Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 10, 2156

There was no green car in the garage, just a Taurus that looked eerily familiar. Mateo and Lincoln called back upstairs to tell this to the Gaius, The Superintendent. “Oh, that’s right. I’ve not gotten it back yet. Must be a sign. We’re all better off with you staying here.” He had two extra bedrooms they could sleep in, one with a twin, and the other with a queen. “You’ll be stickin’ by me this week, and maybe the next. I absolutely hate driving, but I hear you love it. I’ve always wanted a chauffeur.”
“Why don’t you just call—”
“Who? The Chauffeur?” Gaius interrupted. “Take a look in your memory archives and tell me why anyone who had a choice would call Dave.”
And so Mateo drove his purported creator around for the week. He worked at a different place almost every single day, which was kind of weird. While they were off duty, he and Lincoln were free to travel on their own. Mateo expected this universe to be wildly different than his own, but it was pretty much the same, just minus all the time travel.
“Well, of course it is,” Gaius told them as he was parking the green Mercury they finally retrieved from his parents. “I modeled yours on my own. I was not aware I was creating universes until later. I thought I just had knowledge of your worlds, but once I realized the truth, that’s when things really got crazy for you. I suddenly had so much more power than I knew. Like I said, I’m gonna tone that down moving forward.” He scrunched up his face, and hesitated continuing, but did. “Except for this challenge I’m sending you on. It’s pretty crazy.”
“Oh, God. What is it?” Mateo scratched his head, trying to get the lice of subservience out of his hair.
“Do you think if I describe you as trying to get the lice of subservience out of your hair by scratching your head, people will understand what that means?”
“No,” Lincoln answered simply while helping unload some chairs and books they had also gotten from Gaius’ parents.
“Okay, I might take that out. Anyway, what was the question?”
“What are you asking me to do to get my people back?”
“Right. The challenge. Do you remember when you killed Hitler?”
“Twice? Yes.”
“Yeah, you having done it twice is important, thanks for bringing that up. Well, there’s this little thing, called the Hitler-Trump Clingon Conundrum. In some bizarre and evil joint venture, Adolf Hitler, and Donald Trump are literal universal constants. Though their histories may differ between them, they exist in almost all c-branes. Like...little herpes, you can’t really ever get rid of them. Even when you do, they still have a twisted effect on reality. I sent you to purge Hitler from history in your universe, but there are still many others that are suffering because of another trope called Hitler’s Time-Travel Exemption Act. You can’t go back in time and kill him, because something will always be there to stop you, or it won’t turn out well.”
“That’s not what happened in my world,” Mateo noted.
“Exactly,” Gaius agreed. “That’s because I have a subversion tool that most story-tellers don’t.”
“And what is that?” Lincoln asked apprehensively.
“I have the ability to recognize and appreciate that, from my characters’ perspective, I really am God. If I want Hitler dead, I’ll get it done.” He turned back to Mateo. “That’s where you come in. I don’t just want him dead in your universe. I want him dead in all of them. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to all c-branes, due to some...legal constraints. I do have access to some of them, though. At present, eight. I have more than that, but one of them is out of my control, and I already removed him from another simply by not having an Earth in that one.”
“Gaius, are you about to ask me to kill the other Hitlers for you?”
He put on a transparent display of feigned humility. “Would you really? That would be so lovely. Thaaanks.” Reading Mateo’s mind, he went on, “no, I’m worse than The Cleanser.”
“How’s that?” Lincoln asked, concerned.
“Because my power is real.” He rearranged his face to reveal his sincerity. “I will return Darko to you, time served, for nothing. I want you to understand this, Mister Matic, I’ve been giving you free will this entire time. I don’t know what you’re going to do until you do it. I’ve tried to work ahead on this story, but you won’t let me, because time doesn’t work like that for you. You’ve always had a choice, as has everyone you’ve encountered.”
“I don’t believe in you,” Mateo said, “so I believe that.”
“But you see my power, so I’m going to give you a choice. Either return to your universe with Darko, and wipe your hands clean of me.”
“Or what?”
“Or kill a bunch of Hitlers first, and then go back to your universe with Darko.”
Lincoln crossed his arms. “What’s the catch, as they say?”
Gaius directed his response to Mateo, “with door number one, you don’t get to kill any more Hitlers. The challenge part of this is deciding whether you would rather risk your life for the satisfaction, or play it safe.” He crossed his arms as well.
“But you already know what I’m going to say?” Mateo thought.
Gaius shook his head. “I don’t. I’m not writing the second half of this installment until tomorrow, because I don’t know what you’re gonna do. You have until then to choose. I’m going to bed.”

