Sunday, August 13, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 17, 2408

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image AI software
Constance pulled herself together so they could get to work. Being a time traveler in this day and age had gotten even riskier after the Shortlist’s meeting regarding The Edge. They had decided to not reveal time powers to the greater population of the stellar neighborhood. Instead, the authorized technologies would be developed gradually, after the supposed discovery of a new class of physics. They weren’t just going to somehow give everyone the ability to teleport. Such technology would be studied and tested by scientists over the course of years until they deemed it safe to use. And even then, they would institute safeguards to prevent abuse or accidents. The Star Trek franchise showed multiple examples of what could go wrong when teleportation failed. They would rely heavily on these, and similar, cautionary tales. It would be decades before any ship captain could utter the word energize, and be beamed up onto the transport pad. Until then, Team Matic had to be more careful. Because more of the Sol system had been conquered, and there were eyes everywhere.
“We got this now,” Leona said confidently. “Dante, raise the cloak.”
Nothing happened from the perspective of everyone in the shuttle, but they had evidently become invisible.
“Our signals are being shunted through another dimension,” Ramses explained to the group. “We’re invisible to the naked eye, and via all traditional forms of detection.”
“Will they one day be able to detect us?” Mateo asked.
“Not if the Shortlist maintains its authority,” Leona answered. “We’re not giving them this, for this very reason. People like our team need to be able to move freely about without worrying about being spotted by anyone with a strong enough infrared telescope. Though that means, we could hypothetically detect each other.”
“Which is why we’re sending a signal on purpose,” Ramses added. “Pointed directly at Earth. If anyone picks this up, they might be able to help our new friend.”
Max stretched his lips into a slight grateful smile.
“Let’s see who answers.”
They set the Dante on course towards Earth at a moderate pace, waiting for someone to pick up their message. Someone was always on the shuttle proper to receive any response, though it wasn’t necessary.
A few hours later, Holly Blue replied. “Come in Dante, this is Blue Butterfly.
Leona and Mateo happened to be available at the time. “Go get Ram and Max. They’re in Delta pocket.” While Mateo hopped back to the hatch to access the fourth pocket dimension, Leona got on the radio. “Blue Butterfly, this is Dante actual. It’s good to hear from you again.”
Leona, is that you? Are you experiencing an emergency? Are you in any immediate danger?
“We’re fine. We were looking for an engineer. Lucky we found one of the best.”
I don’t know about that. You need me to build you something, though?
“Not me. We made a friend from another universe. He’s asked for help saving his galaxy from certain doom.”
That sounds...important. What does he need?
“He’s on his way. I’ll let him explain. Can you go holo?”
Holly Blue’s image appeared before her. It was so crisp that it looked like she was actually standing there with her.
Max slipped out of the pocket dimension in the back, and came up to the front. “Hi. I’m Maximino Lécuyer.”
“Oh, hey Max. Yeah, we know each other,” Holly said.
“No, I would remember you.”
“Oh.” Holly Blue winced. “Spoilers. Well, I’ll introduce myself again for the very first time. My name is Holly Blue. Not Holly, not Miss Blue. Holly Blue.”
“Understood. It’s nice to meet you for the very first time again.”
“What was it you needed?” Holly asked.
“It’s called a flipcoat.” He went on to explain how the coat manipulated microrealities. Every fraction of a second, any given individual had an infinite number of possible choices. They could turn left, they could turn right. They could turn left immediately, or they could wait two more seconds. But they were not the only ones trying to make these decisions. Countless others were doing so at exactly the same time. Until their collective decisions were finally made, each possible world existed in a sort of hyperdimension of potential spacetime. What a flipcoat did was gather all of the choices that were going to impact the next decision of its wearer, and force the other agents of change to conform to a single reality. This was the reality of choice of that wearer. If he wanted to turn left, and doing so placed him in the street, then he needed to make sure that the bus driver that was on her way to collide with him made the decision to slow down enough to make a complete stop so that the bus actually didn’t collide with him.
“So, your coat does this all the time,” Holly began to ask, “but you’re not the only one with such a coat?”
