Monday, December 19, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 16, 2398

After helping the others settle into the hotel suite, Ramses pulled Mateo aside, and asked him to accompany him on a little mission. He revealed that the global brain scanner that Mateo installed on the orbiting satellite detected more than just Meredarchos and Erlendr’s location. There were other errors around the world. In truth, all things being equal, there was no way to know which was the right one. He had no choice but to guess that it was the one in San Diego, based on the fact that Kivi’s SD6 team was already there. It was a gamble that paid off, but now it’s time to investigate the other dots. Unfortunately, the scanner stopped working after a couple dozen passes. He can’t even make contact with it anymore. So by now, the data they compiled on these mysterious errors is already days old, and he doesn’t want to let it become even worse than that. Their first stop is to be a familiar old spot in Wyoming.
According to a quick word with Arcadia, her father loved water. He said that it wasn’t the same in The Gallery Dimension as it was in the normal world. He took a particular liking to untouched lakes and rivers, and had a special affinity for Brooks Lake. Mateo and Ramses are here now, standing at the edgewater, breathing in the clean air, and taking a break before things get real. Mateo smirks as he reflects on the last time he saw this beauty. It’s been a long time since he’s thought about this place. He and his family came here to avoid being caught by an evil version of Horace Reaver, but as far as they knew, there wasn’t anything special about it. Or not. Maybe his mother knew all along. It’s hard to tell with other people, he’s learned that since then. That version of his mom doesn’t even exist anymore. So much has changed.
“Hey, Rambo!” comes a voice from behind them. When they look back, a man in typical fishing getup smiles with a really open mouth. He removes his sunglasses. “Yeah, I thought that was you! What’re ya doin’ on this side of the lake?”
“Why wouldn’t I be over here?” Ramses asks.
“You told me you prefer what you called the Nile Side. You ever gonna tell me what that means?”
“One day,” Ramses calls back. “For now, I seem to have gotten lost while I was trying to show my friend here around. Maybe you could point me in the right direction?”
The fisherman is a bit suspicious, but what’s he gonna do, call the cops and claim that someone is impersonating his friend? “Just walk all along the bank until you get to the bridge, then keep going. I can see your cabin from here.” He points across the lake.
“Hey, thanks...friend.” Obviously Ramses doesn’t know his name.
“No prob. Happy fishin’.”
“Happy fishin’.”
“I guess that proves the early version of Erlendr is indeed here,” Mateo muses.
“The weirdest part is that he’s using my name with the locals.”
“Maybe he doesn’t much like himself.”
“We can use that,” Ramses says as he’s taking the first step around the lake.
The cabin is empty when they get there, but the door was locked, and it looks lived in. Mateo sits up on the bed while the real Ramses takes a chair. They wait for about an hour before the fake Ramses walks in. He doesn’t try to escape. He almost looks relieved. “I knew this day would come.”
“Why did you go where we could find you?” Mateo asks him.
“I just wanted to take a break from all the...” Erlendr can’t come up with the right word, so he just makes a growly noise of annoyance. “I met myself from the future, and I understand what’s to become of me, and also that it’s inevitable. You were fated to find me, no matter where I went, so I figured I might as well have relaxed until the time came.” He sets his bucket down, and slips off his wading boots. “Then this showed up, and I knew that I didn’t have long.” He parts the hair on his head, and reveals a small patch on his skin that’s sparkling with technicolors.
Ramses peers at it. “It’s timonite.”
“Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” Erlendr sits on a little step stool and calmly starts to remove his fishing gear.
Ramses thinks through this new information, then looks over at Mateo. “We did this. We did this to him. The scanner somehow...marked him?”
“We know where he’s going, and we know how he gets free from that world.”
“That’s not the issue. If the scanner did this to him, did it do it to the others?”
“We don’t even know who they might be,” Mateo says.
“Exactly. We could be banishing enemies...or friends.”
“Oh my God, I need to call Kivi. We cannot unleash Meredarchos on that unsuspecting world.”
“What does Meredarchos have to do with anything?” Erlendr questions.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I’m not worried about anything anymore,” Erlendr claims. “It would be nice, however, if you could let me know how long I have until this happens to me?”
“No idea,” Ramses answers.
“How many other errors are out there?” Mateo asks Ramses.
“Ten. All over the world.”
“Could you build another scanner? If I got you a spaceship to launch it on, would you be able to make a new one?”
“You can do that?” Erlendr asks. “You can just get a spaceship?”
“Hush now,” he demands.
“I already have a backup orbital scanner,” Ramses explains, “but I’m not sure if that’s the best way to do this, not if it’s only going to last three days.”
“I think it only lasted three days because of the timonite I accidentally left up there,” Mateo posits. “It must have spirited it away, like it’s going to do with him.”
“Guys,” Erlendr tries to interject.
“I said shush.” Mateo goes back to Ramses. “What happened with the satellite before won’t happen the next time.”
“Sounds like a reasonable hypothesis,” Ramses decides. “You really think they’ll give us access to a ship? Maybe if the one from the lab were still available...”
“Guys,” Erlendr says more forcefully.
“Quiet!” Mateo and Ramses order simultaneously.
“I don’t think you’re gonna have to listen to my voice much longer.” Erlendr is holding his head with both hands. His face is turning red. He’s in a great deal of pain. The timonite bubbles, and begins to spread downwards. Once it’s covered the whole body, he disappears, as he was always meant to.
Ramses sighs. “Consider this time loop closed.”
“Let’s just hope that it happens to different people at different times.”

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