Sunday, January 1, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 29, 2398

By the time Mateo got himself out of the virtual construct that Ramses created to facilitate communication with the consciousnesses in the Insulator of Life, Aquila was gone. She probably didn’t know that they were about to find out that she stole, and is inhabiting, Bhulan’s body. They gave her an opportunity, and she took it without waiting around to ask any questions. She could not have gone far, but they’re not going to exert any effort chasing after her right now. The plan hasn’t changed. They were going to let Bhulan go. Now they know that they’re actually letting Aquila go. They’ll find her, and give the body back to its rightful owner. Until then, there’s a way to communicate with people inside the Insulator.
Unfortunately, the real Bhulan is being just as cagey as Aquila was. She’s refusing to give them any information about what she’s been up to, what her objectives are, or what other people she knows in this reality. They really want to find Danica, but it seems as though no one is interested in helping them with that. Mateo is starting to worry that she has something against him now, or that something is seriously wrong with her, and she needs him more than ever. Erlendr has been surprisingly quiet. When it comes to a Preston, that usually means that they know they’ve been beat, or they know that they’ve won. Arcadia gave them a little advice on how to get through to him, but it’s not really helping. It’s also not super necessary. As far as they can tell, he has been caught, and Meredarchos has lost the battle, which were the two major things that they were trying to accomplish.
It appears that all of their current problems have been solved, which leaves them the space they’ll need to accommodate all of the new problems that are coming their way. They still don’t know how to get their powers and transhumanistic enhancements back permanently, and they don’t know how to get back to the main sequence, but they’re at least safe. Not everyone survived to this point, but nothing is presently threatening the lives and liberties of those alive today. They even got Cheyenne back. She spent two nights in the government wing of a nearby hospital, and is being released today. There was nothing terribly wrong with her, but Andile’s body was on life support until Cheyenne’s consciousness was inserted into it, and it would have been unwise to just let her roam around the world without any medical observation. Kivi and Alyssa are picking her up now. No one’s sure if she’ll come live with them in the hotel suite, or even if anyone will be staying here for much longer.
“There’s something I have to admit to you,” Mateo begins. “It’s been weighing on me, and I would ask you kindly not to get angry at me for the fact that I’m only telling you now because the point is moot anyway.”
“Okay...” Leona says.
“Ram, could you come in here?” He calls.
Ramses comes in from his room. “Yeah?”
“This involves you,” Mateo says to him. “I’m afraid, in order for me to apologize, I’ll have to reveal to her how you helped me.”
“Okay...” Ramses echoes Leona from a second ago.
Mateo looks back at Leona. “You asked him to create a copy of your brain, so that it could be placed in Alt!Mateo’s head, so that when we sent it back to his timeline of origin, you could force that body to die, instead of letting it come back to the Third Rail.”
“I follow you,” Leona says.
“What you didn’t know is that I asked Ramses to use my mind for that instead. Of course it didn’t matter, because the Mateo we found in the Facsimile just did it for us anyway. Still, I think you have a right to know that I went behind your back.”
Leona nods, and looks over at Ramses. She tries to give him an opening, but he doesn’t take it voluntarily. “Is there anything you would like to say now?”
“No. I’m sorry I lied too,” Ramses replies, avoiding the truth.
Leona rolls her eyes, and looks back to her husband. “Ramses didn’t do as you asked. “He made a copy of himself for the suicide inducer. He was never gonna let either of us perform this task. And by the way, it was never a full mind, it was really just code that would have forced the body to let itself be killed. We only used our minds as a foundation for that code, because we trust ourselves. But it all worked out, and I’m not mad. Let’s just move on.”
“Okay...” Mateo agrees tentatively.
There’s a knock at the door. Still feeling awkward, Ramses gets up and tries to answer it. As soon as he opens the door a crack, it comes flying towards his face, knocking him to his back. Three men barge into the suite. Two look like muscle, and the one in the middle looks like he’s in charge. “Good afternoon, folks. I’m looking for an old patient of mine. Ah, there we are. You didn’t give me your real name, you just said that I could call you Arcadia. Then I see you on TV, and discover who you really are.”
