Monday, February 6, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Year 42,398

Mateo’s stasis pod opens on its own again. It’s been ten thousand years, on the dot. “These people are nothing if not consistent,” he thinks to himself out loud. He steps out of the room to find Tamerlane sitting in a chair as if patiently waiting for Mateo to finish getting ready so they can go see a movie together. “Oh. Hi.”
“Hey, good morning.”
“Have you been awake long?”
“Just an hour,” he replies. “They don’t want you wandering around here alone, which makes sense, right? You’re just Danica’s cousin, who anyone who has ever glanced at the timeline can see almost always does the right thing.”
Mateo narrows his eyes at him. “Why are you buttering me up?”
Tamerlane chuckles. “Is that how it sounds? I apologize. It’s just frustrating to see them treat you this way. It wasn’t even this bad when Bhulan and I first showed up.”
“It wasn’t? What was it like?”
“Well, at first Danica threw us in hock, but we talked a little bit, and she soon decided that we weren’t bad news. We lived together for years before anyone started seriously thinking about doing something different in this reality than the main sequence. I mean, of course, we didn’t always know that it was a parallel reality. Danica figured that our respective arrivals were just something that was destined to happen. Only once we learned the truth did she decide to look into how things turned out for her counterparts. And that...”
“Broke her,” Mateo guessed.
“It broke her heart,” he corrected.
“I would sure like to talk with her, if she’s around,” Mateo requests.
“Our schedules have become incongruent. Your whole idea of shunting the unwanted temporal energy to a remote world was brilliant, but it changed how often we come in and out of our pods. I’m only here to keep you company for the day.”
Mateo holds back what would be an offensive grimace. A whole day with no one for company but Tamerlane Pryce? No, thank you. Even though he believes him when he says that he’s an alternate version, Mateo doesn’t see them becoming friends in any reality. They don’t have a lot in common, and that is okay. “If I ask you a question, can you promise to keep it just between the two of us?”
“Certainly.” No hesitation, or hint of sarcasm.
“Why do I need to come out of stasis at all? Is ten thousand years some kind of inherent limit, or what?”
“They thought you were just going to keep teleporting out of your pod anyway, and while teleportation doesn’t technically go against our no time travel rule, it’s close enough, and they would rather you just not do it at all. I see your concern. If you would like to keep coming out of stasis, I won’t say anything. If you want to be on a different schedule, I’m sure they would be more than willing to discuss.”
“No, I suppose it doesn’t really matter when we’re talking billions of years.”
Tamerlane nods. He doesn’t push it when Mateo strongly suggests that he would prefer to be solo for the rest of the day. He seems to trust him more than Danica and Bhulan do. Maybe he really is a different Tamerlane Pryce.

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