Sunday, August 7, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 4, 2398

Mateo is on foot again, this time with his cell phone tucked neatly in his pocket, still over 90% charged. He stormed out of the car so quickly the other night that he didn’t notice it fall out of his pocket, and then he was mostly worried about himself—perhaps he might get lost in the big city—because he didn’t know that Ramses was in trouble. They all need to stay in contact all the time. Even if three of them are in the middle of a serious conversation, and want to turn off their ringers, the six of them are always exceptions.
As Mateo continues down the sidewalk, he dwells on the events before the abduction. That’s a whole weird conversation they need to have, because it’s just getting unbelievable that they’ve nearly all been taken and held against their will at some point. Only Marie has made it out of this so far, and she’s about to travel to a potentially hostile environment in Croatia, so it could only be a matter of time. That’s not what he’s upset about right now, though. After Leona’s hostage situation, she came out of it perfectly fine. According to her report, two men broke into the lab due the perceived wrongful termination of one of them. On their way to dinner on Tuesday, Leona let a little bit of information about that debacle slip, which snowballed into the truth that not only did that guy end up with temporal tech, but also that a shady organization is now probably watching their every move.
Leona is concerned about these people, but she was evidently not going to tell anyone about it. Instead, she had this elaborate plant to methodically sneak every team member out of the country, and seek anonymous refuge elsewhere. She hoped that, now that Mateo knew what was going on, he would side with her, and help her make this actually work. Now the reality is out in the open, though, no one else agrees with her either. Something has to be done about their exposure, but running is not the answer. They’ll just be looking over their shoulders forever, and any hope they might have of returning home will be lost. Mateo can’t go look for answers around the world, and Ramses can’t build whatever it is he thinks they need, if people are tracking them. The only option is to fight back, and it starts with what Mateo is doing on his own today. He shakes off the fight, because he has to switch gears to another problem. These military credentials were a bad idea from the start, and he can’t believe the rest of the team let him go through with it. Hopefully the forger doesn’t give him any crap.
He’s about to knock on the door when the lock buzzes, and it opens a crack. He steps in to find her waiting for him at the end of the hallway, instead of behind the counter. She looks...excited? “Oh no,” he says. “You’re scaring me. What are you planning to sell me today?”
“No, nothing. No extra costs.” She said she didn’t want any repeat business, but she sure doesn’t exhibit such misanthropy in real life. “I was just about to call you, which is a cool coincidence. I think you’re really gonna like it.”
“I don’t want anything more. In fact, I would like to return something.”
“No refunds.”
“No refund necessary. I just want you to remove me from any and all databases featuring me as an individual with military credentials.”
“Ooo, I don’t know that I can do that.”
“You’re going to have to figure it out. It’s already gotten me in trouble once.”
“Yeah, I heard about your little adventure on the high seas.”
“How could you have heard about that? We didn’t tell anyone.”
Let’s just say that I’m more than just a local forger.”
He points at her face. “See, that. That’s what makes me nervous about you.”
“No, don’t be nervous. That’s ignorant.”
“What are you?”
“I’m somebody that can get you into any government agency building in the country, or any U.S. outpost in the world.”
“I never asked for that!” he shouts.
“I got it for you anyway. It’s not crazy. Lots of veterans transition to agency work after their service commitment ends.”
“I just told you that I want to be erased from the system,” he reminds her. “I don’t want to do anything with that. Only a few men found out about me, but the longer I stay in there, the greater the chances that my position within the military will be scrutinized. So just get rid of it. Wipe it clean.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that. I’ve already initiated the upgrade package. This one is airtight. You come from a profoundly secretive branch of the intelligence department. Anyone who tries to verify your history will hit a brick wall. Those people can neither confirm nor deny the existence of an agent of any given name. You could ask them if Daranda The Drama Dragon was an agent, and they would give you reason to believe that maybe she actually is.”
“Who is Daranda The Drama Dragon?”
“See, that. That’s what makes me nervous about you,” she echoes him from earlier, with the same accusatory finger-pointing. “Every kid grew up watching Dragon Drama on Sunday mornings. The fact that it doesn’t even trigger a familiar reaction from you makes no sense. So where are you really from?”
“Nowhere special, we just needed new identities. I thought you didn’t ask questions.”
“I don’t know that I said that.” She sighs, and presents him with a silver authority badge, and a sidearm. “You’ll need these later.”
“I don’t..want them!”
“You don’t..have a choice!”
“Erase me from the military system, or I’ll expose your little operation to whatever agency might be interested in you, as well as any other interested third party. You somehow got it in your head that I can be pushed around, and manipulated, but my friends and I don’t like to be told what to do. It never ends well for the people doing the telling.” He ignores the badge and gun, and tries to walk away
“How would you handle someone like me?” she asks, which doesn’t prompt him to turn back. “Would you teleport into my house at night, and slit my throat?”
Now he stops, wishing he hadn’t. If he had just kept walking, maybe whatever it is she knows could just be brushed off as a ridiculous figment of her imagination. Just by pausing, he’s given her cause to think he has anything to do with teleportation. “Who are you, and why do you want me to become a federal agent? What can I do that you can’t do yourself, or have done for you by someone you know you can trust?”
“I’m the only one in this world who’s on your side. The war is coming, Mr. Matic. You can either support the war effort, or put a stop to it. You’ll need a badge either way.”

No comments :

Post a Comment