Amanda Moss

Roughly two-point-eight-three million light years from Earth, there is a galaxy called Andromeda XXI. This galaxy is also known as Miridir by its native inhabitants, nearly all of which live on a planet in the Beorht system called Dardius. This world is remarkably similar to Earth in as many ways as possible. From the mass and radius, to its distance from its parent star; from the ratio of dry land to water, to its atmospheric composition. Dardius enjoys a Terrestrial Habitability Similarity Index of .998, which is the highest ever discovered anywhere in the known universe. It was chosen as a second home for humanity for this very reason. A man with a special connection to time and space intuited that Dardius existed without ever having gone anywhere near it, but it was a woman named Meliora Rutherford Delaney-Reaver who sparked civilization there. She founded a hotel she called Sanctuary, which she built to protect those who were in everlasting danger from certain people with time powers. She named it after her first rescue, Dardan Lusha, who she believed was under constant threat from her very own father. Though Meliora was in charge of how Sanctuary was run, even she answered to someone. She was leasing space from the man who actually owned Dardius, Gilbert Boyce. And when he died, he passed it on to his good frenemy, Mateo Matic.
Another one of Meliora’s early rescues was a woman named Amanda Moss. She presently served as the Transportation Administrator for the entire planet. She was responsible for making sure the planes, trains, and automobiles ran smoothly, but she also had to worry about how to transport more rescues from Earth. This was traditionally done using a special machine called the Muster Beacon, which was capable of summoning large numbers of people, even from millions of light years away. Unfortunately, the machine became corrupted in its attempt to save the crews of two ships in recent past, and Moss had no choice but to allow the Muster Beacon’s destruction. Shortly thereafter, the other machine they used to connect to other civilizations was also destroyed, but this time by terrorists. The Nexus replica could only transport a handful of people at a time, and required a second machine on the other end, but it was at least better than nothing. So the Dardieti were isolated from the universe. They couldn’t save anyone, and they couldn’t communicate with their allies. The Muster Beacon was far too complicated to replicate. No one knew how it worked, or really even where it came from, so their only hope was to figure out how to rebuild the Nexus replica. It was also complicated, but not impossible, and about six years ago, the world’s top scientists finally figured out, and got it operational.
The first thing they discovered after rebuilding the machine was that there was a new destination that wasn’t there before. While they were working on it, a sixth replica was built on a new world, which they eventually learned was called Glisnia. It was only about sixteen light years from Earth, and very few entities lived on it as of yet. They had no knowledge of who built it, or why, and no reason to believe any permanent resident would have any interest in visiting Dardius. There were, however, several people on it right now that needed to come. The co-owner of the whole planet was recently murdered. Thanks to time travel, Mateo was actually still around and kicking, but that didn’t mean the Dardieti didn’t need to mourn his passing. He and a group of his friends were on their way to do just that. The Administration had just spent over a year preparing for this moment, and now the day was finally here. Administrator Moss was standing on the edge of the Nexus replica, eagerly awaiting arrival. After an hour, eight people magically appeared in the cavus. Just as one stepped out to greet Moss, the other seven disappeared again.
“What was that?” Moss asked.
Étude turned around. “Where did they go?”
“Are they back on Glisnia?” Moss asked, to no one in particular. Then she turned to one of the machine’s operators. “Did they go back to Glisnia?”
“I don’t know,” the technician replied.
“Well, find them!” Moss cried.
As the scientists and engineers were scrambling to figure out what went wrong, a voice came on the radio. “Transportation Administrator Moss.
“Not now,” she spoke into the mouthpiece. “We’re gonna figure this out,” she assured Étude, who was concerned about all her friends, but mostly her daughter.
It’s important,” the voice returned.
“I’m dealing with a crisis here,” Moss argued.
And I have a solution to that crisis,” the voice claimed.
“How could you possibly?” Moss asked. “Who is this?”
The voice cleared her throat. “This is Meliora.
Holy shit. Meliora Rutherford Delaney-Reaver was probably the absolute most powerful person in the universe. As a choosing one, she had pretty much every time power anyone had ever heard of. She could teleport, travel through time, see the future, even de-age herself, and rapidly heal from her wounds, among many other things. She was the one who built Sanctuary out of nothing, but after it became self-sufficient, she disappeared. Her last sighting was more than thirty years ago, and that one was never confirmed. “Madam Rutherford, I’m so sorry. Wha—I...” Moss didn’t know what to say. What can you say to someone who was practically a god? Well, there was only one reasonable response. It was respectful but neutral; brief, but eliciting. It could be said by superiors and subordinates alike, because it made no assumptions about status or potential.  “Report.”
