I am the gatekeeper. We’ve started receiving so many calls about those deaths that we had to hire two more people for reception. They built a little post for security in the corner of the lobby that wasn’t there before, for a now much-needed protection. You might laugh, but we have seen people come in just to scream and fight against “the man”. The security guard has done an excellent job of protecting us, but nothing could have prepared us for a threat from within. Ya know, I’ve always considered myself very well in tuned with nature. I take care of a beautiful garden that goes around my whole house. And I swear that I know what my plants are feeling. I know what they need, and when they need it. I am the most self-aware person you’ll meet, so don’t think this makes me some kind of delusional crazy person. When I tell you that I have all day sensed that something bad was going to happen, you can be damn sure that I’m not lying. The world and time, they talk to me, and though I’ve sometimes had a hard time interpreting it, I can always tell. I can always feel it. Today is unlike any other day. Today is exception and dangerous. Just before it happens, I feel a rush of wind come over me. This is the spirit, warning me to get out of the way. Only as I’m moving away from the desk did it register that something was falling towards me. I look up and witness the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I try to urge my trainee to move away too, but there is not enough time. Both the window and the man hit the reception desk. Glass shatters and flies everywhere. Something hits me in the chest and knocks me over. And then it happens. I hear a loud crash in the elevator shaft.
Mateo, Gilbert, and Horace spent the rest of the day hatching their plans and explaining themselves to each other. After the alternate version of Reaver shot Gilbert in the Australian cell, Gilbert began jumping into other people’s bodies. He eventually learned precision, and could use whatever temporal powers his victim at the time had. He spent years leaping from life to life, not putting right what once went wrong, but doing anything he wanted. He leapt into good people, bad people, helpless salmon, and powerful choosers. Each jump corrupted him further, and caused him to lose a little bit of his old self. But he was back now, and he was ready to help. Unfortunately, their plans were thrown out of whack when midnight came and they discovered an unusual phenomenon. Gilbert and Horace were meant to spend the interim year setting off a series of events that would culminate in a climax that would come once Mateo returned in 2099. For some reason, though, the other two jumped forwards in time with him.
“Why did this happen?”
“It’s happened to me before,” Gilbert said. “Someone high up the chain wanted me to help Mateo bring you in,” he said to Horace. “They temporarily placed me on his pattern.”
“That could be explained by you reverting to some earlier version of yourself,” Mateo began, “but why would Horace be here now?”
“We bound you together this once,” said a child who came out of nowhere. “We know the kinds of things you’re planning in your campaign against The Cleanser, and frankly, we don’t have time for it.”
“Who are you?” Horace asked, skeptical.
“He’s The Emissary,” Gilbert answered.
“This is is correct,” the Emissary confirmed. “I speak for the powers.”
“Why don’t they speak for themselves?”
“We are not yet prepared to explain that to you.”
Mateo and Horace looked to Gilbert for answers, who simply said, “that I actually don’t know.”
They looked back to the Emissary, who went into his spiel. “Mateo Matic, you operate at the pleasure of the powers that be, but they have loaned you out to the Cleanser for whatever he feels like he needs to do.”
“Yes, I am aware,” Mateo said.
“The powers, however, maintain precedence. Right now, we are in need of your services.”
“Hold on, go back,” Horace argued. “Why have you loaned him out to the Cleanser? What obligation do you have to do such a thing? I thought you hated the choosing ones.”
“I am but the Emissary.”
“That has been established,” Horace retorted. “Why don’t you give it your best shot?”
The Emissary did not look pleased, but could tell that they would not let him proceed without some explanation. “The Gallery is a separate entity. It is a sort of...home base for choosers, and we are not allowed to go there. The powers have their equivalent where choosers are not allowed to go. We have...an arrangement. Asking us to interfere would be like asking Apple to police AT&T.”
“You’re afraid of him,” Mateo guessed.
The Emissary did not want to let on that this was true, but his face betrayed him. “We respect him.”
“May I proceed?” the Emissary asked rhetorically.
