Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 21, 2259

Leona didn’t wake up from what was meant to be a nap until thirty minutes to midnight. Of course, by then, it was way too late to launch the AOC. The safest place to be for a time jump was either on the ground, or in outerspace. Somewhere in the middle just wasn’t worth the risk. She kissed Mateo goodbye, then left the grave chamber. Cassidy was there as well, getting out of her own grave, having also apparently slept for longer than she wanted. They crawled out of the ship, and jumped to November 21, 2259 together. The first people they saw when they arrived were Étude and Vitalie. The last Leona saw them was on Proxima Doma, when she and Mateo had to take the Insulator of Life to Bungula to revive Brooke and Sharice Prieto. Cassidy seemed more surprised than anyone. “Mom?”
Étude took Cassidy in a heavy embrace, which they held for minutes on end. While they were waiting, Vitalie and Leona shook hands, all professional-like. She seemed to know who Leona was, but didn’t have any strong feelings about her.
Cassidy finally breaks the hug. “Wait, mom, you’re so young. How do you know who I am?”
Étude sported a smile-frown hybrid. “I’m technically not the woman who birthed and raised you. I had to go back in time once to save a lot of people from disaster. My slightly younger self was the one who went to Earth on a mission, made a quick detour on her way back to Dardius to have you, and then took you back to Earth, in the past.”
Cassidy wasn’t afraid, but she was confused, and it was enough to make her take a half-step back. “If that’s the case, then you still shouldn’t know me.”
“I had my brain blended,” Étude explained.
Cassidy looked to Leona. “That’s the thing where someone gives you memories from an alternate reality?”
“Yes,” Leona answered.
This was all big news. They spent the next few hours catching up with each other. Vitalie wasn’t really Vitalie anymore. She too had been through a lot. Both of them had to take the immortality waters to survive certain death when they ended up trapped in another universe. Vitalie made the choice to stick around while Étude and a man named Tertius Valerius went back home. Vitalie spent four billion years there as an immortal, until finally coming back to this universe through The Prototype. She was only capable of retaining memories from the last fifty-six years of her life, however, which explained her somewhat distant reaction to encountering Leona.
While they were doing this, Leona was apparently not made aware that Pribadium was assigned to make sure the AOC was launch-ready. Mateo didn’t know what to say when she opened the hatch to grave chamber four, and found him still very much alive in there. She had experienced a lot of time travel stuff by now, but she had never seen anyone come back from the dead. She freaked out.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Mateo tried to promise her. “I can explain.”
“How are you here?” Pribadium asked. “Was your death a lie?”
“No, it wasn’t,” Mateo said. “The preservation coffin you’ve seen me in, that’s real. It’s future me...hopefully very, very, very far in the future, but my death is inevitable. Someone brought me back and saved me at the last second.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” she argued. “Then how do you have a body at all?”
“One day,” Mateo started to explain, “I will have to go back and actually die. It’s predestined. It’s already happened.”
“Why, though?” she pressed. “If they could go back in time and rescue you at all, why didn’t that just change the past?”
“Briar was wearing something called the hundemarke. I don’t know how it works, but the past can’t be changed when it’s involved. It prevents it. The extraction mirror is just kind of a loophole.”
Pribadium took a moment to digest the news. “Why aren’t we telling anyone?”
“Leona thought it was best, and I agree. The hundemarke is very delicate. What we know about the future, and what we tell people, can have really bad consequences. The less people know, the better. Everything has to happen how it happened. For as important as it is to not actively interfere with the inevitable, it’s equally important that we don’t try to force the inevitable. We just have to let fate take over.”
“I understand,” she said. “I have to check this chamber, though. Something weird happened.”
“You mean Étude and Vitalie? Leona kept the mic on her tablet open, and has been relaying the entire conversation to me, so I already know.”
“No, not that. I don’t know who those people are, so while it sounds like a strange story, their arrival doesn’t surprise me. What does interest me, however, is how Leona and Cassidy slept for nearly a whole day, and I suppose you as well. I was led to believe that we didn’t leave Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida last year because Leona and Cassidy didn’t feel like it yet. If I had known that it was actually because the stasis features of these grave chambers had possibly acted up, I would have taken a look at them earlier, but I was on a side mission on Waizidi.”
“The stasis features acted up?” Mateo popped the appropriate panel open, revealing the equipment that went over his head. “Ooo, I think that might have been me.”
“How so?”
He popped open the storage panel too. “I didn’t know about all the things that are in here, so I was familiarizing myself with them. I tried my best to avoid the stasis stuff, but I must have punctured a tube, or bumped a switch?” Mateo carefully looked around like a gopher, then crawled out, still not wanting anyone else to know he was there. “You should take a look at it.”
“Okay, you can hide in chamber six while I’m working. No one will be using it.”
Mateo did as he was told, and just went back to his Batwoman marathon. Halfway through his current episode, the new hatch opened up. The first thing he heard was Pribadium saying, “no, not that one!”
Three people were looking down on him: Leona, Étude, and Vitalie.
“Oh,” Étude said.
“Why are you in this one?” Leona asked.
“Hi, I’m Vitalie.” She showed him her hand.
Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” he echoed a character from the show he was watching, who was quoting from Lewis Carroll.
“Are you still watching that show?” Leona asked.
“So...” Étude hesitated, “can I use this one, or no?”
