Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 8, 2024

Things looked quite familiar after Arcadia apported them back to Earth in the past. She sent them off rather late in the day, for a reason they did not yet know. They weren’t given any warning that it was coming, and weren’t even standing in a group when it happened. They looked around, eventually coming across one of those old newspaper stands. It was April 8, 2024 in Makanda, Illinois. There were just a ton of people walking around, an especially large number of people for how small the town appeared to be. A man was stopping people, trying to sell them something, and a few people were actually buying.
“I never experienced this year,” Mateo noted.
“Oh, that’s right,” Leona said. “That was when you went far into the future. Yeah, you gave us quite a scare. Worst two years of my life, waiting for you.”
“Sorry ‘bout that,” Mateo said. “I’m here now!”
The salesman approached them. “You guys have your glasses?” he asked.
“What glasses?” Serif asked.
“Your eclipse glasses,” he clarified. “I got as many as you need. Five bucks...four each if everyone in your party wants one.”
They all looked to Leona, who nodded. “That’s a good deal.”
“Does anyone have human money?” Darko joked.
“Wait, where’s Lincoln?” Serif asked. They hadn’t noticed him missing until now.
“No, just four bucks, remember?” the man said, not understanding, and a little nervous about the human money joke.
“He’s taking care of Dar’cy,” Marcy told them. “Arcadia wanted it this way, I don’t know why.” She took out a twenty dollar bill and handed it to the man, who handed her five pairs of glasses.
“I see.”
“Wait,” Leona ordered as the man was trying to walk off and find new customers. “I need to test them first.” Ever the thorough one, she tested each of the pair of glasses, looking up at the sun to make sure they wouldn’t make them go blind. “All right, you’re good,” she said once she was done. The man was happy to be done with them.
“I don’t know why we did that,” Darko said. “She didn’t bring us here to watch whatever eclipse this is. We’re here to help someone.”
“If it can make you go blind, maybe we’re supposed to stop that from happening to someone important.” Mateo suggested.
“Anyone remember a celebrity who went blind in 2024?” Darko asked.
“Don’t look at me,” Serif said. “I didn’t exist.”
Leona was looking at Mario’s special watch. “One minute to totality.”
“Do celestial events have any effect on time travelers?” Marcy asked. She then had to ignore a passerby who had heard what she said.
“I don’t think so,” Darko said.
“That’s not possible,” Leona pointed out. “Maybe a solar flare could do something, maybe.”
“Hey, you never know,” Darko returned. “We still don’t understand why citrus explodes when exposed to the timestream.”
“Okay, everybody look around,” Mateo stepped in. “Look for a horse that’s about to kick someone in the head, or a disease that all the children have.”
They spread out a little bit, but walked in the same general direction, looking for anything suspicious, stopping only to witness the eclipse for a few minutes. It held his interest for a few seconds before Mateo got bored with it. He found it more compelling to watch everyone in town staring at the sky with their weird glasses, all at once, like the most unsettling flash mob flash ever. One woman had no interest in it either. She was weaving through the crowd, holding a baby, and making sure that no one was following her. He was going to alert the rest of the group, but they were too fascinated by a moon, so he just decided to investigate himself. Presumably just as bored, Darko noticed this and came along.
The woman ducked into an alley with such earnest that they could now hear her heavy, fearful breaths. As Mateo and Darko were about to turn the corner, they noticed a man coming from the opposite direction, about to do the same.
He stopped when he saw them. “Who the hell are you?” he asked in a tone.
“I don’t know,” Mateo said.
“What, you have amnesia?”
“And if I do?”
He shook it off, because he didn’t really care. “Catalina!” he called up to the woman.
She turned around at the sound of her name, which instantly doubled her fear. She held her baby closer to her chest, trying to look for a way out.
“Looks like she don’t wanna see you,” Darko told him.
“Looks like it’s none of your business,” the man spat back. “He wants you back in Kansas City,” he said to Catalina. “You took his baby, that’s not okay.”
“It’s not his!” she argued.
“He’d like his own doctors to test that,” the predator said.
“He doesn’t control KC anymore,” Catalina argued. “And he sure as shit don’t control me.”
“I think you need to go.” Mateo placed his hand on the predator’s shoulder, knowing it was a bad idea.
The predator backhanded him in the face, knocking him to the ground.
Darko made no attempt to help Mateo up, instead remaining stoic and collected. “You definitely need to go,” he echoed.
“You don’t wanna mess with me.”
Darko raised his voice a little, “no, sir, you don’t want to mess with me. You need to go. Now.”
“Catalina, who are these guys?”
“You don’t wanna find out,” she answered with confidence. She was a pretty good actor, quickly catching onto the fact that they were there to help.
“Do you know who I work for?” the predator asked, giving Darko his full attention now.
“I don’t really give a shit. Anyone who threatens Catalina’s safety, or her baby’s, will have to face me.”
