Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 7, 2214

Mateo was devastated at the news. Just like his father—who was, ironically, not really his father, as Mateo erased himself from history long before he was erased from time—he tore the place apart. He flipped up the bed, and ripped into the mattress. He knocked over the nightstand, and kicked the door off the wardrobe off. He threw a chair at the viewport, which was strong enough to handle it. He pulled at his hair, and snarled like a wild animal. He got this close to bashing his head against the wall. All the while, Leona watched him patiently. It didn’t upset her more, and she didn’t see the need to stop him. She had her own way of dealing with grief, and this was his. He stomped out of the room in a huff, and took refuge in a closet. Still, Leona left him alone. By the time he returned to the bedroom not a half hour later, everything was exactly as it had been before. Not a single thing was broken.
He was still breathing heavily. “What the hell is this?”
“Étude’s womb-mother was a builder, like Baudin,” Leona explained. She was sitting on the bed, and it was clear that she had been crying. “She reset the room, in case you wanted to...destroy it again.”
He took a couple of deep breaths, and dragged the chair over to face her. “No, I don’t need to do that again. I shouldn’t have done it once, and I’m sorry for that.”
“No, it’s okay,” she assured him. “I know what you’re going through.”
He shuffled the chair closer, and leaned in. “But I don’t understand what you’re going through. I can’t. I’m—my perspective is inadequate. I will never know what it’s like to carry a child, and I will certainly never know what it’s like to lose one. I feel so angry that we never got to meet them, but also that I’m so hopeless to help you. I...I don’t know what to say.”
“These were your children, Mateo. Unlike anyone else, there is nothing you should or should not say. Your feelings are legitimate, and you have just as much right to express them as I do. It’s not your job to make me feel better. We need to work together. I appreciate that you recognize the difference between us, but that doesn’t diminish your position.”
“We have lost so many people; you more since I was away. But we always lost them to time. My versions of the Gelens, your versions, your biological parents, our friends. We met them, and we knew them, and we loved them. Sometimes we even hated them,” he said, referring to Gilbert Boyce. “But we never got to meet our children, and that’s the worst.”
“The worst is that they probably still exist in this timeline. Like you said, they’re powerful. I think they can travel to timelines they weren’t born to.”
“What are you saying?”
“Remember that show, Highlander.”
“There can be only one? Leona, are you saying our alternate children killed our babies?”
Leona shook her head. “No. I don’t think they would ever, but the powers that be have rules that go beyond the handful I came up with myself. They don’t like duplicates.”
Now Mateo shook his head. “No, I won’t except that. I can’t work for someone who would do that. And since I can’t quit, I have to believe they had nothing to do with this. Who was this cargomaster guy?”
“Nobody, just some pathetic capitalist whose life never amounted to anything.”
“But he’s dead?”
“He had no way off the ship when he sabotaged it. I don’t know why he went that far. He died with everyone else.”
“Good,” Mateo said. “It’s best I have no reasonable path to trying to kill him myself.”
Leona had no response to this. Instead, she glanced at her watch. “It’s almost midnight.” No, it wasn’t. “We should get a full night’s rest. We’ll try to find a way to Bungula next year.”

