Saturday, January 21, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 18, 2398

Curtis shrugs, and claims that he didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to be able to teleport. He was born with the ability, so why wouldn’t he still have it? He evidently knows that he’s in a different reality, but has no idea how he got here, and he certainly doesn’t know how to leave. That’s when Cheyenne climbs back down from the lavatory in the upper level. She stops cold when she sees their visitor. “Curty Birdy.”
“Chey-Chey?” Curtis steps away from the group.
“Are you...are we...?”
“We must be, right?”
“How would we ever know?”
“What’s going on here?” Arcadia interrupts this cryptic conversation.
Cheyenne is still in shock. “Mmm...Arcadia, Vearden, I would like you to meet my husband, Curtis Duvall. I think.”
“I know,” Curtis contends. “We are the same versions of each other.”
“There’s one way to find out.” Arcadia looks over at Ramses. “Do you have a simpatico detector in your bag of tricks?”
“No!” Cheyenne insists, more worried than she maybe should be. “We don’t need to test for simpatico. He believes that we’re from the same timeline, and I believe it too.”
“I don’t have one of those anyway,” Ramses says. “It hasn’t come up.”
“We’re learning more about you everyday,” Vearden points out.
Curtis approaches Vearden and Arcadia, sizing them up. He looks down at her belly. “You be sure to take care of your little girl, Papa Bear and Mama Bear.”
“Am I already showing?” Arcadia starts pawing at her belly.
“You’re glowing,” Curtis clarifies, but not really. He looks back at Cheyenne. “How much do they know about you, and where you’re from?”
“Almost nothing,” she answers. “I would like to keep it that way.”
Curtis nods as he’s turning back to the happy couple. “Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?”
“Jury’s still out,” Arcadia replies. “These people are helping me.”
Curtis sighs. “Is it still 2398?”
“November 17,” Marie says.
Curtis points at her. “Are you Angela?”
“Close enough.”
“That must make you Ramses Abdulrashid, and this the infamous AOC.”
Curtis starts to look around like a fraud at an art gallery. “She wasn’t a politician in my timeline, though I did know her. We volunteered for Michelle Obama together, along with Leona Delaney. I told her that should run for office herself, I heard that she took my advice, though only in the next timeline.”
“I really would like to study you,” Ramses says, seeing no better opportunity to bring that up again.
Curtis looks to his wife for guidance, who nods. “Fine. Wadya need? Semen?”
“Blood will be enough for now,” Ramses assures him.
Curtis agrees to help with whatever is required for the rest of the day, and into the next. There is only so much that can be done up in orbit, though. Ramses has asked to take Curtis down to his lab for more tests. Cheyenne wants to come too, which would leave Vearden and Arcadia up on the ship alone. It’s highly automated, so that would be fine, except that she’s pregnant, and that doesn’t seem wise. Marie can’t take care of them, because she returned to her team in Paris. If they could only reach Leona, one scientist could be up above, and the other down below, but she’s still missing. So the AOC is empty right now, programmed to orbit the Earth on its own, keeping the place warm for them for whenever they decide to go back. For now, this is where they belong.
“I still can’t believe you finished it.” The last time Ramses was here, this facility was set up for epidemiology research. He asked Winona for certain equipment to be added to the retrofit, and laid out his plans for a few machines, but he didn’t expect anyone to build them in his absence. They went above and beyond. In particular, he’s eying the glass chamber that they constructed in record time according to his very specific specifications. Again, he didn’t ask anyone to do that, he just let them know that he would be building it himself, so they could account for building codes and fire safety.
“I didn’t do anything,” Winona responds. “He did.”
A man wearing a white lab coat underneath a reflective construction vest walks up to them, and shakes Ramses’ hand. “Hi, I’m Niven Murdoch.”
“Murdoch, as in, Baudin?”
“He’s my father,” Niven confirms, “not by blood. I don’t have any time powers myself, but I grew up around them, so I know how to build a simple temporal containment chamber. She’s a beaut, though, ain’t she?” He admires his own work.
“Bridgette’s father, Senator Morton found him.” Winona explains to Ramses. “This was long before your fancy brain scanner. He was trying to get found; put a cryptic classified ad about choosing salmon in the paper every single day for years.”
“Finally got a bite, so to speak,” Niven muses.
Curtis and Cheyenne walk back in. He’s wearing the special underwear that Ramses asked him to put on, and nothing else. “Are you trying to humiliate me, errr...?”
“I promise that it’s all in the name of science,” Ramses tells him. “No one’s going to watch the footage, except for me and Leona, and maybe a few other team members.”
Curtis shrugs. “Eh, whatever. It’s nothing she hasn’t seen already. Oh, didn’t you know?” he asks when Ramses looks at him funny. “We were together for a few years in the 2020s, after she graduated from college. This was before you, Cheyenne.”
“I know,” Cheyenne says.
“We’ll, uh, leave you to your work,” Winona says as she’s stepping away. “Niven?”
“Yes, coming.” His gaze lingers on Curtis a little too long.
“Thanks for the chamber, and everything else you did,” Ramses calls up to him.
“No prob, Bob!” Niven and Winona supposedly leave the lab.
Ramses opens the door to the chamber, and motions for Curtis to step inside. “Full disclosure, this locks from the outside, and if it works properly—”
“It does!” Niven shouts, having apparently not really left.
Ramses kind of ignores him, and moves on. “If it works, you won’t be able to escape, even by teleporting. I didn’t design it for you, but if you’ll trust me, I would like you to help us test it. At the same time, I’ll be taking readings on your abilities.”
“I’m down with that,” Curtis says. “Just tell me what to do.”
Ramses shuts the door, and goes over the computer. “Let’s start with a simple jump from one side of the chamber to the other.”

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