Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Wednesday, July 29, 2144

Shortly after they woke up in 2144, their cuffs beeped, indicating that they had a transition window to get to. It was weird, getting back to this kind of mission. This was what they were meant to be doing, but they had just spent so much time on tangents that they had almost forgotten about it. The map was directing them back to Tribulation Island, so they requested Nexus transport, and headed off.
At the resort, they only found one person. The rest had been returned to the main sequence for Mateo and Leona’s wedding. “Mom!” Mateo shouted. He knew this version of her was not exactly his mother, but he didn’t care. He had to hug her. It had been so long since he had seen her. She was surprised at his shock, and not quite as shocked herself, for she had no memory of him as her son, and had only not seen him for a few years. That was nothing in time traveler time.
“It’s okay. I’m okay,” she said, graciously hugging him back.
The window opens up over there in a half hour,” Leona said, pointing. “It’s outgoing.”
Mateo looked at Leona, and then the direction of the window, then at his once-mother, and finally back to Leona. “Nerakali is letting her go to our wedding.”
“You’re getting married?” Aura was shocked at this.
“We already did,” Mateo answered. “This is the past for us. We didn’t know you were there, must have been disguised the whole time.”
Bran stepped forward. “Or invisible.”
“We’ve never tried to borrow your...power?” Leona wasn’t sure whether it was a power, or a time affliction.
“We call it a condition,” Aeolia clarified. “It depends on how you look at it, and how you use it.”
“Who are you talking to?” Aura questioned.
Leona reached into her bag, and retrieved one of the extra Cassidy cuffs. She handed it to her never-mother-in-law. If this works, you could be standing right in front of someone, and they will not be able to see you. Or rather, they will, but they’ll forget you so fast, that it will be like you’re not there at all.”
“Oh, interesting.” Aura put the cuff on without need for further discussion.
“They have to teach us how to do it,” Angela pointed out. “We have about twenty minutes.”
“Okay,” Bran said. “Shouldn’t be too hard happens for us automatically, and we have no control over it, and we’ve never learned anything about it.”
They asked for help from the Nexus technician who greeted them here. They needed someone who wasn’t wearing the cuffs, so they would know when their borrowing of Bran and Aeolia’s condition was working. It took them nearly the whole time they had to get it right, but just in time, the technician stopped acknowledging their presence, and walked off to get back to work, having forgotten why he had left his post in the first place. They each tried to get his attention, but nothing. Jeremy commanded him to walk the rest of the way on all fours, which he complied with, though he didn’t know why. Now that they were right invisible, for all intents and purposes, they ran back to where the map was leading them, and jumped through the transition window together.
They were standing exactly where they were before on the island, but now in the main sequence of realities. To their right, people were walking into the head of the trail that would lead them to the Colosseum replica, where the ceremony would be held. To their left, things were weird. People were waiting in line for their turn at a booth, where someone was handing out hooded robes, but that wasn’t the weird part. They were already obscured, as if they were paintings, and someone had carelessly wiped their faces off with the charcoal. When the person at the front of the line received their robe, and started putting it on, their face was briefly visible until the hood was all the way over their head.
“Don’t look at them,” Leona ordered. “There’s a reason we’re not meant to see who they are, and that reason is probably similar to ours.”
“Well, you don’t need that,” Aeolia said, glad to be contributing to the group.
“We should get them anyway,” Jeremy determined. “What if a cuff runs out of battery, or someone can break through, and takes it off of us. It’s not worth the risk. Better to be redundant than sorry.”
“Good idea, let’s get our own,” Leona said.
They waited in line for a fairly long time. Whenever someone else got in it, they weren’t able to even detect that the seven of them were standing there, so they cut in every time. That was fine, and probably for the best, as this was just for extra protection, and if there weren’t enough robes for everyone, they should wait to be last anyway. As it turned out, they were totally right about that. Only one robe was left after everyone had gone through it, and the booth operator was preparing to close up.
“You take it,” Mateo said to Aura. “If Arcadia catches you, she’ll be pissed, and possibly violent. The rest of us are okay, even Leona.”
“No,” the man at the booth said. “This is for Leona.”
“Wait, you can see us?” Bran asked.
“Yes,” the man replied. “Though not for long. I too flipped the retgone coin, but mine landed on tails. I remember no past, and have no future. All I know right now is that I flipped a coin...and that I’m supposed to hand these things out to those who need them.” He lifted up the last robe, and presented it to Leona. “And that this one belongs to you. I don’t know why I know this, I just know it. Please take it before I forget why I’m here.”
Leona took the robe, and started putting it on. The man with no memory blinked, and looked confused. He didn’t seem to be able to see them anymore. He just left the booth, and wandered off.
