Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: February 25, 2013

The last time Mateo was in 2013, he was only 27 years old. He had yet to hear of time travel, parallel realities, other universes, or psychics. More frighteningly, he had not met Leona, who was only 13 years old. She had never heard of any of this either. That was all in another timeline anyway. There was no way of knowing what awaited them in the here and now. At the moment, the four of them were stepping out of their hotel suite, and heading for the business center, so they could investigate a theory that Leona was brewing. It had been a very long time since she had been able to get onto the old fashioned internet. In the future, Web 4.0 was destined to begin scrubbing the internet of unnecessary information, or misinformation. Future generations will stop caring about frivolous personal broadcasts, and focus on shared knowledge, and streamlined entertainment. Answers will be readily available in whatever form the user wants. Dense datasets can be reorganized on the fly to come up with any solution that’s in there somewhere.
After that, Web 5.0 will take over, and centralize all this data. Artificial intelligence will analyze and synthesize the collective vonearthan information. Separate web sites will no longer exist. They’ll be replaced by a repository of information, which can be accessed by pretty much anyone. The idea of a place to order books, and another place to watch videos will be as foreign to the natives as churning butter was to the people of today. Until then, it was nice to get back to basics. Leona had to go to a specific location in a building to connect to the internet, and just hope the answers she was looking for were there somewhere.
Angela hovered a little bit, while Mateo and Jeremy passed a foam ball between each other. They stopped when another hotel guest came in, then continued once he left. Soon thereafter, Leona was ready with her hypothesis. “On October 9, 1532, a carrack called The São Leonor left Ponta Delgada on a return trip, bound for Portugal. It never made it there before it sank for unrecorded reasons on October 15. The crew was later located and rescued by another vessel less than a year later. In 1535, an attempt was made on John III of Portugal’s life, but the killer was thwarted by a man named Mateus Gil, who was reported to have been a crew member of the Leonor. He killed the would-be assassin, and was awarded his own ship by the king for his efforts.”
“Hmm,” Angela said simply.
“August 29, 1608, a known, but unpunished, rapist in the little English hamlet of Olympia found himself at the hands of the town physician. Stroud ignored his oath, killed the rapist, then escaped to Chaslow to avoid prosecution himself.”
“Oh, weird,” Jeremy said.
Leona continued, “May 31, 1838, Anatol Klugman was born. He’s killed more people than anyone can count. November 9, 1888, Mary Jane Kelly is Jack the Ripper’s last canonical victim.”
“I think I see what you’re trying to say,” Angela noted. “I don’t see much evidence of a pattern.”
“You don’t?” Leona questioned. “We saved killers of killers.”
“We don’t know that Orna killed Jack the Ripper. The murders stopped, but that doesn’t prove Orna had anything to do with it. Sure, she had motive, but no one else was able to catch him, what gave her an advantage?”
“The man who tried to drown her called her a hedge-creeper. She might not have actually been a sex worker, but she could have posed as one, and lured the serial killer to her. He may have even known that they were related, and couldn’t resist the poetry.”
“That is all a guess. Nothing suggests the Ripper stopped because he was killed.”
“It makes sense, though, doesn’t it?” Leona insisted. It sure did make a lot of sense. They should have known all along that The Warrior wasn’t going to let them save lives without there being some kind of catch. He was a killer, and if he couldn’t compel them to kill for him, he would have to loop a hole. “We’re Dexters.”
“What do you suggest we do?” Mateo asked.
“Don’t play into it,” Leona argued. “We don’t take any missions.”
“I don’t know if I can do that,” Jeremy acknowledged, shaking his head. “First of all, that won’t come without consequences. Secondly, we are still saving lives. Who are we to say who is worth saving, and who isn’t?”
“Not us,” Leona agreed, “but better us than him.”
“We just need to hold out,” Jeremy went on. “If we can—”
“Shh,” Leona interrupted.
“Right.” Before the conversation—or argument, as it were—could continue, the Cassidy cuffs beeped. Jeremy looked at his, sighed, and stood up. “I’m taking this. I’m answering the call. Anyone can come with me...anyone can stay.” With that, he left the business center, and then the hotel.
The other three followed him out there, and down the street. They walked into a sporting goods store, and over to the customer service counter. While satellites were now flying overhead, the cuffs were still just giving them two points: where they were, and where they needed to go. They had no idea who it was they were meant to help here. A clerk turned around and smiled. “Let me guess, you’re the Matics.”
“We are, yes,” Mateo answered.
“Your order is all paid for, and ready.” She reached under the counter and pulled out a large hiking backpack. She then reached down, and retrieved four more. They looked like they were already packed full of stuff.
“There are only four of us,” Jeremy explained.
The clerk frowned, and checked the receipt. “You’re right, I don’t know how this happened. It does say four.” She pulled one of the backpacks away. “I’m so very sorry about this. I’m still new here. I’m only in Utah to house sit for my aunt while she’s on sabbatical, but I still need a little money. I’m better with shoes.”
