Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 21, 2015

Something happened to Mateo’s mind when he went through the homeportal. He found himself in the middle of the cemetery he used to frequent with his friends. It was where he was for his birthday celebration in 2014 when he first started traveling through time. It worked. Holly Blue’s invention had worked, sending him all the way back to this moment. He didn’t know if this was his current timeline, or the one he had first come from. The former would put everyone he loved in danger, but the latter would separate him from all those people too, so it was a tradeoff. Or maybe it wasn’t an issue at all. His brain felt clear of all invaders. Only his own thoughts seemed to be present. Hopefully that meant that the event horizon of the portal mirror stripped him of his psychic stoways, sending them both into oblivion, instead of just leaving them back in 1993. Mateo took a deep breath and enjoyed his one moment of solace, certain that it wouldn’t last forever. He was so right about that.
“Hey,” came a voice behind him. It wasn’t The Gravedigger, Mr. Halifax. It wasn’t anyone he knew, or maybe it was indeed someone he knew, but he couldn’t recognize them, because he was all covered up. He looked like a superhero.
The superhero stared at him for a moment. He was presumably studying him, but there was no way to know without being able to see his eyes. “Are you Mateo Matic?”
No point in lying. “Yes.”
“Really?” He didn’t sound convinced, like maybe it was a trick question, and Mateo was missing a key detail.
“Well, technically I hail from a reality that no longer exists, and my father is no longer my father, so... Maybe I’m not really a Matic anymore.”
“Are you still being possessed by the Prestons?”
He wanted to answer in the affirmative, but he didn’t realize they were knocking around in his brain until they revealed themselves, so he could make no guarantees they were gone now. “It’s possible.” He pointed to where he had just exited from the homeportal, which was no longer there. “I feel a lot better than I did before I came through the mirror, but maybe they’re just hiding in my subconscious, or something.”
“I appreciate the honesty.”
Mateo nodded. This was the superhero’s conversation. He wasn’t going to speak unless spoken to.
“Aren’t you curious who I am?”
Oo, a game. Well, the implication here was that it was someone he knew, or at least knew off. There were a lot of options, and it might have been easier to go through the process of elimination with his notepad, which he had left in 1993. Still, there were many people it couldn’t, or likely wouldn’t, be. He sounded male, but that might be a misdirect, or they didn’t adhere to traditional gender identity. No, this wasn’t the way to go. He needed to induce a guess, rather than deduce one, because there were just too many possibilities. Whose future did he know nothing about? Who did he know who might have grown up to become a superhero. Grown up, that’s it. This guy is a grownup, but he wasn’t always. He sounded about mid-twenties? He knew someone who should be such an age in 2014. “Declan Aberdeen?”
The superhero pulled off his mask. “Holy shit, is it that obvious?”
“I was right?” Damn, he was proud of himself.
“I didn’t think you knew me in the future,” Older!Declan said.
“I didn’t; I don’t. The first I heard of you was when we met in 1992, and I came straight here through the mirror. I really did just guess. I think your secret identity is generally safe.”
Declan removed his wetsuit hood, and stretched his neck. “I don’t know that I really need a secret identity. I mean, my mother’s a time traveler who always has an exit strategy, and I don’t care about anyone else, except for Bo, but she can take care of herself.”
Mateo kept nodding as if Declan were still talking. “Are you talking about Bozhena Horvatinčić?”
“Jesus. Everyone said you were an idiot, but you are just...”
Oh no. His face literally fell into a frown. Things weren’t as great as he thought. “Do you have—?” He sighed.
“Do I have what? Are you about to guess my credit card number?”
“Do you have, like, some gizmo that kills psychic invaders, or incapacitates them, or at least protects you from them?”
“Well, you just said it yourself, I’m an idiot. I don’t feel like one right now. I don’t feel like an entirely different person, but I don’t feel like me either. I think the Prestons are still in here.”
Declan started tapping on the cuff around his wrist.
“Whose powers does that give you?” Mateo asked.
“No one’s,” Declan answered. “It’s not a Cassidy cuff. It’s just a global teleporter. I’m taking you to a special jail.”
Declan took him by the arm, and activated his cuff.
They were suddenly in a basement that Mateo recognized. “This is the Fletcher House Bunker. Why are we here?”
“This isn’t Fletcher House yet,” he said as he was ushering him into a glass chamber in the middle of the floor. He was right. The bank vault door that was meant to lead to this section of the basement wasn’t there yet. It was just completely open. “It’s only 2015.”
“Fifteen?” Mateo asked. “It’s supposed to be March 21, 2014.”
“Yeah, mom was wondering about that. She spent a couple weeks trying to figure out why you didn’t show up when we expected you to. According to her research, in another timeline—the one just before yours, in fact—you were on a slightly different pattern. The first time you jumped through time was on your twenty-ninth birthday; not your twenty-eighth. Like she told you back in 1993, she never tested the homeportal, so her hypothesis was that it was a bit confused as to who you were, and where you belonged.”
“So now I’m one day off?” Mateo asked, kind of rhetorically. The old Mateo would be struggling to find the logic here, but Erlendr and Arcadia’s dormant minds were giving him an edge. The logic was just sitting there, waiting for him.
“Where’s Holly Blue now?”
“Living her life,” he explained. “She’s The Weaver; people need her. I don’t anymore.”
“Is she okay with you becoming a superhero? I mean, she obviously has to know. She built all your stuff, right?”
“She knew I was gonna do this anyway. I’ve been training with Darko Matic since I was a child. She designed my suit so that I would always be protected.”
