Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 22, 2260

To say that Cassidy was upset about being left in the dark about Mateo would be an understatement. She felt particularly betrayed by Leona, with whom she spent hours in the wilderness, working through their tension. The worst part of it was that everyone else on the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez knew that he was alive, as did Thor. Explaining to her that the others, like Ellie and Trinity, also weren’t told the truth wasn’t helpful at all. She wasn’t impressed by Vitalie reminding everyone that she didn’t care, so it didn’t matter that she knew. Étude tried to comfort her daughter, but Cassidy wasn’t having it. She hid herself away in her grave chamber, and didn’t come out until November 22, 2260. Mateo stayed in his own grave too, as Leona was still not yet ready for them to sleep that close to each other on a regular basis.
He didn’t wake up until long after midnight central, so the AOC had already landed on the surface of their new planet, Glisnia. The planet was a super-Earth, orbiting a star called Gliese 832. Surface gravity was far too high for the average biological human to withstand, so they were required to remain inside one of the ever-growing facilities, or be en route to another. Each was equipped with special technology called a transdimensional gravity platform, and while a Higgs-Boson field could generate artificial gravity to support an otherwise zero-g environment, something like this was necessary to lessen the gravitational pull of a celestial body’s core. Leona’s friend, Hokusai Gimura had utilized it on Varkas Reflex, but it was invented by Leona’s other friend, Hogarth Pudeyonavic, who was set to be one of the few humans living here. Though this amazing technology would allow anyone to survive on this world, Glisnia was allocated for artificial entities. It wasn’t particularly well-suited for nonbiological life, but it was good enough, and so far, many of the other colony planets had been set aside for biologicals. Leona believed better star systems would come about later, but in the meantime, plans were being drawn up for a Dyson shell, in order to gather most of Gliese 832’s energy output, and use it to power the inhabitants.
Ever since the Varkas Reflex incident, standard colonization procedures were drastically altered. Back in 2238, Leona discovered that the factory ships that were sent off to build habitat structures on Varkas had malfunctioned. Their communication with Earth had also gone haywire, leaving the world unfit for settlement, and quite dangerous, actually. Worried that this sort of thing might happen again, it was decided that all colony ships would be preceded by something called a Forerunner. It was a small ship designed for two to five people, and capable of near lightspeed travel. These people were meant to arrive in orbit ahead of the colonists, and solve any problems that Earth might not have been notified about. While automation was originally meant to account for all issues on its own, neighborhood leadership now felt it necessary to maintain a human touch to these endeavors. It was Hogarth and her wife, Hilde’s responsibility to do this here, even though no other biological people were scheduled for transport in the near future. As of now, besides a few mission-necessary automated systems, humans were the only people on Glisnia. The colony ships were not set to arrive until next year.
“Where are we going?” Mateo asked. They were riding across the alien desert in a land vehicle. Though the thing was completely enclosed, they were still required to wear vacuum suits for protection, and be able to attach their helmets at a moment’s notice. He found it more comfortable to stand, and hang onto the grips, rather than sit in the seats like everyone else.
“We’re headed for the Nexus replica,” Leona explained.
“Why didn’t we land closer to it?” Mateo asked. “Honest question; I’m not criticizing.”
“There’s nowhere to land. The replica was placed far from landing zones, specifically so no one would likely discover it accidentally. It’s situated on a bit of land that’s large enough for the structure itself, but no larger, and it’s pretty well hidden.” She was able to treat Mateo like a friend now, but it was as of yet unclear whether she would ever be able to interact with him on a romantic level.
Mateo was willing to accept the possibility that their marriage had suffered too much to continue. Perhaps this was it, and even though it would break his heart, he wanted to do what was best for her. “Again, I’m not trying to be difficult, but how did you find it if it was hidden so well?”
Hogarth threw a looped string at him, which he caught. “I call it the Lanyard of Disturbance. I don’t know with certainty that it was originally attached to the Compass of Disturbance, but it certainly appears that way. You can’t control what it finds, and it doesn’t allow you to do anything with whatever you find, but it can point the way to temporal anomalies. It’s like a divining rod for spacetime tears, and in this case, an interstellar teleportation module.”
“Got it,” Mateo said. Surprisingly, he understood every word she said, even the big ones. He was getting smarter, if only a little.
Cassidy almost looked like she was reading his mind, like maybe the smile from his pride was enough to let her know what he was thinking. And she rolled her eyes because of it.
“Hey,” Mateo began to ask a question, but thought better of it.
“What?” Cassidy asked.
“Nothing,” he tried to backpedal. “I’m sorry.”
“Spit it out!” she demanded.
