Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 15, 2130 (continued)

“Who were those two?” Mateo asked Arcadia.
“Kayetan’s friends. Or rather they were once friends.”
“Will he help us?”
“Not likely.”
“So you’re saying maybe.”
“Leaning towards the no side,” Arcadia said, “but I know someone who might.”
“Okay, how do we find them?” Horace asked impatiently.
“She’ll find you,” Arcadia assured them. “But now I must go.”
“Wait!” Mateo tried to stop her, but it was pointless. Fortunately, before too long, they heard a rustling in the bushes. Then a young woman struggled to pull away from them and approach the group, muttering frustrations about being in the wild.
“Of course it’s you,” Horace said once she was close enough for him to see her face. “Alexina McGregor. Tracker extraordinaire.”
“Hey, Ace. I’ve got a proposition for you.”
The two of them stood before each other in that way where everyone else around them couldn’t be sure whether either was happy to see the other, or angry. Then, after a few moments that were probably only awkward for the onlookers, Horace and this Alexina hugged each other like old friends, which was what they probably were.
“It’s been forever. You look so much younger. What the hell are you doin’ in 2130?” Horace was surprised and delighted.
“Lookin’ for you, of course!” she answered. “So we can look for Paige together.”
“Can you do it?” he asked.
She took a deep breath and shook her head. “Man, it’ll be tough. Those guys know all my tricks, and of course, Tauno can hide his scent from me. Well, I guess both of them can.”
Mateo wanted to ask them about their past and relationship, but didn’t want to interrupt. It would seem as if there was all this history between him and his family, and all these people he hadn’t heard of. There was still so much he didn’t know, and so much he was missing out on.
“Will you be okay going after them?”
“I owe them nothing.”
Horace nodded, expressing a tiny bit of hope that they might actually pull this off. They then looked at the crowd, who were each waiting as patiently as Mateo. “So...this Alexina. She’s clairvoyant, which means she’ll be able to find Paige for me. Basically, she’s The Navigator without the compass. She can just do it on her own. Thank you all for your support, especially you, Mateo. We’re gonna go now.”
“Hold up,” Mario said. “You think we’re staying here? We don’t support you just by smiling and waving you off. We support you by actually helping.”
Ace shook his head. “I can’t ask you to do that. Really, these guys are dangerous. And Alex, do you know if any of the others are involved?”
“I don’t,” she claimed.
“See, they may have someone on their side who can rewrite reality. I have to do this on my own.”
“That’s not happening,” Aura argued. “I’ve grown close to Paige. I’m not letting those men keep her.”
Horace realized that he wasn’t going to be able to talk them out of it. And Mateo knew he wouldn’t have to say a word. It was obvious he would be going too. “Someone needs to stay here in case they circle back ‘round, though,” Alexina noted.
“I can do that,” Lincoln agreed.
“No one should be alone.”
“I’ll stay with him,” Darko said. “I wouldn’t do much good out there anyway.”
Alexina inspected the three who were going with them: Mateo, Mario, and Aura. “Very well. You should know, though, that it might take hours, or it might take days. Like I said, these guys are hard to track.”
“I can’t do days,” Mateo said.
“What?” She didn’t understand the problem. Horace leaned over and started whispering in her ear, but she didn’t feel the need to be as quiet. “Really?—Why doesn’t he just go to Durus?—Well, has anyone tried to tell him?—I survived. We all did.” She sighed. “Okay, but do we even need him?—Who?—Okay, I get that.—Who?—Fine.” She separated herself from Horace, and faced Mateo. “Way I hear it, you’re salmon.”
“They are too.”
“Yes, but his pattern has been put on hold, and hers doesn’t interfere with the work. I can’t do anything about your situation because Horace doesn’t want you trying to sever your ties with the powers that be.”
“Don’t tell him that,” Horace complained.
She went on, ignoring him. “Any man who falls left behind.”
“I get it. I need to help, though. I’m responsible for these people. This is my planet.”
This took her by surprise. She looked back to Horace, whose facial expression confirmed his own confusion over the matter. “My, my, aren’t we the peculiarity?”
She stepped back to address the group. “Be packed and ready to leave in five minutes.”
Mateo was ready to go, so he followed Horace to his bag so he could speak with him. “What’s this about a place called Durus? What were you two talking about?”
“Durus is the one place that lies beyond the purview of the powers that be, and we don’t know why. It can possibly break your connection to them. Permanently. Possibly.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about it earlier? Why doesn’t everybody know about it? We could all go there. My father, my mother...”
“It’s a dangerous place, Mateo. And it’s unpredictable. This one here? He pointed towards Alexina. “Only she was born with powers. The rest of her friends were just human, and received their powers when they went there. But it came at great cost, and it doesn’t work like that with everybody. It could kill you, or it could alter your pattern so that you and Leona never see each other again. Any number of things could happen there, I can’t recommend it.”
