Saturday, April 1, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: January 27, 2399

When Leona was in college, in the second reality that her brain has been blended to remember—the one where she studied astrophysics, rather than film—she was always taking a lot of classes at once. For four semesters straight, she had at least a full load, if not more. The first semester of her sophomore year, she had to get special permission to take more than the maximum number of hours allowed. It was extremely taxing, but worth it. She had to learn a lot of ancillary subjects if she wanted to succeed. If she didn’t understand computers, she wouldn’t know how to model star systems. If she didn’t study geology, she wouldn’t know the difference between a volcanic rock, and a meteorite. She took the summers off to relax, justifying that she deserved a little time to herself, but it was a lie, as it’s not like she wasn’t working at all. That’s when she took extra classes, at the community college, and a few at the learning annex.
These were mostly designed to teach her how to learn better, and prepare her for the upcoming regular school year. It was in these classes that she learned things like basic library sciences, speed reading, hacking, and the skill that she’s using a lot of today, multitasking. Aldona has asked her to help revamp the entire global defense strategy, and she’s doing that. She’s fulfilling her commitment. But she’s also doing other things. Winona gave her access to the security systems on the base, so she would know how to incorporate the government’s preexisting protocols into the new orbital defense grid. She used the security feeds to keep an eye on her husband and Ramses, as they were secretly teleporting the latter’s new satellite up to Mangrove Zero. She knew what they were doing the whole time, but she didn’t say anything, because she needed to keep these people happy long enough to get what she needed out of them.
The security cameras do not allow audio recording, for legal privacy reasons, but as a loophole, they do stream audio. You have to be watching a live feed of any given camera in order to pick up sound, but you won’t be able to return to it later. This is where Leona’s multitasking skills failed her. While she was consolidating the command codes into a master code known only to her, she was also shoring up the orbital station-keeping fuel reserve calculations, locating the room where the starter nanites were being stored, and downloading the complete list of everyone involved in the Mangrove Program. She had been keeping an eye on Mateo and Ramses’ progress all the while, but stopped paying so much attention to it when it looked like they were just about done with their little mission. She didn’t notice when Aldona ran up to them with a teleporter gun, because she had lowered the volume to concentrate on those very precise fuel measurements. By the time she turned the volume up, Ramses was already gone, and she was only able to catch the tail end of the conversation before the audio was lost forever.
For whatever reason, Aldona doesn’t want Mateo to go back up to the ship, and she’s willing to let Ramses wither and die up there alone to stop it. She shot him with the gun, transporting him to hock, no doubt. So before Aldona came back, Leona had to add yet another task to her then-current caseload. She had to find out where Mateo was, and how to get him out. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to do that right away, because she was still not done with her other stuff.
“Have you seen my husband?”
“Not since the meeting yesterday,” Aldona lies.
“I’ve been so busy, I worked through the night, and never went back to our quarters,” Leona says. It’s not a lie, but not the whole truth either, of course. “I went to take a quick shower a couple hours ago, and he’s not there.”
“Hmm, I don’t know.”
She’s not going to accuse Aldona of anything. “The kids are okay, though, in case you were wondering. Carlin is old enough to take care of them both now.”
“Right,” Aldona agrees, though she’s not spent any time with them.
“Anyway, here are the plans.” She hands her a tablet. “You have a thousand rockets already, I suggest a thousand satellites to start. You can always add more.”
Aldona peruses the data. “This is perfect. I wish I had thought of it.”
“I appreciate this. I’ll get the nanofactories back online with their new directive.”
“Cool. I’m gonna go to bed. Hopefully Mateo comes back by the time I wake up.”
“I’ll let him know you’re looking for him if I run into him first.”
“Thanks.” Leona leaves.
Mateo has been awake in his cell for hours. He’ll sit on his bunk for a few minutes before getting sick of it, and lie down. Then he’ll stand up, and maybe pace a little bit. Standard bored prisoner behavior. An action movie would put his movements on a loop to make it look like he’s still there while the heroes sneak in and rescue him. But Leona has something they don’t. She has deepfake technology. She can generate new footage that’s based on his patterns. While she’s walking down the hallway, she initiates the program she wrote during her last multitasking session, and heads downstairs.
“Miss me?” Mateo asks, standing up to greet her.
She goes right up to the bars, and pulls him in for a passionate kiss. “I knew where you were all along.”
“I figured. It took us a long time to get that satellite up there. I thought it was weird that we were never caught.”
“There are things I needed to do here. They’re done; we can go. I had to prioritize though, and decided not to access the layout for Mangrove Zero, which is different than the newer models. Is it an okay place to keep children?”
“I didn’t see much of it.”
“We’ll have to risk it,” Leona decides. “When Aldona realizes you’re gone, our bridge to this place will have been burned, possibly the one to the government as a whole.” She punches in the code to unlock the gate.
They casually walk back up to the residential section, where Carlin and Moray are staring out their viewport like the rolling waves are a TV show. They pack up their belongings, then Mateo teleports the two of them up to the ship. When he returns to the room, Aldona is there. She always knows how to show up at the last minute. “Why?”
“You shot my husband,” Leona says. “That’s reason enough.”
“No, you were planning this for a long time,” Aldona assumes.
“Not that long,” Leona says. “I’m just that good. You should have agreed to help us find Alyssa. She’s part of our team. You’re not. That’s never a good position to be in.”
“I have full control over Mangrove Zero,” Aldona claims.
“Not anymore,” Leona replies coolly. She holds out her hand.
Mateo takes it, and teleports them away.

No comments :

Post a Comment