Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 8, 2397

Leona was frustrated to have to leave the blue dwarf, but one of their friends was out there, and they may really need their help right now. Besides, it would seem that traveling across realities could be easier than they thought before, so perhaps one day, they could return for her to study it. The truth was that she didn’t really need to study anything. Information on it was probably in a database somewhere, having been discovered long ago. She just wanted to live around it because of how crazy it was. The time to dwell on it was past, though. They were about to jump to another reality.
“We’re all synced up,” Ramses said, checking his Cassidy cuff. “Everybody ready?”
“Good to go.”
They jumped. It was as jolting as the last two times, but they knew what to expect this time, so they all landed on their feet. They were in a dark room. Men with suits immediately took them by the arms. “Sir, there’s more,” one of them said.
A man who was trying to walk out of the room turned around and sneered at them. “Bring ‘em too,” he instructed in a graveled voice.
“By order of Captain Waldemar Kristiansen, Eighth of Eight, you are being detained for questioning. You will be escorted to primary hock, where you will await further direction. Resistance will be met with fatal violence. Please, please...” he begged, “resist.”
While the members of the team were not capable of psychic communication, they could feel each other’s emotions, and there were other practical applications to this. When one of them began to teleport, the rest could feel that too. Ramses did this, not to escape, but to see everyone else’s reactions. Leona’s emotions indicated that they should not try to jump. They were presumably on a moving vessel, and they were unfamiliar with its layout. These substrates were designed to survive, so even if they ended up in the vacuum of space, it wouldn’t kill them. But unless they retained momentum, they would quickly fall out of range, and wouldn’t be able to return, so just for now, they would do as they were asked. The good news was that they could feel Angela. When the men dragged them out into the hallway, they could see her too, also being dragged towards hock.
The men carelessly pushed them into the cell. “Sorry for the poor accommodations,” one of them said after the others had walked away without a second thought. He used a sarcastic tone at first, but then he made sure his compatriots were out of earshot. “We’re just...kind of full right now. The ship wasn’t designed to hold so many political prisoners. Whoever you are, you have to find out how to get out of here. If even one more person gets arrested, they’re going to kill them. Or maybe they’ll kill the oldest prisoner, I don’t know. We just don’t have the space anymore, and no one wants to spend the resources keeping people like you alive. So tell them what they want to know, and be good. It will probably take them a week to get to your interrogation, so hopefully no one else will screw up.”
“Thank you,” Mateo said to the boy.
“Our cuffs,” Leona said simply.
The boy shook his head. “You’re not getting your devices back. Teleportation is illegal, and they’re going to assume that they contain subversive media.” He closed the door and left without another word.
“He may sound nice,” came the voice of a stranger in the cell with them, “but...he still works for him, and that was his choice.”
Leona stepped forward. “Captain Leona Matic of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”
“I know who you are. Those morons would have recognized you too if they spent a little more time in history class. My name is Kaison Summerling.”
“What are ya in for?” Ramses asked.
“Possession of subversive media,” Kaison explained. “I was once Captain. I stepped down due to accusations of nepotism, but now I wish I hadn’t, because I would not have selected Kristiansen as my successor. And he’s aware of that, so I’m public enemy number one.”
“This is Extremus, isn’t it?” Leona asked.
“It is,” Kaison confirmed.
“That ship from Gatewood that Omega created?” Mateo asked.
“He didn’t create it, but yes,” Leona said, “we were there when he showed up at the lounge to plant the seed of this idea. It wasn’t supposed to go down like this.”
“No, it wasn’t,” Kaison agreed. “Things are only going to get worse. Did they call the current captain Eighth of Eight in front of you?”
“They did,” Angela answered, not thinking much of it.
By the end of this mission, there are supposed to be eleven total—rest in peace, mother. Kristiansen doesn’t ever plan on stepping down. Of course, nobody knows that, or they would get rid of him. There’s only one reason they let you hear that that’s the plan.”
“They’re going to kill us anyway,” Mateo figured, having seen a movie in his life.
Kaison nodded. “This isn’t a hock; it’s a morgue.”
Leona began to pace. She pushed her feelings to the other three. They were just as unsure as her. “We might be able to help.”
Kaison sighed. “Oh, you definitely can. You could teleport us right out of here since it’s part of your biology, and not something that can be switched off by central control. Then you could rescue all the other prisoners, and help begin our revolution.”
