Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Monday, July 25, 2140

Mateo explained how it happened the last time; how he lost his mind in the void. At least, he explained it as best he could. It wasn’t like he was some expert on the matter. Of course, everyone came to the same conclusion, that Mateo was essentially suffering from extreme boredom. He didn’t need to sleep, or center himself, or even clear his mind. He just needed to not be presently caring about anything. Apathy, as Sanaa put it, was like the death of a soul. It was a death he could come back from, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t suffer serious psychological consequences down the road. It also wasn’t going to be a piece of cake. People grew bored all the time, it didn’t kill their souls. Perhaps Mateo’s newfound connection to the dreamvoid was the secret ingredient these other people didn’t have, but now that they were cognizant of the goal, would that prevent them from reaching it? Could he get bored if he was trying, or was it inherently something that would always have to happen naturally, on its own?
Nerakali was too far away to transport to The Imzadi, but she was still able to quantum communicate with them, and she had an idea. As they were all connected through the Cassidy cuffs, someone else could use her brain blending ability on Mateo. They could scoop the thoughts out of Mateo’s mind, leaving him with the stuff that didn’t matter. Living organisms were all born with the instinct for self-preservation. It was the one thing they all had in common. If a creature did not evolve this trait, it did not survive, so by its very nature, such a creature did not exist. A movie came out many decades ago where evil plants took this trait away from the humans around, which caused them to commit suicide. Accepting the premise as a given, this probably would not be the natural result. The opposite of self-preservation was not self-harm; it was apathy, which was perfect. Nerakali’s psychic powers were generally used to manipulate memories, and not other neural functions, but there was a loophole. If they took away all the memories he had of love, it wouldn’t destroy his capacity for it forever, but it could suppress it long enough for them to complete the mission. They were running out of time. It had to work.
“You can’t do this,” Leona said defiantly.
“It’s the only way,” Mateo argued.
“Nerakali knows we can’t get there in time,” Leona fought back. “She can just send someone else on the mission.”
“No one else is on a ship close enough,” Jeremy pointed out.
“What are you talking about?” Leona questioned. “Literally everyone in this reality has a ship, and all those ships have FTL. Hell, when you think about it, the natives could handle all the missions. They don’t need us at all!”
“We’re the only ones with Cassidy cuffs. Only we can get the timing right,” Sanaa added. “Besides, this is our calling.”
“She’s a time traveler!” Leona shouted. “None of this is dire.”
“We have to get back to the stellar neighborhood either way,” Bran noted calmly, juxtapositioning her passion.
Leona shook her head. “The Parallel natives can come rescue us. It might take them a little time, but they can send a rescue ship using an off-grid Nexus egress, and they can transport us to the nearest inhabited star system. “Imzadi, where is that?”
Fifty-thousand light years away,” Imzadi replied.
Leona looked confused. “Viewscreen.” A hologram popped up, showing the space outside. They didn’t see lone stars, but a sea of them, all turning around the galactic core of the Milky Way. “You didn’t tell us we were in the intergalactic void.”
Imzadi pretended to clear her throat. “We’re in the intergalactic void.
Leona sighed.
“Love, we’ve been through worse,” Mateo reminded her. “Nerakali assures us the brain blending can be reversed. You’re just going to borrow my memories, and then put them back.”
“Yes, I want you to do it. You have the most experience with sharing her power, and I trust you the most.”
“Goddammit,” Leona said. “I’ve been an asshole to you all day. How can you trust me?”
“It’s fine. Please. We have to do this now.”
Leona took a beat. “Walk me through it,” she ordered into her cuff
Nerakali was ashamed that she had done this procedure before, but glad it would help now. She taught Leona alone how to remove Mateo’s decent memories, leaving only boring ones, like standing in line, and waiting for dial-up to connect to the internet.
Mateo could feel his memories leaving his mind. He was reliving the time his parents first took him to see his birth mother, once she was finally ready to form some kind of relationship with him. At first, he couldn’t remember what she said to him, and then he couldn’t remember her face, and then he couldn’t remember anything else about her. Soon after that, he forgot that he even had a...uh... Well, he must have... Ya know. There was someone, er, something. Or maybe it was the other. Oh my God, this lecture is so uninteresting. What is he talking about? The war? Some war. Who cares? Why do I keep getting all this junk mail, and why am I bothering sorting this anyway? Everything important comes through the inter—inter-something. Oh, there’s Leona. She’s drunk and so young right now, but she’ll... What was I talking about again? I feel like I’ve been in this waiting room forever. I don’t even remember what I’m here for. I don’t remember anything. I just remember sitting. And waiting. And doing nothing. My life is nothing. And’s just blackness.