“What’s your relationship with Slipstream?”
“Is this you asking, or the Prestons in your brain?”
“Oh, that’s a good question. I feel like it’s me, but...I suppose there’s no way to know. What I really want to ask is what happened to Leona, and our friends, but I definitely don’t want my stowaways to also know that. Is there anything you can do? Can you extract them?”
Declan sighed. “Mom built something for that, but...there’s a catch.”
“She can’t, like, just make their consciousnesses evaporate. She tried, but that seems to be a technological impossibility. As you know, if she can’t invent something, it can’t be invented.”
“So the Prestons would need a new host, or hosts.”
“Yeah, and then we could trap ‘em in here, and kill ‘em. So someone would have to be sacrificed.”
Mateo nodded for a long time again. “Okay. Go for it.”
“What? I don’t have a host available. I said that she invented it; not that we’re gonna use it. That would be wrong.”
“I agree, which is why you’re not even gonna bother digging it out of storage. I’ll be the sacrifice.”
“You want me to kill you?”
“No, I want you to kill them. I’m just collateral damage.”
“I don’t kill, Mateo. Who do I look like, Oliver Queen?”
“Yeah, a little bit.”
He was taken aback. “That’s one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me.”
“Well, we could find someone with fewer reservations about killing. What about Kallias Bran. He lives in this time period, doesn’t he? He’s a cop, so I’m sure he’s killed before.”
“I don’t know who you’re talking about. It wouldn’t matter anyway. I’m not afraid to kill someone myself. I don’t want to be responsible for someone’s death, so asking someone else to do it is only negligibly better.”
“I understand,” Mateo said honestly. “We can’t keep me in here forever, though. The Fletchers are scheduled to move here in four years.”
He sighed deeply. “Yeah, I know. This was always going to be a temporary solution. The contingency is zoicizing you.”
“Well, you should probably do that, if you think it’ll work, because I don’t know what that means, but I do know what that means, because the Prestons know what that means, so they’re definitely still in here somewhere.”
“Zoicization would only work if we were certain you wouldn’t be able to escape prehistoric times. Your body is still salmon, regardless of who’s inhabiting it, and the powers that be may just bring you back to the future.”
“Yeah, that happened in the other timeline when my once-father saved me, and took me back to dinosaur times. At the end of the day, I just went straight back to my regular pattern. It hasn’t been the case recently, though. I mean, several years ago, I spent a week on Dardius after my own funeral. Then I jumped from ’92 to ’93, instead of going back to 2280. The rules have never been consistent. The powers that be are just making this up as they go along.”
Declan consulted his wristband. “We’re approaching midnight. I’ll still own this house next year. We’ll discuss options then.” He admired his mother’s power dampening chamber. “You’re not going anywhere, and neither are your stowaways.” He started to walk away.
“Hey, thank you. I’m glad someone was waiting for me on the other side of the portal; someone who appreciates what needs to be done to protect others from what I might do to them.”
He nodded once, then walked away.
Arcadia appeared on the other side of the chamber, back up against the glass. No, she didn’t appear so much as it was like she was always there, but Mateo had just woken up to find her. He understood, though, that she wasn’t really there at all, but they were about to have a conversation, and this was the best way to do that.
“Hi,” he said politely.
“My dad’s pissed,” she told him.
“Dads usually like me.”
“I’m serious. This was not part of the plan. He didn’t have a contingency for this, and he never doesn’t have a contingency. He prides himself in always having twenty-five alternatives.”
“I bet. He didn’t take me into account. No one ever does. Being stupid does have its upsides.”
She shook her head. “I don’t think you’re stupid, Mateo. You don’t assume things. You’re always willing to listen to what the other person has to say. I mean when Declan showed up, looking menacing, you looked at him like it was normal. You didn’t antagonize him, or mock him, or question why he was the way he was. You immediately accepted him. That’s incredibly impressive, and no one gives you credit for that. I remember watching you before I fell from The Gallery. Even when you were so confused about what was happening to you, you never really let it get to you. You kept going, and trying to make the best of your new situation. That’s when I fell in love with you. It’s why I didn’t fight it when my father banished me from the only home I had ever known. I was excited to meet you, and people like you. I became a villain, because...”
“Because why?” Mateo prompted patiently.
“Because I didn’t find anyone else like you. That was a blow. That was hard to learn, and I never got over it. And I guess it turned me into the very thing I hated most about humans.”
“Why did you go back to him? Why are you working with Erlendr?”
She took a long time to respond. “I could say that he promised me he would undo my brother and sister’s deaths. I could claim that I just want to make a better reality. But the truth is that all you need to do to convince me to be on your be a Preston. If Zeferino showed up tomorrow with a new evil plan, I would switch sides again. I’m just not good on my own.”
Mateo wanted Arcadia to see that she hadn’t been wrong about him. He stepped over, and lifted her from the floor. This wasn’t really happening, but it felt real to both of them. He took her into a psychic hug. “You don’t need a Preston to not be alone.”
“That’s sweet,” came a voice from outside the glass chamber.
They released each other, and looked out to find Leona. She was wearing round steampunk goggles. Can you see me?” Arcadia asked.
“HG Goggles. They let me see things like this, yes.”
“I’m sorry, Leona.”
“I am too,” Arcadia added sincerely.
“I understand what’s wrong with you now.” She reached into her bag and pulled out the Insulator of Life. “So let’s fix it.”

No comments :

Post a Comment