Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: September 20, 2398

Leona is back from Orlando. She was supposed to return last night, but there was just too much to do. She’s here now, though, and she’s ready to move on to the next issue. They have to somehow get Erlendr’s consciousness out of Ramses’ brain without also removing Ramses’ consciousness, and they have to somehow know that they have been successful. Erlendr is not the best actor in the universe, but he’s been convincing enough before, and he doesn’t have to be the one in charge of the body to be in it. He could go dormant, let Ramses take over for a day or two, and then bubble back up to the surface. What they need is a way to confirm that there is a consciousness inside of the Insulator of Life, that it’s the person they’re expecting it to be, and that no one else is in there with him. Unfortunately, the reality’s foremost expert on the temporal object is Ramses himself, and he’s not a reliable source right now.
Cheyenne doesn’t know very much about it, but she’s agreed to help in any way she can by looking over Ramses’ notes on the Insulator in the lab, just in case something catches her eye. “I can’t find page three from the sixth.”
“The sixth of what?” These notes aren’t exactly organized. This is unlike Ramses. Erlendr must have scrambled them on purpose.
Leona hunts for the page elsewhere on the table.
“It looks important,” Cheyenne says. The page before references a breakthrough
Arcadia comes into the lab with a big dumb smile on her face. “Hey, there!”
“I thought you were wiping your hands of all this,” Leona points out.
“I had to make something for you first.” Arcadia slaps a tablet on the table.
Leona picks it up. “What is this?”
“A personality test,” Arcadia explains.
“I see that. Do you prefer round or squircular watches? Does cilantro taste like soap? What is this for?”
“It’s the only way to test for a psychic invader,” she claims.
“How exactly?” Leona presses. She swipes down to the second page. “By asking them to describe the perfect April 25th of 2001?”
“It’s not the questions themselves that matter, it’s how the responder answers them. You know Ramses. You know how he talks, how he behaves. Ask these questions, and pay attention to his micromovements.”
Cheyenne looks at the tablet over Leona’s shoulder. “So if he were a stranger this would be useless?”
“Yeah, that’s why it’s so important to have friends and loved ones,” Arcadia lectures as if she hasn’t spent thousands of years not believing it.
Leona sighs and swipes through more of the questions. “Do you ever smell fudge where there is no fudge? You stole that from Warehouse 13.”
“Well,” Arcadia scoffs jokingly, “if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best.”
“Can you help with the Insulator at all?” Leona asks as she puts the tablet down.
“I’m honestly not that familiar with it,” Arcadia admits. “I can tell you that it’s psychic, so you’re going to need a strong mind to control it.”
Leona widens her eyes, and sticks her turtle head out towards her.
Arcadia mimics the gesture. “Yeah, what?”
“You’re the psychic here, dummy,” Leona reminds her in a tone.
Arcadia shakes her head profusely. “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. You’re not tricking me into being responsible for helping Mister Abdulrashid. More to the point, I won’t let myself be the one to fail at it.”
“We need someone strong of mind. There is none better than a Preston.”
“You’re thinking of my sister. I’m an asshole, remember?”
“I remember,” Leona agrees. “Look, you’re the closest thing we have to a telepath, Third Rail power suppression system notwithstanding. If you can’t do it, no one can. I need you, Arcadia. I need you to go up against your last time.”
“What makes you think I would do that?”
Cheyenne takes a half step forward. “You’re the one who put him in there in the first place.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Arcadia questions.
“I can’t tell you how I know this, but the reason he’s in this reality is because you trapped him in that thing for billions of years.”
“I haven’t done that yet,” Arcadia explains.
“I know,” Cheyenne tells her. “But you will. You do it in your future, which means you can do it now.”
Arcadia frowns, and looks back over at Leona. Her face gives in even more. “Okay, bring him up here. I’ll try to transfer his consciousness out, but you have to run the Turing test, and you can’t blame me if it doesn’t work.”
“That sounds fair,” Leona says. She holds her hand out.
“What, you want a cookie, or something?”
Leona just shakes it once.
Arcadia reaches out and shakes it too.
Mateo escorts Erlendr upstairs, keeping him in chains the whole time. They place him in the boo-boo cage that Ramses built for anyone trying to teleport in or out of the area. Leona connects the Livewire to the Insulator of Life, then hands the other end to Arcadia, so she can work her magic on it. The latter takes deep breaths to center herself. She doesn’t have much psychic power here, so she concentrates what she does have, and focuses on a singular objective. When she’s ready, she plugs the wire in, and commands Erlendr’s mind to come out of the body he stole, and into the Insulator. Leona then sticks the Insulator away in a miniature Faraday cage, and the Livewire in a separate cage. Mateo takes the wire away, and Cheyenne takes the Insulator. Leona proceeds to test Ramses on his behavior. After running through the questions twice, she’s as satisfied with the results as she’ll ever be. It will never not be a risk.
That night, Cheyenne takes the Insulator back upstairs to her apartment, happy to once more have it in her official possession. She was all right lending it out to these people, but she really needs it so she can get back to the future. She sits down to craft a thank you and goodbye letter to them that she plans to have delivered after she leaves to restart her life. Halfway through, the Insulator begins to glow. It doesn’t normally do that; not unless it’s being used to store a consciousness...or free one. The glow expands into a light, which sharpens into the shape of a human. When the light fades, Andile Mhlangu is standing before her, except it’s not Andile; it’s Meredarchos. This is where he escaped to. Before she can scream for help, he rips the topsheet from her bed, and wraps it around her neck. He squeezes tightly until the lights go out.

No comments :

Post a Comment