Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 6, 2060

The three of them spent a few hours searching for civilization in the woods. In that time, Mateo described to them the appearance of The Rogue, and they discussed preparations for his return. Well, they tried to discuss it, but there weren’t any real solutions. He was too powerful for them. They probably got lucky when the powers that be decided that they had had enough of Horace Reaver. Without a little help from someone like that, they were effectively powerless, especially against another power. What could they do? They had some kind of town in their sights when the scene changed and they were teleported back to Topeka. The Rogue left them alone for the rest of the day, and so they made an effort to discuss anything but.
The Rogue abruptly woke Mateo and Leona up the next year, “you guys ready to let the dogs out?” Cute reference.
“How long have you been there?” Mateo asked.
“Does that matter?”
“I’m trying to get a sense of how often you’re spying on us. And if you’re the type of creep to watch people sleep.”
“Did you mean to rhyme?”
They didn’t respond.
“I’m watching you every second of every day.”
“Nice to know,” Leona said.
“One of you is going to die today.”
Mateo reached back, hoping to get a chance to punch the Rogue in the face so that he could continue his strategy of being unpredictable.
Mateo’s fist was met with extremely powerful winds. He struggled against it for a few moments before surrendering and falling to his ass. The back of his head slammed against the pavement, causing a ringing pain down his whole back. He felt Leona’s body land on top of his, trying to protect him from the debris and piercing rains. “It’s a cyclone!” she screamed.
Mateo looked up from his position where he could see Prince Darko calling out to them from several meters away. “Come inside!” is what they thought he said before he disappeared through a doorway.
“No!” Leona cried out. He had gone into a building on the edge. Literally. It was about to fall into the sea. He must not have noticed that. Leona helped Mateo up and together they struggled to reach the building so they could get him out.
It was a tad bit quieter in the building. Rafters and furniture had been smashed and cracked. Water was flooding in from the street. Prince Darko was reaching out to them from the floorboards, unable to pull himself to safety. As they ran towards him, the building followed, dramatically being tipped over from the heavy winds. They could see the ocean raging from beneath, calling to them with hunger. Despite its pleas to feed it, Mateo and Leona each took one of Prince Darko’s shoulders and tore him away from the danger. The house dropped down again so that it was hanging on by a thread. They had to climb out, holding onto whatever permanent structures they could find, like columns and the staircase. But they did it. They managed to crawl out from the building before it fell into the water.
“We have to move as far inland as possible!” Leona yelled. The other two agreed, so they made their journey across. They saw no one else as they were tripping and squirming, ever forward. “We’re in Venice!” Leona cried out. “It’s been all but abandoned!” Samsonite had said something about an increase in storm intensity. It made sense that Venice would feel that since it was apparently mostly water.
They tried to stick together, but sometimes the wind wasn’t interested in letting that happen. Prince Darko used his strength to push himself a little faster than the other two, and so he was gradually extending the distance between them. Mateo and Leona tried to call him back, but he could either not hear them, or was pretending not to. This was just more evidence that it was a mistake letting him into their group. But it was one they could never have avoided. He was indeed on their pattern. If he wanted to stay close to his half-brother, there was nothing they could do about it. It wasn’t like they could file a restraining order.
