Monday, August 31, 2015

Microstory 136: Zoey Attar

There was no shortage of unusual births when it came to anomalies. One member was pregnant for years, another somehow gave birth to a clone of herself with no father, and Zoey Attar’s development was accelerated to an incredibly high rate. Her mother, Solange Attar, went into labor just weeks after conceiving with her gracer, Gaston. They had hoped that the rapid growth would stop, or at least slow, following the delivery, but it did not. By this time, Bellevue had gone public, and so they raced to Usonia to ask them for help. Fortunately, the organization had actually already dealt with a similar case, and were prepared with the treatment. Once Zoey began to age at a normal rate, she appeared to be around eleven or twelve years old. The problem was, however, that she still had the brain of an infant, and this was dangerous because of her ability to control the actions of animals. She could also make it seem like she was turning into an animal, but she was actually summoning one from another location, and then hiding herself in a lower dimension while maintaining control over that animal. The whole story was that she inherited this from her father’s ability to teleport, and her aunt’s ability to manipulate pheromones, proving that an anomaly’s lineage is responsible for the nature of their ability, even if none of them presents one of their own. Instead of being able to do one or both of what her parents could, she was the result of a perfect marriage of genetic traits that formed an entirely new ability, taking aspects from both. This was not abnormal in the rest of the animal kingdom. Half of a scion’s genes come from one parent, and half from the other. These genes are recombined and mutated into a new person, but the way Zoey turned out was still surprising. In order to bring Zoey up to a legitimate level of intelligence, Bellevue conscripted Mandy Alto and Claude Bonner as her instructors. Together, they were able to accelerate the learning process so that she could fit in with her peers. She quickly became best friends with Catriona Rice and Stephen Berg. All three were noted later members of the notorious missing children.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 14, 2038

