Saturday, June 18, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 15, 2398

Finding out where Heath and Marie live would be a trivial task for the authorities of the Kansas City Police Department. The rest of the team can’t go back there, and if they manage to break Heath and Angela out of the holding cells—or even if they fail in the attempt—they never will again. Fortunately, while Marie never had any intention of breaking the law before, she devised ways of protecting her assets. The two of them are basically survivalists, and they own a small patch of land on the outskirts of town where they buried a secret bunker. Once the other four reunited at the rendezvous point, they traveled there together to discuss recent events, and formulate a plan. Marie asked Mateo not to mention anything about feeling the pull of their pattern until they could solve this first problem, and he agreed to that with no controversy.
The laws in this reality are very different. It’s been a long and deadly road that got civilization to this point, and they’re paranoid about going backwards. Many separate religions have similar ideas. In fact, a cursory glance at each one might lead an outsider to believe that they all originated from the same few ancient events, and branched out from there. This may be true, but it’s caused hostility either way. One might think that these cross-denominational similarities would help people find common ground, but historically, they’ve only stirred up resentment. It would be unthinkable and impossible to combine their faiths into one, so the fact that they all think they’re right, and they’re right about the same thing, just means that this town ain’t big enough for the both of us. Because one of the major things they have in common is that a select few elite should be in charge of all others, and the crux of the competing religions is that everyone thinks they’re that elite.
While Heath works in information technology, religious studies is a passion of his on the side, and he dedicates his free time to finding a way out of these conflicts. WWVII is perpetually around the corner. Each peacetime is met with another war, and a lot of people want to put a stop to it. Even significant instigators of war don’t really want to do it anymore, they always just feel compelled to compete against the others, who they think aren’t as enlightened and peaceful as them. Scholars came up with a term to describe it, which is Radical Defensivism, noting that it leads to some form of offensivism if left unchecked. But don’t let anyone hear you say that, because suggesting to an individual or group that they’re morally wrong for wanting to protect themselves is considered, on its own, an act of offensive aggression, and will only give them the excuse they were looking for to retaliate.
According to current religious laws, freedom of religious pursuits is protected above all else, but there are limits. Religious practice cannot involve speaking ill of someone else’s beliefs, nor overly promoting one’s own beliefs. That’s what Heath did that has got him in so much trouble. And because he is known in certain circles as someone who attempts to solve the antagonism from a practical and academic standpoint, it’s going to be so much worse for him. And it could put his scholarly peaceful movement in danger, so if his colleagues don’t denounce him and his actions as ironic, they risk destroying their own reputation. They can’t allow one of their own to be labeled a hypocrite, so they have to excise him from all association. Whether he is freed or not, his dream of being a meaningful force for good in this way is over. But there is some hope, because there’s a way to get him out, and it has to do with that first class of religious laws.
By arresting him in the first place, the authorities also risk their reputation. They are not meant to be above the laws, so if they deliberately antagonize someone for their beliefs, they enter a gray area. In fact, the entire thing is a gray area. It might be one’s belief that they ought to be able to demean and argue against other people’s beliefs. There is no way to satisfy some kind of moral imperative when it comes to something like this. The concept itself is self-contradictory. You can’t be intolerant of religiously intolerant people that claim their intolerance is a tenet of their religion. The team could make the case that the cops were being the hypocrites. Heath was shouting his intolerance in the middle of the night in an industrial area where no one else was around. Only the authorities heard his words, so they would have to testify against him in a personal capacity in order to make the arrest stick. If they choose not to—which would be in their best political interests—he should be free to go. He’ll still have to be shunned by his community, but he’ll be able to go home. Angela should be able to go home too, as long as she can successfully convince them that she’s actually Marie.
“So, we’re not breaking them out?” Leona asks.
“We should do this the right way,” Marie replies.
“There’s a problem,” Ramses points out. “None of us has an identity. That’s why Angela took your place, instead of claiming to be herself. You can’t argue on behalf of either of them, because one of you isn’t supposed to exist.”
Marie nods, “that’s why I’m not going to be the one going down there to argue on their behalf. We’re going to need outside help, from someone I hope we can trust.”
“Hope?” Mateo questions.
“Nothing in life is certain, Mateo, not even death or taxes. We should have all learned that by now. I will say that this guy is our best chance, and he has a...”
“A what?” Leona presses.
“He and Heath have history.”
“What kind of history?”
Marie takes a breath. “They were married before us. He believes that I stole Heath from him, and he’s been trying to steal him back ever since. He won’t want to help me, but he’ll want to help Heath. I just hope that side of him overpowers the other.”
“Great,” Leona declares, “let’s go now.”
“He travels during the week for work,” Marie explains. “I don’t usually know where, but I know he won’t be back until Friday.”
“What happens to our friends in the meantime?”
“The holding cells are actually rather comfortable; it’s a religious thing, so they’re not being tortured in there, or anything. This reality does not guarantee speedy due process. I doubt the pigs will do anything with them until next week. You take the good with the bad.”
“One day it will all be the good,” Mateo muses. He didn’t mean to say it, it just came out, and no one has the heart to dispute it. Though many strange things have happened over the years. It could happen again.

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