Saturday, April 30, 2016

Second Stage of Something Started: Necessities (Part III)

Click here for the first series (Seeing is Becoming).
Click here for the previous installment...
Click here for the entire story.

Saga and Vearden worked together to drag the set of instructions for the replica of the Colosseum out of the cave, along with the chest itself. There was no apparent time constraint to their mission, so they decided to wait and start work in the morning. They were losing daylight, and needed to build some kind of camp. Saga suggested they just stay in the cave, but it was just too dangerous. Their boss liked movies, and too many movies were about people being trapped underground. Remaining in wide open spaces was their best option. They found a box of other supplies under the ramp to the stargate: a compass, two flashlights, a few tools, four bottles of water, and five towels of varying sizes. On top of everything was a note from Makarion, Don’t forget to bring a towel. What a strange little man.
Vearden was tasked with constructing the shelter while Saga went about getting a fire going. They chose to make it a contest to see who could finish first. Just before she had the fire raging well enough to be left alone, he had placed the final leaf on their new home and was mocking her loss playfully. “What the hell is that?” she asked of him.
“It’s our shelter. They call it a lean-to, I’m sure of it.” A line of sticks were leaning against a tree. Leaves filled in some, but not all, of the gaps between them.
“That’s only big enough for one person!” She chided him, adding, “who doesn’t mind getting rained on.”
“What are talking about? It’s fine,” he disagreed.
“It’s absolute rubbish,” she said in a feigned British accent. “I’ll have to do it again.”
“That’s ridiculous,” he responded with a laugh. “There’s plenty of room. We’ll just have to cuddle. We’ll need body warmth anyway.”
Saga took a deep breath and exhaled melodramatically.
“Oh, I see what’s happened here,” he finally said. “You’re looking at this pile of random sticks and leaves I put up against the tree. That’s not the shelter.”
“What are you goin’ on about?” Her British kick came from having thought about Pirates of the Caribbean. It was this assimilation thing she did when exposed to other cultures.
Vearden took her by the hand and led her down the tree line. Hidden behind some brush and tall trees was a completely finished cottage. He opened the door and waved her inside. She widened her eyes with interest while two beds were gradually growing out of the floor. He smiled and watched as well. “Okay, I guess you won the game since the beds aren’t quite done.”
“How did you know how to do this? We barely scratched the surface of the instructions.”
“It didn’t take much work on my end. I really just opened the cottage kit at a good location and let it go to work. It’s using the wood from nearby trees. I also found directions to another cache, this one of necessities that apparently can’t be manufactured like sleeping bags and toiletries. It’s evidently buried near a source of fresh water. I didn’t go off looking for it because I didn’t want to be too far from you.”
“And you wanted to spend time making me think that crap out there was our actual shelter.”
“Well yeah, that too.”
“Why did you let me build the fire so far from the cottage?”
“Oo, I didn’t think of that.”
Soon thereafter, they went off amidst the twilight to find what else Makarion had left for them, taking the small shovel and trowel along with them. They found the trunk sticking out of the ground. Either Makarion didn’t have time to bury it all the way, or didn’t think it was necessary. They wrestled it up and broke the lock with a few swift swings of the mini-shovel. Inside were sleeping bags, a water purification system, and several other helpful survival items. But there were two other things in the corner. “What does he want us to do with these?”
“I doubt I could come up with a possibility worse than what he might actually have in store for us,” Vearden replied.
“I’ve never used a gun before, Vearden.”
“Wha—you think I have?”
“I didn’t say that. Maybe they’re just for hunting, or they’re not even real.”
Vearden picked up one of the revolvers. “It’s real.”
“I thought you didn’t have any experience with them.”
“Toy guns aren’t so heavy!” he yelled back defensively. “It’s probably for a future one of his games.”
“Yeah,” she said solemnly. “I imagine a Clint Eastwood movie.”
They stopped, and again spoke at the same time, “Back to the Future Part III”.
“We are time travelers,” Vearden pointed out.
Saga took the gun from Vearden’s hand and put it back in the trunk before removing all other other supplies and cradling them in her shirt. “We don’t open that back up until we have no other choice.”
“Deal.”
They followed the trail back down to the beach, both thinking that the other knew where they were going. It was getting darker by the second, so that was definitely a mistake. They did make it to a beach, though, where they found another collection of items scattered around. It looked like they had been abandoned there for years. “What is all this stuff doing here? It doesn’t look like it’s for us.”
“No, it belongs to someone else, for sure.”
She picked up some packages sticking out of the sand. The food was far past expiration date. “Whoever was here, they didn’t use any of this stuff.”
“Maybe they crashed here but were rescued before too long.” He was examining an inflatable raft, and noticing a hole in it.
“Or maybe they were killed,” she suggested. “Perhaps by Makarion.”
“We can’t think like that.”
He dropped the raft and and took a look at the compass. “We can’t be far from the cottage and the stargate. Grab what you can, leave the food if it’s gone bad. I’m starting to think Makarion owns this island, and is using it for other games, with other people.”
They quickly walked back to camp and stuffed all of their new belongings in the cottage. But they left the trunk of guns under the stargate ramp, safe and as far away from them as possible. Click here for the next installment...

