Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Sunday, July 9, 2124

Mateo, Leona, Ellie, Sanaa, and Jeremy Bearimy were on Tribulation Island, geared up and ready to go. They picked an unpopulated area, to make sure they avoided running into their alternate selves, or even their friends, in the main sequence. They didn’t want to disturb the timeline any more than they had to. They just had to get in, procure what they needed, and then get back. Unfortunately for them, that was going to be a little more difficult than they thought. They should have tried this mission earlier, but Ellie conscripted them to save the Fourth Quadrant, and now they didn’t know if they had the tools to get to Vearden. Their last chance might have already passed, and that wasn’t okay. They weren’t just trying to save him from death because Jupiter asked them to, but because they legitimately wanted to. Vearden didn’t deserve this, and perhaps Mateo did, after everything.
The window opened up, swept them into it, and dropped them back in the main sequence. They stood prepared, not for a firefight, but to run off and avoid violating the proverbial prime directive. Luckily, no one was around, just as it was planned. Leona pulled up a satnav on her tablet, courtesy of the satellite that the Dardieti was wise enough to place in orbit around this planet. It took a moment for it to sync up, mostly because it was just a minute ago connected to the Parallel network, which followed a wholly different evolution of technology. It was kind of a wonder a single device was capable of connecting to more than one at all.
“What are you doing right now?” J.B. asked as they were waiting. “The other you, I mean?”
“I’m out cold,” Mateo explained. “The expiation before the one my friends are in right now involved us all teleporting all over Earth, saving people’s lives. The others were given breaks, but I basically did it nonstop, so once it was over, I crashed. I’m sleeping in the little cabin thing they built on the edge of camp.”
“Which is right this way,” Leona said, gesturing forwards. “The merge barrier is going to be erected in about an hour. We have to get to Vearden, and take a sample of his blood without anyone else noticing, all before he has to cross to the other side. If he gets across that merge point, we’ll lose him forever.” She started walking, expecting everyone to follow her, which they did. “Arcadia will not allow us to cross the border ourselves.”
“Well, she might,” Mateo contended, “but the price will be too high.”
“She’ll probably ask for another date,” Leona figured.
“What’s this?” J.B. asked.
“That’s not for another two years,” Mateo reminded her, not that that was the point of her remark. Arcadia wouldn’t do anything for him, but he was her pet, and if he asked nicely, she might indeed agree to help. But he had to be the one to ask. Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that. They had returned to this time period far too often, and encountered her too often too. After saving Vearden, it would be great if they could put all this Tribulation Island nonsense behind them. At least that was what Mateo would be doing, because he’ll be dead anyway. “And it technically never happened.”
“Guys, I have to see a man about a horse.” J.B. started veering off from the group.
“There’s no alcohol here,” Leona said.
“Not that horse,” J.B. clarified.
“We can’t stop,” Leona urged him.
“Don’t worry about it,” J.B. assured her. “I feel like running anyway.”
She was not assured.
“Seriously.” He shook his cuff at her. “I can track you with this. I’ll catch up.”
“All right,” Mateo said. “We’re going in a pretty straight line. Keep shakin’ that bush.”
“I do not understand that reference.” J.B. kept walking, and disappeared into the jungle.
The rest of them kept walking too, but a little slower than before, subconsciously worried about getting too far ahead of their friend. Ten minutes later, Sanaa perked up, like a dog to a high-pitched whistle. “Something’s wrong.”
“Ellie, call out to J.B.”
They saw Ellie mouth J.B.’s name, but didn’t hear anything. She was speaking directly to him. After calling out his name a few times, she stopped and listened. “This way,” she said out loud. She ran off, and everyone followed.
When they found J.B., he was just standing there, staring at them, not making any attempt to meet them halfway.
“Oh, no,” Leona let out with her breath. She increased speed, and made it to him. She reached out to touch his hand, but was unable to. He was on the other side of the merge border. “I don’t understand.” She looked at her watch again. “I know what time it is. The barrier shouldn’t be up yet.”
Ellie placed her own hand on the invisible wall. “It’s moving. Like a snake, it’s moving.”
It dawned on Leona. “The border wall doesn’t come up all at once. It starts on the other side of the island, and makes its way forwards. He must have made his latrine on the other side, but then the wall came up behind him.”
“So, we should be able to catch up with it,” Sanaa guessed. “We’re on track to get to camp by the time Vearden crosses over anyway, right? This changes nothing.”
Leona considered this, and nodded slightly. “We stick to the plan, but we go faster. We absolutely have to get to Vearden.”
“What about him?”
Leona looked back up at J.B. “You wanted to run, right? So run.”
