Saturday, June 8, 2024

Orthogradient: Antitheses (Part V)

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Hundreds of thousands of years from now, the universe will be a very different place. No world, no culture, no daily routine would be recognizable to someone from the present day, or even thousands of years later. In this future, three boys were born. They lived on Earth, the surface of which had largely been abandoned, and left to thrive in peace. A small sect of humans remained throughout this time, incidentally keeping their population small by emigration, and otherwise avoidable life-threatening diseases and dangers. There were fully organic humanoids elsewhere in the galaxy, but they were genetically engineered one way or the other. This tiny Earthan village was composed of normal people who were the last in a line of natives. Being of the same sex, the trio was unable to further the species, finally marking the end of an era. After their respective parents died, they were all alone in a universe that they despised, and did not understand. They were inconsequential. Or at least that was what anyone who found out about them believed. But there was one thing that set them apart. They were not normal humans. Being the final members of the race had intrinsically made them special, which time itself took to be significant.
The boys grew up, and eventually forgot their own names. They adopted new ones, based on their individual time powers. Time travelers were still around, but only because they traveled through time. Except for these three, they were no longer being born, because the conditions were no longer suitable for them. Antichron was so named because he was a true time traveler, who was capable of freely moving backwards and forward along the timeline. Antiparticle could teleport multiple particles to a single point in spacetime, forcing an unnatural collision that resulted in the annihilation of them all, and an explosion correlative to the number of the particles, and the speed of transport, and reversely correlative to the size of the point. Antintropy could reverse entropy, repairing what once was broken, or healing what once was damaged. He could theoretically restore all of reality to a more ordered state. But to do that, he needed power. To do that, he needed the other two. Together, they became The Antitheses, and set about to change their present. This turned out to mean changing the past first.
A war ravaged the galaxy centuries prior to their time, which contributed to the dwindling natural human population. To win this war, the Antitheses could go back to the beginning of it, and use their considerable powers to win without breaking a sweat, but they did not want to reveal their powers to those who would misunderstand or fear them. They needed to become heroes in their own time, not villains before they were born. They had to win this war using traditional tactics. It was going to take a lot of work, but it was not impossible. To prepare for the mission, they went back even further in time, to an even more primitive technological period, hoping to steal an obsolete warship called the Sharice Davids. It was a powerful vessel, but limited in its advancements, which made it perfect for the future war. There were vulnerabilities in more advanced starships which the Davids did not have to worry about. Unfortunately, this mission proved to be more difficult than they thought it would.
They faced far more opposition in the 23rd century than they ever expected. Antichron’s ability to read the timeline was less refined than he hoped. The ship kept slipping from their grasps. Every time they tracked it to a new point in spacetime, it would move to another before they had any chance of boarding it again. At one point, it appeared to be destroyed, but then it showed back up on their temporal radar, and they were able to pursue once more. Annoyingly, it was traveling much faster than it should have been, and they were having trouble keeping up. Antiparticle was capable of teleporting them from one point to another without annihilating the particles, but this took a lot more concentration, because that wasn’t what he trained himself to do. Destruction was the name of the game for him, and reapplying his skills in another way proved tiresome. It was now the year 2337, though, and the ship was right before them. They were nearly there.
“It’s gone!” Antiparticle exclaimed.
“Again?” Antintropy cried. “How could it be gone again? They were staying in one place! We’re in the middle of nowhere. Why would they come all the way out to this region of space, only to disappear yet again?”
“No idea,” Antiparticle replied. “Follow them, Antichron. Where have they gone to next?”
Theirs was less of a ship, and more of a small snowglobe-shaped lifeboat, protected by a semitransparent plasma field. They didn’t think that they would need anything else, and besides, the more massive the object, the harder it was for both Antichron to jump through time, and for Antiparticle to teleport. Antichron didn’t say anything. His eyes were closed.
“Antichron!” Antintropy shouted.
“I’m looking!” Antichron shouted back. He shook his head. “I can’t find it.”
“That’s impossible!” Antintropy was never really not angry. “We would detect debris if it were destroyed, even if it were vaporized by something. It went somewhere, through a portal, or via the new teleportation drive it seems to have. And if it’s anywhere in the timeline, Antichron, then you should be able to pick it up. All of time and space at your fingertips. Find it!”
“I can’t. I’ve looked,” Antichron insisted. “It never comes back. We have attempted to intercept it at every moment that it has existed after the moment in its personal timeline where it was historically destroyed. I’m telling you, wherever it is, it’s not in the timeline, and it never returns.”
“Not in the timeline,” Antintropy echoed. “Where could they be if not in the timeline? There is no outside of the timeline.”
“Not as far as we know,” Antiparticle reminded him. “We could not find a teacher to help us learn the ways of the time traveler. If we were to find someone now, they might be able to illuminate us.”
“Stop suggesting that!” Antintropy demanded. “We’re not going to look for help. We’ve always done this on our own, and will continue on that way.”
“It’s obviously not working,” Antichron said. “Perhaps we underestimate these primitive people. They may have escaped in a way that none of us is familiar with, and are now cloaking themselves from detection. We’ve been chasing them relentlessly. They could have learned something about us.”
“What can ants learn of gods?” Antintropy questioned.
“Wait,” Antiparticle said, looking at the screen. “There’s something out there. We may have picked up a piece of debris afterall.”
“Plot an intercourse immediately.” Antintropy was not always the leader. Their trio had no predetermined leader, but power shifted periodically when one of them managed to bully the others into submission. It would continue to change if they never came up with an agreed upon hierarchy. This was assuming, of course that they didn’t destroy themselves by the time they accomplished their objectives anyway.
