Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 15, 2069

Click here for the 2016 table of contents.

Mateo could not open his eyes, despite knowing that he had to in order to survive. A great roar came from under his ass and vibrated his entire body. Leona’s voice surged into his brain. “Mateo! Mateo! Can you hear me! Wake up! I need you to say the words!”
He struggled to lift his eyelids and began to look around. He was inside of a fishbowl, inside of a very tiny room. He might even call it a pod. Did that make sense? Yes, of course it did. He could remember now that the new Rogue, Makarion was forcing them to reenact a movie from 2015 called The Martian. He started jumping through time before so much as hearing about it, so he hadn’t gotten a chance to watch it back then. Fortunately, Makarion gave them the heads up about it, and let them study it the day before. This wasn’t exactly the safest part of the film, but it was near the end. These reenactments only took place over the course of a few scenes, maybe several, but never the whole thing. Life of Pi had been the most exhausting one, but still only accounted for part of the story.
Because so much of The Martian involved a highly intelligent astronaut who was trained to survive on an inhospitable planet, and knew the technical details of the instruments around him, Mateo and Leona were pretty sure those kinds of things would be cut out. Leona could probably be categorized as a genius, but she was still not cognizant of any machines used to get to, or live on, Mars. And she certainly hadn’t been given enough time to familiarize herself with 2069 technology. Therefore, they assumed their reenactment mission was something any lay person could conceivably carry out. There wasn’t really anything in the movie like that, save maybe growing potatoes. So they had been at a loss as to where in the film this year’s tribulation would begin. There just weren’t any scenes that involved two people. There was only the main character being alone, and then times when he reported to mission control. That is, except for the climax, which included the small number of his crew. But they never thought Makarion would choose that one, because it meant employing actors. Yet, that’s what he did, in a way.
“You’re late!” Leona continued. “You have to say the words, or the MAV will explode, Pilot!”
Mateo thought back to what words she would be talking about. Oh yes, that part in all realistic space movies; the one where someone in mission control reads off all the sections, each one checking in. Recovery; go. Secondary Recovery; go. And her last one was Pilot. “GO!”
A voice he didn’t recognize began to count down from ten. The engines below him increased intensity, and then pushed him off the ground. Was he really on Mars? As he was hurtling towards his death, he recalled research Leona had done about the state of space travel. Mars has had humans on it for many years now, with permanent settlements during about ten of the most recent of them. Most of the residents are scientists, but people are actually starting to move out there with their families, hopeful to build a new world. But a planet with humans on it is not the same as Earth. Most of these settlements are located on the poles, with plenty of space in between for Makarion to stage the reenactment of one of his favorite movies without anyone noticing. Probably. But who was this person who had counted down his blast off. Was she chooser, salmon, or just a regular human? Was she something else? If she was just a regular person, what made her agree to something like this? It must look fishy.
The MAV continued away from where it had come, and begin to swim through the eternal vacuum of space. Screws, washers, and other small objects floated around his head. Yep; he was in space. Again. He didn’t pass out, like in the movie. He probably would have liked to as his fear and anxiety was getting the best of him, but being awake was better since he couldn’t know what would happen next. The Rogue always liked to put in twists on the source material, so that even knowing what was supposed to happen wouldn’t help him. This was already a dangerous mission, so how could things get worse? Well, for the moment, nothing was happening as Mateo waited for Leona and the rest of whatever crew she had to come retrieve him.
“How are you doing, love?” Leona asked through comms.
“I’m fine, I’m awake. Makarion couldn’t have chosen a better part of the movie.”
“I agree.”
“Way I remember it, somebody should be making a bomb right about now. Is everything going according to plan?”
“There is no bomb. We’re just on our way to pick you up. Our vector is fine for it. My guess is that the bomb and other insane components of the film’s original rescue are just too many variables for Makarion to account for.”
“So the twist this time is that things are actually easier?” Mateo asked.
“Hold on.”
“What?” Mateo called, but received no reply. He could hear only static. “Leona, what is it? Tell me. I can handle it.”
“Copy that, Pilot,” Leona finally said. “I’ve just been informed by the crew that we’re going to deliberately stop far enough away from you so that you’ll be forced to do the thing.”
“The thing? I don’t wanna do the thing.”
“I don’t want you to do the thing either, but they insist that you do the thing.”
“Who are these people?”
“Robots. Programmed by Makarion to carry out his orders.”
“Can you reprogram them?”
Mateo looked around, knowing that every second he let pass would make things more difficult. He just had to resign himself to the fact that he had no choice but to comply with tribulation parameters. “I can’t find anything sharp. If the walls had sharp edges, or something, maybe I could figure it out. But there’s nothing. How am I supposed to do the thing?”
“Is there a fire extinguisher?”
Mateo paused. Did she really just say that? Yes, yes there was. And it was probably an ancient one, at that. Future fire extinguishers could probably fit in the palm of your hand. “So now we’re doing Gravity? That one I did see.”
“Do you have one?”
“Yes, I do.”
“There shouldn’t be,” Leona pointed out. “This is the actual twist.”
“Okay, I can do this,” Mateo said.
“No, wait. I have to run some calculations. You can’t just hold the extinguisher wherever you want, or you’ll spin around endlessly. You have to put it at your center of mass.”
Before too long, though, Leona returned on comms and told him exactly where to hold the fire extinguisher, up against his belly. He hung out of the edge, ran through the Our Father prayer a few times, and then let it ride. He did spin around a few times; maybe a few hundred. But he quickly adjusted his placement, found his groove, and started shooting ever towards the ship above him. It was very tiny, likely so that it wouldn’t be detected by the real people living on Mars. Leona was floating under it, waiting for him to reach her. That meant she was already in her suit and out there when they were discussing fire extinguisher etiquette. So she did those calculations in her head. She really was amazing. He remembered her having said that she was always terrible at grade school math. How exactly had she changed so dramatically? However it was possible, he was grateful for this now. He barreled into her body and held on tightly. They didn’t even have to do the thing where they spin around each other, ever in danger of being pulled apart again.
The robot crew reeled them in together and sealed the airlock. “You can’t imagine how frustrating it’s been suffering these people,” Leona complained. “You’ve been unconscious for most of the day while I’ve been dealing with problem after problem. Nothing in this ship works. I almost wish we had actually done the explosion part.”
“We are going to,” one of the robots said.
It entered a sequence into a device on its wrist. They could hear a beeping coming from it, and a number of other places nearby.
“You’re really going to blow up the ship!” Mateo yelled.
“It is our final directive,” it recited.
“What movie is that from?” Leona and Mateo scrambled to put their helmets back on. She entered own sequence on a console on the wall. The airlock reopened and jettisoned them from the ship, just as it was blowing up. The explosion propelled them back towards Mars, and damaged their suits. He could feel the air slipping away from him. Apparently he hadn’t needed something sharp to cut a hole. He should have thought of using an explosion before.
“Were I you!” Mateo yelled into his comms.
“Were I you!” Leona returned.
They continued to scream in fear. Would they keep going towards Mars, far enough to burn up in the atmosphere? Or would they eventually stop? He wished he knew how to science.
The scene changed as outer space transformed into water, and blackness turned to blue. They were lying in a water fountain, still screaming. People were hanging about, looking at them funny. They could see Makarion smiling from the crowd. He winked before turning away and walking off, done with them for now. Mateo played to the crowd and sprayed water out of his mouth, like one of the horses. They laughed at him, clearly happy to see something exciting and spontaneous. Click here for the next installment...

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