Sunday, September 10, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 21, 2412

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image AI software
Finding the Nexus, and getting the hell out of this galaxy, while dangerous and full of many unknowns, was their best and safest course of action. The angry Fifth Divisioner was one of apparently many who wanted to see the whole team dead, probably for not completely unreasonable reasons. They always had pretty good luck on Dardius, at least when it came to civilization. Of course, that was the location of Tribulation Island, which was arguably the source of every problem that still haunted them today, but other than that, it’s been great.
“What’s your idea, Constance?” Leona asked.
“Well, the three-word coordinate system is an interesting thing,” Constance began. “They’re meant to be random, but then I started thinking about how time travelers affect history in tiny little ways that a normal person wouldn’t notice. There are phrases that I’ve heard two people utter independently of each other, centuries apart, without them having ever crossed paths. Now, maybe that can be explained by a long chain of meetings, like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but based on other things I know about how time works...not necessarily. The Nexa are incredibly advanced, complex machines that can do a whole hell of a lot more than just send you from Point A to Point B. The people who came up with them cross the multiversal void like it’s nothing more than a tiny stream they can hop over with a modicum of momentum. They’re sometimes called gods. If anyone is capable of secretly impacting the algorithm of a natural language global coordinate system, it’s them.”
“Where are you going with this?” Mateo pressed, not impatiently.
Constance nodded, and turned a screen that hung down from the ceiling between the passenger section and the helm. She zoomed into the ocean. “,” she said dramatically. “Middle of the Pacific Ocean, just as we suspected.
Leona peered at it. “Could it really be that...on the nose?”
“Might as well see what’s up,” Constance determined. “The nearest major land mass is three thousand kilometers away. There’s little risk in checking it out. I mean, except, of course, that guy who’s trying to kill you. But he could be anywhere.” She shrugged. “I doubt he’s there. If he is, it’s because I’m right.”
“Yeah,” Leona agreed. She looked back up at the screen, and took a breath. “Dante. Activate the cloak, plot a course back to Earth, and once we’re within teleportation range, jump us straight to—”
“Wait,” Olimpia piped up. “If there’s something there, we don’t wanna land right on top of it, or inside of it.”
“Good point.” Leona tapped on a different square on the map. “Jump to arise.until.converges instead.”
Understood. Cloak activated. Jumping now.
They were floating in the middle of the ocean. Around them was more ocean. There was no land in sight, no aircraft in the skies; they were totally alone. And there was no Nexus space machine to transport them to Dardius. But of course, it was never going to be that easy, or a satellite would have picked it up in the late 19th century. Angela started removing her clothes.
“Whaaat are you doing?” Ramses asked
“Don’t question her,” Olimpia scolded playfully, enjoying the show.
“I’m going for a swim. My guess is that it’s at the bottom of the ocean. I don’t know how deep it is here, but—”
Three thousand, six hundred, and eighty-three meters,” Dante answered, unprompted.
“You can’t go down that far,” Ramses explained, “but...” He widened his eyes, and lifted his hand towards the ceiling.
I can,” Dante volunteered.
“Let’s do it,” Leona said. “Run a grid sweep, centering on”
They didn’t have to do much of a sweep. As soon as they dove right under the surface, and pointed the headlights where they wanted to go, the Nexus building appeared within view. It wasn’t giving off any energy readings to speak of, and was undetectable via sonar, but it was visible to the naked eye. It was just under the water, and maintaining neutral buoyancy. The waves went up, it went up. The waves went down, it went down. It was possible to stand on top of it, and not get wet above the ankles, if not for the splashes. They dove the Dante deeper, and magnetically attached it to the exterior wall. Then they all seven teleported into the Nexus building.
“Venus, are you there?”
I’m here, Leona.
“I’m always worried that you won’t respond.”
I can’t promise that I always will.
“Thanks for being honest. We were hoping to be transported to Dardius?”
Certainly.” The machine began to power up.
“Wait, let’s think about this,” Mateo said. Despite the fact that Mateo did not have anywhere near the relationship with this Venus Opsocor, the machine actually started to power down a little bit, apparently in response to his hesitation. “I’m a little tired. Aren’t you a little tired?”
“I guess,” Leona replied.
“I’m not,” Ramses said. “But if you worked half as hard as I imagine you would have had to in the stairwell, your bodies could be spent right now. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a rest.”
“If we wait one more day,” Leona began to reason, “everyone else is waiting a year. They’re expecting us.”
“They knew what they were getting into when they sent for us,” Marie reasoned right back. “They are under no illusions that our lives are quick and easy. You should sleep. It could be that they would rather us be late and energized than early and useless.”
Leona thought about it some more. All right. Venus, we’re going back to the Dante to sleep. Is it okay if we postpone this for a year?”
