Thursday, February 9, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: December 7, 2398

Mateo and Rail!Danica follow Quadrant!Danica out of the time machine room, and down to the main floor of the Constant. He makes a mental note of the path so he can get back to it later, in any reality. He has no idea how he could have missed it while he was exploring the Third Rail version of it, but it all seems to have worked out. He’s closer to getting back his family than ever, and it shouldn’t be long now.
The master sitting room is in the exact same place as the other one, but it’s been decorated differently. It would seem that each Danica can put their own spin on things here, and since they apparently come from different timeline, their tastes can vary widely. “Wow, look at all this seating!” Mateo repeats the joke he made last time, which no one was around to hear. Neither of them gets the reference, which is reasonable. He and Rail!Danica take their seats while Quadrant!Danica prepares their tea at the bar. “I’ve always wondered,” Mateo begins, “why you have to make your own tea, and why there are light switches when it could easily be controlled by voice, or something.”
“This facility is one of the most advanced in histories,” Quadrant!Danica starts to respond. “It was designed by an intelligence hundreds of thousands of years from now. Everything could be automated, it never degrades, and it’s virtually indestructible. But it’s not designed for people hundreds of thousands of years from now. It’s designed for people today, and people that lived centuries ago. They might not understand how a lightbulb works, but when you tell them that the magical candle starts burning when they flip the switch, they can at least wrap their heads around the idea of moving something to make something happen. If you tell them they have to pray to an energy god they’ve never heard of called electricity, well that’s...that’s unbearable for some.”
“I met an energy god once,” Mateo muses. “He didn’t ask me to pray to him.”
Neither of the Danicas is sure what to think of his claim that he met a god. “Anyway,” Quadrant!Danica continues. “I make the tea by hand, because I’m bored enough down here alone, I don’t need to be efficient or lazy on top of it.”
Mateo nods. “I see. Well, I don’t know whether to apologize for the intrusion, or say you’re welcome for the company.”
Quadrant!Danica smirks. “I don’t have visitors. Literally no one else has ever been down here before. I appreciate the...intrusion.”
“Why stay?” Rail!Danica asks her. “If you know there aren’t any time travelers to assist. I mean, they don’t even know you’re here. You’re underwater, and insulated against all means of detection.”
“It didn’t even occur to me and my team to look for you,” Mateo adds.
“Where would I go?” Quadrant!Danica poses. “This is my home.”
That’s a nice place for a sequitur. “Speaking of homes, I was hoping to get back to mine.” Mateo looks up at the calendar, confirming that it’s December 7, 2398. “I’ve only been away for a few weeks, I would rather just skip that time with my friends than go back to early Earth and wait it out in stasis. Are you capable of moving between realities?”
“I’m not,” Quadrant!Danica says apologetically. “The designers didn’t take parallel realities into account. As far as they knew, each new timeline would supplant the last, making crossovers pointless.”
Mateo frowns.
“I can help you reach out to your people, though,” Quadrant!Danica goes on. “I’ve been keeping an eye on the residents of this world, and when I noticed that they made contact with the Third Rail, I co-opted the interdimensional communication technology that your friend, Ramses created for myself. I’ve been monitoring the chatter, though I have never engaged.”
“That would be lovely,” Mateo says before turning to face Rail!Danica. “That is, unless you don’t want me talking to anyone at all. I’ve noticed you haven’t tried to stuff me into a stasis pod lately, are you feeling all right?”
Rail!Danica rolls her eyes, and ignores him. “Would you grant me access to your office, so I can read the manual on the time machine?” she asks her alternate self. She glares at Mateo. “Somebody broke ours, and I’ve not yet taken the time to study it.”
Quadrant!Danica closes her eyes, and motions towards the door. “You know where it is. But your tea is almost ready.”
“I’m not thirsty,” Rail!Danica says. She leaves the room in a slight huff.
“I take it you two don’t get along,” Quadrant!Danica points out.
“Do you know anything about what the Third Rail is, and why it’s so different?”
The kettle starts to scream. “I have a vague understanding, based on the interdimensional chatter, but I’ve otherwise always been pretty cut off here.
“Well, I won’t speak out of turn, but she’s very controlling and withholding. For the version of you who’s most involved in the affairs of surface people, she sure is unwilling to help.”
“I’m sure she has her reasons. If you were in stasis you probably didn’t see them.”
“I’m her cousin...or...sort of. I hope you at least know that you can talk to me.”
“I appreciate the sentiment. Try to give her a break,” she says as she’s pouring the water. “This is a tough life for all of us, and we’re not given a choice.”
“The first version of Danica I met was very specifically given a choice by The Delegator. There were Stonehenge portals, and everything.”
Quadrant!Danica’s face turns serious. “That was no choice at all. She looks at the walls and ceiling. “All roads lead here. That’s something I think you should know, even if she doesn’t want you to.” She lightens up a bit. “Now, about that phone call.”
Mateo is able to reach out to Ramses, who is relieved to hear his voice. They exchange brief stories about what’s been happening. Ramses and Alyssa wanted to insert Erlendr’s mind into Leona Reaver’s body to fake Leona Matic’s death, but he ultimately declined the offer. They don’t know what they’re going to do now. As for Mateo’s wife, Leona; she went to Lebanon to find him, and since Marie has been missing for the same amount of time, they suspect that she stowed away on the Bridgette. There is no sign of them anywhere, but a spike in temporal energy under the surface of Danica Lake suggests that they went somewhere. If she’s back there then that’s where Mateo needs to be. There’s no way through the dimensional barrier anyway. Ramses wanted to tackle that issue, but the Traversa Bracelet has since been destroyed, and it kind of had to fall down on his list of priorities. Now the real problem is getting back to the past.
Rail!Danica comes back into the room. “I’ve figured out how to get us back.”
“How?” Mateo asks.
Rail!Danica looks at her watch. “All we have to do is wait. After 24 hours, the machine is going to pull us back automatically. It was designed for short recon trips, not permanent travel. I think I’ll have that tea now.”

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