Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 4, 2089


Mateo slipped his feet into the new shoes. The laces tightened up automatically, and what felt like a foam filled in the gaps around his feet. Shoes no longer seemed to need to fit exactly as they could be modified on command. They were extremely comfortable, like he was walking on air, which he technically was. He stood up and bounced up and down a little. He had a far higher spring than he did with normal shoes. He might have been able to enjoy the future if he weren’t so busy trying to survive it.
The Cleanser walked in while he was straightening his new suit. “Take care of that thing. It once belonged to a famous racer in the 2020s.” So he wasn’t even using present-day technology. What mind-bogglingly amazing tech were people using now that was better than this?  “Don’t worry, I didn’t kill him. He doesn’t need it anymore.”
“What am I doing?”
“I need you to retrieve something for me from a very dangerous location. The only thing more deadly than the location itself is the path to get there.”
“What am I there to get?”
“Rule number three,” he said with an evil smile.
Keep track of everything you do, and everyone you meet?” Mateo asked, unsure. He had them memorized, and no longer needed to think about it. These rules were just second nature now.
“No, not your dumb time travel rules,” the Cleanser quipped. “Frank’s rules. Never open the package.”
“Oh, right. We’re still on that? Why is The Transporter franchise coming up so often?”
“Uh...” he said. “Foreshadowing?”
“Really,” Mateo did not ask.
“Probably not,” he replied quickly, clearly wanting to move on. Just go get what I asked for. I’ll drop you off at the starting line, and you’ll know what I’m looking for when you get there.”
Mateo was going to insist he tell him what the proverbial package was, but why should he even care?
“Are you ready?”
“Is that relevant?”
“Yes, this is very important to me. This isn’t designed to kill you. In fact, I would be very disappointed if it did, because you’re my only hope. I can’t coerce anyone else into doing it for me, and I’m certainly not going myself.”
“What’s so dangerous about it?”
“You’ll see. Just...keep moving.” He handed him a pair of goggles.
“Why the hell are you giving me these?”
The Cleanser was confused about why he was asking. “Well, they’re augmented reality goggles. They’ll help you navigate.”
“No, obviously,” Mateo shot back. “But I thought you didn’t like movies.”
“I don’t dislike movies, I’m just not interested in mapping them to the tribulations anymore.”
“These are the goggles that Vin Diesel wore in the movie Riddick.”
He was genuinely surprised by this. “They are? I did not know that. It changes nothing. It’s time for you to go either way.”
He stepped back with one foot so that he could be in a surfer stance. He then gathered airbender energy in slow-motion that he forced towards Mateo. It blew him away and transported him to the starting line. Or maybe he should have called it the starting altitude.
He was falling through painfully cold air, the distorted sight of an airplane shuttered a bit before disappearing completely. He looked up and saw his feet were strapped to a snowboard, and when he looked down, he could see snowy mountains reaching up towards him. He twisted and flipped around, desperately trying to get to his feet. His inability to find his place was causing him to panic, so he needed to catch his breath and calm down. He thought about how he had already done this a few times before. In fact, he spent a great deal of time practicing this sort of thing on a simulator. That was years ago from his perspective, and he was out of practice, but he just had to call upon his muscle memory.
After finally situating his feet towards the ground, he pulled the ripcord on the backpack he was now somehow wearing. He orientated himself again and started aiming for a nice layer of snow on the side of a mountain. He landed with a lot of force, but he was able to survive. The parachute automatically released itself from his back and flew away as he continued down the mountain.
Yes, he had a lot of experience with parachutes, but never had he been snowboarding. They always freaked him out, so he stuck with skis for the few times he went to the Weston mountain with his family. With that in mind, he decided it would be safest to just go ahead and stop as soon as he could, even if it hurt. There was no telling what was going to come up next. He could be heading for a cliff and have no idea. Can you jump off cliffs and survive? How does that work? No, it just wasn’t worth the risk. He went by instinct and turned the board towards the sides, switchbacking his way to a lower speed until he felt like he was going slow enough to just fall down and stop altogether.
His Riddick goggles were telling him that his destination was about a hundred miles away that way, but wasn’t any more specific than that. He pointed his board in that direction and slowly slid diagonally across the mountain. The Cleanser had told him to keep moving, but there weren’t any obvious dangers, so there was no point in getting there any faster.
