Thursday, June 8, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 5, 2399

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Mateo’s eyelids feel as heavy as an elephant. They tug themselves down so hard, they take the rest of his head with them. He barely keeps himself from falling flat on his face. It’s a symptom of his pattern, which he has had since he was first starting out, and it even continued on through his multiple deaths, and body transferences. It hasn’t happened since shortly after his arrival in the Third Rail, and only then when he happened to be close to a point of strong temporal energy, such as the parking lot in Crown Center where they first came through.
“Whoa, what was that?” Labhrás asks. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, something’s different. What year is it?”
“It’s 2399, I would assume. Should it not be?”
Mateo takes out his communicator and tries to contact Leona in the Third Rail, but no one answers. The line’s completely dead on their end, which is not a good sign. Tarboda answers when he calls the Parallel, and Winona when he reaches out to the Fifth Division. Aldona in the Fourth Quadrant confirms what the first two said, which is that it’s April 5, 2399 for everyone. Whatever he felt, it was limited to him, which isn’t surprising. He’s the only remaining member of the OG team still accounted for. Marie and Angela are still traveling at relativistic speeds, and they still don’t know where Olmpia went. Ramses is dead, and now Leona is missing. He’s all alone.
The time zones are a little weird, but the Key Protectors generally try to stay on the same schedule as each other, so everyone goes to sleep afterwards. Mateo can’t do it, though. He’s too worried about Leona, and everyone else in the Third Rail. What happened? Why can’t he reach them? And why has she not shown up to tell him that everything is okay? She checks in with everybody physically at least once a day, and comes to the main sequence a few times, because this is where her husband is.
Things begin to happen late the next morning. Winona calls back first to announce that she, Hamilton, and Mithridates are no longer alone. Summit Ebora and Trina McIver suddenly showed up. They’ve been preparing to protect the Key all this time, and now it’s their chance to prove that they can do it.
No, you’re not protecting the Keys.” Trina has forced herself into frame.
“Hi, Trina. You’re older now,” Mateo says.
“It happens. There seems to be some confusion. You’re protecting the Keyholders. The Keys won’t be anywhere near these realities. That’s the whole point.
“Who’s protecting the Keys, then?” Mateo asks.
Don’t you worry about that. It’s not your issue.
“I’m not worried about it, just curious,” Mateo admits. “What I’m worried about is my wife. Do you know where she is?”
Trina sighs. “Yes. She’s fine. She’ll be back.” She’s reluctant to elaborate when he asks her to. “She’ the future.
“How far in the future?” Mateo presses.
I’m sorry, I can’t say any more than that. Goodbye.
“Wait!” Mateo tries to stop her, but she’s gone. If she heard him, she doesn’t care. She hangs up, and doesn’t answer when he tries to call her back. She may be ignoring him deliberately, or she’s in the middle of another call. Aldona didn’t seem to include call-waiting or voicemail on these things.
One by one, the other parallel realities call in to let everyone know that the Keys and Keyholders are here. At some point, the Keys will leave, but they won’t say how they’re going to accomplish that. If Leona won’t be back in the timestream until later, they must have some other way of traveling to the Sixth Key. Trina was the one who gave Leona The Helm of Reality, so they could easily have another one just like it. Once everyone’s spoken their piece, Mateo waits a good hour, and then tries to call Trina back, but she won’t come to the phone. Hopefully she’s trying to respect Leona’s Rules for Time Travel, and is not just being an asshole.
Nothing else interesting happens for the rest of the day. No one shows up for them, which is a bad sign. If the whole Third Rail is missing, they could be in really big trouble. A part of him hopes that he’ll jump to the future come midnight central. No, that could be bad. If Leona comes back after, say, two months, they’ll end up on different patterns. He doesn’t know what to do but stress about it. Labhrás tries to take his mind off of it with a new game of RPS-101 Plus, but it’s not working. Is this what it feels like for Leona every time he’s died or disappeared, and she’s the one who doesn’t know whether she’ll ever see him again? He must say, he does not care for this.
Fifteen minutes before midnight, he starts to get a weird vibe, like maybe he will actually jump to the future, as if the whole Omega Gyroscope thing were over. It couldn’t be, could it? Two people suddenly appear before them, one of them being Summit Ebora, and based on context clues, Mateo guesses the other to be his mother, Iris Blume. “I was not told that you would be here,” Mateo says as Summit is checking the perimeter for threats. “It’s nice to meet you, though.”
Iris shakes his hand. “Likewise.”
“The plan was kept secret intentionally, to prevent interference. We need your help, and you’re the only person in five realities who can do it.”
“Shoot,” Mateo offers.
“Can we borrow your communicator?” she goes on.
“We’re clear,” Summit informs his mother.
Iris takes the device, and selects a recipient. “Bring the rest over,” she instructs.
Got it, boss.” That sounded like Alyssa. “Red rover, red rover, send the Helm of Reality on over.” Yeah, it’s definitely Alyssa.
Iris widens her arms, the communicator in one hand, and the second Helm of Reality in the other. She smashes them together. A flash of light shoots out from the small blast, and when she’s done, only the communicator is left.
“Neat trick,” Mateo says.
Seconds later, Alyssa appears with Vearden and Arcadia, holding little baby Cheyenne in her arms. Neither of them are surprised to be there. Alyssa disappears, and returns quickly with someone who looks a little bit like Vearden, so it must be his father, Ansel. She leaves again to retrieve Trina, and then another man that Mateo doesn’t recognize. He gives Iris a kiss, so it must be her husband, Rino. None of the protectors is here, except for Mateo and Labhrás—or maybe not. Where’s Labhrás?
“Where’s Labhrás?” Mateo asks.
“He’s not a part of this,” Iris answers. “Now give me your arm.” She takes blood from him to fill several vials. Once one is full, her son takes it, and begins to inject it in one of the others, even little Chey-Chey. When midnight central hits, they all jump to the future together, except for Alyssa. It’s now the year 2400, a.k.a. The Edge.

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