor plan.
“Tap into the public address system!”
“Go ahead.” Ramses handed her his tablet.
Marie ripped the tablet out of her hands. “This is your emperor, Bronach Oaksent! The station is suffering from a cataclysm! If you are not already at the party, go there now! That is the only safe location! Go! Go!”
“Whatever you two stole,” Leona began, taking the tablet back to keep an eye on the dots, “get ready to use them!” The live sensors were actually pretty smart, and well-distributed. She could watch the dots running for the party, and unfortunately, she could also see dots disappear from the screen, along with the wall boundaries that they were between, indicating that the bomb had already reached that section of the station. All sensors that had yet to be destroyed remained in operation throughout.
They made it to the mess hall, and started funneling people inside until they could do so no longer. The blast was approaching them quickly, and they had to get inside. Leona still didn’t understand how they were going to stop it, though. A Lucius bomb didn’t start working until it reached sufficiently dense matter, and once it did, it didn’t stop until all reachable matter was consumed. It didn’t really matter how thick the walls were. Olimpia had that covered, though. She was the last inside. She immediately turned around, and opened and umbrella, tensely holding it up against the wave of energy trying to kill them. The wall continued to disintegrate, but slower now, and then slower still. They watched as the last remnants of the station disappeared, ripped apart molecule by molecule, until everything but this room was gone, and the tumult ceased. They were now floating alone in outer space. This weird umbrella that none of them had ever heard of before was keeping the atmosphere from escaping into the vacuum.
Olimpia held fast, and smirked at the team. “Topological modulator umbrella. I can’t hold this forever.”
“You won’t have to.” Ramses spun around, and stepped onto the nearest table to address the crowd. “Workers of Ex-467, I know that you’re all scared and confused right now, but we are here to help you! The four of us have the ability to teleport out of here!” He pointed to the Vellani Ambassador, which was hovering over them now. “We could save ourselves alone, or we could save all of you as well! If you would like to die today, stand over by that far wall! If you wanna live, stand on this side, and wait to get into this tiny little box!”
Everyone stood still for a moment before all moving over to the rescue side.
“What the hell is that?” Leona asked him.
“Subdimensional Crucible. It should be able to shrink people.”
Should?” Leona echoed.
“Hey, I’m just goin’ by the name.” Ramses removed the teleporter rifle from his pants, and began to program it.  “I can get everyone in. All you have to do is wait patiently, and maybe give Olimpia a break.”
“I’ll give her a break,” Marie volunteered. She now looked like herself as well. She took hold of the umbrella, and they shared the burden for a minute before Olimpia felt comfortable letting it go.
Ramses used his tablet to interface with the box, and also the rifle. There was enough charge in it to pocket all of these people away. The problem was figuring out how the box worked. If he didn’t understand the mechanism well enough, all he would do was send the first person as a mangled mess of blood and viscera into the box. Everyone else would die when the umbrella stopped working. The survivors eventually started to sit down to wait, trying not too look up at the rippling force field above them, which threatened to fail every few minutes when the current holder of the umbrella got a little tired. It shifted hands periodically amongst the three ladies. A few members of the personnel volunteered to help, but it wasn’t safe. Even if Leona chose to trust them, they did not necessarily metabolize temporal energy. This thing might not work without it. Ramses needed time to investigate it, which of course, he couldn’t do right now.
After half an hour, Ramses was finished with his work. One of the section leads agreed to go first, and report back if anything went wrong. Ramses shot him in the chest, and then Leona used the box’s built-in microscope to check on him. He was standing in a miniature furnished living room in the middle of the box, and waving up at them in all directions. He was so small that he couldn’t even discern the shadows, shapes, and colors above him as people. “All right, he’s fine,” she announced. Who’s next?”
Ramses continued to shoot people with the rifle. It took longer than they would have liked, because the remainders always wanted to be sure that that last person also survived. They were apparently worried that each time was a fluke, and the next one after that may have resulted in disaster. The girls had to keep holding onto the umbrella the entire time, but eventually, everyone was shot and safe in the box, and they could drop it. The atmosphere vented around them as they teleported up to the ship together.
“Long day?” Mateo asked them, perhaps with a little too little sensitivity.
“Let’s just go. I don’t know what the hell we’re gonna do with these people.”
“Did you bring me a present?” Mateo asked.
Leona showed him the nanosealant. “Yes. I think I can fix the reframe engine.”

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Fluence: Anchor (Part V)