“My sister’s not here,” Leona says as Marie is calmly stepping out of her room.
He sighs as he’s speaking, “ahh, you rich people. You always think you can talk your way out of things. Even when you’re outmatched, you believe that you won’t have to pay. I’m here to collect, and I’ll hurt anyone I have to in order to make that happen. Now you never said nothin’ about havin’ a twin, so you can see why I don’t believe that you’re not her, right? Care to fess up before my guys get a hold of ya?”
Marie looks over at Leona. “I’ll take the one on the left.”
“Fine with me.” The two of them attack the goons, and bring them to the floor with hardly any trouble. They severely underestimated who they were dealing with. “Rambo, you okay?” Leona asks.
Ramses is accepting the tissues that Mateo is using to sop up the blood from his face. “I’ll be all right.”
Marie pulls her wallet from her purse. “How much does she owe you?”
The leader guy is too scared to respond, so Leona snaps her fingers in front of his eyes. “Hey! She asked you a question. We have money, so how much do you need?”
“Uhh, she...she doesn’t owe money. She agreed to wipe my record. I’m a doctor you see, but I don’t have one of those, uh...licenses, ya know?”
“What did you do for her?” Leona asks him.
“It’s not my place to say,” he responds.
“Oh, yeah? Where is your place? On your feet...or on your ass?”
“She’s pregnant. I ran some tests, off the books.”
Marie takes out her handheld device. “Very well. What’s your name?”
“I don’t know that I should say.” He’s still so scared.
“How the hell are we gonna erase your record if we don’t know who you are, dipshit? Bonk,” she adds as she’s flicking him in the forehead.
“You can do that?” he asks.
“When Arcadia wants something like that done,” Marie says, “she asks me. So what’s your name?”
“Ernesto. Ernesto Coppola.”
“Two ps?” Marie confirms.
She finishes tapping out the name, and sends it off to her contact in the Domestic Affairs Authority whose job it is to clean slates for informants and protected witnesses. “By this time tomorrow, no cop in the country will recall your name.”
“Th—thank you.”
“Arcadia has a new doctor now,” Leona explains. “If you ever come near her, us, or any of our associates again, I’ll put you in the ground. Now get the hell out of my hotel, and take your bruisers with ya.”
“It’s a problem that he found us,” Marie says to Leona after the bad guys are gone. “I’m sure Arcadia didn’t just give him this as her home address.”
“That’s my fault,” Leona believes. “I’m famous now, which means that Arcadia is too. His outfit probably has people all over the city, who can spot targets going into hotels and whatnot.”
“You know what you have to do then, don’t ya?” Marie asks, thinking it to be a rhetorical question.
“You have to own it. Go back to New York. Take your throne at that political debate show, and build some clout so people can’t hurt you without risking the wrath of your loyalists.”
“The guy I murdered to get control of that show didn’t seem to have any loyalists. No one came after me.”
“That sounds like a him problem, it doesn’t mean you have to do things the same way he did. Do it better. He used the crime hole to justify killing people. Maybe you could...make it a sanctuary for refugees, or battered women?”
“Can I move the crime hole to a different place, say, Kansas City?”
Marie laughs. “It’s like an Embassy, which turns the soil under the property into a foreign state. Could you move it? Yeah, you could build a new one somewhere else, but that would be a whole legal thing. I don’t know the square dimensions of the zone, but you can go as vertical as you want. You might have to move to New York for a while, though, to make any of it work.”
Leona looks over at Mateo, who looks back with only a slight frown. “We’ve been apart before. I’ll know where you are. Go be, like, the president of a country.”
She faces Marie again. “Arcadia obviously felt like she hadn’t signed up for a government health plan. Would you make sure that she and her baby get the care they need from the best doctors available?”
“Of course,” Marie replies. “I wish I had known.”
Leona leaves for New York that night. Marie and Cheyenne decide to go with her.

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