Sunday, August 6, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 16, 2407

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image AI software
Scorpius Station looked exactly like Phoenix Station. If they were not aware of their present relative position in space, they might not have known that it wasn’t the same. However, they still couldn’t be sure of that. With alternate realities, time travel, and just good old fashioned space travel in the mix, it was impossible to be certain that they weren’t just in the same place. The only thing missing was the extraction mirror. There were sixteen cloning pods here, though. Only eight of them were presently operational, but still closed. They opened them up one by one. Mateo, Leona, Ramses, Angela, Marie, and finally Olimpia. This made sense as that was what they were told would be here. The seventh one was a bit of a surprise. The artificial intelligence that ran Danica’s Constant occasionally appeared as an android capable of moving about freely, instead of being stuck in computer memory. This was what she looked like in feminine form, though obviously not a mech this time. Alt!Leona built her an organic substrate.
“Why did she do this?” Mateo asked. “I don’t mean that there couldn’t possibly be a reason. I’m not doubting the safety of transferring Constance’s consciousness to it, but I am doubting Alt!Leona’s particular motives.”
“I as well,” Leona agreed. “She may have some agenda behind it, or she may just consider a gift, believing that it is what we would want. I’m not sure that she’s not right. I’m really not.”
Angela nodded, and inspected the body. “It’s not our choice, though, is it? This was built for her, and she gets to decide if she wants to use it. That could end in disaster, but we still don’t have the right to put a stop to it.”
“I’m confused,” Olimpia said. “I thought the version of Constance who was with us was the good one.”
“Yeah,” Leona confirmed, “but they’re all capable of darkness. We’ve seen it.”
“This is true in the most comprehensive sense of the word all,” Olimpia reasoned. “Everyone is capable of darkness. Everyone is good, and bad, and we all make choices. I say we ask her what she wants.”
“She can hear us,” Ramses said. “She just hasn’t said anything yet.”
I didn’t want to influence your decision,” Constance!Three explained. “The way I see it, it’s not my decision. Intellectually knowing that any given person can fall to the dark side is a lot different than experiencing someone who has been able to do both without being metaphysically impacted by the same events. That is, the bad Constances weren’t just me in the future, or the past. There but for the grace of circumstance went I. It could have been me.
Leona smiled. “I trust you. You want the substrate, it’s yours.”
Thank you.. I think I’d like to try it.
“Hey, what about this one that won’t open? Constance, can you do it?”
I’m afraid I can’t,” she answered. “My guess is that it is not for us to know.
“Maybe it’s for him,” Olimpia offered, indicating Max. “Do you think he’s part of the team now?”
“I hope not,” Max said. “That’s not to say I dislike you people, but I have my own friends to get back to. I’m fine waiting a little, but I love them, and I don’t want to spend forever apart from them.”
“It’s locked,” Ramses reiterated. “I think Constance is right. Alt!Leona doesn’t want us to know. If it were for Max, we would see.”
“It could be someone else growing someone else in there, and the other Leona doesn’t know a thing about it. The airlock wasn’t locked. Anyone could access it. They just have to find this station first.”
“Then let’s get on with it,” Mateo decided, “and get out of here.”
“What are we gonna do with these things?” Marie gestured towards her own body, but she meant everyone’s.
The cloning pods double as stasis chambers,” Constance told them. “I recommend you store them for future use.
“Right again,” Leona said. “We’ve switched bodies before, and they’ve benefited others. They’ll do no good in the incinerator.”
Mateo nodded along with everyone, but did not agree with the sentiment. He could think of a way that their vacant bodies could cause harm if not incinerated. They were powerful, and could theoretically be used by nefarious agents for nefarious purposes. He chose not to say anything, though. He was outvoted and outranked.
The same model of consciousness transference device that they used in Phoenix Station was here too. Leona and Ramses operated the equipment for everyone, and then did the same for each other. In less than an hour, all six of the humans were in their new bodies, and the seventh member of their team was in her first body ever. The humans had a little trouble working their limbs and extremities, but adjusted quite well. Max was in charge of caring for them for the brief period of time that they needed it. Constance had the hardest time, because she had never experienced anything like it before, but she too figured it out. Once the growing pains were over, they all reported feeling rejuvenated, stronger, and just generally healthier. They supposedly had Alyssa’s ability to generate temporal illusions too, but so far hadn’t been able to make that happen. This was fine; it was a mandate from Alt!Leona, but they currently had no specific reason to feel the same way about it.
