Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 26, 2050

“No,” Aura said, in no uncertain terms. They were standing in their present cabin in the parched scrubland of the Amazon; a place where there was once a lush rainforest.
“I don’t need your permission, mother,” Mateo snapped at her. “You’ve been doing this longer than I have. In your experience, if the powers that be want something of you, have you been able to resist?”
“That’s besides the point.”
“What is your point?”
“I am your mother, and I’m going to protect you.”
“When have you ever done that? You gave me up when I was a baby, you disappeared when I was a child, and you haven’t been around much since your return.”
“And who’s fault is that?”
“It’s mine, but it doesn’t lessen the fact that I don’t need you dictating my life.”
“I just can’t believe you’re planning on going after Reaver...again. After all that happened before—after you saw Leona die—why would you be so enthusiastic about this?”
“Leona died?” Gilbert asked.
“And who are you?” Aura asked sardonically.
Mateo moved on, “I’m not enthusiastic about this. I’ve just accepted my place in the world. Some people work crappy jobs in the produce section of the grocery store, some people shovel shit, and some people are hopelessly thrown through time where they’ve given hazy assignments by a mysterious cabal of control freaks! We all do what we do, and right now I do need to find Horace Reaver, and bring him to justice. I do what I’m told.”
“How do you even know this Head Guard guy has any authority?” Samsonite asked, trying to contribute, but also worried about speaking out of turn.
“Last we saw him he was being taken away by the Delegator. He is literally a person of authority as he was an actual security guard in his former life.”
“And,” Leona continued, “we spoke with him in a magical cave that sits underneath a constantly shifting time window.”
“And that too,” Mateo nodded.
“That doesn’t mean you can trust him.”
Mateo threw up his hands. “You can’t trust anyone, doesn’t mean we have a choice.”
Theo walked in with a packet of documents. “Here’s the report. I printed it off on paper since I know you’re not used to anything else.”
“Thank you, brother,” Leona said, taking the documents from him.
“What is this? You’re helping them? Is that information on Reaver’s whereabouts?” Aura became more furious than she already was.
“They called me last year to ask me to get in touch with Boyce’s loyalists so that we could locate and keep tabs on Reaver,” Theo explained to her before debriefing the team. “He’s been lying low and moving around a lot, but we’re confident he’s in Tasmania at the moment.”
“We have a notable disadvantage,” Leona said. “When we confront him, he’ll have already experienced the day, so he will know exactly how to avoid us, kill us, or do whatever else he wants.”
“How do we stop someone that powerful?” Gilbert asked.
“We need to call Harrison and ask for help with that.”
“You already did.” Ulinthra came in with fanfare. “Last time I experienced this day, we spoke and decided to do nothing, so Reaver doesn’t know we’re working together. This time around, we’ll go at him, and he’ll never see you coming.”
“Who is this?”
“Mr. Boyce,” she replied. “It’s nice to meet you again for the very first time.”
“I’m sorry?”
“She relives days, just like Reaver.” Leona, always having to explain things to the lessers. “She is his counterpart.”
“Oh,” Gilbert smirked. “What have you been waiting for? If you could have stopped him at any time, why not do it?”
“We both relive days, but he has an advantage over me.”
“What would that be?” Aura asked.
“He’s more violent and scary. Remove time travel from the equation, and he is still a formidable opponent.”
Mateo echoed a line he had said when they first met, “fair enough. What do we do?”
“I don’t know,” Ulinthra said bluntly. “I’ve done my part. I helped you yesterday, so that you could change the timeline today. What you do with that is your decision, but know that I will not help you again. This is your one and only favor. Besides when I lent Harrison to you for several years.”
“Assuming we fail,” Leona began, “why would you not help again? Do you not want to stop him as much as we do?”
“He contacted me after getting out of prison. I don’t attack him directly, and he leaves me alone. You’re my loophole. I suggest you not waste your opportunity.” Ulinthra walked away, refusing to explain herself further.
“I thought she was supposed to have changed her ways,” Mateo said.
Leona watched as Ulinthra was leaving. “You can add some croutons, but you can’t turn chicken shit into chicken salad.”
Theo laughed. “Well said, little sister.”
“I’m never going to get used to you being older than me.”
“Honey, I was older than you before I was born.”
Changing the subject, Aura declared, “I’m coming with you, so if we’re going to Tasmania, I’ll need time to pack.”
Frida appeared out of nowhere. “No. They go alone.”
A stunned Aura tried reaching out to her daughter, but she was gone again too quickly. “Aquila...”
“What was that? Why did she leave so quickly? Is she coming back?” Samsonite was devastated.
“She is a choosing one,” Leona said with her eyes squinted on the spot where Frida was once standing. “But there must be some kind of hierarchy. Her brief jumps allow her to say something in a hundred and forty characters or less, but the others don’t let her stay too long. That’s just my hypothesis, though.”
“Mateo,” Aura said, holding on to his shoulders so that he was focused on her. “If your sister wants you to do something, then do it. But keep your phone with you.”

