Friday, July 8, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 5, 2398

Leona braces herself for another day of work. She loves the lab itself. The technology here is so—with no better way to say it—weird. Due to religion, of course, as well as other variables, there are some things that were just straight up never invented. Other things were invented too early. According to what limited research she’s been able to do during her downtime, none of these early inventions has been as ridiculous as, say, aerosol deodorant before the wheel, but she finds it fascinating to read about them nonetheless. For instance, unlike in the main reality, where the electric vehicle, and the combustion engine, were invented around the same time, the latter predates the former by nearly a hundred years on this planet. This was how people drove around in the 20th century. Also unlike the main sequence, once car batteries became efficient enough to last two day’s worth of the average daily commute on a single charge, the transition period between the two form factors was extremely short. This was probably because the people who originally sold petrol-powered vehicles were also responsible for manufacturing the battery-powered ones, so they saw no reason to stifle progress. Who could have guessed that all the corporations would have to do to maintain their oligopolies would be to innovate deliberately, and noncompetitively?
One major scientific advancement that this world randomly doesn’t have is reconstructive surgery. We’re not just talking about elective surgery where someone wants to change their appearance because they think it will make them more attractive. Skin grafts, deformity corrections, even sexual reassignment surgery; none of these things exist here. Leona so far can’t figure out why. When she’s brought it up to her coworkers at both of her jobs, people seem amenable to the examples, and they can’t explain why they haven’t been done before. Another thing this culture seem never to have invented is sexual harassment seminars. What Leona believes is that all harassment training is focused on protecting children. Apparently, once someone reaches the age of seventeen, they’re expected to fend for themselves. They should be able to reject unwanted advances on their own, stand up for themselves against bullies, and brush off inappropriate comments. Well, that last one is even more complicated, because her definition of inappropriate is very different than whatever these people have decided on.
This is why Leona hates working here, and if this one thing were to change, it would make it worthwhile. They wouldn’t even have to repair the shortcomings of society in a greater respect. All they would have to do is let her do what she needs to do to help them, and not try to interfere, or be involved. This would be so much easier if she could work alone. She’s the one from the alternate reality. She’s the one who has seen all kinds of wondrous technology. Many people in this lab may be smarter, but none of them can match her experience and knowledge. Having to deal with this one particular colleague who has been assigned to learn from her has made her almost want to quit. After a productive conversation with Marie and Angela, Leona has resolved to do something about it today. Marie reminded her that the lab needs her more than she needs it. Yes, she wants to know what happened to their powers and patterns, but not at the expense of her dignity and self-respect.
As soon as she steps off the elevator, she sees him. He’s trying to hand her a cup of coffee, as he does every day. He thinks it’s sweet, but from him, it feels like an attack. Plus, she doesn’t really drink coffee—especially not the kind from the Third Rail, which no matter the variety, always tastes at least a little sweet—and she’s told him this numerous times. It’s not that he doesn’t understand, he just doesn’t care. He expects this to become a lovely story they’ll tell their grandkids one day; that he just kept trying, even though she never accepted. Oh, hahaha, that’s so cute. She’s about to preemptively tell him yet again that she doesn’t want any, but he begins a different subject. “Aww, come on. Where’s that teal blouse I like so much? Your tits look so great in that.”
She stops and stares for a moment. Then she takes one of the cups from his hand, aims it towards him, and squeezes. He screams in agony. “Yours look great in that.”
“Fucking bitch!”
She ignores him, and walks right up to Petra’s office.
“What’s that ruckus down there?” Petra asks.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Okay.” She’s always so trusting, it’s bizarre.
“Did you receive my latest numbers?”
“Yes, I did!” Petra exclaimed. “They’re very promising. I don’t think you were lying about your ability to develop actual fusion technology.”
“I wasn’t.’re impressed?”
“Very much.”
“You might even say that you value my contributions.”
“Of course.”
“You wouldn’t be super happy if I—oh, I dunno—quit?”
Her smile disappears. “Are you going to quit? Have you been in talks with India Tech? They may have lots of money, but they can’t give you what—”
“It’s not about money. It’s about this place. It’s about him.” Leona just sort of glances towards the bottom of the door.
“Him?” Petra asks before realizing she already knows the answer. “Oh. Him.”
“He’s still harassing me, and I’ve had enough of it.”
“I know, I’m sorry. You’re not the only one complaining, but I can’t report him to Staff Support just for bringing you a beverage every morning. Can you imagine how that conversation would go? He’s too nice. That’s not illegal, or against policy.”
“It should be!” Leona catches her breath. “At least in this context.”
“I know he won’t stop bothering you. I’ll try to talk to him again.”
“I only want you to have one more conversation, and it’s either going to be an exit interview with me...or with him.”
“Is this an ultimatum?” Petra asks.
“Absolutely. You can fire him, or I quit. You’re not going to entice me with more money, or a bigger workspace, or even less time having to work with that man in person. It doesn’t matter to me anymore. I want him gone. I want him humiliated, and out of a job, and I want him to hate me for it.”
“This is a big ask, Magnus Matic.”
Leona nods, not disagreeing with her. “Fusion, or one little asshole with a big mouth. You can only have one.”
“Well, when you put it like that...”
“Great. And bonus, if you do it soon, I’ll finally have enough time to complete the simulations, and then I can start on some real design specifications. You’re welcome.”

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