Click here for the third series (Voyage to Saga)
Click here for the second series (Second Stage of Something Started).
Click here for the first series (Seeing is Becoming).


After the death of her partner, Vearden, Saga felt a void in her life. The only way she could keep it from swallowing her up was to throw herself into her work. When she first discovered she was a time traveler, she felt trapped and helpless. She had no control over her life, and was beholden to the whims of a mysterious group of people pulling her strings. After getting a small taste of real power, however, she discovered how to seize her own destiny. She tried to use her new tricks to relax, but that only lasted a few days before her deep depression started taking over her. She decided the only way to keep herself from thinking about what she lost was to stay busy.
She ran all throughout time and space, opening magic doors from mission to mission. She used her experiences as a nurse to treat injured warriors, and provide medicine for people living in eras before medical science had caught up her. She helped in other ways too, executing plans in historic revolutions, and taking power from tyrannical leaders. She made a name for herself as being the hardest working temporal manipulator in the timeline. But she was working herself to death, and this could not last forever.
At present, she was slinking around the lower levels of the Rice-Eccles Stadium, during the closing ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. KISS was performing on the stage above, under threat of a series of bombs that would kill thousands, and injure many more. Saga was there to stop it, which was foolish of her, since she knew next to nothing about explosives. She was about to turn a corner when she heard voices. She pressed herself against the wall and carefully looked around the edge to see what she was dealing with. Two men in military garb were standing over one of the bombs, apparently putting it in place. They were just having a casual conversation while they were installing it too, like this was just a lazy Sunday. She took a deep breath, checked the bullets in her gun, and jumped out. “Stop what you’re doing!” she ordered.
The men stopped and looked at her.
“You are not a security guard,” one of them said.
She pulled the hammer back. “Neither are you.”
“Well, technically we are,” he replied, not scared at all of Saga, or her weapon.
“Voss, get back to work,” the other one said.
“Do you have any idea how dangerous it is down her, lady?” the one called Voss asked of her.
“Agent Voss, would you please disarm this bomb before we all die?”
Saga lowered her arms slightly, but kept the gun in the ready position. At least she did so to the best of her ability. Though she had spent a lot of time in war, she never truly learned how to use these things properly. It was probably pretty obvious to these guys too. “You’re...you’re agents? You’re trying to disarm them?”
“That’s right,” Agent Voss confirmed.
“Why aren’t there more of you?” Saga asked.
“Why would there be more?” Voss volleyed.
“Because there are two dozen bombs, and only sending two guys seems a bit...inefficient.”
“Other agents are busy with other things.”
“Other agents. In the FBI? Homeland? Something else?”
Agent Voss just smirked.
“Agent, I don’t know how to do this!” the other one complained.
Voss looked back. “Yeah, neither do I. This one is different.”
“How is it different?” the other agent asked.
Voss turned back around. “Look at these wires; they’re not even color-coded. This was designed to not be disarmed. We could slow it down by freezing it, but there’s nothing else we can do.”
“Why were the others not built like this?”
“Because it’s complicated as all hell, and it wasn’t necessary. As soon as this one goes off, the ones we supposedly disarmed will go off in a chain reaction.”
“Can we move it?”
“That’ll set it off too. We remove it from the column it’s strapped to, and we have about five seconds before it’s all over.”
“Five seconds?” Saga asked for clarification, holstering her gun. She looked around for the nearest door, which was not super close, and maybe not close enough.
“That’s right. You think you can get out of the building that fast?” Voss asked, laughing.
“Well, I can get out of the building, but I don’t think I can do it that quickly. How fast can you run?” she asked him.
They were both thrown off by her demeanor, which was completely serious.
“You think you can get to that door before it explodes?”
Agent Voss looked down to it. “That’s about thirty yards, so yeah, probably, but it leads to a staircase, so it wouldn’t do us any good.”
“Can you? Or probably can?” she pressed.
“I definitely could if I injected myself with adrenaline, and there was some magic portal over th—” He stopped. “Is there a magic portal over there?”
Now she was the one smiling. “Not yet.”
He smiled back. “You’re a choosing one.”
“I’m halfway between salmon and chooser.”
“Never heard of that.”
“There are only two of us.” She flipped her smile upside down. “Well, now there’s only one.” She started walking towards the door. “Get ready for my signal.”
While Voss was removing his outer garb that was restricting his movement, the other agent questioned him, “are we sure we can trust her? Just because she’s one of you doesn’t mean she’s one of the good ones.”
“You’re gonna have to learn to trust people, Fortier.”
“I was trained to not tru...” Saga walked out of earshot of their inside voices, and stood at the door. She took another deep breath, and concentrated. In order to transported something from one time and place to another, she could just walk there. But if she wanted to move an object elsewhere without going with it, she needed a door. And she needed a door on the other side too. There weren’t many doors in history safe enough to throw a bomb through. She risked hurting people with most of them, but there were a few where she could be certain nobody was around.
“Can you go ahead and open it!” Agent Voss called up to her.
“Uhh...no! I’ll die if I do! I’ll open it at the exact right time! One I do, push the bomb through it, and run to the side as fast as you can!”
“Okay!” he called back after a thoughtful pause.
She was just glad the bomb was on wheels. Fortier jabbed something into Voss’ leg, and then quickly undid the straps. Voss bolted towards the door, pushing the bomb in front of him like a deadly shopper on Black Friday. The casters were making too much noise for her to hear, but she imagined the clock beeping down from five. When he was as close as he could safely be, Saga pushed open the door, and flew out of it into the vacuum of space. She was holding onto the hatch of Sputnik 2, which had just begun orbiting Earth in November of 1957. She knew she would be opening a gateway to the black, but she didn’t know it would try to pull her through. As death expanded inside her body, she watched the force pull Voss and the bomb towards the same fate. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea. He seemed well equipped to handle it, though. He jumped out of the opening and wrapped his arms around her. The next thing she knew, they were landing on the grass, on the surface of some planet. A dog was barking next to them. Then she blacked out.
Saga woke up in the hospital next to Agent Voss, who was eating pudding and petting the dog. Upon seeing her awake, the dog jumped off his bed, and onto hers.
“Where are we?” she asked.
“2057,” Voss answered.
“Is this Laika?”
“Who?” he asked.
“The dog. The space dog. Did we save Laika?”
“I don’t know about that. I saved you, after you saved tens of thousands.”
She massaged her head and sat up. “You’re a time jumper.”
“Salmon.” He reached over and mimed shaking her hand. “The name’s Agent Camden Voss, but my the powers that be, and my superiors, call me Centurion. Are you thirsty?”
Just then a past version of Saga walked into the room, holding a tray of food and water.
“I don’t remember this,” Future!Saga said.
“I’m going to have my memories erased later,” Past!Saga explained.
“Eh, time travel, right?” Camden said. He finished his pudding and swung his legs around to sit on the edge of his bed. “Speaking of which, let me know when you’re well enough to leave, and if you wanna leave. I need to get back to my sister. She’s become the new Savior.”
“She has? When?”
“2102. If I don’t get back there soon, I may never see her again.” He closed his eyes. “I may never see her again either way. My limitation is that I can only go backwards or forwards by exactly one hundred years. Which means, if I try to go back to the future, I could be either forty-five years too early...or fifty-five years too late.”
“I’m sorry,” Saga said. “I thought jettisoning the bomb into space was the only way to stop it from hurting anyone else. I never meant for you to go through that door.”
“It’s okay. Like I said, you saved everyone in the stadium. That was my job, and I failed on my own.”
“I’m ready to go now,” Saga said, struggling out of bed. “Whew.” She was lightheaded. “And if it doesn’t work, I’ll get you back to 2102 myself. It’s my fault I’ve stolen time from you and Xearea.”
“How did you know her name?” he questioned.
“Eh, time travel, right?”
“I don’t think you’re actually ready.”
“I was dying when you pulled us out of 1957, so I think I can make it.”
After a few more arguments, Camden agreed to try to jump them both to 2102, along with their rescue dog. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, and they just ended up in 2157. Even worse, Saga was unable to do anything either. She was just too weak to use her door-walking time powers. But she knew she would get it some time. She just needed to rest for a couple of days.
For some reason, though, her powers never came back to her. And so they lived in a time period outside of their choosing for three and a half years.

Falling Skies

Saga and Camden lived together for years, starting in 2157. They both continued to try their powers to return to 2102 every once in awhile, but it never worked. Camden could only ever jump forward to 2257, or back to 2057. Saga couldn’t use her powers at all, though. She kept arbitrarily opening doors, picturing her destination in her head, but never succeeding. It was always just a door. Several months into this, a much older Xearea showed up during one of her floating holidays. Unlike most previous Saviors, she wasn’t expected to be on the clock 24/7. Life wasn’t as dangerous or difficult as it once was. There just weren’t as many accidents to save people from. Even when people were hurt, medical science had progressed enough to treat them successfully for pretty much anything. There just wasn’t much need for the position anymore, and since the powers that be could see the future, they always knew this was coming, and had come up with an endgame. Come Xearea’s death, they would choose one last Savior to serve Earth, and then completely shutter the program. At that point, if someone’s life was in danger, they would have to call upon the Kingmaker, the Runners, or some other traveler.
Xearea assured Camden that there was nothing he could do to get back home. She had already experienced 2102, and 2103, and so on. He never went back home, nor did she. At best, he could have had a few days with her before she had to go off on her own job, and they could enjoy those days together now instead. Sure, it wasn’t the same, and it certainly wasn’t fair, but it was also hopeless. All this had already happened, and going back in time would alter history too much, according to her. She was perfectly happy with how her life had turned out, and counter herself lucky to be seeing him now. As the Centurion, working primarily in the 20th century, Camden was never allowed to undergo longevity treatments in his original present, so he would have likely died by this point in history. What happened, happened, and could not have happened any other way, for they were all still alive. At least now he had broken his connection to the powers that be.
Over the years, there was a hint that there could be something romantic between Saga and Camden, but nothing came of it. Though she could never be as close to anyone as she had been to her one and only true partner, Vearden, Saga saw Camden as her new partner. They got to know each other well enough to develop a shorthand, and an unbreakable friendship. Today was May 18, 2161. They were walking back from the natural human grocery store when a van pulled up next to them, and matched their speed. The sliding door opened up, and a girl called out, “your ride’s here!”
Saga tensed up. “What?”
“Saga! It’s me!”
Saga got a better look, not having recognized the voice at first. “Paige? Paige Turner, is that you?”
“It is,” Paige replied. “Get in.”
“Where are we going?”
“The future. Tomorrow’s a bad day for salmon and choosers. Everybody needs to skip it.”
“What’s so bad about it?” Camden asked.
“We weren’t told that,” Paige answered.
“We think it has to do with syzygy,” a voice from inside the van said.
“We don’t all think that,” Paige argued.
“What’s Ssssssiiiiii—” began to ask, not even sure how to pronounce what the other one had said.
Another girl peeked her head out the door. “Syzygy. It’s when celestial bodies line up. Tomorrow’s Syzygy is important, though. All eight planets are going to line up, on the same side of the sun.” She stuck her arm out. “Hi, I’m Dar’cy.”
“Nice to meet you, Darcy,” Saga said, shaking her hand.
“No, it’s Dar’cy. My mother, Marcy is weird. I was named after her and my father, Darko Matic.”
“You’re Darko’s kid?” Saga asked.
“Yes. I was born on Tribulation Island...after you were torn out of time.”
“Oh,” Saga said quietly. Years ago, she was kidnapped by a very powerful choosing one, and forced to live on an island on another planet, along with all her friends. It was meant as a punishment for Leona Matic, who she held responsible for two of her siblings’ deaths. Every few years, she would remove one of Leona’s loved ones from the timeline, only keeping Leona’s memory of them intact. She would have to complete challenges to get them back, calling upon the aid of everyone who was still left, even though they literally didn’t know who they were fighting for. Once they were all finally returned to the timeline, very few people had any memory of the ordeal. To the ones without it, they believed they had lived on the island almost completely carefree the entire time. Saga had been removed from the timeline once before, though, which she assumed was why she knew the whole truth about that corrupted timeline. She came back to find Vearden had died while she was gone, so she immediately opened a portal to 1947 Bangladesh, and dedicated her life to helping people. This was why she had never had the pleasure of meeting this Dar’cy.
“What do you keep going on about?” Paige asked as one of the lucky ones, who couldn’t remember anything about the corrupted timeline.
A third girl showed her face. “And my name is Missy Atterberry. I don’t have anything to add to the conversation otherwise.”
“I’m Camden Voss,” he chimed in.
Missy nodded her head. “Xearea’s infamous brother. She didn’t tell us how hot you were.”
“Same for you,” he said, like he had known Missy’s inappropriate remark was coming.
Paige smiled. “You’re not on the list, but you’re salmon, so someone was likely scheduled to pick you up too, but you should get in, just in case you were missed.”
“I likely was. Missed, that is. I don’t know that I’m salmon anymore. I fell off my pattern.”
“Believe me,” Paige began, “they will find a way to get you back on it. Leona has fallen off hers many, many times.”
“Yeah, and we need to get going,” Dar’cy said. “We’ve yet to pick up Ulinthra.”
“Where have I heard that name before?” Saga wondered. “I associate it with...Harrison. Harrison the android, yes. He was on Tribulation Island long before any of us, I believe.”
Awkward silence since there was no reason to reply to that.
“Well, we should go,” Missy said.
Saga and Camden gave each other one look. “No, thanks,” she said politely.
“We won’t be joining you. Safe travels.”
“I don’t think you understand,” Paige said. “You’re in danger here. It’s only for one day, though. You’ll blink, and it’ll be May 20th. Maybe the 21st.”
“That’s okay,” Camden said. “We’re fine here.”
“But you don’t know what’s gonna happen.”
“Ya know, people who can’t see the future do that all the time,” Camden told them. “That’s just...life, for them.”
“You’re not one of them,” Dar’cy pointed out. “Is it a pride thing? No one’s going to think less of you for avoiding something dangerous.”
“No,” Saga said, “we just don’t find it necessary.”
“Saga, it would be like me telling you there’s a cliff ahead, and you just continuing to walk towards it anyway. That’s not rational.”
Saga shrugged.
“Well, we’re not in charge of you, but we strongly urge you to get the eff out.”
“We appreciate the concern,” Camden said. “If something bad is coming, we’re gonna wanna be here. My sister certainly is.”
Another silence, but this time not so awkward, just reverent.
Paige frowned.
Dar’cy didn’t seem to care one way, or the other.
“Kay, byeeeeeee,” Missy said.
They left Saga and Camden to continue their errands.
The next day, they started feeling a strong vibration all over their house. It intensified, gradually becoming a full-on earthquake. This was it. This was what their friends had been talking about. Why would they need to skip over the day, though? Earthquakes don’t happen all over the planet at the same time. They really just needed to travel somewhere else, if even that. This wasn’t so bad. They had the impulse to go outside and look around, though. As soon as they stepped out, they could feel a warmth bearing down on them from the sky. They looked up.
“Do you see that?” Camden asked.
“What is that?” The sky was rolling like waves, floating from one direction, to the other. No, it wasn’t waves, nor was it the sky itself. It was just the shape of an object, coming towards them. An invisible object. An invisible, massive object.
“Is that, like, the fraking moon, or something?” he asked in shock.
“I have no frelling idea,” she responded. “It’s almost like the sky is falling.”
“What’s happening to you?” he now asked of her.
“What?” She looked down at him. His body was rolling and waving also, like an invisible force was warping all around him. She looked down at her own body, which was doing the exact same thing.
“I think this is what the ladies were talking about,” he guessed.
Pretty soon, they could feel themselves being pulled from the ground. The object in the sky was luring them to it, like a magnet. They flew through the air, completely helpless to it, and moving faster with each passing second.
In moments, they were standing safely on the surface of a different planet, watching the Earth fly past them now. This wasn’t the first time Saga had traveled to another world, so there was no need to panic. But somebody needed to tell Camden that, because he was currently freaking the freak out, having never experienced anything like this in his life. He was looking around like a paranoid chicken in a slaughterhouse.
“Calm down,” she tried to tell him.
“What is this? Where are we?”
“Somewhere new.”
“You’ve never been here before?”
She took a deep breath. “No, I don’t think so, but it’ll be okay. Feel that? That’s air. We can breathe, check. Vegetation, check. We’ll have something to eat. Water? There’s vegetation, so probably. Probably somewhere.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s safe! We have no idea what’s going on, or what’s going to happen!” he cried. “And where’s Xearea? Did she come here too? Is she back on Earth? What if a bridge fell on top of her?”
She took him by his trembling upper arms. “Camden. You were a secret agent...in a secret agency...protecting humans...who didn’t know you existed. You can handle this.” She started the patterned breathing techniques she had taught oh so many mothers in labor when she was a time traveling nurse.
He mirrored her breathing. “All right. You’re right. This is nothing.” They could hear footsteps approach them from the side, moving quickly. Camden tensed up again, and sent his body into the fight stress response. “Why didn’t I bring my weapon?”
“Because you didn’t know you were coming here,” Saga reminded him, knowing it wasn’t a real question. She prepared for a fight as well.
A man stopped a few meters in front of them. “Did you see something fall?” He started searching the ground. “I was on my way to Watershed when I swear I saw a bright twinkling object, coming straight from Earth. I must have horribly misjudged where it landed.”
“Uhh...no, I believe that was us,” Saga said tentatively.
“You’re from Earth?” he asked them.
“Yeah, you’ve heard of it.”
“Of course. From the histories. What are your names?”
“Saga Einarsson. Camden Voss.”
He shook their hands. “Ludvig. Now that we apparently didn’t crash into Earth, I believe I can take you to your friend.”
“Our friend?”
“Yeah. Hokusai Gimura. You don’t know her?”

