Saturday, October 8, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 5, 2398

A long time ago, Jupiter Fury gave Mateo and his team at the time a task. They had to save Vearden Haywood from being attacked and killed by an ancient dinosauric creature on Tribulation Island. They couldn’t just go to that moment in time, and transport him away from the animal. They had to leave the timeline intact, and make everyone believe that he was dead. He was trampled on out of sight, but found immediately, and brought back to camp where Leona and Mateo tried to treat his wounds. They disappeared from the timestream at the end of the day, and when they returned a year later, they learned that he hadn’t ultimately survived his injuries.
What the team did was create a clone of Vearden, but they couldn’t give it consciousness, because letting it die in the real Vearden’s stead would be unethical. Their plans were screwed up when Mateo himself was killed by the creature first, but they still went ahead with the task. Leona Matic, Jeremy, Ellie, and Sanaa transferred their own minds to the clone, and went off to switch places with the real Vearden, and since then, they hadn’t really thought about what happened to their original bodies. After spending time in the afterlife simulation, they received new substrates from Tamerlane Pryce, and went on with their lives. The bodies are empty shells now, and they could be of great use to them, as long as Leona Delaney’s understanding of the Livewire is correct.
Leona Matic came up with an idea, but first she had to convince everyone else to go along with it. Leona Reaver and Alt!Mateo’s problem was that they were destined to die in their own timelines, and would eventually have to go back to realize that. While their deaths weren’t locked in by the hundemarke, they were integral to the creation of every timeline that came after it. Without these events, who knows what would become of reality? The extraction mirror was designed to buy time, not to change the past. But time has little meaning without perception. It exists, sure, but it doesn’t matter unless something is conscious and experiencing it. As long as everyone involved believes that something happened, then it may as well have. The timeline won’t be changed if no one can tell the difference. They can save Reaver and Alt!Mateo, and it’s all thanks to the bodies that Leona and her friends left behind. But what to do with the two extra ones.
“Are we really doing this?” Leona Delaney asks her friend.
“I have no strong feelings about this reality,” Andile replies.
“We’ll be leaving people behind,” Delaney reminds her for the upteenth time.
“No one we’re leaving behind doesn’t want us to do this,” Andile volleys, also for the upteenth time. It didn’t take long for Andile to get on board, but Delaney has been struggling with the decision.
“I dunno.”
“Four bodies, two people,” Andile goes on. “If we don’t go, they’ll just decompose, and go to waste.”
“The people in those bodies didn’t just leave. They left, and then they died. It feels disrespectful.”
“The other Leona says it’s okay.”
“She can consent. The other three aren’t around to.”
“She said that they would be okay with it if they knew. They have all moved on.” Andile takes Delaney’s hand. “I’m sick of calling you by your last name. You need to go somewhere where you’re the only Leona.”
“I won’t be Leona. I’ll be Ellie, or maybe Sanaa. I don’t even know those people.”
“Sanaa has darker skin, I would rather be her.”
“That’s such a weird decision to have to make. Don’t you think so?”
“I think...that I’ve made it. And it doesn’t have to be permanent. We’ll be in the main sequence, which is more advanced, and has more time travel. We’ll be able to transfer again later. This is just temporary.”
“That kind of contradicts your idea that the bodies we’re stealing would go to waste otherwise.”
Andile shrugs. “So we’ll use them for a few decades, and then transfer. That’s the beauty of the future, honey. No one ever really dies.”
Delaney is still concerned, but she wants to get out of this place, and she wants to make her friend happy. Her only hangup is wondering whether this is the only way, or the best way. It will never not be a strange thing to do, taking over someone else’s body, and walking around, looking like them. She better make her choice fast. They get a text from the other Leona, alerting them to their return. Bridgette and Cheyenne have agreed to let them borrow the Insulator of Life, as long as they came with, and took it right back. They also wanted to stay out of all this other stuff, and be left alone after their business was over. Leona Matic and Marie have spent all day today discussing it with them. They can’t just take it from her. It’s an unwritten rule in their world. Even the most villainous of villains don’t steal things from people, if only because the worst of them are usually too powerful to exert the effort it would take to care that much.
She mirrors the look that Andile gives her. “Okay. Let’s go.”
Andile smiles, and hops off the bed. They reach the elevator just in time to ride down with Ramses. Everyone else is already in the basement, where it’s taking place. Ramses points to one of the outlets to tell them that that’s the one he’s rigged up to transmit power to the Insulator. Leona Matic sets it on the table, but doesn’t hook it up.
