Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, April 23, 2047

According to Leona’s calculations, nineteen years was the biggest jump they would ever do on this new pattern, and it would happen a few more times before they caught up with their original timeline. Though, they couldn’t know how long Jupiter planned on keeping them in this reality. Perhaps he intended for them to remain here until they grew old and died. It always felt like this was what the powers that be had in mind, but they lived in another universe, so their motives were a little more difficult to understand. Jupiter had to remain connected to them himself, using his power to transition people from one reality to the other, and then provide the means to get them back. He probably didn’t want to have to do all that forever, so this would likely end eventually. There was still the question, however, of what that ending looked like. Would he ultimately decide that they should die, or would completing these challenges earn them reward?
All the Prestons kept talking about how this reality was cut off from the powers, and they used this claim to entice the Matics into helping them achieve it. So maybe this wasn’t all bad. No one had been hurt yet, and in fact, two people’s lives had already been saved. Carol would have died from the 2025 pathogen, and some asshole had tied Elder Caverness to the train tracks. Bringing them here turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to them in those respective moments. This was probably the most rational way to look at it. If they treated the challenges as opportunities, it could both help their own psychological conditions, and also allow them to interact with their opponent with more compassion. If there was one thing the Preston children had in common, it was that they responded incredibly well to peaceful gestures, empathy, and forgiveness. Antagonizing them repeatedly just made them angrier, and pushed them to make things worse. Being told it was okay to stop the shenanigans, and let go of their pain, was often the best way of defusing the situation.
Mateo hopped out of his own head, and refocused on the task at hand. His Cassidy cuff was beeping, and pointing him in a particular direction. “No time to sleep. We gotta go this way.”
“No, it’s this way,” Ramses contended. He was facing a different direction.
“Hm.” Mateo walked a few meters towards his own arrow. After he stepped around Leona, the arrow immediately switched directions. So he turned back and followed it again. He had to pass Leona once more, and when he did, the arrow moved yet again. As he circled her like a hungry shark, the arrow continued to point right at her.
“Me?” She questioned. “It’s me?”
“Oh my God,” Holly Blue said. “He’s not bringing somewhere here physically. He’s going to reblend your brain. He’s going to force an alternate version of you to take over your body.”
“How would we fix that?” J.B. questioned.
“I’m still supposed to go this way,” Ramses pointed out.
“And I’m supposed to go that way,” Leona added, pointing somewhere else entirely.
“Leona, could you set your bag down a moment, and walk away?” Mateo asked.
She did so, and Mateo found that the arrow continued to point at the bag, rather than Leona herself. He knelt down, and looked through it. He didn’t have to spend too much time doing it. He pulled out the HG Goggles, which were glowing a bluish-purple.
“Ah,” Holly Blue said, nodding her head. “Jupiter wants us to go to three separate places. Two are within walking distance, but yours, Mateo, must be too far away to reach without technology. The natural spatio-temporal anomalies that pop in and out of existence in any reality are the only way to travel now. I knew I should have whipped up another teleporter device before I came here to find my son.”
“Am I meant to go alone?” Mateo asked.
“Well, I can’t go with you,” Leona said.
“Neither can I,” Ramses apologized.
“I can,” J.B. said as he was looking at his own cuff, which presumably wasn’t directing him anywhere.
“No,” Holly Blue said. “Anomalies are very difficult to utilize. I’m not saying it’s impossible for more than one person to access one, but it’s not worth the risk. Sure, I or J.B. might be able to follow you through this first one, but what if the second one is too small or short-lived, or the one after that? There is only one pair of goggles, so a companion could get stuck anywhere, and anywhen. If we had the compass instead, it would be fine, but Mateo, you gotta go alone.”
“That’s okay,” Mateo said honestly. “One of you please go with Leona, and the other with Ramses. I’ll go hunt for this transition, and meet you...um, somewhere?”
“Or somewhen,” Ramses apologized a second time, even though none of this was at all his fault. “Jupiter might be sending you off to find someone in the past, or the future.”
Leona frowned at him. “Number thirteen.” She was referring to the rule that mandated never separating from a loved one.
“Number ten,” Mateo answered. Stay active. Then he ceremoniously placed the goggles over his head, and consulted his cuff. It was pointing him towards a patch of brighter light several meters away. He expertly reached up, and pulled the seam apart, so he could slip through the spacetime rift. He didn’t even look back at his friends one last time.
It was a long journey, through space and/or time. With no technology available to compare, there was no way of knowing whether he was jumping through time as well. Hell, on the other hand, he could only be jumping through time, and not space, but the time differences were always great enough to render the environment unrecognizable each time. It took dozens of jumps before the cuff and goggles got him to his final destination. The last anomaly he saw was more magnificent than any of the others. Each one had its own unique look, but this one was awe-inspiring. He didn’t even need to pull it open. It was more than large enough to let him walk through unaided. He found himself standing in front of the exact same cave that was there at the entrance of this anomaly. So they were indeed taking him through time.