Friday, April 29, 2016

Microstory 310: Physical Safety

Click here for a list of every step.
Instinct

So far, I have been providing you with a list of everything necessary for an organism, particularly a human, to survive. You need air to breath, ground to stand on, water to drink, food to eat, and barriers between you and danger. You also need the supporting factors that make such things possible. This is the last of the survival necessities, and will be followed by a list of things required for what one might call a “full” life. That is, they will venture beyond basic survival, and start delving deeper into what a person needs in order to achieve true happiness. For now, I’m just going to talk about general physical safety. No one wants to live in a world of constant danger. But if you’re honest with yourself, you will realize that’s exactly where you are. You could slip in the shower, get run over by a car on the sidewalk, slip off a cliff, or just have a no-warning brain aneurysm. Danger abounds, as they say. Physical safety does not mean being completely free from anything that could do you harm. A boy in a bubble can still starve to death. The mark of a safe environment is not that there is no danger, but that there are ways of keeping the danger at bay, or of otherwise overcoming it. Airbags do not prevent vehicular collisions, but they make one easier to live through, should it occur. Before you can be a happy person, you need to understand where you’re living, and what precautions you need to take to make your life worthwhile. A lower-class person in a developing nation is not totally barred from happiness. They may just have more work. You can’t go through life worried about being hurt by it. Because even more important than physical safety itself, is knowing its limitations, and yours.

Intuition

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Microstory 309: Instinct

Click here for a list of every step.
Fire

Many people have attempted to define the exact qualifications of an instinctive behavior. The reason for their qualms with claiming that instinct remains within the human species comes out of an attempt to decategorize humans as animals. And that’s all well and good, and I agree that humans are decidedly not animals, but we cannot forget our animalistic tendencies altogether simply because we’ve developed a high enough degree of intelligence to override these instincts. Our instincts are still there; it’s just that we’ve been trained to handle situations from an intellectual perspective. I’ve already discussed how evolution works; that a species will evolve according to a genetic trait that supports its survival and/or propagation. One thing to remember from this, however, is that these traits occur according to environmental changes, and random mutation. No one is capable of determining which traits to accept and which to reject. That is, it doesn’t matter how badly we want to to evolve, and become something greater, evolution isn’t going to get us there. For that, we need scientific ingenuity, but that is a different discussion. The fact is that we’ve yet to develop any technology specifically designed to to inhibit, or otherwise modify, our baser instincts. At the moment, and for the most part, our instincts are dormant, but given the opportunity, any human can transform themselves into an exclusively, or at least primarily, instinctual creature. As much as you might fight the truth, you are capable of turning into an animal. There is a place for this; for instance, in a survival situation. You may even find yourself one day wanting to turn towards your instincts in order to protect yourself from psychological trauma. Never forget that your species would never have survived without relying on their instincts. They are the first step towards a more advanced level of survival; intuition.

