Friday, March 24, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: January 19, 2399

When Mateo and Constance!Five first returned-slash-arrived in the Third Rail, everything seemed like it was going to be okay. It quickly turned into a horrorfest. A lone fisherman happened to be relaxing on his little rowboat in Danica Lake where the two time travelers came up. His first thought would not have been that they were a transhuman and an organic superintelligence from a parallel reality, but Constance!Five didn’t seem to think it was worth the risk. After taking a look around to check for other witnesses, she pulled the innocent man out of the boat, and drowned him in the water. Mateo was hopeless to stop her. He’s strong, but she’s much stronger. It would appear that she gave herself a better substrate than him. It’s a wonder that she did anything for him at all. She’s clearly completely self-reliant. And also evil.
Once the deed was done, Constance!Five demanded Mateo navigate them to an isolated location, where they would not be disturbed. Not wanting to put his loved ones in danger, he suggested they go to the Walton bunker in the middle of the woods. He didn’t know what she was going to do with him there, but he didn’t think she was going to torture him. After all, what did he ever do to her? She didn’t start right away. She activated a tablet that the team had left on the desk, and got to work. It took Mateo some time, but he eventually came to the conclusion that she was absorbing all the information she could find. History, politics, culture; all of these were unknown to her, and if she wanted to blend in, or complete whatever agenda she has, she’ll need to know everything. When she was done with that, she moved on to gaining personal information about Mateo and his life. She wanted to know everything he had been through, and she was willing to hurt him to get it. He hoped his upgrades would protect him against the pain, but she knew what buttons to push.
When she had everything she wanted out of him, that’s when the true horror began. As it turned out, she was far more advanced than he ever could have imagined. Like something out of the Terminator franchise, her epidermal nanites rearranged themselves, and in a matter of minutes, she no longer looked like herself. She looked like Mateo. That’s why she wanted to know everything about him, because she was going to initiate contact with the team, and pretend to be him. She was just about to clip him off like a loose end when an alert came in over the tablet. Apparently, the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was back in orbit over Earth. She had to get back to the group quickly, so she could sell a lie about Mateo having never died in the first place. He laughed at her, knowing that his people were not going to fall for her ruse. The little argument they had over the matter was enough of a stall to save his life. By the time she was ready to finish him off, her time really was up, and she had to teleport away immediately. That was the last he heard from her.
Mateo opens his eyes, aware that he’s lying on his back, but unable to gather any other information about his surroundings. His vision is blurry. He feels the mucus attached to his lids. “Hegh,” he says, realizing that it’s just an unintelligible noise.
“He’s awake.” It sounds like Alyssa, but he can’t hear very well either.
“Repo,” he tries. “That’s a little closer to a meaningful utterance, but still wrong.
Another figure approaches the bed. “Report?” Leona guesses. “All you need to do right now is relax.”
He feels a warm washcloth rubbing his eyes clean. “Wada,” he requests.
“Right here.” Alyssa says. She holds the strawn in his mouth.
Mateo smacks his lips, drinks a little more, and then clears his throat. “Does this bed move? Can I sit up, please?”
“I got you,” Ramses says, pushing the button for him.
“That’s good.” Mateo blinks and gets a better look at where he is. It’s a double room. There’s another person in the bed next to him. He can’t see who it is at this angle, especially since his vision isn’t all there yet. But he can tell that Vearden is sitting in the chair between them, and upon closer inspection, Mateo realizes that his roommate is pregnant. “What happened to Arcadia?”
Vearden had been staring at the floor. He looks up to find that everyone else is being silent, so he stands. “Constance!Five showed up, looking like you, claiming to be you. They were suspicious of him, so they asked Arcadia to psychically interrogate her. She’s in a coma now. We don’t know what Constance did to her.
Mateo tries to move his legs and arms over at the same time, but he’s attached to an IV line, and other instruments. “Get me out of this, I wanna see.”
“You can’t move.” Leona puts two hands on his chest, and gently pushes him back into place.
Vearden steps forward, and regards Mateo with a really good poker face. “I don’t blame you for what happened, but I’ve seen the security footage, and looking at your face makes me wanna choke you to death.” He turns away, and hastily pulls the curtain closed behind him.
