Friday, January 13, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 10, 2398

Ramses is getting a little frustrated. He loves this ship, but like they were discussing the other day, it’s a passenger vessel. It’s designed to keep a small crew alive while they travel to other worlds. It’s not equipped to handle the kind of science that he needs to do up here. The only logical places to try are down in engineering, and up in microponics, but that’s two separate levels, and it’s made even harder by the main level in between them, where all the normies are hanging out. They seem to be dealing with their own problems, most likely due to extreme boredom. The central computer houses a plethora of entertainment and interesting data to keep them a little busy, but that will only take them so far. They’re all going a little crazy, even with the more manageable numbers, and nothing is going to make it better...nothing unless Ramses can solve their problems by ignoring his own self-care.
Leona’s healing nanites are hard at work, though they’re operating slower than they would in the other realities. She should be fully functional by now, having no issue climbing up and down the steps. This is something that she’s struggling with, though, because she’s not at a hundred percent. Ramses doesn’t help her down, but he has his arms open underneath in case she falls. “How’s it going?” she asks once her feet are safely planted on the floor.
“Slow,” he replies. “I don’t have any resources, or data. What I really need are samples from the moon, or some other celestial object. Preferably both.”
She shakes her head. “We can’t be that far from orbit. We must maintain immediate access to Earth.”
He sighs, and throws up a holographic image of the planet. He points at it demonstratively. “There is—I think—a direct correlation between proximity to the surface, and magnitude of the suppression of our powers and enhancements.”
He’s getting frustrated again. “Don’t you see? After you and Mateo survived the vacuum of space, we hypothesized that the suppression originated from the atmosphere, but I think it originates from somewhere on the ground, and now we’re too far away.”
He sighs again. She knows exactly where he’s going with this, but she’s pretending to be on a different page. “To test this, I need to change orbit. We need to get farther from the hypothetical source on the surface. I think whatever it is is spreading some kind of aerosol through the air. The denser the air, the easier it is to spread.”
“Then you’re going in the wrong direction. What we need to do is send something all the way through the atmospheric levels, and gauge how the temporal energy fluctuates, if at all.”
Okay, he’s really frustrated now. “I need to do both. I need to know if it’s based on proximity alone, or the air.”
“We’ve already tested that. We’ve been all over the world, across thousands of kilometers. Now we’re only a few hundred kilometers away. Does anything change across our orbital path? Can you pinpoint a specific source, like a city, or an island?”
“No, I’m just trying to cover all of our bases.”
Now Leona is the one who sighs. “I’ve been saying that I want our team to be more of a democracy. I have made too many decisions as captain.” She contorts her face sarcastically, and puts the word in airquotes. “We voted, you lost.”
“You swayed the votes.”
“That’s what campaigning is, it’s not unethical!”
“You swayed captain!”
“Arcadia, Vearden, and Cheyenne do not have the same sort of visceral reaction to my leadership as you and Marie do. I was never their captain.”
“Stop doing airquotes! Why are you doing that? You are the captain.”
“It’s a meaningless title that you all just bestowed upon me, because there was no one else around to do it. It’s your ship, you would be better suited, except you’re busy keeping it from blowing up, and killing us all.”
“It’s not meaningless. You didn’t get the position by default. You were born with those leadership skills. Everyone agrees with that, including Arcadia, Vearden, and Cheyenne. Stop selling yourself short. There’s a reason why normal ships aren’t democracies, because we don’t have time for that!”
“Why do we keep yelling compliments at each other!”
“Because I’m tired, but I don’t have time to sleep, because there’s too much to do, but I don’t have a real lab, because that’s not what the AOC is for!”
“You need a spacelab,” Leona notes quietly.
“I need a spacelab,” he echoes.
She nods. “Let me see what I can do.”
“What would you be able to do? We can’t make this ship any bigger.”
“Can’t we?” she asks rhetorically.
Ramses takes a beat to answer, but then does so seriously, “no, we can’t.”
“But can we?”
He waits a longer time this time. “No,” he repeats.
“I’ll see what I can do,” she paraphrases herself from before. “Anyway, I came down to show you what I’ve been working on. I’m a scientist too, if you’ll recall.”
He follows her up, but they have to pass through the main level first. The other four are staring at them. “Are mommy and daddy done fighting?” Arcadia asks.
“For now...” Leona replies mysteriously.
They continue up to the next level, where she opens the hatch to the airlock antechamber, and then the one for the airlock. Mateo is standing there with a smile.
“Is everything okay?” Ramses asks. “Those temporal energy injections are supposed to be for emergencies only.
“Everything is fine,” Mateo says. “I’m not really here, I’m a hologram.”
“Oh.” Ramses looks up at the holographic projects that Leona installed. “Cool.”
“It’s more than that.”
“I see that.” Ramses sees some objects that are not projectors. “What are those?”
“Magnetic field generators,” Leona replies. She places a hand on Mateo’s shoulder to demonstrate how he feels like a physical presence, instead of just light.
“A real life holodeck.”
“So this is more for you, wouldn’t you say?”
Leona takes a beat. “Yes.”

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