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Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 12, 2219

Many years ago, in another timeline, the powers that be gave Leona and Mateo the ability to survive space travel; a gift which remained with them in the new reality. Nowhere beyond a single star system could be accessed within the span of one day, but that didn’t mean they weren’t capable of reaching the stars using standard human technology. Instead of being returned to the same exact point in space—which didn’t ever exist, because everything’s location is based on its relative position to everything else, which is always in motion—they could come back to wherever they were in the vessel. This did not apply to just any vessel, though. It had to be moving away from some kind of orbital, so that they wouldn’t die by suddenly being exposed to the vacuum of space. If they were on a ship that was sitting on the surface of a planet, and that ship took off while they were gone, they would not be attached to it.
It was stupid of Leona to be on the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when midnight central struck, because she had given Brooke and Sharice specific orders to leave her behind. The goal was to get the AOC to Gatewood, to save the Ansutahan human refugees, regardless of whether Leona could be there. They had apparently honored her wishes, which unfortunately meant Leona was now falling from more than two stories in the air. While she was plummeting to the ground inside of a Bungulan crater, two thoughts passed through her mind. Number one, it was so incredibly stupid of her to be sleeping in a grave chamber, knowing it likely wouldn’t still be there in October of 2219. Number two, also many years ago, she lost both her legs to an infection from an alien plant native to a planet she deemed Legolas. She managed to get back to Earth, however, where a group of fancy futuristic medical professionals essentially regrew them for her. She hadn’t really had much of an occasion to use them, but they were still significantly stronger than normal legs. At the last second, she flipped over, and landed right on her feet. It wasn’t completely painless, but she survived, mostly unharmed.
She looked around, just to make sure she couldn’t see the ship somewhere else, but it was nowhere to be found. Good, they had made it off the ground. Now the only question was whether they were doing okay en route. It was practically impossible to have a conversation from a relatively static planet to a ship moving at relativistic speeds. Though the trip was set to take a little more than eight years total, as observed by the passengers of the ship, less than six years will have passed. This discrepancy made communication reliant exclusively on delayed messaging, whether one was using a quantum messenger or not.
No longer with a ship to call home, Leona walked over to the building Sharice told her about, where the few Ansutahan were being held. She needed food, and that was the best place for her to find it at this time. Now that the AOC was on its way, she would soon be able to return to Dardius through the Halifax grave, but in case that didn’t work, it was prudent to secure resources here on Bungula. She was met with eerie silence when she walked into the habitat. Only then did she realize she hadn’t heard anything since she woke up. It was midnight central, yes, but the dome was meant to be operating under universal coordinated time, which was several hours later. There should have at least been some activity somewhere around here.
She kept moving through the corridor, until she reached the main common area of the Ansutahan habitat. The place was an absolute mess. Tables and chairs were strewn about the floor, and wires were exposed from the ceiling. There weren’t any burning fires, but it looked like there had been at one point. She didn’t see any dead bodies, but she did find Brooke and Sharice, whose bodies were both physically damaged, and powered down. Something bad had happened here, but she couldn’t make any assumptions without more information. She dragged them to the nearest charging port, repaired some of their more vital internal mechanisms, and had something to eat while she waited for them to wake up. Though there was still power to the habitat, there didn’t appear to be any computer terminals, probably because the Ansutahan would have little use for them.
A few hours later, Sharice’s eyes lit up, as her systems rebooted. “Sharice, Sharice. Do you know who I am?”
“Leona Gelen Delaney-Matic.”
“That’s good enough. Please run a summary diagnostic check on your systems.”
Sharice turned her eyeballs to the floor while her neural net synthesized the data. “All systems operating at, or above, minimal efficiency. No irreparable damage detected.” She turned her head when she noticed Brooke was slouched against the wall next to her. “Mom? Mom!”
“Hold on,” Leona tried to comfort her. “She’s still charging to minimal operating threshold. We’ll wait until then before we start getting worried.”
“What’s the date?” Sharice asked.
“October 12, 2219.”
“The AOC. Is it here?”
“It’s gone,” Leona said. “I thought you and your mom took it.”
