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Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 26, 2233

This was a new beginning for Gatewood, and its new inhabitants. While the refugees were settling in, Kestral and Ishida were beginning a new job they called Project Topdown, which was evidently given to them through their dream instructions. Mateo didn’t know too much about it. While she wasn’t specifically recruited to help, Weaver was an expert in her field, and was volunteering her services for the project. At the moment, though, she was climbing down the ladder to the main area of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which was still being used as living quarters for the main group of Gatewooders. Goswin was busy organizing elections for official cylinder leadership, and Cassidy was reading a book in her grave chamber.
“Sorry, I meant to come see you earlier, but I was working on Topdown propulsion efficiency equations,” Weaver apologized.
“That’s okay,” Mateo replied. “I wasn’t expecting you.”
“Yes. Umm...I received a message for you.” She removed a small object from her pocket.
Mateo recognized it immediately, and jumped back in fear. “What the hell are you doing with that thing?”
“What, this?” Weaver was confused why he was so frightened by it. “It’s a standard solid-state storage device of this time period. It’s harmless.”
“I don’t know about that,” Mateo said. “I’ve seen that before. The evil version of Reaver sent it, and it caused a massive explosion that nearly killed me.”
She looked at the device with a frown. “Hmm. Well, this isn’t that. It would be like being scared of all dogs because one dog bit you one time.”
“What are you talking about? That’s called a post-traumatic phobia, and people suffer from it all the time!”
“Okay, I guess that’s true, but I assure you this is perfectly safe. All I did was transfer the data from my pocket tab. I suppose I could transfer it to a USB stick. I would need to print one, though, so...”
“Well, who is the message from?”
“What? How? Where is she?”
“I didn’t watch the messages. I’m just relaying them to you.”
“Why did she send them to you?”
“You don’t have a tablet,” she reminded him.
“Oh, I guess that’s true,” he echoed.
“I received a data burst just before the bridge connecting us to her collapsed. I don’t know who actually sent it out, though, since she was obviously preoccupied with trying to reach you physically. I didn’t realize I had it last year until you were gone.”
“Okay, I’ll take the long as you’re sure it won’t blow up my ship.”
“Wait, is the ship gonna blow up!” Cassidy called out from her grave chamber, having hardly been listening.
“It’s fine, Cass,” Weaver promised her. “You might go down to engineering level if you want some privacy,” she said to Mateo.
“This is fine.” Mateo took the device from Weaver’s hand, and inserted it into a port in one of the terminals attached to the central table. A holographic image appeared, showing four video files, each with Leona Matic as its author. He selected the first one.
Leona appeared. “Hey, Mateo. I’m hoping that this message reaches you in a timely manner, or even at all. More importantly, I’m hoping you made it to Gatewood. I tried to go there in this new ship. It’s very small, as you can see. It was state of the art when it was built, though, so I’m making good time. Unfortunately, that time is sending me in the wrong direction.” She took a breath. “I’m here with an artificial intelligence named Eight Point Seven. She has control over most of the ship’s systems. She controls life support, and lights, and artificial gravity, and several other auxiliaries. She doesn’t have control over navigation, though. Something else has taken hold, and we can’t figure it out. I could stop propulsion, if I wanted to, but then we would be stuck in the middle of interstellar space, and I wouldn’t be able to change vector anyway. Something or someone wants me to go somewhere else.” She took a beat. “Or maybe it just doesn’t want me to see you again. It’s too early to tell where we’re headed, but Eight Point Seven is working on it around the clock when I’m not in the timestream.
“Physically, I’m fine. Emotionally, it’s been tough. I’d have gone crazy without her, though. She used to run Bungula, then she was my therapist. I’ll explain later.” She thought about her last statement for a bit, then added, “if I ever get the chance. I have plenty of rations, recycled water, and more entertainment than I have time to watch. Well, I guess I don’t know if that’s true, because if I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t know how long it’s going to take to get there. I would probably run out of raw food material by then, though. No, I shouldn’t say that; it’s too negative.” She looked a little offscreen. “Eight Point Seven, could you edit that out later?”
“Certainly,” her AI friend lied.
“Anyway, if you’re watching this, and you’re not Mateo, then...I don’t know. I’m hoping he somehow gets this. We’re moving at relativistic speeds, which makes communication a little tricky. It’s not impossible, but it’s a lot easier when you have a real station to connect to. I’m just shooting this towards Barnard’s Star, so there’s no guarantee it’ll reach anybody at all. Even if it survived, it won’t be for another eight years, or something. I dunno, I didn’t calculate the differential.”
“If you would like, I could—” Eight Point Seven’s voice started to say.
“Nah, it’s all right,” Leona stopped her. “Knowing precisely how far I am from him right now won’t change how long it takes. He’ll never be able to reply either way.” She looked back at the camera. “I hope you’re faring better. Remember the rules of time travel. I came up with a new one. It’s kind of like Rule Number Seven.”
Mateo recited the rule out loud, in sync with Leona. “Pack the essentials, and always keep them within reach.”
