Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 27, 2051


Mateo pulled his phone back out of his pocket. “I should be able to track her.” But he couldn’t. The phone had no idea where Leona was.
“I’m sure Reaver has some kind of signal jammer,” Gilbert suggested.
Mateo sighed, trying simultaneously to concentrate, and to not hyperventilate.
“Call Theo.”
Mateo realized that this was the right next step, but before he had a chance to select Theo’s phone number, it rang as Leona’s face popped up on the screen. “Leona,” he said, excited. “Tell me you’re okay.”
It’s me,” Reaver replied.
“What have you done with her?”
I’ve kept her alive. From what I gather, my plan to kill her and grab the attention of my daughter did not work, so I have no reason to hurt Leona now.
“Then bring her back, and we can talk about this.”
You...you want me to take her back to Antarctica? No. No thanks. My mother told me to put on a coat, but I refused to listen, like always. I will bring you to me, so that we remain under my terms.
“And how exactly am I supposed to get to wherever you are? Figured we’d swim?”
That would be lovely, but no. I don’t have time for that. I left an aircraft for you about twenty kilometers west of where we picked up Leona.
“Why did you take her but not me?”
There was a bit of a pause before Reaver replied, “I want you to work for it. I want you to want it.
“I’m going to kill you,” Mateo lied.
I look forward to seeing you try,” Reaver lied.
“What are we doing?” Gilbert asked after Mateo hung up the phone.
“We’re walking more.”
They spent the next several hours walking across the snow, stopping more often than they wanted to, but less often than they probably should have. Despite climate change, and advances in nanofibers, the trek was extremely difficult. They removed their clothing to find their extremities to be discolored and numb. The aircraft warmed them up quickly as it took them along a preprogrammed route.
“Is this what it’s like for you all the time?” Gilbert questioned. “Always cold, or running from rushing water, or trying to catch a criminal?”
“It wasn’t always like this, no,” Mateo started to explain. “In the beginning, it was a crap deal. I was jumping through time, missing all these important moments from the lives of my family and friends, but we were okay. Looking back, that is, we were okay. I never thought it would turn out like this. I assumed my adoptive parents would live full lives, that Leona would move on and forget about me, and that no one else would know about my condition, let alone try to kill me.”
“What are you going to do once this is all over?”
All over?” Mateo laughed. “You mean after I take care of Reaver, assuming I don’t die? If my aunt is any indication, I’m pretty much in this for life. If they ever retire me, I’ll be too old to do anything. One way or another, my chapter with Reaver will end in a few short days. No way the people who are doing this to us are gonna fire me that quickly.” He went back to massaging his feet. “Leona says we could be doing this for the next twenty or thirty thousand years. Who knows what the world will look like at that point? We could be fighting aliens and hyperintelligent mechacelestial beings for all I know. This is just what we do now. This is us.”
Gilbert let out a small laugh of his own, “heh. You could live long enough to safely go to Chernobyl.”
“Yeah, if I do retire, I’ll probably go there. From what I hear, you could too. Aren’t we only a half century away from immortality?”
Gilbert took a sip of his bourbon. “Give or take, that’s what we’re told. Here’s to the future,” he said, lifting his glass half-heartedly.
They sat in silence for a few minutes.
“Why am I not afraid?”
“The liquor, I would imagine.”
“No, that’s not it. I was just in a plane crash, but now I’m on another plane, and it feels perfectly natural. All the booze in the world couldn’t fix that so soon.”
“You jumped off a prison tower with very little warning. Presumably you jumped out of the plane after that, like we suggested.”
Gilbert nodded. “So I’m desensitized to danger.”
Mateo lifted his water. “Here’s to not worrying about death or other such trivial nonsense.”
“Seconded.”
“Are you ready? To help, I mean? You don’t really know us. I think you were a bonus from the powers that be, but they probably won’t hold you to this mission. You could jump out of this plane right now and forget the whole thing.”
Gilbert placed his drink down and made his face all serious. “I’m all in. Let’s get the son of a bitch.”
“Well then, thank you for all you’ve done. And thank you for whatever you’ll do in the future.” Mateo pulled out the metal rosary from his pocket and started fidgeting with it. He hadn’t thought about his faith much in the recent weeks, but something made him feel the need to reconnect with his past. “Do you believe in God?”
“I do not. I believe in people.”
“Yeah, I’m starting to come around to your side of the argument,” Mateo said. “Except instead of believing in them, I think I just don’t believe in them.”
“I understand the sentiment, but I think you oughta hold on to that shiny piece of jewelry for now.”
“Why is that?”
“The person who made that did so in a factory, probably outside of the U.S. They made so many of those things that they give nothing more than a thought to any given one. This metal thing is irrelevant to them. It has no value. It only becomes meaningful when someone buys it, or buys it for someone else. It doesn’t matter what it was designed to represent.” He took a beat for effect. “What does it represent for you?”
Mateo took a long time to answer, carefully considering what Gilbert was really asking. “It means I’m not alone.”
He smiled kindly. “Then you definitely don’t want to get rid of it. That feeling is more rare than you think.”
The two unlikely friends spoke a little bit over the course of the rest of the trip, but not about anything so deep. The plane automatically landed itself at Horace Reaver’s compound in the middle of nowhere Queensland, Australia. The air was almost hot enough to cook them right there when they stepped out, a dramatic shift from bitter Antarctica. Armed guards escorted them from the landing pad and into a cell.
After several hours of no food or water, Reaver came in smiling with a platter of cold cuts fit for a family reunion. It was not prison food, but very appropriate based on what they knew of their warden. “I hope you like turkey.”
“You have me now,” Mateo spoke in a rather gravelly voice from the dehydration. “As they say in action movies, let the girl go.”
“Oh, Leona’s fine.” Reaver set the platter on the floor and kicked it through the little opening. Several cheese cubes tumbled off into the dirt. “She’s staying in a six-star resort. She has air conditioning and television; the works. It’s Boyce who you should be worried about.”
“Why?” Gilbert asked.
“Because you’re irrelevant.” With that, Reaver took out a pistol and shot Gilbert in the forehead. “That’s a lesson. Nobody can help you, Mateo. You are alone. If you had come with anyone else, I would have shot them too. Your mother, Leona’s brother, that guy who’s always hanging around them; they would have all been in danger. Only you and Leona are safe.”
Mateo stared at Gilbert’s body, feeling that to be the only way to respect him. “Why am I still safe? I don’t know what you want with Leona, but I can hazard a guess. What doesn’t make any sense is why I’m still alive.”
“For the moment,” Reaver said, “you’re still alive so you can wonder why you’re still alive.”
After Reaver left, Mateo took out his rosary and prayed over Gilbert’s body. When he returned to the timestream in 2052, the body was still in the same place. It had decomposed quite a bit in all this heat. What was left of the platter of food was still there as well, rotten and disgusting. Thank God he had rediscovered his faith in time. Otherwise, he would have seriously considered forgoing the special prison cube, and just killing Reaver. It was time to end this. Click here for the next installment...

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