Pilot X

September 20, 2014: 10:53 am: Pilot X

The blazing sky burned with millions of lights, all representing attempts at destruction. Pilot X thought about the destroyed children’s home he’d seen on Mersenne. He thought back on his conversation with Captain Alphaea there. How the career yeoman had been thrust into running a planet that could no longer be run due to the destruction raining down.

Mersenne wasn’t even a target. Just collateral damage in this three-way war. He thought about how he’d been tricked into helping cover the war’s existence.

He looked at the three-part device constructed in front of him. “The Instant.” It was ready. The Verity was plugged in providing coordinates. The Progon transmitter was humming. The Sensaurian material presumably awaiting his command.

He made himself think of the people who would never be if he activated The Instant. Of the lives irrevocably changed. They wouldn’t realize it of course. The Instant cut time at the base, causing the timeline to repair itself like a wound. Its inhabitants would assume as they did now that things had always been the way they were. Pilot X wondered how many times this had happened. A useless question “times” given the nature of this.

Only he would remember. He and The Verity sheltered within the bubble of the Instant’s operating field. He alone would carry the memories of a broken universe. He alone would carry the responsibility of wiping out everyone and replacing them. This did not make him a god, he though. It did not make him a devil either. It only made him responsible.

And he feared that. He shied from it. He desperately thought of a way around it. A way to bring the three parties to peace. But he had seen all of this war now. He knew how it ended. With nobody. No system left unscathed. No one left to carry the lesson. That was the biggest crime. The Allendans knew this would not end with a better universe and yet they persisted. His people were the most guilty.

He thought about the destruction of countless systems he had repaired. He thought about the Allendan Council’s arrogance and laughter at how they had manipulated him. He thought about the dead. HE realized the Allendans didn’t care.

He flipped the switch.

The lights disappeared in an instant. Like turning off a lightswitch. For a moment he thought he might have destroyed everything in the universe but himself. But the dim glow from The Verity showed he still had rocks beneath his feet. As his eyes adjusted e could make out stars and even the faint glow Mersenne in the distance.

It had happened so instantaneously. He felt as if he could flick the switch the other way and it would all come back. But of course it wouldn’t. That’s not how it worked. He flicked the switch anyway and nothing happened.

He had done it. He had irrevocably destroyed his own timeline. What had replaced it? Was it something better?

That was his purpose now. To explore this new timeline. To see what had changed. To do his best to make those changes positive.

He would start with Mersenne.

July 29, 2014: 11:14 am: Pilot X, writing

“Greetings Ambassador X,” the guard said. “What can I do for you?”

“Just Pilot, Guard– a–”

“Henta. Guard Henta.”

“Henta. Just came to get my things out of Verity,” said Pilot X non-chalantly.

“Oh,” the Guard looked pained. She obviously respected Pilot X and didn’t want to deny him anything. “The Verity is on lockdown right now. Strict orders from the council. Nobody allowed in or out.”

“Understandable,” Pilot X said with an easy smile. “And I won’t touch her controls. Just need to get my stuff out.”

“I’m sorry,” Guard Henta said slowly. “I’m not allowed to make exceptions.”

Pilot X frowned. It was a friendly frown. The frown you have for a friend who’s in a hard position. “You’re not allowed to break regulations either.”

“Exactly,” Guard Henta said relaxing.

“And one regulation says you’re not allowed to store things for unassigned personnel in unassigned capsules, right?”

Guard Henta unrelaxed. “Yes, that’s true.”

“So if you don’t let me get my things, you’re essentially letting me store them in the Verity.”

“I see what you’re saying, but–”

“I know,” Pilot X shook his head. “It’s unfair that they put people in these situations.”

Guard Henta seemed frozen.

“Just between you and me what are the actual orders restricting Verity?” Pilot X asked.

“Well. No one is allowed to enter, activate, or modify the Verity until further notice. No exceptions.”

“Ah. I don’t have any reason to activate or modify her if I just want to get my things. So I’d only be violating the entry provision. However if I leave my things in there, then I’m violating the entire regulation.”

“I guess so.”

“When did the restriction on Verity come down?”

“Right after I started my rotation.”

“Do you constantly check orders while on duty?”

Guard Henta puffed up a bit. “I make it a point of pride to check in regularly.”

Pilot X inwardly groaned at her pride in obedience. “BUt it’s possoble that orders come in that you don’t see right away.”

