Sunday, March 27, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 29, 2387

The man who Mateo was forced to kill was reportedly not stupid, but he was more of a follower, and easily manipulated. He had agreed to, upon winning the battle, return power of the other detachments to their rightful leaders. He was used to being told what to do, and he had no intention of ending that. Of course Leona wasn’t ever meant to win. They never considered the possibility that any member of the team of strangers would be willing to kill each other, and even if they did, the so-called leader of the DDD was always expected to beat them. The idea was to halt their influence on the people of this reality. Xerian had underestimated it before, and that was how they ended up with a rogue Rátfrid going even more rogue, and making their jobs more difficult. Now Leona was in charge of six powerful intergalactic forces. Her only true equal on this side was the General of the Offensive Contingency Detachment, whose name was Ingrid Alvarado. Over the course of the next year, she showed herself to be more open-minded and reasonable than Leona expected her to be.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team was safe in a virtual construct housed in Ramses’ lab on the Suadona, which Leona maintained as her base of operations. She connected to the simulation regularly to hang out with her friends. They could be downloaded into temporary android bodies at any time, but to protect the ruse, it was best that they stay out of sight for now. Their new corporal upgrades were still gestating at three times the normal speed. The plan was to start using them in 2394, once they were fully mature, despite never having technically voted to actually go through with that idea. Their deaths were a necessary development that placed them at an incredible advantage, and that was an opportunity that they couldn’t ignore. Hopefully this whole thing would be over soon, and they could be moved to some temporary substrates. Then maybe they could start looking for a way to get back to the main sequence.
For now, they were leaving Dilara Cassano, a.k.a. The Arborist out of it. She was in a better position to help them by also staying out of sight. As far as they knew, no one—not even Xerian—was even aware of her existence, let alone that she was their only true ally in this reality. Speaking of Xerian, and the rest of the former detachment leaders, they were allowed to remain in the inner circle of the alliance. They operated in an advisory role only, and didn’t appear to have any loyalists. This was a very strange reality. Its technology rivaled that of the Parallel, but whereas there was a lot of fellowship amongst that version of the Milky Way, and other galaxies, residents of the Fifth Division were almost exclusively isolationistic. The majority of them seemed to live in voids, be them intergalactic, or interstellar. Orbiting a star made people too easy to find, and that wasn’t what anybody wanted. So when the detachment leaders were deposed all at once, no one seemed to give a shit. No one complained. No one fought the transition. Apparently, the only reason shifts in power weren’t happening constantly was because most people didn’t want the job. There was little upside to holding power over nothing. There were too many moving parts to keep watch over; it was very easy for any given individual to live their life as they pleased without interference. Besides, true power could still be found in the Denseterium.
The true architects of the Fifth Division were a threat that everyone shared, and now that the detachments were firmly on the opposite side of this disharmony, a new war was brewing. And that was something they did care about. General Alvarado agreed to recall every ship she had dispatched to fight against the Andromedan Consortium, effectively ending that war, so all left could focus on stopping the Fifth Division, who would supposedly soon begin what people were treating as some kind of final solution. Their motivation and endgame both remained vague and uncertain by anyone Leona tried to ask about it. They would all give a different answer about why their enemies were creating the interstellar denseterium in the first place. Some said they wanted a gravitationally-bound mega star system to travel the universe as a collective using a modified lightyear engine. Others figured they were dumping every bit of matter they could find into the stellaris collapsis in the center to make it even more massive than the Alpha Stage supermassive black hole it already was. Reasons for this varied from simply using it to power their civilization to creating a superweapon to destroy other universes. The team didn’t know whether people here were truly aware that the bulkverse was a very real thing, or if they just couldn’t conceive of any larger hypothetical target.
If the Fifth Division was planning their own war against the Ochivari, that was probably a good thing, but Leona had no reason to believe this to be the case. She occasionally name-dropped the Ochivari in conversation, and no one even blinked. They didn’t know anything about the multiversal threat. Something else was going on with the Denseterium, and Leona decided it was time to get some real answers. She placed her proxies in charge of the detachments while she was gone, and took off in the Suadona. At maximum light year range teleportation speeds, the trip was taking about two weeks. She spent most of the time in the simulation, but they were nearing the end, so it was time to return to the real world, and continue on mission on her own.
The Suadona was programmed to head for the center of the galactic blob, because they didn’t know where they would actually find the people they wanted to speak with. They never reached their destination, though. Fittingly, on the day they would be in the timestream if they were following their pattern, they were forced to show up somewhere else. The ship was diverted off course, to a void station they didn’t even know was there. Angela postulated that it served as the front door to the Denseterium, through which all were expected to enter, instead of any other random access point. Three dimensional space contained an infinite number of degrees, so if you wanted to regulate travel within it, the only way was to somehow take control of people’s vessels, and redirect them accordingly. This was their home, so that was fair enough.
