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Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 2, 2240

The Christmas Colonists, as they would come to be called, arrived on Varkas Reflex on December 25. This was just under the wire for the 2239 projection date. They were meant to land months earlier, but had some technical difficulties on the trip across interstellar space. This turned out to be a bit of a good thing, as Eight Point Seven and Hokusai hadn’t quite finished their habitats. The special oxygen-rich liquid they were suspended in wasn’t the easiest or fastest substance to manufacture. They weren’t extremely happy with the name, but would eventually surrender to its humor. Christians became an endangered species many decades ago, and by now, they were largely considered extinct. Those religions which hadn’t already fallen out of favor were on their way out as well, giving way to a civilization based on equality and rationality.
Before Leona disappeared from the timestream last year, Hokusai managed to figure out how to alter her personal gravity using her legs. Back on planet Legolas a century and a half ago, Leona was forced to cut both of her legs off to save herself from an infection. She was rescued by humans of the day, who were able to basically regrow her limbs. They could have made them a hundred percent organic, but she chose to incorporate a little bit of technology into them, so she would have greater strength. She went through hell living alone on that planet, so she considered them to sort of be cosmic reparations for that. These upgrades were evidently not enough to remove her from Mateo’s salmon pattern, so she had mixed feelings about them now. Still, they were making it a lot easier for her to walk on this heavy world. Time-delayed gravity regulator drugs were installed in her legs as well, which provided support for the rest of her organs.
“You can’t do that for me?” Sanaa asked after this was all explained to her.
Hokusai stepped closer to the glass.
“It’s not glass,” Sanaa argued. “It’s a polycarbonate.”
“What?” Hokusai questioned. “I know that.”
Sanaa sneered. “I wasn’t talking to you.”
Hokusai looked behind her. Only Leona was there.
“I know that too.”
Sanaa rolled her eyes. “I was talking to The Superintendent.”
I know that as well. I was using the word more generically. The glass of your tank is what separates you from dry land, but allows you to see through glass.
“Okay, but that doesn’t make it glass. There are lots of clear things that aren’t glass.”
Leona stepped forward as well. “Sanaa, are you really communicating with him? He’s in another universe.”
“So, you’re communicating to other universes. No one can do that.”
“The Emissary can,” Sanaa contended.
Leona tilted her head. She hadn’t spent much time thinking about how the Emissary was able to be the intermediary between salmon and the powers that be. She now knew they lived in the Superintendent’s universe, so he would have to be quite powerful. “Still, it must be rare.”
Sanaa shrugged. “You were saying...about getting me out of this water?”
“Okay, we will circle back to this,” Hokusai said, drawing a couple circles in the air. “Do you like having powers?”
Sanaa shrugged again. “People are always talking to me, and I don’t love that. I would much rather be a teleporter, so I can leave when people start pissing me off. Can you turn me into a teleporter?”
“Uh, no. I can’t give you powers, but I can take them away. I would probably have to if you wanted to walk on land. You’re so tall and thin.”
“Body shame much?”
Now Hokusai rolled her eyes. “It’s not conducive to high gravity.”
“Oh, so you’re calling her fat.” She pointed at Leona.
Leona wasn’t offended, because that wasn’t what Hokusai was saying.
“Christ, you just can’t listen to what people are saying to you. You just have to be an unmannerly contrarian. The time gods screwed up when they gave you the ability to communicate with others.”
“They sure did,” Sanaa agreed.
Leona looked away. She met those people. None of the characters the so-called time gods came up with were well thought out, because those characters’ lives didn’t matter to them.
“I’ve spoken at great length about this, with lots of people. Paige Turner, Brooke Prieto, Mallory Hammer. It would seem that the more powerful you are, the less likely you are to keep those powers when you receive transhumanistic upgrades.”
“Leona’s been upgraded,” Sanaa argued.
“Leona is spawn, linked with a salmon. She’s unique, and it’s unclear what it would take for her to fall off her pattern, if anything. Besides, what we did for her is a temporary solution, but it will only need to last a few days. You, on the other hand, are an extremely powerful choosing one. One of her days is a year for you. If it’s true that you can reach other universes, then you’re even more powerful than we knew. It’s a miracle you can even receive a flu shot.”
“I’ve never had the flu shot.”
“I can give you nanites,” Hokusai promised, “so you can walk around here, but is that what you really want?”
“Yes,” Sanaa said excitedly. It looked weird, because Leona didn’t think she was capable of experiencing enthusiasm. “I hate it in these tanks.”
“You will quite likely lose your powers permanently, even if we try to remove the upgrades later. But what would be the point? Are you planning on staying here? I was to understand you were trying to get back to Earth.”
“That doesn’t seem possible,” Sanaa lamented. “Truthfully, I’m a little afraid to step foot in another ship. Where might it take me next?” She spoke with a degree of sincerity that Leona, again, didn’t think she possessed.
Hokusai placed her hand on the...polycarbonate.
“Thank you,” Sanaa said to the Superintendent.
Hokusai went on, “I’ve been working hard on my reframe engine.” She glanced over at Leona. “Yeah, that name has grown on me.” She turned to face Sanaa. “I’m quite confident that it will work. Now, it will take me some time to gather the right materials, build a prototype, test it, and incorporate it into Leona’s ship, but you could go with her.”
“But she’s not—” Sanaa started to say.
“She might not be going straight to Earth, that’s true. The beauty of this thing is that takes days to get anywhere within twenty-seven light years. Beyond that, we’re still only talking weeks. You would have to be sixty light years away for the trip to last longer than a month. You understanding my point here? Leona Delaney doesn’t always get to choose where she goes, but the powers want her alive, so she’s virtually invincible. She’s the safest person for you to be around.”
“We call that plot armor.” Sanaa appeared to be rather genre savvy. As a film scholar, this was something Leona liked about her.
Hokusai didn’t care about it. “Yeah, fine.”
“Leona’s ship is only designed for one person,” Sanaa complained.
“You are only one person,” Leona reminded her. “You would only have to suffer my presence one day a year. Not that it matters, because like she said, you’ll arrive in days. I’ll return just under a year later, so you’ll be long gone by then. It will be like I was never there.”
Sanaa looked between them, and thought this over. “If I’m long gone, then the plot armor argument doesn’t hold much...” She stopped herself, and cringed.
“It doesn’t what?” Leona asked. “Hold water?”
“Too soon,” Sanaa said sadly.
The conversation paused. Honest hour, Leona was feeling the urge to be submerged. Sanaa seemed to detest living in the tanks, but the human Christmas Colonists seemed to be genuinely happy in them. Were they that bad, or was Sanaa just a joyless person?
Sanaa continued after the reverent silence. “How long will it take for you to invent this new engine? To be done with it entirely?”
Hokusai didn’t want to answer. “Honest hour? Years. Up to a decade. These things take time. Believe me, you don’t want me rushing something that can explode if it’s not engineered properly.”
“I understand,” Sanaa said. She didn’t want to get exploded, of course. Her own life was important to her, if nothing else.
“You think you can stomach this place that long?”
Sanaa looked at the hatch behind her. Each habitat was designed about the same way. Individual, couple, or family tanks lined the perimeter, while communal tanks sat in the middle. Landwalkers, which were mostly inorganic, could visit water-dwellers in the dry area of their private residence, like the indoor section of a zoo aquarium. They could also socialize on the beaches and piers above the public tanks. Water-dwellers were still capable of surviving outside the water for hours at a time with little problem. In the eleven months that other people were living on this planet, besides Hokusai, Loa, and Eight Point Seven, Sanaa had reportedly never ventured beyond her own personal tank. “I guess I’ll have to find some level of happiness here until then.”
Leona removed all her clothes, and started up the stairs that would allow her to access the surface of Sanaa’s tank. “I’ll join you. I know you and I aren’t friends, but at least you know me. You don’t know any of those weirdos at all.
If Leona didn’t know any better, she would think Sanaa cracked a slight smile.

