Wednesday, March 1, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Year 272,398

Mateo climbs out of his pod, and into the main living area. Most everyone is sitting on the couches. It almost looks like he’s walked into a party that he wasn’t invited to. They all look pretty happy, especially Curtis. “Hey, look who’s awake! Finally! What’s it been, like eight—nine thousand years?”
Mateo glances back at his pod. “Ten, just as it usually is.”
“Ah, that’s too long. Come on, buddy. Join the celebration.” He puts his arm over Mateo’s shoulder.
“What are we, uh...celebrating?” Mateo asks, letting Curtis lead him deeper into the room.
“It’s Abigail,” he explains. “She’s gettin’ out for good behavior. Hail Abby!” He holds up his glass, and waits for everyone else to echo him, but they don’t. “Ah, you people are no fun.”
“Hail Abby!” Mateo chants alone.
“Thanks, Matt,” Abigail says, raising her glass.
“That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. You’re good people. Here, have a drink.” He hands him his own glass of water, then goes over to the bar to get another to replace it.
“Dani, what does this mean?” Mateo questions.
“I’m letting her use the time machine,” Danica replies.
“Transtemporal relocator,” Aquila corrects. They took Mateo’s advice. Aquila always wears sunglasses, and Bhulan never does, though she sometimes leaves them on top of her head for ease of switching if the two of them are shifting control back and forth. It’s nice to know that he can still contribute.
“Whatever,” Danica dismisses.
Mateo nods, happy for Abigail, but confused, and just a little ticked off. That’s good, Danica is finally loosening up a bit on her restrictions, but that doesn’t explain why Mateo can’t go home too. Based on their experience with the time machine, she should actually be able to return him and his friends to the main sequence. “Cool.”
Danica can sense his frustration. “I know you’re upset, and I would be sending you back too, but things have changed. Tamerlane changed things. No, I’m not still mad at you, but he’s forced my hand. I have to place someone in charge of the Omega Gyroscope, and it has to be someone I can trust. Leona is already part of the line of succession. I have already set in motion a series of events which will lead her to coming back here to rescue you. All we have to do is wait. All you have to do is wait.”
“But then we’ll have to stay here, won’t we? At least every 49,999 years, she’ll have to come out of stasis to reclaim control over the damn thing. But other than that, we don’t have real lives. We don’t have any choice.”
Danica shakes her head, she will be able to leave anytime she wants. All she’ll have to do is modify the Gyroscope’s programming to generate a new succession list, starting with me. Then I’ll send you both wherever you want.”
“What if we don’t do that? What if she refuses to relinquish control? How will you stop us? You can’t leave us out of stasis, unless you make us immortal, or we’ll die long before humans start living on this planet. The Gyroscope is all but useless until then.”
“Remember,” Danica begins, “it’s possible to change the differential. For now, ten thousand years equals one second, but I can slow it down. I can make it so that ten thousand years is more like an hour. You’ll age forty-five years in the meantime. Either she gives up control of the Omega Gyroscope, or she gives up control of her life.”
“Wow, way to be a party pooper,” Curtis criticizes.
“You don’t need to be part of this discussion,” Danica shoots right back.
“Lay off my husband!” Cheyenne volleys.
Danica sighs. “Enjoy the party,” she says to the group. Then she approaches Mateo, and takes him by the arm. “Transport us to the pool.”
At the last second, Bhulan and Aquila take his other arm, so all four end up there. Bhulan takes off the sunglasses. “This involves me as well. Team Triple Threat, remember? Aquila, please go dormant,” she says to her brainmate.
“I want us to be friends,” Danica claims. “I don’t like all this hostility.”
“Really? Because you’re going out of your way to be hostile most of the time.”
“I know that it feels that way, but one day—”
“It’s worse in the future, I can’t even friggin’ find you.”
“Don’t talk to me about the future, I don’t wanna know.”
“Oh no? Because it appears as though you’re totally sure of yourself about it. You have no doubts, no qualms. What if I told you that the future is a hellish hellscape with hellacious demons from hell, hellbent on helling it up with hellfire all over that hellhole world? Would you believe me? Would you do something different?”
“I would not believe you. If you could prove it, I would try to prevent it.”
Mateo breathes. “Your father told me that you gained some insight into the other realities, so you know how bad they are. You know how volatile the Fourth Quadrant is. You know how dangerous and unequal—and boring—the Fifth Division is. Of course, you’re from the main sequence, so you know how terrible that one is. I can’t say anything bad about the Parallel, except that they can be pretty pretentious and heartless. You seem to be under the impression that you’re going to make this world better. Maybe it’s because there’s no time travel, maybe it’s because of all the religions you create, but while I wouldn’t actually describe it as a hellish hellscape, it ain’t paradise neither. People are assholes, and then they die. This is true of every reality...except for the Parallel, because they don’t die. Ya know, why don’t we always just ignore that one?”
“They’re warmongers.” Cheyenne has snuck into the pool area.
“What?” Bhulan asks. “Who are?”
“The Parallelers. They’re warmongers. They killed more than anyone in the Reality Wars. They were heartless, and they were...ruthless. Nothing was off limits to them, or will be, rather. Women, children; antimatter weapons, bioweapons. They only lost because...” It’s too hard to go on. She doesn’t think about it, let alone say it. Anyway, it’s before my time, but I’ve seen the VRDocs.”
Danica looks down at the ground. “We’re the cause of the war, though, aren’t we? This machine. Every Constant has one. We’re the easiest link between realities. At least one of us opens a door that can’t be closed.”
“I don’t know anything about that,” Cheyenne says.
Danica sneers. “New plan. No one’s going anywhere. Unfortunately, Abigail is just never gonna get home, and neither are you,” she says to Mateo. “We’re going to destroy that machine...right after we destroy the other four.”

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