Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 18, 1992

Mateo was in hiding. What he had done, he thought was unforgivable. He had to be away from Leona, probably forever. She never said she wanted him to leave, but it was the right thing to do. He just needed to make sure no one could track him, which was one reason he was keeping Ramses around. He wanted to keep the Cassidy cuff on, because it made him feel—not powerful—but protected. Or maybe it made him feel powerful too. Maybe being able to do all these things he couldn’t before was corrupting him. He just didn’t know what he should do. Keep the cuff, and stay safe, but don’t use the powers unless they were absolutely necessary. If he stayed away from people anyway, there shouldn’t be much need for the powers.
Like any other location sharing solution, Ramses’ capacity to disable it was limited by its vulnerability to anyone smart enough to exploit some programming weakness. Fortunately for them, Ramses grew up in a more technologically advanced world than Leona, so she would always be no match for him. Their link was severed, like that time Jacob and a couple of other wolves started their own pack in the middle of the book. This was a reference Mateo didn’t realize he had. He hadn’t read a single word from that series, nor had he seen the films. There seemed to be some knowledge in his mind that came from someone else; someone whose brain he had blended. He shrugged it off, because so far, this extra information wasn’t causing him any problems. He took note of it, though, in case something changed.
Things seemed to be going okay when the two of them jumped to December 11, 2279, but that belief did not last long. Within one hour, Vidar was tearing open a rift in the spacetime continuum, and stepping through with Leona and Nerakali. So they couldn’t track them with the cuffs, but Vidar could still always find them. That was kind of his whole deal.
“Let’s just talk,” Leona requested politely.
“We’re not mad at you for what you did,” Nerakali added. “We all agreed to it.”
Mateo wanted to say something, but he didn’t know what, so he just stayed quiet, like a shy kid on the first day of high school.
“Please,” Leona asked.
No, there was nothing he could say. He just had to figure out how to stop Vidar from following them. What if he jumped to another location, and then another, and then another, and kept going for so long that Vidar would have to give up? Reopening rifts seemed to take at least a little bit of time, and wouldn’t the trail go cold once midnight central hit? What if he jumped to one place, and then another, and then backtracked to the second location, and then jumped to a third, and then backtracked again, and then just kept forming this huge web of dummy paths? Vidar could track him, sure, but by the time he figured out his targets weren’t there at any given spot, Mateo and Ramses would have expanded the web even further. Or what if he just teleported to an airport, and flew somewhere else manually, in secret. Or maybe the answer was doing a combination of all of these things.
Mateo reached for his cuff, and started hunting for new coordinates.
“Wait,” Leona said desperately. “You don’t have to do this. I love you. We’re not in a fight; don’t make it one.”
Ramses decided to step up, because Mateo couldn’t. “Stop tracking us. When he’s ready, we’ll find you.” Mateo wasn’t sure he would ever be ready, but that technically didn’t make his friend’s claim a lie. “You can’t track us forever, Wolfe. You’ll get tired of it.”
It doesn’t matter where you go, or how you get there. I’ll always be able to sniff you out. There’s only one thing I know of that can stop it.
“What?” Mateo finally spoke up. “What is it?”
The three of them looked at him in confusion, as did Ramses. “Honey, what are you talking about?”
“What is the one thing that can stop you from being able to track us?”
Is he asking about the home stone?
That was weird. Vidar wasn’t moving his lips, but he was talking. That was because he wasn’t talking; he was just thinking. Mateo was reading his mind. It must be a secondary power that Nerakali never told him about. He thought hard about how he could exploit this new ability without giving his intentions away. “I mean, I obviously know what can stop you. I’ve been looking for one, but I haven’t been able to.”
Well, there’s one on Purple Rose Lane in April 18, 1992, and Horace used one for September 25, 2022, Vidar thought.
“Twenty-twenty-two,” Mateo mumbled as quietly as possible while still assured that the others could hear him.
“Are you reading my mind?” Vidar asked.
“What? No.” Mateo cupped his mouth, and whispered to Ramses, “September 25, 2022.” But he didn’t input those coordinates on his cuff. He chose the first date instead, and then beamed them to Ramses’ cuff, so he would see that it was a misdirect. All of this was playing out very similarly to how they did back in—interestingly enough—2022, with the fake train ticket. He wasn’t going to screw up this time, though.
“Please,” Leona begged one more time. “Don’t.”
“Were I you,” he replied, but he executed the command before he could hear his wife say it back to him.
“What are we doing here?” Ramses asked. They were now standing in Springfield, Kansas at twilight. “What are you looking for in 1992?”
Mateo looked around a little. “Her.”
He saw a young girl about fifty meters away, standing alone on the sidewalk. She waited patiently for them to approach. “It’s already gone. I let Ace take it back to 2022.”
“Shit,” Mateo said. “That’s when they’ll be expecting us.”
“Someone’s tracking you?” the girl asked.
“Yeah,” Mateo answered. “Apparently a home stone is the only way to travel undetected.”
“Yeah, but won’t they know when and where you’re going anyway?”
“I was hoping my engineer friend here could modify it for me.”
“I don’t know what it is,” Ramses explained.
“It takes you back to the first moment you experienced nonlinear time,” she began. “Either right before, so you can stop it from happening, or right after, so you can get back to your life, right where you left off. I can’t get you back there, because my power is traceable, at least by the man I assume is chasing you? I can, however, put you in contact with someone who can block your signal, even retroactively. I don’t know how it works, but it will allow you to stay in the moment without anyone finding you.”
“That would be amazing. Thanks, Jesi. Uhh, I mean...”
“I know we’ve already met. I’m from the future. The home stone just reyoungified me. That’s how it works.”
“Oh, okay. Lead the way.”
“No, I’ll give you the coordinates. I have to change my future, so you’re on your own, buddy boo.”

