Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, April 26, 2050

Shortly after Mateo and Sanaa arrived at their final destination, an old woman found them wandering what they could only describe as a thicket. The plant life here wasn’t all dead, but it was brown and overgrown. It was all there was as far as they could see. They wouldn’t have been able to hide in it unless they had been lying down, but there was still nothing for miles and miles. It would be strange if this person just stumbled upon them. She probably knew they were coming. She urged them to follow her, and didn’t say a word. It was only after they walked over the slight hill that they found civilization. A small town sat peacefully in the valley. She motioned for them to follow her farther, but did not go in herself after her final instructions to enter some kind of official building near the center of town.
They climbed the steps, and approached the doors. A young woman appeared to be standing guard. “Ecrin?” Mateo asked.
“Indeed,” she replied. He had only met her once, but since she was ageless, that was centuries in her future, so there was no way she knew who he was. Well, she might have known—it was absolutely within the realm of possibility—but it looked like she did not yet recognize him.
“I think we’re meant to save the life of someone on the other side of this door,” Sanaa said to her.
Ecrin was no stranger to time powers, and future-knowledge, so she wasn’t at all surprised by this possibility. She removed a note card from her back pocket, and consulted it. “That’s not on my agenda.”
“We don’t actually know,” Mateo clarified. “We’ve just been sent here by...” The powers that be didn’t have any control over them while they were in The Parallel, but they were back in the main timeline, so who the hell knows who was pulling the strings right now? Still, they were the easiest scapegoat. “By the powers that be,” he finished.
“A guide led us here, but she didn’t speak,” Sanaa added, “so we don’t know her motivations, or purpose.”
Ecrin frowned. “Was she wearing about a hundred more layers than she needed, and not because she looked like a homeless person from the old world, but more like she thought it was fashionable, like ancient times in the old world?”
“Yes,” Mateo confirmed.
“She’s a greeter, not a guide,” Ecrin began. “The PTB do occasionally send us salmon, and she takes it upon herself to track these arrivals, and make sure, no matter what, people like you report to the source mages first.”
“Then we need to talk to the source mages,” Sanaa said. “Thank you.” Mateo didn’t know if these two ever met at some other moment in the timeline, but she must have automatically respected the hell out of Ecrin, because she wasn’t known for being so polite and gracious. Strangers, best friends; Sanaa treated them just a little bit poorly. It wasn’t enough to alienate everyone around her, but it was something those closest to her had to learn to tolerate.
“Most of the source mages are gone,” Ecrin said. “Though, I suppose Kalea will be the most helpful and patient with you anyway. Welcome to Durus.” She opened the door with a backhand, but stayed outside to hold her watchful position. “Up the stairs, third door on your left.”
“Thank you very much, Miss Cabral.” Ah, damn. He wasn’t supposed to know her name. She flinched, but didn’t question it. Again, this sort of thing was commonplace in the world of salmon and choosers, and this whole planet lived in that world.
“Oh.” A young woman clapped her hands together, and opened a wide smile where once there was a regular smile she probably used as her resting face. “I am so happy you are here.”
“Did you know we were coming?” Sanaa asked.
“No,” she said, “but I am always glad to see a couple friendly new faces.”
“How do you know we’re friendly?” Sanaa pressed. She didn’t seem to respect this one quite as much.
“I always just assume that. I find life goes much smoother when I don’t make enemies with people I don’t know.”
“That’s lovely.”
Before they could continue the conversation, they were interrupted by the clanging of metal against metal, followed quickly but a loud crash; maybe an explosion. Then came the footsteps.
“This way,” Kalea ran out of her office, and bolted down the hallway.
Mateo took up the rear, and found the men pursuing them to be gaining ground. They ran all the way down, and into another staircase. Unfortunately, they were met by a second group of angry people at the bottom. This mob dragged them through the lower level, and into an open area. They forced them down to their knees, and ziptied their hands behind their backs. An angry bearded man stood in his leadership position, sword resting against his right shoulder, which he probably figured looked pretty badass. It did not. He scowled. “Where are the other source mages?”