She deflated a bit. “I guess so.”

“Could happen to anybody!” he reassured. “You just let me get my stuff, I’ll be gone and you say you saw the orders after I left. Right?”

Guard Henta looked unsure. “I don’t want to lie–”

“And you don’t have to. Just don’t volunteer that you saw the orders before I came. Honestly if I just leave with my stuff and the Verity is locked up tight no one will care.”

“What if something goes wrong?”

“You blame me!” Pilot X said cheerily.

“Oh I wouldn’t want to do that,” Guard Henta looked shocked.

“It’s OK. I can take it. Deal?”

Guard Henta came to a decision and nodded. Pilot X motioned and Alexandra came over to his side.

“Who’s that?” Guard Henta objected.

“I need help carrying things,” Pilot X explained easily.

“Oh right. OK. Make it quick.”

“We will,” Pilot X reassured. They hurried towards Verity. Pilot X felt bad about Guard Henta. She was so sincere. And she would never forgive him.

July 24, 2014: 4:45 pm: Pilot X, writing

He saw her coming but he didn’t run. He wanted this confrontation. He wanted to tell her just how angry he was. How much she had cost him.

“Pilot X, I’m glad I foudn you-”

He interrupted her sharply “I am too. I’m glad I could help you and the Core to further the ends of the war and tie it up tightly for you.”

“What do you mean?” her look of suprise was exquisitely genuine.

“Oh that’s beautiful. Maybe they didn’t even tell you? I think not though. You all knew. Your list of time locations and instructions not to arrive during the conflicts was perfect. I tied each battle up neatly. I thought I was preserving the rest of the universe. Turned out I was keeping the rest of time from ever finding out about the extent of the war that rages behind my shields.”

“No, I suppose it might seem that way.”

“It might seem that way I suppose,” he cut her off savagely again, “If a representative of the council hadn’t met me in the time of the final battle. Which by the way wasn’t the final battle at all but only a convenient place to tell me my work was done. Clever. You should have told them not to spill the beans. I would have come back here anyway to find out what was wrong.”

“The final battle was not a battle?”

“No it wasn’t. But every other one was. And I cleaned them up so well. ONe had several destroyed planets. I cleaned that one up into a rather implausible Moon and an asteroid belt. You’d never know it even happened. Scientists there in later eras are probably puzzled by the Moon’s existence, but you know scientists. They always think of something to explain away the odd.”

“The last battle should have been the apocalypse. That was where you were–” This time she was cut off by another member of the Corewho had just arrived.

“My apologies Alexandra we couldn’t tell you. The last battle was a decoy. We knew they would track you. We knew they would think you were doing them a favor. Now they are no longer suspicious of you. Now you can act.”

“Oh no” Pilot X yelled backing away. “Once burned twice turned. I amo not falling for that one again.”

“Pilot X. We couldn’t tell you either for fear of gicing it away–”

“So you send me someone who doesn’t know about it either to explain? Ha!”

“She was not meant to approach you,” he gave Alexandra a severe look.”

“Well I couldn’t help you even if I was stupid enough. They have Verity.”

“And you’ve removed all your posessions?”


“YOu can’t store them there. It’s against regulations.”

“Why do you care?”

“Because its your excuse to get back in. And Your excuse to steal it.”

“Steal what?”

The man looked suprised. “Well, Verity.”

“Oh.” Pilot X thought about it. “Oh no… well maybe. But not for you.”

“Let me explain our plan.”

Pilot X looked skeptical but said nothing.

“You have in your posession a gift from the Progons, no?”

Pilot X nodded without changing his expression.

“And an item retrieved from the Sensaurians during your jump.”

How had he known about that? It was something that stuck to the side of Verity. He hadn’t told anyone or even figured out what it was. He nodded slowly.

“The Progon gift is a communicator, the Sensaurian remains contain telepath generators., as do all their cells. If you combine those with an Inverter-Chrono-integrator, you can change all time with almost no side effects.”

“No you can’t… well… maybe yo could. Sad thing is, I don’t have an Inverter-Chrono-Integrator.”

“We know where you can get one. We’ll help you steal it.”

Pilot X thought about it. He did want Verity back and he might need them to carry out a plan to steal her.

“No, you can steal it.”

“we cannot. If we were to be caught-”

“It would be better if I were caught?” Pilot X laughed. “Oh no no no. Not after the trick you pulled. I’ll take Verity back as you suggest. But you have to bring me the Inverter if you expect me to ever possibly consider your plan. Thjat’s the deal.”

