Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Year 192,398

Danica personally opens Mateo’s pod after the usual 10,000 years. “Good news,” she says. “We found Bhulan, but I wanted to wait until your usual wake up time, so you could help us.” She steps aside to let him out.
“Help you with getting her back?” he assumes. “How long did you wait?”
“Consistency is efficiency’s neighbor. I waited 700 years.”
“Okay. How did you find her?”
“I sent probes throughout the entire growing solar system. It took them so long, because I couldn’t send very many. This is a very delicate dance, and any alteration in the gravitational forces that bind the growing planets and asteroids together could throw off the entire timeline. We’re not safe from screwing up the future just because we’re living in the Hadean aeon.”
“And why do you need my help? Could not one of these probes tow Bhulan home?” Mateo suggests.
“That is not their job, Matthew. That is your job.”
He yawns, because even though he’s been away for thousands of years, he has not been asleep. It’s been a couple days, and he’s due for a rest. She won’t let him do it. “Tell me where to go.”
Danica smirks. “Constance, drop down a hologram, please.”
The AI creates an image of the early solar system, initially showing where they’re located under the crust on Theia. It zooms out and pans over, all the way to the remote location of Bhulan’s pod, floating randomly in the middle of empty space. “How far?”
“It’s around eighteen million kilometers from here.”
Mateo’s confused. “You mean eight.”
“No, look.” Danica uses her minority report hands to pull the image out again. “Eighteen and change.”
“Danica, I can’t make it that far. I’m limited to the distance of the moon, which means that would take over forty-five jumps.”
“Then make forty-five jumps.”
“I can’t breathe in space. I can survive the vacuum for short periods of time, but teleporting shortens that period significantly. I barely made it there and back last time, and that was half the distance. I didn’t know it could have drifted that far, but it’s out of my reach. I get that you wanted to teach me a lesson, but I’m not a wizard.”
Danica takes him by the shoulders, and starts leading him towards the elevator doors. “You’re going to go out there and get my friend back, no matter how far you have to go. You’ll do this, even if it kills you, and if you don’t, I’ll kill Abigail and Cheyenne. I don’t know what future history you have with the latter, but it’s clear that she’s important to you. Don’t. Test me.” She slaps a handheld device into his hand, which will direct him on the intercept course, then she presses the call button. The doors open.
He scowls at her. “Congratulations, cousin. You’ve done it.”
“Done what?”
“You’ve lowered yourself to villain status. Now you’re on my shitlist.”
“That’s okay. Way the timestream tells it, all your enemies become your friends.”
“Try telling that to Erlendr Preston, or Tristesse Ulinthra.”
“Who the hell is Tristesse Ulinthra?”
“Exactly,” he replies as he’s turning around. He doesn’t bother stepping into the elevator, he just makes his first jump into the void.
Jump two, jump three, jump four...jump forty-seven. He’s not going to make it. The pull of death is calling to him, begging him to close his eyes, and let go. He does let go, but not of his life; just the tracking device. As it’s floating away from him, he sees it showing him at around 300,000 kilometers from his destination. One more jump would do it, but it will also kill him. Then again, so will hanging out here. He’s well over halfway there, so it’s not like he can cut his losses and go back. There aren’t any spaceships or habitable planets around here. His only hope is not just getting to the stasis pod, but inside of it. It was designed to hold one person, but surely two can technically fit in a pinch. Bhulan won’t be happy, but she’ll be fine, and more importantly, so will he. He musters the last of his strength, and pushes himself to the limit. Eighteen million kilometers and change.
He’s arrived, holding onto the edge of the pod, but it must be the back of it, because there’s no little window. Let’s just get around to the other side before we do anything rash. There we are. Wait, that’s not Bhulan. Who is that? Holy crap, it’s Curtis Duvall. What the hell is this guy doing out here and way back when? Ha, Danica is going to be so pissed when she finds out. This is great. It means that Bhulan is still missing, and probably will be for the necessary amount of time, or Constance would have found more than one. This is farther out than he left her, so now it all makes sense. It also means he’s about to die. That is, unless he can get himself into the pod, which actually looks smaller than the ones the Constant uses. One final jump.
Curtis wakes up with a start, and instinctively pulls the tube out of his nose. He’s not in temporal stasis, but in normal suspended animation. He’s been lying here for however long, aging incredibly slowly and asleep, but destined to die eventually, if never found. The Constant pods can supposedly last forever, but this was probably never meant to. Curtis gets his bearings, looking down to check if the two of them are accidentally touchin’ peen. “Umm...report.”
“This is the Hadean aeon. You’re floating in the middle of space, between where Earth and Mars will be.”
“Actually, I don’t know that Mars doesn’t exist by now. But Earth is composed of two different planets, which have not yet collided, but they’re already there, ready to do that in millions of years.”
“How did I get here?”
“No idea.”
“How did you get here?”
“Magic,” Mateo whispers, trying to wave his hands in front of him theatrically, but there’s not enough room to do that.” Oops, sorry.”
“Yeah. That was my...”
“Yeah, sorry again. Anyway, I teleported. I teleport millions of miles in space to save someone else. It turns out it was you.”
“Well, thank you.”
“No problem, but uh...It’ll be some time before I can get us back to safety.”
“Well, in the meantime, make yourself at home. There’s plenty of space.”
Mateo laughs.

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