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Sunday, March 6, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 26, 2384

The security doofus didn’t teleport them to the Asylum Sector, but a quick look at the realtime watch showed that they were at least no longer in the time bubble. Mateo glanced around and sighed. “All right, you can go now. I’ll find my own way there.”
“Get this thing off of my ankle first.”
“Have someone cut it off for you,” Mateo told him dismissively.
“What about the bomb?”
“What bomb?”
“I told you I would kill you if I found out you were lying.”
Mateo had killed before. Sometimes it was for good reasons, and sometimes there was probably a better way. For the most part, he believed in peace and nonviolence, and for any given problem, he always wanted to look for a diplomatic solution first. Regardless, this was an incredibly dangerous life. The worst people in history could potentially show up at any moment, and attack. Genghis Khan was long dead, but also not dead at all. They had yet to encounter a famous violent historical figure who had been temporally displaced, but it was always a possibility, and even if not, there were plenty of other violent people throughout the timeline. It was for this reason that Mateo asked his once-brother, Darko for a few defensive moves. He didn’t need to go through all the combat training that Leona did for three years on Flindekeldan, but he needed to be able to protect himself. He punched the guard in the stomach. When the guard was keeled over a bit, he pulled his fist up, and knocked right into his chin. Then he slammed him against the wall, placed his own heel against his opponent’s, and pushed him down by the shoulder.
“Goddammit!” the guard whispered as loud as he could with what little air was left in his lungs.
Mateo tore the man’s teleporter off of his chest. “I don’t really understand what your job is, but I am not your enemy. You can keep going after me, and find out how powerful my friends and I are, or you can just move on with your life. What will it be, sir?”
He coughed, and regained his voice while massaging his chin. “I don’t ever wanna see you again.”
“That can be arranged...” he dangled the teleporter in front of his face, “as long as this can’t be traced.”
“What do you mean?”
“Can you teleport anywhere you want without anyone else knowing about it, or are your movements being tracked and logged?”
He sat up, and held himself aloft with one arm. “Why would they care where I go? You don’t understand how this place works. Nobody cares what anybody else does. I was not hired as a security guard here. I just wasn’t hired anywhere else. We don’t deal in material possessions, we deal in purpose, and I’m broke.”
“That’s a sad story, man.”
“You take my teleporter, I’ll just print a new one, because everything is free, and nothing matters. Why do you think this thing keeps jumping around the void, snatching up refugees? It’s not because there’s any benefit to doing so. It’s because they have nothing better to do with their time.”
Mateo put the teleporter around his chest. Then he reached down and helped the man up from the floor. “I’m trying to change that, brother. I am gonna take this from you, because I need to get back to my people. And you will not see me again. Unless you want to.” He pulled a card from his back pocket, and handed it to him. “Here’s how you can get a hold of me. I’m not from your reality, and the technology we use is not compatible with yours, which gives us an advantage that no one here predicted. Maybe there’s some purpose to that.” He calculated the coordinates to the only part of the matrioshka brain he knew would be safe. “Oh, and one more thing. I would get that anklet removed as soon as you can. If you don’t do it by the end of the day, you’ll have to wait a whole year.”
“Wait, what?”
Mateo disappeared.

“Back so soon?” Dilara asked.
“Have you seen my friend, Marie?”
“No, I haven’t, and don’t call me Marie.”
Mateo laughed, realizing how long it had been since the last time he did that. “We got separated, and now I don’t know how to find her. She found out how to get to Asylum Sector, but I lost the map, and we ran into trouble in the first attempt, so I don’t know if I want to risk it again.”
“You got yourself a new toy, though, I see,” she pointed out.
He looked down at his chest. “Yeah, I stole it. Not my proudest moment.”
Dilara nodded nonjudgmentally.
“If she comes through, could you tell her that I returned to the ship? We should have come up with a rendezvous plan.”
“I got you covered, friend,” Dilara said.
“Thanks.” He was about to leave, but he thought more on it. “Do you have a past?”
“What does that mean?”
“Do you remember...being born...?”
She winced.
“Where were you born?” He thought he would start there.
“Over there, they tell me. I haven’t left this sector my entire life. I can’t even be a hundred percent sure that other places exist. I just trusted people who told me they do.”
“So you’ve only ever known this world.”
“Pretty much, yeah. Why? Are you gonna offer to show me the universe?”
Mateo smiled. “No, you’re gonna do that all on your own.” This appeared to be her reality of origin, rather than the main sequence, which meant that she was their way back there. The Traversa bracelet was meant to help them with that, but he left it on the other version of the AOC, which was destroyed in the antimatter explosion. This was all seemingly predestined. He gave her a wink, and then jumped to their ship, where he found exactly who he was looking for.

