Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 15, 2398

Leona is about to leave after a long day at work when the internal investigator from a couple weeks ago steps into her office. He exhales, lowers her head, and pinches the bridge of her nose, wishing that she had just made her way to the elevator when she had the chance.
“I’m not here to take up your time,” he claims. “In fact, I’m here because I want to give you a heads-up about something that will be happening in the future.”
“What is your authority here again?” Leona asks, not expecting a direct answer.
“Authority Zero.”
“That is a band where I come from.”
“Where I’m from, it’s the freedom to do whatever I want,” he replies.
“Yeah. What do you want?”
“I have a team in Munich as we speak, who have been charged with acquiring a certain object under...shall we say, special circumstances.”
“They’re stealing it.”
“Well, yes...”
“They’re stealing it violently.”
“I can neither confirm, nor deny, the nature of the operation.”
She clears her throat, not wanting to give away the fact that three members of her team are presently in Munich, and they may or may not be involved in all that.”
“There are no more secrets between us,” the Authority Zero Internal Investigator lies. “We know your husband is there. We tapped him for this assignment, but he declined...also violently. We had to come up with an alternative.”
That’s why Ramses isn’t answering his phone. Mateo doesn’t know where he is, but he expressed his theories. “If they get hurt...”
“I take care of my team. I can’t guarantee their safety. We would have to put them in a padded room for that, and even then, nothing is perfect. The point is, Mister Abdulrashid—”
“Why can no one in the world pronounce that man’s name?”
“It’s because people in this country are...less enthusiastic about Arabs—”
She interrupts again, “he’s not an Arab, he’s from Egypt.”
“The point is that people around here do not generally associate with people from that part of the world. Pronouncing their words is just not something we find necessary to learn.”
“Ramses hasn’t experienced any racism in this country,” Leona notes.
“There’s a political reason for that. It’s a lot to explain, but people most likely assume he was relocated from the slums as a child. There was a huge push for that a few decades ago. Tens of thousands of children—mostly infants—were rescued from their parents, brought to civilized regions, and assimilated into the culture. Your friend is the right age to have been part of that. It’s interesting he seems to have kept his name, though. That’s not common. Or did he adopt it later out of reallocated loyalty?”
“I knew there were religious issues, but I guess I didn’t realize how widespread the racism was.”
“It’s not racism,” he defends. “It had nothing to do with race. Now, I’m not saying what they did was right, per se, but those kids were living in utter squalor. Their lives are better now. They’re better here. Our culture—across all religions—teaches scientifically proven idealistic life values, which they were lacking in their home country. Again, I didn’t participate in that, but you can’t argue with the results.”
Leona blinks. Racism. What he just described is racism, and he can’t see it. It’s xenophobia too. Because of Marie and Heath, the team was mostly prepared to just live here forever, but every day comes with at least one more reason to get the hell out. “Oh, I certainly can. You give me enough information, I’ll argue until the cows come home.”
“What cows?”
“It’s obviously just an expression. Is that all?”
“Ah, right,” he says. “The object that Mister—uh...what your friend will be securing for us will need to be reverse engineered when it gets here. That’s what you’ll be doing, probably at the start of next week.”
“What is it?”
“You don’t need to know that just yet.”
“Does it pertain to my work, or will it just be a distraction?”
“We hope it will help, actually,” he decides.
He has her by the balls, as Mateo once said. He knows about the team, and he knows about their connection to timey-wimey stuff. Or at least, he knows that they have a connection to something weird. The forger is aware of all this too, and God knows who else. Their only option now is to play ball. It’s the only way to protect Marie. She just has to hope they don’t know about that aspect of their lives. “What’s your name, if not Shady Corporate Authority Zero Interrogator?”
“Honeycutt. Senator Melville Honeycutt.”
Crap, that can’t be good. “It’s nice to formally meet you.” Now she really is going to have to fake being polite to him.
“I assume Leona Matic isn’t your real name?”
She adds more belongings to her bag. “No, it is. We didn’t think there would be anyone we would need to hide from.”
“Why did you need forged papers, then?”
“We required identities, not names.”
“I see.”
“What’s her name, the forger?” she presses, even though she really just wants to leave. “The one who is endangering my friends overseas?”
“Winona. Winona Honeycutt. I call her Winnie.”
Double crap. What is the wife or daughter of a senator doing as a forger in the seedy part of Kansas City? And what is a senator doing interrogating a suspect in what’s meant to be a semi-academic, semi-private laboratory? And how did they find out anything about them in the first place? “If you’re related, then you must know that I’m now pretending to work for SD6, and also that I’m apparently in charge of investigating her forging den?”
He dismisses this with a wave of his hand. “We set it up so that you would become the de facto lead investigator. They won’t find anything at the alleged crime scene, and you won’t implicate my daughter at any rate, will you?”
“No, sir. She’s safe. I just don’t know what to tell the agent and detective. I reached out once to tell them that my lead evaporated, and they have been calling me ever since.”
“I’m sure you’ll think of somethin’. Try to keep them out of it. They’re not part of the inner circle; you are.”
“Very well, sir.” She’s becoming more respectful by the minute. But of course, she still doesn’t trust them, so when she finally makes it home that night, after updating the group chat, she asks Angela to begin running some countermeasures.

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