Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 30, 2421

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image Duet AI software
It was really dark when they arrived on Worlon. Not a single star could get its light through the thick armor of clouds in the atmosphere. They decided to stay near the Nexus, because it was probably the safest place on the planet. There was no sign that the Ochivari who once lived here still kept this place active. They might never have used it at all. Once they developed the ability to travel across the bulkverse, it may have seemed mostly pointless. That, or it had just been enough time. Venus wasn’t responding to them at all; not even Leona. They were where she wanted the team to be, so she was perhaps done providing her guidance. There were countless other Nexa in multiple universes too, so she could have also been quite busy from whatever perspective of time she experienced.
They left the Dante on Flindekeldan. It was funny, they were gifted this giant capital ship that was capable of true faster-than-light travel, but they gave it away again almost immediately, deciding to limit themselves to one of its shuttles. Shortly thereafter, they gave that away too, but that didn’t leave them with absolutely nothing. Ramses was hard at work every day he was in the timestream, and left a lot of the intervening time to a stunted copy of the Constance intelligence. This version of Constance had no personality, and no sense of free will. It could continue solving calculations on its own, but had no need for companionship, or any other form of stimulation. Ramses couldn’t even talk to it. He had to input commands manually. They were developing a lot of projects simultaneously. One of them involved the pocket dimensions that were being stored in the shuttle. He found a way to separate them from the vessel, and make the access portals small enough to fit in one’s literal pocket.
They were skin tight silver bracelets; stylish and not uncomfortable. They served as doorway access keys. Leona and Mateo shared access to the same door, while the rest each had their own abode. Ramses and Leona had a second bracelet, which granted them access to their shared laboratory. Once an individual was inside their respective room, they could then open doors to each other’s rooms, but not from the outside, unless they were wearing extra bracelets. The pocket dimensions could not be stored and established with these bracelets, though. It wasn’t like they could open them from anywhere. They first had to be built at a chosen location. Ramses could do this with a larger device ahead of time, which was sufficiently powerful enough to generate the pocket dimensions. When they were done with a particular location, they could be collapsed again, and rebuilt elsewhere. While active, they were invisible and intangible, even to the team members. One could walk right through it without realizing it if they couldn’t remember where it was. They had to have the intention to open their door with their bracelet by hovering it near where the lock would be if they could see it.
After Ramses taught them how all of this worked, they decided to go to sleep. None of them required the rest, but dangers could be lurking outside. It was best to be fully functional once the sun rose. They didn’t know when that would be, so he quickly rigged up a light sensor on the Nexus to awaken them at the appropriate time. He was still trying to figure out how to set up security cameras on the pocket dimensions. Being invisible to the world outside inherently meant that everything else was invisible from inside as well. Transmitting images in spite these complications was not going to be easy. The scientists still had so many other things to take care of.
When the sun sensor woke them up, it was shortly after midnight central. No one was in a hurry to leave their pockets but Mateo. He opened his invisible door, and took a breath of fresh air. And fresh it was. This world was apparently free from all pollution, having recovered from centuries of it brought upon by its native inhabitants. No one on the team knew all that much about the Ochivari. In fact, Mateo, Angela, and Marie probably knew the most of all. It wasn’t clear when they abandoned their homeworld so it could be brought back to homeostasis, but they had returned at some point this past year. A group of them were standing at the entrance to the Nexus, hanging out as if smokers on a break from work. They stared at him, shocked at his sudden appearance, and not sure what to do about it. Mateo could tuck himself back through the door, but then what? They would just wait for him to come back out again eventually. “Hello,” he called politely. He cleared his throat, and closed the door behind him. “How do?”
Even though they very much looked like aliens, Ochivari had very humanoid faces, and very humanoid facial expressions. One of them raised his eyebrow like Mr. Spock. He pulled a handheld device out of his pocket, and seemingly snapped a photo of Mateo with it. He tapped on the screen a few times, and then showed it to his friends. “Mister Matic.”
Mateo rolled his eyes. More fans. Cool. “I see my reputation precedes me. “Friends or foes?”
“We’re friends,” another Ochivar claimed. “We took this planet back from the Ochivari a few months ago.”
“Forgive me, I thought that’s what you were.”
