Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: [Error]

Click here for the 2016 table of contents.

Kayetan Glaston, a.k.a. The Merger was a young fellow, probably in his very early 20s. He was eager, feisty, and way in over his head. Following the disgustingly deadly Gladiator games that The Cleanser forced them to participate in, they were both sent to the staging area together, and left alone. Kayetan was placed in a special set of handcuffs that suppressed a chooser’s ability to use their temporal powers, just like the ones Darko had on in the prison those many years ago. They didn’t speak for a long time. Mateo was still reeling from the ordeal. Lucius had prevented him from having to choose who would die—and the Cleanser seemed okay with this—but it was only a matter of time before Mateo would have to kill someone. It was incredibly powerful and admirable of Lucius to postpone that terrible moment at the cost of his own life, but it wasn’t like he would be able to avoid it forever. Sooner or later—and probably in two years, if not tomorrow—Mateo was going to have to follow through in kind on his promise to honor his contract.
Finally, he decided he needed to break the ice. “Do you prefer to be called The Merger?”
“Why would I prefer that?”
“Many other choosers I’ve met like their nicknames.”
“Kayetan will be fine. Or Glaston.”
“I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
He laughed, but also shook his head, because it wasn’t funny ‘ha-ha’. It was funny ‘oh-God’. “You piece of shit.”
“Pardon?”
He kept shaking that head. “The noble and majestic Mateo Matic of Topeka, son of a Shaper and The Kingmaker.”
“Who?”
He continued, “everybody loves Mateo for his future. Mateo will not defy the powers that be, but he will not surrender to his fate. He takes his so-called ‘gift’ and uses it for good. I’m gonna throw up.”
“You’re mad at me for shit I haven’t done yet?”
“Seems as good a time as any.”
“Seems like nonsense to me.”
“I don’t expect you to understand.”
“Time is malleable, right?”
“What?”
“The things you’ve seen me do in the future, those aren’t set in stone, I can change them.”
“Theoretically.”
“Then instead of being angry about whatever that was, how about you use your gift to help me make a better future.”
“I’m not upset about your future itself. I’m just pissed off that everybody loves you, but I’ve seen first hand that you don’t do anything. You just let the river of time flow over your back. You let other people make decisions for you. You’re just along for the ride.”
“I’m a salmon, but I don’t expect you to understand,” he echoed, like a child.
“You have more choice than you think.”
“Great. Let me know when you’re done being just vague enough to be saying absolutely nothing of value. Look, I was going to let Lucius kill you. He deserved the victory more than you. All things being equal, you were the inferior opponent. He just didn’t give me a chance. I didn’t know he was gonna  kill himself!”
“Cascade did what he had to. When you finally reach the point he did, when you have to choose between life and death, and there’s no one around to fix the game, will you be able to do it? Will you man up?”
He waited the appropriate amount of time to make it clear that he understood the seriousness of the situation. “I do not know.”
“Well, you’re nothin’ if not honest.”
“I just don’t understand what you want from me.”
“I want you to get me out of here.”
“Why?”
“What kind of question is that? See, this is why I don’t like you.”
“No, I mean why would I do that? What would I get out of it?”
“I can protect you from the Cleanser, and anyone else you want to get away from. I can put you and your girlfriend in a pocket reality. No salmon, no choosers, no powers, and best of all, no pattern. You’ll be able to live out your days in this perfect little universe, and no one will be able to touch you there.”
“Sounds too good to be true.”
He shrugged nonchalantly. “There’s a price.”
“Go on.”
“You’ll be living in a place beyond time. Once you enter, no one can get in, and no one can get out. It doesn’t exist for them, and we don't exist to you.”
“But I can bring anyone with me that I want?”
“Yes, in that moment.”
No, that was a bad idea. It sounded less like a safe haven, and more like a trap. He would never be able to convince his family to go in there with him. They would first have to find his half-sister, Aquila. And everyone has people they want to keep in contact with, but not all the time. No, this was a completely impractical solution to a problem they didn’t understand. “No, I can’t live in a place like that. It would never work. This life may be hard, but it’s mine, and I’m not letting it go.”
“Yeah, I knew you’d wuss out. I don’t know why I bothered asking.”
“I never said I wouldn’t help you, just that I’m not down with a pocket dimension.”
“Well, what do you want?”
“Tell me what you did.”
“What do you mean?”
“To get yourself locked up. You must have done something.”
Kayetan’s jaw literally dropped. His eyes widened, and if he had been holding a glass, he probably would have crushed it in his hands. “You really are clueless. That’s bloody brilliant. That’s the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.” He lowered his voice to mock Mateo, even though his own voice was already deeper, “you must have done something.”
“What’s the problem, Kayetan?”
“The powers that behate the choosing ones. We didn’t do anything, idiot! They’re just pissy about how powerful we are, so they lock us up, suppress our power, and sometimes even kill us. Because that’s what they’re so mad about. They chose to call themselves powers that be because they’re actually impotent. They have no real power, but they have ways of exploiting and using us. The only reason choosers like Meliora and the Cleanser aren’t dead right now is because they don’t have specialities. They’re the most powerful of all of us, so they can’t be tamed. And the only reason you’re not dead is because they have use for you, and they know that you’re so weak, you can’t stop them.”
That all sounded very true.
Kayetan went on, “you keep getting bad information, but I’m here to set you straight. There are only two kinds of people in the world; those with power, and those without. The humans have none, the PTB steal theirs, you salmon are burdened by yours, and we own ours. You could become one us with the proper training.”
“You mean like Makarion?”
He tilted his head in consideration. “Makarion’s different. He’s not really one of us, and that’s not bigoted or elitist, he really isn’t. He’s in a category all his own.” He thought about it some more. “He’s more like the powers that be than anything, actually.”
“Then that’s what I want.”
“What…Makarion?”
“No, I want you to teach me how to be a choosing one.
“I thought you didn’t want to let your life go.”
“I’m happy to do it if it means getting a better one.”
He smiled.
“This was your plan all along, wasn’t it?”
“Assuming you have any idea how to get me out of these handcuffs, yeah it sort of was.”
Mateo stood up and started ruffling through his bag. “Rule Number Seven: pack the essentials, and always keep them within reach.” He took out the key Leona used two weeks ago in the salmon-chooser prison to free brother Darko from his suppression cuffs.
“My man!” Kayetan said under a dramatic change in attitude. After Mateo removed the cuffs, Kayetan rubbed his wrists in that same way people on TV do, as if the restraints were so painfully tight that they lost feeling in their fingers. He breathed deeply too, as if he had been held underwater. “Thank you so much for this.”
“You better create one of your merge points and get us somewhere safe.”
“Yeah, I’ll get right on that. But first I need to get you to your place beyond time.”
“What! No!” Mateo screamed, but it was too late.
He was standing on a small patch of desert that spanned only maybe twenty feet in all directions. The edges were rough and uneven, in some places fading out to the nothingness, but in others ending quite abruptly. Everything that wasn’t either a desert or a Mateo was a great big void. There were no stars or planets, so he wasn’t in space. There were no sounds or winds or life. There was nothing. He was in hell. For a few seconds.
A hand reached out and took his. He looked over to find his love, Leona on the other end of the arm. But she wasn’t the same Leona he had left behind. She looked a bit older, and definitely a lot more jaded. The most notable difference was her face. She was wearing an eye patch on the right side. She spoke in a northern English accent, “trust me. I’m the Doctor. Run.”
They jumped into the abyss. Click here for the next installment...

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