Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 8, 2154

When Mateo went to bed last night, Lincoln and The Weaver had not yet returned from finishing the LIR Map. He had spent the night with Kivi, Darko, and Marcy. It was awkward, to say the least, but Marcy’s anger against him was cooling off. When he woke up on August 8, 2154, he was completely alone in their cube home. All three of his friends and family were gone, and Lincoln was still not back. “Hello?” he called out the hallway. “Hello?” he repeated down the stairs. “Hello?” he asked again once outside on the beach. Arcadia had said that Darko and Marcy would be gone, but Kivi should have still been here. Not even Porter was around anymore. “What’s happened?”
Halfway through lunch, a door appeared on the treeline. Lincoln stepped out of it alone. Mateo, having underestimated his own sense of isolation, jogged up and gave him a hug. “Did you do it?”
He nodded and shook his head at the same time. “We took the whole year for it, The Weaver and I. We weren’t alone, though. Harmony escorted us to other universes where we gathered input from a host of knowledgeable people, including a few artificial superentities. Nothing was working, and then it happened. We call it the Time Shriek. It’s this shrill cry from the aether so profoundly powerful that it could be heard in the past, the future, and throughout the bulkverse. We have no idea what it was, or where it came from, but it solved it for us. It makes no sense, but it solidified all necessary connections for the map. We didn’t really do it, but it’s done. Arcadia has the map. I’ve no clue what she plans to do with it, but she has it, and she assures me that Leona and Serif will return to the timeline once you’re finished with my expiation.”
“Why isn’t Kivi here? She’s taken three people at once.”
“She told me about that too. It’s punishment for us taking so long to complete our task.”
“She’s a time traveler! Hell she cares how long something takes?”
If it makes you feel any better, she asked me to relay to you, Kivi was going to be taken shortly anyway.”
“Shortly for me is a few days. For you, it’s years. She took years of you two being together.”
“I know,” Lincoln said. “Believe me, I know.”
“It isn’t fair. You’re here because of me. You’ve dedicated all this time to helping me, and for what? In our last reality, you hadn’t even met me, and you were still protecting me. Why?”
“Because you need it, Mateo,” he said. “Other people help you, and I know you notice, though they may think you’re oblivious. They’ve...made these claims about your future. They say you’ll one day do great things. Yet, those days never come from you, do they? Up until now, you’ve just been doing everything to survive, and protect those you care about. I can see more than those people can, and what I see is a good man who never gives up. You are no more important to the timeline than any other individual. But I exert all this effort helping you, because...I keep finding myself in a position to do so.”
“I can always count on you to tell me the truth.”
“Truth is all my brain does.”
“Still. I’m sorry about Kivi.”
“She’s your daughter.”
Is she?”
“In certain ways.”
“This is a weird conversation,” Arcadia said. Mateo had noticed her arrival, but chose not to acknowledge it.
“Why am I last?” Lincoln asked her.
“The last survivor on the island?” she clarified rhetorically. “Why not?”
“Seems like a random choice,” Lincoln said.
“Hm,” she said. “I never really thought about it. I had all these ideas for expiations, but nothing for you, so I just sort of forgot you existed.”
“That’s the Arcadia we know and love,” Mateo said.
“But now that you mention it, maybe you do serve a purpose,” Arcadia said, while still thinking about her new idea. “I need a day to plan it.”
She disappeared, and then reappeared a second later.
“Okay, it’s been a day for me,” she said. “I have the idea all finished. Mateo, if you kill Lincoln Rutherford by midnight central, everyone will be returned to you. Except for  him, of course. And Vearden.”
“Excuse me?” Mateo asked.
“I think I was pretty clear. I have the LIR Map, so I don’t need him anymore. He’s really just in the way, so you take care of him, and this will all be over. I’ll even try to find Dar’cy. I make no promises on that front, though.”
“I’m not killing Lincoln.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “That’s your call, but that’s Darko’s expiation. He’s kind of a linchpin. If you don’t get Darko back, you can’t get anyone back. I don’t care how you do it, in fact, I find that sort of thing rather distasteful, so I won’t be here.” She looked at her wrist, and then removed a retro 90s pager from her pocket. “My number is 867-5309, no joke, no lying, no laughing. Let me know when it’s done. I will not be returning to the island until 2157. Again, I don’t want the details, I’ll just want proof of death. No more questions, goodbye.” She teleported away.
They stood in silence for a few beats.
Finally, Lincoln spoke, “I’ve been alive an incalculable number of years. I guess, because of my knowledge, I’ve been alive forever, and I technically can’t die. Hell, all you have to do is create a new reality, and I return the same person. Kill me now, get your family back, and everything will be fine.”
