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Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: January 11, 2399

As soon as Danica heard Alyssa speak to Mateo through her watch, she ordered Constance to take the Constant back into reframe speed, under the belief that they would be long gone before Mateo would have any hope of reaching their original location. But what she didn’t realize is that Mateo wasn’t in suspended animation in his pod. It was running at extremely low power—just enough to recycle the air through his rebreather—so it could not be detected. It was cold enough in there to eventually kill a normal human being, but Mateo is not normal. He could have survived without the mask for a short period of time, but even longer with it. He spent this time quietly teleporting him and his pod to the Constant. He infiltrated the facility five minutes prior to Danica’s escape attempt, and sent a buzz to Ramses’ device. And the point of all this was to lull her into a false sense of security. Now she thinks that they’ve stranded Mateo in the middle of outer space, and she’ll let her guard down.
Once inside, Mateo teleported himself into the government rocket, which has largely been abandoned. The pioneers are happy to enjoy themselves in the engineering marvel that is the Constant, and no longer have any use for the archaic hunk of junk that brought them here. Mateo makes his way to the infirmary, where he finds a couple of pain pills for his raging headache, and a cozy bed in a dark corner to rest off the ordeal. He could have survived out there a lot longer, but it would not have become any more comfortable. He both needs and wants some time to recover. If his appearance had been time sensitive, Alyssa would have indicated as much with a different code phrase.
He’s waking up now to find a shadowy figure looming over him. “Report!” is the first thing he thinks to say, instead of the less respectful—but far more appropriate—reaction of who the hell is that?
“Sorry, couldn’t find the light,” Tamerlane replies. “It’s me.”
“What are your intentions?” Mateo sits up.
“With your daughter?”
“Umm...that’s not what I meant, but if one of my daughters is here, then yes, what are your intentions with her?”
“I was just making a joke,” he replies sincerely. “As far as I know, Kivi, Dubravka, and Romana are not here.”
“Who is Romana?” Mateo questions.
Tamerlane clears his throat. “How are you feeling?”
“I do need an answer to my question, in regards to myself.”
“I’m not here to hurt you. I’m still on your side. I couldn’t sleep last night. It was too suspicious that Alyssa would openly summon you here from so far away, knowing that Danica would have plenty of time to make a break for it before you had any chance to make it all the way here. I started to suspect that you were secretly here already. I searched your usual haunts, like your private stasis chamber, and the pool, but then I realized that you may need some medical attention, and obviously the Constant’s infirmary was a non-starter.”
“Clever boy are you.” Mateo swings his legs over, and stands up to put his pants back on.
“Are you here to kill Lucius?”
“Lucius?” Mateo echoes. “Is that who Danica doesn’t want me to get near?”
“He’s standing on death’s doormat. If you get within a few meters of him, his body won’t be able to handle the transition to the dumpster planet that the timonite will banish him to. It’ll kill him.”
“What’s killing him?”
“Old age. The man arrived in this universe in the year 2332. I don’t think he expected to live this long.”
“How does that happen? What makes people wind up in this reality?”
“Different reasons. It’s rare, and almost always on accident. To my knowledge, only two people have ever arrived on purpose; one of them being Dalton Hawke, looking for you and your team in all the wrong places.”
“Who was the other?”
“I just told you.”
“Lucius? Are you sure?”
“The best use of Lucius Deschamps’ time power is killing people, and as you well know, he’s not a killer. This version of him caught wind of a reality where powers didn’t work. He also learned that that would one day change, so he deliberately chose a time period that he thought would avoid the introduction of nonlinear time. Like I said, he’s older than he expected to be. He should have padded more time, but he didn’t want to toil away in the iron age. He lived quite comfortably until Danica finally found him.”
“How do you know so much about him?” Alyssa has come into the room. “Danica told us that she hasn’t even talked to him.”
“She hasn’t. I ran into him forty years ago on one of my excursions. I didn’t even know who he was at the time, but game recognize game. I would have found a way to protect him if I had known it would end up like this. Never in a million years did I think that Danica would stoop low enough to try to use him as a weapon of mass destruction.”
“It’s been four and a half billion,” Mateo reminds him. Most people don’t mean that expression literally, but it’s a real possibility in their world.
“Touché.”
“Where is she?” Mateo asks Alyssa.
“In a meeting with the government people in the master sitting room.”
“Take me to Lucius Carlisle.”
Ramses is in the infirmary when the three of them arrive. “Is he cool?”
“Yes,” Mateo answers. “This Tamerlane has always helped. Has he spoken?”
“No. He’s been gurgling,” Ramses says solemnly.
Mateo nods and looks at the patient’s vitals. He’s no nurse, but they don’t look good, just judging as a layman. Tamerlane was right, banishing him to the other universe probably will kill him. But it sounds like that’s what he wants. The Lucius he knows would not want to be a weapon, that’s for sure. The only decent choice is to go with him, like he did with Leona and Alyssa. That way, Lucius can die with dignity in a pleasant forest, and once the cycle restarts, Mateo can make his own way back. If that doesn’t work, maybe Amber will finally answer. The countdown clock has already begun, and cannot be stopped. Mateo steps forward, and takes the old man’s hands in his. That was enough to push him over the edge. The timonite already marked on his skin begins to spread throughout his body, but it’s not like the other times. The body starts to disintegrate along with it, like objects do when Lucius molecularly teleports them. Mateo lets go to at least save himself, but it’s too late. It’s already happening to him too.

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