Sunday, July 9, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 12, 2403

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Moray McIver was one of the first students accepted into an experimental time school that existed inside of a time bubble, which accelerated the age of everyone within by several years for every year outside. While this was happening, legislation was passed to ban such use of these new time powers that people were suddenly experiencing. Most countries created entirely new branches of law enforcement in order to regulate the salmon and choosing ones of the Third Rail Earth, but the only one that really mattered was the Temporal Police Force in the United States. It wasn’t a particularly original name, and its mandate was different than what one may find in stories, but the majority of people with abilities lived in and around Arvazna. The U.S. and Arvaznian governments worked closely together to allow passage back and forth between the border since the Superscraper was nowhere near self-reliant. To make this work, the TPF had to enjoy the same freedom of movement in a jurisdictional sense.
Right now, Moray was leading Mateo, Angela, and Marie up to the ship that was going to take them to the planet of Violkomin, which was a corruption of the German word for welcome. The group was not invisible, per se, but they could not be seen as they wandered through the crowd. They were passing through a special spatial dimension that Moray created for them. Or rather he opened it, because it was always there, just beyond the reach of normal man. As far as parallel dimensions went, it could be considered the closest one to normal space. Slipping into it was trivially easy if you knew that it was there, and where specifically it was. Slipping out of it was also easy to do accidentally, which is why they had to stay with Moray at all times. Only he could see the exact pathway that they needed to take in order to stay within bounds.
“They’re working on technology to detect things like this,” Adult!Moray explained to them as they were snaking their way forward. “They’re...struggling with it.”
Mateo laughed. “Yeah, what you’re talking about is a disturbance detector, and only a few temporal objects can do it, like the Compass of Disturbance, and the HG Goggles. Whoever is looking into it is probably severely underestimating how difficult it is. If it were easy, we would have tons of them already.”
“Good,” Moray replied. “It’s an invasion of privacy. Most citizens are against.”
“Can people hear us?” Angela asked. “Because we can hear them. Sort of.”
“Under standard circumstances,” Moray began, “yes. Sound freely passes through the dimensional barrier, almost completely unencumbered, in both directions. However, I’m actively shunting the soundwaves elsewhere. If someone were underwater in the middle of a particular spot in the ocean, they might be able to hear us. The downside is the sound from the people around us is muffled. Maybe nothing to be done about that. It’s a tradeoff. A friend of mine is working on a workaround for me, though. She’s a temporal inventor, and she’s trying to design what’s basically a fancy hearing aid so I can spy on people from inside.”
“Oh,” Mateo said. “Her name wouldn’t happen to be Holly Blue, would it?” Perhaps they never really knew her origins.
“No,” Moray answered laughing. “Why? Who is that?”
“She’s the only inventor we know whose time power is inventing, instead of just being smart enough to do it.”
“Ah, I see. No, her name is Iona.”
“Is there something between you and this little inventor?” Marie asked, smiling. “It looks like you’re blushing.”
“No, I turned out to be gay,” Moray clarified. “I may or may not be blushing about her brother, Thurstan, who may or may not be a little too old for me.” That’s why I’ve been trying to get back into that time bubble.”
“Don’t do that,” Mateo suggested. “Just let time pass as it’s meant to. I’ve been in a few bubbles myself. No matter whether it’s slower or faster, you always come out feeling like you’ve missed something important.”
“That’s true. We’re here,” Moray said. The instruction on the door said to pull it, but he pushed, and moved it out of the way. Physical obstructions in the main dimension did have some kind of effect on the pocket dimension, but not always in the way they should, which was why they weren’t constantly bumping into people who couldn’t see that they were on the sidewalk with them. This was why Moray spent so much time in the bubble school, so he could learn to see a brand new geometry that a normal person couldn’t even fathom. Evidently, there was more he could do with this besides sneaking around. They snuck up to the launchpad.
They climbed the stairs to get all the way to the top, because Moray said that elevators were complicated. They decided to watch the launch in secret from the bridge. The crew was well-organized, but a little unpolished in their duties. It was understandable as all of this technology came as a giant leap in advancement, rather than a natural progression. These people had to learn their jobs in a short time frame. A few of them might have been part of their own time school bubble, but if these rumors were true, it was a different bubble than the one that Moray studied in.
Even with the issues, they launched the ship successfully, and kept everyone safe during the trip to Violkomin. From this region of space, traveling the long way around, using this vessel’s engine, was threatening to take a matter of years. Fortunately, the less violent majority of the Parallel decided to place supernexa near each version of Earth for shortcuts. These were not as large as the meganexa that they were still keeping to themselves, but more than enough for this diplomatic ship. What they could really use was the regular Nexus in Antarctica, but internal Third Rail sociopolitics prevented any one country from even stepping foot on Antarctican snow until the Global Council could renegotiate the treaties that dictated its usage.
For now, the supernexus was the only option for interplanetary travel for Third Railers and Fourth Quadrant dwellers, but it was not convenient. The Parallel didn’t place it near Earth. It was orbiting inside of the Oort Cloud, about 10,000 astronomical units away. At maximum speed, it would have taken them two hours to arrive. Out of fear, they didn’t push the ship that hard, so it took six hours. But once they were there, they were pretty much at Violkomin, because the supernexus of egress was built by the literal architects of the planet, who felt no need to make this whole thing a game.
“We’re close enough, we can take it from here,” Mateo said, now that they were well within teleporter range.