Calculating status.
“Calculate faster! Where are we? When are we?”
More waiting, this sounded important. “Eight hundred kilometers from mission coordinates. Friday, July 24, 2139. Time to first defenestration, eleven seconds.
“Is that enough time for you?”
Does the pope not exist anymore, because religion is an outdated and antiprogressive institution that only ever served to justify selfishness, encourage disunity, and segregate the masses?” The teleportation drive booted up, and sent them to their destination. Enough momentum was added to the jump to keep the Imzadi moving at a fast enough pace to pick up passenger after passenger. One, two, three. All told, eleven people were rescued. It would turn out that they were sent off on a secret mission to study the long-term effects of interstellar travel on the human mind and body, and to test the technology necessary to keep them alive. It was a reasonable endeavor, and the crew was unable to explain why it was they kept the truth from the public. They would have died on the way, however, as the micrometeorite shield they placed in the front of the vessel was insufficient and inadequate. Their stasis pods weren’t working well either, and they did not have enough resources to last the forty-two years it was bound to take them to get to Proxima Doma, which was harsh and uninhabitable anyway.
Aeolia suggested they erase the crew’s memories, but humanity would never learn from its mistakes if it didn’t remember making them. Instead, they came up with a lie that was as close to the truth as possible. They purported to be aliens, presenting themselves in forms the humans would be most comfortable with. They scolded the crew for developing technology that wasn’t ready for primetime, and set out to return them to Earth, where a transition window would be waiting for them. As their mission was so secretive, the survivors would only need to tell this lie to a very select few people in Earthan government, who would be compelled to retain the secret as well. Leona and her team warned the humans that they were not generally benevolent aliens, and would retaliate decisively should the secret of their existence be revealed to the world. It wasn’t a perfect plan, but they were able to use Sanaa’s mind-reading powers to ensure the scouting crew was well fearful of their alien rescuers.
Mateo, meanwhile, sat there in a stupor. He could hear everything people were saying, and even respond to questions, but he couldn’t care about anything, and he couldn’t volunteer information, or actively engage. It felt like he was half asleep, unable to wake up, and also not really worrying about it anyway. Leona spent the rest of the day trying to fix his brain with absolutely no luck. Sanaa tried as well, but if she couldn’t combine it with her own telepathy, there was probably no reason for any of the others to try. It could not be irreversible, though. There had to be a way to fix him. They needed Nerakali herself, and they didn’t reach her until next year. In order to prevent him from accidentally slinging them back out to the outer bulkverse, they were forced to give him psychedelics. He wasn’t as fascinated by the visions that a normal person would, but they were enough to keep him busy until he could be repaired tomorrow.
Once tomorrow came, and they were finally back on Earth in the main sequence, they broke off into groups. Angela and Aeolia stayed with Imzadi to help make sure the latter cleared herself of all connection to the galactic blockchain. Sanaa escorted the human guinea pig crew back to their top secret facility, where she continued to press upon them how important it was that the fewer the people who knew anything about the “truth” the better. Bran went with her, in case they needed him to use his mind-controlling powers to urge the government officials deeper, and strike fear into their hearts. Ramses went off with Jeremy to complete whatever mission he needed to in order to protect his own future. Mateo would hear about that later, when he was capable of even giving a flying fuck. Until then, Leona took him to Nerakali, where she would start working on the problem.
“Let me guess,” Leona began, “you can’t fix him, and this was all a monumental mistake that has ruined my life.”
“I don’t understand what happened,” Nerakali said, upset. “I’ve never been nice enough to undo when I’ve done this to other people, but I’ve blended billions of brains, this shouldn’t be any different. The fact that he’s missing memories shouldn’t mean he can’t get them replaced.”
Leona was working very hard not to freak out, and attack her friend. “What are our options? Is there anyone else who can help? The Warrior has your power too.”
“As do you,” Nerakali said. “If you can’t, and I can’t, he can’t either.”
“Then what are we going to do?” she reiterated.
Nerakali stared into space for a good long while.
Leona had to be patient.
“There is so much about this dreamvoid place that we don’t know. In all my millennia, I have never heard of it. Mateo said someone who wasn’t a dreamwalker built it for them? We need to figure out who that is, and ask them for help.”
How hard could that be?

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