Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Monday, July 16, 2131

Leona was sitting on a wooden chair against the wall, like a belligerent child who’s been sent to the assistant principal’s office. Pryce’s personal assistant was working away at her desk, pretending to write on a piece of paper with a pencil. Without looking up, and as if someone had just sent her a message, she said, “you can go in now.”
“Thank you,” Leona replied. She stood up, and entered Pryce’s office.
It was empty for a good thirty seconds, before his avatar resolved itself before her. He was sitting against the edge of his desk, and regarding her with admiration. “I must say, I’m impressed. You not only got your hands on a zeroblade, but you had the balls to use it.”
Leona made a quizzical face, and looked down at her crotch. “Nope, don’t need those.”
He chuckled. “Quite right.”
“What are ya gonna do with me?”
“I’ma treat you right...girl.”
“The man I killed was exactly like you. I dealt with him quite quickly, so be careful what you say to me.”
“Hey!” He was greatly offended. “I’m an asshole, but I am no rapist. I may be a fun and unpredictable guy most of the time, but I won’t abide that kind of comparison. You understand me?”
“Sir.” Her tone was about as respectful as he was going to get from her
“As for what I’m going to do with you, I honestly don’t know. Murder is incredibly rare in this world. A couple Level 10s have done it, like you, but I’ve let it go, because...they’re my purple people. You’re not a Level 10, so besides the question of how you got your hands on a weapon, I don’t know what you deserve. We are in unprecedented times.”
“You’re right. I’ve been a bad girl. I’m bad code, really. If you don’t get to the root of the problem, I’ll just infect your world, and eventually take the whole thing down. Your only option is to make me a Level 11.”
“If I were drinking, I would do a spit take right there.”
Leona took a flat squircle from her pocket, and placed it on an end table. Then she slid her finger on it, and made a glass of water appear on top of it. “Go for it.”
“A conjure coaster? What else you got?”
Leona acted like she was trying to remember the answer for a second. She stuck her hand back in the pocket, and started digging around. When she pulled it back out, there was nothing in it, but her middle finger was now standing up. “Just this.”
“You remind me of my baby mama.”
“You remind me of—”
“All right, you better not finish that sentence.”
“Are you sure? It’s pretty good...”
“I can turn off your voice, if you’d like. There’s only so much I will let you get away with. At some point, you need to remember that I still run this place, and you’re still just a green Basic bitch.”
Leona stepped forward, so he could tell she too was serious. “There’s only so much I’ll let you get away with. You think you’re powerful because you control life and death, but I know people who control reality. I know people who control the entire damn universe. You’re not as big of a deal to me as you’re used to people thinking you are. You walk around with your rainbow clothes, so people can bow, but you’re just another antagonist in my way, and I always clear my path.”
He nodded like he understood, but remained confident that he had the upper hand. Perhaps he did. He lifted his hand, and used virtual telekinesis to summon the water glass, as well as the conjure coaster. He set the latter down on his desk, and used it to summon the assignment wheel. “Spin the wheel,” he commanded dismissively as he was starting to take a drink of the simulated water.
Leona hesitated.
“Hey, man, you get black, you get black. I’m nothing if not fair.”
“This isn’t fair, you just don’t wanna make the decision yourself.”
“Spin the wheel, or I’ll prove I can make a decision by simply giving you black. The powers that be can’t reach you here.”
Leona approached the wheel, but stopped for a second. “Once or twice?”
He took another sip of the water. “You compared me to a rapist. Once.”
It was time to surrender to fate. Leona bravely reached over, and spun the wheel. Round and round it went, until it landed on the sliver.
“Holy shit!” Pryce exclaimed. “Maybe the PTB really can reach you here. Level 11, twice in a row, what are the odds?”
Leona just stared at him.
He held his breath a few seconds, and then scoffed. “Well, I’m the one who came up with the rules, I have to live by them. If I just did whatever I wanted, this would be hell, and I will not go down in history as the man who invented hell. That is not my living legacy.”

