Saturday, September 10, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 8, 2398

The stranger was just as nervous as Team Matic was, because they were strangers to him too. They didn’t have much time to get to know each other before The Olimpia started suffering from some major problems. They started falling out of the sky, causing them to become weightless, making it harder for Ramses to reach the controls that he needed. He was able to slow them down long enough to keep from crashing so hard it killed them, but they still hit the ground hard. They might have indeed died if they hadn’t landed on snow. As it turned out, they were very close to the North Pole, which wasn’t exactly the plan. Ramses was just trying to get out of Birket airspace. Navigation using the temporal engine is still a little difficult.
They’ve been here since yesterday, doing everything they can to stay warm despite failing systems all over the vehicle. The doors are still closed, and since it’s summer, the solar panels are at maximum efficiency, but they won’t survive here forever. “What do you know about this area?” Ramses asks their new friend, Amir.
“I don’t know much,” he replies.
“Well, are there any research stations nearby, or what? I don’t see anything on the map, but there’s gotta be something.”
“Why would they build anything all the way up here?” Amir asks. He’s trying to wrap his mind around this whole thing. One second they were in the Middle East, and now they’re on the top of the world. He explained how he met Leona and the rest of the team, but they never clued him into all the time travel stuff. Well, they mentioned a few things, but he just figured they were talking in metaphor, or something. He didn’t take anything they said seriously. Now he does. Now he has proof. Now he can’t deny it. And he’s implied that it’s opened his eyes to a few things he experienced in his youth. “It’s too cold.”
“Well, that’s—” Angela begins, confused. “That is why they would be studying it. They would want to understand the cold.”
Amir is even more confused than she is. “Cold is cold. This place has snow and ice. I mean, what more do you wanna know?”
They don’t know how to respond. Mateo definitely can’t explain the purpose himself. When he’s heard about Arctic and Antarctic bases in the main sequence, he has always just accepted that the scientists in question have good reasons to do what they do. The fact that the people in this reality don’t seem to value such study isn’t inherently problematic, though I’m sure Leona would have some choice words to say about it. The real issue is that Ramses didn’t sleep last night as he was trying to figure out how to get out of here, and if they’re all alone, their situation may ultimately prove helpless. Shaking his head, Ramses gets back to work, but has to take a break after only another hour.
“I think we need to talk about the elephant in the room.” They’re sitting in the main cabin together.
“Who, me?” Amir asks, thinking it’s obvious.
“What? No, you’re cool. Leona trusted you, we trust you. I’m talking about that stuff out there.” He looks at the viewscreen, which is showing them the horrid winterscape outside. All the real windows are closed to insulate them better. They won’t freeze to death anytime soon, but every little bit they can do to save energy is best.
“Well, we have plenty of water. As long as we can melt it, we’re fine,” Angela says.
“Not that either,” Mateo replies. “I’m talking about the special water, which is about eight kilometers that way?”
“Oh, Invincibility Water,” Ramses says.
“Does invincibility mean we can’t get cold, or does it just mean we can’t get hurt.”
Ramses narrows his eyes. “Neither. Invincibility means that you can’t get injured. Body water, I realized, means that you wouldn’t feel pain. As for the cold, I’m not sure if any of the waters do that. The pain and temperature receptors in the body are different things. Perhaps that would go away if you combine them properly?”
“Oh,” Mateo utters.
“It doesn’t matter, Matty,” Ramses goes on. “Invincibility water only works on the winter solstice. We’re nowhere near that date.”
“But you’re out of the Energy water that Leona threw us, aren’t you? Every jump seems to use up all you have, but you could synthesize Invincibility water to replace it.”
“I have a few samples left, though you’re right, not enough to help us. I don’t think the Invincibility water would help either, as I’m not sure the Olimpia can make it all the way to civilization in one piece, via teleportation or air travel.”
“We don’t have to get the Olimpia to civilization,” Angela offers. “We just have to get ourselves there. You don’t have to inject the Invincibility water into the engine if you can inject it into us.”
“Yeah, that was a plan I had a long time ago,” Ramses begins, “when I first began my research. The problem is that I’m not a doctor, I’m an engineer. Building the engine from scratch was easy, but figuring out how to bind the temporal energy to our cells is entirely different, especially since something stripped us of our powers.”
“You did it before,” she points out, speaking of their clone bodies.
“I had a lot of resources in the Fifth Division,” Ramses counters. “Time travel is all but impossible here. I’m not working from scratch. I’m working with one hand tied behind my back, and the other only has one finger left, and I’m blind and deaf, and—”
“We get it,” Angela stops him, “it’s hard.”
They sit in silence for another few moments. “What is the nearest spot of civilization?” Mateo finally asks.
Ramses sighs, having trouble keeping his eyes open. “That would be Vertegen, Norway. It’s about eleven hundred kilometers from here.”
“You say we can’t fly, but can you make this thing float?” Mateo questions. “Even if it’s slow, can you get us down there eventually?”
“Yeah, maybe with some help with the manual labor.”
“I can do that,” Mateo promises.
“I as well,” Amir volunteers.
“We’ll follow your lead,” Angela adds. “We’ll start after you get some sleep.”
Ramses struggles to stand up, but he can’t even get out of his seat. “No, I can do it. Just give me a second.”
“Okay,” Angela says understandingly, because she knows it won’t be an issue. Once Ramses falls asleep, Mateo takes a sip of the Energy water, and uses his slightly heightened strength to carry his friend up the steps, and into the real bed. He then goes back to his cubby to get some sleep himself, as do the other two. Come the next day, they start to work on effecting repairs. They’re in this for the long haul.

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