Everyone is here and accounted for,” Meliora replied.
“How?” Moss asked. “We saw them disappear.”
Eh,” Meliora began. “Time, right?” It was a common phrase, spoken by those who understood the flexibility of time, and time travel. For people like this, encountering alternate versions of the same individual, or even one’s self, seeing people come back from death, or meeting someone who knew something about the future were everyday occurrences. Simply taking note that time was indeed a thing was sometimes the only explanation needed for what most would consider a supernatural event.
Moss nodded her head, as did Étude. They didn’t know what the other seven people had been through, or how they had made their way back to present-day Dardius. It could have been years since they disappeared, even though it was seconds ago for everyone in this room. Or it could have been seconds for them as well.
“Would we be able to transport to your location?” Moss asked her—for lack of a better term—boss.
Meliora didn’t technically have an official position on Dardius, but neither did Mateo’s wife, Leona. That didn’t mean they couldn’t ask for anything they wanted, and pretty much get it every time. “Come to the hotel. Main restaurant.” The original Sanctuary hotel was no longer in service, and was converted into a museum years ago, but it also sort of became a holy place. People didn’t visit, not because they weren’t interested in history, but because they felt contaminating the space would have been disrespectful, and irreverent.
Moss hadn’t returned to the hotel since she and the rest of the original rescues left. It was an amazing place to live, but it was becoming overcrowded, and they needed to branch out. This was their opportunity to start fresh, and to make the new world as they wished Earth could be. The problem was that everyone in those early days was from Earth. They still couldn’t ignore all that history; good or bad. They could do better, though. Luckily, they had people like Amanda Moss to make sure they didn’t make all the same mistakes that their ancestors had. This was how Dardius ultimately became, not a paradise, but a safer and more prosperous version of Earth.
She pulled up a map of the planet, and showed Étude where Sanctuary was. Then they took each other’s hands, and teleported there. “Madam Rutherford,” Moss said, taking the goddess’ hand in both of hers. “It is such an honor to see you.”
“We’ve met before,” Meliora reminded her.
“I know, and you saved me, but that was before we made all this. Now what you did is so much more amazing.”
Meliora smiled. “I give you and your friends the credit for all that.”
“I thought you said everyone was accounted for.” Étude forced herself to separate from the hug with her daughter. They just kept losing each other, and they were both clearly growing tired of it.
“They are,” Meliora said. “Mateo, Leona, and Cassidy are here, while the others are in other places on the planet.”
“Why aren’t we doing this together?” Étude asked.
“Respect,” Moss whispered to her.
“No, it’s okay,” Meliora said, not offended at all. “There’s something you should know.” She pointed to the three who had been temporarily missing. “Theses people are from the future, as are Miss Pudeyonavic, Miss Unger, Miss Delgado, and Miss Crawville. When the Nexus replica was sabotaged—”
“It was sabotaged!” Moss cried.
Okay, now Meliora was a little perturbed. “It all worked out, so we’re gonna fix it, but we’re not gonna try to undo it. As I was saying, they’re from the future, but not the same points in the future. They were relocated elsewhere in time, and eventually made their respective ways to this point in history, but they’ve each experienced various amounts of the future. Leona here is a few days ahead of Mateo, while I believe Vitalie is from the 24th century.” She seemed to notice Étude giving her daughter the same sad look she always does. “You’ve not lost that much time with Cass,” she assured her, though it kind of sounded like a lie. “She’s actually why we’re here.”
“Forgive me, but what is this about?” Étude wasn’t as astounded by being in the same room with such an important woman as most people were. Though, to be fair, most people were awestruck by being around Mateo and Leona, while Moss had no strong feelings about it, so she understood where Étude was coming from.
“We’re here to discuss some legal matters. What with the Patronus clause being activated several decades ago, and Mateo’s death, things are kind of complicated. They’ve made some decisions, though, and it’s time we discuss that. We’re just waiting on your third.”
“Our third what?” Étude questioned.
Meliora held up her fingers, and dropped them one by one as she counted. “Five, four, three...” then she only mouthed the word two, and when it was time for one, she pointed out the door across the room. Right on time, the door opened. Étude’s mother—Cassidy’s grandmother—was on the other side, along with her partner.