They found Trinity, in a dumpster in one of the midrange low tech circles in 2131. She evidently did not exist anywhere in the timeline on July 15, 2130.  She wouldn’t explain what she was doing there, and no one pressed the matter further, not even Lowell. Vidar left pretty much immediately, and Mateo was relieved he didn’t have to hide the truth about his fated death anymore. Leona surprisingly showed up shortly thereafter, and explained what had happened to her. They were finally back together, but that didn’t mean they weren’t going to save their friends from the afterlife simulation. They still had a responsibility, and it was something they wanted to do either way. Unfortunately, it might not be up to them. Jupiter appeared, and wanted to hold a meeting about it first.
“I don’t see what the problem is,” Missy said. They were crowded around the table in the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which was still in The Parallel.
“There are six of you now, there are ten cuffs.”
“I’m on my original pattern,” Leona tried to explain. “I don’t need a cuff.”
“Everybody needs a cuff. Everybody needs two cuffs, that is,” Jupiter insisted.
“You can’t make a couple more?” Lowell questioned.
“Me? No.”
“We don’t need a team,” Mateo told him. “Leona and I are perfectly capable of doing this on our own. We want to save all of them, including Angela.”
“Hey, I’m still committed to this,” Téa argued.
“Then you can stay, if you want,” Mateo agreed. “I think we all know who can leave, though. He doesn’t wanna be here anyway.”
Everyone looked at Lowell.
“Oh, I’m the asshole?”
“Has anyone ever told you that you weren’t?” Mateo asked, not rhetorically.
“I suppose he would be the obvious candidate,” Jupiter concurred.
“Whoa.” Lowell seemed offended. “I’m kind of committed to this now too. I think I’d like to see Jeremy again. Might be kind of interesting. I’ve never used my power on someone after this much time has passed.”
“What’s his power?” Leona asked.
“I’ll explain later,” Mateo said before addressing Lowell. “You’re not killing him.”
“I never said I would!” Lowell cried.
“Mr. Fury, if everyone wants to stay, they can stay. If they want to leave, they should be able. Your obsession with controlling this team is starting to look a little thirsty. Leona doesn’t need any cuffs. I don’t need any cuffs, and no one who doesn’t wanna be here should be forced to wear them. I know you’re a good person, let me help you prove it to yourself.”
Jupiter thought it over for a healthy period of time. “All right, I know what to do now.” He retrieved the cuff remover from his bag, and disengaged both of Mateo’s cuffs. “There we go, that’s settled.”
“Wait.” Mateo was confused. “What about the others.”
“Oh, they still need them. I have to keep an eye on them, and this is the best way. They’re off your pattern now, though, so that’s a thing.”
“What the hell is going on?” Leona asked.
“The four of them are going to go save their four friends. Missy is there for Sanaa, Trinity is for Ellie, Lowell for Jeremy, and Téa Angela.”
“What are we gonna be doing?” Mateo asked, referring to himself and Leona.
“You’re going back to your original mission. I brought you into the Parallel to save lives and help people. It’s time you continue.”
“We can still save lives and help people, but let it be our friends first,” Leona begged.
Jupiter shook his head. “No. When Pryce released Leona, it served two purposes; removing her from the list of people who needed to be rescued, and removing her assigned rescuer from the list of people who need to do the rescuing. You two are all good. It’s like you passed the class without taking the final. I’ll just give it to ya. Take the win.”
“What about Jeremy?” Mateo reminded him. “You want him with us to form the Bearimy-Matic pattern. You need this done.”
“And it’ll get done,” Jupiter said. “You two just won’t be the ones doing it. I have faith in these four. In fact, I’ll be there to help them out. I won’t do everything for them, but I’ll give them access to reality-hopping powers, and I’ll guide them as necessary. I’m afraid we are going to require this beautiful ship, however.”
“How will we know who to save, and where to save them?” Leona said, thinking she had him there.
Jupiter smiled, and handed the extra two cuffs to her. “You can each wear one, and be able to take them off at will. They’ll give you directions, and other functions. You can even lend one to someone else, so they tag along with you.” He examined their facial expressions. “I have faith that you won’t run off, and abandon your calling. Please have faith in me that I won’t do that either. I’ll get your people back.”
Mateo had to trust in that. “Thank you, Jupiter.”
Their two cuffs beeped.
“Who are we saving this time?” Leona asked, having decided to trust Jupiter as well.
Jupiter sighed heavily. “Me. You have to save me from myself.” Without another word, he disappeared, taking the other four with him.
“You know exactly what he meant by that?” Mateo asked Leona. “I mean, I have some idea, but do you have any insights?”
“He wants us to stop the younger version of himself from making a mistake,” she figured. “To the older version, it’s probably already happened.”
“Right, but do you know what mistake?”
She placed her cuff around her wrist, and started fiddling with it. “It’s 2131. This is where his friends try to kill Paige. I think it’s our job to stop Jupiter from helping them do this.”
“Then let’s hope it’s already happened, like you said, and all we have to do is close his loop.”
They went off and followed the cuff’s directions to Easter Island, where they found it far easier to access the cave system than it was in the main sequence. They made their way to a corridor where Young!Jupiter was scheduled to come through, and waited. Fifteen minutes later, he appeared, and they spent the rest of the day trying to convince him to do the right thing. He wasn’t hearing any of it, and it was looking like the only thing they could do to change the future past was by force.

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