Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 22, 2016

The Insulator of Life was one of those things that always did what it was meant to do, theoretically through psychic commands. It didn’t have any buttons or switches, or some kind of computer screen. Leona simply placed it on Mateo’s chest, like she had years ago. Instead of returning his own life to his body, though, she was this time extracting two extraneous lives, with the intention of housing them in the Insulator itself. She knew this was possible, because it had once worked on Brooke and Sharice Prieto. It was a painful process, but it didn’t last forever. Once it was over, Mateo was feeling lighter than ever. He was back to his normal, dumb self.
“How do you feel?” Ramses asked.
“I’m a little nauseated from the experience, but my mind feels amazing.”
“Good, good,” Leona said. “I’m no doctor, but I imagine the nausea will pass. You probably just need a good night’s rest. You’ve been through a lot.”
“I’m sorry, Leona.”
“No more apologies, but my ultimatum remains, even in light of the revelation that you were under the influence. If you leave once more, I don’t ever want to see you again.”
“I understand.”
“Declan,” Ramses began, “could you help me help him upstairs? I assume you have guest quarters somewhere?”
“We just call it a guest bedroom,” Declan said, “and yes.”
Mateo slept the rest of the morning away. When he woke up, he made his way downstairs, and found the rest of his friends sitting in the living room. Leona was wearing the HG Goggles again. “Hey, honey.”
“What are you doing with those?” he asked.
“Here,” she said, removing them, and handing them over.
He put them on, and looked around. Arcadia was pretending to be sitting in one of the chairs. Erlendr was nowhere to be found, though. “Is your father here too?”
“He refuses to come out,” Arcadia answered. “I’m sure it’s for the best.”
“Can he hear you talking about him now?”
“Our consciousnesses are both in here, and we can communicate with each other, but we retain our individuality. He’s pouting alone, and doesn’t know what we’re talking about.”
“What are we talking about?” Mateo asked.
“Could you please translate for us?” Declan requested. “We can’t hear her without the goggles.”
“Sorry,” Mateo said. He started regurgitating what Arcadia was saying for the group.
“We’re discussing what to do with her,” Ramses explained. “We can’t just leave her in there forever. I mean, we technically probably could, but we’re hoping for a solution.”
“We could go back to the future,” Arcadia said. “They would be able to build me a synthetic body of some kind. In this time period, however, there’s nothing.”
“I still think it would work to place you in someone who’s already in a coma, or a vegetative state,” Leona said, kind of out of character. “Your consciousness would mend any physical damage to their brain, and then you would be able to walk around.”
“That’s not ethical,” Ramses said. “It’s the kind of thing I would suggest. What if the person we chose was destined to wake up?”
“I won’t let you do it anyway,” Declan declared. “If I want to be a superhero one day, I can’t let things like this slide.”
Nerakali suddenly walked into the room. “There is another way.”
“Sister!” Arcadia exclaimed.
“Hello, sister,” Nerakali said back to her.
“Wait, you can see her?” Leona questioned.
“All the Prestons have psychic abilities, to varying degrees. Zeferino was the worst. Erlendr was the best. I’m just okay, but I’m good enough to carry on a conversation.”
“Well, what’s the other way?” Arcadia asked her.
“I know of a body that no one else is using, and they never will. It’s up for grabs, if you want it.”
“Why is it not in use?” Declan asked. This was his time period, so he was going to be particularly protective of the other people living in it.
“Jesimula Utkin,” Nerakali said. “She went back in time using a homestone, and stopped her younger self from developing time powers.”
“Wait, you can develop time powers?” Declan was very interested in this.
“You can if you’re one of the Springfield Nine, yes. Anyway, there were now two versions of her in the timeline, so she decided to quantum assimilate with each other. Normally, the body they don’t use is scattered throughout space and time, but Jesi decided to keep the other one. I don’t really know why; I didn’t talk to her about it. I just know where it is.”
“That was over twenty years ago,” Mateo pointed out. “Isn’t it a desiccated corpse by now?”
“It’s not a corpse,” Nerakali replied. “It’s still technically alive. It just can’t think or do anything. It’s been in the hospital this whole time. It can breathe, pump blood, swallow, and digest. It wears a diaper, though, and orderlies have to hand feed it.”
“That’s kind of...gross,” Ramses decided.
Nerakali shrugged. “It was her choice. I try not to judge.”
“I’m willing to do it,” Arcadia said, “but I’ll need Jesimula’s permission. We can’t just take it.”
“Aww,” Mateo couldn’t help but say. “You’re growing.”
“Shut up,” she said with a psychic blush.
“I know where the real Jesi is as well,” Nerakali said. “Who’s up for a field trip?”