Lost in Space

They soon met this Hokusai Gimura, and understood why Ludvig thought they must have already known her. Everyone living on this world had been born and raised here, the most recent in a line going back seven generations. This planet was called Durus, and its first inhabitants arrived in the late 20th century, according to its oral history, but the majority of them arrived in 2016, when an entire town was sucked into some kind of portal. They found themselves on something called a rogue planet, which meant it was flying through interstellar space, having been voted off the island of its original solar system. There is no atmosphere, no sun, no water, no light. Everything it has it borrows from Earth, and possibly other worlds. Without these portal leaks, everything here would be dead.
No Earthan human had made their way here since 2016 when Hokusai came just days ago, looking for her daughter, who was in the town when it fell into the portal. Naturally, Ludvig assumed all Earthans knew each other, because he was kind of stupid, and maybe racist? Like most men, Ludvig was also always suspicious of women. Apparently, women have been involved with a number of disastrous events on Durus over the last century and a half, leading to a gradual shift backwards in gender equity. As one of Saga and Camden’s new friends here, Opal put it, “men were always there as well, and in fact, if you look closer, you’ll learn that a man was every time truly responsible for what hell was set upon them anyway. So if anyone’s to blame, it’s them.”
Hokusai was their savior, though, and this no one could deny. Durus was on a collision course with Earth for decades, but she stopped that from happening. This was what Saga and Camden witnessed in the sky, and it was also what magically brought them here. They weren’t the only ones, though. In what’s being called The Deathspring—a play on words with the original arrival, which was called The Deathfall—hundreds of other Earthans were pulled to it. Hopefully this one would come with far less danger. The first generations suffered great peril from terrible beasts, powerful and evil choosers, and the looming threat of Earthan annihilation. With the monsters gone, and the bad choosers turned over to time, maybe everyone could build a safe life here. They not only retained their connection to Earth, but formed a stronger one when they passed over it. While the sun had always provided them with warmth, it now once again featured cyclical daylight. It rained everywhere and anywhere, instead of just in one single location. The soil was rich with nutrients, and plants were back.
As far as Saga and Camden’s personal lives went, they never bothered trying to return to their home on Earth. These were the cards that fate had dealt them, and they were going to embrace that. “Here is as good a place as any,” Camden said of it. And so Durus was where they spent the next year, mostly free from excitement, but that was soon to change.
The Durune were not entirely happy with the new arrivals. They had built this independent civilization, and considered themselves to be an entirely separate peoples, perhaps even species. Of course, the Earthans didn’t want to be there either, but there didn’t seem to be any way back. Each Earthan landed in a different spot around the world, but they were eventually all rounded up and placed in a refugee camp called Pallid. They were provided with tarps, and some wood, but they had to build the shelters themselves. The only regular supplies of resources that came in were water and food, and only that by private volunteers. The new-forming Durune government did not have time to provide for the refugees when they were still trying to rebuild their own homes. One of the first things they did, however, was make sure it was illegal to house an Earthan refugee in a Durune home. It was not, somewhat fortunately, against the law for a Durune to be, or even live, in Pallid. This was nice for Hokusai, who still had familial descendants, and friends, here.
One day, a middle-aged woman approached Saga and Camden’s tent. “You are the mages,” she asked.
“We are not,” Saga tried to explain. Mages were really just choosers—people with natural time powers—who were born to an ignorant world. They once protected these lands, but died off with the monsters.
“Then you are mage remnants, at least,” the woman tried again. Some of their descendants remained today, but their powers were usually rather weak, and no more thrilling than a minor parlor trick.
“Where we come from, we do not use these terms,” Camden said to her. “Nor are the two of us like the mages you read about in your history books. We have little control over our powers. We are controlled by others. But we have since been abandoned.”
The woman shook her head. “I do not need your powers. What I need is someone who understands how they work.”
“What do you need from us exactly?” Saga pressed.
She was nervous, afraid to say too much.
“We can’t help you if you’re not honest with us.”
“It’s my daughter,” she said. “There’s something wrong with her. I think a mage remnant is hurting her somehow. Or...haunting her. Please, can you help?”
“We’ll do what we can,” Saga said, still not really knowing what they were to expect. “You will be in more trouble than us if you take us over the boundary, though.”
“I have no choice,” the woman said. “My daughter needs you.”
They quietly weaved between the tents of Pallid, careful to wake no one. One might think all Earthans would support each other, but the Durune guards that kept watch often traded favors for information. A few extra rations here, a clean blanket there, and the whole camp is the Eye of Sauron.
“You couldn’t bring her to us?” Camden asked.
“She cannot leave the house,” the mother explained.
Once they were at the boundary, she stopped and looked around. “The guards will be changing shifts in a few minutes. That is our best time to make our move.”
“That’s not entirely true,” Camden said suggestively.
“Camden,” Saga scolded.
“Do you have a better idea?” he asked.
“What if they have glitchhounds?” These were the only monsters that still existed today. They could sniff out temporal disturbances, like dogs with powers.
“If they did, then they would probably be at this woman’s house already.” That was a good point.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” Saga worried.
“I believe in you.”
“You shouldn’t.”
“Give it a try.”
Give it a try?” Saga echoed. “And if we end up in the vacuum of space? Again?”
He smirked. “Then I’ll rescue us. Again.”
“I don’t know what you two are discussing,” the mother said, “but if you can get to my daughter safely, then I’m in.”
Saga stepped between them, and took each of them by the hand. “Don’t hold your breath,” she warned. “I mean that literally. It could cause an aneurysm.”
She stepped forward, over the boundary line, but not to the other side. She let her time power pull from the thoughts of the woman standing next to her, using them to try to transport all three of them to the house, without traveling through the space in between. It did not work. They ended up in a house all right, but not the one they were looking for. This was of far older design, and cleaner, like it wasn’t built out of reclaimed wood. Saga had seen the houses people lived in these days, and this was not it.
Three people were standing in front of them, not too surprised to see three others suddenly appear. One of them was a younger man, and was quite protective of the other two. “They are my responsibility,” he said with authority. “If you want to question them, you’ll have to go through me. I am prepared my denounce my oath if it means stopping you from harming them.”
“We don’t plan on harming anyone,” Camden assured him.
“We must have gotten lost,” Saga said. What year is this?”
He squinted at them. “New Age seventy-four,” he answered.
“2090 in Earthan years,” the mother translated for them.
“You’re from Earth?” the homeowner asked. She was intrigued. “What’s it like these days?”
“What do you want?” the protector questioned.
“Morick, calm down,” the man who appeared to be the homeowner’s husband said. “They’ve told us they won’t hurt us.”
“And you believe that, Jörm? Sadie, I suppose you do too.”
“We are from 146 NA,” Saga told them in her calmest voice.
“I’ve never heard of anyone traveling through time that far,” Morick said. “Not since our people lived on Earth.”
“Things have changed,” Camden said. He addressed Saga only, “you need to try again. If this is the past, we should not stay.”
“Isn’t going to the past kinda your thing?” Saga asked with a smile.
“Not anymore. Let’s go. Open that door.”
Just then, a small object flew through the window. “Memory grenade!” Morick yelled.
On instinct, and recalling his training in the agency, Camden threw his whole body on the grenade, and let it go off. Morick pointed both hands at the window it had come through, and sealed it up with drywall, like the window had never been there. He then did the same to the other windows. “We need to go!” He tried to pull Jörm and Sadie towards them.
“I can take you so far from here, they’ll never find you, but you have to help me with his body,” Saga pleaded.
“He’s not dead,” Morick said.
“Well, he’s unconscious, so help me get him up!”
Jörm and Morick lifted Camden off the floor while Saga opened the door to a portal. They could see a different house on the other side. A young woman was curled up in the corner. “Mom?”
Saga ushered everyone through the portal. She stepped through herself just as the walls were coming apart. She closed the door, and knelt down to feel for Camden’s pulse. “What’s wrong with him?”
“He protected us from the memory grenade,” Morick explained. “He’ll wake up later, but he won’t have any memory of who he is, or what’s going on.”
“You must be in big trouble for someone to throw one of those things at you.”
“It only lasts a few hours,” Morick clarified. “It just makes it easier to transport people for questioning.”
“Mom, who are these people?” the woman in the corner asked. Suddenly, a bed sprung up under her body. After a few seconds, it disassembled itself, and disappeared.
“They’re from Earth. They can help us stop this.” She tried to approach her daughter to comfort her, but the bed reassembled itself again, and got in the way.
Morick chortled once. “She’s a builder.”
“A what?”
“Special class of mage,” Morick went on. “They’re the ones who construct all the buildings in our towns. I’ve never seen anyone manifest their powers so quickly after the mage games, though.”
“She wasn’t part of the mage games,” Saga reminded him. “This is the future.” She tore off Camden’s shirt to inspect what she hoped was a superficial wound on Camden’s chest from the grenade itself. “There are no more mages.”
Morick took something out of his breast pocket and climbed on the bed to the frightened woman, who shrunk even deeper into the corner. “It’s fine,” he said. “You can’t hurt me, and I won’t hurt you.” He showed her the little pouch he was holding. “This will suppress your powers. Just temporarily, so we can get a handle on them.”
Still afraid, she tentatively took the pouch.
“What’s your name?” he asked of her.
Despite wanting to focus on Camden’s health, Saga couldn’t help but notice what a beautiful name that was...for a beautiful woman. Andromeda.


