Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, August 1, 2147

Mateo wanted to get better. He wanted to get back to his zen, and he wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere without having it as a goal. Angela was vital to his recovery, and they only needed to meditate and do breathing exercises for a couple hours before he was back to his new normal. He kept a little edge in his heart, though, which he didn’t tell her about. Come the next day, they might need to fight someone, and being able to experience a sense of urgency could be useful. They knew enough about what was going to happen to save lives, but not enough to stop whatever it was they needed saving from, so being prepared to encounter an enemy was only logical. Staying calm and centered was great and all, but it wasn’t the best in all situations. A true master of his self understands this paradox, and knows when to exploit it.
Leona was gone for the rest of the day, and until the next year, but they remained connected through the cuffs. She wasn’t saying much about what she was doing, but reported that everything was fine, and that she was continuing to work on it. The first day of August, 2147 would be their last consecutive day—that is, the last that fell on Mateo and Leona’s original pattern. After this, they would jump over three years, and then another three years, and then another. From here on until whenever the transitions stopped, they were back to the true Bearimy-Matic pattern. Whatever happened today—whatever the consequences—they wouldn’t know what they were for awhile, and that was pretty stressful. Losing an entire year at a time was nerve-racking enough, but a three year jump was ridiculous now that they were so used to the old ways.
They were minutes from the next transition window, and Leona wasn’t back yet. She also hadn’t checked back in for an hour, and everyone was getting worried. “We’ll have to go without her,” Mateo acknowledged.
“I can’t believe you just said that,” Bran said.
“He’s enlightened again, remember?” Aeolia reminded him.
“If we have a chance to save Danica’s life, we have to take it. For now, I’m going to assume Leona is just incommunicado, and not hurt or dead.”
“Her vitals are fine,” Jeremy pointed out.
“See?” Mateo said. “Her vitals are fine. Wait, how do you know what her vitals are?” Jeremy responded right away, but Mateo realized at the same time, “the cuffs. Right, it’s always the cuffs.”
Angela climbed down the steps wearing her action suit.
“Are you coming with us?” Aeolia asked.
“I’m not staying with the ship again,” Angela replied with a sour face. “I’m older than all of you combined.” She looked up into the aether, and started vaguely counting on her fingers. “Well, maybe not...but I’m more skilled than you give me credit for. You hear that I died in the nineteenth century, and act like I would be amazed to encounter a microwave, but the afterlife simulation keeps pace with Earthan technology. I don’t know why, it should be more advanced, if anything, but I guess Pryce stunted development deliberately. Still...” She removed a bouncy ball from her pocket, and threw it down on the floor. It bounced against walls and tables and chairs, eventually ending up kind of heading back towards her, but not really. She reached out and caught it with ease, and without even ever looking at it, like a real life superhero. It was honestly pretty hot. “I know what I’m doing.”
“Is that...?” Bran started to ask.
“Some sort of magic ball?” Angela guessed he was going to ask. Suddenly, a handheld device flew towards her face. She leaned back out of its way, and let it pass her. Then she reached out like before, matched its speed as if soared towards the wall, and snatched it up. “No.” She casually tossed the device back to Jeremy, who was trying to test her. “You can do literally anything in a simulation, and with that freedom, people usually like to play around with physics. But I realized that I could improve myself if I stuck to the worlds that coded natural physics, and practiced skills like that, free from consequences. I can juggle three chainsaws, if you’d like.”
Their cuffs beeped, indicating that the transition window would be opening in one minute. “We don’t have time,” Bran said, disappointed.
“We still don’t have Leona either,” Aeolia stated the obvious.
Right on time, Leona teleported in, holding the hand of a stranger. “Sorry we’re late.”
Jeremy tossed her her action suit, and she caught it as well as Angela, and as if she knew it would be coming.
“Who is this?” Mateo asked.
“None of your goddamn business!” the young girl shouted.
“I know of her from the future,” Leona told them as she was putting on her suit. “I can’t say what she did for my people while she’s here, but if we encounter a portal in The Constant, she’ll be able to close it for us.”
“She doesn’t seem to wanna do that,” Angela noted.
“Like she said, I’m here!”
“She’s just a little bit nasty,” Leona explained. “I did not coerce her into coming, though. She just likes to be difficult.”
“Your face’s butthole was difficult for your mom last night.”
With that, the window opened up, and Nerakali defenestrated all of them.
They were still linked to the substitute Savior section, which none of them had ever been to before. They didn’t know how to get out of it, or where to go. They all held out their stun weapons, doing their best to mimic what they had seen on TV, but besides Bran, and apparently Angela, none of them had any real experience with this sort of thing. It was for this reason that Bran took point, though Mateo realized he and Aeolia probably didn’t need a weapon at all. None of them would if they had just taken the time to practice each other’s abilities. Next mission break they got, they would do that.
They continued down the passageways, which proved that this place was much larger than they knew. Before too long, though, things started looking a little more familiar, and Leona was able to lead them to the foyer, which was where Danica was most of the time. They found her at the reception desk, sitting there with a smile, which was weird, because a man in a creepy mask was standing at her flank. “Oh hey, guys. How did you get in here? I never sent out invitations.”
“Who are you?” Mateo demanded to know.
“I’m your cousin..from another timeline.”
“No, I know that, Dani. Who’s that?”
Danica looked over her shoulder. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I do,” Aeolia said. “He’s another coiner. He doesn’t think we can see him.”
The masked man took a knife out of a sheath, and held it against Danica’s throat. She became frightened, though was still unaware of why. If anyone would naturally be able to see people who had flipped a retgone coin, it should be her, but not even she was immune to its effects. “Mateo, what’s going on? Why am I so scared?”
“What are you doing at that desk,” Leona began, “at that computer?”
