Monday, November 30, 2015

Microstory 201: Advisors and Advocates

Odalis and Isabelle Salomon were brother and sister, and Generation Two anomalies with complementary abilities. Odalis could look into people’s pasts, and Isabelle could look into their futures. At first, Isabelle stayed away from her ability, having the wisdom to understand that knowing the future can make things worse. After all the problems that came with the first couple of decades for Bellevue, the world was operating at a pretty decent level. Odalis began his career working for the Kansas City Police Department. He would look into a suspect’s past experiences, and know whether they were at fault for the crime or not. Legislation was passed, preventing him from divulging the details of his visions. His was a chiefly binary response. Was the suspect guilty of the crime in question, or innocent? Any unrelated crime—or any other event, for that matter—that Odalis witnessed was strictly to be kept secret out of respect for the civilian’s privacy. After some scientific progress, further legislation, and the right amount of money, Odalis was rendered obsolete. He continued to work for the police, but he no longer needed to. They had successfully replicated his ability with technology so that any certified Flashbacker was capable of performing this task. Within a year, this position was being filled in practically every district of the world. Feeling inadequate and unfulfilled, and after the prodding of some new associates, Odalis refocused his purpose. He and his new team realized that those not found guilty still had problems of their own. He formed a small organization designed to help these people. Sometimes they would catch criminals, sometimes prevent premeditated crimes, and sometimes they would just provide emotional and psychological support. Verner Holt was working as a psychiatrist at the time, and limited his practice to spend time working with Odalis’ clients. Around the same time that this was happening, Isabelle was having her own epiphany. She had just been given a job as a primary school librarian in a district primarily serving low income and troubled families. She began to use her ability as well, looking into the futures of her students to see whether they were headed in the right direction. She formed a little committee of sorts with other teachers. They went above and beyond their responsibility, and started to pay extra attention to the children who needed help most Odalis and Isabelle provided unexpected assistance for hundreds of people over the years, and they all went out to impact the lives of thousands more. They and their teams were instrumental in shaping the future of the planet, and creating the evidence that ultimately allowed it to be inducted into an interstellar cooperative.

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...

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Reavers Wobble: Because Reasons (Part I)


