Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 27, 2142

Serif was going to have to spend the entire day resting in the privacy hut, while the others were charged with getting a start on Aura’s expiation. It had been over a week from Mateo’s perspective since they had been given a regular expiation to deal with. Extenuating circumstances had lately been altering that dynamic. Honestly, as saddened as he was to lose his once-mother to Arcadia’s game, it was kind of nice to be following the original rules again. Things were still awkward between him and Leona, because of Serif’s sudden appearance, but they didn’t have the luxury of worrying about that right now. It was time to focus on Aura.
Aura had been the last of her kind to survive on the island. She was a Shaper, along with Samsonite and Téa (formerly known as Theo). Mateo didn’t know a whole lot about what they had been through together, but something he learned later was that they were not the only ones to possess that nickname. Shapers belonged to a special class of salmon designed to create the future on a more long-term basis. Instead of, for instance, jumping back in time and killing Hitler, they would join the allied powers, and gradually turn the tide of war. They often had little to no knowledge of the future, but were still responsible for adjusting it according to whatever the powers that be wanted. The trio was the most famous of these shapers, but there were many others, particularly a career soldier named Sargent, and The Overseer.
As far as Mateo’s personal feelings for his once-mother went, they had gradually faded ever since he created the alternate reality by killing Hitler. He had never been too terribly close to her, having been raised by the Gelens. Now that she had zero recollection of him, he couldn’t bring himself to keep feeling all that much for her. It wasn’t either of their faults, but there was just no way for their relationship to hold on from there. Neither one hated the other, but it was always rather awkward on the island with her, and they tended to be mostly just polite to each other. He was still going to work just as hard as he ever did to get her back from the void, but he would also be able to do it with detached precision. He considered it a blessing that he would be able to get through it without his emotions interfering with him. In the end, Hitler was good and dead, Mateo still got to kill him, and it was all for the best. He would do it a third time, if given the opportunity.
Darko fell into a trance, and started channeling  Arcadia’s words, “Aura Gardner was many things...a world-class burger-flipper, a halfway-decent lifeguard station-sitter, and an okay recycling sorter.”
“Hey!” Mateo argued. She was still his mother, even if she wasn’t.
“Hay is for horses,” Darko replied in demonic monotone. Then he went on with Arcadia’s spiel, “for this expiation, you will...not be doing what she used to do. Those kind of jobs don’t exist anymore, and I do not have any interested in sending you back to the past. So, we’re going to be doing something a little different this time.”
So maybe it won’t be like the old breed of expiations.
Puppet Darko continued, “If there’s one thing Aura wanted more than anything, it was to have a family. And a huge part of that was getting to know her daughter-in-law. While most little girls were dreaming about their weddings, she was fantasizing about planning her own children’s weddings. I know, what a weirdo, right? I think she saw some movies where parents-in-law meet their child’s significant other, and hilarity ensues. This, coupled with the fact that she had an unusual relationship with her own parents, apparently kept this dream alive in her. She probably never really got into it with you, Leona, but she had always hoped you two would develop a special relationship. Even though she never really knew Mateo, in any reality, she knew him to be her son, and that did mean something to her. So today, you’ll be having a wedding shower-slash bachelorette party-slash bachelor party. Tomorrow you’ll be planning a wedding, and on the third’ll get married.”
“Now, hold on!” Leona yelled. “Nobody decides when I get married ‘cept me.”
“And me,” Darko said, on Arcadia’s behalf.
“That’s not how this works. I’m not marrying Mateo in two days.”
“Yeah, I can tell things are weird right now, but you’re just gonna have to get over that. This is happening.”
“Fine. If you don’t do this, you’ll never see Aura again.”
“I don’t even remember her,” Leona said.
“Leona,” Mateo complained.
“That’s not entirely true,” Darko said to her. “Why, you’re already wearing her engagement ring. It’s perfect.”
“Arcadia, don’t do this,” Mateo begged.
“You guys are acting like this is the worst thing to ever happen to you,” Darko’s voice said. “You wanna get married anyway. You’ve already proposed.” He looked to Leona, “you said yes.”
“We were going to do it after this was all over.”
“Jesus Christ, I’ve had enough of this,” Darko said.
Arcadia teleported in so she could start speaking for herself. “After what is over?”
Leona gestured towards the aether. “All this. The expiations...the Island.”
Arcadia just looked at her she was insane. “Leona, this never ends. You’re salmon. When I’m done with you, someone else is gonna step up. What, did you think once you finished off this problem, things would regress to some kind of normal? Was Horace Reaver normal? Was my brother, the evil Cleanser normal? There will always be something keeping you from being happy. I’m trying to encourage you to take life by the balls. There is no waiting. There is no better time. You only ever have right now.”
