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Thursday, March 30, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: January 25, 2399

Alyssa went into the panic room to meditate in the dark yesterday. There’s only one way in, and one way out. It wasn’t designed for a criminal to get away undetected. It’s there to protect the homeowners from intruders while they wait for help to arrive. If she had left through the door, he would have seen her, and if she had teleported out, she would have said something. She wouldn’t have just disappeared. If for no other reason than to be here for her brothers, she would never have done something so irresponsible. Something happened to her, and Ramses is determined to remedy the situation. Since the Bridgette is already in Southeast Asian Oceania, he requested transport from the government. The McIver boys are here too, because now there’s no one else left to take care of them. Vearden has gotten everything he needs from the house by now, so he’s able to stay with Arcadia at the hospital permanently.
Mangrove One. Ramses thought the team had contributed a hell of a lot to this world’s development, but it’s nothing compared to what this Aldona woman has done, and she did it in a fraction of the time. He knows how to build nanofabricators, but he made a deliberate choice to withhold such technology. It’s not exactly the Prime Directive, but he didn’t think that these people deserved quite that level of sophistication, so he never bothered. He didn’t even want them to know that it was possible. Welp, the cat’s out of the bag, and he’s going to take advantage of it. There’s a spaceship at this ocean facility capable of reaching orbit, and sustaining life. There are other space agencies, of course, but gaining access to them would require reading too many people in to the whole time travelers situation, and would be a political nightmare. Ramses needs to deploy a new temporal error scanner, and this Mangrove Program is his only reasonable way of accomplishing that.
While Mateo stays with the kids, Ramses pleads his case to the little committee they formed here. It consists of Winona, Aldona, Leona, and a couple of other people, whose names may or may not also end in -ona. They never introduced themselves, and they have yet to say a word. Aldona is speaking now. “I’m sorry, we can’t do it.”
“And why is that?” Ramses questions. “It’s just a little satellite. All I need is a means of getting it up there.”
“You’ll just have to do what you need from the ground,” Aldona insists.
“The point is to get in orbit, so it scans the entire planet,” Ramses argues.
“Yes,” Aldona says, “and I do not feel comfortable with that. Honestly, if I had been aware of the last time you scanned literally every human brain on the planet, I would have tried to stop you back then.”
“Winona?” Ramses asks. “You let her push you around like this?”
“She’s...helping us,” Winona defends.
“More than we are,” Ramses says. “Got it.”
“It’s not like that,” Winona claims.
“No, no, I get it,” Ramses begins. “What you’re trying to say is that she has you over a barrel, and the water’s freezing. No, I understand perfectly. You lost your balls.”
“Watch it, Ramses,” Leona warns.
“Do you not want to rescue Alyssa?”
“Of course I do,” Leona contends, “but we’re not even sure she’s gone. It’s barely been a day.”
“Funny how differently you react when it’s not your husband,” he condemns.
“Watch it, I say,” Leona repeats.
Ramses sighs. “If you’re not going to let me take Mangrove One, then I need some temporal energy to make a few jumps up to Mangrove Zero. The equipment is too heavy to carry all at once, so I’ll have to partially disassemble it, and take multiple trips.”
“Why is it any heavier than the one that Mateo took up to the AOC the first time?” Leona asks.
“This one does a little more than just scan for temporal errors,” Ramses says. “I figured I might as well feed two birds with one worm while I’m up there. I didn’t know that I would get so much pushback.”
“Well, if you won’t even tell me what else that thing does, then I’m definitely not letting you go up there. Permission to enter Mangrove Zero is also hereby denied,” Aldona decides.
“You can’t stop me,” Ramses tells her.
“Do you have the temporal energy it would require to make it up there?” Aldona asks, annoyingly confident that she knows the answer, and feeling no need to wait for it. “I thought not. Permission to procure more is denied as well. I’m not telling you that you can’t go look for Alyssa, but you won’t do it by invading the privacy of everyone in the world. It’s my job to protect then, and I won’t have you undermine me.”
Ramses can’t accept that. He will find her. He doesn’t care how many bridges he has to burn. There may not be enough time to synthesize more temporal energy, and he doesn’t have a lab anyway. Here’s hoping he’s right that Mateo doesn’t run out anymore. He fumes at Aldona for another few seconds, then does the same for Winona, and especially Leona. “I don’t know if you and I will ever be okay.” He doesn’t lead them to believe that he’s going to go over their heads. He just tries to walk out of the room. He nearly runs into Mateo in the process.
Mateo places a finger in front of his lips.
Ramses has already faltered at the surprise, so he tries to cover with a cough. “Harrumph. I’m fine. You’ll be hearing from my lawyer,” he spits at them unconvincingly. He nods like that was a good save, and then leaves with Mateo.
“I was listening in,” Mateo says once they’re safely out of earshot.
“I gathered that.”
“I can’t believe that Leona isn’t backing you up. She must know something that we don’t. But if that’s true, we can only go on the information we have at the moment, and at the moment, it looks like the right thing to do is get you up to that ship.”
“I’m glad that someone around here hasn’t lost their mind yet.”
“No, the reptilians can’t catch me; I’m too fast for their chemtrails,” Mateo jokes in a conspiratorial tone.
After a laugh, Ramses takes Mateo to the hangar, where the new satellite has been set aside in the back corner. Together they disassemble it into more manageable parts. It takes them the rest of the day. It’s a surprise that no one surmises what they were doing all this time. Ramses accesses the blueprints for Mangrove Zero, so Mateo  knows where the cargo bay is. It’s only upon his last jump that something happens that they didn’t plan for. Aldona claimed that Mangrove Zero was completely unmanned. She was either lying, or mistaken.
“Hey,” the teenager says. “Are you here to kill me?”

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