Physical Safety

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Microstory 308: Fire

Click here for a list of every step.
Shelter

The first time our ancestors saw fire was the first time they looked to the sky during the day. There is a bunch of science going on that makes fire burn. But at the core of it, all heat is the same thing; excited atoms and molecules moving around so fast that energy is released. The faster these atoms move, the more energy they release, and if you excite them enough, fire will be created. This is why friction can assist in the creation of fire. You don’t need some kind of liquid fuel; you don’t need matches; you don’t even need flint and steel. If you want to build a fire, you’re going to need something that’s really good at burning, and then apply intense friction to it. Wood is a good option because it’s rather abundant, and even though it requires a lot of effort, it doesn’t require much knowledge. Fire is one of the most useful elements in existence. It cooks food, which burns off possible pathogens, releases certain otherwise unrealized nutrients, and makes meals taste better. We have yet to encounter evidence of a civilization that did not cook food. Fire also produces warmth, and discourages dangerous animals. Modern humans have innovated further with fire and combustion to make their lives more efficient and convenient. Experts have uncovered evidence, however, that primates first controlled fire nearly two million years ago. This means that one of the first things we did after deciding to stand upright was to recreate the sun and forest fires towards our own end. Fire is not only a personal need, but a cultural one. It was an early step in the advancement of the human race; an undeniable sign of intelligence. If you ever meet an alien, the first thing you should do is demonstrate your basic comprehension of fire.

Instinct

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Microstory 307: Shelter

Click here for a list of every step.
Clothing for Protection

It is said that you can survive three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Now, remember that each progressive step operates under the assumption that you have all steps before it taken care of. Today, I’m going to talk to you about the second one. Three hours without shelter doesn’t mean that you can’t survive being outside without dying. This is referring only to being in a rough environment, such as the forest in the dead of winter, or the middle of a desert. This is also not so much a rule as it’s a sliding scale and a guideline that adjusts from person to person, and is designed to illustrate the relationship between these vital needs. There are many kinds of shelters, the most obvious being houses and other permanent dwellings. But to qualify as a shelter, a structure need only be large enough to fit at least one person, and have room for them to move around without altering the structure (e.g. not clothing). Different cultures at different time periods develop different kinds of homes. At the dawn of man, we were still living inside naturally occurring structures like caves. As time marches on, humankind is designing and developing ever more sophisticated architecture, ranging from enormous skyscrapers to deep underground bunkers. The key is to get out of the elements and to keep out unwanted guests like insects and potentially dangerous strangers. Not everyone in the world has access to shelter. Some live in community shelters, but are still considered homeless, because these places do not belong to them. Those worse off will sleep outside, with little to no protection. They even sometimes have limited protective clothing. Having a place to call home is a basic human right. We really are all in this together.

Fire

Monday, April 25, 2016

Microstory 306: Clothing for Protection

Click here for a list of every step.
Food for Survival

The concept of wearing textiles over the body in the form of clothing is so old, that we don’t even know how old it is. Experts believe it to be possible that our nonhuman primate ancestors were the first to wear clothes some tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of years ago. Because this would have happened long before reliable record-keeping methods, scientists came to this number by studying the evolutionary variation between body lice and head lice. It’s fascinating that they thought to do something like that to understand something like this. The fashion industry is big business, but clothing is important, regardless of how it looks. Clothing was created to protect people from cold temperatures, and even from the heat, because the sun’s rays can damage the skin. There are other environmental concerns to consider, like toxic or physically dangerous plants, as well as insects. Back before more sophisticated means of making garments, people wore animal furs. This has since become controversial because it is unnecessary to kill an animal only to wear its coat. For some reason, there is not as much outcry when it comes to wearing leather, but it does still happen. Most modern fabrics, however, are made from materials that do not require harming animals, like cotton, wool, and synthetic fibers. If you live in the developed world, you may take clothing for granted. But there are plenty of people—even in your backyard—who cannot afford, or do not have access to, clothing. When you have a minute, take some time to go through your closet and dresser to see if you have any clothes that you no longer wear. These can easily be donated so that others can have the clothes they need to feel safe and comfortable. Clothing is not just for literal protection; it serves a psychological need.

