Monday, October 24, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 21, 2398

Ever since Arcadia bailed on Team Matic, Alyssa has been working as the receptionist at Angela and Kivi’s company. It’s been pretty easy. As a startup, they don’t have a lot of calls and foot traffic. She’s getting paid for the work, which seems quite weird seeing as her and her family’s room and board are also being provided by these people. They have given them so much, and now it’s time to ask them for one more thing. She needs to have a conversation with the man trapped in her sister’s body, but she has to ask permission. The security guards will let her watch him through a one-way mirror, but there is to be no direct contact without authorization, and only a member of the core group can make such a decision. She’s also going to need the day off.
“Are you sure that’s wise?” Kivi asks. “You remember, Trina isn’t in there, right?”
“I know,” Alyssa says. “She’s in the past with your other friends. I just...I wanna know who he is.”
“I can’t help you with that, but the others could.”
“I’ve heard enough second hand. I want to speak with him.”
“I understand. It’s all right by me for you to take off, but I have to stay here to fill in, so someone else will have to accompany you. Mateo is up in the air, Leona is halfway across the country, and Marie is...preoccupied. I think Ramses is your only choice.”
“I’ll talk with him. Thank you.”
Alyssa climbs the steps to the lab, and badges herself in. Ramses is there, like he always is. He has his own unit upstairs, but there’s a cot next to his desk, and he’s clearly been sleeping here. She feels bad. He’s so obsessed with figuring out how the Insulator of Life and Livewire work that he can’t make any time for himself. Perhaps driving her to the black site is as close to a break as he’ll be willing to take, especially if she’s the one asking. He would probably kill for her if she asked. “Hey, can you do me a favor?”
“What?” He was engrossed in his work. “Oh, yes, of course. Anything.”
“I need you to take me to the black site. I would like to meet Erlendr Preston.”
Ramses frowns. “Oh. I’m not sure that I should do that.”
It would be morally right for her to plead her case, and convince him through reason, and emotional understanding. She doesn’t have time for that, so she pulls out her trump card. “I’m sure that you should.”
He frowns for a few more seconds, but then his expression changes. “Wait, that’s perfect. Yes, that could work. He hates all of us, but if you talk to him, you may be able to get him to do what we need.”
“What do we need?” Alyssa asks.
“More data.”
“Okay. What kind of data?”
“Let me explain.” Ramses goes over what they would be asking Erlendr to do for them, and together they strategize how to get him to go along with it. He shouldn’t have any real problem with it in general, as long as they leave out one particular detail. They just have to hope that it’s not something he already knows about.
The guard lets them in, and escorts them to the observation room. The mentally unstable man in Alt!Mateo’s body is fidgeting with one of his flashlights. He’s fixated on the damn things, so the government agreed to supply him with dozens of all different kinds. He just keeps switching them on and off, and rearranging them around his cell. Alyssa thinks that they should get him professional help, but that’s not really her call. It’s also not what she’s about today. She’s here for Erlendr.
“You don’t need to rush this,” Ramses advises her.
“I’m ready. You can open the door.”
The guard opens it, but Ramses steps through first. Erlendr smirks, and doesn’t put the novel he’s reading down. He’s obsessed with books, instead of flashlights. He realizes that they’re in an entirely new reality to him, full of culture that he doesn’t know anything about. He’s got a lot of catching up to do. He changes when Alyssa follows. He sets the book down gently, and regards her with an empathetic face; the kind that Trina hasn’t gotten old enough to need to use yet. He seems to be gathering who Alyssa is, or at least that she’s not just some random interrogator. He waits patiently.
“We’ve not formally met. My name is Alyssa McIver, and you’re in my sister, Trina’s body.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Erlendr replies.
“I’m sorry to hear that you’re not a very good person.”
“In real life, villains don’t think of themselves as villains. We’re the heroes of our own stories, and in my story, everyone agrees with me.”
“You’re story is not factual,” Alyssa argues.
“No one’s is,” he counters.
“I didn’t come here for philosophy class,” Alyssa begins. “I’ve decided that I’m no longer okay with you being in the body of my baby sister.”
“I was never okay with it,” Erlendr explains. “I want you to understand—in case Leona and her friends have not made it clear—I did not choose to end up in here. The Insulator of Life is difficult to control.”
“I get that,” Alyssa says, “which is why I don’t blame you. I can’t even blame you for all the horrible things you did in your reality, because I wasn’t there to witness them. I can only go on what others tell me. The truth is that I’ve not known them much longer than you. Fate put us together, much like you and my sister. I can change my circumstances by leaving them, but I can’t do it without her, which is why I need you to change your circumstances first.”
“Would if I could,” Erlendr claims.
“You can,” Ramses declares. He takes the Insulator out of his bag.
“I told you that it can’t be controlled, not even by me. What makes you think you could do any better?”
“You wield magicks. I use science. That’s the problem with you choosing ones, you can live so easily without technology, you don’t know how things work.”
“I know a lot more than you might think, young one,” Erlendr condescends.
Ramses sets the Insulator down, and takes out the Livewire. “I want to transfer your consciousness to another body, but with such low technology, these are the only tools I have at my disposal, plus only one alternative substrate. You’ll look like Leona, which may not be ideal, but for my part, it’s better than where you are now.”
“I’ll do it,” Erlendr agrees with no argument.
“Now, if it works, you may think you’ll be able to exploit your new position, but—”
“I said I’ll do it,” Erlendr repeats. “You’re right, anything is better than this. And Miss McIver’s right, I’ve done a lot of bad things, but I don’t hurt kids. So get on with it.”

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