Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 4, 2028

The first thing Mateo felt was the air below him. The ground rushed up towards him and he crash landed onto a dirty mattress. It wasn’t perfectly aligned, so he rolled off onto the cold, hard concrete.
Leona was panting heavily and sweating as she helped him back up. “I’m sorry. I had a hard time getting back in here. Reaver Enterprises bought up this whole warehouse district. We had to break down the little makeshift hospital and get out quick. They have a surprisingly heavy amount of security, even though this particular unit is empty. It took me forever to get in here with a mattress.”
“Thanks for bringing it.”
“Well, I literally wouldn’t be alive without you, so...”
“I love you too. I have one question.”
“Did we share a dream during the surgeries?”
“I guess that answers it.”
“So...we’re, like, connected?”
“I would call it Quantum Entanglement.”
“I do not know what that means, but it sounds good.”
“Here, I brought these too.”
While he was putting on the change of clothes that she had for him, they heard a ruckus outside. Someone was about to come into the warehouse. Leona grabbed Mateo’s hand and bolted. “There’s an exit in the front.” They ran to the other side, through the office, but they were blocked off. They saw flashlights and heard the garbled sounds of a radio. They were either security guards or police.
“Come on,” Mateo whispered loudly. “Upstairs.”
“To what end?”
“Just follow me.”
He led her up the stairs to a carpeted area. It was dusty and extremely hot. Fortunately, it was also dark, and there were a few large empty boxes left behind by the previous tenants. He directed her to the corner. “They can’t keep a guy like me in jail forever, but this would go on your record.”
“What? What are you doing?”
Back down on the main floor, they could hear the security guards talking to each other, “someone’s been squatting here.”
“How did I miss that? I come in here to call my husband every night.”
“Guy must have just moved in. He must be upstairs.”
“Mateo, don’t do this,” Leona begged.
“If you make a sound, you’ll ruin my plan. Just let me do this for you.” She tried to stop him but it was too late. “I’m here! I’m here!” he called out as he began to walk back down the steps, arms over his head.” The security guards held their futuristic taser-thingamajigs towards him. “No need for violence. I was just looking for a safe place to sleep.”
“We’ve already called the cops,” one of them said. “Here are your new bracelets.”
The other one handed Mateo something that resembled handcuffs. There was no chain between the two pieces. Instead, it had a completely straight bar. On it were blinking lights and a small speaker. “Whoa, what is this thing?” Mateo asked with fascination while he attached them to his wrists.
“Standard issue law enforcement pacification cuffs,” Guard Number One said. “But our company is allowed to use them since we designed them.”
“Why does it need an electrical system?”
Guard Number Two smiled. “Because of this.” He tapped a button on his phone.
A small jolt caused Mateo to jump on instinct. “Oh my God, that’s awesome!”
“With these, we can keep you in the designated area; like a mobile invisible fence,” Number Two explained.
When Number One tapped on his own phone, it just made the cuffs vibrate. “We can send you audible warnings, and even tag things we don’t want you to be around like weapons or computers. If you get too close to the contraband, it’ll shock you.”
“The cops have sedatives in there that can be injected at their leisure.”
“They said we have no reason for such a thing, though.”
“Nonsense!” Mateo said as they escorted him out of the building. “You’re the first line of defense. If anyone needs that sort of thing, it’s you.”
“Right?” Number Two asked rhetorically.
A police cruiser pulled up beside them. Number One opened the back door, and let Mateo in. He was completely alone in there. “Where the hell is the driver?” he asked.
Number One shrugged. “Don’t always need them anymore.”
“That’s badass,” Mateo said, but they couldn’t hear him. They had already closed the door and let the car return to the police station on its own. He imagined that the security guards were trying to figure out whether he had been living under a rock. He just hoped they moved their conversation to a second location so that Leona would have a chance to escape.
When the car pulled up to the police station, he was greeted there by an Officer Salinger who calibrated her tablet to the pacification cuffs. “Are we gonna have any problems?” she legitimately asked.
“No,” Mateo answered genuinely.
“Look, personally, I’ve known people with no place to live. Unemployment is getting worse. Even we’re feeling it, as you saw by the fact that no one actually arrested you on scene.”
“Is that legal?”
“—ish,” she replied. “I just want you to know that, even with all this automation bullshit, I think we have better things to do than drag in someone who just needs to get out of the elements, but the owners of the building you stumbled onto have deep pockets, so I have no choice but to put you through processing.”
“I understand. And I appreciate how I’ve been treated. I’ve been...away for a while, and wouldn’t have expected such manners.”
She laughed awkwardly. “I should definitely not be saying this. But as the job becomes more about directing drones and cross-referencing security cameras, and less about tackling black people for no reason at all, we’ve weeded out a lot of the more aggressive applicants.”
“I should say so.”
After a pause, she began to escort him up to the processing area. She set him down in one of a row of interview tables. He was the only one being processed at the time. “What is your name?”
“Mateo Matic.”
She showed him her palms like she was setting up for a high-ten. “Hands up like this.” He mimicked her. She lifted her tablet and took a picture of his fingerprints. She eyed the screen curiously. “How do you spell your name?”
“M-A-T-E-O M-A-T-I-C.”
She tapped the keys as he spoke. “You are not in the system. I don’t suppose you have any identification?”
“I do not.”
She tapped some more keys, trying to figure out who he was.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. She wasn’t going to understand, but she had this way about her that compelled him to be honest with her. “Check—”
“Check death records.”
She looked at him apprehensively, but seemed to give it a shot anyway. She read from the screen once the results came back. “Mateo Matic, born March 21st, 1986. Declared dead in absentia five years ago following a year of officially being missing, and several years of an unusual lack of activity.”
“That sounds about right.”
“You fell right off the grid. You didn’t so much as check your email. Why did you fake your death?”
“It’s more complicated than that.”
She looked back at the screen. “Your adoptive parents died in the meantime. Your birth father is unlisted, and your birth mother actually went missing back in 1994. Forgive me, but this is all very strange.”
“Well, when you put it like that...”
“Are you a secret agent?”
“Are you part of some strange religious cult? Do you live on a boat? This is a safe place. If a crazy science fiction writer is keeping you hostage, you can tell me.”
“No, it’s nothing like that, it’s...” She made him feel like he wanted to be honest with her, but that didn’t mean he was going to reveal to her the whole truth. “I’m fine. Nothing nefarious.”
She switched off her tablet and put it away. “I’m calling in the big guns. You’ll spend the day in holding while you work out your story. I wanna help you, Mateo. I really do. You have kind eyes. But you’re keeping something from me, and I don’t like that.”
“I get it,” he said. There was nothing more he could say.
She quietly removed his pacification cuffs and replaced them with an anklet that was clearly based on the same technology.

