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Sunday, August 20, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 18, 2409

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image AI software
No one came for them. Constance detected an unusual energy draw that came from the Dante, to their mysterious captors, which occurred at exactly midnight central, but other than that, nothing happened. They didn’t even lose much power as a result of whatever that was. Perhaps it was just a strange way of scanning them, because a few minutes later, the cargo hold opened up again, and spit them out unharmed. The ship accelerated to higher speeds, and then disappeared with a reframe engine.
“What the hell was that?” Olimpia questioned.
“No idea,” Leona answered, “but it’s April 18 2409.” She took a pause. “Constance, run a level three diagnostic on all systems.”
“There’s no such thing as a level three diagnostic,” Constance replied. “You made that up.”
“Actually, I can’t take credit.”
“Right away, sir,” Constance said with a slight smile. She went off to complete the task as requested. No sooner was she finished with it, having turned up nothing of interest or concern, did another ship appear out of nowhere. This one was much smaller—and less foreboding—and it responded to their calls.
“Hello, this is the Dardieti Outpost Boyce Shuttle One. Do I have a Mateo Matic on the line?”
“This is Mateo. Go ahead.”
“I’ve been rerouted to find you. It’s taken me a long time, but we received the message you sent out last year. Your presence has been requested on Dardius proper.”
“For what purpose?” Leona asked.
“It has something to do with the future, and your family, or the future of your family,” Boyce One replied. “That’s all I know. I’ve given the message, and confirmed that you’ve received it. Now I really must return to my work. This has been a really...” He mumbled and trailed off a little before remembering to switch off the mic.
“Thank you, Boyce One. If it is required of you, you can let them know that we are on our way, and that we’ll be there as soon as possible. We’re on our pattern.”
He didn’t say anything further, but he surely heard the last message. His little ship flew off in the same direction as the other one, though not at reframe speeds. Dardieti Outpost. How many of those were there, and where? All the way out here, they were nearly three million light years from home. This meant that that was how far Team Matic was going to have to travel to reach it themselves. The Dante wasn’t any more capable of crossing that distance in any reasonable span of time than the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was. With only the reframe engine, it would take them four thousand years. They either needed to reach out to their friends with true faster-than-light capabilities, or a Nexus. Though, the Dante could not fit inside of a Nexus transport cavity, so if they used that method, it would have to be jury-rigged, and they only ever got that to work in the Parallel.
“Does anyone live near the Nexus in Antarctica?” Angela asked.
“No, they abandoned the continent entirely,” Leona explained. “There was a time when people were able to live there because climate breakdown made it more hospitable to humans, but then they started to solve those problems, and made it colder again. They could still survive there if they wanted to, of course, but the population eventually dwindled into nothing. Either way, they weren’t in that region, no.”
“He asked about me,” Mateo pointed out. “Not the rest of you. He didn’t say anything about the rest of the team. I can go alone.”
“We’re not headed to enemy territory, Matty,” Ramses said with a laugh. “We can go. Might as well. I hear it sports some nice vacation spots. I was too busy to partake when I was living there before. Maybe we’ll get lucky, and we won’t be there to solve some kind of crisis.”
“It clearly took years for us to get the message,” Leona reasoned, “and could take us years of real time to arrive. I detected no sense of urgency in the messenger’s voice.”
“Maybe that had more to do with the messenger himself,” Marie reasoned right back. “Just because he wasn’t in a hurry doesn’t mean there is no hurry.”
“True. Dante?” Leona started tapping on the main console. “Teleport to these coordinates please.”
“Teleporting now.”
The darkness of space they could see through the viewscreens was replaced by the brightness of the snow. They opened the hatch, and let in the cold. It was a surreal feeling, knowing that it was profoundly frigid out here, but being basically unfazed by it. Ramses’ 3.0 model substrates were working well for them, and they were already clearly better than the previous model. “Hey, Dante, what’s the exact temperature?”
“It’s negative forty degrees,” Dante responded.
“Is that Fahrenheit or Celsius?” Olimpia asked.
Leona and Constance laughed. “Yes.”
“Why is that so funny?” Mateo questioned.
