Friday, February 24, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Year 222,398

Danica prepares herself, and opens the hatch to let Mateo out. He looks at her, then glances over to Curtis and Cheyenne. “I have a job for you,” she tells him. She hands him a tactical bag with the clothes and other gear that he may need. “Get dressed and meet us in the time machine room.”
“I don’t know where the new time machine room is,” Mateo says.
“I put it back where it was,” Danica replies. She takes Curtis’ left arm while Cheyenne takes his right. They all three teleport away.
Five minutes later, Mateo shows up, ready to go. “What’s the play?”
“After exhausting all other possibilities,” Danica begins, “I have decided to authorize a mission to the future to retrieve Bhulan Cargill.”
“Did Pryce tell you the exact date?”
“He did not,” Danica says, “but I was able to figure out how to trace it. He sent an object of roughly Bhulan’s mass to the temporal coordinates that I have already input in the machine for your mission. All you have to do is get her back into the chamber, and bring her home. If, for some reason, you cannot return to the future version of the machine, I’ve programmed it to slingshot you back after half an hour. As long as one of you is holding onto her, she’ll be pulled back with you.”
“Are you sure this is going to work?” Mateo questions.
“We’ve been planning this for three years, accounting for every possible obstacle, and coming up with every contingency. Curtis knows what to do. Follow his lead.”
“Okay, but she can’t go,” Mateo says, pointing to Cheyenne.
“Why the hell not?” Cheyenne and Danica question simultaneously.
“It’s no secret that I already knew Cheyenne when we first met,” Mateo says. “Just trust me that she is better off not being involved in this. I’m not saying she’s not capable, just that she ought to stay out of it.”
Curtis is ticked off, but he gets it.
Cheyenne is confused, but doesn’t feel comfortable advocating for herself, or maybe she just didn’t want to go anyway.
Danica has no choice but to trust Mateo’s words, and hope he’s not lying. Cheyenne volunteered for this job, but it only demands two people. Well, it really only needs one person, but Mateo is being sent to teach him a lesson, so he knows who’s boss, and obviously he can’t go alone, or he might just go off mission. “All right, Chey, sorry, you’re benched.”
“That’s totally fine.”
Yeah, Danica doesn’t think she was ever interested in this. It’s possible Mateo picked up on this as well, and that’s his entire reasoning. That’s the kind of thing he would do, if given the data. She really does need to cut him some slack. Until this, he hadn’t truly done anything wrong intentionally, and even this wasn’t an unreasonable choice. Besides, he didn’t technically do anything but teleport an empty stasis pod to the middle of outer space. Tamerlane is at fault here. He’s responsible for everything. “All right. Whenever you’re ready, I’ll pull the switch.”
Mateo and Curtis step into the chamber. “Go ahead,” Mateo says.
Danica pulls the switch, and they disappear. Ten seconds later, they return. “Report,” she orders as they’re stepping out, sans Bhulan.
“She wasn’t there,” Mateo answers.
Danica looks for confirmation from Curtis.
“She wasn’t there,” he concurs. “You’re the one who—”
“Don’t tell me anything about what I may or may not have done in the future,” Danica warns. He was obviously going to say that Future!Her will admit that Bhulan really doesn’t show up, suggesting that Tamerlane used a lie to cover up another lie.
“Sorry,” Curtis says.
“Thank you for trying. I have to go.” She starts to walk away.
“What are you going to do?” Cheyenne asks.
Danica turns around. “I’m resorting to Plan Z.” She leaves the room, but not before she shouts, “everyone out!”
Tamerlane has already been placed in a special hock of her own design, which the builders of this facility apparently did not foresee as being necessary. It has three levels. There’s a regular cell that operates in realtime. A stasis chamber moves faster, and the prisoner is free to choose when and when not to use it. The stasis pod, however, is mandatory when not activated. He can’t get out, and he can’t control the differential. He’s been in that level almost the whole time since she found out that he sent Bhulan to the future. He’s only been allowed out for interrogations, which have not gone well so far. He has given away nothing. He’s never going to be honest with her again. Bhulan will lose her control over the Omega Gyroscope, and until Danica can find a solution to the line of succession problem, there’s only one thing left to do.
He’s in the stasis chamber right now, so she switches off the differential, and opens the hatch remotely. “Come on out,” Danica demands.
Tamerlane does as asked. He is not showing any remorse whatsoever. “You tried to go to the future, didn’t you?”
“You lied to me. Again.”
“Where is she?”
“I can tell you, but you have to let me use the machine for myself...when the time comes. I must set the Gyroscope free.”
“I’m giving you one more chance to tell me where she is. If you don’t speak up now, you’ll regret it, I promise you that.”
“Not until power shifts. This is going to happen, and you can’t stop it. I don’t care how butthurt you are about it.”
Danica opens the gate, and doesn’t close it again. It doesn’t matter, it’s more for show. He’s wearing spatial cuffs, which means he can’t leave the immediate area, or get within two meters of someone else. “You made me do this.” She removes the Gyroscope from her bag as she steps into the chamber, and approaches the pod. She unlocks a secret shelf above the head, places the object inside, and locks it back up. “The minipod is special. It is simultaneously attached to the time inside, and the time outside, so we can keep using it, but you can’t ever be away from it, no matter how fast your differential is. Someone will always be in control. I control you, and you control it.” She once thought she would have to do something like this one day, but after the first few decades of realtime without him giving them any problems, she stopped worrying. She’s so disappointed. Perhaps spending a few decades in here will sober him up. Or maybe she’ll leave him there forever. She forces him into the pod. “Welcome to your new life.”

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