Just the same, Mateo nodded to allow him to continue. It was important to maintain dominance over any conversation with a chooser, power, or whatever else he encountered from now on.
“We need you to protect a young girl named Xearea Voss.”
“What kind of name is Shayaraya?” Gilbert questioned rudely.
“The kind that starts with an X.”
“Why does she need protecting, and why do we need to do it?” Horace asked.
“She angers someone in the future who’s coming back to kill her,” the Emissary explained. “She becomes extremely important when she grows up, so she cannot be allowed to die.”
Horace and Mateo both squinted and tried to remember why that sounded familiar. Then they looked to Gilbert for answers again. “Yeah, it’s Terminator 2,” he said confidently.
“It is not Terminator 2,” the Emissary protested, extremely offended by the suggestion.
“It’s Terminator 2,” Gilbert repeated, not havin’ none of that.
“No matter what anyone says, all of my tribulations have been tied to movies. This one is no different.”
“I guess there’s nothing new under the sun,” Horace pointed out.
Gilbert chuckled. “Depends on the sun.”
The Emissary just shook his head, dumbfounded by their bizarre reactions. “Look, she’s the new Savior. She was conceived and marked for duty upon the death of Makarion Dimitrios, but she will not be activated until she turns thirteen. Until then, the powers can’t protect her themselves.”
“Oh, and you say it’s not Terminator 2.”
“Wait,” Mateo said, “Saviors start their pattern when they’re thirteen?”
“It’s true, Gilbert noted.
“I started even younger,” Horace said, referring to the fact that he started repeating each day from the moment of birth.
Does she know who she is?” Mateo asked.
“Her brother works part-time in 1991, so she’s aware of our world, but she does not know her own destiny. Now, if there are no further questions, I’ll send you off.”
“Actually, I have a question—”
“No? Good. Byeeeeeeee.”
“Hello?” a young girl said from the other side of the threshold, arms crossed, chewing gum. She was wary, but not fearful, of three grown men at her door. Mateo could immediately tell that she was sarcastic and irreverent. “Can I help you?”
“Yeah...?” she waited for them impatiently.
“We’re not sure how to say this,” Gilbert said awkwardly.
Now she was a losing a bit of her edge. “Are you from the 20th century? Is it my brother? Is he okay.”
“No, your brother’s fine,” Horace tried to backpedal. “I mean, I assume he is. We’ve never met him.”
Mateo took over. “Oh my God, your brother is fine. We’re not here about him. We’re here for you.”
“Is it about to happen to me too?” She asked. “I’m a little young for you, don’t you think?”
“It won’t happen for you for another three years. We cannot stop it, though we would like to.”
“Why would I want you to stop it? My brother’s life sounds awesome.”
Mateo looked to Horace and Gilbert, just to make sure that they were all on the same page. “I always err on the side of pure honesty,” Horace admitted.
“Yeah, we know,” Gilbert snarked.
“Xearea,” Mateo began. “You won’t get your brother’s life. Yours...will be much harder. It will be nonstop. I’ve seen it. Saviors don’t have personal lives.”
She tightened her arms around her chest. “In three years? They don’t even wait until you’re an adult.”
“How old were you?” she asked of Mateo.
“I was twenty-eight.”
“Well, maybe I’ll be twenty-eight too. You don’t know.”
“We do,” Horace assured you.
She clearly wanted to deal with the news, but was determined to continue. “If it’s in three years, then what are you doing here now?”
Mateo went on, “the people controlling us don’t want you to die, so once you’re activated, they’ll keep you safe. Don’t get me wrong, your job will be dangerous, but you’ll survive anything until retirement. They’re not protecting you because they care, but because they have no use for dead people. They sent us to keep you safe so you live long enough for them to protect you.”
“You really know how to make a girl feel special.” Sarcastic and precocious.
“I’m sorry, Xearea,” Mateo said. “I’m sorry this is the way it has to be. I’m sorry these people exist, and that they forced you into it.”
“Wow, this is nothing like Terminator 2,” Gilbert noticed.
“Are you sure about that?” They could see Xearea’s eyes widen in fear at the sight of something behind them.
