Sunday, May 30, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, October 15, 2222

With Angela’s help, Mateo was able to chill out a bit, and not be so focused on figuring out how to destroy The Superintendent by reaching out to his God. For the record, my God is named Sophia Dimo, and she’s a very lovely girl who doesn’t take sides, so his idea would not have borne fruit. Now they needed to focus on their next mission, which was taking them to what they would call Italy in the main sequence. Of course, in both realities, humans were living in tall arcologies, so they were in the middle of nowhere, in a rocky field. The AR flickers showed a man sitting at a desk, studying some papers. When the transition completed, he fell on his ass, but he was okay. Like they all did, he looked around, confused. He didn’t appear to be shocked to be in a completely different setting, though, like he had done it before. He noticed the transition team around him. “Are we still speaking English?” he asked. He said all the right words, but he seemed to be struggling with it.
“Yes,” Leona replied. “What language are you more comfortable with?” She started tapping on her Cassidy cuff.
“I was birth to speak Classical Latin, but I know other Latins. I now learning English modern.”
“We can speak Classical Latin for you,” she explained. She started to speak into her cuff. “Does this sound better?” All the other cuffs started translating her words in real time. It was Latin, but it sounded like her real voice.
Angela handed the man one of the extra cuffs, which he just held in his hand. “Yes, that’s much better,” the translation returned.
“What’s your name?” Leona asked.
“I’m Statius. I was born on the first day of what you would call Year One, A.D. On the day I turned eleven, I jumped forward eleven years, and a year after that, it happened again. It was year 22, year 33, year 44, and so on. It was just the year 2222, and I should not have yet jumped again.”
“You haven’t jumped forward,” Leona clarified. “It’s still 2222, but in a different reality.”
Statius crooked his neck. That didn’t seem to translate well.
“A different world,” she said, hoping that made more sense.
Time travel, he seemed to have a grasp of now, but any scifi nonsense beyond that was probably out of reach. He likely hadn’t met any other time travelers before. “Why am I here?”
“Were you in danger?” Jeremy asked through his own cuff. “We help people in danger.” He was always the one to explain that.
“Not that I know of,” Statius said. “The people here have been very friendly. They didn’t get mad at me for not understanding their magic boxes, and have been letting me learn the language using real paper, which is apparently rare in this time.”
“Yes, we no longer need it,” Leona agreed.
“We need to figure out why he’s here, why Nerakali chose him to transition,” Jeremy mused, not into his cuff.
“No, we don’t.” Mateo argued. He spoke into the cuff, “what do you want to do? Do you like being a time jumper?”
“I would like to go home,” Statius replied. “I wish this had never happened to me. I just want things to be how they were.”
“That’s not something we can do,” Jeremy said apologetically.
“Now, hold on,” Mateo said. “Let us discuss your situation. We may come up with a solution yet.” He spoke to the group without the cuff. “I may have an idea, but we should speak alone.”
“You can discuss it,” Angela said. “I’ll stay with him. I speak Classical Latin anyway.”
Mateo led Leona, Jeremy, and Olimpia back to stand next to the AOC. “What’s this idea of yours?” Leona questioned.
“We’ve been looking at these missions the wrong way. Jeremy keeps saying that we’re saving people, but we’re not saving them, we’re freeing them. He’s not in danger of being crushed by boulders falling down a landslide, or from being pursued by an evil serial killer. He just wants to go home, and I propose that we do that for him.”
“How?” Olimpia asked. “We can keep him in The Parallel to protect him from the powers that be, but his life was in the main sequence. They won’t let us put him back. I guess I don’t really know that, but I imagine they’ll be upset. He’s supposed to jump to the year 3333 in a few months.”
“No, we can’t take him back to where he was,” Mateo agreed, “but we can make him think he’s there. We can even make him think he never left. We can erase the last...”
“Twenty,” Leona helped.
“...twenty years of his life,” Mateo finished. “Make him think he’s a regular eleven year old in Ancient Rome, or wherever he was.”
“How would we make him think that?” Olimpia pressed.
“Virtual reality,” Mateo offered. “Put him in a simulation. Let him die there when it’s his time.”
“Mateo, that’s a...” Leona trailed off for a second. “The ethics for something like that are very unclear. You really think that’s what Nerakali had in mind.”
“I don’t care what Nerakali wants. This is what he wants.”
“You don’t know that,” Jeremy pointed out. “He wouldn’t understand it, even if we told him.”