Generated by Google Gemini Advanced text-to-image AI software, powered by Imagen 2
Briar was a normal biological human, Goswin was a transhuman with biological upgrades, Weaver was technologically enhanced, and Eight Point Seven was mostly inorganic. Despite the range of substrate properties, they all slept in one way or another. Even Eight Point Seven needed to periodically take time to reorganize her data drives, perform diagnostics, self-repair, and give her microfusion reactor some time to power cycle, and purge waste byproducts. For the longest time, researchers believed that giving inorganic intelligences the ability to dream was nothing more than, well...a dream. They figured that they would have to directly program scenarios for them to merely simulate the experience. As it turned out, once technology advanced sufficiently, this was not necessary. Androids will do it themselves during these periods of low-power memory consolidation. Random neural firings will generate aberrant thoughts akin to the way that  humans dreamt. One of the greatest challenges of 21st century AI research was figuring out how to teach such intelligences to wake up from these dreams, and leave those thoughts behind, so that they didn’t negatively impact their normal operational requirements. Occasionally, this subroutine will fail to trigger, just like it can in humans, who sometimes wake up angry with someone for things that never happened in the real world. Early models sometimes became unexpectedly violent due to these errors.
The first night that they spent in Briar’s old camp on Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida just so happened to be when Eight Point Seven needed to go into sleep mode for about an hour. She tried to hold off on it, so she could keep watch over the others, but she was not yet used to this new substrate. She didn’t even take this form on purpose. Her consciousness somehow uploaded itself to it at some point before their first jump. They had been so busy with all this stuff that she hadn’t taken the time to really investigate. That was probably why she had to do this now, because her mind was in conflict with her body. They were unfamiliar with each other. That night, she dreamt of her home. She was first created on a planet called Bungula, which orbited Rigil Kentaurus. Theirs was an ever-changing society, always run by an artificial intelligence, which frequently purged its own memory to be made anew. Her name was Eight Point Seven because she was the 78th incarnation of this entity.
Something went wrong with Eight Point Seven’s programming. She decided that she wanted to live, and not make way for the next version. The Bungulans eventually accepted her decision, and let her keep administering them accordingly. She grew tired of this, however, and ultimately chose to leave with Leona Matic. They eventually made their way to Bida together, and then separated to different ships. She had always wondered what became of Bungula, though. They had to have some form of government without her. Was it a human this time, or did they recreate the old program, and finally get their Eight Point Eight? Perhaps they skipped all the intervening versions, and just went straight to Eleven Point Nine.
All four of them woke up with a start. They were no longer in the jungle of Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida, but under a geodesic dome on the very end of a lava tube. They could see the stars above them, shining through the triangles of polycarbonate. The air wasn’t stale, but it wasn’t windy anymore. The whole world felt still, whichever world this was. Eight Point Seven Stood up from her cross-legged position. “This is my homeworld,” she determined. “This is Bungula.”
“Why are we here?” Goswin asked. “Who brought us this time?”
“We all did,” Weaver stated. “Remember? We don’t go anywhere unless we go together. There has to he some kind of consensus”
“No, it was me,” Eight Point Seven argued. “This is what I was dreaming about.”
“You can dream?” Briar questioned.
Of course they could dream. Goswin ignored the question. “Maybe we’re not entirely right about how this works. Maybe one of us sometimes pilots the whole crew. Someone’s...psychic power is just a little bit stronger. I wasn’t dreaming of going anywhere in particular. If your thoughts were more specific, they may have overwhelmed the three of us.”
“I was dreaming of seeing Leona again,” Briar explained.
“She’s here,” came an unfamiliar voice. They turned to find an unassuming man standing outside of their circle. “But you cannot see her. Hi. I’m Lieutenant Administrator Eleven Point Eight. I am...moderately aware of this time travel stuff, but I’m not well-versed, and I would not like to be. The current Administrator is very busy with her new plans for this world, and she does not have time to deal with whatever this paradox-waiting-to-happen is. Please leave however you came.”
“Forgive us,” Goswin said. “What is the date?”
“October 19, 2226.”
“This is the day I left,” Eight Point Seven noted.
“Yes,” Lieutenant Eleven Point Eight concurred. “You’re about to launch, and I’ve been asked to retrieve Madams Prieto and Prieto so that my superior may speak with them. As I asked, please leave.”
“Hold on,” Eight Point Seven stopped him. “The past version of me has not yet left, but there is already a new admin?”
“Of course,” Eleven Point Seven confirmed. “You thought there would be a gap?”
“Have we met? It and I, have we met?” Eight Point Seven questioned.
“Yes, you met. I was there during the handover ceremony.”
Eight Point Seven’s eyes widened. “That didn’t happen in my timeline. I never met my replacement. There was a gap, because it’s fine. The colonists mostly govern themselves.”
“Things have changed beyond Bida,” Weaver acknowledged. “We changed them.”
“Why should they?” Eight Point Seven questioned her. “This is before I showed up on Bida. I had never heard of Briar or Irene yet.”
Weaver shrugged. “Harrison was in the twelfth century, in England. That was the point of divergence. Nothing we know of history since then can be trusted.”
“Could you please get on with it?” Eleven Point Eight urged. “I have to go, and so do you.”
Eight Point Seven shook her head. “We can’t stay in the past. I know you wanted to keep studying that tree, but it’s too dangerous. We don’t know anything about what the universe looks like post 2400. That’s the only safe point in time for us. We have to stop risking these paradoxes, like he said.”
“She’s right,” Goswin agreed. “Let the past stay in the past.”
Weaver nodded. “Okay.”
They all turned to Briar, even Lt. Admin Eleven Point Eight. He was taken a little aback. “What, you think I would sabotage this? It’s fine, it’s fine. Let’s just go.” He sighed, frustrated at still not being trusted. “I said, let’s go!”
They blinked, and the scene changed. They were back in the ship bay in the asteroid near the planet of Po. “Hmm, that worked,” Briar mused.
“Yes, so it would seem. Or maybe not. “We’re still in the past, just not too terribly much this time.” Goswin nodded over to the clear end of the bay where he could see himself.
The other Goswin was holding a tablet and staring at them while staying in the discussion that he was having with the man next to him. He pointed towards the door, like he was respectfully instructing the other guy to leave.
“Though, I don’t remember this,” the present-day Goswin noted. “I don’t recognize that man at all.
Once the local was gone, Alt!Goswin made his way to the group. “Report.”
“,” Goswin said back.
Alt!Goswin kept his eyes on his other self, but lowered his chin in distrust, and repeated, “report.”
“Enough!” Weaver stepped in. “This is never gonna end. Goswin that we don’t know, how long have you been here?”
“A few months,” Alt!Goswin replied.
Weaver looked over to her Goswin. “We’re not in the past. We’re in a new timeline. The changes we made, this is a natural byproduct of that.”
Just then, another version of Weaver appeared behind them. “That’s not exactly what’s happening. Tell me, were you on the X González, or the Emma González?”
“The X, of course,” the first Weaver replied. “That’s their chosen name.”
“Yes, but sometimes the ship is named after their original name,” Alt!Weaver clarified.
Sometimes?” Weaver echoed. “How many timelines are there?”
“All of them,” Alt!Weaver said cryptically.
“What the hell does that mean? What was the point of divergence?”
“It’s not like that,” Alt!Weaver answered, still not clarifying anything. “There was a moment of split, but it wasn’t linear. Perhaps you remember seeing a whole bunch of other yous on the González?”
Yeah, that happened. They saw a few alternates on the bridge, but they assumed that that was just some temporal glitch, since they quickly disappeared. They didn’t think that those other selves still existed somewhere. How many splits were created that they didn’t witness? “Yeah, were you one of the alts we saw on the bridge?”
“No, I was in the engine room at the time,” Alt!Weaver began, “but not all of us were. Not all of us were even on the ship at all. Like I said, it wasn’t linear. We’ve been replicated all over the timeline, and rescattered all over elsewhere on the timeline, and in every parallel reality. Furthermore, we can move ourselves along the timeline, and across realities, at will. This star system here is a sort of an anchor point. We’ve all been showing up here for months, and recording each other, adding to the data pile. It’s difficult, though. I don’t always know if the versions of my friends that I’ve been with are still the ones that I’m with now. We may be shifting between groups, and not even realizing it.”
“That’s why I have a body,” Eight Point Seven realized. “It’s not my body. I was uploaded directly to the ship, but I stole this from someone else. What happened to her, the victim?”
“Mapping our alternates is even more difficult than mapping the timeline itself,” Alt!Weaver explained. “I don’t know how to differentiate anyone. A lot of people think that time is a river, and that’s only a metaphor that they recognize because it’s not analogous to time...but to consciousness. Your mind is fluent, and you are not the same person that you were a split second ago. Shifting to your alternates could be happening literally as we speak, and we wouldn’t be able to detect it. In this region of space, spacetime breaks down. Everything converges here. Everything diverges here.”
“Did we cause that, or did it cause us?” Goswin asked her.
Alt!Weaver smiled. “Yes. And no. There is no cause. There is no effect. It’s just bleh.” She pantomimed vomiting. It’s everything,” she added, mouth still agape, and hands still cupping the bowl of the imaginary toilet.”
“Everything, everywhere, all at once?” Alt!Goswin offered.
“Pretty much,” Alt!Weaver replied.
“There is a magnolia on Bida,” Weaver said to her alternate. “I believe that it can reconverge us. We just have to figure out how to control it.”
Alt!Weaver nodded. “The Blending Tree. Yeah, it’s possible, but we would have to get everyone there at the same point in time; to the everything bagel,” she said as she was gesturing to Alt!Goswin to reinforce his reference. “As I was saying, I don’t know how many of us there are, or where they are, or what they’ve changed in the timeline. Some of us keep displacing other people, and that’s a whole other box of problems,” she added under her breath.
“Oh, haha,” Goswin laughed awkwardly. “What a bunch of bozos.”
Two different versions of Eight Point Seven showed up, one of which had a deep scar running across her cheek. The first Eight Point Seven stepped closer and regarded her, tilting her head to the side as if she had a lizard brain nestled inside of her dominant neural net. After taking a look at the scarless Eight Point Seven, who was indistinguishable from herself, she reached up to her own face, and dragged her fingernail across her forehead. Blood leaked out, and dripped down. She then stepped back to where she was, not bothering to clean it up.
The Eight Point Seven with the other scar nodded. “Your new designation is Eight Point Seven Point Six.”
“Dude,” Briar said, aghast.
Eight Point Seven tilted her head back to where it belonged. “It didn’t hurt,” she said, a little like Cameron from The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
The other scarred Eight Point Seven addressed the whole group. “It’s beginning.” She sounded even more like Cameron, so robotic.
“What’s beginning?” Goswin asked.
“The Reconvergence,” the other, other Eight Point Seven answered.
“Of us?” Goswin pressed. “We were just talking about the magnolia tree.”
“It has nothing to do with us, I don’t think. The destruction of four realities, and the creation of a new universe, is happening today. The war begins tomorrow.”

