Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 24, 2231

Everything seemed to have worked out great for the human Ansutahan refugees. At least, for most of them. By the time everyone on Comron was evacuated through the universe bridge, some of the Maramon warriors who were near the border of the temporal bubble when it was established were able to break through. There were a few casualties, but this was not an unexpected development, so they were quickly contained. Once everyone was through who could get through, two military contingencies of volunteers were called into action. First, a defense force maintained an extremely strong presence around the entrance of the bridge, to prevent any Maramon from crossing over. A rescue force was sent out to retrieve as many human prisoners of war as possible, if not all of them. Technology was fairly advanced at this point in the universe’s history, so there were indeed means of gathering intelligence, but it could never be perfect. It was impossible to know if everyone was saved.
On the day of Mateo and Serif’s return to the timestream, one last mission was dispatched before the universe bridge would be closed forever. They returned with an unusual group. Some of the people they rescued were human, but some were Maramon. The rescue team was seeking guidance from the small group in charge of Gatewood, as opposed to the Ansutahan human leadership, which didn’t really hold that much power on the cylinders. They convened in an instructional room in the library on Eden Island, not far from the bridge. Kestral and Ishida were the ones in charge here, since they were primarily responsible for the Gatewood cylinders. Ramses and Goswin had devised the initial system of government. They couldn’t just rely on what the Ansutahan humans had made, because this was an entirely new environment, of which they knew nothing. Greer and Weaver were part of the discussion as well, in a more limited capacity. Serif was there as a highly respected individual, whose minimal exposure to the timestream was the only thing keeping her from being elected King of the World. Mateo and Cassidy were invited as a courtesy, but were expected to stay quiet.
One point five hundred Maramon—as Ram liked to call it—sat in the auditorium seats, awaiting judgment. Kestral stood at the podium and studied their faces while they waited for her to speak. “My name is Kestral McBride,” she announced to the crowd. “Who speaks for the Maramon?”
They all looked to one man, sitting in the front row center. They weren’t called white monsters for nothing. Their skin was a powdery white, but his was noticeably darker. He somewhat reluctantly stood up, and approached the stage. “I am Brahim Beytilsedivm. I’m also known as Begetter. I can speak for the group...for now.”
“Why were you imprisoned by the other Maramon?” Kestral asked him.
“We are human sympathizers,” he explained. “We’ve always known what humans really are; that you are not gods, nor enemies. We did not agree with our people’s attempts at taking over other universes, and tried to stop them.”
“Forgive me,” Kestral began, “but there are billions of Maramon on this planet, yet a hundred and fifty dissenters? It’s hard to believe there are any, but even harder to believe there are so few.”
Brahim cleared his throat and leaned in to the microphone. “There are a hundred and fifty of us...left alive. Across time, there have been millions of active opposing voices. Many more opposed in silence.”
Kestral thought about what he just said. “Do you expect to integrate into the society we’re building here?”
Brahim took a beat. “We expect nothing. We believe that everything we’ve done in the name of humans has gotten you here. We protected the last applied brane cosmologist, so that he could build the bridge that saved you. What you do with us is your choice. If you would like to keen us back in Ansutah, we are prepared to accept that without contention.”
Kestral thought some more, and this time, for a long time. “I need a list. Give me the name of everyone in this room. First, last, and any woxa.” Woxa in Maramon was best translated to nickname. It was given to a Maramon upon being raised to a special social class called the notables. Basically, one had to be famous, or have contributed greatly on a personal level to historical developments in the universe. They were always English words, always alliterative with their natural names, and not necessarily positive, or positive in everyone’s eyes. “I also need to know what they did to get locked up,” she continued. “Do not lie.”
The outcast Maramon stayed in the classroom to compile the requested information, while most of the Gatewooders retreated to the attached office to discuss options further. Greer and Weaver stayed back to supervise the Maramon. Mateo and Cassidy decided there was nothing they could do. Before they left, though, he heard Ishida say something about someone named Margerie.
About an hour later, Weaver knocked on Cassidy’s door. Cassidy had been given a place to sleep in the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but the ship was presently the most dangerous place on the cylinder, so everyone was staying in other units. “I could use your help,” Weaver said.
“With what?” he asked as they were following her up to the train platform.
“They’ve decided what they’re doing with the Maramon,” Weaver answered.
“They’re not keeping them in that awful world, are they?” Cassidy asked.
“No,” Weaver promised, “but they can’t come here either. No matter how woke the few of us are, they’ll make the refugees feel uncomfortably.”
“They’re also refugees,” Mateo pointed out.
“I know,” Weaver agreed, “and they’ll have to remain that way for a little bit longer.”
“We’re exiling them, aren’t we?” Mateo guessed.
“We’re giving them a home,” Weaver reasoned. “That home just happens to be...far from here.”
“I can’t endorse that, nor help with it.”
“No one’s asking you to,” Weaver assured him. “We know we can’t send them back to the mainland of Ansutah, and all intel about humans left in that universe has dried up. It’s time to close the bridge, and it’s a two-person job.”
“There are three of us,” Mateo said. “Which two do you mean?”