Horace Reaver’s mother burst through the screen door, hoping that her six-year-old son and his friend were just playing. She found what she had feared; little Dardan’s lifeless body lay motionless on the ground. “Oh my God. What happened?”
Horace simply shrugged. “I pushed him off jungle gym. I think he broke his neck.”
She started sobbing. “Do you understand what you’ve done?”
“I’m sorry,” Horace cried, unsure why she was so upset. “I didn’t know it would hurt him that bad. I’ll be more careful tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow‽” she screeched. “There is no tomorrow! He’s dead! People don’t come back from that! Don’t you understand?”
“I don’t mean tomorrow tomorrow,” Horace tried to explain. “I mean when I go back and do this day over again, I won’t kill him this time. He’ll be fine.”
She continued to cry. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“The day. It’ll restart. This is only the practice day, so we can learn from our mistakes, and then go back and try it again.”
Mrs. Reaver tried inhaling to get the snot back in her nose, and then she took her son by the shoulders. “Now you listen to me, mister. You can’t go back in time. We only get one chance in this life, and you just took that one chance from that little boy.” She stood up and composed herself. “Now I am your mother, and I’m going to protect you, but you have to do exactly what I say. Do you understand me?”
“No, I don’t. I’ll just go back in time and do things differently. I don’t understand why you’re acting like that’s impossible. I’ve been doing it my whole life, haven’t you?”
She slapped him across the face hard enough to drop him to the ground, right on top of Dardan’s body. “Shut up! You shut up right now! You can’t! Travel! Through time, you little shit!”
Horace deepened his eyes and wiped the blood off of his face. He took a stone as he was standing back up, bashing it against his mother’s knee. When she keeled over in pain, he swung back and then slammed it against her face. “If what you’re saying is true, mother...” He lifted the rock high over his head and prepared to drop it down. “...then you won’t have to worry about remembering this.”
That was the first Horace Reaver learned that people around him did not also have the ability to go back in time and relive each day once more.
Horace spent much of the next several years in boredom. Despite his best efforts, no one around him was even slightly aware that time reset at the end of every day. While everyone else had experienced ten years, he had lived through twenty, and there was nothing he could do to change that. He discovered a television series that ran before he was born about a medical student who shared his ability, and used it to prevent people from dying. He became obsessed with the show, and watched each episode several times. He wanted to understand every mistake the character made so that he would not do the same. But he also became convinced that, like the show’s main antagonist, he too would have some kind of counterpart; someone who could relive days, and would soon be working against him.
In order to garner the attention of this supposed enemy, Reaver grew violent. He went on murderous rampages; hosting public shootings, and blowing up buildings. He would always try to get caught and make sure his name was plastered all over the news. When the day restarted, he would be completely free. He carried out his plans across the entire country, and a few times in Canada, hoping that his counterpart would learn of the things he did only during Round One, and wonder why they did not happen the second time around. No such luck.
He moved out of his family’s home upon turning 18 and bought a new house. He didn’t feel the need to go to college, and he didn’t need a job. All he had to do was bet on sports competitions, and he would be right every time. One day, a high school girl who lived down the street offered him a lasagna her mother had made to welcome him to the neighborhood. The only thing was that this was the second time Horace was living through the day, and she had not offered the lasagna before. “Who are you?” he asked impolitely.
“My name is Ulinthra,” she answered impolitely.
He eyed her carefully, and was about to say more, but decided to wait. The next day, during Round One, he knocked on Ulinthra’s door and asked point blank if she was a time traveler.
“I am, yes,” she responded with less surprise than he would have thought.
“I’ve been looking for you.”
“Why?”
“Well,” he was not expecting her to not feel the same way. “Well, so I wouldn’t be alone anymore.”
She shrugged, “I like being alone.”
“You like knowing everything that’s going to happen in the future, and having no one to relate to?”
“I’m going to live twice as long as everyone I know. I spend entire days doing whatever I want, and not worrying about the consequences. Who wouldn’t want to have my life?”
“Well now we get to do those things together.”
“I don’t even know you.” She smirked. “Creeper.”
“I could kill you right now, and literally no one would ever know.”
“Unless we’re not the only two.”
“What do you know?”
She ignored the question. “Besides, it might be fun to die.”
“I’ve done it a few times. It gets old real quick. Like, immediately.”
Having finally found someone like him, and unable to contain himself, Horace shoved his face into hers to kiss her. Though everyone appeared to be human, the two of them were something different; another species, and it felt like she was the last woman on Earth. Ulinthra did not push him away, and he thought he had made the right choice, but then he felt a sting in his throat. His neck was wet, and he was having trouble breathing. He slowly pulled away from her, letting the knife slide out of his body.
Ulinthra’s father ran up from the hallway upon hearing Horace fall to the floor. “What did you do?”
She dropped the knife by Horace’s head. “Don’t worry about it, dad.”

When Horace woke up the next morning, he instantly threw his hand up to his neck. It was, of course, perfectly fine. All the events of the day before had been negated. He was going to go back to Ulinthra’s house and give her a piece of his mind, but she was waiting for him in the chair on the other side of his room. “You were saying something about having fun together?” She leaned forward and smiled at him semi-seductively. “We can’t do anything today, but tomorrow I was thinking we could shoot down some security drones. Start small.”
A portal opened against the wall. On the other side of it was Stonehenge, but it looked like it was missing a few stones. A man was standing in the middle of it. “Get the hell out here, you two!”
They obliged. “Who are you?”
“Why have you people been running around, blowing things up, killing your father over and over again, like a freaking psycho?”
“Why not?”
The man was baffled. “Because it’s wrong!”
“No harm, no foul.”
“Have you ever stopped to think that you were given these gifts for a reason?”
“Sure but, how were we to know what that reason was?”
“Take a guess. Here’s a hint; it’s not to kill people!”
“Then what?”
The man tried to dumb it down for them. “Instead of being in the news, read the news, go back in time, and fix the problems before they happen.”
“Why did it take you so long to talk to us about this?”
“We were waiting for you two to meet semi-organically, and didn’t know it would start with yet another murder!”
Horace spread his wings and lowered his head. That’s all ya had to say!” Click here for the next installment...

