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Friday, December 30, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 27, 2398

They didn’t think to have Arcadia build a mental defense for a doctor, and now that she’s pregnant, they don’t want to place her in any danger, or the baby at risk. They need to sedate Meredarchos, so they’re just going to have to do it themselves, and hope not to kill him in the process. This isn’t his body, and the man who owns it may still be salvageable, so they have a responsibility to protect it. Leona flicks the syringe to force the bubbles to the top, then releases a little bit of the sedative to clear them. She finds a vein, and plugs in. He has a black bag over his head, so she can’t try to prompt a response. His vitals show that he’s been put to sleep, though. She checks his restraints for the fourth time, then exits the room.
Leona performs the secret knock on the door to the observation room. “He’s out cold,” she says when Mateo opens it.
Mateo looks back at Kivi and Ramses. “Are you two ready for this?”
They both nod, but don’t reply vocally. Ramses gathers the Insulator of Life and the Livewire, as well as his laptop. Kivi gets behind Andile’s gurney, and follows him through the corridors. Winona takes up the rear to stand guard with her weapon. Mateo and Leona will be watching through the window.
Kivi pulls the bag from their target’s head. “Oh.”
“What? Are you okay?” Ramses gets defensive.
“Yeah, sorry, his eyes are open a little. It’s creepy.”
Ramses shuts the man’s eyelids closed all the way.
“Still creepy.”
“We can put the bag back on,” he suggests.
“No, I can make a stronger connection with physical contact. Get ready.”
“Hold on, I need to calibrate the interface.” Ramses thinks he’s found a way to connect his computer to the Insulator, so he can get a readout of its activity, instead of just having to blindly hope that it’s doing what they want it to do. “Okay, we’re good. It’s up to you now.”
Kivi prepares herself emotionally, then places her hands upon Meredarchos’ temples. She exhales, and focuses her intentions. At first, she visualizes her own mental barrier, but right away, it becomes the real one. Each time she tries this is a little easier than the last. She opens the door at the base of her wall, and stands at the bridge. She stands there with a frown.
Meredarchos and Erlendr are on the other side. They each have a sword to Cheyenne’s throat, having finally caught her while Kivi wasn’t here. “You shall not pass!” Erlendr shouts.
“You have no right to quote those words!” Kivi shouts back.
“Step one foot across that bridge, and we’ll kill her!” Erlendr replies. “If you’re killed in The Matrix, you die here! The body cannot live without the mind!”
“I think we both know that’s not true, not in our world!”
“Walk away, Miss Bristol,” Meredarchos demands, no time for pop culture references from a world that is not his own. “I have no problem with you. I don’t even have a problem with Cheyenne here. She’s just a nuisance at this point.” He’s not shouting, yet Kivi can hear him. This is a shared mental state, not a physical place. Sound doesn’t have to traverse a distance. They’re just exchanging brainwaves.
“One foot!” Erlendr repeats.
Kivi gazes into the abyss, which is more than just a manifestation of the gap between her mind and theirs. It needs to be there, but it doesn’t have to be so wide. The two land masses move towards each other until she’s standing a couple of meters from the other three. She could hop to the other side if need be. “I didn’t take a single step.”
“Can’t argue with that,” Erlendr admits.
“You should not have been able to do that,” Meredarchos says. “I’m the only one in control here.”
He’s lying or he’s wrong. This isn’t his mind. He is an intruder here, just like everyone else. This brain can only be controlled by one man, and even if Kivi can’t find that man, Meredarchos still does not have an advantage here. She can fight back. But she’s not going to do it with thought violence. Kivi puts on her diplomacy hat. “We have a new body prepared for Cheyenne. Let her go, and she won’t bother you anymore.”
“Then we’ll lose our leverage,” Meredarchos contends. “She’s the only thing standing between us and death.”
“What do you care? You’re not really here anyway.”
Meredarchos is silent.
“Oh, you didn’t think we knew that, did you?”
“If you kill this body, you’ll force me back to my home universe. Establishing a new connection will prove difficult, especially if I want to return to this time period. I would rather avoid the hassle.”
“You would rather, but it’s possible to survive.”
“It’s not possible for me,” Erlendr reminds her.
“What do I care?” Kivi asks.
“I too am holding a sword,” Erlendr says.
She shrugs, and removes two swords from behind her back. “So am I. If you can dream it, you can do it. Literally.”
