Tuesday, April 18, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: February 13, 2399

Labhrás moved Leona and Tarboda to a much nicer room, with cots to sleep on, clean running water, and control over the lights. They also allowed them to have a shower, and eat some real food, instead of this reality’s version of hard tack. The door was still locked, but he promised to let Tarboda go at the right time so as to avoid any run-ins with the authorities. The exchange was on, so they all had to get a good night’s rest. It was hard to tell when it was bedtime since Leona had yet to see a window, so they just turned in when they felt tired.
It’s the morning, and Tarboda is gone. Leona is at the exchange with her future grandfather, the two smelly brothers, and a few other goons. Or maybe they’re henchmen. There’s a difference, apparently, and they would probably be offended by being called the wrong one. Labhrás altered the conditions a little bit. Leona is in chains, and she is wearing a hood, but the shackles were bought at a magic shop, so they only appear to be locked, and the hood is see-through. They still want to make it look real while Leona finds out who’s really after her, and why. They’re standing on the docks, which is a truly unique locale for a ransom exchange. Really, no one has ever thought of that before. Why don’t criminals meet at the docks more often?
Leona still doesn’t know where she is. It’s cool, which implies they’re still in the northern hemisphere, and she can taste the salt in the air, so the body of water to her left is an ocean, rather than a lake. That tells her that she’s not in a landlocked region, which rules out places like Kansas. She never thought they were in Kansas, but it would have been nice. As far as she’s aware, her grandparents emigrated out of Ireland, and went straight to Topeka, so it wouldn’t have been the craziest of developments. Then again, they’re in a completely different reality now. Labhrás has probably never even heard of Topeka, and maybe not even Kansas City. None of that has happened yet, and all this timey-wimey stuff is weird and complicated, so maybe it never will. Maybe everything they’re doing now will negate her existence, kind of like what Mateo did to himself when he killed Adolf Hitler, but worse because it would happen in every timeline for her, and she wouldn’t even have the satisfaction of killing Hitler.
“Are ya still with us?” Labhrás asks.
Even with this hood on, he could tell that Leona was stuck in her head. “I’m fine. What time is it?”
“Half past they’re feckin’ late,” he answers. “Pardon my English, Madam.” Hm. What is England to him?
“Doesn’t bother me. That’s not even a real word,” she jokes.
The smellier brother waits for a solid minute before responding with, “yes, it is.”
We don’t wait much longer before a well-dressed man carrying a cane shows up. He’s kempt and confident, and does not seem embarrassed by his tardiness. Leona doesn’t recognize him. Now that doesn’t mean he’s not the one who put a price on her head, but she’s still getting the impression that the true force behind this mess is still living incognito. This guy’s just a lackey. “My name is Connell Arrington,” he announces. British accent; British name. Where are these people from? Happy cliché day, anyway.
“You don’t look like you’re carrying very much money on you?” Labhrás notes.
“Everything is electronic these days, my dear.”
“That’s not what we agreed on. We want untraceable bills.”
“Impossible. You’ll take what you can get, or you’ll get nothing.”
Labhrás just fumes.
Connell goes on, “you identified yourselves as the Bounty Hunters of the Old World. As a result, we are unaware of your specific designation. What is your name?”
“Labhrás Delaney.”
Connell’s eye twitches. He looks over at Leona. “You would give up your own kin for a bit of cash?”
Labhrás looks over at Leona as well. “We are not related.”
Connell twitches again. “You expect me to believe it to be a coincidence that you are both named Delaney?”
“Her name is Leona Matic,” Labhrás tries to clarify.
“Pull the hood off, please,” Connell requests.
Smelly Goon One does so without waiting for Labhrás’ go-ahead.
“Did you not tell him your unmarried name?” Connell asks Leona.
“Do we know each other?” Leona asks, undeftly changing the subject.
“You and I have never met,” Connell begins. “Neither have you and the man I work for. Yet you have wronged us both, and we are here to collect on your sins.”
Leona narrows her eyes at him. “Which sins?”
“All of them,” Connell replies.
“Who are you to make me answer for all of them?”
“We are...in a great position to do so. That is what gives us the right.”
“How are we related?” Labhrás questions, frustrated at the tangent.
She’s been avoiding eye contact, but that’s no longer viable. “It’s complicated.”
“Is it?” Connell asks. Then he has a realization. “Ah, I see. Who is he, then; your son? Great great great great great grandson?”
Labhrás is super confused now.
“You’re my grandfather,” Leona corrects while continuing to look at Labhrás.
“How is that possible? You may be older than me!”
“Time travel, old chap!” Connell says jovially. “She’s from the future.”
“I’m not from the future,” Leona contends. “You are. I don’t know why you go back in time, or how you do it, but it has to happen, or I never exist.”
“Is that all it would take?” Connell asks. “I believe we’ve found our solution.” He twists the handgrip of his cane, and pulls out a gun, instead of the usual sword. He shoots Labhrás in the chest, and then ducks away to avoid gunfire from the henchmen.
Leona catches Labhrás as he’s falling to his back, already coughing up blood. She removes her shackles, and tries to apply pressure to the wound, but he’s not going to make it. “I’m sorry. I would have told you if I thought that this might happen.”
“I’m sorry,” he struggles to say. “Ta...Ta...”
Thanks? Are you trying to say thanks?”
He shakes his head. “Tarboda. Tarboda is dead.”
Leona’s face falls. Tarboda was not a great friend, but he could have been one day, and he did nothing to deserve that. “You’re no grandfather of mine.” Connell is still in a firefight with the rest of Labhrás’ people. She stands up, and ignores the flying bullets. She walks across no man’s land, and approaches him.
“I thought you would disappear before our very eyes,” he says to her.
“That’s not how it works, you bleedin’ eejit. Now take me to your boss.”

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