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Thursday, May 4, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 1, 2399

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Mangrove Rocket Three was placed on autopilot, and kept in orbit. Everyone went down to Mangrove One in a drop ship, including good guys, and not so good guys. From here they started going their separate ways. Aldona stayed to continue working on the defense program. A representative from the Naval Fleet flew in from Antarctica to take the Fifth Divisioner away. Tarboda flew everyone else back to Kansas City in his new sleek jet. Fairpoint is being returned to the government black site where he was locked up before. He’ll be joined by Erlendr Preston, Senator Morton, and Labhrás Delaney in a different capacity. The federal government actually has their own reintegration program for some cases, so he’ll stay there in a comfortable and unlocked room, with restricted movements, until he’s ready to rejoin into society. They’ll keep an eye on him even after that, especially Winona, who is overseeing the operation.
Morton declined Leona’s offer to get a hair transplant from Alyssa’s original body. It was kind of a silly idea, and might not have worked how they intended, or even at all. Bridget is staying close by, working with SD6 in some kind of non-field role, and has no intention of maintaining any significant relationship with the team. Speaking of the team, Vearden will be going back to the hospital suite he lives in with Arcadia, whose condition has remained unchanged since his death and resurrection. Everyone else, plus Tarboda, is going to the new lab that they haven’t used in a while.
Leona plans to continue to work with Aldona remotely, but Alyssa has agreed to let her transfer her consciousness to her old body, so she can at least move around on her own. Mateo stops short on their way across the parking lot. “She’s gone.”
“What do you mean, she’s gone?” Heath asks. They got him up to speed on everything, and he hasn’t missed a beat. This whole ordeal has made him miss his wife, though, and he does want to get back to her. He reportedly hopes that she feels the same, even after all this time.
“Leona is gone. It’s just me in here.”
“What happened to her?” Heath presses. “Could she just be, I dunno...asleep?”
“We sleep at the same time.” Mateo searches his mind, trying to find the imaginary line that divides his thoughts from hers, but it’s gone. He’s all alone again.
“That’s my fault,” Alyssa tells him with a sad look on her face.
“What do you mean?” Mateo asks.
“Try to teleport?” she suggests. “Try to teleport over there,” she rephrases.
“Okay.” Mateo tries, but doesn’t go anywhere. He’s puzzled. He tries again, but still nothing. “What’s stopping me?”
I am,” Alyssa replies.
“How?”
“The Omega Gyroscope,” she clarifies. “I’m its caretaker now.”
“I didn’t think that worked, since it was really meant to be Leona.”
“No, it worked. I’m in charge of it now.”
“But we were able to teleport now, as long as we had access to temporal energy,” Mateo reasons.
“That’s changed,” she explains.
“Well...can you change it back?” Mateo questions.
“I don’t want to,” she claims.
“Why not?”
“I don’t want anyone to have powers. Temporal, psychic, bioenhancements; I want it all to stop.”
“You’ve never expressed this desire before,” Mateo reminds her.
“I never felt it before. I do now.”
“Since when? When they brought you back? Does it have something to do with your new substrate?”
“No,” Alyssa insists. “It wasn’t until after I got back to Earth. I started feeling it on the launch pad, and it only grew stronger the more I stayed, or maybe the closer I got to Kansas City. I don’t know which.”
Mateo shuts his eyes, remembering something. “That little discrepancy they found in your brain. The thing that Ramses and Arcadia didn’t understand. They thought it was maybe Erlendr, or some other invader, but you’ve always had it. You had it when we met you.”
“Yes, that’s what I was thinking. It was a little dormant seed that sprouted just now, presumably because I’ve returned from the past.”
And because you’re closer to the gyroscope itself. That means you can find it.”
“I don’t want you to find it.” Alyssa sounds almost angry.
“That’s just the psychic seed in you. What do you want?”
I want you to back off!” She hops away from him like he was about to hit her.
Heath and Tarboda don’t want to be involved. They stay quiet, and stay back.
Mateo steps back too. “Now just think about this. Is that how you would have reacted to me a month ago? Would you be saying these things either?”
“I’m not saying them a month ago. I’m saying them now!”
“I understand that—” He tries to say in a soft voice.
“Don’t condescend to me!” She shouts.
Mateo shrinks, and averts his gaze. He doesn’t know how to handle this situation.
Alyssa sees that she’s overreacting. “I know that I’m different. I know that I shouldn’t feel the way that I do, but I don’t know how to go back to my old self, and I don’t know how to make myself want to.” She runs her hand through her hair anxiously.
Mateo can tell what’s about to happen next. He’s learned to recognize the acute stress response in anyone, and she’s about to run. Fighting didn’t work, so she’s going to switch to flight. If she teleports, which she can probably do as the only exception to the new no powers rule in the world, they may never find her again. He has to make her feel safe here, and remind her that no one is going to hurt her. The seed in her brain may get worse if they do nothing, but it’s certainly not going to get better if they keep pushing it, so for now, it’s worth the risk to just accept her decision, however misguided—and not truly hers—it may be. “It’s okay. You don’t have to do anything you don’t wanna do.”
Alyssa looks at him with the expression someone would have if they were tearing up, but no tears are forming. She’s trying to express herself appropriately, but it’s not working. “The last time I tried to meditate, I ended up dying.”
“I wasn’t going to suggest that.”
“That’s what I’m suggesting,” she clarifies. “I’ll fix this. I’ll fix my brain, and then I’ll fix everything else. They’re not going to take away my agency, whoever they are.”
“No, please don’t go,” he pleads.
“It’s okay, Mateo. I just need to be alone.” She disappears.

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