Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Twenty-Ninety-Three

Click here for the 2016 table of contents.

There were at least two stargate replicas in the universe. The first thing Leona Delaney-Gelen did after finding the time mirror was find a safe haven she and Mateo could escape to, hoping The Cleanser did not know about it. Out of uncontrollable fear of having to explain her choices to Mateo, she ran through the stargate on Tribulation Island and ended up in the jungle. She immediately regretted her decision, but was unable to go back. Not long after she stepped through, vines reached out for her and snapped at her legs. She hurt about as badly as bee stings, so she was able to pull them off and run away. She looked back and was helpless to stop the presumably sentient vines from crawling further into the clearing, eventually overtaking the stargate and blocking her way out. “Is this Minority Report? Or maybe The Ruins?”
There were no structures as far as she could see. She ultimately spent more than three months in the area and found absolutely no sign of intelligent life. If the Rogue had intended to use this as a tribulation, it wasn’t a particularly complex one. Really, all she had to do was survive. The vines had an aversion to fire, but were not completely stopped by it. There was always more waiting on the sidelines to come out and replace as much as had been lost. She even tried to set fire to the entire forest, but it always eventually died out on its own.
She was only able to make any significant attempts at escape over the course of the first few days, though. The contact marks from the vines started out as greenish bumps. But then the infection began to spread outwards across her tissue. She had no medicine around, so there was no way to stop it. Some of the nearby herbs or roots might have been able to help, but she would have no way of knowing which or how. Once the infection had reached her right knee, she stopped being able to walk, and so she made a frightening decision. She happened to still have on her person the machete she used on Tribulation Island to cut through growth. She built a fire, set a torch in it in preparation, and sat as close to it with her legs spread. Then she held the machete over the fire to both sterilize it, and also make it more kinetically effective. Seeing no other choice, and not wanting to delay any further, she raised the blade over her head. She then dropped it down swiftly, yelling out, “Hershel!” as she did so. She managed to land it just above the kneecap, as if she had done it before. Pushing through the pain, she cauterized the wound as best she could before dressing it with strips of her shirt. A couple days later, as the infection continued up the left leg, she did the same thing again.

Months later, everything was going about as well as it possibly could under the circumstances. What was left of her legs had healed up, and no longer hurt quite as much. She had constructed for herself peglegs out of wood, and a binding paste she eventually discovered how to make. They didn’t have hinge joints, but they kept her upright, and that would have to be good enough. She built a shelter off the ground and learned what plants and animals were edible. She returned to the stargate every day, hoping to find a way through, but never could. Fortunately, the vines did not leave the immediate area, so she was able to safely live pretty close to it. She chose to not seek help or better conditions farther out. It was all just a crapshoot anyway. Civilization could be just beyond the proverbial ridge, but it also could have been just beyond the next one. There was no way to know, and there was no way she was traveling around the planet on goddamn peglegs.
One day, she suddenly heard the stargate activating. As she ran up to watch the ring spin around, she also saw the vines retreating from the clearing. They were almost certainly sentient, and were getting ready to strike an unsuspecting traveler, just like they had done to her. Leona waited for the portal to open, and then at the right time, she ran for it. Three humans walked through, looking incredibly confused. “Go back!” she ordered them. “It’s not safe! Go back!” Not waiting for them to decide to follow her, or not, though, she just went on through the portal and escaped.
Once on the other side, she found herself in a windowless room made of cement. There were steps leading up to the gate, which she was not ready for. She tripped and fell down hard on the floor.

She woke up in what looked like a hospital of some kind. The first thing she asked was, “what year is this?”
“It’s 2093,” someone answered. “Where have you been? How long have you been there?”
Leona just rolled over to her side. “And where are we?”
“You are in a hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.”
“I need to get back to Kansas.”
“That can be arranged, but we have some questions.”
“I don’t want to answer anything.”
“We need to know what happened to your legs, and how you would like us to proceed with helping you.”
Leona rolled back over. “How could you help me?” she asked out of curiosity.
“Well, we have a number of prosthetic choices, ranging from exposed mechanical to mostly organic.”
She sat up and rested on her elbows. “You mean you can make them look like my real legs?”
The nurse laughed a little, but managed to stop himself. “Yes, of course we can.” Then he tilted his head in thought. “Are you...are you not from this time?”
“What? Why do you ask that?”
“The way you hold yourself. You don’t look like you belong here.”
She lied back down. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Who is the president of the United States at this time?”
“I...shut up. I’m not gonna take your test.”
“This should be an easy question seeing as that the U.S. no longer has the office of the presidency.”
“Yeah, that’s what I meant,” Leona said.
The nurse waited for a while before speaking again. “I will reconstruct your leg organically, and then I will arrange transportation back to Kansas.” Then he left, probably to make preparations.
The Cleanser teleported in. “How are you feeling?”
“Did you always know where I was?”
“I did not. Have you been here?”
Leona angrily threw her bed sheets off to reveal her stumps.
“I would imagine not. I have been looking for you for a long time now. As soon as you stepped through that portal, you almost disappeared from the timestream. I could see that you were still in it, but I couldn’t see where. That’s never happened to me before.”
She rolled over again, but he just made a short teleportation trip to the other side of her bed. “Leave me alone.”
“I can take you back to Mateo.”
“No, thank you.”
“Are you two fighting?”
“Would you just get the hell out of here!” she yelled.
“I’m sorry, I can’t do that. I need to know what happened to you,” he insisted.
“I accidentally walked through the gate and ended up in a jungle on a different planet where vines destroyed the tissue in my legs and forced me to cut them off by myself! That’s what happened to me.”
“Hmm,” he said. “Really?”
“Really,” she answered, annoyed.
“And these people are gonna give you a prosthetic?”
“Yes, why?”
He turned away and started thinking. “Interesting. The vines are new, but the end result is the same.”
“What on Earth are you talking about?”
“No, not on Earth. Anywhere but Earth. You’re in the middle of one of Boyce’s tribulations.”
“Yeah, I’m not surprised. It was pretty tribulationy.”
“Do you know what it comes from?”
“No, I must not have seen it. I don’t really care all that much.”
“It’s from the Stargate franchise.”
“I saw all of those. Nobody’s legs were ever cut off.”
“You didn’t see these ones, Imperatrix Harmony.”
“What did you call me?”
“It was the fourth show. They didn’t make it in this timeline, I guess. One of the characters is blown across a room by an explosion. The event horizon of the gate shuts down just as goes in, removing her legs in the process. She spends months on a jungle planet alone until she finds her way back to civilization and gets prosthetics.”
“Whatever.”
“She spends about a year away from her team before she finds them again.”
“Sounds great.”
“It’s a happy ending.”
“I don’t need a happy ending! I just need you to leave!”
He sighed. “As you wish,” he said with a chivalrous bow.
“Hold on.”
“What?”
“I’m actually one of the few people who didn’t really like The Princess Bride, so if you put me through that, I’m gonna be pissed.”
“As—” He started to say the catchphrase again, but he stopped himself after Leona gave him the stink eye. “I promise that I won’t. Instead, I’ll say...go fuck yourself, San Diego.” Click here for the next installment...

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