Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 22, 2229

While Mateo was gone, Greer Thorpe managed to alter the time bubble, so that the entire continent of Comron was experiencing real-time, while the rest of the universe was moving at an incredibly slow rate. Some Maramon warriors and spies were free on Comron, and some human prisoners were stuck on the other side, but this was never going to be an easy or perfect fix. The idea was to give a few smart people enough time to come up with something more permanent, so that eleven billion humans would survive. As for the outliers, they would have to deal with that later. Serif was spending her day mulling over some plans for rescue missions, but they would not be practical until the majority of refugees were all the way in the Gatewood cylinders.
Mateo had nothing to do. A better man might be able to contribute significantly until the timejump, but he wasn’t qualified to help with anything. Leona could do more in one day than many engineers could in a year, but Mateo was useless in the attempt to expand the power of the Muster Lighter. He had new experience as a world leader, but Ramses and Goswin were already working on that. He decided he would just wander the primary centrifugal cylinder, and see what was out there. He couldn’t get too comfortable, though, because every time he tried that in the past, some new enemy reared his or her head. So far, so good; this place was beautiful. And impressively expansive. They said it could hold nearly three billion people.
He went up to the platform on top of one of the gigantic megastructures; a design adopted from the ones built on Earth. He then stepped onto the automated train, and asked it to take him on the scenic route. All the arcs looked exactly the same, but they were surrounded by majestic vegetation. This was basically an entire continent in cylindrical form, and possibly the coolest thing Mateo had ever seen. He was enjoying his solitude, which he hadn’t felt in decades, when he noticed some light coming from one of the living units in a tower down below. He instructed the train to stop, then carefully made his way towards the light. It was pretty difficult figuring out exactly which unit he was looking for, but he eventually did, and knocked on the door.
The person who opened the door was none other than...someone he did not recognize. She was even more shocked to see him than he was to find her. “Who are you?”
“Mateo Matic. And you?” The safest way to speak to someone who was where they weren’t supposed to be was politely.
“How did you get here, Cassidy?”
She shut her mouth tight, as if leaving it open would risk letting a truth out that she wanted to protect.
“I can help you, Cassidy, but I need to know what the problem is.”
“I woke up like this,” she answered.
That wasn’t that weird for him. “You went to sleep in your own bed, and when you woke up, you were suddenly in a strange place?”
“I wasn’t in my own bed; I was in a hotel, but pretty much, yes.”
“What year is it?”
She didn’t like hearing this question, but she wasn’t too confused about it, so this kind of technology must have already caused her to question her reality. “I don’t know.”
“I mean...what year should it be, for you?”
“2019,” she finally answered. “I assume that’s...wrong?”
“2229,” he said simply.
“How long have you been here? Did it happen to you too?”
“A couple days. No, I...well,” it was hard to explain that he came here suddenly as well, but did so on purpose.
She squinted at him curiously, but decided to put a pin in it. “The sun looks different.”
He looked in the general direction of the ground, outside of which was outer space, and Barnard’s Star. He couldn’t actually see the sun from this vantage point. I’m afraid...that’s a different sun.”
“I assumed, but I couldn’t be sure. How far is Earth?”
“Five-something light years. Maybe six. I forgot my tape measure,” he joked.
“You seem to know a lot for having only arrived two days ago. I’ve been here for almost two months.”
“What have you been eating?”
“I figured out how to work the food synthesizer. This place is ready to be inhabited, but it isn’t. Are we alone?”
“There are a few others, back at ops.”
“Ops?” she questioned. “You military.”
“No. Look, I don’t know how much you know, but you are what we call a salmon.”
“What, I’m part fish?”
“It’s just a nickname, for people who travel through time against their will.”
“Are you a salmon too?”
He nodded. “Yes. So I only came here a couple days ago, but I’ve been doing this for...” That was even more difficult to explain, what with all the detours, and alternate realities, and time bubbles, and being torn out of time. So he just settled on the vague word, “longer.”
“I’ve been exploring, even though the internet always says to stay put and wait for rescue, but I couldn’t get that train to work. I thought I heard it moving over my head, though. Were you on that?”
He nodded again. “We would just need to put you in the system, and authorize voice control.”
“What the hell is this place?”
“Giant space station. Lots of people need a place to live, so my friends built this place, and a handful of others like it.”
“They did it on their own?”
“Robots did most the legwork.”
“How do I get home?”
“You complete whatever mission the powers that be want you to complete.”
“And what would that be?”
He shook his head. “Most of us don’t ever know. We usually just try to do the right thing, and help people any way we can.” He went on when she didn’t respond to this, “you’re not random, though. You must have something that someone here needs. What do you do for a living? What are your hobbies? What are your skills?”
“I’m a stripper, I don’t have any skills.”
