Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Friday, July 24, 2139

They were woken up by alarms on their Cassidy cuffs; alarms which they had not set. They were going to wake up before too long anyway, but this sounded quite urgent. Leona hopped out of her bunk, and slid down the ladder to the control area. While Mateo was following behind, he saw her take off her cuff, and drape it across the interface module. The screen lit up, showing that it was syncing the cuff with their mobile home, which they had since officially started calling Imzadi. The rest of the crew came down afterwards, asking what was happening.
“We have a set of coordinates, Leona said, pulling up the map. It’s a hundred and twenty thousand astronomical units from there.”
“What does that mean for us?” Mateo asked. “How do we get there?”
“A series of jumps,” Leona answered. “There’s nothing out there. It’s beyond the Oort cloud, which the natives call the helioshield. I mean, there might be some icy planetesimal, or even a rogue planet, but it’s not on the map. I have no idea what might be out there in the main sequence, or why Nerakali is sending us there.”
Sanaa rounded the table, and zoomed into the spot where they were meant to be headed. “It’s a ship, it has to be. That’s a dangerous place to travel, especially in this time period, when the Earthans still didn’t know everything they needed to in order to survive interstellar space.”
“Do you know of a ship that would be out that far right now?” Jeremy questioned.
“Not that I know of,” Leona answered. The first humans don’t venture out beyond the heliosphere until twenty-two-oh-five. I suppose this could be from some alternate reality in the main sequence that I’m not familiar with.”
“Either way,” Aeolia decided, “we have to get there. It’s the mission. Someone needs our help out that far.”
“If we’re going to get out there in time we’ll need burst mode. Are you capable of that, Imzadi?” Leona asked the ship’s artificial intelligence.
Of course I can. Entering burst mode.” They felt the slight tug that came each time they teleported. It was subtle, and easy to get used to, but stronger now, because they did it again. And again, and again, and again. “Time to destination: sixteen hours, forty-two minutes,” Imzadi reported.
Now that they were on their way, they breathed a collective sigh of relief. Some sat down, while others remained standing.
“Seventeen hours doesn’t sound very burst modey,” Bran pointed out.
“It’s twice the maximum limit,” Leona laughed. Most teleporters can’t jump farther than the diameter of the Earth’s atmosphere. That’s a standard limit. Some can jump far enough to reach the moon, and a very select few can reach the sun. This machine can make it to the sun and back. I don’t know any teleporter capable of that, except for the intergalactic travelers, like Maqsud Al-Amin, who can do it on his own, and Dave Seidel, who still needs help from Shimmer.”
“I don’t know what that is,” Bran admitted.
“The point is, without the Nexus network, this is the fastest we can get there,” Sanaa explained. “I mean, it’s possible for a Nexus to dispatch travelers to an off-grid egress—that is, it would spit us out in the middle of space without another Nexus on the other side—but we would need to get permission for it, and that might take too long.”
Sixteen and a half hours is okay,” Imzadi jumped in. “I’ll get us there with plenty of time to spare. The real test will be hitting our exact targets. These coordinates are extremely specific, and the timing profoundly tight. We’re not just going to one spot, but to many, and I have to get to each one at the precisely right moment.
“We must have to save multiple people on the ship,” Mateo guessed, “and they’re not all going to be in the same place.”
That is my assumption,” Imzadi agreed.
“What is the best way to reach every target at the right time?” Leona asked.
I am working through the simulations now,” Imzadi replied. “You humans should get some sleep. There’s nothing you can do until we arrive, and maybe not even then. It depends on whether anyone needs medical attention. If not, this transition is all my responsibility.
“Thank you, Imzadi.”
I appreciate your support.
And so most everyone went back to bed, but Mateo was unable to. It would seem the time he spent with Sandy Klausen’s dreamwalking family gave him some kind of boost. He didn’t know if there would be any long-term consequences for not sleeping now, but it didn’t matter. He could barely close his eyes when he wanted to, let alone actually shut down his brain, and drift off. Instead, he just spent a lot of time playing RPS-101 Plus. It was addictive, and the most prolific serial killer of time of all time. It did come with its limits, however, and after a few more hours of it, was growing too bored to continue. He just let the chainsaw destroy his sponge, and sat there, watching the death aftermath animation for a good three minutes. He wasn’t really looking at it, though; he was staring into space.