That night, Mateo dreamt of reality. He was watching the world through Leona’s eyes. He saw himself disappear by the extraction mirror, and his friends move on with their lives without him. Leona and Serif returned to Earth with the aid of choosing one who could jump across galaxies. They were contracted for a mission to retrieve the Last Savior of Earth, who was destined to be born out of her jurisdiction, on Durus. On their way back, they investigated a murder, and Serif was lost to another universe. Once on Earth, Étude left for her job. Some friends disappeared, while new relationships grew stronger. One by one, these died off in a years-long battle against an alternate Ulinthra. Then they were all brought back to life at once when the OG Horace Reaver killed their enemy with a dagger made of human ash.  Leona’s memories of Mateo were returned to him, and she went on a quest for several special temporal objects. Upon full assembly, they would bring him back into existence. Then he woke up.
“Finally,” Mateo could hear Étude say. “He’s back!” she called out.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Can you walk?”
Mateo got out of bed. He was covered in sweat, and hooked up to an IV. “Of course I can. I already recovered.”
“We weren’t sure,” Étude said.
Leona and Vitalie clamored into the room. The former took Mateo into a great, big hug. “Thank God. We were so worried. We thought the insulator took you away from us, but nothing helped.”
“I was just asleep,” Mateo said. “Wasn’t I? I remember my dreams.”
“Yes,” Leona said to him, “but you were asleep for nineteen hours.”
“I was?”
“Yes,” Étude confirmed, “and we couldn’t wake you up. You were showing signs of being in a coma.”
“I’m sorry, but I think I know why. I mean, I don’t know why, but I know what happened while I was out. I remember everything, Leona.”
“Everything what?”
“Your life, without me. I experienced it, as if I were you. It was like getting my brain blended, except it was slower, and it doesn’t hurt.”
“They were also not your memories,” Vitalie pointed out. “Can brain blenders do that?”
Étude stepped forward. “Technically, they’re always doing it. Alternate selves are, at their core, approximations. Identity only refers to a single entity. It can’t be copied or replaced. You are always unique; always. Vitalie, for instance, if you went to The Warrior, and asked him to blend your brain, he would hunt for someone in an alternate timeline who is not quite you, but is almost you. The other Vitalie lived under different conditions. Therefore, she is not truly you. If the point of divergence took place before your birth, the other individual is even further away from you, because now you were conceived and born under different conditions. All this means is that there is a negligible difference between someone and their alternate, and two entirely separate people. So yes, it would be easy for a blender to give someone the memories of someone else, because that’s actually how they do it every time.”
Leona and Vitalie stared at her for a moment. “I just can’t get used to you talking out loud.”
“No, I can’t either,” Étude agreed. “I can see how that would be more difficult for you, though, because even though I never said them out loud, I always had words in my head.”
“Are we thinking Anatol or Nerakali snuck into this room undetected, and blended my brain, then just left without saying anything?” Mateo asked the group.
“That wouldn’t be the strangest thing that’s happened in our lives.”
“No, and Anatol might be able to turn invisible, for all we know,” Vitalie said. “If Vito had that power, then someone else does, or did, or is going to.”
“Well, either way, I’m sorry to scare you. I really feel fine. I just hope we didn’t miss our window to go to Jungula.”
“Bungula,” Leona corrected.
“I’m never going to call it that,” Mateo said. “It’s Jungula. Ya know, like a jungle.”
“There’s no jungle there.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yeah, we do.”
“You should get up and move around,” Étude said to Mateo. “You can check on Ram’s progress while you’re at it. You may be able to leave today yet.”

“You won’t be able to leave tonight, goddammit!” Ramses shouted after Leona and Mateo went to his lab, and asked him how he was doing. He was hovered over his table, soldering a logic board together.
“It’s okay,” Leona said. “We’ve no reason to believe Brooke and Sharice can’t survive in there indefinitely. Mateo, are you still hearing them?”
“I’m not hearing them,” Mateo clarified, “but I feel them. They’re still there.”
“I promised you would be able to lift off this year, so you arrive by the time the exodus ships arrive.” Rames was pissed off.
“Exodus ships?” Mateo asked Leona quietly.
“They’re carrying the passengers who are intending to settle on the planet.”
“What use would it be us getting there before anyone else does. Won’t it be empty?”
“It was hard enough explaining our presence to the people living here, though a vessel that was ahead of its time wasn’t the most implausible thing ever, we don’t think anyone believed us. We want to get in, erase all evidence that we were ever there, and get out. And we can do that, because the planet is not empty. Automated ships were dispatched before the passengers, to get ready for them. All initial habitats and other structures are already in place, including the tech we need to bring Brooke and Sharice back.”
Rames threw his tool on the table so hard that it bounced off. Then he split the logic board in half. “Son of a bitch!”
“I’m sorry we broke your concentration,” Leona said to him.
“Oh no, it isn’t you,” Ram promised. “I’m just having trouble working through this. My capitalistic upbringing really overshadowed my education. My parents struggled reconciling letting me go to school for free when they didn’t believe in it. I have the knowledge, but I’m always second guessing myself. I can’t believe I ever believed in that shit. If I were half the engineer Holly Blue was, I would have been done with this six months ago!”
“Holly Blue had magical powers that created things for her without her having to think about it,” Leona responded.
Ramses stopped short, then looked at Leona over his magnifying specs. “She did?”
“Yeah, did you not know that?”
“No. And Hogarth?”
Leona thought this over a bit, but Mateo decided to answer in her place. “Eh, it’s unclear whether her powers helped her with her work, but she definitely had them.”
Leona was dumbfounded.
“What? I told you I have your memories.”
“All of them?”
“No, just the ones you made while I wasn’t there.”
“Good. There are some things a lady does she doesn’t need anyone else knowing.”
“Oh.” Mateo cleared his throat. “I saw plenty of those things.”
“Really?” Ramses asked. “Tell me more about that.”
Leona ignored the intrusion. “Will our ship be ready by this time next year?”
“Yes,” Ramses said as he was pulling parts to replace the logic board he broke. “One year wasn’t enough, but two years is too much. I’ll have it done in another month or two. I just need to figure out this switching mechanism. I can get the ship to connect to your time jumps, so it disappears while you’re gone. We don’t want it sitting in a harsh environment for months on end, completely out of use. But I’m still working on allowing you to turn that off. It would take you decades of realtime if you used that feature while you were en route.”
“Okay, Ram.” She patted him on the back, and started walking away. “I believe in you!”
“I appreciate your support!” Ramses called back to them.

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