Friday, November 11, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: September 8, 2398

Medavorken and Cricket are not the only people here with them. They’re accompanied by a soldier they don’t recognize, and Meliora Rutherford. She regards them like she didn’t know they would be coming, and doesn’t know how she feels about it. Leona maintains her composure as captain of this crew. “Report.”
“None of your business,” Meliora replies. “Report.”
“We were trapped on a world that serves as a junkyard for random lost objects throughout the bulk,” Mateo answers.
Meliora nods. “Flipverse, yeah. Not a very pleasant brane, if I should dare to share my opinion.”
“Did you see my boyfriend there?” Cricket asks. “He’s lost.”
“Quiet, Cricket.” Meliora glares at her, then faces Mateo and Leona. “Sorry, he’s...excitable.”
Cricket glares back. “But I’m not dumb. You obviously don’t want them to know that my boyfriend is The Superintendent.”
Mateo, Leona, and Erlendr are shocked by this. Alyssa doesn’t recognize the term yet, so she doesn’t react.
“Don’t look so impressed,” Meliora warns. “He’s just a man with the ability to dream and make up stories. You can do it too.”
“Well, as far as we know,” Leona says to Cricket, “he wasn’t there.”
“Where are we?” Alyssa asks. “More importantly, can wherever we are get me back to my sister?”
“I’m afraid that’s not what I’ve been tasked to do,” Meliora replies. “I’m far too busy to take on new jobs while I’m in the middle of one.”
Leona widens her eyes, and shakes her head suggestively at her.
“We’re in my universe,” Cricket answers for her. “If we were ever separated, Tavis and I agreed to meet back here, right after the moment we first left together.” He looks around for him, but sees nothing but rocks, trees, and rushing water.
“I was to understand the Superintendent did not travel,” Mateo remembers.
“He doesn’t,” Meliora explains reluctantly, wishing this would just all be over. “This is a duplicate. He’s not even the Superintendent anymore.”
“Bottom line,” Leona says, “is that we need to get to the Fourth Quadrant in September of 2398. The exact date isn’t super important.”
“That’s the rough date here,” Cricket points out.
“That’s where I was trying to go,” Mateo tells them. “I guess I just didn’t get the right universe. I don’t know what I did wrong, though, so I’m not sure I can fix it. Plus, I’m not the one who created the portal, I just found and used it. Is there a reason that it brought us here specifically, or is it random?”
“You were probably drawn to this one.” The soldier indicates Meliora. “She brought us here.”
Alyssa takes a half step forward. “If that’s true, then you can do it, you can reunite me with my sister.”
“Okay.” Meliora throws up her hands. “That’s enough about me, and the Superintendent. I’m sorry, but I cannot help you. In order for me to travel the bulk, I have to meditate for years. I literally sit in one place for several years to build up bulk energy in my body.”
“That’s not how long it took when you brought us here,” Medavorken contends.
“That was from The Stage; the same physical rules don’t apply. I can absorb it much faster while I’m there. It’s the difference between holding out your hand, and accumulating water from the air, and sitting at the bottom of a swimming pool.” There’s something she’s not telling the team. She would be able to find a way if she were clever about it. She could place herself into a time bubble, and make the meditation process faster. Even if that didn’t work as a loophole, she could place the team inside a bubble, so they didn’t have to stand around and wait for her that long. How she’s acting with them is no great surprise, though. She’s a powerful being. She calls herself a Rutherford, which is a fair claim, but a part of her will always be a Delaney, and a part of her will always be a Reaver. She plays it close to the vest, because otherwise, she could probably single-handedly solve every problem ever. She likely gets real sick of people asking her for favors.
“If you don’t help us,” Leona warns, “we’re never going to leave you alone. I mean, what else are we gonna do, hang out on this planet? It could be dangerous.”
“It’s really not,” Cricket breathes in the fresh air, and smiles proudly.
“My point is that if we’re not going anywhere...then we’re not going anywhere. I’ve always wanted to get to know my daughter better anyway.”
“I am not your daughter,” Meliora says. She’s touchy about her family tree.
“No, you’re not,” Leona agrees. “Leona Reaver is. I don’t know if you know this, but we saved her life. We never found out who extracted her from her timeline, but after they did, we got her out of her body, and into a new one. We’re not just trying to get to Trina. We’re trying to get to her. Will you help us?”
Meliora sighs. “Are you skipping time?”
“Not presently.”
“My abilities are limited here,” Meliora begins to explain. I was born with a bag of tricks. When I go to another universe, some of those tricks come with me, and some of them don’t. I was trapped in one brane for centuries once because one of the tricks that I lost was my connection to the bulk. I only got out of there when the Prototype coincidentally showed up on a mission. I’m just lucky that I didn’t lose my immortality. My point is that I’m not lying, I can’t help you, unless you have five or so years to wait.”
“Would you please reach out to someone who can help?”
“Yes,” Meliora replies. “Future!Me will help you. But I have a recommendation.”
“What would that be?”
“Get out while you can. The Fourth Quadrant...does not last forever.”
Before anyone can ask her to elaborate, Mateo’s hands begin to drift to the right on their own, forcing him to turn his body. He feels a pull towards the empty space behind them. Droplets of bulk energy roll up his fingers like beads of sweat. They cling as long as they can, but eventually let go, and become drawn into a new portal. They don’t have to walk through it, or teleport. It sucks them in like a vacuum cleaner.
Bonk! They strike an invisible wall, and fall to the ground. They’re hurt, but only superficially. They get themselves back up, and look around. In one direction is the infinite ocean, and in the other is that translucent wall. This is the edge of the Kansas City Metropolitan Island of the Fourth Quadrant, but they’re on the wrong side of it.

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