Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, July 13, 2128

Angela Marie Walton was born in 1784 to a wealthy slaveowner. He wasn’t the cruelest person in the world, but he did own people, and that was wrong in every time period. Angela grew up fascinated by the black people who worked for the family. She liked to watch them, not to remind herself that she was superior, but also not because she felt that they should be treated as equals. She was indoctrinated into the world she lived in, and she had trouble fathoming any world beyond it. She had somewhat contradictory feelings on the matter. It was wrong how African people were taken from their homes, and forced to live somewhere else. But the slaves her father owned today were not Africans. They only knew this country, so they ought to stay. They deserved to be treated well, but they were uneducated, and perhaps they could never be taught to be civilized, so at least this gave them a purpose. They had a roof over their heads, and food to eat, and she rationalized that there was little difference between that, and a freeman who had to work for a living. They weren’t getting paid in coin, but in living resources, so maybe that was good enough.
As Angela grew older, her contradictions started slipping away. She stopped seeing the good in the system, and started focusing more on how broken it was. Life was about choice, and these slaves were fundamentally not given a choice. The fact that they were born into this was not their fault, their lack of education was not their fault; nothing was their fault. She slowly became an abolitionist. But there was a problem. She was still a woman; a girl, actually, and her opinion mattered very little. If she spoke out against the injustices, she could lose everything. What she needed to do was find a husband who felt the same way. She did, in a man named Ed Bolton. He was more outspoken about his sentiments, and she admired him for that. In 1809, she began a courtship, of course, against her fathers wishes. But it didn’t matter, because once she was married, she wouldn’t have to worry about what her father thought, or how he felt. Ed wasn’t the richest man she knew, but he made a decent living, and he would be good to her. Unfortunately, they never made it to their wedding day. On September 9 of that year, Ed Bolton disappeared from his home, and wasn’t seen again for two years.
In the meantime, Angela lost what few privileges she had, and was forced to marry another man. This man was far more cruel to his slaves, and he firmly believed in their inferiority. Angela’s father didn’t even like him all that much, but he felt betrayed by his daughter for the whole Ed Bolton thing, and vindictive towards her, so her husband was her punishment. Her husband was as abusive to Angela as he was to the other humans he owned, and it all came to a head in 1816, when he dealt her a fatal blow. Ed Bolton was returned to the timestream when it happened, and tried to save her, but was unable. Angela’s husband took this as an opportunity to frame Ed for the crime, and when the latter resurfaced yet again five years later, the law swiftly intervened. He disappeared after three weeks, but the true killer was never caught, and Angela was still dead. Fortunately for her, there was life after death, and she spent the next three centuries making up for her past sins, until she was finally promoted to Counselor. Then it ended, when she tried to counsel a group of other time travelers, and it prompted a major demotion.
Over two hundred years after Angela’s death, new life was coming into the world. A woman of unknown identity was giving birth to a baby boy, completely alone. Down the hall, a man named Lowell Benton was killing someone else. The victim had done nothing to Lowell personally, but Lowell had a power. He could see people’s sins. Or rather, he always saw their sins. Whenever he looked at someone, the worst thing they did in their past flashed before his eyes. If he looked at them a second time, the second worst thing they did flashed. The cycle would continue ad nauseum, and the strain from this drove him crazy. It drove him towards murder, because dead bodies didn’t ever show him any visions. Funny he didn’t seem to get the idea to just go live out in the woods somewhere, and avoid people. He decided that being a vigilante was his only option. When he heard the screams of the mother after finishing his last jobs, he became curious. It sounded like she was in pain, but it didn’t sound like someone was purposefully hurting her. He quickly picked her lock, and broke in to find her alone, on the floor, with some towels. The baby was coming, and there was no time to get her to a medical facility. The most surprising thing was that she wasn’t giving him any visions. His theory was that the baby had never sinned, so it was sort of interfering with the signal, but the truth was that being in labor forced her to think of nothing but the pain, and whatever her sins were, they were buried so deep that Lowell couldn’t get to them.
