Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 22, 2199

The first thing that Leona Matic could remember was being killed by one of the mercenaries that she had commissioned to break Ulinthra out of her prison cube. She could recall the sting of the bullet, and the flow of blood spilling out of her wound. She could feel the light of her life dim little by little until there was nothing but a single pixel left. She never actually experienced that pixel being destroyed in her very, very final moment, but it still made her feel small. Though, through the magic of alternate timelines, she knew she had died before, no one had ever shown her what it truly felt like before. But she had apparently asked for it, and she had to trust her own past. The memories began to return to her backwards from there. Interrogating Ulinthra to find the ardusite dagger, retrieving an alternate Horace Reaver from the extraction mirror, watching Brooke Prieto die in a darkburster explosion. They just kept coming at an accelerated rate, until everything she had done before had finally returned, added to the ever-growing pile of parallel memories. The Warrior removed his hands from hovering at the side of her temples.
“I’m not screaming,” she noted. “Why am I not screaming? The others screamed. It always makes you scream.”
“Not always,” the Warrior explained. “You’ve had your brain blended before. It gets easier each time, and your brain is particularly...magnificent. Plus, the way you changed realities has never been done before, as far as I know. That dagger seems to have come from a completely different universe, so there’s no telling what other side effects it brought with it.”
“Where’s Horace?” Leona asked.
“He was never here,” Vitalie told her. “He and I followed Ulinthra to where she hid the ardusite dagger. Despite the fact that cops have been playing that trick on criminals throughout all procedural drama history, Ulinthra fell for it. She couldn’t help but check to see if we were bluffing about already knowing where it was.”
“Who did it?”
“He did, of course,” Vitalie continued. “He tried to tell you; that he knew it would mean his own demise. Ulinthra never existed. We are the only few people who have ever heard of her. Unfortunately, if she never existed, then we had no reason to go get Horace from the alternate reality either. As soon as he stabbed her with it, reality changed around everyone, leaving us with this, and without him.”
Leona shook her head. “We needed Horace to erase Ulinthra from history, which meant we didn’t need Horace, but if we didn’t have Horace, then Ulinthra couldn’t have been erased from history. It’s a vicious circle. A paradox.”
“I can’t tell you why it’s not a paradox,” Vitalie said. “Let’s just let it go, and be grateful that everything worked.”
“Yes,” Brooke finally spoke. Let’s.”
“It appears to be unanimous,” Ecrin pointed out.
Paige sighed. “The motion has passed.” She mimed banging a gavel.
“If that is all,” The Warrior said, “I will be going.”
“Yes,” Leona said, almost thinking they ought to give him a tip, as if he were a helpful bellhop. “Thank you so much, Anatol..for everything.”
The Warrior nodded respectfully, and disappeared.
“Well, he’s right that this feels different. Before, I got blended memories of different times. But this just went back through the last two weeks of my life, with only a little extra from having encountered Ulinthra at Stonehenge before we left for Durus.”
“Yeah, that’s what’s interesting to me,” Brooke said. “There are minor differences in what happened to us between the first time we saw Ulinthra in this time period, and when we saw her again in Panama, but nothing big. I have conflicting memories of recharging my systems on the ship one day, instead of going over navigational calculations; or of Dar’cy and Missy arguing over something trivial, when that actually never happened. But no one died who should have survived. No one was born that shouldn’t have, or anything like that.”
“I guess, in the end,” Ecrin began, “despite all the havoc she wreaked on the world, she wasn’t really all that important. It makes you wonder, do any of us matter? How different would the universe be if any one of us just disappeared?”
“Yes, about that,” a man said as he stepped through an invisible door in the middle of the room. In the timeline that had since been erased, they spent most of their time in Panama, but in the real timeline, Leona only got one day there before everyone went back to Kansas City. A couple years ago, they decided to move to one of the outer Northwest Forest circles, which was where they were now.
Ecrin tilted her head in friendly, mild surprise. “Ennis, how nice to see you again.”
Ennis looked like a mailman, complete with shorts, a cap, and a large satchel. He also had terrible burn scars on his face. “Miss Cabral, hello.” He tipped the cap.
“What do you have for us?” Ecrin asked him. “Anything good.”
“I guess,” he said.
“What did you mean, about that?” Leona asked. “About what?”
“Oh, you were talking about people disappearing, and I have something for you that is relevant to that.” He pulled a thick folder out of his bag, but did not hand it to anyone. “I was meant to come to you earlier, but I’m not allowed on Durus, and I don’t do moving vehicles. I could have given it to you after that, but I was told to leave you alone during the Ulinthra corruption. So I’m here now, at my earliest convenience, to give you this.” He handed the heavy folder to Leona.