Shelter

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 18, 2072

Click here for the 2016 table of contents.

Following the jump to the future, Mateo lovingly pulled back from Leona’s embrace. He pretended to be perturbed and said, “wow, I asked you to marry me a year ago, and you still haven’t given me an answer. I think that’s a record.”
She laughed. “Oh, were you being serious about that?” She was cracking her own joke, but at the same time, she needed to confirm that he did really mean it.
“I most certainly am serious.”
“We’ve only known each other—and I mean, really, mutually—for less than two months.”
“People get engaged in less time.”
“Yeah, and there’s a stigma about it, and we could look up the success rates on those marriages.”
“We could,” Mateo agreed, but somewhat condescendingly.
She stepped back a couple of paces to get a better look at him. “You only ask because I’m the only person in the universe who you could possibly be married to. I’m basically the last woman on Earth.”
“That’s not why I asked,” he argued. “Saga and Vearden were partners, and there’s not a single romantic feeling between them. They found spouses outside of the relationship. I’m not saying it’s the same thing—because you’re right—I don’t know anyone else, but I also don’t want anyone else. I had twenty-eight years to find “the one” which I think is plenty of time. You turned out to be her; what’s weird about that?”
“Well, that’s one way to look at it.”
“We could literally be the last two people on Earth. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t belong together, or that we couldn’t be compatible. The question of whether a relationship works out isn’t dependent on hypothetical relationships with other people. Do I love you, and do you love me, and do we both want this? Those are the only questions that matter.”
“But hypotheticals are important. If we were to fall out with each other down the line, it’s not like one of us could move out. We’re stuck with each other. Right now, that’s great, but I don’t know the future. I can’t promise I’ll always want that.”
“First of all, no one can know that. Well...the powers that be apparently can, but that’s irrelevant. The fact is that we could have a falling out even if we don’t get married, and that would still be awkward.”
“So you’re saying that marriage isn’t a big deal?”
“I’m saying that I don’t live my life worried about what might happen. Not anymore. We don’t have that luxury. Now, that doesn’t mean nothing matters, or that I throw a dart at a choice board. It just means all I go on is what I feel right now. And right now, I want to get engaged with the woman I love.”
“Okay,” she said quietly, still not convinced she should accept the proposal.
“I’m not asking you to marry me tomorrow. I’m asking for an engagement, a promise that you’re interested, and that you don’t want to lose me. Marriage is not a piece of paper. It’s not even for you to convince your partner of your dedication. It’s a promise to yourself.”
“I do love you, Mateo. I’m not saying no. I’m just not sure I’m ready.” She was becoming pretty stressed out. “It’s not that I’m not ready; that’s a weird way to say it. I don’t want anyone else but you. I guess I really am just hung up on the time. I waited for you for so long, and it just feels like someone else made the decision to put us together. I know that I chose you, but...how do I know that you chose me?”
“I suppose...” Mateo tried to figure out his words. “I suppose, even ignoring my actions for the last few weeks, it comes down to trust. You have to trust that when I kissed you for the first time, it’s because I wanted to. You have to trust that the only good thing that’s come out of being a salmon is getting to know you, and that I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else. And you have to trust that when I asked you to marry me, it wasn’t just because someone else paired us up. Yes, it’s true that you’re only not too young for me because I’m a time traveler. That tells us how we met, and hell, it might even be why. But that doesn’t mean it was necessarily going to work. That’s something we did. We both have to choose to stay together, and my proposal is an extension of that choice.”
