Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 27, 2398

Leona inhales deeply as she stands before the surprisingly small, nondescript building. She pulls in air so fast, it tips her backwards, into the car.
“Are you okay?” Mateo asks.
“I’m fine.” She doesn’t look away from her future.
“You got your phone?”
“Yes,” she answers.
“Call or text me when you need a ride back. I’ll plan to return here at 5:00 unless I hear otherwise.”
“All right, dear.”
“Were I you.”
“Sure, dear.”
“This is all you ever wanted, isn’t it?”
Now she finally turns to face her husband. “In another life...literally.”
Now he breathes deeply, and looks down at the car. “We’re right back where we started.”
She purses her lips into a tight smile. “I’ll see you tonight.” She can feel him watching as she walks up the steps. He doesn’t begin to drive away until she proves the door is unlocked.
Her key contact is eagerly awaiting her in the lobby. “Magnus Matic. It’s so nice to have you here. We’re all really excited to hear your thoughts on our projects.”
“What kind of projects would these be?” Leona asks.
“Not here,” Petra warns. She faces the security guard. “She’s with me.”
“I already have a badge,” Leona says. Whoops, she’s probably not supposed to yet. They didn’t think this through.
Petra doesn’t seem to care. “Okay.” She must assume that Denver made it for her.
She crosses the infrared barrier with own badge, and doesn’t even look back as Leona does the same using hers. They walk through several sets of doors—each of which requires their badges, despite the fact that there are no turn offs—before stepping into an elevator, which is open and waiting for them. There aren’t even any buttons to press, but there are security cameras in all four corners, as well as one where the buttons would normally be found, so someone must be operating it remotely. It feels like it moves pretty fast, but they’re in it for a really long time. They must be going many, many stories underground.
When the doors open, all they see is yet another set of heavy metal doors. Petra places her hands on the crash bar, but waits to push them. “Brace yourself.”
“Okay,” Leona says, sure it’s nothing she hasn’t seen before.
She’s right. Petra opens the door, and leads her down one more short hallway, then through an open blast door. They’ve walked into an expanse. A rocketship is towering above them. It’s maybe 150 meters tall. Petra’s not looking at it, but instead at Leona’s face, hoping for a profound reaction.
“Oh. Oh, wow,” she pretends to be impressed, though probably not convincingly.
Petra is the shocked one here. “Have you ever seen anything like this before?”
“No, of course not!” Oh God, more bad acting out of this dumb girl. Take some lessons, why don’t ya?
“Holy shit, do the Croatians have this kind of technology?”
What Marie and Heath decided after some thought is that Croatia in this world is a prosperous and fairly self-sufficient country. While Leona supposedly most recently conducted research in Denver, she came up in Osijek. It would be hard to disprove it. It fits nicely, because of her last name, but God forbid someone ask her to try to speak the Croatian language.
“What, uh...what is it? I mean, I know what it is, but what is it specifically designed for? Luna? Mars?”
Petra chuckles once. “Try Alpha Centauri.”
“Oh, okay.”
Petra scoffs.
That’s right, she’s meant to be amazed by all this. “I mean, that’s astonishing.”
“Magnus Matic! The fastest our current rockets could potentially arrive at the nearest star system would be four hundred years! This thing is engineered to get us there in half a lifetime. How have you not fainted by now?”
Leona looks over at her boss. Acting is not going to work, at least not in the way it should have from the start. Now she’s going to have to come up with a reasonable lie. “What is your form of propulsion?”
“Fission drive.”
“Ten percent of light speed, huh?”
“That’s right. Why? You think you can do better?”
Leona nods. “What you may not know is that I’ve spent a lot of time researching fractional theory. I can get you to at least 30 percent. I can get you fusion.”

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