Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Year 232,398

It’s the Year of our Danica 172,398. That’s what Tamerlane always likes to call it. Bhulan went back in time to destroy the hundemarke, the Omega Gyroscope, and the Insulator of Life. She had a purpose. She always has purpose. She gets an objective in her head, and she can’t let go of it until she reaches it. Danica is under an immense amount of pressure. Even before any other guests arrived, she was worried about screwing up her job. That can consume her. They’re both so stressed. He was there to lighten the mood, and despite his own past—and all the very questionable things that his alternate selves did—they were glad he was on their side. Team Triple Threat, he called them jokingly. It had a nice ring to it. They only abandoned it entirely because Team Quadruple Threat didn’t have the same ring to it when Asier showed up.
“Why are you doing this?” Bhulan questions. “I mean, I know why, you’ve just told me, but what do you think it’s going to accomplish, in the long run? Do you not trust me to be a good possessor of the Gyroscope?”
“I do not. I trust no one with that power. Believe me I more than anyone know what power does to someone. It destroys you. It turns you into something you never wanted to be. I never wanted that for any of you.”
“This isn’t the way.”
He chuckles.
“You think what I said was funny?”
“No, it wasn’t that. I was laughing at myself. I was going to respond that you’ll thank me one day, but I know better. I know that this is going to ruin my relationships with you two. I’ve decided that I have to be okay with that. For the greater good. So instead I’ll just see your claim that this isn’t the way, and raise you a yes, it is.” He leads her into the time machine, and programs her cuffs to proximate the time chamber.
She doesn’t even try to leave, she knows how much it will hurt to break that proximity barrier. But she does take one step towards him for emphasis. “Please, don’t.”
“It’ll be fine,” he promises. “You won’t feel a thing, and barely any time will pass.”
“Danica will come for me. There is no way you get 50,000 years before she finds a way. She’ll trace my point in time, and retrieve me.”
Tamerlane chuckles again. “I’m sorry, but you two don’t understand this place like I do. For instance, this is not a time machine, at least not in the sense that you’re used to hearing. It’s a transtemporal relocator.”
“That just sounds like a fancy way of saying time machine.”
“To you. But to me, I see so much more. Enjoy your trip.” He flips the switch.

