Friday, October 21, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 18, 2398

Ramses looks at the time again, even though his hypothetical chronoceptor organs are operating at maximum efficiency, and he knows that it’s been around three minutes since he last looked, and also that Mateo isn’t due for another three minutes.
“How are we lookin’?” Winona asks. She’s about ten meters away, so everyone can hear her.
“No way to know until it happens,” he answers. Since Leona has been busy with her fusion work, Ramses has been consumed with harnessing the limited temporal power on this world. It’s the hardest job he’s had in his whole life, and it’s killing him. He barely sleeps, and eats too quickly, because every second spent holding food could delay progress. The problem is that his obsession has come with consequences. He rushed a teleporter out of the gate because he wanted to rescue Trina so badly, and now his best friend is stuck outside of the timestream. It was supposed to transport the site of the mine instantaneously, since that’s the whole point of teleportation, but he made a gross error in his calculations, and they ended up jumping forward two days. It’s not the first time that’s happened, and unless he gets his head out of his ass, it won’t be the last.
When The Constant imploded, it was replaced with a massive body of water, which Mateo called Danica Lake. He promptly passed out, and lost the memories that may have answered all the questions they had about the development, such as where the water came from, and why this happened at all, but that didn’t mean they were completely lost. With a little investigating, Ramses was able to learn that the water was there the whole time, just locked in an underground lake, and released from pipes by a series of valves. Those valves have been degrading over time, along with the pipes themselves, but they’re still there for now, and they can still be reversed, allowing some of the water to return to the ground. When the mine appears in the next two minutes, it’s going to displace billions of gallons of water, and if they hadn’t done something to prepare for that, it would have flooded the area. So really, the temporal delay was a good idea, and Ramses wishes that he could take credit for it. He never thought that Mateo would actually use the teleporter. It was only a last resort.
His thirty second warning alarm goes off. “Here it comes! Earplugs on!” When the lake first appeared, it made the news. Winona came up with a decent explanation for the public, which involved shifting tectonic plates releasing water from an underground lake, so it was almost half true. People have come from all over the world to see it, but while the filling of the lake was spectacular, it just looks like a regular body of water now, albeit shockingly deep for something in Kansas. The spectacle has since died down, and the last thing they need is to make another one. Fortunately, the agency team doesn’t have to cordon off the area to prevent people from witnessing the arrival. No one else is around. But they’ll probably hear it. He’s expecting a sonic boom.
Five, four, three, two, one, and...nothing. There’s no sonic boom. There’s no cloud of dirt. Maybe there was a little splash down there, but they can’t see it, because the water has been drained far below the edge to insulate them from that displacement issue, and they’re standing pretty far away. In cartoons, whenever the bad guy tries to shoot the good guy, the bullet either misses, or the gun just doesn’t go off, which makes sense, because these cartoons are meant for children, and not meant to be horrific. It’s perfectly okay for the bad guy to get himself shot, though—as long as it doesn’t kill him—and that’s usually what happens when he points the barrel towards his own face to figure out what’s goin’ on with the darn thing. Ramses knows that it’s a risk to stick his head over the edge, but someone’s gotta do it. What he finds there is a friendly face.
Mateo is treading water, and starts to swim over when he sees which direction to go. One of the military guys that Winona brought with her throws down a rope, and pulls him up. “Thanks,” Mateo says to him. He doesn’t look distressed, or scared, or anything. He’s perfectly okay, just a little wet. Well, he periodically grimaces as he’s standing there, but he must just be cold. He faces Ramses. “It worked. Nice. I guess you’ll have to get some divers down there to drag the bottom of the lake, though. Isn’t that what it’s called?”
“It’s not down there,” Ramses says.
Mateo looks down over the edge again. “Oh, no?”
“How do you know?”
“The water would still be moving, and be a lot higher. You are the only thing that came through the teleporter.”
“Oh.” Mateo squints. “Are you sure?”
“Damn sure.”
“Maybe it’s coming later. We’ve had trouble with delays before.”
“You’re already two days late.”
Mateo looks over at the frowny Alyssa. “I’m sorry. It was supposed to take the whole mine, not just me.”
“It did,” Alyssa tells him.
Winona steps forward. “National Intelligence Authority assets on the ground confirmed it. The would-be mine is gone. All that soil and rock went somewhere.”
“Or somewhen,” Marie advises.
Mateo nods, and grimaces again, but this time also leans forward, and reaches for his stomach.
“Are you okay?” Alyssa places a hand on his back.
“I’m fine. It must just be that Mongolian breakfast. They must have made it with a little citrus.”
“What does that matter?” Alyssa asks.
“It doesn’t travel well,” Marie explains.
“Really?” Winona asks. “You never told me that.”
“I was a non-traveler for four years. It didn’t occur to me to mention things like that, I suppose.”
“That’s not it,” Ramses contends. “There’s something seriously wrong with him.”
“Really, I’m fine,” Mateo insists. But he’s not fine. He lurches, and gets down on all fours, groaning in pain. He retches once, and twice. He looks like a cat trying to cough up a furball. People are standing around him, debating what they could do to help, when he does manage to cough something up. It’s a rock, but not just any rock. It’s a beautiful stone of many colors. It is red, and yellow, and green, and brown, and scarlet, and black, and ochre, and peach, and ruby, and olive, and violet, and fawn, and lilac, and gold, and chocolate, and mauve, and cream, and crimson, and silver, and rose, and azure, and lemon, and russet, and gray, and purple, and white, and pink, and orange, and blue. It could be tourmaline, but it’s probably timonite.

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