Sunday, September 11, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 9, 2398

Okay, new plan. As it turns out, it’s a good thing that Amir Hussain is such a common name, because there are a few others in the penal colony. It takes them a little bit of time, and a little bit of them breaking into a records room, but they think they have found the right impostor for the job. He actually wants to leave the colony, and start a new life in Usonia. The real Amir Hussain—or rather, the one they’re assuming the two senators are trying to transport as a refugee—is already gone, having been teleported to The Olimpia just as it was coming in to free all of them. He and the rest of their friends should be safe and sound by now. He would have explained to them who he was, and they would have dropped him off somewhere else around the world, given him a little starter money, and returned home.
They weren’t trying to trick Birket, per se, but since no one on the team appears to have actually escaped, their enemies shouldn’t suspect a thing, and they will hopefully accept the other Amir as a decoy. He looks enough like him, given the poor quality of the photo, but maybe there are better ones out there. The Honeycutts may have deliberately made this difficult on them, for whatever ridiculous reason. If so, then they’ll see right through the ruse. The didn’t explain any of this to the new Amir. They’re pretending to legitimately presume that he’s the one they have been looking for this entire time. They’ve almost convinced themselves of as much. Right now, they’re waiting outside of the rundown transition building, which is where release requests are processed.
A man gets on the speaker. “Leona Matic, Marie and Heath Walton, Kivi Bristol, and Amir Hussain, please come inside.
They walk in to find the building cut in half. Their side is bare, with only chairs up at the barrier, allowing them to communicate through bulletproof glass. The other side is part of a sliver of land where the true citizens of Birket live. A woman is rifling through some papers, and doesn’t bother looking up when they walk in. “Please sit in the order that you were called, starting from this chair here, to that one down there.”
They do as they’re asked.
She keeps consulting the documents, but finally does look up at them. “One million U.S. dollars.” She smiles in a strange way before adding, “each.” Not even Leona knows what she means by that. “That is how much it has cost to get you out of the Birket Penal Colony. I have never seen a bid that high, not even close. But apparently it comes with a...” She looks back at one of the pieces of paper. “...relatively large jug of Dead Sea Water?”
Leona clears her throat to show that she’s not deaf, but doesn’t say a word.
“We don’t like stealing here, but one jug of saltwater is still just one jug. It’s not worth five million dollars.” She continues to wait for them to respond, but gets nothing. “Though, I suppose the payment is more to get us to keep quiet about the whole thing...which I’ll honor. We need to repair and remodel half the blocks in the colony, and that money will contribute nicely to the fund.” She waits once more, but is neither surprised nor perturbed by the silence. “We don’t care if you have any belongings. You won’t be returning. A guard will open that door way down there in ten seconds. You’ll then have ten seconds to get through it before it closes again. Good luck.”
They jump out of their seats.

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