Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Sunday, July 6, 2121

They were standing on the edge of the endeavor to replace old Kansas City with wildlife. It wasn’t quite finished yet. They were only here to make the transition to another parallel reality called the Fourth Quadrant. It made Mateo wonder, if the main sequence was the first reality, and the Parallel was considered the second, and this was the fourth, what was the third? And were there any more that he didn’t know about? Being alternate realities, but not alternate timelines, these apparently always existed, yet he only heard about them recently. He learned a long time ago that the word recently literally meant nothing. Were these other worlds really so secret that he spent years as a time traveler having not heard so much as a hint about them, or had people just been deliberately keeping him in the dark?
He shook off his introspection, and started to focus on the task at hand. According to Ellie’s calculations—which Leona handily verified for her—when they landed, the people in the Quadrant would believe that it was June 12, 2031, and that they had been stuck in this city for nearly seven years now. Also according to their calculations, for every day that passed in the main sequence, only an hour and forty-three minutes passed inside the temporal bubble. If they didn’t fix their problem within that span of time, they would return to find it to be July 7, 2121. This meant that Leona would no longer be in the timestream, and wouldn’t return for a whole year. It was unclear how the Cassidy cuffs worked in this scenario. It wouldn’t be the first time the wearers were separated by time. Jupiter had some means of toggling them on and off, or even adjusting how wearers were connected to each other. They shouldn’t have to worry about that, as Missy’s power was pretty much instantaneous. As soon as they got there, she could do her thing, and take down the bubble that Tauno Nyland created to trap the duplicates of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. Mateo had a feeling, nonetheless, that their mission was going to end up being a lot more complicated.
“Everybody ready?” Ellie asked.
Everyone answered in the affirmative.
“Would you like to do the honors?” Ellie asked directly to Ariadna.
“You purposely put those cuffs on your wrists,” Ariadna began. “Seems a waste for me to just do it for you anyway. You think you can figure out how to travel to another reality, have at it.” It was both snarky and sincere.
Ellie centered herself with a deep breath, and took Mateo’s and Missy’s hands. Missy then took Ariadna’s, and Mateo took Sanaa’s. Ellie opened the window, and sent them all through.
It was freezing cold, though there was no snow on the ground. It was just bitter and biting and a huge shock to Mateo’s system. Time travel and teleportation always came with a little bit of shock. Instantly switching environments wasn’t something humans evolved to do, even the people who were born with the ability to do just that. The more experience a traveler had behind them, the easier it got, but they could always feel it, and the greater the transitional difference, the sharper the shock. There was something else here too, though. It kind of felt like he was standing in a river that wasn’t quite strong enough to knock him over, but still moving past him.
“Mateo, what time is it?” Sanaa asked.
Leona lent Mateo her special time-teller, which recalibrated immediately following any temporal jump. “Ten-nineteen in the morning.”
“Ten-nineteen is always in the morning,” came a voice behind them. It was none other than Mateo’s best frenemy, Thor Thompson. “Because there are twenty-four hours in a day, not two half-days of twelve hours each.”
“Mister Thompson,” Mateo said, “how nice to see you, looking so young.”
Thor smirked. “My name is Dupe!Thor.”
“So, you’re aware,” Ellie presumed, “that you’re quantum duplicates, stuck in a new reality?”
“Of course we are,” Dupe!Thor confirmed. “Can’t you tell that time is moving so much faster?”
Ellie narrowed her eyes, and filled her cheeks with air. “I kind of do feel that. Why would I feel that? This should feel like the right pace, that’s how time bubbles work.”
Dupe!Thor cleared his throat, and held his hand up loosely, like a tongue-speaking Christian holding his hand up to God, but expecting God to meet him halfway. He bounced his arm quite slightly. “If you move just right, you can feel the veil between our world and yours, and almost stick your hand right through it. It flows all around us, and that’s why we can sense the passage of time. It’s unsettling until you get used to, and it starts to feel normal. I’ll tell ya what, though, it makes sex feel amazing.”
“Can you fix that, Missy,” Sanaa asked, “or does the thought of time sex distract you too much?”
Missy sighed. “No, I can do it.”
“You’ll do no such thing,” Dupe!Thor ordered. “We didn’t ask you to change the speed of time.”
“That’s why we’re here,” Ellie tried to explain to him.
“Well, the white men were here centuries ago to kill all the indigenous peoples, and steal their land. That doesn’t mean that’s what they should have done, or that the tribes wanted it to happen.”
“He has a good point,” Ariadna said. “You didn’t even consider the possibility that these people don’t even want your help.”
Ellie brushed this off her shoulder. “Who do I have to talk to?”
Dupe!Thor breathed in, and exhaled a few raspberries. “The president?” he finally said at the end of the stream.
“The president of...Kansas City?” Sanaa guessed.
“Novus Metro,” Dupe!Thor corrected. “That’s what we call this whole region now. President Orlov will be quite interested in meeting some newcomers. It’s been awhile.”
“But there have been others?” Ellie pressed.
“How long will it take to get there?” Mateo asked once it was clear that Dupe!Thor wasn’t going to answer that last question.
“The Capitol is maybe three hours from here?” Dupe!Thor figured.
“We have an hour and forty minutes,” Sanaa argued.
“We have far less than that,” Ariadna contended. “Once we get there, we still have to speak with this president, convince her to agree to the plan, and then carry it out. We might have an hour.”
“The speed of time isn’t that bad,” Dupe!Thor said. He shrugged. “So you don’t get back home for a few days. Is it that big of a deal?”
“It is,” Mateo said. “What can we do to speed this along?”
