Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Tuesday, December 10, 2278

Tonya Keyes, a.k.a. The Stitcher didn’t stick around for much longer after the rest of the team disbanded. There didn’t seem to be much point now that the Erlendr problem was easier to solve. Only this alternate reality version of Ramses was still around. He slapped on a Cassidy cuff so he could be on the same pattern as his best friend. He spent the rest of the day getting to know the other team members, and then at midnight, they all jumped three years into the future. Besides a few exceptions, this was pretty much the furthest down the timeline they had ever been. They spent literally about five minutes in 2279 before traveling back to 1992 to look for the home stone, and that was when everything started to change about their patterns; about their lives. If they maintained the Bearimy-Matic pattern now, they would completely skip over 2280. But why do that? The jumps were always arbitrary, as the cuffs gave them the ability to suppress powers and patterns. They couldn’t even explain why it was they stayed on it when Nerakali took over as primary. It was time to speak with Anatol Klugman, and get this all straightened out.
Grave chamber four had always been a little different. It was once the link to another universe, and ever since then, it was unreliable. The electronics would go haywire, and the stasis feature probably wouldn’t work at all, should they ever need it. For the most part, they left the thing alone, but it was a nice makeshift prison box, because it also had an unusual effect on time powers. Right now the Warrior was sitting against the wall, looking up at his captors, who were regarding him with sadness. “I’ve been through worse, you know. Anyone else would go crazy in here, but for me, it’s Tuesday. Ha, it literally is Tuesday, isn’t it? Just as it always is for you.”
“Let’s talk this out,” Mateo said. “Let’s try to figure out how we can all get a little bit of what we want.”
“What I want, and what you want,” Anatol began, “are contradictory. I want to send you through time and space to prune people as I see fit, and you want to...not do that. I don’t see the room for compromise there.”
“Why aren’t you just doing this yourself?” Leona asked. “Why do you need us? We are inexperienced, and unwilling.”
“I am tired,” Anatol explained. “I have so much work to do, but I’ve been doing it for so long. Plus, since I have all these powers, people keep asking me to do other things. I just want a break. Everytime I kill someone, something changes, L-O-L. I just end up with someone new to kill. I need help.”
“Well, I have a response to that,” Mateo said.
“I would sure think so,” Anatol replied.
Mateo took a deep breath. “In the year 2081, Zeferino Preston forced me to remember memories from an alternate timeline. It was four thousand years of temporal torture, where I couldn’t hold a thought for longer than fifteen seconds. I was pretty messed up by it, and I probably would have died of starvation if I was alone, because I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t move. Fortunately, I wasn’t alone. An alternate version of my future wife was there, and she placed me inside of a bubble, where I experienced five years in the span of a single day. Less than a day, actually. This is where I recovered, but I didn’t just sit there doing nothing that whole time. Once I was aware enough of my surroundings, she started giving me entertainment. I watched a lot of time travel stuff, for obvious reasons. I watched one show twice. It was called 12 Monkeys, ever heard of it?”
“I’ve heard of the movie,” Anatol said. He was surprisingly patient with the long-winded speech.
“There’s a quote from that show that, despite my not amazing memory, I can recall perfectly. It stuck with me, because I think it’s important. The story is about a traveler who was sent back in time to murder the man supposedly responsible for releasing the virus that destroyed humanity. He succeeds in killing that man, but of course, the conspiracy turns out to be far more complicated, and the series lasts for four seasons because of it. The quote is about how complicated that gets, and how the mission has to transform in order to account for new information. It goes, I was sent back in time to kill a man. That was supposed to fix everything. It didn’t. So I killed more people. Nothing changed. And then I saved someone; someone who should’ve died. And that...that is what changed things. It’s the only thing that’s ever made any difference.
“I’m not asking you to kill one man, Mateo. I’ll be asking you to kill many, to make real impactful changes to the timeline. And unlike the characters on that show, my intel is good. I know who to kill, and when.”
“You just said that the timeline keeps changing,” Leona argued. “Don’t you see, that’s the point? You’re fighting Hydra. Cut off one head, and two more grow in its place. Stop trying to stop the bad guys, and start trying to save the good guys. Haven’t you noticed that the Saviors don’t kill people? They don’t need to, and they’ve made a greater positive difference for the timeline than anyone.”
Anatol sighed. “I don’t do that. I don’t save lives. I just end them.”
Mateo reached down, and helped him out of the grave chamber. “We save lives. Let us do that. You still pick the targets, but no one gets hurt.”
“What’s the worst that could happen if you try this?” Leona posed.
He waited to answer. Was he considering it? “I’ll think about it, and get back to you.” With that, Anatol was gone.
They expected him to return immediately, because there was no reason for him not to, but perhaps he wanted them to have time to think about their situation as well. They didn’t stand there and wait for him for too long. They stopped thinking about it, and went back to their lives, playing RPS-101 Plus, and catching up. They told Ramses about the wonders of Flindekeldan, but chose to say nothing about his alternate self, who was by all accounts, a god of his reality.
Hours later, Anatol finally did come back. His shoes, and the bottom of his pants, were soaking wet, but the rest of him was dry. “Very well,” he said. “I have a job for you.”
“Is it as we discussed?” Mateo questioned.
“It is, yes, but there’s a twist. I’m curious to see how you handle it.”
“What’s the twist?” Ramses asked.
