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Wednesday, December 14, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 11, 2398

Angela and Ramses stared at the sky after Mateo left, even though they obviously wouldn’t have been able to see him floating around up there. They themselves floated in the water for around ninety minutes until Ramses’ device beeped. The satellite module was up there, and starting to scan every brain in the world. It will take a little bit of time, but he programmed it with a threshold. Each scan will look for the most generalized data first. They’re not hunting for someone of an exact age. They’re looking for someone with an ungodly number of years of experience. The scanner doesn’t have to look very deep into someone’s mind to see whether they’ve been around for a lifetime, or several lifetimes. To be safe, he placed this threshold at a hundred years. Yes, it will find people who are 110 years old, but that’s okay, there still shouldn’t be too many to sift through, and once they have their dataset pared down, they will be able to run more detailed scans to tease out the specific person that they’re looking for. They don’t know how old Meredarchos is, and they don’t know how old Erlendr is at this moment, but it’s well past a century, and in all likelihood, the scanner will come back with an error when it comes across a single brain with two consciousnesses.
The two of them hit their emergency teleporters, and returned to the lab to watch the data come in. They would focus their efforts on North America, since the entity has only been spotted here, but that’s not how the scanner works. They’re not in control of whatever satellite the module managed to latch itself onto. It’s going to make a pass at a rate according to its speed of orbit, and will scan as many minds as possible before it passes out of range. Then it will make another pass and try again. It will do its best to filter and ignore duplicates, but the tradeoff in the cursory glance is that it won’t always know whether it scanned a given individual yet. Still, napkin math suggests that the process will only take a day. It takes half a day. It’s morning.
“There, that’s him,” Ramses announces, waking Angela up.
“Are you sure?” Angela asks.
“It has to be. This is the second time the scanner has seen him. It’s returned an error, because it can’t rectify the unusual brain chemistry, just as I had hoped and predicted.”
Angela picks up her phone, and dials. “I’m calling Kivi.” Arcadia is the one who picks up. Apparently, the tactical team is not too far from where Meredarchos and Erlendr are hiding out in San Diego, but they’re all pretty far from where Marie is being made comfortable at a hospital in Chicago. She hangs up. “I believe Mateo.”
“What do you mean?” Ramses is still looking over the data, making sure that there aren’t any other outliers, who might actually be who they’re looking for.
“He said that the Vertegens gave me immortality water, and that they gave each one to me in order. Do you know the order?”
Ramses sighs, and peels himself from the screen. “Yes.”
Angela waits for him to elaborate. “Go ahead.”
He sighs again. “You need Catalyst from the early waters of Earth, Longevity from Atlantis, Time from the island of Lorania on Dardius—which is in another galaxy, by the way, so I’m not sure how the Vertegens would have pulled that off.”
“Keep going,” Angela urges.
“Assuming you drank those three, the next one you would need is Body from the Atacama Desert, Existence from the Bermuda Triangle, Invulnerability from the North Pole, Energy from the Dead Sea, Youth from the Fountain of Youth in Florida, Death and Health from the Pools of Pamukkale, and...”
“Go on, don’t stop now.”
“And for any of these to become permanent, you would have to drink Activator from the last liquid water on Earth before it’s destroyed. Earliest estimate of that is a bolide impact on par with the Theia collision, which created the moon, which could happen anywhere between now and never, followed by solar expansion in over seven billion years.”
“So you’re saying there’s a chance.”
“Angela, you can’t save Marie by sticking yourself in the Insulator of Life. You would have to put, not just your mind, but also your body in there, and we don’t know how Meredarchos did it. We don’t even know if what you do can affect Marie at all!”
Angela goes over the lockers, where an extra set of tactical gear is just hanging there in case of emergency. “Fortunately, we find the Insulator, we find Meredarchos, so I’ll just ask him.”
“You won’t be able to get to San Diego in time,” Ramses warns. “The government team is already right there.”
“That’s why you’re gonna give me an injection of temporal energy. I know that you collected rocks from the Atacama, which you squeezed water out of. Don’t I need that one anyway?”
Ramses isn’t happy about testing his new formula on a living organism, but he doesn’t have much choice. Yes, he took rocks from the desert. Each one has oxygen and hydrogen trapped inside, and a process called electrolysis allows a scientist such as himself to extract both. The results can then theoretically be recombined to produce water, which he did. It is a painstaking process, and he needed a lot of rocks to make even one vial of the stuff, but it tested positive for temporal energy. It’s Body water, through and through. He unlocks one of his cabinets, and then lifts the bottom up to reveal a small refrigerated safe. He unlocks that with a 42-digit code, and retrieves the syringe. “Have a seat, I’ll get the rubbing alcohol.”
Once the injection is in, Angela finishes putting on her gear. She offers to take Ramses with her, but he decides that someone needs to stay at home base, which makes sense. So Angela teleports alone, all the way to the tack team’s location in Chula Vista, particularly to Kivi’s position. Best guess is Meredarchos and Erlendr are aware that the team is hot on their trail, and are trying to make a break for it across the border to Mexico. It’s hard enough for normal authorities to cross for official business, but when it comes to covert operatives, you can forget about it. It’s now or never.
“You shouldn’t be here,” Kivi whispers.
“I’m better trained than you are,” Angela either informs, or reminds, her. She can’t remember how much she’s talked about her experiences in the afterlife simulation.
A voice comes in on the radio, “spotter, report.
“No visual yet,” Kivi reports back. “We have an addition who will be assisting with capture.”
“She’s just letting me join the mission without question?” Angela asks.
