Sunday, April 24, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 2, 2391

The Technological Advancement Detachment. Obviously this was where all the scientists were kept, along with their scientific studies. It was impossible for a disc world to exist in nature, despite what flat-earthers would tell you. There were ways to accomplish the same thing using extravagant engineering, but since these people were capable of manipulating time and space, it was even easier for them. To avoid any annoyingly inconsistent gravitational problems, they just created gravity on their own using dimensional generators. To prevent from killing their inhabitants while in faster-than-light motion, they used inertial dampeners on a scale most couldn’t fathom. Why did they go through all this trouble for an unnecessary celestial shape? Simply because they could. When you live in a universe of endless possibilities, and nothing new to discover, most of your choices had little to do with achieving something important, and more about killing time.
The team used the same method to sneak onto the TAD as they did to get back to the SWD, letting the AOC hitch a ride over the course of their interim year, and then pilot fishing itself once the two giant objects were close enough to each other. Summit said that he knew there was at least one time machine here, and he had a good idea of where it was, but he didn’t know much about it. Traveling backwards in time was illegal. Of course the Fifth Division didn’t want anyone to be able to go back to a time period that could erase them from history. Since it was difficult to regulate every single corner of the vast supercluster, and beyond, it was easier to build a time machine for themselves, and only break the proverbial glass in the case of an emergency. Their machine was housed in a special section of the TAD, which was protected inside of a paradox containment field. It would theoretically survive the collapse of any given timeline, and push itself into the next. Even if nothing else survived, including the disc world itself, it would still be around, and a team would go back to undo whatever change the rogue travelers made. To no one’s surprise, the machine was very heavily guarded.
“But we have a way around that,” Marie said. “Our temporal technology is incompatible with theirs.”
“Yeah, why is that?” Angela remembered. “Don’t we all source from the same parent reality? Aren’t we all in the same universe?”
“I think it has more to do with how they developed the technology over time,” Leona figured. “Pribadium Delgado is said to have invented time tech of her own. Even though she had already been exposed to our variant, she was able to figure out some other way. I think after having been so isolated from us for so long, this reality drifted from us.”
“The Parallel didn’t seem to do the same,” Mateo pointed out, “and they are arguably just as advanced and isolated.”
“We never really saw that come into play,” Leona reminded him. “I don’t know, but it kind of brings up a good point. We can’t rely on our supposed advantage for everything. We can’t assume we’ll be able to just teleport into the time machine, enter our destination into the keypad, and disappear without a hitch. Mr. Ebora, any intel you can give us about it would be quite welcome.”
Summit seemed surprised to be called upon. “I don’t even know what you guys are talking about? Parent realities? Incompatible time travel? Like, what?”
Leona shut her eyes and exhaled. She was about to kick him out of the group when she thought better of it. He would surely just run off to warn someone of their presence, and then their mission would be lost. “Do you know what to do when you don’t have a plan?”
The group looked around at each other, each shaking their heads upon seeing the others shaking their heads.
“You go in without a plan,” Leona answered herself. “The more time we spend trying to worry about everything that could go wrong, the less time we have to just get it done. So here’s what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna teleport in there, and wing it. If we find an obstacle, we’ll overcome it. Elite squad of assassins, massive military contingency, a giant space monster guarding the entrance. We could go on with the list, and come up with a solution to each, or just go. Raise your hands, are we ready to go?”
Everyone raised their hand, except for Summit, but his vote didn’t matter anyway.
Leona nodded. “Here are the coordinates. Let’s use the empathy link Ramses built us with to sync, and head out.”
They synced and jumped. Before them was an actual field of energy that they could feel. It buzzed into their skin, causing tiny ripples throughout their bodies. The closer they approached, the stronger it became, but it didn’t hurt. The doors were left wide open, or maybe didn’t exist at all.