The predator took out a knife, which Darko reacted to immediately. He made quick work of knocking it out of his hand, and then proceeded to use his fighting skills against him. The predator was a decent fighter himself, but in the end, it was no real competition. When it was over, the predator was unconscious on the ground, half of his face lying in a puddle of mud.
“Darko,” Marcy said simply. The whole group had arrived, having finished enjoying the eclipse.
“I had to, Marcy. He was a threat.”
She breathed in deeply and found her center. “I understand.”
“Who are you people?” Catalina asked.
“Are you running from him?” Darko asked.
“Not him, exactly. He’s just a lieutenant. It’s his boss I’m afraid of. He thinks my baby is his.”
“Is it?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Mateo said. “We have to protect her; from anyone, and everyone.”
“Of course. I know a guy, but first, we need to find a safe place to hole up.”
Leona used the internet, and her intuition, to find them a barn on the edge of town where no one would look for any of them. Serif and Marcy were then sent off to gather something from whatever store they could find it in. They returned a couple hours later with a ticket dispenser.
“What’s this for?” Mateo asked.
“This is April 8, 2024, right?”
“Right,” Leona confirmed.
“Why do you not know what the date is?” Catalina asked, confused.
Darko set up the dispenser and took the first three numbers out quickly, letting them drop to the floor. He handed the fourth to Mateo, and let the next three drop before handing the eighth to Mateo as well. He kept doing this until Mateo was holding the 4, 8, 20, and 24. “Just be happy it’s not 2099, or something, or that we didn’t need more than one dispenser.”
“What exactly is happening?” Serif asked, just as confused as Catalina.
Darko set the tickets on a workbench in order. “Everybody find a place to sit and wait. We’re at the DMV, this might take awhile.”
They did as they were told, sitting in relative silence for the next couple hours. Suddenly, a man appeared from the shadows and stood on the other side of the workbench. “Number one!” he called out. “Who’s got number one!”
“I do,” Darko said, jumping up. “Jesus Christ, step out of character for a second.”
“Darko Matic, it’s been awhile.”
“I need two new identities. One is an infant.”
The man looked at Catalina, and her child.
“Under whose authorization?”
“Under mine.”
“Darko, you know the rules. I’m salmon, I can’t just give anyone I wish new papers.”
“This is a Kingmaker situation,” Darko explained.
“But, you’re not...”
“I am. Today I am.”
“Well, who is she? Rather, who is she gonna be?”
“I don’t know, that’s not my job. But she needs to disappear, and you need to help us with that.”
The man weighed his options. “All right. But if the powers that be come down on me, I’m callin’ you in.”
“Fair enough.”
“Approach the counter, please, ma’am,” he requested.
Still anxious, but starting to feel grateful, Catalina did as she was asked.
“I have a few questions. Firstly, what would you like your new name to be?”
As they were working new identities, Mateo spoke to his brother privately.
“Who is this guy?”
“The Forger. He sets up new identities for other salmon when they travel to new times and places. He’ll do it for choosers too, which is how we met, but only if he’s allowed.
“I could have used him from time to time,” Mateo said.
“Matic!” the Forger called out. “Is she staying in this time period?”
“That’s up to her!” Darko responded.
“Is he good?” Mateo then asked. “Will she be safe?”
“Perfectly. His IDs are the real thing. He doesn’t have to use a dead baby’s social security number, or anything. His papers literally rewrite history, very powerful stuff. He worked on Operation Second Wind.”
Catalina walked up to them holding a packet. “Wow, that was quick. In the movies, it takes, like, twenty-four hours.”
“But you’re good?”
“Yeah, they look great. I wanted to thank you for everything you did for me. I don’t know why you’re helping me, but I greatly appreciate it. How could I repay you?”
“Just take care of your child, and stay out of trouble.”
“I will. Specifically,” she opened her passport, “Tasha Rutherford will.”
“Rutherford?” Mateo asked.
“Yeah, it was the name of a guy who helped my older brother out of a jam a couple years back. I owe him everything, so I figured this was the best way to honor him since I can never actually see him again.”
“What, was he a lawyer, or something?”
“Yeah. Well, he was in law school at the time, but he did end up passing the bar. Thank you so much again. Sabine and I should be getting out of town.”
“Of course,” Darko said. “Be careful. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, except have fun.”
She smiled and left the barn.
“Lincoln Rutherford?” Mateo asked rhetorically. “That’s why he’s not here. Arcadia didn’t want her recognizing him.”
Marcy walked up, looking at the barn doors with them. “That was Tasha Rutherford.”
“Indeed,” Darko confirmed. “You know of her? Does she cure cancer?”
“No,” Marcy said with a laugh. “Her granddaughter does. Marcy Rutherford. I think I was named after her.”
“I think, maybe...” Leona began, trying to do the math in her head, “...she was named after you.”

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