Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 5, 2090


Knowing that he was being put through Vin Diesel movies made things easier. Well, it made it so that he always knew how to handle each challenge, but the challenges themselves were extremely difficult and dangerous. He drove a lot of vintage cars. It was the year 2090, and actually very clearly on a different planet, so there was no telling what to call these kinds of cars, or what they were doing there. He would transition to a different location every time one of the challenges was complete. Sometimes he was teleported, but sometimes the next one was put right beside the one before, like walking between two separate movie sets. He didn’t do every single movie, and not in any particular order, but he did get through a heavy chunk of them. Not all of Diesel’s movies were super actiony, but that didn’t seem to matter to The Cleanser. One time he just had to babysit a dysfunctional family of androids who thought they were people for a few hours. The duck was real, though.
At the end of all challenges were the pearly gates. He found that to be quite insulting, but he knew that he couldn’t say anything. There was an eerie chill as he passed through the gates. Nothing stopped him from going through, but he did find it to be frustratingly euphoric. After the gates came a set of marble stairs, on the top of which was a temporal rift waiting to take him somewhere else. He stopped being able to move for a few seconds while in the swirling mix of time and space before it moved him to what looked like a hotel lobby.
“Hello,” a bellhop said from the other side of her counter.
“Hi.”
“Are you checking in?” she asked.
“I’m not sure. I’m looking for something here.”
She adjusted her computer keyboard ever so slightly, indicating that she was ready to type. “Could you describe the thing? Maybe I could help you.”
Meliora strode in from the side and waved the bellhop away. “I’ve got this, Dodeka. Why don’t you take your break?”
Dodeka, the bellhop left through the backdoor.
“Meliora Reaver,” Mateo said as if seeing an old friend. “The last time I saw you, you were sending me back in time to save your mother, Leona from being killed by your father.”
“I’ve seen you on other occasions.”
Mateo looked around. A few people were sitting in the lounge chairs. Others were using courtesy phones. A few kids were in their swimsuits, happily speed walking towards the pool. “Is this Sanctuary?”
“It is, yes.”
“So I’m about to die.”
“Do you want to die?”
“I do not.”
“Good, because you won’t. Not here, anyway.”
“I thought all time travelers died if they came here...except for you and Dave.”
“This is true. But you and Leona are special.”
“Have you met this version of her?”
“The one who has no idea of our connection because she’s from a new timeline? Yes, I meet all my guests.”
“You’re not going to tell her who you are?”
“Would you?”
“Definitely not.”
She nodded. “You’re welcome to stay here, Mister Matic. This is a safe place. The powers that be cannot get to you here. Neither can any choosing one.”
“What’s the literal, actual reason I have access to this place.”
She narrowed her eyes and drew closer. “Believe me when I tell you this, Mateo, I have clue why you’re different. All we know is that you are. That’s why the Cleanser won’t just kill you, and why the powers that be have allowed more loopholes to your pattern than they do for other salmon. We’ve known you in realities you do not recall, and you always prove yourself to be different, but we’ve never uncovered an explanation for it.”
“Okay,” Mateo said to her. “I believe you.”
“Would you like to see my mother?”
“Something tells me that she does not want to see me.”
Meliora shrugged. “I dunno. It’s been years from her perspective. This is an amazing place, if I do say so myself. It’s hard to stay mad when you live here.”
“But it’s hard to get to.”
“Dave and I can skip all that, but yes, I commissioned those challenges to be put there so that choosers couldn’t jump in close to Sanctuary and then just walk in manually.”
“Commissioned who?”
“Boyce, The Rogue. He did it while he was still in Baudin’s chooser body. You never saw him as Baudin. He was nicer back then.”
“Boyce designed it? The one who loves movies? I guess that explains why it was so much like all my other tribulations.”
Meliora laughed. “Yeah, he actually designed the whole hotel. The challenges, however, he designed specifically for you.”
“He did?”
“He knew you liked Vin Diesel movies. He said it was the only way to keep everyone out except for you. I assumed you knew, and he posthumously sent you here like he had always planned on doing.”
“No, the Cleanser put me here.”
“What?” Meliora yelled, surprising a few of the guests. “Did you bring him here?”
“No, he just sent me off on my own.”
“Did he give you anything?”
“Yeah,” Mateo said, presenting his clothes. “He provided my whole wardrobe.”
“Oh my God!” She jumped over to the desk and slammed her palm on the little bell. “Dodeka! Knife! Now!”
Dodeka ran through the door like she was ready for it. She threw a knife at Meliora who caught the business end with her hand.
“Holy crap, be careful!” Mateo cried.
Meliora cut into her own hand even more. Then she started drawing some weird symbol on the wall. “Boyce warded the whole building against trespassers, like they do in the show Supernatural—God, that guy loved TV and movies. You coming here with those tethers broke the wards.” She hovered her hand in front of the strange blood symbol while Dodeka set off an alarm that sent guests scurrying to their rooms. “Just a little, but enough that they could slip in. I have to put everybody on lockdown.” She reeled back. “This is gonna hurt a little bit, but we’ll live.”
