Wednesday, June 7, 2023


The attack is happening today. Parallel!Ramses, and his layers of bureaucracy, can no longer hold off the bloodthirsty military force. Fortunately, it was not a total waste of time. The fleet heading towards the Third Rail is much smaller than they originally wanted. There are a lot of people in favor of this act of aggression, but so many more that are not. The general public, for instance, which has no use for the weapons that Aldona and Alyssa stole, is in complete opposition to it. Still, it can’t be stopped. All they can do is hope that Kyra Torosia is indeed capable of transitioning the entire planet to the Fourth Quadrant. It’s an insane proposition, but then again, the Reconvergence itself is an even harder pill to swallow.
She’s all ready to go. She needs to be at a place of immense power in order to make the transition smoothly, and The Great Pyramid of Giza qualifies. It may not hold the same significance as it does in the main sequence, but it still focuses temporal energy. Bulk travel is not so different from regular space travel. That’s how Kyra has to do it. She’s going to pull the world out of the universe for a few seconds, and then put it right back, but instead of returning it to where it is, she’ll just choose a different parallel reality. She’ll even be able to bring all satellites along with them, including the moon, Luna. The rest of the planets will be staying where they are.
“What about an interplanetary ship?” Leona asks at the eleventh hour. How could she have forgotten about the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Marie, Angela, Angela’s doctor, and the kids are still on their way. They’re slated to return tomorrow. Kyra has to bring them in at the same time.
“Well, how far away are they right now?”
Leona looks at her watch, but it’s not like she can pinpoint the arrival to the minute. While maximum reframe speeds places a vessel at 99.9999% the speed of light, there are still minor fluctuations that produce a margin of error of several hours. “About 170 AU at the moment. They won’t be here any earlier than tomorrow.”
Kyra shakes her head. “Can’t do it. If I knew exactly where it was, I could bring it through with us, but the location of something that small will be impossible for me to just randomly intuit, even though that’s not too far away. Now, you want another planet that’s 170 light years away, we can talk. But a tiny little ship? I’m sorry.”
“We have to wait then,” Leona says even though she knows that’s not possible.
Kyra shakes her head again, and frowns at her.
“No, we can’t lose them. Not after all this. We’ve been through so much to save Marie’s life, and protect Cedar.” That is not an acceptable sacrifice. The AOC is not likely in too much danger of being detected by the attack drones, but Angela and Marie still can’t be left behind. They’ll probably have to abandon ship. That’s okay, they’ll revert to an older copy.
“Wait, Cedar is with them?” Kyra questions.
“Yeah, you didn’t know that?”
“We were specifically not told his location,” she explains. “Leona, he’s the Sixth Key, which is the most important one. If one of the other keys couldn’t do it, only the reality they were responsible for would be lost, but without Cedar, they’ll all be lost. Why didn’t you tell me that sooner?”
“You just said you were specifically not told where he was,” Leona aruges.
“Okay.” Kyra thinks. “Can’t you just go get them? Use your little device thingy. Jump to another reality, then jump back here, but on that ship.”
“I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t have a lot of experience with this thing, and there are limitations to consider.” She holds up her transition device, which Mateo thinks should be called the Helm of Reality.
“Yeah, I know,” Kyra acknowledges, “ has to be done. Like I said, we need him. So if you can only save one—”
“That’s not the problem. “The ship is moving at near light speed. That’s always tricky for time travel, teleportation, and the like. I can transition everyone on the ship all at once, but I have to hit the bullseye first.”
Kyra nods. “Please try. They could be here any minute.”
“Bridget!” Leona calls out.
Bridget Morton and her father were in another chamber of the pyramid, enjoying the rare gift they’ve been given. They come back in now. “Is everything okay?”
“You have the communicator?” Leona asks.
“Right here.” Bridget holds it up.
“Stay with Kyra, and keep in touch with the others. I have something else to do.”
“Understood,” Senator Morton replies. “We’ll protect her as if she were our own Key.” He’s taking his responsibilities quite seriously. The way he figures it, if this works, he’ll be revered as a hero forever. A few dozen people are involved in saving the lives of quadrillions of people. That’s gotta amount to multiple historical text books on each member alone, if not more.
Leona takes the tip off of the dial, and places it on spoke pointing to the Third Rail. Then she turns it to the main sequence to find her husband trying to teach Labhrás how to play RPS-101 Plus.
She takes him into a warm embrace, and plants a kiss on his lips. “I love you.”
“Were I you,” he replies.
“No. Say the real words.”
“I love you,” he amends.
“See you on the other side.” She gives him another peck, then makes her jump back to the Third Rail, but this time aiming for a spaceship traveling at supersublightspeed. She’s no longer protected by Ramses’ transhumanistic upgrades. If she misses, she’ll be in the middle of the black, and will probably pass out and die before she even has the chance to jump to safety.
Leona opens her eyes. She is floating in the black. She can’t even see any stars. She doesn’t feel like she’s dying, though. One thing about Alyssa’s illusion powers is that it has numerous applications. She doesn’t have to make herself look like another person, or like there’s a tiger in the room. Light is light, and light illuminates. She begins to glow like a bioluminescent organism, increasing brightness until she can see something other than herself. It’s the metal of a wall. This room alone is too big for this to be the AOC, though. She’s jumped to the wrong place, but at least she’s not dead.
The sound of a door opening comes from behind her, but she’s finding it difficult to turn around to see who’s opened it in zero gravity. The light from the hallway shines through first, and when she does get turned, all she sees is a silhouette. That silhouette walks towards her, ominous and quiet. “How do you keep showing up here?”
“Who is that?” Leona asks. The voice sounds familiar to her.
