Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 20, 2399

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When the surgeon attempted to remove the foreign body from Alyssa’s brain, she went into autopilot and warned them not to do that. She spoke in monotone, and it was clear that she was only reciting a script rather than speaking from the heart. When the doctor let go of her brain, she was able to give him consent to remove it from her, but every time he tried, she would protest again. Under normal circumstances, no means no, whether or not it’s preceded by a yes, but in this case, it was obvious that the implant was speaking for her, and that the real her wanted the thing gone. The surgeon removed it, and then the anaesthesiologist put her back to sleep so they could seal up her head. If her substrate is anything like the ones that Ramses built for the others on the team, her skull should heal up completely. There shouldn’t even be a scar.
“Why not?” she asks. She’s woken up now, and asked to see herself in a mirror.
“I can actually answer this,” Mateo says. “I had a friend when I was younger who kept getting hurt. He ended up with this huge scar on his neck, and he explained that when the body is injured, it produces collagen to repair the damage, but it’s better to produce too much than too little, because too little would result in it not healing all the way. Too much ultimately creates extra skin. It’s evolution’s way of making sure that the healing finishes all the way.”
“Yeah,” Leona agrees, “but the medical nanites that you have now can gauge exactly how much collagen they need to order to get the job done, so there’s no extra.”
“Oh. And the hair?”
“Don’t know about the hair,” Leona replies. “Ramses may have included a subroutine that would command the nanites to activate the right protein growth factors, or it didn’t occur to him. If he did think to include it, it may still take a while. Hair treatment isn’t bad in this reality, though. We can sign you up for follicle stimulation. In the meantime, we’ll buy whatever wigs you want.”
“Don’t bother,” Alyssa says. She uses her illusion ability to generate a hologram of her original hair. “I may just leave it shaved. I’ve found it easier to produce an artificial image from scratch than to superimpose it on something else.”
“True,” Leona says as she’s waving her hand through the hair, and touching nothing. “However, the hair’s not really there, and people can tell.”
“Right.” She frowns slightly.
“I’m sorry we had to do this,” Leona said. “We just...”
“We just wanted you back,” Mateo finishes.
“Yes, and I appreciate that,” Alyssa tells them, “but there’s something you should know. “I am still bound to Dalton’s commands.”
“What? You are?”
“I’m sorry, the surgery didn’t do what you thought it would. That’s not what the dot was for.” What that thing did was block her from remembering certain things from her past. Removing it didn’t reprogram her. It’s just that now she knows what’s at stake, and understands why the Gyroscope must stay active. Fortunately, she can explain it now too. “It was just a...uh—what would you call it? A memory inhibitor. I still want to keep the Omega Gyroscope working, but now I know why.”
“Why?” Leona presses.
“Someone is trying to get into the Third Rail. They have been trying for ages. The original programming was enough to prevent that from happening, but things have changed in recent days.”
“What’s changed?” Mateo asks.
“You,” Alyssa says. “You, and the team. And Aldona, and everyone who came from the Insulator of Life. Everyone who disappeared into the Livewire. Every time you tap on the glass to the Fourth Quadrant, and every time you teleport, you’re pushing the boundaries. You weaken the system. Luckily, Dalton broke the rules, and looked into the future to see all this coming. He set in place a series of events that would put me in charge, and I have been this world’s protector ever since.”
“Well, he was late. All those versions of Constance managed to come through. I suppose, if it had to happen, he should have made it happen sooner.”
“Those Constances were about as threatening as a lone ladybug compared to the one who’s trying to get in now.”
“Wait, are you talking about Constance!Two, or someone else entirely?”
“Both,” Alyssa answers. “She’s the most dangerous, not because she’s inherently different than the others, but because she’s formed a relationship with the Superintendent’s alternate self.”
“The Superintendent has an alt?” Mateo questions.
“I don’t have the details, but yes. He has a...more local form of the real Superintendent’s power, but if you’re in the same universe as he is, he can do a lot of damage. Evidently, you were this close to meeting him a couple times. From what Dalton has discovered, he was on the Stage at the same time you were, before you came here. When we ran into your friend, Meliora by that river? He was there too.”
“Was Constance!Two there too?” Leona asks.
Alyssa waits a moment to respond. “She was Meliora. Or rather, she was impersonating her. Dalton thinks she started to try to break through just after you, but luckily the Superintendent’s alt stopped it.”
“So what do we need the Gyroscope for?” Mateo asks.
“I think he stopped it by distracting her. She ends up trying anyway. The good thing is that the portal she sent you through closed up, so she missed the only opportunity she had...unless you force me to take the barrier down.”
“It has to come down eventually,” Leona points out. “Certain things have to happen. This world is ending.”
“Dalton is aware, and has accounted for that. He will let Constance!Two in at the right time, on the right day, to destroy her before she can do any damage. That time is not now. That day is not today. You just have to trust us.”
“We can do that,” Leona begins, “but Dalton has to give us two things in return.”
“I’ll talk to him about Angela and the immortality waters.”
“You shouldn’t have to,” Leona says. “We want to talk to him ourselves.”
“I’ll try, but he hasn’t been very inviting with me. Our relationship is one-way.”
“I see that. He took your fancy cane back.”
“He didn’t take it back. I lost it,” Alyssa admits.
“Lost it where? How?”
“What’s the second thing?” Alyssa asks, avoiding the question.
“We want you back,” Mateo says. “No more short emails. You stay with us.”

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