Tuesday, October 11, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 8, 2398

The guards followed Leona’s orders by transferring this mysterious Meredarchos to a lower level with no contact with the outside world. It apparently has plumbing, electricity, and a reserve of survival food that can last one person ten years. He shouldn’t be of risk to anyone unless whatever power he has is even stronger than Arcadia knows. She doesn’t know a whole lot. What she discovered after commissioning the creation of the LIR Map is that it’s not only capable of illuminating the entirety of the spacetime continuum for the universe it’s in at the time, but also the entirety of the bulkverse when it’s outside of any universe. With it, she could find any and every brane in all of reality, of which there is an infinite number. It was far too much information for her, but before she folded it back up, and shoved the overwhelming memory deep down in her mind, she noticed one thing. Branes exist in neighborhoods, drawn together for various reasons. The neighborhood they live in formed at the hands of people like Vearden Haywood while in possession of The Crossover, but there are other forces at play. Meredarchos hails from his own neighborhood, in a dark corner of the bulk. He’s either the improbably lucky lone survivor of a cataclysm, or the cause of it. Either possibility makes him a threat.
They’re not going to do anything with him until they have a better understanding of what they’re up against, or if they’re against anything at all. Until then, the team is trusting Arcadia to not try anything fishy. While Vearden leaves Ramses’ unit to start using Delaney and Andile’s, Arcadia is moving into Leona Reaver’s old apartment. They will read her into every pertinent situation, and let her contribute to the decisions, but she has to be honest with them. In turn, they will be honest with her, which they were worried about doing, since they know things about her future, but she dismissed these concerns. Nothing they had to say ought to have any terrible repercussions on the timelines, even the bomb they dropped about her father raping her mother. She said that it would be all right, that she would be able to act like it was all new information when the time came. If the Prestons aren’t even aware of the Third Rail, then keeping it a secret against as many people as possible could be paramount.
Mateo walks into the common area, where Heath is reading a book about Easter Island, and Arcadia is staring at the LIR Map. “Are you still at it?” he asks her.
“It’s psychic paper. It knows what I want. It’s just not listening.”
“No, it doesn’t have any power. You’re basically trying to watch a television that isn’t plugged in.”
“Mateo I used to watch the timeline play out through still paintings.”
“Baudin explained that to me once. Those weren’t still paintings, they were transdimensional viewscreens with fancy golden frames. And unless we can find some temporal energy, that thing doesn’t have a working battery.”
She sighs, and finally looks away. “I know. Maybe you could get me some?” She bats her eyes at him. She’s not allowed on the second floor, nor anywhere on the first floor besides the lobby, and the elevator.
“We don’t trust you that much.”
She shrugs with her chin, but not her shoulders. “That’s fair. Do you see anything on the map?”
Mateo goes over to try. “Nope. Still blank.” This is a lie. He’s currently seeing the location of all of his friends, including sketches of what they’re doing right now. Most are somewhere in the building, but Leona is at the fusion factory, and all the McIvers are at the black site with Erlendr. They fully understand that the girl they see in the prison cell is not their sister, Trina, but they still can’t bear to be away from her. The guards have been instructed to prevent any attempt at visitation. They can’t even speak to him. All they can do is watch him through the one-way mirror. He’s also reading a book about Easter Island, which Mateo finds quite alarming.
“You’re lying!” she exclaims.
“No, I’m not.”
“You went into your head,” Arcadia says. “You only do that when something triggers you, and a blank piece of paper isn’t going to do that. What did you see?”
“It’s none of your business,” he tells her.
“Is it a picture of your naked wife, because I saw all that the last time I took a shower.”
“Why does everything with you have to be confrontational or controversial?”
Her smile drops into a frown. “I don’t know, but I don’t know how to stop.”
Mateo ponders the problem. “Think of it as a challenge. You love those.”
“I do,” she agrees. “I really do.”
He ponders some more. “You’ve never had a job in your life, have you?”
“That’s not true. I had a huge job, protecting the timeline from choosing ones.”
“You were born for that. You were literally made to do it. Why don’t you try something that doesn’t come naturally to you?”
“You say that like you have something in mind.”
“Come on.” Mateo spins around three times for show, and then stumbles out of the room as Arcadia smiles and follows. He takes her down the elevator, to the first floor, where Angela just so happens to be setting up the welcome screen for the lobby. “I heard you were looking for a receptionist.”
Angela looks up at him, and then over at Arcadia. She quickly guesses the purpose of the remark. “Do you have any experience with that sort of thing?”
“You mean with...people?”
“I’m not interested,” Angela decides.
“No, please, just give her a chance.”
“Look, Matthew, I don’t know her that well. Most of your dealings with her were before my time, so I don’t harbor any resentment. What I do have are two ears, and they have heard a lot of not-so-great things about her. This new business is really important to me, so I can’t just let anyone sit in that chair over there. They have to be friendly and helpful. They have to have experience.”
“All I’m asking you to do is train her,” Mateo asks. “That’s what you do, right; counsel people who are struggling?”
“Oh, you’re playing that card, huh? You know I have a thing for the Level Threes,” she says, referring to the prisoner class of people in the afterlife simulation.
“I would consider it a personal favor to me,” Mateo adds.
“All right, all right,” Angela concedes.
“Hold on, hold on,” Arcadia interjects. “I’ve not agreed to do anything.”
“You’re doing it, or I’m putting you back in the Insulator of Life,” Mateo warns.

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