“That’s why you don’t flip the coin,” Bran warned. “You might think it sounds awful not being able to be seen by others, but it’s so much worse being alive with no ability to form memories.”
“Come on,” Mateo said. “Let’s go to our wedding for the third time.”
They followed the trail to the Colosseum replica. Pretty much everyone else had found their seats. Most of them were dropped off closer than the beach. Jeremy noticed someone in the crowd. It was the man who saved him as a baby, Lowell Benton. “I would much like to talk to him, if I could. We didn’t get a chance before. I guess I should say, we didn’t take our chance.”
“He looks very confused,” Leona said. “I’ll drop my invisibility for him, and lead him away from the crowd. I don’t actually need to see the ceremony again.”
“I need to,” Aura said.
“Yes,” Mateo said. “You, Bran, Aeolia, and Angela can go find seats. The rest of us will talk to Lowell. We’ll meet back up later.”
“I love you, Mateo,” Aura said. “I’m not supposed to, but I do.”
“I love you too, mom.”
They hugged again, then went their separate ways. Leona figured out how to make Lowell remember her, but kept her robe on, so no one would recognize her. Bran and Aeolia’s condition was an all or nothing kind of thing. They couldn’t control who remembered them, and when. Leona had some control over it because it wasn’t really her condition at all. This was probably why she had to wear the robe, instead of Aura, who had never met Lowell before. She took him aside, and found an isolated part underneath the Colosseum. Mateo recognized it from way back in 2079, when he was forced to watch a bunch of strangers kill each other. This was the room where The Cleanser kept them before the slaughter. That was in an alternate reality, though, and never technically happened, so all those people lived to eventually become his friends. There were surely around her somewhere.
Now that they were safely alone, Leona lifted her hood. “Don’t worry, I’m an alternate version. The Leona who’s supposed to get married has no idea I’m here, and won’t become me for a while. You and I have already met.”
“Right,” Lowell said, but he didn’t look like he believed it.
“We have already met, right?” Leona asked. “I mean, you shouldn’t have received an invitation unless we knew each other. No one here is a stranger, even if we haven’t met them according to our respective personal timelines.”
“Yeah, of course, we know each other. Lona.”
“Who the hell are you?” Leona questioned. “You’re not Lowell.”
The person pretending to be Lowell exhaled sharply. “No, I’m not. Sorry. My name is Dalton Hawk. I am salmon, and I am not possessing your friend on purpose.”
“Okay...” Leona started to say. “So you don’t recognize any of us?”
“Any of who?”
Mateo and Jeremy temporarily deactivated their Cassidy cuffs, placing them on a timer for thirty minutes.
“Uh, no. Sorry, don’t know you. Can you turn invisible?”
“Sort of. We don’t know a Dalton either,” Mateo said. He looked over at Jeremy, who was disappointed about not being able to meet the real Lowell.
“I do.” Arcadia was walking down the ramp. She placed one hand on her hip, and the other on her forehead. “Once I ran into you after the ceremony, which is about to start, I decided to go back in time, and find out if there are any more of you. It turns out, there are. There are four versions of Mateo here, and five of Leona!” She side-eyed Jeremy. “I don’t know who you are, but I’ve only seen one of you, so congratulations on that, I guess. Why do you keep coming back to your own goddamn wedding! You’re only supposed to do it once!”
“Wait, did you say there are five of me?” The version of Leona here was only the third one. And why was Mateo not with her for one of the other two times?
“I don’t care which version of you you are! I just need you to get the fuck out here!” She made one step back towards the ramp, and pointed up to it. “Are you all the people in hoods? I haven’t checked them, because I respect their temporal privacy, but maybe I should!”
“I don’t know who the people in hoods are. Yeah, they could be other versions of us, but either way, you should continue to respect that privacy, because you, of all people, understands what happens when you mess with the timeline!” If there were going to be multiple versions of her, they could call this one Bold!Leona. “Your sister brought us here, and she’s more powerful than you! So you’re gonna let us be, and not make us do some extra challenge, or something, and you’re gonna get the fuck out of here! A lot has changed since we last saw each other, and we are not simpatico.” Presumably by summoning Nerakali’s abilities, Leona suddenly teleported a few meters forward, and promptly pushed Arcadia to her ass. “I’ve changed.”
A seething Arcadia got back up to her feet, and pressed her fist against her mouth. She blew into her palm, and disappeared, but not all at once. An afterimage of her middle finger lingered for a few seconds before fading away.
“Wow,” Jeremy said. “I’m glad we’re on the same side.”
“Am I on the same side?” Dalton asked.
“You are now,” Leona said, taking him by the hand. “Turn your invisibility back on, and teleport to our team’s location. I’ll stay visible, and act as a link to the homines memorias.”
They landed in their seats just as the ceremony was starting. They watched it all yet again, and then afterwards, during the reception, they danced.

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