Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 22, 2137

Click here for the previous installment...
Click here for the 2017 table of contents.

There were only seven of them now. Well...eight, if you counted Dar’cy, but she was only sixteen months old. Marcy didn’t necessarily count since she wasn’t part of the original group, and her expiation was already complete. Mateo didn’t really even count either, because he certainly wouldn’t have to do an expiation for himself. At least he assumed he wouldn’t. Maybe the last one would be a sudden death round where he had to stop himself from being taken out of time. After today and tomorrow, there should only be five expiations left. Hopefully only four, though, since he had always really hoped Arcadia would not go so far as to take Leona from him. It wasn’t really clear, though, and he didn’t want to put any ideas in her head.
“My grandfather,” Marcy began as they were eating breakfast, “was a runner, along with his later wife, Agent. While she went on to produce the web broadcast for the City Frenzy, he kept running it. And he never stopped. Everyone who had tried that crazy race kind of had their own thing. Some were also dancers, while others were into martial arts. Some did parkour, while most were just trying to get through it as fast as possible. There were even a few walkers, who made the organization a lot of money, because people kept watching long after the majority of the racers were done. Alexi Lanka was different, though. He had a lot of anger, from his upbringing, from some trauma, and likely some neurological imbalances. Running gave him a way to clear out his energy, so he didn’t have enough left over to do something he regretted. When he hurt his leg in the last competition Kansas City ever did, his family feared for his temperament. If he couldn’t run, what would he do with himself? How would he behave now?
“Well, things ended up better than anyone thought. His physical therapist happened to enjoy gardening in her freetime. She decided to sort of step outside her purview, and get him into it as well, even though he hadn’t shown any particular interest in something like that before. As it turned out, gardening was a million times better at handling Alexi’s anger than any amount of exercise ever could. He took to it passionately, and no matter what he did with his life, it had to do with plantlife. He worked at an arboretum, and on a farm, and at a nursery, and all kinds of other places. During his time in between jobs, he even made frequent trips to South America to help protect the dwindling rainforests.”
“I guess we’ll be gardening then,” Aura said.
“Yes,” Mario agreed, “but under what exact circumstances?”
“She’ll probably force us to plant poison ivy, hemlock, and other horrible things,” Darko presumed.
“Nothing so ridiculous,” Arcadia explained, having been there for God knows how long. “You’ll just be doing what he did.” She lifted her bag from behind the log and set it in between her legs. “I have some seeds for you, and you are going to plant them. Then I’m going to bring someone in who can adjust the speed of time, so the plants grow faster.”
“You can’t just do that yourself?” Mateo asked.
“I cannot,” Arcadia answered. “I’m immortal, I can teleport, and I can manipulate memories. That’s it.”
“But you’ve done so much more than that. You created that merge point which Leona and Brooke got stuck on the other side of.”
“That wasn’t me. Whenever I need something like that done, I extract someone to do it for me. Ya know, I guess I can do that too. Immortal, teleporter, memory manipulator...time extractor.”
Maybe Mateo could use this knowledge against her one day. She wasn’t acting like she had slipped up by telling him, but that she couldn’t see it becoming a problem for her. Maybe it never would.
Arcadia continued, “Mateo, you remember after the Gilbert expiation, when we briefly met in that other dimension?”
Oh, he hadn’t told anyone about. They had made a pact to never talk about the expiation when they all went back in time in other people’s bodies, and changed their own histories. “Uh...y—yeah,” he stuttered.
“Oh, right, that was meant to be a secret. Sorry.” She seemd a little sorry. “Well, to those of you who’ve never been there, we went to The Garden Dimension. This is where we keep samples of every plant that has ever existed, in any reality. Time travel can often have an unnoticed effect on biological evolution, and a few people don’t really like that part of it, so they protect these specimens.” She presented a few random seed pouches from her bag. “I asked the Horticulturalists to come and give you a workshop on a few of the more unusual breeds that don’t exist anymore, but they declined.”
Darko scoffed. “They declined? When has that ever stopped you.”
“Oh, all the time,” Arcadia told him. “I rarely force people to do anything. From what you see, I’m a big control freak one hundred perfect of the time, but that’s not who I am normally. These expiations are important to me, but they do not define me. This is only the third time I’ve done them.”
Mateo believed that, but didn’t say it out loud. “So those seeds are from that other dimension?”
“Yes,” Arcadia said, slapping her knees and standing up. “We’re gonna see how they fair on a different planet.” She nudged that bag with her foot. “Choose whichever ones you want, and where you want to plant them. There are some documents in here too, which give you a rundown of what plants can survive next to which others. You wouldn’t want a black kudzu right next to a North American minkle, would you? Am I right? Up top.” She held her palm in the air, and she wasn’t going to let them go until someone didn’t leave her hanging.
