Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 31, 2452

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One of the crew members started counting down the distance. The physics of extradimensional space weren’t very intuitive. The equilibrium was proof that the membrane was all around. It wasn’t like one would have to travel a certain distance to reach it. They should be able to break free from anywhere. The fact that the Transit moved so quickly was just its way of accomplishing this, as opposed to other methods, like temperature and pressure, or surgical strikes. Still, there was a physical boundary, which would kill them if they collided with it, and it was approaching fast. Or rather, they were approaching it. In order to combat this, they needed Olimpia’s umbrella.
“Eleven units!” the engineer called out about a second or two after saying that it was thirteen. “Nine! Seven! Sir, we need to abort!”
“There’s no time, Dawn,” Freya reminded her. “We have to trust in magic.”
“This will work!” Olimpia insisted. “We just have to get closer before it actually starts...w—w—working.” She wasn’t super confident in this.
“Three! One!”
They held their breaths again.
“Two! Four! Six. Eight. Ten.” Dawn was beginning to relax.
“It is working, Olimpia, keep holding!”
“For how long!” Olimpia questioned. Increasing the length of the kasma itself was proving to be far harder than simply holding back the Lucius bomb back on Ex-467. And this time, she probably couldn’t ask someone else to give her a break, or they would be destroyed during the hand-off.
Dawn’s numbers kept going up and up and up as the walls of the universe cleaved for them. For Olimpia. “Fifty-five, fifty-six...infinite.”
“Infinite?” Freya asked.
“Infinite,” she repeated. “We’re not in the kasma anymore. We’re in the outer bulk. She just built a canal for us.”
Marie started to massage Olimpia’s back. “Ya done good, kid.”
Olimpia was breathing heavily, and hanging her head low. “I think I need to go to the med car too.”
Marie caught her when she keeled over, and teleporter her away.
Leona held one finger up when Azura tried to say something to her. She and Angela were listening to the state of their teammates. Both Olimpia and Ramses were probably going to be all right eventually. “Okay. What was that?”
“Are you talking to me now?” Azura asked.
“Yes, Azura, go ahead.”
“I don’t have the coordinates for very many universes. I’ve sort of...burned bridges in most of them, and I don’t know how the Maramon in Providenciaverse would react to you, since your history with their species is...complicated.”
“Can we get back into Salmonverse from here?” Angela asked.
“The membrane is too thick,” Dawn explained as she was looking at her computer. I can get you back in, but...”
“But what?” Freya encouraged.
“Not in your present day,” Dawn clarified. “The part of the barrier that runs throughout the entire time period is thicker. It’s like if you sealed a box with tape, and then wrapped a whole bunch of tape around the middle until the whole roll was gone.”
Azura looked at her like she was crazy. “You’ve heard of adhesive tape?”
“I grew up on a fairly primitive planet. Yes, I’ve heard of tape.”
“Where can we go?” Leona pressed.
“Where’s Treasure?” Freya asked, knowing that no one here knew the answer, or they never would have been in the kasma in the first place.
Leona sighed in the middle of the silence. “Matt, get back here, please,” she said into her comms. “I know, but you’re not a doctor. Trust whoever’s there to take care of them, and come back. You’re the only one who can do this.”
Mateo reluctantly jumped back to the executive car. “What is it?”
“I need you to reach out to Amber. We’re looking for someone in the bulk, and she’s the only one we can communicate with from presumably anywhere.”
Mateo looked at everyone in the group. All of the delegates from the Sixth Key were still here, watching him like eagles over a river. “I could use some space.”
“Olkan, take our guests to...” Azura grumbled, and massaged her face with both of her hands. “I dunno, nothing is ready here yet. I guess use car six. It would not be a bad idea to remodel some VIP living compartments at some point.”
A guy apparently named Olkan led the delegates away. Besides Leona, Mateo, Angela, Freya, and Azura, only Carlin stayed behind, which was fine. Mateo found a seat to relax in. Amber appeared to be able to reach out to him psychically whenever she wanted, and with very little effort, but it was a lot harder for him since he wasn’t a psychic himself; he was just bonded to her. He closed his eyes, and let himself drift away from this plane of existence. A few minutes later, he reopened them. But it wasn’t actually him. His consciousness was being suppressed. Amber smiled his lips, and looked amongst the small group, settling on Azura. “You must be Azura. I’ve met your brothers and sisters.”
“How are they doing?” Azura asked.
Amber shrugged Mateo’s shoulders. “They were all right, last I saw them. They left in their little grenade thing. Said something about a different war.”
“We need to talk to Thack Natalie Collins,” Azura went on. “You can do that?”
“No, we are not bonded,” Amber answered. “I can talk to Sanaa Karimi, though, and there is a point in the metaphysical history of the bulkverse when those two cross paths. Would you like me to call her?”
“That would be great,” Freya said in Azura’s stead.
Amber shifted her gaze over to Freya. “One moment, please.” Mateo’s eyes glazed over, quite literally. The irises and pupils were all but gone. Another few minutes later, the trance was broken again. Mateo looked over at Leona. “Hey, bitch.”
“Sanaa?” Leona questioned.
“Now with one hundred percent more penis. How the heck are ya?”
“Where are you?” Leona asked. “Is Thack there? Can you ask her where Treasure is for us?”
“Treasure’s here too, dum-dum.”
“Where?” Freya asked frantically. “Where are you?”
“Thack called it Stoutverse. We’re havin’ a picnic. Whole gang’s here.”
“Stoutverse,” Freya echoed. “Have you heard of that, Azura?”
“No,” Azura answered, shaking her head.