The Rogue appeared between them and Prince Darko with a smirk on his face. The wind wasn’t bothering him at all, so he must have been safe in some kind of other dimension. He lifted his hands like a wizard and slowly lowered them again. As he did so, the winds decreased, but so did they. He was slowing time, but allowing them to perceive it as such. They couldn’t move any faster, but they could see what was happening. He never stopped time completely; just kept it in slowmo. Mateo looked over and saw a billboard or street sign or something flying down the street, heading for Prince Darko. It was the manifestation of that common dream where you’re running as fast as you can, but getting nowhere.
When Prince Darko noticed the sign as well, he turned his head to see the other two one last time. The Rogue had been right in that one of them was going to die. But how did he know this? Was it a guess? Did he place Prince Darko in that spot? Did he manipulate the sign? The winds? Or did he do nothing more than travel to the future and report back. Who the hell was this guy, and what did he want? Prince Darko made an attempt to run towards them while Mateo and Leona tried to meet him halfway. The Rogue teleported himself over to the sign and nudged the edge of it to match. He had no intention of letting Prince Darko survive this.
The sign flew closer and closer. Prince Darko gave up running and faced his threat. He slowly moved up his hands in defense, a useless attempt to protect himself. Though things were moving in slow motion from their point of view, the wind was in reality moving at high speeds. The debris would kill him either way. The Cleanser appeared next to Mateo and said, “watch this.”
Time began to slow down even more as the sign was reaching its logical conclusion. Prince Darko was determined and prepared. He didn’t look scared, just ready for the next thing. The Rogue restarted time to its regular speed at the last second so that Mateo and Leona could see the crash in its full destructive magnificence. And then Prince Darko was gone, thrown into the abyss. “Let’s see that again,” the Cleanser said.
“No!” Mateo argued.
“Who the hell is this?” Leona asked. Oh, that’s right. He told her about the Rogue, but not the Cleanser. Whoops.
The Cleanser drew Mateo and Leona into his timeless dimension. He then mimed turning back a dial to rewind the scene to the point just before Prince Darko was struck.
“I don’t want to see this again.”
“Just watch,” the Cleanser petitioned.
The Rogue sauntered over casually to watch as well. “I wasn’t going to show them this.”
“Well, I am,” the Cleanser said. They didn’t seem all that happy to see each other, but they also didn’t seem to hate each other. Mateo could feel between them some form of sick mutual respect. He showed them the scene frame by frame until the sign met Prince Darko’s hands. At that moment, Prince Darko disappeared. He wasn’t thrown off or knocked over. He leapt out of the timestream, and he made it look like the sign itself was what powered him.
“What in the world is that?” Leona asked in anger.
“I told you he was lying,” the Cleanser said with a smile.
“All right, enough,” the Rogue commanded. “I’m going to restart time. You find your way to safety and ride out the storm, then this tribulation is over.” Oh, is that all?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Overwritten: Lima (Part V)

