Sunday, April 7, 2024

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 21, 2442

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Half a day into the trip that the Vellani Ambassador was programmed to go on, getaway driver Mateo returned to the timestream in 2441 to find the guard who recognized their charade awake, and sitting patiently in hock. “Report,” she said.
“We’ve been on a relativistic journey,” Mateo explained. “It’s been about twelve hours for us, but a whole year for everyone else.”
“It’s all part of the plan,” he answered cryptically.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked.
Mateo nodded, and prepared himself for the role of a couple lifetimes. He was still wearing his disguise, and hoping that she wouldn’t recognize him as the famous Mateo Matic of Team Matic. Some of the intel that Vitalie!613 gathered was paramount to their mission, while some of it was just anecdotal. She wasn’t interrogating the people on the resort world. She was simply getting to know them, and secretly logging everything that they said in case the team needed it later. One vacationer had a story to tell about how lucky she felt to end up at the resort after everything that happened to the rest of her family. Mateo recalled this story, and reworked it for this lie, embellishing certain parts for dramatic effect. “When I was a very young child, my parents were taken by the Empire. They wore uniforms much like yours. I remember the smell. I think they had just been involved in a fire, because they were sort of woody and rusty. I don’t know how else to explain it. I still don’t know what my parents did to deserve that, because no one will tell me. No one cares.
“For a long time, it was just me and my brother. We took care of each other. Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you which one of us was older. We didn’t really keep track of those kinds of things on my planet. Our cousin was around too, but he had all these responsibilities, so we rarely saw him. When my brother was still pretty young, he was killed in a factory accident. This could have been prevented if again, anyone cared about such petty worries as working conditions. If there’s one thing I’ve learned living under the loving Exin Empire it’s that life is profoundly undervalued. I grew angry. I stopped going to my own job, and started to steal what I needed; never from people who didn’t deserve it. I mean people like you. For years, they couldn’t catch me, until they did. I ended up 666, and that’s when my eyes were opened. I was a criminal. I broke society’s rules; the ones that ought to indeed be rules. For most people there, though, their only crime was disagreeing with the state. Your messiah, Bronach Oaksent, he’s a liar. Everything he’s ever said is just a misdirect. If he says he loves you, he hates you. If he says he wants to help people, he wants to hurt them. I don’t know what made him like this, but his reign of terror is over. Ex-666 has been freed...and we’re comin’ for him.”
The guard stood up from her bunk, and approached the bars. She wrapped her fingers around two of them, two at a time, like it was an intimidating dance. “How will you ever hope to defeat him, sir,” she began before a long pause for her own dramatic effect that ended with, “when you only exist for one day every year?”
Goddammit, that whole speech was a waste of time. Maybe he could save it? “What are you talking about?”
“Drop the act, Mister Delaney. I figured out who you were while I was knocked unconscious. Thanks for that, by the way. I was just telling my partner the other day how I wished for a little more brain damage.”
“There will be no permanent damage. We have medical treatment here.”
She stuck her face between the bars now, as far as she could go, stretching the skin on her face like a botched cosmetic surgery patient. “I’m going to be alone in here for the rest of my life. You’ve killed people, but you don’t execute them. You can’t let me go, because I know who you are, and I’ll tell anyone I meet that you have illusion powers now. A lifetime for me will be a couple of months for you.”
“If you knew that we might do that,” Mateo began, “why didn’t you lean into the lie? Why did you admit that you recognized me?”
“Because unlike you, I don’t like to lie. Maybe you and my messiah aren’t so different after all?”
Mateo wrapped his own hands around the same bars, just above hers, and placed his face a centimeter away from hers. “Maybe we’re not. The difference is that I only live for one day a year, and he’s been around for thousands of years. My ability to rule over you would be severely limited. So which is the lesser of two evils? And if immortality is possible, why are you so scared of death?”
She pulled her head back a little, so she could move her eyelids enough to narrow them at him. “What would society look like if no one ever died?”