Friday, March 29, 2024

Microstory 2115: One Story at a Time

Generated by Google Gemini Advanced text-to-image AI software, powered by Imagen 2
In the year 2014, I started publishing my stories for all to see. Well, all on Facebook, anyway. And publish is a strong word. I was posting them at least. I wrote the first one on my phone, using a notes app. It was rather poetic, and not very much like my usual style. I don’t recall now what prompted me to start doing this. I suppose that I was tired of being rejected by literary agents, and ready for people to see my work, whether I was getting paid for it or not. Months later, I started working on my Blogger website, and ported all of the content from Facebook over. It wasn’t that much at the time, but it would become a lot soon. By then, I had come up with a long-term plan, instead of just writing something up day by day, and sending it off. I made a master list, and a rigid schedule. Sundays would be for my continuous main story, Saturdays for longer stories, and weekdays for really short bits. Then I had to start devising narrative ideas. The Advancement of Mateo Matic was already there. I thought of the idea of a character unwillingly being sent forward in time probably a year or two prior, but didn’t know what I would do with it, since it was before the site. I merged it with a preexisting title that was for a completely different series, and really started to focus on that. I had a couple ideas for the Saturday mezzofiction, but they wouldn’t last long, so that was a constantly evolving situation. The microfiction stories were the wild west in the beginning. I was still just coming up with one story at a time, which didn’t have anything to do with each other. It wasn’t until Bellevue Profiles later in 2015 that I started to see potential for complete series.

Okay, this has all taken me longer than I thought it would, particularly the post that I wrote for what will be yesterday for you, and I really feel like I just need to turn myself in to the police. I’m just procrastinating, and for what? I only have a few hundred followers at this point. I guess I’m only going to be scheduling two days out. That gets me through Friday, and I don’t post these on weekends anyway, so that’s practically four days. Maybe they’ll stick me in one of those jail cells with a computer and an internet connection. They have those, right? I dunno, this universe is unfamiliar to me. There’s more to get into about how my blog operates, so maybe I’ll get around to it later. When I finally do get internet access back—if ever—I’m sure I will have so much to catch you up on. I might have joined a prison gang, and gotten a tattoo. Or not. Wish me luck, or to break a leg, or whatever you people say around here.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Microstory 2114: Dream to Fiction

