Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: The Rock – Part 1

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Mateo teleported right behind the shooter, and snatched the weapon out of his hands. He then jumped several thousand kilometers away, into outer space, and left it there before returning. He blinked and breathed to get himself back to equilibrium. “Do not shoot my wife again please, nor anyone else.”
“He won’t,” the other masked person claimed. They removed their helmet to reveal herself to be someone they already knew.
“Kalea Akopa,” Leona acknowledged. “I assume there are multiple versions of you, so which are you, and what do you want with us?”
“I want nothing of you,” Kalea replied. “Forgive us for the theatrics. The last I heard, you were mixed up with the Goldilocks Corridor; a place like that can turn a person violent. I needed to see how you would react to violence against you.”
“What’s this Resonant Parallel Coalition?” Marie asked. “That sounds genuinely violent.”
Kalea nodded. “I’m afraid it is.” She sighed deeply. “I am the leader of the Parallel, but I’m not a king. There are too many people to manage, and they like to make their own decisions. Some of them have banded together to prepare for war in the Sixth Key.”
“Yes, we are aware of it,” Mateo explained. “We were going to try to help prevent it, I think, but then we got pretty sidetracked. Has it not begun?”
“We’re staving it off,” Kalea answered before adding, “...for now.”
“Yet you want us to join your little army,” Leona reminded her.
“No, Harbinger Zima wants you to join.” Kalea nodded towards her companion, who had yet to remove his own helmet.
“Harbinger?” Angela questioned simply.
Kalea was afraid to clarify, so she put it off until the last second before the pause in the conversation became too awkward. “He commands roughly 480 billion units. They’ve not started fighting yet, but...”
“Did you say billion with a B?” Mateo asked.
“That’s nothing compared to our total population,” Kalea said.
“It’s not nothing compared to every other military force that could possibly participate in the Reality Wars!” Leona screamed at her.
“As I said, I’m trying to stop it,” Kalea responded calmly. “He and I were in the midst of diplomatic discussions when we were both spirited here.”
Before the discussion could go any further, other people started to pop in out of nowhere. The first one they saw was Carlin McIver, who was much older now, but he was not alone. A teenage girl they didn’t know appeared to be accompanying him. Ellie Underhill showed up too, along with Lowell Benton. Princes Honeypea appeared unexpectedly, as did a bunch of people who the team didn’t recognize. Two of them were either twins, or duplicates of each other, like Angela and Marie. Everyone seemed equally confused, if only by coming to this place specifically, not that they were transported in the first place. The weirdest thing to happen was the giant Memory Magnolia tree from the Garden Dimension. It faded in and out of view, struggling to maintain coherence in this time and place. It never solidified either. Instead, Tamerlane Pryce was standing where it was. He was the only one who acted as if he knew what was going on.
Pryce stepped forward and breathed deeply the recycled air. “Thank you all for coming, and I say that completely sincerely, even though you did not have a choice. Some of you are familiar with this face. The man who originally wore it was named Tamerlane Pryce. I am not this man. I am the humanoid manifestation of the Tree of Life. I chose this form because I had access to it, but if you have any strong feelings for him, please do not put them onto me. I’m just...a ghost.”
The crowd stared at him. “Right,” a woman in full military dress said. “You’re a tree. I suppose that is a flower?” She pointed out Honeypea.
Honeypea did a short little dance full of twirling and bowing. “I am a Horticulturalist. Pleased to meet you all.”
“Why are we here?” It was Ingrid Something. She was the one leader in the Fifth Division who refused to fight for her position in the deadly competition that saw Leona’s entire team get destroyed, which meant that she was the only one not to lose that position when Leona ultimately won. “I think we’re all thinking that.”
The personification of the Magnolia nodded Tamerlane Pryce’s head. He started talking with his hands like he was giving a Ted Talk. “You are on the brink of war. I saw it. The Nucleus saw. Team Matic sees it. I think I can help you put a stop to it, but it’s not going to be fun for you. It’s going to take hard work, diplomacy, and perhaps even your entire lives. You may die here, and in doing so, could save quintillions and quintillions of other people’s lives.”
“Excuse me.” One of the twins stepped towards the Pryce Tree. “What the fuck are you talking about? As far as I know, we are not on the brink of war.”
