Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 15, 2253

When Leona and Briar got back to the shuttle, it was even dirtier and duster than it was just a few hours ago. There was no overgrowth on the craft, but that was because they had landed in a fairly barren spot. It still reminded her of what happened to it after she left it unattended to during her time jump. That couldn’t be it, though. They weren’t gone for long enough, and it should still be November 14, 2253. Leona checked her watch, though. Mario Matic gave it to her a long time ago. It wasn’t originally a gift; she was only meant to keep it so she would have a tether to remember him when Arcadia inevitably ripped him from time. She tried to give it back to him once the whole thing was over, but he insisted she keep it. Honestly, she was secretly excited when he said that. She had grown used to always knowing exactly what time it was. The only reason she hadn’t taken it through the portal to Earth was that it did require charging every couple of months, and that just happened to fall on today. But it wasn’t today, was it? No, it was next year.
She gently tapped on the watch a few times. She hadn’t ever known it to be inaccurate, but this couldn’t be right. Did she miscalculate when midnight central was? Briar hadn’t noticed her being gone for a whole other year, so maybe the cave was exactly like the one on Easter Island, which echoed time powers, and affected all present. She activated minimals systems on the shuttle. “Computer, what is the date by the Earthan Calendar?”
It is November 15, 2253,” the AI replied.
“Please confirm using all available data,” Leona requested.
Recalculating,” the AI said. “Confirmed. November 15, 2253.
“Is that bad?” Briar asked. “I never needed to keep track of time before.”
“We were gone a year,” Leona explained. “But how? When did that happen?” She tried working through it in her head. “Wait, this wasn’t the first time you went to Earth. Did you not notice this before?”
“Like I said,” Briar began, “I never needed to know the date. It took me some time to repair the shuttle while you were gone, but I don’t know how much time. I didn’t bother asking the computer what the date was until I explored the coordinates my mother gave me, and returned to the landing zone. I thought it hadn’t felt like it had been a year, but I figured I just didn’t understand. That’s why I was late coming back for you; because I didn’t realize you would be back yet.”
Leona scratched at her forehead. “We made four passes through the cave. We went there to check it out, then we came back for the stellar drift instrument, then we went back to Earth to use it, and finally, we came back here. It’s been exactly one year since we were gone, which suggests each pass lasts three months.” She thought about it some more. “It’s a time trap. Time moves slower in the cave. I saw that in a movie once; it was really good.”
“Did it have a happy ending?”
“Depending on how you look at it,” she answered. “I’m just glad our cave doesn’t slow time as much as it did for those characters, or I would never see my friends again.”
He nodded, but didn’t say anything.
“Briar, I know we’ve already talked about this, but now it’s even more important that you tell no one what we found. Before, it was potentially dangerous to let people travel back to the past, but now, it could be even worse. We spent ten minutes in there, just trying to get to the other side. If someone tries to go into that cave, and rest for the night, they could end up missing over a decade of their lives.”
“I understand,” he promised. “You took the shuttle in the year 2250, but wanted to spend all of 2251 alone. You got lost in the woods, and by the time you returned, it was already 2252, and the shuttle was damaged. I was there. We fixed it together, but there wasn’t enough time to fly all the way back to Homebase, so I agreed to wait another year until you returned. Now it’s 2253, and we’re going back to your friends.” The timeline he was proposing was a bit inconsistent from what really happened, but it was a good lie, especially for someone who didn’t have any experience with deception. It was just close enough to the truth to be believable. This might could work.
Unlike a few years ago, the shuttle was fully capable of restarting, even after all this time out of commission. They flew together to Homebase, where Briar could finally ask Trinity what had happened between her and his mother.
“Irene de Vries,” Trinity said calmly once they arrived, and explained who Briar was. They didn’t bother with any other conversation before jumping right to the confrontation part of the day. “I remember her. I never didn’t remember her.”
“No, you ate wanderberries,” Briar argued. “You did forget her, but then you should have remembered her later.”
Trinity sighed. “I don’t know what she told you, but I have never heard of these wanderberries. If ever there was a plant on this world that made you lose your memories, I would have genetically altered it to remove those properties. That’s what I was doing here all that time.”
“Then what happened?” Leona asked her. “Why didn’t you send her back to Earth?”
“I couldn’t find her,” Trinity explained. “I worked with her for years; longer than any of my other associates.”
“That’s impossible!” Briar interrupted. “You just said you didn’t know anything about me! You’re saying I took years to be born?”
Trinity shook her head. “I don’t know how you exist, but she was never pregnant when I knew her, and there weren’t any males around us. Could you have been a latent pregnancy? I’ve never heard of it, but it’s not impossible. We all know that time isn’t always linear.”
“Go on,” Leona prompted. “Let’s table the baby talk so you can continue the story.”
Trinity restarted, “after Irene was done helping make this place a paradise, I was preparing to take her back to Earth. She had some more things she wanted to do first, so I left her alone. For a week. I went back to this continent for only a week. If I had realized what would happen, I would’ve stayed with her, but I wanted to show that I trusted her enough to let her do her own thing. When I came back, she was nowhere to be found. I searched for her, for more years, but she never showed up. I figured she had been eaten by a wild animal, or had fallen down a crevice. I’m sorry.”
“You could have gone back in time,” Leona pointed out. “You could have followed her in secret, to see where she went after Past!You left.”
Trinity sighed again. “I made a vow. I don’t change the past.” She looked back to Briar. “Your mother knew that.”
“You could have broken that vow, to save her life.”
“Maybe I should have, but that was two hundred and sixteen years ago. I was still kinda figuring all this out.”
“That’s impossible,” Leona echoes Briar. “He’s only fifty-seven. He eats this root that keeps him young, but not that young.”
“I don’t know what to tell ya,” Trinity said, “Irene and I worked together in the 2030s.”
Leona thought this through, trying to figure out how it could work. Then it hit her. She looked over at Briar, who seemed to be coming to the same realization. “The cave.” Well, that lie didn’t last long.
“What cave?” Trinity questioned.
Now Leona was the one to sigh. “I didn’t really want to tell you about it, but we found a cave. Actually, Irene left the coordinates to her son. It goes back to Earth nine hundred and nine years in the past, but until you pass through the cave, time is moving slowly for you. About ten minutes equals about three months. It explains everything. She could have found it, met a man on the other side, and at some point, spent a lot of time in the cave itself, which is why Briar is still alive, and in his fifties. She must have made up the story about memory-wiping berries just to make sense of it. She may not have even realized what the cave did to her.”
“That’s why I couldn’t find her. I never saw a cave, but since it was shelter from the elements, I would have definitely gone inside to check if I had.”
“You see, Briar?” Leona began. “It’s no one’s fault. They were separated by time.”
“She still could have gone back in time, and stopped it all from happening,” he contended. “Hell, she could do it right now.”
“She can’t do that,” Leona said. “It would erase you from history. You were only born because your mother met your father in the twelfth century.”
“Not if he goes with me,” Trinity said. “If he goes back to save his own mother, it will erase him from the future, but this version that we’re talking to right now will remain. His mom won’t remember him, though, because it will have never happened, according to her.”
“Would you really do that?” Leona pressed. “Would you break your vow?”
“Only if he wants me to. Either way, you’re sacrificing her, Briar. You can’t have her back.”
Briar was obviously torn. “I’ll have to think about it.”