Captain Stefan Holland perked up. “Who was that?”
“Oh, shit,” Moray whispered. It was weird to hear him curse, but he was an adult now. He waved his arms around. “I forgot to hold the sonic dampener.”
A random crewmember reached over, and pressed a big mauve button near the exit. The door dropped down, the lights also turned mauve, and everyone got into defensive positions.
“Who is here?” Captain Holland asked again.
Moray held his finger against his lips to keep everyone quiet.
“No,” Mateo said. “Get me out of here.”
“It should be fine now. Just be extra quiet,” Moray continued to whisper.
“I need an exit,” Mateo maintained.
Moray sighed, and reached over to pull back the invisible curtain that separated the pocket dimension from everything else. Mateo ducked through it, and held up his hands. “It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt anyone.”
“A stowaway,” the Captain noted. “Put him in hock.”
“No, you can’t do that,” Mateo told them. “We have to get to Violkomin, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
“We? Where are the others?”
Moray dropped the barrier, and revealed the other three.
I was going to tell them I meant the royal we.”
“We can talk about toilet kings another day, Moray reasoned, unwittingly confused. “We stick together.”
“Take them all to hock,” Holland decided.
“Wait,” Mateo stopped the guards from approaching. “Do you feel that?”
“Feel what?” Captain Holland.
“Not you.”
“Yes,” Angela agreed. “It’s her.”
“I feel her too,” Marie said.
“She’s not on the planet.”
“No, but she’s close.”
“Whatever you’re talking about, you can continue talking about it from the other side of a cell. No more delays. No more resisting.” The Captain had had enough.
“I do too,” Moray claimed.
“You what? You feel Olimpia?”
“I feel...a disturbance in the force. She’s not out here. She’s in another dimension. Not my dimension, but similar.”
“Can you get her out?” Mateo asked.
“Not from here. But we can work together. One of you teleport me to her, and I’ll free her. But I’ll need a vacuum suit.”
“Yes. Sir, where are your vacuum suits?”
“We are not accommodating you,” Captain Holland argued.
“Right. I’ll find them myself.” Mateo took Moray by the hand, and started jumping around the ship until he found the airlock. Every time someone came up to stop them from getting what they needed, he would transport them to the other side of the vessel. Angela and Marie showed up soon to do the same. They kept working until Moray was protected and ready. They focused on the location of the empathic bond they shared with Olimpia, and made another jump, this time to the middle of space. She was floating there in a translucent cocoon of folded space, eyes closed, and trapped in the pocket dimension.
Moray reached for her, and pulled her all the way through to empty space. She woke up and tried to breathe, but found herself unable to. Fortunately, the few seconds she spent out in the black was nowhere enough to kill her. Mateo grabbed her in relief, and jumped the both of them down to the planet. Angela and Marie followed closely with Moray.
Once Mateo was sure that Olimpia wasn’t hurt, and wouldn’t need any medical attention, he hugged her again, and then started kissing her all over her face. “Mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah!”
Angela and Marie did the same. “Oh my God,” Olimpia exclaimed. How long has it been for you?”
“Over a year,” Angela answered.
“Four years for me,” Marie spoke for herself.
“Aww.” Olimpia gave her an extra hug. “It’s only been a couple days for me,” she explained when it was over. And they were awful. I think I was unconscious for the few days after that, though.”
“We had no idea where you were” Mateo began, “until we heard of the Sixth Key, but even then, it was a long time before we had an opportunity to come here. We’re so lucky to have found you when we did.”
“Score one for Ramses and his empathy upgrade,” Marie mused.
“Yeah, where’s he? Where’s Leona?”
“He has a mission, she has a meeting. They’ll find their way back to us later. We’ll explain everything, but first, what about you? How have you been?”
They heard someone approaching from around the corner. They hadn’t paid much attention to where they were. It was just kind of a big open room; maybe a hotel ballroom. It was Lowell Benton who appeared from the hallway. “Oh. Are you part of the diplomatic team?”
“Lowell?” Angela asked, shocked to see him here. “Are you in charge of this whole place? All by yourself?”
Well...Hogarth is supposed to be back from her little meeting, but she’s not returned yet, and I don’t know why. Ellie’s there too. I’ve been holding down the fort, but you know...I’m not great at diplomacy. I really shouldn’t be the only one here, but funny enough, the other meeting people didn’t want a serial killer crashing their party.”
“What?” Moray asked.
“He’s reformed.”
“I’m powerless,” Lowell said. “I died and was resurrected without my ability to witness past evil deeds. You have no idea how good that feels. You take your ignorance for granted. And who is this, by the way?”
“A new friend.” Mateo pointed accordingly. “Lowell Benton, this is Olimpia Sangster, and this is Moray McIver. Moray, Olimpia, this is Lowell.”
“I see. And why are there two Angelas now?”
“I’m Marie. It’s a long story.”
“I see again. I do not have time for it. I have to figure out what I’m gonna do about these diplomatic officials coming from the Third Rail.”
“I’m afraid we can’t help. We’re back on our pattern, so we’ll disappear tonight.”
“Plus, the bridge crew doesn’t like us,” Moray pointed out.
“Can you get us to the Nexus?” Mateo asked.
“I can’t do that.” He turned his face to stare ominously over at the wall. “It’s on the other side,” he said in an eerily quiet voice. “It’s on the other side,” he said even quieter.

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