“What if I decline? What is that an extension of? Does it mean I’ve ultimately not chosen you?”
“I can’t answer that. Only you can.”
She turned away to stare into space, like a character in a soap opera. “Yeah, I know. I don’t know why I asked that.”
He placed his fingers on her shoulder. “I’ll still be here even if you say no, and also if you just never give me an answer at all. Take as much time as you need, or ask that I never bring it up again, or just keep putting it off. It won’t bother me. Just don’t leave. The powers that be are, well, powerful. But they’re not God. If you want to leave, I’m sure you could find a way. But please don’t. I would rather we never discuss marriage again than risk losing you.”
Leona remained facing away from him, so he couldn’t know how she was reacting, but he continued to feel her warmth. “I don’t know how much time I’ll need, but I can promise to give you an answer. You won’t be left hanging forever. And you won’t just be left alone.” She finally turned back around. “I don’t wanna lose you either. This much I know.”
“Okay,” Mateo said particularly calmly. “We’ll wait. I need time to figure out how to buy rings in this time period anyway.”
Leona took in a deep breath, but slowly let it out. “Right now, we should go look for our family.”
“Oh, I forgot about them. I was so wrapped up in us.”
“I hope Makarion didn’t do anything to them.”
Just then, as if called, Aura and Theo walked into the warehouse. “We fell asleep, and didn’t realize you were back,” Theo admitted.
“We get so used to you not being around, off on your tribulations, that we forget to look for you,” Aura continued. “We’re sorry.”
“No, we’re sorry,” Mateo apologized. “We should have been more concerned when you disappeared yesterday.”
“Makarion just dropped us off at home,” she explained. “We didn’t even see him.”
Theo shook his head, confused by his own perspective. “There’s something very comforting about the man. He sure makes it seem like he’s not a bad guy.”
“Yeah, very different than Reaver,” Leona agreed.
“We just don’t know him very well.”
“Very true,” Makarion said. His sudden appearance was not surprising, even though they were confident the Cleanser was telling the truth when he claimed Makarion wasn’t capable of spying on them from another dimension.
“I’m feeling very repetitive,” Mateo said, “always asking whether we did something wrong. You keep changing things.”
“You’re referring to the fact that I never asked you to perform for me last year?”
“Yes,” Leona confirmed.
Makarion smiled knowingly. “That was never the deal. I’m not a weirdo who likes to watch. I just wanted you two to get over your fight.”
Mateo was worried about speaking up, but did it anyway, “not exactly that I’m complaining, but you promised not to change the rules.”
“I didn’t. I told you why I was having you dance. I just let you think there was more to it. I said I wanted you to perform for me, not necessarily in front of me. Just stop questioning it and let it be.” He began to talk with his hands. “I will tell you that I’m trying to keep you two together for my own reasons. The tribulations are going to get more dangerous. I don’t expect you to believe me, but I’ve really been holding back.”
“Can’t you just keep holding back?” Aura was defensive of her son.
Makarion was really struggling with how much he was willing to reveal. “It...it’s just.” He sighed. “It’s just—out of my hands.”
Now Theo was defensive. “What are you talking about? You can stop this anytime you want.”
“No, I can’t.”
“Of course you can! You told us you were free from the powers that be!”
“I still answer to someone!” This they did not know, and he clearly wished he hadn’t told them now.
“Who?”
“I can’t tell you that.” Makarion was noticeably scared.
“Oh, yes you can,” Theo argued. Wow, he was angry.
Makarion had had enough. “Do you want them to have the next DVD or not?”
Mateo finally stepped back into the conversation. “We want the DVD. It’s fine, you don’t have to tell us.”
Makarion handed them Transporter 3 and then disappeared. Click here for the next installment...

