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Saying that Gilbert was Mateo’s favorite person in the world would be an overstatement, though he did care about him. The real problem now was that Gilbert knew more about choosers, powers, salmon, and time than anyone else. Well, except maybe for Lincoln, but Mateo wasn’t allowed to consult with him. He was hoping—well, to not lose anybody at all—but at least to hold off on the one guy who could help them understand what was going on. Mateo guessed then that this was the point. The Extractor, Arcadia was gradually removing from him his support system, and it was only ever going to get worse. From this comes only heartbreak.
He let everybody sleep. Paige got out of bed and they went off to get water. “Tell me about the person who’s missing this time,” she requested.
“He was a bad guy.”
“At times an antagonist, at others a villain. But then he became an ally, and then a friend. His relationship with Horace was particularly roller coastery.”
“Did I know him well?”
“Ya know, I don’t know. I leave for a year at a time, so when I return, I’ve always missed almost everything. It’s ironic that I’m the one who knows something others don’t since usually it’s the other way around. Because Horace is your father...and they were growing closer every day, I imagine you and Gilbert shared a few nice moments.”
She repeated his name, “Gilbert.” She took a zen breath and closed her eyes. “Nope, not coming to me. I didn’t expect it would, but...”
“But it was possible. I appreciate the attempt.”
“You’re lucky you have this group, Mateo. Anyone else would have dismissed your claims as total bullshit.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” he said.
“Any ideas what the challenge will be? You talked about someone called The Constructor, and then we had to build something. What might we have to do this time?”
“Well, Gilbert was founded a multi-billion dollar corporation in the other timeline.”
“You mean like Horace?”
“Yes, they were, at first, business rivals.”
“Oh, that’s interesting.”
“He ended up in prison because he essentially robin hooded their profits.”
“So, he was a good criminal.”
“As good as they come, yes. Then Horace killed him—”
“What!” she interrupted.
“Well, that was another life...literally. He came back to life and started possessing other people’s bodies, which screwed up his mind, and made him a problem. Then I killed him, and he was stuck in just the one body, and then The Cleanser killed him again, and then I brought him back through a magic mirror, and he’s been on our side ever since.”
“My father...killed him?”
“Yeah, shot him in the head.”
She looked disturbed.
“Paige, you know that Reaver was not a good guy before.”
“Well, yeah. He’s said as much...but he’s never given details.”
“That’s probably for the best. You don’t wanna see that side of him, or even imagine what it would be like.”
That did not make her feel better.
“That’s all in the past,” Mateo continued. “He’s not like that anymore.”
“But maybe he will be again. I mean, if this woman can take people out of time, she can probably change reality in other ways. All she has to do is extract evil Horace from that timeline and bring him here. Who knows what else she could do? She could destroy the whole universe!”
“Okay, okay, little one.”
“I’m older than you.”
“I know that it doesn’t do any good to dwell on what might happen. On the bright side, if she does destroy the universe, who will even care?”
“The Gravedigger, the Curator, a few other people who live in other dimensions.” Lincoln appeared from behind some bushes.
“And God,” Mateo added.
“Were you following us?” Paige asked, changing the subject.
“Just thirsty.” Then he shot Mateo a careless look, but it didn’t seem like Paige noticed.
“I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, Lincoln, but do you remember Gilbert and Baudin?”
He looked scared. “What? No, of course not. Why would I? I mean...who’s Gilbert?”
Now she was suspicious. “I’ve been alive for—” and then she coughed, but Mateo could hear the word hundred. “—years. I know when someone’s lying.”
“She erased my memory, just like everybody else’s. I still have my power, but I’m missing key facts. It’s not like with Leona where it’s fuzzy, it’s just not there.”
Paige appeared to be changing the subject again. “Who gave me this ring? Do you remember?” She held up her hand.
“Why that was...uh, I don’t recognize that,” Lincoln said awkwardly.
“Yeah, definitely lying. You remember Gilbert too.”
“That didn’t work before, and isn’t going to work now,” she said. “Tell me the truth.”
He looked to Mateo for help, but Mateo didn’t know what to do. Finally, he felt like he had no choice but to be honest. “I...yes.”
“I knew it.”
“Look, you don’t understand. You can’t—”
“Thank God I’m not the only one,” she said with a sigh of relief.
“Paige, you remember him as well?”
“Not exactly. It’s like that one movie where Jim Carrey loses his memories. They don’t just disappear all at once. He goes through a transition period where they fade, and they’re like...shadows of people. That’s what Gilbert is to me. All I see is a shadow, except that it’s not going away. I know someone is supposed to be there, but I don’t know who. I don’t know the details.”
“Is it the ring?” Mateo asked Lincoln.
“Well, that is what you could call a remnant, but I’m not sure it’s the ring doing this. She is spawn, maybe it just plain doesn’t work on her.”
“Ah, dammit,” Arcadia’s voice rang out before she teleported to them. “I thought I had this program figured out. Either there’s something wrong with the code, or you’re right, and it doesn’t work right on spawn.”
