Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Thursday, July 11, 2126

Mateo sat on the edge of the stage, and watched the presentation from there. Their moderator was a woman by the name of Angela Walton. She was no angel, though. She died centuries ago, and was recently promoted to Level 8, Counselor Class. She went over the levels, so the people under her care would understand that life didn’t end after the end of life, as she said it. As Mateo already knew, everyone here was dead. They had, in fact, all died on the same day. Most of them were living in the Primitivist Circles, but others were from the North Korean Isolate. It was harder to die anywhere else, though in 2126, still not impossible. This was not the real afterlife, if such a place even existed. The Designers created a virtual simulation in order to allow almost everyone to survive their death by being uploaded into the construct. They did this covertly by altering the brain structure of every human being, beginning thousands of years ago. Everyone was a cylon, reborn after death, on a Riverworld.
There were eleven levels, like membership tiers for some kind of product or service. There was a Level 0, but it wasn’t really part of the others. If you were a Level 0 Oblivion, it meant that your identity code was permanently deleted, and you really were dead. This was reserved for the worst of the worst, like Hitler, Franco, and cops who kill innocent black people; those who the Designers determined could never learn to change their ways. Level 1 Iced members were not much better off, but there was hope for them. Their code remained intact, but dormant, so they could be reactivated later, but only at the pleasure of those in power. Level 2 Statics were isolated as well, but still conscious. They persisted within the confines of a dark room. They could sleep, and ask to be set free, but there was nothing to stimulate their minds. There was a debate whether it was worse to be Level 1, or Level 2. Level 3 Hock members were prisoners, kept locked up in what looked like an actual prison. They could interact with other prisoners, and visitors, and they could work towards freedom. People came out of hock all the time, and joined the ranks of normal society.
Most people awakened as Level 4 Limited. They were free to move about public environments, but they were limited as to what they could do with what they could see, and they were not provided with their own homes. Privacy was reserved for Level 5 and above. Level 5 Basic was kind of like living in base reality. Everyone started out with a basic home to call their own, but they could upgrade to more luxury by contributing to afterlife society in some positive way. If an individual contributed enough, they could be bumped up to Level 6 Plus, and this would give them the ability to ask for many amenities, but not absolutely anything they wanted. If they wanted unlimited requests, they had to be promoted to Level 6 Elite. Think Janet from The Good Place. Level 8 Architectural allowed members to design and build their own structures within a preexisting world, while Level 9 World-Builder allowed them to create entirely new worlds. Level 10 Unrestricted was the highest possible within the simulation. A Level 10 could do pretty much anything they wanted: create worlds, destroy them; delete other people’s code, promote them, demote them. As one might imagine, this was incredibly rare, and reserved predominantly for the Designers themselves. Level 11 Resurrected wasn’t just rare, it was nonexistent. No one had ever been returned to base reality in a new body, yet.
Angela never did say who these Designers were, but it seemed obvious. This was exactly what Trinity, Thor, and Abigail were working on when Ellie left them. They must have gone back in time and realized their goals without her. Or they wait until Ellie is done with all this sometime in her personal future, and include her in their plans, just like they were meant to. That didn’t explain where they went when they disappeared from the Parallel Tribulation Island. Welp, they were about to find some answers either way. Mateo was standing in front of the Head Designer’s door, waiting for him to be ready to talk. Leona was there too, along with Sanaa, Ellie, and J.B. They hadn’t gotten a chance to catch up with each other, but there would be plenty of time to do that. They were dead now after all.
As they stood there, the double doors before them cracked open, but not in the way they expected. The doors stayed together, and spun around like a Scooby Doo castle. The floor turned with it, and swept them to the other side. Trinity wasn’t the one in the room, though.
“Pryce,” Leona snarled.
Ellie and Sanaa looked none too happy either. Mateo never met the guy. When he was on Bida, Pryce was always somewhere else, and their paths never crossed. He was a bad person, though, according to stories, so Mateo knew to agree with their revulsion.
“Welcome, my nonlinear friends,” Tamerlane said with literal open arms. “You have fought hard to get here, and you shall be rewarded.”
“What did you do?” Leona questioned.
“Leona,” Mateo urged, “Rule Number Fifteen.”
“Mister Matic, I’m hurt,” Tamerlane said. “I am not an antagonist, I am your friend.”
“” Leona repeated.
“Well. I suppose we can do away with the niceties. It’s true, I’m an antagonist, at least from your perspective. But bear in mind that, from my side, you’re the bad guys here.”
“We haven’t done anything wrong,” Ellie argued.
“Okay, fine, you’re more of a mere nuisance.”
“I won’t ask a third time,” Leona stated.
