Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 7, 2396

As soon as Mateo and Ramses jumped to April 7, 2396—or what passed for the date in this reality—the friend detector alerted them to the relative proximity of one of their people. They didn’t know which reality they were in, or who it was, but Mateo couldn’t help but feel hopeful that it would turn out to be Leona. He loved Olimpia, Angela, and Marie, but not like he loved his wife. “Is this going to work?”
Ramses sighed. “We may not have much time to think about it. I’ve done all I can to prepare. But if our target is in a hostile environment, it’s best that we get to her as soon as possible.”
“Then do it,” Mateo decided.
Scientists from the Parallel created these devices for them. The one that accessed other realities was originally designed to grapple onto the target, and pull them here. It wasn’t meant to actually go to that reality. But Ramses wasn’t satisfied with that. He wanted to leave the Parallel, and never come back. Mateo pointed out that they may still have to in the future. When Dalton separated them throughout time and space, there was no guarantee that they each landed nice and neatly in their own special pocket of the cosmos. It was neither predictable, nor necessarily evenly distributed. Leona could show up here ten years from now, or ten thousand. However, Ramses could tell that they were going to a different reality right now. Three realities, three years, each falling on a proper day on their pattern. That was a pattern in its own right. “Okay. Hold on.” He pushed the button.
It felt just as it had before, when Ramses pulled Mateo from the Fourth Quadrant, except in reverse. They were pushed across dimensional barriers, and gracelessly dropped at their destination. Mateo wasn’t knocked unconscious, but he suffered a terribly annoying headache, and was on the verge of retching. “Ow,” he said plainly.
Leona was hovering over him. She helped him off the floor. “Mateo. Do you know why we’re back here?”
“I don’t know where we are.” That wasn’t true. He looked around, and quickly realized they knew what this was. It was the wreckage of the Suadona, back in the Fifth Division. All that, and they were right back where they started. “Where’s Ramses?”
“I only saw you, but it was a blur. I’ve only just arrived myself.”
“Ramses? Ramses!”
A weak voice came from the other side of some debris, “here.”
They climbed over it to find their friend badly hurt. A metal bar of some kind had impaled him through the stomach, perhaps at his kidney. “Oh my God! What do we do?”
“We have to cut him out of it,” Leona determined.
“No,” Ramses said amidst the coughs. “Just pull me off.”
“That’s not how it’s done,” Leona argued.
“I’ll be fine, my body will heal,” Ramses insisted, “but it can’t do that until you get it out of me. Don’t worry about how much it hurts along the way. That will go away too.”
Though Leona never took the Hippocratic Oath, this still felt wrong. Even so, Ramses obviously knew more about these bodies than she did, so she chose to trust him. They carefully lifted him off of the spike, and laid him back down in a safe space. “What do you need? What kind of medical attention will help?” She opened her bag, and awaited a response.”
“I don’t need anything,” Ramses answered. “I’ve rested recently, absorbed sufficient amounts of sunlight, and consumed the necessary nutrients. I just need time.”
“Do we have time?” Leona asked.
“Matty?” Ramses prompted.
Mateo checked the friend detector. No one else was close enough to sense. “So far, so good. Just let your substrate do its thing, buddy.”
Leona was hesitant to leave him alone, but they needed to get out of the wreckage of the ship to assess their situation. There could be danger nearby. Perhaps this reality contained scavengers. They began to teleport around the ship to see if they could find any sign of more recent activity. “Report.”
“Dalton screwed up. He separated us. Ramses went to the Parallel, but didn’t travel through time. I stayed in the Fourth Quadrant, but jumped forward a year. You jumped two years, and came here. The others are theoretically elsewhere, and elsewhen. We may all have been sent to different parallel realities.”
“The math doesn’t check out,” Leona warned. “There are only five concurrent realities, and six of us.”
“How do you know that?”
“I’ve only heard of five.”
“Maybe there are more that you’ve never heard of.”
“We’re time travelers, Mateo. If anyone ever discovers a sixth reality, and if they ever return to report this development, that information can travel in both directions of time.”
“You had heard of the Fifth Division before we first came here?”
“Yes. I didn’t know anything about it, and I didn’t know we would ever come here, but it was a known unknown.”
Mateo thought about it. “What’s the last one; the one we haven’t gone to yet?”
“They call it the Third Rail. I don’t know much about it either, except that we’re—to some degree—not supposed to go there.”
“We’re probably gonna go there.”
“I know.”
“And there may be another one after that. There are a lot of things we don’t know about until we know them. I was at my own memorial service on Dardius. Billions of people were aware both of the fact that it happened, and that I survived it anyway. Like you said, information moves in both directions of time. Yet no one ever talked about it beforehand. As soon as I killed Hitler, and created the new timeline, somebody could have shown up to warn me about it, but they didn’t. They don’t tell us everything. That’s just one example.”
“You’re right. Just because information travels, doesn’t mean it’ll come to us.”
Mateo tilted his lizard brain, which given the fact that he was now genetically engineered, he shouldn’t really have anymore. “Do you feel that?”
Leona smiled. “Yeah, he’s not feeling any pain anymore.”
“When I was shot, it happened even faster than that.”
She shrugged, but made no attempt to explain the discrepancy.
