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Sunday, July 2, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 11, 2402

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With Danica gone, the only logical place to seek help from someone in the time traveler underground was at the Salmon Civic Center in Kansas City. The place was deserted when they teleported there yesterday. It didn’t look like anything had gone wrong, more like everyone who worked there just happened to call out sick on the same day. They tried to go to the Great Pyramid of Giza too, but there was no one there either, though that wasn’t surprising, because as important as it was, it wasn’t known for its hubbub. No one could think of any other options for a while until Marie remembered something. “Let’s just reach out to the Delegator.”
“Ah, that guy’s never helpful,” Mateo whined.
“We have to connect to somebody,” Angela contended. “He may not be able to help, but he may know where everyone else is. This is just meant to be a start.”
Mateo sighed as he was stepping over to the industrial synthesizer, which they requested in their unit. “Hey Thistle, build me two sets of Jenga playing blocks please.”
Once the machine was done, they arranged the blocks in the formation of Stonehenge, then Mateo laid the final stone, and uttered the magic words. Nothing happened. Well, not nothing, exactly. They could feel a tug on their skin. The Stonehenge dimension was trying to reach them, but was unable to, for some reason.
“Ugh, I guess we’ll just play a game,” Marie suggested, shaking her head.
“No, there’s one other option at least,” Mateo said. “I didn’t offer it before, not because it would be a worse option, but because it may take some time for me to remember the code. Stonehenge isn’t the easiest thing to build a replica of, but there are tons of photos for reference. This one can only come from memory.”
It took so long for Mateo to remember the special knock that it was early morning the next year. Baudin Murdoch opened the door. “Mister Matic. How long has it been?”
“Hard to tell. Are you the only one left?” Mateo asked.
“Yeah, everyone else is at the meeting.”
“The Edge meeting?” Angela questioned. “I thought that was just for The Shortlist.”
Baudin shook his head. “No, it’s for anyone who didn’t want to end up with a duplicate in another universe.”
“That doesn’t describe you?” Marie asked.
Baudin shrugged. “Not many can do what I do. The way I see it, this new universe is better off with access to my power without the OG salmonverse being S-O-L at the same time. Anyway, come on in, come on in. Let’s have a seat in the lobby.”
They stepped into his office building. The girls had never been here before, so they looked around. “Do we have duplicates?”
Baudin shrugged again. “I don’t know. I suppose so, though.”
“We were led to believe that we were not allowed to attend the meeting.”
“Maybe that’s really where they all are,” Baudin began. “The way I understand it, the entire planet they’re on was protected from that whole thing. I didn’t read the fine print, because I made my decision quite quick.”
Mateo nodded, but needed to readjust the topic of conversation “We need help. Our friend is missing. She’s somewhere in the Sixth Key, but we don’t know where to start, and we don’t have a ship, or know anyone who might be able to get us one. We don’t know where all the other Earths are either, in relation to this one.”
“Did you speak with Stargazer?” Baudin asked.
“We went to the Pyramid, but he wasn’t there. And I only know that because no one was there. We’ve never actually met. Paige told me about him.”
“He’s mapping the new universe,” Baudin said. “I figured he’d stay there, but maybe he needed access to other telescopes, which are all basically doing the same thing. With all the time travelers gone, there’s no one left to help them understand what’s happening. Perhaps that’s why you weren’t invited to the meeting; so that you can do that.” He studied their faces, which were making it clear that they were uninterested in the responsibility. “All right. In that case, I’ll reach out to him for you.” He went behind the reception desk, and started digging through the cabinets and drawers. Finally, he found the remote control, which he used to bring down a screen behind them. They moved so they could get a better look while Baudin turned the projector on too. Using a tablet, he searched for what he was looking for, and then he picked up a microphone.
“Are you going to sing?”
“I’m going to sing,” Baudin answered. “No judgments please. I don’t have to sing well. I just have to sing passionately.” He prepared himself mentally for a moment, and then he switched on the music. “There once was a season of infinite light // When the distance from heaven was not far behind // I was close to You // I was close to You!” He continued the karaoke song, which was evidently called Constellations by Ellie Holcomb. He sang the whole thing, and he did so with the passion he promised, and he actually and a pretty nice voice. “Never alone // Never alone!” When he sang the final line, “out here in the dark” a real darkness consumed them all.
Seconds letter, pinpricks of glory began to appear above them. They formed the shape of a human heart, and once this shape was complete, they fell together from the ceiling, into a three dimensional human silhouette. From this, a man appeared. It must have been Stargazer. “I miss that feeling,” he said as the last of the light dripped from his skin, and faded on the floor like liquid sparks. It seemed to be a pleasant experience. “No one ever calls me anymore. Thank you for the opportunity.”
“Hello, Stargazer. My name is—”
“Mateo Matic. I’ve met a version of you.”
“I see. We were hoping that you could help us. It would seem that the main sequence planets do not possess many time travelers, but if you’re one of them, perhaps you can find a friend of ours? Her name is Olimpia Sangster.”
Stargazer nodded slowly. “Is she a friend?”
“Of course,” Mateo insisted.
Stargazer looked over at Baudin, who nodded. “If he says so, it is so.”
“I have heard the echoes,” Stargazer said as he was staring up at the ceiling. He waved his arm above his face, and transformed it back to the night sky, but this time with more than just the one constellation. “My name is Olimpia Sangster, and I have a normal voice,” he recited. “A fool who refuses to follow their superior only proves why they are the fool, and why their superior is the leader,” he added. “Olimpia Sangster, circa 2371.
