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Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 6, 2213

And like Jon Snow before him, Mateo Matic was suddenly returned from the dead. He could only move his neck a little as he gasped for air, and he could feel a tingling in his fingers. He had no recollection of where he had been, if anywhere, but he had an acute awareness of the passage of time. For him, it had been fifty-five days. For everyone else, fifty-five years.
A warm hand comforted him by the shoulder and chest. “Don’t try to move,” Leona said to him.
He tried to speak, but his throat was scratchy, and nothing came out. It wasn’t complete silence, but it wasn’t intelligible. He looked around the room. There were two other women there. He didn’t recognize either of them, but one looked a little like Saga Einarsson. Mateo managed to lift his head some more, and saw another man in the corner, but didn’t recognize him either. A lot of time passed since he left, so it wasn’t super surprising Leona had found a new gang of friends. He had a few questions. He took Leona by the arm, a little too aggressively, and tried to speak again, mouthing his words deliberately.
The woman who looked like Saga moved her arms around. The other woman nodded. “He asked where he’s been.” That was exactly right. She could read lips.
“You were taken out of existence,” Leona answered.
He remembered that. Arcadia could erase people from reality, but she wasn’t the one who did this to him. It was someone called The Superintendent. What a dick. He directed his attention at the lip reader, and asked another question.
She signed his question, and the other woman translated again, “how did you get me back?
Leona smiled. It had been forever since he had seen that. “It wasn’t easy.”
How did you even remember me at all?” the interpreter translated.
“It doesn’t matter,” Leona answered. “You’re back now, and no one will ever take you from me again.”
Introduce me,” she translated.
“Mateo Matic, this is Vitalie Crawville. She’s an astral projector who was born on on Durus. You remember Horace telling us about that? It’s a rogue planet that’s been through a lot.” She presented the lip reader. “Étude was born there as well, but she’s the daughter of Saga Einarsson, and Camden Voss. I’m not sure you ever heard his name. He was Xearea’s brother.”
Mateo nodded in understanding, then tipped his chin as much as possible to greet his new friends. Then he looked over at the man in the corner.
“Oh,” Leona said. “I don’t know who that is.”
The man stood up and reached out to shake Mateo’s hand. “Ramses Abdulrashid. Former Freemarketeer, and engineer-extraordinaire.”
Leona awkwardly twisted her arm and shook his hand instead. “Nice to meet you.”
What’s this thing on my chest?” Vitalie translated for Mateo again.
“Can I remove it?” Leona asked the group. “Does he have to keep it with him the whole time? Is this not permanent?”
“I don’t know,” Vitalie said.
Étude shook her head to indicate she didn’t know either.
Mateo lifted his head more than ever to see. It looked like one of those old glass things they used to put on top of powerline poles. That wasn’t all, though. He could feel something coming off of the object. It was a feeling, packed with information that he couldn’t interpret. He only recognized one word. Who the hell is Sharice? he mouthed.
Étude was shocked by this. She put both her hands into fists, with one pinky up in the air. She then bumped then together three times.
“Sharice?” Vitalie questioned. “Did he know Sharice?”
“Impossible,” Leona said. “Mateo, how do you know that name?”
He focused on the glass thing on his chest more. Another word came to his mind, which he asked Étude about. Four fingers up, with her thumb over her palm. She tapped her cheek, then waved her hands in front of her, almost like a river. No, not a river, but a brook.
“Brooke?” Leona asked. She looked down at the object. “They’re alive. They’re alive in there.”
Étude was frantically signing to Vitalie.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s why we couldn’t find their consciousnesses in the ship’s blackbox. Your seer didn’t tell you it would happen like this?”
No, Étude replied. That was probably the one and only sign that Mateo knew.
“How could we possibly get them out?” Leona asked.
“We would need somewhere to put them,” Vitalie pointed out.
“Okay, great. Let’s mock up some android bodies, and get this done.”
“Uh,” Ramses hesitated, “it’s not quite that easy.”
“I’m not saying it will be easy,” Leona acknowledged. “And we’ll have to convince these people to help, but surely they’ll want to.”
Ramses shook his head. “They would love to help, but they wouldn’t be able to. Two types of entities came here to Proxima Doma. It’s meant to be a haven for organic humans. They figured it was their birthright, since people have been dreaming of coming here longer than anywhere else, though I’m not sure that’s true. It’s possibly the least hostile environment, and definitely the best candidate for terraforming.”
“The point, Ram,” Vitalie pushed.
“The point is that they have helper bots, but no consciousness transference technology. They don’t even have Theseus tech. This is supposed to be our second home, not a transhuman establishment.”
“Well, we’re going back to Earth as soon as we can,” Leona said. “We’ll take the Insulator of Life with us, and transfer them to new substrates when we get back.”
Ramses shook his head again. “There aren’t any interstellar ferries right now. The whole system wants to operate on their own. New colony ships will be coming in a few years, but nobody is leaving.”
“Well, how far are we from civilization, goddammit?” Leona shouted.
