Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, June 15, 2100

They were happy to confirm the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had become like one giant Cassidy cuff. Anyone inside of it during the jump to the future would be swept along with it. This was important, because it would allow them to take people with them, in case something was wrong with the date they were already in, as it was with Ariadna Traversa. It would also theoretically let them remove their own cuffs somehow, and still have a way to escape any given time period. For now, they weren’t going to do that, but it might come in handy in the future, or even be quite necessary. Now in the year 2100, the cuffs were directing them back to Kansas, where they were scheduled to encounter the next transition window in several hours. This gave them time to get some more sleep, and some breakfast, before the job began.
At 8:15 in the morning, the transition began. The images started flickering around them. Sometimes they were in what looked like a hospital lobby, but other times they could only see a hospital bed hovering several stories above them. “Oh, no,” Mateo said. “It’s happening again. But we don’t have a teleporter to rescue them this time! What are we gonna do? They’re gonna fall!”
“I got this,” Sanaa said. She tapped a few buttons on her interface. Once she was finished, the flickering stopped, but the building didn’t disappear, and no one fell from up in the air. Everything just stayed as it was.
“What did you do?” Leona asked her, trying to find answers on her own cuffs, but they were frozen on one screen. It was a nine-minute, fifty-four second countdown. Fifty-three, fifty-two...
“Can I help you?” asked a nurse, who hopefully hadn’t just witnessed them suddenly appear out of thin air.
Sanaa ignored her. “Like I said, these gadgets are more powerful than they seem,” she nearly explained. “We’re in the main sequence right now, but we apparently only have ten minutes before the transition completes. It’s a failsafe, exactly for situations such as this. We have nine minutes to get up to the room, pull our refugee from their bed, and get them down to ground level.”
“Do we even know what floor that was?” J.B. asked. “I mean, it was high, but we don’t really have a frame of reference.”
“It was the sixth floor,” Jericho answered. When everyone looked at him funny, he said, “what? I have an eye for these things. I can picture what one foot looks like, so I just add them up until I get nine for one story, and then I divide the space I have left.”
“Fine, sixth floor, let’s go.”
“If you just tell me who you’re looking for,” the nurse began to call out to them as they were running for the elevators, “I can give you a room number.”
“We don’t know who we’re rescuing!” J.B. shouted back politely.
Once they were on the sixth floor, it was a little more difficult to figure out where they were meant to go. Jericho had an understanding of how to calculate the Z-axis in his head, but now that they were impeded by hallways, and counters, it was a little more difficult for him to know which room they were looking for. As the minutes ticked by, they were growing more and more worried. If they didn’t find their target soon, not only was this person going to fall to their death, but so would everyone else. They still didn’t even know who they were looking for. No idea.
“Everyone come back to the elevator bay!” Jericho shouted. Though he was not their leader, they all met back up. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize. The cafeteria is on the second story. The ceiling is probably higher. I think we should be on floor five.”
J.B. pressed the call button. For a normal person, the amount of time they waited for the elevator to come was no big deal, but here, every second counted. When it finally arrived, they jumped in, and J.B. pressed the button for the fifth floor.
Then Leona pressed the button for the lobby. “Everyone else go all the way downstairs. Don’t argue with me, just do it. If you try  to come with me, you will die. I’m the only one who can save her.”
“Her who?” Mateo asked.
Leona bolted out of the doors without answering. He wanted to do what she said, but he couldn’t let her be alone. If they were going to die, they would do it together. He stepped out as well, and only stayed back long enough to make sure no one else followed. He then found Leona at the nurse’s counter.
“X. Voss,” the nurse was saying. “Room six-thirty-one.”
“Leona?” Mateo asked simply.
“I took a gamble,” she replied, “based on what year it is.”
They ran off for 631, and found Young!Xearea asleep in her bed. She looked very badly hurt, which didn’t make any sense, because even though they first met her in 2099, and didn’t know exactly what happened to her shortly thereafter, they knew it wasn’t this. “We have forty-five seconds,” Mateo said to Leona. “We can’t get back down ourselves, let alone with her.”
Leona started unplugging Xearea from the wall. “I have a way to get us to the AOC. I was able to get past the timer, and back into the cuff’s systems. There’s an emergency teleport function. I’ll be able to take two people with me. I’m just glad you’re the only one who decided to go against my orders.”
They both stopped for a few seconds to look over at the door, believing that to be the moment one—or even all—of their friends would show that they made the same bad call. They were shocked to see that someone was indeed just stepping through the door. It wasn’t one of their friends, though. Mateo actually recognized him as one of the men that attacked Xearea in 2099. Again, though, Xearea survived that onslaught unscathed last year when he, Horace, Gilbert, and even Darko showed up to protect her. They called it the Terminator 2 Tribulation, because this man had come from the future to kill her, because he was pissed off about something she hadn’t done yet.
“Who the hell are you?” the man asked very impolitely.
Mateo checked his cuff. Twenty-five seconds. “Go.”
“Mateo...” Leona said.
