Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 19, 2043


“Towering more than a kilometer in the air,” Harrison explained as he manipulated a holographic image, “the Black Crook Suspended Rehabilitation Facility—nicknamed The Platform—was designed to simulate society, but in a controlled environment. Inmates are referred to as residents and are encouraged to contribute to their little civilization in positive ways in order to prove that they can be safely assimilated back into the real world.”
“Black Crook?” Mateo asked. “That sounds racist...even for Utah.”
Harrison pulled the image up to show the mountain underneath the prison. “Black Crook is the name of the peak on which the facility was constructed.”
Leona was all kinds of professional. “Is it a kilometer above the peak, or a kilometer above sea level?”
“Above the peak,” Harrison answered. “It’s almost four kilometers up.” He continued, “a ten-meter wall that curves inward stretches across the entire perimeter. Assuming a resident could climb to the top of it, he would have nowhere to go. An automated defense system keeps track of all air traffic within two kilometers, and will shoot anything that comes within a kilometer with very little warning.”
“What does it matter? The whole state should be a no-fly zone,” Mateo spat.
“They can’t climb down?” Leona asked.
“The platform extends horizontally beyond the carbon nanotubes that keep it aloft. One would have to defy gravity to move across the bottom of the platform for several meters before reaching anything that would take him vertically. But again, automated defenses. Anything passes beyond the wall is shot without warning.”
“Even if you did get down,” Mateo said, “you’d still be in Utah.”
“How many turrets?”
“Three on each side.”
She expertly operated the hologram and looked for flaws. “Would all the turrets react to an escape? Or just the closest ones?”
Harrison sifted through the data. “For individuals? Just the closest ones. If you try to come in with a large enough aircraft, then all hell breaks loose. What are you thinking?”
“The corners,” she said. “You use one of the corners as your point of egress, and you only have two turrets to contend with. Disable those and you can leave.” She skimmed some of the data regarding the turrets. “Do we have details on these? I need specifications if we’re going to take them out.”
Harrison kind of laughed and shook his head. “No, these are just the main turrets. There’s an entire system along the pillars, and all defenses will interpret a parachute as a small aircraft.”
“What about the center?” Leona was not giving up. “What would the turrets do for a parachute in the center of the platform?”
Harrison looked through more data. “Survey says...it would let you onto the platform, but alert the humans. They care less about you getting in, and more about you getting out. Besides, that’s how the prison resupplies; with airdrops. They let pretty much anything but weapons in. The better the platform resembles a city, the closer they are to reaching their goals.”
“But what would we do once we got there?” Mateo pressed her. “Harrison said that parachutes are big enough to get us shot down. We would probably become prisoners.”
“Residents,” Harrison reminded them.
Leona showed her most evil smile. “We’re going to parachute in.” She shook her head deliberately and dramatically. “But we’re not parachuting out.”
Harrison spent the rest of the day retrieving supplies for them at the behest of Leona. Her plan relied on them doing this at the very end of their night. Meanwhile, she studied the prison layouts, tinkered with the holographic images, and designed a virtual world. She and Mateo then immersed themselves in a crude but effective simulation of their escape plan. They tried multiple routes and tactics, modifying the plan to account for hiccups and obstacles.
When they set out late at night, Harrison came up with a major problem that their simulations could not account for, “humans.”
“What about them?”
“Your plan assumes that Horace Reaver will still be at this facility a year from now. But you are meddling in their affairs this year. That gives them 365 days to move him somewhere else, and they will probably do that, just to be safe.”
Leona considered this. “Then we leave him out of it this year.”
“How do we do that? We need him ready to make the jump,” Mateo pointed out.
“Well, he relives days, right? So he already knows what’s going to happen. We’ll make a ruckus. He’ll know that it’s us, but we’ll be sure to avoid him. Then you, Mateo, will plan on finding him next year and pull him to the egress point. But he’ll already know where it is then too. For once, both our pattern and his give us an advantage that no one else has.”
“Reaver is by far the most powerful man there,” Harrison commented. “Even if you avoid him, they will suspect him.”
“That’s true,” Leona said, having no way around it.