Bhulan feels herself being pulled away from her initial moment in time, but she doesn’t just jump to the future, or the past. She keeps moving. It’s more like she’s sliding along the timestream, just outside of it, and never landing. She can see all of time and space from here, but not like Lincoln Rutherford can, or Danica will one day, or even as herself. It’s a garbled mess of distant images that don’t look like anything at all. She’s gaining no insight into the timeline, and she can’t control what she sees, or where she goes. She’s just along for the ride. Then suddenly, something becomes clear. Amidst all the vague light and shapes, an image forms. With it comes familiarity. Thousands of people are witnessing something. It’s the Colosseum, and this is the day that Mateo Matic defeats Zeferino Preston, a.k.a. The Cleanser, and most powerful man in the universe. This is an important moment, but it’s not something that Bhulan has ever personally cared about. The scene comes closer and closer, faster and faster, until she’s right in the middle of it all, and collides with something.
She stops. Everything stops, and all she sees is darkness, plus the faceless silhouette of another person a few meters from her. They ran into each other, and have ended up here in this void. Can she even speak? “Hey, are you okay?” Apparently so.
“I’m all right,” the other person replies. The silhouette moves a little, then starts to stand up. It’s still too dark to see who it is.
“Bhulan Cargill.”
“I know who you are,” she says.
“Do you know where we are?”
The figure looks all around at the nothingness. “A psychic bridge...a very boring one, at that. You don’t have a very creative mind, do you?”
“Who are you? I’ve never heard of a psychic bridge, and I’ve been around the block.”
She giggles. “Which block?”
“What is your name, please?”
“Some call me Frida, but I don’t think I like that anymore. A few know me as Aquila Bellamy, but I’m still not used to that either. Most just think of me as—”
“The Mass,” Bhulan realizes. The Artist, Athanaric Fury once lived in the Gallery Dimension, where he and hundreds others helped protect the timeline from time travelers. They didn’t stop them from traveling, but if any of their actions caused damage to their arbitrary idea of what the timeline should be, they corrected it. One day, they all went on strike, and quit. Due to the nature of the dimension, it was impossible to return them to work, so Athanaric used his powers to build the Preston children to compensate. They too failed eventually, and he decided to entrust all that power into a single individual, which he called The Mass. Zeferino Preston stole the body before it could be activated, and in the scuffle, Aquila found herself forced into the responsibility of protecting that timeline instead. Funny enough, she’s Mateo’s half sister.
“Yeah,” Aquila says after Bhulan’s summary. “That’s me, that’s what happened.”
“What is the purpose of this...bridge thing, Aquila?”
“I died, and my consciousness was on its way to wherever we go after we die. Not even I know that, but it would appear that you intercepted the signal, and now we’re sharing a body. This place is like the lobby of your mind. Theoretically, you have a choice to make. You can either let me stay, or force me out.”
“That would be a dick move.”
Aquila shrugs. “You’re the boss, it’s your body.”
No, she’s not going to do that. They won’t need to share for long. When she figures out how to get them back to the Third Rail, Aquila can be transferred to Tamerlane’s body, and it doesn’t really matter what happens to his consciousness. Not anymore. He’s lost the right to autonomy. As she’s preparing to say yes, she feels the energy build up again. This is just a pitstop, and she’s about to be sent back down the timestream.
“You better choose fast, or fate might choose for you, and you could be stuck with me until we find a replacement, if that’s even a viable option where you’re going.”
“You can stay,” Bhulan says quickly, and just in time. The river of time grabs hold of them both, and pulls them away. Even though there’s no up or down in this dimension, or whatever, she gets the sense that they’re going in the opposite direction now. Perhaps she’s on her way back, 50,000 years too late, no doubt. Tamerlane is going to get what he wants, and due to their moratorium on time travel, there’s nothing that she and Danica can do to reverse the damage. This will have to become the Sacred Timeline; the world according to Tamerlane Pryce. Something has to be done about that, but it can wait.
The ride ends, and she finds herself back in the machine. Nice place, Aquila notes, not saying anything out loud.
“Let me do the talking,” Bhulan whispers to her.
I was going to, she whispers back.
“I just mean, I don’t know if we should tell people about you yet.”
“Constance, report.”
Day 216 of Year 232,398.” Sixty-thousand years, okay.
“Please list all current residents of the Constant.”
Danica Matic, Bhulan Cargill, Tamerlane Pryce, Asier Mendoza, Mateo Matic, Abigail Siskin, Cheyenne [last name unknown], Curtis Duvall, and Aquila Bellamy,” Constance answers.
“What the hell, you can tell that Aquila is in my head?’
Do I still have to let you do the talking? Aquila asks.
Bhulan sighs. “Is anyone awake?”
Everyone but Tamerlane.
“Please wake him up. Convene a meeting in the master sitting room. Don’t tell anyone why.”
Understood.” Bhulan has always had the better relationship with the AI, even though Danica is technically meant to be in charge around here.
While the group is gathering, Bhulan heads for the nearest bathroom to look at herself in the mirror. She feels physically dirty after having gone through all that, but she looks exactly as she did before. She doesn’t need a shower, or anything. She just needs to go out there and not waste time.
You’ll do great, Aquila encourages.
“Thanks.” Bhulan leaves the room and heads to the main area. She can hear the people talking to each other as she approaches the door. None of them knows who called this meeting or why. It’s not that she wants to make a grand entrance, but she wants to go over what happened, and what Tamerlane did, and she only wants to have to do it once. It’s best if they’re all here together. She clears her throat quietly, and walks inside.
Danica smiles at her sadly. She stands, and gives her a hug. “Glad you’re back.”
Bhulan hugs Asier as well, but none of the others, because she doesn’t know most of them, except by reputation, and she doesn’t have that kind of relationship with Mateo. She walks over to Tamerlane, sitting in the corner. He looks upset, but not guilty. He’s gone through some stuff too, she can tell. He kind of looks like he’s been tortured.
“I wasn’t trying to hurt you, I hope you know that.”
She breathes deep, and opens her arms. “I forgive you.”

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