Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 3, 2028

After Leona exited the homeportal, the first thing she did was look around for Mateo. He was nowhere to be found, so the second thing she did was consult her watch. May 3, 2028. This was the day she disappeared from her old life, and became a time traveler, at least in one reality. Her mind possessed memories from different realities, so the portal must have just chosen the most recent one. It likely did the same thing for Mateo. She should have realized they wouldn’t end up in the same place either way. His special moment was on a different date. Now all she needed to do was find a time traveler who could get her back to him. Hopefully someone in this restaurant would let her borrow a phone. She walked over to the counter to ask, but stopped when she realized she recognized the guy on the other side. “Allen?”
He slid his finger underneath his nametag. “Funny, my mom used to say that all the time. I never figured out why.”
She chuckled. “Is Richard here?”
Allen’s eyes narrowed. “My husband is in the back.”
This was Richard and Allen’s place. She had heard about that once. It was at Mateo’s memorial. They owned a restaurant together, which was fitting for them, but this building was much more than that. “When you say he’s in the back, do you mean he’s in the other restaurant?”
Allen’s eyes narrowed further. “He’s cooking up some salmon.”
“Ah, yes. So you know already. Good.” They heard the bell ring from the door opening. Leona turned her head to find her own younger self walking in with a friend. Fortunately, she wasn’t paying enough attention to see Future!Leona. This was the day she became a time traveler, and that was going to be stressful enough for her. “Let’s just say, she’s not my twin. It would be nice if she didn’t see me at all. Could you get me out of here?”
He smiled. “Come on back.” He opened the counter, and led her through the kitchen, to the other side, where the second half of the restaurant was. This was a secret dining area, designated only for time travelers, or time traveler-adjacent people.”
“What can I get ya?” he asked.
Richard stopped wiping down one of the tables, and stepped over to join his husband.
“I actually just ate breakfast.”
Richard looked at his watch. It was late afternoon.
“It was morning when I stepped through the portal. Anyway, I didn’t really mean to come to this time period. I could use some helping getting back to my husband. Who else set up shop in this little mall?”
“Salmonday Club is next door. Post office is down that way, across from The Switcher’s office. The Forger works in that one over there. Might try him if you’re not just lookin’ to send a message.”
“Hey, thanks!”
“No problem,” one of them said after she turned away. She couldn’t tell which one.
She opened the door to the Forger’s den, though this new location wasn’t a den at all. It looked more like a DMV. It was larger, and more professional. Duane was sitting in one of the waiting area chairs, carrying on a conversation with... “Julius?”
Duane smirked. “Oh, please, call him that again.”
“I’m sorry, I forgot. Saxon.”
“Yes,” Saxon said, “how may I help you?”
“I actually came in here to see the Forger. I need a ride.”
Duane stood up. “Sure, when and where do you need to go?”
“I don’t know,” Leona replied. “I ultimately need to get to March 21, 2014, but I need to find something first.”
“What are you looking for?”
“The Insulator of Life. Do you know of a moment in its history when I could take it without interfering in anyone else’s need for it?”
“Hmm. Have you tried the bank?”
“What bank?”
“Gregorios.” He leaned forward, and pointed in the general direction of the hallway. “It’s that way. It used to just be a regular bank for humans, but they shuttered the entire business, and the woman who owned it switched the whole thing over to a special vault where time travelers can keep their valuables, and access them from the future, or the past.”
“Well, who owns the Insulator?”
“No one can own something like that, but anyone who has used it before, according to their own personal timeline, can requisition it.”
“I’m one of those people.”
“Perfect. You do still have to be approved, so there’s no guarantee.”
“Okay, cool. Thanks for your help.”
“Wait. You come back with what you need, I’ll take you anywhere you wanna go...for a price.”
“What’s the price?”
“I need you to get me a ret-gone coin from the bank.”
“I think I can guess, but what exactly does one of those things do?”
“It’s incredibly dangerous, but I need it for a client, who’s willing to take the risk. You flip it. Heads, no one remembers who you are. It erases your entire timeline, past and future. You can do whatever you want, and no one will remember it long enough to do anything about it. You won’t be able to maintain a single relationship, but you can’t be stopped either. You’ll also be immortal. You hit tails, though, it is your memory that will be wiped; both retrograde and anterograde amnesia. Like the Insulator, no one owns the coins, and no one knows how many there are, but rumor is that Alexina is in possession of all of them. It’s impossible to know whether anyone has ever used one, and they’re each single-use.”
“What will I have to give her for it?” Leona asked.
Duane shook his head. “I don’t know. Obviously, you can decline. You’ll just have to catch a ride with someone else.”
“I’ll see what I can do. Thanks again.”
She walked down the hallway once more, and entered Gregorios Bank. Alexina was standing behind a pedestal deliberately, as if she had been waiting for her. “Hello,” Leona began. “I know you from the future.”
“Are we friends?”
“We have a mutual friend, but we didn’t talk much.”
“Oh, okay. How can I help you today?”
“I need two things, and you might not want to give them up. The Insulator of Life, I believe, is the only thing that can save my husband from two psychics who have hijacked his mind. I was told I would be allowed to take it as long as I’ve used it before, which I have.” Alexina seemed inclined to accept her plea. “This is the thing that I really need. Once I have it, I’ll then need to go find my husband, before the psychics make him do something else against his will. The Forger has agreed to provide transport...if I get him a ret-gone coin.”