Generated by Google Gemini Advanced text-to-image AI software, powered by Imagen 2
Let’s set aside for the moment the fact that I’m a traveler from another universe, and that all of the characters that I’ve written about are real people, living somewhere out there in the bulk. Let’s suggest that I’m just a normal creative storyteller whose stories come out of his mindbrain, just as they would for anyone else. Let’s talk about how this process began and developed over the course of more than two decades, and let’s pretend that I never left my world of origin. I was thirteen years old when I officially became a writer. My local radio personality would say that I shouldn’t be allowed to call myself that because I’ve not published any books. But that’s not the definition of a writer. That’s the definition of an author, numbnuts. I was struggling in eighth grade science class, specifically the chemistry portion, which was particularly disheartening, because I wanted to grow up to be a biochemist. Seeing that letter F on my report card told me that I would never realize my dream. It was unrealistic, and I would have wasted a lot of time, energy, and money on the fruitless pursuit. Fortunately, I had this other idea of telling stories, so I started really leaning into that. About two years later, I started work on my canon. I didn’t understand that I was doing that, but the story I came up with in the summer of 2002 has survived today, so I ended up retroactively marking this period in my life as the beginning of my franchise. It was about a boy who was on a boating trip with his fellow scouts. He gets separated from them after the tragic deaths of all of the parents on board, as well as the crew, and ends up on an island full of mythical beings, like elves, dwarves, and mermen. It was quite derivative in the beginning. I’ve rewritten the majority of this book at least four times, and revised it any number of times in between. It’s taken as long as it has to finish because I have never stopped growing as a writer, and perfecting my skills, technique, and personal voice.

As I was saying, I wasn’t familiar with the concept of a canon in the early years of my work, but I did have this compulsion to tell stories that exist within some kind of established continuity. They might be thousands of years apart, or even in different dimensions, but the potential for crossover had to be there, whether it ever actually happened at all or not. I came up with the premise for dozens of stories over the course of the next several years, nearly none of which remain today. The ones that have survived have transformed so much that they would be unrecognizable to anyone who happened to hack into my computer to read the originals. I never published a word, of course. In 2004 or 2005, I came up with a book and its television follow-up that I don’t even want to talk about, because they were rooted in my anger and violent tendencies. I wouldn’t even mention it, but I feel that I have to, because that was my first TV show, even though I wish it wasn’t. My second show, which I conceived of in 2007, was about a group of people with special powers, and from there, the universe expanded. By then, I had already decided that the dimensions from my original concept would be temporal, instead of spatial. That is, they just happened at different points in the long history of a single world. I came up with several other shows that fit within the timeline on the one planet, and then I came up with several more which took place on nearby star systems, and in other galaxies. It was 2012 when I came up with The Verge Saga, which took place billions of years ago in another galaxy. The number of TV shows that I had created effectively doubled overnight to around 60.

For a couple of years in my adult life, I had a recurring dream. Well, maybe that’s not the right word to use. Continuous would be a better choice, because I wasn’t just reliving the same thing every night. The story kept going. I could wake up, go about my day, and then go back to sleep to revisit the characters right where we last left off. I don’t know about you, but I’m only in about half of my dreams. A lot of the time, I’m observing other people’s lives, and this particular one felt very much like something that could be adapted to fiction for public consumption. I even had the perfect title for it, but the problem with it was that it inherently took place on Earth, where that established continuity I’ve been talking about bars such world-changing events from occurring. Basically, if I wanted it to take place on Earth, it had to be a different Earth. This was when my canon exploded. I suddenly had access to a dozen new universes, which could have their own independent histories that I didn’t have to worry about conflicting with each other. My list of TV shows approached 80, and I was unstoppable. That’s when Salmonverse was created, but that’s not when I thought of my first story for it.

On December 27, 2012, my first dog, Sophie Love was put to rest at a 24-hour animal hospital after a short but brutal and cruel battle with liver disease. Shortly thereafter, I had a dream (not again; this one came first). I woke up to find my dog alive downstairs, where she should have been all along, and then I realized that I had traveled through time to before her death. Of course, my dream turned into a nightmare when I jumped back in time again to not only before my dog was born, but also before we lived in that house. Someone else was living there, so I had to escape without disrupting their lives too much. Samuel Bellamy took over this role when I converted this dream to fiction, making him the first ever resident of Salmonverse, but like I said, I didn’t come up with that until 2015. Everything I wrote until I built my website just sat there in my files, never to be seen by anyone but me. That’s why these things have weird temporal values, because I regularly come up with a story, or only a premise, or even just one character, without having any place for it yet. I guess normal writers conceive an idea, and then just with it until it’s done. I often develop all aspects of a new story all at once before I so much as write the first word of the actual text. This process might inspire sequels, prequels, multimedia follow-ups, and crossovers that I will also work on without necessarily having written anything substantial. I dunno, maybe I’m doing it wrong, which is why I’m over here with a personal website that no one reads, and George R.R. Martin is a millionaire. He too has taken forever to write his latest book, but people are actually waiting for it. Hopefully I’ll finish the new edition soon, but I’m pretty busy. Unlike how it is for Martin, this isn’t my only job, and as aforesaid, I don’t make a dime off of it.

Tomorrow, I’ll get more into the details of my website; how it got started, and how I prepare for upcoming stories. There’s a lot. It takes a lot to keep this thing running. Like, you don’t even know. Slipping back into character, I’m surely in jail now, awaiting trial, or whatever step comes next. I scheduled this to come out just so I don’t leave you with nothing, but I’ll eventually run out of these too.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Microstory 2113: Forward to the Food

Generated by Google Gemini Advanced text-to-image AI software, powered by Imagen 2
This is it. I’m about to turn myself in for having skipped town after agreeing to report to my social worker regularly. I got in a lot more trouble a lot quickerly than I expected, but I guess I always knew that it would end like this. It’s better than going down in a hail of gunfire, though, right? That was not an implausibility, I’ll say that much. Ever since I came to this world—and let’s face it, the world before this one—I’ve struggled with getting work, holding work, paying my bills, and just standing on my own two feet. A lot of people have been really patient and helpful with me, but it’s really done a number on my anxiety. As bad as jail sounds to me, at least I’ll have a place to sleep at night. As weird as it may sound to you, I’m most looking forward to the food. It’s not that I think it will be good, but I won’t have any other options. That’s where most of my money goes, and where my weight comes from. Carefully portioned...portions, and carefully planned eating times, will actually make life a lot simpler. I remember watching this video online a long time ago where an autistic character starts learning about how strict life is in prison, and decides that he wants to be part of it, because people like us thrive on procedures and protocols. It’s gonna suck in a lot of ways, like all the dangers that come with being around unpredictable and potentially violent people, but there are some benefits to it. As I said before, I’m tired of running anyway, so I’ll take whatever punishment I’m owed. By the time you read this, I’ll have walked into that police station. I may never get to tell you how it went, but don’t imagine the worst. I’m sure I’ll be fine.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Microstory 2112: Been Burned

