Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 15, 2373

To be honest, no one really knew how Tamerlane Pryce did it. That wasn’t to say it was so shocking and impressive that there were no words to describe it. It was just that no one had taken the time to study Level Elevens, to find out exactly how he resurrected certain people with unusual temporal properties. He seemed to have limitations. He couldn’t transform anybody into any kind of artificial choosing one he could think of. If that were possible, all humans throughout history probably would have eventually ended up with time powers, like that episode of Heroes where they go into the future, to a world where superpowers are apparently ubiquitous and affordable. There appeared to be a difference between, say, being able to teleport a target’s individual molecules, and simply skipping chunks of time. Relatively speaking, it was probably pretty easy to give Mateo, Leona, and Angela the one-day-per-year pattern, but something like Nerakali’s brain blending abilities were likely out of his reach. One thing about this process—however it worked—they recently learned was that he did it with both a corporeal component, and a neurological one. When Mateo and Kestral swapped their bodies, both of them found themselves jumping to the future come midnight central; Kestral because she was now inhabiting a body that experienced accelerated time, and Mateo still because his consciousness was also involved.
This made a bit of sense, from an evil mastermind’s perspective at least. Pryce wanted the three of them to be on this pattern, whether they were happy about it or not. He didn’t want any one of them to be able to just jump to a new body, and suddenly be free from his choice. All of Mateo and Leona’s experiences leading up to their temporary deaths, and all that came after it, resulted in both of them deciding that this was what they preferred anyway. They were time travelers, who were gonna end up in the future faster than most people. It became a part of them a long time ago, and they wouldn’t want to give it up. All the times they did, like when they took a break from it on Flindekeldan, or when they were on the Bearimy-Matic pattern, they were uncomfortable. They may have thought they liked it, but they have since admitted to themselves that this is the pattern they want. Kestral made no such declaration. There had to be a way to switch them back. It wasn’t fair to her.
Dr. Mallory was here, as was Six Turner. The latter was the sixth incarnation of Paige Turner, and evidently histories’ foremost expert in consciousness transference. She probably understood it better than Pryce himself. She didn’t say how far into the future she lived, but she made it sound pretty far. She had the two patients sit next to each other in a loveseat while she stood behind them. At the moment, she was sifting through Mateo’s head as if hunting lice. Or rather, it was Kestral’s head, but Mateo was using it at the time.
“Can you see my brain right now?”
“Shh,” Six hissed.
“You mean my brain,” Kestral argued.
“Shh!” she hissed louder. She continued to use her magical powers to investigate their minds. When she was finished, she sighed greatly, practically blowing the two of them over with her breath.
“What is it?” Leona asked. “What’s wrong?”
“Him,” Six answered, indicating Kestral. “It seems to be a failsafe.”
“Failsafe for what?” Leona pressed.
Six pet Kestral on Mateo’s head, like she was a puppy. “I don’t know why he would do this, but Pryce seems to have decided that Mateo had the right to change bodies precisely once, and then never again. This tech is illegal. I mean, think about it, you would be able to imprison someone you don’t like in a non-infinite substrate. It would be like murdering them. It might take a century or two, but if you can’t transfer your mind to something new, you will die.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Angela pointed out. “We’ve already transferred our minds before, when we cast to Teagarden.”
“That wasn’t full transference,” Leona explained. “It was just surrogacy. That’s why things got so crazy when the time jump came.”
Leona redirected her attention back to Six. “Pryce’s technology technically predates whatever laws were passed to regulate mind-uploading. It probably can’t be considered a crime.”
“Yeah, well if I were you, I wouldn’t call the cops either way,” Six began. “They’ll focus on making the rest of Mateo’s life as comfortable as possible, like he’s in hospice.”
“What can we possibly do?” Leona asked. “Surely you can break through this...body lock?”
“What can we do?” Six echoed as she consulted her watch. “Kill him within the next twenty-seven years.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Leona was going into fight or flight mode.
Six didn’t understand why Leona was mad at her. This wasn’t her fault. “Like I said, it’s a failsafe. He will die, and if that happens before The Edge, he’ll return to the afterlife simulation. If he dies after the year 2400, he’ll just die. And nobody knows what happens to people upon true death, if anything.”
“The simulation shuts down after we reach the Edge?” Angela questioned.
“Yeah, the two developments are tangentially related to each other. The public finds out about time travel a number of different ways, one of them being the sudden appearance, brief disappearance, and reappearance of the Matrioshka Brain, along with the introduction of the Patrioshka Brain.” Six clearly had no qualms about warning people of future events.
“If we kill him,” Leona began, “and I’m not saying we’re going to do that—but if we did, there’s no guarantee that Pryce will give him back.”
