Wednesday, April 12, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: February 7, 2399

Leona received Ramses’ message. She understands the low chances of finding her husband, dead or alive, but she will hold onto hope. She’ll never let go of it. She’s never done it before, and she’s always ended up right. Mateo has died so many times, it’s not even funny. He was once completely removed from existence by an asshole god creature, and not even that lasted. She’ll get him back, even if she has to break Danica’s rule, and travel through time for a rescue mission. She does need more information, though, which is why she has asked Aldona for a favor.
“Well, which volcano was this?”
“Ramses didn’t say,” Leona replies.
“Did you try calling him back?”
“The line is dead. He’s cut all ties.”
“Makes sense. I’m sorry”
“So, is there nothing we can do? Is there no chance?”
“I’m an expert in antimatter rocket engines. I’ve never operated a teleportation machine. Is there some way to...I dunno, trace it? Seems as though it would make a pretty big mark on the world, an explosion like that. And since there isn’t much teleportation going on in this reality, it should be unique, or at least rare.”
“I don’t know enough about it either,” Leona admits. “That particular machine is more his area. But yes, there is a way to trace teleportation. Unfortunately, the, umm...”
“Oh, shit, you didn’t get your satellite in orbit.”
“Because I didn’t let you.”
Leona waits to respond. “Right.”
Aldona sighs. “I don’t suppose getting up there now would do you any good.”
“Not for this issue, no.”
“I’m worried something like this will happen again, though. If you need to be able to trace temporal powers, then I’ll make sure that you have what you need. I’ll fast-track authorization. As far as Mateo goes, there may be other ways. Like I said, it was a big explosion. Sure, a volcano is already pretty violent, but maybe one of them exhibited some unusual behavior recently. That sort of thing would be recorded by other research instruments that have nothing to do with any of this. Let me make a few calls.”
“I would appreciate that.”
Aldona nods, and leaves Leona’s office. A few seconds later, she reopens the door. “You’re off today. Just relax.”
“Okay,” Leona says, but she’s not going to do that. It’s not what Mateo would want, and it’s not practical. She doesn’t have the resources or connections to locate the volcano where her husband supposedly died, so taking any time off is a waste of the stuff. As a traveler, she understands the value of a day, and what it will cost them if they lose one. When they figure out which volcano to even search in the first place, maybe she’ll stop what she’s doing to investigate. Until then, she’s going to focus on her work. This does not change her responsibilities or obligations. In fact, things are even more dire. They can’t prove that Constance!Five was destroyed any more than they can prove it for Mateo. The danger remains. Having that satellite up there sooner rather than later would sure help, though. So why wait?
They talk of it being placed in orbit, but it already is in orbit. It just needs to be deployed from Mangrove Zero, and become independent. That can be done remotely by piloting the onboard robotics. All right, so she’s not going to work exactly, but Aldona gave her permission to do whatever she wanted, so she’s going to consider this a gray area. She logs herself into the system, and gets to work. It only takes about thirty minutes before it’s where it needs to be, free from the confines of the rocket, and able to operate on its own. Now it’s only a matter of time before it makes a complete pass around the planet, and scans every brain in the world for neurotemporal irregularities. She leans back to wait for it, but gets a hit right away.
“What the hell is that?” she asks herself out loud. Antarctica is positively brimming with temporal errors. Coronel Zacarias must have figured out how to activate the Nexus, and has invited visitors to this world, perhaps from other universes. There’s actually no way to know if they are visitors. Maybe they invited themselves, and are starting an invasion. The Mozambican Navy may require assistance, or not. She does not have a way to contact them, and she has no idea whether Mozambique is even involved in the Mangrove Program, so it’s best not to cross those streams. And anyway, there were only eleven pings during the first scan, so these people don’t count. So she does lean back, and wait for the full scan.
An hour and a half later, another hit comes up on the screen. No, it’s two hits in the same place. We got ourselves a pair, and they’re close. They’re on Vulcan Point. What a coincidence, that’s one of the places she’s supposed to go. Now is as good a time as any. She’s on vacation, and she’s all alone here. She’s experiencing a healthy professional relationship with Aldona, but they are not friends. They’re certainly not vacation buddies. Yeah, it’s not really a vacation, but that’s exactly what she’s going to call it when she requisitions the jet. She finishes a few outstanding items on her to-do list, then heads up to the transportation office. Apparently everyone at this facility has heard what happened, so the administrators are happy to give her access to a jet. She’s not a pilot, though, so she can’t go alone.
“Captain Tarboda Hobson,” Leona remarks as she’s walking towards the steps. “You’re involved in everything, aren’t ya?”
“I’m always here for you, Mrs. Matic.”
“I thank you for that. Have you finished your preflight checklist?”
“I have. I’m ready to go if you are. Allow me.” He holds out a hand, and escorts her up to the jet. In the main sequence, the U.S.A. makes the best aircraft, but here, it’s Russia without a doubt. This bird is one of theirs, and while Russia proper is not part of the alliance, there is a faction working at Mangrove in secret. They’ve not fully defected.
An hour later, they land in an airfield that’s about thirty minutes from Taal Lake. It is here that they are asked to wait in a 24-hour quarantine. They’re getting ready for bed when they hear a knock at the door. Leona opens it to find an old man on the other side. “Can I help you?” she asks.
“My name is Roeland Harlow.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Roeland Harlow.” Who is this guy?
“I believe you’re here for me.” He pulls his shirt away to reveal the timonite stain on his shoulder that got on all of the travelers that Ramses’ original satellite scanned.
“I was actually looking for two of you.”
He scowls and points aggressively. “No. There is only me. You’ll talk to me!”

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