Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, August 4, 2150

The clocks were moving about four or five times faster than they should have been. Leona started tapping on her cuff to see if there was any way to fix that. “That pause button you pressed,” she said after apparently discovering no remedy. “It has a wider range than we needed. We’re all frozen now.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Jeremy pointed out. “Angela is frozen from our perspective. Time is moving even slower for her?”
“Because I pointed the remote directly at her I guess?” Mateo said.
“Well, we have about six hours before our jump to...” Aeolia began.
“To 2153, Leona filled in. If we don’t break free of this by then, we’ll miss whoever it is we’re meant to transition. We may have already missed our chance.”
“I can’t press this button again,” Mateo said. “Angela is hurt. We need time to help her. More time than we have. We gotta find a way to unpause only us.”
“I can try a few things,” Danica revealed. “Miss Sarai, could you please assist me? The rest of you just keep an eye on her.”
Once Danica and Aeolia were gone, Leona knelt down, and pulled the mask off of the intruder. “I know this man. He’s younger, but it’s definitely him.”
Bran unmasked the other intruder. “This one isn’t younger. He’s about the same age that he was when we last saw him.”
Mateo peeked over at the older version. He never met the guy himself, but Leona and Bran had a hostile encounter with him in 2161. They were trying to retrieve the Escher knob, but he was hoarding it, along with several other temporal objects, under the false belief that they would protect him from the Deathspring.
“The scar on his hand,” Bran noted, “it’s where I shot the lockbox out of his grasp. Why does the younger version have the same scar? That makes no sense. It doesn’t happen for another fifteen years.”
Leona stood up, and checked the older version. Then she went back to the younger one, and cross-checked them a few more times. “It’s not exactly the same. It’s very similar, but...oh my God, he shot himself.”
“Excuse me?” Jeremy questioned.
“He came back in time, found his younger self, and shot him so they would match,” Leona posited, knowing how weird that theory was.
“That’s insane.”
“Uhh...yeah,” Leona agreed. “We don’t know who he is, or what his deal is, but it was clear from the start that he is not well.”
The older version started waking up, so Bran shot him with his stunner. “What are we going to do with him?”
“Can we take him to that time traveler prison?” Jeremy suggested. “Beaver Heaven?”
“Beaver Haven,” Leona corrected. “I’m not sure they would take him. As far as we know, he never threatened to expose us all to the world. The Warden doesn’t care about time criminals unless they risk the secret of the underworld.”
“They made an exception for Reaver and Ulinthra in an alternate timeline,” Mateo reminded her.
“Yes,” she concurred. “But they didn’t place them at the facility. They each got their own special prism, far removed from everyone else.”
“They had to,” Mateo realized. “Because it was against their code. And technically, none of the staff ever worked there. They outsourced the entire thing to distance themselves from it.”
“What does this all mean?” Jeremy asked.
“If we want to keep these two locked up,” Leona decided, “we’ll have to do it ourselves.”
“How do you lock up someone that no one can remember?” Jeremy asked. “Who’s gonna feed them, maintain their cell, or cells?”
“We’ll do it,” Bran decided. “We’ll stay with them until...well, they’ll both die eventually, right? Aeolia and I don’t seem to age, so what’s a few decades?”
“Kallias...” Mateo urged vaguely.
“Don’t worry about it,” Bran urged, less vaguely. “We’ll see each other again at some point. Time ain’t nothin’ but a thang. You may not even remember us.”
When he first started jumping forwards in time, Mateo realized he would have to say goodbye to everyone he loved. This truth has held despite the fact that half his friends are time travelers, and the other half are immortal. Everyone leaves eventually. Leona is the only one who has stuck by him. “If he’s in prison,” she began, “he won’t grow up to attack us in 2161. Even if we let him go, we wouldn’t have even been able to see him. This is a new reality, it has to be. We’ve changed things. What is the world going to be like in the future?”
“That’s not the biggest question,” Mateo said. “The real question is, how do we deal with our alternate versions when we run into them? If they’re not predestined to one day turn into us, what will we do?”
Like an ominous answer from a mysterious God, the lights all shut off at once, following that familiar thump from the main power switch. The darkness lasted about thirty seconds, at which point Mateo discovered Bran to be gone, along with the two versions of the man. Danica walked in from the back alone, and showed no signs that she should have been anything but. No one else seemed to have the sense that they were missing two members of their group. When Mateo checked the stash of Cassidy cuffs, he found all five extras. Not even Danica was still wearing hers, for she only needed it so she could interact with the retgone coiners. Why was he still able to maintain his memory of their friends? What had changed in him that didn’t change for Leona, and for that matter, why not Nerakali?
“Thanks, everyone,” Danica started, “for helping me fix the power.” They did what? What did these people think just happened?
Angela sat up on the couch. “What happened? Why do I feel both energized and tired at the same time?”
“The answer is...don’t think about it,” Mateo said to her. They all seemed cool with this nonexplanation.
Their cuffs beeped. “Well, this was a nice break,” Jeremy said. “We have to get back to it, though. It’s not far from here.” A break?
“Beaver Haven Penitentiary,” Leona noted. “Oh, it’s 2150.”
“What’s the significance of this year?” Mateo questioned.
