Thursday, September 29, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 27, 2398

Mateo didn’t think to put Las Vegas, New Mexico or Las Vegas, Nevada on his list of places to investigate. It didn’t occur to him to include every single place that he’s ever been. For many people, that’s a costly and time-consuming endeavor, but for him, he’s been to surprisingly few places around the world. He’s probably been to more worlds than particular locations on any given world, and they’re all inaccessible for him anyway. His list would be a lot longer with faster-than-light intergalactic, or even just interstellar, travel. Anyway, there is probably more to learn about New Mexico, but Leona declared that they were going to leave for Kansas City, so that’s what they did. The bus took the two of them, plus Winona, across two more state borders, and dropped them off at the condo. From there, the latter separated from the group, and made her way back to whatever secret government lair she lives in.
The condo was a mess. It was designed for a family of four, but there were now fifteen people, it’s absolutely ridiculous. They made it work like a slumber party, but if anyone wants any privacy going forward, something is going to have to change. Ramses woke up really early the next morning, and tiptoed over the sleeping bags, very careful so as to not wake anyone. He only had one final thing to do at the lab before it was ready for primetime, but it was going to take the next several hours, and he didn’t want to go one more night without the third floor.
Leona and Angela join him there at a more reasonable hour to work on some things on the other two floors, and then everyone meets there before dinner. It’s going to be a mini-twin convention. At least that’s what they’ll tell anyone who notices the duplicates in the private room of the restaurant. They’re asked to wait at the bottom floor while Ramses runs up alone to prepare for the big reveal. He actually locks the elevator down so that no one can get a sneak peek. Rolling his eyes, Mateo takes the stairs, but everyone else continues to wait in the lobby.
Ramses is trying to carry two nightstands down the hallway. “Oh, it’s just you. Could you help me?”
“It doesn’t have to be perfectly finished,” Mateo points out to him as he takes one of them. “It just needs to be livable for now; electricity, plumbing...”
“And that’s all I’ve done. There’s still a lot to do to make any of this look like a home...or homes, that is.”
After Mateo finishes placing the nightstand by the bed, he starts to look around on his own, ignoring protests from Ramses who wants to give everybody the tour all at once. This is where they’re going to move to, the lot of them. They’ll be safe here. Well, at least as safe as possible. No place on Earth is safe from their enemies, but this is still the better choice. They have outgrown the Ponce de Leon, especially with the newcomers, who may or may not be staying. It’s in need of decor, but it will do nicely. Ramses done did good. “How many units? Nine?”
“Eight,” Ramses corrects. “That door at the end is not a unit. It’s a common area for all of us. The others are studio-size, according to this world’s current standards. The two on either side of the common area are each a little bigger, but they’re all fit for one or two people. Ah, but I’m saying too much. Come back during the official tour!”
Mateo laughs. “Open the elevator, Rambo.”
Ramses presses a button on his device, and sends the elevator down for the others. They spill out of it like sardines, thirteen people in a space for ten or eleven. “Welcome, welcome, all, to The Lofts at Matic Labs!”
“That’s not what the lab is called,” Leona says in a way that sounds like she’s had to tell him that many times.
Ramses insists on showing everybody each apartment, even though six of them are pretty much identical, and the other two are identical to each other. Each one has two bedrooms, one bathroom, and a tiny kitchenette. Most of the cooking is meant to be done in that common area, which resembles an office break room. Its kitchen is fully loaded, and is accompanied by couches, computers, other screens, and its own bathroom. He may have called these lofts, but in reality, they combine to form a single house that happens to be sitting on top of a small office building.
“Which one is ours?” little Trina asks.
“Oh, we can’t stay here,” Alyssa says to her sadly.
“Why not?” Ramses asks her.
“Well, this is yours. We’re not really part of all this.”
“Nonsense,” Ramses says. “You have a destiny with us, you may just not know it yet. I built this for our friends, and you qualify.” He addresses the whole room, “you all qualify, duplicates included.”
Alyssa is unsure. She looks to Leona and Mateo, whose facial expressions echo the sentiment. This should be their home now, and not because they can’t take care of themselves, but because they’re family. The only question would be the other Mateo, the other Leonas, and Andile. It’s unclear what they want out of life, and whether their objectives align with everyone else’s. Well, that’s not the only question. If they too want to return to the main sequence—and not just to die—they might want to stay close. Whenever the team figures out how to accomplish their task, it could be time sensitive, and space might even be limited. They don’t know yet. They just don’t know.
“Okay, we’ll stay, and we’ll take whatever unit no one else wants,” Alyssa decides.
“The two on either side of us have more square meterage, but an odd configuration, because this room butts into them,” Ramses begins. “For a family of four, I would recommend units B, C, F, or G. A and H are smaller because of the elevator, so I’ll take one of those.”
“We’ll take the other,” Mateo volunteers for himself and Leona.
Ramses points at people’s heads, and counts in his own. “If the McIvers are together, and couples are together, four of us will have to pair up to make it work.”
“My Leona and I can be in one unit,” Andile says.
“Are you sure?” Alt!Leona asks. “Are you sure you want to stay?”
“Yeah, why not? I’m tired of running. Let’s stay with people who care about us.”
“That still leaves two roommates. Alt!Mateo, I’m okay bunking with you.”
“No, we can do that, can’t we?” Kivi asks, indicating herself and Angela.
“No,” Alt!Mateo says. “I don’t know what made you think I would be interested in joining your little cult, but I’m not going to do that.”
“What will you do instead?” Alt!Leona asks. It’s very awkward between them since he was, and will be responsible, for her death in Reality One.
“I don’t have to go home, but I can’” He starts to leave.
“You will always have a home here, just the same!” Ramses calls to him.

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