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Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 30, 2237

As soon as Mateo and Cassidy fell back into the timestream, several of Goswin’s guards tightened up their circle around them. They were still awake, because she wanted to see what it felt like to jump forward in time when she knew it was going to happen.
“We have to get you to safety,” Goswin said with authority.
“What’s wrong?” Cassidy asked. She had to sit down. The fatigue from the jump seemed to be affecting her more than it normally did for Mateo, Leona, and Serif.
“Someone is coming, and we have no idea who it is,” Goswin answered.
They’ve landed,” claimed a voice on the radio.
Mateo tried to follow Goswin through the wall of guards.
“No, you’re going with Cassidy.”
“She’s the one in danger,” Mateo said. “I’m fine. I need to see what’s happening. What evidence do you have this has anything to do with her?”
“It’s arrived on your day,” Goswin reminded him. “We don’t think that’s a coincidence. You could be in danger too. You’ve done a lot to make enemies.”
“The powers that be protect me,” Mateo said. “Let’s stop wasting time.”
They left the AOC, and headed for the dock where an apparently unscheduled interstellar vessel had arrived. “Why did you let them in if you don’t know who it is?”
“I don’t know,” Goswin said, shaking his head. “Kestral is in charge of that.”
“She couldn’t stop it.” Ishida was suddenly behind them. “We’ve been tracking their approach for days, but they won’t respond to our attempts to contact them. We think it’s unmanned. The ship is quite sophisticated too; it broke through our defenses with no problem. It hasn’t fired weapons, or anything, but it wants on this cylinder for a reason.”
The three of them, along with a group of guards, separated into pairs, and slinked through the passageways of the mysterious ship, which would open its doors invitingly every time. There was only one door that would not open, which obviously meant it was the most important. “What’s the Tun Room?” Mateo questioned.
“Stasis pods,” Ishida explained. “A tun is the form an animal called a water bear takes when it needs to hibernate outside of its safe habitat. It dries itself out, and essentially dies, until water is reintroduced, and it comes back to life. That’s not how stasis works for us, so it’s just a cutesy nickname.”
“So, there are people in there?”
“I doubt it’s locked because it’s as empty as everywhere else.”
“And this isn’t people from Proxima Doma?” he asked. “I heard some colonists asked to move out here.”
She shook her head. “They won’t be arriving for another several years. Besides, this thing clearly came from the direction of Sol.
Goswin and the guards came up to them. “The rest of the ship is clear, sir. If you’ll hand me the teleporter, I’ll check it out.”
“No, I’ll be going,” Ishida said.
“It’s too dangerous, sir. We have no clue what’s on the other side of this door.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Wait,” Mateo stopped her just before she calibrated her teleporter to just send her a meter through a door. “No one should ever be alone. Fighting a hundred demons with a friend is not the same thing as fighting fifty by yourself, even though that’s how the math works out. The teleporter can handle the mass of two people, so I’ll go with.”
“Very well,” she said, adjusting the controls to account for him.
It looked exactly like a stasis room. There were two dozen pods, but only two of them were filled. A man was crawling out of one, struggling to maintain balance. “Report.”
“You’re on Cylinder One of the Gatewood Collective. Your ship automatically bypassed our defense systems, and docked itself with us. It’s not responding to our query.”
“Yeah,” the man said, steadying himself against the wall. “The ship has no personality. It doesn’t respond to anyone but me and Saxon.”
The other man started crawling out of his own pod.
“What are you doing here?” Ishida demanded to know.
“Stargate,” the second man said. He was stumbling around more than the first one, like a drunkard at the beginning of morning.
“You’re here for Project Stargate?”
“No,” he replied. And it was then that Mateo realized he recognized him, though from a different timeline.
“Julius? Julius Parker?”
“Parker, yes,” the man said. “Not Julius, though. Saxon. This is...where are you?”
“I’m over here, on your left side,” the first man told him. “Thor Thompson,” he introduced himself.
“Your name was Julius,” Mateo said to Saxon.
He finally just gave up, and sat up against the pod wall, eyes fully closed. “Yeah, I’ve heard that before. I think it was on my parents’ list of baby names, but they went with Saxon.”
“Oh, I guess that sort of thing happens,” Mateo noted.
“You said Stargate,” Ishida reminded him, “and then you said no.”
“Yeah—no! Seed. Not gate; Operation Starseed.”
Ishida pursed her lips, and looked to Thor, who confirmed as much with his facial expression.
“Who sent you?”
“The powers that be,” he answered.
“Of Sol,” Saxon added. “The powers that be of Sol. Like...the leadership? Sorry, I forget you people use that term for a very specific group.”
“Wait?” You’ve heard of the powers that be?” Mateo asked. “You know time travelers in this timeline.”
He nodded and burped. “Yep,” he hiccuped. “Yeah.”
“Have you ever heard of Cassidy Long?”
Saxon shook his head and yawned. “Nah, man. I don’t know him. Why?”
Mateo spoke into his radio, “stand down. Cassidy’s safe. The arrival is totally unrelated.”
So, it is indeed a coincidence?” Goswin asked from the other side of the door.
Thanks, Matty,” Cassidy replied from her hiding spot.
When are you coming out?” Goswin asked.
“We’ll explain soon,” Ishida said. “Please prepare a welcome package for our new guests.”
“I wonder if anyone is going to tell me what this Starseed thing is.” Mateo said, not so subtly.
