Sunday, March 13, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 27, 2385

By the end of the day, Leona piloted the AOC back to the team on the Suadona, leaving Xerian behind to reclaim his birthright on the Security Watchhouse Detachment. When they returned to the timestream a year later, the sky was full of several megastructures, none of which was a matrioshka brain, besides the SWD. The Dominion Defense and Offensive Contingency Detachments were simply gargantuan ships, about the breadth of Australia on three axes. The Warmaker Training Detachment resembled a skyscraper, reminding Mateo of those enemy ships on Firefly and Serenity. The Voidstar Seeker was a Shkadov thruster, or whatever it was they called them here. It was powered by a Stage Theta Ultragiant, though, which were fairly rare, and meant that it was a particularly massive object. The Technological Advancement Detachment was a discworld, which Mateo noted would delight the flat-earthers back home. The Civilian Residential Detachment was a shell world, evidently powered by some kind of black hole in its core. One detachment was reportedly still missing, but Xerian didn’t say what it was, or what form it was in.
“How do we feel about this?” Marie asked.
They were sitting in Ramses’ lab. It was in the safest part of the ship, and a ship module in its own right. The bridge was a great way to admire the megastructures using the viewports, but the holographic ceiling in this room looked just as real, and was backed by a protective hull.
“About what, this meeting?” Leona asked right back.
“Yeah, I mean...we don’t know if they’re the good guys, or not.”
“Oh, they’re not the good guys,” Olimpia explained. “They’re just not as bad as the real bad guys. Xerian promised to end the war, and that is our only concern as of now. What happens after that, we’ll have to deal with it.”
“How do we know that?” Marie pressed. “How do we know they’re the lesser of two evils? How do we know we can trust Xerian?”
Ramses exhaled in a way that implied he wanted to try for an answer. “We know that the supercluster isn’t doing well. The Milky Way is at war with Andromeda. Generally speaking, the worst leadership possible is what takes power in a time of strife. They’re the ones who want war, and benefit from it. The best leadership will seek peace. When we arrived in this reality, the war was raging, suggesting that the people in charge made that happen. If Xerian were worse than them, he probably wouldn’t have needed our help. Just look at us. We’re great and all, but we’re just six people. And when we started, there were only five of us. For the most part, the people who need your help are the underdogs.”
“He may have been an underdog while he was losing his crusade,” Marie reasoned. “Now that he’s gotten a win, though, you can’t call him that anymore, and you have to worry about what his true motives are.”
Ramses tossed a sort of analog to a baby carrot in the air, letting it pass through the image of the CRD, and fall back down into his mouth. While he was still chewing, he responded, “like the woman said, no one’s good. All you can do is hope that things improve, if only slowly. This is a dystopia, as far as we can see. I don’t know if you can get any lower.”
“You can always get lower,” Marie said.
Angela shook her head at this.
“What?” Marie asked her, noticing this.
“It’s just weird. You’re a few days younger than me. It’s not like we’ve spent a bunch of time gaining separate perspectives. Everything you’re saying, I feel like I would say if you didn’t get to it first.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to...”
“Don’t apologize,” Angela insisted. “We’re just going to need some time to figure out how to co-exist.”
“I could leave,” Marie suggested.
“And go where?” Angela wasn’t really asking, because she thought that it was a silly idea. Then again, if she were Marie, she probably would have offered it too.
“Anywhere, just let you live your life.”
Angela stood up from her comfy chair, and approached her alternate self. She reached down, and scrunched up Marie’s face, like an overbearing great aunt. “You are not preventing me from living my life. You’re not a lesser version of me. You’re another one, for now, and soon you’ll just be yourself, and I’ll be myself.”
Marie struggled to turn her head towards the gestational pods. “One of us will be a little bit younger than the other.”
The clones were developing about three times faster than a normal person would. For the most part, slower processing was better, but Ramses didn’t know when they would want to transfer their consciousnesses into them, if ever, so he couldn’t program them to age in realtime. He figured it could take ten days for them to be convinced, which would put their new bodies in their thirties. At the moment, they only looked like three-year-olds.
“Have we all agreed to even do that?” Leona questioned.
“Raise your hand if I could never persuade you to accept the upgrade,” Ramses requested.
No one raised their hand.
“That’s what I like to see. They’re going to be beautiful when they’re finished. Better, faster, stronger. More resilient to damage and disease. You’ll be photosynthetic, and photovoltaic. You’ll be able to hold your breath for days, and survive the vacuum of space for hours. I couldn’t quite figure out telepathy, but we’ll be able to feel each other’s emotions. Plus, there’s a special temporal code that I came up with. If you have to cast your mind remotely, your new body will adjust to your genetic commands almost immediately, so we won’t have to run around as the same base model. You have time to decide, so I don’t wanna argue about it now.”
“I, for one, am here for it,” Mateo promised. “This isn’t my first body, so I have no particular attachment to it. I might as well get an improvement.”
“Did somebody say detachment?” Xerian was here as a hologram.
“Close enough,” Mateo answered.
“Hey, Xeri, how are things going?” Ramses asked.
“They’re surprisingly well,” he answered. “We’ve hit a bit of a wall, but we’ll get there. I really appreciate everything you all did to get us here. I fear it never would have happened without your intervention. Your presence in this reality has been invaluable.”