“Lights to twenty-four percent. Gravity to Earth gradual.” The lights turn on, revealing it to be Danica Matic’s face. Leona is hovering over the pool, which has been drained, possibly in an attempt to prevent more people from suddenly appearing in the Constant, as if that were the cause. She walks along the edge of the empty pool, towards the ladder, while Leona heads for it from below. “How did you make yourself glow?”
“Do you really not know that?” Leona asks her.
“I really don’t.”
“I’m stealing light from other sources, possibly the bulb in the hallway.”
“The hallway lights don’t use bulbs.”
Leona climbs up the ladder. “Yeah, like that’s the issue right now.” She takes a breath. “Where are my friends?”
“The master sitting room, as per usual.”
“Are they safe, healthy, and happy?”
“They’re safe and healthy.”
“Are you gonna let me see them, or are you gonna shove me into a stasis pod?”
“No more stasis pods. The Reconvergence will be here in another year.”
“You got that wrong,” Leona contends. “It’s in a matter of days.”
“It’s not,” Danica claims. “It’s the Reality Wars that are starting. The Parallel is preparing for the first battle. We’re on our way back to protect our asset.”
“You mean the Omega Gyroscope. That’s all you care about?” Leona asks.
Danica sighs. “I’ve learned a lot since we last saw each other. I was...wrong in how I handled this whole situation. Well, I shouldn’t use that word. I’ll just say that I made some mistakes. Emphasis on the some part.”
Leona nods. “Well, you seem to be slightly misinformed in this regard as well. The Parallel is not preparing for the attack. They’re almost here. They’re coming today.”
Danica narrows her eyes. “That’s not supposed to happen. My seer was quite specific about the date.”
“Your seer’s information is outdated.”
“Son of a mother—!” Danica takes Leona by the arms, and teleports them both to the sitting room. The whole gang’s here, including Angela, Marie, and the kids.
“Leona!” Marie exclaims.
“Help me with these!” Danica demands. She starts to pull the books off the shelves, and set them on the tables.
Leona starts to remove some as well.
“We don’t understand what happened,” Angela says to Leona. “Danica found us right after Mateo and Ramses dropped off Cedar. I’ve been awake this whole time. I’ve peed out all the immortality waters. I...” She looks back at her alternate self. “I don’t know why Marie is still alive.”
“I don’t either.” Leona continues to remove the books, and replace them backwards so they can open the secret room behind the bookcase. “But if she’s still alive, then there’s still time. I had Alyssa procure the rest of the waters you need.”
Danica, still swapping books, gives Leona an odd look. What does she know about this situation? They can’t talk about it right now. The books are in place. Danica activates the lamp, but it doesn’t do anything. “What’s wrong with this?”
Leona scans the books to make sure they’re all facing backwards.
“Cedar,” Danica begins, “when did you take that book off the shelf?”
“A few minutes ago,” he answers.
She kind of scoffs, but isn’t too upset. She goes over to retrieve it. “The case doesn’t have to be full, but if you’ve removed one too recently, it thinks it should be part of the code.” She puts the book in place, and activates the lamp again. Now the shelves swivel, and carry Leona and Danica into the other room. She does something in the dark, and swivels the bookcase halfway back, so people can walk freely back and forth, and also turns on the light. She walks over to the opposite corner, and slides and taps a special code on the wall, which looks totally unremarkable. This engages all sorts of controls that appear out of the walls, floor, and ceiling. This looks like the bridge of a spaceship now. That’s probably what it is. “How long before the Parallelers get here exactly?” she asks as she begins to work on her computer.
“I don’t know. Inter-reality communication is difficult. Someone else is using the one for the Third Rail, so I can’t call and ask the other Ramses for another update.”
Danica keeps working. “Well, I was going to return to Danica Lake, but I don’t have time to aim. We just have to get there, don’t we?” After a few seconds, she stops, and looks directly at Leona. “Don’t we?” she repeats.
“Uh, yeah. If we don’t get Cedar Duvall back to Earth, everyone in five realities is going to die. The time for secrecy is over. Everyone knows about time powers now.”
“Everyone?” Danica asks, going back to the computer.
“Pretty much. Some of the other islands in the Fourth Quadrant may still be in the dark, but once they see a second Earth in the night sky, it’s going to become impossible to deny that people like us exist.”
Danica sighs again. “Everyone find a seat, and brace. It’s about to get rough.”
As everyone is getting strapped in, she asks Leona for help confirming the calculations. Leona peers at them. “What color is the Constant, from the outside?”
“I’s black. The hull is black metallic alloy-polycarbonate composite. Tamerlane knows more about it than I do. Why?”
A Dark Citadel will fall from the heavens, and make its mark in the Center of World Power. The Watchers who come out of it will change the world forever, and the people shall know the Life of God,” Leona recites. “Dalton was right.”
“Oh, that asshole?” Danica triple checks her work, then sits down herself. “I hope you don’t pay him too much mind. He loves the attention. Sit down Leona.”
“I was right too. We’re going to Kansas.”
“Sit down, Leona.” Danica reiterates.
“I need a radio.”
Danica reaches over, and pulls a small device out of its dock. “Safety first.”
“Okay, fine.” She sits down next to Danica, and accepts the communicator. Danica wasn’t lying. Even though the jump only last a few seconds, it feels like a roller coaster, and their bodies are still reeling from the ordeal minutes afterwards. Leona has trouble setting the frequency, her vision blurry, and her head in a daze. She manages to find it, though, and make the call. “Kyra, come in. Are you there, Kyra? It’s Leona.”
Go ahead,” Kyra responds.
“Everyone’s back on Earth. Go. Go now.”
Transitioning now.
Danica pulls a view of space on the screen. Dozens of drones have appeared next to Jupiter, with more likely off screen. “I hope this doesn’t take too long. They’re here.”