“Mom?” Étude asked. She hadn’t seen her mother in...she didn’t even know how long, but she was a child back then.
“Grandma?” Cassidy echoed. The two of them had never met.
Saga Einarsson ran over the threshold, which was actually a portal to a different time and place. Her partner, Vearden Haywood closed the door behind them, and stepped over to shake Mateo and Leona’s hands. They had been good friends for awhile now.
After the tearful greetings and introductions, Étude looked back over at Meliora. “What is this? Not that I’m complaining, but why are we finally all together?”
“Oh, you don’t understand?” Meliora asked. She looked around to see if anyone knew what was going on, but only Mateo and Leona were apparently cognizant of what this was all about.
Not even Moss knew what the hell was happening.
“Well,” Meliora began, “it’s about Dardius. The Matics have decided that it’s impractical to own a planet when they’re hardly ever even on it. They would like to transfer ownership to you three.”

Newt Clemens

In a universe called Ansutah, a young woman and a young man met each other, and fell in love. Their names were Savitri and Avidan, and before too long, they conceived a child. Avidan had the ability to diagnose people’s general health through fairly simple examination, so it was he who actually alerted her to her pregnant status. He said she was pregnewt, however, and this way of saying it stuck around so long that they ended up using it for their child’s name. Sadly, Newt Clemens came into the world stillborn. His first, final, and only act was to remove the time powers for every single person on the whole planet. This was only in one reality, however. There was another timeline, where Newt was born perfectly healthy. His life would not continue to be so perfect, however. The primary species in this universe were the Maramon; white monsters who had complicated feelings about the humans. Many Maramon felt extremely threatened by Newt’s existence, and were always worried he would strip them of their immortality. So he had to escape.
He found himself on a vessel called The Transit. It was larger than The Prototype, and smaller than The Crossover, but was equally capable of traveling to other universes. He, a man named Nereus, and dozens of other humans fled Ansutah, and ended up in back in their own universe. The others were now fine, but Newt was not out of the woods yet. His ability was as dangerous as it was powerful, and there were people in this world who were just like the white monsters, and did not like that he could take away their abilities. His only hope was to be rescued by Dardius, where he could live in Sanctuary forever; safe and content—still separated from his family—but at least alive, and that was all his parents wanted. But even living here, things couldn’t be so easy for him.
While Dardius was a great place to live, and people were generally happy here, it was certainly no paradise, and Newt remained in danger. He was afforded protection by the world government, and the majority of the population had no ill intentions towards him, but as a public figure, there were those who wanted him for their respective agendas. A war broke out when the Dardieti attempted to rescue a ship full of capitalists from destruction. They were not happy with being forced to move from one non-capitalistic society to another. They wanted to stop being moved around, and they wanted control of their own world. After years of fighting and stalemates, a peace was finally reached, but that didn’t mean each individual was happy with the outcome. A faction of terrorists rose up and attempted to kill Newt because of how important he was to the leader of Dardius, Patronus Matic. They failed in this endeavor, and their operation was significantly diminished, but they weren’t destroyed. They returned, angrier now, and more determined than ever to complete their mission. They found Newt, fitted him with a suicide vest, and sent him off to kill the Patronus. The Patronus survived, along with most of his friends, but Newt was not so lucky.
Just as the bomb vest was about to explode, everything around Newt froze in place. He could see his friends being spirited away by a teleportation machine. “Hello?” he called to the void, but there was no answer. He cautiously stepped out from his own body, but did not turn around to look back at it. He knew exactly what was happening. This was the work of an extraction mirror. It was capable of accessing any time and place in the past, but there were many other ways to travel through time anyway, so its most common use was to slow time to a snail’s pace, and retrieve someone from the brink of death. The catch was that if you needed to slow time to accomplish this, it probably meant that whatever had caused this person’s death could not be undone. He looked down at his own neck. His new and temporary body was free from the suicide vest, but there was one thing on it that remained. It was called the hundemarke, and it prevented temporal alterations within the vicinity. His death was unavoidable. He was now free to move about time and space at will, but in the end, he would have to return to this moment, and finally let himself die.
