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Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: October 20, 2227

After a small group of human Ansutahan refugees stole the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and laid in a course for Gatewood, the rest of Ansutah was in the midst of war. Some conservative Maramon were hesitant to fight the humans, especially since they were living in what was considered holy land, but there were plenty of progressives fully willing to kill, kill, kill. The human leadership, living on the continent of Comron, had declared that every able-bodied human over the age sixteen was fit for military service, whether they possessed any prior training, or not. A group of mostly fifteen year olds, wanting to contribute to the effort, made their own decision. There was a special location that was capable of ending the war altogether.
While Comron was only deemed holy to protect its inhabitants from the Maramon, Eden Island was legitimately sacred, and site of the original human settlement in this world. Over time, the human population outgrew their little home, so they moved out to other lands. White monsters were not allowed to return, and neither were the humans. There was a rumor that a great power lied in wait there, though. Most people dismissed this as mere superstition, but this group of children thought it was their only chance. They stole a seafaring vessel, and set about on their journey. They were led by a young man named Alcide Makar. He was nineteen years old, but suffered permanent spinal cord damage when he was a boy, so he was never conscripted into the human army. At present, he and his friends were just pulling up on shore. It was here that they discovered they were not alone.
“Turn back now,” a monster said, pointing towards the ocean. He was an unusual creature; not human, nor sufficiently Maramon. His hardened skin was entirely black, while his brethren were all white. He should not be alive.
Alcide stepped forward to protect his people. “Move aside, Exile.”
“How did you know my name?” the black Maramon questioned.
“I did not know that was your name. You are an exile, though, right?”
“I am. My birth name is Enarkased Edcubijmohjac. What are you doing in this holy place?”
“We seek the Fruits of Power,” another boy said. Sakil Tamboli was a runt, and Alcide’s best friend. He considered himself to be Alcide’s commanding lieutenant, and Alcide never had the heart to disabuse him of this belief.
“Don’t tell him that,” Alcide scolded.
Exile lifted his chin. “I can show you where the Tree of Power stands. But are you worthy to eat its bounty?”
“We are here to end the war with your people,” Alcide explained. “We believe this is the way.”
Exile shook his head. “They are not my people.” He should have been killed as a baby for being born black, but someone must have rescued him, and brought him here. There was definitely at least one other person on this island. Whoever it was would be very protective of him, and the Tree of Power.
“Will you help us?” Alcide asked of him.
Exile took a beat, then nodded his head. “Follow me. It is clear on the other side of the island. The Planters arrived here from the mainland.” He turned around and started walking.
The most cautious of them tugged on Alcide’s arm. “Are we sure about this?” Orla asked. “Can we trust him?” She was eighteen years old, but hailed from a rich family, and was able to negotiate her way out of military service.
“I would trust any black Maramon to hate the whites more than we do. In fact, Miss Tengrove, I trust him more than you.” He began to follow Exile into the jungle. “Keep up, Hekabe.” He required two canes to walk, but Hekabe was always the one to slow them down, because she was so easily distracted. “Elias, you got Zan?”
Zan Ikin wasn’t completely blind, but she still needed help navigating somewhere she hadn’t been before. The path they were taking would surely be rough and unpredictable. Elias Waller was usually there to keep her from tripping, or stepping into mud. “I got her!”
And so Exile guided them through the jungle, and to the far shore. They couldn’t go straight there, though. Apparently, the original human village remained standing. The villagers were responsible for keeping watch over the Tree of Power, so that no one attempted to eat its fruits. They were said to give anyone who consumed them special abilities; those of its Planters. There was no proof in this, but the humans who first came here did so in order to be rid of the powers they were born with. It was strictly taboo to even consider the possibility of eating the fruit, or even going anywhere near it. That was another reason humans emigrated out of here, just to make it that much harder. These children were breaking a number of moral imperatives by coming here. If the villagers discovered them, they would not hesitate to use lethal force.
“We’re here,” Exile said.
