Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 23, 2077 (Part I)

“It’s nice to see you again too, Commander Parker,” Leona said lightly but confidently.
Julius tried to rub the stress out of his eyes. “Why me? Why is it always me?”
“Because we trust you,” Mateo answered.
Julius shook his head. “You barely know me.”
“That’s the point,” Leona began to explain. “We’re on the run, and the person chasing us knows who our allies are. They don’t know about you.”
“We at least don’t think they know you,” Darko clarified.
“So you’ve put me in danger to avoid endangering people you care about,” Julius criticized. “How kind of you.”
“It’s not like that,” Mateo said. “It’s unlikely that Makarion knows anything about you. We just need a place to lay low for a few decades.”
“I’m not going to be here for a few decades.”
“We’re going to burn that bridge when we get to it,” Leona said.
“I’ll let you stay here for two years,” Julius said plainly. “Then we will reassess.”
“That sounds fair,” Darko jumped in before Leona could protest.
“I suppose,” Julius started to say while he was putting his stuff down in the corner, “that you’ll be needing some food, what with you still being mostly human.”
“Are you not human?” Mateo asked. “Have you turned yourself into a robot?”
“No,” Julius said with a chortle. “Nothing so undignified. I have been upgraded, though. Nanotechnology, synthetic blood, and neural interfaces have made me better, faster, stronger.”
Mateo’s eyes widened. “Like the Six Million Dollar Man.”
“Yes, that is not a bad comparison,” Julius agreed.
“That’s cool,” Mateo said shyly, like a child meeting his hero.
“Some food would be lovely,” Leona said, “as long as it does not raise suspicion.”
“Many people still eat,” Julius confirmed. “And I do too, just not as much. Not everyone is a transhumanist like me, not even all early Martians.”
Julius returned later with some food from the cafeteria. Mateo had expected food cubes—and they certainly weren’t eating organic—but it did still look real food. They crowded around a table meant for only one person and gobbled it down, as if they hadn’t eaten in days. And actually, though they had gotten some food here and there, it had been a long time since a decent meal. He probably would have hated this Martian food before, but now it tasted like heaven.
After they were done with their meal, Mateo sat down in front of Julius so that they could have a talk. He wanted to explain to Julius about his brother, Richard. The Rogue had extracted him just before his death and placed him with Mateo temporarily. They spent months on a lifeboat together, living through the Life of Pi tribulation. He then accompanied Mateo for the Gulliver’s Travels tribulation, later making the ultimate sacrifice when Mateo opened up a portal to Reaver just before his death. It was ironic that Richard was pulled out just before he was blown up only to be blown up in Reaver’s prison cube. But that incident had ended with The Rogue’s death as well, and could very well have saved Mateo and Leona’s life. Richard was instrumental in stopping the Rogue from his games. Though Makarion was still a problem, he was less powerful, and that was not nothing. Mateo felt that Julius had the right to the truth; to understand what really went down. “Do you know what happened to your brother?”
Julius nodded. “He died in an explosion. The vessel was supposed to be unmanned, but Horace Reaver broke the rules. All of these secrets came out years ago. It’s part of history now. I suppose it was just yesterday for you.”
“That’s not the entire story,” Mateo said. “You obviously know that we’re time travelers, and you’ve probably guessed that we’re not the only ones.”
“I’ve met others.”
“Who did you meet?”
“Immediately after you left Luna back in 2036, two more appeared. I didn’t catch their names. They disappeared just as quickly as they had come.”
“Could you describe them?”
“Well, I guess I don’t need to, do I? This is the future afterall.”
Back in 2046, artificial intelligent android, Harrison had used technology to read Mateo’s mind and create a picture of a man he had met in an alternate timeline. They did this so everyone could see what The Cleanser looked like, in case he ever showed up later. That following year, they used the same technology to create composites of Samsonite and Aura’s daughter, who turned out to be Mateo’s old neighbor, Frida. And now in 2076, that technology still existed, and was actually even more sophisticated. Julius reached into his memory archives and generated extremely detailed pseudophotographic frames from when he met two other salmon. He then spliced each of these together to make a movie they could watch on a computer screen. It looked like someone had actually filmed the occasion. All that was missing was the sound, but Julius also had memory of the conversation, and was able to lip sync for them.

