Friday, May 26, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 23, 2399

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Vearden has done his best to stay out of all the time travel stuff, just like Arcadia wanted. It’s triggering for her, and he doesn’t like it all that much anymore either. He has occasionally done the team a favor, though, because they’re still friends, and he wants them to be okay. It’s mostly been research, but there have been requests that were a little more involved. He’s not asked for anything from them in return, though, so maybe they owe him. Hopefully they won’t make him resort to pointing that out. Hopefully Leona just does as he asks.
“You want me to make her look like herself?” Leona echoes.
“Can you do it?”
“Yeah, an illusion is an illusion, whether it’s superimposed over me, or someone else. Just give me a second.” Leona thinks back to how she remembers Arcadia. It’s been a long time since she’s seen that face, but she can still picture it pretty well. And anyway, Alyssa’s ability is so powerful that she doesn’t have to recall every single detail. It’s in her brain somewhere, and Arcadia herself is somewhere in time and space, and that’s really all that matters. She’s not magically generating a hologram that looks like someone else. She’s stealing light from somewhere else. “There.” She opens her eyes to see her success. There Arcadia is, lying on the bed before her. She’s still in a coma, but she looks like her old self again.
“Great, thanks,” Vearden says, admiring the real look of the love of his life. “You can go now.”
“Don’t you want to look upon her a little longer?”
“What do you mean? Are you saying this is gonna wear off?”
“It’s going to disappear as soon as I leave,” Leona explains. “I’m sorry, I thought you realized that.”
He stares blankly into space, and sits down. “No, I didn’t.”
“I’m sorry,” she repeats. “I would hold it here permanently if I could, but I can’t figure it out. I know that other illusionists have that power, but if Alyssa’s old body did, I’ve yet to learn it. We never asked her to try it when she was using it.”
“What about her new body?” Vearden goes on. “Would she be able to do it now?”
“She may,” Leona answers as she’s taking out her phone. “There’s still a lot she doesn’t tell us, and she may have just not thought to mention it.” She waits for the phone. “Aly? Can you teleport here? I need to...”
Alyssa appears before Leona can even finish her sentence. “Is everything okay?” She’s looking at Arcadia anxiously.
“It’s all right,” Vearden answers, realizing that she thinks this is a medical issue. “I was just hoping that you could make that permanent.”
“Yeah, of course, I can. Leona, could you...”
“Oh, okay.” Leona drops her illusion so Alyssa can make her own. She does it a lot faster, and doesn’t struggle with it at all.
“When you leave, she’s going to stay like that, right?” Vearden asks.
“Absolutely. I’m the only one who can get rid of it. If she wakes up, and wants to look like the other Leona again, she’ll need me. And if I die before she can do that, she’ll be stuck like this forever. So if you want to see what it’s like to be married to a human-sized mouse, or a monster truck, now’s your chance.”
“Why? Are you going to die?” Leona asks her.
“I...don’t want to be married to a mouse in a monster truck,” Vearden says as he’s admiring his love some more.
“That’s not what I said.”
“Whatever.” He stands there for another minute before looking up at them. “Thank you. Now you can go.”
“Come on, I’ll take you back to New York.” Alyssa offers a hand.
“I have a rental car. The reason I’m in Kansas City is because I had business to attend to in the lab, and I wanted to visit my friends.”
“That’s okay,” Vearden counters. “She can’t talk, and I don’t want to anymore.”
The two of them nod and respectfully leave through the door. Vearden sits down next to Arcadia. He doesn’t want to be married to a mouse, but he would like the chance to marry her. If she would just wake up, maybe he would be able to ask. They actually did discuss it before this happened. These were just preliminary talks; nothing concrete, but he’s confident that it would have ended up in a proposal. Now who knows how she’ll feel when she finally awakens? She may be in a weird sort of limbo dimension between life and death right now, having adventures with a stranger, and falling love with them instead. Vearden falls asleep thinking of a future that may never come to pass.
He doesn’t wake back up until it’s dark so when he tries to stand, and slips on the floor, he can’t see what it is. He tries to make his eyes adjust to the moonlight, but it’s not enough. “Hey, thistle, turn on the lights.” His eyes don’t even have to readjust completely before he can see what it is. Blood. Arcadia is bleeding. He reaches over and slams on the big mauve button. The alarm goes off. An army of nurses rush into the room. “She’s bleeding all over the floor! Something’s wrong.”
