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Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 5, 2243

The military in the mid-23rd century wasn’t what it used to be. Borders were erased from the map, so there weren’t any good reasons to make war. Well, there was one. Aliens. There was always that chance of an alien horde raining down on humanity in its infancy, but Earth’s expansion beyond its one planet increased those chances dramatically. Every void they crossed pushed them closer to the possibility of encountering some other intelligent species. Even when they were staying within the confines of the solar system, perhaps that would be enough to make watchful extraterrestrials feel threatened. The further vonearthans spread, the more danger they put themselves in.
The military was purely defensive at this point in history. Everything it did was in preparation for what they believed to be the inevitable encounter of the fifth kind. According to what famed explorer, and infamous time explorer, Ida Reyer knew of the future, Earth will master the Oort cloud within the next seven hundred years. They will place sensors and defensive equipment on nearly every single one of the icy planetesimals—of which there were trillions—in the spherical celestial network that encompassed the star system. These will alert the planets and moons to any incoming visitors, assess their threat level, and act accordingly. Until then, however, the worlds had to make do with plain old orbital satellites, and sentry ships.
Each planet and settled moon was given at least one sentry ship, whose sole purpose was to monitor and protect their ward in the case of an emergency. There were rumors of other protective vessels hiding in the remote darkness, but if these existed, they were kept secret for a reason. Seeing as that the extrasolar colony worlds were settled by vonearthans who wanted a new place to live, but not a separation from society, these planets were also given their sentry allotment. In fact, they were provided an extra vessel for emergency evacuations, and generally ran a practice drill once every standard Earthan year. At least, that was what the other colonies did. Varkas Reflex was a heavy world, which made it difficult to launch from. Even for beings who are designed to survive heavier gravity, fuel expenditure from a super-Earth—to put it in Sanaa’s words—is literally a massive bitch.
When Eliseus declared his world’s independence from Earth, in order to protect Hokusai’s artificial gravity technology, he lost Varkas Reflex’ right to military protection. That obviously sounded really bad, but there were a few things that made it all right. Firstly, Wolf 359b was an unexceptional planet, with few natural resources. Secondly, its high surface gravity, though problematic for its inhabitants, also acted to dissuade any would-be invaders from startin’ somethin’, because they would have just as much trouble getting back off. It wouldn’t necessarily be worth the hassle. The most important reason that a loss of military assurances wasn’t that big of a deal was the fact that aliens didn’t exist. Also according to Ida Reyer, the only other evolved beings living in the galaxy wouldn’t be there for at least another few decades, and even then, they would have little motivation to attack...for reasons she deliberately withheld.
Construction was ongoing for the resort and amusement park campus they were calling Varkana, which translated to wolf land. Some people back home were just calling it Wolfland. The automated construction machines were presently in various stages of developing a three-story hotel structure capable of accommodating up to 31,852 guests. If one were to walk from one end to the other, they would have to go about four kilometers. They were also working on five swimming pools, two concert venues, a traditional 2-D movie multiplex, and one roller coaster, just to see how feasible building a full amusement park would be. It was not going well. The speed of the cars weren’t playing nicely with the gravity regulators that Hokusai installed. The engineers really wanted to see how it worked, so they could help figure it out, but she continued to refuse. She was glad Leona was finally back in the timestream, because Loa and Sanaa were not scientists.
“Any ideas?” Hokusai asked.
“Ramses,” Leona answered, knowing that wasn’t enough.
“Is that a band, errr...?”
“Ramses Abdulrashid. He was a Freemarketeer.”
“One of those staunch capitalists who wanted to throw the world back to the dark ages?”
“What does he have to do with my dimensional gravity regulator?”
“Everything. He was an engineer assigned to The Sharice Davids. Of course, those people couldn’t be trusted, so his power in the department was fairly limited. He managed to survive its explosion, and ended up on Proxima Doma, and then on Bungula. He went with Mateo to Dardius, so I don’t know what came of him, but the point is that he proved himself capable of growth. He became a valued member of our team, and a true friend. He built The Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for us.”
“That’s lovely. I’m still not getting the connection.”
“You need to find your version of Ramses on this planet, and ask for their help. I was a really good astrophysicist for the few years after I got my degree, but then I started losing my edge day by day, because I didn’t have time to keep up with the advancements.”
“But you fixed a lot of problems on The Elizabeth Warren when it was on its way to Durus, before Loa and I got on board,” Hokusai pointed out.
“I faked my way through most of it,” Leona admitted. “I wouldn’t have been able to do a damn thing without Missy.”
Hokusai didn’t look enthusiastic about it.
Leona went on, “yes, it’s possible for this technology to fall into the wrong hands. Yes, it’s possible that Beaver Haven will unleash hell on us for letting it happen. And I know you shouldn’t feel safe because you’re human. Horace told me how they locked up their friend to use as leverage once, so I wouldn’t put it past them to do it again. But you are still human, and this is human tech, whether you got it from your exposure to us, or not. The galaxy will survive. And as I was saying, just because you tell one person, doesn’t mean it’s a hundred percent certain they’ll spill the beans. Sanaa hasn’t, and even though I think she’s come a long way, she’s still one of the most volatile people I know.”