“Just because I went against your orders, doesn’t mean you should go against mine. Get her out of here, for the both of us. I can’t die, remember? My fate’s been sealed.” If anything were to try to kill him, the universe itself should automatically transport him back to 2256, so he could die on Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida. This was how it worked with Nerakali anyway. She often let herself be almost killed, so she could escape a situation, and get another chance. She had several opportunities to do this, but Mateo probably had none. He was a lot closer to his death than her when someone swooped in to rescue him. It would be worth it, though. He had to protect Leona, and especially Xearea. The latter was destined to grow up to be the Savior of Earth, so her death was absolutely not an option.
Mateo charged the attacker, and pushed him back out into the hallway. He wasn’t exactly a trained fighter—like Darko, or his students, Slipstream and Declan—but he knew he would be able to keep this man at bay until the timer hit zero, and his chance to get to Xearea passed. He was going to die anyway, so it wasn’t like he needed to protect his own life. That gave him the freedom to fight hard, and without hesitation. His cuffs started to beep near the end. Five-beep, four-beep, three-beep, two-beep, one. No flickering this time. The building simply disappeared from under their feet. The attacker came with him back to the Parallel, so he was going to die too. It was good that he wasn’t going to get a third chance to murder a lovely person. They dropped through the air. Mateo determined there was a small chance Xearea herself would show up and teleport him to safety, or someone else like her. But no, that wasn’t going to work here. The powers that be did not have control over this reality. That was kind of the whole deal. If Leona or Mateo ever took off their cuffs, they would be off their pattern, and free from them forever. Though this also meant that no one was coming to rescue him. This was finally it. He kept falling until he hit the ground. And then he woke up.
He was submerged in a liquid; possibly just water, but he couldn’t tell. He wasn’t drowning, so it was probably the special kind of water they used on Varkas Reflex that let people breathe through their skin. He was freaking out, though. He looked over, and saw the glass of his tank, as well as two figures on the dry land beyond it. He pounded on the glass. Upon noticing this, one of them rushed over, and slammed her palm against the side of the tank. This released the water onto the floor, and him along with it. He coughed on instinct, even though he wasn’t really in any danger. He was actually feeling fine; maybe just a little weak and tired. Once he felt stable enough, he stood up, with a little from... “Paige Turner?”
“Trinity,” she corrected. She was indeed Paige, but a specific alternate version of her.
“And I’m Abigail Genifer Siskin,” another young woman said. She handed him a towel that was large enough to help him get a little dried off, but not really large enough to cover his bits.
He patted himself down. It was only then that he noticed how wrinkly his skin was. He was old. He was real old. “Report.” 
“Hm. Well, I suppose the truth will do,” Trinity said. “You’re alive.”
“What year is it?”
“Is this...does this have something to do with Ellie rescuing me with the extraction mirror?” he asked.
“I didn’t use the mirror.” Ellie was walking into the room.
After they dried him off more thoroughly, and dressed him in some clothes, they sat him down, and explained themselves. The extraction mirror had had nothing to do with saving him from his death. What they did was clone his body, and transfer his mind into it. That was the body he used to travel back to 2258, and get back on track, having only missed a day of his life. The body Mateo was inhabiting right now was a failed attempt at this process, before they knew how to do it right, and had to start over. That was why it was so old; because they had just left it in the tank all this time.
“It was a failsafe,” Ellie continued. “I honestly didn’t think it would work, but if something ever happened to you again, your mind was supposed to be sent across time, into another clone. I didn’t plan for it to be this clone, in this moment, but I guess I never had that much control over it. How did you die?”
“I shouldn’t tell you about that,” Mateo said. They were finally being honest with him, but that didn’t mean he could reciprocate.
“Okay,” Trinity said.
“Mmmmmmm...” Old men groan a lot, for now apparent reason. “Mmm, what should I do now?”
“Well,” Trinity began, “I can make you young again, and send you back to 2014 while I’m at it.”
“You have a homestone,” Mateo guessed.
“Yes, but I will need it back, so...”
“Can I send it through the mail?” he asked.
“Hm,” Ellie said. “Yeah, we can contact Ennis, and he’ll return it to us.”
“Okay, cool,” Mateo said.
“Yeah. The problem is, once you’re in 2014, how are you going to get back to where you belong, wherever that is?”
“That’s not your problem,” Mateo assured them. “You let me worry about it.”
“Seriously,” he promised. “I have a plan, and it’s best I don’t tell you. You let me borrow the stone, and teach me how to contact The Courier, and I’ll send it back to you. That’s all you need to know.”
Trinity and Ellie looked at each other, and seemed to have a telepathic conversation, or something. “All right, we’ll trust you.”
“Great. Now help an old man up. I’m a little shaky.”
Trinity ran off to retrieve the stone, but came back quickly, and handed it to him.
“Oh my God,” Ellie said, “I almost forgot. There’s a reason we didn’t use this clone for you before. It’s defective. You’ve fallen off of your pattern.”
“That’s okay,” Mateo responded with a wink, and a smirk. “I don’t need it anymore.” He squeezed the stone, and disappeared.
The Courier, Ennis was waiting for him in the graveyard, having received a message from Ellie, who was capable of communicating with people across time. He opened a small box, and let Mateo drop the stone into it. “Can I help you with anything else, sir?”
“Yes, I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of the Interagency Alliance Commission. More specifically, can you get me a meeting with Demcov Sands?”

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