Sunday, June 27, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, November 12, 2250

After the deed was done, Mateo sent a message through the cuffs that he needed to be alone for the rest of the day. He asked the Nexus technician on Varkas Reflex to send him to a random planet in the galaxy. There actually was a setting for that, which let the computer decide where he would go. The world it chose was almost entirely desert. A single artificially constructed oasis supported life for the few people who decided to check the place out. He was the only one there at the time, except for the world’s caretaker, which suggested the Nexus computer knew exactly what he was looking for. It wasn’t that luxurious, so Mateo didn’t feel bad about not inviting his team to be there with him. Apparently, this world was floating around the Milky Way at a pretty great distance from the black hole in the center. This was what made the place so barren, but Mateo didn’t bother listening to the whole explanation, which involved heavy elements, and gravitational disturbances. He just sat in his chair, and tried to think about anything besides the fact that he just murdered another person; and a friend, no less.
Before the day could end, he jumped back to Earth, and rendezvoused with his team on the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He just wanted to put the past behind him, and focus on the fact that Pharrell was right when he claimed that No-one Ever Really Dies, and Nerakali was just having different adventures in the simulation. He still wished that he could erase his people’s memories of what he had done, but unfortunately, what he had done had quite specifically removed brain blending from their inventory of time powers. Hopefully they would never run into another situation where such a thing was called for. The question remained, what were they going to do with their lives from here on out? Were they going to stay on this pattern, and do nothing with that? Would they change to a new pattern? Would they drop it entirely, and start fresh in 2250? Would they return to their respective time periods, or maybe choose some other time period together?
“Well, should we vote on it, or just discuss what everyone wants, and see where we end up?” Leona put forth.
“Yeah, let’s just talk about it,” Angela suggested.
“Who wants to go first?” Olimpia broke the ice.
“I’m cool with whatever everyone else wants to do,” Jeremy volunteered.
“Yeah, me too,” and “agreed” were the responses bandied about. It would seem they quite enjoyed helping people transition, but if that was no longer necessary, there wasn’t much reason to do anything else.
“I think we should go back to the past, and continue doing what we do,” Leona began, “whether it’s by transitioning people, or not. We could help the Salmon Runners put right what once went wrong, or join another transition team under Past!Nerakali’s purview. Hell, we could join the salmon battalion, I don’t know.” It actually kind of sounded like she didn’t want to do anything.
Mateo decided to allow her the possibility of doing nothing without making her vocalize it. “Or we could just stay here in The Parallel. I’m sure there’s a planet suited for our whims, where we could live forever, and not worry about responsibility anymore.” It was a selfish offer, but not unwarranted. All of them did deserve it, for what they had been through. Had they not given enough to the worlds already?
The others stood there awkwardly, and did not want to argue.
Mateo still had to be the bad guy. “Okay, let’s do that. We could always go back to a life of service later. Let’s just suppress all patterns, find a nice little planet to call home, and relax for a little bit. Or we could travel. There’s no rush. There’s no rush to do anything.”
“I’m not opposed to this plan,” Jeremy finally agreed. “Like the man said, we can always change our minds later. We have the cuffs, plenty of people here have powers.”
“I can do that,” Angela said.
“Yeah, sure,” Olimpia confirmed.
Leona just nodded. She wanted this more than any of them probably, but was too used to helping people to admit it. That was fine.
“Unfortunately, that’s not how this works,” came a voice from above. A man was climbing down the steps from the upper level.
It took Mateo a hot second to recognize him. They had met him a few times before, but were never close, and there were so many faces to remember these days. “Anatol.” The Warrior. He used to go around the timeline, killing people. Though, time travel being what it was, used to wasn’t a real concept. Which version was this one here?
“Yes, it’s me.”
“I know why you’re here,” Leona said.
“Yes,” Anatol went on. “I have been waiting to come to you for a long time now. Of course, I didn’t have to wait, but I had some other things I wanted to make sure got taken care of, and I didn’t want to cross paths with Nerakali.”
“Who is this?” Jeremy questioned. “Who are you?”
“This is the man that killed Nerakali Preston,” Mateo explained. “I pushed her over the edge of her last life, but he actually dealt the final blow. Now he has her powers. More to the point, he has Jupiter’s powers.”
“That’s right,” Anatol concurred. “I’m here to replace her, after she replaced him.”
“What does that mean?” Leona asked. “What kind of...?” She hesitated to continue.
“What kind of boss am I?” he presumed. “I’m pretty cool, but I do have a different...mission.”
“You’re going to have us kill people, aren’t you?” Mateo assumed.
“I’m going to have you correct the timeline in a way that you’re not used to doing,” Anatol pretended to clarify. “You can call it killing, if you want. I would probably also call it that.”
“I’m not going to be killing anybody,” Olimpia declared.
“The rule is, kill or be killed.” Anatol took a blade out of its sheath. It wasn’t the Sword of Assimilation, but it was just as deadly. “I’m a pretty cool a point. That...I—that wasn’t meant to be a play on words. But seriously, this is what I’ve decided, so it’s what’s happening. And the sword really is a threat. I have no strong feelings about you people. I’m not sure I know the names of you three there.”