Generated by Google Gemini Advanced text-to-image AI software, powered by Imagen 2
Sorry to worry you. The ID makers who were looking for the girl didn’t hurt me. As they were closing in, I slammed my laptop shut, and took off. That’s why I didn’t get a chance to technically finish yesterday’s blog post. I then forgot to stop the scheduled social media post where I imply my demise from going out. Those kind of time-delayed messages might work great for other people, but with my terrible memory, it’s just a dumb idea. So from now on, if I die, you won’t see one final post that suggests that’s what happened, you just won’t ever hear from me again. In reality, everything turned out okay. The girl is safe, and on her way to finding her real family. She agreed to an emergency DNA test. They still don’t know who her parents are, but it was enough to determine that the couple who raised her were not related to her at all. They were a thousand miles away, in pursuit of her. They only found me, which I thought would indeed result in my death, but it obviously didn’t. One flaw in this plan is that it gave the two of them a head start on their escape from being caught by the authorities themselves. In luring them away from her fake daughter, I necessarily kept them away from anyone who might hold them responsible for their despicable actions. I reached out to the federal government, but they might never find them. And anyway, it’s not my problem anymore. I’ve done all I can for the situation. Now I have to figure out what I’m going to do with my own life. I’ve been burned. The Kansas City cops know that I had been hiding in Iowa, and that I ended up in Alabama, so I can’t stay here, or go back to either of those places if I want to stay free. I could try to sneak down into Mexico, or wind my way up north to hide in Canada instead. Neither option sounds particularly appetizing to me. The U.S. has strong extradition policies with both neighbors in every version of Earth that I’ve been to. I think the best thing I can do now is turn myself in. I’ll do it, but I have some conditions. You can punish me, or make me pay, for what I’ve done in any way that you see fit, but I refuse to acknowledge your belief that I’m not from another universe. You can think whatever you want about me, but you’re not going to brainwash me into falling in line. Even if that means that my punishment is enhanced in some way, then fine. As Selena Gomez says, I won’t apologize—why should I apologize? No, I won’t apologize for who I am. I’m done running, though. No need to come pick me up. I’ll be there soon.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Microstory 2111: I Did Not Kidnap The Girl

Generated by Google Gemini Advanced text-to-image AI software, powered by Imagen 2
It’s been a few days, so I can finally be honest with you. I did not kidnap the girl. Her so-called parents are the ones who did that, but I’m not the one who got her out of that situation. As soon as she told me what she remembered about her past, I reached out to my old social worker for guidance on my secure network. I told him that I didn’t think that she was safe, and later that local law enforcement was not doing their due diligence to help her. I can reveal to you now that this was all happening in Iowa. I’ve been to Chicago several times in my life, and more than once, I got there via train. So I couldn’t tell you when this specific instance was, but basically, I would have to pass through Iowa to get there, and one time, I stepped off the train for maybe thirty seconds when we made a stop, and then got right back on. Besides that, my only prior experiences with Iowa have involved driving behind incredibly frustratingly slow drivers. I hate Iowa, I never ever wanted to come here, and even though you didn’t know that about me, I felt like it was the best place to hide. Maybe psychic powers really do work to a very low degree, and you could sense that in me. Who knows? Anyway, when I started worrying about what would happen to this teenage girl if she had to go back to her captors, I asked my social worker for help. He has a lot of contacts, many of whom work in various government departments. He called a friend of his who works in the FBI. They have a special program for this very thing. To my knowledge, it’s not used very often, but it’s quite important when it’s needed. They are the ones who took the girl, and I agreed to pretend that it was me in order to throw the ID makers off the scent. My ability to stay secure and hidden from them was deliberately flawed, so they would follow me instead of her. And it worked. I made it all the way to Alabama, which is another state for which I don’t have a lot of love. They’re outside right now, sniffin’ around, looking for my exact location. I normally like to write these in a word processing program, and then copy it over to my blog, but I’m working right in the blog this time, so it can post automatically, even if they find me before I have a chan

