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Friday, March 31, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: January 26, 2399

“Why would I be here to kill you?” Mateo asks, taking a step back to look as nonthreatening as possible. “Is someone trying to kill you?”
“That’s what Aunt Aldona told me,” he replies. “She said I have to stay up here, because it’s not safe down on the planet.”
“When you say Aunt Aldona...?”
“She’s a family friend; not a real relative.”
“I see.” So the connection is nebulous, and may not help them understand exactly where Aldona came from. She was in the afterlife simulation, but how—and why—was she resurrected, and where did she go from there? How did she meet this kid, and his family? “Well, I’m not going to hurt you. I didn’t even know you were here. My name is Mateo. Mateo Matic. What’s yours?”
“Cedar. Cedar Duvall.”
Mateo perks up. “Your parents are Curtis and Cheyenne.”
“Yes, do you know them?”
“Yes, I know them pretty well. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and assume that you’ve heard of time travel? I mean, real time travel; not just as a concept?”
“Of course,” Cedar says.
Mateo, what’s the hold up?” Ramses asks through the radio.
The son of Curtis and Cheyenne Duvall is living—possibly totally alone—on a spaceship orbiting Earth. He was brought here by a dead and resurrected woman from another reality. It’s bad enough that Mateo now knows about it. He trusts Ramses, but Aldona doesn’t, and Cedar doesn’t even know him. Their team is having trouble with Aldona, and her choices, but she’s not evil, and he has no reason to believe that she’s not genuinely trying to help. The only way to protect this kid is to tighten the circle as much as possible, which means not so much as telling his wife about it. It’s the only respectful thing to do. The problem is, Mateo is a teleporter. What’s a good reason to not have returned to the hangar to retrieve Ramses in a matter of seconds? “Uhh. I’m, uhh...trapped under this octagon thing. I was just rearranging the equipment a little to make it more organized.”
Well, I...can’t help you,” Ramses returns.
“No, it’s okay, I’m getting it off. I’m just doing it a centimeter at a time. Give me a minute or two.”
“Why are you lying?” Cedar asks.
“Your aunt is trying to keep you safe. I’m not going to interfere with that, but we have work to do up here, so is there any place that you think would be a good hiding spot? Just so you know, Ramses will need to access this cargo bay, the bridge, engineering, and maybe a common area for food and rest.”
“There’s a safe room behind reclamation. I could survive there for a week or two.”
“That’s perfect, he won’t need that. Go there, and don’t come out unless you hear two knocks, a pause, and then three more knocks. Does this all make sense?”
Cedar starts to leave, but stops. “Why are you helping me?”
“It’s what we do.” Mateo lifts the heavy satellite part that he mentioned to Ramses. He finds the business end of an uncovered screw, and drags it along his leg to draw some blood. “Now go.”
“Thanks.” Cedar runs off.
Mateo gives it another minute, to make sure he can no longer hear footsteps from here. Then he sets the part down carefully, and returns to the surface.
“Are you okay?” Ramses asks.
“I’m fine,” Mateo says. “I’ll heal.”
“Next time, just wait for me. I know how all this stuff goes.”
“Good point. My bad, sorry.”
“It’ll be fine. Now let’s go.”
“Wait! You’re not going anywhere!” Aldona is running towards them with a gun, looking like some kind of federal agent.
“You’re gonna shoot us?” Ramses questions. “Really!
“It’s a teleporter gun,” Aldona explains. “It’s programmed to send you to hock in the bottom level of the base.”
“You think you can shoot us faster than I can teleport out of here?” Mateo poses.
“I only need to shoot one of you,” Aldona reasons. “You’re standing far enough apart. He can’t teleport without you, and you don’t have anywhere to go without him.”
“Don’t be so sure,” Mateo volleys. He jumps to right behind her. “Behind ya.”
Aldona spins around, and fires the gun, but that was just a distraction. Mateo immediately jumps to Ramses, and takes him up to the ship. She can be forgiven for not thinking this through. She’s desperate to protect her nephew. She doesn’t know that she doesn’t have anything to worry about.
After getting Ramses to where he needs to be, Mateo jumps right back to the hangar again. Her arms are hanging down, and she’s about to hyperventilate. “Cedar seems like a good kid,” he says to her.
“So it’s too late,” she laments.
“Too late to keep him a complete secret, but not too late to keep him safe,” Mateo says. “I didn’t tell anyone else about him. I didn’t even tell Ramses.”
“He didn’t see him yet?”
“No, and he won’t. I told Cedar to hide in the safe room. I don’t think Ramses will need more than a week up there. Once the satellite is deployed, he should be able to work it remotely, like any other satellite.”
For a second, she looks hopeful, but it fades. “No, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a matter of time before someone else finds out about him.”
“I don’t know what about your past—or future—interactions with us have made you think that we can’t be trusted, but I assure you that Cedar is safe. We would never hurt him, and we would never let anyone else hurt him either. People from all over the multiverse know that that shit doesn’t fly with us.”
She shakes her head. “You don’t understand what he’s up against.”
“You’re right, I don’t, and I don’t need to. Because anyone who’s after him doesn’t know what they’re up against. We don’t lose. Besides, I can guess why he’s at risk. No one will tell us what the Sixth Key really is, but one thing we have figured out is that Cheyenne is very special. The Officiant jumped at the chance to take a favor from her. If Cedar is half as important, it’s no wonder you’re working so hard to keep him a secret.”
She shakes her head again, but not lamentably this time. “If you have learned and surmised all that, you’re already too much of a danger to him. I’m sorry, I can’t let you go up there again, or bring Ramses back.” She shoots him in the chest.

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