Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Friday, July 2, 2117

RPS stood for rock, paper, scissors, which was a simple game to play on its own. A player can throw one of the three choices, and can beat or lose to the other player, depending on which one they choose, or draw if both throw the same one. RPS-101 was an insane variant of this game that involved ninety-eight additional gestures, each one capable of beating about half of the others. It was practically impossible to play without a cheat sheet and patience, or genius-level intellect. RPS-101 Plus was a computerized version of this, complete with graphics, visualized consequences, and a total abandonment of the original concept of throwing gestures. It was a video game. Each player will choose a gesture out of the entire list, and stick with that gesture throughout the whole round. It will be represented by an actual interactive image. Should a player choose lightning, for instance, they will see their lightning bolt on the screen, and control how it moves about. They will then use this character to navigate a hazardous playing field, where other characters attempt to attack. But since only half of them pose a threat, the other half of the gestures are available for the player to attack instead. Doing so will gain that player points, speed, and agility. This game was designed to be played by one to a hundred and one players, with all unused gestures falling under control of the computer. Upon learning from Sanaa that the AOC’s system contained a local copy of it, the group played for hours together, and barely got any sleep. Before they knew it it was 2117, and their cuffs were directing them into the city.
The window wasn’t going to be for awhile, so instead of teleporting to the location, they decided to walk, and get some fresh air. Since they didn’t really talk about anything during the games, they took this opportunity to catch Mateo up with what they figured about Xearea. The reason her story didn’t match up with their recollection of it was because she was from a different timeline in the main sequence. In this version of events, the bad men from the future were more successful in their mission, and would have been able to finish the job if Leona hadn’t intervened. It was presumably with knowledge of this outcome that prompted The Cleanser to conscript Mateo, Gilbert, and Horace to fix things.
“So, wait,” Mateo said. “You sent Xearea back to her timeline, knowing that it would collapse soon anyway.”
“No, we didn’t,” J.B. clarified. “Jericho went back, even though we warned him he might not survive, just like Ariadna wouldn’t have. We kept her here, though.”
“Where is she now?” Mateo asked.
“We don’t know anymore,” Ariadna replied. “Ramses showed up, and offered to help set her up with a new life here. We never spoke to her, though. She was still asleep when they took her away.”
“I’m right here.” It was Xearea, but she was much older now. Seventeen years had passed for her.
“Oh, Miss Voss,” Leona said, surprised. “You’ve fully recovered.”
“Of course,” Xearea said. “These people have excellent medical technology. I was intending to finally reunite with you, and thank you for saving me, but then I caught wind that you have an appointment here.” She looked towards the building they were standing in front of.
“What is this place?” Sanaa asked.
“It’s like an airport,” Xearea answered. “It’ll take you to other worlds. Your trip is scheduled for the Andromeda room. Follow me, I’ll show you where to go.”
“We’re going to Dardius, aren’t we?” Leona guessed.
“That’s the thing,” Xearea began. “It says you have an appointment there, but no final destination is listed. We don’t know where you’re going. Andromeda 21 isn’t the only galactic neighbor.”
“Surely it’s the island, isn’t it?” Mateo figured. “That’s what makes the most sense to me.”
“We can’t know that for sure,” Leona advised him.
Perhaps Tribulation Island only seemed like the logical choice, because that was where they were in this time. But they didn’t have a personal connection to everyone they rescued, like Jericho. Still, Jupiter sent them to the intergalactic portal, so…
“Sanaa?” J.B. prompted.
She consulted her cuff. “The cuffs can access information from satellites orbiting the planet we’re on, so we don’t just have to follow the arrows, but they can’t see beyond that. There’s no proof we’re going to Tribulation Island, or even Dardius, for that matter.”
They arrived at the Andromeda room, where a portal operator was waiting for their coordinates.
“If we go to the wrong place, can we come back, and try again?”
“Certainly,” she responded. “You may make as many jumps as you need.” People here were really friendly and accommodating. It was even better than the future in the main sequence. All these god-like powers probably made it really difficult to encounter an inconvenience. The way they understood it, energy and other resources were infinite, so there was no reason to deny anyone anything unless it infringed upon someone else’s wishes. If someone wanted to have an entire galaxy to themselves, for instance, where no one else could go, that was kind of all right, as long as that galaxy wasn’t already occupied, because whatever.
After the operator input the coordinates, everyone stepped onto the platform, and transported across millions of light years of space, to Tribulation Island, Dardius, Beorht, Miridir. The operator on the other side greeted them politely, and welcomed them to the island. They expected it to be heavily developed in this reality, but it was actually more sparse than it ultimately became in the main sequence. They were presumably conserving the wildlife here. The portaling seemed to have interfered with the Cassidy cuffs, but after they recalibrated themselves, the directive arrow came back to lead them down the beach.