Mateo broke down, as it was painful to watch her frozen there—dumbfaced—and gave her a pity highfive.
These expiations were actually kind of fun, and people were seemingly rather into it. It might not just have been that they were a little lighter; not so intense, but also that they had more of an obligation to help someone who wasn’t one of them. Fail your family, then okay, they’ll forgive you. But if you fail a stranger who who was trusting you...that  can hurt. People crowded around the duffel bag, and started looking through the seed pouches, all of which came with example photos. Leona immediately snatched up the descriptions, charts, and graphs that explained just what the plants were, how they needed to be tended to, and what problems could arise if they were too close to others. The two she found most interesting had actually developed a symbiotic relationship between them. The cotton fandin would carry the seeds of the lakwheat, along with its own, through the wind. In return, the lakwheat’s thorns would protect the cotton fandin from certain animals that eat it, but don’t propagate it. Of course, those two needed to be planted near each other, which Marcy was more than happy to do.
A few hours later, everyone was really happy with what they had created. They now had a large dedicated garden, probably about the size of a three school buses next to each other. Right now, it just looked like a big patch of dirt and straw, but Arcadia was evidently bringing in someone who was going to help. With the snap of her fingers, a woman appeared. She was wearing one of those chain things that connected her wrists to her ankles. One of the primary security guards that Mateo had encountered over the decades was escorting her.
“What the hell is this?” Aura asked, noticing Marcy becoming particularly protective of her child.
“She’s who we need to speed up time,” Arcadia replied, not seeing a problem. “I assure you, she is perfectly harmless in those things.”
“Obviously she can’t be harmless, or she wouldn’t be in them at all, or here,” Mario pointed out. “If she can accelerate the garden’s time, she can use it against someone. What did she do? Who is she?”
“Well,” the woman said, “who I am is standing in front of you, so you could just ask me directly.”
“Okay,” Darko said, “who are you?”
“My name is Jesimula ‘Jesi’ Utkin, and I only want to help. I’ve only ever wanted to help.”
“You look familiar,” Leona said. “Why can’t I place you?”
Jesi nodded in understanding. “Our friend manipulated your perception during that Easter Island showdown; the one where you killed Keanu? I was there. We were all there. Dozens of copies of each of us were there.”
“Oh,” was all Leona said.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Arcadia said. “I won’t let her harm anyone, least of all the baby.” She nodded to the guard, who began removing Jesi’s chains. “She’ll do her thing, and then she’ll leave. If she tries anything, anything, I’ll be right here.” She addressed Jesi. “I’m also not alone. I have some help tucked away, and they’re not as nice as me,” she warned.
As Jesi was preparing to use her time powers, Mateo’s mind drifted to Horace and Paige. They probably knew who she was, and had dealt with her a long time ago. Would they be comforted knowing where she was now? Where were they now? That was something he felt he deserved to know. No, that wasn’t enough, he needed to see them, to make sure they were okay. Proof of life.
Jesi approached the garden with her arms raised. Everyone else instinctively stepped back. She developed a semitransparent bubble that was warping the space around it, then she made it grow until the target area was completely covered. They watched as water formed inside of the bubble, providing nourishment for the seeds, and then the seedlings, and then fullgrown plants. They started to rise in the air, spreading out, covering every square inch with colored beauty.
“That’s enough,” Arcadia ordered.
Jesi popped the time bubble, and lowered her arms. Then she presented her wrists to the guard so he could take her away, feigning humility. Mateo didn’t know exactly what she had done to deserve to be locked up, but she admitted to being part of Paige’s kidnapping, so she was certainly no angel.
“All right,” Arcadia said to the guard. “Take her away.”
“Wait, one last thing,” Jesi pleaded.
“What is it?”
Jesi looked at Mateo, for some reason. “Don’t worry about the 2025 pathogen,” she said. “I took care of it.” What?”
“The guard pushed a button on his remote, and they both disappeared.
Now they were all just staring at Arcadia. “Okay, get back to work,” she demanded. “You have to nurture and protect these plants until the end of the expiations. If anything significant happens to them, Alexi is never coming back.”
While the rest of them were tending to the garden, Mateo pulled Arcadia aside. “What was she talking about, with the 2025 pathogen?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Arcadia said.
Fine. He could deal with that later. “Listen, I need to see Horace and Paige, to make sure you’ve not killed them, or something.”
“I promise that I’ve not.”
“Still...I need you to do this for me.”
She nodded. “Very well. But not now. Tomorrow will be better; for you, for me, for them. And it will fit nicely with your last charity expiation.”
“Very well,” Mateo echoed. Click here for the next installment...

No comments :

Post a Comment