Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 6, 2395

Dalton Hawk looked different. Sure, his face was the same, and he was at about the same age as he was when they last saw him, but he held himself differently. He stood up straighter, which made it all the more interesting that he was also carrying a cane. Upon closer inspection, they saw that this was unlike any cane any of them had seen before. A humongous diamond was affixed to the top of it. Leona realized as he was walking towards them, though, that she had indeed seen it before, just not in its completed form. A long time ago, Dilara Cassano, a.ka. The Arborist asked her and her then team to procure the diamond for them as payment. She used her ability to muster a version of Horace Reaver from an old timeline, along with Lincoln Rutherford as a bonus. They were both apparently paradoxed out of reality after the former deliberately erased Tristesse Ulinthra from all histories.
“You can?” Mateo asked. “Aren’t you just a body hopper? I mean, I don’t mean to say that’s all you are, but...”
“It’s fine,” Dalton promises, “no offense taken. And no, I don’t have that ability anymore; not since I was reborn from the afterlife simulation.”
“What can you do now?” Leona asked.
Dalton spun his fancy cane like a professional baton twirler. He ended by moderately gently dropping it on the floor, where it stood up to gravity. “I can’t do anything, but I can use this.”
“What can it do?” Angela pressed.
“It invokes and harnesses a special flavor of temporal energy. I should be able to send you anywhere, anywhen. Or I could give you powers, take them away, saddle you with a time affliction. I could theoretically rewrite reality to my will.”
“What do you do with it?” Olimpia questioned, worried.
“Nothing much so far,” Dalton answered. “I’m still figuring out how it works. It comes with a learning curve, and a downside.”
“Doesn’t everything?” Ramses asked rhetorically.
“I can’t use it on myself,” Dalton explained. “Well, I could, but then I would lose the cane, because someone else would have to do it for me. My arm doesn’t reach that far.” He demonstrated the idea by holding the cane from the bottom, and trying to point the diamond at himself. Humans weren’t anatomically set up for that. The thing was too long.
The Presidents and Vice Presidents looked amongst each other. “We don’t know who he is,” Skylar told the team. “We’re assuming he’s good people because of your reception of him, but could you confirm that?”
Leona shrugged. “We don’t really know him that well, but he seems cool.”
“We can help you then,” Lucy said. “Have you tried reflecting the energy off of a mirror?”
“Yes, I have,” Dalton replied. “It just consumes the mirror. It doesn’t care that it’s reflective.”
“Our mirrors are different,” Oliver told him. “If we were to be transported to the barrier at the edge of the metro, we could show you right now.”
They took each other’s hands, and teleported to Stilwell, Kansas. It sat on the southernmost edge of the dimensional bubble they were in. Beyond this was nothing, or maybe they just couldn’t get to it. The team had never actually questioned anybody what happened if they tried to cross over. Surely someone had tried in the last 370 years. It was weird to see. The barrier was a mirror, just as Oliver had described it. They could watch themselves as if they were in a giant dance studio. The image faded as they looked upwards, and eventually gave way to the sky and clouds.
“It goes all around,” Kostya explained. “It used to be the entire dome. You could stand here and watch things happening miles and miles away, on the other side of hills and buildings. We don’t know who did it, but we don’t think it was the man who made the snowglobe itself. We think one day the reflection will disappear completely, and we’ll be able to expand beyond the borders.”
Some people think that,” Oliver contested. “It’s kind of a religious thing.”
“How do you know that this will reflect temporal energy,” Dalton asked.
“We’ve seen it before,” Skylar answered. “That’s all we’re gonna say about it.”
Dalton smiled with little confidence. “I’ve sat through trigonometry class multiple times.” He turned his cane, and aimed it at the barrier. A blast of energy came out of it, bounced off of the barrier, and landed in Olimpia’s chest. She disappeared.
“You better have sent her somewhere safe,” Angela warned.
“I did. The only question was whether the reflection would work.” With that, he shot her with energy too. He then proceeded to do the same for Marie, Ramses, Leona, and finally Mateo.
Mateo woke up on the ground. He didn’t think it was possible to be knocked unconscious in this new body, but then again, temporal energy was probably some pretty powerful stuff. He got himself to his feet, and looked around. No one else was there; not Leona, nor anyone else. He was completely alone in the middle of a field. He gazed up at the sky, and saw the stars, but there was something odd about them. He kept staring, looking for what was wrong. As he adjusted his angle, he realized that there was a slight distortion in the light coming down from them. The sky wasn’t perfectly transparent. A dimensional barrier was between the land and the heavens. He was still in the Fourth Quadrant. What evil trickery was this?
Before he could teleport to civilization, to figure out what was going on, he felt something wrap itself around his waist. He looked down to find a lasso, or perhaps a whip. It tugged him backwards, through a tunnel of flashing lights. He landed on his feet when it stopped, but couldn’t get rid of the momentum without falling on his ass. It didn’t really hurt, though. Ramses reached down, and helped him off the floor.
“Where are we?” Mateo asked.
“The Parallel. I’ve been here since yesterday.”
“What’s yesterday?” Mateo went on.
“It’s just been a day for me. Whatever Dalton did, he sent us to different points in spacetime; I believe to different realities. I came here last year. You were simply thrown forwards in time one year. The others are elsewhere.”
Elsewhere,” Mateo echoed. “Elsewhere is where?”