That seemed to give them all pause. Mateo began to wonder why they were bothering sticking around at all. Xerian was where he needed to be, and seemingly happy with it. They had completed their mission, so wasn’t it time for them to leave—if not to go home, at least to get out of the way? “That’s good to hear. We’re happy to help. If we could just—”
“I was hoping to get your help with something,” Xerian interrupted, trying to pretend that he didn’t hear Mateo begin to ask for help getting out of here. “As I told you in my message, most of the detachments have arrived for a summit. We’re still missing one little guy, though. He knows all of us, and he’s already proven to be unresponsive to our invitations. I think he would be really receptive to your group, though. You’re small, crafty, and clearly have no stake in this fight. Take whatever precautions you feel you need, but you won’t truly need them. He’s a pacifist, so he will do you no harm. The worst thing he’ll do if you try to approach is just run away. Or float, as it were.”
“Who is he?” Leona asked. “What detachment is he on?”
“He’s not on a detachment,” Xerian begins to clarify. “He is the detachment. He’s an artificial intelligence that the Fifth Division designed to calculate the absolutely most efficient path to win a war.”
“If he’s a fieldmarshal—” Angela tried to begin.
“How did you know he was the fieldmarshal?” Xerian interrupted again.
“I—what you’re describing is a fieldmarshal. That’s just the personality type who would be tailored for such a task.”
“Hmm,” Xerian said. “Well, yes, he’s the Rational Fieldmarshal Detachment, and we can’t do it without him.”
“If he’s a fieldmarshal designed to plot the most efficient war strategies, how is he a pacifist?” Angela tried again. “Did something go wrong with his programming?”
“No,” Xerian began, “it went too right. As it turns out, the most efficient way to win a war is to not fight it.”
“That makes sense,” Olimpia concluded. “I could point to any number of philosophers and spiritual leaders from our world who could have told you that. You basically just paraphrased Sun Tzu.”
“I don’t think that’s what Sun Tzu meant,” Leona volleyed. “The RFD doesn’t fight to win. He’s already won, not simply because he’s chosen not to fight, but because having an enemy in the first place automatically means failure.”
“That’s essentially what he argues,” Xerian confirms.
Leona stood up, and approached Xerian’s hologram. “What’s happening is you’re trying to end this war decisively. You’ll be doing it violently, if need be. That is not pacifism, and if what you say of this entity is accurate, it’s not something that he’s going to help you with. There is no point in us bringing him here, because you already know what he’s going to say.”
“That’s...why we need you,” Xerian admitted. “You have a way with words. We could use that on our side. I came for the team, but I really came for you. And Marie. Or Angela.”
“We’re not going to try to convince a pacifist to take up arms.”
“I wasn’t asking for that. We just need him to exercise his voting rights,” Xerian assured them. “We can’t move forward without them.”
Leona smiled at him out of pity.
“We’ll go to him,” Mateo volunteered before she could argue further.
“Matt,” Leona scolded.
“We won’t promise to bring him back, but we’ll go talk to him.”
“Thank you,” Xerian said. “I knew we could count on you. I’ll send you his coordinates. You can take the Suadona. He’s only about 60,000 light years away.”
“What are you doing?” Leona questioned Mateo once Xerian was gone.
“We were just talking about how we don’t know who to trust,” Mateo tried to explain. “It sounds like we just found ‘im.”
“We’ll see,” Marie reminded them.
They input the coordinates, and sped off to their new destination. They slept half the time, and still had eight hours to spare before the lightyear engine stopped at the RFD’s location. Leona and Mateo spent their free time discussing the plan, and were confident in it by the time they found what they were looking for. They couldn’t miss it. There were no stars around, nor planets that the ship detected. Before them was a vaguely spherical cloud of unidentifiable gas larger than Earth’s moon. Lightning arced from one particle to another, on a constant basis, reminiscent of a human brain’s neural synapses. That may have been what they were.
Leona spoke into the microphone on all channels, “Rational Fieldmarshal Detachment, we seek audience with you. Do you consent?”
“I consent to this meeting of minds. My name is Rátfrid. I dwell here in the void, available to provide advice to all who desire it. What is your question, my child?” 
“Are you cognizant of Xerian Oyana, leader of the Security Watchhouse Detachment?”
“I am aware of him,” Rátfrid replied.
“He has asked us to come here for your vote in a matter of war.”
“I abstain.”
“We thought as much,” Leona said. “Instead, could you do something else?”
“What might that be?” Rátfrid asked, intrigued.
“Could you end the war your own way, without a final battle against the Densiterium?”
“I am a seeker of peace, protector of peace, advocate for peace. I cannot force peace upon another...for that would not be peace.”
“How often would you say you give advice, and to how many?” Leona pressed on.
“One or two people come to me every few years,” Rátfrid answered.
“Do you believe your advice has helped the supercluster, or only those individuals?”
He thought he knew what she meant. “Again, I cannot force peace upon another.”
“Because that wouldn’t be peace; yeah, I get it. That’s not what I’m asking you to do. A war is raging across two or more galaxies, and yet you sit here, waiting for the enlightened to come to you. Is there not a better way? Can you not move? Can you not spread your words to those who do not know that they should hear them? Could you not be doing more?”
“Forcing others to hear my words is an act of aggression,” Rátfrid claimed.
“That is a weak interpretation. You’re out here in the middle of nowhere. It took us hours to arrive, and we were already relatively close. I propose a new tactic. I propose you go to the war, and you speak, and you let anyone who might need you stop and listen. You don’t have to force anyone to do anything. Just be more available.”
He waited a moment. “Interesting idea. Please. Tell me more. I consent to listen.”

No comments :

Post a Comment