Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Saturday, July 12, 2127

No one in the history of Tamerlane Pryce’s afterlife construct had been assigned Level 11, white. He agreed with the other Designers that people living in the real world would not be ready to learn the truth about what happened to organic entities after death until at least the 25th century. Of course, Mateo already having experience keeping secrets meant that Pryce didn’t think this one case would be a problem. Mateo was already living on the fringes, and no one would notice his resurrection, because they didn’t know about him in the first place. Other time travelers wouldn’t be suspicious either, because they were used to crisscrossing each other’s timelines.
This came with both perks, and downsides. Mateo’s new body would be in perfect condition, and resistant to disease, which Tamerlane called the pristine edge all resurrected people would have. He also maintained a permanent remote connection to the afterlife, so he would be able to communicate with his friends while he worked to figure out how to get them all out too. There was a catch, though. He was fully capable of dying yet again, and if that happened, he would lose his Level 11 privileges, and have to start over. Honestly, this was a crapshoot when it came to Pryce’s warped mind. He may make Mateo spin the death wheel again. He might just send him back down to Earth, and maybe even sever his connection to his friends—which he might do at any time anyway. If Mateo ever returned, Pryce could also just cut his losses, and delete his code permanently, so there was nothing anyone could do. If he wanted to save Leona, Ellie, Sanaa, J.B., and Angela, he needed to be smart. He needed help. He needed Jupiter Fury.
Mateo didn’t know how to contact Jupiter, and he didn’t want to speak with The Delegator again. He had kind of burned that bridge, so he had to find some other way. Holly Blue had a special phone number to call her, but there was no way he was smart enough to remember all fifty-two digits. Dr. Malloy Hammer had a phone number too, and while it was a lot easier to remember, he never knew it, so that still wasn’t helpful. Someone on Tribulation Island, or anywhere else on Dardius, would be more than happy to help, but there was no way to get to them. He still didn’t know where the Earth Nexus replica was, so if he wanted to travel the intergalactic void, he would have to go to Egypt. Well, that wasn’t impossible, but Pryce didn’t bother to give him a new identity, so catching a flight would be problematic. In his mind, there was only one solution to his isolation, and it was kind of fitting, because it was starting to become a real useful trick these days, albeit for a different reason every time.
It always seemed to be the truth to them that the powers that be didn’t want him dead. It was also true that they appeared to ignore this concern when he had to save J.B.’s life. Or maybe they didn’t. Maybe they were only seemingly all-powerful, but millions of years ago on Dardius was actually out of their purview. It wasn’t the craziest hypothesis that they might try to save his life if something were to place it in danger. And hey, if this didn’t work, he knew exactly where he was going to go after death, and it wasn’t all bad. He chose to not call Leona about his decision, because she would probably try to talk him out of it, and be stressful about not necessarily being able to. He took the elevator to the platform of the Kansas City arcology, walked to the edge, climbed over the barrier they erected to stop this sort of thing from happening, and swung himself over.
He fell down and down and down, until a pair of arms wrapped themselves around his body, and teleported him to safety. It was Paige Turner, who was these days filling in for Savior of Earth, Xearea Voss. “Sup,” she said simply.
“Sup,” he echoed.
“Are you from the future?”
“I am.” He paused a moment. “Looks like you’re still here. Feel any dry mouth?”
“Nope, I think the PTB want us to talk for a moment. What’s on your mind?”
“I was hoping to contact Jupiter Fury.”
“Fury? Not Rosa?”
Mateo rolled his head side to side. “Rosa would do, yeah, sure. Can you help?”
“I don’t have my powers anymore,” Paige said. She patted her pockets. “I don’t have any photos anyway. If you flung yourself over the edge just talk to me, I’m afraid you wasted your time. Arcadia and Memphis have me on a tight leash.”
“Well, it was a longshot, I guess.”
Paige frowned at him. “I’m not really part of the choosing one network right now. I really only have one name for you. It might not work; I’ve never tried it. Some choosers have special ways of contacting them, and this guy has one of those ways. He’s, like, a time god, or something. Reaching out to him might be a little...uncomfortable for you, what with you being Catholic.”
“I’m not Catholic anymore.”
“Well, you might have lapsed...”
“No, The Superintendent took away my faith completely, I’m surprised you remember. The only reason I do is because I borrowed Nerakali’s memory manipulation powers.”
“Oh. Then you’ll probably be fine. You have to pray, like he’s an angel. You pray to him hard enough, he may come, and hopefully agree to hook you up with the network.” She started smacking her lips. “I’m about to leave. Real quick, his name is Vendakaiel.” And with that, she was gone, off to save someone’s life who actually deserved it.
Vendakaiel. Hm. Okay, well, this should be relatively easy. Mateo went over to the nearest tree, and got down on his knees. He closed his eyes, and held his palms together, like a silly cartoon. Then he got all the cynicism and skepticism out of his system, so he could genuinely pray to this regular man who probably liked having people believe he was some kind of time god. He only had to concentrate for a few minutes before he felt himself being pulled away. He opened his eyes, and saw the tree before him stretch taller and taller, as if made of elastic. Everything else around him was doing the same, as he was sliding alongside them. This was a form of transportation he had not yet experienced. It looked scary, but it felt great. When it was over, he was still on his knees, now in a flowery garden. It was a very relaxing place to be, and immediately made him feel calm and stress-free.