“What’s there to think about?” Thor asked. “Can you do it, or not?”
“I don’t know if I can build anything until I try,” Weaver said. “I’ve never failed before, though.”
“So...” Thor said. “Go ahead and do it.”
“Just because it’s possible, doesn’t mean it should be done. I have to consider the ramifications of everything I create. Pretty much everything I’ve done has blown up in my face in some way. If there weren’t any other time travelers, I could protect my inventions from falling into the right hands, but when I have to worry about all of time and space, I just can’t do it. Things will inevitably go bad.”
“I’m not certain what we’re talking about,” Mateo jumped in. He hadn’t heard the beginning of the conversation; or the argument, as it were.
“It’s not a big deal,” Thor claimed. “I just want her to make me a small quantum replicator.”
“Why do you need that?”
“I have minor transhumanistic upgrades,” he said. “I can’t interface with computers, or lift a car over my head, but they keep me alive. They need regular maintenance and replacements, though.”
“Everything you need can be found with an industrial synthesizer,” Weaver reminded him.
“It’s not so simple. I need raw materials, and I need to be near a machine when I need it, and I need the right specifications to build it, and I need to wait for it to be synthesized, and the machine is real big. I want something that can fit in my bag, that will always be with me, and will always make an exact copy of my required part.”
“I’ve built them before,” Weaver said, “but nothing that small. A portable replicator would just...I dunno, that sounds like a weapon.”
“Just build one,” Thor asked of her. “Don’t keep the specifications for it, and...I dunno, can you tie it to my DNA? If I’m the only one who can use it, then it’s no problem. I won’t abuse it; I don’t need to clone a girl I’m in love with, or bring back Adolf Hitler. I just need some nanites so I don’t die.”
“I don’t know...”
“I think you should do it,” Mateo determined.
“You do?”
“You hate me,” Thor said.
“I don’t hate you, Mister Thompson. We just don’t get along. That doesn’t mean I want you to die. Most transhumans live in civilization, and can find their needed replacements. All the way out here, it’s trickier. Weaver, can you build something that only works for him?”
Weaver sighed. “Yeah, probably. Theoretically. But also theoretically, someone else could find a loophole. Maybe they already have.”
“You said it yourself,” Mateo told her, “you can’t be responsible for all of time and space. Do this for him, consider the consequences of how you do it, and then hope for the best. I think he’s proven he’s worth the risk.”
Thor frowned, but Mateo could tell he actually wanted to smile.
“Very well,” Weaver gave in. “I can’t tell you how long it’ll take me, so don’t jettison the synthesizer we have on board just yet.”

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