The man looked perplexed. Alexandra spoke up. “We will do it. My apologies for the deceptions carried out upon you. It will be done.”

“alexandra! You cannot-”

“It. Will. Be. Done.”

June 8, 2014: 2:47 pm: Pilot X, writing

The Verity shook like a baby’s rattle as it sliced diaginally through spacetime. Well, it wasn’t exactly diagonal. When you have many more than two dimensions, some of which are rolled up smaller than atoms and others popping into and out of relevancy, diagonal is not the technical term. But the process of bisecting all dimensions at once was difficult to name especially with the changing number of dimensions at play, so diagonal became a catch-all term for what Pilot X was doing.

“Prohibited” and “dangerous’ were other words used to apply to what he was doing. All space-time travel was governed by the Alendans and meant to be very direct. While threads of timelines were known to exist and the principle even exploited, it was not permissible or even a good idea to cut across them. Even worse was the idea of traveling diagonally across all of them.

Fixed points in spacetime made this very dangerous. If a diagonal trajectory was not plotted exactly right, the traveler would bounce off a fixed point like a rubber bullet off a steel wall, damaging space-time in the process.

Pilot X felt OK risking all this because of what the society had told him. The society of the Allendan Core refused travel through time. Because of this it gave them a unique perspective on events that happened up until the point you talked with them. They never knew the future with certainty but they had a much more thorough and complete knowledge of the past, because they lived through every moment of it without skipping around. They’r projections of the future from their perspective were fairly accurate as well.

So when the Core had asserted a secret Time War was raging and gave him a display generator with documentation and projections, he didn’t believe them but he took them seriously. As good as they were, the idea that his own people, the Allendans, along with the Progons and the Sensaurians could hide a raging war across time and space by manipulating the threads of time, was rather hard to swallow.

Well, it was hard to swallow until he took the spoonful of sugar that was the display generator they gave him filled with documentation, graphs and projections clearly laying out a time war that was in existence in the past and would be again. The Core had lived through it.

The generator they gave him also served as a guidance system for diagonal space-time trajectories. It was the only way to travel into the war zones without being stopped by the Allendans or destroyed by the Progons and Sensaurians.

Pilot X had placed a lot of trust in that generator. If it failed him and the Verity— well he’d hardly know as his essensce would be scattered across many millenia and alternate threads of time. In intriguing legacy but not one he really wanted to leave.

The rattling subsided into a shuddering adn the Verity reported she would be dropping into fixed flow space-time shortly. Pilot X relaxed a bit and prepared to get a first view of the first alleged war zone. The society suggested this one as the first to visit, since it was the least active point int he calmest of the zones. It would give him a chance to observe with minimal risk.

As The Verity dropped out of time travel, he saw why. Wreckage filled his view from a gargantuan battle. Only salvage operations moved through space. A planet was destroyed and littering itself into a belt of debris while another one hung spit in half coalescing into two versions of itself.

Proximity alrams came on but they were all from salvage operations alerting him of their prior claims. He was assumed to be salvage himself, thus making it safe for him to poke about.

He recognized Allendan ships of all ages and classes along with Progon warrior bodies and sensaurian hives.

“Did that world contain life?” Pilot X asked The Verity.

“That is the third planet in the system. Some pre-sentient on the third wiped out,”she replied. “Most water vaporized. Chance for recovery minimal.”

“What about the other worlds?”

“1st world non-life supporting. 2nd-world pre-sentient dying with runaway volcanic reactions leading to greenhouse ruin. Third world pre-sentient life destroyed with water vaporized. Fourth planet sentient life destroyed with atmosphere stripped. Fifth planet sentient colonization destroyed. Planet destroyed. Outer gas planets minimally affected.”

“What can we do?”

“Projections show second and fifth planets unsalvagable with current means. third and fourth planets minimally salvagable with water addition.”

“Then we do it. Let’s get some ice rocks from that outer cloud and seed those two and hope for the best. After that, we stop this war.”

May 20, 2014: 11:06 pm: Pilot X, writing

“So you see Ambassador–”

“Pilot,” he corrected for the millionth time.

“Yes, of course. Pilot. Our projections are more accurate for the dark moments. Because we have a linear perspective. We have lived continuously through history rather than hopping and skipping about. We have had no dark periods. We see your future becuse your future involves traveling to the past.”