“Not traditionally,” Max explained, “but if you made me a new one, then I would be. The rest are dead. Not the people, that is; their coats. I can’t say too much, but our whole galaxy is under constant threat of collapse. I mean that literally. A dark force is trying to destroy us, and the only way out is if someone navigates us to safety. Eventually, we’ll buckle under the pressure.”
Holly Blue nodded. “Tell me more about the coats themselves. What are they like? What do you know about how they work?”
Evidently, no one knew where or how flipcoats originated. No one even knew how anyone went about acquiring one. Apparently, if you were chosen by some mysterious force, it would suddenly be on you, and you would be unable to take it off.
“Where have I heard that before?” Mateo asked. “Chosen by a mysterious unseen conscious entity of some kind.”
“What prevents you from being able to take it off?” Leona pressed. “Can’t you just pull it over your head?”
“It’s, uh...embedded in your skin.”
“What?” Leona and Holly Blue questioned simultaneously.
“Yeah, as soon as it appears, you have a matter of seconds to remove it before spikes come out of it and dig into your skin. It’ll stay there until it dies, or you do. I’ve heard rumors of people being able to remove it before the spikes, but I’ve never actually seen any proof that it’s happened. I didn’t even try when I got my first one.”
“First one? Holly Blue asked. “After it dies, you may get another?”
“Not naturally,” Max answered. “You can steal another, though. It’s complicated, I’m not evil.”
“I’m not questioning you on that,” Holly Blue asked. I am questioning this needlessly bloody locking mechanism that these coats have.”
Leona was questioning it too. It didn’t make much logical sense. There were any number of other solutions to the problem of enforcing flipcoat ownership. The coat could be coded to a user’s DNA, and only operate for them. If they were worried about the theft itself, rather than what the thief would do with it, they could have allowed it to be locked like a chastity belt. Who were the original designers? They must have had a reason to do it like this, even if others would consider it abhorrent. It couldn’t just be random. The wearer selections couldn’t be random either. Something had to be driving them, even if they were just programmed to appear given a certain set of favorable circumstances.
“You look...upset,” Max noted. “I grew up with these, it doesn’t seem weird to me, but I suppose I can imagine how distasteful they could look to some. There are those in my galaxy who never remove their clothes, because it can’t happen to you unless you’re completely topless. Still, there are those who walk around topless—even in the freezing cold—hoping that it happens to them one day.”
“How many people have these, or had them, as it were?” Holly Blue asked him.
“No one knows. It would seem that whoever is in control doesn’t want us to know. The statistics always get...flipped. I think they stopped trying to take a census.”
Holly Blue nodded respectfully. He wasn’t the one in charge of all this. “Well, I can make you something that operates in a similar manner, but it won’t be perfect, and I can tell you right now, I ain’t installin’ no spikes.”
“I don’t think they’re necessary to the operation of the device.”
“I only have one requirement,” Holly Blue went on. “We have to do it in your universe. Firstly, it sounds like the proper physics you live under are different than ours. But also, I don’t really want that kind of technology in my universe at all.”
“I believe that I can get us back there,” Max began, “but I don’t know how you would get yourself home.”
“You let me worry about that,” Holly Blue replied. “Just get to Earth. I’m in Panama at the moment.”
“Really?” Leona asked. That was where the two of them met.
“Yeah, it’s this whole story. Anyway, I’ll send you the exact coordinates.”
“We’ll be there within the hour,” Leona said to her. “Thanks.”
They continued on their way. The cloak was up, but they had never tested it, so there was always a chance that there was some weakness with it. Everything went fine, though. They made it to Holly Blue’s little underground lair in Panama to have a little visit, and then drop off Max. They both assured the team that there was no reason for them to stay. So after dinner, they said their goodbyes, and climbed back into the Dante. They teleported back into orbit, and then farther out to drift towards the edge of the system with no destination in mind. Now they had nothing to do. But they didn’t have to worry about that for long, as per usual. Their worst fears were finally realized when another ship appeared out of nowhere, and set itself on an intercept course. When the Dante moved, it moved. It was definitely no coincidence. Leona tried to call it, but received no response. It was too quick for them to teleport away, so it wasn’t just any random vessel. Their attempts at escape ended when the other party pulled them into a cargo hold. All they could do now was wait.

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