Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Wednesday, July 20, 2135

The other eight Cassidy cuffs were waiting for Mateo and Leona when they returned to the timeline on July 20, 2135. They were on Earth, having taken up residence in what The Parallel natives referred to as a mobile home. They didn’t have the normal kind of mobile homes from the main sequence. Poverty did not exist in this reality, but efficient living did. Their mobile home was small, but highly advanced, and equipped with everything they needed to live happily and comfortably. It was a cylinder about five meters wide, and seven meters tall, which was just small enough to fit inside a standard Nexus. Unlike the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the mobile home had eight beds, but they were each smaller, and they were up against the circular wall, so it was impractical and uncomfortable for Mateo and Leona to share. Still, they were grateful to the natives for giving it to them, and it was more than they expected.
Like last year, there was a message waiting for them on their Cassidy cuffs. It was a hologram of Nerakali. “Surprisingly, I was given the opportunity to meet with the version of Jupiter Fury who picked you for his mission. He didn’t die so much as he retired. Apparently, he has other things to do with his life, and he’s pleased with his replacement. He’s talking about me. Someone is actually happy that I’m involved. Who would have thought I would end up like this? A seer I encountered once, that’s who. I didn’t believe her at the time. Anyway, I’ve been curating the list of transitionees, using what he had in there before, adding who I felt was necessary, and accounting for changes to the main sequence timeline. I left you the extra cuffs in case you ever need them. If anyone needs to make a time jump with you, they won’t be able to do it with the AOC. It’s on its way, but it won’t be here for another couple decades. The reason Jupiter always had each member of the team wear two cuffs was because that allowed them to be locked. You couldn’t take them off, or control all of their functions. That’s no longer necessary, so use the extras at your leisure.
The next transition window will be happening today, but there’s no specific time for it. Just get to the ingress point whenever you feel like it, and greet them. You will be pleased with who I’ve chosen, I’m sure of it. You can give all of them cuffs, or part of them, or just one of them, or even none. I’ll let you decide that amongst yourselves. This new team can be as permanent or as ephemeral as you would like. If you later choose to disband the team altogether, that’s okay. No one’s forcing you to do this anymore. If you do select others for the team, you’ll be able to share time powers, but like I was saying, you can remove the cuffs whenever you want without permission, or a special tool. All right, that’s all I got for ya. Be careful.
“Who do you think she has in mind for the new team?” Leona asked.
“I think it will be less new than she made it sound.”
“You think we’re getting our dead friends back? That seemed like an insurmountable obstacle. Jupiter was the one who took over that mission, and it’s probably the reason why he retired.” She used airquotes. “Something happened that we don’t know about. I can’t imagine it turned out well.”
“Let’s just go see. There’s no time limit, but I’m too excited to wait.”
Leona linked one of the cuffs with the mobile home, and let the teleporter spirit them away to the location of the next transition window, at a lovely waterfall. The cuffs beeped upon their arrival, and opened the window. Mateo turned out to have been right. Jeremy, Sanaa, and Angela spilled out of it, along with another young woman they didn’t know. After some hugs and tearful greetings, they explained how they had gotten out of Tamerlane Pryce’s afterlife simulation. Evidently, Jupiter’s rescue team never truly succeeded in their mission. Pryce was too powerful, and too well-protected. They did, however, manage to give him so big of a headache that he finally just gave in, and released all their friends. They were resurrected at the end of last year, and while some parted ways, the three of them had been waiting here for Leona and Mateo’s return. The whole time during the story, Mateo assumed this other woman was another dead person who just got caught up in all this. When he asked for an introduction, they balked.
“Who are you talking about?” Jeremy asked.
“This woman right here,” Mateo said, pointing to the stranger.
“Oh, they can’t see me,” the stranger explained.
“You’re invisible?” Mateo questioned.
“Who’s invisible?” Sanaa asked
“Actually, she’s a telepath,” the stranger said. “She can kind of communicate with me, as long as someone else helps her through it.”
“What is going on?” Mateo pressed.
“Honey, we don’t know what’s happening,” Leona tried to comfort him. “Are you seeing things?”
“Just separate yourself from the group, so we can talk,” the woman began. “It’ll make it a lot easier.”
“Yes, I’m seeing things. I have to be alone for a minute.” He walked off with the woman, but kept his eye on the people behind him. They watched him go for a moment, and then went back to their conversation, apparently no longer concerned that Mateo was going crazy.
She sighed. “My name is Aeolia Sarai. I suffer from a time affliction. I’m not invisible. It’s just that time makes people forget about me so quickly that they don’t even remember they’re looking at me right now.”
Mateo looked to the ground as the recalled something from the past. “Retgone coins.”
“That’s right!” Aeolia exclaimed. “The retgone coins and I were created at the same time. I was taking them to the bank when a portal opened up, and made all this happen. It was just a freak accident.”
“Why can I remember you, and no one else does.”
She shook her head. “I’ve only met two other people who could fully remember me. One of them was already exactly like me, and the other quickly became like me too. But he could see me before that, because his time power is that he remembers things others don’t.”
“Oh,” Mateo said. He looked down at his Cassidy cuff. “My friend, Nerakali. She can also manipulate memories. I’m channeling her power right now. My wife can do that too, but it probably doesn’t occur to her as easily.”
“So this Nerakali would be able to see me?” Aeolia asked.