“We don’t have to tell him,” Mateo contended. “We jack him into the Matrix, and make it look like it did when he left. I know the Parallel natives have the ability to reconstruct the past using a subject’s memories. Hell, they may even have data on what the world looked like at that time anyway.”
Leona was shaking her head. “It would all be a lie. He would literally be the only person in the world. He may not know it, but he could feel it. He could sense that everyone else is different, even without realizing that they were NPCs. If he ever did find out, it could drive him insane.”
Mateo wasn’t so worried about that. A well-respected scientific theory hypothesized that people were indeed living in a simulation already, and it didn’t make most people crazy. Hell, today was the day Leona went off to another universe to learn that it was kind of true, but she was fine. When he pointed this fact out to here, she disagreed.
“I did go crazy. I was in therapy with Eight Point Seven for a long time because of this revelation. I mean, we already knew that The Superintendent was playing around with our lives, but to learn it was literally a game that a bunch of children were playing to entertain themselves, was too much.”
“Well, we’re talking about the worst case scenario,” Mateo reasoned. “I trust the natives to know how to program a flawless simulation. Coupled with the fact that he’ll have his memories erased, it should be fine. Eleven-A.D. is too far in the past to have an inkling that the world around you is just zeroes and ones.”
“He has a right to consent,” Olimpia tried to defuse the situation before the Matics could get into a real argument about this. “We can’t erase his memories unless this version of him agrees to it. If we’re confident that he understands it won’t be real, but he won’t remember that it’s not real, then I’m all right with this plan.”
Leona seemed to be off the topic, and onto a more general problem. “We used to be a team. Mateo, I don’t know you anymore. I never know if you’re going to be your original naïve self, your new and improved zen self, or an explosive, vengeful asshole who frightens me. Whatever you and Angela are doing, it’s not working. You are too unpredictable, and you’re too dangerous. We’ll do whatever Statius wants, but after that, I don’t want you part of this team. You can keep the cuff on, but while the rest of us are handling the transitions, I want you to be off doing something else. It doesn’t have to be therapy, but you can’t come back until you can make me feel safe to be around you again. You need time to recover from whatever it is you’re going through.”
“Are you really doing this?” Mateo questioned, mortified and confused.
“I’m really doing this.”
“We need to talk.”
“No, I’m done talking,” she said angrily. “I can’t talk to you. I don’t even wanna look at you anymore. I’ve been trying to stay patient, but that’s not working either. You have options; don’t think you don’t. You can do what I asked, which I think is best, or you can take off the cuff permanently, and fuck off. Or we can get divorced, and you can still fuck off. I won’t have you on this team until you can prove you deserve it.”
“Why don’t you have to prove anything?” Mateo fought.
“Do you two think I have anything to prove?” she posed to the others.
They didn’t say anything.
Leona went on, “I’ve made mistakes, I admit that. I’ve always been me, though. You always know what you’re getting. You can’t say the same anymore, so I’m giving you a choice. What will it be?” She checked her cuff. “You have two minutes.”
Mateo set a timer, and waited the full two minutes. The other three remained silent the whole time. “I’m leaving, but I’m keeping the cuff. I want you to think about something, though. I want you to ask yourself whether you should take off the cuff instead, not because you’re not good for this team, but maybe you’re misunderstanding the situation. This is me now, this is who I am. You can’t understand what it’s like to lose your soul unless it happens to you. That’s not a thing that people can just...learn about second-hand. It wasn’t the scariest time in my life as it was happening, but it gives me shivers now. Am I different? Yes. But I won’t apologize for that, and how dare you demand that I do. I don’t need time to figure myself out. I think you need time to figure me out. So maybe you should take off the cuff, and not come back for another, uhh...”
“Three years, goddammit!” Leona screamed. “The math is not that hard. The next jump is three years, and then another three years, and then nineteen years, and then three years again!”
Mateo stayed calm so as not to lose what he believed to be the upper hand. “Who’s unpredictable now?” He tapped on his cuff, and requested authorization to teleport to Nerakali’s location, which was the only place that he could teleport. Walking away in real time would not have gotten him away from his wife fast enough. Nerakali accepted immediately, probably after having been eavesdropping on their fight.
Once he was gone, Leona fell to her knees, and sat down. She was breathing heavily, and pressing her knuckles against her forehead. She was having a panic attack. “What did I do? What did I just do?”
Olimpia knelt down and wrapped Leona in her arms. “You can’t be around a man who doesn’t make you feel safe. You did what you had to in this moment.”
“Was it even me? Or is this just another twist for the Superintendent to capture his audience?”
No. This was an inevitable development, and a long time coming.

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