Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, July 7, 2122

After Sanaa was done sending her time message through the phone using a fifty-two digit number, Holly Blue appeared. “Boy, am I popular today,” she said.
“We don’t mean to disturb you,” Mateo said to her.
“Don’t worry about it,” she replied. “Susan knows when my line’s busy. What can I do for ya? Where’s Leona?”
“She’s back in the main sequence,” Ellie began. “You see—”
“Yes, yes, yes,” Holly Blue interrupted. “I’ve known about the four concurrent realities this entire time.”
“You have?” Ellie questioned. “Did you not tell anyone about them?”
“Weaver strongly recommended that I keep it a secret,” Holly Blue said, referring to her alternate timeline counterpart. “What year was it for you when you left the main sequence?”
“July 6, 2121,” Sanaa answered.
“Ah,” Holly Blue said, “there’s no hurry in getting back in that case. Leona won’t be returning until July 8.”
“Really? Where is she?” Mateo was worried, but not in a panic.
“Oh, it’s fine. She just had to get to a meeting in the future. Mr. Fury approved it. Or rather, he doesn’t have much of a choice when it comes to her and her friends.”
Mateo wasn’t entirely sure what she was talking about, but he would discuss it with Leona later. They needed to return to the issue at hand. Time was running out for him to leave the Fourth Quadrant, whether Leona would be waiting for him or not.
“You seem to have some understanding of our situation here,” Ellie said to Holly Blue. “Do you know why we called you?”
“I don’t, but give me a second, and I may be able to guess.” Holly Blue narrowed her eyes, and looked around at everyone, letting her genius-level intellect fill in the blanks for her. “Based on the people who are here, I can surmise that Ellie has finally begun to realize her mission to save the residents of this reality.”
Ellie looked surprised.
“Yes, Miss Underhill,” Holly Blue went on, “I have access to information from alternate timelines. I know more about you than you care for others to remember. Don’t worry, I have no interest in divulging any of your secrets. Judging by the Cassidy cuffs on your wrists, I know that Jupiter did not fully approve of this mission, but he is allowing it. Or perhaps you actually need the cuffs, because everyone knows that Ariadna doesn’t use her powers herself.”
“Does everyone know what I can do?” Ariadna questioned, upset.
“Just everyone in this room,” Holly Blue answered. “Since Missy is here, obviously your plan is to reset the speed of time. It must be pretty important to you people, or Sanaa would not also be here. Do you guys know what she did to her?”
Ellie nodded, but everyone else shook their heads.
“Anyway, you called me, because President Orlov needs the energy that the time discrepancy provides—”
“Wait, you didn’t say anything about me,” Mateo pointed out, but he regretted it immediately.
“Do you really want me to answer that?”
“No,” Mateo said. He wasn’t there because he served some purpose, or was a clue to their situation in any way. He was just there because he had to be somewhere.
“How did I do?” Holly Blue asked the crowd.
“Can you help us?” Missy asked of her. “Can you adapt my ability to make temporal energy generators?”
“They would be more like a converter,” Holly Blue said, her voice rising in the end, like it was a question, but it wasn’t, because she was the one who knew what she was talking about. Then she sighed, and looked between Missy, and for some reason, Ariadna. “Your ability isn’t good enough,” she finally explained. “You can create temporal pocket dimensions.” She looked around, indicating the world in general. “This is a spatio-temporal pocket dimension. Or. Well. It’s not a pocket anymore, but whatever. My point is that you can neither create nor control spatial dimensions.” Now she quite deliberately faced Ariadna. “You, on the other hand...”
“Why does that matter?” Ariadna asked.
“I would need to adapt both of your time powers, and put them together.” Holly Blue raised her hands in front of her chest, and moved them to lock her fingers together at medium speed. “Both of you need to be involved in order for this to work. Otherwise, the bubbles won’t do these people any good.”
“Why not?” Ellie asked. “We don’t need to access the main sequence anymore. That’s just what they’re using now, because that’s how this reality was designed. If we separate from the main sequence, you can just build something that uses time bubble energy.”
Holly Blue shook her head. “You’re not getting it. The main sequence is self-sustaining. You’re stealing energy from it. The fact that they’re moving at different speeds is what powers the grid in this reality, but that only works because time flow on the other side is in turn powered by natural entropy. If Missy were to go off and create her own bubbles, they could not generate any power unless she continued to funnel energy into it from her end.”
“I’m lost,” Mateo said, “as per yuzhe.”
Holly Blue prepared to clarify herself. “Well, let me make a car analogy. Why don’t cars have small wind turbines, instead of using gas or batteries? While the car is driving, the wind flows into the turbine, which spins, and powers the motor.”