“Those are quotes from her. Where did you hear those?” Angela was nervous.
“She says other things,” Stargazer replied cryptically, “but those are the only times she mentions herself by name.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, she does say O-L-I at one point. I assume she was having to spell it for someone. I don’t know why she stopped in the middle.”
“Explain. Where are you hearing these lines?”
Stargazer looked up with his eyes, and pointed with his whole hand. “The stars. The stars are echoing her words. You can’t hear them?”
“No. We can’t...hear stars. Why are they talking about her?”
Stargazer was confused. “Because she made them. She made half the universe. Someone else made the other half.”
“What the hell do you mean, she made the universe?”
“Just what it literally sounds like.”
“Have you...seen her?” Marie asked him.
Stargazer shook his head. “She only speaks. She speaks from everywhere.”
Ramses suddenly appeared out of nowhere, holding Mateo’s once-rosary again. “Oh, hey. You’re here too? I just left you at your apartment, like, a second ago.”
“That was yesterday,” Mateo told him. “What are you doing? Where is Olimpia?”
“I need him.” Ramses gestured towards Baudin. “It starts and ends with the Superscraper.”
“Hm.” Bauden had never heard the term, but he was intrigued. “Tell me more.” He reached out to Ramses.
“Wait. Where. Is. Olimpia?” Mateo repeated urgently.
“Go to Violkomin.”
“What? Tell us what that is!” Angela pleaded, but it was too late. They were both gone. “Have you heard of this Volkomen place?” she asked Stargazer, mostly because he was the only one left with any answers.
“It’s the edge of the barrier between the two halves of the universe. The stars speak of it as well, but I can’t find it. I will one day”
“Grrr,” Mateo growls. “Then we need to go to the Superscraper. Hopefully we can catch Ramses a third time. Would you be able to take us to the Third Rail Earth?”
“That I can do.” Stargazer raised his arms, bathing them in light. When it receded, they were in the lobby of Leona’s Superscraper in the Nation of Arvazna.
A woman stepped out from behind the reception desk, which Mateo now realized looked a lot like the one in Baudin’s office. This whole building screamed Murdoch architecture, now that he thought about it. Baudin did build it. That made perfect sense. “Hello,” she said politely. “Welcome to Arvazna. Do you need to go through intake?”
“We’re pros,” Mateo replied. “We were looking for our friend, Olimpia. Or Ramses. Have you heard of them?”
“I’m sorry, I’ve not. Are they two of the New Arvaznians?”
“No, I...Alyssa!” Mateo could see her across the way. “Alyssa, there you are!”
“Mateo, you’re back!” She teleported the twenty-five meters to them. “Sorry I had to cut out a couple years ago. As you can see, I had a lot of other work to attend to.”
“You run this place?” Angela asked.
“Mhmm, I do. Someone’s got to help these people with their new powers, patterns, and afflictions.”
“Have you seen Ramses around here?” Marie asked, not caring about that.
“No. Why would he be here? He’s dead, isn’t he?”
“No.”
“Well, sorry.”
“Well, he built this building. I mean, he commissioned the man who built it, Baudin Murdoch.”
“Oh. Well that explains why the auditorium is called Murdoch Hall. I assume he went back in time to do it in secret?”
“Yes.”
“You work here? This place is yours?” Angela asked again, just in a slightly, but not any more helpful, way.
“Yes, I told you that, Ange. Are you okay?”
“You were supposed to be one of us. They know you from the past...the future...whatever. You can’t work here.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Angela. I can’t. This is my responsibility. Even if you stayed to help, I wouldn’t leave. These people need me. The normies are coming after us. We have to protect ourselves.”
“But...fate,” Angela pressed.
“It’s okay,” Mateo assured her. “It’s not meant to be.”
“No, she’s part of the team,” Angela argued. “We need her. We need all the power we can get. We need to find Olimpia, and no one else is left. They all abandoned the main sequence for the other main sequence.”
“I guess we changed things,” Mateo said sadly. “For Alyssa. For all of us.” Everything they knew about the timeline was up in the air. Maybe she was meant to join them on their future adventures, and maybe things will worsen because she chose another path, but they were not in the business of coercion, or even guilt-tripping. “It happens. Marie was never meant to exist, but she does, and I wouldn’t go back to put a stop to it. We’ll just have to find her another way.”
Angela scowled, and crossed her arms.
“Have you heard of...what was that again?” Marie asked Stargazer.
“Violkomin,” he helped.
“Yes, that. Have you heard of that world?” Marie went on.
“Yeah,” Alyssa replied. “The Global Council is sending one of Aldona’s diplomatic ships to meet with them.”
“We need to get on that ship,” Mateo decided.
“I can show you where it will be launching from next year,” Alyssa said, “but I can’t get you a seat. I’m sure they’re all full-up. This is a big deal. They’re trying to stop the Reality Wars. Of course, they don’t know specifically about them, but in these couple of years, there has already been a lot of tension. Everyone’s worried, and they’re hoping that the other half of the universe will help.”
“That’s okay,” Mateo said. “We’ll just teleport into a broom closet, or something.”
“Sounds cramped. Allow me to help you make it bigger. Take Moray with you.”
“Your brother? Does he have a power too?”
“Yes, as does Carlin, but it’s Moray you’ll need. Come on out,” she insisted to the aether. “Come out!” She rolled her eyes, and reached behind an invisible wall right next to her. She pulled Carlin into view. At least it looked like him. He also looked about twice the age he did when they last saw him.

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