Leona nudged Mateo awake needlessly violently. “Are we going?”
“Going where?”
“I slept on it,” she said. “Now more than ever I think we should go on the hunt for Reaver; try to turn the tables on him.”
“What time is it?”
“Twenty thirty-eight.”
Mateo shot upward and looked for the window. “It’s almost 9:00 PM?”
“No, dumbass. It’s the year 2038. It’s just before dawn.”
Mateo fell back down to the pillow and yawned. “We can’t leave yet. We coordinate it with our time jump. That way, the trail goes cold for an entire year.”
“Why would we do that?”
“It’s what I did last time.”
“How did that work out for you?”
“I could never have predicted meeting Duke on the train.”
“You’re right, it was a solid plan. So good, they would never think that we would ever think of doing it any differently this time. In order to keep our family from finding us, we should leave this morning, and throw them off.”
“That’s stupid.”
You’re stupid.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Mateo nodded off. Leona growled every once in a while.
“What if—?” he started to suggest.
“Shut up!” she cut him off.
He breathed in and out melodramatically.
“I keep going over it in my head,” Leona finally said. “Any plan I run risks them finding us, or Reaver finding us, or the authorities.”
“What do the authorities have to do with anything?”
“I don’t know. We don’t have IDs. One broken taillight and we’re screwed. You’re supposed to be 52 years old! And dead! I wouldn’t be there to hack you out of jail this time.”
“Well, let’s burn that bridge when we get to it. Speaking of which, what does Reaver matter at this point? All we’re trying to do is get back to Kansas. The earliest we could see him is 2039. The earliest,” he reiterated.
“I’m planning ahead! God, it’s like you don’t have ears.”
He sat up on his elbows and tried to match her eyeline as she stared at the bedsheets. “I don’t know if you know this, Leona, but I don’t have an advanced degree in astrophysics. I’ll never be smart as you. Keep in mind that you were a dum-dum teenager when you met me. I was always far older than you, until a few days ago. It’s time to come down to reality and admit that you chose to align yourself with an imbecile. I don’t claim to know what the motivations of the powers that be are, but I’m sure they didn’t choose me for my brain.”
She didn’t respond.
“Now help me find my shoes,” he continued. “I always have trouble remembering which one goes on which foot.”
She fought it, but couldn’t help revealing an adorable smile. She reached down to the floor and retrieved one of his shoes so she could throw it at him.
“I love you,” he said, trying to make up.
She sighed. “Were I you, I would too.”
While they were getting dressed, they made their plan of escape.
During breakfast, they directed the conversation in such a way that would lead others to come up with the exact ideas they wanted them to. And it worked perfectly. Leona’s stepmother, Melinda wanted to take a boat out on Brooks Lake, but Samsonite wanted to take a hike on Loop Trail. They decided to split off and get to know each other a little better. Mateo went on the water with Melinda and Theo while Leona went for the trails with Aura and Samsonite. Leona’s father was in his 60s, and wasn’t up for either excursion, so he just went back to his and his wife’s cabin.
He and Leona had already synchronized their watches, so he knew that he was behind schedule. They weren’t as close to the beach as they needed to be so he offered to take over rowing for Melinda. She thought it was sweet, but Theo seemed to recognize it as unwarranted urgency. While she was laughing at how vigorous Mateo was with the oars, Theo’s special future cell phone rang, which meant either that someone else had the number, or their plan was in jeopardy. When he tried to pick it up, Mateo slapped it out of his hand. “No calls during tranquility time.”
Theo was growing more concerned. “What? It could be important.”
It rang again. “No, I’m sure it can wait.”
Theo looked at him like he was crazy and spoke condescendingly, “I’m gonna answer it, Mateo.” He reached down to get his phone back.
It rang again. Mateo settled into an overly offensive stance. “No. Don’t do that.”
“Why don’t you want me to answer this?”
“Son, he just wants to be free from technology for the day.”
He closed his eyes in exasperation. “He’s a time traveler, mother. The last time he checked his email, he did so with a an animal. He rarely uses tech.”
“Don’t you talk to me like that!”
“You’re not my real mother! You were a vessel!”
“You know it makes me feel bad when you try to explain where you’re from, and how I wasn’t the first to give birth to you.”
The phone had stopped ringing, but was back at it. Mateo exerted as much effort as possible into reaching that beach.
Theo grabbed his phone and answered it. “Hello?—How long has she been gone?—Well maybe she’s...ya know. Number two.—She probably just wanted to get far enough away from you for privacy.—Because it’s embarrassing.—I know everyone does it, but most of us don’t like an audience.—Look, I’m sure—” He stopped short.
Mateo could feel Theo’s eyes burning a hole in his head. He turned a bit and looked at him in his peripheral vision.
“Why are you rowing so quickly?”
Mateo ignored him and continued rowing.
“Mateo Matic, what are your intentions with my sister?”
No response.
“I don’t understand what’s going on,” Melinda said.
“Shocker,” Theo said rudely before returning to his conversation on the phone. “Aura. They’re running. Go find her.”
With no further options, Mateo took his chances and jumped out of the boat. Because of how close the beach was, he half-thought his feet would touch the ground, but he just kept sinking. Water filled his nose and stole his breath from him. He pulled himself to the surface and began to swim. He could hear the splashing of Theo behind him, and felt like he was keeping a decent distance between them. Finally, he could feel the fine dirt sliding through his fingers. He turned his body vertical and began running in slow motion until he could get his feet up in the air. Fortunately, he was taller than Theo and was able to hop through the water faster.
“Why are you doing this?” Theo screamed up to him.
“We’re trying to keep you out of it!” Mateo called back. “There wasn’t supposed to be a high speed chase!” He struggled up a hill and through the trees, tripping over roots and rocks. Theo was still in hot pursuit.
He ran as fast as he could in one direction, quickly coming upon the road that likely led to the east side campground. The plan called for him to turn left at this point, but he didn’t want to lead Leona’s little big brother right to her. He took a much needed breath, crossed the street, and headed right. He ran in zigzag, trying desperately to fall out of sight. He had laughed when Leona predicted something like this would happen, and tried to prepare him for it, but was thankful now for her amazing grasp of future possibilities. He removed a pair of goggles from one pocket and something she referred to as a rebreather from another. It didn’t look like much, but she claimed that it would extract oxygen from water and turn it into breathable air. Out of his trust for her and her quick understanding of futuristic technology, he stuck it in his mouth and slipped into Brooks Lake Creek.
The creek appeared to be murky enough to keep him invisible to someone on the surface, but Mateo closed his eyes tightly in anticipation. He was overcome with an irrational sense of fear that Theo’s arms would reach down at any second and pull him up. Such a thing would ruin their plan, sure, but it wasn’t not like Theo was an enemy. They would just have to figure something else out later. Mateo waited for minutes on end, perfectly able to breathe, until he felt safe enough to resurface. He looked around but found no one. He half-crawled, half-swam to the other side and looked at the map in his special phone.
About an hour later, he managed to make his way to the rendezvous point. Leona was already waiting for him. She was noticeably upset about him being late, but felt more relief about him arriving at all. “Where do we go now?” he asked her.
“The closest town is Dubois, so we’re going to Moran. We won’t get there until next year.”
He gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Lead the way.”
“I love you,” she said.
“Were I you, I would too.”