The nurses stop and stare.
“It’s her. This is what she’s supposed to look like.”
Two of the nurses start examining her while another checks the equipment. The fourth doesn’t move. “How did you make her look like that?” she asks him.
“It didn’t cause this,” he promises. “It’s a sophisticated hologram...just light.”
“Are you sure?”
“I guess not.”
“Who do you need to call?” she questions.
Vearden fumbles around, looking for his phone. It’s almost dead, but it has enough power for one call. “Leona? Get back here. Now.”
Five seconds later, Leona and Alyssa appear in the corner. “What’s wrong?”
“Take down the illusion,” Vearden demands. “It’s hurting her.”
“Impossible,” Alyssa insists, but still, she waves her arm, and drops the illusion. She looks like Leona again.
The real Leona takes Vearden by the upper arms. “Come on. Let them work.”
“Where’s the doctor?” he asks the head nurse.
“He’s coming,” she replies.
“I can bring him here faster,” Alyssa volunteers. “Where is he?”
“He’s coming,” the nurse repeats.
Dr. Cenric Best comes in right after that, and begins his own examination. He’s being frustratingly quiet about it. He looks very concerned, though. He’s moving his stethoscope around Arcadia’s belly. He’s moving it too much.
“What is it? Can you not find a heartbeat?” Vearden is on the verge of tears.
Now Dr. is just feeling around on Arcadia’s belly. “Nurse, get the echouterograph.”
“What is it? What’s wrong!”
Dr. Best pivots to face Vearden. “I don’t want you to worry. We don’t know what this is yet. I need to do one more test, and then I’ll try to explain it, okay? At this point, I’ll admit that I’m worried about the baby, but I’m not worried about Miss Preston. She’s exhibiting no signs of distress. The blood and amniotic fluid leakage is alarming, but there could be any number of benign causes that I’m not ruling out just yet.” He washes his hands, and then begins the ultrasound.
While that’s going on, Leona makes Vearden sit down, and try to relax. His agitation isn’t helping the situation. These people know what they’re doing. At least they do to an extent. Dr. Best keeps looking over at Vearden and the other three time travelers. He seems rather confused by what he’s seeing on the screen.
“I need an update, Doctor,” Vearden urges.
“Nurse, can you hold the wand in place?”
“Yes, Doctor.”
Dr. Best stands up, and removes his gloves. He stands in front of the travelers like a PhD candidate at the beginning of his presentation for the dissertation committee. “I’m going to ask you a few questions, and I want you to answer them in order, so I can get an idea of what’s going on here. Is that okay?”
“Go ahead,” Vearden replies, trying to be patient.
He points to Leona. “She’s not your twin sister, correct?”
“Correct. She’s in the body of my alternate self. The other Leona went through a traumatic experience in her twenties. Someone went back in time and changed it for her. Normally that would erase her from the timestream, and I would replace her, but she was somehow rescued by your world. Then Arcadia’s mind was placed in her body.”
“Okay, that tracks with what I’ve learned of you people. And what, uh...what powers do you have?”
“Well, right now I can create illusions by stealing photons of light from elsewhere in time and space.”
“And can she do that too?” Dr. Best points over at Arcadia.
“No. She doesn’t have any powers.”
He’s confused.
“But she had a pattern,” Leona amends. “She would jump forward in time. At the end of every day, at midnight, she would skip over a whole year. I was like that too.”
“That might explain it,” Dr. Best thinks.
“Explain what?”
“Your baby is gone. It wasn’t born, it wasn’t taken out by a laparysterotomy.” He tries to show them what he’s talking about on the monitor. “It’s just disappeared. Could it have...gone into the future?”
Leona looks nervously at Vearden, but he doesn’t look back. He doesn’t speak.
“Vearden?” Alyssa asks, waving his hand in front of his face.
Dr. Best checks his pupils with a pen light. “I think it’s psychological shock.”
Psychological shock. Sounds about right. His mind probably just can’t figure out what it’s supposed to feel about this. Obviously it feels bad, but it’s feeling all of the bad feelings all at once, and people aren’t built for that. He’s certainly not. “Fuck you all.”

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