“She’s been told that we have unusual skills and knowledge, and access to rare or unique resources. She’s been advised to expect people like you showing up when the situation calls for it, and assumes that you’ve all been properly vetted. It’s a pretty great group,” Kivi says, putting the binoculars back in front of her eyes. “I know that you’re worried about your sister, but please try not to ruin it.”
“I’m not here to get the Insulator back to my sister. I’m here to get in, and prevent her from ever getting sick.”
“I don’t understand how any of that works, but—” She interrupts herself to speak into the radio. “Visual on the target. I repeat, I have a visual on the target.” A man has just rounded the corner in the vacant park. He’s struggling to walk, but not because of any disability. He’s acting like half of him doesn’t really want to go in that direction. Maybe that’s exactly what’s happening. If Meredarchos and Erlendr are evenly matched, psychically speaking, it may still be difficult for them to agree on a course of action. That’s good for them.
Light ‘em up,” the leader orders.
“No, you can’t kill him,” Angela argues, getting to her feet. “I need him to tell me how to use the Insulator.
“Stop,” Kivi demands at a loud whisper. “She means to target him with a laser designator.”
It’s too late. Angela stops herself from heading towards the man, but her cover’s been blown. He looks up, and spots her. He takes a gut out of the back of his pants and tries to aim it at her, but something stops her. That doesn’t really make much sense. At worst, both Meredarchos an Erlendr want her dead, and at best, they don’t care. Either way, nothing should be holding them back.
Go, go, go!” the leader orders. “Blitz formation!
Seven other people come out of the woodwork, and begin to run towards their target, holding their own guns. He tries to aim at any one of them too, but he can’t hold his weapon at anything but the ground. He yells, frustrated with his own inadequacy. The team overwhelms him, so he tries to invade their minds, but he’s shocked to find that they’re all impervious to his psychic powers, thanks to a little mental masonry on Arcadia Preston’s part. Two operatives place him in cuffs while a third searches his bag.
“Do you see a small glass greenish-blue object in there?” Angela asks.
“This right here?” He takes the Insulator of Life out.
“Yes.” Angela takes it from him and shakes it in front of Meredarchos’ face. “How do you get in this thing physically? It’s only supposed to be able to store consciousness, so how do you do it? Tell me!”
“I have no idea.” He kind of looks like he’s telling the truth, but that’s not good enough.
“Tell me!” she repeats.
“I honestly don’t. I didn’t even know that wasn’t how it was supposed to work,” Meredarchos claims. “She’s the one who put me in it in the first place.” He jerks his head towards Arcadia.
Everyone looks at her. “I don’t know what he’s talking about,” she tells them.
Kivi nods understandingly. “You haven’t done that yet. It’s in your future.”
“I must figure it out eventually,” Arcadia realizes. “The problem is that could mean this very moment, or a hundred years from now.”
“Marie doesn’t have that kind of time,” Angela complains.
“Then let’s give her more time.” It’s Leona. No one noticed her appear, and they don’t know where she’s been, or what she’s been up to, this entire time. “I suspected as much as Mateo did regarding the water, and I’ve been working on a backup plan.”
“What might that be?” Kivi asks.
Leona doesn’t bother answering her. She brings Angela into a hug, and teleports them both away. They land in the underground lab where Leona worked before the government provided them with their own facility at The Lofts. Angela looks up in awe at the huge spaceship towering above them.
“Welcome home,” a woman says, approaching them.
“Whoa. What are we doing here?” Angela asks.
“Angela Walton, this is Magnus Petra Burgundy. Petra, Angela.”
Angela shakes Petra’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you.” She faces Leona. “What am I doing here, LeeLee?”
“This is how we save Marie. What you need is time. Time to...procure the necessary ingredients for her recovery.” She eyes Petra, who clearly doesn’t know everything about what’s going on here, though she didn’t bat an eye when they appeared out of nowhere, so she doesn’t know nothing.
“The Insulator was a bust,” Angela laments.
“I know. That was probably never going to work. That’s why I’m giving you this.” She gestures towards the ship. “This project has not been officially abandoned, but when the government started focusing on homeland grid integration of fusion power, space exploration ended up on the backburner.”
“How does that help me? We already have Time water from Dardius,” she says through gritted teeth. It doesn’t matter much. Petra can hear, but isn’t familiar.
“You’re not going anywhere, per se,” Leona begins. “You’re going on a loop to and back from the Oort Cloud. For us, months will pass, but for you, around six hours. This is regular special relativity at work, no time powers necessary, just profound speed.”
“Is this going to work?” Angela questions.
“We can’t let the earlier water that you drank break down in your system. This is the only way.”
“Am I going alone?”
“I’m going with,” Petra says, “as will a crew of experts. You’re in good hands.”
Angela is nervous, but she trusts Leona’s judgment. “I guess I’ll see you on the other side then. It’s ready to go, right?”
“We’ve been in a holding pattern,” Petra explains, “but the countdown started as soon as you showed up. Follow me.”
All three of them take the elevator to the entry level of the ship while the silo blast doors are closing. “Shouldn’t you stay out here?” Angela asks Leona.
“I need to pick up my husband. I can’t teleport all the way into orbit, so I’m going to hitch a ride, and then bug out before you break orbit.” Hmm...he’s alive?
They continue walking through the corridors until reaching the seating area. Carlin and Moray are playing a card game with two other crew members. Angela exchanges a look with Leona, but they don’t talk about it. This may be the safest place for them. After the countdown reaches zero, they launch into space, much to the surprise of everyone in the world. Shuttles don’t launch from Kansas City.
Several hours later, Marie wakes up in her hospital bed feeling much better.

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