Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 24, 2398

Mateo and Ramses made a conscious decision to not exit the Facsimile pocket dimension right away. This world has been abandoned for centuries, but certain things they know of were designed to stand the test of time—specifically, anything in The Constant. The version of the Constant in the Third Rail started out as the same as the one in the main sequence, but they split from each other at some point. There should have been two separate elevator shafts, two separate kitchens, two separate libraries, and two separate Danica Matics. The Facsimile, on the other hand, is an exact copy of the way the world was at its last save point, which was reportedly around Christmastime 2022. The only things that don’t get copied over are living beings, particularly people. Plants seem to do okay, but nothing that moves on its own was duplicated. They didn’t know who made the Facsimile in the first place, but they believe they met the man himself yesterday, who ended up being trapped there this whole time by The Cleanser.
Now they’re on their way to Lebanon, Kansas. It would have been a short trip, giving them plenty of time to return to the dimensional exit by the end of the day, except that there aren’t any working vehicles in the world. Nearly everything runs on fossil fuels, and gasoline breaks down over time. They could have found an electric car somewhere, but they wouldn’t have been able to charge it, because power stations run on...fossil fuels, and all the solar panels they happened to come across had fallen apart due to lack of maintenance. Bicycles still worked, though they couldn’t just grab two off the street. They had to first make their way to the nearest bike shop, and go all the way to the back, to the ones that had suffered the least amount of exposure from the broken windows.
They found some really good models, but according to Ramses’ calculations, the ride would take over 21 hours straight. It was the middle of the night, which made it more difficult to see, but at least they didn’t have to worry about traffic. They pedaled for a few hours, took a rest, then pedaled a few hours more. They kept going like this for the better part of two days, and they’re finally here. If there’s nothing underneath that can get them back to the exit in a reasonable amount of time, they’re kind of going to be screwed. The elevator has to operate, and they have to get down there for some help, and an advantage that they never could have hoped for before. If this doesn’t work, they’ll have to wait a whole other week until the next window opens. When they left, everything seemed fine, but a lot can happen in seven days. Things might have taken a huge turn, and it would only get worse. The moment of truth. Mateo presses the secret call button, and crosses his fingers.
“You know it won’t be another week, right?” Ramses says after they hear the motor humming through the walls. “It would be two more weeks by bike. It took us two days to get here, which was fine in the beginning, since we started at midnight, but now we’re starting late on the second day. When we get out of here, it will be the eighth of November.”
“That’s assuming we can’t get back home tonight.”
“Right,” Ramses agrees. The doors open, and he steps in. “This is a good sign.”
They ride all the way down to the bottom. The lights are already on inside, anticipating their arrival. “It looks empty.”
“Computer, report,” Ramses orders.
No response.
He shrugs. “Worth a shot.”
“We don’t have time to search.” Mateo breaks the glass with his shirted fist, and pulls the fire alarm. The alarm still works too. They take another break on the couches while they wait to see if anyone runs up from deeper in the facility. It’s a big place, it might take a person a while. After ten minutes, though, they’re just wasting time. Mateo cancels the alarm, and follows Ramses to the control room.
Ramses starts fiddling with the computer. “It’s blank.”
“What’s blank?”
“The hard drives; everything.”
“They’ve been wiped clean?” Mateo asks.
“No, this is more like how they would look if you bought the computer today, and haven’t used it yet. I guess there are some things that the Facsimile can’t copy.”
Mateo tilts his Mr. Spock brain. “This place is run by an AI, or it’s supposed to.”
“That would not be a living organism, but it would be a consciousness. If the Facsimile can’t copy people, it probably can’t copy other forms of intelligence either.”
“Hm. Yeah, you’re probably right. Damn, I was hoping to find some great tech, but I guess that’s not going to happen.”
“This place is huge. Surely there’s something we can use. Let’s go take a look around after all. We need to find some kind of car, or something, anyway.”
They each take a radio transceiver, and split up to search the premises, hoping to come across something both useful, and which they can take with them back to the Third Rail. But only Ramses is going to be doing that. Mateo already knows what he’s looking for, and he’s about fifty percent sure that it’s here. He goes back to the lounge area, and approaches the wall with the sledgehammer he found in the garage. Hoping that Ramses has gotten himself out of earshot by now, Mateo starts banging. It’s not long before he’s through the wall, and can reach the secret door behind it.
Ramses runs back in, having apparently heard one of the last swings. “What the hell are you doing?”
“What do you think?”
“There’s not gonna be another you in there.”
“Wanna bet?”
Mateo pulls the rest of the wood panels away, and opens the door. Inside is the stasis pod he was told he woke up in months ago in a different version of the Constant. It’s occupied, so maybe it’s not such a different version, is it?
“This is just going to make things complicated,” Ramses warns.
“He’ll remember what happened to him in the past. We need answers.”
Mateo deactivates the pod, and lets the other Mateo out. Fax!Mateo steps out. “Is everybody who came down here in this room right now?”
“Don’t worry about that,” the regular Mateo says. “It’s not going to implode.”
Fax!Mateo narrows his eyes at his other self. “Report.”
“No, asshole, you report. The memory of my time down here has been erased. Before it happens to you, you’re gonna tell us. What did you see? Who did you see?”
Fax!Mateo looks behind him at the pod control panel. “October 24, 2398. Sorry, it’s not time yet.” He runs off.

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