“No,” the first one said, shaking his head. “We’re Krekel. Same species, technically speaking, but with different ideas about how to deal with aliens. Particularly, we don’t cause harm. You are in no danger around us.”
“I appreciate that,” Mateo replied, having trouble believing it. He wanted to trust them, but he had heard nothing but bad things about the critters that evolved on this planet, and his personal experience supported this position. When did this reportedly good faction break off, and under what circumstances exactly?
“We see that you’re still concerned. What can we do to make you feel more comfortable and safe?”
“We could sing,” another one suggested.
“Oh, yes, let’s sing.”
“No, that’s okay,” Mateo said, trying to sound as polite as possible.
“Nah, it’ll be good. You’ll love it.” The Ochivari—or rather the Krekel—gave each other some space, and started to play. They didn’t do anything with their mouths. The sounds they made came from them rubbing their wings and legs together like crickets. Cricket. Was that related to Krekel?
It was actually rather good and mesmerizing. Mateo didn’t even notice that everyone else had come out of their pockets to listen. Once the orchestra was done, they took a bow, and let the humans clap. “Are we sure about them?” Mateo asked quietly.
“No,” Leona admitted.
“I am,” said someone else. It was Ellie Underhill. “They’re fine. They’re friends!” She waved over at the Krekel orchestra, who all waved back.
“When did you get here?” Leona questioned.
“About the same time you did. I teleported down from The Phoenix.”
“That’s in orbit right now?”
“We’re using it to protect the Krekel. They can’t travel in ships, because they’ve not figured out a way to transport them through their bulk portals, so they require protection if they want to maintain a stronghold on this planet. The Ochivari have few qualms killing the dozens of people that would need to be sacrificed to accommodate the mass of a starship.”
“What makes the Krekel different?” Angela asked.
“They’re from a different timeline. They were taught how to travel the bulk without killing each other. That’s why Ochivari are so angry all the time. Every time they do it, there is a strong chance that they’ll die, and an equal chance that a friend will. Without that, the Krekel were able to keep their social civility. You really are safe here.”
“Okay, we’re safe,” Leona began to reason, “but that doesn’t explain why we’re here. We were sent.”
“You were?” Ellie was surprised. “If that’s true, then it has nothing to do with the past. Something is going to happen, and whoever sent you wants you to be here for it. Now I’m worried. Nobody sends you nowhere without a reason.”
“It’s probably a good thing you brought that ship,” Marie decided. “What, are you on a break?”
Ellie shook her head. “No, the work is done. Somebody did it for us.”
“Wadya mean?” Ramses asked.
“Everyone still left on Violkomin was transported to their new homeworlds all over the galactic neighborhood. It wasn’t all at once, but it was a lot quicker than it would have taken for us to do it with the Phoenix.”
Everyone looked down at Mateo. He chuckled softly. “You’re welcome.”
You’re responsible for that?” Ellie questioned him.
“Not me personally. I asked a god.”
“Oh. Well, thank you anyway, and thank them for me. That’s a load off my chest.” They stood there awkwardly for a moment. “So, do you want it back?” she offered.
Rames reached over and unlocked the door to his personal living space. “I don’t think that will be necessary. We have everything that we could possibly ever require.”
“If you don’t need the Phoenix anymore either,” Leona concurred, “find someone new who does.”
“Yeah, I think I’ll do that.” Ellie took a breath, and clapped her hands. “Anyway, we were just about to share a breakfast. Humans and Krekels don’t eat the same foods, but we have plenty to share. That is, if your bodies even need that anymore. Mine doesn’t, but I still like to partake anyway.”
“That sounds lovely.”
“Are they going to be there?” Mateo asked, pointing.
“Those are just the Nexus guards. Subordinaries. I do not know them. We’ll be dining with the Domini.”
“Are they nice?” Olimpia asked.
Ellie grimaced a little. “No. We’re working on it. They’re dictators, but I’m trying to introduce them to democracy. They’re mostly peaceful, unlike their Ochivari counterparts, but they’re not altruists.”
“We better get dressed,” Leona decided. She opened a door, but not to her and Mateo’s dwelling. She went into the lab instead, and later showed up at breakfast armed. It wasn’t necessary then, but they were all grateful that she repeated it the next day.

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