As his vision narrowed, a fuzzy darkness took over from all sides. Black turned to blacker black, and he couldn’t feel his body anymore, until he realized he was back in the dream void from before. The feeling of hopelessness began to overwhelm his entire being, replacing each thought with empty nothing space. Suddenly, he felt himself being shaken at the shoulders. He struggled to blink his eyelids, and focus back in the real world. Jeremy was in front of him. It looked like he was shouting, but Mateo couldn’t hear anything. His ears were still only sensing the deafening sound of utter silence that only exists in the void. Finally, he broke himself out of the funk, and returned fully to his body.
“...you hear me! Something’s wrong!”
It was then that realized Mateo’s shoulders weren’t the only thing shaking. His whole self was, as well as Jeremy, and also the rest of the ship. He could also hear creaking and maybe the tearing of metal. “I know, I know! Let’s get out of burst mode.”
“We can’t!” Jeremy argued. “Leona’s been trying. Apparently, the computer is not responding.”
Mateo took a breath in, and let it out. The shaking stopped, as if he had done something to control it.
He looked over the edge to see most of the rest of the crew on the command floor, stopped, confused about what had just happened. He looked up to the third level  to see Angela, also looking down upon the chaos now trying to reorder itself.
Bbbbbbbbb-bu-bu-burst mode ret-ttttttttt-turning to nnn-normal,” Imzadi said in that stuttering computer voice we’re all familiar with. “Sorry about that, folks. Burst mode has returned to normal.
“Imzadi, please run a level three diagnostic.”
I’m in the middle of it, but I already know that the issue was due to external influence, rather than some kind of internal error within my systems. The hull was shaking, not me, and not because of burst mode.
“What, some kind of spatial anomaly? That’s not a thing,” Leona explained, though not Imzadi, who would already know that, but the rest of the crew.
“It was me,” Mateo said apologetically. Somehow, he had returned to the dream void, and it had created some kind of malfunction for the whole machine.
“What are you talking about?” Leona questioned, having no idea how that could possibly be the case.
I have some bad news,” Imzadi said. “We’re pretty far off course.
“How far?” Leona asked.
Imzadi did not reply.
“Imzadi, how far off course are we?”
Uh,” she replied, like she needed the linguistic hesitation mark. “About fifty-thousand. Fifty-six, actually.
“Fifty-six thousand AU isn’t that bad. We should still have time to get there, it’ll just be tighter. Let’s get back to where we were going, and hope it doesn’t happen again.”
Uh...fifty-six thousand...light years?” Imzadi asked in an interrogative voice, but not as a question.
“How is that possibly possible?” Leona pressed. “You are not equipped with such technology. Was there really a spatial anomaly? That was a joke.”
“I said,” Mateo began to repeat, “it was me.”
“Mateo, what are you going on about?” Leona asked, perturbed at the second interruption.
“Just let him speak,” Jeremy said supportively.
Mateo went into the story about what had happened to him yesterday, how he went to this pocket universe within the bulkverse type thing, where he met a bunch of other universe-hoppers, and basically experienced the cold reality of the true death, which was simply the absence of all but self-consciousness.
Of course, Leona had already heard all of this, but she didn’t understand how it related to today. “And you went back there?”
“Spontaneously,” Mateo confirmed, “yes.”
“And you think Imzadi, and the rest of us, went with you?” Leona figured.
“I do,” Mateo said. “If we technically traveled to another universe, it would explain how we ended up in a completely different location in this universe.”
Leona revealed a fake smile. “You’re learning a lot of astrophysics, and brane cosmology, I’m impressed. But also, what the fuck are you talking about? We didn’t go to a different universe, we would know. Even if you were capable of that, you wouldn’t be able to pull a machine of this mass in with you.”
“Well, do you have a better explanation? More importantly, do you have a way to get back home without it taking eighty years?”
Now Leona was really confused. “First of all, we don’t have a reframe engine in this thing. And secondly, if we did, how did you know it would take eighty years? Did you do that math in your head?”