“Right now,” Leona said, bobbing and shaking her head at the same time, “I’m not getting fucking married. It’s 2142, I don’t have to define myself by a man.”
“Oh my God, that’s not what this is about. Not everything is an affront to feminism.” She took a few steps back to address the crowd. “Someone is getting married in two years. I don’t care who it is, but one of them has to be Leona, and one of them has to be Mateo.” She pretended to realize her mistake. “Ya know, I guess I do care who it is.”
“Arcadia. Please,” Mateo tried again.
“The expiations are always up to you. You know the rules. As a sign of good faith, I will give you a gift.”
Oh no, this can’t be good. Arcadia lifted her arm and presented to them the sky. Out from it formed a giant ball of liquid light. It descended over the ocean, then began rolling towards them, still hovering several meters over the surface. They just stood and watched, not knowing what was going to happen. It stopped at the beach and released a burst of energy powerful enough to knock them all over, but not enough to injure them seriously. The light was gone as a fog formed on the sand. As it slowly cleared, Mateo squinted, and was eventually able to see the wandering silhouettes of several people. As it cleared further, he could make out their faces. It was them. All of his friends and family. They were all back, standing on the beach, confused as all hell. Baudin, Gilbert, Samsonite, Xearea, Téa, Saga, and Lita were there, along with some unfamiliar faces that were presumably part of Marcy’s family.
Horace and Paige walked up from behind Mateo’s current half of the group, having returned from some other portal. “Is it over?” Horace asked.
“Where’s my mother?” Mateo looked all around, hoping to see her somewhere.
“This is her expiation,” Arcadia answered with a slow shake of her head. “Beggars can’t be choosers.”
“How long do we have with them?” he questioned.
“Just the day, then they all go back. They’re here for the party.”
“Where do they go?”
Arcadia smirked. “That’s not something you would understand. Enjoy it while it lasts.”
Then almost everybody started screaming, including the returnees. They were all getting the memories of each other back all at once, and their minds were having trouble reconciling the differences. Paige and Leona weren’t struggling quite as much, because their memories had never been taken away so decisively. Leona had also experienced a brain blending before, as had Horace, so they both recovered rather quickly. Only Baudin, Mateo, and Lincoln were left completely unharmed, though the latter did his best to pretend. Fortunately, no one was paying attention to him anyway. The former was the first to be taken, so his memory was never altered.
While everybody was going through their thing, Jesi—the woman from Horace’s past, who could manipulate the speed of time—started walking towards them from the privacy hut. She was letting Serif hold onto her shoulders.
“I’m okay,” Serif said. “Thanks.”
“I was asked to expedite her recovery,” Jesi said. “Arcadia promised to let me go if I did.”
“Thank you,” Mateo said sincerely.
As if he had been there the entire time, Juan Ponce de León passed by Mateo and reached towards Jesi. “Come on, I’ll escort you to an exit point.” He turned towards Mateo. “I’ll be back for the party though.”
“Mateo,” someone said from behind.
They hugged each other.
“I thought you never left The Constant,” he exclaimed.
“Arcadia’s pretty powerful. I think even the powers that be would be powerless to stop her.”
These weren’t the only reunions today. Mr. Halifax came too, along with Dr. Sarka, the Archivist, all of the Guards, and even Uluru. The island started getting pretty crowded, in fact. More and more people showed up, all with prior knowledge of the event. There were actually multiple versions of Gilbert Boyce, in a few of the various bodies that he had possessed. Mateo didn’t recognize everybody, but someone from the core Tribulation Island group always did.
The other Vearden arrived from his magical universe-hopping building. With him came his wife, and some people from other c-branes, like an immortal named Gavix, and a witch named Tahira. He introduced them to a man named Mercury Fletcher, who was friendly with Leona and Horace’s friend, Slipstream. Xearea’s brother; The Warrior; Detective Kallias Bran; some alternate reality version of Gilbert named Quivira; Serkan’s brother, Alim; Kyle Stanley; hackers Micro, Fairware, and J-Cuken; the original Vearden’s buddy, Garen Ashlock; and Harrison. Everybody either he, or someone he cared about, cared about, was there. Well, almost everybody. Noticeably absent were Serkan, Daria, Carol, and Randall. Overall, though, it was a great party; perhaps the best he had ever been to. Maybe this wedding wasn’t going to be so bad.

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