Leona didn’t open it, but looked to Ecrin for guidance. She trusted her judgment.
Ecrin nodded. “If The Courier hands you something, it belongs to you. He’s legit.”
“Mrs. Matic,” Ennis began.
“Miss,” Leona corrected.
This confused him a bit. “I’m sorry, but aren’t you pregnant?”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Leona asked, appalled and offended.
“Well, it’s just, I was told...who’s the father?”
Now Leona was getting really offended. “That is none of your business.”
Ennis scratched at his chin, then took a notepad out of his bag, and started looking them over. “Oh, you’re only starting to remember. Hmm.”
“What? Are you? Talking about?”
“Okay.” Ennis clapped his hands together to begin his explanation. “There was a man. This man..was named Mateo. A...bunch of stuff happened, and then a really powerful asshole took him out time. Kind of like what you did with Ulinthra. And also kind of like Ulinthra, he owned a planet, but in this case, it was legitimate, and the people who lived on it actually liked him. Since he’s no longer here, however, the rights to that planet fall to his next of kin, which is you.”
“You’re telling me I have some relative that I don’t know about, because someone erased his history?” Leona had seen a lot as a salmon, and knew there were entire timelines she had no recollection of, but this was sounding fishy.
“I’m telling you that you had a husband you don’t remember. He’s the father of your child, which means that child is proof that Mateo Matic did indeed exist. His history wasn’t erased. He was erased. You don’t remember everything he did, nor do most people, but he still had an impact on the way things are today. And the days before, since we’re time travelers.”
Leona once again looked to Ecrin, who clearly had no memory of this either. “Again,” she said, “this man doesn’t lie. If he says this dude existed, then he existed.”
“The more the baby grows inside of you,” Ennis went on, “the more it will have an effect on you. You will start remembering. The Superintendent can do a lot, but he can’t stop that. I didn’t mean to suggest you had to be married to have a child, I just thought you were far enough along to start getting your memories back.”
“Okay, okay, okay,” Leona said, trying to wrap her head around having a husband she couldn’t remember. “I’m not saying I believe it, but I’m not saying I don’t. Assuming it’s true, is there any way to prove it? Can me something? Can we get the Warrior back here?”
Ennis shook his head. “The Warrior and The Blender can give you quantum memories from an alternate timeline. But this isn’t an alternate timeline. It’s a corrupted timeline, but still the same timeline. Same same, but different.”
“That doesn’t make any sense, I got blended memories from the Ulinthra corruption, which is what you called it.”
“That shouldn’t have worked either,” Ennis began, “but you made arrangements so that it would. You spoke with The Warrior before Horace used that dagger thing, and prepared him to help you today. That’s not gonna work here. I want to make it clear—and Ecrin can attest to this—I am quite literally the messenger, so don’t shoot me. I didn’t erase Mateo, I can’t put him back, I can’t prove that I’m not lying, and lastly—this is an important one—I can’t put you in touch with the Superintendent. He’s the one who did this, and like a witch’s spell, only he can undo it.” He pointed at the folder, which Leona had yet to open. “That is, if you even wanted him to undo it. Dardius is pretty nice this time of millennium.”
She didn’t know the answer to that. Surely if her memories had been removed against her will, she would want to get them back. Yet this was her life now, and though no sane person would call it a good one, it was one she understood. While she would likely never see Serif again, Leona would never want to lose the memory of her. If they only got together because Mateo wasn’t there instead, then what would happen to her? Could she give up one love for another? “What would that mean for Serif? Was what we had even real?”
“Oof,” Ennis said lightly, “that’s a loaded question. Was Serif real? Technically, no. She was fabricated, but she was fabricated...before Mateo was removed from time.”
“But she was, what? Just some friend?”
“No, you were with her; you and Mateo both. Don’t ask me to give you details on how your relationships worked, I just met you today. Some things I know, some things I don’t.” His watch beeped, as did Leona’s, though she didn’t know why. “Oh, look at that, it’s time. Are you guys going to the show? Do you have tickets?”
“Tickets to what?” Brooke asked.
“The Last Savior’s Last Save? It’s today, in just a few minutes.”
“You mean, she retires after this?”
“Yep, it’s over. The Age of Saviors is kaput. I can hook you up, if you want. I’m pretty good friends with Sanela. Hey Leona, she’s your, Umm. Twice removed? I don’t know how it works, your family tree is crazy.”
This was getting to be too much.
Ennis kept going, “so do you guys want to go, err...?” He trailed off an awful lot.
“That would be lovely,” Paige said.
“Yeah, sure,” Leona agreed. She was the last to step through Ennis’ invisible portal. It would be nice to see Étude again, but honestly, all she could think about was what she was going to do about this Mateo guy.

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