Sunday, August 8, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 23, 1693

They weren’t allowed to return to the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A little side punishment for their insolence was that they would lose all modern convenience privileges. They were going to live in the past, as the past people lived. It was unclear what Anatol and Zeferino were going to do with their ship, but if even one access panel was out of place when they finally got back to it, Leona was going to flip out. Since it was necessary either way to blend in with the natives, they had to find new clothes to wear. They took a quick detour to sometime in the future at The Hub on Tribulation Island. There, Téa was able to provide them with the appropriate attire and accessories for life in the 17th century. They gave her a friendly greeting, and she greeted them back, but they didn’t talk about anything. They didn’t know which timeline this was, or how simpatico they were. It was best just to acknowledge that they knew each other, remain pleasant, and move on.
Once they were fitted, they went back to the past, but not as far as they were before. It was now 1693. It would seem as though they were no longer on any sort of predictable pattern. It was still possible—maybe the jump would always be 85 years—but the most likely explanation was that the time of patterns was over, and they would just go whenever and wherever they were needed. The antagonists would probably still send them ever forwards so they didn’t accidentally interfere with their own past work in the future. At this rate, they would be back to their general time period in only about a week. But again, they didn’t really know anything.
They spent one night here in realtime, so when they woke up, it was April 23, and about time for their next mission. Their breakfast wasn’t very good, but they weren’t allowed the status of noblemen here, so they took what they could get. They were only entitled to eat some bread and cornmeal. Mateo added it to his mental list of the things he hated about the past. Who would live like this? It just felt so strange to him, even though he knew that most people hadn’t heard of time travel, and they certainly didn’t have access to it. He hoped that Leona’s weeklong estimate was right, and they would be done with this before too long. He did not vocalize his feelings, and he figured everyone else was deliberately keeping their complaints to themselves too. If the antagonists realized quite how annoyed they were with this whole thing, they might make it worse. They assumed Angela would be the most comfortable here. It wasn’t her time period, but they were closer to it in terms of technology. She was actually the most uncomfortable, though. Because she already lived through it, and she knew how much it sucked. Mateo kept clocking her reaching for her handheld device in her back pocket. Not only was the device not there, but nor was a pocket. It was presumably illegal for a woman to have pockets, because that would make her life too easy.
They walked down the stone street to get to the other side of the city. It wasn’t that bad, except for the excrement all over that people just threw out their windows. They were worried that, even in these garments, the locals would be suspicious of them. They might not have been holding themselves up correctly, and not everyone on the team had the right skin color. Seven strangers walking together must have looked weird too. For the most part, however, people just left them alone, and focused on their own lives. Their minds were most likely preoccupied with how much they hated living like this as well, and wishing there was a faster way to get across town. Leona was frustrated for similar reasons. So much could go wrong here. It would be far safer if they just lived in The Parallel, and pulled people through like normal. Before he disappeared, Anatol hinted that they weren’t going to use transition windows in the same way that Jupiter and Nerakali had. He was still going to include that power as part of the program, but the rescues were too far back in the timeline to be able to handle such a thing. They were going to have to get creative.
Leona looked around to make sure no one was watching. Then she pulled her sleeve back, and checked her Cassidy cuff. It was still technically operational, but its functionality was severely limited. The screen only showed them where they were, and where they were supposed to go. No maps, no messages, no features. It didn’t even have a clock in the corner. “This is it,” she said, stopping in front of a door.
“It looks like it’s in that direction,” Jeremy pointed out as he was consulting his own cuff.
“It doesn’t show how far away our target is,” Leona began to explain, “but I’ve been keeping an eye on our pace. I’m guessing the person we’re looking for is up against the wall of this apartment. We need this door.”
Jeremy nodded in understanding, still looking at his cuff. “Target is on the move.”
“How do we handle this?” Mateo questioned. “What do we do?”
Not bothering to wait for a discussion, Olimpia pounded on the door.
The little target dot stopped, and started moving in the opposite direction, towards them. An oldish man opened the door. “Can I help you?”