The room fills with technicolors.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 3, 2399

Leona asked Alyssa for help with a new special project, and told her about how someone had stolen every weapon from the Parallel, at which point Alyssa admitted that she was involved in the major heist, at the behest of Aldona, who was apparently trying to prevent the devastating Reality Wars of the future. She evidently didn’t think that the Parallel would be able to retaliate against this clear act of aggression, but she was wrong. There is no such thing as a ship without any weapons, for the ship itself is a weapon. At high enough speeds, any object can wreak havoc on another, and according to Parallel!Ramses, that is precisely what an army of angry militants are intending to do. They will be here tomorrow.
“I’m sorry,” Aldona says. “We had it all planned out. This was supposed to save us. There’s more than one reason it took me as long as it did to carry out that mission. We didn’t think they would be able to find me, and even if they did, we didn’t think they could amass a contingency that fast, and even if they did, they’re aware of the Reconvergence as well, and we assumed they would be too busy preparing for that.”
“Who is we?” Leona asks. “Who are you working with?”
Aldona shakes her head. “You don’t know them. They weren’t originally in the time traveling world. We got together because we thought we could change things.”
“Change things, you did,” Leona notes. “Our orbital defense grid. How close is it to being finished?”
“It’s finished, as is the one here in the Fourth Quadrant” Aldona says. “But neither would be enough. It can’t handle the onslaught that Mister Abdulrashid is claiming to be headed to the Third Rail. I really am sorry.” She means it.
“However big their fleet is, we’ll just have to be twice as big,” Leona says, looking at Alyssa as if she can do anything to help this situation.
Alyssa nods, but only because she’s listening intently, and expecting Leona to elaborate on her plan. She doesn’t actually know how they’ll accomplish such a thing. “Wait, me? Am I meant to do something? Oh, I have no idea. Where do you get an army on such short notice? Can the main sequence help us?”
“No, the two of us can,” Leona tells her, just as vague about it as before.
“I don’t understand.”
“We don’t have an army, but we can make it look like we do. We’ll make it seem as though all of their efforts will be futile. I’ve seen it done on TV before.”
Long pause. Alyssa is half-grimacing. “We don't have enough power between us to pull that off.”
“'We don’t draw temporal energy from ourselves; we draw it from other sources, and what does this world happen to have a whole hell of a lot of right now?” Leona poses. They may even be able to siphon the temporal energy from all the new people.
“That’s a crazy idea,” Aldona says, hoping this doesn’t make Leona more mad.
The truth is, Leona isn’t all that mad. They did what they thought they had to do to make the universe safer. They didn’t have all the variables. No one but someone like Bhulan Cargill can see the timeline branches like that, and she’s had every chance to use her powers for good, but she’s wasted most of them. Leona also wants the Reality Wars to be stopped before they begin. They’ll get through this. Leona’s plan is crazy, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work.
“It won’t work.” A young woman is approaching from inside the Kansas City bubble. Voices don’t normally pass through the dimensional barrier, but for her, it’s like it’s not even there. She proves as much when she steps through it without issue. “Hello, all, my name is Kyra Torosia. I’m glad to finally be meeting you, Mrs. Matic. You and your husband played a significant role in the history of my planet.”
“Durus,” Leona acknowledges. “How did you get it changed?”
Kyra laughs. “Most of the residents escaped to Dardius when Durus was finally deemed uninhabitable. Time powers were gone, and there seemed to be no hope. But a few of us stayed. A Nexus explosion imbued me with a great and terrible power. I have been fighting many wars on many fronts ever since. This is only my latest. Your plan is very creative, and I commend you on that, but I have a better one.”
“I sure hope so,” Aldona begins, “because if we can’t find a way to save every single Third Railer, I won’t be able to live with myself.”
Kyra nods. She’s very regal for her age, probably as the result of being treated like a god by whoever renamed a whole planet after her. Not that she doesn’t deserve it; what does Leona know about it? Kyra smiles at the small group. “How would you feel about initiating a little convergence of our own?”
“How would we do that?” Alyssa questions.
Kyra breathes in. “You’ve heard that I belong to a bloodline of Keys, but have you ever considered why the bloodline has anything to do with anything? Sure, any child of a  Preston is going to be immensely powerful, but Arcadia is not even a Key; she’s the Keyholder. Curtis is a Keyholder too. So why? Why us?”
“Is it because of you?” Leona guesses.
“I can move planets,” Kyra explains. “I can move them through the bulk, and by extension, across realities within a single braine. The Reconvergence will be difficult, and my biggest feat ever, what with the trillions of worlds I’ll be expected to move, but it’s doable, thanks to my family. Transporting your one planet to another reality ahead of schedule is practically nothing compared to that. If there weren’t already another version of Earth here, the residents of Earth!Three wouldn’t even notice.”
“Are we really talking about doing this?” Aldona asks. “Are we going to move the planet? What will the other Keys and Keyholders say about that?”
“They’ll say, thank you...more please,” Kyra replies.
Just then, they hear a rustle in the bushes. A man rounds the bend. Kyra reaches out to help him through the barrier. “Ah, Ansel. Come meet my new friends. Leona, Aldona, Alyssa, this is Ansel Haywood.” Vearden’s father.
“It’s nice to finally meet you, sir.”
“Likewise,” he replies. He seems rather shy.
Another rustle, and then a woman about Kyra’s age appears. “And this is our daughter, Allison. Don’t let our similar ages fool you, she’s my little baby.”
“Mo-om,” Allison complains.
“I’ve heard a lot about you,” Leona says, “though I’m not sure how accurate Vearden’s stories are, since I’ve known multiple versions of him.”
