Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 22, 2107

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“He is not still alive,” Gilbert explained. That is no longer Zeferino Preston. It has returned to its original function as The Mass.”
“The what?”
“The Preston family was originally created to protect reality from people like us. You know more than most how screwed up things can get when you mess with time. Zeferino, Nerakali, and Arcadia were designed to make extremely powerful adjustments on a massive scale. I won’t get into the detail of their personal dysfunctional family strife, but suffice it to say, they lost a great deal of their power, and were thrown in with the rest of us. The Artist built the Mass in order to compensate for their loss. Unfortunately, Zeferino possessed that body—much like I once did with so many others—and, well, here we are.”
“Wait, back up. Created, designed, built?”
“The Artist can mold entire people out of building material, usually clay and-or mud.”
“Like God?” Leona asked skeptically.
“I’ve conjectured that that particular god-image representation were inspired by the Artist’s true nature.”
“If he can build entire people, how do any of us know whether we are one of his creations?” Mateo put forth, thinking on his Catholic sentiments. “Maybe he really is God.”
“Or an avatar of a god,” Leona suggested.
“These violent delights have violent endings.” Horace appeared from the other room. “I have always hated that quote. It reminds me of my old life; the one before Serkan.”
“Horace.” Leona stood up and gave him a gentle hug. “We don’t have to talk shop.”
“No, it’s okay. Keep in mind that it’s been a year for me. I’m not over it, but I’ve had time to grieve.” He sat down on the couch next to Mateo and accepted a nice brotherly grasp of the shoulder from him.
After a healthy moment of silence, Mateo spoke again. “So, if The Cleanser is really dead, and he can’t bother me in my personal future, it’s really over.”
“Those are the rules of the time duel, yes,” Gilbert nodded.
“But—forgive me, Horace,” Leona said cautiously, “Mateo didn’t win the duel. Serkan did. And then you actually killed him.”
“That does not go against the rules, actually. I know, they call it a duel, but part of your power is having people who have your back. Rather, it’s a possible strength. Most choosers don’t have that, so it’s never been an issue. Serkan was a chosen one, I’m an accident, and you’re...” Gilbert trailed off, not sure how to describe her. She was not like any of them.
“She is spawn.” The Blender, Nerakali turned out to be leaning casually against the upper mantel of the fireplace, possibly having been watching them from an observation dimension.
Horace stood up and held out his arms to protect all three of the others. She had personal resentment directed at all of them. “You heard it from one of the most knowledgeable men I’ve ever known. The duel was fair. Your brother lost.”
“Oh, I’m not here to hurt you. I just thought you might like a few answers before I leave and never see any of you people for the rest of my infinite life.”
Horace lowered his guard, but not all the way. “What is spawn.”
“There are five kinds of temporal manipulators. My brother would have had you believe that there are six, but the fact was that we are just like everyone else. You have choosers, which are born with whatever power; and chosen ones, which they can create. Then on the other side, you have powers that be, which can control the fourth type, salmon. Spawn are created by either a chosen one, or a salmon. They are the rarest, and though they’re not necessarily more powerful, they do enjoy a few loopholes; like the fact that you were immune to the time duel barrier. Like with choosers and their chosen ones, you can only make one spawn, if even that.”
“I was able to make two,” Horace pointed out. “Though, I guess in two different realities.”
“That doesn’t matter. One is one, across all realities. But your daughter is not spawn either way. She’s just your daughter. Spawn are born human, and later converted. That’s what makes it possible for Leona, Gilbert, and Paige to even be here today.”
“Paige?” Horace’s voice cracked a little.
“Yes, of course. Serkan created her.”
“How exactly does one go about...” Mateo felt like he was going to faint. The word spawn suggested offspring, and so referring to Leona as such was disturbing, to say the least. “...creating a spawn.”
“Nothing so weird as sex. We don’t really know how it happens, or why it doesn’t happen more often. Humans receive transfusions and transplantations from people like us all the time. In fact, Saviors spend a not insignificant amount of their time just donating blood. So it’s clearly not a blood thing. What we do know is that a spawn is...spawned in an extremely profound moment of intense emotion.”
“I find it strange that I’ve never heard of this before,” Gilbert said. “I’ve been around the block a few times.”
“Yes, well, like I said, they’re rare. It is weird that three of them are so close together, though.” Nerakali stood up and clapped her hands together. “But enough of the biology lesson. Why don’t we get to it?”
Horace raised his guard once more and narrowed his eyes. “You said that you wouldn’t hurt them.”
“And I won’t. I’m just going to erase all of your minds so that you wake up on a desert island with no idea who you are, or what the hell is going on.”
“You can’t do this,” Gilbert argued. “You two didn’t even like each other, why are you so intent on getting revenge?”
“Because we’re family,” Nerakali said. “I do this on principle.”
“The powers that be will never let you render us useless to them,” Mateo said. “It would be safer for you to not try.”
“I’ll start with Gilly and then play it by ear.” She raised both hands and prepared to blend Gilbert’s brain.
Horace removed a small pistol from inside his jacket, but he didn’t need it. A long-blade shot out of Nerakali like an alien chestburster. They looked behind her to see both The Warrior and The Navigator, Juan Ponce de León. “It’s right here,” Juan said while consulting the Compass of Disturbance. He walked over to a shocked Gilbert and removed the Hundemarke—which they had yet to find the time to discuss—from his neck, to no objection.
The Warrior removed the sword from Nerakali’s stomach and graciously accepted the dog tag. Mateo turned away and closed his eyes as the Warrior prepared to remove Nerakali’s head. Then he had to look away again as he started rubbing her blood all over his own body. Once he was satisfied that he had lathered up enough, he finally addressed the horrified crowd. “I shall return here to erase your memories of this dreadful event once I figure out how to use this new power of mind.” Then he disappeared, leaving the magical Sword of Assimilation behind.
“Well,” Juan Ponce de León said. “This is awkward, so I must be going as well.” He looked down at his special compass. “Yes, there is a temporal rift somewhere in that direction.” He started heading for the back door.
“My God, that was him,” Leona cried out in excitement.

