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Sunday, April 23, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: February 18, 2399

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Since Leona is no longer in trouble, Ramses wanted to stay gone, but Kivi knew that Leona wouldn’t want that. They had some things to work out with each other, and he did not have the right to keep running from that. She escorted him out of the Great Pyramid of Giza, and they went on their way to Balikpapan to rendezvous with everyone else. Fortunately, the guards at the entrance to the pyramid had switched shifts in the intervening time, so while the new one was told that only two people would be going in, he figured he had heard wrong, and there were actually three. The original guard would have remembered there actually only having been two, and wondered how the third man got in there in the first place. That, coupled with the fact that Ramses is Egyptian himself, was enough to prevent any further questions.
Everyone left is back in the executive conference room on Mangrove One, including Kivi and her whole SD6 team. They’re regrouping, and laying all of their cards on the table. Leona no longer has anyone that she truly trusts, now that Ramses has betrayed her, so she needs friends and allies. She’ll do what she must to make and keep them, no matter the cost. She would cut a deal with Erlendr Preston if she thought it was the only way to get Mateo and Alyssa back. She’s desperate enough to try any strategy.
The meeting started with introductions, and now they’re over, so the real business can begin. “It’s nice to meet you, Nakia,” Aldona says. “Welcome to the fold.” She takes a preparatory breath. “Thank you all for being here. I would like to update you on our progress to defend this planet, and the next one over from a future and inevitable war. We’ll get the newcomers up to speed, but first, it’s important that you understand what has happened to the program in the last few days. I have initiated a...declaration of independence. We are no longer working under the world’s governments. We maintain a healthy relationship with Indonesia, but we are not officially affiliated with the Global Council. Don’t worry, we’re not at war. This was always part of the plan. We are the defensive military branch for two worlds, and not even the GC is expansive enough to contain us, so it had to be done.
“The Council as a whole does not recognize us as an independent state, but the majority of its member nations do. They have taken up that position because they understand that we are the only ones who can save them. Even those who don’t believe that are under the impression that we can hurt them. We would never do that, but we’re not going to go out of our way to alleviate their concerns. From my perspective, being afraid of us will translate extremely well to being afraid of the Reality Wars, and a healthy fear of that is a good thing. Again, for those of you just joining us, there’s a war in the future, I can’t stop it from happening, but I can protect the worlds who suffered the most losses. We’ll go over more in the next few days. Winona and Alserda have graciously donated this team to Radifor. That is the name of this nation. Please note that you have not defected from the United States, and may return to your posts whenever you would like, including...” She checks her watch before adding, “right now.”
No one leaves, which only sounds improbable when not accounting for how much loyalty Winona instills in her people. She doesn’t recruit the best fighters and investigators. She fosters true believers. They’re less with the government, and more with her. This is something that Leona has had to pick up on over the time she’s been involved with the organization. Her superiors didn’t realize that she was doing this, because she’s never been overt about it, and her off-the-books operations are so rare. No one has shown any signs of treasonous tendencies, because that’s the whole point. She takes true patriots, and cares for them so they start to consider her the embodiment of the U.S. She doesn’t want radicals; they’re too volatile. It’s easy for Kivi’s team to switch allegiances, because they don’t look at it that way.
“Great,” Aldona decides. “That’s it for the sweeping proclamations. I still see some confused faces. I believe some private conversations need to happen now, so before we start the full debrief, anyone who already knows this stuff can leave.”
Leona looks over at Ramses, who is keeping his head hung low. With a sigh, she stands up, and pulls him to his feet by his arm. “Come on. We need to talk.”
He doesn’t respond, but he doesn’t resist either. He’s a doll now, incapable of making his own decisions, and doing whatever anyone asks of him.
She drags him several doors down so no one can hear them. “All right, let’s talk.”
“About what?”
“You know what about. You feel guilty about what happened to my husband.”
“Yes.”
“Why? What exactly did happen? Your message didn’t give any details.”
He stays silent.
“Ramses,” she says, firmly but not angrily. “Speak up now.”
He waits to answer a little, but does finally go into it. “Mateo and I decided unilaterally that we were going to destroy Constance!Five. We thought it was too dangerous to just leave her there. It’s a remote island for now, but that could change in the future for all we know. We got there just in time to find out that she figured out how to escape. I guess a plane flew close enough that she was able to send out a signal, or maybe an EMP. The plane went down, and then she reprogrammed some of the parts to assemble themselves into a quantum skeleton key. It plugged itself into the stasis pod keypad, and eventually cracked the code. Mateo lured it into the Bridgette. He then teleported it to a magma chamber in a volcano, and set off the self-destruct.”
“I didn’t know it had a self-destruct.”
“It’s not technically a bomb. What it did was overload the teleporter by firing temporal energy into the distributor coil while it was closed, so it couldn’t actually distribute the energy throughout the vehicle.”
“I see. And where were you during all of this?”
“At first I was almost dying at the hands of Constance!Five. Then I was being helped into the crawlspace by Mateo, who had me teleport to safety while he blew it up.”
“Why did he set it off instead of you?”
“Constance!Five was upon us. He was closer to the teleporter. He demanded that I leave, and I...I shouldn’t have listened to him.”
“Ramses Abdulrashid, I’m not happy that my husband is dead, but I’m glad that you’re not. What he did in that magma chamber was solve a math problem. As you know, that is not his strong suit, so I am proud of him. It was either the both of you, or just him. You shouldn’t have gone into hiding. I still need you. We all do.”
“I’m sorry,” he replies sincerely.
“I appreciate that. Now is the time to work. I brought your satellite online in the hopes of finding Alyssa, but it was attacked, so I darklurked it. You need to figure out how to reactivate it without anyone else being able to detect that it’s up there.”

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