Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, October 12, 2219

Mateo and Leona returned to salmonverse on Tuesday, October 12, 2219. They didn’t know how it happened, or who had done it for them. One minute they were somewhere else, and the next they were back. Serif was still around, which was great, along with the rest of the current transition team. They got them up to speed on what happened during their absence, but the two of them didn’t talk about what had transpired in the other universe, because of copyright reasons, or some other legal something-or-other.
Now that everyone was where they were meant to be, hopefully things would stay the way they were. They kept meeting great new people, yes, but they also kept losing them, and that was becoming exhausting, if not heartbreaking. It really needed to stay consistent. Unfortunately, Mateo had a bad feeling about that. He was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen. It had never been like that before, even long before the transitions. Nearly everyone from his past was still alive, having been young enough to reach the longevity escape velocity, or through some other means. Even dead people could return through the afterlife simulation. They mostly hadn’t, though. As the two of them pushed forward to the future, they kept leaving people behind. Most didn’t die like Mateo assumed they would in the beginning; they just went off to their own adventures, but they were still gone. Would that ever end? Would they ever find more people like them? Or were they fated to be the only constant in an ever-changing landscape of characters?
It wasn’t time to think about that right now. Their Cassidy cuffs were directing them to their next mission in Antarctica. At first, Mateo figured a researcher was going to be trapped in a blizzard, or a crevasse, but then he remembered that the continent became more temperate over time, thanks to climate breakdown. There were people living there, and calling it home, so any number of reasons could lead the team here. The AOC powered up, and teleported them there, where they waited for the window to open. As they watched the augmented reality flickering, they saw something they recognized. It was a Nexus machine. They had encountered many of these before, but it only occurred to Mateo now that he never knew where the Earth Nexus was. They had always gone off-world via other methods.
A middle-aged man was standing next to it, not really doing anything. Once the transition was complete, he looked around at his new environment, and shivered. Antarctica was still just as cold as it was meant to be in this reality.
Jeremy took off his jacket, and gave it to the man. “Thank you,” he said. “Where am I?”
“The Parallel,” Leona answered. “It’s a concurrent alternate reality. Did you just come through the Nexus?”
“I did,” the man confirmed. “I was on Durus.”
“You got the Durus Nexus working?” Leona was interested.
“Just for me,” he said. “I have the ability to absorb and release temporal energy. I guess it responded to my presence, and sent me back to Earth. Why would I end up here afterwards, though?”
“That we don’t know,” Angela replied. “Before we get too deep in the conversation, I’m Angela Walton. This is Jeremy Bearimy, Leona and Mateo Matic, Serif, and Olimpia Sangster.”
“I’m Escher Bradley.”
“Oh, we know you,” Leona realized. “The Escher Knob and Escher Card are named after you.”
“I don’t know what those are,” Escher said. “I do remember there being some kind of weird door knob when I was first getting trapped on Durus. Is that what you’re talking about?”
“Yes,” Leona said. “You imbued it with power.”
“Oh, cool.”
“Were you on Durus in the year 2219?” Leona pressed.
“Yeah, I think that was the year,” Escher imagined.
“That doesn’t make any sense.” She thought about it, trying to understand how this was possible. “You escaped Durus back in 2021. You and Rothko.”
“Nah, that wasn’t me,” Escher insisted. “You were probably seeing Effigy. She was the one who trapped me in the time crevice, and she can make herself look like anyone.”
“I see.” She understood now. “Well, I’m sorry you went through that. Let’s get you to our ship where it’s warm.”
The seven of them made the short trek to the AOC, and climbed inside.
“Was your life in danger?” Jeremy asked. “We usually receive people who need to get out of wherever they are.”
Escher yawned. “I don’t know that I was in any immediate danger, but I couldn’t leave. No one was operating the Earth Nexus, so I found myself just out here alone. Perhaps all I could ask from you is to transport me back to civilization?”
“That’s easy,” Olimpia said. “Is it possible for the mission to be so simple?”
“Definitely,” Mateo said. “Sometimes that’s all people need. Antarctica is more populated than ever, but I would think they put the Nexus in a very remote region of the continent, so no rando could stumble upon it.”
“Well, I would much appreciate it. I don’t suppose you can get me back to my time period? It’s not a big deal if you can’t,” Escher assured them. “I wouldn’t mind catching up with my friends, but I’m sure they did fine without me.”
“I don’t have the timeline memorized,” Leona began, “so I don’t know what you know, but Savitri is gone. She was transported to a different universe, and went on to become a very powerful immortal.”