“I’m not doing that, Lincoln.”
“Come on, you’ve done it before.”
“Oh, Hitler! That is not the same thing.”
“I once had a moustache.”
“Be serious.”
“I am. For the greater good, you have to do it. My life is not worth the lives of twenty-three other people.”
“This isn’t up for debate. We find another way.”
“There is no other way. Look around, Mateo. We’re all alone. Not even Porter can help us now.”
“You’re right.”
“Damn right, I’m right.”
“There’s nothing for us on this island.”
“Wait, where are you going with this?”
Mateo was going back into the cube. “The other day, we asked Porter to provide us with a whole tool set. We didn’t know what we would need to build the map, so we just asked for it all, including a couple shovels. Hindsight 20/20, we should have asked for a backhoe.”
“What do we need shovels for?” Lincoln asked, following him to the back of the main room.
“Every once in awhile I pull this card. I don’t do it often, because I don’t wanna abuse the system, and I don’t want to pester him too much.”
“Pester who?”
He found the shovels in the storage room, and handed one to Lincoln. “I hope you got enough sleep. We have to dig a grave.”
It only took them about an hour to finish the job. Since they didn’t need the grave to be practical, they were able to dig in the soft sand. Mateo thought Lincoln would hesitate falling into a big hole in the ground, but he was totally fine with it.
“It’s been a good long time,” Mr. Halifax, a.k.a. The Gravedigger said. He was standing on the edge of the grave. They could see the voidsky of the graveyard dimension above him.
“I’m sorry to ask you this, but we need you to take us to Glubbdubdrib.”
“Whatever for?”
“There’s someone we need to speak to.”
“In the Extraction Mirror?”
“Mateo,” Lincoln interjected, “this can’t be a good idea.”
“Can’t you see how it all turns out?” Mateo asked him.”
“Yeah,” Lincoln confirmed, “but only if I look. And I don’t wanna.”
“Yes, sir,” Mr. Halifax said with a flick of his hat. “Glubbdubdrib it is.”
The sky turned a desolate gray as he was helping them out of the hole. They climbed out to find themselves back on Dardius; specifically on the island nation of Glubbdubdrib, which Mateo first encountered during one of The Rogue’s early tribulations. It was here that he killed The Rogue, only to find out he had been Gilbert Boyce the entire time, and merely switched to another body upon his “death”. He used the mirror again to retrieve Gilbert just before his permanent death. Now they would need it for someone else.
Once they found the magic mirror in Palace Glubbdubdrib, Mateo cut his hand on a knife he had taken from the closet, so he could place a sample of blood on the dimensional barrier. “I stand at the gates of life and death. Come forwards. Come forwards, spirits! Here is life. Zeferino Preston, cleanser and cleaner, smell blood! Smell life! I summon you!”
“Oh, shit,” Lincoln said under his breath, but made no move to stop Mateo.
The scene on the other side of the dimensional barrier changed to the Uluru battle. He was holding Serkan’s lifeless body. Leona was kneeling next to him. Xearea was standing off to the side. Gilbert was pointing a gun at Zeferino, having already released two of ultimately three bullets from it. They were headed right for The Cleanser, but time was moving slowly. Zeferino Preston pulled himself out of the special body he had stolen from The Artist. It was this body that had given him so many powers. Now he was still powerful, but not quite as much. Now he was essentially back to normal.
Zeferino walked towards the barrier. “You just can’t help but make friends with your enemies, can you, Matty?”
“We are not friends. I can restart the scene any time I want, and the way I understand it, you have one chance to stave this off. If I don’t let you out now, no one else can later.”
“This is correct,” Zeferino said. “The mirror can only be used for one moment one time. So what is it you want?”
“Darko Matic?”
He lost his evil grin. “What?”
“He’s been taken out of time. Only Lincoln and I remember him.”
“Who would do such a thing?”
“Your sister...The Extractor.”
“That bitch.”
“I’m appealing to your...brotherly love,” Mateo said. “You are brothers, aren’t you?”
“I’ve always thought so.”
“Then bring him back. You want it, I want it.”
Zeferino looked behind him at his old body, which was uncomfortably close to irreversible death. He would have to answer quickly. “That’s the body I would use to do that. Without it, I’m powerless, I can’t help you.”
Mateo turned away nonchalantly. “All right, goodbye.”
“Wait!” he said, scared. “I can’t help you, but I know someone who can.”
“The Superintendent.”

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