“I understand all this,” Pilot X said. “But I still don’t see how it gives you perspective into your future. How could it?”

“Analytics,” the head of the Allendan Core responded.

“But Aelred, the committee has analytics. Some collected directly. And a larger data set because we can get them from all of space and time.”

Aelred shrugged. “Our math says we are more accurate. A direct constant sampling in real time beats sampling with major sark spots. You–” he paused. “You don’t know everything that is happening in space and time. We know more.”

Pilot X laughed. “I find that a little hard to believe.”

“Show him.”

The woman who had first approached Pilot X to invite him here, stepped forward. She placed a display generator in front of him and graphs and charts came to life. They described a war taking place at intervals across time up until several centuries before. Ancillary information purported to show pictures and other evidence.

“What war is this, I’m unfamiliar?”

Aelred nodded. “It is the time war. It has been hidden from us by its participants because of its devastation. Also because of causation. It could never start if parts of history aren’t left untouched for it to develop in. Our civilization lives in those parts. The dark times. The portions left without much history or confused history? That’s because of the time war. And our projections show in the future it devastates all and leaves the universe to die of a heat death, unpopulated with no real future.”

Pilot X shook his head. “Even if this is true, why would the Committee not know of it. They would be sending people like me to combat it and defuse it. It’s what we do We maintain the timeline.”

Aelred looked extraordinarily sad. “Yes,” he nodded. “It is what the committee does. Our records show in earlier ages they still thought as you. But now they are complicit. Elements hide the truth from others in the committe. They must believe there is only one final solution. One way out and they cannot find another way. They have gone from maintaining the timeline, to preserving the parts that are untouched. Like a museum.”

Pilot X only shook his head. “No. I know you believe this and I respect your belief, but it can’t be true. You– it would take a lot to convince me.”

Aelred seemed satisfied at this. “Of course. I would prefer you believed me but you told me you wouldn’t,” he grinned slyly. “You’ll be back to tell me of your part and I will barely believe you. SO take this,” he gave the display generator to Pilot X.

“Peruse it or not as you will, but do not destroy it. I can say with some certainty that it will come in handy someday. More I cannot say. For I would not let you tell me.”

Pilot X chuckled. “Well it does sound like me. All right,” he tookt eh display. “But one thing. Why me? What do you think I can do abotu any of this if it’s already fixed in time.”

“We know there are ropes. threads. Variations, between the fixed points,” Aelred looked desperate. He grabbed Pilot X’s arm. “You among all have the talent to weaved them. You among all have the clarity to see how it must be done. When you begin to believe I may be right, do as you are told by your superiors but do not trust the, Do not believe them. And remember. You have this!” he pointed at the generator adn then let Pilot X’s arm go.

“Pilot X,” he said somberly “You are the last hope of the universe.”

April 19, 2014: 6:06 pm: Pilot X, writing

Pilto X left the Secretary’s chambers satisfied they had no idea what really happened with the Sensaurians and therfore would not carry out the reaction the Sensaurians planned, therefore not bring the universe into a secret time war hidden in the nooks and crannies of spacetime to eventually destroy it all.

The feeling of satisfaction lasted exactly 123 steps from the Secretary’s office when he was approached by a smartly-dressed woman in neutral business attire.

“Ambassador?” she asked

“Pilot,” he answered.

“Ah, I see, Pilot X?”

“You have the advantage,” he found himself being courtly.

“I come on behalf of the Alendan Core,” she said avoiding the prompt for her name. She handed him a business card.

The sturdy linen paper was expensive and the actual gold leaf tracery around the edges doubly so. Printed in a sharp black classic typeface were the words “Ancient and Respected order of the Alendan Core,” and an address.

“If you would do us the pleasure of meeting with us tonight, we would like your advice on something. Come at your leisure, but if you arrive hungry, you will be fed.”

Pilot X prepared another courtly response but the woman left before he could stammer it out.

The Alendan Core was the oldest continuous linear society in his civilization. It pre-dated the ability to travel through time. Alendans had confirmed its existence back into pre-industrial times, though it had been called different names in its history. Its members foreswore time travel in order to provide a unique linear perspective on society, which they preserved for the use of whomever might want it.

Otherwise their activities were shrouded in mystery. They rarely reached out to anyone outside their order, and when they did no one spoke about it later.