“I can help,” Missy jumped in. “I’ll create a nested time bubble, which speeds up time even more, but only for us, so we have enough of it to reach the Capitol.”
“Would anyone object to that?” Ellie asked Thor.
“I don’t see why not,” he replied.
And so they started walking across the metropolitan area, on their way towards the heart of the city, while everyone else was just about frozen in place. Dupe!Thor talked to them about the things they had to do to survive in this new world. Unlike fictional stories about this kind of thing, like Lost, Under the Dome, or The Society, the Novus Metrons came here with a lot of resources. They had shelter, water, manufacturing plants, equipment, and plenty of space. The weren’t completely self-sustainable, however. Though there was more than enough farmland to go around, most of it wasn’t useful. They were stuck in perpetual winter, so few things would grow. They ended up inventing and deploying vertical farming techniques so much earlier than it happened in the real world. Lots of other things came early to them, because they had to, and because the right people were motivated. Necessity had so many children in Novus Metro that she could have started a town of her own. Were this not a temporal, as well as spatial, dimension, they would have surpassed technology in the main sequence in many ways. They seemed to be doing okay. Life wasn’t the best here, especially not in the beginning, but they figured things out, and made it work. They accepted their state a long time ago, and Dupe!Thor couldn’t promise anyone would agree to try to change it.
It was surprisingly easy to be admitted into the Capitol building, and to gain audience with President Natasha Orlov, who earned her position in a fair and legitimate election a few years ago. She was fair herself, and very much loved by her constituency. Missy and Ellie both implied that they had heard of her before. Mateo was ashamed to be surprised that they elected someone who was so obviously Russian.
“Only on my father’s side,” the president explained. She asked to be called Natasha. “ well as my mother’s.”
“Madam President—I mean, Natasha, we were hoping to speak with you about the speed of time in your reality. This is my friend, Missy Atterberry. She has the ability to create time bubbles herself, and we believe we can undo the one that Tauno Nyland trapped you in.”
Natasha nodded, not in agreement, but understanding. “Will she be doing this by creating a new bubble, or by dismantling the one that’s already here?”
“Oh, I should be able to dismantle it,” Missy assured her. “I’ve never done it before—”
“Yes, you have,” Mateo corrected, “on Durus.”
Missy was confused. “I’ve never been there before,” she told him. “You may be thinking of a future version of me.”
“Oh, right.” Yikes.
“I’m afraid we cannot do that,” Natasha apologized. “I’m sorry you made the trip, but it is simply not possible. We need it.”
“You do? For what?” Ellie questioned.
“You didn’t tell them, Representative Thompson?”
“I didn’t think it was my place,” Dupe!Thor responded. “It is dangerous knowledge.”
“That it is,” Natahsa agreed.
“You’re a representative?” Mateo asked.
Natasha went on, “there’s a reason we know that we’re in a temporal bubble in the first place. Scientists studied a phenomenon for weeks before they realized what was happening, thanks to a few people who had experience with temporal manipulation, giving them a little insight. The main reality is flowing all around us.”
“Yes, he did tell us about that,” Ellie said.
“Well, that’s not all it does,” Natasha continued. “This flow is more than just something that makes sex feel better.” Why does everyone keep talking about that? “It’s energy. It’s ambient energy.”
“Oh,” Ellie said. She literally slapped herself on the forehead. “You’re using it to power the city.”
“It’s the ultimate renewable resource,” Natasha said with a nod, “time itself.”
“Why didn’t I think of that?” Missy lamented, having realized something important about her own time power.
“Because you’re an idiot?” Sanaa alleged.
“Why do you hate her so much?” Mateo asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” they said in unison, as if having rehearsed it.
“It doesn’t bother you?” Ariadna went back to the conversation with Natasha. “You can’t go to space, or even another continent. And if you ever did want to go back to the main sequence to visit, it would make switching back and forth really difficult.”
“This is how we live now. Yes, it sucks to be in the snowglobe. I wouldn’t mind going back to see my childhood home in Russia, or checking out Machu Picchu, but we’re realistic. We’re already too far behind. We don’t belong in your world anymore. If we tried to return, people would wonder who the hell we are, and it’s not our place to reveal time travel to them. We’re stuck here whether someone unlocks the gate or not.”
Missy separated from the group, and started pacing the room.
“What is it, Atterberry?” Ellie asked her.
Missy took her time before answering. “You need a bubble of time that moves faster than the time around it, so the point where these two dimensions collide generates energy. I never thought about the fact that I’m doing that. Well, if that’s what I’m doing, then I can do for you.”
“What’s the point?” Dupe!Thor questioned. “Like she was saying, this is just our lives now.”
“This Tauno’s world,” Missy explained. “But it shouldn’t be. I can give you freedom. I can cut him out of it, and give this world to the people.”
“Won’t he be upset about that?” Natasha assumed. “We know who you’re talking about. He hasn’t done anything too terrible, but he has made it clear that we’re under his thumb, and that there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“You let us worry about that,” Mateo promised her. “We’ll lead him away from you. I’m pretty good at antagonizing antagonists...when I want to, at least.”
“You would do this for us?” Natasha asked Missy. “You would stay here, and build us these temporal energy generators?”
“It would be my honor,” Missy pledged.
“You won’t have to do that,” Sanaa said, apparently upset about suggesting something that might help her sworn enemy. “Someone get me a phone, and a pen and paper. It’s a lot easier to regurgitate the fifty-two digit number when I write it down first.”
“Who in the worlds has a fifty-two digit phone number?” Mateo asked. He knew of people who could be reached across time using special means, like a lucky penny, or a jenga set, but this seemed excessive.
“Who do you think? Holly Blue.”

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