Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 7, 2398

Leona opens the door without knocking, a little surprised to find it unlocked, but not showing it. The forger has security cameras around the outside, so she always knows when someone is coming. That’s not what it is this time, though. She’s not here at all. The whole place has been completely cleaned out, and cleaned up. Leona rubs her index finger on the counter. Not a single mote of dust, grease, or anything else has been left behind. It smells of bleach, implying that the one who once called this her office has left, whether it be because she was getting too involved with their team, or for other reasons. Perhaps the authorities are on to her, or she’s paranoid about the possibility. Or maybe this is just something she does every now and then. Either way, it suggests that she’s out of their lives forever, and Mateo won’t have to pretend to be a federal agent, or find a way out of it. Leona is about to leave when something catches her eye.
A gray something or other is peeking out from around the corner on one of the lockers towards the back. More curious than anything, she goes over to check it out. It’s a pantsuit, fit for a woman of her measurements. Developing the sickening feeling that she’s going to regret it, she opens the locker to find six more like it, of various designs. On the little shelf above is a badge and gun. Cardinal Agent Miriam Salinas of the National Intelligence Authority. There’s an oddly intimidating logo in the corner that looks like a numeral six, with a line against the right side, and a curve flowing the opposite direction on the bottom.
Leona stares at her picture on the left side of the ID. She glances to the sidearm occasionally, and also the wardrobe. This is what she wanted. She wanted to keep Mateo out of it, and take on the burden. The problem is, how did the forger know that? As she’s staring, she thinks about all the people they have been in contact with since they came to this reality. She hasn’t found herself with the ability to trust even one of them. Even Heath is suspect. He just happened to catch wind of Marie’s supernatural arrival, and chose to keep it secret, and now they’re married? She hasn’t said anything, because they seem happy, but who is this guy, and why is he so cool about all this? If anyone’s a mole, it has to be him, because no one knew that Leona was planning to take Mateo’s place except for him, and the team. Ramses hasn’t stopped checking the condo for bugs since he first freaked out about the possibility.
This is okay. It’s going to be okay. While three of them are off on their special mission, Leona can keep an eye on this Heath Walton fellow, and decide whether he could have some kind of ulterior motive. She sticks the badge in her pocket, hooks the holster to her belt, conceals it with a blazer, and gathers the rest of the suits. In her first timeline, she would play secret agent with a neighbor kid. This experience is evidently about to become useful.
What she didn’t know as she was having that last thought is just how right she was. As she’s walking back to Heath’s car, another car pulls up. She catches the glint of red and blue in the grill, which tells her that it’s an unmarked law enforcement vehicle of some kind. She has enough time to pop the trunk, and toss the wad of clothes in, but if she tries to do the same for the gun, they’ll just see it. It’s much better if she leaves it hidden, and hopes that they don’t find a reason to search her person. A woman gets out of the driver’s side, and a man gets out of the passenger seat. They’re both wearing suits, and approaching like cops who aren’t presently afraid of their situation.
“Agent Collar. This is my local police liaison, Detective Horton. Mind telling me what division you’re with?”
Now, Leona knows what division she’s with. Her badge says so. The problem is, she doesn’t know how a real agent would say that, or really what she would say in this situation, full stop. Would a real agent say the whole thing, or would she just say NIA? Would she throw around a proverbial ruler, or be all nice about it? Maybe she ought to just let the badge itself do the talking. She pulls it out, which reveals the gun on her belt, which is probably not secured according to regulations.
The agent’s eyes widen in—is that horror, or deference? “Oh, SD6. Sorry, sir. I had no idea. We got a tip about this spot. What would you like us to do?” Deference.
Recalling the mumbo jumbo she’s heard on TV, and hoping this reality uses the same nomenclature, Leona nods once. “Get forensics down here. It’s been scrubbed, but maybe there’s something here that they missed.”
“Right away, sir.” She clears her throat suggestively to her liaison.
He’s a little slow, but gets the idea, and goes back to the car to radio the station.
“Any leads?” Agent Collar asks.
When Leona first put on this blazer, she noticed something rather light tap against her chest. She kind of ignored it, because it didn’t seem too important. Now she realizes that it’s just a pair of sunglasses in the inside pocket. Still thinking about how someone in her position might act given the circumstances—as seen through the lens of a highly stylized and melodramatic police procedural—she suavely places them on her face, and jerks her lapels down in a commanding sort of way. “I’ll run them down myself. Just secure the scene. I’ll call you if I need backup.”
Agent Collar nods respectfully, and lets Leona get in her car, but then realizes something. “Oh, wait. Let me give you my card.”
“I can find your number if I want it,” Leona tells her coolly just before slamming the door shut. She drives off under the speed limit. Shit, did that just work?

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