Thursday, April 13, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: February 8, 2399

Roeland’s little outburst alerted the authorities to his presence at the quarantine hotel. They ran over right quick to place him in his own quarantine, which will only partially overlap Leona and Tarboda’s. It isn’t until late the next night that they’re able to reconnect in the post-transition lobby. “Mr. Roeland. Do you have time to talk?”
“I do if you have time to tell me what this is.” He pulls his shirt away to show the timonite stain again.
“We’re not sure how it works, or really why. My husband was infected with that—that’s not really the right word, he wasn’t infected. It started out as a rock, and he somehow...absorbed its power. It’s what fueled his ability to teleport to orbit, and install something I now call a leechcraft on a preexisting satellite. The leechcraft was designed to scan the entire surface of the Earth, looking for time travelers. Well, it was only meant to find a specific person, but we think it found everyone, including you and...”
“Go on. Including me, and who?”
“And whoever you’re living with on Vulcan Point.”
“I told you, I’m not living with anyone. I’m alone. Your scanner is wrong. And you’ve still not explained why this thing is on my shoulder.”
“It must have gotten on the scanner, and then got transferred to you during the scanning process. It was entirely unintentional, but as long as you don’t step within proximity of my husband, you’ll be fine.”
“What happens if I do get too close to him?”
“It would transport you to another universe. There you would find all sorts of objects that were randomly dropped there from the multiverse.”
“How do I prevent this from happening accidentally? What if we end up sitting next to each other in a couple of bathroom stalls without realizing it?”
“You don’t have to worry about that.”
“Why not?”
“He’s dead.” She doesn’t believe that, but all evidence points to it, and admitting her true feelings undermines her argument that Roeland is safe, so she’s not going to mention it.
He nods. He’s old, and has seen death, so likely he no longer feels the need to pretend to be butthurt over the death of a complete stranger, like most people do. He’s more honestly indifferent. “So you have one too?
“A timonite stain? I don’t.”
“Why not. Were you not on Earth when it was scanned?”
“No, I was, but...” That’s a good question.
He turtles his head out when she doesn’t finish her sentence.
“You’re right. Why weren’t we also marked? We found eleven errors, but that number was in addition to the people we already knew about, so we disregarded them.” That’s a good goddamn question.
“This kind of implies that it actually was intentional,” Roeland points out. “Who’s the we in this scenario? Who helped you build the thing?”
“No. Ramses would never do something like that.”
“Ramses Abdulrashid? He’s one of us?”
“He’s a time traveler, but he doesn’t have a power or pattern. Or rather, he does have a pattern now, but he wasn’t born that way. He turned himself into it. How do you know him?”
“I don’t know him personally, only by reputation. In my timeline, he was a famous engineer for the Freemarketers in the early 23rd century. Legend has it, he defied them, and defected to the mainstream. They consider him the first domino to fall. The movement did not last long after that.”
“That’s a wholly inaccurate story. The truth is he didn’t defect to the mainstream, he defected to us. How you would have heard about it at all, but not known that part, is bizarre, especially since a great deal of Freemarketers were reportedly killed in an interstellar ship cataclysm, but were rescued by Dardius.”
“Then you and I are from different timelines, because the Ramses Abdulrashid that I learned about in school went on to become an activist for the post-scarcity lifestyle, focusing on educating and rehabilitating the most violent of antiestablishment insurrectionists. He refused most life extension advancements, considering him unworthy of immortality since he rejected handouts prior to his epiphany, so he eventually died. I don’t recall the details of his life; I was born in the 24th.”
“Yeah, that’s definitely different.”
“Is he here? I would not mind meeting him, even if it is an alternate version.”
Leona is staring into space. “No, he’s lost, I can’t find him.”
“Can’t your satellite scanner do it?”
“He designed the thing. I’m sure he has a way to shield himself from it.”
This piques Roeland’s interest even more than the news about Ramses. “Really? How would one go about doing that?”
“Are you hoping to keep us from finding the other ping that we’ve detected on Vulcan Point?” Leona guesses.
“I’m telling you, there is something wrong with it. I live alone. I chose that spot because it’s beautiful and remote.”
She takes out her handheld device, and shows him the data. “My satellite scans every ninety minutes. Whoever was there with you during the first pass is still on the island. See? This is you, this is me, and that is the other person.”
“I don’t know what to tell ya. If there’s another time traveler in the area, maybe it’s, like, a rabbit who unwittingly ate some—what did you call it?—timonite, and ended up there. It’s not a human. I would know. It’s a very tiny island.”
Leona shakes her head. He is showing all signs of lying, through macro and microexpressions alike. If she knew him prior to this, she might be able to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he could be keeping Alyssa prisoner. She could be trying to get away as they speak. It would be irresponsible of Leona to just walk away without investigating. If the other error is fine, she’ll leave without further questions, and try to forget it ever happened, but until then, she is getting on that damn island. It’s up to her to find Alyssa. She’s the only one who can. No one else is capable, and no one else cares. Ramses made that quite clear when he abandoned them. Roeland is looking at her with puppy dog eyes, so she can’t just keep arguing with him about it. “Okay, I believe you.”
“Good. Are ya hungry? I found the quarantine food to be no bueno. Perhaps you and your bodyguard would like to join me for a late night snack. I know a great place.”
She laughs. “He’s not my bodyguard. If anything, I’m his.”

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