Just before she was able to slam her palm on the symbol, a huge blade of some kind flew by and sliced right through Meliora’s hand, dropping it to the ground. Some of her blood shot into Mateo’s face. She didn’t scream in pain, but in anger. “Goddammit!”
Mateo looked back and saw the Cleanser, arm down in follow-through position. “Nailed it,” he said, ever so coolly.
The Blender was standing next to him. “I could have made it cleaner.” Cutting hands off of people was normal to them.
“Ha!” the Cleanser laughed. Good one!”
“All right, bro,” the Blender said. “You got your girl. My turn.”
The Cleanser seemed reluctant. He gave Mateo an apologetic look before directing his attention to Meliora. “What room is Leona Delaney in?”
“Fuck you!” Meliora spat back, holding her stump. It was already starting to magically grow back, though.
He pointed violently to Dodeka. “You. Room number.”
“Fuck you!” Dodeka echoed.
“I don’t need either you bitches,” the Cleanser said as a matter of fact. He kept his hand pointed towards Dodeka, letting the space between them ripple. The ripples drew closer to her, threatening to tear her apart like he did to Leona’s stepmother, and like Lucius did to himself and others during the first Gladiator tribulation.
“No!” Mateo commanded, reaching towards the ripples himself. Somehow, completely unexpectedly, the ripples began to dissipate.
Everyone was shocked by this, everyone but Meliora. “Stop now,” she whispered. “Don’t waste it.”
Mateo let go, and so did the Cleanser, no longer focused on killing an innocent Dodeka who was now proceeding to run away.
“You got her blood on your face,” the Cleanser said, menacingly itching his cheek. “I should have been looking out for that.
Mateo looked to Meliora, and then to the Blender, then back to the Cleanser. So that’s what it was. That’s how Future!Leona had shown up with temporal powers. She must have received a blood transfusion from a chooser. Meliora seemed to think it was only temporary, and he didn’t know how much juice he would have left, so he decided to use it wisely. He put on his game face and walked towards the Cleanser.
“No. No, no, no, no, no!” the Cleanser ordered. “Bad salmon. That’s a very bad salmon. Back in your river. Now.”
Mateo took the Cleanser by the shoulder, wrenching them up in their sockets to maintain leverage over him.
He began to whisper to Mateo, but the other two could hear. “You have one chance. If you use the blood the right way—and trust me that not even she will ever give you more, because it’s bad for the choosing one donor—you could free yourself from the chains of time travel. You could be human again. But if you kill me with what little power you have left, you’ll go back to slavery.”
Mateo looked down, pretending to think about it. “I’ll live. But you won’t.”
“Noooo!” the Cleanser screamed again. A bluish light emanated from Mateo’s hands and began to spread up and down the Cleanser’s body. He was helpless to stop it, and then he was just gone.
The Blender looked at him like he was a dumbass. “You do realize that all you did was banish him from Sanctuary, right?”
Mateo looked over to Meliora whose hand was nearly complete. “He was right, I’m not gonna give you more.”
“Then it’ll have to do. Anything to protect Leona.”
She looked at him again like he was unintelligent, but more like a dumb cat who didn’t know what a laser pointer was. “Oh, sweetheart. I’m the one who wants Leona. You signed a contract.”
“To blend her brain, or whatever you call it? You’re still not over that?” Mateo asked. “That was a billion years ago.”
Lightyears,” Meliora corrected.
“All contracts are final.”
“That’s not a real rule. You could just let it go. Even if I had signed something, you’re just a person. You’re a free-thinking individual who could choose to move on. Hell, the word is even in the name of your species.”
“That’s not how I operate.”
“We all need to learn to change. Don’t be so closed-minded.”
“Don’t stall. Where is she?”
“No idea. I just got here.”
She looked behind him. “Melly?”
Meliora was flexing her fingers, testing out her new hand.
“Melly, I’m not like Zef. I’m on the job. You have to give her to me.” She made it sound like this was another rule, but the kind that all choosers had collectively agreed to.
“She’s not wrong,” Meliora said to Mateo. “She’s not supposed to be here, but she made it here by a genuine loophole. Now that she is here, I can’t interfere in her work. Otherwise, I open myself up to real trouble.”
“Meliora, no,” Mateo insisted.
“I’ve no choice.”
“What would your father say? He would want you to protect her at all costs.”
“Not at the risk of his daughter’s life,” she disagreed. “Not at the risk of me.” She nodded to the Blender. “Room 1408.”
“No,” Mateo said through a deep exhale.
The Blender snapped her fingers and instantly apported Leona to the lobby.
“This can’t be good,” Leona said.
The Blender reached up to Leona’s head. “This has been a long time coming.”
“I don’t understand what you’re doing. No, don’t. Stop!”
Ignoring her protests, the Blender placed her fingers on Leona’s temples and let her power surge through her. Leona shuddered and shook. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head, and drool leaked out of the corners of her mouth. Once the Blender was done, she quickly pulled her arms away and took a couple steps back. They both struggled to catch their breaths.
Mateo stepped over to Leona and placed his hand on her back. “Are you okay? Do you remember me, love?”
She took one look at him before making her own step back while staring into space. And then she screamed. For at least five minutes. Click here for the next installment...

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