Monday, March 13, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: January 8, 2399

Mateo kisses his wife on the cheek, then starts to walk away in slowmo. He has a vacuum suit helmet tucked under his arm, which means he teleported up to the AOC earlier to retrieve it, only so he could do this bit. They’re all astronauts here, nobody is impressed, nor is it that funny. Still, once he passes under an overhead light, he switches it on using the app on his phone. Just at the right time, he teleports again, as if being beamed up by Scotty. What exactly is he parodying here? Ramses and Alyssa roll their eyes, but they too give Leona kisses, then teleport away. Alyssa has spent the last couple of days practicing, so she was both excited and nervous to try it in the field.
“Engage,” Mateo orders as soon as they appear.
“Constance, lay in a course for Phoenix 15-236P7,” Ramses plays along, though out of order.
Directions unclear. Please repeat request,” Constance replies. She waits a beat. “Just kidding. AI got jokes too.” She waits another beat. “Initiating quarter-speed burst mode, AU level.” The ship lurches, and teleports. A few seconds later, it teleports again.
“What does that mean, quarter-speed?” Mateo asks.
“Our ship is fragile, I don’t feel comfortable pushing it too hard for such a long journey. Instead of one jump every second, it will take one every four seconds. It will take us seventeen hours to get to our destination, but we’ll be alive when we do.”
“So, what do we do in the meantime?” Alyssa asks.
“I’m going to check every single system on this vessel, and then I’m going to go to bed,” Ramses answers. “You can skip the first thing, and just do the second.” He heads down to the engineering section.
“We could...” Mateo begins.
“I don’t feel like playing RPF Plus 101 right now, Mateo,” Alyssa interrupts.
“It’s RPS-1o1 Plus.”
“That neither.”
This may not be good. Being on his own with nothing to do generally doesn’t go as he expects. He’s liable to find a young woman living alone in here somewhere, or stumble across a lewisian portal to another reality that never works again. But if Alyssa doesn’t want to play the only good game they have saved on the computer, then he’ll have to figure something else out. He climbs the steps up to the top section, and opens the hatch to the airlock. “Okay, how does this thing work?”
I can turn it on for you,” Constance offers. The hologram projectors switch on, and display a screensaver of swirling colors in the middle of the room.
“Hey, thanks. Is this just for calls, or can you show me other things?”
“Like what?”
“Like where we’re going?”
An image of mostly empty space appears, evidently showing the region of the Oort Cloud where they’ll be going to search for the Constant. He can see little tiny specks that must be the asteroids—or whatever—that are floating around, each one their potential target. One of these things is not like the others. It’s stationary while everything else is moving. They’re not moving fast as seen from afar, though, which is why the AI needs to gather and analyze the data. It could take as much time as it will to get there. Hm. Still bored. “Call Leona.”
Calling Leona.” The asteroids disappear, and the screensaver returns. The colors shudder in sync with the sounds of a ringing phone.
An image of Marie appears in the room. “Hello?”
“Hey, is she there?”
“Is something wrong?”
“No, I just miss her.”
“It’s been less than five minutes,” Marie chastised.
“It’s so boring up here!”
“Goodbye, Mateo. Good luck.”
He growls as the hologram disappears completely. “Constance. You got any other tricks up your sleeves? Maybe a time bubble generator that will make the time go faster?”
“I don’t have that, but your grave chamber doubles as a stasis pod. You could just hook yourself up to that, and go to sleep until the journey is over. That’s what Alyssa is doing right now.”
“That’s a good idea.” Mateo starts to head back downstairs.
The sound of the phone rings again. “Incoming call,” Constance announces.
“I guess Lee-Lee got my message, and wasn’t happy that Marie hung up on me. Go ahead and answer, please.”
It’s not Leona who appears in the room, though. It’s not even Marie. It’s Magnus Petra Burgundy from the underground rocket research lab. “Oh my God, it actually worked. Hi, hello, Mister Matic. Can you hear me okay?”
“Hello, Magnus Burgundy,” Mateo replies. “I can hear you fine. Where are you?”
She looks around nervously. “I’m in the Constant.”
“Really?” he questions. “You were going in the opposite direction.”
“No, you’re going in the opposite direction. Magnus Pryce thinks that you were passed bad information to throw you off the trail.”
“Magnus Pryce? Are we talking Tamerlane, or Abigail?”
“Tamerlane. I don’t know an Abigail.”
“Why does he want us to find the Constant?”
“He says that Leona is the only one who can take over. I’m not supposed to be talking to you, but he’s keeping Danica busy.”
“Where is Angela? She is supposed to be in hypertime. If you’ve stopped...”
“She’s in stasis. Danica knows what’s going on with all that.”
“Okay, we haven’t gone very far the wrong way,” Mateo says. “Tell me where you are. My AI can hear you, so use whatever technobabble you need to specify.”
Constance, end transmission,” Danica’s voice comes in off-screen.
“Constance, full stop!” Mateo orders just after the image disappears.
Terminating burst mode.
“Please tell me that you were—”
I was able to trace the call, but there’s a problem.
“Let me guess, the signal was fading, which means that they’re on the run.”
That would be my best hypothesis, yes.
Ramses starts to climb up the ladder. “I was watching on the screen, but did not interject. Constance, could you—”
Engage the reframe engine?” Constance figures. “Initiating now.

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