Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: January 24, 2399

There is something wrong with Alyssa’s brain. Or her body. Or both. Or maybe there’s something wrong with Leona’s body instead. Ramses’ current theory—with no evidence—is that whoever wants Leona Matic to die had a two-fold plan to accomplish it. Step one: get her into Leona Reaver’s body. Step two: prevent her from leaving that body, or coming back to her real body. To put it another way, they locked her in, and just in case she ever found a way to break free, they also locked her out of her own body. Alyssa is just kind of caught in the crossfire of that. Now that she’s here, she is unable to leave, because it would open a vacancy for Leona’s return, and their enemy does not want that to happen.
Ramses also believes that it’s possible for Alyssa to look more like herself before he comes up with a permanent solution. Time powers are apparently more mental than they are physical, meaning that there’s a chance she can create illusions from here. He said that it can’t hurt to try, so she did a few times, but she never even came close. It didn’t feel like it did when she used her ability before. The way she sees it, it would be like transferring the mind of someone with legs into the body of an amputee, and expecting them to walk again just because they remember what it was once like. Still, she doesn’t want to give up, so when he urged her to meditate in order to reactivate that side of herself, she decided that she might as well. She’s been spending most waking hours doing it, if awake is even the right word. In the darkened room there are only candles, a pillow to sit upon, and a mirror in front of her. She has to force herself to concentrate and not check it every ten minutes. When she does check it, the result is always the same. She still looks like Leona, and that is probably never going to change.
“Okay,” Alyssa says to herself. “You can’t look for another hour. How am I meant to know when it’s been an hour? Well, people who are good at meditating probably develop the magical power to automatically know things like that, so you’re off to another bad start. Just close your eyes, and stop thinking.” She holds there for what may be the hour that she was waiting for, or just another ten minutes. “Stop. Thinking. You think too much.”
“I agree,” comes a voice.
She’s scared to check. Was that in her head, or is someone else in the room? It didn’t sound like Ramses, or anyone else she knows. “Is that you, God?”
“Close. I’m a hawk. Majestic creatures.”
Alyssa opens one eye. She’s not in the meditation room anymore. She has no idea where she is. She opens the other eye. “What just happened?”
“I brought you back. Your reality needs you,” the mysterious stranger claims.
“Who are you?”
“You don’t recognize me? No, I suppose you wouldn’t in this body. It’s Dalton.”
“Nice to meet you, Dalton...I think.”
“No, we’ve met. I traced your location. This is where I sent you, and it’s where you’ve been. I mean, it was where you were in the future, but it’s the past now.”
“What the hell are you talking about? How far back in the past are we?”
“About four and a half billion years.”
This again? Goddammit!” Alyssa laments. “Okay, I have power, but I’m not that powerful. You’re telling me I ended up here just because I was meditating?”
“Must have been a coincidence,” Dalton says. “I’m the one who brought you back here, using the temporal translocator.”
“What do you want with me? I’m telling you, we’ve never met. Perhaps there’s another me in another reality, or something? I don’t know, I’m still learning this stuff.”
“Leona, I know that you—”
“Wait, Leona? That’s who you think you’re talking to? Well, that’s your problem, dude. I’m not really Leona. My name is Alyssa McIver. I’m just stuck in her body.”
“Pshaw. I’m the master of switching bodies. You don’t think I would be able to tell? I did my research. I know who you are.”
“Maybe that’s just who the assassin wants you to think. Something went wrong with the switch. We can’t switch back. Maybe it’s, like, masking our neural signatures; making me look like Leona, even from a brain scan. Honestly, now I’m just pulling words I’ve heard Ramses say.”
“So, you admit you’re lying, Leona.”
“That’s not what I meant!” She tries to remember what the internet said about meditating and centering one’s self. “Look, Mr. Dalton. I’m sure you have perfectly reasonable intentions, but you got the wrong guy. Why don’t we both just go to 2399, and get this all sorted out, okay?”
“No, I can’t. I can’t use the machine again,” he contends. “Even if you’re not really Leona, you’re close enough. If she switched bodies with you, it means she trusts you, which means you can do this job. I found you by hacking into the Omega Gyroscope, so it thinks you’re Leona too, and in the end, that’s all that really matters.”
“What job are you talking about? What’s the gyroscope thing again? I’ve never seen it, so I can’t remember what they said about it.”
“The Gyroscope is a thing that you own, but you’ll lose possession of it in 50,000 years. I can’t let that happen. Someone has to be in charge, or it won’t work. So I’m going to close the door, and leave you in here. You’ll reconnect to it every 49,000 years.”