A woman Mateo recognized opened the door. “Holly Blue?” he asked.
“Do I know you?” she asked.
“I’m Mateo Matic, Leona’s husband.”
“Oh, right. I went to your wedding...and your funeral.”
“Listen,” Ramses jumped in, “we’re looking for a way to stop people from time-tracking us. Do you have anything like that?”
She looked up at the ceiling. “This whole house is warded. Come on in.”
When Mateo and Ramses stepped inside, they saw a toddler playing with blocks on the floor of the living room.
“Awww, and who is this little fella?” Ramses knelt down, and shook the baby’s hand.
“I’m Declan!” the child exclaimed with delight.
“I saved him from The Vosa before it was destroyed,” Holly Blue explained. “I was working on a way to travel through time when the crisis came upon us. I didn’t have time to test it, or save anyone else. I guess the machine kinda chose a random date. We ended up here last year. He was born in space; farther than anyone ever had at that point in history. Now he watches Sesame Street on a square TV; can you imagine? How do people survive in this time period? I’m working on building him a flatscreen, though it takes a lot of time, since I’m not a real inventor.”
“Hm. Leona would beg to differ.”
“Where is she?” Holly Blue asked.
“I’m sort of hiding from her.”
“What happened?”
“I killed two people—bad people—but I can’t even look her in the eye. Will you help me, or are you too loyal to her?”
“I help people in need. I love Leona, but you’re not her enemy. It’s not my place to settle your domestic issues. You can stay here as long as you like.”
“We were looking for something called a home stone?” Ramses said. “Have you heard of it?”
“I have. I asked Weaver about them once. She didn’t invent them, and I don’t think I do either. I could probably rig something up, though. I might need some time.”
Mateo looked at his Cassidy cuff like it was a watch. “I’ll be back in a year. Or if it takes you longer, that’s fine. I don’t want to put you out.”
“No, I don’t do much time-engineering anymore. I’m mostly just trying to keep Declan safe. It’ll be nice to get back to it. Are those Cassidy cuffs?”
“They are,” Ramses answered. “Did you want to take a look at them?”
“I have plans for those in the basement. I won’t have a working prototype for another ten years, I think. There’s kind of an important ingredient that I’m missing.” Yeah, Cassidy won’t be arriving on Earth for another several years. “Anyway, I shouldn’t look at the real ones; that could disrupt the timeline.”
Mateo and Ramses nodded understandingly.
“The facilities are at your disposal. You can shower, and sleep in the guest bedroom. If you want a change of clothes, I’m presently building a time-wardrobe. It’s not as large as the one on Tribulation Island, or in the Bran safehouse, but it should be good enough.”
“Thanks,” Mateo said. “We appreciate it.”

Meanwhile, in 2022, Leona, Nerakali, and Vidar have just shown up at the law offices of Stanley, Bristol & Associates. They opened the door to Lincoln Rutherford’s office just in time to see a young Horace Reaver disappear with his boyfriend, Serkan, and their daughter, Paige. Lincoln sighed at the sight of them. “Make it quick. Someone else is about to barge into my office, right behind you.”
Leona looked into the hallway with a hopeful frown.
“It’s not Mateo.” When she looked back, she saw Lincoln holding a stone in his hand. “He went to 1992, looking for this. He couldn’t have it, though, because Jesi gave it to Ace, so he could come here.”
“How did he know where to go at all?” Leona interrogated Vidar.
“How was I meant to know he can read minds? A man’s thoughts are his private business. I would have put up mental wards had I realized Nerakali was capable of such a thing.”
“I’m not,” Nerakali corrected. “I can take memories, add memories, or use my power creatively to make you remember something that never happened to you, like a dream. I cannot read realtime thoughts, though. I have no clue how he took those from your brain, if that is even what happened.”
“It’s the only explanation,” Leona said.
“No, it’s not,” Lincoln said. When the others stared at him, he added, “I don’t know how he did it. That truth is hazy for me. I’m just saying there are other possible explanations. He could have coerced the information out of you, then returned to his body in the past, to undo it, but retain said information. I don’t know. All I know is that you have thirty seconds to get out of here. After my next abrupt and unwanted meeting, I have a real meeting with the named partners, and I kind of want to make a good impression, because one of them becomes my wife in the future.”
“We’re very sorry,” Nerakali said sincerely. “Could we have that?”
Lincoln dropped the stone on the table like he had forgotten he was holding it. “I have no use for it. Go crazy.”
Leona input the next coordinates on her Cassidy cuff. Once the three of them were all synced up, she executed the command, and sent them all to 1992. Unfortunately, something was stopping Vidar’s power from working. He could sense that Mateo and Ramses were here, at least at some point, but the trail had already fallen cold, and now there was apparently no way of knowing when or where they were.

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