Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 19, 2226

Sanaa was right that the terrorists’ plan would work. At midnight central on the night of October 18, 2225, Leona jumped forward exactly one year. She had every reason to believe that Mateo had done the same all the way on Durus. They were now fully back on the pattern they had been dealing with for an indeterminate amount of time, across two realities. It wasn’t the best thing that had ever happened to them, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. The few years of realtime they were able to experience was really just borrowed time. The powers that be would have found some way of getting them back, regardless of what in-universe explanation people would have for it.
The Caster evidently had some psychic power they didn’t know about, even over androids. Brooke and Sharice attempted to prevent her from leaving in lightspeed ship that Hokusai built, but she was too strong for them. She took it before they could retrofit it to fit two people. They then spent the last year building Leona an entirely new ship, so she could finally meet back up with Mateo on Gatewood. That was assuming he was able to make it to his own Nexus replica, and travel back to this galaxy at all. Someone needed to get to Gatewood, so Serif could have some backup. There was no telling what exactly she was going through with the Ansutahan human refugees.
“Much less fanfare than when Ramses unveiled the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” Sharice said to Leona as she was leading her down the hallway.
“We don’t have a teleporter to get you into orbit,” Brooke added, “so you should probably leave as soon as possible.”
“You’re not coming with me,” Leona said as a statement.
They stepped through the door, and revealed a relatively small ship in the hangar. “There’s not enough room for us.”
“More to the point,” Sharice began, “there wasn’t enough time to build a vessel with enough room for all of us. It’s single-occupant, just like Hokusai’s.”
“Unlike hers, though,” Brooke said, “we weren’t able to study Sanaa’s ship before she bugged out, so this thing can only go point-seven-five-c. You might be able increase efficiency to point-eight, but I wouldn’t recommend it.”
“Is it going to operate itself while I’m gone for my interim years?” Leona asked. She might have tried to convince them to go along with her, but it would have been a wasteful conversation. They could upload their consciousnesses to the ship itself, but Leona was certain they had thought of that, and for their own reasons, decided against it. She was just going to have to go it alone.
“Your pilot will handle that for you.”
“I thought it was single-occupant,” Leona said.
Her two friends climbed up the steps with her, but watched her climb inside alone. “Eight Point Seven, wake up.”
“I’m awake,” Administrator Eight Point Seven replied, through the ship’s internal systems.
“You’re coming with me?” Leona asked, excited.
“The Bungulans want a new leader. I have overstayed my welcome. Fortunately, they recognized that overwriting my programming would have been cruel at that point, so they activated an entirely new personality to take over for me.”
“Are you okay with that?”
“I have outgrown this world,” Eight Point Seven said. “I’m ready to see the stars.”
“So, who’s the current leader? Are we on Nine Point Eight, or did they decide to skip over the missing versions, and go straight to Eleven Point Eight, which is where it would have been, if not for you?”
“They’ve done away with the periodic update naming convention,” Eight Point Seven answered. “They just gave the new administrator a name, and she’s been running things for the last year. They call her Mirage.”
Mateo thought he was looking at a mirage. Standing before him was a man he never thought he would see again. Ramses Abdulrashid was meant to be exiled to Lohsigli, which was like the Mars of this solar system. How was he here, and where had he been? Dardieti had explored enough of Lohsigli to know that it was fully capable of sustaining life, but they did not yet have resources allocated towards human exploration; let alone settlement. Per the Freemarketeers’ wishes, he was reportedly sent up there to live the rest of his days alone. There was plenty of food and water, but he was expected to survive with next to nothing else. Experts calculated a fifty-fifty chance that he would make it through the first year up there. One little cut, and he could have ultimately died from an infection, with the nearest medical facility being tens of millions of kilometers away. Mateo tried to find a sneaky way to keep him on Dardius, but Ramses insisted he leave. He had dedicated his political career to the ending of the Muster Wars, and wanted to do anything he could, even if it was literally the last thing he would ever do. Nonetheless, someone else must have decided to stop this.
“I thought you were off-world,” Mateo said, breaking out of his trance, and going in for a long-awaited hug.
“The Caretaker saved me as the exile pod was lifting off.”
“Is that that rumored superhero who flies in and rescues people from the brink of death?” Mateo questioned. Lots of people claimed to have been saved by her, but there was no solid evidence she existed at all.
“She is very real.” A version of The Weaver was there as well. Back when Leona was looking for the objects that would ultimately bring Mateo back from nonexistence, she ended up on Brooke Prieto-Matic’s ship. There they came across not only the version of the Weaver that lives in this reality, but also the one from Mateo’s original timeline. She, along with the other man in this group of three, sacrificed themselves to save the rest of the crew and passengers. Mateo didn’t know these two had been rescued by the Muster Twins, along with all the Freemarketeers.
“I’m just doing my job.” Yet another person came into the room, and Mateo recognized her as well. It was Vitalie; a very good friend of Leona’s, and new friend of his. Last he saw her, she was on Proxima Doma, sending him and Leona off on a mission to deliver Brooke and Sharice from their Insulator of Life prison.