“I am Vendakaiel,” came a voice behind him.
Mateo smiled dumbly, and turned around slowly. “I’m Mateo Matic. It is a pleasure to meet you, sir.” He could see a figure before him, but couldn’t really make it out. There was something very wrong—or right, depending on your definition—with the way his brain was processing information.
“Likewise. I have heard great things about you.”
“Where are we?”
“The Garden Dimension,” Vendakaiel explained. “It is where I live.”
Mateo looked around some more. “Oh, I’ve been here before.”
“Yes, it was just over a decade ago. I remember The Conservator asking The Horticulturalists’ permission to visit.”
Mateo breathed deeply. “Is there opium in the air, like that one show with the magician who got his stuff touchers chopped off? I can’t remember the name.”
“Actually, yes, where do you think they got the idea? It’s only in this one section, though. I use it to make people feel at ease, so they do not tremble at my appearance.”
“I am not so easily disturbed,” Mateo promised. “Could we go somewhere without recreational drugs?”
“As you wish.” Vendakaiel spirited them away to another part of the Garden.
It took Mateo a few minutes for his head to clear, but that was probably faster than it would have been had he taken the drugs directly. He could see the time god fully now. It was a monster. Mateo had never seen it before, but Leona had, and he could recall her memories of the event. He just needed to think harder for a moment. What did they call it again? “You’re a speedstriker.”
“Very good,” Vendakaiel said with a bow.
“You can teleport?” he questioned.
“Eh, that’s not really the right word to use. What I do involves a lot more running. When you called to me, I had to come get you, not just snap my fingers, and make you appear.”
“I see. Well, I appreciate it. Wait, I was to understand that time monsters didn’t have agency. They weren’t conscious, just glitches.”
“I’m evolved. Some human scientists trapped me, studied me, and finally, taught me. I am profoundly grateful to them for the gift of slowness. I didn’t realize how much better it is to not be in constant motion.”
Mateo nodded understandingly. “I was hoping you could help me find someone I lost track of. His name is Jupiter Fury?”
“Yes, I know the name. You’ll have to give me a second, so I can go find him. I found him.”
“Ah, that’s great.”
“I’ll take you to him, but I require something in return.”
“Naturally.” Hopefully, if it was something he couldn’t pay, Vendakaiel wouldn’t force him to pay, but just send him back to Earth empty handed.
“I need blood.”
“Oh, no.”
“It is the only thing that slows me down. The drugs help, but there’s nothing better than human blood. I don’t kill, or drink it; I inject it, like a normal person.”
“Yeah, that’s normal.”
“Look, if you can’t do it, I won’t make ya. I was just under the impression you needed my help, so...”
“You can have some of my blood, okay?”
“No can do. If I transfuse the blood of a salmon or chooser, I take on their properties. I have no interest in skipping time. It has to be a regular human.”
Mateo let out a short growl. “Ugh. Fine. I will find a blood bag when I’m on Earth. Jupiter himself will be able to help me with that too, so it’ll be a win-win.”
The creature might have been smiling, but it didn’t have very human facial features. “You better deliver, because if you don’t, you’re gonna find out just how fast I am.”
“I understand.”
The scenery stretched again, and transplanted him right in front of Jupiter Fury. “Miss me?”
“I did,” Jupiter said sincerely. “You died.”
“I’m back,” Mateo said.
“For good?”
Mateo chuckled. “Is anything in this universe good?”
Jupiter smiled softly, and nodded in agreeance. “Report.”
And so Mateo went about telling him the story of how he died, where he went after it happened, and what his wife and friends were doing without him. He didn’t know if Jupiter himself would be able to help, but perhaps the virtual construct was like another reality, and there was a way to break into it without Pryce knowing about it. After the story, though, Jupiter didn’t think that was the case. The most likely explanation was that the simulations were being run on a massive network of computers, which were orbiting together in a massive collection, around some star. This star was probably located very far away so as not to allow the Earthans to discover it too soon. He would have to take some time to think of their options, which was a really good sign, because it meant Jupiter was truly interested in helping.
While he was waiting on that, he went into the other room alone, so he could form his technopsychic connection to the afterlife. Leona answered the call, which prompted him to appear before her like a hologram. Except this was all virtual, so he could interact with the things around him just as much as she could. It was all just ones and zeros. Leona called them avatars. “How have you been this last year?”
She held up both of her wrists, where he could see a Cassidy cuff on each. “Pryce wrote the code for them. We’re all on the Bearimy-Matic pattern, just like we were before. I’ve only been here a day.”
He wasn’t sure whether to be upset about that, or not. At first, he didn’t think it should make a difference, but then he decided it might be for the best. Mateo was in the main sequence now, and Pryce heavily implied that he managed to encode his original pattern into the new body. If true, he and Leona would be separated through space, but at least not through time. “I’m going to get you out. I’m working on it as we speak.”
“Don’t worry about me,” Leona said. “Angela doesn’t deserve this. If you can only rescue one of us, let it be her. The rest of us are fine.”
“If I rescue her, he’ll punish you,” Mateo reasoned. “Everyone is getting out.”
“Okay.” Leona didn’t just not want to argue. She seemed to agree.
“Now.” He smiled reassuringly. “How about a tour?”

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