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Crossed Off: Spirited Away (Part VIII)

Starla, Alec, Marissa, and Therasia spent hours down in the fountain lair, discussing and demonstrating various aspects of their abilities. Though she has met others with abilities, she related to Therasia the most. Perhaps it was as simple as being around the same age. The three of them reluctantly went back home once it had become too late, but they made plans to meet up again the next day.
“You know who would love to meet her?” Alec asked when they were back topside.
“Karam?” Starla assumed.
“Karam,” Alec confirmed.
“That little pyro,” Marissa laughed.
Starla looked at her watch. “Egypt is just waking up right now, so I’ll contact him while I’m sleeping. As long as that would be okay with Therasia.”
“We’ve actually discussed it. She trusts me to only trust people she can trust.”
Starla giggled. “So, that’s a yes.”

After helping her into the guest bed, Alec slipped in next to her and fell asleep right away, exhausted from the day’s activity. Starla always had trouble sleeping like a normal person, so she sent her Egyptian friend, Karam a telepathic ping, knowing that her body would be forced to cycle itself down with her consciousness away. She waited for twenty minutes or so, but he wasn’t answering. Either he was busy or dead, so she decided to jump into his body and make sure things were okay. She found herself in an unfamiliar location. It was a busy marketplace that looked like it could have been in Egypt, but upon closer inspection, none of the products being sold were labeled with Arabic. She wasn’t completely sure because she had never studied it, but it appeared to be Greek. And her environment was an unusual shade of purplish-blue, like she was seeing the world through tinted lenses.
When she looked down, she saw her own body, wearing her own nightclothes, which was not correct. She should have been seeing the body of the person she was possessing. She walked over to a nearby motorcycle and tried to see herself in its mirror, but she had absolutely no reflection. This was not normal. As she was looking around, hoping to stumble across answers in the fruits and vegetables, she saw an old man who appeared to be watching her curiously. She looked behind her back, but there was nothing interesting. She moved to the right, and then the left. The man’s eyes followed her. “Who are you?”
He tilted his head to the other side and smiled. “Spyridon Colonomos. Don,” he amended. “And you?”
“I don’t know that I should tell you my name.”
“That’s fair. Let’s go back in time so we can prevent me from telling you mine.”
“You can do that?”
Don laughed exuberantly. Anyone in the market with decent hearing should have turned to look, but they didn’t. They could see each other, but no one could see them. “I cannot.”
“So you’re like me.”
“No. I’m older. You’re like me.”
“Semantics,” she said with a shrug. She looked back at the shopping people. “Where are we?”
“Greece; where I’m from. I came to check in on a friend, but my body is actually in Finland right now.”
“Ah.” She pointed to herself. “Canada.”
He nodded politely.
“Can you possess other people, err...?”
“Why would I be able to do that?”
“I guess we’re not the same.”
“No. But something drew us together. Right now, we are in the netherworld.”
“The whatnow?”
“I don’t really know what to call it, but...” He paused to scan the crowd and then pointed to a man in a gray tunic who was trying his damnedest to smell the oranges, but apparently failing. “That guy is dead.”
“How do you know?”
“Wait for it.”
As she watched, the man attempted to pick up the orange, but his hand passed right through the cart. “That’s sad.”
“So, you can see dead people?”
“Sometimes. It depends on which avenue I take. If I travel using the indigo world, I see ghosts. If I use the blue world, I don’t. I’m not sure how it all works. I can see them, but they have no idea I’m here, ya know, unless I want them to. Except for you. You could somehow see me by default.” He outstretched his arm. “Here, I’ll take you to my body so I can introduce you to my friends.”
“That’s not creepy.” But she took his hand anyway. Their surroundings blurred and zipped away from sight before revealing new surroundings. They were in a small apartment bedroom. Don’s physical body was lying in bed. It looked strangely stiff and uncomfortable, and she couldn’t figure what was wrong with it.
He seemed to notice this. “My body is in hibernation to prevent me from dying while my consciousness is away.”
“I wish I had that.”
“Oh, dear...”
As a boy came into the room snickering, Starla caught a glimpse of a young woman who was cooking breakfast. The boy approached Don’s body and tried to flick his ear several times, but it didn’t budge. Not even bears went under such kind of hibernation. Don’s spirit narrowed his brow and barked at the boy, “Hosanna. Stop trying to wake me up.”
The boy perked up and looked at Don’s spirit. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were here.”
“Do you make a habit out of physically assaulting me when I’m not here?”
“, of course not. Stop talkin’ crazy.” The boy was not very convincing. “Who is this?”
“You can see her?”
“You found another one of us?” Hosanna asked. “Rather, another one of you.”
“She found me,” Don corrected, but then clarified, “well, fate found us both.”
Hosanna nodded somewhat sarcastically. “Right. She should meet Valary.”
“That’s why we’re here,” Don said. “Val, get in here!” he cried.
“Yes?” the woman asked while opening the door with her back, a mixing bowl still in hand.