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Second Stage of Something Started: Treasure (Part II)

Click here for the first series (Seeing is Becoming).
Click here for the previous installment...
Click here for the entire story.

“Makarion,” Vearden repeated, but not sarcastically.
“Interesting name,” Saga said. “Common in the future?”
“It has its place,” Makarion replied. He snapped his fingers. The scene changed, and they found themselves on a beach. It was unclear whether it was an island, or what. Besides the forest before them, and the ocean behind, there was only a single landmark of note. It was a giant metallic ring, with a ramp leading up to it.
“What is this? Where are we?”
“Not really important where we are. This is your home for the next few days.”
“Where’s the rest of the crew?”
Makarion looked at them funny. “Why would there be anyone else? You’re it.”
“You expect us to build a scale replica of the Colosseum?” Vearden scoffed. It’ll take us years.”
“Decades, at best,” Saga corrected.
Makarion was unfazed. “Is that a problem?”
“Well...”
“I’m joking!” Makarion yelled. “This is the 2070s. Construction will only take a few days. I just need someone moving supplies and monitoring progress for me. I would have robots do it, but since you showed up, I figured it was destiny.”
“What invention would allow such rapid development?” Saga asked with some rare genuine interest in technology.
“Nanofabricators,” Vearden answered instead.
“That’s right. You’re smart. Tiny machines programmed to do nothing but build, and to do so until they’re done.”
“And the ring?” Saga pressed.
“It’s a stargate,” Vearden answered again. “Looks like all that time I spent watching science fiction has paid off.”
“Evidently,” Makarion confirmed. “In the story, stargates are the only thing capable of sending passengers and cargo across space instantaneously. Of course in the real world, we have far more sophisticated ways of doing this. This ring here is just what I’m using to open portals so you can funnel the materials you’ll need. The nanotech will build the structure, but you need to give them stuff to work with.”
“You can apport people and open portals manually. Are you one of the powers that be?” Vearden asked.
Makarion seemed almost angered by this, but was able to keep his cool. “Do not lump me with those benchwarmers. I’m like you, except I choose how to use my power. Nobody controls me.”
“I didn’t know that was possible,” Saga began. “We’ve been looking for a way to step out of our own pattern. Can anyone do what you do? Could you teach us?”
Makarion started to walk up the ramp. As he did so, a portal opened to a second location, one that didn’t utilize the infamous unstable wormhole vortex found in the show. “I’ll think about it. I like games, by the way. The instructions for your work are hidden somewhere on the island. Before you can get to work, you have to find them, savvy?” He stepped through the portal and let it close behind him.
“He is apparently not concerned with time,” Saga pointed out, “if he wants us to spend some only finding instructions.”
“This guy sounds insane. Should we be helping him?”
“Bad things happen when you disobey the powers. All we can do is what we’re told. If they wanted us to stop him from recreating the Colosseum, I feel like that would be obvious to us.”
Vearden sighed out of both fatigue and concession. “Where do we start?”
“Look for a clue, I guess.”
They separated and searched for anything out of the ordinary, besides a giant magical teleporting ring. Vearden thought he saw something shiny peeking out from the ground, so he got down on his knees and pushed the sand away. Upon finding out what it was, he reeled and fell to his back.
“What is it?”
“I think it’s a dead body.”
“That can’t be good.” Saga walked over calmly and looked down to where Vearden was staring. It appeared to be an eye. An eye with a fork stuck in it. There were no other remains. She reached down.
“Don’t touch it!”
“Hold up,” she said, picking it up and examining it. “It’s made of wood. It’s not real.”
“Why is there a forked wooden eye on the beach? Is that our first clue?”
“Does this seem familiar to you?”
“Again, a forked wooden eye. On a beach. No, no it doesn’t. Should it?”
Saga sifted through her memory archives. The last time she watched something on film or television was decades ago, but she was finally able to recall the movie. “Pirates.”
