Sunday, June 9, 2024

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: The Rock – Part 3

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The Rock diplomatic discussions were over. Of course, the various representatives for the five former realities currently living side-by-side in the Sixth Key were going to stay in contact with each other, and diplomacy was never over. Even if they managed to integrate into a single unified peoples, internal conflicts would require constant care and consideration. Everyone was happy and unhappy at the same time, and that was all anyone could ask for when it came to something like this, especially at this incredibly unprecedented scale. The two major issues that they needed to cover were how to distribute resources, and how to organize some sort of joint form of governance. Things could always take any number of steps backwards, but they were ready to deal with that on their own, without any help from Pryce Tree, Team Matic, or the Vellani Ambassador. They found suitable locations in their own universe to handle anything new that came up.
There was only one thing left to do before the team could finally get back to their mission in the Goldilocks Corridor. As soon as the meeting was officially adjourned, Pryce Tree and Princess Honeypea disappeared, as did the delegates from the true main sequence. Everyone else still needed to get back to present day, and to the Sixth Key, or to its membrane twin, Fort Underhill. This other universe was attached to Salmonverse, but it could only be accessed at one location, for security reasons. Even a bulk traveler could not realistically enter the brane from a different spot, as the walls of the membrane were hyperdimensionally thicker than natural ones. For now, there wasn’t much traffic between the two conjoined universes, but that could change in the future, so Hogarth Pudeyonavic was currently erecting a checkpoint station to facilitate border crossings. Until that was finished, they just had to drop their own names to the little guard vessel, and go on through the breach.
Theirs was not the only biverse in the bulk. A few others were linked, like two stars orbiting each other. There were even rumors of a triverse somewhere out there. And when this happened, for whatever reason, the region of equilibrium between them was given a special name. They were now in the kasma. No one on the Ambassador was aware of the difference between the kasma, and any other part of the outer bulk. Perhaps it was an otherwise meaningless distinction, there only to designate its proximity to the connected branes. There was a bit of a lurch as their ship’s inertial dampener array began to recalibrate itself for the difference in environment. In a vacuum, you would be in a constant state of freefall, drawn towards the strongest source of gravity. In an equilibrium, gravity operated at an even distribution, which made it feel like every atom in your body was being pulled in every direction all at once. The strength of this pull wasn’t enough to spaghettify you, but it took some getting used to. That was why the internal dampeners were so necessary. They were taking longer to recalibrate. Hopefully, this would not be a problem on the way back.
“I would think that we would not feel such a thing from our little pocket dimension,” Carlin noted as he was stepping onto the bridge. Everyone else was either in the visitor’s pocket, or sitting around Delegation Hall.
“I wasn’t sure either,” Ramses replied. “I don’t know that much about it. I wish we were spending more time here, so I could take some more thorough readings.”
Olimpia shivered. “We’re spending long enough.” She hadn’t technically been in the kasma before, but was trapped between the two halves of the daughter universe. It too existed outside of the membranes, so it probably operated under the same physics. Her feeling of unease was not out of nowhere, and something that they should have been concerned about going into this final leg of the Rock mission. Fortunately, she lived there for untold time. This trip, however, would only take about an hour and a half.
Leona hugged her from the side with one arm. “We’re almost through.” The kasma was about three AU wide, at least here, which could have been incidental, or deliberate on the creator’s part. The reframe engine did not work inside, and in fact, they were unable to travel at high subfractional speeds. They were maxed out at about the quarter the speed of light. Their attempts to push it faster than that threatened to tear the ship apart at the seams.
They were watching on the viewscreen, but there wasn’t much to see. As they were too close to the nearest brane to view it in its full form, there was almost nothing but utter darkness. A pinprick of light marking their destination into Fort Underhill had appeared, now that they were only several hundred thousand kilometers away, but that was it. They were decelerating for safe entry, but they still would have covered the distance in a matter of minutes. Suddenly, a spacetrain appeared out of nowhere, roughly perpendicular to their vector. It was the Transit, of course.
