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Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 19, 2398

Leona got lucky back in the timeline that they used to just call Reality Two. K-State University assigned her a roommate for her first semester in college, which was the spring of 2018. Andile Mhlangu was a year younger, but already a sophomore, having skipped the third and seventh grades. Her former roommate was a night owl partier, who didn’t like how strict Andile was with her schedule. Andile was actually okay with the incongruent living arrangement. She grew up with four siblings, so she knew how to study and sleep amidst a lot of noise, and a little chaos. The old roommate felt bad, though, and got tired of tiptoeing around, so she decided to go live on her own. She reportedly got herself a note from her doctor, claiming to have social anxiety, which is what allowed her to secure a single dorm room, despite having missed the registration deadline by months.
Andile, meanwhile, needed a roommate of her own, or she would have to start paying for a double as a single, which is kind of a bullshit rule that the university shouldn’t have had. Fortunately, Leona was there to fill in after graduating from high school a semester early. The two of them didn’t become great friends, but they got along very well. They kept pretty much the exact same schedule, maintained comparable work loads, and had no use for the noise. They occasionally had dinner together, but didn’t know each other’s secrets, or anything like that. They continued to be roommates for the next three years after that. Andile decided to stay there for grad school, so they moved off campus together. Even then, they weren’t great friends, but Leona didn’t want to risk being assigned someone crappy, and Andile still couldn’t afford to pay full rent anywhere.
After Leona received her bachelor’s degree, she was accepted to grad school in Colorado—once more starting in the spring—so she had too move out of the apartment, but she agreed to pay Andile her half of the rent for the next semester anyway. They remained connected through social media after that, but still from a healthy distance. A few years later, Andile paid back the extra rent, with unnecessary interest, after getting a great job at a prestigious laboratory. Then she disappeared; fell completely off the map. There were two theories: one, that she was abducted or dead, or two, that she was working for the government, or some other clandestine organization. The second option wasn’t all that crazy. She was sure smart enough to be doing something like that, and she was in a good position to be recruited. When Leona became a time traveler in 2028, she theorized that Andile was, in fact, a time traveler as well. It might have been true, but no one she met along the way had heard of her, and the investigation ran cold, especially since she was so busy with her own stuff. Then the timeline reset, and the new version of Leona didn’t even meet Andile in the first place. She hadn’t thought much about her until yesterday when Kivi dropped her name.
Winona was surprised to hear from Leona, and not be yelled at about something, but not surprised when she heard that it was for a favor. Then she was surprised again when she learned that the favor was providing Leona with Andile’s location, but quickly realized that it made sense. Senator Morton locked up Andile for a reason, and while the Honeycutts were apparently not cognizant of everything that Morton knew, it was entirely plausible that her imprisonment was for the same reason as the team’s. There are at least three sides to this war, including Leona’s, the Honeycutts’, and Morton’s. How those two relate to one another remains a mystery that Winona refuses to divulge at this time. That wasn’t good enough for Leona, who demanded something for all the trouble. Winona agreed with this assessment, and was half-prepared to comply with the request to find Andile, but half not. She was reluctant to hand over the information, citing a desire to protect Andile from further disruption of her life. The plan was evidently to get her out of town, much in the way a witness protection agency would. Leona has a hard time believing that.
It’s taken a day, but Winona has finally come through, and now Leona and Mateo are at the safehouse. They open the gate for the really tall front yard fence, and knock on the door not sure what kind of person they’ll find on the other side, or how she’ll react to this development. Mateo ran into Andile once when he came to visit Leona that first semester, but that was well after he started jumping through time, and again, this was in an old reality. Neither of them expects her to recognize either of them, but especially not him.
Andile smiles when she opens the door, as casually as she might if she were expecting a friend, but not for a few hours, once she’s finished cooking a meal. “He told me an old friend would be stopping by.”
“Who told you that?” Leona questions.
“This guy. He called himself a seer.”
That makes a bit of sense, but it doesn’t answer their real question.
“How did you get here? Did the seer tell you how to travel?”
“Let’s talk alone.” Andile pulls her inside gently. She offers them a seat on the couch. “I didn’t believe him when he first approached me, but he started out making simple, yet hard to explain, predictions, so I started to believe. I started to trust him. He didn’t tell me that I would end up in this world—there was a lot he didn’t tell me, in the end—but the last thing he said was, once you’re safe in the brown house, an old friend will be stopping by. The next day, I found myself in this reality, and now I’m sitting in here. It’s brown, wouldn’t you say?”
“You found yourself in this reality...in the year 2398?” Leona asks.
Andile thinks that’s funny. “Oh, no. Noooo. It was 2026, just like it was where we’re from.”
“So how did you get here?” Mateo asks, “Or have you just lived long enough?”
“I only spent a few years there. My friend brought me the rest of the way,” Andile says cryptically. “It wasn’t 370 years, like it was for most people. To us, it was more like 370 days.”
Now that is a surprising response. “Andile, who is your friend?”
Andile hesitates for a moment, but resolves to answer. “Leona, it...it was you.”

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