Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 9, 2398

Mateo is just driving a regular car, rather than the flying carboat—a form factor which definitely needs a new name, or at least that particular vehicle needs its own designation. This car he’s using today is not even Heath’s at all. Ramses and Leona pooled the money they made from their first paychecks at their three jobs, and put a down payment on a second one for the team. It’s an SUV that can fit all six of them, and then some. It just makes practical sense to have two standard forms of transport, even if two members will soon embark on a long-term mission with that third vehicle. Mateo didn’t tell anyone that he was leaving. Well, he leaves every day, usually to go to therapy, or the library, so the real problem is that he didn’t tell them where he was going this time. About halfway into the trip, Ramses evidently experiences a psychic vision, and decides to call him up on the video screen, which is overlaid on the windshield.
“You don’t need to know that,” Mateo replies when asked for his whereabouts.
“Something is wrong, I can feel it.”
“I thought we weren’t empaths anymore,” Mateo says.
“We shouldn’t be, but maybe our powers are slowly coming back. Or you’re drawing nearer to a location of great power, and that’s helping? Where are you?”
You tell me.”
“If I had to guess? Lebanon.”
“Close. Manhattan.”
“What’s in Manhattan?”
“It’s...on the way to Lebanon.”
“So I’m right. You’re hoping to get into the Constant.”
“I am, yes. It will be harder since it’s not the center of the country in this reality, so they won’t advertise the location, but the Constant was built billions of years ago. There is no reason to believe there’s not a version of it here, and if there is, it’s an hour from my current location.”
“We don’t know where the point of divergence was,” Ramses reasons. “Angela is still researching history. The Constant is a secret place, which could have been moved without anyone knowing.”
“Why would they do that?”
“That, sir, is an unknown unknown.”
“I’m gonna check anyway.”
“What are you looking for, the church above?”
“Why don’t these cars have autopilot?”
“I don’t know,” Ramses says.
They do have some advanced cruise control features, which allows Mateo to participate in a video call, and also reach behind his seat to struggle to lift a box up with one hand. “Can you..can you see that?”
“I see a box. What is it?”
“Ground-penetrating radar.”
“You’re just going to go to where you think the church would be in the main sequence, and search for signs of an access shaft?”
“Bingo was his name-o,” Mateo confirms.
“Why are you doing this? Why aren’t you just waiting until Heath, Marie, and Angela can get their affairs in order? Are you really this anxious for answers?”
He’s not doing it for himself, or even to get his people back home. It’s for Marie. The Constant was designed with all sorts of advanced technology, including medical equipment. They don’t need to trust an outsider if he can make contact with Danica. “If I can find my cousin, she can help us complete Marie’s procedure, and she can do it in such a way that it doesn’t leave evidence, and we know that she won’t rat us out. It’s a far better alternative than Croatia.”
“Why didn’t you tell us, or ask one of us to come with you? Do you even know how to use GPR?”
“I don’t know how to use GPR. It comes with instructions. I didn’t tell anyone, because I don’t want to spook her. She trusts me more than anyone, and I’m more likely to be invited if I’m alone.”
“That’s a stretch,” Ramses contends. “We’ve all been down there too.”
“And you will again one day,” Mateo promises. “Just not today. I’m not going anywhere. I’m just looking for help.”
“Fine. Just be careful, and stay in touch.”
“Okay. Thanks.”

Having spent a relatively small amount of time in the Lebanon area in the past, Mateo doesn’t know exactly where he’s going. He sort of has to take for granted the likelihood that the roads at least are the same. He starts in the town proper, then makes his way North, backtracking a little until he figures he has reached the correct crossroads. In the main sequence, the actual center of the U.S. is located in a rough triangle, rather than a four-way intersection, which makes it even harder to guess, but this must be it. It’s just about two miles from town, yeah, it has to be.
He removes the various parts of the radar thing from the box, and begins to assemble it. It takes him a few hours to get through it, at which point he finds himself too hungry to go on with the mission, so he stops to eat some lunch. Then he spends the rest of the sunlit hours scanning the ground, hoping to find any evidence that there’s something below his feet besides more dirt and rocks. He looks for landmarks on the surface too; perhaps an interesting tree, or a boulder. They don’t really have that second thing in Kansas, so it would be very out of place. He’s assuming that this version of Danica opted out of an entrance for normal people, and just teleports herself whenever she needs to, but there might be an emergency exit somewhere too.
The machine isn’t designed to just beep when it finds some kind of anomaly. It sends waves into the ground, which detect impediments along the way. This is how the machine measures density, and estimates composition. A picture of the soil below does begin to form on the data screen, but it’s incomplete until the entire data can be synthesized into a full image. He pretty much has to scan the whole area strip by strip before he can find out whether it’s found anything of note. He’s done with a good chunk of land when the sun sets, so he stuffs the thing back in the back, crawls into the passenger seat, and goes to sleep so the computer can continue its work. He’ll check it in the morning.

No comments :

Post a Comment