Leona slammed her hand down onto the shipwide intercom. “Brace for gravity turbulence!” She pulled her hand away so she could slam it down again to the emergency stop button. There weren’t many physical controls on this thing, but that was an important one to include in the design, along with the touchscreens. “Full stop!”
The ship came to a complete stop, though Leona’s cry was her instinct to be safe rather than sorry. If anyone had an open glass of liquid, some of it would have splashed out, but they were otherwise okay. In normal space, a stop was a misnomer, as everything in the universe was in perpetual motion. But they were no longer in the universe, so it was extremely possible to be totally still. They just sat there in the equilibrium, and waited for the Transit to make its own stop in front of them. Everyone looked around. Someone was being recruited for the Transit Army. It could be any one of them, or hell, all of them. Usually, when the Transit appeared, time would stop for all but their target, but no one reported this happening. Everyone stayed in realtime, but perhaps that was a consequence of being in the kasma.
Unidentified beautiful purple ship, this is Azura of the Transit, please respond.
Leona opened a direct channel. “Transit, this is Leona Matic of the Vellani Ambassador. Who are you here for?”
A different voice came back after a mic bump, and some feedback. “Leona, this is Saga, but I go by Freya now. I’m looking for my daughter.
“Does the Transit have anti-teleportation tech?” Leona asked.
No, it does not,” Azura replied.
“Prepare to be boarded.” Leona switched off comms to address the team. “Olimpia and Angela, please stay with the delegates. Ramses, man the bridge. Mateo and Marie, you’re with me.”
At the last second, Carlin took Mateo in a bear hug to tag along. They were now all four in the Transit, which none of them had ever seen from the inside before. “Not cool, dude,” Mateo complained.
“Sorry, I had to see this,” Carlin responded. “No regrets.”
Leona approached the woman who looked just like Saga, but something shifted in her brain, forcing her to be absolutely certain that she was actually called Freya. In fact, she wasn’t even an Einarsson anymore, but a Hawthorne. Still, they reunited with a hug. Leona then shook the hand of the woman standing next to her. “Azura, I presume?”
Mateo was searching through his handheld device as Azura was nodding. He found what he was searching for. “I thought I recognized the name. I’ve heard it before, and saw you briefly. You’re an agent of the Maramon.” Centuries ago, when Mateo and Leona were separated for a long time, he was trying to rescue billions of human refugees from the universe and planet of Ansutah. During this desperate act, a Maramon broke into the facility, and co-opted the portal machine towards his own ends. Azura was one of the people that he sent off to god knows where. There were other names in this section of his list, including Cain, Abel, Seth, Luluwa, Awan, and Lilith. They were named after characters in the bible, no doubt. Then again, this involved time travel, so which came first, those chickens, or their eggs?
Azura nodded again. “I’m a hybrid, human and Maramon. You’re right, I was sent to spy on Missy Atterberry in Universe Prime, but I abandoned my post immediately. Actually, I abandoned it long before that. I secretly swapped my destination to Universum Originalis, billions of years before Missy would ever show up. I was bred to despise humans, as were my brothers and sisters, but that did not work on most of us. We make our own choices.”
“My daughter trusts her,” Freya explained, “and if Treasure says she’s okay, then I choose to believe as much.”
“Your daughter is Treasure Hawthorne?” Mateo flipped through his list again. “She’s on here too.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Azura said, “but best not give us any information about it. There is little chance that she has yet experienced meeting you in her personal timeline.”
Leona nodded acceptingly, and moved on. “What made you think that Treasure was here?”
“Thack,” Freya answered. “She can witness events in other branes, but not outside of other branes. The last she saw her, Treasure was taking my former ship, the Cormanu out of Salmonverse, but they never exited. Well, they do show up eventually, but Treasure isn’t there, and the ship has been repaired, so that’s some other point in the ship’s timeline. Time, right?”
