Saturday, December 26, 2015

Reavers Wobble: Resignation (Part V)

Click here for the previous installment...

That was it for Horace Reaver. He had spent the better part of two decades, working to make the world a better place, then he went back in time and screwed it all up. He had decided to be completely selfish this time around. He landed on the afternoon that he was supposed to be meeting his future wife at a hospital. He wasn’t sick from dinner’s food poisoning this time, though, so his mother wouldn’t take him. About ten minutes away from his destination via bicycle, he just about finished the bottle of ipecac he had stolen from the medicine cabinet. When he arrived in the waiting room, he didn’t even bother checking in. He sat down where he was supposed to, but his future wife, Leona was already talking with him. It was Mateo, the man who had been responsible for her death in the alternate timeline. It was everything he could do to stop himself from strangling his enemy right there. Instead, he waited patiently and hoped he would soon leave. Each time Leona would threw up, Horace would throw up as well; a sort of weird way to get her attention, but it didn’t work. Nothing did. Her father came round just as Mateo was leaving, and they were soon called into the back to pump her stomach.
He resolved to do a better job once the day restarted, but when he woke up, it was tomorrow. He hadn’t rewound the day to try things over. He never really knew for sure that this was true, but he suspected that the reason he didn’t restart that particular day was because he hadn’t experienced it all the way through. He would have needed to go through it once before he could go try it again. But the real reason was that this was part of his punishment. His daughter, Melly had mentioned that there would be consequences for his second chance since it broke his time travel pattern. But Reaver was still grateful for having been giving the second chance. Even though most things didn’t turn out as he had hoped, Leona was still alive. He had succeeded in that, if nothing else. And she appeared to be happy with Mateo; happier than she ever seemed in the alternate timeline when she was with Horace.
In the end, after all his struggles, was this the best possible outcome? Despite his personal problems, his company had actually done some good for the world. It had pushed the boundaries of technology, and forced the population to accept progress at a faster rate than predicted. The company did eventually fall apart, but it had sprung a healthy dose of competition from other companies, and they were still standing. They were carrying on the legacy he now wished he would have been trying to accomplish. Success was always just a means to an end; a way to secure his livelihood so that Leona would have something to go towards, away from Mateo. But that was a bad reason. He realized this now. It took him two years of reflection in his special salmon prison cube, but he had finally learned his lesson. Hopefully, that would count for something...in the next life.
He was given special permission to attend his old friend, Daria’s funeral in the past. A salmon was dispatched to take him back in time for a short trip, along with all five of his security guards. A few hours after returning to 2055, however, the two guards on shift disappeared suddenly. “Hello?” Horace called out.
“Hello,” came the reply. But it wasn’t from the outside of the prison cube. It was right in there with him. Horace turned around to find a man he did not recognize. He had placed a large knife on the kitchen counter, along with some other small machine, and he appeared to be making himself a sandwich.
“Could I ask your name?” Horace asked genuinely politely.
The man signed and placed his hand on the handle of his knife, almost like it was an accident. “The other choosers like to give their little salmon nicknames, but they don’t have their own. In fact, if they had it their way, they wouldn’t have names at all. They would find it more mysterious and godlike.” He threw a cluster of pepperoni into his mouth and continued talking with his mouth full, “but I actually like these nicknames. It’s given me a chance to redefine myself. I am...The Cleanser.”
“What do you do, Cleanser?” Horace asked. “You clean up after people’s messes?”
He laughed as he was putting the final touches on his sandwich. “It’s my job to clean up the whole mess,” he clarified.
“What does that mean?”
“It means that killing you is not going to serve much of a purpose on its own but it’s an easy job, and we all have to start small, don’t we? After I kill you and The Guards, I’m going to go after The Kingmaker.” He smashed the top slice of bread down with his fist, like a crazy person. “Then I’ll go after The Freelancers, The Shapers, The Rovers, and so on. After I’m finished with all the salmon,” he stopped to take a bite, “I can finally make my way to The Choosing Ones.”