They all took off running. Soon, though, the largest creature any of them had ever seen appeared from behind the trees. It looked like one of those monkeys with the funny noses, except that it was the size of a one-story cottage, and it looked mad. Its fur was purple and white, and almost...glowing. It was on the other side of the merge border, snarling at J.B. He stopped short, and started backing up slowly, but it matched every step.
“J.B.!” Mateo cried.
“Come on!” Leona yelled at him. “We can get to him, but we have to find the edge of this growing wall first!” She pulled at his shirt.
Panicking, J.B. turned and took off, back in the direction he had come from, and the creature was pursuing him. There would be no time to find the edge, cross over, and then backtrack to catch up with J.B. and the monster. Their lead was growing wider by the second. Mateo looked at his cuff interface screen, spending a few seconds to gather knowledge on them. Ellie could transmit sound across time and space, but couldn’t teleport there. Sanaa may or may not have gotten her psychic powers back, but that wouldn’t help them either. Dammit, if Jupiter had let Ariadna stay in their group, their problems would be solved. Perhaps that was why he removed her from their team, because he knew this would happen. Maybe he wasn’t such a great guy after all. July 9, 2124 was the date according to the people on this side of the island, and also the Cassidy cuffs. But they needed to travel back in time nearly three million years, which was something that they couldn’t do right now, with or without the cuffs. Or could they? More specifically, could he? His past self was going to wake up tomorrow on this side of the border, and after stumbling around like a drunkard, he would slip over to the other side. He wouldn’t be able to come back, but Arcadia wanted him over there, so he could help Vearden. It was possible this exception started today. It couldn’t hurt to try.
While Leona, Ellie, and Sanaa were continuing on, hoping to find the entrance, Mateo took his chances. He stepped forward, and crossed into the past. It was as if Leona sensed this. She stopped, and looked back. “Go!” he ordered. “Go save Vearden! I’ll save Jeremy!”
She didn’t move.
“Rule X!” he cried.
“You already used that!” she argued.
“I’m not using it again, I’m just still using it! This is all part of the plan! Go!” It definitely wasn’t part of the plan, but it was a necessary detour. Losing J.B. in their attempt to save Vearden would be heartbreaking. He had to save them both. He turned around, and started chasing after the monster, not knowing what he was going to do when he caught up with it. He hoped Leona would continue the mission without him, but there was no way to confirm. He raced through the jungle faster than ever before. He was quite proud of himself, never tripping on any roots, or colliding with any trees, as he pushed through, like a professional cross country runner. Pretty soon, he could see the monkey monster, and it was still running as well, which strongly suggested that it had not caught up to J.B.
Mateo started screaming and taunting it. “Hey, you! Do you know what the only natural predator of the monkey is? It’s the hyena. I’m a hyena!” Then he growled and whooped. It wasn’t paying attention, so he had to step up his game. He grabbed the nearest stick he could find, and flung it at the monster’s back. This made it stop, but not turn around yet. He found a rock, and chucked that at it as well. Now this was enough.
“Oh, shit.”
The monster hollered back. It’s breath was almost hot enough to melt the skin off his face. He could have sworn his hair started smoldering. Now that the thing had forgotten about J.B., it was time to lure it away. Mateo turned to run the other direction, adjacent to the border wall, hoping his streak of suddenly being a great runner continued. He didn’t get far, though. He could hear a single pounding behind him, then a sort of whistle in the air, and then a truck came down on top of him. Apparently the monster monkey could jump. Who knew? It rolled off of Mateo’s back, and examined the strange human, lying mangled and bloody and unmoving. Satisfied with the results, it walked off.
A moment later, J.B. found Mateo’s dying body, and knelt down beside it. “Oh my God, you shouldn’t have done that.”
“I was gonna die anyway,” Mateo said. “It’s all part of the plan.”
J.B. just teared up, and shook his head.
“You have to get back to the other side. Don’t let anything stop you this time.”
“I can’t leave you.”
“It’s okay. This wasn’t gonna last forever.” Mateo struggled to lift his hand a few centimeters off the ground. Blood dripped from his fingers, and soaked the recently fallen leaves below. “Everything’s to red.”
“Go, or I died for nothing. It’s probably going to retrieve its big monkey monster friends, so they can feast on my body together.”
J.B. stood up and composed himself. “Thank you.”
“Tell her were I you!”
“Of course.” J.B. ran off, leaving his friend to die alone.
But he wasn’t alone. Another figure approached, and stood there for a moment. Then it reached down, and started dragging Mateo by the ankles. “I’ve been told, you can’t die in the past,” he said. Was that his frenemy, Kayetan Glaston? Whoever it was pulled him several meters, presumably to the other side of the merge border.
“Why not?” Mateo tried to ask, but he received no answer. Had he imagined Kayetan’s arrival? Or had he just imagined speaking? Was he just too far gone to make any sounds? The last thing he saw was the hundemarke dropping to the ground in front of his face. Then he dove soulfirst into the darkness, and transferred his consciousness to the afterlife.

No comments :

Post a Comment