“You made it out,” Marie acknowledged.
“And I guess you never made it to the Asylum Sector?” Mateo figured.
“No, I did,” she clarified. “This is just where we sleep.”
We?”
“Me,” came Leona’s voice from behind him. She was standing by the steps to engineering.
“Are we in a fight?” Mateo questioned.
“I don’t think so,” she replied.
“Were I you...” he said to her.
“Were I you...I probably would have done what you did.”
He smiled. “Report.”
They were awaiting Xerian’s response to a request for him to use main sequence temporal technology to sneak into the SWD without being detected or halted. He was hesitant to believe he would be surrounded by loyalists, and was concerned about the risks. His apprehension was not unwarranted, nor ridiculous.
“Can you patch me in to him, or whatever?”
Leona smirked, and pressed a few buttons on the table interface.
Hello?” came Xerian’s voice.
“Hey, Xerian, buddy...”
Mateo, they found you,” Xerian responded.
“Yeah. Listen, we’re all anxious to get this whole diplomatic solution...umm, solved. What do ya say about coming down here, and taking back your throne, or whatever it is you have to do?”
I only get one shot at this,” Xerian explained. “If you’re wrong about who’s on the other side of the jump, that’s it for me. The supercluster is lost.
“I understand that, buddy,” Mateo said, “but you gotta start somewhere, right?”
I’ve spent so much of my life trying to get back to that thing, and now that I’m one step away, I don’t know if I can do it.
“No, you can. I know you can.”
You don’t know me that well.
“You remember what I told you about how I exist only one day a year?”
Xerian just cleared his throat.
“Well, I’ve had to learn how to read people quickly because of my special situation. As soon as I saw you by that maintenance airlock, I knew you weren’t gonna hurt me. I knew you were a good person. I’ve met a few people on this sunship, and if there’s one thing they have in common it’s that they are all lost. They need direction. They need someone to tell them where to go, so they can stop wandering the void, and end the war. You’re not the only one who can do that, I’m sure...but you’re the only one on this phone call, so if you won’t at least try, it ain’t gettin’ done. Make sense?”
A pause. “Makes sense.” Xerian’s voice sounded different. He was no longer on the other side of the call, but standing behind them on the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
They breathed their sighs of relief.
“Do you need to do anything to prepare?” Marie asked. “The Asylum Council eagerly awaits your highly anticipated return to power.”
“I have something that I would like to do to prepare him for it,” Leona jumped in. “I think you’ll find these contingency precautions will adequately ease your distress.”
“I would like to go to the Suadona,” Marie began, “if that’s at all possible. I don’t think my services are needed here anymore.”
“I feel like I have to keep my regular teleporter here,” Leona said, wrist lifted.
“I have one.” Mateo pointed to his new device. “I’m not sure about the range.”
“We’re actually pretty close,” Leona explained. “You’ll make it all the way.”
“Be careful,” Mateo told them. “Both of you.”
“You too,” she replied.
“Thanks,” Xerian said.
Olimpia was sitting at a console, reading something on a hologram. She looked up, and smiled. “Angela!” she shouted.
“What!” Angela’s voice came from the other room.
“We have visitors!” Olimpia returned.
Angela ran in with her arms raised defensively. “Who? Oh.”
“Angela Marie Walton, allow me to introduce...Marie Angela Walton.”
“That’s not my middle name,” Marie said at exactly the same time as her alternate self said, “that’s not her middle name.”
The two alts approached each other carefully.
“Is reality going to collapse if they touch each other?” Olimpia asked, half-jokingly, half thinking it could actually be the case.
“Never the selves shall meet,” the two alternates recited simultaneously again. They otherwise just continued to stare at each other, though.
Olimpia couldn’t handle the awkward silence. “Jinx, you owe me a coke.”
Marie extended her hand, and Angela reached out to accept it.
Mateo couldn’t help but make a sudden bzzz! sound. They immediately pulled away from each other. “Sorry, the gag was just sitting there. I’m sure it’s fine.”
“Just don’t have any kids together, or they’ll become a serial bomber,” Olimpia joked again.
“I don’t know what that means,” they both said in unison for a third time.
“You gotta stop doing that,” Olimpia warned.
Ramses walked into the room, holding a mess of tools in his hands, instead of in a toolbox, or something else more practical. He just dropped them all on the floor when he saw them. “Mateo, you’re back!” He ran over for a hug.
“Hi, I’m Marie.” She held out a hand.
“Yeah, I know,” Ramses said. He brought her into the hug.
“We’re the only two left,” Olimpia said to Angela. They turned it into a near-full group hug. Though, they were still missing one member of the team.
I’ve been working on something,” Ramses said excitedly. “What I gave to Leona, that was just a rush job, but it gave me a better idea. It’s so cool, let me show you. I mean, they don’t have any Cassidy Long ability-sharing properties, but they’ll give us a nice power boost. And bonus, no one can take them away from you.” He pulled at Mateo’s arm, urging to accompany him to the surprise. “Come on!”
“Okay, okay, okay.” Mateo let himself be escorted off the bridge. “This guy,” he mused to the others.
Ramses led him down the corridors, and into his lab. Inside was the usual heap of tools, gizmos, parts, and equipment. Five gestational pods lined the walls, but there was nothing in them, except for the goo. He smiled and admired them like he had never seen them before either. “I suppose I’ll need to make a sixth one for Marie. Wadya think?”
“What do I think about what? What are they?”
Ramses shrugged, like it was obvious. “New bodies. Upgrades.”

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