Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 7, 2092

Click here for the 2016 table of contents.

Mateo raced through the office building. It had been abandoned long ago, having been easily outdated by superior construction materials and techniques. At the same time, the city had also shifted its development focus to other places, meaning that there was never a need to tear this one down. Apparently, it was built with massive design flaws by the very company that chose to utilize it as its new headquarters. After a major catastrophe, it was condemned by the city. Homeless people stayed there sporadically throughout history, but once technology had rendered a state of poverty harder to attain, it began to serve little to no function for society. And so it had stood here alone and unused, the perfect conditions for The Cleanser’s needs.
The floor was littered with broken desks and fallen legacy computers, along with other equipment. A wide circular atrium rose from the center, up through nearly the entire height of the forty-two story tower. The best way to see every square foot of each story was to zigzag from the outside, to the atrium, and back again. Not only did he not know which floor he was supposed to get to, but he wasn’t even allowed to go in a logical order. By the time he got all the way around a floor, the Cleanser had scratched into the door the number of the story he was supposed to go to next. And so he kept running up and around, down and around, and all over. There was no real way to know how many floors Mateo would have to check, but he had now reached the last one. He had seen ever floor, except for the 39th. For some reason, when he went up to reach floor 40, he knew that 39 was completely off limits. The challenge was not in figuring out where Leona was, but in having to expend a great deal of energy in the pursuit of her.
Mateo had been in his anaerobic range pretty much the entire time. There was no specific time limit, but Leona was in physical distress. The Cleanser didn’t tell him exactly what he had done to her, but the implication was that she was losing blood. Every second counted, so he just had to push through his pain and keep going as fast as humanly possible. This would be much easier if Boyce was around to splash some of his blood in Mateo’s face so that he could teleport. Or anyone with the ability to pause time, or generate temporal bubbles, would be able to help by donating their blood to him. He was growing ever fascinated with the possibility of gaining power simply by a blood transfusion. Now that the Cleanser knew Mateo knew of this trick, he would have to be more careful. For if Mateo ever managed to overpower him with a knife or a syringe, this whole thing would be completely over. The original claim was that he could stop being a salmon by killing the power that be who was responsible for his pattern, but this was another option. If he became a choosing one, no one could tell him what to do. If he could just exercise a right to not travel through time, his life with Leona could stabilize.
For now, it was Leona’s life that needed stabilization, so he shook off the fantasy and returned to the business at hand. She had to be here. Somewhere. He had always been concerned that he had neglected a dark corner somewhere, and had missed his chance at saving her. That concern grew with each passing level. She had to be here. She had to. But she wasn’t. He ran around the atrium three times, slowing down with each lap to make sure he hadn’t made a mistake. He was going to go around a fourth time when he noticed it. The Cleanser had scratched the number 28 on the door. He had already been to floor 28, though. Why would the Cleanser want him to start over again? Was it a trick? Was it a riddle?
He stood there watching the door, unsure of what to do, and contemplating the very real possibility that this whole endeavor was pointless. As he was still staring at the number, a new scratch magically appeared underneath it, a straight line to emphasize its importance. Still he did not move. Was it worth it? Was she already dead anyway? Was she waiting for him in their little island abode, none the wiser, just like she had been during his Gulliver’s Travels tribulation? Two more lines appeared under the first one, followed quickly by a circle around the entire thing. “Fine! I’m going!” He started running again.
He went back through about half of the floors for a second time before he felt an eerie presence on the fifteenth story. It felt warmer and deeper, like it had been removed from the spacetime continuum. And maybe it had, but whatever the nature of this floor, it was definitely where Leona was waiting for him. He didn’t even have to see her yet to know that she was there. He took his time with the search here, with the distinct impression that this was what the Cleanser wanted. He feared that, if he started racing through it again, Leona would be spirited away. Perhaps that was how he was meant to do it all along. Perhaps he would have found her in the lobby if he had just taken it slow. Bastard.
