Thursday, December 29, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 26, 2398

For the first time in a long time, the whole team is back together, heavy a few extra people. They all came into the city at about the same time, but they didn’t meet at the hotel suite, or the Lofts, or the condo. The government has a facility for this sort of thing already in the area. It’s a sanctuary for negotiations, where members of opposing sides can come together, and figure out how to solve their conflict nonviolently. It’s stocked with food, water, and other basic amenities, but it’s nothing fancy. There isn’t even a security system in place. That’s expected to be up to the guests, should they feel the need for it. In this case, they don’t, and they’re not even really dealing with enemies. They just need to ask a few people a few questions.
Marie flew in from Manila with a woman named Divina Tiongson. The latter called the authorities on the former. They took her in for some psychiatric care, which Marie actually felt was helpful and refreshing. Divina came to visit during her stay, and after some explanation on Marie’s part, admitted that while she doesn’t know anything about time travel, she has memories that are not her own. In a few cases, she can recall entire lifetimes that other people presumably experienced for real. She’s always believed that these visions meant that she was crazy, and never told anyone for that reason.
Bhulan agreed to follow Alyssa back from the site of Springfield, Kansas, but made no promises in regards to whatever questions the team might try to ask her. They probably can’t compel her to comply, but Fax!Mateo is a different story. The version of Mateo who came out of stasis months ago, and has been living here with his wife, knows what buttons to push. For one, Fax!Mateo will never be able to be with Leona, unless they can find some other version of her who would be interested in that, so that’s a weakness they should be able to exploit. He thought he was going to be able to get away in the Constant, but Ramses still had enough temporal energy in him to teleport to his location, and capture him. The reason they didn’t use it to get to Lebanon in the first place was because they needed to save it for their exit from the Facsimile. Fortunately, the Constant gave him just enough of a boost to transport all three of them back to Kansas City, where they exited the Salmonday Club with time to spare.
“Does she need to be here?” Fax!Mateo asks, in regards to Divina.
“You have a problem with her?” Leona asks him.
“Why are there two of you?” Fax!Mateo questions.
“Uh...I’m Arcadia, actually,” the other person wearing Leona’s face explains.
“Of course you are,” Fax!Mateo says.
“You need to turn your attitude off,” Mateo scolds.
“Forgive me for waking up in a world where my wife doesn’t love me, and I’ve missed out on months of my life. What makes you so special? When this Facsimile thing was created, why did I end up over there, and you managed to stay on the correct side?”
“You tell us,” Leona says. “You’re the one who remembers what happened in the Constant, however long ago in the past. Why were you in stasis at all?”
“I’m not saying a word,” Fax!Mateo insists. “It is far too early for that.” He can’t help but glance over at Bhulan.
“Just as I suspected,” Leona goes on. “You were there too, and your memory is intact as well. Tell us what’s going on here. Why don’t we have any time powers, or transhumanistic enhancements?”
“Who told you that my memory is intact?” Bhulan asks her.
“Oh, wouldn’t that just be super convenient,” Alyssa muses. She’s really embracing her new role on the team now.
“We have two psychics,” Leona warns her, pointing to both Arcadia and Kivi.
“I’m busy with another project with SD6,” Kivi says. “And to that, I can only stay a short while.”
“My baby is too far along,” Arcadia reveals. “The only thoughts I’ll be reading will be hers, and her mine. I can’t risk interfering with her development.”
“I didn’t know that’s how it worked,” Leona says to her.
“That’s what Dr. Hammer hypothesizes,” Arcadia adds. “There haven’t been many studies on the development of children from mothers with psychic abilities.”
“That’s fine,” Mateo says. “Bhulan is going to tell us what she knows because it’s the right thing to do, not because someone invades her mind.”
“Oh, you know me so well,” Bhulan says sarcastically.
Mateo reaches across the table towards her, but doesn’t touch her. “I don’t want you to become an enemy. I find it annoying every time that happens. The Anatol Klugman thing was heartbreaking.” He stands up, and starts pacing like this is his room, and they’re all his guests. He places both hands on Arcadia’s shoulders. “I much prefer accumulating friends.”
Bhulan pantomimes chewing gum, just because she’s uncomfortable sitting still. She’s a bit of a fidgeter. She doesn’t speak at first, but it’s clear that she’s about to, so everyone just waits patiently. “I can only tell you my story. I won’t say anything about anyone else, and I’ll be as vague as I must to protect their identities.”
“Very well,” Mateo agrees. “Its a start.”
