Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 27, 2265

“I recognize this,” Mateo said as he was standing beside the spaceship that Pribadium built for them. “You made this?” He gently glided his hand over the hull.
“Yes, so we could get back to the future,” she replied.
“Why did you make it so small? This only fits two people.”
Pribadium contorted her face. “What? What are you talking about? It’s a tight fit, because passengers are meant to remain in their stasis pods for the entire journey. It has room for four people, which is just as many as we need.”
Arcadia teleported in next to him, but didn’t say anything at first.
“You lied,” he noted. “You said that there was only one stasis pod. You made me and Juan go all over time and space, looking for Youth water, so that Leona would be able to survive. Alone. For four thousand years.”
Arcadia held up her hands, almost like she was being defensive, even though she was far more powerful than anyone else here. “Okay, technically, I’ve not yet lied to Past!You.”
He stepped forward, almost threateningly, even though she was far more powerful than anyone else here. “You made her go alone. Or you will make her; it doesn’t matter, because that’s already happened to me. You tortured her for thousands of years.”
“I’ll have a good reason,” Arcadia claimed.
He crossed his arms. “This oughta be good.”
“Who says I’m gonna tell you the reason?”
He just cleared his throat.
After a few beats, Arcadia did begin to explain, “you remember before you reset the timeline by killing Hitler? You had a run-in with Kayetan. He got his friend, Tauno to trap you in a pocket dimension for thousands of years. You could only hold a thought for ten seconds, but you had to stay there all that time, just constantly reliving the same moment over and over again.”
“Yes,” Mateo said. “I remember that. I mean, it didn’t actually happen to me, but The Cleanser had my brain blended, so I do have access to those memories. A future version of Leona had to take care of me for five years because of the trauma. Is this about her?”
“No,” Arcadia said. “That version of Leona is gone in this new timeline. This is about the version of Leona who’s currently waiting for you to come back from our date.”
Mateo sighed. That was an uncomfortable challenge.
Arcadia continued, “I could have easily saved Brooke. I could have delivered her mother back to Earth before she gave birth, so there would be no issue. But I saw an opportunity to help you two.”
“This was to help us?” Mateo questioned. “In what way?”
“Mateo, you’re four thousand years old,” she said. “And you were dating someone who was in her thirties. That was weird, so I’m going to fix that. I’m going to make her four thousand years old too.”
“Jesus Christ, Arcadia. That is not okay. And it’s total nonsense, because you’re, what, half my age? Yet you wanted a relationship with me.”
“This isn’t about us. What you went through is necessary. What Leona has to go through is necessary. Paige Turner, and her friends, need her back in 2025. This is how I get her there. You can’t change that; I won’t allow it.” She looked back over to Pribadium’s ship. “So, I’m gonna commandeer this vessel, and I’m gonna put Leona and baby Brooke on it once Past!Mateo and Ponce de León procure the necessary water. In the meantime, Vitalie and Pribadium need to return to Tribulation Island so they can take care of Brooke while her mother doesn’t exist.”
“What are you talking about?” Mateo asked. “Angelita isn’t removed from the timestream until 2127.”
Arcadia looked confused. “No, she isn’t. No, I’ve been taking people out of time the day after you leave the timestream; not the day before you come back to find them missing. They’re gone a whole year before you find out about it.”
“Oh,” Mateo said. “I guess I didn’t know that.”
“I don’t know how to take care of a baby,” Vitalie argued.
“Neither do I,” Pribadium said.
“You’ll figure it out.” She removed a pill packet from her back pocket, and tried to hand it to the ladies. “This will induce lactation. There are two pills, so either both of you can nurse Brooke, or not. I’m not giving you any formula, though, so one of you has to volunteer, or just let the baby die.”
Mateo felt that he couldn’t argue. It wasn’t right that she was forcing them to nurse someone else’s baby, but anything he said might sound like mansplaining. They could fight it themselves, if they wanted to, but he just needed to keep his mouth shut.
Pribadium reached out, and took the pills. Then she turned to Vitalie. “You’re immortal. According to what Leona said of her, Brooke is incapable of experiencing non-linear time. I’m afraid that your milk could...complicate matters. I’m the only one who can do this.”
“Her mother could do it,” Cassidy pointed out.
“Who are you again?” Arcadia asked rhetorically.
Pribadium removed one of the pills, and popped it in her mouth. “I’ll save the second one in case something goes wrong.”
“Okay, cool,” Arcadia said. “You do this for a year, at which point I’ll get Leona to take over for you, and then I’ll let you cross the merge border.”
“We have to get back to the mainland of Dardius in 2263,” Mateo said.
“You can be a hundred and thirty years off,” Arcadia rounded down. “I can’t do everything for you.”
“Yeah,” Mateo said, “you can.”
Before she left, Arcadia gave Pribadium some parenting books, to help her figure out what the hell she was going to do with a baby. She also allowed them some amenities, like reusable diapers, a solar-powered washer to clean them, and a solar-powered food synthesizer for the group, so they wouldn’t only have boar and bananas to eat. They would have to handle their own shelter, though, and neither Mateo nor Cassidy would be around long enough to help. Perhaps they would just live in the spaceship.
As Vitalie was skimming through the books so she could help, and Pribadium was running a pre-flight check, Mateo noticed Cassidy acting a little cagey, and then scurrying off into the woods. Curious, he started following her. They were all adults here, so if she just needed to relieve herself, she wouldn’t need to be all sneaky about it. If she was going off to search for a hidden immunity idol, he needed to know about it. She stopped before too long, and just stood there with her back to him, like a creepy ghost child from a Japanese horror film.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“I suppose I can be honest with you,” she said, turning back around. She was holding the magical solution Pribadium came up with that was meant to turn her into a blind spot, so no one could use time powers to find her.
“Are you going to take that?”
“Quite the opposite,” she said, removing the cap. “I’m here to get rid of it. I don’t know what it is, but dealing with this Arcadia chick has made me not afraid anymore. I don’t want to be sheltered, and I don’t want to be a secret.” She turned the needle, and released the solution inside it, so that it fell into a puddle of water on the ground. “Whatever happens, happens. I’m sure it’ll all turn out okay.”
“Oh my God,” Mateo said. He was staring at the puddle.
“Did I just do that?” Cassidy asked. She leaned over, and watched. The solution was having a weird effect on the water. It didn’t mix together in an expected way. It was turning most of the water completely black, while leaving little dots of light. “What is that?”
“Holy crap. This is the star puddle.” He looked around to get his bearings, but if he was right, and this was the same place he went to with Xearea, the landscape would look a lot different in millions of years anyway. “It’s part of the immortality waters. They call it Time, and it apparently makes it so that your immortality was always part of you. This way, no one can go back in time and prevent you from one day drinking the waters, and becoming immortal.” He couldn’t help but smile. “Pribadium invented it, and you created it.”
“So, we’re not supposed to try to fix it?” she asked.
“No, definitely not.”
Just then, they heard a rustling in the bushes. A figure appeared from behind them. It was Mateo himself. Yes, another one. Future!Mateo pointed down at the star puddle. “I’m going to need some of that.”
Present!Mateo stepped back, and presented the water to him. “Have at it.”
As Future!Mateo was kneeling down to siphon some Time, Present!Mateo took Cassidy by the arm, and escorted her back towards the others.
“Are we not going to talk about that?” she asked.
“No,” he replied. “Rule number four.”
“Hey, Mateo!” Future!Mateo called out to him.
“We shouldn’t exchange words,” Present!Mateo warned him.
“It’s cool,” Future!Mateo contended. “I think I’ve got this.” He reached into his bag, and pulled out a shotgun. “Go see your wife.” Before either of them could react, he fired the gun, and hit the younger version of himself right in the chest.
Present!Mateo could feel himself disappearing, and being spirited away to some other point in spacetime.