“Yes, I suspected she survived. That’s quite interesting,” Escher said. “And Rothko?”
“Rothko...” she started, but couldn’t finish it.
“He became evil, didn’t he?” Escher guessed. “I’m not surprised. I could see the sickness in him as we were trying to survive on pre-civilization Durus. I ignored it, because...I didn’t want to be alone.”
“It’s okay,” Leona assured him. “He didn’t get a chance to hurt anyone permanently, and they put him where he belonged.” Mateo didn’t know all this about history, and of course, no one else did either. Why did she know so much? “He died a long time ago,” Leona went on. “We could ask Nerakali to send you back, so you could speak with him once more, if you want.”
“That’s okay,” Escher said, shaking his head. “I just want to start over, where no one knows who I am. Earth in 2219 seems like as good of a place as any. Will it be difficult to conjure a new identity for me?”
“We know a few people who can do that,” Leona promised. “It won’t be a problem.”
“I appreciate it,” he said gratefully. Olimpia was right, this was an easy transition. It was nice, though, after everything they had been through. They teleported to Kansas City, where a transition window would be waiting to deliver him back to the main sequence. They gave him the tools and instructions he would need to summon help from The Forger, Duane Blackwood. He thanked them again, and went on through.
Mateo’s bad feeling worsened, compelling him to look over at Serif. “You’re leaving too, aren’t you?”
“I have to,” Serif said. “My baby...our baby is special. She can help a lot of people, and I have a responsibility to let her do that.”
“Where will you go?” Leona asked.
“Wherever they take me,” Serif decided.
“Wherever who takes you?” Mateo asked.
“Me.” Thack Natalie Collins was behind them with another young woman. Serif recognized her, but never caught her name. “We know where she can do the most good. It’s not as easy as it seems. The baby is a vaccine, not a cure.”
Big surprise, Serif was leaving yet again. It would seem that the universe was working against them, always coming up with new ways to keep them apart. It wasn’t the universe, though, it was something else. It was someone else, and he was unbeatable. “Serif, was this your decision?” Mateo asked. “Or was it someone else’s?”
“I know what you’re asking,” Serif said, “and I don’t believe it to be the case. Dubra has a destiny. She was born with the ability to heal that was given to me, which makes her stronger. We can’t just not do something with that.”
“She is only a baby,” Leona argued. “Not even that, she hasn’t been born yet. You could stay with us for a very long time before you would have to leave.”
“I don’t wanna skip time anymore,” Serif contended. “I want to raise my child in realtime. I want to teach her to believe in tomorrow. You can come too; all of you. Nothing is forcing you to remain in this universe. The powers that be can’t stop you.”
“I think we all know that it’s not the powers that be that we’re worried about anymore,” Mateo clarified.
Serif nodded. “I know. I’m going just the same. I love you.” She hugged Leona, and then Mateo. “You’ll see us again, and I don’t just mean our alternates. I, myself, will return one day, or we will meet up somewhere else. We keep being pulled apart, but we also keep being pushed back together.”
Regression towards the mean,” Leona added.
“I assure you that she will be in good hands,” Thack claimed as she was leading Serif away.
“Who are you?” Leona questioned. “You can see things happening in other universes. Why have you not helped us before?”
Thack smiled. “Who says I haven’t?” Without another word, she left, along with the other woman, and Serif.
“I’m sorry about your friend,” Olimpia comforted.
Mateo turned away from the group. “She was more than a friend.”
“Mateo.” Leona could tell that an anger was bubbling up in his soul. “You make bad choices when you’re mad. Think about you and Cassidy.”
“He can’t get away with this,” Mateo complained.
“He most certainly can,” Leona said. “He’s more powerful than anyone else we’ve ever met. Arcadia, Nerakali, The Rogue, even The Cleanser. Everything that happened to them happened because he decided it would. They have powers because he wanted them to, and those powers work and don’t work, according to his whims. Likewise, our pattern has changed because of him. Our missions have changed because of him. If we try to go after him, he’ll just write a story where we fail. This isn’t like Supernatural, where a nephilim will show up as a loophole. The Superintendent didn’t create us, he dreamed us. And dreaming people always wake up. We can’t exist if he doesn’t.”
Mateo wouldn’t hear it. “There’s a way. He’s not invincible. He may be our God, but who is his God?”
“Someone none of us will ever meet,” Leona reasoned.
“We’ll see...”
Yes, we will.

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