Friday, January 27, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 24, 2398

Curtis found himself trapped in the containment chamber in the lab. Ramses made sure this was the case via the security cameras, but he didn’t allow anyone to go down there right away. It was especially difficult to keep Cheyenne from trying, but they kept her at bay, and it’s not like she could have snuck in. Ramses has made some decisions for this facility that he didn’t for the last one. He and Leona have unfettered access to every area at all times. If they would like to turn other areas off and on for other people, they can do that, but there’s no longer a free-for-all option. There is no reason for anyone else to be able to get into the testing room at all unless there is something very specific they need to be a part of, and the two leaders approve.
They leave Curtis in his cell for hours. No food, no water, no bathroom break. He spends his first few minutes in there trying to escape, but not desperately or frantically. If you ever find yourself in a locked room, it is an unreasonable reaction to sit there and not at least look for a weakness somewhere. It’s also unreasonable to keep pounding your head against the wall when it’s clearly not going to work. So he just sits down on the floor, and leans his back against the door. They would have put a cot, and maybe a bucket, in there if they knew this was going to happen, but it wasn’t technically designed as a cell. At least that wasn’t the original or primary intention.
Once Curtis had stewed for long enough, Ramses let Marie into the room to begin the interrogation. He didn’t give them anything. He didn’t apologize, or explain himself, or even tell her to screw off. He didn’t say a single word to them. Ramses confirmed that there were now two separate consciousnesses in his brain, having already set the chamber up to gather such data. The reigning theory is that he and Aquila are, or were, in cahoots, and he was trying to prevent her from giving away certain information about their dealings together. Best guess, they’re part of a larger conspiracy, which would likely also involve Danica Matic, Tamerlane Pryce, Dalton Hawke, and Bhulan Cargill. He’s not giving them anything, so it’s time for a new tactic.
It’s Cheyenne's turn, and no one has a problem with that. He appears to have betrayed her just as much as them; possibly more so, because of the commitment he deliberately made to her. She looks anxious, though, so Leona decides to stay by her side. She has agreed to get as much information out of him as she can for the team’s benefit, but she may fail at that, instead focusing on her personal relationship with him, and trying to get answers for that. Again, that’s okay. She doesn’t owe them anything. “You owe me an explanation,” she tells him. She’s been standing outside of the chamber for a few minutes now, but he hasn’t even noticed yet.
He stands up, and places his palms against the glass. “I’m sorry. This has nothing to do with you...with us.”
“Yes, it does.”
“No, it doesn’t,” he insists.
“You made a choice. You pulled another human being’s mind into your head, and you didn’t tell me you were going to do that, or why. We’re supposed to be a team, which means that you lied to me. I don’t care what you lied about, or how you justify it in your own headcanon, it’s still a lie.”
He doesn’t respond.
“Who are you?” she asks.
“I’m your husband.”
“How can I know that? You’re not acting like him, and we live in a universe with duplicates, alternates, illusionists, and God knows what else.”
“I’m him. I know it.”
“This is why you refused to take a simpatico test, because it would show that you and I have been apart from each other longer than you told me.”
He doesn’t respond again.
“For someone who hasn’t betrayed me, you sure are being deafeningly quiet.”
“I can’t tell you everything, not yet.” He can see that he’s losing her. “But I will. I promise, everything will be revealed in due time. We’re just...not ready.”
“Not ready for what?”
Time. Time is not ready. Certain things have to happen first, it’s hard to explain. We must make arrangements.”
“Who the hell is we?” Cheyenne questions.
Curtis scowls, and looks up at the nearest camera. “I think you know who.”
She shakes her head, and turns it towards Leona. “Could you give us just a little space? Once Leona steps away, she continues with Curtis. “I don’t care about any of that, or those people. I just want to know who I married, and what he was doing for the X amount of years he was wandering alone in one of the old—” She stops herself, and looks up at the camera too. She almost gave away one of her own secrets. Maybe she can’t be so mad at him when she’s keeping something so important from the people who took her in, and never pushed her for answers.
“I haven’t been gone that long, and I’m not really one of them, per se. I’ve just been sworn to secrecy. These people can’t know. If we were alone, that would be one thing, but it’s in everyone’s best interests if the timeline plays out as its meant to.”
“Okay, Kang the Conqueror,” she mocks.
He rolls his eyes. “It’s a little like that, yeah.”
She starts to tear up as she pulls a tightly folded piece of paper from her pocket.
“What is that?” he asks.
She unfolds the paper, and holds it up between them. “I, Cheyenne Duvall, hereby remove—oh.” She stops herself to literally remove her wedding ring from her finger, which she never let the rest of the team see until today.
“What are you doing?” he presses.
“Yeah, what is this?” Leona concurs.
Cheyenne decides to begin again. “I, Cheyenne Duvall, hereby remove this token of marriage from my person to symbolize my intention to begin the proceedings for the dissolution of said marriage to Curtis Duvall. On this day, the 24th of November, 2398—according to local timekeeping standards in the parallel reality colloquially known as The Third Rail—I formally request audience with The Officiant.”
The Officiant’s office appears out of nowhere. The Officiant herself steps through the door, and frowns. “Tell me your grievances.”
“No grievances. Just get the two of us out of here, and I’ll owe you a favor.”
“A favor,” the Officiant echoes, “from you?”
“Yes, anything you want,” Cheyenne confirms.
The Officiant glances over at Leona. “Sorry to disrupt whatever it is you’re doing, but I can’t pass up this opportunity.” They all three disappear, as does the office.

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