“I don’t know yet. I’m still looking into it.” Ramses turned and addressed a woman who had been watching them. “There’s your proof of concept. Please allow me to seek the others.”
She seemed very unappreciative of their inconvenient situation. “We will not allow you to travel through any reality. We will let you seek the others, but you must wait until you catch up to them on your own before you may bring them here.”
“What if they’re not on our pattern anymore?” Ramses tried to reason. “What if they’re a day behind, or a day ahead, or centuries in the past? What if we never catch up to them?”
“We will not allow you to travel through time,” she repeated like a robot. “You must wait until you catch up to them on your own.”
“Real mature, asshole,” Ramses said. “He pulled one device off the counter between them, and handed it to Mateo. He then grabbed the second device.
“What are these?” Mateo asked him as he was following his friend out of the room.
“What you’re holding is basically a kin detector. Obviously we all have unique DNA, but the way I engineered our clones was consistent across the six of us. That thing will alert us when it senses another one of us in the same moment of time. It even works across realities.”
Mateo flipped a switch on the side of the detector. An alarm started to blare, and until Ramses could take it away from him, and turn it off, Mateo thought he was going to lose his hearing.
“Sorry, I should have said don’t push any buttons.”
“Does that mean someone else is here?”
“No, it’s still not calibrated to ignore you,” Ramses replied. “That’s why it was so loud, because you’re so close to it.”
“It’s okay.”
“But we don’t know when we’re gonna find the others. Maybe never.”
“This universe is not exactly a unified empire. We’ll find someone who can help us eventually, I promise you that. I would modify it myself, but it is so far beyond me, Matty, like you don’t even know.”
“Why did Dalton do this to us?”
“I don’t know that it was on purpose. He may have looked confident, but I could see anxiety in his eyes. He had little experience with that cane. There’s every chance the first time he tried to use it had somehow backfired, and trapped him in the Fourth Quadrant in the first place. We should have talked to him more.”
The two of them were given a full suite to stay in, but they ended up just sleeping in the same bed, so they could both hear the alarm. Neither knew how faint the volume would be once it did go off. Ramses said it could even potentially be infrasonic. Of course, that was a relative term for them now. They were capable of seeing a wider range of frequencies on the light spectrum, and of hearing a wider range of sound frequencies. Also due to their new bodies, they didn’t need to sleep much, but they did need a little. Their skin could absorb and convert solar radiation into chemical energy, but as it was organic, it was only so efficient at this conversion.
They woke up a couple of hours later, fully rested. The friend detector log did not indicate that they had missed their window. It was still April 6, 2395, at least inasmuch as that meant anything in this reality. “Can we go anywhere in the universe, or do we have to remain close to Earth?”
“Comparatively speaking, it shouldn’t matter too much,” Ramses answered. “Other realities are further away than you or even I could fathom. Plus, we don’t know where Dalton might have sent them. It could be Earth, or somewhere else. Why? Was there somewhere you wanted to go?”
“I was just thinking about checking in on Flindekeldan. I know it’s stupid, but I’m feeling a little nostalgic.”
“Better leave them out of it. Besides, that’s particularly far away. In no other reality is that populated. I doubt anyone’s that far out, and we don’t need to test the limits of this thing.”
“I understand.”
“As do I,” came the voice of another Ramses. He hadn’t bothered to knock on the door. He waltzed right into the bedroom, and outstretched his arm. “Pleased to meet you, Ramses, I’m Parallel!Ramses.”
“Likewise,” Ramses said rather unconvincingly, but surely rather innocuously. “Here but for the lid of Schrödinger’s box stand I.”
Parallel!Ramses chuckles. “If that’s the way you wanna look at it, then I won’t try to stop you.”
“Oh, I’m sure you understand it better,” Ramses said, worshiping him with a wave of his arms. “We’re not worthy.” It was starting to look a lot less playful.
“I just wanted to make sure these accommodations are too your liking,” Parallel!Ramses began. “I see that you two have finally hooked up. I always thought it might happen.”
Mateo looked back at the bed, and then over at his Ramses. “Really?”
“He’s messing with you.” Ramses retrieved the friend detector from the nightstand. “This thing is amazing, but I have feedback.”
“And I would love to hear it,” Parallel!Ramses lied. “Unfortunately, I have a lot of work to do. It’s a big universe out there, you understand.”
Ramses squinted at his alternate self. “I always knew I would become you...if I ever got power. That’s why I try to stay away from it.”
Parallel!Ramses glided back towards the door. “It would seem as though you chose wisely.” He left.
“Well,” Mateo said awkwardly. “That was a pointless conversation.”
“He was trying to gloat,” Ramses said, still staring at the space his alt once occupied. “He thinks he’s finally won.”
“Has he not? He has all that power. I don’t want to compare the two of you, but if this really is all you ever wanted...”
Ramses finally looked over at his friend. “He doesn’t have everything he wanted. He barely has anything. He doesn’t have you and Leona. He believes that these arbitrarily restricted devices will keep us from ever getting out of this reality. He believes you’re stuck here with him.”
“Are we?”
Ramses rifled through his bag until he found his toolkit. He removed one small tool, and flipped it in the air before catching it again. He used it to pry the casing off of the lasso dimensional extraction device. “We’re not just gonna bring our friends here. We’re gonna go to them, and even if we end up in a reality not of our choosing, we’ll be together.”

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