“I imagine, yeah. Tertius Valerius should as well.”
“Wow. Four new people, just like that. You have no idea what it’s like, only having Kallias to speak to.”
“Oh, Kallias Bran?” Now it made sense. Multiple times now, Mateo had brought up Kallias Bran, and no one seemed to know who that was, even when they should. The coin erased his past and future. “Yeah, he had that memory thing, I remember that.”
“Oh, this is so exciting. Can I meet your friends? I mean the other memory people?”
Mateo considered it for a moment. “That shouldn’t be necessary. I don’t know where Tertius is, I’ve never actually met him. But Nerakali is wearing the primary cuff, which means anyone else wearing a cuff can share her power, including those people you came through the transition window with. We have extras, and if they agree to join our team, you should be able to talk to them. Hell, we may not even need Nerakali if you yourself wears one of the cuffs.”
“Could we try that?” Aeolia looked like a newborn baby, who could already speak English, but had no other life experiences yet.
Mateo reached into his back pocket, where he happened to be storing one of the cuffs. He pulled it out triumphantly. “Boom!”
She smiled, and presented him with her wrist. He carefully placed it on her, and looked over to the rest of their friends. Leona was chatting inaudibly when she suddenly perked up, and looked over to Mateo and Aeolia.
She hustled over there. “I remember you. Why are we the only ones?”
Aeolia started to go over her story again when Mateo stopped her. “You’re just going to have to say it all again. Let’s get a cuff on everybody, and then you only have to do this once.”
“They may not want the cuffs,” Leona warned him. This was true. The group was all back together. It wasn’t the team they started with, but everyone here belonged. Mateo and Leona did not yet know, however, whether the others would want to continue Jupiter’s mission. They had a choice now where they didn’t before.
“Then they’ll be able to take them off later. Let us make introductions, and then we’ll give them the option to stick around.”
Leona ran off to retrieve the rest of the cuffs from the mobile home while Mateo escorted Aeolia back to the group.
“You’re having some kind of psychic conversation with someone,” Sanaa accused him. “I can feel it, but I can’t hear it.”
“You will, as soon as you rejoin the circle of trust.” Mateo stuck his fist into the center of the circle, like a sportsball player waiting to recite a huddle chant with his teammates.
“I don’t know that I want that,” Sanaa said, actually a little frightened of being judged for her decision.
“No one will force you to stay,” he assured her. “Put it on now, and you’ll see who I’m in communication with. If you don’t want to make the time jumps with us, you won’t have to. It’s not like it was before.”
When Leona came back, they each grabbed a cuff from the bin, and put them on their wrists. Even Angela didn’t hesitate, even though she had never been part of this before.
“Oh, weird,” Jeremy mused. “I can feel myself getting my memory back.”
“It usually hurts,” Sanaa’s alter ego, Debbie Downer complained. Apparently she had had her brain blended at some point.
Now Aeolia was able to explain where she had come from, and how she had lost her memories, giving more detailed information this time than she had with Mateo. She was actually from an alternate version of the Parallel, one which was not all that different than the main sequence. She met Bran and his friends, and though he was the only one who could remember her, there was a bit of a very dangerous loophole. She could control people. All she had to do was tell them to do something, and they would, without having any clue as to why. It was like the angel or devil on someone’s shoulder, whispering commands to them. Aeolia admitted to using it once or twice, but only ever to help people.
“Where’s Bran now?” Leona asked her.
“He stayed in the main sequence,” Aeolia explained. “We flipped a coin—a regular coin—and he lost, so I risked my life tagging along with you guys while he stayed behind, so we wouldn’t both be killed.”
“Well, no one’s getting killed,” Jeremy promised her. “We just need to discuss how we’re going to proceed. I, for one, am excited to get back to my life. I missed being on the mission while I was dead. Aeolia, I welcome you to stay with us, and invite your friend to come too, if there’s any way to get him here.”
“I can send a message to Nerakali,” Leona told him. She looked to Aeolia. “It’s up to you. I suppose you could stick with us just to have someone to hang out with, but you’re not obligated to help with the work.”
“No, I’ll help—we’ll help. We’ve been looking for purpose. We’ve helped out a few times here and there, but this will be a nice change of pace.”
“Sanaa?” Mateo prompted.
She took her sweet-ass time responding. “Ugh, Fine! If you really need me, how can I rightfully withhold my splendor from you?”
“It really is your choice,” Leona promised. “We won’t judge if you wanna leave.”
“Eh, my grandmother is still working as The Caster in this time period. I don’t want to interfere with her reign. And I don’t really care for this reality, so I might as well just do this.”
Now they all looked at Angela. “I don’t have anywhere else to go. I was dead for a hell of a lot longer than I was alive. I’ll stick around as well...for now. You did break me out of prison.”
“That came with no conditions,” Leona said.
Jeremy nodded in agreeance.
“I know,” Angela said. “I want to stay.”
“Cool, then it’s decided,” Mateo said. He checked his cuff. “We don’t have any more assignments today, so let’s get everybody settled into our new home. It’s not a spaceship, but it can survive in the vacuum. It can also teleport, and even drive on a road, if need be.”
“Great.” Sanaa took off towards the mobile home. “It better be able to play RPS-101 Plus.”
Mateo and Leona gave each other a knowing look. “Oh. It can.”

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