A young woman was stepping out of the cave. She was surprised to see him. “You look like you’re from the future.”
“Uhh...” he said as he was sliding the goggles up to his forehead, but then he noticed her clothes as well. “So do you.”
“Twenty-two fifty-four,” she said simply.
“Last confirmed year for me was twenty forty-seven, though I’ve been all over.”
She gave him her hand, not to shake, but more like she expected him to kiss it, like they did in the olden times. “Sanaa Karimi.”
He awkwardly kissed her knuckles, worried he had misread the request, but he clearly had not. “Mateo Matic. We have a mutual friend.”
“I wouldn’t call her my friend,” she said.
He smirked. “I think you would.” He took a deep breath, and looked around at the woods. “I came directly from a different reality. It’s not just an old timeline. It exists at the same time as ours does. They call it The Parallel.”
“Oh, okay.” She didn’t know why he was telling her this.
“We’re stuck there,” he went on. “I shouldn’t have been able to cross back over to this world.”
“What drove you to the here and now?” she asked.
“I’m here for you.” He shook his Cassidy cuff. “Our enemy has been sending people to the other reality, and then making us send them back. But this hasn’t happened to you, so I guess I’m just meant to help with what you’re trying to do here. You came to blow up the cave, or something?”
“I don’t have any explosives,” she corrected, “but I have this little thing.” It looked like a folded up shovel, but there were other tools attached to it, like a pickaxe, and one edge was serrated, like a saw.
“All right, cool.” He took the multitool from her, and slipped the goggles back over his eyes. “Safety first.” He glanced up at the cave to see what he was in for. The goggles revealed points of light on the rocks and soil. They didn’t look like the anomalies, so he wasn’t sure what they were. “What are those?”
“Let me see,” Sanaa asked. She examined the cave a bit before taking the tool from him. She tapped the edge of the cave wall with it. Then rose it higher, and tapped again. The rock chipped off, and fell to the ground, but only at the second point. “They’re weak spots. The goggles are showing me where to strike and shovel.”
“That’ll make it a lot easier. Go ahead and give ‘em back.”
“I don’t need a man to do the work for me. I chose this.”
“You don’t need a man, but you could do with someone who grew up in the 21st century. Your culture managed to make physical labor obsolete, so don’t waste that gift. Besides, a very powerful man forced me to come here, and he’s expecting me to do this. You can supervise.”
Mateo worked as hard, and as fast, as he could that first day. It was his assumption that he would only be able to help Sanaa until midnight central, and then time would propel him forward. But, of course, it was a lot more complicated than that. Just by going through the anomalies, he apparently took himself off of the Matic-Bearimy pattern. And so he and Sanaa worked together to seal off the cave. They snuck into a nearby village, and stole another shovel from the blacksmith. They managed to avoid encountering other people the whole time. When they weren’t working, they slept just inside the cave; deep enough to hide from the elements, but close enough to the entrance to prevent them from experiencing the effects time dilation that the time cave imposed. It was a hard job, and they weren’t even getting paid for it. They couldn’t just drop a few rocks in front, and expect it to hold. The had to make it look like there was no cave here, and there never was, so no one would ever investigate or explore. This meant protecting it from rain erosion, wind erosion, and animals. They didn’t have access to a calendar, but Mateo’s cuff did keep a tally of the days that had passed since they arrived. All told, it took them nearly a whole year to finish the job.
Once they were satisfied with their accomplishment, the cuff detected this, and displayed a new directional arrow. They walked a few kilometers Northward, and stood at the next anomaly.
“I guess this is where we part ways,” Mateo said.
“No, I’m coming with you,” Sanaa argued. “What are you talking about?”
“Holly Blue says it’s dangerous. You could be trapped in some place after I manage to get through.”
“So, your answer to this is trapping me here, in this shithole?”
“It’s not a great place, I know, but—”
“My skin is too dark for me to stay here, in this area alone, Mateo.”
“That’s a good point, but the next waypoint could be a lot worse.”
“I’ma risk it,” she said with confidence. She took a half step forward, and presented him with the anomaly, even though she couldn’t see it herself. “Go ahead. Just don’t fall in love with me.”
He chuckled, and shook his head. “You’re exactly as Leona described you.” He started separating the seam.
“Yeah, don’t get any ideas about a threesome either.”
He shook his head again, and led her through the rift. When they reached the uptieth waypoint, the arrow disappeared, suggesting that this was their final destination. After a little bit of investigating, they learned that they were no longer on Earth. This was the rogue planet Durus, and it was Tuesday, April 26, 2050.

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