They didn’t discuss what they were going to say to him, so it was awkward for a moment. Olimpia seemed sick of waiting for other people to make the decisions. “You need to come with us right now.”
“Okay, let me retrieve my bag,” the man said. He wasn’t expecting them, but he acted like this sort of thing happened all the time. He left the door open, and walked back down the hallway.
“We have a new target now,” Jeremy announced. “That’s probably where we’re supposed to take him.”
“How did you know we would take him anywhere?” Angela asked.
“Apartment’s not on fire,” Olimpia replied. “He’s just hanging out, enjoying the day. I’m sure he’s not in any immediate danger. The mission is somewhere else.”
“Do you require the leeches?” the man shouted from the back.
“He’s a doctor,” Mateo guessed, remembering that people used to use leeches to get poisoned blood out of the body.
“Yes, bring the leeches!” Olimpia shouted back.
Doctor,” Leona said just for the group, using airquotes. “Anyway, they’re called physicians. You call him a doctor, he might be confused. His title is mister.”
The physician came back with what he needed for a medical emergency that didn’t exist. Or maybe it did exist. They didn’t know what the mission was, or what its purpose was. Maybe Anatol needed someone else’s life to be saved, and this was his way of accomplishing that without the aid of the two known time traveling doctors. The physicians followed them without question. He didn’t even ask people their names, and they didn’t ask for his. Jeremy took up the rear so he could keep an eye on the cuff screen without getting caught. It was only telling them whether they were heading in the right direction, or not. It couldn’t plot a course for them through the streets, so they had to be real careful with it. Finally, they were past the city limits, and into the edges of the countryside. Still, the physician didn’t seem perturbed. He patiently walked with them, down the dirt road, up the trail, and into the clearing.
“Uhh, we’re here,” Jeremy said.
They spread out a little to look for clues, but all they saw were plants, trees, and grass. “How are we on time?” Dalton asked.
“It doesn’t have a time,” Jeremy answered.
“Well, how long do we wait?” Dalton furthered.
What are we waiting for?” the physician asked.
“We don’t know,” Leona said vaguely.
“It’s changed,” Jeremy said. “We have to go this way now.”
“What are you looking at?” The physician wasn’t freaking out, but he was growing concerned.
“That’s the direction we came from,” Siria noted. “Are they messing with us?”
“I don’t know,” Mateo said. “It doesn’t matter. They’re holding all the cards. Let’s just keep following it until we end up where we’re meant to be.”
And so the group got back on the trail. They took it all the way to the dirt road, which took them to the stone streets, which took them back through the city, and then right back to the physician’s apartment. It appeared to be some kind of exercise in futility.
“Morning, Mister Stroud,” said a young woman as they were standing at the door, confused. “Who are your friends?”
“Not friends of mine,” the physician said. “Friends of a patient.”
“Oh. Is that where you’ve been for the last week?”
“How do you mean?” Stroud asked.
“You have been gone for a week,” she contended. “We assumed you had business in Chaslow again.”
“I saw you just at dawn,” Stroud argued.
The woman shook her head. “That was very much a week ago, sir. You look tired. You should get some rest. Good day to you all.”
Many returned with things like “good day,” and “good day to you.”
“What did you do to me?” Stroud was upset now.
Leona stepped forward like she was going to give him an explanation. She stood there for a moment before saying, “run.”
Most of the team ran off, including the newbies. They all trusted her judgment. Only she and Mateo remained. “We’re sorry to have wasted your time,” he said.
The confounded physician stared back at the two of them. He didn’t have an explanation for his missing time, and he already understood that they weren’t going to give one to him. The three of them turned to watch the rest of the team disappear around the corner, then the Matics casually left the apartment, and followed them at a comfortable walking pace.
Jeremy managed to get them a single message through the cuff. It was nothing more than a question mark. Leona replied with a simple GO. Stroud wasn’t going to call the coppers on them, or something, but it was still best if the majority of them just quickly returned to the safehouse. Leona and Mateo, meanwhile, were just going to hold hands, and enjoy some time alone for a bit. Once they were back, they explained to the group that everything was fine. The theory was that Stroud was destined to die sometime in the past week, and that it was their job to help him skip over that death. They probably crossed in and out of a transition window in the woods without realizing it. Most importantly, he didn’t realize it. He would never be able to explain, but he wouldn’t want to lose his station, so he would keep quiet about it, and just move on with his life. Hopefully he was now destined to save more lives with medicine.

No comments :

Post a Comment