Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 23, 2230

Unlike people in Mateo’s past who claimed to have fallen onto his pattern, Cassidy appeared to be the real deal, though she didn’t act like she had any previous knowledge of it. Other people were around when she disappeared one year ago, and they witnessed her return at the exact same time Mateo did. Since they didn’t have access to a type of chooser called a diagnostician, who was capable of interpreting people’s time powers, Weaver would have to suffice.
“What do you expect me to do, diagnose her?” She tickled Cassidy’s fingers with her own, like a bad attempt at an examination.
“Couldn’t you invent a medical device capable of that?” Mateo asked.
“Theoretically, maybe. I wouldn’t be able to do it within the next several hours, though. Perhaps if a real diagnostician were here for me to study, I could imbue their power into something, but my own ability takes time. I have no clue how they do what they do.”
Cassidy tilted her lizard brain. “What if we started by checking for temporal anomalies. Surely you’ve already invented something that can do that. I mean, that’s all salmon and choosers are, aren’t they? Walking, talking temporal anomalies.”
Weaver tilted her head as well. “Did you intuit that, or do you know something?”
Cassidy shrugged. “Iono, it just makes sense.”
Weaver studied Cassidy’s face for a moment. Then she walked over to the central table, and accessed one of the terminals. She pulled up a hologram of an object, and tapped a corner of it to make it spin around perpetually.” “Do you know what this is?”
Cassidy stepped closer and watched the hologram. “I suppose I would call that an echo chamber.”
Weaver smiled. “The official term is cylicone, but yes. That’s exactly what it is.”
“Weaver, what do you know? She’s from 2019, and said her arrival here is her first exposure to our world.”
Weaver spoke into her wrist, “Greer, no real emergency, but could you emergency teleport back to the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, please?”
Greer appeared. “Yes?”
“Miss Thorpe, this is Cassidy Long. Miss Long, this is Greer Thorpe.”
Cassidy and Greer shook hands.
Weaver’s smile grew as soon as their hands touched. “Greer, could you please place Goswin in a temporal bubble?”
“What, why? What did I do?”
Greer did as she was asked, and for several seconds, Goswin was frozen in place.
“Okay, you can let go,” Weaver went on. “Now, Cassidy. Would you mind...trying to do the same thing to me?”
“You want me to freeze you?” Cassidy questioned.
“Couldn’t hurt to try.”
“Okay, how do I do this?” She lifted her arm. “Should I just wave my hand in—holy shit, she’s not moving! Are you frozen in place? Did I just do that? How do I get her out of it?”
“Just try,” Greer said. “If you can do it, you can undo it.”
Cassidy waved her hand again, and brought Weaver back to realtime.”
Now Weaver was beaming. “You’re an absorber. Or a channeler. There’s no way to test which one at the moment, but that explains why you disappeared and returned when Mateo and Serif did, and presumably how you got here in the first place. You must have accidentally bumped into The Trotter on the street, or handed The Chauffeur his wallet after he dropped it.”
“So, I’m one of you? Which one, the kind that can control it, or the kind that can’t; the fish ones?”
“I guess you would have to create a time bubble, and then invent something, to figure out whether you can have more than one power at a time. Or you would have to encounter someone with a time power, and choose not to use it. We’re kind of low on options all the way out here.”
“Can I get back to work now?” Greer asked. “I’m still trying to figure out how to maintain two massive bubbles at the same time.”
Weaver laughed at this. “We don’t need you to do that anymore. You can focus on holding the Maramon bubble. Miss Long here can pick up the slack, and cross everyone over.”
“Wait, you figured out how to cross people over?” Mateo asked.
“Yeah, while you three were gone,” Goswin said. “There’s a problem, though.”
“The technology is stable,” Weaver began, “but it’s limited. Not even the Muster Beacon has ever had to summon eleven billion people before. What we need is, more time. I mean, Greer can hold the bubble indefinitely to keep the Maramon out, except...”
“Except some of the Maramon are at our borders,” Greer finished for her. “A few have even gotten past the bubble’s barrier, just because they were already on their way when I made it. We outnumber them a hell of a lot, but we don’t have long before we’re overrun. I wouldn’t be able to modify it in time. Too many people live on the border towns. If we want to evacuate them, we have to bring them into this universe.”
“Cassidy can do what Greer wasn’t able to do alone,” Weaver added. “She can create a second bubble; one that goes faster than realtime. By the time the Maramon break through, all the humans will be safely over here.”
“If it works,” Greer noted.
“If it works,” Weaver agreed.
“And it won’t be all the humans,” Goswin pointed out.
“Yes, some are stuck in inaccessible parts of Ansutah. That’s not an easy fix regardless.”
“It’s my greatest concern,” Goswin reminded her.
“Well, the people we know we can save are my greatest concern.” This was evidently a touchy subject for the both of them, about which they had already fought at least once before.
“Guys. People. Fish...people. I just learned that I’m some sort of magician. I can’t create the kind of time bubble you appear to be discussing. I don’t know how any of this works, and if I only have one day to figure it out...”
“We’ll have more than one day to teach you,” Weaver assured her. “You shouldn’t have to jump to the future with Mateo, like you did before. It’s possible that you are, in fact, being infected by people’s powers and patterns, and you can’t ever get rid of one once you acquire it, but I wouldn’t put money on it.”