They turned around to see a stone-faced man walking towards the door, completely unperturbed by the fact that the three of them were standing between him and his apparent target. “Xearea Voss. You have been judged by time and found guilty.”
While Mateo raised his arms to shield Xearea from the attacker, Gilbert walked down to meet him halfway. “Now, you know that we’re not going to let you do anything to this young lady.”
“We shall not be moved,” the man claimed.
Horace took a pistol from the holster hidden in his coat and shot the attacker in the head without a second thought.
Scared for Xearea, Mateo looked back through the doorway, only to see her spin around a bolt towards the back of the house. As he was running past them to catch up with Xearea, he could hear Horace say, “man, I wish Serkan were here.”
Even without Serkan’s help, they were able to catch up with Xerea before she made it all the way through the backdoor. Had they not, she probably would have been killed. Another attacker was waiting for her in the messy backyard. He swung an automatic rifle from behind his back and began spraying bullets in their general direction, presumably hoping he would eventually get lucky. While Gilbert and Mateo pulled Xearea to the floor and protected her like a blanket, Horace removed his second gun from its holster and began laying down returning fire.
Horace ran out of bullets at about the same time as the attacker did, so he left his weapons on the kitchen counter and marched out to confront him in person. It was no contest, though, as the man thoughtlessly brushed him away like dirt on his shoulder. Gilbert, the next violent person in their group, stood up with the intention of taking up the reigns, but this was not necessary. Darko Matic jumped into the timestream by object threading Horace’s guns. He engaged the enemy in close quarters combat. Seeing him again was his own reward, but Mateo was especially excited to watch the fight. He was never into boxing or MMA, but Darko’s work was particularly impressive. Still, it was not safe there, not for Xearea, so they had to get away. While Darko was keeping the attacker busy, Gilbert went out to make sure Horace was okay and Mateo took Xearea upstairs.
A third attacker teleported into the room just as they opened the door. He smiled at them sinisterly and started to remove a knife from its sheath. Mateo grabbed a nearby lamp and bashed it across his face. This didn’t seem to faze the man, but he was amused and curious. Mateo continued to grab random items from the room and hitting him, or throwing them at him. “All right, that’s enough, kid,” the attacker said.
What would Vin Diesel do? He would kick ass, that’s what. And he would do it all on his own. But Mateo Matic was no Vin Diesel. He was just a normal guy with no fighting experience. He wasn’t even particularly clever, but he did have a random desperate idea. He looked over the man’s shoulder and shouted, “okay, now!”
This was enough to distract him. Mateo slammed the door shut and rapidly entered the Baudin code. Before the attacker could stop her, Xearea ran through the new door Mateo opened for her. The Constructor’s headquarters was no fortress, but one thing he noticed when he was last there was that it did have some level of security. A muscular man running after a ten-year-old girl in their lobby was enough for them to raise their defenses. The man was quickly apprehended and taken to another room for questioning.
As Mateo was trying to catch his breath, the Cleanser appeared. “Oh no.”
“Oh yes,” the Cleanser said. He shook his open hands in the air and formed this weird sort of mirror portal which he promptly ushered Xearea through.
“What did you do with her!” Mateo argued.
“She’s back home.” Then he waited for dramatic effect. “I’ve spent so many years, peering through time, looking...for you.”
“Dear God, no. Not now. I’m already in the middle of a tribulation.”
The Cleanser arched his arm and opened a spark portal. “Now you’re coming with me on another one.” Mateo reluctantly followed him through it.
Click here for the next installment...
Armed guards carelessly pulled Mateo Matic and Gilbert Boyce down the dirty compound hallway. They dragged them down the steps and threw them in their glass cage like lemurs at a zoo. The two of them decided to not speak to each other. Anything they said would definitely be used against them later, and it wasn’t worth it. They quietly sat next to each other and privately wondered what was going to happen to them. Hours later, Gilbert’s nemesis, Horace Reaver strutted in with this weird platter of finger food.
Reaver dropped the platter on the ground. “You guys like turkey?” he asked in an unsettlingly jovial voice.
