Sunday, November 20, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: September 17, 2398

Leona Matic is no longer a scientist trying to coordinate the construction of dozens of fusion manufacturing plants all over the country. Nor is she a wife, or a time traveler. She’s gone full secret agent, leading a team of highly trained operatives in search for the universe’s most wanted man. This mysterious Meredarchos is an invader, and this is true in every sense of the word. They’re not sure of the full extent of his power, but he can reach inside people’s minds, and fabricate an artificial sense of grievous community. He doesn’t just instill loyalty to himself in his victims, but to each other. According to what little information that SD6 was able to get out of him, it’s his dream to unite the infinite peoples of the bulk under a singular objective. The objective itself is unclear, as are the logistics of such a feat, but one thing they do know is that his power only seems to work correctly on about half of the population. Well, it works on everyone, but only half of them will pledge fealty to him. The other half will fight to the death to stop those they consider infected. Basically what he start wars.
Dressed in black tactical gear, Agent Matic opens the door with the same key that Heath copied for her when they first arrived. He, Arcadia, and Vearden probably should have changed the locks when they decided to move in here together. They’re all three at the table, eating dinner. Without specific orders, the operatives fall into formation around the diners.
“What is the meaning of this?” an outraged Heath questions.
Leona ignores him, and addresses Arcadia. “On a scale from one to your father, how good are you with psychic powers?”
“Um, six? In this reality, maybe one?”
“That’s better than anyone else we got, except for Erlendr himself, who we know we can’t trust.”
“Better for what?” Arcadia asks.
“Can we trust you? We’re looking for the fourth prisoner. Will you help us, or will you skip out on us again?”
“I apologized to Angela,” Arcadia explains, referring to the reception job she quit without giving two weeks notice.
“That’s not my point.”
Arcadia takes a breath. “I know. I’m sorry to you too.”
“Hold on,” Heath interjects. “We talked about this, remember? You don’t owe them anything.”
“I’ve not told you everything,” Arcadia says with a hand upon his. “I do owe them. I own them a lot. Thank you for being there for me. Outcasts united.”
“Outcasts united,” Vearden and Heath respond simultaneously. Is this a cult?
“I need to change first.” When Arcadia wipes her mouth with her napkin and stands, Vearden does the same. “You’re not coming,” she tells him.
Vearden laughs. “Funny.” He steps between the operatives, and heads for the medium-sized bedroom to change his clothes.
“What is that?” Leona asks Arcadia.
“It’ I would ask you kindly not to dwell on it.”
“Okay,” Leona agrees.
Arcadia goes into the same bedroom. It’s new, and it’s moving quickly. They come back out of their room together, having seemingly worked out their dispute. They’re wearing tactical gear too, which is weird on so many levels. Vearden isn’t a fighter, and Arcadia has always had special powers. Why do they own this stuff? “Are we goin’, or what?” she asks.
They say goodbye to a bitter and resentful Heath, then head down the stairs, and get into the armored truck. They don’t think their target has had enough time to build an army for himself, but he’s had a little. He could have a few bodyguards by now, who would be willing to die for him, and if he selected them right, they could have some firepower, so it’s not unreasonable to travel this way.
“Do you have any idea of where he may have gone?” Vearden asks as they head down the road.
“Local law enforcement has been instructed to observe and report,” Leona explains. “They are not to engage, even if they see him commit a crime. They appear to understand that we’re trying to formulate a pattern. He was moving eastward, but he was last spotted in Nashville, which is more to the south.”
“What have you told him about this world?” Arcadia asks her. “I mean any and every reality on this planet, in this universe?”
“Nothing. Literally nothing.”
“But he’s been talking to my father.”
“Telepathically, reportedly.”
“And my father is now in Ramses Abdulrashid’s body?”
“Sharing it, which means that he has access to all of his memories?”
“That’s right. At least that’s what he claims. You know how much he likes to lie.”
“He’s not lying about this, but he’s not telling you everything about his relationship with Meredarchos. Sharing a mind is hard. It’s not like he would have suddenly absorbed every single one of Ramses’ thoughts. He has to decide on what he wants to know, and then ping Ramses’ consciousness for the answer. Still, you have to operate under the assumption that Erlendr knows everything that Ramses does, and by extension, Meredarchos does too.”
“We’re in Kansas City. He’s in Nashville. So think. If he wants to go southeast, where will he end up? Is anything special that way?”
Leona thinks about it. Nothing really. Alabama...maybe Georgia, Flor— “Florida.”
“Exactly. Have you tried to look for it? Does it exist here?”
“Yes. We found it. We’ve been staying away, though, because it’s not safe. It lures you in, and transports you to the Dead Sea.”
“Where are we talking about?” Vearden asks. “Where is he going?
Leona pops a holographic map up from her watch, and traces the highways from here to Orlando. He’s been going in the right direction so far. “The Fountain of Youth. If he gets there, he’ll have more than enough temporal energy to get his powers back, assuming that that’s what he needs, and he can resist the temptation. We don’t know how he works, or if it will affect him the same way as others.”
“It might, or it might not,” Arcadia reasons. “Erlendr may have convinced him that it does. Either way, we have to beat him to the punch.”

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