"We are very compatible."
Said Ree. Once again his vision started blurring but not because he was being copied. He was waking up. He did his trademark stretching his arms and legs to max before opening his eyes. If he didn't he'd fall back asleep. "It worked." he heard. When he opened his eyes she was exactly the same. She was all smiles though. Ear to ear. It was a good look.
"This is my almost perfect 1.0. I figured out he's using a consciousness sharing technology Jasher came up with and sure enough they put it in the Archive. I had to retrieve it and tweak it a little. I haven't perfected the durability to the same level."
She had figured out she could use a matter map to recreate her saved human form, but then replace the central nervous system with embedded quantum receivers in each cell. It would work like her current body, and exactly like a human one. The best of all worlds. Better, she'd have precision control over all body functions.
The chair he sat in was every bit as comfortable as the ones on Boaz. After he woke up she had handed him a glass of water and pointed at the chair. The wall of the still enormous ship by any conventional standards slid sideways in open space. Less than twenty feet away he could see the side of an enormous hull. "That's my decoy."
"They said you were"
"Dead." She interrupted. "I'm supposed to look dead when I have a decoy out. I'm supposed to look like I shut my primary systems down on my own ages ago. I have a lot of technology Boaz not only doesn't know about, he has literally no way to ever find out. You can't do high level espionage if every godlike being can track you and know your design."
"So he has no clue that you are awake." asked Frank.
"Nobody can see in here. And they aren't going to find anything in there. Boaz knows a little but you are the first other being to ever learn more. I woke up about ten million years ago your time. I was in the middle of this amazing nothing. I decided to enjoy it. I put out the decoy and turned on all my goodies and started mapping the neighborhood. I've been here quietly recording it all since. Waiting for signs of Jasher and Boaz. I noticed you puttering around a while ago and found you interesting. You just popped into existence when the local area reorganized. All kinds of things changed."
"So you just quietly watched everything. Why?" asked Frank but he almost understood. She smiled. She saw he almost had it. "I'm the keeper of secrets. The ultimate one. I hold so many paradox in me. This isn't just a ship. It's a prison. If I leave it, it could end everything. They had me kill a Tah once. A sitting ruler. To my knowledge I am the only being left that has access to the Multiverse Archive that isn't tracked. It killed me but I couldn't tell Boaz a lot of things. He got the cover story too."
She was fascinating. She had the smartest yet kindest eyes he had ever seen. The combination was amazing. And she was still smiling. She saw him smile and read him effortlessly. "Imagine you haven't had a real body to feel in 7 billion years. I want to hate myself for not thinking of it but can't because I wasn't made to think that way. You had to bring that to the table. Thank you so much Frank. It was selfish of me to copy you right before they erased your memory but shortly you'll see it was the right decision."
He watched in horror as he himself appeared in open space outside the hull, then turned and started banging on it before suffering from his lungs freezing. You could see him clamp his mouth shut hard, taking his last breath. Still pounding as his eyes burst. Getting weaker. Then he'd die. It would stay like that for a few minutes. Him dead floating there. Then it would reset and he was appearing again and banging on the side of the decoy and a slightly different version of the event would play out. "Boaz is being lazy so they cast a huge area of repeating time. We are caught in it. They erase your memory then toss you out there as bait to wake me up. Jasher accurately calculates that there's a one in one hundred thousand chance it will wake me up so he's doing it that many times."
"They heartlessly decide you don't need to be you anymore and erase most of what makes you awesome. They justify this because honestly what would have happened to you would have been pretty amazing. Their version. I'm just sick of them being so smug and getting what they want so they won't this time. Watch."
This time it changed. Instead of the ship ignoring the pounding man it obliterated him. A powerful gun appeared to grow from the side of the ship instantly and atomized him. Then.... it slowly faded from existence. The massive decoy ship appearing to just dissolve like it was never there. Before it was even half gone the massive shape of Boaz was over the scene and Boaz himself was outside on a hastily generated platform with a console open entering data at an astounding rate. "Gotcha." said Ree under her voice as she started scanning the now vulnerable Boaz. He had let her right inside himself. Her powerful scanners went to work mapping his ridiculous technologies.