Friday, November 27, 2015

Microstory 200: Keegan Honors


Keegan Honors was the founder of Bellevue. She appeared to be much younger than she really was, and this caused people to underestimate her and treat her like a child. In turn, she became frustrated and sarcastic with them, like the teenager they thought she was. This continued in a vicious cycle so that she was never really that effective of a leader. In the end, even though she eventually started aging, she had to step down from her leadership position to let Mason Palomino take the reigns. He kept her close as an advisor, however, since she had so much more life experience than he did. Keegan was given the callsign of Keystone. She was the glue that held all other anomalies together. Though people with anomaly genetic traits had existed for millennia, they could not be activated until Keegan was born. She only activated several dozen people, and even she was not clear why this happened. She certainly did not consciously activate these people, and these people alone. She even later tried to activate a carrier directly, but was unable to do so. Whatever was connecting anomalies together, Keegan was part of it, but was not in control of it. She did have the ability to locate and keep track of anomalies around the world. With this knowledge, she created a list. But the majority of this list was lost to her before she was able to use it, and her ability was taken from her by a mysterious somebody. She conducted research on the few people who she still knew of, and determined which ones to contact first. She found Basil, a rich business magnate, to back them so they could use the fact that members did not need to work as incentive. She found a criminal, Straton who could teach them useful skills. It was important to her that the anomalies she gathered did not depend on their abilities. She of all people knew what it was like to be hopelessly vulnerable. She wanted to form an organization built around anomalies, but not composed exclusively of them. She felt that the world needed a singular unit of law enforcement, and that the Confederacy was not equipped to accomplish this. It was always her plan to create an agency, rather than a league, and it was Valary who understood her sentiments more than anyone, and helped make this vision a reality. Even though most of the decisions were made by others, history did not forget that this whole thing was Keegan’s idea, and that none of it would be possible without her...literally.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Microstory 199: Crescentia ‘Tia’ Norris

A normal anomaly ability will exploit some sort of physical phenomenon, often to wondrous results, but it will always remain within the laws of physics. It’s easy to manipulate the temperature of the environment; people do it all the time with furnaces. Therasia Jarvi is really just a different way of doing this. It’s impressive, but not impossible. The dimension that Jaklyn Simonds uses to teleport already exists, and can theoretically be opened using technology. In fact, this kind of thing becomes commonplace following advances in transportation. Crescentia Norris—who generally preferred to go by Tia because it was easier for others pronounce—on the other hand, broke a major physical law. She could change her size at will; growing to become a giant, or shrinking to become an ant. This broke the law of conservation of mass, which dictates that mass cannot be spontaneously added or removed. It always has to either come from, or go, somewhere. Though Adam Nicks did eventually uncover an explanation for her, no one else knew how she was able to do this, and even he couldn’t explain it until certain other events revealed clues as to her origins. Like Stella Pelto, her status as an anomaly was rather unclear. She carried genetic properties that scientists would expect to find, but there were also surprising differences in the data. Tia came out of a family of two of the nicest people one could ever meet. They had previously lost a daughter to an unfortunate death, but they held strong. They took care of their second daughter, and taught her how to be a good person. They encouraged her to use her abilities to change the world, and when she was ready, to find others like her. She was one of the first members of Bellevue, and could regularly be found arguing with the founder on best practices. But the two of them were destined to become extraordinary allies, and would always have Bellevue’s best interests at heart, and be working to ensure that the organization never fell apart during its growing pains (pun intended). Tia developed an unbreakable bond with Cosmo, Tamra, and Mason as well. The four of them would later separate into their respective departments, and maintain a balance across the board. Despite her major contributions to history, most people ended up forgetting about her altogether. I won’t get into why. You’re liable to forget.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Microstory 198: (Callsign ‘Operator’)


