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Sunday, November 26, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 2, 2423

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image Duet AI software
It was easier for Maqsud to transport people from one planet to another while they were floating in water. Every choosing one had their little quirks like that. Ramses packed up their pocket dimensional home, and stuck it in his pack. Then they hiked to the nearest waist high body of water. It took them most of the rest of the day, but they made it in time. The Krekel authorities were acting like them having a week to get out was some kind of standard deadline, but it didn’t sound like the smorgasbord of punishments for Leona’s crime was any age-old tradition. None of the others they managed to speak to had ever heard of anything like that. No matter. They had a way off the planet, and no need nor desire to ever return.
A weird thing happened on their way to their destination. Well, two things ultimately. Teleportation generally implied instantaneous travel, but that wasn’t always the case. Sufficiently rapid transportation was equally impressive and helpful. It didn’t even have to be a superpower to be worth it. A hypersonic jet that could get from New York to London in under two hours was still a useful advancement to the travelers of the 21st century. Maqsud’s globetrotting ability took time. He still had to move from point A to point B. He just did it a hell of a lot faster than anyone else could. Not even Team Keshida’s FTL engine could match it. He offered the passengers sunglasses to protect their eyes from the literal blinding light of the journey, but Ramses said that they wouldn’t need them. Their new eyes were designed to withstand the doppler glow.
By the time they got into the water, midnight central was approaching, and by the time they had arrived on the next planet, it had passed. While it only felt like a few minutes to them, the trip had technically taken a whole year. Maqsud jumped to the future with them, which didn’t seem to bother him, as long as it wasnt a permanent thing. Leona confirmed their suspicions about the delay with her once-father-in-law’s special watch, then they tried to figure out where they were. Maqsud’s ability was not very precise. Actually it was when you thought about it a little. He could always land on a planet, even if it was billions of light years away. He just couldn’t pick a specific point on that planet. They could have been anywhere on Earth. Fortunately, this group had abilities of their own. They could teleport the rest of the way. At least they might have, but this wasn’t even Earth.
“Don’t you feel that?” Olimpia asked. “The gravity. It’s...wrong.”
“She’s right,” Ramses said, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “We’re too heavy.”
“I don’t really recognize this plantlife either,” Mateo pointed out, “though I would not have thought much of it if Olimpia hadn’t said something. I’m not a biologist.”
Maqsud was concerned. “I aimed for Earth. That is where we should have gone.” He looked around. “How could we not be on Earth?”
“It’s okay,” Leona told him. “We can all breathe, including you. Everything else, we can deal with.”
Maqsud was growing more upset by the second. “This has never happened to me before, except that time I took you and your other friends to Mars accidentally. But that was one planet over. Which other possibility might we have gone to that’s anywhere close to Sol, and still looks like this?”
Leona thought about it. “The best candidate would be Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida. It has a higher surface gravity, a breathable atmosphere, and tons of life.”
“I don’t think that’s it!” Marie called down to them from a hill. “This isn’t a planet,” she said after they all jogged up to see what she was seeing. She was right. A ringed gas giant could be seen plain as day in the sky. They were orbiting it on a moon.
“What is that thing?” Olimpia questioned. Some kind of energy beam was coming out of the planet, shooting outwards to the side. Or maybe it was the other way around. Maybe the beam was coming from elsewhere, and shooting the planet.
“Is that from a Death Star?” Mateo asked.
“No, it’s a Nicoll-Dyson beam,” Leona whispered.
“What is that?”
“It’’s basically a Death Star, except it’s powered by a real star. Someone out there is trying to kill whoever lives on this moon.”
“Why would they shoot the planet, and not the star?” Angela questioned.
“Larger target. It will eventually destroy everything.” She sighed. “I’m not too terribly familiar with the concept, because I don’t much care for weapons, but the way I understand it, we should be dead by now. It should happen in a matter of minutes. For whatever reason, it’s low intensity, resulting in a delayed—but inevitable—reaction.”
“Can we do anything to stop it?” Mateo asked her.
“If we still had a ship?” Ramses asked rhetorically. “No. Without a ship, definitely not. The best we can do is...” He trailed off a short time to look over at Maqsud, “...get the hell out of dodge.”
“We can’t do that yet,” Leona said, shaking her head.
“She’s right,” Mateo agreed. “We have to help these people, if we can.”
“What people?” Marie asked. “I don’t see any people. There could be billions of them on the other side of the planet—or moon rather—for all we know.”
Ramses dropped his bag on the ground, and started sifting through it. “Lee-Lee, I happen to have a high-speed spectrographic camera in the lab.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen it. I could try to use it to estimate the beam’s progress.”
“Yeah,” Ramses concurred as he was taking out the pocket dimension generator. “While you’re doing that, I’ll send up a satellite to detect human lifesigns. Let’s just hope they are human, because it’s not calibrated for anything else.”
“We just need one cluster of humans. Hopefully they’ll be able to tell us what’s going on here,” Leona replied. After he opened their home, she followed him into the lab, and came out with the equipment they needed.
“How are you going to launch that?” Maqsud asked. “You have a rocket in there too? I’ve seen some advancements in my day, but...”
Ramses smirked. “I’ll take it up there myself.” He winked, and disappeared.
“You can breathe in space,” Maqsud imagined.
“No,” Mateo answered. “But we can hold our breaths for a very long time.”
“Actually, you don’t want to hold your breath,” Leona began to try to explain.
Mateo cut her off. “He doesn’t need the details. We wanna help, though.”
Leona handed him a bag. “Figure out how to get this tripod open. I need to read the manual on the camera.”