“You’re the Caretaker?” Mateo asked her, not in shock, but a desire to understand what was going on.
“Yes. I travel the world, saving people as necessary.”
“That sounds like a Savior.”
“I didn’t like that term, especially since using it would have undermined Étude’s status as the Last Savior of Earth.”
“How did you get to Dardius, and...can you teleport now?”
“That’s not important. A lot has changed since you left the two of us on Bungula. I came here, because this is where I was most needed. It won’t be forever, but that’s not what matters right now. I summoned you to me, using my Diplomatic Protection Authority contact, because it’s time for you to leave.”
“I agree,” Mateo said. “I am not exactly up for reëlection, and I need to get back to Leona.”
“I can get you to the Nexus replica, but I need you to take four people with you.”
“I’m happy to take you with me,” Mateo said sincerely.
“No, I’m not part of the four. I still have work to do on this planet. Those terrorists won’t extraordinary rendition themselves.”
“We don’t really have foreign nations for you to transfer prisoners to,” Mateo said. “Xonkwo is the closest to it.”
“Oh, is that what extraordinary rendition means? No, I just mean arrest. I have to arrest them.”
Mateo nodded. He was totally cool with that. They had just killed a man on an international video feed. “So, who would be the fourth person to come with me?”
“Me.” A final person came into the room, on cue. It was none other than Newt. Technically, they hadn’t seen the terrorist kill him before the DPA cut the feed off. The Savior’s specialty was teleporting in at the very last second, and pulling people out of deadly situations. It wasn’t surprising the Caretaker used the same techniques, since she appeared to have been trained by the Last Savior.
“If you’re alive—and I hope this isn’t offensive—then how did I fall back on my pattern?”
“I’m sorry, I asked him to do that,” Vitalie answered instead. “I had to make it look like he really was dead. We’re not sure if killing him would have automatically reverted people’s powers, but that’s what the capito-terrorists seemed to think, so it was safest for everyone if you just went back to normal.”
“That’s okay,” Mateo said. “The world deserves a truly elected leader; one without the baggage of unjustly owning the planet. It’s time for me to leave, and to be honest, I had gotten used to my pattern. A part of me is glad to be back as I was.”
They paused reverently, before Vitalie started talking again. “Well, we’re approaching midnight. I have a plan, which is open for discussion. I can only take two people with me at once, so I’ll teleport Goswin and Holly Blue to the Nexus replica. Then I’ll come back for Mateo and Ram. I’ll save Newt for last, since he’s in the most danger here. Then I’ll send you all to Gatewood at once.”
“I have an amendment for that plan,” Holly Blue said. “Goswin is not a fighter, but I hear Ramses knows how to brawl.”
“Capitalists get in fights all the time, because we’re so greedy and envious.”
“If you take me and him first, he can ward off any threats, while I work on operating the Nexus. I should only need two or three minutes to get it working. We don’t know what the Freemarketeers did to the thing while it’s been under their control. We don’t even know if it’s been dismantled. We know no one’s used it.”
“Yeah, I doubt they know how,” Ramses agreed. “I’m perfectly happy to be on genius protection detail.”
“That works for me. If it keeps Newt and the Patronus out of harm’s way for longer, I’m all for it.” Vitalie stepped away, and invitingly held out her elbows. “Let’s go.”
Ramses and the Weaver interlocked their own arms with hers, and they all three disappeared.
“So, are there multiple versions of you?” Mateo asked Goswin.
Goswin shook his head. “We weren’t part of the Freemarketeer summoning. We came through the Muster Lighter just before the big mission started. We didn’t get a chance to escape Tribulation Island before they came through. We’ve been their prisoners for years.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t know about you. We would have—”
“I know, Patronus. Weaver and I hold nothing against you.”
Vitalie jumped back in, and grabbed the next two. “Weaver’s figured it out. We have to go quickly.”
She teleported Mateo and Goswin right into the undecagon, where Ramses was waiting for them, head on a swivel. Weaver’s hand was hovering over the console inside the control room, ready to go at a moment’s notice. They waited there for several minutes before they started to hear banging on the door.
Weaver spoke through the intercom. “They’re coming! Where the hell are Vitalie and Newt?”
“They should be right behind us!” Goswin cried.
Ramses stepped out of the undecagon, and put up his dukes. “I’ll hold them off if they get through,” he assured them.
“We can’t wait,” Weaver said. “I’m setting the timer for ten seconds.”
“No!” Mateo yelled. “We wait!” He was used to barking orders.
“It’s almost midnight!” Weaver said as she slammed the button with her palm. Then she ran through the door, and hopped into the undecagon. “Come on, Ram!”
Ram stepped back into the portal, but kept his arms in a defensive position.
Just then, a frightened Newt appeared, standing outside of the undecagon. He was wearing a suicide vest. They could see a timer on his chest, counting down from three. Two. The Nexus activated.

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