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Sunday, November 13, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: September 10, 2398

It actually was helpful when Erlendr told Alyssa that she would be forty-two kilometers from the center of the island. Relatively speaking, that’s not too far from where the Capitol is, and if she has to walk the entire way, it’s going to take her a long time. That’s what she did all day yesterday. She snacked on the rations on the way, and only stopped to pee. She kept in contact with Leona and Mateo through her earpiece, which is working flawlessly. Everything is reportedly going fine on their end. They didn’t stay where they were, instead deciding to walk along the barrier, all the way up to a campground around where Smithville Lake should be. Part of it made it within the radius of the bubble, but most of it was not duplicated, and is just ocean. They walked through plenty of grass to get there, but that wasn’t the point. There is a non-zero chance that bodies of water serve as loopholes to the barrier, so they’re going to try today when the sun gets higher.
Alyssa found an abandoned house to stay in for the night. It wasn’t a difficult task as they are all over the place. These buildings are ancient by today’s standards. Most people live near the center now, in superstructures that are far more efficient, and environmentally friendly. This is a closed ecosystem with no resources available for import, so protecting what little they have is important. They have let the wild reclaim these areas for the most part. She hasn’t even seen a single soul since she crossed the threshold. Until now. She’s passing through an empty parking lot, distracted by the eerie sight of the towering rides at the amusement park that the residents don’t waste their energy on anymore. The bridge is only five kilometers away. She hears a noise, but doesn’t realize what it might be until it comes into a view. It’s a horse-drawn wagon. It looks new, not like it was found and recycled, but built for use in the modern day. The back is filled with some kind of grain, and only one man is on it.
She’s sick of walking, and if all he’s doing is going across the river then that will at least give her a break. Now, she could probably sneak onto the wagon, and hitch a ride without him noticing, but what happens the next time she has to sneeze, or accidentally bumps against the walls? He looks like a nice enough person, perhaps he can be trusted. She runs over to some trees before dropping her invisibility illusion, and then comes out, trying to appear as nonthreatening as possible. Let’s see, how might a farmer in another reality talk? Anything like her people would? “Morning, friend! I was hopin’ to trouble you for a ride into town!”
“What are ya doin’ all the way out here, Miss?” he asks, stopping his horse.
“I was on an urban hike,” she says, turning her shoulders a little to show her daypack. “I went a little farther than I was originally plannin’. Now I’m straight tired.”
“Where exactly you headed?”
Leona comes in through the earpiece, “don’t tell him you’re going to the Capitol. There’s a residence near it called the Parkview Megablock. Say you live there.
“I live in the Parkview Megablock,” she goes on.
“I’m not goin’ that far West. “I’m distributing wheat at the Blue Valley Market.”
That’s a big area. No way to know exactly where the market is. Tell him that’s fine, and to just drop you off at twelfth.
“If you could just drop me off at twelfth street, I would much appreciate it.”
He waits to respond, hopefully weighing his options, and not picturing her with her clothes off. “Hop on in.” He scoots over on the bench to give her room. “Name’s Buck on account of the fact that I’m the last resident of Buckner, Missouri.”
“Umm...Jessie. Jessie James.”
He nods, but might still realize she’s lying. If he does, he’s not saying anything. They make the occasional remark to each other on the way, but mostly sit in silence. She enjoys watching the horse’s head go up and down as it trudges along the road. It reminds her of home. It seems to take them longer than she would have thought, but she’s not all that familiar with Kansas City, especially not in this reality. Now she sees that there’s a reason Leona called it a megablock. She finds them surrounded by tall structures, much wider than a skyscraper. Each one looks like it covers the distance of several blocks. Through the earpiece, she explains that they’re self-sustainable and carfree, and can accommodate tens of thousands of people. Some of them have storefronts on the ground floor on the outside, but others are gated up. That’s all just a generalization of what a megablock is; the Fourth Quadrant version of Kansas City has their own socio-political framework that she doesn’t know too well.
“Here we go.” Buck stops the wagon.
Here she sees some real skyscrapers. “Thanks, I’ll walk home from here.”
“If you really wanna go to Parkview, it’s about a mile that way. He points back the way they came.”
“We passed it?” she questions as she’s getting out of the wagon.
