Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 12, 2127

Little Brooke started crying. She had been left alone for the last several hours. Fortunately, some of that was while she was asleep, but once awake, she realized that she was alone. She naturally walked over to the merge border where she had spent so much of her time. There she had found all of the other residents of Tribulation Island, but not her mother. Angelita Prieto had disappeared from the timestream, completely removed from most people’s minds, leaving her child to fend for herself. But Leona was back now, and could protect her. That wasn’t much, though, because in just a few short hours, she would be gone again. What would happen to Brooke then? Arcadia was no hero, but she had never been quite that bad. Surely she wouldn’t leave a toddler to die on an island. Would she?
Leona picked Brooke up and carried her over to the shelter on that side of the merge barrier to mash up some fruit for her. She too remembered Lita from before she was taken, but not entirely. Her memories of the people who Arcadia had stolen from them were neither complete, nor stable. Paige was the same way, but Brooke was different. The bond between mother and daughter was not something so easily broken. Not even time could tear them apart, and Brooke was missing her mommy very much. There was no way to explain to her what had happened. “Who do you think this child is?” Mateo asked while leaning against the merge barrier with the others.”
“We found her here,” Mario explained.
Mateo shook his head, “no, that’s not what happened.”
“Yeah, it is,” Horace disagreed. “We saw her wandering the beach, and went over to figure out what was going on, but this impenetrable dome got in our way.”
“Nope,” Mateo said. “That’s your daughter, Mario. My half-sister. Your half-sister, Darko.”
“What you talking about?”
“The person we’re missing this round; her name was Angelita Prieto. You two were in love.” He pointed towards the shelter. “And you made that little angel three years ago.”
“I would never forget someone I was in love with,” Mario claimed. “Nor would I forget my child.”
“You forgot me,” Mateo said, but regretted it.
“That was low.”
“Yes, I’m sorry, but it does prove that it’s possible. Leona delivered Brooke while you were stuck over here, and I was passed out in the privacy hut from the Xearea expiations.”
“We don’t know who Brooke’s parents are,” Darko told him.
“Look at that mess up the beach...that completely destroyed privacy hut. Who did that?”
“ one,” Aura said. “It was a storm. We decided to just not build it back up.”
Mateo shook his head again. “Don’t you people trust me anymore? Mario, that is your daughter over there! I don’t want to make you mad...the privacy hut being proof of how bad things get when you get mad, but if you can’t remember, then at least believe what I’m saying to you.”
Mario narrowed his eyes. “You’re not lying.”
“Of course not.”
“That’s my daughter.”
“Brooke Victoria Prieto-Matic. You named her after Lita’s favorite actress, Brooke Williams.”
“I’m not sure I’ve heard of her.”
“You’re a time traveler.”
Now Mario shook his head. “I need to find a way through this...thing.”
“Arcadia,” Mateo spoke to the aether, “we have to talk.”
“I am here,” Aura said, but it wasn’t her. Arcadia was just using her as a vessel.
“You took a mother from her child.”
“I did.”
“Why?” he asked.
“You’ve angered me.”
“What did I do.”
“It was in an alternate reality.”
“You can’t be angry at him for something a different version of him did!” Horace yelled, somehow both fittingly and ironically.
“I do what I want.”
“Bring her back,” Mateo ordered. “She needs her mother. She’ll die when Leona leaves.”
“Leona is off her pattern...for now.”
“Until when? When do you think it’s okay for a person to live on their own? Like, eight years old, maybe?” He regretted using such a low age as an outrageous example. She was liable to take it at face value.
“She’ll be going to live with her aunt,” Arcadia said.
Mateo breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay, good. That’s all you had to say.”
“I mean...her aunt won’t know she’s her aunt, but she’s always wanted a child. She’s infertile, though, so she could be convinced to take her.”
“Okay,” Mateo said. “Apport them back to Earth whenever you’re ready.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” Arcadia said. “I’ve already told you, she’s pristinely ungifted.”
“Oh, that’s right,” Mateo said, remember that from earlier. “What does that mean again?”
“She can only experience linear time. Well, I mean, she can experience relativistic time, thank God, but not time travel.”
“What does that mean?”
“If she wants to go home to Earth, she’s going to have to go the long way ‘round.”
“How long is that going to take?”
“About two-point-eight-three million years.”
“Well,” Mateo said. “I’m pretty sure she’ll be dead by then.”
“Not if she’s put in suspended animation.”
“What will the world look like in millions of years?”
“Exactly the same as it does now,” Arcadia said. “The merge border connects the time you’re in now, and the same island, but nearly three million years ago.”
“Leona thought this was the same island, but in the past.”
“She was right. I asked Glaston to create the merge for this specific reason. Otherwise, she would have been stuck on Tribulation Island.”
“Or you could have apported Lita back to Earth before Brooke’s birth.”
