Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 22, 2443

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With their advanced substrates, the team was capable of surviving any number of harsh environments, but that wasn’t something that they were going to seek out on purpose. It was really only something they should use when they had no other choice, and this wasn’t such a case; it was a test. The reframe engine was ready, but there was still a chance that it would vaporize the whole ship upon initiation of reframe speeds. So they didn’t want to be anywhere near it when they first turned it on. Ramses created an interfacing computer, which would allow him to operate the Vellani Ambassador from Ex-382, where it was safer. It wasn’t safe, per se, because the world itself was dangerous in its own special way, but it was manageable for a period of time since they were staying within the self-contained atmosphere of their pocket dimension, and because they had vacuum suits for excursions.
The entire surface of Ex-382 was a toxic wasteland. No one lived here, and hopefully they never did. They at least didn’t detect any signs of civilization here, except for the piles and piles of garbage. It was all over the place, randomly strewn about. The smell was unbearable, even here at the South Pole, where there wasn’t as much as there was elsewhere. This wasn’t just a planet-wide landfill. They dumped truly dangerous materials here, namely radioactive waste. By the time the ship Extremus was built, fusion power was ubiquitous and unremarkable, which meant that Bronach Oaksent would have been able to utilize it as soon as he went back in time, and began to build his empire in the Goldilocks Corridor. There should be no real reason for him to make any plans that included nuclear fission power plants. It was a perfectly fine alternative for Earth during its developmental years, but when one was starting from scratch, it just didn’t make much sense.
One of the hardest obstacles to overcome when pursuing fusion and antimatter solutions to energy needs was manufacturing the stuff. It didn’t exactly grow on trees. That was why it took so long for these both to be adopted, even when power generation techniques were perfected. Mining fissile elements was not easy, but it was relatively straightforward. Hydrogen was the lightest element in the universe, which was why it literally floated away, making it difficult to capture, and even to store. Still, Oaksent was an immortal who came from the future, and had untold time to formulate his new civilization. Using resources to maintain the infrastructure for nuclear fission production was probably only done as yet another form of control over his people. He didn’t have to use it, but making people labor away in the mines, in the plants, and on the ships that brought all the waste here, was keeping everyone reliant on him, and not letting them be too happy. He didn’t like happy people. That much was clear from whatever psychological profile they could cook up in their collective headcanons. He wasn’t dumping the waste on the planets where people lived at least. That should also be in his profile, that he didn’t want his people to die; not prematurely anyway.
“Ugh, I can still smell it,” Marie noted.
“Switch off your olfactory receptors,” Ramses instructed. He was tweaking the interface system, making sure that he was linked to every single system on board the Ambassador, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential.
“That...what? That’s something we can do?” she questioned.
“Did no one read the manual?” Ramses asked with a sigh.
“Be careful,” Leona warned Marie, and the rest of the team currently present. Smell is highly linked to breathing, and also serves the evolutionary purpose of alerting you to smells that could lead to death. Don’t keep it off all the time. You may still get sick, and just not know it.”
“So...” Marie pressed.
“You can shut it off right now because of the smell,” Leona allowed. “I would lock up our suits, but we have to keep them close and accessible in case of emergency. Just remember to turn it back on once we live. I’ll remember to clean and disinfect the suits thoroughly later.”
“I’ll do that,” Mateo volunteered. “You have more important concerns to worry over, Captain.”
“Did you guys know that Earth is 70% water? I’ve never seen that much water in my life.” Korali was still reading about Earth from the central archives, and had come to the conclusion that all of these simple facts were not likely to be lies that the team made up in order to brainwash her, but that it was the other way around. They were trying to show her what the galaxy was really like, and even though she had by no means switched sides already, she was starting to accept that some of the things that she was brought up to believe were not entirely—or maybe not at all—accurate.
“Hmm. You’re right,” Mateo realized. “The worlds that we’ve gone to have been mostly barren, with fairly little water. The resort world had the most, but they were nowhere near the levels of Earth from the orbital images that I’m remembering.”
“More control,” Leona guessed. She was spraying an air purifier on their suits to mask some of the terrible smell until they could be fully detailed.
“I’m ready,” Ramses announced. “What about the backup?” Leona asked him.
“It’s been coded, and will only take a year to manufacture,” he answered.”
“The pod is fueled?”
Ramses laughed. “It’s fine. It’ll get us into space. I wouldn’t let us go into this half-prepared.” The dimensional generator was attached to one of the personal pods. These were capable of traveling through a star system in a matter of months, and landing on an orbital, maybe to refuel hydrogen levels, or to manufacture other structures, or just to wait for rescue. They weren’t really designed to launch from the surface of a massive terrestrial planet, but they were technically capable of it. It would use nearly its entire reserve of isotopes to make it happen, but it was better than staying here if the Vellani Ambassador was destroyed during the test. Ramses planned to install teleporters on them, but that would also require temporal batteries or something, because they didn’t use any less fusion power than the rocket equation demanded for a regular launch, so it wasn’t like that solved the problem. Hopefully, the test of the reframe engine would go perfectly, and none of this would matter.
“I appreciate all of your hard work,” Leona told him. “It does not go unnoticed. Go ahead and start the countdown.”
Ramses switched on all of the camera feeds, including the satellite that they had dropped out to watch the event from the outside. He started counting down from eleven, hovering his hand over the button. Everyone held their breath, including Korali, who managed to peel herself away from her studies long enough to bear witness. “Three, two, one, max.”
The ship disappeared in a flash of light. They all looked at the other views now, which were coming in from the interior. The bridge looked perfectly normal, and was completely intact. The corridors and rooms were all still fine. The camera from the engine room was a problem at first, which prevented everyone from exhaling. It was showing them snow for the first several seconds until the spatio-temporal distortion resettled, and the image returned to normal. The engine was holding as it was meant to. It was vibrating at an incredibly high frequency; so high, in fact, that it was imperceptible to human vision, even with these advanced eyes that they had. If the ship was going to vaporize, it should have done it by now due to the immense stress that these intense oscillations were causing the machine to experience. Still, they wanted to be sure that the nanosealant was permanent, and not merely holding temporarily.
For the next three hours, the Ambassador flew away from them, managing to make it out about 15,000 astronomical units. The engine then shut off for an hour while an army of microbots spread all over the engine to check for nanofractures. Leona knew exactly where the original ruptures were. If the bots found these to have returned, the smart ones here would know that the sealant hadn’t fully worked. If they found new ruptures, that would tell them that there was some kind of systemic issue that might not be repairable by what they had, or by any efforts at all. By this time, most of the group had begun to breathe again. Mateo and Marie occupied their time teaching Korali how to play RPS 101 Plus. Ramses worked on other projects while he kept an eye on the quantum data coming through from the diagnostics. Leona proverbially held her breath the whole time as she focused on nothing but the data. It was her only concern. If this wasn’t successful, they could build a new ship, but their plan to free the people of the Corridor from its despot would have to be placed on hold indefinitely until they regathered resources.
“How’s it lookin’?” Marie asked after their game was over, and Mateo’s sponge was finally too bigged by her wall.
“I think we’ll be safe. We’ll know in another four hours,” Leona answered. The ship would make the three-hour trip back here, and then go through the whole diagnostic process all over again. Only then could they leave for their next stop.
“Good,” Mateo decided, still bitter about losing the game. “I’m ready to go.”
“Did y’all know that something called a cow has four stomachs?” Korali asked.

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