Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Monday, July 22, 2137

Amaranti went through the shatter portal first, along with their bug alien prisoner of war. Angela went through next, followed by Mateo. The punching guy took up the rear, in case the portal closed on them, and he had to create another one. They all apparently made it through just in time. The five of them were now standing on a moon in another universe. A ship was destined to come retrieve them at some point, but scheduling anything at a certain time was difficult when accounting for multiverse travel, since different universes ran on different timestreams. This rock wasn’t uninhabitable, but the atmosphere was a little thin, and not suitable for long-term survival. They got themselves into an outpost, where they found a little jail cell, enough supplies to last months, and breathing apparatuses, which just helped them get enough oxygen to be more comfortable. They reiterated that they would get them to July 22, 2137, but that Mateo’s best chance of getting this thing out of his neck was here.
Amaranti was hesitant to explain who it was they were, and what their mission was. Mateo didn’t care for any specifics, but they were evidently fighting an enemy that was well aware of the world of salmon and choosers, and he needed to know more about that. The other guy, Limerick pointed out that Mateo was clearly not completely oblivious to how the bulkverse worked, and their contact protocols did not bar them from reading him into the situation. Those secrets were mostly there to protect people who had only ever seen a little corner of their own universe. Mateo, on the other hand, had been to many other universes, perhaps even more than these two had. When he told them that, they were quite surprised, and flatteringly impressed. Their excitement grew when he added that his mission involved assassinating eight alternate versions of Adolf Hitler. There was clearly no issue when it came to telling Mateo about the war.
“They’re called the Ochivari,” Amaranti began. “They’re the basic bitch race of the bulkverse. Different factions have different exact motivations, but one thing they all have in common is that they want to destroy all evolved life, everywhere.
“It’s more than that,” Limerick continued. “They want to kill anything that impacts their environment too much. On my world, we have a species called beavers. They build these things called dams—”
“We know what beavers are,” Mateo interrupted.
“Well, that’s apparently enough to make the Ochivari try to wipe them out. They think they’re protecting the plantlife, and little critters that keep more to themselves. Birds build nests, that seems to be okay, and bees actually spread plants, so that’s great. Ants are fine, as are snakes. Humans, beavers, meerkats; they all just do too much to the planets they live on. We’re obviously the worst offenders, which is why they focus so heavily on us.”
“Beavers are a keynote species,” Angela pointed out. “They actually help the environment.”
“We don’t know if the Ochivari don’t realize that, or if they simply don’t see it that way. They just go in and try to kill anything that alters the ecosystem to a high enough degree.”
“Why have I not heard of them before?” Mateo asked.
“Beavers are never going to change,” Amaranti said. “They’ll keep building dams until evolution tells them not to. There are, however, based on what little evidence we’ve been able to find, some human cultures that have abandoned their old ways, or otherwise improved. They eventually develop technology that allows them to restore their planet’s wildlife, and stay out of its way. The Ochivari leave these worlds alone.”
Mateo recognized what they were talking about. People were already living in megastructures that avoided damaging large swathes of land by going more vertical. There were plans to take this further, and start hanging all of their structures from orbit, so they never had to touch the ground at all. “We do that on our version of Earth.”
“Exactly,” Amaranti agreed. “That’s why those two were there. They were surveying your Earth, and tracking your development. They have a large presence in your universe, because of your multiple timelines. Normally, they can just jump to the future, and find out how the people there end up progressing. It’s a lot different for you, they’re not sure how to handle it.”
“We were sent to capture one, and kill all others,” Limerick said.
“Like them,” Angela noted.
“How’s that?” Limerick questioned.
“You kill the Ochivari like they kill us,” Angela went on.
“That’s what war is, buddy.”
“Has anyone tried talking to them?” Angela suggested.
Limerick was shockingly offended by this. “You want us to do what!”
“Calm down,” Amaranti told him. She turned back to Angela. “It wouldn’t matter. If we went back to the Ochivari’s homeworld of Worlon—back to before they did any of this—we could conceivably convince them not to attack us. We could stop them before they decided to become what they become. It might work. However, it would create a new timeline, and as great as that sounds, the old timeline still existed. As we said before, different universes have completely different timestreams. When you left your Earth, it was July 21, 2136, but that’s only by your calendar. It’s the sixteenth century on this moon, according to a different calendar. And it’s not time travel. When you cross the boundary of one universe, you may enter another at any point in time, in any reality. Because metatime, which is time that exists outside of any universe, is not a temporal dimension, but a spatial dimension. There has been at least one reality where the Ochivari left their universe, and that can’t be undone, because as soon as they stepped out, they started experiencing metatime, and were no longer beholden to the logic of serial causality.”
