Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Wednesday, July 26, 2141

Nerakali decided that she was going to go off into the far reaches of time and space, looking for any information about dreamwalking, the dreamvoid, and the general concept of traveling to other universes. She was born into a family of spacetime masters, who knew just about everything about the brane, and how it operated. They knew the past, and the future, and everything in between. What they didn’t know much about was everything that existed beyond those boundaries. Until relatively recently, in fact, she didn’t even know the bulkverse was a thing. She found it odd and uncomfortable, but also felt this compulsion to ignore it. It was as if her creator knew enough about it himself that he implanted some kind of mental block, which was there to prevent her from looking into matters. Still, if this block existed, she was determined to break through it, so she went off for answers to help Mateo. In the meantime, the team was exempted from the July 26, 2141 transition. No one but him wanted to point out that, as a time traveler, Nerakali needn’t give them any sort of break, but everyone else just grumbled, and ignored him. They were afraid to do anything while he was in this condition. They were afraid of him.
Mateo couldn’t blame them for being wary of manipulating time and space when they still didn’t know for sure what set him off, and caused him to slip outside of their universe. He might have become emotional about how they were treating him like a leper, but his whole deal now was that nothing bothered him, so he just sat there and thought about nothing. He and Leona were presently sitting on their bed chairs. Each bunk was capable of being flipped over, and transformed into two seats during waking hours. She was staring at him, but he didn’t know why, because he no longer had any empathy. So he just guessed. “I’m sorry for doing this to you, and the team.”
She chuckled. “No, you’re not. That’s the problem.”
“I can’t read your facial expressions anymore. How upset are you?”
“Not upset at all,” she said. It might have been a lie, but there was no way to know one way or the other. “You didn’t do this to yourself. We can blame the Ochivari, or the Superintendent, or hell, even the powers that be, whose control over us seems to have dissipated, but you never know. We can’t blame you, though, and I want you to look at it logically. If you don’t have any emotions right now, what good would it do for me to be dishonest about my position? If I know it wouldn’t bother you to know the truth about my feelings, what would cause me to hold back? I’m telling you the truth, because I have no reason not to.”
“I guess that makes sense.” She could read him just as well as before, which was odd given that he was the one whose personality had changed, but he wasn’t going to question it. It was irrelevant. Communication only mattered when trying to accomplish something, which he wasn’t.
Nerakali teleported before them. It made an audible noise, which caused the rest of the team to come out of the woodwork. “Oh, good, everyone’s here,” she said, looking around. “You should all hear this.” She took one step towards Mateo. He stood up, remembering that was what his old self would have done for a polite conversation. “I have explored as many options as I can in this brane. In order to go further, you will have to travel beyond our borders.”
“You’re only looking at him,” Leona said, standing up herself. “But we’re going too.”
Nerakali shook her head. “You can’t. There’s only space for one in the machine. Besides, I need you and Jeremy to stay here, to continue the pattern.”
“Screw the pattern!”
“He won’t be completely alone,” Nerakali promised. “I’m sending Imzadi with him.”
“Where will I be going?” Mateo questioned. “Exactly?”
She took a long time to respond, like a doctor whose first time it was telling a family member there was nothing more she could do. “I don’t know. I asked the Parallel natives to build me the machine. It adapts to your needs. Your subconscious will control it, and I don’t know your subconscious. Best I can tell, Meliora Rutherford can jump to other universes. She’s not talking, because she and’s complicated.”
“Is this going to work?” Leona questioned.
“I don’t know that either.” Nerakali reached over, and removed Mateo’s cuff. “You can’t wear this where you’re going. It’s like a brick, tethering you to this universe, and your people. You can’t find what your mind is looking for with us holding you back. I am sending you with this, though.” She took something out of her pocket, and opened her hand to reveal a rock.
“A homestone?” Leona asked. “Will that even work?”
“Across universes?” Nerakali guessed. “That’s one thing I was able to get out of Meliora. We actually don’t know where homestones come from, which means...”
“They could originate from another universe,” Leona hypothesized.
“It’ll get him back home, or at least close to it, should he need it at all. Someone will be there to pick him up if necessary.” Nerakali looked into Mateo’s eyes again. “Only use it if you need to, though. Come back directly, if you can.”
Mateo didn’t care enough to take the stone himself, so Leona ripped it out of Nerakali’s hands, and forced it into him. “If this does work, he will need the homestone; not the other way around.” She wrapped her hands around his, and held them tightly, like someone who loved him. “Can you do this? Can you care enough to try? Or will you give up, and just become a lumberjack in Oregon, or something?”
Mateo couldn’t answer.
I will keep him moving,” Imzadi assured her.
“She can take control of his body,” Nerakali added. “She won’t, if she doesn’t have to, but if he ever just stands there, she”
Leona should have been bothered by this, but if it was the only way to get him back, even if only still in this state, then it was better than losing him forever. “I need to inspect this machine he’ll be using.” She used airquotes.
