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Saturday, August 20, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 17, 2398

Ramses was waiting for Marie and Mateo when they got back to the hotel from the hospital. He didn’t want to talk about the mission he went on for the senator and his daughter, but he assured them it wasn’t that bad. He made a point of telling them that he didn’t have to kill anyone, though people did get hurt, and he’s not sure if they’re on the right side of this. They stole an object in a luggage-sized grayish box, but no one would tell him what it was. Leona is being coerced into working on it once it arrives in Kansas City, so while there’s a chance it’s a weapon of some kind, they’ll know the answer soon enough. She’ll take the appropriate actions when she learns more information. Both she and Ramses asked that the away team continue on, and perhaps they should extend their trip to continue throwing off any suspicion of their true goals.
Their next destination is Prague, Czechia, which has fairly strict airspace policies. The only reason they want to go there is because heading for Croatia now would practically draw a straight line on the map. This is all highly calculated to insulate them from any prying eyes. It’s not perfect, and they could always get caught, but it’s the best they can do. Going to Croatia is dangerous. They have to be sneaky. There are underground systems in place once they near its borders, but reaching those systems in the first place is a delicate dance. Prague is just a distraction. Its traffic laws are strict too, as it is in Germany, which means they won’t be able to drive as fast as they want. That’s fine, it will only take them about five hours with one stop in the middle to cross a border. Marie will probably want to hide for that part.
Ramses pulls over at a rest stop an hour in. They get out to stretch their legs and grab some local food, then get back in. But Ramses doesn’t move. He just sits in front of the steering wheel, and stares into space.
“Are you okay?” Marie asks.
“Winona wants us to go to Türkiye,” he says.
“I know, you told us that,” she says. “Apparently there’s an even more important mission there?”
“The border is stronger than it is for Germany-Czechia, but she says she can sneak us across.”
Mateo flinches. “Okay, but we don’t want to go to Türkiye—that’s Turkey, right?”
Ramses nods, “we may want to go there.”
“Rambo, what are you talking about?” Marie asks.
He sighs. “You and I weren’t around when Mateo and Leona were dealing with the immortality waters. You were dead yourself, and I hadn’t even been born yet.”
“What does this have to do with anything?” Mateo questions.
“The Constant, the Bermuda Triangle; they both generated unusual amounts of temporal energy.”
“Stonehenge didn’t,” Mateo reminds him.
“First of all, we don’t know that there was ever anything special about Stonehenge. The Delegator always implied that he just liked the way it looked. He was the one with the power to transport people through portals. He used the walkways between the stones, because hell, why wouldn’t you, but that doesn’t mean the stones mean anything. Secondly, if the British Isles sank, this reality’s version of it might just be too deep underwater for this baby.” He pets the dashboard.
“You wanna make another diversion? There’s nothing special about Turkey,” Marie claims.
Mateo looks away. “Yes there is. There’s one thing.”
“What?” Marie presses. When no one answers, she repeats herself. “What? What is in Turkey?”
“Death,” Mateo answers cryptically.
“Then maybe we don’t go there.”
“No, I don’t mean death, I mean Death. Death water is in something called the Pools of, uhh...”
“Pamukkale,” Ramses helps.
“Death water?” Marie is still indignant about the whole thing. “Why is there an immortality water called Death?”
“I don’t know,” Ramses answers honestly, “but it’s the only water you would take if you want the full experience. If you drink Youth, it will make you young. If you drink Longevity, it will extend your lifespan. But if you want one hundred percent no-death, no injury, immortality, that one must be included.”
“What happens if you take it by itself?” Marie asks the obvious question.
“Well, it’s poison...you die,” Mateo replies bluntly.
“So again, why do we want that?”
“Because the reason we’re here is because one of us has to die,” Ramses says, also bluntly, but much more somberly.
Marie takes a long time to respond. “That one is a part of me at the moment. How could the fetus ingest it without me also ingesting it?”
Ramses takes a long time to respond as well. Then he takes something out of his pocket, and holds it up. “We teleport it.” It’s a time bullet.
“You’re gonna shoot me with that thing?” Marie asks in a no-thanks kind of way.