“Well, I was just...I dunno, what was I doing?”
“Keep going,” the evil coiner growled.
“Don’t keep going,” Aeolia countered.
“Keep! Going!” the man growled again, but a little louder this time.
“Stop!” Bran ordered. This back and forth was gonna get real old.
“Wait,” Mateo said, hoping to play mediator here. “Tell us what you want.”
“I destroy..everything!
“That’s stupid,” Jeremy couldn’t help but say.
“Keep! Going!” the man repeated.
“Angela,” Mateo began. “Remember that ball game we played earlier?”
“I would really like to play that again. Like, now.”
Angela took the ball back out, and threw it over to the far wall, where it started bouncing around. Slightly distracted, the man released his grip on Danica for a split second, which was all Mateo needed. He dropped his stun weapon, and pulled out his teleporter pistol so he could shoot Danica with a time bullet. She disappeared before the man could react, and even when he did, it didn’t matter. Both Jeremy and Leona stunned him.
“Tie him up,” Bran barked.
“Where did you send her?” Leona asked Mateo.
“Up to the surface,” he answered. The elevator started rolling, prompting the rest of them to instinctively hold up their weapons again. “Wait”, he said, gently lowering Leona’s. “It’s probably just her, coming back down, and wondering why she’s not where she’s supposed to be.
It was her, but it wasn’t just her. When they doors opened, they found another masked man with another knife against her throat. “Why am I scared, and why do I feel like I can’t move. I don’t understand.”
“Is this the same guy, or a different one?” Jeremy wondered out loud.
Angela stepped forward. “There’s that same scar on his hand. It must be him, just from a different time.”
“I must destroy time travel,” the hostage-taker declared.
“Okay, well...the Constant isn’t, like, the source of time travel, or something,” Mateo tried to explain. Even he knew that.
“But it is connected to it,” the man volleyed. “It can summon every traveler, in every moment, in every timeline.”
“Is this true?” Mateo asked Danica.
“Is what true?” she asked back.
He sighed, and repeated what the man claimed for her benefit.
“What? No, that would be stupid.”
“It’s not a lie!” the man cried.
“Leona?” Mateo asked simply.
Could something like that exist? I guess, but why would anyone build it? Does it exist, and is it here? I have no clue, but I think he’s just insane.”
“I’ve had enough of this!” the man shouted. “Everyone, shoot yourselves in the head!”
No one moved of course, except for Danica, who desperately tried to break free of him, so she could take one of her friends’ guns, and use it on herself. “That only works when people can’t remember you, idiot,” Aeolia antagonized.
“I’ve had enough of this too!” Angela shouted just as loud as he had. She took a syringe from her pocket.
The man cackled. “Good luck getting that all the way over here before I slit her throat.
“It’s not for you,” Angela said. She jammed it into her own neck. A reddish glow came from under her skin, and threatened to burst through. She began to shake uncontrollably, but it didn’t look like it hurt that much. Suddenly, she was gone, Danica was free from the man’s grasp, and the man was unconscious on the floor, right next to his alternate self. They heard a banging in the kitchen, pots and pans falling from their secure spots.
Mateo rushed over to find Angela crawling on the floor with her arms only, her legs completely limp and useless. “What do I do? Is there an antidote, or treatment?”
She struggled to speak, sounding almost as if she had frostbite, or was terribly shaky and afraid. “W-w-wwhite...r-r-r-re-re-re-remote. Hit.”
Mateo found the remote in her breast pocket. “Hit what? Rewind.”
“N-no-no. Pause.”
Mateo pointed it at her, and did as she requested. She froze in place. He hovered her hands over her body. “Can I touch her, or will I freeze too?”
Most of the group was behind him, watching. He could hear Bran making sounds in the background, presumably from tying up the two coiners. “Yes,” Leona replied. “This kind of time bubble conforms to her shape. Just do it very...slowly.”
Mateo scooped her up gently, and carried her over to the couch. It took him about fifteen minutes, even though it was only about five meters away. “What did she take? Velocity-nine?”
“Similar,” Aeolia answered, “but as you can see, it doesn’t last nearly as long. And it won’t kill her, but she’ll need full medical treatment to repair her cells. We shouldn’t have taken it from the Parallel,” she lamented. “It was only supposed to be used in an emergency, which is why we gave it to the one person we figured we could trust the most with it.”
“It was an emergency,” Mateo determined. “She saved my cousin’s life.”
“She saved my life from what?” Danica questioned.
Jeremy took out an extra cuff, and handed it to her to use temporarily.
Danica immediately went into crisis response mode. “We’ve been compromised. I need everyone out now, so I can reshape the variables.
“We came here to save you,” Leona argued. “Leaving you alone is not an option.”
Danica started to fight it, “you don’t understand—”
“No, you don’t understand. This place is gonna be destroyed.”
“I know,” Danica said calmly. “I’m going to destroy it.”
“What?” Mateo questioned. “No, we fixed it. Just change your passwords, and your locks, and...move on.”
“I can’t do that. In the case of an incursion, the Constant must be destroyed, the Concierge must retire, and a new Concierge must take her place in a new reality.”
“What does it look like when you destroy it?” Mateo continued. “Does it look like everything has been sucked into a black hole?”
“I guess, I’ve never seen it. I just know it happens from time to time, and the only way to protect it is to reshape it.”
Leona looked over at Bran and Aeolia. “You two are from an alternate timeline.”
“What does retirement mean?” Mateo pressed. “It sounds innocuous, but it could mean death, for all I know.”
“In a way, it is, I suppose,” Danica decided. “We just like to call it quantum assimilation.”
“Guys,” Jeremy jumped in. “Look at the cuffs. It’s 2150 already, and time is moving fast.”

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