Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: February 22, 2399

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Leona has begun to split her time between the isolation building in Crown Center where Vearden is being treated, and the government hospital where Arcadia is being treated. He asked her to spend time with his baby mama, so she can be reminded of how much people love her. She may not be able to hear people’s voices, but she may, and it’s worth the try. While in either place, Leona continues to work on the global defense project with Ramses and Aldona. It is coming along nicely. They should reach their goal by the start of this war. She also receives updates from Kivi’s team in Brazil. They’re experiencing a lot less good luck. The Harlows have evidently caught on to the fact that they are being pursued, and are actively evading capture. They’re fast, though they’re not teleporting, which is kind of one more strike against their hope that the young woman is Alyssa.
The SD6 team is closing in on the targets now, however, and the chances of escape are low. Leona is in the isolation building, monitoring the mission progress via their helmet and drone feeds. Kivi is approaching a shack in the middle of the jungle that was probably originally built to study the wildlife. The rest of the team is hanging back while she spots. “I see a window. Getting closer for a better look,” she whispers. She keeps going. “I have eyes on Target One.” It’s Roeland, so at least they’ve been chasing after the right people, instead of two random other time travelers. “I think I see the top of someone else’s head.
Lift your helmet, Spotter,” Alserda orders. “Skipper will confirm visual.
“Am I Skipper?” Leona asks.
Yes,” Kivi replies as she removes her helmet to get the camera at a better angle.
Leona doesn’t know when that happened, but okay. She shakes her head, even though no one can see her. “A long-haired individual is sitting on the floor at Target One’s feet. Their back is to the window.” She pauses. “You’ll have to breach.”
What tactic do we use?” Kivi asks.
“Fall back and hold,” Leona orders. She is by no means the team’s leader, but she has an idea, and she hopes Alserda does not take offense.
They each back up a few meters, and duck behind trees and brush.
“I’m going to try to come to you,” Leona explains. “Muting now.” She mutes her transceiver, and dials her phone. “Ram, has the shipment come in?”
Yes,” Ramses confirms. “Not very much of it, though.
“Then I’ll only ask you to make two jumps.”
Where do you want me to go?
“Come here, and then take me to our operatives in Minas Gerais.”
Give me five minutes to finish extracting the temporal energy,” he requests.
Leona hangs up.
“You’re leaving?” Vearden asks through the protective barrier.
“I wasn’t going to worry, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve decided that mine is the best face for them to see. Roeland knows me, Alyssa definitely knows me. Even if it’s not her, she’ll probably react to me dressed like this than eight soldiers in heavy tactical gear. I would not have let them go out like that if I had been in charge.”
“I understand,” he says. “Just be careful. Maybe you should wear something, though, like a bulletproof vest?”
“I’ll be fine. He didn’t seem like the violent type. He’s been running from us, remember? His go-to stress response is flight.”
“Yeah.” Vearden and the other patients are still alive. Their conditions have not gotten worse, but they’ve not gotten better, really. The doctors have been able to alleviate some of their symptoms, but they still don’t know exactly what’s causing them, or how to fight it. They have ruled out a parasite, because the pathogen would have to be airborne to spread in the way that it did, especially at the speed that it did so. A fungus should be causing external changes to the patients by now. A prion would not be expected to cause the apparent symptoms. That leaves a bacterial or viral infection, with the latter being the most likely, since bacteria are not known to damage blood vessels.
Ramses suddenly appears in the room, but he’s on the wrong side of the plastic partition. Alarms begin to blare. Sensitive sensors have been installed in the room that can detect the presence of a second body heat signature. Actually, they’re designed to alert the caretakers to a tear in personal protective equipment, and this is much more than that. He isn’t even wearing a mask.
Leona starts to massage her temples. “Oh my God. Don’t go anywhere. I know you can leave, and your upgraded body may be immune, but don’t go anywhere. You could still be a carrier.”
“I’m an engineer, but I took health class too,” Ramses replies. “I just...didn’t know the layout of the room.” He looks over at Vearden. “I’m sorry, man.”
Vearden shrugs. “Doesn’t change anything for me. I’m still dying.”
“You’re not dying,” Leona argues. She grabs her tablet, to access the government retrofit systems. They were so concerned with quick deployment that they had to sacrifice security. Hacking into them was as easy as using binoculars to spot the WiFi password written on the blackboard at the bottom of the menu in the bakery across the courtyard. She switches off the alarm, but just the sound; the alert has still been sent.
“Thank you,” Vearden says.
Leona turns back to the monitors, and unmutes her radio. “I won’t be able to make it. But I still would prefer a restrained approach. You don’t have to take off your gear, but maybe one person can approach alone with no weapon in hand?”
We made contact,” Alserda responds. “He’d like to talk to you.
Roeland starts to speak after a beat, “I told you that I don’t know where your friend is. Last I saw her, she was dying in a cave in the stone age. This is my daughter. She was a little boy who was living there when a group of humans attacked. She’s half-human, half-primacean, and we think they didn’t like that.
“You never told me that you knew Alyssa at all!” Leona shouted back.
I forgot her name! It was decades ago! I’m sorry! We crossed paths briefly!
“I suppose you don’t remember what she looks like either!”
I remember now. I assume she’s your twin sister?
“Argh!” She throws the radio against the wall. “This has all been for nothing! I just want my people back. Is that so much to ask?” She kicks her chair over, but holds herself back from committing any more property damage. So that’s it, huh? Either they figure out how to go back in time tens of thousands of years in a reality specifically designed to prevent time travel, or they figure out how to let her go. If they choose the former, they will need help. Danica’s help. She dials her phone again. “Aldona? I need a of the ones with the reframe engine I designed for you.”

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