Ishida started to explain what Gatewood was about, and what they were working on. “Project Stargate is designed to send millions of ships all around the galaxy. Each capsule would hold a hundred plates. Inside a plate is an extremely complex system of historical data, sensors, nanites, and other instruments. After completing a general survey of the solar system it was sent to, the plate finds the best place to land, and utilizes the materials found there to start building things. Interplanetary vessels to cover the rest of the system, equipped with more detailed survey probes; interstellar ships to reach the system’s neighbors; and more. It’s that more part that we’re concerned with here. The void telescopes will give us a better idea of what we’re going to find, but depending on the conditions of the planets this project encounters, a few things might happen.
“The planet could already be hospitable to life, in which case maybe the plate does nothing else, except build us a way to reach it, and explore. The planet could already be harboring intelligent life, and there’s this huge list of protocols about what to do. Are they friendly? How advanced are they? Are they a threat to us? More importantly, are we a threat to them? Maybe the planet is uninhabitable, and has no potential, so we just leave it be. Or it can be terraformed, and we’ll come visit later. Either way, if the planet has no intelligent life, but could support it, Operation Starseed would change that dynamic. It would grow...people, and those people would live there. Again, there’s a huge variety of options here. We could give them knowledge of where they come from, or not. We could protect them their whole lives, or leave them alone after the first generation matures. We could engineer them to be perfect, or make them just like normal biological humans. No matter what we do, though, we can’t just conjure life. It has to start somewhere, and it starts with a dedicated section of the seed plate. This section would contain genetic samples from real people on Earth, and it would use them to start life on the new worlds.”
“You’re telling me this ship is filled with genetic...samples?” an unsurprisingly uncomfortable Mateo asked.
Saxon was finally feeling well enough to open his eyes, and stand back up. “That’s right. A hundred million people volunteered to be progenitors; a hundred million people, in secret. Each one believes their sample is being taken to one specific planet that humanity has studied. Few people fully grasp the magnitude of this undertaking.”
This sounded unethical, but Mateo elected to say nothing. If these two men were here, they were either passionate about the project, or just doing a job for people who were. Regardless, trying to convince them otherwise would be a waste of breath. He did have a philosophical question, and he couldn’t help but pose it to them. “So, humans had this idea to spread to the stars. We decided to create life artificially, and that life may not have any clue we exist?”
“Indeed,” Thor agreed.
“How do you know that hasn’t already happened?”
“Well, who would have done that?” Saxon asked. “I guess it’s possible someone found a place like Gatewood, and has already deployed—”
“No, I’m not talking about us,” Mateo interrupted. “I’m talking about ancient progenitors. What if we—meaning people of Earth—were created by people who actually originated from somewhere else.”
Thor scoffed. “We would know. I mean, we know where humans come from. Our evolution dates back billions of years.”
Mateo shrugged. “Okay, so what? What if our ancestors did this...billions of years ago.”
“That’s a long time to wait,” Ishida argued. “What would be the point?”
“Well, what’s the point of us doing it?”
“There’s an answer to that question,” Thor said. “Most people who reject this very concept don’t like it.”
“Lay it on me.”
He hesitated for a moment. “Because we can.”
Mateo smiled with superiority. “Yeah, I thought so. Look, I’m all for equality. If you know me, you know that about me. But I think the world would be better off if we acknowledged the fact that getting rid of capitalism had some consequences. People say that necessity is the mother of invention, which is probably true, but if it’s the case, then I would argue money is the father. Until recently, we didn’t do anything if there wasn’t money in it. Sure, this mindset held us back, but it also protected us. Now that we have AI and automation, anything is possible, but the problem is that not everything possible should be made manifest. Getting rid of the money gave us this freedom to reach for the stars...literally. But freedom can be the enemy of safety, and the stars don’t belong to us. Perhaps they belong to no one, but this whole project; these dual projects, perfectly exemplify the audacity and arrogance of man. Why should other worlds have people on them? Evolution didn’t ask for it. These other worlds aren’t designed for anything except what they have, or are destined to have one day.”
“That sort of thing happens all the time, Mateo,” Ishida volleyed. “Our home solar system is full of visitors from other worlds. Durus, which quite nearly collided with Earth last century? It got there so fast because of time powers, but it was going to happen in thousands of years anyway, and it originated from a star many light years away, millions of years ago. You’re right, maybe an extremely advanced race of proto-humans are what seeded life on Earth aeons ago. Or a naturally occurring comet is what did it. Perhaps life only evolved on a single planet in the entire galaxy, and when it exploded one day, fragments containing traces of its inhabitants flew off into interstellar space. These possibilities change nothing. It’s not going to stop me from building the transgalactic quantum communication network, and it’s not going to stop these two from contributing in their own way.”
“That’s true. I know I can’t convince you to not do this. I haven’t even convinced myself that you shouldn’t. I just think you should understand the ramifications, or rather you should understand that you couldn’t possibly predict the ramifications. I don’t know much about science, but if there’s one thing that Leona taught me, it’s that results can be unpredictable. You may think you’ve accounted for everything, but you can’t be sure of that. Now. I thought Cassidy was safe here, but this ship just straight up docked without permission. It turned out okay, but what if it doesn’t next time? I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, but there’s nothing keeping us here now. We’ll be leaving tomorrow-slash-next year.”
“Where will you go?” Ishida asked.
“I need to get back to Leona. We’re going to Varkas Reflex.”

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