Sharice shook her head. “No, I’m sure the Ansutahan did, if you didn’t see any evidence of its destruction. We underestimated their willpower. They started killing and destroying the Bungulans. I lost consciousness before I could know for sure, but it was only a matter of time before they tried to leave the surface. I know that not all of them made it.”
“Where are all the Bungulans?”
Sharice looked around the room, even though she knew she wouldn’t literally see anyone else. “The survivors must have escaped to Site Beta. That’s what I would do.”
Finally, Brooke’s eyes lit up as well, and she regained consciousness. She was far more panicked at first, but a cursory diagnostic test proved that she would survive too.
“Is there any way to find out where the Ansutahan took the Ocasio-Cortez, and who was on it, and whether Serif was one of them, and if the bridge is still active?” Leona asked. She was a physicist and computer expert, but she didn’t know everything she could have about the ins and outs of Bungula Colony Site Alpha.
Brooke nodded. “The telescope, if it was dormant, would have recorded a general view of the sky. If someone was studying a distant system at the time, however, then it might not have seen the vector. Either way, it’s not perfect, because the AOC could have changed directions later, or suffered a cataclysm.”
“Other than that,” Sharice added, “the colonists would probably know. I hesitate to ask them anything, though, as we have caused them so many problems since arriving. They owe us nothing.”
Leona nodded in agreement. “Then let’s hope the telescope data can tell us something.”
The three of them left the habitat, and headed for the observatory, which had been abandoned, just like the rest of the dome. Though they were hoping to avoid asking the colonists for help, they would have to be contacted at some point. If the surviving Ansutahan had stolen the AOC, that would leave Site Alpha free to be reclaimed by its rightful owners, and they needed to know that.
Brooke and Sharice interfaced with the database, to search for the right information, leaving Leona to twiddle her thumbs. She had gotten used to being the one who had to find out stuff like this, but now that she was walking around with bonafide androids, she was least qualified to help. Brooke was starting from January, which was when the second Ansutahan uprising took place, while Sharice started from yesterday, and worked her way backwards.
“I found it,” Brooke said. “February of this year.” She tilted her head as she sorted through the data. “They left. Traveling at...point-seven-five-c. Predicting a destination of...Barnard’s Star.”
Leona breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
“That’s not too surprising,” Sharice pointed out. “We had already calculated that trip. It would have been harder to calculate somewhere else.”
“True,” Brooke said, “but they would still need a good enough pilot to course correct.”
“Was there anyone there who could do that?” Leona asked.
“We don’t really know who survived, and who died in the firefight,” Brooke said. “But best case scenario...only kind of. The Ansutahan are not a space-faring race, because they don’t have very much space to fare in their home universe. Their ability to pilot the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is entirely reliant on the most intelligent of the passengers being able to improvise, or adequately study the manual.”
“So, we’ll just never know,” Leona lamented.
“You could,” Sharice offered. “You could jump back into that grave, and take that Nexus thing you were talking about to Gatewood. You should do that either way, so your husband doesn’t accept the arrival without having any clue what he’s dealing with.”
“That’s a good point,” Leona admitted. “But what will you do?”
“When I became an android,” Brooke began, “I lost a lot of what I was before, including my inability to experience nonlinear time. Still, I doubt the grave would work for me.”
“Besides,” Sharice said, “we have an obligation to stay here, and rebuild what we broke. We owe the colonists that much.”
“Are you sure?” Leona asked. “I could still wait. The ship won’t arrive at Gatewood for another nine...uh, days.”
“We’re sure,” Brooke said with a smile.
Sharice agreed. “I’m certain we’ll see you again.”
Leona said her goodbyes, packed some supplies, and walked up to the edge of the grave that Ramses dug. Then she fell back, and into it. When she climbed back out, Brooke and Sharice were still standing there, because Halifax had not come through this time.

