Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: September 14, 2398

Ramses is back in his own body. That’s the first thing Mateo wanted done when they returned to Kansas City from their nearly three week-long ordeal into the bulkverse, and between the realities. They didn’t switch bodies, though. Ramses took his place where he belongs, but Erlendr was left in the Insulator of Life. He’ll be trapped there until he can be delivered to his fate in the afterlife simulation, where Past!Leona murders him with a zeroblade. Now no one is in Leona Reaver’s body. It’s destined to return to its native reality as well, so it can die for real—fortunately without the consciousness that once inhabited it, however. They have to figure out how they’re going to make that happen, just to be safe. They don’t want a doomed substrate floating around that someone might end up in without a chance to escape before fate intervenes, and destroys it forever.
Trina’s body is currently not being used either. Its original consciousness found itself in a new home in the main sequence, and lived a complete life from then on, choosing not to undergo any significant life extension treatments or enhancements. So that’s done, and will likely not be undone. Unlike Reaver’s body, Trina’s isn’t destined for anything. If they wanted to, they would be able to keep it indefinitely, but they’re not going to do that, because it’s unnecessary and macabre. Maybe if they were discussing an adult substrate, it would be one thing, but they don’t want to leave themselves open to the option of transferring someone into the body of a child. That’s just creepy. They might regret not having the alternative later, but they will burn that bridge when they come to it. Trina deserves to be put to rest in all her forms. They’re on their way to a memorial service, one that her brothers, Carlin and Moray can attend, since they could not be present for the first one.
In this region in the main sequence, normal people are not allowed to dig the graves for their family and friends. It’s a liability issue that requires paid employees to take part in the work. For religious reasons, the law can’t really stop it from being a thing, so that’s what they’ve chosen to do. They’ve selected a non-denominational cemetery, since Trina wasn’t old enough to come to her own decision about what faith she would follow. This is a sacred space where any interreligious squabbles people might have with one another are put aside. Everyone has the right to bid farewell to their loved ones. Carlin and Moray are young, but they’re both old enough to wield a shovel. They’re mainly responsible for the digging, but Mateo and Ramses are helping as well.
Now the youngest, little Moray has grown tired of the work, and they’re not even halfway through. He climbs out of the grave, embarrassed and ashamed. “It’s okay.” Heath has shown up without anyone realizing. “I got you.” He gently takes the shovel from the boy, and hops in to continue the digging.
“Thank you for coming,” Marie says to him.
“I’m not here for you.”
That’s when they notice that he did not come alone. Vearden and Arcadia are here too, arms locked together. Are they together, together? “We’re here for you, even though we don’t know you very well,” Vearden says.
“Have you two been living in the condo the whole time?” Kivi questions.
“Yeah, it’s an unfilmed updated reboot of Three’s Company,” Arcadia jokes softly.
Marie doesn’t know what to think of all this.
“We assumed that you ran off to a far corner of the Earth,” Leona tells them. “We never thought to look this close.”
“That’s what we were planning to do,” Arcadia says. “Starting at the Bran safehouse seemed like the most logical first step.”
“We didn’t know that someone would be coming back to it, especially not so soon,” Vearden adds. “We talked, and agreed to share the space as outcasts.”
“No one cast anyone out,” Marie argues.
“Let’s not fight today,” Heath requests.
Marie looks at her bare wrist. “Well, I’m free tomorrow, and everyday after that.”
“I’ll come back when I’m ready. Today is just about Trina and the McIvers.”
“How did you even find out about the service?” Mateo asks.
Heath can’t help but glance over at Angela, not sure if she wants to keep their link secret or not. They all look over at her. “Someone had to maintain contact. It’s a safety thing. Rule Number Thirteen, never get separated from the people you love. Please don’t ask me to pick sides.”
“Thank you,” Marie says to her alternate self, taking her by the hand affectionately. They smile mildly at each other.
Heath takes note of the tender moment, and then gets back to work.
Twenty minutes later, the job is done. The gravediggers move off to shower at the facilities, returning with the formal clothes they had brought. Heath didn’t have any extra clothes, because he didn’t come knowing that he would help, so the sexton provided him with a spare set of ceremonial robes to keep the dirt and grime covered. Leona was never officialized as a ship captain. She was chosen by the crew at a time when a leader was needed, and accepted by all who have joined the group since. The state would not usually acknowledge such a distinction, but it made an exception after a conversation with a certain U.S. senator. She performs the ceremony in this capacity, so the whole memorial can be kept in the family.
All three siblings speak to their relationship with Trina, but no one else speaks, because they did not know her well enough for that to be appropriate. At the end of the ritual, each attendee tosses a handful of dirt over Trina’s casket. To make up for having to quit earlier, Moray insists on finishing the burial all by himself, determined to stick to it no matter how long it takes. While the others return to the Lofts for the reception, Mateo hangs back so he can drive Moray home later. He gets it done quickly, then Mateo waits for him to take another shower. The reception is nice, and bigger than they thought it was going to be. Heath, Vearden, and Arcadia came with a bunch of food of their own. It’s considered a celebration, but a rather subdued one. They don’t drink and laugh and tell stories, or dance. They mostly listen to the siblings who knew her best, particularly Alyssa, who is able to relate stories she heard during Trina’s final moments. At the end of the day, the outcasts go back to the condo, and everyone else retires to their apartments.
That night, Ramses gets out of bed, and sneaks out of the building. He takes one of the cars, and drives back to the cemetery. He digs up Trina’s grave, steals the body, and then fills it back up exactly as it was, so that no one will notice. He takes Trina’s corpse to their building, and leaves her in a secret refrigerated room in the basement that he never told anyone about, in case he needed to store hazardous materials. When he wakes up the next morning, he has forgotten all about it.

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