Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 24, 2399

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During World War VI, Captain Tarboda Hobson was an active member of the air force, serving by dropping supplies into quarantine camps so no one would actually have to go inside. When a new vaccine was released, he would drop that in too. Of course, a new strain—or an entirely new pathogen—was coming into power seemingly every day back then, so he never took any time off. Even that seems like nothing compared to what he’s doing now. He’s taking advantage of his new chance on life, and trying to help as many people as possible. What he’s been doing is technically against global law, but it’s a gray area when it comes to Leona’s nation. Of course, he’s utilizing resources from the U.S. government, but he’s just pretending that that’s not really happening. It’s not his job to be concerned with the politics anyway. He and his new team have one objective, which is to rescue people who are being trafficked all over the world, and to relocate them to Leona’s magical new building. He forgot how much he loved doing this, not worrying about making the decisions. He flies, that’s what he does. It’s all he does. Well, he sometimes pilots in boat mode.
Today is different. He’s being temporarily reassigned to a new mission. While Leona does whatever it is she’es doing stateside, he’s on his way to the Island of Madagascar. The religion of Daltomism supposedly originated here. According to Mateo, who’s here with him, this might not be completely random. If you drew a line from Kansas straight through the center of the Earth, and came out the other side, Madagascar would be the nearest landmass. These are called antipodes, though the place where they’re going is not the exact opposite point. The exact opposite would be in the middle of the ocean, as it usually is, since the Earth is mostly water. This was close enough, and it is Leona’s belief that Dalton chose this region because it was the farthest from The Constant in what is now Kansas. That’s where all the mysterious immortal people live that Tarboda hasn’t dealt with directly yet.
“Don’t we think this is all happening a little too quick? Word around the government water cooler is that Leona’s about to announce something big.”
“It has to happen fast,” Mateo explains. “The Reality Wars are starting early next month. Dalton Hawke is the last piece of the puzzle. If this is where he founded his religion, we have to know about it.”
“How did you find this place specifically?”
“Our new friend, Imani gave us a copy of Word of Dalton, Book II, which she can evidently get in a lot of trouble for. Vearden was researching it for us before his...” Mateo trails off. “He thinks it describes this part of the jungle.”
“What do we think, there’s a hidden temple somewhere around here?”
“Well, we may find out soon.” Tarboda slows down, and shifts into hover mode. “We’re at the coordinates you gave me.”
“Is there, like, a camera on the bottom of this thing?” Mateo asks, looking at the floor. “I would like to see what’s directly below us.”
“Is there a camera?” Tarboda echoes with a laugh. “Ha!” He engages erasure mode, removing the floor entirely, showing them what it would look like if it didn’t exist, and they could just float in the air.
“Whoa. I’ve seen stuff like this before. I have an idea of how it works, but it’s still trippy to stand here. Can you scan for structures, or whatever?”
“Uhhh...” Tarboda taps through the manual on the built-in screen. “Scan. Here we go.” He presses the button. Nothing happens that they can see, but the computer says that it’s scanning. “It didn’t find anything. No ruins.”
“That’s not surprising, or someone would have found it a long time ago. I’ve always wanted to do that thing where we—”
“Wait.” He looks at the screen. It’s detecting radiation from that body of water.”
“Bad radiation?”
Slight radiation.”
Mateo has to duck his head down to see the lake through the floor. “Does that mean we can’t do the thing?”
“What thing?”
“Sliding down to the ground on ropes hanging from the helicopter.”
“No, we definitely can’t do that.”
Mateo hangs his head.
Tarboda smirks. “Because this is not a helicopter. I’ll get the gear. That button over there will open the center floor hatch.”
Mateo goes over to open it. The floor reappears, but only in that spot. The hatch drops a little, then slides under like a pocket door. Tarboda drops the lines, and starts to get himself fitted with the climbing gear. He looks over the edge to see that the lake is closer than it was before. “What the hell? The jet has been moving on its own.”
“It has? You didn’t move it?”
Tarboda drops the gear, and runs back over to the cockpit and looks at the screen. The scanner didn’t find much before, but it’s found something now. All sorts of debris and wreckage is down in that water. It’s much deeper than it looks from a distance. “Close the hatch!”
Mateo slams on the button again. The floor starts closing back up. Just as it does, the jet tips over, sending him slamming against the back wall.
“You okay?” He asks.
“I’m all right!”
“I’m tryin’ to get us out of here!”
“Something’s pulling us down?”
“Yeah,” Tarboda calls back. “Hold on, we’re gonna start pullin’ some Gs!” He engages the thrusters, but whatever invisible force is tugging at them is reacting in kind. It won’t let them go, and it’s stronger than his beautiful new plane is. They gave this to him to please the team. They’re not going to give him a second one. “Try to climb back up here! I can’t get us out!”
“No! Jump, Tarboda!”
“Jump down here! Trust me!”
These people brought him back to life; he has to do whatever they say. He undoes his belt, hangs between the seats, then lets go. They’re not perfectly vertical, so he slides on the floor, heading right for Mateo, who has his wrist up to his face. Suddenly, the jet is gone, and he’s tumbling on the ground. He gets himself to his feet and looks up to see the jet being sucked into the water, but not before it implodes.
Alyssa’s here with them. “Crushed it.”

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