Six released a highly exaggerated grimace. “You wouldn’t be dealing with Pryce anyway. The politics up there get really complicated around the time that it returns from the center of the galaxy. I’m not recommending this because it’s a good idea. It’s just Mateo’s only hope. I know what happens on the other side of the Edge. Vonearthans are expected to deal with death on their own after that. His condition is a thankfully rare exception to those solutions.”
“Wait, he’ll die,” Ishida started. “What about her?” She pointed to Mateo’s body.
“Oh, Kestral’s fine. Yeah, you can make her a clone body, or whatever you want, and she’ll be all right. Well, she can’t return to her original body, of course, and I don’t know how you feel about that, so maybe it’s not all right, but she’ll live.”
“Don’t be so sure of that,” Dr. Hammer warned. She was doing her own thing throughout all this, running her own tests.
“What?” Six asked.
“You may know more about consciousness transference than I do, but I know about time powers and patterns, and the transfer of those.”
“Oh, no,” Kestral said. “I’m on his pattern now, permanently.”
“That’s what the test says,” Dr. Hammer confirmed. “And not just because you’re still in his body. As soon as you made the transfer, the damage was done.”
“I knew I should have done it!” Olimpia argued.
“There’s no way anyone could have known,” Kestral reminded her.
“At least you wouldn’t be enduring a disgusting offense,” Olimpia contended.
Mateo wasn’t sure if he shouldn’t take offense, or should.
“That’s not a real problem!” Leona jumped back in. “She can suppress the pattern all she wants, be it with her own Cassidy cuff, or something else! I’m confident they’ll figure it out! The problem is my husband is about to die, and return to a terribly dangerous place, or die later, and possibly not survive at all! What are we going to do about that? I don’t want to hear any more problems! I want solutions!”
“I’m sorry,” Six said to her. “The body lock is beyond me. It’s airtight. It has to be, or it doesn’t exist at all. That’s why it’s illegal.”
Leona continued to scream at her, but it wasn’t at all productive. Six was the bearer of bad news; not the source of it. Besides, Mateo made peace with his own mortality a long time ago, even before the time traveling. If it’s over, he’s okay with that. “Leelee,” he said. “Stop. Please.”
He didn’t have to say another word. She knew what he was feeling, and she knew that pushing the issue would only make things worse. Six was a Paige, and they had yet to meet any version of her that couldn’t be trusted. If she said there was no way to save him, there was no way to save him.
“I can save him,” Ramses finally spoke.
“How do you figure?” Six was skeptical.
“If we kill him right now, he’ll go to the afterlife sim, regardless of who is in charge of it, correct?”
“Yes,” Six followed.
Ramses nodded. “So, that’s the loophole. The digital mind system that Pryce uses is different than the ones that normal people do here in the real world.”
“True,” Six agreed, “but that makes it worse. His system is also airtight. I’ve already tried breaking into it.”
“We don’t have to break into it,” Ramses began. “We just have to trick Mateo’s consciousness into thinking that the simulation we build is the right one. When he dies, he’ll go there, where he’ll be free. Then we should be able to move him into whatever substrate we want.”
Six thought about it for a not very short amount of time. “That’s beyond my expertise, which is why I didn’t think of it. I don’t know how to code simulations. It could work, but only assuming you can.”
Ramses smirked, and popped his knuckles. Then he reached over and did something to his own Cassidy cuff. “Oh, I can do it. I just might need a year to complete the programming, and send it through the testing phases.”
“Okay,” Kestral said. “I don’t think you need me for that, so I’m going to transfer my mind to a base model while I wait for my clone to grow.”
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Dr. Hammer said. “Your connection to the year-jumping pattern is unstable. Your mind is still getting the hang of it. That doesn’t mean you can stop it, but you shouldn’t mess with it either. You need to let it play out; make another jump or two, and then suppress it permanently.”
“Olimpia was right, I don’t like having a penis,” Kestral argued.
“This is my professional medical opinion,” Dr. Hammer said bluntly. “You don’t have to listen to me.”
“If I skip time, who will monitor the portal?” Kestral reasoned.
“I can handle this end,” Ishida assured her. “Leona can suppress the pattern instead, and go back to the AOC. Right, Leona?”
Leona didn’t like the idea of sticking around for a whole year without her husband, but five minutes ago, she thought she was going to lose him forever. This was certainly preferable. “Very well.”
And so five people stayed, and five people went. Six spent more of her time on the AOC with Leona while Dr. Hammer spent more of her time on the Jamil. Ramses was there too, since their ship had far more processing power, and more sophisticated technology. He worked all hours of the day, but he would occasionally join them for a meal, which they usually had on the AOC. He either had to get this done in a year, or another, or another. There was just no thirteen-month option here, and that was a lot of pressure for him. It wasn’t the first time for him either. He was working with the same time constraints when he built their ship in the first place. People were relying on him, and he was paranoid about letting them down. They would be fine, of course, if they had to wait for another timejump, but that would have messed him up psychologically. And so, 363 days later, he announced that the new simulation was ready. It wasn’t.

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