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Sunday, October 3, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: February 11, 2341

There were eleven Cassidy cuffs, and twelve people. The time of requirement was over, though, so no one had to put one on if they didn’t want to. Leona grew to be quite comfortable with the Bearimy-Matic pattern, but there was no guarantee Jeremy would want to have anything to do with them anymore. According to their calculations, The Warrior was the last person with the power to transition them back and forth between the main sequence and The Parallel. It hopped from Jupiter to Nerakali, but seemed to end with him. Kivi pointed out that this didn’t mean no one could control them anymore. He didn’t use that power very much, and it wasn’t the only use of the primary cuff. Before they made the jump to 2341, Leona and Ramses worked on the cuffs to make sure no one could use them without their full authorization. Someone had to take ownership of the primary in order for them to function properly, so it had to be someone committed to the pattern, and to the team.
Bran, Aeolia, Siria, Dalton, and D.B. had never become full members of that team, and didn’t express any interest in joining officially now. So their numbers problem was instantly solved right there. Now they just needed to pose the question to the others. Ramses said he was tired of being left behind, and going off on tangents. He wanted to stick to his best friends, and not let anything take him away again. Jeremy also wanted to keep going like this. He didn’t know what they were going to do with their time, but it didn’t make sense to live one day at a time, and his original pattern forced him to isolate himself from others. This was the best solution. Olimpia said she had to stay, so her voice wouldn’t have to echo anymore. Leona explained that this didn’t mean she had to stay on the team. She could wear her own cuff, and just go off to live her life. Each one was perfectly capable of operating on its own. Her reaction to this truth made it clear that the suppression of her time illness wasn’t the only reason she wanted to stay, so they dropped the subject, and pretended like this was her only choice. Angela and Kivi didn’t give reasons, but they too chose to remain.
So now they were seven. After saying their goodbyes to their other friends, who had their own lives to lead, they synced up the cuffs, and made the next jump. It was February 11, 2341. Leona revealed that they were now back on track. Had Anatol never pushed them back to the 16th century, based on the number of temporal jumps they had since made, this was the date they would have ended up on. The question remained, what were they going to do? The pattern was one thing, but were they just going to relax by the sea for the rest of their lives? The primary reason they wore the cuffs before was because someone had intel about people needing saving, and how to go about doing it. Even Anatol had served them in this capacity, in his own twisted way. Now they had no purpose. Now they only had time.
Near the end of the day, they were still sitting around the table in the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which was parked on an ocean cliff. They weren’t saying anything. They expected to start discussing their plans for the future, but no one seemed to have any ideas. “Did Anatol have any friends or family?” Olimpia asked finally, breaking the silence.
“Well, not that we know of,” Leona answered. “Why?”
“I’m thinking about retaliation,” Olimpia furthered. We defeated him, so who might come for revenge? Isn’t that always what happens?”
“It was a draw,” Mateo reminded her. “Yes, we convinced him to give up, but he still made his own choice. I don’t think anyone would have anything to be vengeful about, it’s not like we killed him with the hundemarke. Like Lee-Lee said, he seemed to be rather alone. As far as I can tell, Juan Ponce de León was the closest thing he had to a friend. The Sergeant was a rival, and we all know how complicated frenemy relationships are. But still, if he was as close to someone as we are to each other, they haven’t revealed themselves yet.”
“That is who I’m worried about, someone we don’t even know exists,” Olimpia maintained. “You didn’t know how many Prestons there were in the beginning, did you?”
“I can’t recall,” Mateo said honestly. “I think I met Nerakali without knowing she was related to Zef.”
Leona stood up, and addressed the aether. “If anyone has anything against us, they might as well present themselves to us now! There is no point in dilly-dallying!”
They all looked around, waiting for a portal to open up. None did.
“I believe all of our enemies have been defeated,” Ramses figured. “Or turned to our side. I don’t think there is anyone left.”
“We are rather close to The Edge,” Kivi said casually, but also made it sound like she was talking about a capital-e edge.
“Is that a concept we’re supposed to know about already?” Angela questioned.
“The edge...of time travel?” Kivi put forth, thinking it would trigger something in their memories. “The year 2400?”
“What are you talking about?” Mateo asked.
“Is there some sort of event in 2400 that prevents time travelers from existing?” Ramses continued. “Like the Panikon?”
“I don’t know what that is, but it’s not some kind of temporal barrier. It’s just kind of...the end of our history.”
“Explain,” Leona pretty much demanded.
Kivi laughed. “People travel through time for what they believe to be various reasons, but it really all comes down to the one reason. They wanna see something interesting. They wanna save people’s lives...or troll on them. They like being around people who don’t understand what the universe is really like.”
“That changes in fifty-nine years?” Angela guessed.
“I don’t have all the details about how it comes to pass, but more than one version of me lived naturally on the other side of 2400. The humans become aware of advanced temporal mechanics, and begin to use it to develop their technology. Travelers don’t often visit the timeline past this point, because they’re not unique anymore, and life isn’t as exciting. Death has been conquered, and from what I gather, the reframe engine becomes public knowledge, and then ubiquitous. It’s not illegal to jump as far into the future, but it’s not done very much, as far as I can tell. I hear they call it the Edge.”
