Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: September 27, 2398

Kivi is exhausted. She’s been working with an SD6 team to hunt down one or all of three people. They need to find Meredarchos, Erlendr Preston, or the version of Erlendr who hasn’t yet been sent off to that other universe. He will still be in Ramses’ body, but the other two are unknown. They’re theoretically looking for little Trina McIver, but they’re not sure the extent of Merdarchos’ power. He had more tricks up his sleeve than they knew when he first arrived, so maybe there’s more, and that’s still just the tip of the iceberg. So far, Kivi and the operatives have found nothing. They’ve not uncovered a shred of evidence that any of these people have ever set foot on this planet. Given enough time, she’s supposed to be able to locate anyone, and this has certainly been proven true many times over the past week...just not in the way that they want.
The team leader nods her head, prompting the spotter to slip the snake camera underneath the locked door. “Too dark. Activating night vision,” he whispers.
“What do you see in there?” the leader asks.
“Three people. No, five. They’re sitting in a circle. One of them is lighting candles.” He peers deeper into the viewer. “It looks like a religious ceremony.”
“Can you clock any faces?”
“No. We’ll have to go in.”
“Secondary entrance?”
The spotter turns the snake. “Open skylight. No backdoor.”
“Hurst, cover the main entrance here,” she orders the spotter. “Strand and Kermode, go to the roof. The rest of you will be with me, standard formation. Klein...blow the door.”
“Wait, where can I go?” Kivi asks as the engineer is setting his explosives.
“I said standard formation,” team leader Alserda repeats.
“You know I don’t have the training for that,” Kivi argues.
“You’ve seen us do it several times, we all trust you now,” Alserda insists.
“They heard us,” Hurst announces, pulling the snake back.
“Klein, now!”
They barely have enough time to duck away before the doors blow open. The operatives burst into the room, and surround the targets. They could be bad guys, they could be good guys. They could be nobodies. It’s too early to tell. They don’t know anything about this situation. All Kivi can say for sure is that someone is here who needs to be found. It’s probably not the three men they’re after, but they have to move forward as if it is. So far, she’s rescued a missing kid, a wandering dementia patient, a few criminals, and a guy who just wanted to start a new life somewhere else. No matter how hard she tries to decide who her special gift seeks, it brings her to someone she didn’t even know needed to be found. It feels like the universe has taken control over her, like she’s just a salmon in the main sequence who the powers that be have chosen to be a Superfinder. Maybe it is her calling, but for now, they feel more like distractions. She’s happy to find these people, but they’re not who she’s really looking for. If the universe really wants her to do this, then it ought to let her finish her first mission first.
“State your business!” Alserda demands.
The people in robes hold their hands up high in surrender. “We’re just trying to worship in peace!” one of them says.
“We’re not hurting anyone!” says another.
“Hurst, face scanner,” Alserda orders.
The spotter holds the scanner up to each of their faces. Once he’s done, he says, “all missing college students. Suspected runaways.”
“We didn’t run away,” one of them argues.
“Well, we did, but we had to. The school won’t let us observe our holidays because it’s not an officially registered faith.”
Alserda turns to Kivi. “Bristol, you can sense our targets when you’re closer, right? What do you make of them?”
She’s been trying to find the three real targets this whole time, but the closer she is to a suspect, the easier it for her to rule them out. She scans the worshipers too, but with her own senses. “It’s not them. They must be who the scanner says they are.”
“Are you going to report us?” the apparent lead worshiper asks.
“That’s not our department.” Alserda walks away. “McGuinness, run the spiel.”
“It’ll be my last time, sir.” McGuiness is Alserda’s lieutenant on the tack team, and she’s on her way to retirement. She was actually meant to retire sooner, but this mission came up, and SD6 hasn’t been able to find a replacement. It’s become too late, though. McGuiness has other plans with her life, and her obligation to the government is over. They can’t keep her any longer, so she’s decided to leave at the end of the week. It’s going to take her that long to do her exit interview, and complete the closing paperwork. She was hoping to find Meredarchos and Erlendr, as are they all, but that’s not going to happen. Now she has to read these people their rights, and make them sign an NDA.
“I understand.” Alserda isn’t happy about losing her number two, but again, she has no choice in the matter. She speaks into her radio. “Secure the scene. We’ll meet you back at the base. Follow me,” she says to Kivi and Kivi alone.
“Sir. I’m sorry if I caused a problem.”
“That’s not what I want to talk to you about.” Alserda holds the car door open for her. “Have you ever thought about serving?”
“I serve my team,” Kivi explains. “I don’t serve the U.S. For now, our interests just happen to be aligned.”
“I understand that, but you’ve shown promise. I could sure use someone with your skills on my team. We’re losing someone, so we’ll be down an operative.”
“Sir, there’s no way I could be your lieutenant.”
Alserda laughs. “No, you couldn’t. You don’t have near enough experience. The top dogs would never allow it. No, I’m thinking about shaking up the team. Strand has learned enough to be an engineer, freeing Klein to be my new L-T. Meanwhile, Hurst has always wanted to be a tech, so he’ll replace Strand, and you can replace Hurst.”
“As a spotter?” Kivi questions. “I barely understand what he does.”
“He uses his eyes. He operates the cameras and scanners, as you’ve seen. If Kermode needs to snipe anyone, you’ll help her spot targets.”
“I don’t know about that.” Kivi isn’t in love with violence.
“You have a gift I’ve never seen before. Just think about it, okay?”
“Okay, I’ll consider your offer,” she promises with every intention of saying no after the appropriate amount of time has passed.

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