“Speaking of which,” Kyra goes on, we were all hoping to meet our granddaughter-slash niece. Could you transition us to the Third Rail? I could technically do it myself, but I think I ought to save my energy.”
“Certainly!” Leona agrees. She takes out her device. “Everyone take an arm.”

Monday, June 5, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 2, 2399

Generated by Canva text-to-image AI software
Leona is in the Third Rail, knowing full well that Trina is not going to like it. Well, they didn’t give her a way to contact the Keys and Keyholders that are living in that white pocket dimension, so if they want to file a formal complaint, they can figure out how to do it, and let her know. As it turns out, Mithridates was completely right. After the initial shock of millions of people all over the world suddenly developing time powers, patterns, and afflictions wore off, the Global Council held an emergency meeting. It was decided that everyone exhibiting temporally unusual signs and symptoms would need to report to their local government offices. It wasn’t a done deal yet, but it was looking like they were intending to round everybody up, and stick them in protective custody somewhere until they could figure out what to do with them. Leona’s independent nation of Arvazna may indeed have a very specific purpose. The refugees already living in the Superscraper could find the place to be pretty crowded soon.
Leona is trying to keep in the loop with what’s going on with everything, but so far, the U.S. is the only government cooperating with her and her requests, because she has a preexisting relationship with them. While Senator Morton awaits further orders, he’s actually been incredibly helpful in this regard. He’s outed himself to the world as just another one of these weird time people, and no one has had the time to investigate his claims in particular since there are so many others to deal with.
She’s getting a call from one of the other parallel realities. It’s from the Parallel. “Hello? Can you hear me?” Tarboda asks. “Is this thing working?
“It’s working. I read you five by five,” Leona answers. “Is this important? I’m a little busy at the moment.”
I assure you that it’s vastly more important than whatever it is you’re doing. I have someone here who says he knows you, and he also says that if you don’t come talk to him, my whole planet is going to be destroyed.
Argh! Leona actually doesn’t know too many people from the Parallel, but she can’t say she’s a fan of that reality, as a general rule. “Okay, I’ll be there in a minute.” She turns the dial on her device accordingly, and transitions over.
Ramses is standing next to Tarboda and Fairpoint. “Thank you for coming.”
“Report,” Leona says plainly.
“I’m the Ramses that lives here, in case you didn’t realize,” he begins. “I’m a powerful leader here, but I am not omnipotent, nor universally revered. I experience political opposition, and other obstacles.”
“Cool story, bro. Get to the point,” Leona urges.
“A vast army is planning an assault on your reality, the Third Rail.”
“Why?” she asks.
“Because you stole every single weapon in the entire universe capable of killing more than a few dozen people,” Parallel!Ramses explains.
Leona just stares at him. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“We don’t know how you did it, but you did it,” Parallel!Ramses goes on, “and various scientific groups were able to trace the destination. You probably thought they wouldn’t be able to, which was not a crazy notion. It took them a long time to figure out, but now that they know, there is no stopping them. Not even I can prevent the attack.”
“Ramses, I can honestly say that I have no clue what happened to your weapons. It wasn’t me, and if they were anywhere near Earth, I would know about it. There are quadrillions and quadrillions of people living here, which I imagine amounts to an unholy amount of weaponry. That’s not exactly something I could hide in my basement.”
“There were fewer weapons than you may have guessed,” Parallel!Ramses says. “We do not fight with each other. We only prepare for outside attacks.”
“If there weren’t too many, then why don’t you just manufacture more?” she asks.
“They’ve tried,” he clarifies. “They get stolen too. Time, right?”
Leona takes a deep breath in, and holds it there for a moment before letting it out. “If the weapons are gone, how do they intend to attack?”
“They’ll dispatch unmanned ships to act as relativistic kill missiles,” Parallel!Ramses answers. “They’re not technically weapons, which is why whatever you used to accomplish this feat did not take them as well.”
“I told you, I had nothing to do with this. Wait.” Leona looks down and away to think. “There may be an answer to this.” She looks at her transitioning device. “He can’t hide from me anymore.” She looks back up to Parallel!Ramses. “Can you stall them?”
He nods. “I’m already doing it. There are some legal hurdles before they can transition to other realities, but those will not stop them forever.”
“I just need to find some answers. I promise you, Ramses, I have far too much on my plate to even consider executing a plan to take your wee guns away. But I’ll tell you this—and you can relay it to your little buddies—the Third Rail will defend itself, and I’ll serve as the spearhead, if I have to. I’m certain that this vast army is severely underestimating the forces at my disposal.”
“Are you just posturing?”
Leona turns the dial. “No.” She jumps back to the Third Rail.
She’s standing before Dalton Hawk, who is sitting on a hammock, enjoying a bowl of fruit, like a cliché. “Madam Matic! How did you find me?”
She waved her hands in front of her chest, and whispered, “magic.”
“Want some raspberries? They’re really good for you.”
“I would have thought that you would be freaking out right now. All time powers have been unleashed in the Third Rail.”
He laughs. “I know. It’s great, right?”
“This is what you wanted all along?”
“All part of the plan.”
“Everything you’ve done up until this point has been in opposition to this situation. You’ve been suppressing temporal manipulation in all its forms.”
“Or is that just what I wanted you to think?”
“Explain,” Leona demands.
Dalton struggles to get out of the hammock, and set his bowl down on the table at the same time. He notices that she doesn’t budge to help him. “No, it’s all right.”
She just clears her throat.
He makes it back down to the ground, and adjusts his clothes. “Let me tell you a little story.”
Leona can practically feel the flashback trying to take over. “No, I don’t wanna hear your life story. Just tell me what you want, and why it appears to be the opposite from what you wanted before.”
“You’re bossy.”
“I’m the boss.”
