Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 31, 2085

The Cleanser left as quickly as he had come, saying only that he had to figure out what had gone wrong. Apparently he had had something to do with the whole five-Saga thing, but events had turned out differently from his perspective. Somehow his memory of events had been overwritten while Mateo’s was not. Again, why would that be? Was some chooser ally out there helping him? Could Darko be responsible? He could be alive in this timeline, and even if not, his death had yet to occur in 2005. He was the only friendly chooser he knew, mysterious Makarion notwithstanding. There was also Meliora, but who even was she? And maybe Frida, but what was she?
Nothing notable happened for the rest of the day. Yeah, he was chased out of the Pentagon upon being discovered impersonating a police officer, but that wasn’t a big deal. He only had to hide out for several hours on end before his original pattern kicked in and pulled him to safety at midnight. He never thought he would miss some good ol’ fashion timeskipping, but it was useful in some cases. One thing was for sure, he was already tired of the “missions”. It was time to get back to basics. He wasn’t sure what year it would be when he returned to the timestream. Hell, it could have just been 2006 for all he knew. It was only when he saw the architecture around him that he realized it couldn't be. And it technically wasn’t a standard timejump, unless The Washington Monument was, at some point torn down and replaced with some kind of futuristic megastructure. Wherever he was, there was a lot of fighting going on around him. It was war, and he had to find safety.
Bullets, or...lasers, or whatever, were flying all around him. A few of these whatevers flew close enough to him that he felt a burning sensation. He wasn’t able to get a good look at what was going on, but he was able to discern two distinct sides. There were robots to his left, and humans to his right. Obviously, he started veering to his right in search of safety. Apparently seeing him, the humans crowded around a wall and supplied him with cover fire. A figure braved the open air and demonstratively urged him to get behind the wall. Out of breath, he slid into home base but quickly looked around in case he had made the wrong choice. Never do anything without having an answer for why; rule number eight.
It did appear as though he made the right call, however. The soldiers looked at him with concern. “Are you hurt? Were you hit?” one of them asked.
“I’m fine.”
“What the hell were you doing in no man’s land?”
“ Uber was lost,” Mateo answered, still taking it all in.
“Funny. Hey, are you looking for someone?”
“He’s lookin’ for me,” Makarion’s voice came from a dark corner. “Well...he’s looking for her.” No. Please God, no.
“You better be using the term her as some kind of personification and sexualization of a weapon or vehicle.”
Makarion laughed and coughed as Mateo was approaching. He was slumped against a back wall. Leona Gelen was tending to his wound.
“You say we’re in the future,” she whined, “so there must be some kind of magic...I dunno, bandage foam!”
“Only Baxter has that, and I doubt he would be called to help him,” Mateo said, kneeling down to take a look.
Don’t look so worried,” Makarion said. “Your tears will salt my wound.
“What year is this?”
“What the hell are you people talking about?” one of the soldiers demanded to know.
“Back off,” Mateo said angrily, hoping to exude some authority, or at least a level of not takin’ no shit from nobody.
It seemed to be a sufficient response to the soldier, but he also had a battle to continue.
“It’s 2085,” Makarion began to explain in between weapon’s fire. “This is the Battle of the Dallamo.”
“It’s the what?”
That’s what I said,” Alt!Leona agreed.
“The United States has ceded territory back to the Republic of Mexico in an attempt to repair the U.S. economy. Automation and androids have significantly reduced the need for human labor; for unskilled work anyway. This is fine for the rich, for they don’t need to work much anyway. 3D printers, nanites, and superior health solutions have rendered the 40-hour workweek obsolete. In time, everyone will benefit from these changes.” He coughed up a little blood. “In the meantime, however, the less fortunate live in limbo. There’s no work, but even more people who need it than ever before. These fine folk are revolting against our robot overlords.”
“In a place called Dallamo?” Mateo asked.
Makarion laughed up some more blood. “It’s a pun. We’re in Dallas, and a supposed grassroots campaign came up with Dallamo to harken back to another historical Texian battle. The city is in a strange location. It neither accepted, nor rejected, the land turnover. They’re about half and half Mexicans and U.S. citizens, and have a kind of anti-border perspective. Most don’t think we should have countries anymore.”
“That’s weird.”
“I know, sounds more like Austin.”
“I’m still not clear on what the fighting is all about.”
“I don’t have time to explain it,” Makarion said. “And also I don’t know, because we just got here.”
“Yeah, how did you get here? And why is she here? I wanted to keep her out of it.”
He struggled to sit up a little straighter. Alt!Leona winced, trying to keep pressure on the wound without disturbing the healing process. “The Cleanser did mention that,” Makarion revealed. “But Nerakali wasn’t having it. You contracted her to blend someone’s memories, and when she gets a contract, she goes through with it.”
“Even if I changed my mind.”
Makarion nodded. “Even if. She says the contract isn’t with you, but with the timeline gods, or whatever nonsense she believes in. I guess you haven’t run into any of the religious nutters, have you? Yeah, now you’ll start seeing them all over the place. They worship time, and they keep humans as pets. They’re weird.”
“Makarion, back to Leona. You could die any second, and I need answers.”
“Hey!” Alt!Leona argued. “This is my patient, and you will treat him with respect!”
