Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: January 18, 2399

Ramses purged the version of Constance that he had uploaded to The Bridgette. They don’t know if it’s been compromised, but they can’t take any chances. The AI served them well for a long time without giving them any issues, or giving them any reason to doubt it. It’s only when the one from the Fifth Division showed up that they started having issues. The question is, is it even from the Fifth Division? Was that all a lie? Did Impostor!Mateo give them a partial truth? Could it have been an anti-Alyssa who was just using their illusion powers to pretend to be Mateo, while having a backup plan of prompting the wrong investigation if they were even discovered to be an impostor?
Leona, Ramses, and the McIvers are in an SD6 safehouse right now. It’s not completely devoid of electronics, but there aren’t any microphones that could listen in on their conversation, which they are having in the kitchen while the boys play a card game in the one and only bedroom. “Any ideas?” Leona asks. She waits for a response that never comes. “We were all meant to sleep on it.”
“I doubt anyone slept well under these conditions,” Alyssa notes.
“You’re the one who had the bed,” Ramses points out.
“With two smelly boys in puberty,” she counters.
“We heard that!” Carlin shouts from the room.
“I wasn’t trying to be quiet!” she shouts right back.
“All right,” Leona says. “Are we all in agreement?”
“Agreement of what?” Ramses questions, confused.
“We all agree that we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing, and we don’t have any idea how to proceed?
“Heard that too!” young Moray exclaims.
“First we have to decide whether we think that was Mateo, infected by a psychic, or someone else entirely?” Alyssa says. “If it’s the latter, we need to find the real Mateo.”
“It’s not really something we can decide, but yes. I’m not sure how we go about doing that. It’s not like we can look for a scar underneath his right eye, or something. It’s entirely reasonable that he would get himself into a pristine body. The impostor’s story about Mateo going to the Fifth Division was not unbelievable.”
“You think that really happened, but Constance!Five somehow transformed herself into him, and left him somewhere?”
“It wouldn’t be the first time. Fax!Mateo did it so he could sacrifice himself in Alt!Mateo’s body.”
“This is getting confusing,” Alyssa admits. “Has your life always been like this?”
“It hasn’t,” Leona begins. “Back in the day, when Mateo and I were just jumping forward in time, we met a lot of time travelers, but we never had to wonder whether they were the wrong version of someone we already knew. I mean, there was The Rogue, and then Makarion after that, but it didn’t happen nearly as much as it does now. For a reality that doesn’t allow temporal manipulation, there do seem to be a lot of wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey shit. Sorry,” she adds in reference to the children.
“It’s fine,” Alyssa promises.
Young Moray comes down the hallway, pulling away from every attempt of Carlin’s to keep him back. “What about the error detector?”
“What do you mean?” Leona asks.
“That thing you had in the sky. It told you where all the weird time people were, right? If the real Mr. Matic is somewhere else, that should be able to find him, right?”
Leona looks over at Ramses. “We need to replace that anyway to find the remaining errors, don’t we, since the AOC is gone?”
“Oh my God, the AOC!” Ramses laments. The error detector was on that, and now it’s gone. He feels so stupid. It would have been so easy to deploy a nanosatellite from the AOC, and it’s a lot more difficult now that they have to rely on this antiquated Third Rail technology. Months of living here, and he has still not gotten used to that. He keeps making these mistakes, and it’s really starting to piss him off. “The detector isn’t up there anymore. I’m such an idiot.”
“Now hold on,” Alyssa says. “Maybe we don’t need it. If Mateo isn’t dead—which, I’m guessing the detector wouldn’t detect anyway—and our theory is correct, then Constance!Five is keeping him somewhere relatively safe. He would need food, water, shelter. She hasn’t been here long, so she doesn’t know of a whole lot of places.”
“It would appear that she knows everything that Mateo does,” Leona replies. “He has a lot of places in his head.”
“How many of those places are isolated or hidden, so no one will stumble upon him?” Alyssa asks.
“Where was he last time,” Carlin offers, “the first time this happened?”
“The bunker,” Leona answers. She gets out of her chair, then just stands there.
“What’s happening?” Ramses asks her.
“I can’t jump,” she replies. “This body metabolizes temporal energy too quickly.”
“I don’t have any left either,” Ramses says apologetically. “I’ve had to use a lot recently, and I’m in no position to synthesize more.”
“I can still feel the power in this body. If that’s okay with you?”
“No, go, please.” Leona urges. “No one else will go with you to conserve the power you have left. I’ll show you where it is on the map, then we’ll catch up with you by car.”
Alyssa teleports to the middle of the forest, and can instantly feel that it was her last trip. She either gets her hands on more temporal energy, or she never jumps again. Her mother taught her how to read a map without satnav, so she can also tell that she’s a little off the mark, but not too far away. She carefully climbs down the hill, and finds the secret entrance to the underground bunker. She slides down the ladder to find Mateo on the opposite wall. He’s nearly naked, strapped to what seems to be a wire bed frame. He looks dehydrated and exhausted. “Oh my God! What happened to you!”
“Fuh...” he’s really struggling to speak. “Cons...conste...”
“Constance!Five, yeah, we know. She was impersonating you.”
“No.” He shakes his head while she tries to get the restraints off. He musters what little energy he has left. “Constellation.” He passes out.
One more push. “Constellation. Phoenix. We have to go there.”

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