Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 5, 2363

Everything had to happen fast, or the team was going to lose everything. Mateo wasn’t raised to be a fighter. His parents taught him to try to reason with people, and understand where they were coming from. Ever since he became a time traveler, very rarely was he expected to use physical violence to solve his problems. Today was one of those times when it was absolutely necessary. Before this Milford asshole could try to shoot Angela again, Mateo reached back, and took one swing. He clocked him right in the jaw, knocking him out instantly. Angela, meanwhile, gracefully fell to her back as Jeremy collapsed on top of her. She instinctively wrapped her arms around his chest, and applied pressure to the bullet wound. Though Ramses was significantly less hurt, he too required medical attention. Olimpia sat him down to tend to him.
“Do you remember Hammer’s pager number?” Mateo asked his wife.
“I shouldn’t need it. We forget, but Jeremy is salmon. Sarka should come. He has to. I know we were resurrected, but he has to.”
Everyone froze, waiting for a portal to open. They often did that, and were usually met with either disappointment, or relief, depending on what they were expecting. This time, the powers that be actually delivered. A portal did open up, and Dr. Baxter Sarka did appear to them. He too was salmon, which meant he didn’t have very much control over how he ran his practice. The PTB even decided what medical supplies would be available to him for any given case. He never knew what he was going to get until he opened his black bag. “Dammit!” he shouted.
“What the hell is this crap?” Leona questioned as she was examining the contents over his shoulder.
“What year is this?” Sarka asked.
“It’s 2341,” Leona replied.
Dr. Sarka shook his head as he was removing something that kind of looked like pliers from his bag. They may have actually been true pliers. “Nothing is sealed, nothing is sanitary. The nature of my tools is largely determined by the time period in which my patient happens to be at the time. These are not 24th century supplies. Do you have alcohol on this vessel?”
Mateo had already retrieved their own first aid kit, and immediately handed it to him. It wasn’t equipped with surgical instruments, but it did have rubbing alcohol. Sarka got to work, cutting Jeremy’s shirt, wiping the blood away, and disinfecting everything he could.
“It’s 1816,” Leona realized.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Sarka didn’t stop working.
“That man on the floor over there?” Leona tried to begin to figure this out. “He claimed he was trying to send Angela to 1816. He seemed to believe shooting her with his gun would do the trick.”
Mateo had retrieved that too. He knelt down, and presented it to Sarka, just in case he had ever seen anything like it before. It was a gun, absolutely, but it was of an unfamiliar design. It looked like modern tech was attached to an antique artifact. Steampunk was probably the best term for it.
“Never seen it before,” Sarka said. “If it was meant to send him through time, it didn’t do a very good job at it, and this certainly looks like a real bullet wound. As far as I’ve ever seen, transporter weapons begin to dissolve on impact, and only leave superficial wounds. This is a potentially fatal injury.”
“I think it’s working,” Leona continued. “I just think it’s slow. I think he’s supposed to die first, then be transported to the past, and somehow be revived? I don’t know why it would work like that, but it would explain your medical bag.”
“Yes, I would call this early 19th century medicine.”
“Can you fix him?” Angela begged.
“With what they gave me to work with?” Sarka presumed. “It’s a toss-up.” He was nothing if not honest.
Everyone’s cuffs began to beep, indicating that they were going to make their next pattern jump in five minutes. “Oh no,” Olimpia exclaimed. “Will he come with us?”
“The cuffs are linked to the AOC,” Leona answered. “Everyone inside should come with. We’ve seen it before.”
Making an executive decision, Mateo began to drag Milford’s unconscious body to the steps.
“What are you doing?” Leona questioned.
“He’s not coming with us.”
“Good idea,” Leona said. “But you’re never gonna get him all the way up to the airlock. Not alone, not in time.” What the others hadn’t noticed was that Leona had quickly inspected the transporter gun after Mateo set it down on the table in front of her. A dial specified a year. She grabbed it, spun it to a random new destination, and shot Milford in the forehead.
“Whoa,” Olimpia said
“Yeah,” Ramses agreed.
