Sunday, October 30, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 27, 2398

When Ramses returned to the lab, he inspected it, but by then, Angela had reviewed the cameras. When Erlendr teleported there in his body, he was seemingly disoriented. He didn’t have some elaborate plan, and likely still doesn’t; it was an act of desperation. He wants to be free, and he probably felt like this was his only option. He stole the LIR Map for the same reasons, because it happened to be the nearest object when he first appeared. He might have even been only hoping for a stack of cash, or maybe a change of clothes. He got lucky, really, but now they suspect he’s using it to avoid detection. The map seems to show you what you need to achieve your objectives, not necessarily what you consciously wish. All he wants now is to stay out of sight, so it’s showing him CCTV blindspots, speed traps, and the like. That’s just the guess, though. At least that was Leona’s guess, once she returned home from rescuing her husband.
She and Ramses are sitting across from each other in his apartment. “I’m sorry.”
“You bent over to plug something in, it’s fine.”
“I’m not sorry for that. I mean, I am—I feel like an idiot—but I’m sorry that I’m trapped in this body.”
“Wait, are you apologizing to me because you look like me now?”
“I haven’t showered, I close my eyes when I go to the bathroom.”
“Do—do you want me to absolve you of some kind of sin? Do you want me to give you my blessing to use that body however you need to?”
Ramses sighs. “I’m just apologizing. I would apologize to her, but she’s not here. You’re the closest thing I got.”
“Rambo, you built me the body I’m using right now. You took a sample of my DNA, and cloned me. You have seen me naked, and we’re all friends here. You don’t have to be uncomfortable. This is just a substrate. It might have been weird in the past, but with consciousness transference, it’s just not a big deal anymore.”
“It still feels like a big deal. She wasn’t an empty clone, she was a real person.”
Leona nods. “Did you ever meet Téa Stendahl?”
“She was before my time. You told me about her, though. She was your brother.”
“That’s right. In one reality, she was my brother, and in the next, she wasn’t. She was born Ed Bolton in the eighteenth century, and traveled through time starting in the early nineteenth. He died, and was reincarnated as Theo Delaney. Fastforward to when my husband went back in time to kill Hitler, and created an entirely new reality, and suddenly I didn’t have a brother anymore. I didn’t even know what he was to me until my brain was blended later. When Arcadia was tormenting us on the island, we sometimes had downtime, and we got to talking about it. I asked her why she identified as a woman, even though she had more memories of a man. Was she transgender? She said, no. I’m just me. I’m not a man, or a woman; I’m not even salmon. I’m a person. When I was a man, I felt like a man, and now I feel like a woman, but if the powers that be see fit to reincarnate me as a praying mantis...I suppose I’ll feel like a praying mantis. There was a praying mantis sort of creature in the grass next to us while she was explaining it. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“Not really,” Ramses admits.
“I guess I’m saying...relax. You’re fine, Reaver’s fine, I’m fine. It’s gonna be fine.”
“That’s not necessarily true. Erlendr is still out there, somewhere.”
“We’ll catch him,” Leona says confidently. “He doesn’t have an identity here, so he can’t even leave the country.”
“He has the teleporter, and he knows how to use it.”
She shakes her head. The teleporter will run out of juice, if it hasn’t already, and he won’t know how to get more. Even if he did, he doesn’t strike her as the type of person who knows enough about technology to modify it to take him anywhere but right back to their lab. “He was only scary because of all the power he wielded in the main sequence. It was power that he was born with, and which is now gone. I bet he doesn’t even know how to drive a car, because he’s never had to before. We will catch him, and we’ll switch you back. Do you believe me?”
“I guess,” Ramses replies bashfully.
“I promise you, this is all going to work out. I just flew a helicopter in and out of a portal that took me to another reality. We’re closer than ever to figuring this all out. Now come on, let’s get back to studying that timonite. Trina is still our first priority.”

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