Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Friday, July 27, 2142

When Ramses Abdulrashid returned to the main sequence in 2140, he had every intention of completing his loop mission. He didn’t have all the facts, though. He knew this time period would be ideal, but that didn’t mean every day would be available and perfect. He discovered that there was too much activity surrounding The Sharice Davids in its hangar. It had not yet been retired, and people were still stationed there, even though there was little chance of it being deployed. He spent the next two years enjoying life in the reality where he grew up. It was nice not to have to run an intergalactic empire. No one asked him to give them powers, or alter the powers they had, or whatever. It was a lovely little vacation, and it was now over.
“You want our help?” Leona asked.
“For old time’s sake,” Ramses offered. “I don’t need it, but it might be cool to get the band back together.”
“Our lead singer is on his solo tour,” Leona informed him.
“Lead singer?” Sanaa questioned.
“It’s a metaphor,” Leona tried to explain.
“No, I get it,” Sanaa confirmed. “But...lead singer? I kind of feel like he’s more the triangle player, or perhaps the tambourine.”
“Ha-ha-ha,” Leona said.
“Well, when is he coming back?” Ramses asked.
“He could have been gone for centuries,” Jeremy reasoned. “He should have been back yesterday-slash-last year.”
“That’s not where his journey has taken him,” Leona reasoned right back.
“He could be dead,” Bran warned.
They all gave him the stink eye.
Bran scoffed. “Oh, like that’s not a possibility.”
“Let’s try to think positively,” Ramses put forth.
“Wait, you can see him?” Angela asked, looking to make sure he wasn’t wearing his own Cassidy cuff.
“Yeah, am I not supposed to?” Ramses wondered.
“It must be your superpowers,” Aeolia figured. “Anyway, we don’t require Mateo to help Ramses with his mission, and Nerakali hasn’t given us one of our own this year. So I’m in, and so is Kallias.”
“It shouldn’t be everybody,” Ramses said, uncomfortable. “It could draw too much attention.”
“Jeremy and Angela, stay with the Imzadi,” Leona ordered politely.
“Are we still calling it that, even though Imzadi is gone?”
Leona ignored the remark, because it didn’t matter. “Sanaa and I can help you engineer whatever it is you need. Bran and Aeolia can stand guard, and keep people away from us. They’re essentially invisible, but are also very...convincing.”
“And what is it we will be doing?” Sanaa asked. “I haven’t agreed to anything.”
“The Sharice Davids. It’s been decommissioned, but will rise again in half a century. I need to get on it now, to install some secret upgrades. It’s called the ol’ Bill and Ted Gambit. I’m going to be on that ship in the future, and in order to save my life, I activated a special kind of temporal displacement drive, but the TDD didn’t exist, as far as anyone was aware. I didn’t even know it was there. I’ve had to remember to go back in time, and build it for myself, but no one can use it before that moment, or a trio of evil future people will know about it, and it won’t work for me.”
“Sheeeeeeee-iiiit,” Sanaa joked. “That’ll ya had to say. Let’s do it.”
“Good luck,” Jeremy called out to them. “The two dum-dums are just gonna play games, and try not to forget how to breathe.”
“Okay, cool!” Leona called back.

“That’s a cool suit ya got there,” a young woman noted. She looked familiar, but Mateo must have only had interesting memories of her.
“Oh, you want it?” he asked as he looked around to figure out how to get out of this thing.
Imzadi’s hologram reappeared. “You have to keep it so you can get home.”
“I’m not worried about it,” Mateo said.
“I am. You may not care to go back, but I do,” Imzadi complained. It was probably getting frustrating dealing with a sociopath. “You’re not a sociopath.”
“I don’t like that you can read my mind,” Mateo said.
“Why? Not boring enough for you?”
“Do you two need some time to squabble alone?”
“No, it’s fine,” Imzadi told him. She pretended to sigh. “We’re here to help. What is the mission?”
“We’re fighting an evil religious organization that controls millions of people,” one of the other young women explained.
“Oo, that could be interesting,” Imzadi said to Mateo.