Angela looked at the floor and nodded. “How do the Ochivari come to the ability to travel this bulkverse, as you call it? They build a ship, or something?”
“They’re born with the ability to do it,” Limerick explained. “It’s...it’s hard on them, though. Their method is extremely unpleasant, which I find quite satisfying.”
“They’re kind of like him,” Amaranti added.
“No, not like me!” he fought.
Amaranti pursed her lips, and nodded, actively avoiding making eye contact with Limerick.
Angela was still nodding, theoretically on to a great idea. “So they’ll become bulk travelers no matter what.”
“Yes,” Amaranti said, not seeing the purpose of this line of questioning.
Angela smiled. “Then why don’t you create an alternate reality where the Ochivari are good...and ask them to fight with you?”
Amaranti and Limerick didn’t know what to think of this suggestion. They had clearly never thought of it themselves. Before they could agree with her, or not, the door swung open. A man came through with a comforting smile on his face. “Y’all need transport? Oh, looks like we have a couple new recruits here.”
“We rescued them,” Amaranti replied. “They’re not recruits. One of them requires medical attention, and then we have to get them to their version of July 22, 2137.”
“Not yet,” the man said. “They’re not recruits yet. Hi, my name is Chase Palmer. Let’s get you home.” He offered his hand. Angela took it.
Chase led them out of the outpost, and about a kilometer away to a clearing, where a spaceship was waiting for them. They embarked, and strapped themselves in. “Take us up, Cassie. Head for Torosia.”
“Sure thing,” the pilot, Cassie said. She flew the craft up out of the atmosphere, but they didn’t go far before something changed. Mateo’s heart sank quickly, before springing back up to its place in his chest. Through the viewports, they could see an ocean of beautiful colors, but all of them shades of orange. Mateo guessed it to be some form of faster-than-light travel.
In about an hour, they were at their destination, so Cassie dropped them out of FTL, and landed on a planet that was presumably called Torosia. There, Mateo went under surgery to have the pattern suppression patch removed from the back of his neck. It was reportedly fairly easy to do, but wasn’t something he could have handled on his own. He was given the greenlight to travel after a few hours of rest, just to make sure nothing went wrong. Limerick had to go off on some other mission, so he wasn’t able to transport them back to their home universe. But that was okay, because he wasn’t the only person capable of doing it. A young woman in a fancy futuristic vacuum suit showed up wielding a knife. She introduced herself as Zoey Attar, which was a name Mateo immediately recognized. She was present at his wedding with Leona, and had helped flower girl and ring bear, little Dar’cy Matigaris find the rings after the latter accidentally mixed them up with the flower petals.
Zoey used her knife to tear a hole in the spacetime continuum, which they crawled through to get back to their universe. She did not follow them through, though, evidently confident that they were in the right place at the right time. They were standing at the top of a hill, and since they didn’t have any clue where they were meant to go, they just sat down and waited, spending the time tearing apart blades of grass, and talking about their lives. A few hours later, the world around them blinked away, leaving them seemingly at the same place, but in a different reality. Leona, Sanaa, Jeremy, Kallias, and Aeolia were trekking up the hill, headed right for them.
“Oh, thank God,” Leona said. “I was hoping it would be you.”
“We were all hoping that,” Sanaa corrected.
“Where have you been?” Kallias asked.
“We’ll tell you all about it. But first, how did the transition go last year?”
“It was fine,” Jeremy answered. “It’s probably good you weren’t there. That lunar hermit did not like being around people. Fortunately, he couldn’t see Bran or Aeolia, because the three of us were stressful enough.”
“The lunar hermit?” Angela questioned. If the transition was on the moon, why did the map send us to the Mariana trench?”
“The trench was two days ago,” Leona explained.
“It’s not Monday, July 22, 2138?” Mateo asked for clarification. “We were told very specifically that we would be delivered right to you.”
“Whoever you’re talking about overshot their target,” Aeolia said. “It’s 2138 now.”
“Ah. I guess that’s not that bad.” But then Mateo instinctually reached up to massage his neck, having felt a sharp pain back there.
“Are you okay?”
“I don’t know.” He saw the world around him change colors, like two dozen lamp filters flashing in front of his eyes, which started feeling heavy. Then he fell down and passed out.

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