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Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 20, 2105

“You met Juan Ponce de León!” Leona screamed like an anime fangirl. “I’m named after him, did you know that? Did I ever tell you that?”
“No, you didn’t.”
“Aw, man, what was he like?”
“Like a guy. Like a normal guy. He didn’t even act like he was from the fourteenth century. He spoke Modern English.”
“Fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. How did you survive high school?”
“Kinda like this,” Mateo said, and then he froze, because the fact was that he barely did survive high school, and in fact, didn’t know how.
“I wish he would have stuck around so that I could meet him,” she said forlornly. Then she became more excited. “Oh, but you need to meet Horace’s husband, Serkan.”
“He’s finally here?”
“Well, we’re finally here. Actually, I met him last year. He was waiting for us in 2104 . He couldn’t travel through time with his daughter.”
“That means you’ve been waiting for me for a year?”
“What? No, that was just yesterday for me.”
“If he can stop people from using their time powers, then you should be free of our pattern.”
“Oh, well, I obviously didn’t want to leave you behind, so we made sure he was far enough away from us. He has a limited range.”
“Why would you do that?”
“I believe I just answered that. I’m not going to have the discussion again where I explain that I’m never going to leave you again. Not even time and space can keep us apart. You understand?”
“I do, yes, I just want you to be safe.”
“When I’m with you, I’m safe. And that is that.”
Mateo and Leona left the house and walked over to Horace and Serkan’s place. Gilbert was already there, helping put the final touches on Horace’s world famous quiche.
“Mister Matic, you’re finally gonna get a chance to try this,” Horace said.
“I can’t wait.”
“I promise not to try to kill you guys afterwards. Not this time. Maybe in the next reality.”
A dark-skinned man who could only have been the man of the hour wiped his hands on a towel and presented one for Mateo. “Don’t mind him. Even being around me doesn’t stop him from remembering the alternate timeline. Hi, I’m Serkan Demir. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
“You as well. I hear you’re gonna save our lives.”
He looked almost, but not quite, bashful. “That’s the plan. But for now, do you think you could do me a favor and set the table? I have to go out and find my daughter.”
“Not a problem.”
The five of them, along with Paige, had a lovely breakfast together in a nice little dining room. Everyone already knew pretty much everything about him, and each other, so only he needed to get to know them better. As Cleanser would have it, the special running apparel that he had worn during the 16 Blocks Tribulation had originally belonged to Serkan. He was a locally famous racer in the 2020s who participated in this fascinating competition known as City Frenzy. Teenagers would race across the city, using not only speed, but also parkour and and gymnastics. They didn’t have the same starting points, nor the same finish lines. Apparently, Serkan had won a few times, and it was during one of these races when he literally fell into the world of choosers and salmon.
Serkan was known as a chosen one, a special and incredibly rare breed of temporal manipulators. They were akin to salmon, but instead of being controlled by the powers that be, they were created by choosing ones. He didn’t know which chooser had made him what he was, but whoever it was had made no obvious effort to actually control his actions. He was always, at least seemingly, free to make his own choices. He said, however, that he had this feeling that he had been created for a very specific purpose. In fact, he had never needed to bother with any sort of anti-aging techniques, or physiological upgrades. His rate of aging had been slower than usual since he first became a chosen one.
“If you’re a good person,” Mateo began, “and you’ve only ever done good things, then I suspect I know who your choosing one is.”
“Who might that be?” Leona asked, not convinced.
“Well, I’ve only ever met one good chooser. There are those who are rather neutral, like Dave, or even decent, like Baudin. But I’ve only seen the one who has ever actively tried to help.”
“Meliora,” Leona said, because they could read each other’s minds. That didn’t mean she completely agreed with his hypothesis.
“Ah,” Gilbert said, shaking his head. “It can’t be her. Choosers only get, chosen one. She already created Lincoln Rutherford.”
“The Gravedigger mentioned him once I think,” Mateo said. “I didn’t know he was all that special. Who is he?”