This was a childhood dream of every adventurous-minded Alendan, to be approached by the Core. Despite his age, Pilot X was a bit giddy. He decided to head straight to their headquarters.

Unlike the order’s activities, the building was no secret. It even had a nice wooden sign on the outside by the door, indicating it was the “Ancient and Respected order of the Alendan Core” that occupied the one story adobe hut. It really was a hut too Perhaps it had been the bulwark of modern architecture when it had been built, 500 years before, but now it looked like a hut.

Pilot X knocked.

The same woman who had brought him the card opened the door and held out her hand.

Pilot X moved to shake it, but she withdrew it quickly still without changing her expression.

“The card.” she stated.

“Oh, I thought I got to keep it.”

She had no reaction so he fished out he card and handed it to her. She took it and moved aside to let him in.

“Should have said I lost it.” He muttered.

“We would have retrieved it,” she said without emotion. “This way.”

March 30, 2014: 1:58 am: Pilot X, writing

Pilot X dropped put of transit on the day after he had left for Tiel as Ambassador and about a day’s travel through space. He knew his failure with the Progons was several months in the future and he wanted to prepare the Diplomatic Department for what was to come.

He was about to give Verity commands to take a medium speed and swing by the gas giants for some sightseeing on the way when proximity alarms blared out of every speaker and the ship shuddered in the grip of some outside force.

It sounded like rain.

“What is that?” he asked.

Verity displayed a visual of a fine mist of particulate matter. There were no known debris fields this far out of the systems. They were even outside Allenda’s home system’s Oort Cloud. So what was that.

He zoomed in and analyzed and a very disturbing result told him it was micro cellular sentient pods of life.

“Sensaurions,” he said aloud.

A Sensaurion battleship loomed into view off Verity’s starboard bow and hailed him.

“So damned dramatic,” muttered Pilot X. Then answered the hail. “This is the Allendra ship Verity on a return diplomatic mission. Kindly stop raining on me with pieces of yourself and let me go about my business.”

The ship answerd. “Ambassador X. I am aware of your business with the machine people. I have learnt it from the future. You cannot be allowed to continue. This path will lead to destruction for all. You must be killed for the greater good.”

This was standard patter for the Sensaurions. They were a unified mega organism that could split up into smaller bits down to the cells they used to send communications like they were now. They could also send thoughts back in time to themselves. Well to itself, strictly speaking there was only one mind.

“Yes, yes. If you didn’t threaten the destruction of any organism that wasn’t you for the greater good, I might be flattered. And I’m not an Ambassador anymore, so I guess future you garbled the message. Perhaps it’s best to leg me finish what’s left of my diplomatic mission while you get that sorted with your son.”

“I am not my son I am me forever,” the Sensaurion battleship said pompously. “You must be destroyed not because of your threat to my mind, but because of your threat to all.”

Well that did seem to be a new twist. Sensaurions generally didn’t care about anyone not Sensaurion. Also they didn’t work well with plurals, so “all” was a heady and unusual concept for them.

“What do you mean by all?” Pilot X tried, hoping to confuse the Sensaurion with its own words.

“I cannot be confused by this. All is everything. And you will destroy everything if let on this timeline. I have seen it happen.”

“You mean you will have seen it happen, ” he countered.

“Yes. Tenses are malleable. Destruction imminent.”

“Oh stop you’ll start a war.”

“No, you will. And this will stop it.”

The battleship was charging a massive forward burst of fire targeted at Verity.

“Verity skip–” but the ship had already anticipated this and skipped forward one hour. Moving through such a small amount of space time was tricky and difficult to do precisely. The hour turned out to be three days. And a half day closer to Allendra.

“Or that,” said Pilot X. “Where’s the battleship?”

Allendra showed it on course to Sensauria. It had believed Pilot X destroyed.

“The bigger the hive mind, the dumber they fall.” Pilot X chuckled. “Set course to–”

But Verity had already plotted a medium course to Allendra swinging by the gas giants on the way.

“Well done, Verity. Well done.”

March 1, 2014: 8:34 pm: Pilot X, writing

Ambassador X looked at the chessboard. The robot had played well and would likely checkmate him within a dozen moves or so. The Ambassador had learned a lot from the play. The progons had never played chess but learned it quickly. Neither one of those things was a surprise. The real reason X had asked to play was to determine who controlled the robot. The style of play shifted just enough, especially in the early moves, that he was fairly certain the robot was occasionally inhabited by a Progon, maybe two different ones.