“I just don’t know. I mean, I got no stake in this. Who are these people?”
“They’re my people,” Greer explained. “Look, I don’t know if you were sent to us by someone on purpose, or if it’s just a brilliant coincidence, but we need you. You can save an entire world’s worth of human beings. There are as many of us living in that universe as there are on your home planet.”
“She’s from the past,” Weaver clarified. “There were actually fewer people living on Earth when she left it than there are in Ansutah.”
“Cassidy,” Greer went on. “I implore you, don’t let these refugees die just because you don’t know them. Please. I can teach you how to use your powers. These isn’t a comic book. Most of us don’t have tragic origin stories where we killed our families because we didn’t know our own strength. It generally comes pretty naturally.”
“When did you first discover your powers?”
Greer looked for guidance from the group, but no one had any answers. “Okay, well, I’m different. I obtained them from this fruit I ate few years ago, but I put someone who was trying to kill my friends in a bubble before I even knew I could. It’s an instinct thing.”
Cassidy sighed. “I will do what I can.”
“Thank you,” Greer said. She draped an arm over Cassidy’s shoulders. “Come on. We need some space for your training...and tennis balls.”
After they left, Mateo nodded towards Goswin. “Yo, you know where Ramses is?”
Goswin rolled his eyes. “He’s probably working out. He’s convinced he’ll have to be the one to muster all the refugees, so he’s trying to be in tip-top shape.”
“I thought the machines were going to do it.”
“In conjunction with the Nexus replica, and the muster device on the other side of the bridge, the Muster Lighter can pull everyone into this universe, but the lighter has to be operated manually. Someone is going to have to teleport from sector to sector, taking chunks of the population one at a time. We can’t take everyone all at once.”
“Is that right?”
Mateo left the ship, and ended up following Greer and Cassidy to the recreation building, but he kept a distance, so they could talk amongst each other. He found Ramses exactly where Goswin thought he would be, pumping furiously on a stationary bike. “Deputy Director Abdulrashid.”
“Hey,” Ramses replied shortly, but stayed focused on a spot on the opposite wall that he would never reach.
“Stop pedaling.”
“No brakes. Can’t stop..don’t want to either.”
“Stop the bike, Deputy Director.”
“I don’t work for you anymore, Patronus.”
“Stop the fuckin’ bike!”
He did as he was told, then pulled a green towel from his handlebar, and started wiping the sweat off his face. “I need to hydrate anyway.”
“You’re not gonna do this.”
“Hell you talkin’ ‘bout?”
“You’re not going to muster the refugees.”
“Mateo, we don’t have time for you to come back in a year and play hero.”
Mateo shook his head. “I’m not doing it either. I want Goswin on it.”
“Why would he do it?”
“You don’t have anything to prove, Ramses.”
“And he does?”
“He doesn’t have a heart condition.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I know you do.”
“I told you that in confidence.”
“And I’m confident you’ll do the right thing. Teleportation is tough on the body. Weaver had to invent a special kind that can work with humans, otherwise you would just straight up die. Goswin has been fitted with transhumanistic upgrades that will allow him to survive. You weren’t, since you thought it would be better to live in a world where you had to pay for them, instead of just filing a request.”
He dumped the rest of his water on his head. “Hey, I rejected those doctrines a long time ago.”
“And I’m grateful for the friendship we developed because you made that choice. You’re still not mustering the refugees. If I come back next year and find out you’re dead, because you didn’t listen to me, I’m going to head straight for the extraction mirror, summon you just before your death, then kill you myself.”
“Mateo, I just spent the last seven months training like hell for this mission. Now you’re telling me it was a waste of time?”
“Of course not. Now you can play a superhero in a movie. You look good, Ram. That’s not a waste.”
A moment of bro silence.
“Hey, what’s up with that girl who disappeared when you did?”
“Oh, her. I’ll explain why it looked like she was on my pattern.”
“Nah, I don’t care about that. I mean, is she single?”
“I don’t know, man. She’s from the past. If she was with someone, they’re probably dead now.”
“Not necessarily.”

“What do you mean, not necessarily?” Leona asked.
“We don’t know that someone is trying to hurt you,” Eight Point Seven started to explain herself.
“They hijacked my ship, and they’re sending me in the wrong direction.”
“Maybe you’re supposed to go in this direction.”
You’re supposed to be finding a way to turn us around.”
“I told you, I’ve not been able to. You’re the engineer.”
“I’m an astrophysicist. You’re an artificial superintelligence.”
“Yes, I’m super, not omniscient.”
Leona opened her mouth to argue.
“Nor omnipotent. Look, if we were gonna figure out how to get back on course, we would have done it by now. You’ve been here for a couple days. I’ve been working the problem for years. There’s no solution. I’m locked out of navigation.”
“Maybe Mateo will be on Varkas Reflex, waiting for you. You’ve not been able to establish contact with him, and there are ways of achieving faster-than-light travel.”
Leona shook her head.
“You should eat.”
“Don’t tell me what to do. You’re not my leader anymore.”
“No, we’re partners, and as someone who cares about you, I’m telling should eat.”
“Fine. But then we get back to work.”

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