Thursday, April 6, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: February 1, 2399

They may not be individually modular, but the Mangrove rockets can dock with each other. They can, in fact, do so in eight places. They’re cylindrical, of course, but a walkway can extend from all four sides, around the center of the cargo bay, and also at the top, near the bridge. They could theoretically be linked together into one megaship grid of infinite numbers. It would become harder to maneuver with each additional vessel, but the option is there. For now, only two of the rockets are in space, and only those two need to link up. At the moment, the remaining members of Team Matic are having a meeting with Aldona. Her helmsman is running the bridge, while the boys are occupying themselves with playing cards in another room.
“I know I said this yesterday,” Aldona begins, “but I want to reiterate my gratitude for what you all did for my nephew. Mateo, you promised to keep him a secret, and you kept that promise. Leona, you went above and beyond to prevent that monster from breaching the airlock. I can’t thank you enough.”
Leona stops gazing out the window. They’re orbiting the moon again. “Thank you for coming for us,” she reiterates her own words from yesterday.
Aldona pauses to gather herself. “I’m not happy with what you did, but looking back, I could have handled the situation better. We’ve met before, and I know you fairly well by reputation. What happened happened, and could not have happened any other way. You’re trying to find your friend with the same vigor and commitment as I exhibit when it comes to Cedar’s safety. If you were me, and I were you, I imagine I would have reacted the same. That being said, I am here to help bolster the defenses for this reality’s version of Earth. I am not a president, nor a prime minister, nor a king. They have given me everything I’ve asked for thus far, but that is because I’m giving them more than they knew they needed. Asking them to authorize a satellite—or satellite array, or whatehaveyou—which violates just about every constitution on the map would be unwise. It would not go over well, regardless of why you’re asking.
“That being said, I understand the need for this, so I am prepared to go against my oversight, and let you do it anyway. I can’t technically give you permission, but I can look the other long as no one reveals the truth regarding my involvement.”
They all three shake their heads.
Aldona nods. “Unfortunately, that may not be enough, so I’ll ask you for your patience. Allow me to launch the first wave of defense satellites first, so my clients can hardly argue against my value to the program. They need to see tangible results first.”
“How much time?” Leona presses.
“Three weeks,” Aldona answers.
“We can’t wait to look for Alyssa for three weeks,” Ramses argues.
Aldona shuts her eyes, knowing that she would get pushback for this. “Not to speak ill of your friend, but I think we all know that she is not on this world. She would have most likely reached out sooner, correct?”
“Maybe she was sent to a prison, or something,” Mateo reasons.
“Maybe,” Aldona agrees. “But you don’t really think that’s a likely explanation, do you? Not in our line of work.”
She’s right, it’s not a good explanation. If you want to hide someone from a group of fiercely loyal teleporters, the last thing you want to do is take her anywhere in the present day. The best thing to do is use time travel, perhaps even to prehistoric times; a practice known as zoicization. She could also be in the future. Or another reality, or an old timeline, or another universe. The possibilities are literally endless, and very few ideas would be too far-fetched to consider. “We have to try,” Mateo insists.
“We can help speed up your interim deadlines,” Ramses offers.
“You’ll be doing no such thing. I need you up here,” Aldona counters.
“Up here for what?” Ramses questions.
“For Cedar. I need someone to protect him. Space is still our best option. Obviously I didn’t work hard enough to conceal him, but he doesn’t have the skills necessary to stay on the move. That’s what I need you for. I don’t trust anyone else. Well, except maybe for Mateo and Leona, but I need her with me.” She doesn’t bother to explain why Mateo is an inadequate choice.
Still, he may not be completely useless. “What about the AOC?”
“It’s gone,” Ramses says. “I don’t have any other saved copies.”
“We could always catch up to it,” Mateo reasons. “I assume they’re already too far for me to teleport there on my own, but I can do it in the Bridgette instead. I know enough about how to use that thing.”
“They’re almost 3,000 astronomical units away by now,” Leona tells him. “So yes, you would need a vehicle to survive. You wouldn’t want to spend too much time there. Assuming you can cross the distance, and hit the bullseye, if you stay on board the AOC for a couple of minutes, it’s a whole day for us.”
“That’s not so bad,” Mateo determines. He faces Aldona. “Is that safe enough? He’s not untouchable, because what we’re talking about is reaching the ship, even though it’s going at relativistic speeds, but it’s not going to be easy, and we already know where they’re headed. Constance would not know as much.”
“Who else is there?” Aldona asks.
“Marie, Angela, and Angela’s doctor.”
“He seems to be getting along with the McIver boys, even though they’re much younger. He hasn’t had much experience with friends. His life has been....tough.”
Ramses and Leona exchange looks. “They should probably go back into relativity anyway, now that this new looming threat has replaced the old one. They only came out of it due to unforeseen circumstances, which are not present with this second trip.”
Aldona gives it some serious thought. “I don’t know. I don’t like the idea of him being that far from me, and it being virtually impossible to communicate with him.”
Cedar scurries into the room, Carlin and Moray in tow. “Please, I would like to go. If I can’t stay on Earth, at least let me be with my friends.”
“It is equipped with six grave chambers,” Mateo mentions.
“I don’t like that you call them that,” Aldona says.
“They’re fun to sleep in,” Moray says excitedly.
“I assure you that Marie is more than capable of protecting them,” Ramses says. “I really should stay here; for Alyssa, for the threats, for everything.”
Aldona gives it more serious thought. She looks into Cedar’s eyes. “Okay, but only if you navigate the transformer,” she says to Ramses. “Mateo can go too, if he wants. I may consider shortening the amount of time you’ll have to wait to deploy the satellite, but it’s not gonna be tomorrow. So take your time, and do it right, please.”
“Thanks.” Cedar gives her a hug.

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