“Why did you move?” Leona reiterated.
“Pribadium found me, and needed to check some things, so I hid in here.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone about him,” Pribadium assured Leona. She was standing up from grave chamber five, which was Cassidy’s.
“I won’t either,” Étude said.
“I don’t know who you are, and I don’t care,” a sassy but apathetic Vitalie added.
“All right, yes,” Leona said. “Let’s not let it get any further than this.”
“Let what get further than what?” Thor had come in. Mateo wasn’t worried, though. He was really good at keeping people’s secrets, because like Vitalie, he didn’t care.
“All right, no further, though. Jesus.” Leona was growing impatient.
“Do you guys want to hear about the stasis features?” Pribadium offered.
“It’s not something I did?” Mateo asked.
“No,” Pribadium answered. “They were both leaking, though. It’s not enough to put you out completely, but since you were already asleep, you didn’t wake up until the leak was fixed.”
“How was it fixed?” Leona questioned.
“I don’t know,” Pribadium admitted. “I think it was programmed to turn off.”
“Someone wanted to keep us in here?” Leona asked. “Who? Briar? Arcadia?”
“Oh, no,” Mateo realized. “It was Mirage. She knew Étude and Vitalie were coming, and that we would miss them if we left before today. She wasn’t trying to keep us in here, per se. She just wanted us to stay on the planet.”
“Oh, so it’s okay?” Pribadium hoped.
“Make sure it won’t happen again,” Leona instructed. “I’ll work on the rest of the pre-flight check, because I do still want to leave today. You two are still okay with coming?”
Étude and Vitalie nodded. The former elaborated, “Cassidy is safer with you, and I want to be with her, so yeah.”
“I go where she goes.” Vitalie jerked her head towards Étude.
So it was decided. Leona and Mateo would be going off to Glisnia to send off the latter’s future dead body. Cassidy would be going with them, along with her mother, Étude, and her friend Vitalie. Pribadium was going as well, as a much needed engineer. That didn’t mean that everyone was staying on Bida, however. A couple people were interested in starting a brand new adventure.
“This is the Emma González?” Leona asked, marveling at the vessel.
“Yeah,” Étude confirmed. “Kestral and Ishida gave it to us when we went to Gatewood for Cassidy.”
“So the two of them were doing okay?” Cassidy asked.
“They were going through some stuff,” Vitalie replied, “but I think they were going to be fine. We’ve not spoken to them since we left at sublight.”
“If you’re going on the AOC,” Goswin began, “then I suppose you won’t be needing this anymore?”
“What were you thinking?” Leona asked him.
“We don’t know,” Weaver answered instead. “We were kinda just gonna choose a random direction, and start flying.”
“To what end?” Thor questioned.
“The future,” Goswin said. “We’ve decided to not have a plan at all, but only if we have the means of doing so.”
“Fine with me,” Étude told him. “That there ship is yourn.”
“Anyone else wanna come?”
“We’ll come.” Eight Point Seven was walking towards them with a chained up Briar in tow. “Trinity wants him off this planet. Nowhere is as good a place as any. I’ve outlived my usefulness with Pryce’s animal tourism testing, so I’m a free agent too.”
“Were you guys gonna leave without saying goodbye?” Ellie and Trinity were now walking up. The former was likely at a music break. It was her last radio show ever. She had by now racked up thousands of hours of programming, which was enough to last a lifetime for her listeners. She never needed to fill time for the average radio listener, but for very busy time travelers who managed to carve out a little bit of time for relaxation and entertainment.
They began to say their goodbyes. People hugged those they were comfortable enough with to feel at ease doing that. They shook hands with those they weren’t as close to, but these often transformed into hugs as well. They were all friends here, except for Briar, and a little bit Thor. He let his guard down for a moment, and got in on the action as well, though. Mateo wished he could have been there in person, but he was able to watch from the security feed, and that was better than nothing. When it was all over, everyone took their places. Eight Point Seven’s consciousness was uploaded into the González, with Weaver serving as her humanoid engineer, and Goswin as the captain. Briar was stuck in one of the rooms, since the ship was never designed with a hock. Mateo was back in grave chamber four, which Cassidy was told was the culprit for the stasis malfunction. This gave her a good reason to not open it, though come next year, there was probably no reason she wasn’t allowed to know the truth, especially since everyone else on the ship already did know.
Trinity, Ellie, and Thor were the only ones to remain on-world as the two ships launched at the same time, but flew off in different directions. DJ Mount Alias was just closing her show for good as the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was breaking orbit, and preparing to engage the Radiant Lightning reframe engine. “For my last song ever, I’ve chosen something special. This is for a man I once knew, who’s being delivered to his final resting place after a hard, but far too short, life.Easy Street started playing on the speakers, but stopped after a few seconds. “Just kidding. Friend, if yourlistening sometime in the past, I know what that song means to you.” She started playing Heat of the Moment, which was another traumatic song from Mateo’s past, as well as Leona’s. The Cleanser had tortured him with it during the Tribulation days. She stopped this as well. “That’s also a joke. I hope he appreciates it, or would have. This is the real last song. It’s not technically a single piece, however. It’s eight and a half hours long, and is perfectly designed to induce sleep. Hm. I just now realized that’s probably how it got its name. Live from the Reading Room on September 27, 2015, Sleep, by Max Richter.

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