Sunday, November 27, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: September 24, 2398

Different countries have different laws and conventions, but the most common number to use is fourteen. Though not yet an adult in these jurisdictions, this is the age when an individual is considered legally free to choose their own religion. It’s difficult for the state to regulate what a given religion can do to and with their children, but certain morally universal laws have been passed to prevent abuse or any infringing on those children’s rights. Basically, yeah, you’re free to express your own religious practices, but if you indoctrinate children into believing the same without providing them with the proper education regarding alternatives, then you’re being a hypocrite...and that’s illegal. They have the right to figure that out themselves, and once they’ve been alive for fourteen years, society expects them to declare their beliefs. Of course, they convert to something else later, but people generally believe that—assuming all anti-indoctrination laws have been followed—they can make a well-informed decision at this point. Carlin McIver is at this age now. Today is his birthday.
There is nothing the team can do to solve the Meredarchos-Erlendr problem. Sure, Leona is a highly trained agent, and Mateo technically works for the same covert governmental organization, but that organization has many other well-qualified agents, operatives, and analysts. Everyone on the team is at the Lofts now, which currently excludes the late Cheyenne, her friend Bridgette, Heath, Vearden, and Arcadia. So there aren’t all that many people at the party, but the ones that are here are committed to making Carlin feel special, safe, happy, and ready to make his choice. They’re all sitting together in the common area on the second floor, eating his favorite foods, and trying to keep the mood light. It’s not working. Alyssa is being strong for her younger brothers, but they’re still struggling. Carlin is particularly upset, as he felt it was his duty to protect Trina from harm. He’s not angry at the team for letting her go. He’s angry at himself for letting them let her go. Again, he’s not an adult yet...but there is a loophole.
“Tamerism,” Carlin says quietly.
Not everyone heard. They’re still smiling from their respective conversations. “What did you say?” Alyssa asks him.
“I choose...Tamerism,” he elaborates slightly.
“Very funny,” Alyssa says.
“I’m being serious. I’m fourteen now, I get to choose, and I choose...Tamerism!” He’s raised his voice, but isn’t yelling yet.
Alyssa scowls. “You are not going to be a Tamerist!”
The visitors to this reality look over at Marie, who shrugs. She hasn’t heard of every single sect of every single faith.
“I have to protect my family, and this is how I do it!” Now he’s yelling.
“That is not how you do it, because we are a nonviolent family!”
“You said that all these people are our family now,” Carlin reasons, indicating the team.
“They are, and they’re working very hard to protect us,” Alyssa volleys. “And I know what you’re going to say; they’re using violence. Yes, to a degree, but that’s not what you’re going to do.”
“Forgive me for interjecting, but what’s happening here?” Leona asks.
“This country has maturity milestones. You can work at thirteen. You can choose your religion at fourteen. You can drive at fifteen. You can vote at sixteen. You can marry at seventeen.” She takes a beat. “You can fight at eighteen.”
“Okay...he’s not eighteen.”
“You can fight at fourteen,” Alyssa goes on, “if your chosen religion says that you can, and Tamerism is the only major one that says that. And it has to be one of the majors, because they’re the ones who get resources from the government. The problem is that Tamerism is fucking insane! The things that they believe, the things that they fight for...”
“I can fight for whatever I want!” Carlin claims.
“Once you reach a certain level,” Alyssa argues, “which takes, like, a year. Until then, you go where they tell you to go, and you kill who they tell you to kill.”
“Some people accelerate in the program.” Carlin crosses his arms in a huff.
“You are not going to join Tamerism.”
“You’re not allowed to say that to me!” Carlin cries.
“Seven witnesses will assure the authorities that I never actually said that.” She’s confident that everyone here will lie for her, except maybe Moray, who may be a little too young to understand the consequences. When the state says that you can choose your religion, they mean that no one can stop you, not even a legal guardian.
Carlin tightens his arms around himself.
“You want to join the mission to find those evil men, don’t you?” Alyssa guesses.
Carlin nods his head.
She nods back. It’s time for some tough love. “That’s not practical. By the time you level out of obligatory service, they’ll be found and dealt with. Don’t throw your life away. Tamerism is one of the hardest faiths to convert out of. They get dirt on you, they blackmail you. You don’t genuinely believe what they believe. They’ll know that, and they won’t let it slide. They’ll act like they do, but then they’ll slowly brainwash you.”
“Hold on a minute.” Ramses jumps up. There’s a little whiteboard on the refrigerator. He wipes the party shopping list away.  “How do you spell that, Tamerism?”
“T-A-M-E-R-I-S-M,” Alyssa answers.
He writes it up in black marker. “Marie, how do you spell the one that your husband is in, or was in, or whatever?”
“Daltomism. D-A-L-T-O-M-I-S-M.”
Ramses writes that one up there two. He breaks each word in half using a red marker, and adds different letters to the ends. Tamerlane. Dalton.
“Tamerlane Pryce and Dalton Hawke?” Leona asks. “Two of the biggest religions in the world were founded, or perhaps inspired, by two people that we know personally? How did I not notice this before? Why did I not research the religions for clues?”
Mateo stands up, and regards the whiteboard. “I wonder if my cousin, Danica has one too.”
“Oh.” Marie approaches the whiteboard. She writes the word Anicari in black marker, and then adds a D to the front with the red marker.
Mateo nods as he’s staring at the names. “We need to make a list of every religion in the world. Something fishy is going on here. There may be more time travelers that we weren’t expecting to be involved.”
Leona retrieves her tablet from her bag.

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