Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: December 8, 2276

You better make good use of me. Those words continued to repeat themselves over and over again in Mateo’s head. They didn’t know anything about this Jeremy Bearimy fellow, except that he was apparently named after a—no, not a character—but a concept in a TV show; a crazy way of perceiving the passage of time. J.B.’s pattern of only existing during Tuesdays and July was but one part of how the concept worked on the show. Mateo kept thinking that there had to be some way for them to capitalize on that. Back when Mateo and Leona were just starting to jump through time together, they had no choice but to break their then enemy, Horace Reaver out of prison. The nature of their own salmon pattern was key to their plan to do this. It literally added a year to Reaver’s wait time, but it was worth it. They broke into the facility just before midnight, and by the time the security system could do anything about it, they were gone. When they returned exactly one year later, they were already on the inside, and were able to remain quiet. Had Reaver been able to latch onto this pattern as well, it would have been even easier, but that wasn’t a possibility. Now they had something that didn’t exist back then. Now they had the Cassidy cuffs.
Leona spent as much time as she needed to boost the security on the cuffs, ensuring that two of them could not be removed, even by some kind of universal override code. One of the cuffs would serve as primary. They didn’t know if they could trust J.B. with this responsibility, but they knew they couldn’t trust Erlendr or Arcadia, so this was their best option. Once they were complete, Nerakali and Leona teleported right behind Erlendr and Arcadia, so the former could install one on her father, and the latter could handle the other Preston, while Mateo distracted them. He started out by lamenting about how he betrayed his belovèd yet again, and somehow segued into a bunch of rambling about the time he went to the store, and the shelves were almost all empty.
They weren’t certain their plan was going to work, and even once it finally did, Nerakali admitted she couldn’t be sure it wasn’t all part of Erlendr’s evil plan instead. Both he and Arcadia looked genuinely surprised by the development, but the whole family was known to be full of incredibly believable actors, so maybe it was all fake news. They just had to hope and pray this was going to work. J.B. was happy to do it. He had complete control over the other two cuffs, which included a proximity feature. His captives could neither come within two meters of him, nor be more than twenty meters away. Their powers were also entirely suppressed, but bonus, J.B. could now do anything they could normally. He didn’t think he would have any interest in using these abilities, which was a good sign that they were making the right decision. The Prestons would still be around for about eighty days out of the year, but they couldn’t go anywhere if J.B. didn’t let them, and that would have to be good enough for now. This could all blow up in their face later, but Mateo chose to be optimistic. They were nowhere to be found when Mateo, Leona, and Nerakali returned to the timestream in 2276. Technically, since Nerakali was no longer tethered to them, she could have gone off to whenever and wherever she wanted, but she chose to mimic their pattern, and skip their interim year.
Leona didn’t want to argue about anything anymore, saying that it was time they focus on being on the same side of things again. Limiting their opponents’ existence in the timestream was nice, but it didn’t really solve their problem. If all went well, the three of them were scheduled to come back on Tuesday, December 10, 2278, and once they did, who could tell what was going to happen? They needed a plan, and they needed their whole roster of allies. It was time to meet up with their new recruits, the identities of which Mateo had yet to learn.
Nerakali was always capable of teleporting all three of them at the same time. It was just easier to link them together with the Cassidy cuffs. She took hold of the Matics now, and transported them back to the secret underground hangar where a suburb of Kansas City called Overland Park once stood. Four people were waiting for them there, only one of which Mateo recognized. Oh no, he knew one of the others. Leona met The Stitcher way back in 2190, and Mateo still had her memories from that period in her life. He had never actually met her himself, though. Nor did he have any clue who these other two people were.
“What happened to your Cassidy cuffs?” Ramses asked before they could begin introductions.
“It’s this whole thing,” Mateo replied.
“Were you able to make more?” Leona asked.
“Yeah,” Ramses said with a little excitement. With no warning, he snapped one of the cuffs on Mateo’s wrist. “This one is primary. You’re the boss, boss.”
Mateo laughed. “Okay, thanks. We’ll talk about that, though.”
Leona wanted to continue. “Anyway, this is Tonya Keyes, a.k.a. The Stitcher.”
“Nice to meet you,” Mateo said, shaking her hand.
“Likewise,” Tonya returned. “I’m sorry about your death.”
He shrugged. “It’s all good,” he said in a chill voice that didn’t sound anything like him, making it a little awkward.
“Umm. I’m Yadira Cordoso; callsign Flex. I work for Serviço de Informações Estratégicas de Defesa, and the Interagency Alliance Commision. I’m a really good fighter, becau—”
Before she could finish her word, a loud horn echoed throughout the hangar. It sounded like a train. Then said gargantuan train appeared from what Mateo guessed was a portal. It raced across the hangar, and started entering a second portal just before it crashed into the wall. It suddenly stopped, and one of the doors slid open. It was only then that Mateo realized that everyone was frozen in place, except for him, and Yadira.
