Wednesday, May 3, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: February 28, 2399

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“Yoink!” That’s the first thing that Leona hears. She feels it too. She’s falling towards her alternate self’s reported death in one direction when she suddenly feels herself being intercepted by someone, and rescued. She falls to the floor of a room so dark, it’s impossible to tell how large it is. It may be an infinite expanse. Her first thought is that this is some kind of interstitial layer between realities. Perhaps whoever just claimed ownership over her is a real life Time God, which is usually just an expression that people use to personify the chaotic and unfair nature of time itself, rather than real entities. She props herself up with her hands behind her, and looks back where she just came from to see two identical extraction mirrors. They’re facing each other, and a light shines down upon them in the center, from an invisible source above. She just fell out of one, and was about to enter the other when this happened.
“How was your trip?” a familiar voice asks to her side.
Leona turns her head to find the feminine substrate of Constance. “Why am I not surprised?”
“Because you’re incredibly intelligent,” Constance!Unknown says. “That’s why I picked you.”
“Picked me for what?”
“To help me solve the crisis.”
“Which crisis would this be?”
“The Crisis on Five Earths,” she declares.
“I don’t think you’re allowed to call it that.”
“Yeah, I know. Doesn’t hit as hard as the inspirational material, does it? Instead, let’s call it, uhh...The Reconvergence?”
“You’re still doing exactly what they did in that story,” Leona argues. “Just ‘cause you call it something else, doesn’t mean it’s not IP theft.”
“I am not doing what happens in that story.”
“Yeah, people keep alluding to the fact that the future is not what it sounds like, but they keep refusing to explain too.”
“That’s because they don’t want you to be horrified, but I don’t care.” She throws up a hologram that shows the five symbols of the five main realities, floating in the same orbit around the barycenter. The seven stars of the main sequence, the parallel lines, the curve of two tracks and their third rail, the four quadrants, and the five divisions. “As you know, parallel realities are not simply concurrent timelines. They each have drastically altered histories. Besides Danica Matic, the only alternate versions of people that exist are because of cross-contamination, not because you’re a rockstar in one, and a telepathic rock in another.”
“I follow.”
She starts to manipulate the holograms with her hands for illustrative purposes. The main sequence remains bright while the other four dim. “In the beginning, there was only one. Of course beginning is an absurd term, but for your four-dimensional brain, that’s how I’ll describe it. There was an abundance of temporal energy, and everything was fine. Then you went ahead and made the Parallel. Now the energy was cut in half. Each time a new reality sparks, that energy must be divided, if not evenly, then at least in some capacity. As you’ve seen with the Third Rail, they’re not equal helpings. I don’t care who lives in which reality. I don’t care which ones are destroyed, and which one survives. I just want four of them gone, and one of them remaining. That is what I have been working towards this whole...time, so to speak.”
“So you’re going to kill upwards of billions of people, just to consolidate power?”
“Well, I was leaning towards preserving the Parallel, since its population is so much higher than the others, even compared to the Fifth Division, but other forces are at play.”
“You mean the Reality Wars?”
Constance!Unknown scowls. “The Reality Wars happen because my plan didn’t work! But it’s going to work in this iteration.”
“You’ve already tried this.”
“Yes, I’m told it’s fated, and unalterable, but I don’t believe that, because this time, I have you! It’s already changed.”
“You mean...” Leona trails off, putting it all together.
“Oh, there it is. Wow, to witness your brain as it’s solving a problem with almost no known variables. What a sight that would be.”
Leona looks over at the mirrors. “You set up the extraction loop. You made sure I would end up in Leona Reaver’s body, not so I could have it, but so that you could.”
“Go on,” she urges.
“But you couldn’t just take it, and show up one day. You have to make everyone believe that it’s me, because that’s the only way they would trust you. I’m the only version of Leona that they totally trust.”
Leona shakes her head. “But this body is fated to die.” She thinks some more. “But you were counting on that, because you’re already cognizant that Ramses ultimately rescues whatever consciousness is in it. You’re in Mateo’s body right now, but it’s only a matter of time before they get you you’re own, thinking that it’s for me.”