A year after the whole train debacle, Reaver asked me to do the same thing again. He said that the program ran perfectly, and that I should only have this one more mysterious assignment. I knew that he was trying to kill Mateo by knocking a train into him upon his return to the timeline, but I didn’t know how to fix it. Brian had a brilliant idea for it, though. He—oh my God, it’s so crazy—he strung up bed sheets across the tracks after the last stop before the bridge. He tied them loosely enough to safely be pulled right off by the oncoming train, but bright and colorful enough to be noticed so that the train would be delayed long enough for the conductor to get out and try to figure out what the hell was going on. And it almost worked. Brian watched from the trees as a good samaritan removed the sheets not long before the train’s arrival. If he had tried to tie them back up, he would have probably been caught. Instead, he hopped in his car and sped off towards the bridge, hoping to possibly save Mateo in the nick of time. He ended up not having to. Apparently someone time traveled onto the tracks just before the train collided with him and spirited both him and Leona away. We weren’t the only ones looking out. And just how widespread was this time travel thing?
I continued to be a good little security officer for Horace Reaver for the better part of a decade before he asked me to do anything else untoward. He never seemed to suspect that I was against him. I got the distinct impression that he now thought focusing on the success of his conglomerate was what was going to get Leona to fall in love with him again. It obviously wasn’t working, and then the unthinkable happened, from Reaver’s perspective. Leona disappeared one day, never to be seen again by anyone but me and my surveillance equipment. She began to return to the timeline only once a year, at the same time as Mateo Matic. I’m not sure why she became one of us, but Brian assumed it was an indication that some mysterious entity was controlling all of this. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to contact these theoretical people, or if I should avoid them at all costs.
In the year 2031, Reaver asks me to keep watch over a trio of people he’s kidnapped. Leona becoming a time traveler really set him off, and he was no longer even pretending to be a good person. He was turning into the man I remembered from the other timeline. I was changing history, but I wasn’t making it better. We were in a warehouse on the edge of San Diego. It was abandoned and falling apart. Most of the letters for the climate control company sign had fallen off, leaving only LIMA remaining. I take a look around when I arrive, first trying my best to ignore the hostages. I inspect every nook and cranny, as it were, for any hidden cameras or spies. Nothing and no one. We’re alone. I move over to the captives and attempt to unlock their chains, but no such luck. Reaver didn’t leave any keys.
I do not recognize the other two, but the boy is Leona’s brother. “What are you doing?” little Theo asks me.
“I’m trying to free you,” I say. Isn’t it obvious?
“Why would you do that?” the man asks.
“I’m not interested in what Horace Reaver wants,” I answer. “I’ve been trying to stop him for decades.”
“What do you know of him?”
I take a risk. “He’s a time traveler, just like Mateo and Leona. In an alternate timeline, he killed a lot of people. I’m trying to stop him from doing that again.”
“How do you know about Mateo and Leona?” the woman asks defensively.
“He’s been sending me out to spy on them. He didn’t tell me why, but it wasn’t hard to put the facts together.” I quit trying to force the chains off of them. “To what end did he kidnap you three?”
“Just to get us out of the way,” the man says. “Mateo is his real target.”
“He’s holding you ransom?” I ask, giving them a bottle of water from my pack.
“I heard him talking on the phone,” Theo says. “He has no intention of helping our family find us. It’s just a trap. We would have been left to die here if not for you.”
I look at my watch. It’s nearly midnight. “The two of them will be back soon. Where are they going to appear?”
They hesitate.
“Look, my guess is that Reaver already knows, but I don’t. So you can either trust me, or you can let them die. I can help. Please.”
Theo breaks down. “They’ll jump into the timestream in Huntsville, Ontario. There’s a motel not far from there where Reaver left instructions for him to get to us. But like I said, it’s a trap. Reaver is using that just to kidnap them next.”
I take some time to process the information. I could try to warn them through the motel, but who knows what they know? Does Reaver own them? Are they evil spies? There’s no way to know, but it’s possible, and this time, I’m not just being paranoid. I can trust no one. I need to find a way to protect Mateo and Leona without Reaver knowing about it. “How exactly is Mateo getting these instructions?”
“Reaver emailed information to the concierge, or whatever. I think they’re just supposed to hand it off to them.”
“It was his mistake doing all this in front of you.” I pull out my phone and start typing up a new document before looking up the email address of the motel.
“What are you going to do?” The woman is not convinced that I’m on their side.
“Leona Delaney is an incredibly intelligent woman. I’m betting if I leave her a clue, she’ll follow it and do the right thing. All we need to do is make it look like they ignored Reaver’s instructions because they don’t believe him.”
“What does that mean?” Theo asks.
“I’m amending whatever information Reaver emailed the motel with the directions to this warehouse. If I’m right about Leona, they’ll find their way here on their own. It’s the quickest way to alter the timeline without Reaver knowing why, because I can’t straight up tell them that you’re safe. We don’t know who Reaver has posted at the motel. We just have to hope they believe he’s changed his mind slightly.”
“ me,” I say. “I know it’s confusing.” I send off the email so that the motel can add it to the packet left for Mateo, then turn back to the other three. “You look hungry. I’ll go get you some food if you promise me one thing.”
The man eyes me suspiciously. “Promise you what?”
“You cannot tell Mateo or Leona that I was here. I have to stay in character. When they get here, I’ll be out of sight. Just let them free you and leave me out of it.”
“They’ll wonder why Horace Reaver gave them this address.”
“And they’ll never know the truth. You got that? I cannot continue helping them if they know I’m there. I can’t risk Reaver finding out about me, and the fewer people that know I’m a mole, the more effective I am.”
“Okay,” the woman says authentically. “We understand.”

