Sunday, May 29, 2016

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

Designated teleporter and salmon-chooser hybrid Rogue Makarion was doing the best he could. He wanted to tell the targets of his torture that he was the only thing standing between them and certain death. Doing so, however, would break his agreement with the enemy, effectively tearing up their contract together, placing everyone in danger. But this wasn’t working. Mateo and Leona made every effort to subvert the rules of his tribulations. Each time they did, they were taken further from his purview and protection, and closer to the hands of the one who truly wanted to do them harm. Perhaps the tribulations were no longer a viable option, or maybe they never were. If he could team up with Mateo and Leona by explaining himself, could they put up a united front against the evil? Would they go for it? Would they even listen to him?
The first step to either road he decided to take was stopping Vearden from throwing them back through time. It was only 2076, which meant that Mateo and Leona hadn’t been on their own for too long, so the contract had not yet expired. He grabbed a nearby lamp and slammed it into Vearden’s head before rushing out of the room on the Martian base. Vearden faded out of view as he tried to cross the threshold. He had been whisked away by a portal. Perfect timing. Well, it was good enough, at least. He would have to wait a whole year for Mateo, Leona, and Darko to return. The only thing that could stop him now was if The Cleanser decided he hadn’t quite fulfilled his obligations to the agreement.

What most people don’t know is that Melinda Carson knew Mateo Matic when they were just in high school. She had honestly had a bit of a crush on him, but felt uncomfortable vocalizing this since she was a senior when he was but a freshman. She went off to college without him ever having noticed that she existed. She regretted never going for it right up until the point she met Frank Delaney. He was seven years older than her, but that never mattered. Their age difference became even less of an issue once everyone started learning about the longevity escape velocity. As science and health progress, the number of years extended on someone’s life increasingly surpasses the number of years passed. That is, people are now effectively immortal. No one will care about their age difference once she’s a thousand, and he’s a thousand and seven.
Things were changing, though. Frank always seemed to be on board with this new way of life, but the situation with his daughter was really getting to him. Leona was constantly jumping through time, and he was only able to see her once a year, at best. It was like a fairytale; no happy ending. Melinda kept trying to help him through it, saying that life extension was only going to help him, but the depression was growing year by year. Of course, he was hiding it from Leona pretty well, and possibly even little old Theo, but Melinda knew him best. He never quite got over his first wife either, so that certainly wasn’t helping his mental state. There was this movement spreading across the world for people who don’t necessarily reject all technology, but do believe that death is necessary for life to hold meaning. There are multiple factions for this movement, and some of them are nasty, using their beliefs to justify killing others. Frank is not involved with these particular factions, and he was only starting to look into it, but Melinda still worried that he was on a dangerous path. She never wanted to die, and she didn’t want him to die either.
She was just about to talk to Frank about her feelings, because it was one of the days when Leona was supposed to return. She had been missing for several years, and so these were always the worst. Before she could open her mouth, a man they called the Cleanser appeared before the family and took them away one by one. Before too long, Melinda was alone in the house. Panicked, she ran from room to room, calling everyone several times, but they were not responding. There was nothing left for her to do but sit and shudder and wait.
Frank Delaney was not a suicidal man. He was just having doubts about whether he wanted to live forever or not. Seeing his daughter only once a year for thousands of years did not sound like his idea of a good time. His second child, Theo wasn’t always his. He was the reincarnation of a man who was first born in seventeenth century. At some point, he died, and came back as a baby. The first several years with him were great. He was a happy and thoughtful child, both curious and precocious. Looking back, these were the first signs that he was different. Though he had grown up with advanced technology, they always seemed foreign to him, like he was some kind of anachronism. At first, Frank thought he might have some kind of learning disability, or be on the autism spectrum, but the tests came back negative. In the end, weird was the only right word for it. And that’s exactly how he liked it. But then he started talking about things that didn’t make any sense. He would recall events in the past that could not have happened to him. This was not just a rich imagination; this was a problem.
Not long after Leona started jumping through time, putting a strain on the whole family dynamic, Theo revealed to them the truth. He had remembered enough about his past life to consider it, and the parents he left behind, to be the real ones. Suddenly Frank and Melinda were only surrogates; glorified ovens to be used for a safe home and food on the table. He was reconnected with his best friends from the past, and he was back in his old world of salmon and other time travelers. Frank and Melinda couldn’t relate to them at all, and nothing was going to change that. He somehow both quickly and gradually lost his children to time. He would never get them back, no matter how long he lived. So yes, he was seriously thinking about letting it all end eventually. He was a hundred years old. Back before all this, people were lucky to reach that age, so it wasn’t like he was wasting all this potential. At least, that’s how he justified his position. He knew he wasn’t being completely rational, but he also had yet to come to his final decision, so there was no need for Melinda to freak out about it.
At the moment, the Cleanser had everyone in separate groups, wading in the water on a beach as the sun was going down. Mateo and Leona were standing on their own. The gun he gave her was empty, but it was clear where this was going. Aura, Samsonite, and Theo were forced onto their knees, hands tied behind their backs. Darko and Makarion were standing to the side like spectators, but neither of them wanted to be there. The Cleanser teleported in holding Melinda by the neck right next to Frank whose legs he had already broken. Still, Frank tried to pull her away from their captor, but the Cleanser slapped him away with barely any effort. He slipped into his speech about how the contract had lapsed, and that a new one would have to be made, this one signed by any and all survivors. Makarion would be able to continue his games, but the movies he chose were going to have to be far more physically dangerous, and less planned out. Sticking with the plot was no longer important, but the setup to the most dangerous scene now mattered more than anything. He then said something about having to prove how serious he was, but Frank couldn’t hear it, because he knew what was going to happen next.
Melinda’s face turned red as the Cleanser gripped her neck tighter. He was squeezing the life out of her, but Frank wasn’t strong enough to stop it. He tried lunging towards them a few times, but was always kicked away. It was only after he gave up and just started crying that he realized that the Cleanser wasn’t holding Melinda by the neck at all. His arm was crossed over her chest, so there was no way he was blocking her air passage. What was he doing? Melinda yelled out in pain as her body split into literally millions of pieces. It was like she was turning to ash and drifting away little by little. Frank reached his highest octave and screamed out for her, but the damage had already been done. She was gone. Still as cool as ever, the Cleanser swung his palm up and towards Leona. Frank could hear a click in the gun. There was now one bullet in the chamber, to be used on one other person in the family. She was going to have to choose, or he would do the same thing he did to Melinda to everyone but her and Mateo.
Frank didn’t have time to worry about what had happened to his wife. Leona needed him right now. He tried to talk with her, to place the target on his own head. He was already on the back nine of his life, but everyone else was a salmon. They had jobs to do, and he was the obvious choice. He told her to wipe the tears from her face and just take the shot. It would be unfair of her to refuse and let everyone die when she could choose the lesser of two evils and kill only one. He could see the gears churning in her head as she was looking for “the third option”. The Cleanser obviously couldn’t be killed. Whatever crazy science fiction bullshit he had pulled on Melinda was far beyond any human. So she had to make a choice the Cleanser would never expect, just to show that he wasn’t in complete control. She moved the gun over and fired towards Makarion and Darko. The look of horror on her face proved that she was aiming for the former, but had accidentally hit the latter.