Meanwhile, massive projector shaped constructions appeared instantly and surrounded the disappearing ruse. "NO!" they could see him mouth. Moments later Jasher was beside him. Boaz was crying now.
"They think we died." said Frank. "Yes they do. They think I blasted you then immediately my exploding Universe caught up with me and I ceased to exist finally. My threads to reality gone. Now we are free. Me and my magic boy." Frank immediately felt the need to protest but stopped and thought about it. Ree was already giggling. He was like a book. Her favorite book. He smiled. "Boaz can get what he wants. I just don't want him to know about it. That ruins it. I'm not heartless though. I have a slick plan." She smiled again. It was infectious. Her smiling, knowing how special it was, made it so much more meaningful. Her first smiles in billions of years. On her own face. "And you, who thinks in perfect probability, unlocked that. I got the scans. It's going to take me months to get through it. We'll talk and get to know each other better but right now we need to get out of this local time bubble he made before he collapses it."
The feeling of being in open space was instant because he well, was. He started screaming but nothing came out of his mouth. He felt a tightness on his right hand and a sudden weight on his face as the layer of projected reality that was Ree fabricated a chamber full of oxygen in front of his mouth. He realized he had what looked like a transparent layer of purple wax surrounding him. The contraption that had formed on his face was constantly supplying him with fresh oxygen. It also smelled very nice. Since his field of vision was covered by well, Ree, she had no problems making small round spheres over his eyes and manipulating her substance to make stereoscopic projections of herself that Frank could interact with. It was simply modified operator targeting technology. Rewriting a reticle as an animated Ree. She was like an animated 3d printer print, but made of reality, that can reprint itself at will, instantly. She just didn't understand how. Now she might with the scan from Boaz.
"What just happened to... everything." Asked Frank more calmly than Ree expected. She started giggling again. "We need to go. This is travel form. Smaller the better." As she said this the sensation of movement was immediate. That they crossed essentially one hundred million light years in seconds was astounding. He wished he'd had one of those high speed cameras the guys blowing up stuff on video sites use. "Fastest drag race ever." he said when they stopped seemingly in the middle of nowhere. "Yup. Grats, you are literally tied for fastest human in history now. We are close to your neighborhood but not going there. You are going home for the first time in a while." Frank wasn't getting it.
His magical gift almost required the person benefiting to be someone else for it to trigger. Earth? "We are going to save some old friends of yours along the way. I believe they are named Ted and Jemsase." Frank lit up immediately at the mention of their names. "I called you magical boy, remember?" Frank did and nodded. "That's because you should have disintegrated when I copied you. Instead you got picked up by the big M. They made you prime. Grats. You are you. I don't get to make that call so the process likes you. I like you too." said Ree and blushed.
The adorable and awkward attempt at a light flirt made Frank blush. Something he hadn't experienced, ironically, since Jemsase. "That means you were basically almost made for me. The only person I've ever met that could just travel with me anywhere. You got your card stamped. You are crew. If you weren't, ringing your finger would have ended you. You'd have been identified as extraneous projection. There-in lies a problem. I was never really designed for crew. I have the fake form I take that's for show that I hastily filled with oxygen to retrieve you, but I don't have a solid real design. Not intended for people. And our crew is about to grow by three. I need your help." said Ree.
"I've seen, some amazing free form interior choices. My favorite are completely free form because they can be anything." suggested Frank. "There's a Minox craft. They are out of the Pleiades." said Frank, scanning her for signs of recognition that he saw instantly. He smiled. "They have pretty designs. They are similar to designs from my own people. Earlier ones." Said Ree. Her form appearing to float in space in a ghostly purple because of the eye lens projections. "What was your favorite?" asked Ree. "Well, a captain with one of the larger freighters they use for transporting things between solar systems did something very creative with his standard quarters. They give them this enormous room at the top of the ship that could contain a small neighborhood. So that's what he did. The roof was over 40 feet away so he recreated his small town. The shops he loved. The places he liked to play."