The Pryce tree nodded again. “You live in something called the main sequence. Your whole reality was copied, along with your alternate self over there, who you have been desperately trying to ignore, because he makes you uncomfortable. It is he who is at the brink of war, as are many others here. But you are not all here for being aggressors. You are here as representatives. One person from each reality, as well a second to serve as their compatriot, has been selected for The Rock Meeting. I’m here representing the interests of life itself, and Princess Honeypea is my second. Pontus here will represent the Nucleus with the aid of his own second, who has not yet been chosen. Ellie and Lowell are here for Fort Underhill. They have already been doing what they can to stop the war from their side of the mid-universe membrane, so I believe that they can continue to help.” He smirked, and looked over at Leona, and the rest of Team Matic. “You think you’re only onlookers, don’t you?”
“I’m sorry?” Leona questioned.
“You think your arrival here is unrelated,” Pryce Tree went on. “You came here on purpose, or so you believe. Make no mistake, you are not getting out of this. You’ll be a part of the discussions as well.”
“Why would we be there?” Leona pressed. “We do not represent any reality, nor any other significant stronghold. We didn’t even bring our ship with us.”
“Yes, we did,” Ramses countered, tapping on his backpack, where the Vellani Ambassador apparently was.
Pryce Tree chuckled. “Why do you think I helped Marie get him back for you? Your ship is vital to the negotiations. We’re going to use it for how it was designed. So go ahead, Mister Abdulrashid...let it out.”
Ramses looked to Leona for guidance, but she could see that she was not the one in charge here. If a magical tree with access to every point in spacetime wanted him to release their ship, then that ship was getting released, regardless of how she felt about it. It was powerful enough to appear to them in the form of an avatar, who knows what else it could do? So he unlocked his pack from its magnetic seal, opened it, and removed the ship. Like Hank Pym, he was carrying it around as if it were nothing more than a scale model. He turned around and hunched over it, probably to input some kind of coded sequence. Then he tossed it out into the vast open space like a paper airplane. Once it was sufficiently far away, it expanded to full size, and landed gently on the floor. Some people were impressed by this, while others weren’t, or were at least trying to act like they had been there. Ramses clicked his special remote to open the main entrance.
“Everyone in,” Pryce Tree ordered.
“And if we refuse?” another stranger offered.
“If you don’t stop this war, you’re never going home, so you can either contribute...or derail it, and stay here forever,” Pryce Tree warned.
“You said that we might die here anyway, as some kind of noble sacrifice,” the stranger reminded the tree.
“If you die for peace, you can come back to life; I can do that. If you die because you refuse to help, you’ll just stay dead, and no one will remember you. Literally. I can do that too.”
They all started to walk up the ramp. Olimpia took it upon herself to lead them in, showing them where Delegation Hall was, as well as the rest of the Ambassador, which was designed with private meeting rooms, a galley, and lounge areas. The rest of the team held back, as did the Magnolia. “We do not need to be part of the negotiations,” Leona insisted. “We’re happy to host, but that is all we can do. The rest is way above our paygrade. None of us is anywhere near qualified to mediate serious discussions.”
“You’re the captain,” the tree began. “You control their movements, their actions, and where the ship goes once it leaves this place. Ramses is the engineer. Olimpia will make a fine Hospitality Manager. The Waltons actually are counselors. They will be directly involved in the discussions.”
Mateo laughed. “Anyone here need a personal driver?”
The tree smiled at him. “You’ll just be around. I didn’t see a point in bringing your entire team in except for you. Where else would you go?”
“Are you kidding me?” Ellie was the last representative to head for the ship. “You have a job here too. You went to every reality before they were absorbed into the Sixth Key. You’ve been to other universes. You know all these people, or they know you.”
“So, what? Everyone on my team boasts the same résumé,” Mateo pointed out.
“But you see it from a different perspective,” Ellie went on. “All of us here; we’re important. People look to us for guidance, for our leadership. We make decisions, and others have to follow them. You are one of those people, and you can speak to their interests better than any of us can. They are the ones we’re fighting for, yet we don’t understand them. I’m sorry, Tree, but representative in this situation is a joke. You can’t boil this impending war down to a couple dozen people. We need more Mateos, not fewer.”
“Hm.” The tree seemed genuinely surprised by this. “That’s a good point. Let’s televise this.” He snapped Pryce’s fingers.

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