By now, he was used to gross things, and of course, death. With nothing better to do with his night, he knelt down, and helped deliver that baby. And when the mother died by whatever specific cause, he didn’t bother to contact the authorities. He just stood up, and washed his hands. But the baby kept crying, and it was starting to get on Lowell’s nerves. He was about to leave when he caught one more glance of the infant, and felt a calm. He had also never thought to surround himself with babies before, who were the only living humans on the planet without sin. They could give him peace. So he picked up the child, and took it with him on the road. He never did call anyone about the dead mother, so by the time the autopsy confirmed she had died while giving birth, Lowell and the child were so far away, that no one could have made a connection between the two. He spent a week with that baby before growing bored with him. Sure, he was a calming presence, but he would start sinning eventually, and Lowell didn’t want to have to kill him for it. Besides, there were plenty of targets that actually did need killing, and running around with a child was obstructing that cause. He happened to be in Kansas City at the time, so he dropped the kid off at the nearest fire station, and moved on with his life with barely a second thought. The firefighters, meanwhile, named their new charge Jeremy Bearimy.
“Wow, you know a lot about me,” Lowell said. “Every time you talked about Ed, though, you gestured towards this woman right here.”
“I’m Ed,” Téa explained. “I died and was reincarnated as a girl.”
“Oh,” Lowell said. “Gotcha. Except, why would I rescue this Jeremy Bearimy fellow?”
“Weren’t you listening?” Mateo questioned. “He’s the kid you delivered back in 2018.”
“Yeah, so I saved him once. Why do I need to do it again?”
“Yeah,” Mateo realized, “why does he? Why do we need him?”
“You need a team,” Jupiter replied. “This is the one I’ve chosen for you. You’re primary objective is Leona. Once Missy returns from The Fourth Quadrant next year, hers will be Sanaa, Téa’s is Angela, and Lowell’s is J.B.”
“J.B.?” Lowell questioned. “He’s doing the initials thing? Nah, I’m not into that. Jeremy is a fine name, I’ll call him that.”
Jupiter stared at him a moment. “That’s between you and him, I don’t give a shit.”
“Who’s the fifth person?”
“That is your first mission,” Jupiter answered. “Trinity is the new team member who corresponds to Ellie. The problem is, I’m not sure where she is. I figured she would be on Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida—”
“Thayla-whatnow?” Lowell interrupted.
Jupiter sighed loudly. “Your first mission is to locate her, and bring her into the fold.” He pointed to their wrists. “You’re limited as to when and where you can do that, though.”
“Wait, what do these things do?” Lowell was an interesting character. He was a bad dude, of course, and he questioned everything anyone asked of him, but he didn’t seem antipathetic to these requests. He both wanted all the information, and didn’t care what those answers were. Nothing was going to stop him from helping, not because he was altruistic, but because he wasn’t doing anything else right now.
“I’ll let Mateo explain. He’s your leader, by the way. He reports to me, but you report to him, and if he tells you to do something, you better do it.”
“Or what?”
Jupiter lifted his primary Cassidy cuff; the one in control of all the others. “Or I’ll switch off your time power dampener, and force you to watch all of my sins. You think the people you’ve killed were bad, you haven’t seen evil like mine.”
Now Lowell shut his mouth, and took a quarter step back.
Jupiter went on, “you are all on Mateo’s original pattern right now. I want him to be on the Bearimy-Matic pattern, however. Fortunately for you, through a loophole, those two components coincide with each other right now. The issue is that this loophole ends in less than three weeks. You have that long to find Trinity, figure out how to break into Tamerlane Pryce’s afterlife simulation, and get at least J.B. out, so he can rejoin the team. Lowell, there are only eleven cuffs total, which means you will be giving yours to him. That’s your motivation. If you fail, you’ll be stuck like this forever. Everyone understand what is expected of you?”
“Yes,” they all replied in perfect unison.

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