Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 22, 2398

Mateo, Winona, and Tarboda arrived on Rapa Nui yesterday, but they were required to wait in a facility during a 24-hour quarantine period. They came out with a clean bill of health, and are presently arriving at the volcano on the southern end of Easter Island, Ranu Kao. The last time Mateo was here, it was in the main sequence, and things were a lot different. For him, this island is famous for the mysterious humanoid sculptures that are located in a different region. For the people of The Third Rail, this is a nice resort with a rich history that the people who visit here don’t care all that much about. The island has beautiful landscapes, unique flora, and tame fauna, and is considered one of the best places to go if you want to get away from civilization, since it’s so far from the mainland. The statues Mateo remembers were never built here, though. He can’t recall exactly what they’re called, and since they don’t exist, no one can tell him. Perhaps this island doesn’t have any special temporal properties here. It would explain why the crater lake that’s meant to be here is completely dry.
“Is that bad?” Winona asks. “What does that mean?”
“I have no idea,” Mateo answers. “Leona should be here.”
“She’s quite busy.”
“Because your father is trying to take over the world with fusion power!” he argues, but he knows that he shouldn’t be too mad about it. Of course the government would want to mass produce the greatest breakthrough in energy production thus far. Leona knew it would happen, she just didn’t realize how little they cared about the rocket they built, which started it all.
“You said there was a secret passageway under the water,” Winona says, taking no offense to his words. “Maybe it’s still down there.”
He just frowns and kicks at the dirt.
“Come on. Let’s go on down. Tarboda, stay up here and keep a lookout.” The pilot nods respectfully. He’s been pretty cool about all this. He doesn’t seem to have ever belonged in that amoral group of mercenaries they met in Bermuda.
They carefully climb down the steep sides of the crater, and head for the bottom. As it was indeed underwater, and pretty dark, Mateo can’t remember exactly where the cave was, but it was somewhere on the opposite side as the ocean. His instinct is that it’s precisely the opposite, so that’s where they start looking. At a quick glance, there is no opening, which makes sense, or someone would have found it forever ago. Still, it can’t require a key, or a map, or an incantation. He also won’t accept the possibility that, like the moai—oh yeah, that’s what they’re called—it just doesn’t exist at all. It has to be here somewhere. All of the other significant places they’ve been to have been at least a little significant in this reality too. He starts running his hands along the walls, looking for anything unusual. “Go that way, please,” he asks her.
She does as he asks, but her heart’s not in it. Neither is his, but even so, they keep working at it. She has one little collapsible shovel, and one machete. She gives him the former to look for unstable spots. There’s so much ground to cover, and they don’t know where it might be on the z-axis, so Tarboda drops ropes down, and manages them from the top of the crater. No one comes to find them doing this. It’s apparently not that popular of a tourist destination, probably because it’s dried up, and they’re approaching the off-season. They work at this for hours. Ramses sent a bottle of Existence water in case he needed to do an emergency teleport, but it’s probably not going to come up, so he just drinks it once his regular canteen runs out. Once that container runs out, he decides that there is no point in going on. “Stop, just stop. There’s nothing here.”
“I know,” Winona agrees. “I’m sorry that this was such a disappointing trip.”
“What’s that you say!” Tarboda asks from above.
“We’re calling it quits!” Mateo explains.
“Oh, okay! I’ll pull you up!”
“No! I’m gonna do one more thing!” He removes his harness, and drops a meter down to the ground. Then he runs over to as close to the center of the crater as he can find. Here, while flipping off the world beyond, he pees. “Now who’s too dry?” he asks the island. Once he’s finished, he turns around, and gives the other two a thumbs up.
“Real classy!” Winona shouts at him.
He pumps his fist in the air. “Yeah!” Yeah, is right, assuming the question is if he’s tired, hungry, and closer to dehydration than he probably should be for as much as he drank. He tries to start walking back towards his rope when the ground trembles; just a little, but enough to throw him off balance.
“You better come on back!” Winona advises.
“I’ll get right on it!” Mateo replies. He starts again, but the ground shakes again, this time much harder. Each time he stops, the shaking stops, and each time he tries to move again, it moves too. Either it’s a coincidence, or some wibbly-wobbly shit is going on down here.
“Run!” Winona yells at him.
He takes her advice, but doesn’t get very far. The ground caves in under him, starting from the center, and expanding out, but not uniformly. It becomes impossible for him to stay ahead of it when the ground between him and Winona disappears early. Before he can see if enough of the Existence water is still in his system for him to teleport, he falls, and loses consciousness.
He awakens in the tall grass, wet from the morning dew. He’s not aching anywhere, but he’s dizzy and confused, and he can’t see well. His short term memory is gone at first, and has to come back to him in waves as he’s looking around and blinking, trying to fix his vision. The fuzziness subsides, and reveals an open grassy area, and some nearby trees. Winona and Tarboda are both lying there too. He crawls over to confirm their pulses and steady breaths. This is enough to wake them up, and they seem to be experiencing the same symptoms as they work to wake themselves up more.
“Where are we?” Tarboda asks.
“Unknown,” Mateo answers. We fell down into a cave, though, and now we’re back on the surface. Either someone moved us, or...”
“Or what?”
“Or we traveled. Can you both walk?” Mateo asks.
“Yes,” they answer simultaneously.
The three of them struggle to their feet, then struggle some more, like a newborn calf. Once they feel comfortable enough, they pick a random direction, and begin walking. It’s not long before they come upon something that Mateo recognizes. “Whoa.”
“What the hell is that?” Winona asks.
That is Stonehenge, and these...are the missing British Isles.”
“The whatnow?”

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