Friday, February 3, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Year 12,398

One second. That’s how long Mateo spends in the stasis pod that Danica forced him into. As soon as that door closes, he teleports out, and lands on the other side of it. To his left is Past!Mateo’s pod. This is the version of him that first came back here after falling down the main elevator shaft. He’s destined to remain here for the next few billion years until his team rescues him with a sledgehammer. For now, though, this room has not yet been sealed up with concrete and wood. He could walk right out that door, assuming it’s unlocked, but that may not be the best way to handle this. She obviously doesn’t want him wandering around The Constant unsupervised. He might learn a secret that she doesn’t want getting out. He has to be smart about this. He tries the door anyway, and finds that it is indeed locked from the outside, so that’s a no-go.
Mateo jumps around to loosen up his joints. He’s assuming that each section of the Constant has its own set of alarms. If he can teleport to each one of them in succession, he’ll be able to choose one at random, and hide out there while Danica is scrambling, searching through the rest. It’s not the most brilliant of plans, but that was never his strong suit. He doesn’t usually do well on his own, but he’s all he’s got right now, so there’s no point in dwelling on that. He starts going over the sections in his head one by one, formulating a route, when the handle turns, and the door opens. He peeks his head out, and looks around to the other side of it. There was someone there, but he doesn’t get the chance to see who. He catches a glimpse of a silhouette before it disappears, either teleporting or time traveling away. They’re either trying to help him or hurt him, but either way, they have more information than he does, so worrying about it isn’t going to do him any good. All he can do now is try to gain some kind of advantage that will prevent Danica from being able to just throw him away like garbage.
First off, he wants to find out where she is, and where there might be others lurking about this facility. Though, if there is anyone else here, they’re probably fully invited, and he’s the only lurker. He steps out of the stasis room, and immediately regrets it. His shoes are too loud. What are they designed for, tap dancing? After he closes the door behind him, he takes them off, and starts walking with them in his hand, but he doesn’t get far before changing his mind. He feels like a heroine in an action movie who had to go undercover at a fancy party where the villain is entertaining a bunch of freeloaders to hide the fact that he’s really there to host a black market auction in the wine cellar, and now it’s time for her to run and fight. He decides to tuck them away underneath the couch, and move on.
He slinks down the hallways, hugging the walls, and trying to avoid the cameras, but he didn’t exactly memorize their locations, and there probably aren’t any blindspots anyway. He just keeps going, and hopes that his presence doesn’t trigger the artificial intelligence to sound that alarm after all. He could probably breathe easy, because the person who let him out of the stasis room surely knows whether they would be a real issue or not. No one is in the kitchen, no one’s in Danica’s office. No one’s in the security room, or the small film screening room. There’s no one in this library-looking place that is apparently called the master sitting room. “Wow, look at all this seating!” he exclaims to himself. The gym looks empty, but it has lots of spots to hide, so he gets himself a better look to be sure. No, it’s clear. Man, this is a big place for only a few visitors at a time. Only one person is meant to work here, except for Danica’s current posse, which Mateo assumes consists of Bhulan, Aquila, and maybe Tamerlane Pryce and Dalton Hawke?
“Tryna get swole?” a voice asks from behind him.
Mateo turns around to find a man who he doesn’t recognize. “I’m just trying to get answers,” Mateo admits.
“Aren’t we all?”
Mateo sizes him up a little. “Report.”
The man smiles. “Asier Mendoza, father of The Concierge. Some people call me Corporal Mercy.”
“Never heard of ya. Danica never mentioned her father, and Daria never mentioned her baby daddy.”
Asier nods. “You were probably talking to the wrong version of Danica.”
“I thought there was only one.”
“It’s complicated when you’re the way that she is.”
“Is that why we’ve never met before?”
“I guess.”
That’s not surprising, when Mateo thinks about it more. This is not the Danica he knows and loves, and that’s the point. Nerakali was always trying to explain that alternate selves are not identical. The fact that everyone is unique isn't just something to teach your kids; she called it a metaphysical maxim. “What are you going to do to me?”
Do to you? What do you think we are, monsters?”
“Honestly, I don’t know anymore. Danica can’t take five minutes to have a conversation with me before she either erases my memory, or throws me into stasis.”
“If your memory was erased, how do you know how long the conversation was?”
“Does it really matter if my memory is gone? It’s like it never happened anyway.”
“Good point,” Asier muses.
“Interpret my question however you please, I would still like an answer. What is going to happen, and how can I prevent you from putting me back into that stasis pod?”
“Stasis is a gift, Mateo. For you and me, it’s a way for us to skip time, and reach the future. For the others, it’s a way to avoid the boredom of the aeons.”
“I understand its value, but why did she force me into it without saying a word? She took my friend, Alyssa away, claiming that she was going to send her back to the future, but I don’t know if that’s the case. Why is she being so cagey?”
Asier considers his approach to this. He’s obviously not allowed to answer all of Mateo’s questions. “This version of my daughter has caught glimpses of the parallel realities, which most versions never see. Each one is only meant to be responsible for one reality, and are meant to fend for themselves. The insight she gained from this information has changed her. She’s decided to make this reality different. She’s decided to protect it in a way that all other Concierges were never asked to do. It was a hard decision to make, and she’s incredibly stressed out about it. I would kindly ask you to be patient with her while she figures out how to proceed. Can you do that for me?”
Mateo considers what’s been asked of him. “If I’m going to support her, then I’m going to need to speak with her personally. Can you promise me that?”
“She’s not scheduled to come back out of stasis for another ten thousand years.”
“Then I’ll be back in ten thousand years,” Mateo responds.
“Okay, then. I’ll escort you back to your pod.”

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