Why go back when you have everything you need right here?” The Nexus went back to powering up. A light flashed, and when it receded, they found an undecagonal bed that fit perfectly within the undecagonal Nexus cavity. Someone designed it to be used for such an occasion, and it was just sitting on another world, waiting to be transported here when needed. Did they need it, though? Did anyone need a bed that was larger than most bedrooms?
“Orgy, party of seven!” Olimpia joked. She jumped into the bed, and started logrolling around.
“That’s my sister,” Angela argued, pointing to Marie.
Olimpia just shrugged.
“You definitely need some sleep, which is all that’s going to be happening in this bed. Thank you, Venus,” Leona said.
I live to serve.
Everyone slept through the night, including the four of them who didn’t expend a ton of energy in an underground monkey bar prison. Constance found it to be an eye-opening experience, because while she had obviously placed herself in dormant mode before, she had never slept as an organic being. It made her appreciate the human struggle more in several hours than she had accrued in the prior four and a half billion years of her life. That was probably a tiny exaggeration, though. Once everyone was up and ready, Venus made the gargantuan bed disappear. She then loaded the coordinates to the Nexus on Tribulation Island, and sent them all away.
You have arrived,” she announced at their destination. Because she was everywhere all at once.
The two Nexus technicians greeted them, of course knowing exactly who they were, and having been expecting their visit. They made no indication that the team was late. They contacted someone to come and explain why they were asked to come here, and told them that they were free to wait inside, or get some fresh air. This planet never had any air pollution, which was something that all Vonearthan colonies shared, but this one held a population of billions, so it was particularly astonishing.
When they stepped outside, they found the Dante sitting on the sand next to the Nexus building. “Venus. How did you bring it here?” Leona asked her.
The cavity is more of what you would call a guideline than an actual rule. I am the Nexus. I am the network.” Hm. Interesting.
They wandered around, and did enjoy the fresh air until a woman arrived an hour later from an airshuttle. She stepped out, and looked directly at Mateo, rather than the group as a whole. “Mateo Matic. My name is Tyra Nieman, Generation Ten. I am here to take you to my daughter, Karla Nieman, Generation Eleven.”
“Do we have business with her?” Mateo asked. “I don’t believe we’ve met, though I do recognize the surname. I think it’s in my notebook.”
“It ought to be,” Tyra said. “You had sex with our ancestor nearly three hundred years ago.” She turned to head back towards the shuttle. “Come. Your daughter will be born soon.”
They followed her into the shuttle, and rode with her to the mainland. Mateo started flipping through his notes, but he already remembered what Tyra was referring to. Two hundred and seventy-nine years ago, Mateo and Leona found themselves on the rogue planet of Durus. A settlement called Ladytown was attacked by the government, which resulted in all of the males living there contracting a deadly disease. They asked Mateo to donate sperm so they could repopulate and rebuild. They did not have the technology to do this medically, so he had to perform the old fashioned way. He paired with several women, but after returning to the timestream a year later, he learned that none of the pregnancies took. According to this woman, that was apparently untrue, or the truth was at least complicated. In their world, complicated was the resting state. Their best guess was that Saffira Nieman was placed in stasis, or jumped forward in time, and it was just that no one mentioned it. But if Saffira was finally about to have the baby, what did her descendent, Karla have to do with anything?
Tyra declined to clarify the situation, insisting that, as the current mother—which she said as if the word were more of a title than a relationship—Karla was responsible for speaking for herself. So they waited until they were in the house in Sutvindr, where the Niemans lived. There they were taken into a bedroom, where a pregnant woman was lying in bed. Mateo wasn’t the best with faces, but this was definitely not Saffira.
A man was sitting on a chair next to the bed. “It’s all right, father. I would like to speak with him alone.”
“What if you need something?” her father asks.
“Then I am sure that Mister Matic is more than capable of helping. If his reputation is accurate, he will be more than willing as well.”
“Of course,” Mateo concurred. “She is safe with me.”
The father grunted, and left the room. Leona had stepped in as well, and was reluctant to leave.
“It’s okay, Madam Delaney. You may stay as well,” the woman said with a smile, though it appeared to be difficult for her to change the expression on her face. With all due respect, she looked very tired. “I’m sure you have lots of questions,” she began as she was trying to sit up. She accepted Mateo’s help with the pillows. “Or maybe you just have the one: what the fuck is going on? Bear with me, and I promise, everything will make sense.” She cleared her throat, and reached over for some water. “My name is Karla Nieman, Generation Eleven: the final mother. Now, what does that mean? Well, hundreds of years ago, you impregnated Saffira Nieman. She lived and died with no idea that she was pregnant for years on end. She actually had her own kid—two kids, I believe; a girl and a boy. The girl, when she came of age, became pregnant as well. She lived and died also without knowing the truth. It was actually not until the fourth generation that people started to suspect that something was weird.”