“So if Treasure left one universe, and never entered another, she has to be in the outer bulk somewhere, including possibly the kasma?”
“That’s right,” Azura confirmed. “We had no idea that you would be here, but we were hoping that you knew something. Have you encountered anything unusual here? Anything at all?”
“No,” Leona answered apologetically. “It’s been smooth sailing. No anomalies detected. Though, we’re not experts on the kasma,” she added per Ramses’ interjection through comms. Yet. He was loving the chance to spend more time here to gather data. They all suffered through an awkward silence for a moment. “Well, we would help you find her if we could, but we have no idea. We actually need to get over to the other side to drop off all of these deleg—” She stopped herself when saw the viewscreen. “Are those readings accurate and in realtime?” she asked.
“Of course they are,” Azura replied.
“Ramses, where’s the aperture? I don’t see it anymore. Are we drifting?”
Hold, please,” Ramses said, leaving them holding their breaths for a minute. “No, the aperture is gone. They’re both gone actually. I’m only getting faint readings.
Don’t bother trying to make it the rest of the way,” came a familiar voice through the Transit’s communication array. It was that angry Fifth Divisioner who kept coming back to irritate them, like a latent disease. He was the herpes of the antagonists world. “My alt closed it on the other side. You’re trapped.
Freya opened a channel. “This is Freya Hawthorne, Engineer of the Transit. You do realize that we can travel to other universe, right? We don’t need a permanent aperture to fly through.”
We reinforced the membranes too,” A.F. clarified. “Your little toy train isn’t going anywhere. Some of you will die there. Others will be retrieved shortly.
“Sir, there may be a chance if we try to breach the cleavage between the two universes, but we have to go now,” one of the Transit crew members claimed. “That’s the main difference between the kasma, and any other region of the outer bulk. It carries the same properties, but is cut off from everything else, as a pond could be just like any other body of water, but still isolated by vast swathes of land.”
“Before you escape,” Leona began, “can you take on some extra passengers?”
Freya turned to her engineer. “Get it ready.” She turned back to Leona. “Get your people over here. You’ll have to leave your ship, though.”
Leona laughed, “no, we won’t. Rambo, get ready to pack up the Ambassador. We’re taking it with us, but I want everyone on board the Transit first, so Waltons and Olimpia, start teleporting them over two by two.”
Mateo jumped back to help with those efforts without being asked.
“There’s plenty of room,” Azura said. “We’ve only recruited a couple of cars worth so far. The problem is, I don’t know where to go.”
“Just take us wherever. We’ll figure out how to at least get back into Salmonverse later, even if that means seeking help from whoever runs the Crossover. I assume they use better tech?”
“Does a smartphone use better tech than a flip phone?” Azura asked rhetorically. “The membrane for Fort Underhill is already too thick for us. That’s how Hogarth designed it. We actually would need that aperture, just as you do.”
Freya’s engineer reported that they were ready to go just as Ramses was reporting that the Ambassador was empty, and ready to be folded into its pocket dimension.
“Come on over!” Leona ordered Ramses.
A minute later, he appeared, grasping the model size of the Ambassador. He was on the floor and unconscious. It would seem that surviving in the equilibrium was not the same as surviving in a vacuum. Mateo scooped him up, and demanded to know where the medical car was. Azura told him, and he teleported away.
Freya pushed the button, and the Transit flew off at the speed of light. According to her engineer, the kasma was like a tube, about three astronomical units apart, but theoretically several dozen AU long. At one of these ends, they theorized that it tapered off so that the branes weren’t technically touching each other, but there might have been a passageway just large enough for them to squeeze through. “We were wrong!” she cried as they drew nearer. “There’s no cleavage! We’re just gonna crash into it!”
“If there’s no space for us to get through,” Olimpia said, pulling the Sangster Canopy out of her bag of holding, and opening it up. “Then I’ll make space.”

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