“It’s Tuesday,” Kalea answered. “We don’t work on Tuesdays.”
The leader guy lifted his boot, and kicked Mateo in the chest. “Where are they?”
“You moron. It’s 2050. They’re getting ready for the mage games, which are not held at the capitol.”
“Why aren’t you with them?”
“There’s always at least one of us in the building. I imagine we do that to prevent someone like you from killing us all in one go.”
The man grimaced, threw his blade over to rest it on the back of his neck, balancing it with two hands, and leaned in real close. Man, this dude was just asking to cut himself. “We don’t need to kill you in one go. You’ll do...for now.” He stood back up, and spit on the floor. “Everyone out. I’ll stay here and make sure they don’t contact someone for emergency teleportation.”
“Sir?” one of his minions questioned.
“I die for a great cause. I die for equality. I die for a world where the powerless have powers.”
The minion, tears and all, nodded once out of reverence, and followed the rest of his compatriots out.
“You can’t teleport within these walls,” Kalea spit. “That’s how we designed it. It’s about your safety as much as ours.”
“Still, I think I’ll stick around.” The bearded man removed a black box from his bag, and placed it delicately on the floor.
“Singularity bomb,” Kalea said in an exhale. “Those are illegal.”
“No, d’uh,” he responded. “Ten seconds. Say your prayers to the time gods.”
“What’s that flickering?” Kalea asked, looking around at the walls.
“Oh, no.” Oh, yes, but oh no. Hoping the web video he once watched before he was a time traveler was real, Mateo raised his arms behind his back as high as they could go, then swung them down as hard as he could, and pulled them apart. The ziptie broke, as it was meant to. Just before the flickering gave way to reality—which was just before the bomb was going to go off—he managed to wrap his arms around Sanaa, hoping both of them would be swept into Kalea’s transition window. The building disappeared, leaving them on the cold, moist ground. The town was gone entirely, as was the freedom fighter, and they were surrounded by friends.
“Mateo!” Leona cried. She knelt down, and carefully pulled him off of Sanaa. She kissed him with a huge smile of her own, maintaining the expression as she looked at Sanaa. “And you. Where are you in the timeline?”
“The last time you saw me was the last time I saw you,” Sanaa replied.
“That’s wonderful,” Leona said, helping her friend up from the ground, and turning her attention back to her husband. “We were so worried Jupiter separated you from us forever, just to get a kick out of it.”
“I think he wanted to save Sanaa as well, so he got us to Kalea’s window.”
“Speaking of which,” Kalea said. “What’s a window, and where are we?”
Ramses took it upon himself to get the source mage up to speed, while Leona continued doing the same for Mateo.
“How did you get to this world?” he asked.
“The Cosmic Sextant,” she explained. “Samsonite was in possession of it in 2047. He didn’t know what he had, of course.”
“Samsonite? Does that mean...?”
“Aura and Theo. They were there too.”
“What was happening with them in 2047?” When the two of them were first jumping through time, they ran into his mother, her love interest, and a friend of theirs who was reincarnated as Leona’ younger brother. That was in a completely different reality, though. Mateo later went back in time, and killed Hitler. The butterfly effect from this act both took Mateo out of the timeline, and made it so Theo was instead reincarnated as a girl, named Téa Stendahl. None of them knew who Mateo or Leona were after these changes. “Wait, you said Theo, not Téa.”
“Yes,” Leona said. “They were from what we sometimes call Reality Two.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Sure it does,” Leona said. “The Parallel is a series of alternate realities—not just one of them—which all run parallel to—but independently from—the main series of alternate realities. Neither one directly impacts events in the other. If we were to cross back over, we could end up in any branch that spawned from the main series, rather than the one we just came from.”
“So, dark Reaver could show up,” Mateo supposed. “Or the versions of Carol and Randall who were my parents, rather than yours. Or a different version of you could appear, or me.”