“Well, you probably should know their names if you’re going to boss them around, and threaten their lives,” Leona figured.
“Don’t worry about that,” Mateo said. “He’s not staying.”
“Oh no?” Anatol was confused.
“I challenge you to a duel.”
“Are you serious?” Anatol couldn’t believe it. “Like a...air hockey duel, or something?”
“No. Swords,” Mateo corrected. “I challenge you to a sword duel.”
“That’s stupid, Mateo; I’ll destroy you.”
“Prove it,” Mateo said simply. “You kill me, you get to take the primary cuff, and order my team around. I kill you, and you leave us alone forever.”
Anatol wasn’t going to argue about it anymore. There was no doubt that he could beat Mateo, and there was no getting around this fact. If they were normal people, maybe Mateo could sneak a gun into the duel, and just kill him, and it wouldn’t matter anymore, because the threat would be eliminated. But Anatol couldn’t die, and Mateo didn’t think he could die permanently anymore either, so there seemed to be only one outcome to this story. There was no cheating, and no loophole. Mateo had to magically become the better swordsman, fair and square. “Fine. Deal.”
“Could we have a minute?” Leona requested.
“You can have three hundred and sixty minutes. Meet on Uluru at that time. We’ll transition to the main sequence there. Eat a good lunch. It will be your last.” Anatol disappeared.
“I thought he wasn’t so violent anymore,” Leona said once he was gone. “Didn’t you change him? If he has Nerakali’s powers, he has to be the version of him that changed.”
“He never really changed,” Mateo pointed out. “I think he just started choosing his victims differently.”
“What are you going to do?” Leona asked, shaking her head. “He’s right, you can’t defeat him.”
Mateo smiled. “I don’t have to. There’s not going to be any duel. I just needed to distract him.”
“He’s a time traveler,” Leona argued. “He can’t be distracted. Or rather, it doesn’t matter how long he’s distracted. He can always come back to the past.”
Mateo smirked, and looked around. “I don’t see him, returned from the future to ask me why I never showed up.”
“How are you going to stop him?” Jeremy asked. “Or how did you? Or how have you will?”
“Yeah,” Mateo said. He rested his chin on his palm, and smiled pensively at the corner of the ship. “How did I do that?”
The others looked between him, and the wall he was staring at, but there was nothing there. He never explained what he was talking about, and they quickly dropped the subject. They decided to program their cuffs to suppress all patterns, and keep them in the present moment at all times, at least for now. They then went to what passed for a library in this reality, and searched the directory for a new home. They tried all kinds of search parameters, switching them out when they thought of something better. They only kept the basic criteria, like a regular spherical planet orbiting a yellow dwarf with comparable Earthan surface gravity, and of course, a breathable atmosphere.
“Let’s get away,” Olimpia finally suggested. “Let’s find a remote world, in a distant galaxy, far from the reach of this Warrior guy. Let those be our only requirements.”
The team considered it. “That makes sense,” Leona agreed. “Just because he doesn’t try to get back to us in the past, doesn’t mean he won’t try to show up later.”
Angela typed in what they were looking for. “The farthest inhabited galaxy, which means it has at least one Nexus, is Krovow. Also known as the Sculptor Galaxy, or Silver Coin, or NGC-253, in the main sequence, this spiral galaxy is eleven-point-five-six light years from the Milky Way. The best planet I’m seeing here is called Flindekeldan.”
They looked over her shoulder at the specifications. It seemed a pretty good spot to escape to, if not live there semi-permanently. “We’ll send a message to Ramses,” Mateo said, “and ask him to prevent Anatol from being allowed to use the Nexa. There’s no way he’s traveling eleven light years on his own, unless he kills The Trotter at some point.”
They didn’t waste much time. They jumped the AOC back to the Nexus, gave the technician their coordinates, and asked that they be erased from the computer’s memory after they were gone. The technician agreed, though whether that was good enough was anyone’s guess. The only way to truly know information has been erased is by physically destroying the storage hardware, preferably by dismantling it at the atomic level.
They arrived on the other side just fine, but still, they were nervous. They crept out of the ship carefully, almost expecting Anatol Klugman to be waiting for them, having gone back in time, and arrived in a relativistic ship. It would have taken him over sixteen-thousand years at maximum sublight, but it wasn’t impossible. He wasn’t there, though, and everything seemed all right. The world was a beautiful place, at least it was where they landed, right next to a creek. They weren’t next to the Nexus building. It wasn’t necessary, because the egress window could drop them off wherever; it was just impossible to jump this far without starting at a Nexus. Still, it was kind of strange. The technician would have had to deliberately input slightly altered coordinates, rather than going with the default.
A woman stood before them, waiting patiently for them to climb down. “Greetings. Welcome to Flindekeldan. I am Crucia Heavy, Zora Loncar.”
“That is a Croatian name,” Mateo whispered to Leona.
“Hello, Crucia Heavy, my name is Leona Matic. This is my husband, Mateo Matic, and friends, Jeremy Bearimy, Angela Walton, and Olimpia Sangster. We hope we’re not intruding. We were looking for a new place to live, and this sounded like a great spot.”
Zora smiled. “We know why you are here. Everyone comes here to get away. It’s about as far as you can get without having to settle a new world on your own. That’s why we have no Nexus.”
“There’s no Nexus?” Olimpia questioned. “We can’t go back.”
Zora sighed, satisfied. “No need to. This is your home now. Come. I will show you around.”

No comments :

Post a Comment