Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 24, 2262

The problem with time travel was that there was no such thing as total safety. If one were to imagine a world without it, finding a secure location wasn’t necessarily easy, but it was at least possible. An individual could theoretically fly a small plane to a remote and uncharted island in the middle of the ocean, and worry little about being discovered. Or they could build an impenetrable bunker in the center of a mountain. But either one of these things would be a three-dimensional endeavor. What would happen if a fourth dimension were to be added? Now someone could potentially find that person before they hid themselves away, or after they came out of it. They could kill their grandmother before they’re born, or even their ancestor from centuries prior. Surviving for a particular stretch of time doesn’t mean anything when an opponent could theoretically go back in time, and create a new reality for you.
Cassidy Long was always in danger; in her present, her future, and even her past. Last year, Pribadium seemed to think that there was a way to protect her from attack in all dimensions, so she and Hogarth spent that year working on it. “I call it a blind spot,” Pribadium announced.
“Are we married to that name?” Vitalie questioned.
“What does it do?” Mateo asked.
“How does it work?” Leona asked.
Hogarth open a small black case and removed an injection needle from it. “This solution is retroactive. If this works, no one will be able to find you. Seers won’t predict your future, remote viewers won’t be able to trace you, psychics won’t be able to connect with you. You’ll be invisible in every sense of the word, except the literal one.”
“People will still be able to see you standing in front of them, of course,” Pribadium clarified.
“How did you make this so quickly?” Mateo asked them.
“It’s been a year for us; not a day,” Hogarth explained.
“I know. That’s still fast. You didn’t even have time to study Cassidy.”
“We didn’t need to,” Pribadium said. “This could work on anyone. It just so happens to be for her, since she’s the one who needs it.”
“So, it hasn’t been tested,” Leona presumed.
“How could you test it?” Hogarth posed.
“I don’t know,” Leona responded. “I’m not a chemist, and also, neither are either of you.”
Even Mateo knew she was right. It sounded far too dangerous for Cassidy to just inject whatever this stuff was into her bloodstream. What exactly did it do, and how did they have any clue how to make it work? They’re both primarily mechanical engineers.
“I learned several months ago,” Pribadium said with a shrug, like it was no big thang.
“Okay, you’re smart,” Leona admitted, “but even you have limits. Learning the entire branch of chemical engineering in a matter of months is one thing, but coming up with a chemical that others in the industry couldn’t even fathom is quite different. How did you incorporate the temporal dimension?”
Hogarth and Pribadium exchanged a look. “We weren’t always on Glisnia”
“We took the AOC to Earth.”
“And we sought help from The Concierge.”
“Danica?” Mateo asked rhetorically. “My cousin let you into The Constant?”
“Why wouldn’t she?” Hogarth asked, but she very well knew why. There were rules.
Pribadium sighed. “We were convincing. And look.” She held the needle up higher. “The proof of our efforts. This serum is very old. It has seen time pass. The only way someone would be able to hurt Cassidy would be if they prevented Earth from coalescing in the first place. They would have to destroy the whole world before it even forms to get to her.”
“I’m not letting my daughter anywhere near that,” Étude promised.
“Hold on,” Cassidy finally said. “Is anyone gonna ask what I want, or does everyone here think they knows what’s best for me?” She turned to each person as she spoke. “Mom, I’m an adult now, and I can make my own choices. Leona, I appreciate your wisdom. Mateo, I appreciate your caution. Hogarth and Pribadium, thank for you everything you’ve done to help me. That all being said, my answer is no. I don’t understand why everyone in my life has gone to so much trouble to protect me. Well my mother, yeah, I get. But everyone else has been going out of their way to make sure poor little Cassidy doesn’t get hurt. I don’t need that.”
“It’s not just about you,” Leona said quietly. “Your blood is special. People want it for their agendas, and we can’t let that happen. It’s dangerous. We’re not just protecting you, but preventing the wrong people from gathering too much power.”
“Uhuh,” Cassidy says, “and who decides who the wrong people are? Ya know, I’ve never sat down and spoken with one of these people who are after me. All I have to go on, Mateo, is a brief conversation you had with one of them in an elevator. He wanted my blood to fight against a race of beings called the white monsters. So maybe I should help them.”
“The procedure could kill you,” Mateo reminded her. “I don’t care what the white monsters do; I’m not letting you die.”
“And again, I appreciate that, but maybe it’s time we stopped trying so hard. There are limits to what we should do to prevent this. If that needle kills me, then it will end up being worse. At least if those people had gotten to me, my blood could have saved lives. Now my life, and my death, will have just been wasted.”
No one had any idea how to respond to this.
“I gotta get outta here,” Cassidy says. Then she ran off.
“Let her go,” Leona stopped Mateo when he tried to follow.
“Do you know where she’s going?” he questioned her.
“Well, she can’t get far,” Leona reasoned. “This facility isn’t that big.”
Hogarth’s eyes widened in fear. “Yes it is. She could be two-point-eight-million light years away in minutes.”
“My teleporter,” Pribadium realized. “Dammit.”