Once they were finished checking the perimeter, they were about to go back to Ramses when a small ship approached them from the mountains. Its shape reminded Mateo of a container of floss. It was smooth and rounded, with no sharp corners.  “Let’s assume they don’t know about him, and stay here.”
“Of course.”
The ship hovered before them for a moment. Then lasers came out of it, and transported them inside against their will. Before them stood a man that only one of them recognized.
“Hello,” Mateo said politely. Rule number fifteen, don’t antagonize the antagonist. Except maybe he wasn’t an antagonist at all, what did he know?
“Hi, Mithridates,” Leona said a little less politely.
“I heard you left,” Mithri pointed out.
“We came back. It was an accident.”
“Well, you’ll be happy to know that I have not wavered in my promise to be an agent of peace in this reality. Rátfrid and I have been making real progress. Xerian Oyana of the Security Watchhouse Detachment absorbed the Dominion Defense and Offensive Contingency Detachments, and they have all been standing down. Unfortunately, the Warmaker Training Detachment detached again, and declared war on the rest of us, but I have faith in the future.”
“Glad to hear it,” Leona acknowledged.
“I would like to ask if you also kept your promise, or if you found a way to age yourselves up,” Mithri asked.
“No,” Leona lied. “It’s just been awhile for us since we’ve been here.”
He squinted at her. “You’re lying. Why are you lying to me?”
“I’m not lying,” Leona dug in deeper.
“It’s okay,” Mithri said with a kind smile. “I never specified you had to stay that way. Time travelers gonna travel time.”
“Thank you. It was just...”
“Impossible to have sex? I bet. That was the joke, but I’m older and wiser now.”
“Since you’re being so understanding, is there somewhere here on Earth where we might find refuge? It seems pretty desolate, but I haven’t exactly circumnavigated it.”
“I have a place you can hide,” Mithri said as he turned to the controls. “We’ll pick up the injured Mr. Abdulrashid before we go.”
“We’re hiding?” Mateo asked while Leona was making sure Ramses was okay after he was transported inside. “Are you expecting an attack of some sort?”
Mithri placed his hand on a big lever, but waited to pull it. “Rule number sixteen, when Team Matic is involved, always anticipate conflict.” He pulled the lever.
What he didn’t say was that he was taking them through a Nexus, and transporting them tens of thousands of light years away. They were on a world so deep in the void that it would still have been outside the Milky Way galaxy proper if the stars were as spread out as they were originally. It orbited a Stage Tau Gerostar, which in the main sequence would be called a blue dwarf.
Leona placed her hands on the glass, and stared at it like a long lost lover. “How is this possible? Wait, you must have accelerated time.”
“We have only been here for tens of thousands of years,” Mithri explained, “and it was waiting for us, as was the Nexus building that we just came through. Even if we had accelerated to one second for every year, we wouldn’t have had time to make this. It would have taken two hundred thousand years. Besides, we don’t detect any temporal energy around it. You can check for yourself.”
“Could someone please explain this?” Mateo requested. “Why is it a big deal?”
She stopped gazing to address her husband. “Mateo, that thing would have to be six trillion years old, or older.”
“The universe isn’t that old, is it?”
Leona scoffed. “”
“So how do we know a blue dwarf is even a thing?”
She sighed. “It’s science, Mateo, I can’t explain it.” She returned to gawking at the apparent anachronism. She surely could explain it, but she didn’t want to.
“It just looks white to me,” Mateo noted.
She growled.
“Is there somewhere I could rest?” Mateo asked Mithridates.
“Downstairs, pick any of the pods. Not the full-sized bed, that’s mine.”
Mateo giggled when he got down there. The sleeping pods along the wall were shaped just like the ship itself. The man must love to floss. Prestons were such an odd bunch. He wasn’t all that tired, so he just started snooping instead. There weren’t a whole lot of things to find here. The floors, walls, and ceilings were all white, and smooth. Pretty nondescript, he would say—aesthetically pleasing and classy, but not particularly interesting. That was until he opened the door to a pocket dimension. Inside was a full stable, with hay, and manure on the floors. He walked through it, peeking over the doors to see if there were any actual horses, but there weren’t. It wasn’t until he got to the last stable that he came across another lifeform. It was undoubtedly a centaur. She was saddled, but not wearing any other clothes.
“Oh, hello. Are you Mithri’s friend?”
“That’s a strong word,” Mateo answered. “I don’t really know him. Does”
“Does he ride me like I’m an actual horse?” she figured.
“My son is still in regular human form. This is how I get him around on our home planet. It’s only weird if you make it weird.”
“I don’t think it’s weird.” Mateo looked around the room. “Where is he, and where is your planet?”
“They’re in the same place. He’s at school right now. Mithridates agreed to help me get back to him after rescuing me from my captors.”
“You don’t seem that anxious about it?”
“My planet is safe, he’s fine.”
“I’m Mateo.”
“Delintza,” she returned.
“Delintza, we were to understand that consciousness transference isn’t a thing here, nor is cloning. No one realized after we had done it.”
“I’ve never heard of it either,” she said. “This is my real head and torso, and this was a real horse. A surgeon put us together.”
“Oh, so...the horse died? That doesn’t bother you?”
“No, why would I care? It’s just a dumb animal.”
The friend detector began to beep, which was good, because he didn’t want to have to get into an ethical debate with this stranger.
“What’s that?” she questioned.
“Sorry, gotta go.” He ran back upstairs.

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