“Is this the Transit?” Sanaa questioned.
“She’s expecting you,” Sanaa said like it was no big deal. “ So you must figure out how to get here at some point.”
“What did you mean by the whole gang?” Azura asked Sanaa. “Who is that? Is anyone else there who might have the coordinates?”
“Well, sure,” Sanaa began. “The Crossover, the Prototype, some chick in a sexy spacesuit, a dude in a very colorful coat.”
“Dawn,” Azura said quickly. “Remember I told you about the Crossover. We’ve never formed a link before, because there’s no way to know who’s in control of it, but now we have a baseline. Piggyback off of Mateo’s psychic connection, and send a ping. We’ll have our coordinates.”
“Later, sluts!” Mateo blinked. “It was nice to meet you all.” That was probably Amber. He blinked again. “You’re all gonna die.” he said in a darker tone, and with furrowed brows. He blinked again, and widened his eyes in horror. “Help!” he cried, in a higher pitched voice, but quietly, like someone might do if mimicking a cheering crowd without raising their voice too much. One more blink, and suddenly the Time Shriek started to echo throughout the car, and reportedly in other cars down the line. It wasn’t coming from Mateo’s mouth, but it was probably triggered by the multiversal link. They covered their ears in pain, as it was far louder than it usually was.
Azura reached over to the controls, and somehow figured out how to shut it off. “Jesus. What the hell was that?”
“You’ve never heard that before?” Angela asked, shocked.
“No, I’ve heard it before, of course, everyone has. I just mean why here, why now, why that frickin’ bad?”
“Mateo, what do you remember?” Leona asked.
“I remember how it felt,” he told her. It was fine when Amber and Sanaa were in my head, but not after that. It was...disturbing in a way that was all too familiar.”
“You know who that was,” Angela said, not as a question.
“It was Meredarchos. He’s not happy with us.”
Everyone exchanged looks.
“If he’s not where Treasure is, then I don’t care,” Freya determined. “If he is, then we have to go. We have to go either way.”
“Dawn?” Azura posed.
“I have the coordinates. Well, I have a trail of breadcrumbs anyway.”
“Then let’s go.”
The trip took them most of the rest of the day, though their aging and metabolisms were halted. Ramses and Olimpia recovered fully in this time, thanks to their superior substrates, and the work of the medic, Spectra. She checked Mateo out too, though they weren’t exactly equipped to detect issues that resulted from psychic connections, or psychic intrusions. One thing that Mateo was able to tell was that the person who cried for help at the end was not Meredarchos, but a fourth consciousness, and he didn’t know who it was, or where they were. He offered to reach out to Amber again, or even try to contact Sanaa, but Leona forbade it. It was not safe; what happened before could be repeated, and Meredarchos might be able to find a full foothold next time. They just all sat there and waited until the journey was over.
Finally, they pierced the membrane of what was evidently called Stoutverse. They could hear the train horn blare, which Dawn said they were unable to figure out how to disable. The viewscreens showed confirmation of Sanaa’s claims. The Prototype and Crossover were sitting next to each other in a wide open field. Several picnic tables were a few dozen meters away, but only a handful of people were there, watching them until the spacetrain came to a complete stop. Azura and Team Matic followed after Freya ran out. “Where’s my daughter?” she demanded to know
Thack pointed towards the sky, and looked up. “On the frontlines. The Darning Wars have begun.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Freya said angrily.
“It means the Transit needs to get up there, and start defending this planet,” Thack replied. “Anyone who doesn’t want to participate should disembark now. They’ll be safe here on the ground.”
Azura lifted her watch up to her mouth. “Evacuate the passengers. We’re going into battle. This is not a drill.”
“Get her back right now,” Freya ordered. She was also talking to a man standing next to Thack. “This is not what we talked about. We agreed to let her be more independent, not a soldier.”
“Zek made the decision to pull her up there,” another woman explained.
Freya gave her a dirty look, and then turned her face away again. “I don’t care that she asked to watch. Send her back down to me this instant.”
A teenage girl, a twentysomething guy, and a thirtysomething woman appeared on the ground. “Mom, why did you do that? We could talk later.”
“Are you fighting the Ochivari up there?”
“The Cormanu is the safest place I could be right now. And I need to learn.”
“That’s not true, young lady,” the man said, the implication being that he was her father. “The Primus has a bunker. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that she went up too,” he loud whispered to Freya. “It was only for a couple of minutes, though.”
They hadn’t realized that Azura had run back to the Transit. “Fray, are you coming?” She wasn’t urging her, just asking.
“Do what you gotta do!” Freya yelled back.
“Hi, I’m Primus Naraschone Mihajlović. This is my lieutenant, Kineret McArthur.” The other stranger reached out, and started shaking hands, but she kept messing it up, as if she were still learning how.
Leona showed her Mario Matic’s special watch, which recalibrated itself to every new destination’s timekeeping standards. “Is this the date and year right now?”
“May 31, 2452,” Primus Mihajlović recited with a nod. “It is.”
All of Team Matic were surprised. It was quite the coincidence, that the time period was close to what it was when they left home. Perhaps it was done intentionally, and the plan was for them to come here all along, but whoever was pulling the strings was waiting for the right moment. They may have let it go, but if they had broken the accelerated time bubble early enough, and returned to their regular pattern, this was bound to be one of the days that they were in the timestream. Did their pattern follow them here? Before they could dwell on it, though, most people there suddenly disappeared. Other than the team, only Carlin, Thack, the Primus, and her lieutenant remained. “Uhh...can any of you teleport? Please say yes.”

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