They were slowly cruising through a large opening to a tunnel. A disembodied voice relayed basic instructions to them, like submitting to a scan for weapons, and keeping all illegal imports out. She asked the crew their business here, to which Leona explained her position amongst the detachments, and her desire to speak with original members of the Fifth Division directly. Once they were a few hundred kilometers in, a flurry of lights overcame them, and accelerated their ship without using their own power reserves. It transported them out of the tunnel, and spit them out on a planet with about a hundred suns, each smaller than the Earth’s moon at apogee.
Leona teleported out of the Suadona, and stood on the surface before an anthropomorphic castle built into the side of a mountain. It looked like something out of a Tolkien book; ancient but stalwart. A man was already walking through the portcullis, and over the drawbridge. As he approached, he felt familiar to Leona. Once he was within clear sight, she realized that he looked strikingly like Baudin Murdoch, a.k.a. The Constructor. She would have used more tact if she had taken more time, but before she knew it, she blurted out, “are you a Murdoch?”
“Phestos Murdoch, you’ve heard of me.”
“I knew a Baudin once,” she answered.
He nodded. “My father.”
“You don’t seem surprised.”
“Neither do you. I don’t care if he’s ever mentioned me or not.” He turned, and began to walk back towards the castle. “Follow me.”
“Are you the leader?” she asked while they were walking over the bridge.
“No. I’m taking you to her.”
“I appreciate it.”
He shrugged. “We have nothing better to do than entertain guests.”
“I’m here on business.”
He shrugged again. “I’ve heard it both ways.” Even here, people were bored with life.
The inside was not like a castle at all. That was just the façade. Once they passed under the rock, they saw that the mountain was pretty flat; like a tooth jutting out of the ground. Next was a forest of deciduous trees, followed by a beach, and then the shore of a lagoon. They walked down a dock, and climbed into a boat so dark and rickety that it would make Charon nervous. Still, it held the both of them as an invisible force rowed them over the calm waters, through a mist, and onto a second beach. A woman was lying across a hammock, completely naked, staring up at the suns above. “Welcome to Hemkara,” she said with a yawn, totally devoid of any enthusiasm. She arched her back in a stretch, and yawned again. “What is your business?”
“I would like to dissuade you from going to war,” Leona proposed.
“War with who?” the woman asked.
“With...I guess Andromeda? The people of the former Milky Way galaxy? I’m not sure.”
“You’re not sure? Interesting.”
That was indeed interesting. General Alvarado had already ended the real war. Why was she here? What war? “Why are you moving all the stars in this galaxy together?”
For a second there, it looked like the woman forgot that anyone else was there. She just went back to watching the sky mindlessly. Leona was about to repeat the question, but then she answered, “is that what’s going on up there?”
We did that?”
She wasn’t getting anywhere with this woman. A leader, she was not. “What the hell is going on, Phestos?”
He too looked like he barely heard her. “You remember we did that?” he finally asked the woman. “You remember you said you want to bring the stars closer, because you thought they would be prettier without all the darkness between them?”
The woman was tracing her middle finger over her areola. “Yeah. Yeah, I remember that. We went through with that?”
“Yes.” Jesus Christ, Leona thought. “This isn’t a weapon?”
The woman scrunched her face into a frown. “A weapon? Dafuq would we need a weapon for? Look at me! Do I look like someone who uses weapons?”
“You look like someone who is so old, and has had power for so long, that you lost all motivation, and just sit on a beach all day.”
She raised her hand, and pointed at Leona. “Five points to Gryffindor!”
“How do you have that reference?”
“What reference?”
“The Denseterium scares people, lady. On purpose or not, you’ve inspired a war against the other galaxies of the supercluster, and they’re only now coming together in an alliance to fight you!”
The woman slipped out of the hammock. Her entire backside was covered in cross-crossed lines. She had been lying there for quite a long time. She stepped towards Leona. “Fight me?” She held out her fists like she was riding a chopper. As she punched the air and popped her shoulders up, clothes appeared all around her. “Fight me!” She apported a little remote into her hand, which she used to gradually collapse the holograms around them. The water dried up, the sand turned gray. The hut and the hammock spun around into oblivion. The trees in the forest were sucked back into the ground. Everything green, blue, or alive disappeared, leaving them on a desolate gray world with storms raging in the distance. Only the toothy mountain remained, but probably not the castle façade. Baudin’s supposed son, Phestos disappeared completely, after sporting a knowing frown, suggesting he was aware that he too was an illusion. He wasn’t the last thing to change, though. The leader lady transformed, shedding her outer visage, and showing his true face. He looked as familiar as Phestos did, but not as a Murdoch. He looked more like a Preston. In fact, the more Leona stared at his face, the more uncomfortable she became with how much he resembled Zeferino. “If anyone wants to fight a god, they can try, but I don’t like their odds.”
“Who are you?” Leona asked.
The mysterious man juggled the remote to his left hand, so he could extend his right for what she presumed to be a handshake. “Mithridates Preston, out of Savannah by Erlendr. You may kiss my ring.”

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