“You think I’ll get my soul back if I just have a little fun?”
A third woman stepped forward. “You’ve lost your soul? We can get you that.”
“He’s just being metaphorical,” Imzadi clarified.
“Well, maybe you just don’t know. A salorex can manipulate your soul. It should restore your soul, and if not, and the soul doesn’t exist, then no harm done. Hi, I’m Amber. These are my friends, Sheridan, Heather, and Zoey.” Zoey was the one who looked, and now sounded, familiar. “I...I don’t really know these other people.”
Curtis stepped forward as well. “They’re—”
“I don’t care.” Mateo wasn’t interested in hearing the names of a half dozen other people. He was just going to forget them.
“Right,” Curtis said. “No soul, okay.”
Mateo went off with these random people to fight some evil other people called the Thuriamen. He had a real hard time being motivated, which was his whole thing now, but luckily, Imzadi was able to take control of the supersuit. He kept the helmet on the whole time, and sort of just stayed along for the ride. He even nodded off once or twice. If Mateo wasn’t careful, the survivors would go on to tell stories about this day, and turn him into some kind of hero. To prevent this, he insisted that the others start simply referring to the entity in the suit as Imzadi, and leave him out of it completely. They all understood and respected his desire for anonymity, presumably for their own respective reasons.
Once they broke through the stronghold, and gained enough control over the right resources to command the dimensions—as the natives put it—Amber, Zoey, Zoey’s love interest, Seth, and Missy escorted Mateo to some kind of factory, or something. Dubra and Dar’cy wanted to go, but changed their minds, deciding to wait until Mateo could remember how much he cared about them. In the factory, they found golden collars that workers were manufacturing before evacuating to avoid being caught in the crossfire of the war. Now that it was safe, and they were alone, Mateo was able to climb out of the back of the suit, and stretch his legs a bit. Imzadi activated a holographic face in the helmet, and continued to walk around in it.
Amber found a collar that had already gone through quality assurance, and installed it around Mateo’s neck. “Is it comfortable?”
“It is what it is,” Mateo answered.
“Okay.” She got Imzadi’s attention, and pointed to a vault. “The diadems should be locked up in there. Would you be able to break through that?”
“I might be able to short-range teleport into it,” Zoey suggested.
“The door’s too thick,” Seth argued.
“You don’t know that.”
“I got this,” Imzadi assured them. She took hold of the wheel, and put all her strength into turning it. They could hear the insides breaking apart as she was opening it, but that was fine, they didn’t need this to be a functioning vault after this. Once they were finished helping Mateo, they claimed they would destroy all of them. Theoretically, it would restore Mateo’s drive to enjoy life, but that wasn’t what they were designed for. The Thuriamen wanted to literally control the masses, and this was their way of accomplishing that.
The door opened, and Amber went in to retrieve one of the diadems.
“Should you be the one to wear that?” Seth questioned. “Mr. Matic, do you trust her? It seems like you two just met.”
“These things require years of training,” Amber explained. “You can’t just slap it on your head, and start manipulating people on day one.” She slapped it on her head. “Unless you’re a soul psychic.” She closed her eyes.
“It is no coincidence that these things are amber-colored,” Zoey whispered to her boyfriend.
After a minute, Mateo started feeling something. It was a warm comfort around his neck that spread upwards, and started massaging his head. It then went down, and covered the rest of his body. He started waving his arms around, and swinging his legs. It occurred to him that this was dancing. But he wasn’t the one doing it. Amber was controlling his movements.
“Just testing it,” Amber clarified, eyes still closed. “Here we go.” She exhaled deliberately, and got to work fixing his brain.
Mateo didn’t just get his interesting memories back. He also started oscillating between all emotions. Happiness, sadness, anger, rage, love, hate, fear, shame; everything. Some felt bad, but they were all a welcome relief, and the more he got back, the more his memory of not having them felt like torture; like the worst thing that had ever happened to him. Bad feelings were terrible, but they were a part of life, and when he didn’t have them, he was nobody. He was nothing. That was a hell he would wish on no one. He got his memories of orgasms back, and then he had a real one, which might have been embarrassing, but he just felt lucky to be alive again. He also realized that he had met Zoey before. She was at his wedding, and had later transported him back to his home universe, utilizing the suit that he was wearing right now. That was not too long ago from his perspective, but must take place in her future. The suit would need to be cleaned first.
