Friday, November 8, 2019

LDR: Bad Finite Query (Kabla)

When you're alone, it's sometimes easier to talk to yourself aloud.

Kabla shut her eyes. It didn't make much difference, the darkness didn't go away. It was still there, curtaining her off from whatever else was out there, lurking. She was still feeling the lurch of the chair disappearing from her grasp, and the floor she was standing on was taking far too long to smack her in the face.

I'm... not falling?

She reached out with her senses. No air buffering her face, no wind tossing her about, no turbulence... no floor...

Kabla opened her eyes again. There was still nothing to see.

Why did I think I was falling? Because the chair was there and I was leaning on it, and suddenly it was gone again. I would have been off-balance, I would have fallen.

She blinked her eyes a few times, not that it changed her view. She couldn't see herself blinking, only feel it. And she didn't actually feel like she was falling, only that she expected to be falling. She closed her eyes again.

Okay, so stop thinking about falling. Replace it with... oh, I dunno, flying.

She opened her eyes. It was so dark that she couldn't even see her nose in front of her face, she was pretty sure it was still there, but wasn't sure. And she couldn't seem to feel herself either. She had hands still, pretty sure of that too, and thought she would feel them at the end of her arms...

This won't do. I need a frame of reference. Okay, forest, trees, bright sunny day.

Still darkness.

Maybe that's too hard. My shipboard cabin then.

Still darkness, but she sensed something waiting, just behind the darkness. Kabla stopped trying to imagine the whole thing in one solid picture, but instead painted it in her mind.

The bed there, the hinges broken where it's supposed to fold back into the wall, converted into a shelf. A couple of books, actual paper books, my coveralls where I left them after stripping to climb into my hammock, strung between two corners, once bright pink but now faded and stained. The walls mottled with periodically leaking pipes for water and waste and air. The ladder to my door to the hall...

And she found it fading into focus around her.

And there was a knocking at her door.

"Who is it?"

"Lin."

"Lin? Linzamin? What is this?"

"I come in?"

"Of course."

Lin descended the ladder with surprising grace, almost as if she had more limbs than she was letting on, and looked around the space. "Would you like job?"

"What kind of a job?"

"Everybody fall. They fall until they cry help. Not you, you create this. Retter needs help. One man and me can't save enough. Thirty percent too small. With you, I think we save more."

"What do you need me to do?"

"This, more."

--
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LDR: Bad Finite Query (Yume)

"Sorry, Lin is a little busy. I hope you don't mind me tagging in, Yume."

She looked up at him mistrustfully. "Who are you? Where is Lin?"

"My name is Retter. Lin is busy, though saying where she is... that's a little more complicated. Will you walk with me?"

She glanced at the people passing around them, nodded, and took his hand. "Where are we?"

"Different people call it different things. I call it Sa-Rai. Some people refuse to call it Sa-rai just to spite me, but I don't mind. Whatever you decide, I hope you come to call it home. Shall we?" He gestured at the way ahead of them, and she started walking.

"Where are we going?"

"Where would you like to go?"

"Can I see my ship? My shipmates?"

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves, okay? It's going to be a rough transition, and I don't want you to get lost. We save every soul we can, but we can't save everyone. You being here, walking with me, is a good start, but you're not done yet. And I'm afraid nobody here can actually save you; we can only give you the opportunity, the hard work is up to you."

"Who is we?"

"Me, mostly. And Lin."

"Waitwaitwait. Wait. Tell me what happened, start from the beginning, don't leave anything out."

"I'll tell you as much as I can, but I wasn't here from the beginning. That's Lin's story, and honestly, it pains her to remember."

There's a problem with the gates. What most people don't know is that they were formerly part of a larger network that spanned the universe. As time passed, the links between galaxies splintered. The math is beyond me why, but... those connections aren't actually gone. "Broken" is a better term. Sometimes, when someone uses them, the old connection fizzles into existence at one end, tries to send you to the other end, but you end up somewhere in the middle. And not just you.

"How many?"

"When I got here, there were about a hundred people still alive, but they were trapped. Lin... she's not from our galaxy, and she's definitely not human. But she has tech that allows her to sustain us, to access our drives, and to watch our dreams."

"What does she look like?"

"I have no idea, and honestly, I don't want to know."

"Wait, you said 'still alive'..."

