Sunday, February 27, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 25, 2383

Mateo and Marie made their way to the nearest library, which wasn’t all that near to where they were. They walked, took a sort of subway transport, stepped on a teleporter pad, took another subway, and walked a little more. The library was gigantic; large enough to fit millions of books, but there was not one in sight. This was the future, they didn’t use paper books anymore. They didn’t even bother building shelves for them. The architecture was complex and highly vertical, with pillars going up hundreds of stories at least. The highest part of the ceiling went beyond the horizon, so it may have gone higher. It would seem that whoever designed this just wanted it to look pretty, when a single terminal built into the wall of a nondescript hallway would have sufficed. No one else was here, as one would imagine. According to Dilara, there weren’t very many people on this vessel planet thing compared to its size, and probably most people walked around with a library in their pockets, or perhaps in a tiny chip implanted in their brains. That was if they weren’t just full-on androids. So far, they hadn’t encountered anyone who appeared to be even somewhat nonbiological, but surely they were from being this advanced.
“What are you doing here?” It was a man. It was a very tall man. Maybe this sector wasn’t quite so deserted.
Marie stepped forward to prevent Mateo from speaking first, even though he had no intention of taking lead on this. “We seek asylum.”
“You’re far from it,” the man pointed out.
“We’re here to look for it.”
“If you’ve done something wrong, I have every right to arrest you before you get there. You can’t be granted asylum if you haven’t crossed that border.”
Are you?” Marie pushed.
“Am I what?”
“Are you going to arrest us?”
The man checked his lower arm, where a tattoo that could move was telling him the time. “You have ten minutes.” He rolled his neck, and shook out the sedentaries. “Then you better learn how to run to where you’re goin’.”
“You’re literally gonna chase us?” Mateo questioned.
He cracked his knuckles. “You don’t understand how boring it is working security in an abandoned sector.”
“Okay,” Mateo said, sending a psychic message through a facial expression to Marie that she ought to get to searching. He, meanwhile, kept an eye on his own clock.
“Found it,” Marie said rather quickly. She swiped the navigation data over to her own cuff, and then swiped it over to Mateo’s. “In case we get separated.”
“I’m right behind ya.”
They took off down the corridor together. Then Mateo carefully began to let himself fall behind, so the bear chasing them would reach him first. “Keep going!” he cried up to her when she started showing signs of downshifting. “I’ll catch up!” he lied. As Marie’s footsteps redshifted away from him, their pursuer’s footsteps blueshifted towards him, and Mateo stopped completely. He took a breath, waited until the man was close enough to keep pace, and then turned to the left. His diversion was working. Marie was moving off safely, while Mateo was going in the wrong direction.
It wasn’t long before the guy did catch up to him, but he didn’t even tackle. He just tapped Mateo on the back as if this were a game of touch football. Still, Mateo felt compelled to stop.
“Where is your compatriot?”
Mateo played dumb, and looked around. “I thought she was with you?”
He chuckled. “Doesn’t matter, this was fun.”
“That’s all it was?” Mateo asked. “So you can just let me go.”
“Oh, no. I’m still arresting you.”
“What does that mean? What happens to me?”
The security officer slapped a pair of cuffs on him. They just looked like thin silver bracelets. He pointed a little remote at him, and pressed a button. Mateo felt his arms being flung over to the wall, and trapped against it with magnets. “Exile.”
“Exile to where?”
“Like I said, this is an abandoned sector of the SWD, but it’s not the most remote, by far. I’ll escort you so far away that you won’t see a single soul even if you walked in the right direction for your entire life. No teleporters, no relativistic trains, no windows to get your bearings.”
“Get on with it then.” Mateo was all right with this if it meant Marie was free to make her attempt to end the war. It would all be worth it if it was the last thing he did.
The security man released Mateo from the wall, but immediately snapped the cuffs together. He was even more immobile than he would be with the regular handcuffs cops used in his day in the main sequence. “You won’t need this anymore.” He removed Mateo’s Cassidy cuff, and stuffed it in his pocket. He had no idea what he was dealing with here. “Let’s go.” He pressed a button on the remote once more, and jumped them to some other sector. It didn’t feel any more abandoned than where they were, but he seemed pleased.
“This doesn’t look so bad,” Mateo mused.
“You’ll get sick of it. From here on out, you’ll always be alone.”
Mateo sported his best impression of Joker. “No, I won’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll never be alone as long as you’re with me.”
“Uhh, I’m leaving.”
“If you’re leaving, then I’m comin’ with.”
The man winced. He pressed a button one last time, to unlock the cuffs. They flew right into their dock against the remote. “Good luck with thaaaaaat...”
“Activate ankle tag,” Mateo ordered.
The Cassidy cuff in the guard’s pocket teleported out, and wrapped themselves around his ankle. “What the hell?” he reached down, and tried to remove it, but of course he could, because that would have defeated the purpose of the security feature.
It wasn’t the perfect answer, but it was the only one Mateo had. This was the primary cuff, which meant that the owner was the one in control of it, but only while he was wearing it. The order he just gave was the last one he could. Right now, no one was the owner, and all features were deactivated, except for the one that placed the wearer on the last pattern programmed into it. This man was now on the Matic pattern, whether he wanted to be or not. It was going to take a clever engineer to get it removed, but that could take time, and they only had one day at a time now.
“What does it do?”
“You’ll see,” Mateo said, thinking it would be much more fun to watch him squirm at the sight of the clock.
He checked his device. “My teleporter still works. I can just leave you here, and figure it out.”
Mateo shrugged. “Okay, but...”
“But what?”
“Good luck deactivating the bomb before that happens.”
“You’re bluffing.”
He was indeed bluffing. The anklet was real, but the bomb was not. “It’s not the only extension I have for my substrate. That thing is linked to me, even though it’s now on you. If you get more than a few meters away from me for too long, kablooey.”
“Turn it off.”
“You really think I’m gonna do that here? Come on, man. You’re smarter than that. I certainly am.”
“What do you want?”
“Just get me to the Asylum Sector, and leave us alone. You had your fun.”
He hesitated, and looked at the time again. “It’s been nearly two months.”
“We’ve been here for weeks?”
“Yeah, see?” He presented the clock to Mateo, which was running quite quickly.
“You idiot!” Mateo scolded. “That’s coming up on two years, not months. The bubble runs faster than you know.” He pointed a finger at his chest. “You better get us out of here before the next year passes, or I’m going to run a few meters away, and the bomb will blow your leg off. I assume they don’t have doctors around here?”
“I’m gonna kill you if I find out you’re lying.”
“Teleport. Now. Now!”
“Dammit,” he hissed. He pressed a button, and got them out of there.

