Monday, May 1, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: February 26, 2399

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Leona woke up yesterday, but she only spoke with Winona and Aldona. She wasn’t ready to speak with her future self, even if it meant staying away from her husband too. She’s still not ready for that today, so she’s focusing on the prisoners. Mangrove Rocket Three is orbiting Earth now, but they have no current plans to land on the surface until all of these loose ends are resolved. Right now, she’s sitting with Senator Morton. “We’ve never met. My name is Leona Matic.”
“I met a Leona Reaver.”
“Did you meet her, or did you lock her up and study her?”
“We mostly just kept her locked up,” Morton replies.
Leona nods. “Well...” She’s about to tell him that this is Reaver’s body, but he doesn’t need to know that. He doesn’t need to know anything.
“If we were to return you to Earth, what would you do? How would you handle the situation?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve been dead for over eight months. They had a funeral. Some of your shady and corrupt dealings were later made public in a posthumous scandal that made headlines nationwide.”
He’s seething.
“Oh, don’t be mad at us. When you died, we moved on with our lives, and barely gave you another thought. You locked up our friends, but you were gone, so you couldn’t hurt anyone ever again. We had no need to soil your purported good name. We didn’t care. Other people found the skeletons in your closet, because they were there to be found, and those investigators cared. But that changes nothing, at least as far as I and my team are concerned. Good, bad, it doesn’t matter to us. We’re only worried about what you’ll tell the public. How will you explain your absence? Did you fake your death? Did someone else fake it?”
“Yes,” he interrupts her. “That one, ‘cause it’s true.”
“All they would have to do is exhume your body, and call that into question.”
“We’ll say I have a twin brother, who died in my place, and I tried to run for help, but they caught up to me.”
“Why did the people who murdered this twin brother because they thought he was you let you live once they realized their mistake?”
“Their boss changed their mind,” Morton suggests. He’s scared.
“You’re worried we’ll kill you, aren’t you?”
“You think that we’ll solve the problem of your highly exaggerated death, as reported by the news, by turning it into a real death.”
“Well, is that so crazy? You killed me before.”
“Winona killed you, and I think she’s grown a lot since then. She was trying to protect her asset anyway, who you had unlawfully abducted.”
“I just wanted to understand who you people are. I still do!”
“Your daughter died too, did you know that? Did you see her in the cafeteria while you were learning how to be alive again?”
He was seething before, but now he’s fuming. “No. I could barely see a thing before the hock you just escorted me out of. The lights were so bright, and everything was blurry. Did Winona kill her too?”
“Absolutely not. It was an enemy, who we managed to destroy, and I’ll have you know that if I hadn’t sacrificed my own life, he may have been brought back too.”
“You look fine to me.”
“I’m on borrowed time,” Leona explains. She’s not going to get into the fact that her future self does end up returning too, especially because of the body deficit caveat.
“I don’t know what you want me to say. I wanna live, and honestly, I’ll do whatever you want to make that happen.”
Leona nods, and takes out her tablet. She starts flipping through photos of men with various hairstyles for Morton to see. He thinks nothing of it yet, but he’s going to be shocked, and probably afraid, when she tells him what these have to do with him. “I noticed that you have a full head of hair, which is impressive for a man of your age.”
“What if I told you that you may be able to look like a whole new person, but you would have to shave your head, and replace it with hair transplants?”
“Why would I do that? I mean, why would that be a thing?”
“We have a friend with the ability to make herself look like anyone. If we transplant some of her hair onto your head, you may gain that ability, except it won’t be an ability. You’ll only be able to choose your form once, and have to stick with it for the rest of your life. This will allow you to blend in with the public without anyone knowing who you really are. Even if you try to tell them the truth, they obviously won’t believe you. We’ll send you into the witness relocation program, and get you set up with a new place to live. You’ll have to stay out of the spotlight, though.”
“That sounds absurd.”