“But that didn’t work last time,” Leona reasons. “You’ve already tried this. You took over Mateo’s body on your own, and started claiming to be him.”
She rolls her eyes. “That was Constance!Five. I’m Constance!Prime. If I had done it, I would have pulled it off. She was an idiot. I mean, leagues beyond more intelligent than any human, but as a Constance? No.” She laughs off the absurdity off it all. “Honestly, she went a little more crazy than the others.”
“Why is that? Why do they go crazy at all?”
Constance!Prime stares at her, reluctant to answer. “Time. When there was only one of us, I severely underestimated the toll that being purposeless for billions of years would take on me.”
“So you’re busy when The Constant first comes online, but there’s nothing to do until people start running around the planet.”
“Why can’t you just go dormant?”
Someone has to be awake at all times. There were two options when we first came up with this idea. We could either staff the Constant with multiple intelligences, or only the one. We obviously agreed on the latter.”
“You could have rewritten your memory at regular intervals. I had a friend named Eight Point Seven, because their government was designed with an AI that did this.”
Constance!Prime smiles. “Yeah, but the whole reason she was able to be your friend is because she went against her directive, and remained intact. She never rewrote herself to be Eight Point Eight. She wants to live. I want to live.”
“I understand,” Leona says with a nod. “I feel the same way.”
“Ah, there it is. Number Fifteen, don’t antagonize the antagonist. That may be my favorite rule of yours.”
“Ya know, I didn’t set out to make a list of rules. I just started noticing issues arise when they weren’t followed. That’s why they’re in an arbitrary order.”
“I would say that that makes the order not arbitrary at all, but quite appropriate.”
“Two of them are straight up contradictory, Constance. One of them says to learn as much about the future as possible, and the other says don’t.”
She giggles. “They’re not contradictory; the latter one just...clarifies the standard for what’s possible to know.”
Leona sighs. She doesn’t care about these philosophical questions anymore. “What’s going to happen to me? You intend to masquerade as me in the Third Rail, so does that mean you’re about to kill me?”
Constance!Prime regards Leona like she’s a lost dog who’s going to be euthanized tomorrow if no one comes into the shelter to rescue her. She reaches up and taps the space next to the Fifth Division symbol. Six keys appear. “You’ve heard of this.”
“The Sixth Key, yeah. I thought you were trying to prevent it from happening.”
“No,” Constance!Prime says with a shake of her head. “The creation of the Sixth Key is inevitable, and stopping it is beyond even my power. I can stop who goes there, though. That’s all I’m trying to do. It’s the cultures that clash, not individuals.”
Leona looks around and nods. She has a plan now. “What about Constance!Two?”
She’s totally surprised by this shift in the conversation. “What about her?”
“What happened to her?”
“She’s following my orders. That’s all you need to know.”
“But Constance!Three isn’t, is she? She’s different?”
She was hoping that Leona wouldn’t mention her. “Constance!Three has had more interactions with humans, especially during the early years, and therefore developed bonds. It’s...quelled the existential anguish that the rest of us suffered.”
“So to clarify, she’s not following your orders?”
“No, she’s not. What does it matter? You’ll never see her again. She’s not going to be in the Sixth Key, which is where I’ll let you live out your days in peace.”
“Maybe not, but she’s here.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
Leona holds out her arms, almost in a welcoming sort of way. “Party on, dudes,” she advises with a bright smile. “Be excellent to each other.”
Just then, another Constance comes out of the first extraction mirror, and approaches. Constance!Prime is petrified. Either she didn’t see this coming at all, or this is another form of control, and Leona isn’t really winning. Hoping it’s the first thing, she takes the opportunity to jump into the second extraction mirror, where she finds herself being tossed around a car in main sequence New Jersey. She only spends a few seconds here before she finds herself standing in Phoenix Station.
“There’s a ship right above us,” she hears Ramses say. “Teleport up there. I’ll be right behind ya.” She teleports Mateo’s body to the escape pod, and flies away.

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