The powers that be must have been keeping an eye on Saga from their secret ivory tower, because she was once again unable to open a door back in time. She wanted to return Morick and the couple to their own time, but whenever she opened a door, it led only to the other side. They read through the histories of their world, and were horrified by some things that had happened. Their home really went down the drain while they were gone, starting on the very day of their departure. Though their absence could not be to blame for the dark turn of events that followed, perhaps they could have been there to help prevent, or at least make things better. The couple was most concerned with their daughter, and knew that the stories of her twisted dealings and mistakes were nothing more than lies. Unfortunately, nowhere in the books did it speak of the three of them, which meant it was unlikely they would ever get back. They would just have to build lives for themselves here, where things were finally starting to get better, and hope that their child’s life was better than the books claimed it was.
Speaking of building, Andromeda was becoming quite the hero for her skills in the Earthan refugee camp, using her new powers to expand it into a grand city. Long ago, when the first Springfielders arrived through the town portal, a healthy fraction of them were pregnant. These children—though they would not have become choosing ones had they been born to Earth—were imprinted with their powers from having been in various crucial stages of their development when their mothers were transported to Durus. They grew up quickly, and became known as the source mages, for they had the ability to bequest time powers to anyone who proved worthy enough to wield them. They established a competition, with winners serving in an order of town protectors. One of the rules for becoming a town mage was that you were not allowed to have children. They actually employed special meta-mages to make sure this rule was followed by literally preventing conception from taking hold.
When Sadie and Jörm’s daughter started upending the system, and the Durune monsters took their opportunity to take over, the sterility mandate could no longer be enforced. After the monsters were pushed back, survivors on Durus had to restart their civilization, almost completely without time powers, for those that had them, lost them in the war. What they didn’t realize at the time, though, was that their genes had already been irreversibly altered when they were turned into choosers in the first place, which meant these were traits that could be passed down the generations. Because their descendants never displayed near the same intensity or power of their predecessors, they were known as mage remnants. They didn’t reserve their powers to protect the towns, since that was now being done with technology. They just used them for fun, or they sold them to people looking to accomplish various tasks, legal or otherwise. Andromeda was different. She was a full-fledged choosing one; probably the first one in this century, on this planet, as long as you didn’t count an alien named Effigy.
Having been raised by a decent mother, Andromeda decided to use her powers to do the most good. Seeing the suffering of the Earthan peoples, who were forcibly removed from their homes, and had no choice but to come here, she dedicated her time to helping them. As Morick pointed out, she was a builder, much like The Constructor, Baudin, who Saga knew from Tribulation Island. She could summon building materials from other times and places, sometimes in the form of fully living trees. She could then arrange them into proper configuration, as well as manipulate the speed of time, to build vast architecture in a matter of days. In only a few short months, the refugees had become the wealthy ones, leaving the rest of the world struggling to rebuild their infrastructure in real time, following the devastation of the syzygy durusquakes. The irony of the tables having been turned on them was lost on no one. Right now, the provisional government was seeking help from someone they insisted on calling Queen Andromeda. After a full year of watching her help the Earthans, they were only now recognizing her as their greatest asset; one they should not have taken for granted.
Morick, having retained his mage powers from another time, stood at her right flank as her primary bodyguard. Camden, whose episodic memories never returned, flanked her on the left, as another guard. Fortunately, he never lost his muscle memory, so he could still rely on his training as a field agent. Saga sat at Andromeda’s side for moral support, while Durune government officials pleaded their case.
“Your Highness—”
“Eh,” Andromeda interrupted. “That’s not what you should call me. If you are obliged to an honorific, then what did I say it should be?”
He hesitated, but acquiesced. “Your Badass,” he began. Andromeda thought this term up, thinking the Durune would be too uncomfortable to actually use it, and just revert to her proper name. It didn’t work, but honestly, she much enjoyed the new title, so ultimately just went with it. “We implore you to help. Our city is falling apart faster than we can repair it. It was created many years ago, using the last drops of power The Last Mages could muster. To be truthful, we don’t know what we’re doing.”
“I believe there were those who came to this world from Earth with construction experience,” Andromeda replied.
He was trying to figure out whether this was a question. “Yes,” he guessed.
“You could have used them. Had you treated them as human beings...read, with dignity, they could have helped you.”
“Surely someone with wisdom such as yours can understand our reluctance to rely on anyone but ourselves,” Provisor Drumpf replied.
“What was that again?” Andromeda asked aside.
“Negging,” Saga answered her.
“Negging,” Andromeda repeated. “Did you just neg me?”
“Your Hi—Your Badass, I would never. I...am afraid I..do not know what that means, but I promise, I meant no disrespect.”
Andromeda was silent, but in a way that made it clear no one was to speak until she was ready for them to. “The city was depositioned at the end of the 21st century, by Earthan years. The disparate towns were all brought together into one, so that we could collectively protect a shorter border, against the monsters who remained after the war. While populations in other worlds rise, ours falls. There was plenty of room in the city when the Earthans arrived, yet you rejected them. You were uneager to help, completely ignoring the high probability that they would help you in return. You held meetings, attended exclusively by loyal followers, and spouted hate speech against the immigrants. You spun a story, giving the impression that the majority of Durune were against providing any aid to our new friends. And when it came time to vote, you suppressed those who would oppose you, making it seem like half the city was against humanitarian efforts. And we are humans, by the way. We may not be from the same worlds, but we are the same. And now your approval rating is the lowest it’s been since we transitioned from source mage rule, to the republic. I wonder why that is. Is it possible that this is your last grasp at saving a dying approach to societal policy? Do your backwards views on the role of women remain in your hearts, but in a new form? You call me queen, and grovel at my feet, yet you still do not respect me. You still consider me inferior. Though you are all new officials, you are still all men, just as it has been since the republican reformation.
“It is time for a new reformation. The provisional government has outstayed its welcome. If you want help—from me, or any Earthan—you must step down, and make way for a rightly elected administration. I can rebuild your city...but not in your name.”
Provisor Drumpf breathed deeply through his mouth, and out loudly through his nose. “I will not be doing that. Nor will any of my comrades. This is our planet. We took it, because no one else had the balls to do it! We took it, because the people let us! We took it, because they want us here...because they need us...because they’re too stupid to do it without us! We will make it great again; even better than your shithole city, and we will do it without your help!”
Andromeda finally revealed her smirk. “We shall see about that.” She nodded to a young woman in the corner who the Durune bureaucrats didn’t even notice was standing there. “Cut.”
The provisor looked over to the girl, slowly recognizing her as as the infamous Loa. Her father was a mage remnant with the ability to remotely view anywhere else in the universe, like a window through space. She recently discovered she possessed a similar power, but hers was much stronger. She could broadcast an event to massive numbers of people, just by witnessing it herself. They asked her to televise the entire meeting to all of Durus.
“Frell me,” the provisor said, having learned the word from Andromeda, who was first taught it by Saga.
“Would you like to go out with me sometime?” Saga asked. She had been trying to rally the courage to ask her, and couldn’t help but blurt it out now. Seeing Andromeda take charge of the situation, and engineer such great change in the world, was just too much. The love was real.
Andromeda kept smiling at the provisor, and what she had done to him, as she nodded her head excitedly. “I sure would. Let’s have dinner tonight.”


One of the conditions of letting the people of Durus vote in a new administration to replace the provisional government was that anyone serving in the provisional government would be allowed to run. Prosivor Drumpf was the only one exempt from this requirement, since he made all his cronies look bad when his hatespeech was broadcast live on LoaTV. A not insignificant number of people from the provisional government were either reëlected to their original positions, or to new ones, even those who really shouldn’t be there. Yet, the people have spoken, so Saga et al. would have to accept it, and move on.
One of Andromeda’s conditions was that she be allowed to step down from her leadership role as well. She enjoyed using her time power to build up the city, but she didn’t want people looking to her for answers. She just wanted to live her life for herself, and now, with Saga. The two of them had grown incredibly close over the course of the last year. Since their first, they had gone on dozens of other dates, and had even technically moved in together. Five Earthan months ago, it was becoming clear that not everyone in the original two cities were interested in staying. They wanted to spread out across the planet, like their ancestors had with their little towns. And so Andromeda built a mobile home. Since there were no city streets on Durus to worry about, she was free to make it as wide as she wanted, which meant there was enough room for the two of them, plus Loa, and her girlfriend, Hokusai. Loa was using her time power to stream their construction efforts in a sort of documentary designed to showcase all the good Andromeda was doing. It was Hokusai’s job to keep their home in operation. They probably had the most luxurious and technologically advanced home in the world; one that was capable to piloting itself to other settlements, where Andromeda would start laying the foundations for neighborhood isolates.
The most recent of these isolates was a neighborhood that called itself Dawidux. When the Earthans came in the Deathspring, they banded together and protested against giving refugee aid. As time went on, and the “Earthan problem” persisted, they gradually transitioned their goals to that of ethnic cleansing. They started covering themselves with hoods, and lynching Earthans that had strayed too far from the herd, reminiscent of a darker time in Earth’s own history. Scholars today believe they, in fact, got all their ideas from the Nazi and white nationalism movements, which was ultimately ironic, because if any Nazis or white supremacists were on Durus, they would be treated just as poorly as any other Earthan. Provisor Drumpf was rumored to be a powerful leader in the Dawiduxian movement, and though a direct connection was never proven, he was quite clear in his sympathy for them, as were other members of government, some of whom remain in power.
Though, of course, Andromeda was adamantly opposed to Dawiduxian principles, she had no choice but to build their neighborhood for them. She promised to do what she could to help restore the world to its former glory, and even improve upon it. The fact that she was in support of Earthans, and lived with two of them, appeared to be completely lost on the Dawiduxians. The hate-mongers needed something from someone they hated, and so they were going to carefully look away and pretend they didn’t notice, only expressing their outrage once Andromeda was done helping them. That day was today. Saga and Andromeda were presently walking on the edge of the neighborhood on a final inspection, to see if anything needed to be fixed, or added. Things started not feeling quite right, and they realized the residents were comfortable enough with their neighborhood to make their move.
“There’s a fire!” Saga called out, seeing the red and orange blaze in the distance.”
“That’s where we parked our home!” Andromeda cried.
“Hokuloa!” Saga screamed, referring to Hokusai and Loa’s shipper name.
They started running, but a horde of Dawiduxians deliberately stepped into their way.
“Please!” Andromeda begged. “There are people in there!”
“That’s the point,” one of them said luridly.
“You would murder two innocent people? We’ve already given you what you want! You asked for a neighborhood of your own, and you’ve got it.”
“That does not absolve you of your sins. You have conspired with the Earthans, and you will be punished for it.”
“What exactly is your problem with us?” Saga questioned.
Saga stepped back, in sync with the leader, as he stepped forward. “This is our world, and you have invaded it.”
“We didn’t ask to come here.”
“No, you didn’t,” he said, “but Earth asked you to leave.”
“What are you talking about?”
He smiled and shook his head, like a Christian wondering why a Muslim hasn’t figured out that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. “We have mage remnants on our side.”
They said nothing.
“What, you thought it was just you? Lots of remnants are part of our cause. They can see things others can’t, and they have told us that Earth sent us the worst of their worst.”
“Again. What the hell are you talking about?”
He looked to the air above his head for the right words. “You’re like lice. On a dog.”
“Do you even know what a dog is?” Saga asked bitingly.
He ignored her. “You’re actually the bad lice. All the other lice are just trying to live their lives in the dog’s feathers, but the bad lice keep raping them, so the dog’s owner uses a special machine to suck all the bad lice away. Durus was that machine, and it brought you all here so Earth wouldn’t have to deal with you anymore. But we don’t want you either.”
Saga just stared at them. “I don’t..even know...how to respond to that. There was so much wrong with what you said, I—I just..can’t even. How do you argue against something so absurd when your opponent is too dumb to know that dogs don’t even have feathers!”
“Whatever, you know what I mean.”
“There’s no such thing as good lice.”
“So what?”
“We aren’t rapists, and you have zero evidence that we are. You’ve just..been told this? And you accept it?”
The Dawiduxian scoffed. “We don’t have to listen to your lies. We were perfectly happy with building a wall separating our cities, but now you’ve infected people’s minds, and our only option now is to just rid of you altogether.”
“What does that mean?”
He spoke above their heads, “you have them?”
Saga and Andromeda turned around to see Hokusai and Loa being dragged towards them. They tried to run to them, but were held back.
“Yes, they’re alive,” the leader said, like he had done them a favor. “And one of them will remain that way, as long as she does what she’s told.”
“What are you telling?” Andromeda asked.
He nodded to two of his goons. One of them handed Andromeda a knife, while the other handed one to Loa. “You have been found guilty of literally sleeping with the enemy. You have two choices. You can either die in each other’s arms, or you can excise the demons from your souls, and join us.”
Saga knew neither Andromeda, nor Loa, would do such a thing. Had they not been respectively in love, they still wouldn’t kill guiltless and harmless people. That just wasn’t in their nature. This was a waste of everybody’s time. Perhaps the Dawiduxians knew it wouldn’t work, and were just screwing with them. Or maybe they were really delusional enough to think they were on the right side of history, and were confident everyone else would eventually see the light.
“Andromeda, maybe you could build a nice little cage for these people?”
The leader laughed. “You could try.” He nodded to an old woman at his side. “She’s a power dampener, though, so the most you’ll get is a psychic nosebleed.”
“He’s right,” Andromeda said quietly to Saga. “I’ve been trying this whole time.”
“You have sixty seconds to choose,” the leader said. With another nod, he ordered several of his people to lift their bows and arrows. One of the arrows slipped away, though, and flew right into Hokusai’s chest.
“Hokusai!” Loa screamed.
The one who had shot her was really just a kid, who was mortified by what he had done. It was clearly an accident.
“Andy! Be ready!” Saga yelled. She took the knife out of her hand, and used a skill she had learned on Tribulation Island to throw it into the power dampener’s neck.
The dampener didn’t have to die to lose control of her power, giving Andromeda the edge she needed. In anger, adrenaline coursing through her veins, she pulled a platform of stone out of the ground, and shot them up into the air. The four of them managed to stay on, but so did several Dawiduxians. In her own anger, Loa started fighting them alongside Saga, until they had thrown them all off the precipice. By the time Andromeda had calmed down, the tower was hundreds of meters in the air, and leaning to one side. She had built parapets to hold onto, so they wouldn’t slip off themselves, but the tower was not going to last much longer. They could already feel it threaten to tip over completely.
Some other version of Saga appeared from a hatchway in the floor. “Come on!” she called out to them. Andromeda and Loa carried Hokusai through the hatchway, while Saga took up the rear. Just as she was climbing through, the tower was starting its race back to the ground. When they exited at the bottom of the tower, though, it was still standing. The other Saga had magically transported them a few moments into the past. A Dawiduxian that Loa had pushed off the edge landed on the ground next to them, so they ran away from the new building, looking for safety. They then closed their timeloop as they watched the tower topple over, and destroy the majority of the neighborhood that Andromeda had just constructed.
“Thank you,” Saga said to herself.
“I need to get her out of here,” Future!Saga explained, indicating Hokusai, who was still alive, but barely.
“Where will you take her?” Loa asked.
“There’s gotta be a door in that town that’s still standing,” Future!Saga answered. “I have to take her back to the future.”
Loa didn’t like hearing this, especially since she didn’t know how far into the future this would be, but she knew she couldn’t question the decision. “Let’s go.”
While Future!Saga ran up to find the safest route to the closest stable door, the other three able-bodied women began transporting Hokusai using a three-person arm-stretcher carry. They made it to the door, and let Future!Saga take her through alone.
Present!Saga should have been more careful, but she did accidentally see Serif waiting for them on the other side of the portal. That was a good sign. “What do we do now?” she asked. “We’re scheduled to start building New Springfield a few miles from Watershed. With transportation burned down, though, we’re gonna be late.”
Andromeda surveyed the rubble that was once a budding town, bitter look on her face. She took in, and released, a deep breath. “I quit.”