It took him a long time, but he made it all the way down to the bottom. After a few miles of nothing but walking, he noticed something weird. The snow was blinking. Rather, there was something in the snow that was blinking periodically. That in itself wasn’t strange, but upon bending down and inspecting it, he discovered the light to be coming from a screw. The goggles said nothing about it, but it sure seemed important, so he slipped it into his pocket and moved on. As he continued forwards, he came across other hardware, all blinking in sync with each other. Oh no, he was going to have to build something, for whatever reason.
At the end of the leg, he found what he was apparently looking for. It was a mostly built snowmobile, also blinking. He had a bit of experience fixing cars, but not all that much more than normal people have. As a “professional” driver, he had to know a few tricks, but he was in no way a mechanic. This felt like an Amazing Race challenge, but the more he worked on it, the more he focused on the blinking light aspect of the challenge. Sure, it could have just been a way for him to find the parts themselves, but why wouldn’t the Cleanser just program their various locations into the goggles?
Once he was finished repairing the machine, he consulted his goggle map and sped off in its general direction. Now, these were tribulations, and he was starting to get a hang of how things worked around here. The first mini-challenge was surviving a drop from a plane. The second was repairing the snowmobile. The third was shaping up to be about speed, and if there was one thing he understood when it came to speed, it was that it also always involved chase. Before he knew it, two drones appeared from the other side of a snow bank and started flying toward him. As they did, they released bullets and missiles towards him, all of which he had to dodge and trick. This was where his driving experience came in handy.
When movies show this kind of scene, the hero usually finds some way of getting the enemies to crash into each other, or other obstructions. That wasn’t an option here, because there weren’t any obstructions, and because those movies usually break the laws of physics in order to accomplish their goals. No, he couldn’t outsmart them, so he just never gave up. They kept shooting, and he kept snowmobiling. Eventually, they ran out of bullets and flew away. Fortunately, there weren’t any backups, otherwise, he could have been doing that all day. There was some kind of temporal distortion up ahead that he knew he would have to pass through in order to keep going. What he didn’t know was what was waiting for him on the other side. Instead of the snowy mountains, he was in a hot and dry desert. His snowmobile hit a rock and flipped him off, apparently knocking him out.
He found himself bleeding when he reawoke however long later. He looked around, hoping to find help, but all he saw were tall rock formations and billows of smoke. The goggles were no longer showing a map, but everything was in this weird purple tint. They must have been damaged in the crash. As he was crawling to what his instincts told him was a watering hole, a lightbulb turned on above his head. The goggles, this place, he was in a movie. Actually, he was in multiple movies. Falling out of a plane with a snowboard was out of xXx, blinking hardware in the snow was in the epilogue of The Iron Giant, and the snowmobile drone chase was from Babylon A.D. They were all Vin Diesel movies, and Mateo didn’t like to brag, but he did manage to see every single one of his movies, even the ones that were released after his first timejump. Right now, he was on the planet from the movie Riddick. This was all very unexpected as the Cleanser had made it very clear that the film-based tribulations were over. Perhaps that was just another lie.
Or maybe Makarion set up this tribulation before his death. He recalled conversation he and Makarion had about movies, because it was logical to do so. It was no secret that Vin Diesel was one of Mateo’s favorite actors. Perhaps it was the fact that they were both notable drivers, but Mateo always felt a particular connection to his roles. He was also an interesting guy in his personal life. He played Dungeons and Dragons, and he designed video games. He seemed like the kind of guy who belonged to a fight club, and probably had a criminal background, but no, he was just a normal dude. His movies were dangerous, but they were also exciting, and Mateo would know just what to do with each of them. If this was Makarion’s—man, what was he supposed to call him now that he knew he wasn’t really Makarion?—last gift to him, then he wasn’t going to waste it.
Mateo rolled to his back to get better access to the thick, and probably toxic, air. Up above, he could see creatures flying around. He ordered his goggles to zoom in on them to confirm that they really were aliens. It had been a while since he saw Riddick, but he could still tell that they weren’t the exact same kind, so they weren’t recreations. This meant that he really was on another planet. No big deal, this wouldn’t be the first time. Unfortunately, there was no telling what other dangers were waiting for him that he had no way of preparing for. His watch beeped, and then he jumped forward an Earthan year to the future, but everything else changed too. Click here for the next installment...

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