A woman stepped out, and approached them. She looked between the only two people in the room who were conscious that something was happening. She consulted a handheld device, then looked back up. “Which one of you is Yadira Cordoso?”
“That would be me,” Yadira answered.
“Then who are you?”
“Mateo Matic,” he answered. She looked trustworthy. She was at least powerful enough that he didn’t want to mess with her.
“Mateo?” Saga stepped out of the magic train too.
“I’ve never met you,” she said.
“Understood,” he said respectfully. Time was a funny thing.
“Why are you awake?” Saga asked him. “You’re not on the list.”
Mateo kind of leaned forward, like he was trying to get a look at this list, but he wasn’t really. “I dunno. Oh wait.” He lifted his arm. “I’m wearing this thing.”
“Okay, well, don’t tell anyone this happened, please,” Saga requested.
“Where are you taking her?” he asked.
“Yeah, where are you taking me?”
The woman who never introduced herself sighed. “You have been conscripted by The Transit Army to fight against an enemy that threatens life in the entire bulkverse. Your world needs you, Flex, and so do all the others.”
Yadira looked over at Mateo. “Before I found myself at your funeral, my boss cryptically told me to get on the train. He said it like he knew what was going to happen in the future.”
“Okay,” Mateo said to her. “I’ll cover for ya.”
The other woman started ushering Yadira towards the train thing, while Saga nodded to Mateo. “They won’t remember she was ever here. Zektene and I will take good care of her, and put her back where she belongs when the mission is complete.”
She was right. As soon as the train disappeared, time restarted for everybody else, and they had all noticed that Mateo was in a slightly different position than he was before.
Nerakali narrowed her eyes at him. “Where did you go?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Mateo said.
“Did you just go talk to Erlendr, or something?” Leona asked in disappointment.
Mateo remained calm, and placed his hands on her shoulders. “I promise you that I did not betray you again. I did not speak with Erlendr, or Arcadia, or anyone else. I’m also not tailoring my language to avoid directly lying to you. I didn’t go anywhere, but something did happen just now that only I remember, and I kind of need you to trust that everything’s okay.”
The guy Mateo didn’t know yet started looking around, and immediately turned his head from side to side, at the walls. “There are two portals over there. I can still see them. I can hear them too.”
Mateo exhaled. “It’s not our place to question that. It’, a multiverse thing.”
“The Crossover?” Nerakali asked.
“The Prototype?” Leona asked.
“Smaller than the first thing, larger than the second thing.”
“The Transit,” Tonya said, nodding her head. “Yeah, we need to stop talking about this right now.”
“Okay,” Nerakali said. “We’ll get back to work.”
Now the guy started to walk towards one of the portals.
“Wolfe, you can’t go through that,” Tonya tried to explain to him. “It’s a spaceship, so you’ll end up in space if you try to step through.”
Wolfe stopped, but didn’t turn around. “Don’t we have a spaceship over there?” he asked, referring to the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which was camouflaged right now.
“We’re not doing that,” Tonya declared. “We have a mission here, and I expect you to stick to it.” She looked back at the rest of the group, specifically Mateo. “That’s Vidar Wolfe, also known as The Tracker.”
“Tracker!” he argued. “Not the Tracker. Just..Tracker!”
“He can sense and piggyback on temporal anomalies.”
“They’re fading,” Vidar complained. “I have to see what’s on the other side.”
“I assure you,” Tonya began, “you don’t. Now can we get back to the task at hand?”
After the introductions, this new group of ragtag elites—as Vidar called them—just stood around. Everyone had their own idea of how to move forward, and how they could, as individuals, contribute. So now they all just needed to get it out into the open. Ramses decided to hand out the new Cassidy cuffs. He made extra, which was good, since they lost use of the first three. “There is another one somewhere in the timeline,” he admitted. “I was able to use Thor’s miniature quantum replicator to make copies of Arcadia’s. The problem is that Holly Blue engineered the originals with a very special part that can’t be replicated, so I had to get those somewhere else. A woman named Ladonna Buhle supplied me with what I needed, but she demanded a cuff of her own as payment.”
Nerakali tilted her head side to side, like she was weighing pros and cons. “She’s no saint, but it should be okay for her to have it. I’m not sure how much damage she can do with just one.”
“So, what do we do now that we’re all linked together?” Mateo asked.
“Now,” Leona started to say, “I need to sleep. After that, though, we’ll have brunch. We can’t fight together if we don’t know each other very well. We won’t get down to real business until next year.”
Ramses smirked, and shook his wrist. “Don’t you mean tomorrow?”

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