“If he wasn’t crazy, then he was just dispatched to...” She took a look at the dial. “Fifteen-sixteen. If he was crazy, then...I suppose I just murdered the man who shot two of my friends, and tried to shoot a third.” Leona surveyed the room. “Does anybody here think I should be butthurt about that?” No one vocalized a reply, but they didn’t seem to think she should feel butthurt. “How are we doing, Sarka?”
“He’s stable, for now. I don’t think I should be in the middle of a procedure when we jump to the future. I’ll resume in a few minutes. It’s not too terribly deep, so it shouldn’t be hard to pull it out.”
So they waited, and they jumped, and then Jeremy howled in pain. Sarka tried to find the source of the issue, but nothing about his chest wound had changed. Then Angela noticed something. “Doctor, his arm.”
Sarka lifted it up. The skin under and around the Cassidy cuff was glowing red, like it was burning. Jeremy never stopped crying out in pain, but he quieted down a bit.
“He must still be linked to 1816, and that jump did not do him any favors,” Sarka assumed.
“What do we do?” Leona asked.
“If you take off that cuff, and he dies, he’ll jump to the past, and end up in whatever condition this time bullet is designed to put him in.”
“What if we don’t take off the cuff?”
“He could still die, but you’ll jump with him,” Sarka warned. “Like I said, I’ve never seen this tech before. I don’t understand why it needs to be a real bullet. They usually aren’t, because there’s not generally any reason to spirit someone away when they’re just going to die anyway.”
Hoping to find some answers, Leona opened up the gun, and dropped the remaining three bullets on the table. “White. They’re white.”
Mateo approached, and looked for himself. “The color of resurrection.” He was quite familiar with it, as were half the people here.
“These things don’t just send you to the past,” Leona explained. “They send you to Pryce’s afterlife simulation. Either you wake up in the simulation itself with a whitecard attachment, or automatically in a new body.”
“I don’t think you killed that guy, Leona,” Mateo said, just in case she actually did feel butthurt. “Not permanently.”
Jeremy was still in pain, but he was whimpering now. He didn’t want to interrupt their conversation.
“Get that bullet out, doctor.”
Sarka got back to work. He reached into the hole with his pliers, and started feeling around for the metal. Something seemed to be wrong, though. “Shit.” He removed the pliers. There was no bullet on the other, but the tip was covered in a whitish-red fluid.
“Explain,” Leona demanded simply.
“It did dissolve,” Sarka began. “I don’t know if it was the time jump, or if it would have happened anyway, but I imagine instead of collapsing upon impact, it was designed to burrow itself into the target, and dissolve in the body, so someone like me couldn’t take it out. I am now almost sure that the reason he hasn’t jumped back yet is because of that cuff. and it’s connection to all of you.”
“Okay,” Leona said confidently. “All I have to do is modify the settings to make his primary, instead of mine. That should be enough to send us all back with him. We’ll deal with the repercussions later.”
“No,” Jeremy insisted. Without warning, he reached over with his good hand, and removed the cuff from his arm. He disappeared pretty much instantly.
They all just kind of sat there, regarding the space where Jeremy once was.
“That’s okay,” Leona said finally. “All we have to do is get back to 1816. We have friends, we can make that happen.”
“We have to help Ramses first,” Olimpia reminded them. “He was shot as well.”
“I think I’m fine,” he contended. “The bullet went through and through. I’m just glad it didn’t hit Angela after it came out.”
“Still, you need to be treated. I do at least have a sewing ki—” Before Dr. Sarka could finish his sentence, he disappeared as well. Being not salmon, Ramses apparently didn’t deserve the PTB’s medical assistance. Yet they had seen plenty of exceptions before.
“That’s also okay,” Leona said. “I can sew.”
“No,” Angela asked. “Let me do it. I’m the one at fault here.”
“You know that none of us blames you, right?” Mateo asked.
“You don’t have to,” she said.
“Let’s just say it was your turn,” Mateo told her. “We’ve all brought bad juju to the team. It’s like a rite of passage now. I can’t tell you how many bad guys I’ve unwittingly summoned.”