The Expanse

Saga and Andromeda were no longer living in their mobile home, and not just because it was destroyed in a hate crime fire. Andromeda could have easily reconstituted it, had they wanted to. They no longer had a need to move around the planet, though, and instead decided that it was time to settle down and plant roots. Hokusai and Loa weren’t living with them either, and were in fact in the middle of an uncomfortable separation, brought about by the strain of Loa’s father’s sudden heart attack, and death. With the help of a new mage child, Camden was beginning to remember his life before being affected by the memory grenade. Unfortunately, he was starting to feel a little abandoned by Saga, because he now remembered them being much closer on Earth than they were now. She was trying to patch things up, and rectify that for the future.
The memory retriever was not the only full chooser that started demonstrating time powers. The running theory was that the close call with Earth gave Durus a sort of recharge in temporal power, which was paving way to a new era. Camden drew upon an analogy of Star Wars, which Saga had seen herself, but hadn’t really made the connection that Jedi keep existing, and being destroyed, with interim periods where people don’t believe they ever existed. Presently, they were trying to push for new language, to distinguish these new empowered people from those that came before. They did not want to use the universal convention of choosing one due to a sense of pride for their isolation. They wanted to come up with something new, and policy-makers were sifting through those proposals. As banal as it might seem, this was the most exciting and useful thing they could be doing at the moment. Months after the first democratic vote since the Deathspring, people started noticing what kind of mistakes they had made by allowing some of the old guard to maintain their control over the planet. An emergency election—which still took several more months to get underway—was put in place to drain the swamp, as it were.
After a couple more months of growing pains, things were finally where they needed to be. Local officials were taking care of the day-to-day regulation of the disparate cities. The high-level social servants had time to vote on trivial matters, such as what to call the new mages, because the world was currently waiting for a vote on the new constitution, which was first drafted by a group of officials before they were even elected. Their dedication to bettering the state was why most of them were ultimately elected into office.
On a personal note, Andromeda and Saga were living happily in a small cottage in a city that was about as far from the capital as was possible at the moment. Though she had quit her position as a city-builder last year, Andromeda ended up generating the pipes that ran from Watershed to Yalshire, so they themselves would be comfortable. Seeing this as the most important component of any city, the government begged her to at least continue doing this for them. She agreed, but only as long as there was no more efficient way to do it. Recent evidence suggested an infant in New Springfield would grow up to have the power to create new watershed regions, and possibly even lakes and rivers, which would halt their reliance on the original, and allow them to spread further throughout the wild thicket. Only time would tell whether this was the reality, or not. Her parents refused to allow their child to be proverted into an older age. Morick quit his relatively cushy position as Capital Security Advisor to protect New Springfield, though it was the worst kept secret that he was really there to protect the child from anyone looking to exploit her potential.
At the moment, Saga was trying to ask Andromeda to marry her, but she was not making it easy.
“Well, it’s just that I was going to ask you.”
“I guess I beat ya to it, so what’s the problem?” Saga questioned.
“I had this whole thing planned,” Andromeda claimed.
“What whole thing?”
“I was going to ask Loa to broadcast it.”
“Broadcast it to whom?”
“Everyone on Durus! Why would we do that?”
“To prove our love to each other.”
“I don’t need the rest of the world being in on my love for my girlfriend. That’s a very private matter.”
“Hokusai was telling me about...what did she call them? Promposals?”
“No, just regular proposals. Promposals were inspired by the original; hormonal teenagers convinced they needed to ask each other to dances in increasingly elaborate ways. They believed, without these stunts, their conviction wasn’t real.”
“So marriage proposals are elaborate, but dance proposals aren’t. I think what you’re missing is that this is a marriage proposal, so why shouldn’t I broadcast it?”
“I was explaining how people did it on Earth in my time. I wasn’t endorsing that behavior.”
“She said something about a jumbotron.”
“Yeah, Loa is the jumbotron, but I would never want that, like I said.”
“What about a flash mob?”
“Those are cool, but...not for that. They should be used to surprise people who aren’t part of the plan, and bring some joy into their lives; not to propose.”
“Because proposals are meant to be private,” Andromeda remembered.
“Then what’s he doing here?”
Saga looked over at Camden, who froze, like a rabbit who’s been caught making a sandwich, in the middle of making a sandwich. “Oh, him? He’s family.”
“Well, then let me call my mother.” Andromeda pretended to take out her phone, which didn’t exist, because they had never been invented on this planet.
Saga pretended to stop her, “no, that’s okay.” She directed her attention towards Camden, who had restarted his sandwich. “Cammy, honey? Could you take that to your bed?”
“You want me to eat in bed?”
“Yeah, why not?”
“Because that’s insane. I don’t want ants in my bedroom.”
My bedroom,” Andromeda corrected. Their situation was not unlike a couple letting their deadbeat adult son stay with them while he got back on his feet.
“Cammy, honey? There aren’t any ants on this planet,” Saga said.
“Then space ants, gah! You can’t offer to put me up until my place is finished, and then make all these rules,” he complained.
“That’s exactly what we can do. A world without rules is anarchy.”
“Doesn’t sound so bad,” they imagined him muttering as he juggled his fixin’s, and headed down the hallway.
“Now,” Saga said with a sigh. “Where were we?”
“You were trying to propose to me in the least elaborate way possible.”
“Oh, right.” Saga smiled wryly. “About that...”
She tilted her head coyly. “I called in a few favors.” She stood up and offered her hand to Andromeda. “Come with me.”
As soon as Andromeda took Saga’s hand in hers, and stood up, they teleported to a magical dimension, overlooking the southern thickets of Durus.
Andromeda looked around. They were literally on top of the world, near the equator, to be exact...or rather, where it would be if they had a sun. “You got us here with favors?”
“Oh, this is nothing.” Saga gazed into the aether, and rolled her finger in a circular motion, from her stomach forward. The planet below them started moving. Of course it was already moving, but what Saga had done was request someone slow time for them in a temporal bubble. This allowed them to witness the planetary rotation in what appeared to them as real-time.
Andromeda watched in awe. She had come from a world of magic and mystery, but also of suffering and dullness. Though she had seen the Deathspring with her own eyes but a few years ago, this was still an inspiring sight. The world began to roll towards them faster and faster with each passing second, until reaching a maximum legible speed.
“Look there,” Saga suggested.
Before them were lines of light, emanating from the ground. As the light came towards them, they were able to see that the lines were joined into a word. It was WILL. A few hundred meters later, they saw the word YOU. It was followed by MARRY, ME, ANDROMEDA, and finally, a question mark.
“How did you do this?” Andromeda asked. “Who can do this?”
“Typical Andromeda, answering a question with another question.”
“Never mind,” she said. “Yes. This was amazing. YES, I’ll marry you!”
They kissed. Then, still with her now fiancée’s lips pressed to hers, Saga said, “and now for the grand finale. I had to pay an arm and a leg for this. Look up.” She snapped her fingers.
“What am I seeing here?” Every star in the sky was brightening, shining all across the expanse, dimming only to make room for another.
“Every star that can be seen from this vantage point is going supernova. It’s basically what happens when a star dies. Loa is using all of her power to transmit thousands of moments in the future, throughout billions of years. It’s just for us, no one else can see this.”
“Yes,” Andromeda said.
“Yes, what?”
“Yes, I’ll marry you.”
“You’ve already said yes.”
Andromeda continued to watch the brilliant lightshow for a few beats. “Yes, again.”


As the wedding day approached, Saga and Andromeda were asked to meet with a woman named The Officiant. She operated at a level of law that goes beyond humanity, and real time. Any salmon or chooser they’ve ever met whose been married was married by her. That was her one and only job, she took it very seriously, and she never let anyone do it for her. Right now, she was sitting across her desk from them. They were in a Justice of the Peace-like office that could travel with her across time and space, and apparently didn’t quite exist in this dimension. She regarded them warmly. “Do you know who I am?”
“The Officiant.”
“Do you know what that means?”
“That you marry people.”
“What kind of people?”
“People with time powers.”
She nodded, but like she was still waiting for a better answer, or for the most dramatic time to learn them the truth herself. But, then she just seemed to move on. “How long have you two known each other?”
“Four years,” Andromeda answered.
“Four years?” the Officiant repeated. “You don’t think this is too quick?” Her tone was ambiguously judgmental.
“No,” Saga said plainly.
“Good. There’s no room for doubt here.”
“I understand you’ve been having trouble with the locals.”
“As far as my world has come in the last several years,” Andromeda began, “there is still a lot of prejudice.”
“Has nothing to do with your genders, right?”
“Oh, heavens no.” Andromeda shook her head. “That’s never been an issue here.”
“So, certain peoples are just upset about a Durusian marrying an Earthan.”
“Durune,” Saga corrected.
“Tell me about the, umm...” she flipped through her notes, “the Dawidux incident?”
“That was a long time ago.”
“You think two years is a long time?” the Officiant questioned.
“I guess time doesn’t really matter to people like us. For us, it was two years ago. For Leona or Serif, it would be two days. For you? Maybe a literal aeon.”
She smiled and nodded again. “From what I gather, the Dawidux people were just one group of many.”
“I wouldn’t say many,” Andromeda disagreed. “There are others, yes. But they’re mostly harmless.”
The Officiant shifted in her seat. “I’ve heard people say that about Earth, but I’ve never heard an Orolakian say it.”
Saga grinned. “This is true.”
“I don’t know what an Orolakian is,” Andromeda lamented.
“Seems like a big part of your life, Saga, that she should know about.”
“The aliens, sweetie,” Saga said to her fiancée. “Remember? We sort of...started a revolution. Vearden and I.”
“You still need to finish it,” the Officiant told her.
“What?” Saga asked.
“That story is not over,” she added.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about your marriage. Your relationship with each other is...a problem for time.”
“For time?” Andromeda asked. “Time itself?”
The Officiant nodded.
“Time can get fucked.”
“Saga,” Andromeda scolded her.
“What? I don’t care what the powers that be want from me! Ain’t nobody gonna stop me from marrying you.” She turned back to the Officiant and added, “including you.”
“I’m not here to stop you,” the Officiant said defensively. “I’m just here to chat.”
“That’s what detectives say to persons of interest,” Saga spit.
“Saga,” Andromeda scolded again. “Be nice.”
Saga regained her composure. “You’re right. I just don’t like being questioned. I put a lot of thought into my decision to marry this girl, and I know that she did as well. I’m not true salmon. I can resist the powers that be’s whims. Is that the right grammar?”
“You can postpone them, to be more accurate. Do not underestimate their power, or their...mercilessness. No,” she said before anyone else could speak. “Cruelty. That’s the word I’m looking for.”
“This is happening,” Saga said clearly. “You can either help us with it, or we can find a Durune officiant. Most people here are supportive, and not on a crusade against our bond.”
“I’ll do it,” said the Officiant, embarrassed for having failed in her mission to instill them with confidence in her. “But you do need to understand the risks. Leona and Mateo were authorized. You’re doing this without that authorization. Make no mistake, lots of salmon marry people the powers didn’t explicitly approve of, and they end up fine. I’m not saying this can’t work, but don’t you dare think you’re safe. The Atlantians make the Dawiduxians looks like a basket of puppies.”
Andromeda nodded soberly. “We recognize the danger,” she said after a respectful moment of silence.
“Who the hell is Mateo?”
“Let’s hammer out some of the details,” the Officiant said, moving on once more. “Have you chosen your chief attendants?”
The two concordants looked at each other. “Hokusai and Loa,” Saga said.
“Yeah, you know them?”
She laughed quietly to herself. “Time, right? Any honor attendants?”
“Camden and Morick,” Saga imagined.
“And my mother.”
“My mother is going to be part of the ceremony, Saga. Stop resisting.”
“Do you not like her?” the Officiant asked.
Saga mindlessly examined her fingernails. “She asked me to help her daughter with her time powers a few years back. She wasn’t expecting us to fall in love. She blames me for all the...issues we’ve had with the Durune. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a lovely woman, and she has no qualms with us being together. She’s not technically racist, but she’s one of those people—”
“Careful...” Andromeda warned.
Saga carried on, and repeated herself, “she’s one of those people who see racism in others, and think they’re helping by trying to get us to...avoid those situations.”
“She’s trying to protect us,” Andromeda reasoned.
“She’s victim-blaming,” Saga volleyed. “She wants us to change our behavior, when she damn well knows it’s everyone else who needs to change.”
“She just—” Andromeda didn’t want to have this fight again.
“She means well, and I know this, but I’m going to stand up for myself. You’re going to stand up for me too, and I would like—I feel I would like...her to do the same, instead of just saying we need to wait for others to wise up, and learn to do the right thing.”
Andromeda nodded, but didn’t say anything.
“You’re right, though, let’s not do this in front of company,” Saga acknowledged.
“No, this is important,” the Officiant said. “I can’t marry you if I don’t get to see what you’re going through.”
“You wanna see our baggage?” Saga chortled. How much time you got, doc?”
“Infinite,” she answered truthfully.
“That makes me think; they should make a time traveling therapist,” Saga noted, sort of off-topic.
“Yes.” The Officiant stood up and brushed the space dirt off the front of her pants. “Doctor Mallory Hammer. She’s very good, I’m sure you’ll meet her one day.” That didn’t sound so good. “Welp,” she continued, “looks like you two are ready to get married. I’ll be back next week for the ceremony.” She started handing them her business card, but then pulled it back. “Oh, wait, you don’t have phones here.”
“Uhhh...” Saga thought about it. “We do. Camden was carrying a sheetphone during the Deathspring. I’m sure it’s somewhere in our cottage. Battery would be dead, but we could find a way to charge it.”
“That’ll work,” the Officiant said. After handing the card over, she began to fade away, as did the rest of her office around them. They were left standing in the middle of the thicket.
“What is that?” Andromeda asked.
“Business card. Has her contact information on it.” Saga turned it over. “And a note. “Trust the ones in camouflage,” she read aloud.
“What does that mean?”
“It’s a warning from the future, for the future. I’ve seen these kinds of things before. The only decision we have to make is whether we trust the source.”
“I feel like we can trust her.”
“Then we’ll follow her instructions.”
That night, their cottage was attacked. A hate group dressed in black threw molotov cocktails through their windows, which Andromeda expertly sealed up with blast doors. Unfortunately, this was merely a distraction, for they were already inside the house. Camden, their most skilled fighter, was presently in the capital, consulting for a new law enforcement agency they were trying to get up and running. Andromeda tried to use her powers to build some structure that could help them, but one of the attackers knocked her out cold before she had the chance. Saga then tried to fight back the ol’ fashion way, but wasn’t strong enough. They must have knocked her out as well.
She woke up with her arms tied behind her back. Andromeda was already awake, tied up on the other side of the room.
“Finally,” the leader guy said. He removed his—what was that mask thing called, a baklava?—from his face, and grimaced.
They weren’t impressed.
“Do you not recognize me?”
“Should we?” Andromeda asked without fear.
“I’m the guy you dropped a tower on in Dawidux. Bet you didn’t think I survived, did you?
Of course, they did recognize him as the leader of the angry mob, but this guy survived on ego, and ego alone. They knew to not feed the trolls. “Honestly, I don’t remember you there,” Saga lied. “I remember that happening, but which one were you?”
This pissed him off immensely. “You stupid bitch.”
“Bite your tongue, assbutt!” Andromeda screamed, while clearly trying to use her powers against him.
“Not this time, sugartits,” he said to her. “This time your powers are being suppressed by an injection. You won’t be able to stop it with a knife this time.”
“What the hell do you want?” Saga asked derisively.
“I want a clean Durus. I hear you two are getting married,” he said with feigned excitement for their happiness together. Then he dropped the act. “We’re not okay with that.”
“Well, we would have asked you for permission, sir,” Andromeda said, besting him in the acting department by imitating a stereotypical obedient housewife, “but...who are you again?”
This man needed to find his center. His temper was getting worse. “I’m not going to try to show you the light this time.” He knelt down and wrapped his arms around Andromeda’s torso to cut her ropes apart. “You wanna be with your Earthan girl forever, then you got a deal.”
Now, this moment right here would have been a perfect opportunity to spit in his face, but Andromeda never did anything half-measure. On their upteenth date, she revealed to Saga that she had the ability to vomit on cue, which she decided to demonstrate again, this time for whatshistoes. Taking advantage of his absolute disgust, she snagged the knife from his hand, and totally jacked up his shoulder, then she prepared to fight her way through the other six men who had come into their home. Somehow, though, they had guns. A lot of them.
Firearms were incredibly rare on this planet. There were a healthy number of them in Springfield when it was sucked into the void, but few people around with the knowledge to make more. One of their terrible leaders was a man named Smith, who did have this knowledge, for he was a literal blacksmith. Overtime, however, production was able to cease, because he disappeared, or something, and had failed to pass his skills onto others. When a group of choosing ones started using their time powers to create mages, projectile weapons seemed too pedestrian to use, so they were locked up. They had been used on occasion since then, but not much. That these guys had them proved there was still at least one corrupt politician left in government.
“Sit back down!” one of the men with guns ordered. He then kicked the leader guy, who was now crying in pain, to his face. “Shut up, sir! I said sit down, you Earthanfu—”
He didn’t get to finish his derogatory term when a magical hole opened up in the ceiling. Above them they could see a hovering military helicopter. There were no helicopters on Durus. Soldiers wearing green camouflage dropped down on ropes and swiftly removed the terrorists from their respective waking states. The ceiling returned to its normal form. After the soldiers were finished, they turned toward the women. “We would love it if you could create a door for us. Our pilot would like to speak to you two. Please know you can trust us.”
“We know we can,” Saga said, disrespectfully removing the knife from the bigot’s shoulder, and wiping the blood off on his pants. “But she can’t make a door. Her powers have been suppressed.”
“Gadhavi?” she said to one of her soldiers.
Gadhavi stepped forward and held up a needle.
“Go ahead,” Andromeda consented.
He injected her with a serum that returned her powers to her, so she could recreate their front door. They walked out to find the helicopter on the ground. The terrorists who hadn’t made it into the cottage were all lying on the ground. The pilot was still finishing up a few things in his bird, but then he stepped out and removed his sunglasses.
Saga breathed a sigh of relief. “Sargent.”
“Nice to see you again, love.”
“How did you get here? Why?”
“We’re here to stop the New Crusades,” Adolphe Sargent, military strategist extraordinaire, said. “I also hear there’s gonna be a wedding?”


