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Sunday, February 20, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 24, 2382

According to the AOC’s sensors, there was no life support in the hangar bay. It even detected a little bit of dust, suggesting that this entire section had been abandoned for years. One would think that an army of automated systems could maintain it even if it wasn’t in use, but perhaps that demanded too many resources. While they were apparently using a whole star to power what added up to a massive spaceship, they wanted to make every ounce of it count. They wouldn’t be able to leave their little ship unless they wanted to use their suits, and wander around until they figured out where they were going. Since they didn’t want to do that, they chose to spend the day strategizing and resting.
Once the alternate version of Angela—who seemed perfectly fine with going by her middle name, Marie—understood everything the team had been through in the last five days, she began to plot a diplomatic course for the two of them. She had received extensive training in the afterlife simulation to become a counselor. It was her job to help recently uploaded guests understand and appreciate their new circumstances. Her education went far beyond that, though, and her skills would be incredibly useful for Mateo’s goal of fixing this issue without violence. The people of this matrioshka brain detachment were smart enough to build this thing, purportedly among others, so they had to listen to reason, right? That sounded right. No species existed that was too tame to fight for its survival. Any individual exhibiting such traits would die before taking their species down that path. Yet civilization will not form if individuals aren’t capable of cooperation. Someone had to be willing to hear them out before shooting them on sight.
They set their alarm to go off an hour before midnight central, so they could get ready, and used the last of the ship’s main power reserves to force it to jump to the future with them. Come the next year, they returned to the timestream, booted up auxiliary systems to make themselves known, and sent a basic radio signal in all directions. Obviously their ship was capable of it, but it wasn’t likely something ever used before. They just didn’t want to waste what little power they had left on something more sophisticated. “This is Mateo Matic of the stateless private vessel Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, reaching out to anyone responsible for the Security Watchhouse Detachment. We seek to begin diplomatic discussions. Please respond.”
After a moment, the static morphed as someone struggled to respond, “www-where are you?”
“We’re in a hangar bay,” Mateo answered.
Say again?” The signal wasn’t very clear.
“We are in some kind of seemingly abandoned hangar bay.”
The voice laughed as the sound was becoming easier to hear. “How did you get past their defenses?Their defenses?
“It’s a long story. Where are you?”
I’m in the breakroom, on my lunch break.
“I meant, are you not on the SWD?”
No, I am. No one’s gonna respond to you but me. They don’t use this kind of technology anymore. At its worst, signal lag can be nearly half an hour using regular radios like this. Quantum communication is the only reasonable means of doing it. This hangar bay you’re in must be relatively close to my position.
“Oh, so you’re...”
Not anyone of importance?” she laughed. “No. I specialize in antiquated technology. They figured someone ought to know how this stuff works in case we come across a sufficiently unadvanced culture somewhere. I’m about as abandoned as your hanger bay. If you need to speak with a diplomat, I can’t help you.
Marie took the microphone from him. “We’re an enemy of the SWD. How do you feel about that?”
I don’t really care. It’s not my fight. I just work here.
“You’re sure no one’s listening to this?” Angela prompted.
They don’t have the equipment, and wouldn’t know how to work it if they did.
“Even though you work with outdated tech, you still have your own personal quantum sequence, correct?”
I do, yes, of course.
“Would you mind sending that to us, and consenting to a face-to-face?”
Get a pen and paper.
Marie entered the sequence into her cuff, and then used that to lock onto the voice’s physical location. They used this to teleport to her office. Most of the objects they could see lining the walls were unfamiliar, but still recognizable. This was a different reality, after all, with a wildly different history. At some point, they came up with radio receivers, vacuum tube television sets, fax machines, and the like, but they didn’t design such things the exact same way people did in Mateo’s world. He could name a lot of the artifacts in here, but not everything.