“Okay, Mateo, the smile is a bit creepy,” Cassidy pointed out.
“I’m just trying to be more positive,” Mateo explained.
“Why are we, uhh...sitting around like this?” It’s not mealtime, and this is kind of freaking me out.”
“I think he just called a reverse intervention.”
“That’s good, Weaver. That’s a good term for it. That’s kind of what’s happening.” He surely still had the uncomfortable smile painted on his face, and he was probably nodding too much. “I gathered you here to apologize. I understand that my behavior as of late has been..less than pleasant.”
“You were a [sic] asshole,” Thor remarked.
“Thompson,” Goswin scolded.
“No, no,” Mateo assured them. “That’s okay. This is a safe space. I was a asshole. I hear you. I recognize that. I appreciate your candor. I was under a lot of pressure when I was Patronus of Dardius, and I missed Leona deeply, but honest hour? I legit miss that too. I was in charge, of like, billions of people. Gos, you know what I’m talking about.”
Not really, Goswin said with his facial expression, like he didn’t want people thinking he and Mateo were anything alike.
I admit that things have been rough since I got back. I’m just a few light years away from my wife, but I still can’t reach her. The ship is going off to God knows where, and I’m kind of freaking out here. That is not your problem, and I am sorry for any stress that I added to your lives.”
“It’s okay, Mateo” Weaver consoled. “That was weeks ago.”
“Speak for yourself,” Thor said to her. “I ain’t over jack. People have been talking to me like him my whole goddamn life. They did it on Earth. They did it on Mars. And they did it everywhere else I went. I’ve been underestimated and dismissed so much that I put it on my résumé. But I keep my shit together, because people are counting on me. Do they count on you?”
“I hope so,” Mateo said, losing a bit of his smile.
“Then keep it together, bro.”
Mateo breathed in. “I can do that. Thank you for your truth.”
“And stop sayin’ stuff like that. It’s like a white person saying namaste. You don’t know what that means.”
“Thor, you are not the most pleasant person to live with either,” Cassidy asserted.
Thor stood up quickly. “I know. Why you think Saxon wanted to get rid of me?” He started to walk away. “I’m going back to bed. When I wake up, we better—” Then he continued with his mocking tone, but his words devolved into unintelligibility, like an adult on Peanuts.
“Well,” Goswin said. “Progress takes time.”

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