“Love, how quickly will we get there?”
“Assuming we stay on the Bearimy-Matic pattern?” Leona assumes. “Eight more jumps.”
“Is that bad?” Angela asked the obvious question.
“No,” Kivi said confidently. “The world changes in that year, but the world changes every year, doesn’t it? It never stops changing. It’s easy for a traveler to forget that normal humans still experience time travel. They watch the shaping of the timeline as well, they just see more detail.”
“We still need to figure out what we’re doing with our lives. This changes nothing,” Olimpia noted.
“It changes everything,” Leona contended. “We came here under the assumption that our problem is that there could be people out there who need our help, but we don’t know where and when. But this new information is suggesting that they probably don’t exist. Even if they do exist, they’ll probably not exist by next week. We have eight more jumps before the humans start taking care of themselves completely. We’ve always known about this. That’s why the Savior of Earth program was shut down a century prior, and why Anatol sent us back several centuries.”
“Are you suggesting that we recreate what he did to us?” Ramses asked.
“Maybe not quite as far as that,” Leona thought. “But there must be some time period that isn’t protected by someone else. The Salmon Runners have the end of the 20th century, and beginning of the 21st. Camden and the IAC are in the middle of that, and Mercury’s crusade is near the end of it, parallel to Serkan, Ace, and Paige. I’ve never heard of anyone protecting the mid-20th century, though.”
“Except for the Saviors,” Mateo said.
“Right,” she admitted. “I suppose the whole timeline is covered; that’s what the powers that be do. We keep having the same conversation about what we’re meant to do with our lives, and it never gets resolved. We just end up being distracted by some new or old antagonist.”
Angela spoke, “I think we all need to acknowledge the fact that life was a lot easier when someone was telling us how to live it. If we’re right, and there are no more bad guys, angry at us for what we did to someone else, then it’s up to us to come up with ideas. And I believe what we’re saying now is that those ideas don’t come from this region of the timeline.”
“Unless we go to other planets,” Jeremy said as if everyone was thinking the same thing.
“Those are pretty well taken care of too,” Leona tried to explain. I think there’s at least one traveler in every colony in the stellar neighborhood.”
“So we go beyond it,” Jeremy offered.
“Leona shook her head. “Operation Starseed launched in 2250, which means it’s nearly a hundred light years away from Gatewood by now. While that is indeed beyond the neighborhood, there hasn’t been enough time for a culture to develop to the point where they need our help. If they’re young enough, and expected to advance on their own, they’re probably being secretly protected by the artificial intelligence assigned to their planet. If they were made aware of their own Earthan origins, then they probably don’t need to be protected. We would be looking for a culture in the middle, who was eventually left alone by its AI, and is still struggling to learn from their mistakes. I don’t think those cultures exist yet.”
“Then we’re already on the path to reaching them,” Jeremy argued. “The Bearimy-Matic pattern should get us there pretty quickly according to the dimension of time, and the AOC should get us there quickly in the dimensions of space. We just need to wait, and then find the right planet. Maybe we look for a world that looks like a less advanced version of Earth.”
“I know exactly where you can find a world like that.” A man was standing at the bottom of the steps. No one seemed to have seen him arrive, suggesting he teleported in. He had a gun trained on them.
“Milford?” Angela asked, fear in her voice.
“I have been looking a long time for you.”
“How did you get out?” she asked him. She stood up, and backed away. Ramses stood as well, and made sure he was standing between them.
“There was new management in the afterlife simulation after you left,” Milford explained.
“Ellie Underhill, yes,” Angela said, thinking she understood.
Milford shook his head. “She and her friends disappeared. Someone else took over after her. He found me in the red, woke me up, and gave me the gift of resurrection.”
“What was the red level again?” Kivi asked the group.
“Static,” Milford answered instead. “People think that being shelved is the worst punishment after the black death, but nothing is compared to the torture of being in a room for centuries, unable to communicate with anyone, or do anything. That is the true hell, and I will never forgive you for putting me there.”
“I didn’t put you there,” Angela shouted. “You murdered me, and then when you died yourself, you suffered consequences for it. I had nothing to do with that decision. That’s on you, buddy. What are you even doing here? This has nothing to do with you!”
“You’re right,” Milford agreed. “I don’t care what’s happening here. I’ve only come to put you back where you belong. I regret accidentally killing you. Don’t forget that I didn’t mean to do it, and now I have the chance to undo it. I’m sending you back to 1816, so we can restart our lives together.” He shot Ramses, knowing he would fall down, and give him a clear shot at his true target. Unfortunately for him, Ramses wasn’t the only one who wanted to protect her. While Mateo was going after the shooter, Jeremy stepped in as the new shield. Whereas Ramses was hit in the shoulder, Jeremy’s bullet landed right in his chest. He didn’t die, but it didn’t look good.

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