Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 20, 2044

Click here for the 2015 table of contents.

As Mateo was handing Reaver his wingsuit, Leona began to let down a pilot ladder. But Reaver loudly whispered up to her, “no! We can’t leave from this side.”
“What are you talking about?” Mateo whisper-yelled back. “This is the plan.”
“I’ve already done all this once, remember?” he asked. “Both of you die, and I get caught.”
“Well, what would you suggest?” Leona asked from the wall.
“The other side has better wind.”
“You expect me to run all the way over there?”
“It’s our only chance,” Reaver insisted.
Leona growled. “Fine! Hurry up!” She bolted along the wall, and carefully made the turn towards the opposite corner.
“Come on, you son of a bitch,” Mateo ordered. He and his enemy, Horace Reaver sprinted across the lawn, staying as low and inconspicuous as possible.
About halfway there, they ran into Gilbert Boyce, the man who Mateo had tricked into thinking that he was there to break him out last year; their pledge. “You,” he said to them in disgust. “So you were trying to break him out. Do you know what you did to me? I spent eleven months in Dismal Key Penitentiary because of you. It’s in a swamp! If you hadn’t shown up, I would have been released from this place by now.”
“Get the hell out of our way, Gilbert.” Reaver spat.
Gilbert prepared to yell as loud as he could, “they’re breakin’ ou—!”
Mateo covered Gilbert’s mouth with his gloved hand. “I am extremely sorry for what I did to you last year. You were our best shot at making this happen, and I know you didn’t deserve it. I read your file, and if you’ve done your time, then you’ve done your time. Come with us now.”
“Are you serious?” Reaver asked. “He’ll slow us down.”
Mateo sighed angrily. “This is your second day, right?”
“Yes.”
“So you’re stuck with these decisions. I want to find the powers that be as much as the next guy, but I have half a mind to cut my losses and just kill you right now. You have less leverage than you think.”
“We only have three suits,” Reaver argued. “Those things don’t handle two people.”
Mateo pulled an extra suit out of his bag. “You were saying?” He handed it to Gilbert who was still bitter about last year, but becoming humbled and grateful. “Let’s go. She’s waiting for us.”
Leona had already dropped the pilot ladder, and was likely working on disabling the gun turrets. The two prisoners climbed up after Mateo, and then listened as he gave them instructions. “After you jump, pull the string on your left. It will electrically charge your wingsuit so that it expands on its own. If you don’t pull it, you’ll have to hold your arms up the whole time, and we won’t make it far enough, because you’ll get tired. You can resist the charge with enough force, and it will snap back into place once you relieve some pressure, but it will stay open if you’re just resting normally. We have no real obligation to either of you. If you fall behind, you’re left behind. Nobody’s going to be pulling their arms to their chest and losing altitude just so you can catch up. Understood?”
“Yes,” they replied in unison.
“The string on your right is for a little parachute,” Mateo continued. “You’ll fly behind us, and once we release our chutes, you release yours. If you don’t, you’ll come in too fast, and die. Boyce, I don’t want you to die. Reaver, I do want you dead, so that choice is all on you, buddy.”
“I’ve done this before,” Reaver said, referring to the first time he experienced this day, in an alternate timeline.
“Yeah, and how did that work out for ya?”
“Could have been better.”
“Do your best not to screw it up this time.” He looked down at Leona who had slid down the curved wall to work on the gun turrets. “Honey? How are we lookin’?”
“Nice timing,” she said back. “I’m done.”
“We’re ready,” he replied.
They slid down to the outer ledge to stand next to her before putting on their goggles. “Were I you,” she said to Mateo, now code for I love you.
“Were I you.” He took a beat. “Let’s go.” He jumped off and spread his wings. His body dropped down more than he thought it would, but he spread his legs out a little and settled into a nice glide. The two of them were wearing special goggles with little computer screens in them that displayed a map and other information like distance, altitude, and speed. These also kept them in contact with Harrison so that he could move into position depending on how far they got. This was not scary like the skydiving. This was blissful. It felt more like flying, and less like falling, even though he could still tell that he was constantly growing closer to the ground.
Twenty meters, two hundred meters, five hundred meters, a kilometer. They kept soaring with no problems. He could see Leona next to him at all times as they battled each other for first place. He occasionally looked behind to make sure his two wards were still close enough to them. His goggle readings indicated that they were falling downwards at a slightly higher rate, and were therefore widening the gap between them. Nevertheless, Leona assured him that they would all four break the two kilometer range, and that they wouldn’t land too far from each other.
Two kilometers. Yes. He looked over to Leona who shook her head. They would still be able to fly farther, so they pressed on. At around twenty-five hundred meters, she spoke through her communications device. “We could get farther before reaching our lower limit, but the others would be too low. It’s time to pull.”
“Got it,” Mateo said. “Count us down.”
“Five, four, three, two, one.” They pulled their strings simultaneously.
Mateo watched as Leona’s parachute opened and drew her upwards and behind him, or rather he continued to fall forwards. “Dammit,” he said out loud. He tried his string several more times, but nothing. It was faulty. He was going to die. But for real this time.
Leona screamed to him, “pull your string! Pull your string!”
“It’s broken!”
“Mateo! No!” she cried. “Harrison, you have to meet us and scoop Mateo up! His parachute won’t open!”
That would never work,” Harrison explained. “He’s going too fast. He would be safer taking his chances with the ground.”
Mateo spread his wings once more, hoping to find water, or fall at a horizontal enough angle to hold back his death. But then a figure flew up and grabbed him.
Horace Reaver, the man who had tried to kill him on multiple occasions, twisted around so that he was on top. “Hold on tight!” he screamed. Once Mateo had done what he was told, Reaver pulled his own string and released his parachute. They drifted to the ground slower than before, but still at a pretty good clip since they had technically passed the lower limit. They crashed into the earth and rolled over one another several times before finally coming to a stop.
The two enemies crawled away from each other and panted heavily until they could catch their breaths. “I can’t really complain, but...” he started to say.
“I saved your life out of instinct. For a second there, I forgot how much I hated you. And that was enough to keep you alive. I promise that it will not happen again.”
“You promised to stop trying to kill me.”
“Yes, but if your life is ever in danger, never again will I make an effort to save it.”
Mateo stood up and nodded with understanding. “Yes. That makes sense.”
Leona ran up to Mateo and jumped in his arms like a gorgeous little cliché. “I’m pissed at you for scaring me like that.”
“I would hope so,” he said.
Harrison landed his aircraft and opened the hatch. “They know about the escape. We have to go.”
The four of them climbed in and took off. Leona grabbed her tablet and sent the instructions to their dummy airplane. It automatically rose into the air from a few hundred meters away and flew off in a different direction. “It’s easier to spot,” she told them. “Once they detect it, they won’t be looking for another one. By the time they catch it and bust it open—or better yet, shoot it down—we’ll be long gone.”
“That’s genius,” Reaver said. “You’re just how I remember.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Never mind.”
Harrison had programmed the plane to take them to Brazil, but Reaver had a safehouse in Panama, so the four of them jumped out with a new set of parachutes. They left the plane to Gilbert to go wherever he wanted, suggesting he jump out sometime before that. The authorities would likely find it at some point, and they didn’t want to be in the same country when that happened, even though Mateo and Leona would be safe after the jump to the future. Reaver said that he would meet them there in one year’s time, but they knew they couldn’t trust him. He would have plenty of time to turn the house into a prison like before in Mission Hills. Ten minutes before midnight, they burst out of the house and ran into the jungle so that he wouldn’t know exactly where they would land in 2045. It didn’t work.

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