Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 12, 2036

“How can we be sure that it worked? You could just be in the exact same position as you were before. You could have even been standing there for an entire year, and now you’re just pretending that it worked.” Leona, always the skeptic.
“I suppose you’re right,” Mirage replied.
“I am?”
“She is?”
“You’re right,” Mirage began to clarify, “in that you would never be able to know. You could jump for 300 days, and in those 300 years, I will never never aged. I could never prove to you that I was jumping through time.”
Leona and Mateo had no idea how to respond to that.
“I don’t know about all that,” said Parker, the same astronaut from a year ago. “But I do know that when you two disappeared last year, Mirage disappeared as well, and she reappeared at the exact same time.”
“Can her nanites turn invisible?” Mateo asked.
Leona and Parker laughed. Mirage looked at him like he was a three-legged puppy.
Parker? came a voice from the intercom.
“Parker here, go ahead.”
I have two visitors here who claim to be from Alyerr Base, but I can’t reach Alyerr on the comms network. They say they know you. One of them is named Gardner.
“That’s my mother, here to take us back home,” Mateo confirmed after Parker gave them an inquisitive look.
“Let them through, please,” Parker said into his comm before turning his attention back to the other three. “You’re lucky I manipulated the schedule to get myself back here at this time. I still wasn’t convinced that you guys were telling the truth about what you are, but I couldn’t risk some poor schmuck having to deal with you.”
“We appreciate the sentiment,” Leona said, half sincerely and half sarcastically.

Ironically, since the lawyers could never prove that their house exploded due to human error, Aura won an out-of-court settlement case. Reaver was forced to pay them millions of dollars. The look on his face was said to have been just absolutely hilarious, and reminded Mateo that he had yet to encounter the man in person. What would happen when that day inevitably came? In the future, Reaver’s message had suggested that they were somehow kept from killing each other directly, but that probably wouldn’t stop him from punching him in the face.
Aura spent a large amount of their money on a private spacecraft in order to retrieve them from the moon. Mateo tried to apologize for this, and for the exploding house, but she just said that she always wanted a spaceship, and that the blame for the house belonged solely to Reaver. Advances in space travel allowed the trip from the moon to take a matter of hours; the majority of their day that year. It could have been much worse. Some ships use less fuel and take days, which would have trapped in space during their jump. If Leona hadn’t fallen into his pattern, he actually might have tried doing that to see whether being in space could stop him from jumping at all, or if the powers that be would just cut their losses and let him die in the vacuum.
“I assume that you can’t simply leave Earth’s atmosphere without someone’s permission,” Leona said on the way back. “I mean, even if only rich people can do that at this point, is it not still heavily regulated?”
“It is. But it only took a few bribes to get out and back in,” Samsonite explained. “Though some collaboration has been taking place, space exploration is largely disjointed. If one country wants to send a vessel up, other countries can’t really dispute their attempt, unless it poses a clear threat to human life. Technically, we are subject to the laws of Japan as they were the easiest to contact regarding our intentions, and the most interested in keeping other governments out of their affairs.”
“I have another question,” Mateo said.
“Yes, honey?”
“How...does one...vomit space?”
“Are you asking for theory or practical application?”
Mateo just lurched against his seatbelts.
Samsonite quickly grabbed a pack from a drawer in the wall and opened it before handing it to Mateo. “Remember that there is no up and down. You’re going to have to propel the sick forward, and then use that liner to wipe your face before closing it and stuffing it into the ziplock bag as fast as you can.”
Mateo did as he was told. Leona didn’t seem to have any trouble, though she did always seem to have a stronger stomach than him.

Relatively speaking, when they were not far from Earth, an alarm began to sound. Then a voice came on the intercom, Private spacecraft Gelen, this is the Titan Exploration Project. Please come in.
Samsonite reached over and spoke into the microphone, “This is The Gelen. Go ahead, what’s the problem?”
We have been assigned to contact your vessel regarding an emergency. We are in the middle of experiencing a collisionally cascade. I repeat, a major Kessler catastrophe is occurring. They are currently using an ablation laser to clear the debris, but it will be another few days before you can return to Earth. Please enter an orbit of 3,000 kilometers and ration your supplies.
Samsonite shook his head urgently, “we have an injured passenger. We don’t have a few days before he dies. We have to reenter atmosphere now!”
I apologize for this. They are maneuvering the lasers as fast as possible. There is nothing that we can do. If you attempt reentry, you will all die.
“What happened?”
It was Reaver, sir. He sent an unauthorized unmanned space probe. It exploded and began the cascade. It’’s awful out there. At last report, three people were dead, with several more still in immediate danger. You’re lucky to have still been out so far.
“What are we talking about?” Mateo asked.
“Space debris,” Leona explained. “When Reaver’s ship exploded, it sent shrapnel hurtling towards other objects. Those objects hit other objects, and it just keeps going. It would be like trying to walk across the highway. This is his latest attempt to kill you.”
“How did he know? We were so secretive,” Aura insisted.
“The question is, how are we going to get these two to safety. We cannot be in a moving vessel at midnight.”
“Can we go back to the moon for now?” Mateo asked.
“It would take too long,” Leona said.
“I can get you back down,” Mirage claimed. “Everybody put on your helmets. I’m going to be eating the ship.”
After some arguments, the four of them finally agreed that her plan was their best option, and their only chance for survival. As the ship drew closer towards the debris, they sealed themselves up. Mirage’s nanites chewed on the material of The Gelen and converted it to increase the number of her nanites. They were replicating at an astonishing rate. Mateo watched as the ship was being torn apart. It was only exposed to the vacuum for a few minutes before the nanites were numerous enough to create a second vessel around them.
The new nanite ship had a much smaller interior than the first so that the hull could be extremely thick and protective. Still, Mateo could tell that small pieces of the debris were damaging Mirage as they flew towards her at high speeds. She seemed to feel some level of physical pain. There weren’t any windows, but she kept them updated on how close they were to the surface. The kilometers she was listing off decreased alarmingly fast. Holes began to form between the nanites, but the structure continued to hold. Fire overwhelmed them as their descent was far too steep, but she was trying to get them down as fast as possible. Finally, they were in the air. Mirage transformed her shape so that she was more like a platform than a ship. They continued to fall, and she spoke to them through their comms, I’m doing my best, but I cannot decelerate fast enough. My nanites are faltering, and it’s almost midnight central time.
Mateo watched as the nanite platform grew smaller and smaller. Nanites were dropping away like flies. They weren’t strong enough to hold on to each other. She made one final push, trying to get them over the water. Mateo tore off his helmet and grabbed a handful of nanites, stuffing them down his own throat.
“I’m so sorry, Mateo,” Mirage cried.
“Stay with me, literally,” he yelled as loud as he could through the wind.
“I can either send my consciousness to the nanites you swallowed, or I can remain behind to save your family. I lied. The procedure didn’t work. I have been waiting for you for a year.”
An alarm rang out from Aura’s watch. “No!” Mateo yelled. Leona pulled him into a hug just before they jumped into the future. Mirage’s nanite platform was gone, along with his mother and Samsonite. They were still probably fifty meters up in the air...over land.

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