Monday, May 29, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 26, 2399

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Leona is grateful for the delay. It gave her the time she needed to practice Alyssa’s illusion power. As a bonus, with their relationship with her patched, Alyssa herself was able to teach her what she needed to know. It’s crazy that this is the same young woman they met less than a year ago. She was so ignorant, but so patient and welcoming, and now it feels like she gets this stuff better than they do. How much did Dalton tell her?
The sanctuary is packed. No, they don’t call it that. It’s just the auditorium. This religion thinks it’s different than the others, as if using more generic terminology somehow makes it less demanding of blind devotion. But they’re all the same. This, Mormonism, Christianity, Scientology. The details in their stories are irrelevant and interchangeable. Any wisdom or truth in their claims are overshadowed by their insistence that this is the only path to righteousness. That’s why Leona is choosing to reveal herself to this audience. While anyone will be able to log on and watch, this audience here is going to see what she can do in person, and they will instantaneously switch loyalties. Imani Pettis doesn’t think that’s going to happen. She thinks it will only strengthen their faith in Dalton. That’s just because she’s been too close to it for too long. These people are here because they don’t think for themselves. It’s not that they can’t; it’s that they don’t want to. Leona is going to wean them off of that mentality, but first, she needs their attention.
She’s sitting on the stage, watching the church leaders go over whatever garbage they’re trying to convince of the congregation. This is an introductory meeting house, so there is a lot they don’t know about the faith yet. Most of the agenda involves simply encouraging them to stick around and find out, rather than actually telling them something that helps them live better lives. Anyway, who is Leona to judge their methods? It obviously works. It’s probably not doing much today, though. Everyone knows that Leona is here, and that she’s here to do something big. Some in the audience may have no intention of converting to Daltomism. They just want to watch the big show from up close. A show is what they’ll get.
Now it’s her turn. She swallows her stage fright, and stands when Imani introduces her as the current leader of the new nation of Arvazna. “Thank you, Madam Pettis.” She turns towards the audience. “As she told you, I’m Leona Matic. What she didn’t tell you is that from another world. I mean that literally,” she adds through the muted whispers of the doubters. “We call it the main sequence. Your world is the Third Rail. Over the next week or so, I’m going to be getting deeper into the secret truth, with the help of my new publicist team.” She smiles, and gestures towards two other people sitting downstage. “But I wanted to give you all a taste of it first, because I want you to understand something. Dalton a man.” Apparently, he’s never actually gone by his last name here, but they seem to understand who she means. “He is a man of immense power, but he is not a god. I should know...we were once friends. I honestly don’t know what happened between us. A lot of time has passed since we last saw each other. More for him than for me, I imagine.
“I know that this is hard for you to believe, especially those in the smaller congregations, who are watching from your own meeting houses. Some may have already turned off the feed, and I suppose I won’t be talking to you. I’ll be talking to the rest of you, who are open-minded, thoughtful, and interested in learning the truth. Now. Speaking of those watching from home, and other places, what you see here today is real. You may assume it to be nothing more than camera trickery, but I assure you that these holograms are powered by me, and me alone. What I’m doing is reaching across space and time, even to other realities. I’m copying photons of light from these places, and displaying them before you. The images I’ll be showing you really exist, somewhere, somewhen. Dalton Hawk has a different ability. He can conjure physical objects from these other realities that I mentioned. Again, it’s not that he is not powerful, but be wary of the tales the Word of Dalton tells you. They are not all true. He is trying to get you to believe in something, and he figured that something may as well be him. I’m just trying to show you the truth.”
That said, Leona turns herself into the accepted likeness of Dalton. The audience’s interest is piqued, but a sophisticated enough holograph machine could project such an image. This is why, after showing them a few more images, she recruits some help. Alyssa appears out of nowhere, and takes hold of Leona. She transports them both to a meeting house in New Orleans. This was part of the schedule, so the feed automatically switches to this new stage. She releases a few new holograms: of a giraffe, of a whale, and of the moon. Each time, she turns herself into a different celebrity that anyone from the Third Rail would recognize. She then hops off the stage, and starts shaking people’s hands. All of this could be fake unless tons of people can corroborate that they made physical contact with an individual. Alyssa teleports them again, this time to a meeting house in Vancouver. They repeat the bit all over the continent, and then all over the world.
The last location they go to is the largest meeting house in Kansas City. It’s the one where Heath started when he was a child. The crowd is cheering, ecstatic that their church was chosen to become part of the big show. They’re starting to believe too. It has to be real. It has to. After she’s done shaking hands, Leona climbs back on stage, and prepares to finish her speech from here. The back doors open suddenly, loudly like in a movie. Their ploy worked. She was confident that it would, but she never thought that Dalton would show up this quickly. They all assumed he would try to reach out to them covertly afterwards. But here Dalton is, walking down the aisle in his billowy robes.
He steps onto stage, and approaches her. “You got my attention.”
She tries to hand him her microphone. “Care to speak to your congregation?”
Dalton looks out over the audience, and into the main camera. “Did you notice I don’t have my cane?”
“Yes, Alyssa said she lost it.”
Dalton eyes Alyssa, who’s remained downstage and quiet this whole time, until it’s her cue to transport them to a new location. She’s scared of him. “Yes,” he confirms. “That seems to have led you to believe that I have now been stripped of my power.”
“Well, we know you have some level of mastery over the Omega Gyroscope too.”
He nods. “This is true. but that’s not my power. This is.” He raises his hand.
“Oh, shit.” Leona doesn’t know what’s going to happen, but it won’t be good.
“I am...inevitable.” Dalton snaps his fingers, and everyone in the auditorium disappears, except for him, Leona, and Alyssa. A bunch of new people are here now, though. Some of their friends have come, but so have the resurrected people who are supposed to be locked away in the black site. Heath and Vearden are notably absent. It’s nighttime. “I just undid everything.”

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