“Have you found them?” Leona asked a year later.
“Yes,” Ramses said. “It wasn’t easy. This isn’t technically a Cassidy cuff. It’s like a new model on a different network. I can’t just pull up a list of the other cuffs. But I was able to trace its signature.”
“Just one?” Leona asked for clarification.
“I only found one online. The others are dormant, and I can’t see them.”
“Oh, okay.” Leona put on the brand new cuff. “I’ll contact you when it’s time to carry out the mission.
“Be careful.”
“I will.” Leona activated the associative teleporter, and jumped. She was surprised to find herself next to Angela Walton. Mateo was nowhere to be found.
“Leona,” Angela said. “No need to worry, this is my associate. She’s here to help.”
“What are you doing here? I left you on the ship,” Leona said to her in a whisper, which the nearest other people in the room could probably hear.
“Time, right?”
“Marie, our patience grows thin,” someone of importance declared. “First you tell us that you can unite the detachments, then you disappear for a year, and now you’re back with someone else. If you want to negotiate, then let’s see what you have to bargain with. Your asylum credentials will only last three more years, so if we don’t get something working, we’ll have no choice but to inform security that you are here, and let them begin the pursuit process of you and the rest of your team.”
“That is why she is here,” Marie explained. “She can bring you Xerian Oyana.”
“Is this true?” the leader asked.
“What would you do to him if I did?” Leona asked her.
“We would follow him. He is the true owner.”
“I can get him here,” Leona promised, “but I demand assurances that neither he, nor my people, will be harmed.”
“We can do that.”
“I’ll need some time to make preparations,” Leona insisted.
“How much time?”
She looked over at Marie, who she believed to be a future version of Angela. “One more year.”
The leader sighed. “Very well. We shall move on to other business.”
“What are you wearing?” Marie whispered as they were leaving the diplomacy room together.
“Do you like it? Ramses made it for me.” Leona extended her arm like she was showing off an engagement ring.
“Different,” Leona agreed. “Do you remember where the AOC is?”
“Yes,” Marie replied. “I can’t sync with you, though.”
“Just beam me the coordinates. We don’t know that this can be synced. But it can teleport without having to associate with a beacon device.”
They teleported to the ship almost at the same time. It was here that Marie explained who she was, and how she came to be here. Leona was surprised at the news, but not shocked. It obviously wasn’t the first time she met an alternate version of someone. Why, she once sent her own alternate to another universe to live out her life safely and happily, away from all this drama.
“So you don’t know where Mateo is?” Leona asked.
“Not anymore. I didn’t wanna say anything to them, even though they might be able to help, because we don’t know for sure they can be trusted.”
“That’s why we’re here,” Leona began. “Insurance.” She pointed to her new model cuff. “This will get me back to the Suadona, particularly a beacon on the bridge. But we may still need to destroy his ship, even though you’re clearly in the middle of negotiations. I need the other cuffs, so we can associate to a lifeboat that Olimpia and the other you are on. That is our way to safety if anything goes wrong.” She knelt down, and started to access the hidden safe. “I need to get their cuffs back around their wrists.”
“Stop,” Marie said.
“Mateo didn’t want anyone else to get hurt. He may be dead by now, and if so, he sacrificed himself in the name of peace. I want peace too, and if I want it, Angela wants it. Bring Xerian here, leave the others on the Suadona, and don’t make plans to turn any ship into a teleportation missile. If we can’t learn to trust a little, these negotiations aren’t going anywhere. This is war, Leona, and in war, the diplomat speaks first.”
“Close the safe, and walk away.”

No comments :

Post a Comment