Following Phaedra Wirth and Tracy Wickham’s betrayal, the scientists responsible for a number of unethical experiments with human subjects decided to change tactics. They were no longer going to choose candidates like Phaedra with moral compasses, and the integrity to make their own decisions, or those like Tracy who were easily convinced to change their inclinations. No, they thought it was best to find someone amoral; a sociopath, and just keep them happy. They were wrong. After progress in the human genome project, and development of a more sophisticated means of identifying anomaly potentials, they were able to locate a woman whose identity was kept secret; callsign Operator. She was not born with special abilities, but her DNA was just chock full of genetic similarities with those who were. Years after Bellevue came out of the shadows, these scientists restarted their program, and performed an experiment on Operator in an effort to compete with Bellevue’s near monopoly on anomalies. The procedure was the most successful one of all; a Generation Alpha anomaly with no need for that pesky stabilizing evolution; an instant Generation One. Unfortunately for them, there was just no way of containing what they had created. Operator developed the ability to manipulate other people’s motor functions. She could not control her target’s mind, but she could move their bodies as she pleased, and most would be hopeless to fight it. She used this to force every single person who knew who she was to kill themselves. She was also able to see the world from her target’s perspective, much like the possession ability found earlier in Starla Wakefield. Her power increased exponentially the more time that passed, whether she was practicing it or not. She later developed the ability to push herself into the perspective of just about everyone on the planet simultaneously. People were allowed to go on about their lives as normal, but would be forced to do her bidding if she wanted them to. Though a few people were immune to her control, only one person possessed the means to find out who and where she was, and to end her hold on others. But this person had been missing since 1995, and would not be able to put the world back together without help.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Microstory 197: Alicia Baxter


Alicia Baxter found herself to be a magnet for anomalies, though she herself was not an anomaly. After living for many years in the same foster home as Freeman Sesto and Gus Arnett, she left the country. She found herself traveling all over the world, taking odd jobs and often just helping people she encountered with their personal problems. Though not born with an ability, she possessed the necessary genetic traits to acquire one, which is exactly what happened upon developing strong enough feelings for Gus. She chose to keep this a secret from pretty much everyone; even him. Many anomalies throughout a period before the founding of Bellevue called her a trusted friend and confidant. It was unclear how she was able to find so many anomalies independently of each other, but a common theory was some sort of spiritual connection. She helped Paulo Rocha with his adopted daughter when she was an unruly teenage girl with no one around to relate to. She was on the scene one time when Dores Roach was healing someone, and helped her and her friend escape the area before being spotted by the authorities. She even once accompanied Patience Cooney on a few particularly dangerous missions to transport refugees using her stones. She met other anomalies, but she never revealed this fact to any of them until they had been integrated with Bellevue. Alicia was considered to be the heart and soul of the organization. She spent a lot of time away from the hotel in its earlier days, both doing unrelated volunteer work, and helping Gus and Freeman in secret. After joining Bellevue full time, Alicia coordinated with North American field operatives, which was far and away the largest department. She also continued her role as a mentor for anyone who felt the need for it, and kept their secrets from others.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Microstory 196: Gary Prose


Like Molly Bloom, Gary Prose was completely immune to radiation, though he was not an anomaly. His was a nearly unique case of someone being born with special abilities due to highly recent occurrences. His father past away before he was born, and his mother felt incapable of taking care of him amidst her infamy, and so Gary was adopted by the Proses. They were decent parents, but like Jaklyn’s, were of little consequence. Gary left home after graduating from tertiary school, and only spoke with his family on occasion. Until the time he joined Bellevue, not much is known about his life. It was always unclear how he even came to know about the existence of the nascent organization since he was not an anomaly, and had never been caught using his powers. Gary possessed the ability to siphon radiation from the simplex dimensions, and produce them outwardly. This was not something he did very often, as it served little purpose but for destruction. He was also, not immune, but heavily resistant to drugs. It would take a higher amount of tranquilizers, for instance, to put him down, and he would still process the chemicals and wake up from the ensuing sleep much faster than a normal person. There was no apparent connection between radiation manipulation and drug resistance, and so there was much confusion over what was going on with him. Aside from his more obvious skills, Gary was a brilliant strategist, known for being able to develop extraordinarily complex projects, and being the master of the contingency plan. His motives were always mysterious, and any attempt to understand him was met with a new surprise. He formed a romantic bond with Jaklyn Simonds, one powerful enough to cause him to absorb her teleporting ability and use it for himself, but still he seemed only ever to be using her for his own gain. Theirs was a toxic relationship; one that leaked into the dynamics of the entire group, causing tensions and incidents, and even a few deaths. But Gary had plans for Bellevue, and for the world, and sometimes his radical ideas were shared by unexpected allies.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 26, 2050

Click here for the 2015 table of contents.

