Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 23, 2398

Mateo was excited to find the homestone at first. Its entire thing is being able to send people back to where they started before they first experienced time travel, whether that was in the present reality, or another. But that’s the thing that Alt!Leona pointed out, which is that every member of his team was from a different reality. Not even Mateo and Leona were from the same one. Even if Kivi’s idea of trying to duplicate the stone with Mateo’s quantum knife worked, it would still separate them all. Homestones were known to transport multiple people to the same point in spacetime, but asking for it to do it for nine or ten people all at once was more than pushing it. Plus, whether Alyssa knew it or not, she was destined to leave the Third Rail too, so the total number of people in need of such a thing was even larger.
Upon the properties of a homestone being explained to her, Andile thought there might still be a way if they could just get someone like Ramses back home, where he could use the vast resources of the main sequence to come back for the rest, but that seems like a stretch, and they have other thing to worry about at the moment. They have to focus on the mission at hand, which is to break Alt!Mateo out of Black Crook Rehabilitation Facility. Despite sharing a near identical name with its counterpart from 350 years ago, where Horace Reaver and Gilbert Boyce once lived, the two prisons are not very much alike. The first was a tower built on the peak, holding up a platform where residents lived in almost suburban-like homes. They worked together to maintain a microcosmic society, safe from and for the general population in its isolation. The one here is just a regular building with a fence around it. Rehabilitation isn’t even really part of the program. They just included that in the name to make people feel better about letting their social scraps waste away behind bars, kind of like how the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is neither democratic, nor a republic.
Mateo will not be able to get his alternate self out of there using wingsuits, as he did last time. The plan went well, but looking back now, it was reckless and foolish. Sure, they had the advantage of time that the guards were nowhere near prepared for, but so many things could have gone wrong. They pretty much just got lucky, or maybe the powers that be protected them in a way that they wouldn’t have been able to recognize at the time. They have a chance this time to do it differently, to make it far easier on themselves. Back in those days, time travelers were time travelers, and teleporters were teleporters, but they have learned so much about reality, the lines have been blurred. More specifically, Mateo is carrying with them one syringe of temporal energy-infused immortality water. It’s actually activated Energy water; double the energy. Ramses believes there is enough power in this thing to make two, maybe even three jumps, which is better than they have been able to do thus far.
“I wasn’t able to figure out where Mateo’s cell might be,” Andile says regretfully. She has become their resident researcher, which makes sense, because that’s what she did before all this happened to her. “That’s all confidential.”
“I don’t think I’ll need that,” Mateo hopes. “Whenever I get a taste of temporal energy, I also get back my superempathy. If there’s anyone in the world I’m more connected to than my Leona, it’s my self.”
“Are you sure?” Andile questions.
“No,” Mateo answers honestly, “but Kivi came up with a contingency plan.”
“It’s not a plan,” Kivi points out. “It’s just an idea.”
“And it’s a good idea,” Mateo tells her.
“It’s...not,” Kivi contends.
“It’s...going to be okay.” Mateo has learned in his advanced age that confidence is key to the success of any mission. Without it, he has to rely too heavily on other people, and he doesn’t want to do that anymore. He doesn’t want to be helpless and sad. He wants to get back in the driver’s seat of his own life. So after a quick goodbye to his friends, he injects himself with the Energy water.
Andile was right to be worried. He gets his empathy back, but he can’t feel anyone he hasn’t before. He can sense Leona, Ramses, Angela, and Marie back in Kansas City. He can feel Kivi in the room with him, which is a bit ambiguous except when accounting for the fact that he can’t feel Alt!Leona, because she’s not the one he’s in love with, and his mind is conscious of that. As Nerakali would explain it, there is only one you; even alternate selves are only approximations. So since he doesn’t know where Alt!Mateo is, he’s going to have to go with Plan B.
Mateo teleports into the prison, getting as close as possible to the room where they think the cells should be controlled. It’s dead center, and would be impossible to reach from the outside without being spotted, but he doesn’t have to worry about all the doors. He appears to be wrong about the purpose of this area, though, as this looks more like a rich person’s fancy office. The walls are lined with books, and there’s a putting strip on the floor. What a giant cliché, it must be the warden’s office.
“Mister Matic,” comes a voice from the other side of the chair. He spins around, once more like a cliché. It’s Tamerlane Pryce. Because of course it is. “I’ve been waiting.”
“Have we met?” Mateo asks. He doesn’t mean to act like he doesn’t know who he is, but it could be a different version of Pryce, rather than the one he grew to hate in the afterlife simulation.
Pryce understands the meaning. “We’ve not, but I’ve heard of you. I am aware of how my alternate self treated you, and for what it’s worth, I am sorry for that.”
“I have dealt with far worse people, Mateo says sincerely. The other Pryce was rude and self-centered, but not evil. When all added up, he probably did more good than bad. He did save the lives of tens of billions of people throughout history.
“I assume you’re here to bust Andy Dufresne out?” this Pryce asks.
“I assume you’re not going to stop me,” Mateo says, both because maybe saying it out loud will make it come true, but also because there’s a strong chance that it is true.
Pryce looks halfway disgusted. “Ugh, you don’t want that guy. He’s a douche. There’s someone else I have in mind who doesn’t deserve to be here, and could use your help instead. I assume you possess a limited number of jumps?”
“I can do what I need to, as long as you stay out of my way.”
Pryce takes out a big book of residents, listed in alphabetical order, and opens to a particular page. “This is where your other self is right now.” He’s deliberately keeping his finger over the location. Then he switches to another page. “This is where someone who deserves to escape is.” This time, he’s deliberately keeping his finger over the name, and only showing the location. “I won’t tell you who it is until you choose.”
Remembering his thing about the driver’s seat, Mateo takes a letter opener out of its cup, and jams it into Pryce’s wrist, who cries out in pain. He carelessly removes the book from the bloodied hand, and scans for the second name. It’s Leona Reaver.

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