Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 26, 2264

All right. So Mateo and some of his friends were stuck on a planet as many light years from Earth as they were in the past. Leona could have been delivered back to the future, or really any point in time and space. There was just no way to know. He scanned the beach, just in case a real life message in a bottle had made its way to him, but no such luck. They didn’t have an exact date of when it was, but he would end up staying there for days. But before all that, they had to receive a visit from an old frenemy.
“You knew we were going to be here?” Mateo asked.
“I had my suspicions,” Arcadia Preston replied.
“You had Kayetan create the merge point between this time period, and the 22nd century for this purpose.”
“Who said anything about Kayetan Glaston? I never said he was the one who created the merge point.”
“Did he not?”
Arcadia just shrugged.
“You can get us back to Leona, though. All we have to do is cross the merge border, and you can take us anywhere we need to go.”
“Why would I do that?” Arcadia questioned.
“Because you’re in love with me.” He didn’t want to say it, and it might have been too strong a word to use, but it was the only card he had left to play.
Arcadia seemed notably upset by this, which almost made him regret saying anything. “You’re right. The problem is that I spent centuries in a higher plane of existence, where there was only one person there who I wasn’t related to. And Athanaric was more into my sister, Nerakali.” She tilted her head, then continued, “and also my mother, but we don’t talk about that. The point is that I don’t know what to do with my feelings, in any situation. I’m crazy.” She bobbed her head around, and rolled her eyes to demonstrate her supposed insanity. “So those feelings you’re referring to are enough to keep me from killing you and everyone you care about, but that doesn’t mean I have a healthy way of handling them. If you want me to help you, you’re gonna have to help me first.”
“Another expiation,” Mateo guessed.
“The current one,” Arcadia corrected. “You only have twelve friends right now. The math on that just doesn’t add up. When I brought Xearea to the island, I promised the powers that be, that I would personally see to it that Earth would enjoy comparable replacements for the years that she was missing.”
“Yeah, I remember,” Mateo said.
“Well, twelve friends, plus you; three years each. That’s not quite enough. I need three more people to fill in the gap from 2148 to 2356.”
“Xearea didn’t return to the timestream from non-existence until 2158,” Mateo warned her, but was worried about her reaction. None of that had happened to Arcadia yet, unless she knew more about the future than he realized, which wouldn’t ever explain how he ever bested her at anything.
“No, I’m going to give her an early release.” She jerked her head up to Cassidy, Pribadium, and Vitalie, who were watching their conversation suspiciously from twenty meters away. “If you can convince your new friends to pick up the slack for your old friends, I’ll take you wherever you need to go.”
He wasn’t worried about Pribadium very much, and definitely not immortal Vitalie. Cassidy didn’t deserve this, though. He looked back at them sadly, not knowing whether he should agree to this, or if he should just hope Pribadium figures out how to get out of here.
Arcadia obviously picked up on his hesitation. “Okay. Give me two. I will...actually...release Xearea even earlier. Don’t expect me to tell Past!Mateo about it, though.”
“That is acceptable,” he agreed, “as long as it is acceptable to them.”
And so Mateo returned to his friends, and explained the situation to them. He didn’t say that he was trying to protect Cassidy further, but claimed her being on Mateo’s pattern simply disqualified her from being able to help. He also didn’t say Arcadia was accommodating them in this regard by scratching three entire years of Savior duty from the schedule. Pribadium agreed to the deal, likely hoping to redeem herself for what she believed to be all her fault. Vitalie agreed to it too, but that was because she no longer cared what she did anyway. Even though she didn’t have memories any further back than fifty-six years, she was still billions of years old, and her soul still felt that. Three years out of her life was negligible.
After Arcadia apported the ladies to meet with the First Savior, Sabra, she turned back to the two remaining. “You’re not getting off that easy, though. I still need you to do something.”
“What is it?” It wasn’t always bad, so he didn’t want to sport a bad attitude before he even knew what she was going to ask of him.
Arcadia removed the Compass of Disturbance from her back pocket, and handed it to them. “I’m just borrowing it. I’ll give it back to Juan when you’re done.”
“What do I need this for?”
“This merge point is unstable,” Arcadia began to explain. “Since you’re from the future, you obviously know what I need it for; what Lita needs it for. There is evidently some interference coming from Lorania. It is apparently a natural merge point. I need you to find it, and destroy it.”
“How am I meant to do that?” Mateo asked. “It’s not that I don’t want to; I know how this story ends, so I don’t feel like you’re asking me to do something evil, but I don’t know how to destroy time rifts.”
“You’ll figure it out,” Arcadia said. “Use the compass.”
Mateo didn’t argue the mission. He and Cassidy just walked out to the driving track where he once attempted to teach Xearea how to drive. It was here that they found a nice 2016 Nissan Rogue, waiting for them just inside the garage. He chuckled, assuming this to be a reference to The Rogue, Gilbert Boyce, who currently did not exist. It was July 2, 2117.
They drove the car over the magical oceanic highway, until reaching the nearest bit of land to Tribulation Island, which was Lorania. Just after they shut their doors, they jumped forward in time one year. He kind of wished they had gotten there early enough to stop the actually insane immortal, Ambrosios from quite nearly killing Xearea, but her near-death experience had set of a series of events, the altering of which could lead to disaster. It was best to let things play out as he knew they did, and stay on mission. Cassidy followed him as he opened the special compass, and started walking, hoping he eventually learned how to make the damn thing work. It took him all day, but he did finally understand, to a minimal degree, how to make the object direct him towards the merge point. By then, Cassidy needed a personal break, but he was determined to find the source of this merge point that Arcadia was so bothered by. In doing so, he nearly ran into something. No, it wasn’t something, it was someone.
The newcomer had presumably been focusing on eating his lionfruit, which he recalled doing months ago. It was Mateo Matic himself. He had run into his own doppelgänger. The two Matics stared at each other for a few seconds. The younger Mateo cleared his throat and wiped some juice from his chin. Navigator Mateo looked back at his compass and walked past without saying a word. It was only then that he found his breath again. Leona’s fourth rule for time travel, avoid alternate versions of yourself. The other one would try to forget about the encounter as best he could, paranoid that anything short of total obliviousness could result in the collapse of the spacetime continuum. The tactic clearly worked perfectly, because he had totally forgotten about this incident.
He wasn’t worried about Cassidy running into the younger version of him, because everything seemed to be playing out just as it did before, and that never happened. He was right when she caught up with him a few minutes later, and didn’t know what he was talking about. Soon thereafter, the compass found what they were looking for. The merge point was large, and easily accessible simply by taking one step forward. But the source of this tear in the spacetime continuum was infinitely smaller. The compass acted like a flashlight, illuminating the slight ripples in space that gave it away. These ripples were all streaming from the same place, where they became tighter and tighter, until it looked like a t-shirt that someone was trying to stuff into a thimble. Mateo placed the compass just under this point, and then snapped it shut. He knew he wasn’t actually capturing the tear, but it did effectively repair it. Unfortunately, it appeared to have done much more than that.
Now that this was finished, Mateo and Cassidy went straight back to the beach, where their car should have been waiting for them. But it wasn’t there, and neither was anything else. Nothing around them looked familiar. Trees were trees, and grass was grass, but he could have sworn all the plant life around them was different than it was when they first arrived. If he had to guess, he would say that closing the natural merge point had a side effect, and that was trapping them in the past. There was no way to know whether it was anywhere near the time Pribadium and Vitalie would be returning to, or if it was another three million years prior. He should have asked Arcadia for details, or spent more time learning how the compass worked. Well, perhaps he would have the time now. He worked on it for a week before Pribadium showed up in a spaceship to rescue them.