When Mateo woke up the next day, he began travelling to other universes, and killing all the Adolf Hitlers he could find. It was as satisfying as Gaius had said, and more. Once he was finished, he returned to Base Reality where not a minute had passed for Gaius and Lincoln.
“That’s it?” Mateo asked, looking over the text Gaius had written about the ordeal.
“Wadya mean?” Gaius asked.
“I just spent hours killing Hitlers, which I didn’t know would happen, by the way. I figured it would be in and out like the first two times.”
“Yeah, well the histories in those other universes are slightly different. He wasn’t gonna be in the same place every time.”
“Was he even an adult in that one where I found him in the bar?” Mateo asked.
“I’m not quite sure how old he was,” Gaius replied, perhaps not as powerful and omniscient as he thought. “But you avoided the Holocaust in that one, so kudos.”
“And that made things better.”
“The Devil plays a bigger role in that brane. No need to muddy the waters, ya know what I mean?”
“No. What I know is that what I just did was harrowing, but you’re not going to say anything about it in the story, except that it happened.”
He frowned. “There’s no room.”
“If you’re the god of my world, then you can make room.”
“No, one day per year for you means one day per installment for me. I only mess with that a little, but the math always evens out, always. I can’t make these things too long, or no one will read them. They might not even be reading them now. I might be the only one who knows I’m writing myself into the story.”
“Talk about muddying the waters,” Mateo said.
“Look, you got what you wanted,” Lincoln jumped in. “Mateo did what you asked, so send us back to our world, along with all of our friends.”
“Nice try, President Puppy, but I’m not going to forget that I only agreed to return the one person.”
“Then ask me to do something,” Lincoln pushed. “You wanna be a real writer, with an actual audience? You’re having trouble finding an agent, right? You think you’re autism might be getting in the way? I can tell you exactly who to contact, and even when to send your submission email. Or I could just give you the lottery numbers. I’m sure you could use a few million dollars so you can quit your job and focus on this. I have a lot to offer.”
Gaius reached up and gently slapped Lincoln on his cheek. “Seeing that handsome face is all I ever needed from you, Pup.” He smiled at looked at them both. “It is time for you to leave. Thank you for your help this week, and for taking care of the Hitler problem.” He reached into a drawer and pulled out a cell phone. “I understand you lost Arcadia’s pager in the universe where you shot Hitler during one of his speeches?”
“Oh yeah.” He had almost forgotten. “I did, yes.”
“I was gonna give this to Vearden, but he went back in time and warned his past self to not accept it from me. So you can have it.”
“Well, if he didn’t want it—”
“Just take it, Mateo.”
Mateo took the phone. “I would tell you thanks, but...you don’t deserve it.”
Gaius, a.k.a. The Superintendent, clicked his magic pen, creating a doorway where once there were stairs. “I know,” he said solemnly.
A teenage girl opened the door.
“Please take them home, Emma.”
“Why are you not sending them back through the Gauntlet?” Emma asked.
“I wanted to meet you, hoping it would help me figure out where your story is going.”
“It all ends in death,” Emma said, slowly closing the door behind the three of them. “Start there.”
Emma dropped Mateo and Lincoln off on Tribulation Island where Darko was waiting for them. After hugs, laughter, and a summary of what happened recently, Mateo decided he wasn’t interested in putting off the inevitable. He took out the Superintendent’s old phone, which had very little battery life left, and dialed Arcadia’s number.
Who is this?” she asked.
“It’s Mateo.”
Where did you get a phone?”
“I’ll explain everything. Just get back here.”
Arcadia teleported herself in, still holding her own phone to her ear. She looked at Darko, and then at Lincoln, who shouldn’t have still been alive. “What did you do?”
“I sought help from above.”
She squinted her eyes, looking for answers, then closed them all the way upon finding them. “The Superintendent.”
“Yes, but we had to speak with your brother first.”
“That’s how he gets out,” she realized. “I’ve been wondering how a version of him without powers keeps popping up in history.”
“I know I didn’t do it how you asked, Arcadia,” Mateo began to plead, “but please don’t be angry. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t kill Lincoln.”
“No, I understand,” Arcadia said surprisingly, or deviously. “You found a loophole. I commend you for that.”
Mateo breathed a sigh of relief.
Arcadia went on, “of course, I can’t let it stand. But I’m not angry. I just need to..rectify the situation.” She apported a gun into her hand, and then pointed it at Mateo. “You wanted to save both Darko and Lincoln, well fine. I’m gonna need a sacrifice then.” She was just about to squeeze the trigger when the weapon suddenly disappeared from her hand. “What the hell?” She looked around. “Who did that?”
Mateo looked over and noticed Lincoln holding the Superintendent’s reality warping pen.
Arcadia noticed it as well. “How did you get that? Give it to me!” She lunged at Lincoln.
Lincoln clicked the pen again, and Arcadia disappeared as well. He stared at the space where she once was with horror. “Ret Gone.” He dropped the pen like it was the incarnation of evil.
“You stole that from Gaius?”
“It was just sitting there on the table,” Lincoln said, still shocked by what he had done, “begging me to take it. I was just trying to stop him from screwing with our lives. I never intended to use it.”
“It’s okay, Linc,” Mateo tried to console him. “Arcadia was gonna kill me.”
“What’s happening?” Darko asked. “Who’s Arcadia?”
Mateo carefully picked the pen out of the sand. “Yeah, it worked.”
Lincoln’s watch started beeping. It was midnight central.
“Oh, crap,” Mateo said. Then he fell out of the timestream.

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