“Two can play that game.” Erlendr lets go of Cheyenne’s neck to pull a hand cannon from behind his own back.
Kivi takes this opportunity to stab the man in the throat. He instinctively reaches up, and takes hold of the blade. Instead of pulling it out, she just reangles it to get better leverage. Once Cheyenne safely ducks away, Kivi pulls Erlendr towards her, and lets him fall into the narrow gap, down into the abyss.
Meredarchos doesn’t take time to mourn his body-buddy. “I’m going to break out of this prison eventually, like I did last time.” He hops over, and grabs Cheyenne, and throws her into the gap.
Kivi moves her physical mouth. “Ramses, now.”
Out in the real world, Ramses flips the switch that activates the circuit that the Livewire is plugged into. Energy surges out of it, passes through the patient’s hand, hopefully picking up Cheyenne’s consciousness in the process. It then continues on down the wire, and enters Andile’s brain. She wakes up. “Chey, is that you?”
“Yes, I thought I was dead.”
“We all did,” Ramses replies.
Kivi comes out of the psychic connection, and turns to the one-way mirror. “Get in here now.”
Winona opens the door for the two of them. Mateo wheels Alt!Mateo’s body into the room. Ramses quickly takes the Livewire, and rearranges it.
“Get her out of here!” Kivi orders.
Mateo grabs Cheyenne’s gurney, and pulls her out of the cell. Andile’s brain is the only one whose head hasn’t been protected against mental intrusion. Arcadia didn’t even feel comfortable doing that much, and Kivi still can’t figure out how to do it herself. He runs off at full speed to get her as far away from here as possible.
“How many consciousnesses do you see in that man’s head?”
“I don’t have time to check,” Ramses replies. “It’s more complicated than just looking for two dots. What do we do? Do we make the transfer, and hope it works?”
Everyone looks to Leona. “Do it. We’ll sort it out later.”
While Ramses gets back to work, Kivi pulls Leona aside. “Something happened in there. They had already caught her, so I was forced to improvise. Erlendr fell into the abyss first. It was before Ramses provided power to the Livewire, so I don’t know where he went, if anywhere. Meredarchos seemed to believe that the abyss was bad, though. Maybe he’s met the true death.”
“We all have barriers,” Leona reasons. “Except for Cheyenne. That wolf may be in sheep’s clothing.” She looks through the door. “Winona, go protect my husband.”
Winona cocks her gun, and runs out.
Leona turns back to Ramses. “Make the transfer. Now.”
Ramses plugs the Livewire back in. Power runs from the wall, down the wire, through the patient, back down the wire, and into Alt!Mateo’s body. Now Cheyenne is in Andile’s body, Meredarchos is in the ill-fated Atl!Mateo’s body, and Erlendr—as long as he didn’t seek refuge in Andile’s body first—is in the Insulator of Life. That’s where he belongs, because he has to eventually get back to the main sequence, and complete a series of events that lead to both good and bad outcomes. It too is fate.
“Did you do what I asked? Did you put the suicide inducer into his brain?”
“Not yet,” Ramses replies. “It’s right here.” He holds up a little device, which he’ll connect to the Livewire for one final transfer to Alt!Mateo’s head. It has been programmed to want one thing, which is to die. When Alt!Mateo’s body is sent back to the moment of death, it will prevent Meredarchos from letting the body fall back into the extraction mirror, and coming back to this reality. This should finally close that loop.
Leona, come in,” Winona calls through the radio.
“Leona here, go ahead.”
Cheyenne seems fine, but Mateo is gone. She doesn’t know where he went.
“I’m right here.” Mateo steps into the room holding a gun. “Everyone out!”
“Matty, what are you doing?”
“Everyone out!” he repeats.
“You’re working with them?”
“Hell no. Now do what I asked, and everything will be fine.”
They do leave the room, and go right to the observation window to watch. “Killing him won’t work,” Leona explains through the intercom.
It will how I’m doing it.” Mateo takes a bomb out of his bag, and places it on the belly of the man whose mind Meredarchos took over. He sets the timer at thirty seconds, then goes over to the end of the Livewire. He holds it by the metal, instead of the rubber. “Your husband is waiting for you, tied up in the Walton bunker in the woods. I’m sorry you have to watch me die, but my secrets must die with me.” Fax!Mateo plugs it in, and sends his own consciousness into Alt!Mateo’s body. Then the bomb goes off.

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