Before Starla could see Valary’s full face, something pulled her away from the scene. Karam had evidently responded to her telepathic call, and was pulling her all the way to her final destination in Egypt.
“Hey, Star,” Karam said. “Sorry I didn’t answer. “My husband and I were...well, we were in the middle of something.”
No, no no no no nooo, Starla yelled. But she couldn’t get back to Don’s apartment. She sent her consciousness to random places in Greece and Finland, but none of them were right. If she wanted to form a psychic connection, it would either happen randomly, or she would have to seek out someone that she had already connected with. But that was the problem. She had never actually connected with Don or the other two. She had only come across their vicinity. There was no way to return, and there was no way to contact them in the real world. She knew his last name, but that wasn’t enough to find him. She was certainly no private investigator, and it sounded like they traveled a lot. They were lost to her forever. The more she thought about it, the less she agreed with René’s policy of hiding, and the more interested she was in finding others. She wanted to know everybody. She didn’t want to be alone.
“What’s going on?” Karam asked after she returned to Egypt.
I don’t know. Starla took control of Karam’s head and shook it slowly and deliberately. “I don’t know,” she repeated a few times.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Microstory 135: Don Colonomos

Spyridon ‘Don’ Colonomos was born in Greece as one of the earlier anomalies. His was similar to Jaklyn Simonds ability to teleport, and Starla Wakefield’s ability to possess others, but with many limitations. If he had a general idea of where someone was, he could send his consciousness to their location and witness the goings on from a third person perspective. That is, he could go somewhere when he knew someone there, but he couldn’t just travel the world whenever he felt like it. He could interact with people by sight and sound, but not by touch, taste, or smell. The default setting was that no one could see or hear him, so he would have to purposely open himself up to them. And this was true of every individual, meaning that he couldn’t theoretically show himself to an entire crowd at once. He would have to invite them one by one. While Starla’s ability caused her body to lose function from being separated from her consciousness too long and too often, Don’s body remained perfectly intact. While his spirit was gone, his body would go into a deep hibernation, and then return to normalcy once he went back to it. Don would use his ability to check in on his friends, but rarely chose to let them see him. He felt an urge to protect them, but had little interest in interacting with them. He received good grades in school, and later went on to become a doctor, starting a private practice with a modest number of clients. A patient of his whose foster family he had helped her escape from—since they thought her to be far younger than she really was—would later become a founding member of Bellevue. He discovered two other anomalies on his own, and took them in when they had no other family. Once the time was right, he pushed for them to join Bellevue with him. One of them, Valary Sela, fell into a leadership position, and made the majority of the decisions regarding its ultimate purpose. Her policies would remain well past her tenure, and were partly responsible for the salvation of the world decades later. The other, Hosanna Katz, would become the glue that held together disparate factions. Whenever an individual was hesitant to join, or when two groups began to disagree with each other, Hosanna was always there to provide them with necessary perspective. Don spent what little he had left of his life as the primary care physician for the organization while it was still in its major recruitment stages.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Microstory 134: Phaedra Wirth

