Friday, October 7, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 4, 2398

Certain that the team would make new friends, or reunite with old ones, Ramses bought a gigantic table for the common room on the third floor. This is the kind of thing that you see in castles, where two people who married only for political purposes sit on either end, forcing their servant to make the ungodly trip several times throughout the meal. It comes in at five meters long, which is over sixteen feet in a measuring system that no one in this reality uses. It was hauled up here through the window, since it was custom made as a single piece, and had no way of fitting in the elevator. It’s designed to accommodate eighteen people, which is good, because they have fifteen at the moment. Vearden!Three joined them yesterday after being spotted, tracked, and recruited by Alyssa McIver, with assistance by Carlin McIver. They’re all gathered ‘round for a nice dinner, prepared by Heath, Andile, and the three youngest McIvers.
There was nothing particularly special about today, besides Vearden’s arrival, and some people were sort of maybe just a little bit worried about the possibility of these massive group dinners becoming a regular thing. Not everyone was available yesterday to hear Vearden’s story, so he tells it again at the urging of the children, who want to hear it again, since they’re still excited about this time travel stuff. “After the other Vearden—who I now know to have been Leona and her friends in a clone of me?—took my place on Tribulation Island, I took the map, and headed for Jupiter.”
“He means a person named Jupiter, not the planet,” young Moray makes sure they all know.
“Right,” Vearden agrees kindly. “So I find him, and he tells me that my work isn’t done yet. He says that I have one more thing to do before I can relax. He agreed to send me to when and wherever I wanted to go for my retirement, which I’m not sure I’m going to do. I mean, what does that even mean for people like us? This isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle, right? Anyway, he asked me to open a door. Now, I don’t know if you realize this, but that whole opening doors to other points in spacetime isn’t something that I was truly ever able to do. I did it in order to find the other Vearden on Tribulation Island, but I was pretty sure I had help. But I did as he asked, and on the other side of that door was Jupiter again. They gave each other a knowing look, like it was all planned out. After I closed the door behind me, the second Jupiter handed me this necklace, and pushed me out of the window. I landed on my feet in a parking lot, so far from other buildings that it had to be some kind of portal.”
“So Jupiter can transition people from the Third Rail too,” Mateo muses. “He could bring us back if he wanted. Or Nerakali could, or The Warrior.”
“One of them would have to know that we’re even here,” Ramses believes.
“They might not be able to even then, though,” Angela reasons. “I’m starting to get the feeling that coming here is a hell of a lot easier than leaving.”
“That makes sense,” Marie says.
“Let me see the necklace,” Leona Matic requests of Vearden.
“Okay, sure.” Vearden takes it off, and hands it to her.
She examines it, with her eyes, and with her fingers. She holds it open like the start of Cat’s Cradle. She tries to ball it up, but it’s not really flexible enough. Finally she twists the clasp open, and separates the two ends, peering at one of them. “There is something in here.” She pinches it, and delicately begins to pull out the wire. As she does so, it grows thicker, like a cartoon. The casing is apparently bigger on the inside. The length appears to be the same as the circumference of the necklace, though. Once it’s free, they all look at what appears to just be a regular metal wire, though with an unusual greenish coloring.
“Oh, it’s the Livewire,” comes Mateo’s voice, but it’s not from the one sitting at the table. Alt!Mateo has come in, arm in a sling, and a bandage still around his forehead.
“Self,” the other Mateo begins, “you’ve decided to join us?”
“I realized that I had some unfinished business here.” Alt!Mateo glances over at Leona Reaver, but quickly corrects himself.
“You called this the Livewire,” Leona Matic says. “What does that mean?”
“No idea,” Alt!Mateo answers with a shrug. “That’s just what my friend, Gilbert called it. He didn’t say anything else.”
“You knew Gilbert Boyce?” Leona questions.
“Yeah, you too?”
She sighs and scoffs. As far as they were aware, Gilbert Boyce had nothing to do with anything in the timeline that this version of Mateo is from.
The other Mateo gets a better look at the thing. “Has anyone else noticed how familiar that shade of green is?”
“Yeah, I noticed,” Marie concurs.
“You’re right,” Ramses decides. “It looks like the Insulator of Life, which I guess makes sense since that’s what glass insulators do, hold wires in place.”
“Okay, fine!” Leona Delaney cries. “I’ll help you make it work!”
“Leona, what are you talking about?” her friend, Andile questions.
“If you get the Insulator of Life, I will help you work it. But you have to promise to give it right back to the person who’s using it right now.”
“Keep going,” Andile urges.
“Okay, I met The Dealer several years ago, Andile, when we got separated. He asked me if I needed the Insulator, and of course, I didn’t, because I was only living one day out of the year at the time. He asked me to help him find a worthy successor, and I’m like, what do I know about that? But I actually did find someone. She was a visitor to this time, and she didn’t belong, but she was going to die before she got back to her rightful place in the timeline, so I connected them, and I never saw either of them again. I didn’t know that this senator’s daughter had anything to do with it, I promise.”
“Delaney, it’s okay,” Leona assures her. “You don’t have to explain. We all have secrets. But can you tell us, what does the Livewire do? We may end up not having a use for it at all, and won’t have to bother your friend about it anyway.”
Delaney sighs. “It can get you back home. Well, theoretically, it can. I don’t know that much about it, but when I was researching it back in my own timeline, the literature made it sound like someone would have to give up their life. It said something about needing a sacrifice on the other side of the call?”
Leona turned back to Vearden. “V, what did you see when you were with Jupiter the first time? Did you see me, and maybe a few other people?”
“Yeah,” Vearden confirms. “You were sleeping on the couch with Ellie Underhill, and two people that I didn’t recognize.”
Leona Matic grins in a devilish way. “We don’t need any sacrifices. Those four bodies on the couch aren’t asleep...they’re vacant. Jupiter planned this all along.”

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