“Oh my God.”
“Leona’s getting it,” Karla said with a bigger smile, and a laugh. “That’s when she started to feel symptoms, because for the baby, the pregnancy has been going on for the last several weeks.”
Mateo lost his breath. He turned away to get it back. He was hyperventilating. Leona tried to place her hands upon his shoulders to comfort him, but it only made it worse. After a couple of minutes, he composed himself, and turned back around. “I’m terribly sorry about that. I I understand that... I’m sorry.”
“Yes, it’s a lot to take in. We can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Generations Four and Five. They had to figure it out with limited medical technology, and a cursory understanding of time travel studies. You’re famous, Mateo, and the Nieman bloodline knows more about you than anyone else in the universe, but that’s only because we made a point to know. We had to. But the early mothers had no reason to research your life yet.”
“So you’ve been pregnant your whole life? The baby just keeps going down the generations?” Mateo asked.
“No,” Karla responded with a shake of her head. “It doesn’t happen until after puberty. Until then, the previous mother holds onto it. But remember, it’s a once a year thing. It’s just like your life—” She interrupted herself to stare into space with a look of immense pain. Her sigh turned into a whimper, which turned into a scream, though it wasn’t too loud. Mateo just let her squeeze his hand until the contraction was over two minutes later. She breathed heavily, and drank some more water. “Forgive me.”
“That is nothing that needs to be forgiven,” Leona insisted.
“Thank you. As I was saying, the way it worked is that once the next mother in line goes through puberty, the baby will transport itself to her. The doctors called it Spontaneous Uterine Transplantation. Actually, they originally called it Spontaneous Matrilineal Uterine Transplantation, but someone pointed out that it spelled out Smut, so they changed it. But it’s still matrilineal. To my knowledge, a daughter was never a guarantee. I only have three brothers, but previous mothers have had many more, because they needed to make sure that there was an impregnable person to carry the torch. Ha! That’s not the right word, is it? It seems like it should be. If you can be impregnated, you’re impregnable! Right? Am I right? I’m right!” She laughed heartily.
They laughed with her.
“Anyway, as we’ve said, there have been eleven generations of this for the last three hundred years. The baby exists for one day out of the year, just like you. It jumps forward in time at the end of that day, but the funny thing is, every fun component of pregnancy sticks around. Bloating, cramps, wonky hormones: I’ve had them since I was a teen. And now...”
“Now you’ve been in labor for, what, a week?” Leona guessed.
“A month,” Karla corrected. “I’ve been having contractions for a month. And unless this baby comes today, I’m going to be having them for a whole other year. The final mother has always been a revered figure in our family history. But they never thought about the downsides. And I’m the only one who has to go through them.” She leaned over to the side, and glanced at the door as if she could see through it. “Between you and me, my mom has always resented me. My grandmother—God bless her—she was scared to death that she would birth a premature baby. But her husband was always, like, Telma—her name was Telma—he was like, Telma, this is Mateo Matic’s child. It magically disappears every year, and then comes back to the same womb. Then it moves to a different womb! It’s not gonna be premature! It’s gonna come out perfect! My grandfather, he was a laugh riot. But my mom! My mom. She thought she was the one. Lots of babies are born at thirty weeks, she’d say. She never let me forget it. But she was wrong. It’s me. I’m the birth mother. And she doesn’t resent me anymore.” She indicated herself in the bed. “Not after seeing me like this, and being pretty sure that the baby’s birthdate is April 22, 2413. Ain’t nobody wants to be me no more, I’ll tell ya that much. Sorry, I got a bit of an accent that comes out when I’m riled up. I know I’m in trouble, but you’re here now, and I can’t help but be excited.”
“We understand,” Leona said. “But you really should get some rest. We will indeed get you anything you need. We can try to...” she started to say uncomfortably.
“Induce?” Karla assumed. “I’m not allowed to. It’s this whole spiritual thing. I gotta go through it all the way. We’re on the baby’s timetable. We always have been. Everybody’s afraid that something’ll go wrong if we interfere in any way.”
Leona frowned at her, as did Mateo.
“It’ll be all right, Sugar,” Karla said. “I’m a tough chick. I’ll get through this, and then I’ll be the only mother that matters. And my mother will hate me for it.” She seemed quite pleased with this eventuality.
They stayed with her for the rest of the day, learning more of the family history, and of Karla’s personal life. She hadn’t come up with a name for the baby yet, but the past mothers always thought that it would be a good idea to choose a Croatian name. A year later, Romana Saffira Nieman took her first breath in the fresh Dardieti air.

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