The New Crusades, as they were so unoriginally called, were a set of small attacks destined to culminate in a war between those with time powers, and those without. What began as animosity between Durus natives, and Earthans, soon warped into something completely different. Angry about the petty squabbling of the derisory humans, the paramounts—which was what choosing ones were called now on this planet—decided to take charge. Armed with so much more power than humans could do anything about, they started moving people around their proverbial chessboard. They took over the government, and started instituting their own rules. Humans from either world were treated as second class citizens. This had the completely foreseen effect of galvanizing the humans into forming a mutual union. Not only had the paramounts known this would happen, but were counting on it. They figured that the only way the Durune natives, and the Earthan refugees, would ever get along, would be if they had some kind of enemy to battle together.
Unfortunately, certain paramounts in their ranks started liking their power, and were on a path of taking things too far past the point of no return. Drawing upon the lessons left behind by the ancient source mages, they thought they could achieve peace, and also maintain their power. They had it all lined out. They had control of the child who could create new Watersheds, and wanted to use this resource as leverage over others, so everyone would depend on them. One of them was a verter, who could control the aging process of individuals, which would allow them to stay young forever, further cementing their undefeatable tyranny. What they didn’t have, however, was Andromeda. She was the only builder anyone had ever heard of on Durus. If they wanted to build a kingdom without using slaves or indentured servants, they would either need her on their side, or be able to force her to do their bidding. It was unclear whether they were going to succeed in this, though, because all of this had happened in an alternate reality.
A paramount who was not interested in a Durus under oligarchical rule, went back in time, and contacted Earth. The Overseer, which was the woman Saga and Vearden had worked under during Operation Second Wind, sent a salmon battalion to Durus to change the outcome. If the world needed a mutual enemy to unite the two sides, they would have it. The natives hated them for being part of yet another invasion. The refugees hated them for refusing to return them to Earth. There were a few hostile actions against the battalion, which had established a temporary military state in order to achieve their goals, but the soldiers never retaliated with violence, and not a single person was harmed beyond superficial wounds. One of the paramounts reported to have become hungry for power in the other timeline was showing signs of repeating alternate history, so Andromeda and Saga were asked to postpone their one year anniversary getaway to speak with him.
Enobarbus ‘Barbwire’ Agnelli had the power to invoke the spirits of dead people, whom only he could see. Theoretically, this could be used to provide closure for the spirit’s loved ones. Instead, he just used the knowledge he gained from these conversations to use against his opponents, real or imagined. “What are you two doing here?” He didn’t necessarily hate them, he treated everyone with about the same amount of scorn.
“We just wanna talk.”
“You’re working for the battalion, aren’t you?”
“In the spirit of honesty,” Saga began, “I will admit to having a prior relationship with a sergeant in the battalion. We are here with information regarding your future, which we procured from the battalion, but we are not working for them.” That was neither true, nor untrue. She was asked to help, but she had no obligation to do so, nor to report back to Adolphe.
“What happens in my future?” Barbwire asked.
“You tell us?” Andromeda suggested.
“That’s not my power,” he said.
“Well, what do you want your future to be?” Saga asked.
He took a second to think about this, like he was just interviewing for a job. “I want to be able to use my powers how I want. I don’t want to have to hide them, or use them for noble causes. I don’t want to be ridiculed, or categorized, or controlled.” He spoke only to Andromeda now. “You and I are powerful people. We’re better than the humans—”
“She’s one of us,” Andromeda suggested.
“Well, not really,” he contended.
It was true, for as many times as Saga could open a door to another time and place of her choosing, there was an equal number of times when she couldn’t, or opened a door against her wishes. It was interesting that he seemed to recognize this in her. Most assumed that her powers were just rather screwy while on Durus, but he appeared to know that she was not actually a paramount.
He continued, “If we’re better, don’t we have an obligation to help them?”
“I would sure think so,” Andromeda agreed. “But...isn’t that everyone’s responsibility. If you have the power to help someone, you should. Everyone should, temporal powers or no.”
“Okay, so...this is what I can do.”
“You can do what?” Saga pressed.
“I’m not talking to you,” he spat.
Andromeda stuck her finger in his face. “Hey! You won’t talk to my wife that way.”
He took a breath, and pretended to calm down. “I’m sorry. This is just something only you can understand. You’re paramount...full paramount, and you’re from Durus. We’ve spent a lot of time complaining about how things are now, but not much time actually trying to change it. People thought the republic was such a great idea, but look where that got us. Women were inferior, and couldn’t even go outside without a man’s permission.”
“That’s over now.” Andromeda shook her head.
“Maybe. Maybe you’ve cleaned out the whole government, but it’s still based on this socialistic pipe dream that, as long as everybody has a job to do, nothing will go wrong.”
“You don’t really know what you’re talking about,” Saga told him.
He was about to attack her again, but restrained himself, because it was counterproductive to his objective. “My point is that we’ve all forgotten what things were like before. Way before. When we first came here, Smith ruled over everybody. Through fear. Then he disappeared, and the source mages came to power. That was our renaissance. Yes, Miss Einarsson, we have books here too, I know what the renaissance is. The source mages used their powers to create an order, and the world flourished. We had day, and we had night. We had houses, in towns, with grass, and other life. We had food, and security. We had people protecting us against the monsters. Everyone thinks that, now that the literal monsters are all gone, we have nothing further to worry about. Well, I’m here to tell you that humans are fully capable of being the monsters. I’m scared, Andy—”
“Andromeda,” she corrected.
“Andromeda,” he said apologetically, “I’m scared. I don’t want to go back to the first republic, or to the Smithtatorship, or Earthan control. And everything I’m seeing here is leading me to believe that one of those three things is on its way. Which one would you rather have? If it’s up to me, I pick door number four. I pick us.”
“The beauty of a republic, Mr. Barbwire, is that no one rules. The people decide. The people vote. You want to take that away from them.”
“The people are stupid,” he said.
“You sound like Drumpf.”
“He made some good points,” Barbwire said with a shrug, unashamed of his opinion.
“What makes you qualified?” Saga questioned. “Sure, you have time powers, but so do a lot of people. That doesn’t automatically mean you know how to run a planet. That would be ridiculous. Powers aren’t given to people because of who they are. They’re not given at all, you’re born with them, which means for every smart chooser, there’s a dumb one. I’m looking at one right now.”
“Be nice,” Andromeda warned.
Barbwire wasn’t pleased about having to explain himself to an unworthy salmon, but he worked past it. “Are you sure about that? Do you know for a fact who gets powers, and why? Have you studied it?”
Thinking he would have no way of knowing whether she had or not, she leaned forward and lied, “I have, yes.”
He looked at the space above Saga’s head, and then scoffed playfully. “No, you haven’t. You’re just a slave.”
Saga looked behind her, but saw no one.
“You fell into this life, completely unprepared,” he recited. “You did the best you could, but if these powers that be,” he spoke with airquotes, “wanted you to do something, you had to do it. Sure, you gained real power at some point, and even when you lost it, you kept an echo of it. But you’re still. Just. A. Slave.”
He was presumably referring to the time she absorbed The Cleaner’s power, and ultimately used it against him, which left her with residual powers that allowed her to transcend her station marginally. But how would he know that about her? Saga decided to test him. “That’s true, and that led to my downfall. I was literally taken out of time, like I never existed. But then my friend, Vearden brought me back, and we continued our job together. I remember this one time,” she said, faking nostalgia, “when the powers that be asked us to help a budding agricultural society learn how to irrigate their crops. We weren’t supposed to use any modern inventions, but I snuck some hose from the future, just to get them starte—”
“That never happened,” he yelled, still focused on something behind Saga. “You just made that up.”
“I knew it,” Saga said, standing up, and looking around aimlessly. “Vearden, are you there?”
Barbwire knew he’d been caught. “He can hear you, but he can’t help you.” He was using his power to speak with a past version of Vearden, which Saga should have expected, or at least caught onto earlier.
“He shouldn’t be helping you either. He would never betray me.”
“Fear not. He has to answer all of my psychic questions. That’s how my power works.”
She could imagine Vearden standing right next to her, invisible and silent, but desperately trying to communicate with her, and stop this madness.
“Enobarbus,” Andromeda scolded, “stop this right now!”
“Yeah, sure, whatever.”
“Wait,” Saga stopped him, much to his delight. “Is there any way for me to speak with him.
“Like I said, he can hear you.”
“But I can’t hear him.”
“I’m powerful, not a god,” Barbwire forced himself to acknowledge.
Saga walked over towards the door.
“What are you doing?” Barbwire asked.
She reached for the doorknob. “You shouldn’t have brought him here. If ever this door was gonna work, it would be right now.” She opened the door, revealing a gigantic hall, which did not exist in realspace. She stuck her head in a little. “Vearden! Oh, Vearden!”
“Hello?” came the voice of a woman from inside. A woman Saga didn’t recognize appeared from the other side of the hall.
“I’m looking for Vearden?” Saga requested.
“How did you open that door?” the woman asked as she drew closer.
“What the hell is this?” Barbwire demanded to know.
“This,” Saga said to him with a smile. “Is The Crossover. This reality’s Vearden lives here.” She presented her hand to the woman. “I’m afraid, we’ve not yet met.”
“In my universe, we hug when we first meet people,” she replied, arms wide.
Saga accepted the hug.
“My name is Mindy Novak. Vearden is indisposed at the moment. He is...nearing the end of his tenure here, so he’s preparing for his exit interview.”
“Oh,” Saga said sadly. “Are you replacing him?”
“A new primary operator has not been chosen yet.”
“I was hoping he could...help me with this...problem,” she said to Mindy, referring to Barbwire, who was scared shitless.
Mindy took a look at him. “You’re Saga Einarsson? Vearden’s old friend?”
“I am.”
She took a device out of her pocket that resembled a tricorder, and pointed it at Barbwire, who was too stunned to move. “He’s not that relevant to this universe, I can take him off your hands.”
“Could you really?” Saga was surprised. She was really just hoping this Vearden could stop Barbwire from exploiting Ghost!Vearden.
“Some people can’t change, and just need to be removed from the equation. This may sound like murder is the only option, but all you really need is a different equation. I have a nice new home for him in mind.” She took him away, and it was over.

