Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Sunday, July 3, 2118

Mateo wasn’t sure how they could go about saving Vearden’s life. When it came to time travel, there appeared to be no shortage of possibilities, but a lot of them were out of the question. The obvious answer would be to simply go to that moment in time, and rescue him before that animal could trample him. But Jupiter said they couldn’t do it that way. As far as everyone knew, Vearden Haywood died on Tribulation Island on July 10, 2125. Perhaps they could try to use an extraction mirror, but that couldn’t alter his fate, only delay it. He wasn’t ageless either, so he would have to go fulfill his own death sooner rather than later. There had to be a way, though. As Mateo was pondering this the next day, the answer seemed to fall into his lap.
After making sure Xearea Voss was fully recovered, they went back to Tribulation Island together, so she could move into the fancy resort there. While they were on the mainland, Leona and their friends had spent that time getting to know Aldona’s family a little bit better. It was more awkward being around some of these people more than others. Marcy, for one thing, was a good friend from the future, but she wouldn’t be heading back to the main sequence for another sixteen years, and she had not met any of them yet. It was unclear whether they could tell her about that, because they still didn’t know if their memories of the Parallel were going to be erased, or if they just kept their time here a secret. The weirdest thing was interacting with Aldona’s brother, Nestor. Out of everyone during Arcadia’s expiations, he was the only person whose challenge they failed. What did all this mean about how he would survive that failure?
Right now, they were just coming back from a particularly grueling hike to clear their heads. The Buchanan-Lanka-Calligaris family requested someone take a photo of them together, to commemorate their accomplishment. As soon as Mateo pressed the button, he felt a gust of warm wind behind his back. Four people had just appeared there. He recognized all of them: Trinity, Ellie, Thor, and Abigail.
“Guys...” Abigail began mysteriously. “Where are we?”
“This is highly irregular,” Mateo said to them. “The way I understood it, there would not be a transition today. To answer your question, though, you’re in what we call the Parallel. It’s an alternate reality that is not an alternate timeline. It runs...parallel.”
“What year is it?” Trinity asked.
“It’s Sunday, July 3, 2118,” Sanaa answered.
“What year for you?” Leona asked back.
“Twenty-four hundred,” Ellie replied. “I can’t tell you how we got here, but it had nothing to do with this transition of which you spake.”
“Do you need us for something?” Mateo asked. “All of us? One of us?”
“We were just looking for a quiet place. We didn’t mean to interrupt,” Trinity said.
“Of course you’re not interrupting. This is a safe space.”
“It is?” Abigail questioned. Is this Haven?”
“No,” Leona responded, “but it’s close. The powers that be can’t get to us here, due to a loophole. Haven is in another universe, which they also can’t control, but is also more difficult to access.”
This was Mateo’s chance to get the ball rolling on this saving Vearden thing. It was the perfect opportunity to get a word in with Ellie without creating suspicion. He had not yet said anything to the others about Jupiter’s latest assignment. He wasn’t planning on keeping it a secret forever, but the lie he told about there just not being anyone for them to rescue for the next few years didn’t sound crazy. In fact, it wasn’t crazy at all, because that was exactly what Jupiter said was going to happen. Mateo just didn’t want to burden them with the ultimatum yet. They were at a relaxing resort, and enjoying it too much to let him ruin it. “If you need a spot to have a sensitive conversation, I know the perfect getaway.”
Leona was a little suspicious, but she bit her tongue.
Ellie caught his drift. “That would be lovely.”
“I’ll take them to Lorania, and catch up with you guys later. Love ya, bye.” He kissed his wife, then walked away before she could think of any reasonable questions to ask. The rest followed.
They didn’t say anything on the short helicopter ride over to the other island. It could have been bugged for all they knew. Sure, invisible nanobots could be following them around anyway, but this was their best option. “I need to talk to you guys, but I’m not sure who should go first. Do you want me to leave and come back, err...?”
“We’ll talk about your thing first,” Thor promised, “since you’re on a time limit.”
“No, he’s not anymore, remember?” Trinity asked.
“He is, though, aren’t you, Matty?” Thor pointed to Mateo’s Cassidy cuffs.
“I’m on a different pattern, but I still only have a day,” Mateo confirmed.
“What can we do ya for?” Ellie prompted.
“I need you to do that voodoo that you do.”
“You need to send a message?” she figured, or maybe she just hoped that was all he needed.
“I need you to save someone’s life, in the same way that you did me.”
“You want me to transfer someone’s consciousness to a clone body?”
Mateo thought over it for a few seconds. “I guess it doesn’t have to be a clone. It doesn’t matter, we just have to rescue him without anyone knowing that we did.”
“What’s he gonna do once you rescue him?” Thor pressed. “How will people not know he survived?”
“I suspect he’ll have to stay here,” Mateo conceded. “Few people seem to know this reality exists, even though it literally always has.”
“He’ll be okay with that?” Trinity continued. “Who are we talking about?”
“Vearden,” Mateo answered, “so yeah, I think he’ll understand.”
“Is this a riddle?” Thor asked, just as acerbically as always.
“No,” Abigail said with a cute smile. “It’s a challenge. I’ve heard stories about what you’ve been through. People keep giving you tasks to complete that are half-arbitrary, half-necessary.”