They found Jesimula Utkin in her lab. She was apparently a pretty big deal here, but she didn’t run the place, like she had in her old life. She no longer had the advantage of temporal powers.
“So. What do you do here?” he asked.
“I’m trying to find a way to replicate the 2025 pathogen.”
“What!” Leona exclaimed.
“Well,” Jesi began, “in an old timeline, I forced Paige Turner to go to the future, so she could become infected with the pathogen. When she went back to her own time period, she spread it more slowly then before, which served to inoculate the entire human race. But then Ace Reaver forced me to go back in time, where I altered the course of history. Now none of that is going to happen, so I have to do it in some other way. Again.”
“Oh, no you don’t,” Nerakali contradicted.
“This is really important to me,” Jesi said. “I kind of based my whole life around saving the species.”
“No, it’s taken care of,” Nerakali added. “The Stitcher handled it.”
Jesi was surprised by this. “She did?”
“Wait, what does that mean?” Leona asked. “What did Tonya do?”
“She folded the two realities together,” Nerakali said. “All that Jesi did when she sent Paige to the 32nd century; that all happened in this timeline, even though her later actions in the past should have prevented it. It’s a stable paradox.”
“My mother died as a result of that disease!” Leona shouted.
Everyone was silent for a moment.
“I mean, it’s the trolley problem,” Nerakali finally said.
“Oh, bullshit! Why did my mother have to be the one who dies? It’s so arbitrary!”
“It’s not arbitrary,” Arcadia said. “It’s fate. I made it so.”
“You agree with her, Mateo?” Leona cried. “She was your mother too!”
“I remember. I’m the one who killed her in the timeline before that.”
“I can’t look at any of you right now.” Leona activated her emergency teleporter, and returned to Declan’s house, where he and Ramses had stayed.
Jesi melted all the bones in her body. “My life’s purpose is pointless. I’ve been wasting my time in this lab.”
“No, you haven’t,” Mateo consoled her. “You’ve contributed to science, and now you can move on to some other project. You might cure cancer. Just because you don’t have a time traveling building doesn’t mean you can’t make things better.”
“Thanks,” Jesi said. “You didn’t come here just to drop that bombshell on me, did you?”
“We need your permission for something,” Nerakali said to her. “We would like to give your other body to someone else.”
Jesi hadn’t seen this request coming. “For who?”
Nerakali gestured towards Mateo. “For the invisible person he’s been translating for.”
“Here,” he said. He took off the HG Goggles, and handed them to Jesi.
“Come on,” Nerakali said to him. “Let’s give them some privacy.” She set the Insulator on the table, and they both walked out of the room.

Jesi and Arcadia didn’t talk too long before the former agreed to give her alternate body to the latter. She never explained why it was she was keeping it around in the first place, but they were grateful it was available. She gave them directions to the hospital where the body was being cared for, and said she would call ahead about her so-called twin sister being transferred to another facility. Obviously, the hospital didn’t really know the truth about the person they were being paid to take care of. The administrators were fully expecting their arrival, and gave them no trouble at the door. Trouble was waiting for them in the body’s room, though. Someone was already trying to remove the vacant Jesi body from the premises.
“Allen?” Mateo asked. He was loading the Jesi body into a wheelchair. “Jul—Saxon? What are you doing?”
“Oh,” Allen said. “This is why she wanted us to come to this exact date. She wanted a confrontation.”
“Who wanted a confrontation?” Nerakali asked, arms folded. “Jesi?”
“No,” Saxon said. “Volpsidia.”
“She wants this body?” Nerakali asked.
“She doesn’t have one of her own anymore. The prison cremated it when they found it empty of a consciousness.”
“Who the hell are we talking about?” Mateo questioned earnestly.
“She’s a psychic,” Nerakali answered. “Like, a damn good. Probably the best within the bounds of the universe. She must have jumped into someone else’s body, so she could escape Beaver Haven. I don’t know what her ultimate plan was, but it was stupid. Cremation is standard protocol for a dead body found in the prison.”
“She doesn’t have her old body in anymore, so she’s going to steal Jesi’s?”
“She told us it was extra,” Saxon explained.
“It is,” Mateo agreed arguably, “but we need it.”
“Well, so do we,” Allen said, “so what do we do? If we try to go back empty handed, she’s going to kill my husband; his brother.
Mateo sighed, but then he felt a burning sensation in his pocket. “Ackey!” He pulled out the Insulator of Life, and let it fall onto the Jesi’s body’s bed. “Why is it so hot? Are they dying?”
“My sister’s probably just trying to get your attention,” Nerakali said.
He put the HG Goggles back on.
“Give them the body,” Arcadia said. “They’re right, they need it more. I’ve done a lot of bad things in my life. Richard is a good person, though.”
“It sounds like Volpsidia isn’t,” Mateo said to her.
“Who is he talking to?” Allen questioned.
“Don’t worry about it,” Nerakali answered him.
“This is a ransom,” Arcadia reasoned, “and I’m paying the ransom. Let them have the body.”
Mateo looked over to Nerakali for guidance. She couldn’t hear what her sister was saying, but she was wise enough to guess. She just shrugged. He sighed again, and stepped to the side. 
“Thank you,” Allen said.
“Thanks,” Saxon echoed.
“Well, what the hell are we gonna do now?” Mateo asked as they left the room behind the other two, walking at a respectful distance behind them.
“I don’t know. I don’t have any other ideas,” a defeated Nerakali said.
“What’s that light up ahead?” The doorway to one of the rooms was glowing.
“It’s probably just some tear in the spacetime continuum,” she said dismissively. “Who cares?”
Mateo felt himself drawn to it. He stepped inside to find out what it was. A woman was sitting in her own wheelchair. It wasn’t just any woman, though. It was Arcadia. She was nearly completely motionless and nonreactive. Drool was dribbling down her cheek.
“Holy shit,” Nerakali said. She snapped her fingers in the physical Arcadia’s face. “She’s unresponsive. She’s a vegetable too.”
“How did this happen?” Mateo asked. “When in your timeline are you like this?” he asked the psychic projection of Arcadia.
“That is not me,” she said, almost defensively.
“There’s something glowing on the desk too,” Mateo noticed.
Nerakali stepped over, and picked it up. “It’s The Artist’s chisel.” She started working through it in her head. “This isn’t Arcadia. This is a recreation of her. The Artist went back in time, and made one, almost certainly for this very purpose. We place the Insulator on the body, and tap her forehead with this chisel, she’ll come to life.”
“Really? Well, let’s do it. Are you all right with that?” he asked Arcadia, but he knew what her answer would be.
“Hell yeah.”

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