“You have us now,” Mateo said with a hoarse voice. They hadn’t been given any water, and the dry Australian heat was taking a massive toll on their bodies. The fact that they now had food, but still no water, was proof that Reaver was just toying with them. “Let Leona go.”
“Oh, she’s fine,” Reaver replied dismissively. “She’s staying in a six-star resort with air conditioning and television. It’s my ol’ buddy, Gilly who you should be worried about.”
“Worried why?” Gilbert asked, knowing right away that he would not be happy with any answer.
“Because you don’t matter,” Reaver explained before shooting him in the forehead.
Gilbert freaked out, struggled with the sheets, and got himself out of bed. He stumbled along the floor a little before resting against the wall.
“What the hell was that?” someone screamed.
Gilbert tried to rub the pain out of his head while he was standing back up. “I have no idea. I also don’t know where I am.”
The woman waved her head in the air and activated the lamp on the nightstand. “You’re home. Everything’s fine. Were you having a nightmare?”
Gilbert looked around the unfamiliar room. “Since when has this been my home?”
“Uhh...” the woman said, trying to remember. “Since 2048. May, I think it was.”
Gilbert took a deep breath and instinctively placed his hands on his chest, only to find a pair of breasts. “This can’t be a dream.”
The woman smiled and looked at him seductively. “Oh, believe me, sweetheart. Those puppies were always my dream.”
“What’s my name?”
“Are...are we role-playing?”
“Yeah, sure, what’s my name?”
“Okay, umm...how about Gaia Neptune?”
“No, what’s my real name?”
“How is that role-playing?”
“We’re role-playing that I have amnesia.”
She stared at him for a few moments. “That doesn’t sound very fun.”
Gilbert stared at her for a few moments. “Please.”
“Rebecca—” she tried to begin.
“And you are?”
“Judy Schmidt. Yeah, I was right. This isn’t fun at all.”
He took another deep breath and went over to the mirror. He wasn’t sure why he wanted to know who this woman thought he was before trying the mirror. It just made sense. Maybe he thought it would make the situation easier to understand. It didn’t. Looking back at him in the reflection was a beautiful twentysomething, apparently named Rebecca Halcyon. He repeated the name in a whisper.
“Honey? Are you okay? You’re kinda scaring me now.”
Gilbert briefly looked down at Judy, but then went back to admiring his new body in the mirror. “Let’s have salmon for dinner tomorrow,” he said using Rebecca’s voice.
“That’s not funny,” Judy said.
Gilbert turned all the way around and sat on the edge of the bed. “So you know what I’m talking about?”
She shook her head, not as a negative response, but because she couldn’t believe he was saying these things. “Your...trips. That’s what the others call you. Yes, I know what you’re talking about. Did something happen? Is it affecting your memory, or something? I knew we should have gone to some doctor.”
Gilbert peered at Judy, wondering whether he should speak to her delicately, or just not give a crap about her feelings. “So you also know that there are other people like me.”
“Other time travelers, yes. You’ve mentioned them, and you say you get the feeling there are many more you’ve never met, but you’ve come across a few. Please...tell me what’s wrong.”
“Have I ever mentioned anyone that can jump into other people’s bodies?”
“You mean like Quantum Leap?”
He was pleased with her familiarity with the show. “Yes! Just like that.”
“No, no of course you...” she trailed off and became lost in her own thoughts. Then she pulled away as much as she could and tried to cover up with the sheets. “Are you not Rebecca?”
“I’m afraid not,” Gilbert answered honestly.
She started crying and looking around, either for a weapon, or a way out.
“But I’m not going to hurt you. This is all new to me. I mean, I know other time travelers, I just...I’m not supposed to be one. Last thing I remember, I was in a cell, and Reaver was pointing a gun at me. Then I heard a shot. Judy, he shot me.”
She was not any less scared than she had been before.
“He shot me in the head. What a dick! But then...now I’m here.”
“What happened to Rebecca?”
“I have no idea. Maybe she’s in my body. No, because then she would be dead.”
That didn’t help with Judy’s fear.
