Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 15, 2398

Marie gets out of the shower with a yawn. She looks around to make sure that no one saw it. Fortunately there’s no one else in the room, except for one person making some noise in the locker area. She wraps her towels around herself, and heads that direction, where her locker is anyway. Esmé is going through a lock-and-load montage. “Officer Sharrow, what are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing? I’m gearing up.”
“Gearing up for what, war?”
“We don’t know what we’re going into. I like to be prepared,” Esmé reasons.
“You’re our diplomat, did no one tell you that?”
Esmé sighs, annoyed. “You haven’t been with the division in a while. I don’t trust Nero anymore. He’s lost his edge.”
“Specialist Cleary has passed all of his recent evaluations. I asked him to tone down the weaponry. Perhaps that’s what you’re picking up on.”
She shakes her head. “It’s more than that. It’s before you came back. ”
“He was—forgive me—cleared by his superiors, and that’s good enough for me. It should be good enough for you too. Respect the chain of command.”
“Like I said, you weren’t there. He made a bad call in the field, almost got his partner killed. I don’t expect you to understand since you’ve obviously gone soft as well.”
That was out of line. She’s the team leader here, and the expert on their targets. Esmé can’t talk to her like that. She slams Esmé’s face against the locker in front of her, denting the metal. Esmé tries to elbow Marie back, but she sees this coming, and ducks. They continue to fight for the next minute, Esmé trying to pull all of her weapons back out, only to be disarmed immediately. Finally, Marie slams Esmé’s back against the bench, and knocks the wind out of her with a heavy blow to the chest. She puts her lips right next to Esmé’s ear as she’s trying to regain her breath. “You wanna go work as a disposable in the Military Authority, I’ll put in the transfer papers myself. You wanna do something that matters, you’ll follow my orders. This is my team, this is my mission, these are my people we’re approaching. Some of them are bad, but most of them are good, and if you go in there guns blazing, they will freak out! You may find yourself sitting next to your internal organs if one of them has the power to teleport them there, so don’t give them a reason. You’re the diplomat, so be diplomatic. Am I understood, Officer?” Disposable is an offensive term for an enlisted officer in any military branch, particularly someone who fights in the infantry.
Esmé continues to struggle with her breath, but she manages to eke out the affirmative. She stands up, and starts to gather the scattered weapons for armory return.
“I’ll see you in the briefing room.” Marie puts on her clothes, and then leaves shortly after Esmé.
Specialist Cleary is already waiting for them in there, as is Kivi, who Marie goes up to. “You’re not joining us, are you?”
“No, but sort of,” Kivi answers. She takes out a tablet that’s showing a map of the world, indicating all the last known location of the errors from Ramses’ global brain scanner. “Winona wants us to always be nearby, in case you need backup. I’ll be using my psychic power to find whoever it is my mind wants to find, but if you need me, we’ll be there. All you have to do is decide where we’re going first.”
Marie doesn’t look at the map. She’s unsure about all of this.
“I won’t be there to babysit you. It really is just a contingency. My team’s mandate is to find people. The orders don’t say anything about who to find. People go missing everywhere, so they figured we might as well work in the same city at the same time. We won’t even be sharing a safehouse.”
“Okay.” Marie looks down at the map. Any destination seems fine, they have little reason to choose one place over another. Someone appears to be in Giza, which makes sense, given what they know of the pyramids. There’s a whole diplomatic issue with Egypt, though, especially if they’re going to be shadowed by a tack team. One target appears to be on an island in the Philippines, while another is just in the middle of the water. Unless, is that...? It is, it’s the Mariana Trench. That makes sense as well, but unless they’re at or near the surface, it’s a no-go at the moment. They just recently asked for a submarine, and it didn’t work out so great for the people who loaned it to them, so asking again would seem heartless. It would probably be met with a belly laugh, and a resounding NO. Perhaps they could ask someone else.
Their investigator, Agent Doric Filipowski comes in. “Where are we headed? I may need to prep field assets.”
Marie looks up with a stalling smile. She quickly takes one more glance at the map, feeling the need to make a decision before it starts to look like she doesn’t know what she’s doing. “Paris. We’re going to Paris.”
“Mais bien sûr!” Doric declares. He pats Esmé playfully on the shoulder.
Esmé winces.
“Are you okay?” he asks her.
“It’s fine, I slept on it wrong,” Esmé answers. “J’ai toujours du mal à dormir avant une mission.”
Marie almost feels bad about their fight. Almost. Before she can dwell on it, her phone rings. She looks at it. “Holocall from the AOC.”
“Let’s go in here,” Kivi suggests, pointing to the executive office.
As Kivi is closing the door behind them, Marie magnetizes her device to the wall, and answers. She steps back to get in frame. “Leona, what’s going on?”
“Have you spoken with Mateo?” Leona asks.
“Not since he told me about Fairpoint’s transfer. Why, haven’t you?”
“You have the map of the errors handy?”
“Right here,” Kivi says, stepping forward.
“Zoom into the Mariana Trench, go back two days in the data timeline, then step through the history.”
“Okay.” Kivi does as she’s asked, letting Marie see the screen. They watch as the error appears, disappears, stays gone, and then reappears. The AOC passes over the spot every ninety minutes. Sometimes it detects this specific error, and sometimes it doesn’t.
“This error wasn’t there before,” Leona says after they step through history a few times, “back with that first scanner. It only showed up two days ago.”
“Is this a pattern?” Kivi questions. “It’s not every other orbital pass, or...”
Marie looks away to think. “It’s morse code. Every time the error appears means a dot and every time it’s gone means a dash.”
“What does it say?” Kivi asks.
Were I you,” Leona replies. Mateo is the error.

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