Friday, January 29, 2016

Microstory 245: Perspective Twenty

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Perspective Nineteen

I’m in trouble. Never in my life have I raped somebody, or sexually assaulted them. But one dumb little nurse is a little tired and her consent might not have been perfectly perfect, and now I have to answer for it. I’m going to have to work on my story. She definitely consented, that much I know. Well, I mean, that isn’t quite what happened, but her fatigue actually acts to my advantage since she won’t be able to recall events with accuracy. Though, it’s still not good for me because I’m the one who draws up the schedule, and she could argue that she was being worked too much. That’s an entirely different set of problems, but one that I can reason my way out of. Medical professionals are overworked all the time. It’s a systemic problem, and one that is not completely in my control. That’s no reason to fire anyone...or worse. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. My mother always said that the best way to avoid answering for something was to pass the blame off, especially if there turns out to be no solution, because then we end up in a standstill. Yeah, my mother was a weird one. Probably shouldn’t have listened to her when she said such things, but I did, and now I can’t find someone to love me. It’s all her fault. See? That blame thing is pretty easy. Rape claims are so common these days, though. Shifting focus away from that is going to be rather difficult. People love to vilify people they think to be rapists. That word is just thrown around all over the place, and everyone thinks they know what it means. In my day, a woman’s responsibility was to a man. But now they’re supposed to have their own lives, and we’re supposed to listen to their problems and care about their feelings. Ugh, shoot me now. No, I can’t talk like that. I have to pretend that I don’t feel that way; that I love women. No, I can’t say that I “love” women because then they’ll use that against me. I have to pretend like I respect women, even nurses. If I just take some time to adjust my brain, it shouldn’t be too hard. Fortunately, I have a friend in human resources.

Perspective Twenty-One

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Microstory 244: Perspective Nineteen

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Perspective Eighteen

I’ve been on shift for far too long; even longer than usual. My eyelids are dropping, and I can feel memories floating away from my brain. I mean that I’m consciously thinking about what kind of medications to give to my current patient, but as I’m trying to focus on them, they disappear. Fortunately, we write everything down, so I’m at very little risk of messing something up, but still. I just need a little sleep. There’s this corner just inside the backroom where no one can see me, including the cameras. I often stand there and rest my eyes, and I swear it helps. I think I’ve successfully taught myself to sleep standing up. But someone is in there right now. My boss sends me a text message, telling me he’s taking me up on my offer to go on the cruise. Wait, what? No, that text is from my uptight mother. My boss is summoning me to his office. That makes more sense. I glide upstairs and enter the office, plopping myself down on the chair. I stare out the window where his face should be. He must have stepped out for a second. No, that’s not right. This isn’t his office. Where the hell am I? I reluctantly get up and head for the right place. He goes on and on about being a team player and contributing to the successes of the group, and blah blah blah. I’m not listening. He’s so long-winded and aggravating. Can’t he just shut up and let me sleep? But then I catch a few words in his speech that don’t fit; just between us, and being a good girl, and maybe a raise. He would never mention giving me a raise, and what was that about a pillow? I roll the back of my head back and forth against the chair then let my eyes close completely. I don’t want to get fired, but I just can’t take it anymore. Even nurses need sleep, believe it or not. I feel myself being dragged over to the couch, and I carelessly try to fight him off. Sleep and let it happen, or run. Yes, run. I have to go. Straight to human resources.

Perspective Twenty

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Microstory 243: Perspective Eighteen

