Sunday, June 6, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, October 18, 2225

Mateo sat on the bench, pressing his forehead against the palm of his hand so hard, it nearly punched a hole in his leg with his elbow. Nerakali stood before him, patiently waiting to make sure that his rant was over. “I can’t help you, Mateo,” she finally said somberly.
“I know,” Mateo replied. “No one can.”
“I don’t mean that,” Nerakali said. “I can’t help you, because I’ve never been in a relationship before. My siblings and I were all created with two powers. I have the ability to travel through time. Zef had the ability to be an asshole. Arcadia is the one with the ability to fall in love with humans. She has an unhealthy, and let’s face it, twisted way to show her love, but it’s there.”
“Are you saying I should talk to her instead?”
“Oh, absolutely not, don’t do that. You’re the target of her obsession. If you don’t get Leona back, my sister will seize her opportunity, and come after you again.”
“Great, so it’s pointless.”
She reached down, and forced his chin up to make eye contact. “I can’t help you, but I know someone who can. You should talk to her first, but I’m certain that she’ll want to do some couples counseling.”
Mateo looked away, and searched through the version of his notebook that listed all the people he knew that he kept in his mind. “Mallory Hammer?”
Nerakali smiled. “That’s right.”
“Leona won’t go for that.”
“Leave that to me. You talk to Dr. Hammer today, and I’ll make sure Leona gets there tomorrow, okay?”
“All right, I’ll summon her.”
They were finally on their way to the stellar neighborhood. A lot of their transitions involved them crossing back into their own timelines, but that wasn’t so common anymore. It appeared that they were doing that again by going to Bungula, Alpha Centauri, which was where Leona was the first time she experienced 2225. At this point, both she and Mateo were off of their pattern, and living one day at a time. They weren’t together, though. While she was here, he was millions of light years away, on Dardius. This older and wiser version of Leona could remember pining after him, wanting desperately for them to reunite. That seemed so stupid now. She still loved him, sure, but their time apart probably did them good, and it would again. Either way, she was grateful right now, because if she had to meet her alternate self today, at least he would have no chance of also being there.
They connected the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to a Nexus, and jumped away to Bungula. When the transition beacon first appeared on their screens, it said that they had two hours to get there, but once they landed, the countdown started dropping rapidly. They ran out of their ship, and over to where the window was meant to be. The timer got all the way down to thirty seconds before it went back to normal speed. “What the hell was that?” Leona questioned. “Were we in a time bubble, or something?”
“I don’t know,” Jeremy said, “but there’s something different about this window.” He was looking around in AR mode.
“What is it?” Leona questioned, looking around herself. Bungula in the main sequence looked exactly as it did in The Parallel, which didn’t make any sense. While it was entirely possible that the people in this reality would deliberately recreate the design of their main sequence counterparts, the ones in the main sequence would not have done the same on their end, and this was of clear Parallel design. There was something wrong with the cuffs, or the transition window, or both.
“Uhh...Leona?” Olimpia said. “I see what’s different.”
“What?” Leona asked.
“It’s you,” she replied vaguely. “You’re the one flickering.”
I’m flickering?” That didn’t sound good.
“Yeah, I see it too,” Angela confirmed. “What does that mean? Are you going to transition to the other side?”
“Oh, shit,” Leona realized. “I know what this is; it’s an ambu—” All of her friends disappeared, leaving her alone in what looked like a waiting room.
Dr. Mallory Hammer peeked her head through a door, and smiled. “Mrs. Matic? We’re ready for you now.”
Leona frowned. “I did not agree to this.”
“Still, you need it.”
“I wouldn’t think a reputable doctor would try to give someone counseling without their consent,” Leona argued.
Dr. Hammer sighed. “There are two doors in this room. You choose. Do you want things to get better, or do you wanna be a whiny little asshole? One of you has taken the first step, but this is a three-legged race, and he can’t go anywhere with you.”
“Oh, great metaphor,” Leona said sarcastically.
Dr. Hammer ducked back into the room, but left the door open.
Leona looked over to the exit, and then back to the first door. “Goddammit,” she muttered under her breath. She walked into the room to find Dr. Hammer just sitting down on her chair, holding her tablet. Mateo was on the couch, sitting as far from the door as possible. He somehow inched even farther away upon seeing her. He was recoiling. “Okay, you make it look like I’m an abusive partner.”
“Is that how you see yourself, Mrs. Matic?” Dr. Hammer posed.
“No, of course not,” she argued. “He’s being dramatic. I kicked him out of the house, because he was acting crazy, and I didn’t feel safe. Now he’s projecting that onto me, like I’m the bad guy.”
“No one said you were the bad guy,” Dr. Hammer assured her. “Why don’t you have a seat? Yes, right there, it’s fine. You don’t have to cuddle, but if you weren’t both trying to make this work, then instead of talking to me, you would be speaking with The Officiant about a divorce.”
“Is that even possible?” Leona asked.
Mateo twitched.
“I mean academically,” Leona clarified. “Sort of. No, I mean—” She was this close to hyperventilating.
