Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 6, 2091

Mateo wanted to help Leona through her transition, but she refused to be near him. The Blender disappeared immediately after she felt her job was done, leaving Leona in ruins. Dodeka assisted her back to her room while Meliora was explaining to him why the process was incredibly traumatic. “Imagine every single bad thing that has ever happened to you, and every poor choice you've ever made. Now imagine your mind being flooded with memories of those events. Bad experiences have a deeper impact on a person’s psyche, so those will always overpower you after a blend.”
“What will happen to her?” Mateo asked.
“She can’t stay here. I know it wasn’t her fault, that that’s what this place is for, but I have to send a message to my guests that this is still a safe place.”
Mateo shook his head. “Then kicking her out is the opposite of what you should do.”
“How so?”
“You have to show them that, even though two terrible people managed to break through and threaten them, you won’t abandon them, especially not when they need you the most.”
Meliora thought this over, and seemed inclined to agree. “I have to do something to prove that this won’t ever happen again.”
“It’s my fault they broke through, right?” he asked rhetorically. “So banish me.”
She thought through this as well. “I find this acceptable.”
“Good,” he said. “And help her recover, would ya?”
“I will,” she assured him. “It’s kinda my thing.”

Dave jumped in to unceremoniously banish Mateo from Sanctuary, leaving him on the island Boyce had used for several tribulations. There was a perfectly good cabin there waiting for him that Saga and Vearden had used while building the Colosseum. But that was in another timeline, so why was this all still here? Shaking it off, he ate a few MREs and then slept all the way through midnight.
Late that next morning, even though there was plenty of food there for him to eat, he decided to go fishing. He needed a good day to relax and reflect on his life. He had suffered through so much, but he was alive, Leona was still safe, and the fish were biting.
A few hours into his alone time, the stargate replica up the beach started making noises. The ring spun around like a rotary phone before releasing some kind of gas and opening a portal. Oh no, the Cleanser was back with a vengeance. Mateo prepared himself mentally for a fight, but wanted to show that he wasn't scared, so he just kept holding onto the fishing line. Leona Delaney stepped through the portal instead. She was alone.
Mateo dropped his line and ran to her. “Are you okay, what happened?”
“I’ve left Sanctuary,” Leona answered.
“Meliora kicked you out? She promised she would protect you.”
“And she did. She helped me recover from the onslaught of memories for a whole year. I asked to see you.”
“Why because I’m in love with you.”
“I’m trouble.”
She lovingly placed her hand under his chin. “We’re trouble. We’re a team, remember?”
“We’re back to where we were when we first met, before you became a salmon. You remember being one, though, which means you know how much it sucks. You have the likely rare opportunity to go live your life. Return to Sanctuary where you’re safe, and forget about me.”
“Sanctuary obviously isn’t all that safe.”
“That was a fluke, and I’m the only one who can do that. It won’t happen again.”
“I know, but I hate it there anyway. There’s nothing to do. Nothing is challenging. You just, sit, play, and sleep.”
“Sounds like heaven.”
“The world is heaven. The world is interesting. Never take that for granted.”
Mateo sighed, not out of fatigue or boredom, but as a concession. “Okay.” They stood there uncomfortably for a moment before Mateo spoke again. “There’s still the matter of the fact that we're going to be separated by time and space.”
“I don’t wanna worry about that right now,” she responded quickly. “I’m just hungry.”
“I have fish and freeze-dried meals.”
“Fresh fish sounds good,” Leona said, salivating.
Things between them weren’t as awkward as he thought they would be. She was different than the Leona he remembered, or any of the other versions he had encountered. She was a mix of the girl he met, and the one he didn’t know, which made perfect sense, of course. The weirdest part for him was that she retained memories of being raised by the same two people who he remembered being raised by. She shrugged this off. She didn’t think this meant that they were siblings, and she had considered Carol and Randall parental figures even in the first timeline anyway. “Afterall,” she had pointed out, “when two people marry, they refer to each other’s parents as parents-in-law.”
An added benefit of the memory blending was her vast array of knowledge. The amount of education and experience she had gained had essentially doubled overnight. She knew all about physics, math, and other more analytical subjects. In this timeline, however, she had gone the more artistic route, having studied film, culture, and history. This allowed her to apply knowledge in interesting and creative ways, and proved that neither side of her brain was significantly superior to the other. She even finally admitted that, in the other timeline, the only reason she had decided to go into astrophysics was because she wanted to understand her time traveler crush. Without him, he felt, she had become more what she was always destined to be. Now she was both, though, which would probably come in handy.
“It’s funny, and possibly ironic why I decided to study film, though,” she began.
“Let me guess, you can think of one single movie that made you realize what you wanted to do with your life,” Mateo asked.
“Yes. It was a 2009 flick based off a book.” She looked at him like he was supposed to know what that meant, but that could be anything.
He had no idea what movies were and weren’t made across the timelines, except for Shawshank Redemption. “Was it Shawshank Redemption?”
