Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 7, 2398

Leona is sitting in her wheelchair while Mateo is sitting up in her bed. He’s mindlessly flipping through channels on the TV, but it’s impossible to find something good. He’s sure there are plenty of great programs here, but they always make him a little uncomfortable. It feels like Third Railers are on a slightly different frequency than normal people. Their idea of entertainment isn’t wrong or even weird, it’s just a little too different than what he’s used to. It’s hard to explain what he doesn’t like about it, but he can only stomach about ten minutes of it before it makes him shiver, and he has to change it to something else.
“I’m getting hungry,” Leona notes.
Mateo checks her watch. She’s not allowed to wear jewelry while she’s checked in as a patient, in case they need to take her out for tests. It shouldn’t matter now since no one is running any tests of the sort, but they don’t want to piss the hostage-takers off any more than they already are. “Rations were meant to come an hour ago.”
“I hope they’re late because patients in critical need of nutrition are taking priority, and not that they’ve decided to starve us.”
“Want me to go out there and check?”
She shakes her head vigorously. “Nope. I don’t want you to draw attention to you or us at all. Maybe you could sneak back over to Cheyenne’s room again, though?”
“Okay.” He peeks his head through the doorway. The coast is clear—too clear, like a scene in a horror movie that you think is maybe a dream sequence, but it turns out the killer’s not dead, and he’s found her, and the hospital floor is totally empty only to increase tension, despite how unlikely that is. Mateo slinks down the hallways, and slips into Cheyenne’s room.
Marie is in there with her. They’re playing a card game across the bed. “Problem, or is she still just worried?” Marie asks.
“The second thing,” Mateo answers. “Have you heard anything? Are they going to let us out anytime soon?”
“It depends on what you mean by soon,” Cheyenne replies. “Santiens are pretty hardcore. They won’t stop until they’ve purified everyone they deem to be unclean.”
“Yeah, and you’re sure that doesn’t mean they’re going to kill them, right?”
“Positive,” Cheyenne assures him.
A group of heavily armed people belonging to a religion called Santienism took over the hospital when they learned that a group of Suiliens were involved in a bus crash, and were brought here for treatment. According to Carlin and Moray’s research, the two sects were once one, but Santiens broke away when they became obsessed with using natural remedies to cure disease. This caused the Suiliens to both metaphorically and literally dig into their own beliefs. They sleep in the dirt, and don’t ever bathe, believing that nature is the closest thing to divinity. Neither one of them believes in real science, and members of both sides get sick a lot because of their unhealthy habits. When their medical issues become too much for them to bear, they will go against their convictions with real doctors, but they are not meant to visit the same facilities due to a self-imposed policy of segregation. These are extenuating circumstances.
They have locked the building down so that no one can come in, and no one can leave. They have installed signal blockers to prevent communication to the outside world, which is why Mateo and Leona were unable to make their rendezvous with Ramses. They don’t know if he and Alyssa left without them, or if they’re still waiting in that park upstate. All they would have had to do, though, would be to check the internet for current events in the area. This isn’t national news by any stretch, as things like this happen from time to time, but it’s noteworthy enough to be reported on locally.
It’s been two nights since this debacle began, and now it’s early morning. How long exactly does it take to purify a bus full of your enemies, whether that means killing them, or not? Mateo looks towards the door, but that’s not what he’s thinking about. This is a team of action. They don’t do well just sitting around, waiting for other people to make things happen. His instincts are telling him to go out there, and make the situation better...or maybe make it worse instead, but brief.
“Don’t do it,” Marie urges him, knowing him well enough to predict his impulses. “This isn’t our problem.”
“We’ll be out of here by the end of the day,” Cheyenne believes.
“No, you won’t, and it’s your problem now.” One of the hostage-takers is standing in the doorway, aiming a gun at them from his waist like a buster in a film noir.
“We’re not doing anything wrong,” Marie protests.
“What religions are you?” the man with the gun asks, stepping closer menacingly.
“Unaffiliated,” she replies.
“The marker on your door indicates that you’re Caducean.”
Cheyenne leans forward to look at the faith indicator, but she can’t read it. “I hadn’t noticed. My friends must have put that there. Caduceans tend to receive priority treatment.” Caduceans do believe in science, and most medical professionals affiliate.
“Lying about your faith is an offense.”
“It’s not illegal.” One might think it would be, but not as long as the lie isn’t accompanied by other crimes. Still, some find the practice irreverent. In this case, he should just let it go as he obviously has more important stuff going on right now.
He relaxes his hand, but keeps his gun at the ready. “There are too many people in this room. One visitor at a time. One of you has to go back to your room, or downstairs with the other non-patients, depending on which one agrees to leave.”
“I’m going,” Mateo says.
“No, I’ll go,” Marie insists as she’s standing up. She gives Mateo a look that hopefully means don’t bring Leona into this, just stay here, because that’s how he’s interpreting it.
Ramses suddenly appears out of nowhere. “Oh. You have company over. I’m so sorry to disturb you.”
“Where the hells did you come from?” the gunman questions angrily.
“Umm....the bathroom?”
“The bathroom is behind me.”
“We don’t have time for this.” Ramses takes Mateo and Cheyenne by the hands, and teleports them to the rendezvous point in the park. Leona is already there, as are Winona and the AOC. Ramses makes one more jump to the hospital for Marie.
“What’s going on?” Mateo asks Winona.
She shakes her head and sighs. “Those guys who bombed the studio; they only did it to steal money, but nobody knows that yet. Someone was inspired to try to fix what they thought was a mistake. There is a bounty on Leona’s head. We had to act.”

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