The owner of the voice was sitting in one corner of the room. Behind her on the counter sat what was probably a microwave, and under it was probably a mini refrigerator. It was a sorry excuse for a breakroom, as the only thing separating it from the rest of the room was a patch of tiles instead of carpet. They really had abandoned her. She set her sandwich down, dusted her hands off, and presented one to them. “Hi, and welcome to the island of things no one cares about. My name is Dilara Cassano, and that is a football.”
Mateo looked down at his feet, where he found what she was pointing to. It looked exactly like the usual ones from his reality, with those black and white hexagons. Oh, wait, no. Some of them are pentagons. Hm, he hadn’t noticed that before. “I’ve heard of it.”
“You have?” Dilara questioned. “I can find no references to the damn thing. I know what it’s called, but the sport it’s presumably played with never existed.”
“Maybe not in this reality,” Marie figured.
“Fascinating theory.” She got lost in her own thoughts.
“You’re The Arborist,” Mateo realized. He recalled her face from a memory of Leona’s which was implanted in his mind upon his return to the timestream after having been nonexistent for a while.
“I don’t know what that is,” Dilara said. She must not have become that yet.
It was best to say nothing further. “It’s just kind of an idiomatic greeting from my homeworld,” Mateo lied, hoping it wouldn’t prompt more questions.
“I see. How can I help you? I can’t imagine there’s anything I can do.”
“How much space is there between your office, and anyone else who lives on this mechacelestial object?” Marie asked her.
“Hmm,” Dilara thought about it. “Maybe a kilometer, I guess?”
“Hold on,” she said. “I meant a hundred. More like a hundred kilometers, sorry.”
“Oh, wow.”
“Was it always like this?” Mateo asked. There could be some fishy timey-wimey thing going on.
“Ya know, I don’t exactly have a map of this world in my head, but I think they used to use that hangar bay you were talking about. Uh, I don’t know why they stopped, they might have just wanted a change of scenery. This has never been a hub of activity. These things are so goddamn big, we do not need this much space, it’s ridiculous.”
“So it’s probably pretty easy to hide here, isn’t it?” Marie pressed.
“I would sure think so,” Dilara agreed. “I mean, getting inside in the first place would be an impossible task. I would love to hear how you did it, just out of pure curiosity. Every square centimeter of the outer surface is wired. Every dust particle is tracked. Every teleport is logged. So yeah, you can hide, but only if you’re already here.”
“That’s good to know,” Marie said to Mateo. “It could be necessary to have a place to escape to if something goes wrong.”
“You’re welcome here,” Dilara told them. “Before you, I hadn’t seen another sentient entity in over ten years.”
“We’re glad to hear that,” Marie said graciously.
“Thank you,” Mateo added. “That’s very kind since you don’t even know us.”
“Anyone who uses a radio transceiver is someone I want to be friends with,” Dilara explained.
“You said that you wouldn’t be able to help with a diplomatic issue, but do you happen to know who could? Who could we reach out to who wouldn’t immediately kill an enemy combatant, and be open to discussion?”
“Asylum sector,” Dilara answered confidently. “That’s where they take Andromedans who aren’t prisoners of war, but which haven’t necessarily defected either. Theoretically, they would listen to you, and then let you go if you wished. There must be some kind of policy that states how much of a headstart they have to give you before the more aggressive departments pursue you afterwards.”
“That sounds like a good place to visit,” Marie decided.
“I don’t know where it is,” Dilara admitted. “It’s not part of my job description to know. I don’t have access to a map, either. You’ll want to stop at the nearest library for that, which puts you at risk of not being able to make it to Asylum before someone else catches you. I don’t know if you’re persons of interest, or what.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Mateo assured her.
“Thank you again, this was really helpful,” Marie said.
“Okay, here are the coordinates to the library.” Dilara bumped her device against Marie’s cuff to transfer the data wirelessly. “Good luck.”

Leona walked into Ramses’ new lab. “How’s it coming?”
“Slow. The beacon is finished, but your replacement cuff is taking me forever. The last time I did this, I had some examples to work with. I’m having to recreate it from memory, and I’m on our pattern now, so...”
“Not criticizing you, Ramses, just checking up.”
“Sorry, I get agitated when I’m stressed.”
“Mateo is going to do what he’s going to do, and he’s going to be smart and cautious about it. You have time. We have to get it right. We could handle this with just the beacon, but I want to be able to control Mateo’s cuff as well.”
“I understand,” Ramses said. “Any luck finding them via other means?”
“Not yet, but Xerian says he’s close.”
Ramses scoffed. “He’s said that before.”
“He has me now,” Leona said “We’ll find them. We’ll get my husband back.”

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