Wednesday, November 9, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Year 120 RSS

Mateo zips Erlendr’s wrists together behind his back. He’s not real aggressive with it, because the man is currently using his best friend’s body, and Ramses is going to need it back one day. Still, it should hold, especially since he also pats him down for blades, and other weapons, even though Leona didn’t specifically order him to.
“Where are we going?” Alyssa asks as soon as they start on their walk.
“I need to get out of this forest. I have an idea of where we are, but I have to confirm it with a better view of the sky.”
“I know where we are,” Erlendr claims.
“You’ll forgive me for not trusting you,” Leona spits.
“How about I tell you where we are, and if it’s what you suspect, you can be pretty sure I’m not lying?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“It’s Proxima Doma, except the people here call it Spectrevale. Well, that’s what they call the terminator zone, but since it’s the only habitable region of the planet, they’ve become the same thing.”
Mateo looks over at Leona, who sighs. “That’s what I thought. How long have you been here?”
“Three years,” he answers.
“Three years, as in three Earthan years, or as in thirty-three days?”
“Thirty-three days,” Erlendr clarifies. Proxima Doma—or Spectrevale, as it were—orbits its sun about every eleven days. Back when they were on their brane’s version of the planet, though, this was mostly useless fun fact that the residents mostly ignored. They lived inside of domes to protect themselves from the solar flares, and paid very little attention to the orbital period.
“How did you get here?” Mateo asks.
“I don’t know that I should tell you,” Erlendr responds. He’s probably right about that. They’re in dangerous territory now. That was the silver lining to being in a reality where temporal manipulation didn’t generally work. They were no longer worried about encountering—or worse, creating—a paradox. Time travel made it a constant threat, and bulk travel compounds the risk. Anything he says about what he did since he stole Ramses’ body, and fled the lab, could cause real problems for a lot of people.
“You don’t have to tell us anything,” Leona says. “You’re from our future. We have you now, and when we get you back to the Third Rail salmonverse, we’ll Livewire you out of that body, and move on from this. That was the plan, and it will remain the plan, except for one minor change.”
“What might that be?” he questions.
“You won’t be placed in my alternate self’s body. You’ll just be put into the Insulator of Life, where you can’t move, or do anything to harm anyone. It was going to happen anyway. It’s fate, if you will. But I don’t know if I should tell you.”
“That’s okay. I’ll get out of it. I always find a way. There’s something that even you don’t know about what death really means.”
Oh, you mean Pryce’s afterlife simulation? That doesn’t work out for you either, Mateo wishes he could say out loud, but he knows that he can’t give that much away.
“We’re going the wrong way,” Pryce says after a bit of silence.
“I still need to see for myself,” Leona explains. “We’re going to climb a little bit.”
“Where you were, where you came through. There’s a portal there. It’s roving, but it doesn’t move too much. The only way out is to jump through it the next time it comes around.”
“And when will that be?” Alyssa asks him.
“In eleven days.”
“There is nothing particularly special about the orbital period of a celestial body,” Leona begins. “There is no starting point, nor ending point. These moments are arbitrary human constructs, designed to help people manage the events of their lives.”
“Okay, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, I understand that that’s how it seems to work where you’re from, but there’s a sunspot on Proxima Centauri that triggers a bulk dumping event once a year, right here in Sargan Forest. I’ve seen it happen twice now, plus the time I came here. That’s a pattern. The locals call it The New Year Nose, because it somewhat resembles a nose.”
“Sunspots move more than portals do,” Leona argues.
“I’m just telling you how it is. This is a different universe, with a different set of proper physics. You can’t necessarily rely on the old rules.”
Leona knows that this is true, she just hates when someone like Erlendr Preston knows something that she doesn’t. She doesn’t want anyone to be a rapist, but if he’s already a rapist, at least make him wrong about literally everything. “I’m going to check the sky, and that’s final! If what you say is true, we have eleven days anyway, so what’s it to ya?”
“I just want to make sure we get a good spot to sleep. I found a lost mattress a couple of kilometers away that we can share. It hasn’t been here long. That’s what I’ve been doing, examining the lost objects, and estimating their arrival times, so I can figure out a pattern to the roving portal.”
Leona stops walking, and pushes Erlendr in the shoulders. She immediately regrets it, since she too doesn’t want to harm the body, but she’s just so angry. “If you think we’re going to sleep anywhere near you, then you seriously missed my point of view on rape.”
“For the last goddamn time, I did not rape anybody!” Erlendr screams, still on his back. “She was my wife!”
“She still has to consent!”
“She did!”
Erlendr shouts unintelligibly. He swings his legs to trip Mateo onto his own back. Then he rolls over enough to make it to the hill, and keeps on rolling, hoping to escape. “Screw you!” he yells, dropping the volume of his voice deliberately, because he’s not slipping away fast enough for the sound to grow all that fainter naturally.
Leona drops her emergency pack as Alyssa is helping Mateo off the ground. She casually removes a teleporter gun from the bag, quickly calibrates it, and shoots Erlendr before he can impale Ramses’ head on a tree branch. He appears a few meters away, and maintains his momentum, ending up right at Leona’s feet. “Are you done yet?”
“Yes,” Erlendr replies, face in the dirt.
“Then come on. That was a good idea, tracking the movement of the portal. But you lack the tools necessary to come to a valid conclusion. I don’t.”

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