“That’s not a problem at all,” Mateo said sincerely. “Thank you for your help...” He looked down at her tag. “...Cecelia.”
“That’s who I am if you need me...and not if you don’t.”
They all chose their packs, thanked Cecelia, and left the store. The map became a little more sophisticated. Now it wasn’t just showing them their destination, but the path they were meant to take to reach it. Leona had bought a Utah atlas as the hotel beforehand. She compared the two, and learned that they were going on a pretty bad hike. It was only about five miles, but instead of using a road, they were cutting through a mountain range. Without understanding the topography, it looked more or less like a straight line, but it was actually going to be grueling. On the streets, this distance would only take them half a day, but like this, it would be more like three days, especially since none of them—not even Angela—was a particularly avid walker. The only blessing was that their time limit was five days, which would give them a buffer to work with. Still, fearing punishment more than ever, they strapped on, and headed off.
It was worse than Leona had surmised, but they couldn’t blame her. This was not her area of expertise. It took them all five days to make it to the general area of their destination. Once they were close enough, the dot changed colors, and began to move. It was moving towards them, so they quickly realized that something was floating down the nearby stream. As it drew nearer, they discovered that it wasn’t something, but someone. It was either a dead body, or a nearly dead one. It was just letting itself get knocked around by the rocks and branches. It wasn’t moving that fast, but still. Jeremy instinctively threw his belongings down, and jumped into the freezing cold water. He reached down, and began to pull the body to the shore. Mateo came down to help, and together, they began to perform CPR. Angela was their medical expert, but the two of them were more than qualified to handle this part of the treatment.
While they were doing that, Angela removed the AED from her pack, and started to set it up. She placed the pads on his chest, engaged the voice instructions. Then she restarted his heart with one jolt. Now that their patient was breathing and beating, she and Jeremy began to clean his wounds together. Once all the blood was removed from his face, they realized it was Lowell Benton, who was part of their team some time ago, before he joined forces with Ellie Underhill. He hadn’t experienced much time travel, though, so a good bet was that none of that had happened to him yet. This would have to be the 2013 version of him.
“Looks like you’re right,” Angela lamented as she was unrolling a bandage. “We’re saving killers.”
“I was also wrong,” Leona admitted. “Lowell has to be saved. He has important things to do in the future, like delivering baby Jeremy. Even I know that, and I don’t have the intel that Anatol does. We can’t just refuse.”
“Mateo, could you please set up one of the tents, so he has somewhere to recover?” Angela ordered. “Find a nice clear, flat spot. Obviously he’s the one who needs the sleeping pad this time. I know it’s your turn, but...”
“It’s fine,” Mateo laughed. “Just focus on getting him better. You’re a valuable member of this team, and we’re gonna miss you when it’s over.”
“Shh,” Leona repeated.
That night, after Angela had done everything she could, the team went to sleep. She shared the other tent with Leona and Jeremy, while Mateo stayed with Lowell. If something went wrong, he would have to call Angela for help, but Lowell was too dangerous to wake up next to anyone else. He didn’t know any of these people yet. If he came to and witnessed their sins, he might attack them. Mateo wasn’t immune, but his death would be the lesser of four evils.
Hours later, Mateo was still wide awake. He was just staring at Lowell, who was slow-breathing next to him, ready to pounce at any moment. The tent zipped open, and a dark figure came halfway in. It took Mateo by the ankles, and dragged him out into the cold like a horror villain. Mateo wasn’t sure if he should scream, or let it happen. Once he was out, and on the ground, he watched the figure reach back up, and zip the tent closed. The dying firelight lit up his face just enough to show that it was Anatol.
“Are you trying to scare me to death?”
“It would be a new one,” Anatol replied. “I wouldn’t mind being able to brag that I accomplished that. But no, I just needed you out of there.”
Mateo looked over where the second tent was supposed to be.
“Don’t freak out,” Anatol insisted. “They’re in the future. Tents are really complicated. The powers that be decided that people can’t transport out of a tent; that the tent will go with them, including everything else inside the tent. I need Lowell to just stay here where he belongs, while the three of you move on.”
“He’s gonna wake up alone and wonder what happened. Whose tent is this? Who made the fire? Most importantly, who treated his injuries?”
“He will,” Anatol concurred, “but so what? That’s not your problem. He’ll eventually shrug it off, and move on to his next kill.”
“Is he a friend of yours, or like, a rival?”
“I don’t think that much about him, and he doesn’t know about me. He’s killing sinners, which is kind of my whole thing, but he’s better at it, so I need him alive.”
“So it’s true; we’re saving killers of killers.”
Anatol smirked. “Get to 2020. Leona and Jeremy are waiting for you.”
“Very well. But don’t think you’re off the hook. We want answers.”
“That I do not doubt.”

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