“Oh, don’t you cry,” Gilbert nearly scolded. “I’m the one who should be crying. I’m the one who was just murdered.” Quickly changing the topic, he asked, “is it April 27, 2051?”
“It’s the 28th,” she said through her tears.
“So I didn’t jump here immediately. There was a latent period. But why, where was I?” He stood back up and found his truth. “Okay. I’m sorry that I caused you so much pain. I assure you that I meant you no harm, and that I will leave, if possible. I’m going to try to jump out of your wife’s body. If it works, in a few seconds you’ll have your Rebecca back, and she will be as scared as you are right now.” He closed his eyes to concentrate.
When he reopened them seconds later, he was outside.
For a second, he couldn’t move. It would seem that each jump came with some kind of side effect. Hopefully it would soon wear off. Hopefully it would soon wear off. But he was rather pleased with how relatively easy it was to jump into other people’s bodies. He didn’t even have to be taught by a wise old man, or something like that.
“Octavian, can you hear me?”
“What?” Gilbert asked, instantly feeling ready to slip into his new role.
“Gun or knife?”
“Um...whichever one you...don’t...want.”
“You know that I prefer knives.”
“Just like you. What’s wrong with you?”
“I’m just not feeling myself today. I’m fine.” Gilbert wasn’t fine, though. When he first leapt into the body of Rebecca, it made him feel different. He looked at the world differently; more optimistically. He felt happier and more comfortable, and he even felt a level of love for Judy, even though he had never met her. He was now starting to suspect that leaping into the body of someone else causes one to adopt certain characteristics of their personality. This Octavian fellow, whose body he was currently in, must have been a pretty bad guy. Gilbert wasn’t feeling much of anything. His initial thought was that Octavian, much like this other guy, was probably a sociopath.
“Yeah, we all have those days, brother. But it’s time to work. We can’t go back home until this guy’s dead.”
“What guy?” Ah, no. He wanted to be more confident, but that was a dumb question, for Octavian would already know the answer.
Yeah, his brother was confused. “The...Donald Trump?”
“Donald Trump? What year is this?”
“How do you not remember this?” He prepared himself to go over the mission. “Okay. It’s February 11, 2000. Donald Trump is about to kick his presidential campaign into high gear. The boss wants us to take him out before he can do that, and he wants it to be messy.”
“Trump doesn’t run for president in 2000, and he certainly isn’t killed.”
“No, because that’s what we’re doing here, to change history. What about time travel are you not getting? We’ve been doing this forever, have you lost your marbles?”
“I don’t understand what’s happening. It’s like I don’t even know you.”
A man walked in from the aether. Literally. “That is because you don’t. The man you’re looking at, Sevastian, is not your brother.”
“Then who is it?” Sevastian asked, more curious than upset or worried.
“Mister Boyce,” the man said. “You’re a long way from home, aren’t you?”
“How do you know who I am?” Gilbert asked, checking his face with his hands to confirm that he still looked like Octavian.
I am so nervous. I don’t actually work for Analion. I’m just the only soul brave enough to come down and discuss its recent problems, and how they pertain to me, if at all. You see, I personally installed one of the windows that someone fell out of. The Telute family has not once indicated to me that they blame me for what happened, but the media sure does. Firstly, it’s not easy to make the public understand the difference between Analion and a contractor like me. I’m just an independent handyman with a wide range of skills. I don’t have anything to do with design or testing. I take what the customer buys and make it work how they want it. Many of my clients are friends, or friends of friends. Even if people do recognize a distinction between me and the company, I still have to convince them that it wasn’t my fault. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that I’m not even convinced myself that I did nothing wrong. Right now, I’m waiting for my lawyer on the second level of the lobby. She’s advised against my meeting with Analion lawyers, and thinks they plan on pinning the whole thing on me, which they may very well be planning to do. I tend to be more optimistic, though. I choose to believe that this can be resolved amicably. The family members deserve justice, and that’s not really something I can provide. At least I can’t help them financially since I’m poor. But, I mean—wait, did you hear that? Was that the elevator? It sounded li Floor 1 (Part 1)