“Do you know what a ret-gone coin is?” Alexina asked, noticeably upset about being asked something so despicable.
“He filled me in, yes.”
“There’s a reason I spent twenty years of my personal timeline hunting them down,” Alexina explained. “I didn’t want to use them myself, or have control over them. I wanted to keep people from using them. I’ve been trying to figure out how to destroy them ever since.”
“I have no personal interest in them either,” Leona told her. “The only question you have to ask yourself is whether you trust Duane Blackwood with one.”
“No, I have to decide whether I trust whoever it is he wants to give it to. I know he doesn’t want to flip it himself.”
“That’s a fair perspective. I can get by without his aid. I can find another time traveler. I can’t survive without the Insulator, though. In fact, the whole timeline can’t. The people who took over Mateo’s body are not going to do good things with it.”
“Your husband is Mateo Matic?” Alexina asked.
“Yes. What do you know of him?”
“I know he rescued one of my best friends from a prison he didn’t belong in with his bare hands.”
Leona didn’t say anything as Alexina was thinking hard about what she was going to do. After a full two minutes of this, she removed one of her earrings, and held out her hand. “Give me yours.”
“I’m not wearing an earring.”
“Your hand. Give me your hand.”
Leona did as she was asked.
Alexina used the sharp end of the earring to prick Leona’s finger, letting only two drops fall onto the pedestal. She then pricked her own finger, and dropped some of her blood. She looked back to watch the vault door behind her swing open on its own. Finally, she removed a key from around her neck, and handed it to Leona. “I took two drops of blood, which means you are entitled to two withdrawals. You are not entitled to any specific item, however. What you are seeking, you will only be able to find using your intuition. Walk into the vault, and pick a safe deposit box. Open it with this universal key, and see what’s inside. It might be the Insulator, or the coin, or something else, or nothing. A lot of the time, it’s nothing. Your blood donation only gives you access to the vault, not your desire. That’s up to you, and the covenant you’ve made with time.”
“I understand.” Leona walked into the vault, and took a deep breath. She didn’t waste too much time trying to look for the best deposit box. This was about her intuition, so the only way she was going to find the right one was if she just let it happen without thinking too much. She was right. The Insulator of Life was waiting for her inside the safe. She closed it back up, then quickly went over to the next box. Inside was not a coin, however. It was the HG Goggles. She had once used both of these objects in tandem, along with several other things, to bring Mateo back from nonexistence.
Alexina regarded the withdrawal as Leona was walking out. “Hm. Interesting choice.”
“What does it mean?”
“I don’t know,” she answered honestly.
Curious, Leona placed the goggles on her face, and looked around. The room now appeared in an indigo tint. She could see lights dancing along the edges of the safe deposit boxes as the vault door was closing back up. The whole bank was a little more lit up than the rest of the building that she could see from in here. There was one particular spot over by the hallway that led to the bathrooms that was particularly bright. “Do you see that over there?” she asked.
“I’m not wearing the goggles,” Alexina said.
Leona crept towards it carefully, then stopped just centimeters in front of it. It was like a silent miniature lightning storm. She pushed her hand towards it, but nothing happened. This made a bit of sense, because spacetime anomalies were reportedly all over the place, but most people didn’t just accidentally fall through them. You had to have some means of opening them up. The goggles seemed to only be good for illuminating them. There were points of light among the lightning that looked like rescaling buttons in a photo editing program. They moved as well, but at their own pace, which was much slower than the rest of the lights. She took two of them with her index fingers, and deliberately pulled them apart. Yes, this was it. This was opening the tear. She stepped through, and found herself in the foyer of Fletcher House.
“Madam Matic,” a man said to her. He executed a manual flourish as he bowed to her reverently. “My name is Old!Declan Aberdeen. Your husband is waiting for you downstairs. I have contained him so that his psychic invaders can do no one any harm.”
“Thank you very much, Old!Declan,” Leona said to him. She walked down to the basement to find Mateo wasn’t alone. Arcadia was there as well, though she was glowing, so she must have been a psychic manifestation, rather than a physical presence. They were standing in some kind of glass chamber.
“Why did you go back to him?” Mateo was asking her. “Why are you working with your father?”
“I could say it was because he promised to undo my siblings’ deaths,” Arcadia responded after a beat. “I could claim I just want to make a better reality. The honest answer, though, is that I would do anything for a family member. If Zeferino showed up tomorrow with some conflicting plan, I would go along with that instead, because he was the last one who asked. I’m just no good on my own.”
Mateo stepped closer, and gave Arcadia a hug, even though she was theoretically not really there. “You don’t need to be with a Preston to not be alone.”
“That’s touching,” Leona finally spoke up.
They separated from each other. Can you see me?” Arcadia asked her.
Leona pointed to her goggles. “These let me see things like you, yeah.”
“I’m sorry, Leona.”
“I am too,” Mateo added.
“I understand what’s wrong with you now.” She reached into her bag and showed them the Insulator of Life. “So let’s fix it.”
Ramses Abdulrashid surprisingly walked into the room. “Can I help?”

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