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Perspective Seventeen

I’ve been called a “wretched busybody” by different people, on multiple occasions. Such a strange phrase, so people must be talking about me behind my back. I wasn’t always like this. I used to be sweet and understanding, and even a little submissive. That all stopped when my husband revealed to me that he’s been having an affair with the same woman for the entire fifty years of our marriage, and then some.  I never really liked the man, and was a little relieved that I finally had a reason to let him go. I actually wish he had told me the truth sooner. For the first few weeks, I felt free and alive. I even went out to the clubs a few times. I stuck out like a sore thumb at an amputee convention, but I had a lot of fun. Pretty soon, though, the novelty of single life wore off, and I reverted into the bitter, irritable old woman I was destined to be. My neighbor feels the brunt of my wrath. He runs a small business out of his home, selling custom wares with a cadre of hoodlums and delinquents. They all seem like nice people, but they all have problems. I don’t know if any of them have been to jail, but they just don’t look right to me. I don’t trust them, and I worry that their presence is bringing down property values. I had a real estate appraiser come out and confirm as much about neighborhood small businesses. Okay, that’s a lie, but I still heard that it’s true. He’s a great guy, and I’m glad he’s helping those kids out, but I just don’t think I should have to suffer them. Sure, they’ve not done wrong by me...per se, but they might. You don’t know. My daughter says that I should hold onto the youth I was recapturing just after the separation. She’s been not so subtly emailing me information about cruises, saying that women my age do this all the time. Apparently there’s this entire subculture of old people who just live on cruise ships for the rest of their lives. I’ve always found that kind of thing to be rather pathetic, but now it’s looking a bit appealing, to be honest. She recently sent me a brochure about a cruise for older singles. I’m still thinking it over.

Perspective Nineteen

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Microstory 242: Perspective Seventeen

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Perspective Sixteen

I kind of hate my job, but I kind of love it. I’m known in certain circles for taking in employees with personality disorders or other emotional problems. Some of them qualify for assistance from the state, while others simply applied and earned their positions independently. I’ve seen how hard it is for people diagnosed with disorders and syndromes. They can sometimes have trouble interacting with others, and so neurotypical employers tend to just not bother with giving them a chance. I didn’t start my business with the intention of supporting my community in this way, but when I saw how hard it was for my autistic nephew to relate to his classmates, I guess I had this instinct to reach out. I didn’t realize how tough this industry would be, or how much I would learn to absolutely detest the work. Make no mistake, helping people in need is extremely rewarding. It’s just all the other stuff that I’ve stopped caring about. We sell custom merchandise. You want your company’s logo on a mug; on a sweater, on a pencil? We’ll do it. Ya know, as long as we have the time and the resources and the capital. So many other businesses handle this sort of thing, and I just can’t stay afloat. I thought it would be interesting, and that every day would be a new challenge, but it’s turned out to be so incredibly tedious. What I’ve discovered after working with these people is that I want to make it my job to help them get other jobs. But that requires education, training, and for me to close the business, which would mean putting the people I already am helping out of work. I’m working on a way to step one foot on the boat while keeping the other on the dock, so I don’t fall in. But that’s even more difficult than you would probably imagine. There’s not really a way for me to slow down production, while one by one letting my people go, because I feel an obligation to find them other work beforehand. And so I laugh, because at this point, I’m the one who needs a state counselor to help me figure out what I’m going to do to achieve my career goals.

Perspective Eighteen

Monday, January 25, 2016

Microstory 241: Perspective Sixteen

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Perspective Fifteen

There he is; the guy I have a crush on. I feel like I’ve been staring at him through the diner window for hours. I can’t see very well through the glass, but people inside can see me clear as day. And they’re all talking about me. I need to make a decision to either go inside or move on. He’s approaching the son of one of our coworkers who he can relate to because he has a low level of maturity. And that’s what makes me feel so bad. He told me that he was diagnosed with borderline intellectual something. I can’t remember the full term, but I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bigoted, or anything. I just don’t know if I’m allowed to be attracted to someone like that. He’ll always have that learning disability, and I would always be explaining things to him, just like I already do. But is it fair to be in a relationship with someone who’s not smart enough to fully grasp what that relationship means? Or does he understand it, and I’m just being ignorant. Is it bigoted to not be in a relationship with him because of his condition? Oh man, I feel like such a bad person for these thoughts, but I can’t help it. It is my curse to overthink things. I actually have a medical condition of my own, which is probably what attracted me to him. Most people really focus on the compulsive part of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but those compulsions are not the underlying problem. People have stray thoughts all the time, but I have them all the time. In every situation I encounter, I think about every possible outcome, and every choice I could make. This sounds like science fiction, but it’s all about consolidation. I don’t literally think through each potential future. I just consider the possibilities and what kind of choices I would have to make for those to occur. The problem with that is most of the possibilities are extremely remote. The person I’m talking to is probably not going to turn into a vampire, and there probably won’t be a meteorite that will give me superpowers, but these kind of possibilities just consume me, and I have to work extremely hard to ignore them. I realized my condition when I was pretty young, and I developed coping mechanisms to help me function in the world. I’ve gotten pretty good at acting like a normal person, but I still stand out. That brings us back around to my crush. He doesn’t judge me or question me, and I could really use more of that in my life. But not right now. If I go in now, I’ll likely slip on the floor and break my back. I’ll talk to him tomorrow at work.