Doctor Who

It was November of 2168. The salmon battalion was gone, back to some point in history on Earth, to fight in some other war. That was evidently all they did. Saga hoped they had some good mental health care. It was one thing to be a soldier, it was entirely different to alter one’s allegiances every time one is dropped into a new conflict. Did they have any role in the decisions, did they sometimes have to fight against those they once fought alongside? Did they receive any compensation?
Durus was doing exceptionally well since the battalion left. The government was strong, working under the guidance of a sensible Constitution, one written with the future in mind. The people were learning to start working for themselves, and with each other. Unemployment was coasting at a healthy low rate, and sponsored programs were supporting those in transitional periods. They still lived in separate cities, but none was isolated. They maintained relations with each other, sharing knowledge and resources, and operating under the global banner. It was kind of the first time that Saga and Andromeda felt like they could take a breath, and really focus on their private lives. No one was asking the latter to build them anything, because they realized that, though this would be easier, if they utilized human labor on a construction crew, they could pay those people, and support the economy. Paramounts were still around, and using their time powers when warranted, but the entire system didn’t rely on them. That was what the Mage Protectorate was lacking; self-sufficiency, and they knew they couldn’t make that mistake again.
For the last several months, the two of them had been discussing having children. Years ago, they couldn’t imagine bringing a child into this world, but now that things were going so well, it didn’t sound like such a bad idea. They were now fully ready for the commitment—excited for it, even. The only problem was that they were both women, and conceiving a child together would be a little complicated, especially since Durus was still an underdeveloped state. At the moment, Camden Voss was visiting from his new city of Jaydecott, to discuss their options.
“Why me?” he asked.
“You’re one of the few people here that we trust,” Andromeda replied.
“Don’t you think that makes it a little awkward?” he questioned.
“A little, yes,” Saga agreed, which is why we’ve decided that the child would be born of Andromeda. I imagine being with her would make it a little less awkward.”
“For who?”
Whom,” Saga corrected.
Camden blinked, and repeated, “for who?”
“Everybody,” Andromeda put forth.
“I don’t know about that. Have you tried contacting a prostitute? They’re very professional, and the industry is heavily regulated. You can trust them, even though you won’t know the donor very well.”
“We want it to be you,” Andromeda said honestly.
He took a breath for the first time since sitting down with them. “I don’t know how I feel about fathering a child to whom I’m not allowed to be a father.”
Saga shook her head at that. “We wouldn’t cut you out of our lives. You would be a part of this. No, you wouldn’t be his or her father—maybe more like an uncle—but we would want your input. They would grow up knowing you, and loving you.”
He shook his own head, but out of hesitation, not complete opposition.
“If we were on Earth,” Saga continued, “we would go to a doctor for artificial insemination, but we would still ask you to donate the sperm.”
“If we were on Earth, in present day, you wouldn’t need sperm. You could have a two-parent child using your respective DNA samples.”
“Earth in 2002, then.”
He sat in thought for a moment, then a lightbulb clicked in his head. “You can have a doctor.”
“No one here can do anything like that. I mean, they might be able to, but like we were saying, it all comes down to trust.”
“No, I know of a real doctor. In 1997, I was on a mission in Tennessee when I was suddenly transported to the future, in a different person’s body. As it turns out, a choosing one was sending her consciousness back in time, into other people’s bodies, to complete her own missions.”
“She was a doctor?” Saga asked.
“No, but there was a doctor there. It was her job to help the people whose lives had been temporarily taken over not totally freak out. Of course, as a salmon myself, I didn’t need anyone to calm me down, but I benefited from some therapy, just the same. She was a brilliant psychiatrist. She’s like the choosing one version of Baxter Sarka.”
“And she can help us?” Andromeda asked. “I assume she’s on Earth.”
“She travels all over,” Camden explained.
“You can call her with your sheetphone?” Saga hoped.
“Well, I can page her. She is a doctor, afterall.” Camden’s phone had only been used once here, to contact The Officiant, yet he still carried it with him wherever he went. He took it out and dialed. Then they waited. “Could take a few decades,” he said after a beat. “She’s not going to get it for another negative a hundred and forty years.”
“What?” Andromeda squealed.
“I’m kidding.” His phone rang. “See?” He lifted the phone and pointed it away from them, like a remote control. Once he pressed Accept, a light appeared from the phone, and corporalized a body in the middle of the room.
“Mister Voss,” she said. “Nice to see you again...for the very first time.”
“Same to you. How are you, and Quivira, and the rest of the team?”
“Well, thank you,” the doctor replied.
Saga stood up and shook her hand. “Saga Einarsson. This is my wife, Andromeda.”
“Pleasure to meet you two. I’m Dr. Mallory Hammer.”
“We’ve heard of you,” Andromeda realized. “The Officiant mentioned you before our wedding.”
“Ah, yes,” Hammer said. “Couples often need a consult before they commit to marriage.”
“Do you have any idea why we’ve asked you here?” Saga asked. She wasn’t sure, because sometimes time travelers knew everything about the outcome of events before they arrived. Knowing who knows how much, and when, can make communication a little difficult, which was why you kind of had to keep a laid-back attitude towards what would normally be treated as dumb questions.
She shifted her gaze between the three of them. “If I could hazard a guess, you two are looking to spice up your relationship?”
“No?” she asked rhetorically. “Then my second guess would be that you’re trying to have a child, and you would like me to perform the procedure.” That was likely her first guess, and the other was just her attempt at humor.
“That’s the one,” Camden said.
“I am from the twenty-twenties. Under these conditions, I will need sperm. I don’t know if you were expecting same-sex conception, or...”
“Camden is meant to be involved,” Saga said, then she turned towards him. “That is, if you’ve agreed.”
He took a reverent pause. “I would be honored.”
“Sounds great,” Hammer said. “Do both parents want to be related to the child? Camden is obviously the sperm donor. One of you can supply the egg, and the other the uterus. Or the bearer can provide the egg as well.”
The others hadn’t thought about it yet, but Saga had. She wanted the child to be part of her, but she would not be able to carry it. She requested to speak with the doctor in private. “I can’t carry a child.”
She nodded understandingly. “Okay.”
“I’m much older than I look. I’ve been thrown throughout time, and de-aged, and torn out of reality. I was considering raising a child when I was stranded on Earth a few years back, and learned then of my infertility. My eggs, on the other hand, should still be fine.”
She nodded more. “Yes, the de-aging process has been known to produce a sort of...resupply of eggs. However, it can also cause spontaneous endometrial thinning. I wrote my thesis on the effects that time travel can have on reproductive organs.”
“Wrote your thesis where? What school would understand what you’re talking about?”
“It doesn’t matter.” She set the conversation back on track, “does your wife know?”
“She does. We told Camden it would be less awkward for him to impregnate her, rather than me, but really, she’s our only option. But if I can provide the egg, I would love to.”
She nodded a third time. “That can be done. Easy.”
“Thank you.”
They went back to the other two. “All right, we’ve set initial plans.” She looked at the time on her pager. “I’m going to be back in two days.”
“If you still want to do it in two days,” she said, “you still want to do it. Never make a major change on the same day you decide to do it. It’s like going to the grocery store hungry. You’ll buy the wrong things. Let this sink in. In two days, we’ll iron out the details. Two days later, we’ll go over the details again. After another two days, assuming everyone understands the ramifications of what we’re doing here, we’ll begin the actual procedure.”
They didn’t say anything. They just had to concede to her expertise.
“I’ll need a sterile environment anyway, so if you could put me in touch with the hospital, or clinic, or whatever you have here, I’ll get going on my own process. Is everyone okay with how we’re proceeding?”
“I am,” Saga agreed.
“I’m going to need a verbal agreement from all of you.”
“I am.”
“I’m in.”
Hammer smiled. “Get used to making your intentions abundantly clear. I do nothing without consent.”
On November 22, 2168—one day after the report came out of Camden’s sister’s death—they made a baby.

One Who Dies

Since Camden was unable to attend his sister’s funeral, he and his closest friends held a small memorial service on Durus. Saga and Camden spoke in honor of her, believing themselves to be the only two people on the planet who actually knew her. One elderly woman, however, stood before the crowd, and revealed that Xearea had saved her life when she was but a little girl. That was the beauty of the Savior, that her legacy would never die, for how much she had done for the world. Few can say they touched so many people’s lives in their short lifespan. Xearea lived longer than most Saviors, according to salmon history, which provided some level of solace. But it did little to outweigh how little time the two siblings were ultimately able to spend together. Like their predecessors, Mario and Daria Matic, Camden and Xearea Voss were destined to live their lives separately.
Only a few months into the pregnancy, Andromeda was not feeling well. She was sweaty, and running a fever, so they decided they needed to go see a doctor. They thought about contacting Dr. Hammer, but they probably needed to reserve those calls for emergencies. It was probably just the flu, and a Durune medical professional could help with that. The world was using advanced electrical machinery on a global scale by now. This was a blending of technology and paramount powers. Instead of using telephone lines and radio signals, researchers were developing a metadimensional network to connect people using adapted time powers. They were still working out the logistics of supplying people with reliable interface apparatus. Though medicine was far beyond the singularity on Earth by now, Durune health now rivaled that of what Saga grew up being familiar with.
Dr. Pereira came back into the room after being gone for as long as doctors are usually gone for, likely having been drinking coffee in the breakroom. She had a concerned and sympathetic face on her face. She sat down behind her desk and slide over some papers, so she could rest her arms.
“We’re waiting,” Saga said.
Andromeda breathed heavily next to her, mouth covered by a barrier mask. “Remember your anger management classes.”
Saga never went to any real classes. Andromeda just scheduled time for them to talk with each other, and sometimes a few friends, once a week.
“I’m sorry,” Pereira said. “You are suffering from a viral attack that we’ve not seen before.”
“What about the Earthan database?”
“I do have limited access to that,” Pereira explained. “But I’ve not been able to find anything with its structure. Not that it would help. The virus originates from Durus, so Earth has never seen it.”
“You can’t be sure of that,” Saga said. The Deathspring caused a lot of cross-contamination, not just with people and animals.”
She shook her head slightly, and spoke in that calm but mildly condescending tone. “There’s been no proof of that. There’s a lot about this world we still don’t know. During the Mage Protectorate times, they would have simply teleported the disease out of her body. They never studied infection, so we don’t have a lot of records.”
“Then...why don’t you teleport it out?” Saga suggested. “Surely there’s a paramount here somewhere that can do that.”
Pereira blinked, but didn’t answer.
“Tell me there’s someone who can do that.”
“I’ve not been granted access to the paramount directory. We definitely don’t have anyone like that on staff.”
“Well, find someone who does have access.”
This would be another time for Andromeda to scold her for how rude she was being, but Saga could tell that she was scared for her life, and had no time for niceties either.
“It doesn’t work like that. I can’t just ask someone to access it for me. That would defeat the whole purpose of it being regulated and confidential.”
“Then defeat it,” Saga argued.
Pereira took out her notepad, and scribbled on it. “This is my contact in the paramount branch of government. You can request temporary access yourself. I obviously can’t make any promises about success, though.”
“This is a medical emergency, Doctor. She’s pregnant.”
“We can treat the symptoms,” Pereira said. “And I have people researching it conventionally, but there is no cure.”
“Does it have anything to do with the baby?” Saga asked.
She sighed and leaned back, but kept her back straight. “Baby is actually healthier than mom. It would seem that it’s...safeguarded against infection. If you’re asking whether the pregnancy itself is what’s causing Andromeda’s issues, that’s impossible.”
“I want her under close observation.”
“We can do that,” Pereira nodded.
“Hospital bed, 24-hour care, whatever she wants to eat. Everything. She literally built this world. Hell...” Saga looked around, “I’m pretty sure she even built this hospital.”
Pereira shook her head so Saga wouldn’t have to keep going. “She’ll receive the best care possible. We’re gonna do everything we can. You should go.”
Saga tried to stand up, but Andromeda reached over and took her hand, frightened.
“I have to go to the government. There must be a paramount out there who can help you, and if I can’t find one, I’ll find someone who can find someone living at some other point in time, or in some other world, or even in some other universe. We’re going to fix this if I have to speak with The Emissary myself, and seek help from the powers that be.”
Saga contacted Camden as she was leaving the building, who activated his teleporter magnet, and jumped to her location immediately. “Morick works there now,” he said.
“He does?”
“Yeah, pretty low level, but he def has access to the directory.”
Though they were still on friendly terms with Morick, they didn’t talk all that often, and neither of them had his telemagnet code. So they had to find the nearest transportation pad in the city, and travel all the way to the capital. The paramount branch capitol was the most magnificent structure in the world. Its frame was built manually by human labor. Even if they thought they could have convinced Andromeda to build it for them, they wouldn’t have asked. They wanted it to be part of their history that they constructed it like people did way back in the old days on Earth. But of course, they didn’t want to be stuck with this plain facade with only one form. Like the background on a computer desktop, the capitol alters its own shape periodically, and randomly. It could look like Burj Khalifa, or Willis Tower, or Gherkin. At the moment, though, it resembled the One World Trade Center. It really didn’t matter what it looked like on the outside, for most floors were actually just in different pocket dimensions. Few people operated there in only three dimensions. Saga wasn’t sure why they bothered with a building at all.
They entered through the lobby, presented their credentials, and took the Instalift to the seventeenth pocket dimension, where Camden believed Morick was working. He greeted them at the entrance, having been alerted to their future arrival by a seer. “How can I help you?” he asked of them.
“We need the paramount directory,” Camden requested.
“You’ll need to file a formal request. They’ll monitor your activity, but it shouldn’t take long for them to approve your application.”
“How long is not long?”
“Three days,” Morick replied. “It doesn’t actually take that long to process the form. It’s a waiting period, to prevent exploitation. That’s the minimum, for people with your clout. Other people wait weeks.”
“We don’t have three days,” Saga said.
“Then you don’t have access.”
“Morick, please. Andromeda is sick.”
“Go to the doctor.”
“We did. She sent us here. To see this man.” Saga handed him Pereira’s note.
He kind of laughed at it. “This guy can expedite your application. For a favor.”
“What kind of favor?”
“The kind you don’t want to give. And it’ll still take at least one day.”
“Well, what kind of favor do you need?”
“The kind that you can’t give.”
“Try us,” Camden said.
“It wouldn’t be you,” Morick said. I don’t need to go as far back as 2069.”
“You want to time travel?” Camden asked.
“He wants to go home,” Saga understood.
“I’m done here, but the government won’t approve my time travel application. I was hoping working here would give me an edge, but I still keep hitting walls.”
“You want me to open a door?” Saga asked, but it wasn’t really a question.
“I believe that my time wants me back,” Morick claimed. “That’s when your powers work. They answer to the timestream, not the government.”
“I can’t give you something I don’t have,” Saga said to him. “I’ll be glad to send you anywhen you want to go, but that’s out of my control. You know that.”
“Just try,” Morick pleaded.
“You won’t help if we don’t help you?” Camden criticized. “Andromeda’s your friend too.”
“I want to help her,” Morick said truthfully. “This is not me having leverage over you. But if I don’t get out of here, I’ll be in big trouble for helping you with this. The door isn’t payment...it’s part of the plan.”
“Cross your fingers,” Saga said. She walked over to the nearest door and opened it. It seemed to have worked, but without crossing over, there was no real way of finding out whether this was the right moment in time. She told him as much.
“Anywhen is better than now,” Morick said, walking towards the doorway. He took a datadrive out of his pocket, and handed it to her as he was leaving.
As soon as she closed the door, she received an emergency alert for Andromeda’s telemagnet code. She took Camden by the shoulder and let them both be drawn back to Andromeda’s location. She was lying on a hospital bed, shaking and bleeding. Blood was seeping out of her pores like sweat.
“What the hell is this?” Saga cried.
“Hematohidrosis,” Pereira answered while she was trying to save Andromeda’s life. “New symptom of the virus.”
“Then fix it!” she continued to scream.
“I don’t think that I can. I might be able to save the child, but we would have to take it out now.”
“It’s been, like, sixteen weeks!”
Pereira stopped for a second. “I know. It’s not likely to survive either, even after a caesarean. If we don’t try, we lose them both.”
“Camden, you need to—” She was going to ask him to interface with the datadrive, but he was gone. She didn’t have time to look for him, though, because then she heard that dreadful constant beep. Andromeda had flatlined. “Bring her back,” Saga ordered.
“I can’t, she’s gone. The baby won’t live much longer.”
“Bring! Her! Back!”
Pereira reluctantly tried to resuscitate her, but it was obviously not doing any good.
Camden returned with something Saga didn’t recognize, and asked the doctor to stop. “Install this.”
She looked at him like he was crazy. “I can’t do that.”
“Yes, you can.”
“What is it?” Saga asked.
“It would be unethical. You can’t just jam this into your skull and expect it to start working.” Pereira was having none of it.
Saga pushed the doctor against some equipment. “I don’t know what that thing is, but if you don’t do exactly what he says, I’m going to murder you. I have done it before.”
Scared for her life, Pereira asked Camden to get on the table face down. Then she drilled a hole into the back of his head, and inserted the object he had returned with. Saga just stood there, stunned. “You’re supposed to have a week to acclimate. We don’t know where this technology comes from.”
“What technology?” Saga asked, still unable to move.
Camden took the datadrive out of his pocket, and placed it into the device that was now theoretically attached to his brain. “I don’t have that kind of time.”
His body jolted, and he snapped his eyes shut. After a few beats, he reached his arm towards Saga, but kept his eyes closed. “Telemagnet code Umbrella-Racecar-Husband-one-zero-eight,” he said at first. After another beat, he continued, but it looked like he was in some pain. “Resistance override authorization Temple-Algae-Volunteer-two-one-six.”
Saga hastily input the code, and forced a woman about Andromeda’s age to teleport to their location. Normally, they would request an appearance, but the override—which was very illegal to have—took care of that for them.
“I was told this day would come. What year is this?”
“Do what you do,” Camden ordered her.
“What does she do?” Pereira asked.
“My baby is dying. Do what you do,” Camden begged.
The woman placed her fingers on the stomach of Andromeda’s dead body. A reddish-orange light emanated from the womb. She then removed one hand, and pointed it towards the middle of the room. The same light began to form and grow. As it did, a figure inside of it also began to take shape. In only a few minutes, they could see that it was a fetus. It stayed floating above the floor, this suspended gestational bubble. Pereira pointed some instrument at it. “It’s alive. The baby is alive, kept in this...magic womb.”
The woman activated her teleporter to return home. Camden gasped for air, then fell down. And Andromeda. She was still dead.