Because of the curve of the Earth, the trip to Tasmania was taking them over Antarctica. Mateo, Leona, and Gilbert sat in their seats without speaking as the artificial intelligence with no programmed personality continued flying them towards their destination. But then something went wrong, as one might expect for the couple. There were just no easy days. Not for them. Not anymore. With no warning, the aircraft lurched and shuddered. All of the electrical systems shut down at once, sending them shooting towards the surface. But they were not falling as steeply as Mateo would have thought. “What’s happening?” They were urgently but not chaotically getting into their parachutes.
“Safety measures!” Leona explained. “The plane will crash, but it will glide to a certain degree before that happens! Open the escape hatch carefully.”
Gilbert crawled over and tried opening the hatch, but it wasn’t working. He struggled with it for a few moments before the nose tipped down. Leona and Mateo rolled towards the front, but Gilbert was able to hold on to the door handle. He grabbed the fire extinguisher from the wall as the other two were trying to climb back up to meet him. He banged on the latch over and over again, but Mateo couldn’t tell if he was making any progress. Just at the right time, he hit the latch one more time with as much strength as he possessed while the plane tipped over so that he was at the bottom. The added force caused the hatch to burst open and break off, pulling Gilbert out with it. Mateo wasn’t prepared for this either, and was sent hurtling out the opening, slamming his head on the edge as he was leaving.
Mateo woke up in a tent. “Leona!”
“Careful,” Gilbert insisted. “You banged your head pretty bad.”
“How did I get here?”
“Your parachute opened on its own just before reaching your lower limit. We’re somewhere in Antarctica. Near the sea.”
“Where is Leona?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where’s the plane, Boyce!”
“It’s a few klicks southwest of our position.”
“Was Leona on it when it crashed?”
“I couldn’t tell you. She isn’t responding to my calls, and the beacon doesn’t give me that information.”
“Why are we still here if we know where the plane is?”
“What did you want me to do? Drag you? I’m no spring chicken.”
“Well, I’m awake now, so let’s go.”
They packed the tent and set out to look for Leona. It was snowy and windy, but not as bad as Mateo would have expected. They were pretty far north, and due to climate change, Antarctica wasn’t getting any colder. “What the hell are those?” Mateo asked. The beach was full of crabs.
“King crabs,” Gilbert explained. “It’s a global warming thing. Just ignore them.”
Mateo was about to say something else when his phone rang. It was Leona. “Where are you?—It does?—How do I open that?” Leona had told him that their phones would provide them with each other’s coordinates. “Okay, I see you now. We’re not far away. We can meet in the middle.” They continued walking, but much faster now. After awhile, they began to hear a buzzing sound. “Leona what is that?—It could be Reaver.—I know it could be a rescue team, but we can’t take that chance.—You have to hide.—It’s not too late! Hide! It’s almost midnight central!”
They ran as fast as they could. Gilbert had trouble keeping up, but that didn’t matter. Mateo continued running until he could see Leona in the distance. But then he saw that the snowmobile in pursuit was growing closer to her. “You hide,” Leona instructed him from the phone. “I love you.” Leona put her phone away and stared at him, unmoving. Midnight struck and sent them to the future, which would have been a good thing if no one knew where they were, but the snowmobile driver had her coordinates, and when the three salmon reappeared in the timestream, they were waiting for her.
Mateo watched helplessly as Leona was being escorted into the aircraft. He began running again, but it was too late. The plane took off, leaving the other two behind.
“At least they didn’t take us as well,” Gilbert said after catching up.
“Don’t be so selfish,” Mateo spat back.
“It’s not selfish. It means Leona has a chance to be rescued. Call that Theo guy and ask him where Reaver is now.”

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