Mateo stares at it. He’s got his own poker face, but it’s probably just from whatever drugs he’s on. He finally turns to face the ceiling. “Where is she?”
“Trapped in a stasis pod on a freezing oceanic island in the middle of nowhere,” Ramses tells him.
“Now that you know that she wasn’t me, you can destroy her.”
The three of them exchange some looks.
“What?” Mateo asks. “Now you’re suspicious of me? You think I wouldn’t suggest such a thing. I’ve changed, Arcadia’s in a coma. Blow that asshole straight to hell.”
“Even if we wanted to do that,” Ramses begins, “we don’t know how to kill her. Her nanites are sophisticated enough to impersonate someone to the smallest detail. She should be able to survive just about anything.”
“She had enough time to build backups too,” Leona adds.
“I don’t think she did,” Mateo contends. “She was with me the whole time.”
“Are you sure?”
“Stop questioning me.”
“We’re not questioning you, we just—”
“Get out.”
“Mateo...” Leona says.
“Get out of my room. I need some sleep.” They don’t move right away, so he appends, “please.”
They start to walk out. “Were I you,” Leona tells him.
Mateo clears his throat, and turns his head towards the wall without replying. When it looks like she’s left, he turns back. “Vearden,” he whispers.
“Leave us alone,” Vearden spits from the other side of the curtain.
“Vearden, I need your help.”
“I said that I don’t blame you, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to help you with anything.”
“Just come here, goddammit. You’re gonna like this.”
Vearden huffs, but does as asked. “What do you want?”
“Take this from my finger, and put it on yours.”
“Your pulse monitor thingy? Why would I do that?”
“Because I’m going to teleport to Constance!Five, and then toss her into the mouth of a volcano.”
Vearden stares for a moment. “I don’t think that’s going to work. You can’t just throw something into a volcano. There’s not, like, this cliff overlooking the hole.”
“Are you sure?”
“I don’t know, but..I don’t think so. You don’t hear about people just tripping and falling into a pool of lava.”
“I think it’s called magma.”
“Shh,” Mateo urges. “I don’t want them to know, for obvious reasons.”
Vearden sighs, and gets out his handheld device to look it up. “Okay, it looks like, to be sure the pod gets to where it’s going, you would have to drag it all the way down into a magma chamber.” He shows Mateo the photos on the search page, some of which are probably artist’s renderings. “But the heat will probably kill you before you get that close. I know you have those fancy new bodies, but still...”
“I can teleport into a chamber.”
“No one really knows what they look like, Mateo. You’re not necessarily going to find a patch of dry, safe land where you can stand and watch it happen. The internet doesn’t say anything about that, because normal people don’t ever seriously contemplate getting rid of bodies in a volcano.”
“I can sit on the pod, and then teleport away just before it finishes sinking.”
“What if it doesn’t sink?” Vearden asks. “What if the magma can’t even breach the pod at all. If she remains alive, there’s a chance she comes back. This is an incredibly foolish and ridiculous plan. It’s never going to work.”
Mateo thinks about it for a few moments. “Okay. I’ll send the Bridgette on a collision course with the sun. That’s even better. I can pilot it with voice commands.”
Vearden shakes his head. “They purged everything of AI. They don’t know what’s been compromised, and what hasn’t been. They’re not even living in the lab anymore.”
“Oh. That makes sense.”
“Mateo, I know you feel bad, and I know you want to fix this, but you and I have to face the fact that neither of us can live this life alone. We rely on smarter, more capable people to get us by. If we tried something like this, we would inevitably screw it up. The Two Stooges, they would call us.”
“Let’s take her to the Constant.” Alyssa has snuck back into the room, and could have been listening for who knows how long.
“Why would we do that?”
“Because it’s Danica’ fault, and therefore Danica’s problem,” she reasons. “It’s become clear that she’s not going to help us, so let’s give her the pod that she loves to use so much back, and rid ourselves of the whole thing.”
That’s not a bad idea, but it’s not a good one either.

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