“So we find a pawn,” Mateo piped up. “Find the next guy who might have the resources to pull this off. I’ll grab him and convince him that I’ve been sent to get him out. Come midnight, both he and the authorities will think he’s the one involved.”
“That’s kind of dark, Mateo.”
“This is your plan, Leona. And according to your friend Doug—whatever his name was—we have no choice but to do this.”
She exhaled and relented. “Harrison, pull up a list of inmates, I mean residents, and find me a believable scapegoat.”
Harrison did as he was told, despite his reservations. Then they were at their destination, miles in the air. Mateo oscillated between breathing deeply and breathing erratically. He felt a pit in his stomach. This was not the most dangerous thing he had ever experienced, but it was the only one he was going to do on purpose. What made things worse was why they were attempting it. After all Reaver had done, he was going to get his way once more.
Leona reached over and gave him a hug. “I know you don’t want to do this. I don’t either. And I promise, I’ll explain everything. Those words he said to me in the visitors’ room did mean something. They were a code. And there really isn’t any way for him to know them unless I gave them to him. Some part of me trusts him, and I have to trust that part.”
“I get it. I trust all of your parts.”
“Were I you, I would love me too, Mateo.”
“Were I you,” he repeated.
“Magic hour,” Harrison called back. “Time to make the drop!”
Leona turned around and let Mateo strap her back to his chest, and then she opened the hatch. “I’ll tell you when to pull!”
“Okay!” he yelled. And then they slipped out.
The fall was even scarier than when they shot across the sky from space. He hadn’t realized just how much Mirage had slowed them down that night. Upon his love’s command, he pulled the string and let the parachute loose. As they were drifting to their landing spot, an alarm rang out, but it only lasted a few seconds. It was just to let the few guards know that something was out of place. The two quickly disconnected from each other. Leona was about to run off to her mission, but he seized her and pulled her close so that he could give her one last kiss. “Be careful.”
“You too,” she replied. “Use your map. It’ll tell you where our patsy lives.”
“Let’s call him our pledge.”
“Very well.” She checked her watch and ran off to the platform wall.
Mateo ran the other way to look for a man named Gilbert Boyce. He wasn’t quite as rich as Reaver, but he had his friends on the outside, and it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that someone would stage an escape for him. He was already up and awake from the alarms, and standing on his patio. “Mister Boyce. Time to leave!”
“I’m sorry?”
“I’ve been hired to break you out.”
“By whom?”
“I was not given a name. Just clean cash. Let’s go.” He looked at his watch. “We only have ten minutes to get to the far wall.”
Gilbert made no further arguments, jumping down the steps and managing to run faster than his supposed rescuer. They had to zig and zag and hide behind buildings, so that not too many people noticed them, but enough to get the rumors churning.
About halfway there, they ran into Reaver. “What are you doing?” he asked, clearly still not used to being out of control.
“Now be a good boy,” Mateo said to him in a psychopathic voice. “And we might come for you next year.”
Reaver seemed to get the message, and moved off in another direction.
“Are you really going to break him out too?” Gilbert asked.
Mateo scoffed. “Fat chance. That man ruined my mother’s life. I was just trying to get rid of him,” he lied.
They reached Leona who was carefully staring at her watch. “It’s almost time.” She breathed in and out to prepare herself.”
“Are you sure this is the right spot?”
“The wind wants me here.”
“And you’re sure the turrets will shoot your parachute, and not you?”
“No, not really.”
“Le-exi!” Mateo scolded, just about forgetting to use fake names, but catching himself in time.
Her watch’s alarm went off. “Time to go.” She pulled her string and released the parachute. It violently pulled her up towards the wall. The turrets spun around and began to shoot the parachute, but not before she had gotten as high as she needed to.
Using the oldest trick in the book, Mateo pointed behind them. What’s over there?”
Gilbert fell for it and looked for trouble long enough to give Mateo and Leona a chance to jump into the future. But just before, Leona released her parachute and left it in the past. Now in 2044, she fell down about a meter, and caught herself on the curved wall. Gilbert was gone and Reaver was standing in his place. The first part had worked. Now for the hard part. Click here for the next installment...

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