Newt didn’t have an infinite amount of time, though. He quickly found the entrance to the extraction mirror, and stepped through the threshold. The barrier between now and then closed back up. He was standing in an unfamiliar place; a darkened hallway. It was clean, but stoney, like a billionaire’s secret mountainside winter getaway. A blinking arrow appeared on the floor beneath his feet, pointing down the hall. When he stepped forward, the arrow flipped off, only to be replaced with another arrow a meter away. This continued as he walked on, letting them direct him to whatever his destination was going to be. “Hello?” he repeated every once in awhile. The arrows led him to a room. It was just as stoney as it was everywhere else. Nothing was inside of it except for a chamber of some kind, and a note hanging from a string in front of it.
This will take you home,” Newt read the note aloud. He looked up to the aether around him. “What exactly does that mean?” He waited for a response. It was possible no one else was here anymore, or that they had been watching him this whole time. “They say that home is where the heart is,” he went on, “but maybe that’s not what you mean. Maybe this returns me to Earth, where my mother was born. Or maybe it goes to Durus where my mother was trapped, and where my father was born. Or does it go to Ansutah, where the two of them conceived me? Will it take me to 2226, which is where I was before I died? Tribulation Island? Sutvindr?”
He heard a click, and a sigh. “Just step into the time chamber, please.
“No,” Newt argued.
Why not?” she asked.
“I don’t know who you are, or what you want with me,” he tried to explain.
You think I’m trying to hurt you?
If I thought you wouldn’t get inside of this thing unless I forced you, I would have just forced you. If I were going to kill you, I would have just left you in your death moment. There is no reason to extract you unless I want you to live.
“You may just want to exploit my powers.”
The voice didn’t respond for a moment. “Okay, well, I can’t argue with that logic. That’s not what I’m doing, though.
“Prove it.”
Another sigh.
A hidden door cracked open on the right side of the room. A woman came through it, and walked forward. “My name is Ellie Underhill. Perhaps you’ve heard of me.”
He shook his head. “Are you in a band, or something?”
“I don’t mean I’m famous, though...I kind of am. I’m a choosing one, so it was possible you’ve heard my name before.”
“Wait.” Newt thought about it a moment. “Are you DJ Mount Alias?”
“The very one.”
“My father loved your show.”
Ellie pointed towards the way he had come. “I have other people to extract, and they all need to use this time chamber. Well, except for one, but the next one definitely does.” She looked at her watch. “He’s going to be coming through in two minutes. He’s very badly hurt, and Doctor Sarka is going to need this time chamber to get here to treat him, since the powers that be won’t be dispatching him themselves. I kind of need you to get the hell out of here.”
He jerked his head at the note. “It says home. Explain what that means.”
“It’s what you said,” Ellie explained. “It’ll take you to where your heart is.”
“My heart is with Étude and Cassidy.”
She sported a wide-eyed knowing look, but didn’t say anything.
“Am I going to see Étude and Cassidy?”
“I know of one good way to find out.”
“Thank you.” Newt nodded. “As long as you’re telling the truth about trying to help me, thank you.”
She nodded back, but then stopped short. “Wait, is that the hundemarke?”
Newt looked down, even though he obviously already knew the answer to that. “I don’t know how those capitalist terrorists got their hands on it, but that’s how they killed me.”
“No, I know that. I just...I didn’t think it would come with you. Like, I thought it would stay with your real body.”
Newt shrugged.
She eyed it.
“Do you want it?”
“No, but I know someone who needs it. We’ve been looking for it. Except...” She trailed off as she got lost in her own thoughts. “Why have we been looking for it if it’s already been found?”
He watched her, and waited for her to either answer her own question, or remember that he was still standing in front of her.
“No, I can’t take it. You have to.” She looked down at the floor as she spoke. “You have to give it to Horace, so he can get it to Bhulan.”
“What are you talking about? Who is Bhulan? Which version of Horace am I meant to meet?”
“This solves everything.” Now Ellie was getting excited. “You keep it, but give it to Horace Reaver, who you’ll see after you step into that time chamber. If all goes according to plan, this entire future will be erased.”
“If it’s erased, then you won’t extract me before my death, but if you don’t extract me before my death, then I can’t go back in time, and give Horace the hundemarke.”
She searched for answers on the ground again. “It’s a loophole. We can’t extract you permanently, because of the hundemarke, but we can extract the hundemarke itself, because it couldn’t have been destroyed in the explosion anyway.” She looked back up at him. “I don’t know what’s going to happen to you when you do this, so I guess it’s your choice. Can you make that sacrifice? Because I can’t make it for you.” And with that, she walked back through her secret door, and sealed it up behind her.
