Sunday, October 15, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 26 2417

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The representatives from the Sixth Key were sent back home through the Nexus, and locked back out of a return trip unless invited. It was still possible to communicate from there, though only if Venus deemed it allowed from her end. The majority of Nexus functions were handed out at her discretion, using whatever parameters she had come up with while the network was being put in place. Generally speaking, interactions between universes was strictly forbidden, but Hogarth’s brane was directly attached to Salmonverse, making this more of a biverse, which was a notable  exception to this rule. Though she could change the rules at any moment, and not worry about suffering any consequences. She was a god in any meaningful use of the term. It wasn’t clear where she even was, if she wasn’t just somehow everywhere all at once. Either way, Team Matic wasn’t going to worry about Heath or the others anymore. They were only in charge of protecting Romana Nieman, and her family, and they had to trust that the Dardieti would do their part too. They had not let them down yet.
Now that all the drama was over, they were all back at the penthouse, with nothing that they absolutely had to do. Leona and Ramses went back to working on their projects. Angela and Marie were learning more about government and society. Olimpia was getting ready for another trip. Mateo and Karla were playing with their girl. The two of them had not been able to leave the room this whole time. It was very important to Durune culture for the parents to stay with their child pretty much non-stop to ensure a healthy and successful familial imprint. The doctor, which in this case was Constance, was expected to be involved as little as possible in order to avoid confusion during this crucial period. Today was day four, which meant that they could probably take short breaks, but this was a months-long process. Short was the keyword here.
“You should go,” Karla encouraged. “Spend time with your wife.”
“It’s okay, I can stay. I want to stay.”
“If you don’t go, I won’t feel okay to go later.”
“What do you mean? Do you want to take a break?”
“I don’t want to take a break. I...”
“Karla, you’re not a bad mother if you spend a few hours away from your baby. I promise, she is not going to forget you. You’ve known her for years. Let me catch up a little. She and I need to share some secrets anyway.”
Karla chuckled voicelessly. She didn’t budge though.
“Go on. Get some sun, or some soda, or whatever you need.”
Karla nodded, internally trying to convince herself that it really was okay. “All right, I think I’ll go to my family’s Wednesday lunch. You have my number.”
Karla stood up, and headed for the door. Before she reached it, she turned back around. “It’s not a cultural thing, and it’s certainly not a family thing. In fact, I think most of the mothers in our bloodline have not loved the man who helped them pass along the responsibility.” She waited a moment to continue. “It’s just me. It’s important to me. That I...that we...learn to care about each other.”
Mateo smiled at her. “It’s called love, Karla. It doesn’t have to be sexual or romantic. One day, we’ll fall in love. I would know by now if we couldn’t ever. At least one of us would have to be an asshole.”
Karla slowly lifted her chin to absorb his words. Then she nodded once with her eyes closed, and left the room gracefully.
Mateo turned his head to look down at Romana in her bassinet. He expected her to be asleep, but she was awake now, and watching him intently while sucking three of her fingers. “I already love you.”
Karla returned. She looked like she had seen a ghost.
“Did you forget something? Wait, are you okay?”
She kept staring into empty space for a moment. “I think I just met a seer.”
Mateo hopped out of the bed. “Really? Those are...elusive.”
“Yeah. She was old. She was really old.”
“What did she say? Can you tell me?”
Karla was lost in her thoughts. “What? Oh. Um. Maybe?”
“Whatever it is, we’ll figure it out. We always do. You’ll learn that about Team Matic. You’re one of us now.”
She shook her head. “I don’t think I am. I think you’re gonna leave. I think you’ll have no choice. I don’t think you’re gonna raise her.”
He pursed his lips in frustration. “Seers see a possible future. That’s the whole point. Knowing of a future you cannot change would be useless, and anyone with such inactionable knowledge has an obligation to keep it to themselves.”
She shook her head again. “I think that’s what she was trying to tell me. You have to protect her.”
“Was she in the hallway? Did she break into this penthouse?”
“I spoke with her for five minutes. Was I gone that long?”
He sighed. “No, you weren’t. I don’t like that either.”
“This building has the best security in two galaxies. It’s not foolproof. There’s some very powerful people out there. I believe that she’s working for someone who is trying to help, and I got the sense that they are working against someone who’s not.”
“I’ve made powerful enemies,” Mateo reasoned. “We’ve been looking at this all wrong. Dardius may only be the safest place for her if I’m not here.”
“We’re never gonna fall in love if you leave, and you may never see her again.”
Now he shook his head. “In my experience, I don’t never see anyone again.” He frowned, and pulled his head back. That didn’t make any sense.
She laughed. “I understand what you mean.”
Mateo looked back over at his precious child. “If I wait to leave until a threat actually rears its ugly head...”
“Then leaving may not do any good,” Karla finished his sentence for him.
“Those Sixth Key people. I don’t think they threaten her directly, but they may have just been the first domino to fall.”
“The seer spoke in riddles, as they are legend to do, so we can’t be sure of anything. We’re on the verge of deciding that you should leave your family behind, but that could be a grand mistake.”
“I won’t leave you alone, and I don’t just mean the cops and soldiers downstairs.”
“Now you really do need to go talk to your wife.”