The Cleanser went apeshit. “Someone is going to have to die for this!” he cried out. Why he would care so much for Darko was not something Mateo understood. Leona and Aura ran over in an attempt to stop Darko from bleeding out. Mateo, Theo, and Samsonite blitzed the Cleanser, trying to fight him off as best they could. Makarion just stood there, stunned. He was definitely not part of the sadistic choice, and didn’t want any of this to happen. The Cleanser should have just teleported out, or torn them apart the same way he did with Melinda, but it didn’t look like he was thinking straight. Darko’s death had warped his brain too much. They were connected in some way, but how?
“Makarion, help!” Mateo pleaded.
Makarion looked to Mateo with puppy dog eyes, and then back at Aura and Leona who had just confirmed that Darko was dead. After looking back a few more times, he finally became determined. He came over to the brawl to pull Samsonite and Theo away. “I have this, sir.”
“Don’t do this, please!” Mateo yelled. “I know you’re not like him.”
“No,” Makarion said as he dragged two fully grown men over to the women. “I’m nothing like him. I save people, and I’m gonna save what family you have left!” He threw the men on the ground then lifted his arms to form some kind of translucent bubble around all five of them.
“Get back here, Boyce!” the Cleanser ordered, but it was too late. They were gone. He stopped fighting after they had left and sighed. “That’s okay. I’ll find him again.” He eyed Mateo with a great amount of disdain and fear. “I can’t kill you.” He looked over to Frank, whimpering on the ground and nursing his legs. “But humans are fair game.”

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