“Fair enough. But this will require some background information, or nothing I say will make any sense.” He waits for her to protest, and when she doesn’t, he goes on. “As you know, temporal energy explains why some people have time powers, patterns, or whatever. The thing is, though, everyone has access to temporal energy. If they didn’t they literally wouldn’t exist. When you met Alyssa, you discovered that she was born with her ability to generate illusions, but she had spent all of her life without the ability to tap into that gift. You changed that when you gave her the energy to process. There was a reason you were able to do that. Danica could have turned off all special temporal energy, and left just what people needed to exist from one second to another. Instead, she left certain sources available, like the immortality waters, to relieve the pressure.
“If she had stopped it all up, and the Omega Gyroscope failed, what happened the other day would have happened without my help, and of course, she didn’t want that. I did. Well, I mean, I didn’t want all that death, destruction, mayhem, but it was a necessary evil. The Gyroscope is good at bending, but it does have a breaking point, and I had to reach that, so I employed Alyssa to modify it to halt all special temporal energy, and when Cheyenne was born, she released it all at once with a force so powerful, the dam burst. Now not even the Gyroscope can put things back as they were.”
“And why do you want people with powers?” Leona asked.
“Why did you come to me today?”
“The Parallel. They’re coming to attack this planet.”
“That’s why.”
“Why, what? You want people with powers to fight against them?”
“If that’s what it takes. Someone, or someones out there can protect this version of Earth. Aldona’s orbital defense grid will be great for the Reality Wars, but not this. These people aren’t ready. The world needs heroes. Over.”
“They won’t have time to figure out what they are. They won’t have time to train,” Leona argues. “You took too long.”
“Oh, they’ll have time,” Dalton replies confidently. “They’ll have more than enough time.”
“How? A time bubble?”
“You get them all into that giant ship of yours, and I’ll teach them everything they need to know, and I’ll take however long I need.”
“So, you built it?”
He shakes his head. “No, I don’t know where it came from, but it’s yours, ain’t it? So let’s use it to do some good.”
Leona scowls at him and seethes. For the most part, they don’t want to give the antagonist what they want. If the team can find another way, they should. She once again has to take a detour from her work, but it must be different than the other times she broke Trina’s rule to only focus on the Keys. This has to qualify. The Reality Wars are supposed to start after the Reconvergence. And that will never happen if these rogue Parallelers kill everyone in the Third Reality first, including Cheyenne. Let's just say that that’s who Leona is protecting. And hey, a whole planet gets to reap the benefits. Bonus. “I’m not going to help you do anything. You could have brought me and my team on this, and made things a whole lot easier. Now I have to clean up this mess myself, like I always do. You can choke on those grapes for all I care.”

Sunday, June 4, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 1, 2399

Generated by Canva text-to-image AI software
Winona needs some company to deal with all the testosterone in the air from Mithridates Preston and Hamilton Burr, but that’s not the only reason that Leona wanted to contact Dilara Cassano. The cane that Dalton Hawk was using, and which he gave to Alyssa before she lost it, was named for her. Leona isn’t sure if Dilara made it herself, or if someone like Holly Blue or Weaver made it for her, but it is based off of her power, and utilizes a gigantic synthetic diamond that Leona procured for her a long time ago in another timeline. They may require Dilara’s help with Dalton in the coming days, so it’s time to bring her back into the fold. Until then, there doesn’t seem to be much for anyone to do. The task force teams are in place, and awaiting Leona’s orders, but she doesn’t have any orders to give, because she doesn’t know the specifics of what they’re going to do. Trina said that the Keys and Keyholders would reveal themselves soon, but they still haven’t gotten a solid date on this whole Reconvergence thing.
For now, Aldona is the only one with a job to do. If Ramses were around, Leona would ask him to reverse engineer the inter-reality TV that Mithri let her take from the Fifth Division. Without him, Aldona is their best bet for on-the-fly inventions. Leona herself is smart and well educated, but she’s not an inventor. She understands how to use technology, and she loves to tinker with stuff that already exists, but she was never all that great at making something from scratch. In a day, Aldona is done. The Fourth Quadrant had all of the raw materials that she needed to make enough communication devices for everyone, and the potential to make more.
Leona is distributing them now, and teaching the teams how to work them. They look like the Farnsworth communicators from Warehouse 13, which Aldona may have been subconsciously inspired by. She doesn’t have time to figure out the network protocols, so each reality has one phone number, which everyone in that reality shares. If multiple people in one reality answer their devices when they receive a call, the video and audio will be mashed together in a confusing and incoherent mess. That’s why she had to include a sort of ultra-advanced squelching knob that will focus the signal between only two devices. Perhaps with a little time, she could modify them to handle full three-way communication, but again, they don’t know how long they have before the event goes down. Trina and Cheyenne should have reached out to them sooner.
Leona is in the main sequence now. Mateo nods, grasping the basics, and obviously not worried about it. “Do you know what day it is?” he asks her.
“Thursday,” she answers, though she knows why he’s bringing it up.
“Yes, but...”
“Mateo, I’m a time traveler. This may technically be 399 years since I was born, but I’m not 399 years old, and I’ve not experienced any significant interval of time since then. In fact, I don’t even know how old I am.”
“Doesn’t matter,” he replies with a slow shake of his head. “It’s your birthday, so we’re celebrating it.”
“You can’t make me.” She threatens him with her reality-jumping dial.
“You would abandon me on this, the day of your birth?”
“Come,” he insists. “Let us eat cake.”