“Well, they’ve tried to build them, and they do exist, but they’re inefficient, because the turbines create drag, which means there’s more demand for more wind, and you can’t get over that. The more wind you try to put into it, the more drag you create, and it never ends.”
“Exactly,” Holly Blue agreed. “For Missy’s bubbles to be used to generate energy, she has to keep adding energy, which is fine, assuming her power is infinite, but that’s not what you’re asking me to do. My invention would not be self-sustaining. You wouldn’t be able to get more energy than what you put in to power the converters themselves. If you want me to build you something, it has to extract energy from a separate supply, just like they do now. Otherwise, you could plug  a surge protector into itself, and have infinite energy for no reason, and without paying into it.”
“Bottom line,” Ellie said, “can it be done?”
“Not without Ariadna. She has to consent to let me study her.”
They all waited patiently for Ariadna’s response. She never wanted to be involved in any of this, but from Mateo’s perspective, it was a no-brainer. She had the power to help, and she wasn’t doing anything else with her abilities, so who could say no? “Well, who could say no to that?” she revealed after building a little suspense.
Sanaa reached over, and nearly twisted Mateo’s arm off to check Leona’s watch. “We don’t have long to get out of here, or we’ll be stuck here for a month. So if this is all you need of us, we’re gonna slip back through.”
“How do we do that?” Mateo questioned. “Ellie needs Ariadna to get us back to The Parallel, but Holly Blue needs her to stay here, for however long until she finishes her new invention.”
“I can finish in a month,” Holly Blue said. “My invention can be built and tested within that time frame. She doesn’t have to stick around for us to mass produce it.”
“I really would love to see this all end,” Ellie announced.
“I can hang out here for a month. So can you,” Mateo scolded Sanaa.
Sanaa frowned. “Fine. But I want to stay on the opposite side of the city as her.” She didn’t gesture towards Missy, or even look at her, but she was the established target of all her hatred.
Holly Blue, Missy, and Ariadna stuck around, so President Orlov could find a lab for them to work in. She mentioned something about Duke Andrews, but something in her voice made Mateo worried that she was talking about a dead person. He, Sanaa, and Ellie followed their own escort to the suburbs, where they would be allowed to stay until it was time to return to the main sequence. They were only half surprised to find out that they were assigned to Fletcher House. Based on how Horace talked about it, a few people were left untouched when their enemy, Tauno Nyland created this reality. He copied every single person from Kansas City, and placed them here, except for him, Serkan, Paige, and maybe some others. The true owner of this house, Mercury Fletcher, was always assumed to be one of these other exceptions, but there wasn’t enough data to prove this one way or the other. Until now.
A man stepped out of the house to greet them in the driveway. A presumably different version of Mercury was at Mateo and Leona’s engagement party, so even though they didn’t know each other well, Mateo recognized that this was him.
Ellie shook his hand. “Congressman Fletcher, it is an honor to meet you.”
“Congressman?” Mercury asked, impressed. “It’s nice to know I go places.”
“I figured I ought to call you that, even though it was technically an alternate version of you who ran for office.”
“Please, just call me Mercury, or Dupe!Mercury. Or hell, even Dupe!Merc.
“Will there be anything else, sir?” the driver asked of him.
“Nah, go on and go home. Make sure your batteries are full, though. I would like to take these fine folks on a tour of our fair city tomorrow.”
“Very good, sir,” the driver said before leaving.
“We appreciate you letting us stay here,” Mateo said. “You have a lovely home.”
“Especially the basement,” Mercury agreed. “You each have a room down there. I don’t need to use it as a secret headquarters anymore.”
At the end of the summer in 2024, Mercury Fletcher sold his house, and downsized to something more appropriate while he pursued a career in civil service. Having been outed as the vigilante who was largely responsible for bringing gun violence statistics in the metropolitan area to nearly zero, he was lauded as a hero, and became quite popular around the country. Shortly after he left, a small team of time travelers moved into Fletcher House, and started using its facilities to save lives in the past. The Fourth Quadrant was created about a month before any of this, however, so this version of Mercury was still here.
Holly Blue was finished with her new creation in three weeks, but the window was not yet ready for them to return to the main sequence, so the stayed for the rest of the month. Unfortunately, calculations were a little fuzzy, so it turned out that Ellie was unable to see Missy take down the temporal bubble. Jupiter stepped in, and pulled everyone with a Cassidy cuff back to reality, which was July 7, 2122. They quickly jumped forward a year to find out the plan changed while they were gone. The temporal bubble wasn’t destroyed, but reversed.

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