Tuesday, June 21, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 18, 2398

They’re sitting in the bunker again, just as helpless as they have been most of this week. Fairpoint has not gone back on his word, but it’s Saturday now, so he can’t get in to see Heath and Angela-slash-Marie until Monday. All they can do is wait and hope. God, Mateo hates relying on other people to get things done. Fairpoint is not part of the team, and he can’t be trusted. In the future—and Mateo isn’t sure if he remembers why he knows this already—there will be a new member of this team that can disguise others using her temporal power. When they look at each other, they’ll see their real faces, but when others look at them, they’ll see whoever the team wants them to see. They will be able to turn themselves into anyone, which is a power that he could use right now. He would waltz into that police station, looking like the president of the United States, and order them to release his friends. Then he could end religious war, racism, and all the other global issues. Yeah, it would probably be that easy.
“He doesn’t want kids,” Marie says out of the blue, breaking the silence. She doesn’t look anyone in the eyes, though. She stares straight ahead.
“Heath?” Leona asks.
“It’s like Fairpoint said, Heath is not a zealot,” Marie goes on. “But that doesn’t mean he isn’t religious at all. In his culture, certain people are allowed to have children, and certain people aren’t.”
“What’s...the criteria?” Leona asks tentatively. Is that okay to ask?
Now Marie faces her friend. “Skin color. He’s too light. His bloodline ends with him, because it’s been diluted.”
“That’s...not okay, Marie,” Leona says.
Mateo and Ramses decide to stay out of the conversation.
“I know. Believe me, it was rough learning that about how he was raised. Lighter skinned people have a place. They have responsibilities. So it’s not like he was shunned. Genetics is really complex. It’s not as easy as saying, you can’t have a baby with a white person, though they do say that. And before you think they’re the worst of the worst, plenty of white denominations have similar rules, and some of them are pretty horrific about it. There’s been a history of...I don’t even wanna say the word.”
“It’s okay, we get it,” Leona assures her.
“Anyway, light-skinned babies come from dark-skinned parents all the time, and they just have to assign them certain roles because of that, and disallow procreation to keep the rest pure.”
“How do they feel about you?”
“They’re fine with me,” Marie insists. “They don’t have a problem with white people—though, they would change their minds if they knew my father was a slave owner, as was my arranged betrothed. He promised them he wouldn’t have any kids, and they accepted the risk.”
“What will happen to your baby?”
Marie is silent for a long time, and nobody tries to force her to continue. “I do not have a baby,” she explains. “I have a clump of cells in my uterus.”
“Marie...” Leona doesn’t know what else to say. There is probably nothing she could say.
“I’m not going to carry it to term. I’ve told you I’m happy, but that’s only because of him. I’m not happy here. This is the worst reality we’ve been to. At least the warmongers in the Fifth Division were honest about who they were. They didn’t hide behind divine mandate, or passive aggressive pseudo-tolerance. You’ll see. Stay here for another few months, and you’ll see.”
“We can get you out,” Leona told her. “You and your baby, we’ll get you out of here.”
“And then what?” Marie questions. “Heath can’t come with me down the fourth dimension, so I’ve lost him. There is no guarantee the baby will be like me either. I wasn’t born like this, and we don’t really understand how all that works. I didn’t even think I could have children. I told him as much. I didn’t lie, but I suggested he would have nothing to worry about. Now I have this thing inside of me, and I can only think of one halfway decent outcome.”
“I’m not going to try to convince you to make any particular choice,” Leona begins. “But I’m going to tell you that if you decide to have that child, I’ll love and protect it to my dying breath. Mateo and Ramses can make the same assurance, as I’m sure Olimpia would. Angela has already proved as much. It’s important you know this.”
“Thank you,” Marie says. “I’m pretty convinced already, and I plan to make an appointment with the doctor once I get my identity back, but it’s nice to know you’re by my side.
Leona leans forward, and opens her arms, but doesn’t initiate the hug. She waits for Marie to make that choice too. “I love you.”
“I love you.”
“Were I you,” Mateo says to all of them.

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