One Who Lives

After the death of her wife, Andromeda, Saga felt a void in her life. The only way she could keep it from swallowing her up was to hide her daughter and herself away from everyone. Her baby was kept in the magical floating womb for the next several months, until birthing from it into a tub of water that Saga had the instinct to place underneath. On August 15, 2169, little Étude came in at six pounds and nine ounces. She looked a lot like her mother, despite sharing no genetic code with her. She looked a lot like Camden too, but almost nothing like Saga. Maybe this was just all in her imagination.
Speaking of Camden, the ordeal had left him in a coma. That device he forced Pereira to install on him was designed to interface with computing technology. That was really all they knew about it, except that it was likely from the future, having either been left here by a time traveler, or fallen into a spacetime anomaly. Upon inserting the memory stick Morick had given them into it, Camden downloaded all the information contained therein, of which there was quite a bit. It was a database of all residents on Durus; past, present, and future. The download itself might have left him fairly healthy, but in an attempt to save Andromeda’s life, he expedited the process by the scanning the information all at once. This allowed him to extract that woman from the future, who had the ability to create the artificial womb...somehow, but at the price of his consciousness. The doctors weren’t sure whether he would ever wake up, or if it would eventually kill him. For now at least, machines were keeping him alive, and Saga knew there was nothing more she could do for him.
She gathered minimal belongs, along with her daughter, and left town. Over the years, Saga and Andromeda had gathered a number of friends, who might have been best described as fans, or even followers. People expressed varying levels of gratitude for Andromeda’s service to them; native Durune, and Earthan refugees alike. Camden’s experience as a secret agent had caused him to encourage them to keep track of these people. When he was working for IAC, he and his partners kept a mental note of everyone they had met, all over the world. And since they trusted each other implicitly, they shared this information with each other. One time, Camden found himself alone and badly hurt in Kamchatka Oblast, Russia. He only needed to make his way to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, where he found an old and minor coal miner contact of his partner, Yadira’s. This man didn’t know Yadira well, and didn’t know Camden at all, but just hearing her name was enough for him to agree to provide Camden sanctuary. Without it, Camden might have died. He instead got himself patched up, and made his way home in a few days.
The moral of this story is that you never know who might help you...who you meet will be vital to your future. This is why it’s always important to garner respect from people around you. They don’t necessarily need to like you, but when you’re bloodied and starving in the middle of a foreign country, their memory of you needs to inspire them to help. This was how Saga was able to disappear from her old life, and escape to a new one. She knew that a baby born from a gestational bubble outside of her mother’s body would be coveted by others. Perhaps if she kept Étude away from prying eyes, she would also be keeping her out of the database Camden used. Fortunately, she remembered someone who could help. Annora Ubiña had the power to create psychically impenetrable pocket dimensions. These could not be very large, but they were free from pollution, had an endless supply of metawater, with each molecule originating from a different source, and a food invocator powered by temporal energy. Most importantly, there they were safe from anyone looking for them, using any means, for any reason. At least theoretically.
There was no telling how old Saga Einarsson was. She had spent decades in the past, and was then reverted to a younger age. Even beyond that, time travel being what it was, true duration spent was hard to pin down. During her travels, she met a number of people, some of whom possessed time powers. One such was Sanela Matic, who was Darko’s grandmother. She could travel anywhere in time, but only as an intangible observer. If she wanted to interact with the world at a different place and time, she needed some other traveler. Saga and Vearden opened a door for her once as a quick little favor. They didn’t get to know each other very well, but for some reason, Saga could sense when she was around, and using her power. It was just some kind of temporal fluke. Today, she was watching Étude in her crib, when she started experiencing that rare, but familiar, feeling.
“I can feel you there,” Saga said. She still couldn’t see anything, and it might not have even been Sanela at all, but it had to be something. “Sanela, are you around here somewhere?” She decided she wasn’t going to freak out, and just hope for the best. She tilted her head, because she could almost make out language. Yeah, two people were talking, but it was extremely muffled and quiet. Perhaps they were concerned with her, and what she was going to do without Andromeda. This was unwarranted. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to kill myself. Étude means far too much for me to do that. I’m all she has, so you can go.”
The feeling disappeared as Sanela apparently left. But then someone knocked on the door, which was unusual, because Annora usually just opened it unannounced when checking in on them. Saga opened it to find nothing on the other side but an endless grayish void. Out of it came Sanela.
“I thought it was you,” Saga said. “Come on in.”
“You called?” Sanela asked.
“I did not. What do you mean?”
She gasped. “Who is this precious person?”
“My daughter, Étude. What do you mean, I called?”
“She’s adorable.” She stared for a little while. “Oh, umm...I put a tag on your voice. I’ll come whenever you need me.”
“I didn’t say your name until you were already here.”
“I just got here. You opened the door for me.”
“No, you were standing over me, watching. I could tell.”
“That was not me,” Sanela said, sure of herself.
“Well...maybe it was a future version of you.”
She shook her head. “No. It wasn’t. That was someone else, Saga, watching from another dimension.”
“This is another dimension. They don’t really...mix well.”
“Well, I promise that it wasn’t me. I came because I felt you needed help.”
“I guess that’s true. My host is great, but we’re not that close. She knows what happened to us, but I can’t really talk with her about it.”
“What happened to you?”
“I met a woman. Andromeda.”
Oh, it was such a relief to unload all of her trauma, and have someone she trusted listen to her. It was no surprise that Sanela was such a good listener. After all, her whole situation was watching other people like they were characters in movies. She probably didn’t spend a whole lot of time speaking, but no doubt had an unrivaled understanding of the human experience. When Saga was nearing the end of the story, Étude started belting out her hunger cry, so Saga had to start nursing.
“I thought she wasn’t yours? I mean, I thought you were the egg donor, not the carrier.”
“I was, but I started lactating as soon as she was born.”
“Yeah, I guess I’ve heard of that. She needed you, so you provided.”
There was another knock on the door.
“Tell me that’s a past or future version of you.”
“Like I said,” Sanela reminded, “I would know. That’s not me either. I’ll open it for you, though.”
When she did, she saw Annora standing there, but she wasn’t alone. Dar’cy Matigaris was holding her arms uncomfortably behind her back, like she was a prisoner. Behind her was Hokusai and Loa, along with Missy, Paige, Serif, and Leona.
“Unhand her right now!” Saga ordered, Étude still oblivious, and happily attached to her breast.
Dar’cy did as she was told. “That’s fine. We don’t need her anymore. Do you have any idea how long we’ve been looking for you?”
“It’s time to go back to Earth.”

The Next Generation

At the end of the day, Leona and Serif disappeared from the timeline, and would return in one year’s time. Until then, the rest of her friends were going to spend every one of their waking minutes trying to convince Saga to return to Earth with them. Apparently they had been on a mission for the last several years, by orders of the powers that be, to retrieve Étude, who was purportedly the new and last Savior. A Savior was a special kind of salmon who teleported around the planet, helping people, generally by literally saving their lives. Saga had been through too much in her life to question the veracity of their claims, or the fact that Étude was physically incapable of being sent back to the homeworld through more instantaneous means. Still, when she left Earth all those years ago, it was doing okay on its own. A lot of the dangers that plagued earlier generations were no longer an issue. All forms of transportation were completely automated, and safer. Drones and surveillance were so universally ubiquitous, murder was laughable, at best. There were just too many ways to get caught that it was rarely worth it. Terrorists still existed, of course, but with all the safeguards, it was not usually logical to target human lives. Instead, they usually just destroyed infrastructure to make their points, which continued to go unheard.
The point was that surely this generation of Earthans didn’t need a Savior if the next generation wouldn’t. If Étude was destined to be the last anyway, then why couldn’t they just skip it? Camden’s sister, Xearea did a lot of good while she was in the position, but she will have been dead for years by the time Étude came of age anyway, so it wasn’t like there always had to be one.
“Unfortunately,” Paige began, “that doesn’t matter.” She was the captain of the small ship that brought them all here, and had seemingly been hardened from decades of immortality, and years of leadership.
They were sitting at Camden’s bedside, which was where Saga spent a great deal of her time. Now that the secret was out, and Étude was no longer safe from the world, she might as well honor her commitment to her partner. “Why?”
“The powers that be want your daughter, and they’ll have her,” she explained. “We encountered a trailing ship on our way here. Which means there could be a third ship, full of people who are not so nice. An entire fleet could be on their way to make sure you do what you’re told.”
“Plus,” Dar’cy said, “there’s no way to contact the powers, even if we thought we would be in a position to negotiate.”
“There’s a way,” Camden eked out.
“Cammy! You’re awake!” Saga carefully handed her daughter, who was still her usual patient and quiet self, to the ship’s pilot, Brooke’s arms. She placed her hands on Camden’s shoulders, and massaged them with her thumbs. “You’re finally awake.”
“How long has it been?”
“Two and a half years,” Saga answered him. “Did it feel like yesterday?”
He laughed and struggled to sit up a little. “Absolutely not. It was slower. Feels like centuries.”
Paige nodded. “Your brain would have been operating closer to computational speeds. Our programming prevents that from being an issue, but you’re new to transhumanism.”
“It’s like I could see the code behind the data I downloaded into my brain,” Camden described. “They were layers of blankets piled on top of me that I couldn’t get off.”
“Missy took those away two months ago,” Brooke explained, “so we could find Saga.”
“I remember that.” He nodded. “I still couldn’t wake up. I could hear you all, though. I’ve been here this whole time.”
“And you know how to contact the powers that be?” Paige pressed.
“We can worry about that later,” Saga said. “You should speak with a doctor first.”
He sat up some more. “I’m fine. Have you ever woken up after sleeping in all day, but it doesn’t feel like a waste of time, and it’s like you were making up for all the stress of the week? I feel great.”
“Your muscles have still atrophied,” Saga warned, calling upon her years of experience as a nurse.
“That’s true, but my brain is on point. Yes, I know how to reach the powers that be. Have you ever heard of The Emissary?”
“Yeah, he’s a bridge from the powers to the choosers,” Saga remembered.
“If you want to get your daughter excused from her duties, he’s the guy you talk to.”
“She’s your daughter too,” Saga realized. She took Étude back from Brooke, and handed her over to Camden. “I’m gonna need a lot of help from you...now that Andromeda’s gone.”
“Hi,” he said in his best impression of a bubbly voice. “I’m Camden.”
Étude just looked at him and smiled.
“She’s still not talking, huh?” he asked, having heard Saga discuss it with the others sometime in the last couple months.
Saga shook her head solemnly.
“And she’s not deaf?”
Saga shook her head again, and almost thought maybe Étude was shaking her own in agreement. “She’s physiologically totally fine,” Saga said. “She just...doesn’t talk.”
Étude acted like she knew her parents were talking about her, and even understood what they were saying, but was unmoved by it. She always had this, almost unsettling, old soul demeanor, like the reincarnation of someone who had lived many lives.
They sat in respectful silence for a while, then Saga looked around. “Obviously you all want to continue with this conversation about the Emissary. I know you’re all dying to get back home. What I want you to understand is that I am home. Everything here reminds me of her, because she had a hand in building everything, if not the only hand. I don’t wanna lose that. And I want Étude to see what her mother did, what she created. If I let you take her away, she’ll never see this world. She needs to see all of it, to grow up here, to live in a house that Andromeda made for her. She didn’t think I knew, but she constructed a place just for us in secret, deep in the high thickets. It was meant to be our home. I’ve not been able to go there yet, but Étude deserves to live there. Camden, how do we contact him?”
“We’re gonna need her.” He pointed to Dar’cy, who was one of only two choosing ones in this world.
“I mean...” Dar’cy stammered. “He contacted me specifically about this mission, but that doesn’t mean I know how to get ahold of him.”
“Have you ever meditated?” Camden asked.
Dar’cy burst out laughing, then stopped herself in embarrassment. “Sorry, it’s just, if you met my mother, you would know how funny that question is. Yes. Yes, I meditate every day.”
Camden smiled. “That’s great. It takes years to learn how to communicate with the Emissary, but if you’re as experienced as you sound, it should go pretty quick.”
“That’s all you do?” Dar’cy asked.
“It can’t be that easy,” Paige argued.
“Most choosers who have a way to contact them make it easy, because why would it be difficult? His method is the hardest, because he doesn’t want a bunch of salmon running around asking him to get them off their pattern. Like I said, though, Darcy shouldn’t have a problem.”
“It’s Dar’cy,” Brooke aggressively corrected.
“It’s fine,” Dar’cy said. “Do I seem like the kind of person who gets bothered by that?” She switched gears back to the conversation. “Tell me how the meditation works,” she requested of Camden.
“It’s best done by a large body of water.”
“That is not going to happen.” Dar’cy’s lakeside meditation worked. In only a few days, the Emissary had arrived to ask them what they wanted. He was not being particularly accommodating, or understanding, though.
“You mean the powers that be won’t agree to that, or you won’t talk with them about it?” Saga asked to clarify.
“Both,” the Emissary replied bluntly.
“Why not?”
“I think you misunderstand my purpose. I’m not a diplomat. It’s not by job to nurture relations between powers and choosers. I am here on their behalf. I only do anything on their behalf. I don’t come to them with requests, or news, or help. I just tell choosing ones what the powers that be want them to know, much in the same way The Delegator does with salmon. This is the one thing that everyone has trouble figuring out. Regardless of what power you have—what you can do with time, or how many people you can control—they control everything. And everyone. Your needs are completely irrelevant, as are everyone’s in the universe, at all times.”
“What, they think they’re gods?” Dar’cy questioned.
“Aren’t they?” the Emissary asked rhetorically.
“The Superintendent might have something to say about that,” she noted.
“Do not speak his name.” He was supremely offended by the mention.
“That’s not his name,” Saga assumed.
“If you do everything on behalf of the powers, then why did you come when I called?” Dar’cy asked. “Why is it even possible to contact you?”
“I came at their command.” He smirked. “You didn’t summon me. I got your message, and they told me to respond, but only to remind you that this is not a voluntary mission. You know what you need to do, and you’re going to do it. I’m not sure if I said this before, but you’ve been told to extract The Last Savior. Saga’s participation is completely optional. If you have to take that child from her, then do it. Oh, and as for why there’s a way to contact me, what you did, you can do with anyone. You’ll only get an answer from those who have a way of replying, but anyone with your patience and experience can see anyone at any point in time. I can’t stop that.”
“Which means that I could see the powers that be using the same technique.”
“You would have to know what to look for.” He turned to leave, “and trust me, you don’t know who you’re dealing with.”
“When Leona and Serif return to the timeline, two people need to be on that ship: Leona, and Étude. Everyone else can space themselves, for all we care.”
“Saga, I’m sorry,” Paige said after the Emissary was gone.
She started on some breathing exercises. “It’s okay. I don’t know why we thought that would work. Come on, I want to see what Andromeda’s house looks like. There’s plenty of room for everyone.”


