Sunday, May 15, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 5, 2394

Skylar led the team into the building, and up the elevators, which was a tight squeeze with her bodyguards. As the sister of the apparent leader of the entire metropolis, it was understandable that she needed to be protected. The only weird part was that they made no attempt to pat the team down, or assess them as a threat in any way. Perhaps they just knew enough about the future.
They spilled out at the top floor, and headed to the left for the Night President’s Office. This should be interesting, learning why there was a different president for each half of the day. Skylar nodded to her guards as they entered the Night Vice President’s Office. They stayed outside by the door, and gave them some privacy. Instead of sitting at her desk, she chose a chair in the center of the room, and had everyone choose a spot on one of the two couches. “I don’t normally work here. By design, we’re usually kept separate to insulate against a discontinuity of government. We knew you would head here for help first, though, and at the moment, my brother has to sleep, so I’m the only one available.”
“This sounds like a fascinating form of government,” Ramses pointed out. “Night and day?”
Skylar laughed. “It’s by necessity. One of us wanted to run for office, and the others sort of had to follow suit. We never thought we would win, because of our unusual situation, but the people seem cool with it, and we’re making it work.”
“You’re making what work?” Marie asked. “What’s your situation?”
“We’re gargoyles,” she answered. They had seen a lot over the years, but a stone monster person would be a first. She giggled again. “A specific kind of gargoyle. Oliver and I are the originals. We were born this way. It’s what the powers that be chose for us. Due to a series of unlikely events, we transferred our patterns to Kostya and Lucy, except diametrically. We only exist between sundown and sunrise. They only exist between sunrise and sundown.”
“So you can’t cooperate?” Leona noted.
“We leave each other messages. That’s not the issue.”
Olimpia tilted her head, and twitched an eye. “Love,” she guessed.
Skylar nodded. “Oliver loves Lucy, and she him. They haven’t seen each other in person in a very long time. There’s one way that we could do it, but...there’s an obstacle. That’s what we were hoping you would be able to help us with.” She checked her watch. “It’ll have to be next year, but...would you be willing?”
“Depends on what it is,” Mateo said cautiously.
“Of course,” Skylar said understandingly. “You’ve heard of the Salmonday Club?”
“Yeah,” they answered, except for Angela and Marie.
“It adds an extra day between Saturday and Sunday,” Leona explained to them. “It exists within a pocket dimension of extra temporal energy. Clubgoers spend one minute inside, but it feels like twenty-four hours.”
“People run in when the timer starts,” Ramses continued, “and rush back out before time runs out at the end.”
“Wait,” Angela said. “What happens if they don’t get out in time?”
“They jump to the end of the next week,” Leona answered. “If you never left the club, it would always be Salmonday for you, and you would basically live for fifty-two days a year. Their pattern would be not unlike ours.” She turned back to Vice President Spout. “Is that why you think we can help, because of our pattern?”
“No, it’s because we don’t have any teleporters left,” Skylar clarified. “The obstacle is pretty simple, you should be able to jump past it, and once inside, you can shut it down. If you can do this for us, we can get you back to the main sequence.”
“You say obstacle like you don’t wanna talk about what it really is,” Olimpia realized.
“It’s an abyss,” Skylar said. “Some of that temporal energy escaped, and formed a cloud around the entrances to the club. Fortunately it has never spread farther, because that would be bad. We don’t know how slow time moves inside, but it’s very slow. We can see people just stuck there in place. There’s a way to purge it, but again, it’s inside the club, and we can’t reach it. You wouldn’t just be helping my brother and the love of his life touch each other once more. You would be freeing all the innocent curious people, and the volunteers, who have been trapped for decades.”
“Why do we have to wait until next year?” Angela asked. “We still have a few hours left before midnight central.”
“All four leaders have to sign off on it,” Skylar began, “and the other three refuse to do so until they meet you. If we had known exactly where you were going to show up, we could have planned it better, but unfortunately, our seer wasn’t that specific. So here’s what will happen—if you agree to even entertain the idea—”
“We’ll do it,” Leona answered plainly. There was no doubt about it. This was right in their wheelhouse, especially now that they were full-fledged teleporters.
“That would be great. Just so you understand, I’ve met you, I sign off. I’m easy. I trust our seers, and the historical records that have recounted your dealings with the Fourth Quadrant, and other points in spacetime. Next year, when you come back, it will be nighttime again, and you can meet Oliver. Come sunrise, you can meet with Lucy and Kostya. Does that sound fair?”
“What are the chances they won’t sign off?” Mateo asked her.
Skylar sighed. “Nearly zero. I think this is more of a CYA operation. We need the citizens—the voters—to know that we didn’t just send a team of strangers to a hazardous temporal anomaly, on a potentially dangerous mission, without so much as shaking your hands.”
“Okay, we’ll do it,” Leona repeated.
“You don’t need to discuss it?” Skylar pressed.
“We can feel each other’s emotions,” Mateo divulged. “We’re all in. We would know if there was any reluctance amongst us.”
“Very well,” Skylar said, standing back up. “I’m just now realizing, though, that we did not factor in any rest time for you. You can wait to meet my brother until later. It just can’t be after 6:56. Well, it needs to be reasonably before that. I suppose we could—”
“We’re fine,” Leona interrupted again. “We don’t need very much sleep anymore either.”
“Brilliant,” Skylar said. “I wish I had that luxury. I only exist an average of twelve hours a day, but I still need to sleep at least seven.”
The team looked around at each other, particularly Ramses and Leona.
“What? What is it?”
“The way we understand it,” Ramses started to say, “the powers that be have no control over salmon once they cross into other realities, like this one.”