I heard that, Sanaa said psychically, but only to Leona.
“You’re eavesdropping on our conversation?” Leona asked, looking up and to the right to show Hokusai that she was having a telepathic conversation.
Cocktail party effect, my friend, Sanaa answered. You say my name, I hear it. Everytime.
“Okay, well...disengage always listening mode,” Leona ordered.
Yeah, Sanaa laughed, okay, boss.
Hokusai continued the conversation without any proof that Leona was finished with her tangent. “I don’t know if there’s anyone like Ramses here.”
“There must be someone,” Leona prodded. “Who do you think might be able to handle it?”
Hokusai seemed to be accepting the fact that someone she already trusted was recommending she find someone else to trust, and she should trust in that. She wasn’t taking the task lightly, though. Leona could practically see the list of names running through Hokusai’s head right now as she sought the perfect candidate.
It’s more of a yearbook than a list, Sanaa specified.
Get out of my head, Sanaa, Leona ordered. And get out of hers.
Fine. Fine.
“Pribadium,” Hokusai finally said.
“Is that a band, errr...?”
“When she was born, her father declared that God had offered the world a new element; a love-based element. Pri means love, plus bid, as in pray or ask. They decided to just call her Pribadium. She’s..quite brilliant, and she’s implied that she already has some idea how my so-called antigravity technology works.”
“Give her a call,” Leona suggested.
She’s already on her way, Sanaa said, apparently to them both.
“What? That wasn’t your place.”
I’m psychic, she reminded them again. My place is everywhere.
They heard the buzzer go off, which was the analog way the other workers got Hokusai’s attention when she was working in the sub-basement.
Hokusai sighed, and then hopped up the stairs, and opened the door.
“I’m sorry, sir,” a fairly young woman apologized. “I just...I had this urge to come here. I didn’t meant to disturb. I know you only get one day every year with your friend here.”
“I told you she was smart,” Hokusai said to Leona.
That’s not impressive, Sanaa said. Lots of people notice that Leona disappears for an entire Earthan year.
“I just heard something,” Pribadium said, frightened. “It’s like it was coming from my head, but not my own thoughts.”
Hokusai reached out, and took her by the shoulder. “It’s okay. It’s not your fault. Come on down; I’ll explain everything to you.”
“That’s okay?” she asked. Man, she really conditioned the Varkans not even think about trying to come in here.”
“Yes, of course,” Hokusai assured her. “I’m reassigning you to work directly with me.”
Thank you, Hokusai mouthed to Leona. Then she closed the door so they could get back to work.
She said thank you, Sanaa interpreted.
“Thanks. I wouldn’t have puzzled that out all by me onesy.”
As Leona was leaving the construction site, Eight Point Seven was walking up. “Hey, Miss Karimi told me I would find you here.”
“I thought psychics couldn’t talked to droids, and other AIs,” Leona questioned.
“She did it the ol’ fashioned way. I could use your insight with something; that is, if you’re done helping here.”
Leona looked back at the door. “Yeah, my work is done.”
“Good,” Eight Point Seven said as they were heading back to the surface lab, “because I can’t exactly ask anyone else about this. Did you know that Madam Gimura has been asking me to build models and prototypes for the reframe engine?”
“I did not know that.”
“She’s a genius, but I’m faster and more efficient, so she comes up with the idea, but I’ve been the one to physically do the work.”
“It’s not going well?” Leona presumed.
“Well, umm...I wouldn’t say that? It’s more of an unexpected turn of events.”
Leona narrowed her eyes. “What happened?”
“It’s best if I just show you.”
They stepped into the lab, and came face to face with another version of Leona herself.
“I shouldn’t be here,” Present!Leona pointed out.
“It’s okay,” the other Leona promised. “I don’t remember this happening, but I know that we are living in a single timeline. You must..we must erase our memories at some point. Before you become me, you forget everything that happened here today.”
“Go back,” Present!Leona demanded. “Don’t tell me anything about the future. Don’t even tell me when you’re from. Memory wipe or no, I don’t wanna hear it.”
“I wasn’t planning on telling you anything. I came because I need you to help me get back.” She reached into her pocket.
Leona instinctively tensed up. People might think, if they ever ran into an alternate version of themselves, that they would be able to trust that person, but there was no guarantee for that. In fact, it was entirely possible that this Future!Leona was intending to kill her past self, and take her place in this reality. It had been done before; not by herself, but she couldn’t be certain she wasn’t capable of it.
“It’s all right,” Future!Leona said as she slowly revealed a slip of paper from her bra. “This note is in our handwriting. It just says to find pribadium. I’ve never heard of it. Is it an alloy? Is it what we need to get me back to my own time period? Eight Point Seven doesn’t know how it happened, and neither do I. We think the reframe engine from two points in time connected to each other, and pushed me through. It’s basically a time machine already.”
Present!Leona sighed. “Pribadium is a person. I guess, before you erased your own memories, you made sure we would recruit her to help fix this.”

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