Wednesday, January 4, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 1, 2398

Kivi drops her bag on the bench, and opens her locker. She starts to undress. Paula Strand walks in to start doing the same, and gives her a bit of the stink eye. There is a hierarchy within the ranks of a tactical team. When Paula first started, she was at the bottom, and when her direct superior was promoted to the position of Lieutenant, she too moved up to become the Engineer. But even though Kivi is the new guy around here, she now ranks higher, because she officially entered the team as the Spotter. Hurst actually took a demotion when he decided to replace Paula as Technician, but he doesn’t seem to have any problem with that. It’s a special skill set, so it all works differently than what you might find in a military setting, where a rank determines one’s leadership level and pay grade, with specializations being a separate category. Here it’s arbitrary, really, that a Spotter ranks higher than an Engineer. Paula is taking it personally.
“So, you’re back. How long will you be gracing us with your presence this time?”
“I’m here indefinitely,” Kivi answers.
Paula scoffs. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
“I’m sure you’ll retire before me, so you won’t be seeing it.”
Paula scowls now. “If we’re still working on the same team as my retirement approaches, promise to shoot me in the head.”
“That’s not my job. All I would be able to do is help Corolla shoot you.”
Paula tries to hold back her laughter, but she can’t help it. She knows that Kivi didn’t join the team to throw her weight around. Beyond the Leader and Lieutenant, no one generally gives commands. It really only happens in an emergency situation, when the two leaders aren’t around, and somebody has to make a decision. It makes it easier and safer to always know who that person will be without any argument. Paula needs to learn how to be an engineer, and Kivi needs to learn how to spot.
“Look, this is all new to me, but I’m committed now. I don’t wanna be anywhere but here. There’s some bad people out there, and some missing people too, and I think our new directive can do some real good in this world. Don’t you agree?”
Paula sighs. “I do. It is nice to know that we have a clear goal in mind. One of the most frustrating things about being on a tack team is you never know why you’re being sent off on missions. Now we know what we’re trying to accomplish, and I hope you know that I do appreciate that you bring that to our table in a way that no one else can.”
Kivi tugs on her shirt, and slams her locker shut. “I appreciate you saying that,” she says with a smile. She turns to head for the stall before the morning briefing, but that smile turns quickly into a frown. She’s struggling with this whole thing—not the decision—but the baggage, and the lack of honesty, she comes into every government room with. This seems right. This feels right. This must be where she belongs. But when she was born a few months ago, this job would not have been on her list of future pursuits, so it feels strange at the same time. She may be experiencing impostor syndrome. Her apparent psychic abilities give her the edge that she will need to be a great Spotter, but her lack of true experience—in anything—might sow doubt in her heart every day, and that could become debilitating.
Tactician Hartwin Seegers comes into the locker room, a hand over his eyes. “The briefing is starting early. There’s been an attack. This is an all-hands-on-deck situation.”

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