Monday, April 17, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: February 12, 2399

Leona tried to escape the boiler room two nights ago. Tarboda thought that she was going to remove the chain from her ankle with the wrench, but instead she started banging on the pipes with it, and making a whole ruckus. When the eejit goon came in to see what all the fuss was about, she hit him over the head with it, and stole his keys. She was about to free Tarboda too when she thought better of it. She was in uncharted territory here. The chances that she would actually succeed in escaping were extremely low. They were almost as low as the number of friends she has left. They may try to use Tarboda against her if they think she gives a crap about him, and they may not if they think she doesn’t. He cursed at her as she was running out of the room, but also gave her a wink at the last second, so he understood. Perhaps he can be added to that friend list.
As she suspected, she didn’t make it far at all. The boiler room was one section of a basement with seemingly only one way out. That door at the top of the stairs was locked, and the goon was never given that key. By the time she was able to pick it, his brother was upon her. She didn’t see much of the ground floor, but it looked like the start of a maze. Not a window in sight. But that was okay, because getting out was never the plan. She wanted them to place her in more danger, and activate the fear center of her brain, which would have alerted psychic Kivi to her location. It might have worked too, but only if she were a different person, and the people she was trying to escape were also different. She knew that she was never in any real danger, which is why she couldn’t have just created the fear on her own, and her abductors knew it too.
To her surprise, the goons made no attempt to scare her. They weren’t rough with her, they didn’t yell at her. They did nothing to generate the appropriate psychic signal. They calmly escorted her back to the boiler room and chained her up again. They didn’t even move her to a different pipe. They took the wrench away, and took a cursory glance around to make sure there weren’t any more weapons, but that’s it. It just wasn’t enough. Leona’s escape attempt wasn’t enough to concern them. They felt no compulsion to react, and even if they did, she probably wouldn’t react much worse either, because she has had too much combat training. So she has to be scared for real, which means that she can’t know when—or, really, even that—it’s coming, and when it does come, she can’t let herself decide that everything’s going to be okay since Kivi will rescue her as a result. That’s impossible! She thought she had it figured out, but she was being naïve.
The boss man walks into the room. “I heard we had a bit of trouble.” His accent is still there, but it’s toned down a little. Is he faking?
“That’s what you get with me. I’m trouble, with a capital T, which rhymes with P, and that stands for pool!”
He’s the kind of guy who’s smiling all the time, probably even when he’s pissed off, but he cracks it wider. “Stands for pool,” he echoes. “I like that. I’m gonna use it. The Chinese are movin’ in on some of our territories with drugs hidden in pool tables.”
“Have fun, I’ll probably be making my upteenth escape.”
“I don’t doubt it,” he says. “In fact, you’ll have one more opportunity. We were meant to move ya to the exchange, but something went wrong on the other end.”
“Don’t you hate it when the murderers who paid you to kidnap someone they want to murder can’t get their shit together?”
“You didn’t hear?” he asks. “The bounty’s changed. You’re no longer wanted dead or alive. They’ll only accept you alive.”
“What would be your guess as to why?” Leona questions.
“I would assume there’s somethin’ you can do or tell ‘em that only you can do or tell ‘em.”
Leona doesn’t know what to think of that. Her guess the whole time was that the bounty was only ever on her head because she was forced to kill that asshole TV pundit. But the bounty doesn’t actually say anything about motive. That’s just when it came about, so that’s the connection she made. As far as most people know, she doesn’t know anything that could help them. She’s just the jerk who took their precious demigod away. Maybe it never had anything to do with that. Maybe someone just recognized her on the screen, and knows who she is for other reasons. The talk show could have gone swimmingly, and she still would have ended up in this situation. Or maybe she’s still wrong, because she has no idea what’s going on, who wanted her dead, or why they don’t want that anymore.
“I can see yu have some tinkin’ to do. I’ll leave ya to it. Big day tomorra.” He turns to leave while she’s still lost in her head.
“I have a list,” she says, stopping him.
He’s curious. “A list of what?”
“Of friends, enemies, friends who’ve become enemies, enemies who’ve become friends.”
“Which column am I in?” he asks.
She waits to reply. “That’s for you to decide. I can’t do it for you.”
“What happens to the enemies who never become friends?” he presses.
“You can’t ask them. You can’t ask them anything. You think that guy I killed on TV was my first? Technically, I’ve been responsible for the deaths of billions. No, don’t look over at the pilot, he doesn’t know. He’s just in the fifth, neutral column of my list.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Why do you think?”
“I think you remembered that I offered you a job. Are you finally ready to talk about it?”
“I’ll do whatever you need, as long as it doesn’t involve killin’ someone I don’t want killed, or causing harm to the poor, helpless, or disenfranchised.”
“In return, you want me to call off the exchange?”
Leona chuckles. “No, I want the meet to move forward, but I don’t want to be hooded and chained when it does.”
He sighs. “I think that can be arranged. Anything else?”
“Let him go.” She nods over to Tarboda.
“Can’t be done. He’ll tell someone where we are.”
“Then let’s don’t be here when he does,” she reasons.
He closes his eyes for a few seconds to think. “Very well, bonnie.”
“Before you go again, what’s your name?”
“Labhrás Delaney. May our business be fruitful and prosperous.” He tips his hat and leaves.
Tarboda looks over at her once he’s gone. “Are you two related?”
She’s still in shock. “He’s my grandfather.”

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