Sunday, July 23, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 14, 2405

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Operating the Phoenix without an AI was difficult. It required the constant presence of a human intelligence, or it could be programmed to park somewhere, and wait until the team returned to the timestream a year later. They decided to leave it on an asteroid that used to orbit the planet of Violkomin as a minimoon. At one point, there was one universe, and everything in that universe belonged to its creator, Hogarth Pudeyonavic. She literally built her own brane, which was attached to Salmonverse. She designed it to her own specifications, making it apparently stronger and better than any universe that could form naturally. Unlike the natural ones, though, it was forever linked to their own, which allowed it to function on the same timeline. This made it easier to avoid paradoxes when traveling back and forth. That didn’t mean doing so would be simple or unregulated. That wasn’t what it was meant for. This was to be a sanctuary to protect against multiversal threats, like the Maramon, and the Ochivari. There was one way in, and one way out, and both sides of the border would need to be guarded to protect from these dangerous external forces.
After Dalton Hawke sent everyone away using his magic staff, Olimpia Sangster ended up in Hogarth’s universe, but not quite all the way in. She was trapped in an interstitial paradimensional space, which was barely large enough to accommodate her. Nanofissures allowed air molecules to pass freely from regular space, so that she didn’t suffocate while she was in there. Meanwhile, a few microfissures, which were smaller than a millimeter, allowed soundwaves to pass through one-way, which was just enough for her to communicate with Hogarth and Ramses. Either by Dalton’s intention, or some freak fluke of physics, Olimpia ended up tearing the whole universe in half, spreading the dimensional barrier out so that it ran through the middle, keeping the two halves separate from each other. One side was left with the physical laws that Hogarth had decided upon for her new haven. The other half was what they had been calling the Sixth Key this whole time, and was waiting for Kyra Torosia to transfer every inhabited celestial and subcelestial body in the main sequence, the Parallel, the Third Rail, the Fourth Quadrant, and the Fifth Division during the Reconvergence It wasn’t waiting very long, though. All of this happened on the same day.
Also on this day, Ellie Underhill downloaded every single consciousness in the afterlife simulation to new organic substrates in the new universe. They awoke in an absolutely gigantic lake on Violkomin that was about three times the size of the Caspian Sea. Upon arrival, the formerly dead experienced what was described as a unifying sense of profound calmness. Ellie was still coordinating new arrangements for her people, and the process would likely take decades, suggesting that she wouldn’t find herself at the Shortlist meeting regarding the Edge with Leona until her personal future. Or she left and returned in the blink of an eye. Lowell Benton was helping with this, but was also recently responsible for helping Hogarth liaise with representatives in the Sixth Key.
This was all very complicated and sounded incredibly overwhelming, but that sense of calmness that had washed over everyone in Lake Underhill had not completely dissipated, so they were not being uncooperative during this difficult period of transition. They also were not without help. The status levels from the simulation were impossible to maintain with no more prison, nor access limitations, but those in the higher ranks intuitively found themselves in leadership positions, especially the counselors class. They were helping keep everyone on track, and ready to begin their new lives on their new worlds.
Lowell was busy with his stuff for the last couple of years, but he promised to meet with the team again this year. He was going to try to authorize a return trip to the real main sequence, but Leona was working on a new plan in her head. For now, they were waiting in the hotel ballroom on the crest of Mount Hilde, which was currently the only point where the two halves of the universe met. If they were to open those doors on the other side of the room, they would cross the barrier. But they weren’t allowed.
“What are we gonna do when we get back?” Angela asked. “Any ideas?”
“That’s a good question,” Mateo noted.
Indeed. While it had come up often in the past, they never really had to answer it, because someone, or something, had always swooped in and forced their hands. Was that chapter in their lives finally over? Were they finally in control of their destiny? “We have to leave the Phoenix behind,” Leona decided.
“What?” Mateo questioned. “We just got it.”
Leona continued to stare straight forward. “Yeah, and now we have to give it away. Don’t worry, we won’t be completely out of luck.”
“But—” Marie tried to say before Lowell came in.
“Sorry about the wait, folks. Ellie’s coming too, but until then, how can I help?”
“We wanted to go home,” Mateo said. He caught his wife’s eye. She was giving him a look. “, we’re not. We’ someone our ship?”
Leona stood up, and sighed. “We may want it back when you’re done with it. In the meantime, we can live in one of the three shuttles. It doesn’t have an FTL drive, but it has a reframe engine, and more than enough room for all of us.”