“If you lived there, you’d a’ noticed. You’re trying to go to the Capitol, though.”
“I’m sorry?”
Buck taps at his ear. “Superhearing implant. I can hear your associate on your comms. It’s okay, I know you were trying to be safe. I am too. You’re obviously on some kind of operation, which is why I lied about who I am, and where I’m from. I suspect you’re from pretty far away, or else you’d know that Buckner is on this side of the river.”
“I just don’t know who to trust.”
He nods, and engages his horse, who starts to walk away slowly. “Like I said, I understand. You don’t gotta worry about me. I don’t know nothin’.” He rolls away.
She watches him go for a minute. “Which building is it?”
Tallest one that isn’t incredibly tall. It’s a normal skyscraper, like what you’re used to,” Leona explains.
Alyssa steps into an alleyway for cover, then reëmerges invisible. She walks right into the building, slipping through unnoticed as someone else is coming out. She walks over to the elevators, and tries to go to the top floor, but the button won’t light up, presumably because it requires an access card. It just defaults to the thirty-ninth floor. She tries to press the other buttons, but the thirty-ninth button blinks every time, and then stays on. It’s the only one she’s allowed to go to. At least it’s relatively close. “What’s on this floor?” she whispers as she waits for the ride to end.
I don’t know,” Leona replies. “I didn’t know anyone would have superhearing implants either, so we better go radio silent. You’re gonna have to improvise, okay? That might mean revealing yourself. Can you handle this?
She’s determined to get her sister back. “Yes.”
Click your tongue five times to signal you need help.
The doors open, letting Alyssa out to a hallway. There is a door to her left, and one to her right. Then all the way down at the end is another door. The first two don’t open, so she keeps going. Nervous, she turns the knob, and enters the room. An old woman is lying in a hospital bed, and a man in a lab coat is nearby, monitoring the medical equipment.
“Hello?” the old woman asks, staring at the ceiling, and not moving. “Is somebody there?”
The doctor looks over. “The door opened on its own, Señora Rendón. I don’t see anyone, it must have been a draft.”
Alyssa quietly steps over to the bed, and takes a look at the patient’s chart. Trina Rendón. “Trina?”
“Hello?” the woman asks again.
“Who’s there?” The doctor gets in a defensive position.
Alyssa drops the illusion, and comes into view. “Alyssa McIver. My sister’s name is Trina.”
“Aly,” the patient says with joy in her voice. “You’ve come to see me off.”
“What is the meaning of this?”
The doctor sighs. “Miss McIver, this is your sister. She’s older now, but it’s her.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Let’s talk in the hallway.” The doctor leads her back out. “I don’t have the whole story, I’m just here to treat her pain. From what I’ve heard, your sister, Trina came to the main world sharing a body with someone else. They used technology to separate them, and give her a new body. It was, I think, modeled on what Trina looked like before. Umm...I don’t know what she did with her life, but she lived it. She came to us two years ago—somehow found a way into the bubble—and I’ve been in charge of her medical needs ever since.”
Alyssa looks at the door. “Is this hospice?”
“I’m a hospice doctor, yes.”
“So she’s dying.”
“Yes.”
“But you can fix her.”
He hesitates a moment. “Señora Rendón has refused life extension treatment beyond Level II.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“On a scale between zero and five, the second level allows for generalized scientific medication, but not targeted medication, death-inhibiting therapies, or indefinite life extension technologies. She has let us keep her alive, but only to a point.”
That can’t be the end of the story. There has to be a way to undo this. “You can reverse aging, right? Or someone can. Your world has all sorts of technology.”
“Technically, yes, but I wouldn’t recommend it. She has experienced all those years. She’s not a child anymore,” he explains. “I’m sure it’s hard for you to wrap your head around this, but she has been able to tell us stories. She grew up, and she met someone, and they had children. They’re here, if you’d like to meet them, but you should speak with Trina first. She can explain it better, and she doesn’t have much time. I think she knew you were coming, and she was waiting.”
You’ll regret it if you don’t go,” Leona warns.
Alyssa wants to, but she can’t convince her legs to move. Sensing this, the doctor physically helps her through, so the two McIver sisters can have one last conversation.

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