He let out a sigh of his own, and gazed at the time chamber. The hundemarke was one of the most powerful objects in histories. It could undo time travel complete. It could make a permanent world, with one timeline, and no second chances, or it could save humanity. But it was only ever used to kill, And it was for that reason that it needed to be destroyed. Newt knew a lot about Horace Reaver. He lived a lot of completely different lives, and he wasn’t always a good person, but he was one of the best in this reality. If he needed the hundemarke, it was surely to destroy it. That could only be good for the love of his life, and his daughter.
Newt Clemens, stepped into the time chamber, let it activate on its own, and disappeared through it. He appeared in the main restaurant of the original Dardius Sanctuary. Everyone he loved was there, including his wife, and his little girl; all grown up now. He hadn’t seen her since she was a baby, but he knew this was her, because it had to be. Mateo and Leona were there as well, along with Saga Einarsson, Vearden Haywood, Vitalie Crawville, Ramses Abdulrashid, Amanda Moss, and a few people he didn’t recognize. Horace Reaver was there too.
“Newt?” Étude asked, shocked and glad
“Dad?” Cassidy asked.
“I love you,” Newt said with a smile. “A lot of people say they would die for their children, but I get to prove it.” He began to remove the hundemarke from his neck. “This is a fixed moment in time...so I will always have been here.” He reached out towards Horace. “But I cannot stay.”
“Oh my God,” Horace said, staring at the dog tag.
“Take it,” Newt insisted.
“What is this?” Cassidy asked. “Dad? What are you doing? What do you mean, you can’t stay?”
“I love you,” he said again, because it was all that truly mattered.
Horace reached for the hundemarke and pulled it from Newt’s hand. And then Newt disappeared, like he was never really there.

Ramses Abdulrashid

Ramses Abdulrashid. Engineer. Former capitalist. Awarded most improved. Man of the people. Deputy Delegator. Exile. Rescue. Sacrificial lamb. Survivor. This was his life in a nutshell. He started out as a capitalist, and member of a movement called the Freemarketeers, who he would come to categorize as terrorists. He was grateful for having been pulled from that life, and nowadays, wishes to have nothing to do with it. A lot of people put in a lot of effort to cure him of his bad thoughts, and he didn’t want to live in fear of relapsing. So he filled his life with other stresses, and made sure he didn’t have too much time to reflect on the past.
At the moment, he was chillin’ in a laboratory thousands of years in the future. A lot had happened that led him here, but the short story was that he was placed in stasis so he could one day wake up and take care of the little monster babies who were created to live on this planet. He was here with a few other people.
“Vearden!” one of them named Saga called out.
“Where are you?” another asked. Her name was Zektene.
“Have you seen Vearden?” Saga asked Ramses.
“I’ve been napping, sorry,” he replied.
“Let’s check the other section,” Zektene suggested. The man they were looking for was very badly injured. He had had some time to recover, but something might have gone wrong.
As the ladies were heading towards the hatch, Ramses got himself off the couch slowly, and tried to follow them. They didn’t realize this, so they closed the door behind them. He opened it not a second after, though, and discovered the room on the other side to be completely empty. “Hello?” he called out. “Saga? Zektene?” he asked. Then he added, “Vearden?”
There was no response. Both Vearden and Saga were known for stepping through doors, and ending up traveling through time and space. That must have been what happened to Vearden earlier, and now the other two. Hopefully they were safe, if not all together and safe. Ramses turned around, and went back through the door. He breathed in deep, preparing himself for a life of solitude on an alien planet. This was his next chap—
Just then, he thought he heard someone choking behind him. He turned around again, and saw a movie projected on the wall. There was no projector, though. Ramses’ best friend, Mateo Matic was strangling someone in...was that Stonehenge? “He’s over there,” the man being choked struggled to say.
“That doesn’t look much like a portal,” Mateo argued, looking towards Ramses. “More like a window. Fix it.”
“Let me go,” the man begged, “and I will.”
Mateo let the man go. Then the movie turned three dimensional, and it did appear as if they would be able to cross from one side to the other.
“Mateo?” Ramses questioned.
He stuck his hand over the threshold. “Come on, friend. We’re back, together again.”
Ramses took Mateo’s hand, and crossed over.
“The Delegator, this is Ramses Abdulrashid. Ramses, this is the asshole whose life I had to threaten to bring you back to us.”
