Monday, October 10, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 7, 2398

Leona Reaver never woke up, while the other three did. Or rather, if anyone took over her corporeal shell, like a hermit crab on the beach, they never woke up. Mateo was right to be worried about what kind of people might show up. Erlendr’s daughter, Arcadia Preston woke up in Leona Delaney’s body, much to her mixed feelings. Serkan, Ace, and Paige’s once-enemy, Rothko Ladhiffe stole Alt!Mateo’s, while some guy named Meredarchos took Andile’s. He made people uncomfortable immediately, but they don’t know what his deal is yet. They didn’t have a safe way to lock these people up until they could get to the bottom of this, so their only choice was to ask Winona Honeycutt for help. Since Mateo was as of yet the only one cognizant of Marie’s strong working relationship with her, it was Leona Matic who made contact.
Apparently, it is SD6 policy to hold all prisoners for at least a day before questioning unless a clear and present threat is posed to life. They find that people are more willing to talk once they have tasted what it might be like for the rest of their lives if they don’t. Unfortunately for them all, Winona and SD6 don’t know who they’re dealing with. The Prestons are immortal, and interpret a single day as less than a second. They don’t know much about Rothko, and they’ve never even heard of Meredarchos, but as they’re the company of the other two, they’re probably not so easily broken either.
Mateo and Lenoa have to start the interrogations on their own the next morning. The prisoners are more likely to respond well to them than to anyone. They’re going to start with Arcadia, because she’s been the most open, and they know her the best. The guard escorts them into the blacksite, and down the stairs. The cells are clean, well-lit, and furnished. Since the team has no idea whether the Livewire transfer to the past worked at all, they can’t do anything to harm these substrates yet. Their friends, the original owners, may need to reclaim them later.
The guard asks what kind of safety measures they would like to make, but they say it’s fine to just be in the room with her. She’s quite powerless now, or else she would have escaped by now. She may be playing the long game, but that still doesn’t place them in any more danger than they are already in. If she wants to hurt them, she will find a way. “You’re looking quite beautiful today,” Mateo says to her, hoping that she finds it funny since she looks exactly like his wife right now, instead of offensive since he’s not saying it about the real her.
Arcadia nods. “Does that mean you can love me now? Was my face the only thing keeping you away?”
Mateo takes her right hand in both of his. “You have always had a beautiful face. And I believe you have a beautiful soul too, if you just...tried to use it more often.”
She pulls away. “Don’t say stuff like that if you don’t mean it.”
“He means it,” Leona says. “You have not always made the right choices, but you’re not evil. None of you is evil.”
“Except for your father,” Mateo adds.
“He’s not evil,” Arcadia protested, “he just—”
“He raped your mother,” Mateo interrupts.
Arcadia blinks. “Why would you say such a terrible thing? He did not. They were married, I grew up with them.”
“Yeah, they were married, but—”
“Matt, stop,” Leona interrupts. “We’re not simpatico with her.”
Arcadia looks between the two of them. “Tell me what happened.”
“We can’t talk about it, I wasn’t thinking,” Mateo says apologetically. “The last thing you experienced was me overwriting you with Aldona’s mind. What I don’t understand is how you, your dad, Rothko Ladhiffe, and this Meredarchos fellow ended up here.”
“What the hell did you just say?” Arcadia straightens up.
Leona lists the names again.
Arcadia stands, freaked out. “Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure that he said his name was Meredarchos?”
“Yes, we are,” Leona says. “Why? What precautions should we take?”
Arcadia begins to pace. “Holly Blue. She built a psychic containment chamber. That’s the only thing with any hope of, well...containing him.”
“She’s not here,” Mateo explains.
“Make any call you need to. Dig a grave, flip a penny, tame a pigeon. Do whatever you must to make contact with her or The Weaver. We cannot let that thing spread.”
“We can’t do any of those things,” Leona insists. “We’re in The Third Rail.”
Arcadia eyes them both, waiting for elaboration. “I don’t know what that is.”
“The Prestons are supposed to know everything,” Mateo complains. “It’s a parallel reality. It doesn’t have time travel. Holly Blue isn’t here. She isn’t ever here...probably.”
“No time travel, or no time powers?” Arcadia questions.
“Both,” Leona says. “We should be enhanced humans, but even that was taken from us when we arrived. We’re trying to figure out what and how.”
She narrows her eyes. “You’re upgraded.”
“Yes,” Mateo replies.
Arcadia shakes her head slightly. “Nothing in this universe can dampen biological upgrades. How would that even work?”
“That’s what we were hoping to understand,” Leona tells her.
“If he hasn’t spread yet,” Arcadia begins, “that may be why. He may be trapped in whatever body he’s in right now. I know we have trust issues, but he is one of the greatest existential threats to the bulkverse, so you have to open up to me. He’s the reason I stopped doing what I was trying to do with the LIR Map. The only way to protect yourself from him is to hope he never finds you. So please, tell me what you know. How did me and my father get here? How did he?”
“We have the LIR Map,” Mateo says. “It doesn’t usually do anything, since powers aren’t common. We have our best luck with the immortality waters.”
“Go on.”
“Not here,” Leona decides. She stands up, and bangs on the door. When the guard opens it up, she says, “we’re letting this one go. Either move the man and the little girl to different cells, or the woman to her own cell. Either way, she needs to be extremely isolated.”
“Understood, agent,” the guard says as he’s unlocking Arcadia’s ankle shackle.
Mateo, Leona, and Arcadia go back to the lab to continue the conversation. For her to get a clear picture of what’s happened here, everybody needs to pitch in.

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