Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 14, 2129

Juan Ponce de León—the presence of which Mateo would probably never get over, and certainly Leona wouldn’t—carefully woke Mateo up on the fourteenth day of July in the year 2129. “We have to go,” Juan whispered, not wanting to disturb the others. “This one is going to take a long time, and we only have one day.”
Mateo slipped out of the group shelter, and followed Juan towards the merge border. Leona and Brooke were already awake and boiling some water on their side. Brooke was her own person now, capable of taking care of herself without constant supervision. Circumstances had forced her to grow up faster than the average child on Earth. Her main issue was that she wasn’t getting any socialization. According to time math, Darko was her closest peer at thirty years old, which was not all that helpful. She needed to be around people her own age, so she could learn how to fight, share, and suffer injustice. Fortunately, if all went according to plan, she and Leona would leave this planet by the end of the day. While Leona would, for the most part, continue to age, Brooke’s development would be put on pause for the next few thousand years. He didn’t know what Leona would do with this child once they arrived on Earth, or even precisely what year that would be, but that was not priority. Right now, their only concern was to find Longevity water so that Leona would live long enough to make the trip in the first place.
“Do you know where we’re going?” he asked once they had said their goodbyes to the girls.
“I’ve always known where we were going. The only reason I’ve not tried to get Longevity before is because it’s incredibly dangerous, and I’ve always been alone. It’s nice to finally have someone watching my back.”
“Glad to be there for you, but what makes this dangerous? Don’t tell me I have to go back to the Cretaceous period.”
“No, worse,” Juan said as they were walking along the merge barrier. “We’re staying in the present, but in Atlantis.”
“That meant nothing to Mateo. “Okay, so it never sank? Or it did sink, but some kind of crazy telekinetic field keeps the waters at bay, and aliens live there?”
Juan laughed, even though he likely didn’t get the reference. “The idea of the  island sinking is...well, it’s not really a translation error. It’s more of a misinterpretation of the facts. It didn’t literally fall into the ocean surrounding it; it was swallowed up by a giant dimensional portal. It’s still there, but not exactly there.”
Mateo understood about as well as he thought he could. He had actually learned a lot from Leona over their time together. He was no physicist, but he could follow a complicated science fiction story as well as anyone. Dimensional portals made sense to him now. “So, is that a good thing, or a bad thing?”
“It depends on who you ask” Juan explained. “The sinking of Atlantis was the defining moment between two factions; one that solidified one side’s ability to maintain their power over others. Those in the other faction were not harmed by this, because they could not be controlled either way, but they didn’t exactly want it to happen.”
“What factions are these?”
“Mateo, this place is what makes you who you are. It separates the salmon from the choosing ones.”
“What?” If Mateo wasn’t awake before, he certainly was now.
“We are going to the home of the powers that be.”

