Monday, April 3, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: January 29, 2399

They’re on the moon now. It isn’t their first time, and it won’t likely be the last. Now they can finally rest, and maybe rest easy. Or perhaps not. All this time, no one has even attempted to communicate with them, but suddenly they are. It should be difficult—if not impossible—to deliver a signal here. They’re on the far side of the moon, which always faces away from Earth. In order to send a message, you need some kind of relay point. They’ve not been able to detect one, but it must be around here somewhere.
Mangrove Zero, this is Mangrove One actual, please respond.
“M-1, this is Zero actual. Go ahead.”
Could I please speak with Mateo...alone?
“Not possible, M-1,” Leona replies. “You can speak with me. I’m the captain now.”
I’m not speaking as M-1 actual. I’m here as a person. I need to speak with Mateo. It’s urgent, and it’s personal.
Mateo could hear the transmission from the hallway. He steps onto the bridge. “Make this happen. We need to talk privately, not just because she asked for it, but because it’s necessary. All will be explained, but for now, there are things that you just can’t know at this point in the timeline.”
Leona considers her options. “Go to auxiliary control. I’ll transfer the call.”
“I mean it. You can’t listen in.”
“I understand. I’ll respect your privacy,” Leona promises. She goes back to the microphone. “Aldona, give us two minutes to transfer. I will no longer be listening. Captain Matic out.”
Hopefully she’s being honest, and won’t make an executive decision to eavesdrop. Mateo heads downstairs. It is not a small rocket, but there are few rooms. The body is mostly taken up by the cargo and weapons bays. The bridge is big enough for five people. The aux room was apparently designed for two, but it’s a tight fit for Mateo alone. He squeezes in. Aldona is already trying to reach out again. He can hear her from the headphones hanging on the magnet. Mateo grabs them, and puts them on. “Uh, yeah. I’m here now, but if you said anything before, I missed it.”
I didn’t say anything. Are you alone?
Are you lying?
“What is it going to take for you to believe that we’re honest people, and that your nephew is safe? I didn’t tell anyone about him, and I won’t.”
What you can do is not have stolen my ship.
“You should have agreed to help us find Alyssa.”
That’s what your wife said.
“You have literally a thousand ships. No one said we had to use this one.”
There are other reasons to not authorize you scanning the entire planet.
“We’re not going to invade people’s privacy. This is only to find other people who have experienced time weird. We purge all other data. We don’t care about that stuff. There are three of us now. It’s not some giant conspiracy to control everyone’s mind.”
I’m not going to debate this with you. You three will do whatever it is you want to do, and clearly no one can stop you. I learned that about you on Lorania. It’s just been so long, I thought maybe you had grown up.
“I don’t know how many enemies you have had, but we have fought against entire intergalactic civilizations. We don’t ask permission anymore. W’eve learned that no one has the right to grant it. No one is responsible for anything.”
Sounds like chaos. Anarchy.
“I’m sure you know more about the parallels, what with this mysterious future war between realities that everyone’s worried about. I don’t really understand why we’re talking about anything happening in the future, though. If it’s between realities, why aren’t there battles happening right now, or even in the past?”
Just because they’re called the Reality Wars doesn’t mean they’re being fought between realities,” Aldona says cryptically. “You’ll see in a few months.
“A few months?”
How is Cedar?” she asks.
“You mean you haven’t spoken to him since we came aboard?”
I can’t, or you would have detected the transmission. Well, Leona or Ramses would have anyway.
“The best way I knew how to protect him was to stay away from the safe room completely. We haven’t talked either. I assumed that you built in some secret special radio transmitter, or whatever.”
I did not.
He waits to say anything. “Can we build one now?”
You would do that for me?
“For the last time, yes! Tell me what to do, I’ll do it. If I need help from Leona or Ramses, I’ll keep Cedar out of it, and just say that it’s something that I need for myself.”
It turned out, Mateo didn’t need anyone’s help at all. She was able to upload a subroutine to a portable drive, which Mateo took to the safe room, and plugged into the communications port there. Did Aldona secretly upload a virus that will force the rocket back to Earth, or encase the safe room in a protective barrier, and blow the rest of them to smithereens? Yeah, maybe, but hopefully not. And if he wants to show Aldona that he can be trusted, he has to trust her first.
Cedar was grateful for the company. He’s sick of being alone, but being able to talk to his aunt from here should help. At some point, this will no longer be necessary. Everyone will have everything they need. They are not enemies, and they do not have to be at odds with each other. Be it the war, Constance!Five, or some new threat; something will make all these people realize that the safest place to be is on Team Matic.
Mateo returns to the bridge when it’s all done. “How’s it going?”
“We should ask you that,” Ramses says.
“I can’t talk about it,” Mateo replies.
“Does it have something to do with that secret room in reclamation?” Leona asks.
Mateo frowns, but doesn’t know what to say.
Leona looks at him knowingly. She reaches over to the touch screen, and swipes her hand across it. “All footage deleted. I didn’t see anything. Did you, Ramses?”
“I only saw two things: jack and shit.”
Mateo still doesn’t know what to say. Any word could be the one that ruins everything. So he just leaves it at that, and starts to leave.
“Were I you,” Leona begins, “I would trust me.”
“Were I you,” Mateo begins to echo, “I would trust me.”

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