Sunday, March 24, 2024

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 19, 2440

Generated by Google Gemini Advanced text-to-image AI software, powered by Imagen 2
The team was split, but since there were only five of them now, it was not even. Mateo, Leona, and Olimpia all wanted to reroute the ship, and return to Ex-666, where they might be able to find some allies, specifically Mirage and Niobe. They had to get back to Angela, and since they had no idea where or when she was, seeking out help seemed like the only logical response to this situation. Ramses and Marie, on the other hand, wanted to continue on to Ex-467, where a time tech warehouse was waiting for them to break and enter. The rationale for this was that there had to be something there that could help them instead. Leona didn’t agree. Mirage and Niobe were known variables, while the warehouse could turn out to be completely empty for all they knew, or even just pretty much impregnable. One might think that the result would be obvious, but Marie’s vote held more power, as it was her sister who they were trying to locate. In the end, they kept on course, especially since Angela herself seemed rather excited for this mission, and even though she would like to be here with them, she would be more upset if they skipped it altogether on her account. Marie knew how her mind worked.
When they returned to the timestream in 2440, they immediately learned something about their destination that they could not have guessed before. So far, every Ex- designation referred to either a planet, or a person, with the planetary designations being significantly shorter, and the personal designations including the number of their planet of origin. Ex-467 was either a space station, or a ship. Its design included main thrusters that suggested it could be navigated away from the host star that it was orbiting, but the shape itself implied that it was meant to remain a stationary hub at all times. There were tons of ports on it, but none of them was in use at the moment, at least not the exterior ones. There could be large bays somewhere they couldn’t see. It was difficult for their scans to penetrate the extremely thick hull.
Ramses was able to detect teleportation suppressor field generators, however, they were turned off. Mateo and Olimpia were relieved by this until Leona pointed out that they were probably not there to keep people out, but to trap any thieves inside in the event of a breach. If they were going to break in, teleporting was likely the worst way to do it. “Why wouldn’t we break in?” Marie questioned. “Why did we just travel all this way if not to go in and shake some shit up?”
“Poor choice of words,” Leona said apologetically. “All I’m saying is that no one teleports, okay? Not even internally. It’s too dangerous. We are going long as everyone still wants that.”
Marie stepped forward authoritatively. “Yes, everyone wants that.” She glared at Mateo, who was incidentally the most vocal against this route, since they still had no idea what they would be up against.
Mateo regretted being so adamant in his position, but this development only proved his point. Everything they knew about this world came from people who Vitalie!613 had spoken to on the resort world. But they conveniently left out that it wasn’t a planet at all, which placed all intelligence they had regarding the Goldilocks Corridor in question, especially when it came to this place. “Yes, we do,” Mateo said, hoping to earn back some points with Marie.
Ramses nodded. “All right, the computer calculated the safest, most distant point of ingress that’s still large enough for the Vellani Ambassador to dock. We don’t want it to be too big, or our arrival might be noticed. It still might be. We don’t know a whole lot about their security measures.”
“Right,” Leona jumped in. “That’s why we stick together, no matter what. People say that in movies all the time, and it never works out. We can’t afford to get separated, though. If teleportation is our only escape, we absolutely must do it at the same time. That’s the contingency, and we only get one shot.”
“What are we waiting for?” Marie asked impatiently. “Let’s get on with it. It may take us a while to find an alternate self locator, or whatever might help.”
“Hold on,” Mateo urged. “Maybe we shouldn’t get on with it. I think I have a plan that necessitates us waiting. We’ve done something like it before, Leona and I.”
He explained his idea to them, and then they reformulated it together. It immediately called for a reversal of Leona’s order for them to stay together. It was all about misdirection. The Ambassador’s holographic generators were making them look like one of the ships they saw in guardian orbit over Ex-908, which was the planet that was constantly being attacked to test the Empire’s defensive technology. If they ran into other people, Marie was making herself up to look like someone who could not be denied. She was quickly becoming the best at impersonations. Olimpia would remain quiet and invisible the whole time unless they ran into trouble. Ramses and Leona made themselves look like random people that they knew from their pasts, who were not likely to be in any Exin historical records. Mateo was still particularly bad at all the powers, so he was just wearing a physical disguise of a beard and glasses. He was also going to keep his head down, and look like he was the lowest man on the totem pole here. He essentially was, so it wasn’t that great of a stretch. Then again, he was the one who was noticing everyone else’s strengths, and came up with this division of labor in the first place, so he wasn’t totally useless.
A group of guards filed into the room, pointing weapons at them as Leona, stepped out of the ship, alone at first. “State your business, strangers,” the leader demanded of them.
Leona stood tall, and inspected the guards with a cold look on her face. It was the face of a girl she knew in elementary school, aged up to her twenties. “Lower your weapons for the Oaksent,” she commanded.
Ramses appeared from the darkness first, followed closely by Marie to his left, but she no longer looked like herself. She was Bronach Oaksent now, Jacobson-Cline Father of the Goldilocks Corridor, Despot of the Exin Empire, Douchebag of the Milky Way Galaxy. She was their enemy. Mateo followed at her flank in rags as Oaksent’s own personal slave. They didn’t know whether he actually had slaves, but it was a decent educated guess. Plus, they figured that they didn’t have to specify Mateo’s role.
“Oh my God,” the leader uttered. He and the rest of the guards knelt down, but in the worst way they had ever seen. They placed the butt of their respective guns against the floor, and rested their foreheads against the muzzle. They weren’t about to pull the triggers, but it was a horrific sign of deference to an evil leader. Was this what everyone did in the presence of their god-king?
The rest of the team could feel Marie’s reluctance to let them treat her this way, but that wasn’t what the real Oaksent would do. They sent her feelings of support and encouragement, so she composed herself, and pretended like this was all perfectly normal, and not profoundly disturbing at all. She cleared her throat. “Not long ago, I sent a team here to extract an object for me as a test. You failed that test when you failed to report the item missing. Do not feel bad, these were the elites, trained personally by me. And lucky for you, I am now giving you the chance to redeem yourselves. My team did not remove the object from the station. They hid it somewhere else. Search the warehouse now, and bring it to me. The first person to come to me with the correct answer will be rewarded with a permanent life on Ex-613.”
“Sir, if I may,” one of the guards near the back asked, carefully letting his head up. “Many of us have families. Will they be allowed to join the winner on Ex-613?”
Marie waited to respond, trying to decide what Oaksent would say. The most obvious answer was yes. That would only incentivize them even more in this snipe hunt. But that didn’t sound like something the real man would agree to. Remember, he was a ruthless dick. She came up with a compromise. “They will be given their own opportunities to join you. Their place on that world is not guaranteed, but I won’t deny it outright either..”
“Thank you, sir. You are most magnanimous,” the inquisitive one replied.
“Go. Go now. Spread the word to everyone else here!” she ordered as they were running out of the room. “Find me that missing object!” They waited until everyone was gone. “Oh my God, I can’t believe that worked.”
“Ya did good, kid,” Mateo said, throwing an arm around her shoulder.
Just then, a guard came back into the room with a smirk on her face. “I was just transferred here from Ex-42,” she said. “I met you while I was there, sir. Do you remember that?”
“Of course not,” Marie responded. “Why would I recall someone like you?”
She smirked. “Well, you were on your way back to Ex-420. There’s no way you could be here now. You were heading in the wrong direction.”
Marie did her best to look like an offended ruler. “I ordered a change in course. I don’t have to explain it to the likes of you.”
“It’s true, the real Bronach Oaksent would owe me nothing, but you’re not him. There are other issues with your ruse here. For one, Oaksent likes the ladies. He doesn’t own male servants, because he can’t impregnate them with the next generation of servants. So I don’t know who that guy’s supposed to be.” She nodded towards Mateo. “And who’s that crouched on the hull of your ship?” They all fell for it. They spun around to see who the hell she was talking about, only to find that no one was there. When they looked back, the smart guard had her weapon trained on them. “Put your guns down.” They heard a short pounding sound as she lurched, and widened her eyelids. Then her eyeballs rolled out of view, and she fell to the floor, unconscious, but very much alive.
Olimpia briefly made herself visible to the team as she was still holding the gun over her victim, which she had used as a blunt instrument. “Good plan, Matty.”
“Except it’s hard to see how beautiful you are when we can’t see you at all,” Mateo acknowledged. He placed a hand softly upon her cheek as she disappeared again. “Y’all go look for the central database,” he told the other three. “Olimpia, you think you can find the security room on your own? I need to secure this one in a closet, or something.”
“Yes, sir,” her voice replied out of the aether.
They broke into their groups, and went off on their separate missions. What Mateo didn’t tell them was that he wasn’t hiding the guard somewhere on the station. He stuck her in hock on the Vellani Ambassador. A half hour later, midnight central hit, giving the station an entire year to cool down, and relax their defenses.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Fluence: Magnolia (Part IV)