Everybody ran off to stop Cassidy before she did something stupid, but Mateo had a different idea. He walked slowly down the hallways, and took the other tine of the fork. Cassidy was sitting in grave chamber four of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, back against the wall. She had a manilla folder in her hands.
Mateo climbed in, and sat against the opposite wall. “What is that?”
She held it up slightly higher. “Oh, this?” This is just me. This is me in one ream of paper or less.”
“I don’t understand.”
“When the other version of my mother, Étude was given the memories of me, the first thing she did was ask where I was. A woman named Nerakali Preston agreed to help her procure the information she would need to find me. This is everything they have, from my fake birthdate, to my sudden disappearance.”
Mateo nodded slowly. “What bothers you about that?”
“I dunno. Just...look at this thing. Is this all I am? My whole life fits in one folder. Isn’t that sad?”
“How many folders do you suppose there should be? Fifty-two?” he joked.
“Don’t make fun of me.”
“Can I take a look?”
She handed it over.
“Where’s the part where you skinned your knee when you were six?”
“What about how you felt after your first kiss?”
“What are you talking about, Mateo?”
“I’m talking about everything about you,” he insisted. “If everything is in here, then where is all that?”
“I don’t follow.”
“Cassidy, this isn’t your life; this is your data. It doesn’t include everything you’ve done with your life, and everyone whose life you’ve impacted. What about this reality’s version of Jai Quelen; the one you were in a complicated relationship with?”
“Oh, he’s definitely in there.”
“Right. He’s mentioned to the extent of your interactions, but not to the extent of how you changed him. He has his own hypothetical folder, but that’s not really what life is. You can’t just boil everyone down to a folder, or a deck of folders, or a million folders. And you can’t keep the folders separate from each other. Because, as they say, no man is an island. We’re all constantly walking in and out of each other’s lives, overlapping our stories, and altering each other’s paths. Nothing can be written that explains how that all works, because paper is two-dimensional, and the universe operates in four dimensions. Hell, as time travelers, we know that there are even more dimensions, and more universes. Does that make sense?”
“Yeah, I guess it does.” She lifted her shirt, and for a second, Mateo was worried. “After your memorial, I’m going to leave.”
“Where are you gonna go?”
“With my mother, and Vitalie, if she’s going too.”
He understood. “Why are you showing me that belly button piercing? Are you about to take yourself off my pattern?”
“It doesn’t make sense for me to spend only one day a year with the only family I have left when I have a choice.”
“No, I wouldn’t have made that choice if someone had given it to me when this all started.”
“You’re not worried?” she asked.
“Oh, Cass, I’m always worried. I always will worry. But what Leona said to you was wrong. No one has the right to keep you locked up, white monster army or no. I still think you should keep a low profile, though.”
“I don’t plan on going into show business, or anything.”
“There’s one way you can go do whatever you want without fear of someone coming after you.”
Cassidy smirked. “If my father’s alive, he can remove my powers entirely.”
“What? No, I didn’t think of that. I suppose it’s true...if he’s still alive.”
“What did you have in mind?”
“Vitalie has a way to contact The Prototype. It could take you anywhere in the bulkverse. They know which universes have Maramon in them, and which ones are safe.”
“Wow, Mateo. If you wanna break up with me, there are easier ways to do it.”
“I’m serious. I’ve thought about leaving, but...I’m not sure I should. It would get me off my pattern, and free from the powers that be, but...”
“But what?” she prompted.
“Don’t tell anyone I said this, but I’ve grown used to this life. I wake up every morning, and it’s literally a new year. Who else enjoys that kind of fresh start?”
“I can think of two other people.”
“Yeah, but you have your family. Mine are gone. If I could go back in time, and undo all of this, so I could live happily ever after with my parents, would I? Well, no, because then Leona would be twelve years younger than me. But assuming I could somehow have her too, yeah, I would probably do that. But too much has changed now, and I choose to stay.”
“You’re not doing well if you’re trying to convince me to make this choice.”
“I’m not gonna lie to you about my feelings. It can only help you decide whether you feel the same way. You’ll never be safe in this universe, and I know that Étude would be perfectly happy getting you out of it.”
“This is a lot.”
“I know,” he acknowledges. “It all comes down to a few choices. I’m gonna lay them all out for you, even though I think some of them would be stupid. You can continue as you are. You’ll be on mine and Leona’s pattern, and you’ll accompany us wherever we go. You can leave, but remain on our pattern. You can stay, but get off our pattern, or as you said, both leave our pattern, and our lives. There are only two options left.”
“I can escape the universe, or I can take Pribdadium’s magic drug.”
She sighed melodramatically.
They sat in silence for a good long while. When they finally emerged from the AOC, everyone was waiting in the hangar. Cassidy walked up to Pribadium. “Where’s the needle?”
Pribadium removed the needle case from her bag, and began to open it, but Cassidy made her close it, and hand over the whole thing.
“I’m going to keep this with me. I may take it in the future, but it will be when I choose, and it will be on my terms.”
“I understand,” Pribadium said.
Everyone else was either cool with her decision, or would just have to get over it.

No comments :

Post a Comment