Leona shook her head. “Carol and Randall couldn’t show up, because neither of them would be able to survive into the 2050s. The dates still match up perfectly. It’s April 26, 2050 over there, and it’s April 26, 2050 over here, regardless of which reality it happens to be. That’s what makes them parallel. Yeah, evil Reaver could show up, but we’re quickly coming up on the end of his personal timeline, before he dies. I can’t say what happened in 2047 won’t happen again, but it probably won’t be those people you mentioned. Tell me about you. How did you and Sanaa find each other?”
After Mateo finished telling his side of the story, the larger group came back together to decide what they were going to do. The Cosmic Sextant only operated one-way trips. They would allow any traveler to go anywhere in the observable universe, but they could never take the device with them, which meant, if they wanted to come back, they would have to do it by some other means. No one here was capable of that, and there was no one on this world either, because in this reality, nobody lived on the planet at all. All evidence suggested that they were now stuck here, unless they could figure out how to make the HG Goggles work for this many people.
“Perhaps that’s why I’m here,” Kalea said. She tripped, and almost fell. “Whew, a little faint.”
“Yeah, does the air feel thin?” J.B. asked.
“You stole atmosphere from the other Durus,” Leona began, “just like I believe the Sextant brings some atmosphere with it from Earth. We’re probably running out. We better find a way to get back. Miss Akopa, you said you thought that’s why you were here? I can’t imagine you can jump between planets. Otherwise, you would have traveled freely between Durus and Earth, right?”
“I can’t, no,” Kalea corroborated. “I can give someone else the power to do that, though.”
“Way I understand it,” Holly Blue said, “you’re a source of power, but you can’t choose which power to give someone. It’s like a random lottery.”
Kalea sported a smile-frown. “That’s what we’ve told people, but it’s not entirely true. I can give someone whatever power I want. We don’t always do that, but we do kind of have to make sure that our town mages don’t have the power to—I dunno—see what someone’s face will look like in fifty years. We need them to have real, protective powers, so we kind of control it.” She was hesitant to be telling them all this. “Sorry.”
J.B. looked around to see if everyone was in agreement. “We don’t care about any of your internal politics. That’s fine, we’re not judging you.”
“Oh.” She was pleased and relieved to hear this. “There’s just one problem.”
“What’s that?” Holly Blue asked.
“I can’t give powers to someone who already has them, or already has a salmon pattern, for that matter. It only works on regular humans.”
Everyone but Kalea, and Ramses himself, looked over to the one true human in their midst.
“Am I finally gonna get time powers?”
“I think it’s the only way out of this.” Mateo affectionately slapped a firm hand on his best friend’s shoulder. “One of us, gooble gobble, gooble gobble. One of us, one of us.”
“Ramses, is that even what you want?” Leona asked with motherly concern.
He looked at her, and then Mateo, and then to each of the others, to gauge their respective reactions. “Oh, no doubt,” he answered in the flyest voice he could muster.
“All right, cool.” Kalea approached Ramses, and showed him both her palms, obviously suggesting he place his hands in hers. “There’s normally a lot more ceremony when it comes to this, but I think we’ll skip the pageantry. My headache is getting a lot worse.” She inhaled a deep breath from the thin air, and grasped Ramses’ wrists tightly. It took a couple minutes for her to pass whatever magical energy from her body to his.
When it was over, Ramses blinked. “What’d I get? Something cool?”
Kalea smiled at him. “I gave you exactly what we need, and what the world technically already has.”
“And what’s that?” he asked her.
She took him by the wrists again. “Life,” she whispered.
And with that, they both disappeared. They were replaced by a flourishing city. It was highly advanced, with futuristic buildings, and electric cars zipping by them on a newly paved road. This didn’t look like Durus, or Earth, or any planet they had ever been to before. This was new. What had Kalea done to him, and how had she removed Ramses’ Cassidy cuffs without being locked into them herself?

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