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Sunday, October 9, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 6, 2398

Power went out in the whole building, and it took a few minutes to come back on. Once it did, Leona and Ramses were pretty sure that the deed was done, and it was safe to go back down to the basement. The first thing they saw there was little Trina, lying motionless at the bottom of the stairs. The four adults who were trying to send their consciousnesses to the past were also on the floor, and not moving, which was to be expected. Mateo tried to scoop Trina up in his arms, but Leona stopped him. If she had a broken neck, they shouldn’t move her. She ordered Marie to call emergency services. While they were waiting for the paramedics, she told Mateo, Vearden, and Heath to carry the other four bodies into The Olimpia. They didn’t have an idea of what they were going to do with them, but that wasn’t important now. They just couldn’t let people see them, and start asking questions. The story was that Trina was exploring alone when she fell down the stairs, and no one else had anything to do with it.
As it turned out, Trina had a few broken bones, but her neck and head were fine. She didn’t require any major surgeries, and is presently in her hospital bed, still unconscious. She does read as asleep, though, instead of dead, or a coma. The instruments are detecting a clear heart rate, and even brain activity. She’s still in there, apparently having been knocked over by the blast of the transfer, but not taken by it. The other three McIvers are sitting bedside, with Carlin now passed out in his chair, head and arms on the bed at Trina’s feet. One hand is affectionately wrapped around her uninjured ankle.
Only family is allowed to stay with her at these hours, but Mateo has been permitted to come in every hour to check on the lot of them. He sits in the waiting room otherwise. It’s just past 2:30 when young Moray sends him a text message, alerting him to Trina’s greatly anticipated reawakening. He explains the situation to the nurse sitting at the desk, who allows him to go back off schedule. When he reaches the doorway, the doctor is just finishing her examination.
When the doctor steps aside, Trina see’s Mateo’s face. “My, my, my,” she begins in an unfamiliar tone. “Mateo Matic, how long has it been for you?”
“A few hours,” he underestimates.
Trina narrows her eyes. “You only lasted a few hours before you regretted overwriting me?”
Mateo gasps. “Doctor, are you able to give us some privacy?” he asks.
She looks over at Trina. “Five minutes. Then I need to run some tests.”
“Very well.” Once she’s gone, he addresses the McIvers, “step away from her.”
“Her?” Trina questions.
“This is our sister,” Alyssa protests.
“She’s sick, so get your other siblings away from her right now.”
Trina looks at them, confused. She lifts her hands up, and regards them curiously. “Do you happen to have a mirror?”
Mateo takes out his phone, and opens the camera app. He holds it in front of Trina’s face. She lightly touches her own cheek, just to make sure that it’s actually hers. “This is...disgusting.”
“What?” Alyssa questions, scared.
“This is a person whose body you’ve stolen.”
“Hey, I didn’t steal anything. I don’t know how I got here.”
Mateo turns his lizard brain. That almost sounded sincere. “What is the last thing you remember? Be honest.”
“You were deleting my consciousness, and replacing it with someone else.”
“Then you just woke up here.”
“What is going on, Mateo?” Alyssa demands to know. “Why are you talking to her like that? Why is she talking like that? Is this some kind of time disease?”
“This isn’t your sister,” Mateo explains. “This is the mind of a very bad man. Though, I suppose man is a bit of an overstatement. He’s more of a monster.”
“Assuming I believe you,” Alyssa begins, “how do we get her back?”
“With help,” Mateo answers, realizing something. “He dials the phone, and puts it to his ear. “Leona? Have the bodies awakened?” He waits for a response. “Lock them up,” he says when she reports that they haven’t. “Where? Well, that’s a good question.” They should have thought to prepare for this eventuality. A jail. Why didn’t they think of that? It would have been quite easy to lay the concrete blocks, fabritate the bars, and install the locks. They have so many enemies in this reality, and every right to hold them against their will. It’s so obvious now. Life has gotten so ridiculous. “I don’t know—just, they may wake up, and they may not be friendly. Erlendr Preston is here.” He shakes his head. “No, I can handle him. Watch out for the others.”
Erlendr is making Trina’s face grin. “You can lock me up, but you can’t hurt me. You care about this person too much.”
“You need to help me figure out how to get your consciousness out of her body,” Mateo insists.
“Why would I help you?” Erlendr asks him. “You just tried to kill me. I don’t know how long ago that was for you, but it was only minutes for me.”
“You’re going to help me, because I saw your face when you realized where you were. This is a little girl, and as evil as you, you don’t relish the idea of staying here any longer than you have to. What happens when she has to go to the bathroom? Are you comfortable with that?”
He scowls. “What year is it?”
“It’s 2398.”
“Perfect,” Erlendr decides. “Just transfer me to a clone.”
“It’s the Third Rail,” Mateo clarifies.
“I don’t know what that is,” Erlendr claims.
“It’s what you wanted The Parallel to be. There’s very little time travel here. We kind of have to make our own.”
“Okay...I don’t need time travel, I need mind uploading.”
Mateo rolls his eyes, knowing that this is what smart people feel like when they talk to him. “Without help from time travelers, society progressed at a slower rate. It’s more like the 2050s here. There’s no mind uploading.”
Erlendr frowns, and struggles to get out of bed. “You always manage to screw things up, don’t you?”
“Don’t move,” Alyssa instructs.
“I’m fine,” Erlendr argues.
“I said. Don’t. Move!”

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