Antichron did as he was told, and flew their platform towards the only known object in the area. It was very slow, yet still difficult to maneuver. They passed by it a couple of times before they managed to sync up with its drift. It appeared to be a person, wearing a vacuum suit, but they were also sitting down. Antiparticle programmed the plasma barrier to accept them as a non-threat, then floated up to bring them in.
Once their mysterious visitor was completely inside of their transporter, the helmet opened, revealing a man. He was not surprised to see them, but also did not look upon them with any level of familiarity. He moved his eyes from one to the next, to the next. “You are here to steal the Sharice Davids?”
Antintropy cleared his throat, and took a half step forwards. “Yes, we are. Do you have a problem with that?”
“I personally don’t,” the man replied, “but you’ll find it difficult since the Sharice Davids no longer exists.” He paused, only to continue before they could respond. “They changed the name. It is now known as the Cormanu, so depending on what you’re after, you may be too late to the party.”
“Who are you?” Antintropy asked.
“My name is Meredarchos, but I’m currently in the body of a man named Carbrey Genovese. I can help you get to the universe that they have escaped to, but you will have to do everything I say without question.”
“Why would you help us?” Antichron questioned warily. “What’s in it for you?”
Meredarchos nodded as if they had already come to an agreement. “I have been searching for someone to help me in my home universe. I keep believing that I have found my champions, only to be thwarted by someone else, or even my targets themselves. I am trapped where I was born, and cannot leave on my own. I can teach you how to travel to where the crew of the Cormanu have escaped to, but before we do that, I demand that you use this technology to rescue me first.”
“Your physical form is stuck where it is, and you can only leave with your mind?” Antiparticle summarized.
“This is correct,” Meredarchos confirmed. “I seek out the weakest of minds, which might be the mentally vulnerable, or the injured. This man here was too busy trying to recover from truly severe wounds to keep me out. Unfortunately, my intrusion suppressed that recovery further, leaving me in this lame shell. I had to stay dormant for a while to survive. I need strength to find another host, but that does not matter if you can get to my real body. It is dying, and I cannot fix it where it is. It must be transported somewhere else, or I may end up trapped in a faulty new body, such as this one. The Cormanu is of no concern to me, but I’ll help you. As an added bonus, I’ll ignore your universe, and only conduct my work elsewhere. Trust me, that’s a good deal.”
“What exactly is your work?” Antintropy asked him.
“You cannot be made aware of that. It is a non-negotiable stipulation. If you want the Cormanu, you’ll have to agree to that, as well as a few more details. You may add your own requirements as well as we continue to discuss this.”
The Antitheses negotiated with Meredarchos, and laid out their plans. He taught them how to synthesize something called an atomic lance, which tapered to a point so small, it could pierce through the nucleus of an atom. With this, they were able to access hyperdimensional space, also known as the outer bulk. Bulk energy would leak into their lance, and fill the storage tank. This took a very, very long time, but they did not need to stick around to wait for it. All four of them jumped a few hundred years into the future, but they left the snowglobe where it was. When they returned to the timestream, the bulk energy reserves were full, and they were ready to make the jump. The whole thing shook violently, tossing them around like rag dolls. They did not bother installing seats on this thing, nor protective belts to hold them in place. Meredarchos was able to stay put by magnetizing his hover chair to the floor. The Antitheses, however, had to alter artificial gravity to keep themselves against the plasma barrier, which could be as hard as rock, or in this case, as soft as pillows.
They waited patiently as the shaking continued for several minutes before finally reaching critical mass, and falling through the breach in the universe’s membrane. Now that that part was over, they were able to place themselves in temporal stasis so they wouldn’t get bored, because it would be untold time before they could reach Meredarchos’ universe of origin. Seconds later, they were there, so they pierced the second membrane, and landed on the planet. It was desolate and plain. There were absolutely no geographical features. The whole world was entirely smooth. They found Meredarchos’ original body where it was barely holding onto life inside of a small personal living chamber. They pulled it into the snowglobe, which was getting pretty crowded now, and took off. First the shaking, then the piercing, then the stasis, then the piercing again, and they were finally where they wanted to be.
“This...this feels weird,” Antiparticle noted.
“It’s a dead universe.” Meredarchos was still piloting Carbrey’s body. “The laws of physics don’t foster life here. There are no habitable planets, only us, and the Cormanu.”
“Why would they come here?” Antichron asked.
He shrugged Carbrey’s shoulders. “It has plenty of chemical elements. “The ship was heavily damaged, so they need raw materials to repair it. If I hadn’t taught you how to travel the bulk, this would be one of the safest places to hide.”
“They’ve detected us,” Antiparticle announced.
“That’s okay,” Meredarchos decided. “They won’t be able to leave yet. I’m surprised they made it here in the first place, but I’m sure they’ve exhausted their power, so even if the repairs didn’t keep them from escaping again, they’ll have to refuel first. If I were you, I would take your shot now, though. They’ll be looking for workarounds to their predicament.”
“You can stay here,” Antintropy told him. He took Antiparticle’s hand, who in turn took Antichron’s. The Antitheses teleported right into the Cormanu where they found themselves trapped in what looked like a hock.
A woman casually approached, and dragged her fingers along the laser beams that were preventing them from leaving. When she removed her hand, they saw that the tips had been burned off. “I’ll just get Landis to fix it. Because you underestimate us. You see, we’ve been eavesdropping. We know who you are. We’re currently upgrading the ship, rendering it completely useless to you. It will not serve you in your stupid future war. We’ll let you out if you leave us alone forever, but if you ever come after us again, then we’ll react in kind. We give second chances, but not thirds. What say you?”
Antintropy scowled and approached the lasers. “We’ll leave your ship alone, and revert to our backup plan, but in the meantime, you’ll become our new fixation.”
The woman leaned in closer. “Then you’ll die.”

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