Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 17, 2398

Everybody found their own room, and slept in The Constant that night. They didn’t make any plans for the next day, but it seemed as good a place as any. They stayed close to each other, even though they consisted of two parties of strangers. The next day, with nothing better to do, Ramses and Leona start looking into the database, or what’s left of it. There’s a lot still here, but it becomes clearer the more they look through the directories that a lot of data has been stripped. When Danica left, she knew someone else could find this place one day, and she didn’t want them to have access to certain information. The fact that she didn’t just run out all of the sudden, or die without warning, was already obvious. She had the wherewithal to seal up the top of the main elevator, and dismantle the elevator car itself. If she recorded some kind of log that might give them an idea why she’s no longer here, she took that with her too.
The little girl, Trina runs into the room, holding a small black box. “What is this thing?”
Leona isn’t paying her any attention, so Ramses takes it from her, and looks it over. “I have no idea? Wait. It looks like some kind of magnetic memory storage device.”
Leona turns her head. “It’s a video cassette tape.” She turns back.
“Where did you get it?” Ramses asks Trina.
“I think it was a library, but this is the only thing that was in it.”
Now Leona’s interested. “How big was this library?”
“Like, four stories tall, and maybe endlessly long?” Trina ballparks.
“And that’s the only thing you found?” Leona presses.
“Yeah, it was in this thing.” She hands Leona the case.
Jim Carrey is dreaming of himself lying on the snow next to Kate Winslet. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”
“Is it a movie?” Trina guesses.
“Is it good? It must be good if they cleared out the entire library, except for this one thing.”
“Did you find it fallen on the floor, as if someone had dropped it, or still sitting on the shelf?”
“It was on the first shelf I saw when I walked in, facing the door. I looked through several aisles. They were all empty.”
Leona and Ramses give each other a look, but they’re not thinking the same thing. “Computer, where do you keep the VCR?”
The computer doesn’t respond vocally. It just lights up the floor and walls to lead them down to the legacy technology sector. Leona follows it, and Ramses and Trina follow her. They find the VCR already connected to a box TV, rather than tucked away somewhere. She expects to blow dust off of the top, but it’s perfectly clean. There’s a robot in here somewhere who’s been maintaining the bunker. Leona inserts the tape, and presses play.
I love you,” says Joel.
Meet me in Montauk,” Clementine whispers back.
That’s it. It’s stuck between 1:30:50 and 1:30:55, repeating those two lines over, and over, and over again. The tape keeps skipping. Ramses thinks he might be able to fix it, but Leona stops him. “It’s a clue.”
“It’s a clue for what?”
Leona pauses the video, and echoes the last line herself. “Meet me in Montauk. Meet me in Montauk.”
“Does that mean anything to you?” Trina asks.
“That sounds like a city. Is that where we’re meant to go?” Ramses questions.
Leona tilts her head, considering the words, and what they may mean in a more figurative sense. Thinking she has it figured out, she runs off. The other two follow her again, down the hallways, and into the main living area. Heath, Alyssa, and the boys are already there, chatting about this and that.
“Is everything okay?” Heath stands up to help in whatever way necessary.
Leona ignores him, and heads straight for the corner of the room. She stares at the wall. “Where’s that sledgehammer?”
“Why do you need it?” Heath asks.
She just turns to him and scowls. He’s not really in a position to question her. Intellectually, she knows she shouldn’t blame him—that it could never have been his idea to use a time bullet to blow a hole in a concrete ceiling five kilometers up—but she can’t help but be angry at him anyway.
He steps over to the main elevator shaft, and retrieves the sledgehammer.
“Rambo,” Leona says, “he’s still recovering. Could you do the honors?”
Ramses accepts the tool from Heath. He gets in position, but doesn’t swing. He places the business end against the wall that she’s staring at. “Right here?”
“Yes,” she orders.
He does as he’s told, bashing the hammer against the wall over, and over, and over again. The facility is constructed out of metal, probably graphene, and maybe other metamaterials. There’s no wood, or even brick anywhere. They wouldn’t last very long. Why is this made out of wood? Once he’s gotten through, they find a door on the other side. He knocks the last of the wall out of the way, and wrenches it open. A light flickers on to reveal an upright stasis pod. There’s only one reason to design a pod like that, and it’s if the user is literally kept in stasis. Time is probably moving at infinitely slow speeds, so almost none will have passed since they stepped in. As long as you have power, it’s the only way a normal person could survive for many thousands of years, if not longer. Other methods allow for too much aging, radiation poisoning, and other failures.
Leona uses the touchscreen to command the pod to open. When it does, Mateo steps out. “You’re here!” she exclaims. “You’ve been here the whole time?”
Mateo takes her by the shoulders, and pushes her out. He looks around the main living area to take stock. “Is everybody who came down here in this room right now?”
“What? What are you talking about?” Ramses asks.
Mateo screams in his face, “is everyone here!”
“Then run!” Mateo sprints across the room, to the little secondary elevator. He holds the door open, and ushers everyone in one by one. First Leona, then Ramses, Trina, Carlin, Moray, and Alyssa. Heath and Mateo squeeze in last, making it a very tight fit. But it’ll be worth it. Mateo pops open the firefighter access panel with a flathead screwdriver that he has in his pocket. He reaches in, but waits. “There are more people in here than I thought there would be. Make sure the young ones are in the middle.
Moray has to adjust a little, but it’s about as good as they’ll do.
Mateo pulls the switch. They shoot upwards, faster than any elevator should safely move. They can feel the g-force desperately trying to squish them into the floor. But it’ll be worth it.
“Oh my God!” Heath shouts.
“Whoopee!” Trina cries.
At some point, the elevator car starts to tip over. Everybody begins to yell in fear, even the little one, because they’ve reached the surface, and now they’re coming back down. They don’t crash, though. They can feel themselves bouncing, rolling, bouncing, and rolling. When the ride finally ends, the door opens automatically, allowing them to see the giant air bags that released automatically, which are now gradually deflating.
“What the hell was that?” Leona demands to know.
Before Mateo can say anything, they hear a boom. A plume of dirt rises into the sky. He runs over, and the rest are compelled to do the same. They hear rushing water as they near the road, and after they get over the hill, they can see the crater. It’s filling up with water, resourced from pipes that they barely have time to see before they’re covered up.
“I say again...what the hell was that?” Leona repeats.
Mateo catches his breath. “It’s Danica Lake.” He falls to the ground, and passes out.

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