Thursday, May 25, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 22, 2399

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Labhrás Delaney steps into the apartment behind Winona, and looks around with a frown on his face. It’s small, and it could do with some cleaning, but he’s lived in worse. He did not exactly grow up rich. That’s why he did what he used to do, because he had to. He’s trying to do better now, but he certainly wouldn’t say that he regrets his past transgressions. That’s not true; he literally said that he regrets everything, but he didn’t really mean it. He just knew that the only way he was ever going to get back to the surface of the planet was to tell these people what they wanted to hear. Luckily, lying is his specialty. He steps a little farther into the unit. “What’s this?”
“It’s your new place,” she tells him.
“I thought we were just stopping by to run an errand. You bought this for me?”
“Well, the government did; not me personally, and they rented it. Surprise!”
He shakes his head, looking at the mold on the wall, and incessant leaky faucet.
“Mateo taught me a phrase from his reality. He said that beggars can’t be choosers. This is what’s available. The government’s not going to spring for a penthouse apartment overlooking the water.”
“No, it’s not like that. I thought I would be living closer to my granddaughter.”
“She’s not your granddaughter yet, and I don’t think she thinks of you that way. And anyway, she lives in New York now, and I don’t think that she’ll be coming back anytime soon. There’s something there that cannot be moved.”
“Oh, you gave me access to the news down in the prison. I heard all about it. Which is why I was hoping that you would relocate me there.”
“That’s not a thing,” Winona says apologetically. “We don’t move people around. You began your rehabilitation in KC, because that’s where the person who was in charge of it—i.e. me—needed to be. We only relocate through the witness protection program.”
“I witnessed a murder,” Labhrás discloses.
“Are you talking about your own murder?”
“Would that not count? Hold on, I can think of another crime...”
“I’m sorry, Mister Delaney, but if you don’t want to go back to the black site, this place is your only option. You’ll also need to fulfill the requirements we spoke of. You need to check in regularly, stay sober, earn gainful employment by the end of April—”
“You don’t think this is going to last another month, do you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Word has spread, Miss Honeycutt. The world is ending.”
“Who did you overhear discussing that?” she questions.
“The guards never told me their names.”
“So it was a guard.”
“Don’t get anyone in trouble on my account.”
She sighs. “Leona is going to reveal herself to the Daltomists, and therefore the whole world, on Friday. The last thing she needs is a presumably dead future relative of hers showing up to make things even more complicated.”
He seems to get it now. He throws his knapsack onto the counter. “Thank you.”
“Try to find some joy here. This is the kind of second chance that no one else has ever received. I’ll come by to take you shopping tomorrow.”

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