Saturday, July 16, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 13, 2398

It’s too much work. They tied a mess of rope to the ladder, and across the shaft to the metal beam things that were once used to transport the elevator car, back when there was an elevator in here. They still can’t figure out what happened to it, but it’s looking like they’re going to have to somehow build their own. Should teleportation stop being available to them at some point, they don’t want to have to climb up and down a ladder five kilometers at a time. Perhaps a slide? Or a staircase? No, none of this is at all reasonable. It’s just too much work, and neither of them is equipped to take on such an endeavor.
They still have plenty of work that has to be done either way, so they try not to worry about it while they’re digging. The soil level could be piled several meters thick, and they can’t dig straight down, instead opting for a ramp that people can actually walk down. After waking up the next day, having barely made a dent in the job, they decide it’s time to rethink this whole thing.
“Hasting,” Heath suggests without elaborating.
“What about it?”
“Stay with me here. Why doesn’t the ground over the elevator shaft just fall down into the hole?”
Mateo points over their heads. “Because of this ceiling,” he says, knowing that Heath is only asking to support his argument, not because he doesn’t know. They’re standing on a little platform that they installed to give them more room. It was the easiest part of yesterday’s work, drilling holes in cement while hanging over the abyss.
“Right. So what would happen if we took out the ceiling first?”
“I don’t know,” Mateo says, nodding his head. “I get where you’re going with this, but I’m not a civil engineer, or whoever would understand how this all works. Maybe the ground would fall in, or maybe not.”
“We have to break through this anyway. Might as well start from below. All we would have to do is extend this platform.”
“Uhuh,” Mateo begins. “And if there’s a platform, where does all the concrete and dirt fall as we break through it? And if it doesn’t work, and we still need to start digging from above, what happens to us when we destabilize it enough to actually cave in?”
“Oh, yeah.” Heath frowns. “This is impossible!”
They’re silent for a few moments, before Mateo remembers something. “Why did you bring up Hastings, Nebraska?”
“Oh, yeah.” Heath repeats himself, then shrugs. “It’s only thirty minutes away the way you drive, but we could rent a power chisel without anybody asking any questions.”
“Yeah, that’s one option.”
“What’s another one? Everything seems too slow.”
Mateo nods. “It’s gonna storm tonight.”
He rifles through his bag until he finds their salvation. He holds it between his fingers like it’s the most important find ever.
“It’s a bullet.”
“It’s a telebullet,” Mateo corrects. “It may just be all we need.” He smiles, dreaming of Shawshank.
“What does it do?” Heath asks.
“Usually, you shoot it at someone, and it instantly transports them to wherever you want.”
“Isn’t that something that you can do yourself?”
“Yes, but I can’t move a concrete ceiling and hundreds of cubic meters of soil and rock.”
“But that little bullet can?”
“Well, it can be more destructive, which should be enough to destabilize the ground, and cause a cave-in. Or, uh, not should, but could. Hopefully.”
“I guess we might as well try,” Heath figures, “as long as you don’t need that bullet for something else.”
“It’s like you said, I can teleport myself, but only at this special location. It has no other use in this reality. If we ever get back to the main sequence, I could always find myself some more, I’m sure.”
“All right, I’m in. I assume you mentioned the storm, because there could be thunder?”
“Yes, but the sound is not the only problem we have.”
“How does the bullet explode?”
“Well, I can make a little bomb. I assume it doesn’t have to be powerful enough to blast through a mountain.”
“I assume as much as well.”
Fortunately, Heath already owns a six-meter long ladder, stored in his flying carboat. They’re going to stop calling it that, as they’ve come up with a proper name. It will now be known as The Olimpia. Mateo carefully extends the ladder so that it’s resting on the ledge on the other side of the shaft, and ties everything up. He runs planks across it so he has somewhere to stand while he’s working. It’s absolutely not the safest thing in the world, but he has himself tied to the structurally sound emergency ladder with mountain climbing equipment, so it should be fine. It’s his job to drill a hole in the concrete ceiling while Heath rigs up a small explosive to catalyze the temporal bullet. This may not work at all, and it might be a waste of their time, but the way they see it, they either spend a couple hours on a lark before resorting to digging a hole by hand, or they skip it. Either way, the digging will cost them days, not hours, so this is hardly a digression.
While Mateo is constructing his safety platform, Heath goes out and buys a special long drill, and the ten-centimeter bit that they’re going to need, along with his own supplies. The hole doesn’t have to be pretty or clean. It just has to be deep enough to get to the dirt. According to their research, a normal ceiling should only be about twenty centimeters thick, but this one is twice that, presumably to support the weight of the ground above. That’s going to make it harder, but not impossible. That’s why he requested a super narrow drill. Once the hole gets started, it goes surprisingly quickly. Now all they can do is wait until the thunderstorm begins. They’re not sure how loud the explosion is going to be, so it’s best to muffle it as much as possible.
They’re in the middle of dinner when Thor’s battle against the God Butcher begins. They leave their dishes on the table, and run back to the would-be center of the country. Using radio transceivers, Mateo waits for a signal from Heath, who is counting thunder strikes. Once it’s time, Mateo lights the fuse, and tries to teleport out. For a split second, he’s stuck, and doesn’t go anywhere, so he’s afraid the temporal energy already ran out, but then the glitch disappears, and so does he. He meets Heath back on the surface just in time for the temporal explosion. Heath timed it perfectly with the storm, so Mateo feels compelled to give him a high five. At first, it doesn’t seem to have been enough. It definitely shook the earth, but nothing has changed from above. But then it does. The ground begins to sink. More, then even more, until it all caves in. It worked. Holy crap, it actually worked. They high five again.
Carefully, the two of them step over to the hole so they can get a look inside, every once in a while looking up to see if police cruisers are coming down the highway to investigate. They stomp on the ground to make sure it’s still stable, and it seems perfectly safe...until it doesn’t. The ground right under Mateo sinks. A normal person would probably reach out for help, but he has the opposite reaction. He’s died—or come so close to death that he would not have survived without time power intervention—so many times, it feels more natural to let it happen. Instead, he pushes Heath away with as much force as he can muster, which serves to pull him downwards even faster. He slips off the grass, and tumbles down the hole. He spreads his arms out, hoping to catch hold of the emergency ladder, the portable ladder, the little platform, the ledge, the rope web, or some other structure, but nothing meets his hands but dirt and other debris.
Finally, as he’s falling, he attempts to teleport himself to safety, but it would seem that the explosion used up all the temporal energy left in this place. There’s no way out. He’s going to actually die this time, and it’s so incredibly unlikely that someone created an afterlife simulation in this reality. It’s the end. As he’s falling towards his demise, he almost regrets no longer having his faith, but he appreciates that it wouldn’t change anything. Death is death, whether you believe in it or not.
Thirty seconds later, he reaches the floor, but it doesn’t hurt like it should. Did he get his invincibility back somehow? He thought they decided that was a separate phenomenon from the time power blocker. No, that’s not what happened. He didn’t fall hard on the floor, and just not feel the pain from it. He didn’t crash into it at all. It’s more like a magical force sucked out all his momentum, and materialized the floor millimeters under him. He’s landed safely as if he was never moving at all. He turns over, and sees a ceiling above him. This isn’t just the elevator shaft. It’s the elevator. It’s back. Or more accurately, he’s back. He’s obviously traveled to an indeterminate moment in the past. He sits up, and is about to stand up, when he notices people watching him from the main floor. One of them is Danica Matic. The other is Bhulan Cargill. And the Tamerlane Pryce.

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