“What? No. Don’t do that. What the hell are you doing? Let me out!”
“Don’t worry. The toilet and sink are in the corner. Those shelves are stocked with enough food for a month, but you won’t need it. You’ll only be inside for about five days. Try to get some rest, and don’t let yourself go crazy. It looked like you were meditating. You’ll have plenty of time to perfect your technique.”
“Stop!” Alyssa pleads, trying to keep the door open, but ultimately no match for his strength. “Please! I don’t want to be locked in! Please let me out! Dalton! Dalton!” He wins out, and gets the door closed. She starts to bang on it, and the walls, but receives no response. If anyone can hear her, they don’t care, can’t help, or won’t try. Though, if the time bubble activated immediately, it’s already been over a hundred thousand years for that guy. So she gives up, and just tries to teleport to the other side of the door. It doesn’t work. She spends the next hour-slash 36,000,000 years trying again, and looking for any other way out, but this is a cell designed to keep people in, and is probably inescapable. So she gives up on that too.
Four and a half billion years later, the door pops open on its own, and blinding light floods in through the crack. Alyssa tries to open it more, but there’s something blocking it. She pulls the door in, then back out, then it, then out. It’s going a little farther each time, and the sound it makes sounds familiar. Once her eyes adjust to the sunlight, she can see that it must be snow. It’s all over the place, part of which must be preventing her from getting out. She keeps working at it, though, and eventually shaves off enough to slip out. Wait, no, it’s freezing out here. She goes back inside, and retrieves a heated suit from the emergency kit. They’re thin overalls, but warm enough to handle the coldest of conditions. She takes the rest of the kit with her, and slips out again.
Alyssa comes face to face with a bear, growling at her. At least it looks like a bear, but unlike any kind she’s ever seen before, even in pictures. She realizes that she’s in a cave, and this big fella is the one what lives here. She presses her back against the ice wall behind her, and tries to inch her way to the side, but he doesn’t like that. He doesn’t want her to be there, he doesn’t want her to leave; why can’t this guy make up his mind? That’s when she remembers that she can teleport now. She tries to make a jump to the cave opening behind the bear, but it’s not working. Whatever was preventing her from escaping the stasis chamber is still doing its thing.
The emergency kit. It has a signal pistol. She carefully sets it on the ground, not wanting to make any sudden movements. She opens it slowly, and sticks her hand inside. She starts feeling around for the gun, maintaining eye contact with the bear. He hates it even more when she tries to look away. There it is. She quickly pulls it out, aims it, and shoots. The flare goes towards the bear, but doesn’t hit it. Instead, its lodges itself in the ice wall, and starts spewing out sparks. This is enough to scare the animal into running away from it. Alyssa takes this opportunity to run past it, and out of the cave. She’s not out of the woods yet, though. When the bear recalls that there’s no backdoor, it follows her, and starts to charge. She has to keep running, but she knows that she’s no match for its speed. She can practically feel its breath on the back of her neck when it suddenly disappears. She instinctively spins around, causing her to trip on a rock, and fall to her ass.
The bear is on the ground a few meters down the hill, a wooden pole sticking out of it. No, it’s not a pole. It’s a spear. She turns her head. A man still has his arm forward in the follow-through. Like the bear, though, there’s something very wrong with his face. He looks unlike any man she’s ever seen. It’s sort of flat and uglyish. He has one brow, instead of two, sitting upon a more pronounced forehead. He’s short and wide, but not fat. He does look like he’s smiling at her, though, so he probably was trying to save her life, instead of just wanting to kill the bear. As he approaches, Alyssa instinctively recoils, so he gives her a wider berth, and goes over to retrieve the spear from the bear. It’s still moving a little, so he serves it a death blow to the neck to put it out of its misery.
“Umm...thank you,” Alyssa says to him, still nervous.
He looks at her quizzically, and faces the direction he came from. He grunts something loudly in a language that she doesn’t recognize. A woman appears from behind the hill, carrying a child. He’s maybe four or five years old. She looks more like a regular person, and the child looks like a cross between the two of them.
“Oh! You’re a primacean!” They’re an ancient relative of humans who lived tens of thousands of years ago. Some believe they interbred with modern humans, while others do not. “I guess this proves those people wrong.”
He looks at her quizzically again, as does his mate as she draws nearer.
“The door opened too early,” Alyssa says to herself. “Oh no, this isn’t good. There’s no telling how far off the mark I am; I’m not a historian.”
The massive language barrier made it difficult to communicate, but she was able to determine that they wanted her help transporting their kill back home. She does, and eats with them that night. What else is she gonna do, fix the stasis chamber?

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