Sunday, March 7, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Thursday, July 30, 2145

Lowell disappeared shortly after the reception, and it wasn’t clear whether body jumper, Dalton went with him, or if he moved on to someone else’s body. Aura, and the rest of the people who Arcadia had already removed from the timestream, secretly returned to the island resort in The Parallel. Speaking of Arcadia, she kept her distance for the rest of the event, evidently moved and frightened by Leona’s words. They would never call her a true friend, but they developed some kind of understanding with at least two future versions of her, so perhaps this was the start of that. The transition team walked back towards the Nexus. Nerakali sent them through their own window behind the scenes, and directed them to once again return to Earth.
The next year, they had a new transition, this time in what those in the main sequence would call Croatia. “Look at the z-axis,” Jeremy pointed out once they were nearly there. “We have to get up six hundred and forty-five meters.”
Mateo looked around at the wilderness. “This must be where one of the arcologies is in the main sequence. They’re on an upper floor.”
“Two-sixteenth,” Leona clarified. She pulled out a handheld device, and started working on something without telling anyone exactly what. “I don’t want a repeat of what happened with Xearea.” That was when they couldn’t find the right room number in a hospital in time, and Mateo ended up falling to one of his deaths.
“Whatever you’re getting,” Aeolia began, “do we have time?”
Leona glanced at her cuff. “Yeah, it shouldn’t be too long now.”
She was right. They waited a few minutes, before a cuboid flew down, and landed on the grass before then. A man was waiting for them inside with a polite smile, and a bellhop uniform. “Going up?”
“Yes, please,” Leona said. She placed her device against the console, and beamed over the exact coordinates. The freestyle elevator started flying back up.
“For a civilization that’s not allowed to help us,” Bran started, “they sure do help us a lot.”
“What’s that?” The elevator operator asked.
“Nothing,” Bran answered. “Can he see me?” he questioned the group.
“He’s a bot,” Leona answered. “Their memories are different, so they can hold on longer, but he will forget as well. I’ve already tested it.”
The elevator stopped. “Two one six,” the bot announced.
“Hold this pattern for the next ten minutes,” Leona requested.
The bot nodded, and froze in place, presumably in standby mode.
Six minutes later, the transition window opened up, and deposited two people in lab coats. The man looked around a moment, then headed for the window. “What is this? Did it suddenly start working?”
The woman fiddled with her tablet. “What program is this? We never initiated anything. Computer, end simulation. Where’s the arch?”
Mateo stepped forward. “Greetings. You are not in a simulation. This is reality...just a different reality.”
They both narrowed their eyes, and sized him up. The woman pulled at his collar, and let it snap back to his neck. “What is your directive?”
“I am here to help,” Mateo answered. It was probably going to take them a long time to believe that this was all real—that they were real—and it wasn’t just a virtual construct. “My name is Mateo Matic. I hail from your reality, but am currently living in this one. It’s called The Parallel, and it is our responsibility to protect you from something that might have happened in your future. We are not aware what that might be, but if you are here, you belong here, and we will not return you until we’ve fixed whatever was going to go wrong.” Wow, that was a mess of an explanation. Somebody should write up a binder like customer representatives have to help them navigate calls.
The woman went over to Angela, and pressed on her nose, like she wasn’t sure whether it was a button, or stationary. “Boop!” Angela joked as she did it.
“Computer, freeze simulation,” the man commanded.
Mateo, Leona, Jeremy, and Angela tried to be as still as possible. They were all thinking the same thing, and had the same idea of how to approach these people. After about twenty seconds, Mateo broke free. “Just kidding, we are real. This is not a simulation, as I said. You have been transported to another reality.” He looked over at Leona. “How could we convince them?”
Leona lifted up her device, but acted like that wasn’t going to help. “I have no way of knowing for sure what level of detail they expect from the simulation in this time period. I suppose we have to show them something so detailed and comprehensive that it would be impossible for their technology to render with its current processing power. They do not believe that this is VR. They believe that it is a physical a holodeck.”
“State your names, please,” Mateo asked of them.
“Let’s just humor the program,” the woman told her partner. “It may be our only way to end it. My name is Miapaktem Ibuka. This is my colleague, Padera Vortex.”
“The Ibuka Vortex,” Aeolia said. “We’ve heard of that.”
“As have I,” Leona said. “They pioneer physical sim technology. Twenty years from now.”
“Why are physical sims important if you have virtual reality?” Angela questioned. She had just spent centuries in an afterlife simulation, so she had more experience with this than anyone.
“VR is great,” Miapaktem said to her. “You can do anything inside of a construct, yet it still has its limitations.”
“Muscle memory,” Padera continued. “We’ve found that learning through totally virtual environments is great for academic studies, but skills are difficult to reapply to the real world. Physical simulations allow you to get the feel for how something works.”
“In a controlled and safe, but still tangible, environment.” Miapaktem finished.
The elevator operator broke out of standby mode, and didn’t miss a beat. “Traveling to Corvenala Ecumenopolis.” He directed the cuboid back down to the surface, but at a diagonal, so they could land next to the nearest Nexus.
“That sounds perfect,” Leona said. “Come with us,” she asked Miapaktem and Padera. “We’ll show you a world too complex for your computer to have accidentally simulated.”
