Sunday, January 23, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 20, 2378

At the end of the day, they jumped to the future, but they left the AOC in reframe time so it could continue on its way for them. They were about halfway through this leg of their journey, and everything seemed to be going smoothly. There was nothing to do but wait until tomorrow. Mateo was playing a game of RPS-101 Plus by himself. Ramses was reading a book, and Leona was teaching Olimpia more about the ship down in engineering. Angela crawled out of her grave chamber after a nap, and plopped herself down at the table. She sat there for a few moments, staring into space with her chin in the palm of her hand. “Can we...?” she trailed off out of boredom.
Mateo paused his game. “Yes?”
“You wouldn’t know.”
Ramses pretended to not have heard.
“Can we...?” she repeated, but still didn’t act like she cared enough to finish. “Can we...?”
“Can we what, Angela? Damn,” Ramses said, fed up. He set his tablet down.
“Can we make a lightyear drive?” She finally asked.
“Like the one that the Jameela Jamil has?”
“No. Not for the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, anyway. The hull wouldn’t be able to handle the strain.” He hoped this would be the end of it, allowing him to return to his book.
“Can we make the hull stronger?” Angela suggested.
Annoyed. “Maybe, but I don’t have the resources, and I don’t know how to build one. Keep in mind that my education is nearly 200 years out of date, and I was never as smart as Team Keshida. It would be a nice thing to have, and had we not gotten ourselves trapped in this reality, they may have worked something out for us. Why? Are you bored?”
“I’m bored!” she cried adorably. She accidentally made eye contact with Mateo. “I’m not playing that game again.”
“Nuh-var!” she cried adorably again.
“Never have I ever wanted to never play this game again.” Mateo pretended to pick up a glass from the table, and take a sip from it.
“No, you’re supposed to drink if the statement is true for you,” Angela taught.
Mateo pantomimed chugging the rest of the glass. “Whatever!” he shouted, trying to be as cute as her, and failing. He threw it on the ground.
“Is everything okay up there?” Leona shouted from engineering.
“Fine!” Mateo yelled back.
They sat in silence for a few moments. Ramses kept eying his tablet, wondering if someone would ask him another question the second he tried to get back to his book. He was proven right once he finally did make the attempt.
“Why are we in this reality?” Mateo asked.
Ramses waved his hands in front of his chest. “Magic,” he whispered.
“Seriously, I don’t know,” Ramses answered. “It’s just something we have to handwave to get by. I understand why this reality was created, and I gather it’s profoundly more advanced than civilization is in the main sequence—maybe even more so than The Parallel—but I can’t tell you why we’re here, or how we get back. I’m not even sure that we want to get back; what do we care?”
“Hm,” Mateo noted.
“I suppose that would be up to the Captain,” Angela decided.
“My ears are burning,” Leona said as she was climbing up the steps.
“We’ve not even talked about whether we would want to get back to the main sequence,” Mateo fills her in, “let alone how we would accomplish such a thing.”
“Hm,” Leona said.
“My words exactly,” Mateo revealed.
“We would have to find someone here who understands how reality works, and if they’re capable of switching us back, they do, or if not, they help us find someone who can.”
“That may be asking a lot,” Olimpia said, coming up from behind her teacher. “We don’t know where we’re going, or who is going to be there when we arrive.”
“We don’t know much,” Leona concurred.
“We just have to take it one day at a time,” Angela said. “One boring day after the last.” She pressed her tough against her bottom lip, crossed here eyes, and bobbled her head around like she was mocking someone, but she was really just condemning the situation itself. How precious.
“What do you want to do, Angela?” Ramses asked. “What would not be boring?”
“An orgy,” she replied, and it was rather hard to tell if she was joking, or not.
“Okay, I’ll tell you what,” Ramses began, “I’ll try to securely access some sort of data network in this reality, and see if there’s any reference to the lightspeed drive. If it’s doable, I’ll program an AI to retrofit our ship with one, along with all the ancillary components necessary to make it safe. Does that sound fair? It doesn’t help with your boredom today, but I might as well.”
“I would much appreciate that,” Angela said. “Wake me up when that happens. I’m going back to bed.” She slipped off her chair like she was drunk, and crawled back over to her grave chamber, dipping over the edge head first, and rolling into it.
“Is she depressed?” Olimpia asked.
“None of us is a licensed psychologist,” Leona pointed out.
“It would make sense,” Mateo reasoned. “You can do literally anything in the afterlife simulation—break any law of physics. We’ve been through a lot since she joined the team, but it may be nothing compared to the adventures she made for herself for 300 years.”
“Let’s stop talking about her behind her back, shall we?” Leona strongly recommended.
“What should we talk about?” Olimpia asked, not suggesting that she disagreed.
“We could start a book club,” Mateo offered, getting the idea from Ramses who once again tried getting back to his own.
“Reading is mostly a quiet experience,” he patronized. “Can any of you handle that?”
“Well, what is it?”
Infinite Jest,” Ramses answered.
Now they started mocking him.
“Oh, wow!” Olimpia said sarcastically as she pantomimed lifting a cup of tea with her pinky in the air.
“We’re not worthy,” Mateo confessed, fanning Ramses reverently.