“He’s helped you quite a bit, actually,” Horace said, wiping his lips with a napkin. “In the other timeline, he was a powerful opposing force for every time I tried to hurt you. He gave your new physicist friend your bag after you jumped to the future in the middle of a train ride, so there would be no evidence that you were ever on it. He took care of your mother and her family in California, and sent you the address to their location so you could save them.”
“Why would he do these things? We’ve never met.”
“It was less about helping you, and more about stopping me. He was one of my prison guards in the other other timeline.”
“Ya know, if you had tried to say all this seven years ago, I would have been confused as hell. But it makes perfect sense. And I guess now it makes sense that people often call her Meliora Rutherford Delaney-Reaver.”
“Exactly, Horace agreed while Leona shifted uncomfortably in her seat at the mention of her name...and her daughter. It was only then that he realized how much in common he had with Meliora, and how much in common Leona had with his own mother, Aura. Both children erased themselves from the timeline, and both mothers had no recollection of a child they had made with a man they had never been with in this timeline.
There was a knock on the door before Mateo could ask more questions. Serkan jumped up to open it. The rest of them could hear inaudible voices, and then he returned with a visitor.
“No!” Gilbert cried.
“Peacemaker,” Horace muttered, technically under his breath, but loud enough for all to hear, including the newcomer.
“We’re not doing this,” Gilbert insisted, providing the oblivious rest of them with no context.
“This will resolve their issues once and for all,” the visitor said, maintaining the vagueness of the conversation.
“He is not ready, Uluru.” Gilbert countered.
“I was waiting for them to come to me on their own,” Uluru said. “Their issues have spread far and wide, and the rest of the choosers are fed up. This is happening.”
“They’re fed up with what?” Mateo asked. “Who is not ready for what?”
“You,” Gilbert began to explain. “You and The Cleanser, Zeferino Preston. You’ve been fighting for too long, so Uluru here has called upon you to resolve your differences in one final battle.”
“A battle?” Leona questioned.
“A literal battle,” Horace jumped in. It’s not a game, or a tribulation. This is physical combat. Sometimes to the death, but that’s not a rule.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Mateo said with a smile of exasperation. “There’s no way I can best him, not with all his power.”
“Ayer’s Rock is a special place,” Gilbert continued. “It will put you on equal footing. Either his powers will be removed, or you will temporarily receive everything he has for yourself.”
“I tried to take control of Uluru in the other timeline, but that facility I held you and Gilbert in was as close as I could get.” Horace still seemed upset about it, even though he was a changed man. Mateo tried to imagine him having control over a location powerful enough to remove or bestow time powers. That would not have been good.
“If I do this, the tribulations end?” Mateo asked.
“If you win, he will not be able to harm you ever again. A younger version of him cannot hurt you in the future, and if you allow him to survive, he will not be able to go back in time and hurt a younger version of you. The decision is final. I don’t have to say that this rule applies to you as well, if you lose. I imagine you have no interest in that anyway. I feel the need to note, however, that this is not—”
“I’m in,” Mateo interrupted.
“—optional,” Uluru finished anyway.
“Mateo,” Leona began. “I know this seems like a good idea, but is it? How amazing would that be, for it all to end in one final boss fight. But that’s not how life works. We shouldn’t be playing into his game mentality. We should be trying to escape.”
“This will escape it,” Mateo said. “One way or the other. I know it sounds stupid, but like the man said, he ain’t asking. Just look at it like any other tribulation. This is our life now, ‘member?”
“I ‘member,” she answered.
“I suppose we’ll have to get far enough away from Serkan so you can teleport me there,” Mateo said to Uluru.
“This isn’t going to happen until tomorrow,” Gilbert said while standing up. He placed his hand on Mateo’s shoulder like an overprotective father before his son’s first high school party. “Right?” He gave Uluru a formidable death stare.
Uluru was not happy with Gilbert’s one condition, but also did not look up to a battle of his own. “I suppose I can accommodate this. One year.”
“Come on,” Gilbert said, wrapping his arm all around Mateo’s back. “I have less than a day to teach you everything I know about time duels.”

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