Although there were fewer than a hundred people who were considered anomalies, and presented special abilities, they were not technically the only ones of their kind. Years ago, when the test subjects from the original anomaly experiments were released from their captors, they moved on with their lives. Some had children with each other. Others had children with normal people. Their altered genes spread throughout the human population in a random pattern, and the traits that made them special continued across the centuries. During the time just before and during Bellevue, a number of their descendants were activated by The Keystone, but many thousands more were left normal. There was a particular organization interested in tapping into anomaly abilities, and finding ways to replicate them. They kidnapped and experimented on the handful of people with abilities that they could find. Phaedra Wirth was not born with abilities, though she did share genetic similarities with the kidnapped, suggesting to the team’s scientists that there might be some way to turn someone into an anomaly through further science. Phaedra volunteered for the super soldier program, hoping to gain abilities of her own. The scientists were unable to find a way to activate Phaedra, but they did find a way to transfer—not copy—someone else’s ability to her. One victim perished as a result, but the procedure was perfected, and the others survived. Most of them grew angry and violent for what had been done to them, and ultimately joined the primary opposing force to Bellevue. But after what she had been through, and what she had unwittingly done to the first victim, Phaedra became determined to focus her energy on preventing these scientists, or any others, from trying such procedures again. Armed with a plethora of new special abilities, she turned on her superiors and broke out of the facility. She discovered files containing intelligence on Bellevue, as well as an island of anomalies with physical mutations, which the organization had scheduled to be kidnapped for a second round of experiments. She managed to travel to the island with the help of a partner in order to protect the mutants from her former employers, and later spearheaded the effort for them to all join Bellevue.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Microstory 133: Alter Orenstein

In order to understand how Alter Orenstein’s ability works, one would first have to understand the true nature of time. There is an infinite number of realities which exist simultaneously, each one based on a decision that any given free-thinking individual could possibly make. Let’s say that you are trying to decide whether you should place your foot on the next step in a staircase, or skip to the step above it. Before you make that decision, both of those possible realities exist at the same time, but as soon as you actually make the decision to skip the step, the reality where you didn’t skip the step is completely destroyed. And that’s only one simple example. You could skip two steps; you could fall down the stairs; you could even skip the step, but do so a half second later. Each one of those possibilities creates a new reality, but it will only last for a fraction of a second, which is why these are called microrealities. While you’re determining how you should proceed next on the staircase, your friend upstairs is wondering which sock to put on first, an insect on the screen door is deciding whether to crawl one more millimeter or stay in place and do nothing, and a child in another galaxy is choosing a piece of a candy from a bowl. This results in an incalculable number of simultaneous microrealities waiting to be adopted, as well as an incalculable number of microrealities collapsing in on their own irrelevance. Alter was born with the ability to perceive any and all possible futures. Fortunately, he was also born with natural precision, which allowed him to tease away the minute differences between realities, and only focus on the major potential changes. When looking into the future, the world appeared with a red tint, and so he named this RedTime. For whatever reason, he could only ever see 14 minutes and 73 seconds in the future. He would often use his ability to protect people from harm, warning them which decisions would be physically dangerous, and which were safe to make. He spent a lot of time working in the Special Projects department of Bellevue, since it was the most dangerous.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Microstory 132: Adam Nicks

No one in the entire universe was busier than Adam Nicks. He was involved in every major historical event, if only in a small way. He appeared to be drawn to trouble, but the truth was that he had in his possession an incredibly powerful and comprehensive security system that alerted him to the goings on of his peoples. He could perform some tasks remotely, however many things needed to be done in person, and so he would rush off without notice, much to the dismay of whoever he was helping at the time. He was not an anomaly, and would have to spend vast amounts of time away from Bellevue due to a particularly gruesome war in another galaxy, so he was considered more of an honorary member; a consultant, as it were. But he made vital contributions to the cause, sometimes without others even noticing. Adam was an immortal, and the only one of his kind. He presumably had zero weaknesses; he didn’t need to breathe, he didn’t feel pain, and he could not be injured in any way. He refused to tell anyone exactly how old he was, though there was a known minimum to his age. Other certain immortals and long-living people had encountered him earlier in their lives, and knew him to have been around for at least several thousand years. He came across the founding members of Bellevue before they had started recruiting strangers, and helped make some initial decisions. It was his idea to set up headquarters at an unused hotel, somehow aware that its owner, Basil Ploutos, would be open to an unusual arrangement. Though Adam wasn’t always available to Bellevue, he would often show up when he was most needed to provide advice and even advanced technology and expertise. It was the ability of a very special anomaly who ultimately let him finally find peace in death.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Microstory 131: Radimir Lazarov