This is what happens in the memory splice movie.
“Not again,” Julius says. “I just got rid of you people. Literally ten seconds ago.”
“Where are we?” Makarion asks.
Julius points to the window where they can see Earth.
“Is this the moon?” Vearden asks.
“No, it’s Mars, dipshit,” Julius answers. “I am Commander Parker, King of the Mascos.”
“Who like us have you met?” Makarion asks.
“I dunno, a bunch of people. I didn’t care about their names,” Julius replies.
“Was one of them named Mateo?” Makarion asks.
Julius sighs. “Yeah, I think that’s what they said.”
“Just as I suspected,” Makarion says with a nod.
“Shut up,” Vearden spits.
“We’re jumping into important moments of Mateo’s timestream,” Makarion says. “God, that guy’s so important, and I do not know why.”
“Well, how do we get back?” Vearden demands.
“All we can do is keep trying.” Then Makarion takes Vearden by the cheeks, and they both disappear.

“So Makarion is going after Vearden, just like us. Or he did. Or he will.”
“Damn.” Darko turned away to pace around a little.
“This is not good,” Leona said, even more upset than everyone else.
“No kidding,” Mateo answered.
“No, this is really not good.” Leona shook her head violently. “There’s something I never told you, because I was worried about disrupting the timeline, but I think it’s time I speak up.”
“What is it?” Mateo asked, not wanting to jump to any conclusions.
“This happened to me once,” Leona tried to explain, but she was very shaky. “Makarion and who I now know to be Vearden appeared before me. It could have been just before this, or just after. I obviously didn’t know who he was at the time, but he warned me about paradoxes, and me being genre savvy, I agreed with him that I should keep quiet about it.”
“When was this?” Mateo asked, not upset with her for having kept this from him.
“It was after our kidney transplantation surgery,” she replied, still afraid of the truth. “After the security guards sent you off to the police station, they continued their rounds, and I had a window to sneak out of the warehouse. The two of them jumped into the timestream just before I could. Makarion did seem to recognize me, but I couldn’t really tell. Now it makes sense that he had already met me from his perspective, because he knew exactly what to say to make sure I didn’t say anything about it. I’m a fool.”
“You’re not a fool,” Mateo tried to comfort her. “You did exactly what you should have. That was not pertinent information until now. You understand the timeline better than I do, so I trust that that was the right call. Now is not the time to doubt yourself.”
“It’s just a pattern of behavior. Another time travel protocol has gotten me in trouble. Reaver knew my secret time travel passphrase because I decided to tell him in an alternate timeline. All these rules I’ve set up,” she said through tears, “they’re all garbage!”
“No, they’re not,” Mateo disagreed. “They’re just not perfect. We’re literally dealing with forces beyond our control. The rules are there to protect us, and I believe they’ve served us better than we even realize.”
She didn’t stop crying. “I should have told you. I was angry at you for having killed the Rogue, but I may have just killed us all.”
“You didn’t kill us, Leona,” Mateo said. “Everything is going to be okay. So he knows that we know Julius? He might have known anyway since the original Rogue was aware of our connection to the family. Coming here was always going to be a risk.”
“It sounds like the two of them are uncontrollably jumping through the timestream,” Darko said with authority. “And that they’re somehow tied to Mateo. Makarion might show up out of sheer bad luck, no matter where we ended up going.”
There was a knock at the door. Julius ushered the three of them to the wall and opened it with caution. “Oh my God.”
Makarion’s voice came from the hallway, “my ears were burning.”

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