Mateo took her by the hand to calm her down.
“Bungula,” Ramses answered.
“Okay, that’s actually better,” Leona said. “That is, if we can get there.”
“I’m sure that can be arranged,” Ramses said.
“There’s one problem, though,” Vitalie said.
Leona understood. “They would have to leave on a day where Mateo and I actually exist.”
“You don’t have to come,” Vitalie said. “Étude and I can handle it.”
“No,” Leona said. “Brooke is family, and by extension, so is Sharice. Now that I have all my memories, I realize that they’re Mateo’s half-sister, and his niece, respectively.”
Well, we can’t do anything about it today, Étude signed. My patient needs rest. It’s been an eventful day for him. Leona, when was the last time you slept too? You better get on it. I will call you if anything changes. Apparently, she was a medical professional, just like her mother.
Mateo tried to sleep after everyone left, but he was wide awake. It felt like he had been asleep the entire time he was missing, so now he had tons of energy. Of course, he couldn’t do much with this energy, as his body was no longer used to moving. He channeled his inner Beatrix Kiddo, and commanded his muscles to move, starting from his big toe, and upwards until he was fully standing at the side of his bed. Étude came back into the room shortly thereafter and smiled, as if this was her plan all along.
“Can you speak?” she asked him.
This was a shock. “I...I can. I thought you couldn’t. Are you not deaf?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I’m just mute.”
He turned his lizard brain, but instead of responding, he simply waited for her to elaborate.
“I’m what we in the business would call a late bloomer. I wasn’t set to talk until  I was well into my second year of life. As crazy as it sounds, I recall the moment I decided to start speaking. My mother, Saga was in the middle of a conversation with a family friend of ours. We were in danger on Durus, you see, or at least that’s what Saga perceived. This woman created a haven for her in a parallel spatial dimension, so they were the only two people I knew for years, until Leona and her friends found us. They were discussing my womb-mother, and Saga’s wife, Andromeda. More specifically, they were discussing her tragic death. I know I didn’t understand everything they were saying, but I could certainly feel my mom’s pain. It wasn’t so much that I made a conscious decision to stay silent; it’s more like her heartache silenced me. I was going to start talking once I was older, but ended up not doing that either. Several years ago, I resolved to say my first word at the age of forty-five, which was how old my womb-mother was when she died.”
“If that’s today, why is it that the others still think you’re mute? Did you not, like, announce it, or anything?”
Étude shook her head. “I’m not forty-five yet. Your return from the dead galvanized me. I didn’t plan for it, it just feels like it’s time.”
“I don’t know whether I should apologize, or say you’re welcome.”
“I don’t know either.”
Mateo sat back down on the bed, and stared at the Insulator of Life, which he had set on the nightstand. “Where are we?”
“Proxima Doma, Proxima Centauri,” Étude answered.
“I do not understand that designation.”
“The star is called Proxima Centauri. The planet is Proxima Doma. It’s a pseudo-habitable rocky world where vonerthans have chosen to migrate.”
“It’s a collective term for any entity originally sourced from humans of Earth. The only intelligent creatures that the greater vonerthan population has encountered are from Earth. As salmon and choosers, we’re privy to information about aliens, but most people aren’t, so at the moment, it’s a hypothetical distinction. A lot of people here are artificial intelligences, so we can’t identify them as human. Transhumans and transgenics sometimes don’t consider themselves humans anymore either.”
He waved towards the insulator. “What are they?”
“You knew Brooke Prieto-Matic. As a transhuman, she was able to interface with a regulated artificial intelligence. A set of particular conditions resulted in the awakening of her daughter, Sharice. Right now, their consciousnesses are trapped in there, as per your claims.”
“Can they hear us?”
And we have to take them to...?” Mateo couldn’t remember what they had said.
“Bungula. It’s a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri A. It isn’t that far.”
Mateo nodded as he swung his legs forwards and backwards in an alternating pattern. He was warming his legs up before he tried walking.
“Does it bother you to be so far from Earth?”
“I’ve been farther.”
“I know, so maybe you’re ready to go back home.”
He stood up and gazed out the viewport. The sky looked about as it did in the Earthan night sky, though maybe it was always night here. Was there any atmosphere at all?  Perhaps it never turned blue. “I have no home.”
Leona walked in. “What about me?”
“Yes.” Mateo smiled at her. “You are my home.”
Leona didn’t say anything, but she was holding her stomach in one hand. He had seen that move before.
He looked around, possibly looking for a calendar, or a clock. “What year is it again?”
“2213,” Leona answered.
“Are you showing yet?”
Leona’s face so swiftly turned sad that Mateo almost couldn’t remember what it was like to see her smile, though it was just seconds ago. “How did you know about them? I didn’t find out until...” she trailed off.
“I’ve met them before. It took some time to put it together, but they appear to be a couple of quite powerful choosing ones.”
“Those are not our children,” Leona said cryptically. “This is a new reality.”
“Leona, what does that mean?”
She paused, frightened and nervous. “We need to talk.”

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