He found Leona on the floor behind a now ancient copy machine. He could hear the thin carpet squish with her blood as he knelt down to examine her. Two holes had punctured her in the neck. Her wrists had been tied behind her back and one leg had been cuffed to some kind of exposed pipe. It was no mortal wound on its own, but the fact that she was unable to apply pressure to it, or treat it in any way, was what made it so deadly. She had been consistently losing blood for the last few hours, and it looked like she was nearing the end. He placed one hand on her wound while he tried to tear a strip of cloth from his shirt. It was too strong for him to rip, so he took a strip from her thinner shirt instead. He tied it around her neck like a noose, but it would not be enough. “What is this?” he asked. “Let the Right One In?”
“Nah,” Leona answered in slurs. “It better resembles Generation Alpha; a TV show after your time. In this timeline anyway.”
“Don’t speak. I shouldn’t have asked anything.”
She struggled to speak, but needed to. “I have a way to contact Meliora, but you’ll need a knife.”
Mateo started to look around.
“You have to cut your own hand and draw a symbol on the...on the...” she continued to have trouble getting her words out. “Ya know, the murrrrrrrr.......” and then she slowly drifted to sleep.
“Leona.” Mateo lifted her chin and gently tapped her on the cheek. “Leona, wake up! Were I you! Were I you!” He stood back up, wanting to look for a knife, but it didn’t matter. He didn’t know what Meliora’s summoning symbol was. They were fifteen floors in the air, so there was no way to find an open grave. Paper. He needed paper. Dave probably couldn’t do jack to help Leona, but he could get them to someone who could. He jumped around, pulling out drawers and turning over desks. Nothing. “Everything here is from my time, so why the hell is there no paper? You’re telling me this was a paperless company but they still had copy machines?”
“Mateo?” a voice asked from behind.
He turned around to find himself face to face with someone he knew. “Makarion?”
“Yeah.”
“Wait, are you Makarion or Boyce?”
“What year is this?” Mateo was going to answer, but Boyce stopped him, “no, don’t tell me. I have a feeling that you and I are meeting out of order. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened until now.”
“Leona’s hurt, can you help her?”
Boyce looked down at Leona and then performed his own examination. Then he started to look around. “Did you have to find her first?”
“Yes.”
“Then this is Generation Alpha.”
“That’s what Leona said. I never saw it. What do we do?”
“This is where he turns into the first vampire.”
“So, she needs blood. We can do that. Teleport us to a hospital.”
“No, it can’t just be regular blood. If we want to follow the tribulation, and I’m sure things will be worse if we don’t, it has to be yours.”
“Yeah, of course, I should have known.”
“She’s not a salmon, but...” he didn’t finish his sentence.
“If I give her my blood, she’ll be like me again. But won’t it be temporary? I took on some of Meliora’s blood. It lasted only moments.”
“For as much blood as she needs, it will permanent. She’ll never be human again.”
Mateo considered this. He didn’t want this life for her. Was it moral for him to make that choice for her? Actually, she had recently given him the impression that she did want to become a salmon once more. It would solve their temporal disparity, that much was clear. But was it right? Just because she might want it, and just because it would save her life, didn’t mean he should do it. Perhaps the side of her brain that remembered the timeline without him would disagree with the side of her that knew him. She was currently unable to give him a yes or no, and as the old adage went, unconscious people don’t want tea. But this was a different situation. Medical professionals on TV would provide assistance for people without their explicit consent because of a loss of consciousness. The idea was that the patient would ask for help if they could. Drama series often turned this principle on its head by having a character sue the doctor for malpractice, however, so it was not a perfect system.
Boyce could quite easily sense his hesitation. “It doesn’t matter whether she wants to be a proverbial vampire or not. Whatever you decide to do, you’re choosing something for her. If you turn her into a salmon, she’ll at least live to resent you for it. If you let her die, we will never know.”
That was a good point. “Get me the supplies we need.”
Boyce teleported away but returned quickly with everything they needed, including a key to her handcuffs so that they could make her comfortable. They carefully transferred her to a couch in the lounge area. They laid her head down on Mateo’s lap while he remained in a seated position. After inserting the cannula between them, Boyce disappeared again and came back with orange juice and cookies to keep Mateo’s body in operating condition. Slowly but surely, Leona’s energy grew as Mateo’s decreased. She needed a lot, and it wasn’t like he carried a significantly higher volume than she did.
Mateo found himself feeling loopy and tired. He actually started swinging his head around like a cartoon character. At some point, he fell asleep. And when he awoke, it was June 8, 2092. He was off his pattern. Click here for the next installment...

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