A woman was sitting on the other side of it, chin resting in her hand. She unenthusiastically looked over at them as they tested out the energy barrier. “Welcome to the time travel section,” she recited apathetically. “We are protected by a paradox containment field. Only those who are not destined to disrupt the creation of the time machine on a quantum level are free to enter. Whether you intend to harm the timeline according to the doctrines set forth by the founders of the Fifth Division, or not, the field will not let you pass unless you are fated to do no harm. Again, this is on the quantum level, your macro decisions are irrelevant to the sanctity of the timeline.” She blinked slowly a few times. “Good luck.”
“Okay.” Mateo unceremoniously crossed the threshold, finding no difficulty in passing through the field.
The guard was shocked by this.
Olimpia followed, as did Angela, Ramses, Marie, and finally Leona. When Summit tried, he found it impossible. The field just bounced him right back. The harder he tried, the harder it resisted, and the more it hurt.
“Sorry, dude,” Mateo said, genuinely, but not too butthurt about it personally.
“No!” Summit cried. “I’m not gonna disrupt the timeline. I’m gonna do whatever you say! Why is it stopping me!”
“I don’t know,” Leona said. “ hard would it have been for you to transfer to the TAD from where you were stationed?”
“Virtually impossible,” Summit answered.
“Great,” she said. “Now you’re here, so go find your glorious purpose.”
“It doesn’t have to be glorious,” Summit admitted.
“Even better. Thanks for leading us here. I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
Summit stared at them a moment. “Yeah, whatever.”
“I have never seen anyone make it through,” the guard said in awe. “I’ve been working here for seventy years. Probably over a million have tried since my shift began. It hasn’t happened once. You have to work here, and vow to never use the machine except in an emergency. What business does a small group of children have here?”
“The business of leaving,” Ramses explained. “We do not belong in your world. Our quarks are different.”
“Are you...them? Are you the true Fifth Division? The founders?”
“God, no,” Angela said. “Are we free to use the machine?”
The guard pointed her hand down the hallway. “Evidently.”
Others who worked there watched them in wonderment as they walked towards the machine. Nor had they ever seen anything like it. And like the guard, they too were looking at them like they were gods. Of course Ramses and Leona, and a little bit the others, knew that it was just because they were part of a stable time loop. They were a part of the past, and it was time to close the loop. They would leave the universe on the Transit, come back to the main sequence, and never see this reality again. They weren’t special, just on a track.
The technician was frightened, but determined to do his job. “Uhh, umm...destination?” Olimpia handed him a small piece of e-paper. He looked at it and nodded. “Of course, sir. Sirs. Your Honors...Highnesses. Uh...I don’t know what to call you.”
“Call us...” Mateo began, trying to think of a good name for them. Team Matic was always a weird placeholder that he didn’t care for. Even though Leona was also a Matic now, it always felt very self-serving. There had to be something better. Anyway, he wasn’t going to come up with it in the next couple of seconds, so he just contrived a new placeholder. “The Fifth Column.”
He nodded respectfully again, and motioned for them to enter the machine.
They did, and a minute later, they were back in the past, but not in the machine. They were on a planet. No, the ground was curving up towards the sky, so they were inside of a rotating habitat, which was unusual, because they didn’t need centrifugal force to simulate gravity. It was unlikely that a reality that always had time tech ever came up with the idea of constructing rotating space habitats at all. Whatever, if this was where they were meant to be—which Leona appeared to believe was the case after consulting her watch—then this was where they would stay.
Olimpia looked at her notes. “That building there, that’s where he’ll be.”
“When?” Marie asked.
“In the next fifteen minutes, according to the logs.”
“We better go. We want to be ahead of him, not behind.”
They walked across the grass, and into the building, noting how eerie it was that they didn’t see any sign of life. Though that was par for the course, wasn’t it? These people engineered such large space objects that there was too much room, and not enough people to fill it. It was ridiculous, really, but if there was one thing they learned in this reality, it was that nobody knew anything, or saw the big picture. Everyone just focused on their tiny patch of paradise, and that was probably how it always would be, war or no war.
