Sunday, April 17, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 1, 2390

There is no stealth in space. If you’re generating power, then you’re generating heat. There is nowhere to dump all that heat, except to radiate it away, which others can detect. According to Ramses’ research, some ships in this reality can shunt it to another dimension, but on its own, this takes a lot of energy, and can still be detected in other ways, so it’s not really that useful. Pilot Fish protocol was not about making themselves completely invisible, but hiding themselves in the chaos of a larger vessel; a very large vessel. The WTD was enormous, and radiated a ton of waste heat. It also had lots of other little ships flying around, executing repairs, and whatnot. It was rather easy for a tiny lifeboat such as the AOC to attach itself to a remote part of the hull, and sit there quietly. No one and nothing knew that they were there, which was good, but it was the easy part. Presumably, the Warmaker Training Detachment was presently in the middle of the beginning of a new war. While it was out here, there was no telling where the rest of the detachments were, or whether they would ever be rendezvousing with each other anytime soon. Fortunately, they only needed to cross paths with the SWD once. The team’s AI knew what to do when that happened. It would detach itself from the first ship, and attach itself to the next. They didn’t know if it would happen within the next year, but they figured it would occur at some point in the next few days from their perspective. It turned out to be one day realtime.
When the team returned to the timestream, they learned that the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had been pilot fishing the Security Watchhouse Detachment for almost the entire year. This was perfect, because it was even more massive than the WTD, so their chances of being caught eventually had actually gone down. Everything was going according to plan. They were going to make their way to Dilara Cassano’s office, reveal to her that she had a special time power, and a destiny in another reality, then all go home together.
“Wait, who are you again?” Dilara asked. She was sitting in the same place they had always seen her, in the breakroom area.
“Mateo. This is Leona, Ramses, Olimpia, Angela, and Marie.”
“Angela and Marie are twins?”
“Alternate selves,” Angela clarified.
Dilara yawned. “I remember you people looking older.”
“Eh. Time, right?” Ramses noted
“Right,” Dilara sort of agreed. “Did you need some...antiquated technology, or sanctuary...?”
“We want your help getting home,” Mateo requested.
“There’s nothing left for us here,” Leona added. “The main sequence is where you belong anyway.”
“How do you figure?” Dilara questioned.
“We’ve seen you there,” Leona claimed. “You have the ability to cross back into old timelines, which means you necessarily also have the ability to travel to parallel timelines.”
Dilara stared at her, and then looked one by one at the rest of the team, like she was waiting for someone to give away that this was some kind of prank. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“We know,” Mateo said. “It happened in our past, but in your future.”
“Do I go on adventures in this future?” Dilara pressed. “Do I exert a lot of effort?”
Mateo leaned his head back in confusion. “I mean, I think so...”
“And I’m walking?”
“This person who you think is me, does she walk?” Dilara continued.
“Yeah, she walks,” Leona confirmed.
Dilara opened a panel on her armrest, and pushed a few buttons. The chair gently flew out from under the table, and began to hover before them. “I can’t walk.”
“You what?”
“I have literally never walked,” she said, though it must have been a lie. “I don’t know who you think I am, but I’m not your girl. I don’t have any powers, and I’m not going to be going on any adventures.”
“They can’t cure whatever’s stopping you from walking?” Angela suggested.
“Mother says no. They tried when I was younger.”
“Can we speak to her?”
“She’s dead.”
“This doesn’t make any sense,” Ramses said. “At the very least, you can strap an exoskeleton on her, and have her simulate walking. There is no way a reality this advanced can’t find a way to fix her.”
“I don’t need to be fixed,” Dilara contended. “I’m fine sitting down, thank you.”
“I’m sorry,” Ramses said sincerely.
“There’s also the matter of this.” Dilara reached up to her necklace, and pushed another button. A hologram flickered off, leaving a much older and wrinkled face behind. “I know what it’s like to change your age of appearance.”
They all stared at her, unsure what to say. Mateo looked to the floor behind them. “The football. You say you can’t find a record of it being a sport that ever existed before, yet you know what it is.”
“That’s right,” Dilara agreed.
“Mateo...” Leona began without finishing.
“You are our Dilara Cassano,” he realized. “You’ve just lost your memories. I don’t know how, or whether it was done on purpose, but that’s why you’re older than we knew you, and it probably partially explains why your mother claimed you couldn’t ever walk again. I don’t have all the answers, but the main sequence is not part of your future. It’s in your past, just like it is for the six of us.”
“Except it should also be in your future,” Dilara reasoned. “Because you want to get back there, whereas I don’t think I care to get those memories back, if they even exist.”
“They exist,” Mateo assured her, “and no one’s going back now. You were our last hope. If anyone else had the ability to cross realities, we probably would have heard of them by now. I mean, maybe if we were able to find Jupiter, or Jupiter, or one of the other Jupiters...”
“There may be another way,” Olimpia said, nervous about bringing up whatever it was she was thinking.
“What would that be?” Leona asked.
“I don’t wanna say anything without any more information.” Olimpia answered. “I was just hoping you could...point me towards that library database that you used a few days ago, Mateo?”
Mateo wanted to respect her wishes, even though he also wanted her to just say it. “Yeah, I’ll take you.” He offered her his hand. When Olimpia took it, he turned his head back to Dilara, who was resituating herself under the table. “Thank you for everything. I apologize for the confusion.”