Mateo thought about it for a moment, and still didn’t know how to answer that question.
Leona was upset, and feeling the burden of being the second smartest person in the room. Though, Imzadi wasn’t technically in the room, so... “Our only hope...” She checked her watch. “We have to be there in two hours, as long as my watch is accurate, which it might not be if we went to another universe—and I’m not saying we did.” She shook her head, but didn’t continue talking.
“Just say it, lady, we need him to do it again.” Sanaa didn’t have to be as sensitive when talking to her as most people, even including Mateo.
“That’s crazy,” Leona contended. “I’ve seen people do things like this, but not us. We don’t have powers. We’re salmon.”
“You’re not technically salmon,” Sanaa said, but she got the point.
“I almost died in the vacuum of space,” Leona began. “My children died there. We can’t...we can’t.” She sighed. “We have to get back, and if Mateo’s new bulk travel power can get us there, then...I guess we have to try.”
“What exactly am I meant to do?” Mateo asked, more to make sure everyone was fully aware that he didn’t exactly have a lot of experience with this newfound supposed power.
I have an idea,” Imzadi said tentatively.
The biggest problem, the AI realized, was not opening a door for Mateo to enter the dream void, but in navigating once he passed them all through. They could exit the universe here, and return a billion years in the past, or a trillion in the future, or a different reality. Or they could just get lost in the outer bulkverse, and end up in some other brane altogether. Or they could die. If they wanted to be on the edge of the helioshield at the very right moment, they had to come back in a very certain way. The Crossover was, in some way, capable of making these calculations. In fact, Chase Palmer from Universe Prime even suggested that most of bulk travel computational power was dedicated solely to navigation. Breaking a hole in the barrier was not the easiest thing ever, but not the hardest part either.
Individuals who could navigate the bulkverse, like the puncher, Limerick, and this one guy who wore a colorful coat, evidently did so upon their own psychic abilities. They were both born with this gift, and Mateo was decidedly not like them. Not even Imzadi was powerful enough to make these calculations, but perhaps the rest of The Parallel was. She called it the Milky Way blockchain, and it was their only way to tap into enough processing power to complete this mission. There was a protocol for requesting this sort of thing, but it was incredibly rare, and even rarer for someone’s request to be accepted. Even then, it took time for all the necessary gatekeepers to get back to the requester. Fortunately, Mateo and Leona enjoyed a special relationship with the natives, specifically, its creators, the Tanadama. Mateo knew them as Ramses Abdulrashid, and Kalea Akopa. So they only needed to reach out to these two people.
“I’ll do it,” Ramses agreed using his hologram avatar.
“We need to discuss this together,” Kalea argued, confused as to why Ramses would pretend he didn’t know that.
“This is that thing we talked about?” Ramses tried to remind her covertly. “A long time ago. I don’t survive unless...”
“You’re on that ship?” Kalea asked.
“No, but...I need their help. I need to get back to the main sequence.”
Kalea thought about it. “This year?”
“Next year,” Ramses clarified. “Preferably next year, at least. There’s some wiggle room.”
“You need us to do something for you next year?” Mateo asked and offered.
“I need a transition window back to 2140 in the main sequence. There’s something I have to do there, or I’ll die by the time I make it to this reality. Don’t worry, it’s not just about me. Lots of people could die if I don’t close my loop.”
“Say no more,” Mateo assured him. “We’ll be glad to help. That is, as long as your partner can accept the price.”
Kalea wasn’t going to accept immediately. She had to take the offer seriously, even though rejecting it evidently threatened everything they had built in the Parallel. “Very well. We will make the call. Go...rescue your whatever.”
Reaching out to every star system and rogue world in the entire galaxy was something not even the Tanadama were capable of. No single button did all that, for if it existed, a nefarious force could hypothetically exploit it for some agenda. There was, however, a loophole, and based on what little in the way of a description Ramses gave, Mateo surmised that the loophole was Mirage. It could have been some AI equivalent in this reality, but it sure sounded like her. However they did it, it worked. Imzadi reported a surge in computational power the likes of which she never thought she would have access to. Now all they needed to do was figure out how to get Mateo’s mind back to the void.

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