Irini MacFarland looked around. “I don’t see anything.”
“Well, we’re not quite there,” he clarified, “but it’s not far. This is as close as I have ever been allowed to get, and it’s been strongly suggested to me that I don’t ever venture even this close. If we take one more step towards the Tree, we are inviting death into our homes. Do you really want this?”
“Let’s skip the speech,” Irini said, “and get right to the end. We had the entire boat ride out here to back out. All of us has agreed, even Greer.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Greer complained.
“We’re all in this,” Alcide announced, trying to stop any fight before it happened.
“Very well,” Exile said. “It’s just up here.” He turned around again, and led them the rest of the way.
They were soon upon a wondrous tree, that was even more beautiful than the ancient drawings of it. It wasn’t very big, but colorful and amazing. The bark was sparkling silver, and the leaves were clear; like glass, but flowy and flexible. It did bear fruit, of many colors. A flock of birds, and a collective of land animals, formed a circle around the tree. They were watching it intently, but made no attempt to approach, so they were more like decorative statues. They made no attempt to stop the humans from walking towards it. There were no animals in all of Ansutah but here, which further cemented the island as a hallowed place.
“My God, it’s real.”
“Of course it is. It’s magnificent.”
The children looked amongst each other, and then all to Alcide, waiting for his direction. He looked right at them, and then back at the tree. “Let’s go.” He ran up to the tree, and felt himself drawn to the white-colored fruit. Each one looked the same; kind of like the ancient stories heir ancestors passed down of pears, but the white one was calling to him. He bit into it, and savored its juices. The skin stuck to his teeth while the flesh spilled down his throat. Only after he was done with his first bite was he capable of looking over at his friends. Sakil had reached for the red fruit, Hekabe the green, Zan the pink, Elias the violet, Greer the yellow, and Irini the indigo fruit. Even Exile couldn’t help but partake, though he had spent more time than any of them resisting the tree’s temptations. He chose the black one, perhaps to be ironic. Orla succumbed the most by choosing to take both the blue fruit, and the orange one.
“Eat the whole thing,” Alcide ordered. “It’s like medicine. Don’t let any of it go to waste.”
They did as they were told, and finished their fruit, except for flaky Hekabe, who also checked for the silver bark’s edibility. Sakil tried it too. It wasn’t really until then that they realized there was one fruit left. It was all the way at the top, which wasn’t that high, but still not within reach from the ground. It was also the most glorious. It didn’t just appear as all the colors in a fantastic rainbow, but shifted them around its skin. The other fruit each had a glow to them, but the colors weren’t changing like this.
“I got it!” Orla shouted.
“No,” Alcide pulled her back from her climb. “Each fruit clearly represents one of the nine Planters, but that one obviously gives you all powers combined.”
“Yeah? Your point?” Orla questioned.
“No one should be that powerful,” Alcide warned.
“Says you!” Orla accused. “I’m not going to eat it. I’m just going to get it down here, so we can decide who should get it.”
“We should share,” Zan suggested.
“Yes,” Hekabe agreed. “We each get one bite. I have some green left over too.”
“No!” Alcide cried. “No one gets any more fruit, especially not Orla. You already ate two, you greedy little shit! Except you, Vartanian. Finish your green.”
“Screw you!” Orla screamed back at him. She instinctively raised her hand to him. The air between her and him started to warp and oscillate. They knew what this was. A Planter name Lucius had the power to destroy anything in his path by separating the molecules from each other.
“Stop!” Elias, the bravest of them yelled. He stepped in front of Alcide, and took all of Orla’s blast. His friends watched in horror as he disintegrated into a million pieces, and disappeared into oblivion.
They were speechless.
“I...I didn’t mean to,” Orla whined. “You saw, I just did it on instinct!”
“You didn’t mean to kill Elias,” Alcide began, “but you did mean to kill someone. You are the last person I ever wanted to eat the Lucius fruit. It is going to be the absolute most useful in the war against the Maramon. We should been more careful. We should have figured out which color represented which Planter.”
