Friday, May 5, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 2, 2399

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Despite technically being in an enhanced body, Mateo is no longer enhanced. He needs sleep, and because of everything he’s been through recently, he needs a lot of sleep. Annoyingly, it doesn’t look like he’s going to get much of it for a while. Winona wakes him after midnight with a phone call. “I don’t know why they didn’t call me right away. A few people came through the parking lot portal yesterday afternoon.
“We always knew this could happen,” Mateo replies. “You had the military set up a special quarantine, right?”
Yes, theyre contained, but one of you should go. I cant get away.
Mateo struggles out of his sheets, and trips out of bed. “I’ll be there soon.”
Mateo leaves his room, and is about to knock on Ramses’ door when he remembers that Ramses is dead, or so it seems. Heath needs sleep too, and won’t be much help in this situation. So he just walks downstairs, and heads for the garage. “Why are you awake?” he asks when he sees Tarboda sitting in the kitchen.
“I keep odd hours,” he replies. “Going somewhere?”
“Another mission,” Mateo explains.
“A solo mission?”
Mateo doesn’t know if Tarboda is asking if he would like him to come, or if he’s offering, or if he really wants to be a part of it, or if it’s just a question.
“You look tired,” Tarboda decides, standing up. “I’ll drive. It’s my job.”
“I was a career driver in another life,” Mateo reveals.
“That’s cute.”
The two of them drive to the parking lot. The tent is still there, as is the hamster tunnel to the office building, which has since been completely cleared out, and taken over by the military. The operation is fully staffed. The president himself considers this to be the current greatest threat to the country. They’re not generally too unwelcoming of refugees, but these people were preceded by a mass murderer. They do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. The checkpoint soldiers wave them through the newly erected gate, and direct them toward the transition tent. Here they put on hazmat suits, and equip themselves with deadly weapons. They’re really not taking any chances here. Mateo doesn’t care to carry a gun, but arguing against it could risk his credentials here, and he needs them. He’s the only true team member left.
They leave the small tent, and enter the big one, where they find three people being kept in the subquarantine zone. Mateo doesn’t recognize any of them, but they recognize him immediately, even with the headgear. They almost look relieved to see him. “Mister Matic. Tell them that we are not here to hurt anyone,” the woman requests.
“Where are you from?” Mateo asks. The usual prompt of report is for when two people are either equal, or dominance is unknown. Mateo is assumed to be superior to them until otherwise determined. They’ll answer his questions, in whatever order he asks them, and to his satisfaction. He’ll drive the conversation.
“We’re from the Sixth Key,” she responds.
“Are you infected?”
“We didn’t ask Humbert to do that. We didn’t want him to do that. When we found out that he had snuck through the portal, we were sent to help.”
“A little late,” Mateo says. “Everyone is dead. You didn’t answer the question. Are you infected?”
“No,” she claims. “There is no epidemic, or anything. Humbert infected himself with a bioweapon from a lost lab that should have been destroyed after the first war.”
“It should never have been created in the first place,” Mateo argues.
“I agree,” she says. “You can test our blood,” she insists. “These fine men and women of service took samples already.”
Mateo looks over at the soldiers who all have their weapons trained on the travelers. “The scientists took samples,” one of them confirms. “If the results have since come back, we were not informed.”
“And if the results haven’t come back,” one of the other travelers begins, “were you informed?”
Until now, the soldiers have kept their guns pointed in a more relaxed sense. They weren’t precisely aiming for the subjects, and were not quiet ready to fire. They jerk up now, ready to squeeze in a split second, particularly at this guy.
“Does this feel like the right time for attitude?” Mateo asks the travelers.
The leader gives the young man a look. “Say you’re sorry.”
“I’m sorry,” he mumbles reluctantly.
“How many more of you are coming?” Mateo asks.
She nods, knowing that it is in her best interest to be honest. “Millions. Or zero.”
“Please clarify,” Mateo says.
She looks for her words on the walls. “The reason my cousin has attitude is because there were supposed to be six of us. We operate in groups of seven. Humbert was our seventh, so we were sent to correct the situation. The other three didn’t make it here at all. We don’t know if that means the portal shut behind us, or if they were killed in the interversal void, or what.”
“The interversal void?” Mateo questions. “You mean the bulk?”
“Yeah. We don’t call it that, but yeah.”
“Are you trying to tell me that the Sixth Key is in a different universe?”
“You didn’t know that,” she states.
That’s interesting, but this conversation is over. “The portal closed on our end. If the other members of your scouting party were right behind you, my guess is that they’re dead. The rest of your population will have to find refuge elsewhere. This reality is closed, and what was even your plan? According to what we know The Reconvergence happens in a matter of weeks. You’ll just end up right back there.”
“What are you talking about?” the woman questions. “It’s 2099. It won’t happen for three hundred years.”
“You are off your mark,” Mateo informs her. “It’s 2399 already.”
Horror seeps out of the pores of all three of their faces. “He screwed us,” the leader notes, mostly to herself. “We were always gonna lose.”
“Yeah, Humbert screwed a lot of people. I’m sorry for your loss, but if you left your loved ones behind, you’ll never see them again. Even if we don’t stop the Reconvergence, you’ll be kept in a deep dark hole for the rest of your lives.”
“Don’t do this,” the woman begs.
“I don’t have time to deal with this crap. This world has its own problems.”
“Don’t do this!” She repeats it louder and louder as he and Tarboda walk away.

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