Seeing no danger in going with these non-playable characters, the two technology pioneers shrugged, and went with them through the Nexus, to a world on the other side of the galaxy.
“While most of Earth in this reality was left to wilderness,” Leona began to narrate using the information she found on her device, “Corvenala was completely industrialized. Don’t worry, they didn’t destroy life to make it. Planets near the supermassive stellar collapse are often too hostile for life, but planets that form on the outer edges of the Milky Way are generally fairly smooth, and experience low volcanic activity. Nothing really changes, so nothing really grows. It’s called an Ecumenopolis, because it is completely covered in a gargantuan city. We’ll probably never do it in our reality, but the population boom in this one makes it a viable option. Quadrillions of entities likely live here, and still experience no shortage of space.”
They left the Nexus building, and walked out into the super megacity. Leona went on, “There’s no way your early developments are capable of rendering these structures, on this scale. It would even be hard to render in VR. Step up here.”
They all stepped onto a teleportation platform, which transported them to another part of the city. They could have been thousands of miles away now. It was just as elaborate and insanely large as the last location, but definitely not just a copy. Leona immediately jumped them to another section. Same thing, but clearly different. The more parts of the city she showed them, the more the two scientists were convinced that their tech was nowhere near good enough to make a simulation that looked like this. After five jumps, they were done. “Okay,” Miapaktem said. “It would be hard to claim that what you say is a lie, if not a dream. Why are we here?”
The group was silent. “We don’t know,” Mateo answered for them.
“We were assigned to welcome you, but we weren’t told what we can do for you.”
“We never are,” Angela said.
“Usually it’s pretty obvious, though,” Jeremy said. “I mean, sometimes we literally have to save someone’s life, but we often know the people who come through, and we know what they’re supposed to be doing. We don’t really know you.”
“It no doubt has to do with their research,” Leona suggested. “We’re either here to stop them from creating it, or help them create it.”
“Any reason why the timeline would be better off without physical sims?” Mateo asked his wife.
“Not that I can think of,” Leona answered. “We can certainly help them further their advancements. Hell, we could expedite the process by ten years, if not faster. The Parallel natives surely cracked this tech millennia ago.”
“Why are they more advanced than us?” Padera questioned. “I understand the concept of a parallel reality. What was the point of divergence?”
“The moment it changed is irrelevant,” Jeremy explained. “Unregulated time travelers came here, defeated death long ago, and deliberately shielded its people from the growing pains our race had to endure, such as war, and religion. They skipped over some technological milestones, like figuring out how to get a rocket out of Earth’s gravity well, and traveling to other stars without dying on the way. They proverbially invented the aerosol can before the wheel.”
As scientists, Miapaktem and Padera knew they had to be strong and rational. Though they had never heard of real time travel before, they had to accept it as a given, or the conversation would stall. “’ll help us overcome our obstacles?” Padera asked. “Like those time travelers did for these people? You’ll just...give it to us?”
Leona leaned back against the guard rail. It probably wasn’t great that they were just hanging out on the teleporter pad, but...other travelers would just be rerouted somewhere close. “It’s not really ours to give. I mean, we can mediate a deal, but... I dunno, are we even allowed to? Nerakali doesn’t know everything, perhaps this is a huge mistake, and she shouldn’t be asking this of us.”
Now that they were out from under the thumb of the powers that be, things were different. Though Nerakali was a choosing one, she wasn’t forcing them to do anything, but giving them opportunities. They grew quite used to ignoring temporal ethics while they weren’t in control of their own actions, but now it was up to them to decide. Was it right to let the team adapt this advanced technology to their own world? What did the Prime Directive say? Well, it would say that they violated the code already, and they should do everything they could to prevent further damage. The main sequence should be developing at its own pace, with no interference, and even coming here, and learning this world existed, was a problem.
“We need an ethicist,” Angela said.
“I don’t think they have those here,” Leona negated. “They kind of do whatever they want, because no consequence is too massive to walk past. Even if people die from a mistake, they can just come back to life.”
Miapaktem and Padera regarded each other, and had a conversation with their eyebrows. “We don’t want it,” Miapaktem finally said.
“That solves that ethical dilemma,” Bran noted.
“If you have a choice,” Padera agreed, “then we have a choice, and we choose to continue on as we are. It would be too easy to roll down this slippery slope. We’ll take physical sim tech, but then it’ll make us realize we want a way to extrapolate the safeguards to the real world. And then we’ll want to defeat death in whatever way these people have. Then we’ll want planetary teleportation, and then interstellar. We’ll never stop wanting more, and that will be problematic whether there’s some way to get back here to actually ask for all those things, or not.”
“Was this some kind of test?” Miapaktem asked them. “Are you some ascended alien race, trying to figure out if our species is worthy of joining you in a higher plane of existence?”
Leona took a breath. “If that were what was going on here, it would be the dumbest thing to ever happen to the human race. And what would give you the right to be responsible for the fate of literally everyone else?”
“Agreed,” Miapaktem said. “I am relieved.”
The Cassidy cuffs beeped. “It’s a transition window,” Mateo said. “Nerakali has been listening, and now knows that it’s over. You shall return to your lives.”
“Will we be here on Corvenala? Can we even survive on this world in our reality?”
“No, we’ll take you back to Earth,” Leona assured them.

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