“Who is it?” Sanaa asked them. “I’m not alive yet, so I don’t know that much about y’all’s time here.”
“I don’t know anyone who it could be,” Leona said, “unless they’re from a different timeline. No one disappeared that we can remember.”
“Maybe they’ll only disappear briefly, and then we’ll put them back,” Ariadna suggested.
“Why would we need to transition anyone?” J.B. asked. “I thought you said Jupiter admitted that we’re rescuing people. Is someone in danger here?”
“I don’t think so,” Leona answered. “Vearden dies here, but that’s not for several years. I think everyone else is okay.”
“Whoa. This is a nice place. What is that, a helicopter?” They had come into a clearing, where a lavish resort sat up against the water.
“It’s a jet with vertical take off,” came a voice from behind them.
“Baudin!” Mateo shouted, with a little more excitement than he would have liked to express. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve been here for eight years,” he answered. “This is where I live now, I s’pose.”
“Wait, you don’t exist anymore,” Leona said to him.
“I don’t?” Baudin feigned shock, and looked at the palms of his hands. “Oh, no. What about the others? Do they exist?”
“Stop screwing with them.” Samsonite was walking out of the hotel, followed by Gilbert. “We do exist. You can’t stop people from existing. You can just make other people think that’s what you’ve done.”
“This is the explanation,” Leona asked rhetorically. “When Arcadia was taking people out of time, all she was doing was bringing them here?”
“No, some other guy is doing it for her,” Samsonite corrected.
Mateo nodded. “Jupiter.”
“This is crazy.” Leona mused. “That means either all of you lie about it when we see you again, or someone alters your memories. I don’t even wanna think about what this means for when it happens to you, Mateo.”
“Well, I’m different,” Mateo reminded her. “The Superintendent was the one who took me. Maybe he really can rip people from the timeline. That’s not really the point, though, is it?” He directed his attention back to the other three. “You’re not alone here, are you?”
Gilbert smiled, and lifted one eye to a window above them. A group of people was watching them from inside their hotel room.
“Aldona’s family,” Leona realized.
“They’ve been here the longest,” Samsonite acknowledged.
“We’re here to add to your ranks,” Ariadna told them. “We don’t know who, or exactly where.”
“Yes, we do,” Sanaa said. “It’s across the ocean.”
“Lorania,” Mateo confirmed. It’s 2117. We’re here to save Xearea Voss. Again.” He looked back up at the Buchanan-Lanka-Calligaris window. “Those people don’t seem to wanna talk to us. Could you ask Gino to come help us, though. We need a doctor.”
Aldona’s family simply didn’t know who they were, which was why they didn’t come out initially. Aldona’s husband, Gino was more than happy to provide his services, once he understood the need for them. They didn’t need anyone else to go, though, so while everyone else stayed at the resort to relax, only he and Mateo flew off to retrieve Xearea, who was about to be stabbed by a very unstable immortal named Ambrosios. She came through the transition window, Gino stabilized her on site, and then they transported her to the mainland, where she could be treated in the Parallel facilities. Mateo wasn’t worried about whether she would survive or not, because he knew she would later return to the main sequence, and continue with her pattern as the penultimate Savior of Earth.
Jupiter Fury showed up while Mateo was alone in the waiting room, and sat down next to him. “You were working with Arcadia the entire time?” Mateo presumed. This was just another layer to the mystery of what happened to them during Arcadia’s expiations. A lot was going on in the background that they never knew about.
“No, I’m not,” Jupiter contended. “Everything she says is the truth as she sees it. She believes that she’s taking people out of time, because that’s precisely what she’s capable of. What she doesn’t know is that her memory-wiper is working with me. I’ve been transitioning your friends at the moment Arcadia attempts to pull them. She has a lot less influence over people than she thinks she does. I don’t really need you for this, because most of them aren’t in danger, and they won’t be receiving egress windows until it’s time for all of them to go back at once. I only brought you into it now, because it fits with your pattern, and I wanted you to see it for yourself.”
“So, who will we be saving next year, and then on?” Mateo asked him.
Jupiter breathed deeply, and stared into empty space. “You have about a week to figure out how you’re gonna save Vearden Haywood’s life, if it’s even possible. You cannot alter the timeline. Whatever the truth, everyone in the main sequence has to believe that he dies on Tribulation Island, millions of years ago. You have to preserve that, so the future unfolds as it should. Yet you still have to rescue him, so he can transition for medical treatment. Again, I’m not sure it’s possible, but that’ll be your responsibility. Until then, go back to the resort. You’re on vacation.” He patted Mateo on the knee, used it to help himself out of his chair, and then he walked away coolly.

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