Sunday, December 4, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 1, 2398

Nearly everyone is gone. Olimpia either doesn’t exist at the moment, or is trapped in a different reality. Trina lived in one alternate reality, and died in another. Alt!Mateo, the other Leonas, and Andille ended up who knows where, doing who knows what? Both Bridgette and Cheyenne are dead, as is Heath, though a duplicate doll of him remains. Marie is helping him learn how to function in Palmeria, using the expertise of a clinical neuropsychologist who specializes in rehabilitating patients with severe brain damage. He has never met someone with such an extreme case of cognitive incapacity, and was more than willing to move to a different country just for opportunity. Marie has agreed to let him write and publish a paper on his subject in exchange for anonymity and discretion. Vearden is on the island too, so the McIver boys, Carlin and Moray, aren’t alone. The eldest can take care of himself, and for the most part, his younger brother, but they need a trusted adult around, and Marie is pretty busy most of the time.
With Kivi and Arcadia—who is still in Leona Delaney’s body—now working with the tactical SD6 team in pursuit of Meredarchos, and other bad actors and missing persons, that only leaves five left in the Lofts. Mateo, Leona, Ramses, Angela, and Alyssa now attempt to fill the void once occupied by their friends. They’re finding it quite difficult. Angela’s apartment, which she used to share with Kivi, is clear on the other end of the floor, so she moved in with Alyssa right away. They tried to all eat together in the huge common area, but it’s so awkward with so few people. They’re probably going to start doing it in one of their unit’s from now on. Mateo had a thought to choose Ramses’ place, because he’s more likely to try to get out of meals to work downstairs, so always having to host might force him to take at least three breaks every day.
It’s almost midnight, and they’re still in Bridgette and Cheyenne’s old apartment. Everyone pitched in throughout the day, but Mateo and Alyssa led the effort to clean it out so it no longer reminds them of their failures. Now they’re sitting on the floor together, tossing garbage into an empty box, dwelling on those failures anyway. “We’re gonna have to do this for the condo too,” Alyssa points out. “We should sell it. Or you should sell it. Whoever owns it should sell it.”
“That’s up to Marie,” Leona says, “but yeah, it needs to be cleaned, at the very least. If Heath...or rather, if the new Heath ever learns how to function on his own, they may want to move back, and still stay out of all this stuff. Or since he died in there, she may never want to see it again. We don’t have to worry about that right now, though.”
“This was so stupid, I’m sorry,” Ramses says.
No one knows what he’s talking about. “You’re sorry? About what?” Mateo asks.
“This whole building. This was a dumb idea. There weren’t even that many people with us when we agreed to it. The McIvers were still in Utah, we hadn’t even heard of Bridgette and Cheyenne. Arcadia, Vearden, the other Leonas, Alt!Mateo, Andile? It’s like I knew these people would show up, but I didn’t know that they would leave us.”
“Honestly? I miss the AOC,” Angela adds. “It was small, but it had everything we needed. I took comfort in its efficiency.”
“This was your ship that you’re talking about?” Alyssa asks.
“Yeah, it was great,” Leona explains. “It only had three levels. The top was for facilities and microponics, and the bottom was engineering. The middle was for living. Instead of rooms, we slept in these things we called grave chambers in the floor. You couldn’t even stand up in them, but you could fit two people if you needed or wanted to.”
Ramses bites his upper lip. “We may be able to get it back,” Ramses claims.
“How?” Mateo questions. “We left it in the Fifth Division.”
“We left a copy of it there,” Ramses reveals. “I have another one in my pocket. I mean, I don’t have it right now. It was in my pocket, now it’s locked up in the lab.”
“I thought you couldn’t copy the ship,” Angela begins. “I thought you could only bring it back from a save state at a specific point in space where it once was. That’s why come Marie exists at all.”
“That was a bug, I figured it out,” Ramses says dismissively. I figured out how to save the ship in a pocket dimension on a my pocket.”
“Why haven’t you brought this up before?” Leona asks in a captainly sort of way.
Ramses shrugs. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Reconstituting it in this reality would take a shit-ton of temporal energy. The tanks on the Olimpia can’t even fit the volume of Existence water we would need to take from the Bermuda Triangle.”
“Couldn’t you reconstitute it at the Bermuda Triangle?” Mateo offers.
“I guess so, if I thought it would help, but I also don’t know what the point would be,” Ramses laments. “The reframe engine requires a constant supply of temporal energy, as does the teleporter, and even if they didn’t, where would we go?”
“That’s true,” Leona agrees, nodding.
They sit in silence for a while.
“Well, what about the Olimpia?” Alyssa suggests.
“What about it?” Mateo presses.
“We could live there instead, if it’s cozier and efficient.”
“Yeah, I guess that could work,” Angela determines.
Leona and Ramses too think it’s a good idea.
“Wait, are we seriously talking about this?” Mateo questions. We have perfectly good apartments. Who cares if the other units aren’t occupied? When you rent your own apartment in a normal complex, do you think that much about how many neighbors you have? This place is great, we don’t need an alternative.”
“We do need a contingency, though,” Leona decides. “When we had all those people, there was nowhere to escape to, but now we can.”
“You can escape through me, because I’m a teleporter,” Mateo reminds her.
Leona bites her lower lip. “Did you happen to look at your watch the last time you teleported? I rode with you to take Vearden to Palmeria after your first two roundtrips.”
“Did I—no, why? Did you?”
Leona hesitates to explain, but she knows that she has to. “Yes, it took us five seconds to get from Kansas City to the island, and eight seconds to get back.”
“ that bad?”
“It’s teleportation, Mateo, it’s meant to be pretty much instantaneous.”
Mateo’s face drops. “Right. What does that mean? Am I losing my power?”
Ramses perks up. “You’re probably losing energy,” he postulates. “You’re losing temporal energy. That’s what happens in this reality, it just gets sucked away.”
“Well, how long do I have?”
“We need to run some tests on you.” Ramses replies. “I guess I know what my next project is now.”

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