Saturday, June 3, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 31, 2399

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An interesting thing that Aldona and Erlendr learned is that they are capable of traversing the boundary between the domed over Kansas City, and the rest of the Fourth Quadrant. The only thing is that they have to do it together. They have to be touching each other in order to pass through the dimensional barrier. It’s sort of weird, after all this time, with so many people working on the problem, that the barrier remains. The man who built it is pretty powerful, and maybe only he can one day bring it down. He’s reportedly not been involved in any of this since he did it as a favor for a friend, and they don’t have time to try to find him now. It’s great that Aldona and Erlendr can do it, but that doesn’t help Leona. They can’t take anyone else through with them.
Leona originally assumed that the reality dial that Trina gave her would always jump her to the alternate version of wherever she happened to be at the time, but it seems that she can go wherever she long as it’s not the Kansas City bubble in the Fourth Quadrant. Anywhere in the galaxy but there. She may even be able to travel anywhere in the universe, but there has been no need for it so far. What she really needs is a way for her new task force to be able to reach out to her, and maybe even to each other. She wishes she had asked Trina about that, though she probably would have said that Leona is just meant to hop between realities regularly so nothing falls through the cracks. Team Keshida doesn’t have a solution for this either. The special bi-fold and tri-fold mirrors can do it, but that’s not enough to go around.
“Talk to my son.” Erlendr is on the other side of the barrier, while Aldona is discussing matters with the presidents. He can’t come back through to Leona’s side, but they can communicate using the interdimensional radios that Ramses designed. They only work between the Third Rail and Fourth Quadrant since they’re so close together.
“Zeferino? Do you know where he is in the main sequence?”
Erlendr shakes his head slowly. “Not him. My other son, I know you met him.”
“You mean Jupiter? You can’t call him your son.”
“No.” He sighs. “The other, other one.”
“Mithridates.” Leona didn’t want to say anything that she wasn’t supposed to.
“He has a way to reach across realities. I don’t know how, but he knows things.”
“Yeah. He can reach further than that.” Leona takes her reality transitioner out.
“One more thing,” Erlendr says when he sees her prepare to leave. “I know that you and I don’t get along, but we’re on the same page here. I wanted to create a perfect reality, and now it’s happening.”
“The Sixth Key is not perfect,” she argues. “Even if I knew absolutely nothing about it other than that it existed, I would know that. There is no such thing. You should understand that better than anyone. Either way, do your job.” She turns the dial.
She thought it was going to take some time to find the long-lost Preston, but Mithri happens to be hanging out with Winona and the Fifth Divisioner by Earth’s one oasis. They’re enjoying each other’s company. Well, the two of them are. Winona looks uncomfortable as hell, but she’s trying not to rock the boat.
“Thank god,” she mutters under her breath. She stands up, and places her lips against Leona’s ear as they hug. “Can you get me out of here?”
“I really can’t. I think it’ll be a lot worse if you try to leave. I may be able to bring someone else here to sort of...make this easier to deal with, however.”
“Enough hugging!” Mithri exclaims. “Come have a drink with me and Hamilton!”
“Hamilton?” Leona questions. “Your name is Hamilton? Surname, or given?”
The man who tried to kill her not two months ago stands up, and presents his hand to shake. “Hamilton Burr, Madame. What are your orders?”
“Oh my God, this reality is so weird.” She shakes off the bit of silly trivia. “I don’t need to talk to you. I need him.” She points to Mithri.
“What can I do for ya?”
“Number one...what is your stake in this? Do you know what’s happening?”
Mithri smiles, and looks around behind him as if there’s something to see but barren desert. “Why do you think I was building that Hyperalpha Collapsis?”
“I don’t think you can take it with you into the Sixth Key.”
Mithri smirks at her. “Yeah, I can.”
“Bottom line it for me. Are you going to help us, or hurt us?”
“Oh, I’ll definitely help,” he assures her.
“Great. Then I need inter-reality communication technology. Your father thinks you have it, and you’ve mentioned things you know regarding other universes.”
Mithri scowls now. “Don’t ever listen to what my father tries to tell you.”
“Answer the question,” Leona demands.
He sighs. “In this case, he’s right. I do have such technology, but it’s not what you think. You can’t chat with whomever you want. They need their own devices, or it’s only one way. And unfortunately, I only have the one. I can spy on anyone, but they can’t talk back. I’ve never needed them to.”
“Give it to me. I’ll make it work,” she tells him.
“I believe it.” Mithri turns around, and enters his little hut.
Leona looks over at Winona, then at Hamilton Burr. “You there. I also need to communicate across vast distances within this reality as well.”
Hamilton pulls a device out of his pocket, and tosses it to her. “Call the operator, and tell it who you want to talk to, and which habitat they’re on.”
“I know how this works, thank you.”
“Leona!” Mithri calls out from inside. “You might wanna come look at this!”
Leona steps into the hut, and crosses to the other corner. She’s never been in here, but she would have expected this place to be bigger on the outside. He doesn’t live luxuriously, which is odd for a Preston. He’s got his hand on top of a box television set with all sorts of funky dials and buttons on the side. It’s retro-futuristic, and it seems to be showing the news. The reporter on it is discussing a mysterious bubble that spread all over the globe, and started making people disappear. “Which reality is this?”
“It’s the Third Rail,” Mithri says. “I think we’ve figured out the true purpose of that ship that someone built for you in New York.”
“How do you know about that? Ya know what, never mind. I can’t do anything to help with this. I’m meant to focus on the Keys, and nothing else.”
He smiles knowingly at her, but doesn’t speak.
His face says everything, though, and he’s right. Who decides what pertains to the Reconvergence, and what doesn’t? Trina and her band of Keys and Keyholders took people from her that she needs to help her get shit done. Then she remembers that she’s never followed the rules before, so why start now? She tosses him Hamilton’s communicator. “Ask Dilara Cassano to come here. I have to go.” She picks up the TV.