“Rule Number Thirteen,” she continued, “never get separated from the people you love. I’ve learned that one the hard way.” She sat there for a moment in silence. A tear rolled down her cheek.
A tear rolled down Mateo’s as well.
“I won’t keep you from whatever it is you’re doing. If I get so lucky as to land on a happy safe world, and gain access to a Nexus replica, or an interstellar teleporter, maybe none of these messages will matter.” She wagged her finger as more tears started filling up her eyes. “Don’t watch this if we’ve been reunited already. It’s embarrassing,” she said as she was wiping off her face. “I’ll keep sending these; once a day, to keep you updated. Again, don’t try to send anything back. I’m a moving target.” She was about to turn off the recording, but stopped. “One more thing. Were I you.”
“Were I you,” Mateo echoed as he was staring at Leona’s paused face at the end of the video.
“Oh my God,” Cassidy broke the silence through her own tears. “That was so beautiful, and sad.” She was out of her grave chamber, and at Mateo’s right flank. Weaver was still at his left, but didn’t say anything.
Mateo took one last look at the final frame of the first video, then selected the second one.
“Hey, Mateo. Leona here. Hopefully you haven’t forgotten about me. But if there’s a pretty girl standing by you, don’t let me get in your way.”
Mateo awkwardly looked back at Cassidy, and then at Weaver.
“We figured out where we’re going. Or at least, we strongly believe we’re headed for Varkas Reflex. It’s possible we could pass by it, and go somewhere else, but it’s prime suspect right now. It’s orbiting a red dwarf star about eight light years from Earth, and eleven light years from Gatewood. It’s so named, because the star is called Wolf 359. Varkas is...sort of Sanskrit for wolf. A reflex angle is one that’s greater than one-eighty, but smaller than three-sixty. Imagine the corner of a wall. It’s ninety degrees, right? Well, that’s just on the inside. Go to the outside of the building, and draw an arc from one wall, to the adjoining wall. That’s what we’re talkin’ about. Obviously that means there are many reflex angles, but three-fifty-nine is the highest you get before you reach a full circle. I know you don’t care about that, but I wanted you to know that’s probably where I’ll be. I still don’t know why, but it won’t be easy when I get there. I’m not expecting white sandy beaches, and fruity drinks. Or maybe I should, because of rule number one.
Hope for the best, plan for the worst,” Mateo recited alone.
“Interestingly enough,” she went on. “We’re probably going to arrive around the same time its colonists do. I can’t wait to explain that to them. Nothing else to report. Stay safe. Were I you.”
“Were I you,” he said again.
Leona looked a lot more distressed in the third video. She almost sounded drunk. “I know it’s only been a few days, but it feels like forever. I guess it’s just that...” She trailed off. “I mean, are you still on our pattern? I went back to our pattern. Did you age several years since I last saw you? I’m meant to think you got back on it, but I don’t know that for sure. I’m trying to stay positive, but I’ve gotten really agitated. Eight Point Seven is great, but there’s no independent form. I’m talking to the walls. I need...connection. I need to see a face. I haven’t seen anybody’s face but my own, and I’m starting to never want to see it again. I feel alone, even though she’s here. At the same time, I can’t get away from her. Don’t worry, she can’t hear me. I turned her sensors off. She consented to it, as long as I don’t leave the timestream without turning her back on fully.
“I didn’t sleep well last night, and she thinks I just need to rest. She’s probably right, like she always is. She claims there’s no way of fixing the ship, but I don’t wanna give up. It’s only been days for me. Intellectually, I know that she’s been working the problem this whole time, but I haven’t, so how can I just let it go? She needs me to open access panels, and check circuitry. It doesn’t matter how smart she is if she doesn’t have a finger that can turn off a governor implant, or whatever.” She thought through this a moment. “I don’t think there’s a governor implant. There’s just nowhere to hide it. I think it’s—I think, uhh—I think that the powers that be are just doing this. Or maybe a powerful chooser. That’s the only explanation for why I can’t hack back in. The powers usually give us some sense of free will. They don’t usually just take over vehicles, but maybe they’ve changed since we last started. Maybe this is that important to them, whatever it is. Or we’re dealing with the next Cleanser, who has yet to reveal themselves to me. Do you know who it could be? I want my ship back.” She grimaced. “That’s all I have. Were I you, and all that.”
The fourth video was the shortest of all. “Welp, Eight Point Seven has informed me that she has given up trying to get us to Gatewood. We’re now ninety-nine percent certain that we’re going to Varkas Reflex, and she wants me to mentally prepare for that. We still don’t know what we’ll find there, though, so who the fuck cares? It’ll take me eight days to get there. I’ll keep recording messages, but...they won’t matter. Nothing matters.” She didn’t bother saying were I you this time.
“Thanks, Weaver,” Mateo said, still looking at the hologram.
“Mateo, I know that—”
Thanks..Weaver,” he repeated shortly.
“Very well, sir.” She left the ship.
He stood there seething for a moment, then he turned around. “You still remember what you used to do to make a living?”
“Um...yes?” Cassidy didn’t know where he was going with this.
“I need to clear my head. How much for a lapdance?”

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