Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 3, 2088

The real centennial was more than a month ago, but people were still celebrating. Any chance to have fun was a good one. Mateo never really understood what exactly had happened a hundred years ago, but Kansas City was apparently the center of it. Several hours later, it was 2088.
Makarion was kind enough to set him up in a safehouse so that he wouldn’t have to sleep on a park bench again. Come morning, Mateo woke up with a little perspective. Things were starting to feel normal. Wake up, watch a movie, go to bed, wake up, run for your life, go to bed. Rinse, repeat. He didn’t have a purpose. Having never had control over how he traveled through time, he had originally assumed that it was either random, or for a very good reason. Other salmon seemed to have some kind of job to fulfill. Aunt Daria teleported around saving people. His father jumps in and out, doing something of importance each time. Even Horace Reaver was originally commissioned to put right what once went wrong day by day. Mateo and Leona were once called The Rovers by The Delegator, but that nickname seems to have been lost to time, and never really had any meaning. These are the kinds of things Mateo had questioned about himself, but no more. It didn’t matter. If The Cleanser wanted to toy around with him, then so be it. Things could be worse. He didn’t know about this time period, but where he was from, many people were much worse off than this.
This new insight came with a few side effects. He realized how old Makarion had gotten. They had been sent through time against both of their respective patterns, so it was hard to tell quite how old he was, but Makarion was looking sixty-something. Saviors are said to not live long. When his aunt first told him that, he had taken it more figuratively, that their lives were just filled with hardship, but now it was looking like accelerated aging was part of the deal.
“It looks like you might not have long,” he said while they were sitting in the backyard, watching the wind blow.
Makarion laughed a little at what sounded like hidden irony. “I’ve been around a lot longer than you think.”
“What does that mean?”
“I’m not gonna get into it.”
“You said you would never lie to me again.”
“The hell I said that.”
“Damn...” Mateo said with an aw shucks face. “I was hoping senility would set in and you would just believe me.”
“No, saviors age fast, but not magically so, and it doesn’t affect our brain function. It’s just a physical downside to how we move around. We’re fundamentally different than other salmon. Other teleporters do just fine, but our particular method is taxing on the body. I’m only better off than your aunt was at this stage in her life because I don’t ever have to teleport. Hers went through a lot more than this body has.”
That was a clue. “You just referred to your body.”
“You speak of your body as if it’s not really yours. I’ve always suspected something strange going on. The fact that you’re the only salmon I’ve heard of who’s broken out of his own pattern, how much you know about the future, there’s something else going on. What did you do to your own body?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Makarion replied, even knowing it was pointless.
“No, I want to know what your deal is. Who are you? Where did you come from? Why are you different? Do you have temporal powers I don’t know about?”
“I’m not having this conversation.” He tried to walk away.
“You think by breaking your pattern, you became more like the choosers, but you didn’t. You’re more like the humans.”
This seemed to intrigue him. “What?”
“A salmon only has a one-track mind. We’re forced into this life, and we do our best to survive. That’s all we think about, because that’s all we’re allowed to think about. The choosing ones are insane because when they discover what they can do, they suddenly have all these options that they didn’t even know were possible.”
“How would you know what it’s like to find out you’re a chooser?”
“I’m guessing a little here, and having faith in my own intuition.”
“I thought Catholics only have faith in their God.”
“Shows how much you know about Catholics.”
He started sizing Mateo up, but still wanted to know where he was going with this. “Please...continue.”
Choosers have all this power, even the ones with restrictions, like that guy who can only teleport by line-of-sight. I’m sure some of you are good, but there’s a reason why Kayetan feels like these mysterious powers that be treat you all as criminals.”
“Because you are. You can do things most people can’t, and it corrupts you. From what I gather, no one is born knowing this about themselves, I mean not in the way that babies learn on their own that they have hands and feet. You spend your early years knowing what it’s like living in the filth with the rest of us. Then someone reaches down and lifts you up to show you how beautiful the world can be. And all you can do is destroy it, because living in filth is all you know, but no one good was around teach you to not take your newfound perspective for granted.”
“I think I follow,” he said. “I think.”
“The fact is that time travel is always dangerous. Every benevolent action you take necessarily comes paired with an equal or greater amount of harm. I killed Hitler and saved the world from hundreds, possibly thousands, of more deaths just from the war going on for a few more months. But in doing so, I killed Leona’s father. I erased myself from time. Hell, I even made Theo be born a girl this time. These were consequences that could not be prevented, even with these chooser powers, and I really believe that. What other things did I change? How many people died that should have lived? How many were never even born, just like me?” Then Mateo lowered his eyelids to illustrate seriousness. “And how many of these changes to the timeline are you people making on a regular basis?”