As Mateo was removing the tripod from its case, he started to hear a beeping sound in his comms device. It sounded like morse code. Everyone but Maqsud stopped to listen. “It’s Ramses,” Angela translated. “He spotted civilization a few thousand kilometers from here. He’s still going to launch the sat, but he thinks one of us should check it out.”
“I’ll go,” Olimpia volunteered.
“As will I.” Mateo held onto the plastic ring on the tripod, and jerked it downwards to make the legs pod out. “This is done.” As he was taking Olimpia’s hand, Marie slipped her own around his other one.
Maqsud then took hers. “I need to feel useful.”
The four of them jumped to the coordinates that Ramses relayed to them. It was a laustrine community, not particularly advanced, but not the old west either. The place appeared to be abandoned, but rather recently. Bicycles were left scattered on the sidewalks. A few vehicles were stopped in the middle of the road, doors left open. Mateo climbed into one, and found a radio. “Hello? Is anyone there? This is—”
“You’re not talking to anybody,” Marie said from the passenger side. She adjusted the knobs for him. “All right, Try again.”
“This is Mateo Matic of the...of the Team..Matic. Can anyone read me?” He asked the question only one more time.
My God, it’s good to hear your voice, Mister Matic. This is the Mayor. Are you in the town?
“We’re in a town, at least. “It’s by a lake.”
There’s only one,” she replied. “We’ll send someone up to get you.
“Did you recognize her?” Marie asked.
“No, but that doesn’t mean we never met.”
As they were climbing back out of the car, they could see a little girl running up to them from what looked like a recreational center. She didn’t get too close before she stopped. She urgently waved them over to follow her, so they ran to meet her halfway. She led them into the building, and then down some stairs, which led to an elevator. They took it down several stories. They were in a bunker of some kind. People were lining the hallway. They looked dirty, tired, and scared, but hopeful at the team’s arrival. It was unclear whether it was actually a good thing yet, since they no longer had a ship, but they still didn’t know exactly what was happening.
The little girl took Maqsud’s hand and continued to lead them deeper into the underground facility. They reached a set of double doors. A small crowd of people were standing around a table. On it was a map. “Thank you for coming.” It was the woman from the radio; the Mayor. “Did someone send you, aware that we were in trouble?”
“They didn’t send us directly,” Mateo explained. “Though they may have interfered with our transportation somehow.” He couldn’t help but let his eyes drift towards Maqsud.
The Mayor noticed this, and looked over at The Trotter to size him up, and his peculiar clothes. “Are you Maqsud Al-Amin?”
“I am. Honestly, I was just trying to take them from Worlon to Earth. I don’t even know where we are.”
She nodded. “So you’re not here to rescue us. You’re just here for your son.”
“What? My son? I don’t have a son.”
“You do,” Mateo corrected. “He’s about as famous in our circles as you. We’ve never met him, though. I guess I would have thought you would know of him, even while he would have only been born in your future.”
Maqsud was shocked. “You’ve known this whole time. Who is the mother?”
Mateo shrugged his shoulders. “I would have no idea. I can’t be sure if you’ve conceived him yet, or what.”
“Do you think Senona brought us here for this?” Olimpia whispered to Mateo.
He really didn’t think so. It felt like Senona’s job was done. Someone else was aware of Maqsud’s connection to this place, and the team was incidental to that end. Whether that meant they were a bonus or unfortunate collateral damage was yet to be seen. “I think it’s just the latest in a series of people who have tried to control our lives,” he whispered back.
Maqsud redirected his attention to the Mayor, who frowned at him. “I know who she is, and where they both are,” she said to him. “They live in another sector.”
“First,” Marie began, “are you aware that there is some kind of laser trying to destroy the planet that you’re orbiting?”
The Mayor sighed. “Yes. That is a little gift from the Exins.”
“The who?” Mateo asked.
“The Exins,” she repeated. “Our ancestors once belonged to them, but they broke off, and fled to this world. The Exins didn’t like that, so they fired a weapon at them. It’s taken hundreds of years to get here. None of the refugees are still alive today, nor are the people who retaliated against them. It’s kind of stupid, really. We’ve been trying to figure out whether there’s any way to survive it, maybe by being on the opposite side of the planet at the time. There is another bunker like this one, but it’s not quite at the antipodes. Again, we don’t know what the severity of the destruction will be, or when it will happen. This all may be a waste of time.”
“How many live on this moon?” Marie asked them.
“Roughly eleven thousand,” the woman answered. “We were excited to hear that you had arrived, but we shouldn’t have been, should we have? There’s no way you can save us all, even if we had years to wait.”
“We’ll be right back,” Mateo said. He placed a hand on Maqsud’s shoulder, and teleported them back up to the surface. “How many people can you take at once?”
“All at once? On dry land, half a dozen. In water, twice that much.”
Mateo took out his handheld device, and opened the calculator. “And how many can you do in a day, assuming they’re in water?”
“ trip every few days.”
“That’s, like, four years.”
“Yeah, dude, I can’t save all of them. I doubt I could even save all the children.”
Mateo, can you hear me?” Leona asked through the comm disc.
“Yeah, I’m here. We found a town. They’re living in an underground bunker right now. They’re aware of the weapon.”
It doesn’t matter how deep they go. There’s a reason this beam is taking as long as it is. A sudden explosion would vaporize the moon. The people who delivered it want the residents of this world to experience prolonged suffering. In a few days, the toxic gasses from the planet are going to rain down and poison the atmosphere of the moon. It will become superheated, and break apart eventually as well.
“Ramses’ camera told you all of this? How do you know the intention behind the weapon?”
Because the person who ordered it is here, having evidently detected our arrival.” Leona replied. “He calls himself Bronach Oaksent.

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