That was not usual. Progons almost never inhabited machines in front of non-Progons, and when they did, they occupied massive ceremonial machines designed to intimidate and insure their security.

The idea that they would build a humanoid machine and then inhabit it to spy on X was extraordinary.

That’s why he was walking. At least that’s what he told himself. He acted like a typical diplomat going a little insane in the isolation the Progons enforced on all visiting ambassadors. It was their gambit and security. No diplomat could meet with another to exchange information. No diplomat was made to feel comfortable enough that they would want to stay, insuring frequent turnover.

Ambassador X was chosen for his resistance to this. He would stay until he discovered the truth of the Progons secret war. The Progons seemed to encourage this by providing himself more familiarity and entertainment than any other diplomat he had ever heard of. So he decided to push it. He would act like he was succumbing to the pressures of isolation anyway. He would wander off his allowed walk, and if confronted rant about needing to see something new. He told himsefl it wasn’t true. But the act seemed very easy to pull off.

The insanity was closer to the surface than Ambassador X would like to allow.

The surface of Tiel was an endless march of square metal buildings. His plan was to get lost. That was easy too. Enforcer drones would fly to intercept him but they would not harm him. The Progons respcted diplomatic immunity that much at least. They would only use force if he tried to do something damaging or threatening. Wandering off the prescribed path was against the rules but not cause for use of force. It was only grounds for immediate expulsion. So this better pay off.

Getting lost was just as easy as acting insane. He really was lost. He could bee two feet from his own metal box or several clicks from it. The drones followed at a polite distance repeating their broadcast to turn around and return to quarters. That implied that he was headed away from his quarters anyway. So he trudged on ranting.

“Sky! You know,” he screamed. “I need sky! You don’t understand my needs. This place is a deathlake A treason. Why did they put me here? Why did I agree?!?”

“Ambassador X. PLease calm down, turn around, and return to quarters. You are off the prescribed path and in violation of the terms of your acceptance.”

The humanoid robot appeared from behind and began a new tactic, interrupting the Ambassador’s ranting with a gentle hand on his shoulder.

“Please don’t do this. We don’t wish any ill towards you. We must do what is best.”

The chess game had not only taught him when a different mind controlled the machine, but how that machine’s communication changed. It was controlled by a Progon now. It was uncharacteristically pleading.

The Ambassador stumbled on. As he reached another intersection, a change in the pattern occurred. A metal building blocked his path out of the pattern. He began to walk around it. The robot blocked him. The drones stopped their announcements.

“No,” it said.

“Why?!?” the Ambassador screamed still in his ranting voice, but meaning it.

“We thought you would cooperate. We meant to bring some peace through you.”

The Ambassador stopped his rant. “Some?”

“The war must happen. Must stay happened. It cannot be subverted. It must not. But through you we can limit the damage. Prevent the total destruction your people would otherwise bring.”

The Ambassador walked around the building anyway.


On the other side of the metal box were trees and a stream and green.

The Ambassador turned to look at the robot.

“What is this?”

“It would have been your home.”

“My home?”

“After your mission. To save the universe.”

“You presume so much.”

“Because we know it is you that will end this. And we know you will decide if the Progons continue We must continue.”

The robot engaged a weapon.

“If I’m your only chance of salvation, you’d best not eliminate me.”

“We cannot, but we must expel you. We will try again in an earlier time.”

“Good luck with that,’ Ambassador X said. The Verity hovered above and landed on automatic.

“You have disappointed us greatly. But remember, for you we may have mercy, for the Alendans none.”

“Worth remembering,” said the Ambassador. Then he climbed in his small box of a ship and took off.

He fed coordinates in spacetime to Verity. The ship informed him it was a conjunction point. A coordinate in which events were locked and could not be experienced in alternate threads or have mainlines diverted.

“I’m counting on it,” the Ambassador said. “Also tender my resignation with the Allendan council. I’m going back to being a simple PIlot for awhile.”

The Verity complied submitting the request from Pilot X.

February 15, 2014: 11:05 am: Pilot X, writing

The Verity descended towards a plain of identical looking, evenly-spaced one-story metal buildings. The Progons famously built down not up, so the buildings could be anything. His approved approach vector led him to one that began to slowly open to reveal a hangar. Besides the necessary landing equipment standard at all spaceports, the hangar was empty of any other ships. A solitary figure stood waiting.