He sighed, knowing he had to say it, but also knowing how much it would piss her off. “Do you want a year?”
“Do I want a what?” she sassed.
“We can take you off our pattern, temporarily, right? You could have a life, for a year; I’m sure these fine people would protect you.”
Cassidy didn’t respond for a moment, but scowled. “You think all I need to get over this is time?”
“Well, that’s probably true, but you’re not trying to help me. You’re just trying to skip over all the grief. Let’s say all I need is one year, that means you only have to deal with me for one more day, and suddenly we can be friends again.”
“Okay, I suppose that’s true,” Mateo had to admit.
He looked to Leona for guidance, but she was staying out of it. Her facial expression said a lot about her, however. She was still upset with him for the lapdance, and slightly uncomfortable with Cassidy for giving him the lapdance. She felt bad about lying to Cassidy, and sorry for Mateo for experiencing the most backlash over it. She secretly felt that it was a good idea to have Cassidy go through her stuff during their interim year, but she also understood how offensive this proffer was.
“I’ll still have to go through it,” Cassidy argued, “but you’ll be able to move on quickly. No, no, no. I’m not giving you the satisfaction.”
“That’s why I decided to not ask you,” Mateo contended, “because I realized it was a dumb thing to suggest.”
“You should have just not opened your mouth in the first place,” Cassidy said.
“I know.”
“That should just be your resting state,” she went on, “shutting the fuck up!”
She stopped talking for a moment, but the anger didn’t stop building. “Goddammit!”
“Cass—” He tried to say.
“No!” Cassidy interrupted. “I can’t imagine what you’ve been through; dying...Jesus! That must be a horrific memory for you. I know I shouldn’t be pissed off, I just can’t help it.”
“I understand,” he insisted.
“No, you don’t. You can’t, because I don’t!” She didn’t want to go too far, so she found her calm before getting back to it. “It all happened so fast. I didn’t have the chance to confront Briar about this. I kept putting it off, because I was grieving first. If I had known you were alive in some..weird, magic mirror...thing, I might have been able to say something. I might have been able to speak my peace. You robbed me of that, because the fact is that even though you’re still here, you’re also dead, and he still killed you. I don’t know how he’s gonna answer for that, but he didn’t answer to me!”
Mateo didn’t know how to respond to this, so he just sat down and wrapped his palms around his face.
Leona stepped up, literally and figuratively. She approached Cassidy, and placed a hand on her shoulder. “It was my decision to keep it a secret. I’m sorry you went through that. It wasn’t something I considered, and that was unfair.” She pivoted, so she could address both her and Mateo. “The three of us are bonded; not in the way we were with Serif, but it’s undeniable. We all have to find a way to get through this, because we all deserve to be happy; even you, Mateo.”
He lifted his face, but avoided eye contact, and sent a telepathic message that what Leona said to him was probably untrue. He felt a gloved hand on his, and thought it was Leona’s, but when he looked, he saw Cassidy, crouched in front of him.
“She’s right; you do. I don’t understand how this works, but we’re gonna put off your death until we have absolutely no other choice. And I’m gonna be here for as long as it makes sense. I won’t promise it’ll be forever.”
Leona crouched down as well. “I can promise that, though.”
“Why am I the one being comforted?”
“We’re all hurting, Mateo.”
Leona gave him a hug, and then gave one to Cassidy. Then she looked between them. “Okay, it’s actually weirder that you’re not hugging. Please, let’s just pretend that this is a normal relationship.”
They sat in silence for another ten or fifteen minutes, at which point Hogarth announced that they had arrived. After repressurizing the airlock, they exited the vehicle, and Mateo noticed that it looked exactly like the one they had just come from.
Leona noticed too. “This is not a likeness. Did you turn around?”
“I did,” Hogarth answered. “No one is up for a funeral today. Let’s all get some rest, and put it off until tomorrow. Does that sound okay?”
“I think that’s a great idea, hon.” Hilde hugged her wife from the side.
“It’s probably for the best,” Leona agreed.
So they postponed the trip to Dardius in favor of a quiet day of reflection and conversation. Mateo, Leona, and Cassidy tried to talk about anything other than the bad and awkward things that had happened between them. They figured the key was to move on from it, and stop dwelling. It appeared to be working, at least for now. Étude and Cassidy also took the chance to get to know each other a little better. There was so much Étude wasn’t before allowed to tell her daughter about where they came from. She might return to Dardius to her own fanfare, and she had to be prepared for that. In the end, it was a very nice day, and possibly vital to the process. Tomorrow was going to be hectic, and none of them really knew how things were going to shake out.

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