“Okay, but what do we need the big ship for?” Lowell questioned. “I don’t know how to fly.”
“Ellie does,” Leona revealed. “Right now, you have 120 billion people on your welcome planet, right? They all need homes, and the biggest hurdle to accomplishing that is transportation.” She stepped over toward the window, and regarded the docked Phoenix. “It doesn’t look it, but that thing can hold 10,000 people. That’s not enough to move everyone right away, but it should help. Unless Hogarth has helped with alternatives, such as her own fleet of ships, or perhaps a muster beacon?”
“I don’t know what that second thing is,,” Lowell answered.
“I know it’s not much—”
“It’s more than we have now.” Ellie has walked into the room from the dimensional doors. “What brought this on?”
Leona looked back at her team, still sitting on the couches and chairs. “We prefer a smaller ship. I was excited when Ishida gave that to us, but it’s not practical.”
“The FTL engine, though,” Ellie pointed out. “Won’t you miss it? You haven’t even used it, have you?”
“We’ve lived through worse,” Leona replied.
They discussed some more ideas and details, and then everyone teleported to the bridge of the Phoenix, where a tour began. There was still a lot that the team didn’t know about it anyway, and they wanted to see it all too. She showed them the crew cabins above and behind the bridge, the engineering section below, and the transition space in the next section. Right behind that were the passenger access points, which opened to several dozen separate Ubiña pocket dimensions. That was how 10,000 people could live aboard at the same time, despite not having enough space in normal space. More than that could literally be on board simultaneously, but it would not be comfortable, and there would not be any privacy, because the majority of the vessel was taken up by the last two major components, which were the FTL engine, and the cargo hold. Though, thinking on it now, if the interstellar trips they were planning to take weren’t very long, keeping thousands of the passengers in cargo would probably be okay.
“And here are the shuttles,” Leona said near the end of the tour. “There’s enough seating for twenty-four people, however...” She ushered everyone into one of them, and closed the hatch behind them. Then she punched in a code, and reopened the hatch. “...each comes equipped with its own pocket dimension to give it even more room.” They were no longer looking at the shuttle bay, but an average-sized suburban yard with grass, but no other plant life yet, and no house.
“Hm. Yeah, I think we can work with this,” Olimpia determined. “I can see it now. What’s this one called?”
Leona smirked. “The Angela.”
The human Angela had not expected to hear her name. “What? Why?”
“It’s this whole thing. It’s not named after you, though. We can take one of the others, if you would prefer,” Leona promised. “There’s also the Dante, and the Bernice.”
“Dante would be great,” Angela replied. “Kind of better matches with the fire theme that I picture whenever anyone brings up the Phoenix proper.”
“There’s an issue,” Ellie began. “As of now, those doors in the Crest Hotel are the only way from the Sixth Key to the other universe, which has yet to be named. We can’t get the ship over there.”
“That’s the final stop,” Leona said with a smile. She reached out her hands. “If you’ll teleport us, I’ll navigate to the heart of the Phoenix.” They took hands, and jumped to the vault together, where Leona showed everyone the same thing that Ishida had shown her before.
Before Ellie finished closing up the case, they all put on vacuum suits, so they would be able to survive the unforgiving cold of outer space. Then they jumped back to the ballroom. Leona had already commanded the Dante to eject itself, so it wouldn’t be taken into the box along with everything else. It was currently piloting itself to one of the smaller spacedocks.
“I don’t know how to thank you,” Ellie said appreciatively.
“Just help those people” Leona requested. “We would help too, but we’re only here for a day at a time anyway. We have to find a way to use that to our advantage.”
“You’ll need this.” It was Ramses again, carrying the kettlebell drive that he had taken from them a year ago. It turns out I didn’t need it, but I’m glad I had it.”
“Are you back?” Mateo asked.
“Sorry, not yet. That thing was just dead weight. Soon, though. Soon,” he repeated. “I think next year.”
“Should we stay in the area for you, errr...?” Marie trailed off.
“I’ll find ya.” Ramses disappeared for the upteenth time.
“All right. In that case...” Mateo said. “What now?”
Olimpia’s Cassidy cuff started to beep. “It’s a message.” She opened it.
Hello? Is anyone there? This is Xerian Oyana of the Former Fifth Division. I’m looking for Team Matic. We need your help. I have your little ship. How does it work?

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