There were a number of completely unrelated people who could either sense or, in some way, manipulate waves on the electromagnetic spectrum, but they all sat in their own spot. Radimir Lazarov was capable of sensing radio signals ranging from high frequency to very low frequency waves, but could not transmit or manipulate them in any way. This allowed him to receive data being transmitted across the FM and AM bands, analog television, and shortwave radio signals. He was born and raised in Russia and actually never stepped foot in Bellevue, or anywhere outside of Europe, for that matter. He grew up not really having any idea what he could do with his ability. He was able to listen to music or watch television no matter where he was, and without anyone knowing, but he never thought that to be very useful to others. Once joining Bellevue, however, he was assigned to the Communication and Handling division for all of Europe, working closely with Tracy Wickham and her team of field operatives. As the result of a conversation two early members of the organization had regarding the mere possibility of someone with Radimir’s abilities, he was jokingly addressed as the Human Police Scanner upon first discovery. In fact, European operatives would come to refer to the HPS system when learning or discussing the details of their missions.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 13, 2037

Thank God Leona’s mind processed information at the speed of light. With only seconds to think, she switched on both of their jet packs. Though they were not designed to operate within the atmosphere, they did the job in a pinch. Their descent was slowed enough to keep them from splattering onto the ground below. The problem was that they also weren’t designed to work in tandem like that. Had they had enough time, and had Mateo been born smarter, they could have done it on their own, but since Leona was pulling all the weight, she wasn’t able to exercise full control over their movements. The jets propelled them over and back up and down and all around, like a rebellious firehose. She was finally able to keep them pointed towards the water long enough to stave off their death for one more second. She switched off the jets and they fell, only to begin sinking into the depths.
Feeling the need to contribute something to the effort, Mateo tore off their spacesuits and pulled them back to the surface of the...lake. It was definitely a lake. And that tree looked familiar. Yes. It was Sherwood Lake. They were back in Topeka. As he was crawling up the beach, he saw a pair of legs run past him. A set of arms that belonged with the legs reached down and helped Leona to her feet. Her own legs were shaking, and she was having trouble standing up. He had always seen her as the strong one in the relationship, but this showed that she had been just as traumatized by the event as he had.
“Thanks, dad,” she said.
Mr. Delaney began to help her take more pieces of her suit off while his wife ran down and wrapped a towel around her. “I have her. Check on the boy.”
“No, I’m fine,” Mateo insisted. “Just a little out of breath.”
“I have a towel for you too,” she said.
“My mother? Samsonite?”
“Oh, yeah. We need to call them.” She took out her device and stepped to the side.
“What happened to them?” Leona asked of her father.
“They both lost consciousness in the water,” Mr. Delaney explained. “Don’t worry, they’ve alive, and suffered no brain damage. But the old fisherman who pulled them into his boat couldn’t remember exactly where he had found them, so we separated to look for you.”
“They’re on their way,” Leona’s stepmother said.
“Call Theo too.”
“Oh, right.” She went back to her phone.
“I don’t know how much you know,” Mateo said, accepting a bottle of water. “But there was an android woman who saved us.”
Mr. Delaney nodded, indicating that Mateo didn’t need to continue his question. “Her nanites are in the water, but they apparently lost their...cohesion or something. They tell us that she would be, for all intents and purposes, dead. I’m sorry.”
Mateo nodded understandingly. “Figures.” He looked to Leona. “How did Mirage pretend that she jumped with us?”
“I was thinking about that,” Leona replied. “She wouldn’t have been able to turn invisible, but she could have separated her nanites quick enough to make it look like she was disappearing.”
“That’s unfortunate.”