Earth. It wasn’t the only planet known to harbor life anymore, but it was still the best one. Leona hadn’t been back here for nearly two months now. That was over fifty years ago, though. A lot had changed about the solar system since then. Religion was all but dead now. What few people still identified as religious mostly did so for cultural reasons, and probably didn’t truly believe anymore. Science had pretty much taken over, allowing technology and general progress to skyrocket. The species was now a Type I energy civilization on the Kardashev scale, which meant it was capable of harnessing all of the energy that Sol provided to the planet. They were presently constructing a massive ring around the sun called the central processing belt, to provide energy for what was basically a giant systemwide computer.
The surface of Earth itself wasn’t too much different than the last time Leona was here. Most people still lived in arcological megastructures, scattered throughout the world. One notable difference was the loss of the Northern Forest multi-development circles. It wasn’t that there were no longer people who wanted to live less advanced lifestyles, but they now had opportunities to move out to the exoplanets, and build whatever colonies they wanted. Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida was a popular destination, since it didn’t require giant domes to maintain an artificial atmosphere. Newly terraformed Bungula was popular for the same reason, but scientists were still unsure whether any of the other planets in the stellar neighborhood were capable of such drastic transformations.
“What are we doing here?” Leona asked.
“Patience you must have, my young padawan,” Nerakali said.
“That’s not an actual quote from any Star Wars movie.”
You’re not an actual quote from any Star Wars movie!” she shouted playfully.
“You’re right, I’m not. But seriously, where are we?”
“This is the underground military base where The Overseer first gathered the crew of The Sharice Davids.”
“Oh, okay.” She paused another moment. “Are we getting a ship?”
Nerakali turned her head to face her. “You already have a ship.”
“It’s not a warship.”
She turned back to look forward again. “We don’t need a warship.”
“What do we need then?”
“I struck a deal with a man named Mateo.”
A man named Mateo,” Leona echoed. “Am I not supposed to know who that is?”
“Oh,” Nerakali laughed. “Different Mateo.”
Nerakali didn’t respond.
Leona was growing a little impatient. “When is whatever is going to happen going to happen?”
Nerakali sighed. “Well, when does your next alarm go off?”
“Huh?” She instinctively checked Mario’s watch. “It says one minute. I don’t remember setting this.”
“Do you not know how to use that thing? It sets your alarms automatically. You just have to be paying attention.”
The alarm went off, and in response, Leona’s husband, Mateo Matic appeared out of nowhere. He keeled over, and massaged his chest.
“Time travel guuun,” Nerakali sang, “you know it’s not fuuun!”
Leona knelt down, and started to help him recover. “How did you get back here?”
“I—” Mateo began, but couldn’t remember what the answer was. “I don’t know.”
“No matter,” Nerakali said, now sporting a British accent. “Welcome to November 27, 2265.”
A minute later, midnight central struck, and sent them to the future together.
“Sorry. I meant...welcome to November 28, 2266,” Nerakali joked.

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