Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 17, 2132

At the moment, it seemed to be nearing the noon hour of 2132, and the three captives had yet to see any sign of their jailers. All they had to look at were their cell bars, and a cave wall. Mario was trying to sleep, Horace was meditating, and Mateo was literally twiddling his thumbs. He had already tried some meditating techniques that Future!Leona had taught him to help him recover from The Cleaner’s horrific memory implants. This time, they weren’t doing any good. He was starving, yes, but their biggest problem was that they didn’t have any water. They would soon die of dehydration. Something had to be done. This thought apparently psychically transferred to Horace, who suddenly broke his meditation, and started banging on the bars like a maniac. Mario shot up from the ground, ready to fight any oncomers. Mateo pulled back and unsuccessfully hid in the corner.
“What the hell are you doing?” Mario cried.
“Something new. What we’ve been doing has not helped us, so I’m just changing things up.” Then he started screaming and banging his hands on the bars again.
“That’s not gonna do any good!” Mario argued.
“Can’t hurt!”
“You don’t know that.”
He just went back to making as much noise as he could. And, as luck would have it, it actually did help them. They could hear a voice in the distance, but drawing closer. “This way, Lee! Keep up!”
“I’m not a runner!” the second one replied. It was Leona. “I’m a thinker!”
“Are you callin’ me dumb!”
“No, just fast!”
Two women appeared from around the corner and smiled. The one he didn’t recognize smiled. “Thank you for the alarm. This place is a freaking maze. Even I was getting tired.”
“Slip, holy crap!” Horace said to her. Yet another person he knew from his past.
Leona ran up and hugged Mateo through the bars as best she could. “I finally found you. Christ, what trouble are you in this time?”
“How long have you been on Earth?”
“Just ‘bout a year,” she answered.
“You’ve met some friends.”
“Yeah, that’s just this thing.”
Horace and, uhh...Slip were continuing their own conversation. “How did you get to this time period?” Horace asked.
“Ashlock shot me through. I can’t stay long.” She then looked at Mateo. “Don’t worry, Matty. We’ve already broken Leona’s tether, so she doesn’t have to revert back to my time period.”
“I don’t know that what means,” Mateo said, “but thank you.”
“Do you have a way to get us out of here?”
“The cells, or Easter Island?” Slip asked. “Doesn’t matter...yes, both.” She took a doorknob from her bag.
“The Escher Knob,” Horace said, relieved.
“I couldn’t find the Card.”
“That would have helped us find Paige, but at least we can break out.”
Slip placed the knob against the lock on the cell, which magically opened it up, with no apparent effort. She then did the same for Mario’s and Mateo’s cells. “Let’s get going,” she suggested.
“Have you seen Tauno and Keanu?” Horace asked as the five of them were jogging down the cave corridors.
“No, but we’ve see a couple of the others. Apparently they’ve set up shop here. The powers that be are not exactly happy about it.”
“Does anyone have any idea where we’re going?” Mario asked as the voice of reason.
“I usually just keep running ‘til I find what I’m looking for,” Slip replied.
“We have an idea,” Leona clarified. “Slipstream, don’t freak them out.” Oh, so that was her full name. Or at least it was her full nickname.
They heard voices down the corridors again, this time from behind. “They’ll have no hope to find the exit,” one of them said. “I can pick up their trail!”
“Crap, we have to get out of here now,” Mateo said, his concern about their pursuers causing him to fall behind.
“Mateo,” came a voice from his left. It was none other than Juan Ponce de León. He was pointing towards a turnoff to Mateo’s right. “That way.”
“Guys!” Mateo called up to them, not bothering to ask Juan where he came from, or questioning his credibility. “Follow me!”
They were reluctant to follow, but did so anyway. It was clearly the right choice when torchlight revealed the shadows of a horde of people, now trying to catch up to them by going the wrong direction.
“Walk softly,” Slipstream whispered, “stay quiet.”
They kept moving at a decent pace, but not as quickly, and definitely not as loudly. They came to a three-way intersection, and decided to take a left, but then Keanu and Tauno appeared from behind, as if having been waiting for them to pass by.
“You’ll never get out of here,” Keanu said with a grin, and a gun.
“I could have done better,” Tauno claimed, “but this is a pretty good maze.”
“A human weapon?” Horace said. “Really?”
Slipstream smiled back. “Do you remember what I used to do for a living?”
“Who are you again?” Keanu asked her rhetorically and insensitively.
With no further warning, she used her kung fu ninja skills to disarm Keanu before Mateo had a chance to blink. She then finished the job but planting him on the ground, and knocking him out cold. Tauno just stood there like a deer in the headlights, unable to decide how to escape, even though he had shown himself capable of opening doors the likes of which Saga and Vearden once used. Slipstream took him down too. “Felt good to get back to my roots,” she said when it was done.
“Disarming people?” Mateo asked.
“That’s exactly what she did,” Horace answered for her.
They then turned around, only to find themselves face to face with Keanu and Tauno once more. The other two versions of them were still lying on the ground. “Quantum replication,” Keanu said, without a gun. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
“How many of you are there?” Leona asked accusatorily.
“Enough,” Tauno replied. Three more Taunos, and two more Keanus revealed themselves from their various hidey-holes, like they had rehearsed their grand entrance.