“It’s okay,” Dr. Hammer said. “Take your time.”
Leona composed herself. “The Officiant made it sound like divorce wasn’t a thing. I don’t want to bring her into this, because I’m worried I misunderstood, and divorce actually is possible, and that she’ll force it upon us.”
“Okay,” Dr. Hammer said. “That’s good. Mr. Matic, do you agree? Do you not want to get divorced?”
“I don’t want a divorce,” he stated.
“So, we’re all on the same page. I don’t want you to divorce either. Now, we all know each other. My name is Dr. Mallory Hammer, but please just call me Mallory. I don’t say that just to sound friendly. I really do prefer my first name. Can we all use first names in here?”
“Yes,” both of them said.
Mallory straightened her skirt, and considered that path forward. “I would like to open the floor for each of you to...tell me where you believe this tension in your relationship is coming from. You will do this by taking turns, and will not interrupt each other. I spoke with Mateo yesterday, and I don’t want to poison the discussion with what I already know about what he believes, so Leona, you should go first.”
“It’s just been tough to be around him,” Leona began to explain. “He’s so unpredictable now. Ever since he and Angela had that run-in with the Ochivari, he’s been different. He had to literally lose his soul to save lives, and even when we got that fixed, he’s been weird. I just never know what’s going to happen. Truthfully, it scares me.”
“That wasn’t my fault,” Mateo argued.
“What did I say about interruptions?” Mallory questioned.
“I’m sorry.”
Leona wanted to respond to his claim anyway. “I know it wasn’t your fault. Maybe none of this is. Maybe that psychic woman who fixed you didn’t do it right, or maybe this is just an unavoidable side effect. It doesn’t really matter, I still feel unsafe.”
The two of them waited in case Leona wasn’t finished, but she was, so Mallory prompted Mateo to tell his truth. “I think she’s been just as unpredictable. She used to be so patient and understanding. And not just with me. She would meet someone knew, and always give them the benefit of the doubt, and wanted to help. I’m not saying she doesn’t help anymore, but she just looks so...tired of it. Do you want out of this pattern?”
Leona didn’t answer.
“I don’t want to do this opening statement thing,” he complained. “I want her to answer my question.”
“I don’t have an answer,” Leona said. “That’s not true, I do. Because I don’t. I don’t want off this pattern. For the first time, I feel like I am helping people. Maybe we did it a little in the beginning, but it wasn’t our purpose. We didn’t have a purpose. Now that we’re finally free of the powers that be, I feel like we’re putting some good into the universe.”
“That may be true,” Mallory jumped in. “Of course, I mean to say that it is true, you’re doing good things. But the question is, do you have to be on the Bearimy-Matic pattern to do it? Do you have to be on any pattern to do it? Plenty of people do great things with their lives, and they live one day at a time. They don’t travel through time, or go to other planets. Do you think it’s possible that you actually are perturbed by the new pattern? It used to be that you showed up every year, but now it’s sometimes three years, and sometimes it’s twenty. That must be hard”
She hadn’t been so mindful of this, but yeah. When Jupiter was in charge, it was somewhat antagonistic. He didn’t give them a choice. Now that Nerakali was the boss, it did seem a little weird that they were still bound by the same arbitrary limitation.
“That’s true,” Mateo said. He appeared to have been thinking the same thing. “Why do we skip so much time? That’s not necessary at all. Do we even need to skip any time? Couldn’t we just take off our cuffs?”
“No,” Leona replied. “Thanks to Tamerlane Pryce. When he resurrects people, he doesn’t—or maybe can’t—give people powers, but he can replicate patterns. Or maybe he can just replicate ours, because skipping forward in time isn’t the same thing as going into the past, and creating a new reality, or manipulating time in some other way.”
“Oh, that’s right, I forgot,” Mateo mused. “Still, we can suppress our pattern. Or we can just suppress Jeremy’s. Our cuffs give us those options, and Nerakali gives us access. She hasn’t limited us, as far as I know.”
“Is that what you want to do?” Leona offered. “Do you want to switch off the patterns? I suppose these cuffs are exactly what Missy, and all those people in Ansutah, were looking for. We’re using them to share, but that’s only one use.”
“Are we doing this? Are we going to try to change the game?”
“We’ll have to ask the others what they think.”
“First, what do you think we should...” Mateo looked around, but there was no sign of Mallory. “Dr. Hammer? Where did you go?”
“She disappeared,” Leona revealed. “I saw her out of the corner of my eye. It looked like she did it on purpose. She picked up her phone and cup of tea just before.”
“Why?” Mateo wondered.
“I think we’re back on track. Or at least we’re on two tracks that are about to connect with each other.”
“The question is, when we do reach the railroad switch, will we slip onto the same track seamlessly, or will we crash into each other?”
Leona stood up. “I suppose that’s for us to decide. One of us will have to get there first to avoid a collision.”
He nodded.
She reached a hand out to him. “Let me be the one to speed up. If you keep going as fast as you have been, we’ll miss each other.”

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