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Saturday, August 6, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 3, 2398

Leona did a double take as she was driving last night on her way back from date night. She and Mateo were meant to have dinner downtown, but they got in a fight on the ride out there, and ended up just skipping it. He got out of the car to walk alone, so she decided to drive around a little bit to clear her head. It’s not everyday that he has the upper hand in an argument, so she wasn’t exactly excited to get back home and face her friends. She wasn’t too far away when she spotted one of them walking along the path in the park across from their building. “Hey!” she called out to him. He looked around for the source of the voice, and smiled when he found it. Before they could exchange one more word with each other, a dark van pulled up between them, and stopped for a few seconds. When it drove away, Ramses was gone.
She held for a second to go over the possibilities. He could have been taken against his will, sure. It wouldn’t be the first time for any of them. She didn’t want to jump to conclusions, but he clearly saw her on the other side of the road. He wouldn’t have smiled if he didn’t realize in time that it was her. Given that, he would have made an effort to say something to her if he was intending to get into that van. He wouldn’t have just shrugged off the awkward timing, and went about his secret business. No, even though she didn’t know why he would be taken, it was the only logical hypothesis. So she moved over to the right lane, put on her hazard lights, and impatiently waited for the traffic to clear. Then she made an illegal u-turn, and begin to pursue the van.
She called his phone, just in case there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this. After three rings, the driver of the van tossed something relatively small out the window. She was pretty sure she knew what it was, but she stopped anyway, and quickly opened her door to pick the phone off the road, and bring it in. Hopefully they didn’t just see her do that, because they might become suspicious. Fortunately, the car behind her still had a ways to go before catching up, so nobody honked their horn. Now it was pretty obvious that something nefarious was going on here, and she needed help. She tried to call Marie, and then Angela, but neither of them answered their phone. She called Mateo, even though he was surely still on foot, but his phone rang inside the car. Damn, he left it here when he hopped out in a huff. She was going to have to fix this on her own.
Twenty-five minutes later, they were into the rural outskirts of the metropolitan area, and the van was showing no signs of slowing. That was when the route started to become all kinds of crazy. They turned down one road, and then down another, and then another, until they were all the way back to where they started from. They winded around, and occasionally spent a little too long at a stop sign. Oh no, they must have realized that she was following them, and were just testing her. She tried to call her friends again, but this time couldn’t even get through to voicemail. She couldn’t find a signal at all. What were these people doing? And what were they going to do to Ramses once they confirmed that Leona was behind them. It was dark, though, and despite the fact that they were out in the country, there were still quite a few other cars around. She just hung back a little farther, and prayed that they couldn’t prove any suspicions. 
They played this game for hours, and now it’s after midnight. There’s still no cell service, and Heath’s car is running out of gas. The van probably is too, but she has no choice but to keep trying. All she can do is continue to follow, three cars back, and hope that they stop soon. They don’t, though. In fact, they turn off on a single lane road; that’s one lane, full stop. It would look mighty suspicious if she happened to be going that way too. But it doesn’t matter, because Ramses needs rescuing, and she’s the rescuer. They keep going until they reach this isolated little farmhouse.
Leona switches off her lights, and turns into the driveway, because if they haven’t noticed her by now, they probably never will. They go all the way up to the porch, but she stops near the road to watch. She sees them drag a Ramses-sized burlap sack, up the steps, and into the house. If he’s dead, she’s going to kill them. One of them leans against the van and lights up a cigarette while the others are starting to do whatever it is they plan on doing. That’s when she gets out of her car, and approaches without caution.
“Hey, you’re not supposed to be here! Who are you?” he cries.
“This your van?” she asks, nodding to it like a gangsta.
“What of it?”
“How did you not detect my pursuit?”
“Hell you talkin’ ‘bout?”
She pops him in the nose with her forearm, spilling blood out like a beer can at a college party. As he’s crying like a baby, and trying to shove the blood back into his body, she slams the back of his head against the passenger window, cracking it slightly. Lastly, she situates the inside of her ankle against his, and pulls the back of his neck away from the car. He trips on her leg, and crashes to the ground. She stomps on his back before casually walking up the steps, where she finds the other two men trying to get Ramses into a chair. They stop and stare at her of course, not sure what the hell is going on.
“Hey, wait, I know you. You’re just a floor worker.”
“No,” Leona contends. “I’m the lead floor worker.” She fights them both. They have knives, which is adorable, and they’re rolling on the floor in a matter of seconds. Those three years she spent training with the Crucia Heavy really paid off. These electronic repair idiots are no match for her, but it’s better to be overqualified than underqualified.
Once it’s all over, Ramses finally comes to. He takes a moment to assess the situation. “Thanks for coming after me.”
Leona starts to untie him. “What do these guys what?”
He chuckles. “Honor. You see, I quit, which apparently didn’t mean that the number two worker was promoted to supervisor, or as a thought, repromoted. They had to be tested again, and evidently, Bruno over there cheated the first time, so they fired him. And the other guy, Stockboy, just sort of does whatever Bruno says.
“We were driving for, like, four hours, but we’re probably less than an hour away,” she tells him, questioning the rationale.
“Yeah, they were worried about being followed or traced, so they thought going around in circles would prevent that. I guess they figured that would be good enough, and they wouldn’t have to actually look out for someone like you. True morons, if you ask me.”
“I would have asked,” Leona begins, “if I didn’t surmise that myself.” She tenses up when the front door opens, but relaxes when she sees that it’s the rest of the team. They’re in no hurry either, presumably after seeing the driver writhing on the ground.
“Okay,” Heath says, “next time you go into the Great Dead Zone, drop a message. We barely found you.”

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