“But I don’t remember Baudin at all,” Paige said.
“Then it does also have something to do with that remnant you’re wearing. That is protecting you, but it only works on you because you’re different than anyone else.”
“So, it’s both because she’s spawn, and because she’s wearing something given to her by someone you kidnapped.”
“Yes,” Arcadia agreed.
All Mateo could think about was Leona, but he didn’t want to say anything. If he brought her up, she would just be in danger.
“I know what you’re thinking, and I won’t stop you,” Arcadia said to him. “You still can’t speak with Lincoln, but Paige and Leona are weak spots that I did not predict. I would dishonor myself if I changed the rules on you just because of how inconvenient they’ve turned out to be for me. That’s something Zeferino would do. If you can figure out how to get help from the spawn, then I have no choice but to allow it.”
“Thank you,” Mateo said to her graciously.
“I told you that I’m not a monster.”
“I know, and you’ve proven that today.”
“I’m going to leave now so I can alter the plan. I’ll make the expiation easier so it only requires two days, and give you today to discuss these...developments.” Arcadia approached Lincoln. “And I’m giving you a pass because you were caught off guard. I will not give you another one. You best learn how to lie, because if Leona tries to talk to you about this, things could go south real fast. You are still bound to your silence.”
She eyed him to make sure he was serious, and then teleported away from them.
After Lincoln was satisfied that Paige would not slip up like he did and reveal what he knew, they all three ran off back to the new camp. It was only then that he noticed the sign attached to the roof. It read CAMP BAUDIN. “You named it after him?”
“Of course they did,” Leona said as she was putting on her shirt.
“You’re welcome,” Vearden said with a cutesy bow.
“But you people don’t even know him.”
“It’s his shelter,” Mario said. “We hope to know him one day.”
Vearden was doing his morning stretches. “It feels like everybody’s here, but I assume somebody’s missing. So come on, Mateo, out with it.”
“His name was Gilbert Boyce. And...” He paused to make sure everyone was anticipating his next words. “And Paige Turner remembers him.”
“You do?” Horace asked, shocked.
“Well, not exactly,” Paige explained. “I have memories of times with someone, but I don’t remember the man himself. He’s been cut out, but Arcadia wasn’t able to do the thing where she patches up the timeline so we don’t even care who’s missing.”
Horace gave her a small hug. “It’s because you’re spawn, isn’t it? Serkan is helping us, even from the grave.” Then he dropped his face into a frown. “Oh my God, am I gonna forget my husband?”
Mateo shook his head. “I don’t think she’s ever going to delete memories of someone who wasn’t here when this whole thing got started.”
“That’s a relief,” Horace said before adding, “if it’s true.”
“Hold on,” Leona said. “Question.”
“What is it?” Mateo smiled.
“Who the hell is Gilbert Boyce?”
“Wait,” Darko said. “She is spawn as well, should she not remember?”
“Right, well, it’s also because he gave Paige a gift that she had on her at the time.” He took Paige’s hand in his and held it up. “He didn’t give Leona anything like this.”
Darko jumped out of the shelter. “Objects!”
Téa jumped out too. “Clothing.”
“That’s what we were thinking,” Mateo said.
“I’m lost,” Mario said. “What are we doing?”
Saga understood perfectly. “Paige and Leona can both remember people who have been taken from us. If each of us gives each of them something of ours, they’ll...bond to it, and be able to remember us when we’re gone.”
“I can’t imagine a world without me,” Mario said. He went on when they looked at him funny, “I mean that literally. Philosophically. Can you picture—I mean, really picture a world where you don’t exist? Rather, can you picture yourself not existing.”
They evidently could not, but most of them didn’t really want to talk about that sort of thing since it meant risking their heads exploding. Instead, they listened to Mateo’s description of Gilbert Boyce during breakfast. He talked at length about what Gilbert had been through in all of his many lives. He explained Gilbert’s motivations, mistakes, regrets, and redemptions. He went over his relationships with each and every one of them, however little, and explored his own feelings towards him.
After the meal, Téa and Darko got to work. They led the group in what was almost a game. Everyone still around was asked to remove one item of clothing, or an object belonging to them, that Leona and Paige could keep on their person at all times. It was a little weird that Kivi had to give her bra to Leona, and her underwear to Paige, while Xearea did the same in reverse. It was necessary, though. It was far too hot for the two spawn to have to wear, like, ten shirts. Most of them had at least two things that they could give up and contribute to the cause. Mario was both proud and scared to bestow Leona with his sentimental watch. Aura was the same with her engagement ring. Vearden had only the one shirt, and not really anything he could part with. The others in the group weren’t all that upset that he had to go shirtless, though. Vearden could have borrowed an extra shirt from someone else, but no one wanted to suggest he wear more clothes. In the end, Paige and Leona had what they needed to survive the time tears, and provide Mateo with some much-needed psychological support. The day ended on a pretty high note, but 2113 brought them danger. Click here for the next installment...