"Where was it? I'll look for it." Offered Ree. "No, just, you remember your favorite place. Yours. Make it that." suggested Frank. Ree smiled. Seconds later Frank found himself surrounded by structure. He looked up and he could see an expansive canopy. Half of it was half shaded, or more accurately half transparent compared to the full transparent of the rest. It was somehow emitting soft light that fell on the forest. Trunks of old ancient trees surrounded him. He was standing on a well worn path. He made his way through the forest and was stunned at the sophistication of the structure at the end of it. It's what you'd imagine someone highly advanced would use for a vacation home.
Which is exactly what it was.
"This is where I spent most of my time growing up. Before my parents died. They had bought the home as an investment to sell later to buy a real family home but ended up loving it and we stayed there even though it had tripled in value. The wars were nonstop. The killing machines they made more and more effective. Bigger and bigger explosions. Then one day you are away with friends and your entire life gets disintegrated by a malfunctioning ship. And you are a ward of the legion. And they own you. And can do whatever they want. And they make you one of their machines."
Since Ree flew herself she didn't really need a control panel. She put a pretty map and position projector in the woods and in the house. That was enough. Frank loved it. The view outside at the edges was perfectly clear so you could sit on the top deck of the vacation home and watch the ship progress forward through space while sipping a drink in a comfy chair. What wasn't to love.
For months Ree and Frank sat on those chairs together and discussed all the data Ree had pilfered. She got her 2.0 design perfected after a few days of work. Now she was projected like her little brother. She had freed the ability from her own matter projectors. Frank's magical gift made it easy. Together they could unravel anything. She also obtained the updated Ship Ring technology and loved it. She made Frank a beautiful obsidian ring. Incorporating the more logical tech was simple and easy. "No more terrifying fast travel!" she said. Frank was appreciative, although it did get cool towards the end.
She laid out the plan moving forward. "Basically we have a little bit more of this. A few weeks. Then at the right time we have to do something obscenely dangerous that we have to do anyway." Said Ree. She watched his pretty eyes light up. For the 1.0 version Ree she had kept pulling her transmission pattern from her transport to Dock the first and only time she had ever been beamed, and was just rebuilding herself from it. Frank wrecked pure hell on her emotions and physical body. She had yearned for him in a way that she simply removed from 2.0. It made things so much easier. No need for endocrine systems in a solid matter projection.
But damn him. She still craved his presence and treasured their interactions deeply. She had been lonely in many ways. He filled those gaps perfectly. "So basically we'll have to pierce both neutron stars at the same time, while collecting them, and rocketing directly into the 3 Second Universe." She said but he was completely ignoring her and she knew it. He was smiling and looking at her. That meant he figured something out.
"How about you come back as 1.0 and we sleep together in the same bed when I sleep next time. You can sleep can't you?" She hated that it took her less than 2 seconds to come back as 1.0. For a little while anyway. It became a regular ritual. One they both enjoyed. Over the next week she stayed 1.0 more often. She liked being herself. Frank liked it too. Some people just work together. By the second week they talked about kids but they both agreed it would be many years before they had a multiverse worth that kind of trust. Jasher and Boaz were still out there. That meant anything could happen. In the very least they had to get back on team J so they had a say in things, and Ree had an amazing plan.
She'd eventually share that plan with Frank in the woods. He loved it. It was beyond brilliant with only a tiny bit of risk that probably wasn't. They were enjoying the huge strangely blue Apples from the trees. "These are absolutely amazing." said Frank. "Yeah, they are an extra. Way way back in the day before my Universe got blown up, I'd watch out for Jasher sometimes. Boaz would ask me. These trees were the last thing in an entire Universe once."
Sorry this took so long. I have more and I will put it up more often, but not all at once. Or we'll have long breaks again. I need to make hay while the sun is shining and store it longer so I can spread it out more evenly. Trust me, I am taking full advantage of this removal of writers block.
(next part will be a bit)