Monday, September 5, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 3, 2398

In the early 22nd century in the Middle East, what is colloquially known as the Water Wars began. Water from the Jordan River was diverted from the Dead Sea so much that it all but dried up, leading to sinkholes, dying vegetation, and other ecological issues. As the problem escalated, a rebel force arose, intending to protect the lake from any further interference. They repaired and preserved it, eventually winning control of the entire area. Their cause was so successful that it spurred similar disputes around the world. Some were not so successful, and some were more violent, but the conflicts were all ended one way or another, and World War IV went down in history both as the shortest-lived, and the one with the fewest casualties.
Today, the Dead Sea, parts of the Jordan River, and surrounding lands belong to the Sovereign Nation of Birket. Very few people who live there are considered law-abiding citizens. It exports no commodities, and does not participate in the international stage. Its borders are protected by designated military branches from Israel and Jordan, who agreed to certain terms under a treaty signed by all three parties and the Global Council following the outcome of the first battles of WWIV. The majority of the people who live there do so in a penal colony, usually after being found guilty of attempting to adulturize the waters. Prisoners are treated well, but are almost always serving life sentences. The government exercises an excellent parole program, though, which has transformed the colony into less of a prison, and more of an intermediary for asylum seekers.
When Marie and Kivi, and later Leona and Heath, suddenly appeared at the lake’s edge, they were pretty much immediately found guilty of adulterization. It’s up to Mateo, Ramses, and Angela to rescue them. Obviously, this is easier said than done. Getting into Birket isn’t a problem if you plan on going straight to the colony, which some people do as refugees to escape their lives in other regions. Getting out, of course, is much harder. If not done by prison break, it entails a lot of paperwork. It requires a sponsor from a country willing to take that person in, but this sponsor can’t be just some rando who feels empathy for the refugee. It has to be someone important, such as...a U.S. senator?
“I must say, these visits are becoming tiresome for me,” Senator Honeycutt laments. “Your wife wanted us to stay away from you.”
“You can’t break that deal without suffering her wrath,” Mateo begins to explain, “but we can break it anytime we want.”
“I suppose that follows a level of logic I would enjoy in my own pursuits,” the Senator replies. “What are your friends doing in Birket, and why did they believe they wouldn’t get caught?”
“You don’t need to know that,” Ramses says. “You just need to get them out.”
Melville sighs. “It won’t be that easy. I already have two sponsees, which is twice as many as the congressional average. Doing this will raise eyebrows.”
“You don’t have to sponsor them yourself,” Mateo tells him. “You just have to make it happen. Surely there is some other bleeding-heart politician who hasn’t yet sponsored a refugee, who also happens to owe you a favor?”
“What makes you think anyone owes me any favor at all?” Melville questions.
“You run a secret paramilitary operation that illegally crosses borders,” Ramses guesses, based on his experiences with them. He doesn’t actually know that their tactics are illegal, but since his daughter uses a forged identity small business to recruit its members, it doesn’t exactly scream overt. “Your number one currency is favors.”
“I may know someone,” Melville decides after thinking it over. “She was just elected, and while she didn’t run specifically on a platform of Birket refugees, she might be interested in padding her résumé with something like this right away to secure reëlection.”
“Perfect,” Mateo determines. “Call her.”
“No one who owes me a favor right now would be caught dead doing anything like what you’re asking. It’s not their political slant. She is the only choice, but we have not yet crossed paths, so if I do this, she’ll probably treat it as a favor for me, despite the fact that it will ultimately help her. I’ll owe her a favor.”
“So you want some kind of compensation to make it worth your while,” Ramses figures. “That way, we’re all paying for something.”
“The problem is, I don’t know what she’ll ask for, or when. I didn’t follow her campaign, because she was never on our radar, so I don’t know a whole lot about her motives, or secret agenda. When she comes to collect, you may need to be ready to be involved, or be involved in something else, to—as you put it—compensate me for whatever it is I’ll have to pay.”
Mateo places two fists on the Senator’s desk, and leans in. “I have access to the hungerberries, in case you thought that was just something between the two of you, and that Leona’s current predicament prevents her from following through on her threat.”
Melville leans in as well, so that their faces are awkwardly close. “You can only play a card so many times before I start to recognize the wear and tear on the back of it. The favor chain we’re building here is my way of letting you maintain your hold over me and my family without playing the card a second time. I suggest you take it.”
Mateo lets go. “Get them out. Ramses and I will be waiting for them in...where did you say it was?” he asks his friend.
“Egypt,” Ramses reminds him. “Birket usually releases prisoners to Egypt.”
“Right. We’ll be in Egypt. Call us when your colleague gets back to you, and we’ll deliver. Make it happen, whatever it takes.”

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