“Is this going to work?” Alt!Mateo questions.
“Yes,” Ramses assures him. “Based on Delaney’s intel, my genius, Leona’s genius, and Jupiter’s knack for planning far in advance, this is what is meant to happen.”
“And what is that exactly?” Leona Reaver presses. “What is happening?”
Vearden steps forward. “When I ran into Jupiter, he was plugging something into power, which I didn’t think much of at the time, since we were on a spaceship. Now I know it was the Insulator. He set it up centuries ago to receive a transmission from us, in the future. When we all leave the room, and the Insulator is activated, every consciousness in the blast radius will be pulled out of its body, sent to the past, and inserted into its new body. You’ll be in the year 2125, on a planet called Dardius.”
“How does it know whose body to put which consciousness in?” Delaney asks.
“Jupiter has that all set up,” Leona answers.
“But you don’t know that,” Alt!Mateo reasons.
“Does it matter? It’s gonna save your life,” Mateo contends.
“This isn’t mandatory,” Leona tells them. “Anyone and everyone can back out. It’s an option that we’re providing you, but you have until that thing is plugged in to change your mind. In fact, you’ll have to plug it in yourselves. None of us can be down here.”
Ramses looks around. “Does everyone understand the risks, and rewards?”
“I don’t,” Bridgette jumps in. “What if this burns out the Insulator? What will happen to Cheyenne?”
“Bridge, it’s fine. They need this more than I do.”
“No, it belongs to you right now. You have the right to back out as well. These people act like they know what the hell is going on, but they don’t. They’re operating on faith, and that’s how World War I got started. People and their religions,” she spits.
“It’s not religion,” Leona says. “It’s science.”
After Bridgette scoffs, Cheyenne takes her by the hand, and begins to lead her towards the stairs. “This isn’t our business. They said that the Insulator would be fine, and that they would give it back. I’m choosing to trust, and believe, them. If you don’t, it’s like you don’t trust or believe in me.” She stops at the bottom of the steps. “Marie’s sister said that she would give us a tour of her startup. That’s where we’ll be. Thanks.”
Mateo starts to head up too. “I don’t need to be here either.”
Pretty soon, they all follow suit. “Remember. You have to plug it in. It’s in your hands now.” Leona and Ramses are the last to leave.
Alt!Mateo strides over, and takes the Livewire in his hand. When Leona Delaney lurches forwards a little bit, he holds up the other hand. “It’s okay, I’ll wait. But I’m never changing my mind. I wanna live, even if I end up looking like this Jeremy Bearimy fellow, so this is getting plugged in no matter what. I’ll count down.”
“You don’t need to count,” Andile says. “We’re ready. Right?”
“Let’s vote,” Reaver suggests, “so there’s no ambiguity. All in favor of him plugging it in, raise your hands.”
They all raise their hands.
“Perfect,” Reaver decides with a quick nod. “Do it.”
“Okay,” Alt!Mateo replies. He leans over, and plugs the wire in. A jolt of electricity coming from the wall startles him, but he doesn’t get hurt.
They can hear the energy running through the Livewire, which is wrapped around the Insulator. It starts to glow, the light eventually spreading beyond the confines of the glass. A bubble is forming around it, heading towards them. Delaney instinctively starts to back away, but Andile holds her forward. This is surely what’s supposed to happen. She gently pushes her closer to it, and lets the bubble consume them both. Reaver and Alt!Mateo are doing the same. Once they’re all inside, the Insulator begins to make a humming noise, like static. It’s trying to find the right frequency, or something. Before anyone can ask if it’s working, a sudden surge shoots through them, and expands the bubble even farther, and then everything goes black.
Leona Delaney wakes up on a couch. No, it’s not a couch, but a loveseat. That wasn’t clear before. Her head is resting on the shoulder of a stranger. Or maybe it’s not a stranger at all, but Andile. She looks over to see a man, and another woman on the other side of him. It’s not her own face, which can only mean one thing. Her consciousness has been transferred into the body of this Leona, instead of Reaver’s. She’s back on the yearly jump pattern, and there’s nothing she can do about it. Andile, meanwhile, with whatever body she’s in, will not be on the same pattern. This is bad, this is really bad.
Hello,” comes a voice, but it doesn’t sound like a normal voice from the outside. It sounds more like a thought.
“Where are you?” Delaney asks. “Who are you?”
I don’t know where I am,” the voice replies, sad and scared. “I’m Trina.

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