Tuesday, September 6, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 4, 2398

They’re called megablocks. By nesting courtyards inside of other courtyards, many times over, and building vertically, tens of thousands of people can live on a plot of land not much greater than 60 acres. Most of these do not contain prison cells, though they could be modified, if need be. When the government of Birket built the first one, their idea was to give criminals a place to live, but nothing else. They would have to farm for themselves, and take whatever water rations they were allotted. Over time, other nations, and private organizations, took pity on the residents of the penal colony, and began to send them supplies. Now these gifts are airdropped on a weekly basis. Furniture, entertainment, and of course food is shipped in from all over the work. The leaders of Birket do not try to stop this. Their only concern is keeping the guilty away from the Dead Sea and Jordan River, or transporting them to Egypt when the appropriate asylum paperwork goes through. For the four time travelers in this reality, this paperwork has not yet gone through, and they’re not sure it ever will.
In other penal colonies throughout history, left to their own devices, the people living there usually govern themselves, and this is true of the Birket colony, though to no astounding degree. The internal leadership only worries about whether someone has a place to live, and whether they intend to cause trouble. Don’t cause trouble. It’s the only written rule, and it’s posted all over the place. Stealing, murder, rape; these all fall into this category of crime, along with a lot of other things, and they all come with the same punishment. The original megablock is a prison within the prison, does indeed contain cells that lock from the outside, and is reserved to house all the ne’er do wells that disrupt the unexciting harmony of life in the other megablocks. It’s rundown, dirty, and rationed. There aren’t too many people in there since most of the colony residents are here because they want to be, not because they have behavioral issues.
Leona, Marie, Kivi, and Heath don’t want to be here, but they are trying to make the best of it. They arrived with two phones, which means that Ramses will be able to trace their location. These devices were taken away from them, and communication with the outside world is extremely restricted—which helps to curb the population—but they’re confident that they will be released soon. For now, all they can do is wait in the bare housing unit that was assigned to them. There is hardly anything in here, because they have yet to earn that right, but it shouldn’t matter much. Overall, it’s not a bad place to live, which is why some people try to cross the border intentionally. In some cases, it’s the best path to asylum, even if that ends up being somewhere else. There’s only so much room, though, so they don't encourage it. Newbies just have to sleep on the floor, and pretty much beg for rations, and this is a fact that the rest of the world knows all too well, which is again why not all refugees just flock here.
For the most part, representatives of the Birket government do not step foot in the megablocks. When they do, it’s kind of a big deal. People know that special circumstances have forced this to happen. That apparently isn’t going to be okay in this situation, which is why one of them has had to make contact with the group in secret. “Which one of you is Agent Leona Delaney?” the young boy asks.
“Who is asking?” Leona questions.
“Senator Melville Honeycutt has a mission for you while you’re stuck here. I would do it myself, but—” He presents himself regrettably. “...I don’t fit the prerequisites.”
“You live here permanently?” Marie asks him.
“I have a certain medical condition that stunted my aging,” he explains. “It would have made my life annoying, but I work here, because I can fly under the radar. No one suspects the kid to be the inside man.”
“I assume that Honeycutt wants us to find someone?” Leona asks.
“You make it sound so simple. I don’t think it is. They don’t exactly take census in the colony. If you’re here, people assume you belong, and no one cares who you are, or who you were before your verdict. Yes, he wants you to find someone. But you won’t have much to go on.”
“That’s okay,” Kivi says. “I’m sure we have done a lot more with a lot less.”
The young-looking man takes an envelope out of his breast pocket, and hands it to Leona. “Good luck. He’ll theoretically release all five of you once you find your target.”

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