“So,” Makarion started to ask, “what’s the takeaway from all this?”
“Good or bad, time travel is bad. If I had chooser powers, I would use them once. I would go back to whenever it was invented, and kill its creator with Hitler’s gun.”
Makarion revealed a knowing smile. “Time travel wasn’t invented, my son. It was only contained.”
“Who are you?” Mateo pressed once more.
He sighed like he was finally giving up. “I’m The Rogue.”
“No, I know what your nickname is. Though, to be honest, I met the first Rogue, and you’re nothing like him. He was nasty and vicious. You’re better than that, I know you are.”
“This is not true,” Makarion said. “I’m not just like him. I am him.”
“I’m sorry?”
“You wanted the truth, and your little thesis on the ethics of temporal manipulation proved to me that you’re ready for it. Well...part of it, anyway.”
“Now I don’t follow.”
“I am the original Rogue you met a month ago. I have been the entire time.”
“I killed him.”
“You killed that body,” Makarion confirmed. “I transferred to another one. That’s my real chooser power. I can possess others, and utilize their powers as long as I’m there. When I leave, I lose those specialties, and am limited by whatever I have access to with the new body.”
It made some sense, but was also a disappointing revelation. That Rogue was not a good person. He showed no sign of remorse for his actions, but Makarion always appeared to be a decent person who had simply lost his way. “So Makarion didn’t break out of his pattern. You’re just not Makarion.”
“No, I’m limited to his ability to teleport, but the powers that be have no control over me no matter which body I’m in, so I use these powers freely.”
“Well, if you can move to other bodies, why don’t you just move to someone more powerful?” He went over a few scenarios. “Shit, why don’t you take over The Cleanser’s body and stop all these tribulations?”
“If I had known how bad things would get, I would have done that before the Gulliver’s Travels tribulation. Unfortunately, you stripped me of that power. I’m not only limited by Makarion’s specialty, but by the substrate itself. I can’t leave. I’m stuck here.”
“So in killing you in the castle, I doomed myself. You could have helped me if you weren’t like this.”
Makarion, or The Rogue, or whatever, shook his head adamantly. “No, Mateo, you saved me. I’m only like this because of what you did. You were right that power corrupts. I spent a lot of years as a human before finding my power, and when I did, I abused it. It’s like a drug, and you basically rehabilitated me from it. I’m actually pretty sure possession comes with a level of absorption of traits from the original inhabitant. That is, I’m better than I was when I was in the other body, because Makarion was better than him. I was never really against you, that much was true. The Cleanser really did recruit me decades ago. He even procured for me the only other Rogue body you knew as me. Don’t feel bad for him, he was corrupt as well. But I did steal his body, and that was wrong. If I thought there was a way to kill myself and return Makarion to consciousness, I would. And again, that’s because of what you did. You showed me the man I used to be. When I was at my worst, you showed me kindness. You didn’t give up on me, and I bet you didn’t even realize what you were doing. That’s because you’re a good person, Mateo. You don’t think about doing the right thing, the choices you make just are good. I will be forever grateful for what you’ve taught me.”
Mateo didn’t know what to say. Those were some of the nicest words anyone had ever said to him, and they were coming from the mouth of an enemy. Or rather through the mouth of a stranger, from the mind of a new friend. “Well, we’re not done yet. I think it’s time we fight back.”
The Rogue put on his game face. “I’m ready.” But then he lurched.
“What? What is it?”
Makarion’s mouth moved around like he was speaking, but no sound was coming out. A reddish light started emanating from his throat, though. It grew so bright that it started coming out of his eyes, and even his ears. A powering up sound started to rise in tone amidst the distinct sound of a cry of pain. The light formed cracks in Makarion’s face, and then all over his body. The scream intensified and increased in volume. Having reached critical mass, the Makarion body exploded into thousands of shards that flew away from ground zero and blinked out of existence like sparks.
Where the Rogue, Makarion had been standing was now only The Cleanser. “Enough of the lovey-dovey shit. I knew I would have to kill him once he started showing feelings for his prey, I just didn’t think it would happen this soon.” He pretended to brush bits of Makarion’s body from his shoulders, but there were no remains. He was gone. “No matter. I’ll just handle this myself. But no more movies. Let’s try to be a little more original from now on.”

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