The Delegator was still massaging his neck. “He’s not supposed to be here.”
“And you’re not supposed to be a jerk!” Mateo argued. “I guess life’s funny that way. Now I don’t want to hear any lip out of you. I just want you to tell me which one is ours. And I swear to the flying spaghetti monster, if you send us through the wrong archway, I’ll find my own way back here, and you’ll regret ever taking this job in middle management.”
“I understand,” the Delegator said. He pointed to one of the Stonehenge archways. “It’s that one over there. No tricks. It will take you back to Dardius.”
Ramses held back when Mateo tried to lead him towards the other portal. “Dardius?”
“Yes,” Mateo said.
“I can’t go back there.”
“Yes, you can.”
“Why?” Ramses asked. “Is it in the past...before I was exiled?”
“That exilement was bullshit, and it’s time to remedy that.” He tried to lead him that way again.
“No, I can’t go.”
“You have to,” the Delegator said, “or he’ll blame me for it.”
“Why should I go there? Why now? Did the Freemarketeers change their minds?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Tell me what you’re not telling me!” Ramses demanded.
“I’m dead!” Mateo shouted back. “I need you back on Dardius, because that’s where my funeral is. Or my memorial service; or something. There’s no way I’m doing it without you.”
“I don’t understand,” Ramses said. “I mean, I know you’re all time travelers, so it’s possible for you to die, but still be alive to deal with it, but why? Why don’t you just travel through time, and prevent it from happening?”
“My killer used the hundemarke. It can’t be undone. What happened, happened, and it can’t happen any other way.”
Ramses didn’t know what to say for a moment. “I’m sorry.”
“Me too,” Mateo said. “But they saved me with an extraction mirror, so I can live just as long as I would have anyway. Death ain’t nothin’ but a thang in our world.”
“I’m still sorry,” he repeated.
“I know, but it really is okay. Dardius wants to do this whole ceremony. Leona and I just want to get it over with. But we can’t do that until you’re there.”
Ramses didn’t know if he could do it. He agreed to never return. It didn’t matter how much time passed, or how many things changed; that was a promise he didn’t want to break. Still, this was his best friend they were talking about. How could he not be there? It would be disrespectful.
“The world isn’t as it was,” Mateo began to explain. “Both you and I left nearly forty years ago. The Freemarketeers have been pretty well integrated into society. I mean, it’ll never be perfect, so long as the first generation is still there. You have millions of people who all look exactly alike, which is freaky, but other than that, things should be fine. Besides, I’m about to hand the whole planet off to a new set of owners, so they’ll be rid of us completely, if they just give us this one day.”
“Why are you selling the planet?” Ramses asked.
“I’m not selling it,” Mateo said. “I’m giving it to a family that will take good care of it. Believe me, I tried to just relinquish all rights, but they won’t let me. Someone has to take ownership of it, because that’s part of the foundation for their whole society. Don’t ask me to explain it further. I think it’s weird too.”
“Yeah,” Ramses said. “Well, that’s the thing. Because of how weird the Dardieti are about it, I’m not sure if they’ll let you just give it away. I think they’re going to want you to get something for it in return. It doesn’t have to be the gross domestic product of every nation combined, or anything, but it can’t just be two chickens and a goat either. It has to mean something; to you, and the new owner. They’ll have to make a sacrifice of some kind, I’m almost sure of it.”
“Well, what do you have in mind?”
“I’m certain we could come up with something reasonable, but I would have to know who you’re selling to, of course.”
“Okay.” Mateo tried yet again to pull him through the Stonehenge portal.
“We may not want to go straight there, though. If this place can go anywhere in time and space, it could come in handy.”
“Oh, no,” the Delegator hesitated. “I’m not your personal taxi driver. You asked for one portal to come here, one more to get your friend, and a third to get back. I’m not giving you any more. I don’t care where you go now, but wherever it is, you’re staying there. At least, I won’t be the one to let you go gallivanting all over time and space.”
Mateo let go of Ramses’ hand, and approached the Delegator menacingly. “I’m sorry. Perhaps you’ve not heard, but I’m dead, so my hearing isn’t great. What did you say? It was something about helping us with anything and everything we needed.”
Wow, this was a different Mateo than the one Ramses knew all those years ago. They got everything they needed.