“You just wanted it for yourself!” Orla accused. “Well, it’s too late now! I was the only one smart enough to eat more than one. That doesn’t make me greedy; it makes me a winner. I’m gonna get that rainbow fruit, and I’m gonna end this war myself. I don’t need any of you.”
“No,” Zan said. “You killed Elias, but you can bring him back. Everyone knows Lucius learned to reconstitute the atoms.”
“He could do that to objects,” Orla argued. “Elias is dead. Even if I rebuilt his body, he would still be dead. I’m not proud of what happened, but we have to move forward. I’m getting that fruit, and unless you want to end up like him, you’ll step away from the tree.”
“You mean this fruit?” Hekabe asked her. She was now standing near one of the big cats, who was still watching the Tree.
“How did you do that?” Alcide asked.
“I must have eaten Curtis’ fruit. I can teleport. You were wrong, though. I only took a few bites, and I can still do it. Though, to be fair, it wore me out.”
“Give me that now,” Orla demanded. “Or I’ll end you.”
“If you Lucius me,” Hekabe said, “you’ll Lucius the fruit too.”
“You’re right, so I’ll just kill your best friend.” Orla lifted her hand again, and pointed it at Zan.”
“Don’t you dare,” Greer said, also holding her hands out on instinct.
Orla froze in place, and couldn’t move.
“Greer, you ate the Missy fruit. You can make time bubbles.”
“We can’t leave her in there forever,” Alcide reasoned. “We need to find a way to keep the rainbow fruit from Orla.
“I can take it anywhere in the world,” Hekabe said. “Eventually,” she added. “Like I said, just those two short-range jumps took a lot out of me.”
“It’s not enough,” Alcide said, shaking his head. He thought about all the planters, and what power each of them possessed. Molecular teleportation, standard line-of-sight teleportation, and time bubbles were all taken. That left most of them, so which one could help them now? “Who ate the Dubra fruit?”
“You want them to take the rainbow fruit to the future?”
“It’s the only safe place,” Alcide pointed out.
“It must be that black Maramon. He’s gone.”
“What? No, I’m right here,” they could hear Exile’s voice.
“Where? We can’t see you.”
“Hm.” A few second later, Exile reappeared. “How about now?”
“Invisibility?” Sakil wondered. “None of the Planters had that power.”
“Maybe someone did,” Zan offered. “Maybe they were invisible.”
“I guess there were ten fruits,” Sakil noted.
“That’s not important right now,” Alcide reminded them. “We still need Dubravka to get us out of this.”
“I think I ate that fruit,” Irini finally said. “I just...I kinda feel it.”
Just then, the Time Shriek echoed throughout the entire area. They could feel a heat all around them, and a fire, burning perpetually in their periphery.
“This is it,” Alcide realized. “They figured out how to get all the humans across the universe bridge, all at once. We’re leaving Ansutah.”
“Yeah,” Zan said, “I see the Muster Lighter. “It’s calling to us.”
“What are you talking about?” Exile asked. “I can’t see anything.”
“That’s because you’re Maramon,” Irini explained to him with sadness. “They’re not going to save you.”
“I can’t see it either, guys,” Greer told them. “I think I’m having to focus too much on keeping Orla locked in a time bubble. Or am I standing too far away?”
“I know what to do,” Sakil said as he was walking towards Greer. “I  have Avidan’s holistic diagnosis power. Hekabe, hold onto Exile. Hold on tight.”
Before Sakil could reach her, Greer watched as all of her friends, as well as Orla, disappeared in a fiery flash. Only she was left standing alone by the Tree of Power.

A week later, Greer found herself in the main section of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “Mateo Matic,” Serif said, “this is Greer Thorpe. She’s been single-handedly slowing down the war with the Maramon by keeping the entire planet in a time bubble. If you’ve destroyed the Muster Beacon, and the Muster Lighter is all we have to rescue the humans from their home universe, we’re gonna need her.”

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