“Pirates did this?”
“As in...of the Caribbean?”
Vearden recognized the name, but it too was a long time for him. They would have seen the movie as children. That was another life. “Okay...”
“Makarion did say he likes games.”
“Movies are not games.”
“I’ve heard it both ways.”
“Okay, well that tells us we’re in a movie, and also which movie. But that doesn’t tell us where the instructions are, unless they’re etched on the eye.”
“They’re not,” Saga replied. “But the handle of the fork was pointing inland, so we should head that way.”
“That’s a bit of a stretch.”
“The reason there’s a fork in it is because it was shot out of a cannon.” She pointed, “the fork came from that way. We should go look for its hypothetical origin.”
Vearden shook his head as another concession. “Very well.”
It was not long before they found their target; an actual cannon. It was dirty and rusting with cobwebs covering up the barrel. Saga agreed to be the one to reach inside since Vearden was afraid of spiders. Her hand returned with the next clue; a leather pouch. She unraveled it to find a rather large and ornate gold coin; triangles and swirls, symbols, and a skull. It was beautiful, and reminiscent of their past in the past when such trinkets held incredible value. In today’s world, it was probably worth almost nothing.
Another clue was written on the inside of the pouch. Blood of the battle, water of womb. // Go to a place where flowers don’t bloom. // Scary and dark, rocky and wet. // You will not need Tears, you will not need Sweat. // The one who jumps forward, but always looks back // is kin to the one who will put you on track.
“We’re obviously looking for a cave,” Vearden said.
“Obviously.”
The cave took a considerably longer time to find than the cannon, especially since there were multiple rocky structures that a film-obsessed psychopath might consider sufficiently cave-enough. “He’s not necessarily a psychopath.”
“He probably is.” Looking back, the cave they finally found had to be it anyway, because it was deep enough to be scary, dark, and wet. After some further searching, they finally discovered a chest. A small slit, about the size of the coin was cut on the top of the lid. A knife was ominously resting in the slit. “What happens in this part of the movie?”
Saga shrugged. “I don’t remember.”
“You’re the one who figured out this was all a movie recreation.”
“That doesn’t mean I have hyperthymesia.”
“I don’t know what that is.”
“Let’s just read the clue again,” Saga suggested.
They looked it over together. Why are Tears and Sweat capitalized?” Vearden wondered.
“Because they’re names.”
“But we don’t need them.”
“Which means that we need...”
And then they simultaneously realized what the answer was. “Blood.”
“Whose blood?”
“Do we think it matters?”
“The last part suggests it does,” Saga noted.
“Couldn’t we just try one, and then the other if it doesn’t work?”
“How would we get the coin back?”
“Good point.
“So who is the one who jumps forward, but always looks back?”
And then they simultaneously realized what the answer was. “Mateo.”
“You’re Mateo’s grandfather.”
“Sort of,” Vearden clarified.
Saga nodded. “Sort of.”
“But our blood doesn’t match. L wasn’t my daughter until after she had her son...and then died and came back to life. Mateo and I are not related.”
“The chest is fastened with your genetic code. The reference to Mateo was just a way to let us know that, and was probably the easiest rhyme this Makarion guy could come up with.”
“I guess we’ve confirmed that he’s insane.”
Saga took the knife from the chest and waited for Vearden to be ready enough to present his hand, knowing that he would not want to have to cut himself. Ever since he lost the super-healing power he had at one time been imbued with from the Gondilak fight on Orolak, he was squeamish about his own blood. Makarion probably knew that about him. He turned away while she drew a healthy dose of his blood and wrapped his fingers around the coin. After she dropped it down the slit, they could hear it roll back and forth down switchbacks. A series of other mechanisms clinked and clanged, along with a clearly erroneous release of gas, just for effect. The chest opened on its own, at last revealing their packet of instructions.
“And so it begins...” Click here for the next installment...