Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 20, 2398

Andile didn’t want to say much else after dropping that bomb on them about the alternate version of Leona. She said that it wasn’t her place to explain. The other Leona’s flight would come in the next day, and they could ask their questions then. So that’s what they did. They went back to the condo to fill in the rest of the team, and waited. The others wanted to come too, but the other Leona apparently didn’t know them at all, so it would probably just be overwhelming. The next morning Alt!Leona answered the door, not surprised, but yes, unnerved at the sight.
“Thank you for coming again,” Andile says once they’re seated.
“Thank you for having us,” Mateo says.
It becomes evident that Alt!Leona wants to talk first, but she needs them to be patient with her. Lips closed, almost pursed, she stares at the space between Mateo and her alternate. “I trust you’re doing well?” she asks Mateo.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Mateo answers.
“It’s nice to know there’s at least one Mateo out there who didn’t die.”
“Actually, he did die,” Mateo’s wife, Leona clarifies. “A few times.”
Now Alt!Leona purses her lips fully. “Well, at least he came back.”
“Leona, what happened?” Leona asks her self.
“I’m going to tell you my story,” Alt!Leona begins, assuming nothing about what you’ve been through. I may tell you things that you already know, and you’re just going to have to accept that, and be patient. I also don’t want any commentary about how things played out for you, or anything like that.”
“Understood,” Leona says.
Alt!Leona begins. “When I was nearing my sixteenth birthday, a friend of mine suggested I try alcohol, because drinking alcohol is the type of thing that normal teenagers do. So I did, and it went poorly. It made me sick—not enough to have to get my stomach pumped, but I had to go to urgent care just the same. I was sitting across from a man in the waiting area, trying to retch into a bag, when I ended up getting some on him. Long story short, I figured out who he was, and went to his house to apologize. That’s when everything changed. I learned that he was a time traveler, but not in control of his own life. I don’t know who was in control, if anyone, but I, admittedly, fell in love. He and his situation were fascinating, and I couldn’t just let that go.
“I probably would have become a film student in college if not for him. Instead, I pursued a physics degree. I wanted to understand what was going on with him. We met another; a teleporter, and she led us to believe that there were others. There was this one other guy too, but we weren’t really sure what his deal was. Anyway, I learned that an organ transplant might allow a normal person to take on the temporal characteristics of a traveler. Lucky for me, I was suffering from some kidney problems, which I might have been able to deal with, but I didn’t want to, so I started to not take very good care of myself. I needed a kidney transplant, and as luck would have it, Mateo was a match.
“Obviously, this process normally takes a long time, but we couldn’t wait for the bureaucracy. Mateo only existed one day out of the year. Through my connections, I was able to find a surgeon who was willing to perform the surgeries under unusual circumstances. Let’s just say that he had lost his license for a similar infraction years prior. This was the biggest mistake of my life, and seeing a version of Mateo sitting here hasn’t helped, like I hoped it would after Andile called to tell me that he was alive. The surgery went bad, and Mateo died. After a year of mourning, I discovered that his death didn’t prevent me from becoming like him. I guess it just delayed it. I only made one jump before I was approached by a stranger with an offer.
“She told me that it was her job to rescue people from the timeline. She said that I was in a different reality completely, and I could stay here, and not be on my pattern anymore. I only did it to be with Mateo, so that seemed like a good deal. Before she disappeared, she reintroduced me to Andile, and I never saw her again, so I never got the chance to ask her why it didn’t work. Instead of freeing me of my pattern, I just ended up taking Andile with me. I didn’t mean to. It’s not like I gave her my kidney too. At most, I touched her during a hug. Maybe you have an explanation for it.”
Leona and Mateo nod reverently, as they have been during the story.
“Do you?” Alt!Leona asks.
“Oh, sorry, we didn’t want to comment.”
“It was more about not being interrupted,” Alt!Leona straightens out.
It was hard for Leona to hear that story. She has met other versions of people before; even of herself, but this one is a lot different. This Leona didn’t spend hardly any time with Mateo, and never built a team. She and Andile have pretty much been alone this whole time. That changes a person. “Everything happened to me just as it did for you, until the surgery. A time traveling doctor did it for us, probably following what went wrong in your reality. Someone must have wanted things to play out differently, so they altered history. Normally, you would cease to exist as the result of that, but when you’re dealing with parallel realities, that all gets more complicated. Who was this stranger who told you this would free you of the pattern?”
“Her name was Olaya,” Alt!Leona answers. “I don’t know if it was a first or last name, but she didn’t give me any other.”
“Never heard of her,” Mateo says.
“Nerakali did say that there were other teams, but I don’t remember if Jupiter did. That was back during his era,” Leona says.
“So, do you know the answer?” Alt!Leona asks again.
Leona shakes her head. “Olaya should have been right. This place doesn’t have time travel, or at least not much of it. We don’t think it ever did. My theory is that that’s why it was created in the first place.”
“You did eventually lose it, though,” Mateo says. “When did that happen?”
“It was about three months ago,” Alt!Leona replies.
“Three months and twelve days.”
Mateo and Leona exchange a look. “That’s when we arrived. We did this to you.”
“You helped us,” Andile corrects. “We don’t want to time travel. We just want to stay put. I mean, we could do without the shady government people chasing us all over the country, but that could have happened either way. People crave power.”
“Do they know about you?” Leona asks. “If anyone would recognize you, then they probably know that there are two of us. And they know that there are two Angelas, so all in all, they know too much.”
“I don’t think they know about me,” Alt!Leona tells her.
“They only caught me,” Andile says apologetically.
“And you’re one of a kind.” Alt!Leona reaches over to take Andile by the hand.
“Look,” Leona begins, “I know you don’t want to have anything to do with this stuff, so we’re prepared to leave, and never mention you again, but I don’t feel like that’s enough. If you want to be somewhere safe, it’s not in this city. I don’t know where it is, though. I don’t know how to help you.”
“We don’t need your help,” Alt!Leona claims, “but we may be able to help you.”
“How might you do that?”
“I heard them talking while I was being transported to the fishbowl,” Andile says. “They’re looking for someone more valuable than any of us. And I know where he is.”

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