Thursday, September 1, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 29, 2398

Heath is pacing around the living room, talking to his wife on the phone. The other four are watching him, worried. It’s hard to tell how the conversation is going, but it’s clear by now that she and Kivi are at least not dead or hurt. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah,” he repeats. “Okay.” He nods, unhappy, but trying to be patient with her. “No, they’ll understand.” He continues immediately, “even Mateo.” He pauses. “All right, we’ll see you when you get back. Be safe.” He pauses one last time. “Love you.” He hangs up, but doesn’t say anything right away.
“Are they okay?” Leona asks him.
“They’re fine.”
“Are they on their way back?” Mateo asks.
“They’re not. They’re in Florida.”
“What? How did they get there?”
“Apparently, Marie wanted to see the plot of land where she grew up,” Heath begins. “In this reality, in these days, it’s an airport. It doesn’t go to very many places, but one of the destinations just so happens to be Orlando, Florida.”
“Okay...does she have a thing for Orlando, errr...?”
“It’s near something called the Fountain of Youth?” He answers in the form of a question.
Oh, that makes sense, sort of. “Well, it’s not,” Leona contends. “They founded the city of Orlando relatively close to the location of a spring that no longer exists.” She goes on, “my namesake, Juan Ponce de León once looked for it in 1513, and found it to already be dried up. He did find the Compass of Disturbance, though.”
“That sounds bad. Marie never mentioned it, what is it?”
“It’s not as bad as it sounds,” she assures him. “It just detects temporal anomalies; rifts in the spacetime continuum, invisible portals, the spot where a teleporter disappeared from, etcetera. The spring is hard to find, and even more so now. Juan once described the terrain for me, but his info is almost 900 years out of date. Even then, to get Youth water, you probably have to be there centuries prior.”
“So, what is the point of them going there?” Heath asks.
“They’re probably just doing their best to check it off the list,” Mateo figures.
“Well, they don’t have to do it alone,” Heath decides as he’s looking at the map on his phone. “We can be there in three hours.”
“I don’t think that’s what she wants,” Angela says in a warning tone.
“It could be dangerous,” he argues.
“She can’t get hurt,” Ramses reminds him.
“Kivi can! I know you four don’t remember her, but I’ve known her as long as I’ve known you.”
“We’ve known her longer than that,” Leona volleys. “Both of them are capable and cautious women who have been through more than your wife has had time to tell you. She’s been around the block. The farm where she grew up is an airport. I’m sure the location of the former Youth Spring is a baseball diamond, or something.”
“What the hell is a baseball?”
“Out of all the dumb sports,” Angela replies, “it’s the least dumb.”
Heath has grown weary of being away from his wife so much. He’s noticed that she’s the one who keeps doing the leaving, even though at one point, he was meant to go off on these adventures with Mateo. Once they get past this, things are going to change. Ramses, Leona, and Angela have their new business to think about, which will hopefully resupply the funds that dwindled quite a bit when the majority of the team showed up. The only dangerous outsiders who might care about that both Marie and Angela exist already know about them, and the back-up twin thing they have going on. There is no reason why Marie and Heath can’t now begin the real mission of studying time travel in the Third Rail. Mateo should come too, and Kivi, if she isn’t interested in anything else.
“Are you doing okay?” Angela asks after he takes too long to react.
“I’m fine. I’m just going to go take a bath, and clear my head.”
If Marie were here, she would be able to stop him from taking the bath, because that’s usually when he takes the time to locate and purchase something that costs them far too much.

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