Leona had an imaginary drink of her own; an alcoholic one of some kind that she swirled in its glass. “I went to collage.”
“Okay, thanks,” Ramses replied to all this. “I’m going up to read in the airlock. Not sure which door I’ll use when I’m done.”
“Aw, no, come back! We wanna watch you do it. What’s the point of reading that if not to rub it in everyone else’s face?”
“Oh, we are bored, aren’t we?” Olimpia mused.
“We could go over the mass differentials for spike propulsion again,” Leona said.
“No, I’m okay for now,” Olimpia said. It was one thing to be able to begin a troubleshooting process on the ship if something went wrong. It was a whole different thing to comprehend the actual mechanics of antimatter reactions on a serious level.
“Very well. I’m going to go back down and triple check the magnetic containment fields on the antimatter pods,” Leona decided. “You’re always welcome to help.”
They watched her leave. “I’m gonna...go take a midday bath, I guess.”
“Want some company?” Olimpia asked.
“Kidding,” she clarified. “Sort of. We’re all friends now, right?”
“You and Angela both...are...” He didn’t know what he wanted to say. “Bye.”
“Interesting idea.”
Again, what? He actually didn’t leave right away. He had to gather his belongings, and carry them up to the upper level. As he was climbing the steps, Olimpia rang Angela’s trapdoor bell, and crawled in. What was happening there?
Ramses looked like a deer in the headlights when he saw Mateo through the window. Mateo had to smile and lift up his shower caddy to assure his friend that this was not an interruption. Ramses nodded with appreciation.
The AOC may have been a small ship, but it was state-of-the-art when it was first engineered, and it was still in perfect operating condition. The hygiene facilities were particularly nice. Since the vessel was cylindrical, the bathtub wasn’t standard size, but it was close. The water was always hot, and the pressure always on point. It had an excellent filtration system, so it never felt like a waste when they came up here just to relax. Normally, the tub would even already be filled up for him once the AI heard that he was planning to use it. Unfortunately, Mateo completely forgot that the far side shower room was not presently in working order. They had converted it into a single destination portal to better coordinate with the people on the JJ. While they were now in a totally different reality, the room had not yet been converted back to normal. It wasn’t like it was hard to get by with only one shower for five people.
The Jameela Jamil should not have been in range, but somehow it was. Mateo walked through under the assumption that he was about to step into water that had been warmed to his temperature preference, but instead ended up coming out the other portal. The entry room looked just as it had before. This all looked very normal, except supposedly not possible. He opened the door on the other side of the wall, and entered the bridge completely naked to find Team Keshida, along with Sasha and Vendelin.
“Interesting,” Kestral said. “We checked the portal. We could no longer reach you. We also couldn’t locate you anywhere near that brown dwarf. Where have you been all this time?”
“We—we’re in the Fifth Division,” Mateo explained.
“You are, or you were?” Ishida asked to clarify. It wasn’t too terribly surprising that they had heard of it, or that they weren’t surprised by the development itself.
“As far as I know, the AOC is still there,” he answered.
“Is this the first time you tried the portal?” Sasha questioned.
“First time I did,” Mateo replied. “Ramses and Leona took a look at it briefly, but it didn’t seem likely that it was capable of crossing into alternate realities.”
“It shouldn’t be,” Kestral confirmed. “But I don’t suppose you know how you got there in the first place.”
Mateo just shook his head.
“Are you okay?” Sasha asked. “Is everyone safe?”
“We’re fine. The place is a little weird. You?”
“We’re all right,” Ishida said. “Teagarden is still asking us to do things, as we all suspected they would.”
He looked over to Vendelin. “I see you’ve added another member to your team.”
“Blackbourne has been of great use to us,” Kestral divulged. “We’re helping him work through his issues.”
Vendelin sported a sad but hopeful half-smile.
“That’s good,” Mateo said, glad to have apparently made the right choice in saving the man from what appeared to be a much less inviting afterlife simulation.
“What will you do?” Ishida asked. “Do you wanna go get your team, and bring them through the portal? There may be a limit to its use.”
“It may even only be one-way,” Sasha warned.
“I don’t know that we’ll want to leave our ship behind,” Mateo lamented.
“In that case,” Kestral began with a sigh, “you should take this.” She dug into her bag of holding, and removed a circular object that almost looked like it was made of hair. “The Traversa Bracelet. Ariadna agreed to make precisely one of these, and no more. Ramses and Leona will be able to figure out how to incorporate it into the AOC’s drive systems. There is a strong possibility, however, that doing so will vaporize the thing, so you may only get one shot.”
Mateo accepted the bracelet graciously. “I really appreciate it. We may not use it right away, but it will be a vital accessory in the future. I was wondering if I could trouble you for one more thing, though, if it’s not too much.”
“What might that be?” Ishida asked.
“Would you mind maybe, possibly giving me the plans to a lightyear drive?”
“I can do that,” Kestral agreed. “You won’t be able to use it on the AOC, though. It’s far too big and massive. You would need to construct an entirely new ship, which it sounds like you don’t wanna do.”
“I’ll leave that up to the team,” Mateo decided. “Maybe it will still help them boost our current teleporter.”
“Very well. I’ll download the data to a drive.”

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