“I assure you, we are still bound to our pattern.”
“Yes, you are,” Leona presumed, “but there might be a way around that. Our pattern, for instance, was encoded into our neurology. Take it away from us, and we’re no longer us. This is tantamount to murder or suicide. But that was done to us by a man...a very powerful man. We’ve not been beholden to the PTB for years. The fact that our current pattern matches the original one was deliberate and arbitrary. He could just as easily have chosen some other random pattern.”
“What are you saying?” Skylar sat back down, curious. “This man could do the same for us, but change our pattern?”
“Oh, no,” Mateo said. “We wouldn’t have you deal with him. It would be us. Well, it would be Ramses and Leona.”
Ramses reached into his bag, and retrieved an object that resembled an ancient wireless cellphone charging stand. He set it on Skylar’s coffee table. It looked wholly unremarkable, but it was incredibly advanced. “This is called a nanoforge, specifically a lab creator. I might need to tweak it a little bit, but the last time I used it, it was for the same thing you’ll need. It’s mostly automated, but you’ll have to provide it with raw materials, and it’ll let you know what those are. It can build a cloning laboratory, based on the number of gestational pods you require, and the speed of development you wish to wait for. You can then transfer your respective consciousnesses to your new bodies, and if all goes well, you’ll leave your patterns behind. You’ll be a salmonfree you.”
Skylar was shocked. “You would do this for us? You would grant us this technology?”
“It comes with an expiration date,” Leona clarified. “You won’t be able to keep it. The lab will literally implode, as well as the forge. We’re not in the habit of interfering with the development of a given culture. We don’t know what you would do with cloning tech if you don’t already have it. If you would like to invent it yourself afterwards, we won’t stop you, but we’re not going to let you just jump into it...except to help the four of you this once.”
“Of course we’ll still shut off your weird time cloud,” Olimpia reminded her. “It’s not an either-or thing.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
Ramses took out his tablet, and paired it with the nanoforge. “I’ll stay here to program it. The rest of you should scout the location.”
“Yes,” Leona agreed.
“Why don’t you...?” Skylar began, but trailed off out of seeming embarrassment.
“Go ahead and say it,” Mateo encouraged.
“Would you consider just staying here? We do have a way to get you back to the main reality, but I think you six could do quite well here, and you’re always welcome.”
It was certainly a thought to think on, but they had already considered it as an option while they were still in the Fifth Division. They didn’t leave because of any particular danger they were in. They were always in danger. They wanted to return home. Leona was about to say as much when a feeling she received from Mateo changed her approach. “We’ll talk about it. Thanks for the offer.”
They teleported away, except for Ramses, who was working on the nanoforge, and Marie, who felt like sticking around.”
The next day was as breezy as Skylar made it sound. They met with her brother, Oliver soon after returning to the timestream. They then waited several hours, when the two of them were stuck in impenetrable time bubbles, and the other two were free of theirs. Apparently, each one lasted a few seconds, but spanned roughly half a day. It didn’t matter what time of year it was, or where they were. Their pattern was coded to this region, according to the rotation of the Earth. Sunrise and sunset times changed every day, and their patterns changed with them. Winters were better for the night team, but summers were better for the day team. One day, they would be free of all that, and that day was going to come sooner than they could have imagined. The cloning process was going to take years to complete the safest way, but there was a workaround in the meantime. In fact, it could be a permanent solution if that was what they chose.
Fixing the Salmonday Club temporal issue was easy too. The emergency shutoff button was exactly where everyone said it would be, in the manager office. Mateo and Marie teleported in alone, pressed it, and the nightmare was over. It was no longer a club for Salmonday. They could start it back up again, but would probably just demolish the place. The intention was to repurpose it as a neutral zone for the two disparate leadership factions to reunite periodically, but they shouldn’t need it anymore.
Shortly before sunset, and after ensuring that the leak was repaired, they flipped the dimension back on, and let Kostya and Lucy inside. Once the Spouts were back, Olimpia and Leona transported them there too. After witnessing the heartfelt reunion between them, Leona presented them with four Cassidy cuffs. “Unlike the laboratory, these will not self-destruct. They can also not be reprogrammed according to your whims. They’ll work with your DNA only. You can’t even swap them among each other.” She handed each one to the salmon, careful to make sure she didn’t get them mixed up. “All you’ll be able to do is suppress your pattern. They’re not communicators, they’re not teleporters. I left the clock on there, but that’s it. They’re all juiced up, and should last you centuries. You’ll probably have to transfer your consciousnesses to other substrates to survive that long anyway.
“Thank you,” Lucy said graciously.
“Thanks to all of you,” Kostya added.
“The seer did not predict any of this,” Oliver said.
“I’m sure they saw it coming,” Leona figured. “They just didn’t tell you about it. They like to withhold.”
Skylar frowned, and hastily attached her cuff to her wrist. “Put them on,” she ordered the other three. Put them on now.”
“It’s okay,” Leona said. “There’s no rush. I mean, it’s fine, but...”
“It’s not fine,” Skylar said in an apologetic tone. “We’ve been withholding as well. We can’t get you back to the main sequence. That’s never been something we could do. We probably would have had migration with those kinds of capabilities. Our technology has grown, since we sped up time to match that of true Earth, but we didn’t advance as fast as them, I’m sure. I’m sorry, we lied.”
The team smiled. “We know.”
“You do?” Oliver asked.
“We’re good at reading microexpressions,” Marie told them.
“You’re not mad?” Lucy asked.
“Don’t inspire anger in them,” Kostya advised.
“Really, it’s all right,” Leona assured them. “We’ll find a way eventually.”
“Eventually has come!” came a voice from across the room.

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