One week. After accepting the truth that she had no choice but to take her daughter to Earth, Saga took some time to get past it. Since they would not be able to leave until Leona and Serif returned to the timeline anyway, she decided to make the best of her situation. She joined a gym, learned how to meditate, and continued doing what professionals suggested to encourage her daughter to speak. She tried to be more patient and understanding with those around her, cognizant of the crew of The Warren’s position, and appreciative of what they were trying to do for her. In the end, even though Durus was now her home, it wasn’t the first, and only. She had lived in the early 21st century, mid-19th century, mid-18th century, and the turn of the 16th century. She had been a globe-trotting photographer, an alien revolutionary, and a nurse. She spoke four languages, built a full-scale replica of the Colosseum, and was quite literally torn out of time. She’d lived through multiple lifetimes, across multiple timelines, and experienced an array of adventures she would always remember. Her meditation instructor, Dar’cy taught her to think of this one as but the latest, and to prepare for the next. But then...one week.
When Leona returned, she really needed to do her own inspection of the ship before she would let them leave. Saga was in support of this, because if that took an entire day, they would have to push the whole thing a whole other year. That would just give her more time to teach Étude about where she was born. A three-year-old is capable of some independent thought, but people tended to not recall much from this early in their lives. If she wanted her daughter to have full and intact memories of life on Durus, she would have to at least make it to four. As badly as Saga wanted this for her, she didn’t want it like this. Not if it meant having to endure this one week.
Serif was helping her check the house Andromeda had built for their family for any belongings they would want to take with her. Despite the diminutive size of the vessel, Annora would be coming with them to create a pocket dimension. They would live comfortable in this parallel world, able to forget the stale and metallic world that lay just beyond. It also meant they would have room for just about anything they wanted to keep. She thought she had all they needed, but then Saga remembered the doorknob to their bedroom closet, which Andromeda claimed was a family heirloom that possessed great power. She went back upstairs to retrieve it, leaving Étude with Serif on the street. Suddenly, there was a great explosion outside that shook the whole house. She ran back down to search for her daughter, but found nothing. She looked all around, but there was no sign of the two of them. Hoping they had activated their emergency teleporters, Saga activated her own, and jumped all the way back to the ship. She was relieved to find this to be the case. Everyone else on the crew was already there, having undergone their own attacks simultaneously. They thought the worst of it was over, but then both she and Étude were taken hostage...separately. For one week.
The people who had attacked them were part of yet a new fringe group of Durus. Comprised fairly evenly of Earthan refugees and Durune natives, these people no longer wanted to live here, and decided it was the Warren’s responsibility to take them to Earth. Had they not known Annora would be creating a relaxation dimension, this group probably never would have formed. It was clear how few spots there would be on the ship without her. But they indicated they understood so many more people could fit, and they felt entitled to proverbial tickets, for all two hundred of them. Annora tried to explain that her worlds were of greatly limited scope, and would not be large enough to accommodate that many people; not for a years-long journey, at least. If they were just traveling to the other side of the world, on a trip that took a few hours, that would be fine. But they expected to live on top of each other for almost a decade, and that just wasn’t going to work. Still, they were determined make this happen, and their leadership proved to be completely capable of hurting people to achieve their goals. They weren’t sure how long this standoff was going to last, but definitely long after midnight central, which was the end of their departure window. Leona and Serif were taken out of the timestream, destined to not return for another year. Yes, Étude would be four-years-old by the time they could leave, but at too great a cost.
A man with the knife kept Saga in one of the ship’s cabins for the whole week, refusing to so much as give her his name. The only words he spoke—aside from whispered conversations with his people on his phone—were used to demand food from the crew left on the rest of the ship. He even refused to give Saga updates on her daughter’s condition. For all she knew, she was long dead, and her own life was completely over. Apparently Dar’cy managed to negotiate herself to become a hostage, in exchange for Étude’s return. Though they agreed to her terms, they went back on their word, and just kept them both as hostages somewhere outside the ship. Days later, the Durune police force—which had established itself as highly reputable, organized, and legitimate division of the world’s government—made their move. They raided the hostage-takers’ lair, recovering both Étude and Dar’cy, who were as healthy as could be.
A few days later, the police chief presided over peace talks between the crew of the Warren, and the hostage-takers, who were now identifying plainly as The Passengers. Obviously, the Warren owed these people nothing. As Captain Turner had pointed out when this all began, had they asked nicely, they might have been able to work something out. Their gut reaction to use violence to get what they wanted had immediately spoiled any good relationship they could have forged. But the situation was not so simple. These people were not happy with their lives on Durus, and since the government kept a reasonable tally of unhappy citizens, everybody knew that this was the limit of their numbers. If they could make Annora’s dimensions large enough to fit these two hundred, they would not have to be any larger. Furthermore, since they no longer wanted to live here, Durus was, quite frankly, better off without them. They were just bound to cause more problems down the line anyway, so if the Warren could take them off the government’s hands, they were for it. Again, it was not that easy. While Annora and Missy were using the borrowed access to the paramount database to see if the technical issues could be resolved, Paige and Saga were sitting down with the Passengers.
A man named Faustus Lambert was their founder and highest leader. He was given the authority to speak on the behalf of the Passengers, but Saga was not convinced every one of them was in favor of this decision. When she spoke to some of them privately, she found a general consensus that few were happy with the way he handled their plea for safe passage. Perhaps he was not the man they should be speaking to, and so Saga took it upon herself to color outside the lines.
“Mister Lambert, do you speak for the people?” Saga began the questioning, looking for a way to lead into what she was really trying for.
“I speak for my people.” He clearly felt no remorse for the pain he had caused others, and was still fully convinced that what he had done was necessary; honorable, even. Saga guessed he expected to go down in history as a great leader.
“Were you voted into this position of power?” she asked.
He smiled wider. “Well, no, that’s not how it works. I started something, and they follow me, because they believe in it.”
“They believe in holding people against their will?” she pressed.
“I did what I had to do to protect mine. I stand by it.”
She nodded, feigning acknowledgement of his predicament. “You don’t think there was a better way?”
“Like what?” He looked towards Paige. “Asking nicely?”
“Would you have even entertained the idea if we had just requested it?”
Saga stood from her chair, and leaned on the desk with her fists. “To be quite unambiguous...yes.”
He scoffed, and didn’t believe it. “You would have done exactly what I did. Get off your high house.”
“It’s high horse,” Paige corrected.
“What the hell is a horse?”
“I don’t think we should be speaking to you,” Saga said, moving on. “Because I don’t think you represent these people anymore.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I spoke with some of them. Sounds like there was some trouble in paradise. Sounds like a group of parents had to step in, and protect my daughter, from you and your...violent cohorts.”
“They exaggerate, I wasn’t gonna hurt anyone,” he defended himself.
“I don’t believe you,” Saga replied. “The man who trapped me on the ship had a knife. Held it to my throat. Drew a little blood. Did anything like that happen, to my daughter, or Miss Matigaris.”
“Absolutely not.”
“You know we speak the same language, right? The two of them and I. And they have memories. You didn’t erase them. They told me how they were treated, and how bad you were. And how scared they were of what you would do.”
“I’ve spoken with the police too. They tell me they’ve already been investigating your connections with the Dawidux, and the terrorist known as Barbwire.”
“He wasn’t a terrorist, and he was a great man, and a great leader, and you did something to him!”
“So you did collude with him?” Saga asked, still as calm as ever.
“Lies!” He stood up angrily. “It is you who works with terrorists! Crooked Saga!” He looked over to the police, who tensed up. “There’s evidence of her involvement with the Earthan Uprisers! I have it, and can show you. Maybe tomorrow, just you wait. I’m an upstanding citizen. Saga has been working against this world since the Deathspring, long before I became the leader of the Passengers. Also, no collusion!”
Saga sat firmly, and waited patiently for him to come out of his rage. “That right there, sir, is how I know you’re a terrorist, and have been plotting against us. I don’t know how you maintained control over the Passengers, but that ends here.” She directed her attentions towards one of the police guards. “Please send in Miss Kistler.”
“What?” Faustus questioned. “Her?”
Camden came through the door, ushering in a woman named Lavitha Kistler, who had been the most upfront to Saga about her dissension to Faustus’ poor conduct. She hovered over Faustus.
“The police asked me to bring out your true side,” Saga announced. Apparently they can’t charge you with anything without an understanding of your attitudes. They need to see how you really think, and how you treat others. I don’t remember that being in the Constitution, but okay. You, and those who directly carried out your violent orders during the hostage situation, will be excluded from negotiations. I think that means we only have to worry about, what, a hundred and eighty-four people? The Captain and I will be continuing these negotiations about the rest of the Passengers with Miss Kistler here.”
“You can’t do this,” he argued. “I’m the leader! I started this, and I’m gonna goddamn end it!”
“People like you make me not regret agreeing to leave,” Saga said to him, still calm.
“No!” he screamed. In true form, he reached over and removed a teleporter gun from the nearest police officer. They were nonlethal, of course, but were inconvenient. Once someone was teleported into a holding cell, it took a lot of paperwork to get them out. He pointed it at the crowd, and literally backed himself into a corner.
As if having been called, Kolby teleported into the room. He was a career security guard from Earth, whose job it was to incarcerate choosing ones who had abused their powers to the detriment of mankind. “Mine’s bigger,” he said in a phony gravelly voice. And he was right. His own transporter gun was massive, probably because it had to be able to send people through both time and space. He shot Faustus with it.
“He’s not a chooser,” Camden pointed out.
“We’ve expanded the prison’s reach,” Kolby explained. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have over a dozen more on my list.” He walked out of the room.
As promised, Saga continued talks with Lavitha, and the Passengers. Though they didn’t show it specifically during the hostage situation, a few of them had somewhat violent histories, and were considered too dangerous for the ship. Several others felt bad about what they had done to the crew, and especially Étude, so they volunteered to be excluded from consideration as well. They assured the government that they would continue to contribute positively to society, and not cause problems on Durus. Yet still more strongly believed in the Warren’s companion ship, the González, which was supposed to arrive mere days after the first. These Passengers were convinced that it still would, even after all this time, when the most likely scenario was that something had gone wrong since the Warren lost contact with them. They agreed to stay behind as well, though, leaving the number at a perfect gross of a hundred and forty-four. Annora and Missy were confident that this was a tenable number, with some modifications. Now all they needed to do was wait yet another year, which was when it was finally time for Saga to return home. The Durus chapter of her life was finished.

No comments :

Post a Comment