Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: January 10, 2399

Ramses tethers the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to a small asteroid. It’s just within teleporter range of the Constant. It’s not the perfect quick getaway plan, but it’s better than letting himself and Alyssa be trapped in there with no hope. They don’t know who they’re going to find, or what their intentions will be. Once the ship is locked up and secure, they make the jump.
“Mr. Abdulrashid, it’s nice to meet you. Miss McIver, nice to see you again.” Danica holds out her hand as if greeting a couple of guests that she respects.
“We’ve never met,” Alyssa says.
“Oh, but we have.”
“You erased my memories, which means that—for all intents and purposes—it never happened. Your accounting of events is irrelevant to me.”
“I see my reputation has spread.”
“My mother would always say, your reputation starts with you.”
“Wise woman.”
“Dead woman; thanks to you, no doubt.”
“Why would you say that?”
“The causality chain is profoundly long, but everything that has ever happened in this reality started with you.”
“Is this the kind of stuff you’re teaching her?” Danica asks Ramses.
“She’s an independent human being. I taught her how to teleport, that’s it.”
“And how to use my illusion powers,” Alyssa reminds him.
“But that was in my old body,” Alyssa adds. “Perhaps you can shed some light on that too? Who is trying to murder my friend, Leona?”
“Contrary to what you’ve been...” Danica trails off, not wanting to repeat the word taught since it seems to be a sensitive subject for them. “...what you may have heard,” she amends, “I am not the god of this world. I don’t control everything.”
“You control enough,” Ramses contends.
“Is that why you came all the way out here?” she questions. “You just wanted to tilt at windmills?”
“You’re not imaginary; you are clearly very real.” Ramses takes a beat. “But no, we’re looking for answers, and for help.” He takes out his handheld device, and clears his throat. “Number one, how do we safely get Leona out of Leona Reaver’s body, and back into—?
“How many questions do you have on your list?”
“At the moment, two hundred and sixteen.”
“Ye, my child, I will answer but one question per member of your party,” Danica teases in bad faith.
“Does my dick count as a separate member?” The look on Alyssa’s face, he can barely see it out of the corner of his eye. They did not rehearse that line.
Danica sighs like a teacher who hasn’t reached her tipping point yet. “You must be hungry and tired from your journey. Please follow me to the master sitting room.”
“We ate and slept on our ship,” Ramses explains.
“Surely you’re sick of Third Rail Earth food. When was the last time you were able to order literally anything you wanted from a molecular synthesizer?” Danica asks.
“Tantalizing us with food,” Ramses muses mockingly. “You know us so well, we’re eating like pandas down there.”
“What’s a panda?” Alyssa asks.
“I’ll tell you later,” he replies, still staring at Danica. “I’m winning a battle of wits right now.”
Danica smiles on the edge of a laugh. “You think you’re winning?”
“Show us who’s here,” Ramses demands.
“Is that the first of your two official questions?”
“I didn’t raise my inflection at the end of that sentence. Did it sound like a question? Do you want me to write it down for you?”
“Which of those two questions is your official question?”
Now Ramses is growing frustrated. “Show us who is here. Show us why Mateo is risking his life in a stasis pod in the middle of interplanetary space.”
Danica purses her lips. “Follow me.”
“Wait, we need to check on Angela first,” Alyssa realizes as they’re walking down the hallway.
“They’re both in the infirmary,” Danica tells them. She leads them away.
A man in a white lab coat is sitting next to one of the stasis pods. He stands up when he sees them come in. He’s nervous, and seemingly a little protective. When they get closer, they can see that he’s watching over Angela. “How is she?”
“Couldn’t tell ya,” the doctor says in a frustrated voice. “I don’t know how these machines work. She hasn’t moved a centimeter.”
“She’s frozen in time,” Danica has to explain for probably the upteenth time. “You’ll be staring at her for a long time if you want to see her move even a millimeter. Even then, I gave her a sedative, so she’s probably not even active within her own temporal reference frame.”
