Wednesday, October 19, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: August 16, 2398

The checkpoint has evidently been abandoned by the time they get to it the next morning. From the looks of it, there’s a pretty decent operation here that’s designed to prevent unwanted crossings. There is no reason to not station someone here at all times, even if this weren’t the most popular place to transit, which it is, because it’s the closest to the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. Mateo thinks he sees someone move over yonder, but it’s just some plastic sheeting flapping in the wind. This feels like the start of a monster movie. “Timofey, what do you make of this?”
“We should turn back,” he advises. “Something has happened here.”
“What, were they attacked, or something?” Alyssa asks. She already looks like the dvoryanin, Vissarion Chaykovsky.
“We would see signs of struggle,” Timofey explains. “The men were ordered to leave. They knew we were coming.”
“No, I meant that maybe someone else was attacked elsewhere, and the border guards went off to help.”
“It’s possible guards from one side were called off, but what of guards on other side? We should turn back,” Timofey repeats.
“You can,” Mateo says. “This is too important to stop now.”
“I tell you, it’s trap,” Timofey insists.
“Getting out of traps is sort of our thing,” Marie says. “Why do you think Winona keeps trying to recruit my people?”
“Very well,” Timofey submits. “We proceed...with caution.”
Mateo gently depresses the pedal, going only a kilometer an hour at first. He gradually accelerates every several seconds, until he’s finally back up to normal speed five minutes later. They don’t run into any trouble all the way up the highway. Timofey keeps his eyes on the windows for suspicious activity while Marie keeps her ear on the signals. No one seems to be tracking or chasing them. It goes smoothly...too smoothly.
It isn’t until they get to the site that they encounter a problem, and it’s a big one. Marie peers through the windshield. “Alyssa, Plan B.”
Alyssa transforms herself into the image of an agent that she passed in the hallway of Winona’s SD6 field office. He’s big and imposing, so while Alyssa hopes not to have to fight, she will be able if it comes down to it. Mateo sees what Marie does at the same time. Vissarion Chaykovsky is already here. He’s standing on the edge of the empty lot, clearly waiting for them. A construction crew is behind them, beginning to dig exactly where they expect the diamonds and timonite to be. One thing’s for sure, there’s a leak in the organization. He looks back at Timofey.
“I know how this looks,” Timofey says in an immediately defensive tone. “I swear upon my God’s heart that I had nothing to do with this.”
Mateo looks over to Marie sitting shotgun for guidance. She reaches under her seat and takes out an actual shotgun. It’s really short, which he believes would be called a sawed-off? Yeah, that sounds right. “Follow my lead.” She opens the door, and steps towards the men with action hero confidence.
“There is no need for violence,” Vissarion says with calm supervillain confidence.
She points her weapon at his head as she draws nearer. “We’re taking over this operation. Tell your men to shut off their machines, and surrender.”
“In our country,” Timofey whispers, “on local level, you want something, you take it. Strongest wins.”
Vissarion smiles. “You are not Russian. You have no rights here.”
“What are you digging here for?” Marie asks, unrelenting with the shotgun.
Vissarion waits to answer, milking this moment for all it’s worth. “Diamonds.” Yeah, definitely a leak.
Mateo checks Timofey’s expression again, but there’s still no way to tell if he’s truly defected, or if he’s been playing them the whole time. When it comes to double agents, you never really know.
Vissarion goes on, “we are prepared to make a deal. The diamonds, and all their worth, are ours, but we promise never to use any weapons we engineer from the funds against the United States. Also, we would like fusion, and this would be how we pay.”
“I’m not at liberty to make any deal such as this,” Marie admits. “And I don’t know what fusion is.”
“Don’t play coy, Mrs. Walton,” Vissarion grins. “It’s unbecoming of a lady.”
Marie thrusts her weapon forward, fast but only a little, to send the menacing message that she’s ready to use it.
“The deal is to get you to lower your gun,” Vissarion goes on. “We don’t need permission to mine these lands. They are well within Russian borders. You have no authority here. All I ask is that you give us your fusion reactor specifications. We will manufacture ours ourselves. In fact, we insist upon it to support our own economy.” This is a terrible deal, but it may be the only decent choice they have. They need that stone, whatever it takes. It doesn’t matter that Trina wouldn’t want them to risk a war on her behalf, because she doesn’t have a say in it. She’s the one who’s lost, and this might be the only way to get her back. They’ll worry later. “Or we could just hold you all for espionage until your government gives us what we want. We know you’re valuable.”
That was the wrong thing to say. Now Mateo can’t work with them at all, and has no choice but to resort to what he and Ramses decided to call Plan Z. It’s going to be demanding of his acting chops. “Okay,” Mateo answers.
“What are you doing?” Marie doesn’t know about Plan Z.
“I’m assuming control.” Mateo directs his attention back to Vissarion. “We agree to your deal, but we have to make sure that there are actually diamonds down there.”
“We’ve not had time to take samples and conduct studies,” Vissarion tells him. “We’re operating on your government’s intel, which is presumably why you’re here in the first place?”
“My scientists have developed a means of detecting subsurface minerals from the surface,” Mateo says as he’s heading for the back of the SUV. He hopes the sciency words he’s using make sense. “Don’t ask me how it works, but they assure me it does. Tim, help me with this.”
“What are you doing?” Marie asks again after Timofey hesitates to help.
“I’m doing what must be done. Put down the gun. Trust me.”
“I did not realize this was back here,” Timofey says as they’re both struggling to carry the machine from the truck to the bottom of the pit that has just been dug.
“It’s mostly water,” Mateo reveals in a hushed voice. “Once you and the girls are in the car, drive as fast as you can back to Mongolia. Stop for nothing, you hear me?”
“I can do it, but what will make us go to the car? It will be suspicious.”
Mateo catches his breath for a second once they set the machine down. Then he speaks for all to hear. “This is going to be really loud! I suggest you get in your cars, and shut the doors!”
The men laugh, but that’s okay. Only his people need to be safe. Once he hears the SUV start up, Mateo turns the boots the machine up. The Russians are scrambling, trying to figure out what’s happening. Some run off, but Vissarion and others run down to stop Mateo from doing what he’s trying to do. They’re too late. The teleporter engages, and sends them all to Lebanon, Kansas, along with 530 meters of soil, a crapton of diamonds, and time gods willing, the timonite.

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