“That’s right,” Mateo verified.
“Who?” Trinity asked, concerned.
“Don’t worry about it. I’m not trying to quit. I wanna complete these challenges; especially this one.” Mateo directed his attention back to Ellie. “Can you do it?”
She thought his request over for a moment, not because she wasn’t sure if she could handle it, but because she didn’t know if she should. “It’s not that I can’t, or that I think I shouldn’t. I’m just not sure that I have to,” she answered cryptically.
“That’s why we came here in the first place,” Abigail started to explain. “We’re working on quite undeniably the largest endeavor in the history of humankind. The plan is to use Ellie’s power to save everyone’s life for the last seventy-four hundred years.”
Mateo looked to each of them one by one, and then back again a couple times. “Oh, I’ve seen that done before,” he told them, sadly unimpressed with their proposal.
“What? What are you talking about?” Ellie asked.
“Yeah,” Mateo went on. “That’s what this reality is. No one has died in thousands of years, perhaps even for longer than you plan on doing your plan.”
The four of them exchanged looks, and possibly telepathic words. Ellie opened the conversation back up before too long. “This is a world where nobody dies. Ours is a world where they survive death. And we won’t bring them back until later. Same same, but different.”
“Hey, man, I don’t mean to offend,” Mateo apologized. “I’m down for it. I just don’t know if it applies to Vearden’s sitchi’ation. Jupiter wants to save him in a week, not in the future.”
“Future, past, present, what does it matter?” Thor asked rhetorically.
“Good point,” Mateo responded. “Where are you gonna put all these people, though? I’m terribly curious now.”
“It’s Abigail’s job to come up with that,” Thor said, inviting her to speak.
“Oh, right. Well, do you wanna hear it?”
They all said yes and yeah and please and absolutely in unison.
“Okay.” Abigail was nervous. “So, Mohandas Gandhi and Orville Wright both died on January 30, 1948, right? So, what we do when that happens is insert their respective consciousnesses into the virtual simulation at around the same time. We can even time it to the minute, if we want. All the other people who died on that day are also waking back up at the same time. Meanwhile, the people who died on January 29 woke up the day before, and the people who died on January 31 will wake up the day after. The afterlife will operate in realtime, just centuries later. What they do with their simulation is up to them, but there will be new rules, like that they can’t die again. Hopefully that will stop them from, ya know...trying to kill each other. So when this Varden guy—”
Vearden,” Mateo and Trinity corrected in unison.
“Right. So he’ll wake up in the simulation in...you said it was 2125?”
“July 10,” Mateo repeated.
“So he’ll wake up in the year ninety-eight hundred. Ooo, that seems long. Maybe we don’t do that. Maybe the simulation operates much faster.”
“Or it operates in realtime, like you said, but also at the same time,” Thor offered. “Maybe we all go back in time, and secretly set up shop around some other star system.”
“These are all really great ideas,” Ellie began, “and it’s going to take a lot of work to figure out the details. Something may go wrong before we do, and if we die before trying to save Mr. Haywood, it won’t help him. So let’s put the whole plan on the back burner, and focus on trying to bring back this one person. If we can’t do this, we won’t be good enough to do it for the whole species anyway. The three of you will have seven years to get me a clone body.”
“What are you going to do?” Trinity asked her, very confused.
Ellie gestured towards Mateo’s wrists. “Tell me how those devices work. Do you have an extra set?”
“Why would you do that?” Trinity maintained her wariness.
“I have my reasons,” Ellie replied.
Trinity wasn’t satisfied with that explanation, or lack thereof. “Elle.”
Ellie’s voice came into Mateo’s ear, “Mateo, don’t react to what I’m saying right now.” No one else seemed to have heard that. “There are some things I just can’t tell you,” Ellie said out loud for everyone else to hear. “I need you to convince these people that I’m supposed to wear one of your cuffs.” She kept trying to alleviate her friend’s confusion, while having this secret conversation with Mateo that only he could hear, and while she wasn’t moving her lips, like a ventriloquist. “I noticed that The Escapologist is in your group. I need to borrow her power, just for a little bit. I promise I won’t abuse it. They’re not looking at you, you can reply to me without them hearing. Just do it like you did during your wedding.
Mateo didn’t need to continue the conversation. If Ellie Underhill wanted something, she kind of deserved it. She had never given him any reason to doubt or deny her. “She’s right,” he said out loud. “I didn’t wanna say anything, but it is no coincidence that she’s here. She’s a part of this. She has to put on the cuffs. Saving Vearden isn’t the only thing we need from her.”
Just like Mateo knew he could trust Ellie, Trinity knew she could trust Mateo. “Fine. I will concede to this, but only because of Leona’s Rules of Time Travel, Number Twelve.” Don’t learn too much about your future.
It wasn’t going to be that easy, though. All of the cuffs were currently in use. If Ellie wanted in on this, someone would have to be released from the pattern. Fortunately, Mateo had a pretty good idea who that should be. J.B. had always wanted to know what it was like to not be on a salmon pattern. He would surely agree to step off it temporarily, just to see what tomorrow looked like. Only then would Mateo worry about exactly what Ariadna’s time power was, and what Ellie wanted with it.

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