Danica took this one. “The prison is designed to hold those they deem guilty for the duration of their entire lives, and these people are taken from all over time and space, both the past, and the future. So it doesn’t need to exist throughout all of time. It just needs to be big enough to contain all those people until they die out. Based on minimal turnover, a hundred and sixty-three years is that figure. It will soon be shut down, if it wasn’t already earlier this year.”
“We’re already in the main sequence,” Angela pointed out, “so let’s just go find out what’s happening. I’m not a huge fan of prisons, so I wouldn’t mind seeing one close forever.”
The four of them left Danica and the dimensional destroyer behind, so the former could help the latter get back to wherever it was she belonged. Mateo was the only one acutely aware that they never needed her to do anything for them. The others only had a vague recollection that they recruited her to stop some disaster in The Constant, which apparently never took place. They didn’t know why, and they didn’t wonder about it either. While they were on their way to the prison, Mateo felt like there weren’t enough people in their group, and not just because they suddenly lost two of them. Four was too low a number, but they only ever had more than that for organic reasons. Never before had they attempted to recruit anyone else into the mission, so this was liable to be their current maximum, at least for a while. Again, the three others didn’t seem bothered by this.
They arrived at the prison to find it eerily empty. All the cells were just left open, and it was mostly silent, except for some noises coming from the offices above. They headed for them, and walked into the Warden’s lobby area. “Oh, God,” she said. “What are you people doing here?”
Jeremy checked the time. “Someone is about to be transitioned to an alternate reality from here. Know anyone whose life needs saving?”
She plopped herself on her chair, amongst all the half-packed boxes, and small piles of trash. “There’s one. Have you ever heard of a man by the name of Ambrosios?”
“Yeah.” Mateo looked at his wrist. “He’s dead.”
“Not quite yet. He will be come midnight.”
“You’re executing him?” Leona questioned.
“I can’t keep doing this,” the Warden explained. “I can’t keep the prison open forever. I certainly can’t keep it open for only one immortal.”
“So you’re just gonna kill him?” Leona pressed. “For convenience?”
“He doesn’t wanna be trapped forever. This is best for everyone, including him.” The Warden leaned forward, and rested her elbows on the desk. “Unless you have some way around it? That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”
“Who are we talking about?” Jeremy asked.
“A true immortal,” Leona answered. “At least, he should be. They’ve come up with some way of making his power wear off. We never found out how.”
“There’s only one way,” the Warden said. “It has nothing to do with making his immortality wear off.”
“That’s how it was done in the reality where I come from,” Mateo explained.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“I saw his body,” Mateo replied.
The Warden nodded. “Did you see it just once, or did you check in on it after a few years?”
“Wull...I guess it was just once,” Mateo revealed.
“Then he probably wasn’t really dead. There are ways to suppress some aspects of true immortality, but not all of them, and they will eventually come back and survive. Unless...”
“Unless what?” Leona was suspicious.
“Lucius Carlisle has agreed to help us in this matter,” the Warden finally said.
Leona scoffed and shook her head. “You’re gonna make him do that.”
“Like I said, he agreed.”
Leona was in the mood to fustigate. “Lucius Carlise is a good person who does everything he can to do that right thing. And people like you keep exploiting him, and running his progress!”
“He agreed.”
“Stop goddamn saying that!”
“It’s okay, Leona,” Lucius said from the doorway. “I’m okay.”
“No!” Leona continued to fight. “We’re not doing this! We’ll take Ambrosios to The Parallel, where they will help him in their own ways. They can probably treat his mental issues.”
“We can’t keep relying on the natives to fix everything for us,” Angela reluctantly reminded her. “They’ve made too many exceptions to their noninterference policy already.”
“I don’t care!” Leona went on, her voice still raised.
Mateo didn’t want to listen to this anymore. He turned around, and took Lucius by the hand. “Come on, we need to talk.”
No one followed them, either because they didn’t guess what Mateo was planning to do, or didn’t notice. He led Lucius down the steps, and into one of the empty cells. Once they were there, he retrieved one of the extra Cassidy cuffs, and handed it to Lucius. “You’re going to teach me how to use your power.”
Lucius regarded the cuff, but didn’t reach for it. “You don’t have to do that. I really am fine.”
“You say that now, but every time you kill someone, a little bit of your soul flakes off. I’ve seen it in your eyes.”
“And that won’t happen to you?”
“I’m an alternate version of Mateo Matic. No, my soul doesn’t matter.”
“That’s not how it works.”
“It does in my case. I know what my options are. At some point, the real Mateo and I are gonna have to make a decision about how to proceed, and I fully intend to...just die.”
“You say that now,” Lucius echoed.
“People always make excuses for me, so when I kill, it’s an aberration. When you kill...” Mateo placed the cuff on Lucius’ wrist, and was met with no protest. “...it’s Tuesday, and a little racist. So you have to avoid it every chance you get. Besides,” he said with a smile. “I can erase people’s memories if I want.”
“Thank you,” Lucius said. “I owe you a favor.”
“This will be the last we see each other.”
“How do you know?”
“I just feel it. You have your destiny, and I have mine. They’re in opposite directions. Now. How do I molecularly teleportize someone?”

No comments :

Post a Comment