She laughed. “No. It was The Time Traveler’s Wife.”
“Ah, that is quite intriguing.”
“It made me think of you.”
“But you didn’t know me back then.”
“Yes, I did. You saved our lives in 2005. Or at least, you might have. You ushered us out of the Pentagon. When I first saw you, even though I was only five years old, I knew that you were important. I made a point of retaining the image of your face in my brain, whereas I normally would have brushed it off and let it go.”
“Nothing happened at the Pentagon that day.”
“Planes didn’t crash into it, that’s right, and I only know they were supposed to because of my newly returned memories of the first timeline. But there was a news story about a guy running around pretending to be a cop.”
“Did they get my face on camera?”
She shook her head. “No. But I knew it was you. Mom and dad never realized it, fortunately. They would have freaked out.”
“Whatever happened to them? I should have asked. I feel bad about that.”
She just watched the waves and drank her water.
“Were they young enough to reach immortality? Could we see them?”
She didn’t say a word.
“Oh, well at least tell me that they lived full lives.”
“Father and mother died in 2020 and 2025 respectively,” she finally answered.
“No,” Mateo tried to clarify, “I’m talking about this time. That’s when they died while they were my parents.”
“Mateo, they died...they died the same as before.”
“That’s ridiculous.”
“They died the same days as their alternate timeline versions, from the same conditions; a heart attack, and a virus.”
“Correction,” Mateo said. “That’s ridiculous.” He waited for his thoughts to catch up with him. “Who did it?”
“I just said that they were natural causes.”
Mateo stood up and started pacing around. “That’s bullshit. That doesn’t make any sense.”
“I know.”
“I killed Hitler! I changed the future. I erased myself from history. The butterfly effect should have changed all that. There’s no way they die naturally under the exact same circumstances as before when so many other things were different!”
“I don’t understand it either, my love.”
“No, you must. You must have something.” He knelt down and looked her in the eye despite her resistance. “Between your background in science fiction and real science, there has to be something that explains how this could happen. Maybe...I dunno, quantum entanglement, or paradimensional reverb! Something!” He waited patiently for her response.
“There’s one possibility.”
“Yes, tell me.”
“The choosers.”
Yes, of course. “Those bastards.”
“They would be more than capable of...of murdering them, if only to screw with us.”
“Yes, it was probably The Cleanser. Or the Blender, could she do something like this? She had a beef with you, maybe she went back and killed them to get back at you. At us.”
“I don’t know. We’ve made a lot of enemies.”
“It wasn’t Nerakali,” the Cleanser said. “She doesn’t have that power.”
Mateo wasn’t surprised. He just acted like the Cleanser had been part of the conversation the entire time. “But you know who does.”
“What you’re describing is something only the Conservator could have pulled off. I can’t even do what she can do. It’s her job.”
“It’s her job to destroy people’s lives?” Mateo asked, completely prepared for that possibility.
“If need be.” He sat down so he could lay his explanation out with crude drawings in the sand. “Okay, so here’s your line, Mateo, you lived this life right here. Then you jumped back and killed Adolf Hitler, which generated a new line that you never experienced.”
“I follow,” Mateo said.
“There are some things from any timeline that’s destroyed by a point of divergence that we like. Umm...let’s say that regardless of whether Hitler dies or not, we want George W. Bush to be elected president.”
“If killing Hitler causes a butterfly to put forth a series of events that stops Bush from winning the election, then Arcadia, a.k.a. the Conservator, goes in and artificially changes the timeline so that he’s elected whether time wants him to be or not.”
“And people don’t notice this?”
“That’s what her sister’s for, remember?”
Leona fully understood. “She rearranges people’s memories so they can’t recognize paradoxical discrepancies.”
“Exactly,” the Cleanser points to her like a pupil in his classroom. “The system’s not perfect. That’s why he didn’t win the popular election. She just...didn’t do a good enough job and cementing the collective memory as we wanted.”
“So he didn’t win?” Leona asked.
“No, not really. You think he did because that’s what they want you to remember, and isn’t that all that matters? Not even Bush knows this. His memories were altered just like everybody else’s.”
“So, Nerakali and Arcadia wanted my parents to die like I remember them dying because...they enjoy it?”
“Well, we have contracts. I contracted Boyce to make the tribulations after seeing his contract with Meliora to build the Sanctuary work out so well. Dave is contracted to chauffeur humans around. The powers that be contract us to do things they can’t do themselves. It’s their way around the fact that we’re not salmon, and can’t be controlled. Anyway, some us take those contracts more seriously than others. I know I’m harsh...and violent, but if you don’t follow the rules to a T, I don’t take that to mean that the contract is broken, or anything. She thinks people who do that need to be punished, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out she asked her sister to kill Carol and Randall, I really wouldn’t.”
Mateo breathed in deeply and stood up. He blacked out for a moment from the dramatic shift in oxygen levels in his brain. “Oh, I hate this world so much. Is there a timeline where none of you people exist?”
The Cleanser stood up as well. “Nope. But why would you want that? This reality is so much fun. And there’s nothing more fun than tomorrow’s tribulation. You better get some more to eat so you can keep up your blood sugar.”

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