Mateo did go speak with Leona, along with the rest of the team, including Constance. She was key to the new plan. She was an intelligence apart, and would not feel the sting of being separated from the group like anyone else would. She was a genius, strong, and incredibly difficult to kill. And she was on Romana’s temporal pattern already. She would continue to serve as her doctor, but also probably her nanny, and maybe later her teacher, and eventually her cool aunt. But she couldn’t do it alone, because knowing someone off the pattern was just as important as having someone who was on it. That was where Silenus Koolen came into the picture. He was still heavily invested in the Nieman family, and had expressed his dedication for the last four years. If he agreed to it, he could move into the penthouse, and make sure that things remained safe while the ladies were away. Hopefully he would agree to it.
“Yes. Oh my God, yes. Please!” Silenus cried. “I’m so in. You don’t have to ask me twice. You didn’t have to ask me the first time! I’m ready. I can move in today.”
“Are you sure about this?” Karla asked. “I know it seems like us being gone for an entire year sounds like an easy job, but you can’t really leave the penthouse. Wherever we are when we leave the timestream, you’ll need to protect it. Constance and I will be fine, but Romana can’t take care of herself in any sense. You’ll be long dead before she even learns to walk. This will consume your entire life. You’ll be the guy who lives here.”
“You hear me, girl? I’m all about it. Let’s do it, but one thing, I have a better idea.”
“Oh, no, here we go.” Karla was worried.
“This baby, before she was born, your ancestors had to keep finding mates so they could make an extra baby who would grow up, and take care of this baby, right?”
“Yeah, that’s how it worked,” Karla confirms. “Not in those specific words.”
“Well. What’s changed?”
“Baby still needs taken care of, right? Just because she’s born, that hasn’t changed. It’s just, instead of being transferred to, like, a new womb, she needs to be fed and stuff.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“So I’m there to help with that, right?”
“Well, not that, but that’s what we’ve been asking. Have you not been listening?”
“Oh, I’ve been listening, and I’ve been thinking. You just said it, when I die, she’ll be a few months old. Who’s gonna help ya then?”
“I suppose we’ll have to find someone else,” Karla reasoned.
Silenus nodded coolly. “Why don’t we make someone else?”
“Excuse me?”
“Restart the bloodline. Make Romana some siblings. That way, when I die, they take over my job. And then they have kids, who take it over for them. And so on, and so forth, and ad infinity.”
“I’m not sure what benefit that would have. I mean anyone we trust could do it.”
“Who better to trust than someone who was literally born already invested in their family member’s life?”
“So let me get this straight,” Karla began. “You want to have sex with me to make a baby, raise it by yourself, since I only live one day a year, and then just hope they turn out right for the job when it’s their time?”
“Well, you’re not officially on the pattern, right. You could take a break from it for eighteen or so years. That’s only a few weeks for Romana, and it’s not like you won’t actually be with her. She’ll still see you every day of her life.”
Karla just sighed.
“Karls, if all I wanted was sex, I could have anybody. I’m famous. I’m not as famous as you or your baby daddy, but I’m famous enough. You know how many I turned down just this week. I’m just sayin’. I’m here for it. I’m here for you. I’m here for Romana. I’m thinkin’ about her future. Aren’t you?”
Karla cleared her throat, and turned to Mateo. He had been quietly listening to the conversation with the rest of the group. It felt very much like none of their damn business. “What do you think?”
“I should think you should do.”
“Thanks. Helpful.” She rolled her eyes. “Love it.”
“Uh. I have an idea,” Ramses jumped in unexpectedly. “It’s more of an inevitability, though. I think it was destined to always happen.”
“Rambo, maybe we just stay out of this,” Leona suggested.
“Maybe I should just show you.” He stood up, and took a step away from them. “Yeah, I’ll show you.” He teleported away, then returned a few minutes later with a cloning-slash-stasis pod.”
“Which one of us is in there?” Mateo asked.
“Do you remember when we were leaving Scorpius station, and everyone had all of their backup bodies on the Dante, and then I went back, because I was all, I forgot something?” Ramses asked.
“Yeah, I figured you left a tool.”
“Right, after I got my tool,” Ramses began with airquotes, “I first snuck back into my lab, and hid it in there.”
Leona cracked the case. “That’s the mysterious eighth active pod. We couldn’t see who was in it, but you stole it?”
“Yes, of course I did, because it would be stupid to just leave it there. We thought the whole place was gonna get blown up. Don’t worry, I think I was meant to take it, because right before you came to us with the new plan, the pod’s partition mysteriously opened on its own. Now we can see who’s in it.” He turned it around for the big reveal. It was none other than Silenus Koolen.
“Holy shit!” Olimpia shouted.
“That’s...for me?” the real Silenus asked.
“No one else has the right to it,” Ramses said to him. “If it’s built like ours were, you shouldn’t have to worry much about dying in a hundred years.”
Silenus started crying. “This is the best birthday present anyone’s ever given me.”
“It’s your birthday?” Karla questioned.
“Yeah, girl, I thought you were throwing me a surprise party, because it luckily matched up with your pattern. This is better than that, though.”
“Happy birthday,” Mateo said. “You wanna be born again? None of our transfers was that poetic.”
“Hell yeah, let’s do this! It’s not against the law when the Matics are involved.
“Wait, consciousness transference is against the law here?” Mateo asked.
“Yes,” Angela and Marie answered simultaneously. “So is cloning,” Angela added on her own. Due to this new information, they first made sure that Silenus was right that Team Matic could trigger an exception to the relevant laws. He was, and so...he was reborn. The procedure went smoothly, but it was already too late in the day, so they decided to wait to leave Dardius until next year. Besides, Mateo needed time to say goodbye to his new family. He was confident that he would indeed see Romana again one day, but it could still be a long time.

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