"Lin isn't human. she doesn't fully understand what we want, what we need. She tried to raise us like her children would have been raised, with people in our memories breaking the bad news." Retter paused, a tear welling up in one of his eyes. He brushed it away, and then continued. "People would get trapped in a loop of thinking they were coming out of cryo, meet someone from their past, get the bad news, their mind would break, and then they'd wake up again like it was a fleeting dream. She tried and tried, but no combination she could ever find kept them from rejecting the reality she built for them."

"Lin said there was a man."

He laughed. "Yeah, she does that. What she doesn't tell you is that people have flaws, and the person she lauds as savior is no different."

"You're..."

"I'm an addict. This... world is my drug. It was like coming home the first time. I could feel it. She paints me as some kind of savior because she was feeling just as lost as every other being who came here, human or not."

"...Are you saying this is a sim?"

"Most of it, yeah. Most of the people too. That's the other thing I taught her. She used to take whole people from our dreams. I showed her how to only take parts, individual characteristics, and merged them into someone they've never met before, but reminded them of people they would probably never see again."

Yume held up her hand. "That's enough. I need--"

"Time. And you have it. Here's my card, and here's Lin's. You have a week before you have to decide what you're going to do."

"A week? For what?"

"Giving people a free ride doesn't work. You can't accept a selfless society as reality. You get a week to take it all in, go anywhere, try anything, talk to anyone. After that, you have to do something. It's like a free demo."

"What do I have to do?"

"Find something to earn your way. Don't worry, the cost of living is really low. We welcome you to make mistakes, because that means you're trying." Retter stopped walking, turned to her. "Find a way to be yourself. Maybe I'll see you around."

He held out his hand, but Yume didn't shake it. He turned it into a casual salute, and walked off into the crowd.

--
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LDR: Bad Finite Query (Yaro)

You open your eyes to darkness.

Something is wrong. It shouldn't be dark. If everything were right, you'd be waking to the dulcet voice of your onboard nav system, feeling the cryofluid draining from your tank, choking the last of it from your lungs. If everything had gone to hell, the world would be full of blaring alarms and painful flashing lights.

Instead, it's dark and silent. For lack of anything better to do, you start walking.

Out of the darkness enshrouded emerges a pair of plush leather chairs. Seated in one is a modestly dressed young woman. She looked familiar and grim.

You shake your head at the invitation to sit, though the mauve seat looks comfortable. You brace yourself on the seat back, waiting.

"Hello. You are Yaro, yes? I am called Lin."

"How do you know my name?"

"There's been a problem."

"You're damn right there's been a bloody problem. What the fuck is this?"

"What do you remember?"

"The gate, the cryotank, the going to sleep, then this." Your hands clenched the unyielding chair. "Who are you?"

"Many questions. I have some answers, most you not like, I think. Please, sit."

"Answer. My. Questions." You grit your teeth in a rising tide of impatience.

"One. I know your name, it is on your ship manifest. Two. Something went wrong. You became a statistic. Three. I am welcome wagon, is term, yes? Four. You not ask, but common, where are you?" she shook her head. "Lost. You are lost, and I have little solace to give."

"What is this place?"

"A choice."

"What choice?"

"You are not first. Others have come before. I try many thing, make safe place, but not good thing. People get lost, people get broken. Someone came, show me better way. But you must make choice."

"What. Choice."

Lin took a deep breath and spoke very slowly, as if she was reading unfamiliar words off a script. "Do. You. Want. Me. To. Save. You?"

"What's the catch?"

"No 'takebacks', yes? Still possibility of madness, but hope too. Success is, thirty percent. Good number."

"No, thirty percent is terrible!"

"Is thirty percent not better than one? I get confuse."

"One percent?"

"Not one percent. One. Only one. He show the way." She thought for a moment. "I not say this but, if you choose yes, I will meet you to him."

"What if I say no?"

"Madness. About five minutes."

"Death?"

"If you scream instead of breathe, yes. You will die. Or beg for death."

"Can I think about it?"

"Think. Dream. Remember. Call for Linzamin when decide. I will be listening."

The shroud fell again, and you were left grasping nothing. You stumble, fall... and keep falling. Around you echoes the voice, fading out slowly... toooooo.... ssaaaaveeeee.... yooooouuuuuu.....

"YES!"

The darkness blooms into light. You find yourself laying on a sidewalk in an anonymous city, a hand thrust down into your vision. Following the arm upwards, you find Lin smiling reassuringly down at you. Strange people wearing strange faces walk around you, nobody staring, nobody crowding, nobody pointing.

"Come Yaro, let me show you Sa-Rai."

--
More LDR: Bad Finite Query