Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, March 26, 2019

It was unclear whether Arcadia overshot their destination by two years, or if she fully intended to arrive back in Fletcher House in 2019. Fortunately, Declan was still living there, and currently attempting to help Nerakali and Serkan remove their Cassidy cuffs.
“Okay, this is the last time you people can do this,” he said when all the others showed up in the bunker. “I mean it. Adelaide Fletcher is going to buy this place with her reparations in a couple months, so we gotta be out of here. I was trying to strike my lab, and move on.”
“I’m glad you haven’t taken it down yet,” Mateo told him as he was helping a weak Zeferino into the isolation chamber. “We need this to contain and kill a psychic. We don’t have the Insulator of Life anymore.”
Declan stood up, and walked over to make sure the chamber was secure. “I told you that I’m not killing anybody.”
“You don’t have to,” Mateo said. “This is just the safest place for everyone until he can kill himself.
“What are you goin’ on about?” Zeferino questioned.
“How old are you right now?” Mateo asked him.
“Ballpark?” Zeferino asked rhetorically. “Three or four thousand years.”
“That’s like...” Mateo began. He turned his head to elicit Leona’s help.
“Thirty,” she helped.
“Thirty or forty times longer than the average human lives. You’ve traveled up and down the timeline, seeing an unknowable number of things more than most people do, and throughout it all, you were a stone-cold killer.” Mateo stepped back to address both him and Declan. “We have one chance to get Erlendr Preston out of our lives before he does something wildly dangerous. I’m not very smart, but if there’s one thing I learned from all those time travel stories I used for research, it’s that paradoxes are bad. Avoid the paradoxes. I’m sick of all this bloody time travel. I can’t stop it, but I sure as hell can alleviate it. So if you’re not on board, then get out of this basement!”
“This is my basement,” Declan argued.
“No, it’s a community basement,” Mateo insisted. “Several disparate groups use it for their needs over the years. Your mother moved you here after we made her feel unsafe at the old place; you used it to train to become a vigilante; Gunbender, Armbreaker, and Fairware use it for their base of operations; two separate groups use it to help put right what once went wrong. Do you know who built it? It was a man by the name of Baudin Murdoch, who designed it specifically with all these different future people in mind. He’ll even be the one to install the bank vault door when it’s time for that. I need it for a special purpose right now, so I’ll ask you again, to get out! Go climb up a salmon ladder, or something. This has to be done.”
The group was silent, like they knew Mateo wasn’t quite finished yet.
He looked back to Zeferino. “This is called a sacrifice. I was prepared to make it myself, but I am beholden to the powers that be. This is your last chance to do something good. I don’t know what you know, but the man inside your head raped your mother. He probably felt entitled to it since they were married. You may be evil, but you would never do something that bad, and we all know it. I don’t think you would be happy knowing your body might be used to hurt someone like that. You’re dying either way, so at least try to go out a hero. I’ll personally see to it that The Historian writes favorably of you.”
Wow. It almost looked like Zeferino was actually considering letting himself be killed. Then it happened; the biggest shock of them all. “Just so we’re clear,” he begins, “this doesn’t undo anything I’ve already done to you, and I don’t regret a single choice I’ve ever made, including this one. I always win...Flash.” After his one last pop culture reference, his pulled a knife from his boot, and stuck it through his neck, all the way into his brain. “You were right. Turns out, I’m a hero after all. That’s not what I wanted to be.” Then he died.
“That was very noble,” Jupiter said. “Unfortunately for you, if you were trying to prevent the creation of The Parallel, then you didn’t kill enough people.” It was only then that Mateo realized Jupiter had secretly placed Erlendr’s primary cuff on his own wrist. He was now in control of all of them.
“What are you doing?” Arcadia questioned, anger building.
Jupiter tapped on his cuff screen. “I’m saving our sister.” He executed a program, sending the cuffs that were on Nerakali and Serkan flying through the air. They landed around both of Declan’s wrists. “And also Mr. Demir, even though he gives my friends huge headaches.”
“Why am I cuffed now?” Declan asked.
“Wait, did they both just transport themselves to you? I didn’t do that on purpose. Weird, I guess I don’t know how this works. What does this button do?” He selected another program. Three cuffs appeared out of the aether, and wrapped themselves around Ramses, Leona, and Mateo’s formerly free wrists. “No, that’s not what I meant either.” Jupiter was just screwing with them now. “Hm. Ah, here it is.” He pressed one last button, which summoned J.B. to them. He was also wearing two Cassidy cuffs of his own. Now all eleven were accounted for.
Before Jupiter had the chance to say anything else, Daria Matic appeared in the room.
“Why did you have to bring her into this!” Mateo cried.
“I didn’t do that,” Jupiter replied defensively. “I certainly wouldn’t have brought her here with what I assume is vomit on her shirt.”
“I just came from Vegas,” Daria explained. “I’m not sure what I’m meant to do here.”
“Him,” Leona said, pointing to Serkan. “Get him to safety.”
“You got it.” Daria slipped her arms underneath Serkan’s, and spirited him away.
“Noooooooooo!” Jupiter screamed, arm outstretched towards the emptiness where Serkan just was. “Just kidding, I don’t need him.”
“You don’t need J.B. either,” Ramses suggested.
“Oh, him? He’s vital to the plan. You, on the other hand, are just a hangeron. I could take you, or leave you, but then I would have to give someone else your handcuffs. I don’t want them in this reality anymore, so I’m trying to get rid of them all at once.”
“What’s your” Arcadia asked.
“It’s the same as Erlendr’s, for the most part. The main difference is I’m going to be the one in charge. The other main difference is that I know what the hell I’m doing. He may understand the flow of time, but I know people.”
“Why do you care about any of this?” Nerakali interrogated. “You have your own life going with the Springfield Nine.”
