Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 17, 2398

Technically, this next error that they’re investigating is a lot closer than Wyoming. It’s right in the heart of the Plaza in Kansas City, but Ramses chose to put it off, because he was pretty sure that Erlendr was on Brooks Lake, and that seemed more urgent. Interestingly, they’re in the shopping block where they first searched for the Salmon Civic Center, which doesn’t exist in this reality. Alyssa has been spending her free time monitoring the cameras that they have set up in the parking lot where everyone seems to appear, and no one has come through since Vearden several weeks ago. If someone is looking for the Civic Center, they’ve been looking for a real long time. Mateo has made up a story in his headcanon to explain that as they’re wandering around the block. He thinks that maybe a traveler showed up for the predictable reason, inadvertently drawing attention to themselves. Someone who runs one of these businesses noticed him, and they got to chatting, which eventually led to a job. The traveler is still around, because they work somewhere close now.
“That would be a decent story, and it may yet prove true, but there’s something different about this one.” Ramses is wielding a portable brain scanner, and is waving it around, hoping to detect their target.
“What’s that?” Mateo asks.
“The satellite orbited two dozen times before it stopped—or disappeared, as it were. In that time, ten brains produced ten errors two dozen times. One brain, however, produced an error only once.”
“Where was it during all the other scans?” Mateo questions, pretty sure that Ramses doesn’t know for sure.
“I can’t say for sure,” Ramses answers, “but funny enough, the orbital pass where it appeared happened at exactly midnight central Saturday night.”
“The club,” Mateo realizes. “The Salmonday Club only exists in an extra temporal dimension. I can’t remember what it’s called.”
“The Facsimile,” Ramses replies. “If my calculations are correct, it should be right around...here.” He stops at a dirty off-white wall.”
“That’s why we’re here so late.”
Ramses checks his watch. “We’re here just in time.” He pulls out a syringe, and prepares to inject himself with it.
“You’re going to teleport us in?”
“If our target is in there, they may not be able to get out, which implies the door that’s supposed to be in this spot doesn’t magically appear at 23:59:30. Ours may be the only way in or out.”
Mateo nods.
Ramses injects himself with the temporal energy-infused water. He lets it run through his bloodstream, then checks his watch again. “Are you ready?”
“You warned Leona where we might go, right?”’
“Of course.” Ramses winks, and takes Mateo by the shoulders. Once his watch beeps, he teleports them both through the temporal window.
They end up in the club, or what used to be the club. Now it’s a dirty and abandoned empty space with light trickling in from a collapsed roof, and mold growing on the walls. Ramses holds up his scanner, and tries to find the signal. Once he catches it, they exit the building, and head down the street. It too has been abandoned. Entire buildings have collapsed, vines have taken over. Cars have been burnt up. This is a post-apocalypse world. If anyone is living here, it’s not easy for them, and it’s not fun. Ramses continues to follow the signal only a short distance to the Ponce de Leon. It’s the only thing left standing in all its former glory. Someone is performing maintenance for it, and they likely live in this dimension’s version of the Bran safehouse.
They walk up the stairs, and knock on the door. They hear shuffling on the other side. A  very old man answers, and peers at them. He stares for quite a while, barely able to hold his own weight up. “I’m afraid there’s no way out.” He turns, and begins to walk towards the kitchen. “But there’s still tea, if you want it.” He sets a pot on a gas burner, and lights it. There’s no electricity, so he’s living like a camper in many ways. The unit is clean, though, and tidy. He takes pride in his space, even if no one else could ever have seen it until today.
“My name is Ramses Abdulrashid, and this is my associate, Mateo Matic. How long have you been trapped in this dimension?”
He looks up and to the left as he checks his memory archives. “Since Christmas Eve, 2022. The Cleanser trapped me here. He didn’t take too kindly to me helping one of his victims get her life back. Maybe you know her, Siria Webb?”
“We do,” Mateo answers.
“How was she doing?” the old man asks.
“She was all right when we left her,” Ramses replies, “but she never mentioned you, so you may have seen her more recently than we.”
The man nods. “Well, I’m Mackenzie Dodge, former proprietor of the Salmonday Club, and current sole occupier of this world. I wish we could have met under better circumstances.”
“We think we can get you out,” Mateo tells him. “We came here intentionally, strongly suspecting that someone was trapped. I can’t imagine being alone for over 370 years. It must have been hard.”
“It hasn’t been that long,” Mackenzie says with a laugh as he’s preparing the tea bags. “This place only exists on the eighth day of the week.”
“Right.” Mateo looks over to Ramses.
He does the math in his head. “More than fifty-three years.”
“That’s still a lot, sir,” Mateo says.
Mackenzie smiles. “It is, but—” He suddenly grasps his head, and hisses in pain.
“Oh, no,” Mateo laments.
Before they can do anything, the patch of timonite on Mackenzie’s head spreads throughout his body, and spirits him away to the Sargan Forest. The two of them just stare at the kitchen counter in horror.
“Come on,” Ramses says. “I have to get back to my lab.”
“Are we not going to talk about what just happened?”
“Only so that I can say that it’s not your fault.
“Yes, it is.” Once is an occurrence, twice is a coincidence, and thrice is a pattern. From Mateo’s perspective, twice is evidence enough. Even if he’s not the cause of this issue, he’s certainly not helping. This investigation is going to have to move on without him. His connection to timonite and the bulkverse is too strong to let him just run around free, ruining people’s lives.

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