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Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: February 21, 2399

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Across the street from the parking lot where the transreality anomaly is, there is another parking lot, and across the next street is an office building that is no longer in heavy use. A few companies still hold their offices there, but the majority of them had moved to newer facilities by the time any of this got started. Some of the rest of them left when the government first put up the containment tent. Those still lingering were placed in their own special quarantine on the top floor following Humbert Messer’s attack. Other nearby office workers faced similar situations. A long-ass plastic tunnel was placed at the entrance to the tent, going all the way to the new isolation building. Everyone who happened to be in the tent at the time was sent through, and relocated to their own room. There were enough executive offices that had their own bathroom to accommodate the bulk of the patients. Some were placed in actual bathrooms, but a few had to suffer with a bucket. But they didn’t stay that way for very long. The point of these rooms was to separate the infected from the non-infected. It wasn’t long before they were all symptomatic. They were recently moved to the popup clinic that the government set up in the cafeteria on the bottom floor.
No one who wasn’t in the tent at the time of Humbert’s arrival has shown any signs of infection. They were fortunate enough to have not undergone a shift-change by the time Vearden showed up and figured out that he was contagious. According to experts who have begun to research the disease, killing Patient Zero immediately was the only option there. He would have only made things worse by staying alive. They will study his corpse, and the living patients. The quarantined office workers will be released and evacuated soon. This whole area will be a ghost town in a matter of days. The government takes this seriously, and will not accept any pushback from the public. Fortunately for the process, they’re not getting any, because this is not the first outbreak this world has experienced. There’s a reason the team keeps being locked up in quarantine when they travel, despite there being no current threat...until now.
Leona flew back to Kansas City from São Paulo. She was trying to find the Harlows there, but it’s been difficult. The satellite can give them a good idea of where they are, but not only is it a dense and heavily populated city, and not only have they been hiding out in a particularly dense area, but the nation was also celebrating a religious holiday last week, so the streets were chaos. It’s already begun to clear up, though, and it should be easier now for Kivi and her team, who are taking up the mantle. Leona isn’t annoyed that she had to cut her search short. All they need is for someone to confirm whether or not Alyssa is the other target. Once that’s made, the hunt will be over, because if it’s not her, they will be out of leads.
Vearden is in a private room, and will remain there as the others are moved downstairs. He’s shaky and weak. His skin has turned red from capillary leak syndrome. Inflammation is causing severe damage to the blood vessels, resulting in blood leaking into the interstitial tissue. Doctors can usually make it go away, but the root cause has been hard to identify. They have never encountered a pathogen like this before. The fact that it appears to not be from this world is not what’s tripping them up, but the fact that it’s new, and there is no antibiotic or antiviral for it. They’re not sure yet if it even is bacteria, or a virus. It could be something else. “It doesn’t hurt. Shouldn’t it hurt? I mean, look at me. This looks like it hurts.”
“I would say that not feeling any pain is a good thing, unless you don’t feel anything at all, like you’re numb,” Leona replies. “Are you numb, because then we would have to call the doctor back.”
“I’m not numb.” He slaps himself in the face. “No, not numb.”
“Don’t do that.”
“I’m sorry. Thanks for coming back here. I know you have your own crap to deal with.”
“You are my crap. I mean...you know what I mean.”
He nods. “How are all the other patients doing?”
“They’re the same. This pathogen does not discriminate.”
“I bet they’re pretty butthurt that they had to convert the nearest emergency pandemic research facility into a time lab that you’re not even using anymore.”
“Their new lab is also close, and anyway, they’re not even using it. They’re based out of this building so far. It’s not even an epidemic, let alone a pandemic.”
He nods, but his mind is elsewhere. “Listen, I’ve been meaning to ask you for something. I can’t believe I never thought of it before, and like I said, I know you’re really busy, so I don’t want to put you out—”
“Vearden,” she interrupts. “Ask me.”
“Will you try to talk to Arcadia using all that fancy technology that you and Ramses built? Like, with the Insulator of Life and the Livewire? Can they help?”
She smiles. “That’s a good idea. When I leave here, I’ll give that a shot.”
“Could you...leave right now? If you have to fly all the way back to Indonesia—”
“All that stuff is still here. We never thought to transport it to Mangrove One. It’s unrelated to our work out there.”
“Good. I appreciate it.”
“Do you need anything? I can get you some real food. There’s a way to pass it through without risking cross-contamination.”
“I’m okay with what they give me. I’m more worried about Arcadia.” His face tells her that the request is still urgent, even though she won’t have to fly overseas first.
“All right. I’ll go grab the supplies, then head for the hospital.”
“Thanks.”
Leona goes to get what she needs. It takes more than the Insulator and the Livewire. Interfacing with people’s minds is not something that any known special temporal object can perform. It requires technology that Ramses reverse engineered from research that experts spent centuries developing. Vearden was right, though, that they should have thought of trying this before. Arcadia is still in there, she just can’t wake up. Leona doesn’t even think that comas are a thing in the main sequence. It’s the kind of technology that should be inherently produced in tandem with consciousness transference advancements.
She has to call Ramses for a little help, because he understands this stuff better, but she gets it working. Nurse Chenda stays awake as a failsafe to pull her out if need be. Leona connects herself to Arcadia’s mind, and tries to reach out to her. It’s not long before she hears the sound of screaming. She runs towards it and finds Dream!Arcadia, who is standing in place, unmoving, and unrelenting in her piercing cry. Leona tries to shake her a little, but a skintight forcefield prevents them from touching. She just holds there like a statue. This isn’t a coma. This is something else.

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