“Can someone get her up to speed, please?” Jupiter requested. “Sherwood, go ahead and set it up whenever you’re ready.”
The half-brother, Sherwood stepped into the isolation chamber with his duffel bag. The first thing he did was drag Zeferino’s dead body out, and leave him carelessly in the corner. He pulled out a little tripod table, and a huge canister of what looked like paintballs, but of dozens of different colors. He then removed what looked like a bomb. But no, it couldn’t be a bomb. Could it?
Jupiter carried on explaining himself as Sherwood was working on setting up his apparatus. “I didn’t always know everything about our species’ history. Athanaric kept us very sheltered, and then when I joined up with the other Springfielders, my focus was...well, too focused. It wasn’t until recently—which I recognize is a relative term—that I started branching out, and learning about what everyone else has been doing. I discovered this obsession the other Prestons had with the Matics. Why was it? What is it about the two of you that draws people in; gets them to sacrifice themselves for you, and give you everything? Well, I never figured it out, but in my trying, I realized that I too was obsessing over you. I was just becoming another twisted stalker. I was stanning you, Mateo. I wasn’t happy with doing this from afar, though. To free myself from this, I realized the only thing I could do was echo my estranged siblings. They toyed with you, forced you into harrowing challenges. Then I learned what our illustrious father was planning, and that helped me come up with my own plan.
“I’m going to challenge you too. Don’t worry, though. Most of the time, it probably won’t be deadly. You’ll probably even want to do the work; you’ll just wish it wasn’t necessary. If you fail any one of these challenges, the consequences will be whatever they are. I won’t actually be controlling anything you do. I’ll be transplanting people from this reality, to the Parallel; one at a time. Your mission will be to get them back home. You could always go back with them, but then you would be sacrificing however many people in the timeline you haven’t gotten to yet. Oh, and you’ll be on a brand new pattern, courtesy of those Cassidy cuffs. It’s a perfect blending of Mateo’s and J.B.’s. I’ll let the smart one explain what that means. Are we ready?”
“It’s ready,” Sherwood said as he was standing back up from a crouch. “I’ve set the timer for fifteen seconds.”
“I thought I asked you for a trigger,” Jupiter asked in an audible whisper. “I wanted to push a button.”
Sherwood stepped out of the chamber, and sealed the door behind him. “I don’t work for you. A timer is fine.”
A few seconds later, the bomb went off, spreading the paint all around the glass. It was actually quite beautiful.
“That was cool,” Jupiter said with a genuine smile. “I’m gonna need this, dear,” he said to Arcadia. He lifted the hundemarke from her neck, and placed it around his own. “I need to be the one who makes sure it’s actually activated. I’m not clear on your loyalties.”
Arcadia appeared too shocked to go against him, which was unlike her.
He continued, “sisters, you can watch from outside. The rest of you, get on in. It’s a tight fit, but there’s enough room for eight, and there are only six of us.”
No one moved.
Jupiter sighed. “Very well. I’ll do it myself.” He tapped on his cuff, and transported all of his prisoners into the chamber. It was even more beautiful from the inside. Jupiter was in there with them, but Sherwood was not. “Boot it up, brother!”
The pain swirled around, and reformed itself. Where once it was chaotic and random, colors began to organize into deliberate shapes. Shapes sharpened into discernable images, and the images began to move. They were watching dozens of movies at once. Mateo had heard about some of them before, others he had been there to see, and some were completely unfamiliar. The one thing they had in common was the hundemarke. These were all moments when it was used to create a fixed moment in time.
“My God,” Declan said. “All these people are gonna die.”
“Not if I can help it. All right!” Jupiter said happily. He took a gun from the back of his pants, and held it up like one of Charlie’s Angels. “Everybody ready? Only shoot the red-shaded moments. The blue moments are meant to stay put. We want those to happen in both realities.” He looked around at the rest of the group. He relaxed his arms in feigned frustration. “Ugh. Where are your guns? Did you not bring the guns? I’m sorry, I thought this was America. Okay, fine. I’ll shoot ‘em all myself. Here..we..go!” He started shooting at the images. Each time a bullet went through, and planted itself in the head of a future killer. He was killing real people all throughout time and space, but treating it like a video game. Mateo was just surprised he wasn’t literally keeping score.
Mateo watched him a little, but his eyes wandered to a very specific moment. This one was shaded purple, unlike any of the others. Also unique to it was that it kept playing over and over again in the same spot, while the other moments had to come back in the next cycle, because the chamber walls weren’t large enough to fit all of them at the same time. They only turned black and disappeared for good once Jupiter had paradoxed his target successfully. He had an idea to fix all of this. There was a reason the Prestons were obsessed with him and Leona. They would always ultimately lose, and they were never happy with that. It really was a game to them, and they absolutely despised losing. Perhaps Arcadia had the right idea, even if she was coming from the wrong place. Anyway, it was the only way Mateo could think of to stop all this. Even if it was a bad thing on its own, it at least went against their enemy, and sometimes, that just had to be enough.
Before Jupiter could finish shooting all the hundemarke killers, Mateo body slammed him. That was one good thing about close quarters. Jupiter had no room to fight back fast enough. Knowing he didn’t have long, though, Mateo grabbed the gun for himself, rolled back to the other side of the chamber, and aimed the best he could.
“Hey,” Jupiter said jovially. “You want in on this? Oh wait, no; not that one. That is the worst one you could pick.”
Damn, his target was gone. The GIF started back at the beginning, but he didn’t have a clear shot at Anatol Klugman. He didn’t really want to kill the guy, but it was his only move, and The Warrior was the one man he could trust to understand and appreciate the dilemma. Jupiter got up and tried to attack Mateo, but Leona and Ramses held him back. Just a few more seconds.

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