“They’re the same,” Leona explained.
The two of them stared at her.
“They’re the same at that degree,” Constance clarified. “They converge.”
“Got it. Thanks. Now it’s funny.” Not really.
“It’s underground, right?” Marie moves on from the subject. “How do we find it?”
“Hey, Opsocor!” Leona shouted into the wind aimlessly.
They heard the sound of metal against metal behind the Dante. They turned the corner to find a hidden trap door opening for them several meters away. They walked over to it and hopped inside.
“Opsocor, please teleport us to the main floor.”
Nothing happened.
“Wait, we can’t just teleport ourselves?” Angela asked.
“Can you?” Leona asked. “We’re not authorized to do so. The system is quite sophisticated.”
“Maybe it will work for you since you’re the one who got this giant hatch open,” Mateo suggested. “Leona, Queen of the Nexus.”
“That’s not the real problem. If Opsocor can’t do it, maybe she can’t do anything.” Still, she jumped herself away. Ten minutes later, she was knocking on the next hidden trapdoor, which they had to open from this side. They  jumped down to the second level, and then did it again to get to the control room below that.
“Is everything okay?” Ramses asked.
“No,” Leona answered with a sigh. “She’s not responding to me. I don’t know why not. But nothing is turning on either, except for this emergency lighting.”
“I wanted to wait until everyone was here,” Opsocor’s voice came in through the speakers. “I am a prerecorded facsimile of the one you know as Venus Opsocor. I have access control over the system, which allows me to let in anyone for safety concerns, or in your case, to explain what’s happened. This Nexus building has been taken offline. It has been too significantly altered, and therefore automatically removed from the network. It is incapable of transporting anyone anywhere. Do not attempt to—no. Yes, sorry. Shifting response path. You are indeed authorized to make attempts at repair. I am unable to run diagnostic tests, or provide you with any technical specifications, or troubleshooting assistance. Again, this is a prerecorded facsimile with limited response paths. I was not made aware of what has been broken within the system. I am here as a result of whatever those changes were, which you will have to correct yourself if you want to bring the station back to operational standards. Do not attempt to converse with me. I will not respond to any calls. This message will not be repeated. Thank you, and have a nice rest of your life.”
“So essentially,” Marie began, “it’s broken, but the AI doesn’t know how it’s broken, because that message was recorded just in case something like this happened.”
“It’s not an AI, it’s a real person,” Ramses corrected.
“Yeah,” Leona agreed. She got on her hands and knees, and started to get to work on the main computer.
Meanwhile, Mateo was shining his watch light through the observation window, and trying to use his arms to block ambient light from his eyes. “I think I know what’s wrong with it,” he declares.
Leona gets up. “You do?”
“Don’t look so surprised. Can you get the lights on in the Nexus chamber? The drum is missing.”
“The drum?” Leona asked, confused.
“I don’t know what it’s called. It’s the giant thing that hangs over the cavity.”
“Uhh...I don’t know how to get the lights on manually.” She opened the door from the control room, and walked down the steps as everyone else followed. She used her light illusion ability to conjure a nano-sun on the ceiling, which illuminated the whole chamber. Mateo was right, it was totally missing. “That’s not a drum, Mateo. That is the Nexus. Everything else is either just the interface to it, or lets you control the rest of the building, like the lights. It’s really the only thing you need, and somebody took it. They took the whole thing out. What’s left doesn’t even look damaged.”
“What should we do?” Constance asked. “I don’t have the data on this thing; I wasn’t allowed, but I’m still smart, so I could help.”
“There’s no way to fix it. It’s like a car without an engine, or a boat without water. There’s nothing to repair. We would have to get it back, or replace it. I wouldn’t know how to build one. She told us that we won’t be able to read the manual, and I’ve seen the guts inside before, but not enough to recreate it from nothing. At this point, our only hope is to call the Jameela Jamil.”
“Okay, we’ll do that,” Mateo decided.
“There’s another option, if we don’t want to bother Team Keshida with this,” Ramses said.
“What would that be?”
“We could try to find the second Nexus on Earth.”

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