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Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 28, 2398

Kivi has been looking out at the scenery as the car drives down the highway, going the conventional speed, instead of as fast as possible, like Heath likes to drive. Her eyes are wandering now, occasionally looking over at Marie for a split second. Marie notices. “If you have something to say, go ahead,” she says, not aggressively.
“This trip has gotten pretty long,” Kivi points out.
“I can turn up the music, or change it.”
“I’m not bored.”
“There’s a rest stop soon, we can take a break.”
“We’re just...going a lot farther...than you implied when you asked me to accompany you.”
“Oh. We’re going to Springfield.”
Kivi winces. “Now, I don’t know everything that my alternate selves would know, but I know Springfield, and it’s the one that just disappeared one day, and ended up on another planet.”
“It wasn’t one day,” Marie corrects. “It happened over the course of decades, getting smaller and smaller all the time.”
“Oh.”
“And that’s Springfield, Kansas. We’re going to Springfield, Missouri.”
“Why?”
Marie takes a beat. “It’s where I grew up.”
“Oh,” Kivi repeats. “I thought you were a Kansas City girl.”
“I went to a fake finishing school in Kansas City, but my family owned a farm outside of Springfield. That’s where the slaves worked.”
Kivi doesn’t really wanna talk about the fact that Angela-slash-Marie grew up owning human beings. Fortunately, she has a different line of questioning to go down. “What is a fake finishing school?”
“Do you know what a finishing school is?”
“No, I guess I don’t know what that is either.”
“It’s where young ladies would go to learn how to be proper women. Ya know, cleaning, finding a good husband, doing whatever the hell he tells you.”
“What made yours fake?”
“It was a real school,” Marie explains. “They taught us math, science, history; everything the boys were learning. In fact, once historians realized what had really been going on there, they also discovered that it was actually better than most traditional educational institutions in the area at the time.”
“Fascinating.”
“My father sent me there on purpose. He was one of the few men who knew it to be fake, and he wanted me to have an education. Of course, there were ways for me to do that. It’s not like there were no women in regular schools. He needed to maintain the family reputation, though, so this was perfect, since it had to be kept secret.”
Kivi nods, and stays silent for the next minute or so. “Are we going to the farm to see if you can teleport in the area?”
“Oh, God no. It’s not special at all. In fact, maps were different back then, and it was in a different reality, but I do believe that the location of our farm is now the nearest airport.”
“I see. This is just for nostalgia.”
“I don’t know what this is for,” Marie answers honestly. “I just felt compelled to get in the car, and go this direction.”
“And I’m here, because...”
“Because if I go alone, the others are gonna freak out, and try to come save me.”
“You want to be alone, so I’m the next best thing?”
Marie throws the car into autolaning mode. It’s not full autonomy, but it can stay between two lane markings, and not run into the car ahead. If it does notice itself approaching another car too quickly, it will come off the gas, and beep at the driver. Now she can look directly at Kivi without drifting into the ditch. “Not at all. I brought you, because I trust you. You know what it’s like to suddenly come into existence, and learn that you’re a copy of someone else.”
“No one knows who the original Kivi is.”
“Your father wasn’t born to the Third Rail. Do you think you’re the original?”
“No, of course not.” That was a little mean, but Kivi’s fine. “I can see the connection between us.”
“Like I said, I don’t know why I decided to go this way. I just woke up today, and felt like it was the most logical next step. I asked you to come, because I didn’t want to be alone. I just didn’t want to have to explain myself to the others. I think you’re better at understanding that I can’t quite explain it.”
“That’s probably true. My whole life is a question mark.”
“I’m glad you’re here. I don’t know what we’ll to find, or how close we’ll be able to get without plane tickets, but either way, it’s an experience that will always be just between the too of us.”
“I like that.”
Marie returns to the steering wheel. She could let the car drive itself until it’s time to exit, but right now she feels the need to exercise control over everything possible.

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