They engaged in the latest of their long line of reunions. Leona noted how much larger Theo had grown since she last saw him. Normally, that would be a cliché, but it was relevant in this case due to the time difference. He was now 18 years old, and indeed taller than his older sister. Mateo’s mother and Samsonite, on the other hand, had not changed a bit. They were as young as they had been when he first caught back up with her seven years ago. Advances in medicine in cosmetics might have accounted for such a thing, but Samsonite posited a mathematical factor. Because of Mateo’s cousin, Danica, they already knew that the powers that be were capable of immortality. And Aura and Samsonite were on a specific timeslip pattern, broken only to allow them to switch from jumping backwards to jumping forwards. According to that pattern they, along with Theo, were due to remain within the present timestream for another 300 years. They assumed the last two centuries would be finished up by their corpses, but their feelings of vitality now suggested otherwise. Theo called it their gift for following the rules for so long. Samsonite was curious to find out the truth about it. Aura was suspicious.
They drove a car that was registered to a friend of a friend of a friend, so that they were far enough removed from the prying eyes of Reaver. Paper money was still a thing that existed in some circles. It was so rare that it was relatively easy to trace, but only if you knew where you were looking. Mateo’s and Leona’s family had spent the last year turning themselves into ghosts by converting their cash to other currencies, buying innocuous goods at random places, and bartering in rural areas. They moved to the most remote place they could find in the middle of Wyoming.
While Reaver had lost control of his own company and was currently awaiting trial for his latest blunder with the exploding space probe, he was still a threat. As much trouble as he was in, he surely had friends on the inside of the outside, and they were a risk to Mateo and anyone close to him. It made him want to run away again, but this time actually do it right. Leona seemed to sense this and convinced him otherwise. She explained to him in no uncertain terms that every major attempt at his life had occurred while Mateo was isolated from his family, or only with Leona. They were all better off sticking together, even if it meant Leona’s father and stepmother had to destroy their old lives. None of this was their fault, and he should have been more careful about keeping them out of it. It was actually surprising how safe they had been throughout the years. It was only recently that they were really in danger. Though, Leona was right. Reaver wasn’t interested in hurting his family and friends, if only to get to him. Mateo seemed to be Reaver’s one and only purpose.
“But see, that’s the thing,” Leona said of this after finding some privacy in their very own cabin in the woods. “You first encountered Reaver more than a thousand years in the future. He had already been dealing with you, but you hadn’t even met him yet from your perspective.”
“Right,” Mateo said, prompting her to go on.
“In fact, every time we’ve encountered him thus far, he was already pissed off with you.”
“Yeah, I still don’t know why.”
“He hasn’t even bothered to tell you. We’re already pretty sure that you and I and any other salmon are capable of altering the timeline. That’s probably what we’re doing here. Either he’s a complete moron, or there’s some reason why he hasn’t so much as attempted to ask you for help with changing whatever has been done to him.”
“That’s true. I don’t know what I did, and he has to know that. There must be some reason he’s keeping his past-slash-my future from me.”
“And what’s his pattern? Is it random? Does he have control over it? If so, why doesn’t he jump out of jail? Is he a rogue member of the power that be? Or worse,” she started, “is he not rogue?”
“These are all brilliant questions.”
“We have to ask them,” Leona said, straight-faced.
“Yeah,” Mateo chuckled. “Wait, what?”
She drew closer and lowered her voice, even though the nearest people were in a separate cabin. “Maybe you were right about running away.” She weathered a brainstorm in her own head. “He’s not going to stop. He can’t. And we can’t stop him. He might not be convicted of any crime. He may retake his company. He might even be able to teleport out of jail. Hell, he could go back in time and kill your mother before you’re born.”
“What are you saying, Leona?” Mateo asked.
“We have to take the fight to him. We have to get our answers, and barring any sudden conversations with the puppeteers of all this bullshit, we have to get those answers from him.”
“We could contact the Delegator.”
“We’re not allowed in the Constant. Not even Theo can get back in. I think we’ve been put on the naughty list.”
“This sounds reckless.”
She kissed him with both the passion of a new relationship, and the ease of an old marriage. “We’re time travelers. The world could plan for an asteroid heading towards us, but we would be falling down the crater tomorrow. Reckless sounds like a casual stroll in the park to me at this point.”
Mateo yawned. “Let’s talk about it next year. We can’t do anything today. Like you said, we could jump to our death tomorrow, and none of this would even matter.”
To spite their exhaustion, Mateo and Leona finally consummated their twenty-year relationship that night.