The doctor looks to Ramses, even though they don’t know each other. Ramses takes a look at Angela’s readings. “She looks fine.” He places a hand on the doctor’s back, and leans them both towards it. “Watch this number here. It’s the differential. Alert someone if it changes even a decimal point, as that could mean her time is starting to catch up with ours.”
He nods. “Okay.”
And see this soft pulsing light,” Ramses goes on. “It should stay green. If it starts to turn red, it means that the containment field is failing. Red, right?” he asks Danica.
“Is that your official question?” she asks again. That joke is getting old.
“Mauve,” she corrects. “Mauve is a broken field. Watch for a blue or purple light.”
“Got it,” the doctor says gratefully. “Thank you.”
“Did you want to see my other patient, or what?” Danica asks.
“Ramses Abdulrashid.” He shakes the doctor’s hand. Then he jogs over to Danica while Alyssa introduces herself as well, having to take a moment to explain why she looks like Leona right now.
“Who is it?” Ramses asks. He’s looking at a very old stranger in his own pod, though it’s not stasis. He’s hooked up to advanced life support.
“Lucius Carlise.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s dying. He’s dying of old age. He made his way here too many decades ago.”
“Can’t you save him?”
“That’s what I’m trying to do,” Danica responds. “I wasn’t given the kind of resources that I would like. The medicine and medical equipment, in particular, are severely lacking. I guess the builders of this place decided that it wasn’t my job to save people’s lives. That’s the responsibility of people like Doctors Sarka and Hammer.”
“He looks...old enough to pass away. Does he want you to save him?”
“I didn’t ask. He’s been unresponsive for weeks.”
“What’s so important about keeping him alive?” Ramses asks.
She bites her lower lip. “Is that your official—”
“Just answer the goddamn question, and stop it with the arbitrary rules,” Ramses interrupts, fed up with this bullshit.
“He’s a molecular teleporter.”
“I know that. He can tear you apart, sending individual molecules to different points in space and time. That doesn’t explain why you need him alive.”
“There are things that you don’t know,” she says, “about the future.”
“Then tell me. That wasn’t a question either.” He needs to be careful about those.
She really doesn’t want to answer, but she’s kind of giving him the impression that she needs him, or someone else on the team. “There’s a war coming. I tried to stop it, but I failed. I failed one hundred percent of the missions I ordered. Now the only way to save lives is...”
“Is to win this war?” Ramses figures.
“I don’t want to fight anyone.”
“Danica, this guy doesn’t fight. I mean, for a dude with such massive muscles, he sure doesn’t need them. How powerful is he? Could he destroy a planet without lifting a finger? A star system?”
“He could destroy a star system. It would have to be one celestial body at a time, but yeah. I don’t plan on using him.”
“He’s a deterrent, I get it. I’m from the main sequence too, remember? Our wars came with real risk of precipitating a nuclear holocaust. We didn’t have any religions telling us not to. But we moved past mutually assured destruction, and rose to a higher level of understanding. You were born in a more enlightened age, and you had the opportunity and power to make an even better world here. I was told that that’s exactly what you were trying to do, but now you tell me that you’re just gonna throw it away?”
“Like I said, I don’t want to kill anyone, but the Parallel is too powerful. We have no other defenses against them, because I’m not in control of the Omega Gyroscope. No one is. It’s been on autopilot for billions of years. He may be our only hope.”
“Wait, the Parallel? This is a war between realities?”
“Yes. That is what I witnessed.”
He looks back down at the half-dead Lucius. Ramses doesn’t know any version of him all that well, but there is no way he wants this. If her story is true, then he must have come here on purpose, and it was not to commit genocide. Nothing about how Mateo described him suggests he’s that violent. He probably came here knowing that his powers wouldn’t work. He looks back at a frowning Alyssa. “Do it.”
She nods, and lifts her watch up to her mouth. “Mateo...burst mode.”

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