Vitalie Crawville

When it came to the question of home, Vitalie Crawville didn’t really know what that meant. She was born on a rogue planet called Durus in 2165, but her fathers were from Earth, and were only there as refugees. Fortunately, before too long, a small interstellar spaceship came by, and rescued a small number of people, which included her and her family. So she finally lived on Earth for a good stretch of time, until circumstances forced her to leave. She had to help a friend named Leona in her search for a husband she couldn’t even truly remember having. The journey took them throughout a few other universes in the bulkverse as they worked to procure special objects that would aid them in their quest. Once that was all over, she found herself on another ship, destined for a planet called Bungula. She never did make it there, but instead landed on its neighbor, Proxima Doma. The situation continued to evolve, and events continued to unfold—an alternate version of herself came back through time to change history—and she finally found herself on a planet millions of light years from Earth, and its stellar neighborhood. So where was home? Not really anywhere, and that was probably okay.
She came to this place with her friend, Étude, who had also been doubled due to time travel. They could have returned home at any time, but they chose not to, for Étude soon met a man, and fell in love. And soon after that, they conceived a child together. This new life changed Étude’s perspective on everything, and she quickly grew tired of the special temporal powers that she was born with. She could teleport and travel through time, and build massive objects almost instantaneously. She didn’t want to be like this anymore, and luckily, she knew someone who did. She also knew someone who could help them with their problem. Her husband, Newt Clemens had the ability to manipulate other people’s abilities. It was he who transferred everything Étude could do to Vitalie, so she could finally take her rightful place as The Caretaker.
Life was great on Dardius, but it wasn’t perfect, and there were times when certain people needed saving. Vitalie was able to provide that for them, as what few could deny was best described as a superhero. She protected the entire world from various threats. There were accidental threats, of course; faulty demolitions, and rickety staircases. There were more human dangers too, however. The populace was composed of people who had been rescued from Earth because they themselves were threatened by time travel. The rescuers made every attempt to properly integrate these people into society, but that didn’t always work out, and it was really nice to have Vitalie on the side of right, to make sure the outliers didn’t cause too much damage. She was good at it, and she was beloved for her efforts by most. Still, this took a toll on her, and it took her a long time to realize why.
Vitalie was nomadic. She didn’t like spending too much time in one place, because that was what she knew best. Circumstances had always thrown her to the next chapter in her life, but Dardius was different. It was stable. More to the point, it was too stable, and it felt to her like she was going to die there, which was something she didn’t want to think about. There wasn’t really any single moment that changed her mind about where she was, and what she was doing. She didn’t fail to save a child from a burning building, or punish someone who turned out to be innocent. These things could have happened, and would not have been available for do-overs, because time travel was illegal on Dardius. Except for one place. It was called Tribulation Island.
A man named Mateo Matic co-owned the whole planet with his wife, Leona. It was given to him by his frenemy, Gilbert Boyce, but it never really belonged to any of them. Dardius belonged to the people, and they had the right to govern civilization however they saw fit. They elected their own leaders, and made their own laws, and any accommodations they made for Mateo was predominantly out of respect. Even his status as the Patronus was a temporary solution to a terrible problem, and he was always destined to return to being less of a governmental official, and more of a symbol. These conditions, however, never applied to Tribulation Island. The Matics owned that land fair and square; like an independent nation over which no one else could have any control. It was for this reason that Vitalie decided to shed her life as the world’s Caretaker, and take up a new purpose. She was never allowed to travel back in time to help people while she was operating on the main lands, but those policies could not extend to the island, so she decided to exploit that.
There is a location in the universe called The Nucleus. No one knows exactly where it is. Some say it’s in a pocket dimension, while others think it’s literally in the center of the universe itself, though inflationary theory doesn’t really support this possibility. Some believe it exists outside of time and space, or perhaps beyond the boundaries of the universe. Wherever it is, no one in recorded history has ever accessed it by any means besides a Nexus replica. A Nexus is a special device used in one of these other universes that allows near instant transportation between planets. The design was replicated in Vitalie’s universe, but functions on vastly different principles. There are very few of them in existence, placed on different worlds for different reasons each. One of these was built on the Nucleus, though no one seems to know who was responsible. For doing so The reigning theory is that someone very, very far into the future finally discovered its true location, and went back in time to give their ancestors quick and easy access so they wouldn’t have to go to all the trouble. Vitalie moved to Tribulation Island to make use of this access.
