Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: January 16, 2399

          Arcadia takes a breath, recalling the techniques she learned in her pregnancy classes. She badges into the lab, and smiles at Mateo. He jumps out of bed when he hears the sound of the door, almost like he’s scared. They’ll have to talk about that. Or rather, she’ll have to take it out of his brain. “How are you feeling this morning?”
“This body slept for the first ten years of its life,” he explains. “I didn’t sleep.”
“That doesn’t answer the question,” She argues.
“It does. I feel perfect, because I haven’t been alive long enough to be worn out.”
She paces a little, like a psychologist brought in to speak with the psychopath in his cell, because he may have vital information on a case that the police who employ her are working on. “Is that how you see it, a rebirth?”
“In a way, I guess. Is this gonna be on the test?”
“No test,” she says. “We’re just talkin’.”
“I can feel you trying to get into my head.”
“I wasn’t aware your superempathy had a more general psychic component.”
“It’s not superempathy,” he corrects. “It’s just a psychic bond that I share with my team. Well....most of my team.”
“You’re referring to newly added member, Alyssa McIver.”
“Miss Preston, if you would like to read my mind, all you have to do is ask.”
“Fine. Ramses doesn’t know how to build a simpatico detector. He’s asked me to come in and verify your identity.”
“Great. I’m not lying.”
“You may not be, that doesn’t mean that you’re who we need you to be.”
“You think my mind has been tampered with.” Not a question.
“It’s an undeniable possibility that we can’t ignore.” She pauses. “Especially since I’ve already caught you in a lie. I don’t know why you fibbed about your timeline, but I can already tell that you’ve been back on Earth for longer than you said. By my reckoning, you returned on January 14.”
“Okay, I know that looks bad, but it’s not what you think. I was just trying to time my arrival to coincide with the AOC’s since I was supposed to be on the AOC.”
“You’re telling me that it was a lie to cover up another lie. It’s not looking good, Mateo, if that even is your real name.”
“I wanted to protect Leona. She didn’t need to hear about my supposed death.”
“And you figured you would be able to expect Ramses and Alyssa to go along with it without any preparation?”
“I didn’t get the timing right. I thought I would be able to sense him once they got into orbit, but it wasn’t until he was in the lab already. At that point, it was already too late. But yeah, I was hoping he would see reason without any coaching. He’s a genius.”
Arcadia pretends to be receiving him. She begins to walk around the chamber, forcing him to rotate to keep her in sight. He’s still resisting her psychic intrusion, which isn’t a good sign. She made up with the real Mateo a long time ago. He would welcome the chance to prove his identity. She needs some real intel. “Let me into your mind.”
Mateo doesn’t do anything.
“You said that you would let me in if I asked.”
“That didn’t sound like a request to me.”
“Would you please let me into your mind so that I may verify your identity?”
“As you wish,” he says with an evil grin.
He opens his mind, except that it’s not his. It can’t be. An infinite expanse of isolation and loneliness. Billions of years of almost nothing but emptiness. Arcadia can feel it. She can feel what he’s feeling. It’s so cold. It’s so sad. It’s so terrible. It takes a minute for Arcadia to realize that she’s screaming.
“Arcadia, Arcadia, Arcadia. Shhhh. Shh, my darling, it’s okay. It’s okay. You’re okay. You’re back, everything is gonna be fine.” It’s Vearden.
She’s freaking out. “I’m back? Where did I go? Where was I? Tell me! Tell me what happened! Did I jump through time!”
He keeps trying to reply, but she’s not really letting him. She’s hyperventilating. “Put the oxygen back on, please,” he says to someone else in the room.
“No!” Arcadia cries. She starts ripping out the other medical things attached to her. That’s when she feels her belly. It’s gargantuan. “Wha—what the hell happened? She looks up to her love, tears in her eyes. “Vearden? How long have I been away?”
“You haven’t been away, dear. You’ve been in a coma. At least that’s the best diagnosis that the government doctors could provide.”
“How. Long.”
He frowns at her. “Two and a half months.”
“The baby? How’s Kendra?”
“She’s perfect. She’ll be coming soon, Dr. Best thinks.”
Arcadia nods. “What happened to Mateo? Where is he? He’s dangerous. There is something wrong with his mind.”
“That’s all been dealt with,” Vearden assures her. “You don’t have to worry about anything except taking care of yourself, and our little girl.”
She nods again. “Hey, Vearden.”
“It’s happening.”
“What’s happening?”
“The baby. She’s coming.”
“Yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaargh, right now!”
Vearden reaches up and pushes the big mauve button. When more nurses flood into the room, Vearden shouts, “she’s going into labor!”
They all move to their stations, and start getting things ready. One of them checks under Arcadia’s gown. Another handles the IV bag and monitor. A third leaves again to retrieve the doctor. It takes a really long time for him to return. When he does, Dr. Best is not the one following him. It’s some random woman in a white lab coat.
“Where is Dr. Best?” Arcadia demands to know.
“I’m afraid Dr. Best is trapped in an elevator, and won’t be able to help you. It’s my first day at this facility, but I’ve been a gyniatrician for eighteen years, I have full clearance, and I’ve been fully briefed on your situation.”
“Someone needs to teleport to Dr. Best,” Arcadia begs.
“That’s not possible,” Vearden says apologetically. “Not these days.” He looks back up at the substitute doctor. “What’s your name? It’s important.”
“I’m Dr. Suggitt. Dr. Cheyenne Suggitt.”

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