“I was in the main sequence,” Bhulan begins, “when I found myself in the company of Horace Reaver, Serkan Demir, and Paige Turner. They were in possession of the hundemarke, and they wanted to destroy it. For those of you who don’t know, the hundemarke creates fixed moments in time. If activated, it will protect every event that occurs within its spatial bubble, no matter how much time travel tries to interfere with it. This means that it can’t be destroyed under normal circumstances. You can’t just throw it in the fire, and watch it burn. As soon as you let go, the hundemarke will deactivate, and that moment will have the potential to be changed. And with something so powerful and important, it will be changed. Someone will want to stop it from being destroyed, even if they’re born a trillion years from then.
“Therefore, if you want to destroy it, you have to destroy yourself along with it, so that it remains activated the entire time. You use the power of the object against itself, it’s the only way it’ll happen. So that’s what I did. I was a trespasser from an old timeline, and I decided that my sacrifice was worth it, and that I was worthy. I don’t know if what we believed about it was untrue, or if I was just the wrong person to try it, but my plan failed. I jumped into the fire, and landed in this reality, unburned.”
“In that parking lot,” Alyssa figures.
“No,” Leona says, shaking her head. “The parking lot didn’t exist yet.” She points at Bhulan knowingly. “You landed in The Constant. You were with Danica Matic.”
“I can neither confirm nor deny that I was with The Concierge in the Constant.”
“That’s a yes,” Vearden claims. “That always means yes.”
“Forgive me,” Winona interjects, “but is this what’s most important right now? I have a prisoner in my custody who needs to be dealt with. If you can get him out of my universe, I would be fine with that, but I can’t be responsible for him forever.”
“I need to talk to everyone about that,” Kivi says. “Well...not everyone.”
That’s fair. They are not getting anywhere with these extra people around. The core group needs to peel off, and discuss things on their own. They all trust Winona by now, but she doesn’t need to be involved, so maybe she would agree to guard the others for them. Or maybe not guard them, but keep watch over them, so they don’t get lost in this five room building. “Is there somewhere we can go?” Leona asks her.
“Down the hall, to the left.” Winona stays seated, like she knows what Leona needs out of her.
Leona, Mateo, Ramses, Marie, Alyssa, Kivi, Vearden, and Arcadia leave the room, and go to the other conference. Arcadia doesn’t even hesitate, which is a big step for her. She’s learning. Leona waits a moment to speak. “We have a plan to kill Meredarchos and Erlendr. I won’t go through with it, though, if anyone here can come up with a good reason why we shouldn’t, besides the obvious fact that killing is a no-no.”
“Well, for one, Cheyenne is still alive,” Kivi finally tells them.
“Excuse me?” Leona asks.
“She’s in that victim’s body right now, along with the other two. She hides in his subconscious. I’ve been reaching out when I can, but the longer I stay in the triple mind, the easier it is for him to find me. That wouldn’t be a big deal, but if he finds me, he finds her, and I can’t let that happen. We have to get her out before we do anything else to that body, but I don’t know where she could go.”
“We still have Andile’s body on life support,” Ramses throws out there. “We have Leona Reaver’s body too, though we’re planning on getting rid of it, so I wouldn’t call that a good long-term strategy.”
“I can’t believe we’re talking about trading bodies around like they’re cars. Has anyone considered the ethical ramifications of all of this?” Alyssa asks.
“Yes,” Leona answers. “History’s top ethicists debated it for centuries before it was possible, decades once it was, and continued to regulate it as necessary. No one takes this technology lightly. I appreciate and recognize your concern. Andile signed away her body to do with it what we need. I firmly believe that she would agree to donate it to Cheyenne in a heartbeat.”
“The last time we tried to use the Insulator of Life and Livewire in this way,” Ramses begins, “it didn’t go so well. We have to figure out how to get one consciousness out of a body shared by two others, and not accidentally pull in those other two.”
“That’s what Kivi is for,” Arcadia believes. “She’s already described performing head dives. Use her in tandem with the temporal objects.”
“Okay,” Leona says. “Assuming we succeed in that endeavor, I’ll ask again; is anyone opposed to executing the prisoner via intervening fate.”
Divina opens the door. “You won’t be killing him. Meredarchos is not on this world. He’s safe and sound in his own universe, reaching out psychically. That’s how he always does it. He doesn’t have the ability to travel the bulk physically.”
They all stare at her. Why did Winona let her leave?
Divina sighs, realizing that she has to start being honest. “All right, I may know a little more than I let on before.”

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