Monday, July 11, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 8, 2398

Everyone seems to be having problems at their jobs, but Angela’s is going well. She likes the people she works with, and she likes the work itself. She feels a little guilty about this, though, so she doesn’t talk about it at home. The team dynamic has definitely shifted. They used to pretty much go through everything together, with only a few major exceptions, like when almost all of them died, leaving Leona alone to deal with the aftermath. Now it feels like Angela is the one left out, unable to really do anything to help, while the rest struggle. She works on her studies, and helps other library-goers do the same, but she doesn’t contribute to her family. Mateo was feeling this before, but it’s only recently come to her attention that she’s kind of in the same boat. She’s smart, experienced, and knowledgeable, but what good is that if she doesn’t do anything with it?
“Oh, hi, Rance.” Rance volunteers here too, and started around the same time she did, so he thinks of them as friends. She does too, but maybe it’s a little more than that?
“Need any help with those encyclopedias?”
“No, I’m all right.”
“Okay.” He looks nervous.
“Is everything all right?”
“What? Oh, yeah. I just...” He sighs. “My friends told me to come up with a cool pickup line, but I’m too honest to say something like that, so I’m just going to be blunt. Do you want to go on a date with me tonight or tomorrow night?”
Yeah, she would. He’s a nice guy who cares about people. He likes to read too, which is high up on her list of preferable traits. She smiles, and tries to say yes, but for some reason, it sounds a little more like, “I’m married.” What the hell was that?
“Oh, I didn’t realize that. I’m sorry, you just never talk about your partner.”
“Well, he’s real. His name is Heath, and I have to go. Can you cover for me?”
“Of course,” Rance promises. “See you tomorrow?”
“Maybe.” She runs off.

She burst into the condo. She had the evening shift, so everyone is home already, except for Leona, who is still at her primary job. She leans back against the door to catch her breath.
“Angela, are you okay?” Mateo asks. He’s probably getting ready to go pick Leona up.
“My name is Marie.”
He flinches, and walks backwards down the entryway, until he can see the living area. “No, she’s over here. Right? You’re Marie?”
“Yep,” the real Marie answers.
Angela follows him around the corner. “No, I’m Marie. You don’t even exist.”
“Whoa,” Marie says with a frown, “what are we talking about here?”
Angela gathers her composure. “You’re going to Croatia to get an abortion.”
Marie’s frown deepens. “Yes, unfortunately.”
“But when you come back, they’ll know that you went there, and they’ll question whether that’s why you were there, especially since you’ve already been to the doctor, so they already know about the baby.”
“They won’t necessarily know,” Heath contends. “When you fly private, there are certain ways you can get around being discovered.”
“But they could still find out,” Marie adds. “Angela, we’ve already discussed the plan. I’m going to fake a miscarriage before we even leave.”
“That’s not going to work,” Angela argues. “The authorities are not stupid. Nor are your medical professionals.”
“We have to try,” Heath insists.
“Or you don’t. Like I said, one of us doesn’t exist,” Angela repeats.
“Please explain,” Marie urges.
“I have never been pregnant before,” Angela begins to reason. “If the authorities attempt to examine me, they will find no proof that I was pregnant, or that I had an abortion. So I need to take your place. I need to become you, and you need to become nobody, like I am right now.”
“You have an identity now,” Ramses reminds her. “You’re Angela Bolton.”
Angela shakes her head. “That’s never been scrutinized. The forger inserted my name into the system. She can take it back out. Meanwhile, I take on Marie’s identity, and Marie just becomes this secret person with no identity. If she ever needs to prove who she is, she’ll pretend to be herself again, but hopefully we can just keep her under wraps, because I need to be the one available for a pregnancy test.”
“How will you explain why all those medical professionals you mentioned all believed that I was pregnant at one point?” Marie questions.
Angela scoffs. “They’re liars. They’re dirty, rotten liars, the lot of ‘em. Prove it. Prove that I ever took a blood test with them, or had an examination. You can’t, can you, because Leona is going to hack into their records, and erase them, and once it’s done, it’s their word against mine, but the authorities will believe me, because they’ll find no evidence that I was pregnant, as I’ve said.”
Heath looks over at his wife. “This is just gonna complicate things even more. It won’t make it easier.”
“But it will make it safer,” Mateo determines. “She’s right. It doesn’t matter what claims the people at the doctor’s office make. They’ll be proven wrong. They can run a million tests if they want, but they will not find the evidence they’re looking for in Angela’s body.”
“Marie will have to live the rest of her life in hiding,” Heath argues. “We had an excuse for her long-lost twin sister. Now they can’t ever show their faces in public simultaneously, because they’ll quite quickly realize what’s happening.”
“That’s assuming anyone even wonders whether Marie had an abortion in the first place,” Ramses says. “They may never knock on our door. You’re not going to be telling people that you went to Croatia.”
“Plus,” Angela goes on, “there will be undeniable proof that I didn’t even leave the country, because I’ll be taking her place at work, and the grocery store, and whatever. I’ll get myself under as many security cameras as I can find while you’re gone.”
Heath looks back at his wife. “It’s up to you. I’m worried about the risk. Abortion is illegal, and it comes with consequences, but combined with fraud, I don’t know what they’ll do to you. I doubt anything like this has ever been attempted.”
Marie faces him. “This is kind of what we do. We have a long and complicated history of tricking the bad guys into believing things that aren’t true. I’m willing to try, but only if you’re sure, Angie.”
“Let’s do it,” Angela agrees with a nod. “The first step is you telling me what you do for a living again?”

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