Mateo had more questions, but was unable to vocalize them to who he now realized was basically his history professor. His mind wasn’t so much racing as it was just repeating Juan’s revelation over and over again. The powers that be were this mysterious group of people that others had told him existed, but of which he had never seen any real proof. He didn’t know if they were gods, or if they were just so powerful that there was no better descriptor, but he had never considered going against them. Sure, he had supposedly defied their wishes on certain occasions, but not really. In the end, he had been beholden to them the entire time, and he had absolved himself from any obligation to try and change this dynamic. Now things were different, though. They were on their way to the physical location of these people. He might be able to see them, be close enough to touch them, and maybe—if he could allow himself to call upon his darker demons—be in a position to kill them.
He followed Juan through another series of points in space and time in a convoluted pathway, until they had reached somewhere familiar. “I’ve been here before,” Mateo said. “This is under Easter Island.”
“That’s right. It’s called The Agora; where the powers that be lived before they became what they are today.”
“They weren’t always in control?”
“They were more of a council, trying to figure out what to do about all these time travelers. Fortunately for them, the travelers at the time weren’t all that creative. And one of them created this sort of temporal barrier that prevented anyone from the future from entering their time period. Otherwise, Zeferino probably would have gone back in time and killed them all before any of this happened.”
They started the journey down the steps of the giant stone amphitheatre, Mateo slowing them down to admire the time window on the ceiling. Juan continued, “One of their more powerful chooser allies modified this place for them so that they could harness its temporal properties.”
“Oh yeah, I knew about that. A bunch of non-salmon jumped forwards in time with us just because we were in here.”
“Back then, it wasn’t so easy. It’s a mostly natural rock formation. Yes, it could trap time energy, but it was as erratic and unpredictable as you would expect; like trying to hammer a nail with an unmolded stone. It can be done, but it’s more difficult than it would be if you had a forged tool. The Miner carved details in the rock for them that channeled its energy. They only needed it for one thing; to transport them all at once to Atlantis, which was by then already in the other dimension. They have been there ever since.”
“So...” Mateo hesitated. “Do you think we’ll be able to...”
“Get you out of your contract with them?” Juan guessed. “Umm...no. We have to get in and get out. Water can’t last in the other dimension for more than a couple weeks, making it their most precious commodity. They haul it in through a sluice from right here, but it still takes a lot of effort. They do not give it up easily.”
“I understand. Now that I know where they are, I may be able to do something about it. But I know that it can’t be now.” He took a deep breath and walked up the steps to the stage, partly worried that he would start suffering from temporal sickness, like Gilbert’s men did eighty years ago. “I assume the time rift is up here?”
“You assume correct, sir,” Juan said. “Before we head off, I wanna make sure you’re ready. Remember—”
“In and out,” Mateo interrupted. “You can trust me.”
With that, Juan lifted his compass in the air. “This breach is different than the others. You gotta finesse it.” He swung his arm back and forth, like a fan at a rock concert. He did this several times, eventually generating a faint bluish light growing more and more vivid, and also larger. When it was big enough to encompass both of them, he closed up his tool, and flashed them away.
Once the light had receded, they found themselves standing in a corner office, overlooking a city from at least twenty stories up. “This is not what I expected,” Mateo said.
“No, this isn’t right,” Juan said The powers that be reject most technological advances. They barely use electricity.”
“You are not in Atlantis,” came a voice from the other side of a chair. It spun around, revealing a man smirking at them. “When I was a child, I always wanted to do that...say something ominous, then reveal myself to have been there the whole time.” He adjusted his position to be more laid back and casual. “I admit, its novelty wore out some time ago.”
“Where are we?”
“Why, we are in Kansas City, of course! The only city that matters!”
“You hijacked the portal,” Juan accused.
“No need to thank me, I am here to serve.”
“Why would we thank you?” Mateo asked. It was clear they weren’t supposed to like this guy, but he still didn’t know exactly why. He’s tried to be better about judging people upon their first meeting. Rule Number Five, treat everyone you meet with respect, as they may unexpectedly return.
He shook Mateo’s hand with international businessman precision. “Hello, my name is Tauno Nyland.”
Juan was neither impressed, nor interested in showing any level of respect. “I know who you are. Why have you brought us here?”
“The powers that be asked me to use my ability to travel between dimensions on their behalf. Normally I don’t help anyone but me and mine, but I figured I ought to take this job since it’s given me the chance to meet the great Mateo Matic.
It’s generally not a good sign when someone already knew him, but Mateo held firm with Leona’s fifth rule of time travel. “You humble me, sir.”
Tauno seemed to appreciate this. “You know Paige Turner Reaver-Demir?” A lot of people had a lot of really long names, usually from having been raised at different times by different guardians.
“I do, yes.”
He nodded. “She helped me a long time ago when she didn’t have to. When I didn’t deserve it. I owe her a favor. So I’m going back on my deal with the powers. Well, at least I’m using a loophole.” He strutted over to a large painting of purple roses, and pulled it from the wall to expose a safe. He started inputting the code on the pad. Mateo lost count of how many digits it required at around fifteen. “They asked me to stop you from getting to Atlantis, theoretically so you couldn’t get your hands on any Longevity water. My guess is they want Leona to die since she is a major threat to their power.” He finally finished the code, and opened the safe, which let out a flood of vapor. “They forgot to ask me to make sure you don’t get the water in some other way.” He reached inside and took out a water bottle, presumably the very kind they would need.
“Wow, really?” Mateo asked, still intent on not pissing this guy off.
“What’s the catch?” Juan asked rudely.
“The catch is that there is only one bottle, for one person. I’m not doing this to force you into a choice. I honestly could only get my hands on this much. Those people aren’t very welcoming.”
Juan closed his eyes and sighed, then looked at Mateo. “I’ll find my way there some other time,” he said. “Atlantis is probably less dangerous for me than it would be for you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Don’t ask that when you know there’s no way you’re letting me have it over Leona. She’ll die if she doesn’t get it. I have a few more good years left in me. I’ll be okay.”
“Thanks, Juan. We do owe you. So much.”
“There is...one stipulation,” Tauno said. And it looked like he wasn’t too happy about telling them this. “You have to promise to not flip out when I open that door. I can’t take you back home, though. For that, we’ll need someone else.”
Oh God, who is it? “I can’t really promise anything, except that whoever it is, I won’t take any anger out on you.”
Tauna thought about it. “This is acceptable.” He pressed a button on his desk. “You can come in now.”
The door opened, and none other than Kayetan Glaston walked through. It was he who locked Mateo in a pocket dimension. He also toyed with him during the Doctor Strange Tribulation. Though to be fair, those were two versions of him from different realities, and the second one ended up sort of switching sides. He couldn’t be trusted, and he was kind of a dick, but he wasn’t evil.
“We have been informed of our alternate versions,” Tauno said as Kayetan kept quiet. “We are not proud of them. He put you in a pocket dimension, but I’m the one who created it. I’m just glad you killed Hitler and altered our own destinies.”
“I didn’t kill Hitler. A friend of mine did.”
Tauno laughed and winked. “Right.” He looked over to Kayetan, who still hadn’t uttered one word. “Go ahead and send them back. Destroy that merge barrier as you’re doing it. I’m sure Arcadia won’t mind. That chapter is over.”
Kayetan held both hands up, and literally pushed Mateo and Juan away with one hand, like he was just practicing Tai chi in the park. They floated backwards, and soon slid onto the beach of Tribulation Island. Kayetan continued to push them away, letting the view of the office get smaller and smaller. They were now standing next to Leona, Brooke, and Arcadia.
Leona immediately took Mateo in a warm embrace. He could feel little hands on his back as well. Little Brooke needed to be part of it as well.
“We have the last of your water,” Juan said, holding up the bottle.
“You have done well,” Arcadia said. She took the water and presented it to Leona. “You know what to do.”
Leona nodded. It was only then that Mateo realized that they were standing next to what must have been the spaceship. It was about the size of a fighter jet, but without the wings.
As Leona entered the ship with the bottle for just a moment, Arcadia delicately told him to say his goodbyes. “There’s no way around it. Glaston will have to close the merge before they leave, so you won’t actually see them take off.”
“How much time do we have?” Mateo asked.
Arcadia looked at her wrist. “Until midnight central.”
Mateo and Leona took advantage of the time they had together, and then she disappeared behind the merge with Brooke.

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