“Well, then we could rescue them,” Hilde suggested.
“We can’t rescue them with the AOC,” Leona tried to explain.
“Can’t it go really fast?” she argued. “How long would it take to get to Dardius with the ship?”
“Four thousand years,” Hogarth answered instead.
“Oh,” Hilde said. “Sorry.”
“No, it’s okay,” Leona assured her. “I’m on edge, because I’m powerless. I mean, this just keeps happening to us. He runs away, I’m taken out of time, he’s taken out of time, the Halifax grave isn’t big enough, someone steals our ship, he dies. I feel like everything the powers that be did to us in the beginning was to get us to fall in love, and then everything after that was to torture us. Even Mateo’s indiscretion drove us apart a little bit. So I’m just wondering, when we finally do find each other again, how long will it have been for one of us, and what’s gonna happen next?”
“We can’t get to Dardius from here,” Hogarth said sadly. She was holding to mangled pieces of what was once this planet’s Nexus replica. “These things keep getting destroyed, but there’s one thing I know will never be destroyed.”
“What’s that?” Hilde asked.
“It’s on Earth,” Hogarth replied. “It’s protected by the oldest linear immortal besides The Concierge.”
“The Pyramid,” Leona realized. “It can get me to Dardius.”
“Present-day Dardius,” Hogarth reminded her of the caveat. “Mateo isn’t there, but if you go, you could find Étude, tell her where our friends are, and have her jump you back.”
“Why are you talking in second-person?” Hilde questioned. “We’re going with her.”
Hogarth shook her head. “I don’t know what happened to this thing, but it’s the backup plan, and even if Leona doesn’t need it, someone may in the future. I have to rebuild it. I have to figure out how.”
“It’s okay,” Leona promised. “I can go alone. It’s just one day.”
Hilde frowned. “I don’t care how long it’ll be for you. That’s days of travel time the ship has to operate on its own. What if it blows up while you’re out of the timestream? You’ll just be coming back to your death.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Leona said, recalling when the Vosa was sabotaged, leaving her exposed to the vacuum of space. It was what led to her unborn babies’ deaths.
Hilde was shaking her head. “I just don’t like you going out there alone. It’s not just you either. I don’t like when people are alone; it’s always bothered me. The scariest horror movies are when there’s only one victim being terrorized. If they’re in a group, I feel a lot safer.”
“It’s okay,” came a voice that Leona knew. “I’ll go with her.”
“Nerakali,” Leona said. “What have you experienced?”
“Well, your friend, Étude recently tried to shoot me on Proxima Doma.”
Leona was mortified.
“Oh, no. It’s okay,” Nerakali claimed. “I asked her to do it. It was the only way for me to help her find her daughter. I’m currently on my fifth life, and I’ve been spending a lot of time tracking someone really bad. I need your help. Something is happening in the timeline, and I think it’s partially my fault.”
“What did you do?”
“The hundemarke, these Nexus replicas that keep getting destroyed,” Nerakali began. “Someone is messing with people’s lives, and I recognize the pattern.”
“Is it you?” Hogarth asked. “Is a younger version of you screwing things up?”
Nerakali laughed. “That would be a funny twist, but no. Close, though.”
“I already know the answer to this,” Leona believed. “I don’t know about the Nexus replicas, but Arcadia is the one who’s been sending the hundemarke all over time to kill people permanently.”
Nerakali shook her head. “No, it’s not Arcadia, but you can be forgiven for coming to that conclusion. Out of the three Preston kids, Arcadia’s the one who looks the most like our mother. She’s the one causing problems, Leona. I need you to help me find Savannah Preston. We’re gonna need Mateo’s help too.”

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