“It’s a three-person job, actually. We need a lookout, and maybe a little muscle.”
“You’re lying,” Mateo realized. “Why are you lying?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“What did they really decide in that meeting?” Cassidy questioned.
Weaver sighed. “They are keeping them there. It didn’t take them long to decide that, even before they Begetter gave him his list.”
“What did the list say?”
“There are a lot of violent people in that auditorium. They had to be. Some call them terrorists, but they were revolutionaries, and they shouldn’t be punished for that.”
“Who’s Margerie?” Mateo asked her. “Can she help?”
“That’s not a person; it’s a colony ship,” Cassidy told him. “The way Kestral and Ishida told it, it just showed up in the system one day, as if it were trying to deliver colonists to Gatewood. It was empty, though.”
Weaver continued the explanation, “the weird thing about it is the dimensions. It’s larger than most colony ships, which are all designed about the same. Even the individual sleeping-slash-escape pods are bigger. They’re big enough for Maramon. I very much believe it was sent here for the Maramon.”
“Who would do that?” Mateo wondered.
“I don’t know, but I know what it’s like to be in a world where I don’t belong. The Dardieti felt it necessary to save me anyway, and I’m here to pay it forward. Will you help me with that, or not?”
“Of course,” Mateo pledged.
Cassidy just nodded.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen when the Gatewooders learn the bridge can’t be reopened, but every human, and every outcast Maramon, is coming over here for good.”
“How are you going to get everyone back to this side of the bridge, including all those soldiers?” Mateo asked.
“Same way they got here before, with the Muster Lighter. One of you is going to have to light up in Velox Park. It’s not too far away, but far enough that no one will be able to rush back and undo my work before it’s complete.”
“I can do that,” Cassidy volunteered. “You need him to protect you from anyone who doesn’t want you to do what you’re about to do.”
“Thank you.”
Cassidy shook her head. “No, thank you. You helped me understand what I am, and gave me purpose. I can become a genius just by shaking your hand.”
Weaver smiled.
No one was guarding the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which served as the exit point for the universe bridge. They stole the Muster Lighter from the safe on the bottom level of the ship, and sent Cassidy on her way. Then they snuck into the other universe, and into the control room. Mateo kept his head on a swivel, while Weaver did whatever it was she was doing on the command console. Just after she determined she was ready, they got the call from Cassidy that she was in place.
“All right. I’ve set the parameters,” Weaver spoke into her communication device. “It’s programmed to take every human and Maramon on Eden Island, except for Mateo and me. Flick the lighter on my count. Three..two..one..now!”
Nothing happened from their perspective. A few second later, Cassidy came back on comms, “they’re here. They’re confused.
“Okay, teleport back to your room,” Weaver ordered. “We’ll be there in a second.”
“I’m afraid not.” A Maramon they didn’t know cooly walked into the room, along with a handful of other humans, of varying ages.
“How did you survive the Muster Lighter?” Weaver asked.
“By the grace of the primary gods,” the Maramon said. “We happened to be close enough to the two of you. Otherwise, everything would have been ruined. Get in place,” he ordered the humans.
They assembled into a single-file line in front of the stairs to the bridge.
“What are you doing?”
“It has nothing to do with you,” he said. “We just need to borrow this right quick. You can destroy it when we’re done.”
“I’m not gonna let you through that bridge,” Mateo argued.
He scoffed, and effortlessly knocked Mateo to his ass. He then pushed Weaver out of the way, so he could insert some kind of device into a port on the console.
“What are you doing? Stop!” Weaver cried.
The Maramon pushed a button. The image of the AOC on the other side of the bridge shuttered, and changed. It was now showing what appeared to be a mountaintop. “Cain, go!” After the guy name Cain ran through, the Maramon pushed the button again. City streets this time. “Abel, go!” Abel left, and the scene changed to a rooftop. “Seth, go!” A boat. “Luluwa, go!” The forest. “Awan, go!” A laboratory, maybe. “Azura, go!” A cave, “Lilith, go!”
Bang!
The Maramon fell over, blood leaking from the wound in his head. Serif was the one holding the gun. “Weaver! Get us back to our universe.”
Weaver was just staring at the Maramon’s body.
“Weaver! Now!”
She snapped out of it, and started desperately pushing buttons. “I...I...I don’t know how to work this thing now!” The scene kept changing to what were presumably various other universes, until Weaver seemed to figure something out. She was now switching them to other points in time and space in their own universe. Mateo recognized some of the other people.
Young versions of Horace and Paige made one appearance. “Protect this thing!” he shouted at them. Then he threw some small object at them, but before it made it through the bridge, the scene changed once more.
Leona was in another. “Mateo!”
“Leona!” He ran up to get her, but the scene changed again.
“Get her back!” He screamed at Weaver.
“I can’t,” Weaver said.
“Get her back!”
“The system is overloading,” she warned them. “We need to get out of here.”
“Open anywhere,” Serif ordered her. “Stabilize the bridge long enough to get through, and then just go!”
“What about you?”
“Go!”
Weaver did what she was told. They ran through as fast as they could. Before Mateo could look back to see what happened to Serif, the bridge was closed, theoretically forever.

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