“No,” Aura said, in no uncertain terms. They were standing in their present cabin in the parched scrubland of the Amazon; a place where there was once a lush rainforest.
“I don’t need your permission, mother,” Mateo snapped at her. “You’ve been doing this longer than I have. In your experience, if the powers that be want something of you, have you been able to resist?”
“That’s besides the point.”
“What is your point?”
“I am your mother, and I’m going to protect you.”
“When have you ever done that? You gave me up when I was a baby, you disappeared when I was a child, and you haven’t been around much since your return.”
“And who’s fault is that?”
“It’s mine, but it doesn’t lessen the fact that I don’t need you dictating my life.”
“I just can’t believe you’re planning on going after Reaver...again. After all that happened before—after you saw Leona die—why would you be so enthusiastic about this?”
“Leona died?” Gilbert asked.
“And who are you?” Aura asked sardonically.
Mateo moved on, “I’m not enthusiastic about this. I’ve just accepted my place in the world. Some people work crappy jobs in the produce section of the grocery store, some people shovel shit, and some people are hopelessly thrown through time where they’ve given hazy assignments by a mysterious cabal of control freaks! We all do what we do, and right now I do need to find Horace Reaver, and bring him to justice. I do what I’m told.”
“How do you even know this Head Guard guy has any authority?” Samsonite asked, trying to contribute, but also worried about speaking out of turn.
“Last we saw him he was being taken away by the Delegator. He is literally a person of authority as he was an actual security guard in his former life.”
“And,” Leona continued, “we spoke with him in a magical cave that sits underneath a constantly shifting time window.”
“And that too,” Mateo nodded.
“That doesn’t mean you can trust him.”
Mateo threw up his hands. “You can’t trust anyone, doesn’t mean we have a choice.”
Theo walked in with a packet of documents. “Here’s the report. I printed it off on paper since I know you’re not used to anything else.”
“Thank you, brother,” Leona said, taking the documents from him.
“What is this? You’re helping them? Is that information on Reaver’s whereabouts?” Aura became more furious than she already was.
“They called me last year to ask me to get in touch with Boyce’s loyalists so that we could locate and keep tabs on Reaver,” Theo explained to her before debriefing the team. “He’s been lying low and moving around a lot, but we’re confident he’s in Tasmania at the moment.”
“We have a notable disadvantage,” Leona said. “When we confront him, he’ll have already experienced the day, so he will know exactly how to avoid us, kill us, or do whatever else he wants.”
“How do we stop someone that powerful?” Gilbert asked.
“We need to call Harrison and ask for help with that.”
“You already did.” Ulinthra came in with fanfare. “Last time I experienced this day, we spoke and decided to do nothing, so Reaver doesn’t know we’re working together. This time around, we’ll go at him, and he’ll never see you coming.”
“Who is this?”
“Mr. Boyce,” she replied. “It’s nice to meet you again for the very first time.”
“I’m sorry?”
“She relives days, just like Reaver.” Leona, always having to explain things to the lessers. “She is his counterpart.”
“Oh,” Gilbert smirked. “What have you been waiting for? If you could have stopped him at any time, why not do it?”
“We both relive days, but he has an advantage over me.”
“What would that be?” Aura asked.
“He’s more violent and scary. Remove time travel from the equation, and he is still a formidable opponent.”
Mateo echoed a line he had said when they first met, “fair enough. What do we do?”
“I don’t know,” Ulinthra said bluntly. “I’ve done my part. I helped you yesterday, so that you could change the timeline today. What you do with that is your decision, but know that I will not help you again. This is your one and only favor. Besides when I lent Harrison to you for several years.”
“Assuming we fail,” Leona began, “why would you not help again? Do you not want to stop him as much as we do?”
“He contacted me after getting out of prison. I don’t attack him directly, and he leaves me alone. You’re my loophole. I suggest you not waste your opportunity.” Ulinthra walked away, refusing to explain herself further.
“I thought she was supposed to have changed her ways,” Mateo said.
Leona watched as Ulinthra was leaving. “You can add some croutons, but you can’t turn chicken shit into chicken salad.”
Theo laughed. “Well said, little sister.”
“I’m never going to get used to you being older than me.”
“Honey, I was older than you before I was born.”
Changing the subject, Aura declared, “I’m coming with you, so if we’re going to Tasmania, I’ll need time to pack.”
Frida appeared out of nowhere. “No. They go alone.”
A stunned Aura tried reaching out to her daughter, but she was gone again too quickly. “Aquila...”
“What was that? Why did she leave so quickly? Is she coming back?” Samsonite was devastated.
“She is a choosing one,” Leona said with her eyes squinted on the spot where Frida was once standing. “But there must be some kind of hierarchy. Her brief jumps allow her to say something in a hundred and forty characters or less, but the others don’t let her stay too long. That’s just my hypothesis, though.”
“Mateo,” Aura said, holding on to his shoulders so that he was focused on her. “If your sister wants you to do something, then do it. But keep your phone with you.”