“Why don’t you ask Earth? They figured it out, as did everyone in The Parallel.”
Mateo, we’re gonna have to teleport!” Leona cried through comms. “Stop darklurking, and spark a flare! Don’t dock with the station! Just stay within range!
He tilted his head away, and tapped his comms disc to indicate that he wasn’t talking to the guard anymore. “Understood.” He reached over to the button that would drop the blast door over the bars so no one else would know that he abducted a hostage.
“Wait,” she said. “The Oaksent isn’t the only one who can be immortal?”

A year later, after the whole team, and nearly everyone else, was rescued from the now completely vaporized Ex-467, the Vellani Ambassador was in the middle of another bottle episode. The next planet was within a light year away, but they were holding off on it so that Leona and Ramses could see if they could fix the reframe engine with something that they stole from the tech warehouse. “How come you don’t already have something like this?” Olimpia asked. She was twirling the topological modulating umbrella. “No offense.”
While Ramses ran simulations, Leona was scanning the nanofractures in the reframe engine, making sure that she had them all cataloged, so they didn’t miss a one. She didn’t want to apply the sealant until she knew exactly where it needed to go. The machine was built out of a metal-metamaterial composite that was practically indestructible. Obviously it wasn’t actually indestructible, though, or they wouldn’t be in this mess. This was always a possibility, however unlikely. And this antintropic nanosealant was going to help them fix it, as long as every spot was addressed. Missing even one could spell disaster for them. She didn’t pry her eyes from her work. “We never anticipated it, and until now, I had never heard of a solution to a problem such as this. The nanosealant, as long as it’s not a hoax, shouldn’t just fill in the fractures. A regular nanosealant would mimic the molecular structure of the target material to fill in the gaps that formed, but that would come with risk, because of possible imperfections that develop during the process, as well as impurities. The original molecules have since been lost when the structure was first damaged. What this sealant apparently does is summon those molecules from wherever they are in spacetime, and place them back where they belong. A normal human scientist would call that impossible, but of course we know better.”
“Well, why wouldn’t you at least have had the regular sealant?” Olimpia pressed.
“I don’t know. It’s not my ship, we took it from someone else. We had something useful in the AOC, but we ran out of it a long time ago. The reframe engine is one of the strongest objects out there so it can survive the stress of full operation. It was obviously well ahead of time when Hokusai designed it. It can also be protected by the overlying structure of its vessel, because it’s not a propulsive drive, so it requires minimal contact with the exterior. What this all means is that if the reframe engine is damaged, so is probably everything else, rendering repairs essentially pointless to attempt. It’s also important to note that I’m not in love with the design of this ship. It’s not as protected as it should be, which we might be able to fix given enough time. I think that Mirage just wanted to create more living space for its passengers, which is not a problem for us, since we prefer to live in pocket dimensions anyway.”
“You think that you can actually rebuild this thing with a new design?”
“Maybe,” Leona said. This was when she took a break, and looked at her conversation partner. “Are you playing with that?”
“It’s fine, it’s not even open,” Olimpia defended.
“Are you sure that that’s how it works, it has to be open? Rather, are you sure that it doesn’t do anything while it’s closed?”
Olimpia cautiously set the umbrella on the table. “Yeah, you’re right. Ram should study it first. I don’t even know what I’m still doing with it.”
“Well, it’s yours,” Leona reasoned.
“How do you figure? I stole it from the vault.”
“Yeah, that makes it yours,” Leona insisted. “We’re certainly not going to try to give it back any more than I’m gonna give this sealant back.”
“I know we weren’t going to do that, but...mine? Really?”
“Absolutely! We’ll even name it after you. Let me think on that.”
Ramses walked into the room. “I already have. It’s the Sangster Canopy.”
“You can’t name it after me,” Olimpia contended. “Like I said, I just stole it. You’re acting like it’s the HG Goggles, or the Rothko Torch.”
