Thursday, May 18, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 15, 2399

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Imani didn’t say much more about her religious faith, and how much she thinks it does, or doesn’t, have to do with time travelers. By the sound of it, some of the Word of Dalton is drawn from real life, and some of it is ripped straight out of pop culture from the main sequence. For instance, he tells a story that Leona recalls from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as if it were real. Similarly, this reality never had a version of Adolf Hitler, so Dalton apparently felt totally comfortable using hitler as an adjective to describe someone evil, or literal daemons from the bad place. Yes, he stole IP from The Good Place too. They probably should have read over the prooftext months ago, since it could have clues. Leona would do that now, but she’s busy.
Imani wanted a tour of the Superscraper, but didn’t have enough time for it, and still doesn’t today, which is good, because Leona scheduled an unrelated meeting. If she wants to turn the building into a refugee sanctuary, then she needs to get help from people who already work with refugees, and actually know what the hell they’re doing. They seemed amenable to the possibility of collaborating on the phone, but it was audio only, and they could have just been being polite. Been being? She needs to make sure she doesn’t talk like that during the meeting. She’s entering their offices now. Game face, Leona. Wait, stop! She didn’t mean that literally, but her ability interpreted it that way. That’s not her game face. That is Chief’s tight end and four-time Super Bowl champion, Travis Kelce. Leona face, Leona. There we go. Okay, now open the door, and if anyone saw,  pretend that it was just an optical illusion.
“Hello. Welcome to Homes for Humankind. Do you have an appointment, or would you like to volunteer?”
“I have a meeting scheduled with Yulian Văduva.” She checks her watch. “I’m about ten minutes early.
The receptionist blinks. “Hold on, I know who you are.”
“Yes.” Leona ran into a celebrity once, and she’s not talking about Juan Ponce de Leon, or the time she was on a fake cooking show with James Van Der Beek. In the reality where she didn’t meet Mateo until later in life, she found herself in front of comedian and actor, Heidi Gardner in line at Richard and Allen’s restaurant in the Plaza. There was no one else there at the time, and that was before that version of her found out that it was a hangout spot for time travelers. Heidi shook her hand politely and said hello, but Leona didn’t ask for a selfie, or anything like that, and Heidi didn’t offer. She seemed to want to be left alone, and Leona respected that. She was very nice to Richard when he took her order, and ate quickly, surely because she had to return to her busy life. Leona didn’t think that she would ever have to deal with anything like that. She’s famous in certain circles, like the planet of Dardius, but she’s never felt every eye in the world on her; not when the people whose eyes they belong to don’t know about time travel. This is so surreal. She’s being bashful about it.
“And you’re meeting with the big kahuna. Lucky you. A word of advice, don’t say anything about the Daltomist who visited your country yesterday. He’s not a fan of organized religion.”
“Don’t worry,” Leona said. “Neither am I.”
He nods. “I’ll let him know that you’ve arrived. You can have a seat over there.”
Leona barely has time to sit down before Mr. Yulian comes down from on high. “Mrs. Matic? It’s nice to meet you. Right this way, we’re in the big conference room today.”
“Okay,” Leona said. She follows him to the room, which she expects to be entirely empty. She thought it had something to do with the other rooms being booked, but nope, it’s completely full of people. They all look up at her when she stops in the doorway, some having to spin their chairs around to see. “Hi. Forgive me, I wasn’t prepared for this. It seems that our wires were crossed. I was under the impression that it would just be us, and maybe one associate of yours.”
“Wires were crossed,” he echoes. “Heh, I like that. I’m gonna steal it from you. Why don’t you have a seat? Yeah, right there at the head. Go on. Are you thirsty? We have water or tea.”
“I’m fine, thanks.” She sits down awkwardly in the incredibly comfortable chair. A conference room chair has no business being this soft. This is a place of business.
Yulian walks to the other side of the room, and flips on the TV. “Before we get to the pitch, I would like to show you something.” He presses a button that reveals the feed from the front door security camera.
Leona’s heart sinks. She really needs to get a handle on her new illusion power.
“Before every meeting with a potential partner or donor, we like to have a little internal pre-meeting. We leave the feed up to play in the background so we know when someone shows up. We never expected to see this.” He prepares to press another button.
“You don’t have to show it. I know what you saw.”
“Okay,” Yulian says with a smile. “Then I’ll show you this archive footage instead.” He changes the screen to a different camera. It’s high up on the roof, and showing the New York City skyline. “Wait for it...wait for it...” The Superscraper appears out of nowhere. “I assume what you did at the front door has something to do with what made this thing suddenly spring into existence?”
“So there are others who can do the same thing?”
“...maybe,” she repeats.
He widens his smile. “We’re prepared to defect to your nation, and maybe even expand its borders. Did you know that you could do that? The original owner once owned a modest apartment complex in that spot where he provided a different kind of sanctuary; one that was designed to protect the worst criminals the U.S. has ever seen. He bought more land so he could spread his bullshit message to the masses, and now that it’s yours, you could do it again. But you could do it for the right reasons.”
“I can’t build another building like that,” Leona says. “I didn’t build this one.” She paused, and bobbed her head indecisively. “Or I did.”
“What does that mean? Do you have memory issues?”
“Actually, I think I’ll take that water now.”
The woman next to her slides her own glass over. “It’s clean. I didn’t take a sip of it yet.”
Leona took the glass, and downed it.
“Are you okay now?”
She clears her throat. “I don’t have memory problems. I’m a time traveler, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Future!Me constructed that building.”

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