Perspective Seventeen

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 5, 2059

The Cleanser had been right about “the next Reaver” coming. Mateo just didn’t think he meant so soon. Though, to be fair, it was technically a year later. And it could have been even longer from any other salmon’s perspective. He woke to find himself in the middle of the woods with Leona and Prince Darko. It was the dawn and their phones were nowhere to be found.
“What’s going on?” Leona demanded.
“Why are you looking at me?” Prince Darko asked, astonished. “I didn’t have anything to do with this.”
“Oh yeah, right,” Leona scoffed. It was becoming a bad habit.
“Leona, you can’t accuse him with no evidence.”
“He shows up and now we’ve been transported outside of our pattern.”
“That doesn’t mean that I’m the one who brought us here. I wouldn’t have a clue as to how to do such a thing.”
“Leona, stop. We have to work together to figure this out.”
“Oh, you would take his side.”
“There are no sides. There’s only survival. There’s bears in these woods,” Prince Darko said ominously.
“Bears can be dealt with,” Leona said. “They don’t attack humans as much as you would think.”
“I’m not talking about animal bears,” Prince Darko clarified. “I’m talking about bears that eat salmon. Everything is a danger.”
“Oh, ha!” Leona laughed sarcastically. “Good one.”
“I’m serious,” Prince Darko complained.
“We need to find some help,” Mateo jumped in, trying to defuse the situation with logic. “Or maybe not. Don’t they say if you’re lost in the forest, you’re supposed to stay put and wait for rescue?”
“That’s for when people know you’re there. We don’t even know where we are,” Leona nearly yelled.
“Hey, he’s just trying to get through this!” Prince Darko yelled back.
“Both of you shut up. I hear something.” Mateo didn’t really hear anything. He just wanted a few seconds of silence. But then they actually did hear something. It was a zipping sound that flew past their heads and landed in a tree. An arrow.
“Oh my God,” Prince Darko grumbled, “we teleported into a horror movie.”
Mateo was determined to fix the problem. It was probably just a hunter who didn’t realize that they weren’t deer. “It’s probably just a hunter who can’t see us very well.” Mateo stood up straight and started waving his arms.
“Mateo,” Leona whispered urgently, “please get down.”
“Hey! Don’t shoot!” Mateo pleaded. “We’re human!” He could see the hunter up ahead, and he was definitely close enough to hear Mateo’s cries, unless he was wearing headphones or something. Mateo realized his folly far too late. Another zip came and forced itself into Mateo’s heart. They were the ones being hunted. It wasn’t clear whether the hunter was actually intending to kill them specifically, or if they just happened to be the ones he found while on his hunt. Mateo was able to eke out one word as he was falling towards his back. “Run.”
Everything froze. Mateo stood from the side, staring at his own body, hanging in midair. Leona appeared to be on her way to catching him. Prince Darko was eyeing the hunter with violent rage in his eyes. But no one was moving; neither were the leaves or the wind or dark clouds in the early morning sky. Time was standing still.
“Mister Matic,” came a voice from behind Mateo’s temporary figure. It wasn’t the Cleanser.
“And you are?”
“They call me The Rogue.”
“What is it with you people and nicknames?”
The Rogue laughed. “I dunno. But they call me this because I don’t follow their rules. I’ve gone off on my own.”
“I’m pretty sure that position has been filled.”
“Yes,” the stranger nodded his head in understanding. “The Cleanser and I are very much alike. But his intention is to wipe us all out. Mine is to have fun.”
“From what I’ve been told, that’s exactly what it means to be a choosing one.”
“That’s true,” the Rogue admitted. “However, they are trying to shape the timeline according to their liking. I don’t care about the timeline. I just like to watch the struggle.”
“You’re trying to create a bad timeline,” Mateo posited. “Leona would actually probably call it the darkest timeline.”
