Sunday, December 6, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Thursday, July 17, 2132

All prisons and jail centers in The Parallel were quantum locked by design. This prevented someone from simply teleporting out of a holding area, or teleporting in to break someone else out. There wasn’t a whole hell of a lot of crime in this reality, but there was enough to justify their existence. This was the only way to prevent Young!Jupiter Fury from transitioning back to the main sequence, which was something very few people were capable of doing on their own, so they never needed something like this until now. Still, they didn’t want Young!Jupiter to be angry and nasty once they returned a year later, so the Parallel natives cleared out an entire jail for him, and spruced it up, so he would have the run of the place. He could go wherever he wanted within the facility, and even take virtual tours of the rest of the galaxy, but he couldn’t physically leave.
Depending on the perspective, Jupiter was fortunately or unfortunately a time traveler with a penchant for patience. To him, spending a year in a parallel reality was no big deal, and alone wasn’t enough to stop him from completing his goals later. He was an excellent prisoner, who didn’t cause problems, or show any signs of retaliation. But that was only because he didn’t think it mattered much. Once they freed him—and they would eventually have to do that—he could always go back in time and continue with what he was planning. In the original timeline, he helped Keanu and Tauno maintain control over Easter Island after they abducted Paige Turner. He made quantum replications of himself and his friends, so Paige’s rescuers were severely outnumbered. It didn’t work, and they lost anyway, but Future!Jupiter wanted to change his involvement, and that was not going to be easy. Convincing someone to become a better person was a tall order, and Jupiter carried a lot of loyalty to his fellow Springfield Nine. Again, the only way to for sure stop him from nearly killing Paige would be to kill him first, because time travel was a thing.
“We’re not seriously considering that,” Mateo needed to clarify.
“No, I just want to make sure we both understand what we’re up against. It’s the only certain solution, and even it’s not perfect, because we don’t have the hundemarke. Anything short of murder will be damn near impossible. That’s not to say we should do it, but I’m trying to illustrate the difficulty level.  I know how you see me now, and I didn’t wanna bring it up, because of that, but it needed to be said.”
“How do I see you now?”
“I’m a killer, Mateo.”
He made a quizzical face, and waited a moment. “You killed one person. I’ve killed more than that.”
“Yes,” Leona acknowledged, “but those people are still alive, because of Pryce’s afterlife simulation. You’ve actually never killed a single person. I have.”
He took another beat. “Do you remember when Lincoln and I met The Superintendent? I mean, of course you don’t, because you were taken out of the timeline. But I told you about it, and I told you how he sent me to other universes to assassinate alternate versions of Adolf Hitler.”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“Pryce’s simulation does not extend that far. I killed those men, and as far as we know, for them, dead is dead is dead is dead.”
“Wull, yeah, but that’s still Hitler.”
“And Erlendr is still a rapist. I’m not saying we start going around Sweet Viciousing people to an R-rated degree, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over the true death of Erlendr Preston. And you shouldn’t either.”
“I’m not a good person, Mateo. Maybe I never was.”
He scoffed. “Who is? I’m certainly not. If you’re waiting for me to agree with you, it ain’t gon’ happen. I’m sorry to say that you just need to get over this. You saved Angela, who deserves to live a billion times more than he did, and that’s not nothin’.”
“I don’t know that I saved Angela,” Leona argued. “I created a distraction, so Jeremy could climb out of my magic bag and save Angela, but I never found out if it worked, because I had to maintain my distance, and keep my mouth shut about it.”
“Let’s assume your plan worked, and move on from there, okay? Speaking of plans, we need to figure out what to do about Young!Jupiter. I don’t know how to talk to him. I feel like I’ve turned enough bad guys good that my luck’s gotta be runnin’ out. At some point I have to come across someone who can’t be saved.”
“But he can, and we know that he can, because we’ve seen him in the future. I don’t know how many timelines there are, and whether Future!Jupiter put us on this mission, because he already experienced it when he was younger, but he proves that it’s possible. We have to appeal to his better angels, or something, or other.”
He couldn’t help but laugh. “Or something, or other. Sounds easy.”
“Just speak from the heart,” Leona suggested. “That always seems to work for you. I wouldn’t recommend trying to write a speech, or practicing what you wanna say.”
“I still don’t think I can do it.”
“Well, I can’t. I’m not in a great emotional state right now,” she reminded him.
He paused yet again. “Perhaps that’s exactly why you should be the one. I don’t have anything in my heart right now.”
She paused as well. “If this doesn’t work, there’s probably nothing we can do.”
“I have faith in you, love.”
“You get the next one.”
“Sure thing.”
