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Saturday, July 9, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 6, 2398

Marie is sitting with her alternate self at a late lunch, who she should probably think of as her twin sister now, since that’s what everyone beyond the team is meant to assume about them. They’ve been working on their relationship since Angela first appeared in this reality back in early April. It’s still a little weird, knowing that there’s this other person around with identical memories, but it helps now that Marie has four additional years’ worth of experiences. The more they diverge from each other, the less awkward it will become. But they will never lose the benefit they have of also knowing that there’s this other person around who knows how they feel about the world. Their personalities will not ever become unrecognizably different. She takes another bite.
“It’s not working.”
“What’s not working?” Angela asks.
“No bleeding, no cramps, no vomiting. These foods, they’re not working, and I’m getting sick of them.”
“Let me respond to you backwards. Remember what mother always said when we refused to eat our cucumbers.”
“Ugh, I hate cucumbers. And peppers. Now I really am gonna retch.”
“She said to treat them like medicine. You have to eat it, so just do it, and be done with it. Without cucumbers, we might have starved, and neither of us would exist right now.”
“Well, that’s a bit overdramatic, but okay.”
“Secondly, the foods might still be working. You just need more time. It’s barely been a week, and a miscarriage may not present itself for a couple more, which means you need to give it over a month.”
“The longer I wait, the fewer alternatives I have.”
“I understand that,” Angela agrees, “but you need to let this first attempt play out. You can’t keep going to the doctor to find out if it’s working, because then you’ll get in trouble, so all you can do is keep going, and....hope.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Marie accuses.
“You’re right, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.”
“What’s the next thing you wanted to tell me?”
“The cramps and the vomiting.”
“Yeah, that’s how I would know that I’m having a miscarriage.”
“They’re also symptoms of pregnancy,” Angela points out.
“And they’re sometimes symptoms of regular menstruation, what’s your point?”
“My point is, you’re not experiencing those at all?”
“Did you...experience them while you were menstruating?”
“Have you...ever been sick...since you came here?”
Marie pulls her head back, and stares into empty space to think on that question for a moment and a half. “No. Never.”
“According to Ramses, something is blocking our powers and patterns, but...our durable new bodies aren’t all just about powers. I don’t remember if he specifically said we could no longer get sick, but it was sort of implied. I mean, if you’re gonna give someone an upgrade, don’t include Huntington’s disease, or cancer. You would take those things out, along with other medical problems like the occasional low blood sugar, seasonal allergies, and stress-related hives.”
“We still can’t get sick,” Marie realizes, “even here. What does that mean?”
Angela shuts her eyes. “The food that you’re eating, which is tailored for you to place the fetus at risk, is dependent upon your reaction to certain chemicals that those foods possess. They throw off hormone imbalance, and they send bad neural signals. If your body was designed to work around that kind of thing—to combat it—then...”
“Then I may be medically incapable of having a miscarriage.”

Ramses sits down before he collapses. “It’s possible. I don’t understand how this reality works. If there is something out there that protects linear time, then our immortality shouldn’t be affected. But we know that it is, because we get tired, and we don’t absorb solar power, and we—” He stops short. Then he stands up, goes over to the kitchen, and takes out a knife. He drags it across his arm, going in far deeper than he needs to in order to illustrate his point.
“Goddamnit, Ramses!” Marie exclaims.
“Yeah, we can still get hurt...a lot easier than we should. But maybe...” He gets lost in his thoughts, and the other two don’t try to force him to continue. He starts rubbing his blood up and down his arm like he has an unhealthy fascination with it. “Maybe...” he repeats.
“Maybe what?”
“Maybe it’s external. Maybe it’s literally external. Your body doesn’t get sick, because most illnesses are internal, which might be protected against the...magical...power-dampening whatever?”
“I open my mouth all the time,” Marie counters. “I’ve cut myself before; with the knife you’re holding right now, in fact.”
Ramses shakes his head. “It’s not a constant thing. It’s not an invisible gas in the air. When we jumped from the main sequence to the Third Rail, we passed through something that stripped us of part of who we were. It took away everything special about our skin. It didn’t take away anything inside.”
“Then why can’t we teleport?” Angela questions.
“It’s a separate thing,” Ramses decides. “They’re two different things: the linear time protector, and the skin changer.”
“Why would someone do that?” Angela presses. “It doesn’t make any sense. I mean, it sort of does, but who’s going to all that trouble, and to what end?”
“Maybe it’s not on purpose. Maybe it’s just that whatever barrier is between realities does this to us.”
“It didn’t happen when you went to all those other realities, did it?” Angela asks.
She’s right, it didn’t. Or did it? Mateo and Ramses thought they were converting solar energy in the Parallel, but even though he personally engineered these upgraded bodies, he hasn’t spent much time in his own. Maybe he was mistaken this whole time. “I need to talk to Leona.”
“Wait.” Marie stops him from going down one of his absent-minded genius professor rabbit holes. “What can I do? How do I fix this?”
He shakes his head at her. “I don’t know. Let me think on that too.”

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