“That’s right,” the Rogue said. “From your perspective, at least.”
Mateo massaged his temples. “I am so tired. I haven’t been doing this for very long, but I don’t wanna go any further. If I agree to let you do what you want, will you cancel mine and Leona’s pattern?”
“What about your brother?”
“What about him?” Mateo felt himself not caring. Prince Darko was obviously trying to strain his and Leona’s relationship. He should have been taking the moral high ground and tried to save them all, but he couldn’t help but just not care anymore. “You leave my family alone, and Leona’s, and I’ll let you go.”
“And if I don’t?”
“Then I’ll have to defeat you, just like I did Horace Reaver.”
The Rogue thought about this for a long time. Or rather, for literally no time at all. “Interesting proposition. You didn’t seem like the kind of person who would forgo the world, just for your family.”
“Before all this, I wasn’t.”
“That’s fair, but I’m afraid I’ll have to decline.” Mateo knew he would do this. There was no way a guy with the power to stop time would agree to end his game so quickly. He was obviously a psychopath, and needed to be stopped. But Mateo couldn’t do that if he was acting like himself. These people knew everything about him. There was even evidence that they could read his mind. He had to remain as unpredictable as possible. He had to keep them guessing; rule number eleven.
“So, what are your plans for us?”
“To make your lives hell. One day at a time.”
Mateo apathetically turned his head to look at his real body, still hanging in the air, on the verge of death. “You don’t have much time.”
The Rogue laughed again. “Tis but a flesh wound.”
“I feel myself dying.”
“You want me to correct this? You want me to give you a pass?”
“Just this once.”
“Very well, but there will be more tribulations. Wanna see something cool?”
Yes, definitely. “Not really.”
“Pull the arrow out of your chest.”
“Doctors will tell you not to do that.”
“Just trust me. Make sure you take it out in reverse.”
Mateo had no choice, and he was curious to see what was going to happen. He took hold of the back of the arrow and begin to pull on it. The arrow didn’t move right away, but his own body did. Once he was back upright, the arrow began to slide out of his chest. He looked over and could see Leona crawling backwards and Prince Darko turning his head away from the distant hunter. Mateo pushed the arrow back in and watch the scene play out in slow motion. Back. Forth. Back. Forth. The faster he moved, the faster the scene moved. He was manipulating the passage of time with his hands. That was cool.
“All right, you’ve had your fun. Pull the arrow all the way out, and then you can adjust its path so that it avoids you altogether. All you have to do is think about changing time, rather than reversing it.”
Mateo had a better idea. “I have a better idea.” After the arrow was all the way out, and his wound had magically sealed back up as if it had never happened, he moved his own arm up. He wrapped his fingers around the shaft of the arrow and clasped it tightly.
“Leona and Prince Darko are gonna know something’s up if you catch a freaking arrow in midair.”
Mateo shrugged. “Somehow I don’t think that will bother me.”
The Rogue shook his head like he was watching his dog chew on a shoe. “I can’t reverse or slow velocity once we step back into real time, so you’re going to have to match it with an equal opposing force. Leona would understand this better,” he added with a sigh.
Mateo thought about it for a second then reversed the arrow a few more inches back to give himself more time to slow it down. “There.”
“There,” the Rogue agreed. He snapped his fingers and restarted time, placing Mateo back into his real body.
The arrow tried to keep moving, just as the Rogue had said, but Mateo was able to hold onto it before the tip could pierce his skin. He had succeeded in making it look like he had superhuman reflexes. He looked over at Leona and Prince Darko who were shocked by this.
“Buffy,” Leona whispered.