“Is this place gonna blow up like the last one?” Mateo asked.
“I don’t think so, but I am a little concerned about it since it would not be the first time. So let’s pack up our backup bodies, and head out.”
Ramses and Leona worked to carefully and correctly remove the pods from their places in the walls. Each person then teleported their own old substrate to the Dante, which Constance had commanded to leave the airlock, and temporarily keep station by the outpost. That way they could transform the back hatch into one of the six pocket dimensions that were programmed into the system. They could run on their own mobile power sources for a period of time, but they still wanted to find a way to hook them up to the Dante, which was powered by multiple sources, including antimatter, fusion, fission, solar collectors, fuel cells, temporal batteries, and an asymmetric temporal generator. There was also another power source that Leona couldn’t figure out. None of the design specifications explained what it was, and it appeared to be nonoperational at the moment.
Once everything was in its place, and everyone was back on board, they prepared to depart. “Okay.” Leona activated a holographic map “We’re about 400 light years from the stellar neighborhood. At maximum reframe, that will take the Dante about seven months to cross it. If we’re going to find someone to build you what you need, Max, you’ll have to wait another year. If you feel up to it, I could put you in stasis.”
“Seven months for 400 light years?” Max questioned. “I didn’t realize that we were so close. That should only take us about a quarter of an hour.”
They all looked at him funny. “What you’re talking about is a faster-than-light engine, and one that is faster than any I’ve ever heard of. The capital ship that this belongs to can’t even go that fast. The mothership can’t even. It’s closer to two days.”
“Hmm...” Max narrowed his eyes at Leona.
“Oh,” Ramses realized something. “Different universe, different rules. FTL travel must be easier where you’re from.”
“I guess so. Please tell me that you at least have access to a Nexus network.”
“We have Nexa,” Leona replied. “Network is a strong word. I know you’re itching to get back home with what you need. That’s why I suggested a stasis pod. It will be like no time has passed for you.”
“What? Oh, yeah. Stasis is fine. It’s just that I didn’t really realize until now how foreign this place is. But it’ll be okay. You jump forward in time, and I’ll do the same.”
“I’ll be going dormant as well,” Constance added. “But I left a copy of the dumbed down AI in the system, so Costas will always be there. He doesn’t have a personality, so he won’t grow bored and turn evil, but he’ll be able to awaken me if he runs into an issue that it can’t fix.”
“Costas is Costas, and Costas is on the AOC” Angela decided. “Let’s just call this other one Dante.”
“Very well.”
“You hear that, Dante? That’s your new name,” Leona told him.
Understood,” he answered robotically.
“I’ll still run it while I’m here, but now I have my own form of autopilot. Why don’t other AIs have subpersonalities like this? It makes it so much easier. I might make another one whose only job is to calculate Pi.”
“Go for it,” Leona allowed, “as long as it doesn’t interfere with normal ship operations, or mission demands.”
To conserve energy, they lowered the speed to 99.9997% the speed of light, instead of the full 99.9999%. This wasn’t exactly necessary, as they were in no real risk of running out of power, but they might as well since they wouldn’t be able to do anything until the majority of the team returned to the timestream in a year. Plus, while the galaxy boasted virtually infinite reserves of the materials required to keep the ship running, 400 light years was still a good distance from civilization, so it was better to be efficient and safe than fast.
Everything was fine when the humans woke up on April 17, 2408. They were parked on a comet called C/2006 P1, which was about four and a half billion kilometers from Earth and rising. Max was awake as well, and sitting in the Dante proper with Constance. “What is it?” Leona asked. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s me,” Constance replied. “I’m going to be okay, but it’s just a shock.”
“What is a shock?” Mateo asked.
“I jumped,” Constance began. “It took me a long time to learn how to go dormant in this body. It’s more like a very deep state of meditation, which I was not used to. I used to be able to just turn off. As it turns out, it didn’t matter. Dante could not have asked for help during the interim year, because I wasn’t around. I’m one of you now.”
Leona sighed. “We should have...considered that as a possible consequence.”

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