Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 18, 2133

After the Easter Island ordeal, Arcadia and Mario ferried everyone back to Tribulation Island, stopping in Old Kansas City first to retrieve Aura. Mateo caught up with Leona, and Darko and Lincoln were free to speak with each other, but none of the others were in the right emotional state to talk. They had been there so long that everyone knew their responsibilities, so they luckily didn’t even have to open their mouths to coordinate gathering firewood, or tending to the fish tarp. Things were awkward between Horace and Paige, but they decided to silently fill their time with rebuilding the privacy hut. By the time Mateo and Leona returned to the timestream the following year, it was complete, along with a few additions, like a particularly beautiful waterfall. Rather, they were as normal as they could be in this corrupted reality. Evidently, a past version of Serkan was brought forward in time to help Horace get back on track. It apparently helped immensely, because Horace’s relationship with his daughter was stronger than ever. It seemed as though everyone was dealing with their situation pretty well. And it really was everyone. From what Mateo could tell, no one was missing this time.
“Help me out with the math here,” he said to Leona. “If an expiation lasts for three years, and we started in 2109, then shouldn’t we be starting another one by now?”
“Well, that seems right, but we never technically had an expiation for Paige,” Leona pointed out. “She’s still around.”
“But Arcadia did call what we did on Easter Island an expiation. I think it still counts, because we had to fight to get her back. And that was three days ago.”
“Maybe Arcadia is just giving you-slash-us a break. She seemed personally distressed by Horace’s...issues. I mean, she brought Paige back in the first place, which she’s never done before. She’s probably considering today a gift after all that.”
Mateo nodded slowly. “There is another explanation, though.”
“What might that be?” she asked.
“That someone actually was taken, and that I don’t remember them either.”
“That’s a leap, Mateo.”
“Is it? The Battle for Paige was an expiation, but also wasn’t. Like you said, she had to give Paige back to us. That probably doesn’t come without a cost.”
“What are you saying?”
“I think she stole someone from me, and erased my memories, along with everyone else.”
“Well, if you don’t remember who’s missing, how can you fight to get them back?”
“Exactly. We don’t get this one back. She or he is just lost to us forever. That could be the lesson; that no matter what you go through, you can’t bring back people who’ve passed.”
“I think we learned that already when Vearden died.”
“I’m really worried, Leona. I have this feeling in the pit of my stomach that something has been ripped away.”
“That’s not exactly what happened,” Arcadia said after appearing behind them.
“What did you do?”
She inhaled and exhaled. “I was cruel. I made my expiations too difficult. No, not just difficult; impossible. It was my first time, I didn’t know what I was doing. I have worked out those kinks, though, and I think your expiations are going swimmingly, despite a few hiccups.”
“Who are you talking about?”
“Aldona Lanka.”
“I don’t know who that is.”
“You met her briefly. She killed Ambrosios for you, and healed you from the hunger berries.”
“Oh. From the other island? I never got her name. What’s happened?”
“She died. And before you flip out, she was ninety years old, and living alone on a remote island on a planet in a different galaxy than where she was born, so I’d say she lived pretty long.”
“She was born late enough to be virtually immortal,” Mateo argued.
“This is true, but she didn’t, and she’s dead now, and you can help.”
“Help how?”
“She failed her expiations in a big way; a problem that you are not experiencing yourself. You can either sit here and enjoy the sun and surf for the next week, or you can complete her expiations for her.”
“I’m in.”
“Before you go all gung-ho on me, remember that Aldona is dead. She can’t be with her family, so you have no real obligation to bring them back.”
“I said I’m in.”
She went on, “right now, they don’t exist. They don’t care that they don’t exist...because they don’t exist! If you choose to leave them be, they can’t be mad at you, because—”
Mateo finished her sentence with her, “they don’t exist! I get it. I’m..IN! Let’s do it! Stop trying to downsell me on this, it’s not going to work!”
“I just want you to understand that you don’t know these people.”
“It doesn’t matter. They deserve to live, just as much as my friends and family.”
“Very well,” Arcadia said. “Assemble the clan. Also remember that they have no obligation to help you. And if they don’t, you will fail as well, because you two won’t be able to do this one yourself.”
They gathered the remaining inhabitants to the beach; Horace, Paige, Aura, Mario, Lincoln, and Darko. Mateo and Arcadia explained the new situation, and reminded them that anyone was free to opt out at will. Of course, no one did, so Arcadia dove into the specifics their task. “Aldona’s husband, Gino Calligaris was a Health Translator. Technological advances in the mid-21st century rendered many human health professional responsibilities obsolete. Nurses need no longer monitor vitals, and doctors need no longer diagnose diseases. Artificial intelligences handle all these problems, because they’re more efficient, and have a wider array of data. Humans are still needed, though, for one very important role in the hospital setting. It’s called bedside manner, and it has become an even more essential function than it was before. With computers handling the technical side of medicine, including surgical procedures, patients began to feel neglected. There was no warmth or compassion. There was no soul or sadness or empathy. Health Translators are just as—actually probably more educated than the doctors of your day. Their primary function now, however, is to be present for the patient; to explain prognoses and facility procedures to them, so they understand what they’re getting themselves into. Basically they retain the human component of the process, so that the patient has someone they can relate to.”
“That’s fascinating,” Aura couldn’t help but say.
“Unlike most expiations, this one will last for an entire year,” Arcadia continued. “You are being asked to go back to school. You will return to Earth and audit a special year-long program designed to train Health Translators in this aspect of their positions. You won’t be learning any medicine; instead you’ll be learning how to communicate with patients. Though you will do this all from another dimension, which means the facilitators and other students won’t be able to see you, you will be required to take and pass the periodic evaluations. Obviously, Mateo and Leona won’t be able to do this with you.
“Furthermore, every single one of you who agrees to this expiation will be required to pass. So if you think you’re not smart enough, you should consider dropping out. You will be able to help each other, though, so maybe there will be a sort of strength in numbers type of thing going on.”
Darko raised his hand and pulled away from the group. “I better not do this one,” he said. “I’m not particularly smart, and I’m certainly not particularly kind.” Awkwardly enough, no one argued with him on his self-assessment.
“Sounds fair, Arcadia said. “Anyone else?”
No one.
Arcadia looked at her watchless wrist. “Class begins in about an hour, so do what you have to. Wheels up in ten.” She looked over at Mateo, and spoke to him only, “I always wanted to say that.”
They packed their belongings, and said goodbye to Mateo, Leona, and Darko. Then they left for school. The three disqualified didn’t do anything interesting the rest of the day. It was only near midnight that they realized Darko would have to spend a whole year alone on the island. They should have thought through this more.

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