“You’re not going to hurt my daughter.”
“I am,” he disagreed. “I’ll kill her. It may take me a few tries, but I’ll figure it out. She’s the one who did this to me, so I have some extra animosity towards her.”
“They’ll never let you kill all those people—who is the Kingmaker? The choosing ones are too powerful.”
He laughed, letting crumbs tumble out of his mouth. “They would be powerful, if they agreed to work with each other. But as it stands, they’re no better than me. I can take them, as long as I bide my time, and go after them one by one.”
“Why are you telling me all this?” Horace asked. “I mean, if you’re going to kill me anyway. Especially since I’ll just go back in time and you’ll have to do it again.”
The Cleanser shrugged. “First of all, you won’t. When I kill you, it’s done; I break your pattern. You don’t go back. Secondly, I’m telling you because I don’t get to talk very often. Mine is a very lonely existence. I do it only because time travel is wrong, and it’s my responsibility to put a stop to it.”
This time, Horace shrugged. “No, it isn’t.”
“Pardon?”
“Whatever your reasons, whatever you’ve been through that makes you think you have to do all this, you don’t. Trust me, I’ve been there. Your plan is stupid. It’ll never work. You’ll fail. You’ll be destroyed. The choosing ones might let you kill one or two salmon. Hell, they might even let you take a whole basketball team, but you definitely won’t get far enough to take out the choosing ones themselves. That would be ridiculous. I don’t care how smart you think you are; how disorganized they are; or how much practice you get, they’ll win. They always win.”
“You sound pretty confident for a dead man.”
Horace moved closer menacingly. “I have been alive for one hundred and forty-six years. I may be a slow learner, but I have figured out a few things along the way. And I’m resigned to my own death. It’s probably time.” He moved a little closer. “You want my advice. That is not a question.”
The Cleanser set his sandwich half on the plate and brushed his palms together. “I’m listening.”
“I still don’t know who the Kingmaker is, but I know who the Rovers are. Mateo and Leona are incredibly strong. She’s smart, and he’s a fucking survivor. If you want to continue with your plans of destroying the salmon world, then waiting to get rid of them is your dumbest move. Better go after them first, because if they catch wind of your existence...you’re already done.”
He breathed in through his nose and looked at Horace with curiosity. “I shall take that under advisement.”
Horace smiled sinisterly. “Good. Now pick up that knife and get on with it.”
The Cleanser laughed once with his mouth closed and lifted his knife. But he didn’t stab Horace with it. He turned the blade up and twisted the bottom, letting a small object fall out of the handle. “Do you recognize this?”
“Is that the explosive device I fruitlessly sent to Mateo in the hopes of killing him?”
He held it up and examined it like he was giving an appraisal of a diamond. “The technology is interesting. It’s pretty archaic, but it can reach out to other machines and cause them to overheat. The device itself doesn’t have to explode.”
“That’s why I chose it.”
He snapped his fingers into a fist and squeezed the device tightly, as if scared a bird would swoop down and steal it. “This is not the one you sent to the future. That one is on its journey and will, as you say, fail to complete its mission. I have no interest in extracting that from time. I made another one.” He lowered his fist and inserted the device into the machine. “I just thought it would be ironic to kill you the way you have going to tried to kill your enemy in 3118.”
“That makes sense.” Horace nodded. “I like it.”
“I thought you might.” He looked around the prison cube and settled on Horace’s pillow. He picked it up and looked at Horace one more time. “I need this.”
“Whatever.”
He seemed to be drawing energy from the pillow as he held it. Then he disappeared in a blink. The pillow fell to the floor. All five guards were pulled back, but inside of the cube, instead of outside where they belonged. They were frightened and confused. Guard Number Two drew his sidearm.
Horace reached out his hands and tried to usher them as far from the device as he could, but they weren’t having it. “It’s a bomb!” Not that it mattered. The explosion would likely consume the entire cube, and if that didn’t kill them, the lack of oxygen eventually would. Everything the Cleanser was trying for was, so far, going according to plan. With his last thought, Horace Reaver hoped that Mateo Matic would win the next battle too.

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