Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 22, 2398

If Marie and Heath didn’t work out their issues, they didn’t let the rest of the team know. They came out of Angela’s bedroom after an hour, and sort of pretended like nothing had happened. Their friends could occasionally hear muffled yelling from the other side of the door, so they obviously said something to each other, but it’s unclear where they were going to go from here. Instead of saying anything about it, they decided it was time for the other four to secure their own new IDs, because they could be in this reality for a while. Nothing came from screening the footage from the parking lot, so they planned a field trip for the next day.
In the main sequence, they could have gone to a man by the name of The Forger, who could create actual new identities for all of them. These weren’t just fake papers, backdated as far into the past as possible, but a rewritten history of their lives, using real documents from the real past. And they could rely on the Forger to not leak the truth about them anywhere else, because he’s one of them, and just as susceptible to exposure. The Third Rail is a different story, obviously. It took some doing for Heath to find a forger for Marie, and they are at constant risk of being discovered. If their forger is caught by the authorities, he could give up his clients. He says that he doesn’t maintain records—and in fact doesn’t even ask for people’s original identities—but he had to take their pictures, and pictures can be copied. It’s dangerous for them to go back to the same guy, but even more dangerous to try to find someone else. At least he’s lasted four years without confessing to the cops. Theoretically, he could last four more.
He’s not there, but this is clearly still a document forging operation. They can see all the equipment behind the counter. A very young woman has her legs propped up on it. She’s scowling in a this place was better before they put in a door sort of way, and apparently upset about having to put down her book. She has an abstract tattoo along her jawline, and a funky haircut with a purple streak. The only thing missing is a lollipop in her mouth, or maybe seventeen sticks of gum. “Yeah, he’s dead. I’m his replacement.”
“Replacement?” Marie questions, “like, you interviewed?”
“No, I was more like an apprentice. Now it’s all mine. Behold, old ones, my exquisite palace of shit.”
“You don’t sound too enthusiastic,” Ramses says.
She turns to look at him. “The way I see it, if I’m too eager to do my job, I might be too eager to remember anything about my clients. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care why you need this. I only care if you have the money. Once you walk out of this room, you’re gone. I don’t wanna see you again. And if I do, it won’t matter, because I have a superpower.”
The team looks amongst each other.
“Not literally, they actually call it a disorder. I cannot detect or recall faces. Like, all I see are six people standing in front of me. I can’t tell you apart. When I hand you your packets, you’ll have to figure out whose is whose. That’s why I’m so good at this, and why Ramos chose me in the first place to carry on his dumb Kansas City secret legacy. Now. Do you want your IDs, or not?”
“Can we pick our own names?” Angela asks.
The forger shrugs.
Angela turns to Marie and Heath. “There’s no reason we can’t use our normal ones, right? I mean, we just need to be able to drive, and stuff. We don’t need to hide.”
“That’s how we saw it,” Heath replies.
“In fact,” Mateo says. “If anyone out there recognizes one of our names, we probably do want them to approach us. Even if they’re dangerous, we need answers.”
“I can explain,” Marie says to the forger, trying to think of a believable lie.
“Like I said, I don’t care. I need three things: your money, your chosen names, and for each of you to sit in that chair over there, and pose for a few photos. I have multiple backdrops for different IDs, along with some shirts you can borrow. I always do birth certificate, passport, and driver’s license. Those are included, but you can pay more for student IDs, certain employee badges, and even bank cards. I’m currently running a deal where if you buy one of the extras, I’ll throw in a library card for free. If you cough up enough money for a military ID of some kind, we go into the backroom, and I’ll let you do whatever you want for twelve minutes.”
“Uh, that’s okay,” Leona tells her. “We don’t need that.”
“You all can get whatever else you want,” Heath promises them. “Don’t worry about the money.” He jiggles his duffel bag of cash.
“We might could use a military ID,” Mateo declares.
“Excuse me?” his wife questions.
“But instead of twelve minutes in the backroom, I want to stay here and watch you work, for however long that takes.”
The forger narrows her eyes at him, and thinks about it. “It’s $10,000.”
Mateo looks to Marie.
“Okay, you can get it, but you’re eating all of your vegetables tonight,” she agrees. “And no dessert.”
“Oh, he can have dessert. I may not recognize his face, but I can see dat body,” the forger explains.
He grimaces, but of course, nothing happens between them that night. He just wanted to make sure she would do the job as they asked, and he was also curious how it would all come together. They may never need the military ID, but it could prove useful. Stolen valor is no joke, but Mateo can conceive of a situation where it’s their only way to solve a problem, or get out of a predicament.
He’s not the only one who opted for upgrades. Both Leona and Ramses ask for employee badges; her to an astrophysics lab, and him to an electronics corporation. It’s not the largest, nor the best, but it’s the only one the forger has access to. Now they can take all the equipment they might need, and also have some means of studying this reality. Angela takes one of the library cards for herself, and Mateo takes another. She wants to learn more about their new world, and he wants to finally learn something. All told, this ends up costing them $28,000, but neither Marie nor Heath are fazed, and it could one day save their lives.
“How was your night?” Leona asks when he returns the next morning.
“It was fascinating,” Mateo answers. “You probably would have liked it.”
“That’s great. One thing, though.”
“You’re sleeping in the living room with Ramses tonight. You can come back to bed tomorrow.”

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