Meanwhile, on Dardius, Mateo was living in a world still at war. Nonetheless, much had changed since last year. The good news was that the fighting was at a virtual standstill. While more quantum replications of the enemy continued to come through the Muster Twins,—as Ramses was calling the Muster Beacon and Muster Lighter collectively—Dardieti military might was increasing every day as well. It wasn’t something they thought they would ever need, being millions of lightyears from the nearest known civilization, but it was surprisingly easy to form from essentially nothing. Enough people with military experience had been rescued from the brink of death on Earth over the years, and while here, they had built a stable and harmonious global nation, capable of holding back any threat.
It wasn’t entirely clear what the Dardieti were meant to gain from Mateo claiming the planet as his own. It wasn’t like that was something the Freemarketeers were going to respect. At least that wasn’t what Mateo thought. But Ramses had a plan. He knew how to deal with these people, and Mateo’s coronation was only the beginning of that. True, if Mateo was to have anything to do with it, it would take years to fix this problem from everyone else’s perspective. But that didn’t mean they shouldn’t try. They would be locked in battle forever unless that found some advantage.
“Can we not call it a coronation, though?” Mateo asked politely.
The reality was that Ramses wasn’t really supposed to have gone on the mission to save Mateo on Tribulation Island last year. At the time, he was designated as a special advisor to the delegation, serving directly under one of the delegators himself. Since then, he was officially appointed as the Foreign Policy Advisor, to the other world delegator. Though the position had been included by its unknown mastermind in the initial political design that inspired the Dardieti government, it had never been used on the planet. These designs were originally intended for individual nations, who needed to communicate with separate civilizations, which was something Dardius as a whole had no use for until now. Any contact made back with Earth traditionally fell under the leadership of the Transportation and Citizenry Administrators, among a few others. Mateo was still trying to figure out the difference between an advisor, and an administrator, but he knew there was a difference. Ramses wasn’t responsible for policy, but instead made sure those policies were ethical and effective. Either way, he had led Mateo’s rescue mission out of a sense of duty.
“Seriously,” Mateo went on, “I don’t want to be king. I just want to fix this.”
“No one’s going to be calling you king,” Ramses assured him, “but they are going to look to you as a singular voice.”
“I thought that’s what the mediator did.”
Ramses stopped adjusting Mateo’s clothes for a second. “Let me explain this again. The government is broken up into two separate delegator groups, made up of advisors. They don’t report to the mediator, but receive guidance from her. She’s there as a go-between, so the two delegators don’t suffer from biases by interacting with each other too much. The idea is if they’re each asked to make a decision about something, and they come to a consensus without ever even talking to each other, it hopefully means it’s a good decision. The deputy delegator then relays whatever decisions they make to the administration board, who enact changes to their respective departments, as necessary.
“But once we came up with this system of checks and balances, the people were worried decision-making would not be fast enough. In peacetime, the snail’s pace of democracy is usually okay, but when a minute can mean the difference between a nuclear explosion, and a successful intercept of the missile, we need a top executive. Amendment Two allows us to vote for this executive, but Amendment One pushes you specifically into that role, should you happen to be on-world when the need arises.”
“But isn’t voting the cornerstone of any good democracy?” Mateo argued.
“Yes, but A-One allows us to replace a formal vote with general public attitudes. We can’t vote, Mateo, because you’re not here long enough to campaign, and you don’t have any competition anyway. The system takes your time-jumping into account.”
“I still feel icky about this,” Mateo complained. “It was fine when I owned a planet that nobody lived on, but billions of people are counting on me, and I don’t know jack shit.”
Ramses went back to making sure the outfit Mateo was wearing looked okay for the Dardieti public. “That’s good. You would be sociopath if it didn’t bother you.’re not doing this alone. That’s what the advisors are for. We haven’t abolished them just because you’re here now.”
“So, what’s my job title again?”
“Don’t call it a job,” Ramses warned him. “Running a planet is not like running a business. But to answer your question, you’re the patronus.”
“Did you get that from Harry Potter?”
Ramses laughed. “No, Latin. Now, are you ready?”
“No,” Mateo answered truthfully.
“The people are.” Ramses shuffled Mateo out onto the balcony, where a crowd of thousands, accompanied by a livestream for billions, was waiting for him.

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