They entered the building, and spread out to look around. Their empathy link would keep them connected to each other, and their teleportation abilities would allow them to jump into protective action should any one for them come up against a problem. Unlike in the movies, they didn’t see any reason to stick together in the physical sense.
“Holy shit, wait!” Angela spoke into her communicator. “We left the AOC behind.”
“We were always going to have to do that,” Leona said sadly. “Sure, it would fit in the Transit, but how would we get it into this building? No, the historical records would have said something about it. We probably have a matter of seconds to hop on before the building blows up, it was never gonna happen. Sadly, you can’t just pack up a spaceship, and bring it with you wherever you go.”
“You can’t?” Ramses asked.
“Ramses, what did you do?” Leona asked.
“Guys, I found something,” Marie interrupted. “Come here.”
They transported to her location. She was standing before a human-sized metal machine. They couldn’t say for sure what it was, but there was a timer on the front of it, and to everyone, it screamed bomb. “I guess we know how it blows up,” Olimpia said.
“There’s nothing else here, though,” Ramses said. “Why does what’s-his-toes come in here in the first place?”
“I came here to rescue you.” They turned around to find a man in the doorway.
“Medavorken Alon?” Olimpia asked, excited and hopeful.
“I am,” he said. “What’s a bunch of children doing in here? This place is about to explode.”
“Wait, you know?” Olimpia pressed.
“Why do you think there’s no one else here?” Medavorken questioned.
Just then, a horn blared, but it didn’t sound like the one they could remember hearing during the few times the Transit showed up. “What was that?”
“That was the siren,” Medavorken began, “reminding everyone that the cylinder is about to explode, and they need to evacuate. It’s been going off every ten minutes.”
“Oh, shit,” Mateo said.
“No,” Olimpia said sadly.
“Shit,” Mateo repeated, more earnestly this time.
No, this wasn’t right. It could not have all just been a mistake. There had to be something here. Olimpia looked so embarrassed and ashamed. Seeing this, Ramses took her into a hug. It was going to be all right. They would find another way. Together.
“You should go,” Angela told the apparently unremarkable man.
“Not without you,” Medavorken promised. “Come on, we have just enough time to clear the blast zone.”
“We’ll be fine,” Mateo assured him. “We can teleport.”
“The records,” Olimpia lamented. “They didn’t say anything about people knowing there would be an explosion. They just said it exploded. There was a horn, and it exploded!”
Ramses tightened his grip around her. “I know.”
Leona placed a hand on her shoulder. “Maybe it’s still coming. We can wait until the last second, and then jump to the nearest vessel. These substrates have that feature, right, Ramses?”
“Yes, they’ll default to the nearest safety zone if you jump blindly. You can’t just kill yourself by jumping into outer space, or something.”
“Why is this here?” Olimpia complained.
“We’re in a war,” Medavorken explained. “It’s a vacuum bomb. We can’t disable, and we can’t jettison it. All we could do was get everybody out. You’re the last of the survivors.”
Mateo stepped forward and smiled at him, darting his eyes over one last time to check the clock. Thirty seconds. “You’re a brave man, coming in here alone. You deserve to be in the Transit Army.”
Mateo wrapped his arms around him. “Don’t hold your breath.” He programmed his body to jump at the very last second, in case something magically showed up to stop time and saved them, be it the Transit, or something else. Something might have, because while he did begin to teleport, and it felt like it had since they transferred themselves to their new bodies, there was something different about it too. Some force was pulling them away from where they were trying to go. It lasted a lot longer too. The point of teleportation was to be instantaneous. Otherwise, a teleporter could just walk. But they spent minutes in a blinding void of technicolors, unable to move or speak. They could still feel each other’s emotions, so they knew that they were all at least together.
Finally they landed, but their vision was a bit blurry. Before them were three men struggling in front of what looked like an airlock. Two of them were together, while the third was alone, opposite them. “Hello. I’m Captain Leona Matic.”
“I know who you are, young one,” one of the men said. “It’s me, Lucius.”
“Ahh, perfect,” Mateo said. “A friend. It’s about time.”

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