He was sitting up on his bunk minutes before midnight when Leona’s voice came to him out of the aether. “Mateo,” she whispered. “Mateo. Can you hear me?”
“Where are you?”
“I’m in your leg.”
“You hacked my anklet?”
“I hacked the whole system.” The gate to his cell slid open. “All you have to do is get through the treeline and hold out until your jump. Then they’ll lose you forever.”
He checked the hallway to make sure that no one was watching. The gate to the holding area opened on its own. “Just keep opening these doors and I’ll see you next year.”
“I’m waiting for you out here.”
“Quiet!” She whispered. “You’re not wearing a cone of silence.”
He moved as stealthily as he could through the station. As he stepped out of the back door, the anklet sent a surge of pain throughout his body. He could see Leona standing on the other side of the parking lot. “Dammit! I can’t turn that off!”
“I can make it,” he struggled to say. He half-walked, half-crawled across the asphalt, hoping to be out of sight of security cameras before his jump. It was looking more and more impossible.
Officer Salinger burst through the door and pointed her weapon at him. “Stop!”
He looked over to Leona. “Go! It’s almost time! I’ll be all right!”
Time blinked, but not everything changed. Different cars were in different places. The air was a bit warmer. But Leona was in the exact same place, wearing the exact same clothes, and with the exact same expression on her face. She hadn’t so much as moved a centimeter. She looked at her watch and jogged towards him. “It’s past midnight. Why are you still here?”
“I’m not. Look, everything’s different.”
She looked at her surroundings. “Holy shit, Mateo. You’re right, it’s 2029. I just jumped through time with you.” Click here for the next installment...

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