“Is it worse than being in hock? Because that’s what you’re facing if you don’t take this deal. We can’t have someone running around the planet, revealing all of our secrets to anyone willing to bend an ear.”
Morton sighs, shakes his head, and massages his temples. “Can I think about it?”
“You’ll have until the end of the week to decide.” She looks over to the door, and nods at Winona through the window. This conversation is over.
“Wait, how long until the end of the week? What day is it?”
“It’s February 26, 2399. Friday.”
“Dammit!” He’s frustrated, but the average person doesn’t ever need more than one day to make a decision. That’s plenty of time to weigh the pros and cons, and just get on with it. He lets himself be taken away.
Leona gets herself another cup of tea before the next subject comes in. He’s already sitting when she comes back in. She doesn’t bother joining him. She takes a slow sip by the door as she’s having a staring contest with him. “Lock ‘im up,” she orders decisively. “We’ll send him back to the main sequence whenever the opportunity arises.
Winona takes Erlendr away, and returns with Fairpoint. He doesn’t even get over the threshold before Leona dismisses him too. He’s going right back to the black site, just in a shiny new body.
Winona brings in the vengeful Fifth Divisioner.
Leona tries to rub some dead skin off of her cuticles, and pretty much ignores him for a few minutes. “What’s your name?” she finally asks impassively.
She rolls her eyes. “Did you mean to say Nunya?”
“No,” he insists, embarrassed. “Hold on, ask me again.”
She consults her watch. “I don’t care what your name is. I just can’t decide if I want to let the government interrogate you, or if I should send you to Antarctica. I’m hesitant to do either, because I don’t trust either party with this task, but I also don’t want to waste my own breath on it. I’m not sure you have anything valuable to say to me, but I worry that you might know something you don’t realize is important, particularly about Constance!Five.”
“I won’t tell you anything, and I won’t tell anyone else anything either.”
“You won’t? Why not?”
“Because I hate you with every molecule in my body.”
“How do you train new molecules to share this hate?”
Leona narrows her eyes to try to read him. “Nah, you don’t know anything. You were just a tool. A new ally of mine killed you, and he did it to save me, but he also had his own reasons, and I don’t want to take that away from him.”
“So you’re going to kill me again?” he figures.
She stands up. “Go float yourself, whatever your name was.” She leaves the room, and manages to run into Mateo-slash-Future!Leona. “Wanna do me a favor?”
“Anything,” they promise.
“Teleport the prisoner in the interrogation room to the edge of the atmosphere.”
“Are you sure?” Meona asks.
“Yes,” she confirms as she passes by. Winona has been following her. “Did you put the next one where I asked?” she asks her.
“He’s on the bridge,” Winona says. “Vearden is watching him. Well...Tarboda is watching him, and Vearden is watching Tarboda.”
“Thanks.” Leona enters the bridge. “Computer, open the sunshields.” The viewports rise, allowing them to see the Earth above them. She steps up to one of them and looks out. “Have you ever seen such a thing?” she asks her grandfather.
“Such beauty,” Labhrás responds in his cool Irish accent.
“Do you ever wanna see it again? Not this view, of course, but something more than the inside of a prison cell?”
“I would. Very much, I would. I sincerely regret my life choices, and I’m ready to start making better ones. My death has been an eye-opener.”
“Parole rules,” Leona begins. “No contact with old associates, no firearms, no breaking the law. I’ll assign someone for you to check in with. You’ll be taking drug tests, and getting yourself a real job so you can contribute positively to society.”
“That all sounds quite reasonable. I appreciate the opportunity...granddaughter. I would also like to get to know you better, and find out what happens to me.”
She ignores his personal remark. “We’ll discuss the details of your responsibilities later. Vearden will take you to your new temporary cabin. Get some rest in a real bed.”
“Thank you.”
The vengeful Fifth Divisioner appears out of nowhere, and collapses to the floor.
Leona looks over to see him through the security mirror. “I knew it. I knew it wouldn’t be that easy.” She sighs. “Take him back to hock please.”

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