It was strange seeing her like his. She was Leona, but she also wasn’t, because she had been through so much he didn’t know. She had grown up differently, so she had a different personality. On the outside, she looked like the same person, but unlike in the Pentagon, he could feel the disconnect between them. It wasn’t that he didn’t like her, but he didn’t know her, and you compromise your position for people you love, not strangers, so he ignored her. “Makarion.”
“The Cleanser did as you asked. He protected her from getting her brain blended. Unfortunately, he felt like this was the only way. You didn’t want her to remember the alternate reality, but I guess he figured this was okay.”
“Could he not have kidnapped The Blender in her stead?”
“She’s more powerful than him. Sure, he has a greater variety of time tricks, but she’s more connected to her power. She can even make him forget memories.” That might explain why he thought the Pentagon had been attacked in 2005.
“Okay,” Alt!Leona said, removing her hand from Makarion’s belly so she could gesture with them. “Okay, okay, okay. Time travel, I’m okay with. I studied film in college, so I am what we call genre savvy. What I don’t understand is why you’re talking about me like you already know me, and that I know you. I’m just some random girl.”
Makarion started using technical language to bring her up to speed, realizing he wouldn’t have to dumb it down for her since she was, as she put it, genre savvy. “The two of us went back in time and created a point of divergence that changed the timeline dramatically enough to alter your life experiences. In the reality where we’re from, your birthfather lived, Mateo here was the one adopted by the Gelens, and you two didn’t meet until...”
“2016,” Mateo filled in.
“2016,” Makarion echoed before continuing. “You became friends, then you started jumping through time with him. They’re actually timeslips, because you had no control over them. You jumped when the powers that be wanted you to.”
“Why don’t I remember this?”
“Well, because it never happened.”
No, no, I get that. I know why other people don’t remember, but why don’t I? I guess the real question is, if I was his partner, why wasn’t I with him during the creation of the point of divergence?
“You were in hiding,” Mateo said. He didn’t want her to be involved in this, so his instinct was to tell her as little as possible. But no matter what about her personality had changed, she was always going to be petulantly curious. If they kept her in the dark, she would just get mad and do everything she could to find out anyway. The cat was out of the bag, so she might as well learn the truths. “You pissed off a very powerful man, one who could travel through time on his own. Makarion here protected you for me, then we went on the mission, and by the time we got back, everything was changed.”
“What was the mission?”
“That’s not important,” Makarion jumped in before Mateo could speak. He knew Mateo wouldn’t want her to know those details. Keep murder out of the discussion on a first date. “It just created a butterfly effect that had some unforeseen consequences.”
“Well, are you gonna go back and stop yourselves from completing the mission?”
“We can’t, even if we thought it would be best, other time travelers would just correct our correction.”
A heavy blast struck the wall and knocked over the top half. Rubble and twisted metal rolled uncomfortably close to where they were sitting. Dust clouded up and squeezed on their throats.
“Can you teleport us out of here? There’s gotta be somewhere safe from the war. Maybe Canada? Canada’s always good.”
“Wait you can teleport? I thought you didn’t have a choice.”
“I do,” Makarion told her. “Usually, at least. But I’m too hurt. I could probably get myself out of here, but no one else.”
“Yeah, maybe you should do that,” Mateo said, deep in thought.
“I was joking.”
He spotted something interesting over yonder. “Hey, Halifax exists in this reality, right?”
Had he the strength, Makarion probably would have shrugged. “Well, yeah. Why?”
“Go ahead and save yourself. Head for a hospital or something. It would probably be too dangerous for us to try and move you anyway.”
“Are you serious?”
“You can’t help us, but Halifax can. There’s an open grave over there.”
Makarion struggled to turn his head over to where Mateo was motioning. “That’s a mass grave. It’s’s a pit.”
“It’s open, ain’t it?”
“It’ll never work. He doesn’t even remember you in this timeline!”
“I have faith,” Mateo said, mostly to himself. He stood up and took Alt!Leona by the hand.
She allowed Mateo to hold onto her. She was a woman out of time, and had to make decisions on the fly. There was no time to weigh options and decide if he was good people. “Why are we looking for a grave?”
“Tell me, did they make a movie called The Shawshank Redemption in your reality?”
“Umm...yeah? Who cares?”
“It’s just nice to know that some things never change.”
“Shouldn’t we help him?”
Mateo looked back and saw Makarion teleport away. “He’s not really a friend. We have a sort of love-hate relationship.”
“You said he protected the alternate version of me.”
“He didn’t do a great job.”
They were at the mass grave. It hadn’t been filled yet, presumably because the battle started before they could finish the job. Bodies were piled on a cart next to it, on the other side. Killing Adolf Hitler hadn’t completely desensitized him to death, but it certainly hadn’t strengthened his empathy. These people also didn’t feel quite real. It felt more like a video game that he could just turn off, especially since he was about to teleport somewhere else.
“Again, what are we doing here?”
“Do you trust me?”
“Could you pretend for five seconds?”
She rolled her eyes. “How about three?”
“Should be enough time.” Then, like an asshole, Mateo took Alt!Leona in an embrace, spun around, and leaned back towards the pit.
They fell.

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