“Not all temporal objects are named after the people who created them,” Ramses explained. “Jayde Novak stole the Jayde Spyglass too.”
Olimpia frowned just a little, embarrassed at the thought of being happy that her name and reputation may one day precede her. She didn’t want to seem so egotistical. “I dunno...”
Ramses shrugged. “I’m thinking about calling the thing that I stole the Motherbox.”
“No,” Leona and Olimpia rejected in unison, as did Marie who happened to be passing by in the hallway.
He smirked, having hoped to get a rise out of them for that. “I came in here for a reason. Take a break, there’s something you should see.
Leona followed him to the security room, and then went to find Mateo, who just so happened to be exactly where she needed to talk to him. “Is there something you want to tell me?”
“Um. Your hair looks nice. Did you go to the salon this morning?”
“You were right, I was wrong, I’m sorry,” he recited.
“Matt. Say it.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She pursed her lips, deciding that she was going to have to drive the conversation. “Why are the hock blast doors down?” She looked over at them.
“These are doors? Huh, interesting. And we have a hock?”
“This is a diplomatic detachment, originally designed to serve the needs of two competing parties. Yes, there’s a hock. You know that, and you put someone in there. And you thought I wouldn’t find out, because of the blast doors, and because I don’t have much reason to come back here. But you forgot one you know what it is, Mateo?”
“Did Ramses figure out how to make us psychic?”
“The security cameras still run.”
“Oh. Right.”
“It’s been a year, and we weren’t traveling at relativistic speeds. I hope you programmed a stasis pod for her, or she’s gonna be dead when we open it. I didn’t watch enough of the footage to find out.”
“I’m not a total idiot,” Mateo replied. “Yes, she was in stasis for the year.”
“Why did you put her in there?” Leona questioned.
“Well, I couldn’t hide her on the station, could I?” Mateo argued. “She would be found by the time we finished the heist, and the whole plan would fall apart.”
“It wouldn’t have,” she contended. “They could have spent months looking for us, and would never find anything, because we weren’t in the timestream anymore. A year later, we would have come back, but they would not have expected anything. Their guard would be lowered.”
“Not true. She knows who we are. She knows that we are Team Matic. She’s really smart, you’d like her.”
“Well, I didn’t know that she would figure that part out.”
“I think you meant to say, thank you, husband. You made the right call.”
Leona rolled her eyes, and walked past him to punch in the code for the blast doors. The guard was sitting on her bunk, leaning against the wall behind her, and staring at the one in front of her. “Report.”
“May 21, 2442,” Leona answered. How are you feeling?”
“Physically fine, socially unstimulated, emotionally scattered, and psychologically disturbed. How are you?”
Leona took a couple beats. “I’m fine.”
“Great,” the guard sarcasticated.
“I’m sorry this happened to you. This was not our intention. We didn’t want anyone to get hurt. I don’t think I’ll ever convince you that Oaksent is not the savior that you’ve been indoctrinated to believe him to be. I could try to tell you my side of the story, like how he destroyed a gas giant from light years away just so he could kill everyone living on the moon orbiting it, but I’m sure you would just argue that they were heathens who deserved it. I could show you footage from the world that kept people as slaves, or the one whose only purpose it is to suffer countless attacks from the military outpost. I could show you the numbers from Ex-811, where all food is grown and raised, which proves that resources are being distributed unfairly, and according to Bronach’s own personal whims. He starves people on purpose to keep them dependent on him. But none of this is going to resonate with you, because he’s taught you that he knows the way, and there is no other. There are, of course; many other ways, but you’ll never see them, because they don’t match your impression of reality as he has forced you to trust without question.”
“Prove it,” the guard spit.
“I’ll try,” Leona agreed. “I’ll get you a tablet with a copy of the central archives, so you can start learning what he’s been lying to you about. But first, what’s your name?”
“It was nice to meet you, Korali.”
“Was it?”

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