“Careful,” Anatol warned, “spoilers.”
They stared at him quietly.
“You have a little bit of competition,” Anatol explains vaguely. “I will say no more. Are you ready to go?”
The team looked around at each other. “Go ahead,” Leona said on their behalf.
“Just give me a minute to figure this out,” Anatol said. He turned around like a dog trying to protect her food.
Leona pursed her lips, and waited too long to seem like a nice person. “It’s not the cuff?”
“What?” Anatol asked.
“The cuff doesn’t let you transition across realities. It’s just like when you’ve absorbed other people’s powers before. The cuffs just allow people to suppress or share abilities.” She never wanted to be a teacher.
“Oh, so there’s nothing for me to do with this thing?” Anatol asked, holding up his arm.
“No—well, there is one thing. You need’s better if I just do it for you.” She approached him, and reached for his arm with both of her own.
“No funny business,” he said tentatively.
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” She continued to wait.
“I’m serious.”
“Anatol, we all wanna be here,” Leona contended. “I just need to recalibrate the share pool to account for the introduction of Ramses. He doesn’t have powers, no, but it still leaves the whole team vulnerable, having him not fully linked. Vulnerable, including you.”
“Fine. Just be careful.” He finally let Leona tap on the cuffs. He tried to keep a watchful eye, but the man was from the nineteenth century. Travelers from too far in the past always had a harder time with computers. Tertius, Juan Ponce de León, even Téa Stendahl, who technically grew up in the modern age following her resurrection; they were all just a little bit lost when it came to electronics. Angela had to make a very deliberate choice to keep up with technological advancements.
Leona was able to use his ignorance to her advantage. She considered making Mateo primary again, but that would have required Mateo accepting the responsibility on his end, which could threaten the ruse. She figured their best bet was to just loosen the leash a bit. It was the easiest, and least obvious, thing to change. Perhaps they could shift the balance of power later, when it was less dangerous. Powers or no, Anatol Klugman was still a highly experienced killer. He still wasn’t the kind of person they ought to be pissing off. “There. Now we’re ready to stick together.”
“Okay,” Anatol said. “I’m gonna go practice my ability.” He checked his watch. “I’ll be back in—I’m back.” He moved so quickly that the human eye wasn’t even able to detect that he had left at all. He must have stolen this power from someone very specific. Almost no one was this good. Hopefully it wasn’t The Porter, but honestly, no one deserved to be killed just to steal their power. “Have fun, and I hope you figure it out, I really do.” He disappeared again, but this time, did not return.
Once he was gone, the entire ship tipped over. They all fell over to one side, and began bouncing around. It almost felt like...water. They were in water.
“Whew,” Ramses said with relief. “I didn’t have time to test whether this thing could actually float. I’m glad to see it does.”
“It doesn’t float upright,” Olimpia pointed out.
“Beggars and choosers,” he retorted.
Normally they would have to climb up to the top level of the ship, but now it was more of a crawl. They made their way to the airlock, which was thankfully not facing the deep. “There’s a ship,” Leona announced for those in the back. “It is sinking. Wait.”
“Wait, what?”
Leona reached her hand out, and used apportation to summon a spyglass into it. She looked through it for a moment. “There’s someone standing on top of the water.”
“It’s a miracle,” Angela said.
“She just fell down,” Leona continued the play-by-play, “like whatever was holding her up was suddenly taken away.
“We have to help them,” Jeremy decided. “Computer, can you access the satellites, and find the nearest land?”
There are no satellites,” the computer responded.
“The ship is too old-fashioned,” Leona said. “My instinct was that we’re in a time period before space exploration. My watch just confirmed it.” She looked up to the ceiling. “Computer, you still have lateral sensors. Find some land, any land.”
Check your maps,” the computer offered.
“I think I know who our competition is,” Leona revealed. “I’m gonna handle this one alone. It’s just easier, and I already know how to use these powers. Stay here.” She teleported out of the ship, and into the distant water, right behind the woman she saw standing on top of the water. She took her by the shoulders, and teleported them both to the land mass. The woman still hadn’t noticed that she wasn’t alone, so Leona took this opportunity to slap the Cassidy cuff onto her wrist. She didn’t know why she didn’t feel the need to reveal herself. This was just what made sense to her right now. Leona teleported herself just past the treeline, and watched from there. The woman realized she was wearing the cuff, intuited its purpose, and started using it to rescue all the others from the ship. She kept jumping back and forth, retrieving people two at a time, and dropping them off on the beach.
Once the woman was done with the job, Leona transported them both to the ship, so the former wouldn’t have to deal with all the questions about miracles, and such. “Hey, computer. Teleport us to Lagrange one, please, and restore dimensional gravity.” They jumped.
Before they could introduce themselves to the woman, The Cleanser appeared before them. “You,” he said, disgusted. “Why are you interfering with my operation?”
“She needed our help,” Leona explained.
“She needed your help,” Mateo acknowledged.
“You set me up to fail!” the woman argued. “I asked you to send me somewhere with enough time to help them.”
“I gave you plenty of time,” the Cleanser said with a shrug. “They weren’t gonna drown for hours. They’re all very good swimmers.”
“You didn’t give me the tools I needed!” she cried. “Time alone wasn’t gonna help!”
It was then that the Warrior showed up. He showed the Cleanser his best evil grin. “I win.”

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