Arcadia almost laughed. “Does that sound like something I would do?”
“Okay, fine, let’s do that suspended animation thing. We can all go with her.”
“There is only one sleeping pod on the abandoned alien ship.”
“She can’t go alone. She’s not Supergirl.”
“No, she can’t. Someone will have to go with her. Obviously, that person will be Leona. And Leona will have to experience the four thousand years of relativistic travel time. The good news is that she won’t go insane doing that. I’ll suppress her episodic memory. She’ll still be able to make course corrections, and perform ship maintenance, but she won’t remember anything past a few moments.”
“Whether it’s a million years, or a thousand, she’ll die too. None of us lives that long.”
“Some do.”
“The immortality water,” Mateo realized.
“Yes. You’ll have to get some for her. She’ll need Youth and Longevity, and of course, Catalyst.”
“All right, where can I find Catalyst?”
Arcadia manipulated Aura’s arm to point towards the ocean.
“It just the ocean water? That’s easy.”
“No,” Arcadia said. “To find your journey, you must first walk into the ocean. Do not stop. Hold your breath when it’s necessary, but still do not stop. You will reach your answers, but you will have to be brave.”
Leona finally returned carrying Brooke, who had stopped crying, but really only because she was too dried up to form any more tears. “Mateo?” Leona asked. “What’s going on?”
If he said one word, he wouldn’t be able to go. He wouldn’t be able to walk away from her. This was an expiation, and couldn’t be skipped. He pulled off his shirt, and started walking down the beach, despite Leona’s objections and demands for an explanation. He did as he was told, and let the water wash over his head, walking as fast as he could while holding his breath. Long before he was at any real risk of drowning, the floor rose back up, and led him back to open air. But he was no longer on Tribulation Island. He was just in some kind of indoor swimming pool, and was suddenly naked.
A man in a polo shirt approached him with a towel, and a smile. “Hello, welcome to Agraqua. Thank you for visiting us. We understand that you have no choice in where you stay during this time period, but we appreciate your choice just the same. To your right, you’ll find the bar, and to your left is the access tunnel to The Constant. Please note that this area is forbidden unless you have been invited. The Great Witnessing begins in just a couple hours. You are right on time.”
“What year is this.”
“We are on Earth approximately four-point-four-four-four billion years before the time of man.” He never stopped smiling.
“I...I. I’m here for—”
“Catalyst water? Of course you are! Everyone is. That’s why this place was built. As I said, in just a few hours, the Witnessing will commence, and you will be directed to the outside pool in an orderly fashion. Until then, please enjoy the facility’s many great amenities.”
It looked like the guy wasn’t going to say anything more, so Mateo just left the swimming pool. The water on his body disappeared as soon as he passed through the doors. He had no use for a bar, so he took a left, and headed for the Constant. His cousin, Danica Matic opened the door before he even had the chance to knock.
“Hello,” she said with a kind smile.
“I had no idea you were this old.”
“Oh,” she laughed. “I’ve already been here for quite a while. The Earth itself formed around the Constant.”
“Really? Like The Besananta.”
“Where do you think they got the idea for that story?” She stepped to the side and waved him in.
“I wasn’t sure that I would be invited.”
“You’re always welcome in my home. Besides, I don’t get a lot of visitors in this time period. You wouldn’t expect me to, would you?”
“What is this Witnessing thing.”
She rolled her eyes. “It’s one of the larger water deposit events, but there are thousands of them, and they all end up generating the Catalyst water you seek.” She opened the minibar and retrieved a bottle of water, not unlike the ones Mateo had accidentally drank on Ambrosios’ island. Catalyst is created by the mixing of asteroid or comet water with original nebular water within Earth’s crust during the early years of its development. The people who built Agraqua want you to watch one of these impacts so you can, impacted. But it’s not necessary. The stuff in that bottle will work just as well. No single event ever does anything on its own.”
“Well, thanks for lookin’ out.”
“No problem. Why do you need the immortality waters?”
“Leona. She has to go on a relativistic trip, or something.”
Danica understood. “Ah, yes. So you’ll need Longevity and Youth.”
“Where will I be able to find those?”
“I got a guy in a room back there who’s going out for that stuff later anyway. Ah, speak of the devil,” she said once a man came down the hallway.
“Juan?” Mateo asked. “Juan Ponce de León?”
“Mateo, my friend!” the historical figure exclaimed. “We gotta stop meeting like this.” He came in for a big hug. “I’ve learned that that evil man’s version of the water had side effects that were not necessary as long as you drink the right types of water.”
“Indeed. Are you going after The Fountain of Youth? Like the legend says?”
“Indeed,” Juan repeated. “Are you coming with?”
“Indeed. Onwards to Florida!”
They laughed. They spent a few more hours visiting with Danica, and then they left.

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