“No,” Nerakali said in no uncertain terms. She lifted one hand like He-man, and cried “I have the power!” Electricity actually did come out of the Imzadi, and zoom into a little device she was holding. She took Mateo by the shoulder, and spirited him away.
Using the word machine made it sound like Mateo would be stepping into some kind of transportation pod, where he could move around, or maybe just at least stand up and stretch. It wasn’t like that at all. It was more like a supersuit out of a scifi or superhero movie. “Let me give you a rundown of what all this is,” Nerakali said as she was installing the Imzadi program into the memory console. “Watertight, airtight, radiation proof. You can lift up to eleven tons, and of course, you can fly. Like I said before, it will adapt to your own abilities, and your mind. Perhaps the most important aspect of this thing is that it’s attached to a pocket dimension, which contains plantlife capable of replacing your air indefinitely, as well as a mini-fusion generator, which will last for centuries before you have to scoop up more hydrogen. Imzadi will keep track of, and maintain, all of that. She should also be able to coach you back into your catatonic state. Any questions?”
Obviously not.
“Okay,” Nerakali continued. “Put on this liner first. It’s a vacuum suit in its own right, just in case the machine is damaged. Once you’re clothed, step inside, and go with God.”
“Okay.” With nothing better to do, Mateo stuck one leg into the suit, and then the other, before inserting his arms. The back of the suit closed up behind him.
Nerakali stepped around, so he could see her through the viewport. “A normal person would have asked how they’re supposed to pee in this thing. Welp, I guess you’ll have to figure it out.” She reached up, and pressed a button on the chest of the exoskeleton. “Let’s clear out all those pesky distractions.”
The suit transported Mateo and Imzadi to a Nexus, where technicians were apparently waiting for him. They activated their transporter, and sent him off to the middle of space. He couldn’t see any stars or planets around him. He could make out the slight wisp of distant galaxies, but he was terribly far from them. This wasn’t the dreamvoid, not yet, but it was still a void.
Are you ready?” Imzadi asked. She generated a holographic representation of herself, and simulated her body floating in the space in front of him. He probably would have recognized her as some famous actress, or similar to, but he didn’t have enough memories to recall, so she just looked like a stranger.
Mateo took about twenty seconds to yawn. “Whatever.”
“Yeah, we’re gonna fix you right up!” Imzadi’s hologram smiled. “Breathe. Breathe like me.”
Oh, they were going to meditate. He had tried it several times over the years, upon advice from his parents, therapists, and this girl he once dated. It was the most boring thing he had ever done, which meant every painstaking moment was seared into his brain as some of the most important moments in his life, dethroning whatever interesting moments he once had, but could no longer remember. This was going to be easy. Well, it was going to be easy to start, but not necessarily easy enough to complete the mission. What was the mission again? Who cares?
“Mateo! Focus. Stop asking questions. Just...remember the boring times.”
“Ugh, whatever.”
“Don’t say it. Think it.”
What little light he could see disappeared, and he was back in the dreamvoid, where there was nothing. He couldn’t even see the Imzadi hologram anymore. Whether that was because she shut it down, or the void hid it from him, he didn’t know, or care.
“Okay, you don’t have to do that anymore,” Imzadi told him. “We’re here. We just need to figure out how to get out, and go somewhere else. I imagine it’s the opposite now. Try to think of something fun.”
Like Leona’s boobs? “What’s that?” Mateo asked. He could see a dot in front of him, but he couldn’t tell if it was small, or just far away.
“It’s a single point of light,” she told him. “Mateo, I’ll only say this to you in this situation...go towards the light. Reach for the light.”
“Is that wise?”
“The fact that you’re questioning that means it’s already helping. Go!”
He sighed. He didn’t feel like he was improving, but he didn’t know what that—
“Just swim towards the light, would ya? Jesus Christ!”
Mateo did as he w—
“No more commentary,” Imzadi demanded. “Just do it.”
“That wasn’t me,” Mateo explained. “It was The Superintendent.”
“Oh. Forgive me, sire.”
Mateo kept swimming forward. The light grew larger, until he no longer needed to put out any effort himself. It quickly overwhelmed him, and just before it transported him to another universe, he swore he could see something shaped like a knife. His feet landed hard on the ground, but he didn’t feel a thing, thanks to the suit. A group of people were running towards him. No, they were charging. They stopped when they noticed him, though. Mateo’s heads-up-display revealed information to him that was buried somewhere in his own mind, suggesting he knew some of these people. There were about a dozen in total, and his secret memories recognized half.
Release your helmet,” Imzadi recommended. “Show them you are no threat.
“You do it. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I’m teaching you to care again. Figure it out.”
Mateo sighed, and reached up to his neck, where he found a button that caused his helmet to recede.
“Uncle Mateo?” one of the women asked. It was Dar...Dar..Dar-something.
“Dad?” another asked. Dubravka.

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