They discussed it a little more, and then Leona went off to formulate a little plan, but she didn’t spend too much time on it. They walked into the room together once they were ready, but she would still be doing most, if not all, of the talking. Jupiter was waiting for them. He knew what day it was, and what they were going to try to do. He seemed open to listening, but maybe not quite so open to changing his mind.
Leona removed a digital photo card from her pocket. It had at least one picture of everyone she cared about on it. She found one of Paige when she was still just a teenager. “You know who this is?”
“That’s Paige Turner.”
“Do you think she deserves to be killed?”
“I’m not going to kill anybody.”
“Your friends are going to try. I was there. They failed, but only because we stopped them. They were fully prepared to do it, and you helped.”
“They have their reasons. And besides she’s not that young anymore. You’re making an emotional plea with an outdated photo, but that’s just Young!Paige, and no one is going to hurt Young!Paige.”
“That’s bullshit. She’s been fighting the Springfield Nine since she was a kid. You had no qualms about it back then. She told me about all the times she almost died because of you and your buddies. Maybe you’re just not a great person.”
Mateo wanted to interrupt, but knew that would undermine whatever it was his wife was doing.
“What do you want from me, Leona? A few hail marys? Hail Mary, full of grace, may I sit upon your face?”
“That. Is a very obscure reference. You think you’re the devil?”
“Well, I’m not the other guy.”
Leona went back to her photo card, and found one of her mother, Carol. “Do you know who this one is?”
“Yeah, that’s your mom. I ain’t got no beef with her.”
“Paige killed her, you know that? She brought a pathogen back from the future, my mom tried to help her, and she died for it.”
“I am aware of the story. Are you gonna run through all the bad things my friends did? We’ll be here all day, and you’re not gonna say anything I don’t already know.”
“What you may not know is that Carol lived. We changed the past, using the power of the Parallel.”
“I think you’re severely overestimating how much I give a shit. It’s just Carol Gelen.”
“The Parallel,” Leona began, “is yours. When I said that we changed the past, I’m including you. You saved her. You didn’t have to.”
“Well, I’ll be sure to change it back when I get to that moment, just to piss you off.”
Leona went to the menu to find a particular album. Then she showed him the photos one by one. “Kalea Akopa, Allen Tupper, Bozhena Horvatinčic, Ariadna Traversa, Xearea Voss. You saved all these people, and they’re just the ones that our team was assigned. We don’t know how many teams Future!You has created, or how many people they’ve saved. You’re a hero, Jupiter.”
“He’s not me, and now...I’ll never become him.”
“Why don’t you want to?”
“Because I like who I am.”
“And who’s that, your father’s son?”
Jupiter developed an instant seething rage. “You ever compare me to that man again, I will fucking kill you where you stand. You think I’m merely associated with bad people. You don’t know what I am.”
“You don’t know what you are,” she fought. “You’re a river. You’re always changing, and trying to stop it is just just as futile.”
“What are you talking about? We stop rivers all the time; they’re called dams.”
“Dams take a lot of work. Wouldn’t it be easier to just...become what you’re meant to be. You might like it.”
She pulled up thumbnails of all the pictures she just showed. “These people would disagree.” She swiped over to a photo of Future!Jupiter. “So would he. Just don’t go to Easter Island. Just don’t go. Jesi, Alexina, Yatchiko; you can follow in their footsteps, and do the right thing. Paige doesn’t deserve to die.”
“You said she survives, so what’s the harm in me going to the island, and helping them? We lose anyway, but at least I don’t antagonize two of the most powerful people I know.”
She sighed, and placed her hand on his. “I’m not here to save Paige. I’m here to save you.” She then grasped his hand, and led him to the door. Mateo followed behind, but kept his distance. They went all the way out of the facility, into the fresh air. “You go back, and you make your choice. I won’t say anything more to try to convince you. I’ve said my peace, and you’ve put up your roadblocks. All you can do now is...look for a detour.”
The Cassidy cuffs beeped, indicating that they had a new mission to get to.
“We gotta get going, but first...” She showed him the photo she had of Future!Jupiter again. “I don’t have any pictures of my enemies on here.” Then she did something insane. She swiped over once, and revealed a picture of Keanu ‘Ōpūnui. That did not happen; they never grew to be friends with him. They wouldn’t have had time before he died, and if they had tried earlier in the timeline, he probably wouldn’t have died. Jupiter seemed to believe the lie, though, and hopefully that would be enough.
They walked away, and started heading towards the next mission, not even looking back to see whether Jupiter went back to the main sequence. They wouldn’t know what he ended up choosing anyway. If they did manage to change his mind, it would create a new timeline, and they would not be aware of it. They would still have their memories of him being present on Easter Island.
They returned to the rogue planet of Durus, where a group of a few dozen women and children transitioned from the main sequence. They escorted them over the lands, and returned them to their reality somewhere apparently safer, which was a place they called Ladytown.

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