“No, that would defeat the purpose. I would transport the bullet itself, into the fetus, which would open upon contact, releasing the Pamukkale water.”
“You’re talking about just having a developing baby dying in my body.” She looks back and forth between the two of them.
Mateo takes a long time to speak. The Death water, as Zeferino once explained it to me—”
“Oh, he’s such a reliable resource,” Marie says sarcastically.
“I don’t know if he was telling the truth, but sometimes, the man could be sincere, and I remember the day he taught me about all of them. He looked like he was being honest. After the conversation, we didn’t talk about it again, so if he was trying to trick me, he was doing it in a weird way. Plus, this was long after all that Tribulation stuff.”
Marie shakes her head. “Go on, what did he say?”
“There are many reasons why people don’t just all take the immortality waters. They’re hard to get to, especially the last one, but one in particular is...unsavory.”
“Keep going,” she urges.
“It’s Health. Both Death and Health come from the pools of whatever. The former creates the latter when used.”
“It’s a sacrifice,” Marie says. “It’s a human sacrifice.”
“Yes.”
“Why would death make health? Maybe it would make life, because they’re opposites, but...” She doesn’t have an end to her sentence.
“Death isn’t really the end of life,” Ramses tries to explain. “It’s just the end of health. We’re proof of that. We all lost our bodily health, but kept our lives.”
Marie begins to pace. “So, under the assumption that the Pools of Pamukkale in this reality serve the same purpose as they do in the main sequence, you want to take a sample, and fill a time bullet with it. Then you want to teleport that bullet into my fetus—which would require phenomenal precision, by the way—which will poison it, and transform it into an elixir. So I get an abortion, and the cure for cancer at the same time.”
“Well, if you have cancer, then yeah. If you don’t, then at the most, you might just skip the flu this year. It doesn’t last forever if you don’t take Activator afterwards, and I believe it only works once if you don’t take Catalyst beforehand.”
“So you want to forgo Czechia, and take a detour all the way down to Türkiye, where we’ll be expected to complete an espionage mission we know nothing about, then steal a sub-detour to a tourist attraction to get a sample of water that authorities probably don’t want you to steal. I assume you’ve confirmed that the site even exists on this Earth.”
“It does,” Ramses promises.
“Well, that’s one complication down.”
“We don’t have to choose this,” Ramses tells her, standing up from the driver’s seat. He presents it to her. “But whatever we do, you have to be the one to make that choice. That’s what pro-choice means.”
“Thanks for mansplaining that to me,” Marie snaps back.
Ramses doesn’t respond, so Mateo decides to do so in his place. “He’s not telling you it’s your choice so that you will know that it is. He’s telling you so that you know that he knows...that it is.”
“You two have really thought a lot about this,” Marie realizes.
“Mateo didn’t know a thing. He didn’t even know about Türkiye.”
“Actually, I did,” Mateo clarifies. “Winona lamented that we chose to come here, instead of there. I didn’t think it would come up again, though.”
Marie considers the information she’s been given, and the profoundly difficult choice now laid before her. Deciding to get an abortion was hard enough, but now she has to determine whether she’s going to go through with it using the conventional, scientific method, or if she’s going to depend on the complex nature of temporal magic. “Wait, if the water in Pamukkale is poisonous, wouldn’t lots of people know as much?”
“It has to be infused with temporal energy,” Ramses says. “Such was its natural state on November 13, 1622. That’s the date most people travel to when they’re on the quest for it. Using the data I’ve gathered by studying the Existence water from the Bermuda Triangle, however I believe that I can synthesize what we need.”
Agreeing that she has to be the one to make the choice either way, Marie sits down in the chair, and starts The Olimpia back up. She keeps going on the selected route. A part of her just wants to do the normal thing, and not hope that the time bullet works. So she passes what might have been their exit, and heads for the border, for an hour, until they’re nearly there. She comes to a stop. They can already see the border checkpoint far off in the distance, but they can still choose to go elsewhere. They have to choose now, though. Either they get back on the highway and head Southeast, or stick to the original plan. Or they can open Door Number Three.

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