Because of the curve of the Earth, the trip to Tasmania was taking them over Antarctica. Mateo, Leona, and Gilbert sat in their seats without speaking as the artificial intelligence with no programmed personality continued flying them towards their destination. But then something went wrong, as one might expect for the couple. There were just no easy days. Not for them. Not anymore. With no warning, the aircraft lurched and shuddered. All of the electrical systems shut down at once, sending them shooting towards the surface. But they were not falling as steeply as Mateo would have thought. “What’s happening?” They were urgently but not chaotically getting into their parachutes.
“Safety measures!” Leona explained. “The plane will crash, but it will glide to a certain degree before that happens! Open the escape hatch carefully.”
Gilbert crawled over and tried opening the hatch, but it wasn’t working. He struggled with it for a few moments before the nose tipped down. Leona and Mateo rolled towards the front, but Gilbert was able to hold on to the door handle. He grabbed the fire extinguisher from the wall as the other two were trying to climb back up to meet him. He banged on the latch over and over again, but Mateo couldn’t tell if he was making any progress. Just at the right time, he hit the latch one more time with as much strength as he possessed while the plane tipped over so that he was at the bottom. The added force caused the hatch to burst open and break off, pulling Gilbert out with it. Mateo wasn’t prepared for this either, and was sent hurtling out the opening, slamming his head on the edge as he was leaving.
Mateo woke up in a tent. “Leona!”
“Careful,” Gilbert insisted. “You banged your head pretty bad.”
“How did I get here?”
“Your parachute opened on its own just before reaching your lower limit. We’re somewhere in Antarctica. Near the sea.”
“Where is Leona?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where’s the plane, Boyce!”
“It’s a few klicks southwest of our position.”
“Was Leona on it when it crashed?”
“I couldn’t tell you. She isn’t responding to my calls, and the beacon doesn’t give me that information.”
“Why are we still here if we know where the plane is?”
“What did you want me to do? Drag you? I’m no spring chicken.”
“Well, I’m awake now, so let’s go.”
They packed the tent and set out to look for Leona. It was snowy and windy, but not as bad as Mateo would have expected. They were pretty far north, and due to climate change, Antarctica wasn’t getting any colder. “What the hell are those?” Mateo asked. The beach was full of crabs.
“King crabs,” Gilbert explained. “It’s a global warming thing. Just ignore them.”
Mateo was about to say something else when his phone rang. It was Leona. “Where are you?—It does?—How do I open that?” Leona had told him that their phones would provide them with each other’s coordinates. “Okay, I see you now. We’re not far away. We can meet in the middle.” They continued walking, but much faster now. After awhile, they began to hear a buzzing sound. “Leona what is that?—It could be Reaver.—I know it could be a rescue team, but we can’t take that chance.—You have to hide.—It’s not too late! Hide! It’s almost midnight central!”
They ran as fast as they could. Gilbert had trouble keeping up, but that didn’t matter. Mateo continued running until he could see Leona in the distance. But then he saw that the snowmobile in pursuit was growing closer to her. “You hide,” Leona instructed him from the phone. “I love you.” Leona put her phone away and stared at him, unmoving. Midnight struck and sent them to the future, which would have been a good thing if no one knew where they were, but the snowmobile driver had her coordinates, and when the three salmon reappeared in the timestream, they were waiting for her.
Mateo watched helplessly as Leona was being escorted into the aircraft. He began running again, but it was too late. The plane took off, leaving the other two behind.
“At least they didn’t take us as well,” Gilbert said after catching up.
“Don’t be so selfish,” Mateo spat back.
“It’s not selfish. It means Leona has a chance to be rescued. Call that Theo guy and ask him where Reaver is now.”