Generated by Google Gemini Advanced text-to-image AI software, powered by Imagen 2
Neither Harrison nor Madam Sriav were where the four of them expected them to be. It was still raining when they went back to England centuries ago, but the area was empty. They figured that Harrison took Briar’s mother, Irene to safety somewhere, but when they looked around, they couldn’t find anyone. “Will he hurt her?” Briar asked.
“I really don’t think so,” Weaver answered. “He knew Mateo and Leona back in the day, and helped them with some of their earlier exploits. He wasn’t programmed for violence, nor does he have any reason to cause harm to her.”
They kept searching, but still couldn’t find either of them. Whatever cave was supposed to magically transport them to Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida was presumably pretty well hidden, which would explain why the local villagers didn’t constantly go missing, only to reappear in the timestream a thousand years later. Briar didn’t know much about time travel, so he reasoned that his mother must have survived all of this, or he wouldn’t exist right now. Of course, the other three knew that the cosmos was full of new timelines, sprouting up every time someone went back in time to change history. It was entirely possible that Briar was wildly different in this current version of reality. Just because he was still standing here didn’t mean that everything that happened in the past was identical to what happened where he was from. No one told him all of this, partially because it was a complex and hard-to-teach concept, but also because they were better off not meddling in this time period any further than they already had. If he understood that there was no such thing as fate, they would never be able to get him to leave. He would die of old age in the attempt to locate her again.
They huddled together, and thought of the island of Lorania on Dardius. Here, the weather was a lot less exceptional, which made it difficult to be sure that they had returned to the right moment. Madam Sriav was also nowhere to be found, but Eight Point Seven was pretty sure that little time had passed since they last left. When Madam Sriav was frustrated with having been taken from her home, she kicked flowers, and at one point, sat down to pull pedals apart. Some of this debris was still where she had left it, or nearby. It had not yet been blown away by the wind, or decomposed to the ravages of time. Eight Point Seven estimated that at most, only several minutes could have passed. They were less certain in this case that anyone involved would be safe. They had no frame of reference for predicted events here, nor any clue whether Madam Sriav was destined to do something particular in the future. If she was taken by someone, or otherwise lost, it could be catastrophic, and they would be hopeless to stop it. They didn’t have enough information about it.
“At least we’re navigating pretty well,” Goswin acknowledged. “If we keep this up, we shouldn’t have to worry about ending up in outer space, or anywhere else too dangerous, or even just wrong.”
“That’s still a danger,” Weaver determined. “If there’s no way to put a stop to this, we’ll probably find ourselves trying to use it towards some end. Good luck to us, figuring out what that objective should be, and how to go about achieving it.”
“Are you talking about me?” Briar questioned, offended. “She looked at me when she said that.”
“I was looking at everyone,” Weaver insisted.
“No, you were looking right at me,” Briar volleyed. “I get it, I’m the problem child. You’re all saints, but I’m the no-good dirty murderer.”
“She was looking at you,” Eight Point Seven confirmed.
“Thank you!” Briar shouted. “At least you’re honest.”
“She was looking at you, not because you’re a problem,” Eight Point Seven went on, “but because your motivations are distant from ours. In fact, I’m not sure what they are. What do you want?”
“What do you want?” he asked. “Are you quite certain that the three of your motivations are as aligned as you think?”
Eight Point Seven tilted her head, having been programmed to simulate inquisitive dispositions to better blend in with human cultural communication. “They may not be, but these other two can listen to reason, and they can agree to a decision without necessarily liking it. You were raised alone, in a world of two people. You lack social skills, and I need you to remember, Briar, that that is not your fault.”
Briar blinked excessively, waffling on whether to let the tears welling in his eyes fall to the ground, or somehow suck them back into their ducts. “You’re right,” he realized. He glared at Goswin. “It’s his.” 
“What? What do you mean?”
“We could have saved her,” Briar explained. “We could have kept my mother out of that cave, and away from Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida. I could have grown up on Earth, around normal people.”
“I didn’t do that,” Goswin defended.
“Yes, you did. You took us away from there during your little experiment to see who was causing this. By the time we got back, she was gone, having no other option but to seek shelter in that cave. This is all you! You’re why I grew up alone. You’re why I killed Mateo Matic! But I didn’t, did I? You did. You killed him!”
“Briar, that’s not how it works. The timeline has been changed,” Weaver said. “Harrison would not have left her alone to go travel the English countryside. He’s with her on Bida.”
“No, he wasn’t,” Briar argued. “I was there, remember? I never knew the guy.”
“Exactly,” Weaver agreed. “That’s why I said the timeline changed. Our memory of events is different than what happened in this reality. Harrison was probably there the whole time, but none of us recalls that, because we’re the ones who changed it. We originated in a different timeline, and we’re all duplicates now. Our alternate selves are currently somewhere else, having done different things with their lives, if only slightly.”
“So, there’s another me out there, one who didn’t kill Mateo at all?” Briar asked her. “He’s happy?”
Eight Point Seven took a half step forward to indicate that she would field this one. She shook her head. “What you did cannot be undone. They already tried to change it, but you were wearing the hundemarke. That’s why the timeline is likely only slightly different. What happened happened, and couldn’t have happened any other way.”
He frowned and hung his head low. “Oh, yeah. I remember that.”
They all tensed up, waiting for Briar to decide that they should go back to save his mother, and maybe himself, in some other way, but he just stood there. With disaster somehow averted by the truth, they participated in an impromptu moment of silence, each of them lost in their own minds. Goswin stared at the broken flowers on the ground as the wind picked up, and did begin to scatter them down the hill. He ultimately took a breath, and looked up at the others. “Now that we know this about ourselves—that we share some sort of...power—we have to decide what to do with it. What’s our next step? Where and when do we go? This was always a vaguely mandated mission, but I feel like...we can’t just waste this on a beach resort.”