“That wasn’t your decision to make.”
“I made it anyway. There’s tons I haven’t told you. Help me get my daughter back, and I promise to find a way to get you there.”
Mateo took Horace’s wrist so he couldn’t add anything more to his bag for a second. “That you would think I would only help you for something in return shows how little you know me.”
“You’re from an alternate reality,” Horace said. “I remember that timeline, but that’s all you have to go on. “We’re not friends, and I’ve done things in this reality I’m not proud of. This isn’t the first time Paige’s life has been threatened. Hell, it’s not even the first time Keanu was the perpetrator. Things get bad when she’s in trouble. I always go back to how I was; and this was before I had any memories of my other self.” He finished packing with a bottle of water, and stuck his face in Mateo’s. “You shouldn’t trust me. People who trust me get hurt.”
Mateo raised his voice as Horace was trying to walk away. “I killed Serkan.”
He stopped short, but didn’t turn around. “I’ve never blamed you for that. Not even once. I haven’t even hinted that I held you responsible for his sacrifice.”
“I haven’t either,” Mateo said back. “And I should have. I created The Cleaner. I put your husband in that situation.”
He turned and let out a breathy laugh. “Lots of people had a hand in that, Mateo. Not everything is about you.”
“That battle on top of Uluru was about me.”
He smiled. “No. Choosers get bored, even with endless wonder. They play those games every once in awhile. You were simply the latest victim of that pettiness.”
“We have to go!” Alexina yelled to them from up the beach. “First 48 hours!”
A brief temporal rift opened up in the jungle a few miles away from camp. They barely made it through in time before it closed on them. They jumped a few times through time and space before making their way to what Alexina claimed to be Kansas City in present-day. They were just in a forest. “This is where we begin,” she said. “I haven’t picked up their trail at all, but I figured we start in some familiar places.”
“Which way is the city?”
“Backwards in time,” she explained. “People don’t really do cities anymore. This, where we’re standing, is where Paige and her fathers once lived.”
Horace looked around, trying to find something he recognized, but there were only trees. “It’s more beautiful than it was back then.”
“But it is severely lacking in Paiges.”
“I know,” Alexina said solemnly. “This was a longshot.”
“We can’t give up,” Horace said. “Look around for clues. Speak up if you find anything out of place.”
“You mean like this?” Mario was holding up a yellow plastic egg.
Horace smiled at the egg. “Paige loved Easter. It was the one time of year when her birth parents pretended to be normal, and nonabusive.”
“Christianity is dying,” Mario pointed out. “And it doesn’t look like anyone lives here. This is definitely out of place.” He squeezed the two halves of the egg and split it open. Beams of light shot out from the opening and overcame them.
When the light receded, they found themselves in a cave.
“What the hell happened?” Horace asked.
“We teleported, but where is this?” Even Alexina didn’t know.
“It’s Easter Island,” Mateo said.
“Oh, that makes sense,” Mario said. “The egg was a riddle.”
“Wait, where’s my mo—I mean, Aura?”
“She was looking for clues in the trees,” Mario remembered. “She must have been just outside of the blast radius.”
“They wanted us here,” Horace realized. “This wasn’t just a clue, it’s a path. Which way should we go?”
“I don’t know,” Alexina said honestly. “Temporal energy is emanating from the walls. I can’t sense anything specific.”
“Mateo, you’ve been here. Which way?”
“Horace, if they want you here, then maybe we should think about—”
“Are you here to help, or not?” he yelled.
Mateo sighed, and knew that he had to do what he promised. “That way.”
Horace just started running.
“Horace, stop!”
“Ace!” Alexina called up to him as well.
They all started chasing after him.
Once Horace reached the end of the tunnel, he was stunned. Mateo and Leona had told him what the giant amphitheatre had looked like, but it wasn’t really something you could understand without seeing it yourself. He took a beat to admire its beauty, which provided an opening for someone he failed to notice waiting to knock him out with the butt of a gun.
When Mateo arrived, he tried to look for the assailant, but didn’t see anyone. He knelt down to make sure Horace was still alive, but before he could be certain, the lights went out.
He woke up already massaging his temple from having been knocked out himself. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”
“Welcome back,” Mario said. “It’s been awhile.”
Mateo gathered his composure and looked around. They were in a part of the cavern system he hadn’t seen before, and also locked in iron cages. “How long is awhile?”
“Long enough for you to jump to 2131.”
“You’ve been locked up here for a year?” Mateo asked.
“No,” Horace said. “We jumped with you.”
Oh, that’s right. That’s what Easter Island does. The question now was what had happened to Paige in all this time? And where was their ally, Alexina? They spent the rest of the day there with no answers. They didn’t even see any of the captors in that time. Perhaps Keanu and Tauno were trying to starve them to death.

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