“All right,” Angela allowed, but she wasn’t completely convinced, or relieved. “I’m still going to be the one to sew him up.”

After Angela was finished, Olimpia agreed to stay with Ramses on the ship while he recovered. The other three then went off in search of someone who could send them back in time to 1816 so they could retrieve their lost comrade. If all went according to plan, he would spend less than a day there before being able to return to his rightful place on the team. They decided that their best option would be to go to Dardius, where everyone they met would know about time travel, and they could speak freely. To their surprise, they didn’t even need to find a specific person with time travel abilities. Scientists had long ago figured out how to use the Nexus for such purposes. They even had a pretty good idea of Jeremy’s arrival date. After putting on authentic blending-in clothes, they stepped down onto the platform, and waited for the tech to send them to a settlement in pre-union Missouri.
They spent a few hours searching for Jeremy by canvassing the area with an artificially antiquated photograph of him. They were able to find him working at a tailor. It seemed to be his job to roll up the cloth, and clean the equipment. He seemed to be trying to mind his own business, and not make any trouble. Mateo asked to go in alone while the ladies waited outside.
“Evenin’,” the tailor greeted him at the door.
“I’m lookin’ for a new suit,” Mateo said. He tried to lock eyes with Jeremy, who wasn’t paying any attention.
“What you’re wearing looks to be pretty nice. Get it in New York?”
“That’s right,” Mateo lied. Now he was just staring.
“Well, what were you thinking now?”
“Get me something out the back.”
“Nothing out here is of any interest to you?”
“I want something...different. You must have...patterns that most men don’t wear.” He tried to hit that word pretty hard, but Jeremy didn’t blink. “Perhaps something in salmon.”
“I’ll have my assistant look for you. Boy!”
Now Jeremy finally faced the right direction.
“No,” Mateo said. “I want your eyes. You are the artist, correct?”
“Very good, sir.” The tailor left to find something that Mateo didn’t care about.
Even as Mateo approached, Jeremy still didn’t seem to recognize him. “What’s your name?”
“Job, sir.” He was afraid to make eye contact.
“How long have you worked here?”
At this, Jeremy couldn’t help but chuckle. “All my life.”
“Just about as long as I can remember. I’m touched, you see. I can’t recall a single thing from my life past five weeks ago.”
“You must wonder,” Mateo guessed, “who you were before. You must have left someone you cared about behind.”
“If they cared about me,” Jeremy reasoned, “they could have found me. My story was in all the papers.”
“ come from a distant land.”
“Perhaps,” Jeremy conceded.
“Are you happy..with this life?”
“Happy is the life you make, sir. I believe God took my memories for a reason. The physicians can find no brain damage. As far as they can tell, my mind has chosen to forget. This is my life now.”
Mateo placed a hand on his good friend’s shoulder. Milford wanted to get his ex-wife back to this year, so they could restart their life together. She was never meant to remember anything about the future. In Jeremy’s case, he wasn’t originally in the 19th century, so all of his memories were taken. Philosophically speaking, this wasn’t really Jeremy Bearimy at all. It was a new man, and this new man, Job wanted to stay. Mateo could see it in his eyes. “I’ve been there, brother.”
Jeremy squinted for half a second before letting go.
“You take care, ya hear?”
Before he left, Mateo placed his purse in Jeremy’s hands. In it were 20 half eagle coins, each worth five dollars. “For the conversation.”
The tailor returned before Mateo could exit the shop. When he asked his assistant where the potential customer was going, Job didn’t have an answer. He took a peek in the purse, and just said, “I quit.”
It was hard, leaving him behind, but Mateo was confident that it was the right thing to do. Could someone like Tertius Valerius, or a version of Nerakali, restore his memories? Probably. But was that ethical? He would never get the answer to that question. He would just have to move on, and hope that it wasn’t all a mistake. When Leona and Angela asked him what was going on, he simply repeated Job’s words, which were a mantra he often said himself, about their own lives. They made their way back to 2363, and never saw Jeremy again.

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