Sunday, March 26, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: January 21, 2399

Winona called Leona out of the blue yesterday evening, asking to meet her in Balikpapan, Indonesia. The team doesn’t know that much about the area. It’s not a known special location that holds unusual temporal properties. Nor is it a place that any of them has ever been. It’s the destination of one of the Stonehenge portals in the Fourth Quadrant, though. They’ve not really thought to investigate it, because they have had so much else going on. This morning, Leona took the Bridgette up alone, piloting it relatively manually since they no longer have a safe AI to help them. She’s landing at the coordinates now. It’s not on land at all, but about 33 kilometers off the coast. A little ways away, she can see a large blue floating platform structure. “Um. Platform Structure, this is the Stateless Private Multicraft Bridgette. Do you read me?”
It’s fine, Leona,” Winona’s voice returns. “Come and dock wherever you can.
Leona navigates the boat to the edge of the platform, and ties it off. That’s when Winona comes walking down the dock. “What is this?” Leona asks her.
“We call it Mangrove One,” Winona answers. “It’s a joint operation from the entire Global Council.”
“Operation for what?”
“You’ll see.” She leads Leona up the dock, and through a door to a set of stairs, which go deeper into the platform than it ought to given the height of it above water. They’re under the surface now.
Leona can look over the railing, and see a hell of a lot of floors ever below them, suggesting this to be of skyscraperesque dimensions. That must be why they call it the Mangrove, as their seeds can float vertically in order to take root and grow into full trees. The purpose of this place, however, is yet to be seen.
“Are you ready for this?” Winona asks, hands waiting on the crash bar at the eleventh level.
“I don’t know what it is, so...yeah.”
Winona smirks. She opens the door into a huge hollow vertical tube. Before them is unmistakably a rocket, probably about twice as large as the one in Kansas City. “They just finished it last week. It’s now officially spaceworthy. It was built with the fusion power technology you gave us in mind, instead of being retrofitted to a preexisting ship, so everything is integrated perfectly. What do you think?”
What does she think? Leona can only marvel at it, unlike the way she reacted when she saw the first one. She was unimpressed by it, because it was the result of years of engineering and construction. This they made too fast. This they did without her. Did someone else help? You built this from my designs? That was only months ago.”
“Saying that we built it is a bit of a stretch,” Leona says. “I didn’t know it was happening at all until a few weeks ago. They didn’t think it was relevant to my job. There are a lot of fingers in this cookie jar. Come on, I would like you to meet someone.”
They start going around the catwalk, down another few flights, and back out of the launch tube. They continue through a few corridors until reaching an office. Someone is working on the other side of a desk, face obscured by a computer screen. “Leona Matic, this is Aldona Lanka.”
Aldona pops her head around the monitor. “
“Mrs. Matic. Hello, I was wondering when our paths would cross.”
“So we’ve never met?” Leona asks.
“We have. Very, very, very briefly. You and your team put mine and my brother’s minds into Arcadia and Erlendr Preston’s bodies.”
“I recall” Of course, that was in the main sequence. “How did you get here? You don’t look like Arcadia.”
Aldona looks over at Winona. “Thank you. You can go now.”
Winona sighs. “I decided to connect you two so you could work together; not so you could shut me out.”
“You will be read in if I deem it necessary,” Aldona says. “I’ll let you know. For now, this needs to be private.”
“Very well.” Winona leaves in a slight huff.
Leona closes the door behind her. “Report.”
“I lived a long life, and then I died, and I went to the afterlife simulation.”
“I see. How did you end up here?”
“The sim is not what you think it is. It was leading to something, and I was a part of creating that future.” She stands up, and slides open a window, which allows her to see the rocket she apparently created. They’re painting lettering on it, but they can’t see which letters from here. “Well, I was there at the tail-end of it, anyway.”
“I don’t understand.”
“That’s okay. I’m not going to clarify where it was, and who else was there, so for now, let’s just was the future. That’s a simple enough concept for anyone to grasp. There are things about that future that I did not like. There is a war.”
“We heard about it,” Leona reveals.
“You did?” She fights a satisfied smile. “That’s quite interesting. But you don’t know who’s fighting it?”
“It’s a war between realities. That’s what it sounds like, at least. Our friend called it the Reality Wars.”
“That’s what they are. The main sequence, the Parallel, and the Fifth Division all have extremely advanced technology. They...cheated with time. The Fourth Quadrant, and the Third Rail, however, are little helpless babies.” She points at the ship. “I built this for them to level the playing field, so they don’t get wiped out.”
“You can’t just stop the war?” Leona suggests.
Aldona looks at her. “We’re talking about quadrillions and quadrillions of people, fighting over the only resource that matters. Do you know what that is, Mrs. Matic?”
Leona thinks about it for a few moments. She takes away food and water, because those resources are easy to come by, and trivial in cultures such as the Parallel. Fiat money, precious gems, even data. It’s all meaningless if you don’t have the one thing required to process them. “Energy.”
She nods. “Ten points for Ravenclaw. There are a ton of stars out there, but the closest ones are easiest to get to, and they couldn’t agree one what to do with them.”
“What did they end up deciding?”
Aldona chuckles. “Nanotech. That’s how we built that ship out there.”
Leona nods. “That explains the timetable. It should have taken years.”
“We don’t have years.” Aldona shuts the window partition dramatically. The Reality Wars are starting soon. I could use your help to protect these people. They’re asking for a thousand of these satellite carriers by April. I’ve only made a hundred.”

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