The Verity touched down and before the Ambassador could finish a landing checklist a warning bell sounded. “External Lockdown Applied, All Systems Suspended,” the ship told him and displayed simultaneously. Not surprising, but disconcerting. Sort of the space travel equivalent of the spooky castle doors shutting behind you and locking.

The Progons had sent a bipedal robot to meet him. That was an unusual sign of deference. Progon machines were of all form factors, and few were bipedal. It wasn’t a necessary form for almost anything they did. The Progons generally didn’t care about making visitors feel at home either. It almost felt like they were trying to flatter him.

“Ambassador X, welcome to Tiel,” said the robot. It was likely an automata, not an inhabited machine but the Ambassador wondered. The Progons preferred to stay in large structures communing with each other in their electron-fast existence, rather than slowing themselves down into machines and the tedium of speaking aloud like an animal. Still, the Progons normally sent the equivalent of a rolling box to greet their visitors too.

“Thank you. What may I call you?” the Ambassador ventured.

“Assistant,” said the robot in a not unpleasant tone. Progons. They had names. They’r aerobats had names. But they just sucked at translation. “Assistant, er, 5.” The robot seemed to make it up on the spot. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your quarters.”

They ventured out of the hangar to a metal walkway that led directly to other square metal buildings. The Progons did like their right angles. Here and there distant movements betrayed other automata going about their business, but the Ambassador didn’t see another soul. Of course the Progons could inhabit any machine, and some inert structures if they wanted. They could have flitted into and out of the robot leading him without his knowledge.

And there were other Ambassadors on the planet as well. Some 453,000 of them. Each one kept apart from the other, equally spaced across the planet, so as not to ever come near composing a threat.

Some theorized it was a type of psychological warfare. Ambassadors on Tiel did not commune with their own kind and were left with unresponsive automata to speak with. It drove some mad. The previous Ambassador from Allendra had lasted a week. Of course he hadn’t gone mad, just requested an urgent transfer for ‘family reasons.’

The robot opened a sliding door at the end of one gangway and motioned the Ambassador to enter. Inside was what appeared to be a one story flat. If there were lower stories there was no obvious way of entering them. The quarters were sufficient. On the left was a circular mat that likely served for a bed. The Ambassador knew it was meant to serve a multitude of species hence the shape and the odd texture.

On the right was a small table that served as a desk and eating area with a chair and a few outlets for connectivity and such. Along the back wall was the kitchen. Large cabinets hung in the wall next to a mounted food preparation machine. A sink of sorts at least something that looked like it dispensed water. A lower wide bowl meant for bathing or possibly for excretion or knowing the Progons, both somehow.

The robot opened the cabinets to reveal stacks of identical bars wrapped in white paper. One side of the cabinet was refrigerated.

“We have provided a wide variety of Alenndran foods for your preparation. Stocks will be replenished automatically. Should you require other foods please make your request through the diplomatic channel you were assigned.”

In other words, you can fill out some paperwork, but don’t expect anything but these bars. The robot moved to the sliding door.

“These buttons here control the door. If you need to leave please alert us to your planned movements through the diplomatic channel you were assigned. You are expected out for exercise between the 4th and 6th hours.”

In other words, except for your daily jog, don’t leave unless we tell you to. There really wasn’t any need to. A diplomats life on Tiel consisted of relaxation, exercise, regular diplomatic meetings with a Progon representative (usually an automata) and wide stretches of boredom.

“May I be of assistance in any other matters, ambassador X?” the robot asked.

“No, thank you Assistant, er, 5,” the Ambassador mimicked the name. “You’ve been efficient.”

It was meant as flattery of its own but the robot showed no visible reaction.

“If you have further needs not previously covered by me,” submit them through the diplomatic channel you were assigned, the Ambassador finished for the robot in his head. But instead it said, “Use the communicator button on the provided device and call for Assistant 5. Have a pleasant day, Ambassador X.”

The robot left through the sliding door. What was that about? A last-minute parting shot of flattery? A communication device. Why hadn’t the robot pointed it out. The Ambassador looked around the spacious if sparse room. He saw no communication device. Was it a trick? A taunt? Then he saw it. Lying on the edge of the circular bed near the wall.

It was a small flat metal box with three buttons. Well that left him wondering which one was the communication button. Ah, it was written in Alendan. ‘Comm.’

