Monday, September 19, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 17, 2398

It has now been well over three days, and they have yet to see any sign of their captors, besides the fact that someone had to break into their condo, knock them out, and transport them to this fishbowl cell. Marie, Heath, and Kivi occasionally exchange looks. The fourth prisoner may not be a prisoner at all, but be here to observe them in some way. She doesn’t ask questions, or do anything else to complicate matters. She’s been answering simple questions simply, and generally gives off a vibe of trustworthiness. But perhaps that’s just what she wants them to think. Maybe it’s all a grand act.
The food is running out. Soon, they will have nothing to ration, and will have to subsist on water alone, but eventually, even that won’t be enough. They’ll waste away and die in this box, just as Heath predicted. Marie is regretting some of the choices she made, and she’s about to fess up to them when they hear a noise. It came and went so quickly, none of them is sure it ever happened at all. Based on each other’s faces, something had to have happened, though. It couldn’t just have been in their heads. Another sound; a pop, really. More pops, some closer than others. They’re gunshots, mostly handguns and a few automatic weapons. They can hear screams and maybe war cries too. They’re muffled and still distant, but they’re definitely human voices.
“This is it,” Andile says in a defeatist tone. “They’re coming for us.”
“No, they can’t be,” Kivi contends. “They wouldn’t be shooting if they were just gonna come and kill us. This is a rescue.”
“Is it Leona, maybe with all of our other friends?” Heath hopes.
“No.” It can’t be their friends. After all of her experiences in war simulations, Marie can tell that at least two opposing sides are shooting at each other, and that’s not something that Leona would tolerate. She would come in surgically and rather quietly. It’s not an execution either. What is it? “This is something else.”
The firefight grows either louder, or closer, or both. They hear a pounding on a wall or door that must be just a few meters away in the darkness. Another pounding is followed by a heavy click, and then a second click, which is immediately followed by blinding lights. The rest of the room is illuminated, besides just their cell. A man in black is holding a gun. He is covered in blood, and grimacing at them. He looks around until he finds what he’s searching for. On the other side of the door is another one of those huge power levers, but this one has a cage around it so it can’t be pulled. He shoots the lock off, and opens it. He doesn’t pull the lever down, though. Instead, he pops the panel open, and presses a blue button. They start to hear rushing water, and quickly realize that it’s coming from under the sink. The room is flooding.
“What about the air holes?” Heath questions, assuming that the guy is trying to drown them.
“Get on top of the cots,” Marie orders.
The other prisoner, Andile follows the suggestion.
“No, he’s right,” Kivi says. “The water will drain before it reaches our waists.”
As the man is pivoting over to the other side of the box on the wall, Marie repeats herself, but more earnestly this time, “get on top of the cots!”
Kivi and Heath finally do as they’re told, but the man just chuckles. He knows that the water is going to get high enough to electrocute them anyway. Marie desperately looks around for something to grab onto, or maybe something to hang the sheets over like a hammock. There’s nothing. If they don’t find a way out of here, this guy is going to get his way. The water keeps rising and rising, until it does spill over the cots, and kisses their feet. Marie tries to balance on the frame, which is just a tiny bit higher, but the water gets high enough to cover that too. The man reaches up and takes hold of the lever. He’s about to pull it down when they hear one more gunshot. His head jerks over to the side, and he falls down to his face.
Winona Honeycutt walks all the way through the door, and presses the green button on the panel. The water begins to drain away. She shoots their attacker in the head one more time for good measure. She too is covered in blood.
“Thanks for saving us,” Heath tells Winona as she approaches the glass. “Could you open the door now?
She examines the cell, particularly in one spot, which must sport a keypad that the prisoners can’t see. “I don’t have the code.”
“Of anyone, I would think you would be entrusted with the code,” Marie muses.
Winona winces. She looks back at the dead guy on the floor. “Wait, do you think we’re the ones who locked you up?”
“Who else would?” Kivi asks.
“There are things that you do not know,” Winona begins. “We have been searching for you for the past three days. Once we realized that you freed the wrong Amir Hussain—which, by the way, my father and I don’t care about; he wasn’t our objective—we thought you may be in danger. We knew that the people who actually wanted the right Amir would not be happy about it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to you in time, and it’s taken us this long to figure out the location of this black site.”
“Who? Who did this to us?” Heath demands to know.
Winona puts her watch up to her lips. “Bring me the highest clearance you can find.” She returns her attention to the prisoners. “You’re not allowed to know that. You’ll have to commit to us to be read in.”
“Commit to who?” Heath asks impolitely.
She smiles, then looks behind her as they’re dragging a bloodied man up to them. “Senator Morton? What luck that you just so happened to be on site during our siege.”
“Go screw yourself, Honeybutt,” he spits. Then he spits some blood at her.
“Like I haven’t heard that one before,” Winona spits back. “Give me the code, or your daughter and I are gonna have a playdate, like we did in the old days. Except the guns won’t be imaginary this time.”
Scowling, Senator Morton recites, “Zero-nine-one-one.”
“Her birthday?” Winona asks rhetorically. “How typical of your generation.” She punches in the code, and lets the prisoners out.
Morton looks up at Marie as she’s stepping out. “I finally remember how I knew you. Did you ever get your dress fixed, Madam Milf—” He can’t finish his sentence when Winona shoots him in the head, like she did with the other guy.
“Daddy’s not gonna like that, but secretly...he will.”
The other three are horrified, but Marie is grateful. She thinks that she can explain away what he managed to say before his death, but she wouldn’t have been able to if he had been allowed to keep talking. She signs thank you to Winona as she’s backing away, hoping that no one else notices.

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