Friday, June 2, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 30, 2399

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Vearden is sitting next to Arcadia, as he does all day every day. He doesn’t even go to bed anymore. He just reclines the chair, and stays there, only getting up to get food, or get rid of it. In this reality, the vital sign monitor keeps track of all the usual suspects, like heart rate and oxygen levels, but it also logs the weight. The doctors didn’t explain why, but it’s apparently what first alerted them to the fact that the baby was gone. Now it seems to be back. Arcadia’s weight has just suddenly gone up by eight pounds, seven ounces, which Vearden noticed, because they programmed the system to alert them to any further changes in weight. Just as he’s calling for help, she starts to tremble, then shake, then scream. She’s awake.
“Arcadia, Arcadia, Arcadia. Shhhh. Shh, my darling, it’s okay. It’s okay. You’re okay. You’re back, everything is gonna be fine.” 
She pulls the oxygen tube out of her nose. “I’m back? Where did I go? Where was I? Tell me! Tell me what happened! Did I jump through time!”
He keeps trying to reply, but she’s not really letting him. She’s hyperventilating. A nurse steps into the room. “Put the oxygen back on, please,” he asks of her.
“No!” Arcadia cries. She starts ripping out the other medical things attached to her. That’s when she seems to first notice her belly. “Wha—what the hell happened? She looks up to her love, tears in her eyes. “Vearden? How long have I been away?”
“You haven’t been away, dear. You’ve been in a coma. At least that’s the best diagnosis that the government doctors could provide.”
“How. Long.”
He frowns at her. “Two and a half months.”
“The baby? How’s Kendra?”
“She’s perfect. She’ll be coming soon, Dr. Best thinks.” No need to mention the part where the baby disappeared for a week.
Arcadia nods. “What happened to Mateo? Where is he? He’s dangerous. There is something wrong with his mind.”
“That’s all been dealt with,” Vearden assures her. “You don’t have to worry about anything except taking care of yourself, and our little girl.”
She nods again. “Hey, Vearden.”
“It’s happening.”
“What’s happening?”
“The baby. She’s coming.”
“Yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaargh, right now!”
Vearden reaches up and pushes the big mauve button, which indicates an emergency, and sounds an alarm to wake everybody up. More nurses flood into the room. “She’s going into labor!”
They all move to their stations, and start getting things ready. One of them checks under Arcadia’s gown. Another handles the IV bag and monitor. A third leaves again to retrieve the doctor. It takes a really long time for him to return. When he does, Dr. Best is not the one following him. It’s a doctor that they’ve never met.
“Where is Dr. Best?” Arcadia demands to know.
“I’m afraid Dr. Best is trapped in an elevator, and won’t be able to help you. It’s my first day at this facility, but I’ve been a gyniatrician for eighteen years, I have full clearance, and I’ve been fully briefed on your situation.”
“Someone needs to teleport to Dr. Best,” Arcadia begs Vearden.
“That’s not possible,” Vearden replies apologetically. “Not these days.” He looks back up at the new doctor. “What’s your name? It’s important.”
“I’m Dr. Suggitt. Dr. Cheyenne Suggitt.”
Vearden and Arcadia share a look. “You see?” he begins. “This was always meant to happen. Our child has a future, and while we know her life won’t be easy, we also know that she survives at least into her thirties, and becomes a beautiful, powerful woman. “We have nothing to worry about.”
Arcadia has been listening, but she’s also clearly in an incredible amount of pain. It takes everything she has to nod her head at him between contractions.
Dr. Suggitt takes her stethoscope out of her ears. “Okay, this is happening, and it’s happening now. I’ve never seen someone in labor for such a short period of time. Sorry, no time for drugs. Dad, if you want to stay here, I’m going to need you to clean yourself up, and put on that set of scrubs.” She jerks her head towards one of the nurses.
The nurse shakes the scrubs to show that he’s ready to help Vearden put them on.
Vearden leaves for a moment to wash his hands and arms. By the time he gets back, little Cheyenne is already crowning. Arcadia no longer seems to be in any pain. She’s resting her head against the pillow, and appears to only be experiencing a little bit of pressure while the head slips out. In under a minute, their baby girl is out and in the world. She’s cooing, and not crying. At first, she looks pretty normal, but then she begins to glow. The nurses exchange nervous looks. They obviously know that there’s something special about the girl, but they weren’t warned about this. Probably because no one else was aware that it was going to happen.
The glow intensifies, and spreads beyond her tiny body. As it grows like a bubble, the light fades, but a strange visual distortion remains, like the heat shimmer from a flame. Once it passes through Vearden’s body, he begins to feel a calmness, and a strong sense of relief. It reminds him of what it feels like to teleport or travel through time. No, it feels like it does once the pinch from doing so is over, and he’s reached his destination. He watches through the window as the bubble accelerates, and starts to roll over the lands, so far into the distance that it disappears over the horizon. 
The nurse in charge of tracking Arcadia’s vitals disappears, but only her. Her clothes remain, suspended in the air for a split second before collapsing to the floor. They hear a crash outside. Two cars have collided with each other in the parking lot. One of them starts to slip over the edge of a dark hole that appeared out of nowhere. People are screaming down the hallway. It starts to snow over a small area down the street.
Vearden looks down at his precious girls. Back in the main sequence, when he was resisting finding a partner to settle down with, people would tell him that a baby changes everything, as if telling him a scary story would somehow convince him to go for it. They had no idea how right they were. “This is her. This is Cheyenne’s doing.”
“No.” It’s his supposed future son-in-law, Curtis Duvall. “People are getting hurt, and that’s sad, but this is not your fault, and it’s certainly not Cheyenne’s. It’s Danica’s. She didn’t stop time powers from existing, she just pent them up, and now they’re coming out all at once. Chickens. Roosting.” He pauses for effect. “Temporary.”

Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 29, 2399

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The first reality that Leona goes to with her new toy is the Fifth Division, where Winona and the violent Fifth Divisioner are. This version of Earth is mostly dead and barren. If there’s any water on it, it’s not being stored in vast surface oceans. Madagascar has become the summit of a mountain. There’s no civilization around here, and none of them has a communicator capable of reaching out to anyone they know. Trina told Leona not to use her gizmo to start a ferry service, but this has to be official Key business. She briefly transports Winona and the Fifth Divisioner to the Parallel, where they catch a taksi to the Kansas City area. Then just transitions them back, and leaves it at that...for now. She proceeds to travel to the other parallel realities to make sure that no one is in any immediate danger, and to explain to them what’s going on.
She’s in the main sequence now with her husband, but they’re not just spending time together. There’s work to do, and they need help to get it done. They sent a quantum message to the Jameela Jamil.
Can you get to the Earth Nexus?” Kestral asks through the quantum messenger.
“You can teleport again, right?” Leona asks Mateo.
“I can.”
“If we can get into the building,” Leona says through the radio, “we could be there in seconds. “If not, we’ll come back and make a new game plan.”
Roger that,” Kestral replies. “I’ll text you our term sequence.
Mateo teleports them to Antarctica. He wanted to jump straight into the Nexus building, but it’s evidently not possible. He tries to open the door manually, but nothing.
“Let me try.” The door slides open smoothly for Leona. “I’ve told you, these machines love me. I don’t know why.” They step in, and just to check, Mateo tries to open the door to the control room. It doesn’t work for him either, but it does for her.
She doesn’t cross the threshold, though. She pulls the door halfway closed again, and takes a step back towards the steps. “Hey, Opsocor?” she asks, on a lark.
Yes, Leona?
“Have you heard of a ship called the Jameela Jamil?”
I have. Would you like me to transport you to their Nexus?
“That would be lovely.”
“Who needs term sequences?” Leona asks her husband rhetorically.
They both step down into the machine, and let it whisk them away.
Kestral, Ishida, and Vendelin are there. The former two welcome them with big hugs, but the latter hangs back. Kestral looks back at him. “Oh, he’s fine now. It’s been years. He’s as much part of the crew as anyone else.”
Leona smiles, and goes over to give him a hug as well.
“Who else is on the crew then?” Mateo asks.
“Tons of people. Everyone is on mission right now,” Kestral says. “This is a hub for a whole organization dedicated to interplanetary aid.”
“We’re working on building out the Nexus network,” Ishida adds. “One day, we’ll be able to travel from one world to the next in seconds without transferring substrates.”
“I would hold off on that,” Leona warns. “The main sequence is...shifting.”
“What do you mean?”
The two of them start to get their friends up to speed with what they went through after disappearing from here a couple decades ago. They go over the Omega Gyroscope and hundemarke, and discuss the impending Reconvergence, and what that may mean for the interplanetary political climate of this reality. The Nexus network is special, and reaches beyond the confines of this universe. Making any changes to it in the middle of this crazy transitional period could cause some errors, like trying to move a file to a different folder on a PC that’s still open and locked. It’s really not a good idea to make any major moves in relation to time or time travel until after the dust settles.
“So, what do you need from us?” Vendelin asks.
“Right now?” Leona asks. “A body. Arcadia Preston’s body, to be specific.”
Ishida pulls out her tablet. “Character parameters?”
“Now, hold on, “Captain McBride slows her down. “Why does she need a body?”
“Her mind is in an alternate version of me at the moment. She has a part to play in the upcoming event, as does Vearden. I think it will help get them to separate if they understand that we now have the power to reunite them when it’s done.”
“I thought the baby was...missing,” Mateo says.
“She’ll be back,” Leona insists. Arcadia giving birth to a child is predestined. According to those who were already aware that this Reconvergence thing was coming, it’s going to happen soon, so if Arcadia and Vearden’s baby has to be born before that, it will be any day now. But that’s not going to make her job with Vearden easier. “When she returns, they’ll never want her to be out of their sight. They’ll need assurances.”
Ishida puts the tablet down, and thinks about it. “Ven, go search the inventory for something called the Triune Mirror, then retrieve it for us.”
“You have a warehouse of temporal objects, don’t you?” Leona guesses.
“More like a vault,” Kestral clarifies.
Ishida pulls up a hologram in the center of the table. She searches for what she’s looking for, then brings up an image of what looks like a tri-fold mirror. “Three way communication,” she begins to explain. She demonstrates how the mirror can be broken apart, each operable separately. “They’ll be able to converse with each other whenever they want, and see their kid too, assuming someone is available to babysit, and they want to keep it away from all the action. Otherwise, I would just give you the bi-fold.”
“Will this suffice?” Kestral asks. “We’ll build any substrate that you want, but based on what little I know of the Prestons, she’ll want one that comes with power, and I don’t feel comfortable authorizing such parameters without even meeting her.”
Leona thinks it over for a second, then she points at Mateo. “He can teleport. I’m asking you as a friend to design a clone of Arcadia Preston with all of the characteristic parameters that he has except for teleportation. Don’t worry about trying to include other powers, or whatever else you think she would ask for. Keep the file on hand, but don’t grow it yet. She’s giving birth in the body of a Leona, and she may develop a bond with her child that is so strong, she won’t want to transfer. Will that be okay?”
“That will be fine,” Kestral responds.
“Got it,” Vendelin announces as he’s coming back into the room. It’s not that big of an object; only about twice the size of a tablet when collapsed.
“Great, thank you,” Leona says, accepting the gift.
“Wonderful.” Kestral sighs. “Now we can move on. You’ll recall that our ship can traverse the galaxy in two days. Use us for something. What can we do to help?”