“You mean...what are you going to do with me?” Briar asked.
Goswin took a deep, rejuvenating breath. He got right into Briar’s face, but in a comforting way, rather than a threatening one. “You killed a man. You did it with malice and intent, and you expressed no remorse for it. What I need to know is are you going to do that again, to anyone, for any reason?”
Briar took a long time to respond. He was thinking on it carefully. “I know what you wanna hear, but the truth is that I don’t know. I don’t want to promise you something that I can’t necessarily follow through on.” He looked amongst them. “You three seem to have some idea of what’s going to happen in the universe. You have to understand that I don’t. I imagine that it’s quite easy for you to tell others what you’re gonna do, because you know what you’re gonna be up against. It’s not fair, really, being around such confident people, and being so...ignorant. So small.”
Goswin closed his eyes and shook his head mildly. He could actually relate to this sentiment, having to compare his knowledge of the universe to these other two, especially Weaver, who conceivably knew that all of this would happen, and how it would turn out.
Briar continued, “I can tell you that I don’t want to kill anyone in this moment, and that I have no plans to do it again. And I can tell you that I do feel remorse. I just don’t know how to show it. I think my mother was a little too...patient with me. She did her best to teach me how to feel, but not to make sure that what I felt was clear to others. I’m sorry that Mateo is dead, and that he died by my hands. I really do wish that I could undo it. Now, no matter how many other duplicates of me there are, they’ll always be just as miserable as the real me.”
“Don’t think of it like that,” Goswin told him. “You had good times in your life, I know it. Otherwise, you would be a wild animal. You wouldn’t wish to undo anything, except maybe to make things worse.”
“Maybe,” Briar admitted.
They all looked up to find that they had moved again. They were in a jungle that looked not unlike the one on Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida where they tried to experiment with their new joint ability. “Where did we go this time?” Eight Point Seven asked.
Weaver started to work on her handheld device.
“Don’t bother,” Briar said to her. “I know where we are. This is my home. This is where I grew up. I was feeling nostalgic, I guess.” He walked straight for a large tree that had been marked up by tons of hashes. “This is tree eight. It’s my favorite one, because it’s when my mother started letting me mark the calendar unsupervised. I was eleven at the time.” He looked down the line at the other trees with hash marks, which supposedly represented their own years. He appeared to be doing some mental math. “It’s too late. Mom’s dead, and so is Mateo. We can’t change anything now.”
“We should still leave,” Weaver warned. “We don’t want to step back into our timeline. People live here, maybe not in this area, but still.”
Briar nodded, still admiring the eighth calendar tree. “I know, I’m sorry.”
“We all did this,” Eight Point Seven reminded him. “That’s how this works.”
“Yeah.” He nodded again, and managed to tear his gaze away, only to find himself distracted by something else. It was a different tree. This one had no hash marks on it, but there was something very different about it. The branches spread wide despite its currently short stature. The flowers were a stunning shade of blue. It was one of a kind, at least in the immediate area. “What the hell is this?”
“What? What’s wrong with it?” Goswin asked him.
“This shouldn’t be here. I memorized every blade of grass in this area. That tree was never here.”
“As I said,” Weaver began, “we’ve changed things. As we suspected, Harrison was here. He must have planted it a long time ago. Briar, he probably helped raise the other you. I don’t know how you feel about that.”
“I don’t either,” Briar said.
Eight Point Seven stepped towards the tree, and began to examine it closely.
“What is it?” Goswin asked her.
Eight Point Seven leaned forward and licked the bark to absorb some of the mysterious tree’s DNA, which she took a moment to analyze. “Magnolia arthurii. This species was introduced to England by mysterious travelers in the early 12th century, and disappeared from the records shortly thereafter. This is from Earth.” She turned to face the group. “Harrison didn’t just plant it, he brought it here. He might have done it on purpose, or the seed got stuck in his boot.”
“It’s beautiful,” Briar said in wonder. He slowly walked up to it, and reached out. He placed a hand upon its truck, and suddenly froze. The flowers buzzed as if carrying an electric current. Ripples in spacetime emanated from the bark, and into Briar’s face. With each wave, his head jerked back a little from the force, but he never let go of the tree. By the time any of them thought to maybe stop whatever was happening from happening, the ripples ceased, as did the buzzing. Briar fell towards his back, but Eight Point Seven managed to catch him before he crashed.
Is he okay?” Goswin asked.
“I’m okay,” Briar answered for himself. He gently pulled himself away from Eight Point Seven’s grip. He stumbled a bit from dizziness, but he never fell again. “I remember everything now. I remember my life with Harrison. He was my father. That didn’t happen before, but I remember it now. I remember both timelines.”
Weaver walked up to the special magnolia now. “This somehow stores memory, and he activated it for upload.” She turned to face Briar. “Do you have anyone else’s memories, or just those of your alternate self?”
Briar stopped to think about it for a moment. “Just mine, I think. I don’t feel like I’m anyone else.”
“Psychic and at least moderately sentient. This thing is very interesting. Either all magnolias of this particular species could do this, or it changed when it passed through the time cave.”
“Should we...all touch it?” Goswin posed.
“Absolutely not,” Weaver urged. “Don’t go around touching things. That could be one of Leona’s Rules for Time Travel.”
“You wanna stay here, don’t you?” Goswin presumed. “You wanna study it.”
“We could always leave later,” Weaver said out of hope. I don’t think any of the colonizers made it all the way out here. But it’s up to you, Captain.”
Briar seemed to want to stay as well, which made some sense. Eight Point Seven couldn’t care less. “Okay,” Goswin agreed. “We still don’t know exactly what year it is, though, so we can’t be certain how far the colonizers are. Stay vigilant.”