“My daughter and her friends had a great idea. Save everyone’s life, and bring them here. It’s quite a beautiful thought. Now, I know what you’re thinking.” Pryce shrunk into an exaggerated sarcastic face. “You must have twisted it, and corrupted it, and now everyone’s miserable!” He returned to his own side of the argument. “No, I didn’t do that at all. I followed their design pretty closely. I made some tweaks, and it’s evolved over time, but for the most part, this is what they had in mind.”
“Then where are they?” Sanaa asked.
“Hell if I know,” Pryce answered, and it kind of sounded like the truth. “The Norse god and my daughter ran off together. Trini opened a photo, and disappeared. She never came back. I’ve had to do this all on my own.”
“You managed to get yourself in charge of the entire human race,” Leona began. “How inconvenient for you.”
“I’m nothing if not resilient.”
“Like a cockroach.”
“An honorable creature. That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.” Pryce was really enjoying himself. “You notice that you’re all wearing black?”
They were. Angela said this was the color of unassignment. They had not been classified yet. The rest of the people at orientation had woken up wearing yellow.
Pryce grew more serious as he sat down in his mogulchair. “If you keep that on, you’ll eventually be deleted. Black is the color of oblivion. You will experience the true death. If you want any other color, you gotta come through me. Now, if you’re ready to go into the great unknown, you can keep ‘em on. You’ll last at least a day, maybe a bit more; enough to say your goodbyes. But if you wanna keep livin’, I suggest you get the fuck on your knees.” Rule Number Fifteen really did apply here. “I’m sorry, did you think that was a metaphor? Get on your knees!”
He was the one with the power here, so they all did as he asked.
“You too.”
Angela didn’t know she was a part of this, but she conceded quickly.
“Great,” Pryce continued. “I have a rule here, something which the other Designers didn’t think to include. Time travelers get special treatment. I like people like you. I think it’s amazing. If you had powers before you died, you’re automatically assigned Level 7; the Elite. If I really like you, I may even make you Level 10. Wouldn’t that be wild? For people I don’t like, they spin the wheel.” He reached under his simulated desk, and pulled out a simulated tri-fold display board. In the center was a wheel. On this wheel were twelve wedges. They were not of equal size, however. The black wedge was the largest, and between that and violet was barely a sliver of white. White was the color of resurrection. Typical. Mateo had not yet learned all of the colors, but given enough time, he could probably surmise which were which. The larger the wedge, the lower the level. There was more of a chance of spinning something bad.
“This is sick,” Angela protested. “This wasn’t in training.”
“You didn’t need to know about this in training, and just for your outburst, you’re gonna spin the wheel too!”
“I’m Level 8,” she pressed.
“For the second outburst, now you only get to spin once. I was gonna give you two chances to land on a high wedge, but now you’ve lost it. If you say one more goddamn thing, I’ll spin for you, and I’ll warn ya, my hand prefers blue.”
Angela shut her mouth.
Mateo felt responsible for getting her, and everyone else, into this mess. “Sir, could I propose something?”
“Let me guess.” Pryce smirked. “You’ll take blue or red as long as everyone else gets pink.”
“I was thinking they could get white?” Mateo hoped that wouldn’t piss him off.
“Ha!” Pryce exclaimed. “No one gets white. I mean...if someone here spins, and lands on white, I will honor that, one gets white.”
“Then I’ll accept pink.”
“Oh.” He bobbed his head mockingly. This guy hardly knew how to be sincere and forthcoming. “Oh. Oh. He’ll take pink. Please, sir, could I have some more pink?” He went back to his regular face. “Everyone spins. Ladies spin twice, because I like tits. Understood?”
They were just going to have to move past his crude remark. He was too powerful here, perhaps the most powerful enemy they had ever faced. Mateo looked over at Leona, who looked back at him. They were gonna get separated again. Even death would give them no peace.
Pryce had everyone stand up again, so they could start spinning. They would all spin once, and then the women would go back for round two. He even did end up deciding to allow Angela a second spin. However, instead of taking the better of the two, she would have to risk the second one being worse than the first. Or she could skip it, and go with what she had. She got red, which was the color of Hock, and even though that was scary and humiliating for her, she couldn’t take the chance that the next spin would be black. Her shirt immediately turned red, handcuffs appeared around her wrists, and she disappeared with a whimper. Ellie got Plus indigo on the first spin, and Oblivion black on the second, so her assignment reverted to the first. That was good, she would be free, and have her own really nice place to live. Sanaa spun Limited yellow on the first try, and refused to spin again, because she was a rebel.
Leona and J.B. both spun Basic green. They too would have places to live, though not as fancy as Ellie’s. And Mateo? He spun white. Before he could try to negotiate for his friends, Pryce snapped his fingers, and whisked Mateo away, so he could receive his new body.

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