“You can dance,” Mateo said.
“I can swing around. I’m not one of those trained dancers trying to pay her way through nursing school. I’m just a stripper.”
“Hm. Maybe you’re distantly related to someone here, or you’re destined to fall in love with someone? There’s gotta be a reason. Either the PTB wanted you here, or you wanted to come. No one travels through time and space on accident. Unless...”
“Unless what?”
“Well, there are naturally occurring tears in the spacetime continuing. Some people can access them, but they usually use some device. I’ve never heard of anyone falling into one unintentionally. Otherwise, it would happen all the time.”
“I could be a statistical anomaly.”
“Possibly. There’s one person we can ask, but he’s hard to contact, and I don’t know if he’ll be willing to come all the way out here.”
“I don’t suppose I could talk you into trying?”
“Nah, I’m glad to do it. But I’m going to need to borrow your synthesizer.”
She stepped to the side, and let him in. “It’s not really mine. This was just the apartment I woke up in.”
He took his notepad out of his bag, and handed it to her. “This is a list of every time traveler I know, organized by salmon, choosing ones, and other. Let me know if you recognize anyone’s name.”
She took a cursory glance at the list. “What does the cross symbol mean?”
“It means stay away. They’re bad guys.”
“One of them has a cross symbol, but it’s crossed out.”
Mateo chuckled. “Horace Reaver. We made up.” He walked over to the synthesizer, and requested it build for him two replicas of the game jenga.
“You wanna play a game.”
“It’ll all make sense once I have it set up.” When the printer was finished, which was faster still than the ones Leona used in the 22nd century, he started setting up the blocks. “Any luck?”
“Well, I recognize this one, but not as a person.”
He looked at where she was pointing. “Yeah, her parents didn’t live on that street, but we think they liked it as a name. We don’t have the full explanation, though. You live in Kansas City?”
“Lawrence. Is that important?”
“Is Kansas important to time travel? Actually, it is. Lots of us are from there; we don’t know why. I lived in Topeka.”
“Speaking of lots of people; this list is long. What are the asterisks?”
“Those are people who I’ve heard mentioned, but never met. There are more empty pages than filled ones. No one seems to know quite how many of us there are in total.”
When Mateo was Patronus of Dardius, one of his constituents sought audience with him, and spoke of a way to contact The Delegator. He was considered middle management between salmon and the powers that be, and since he didn’t own a cell phone, he could only be reached one way.
That’s what you think!” he uttered in feigned outrage.
The wall disappeared, and revealed Stonehenge behind it. The Delegator stepped towards the portal, but did not cross over. “Mister Matic, I’ve already told you, I’m not sending you back to Bungula to get your girlfriend.”
“Wife,” Mateo corrected. “And I’m not here for that; I’m at Gatewood, and she’s already on her way. I just need to know who this person is.”
The Delegator looked over at Cassidy. “Hell am I supposed to know?”
“She’s from 2019, and I don’t think she’s a chooser.”
He was growing more irritated, as he fumbled with his glasses. “Step closer.”
She took a few steps forward, but was wary of the portal, as she should have been.
“No, no clue. It must be a mistake. I can take her off your hands.”
She stepped back again. “Wait a minute.”
“You don’t wanna go back?” Mateo asked her.
“Well, it’s just...”
“Go on,” he prodded.
“I do recognize another name, and I don’t just mean Juan Ponce de León, which I would love to hear about.” She was pointing at one of the asterisked names.
“Asuk? I don’t know much about him, except that he was Paige Turner’s friend, and lived, like a thousand years in the future.”
She shook her head. “It’s very familiar. I mean, it’s not exactly a normal name, and I can’t place it, but I feel like I know it. I know it. I have to find him. See, I even know it’s a him.”
Mateo looked up to the Delegator.
“What, you want me to give you permission? I don’t care. She wants to stay, she stays.” And with that, the portal closed.
“Umm, if you change your mind, I can’t promise I can get him back. I didn’t summon him, I just called him. Sometimes he screens and ignores his calls.”
“I understand,” Cassidy said. “I have to find out who this Asuk is, and how I know him, and my answers must be here.”
Paige wasn’t here, though he didn’t really know where she was at this point, since the last time he saw her was in Leona’s memories back in the last century.
“I can’t promise we’ll find him either. Space and time are very big and long.”
“Well, in the meantime, maybe I can be in charge of entertainment. If you work at a place called ops, I imagine people need to relax.”
On the train ride back to where all his friends were working, he filled Cassidy in a bit more about his life, and what he had been through since leaving 2014. He introduced her to everybody, and set her up with one of the grave chambers on the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Come midnight central, he exited the timestream, and didn’t return until 2230, where he learned Cassidy had exited and returned at the same moments.”

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