“But you’re not going to let us do that,” Angela realized.
“It would only fuel their hate. A revolution is nothing without the people in revolt. If we all break out of here, he’ll argue that that’s all the more reason he should just kill every seditious actor. You’ll give him the best excuse ever to wipe us out.”
“We have to escape either way,” Mateo pointed out.
Kaison understood. “The four of you do, yep. I don’t know what you got going on, but I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that your roster isn’t complete.”
“How do we leave without causing you problems?” Leona asked.
Kaison crossed his arms, and thought about it. “How strong are you?”
“Pretty strong.”
“Strong enough to break down that door?” Kaison questioned.
They all looked to Ramses, the engineer of their bodies. He stepped over to the door, and tested out its integrity. “Yeah, with a little time. I mean, no one here is as strong as Superman, but it could be done. Why would we, though, if we can teleport?”
“That would cause us problems,” Kaison said. “I’m brewing a plan, but...”
“But we’re not gonna like it?” Mateo guessed.
“I don’t know you well enough to answer that, but I wouldn’t call it foolproof, and I sure wouldn’t say it’s safe.”
They waited until it was closer to midnight central before making their move, using the time to get a little rest, and fill Angela in on what she missed. Mateo and Angela started punching and kicking the door, occasionally looking out the little food opening to make sure no one was coming to stop them. As much as these security guys loved to arrest people, they weren’t very careful with them once it was done.
Leona was regarding Kaison as he watched them slowly break down the door. “You’re coming with, right?”
“I’m afraid I can’t.”
“If you tell us where on this ship is safe, we’ll get you there.”
“No. I either die a martyr, or I live long enough to help the cause. Running isn’t going to save my people. The former would be better than anything, but my guess is Kristiansen would keep my death quiet, as he’ll keep what happens today quiet. It’ll be too much of an embarrassment. The upside for us is he can’t use it as a justification to round up every dissenting voice.”
“Okay,” Leona said, knowing there was no point in trying to convince him.
“In fact, if you could knock me out cold, that would be great. I’ll make something up about trying to stop you. He won’t let me go, of course, but it could earn me a few brownie points. They might even let me have an e-reader.”
“Thank you...Captain Summerling.”
He laughed. “Not a captain. Maybe I’ll start going by General.”
“We’re out,” Mateo announced. They were one kick from breaking the latch.
Leona turned her head, and frowned. “Good luck with your revolution.” She reached back, and punched him in the jaw. Then she strode over to the door, and gave it the final kick before leading her team towards freedom.
According to Kaison, the hock was equipped with an airlock in the floor. It wasn’t a very good escape option for normal people, because there weren’t any spacesuits anywhere around here, but that was fine with them. They just needed to make it look good. He didn’t have anything to write with, so he did his best to describe the layout of Extremus, and told them where they could go.
They weren’t going to have much time. At reframe speeds, jumping out of an airlock was indeed going to do what they feared before. They would pretty much stay put while the ship continued on its journey faster than light. They weren’t exactly in hyperspace, but it did kind of operate like that. The warp bubble was wrapped tightly around the vessel. Leaving it meant losing momentum. Since they weren’t wearing their Cassidy cuffs anymore, they couldn’t sync up as they normally would. Leona was going to be in charge. She would control the teleportation, and the others would surrender to her mind’s decision, using their empathy to link their simultaneous jumps.
When the outer doors of the airlock opened, the air disappeared, but it didn’t suck them out. They were still standing above the opening, preparing themselves. Their nanites automatically placed themselves at action stations to keep their hosts alive. When Leona was ready, she pulled them all downwards, and out into the cold. Mateo smiled and waved at the camera recording them from the corner. Just as space was trying to sweep them away, Leona engaged teleportation, and delivered them to the safehouse.
It wasn’t so much a house as another darkened room. There wasn’t anything in it except for a bench along the wall, and an extraction mirror in the middle of the room. “Did he tell you this was in here?” Angela asked as she was admiring it.
“He said it was an extra bridge that they used to use to pilot the ship,” Leona answered. “I don’t think this is that. Like I said, teleportation is hard to navigate in an unfamiliar place. Sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Mateo said. “There’s no one else here, we’re fine.”
“We still need to get our devices back,” Ramses pointed out, “but...I like this as our exit strategy.”
“Okay,” Mateo said. “You all stay here. I’m going to retrieve them for us.”
“No, we go together,” Leona demanded. “We promised each other.”