But then all they could hear was flesh being torn apart...and all they could see was blood splattering all over the walls. An attacker was making their way through the Keanu-Tauno legion. The Warrior stood over their bodies, and began wiping the blood off his sword; a different one than he had used to steal other people’s time powers. “Not enough to contend with me,” he said, like a B-movie action hero.
No one knew what to say.
The Warrior looked only at Mateo. “I have given up killing, like you asked. But these are...” He struggled with his explanation.
“Let’s call it a cheat day,” Mateo said.
The Warrior just dipped his head in respect. When they could hear even more pursuers—probably another group of duplicates—he raised his sword and ordered them to leave. Mateo didn’t like killing, but he appreciated the assist. They needed to find Paige, and they needed to escape. They couldn’t be picky about who helped them do that, or how they did it.
They kept jogging, hoping to find their way back to the amphitheatre stage, which was their best shot of somehow leaving the island. They came upon another group of Keanus and Taunos, but there were other replicated people with them; those that Mateo didn’t recognize. Vearden appeared from a door to what looked like an office, with two women. “I’m not the Vearden you knew,” he said to Mateo and Leona. “I’m from this reality.”
The horde was frightened, having either never heard of Vearden and his partners, or having heard enough about them that they didn’t want to start a fight.
“Come quietly,” one of the women said. “We can either take you to an exile universe, or to a hell universe. Either way, you’re leaving these lovely people alone.”
They actually agreed, despite likely having some ability to fight back.
Immediately following that, Slipstream stopped short. “Ashlock’s calling me back.”
“Can’t you take a message?” Mateo asked.
“He has control, and if he’s doing this now, it means he needs to transport someone else. He can only do one at a time.”
An invisible force took hold of her at the stomach, and pulled her away from them. She didn’t just enter a portal, or fade away. She just grew smaller and smaller until disappearing completely.
“Come on,” Mario said. “Paige still needs us.”
“Yes,” Horace agreed.
They kept jogging. Every once in awhile, Juan would appear to direct them where to go. Darko randomly showed up once to fight a couple of enemy combatants, but he didn’t act like he knew any of his friends. He must have been from the past, before being trapped on Tribulation Island, and was just guessing which side to pick.
At last, they were at the end of their journey, back in the amphitheatre. Paige was waiting for them, but was trapped between two Keanus, and two Taunos. The rest of the auditorium was completely full of their duplicates. Most of them appeared to be Keanu alternates, though. It looked like the boss fight in the third Matrix movie, except that there could be no fight, because none of them was equipped to handle this many people. What they needed was a miracle.
As Horace tried to step forward, the Keanu holding onto Paige’s collar tightened his grip, and waved Horace back. “Uh-uh-uh. No closer. I want you to watch this, though. I want you see her end. Then I’m gonna duplicate from a quantum reality. And I’m gonna kill her too. Then I’m duplicate her again..and again..and again..and again..and  again.” He pointed to all his alternate versions. “I’m going to create and kill as many Paige’s as there are Me’s in this room right now. And only once I kill them all will I let you die. Slowly.”
“Your beef is with her,” Horace yelled to him, confusing his friends. “So if you wanna hurt her...hurt me.”
“Interesting proposition, the Keanu said. “But no.” He tightened his grip once more, and lifted a knife from its sheath.
A blur raced out of the exit corridor, down the steps, and onto the stage. Before them was the speedster Horace and Serkan already knew, plus Guard Number Two. As what was likely always, the speedster didn’t say a word. But Guard Number Two addressed the whole crowd while holding a very large futuristic gun. His voice carried throughout the entire amphitheatre, even though he wasn’t using a microphone, much in the same way a girl named Ellie had in the Colosseum replica during Mateo’s and The Cleanser’s Uluru battle. “My name is Kolby Morse, but may know me as the guy who keeps sending you and your kind to hell! You are all in violation of the Babylonian Treaty! Either the primary versions can step up and extinguish all their respective replications, or we can do this the hard way! From my end...the fun way! We at Beaver Haven do not possess a criminal facility capable of holding all of you at once, so you can either line up, or I can shoot you with my apportation gun where you sit! No one escapes this, though! No one hurts this woman! And no one hurts any of these fine people!” He gestured to Mateo, Leona, Mario, and Horace. And The Warrior, who had arrived sometime in the middle of Kolby’s speech.
Nobody moved.
Kolby lifted his special gun to his shoulder. “Fun way it is!” He then just started spraying what Mateo just now decided were called time bullets all over the crowd. They tried to run, but the speedster zipped up and down the aisles, forcing them back. Kolby certainly was having fun with this, laughing and smiling in between battle cries. He was barely a quarter of the way through his targets when the remaining bunch disappeared at once, leaving behind only the alternates for his friends.
Kolby looked around, trying to figure what had happened, as did everyone else. Their eyes landed on the Keanu who had been personally holding onto Paige. The Warrior’s sword was sticking through his chin, and out the top of his head. Horace’s hand was still on the handle. Apparently killing the real Keanu automatically deleted all the others from the timestream.
Better-late-than-never Arcadia teleported in and placed her hand on Horace’s shoulder. “It’s over,” she said to him soothingly. “You can let go now.” She then turned to Guard Number Two, which was something Mateo would have a hard time not calling him. “Thank you, Mister Kolby. I can take it from here.”

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