Thursday, February 2, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Year 302,398 Part 1

One second. That’s how long Leona spends in the stasis pod that Danica forced her into. As soon as that door closes, she teleports out, and lands on the other side of it. To her left is Marie’s pod. She deactivates the stasis field, and opens it up.
“How long was I out?” Marie asks, fully aware that time inside is not the same as time outside.
“I don’t know,” Leona replies.
Marie takes a few looks around. “This isn’t where Danica put us.”
“No, you’re right, we’re in a different room. Our pods were moved in the last however long it’s been.” Leona starts fiddling with her pod’s interface. It’s surprisingly difficult to navigate. Opening Marie’s door wasn’t hard, but just getting a clock is near impossible. She’s tapped through several screens by now. There it is. “Ten thousand.”
“Seconds? Minutes?” Marie questions, knowing that neither of these is right.
Leona rolls her eyes. “I was in there for one observed second.” She starts to do the math in her head. “If one second equals ten thousand years, and we had four and a half billion years to go, then we would have had to stay in our pods for around five days, give or take a few minutes.”
“So, escaping was a mistake. We’re standing who knows where, ten thousand years after the solar system was created, and we would have been better off waiting.”
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” Leona replies. “There’s no timer on this thing. It wasn’t scheduled to open up in the future. Someone would have had to let us out.” She jerks her head around like a bird looking for a worm. “I think I know where we are.”
“Phoenix 15-236P7 Marathon-Algae-Temple.”
“That’s the place in the Oort Cloud where we were supposed to find Mateo?”
“Yeah, maybe Aquila was telling the truth after all.”
“That’s not hard to believe,” Marie says. “There’s a reason that Curtis absorbed her mind into his own brain, to keep her from saying more than she already had.”
“So Danica didn’t want anyone to revive us?”
“Maybe not until she was ready. This is a great place to get a couple of irritants off your back. She has plans down there, and we’re getting in the way. Everything we’ve been through since I arrived could have been a distraction. Heath, my work with the government, even Vearden showing up when he did. We keep looking for answers in all the wrong places.”
Leona finds a viewport, and opens the cover to reveal the stars, which are moving quite quickly, suggesting that the celestial body that they’re on is spinning. It’s actually spinning too quickly, because there is no artificial gravity. A normal person can’t tell the difference between artificial and real gravity, but she can. She has had experience feeling it, and working on the technology. This is a planet. It feels a little like Mars. The viewport is a hologram—it’s fake—and only there to give them the impression that they are isolated from help. She takes Marie by both hands. “Do you trust me?”
Leona teleports them away, landing them back by the large pool in The Constant. A mild alarm is going off. “Computer, please shut off that alarm.”
The alarm stops.
“How did you do that?”
“I don’t know, I shouldn’t be authorized. Computer, please disable all security precautions, and locate all other individuals in this facility.”
Security disabled. All current inhabitants of The Constant are presently being stored in the executive stasis chamber.” The AI sounds just like Constance.
“Has the alarm not woken them up?”
They have not been alerted. Would you like me to do that now?
“No, thank you. Could you tell me, is there any room in this facility that blocks all teleportation and time travel?”
There are two: the security room, and the master sitting room.
“I’m not familiar with the master sitting room, but I’ve been to the security room. It has two doors,” Leona says to Marie.
“Aquila said that Mateo and Danica went into a room with only one entrance before he disappeared, leaving her with no memory,” Marie agrees.
Leona nods. “Hey computer, could you light the way for us, please?”
You can call me Constance,” the AI offers as the navigation lights appear. Hmm. Apparently Ramses isn’t the one who came up with that name.
They walk down the passageways, and stop when they reach their destination. Leona has seen this before, but it didn’t seem particularly special at the time. She opens the door, and steps in. In it are shelves of books, reading lamps, end tables, and of course, plenty of chairs and couches. “Wow, look at all this seating!”
“What do you think?” Marie begins as she’s hopping over to the nearest books. “Does one of these open a secret passageway?”
“No, I still think that the Transit, or something, came to take him away. I’m looking for something else.” In addition to all those other things, there are also drawers and cabinets. She opens a couple. “Do you think you could fit in one of these?”
Marie shrugs, and curls herself up as she’s crawling in. “I’m thinking yes.”
“Okay, then that’s the hiding place you’ll be looking for.”
“Hiding place? Hiding from what?”
“From anyone who may have been here...ten thousand years ago.”
They leave the master sitting room. Leona leads the way down the passageways this time, to the deepest, darkest area of the Constant. She found it when they first came down here after the whole place was stripped and cleared out. There was always something interesting about it, and now she thinks she knows what it was originally used for. She opens the double doors. There before them is exactly what they need. It’s a time machine, and it’s what’s going to get them back to when they need to be.
“Won’t they notice us when we show up in the past?” Marie figures.
“They’ll notice me, but not you.”
Marie closes her eyes. “You want me to complete the secret plan to teleport to the energy generation room, and hide out.”
“Yes, please. I still think it can work.”
“It won’t. Think about it, you’re the one who got us out of the stasis room. You’re the one who controls the AI. Let them catch me while you hide, and save your husband.”
That’s logical, but it doesn’t sound like something a captain should do. “Really?”
“Yes. It’s the only thing that makes sense. Now let’s go before they catch us.”
“Before who catches you?” It’s Tamerlane Pryce. Isn’t it always?

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