“It’s irrational for us all to get caught,” Mateo reasoned. “If anyone tries to get through that door, you go through that mirror. Can you do that for me? Can you save yourselves? Can you...not argue with me about it?”
Leona stared at her husband. “You heard where the evidence room is?”
“Hurry back. And be quiet.”
“Stealthy is my favorite of the eight dwarves,” Mateo revealed.
He jumped, and to his surprise, he was exactly where he wanted to be. He was in the narrow aisle between two shelves. They were filled with tons of stuff, but mostly personal teleporters. He looked around for some semblance of organization, but could find nothing of the sort. Nothing was labeled, nothing was grouped. Everytime they confiscated something, they obviously just threw it wherever they found space. So he just started walking up and down. Nothing. He passed by another door, where he could see a woman sitting at a table. The dimensional traverser was sitting open on the table, and she was preparing to do the same thing to the friend detector. He opened the door. “Stop! What are you doing?”
“They asked me to figure out how these things work,” the woman answered.
Mateo picked up the lasso device. Wires and other parts were hanging out of it, and he knew he could never fix it himself. He shook it in her face. “I need to make sure every single miniscule part is here, whether it’s attached where it’s meant to be, or what.”
“It’s all there. Just...sorry.”
He peered over, and saw a chain around her ankle. “You’re a prisoner too.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“Then you know that I’m a survivor, and I can get you out.”
She stared at him a moment. She grabbed a toolbag, dumped out the tools, and swept all the parts of their devices into it. She reached out to him. “Let’s go.”
“You’re not leaving anyone you love behind?”
“No, he...he’s gone.”
Mateo reached down, and yanked the chain away from the table leg. Then he accepted the woman’s hand, and transported back to the extraction room.
“What the hell is this?” Ramses asked after Mateo handed him the bag.
“Can you fix it?” Mateo asked.
“In the next few minutes? No. Everything’s fine, it just...”
“It just what?” Angela asked.
“I could send a message across the dimensional barriers, but we won’t be able to cross over,” Ramses replied.
“What happens if we just wait a year?” Angela suggested.
“They’ll be waiting,” the woman contended. “They’ll have plenty of time to realize who you were, track your movements, and just be waiting for your return.”
“Besides,” Leona began, “we don’t have a cuff for her. Do you know where those are, by the way?”
“I didn’t see any cuffs,” the woman said apologetically. “I work on what they give me.”
“Don’t we have to wait until the next window opens up anyway?” Angela thought.
“Not technically,” Ramses said. “Before being taken apart, this thing could go whenever we wanted it to. We just wouldn’t necessarily be heading for a friend. It has to connect with the detector to accomplish that objective.”
“There’s a workaround,” Leona decided, looking at the mangled remnants of their device over Ramses’ shoulder. “Link it to the mirror. All you need is a portal, and that’s got one. Then you’ll have time to fix it permanently. Then we’ll go get the other two.”
“You can’t promise that,” Ramses said. “This ship has resources. We don’t know what we would be walking into.”
“We have to risk it.” Mateo placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder.
Ramses exhaled. “Okay, I’ll need your help, Lee-Lee.”
Mateo and Angela stood by while the other three got to work. The woman was just as smart and experienced as they were, and she noticed something. “Is this supposed to look like this?”
“Crap, that’s what I was afraid of. We’re running out of power.”
“By how much?” Mateo asked.
“We have one more jump,” Ramses determined. That was unacceptable. They had two friends missing. One more jump was not going to be enough. They had to find some kind of power source here, because there was no way to know whether they would be able to find one tomorrow. There had to be something on this ship...somewhere. Before anyone could come up with a solution, they were surrounded by a team of teleporting security officers.
“Uhhh...we don’t have time,” Mateo warned them. “Let’s just go through the mirror to any old place.”
“We don’t have time for that either,” Leona said.
“We can hear you.” It was the leader security guard from before; the one who sounded like he smoked. “You’re not going anywhere, except back to hock.”
They stood there frozen, not wanting to comply. The others could feel Ramses’ feelings, implying to them that they only needed to wait for midnight. It was all ready to go. They couldn’t just walk through the portal, though. These guys would shoot them as soon as they moved an inch. Except they never got the chance. One turned against the others, and shot them all dead before they could react. Then he took off his mask.
“Omega!” the woman cried, relieved.
“Come on, Valencia. Let’s let the nice people go home.”

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