Friday, April 21, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: February 16, 2399

Generated by Fotor AI text-to-image AI software
Leona tried to think about what the code to the computer would be. She realized that it wouldn’t just be something that she would choose, but something that Coronel Zacarias would know that she would choose. But that’s ridiculous, because he doesn’t know her well. That’s not the right way to put it. He barely knows her. He could not have come up with a password for her to use, and even if he could, he would know it too, which would not alter the chances of the Fifth Divisioners from getting their hands on it. This must not have anything to do with him. So she decided to just sit down and see for herself. She tried to access the computer, and was met with a question. What was the name of your first pet? A security question, like what a bank might use to verify a customer’s identity? How would anyone involved know the answer? She answered it with an N/A, because she’s never had a pet before, but the window trembled, and switched to a different question. Where did you go to high school?
“How many are there?” she asked Summit.
He was reluctant to answer. “Hundreds. When you get one wrong, it skips it, and comes back later. We’ve actually gotten a few right just by guessing, but as soon as you answer one wrong, the cycle will start over.”
“And they’re all about me?”
“None of them appear to be specific to you, but when you consider them as a whole, I was able to detect a pattern, and determine that you’re the admin.”
“How did these questions get here?”
Summit lifted his chin and rolled his eyes around. “This place is incredibly mysterious. Maybe it can read your mind.”
She looked back at the screen. “That’s not unsettling.” She cleared her throat, cracked some joints, and got to work.
It’s been hours. A lot of these questions are really tough. For one, she has to be perfect with her syntax, and even capitalization. She has to word it the exact right way, even if a normal person would accept a variation as close enough. Secondly, some answers are completely wrong because the answer is only located in her subconscious. She took a few naps to spark her memory of a few of them. For instance, she technically never had a pet, but when she was little, she found a rabbit with a broken leg in her front yard. She tried to nurse it back to health without telling her parents. This was before her mother died, in an old timeline. Secret. Goddammit, no. Secret Delaney. That’s it.
Even with her naps, she’s tired as hell. It’s stressful, trying to run through the whole thing with no mistakes. She’s almost there. If she can only remember her first license plate number, it will be over. It actually says that on the screen; that it’s the final unanswered security question. She’s already messed this one up twice, but she has to be able to remember it. Summit was right, they have to be coming from her own mind, which means that it’s in there somewhere. She just has to access it.
Summit is nodding in the periphery. “You got this.” He slaps her in the back encouragingly.
Leona breathes in through her nose, and out through her mouth. She closes her eyes, and types, trying to let her subconscious take the reins. She opens them to make sure she didn’t accidentally press the equal sign, or something, then submits. “We’re in!”
“Great job!”
A hologram is projected on the view window that shows the Nexus machine in the other room. It’s streaming the security feeds from the exterior cameras. “I’m glad we shut the doors. They’re trying to get in. They’ve probably been trying the whole time. They’ve resorted to explosives.”
“Should we be worried?” Summit asks.
“My understanding is that the walls and doors are virtually indestructible. I’m not worried, but they should be. I don’t think this material is designed to absorb the blast. I think it reflects it.” She swipes the feed away, and returns the glass to normal window mode. “Who cares. The computer is unlocked now, so we can go wherever we want.”
“Maybe later, but I need you to bring my mother here.”
“Right, we haven’t talked about that. Who is your mother?”
“Unlock the address, and you’ll see for yourself,” Summit says.
“It’s the Crucia Heavy, isn’t it?”
He just bobs his head, and gazes through the window.
“Yeah, it’s the Crucia Heavy.” It must be, or he wouldn’t be acting so cagey about it. “How does this even work? There’s no Nexus on Flindekeldan”
“Is there not? Hm. Then you may as well unlock it, because it doesn’t matter, does it?” He doesn’t look at her.
She narrows her eyes at him. “I’m trusting you.”
“Good. I trust you too, Madam Matic.” Still no eye contact.
She sighs, and checks the slip of paper for the term sequence. “Computer, unlock this terminal for passage, please.” She holds the paper out so any of the many hidden cameras can see.”
Designated terminal now open,” the computer responds. No sooner does it finish its sentence does the Nexus begin to power up.
“Unscheduled offworld activation!” Leona shouts as a nod to a TV show that no one on this planet has ever heard of. She laughs and steps out of the control room, to the top of the stairs
Technicolor lights fill the portal, then fade away. A young woman is standing in the pit, but it’s not who she thought it would be. When Leona and the team—which back then included Olimpia and Jeremy, but not Ramses—first arrived on Flindekeldan, they were greeted by the Crucia Heavy, Zora Loncar. It wasn’t long before Leona found herself training with The Highest Order to be a warrior capable of protecting herself, and dedicated to defending others. It’s a highly rigorous training program, but it is not a formal school. Students graduate when they’re ready, at whatever level of skill and expertise that they feel comfortable moving on with. Most of the time, Leona was training with Ellie Underhill. One person came and went, choosing to only learn enough to fend off any attackers in darkened parking garages. Besides them, the only other student she ever knowingly met was a woman by the name of, “Iris Blume.”
Iris smirks back at her. She lifts her brace, which is just what the Highest Order calls a bo staff. Before Leona can react, she brings it down, and smacks her in the face. Leona falls to the floor, but catches herself. She does one push up, which gets her back to her feet. Iris is in the middle of trying to strike again, but this time, Leona is ready. She fights back, and they go at it for the next few minutes. Iris is not holding back, and Leona can’t tell if this is some kind of progress report, or if she’s truly trying to hurt her. The fight ends when a powerful concussive force sends them both flying to the opposite side of the room. The two of them land on the accessibility ramp, while Summit lands under them on the floor.
Leona leans up against the wall, and looks over to the door. So maybe it doesn’t reflect all of the blast, but can send part of it through itself. Even so, the door has held, so that’s something. “Computer, show me the outside.”
A hologram appears over the pit, showing the Fifth Divisioners coming back from their hiding spots to examine the damage, of which there is none.
“How many?” Iris asks.
“Two hundred and sixteen,” Summit says as he’s pulling himself up to the ramp.
“How many innocent?”
Leona looks over at him. “There were more than that when I left.”
He hangs his head. “I know. I tried to keep the death to a minimum, but they really wanted access to this computer, and the Coronel wasn’t cooperating.”
Leona hops off the ramp, and picks up Iris’ brace. “Computer, open the door in thirty seconds. Once we’re through, close it up again, and don’t open it for anyone but me, Coronel Zacarias, or any of his trusted people, as long as they’re not requesting entrance under duress. Does that make sense?”
Understood,” the AI replies.
“That’s not Constance, is it?” Iris asks.
No one replies, so the computer answers for itself. “I am not Constance. My name is Opsocor.
“What’s the game plan?” Iris asks.
“We’re going to go out there and take this facility back. Do you have a problem with that.” Leona asks.
“Nope.” Iris hops off the ramp. “I just wanted to make sure that we were on the same page.” Stakes her brace back. “You’ve fought well, but this is mine.”
“Computer, give me a weapon, please.”
The Nexus powers up. Her own brace appears on the floor.
“You can that?”
“We have a good working relationship,” Leona explains.
The door opens up.
“Let’s go!”

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