The Nucleus is capable of accessing any point in spacetime, again for reasons no one who even knows for sure it exists understand. It’s an incredibly hostile and dangerous place, and is quite inhospitable to life. The temperature throughout most of it holds steady at a half degree above absolute zero, which is literally the coldest anywhere could ever possibly be ever. The Nexus replica building possesses a central heating system, but no matter what, it can never raise the temperature any higher than negative forty. External forces are constantly trying to freeze the whole place, so this is as good as it gets. If a traveler were to enter the only safe location on the Nucleus, they would want to do so with extreme-weather protection, and still probably not stay there for very long. Yet Vitalie has technically experienced the environment billions of times.
“What are you doing here?” Old!Vitalie asked. Old!Vitalie was a very different version of the Vitalie who lived on Dardius as the Caretaker. She was billions of years old, but only had memories going back for the last fifty-six. After all this time, she was finally confronting her alternate self. Well...one of them, anyway.
“I’m waiting for everyone to stop using the Nexus replica,” Young!Vitalie answered so I can get back to work. Every second counts. Literally.”
“Explain,” Old!Vitalie demanded.
Young!Vitalie prepared to go into her whole thing. “I was the Caretaker of Dardius, but before that, I was the Caretaker of Proxima Doma. Eventually, people stop needing my help. So I’ve had to find new purpose. Now, I may not look it, but I am over two hundred and sixty years old.”
“I’m much older than that,” Old!Vitalie pointed out.
“True, but I’m also much older than people realize. You see, I came here looking to help people, but I realized a few things about my skills. Number one, they become obsolete. I could go to any planet I want, but the people there will eventually stop needing me. Number two, these other planets do exist, and they do need me. Number three, as powerful as I am, I’m not immortal. I’ve been able to remain young, but I didn’t take immortality water, like you did. My time will eventually run out, so I can’t just keep hopping from planet to planet. I’ll die before I’m even finished with one. So I determined that my only course of action would be to go to all these planets, most of which will not even be inhabited for thousands of years, and extend my services all at once. What am I doing here, my alternate self? I’m generating billions of more alternate selves, and dispatching each one through the Nexus replica.”
“Where do they go?” Old!Vitalie asked.
“They go to a very special place called the Nucleus, and from there, they can move on to their respective final destinations. I can send about eleven alternates every single second, and I’ve been doing that ever since they built this damn thing in 2095.” Young!Vitalie gestured towards the Nexus replica.
“Didn’t people notice you doing that?” Old!Vitalie asked.
Young!Vitalie breathed in deeply. “Yes, which is why I’m still not done. I keep having to take breaks, and let other people use it—or simply hide away so they don’t discover me here. Why, you coming through has already set me back about three thousand planets.”
Old!Vitalie just stared at her. “That’s stupid. What you’re doing is stupid. You’re sending your alternate selves to save people in the future after they colonize planets in the galaxy?”
“Well, not this galaxy, but yeah.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little...?”
“Narcissistic?” Young!Vitalie guessed. “Self-obsessed? Vainglorious? Whatever the difference there is between those three words, and others like them, then yes, all that. But I’m fine with it. Now, if you and your friends are quite finished with this thing, I would like to return to my job.”
“Don’t you wanna be there?” Old!Vitalie questioned.
“For what? Mateo’s funeral?” Young!Vitalie asked back.
Young!Vitalie shrugged. “I barely knew the guy.”
“Well, maybe you want to be there for his wife?” Old!Vitalie suggested. “It might be kind of nice for her to interact with a version of us who actually remembers the day we met. I have no recollection of that myself, as that day rests far beyond my memory threshold.”
Young!Vitalie could see her point, but this was really important work, and she was almost done with it. Though maybe that was what made it okay. She could probably stand to take one more break, and finish up in the next several years. What’s one day to celebrate the life of someone she did legitimately care about? Well, it was about nine hundred and fifty-thousand planets, so... “Okay, I’ll do it. I just hope I don’t die before I reach the outer edges of the Milky Way galaxy.”
“We all hope that,” Old!Vitalie agreed, though it was hard to tell the difference between sincerity and sarcasm when it came to her delivery. The two of them took each other by the hand, and headed towards the exit together.
Pribadium Delgado vigorously scratched the part of her head just above her ear. “I’ve seen a lot of weird shit since I met you time travelers, but that might be the most bizarre conversation I’ve ever heard.”

Part V

Coming soon...

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