Saturday, March 4, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Year 302,398 Part 2

Tamerlane feels like he can finally breathe again after being underwater for 24 minutes and 38 seconds. It’s done. Everything he wanted to accomplish has been accomplished, and Danica can’t undo it without becoming a hypocrite. Speaking of which, she’s running towards him down the hallway. He smiles. She’s going to try to punish him, but whatever it is, it will be worth it.
“What did you do?” she questions.
“I ended the madness,” he explains vaguely.
“I sent them back home. Leona, Marie, Mateo, even Abigail. They’re all home. Or they will be, because they’re from the future.”
“That wasn’t your call.”
“It wasn’t yours either. This has snowballed, Danica. The Concierge is not meant to meddle in the affairs of her guests. She is there to keep them comfortable while they rest between missions, or whatever it is they have to do. You’ve decided to help people instead. I admire that, and I’ve helped you, but I did not sign up for forcing people to stay here against their will. That’s not me...and it’s not you.”
She bites her upper lip, and exhales loudly through her nose. “You’re right. No one wants to be here.”
Oh, that doesn’t sound good. She’s not really agreeing with him, she’s just teeing herself up to hitting a hole in one. “Wait.”
“So I’ll send them all away.”
“Wait,” he repeats.
“Constance, Away Team Protocol Icecap-Castaway-Algae three-oh-two-three.”
The doors slam shut behind them. The other five people currently living in this facility unwillingly teleport into the room, confused, and standing in a line like military recruits at boot camp. “Honey, what are you doing?” Asier asks his daughter.
Danica breathes in preparation. “It has been brought to my attention that we will ultimately become responsible for an extremely deadly war between realities. Few things can cross the parallels, and this thing is one of them.” She gestures towards the transtemporal relocator. “We have to destroy it before this war can come to pass.”
“I never said that that’s what causes the war,” Cheyenne contends. “Plus, you’re severely misunderstanding what kind of situation my ancestors dealt with. It wasn’t across multiple realities. It was only in one. It was only in mine.”
“It doesn’t matter where the war front will be,” Danica dismisses. “It also doesn’t matter if these machines are what facilitate the conflict. They are capable of doing it, so they must be destroyed. I’ll destroy anything else with the same ability, including Jupiter Fury and Dilara Cassano. But I won’t ask you to go that far. All you’ll have to do is take care of the machines. I’ll give you each a tool, and once you arrive at your destination, just plug it into any port.” She holds up what looks like a memory stick. “It will destroy the machine so thoroughly that it can never be rebuilt.”
“How did you make that without me?” Tamerlane questions.
“I asked Constance,” Danica replies. “You think you’re the smartest one here, but you’re not. To her, you’re an incomparable moron.”
“What if we don’t do it?” Curtis asks.
Danica steps up to him, and stares for a moment. “Bhulan, I know I can trust you, which is why I’m sending you to the Fifth Division.’ll be going to the main sequence, because I trust you too, and I...I know the kind of Danica that you’re gonna find there. She’ll understand why you have to do what I’m asking you to do. Bhulan and Aquila, I can’t say what your version of the place holds. When Mateo and I were being thrown across the dimensions, we never found a version of me there. Your job should be easy if you just do it and get out. However, I can promise you nothing.”
“How do we get out?” Curtis presses. “If we destroy our respective machines...”
“That’s part of what this does.” Danica shakes the data stick. “If you complete your jobs within 24 standard hours, you’ll be brought back here just before the machine goes critical. If you don’t, you’ll be stuck there forever.” She goes back to staring at Curtis. “For added incentive, I’m not sending Cheyenne with you. She’ll stay here, and if you ever wanna see her again, you’ll do as I’ve asked.”
“What’s my incentive?” Tamerlane asks.
Danica chuckles. “Me. I’ll be right by your side. We’re going to the Parallel together. There may be a few other things I wanna do while I’m there, and you’re going to help me.”
“So my wife is just going to be here alone while I’m in the Fourth Quadrant?” Curtis asks angrily after using the process of elimination to guess his assignment.
She won’t be alone,” Constance says. “I’ll take care of her while you’re gone.
“Besides,” Danica begins, “if you do the thing, you won’t be gone any longer than it takes you.”
“What if Fourth!Danica takes issue with my mission?”
“We just call her Quadrant!Danica,” Rail!Danica corrects. “And that’s why it’s perfect that you’re the one going there. If you can’t destroy it right away, she’ll need some convincing, and your silver tongue is best suited to the job.” She nods, and inspects her soldiers. “Now, I was going to do this with Mateo, because he has experience with this sort of thing, and the skills to pull it off against all odds...against other versions of me. You can thank Mr. Pryce here for making that impossible.” She starts handing people their little weapons. “Are there any more questions?”
“Yeah,” Cheyenne pipes up. “Who hurt you?”
“You did. When you told me what happens.”
“As I said,” Cheyenne snaps back, “you don’t understand my world. It is not what you think.”
Danica just shakes her head, and starts to escort her father, Asier into the machine. After she sends him off, she does the same for Bhulan and Aquila, and then her husband, Curtis. Finally, she sets a timer on the controls, and takes Tamerlane into the time chamber with her. “Your husband will be back for you know it, as will the others. We might be gone for longer.”
Cheyenne frowns as they too disappear, leaving her alone, at least in a corporeal sense. She does have a disembodied intelligence to keep her company. Danica was seemingly right about people returning quickly. Seconds later, the machine boots up again. It’s not Bhulan who comes back, though, nor Asier. It’s not Curtis either. “Who are you?” she nervously asks the strange man holding a cane, and getting his bearings.
“I’m Dalton Hawke, and I’m looking for Team Matic. I tried to send them home, but I think I screwed it up.”

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