He couldn’t tell exactly how long the process took, but everyone was still standing about where they were when he closed his eyes in ecstasy, so it must not have been too long. Unlike when Nerakali blended someone’s brain, when it was over, he was still sporting a dumb smile, and not screaming at all.
“That looked like fun,” Seth noted. “Can I try next?”
“Shut up,” Zoey said playfully.
“Oh my God, it was great.” Mateo tried to take off the collar, because it was time.
“No, no, no,” Amber warned. “You can’t take it off yourself. This is a mind-control device.” She swept her palm to the side, which served to release the collar. Then she removed the diadem, and set it carefully on the floor. “Imzadi?”
The android walked over, and crushed the evil device underfoot. Mateo threw the collar down, and let her crush that too. It was going to take more than that to destroy the whole institution, but this was a decent start. Imzadi couldn’t read his mind anymore, but she seemed to be thinking the same thing. He smiled at her and nodded. “I don’t need you to get home. You stay here and take care of the rest. These people need you.”
Her hologram face smiled back.
“I would rather get back home in realtime, though. Zoey, where’s your knife?”
“My knife? This thing?” She reached into her boot, and pulled out a pocket knife. It was absolutely not what he was talking about. The thing she used to tear rifts in the spacetime continuum was larger, more frightening, and glorious.
“Oh, you haven’t gotten it yet. I don’t know where you find it, or what. It’ll let you travel the bulkverse.”
“I know what knife you’re talking about.” Seth turned to his girlfriend. “You seem to be able to cross dimensional barriers, but not from scratch. You need to make a hole first. The time knife would do that for you. It’s not useful to anyone else, because the larger the hole you need, the harder it becomes to tear, and then they still have no way to navigate. It’s perfect for you, because your body somehow metabolizes bulk energy.”
“Do you know where this knife is?” Missy asked.
“Missy, why do you only have one arm?” Mateo couldn’t help but ask.
“Why do you have two?” Missy joked.
“I have no clue where the knife is,” Seth answered. “We know someone who does, though. Jacob.”
“I’ll have to worry about that later,” Zoey decided. “There’s a lot I need to do in this universe first.”
Mateo started to disrobe. “Still. You should take this. I imagine future you will need it to survive the hypervacuum of the outer bulkverse.”
“Hypervacuum?” Missy questioned. She laughed.
“Yeah, I assume it’s more of a vacuum than a regular vacuum.”
She laughed harder. “It’s not a vacuum,” she corrected. “It’s an equilibrium.” Whatever that meant.
“Are you going to go back to your universe naked?” Amber asked.
Mateo carefully handed Seth the suit. “Make sure that’s cleaned. I don’t know if it’s dry clean only, or what.” He redirected his attention to Amber. “Might as well. Hashtag-freethenipple.”
Imzadi walked over and turned around, so Mateo could retrieve the homestone from the suit. “Good luck.”
“I’m sure we’ll see each other again.” He lifted the stone up close to his heart, and squeezed it. Nothing happened. He squeezed again. Still nothing.
“We may actually need to find that time knife sooner, rather than later,” Seth suggested. “How do you people feel about musical theatre?”
Before anyone could answer, a silhouette appeared in the middle of their little conversation circle. It slowly gained color, and tuned focus, until Mateo could see that it was none other than Meliora Rutherford.
“Melly?” Amber asked, surprised.
“I got your psychic message,” Meliora said.
“Oh, yeah,” Amber said. “By the way, Mateo, the two of us are now bonded for life. That usually takes time of getting to know each other, but the salorex sped up the process. I’m here if you need to talk...psychically speaking.”
“I can get us home,” Meliora told Mateo. “It will take time, though. Have you ever meditated before?”

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