They were finally free of the Cleanser, Zeferino Preston’s evil plans. Mateo, Leona, Gilbert, and Horace had a little meeting to make sure that things weren’t about to go south. Gilbert explained that the time duels really were final. The Cleanser could not return and hurt him. What they had experienced with the tribulations, and the final boss fight, were the things that would happen in any reality, no matter what. The details might be able to change a little bit, but they would not be aware of those anyway. Leona was worried that Zeferino’s sisters, Nerakali and Arcadia would show up at some point and demand revenge, but nothing happened. The whole giant, crazy, unorthodox family spent a very uneventful day together, just enjoying each other’s company. They played games, ate meals, and watched a couple movies. All in all, things were going well.
At the end of the night, Mateo and Leona retired to their room together. It had been a long time since they were able to just relax and be in the moment. Actually, by certain perspectives, it had been several years for Mateo, and decades to Leona. They were living pretty spectacularly tragic lives with each other. But they were with each other. They were together, and so that night, they made passionate love to each other. They were so caught up in the moment that, after it was over, Mateo couldn’t remember whether they had used protection.
“Mateo, how long have we been together?”
“You know that the question is literally impossible to answer. Our love story is more complex than any I’ve ever read.”
“You read?”
He giggled, “shut up.”
“Do you remember back before we knew that Makarion was actually Gilbert Boyce? When he made us do that dancing tribulation?”
“Yeah, that was actually kinda the first hint that maybe his feelings towards us were a little more complicated than we had thought.”
“Yeah, but something else happened that day, and into the next.”
“You mean when I asked you to marry me and you rejected the concept?”
“That’s a harsh way to put it, but yes, I was not receptive to the idea.”
He didn’t say anything.
“So...?”
“Are you expecting me to ask you again?”
“I am.”
“I’m not going to do that. You know what the question is. Feel free to answer me any time you’d like. I’m not going to try to recreate that moment in the present. It already began, now it just needs an ending.”
“So it’s an ending you want?”
“It is, but it better be a good one.”
“Well, in that case...”
He held his breath.

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