The Ambassador had the impulse to call the robot back immediately just to see if it worked. But he didn’t. This was not standard procedure as far as he knew. The departing Alendan ambassador had briefed him and made it clear that he was left with no way of communicating directly to the Progons, probably to increase the isolation.

So what did the other buttons do? One white button was labeled Lights. He pressed it and the lights in the room dimmed. Another modern convenience. Other ambassadors reported the lights staying on at all times, messing with sleep patterns. The last green button was unlabeled. He pressed it but nothing happened. At least nothing he could tell. Maybe it blew up his ship in the hangar. Maybe it turned off the lights in some Progon room halfway across the planet.

He shrugged and tossed the device on the bed. Suddenly the door ripped open and two rolling boxes with surgical arms came rushing in and grabbed him.

“What is the nature of your emergency!” They shrieked.

“A green unlabeled button is your emergency button?” the Ambassador chuckled. “Bad design, Progons.”

February 4, 2014: 1:17 am: Pilot X, writing

Tiel appeared to be on fire. That was not unusual. Vegetation blended together on many planets to make land masses appear green. Individual fires on Tiel blended together to give the impression of a mass conflagration. It was more than appearance. The gas fields and generators that burned across much of Tiel were a conflagration. They powered the great machines in which the Progons lived.

Ambassador X knew this was but one of the reasons most Alendans worked very hard never to get assigned to a diplomatic mission on Tiel. There were few places on the planet that weren’t deadly to Alendans, and fewer people to spend your time with in the non-deadly sections.

Not to mention the Progons were deadly enemies with Alenda throughout most of time and space. Ambassador X had been assigned as a diplomat in a relatively calm stretch, thank goodness. He was the first Alendadn to serve as diplomat in more than a thousand years at this point. Well, if you didn’t count his immediate predecessor who lasted a week before having to be committed. The Ambassador was fairly certain it was a faked mental illness. And thoroughly understandable.

It was all the same to the Progons. The individual water sacks called Alendans barely registered as anything to a race of electricity. If an Alendan ever assaulted a Progon it would mean breaking their circuit and electrocuting the Alendan in the process. Also, Progons could communicate through time, so they knew what happned and would happen as much as the time-traveling Alendans. In fact they knew some things much quicker because they only had to ask their far flung machines what was going on. Alendans had to travel in space as well as time.

That didn’t mean there weren’t gaps. No race could be at all points in spacetime. So there were always mysteries. And this stretch of Progon time was a mystery to the Alendans. To be fair, this strecth of Alendan history was unknown to the Progons. They had carefully arranged to stay out of each other’s way for 1,000 years. So the Ambassador was not loving the idea of being plunked down in the middle of that quiet period and disturbing it. For one, the Progons would just call ahead to their future selves and find out what he did before he knew he would do it. HE hated that about them. For another it meant he was the one to break the fragile peace that led to the greatest war in history. A war that Alendan High Command was discovering raging in all manner of previously unknown stretches of history.

The Ambassador’s fate was start it. His mission was to mitigate it.

His only protection was his ship, The Verity. Within it, the Progons could not see him. He was protected from their prying eyes and they could not use their timecoms on him. The Verity encapsulated a singularity. This gave him a vast ship’s interior, lush with rooms, swimming pools, movie theaters, and anything else one could think of. It also gave him a time-shield that blocked attempts to read at least some of his future. The parts that existed within the influence of the singularity anyway.

It was the only way he could do this job.

He floated around Tiel for two more orbits before finally answering the relentless almost mindless request for identification and course by the Tiel Capital.

“Ambassador X de Alenda requesting diplomatic courtesies and permission to land in the capital.”

“permission granted,” the staticy voice spoke. It wasn’t a Progons. The Ambassador might never actually interact with a Progon his entire time on the planet. It was a machine the Progons had built that gave him his clearance. The machines were why the Progons were though of as a race of robots. The Progons themselves were much more insidious than robots. They had feelings and art and culture of a sort. But they were individuals made up of an electrical circuit. Their beliefs were so alien it was almost impossible for waterbag like the Ambassador to grasp them. That alone wouldn’t have been so bad if the Progons were not also convinced that they alone had the pure and dominant culture and all other beings deserved subservience, much like their machines.

“If only the robots really did rise up against their masters, ever,” mused the Ambassador. Then he took The Verity out of orbit and headed it down to the surface to begin his mission.

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