Monday, March 6, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: January 1, 2399

Mateo, Leona, and Marie were asked to stay in quarantine for 24 hours following their return to the right time period in the Third Rail. It was the New Year, and they could hear the celebrations from inside the tent. The government erected it weeks ago, after Marie no longer had to pretend to not be working for them. So far, no other time travelers have appeared. At least none has been reported to Team Matic. No legally binding document was signed that would force them to divulge such information. Any concessions and transparency the government affords them is done in good faith, and can be stopped or modified at any time without warning. In return, Team Matic reserves the right to do the same. Even so, it’s best not to rock the boat, so the three travelers agreed to follow protocol. They were just released, and are now heading towards the SD6 black site, where Alyssa is suffering from an unknown medical issue.
“How long has she been like this?” Leona asks.
“Four days,” Ramses replies.
“She’s been shaking for four days straight?” Mateo asks.
“Well, it started off worse, but then relaxed into this.”
“You call this relaxed?” Marie questions.
“It’s more relaxed than it was,” Ramses says. “It was a full on seizure. Now it’s a lot of constant twitching. The doctors have her on their version of an EEG. She’s in a state of deep sleep, so they’re categorizing her movements as a form of somnambulism.”
Mateo looks to Leona. “Sleepwalking,” she translates. She looks over at Alyssa’s real body, in its own bed now, hooked up to its own machines. “Have you tried—?”
“Putting her back?” Ramses finishes for her. “Of course I have. My best guess is that the Livewire needs a conscious, or semi-conscious, subject. Slow-wave sleep is the furthest from that you can get from that. We don’t need someone’s permission to force them into the wire, but we need them to be at least vaguely aware that something is happening.”
“Assuming that you’re not all total morons,” Leona begins, “and you’ve exhausted every possible strategy to revive her, then perhaps our only option is to go in and get her out in a more direct approach.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Ramses agrees. “I just couldn’t do it all alone out here. Kivi is on a huge mission, and Arcadia really needs to focus on the baby.”
“Well, you know more about this time tech than I do,” Leona says, removing her jacket. “I need you to stay out here. I’ll be the one to go in.”
Ramses clearly wants to do it instead, probably because he feels responsible for her, and because the two of them surely grew close all this time that the rest of the team was MIA. He’s this close to arguing, but decides to concede and let her have it. “All right, I’ll keep an eye on you both.”
Mateo watches as they get situated. He’s tired of all this body switching. And this whole idea about faking Leona’s death so the world will stop hunting her? It’s so stupid, and it’s never gonna work. There are too many moving parts—too many variables. He can’t say anything, though, because they’re all much smarter than him, and he’s not one of the people in danger here. Ramses connects Leona to her own EEG-like machine. She’s sitting in a hospital chair between Alyssa’s vacant body, and Leona Reaver’s failing body. Maybe that’s the problem. An unknown individual or group placed Alt!Mateo and Leona Reaver in the extraction mirror loop. Theoretically, they can take it away. Maybe they chose a maximum number of times that it would happen, and that limit has been reached. Nerakali only had nine steps before she ultimately had to accept her fate. How many has Leona Reaver had? No, it’s too dangerous. Leona can help get Alyssa out of the doomed body, but then no one else is going into it. They’re not going to do it, even if it means that Mateo has to figure out how to destroy the Livewire himself.
Using insulating gloves, Ramses tucks one end of the Livewire between the two Leonas’ hands. He prepares the other end to be plugged into the wall. Leona Matic is also holding Alyssa’s hand, with the idea that Alyssa’s consciousness should pass from the Leona Reaver body, into the wire, then into Leona Matic, and finally into her own body. That sounds dumb too, it probably isn’t going to work either, but again, Mateo can’t say anything. This is Ramses’ plan. “Now, you may find yourselves connected psychically for a moment. I could see the problem being that Alyssa’s mind is trapped in her subconscious, or somewhere else. In that case, you’ll have to find her, and pull her to the surface. We still don’t know how this stuff works, so be ready to improvise.”
“Understood,” Leona says with a nod. “Do it.”
Ramses plugs it in and sends her off. Now it’s just a waiting game to see if it works, and how well.
A whole fifteen minutes later, Leona wakes up with a start. She lets go of everything and everyone, and jumps out of her seat. Like an unbroken wildhorse, she backs away from her friends, and instinctually keeps them at bay with outstretched arms. But she’s just confused. She doesn’t actually think that they’re going to hurt her. It looks like she’s starting to calm down and get her bearings when suddenly she jerks her head to the side, and disappears.
“What the hell was that?” Marie asks as she’s checking Leona Reaver for a pulse.
“I can sense her, and I still have a ton of temporal energy from my time in the past,” Mateo says. He teleports to her location.
“How did I get here?” Leona asks when he arrives.
“You teleported. Are you trying to get back down to the Constant?” They’re standing on the edge of Danica Lake.
“No, this is home.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I remember now. I remember everything. I’m not Leona, I’m Alyssa. This is my farm. I was scared, and I think I came here to feel safe.” She places a hand on her chest. “But my heart rate seems to be going back down now.”
“Where’s Leona? Is she in there with you?” Mateo asks, hopeful.
Alyssa shakes Leona’s head. “No, she’s still back there. She...she got stuck. She stayed behind to save me. Someone had to stay inside that brain.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s a trap. That body is a trap. You can’t just empty it out, and send it back to its fate in that old timeline. Someone has to be occupying it, and that someone is Leona Matic. Mateo, if she dies, she’s not coming back to that parking lot. The extraction loop is over. She’s going to die for real, and for good. It’s what they wanted all along.”
“It’s what who wanted all along?” Mateo questions.
She shakes her head again. “I don’t know, but they’re bad news. Leona is the only thing standing their way. At least that’s what she said. She didn’t have time to explain.”

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