“It’s quite all right.” Dilara reinitialized her youngification hologram.
Mateo escorted Olimpia to the library. Nothing had changed since last time. It was still completely empty. He tried to look over her shoulder as she began her search for whatever she was searching for, but she looked right back with a look. All he caught were the words mysterious war before he agreed to literally back off, and walk the perimeter. It wasn’t long before he started to get a feeling. It didn’t hurt, but he knew it wasn’t great either. It felt like waves of energy pulsating on the side of his forehead. When he turned his head, the waves stayed in place, so now they were on the other side of his forehead. He did a one-eighty, and now they were hitting the back of his head. Something external was out there, doing this to him. Again, it wasn’t painful, but he instinctually prepared himself for an attack of some kind.
The attack came in the form of a bullet, right in his shoulder joint. At least that was what he assumed it to be. He heard a loud explosive sound, and felt a sharp pain in his chest. It didn’t last very long. The pain went away to be replaced with another wave of information, reminding him that there was a bullet wound there. It happened several more times after that. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. Somebody wanted him dead, but Mateo was getting the feeling now that that wasn’t going to happen. Ramses’ upgrades were just too good. He didn’t know if he could heal as fast as superheroes did in movies, but he was still standing even after all this, and the pain was gone.
A figure rounded the corner. “You think I wouldn’t recognize you, didn’t you?” It was the security guard from years ago. He was still patrolling the same area. He walked forward, and placed his gun against Mateo’s head. “You can hologram your face in whatever form you please, but I can still tell. You have a certain smell.”
“Hey, that rhymed.”
“Shut up!”
“Are you going to kill me?”
“I said I would, didn’t I?”
Mateo shrugged. “People changed their minds. It’s been six years.”
“No, it’s been one year.” He reached into his bag, and pulled out the mangled remains of the Cassidy cuff that Mateo forced upon him to make sure he didn’t leave him trapped in a time bubble.
“It took you that long to figure out how to get it off?”
“I don’t have any friends!”
“Sorry, dude.”
“It doesn’t matter, it’s just time. I told you that you shouldn’t ever come back, and now you’re gonna face the consequences.”
“Look at me,” Mateo said. “You’ve already shot me several times. Why do you think it hasn’t killed me yet?”
The man tugged at Mateo’s shirt. “Body armor.”
“No. Armored body,” he corrected.
He frowned, and loosened his grip on his weapon while he looked away. “This isn’t a hologram, is it?”
“You people have technologies that we have never seen before.”
“Which is weird,” Mateo said. “I mean, consciousness transference? That’s not easy, but it didn’t take us as long as faster-than-light travel. It’s like you just skipped over a bunch of developments that would have been really helpful to your lives.”
“Or they were deliberately withheld from us.”
“That would sure make sense. I personally know the people who invented FTL where I come from. It’s taken them until recently to even begin thinking about sharing that with everyone else.”
“You’re trying to get back there, aren’t you?”
“We weren’t before, but we are now. Unfortunately, the tech we used to come in the first place has been lost to us. We’re working on it.”
Now the security officer lowered his arm completely. “Take me with you.”
“It sounds like you have purpose. I want that too.”
Mateo sighed. “You wouldn’t be the first stray we took in.”
“Mateo!” Olimpia came up from behind him. “I found him.”
“Found who?”
“The guy who’s gonna get us back home,” she said cryptically.
“How’s he gonna do that?”
She presented her tablet. “Medavorken Alon.”
“Is that a band, errr...?”
“He was a famous Comradiant in the People’s Army of the Independent Triangulites For The Independence of Triangulum.”
Mateo couldn’t help but laugh, “wwwwhat?”
“The Triangulites?” the security guy questioned. “They were wiped out centuries ago.”
“Who are you again?” Olimpia questioned in return.
“Go on,” Mateo prompted.
“He went missing...before all that happened. They say he went into a deserted building alone, they heard a loud horn, and then it blew up.”
“So he’s not missing, he died,” the security—
“What is your name?” Mateo asked.
“Summit Ebora.”
“Well, Summit, we know he disappeared because of the horn. It’s The Transit. That’s your idea?” Mateo asked her. “You wanna hitch a ride?”
“They’re the only people who can do it,” Olimpia said. “And we know exactly where they’re gonna be, when they’re gonna be there.”
“The problem is that we don’t have a time machine,” Leona said, having teleported to their location. The rest of the team was there too.
“A time machine? I can get you to a time machine,” Summit claimed.
“Now, is it an actual time machine, or just an amusement park ride in the bulk store?” Angela joked.
“I don’t know what that is,” Summit said. “It’s an actual time machine, which can get you back to the 21st century.”
“Great!” Mateo said enthusiastically. “Leona, that’s your birthday present. I didn’t get you anything else.”
“Kind of an irresponsible gift to give to a thirteen-year-old,” Angela joked more.
Leona shook her head and half-scoffed, half-laughed. “I’m gonna get you back for that.”
“Thirteen-year-old or not,” Marie began, not joking, “you’re the captain.”
They waited patiently for her decision.
Leona waited to respond, considering the dangers and ramifications. “Very well. We’re going back to the past.”

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