Thursday, May 11, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 8, 2399

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What Leona and Mateo learned when they tried to explore the upper levels was that all ways up were locked. Alyssa was gone by then, so they couldn’t ask her if she had anything to do with that, and if not, if she could transport them up just to see. They’ll have to get a professional to help them break through, because Alyssa granted Leona temporal energy. This should give her the ability to generate illusions, but it also means that they can’t teleport. Is Alyssa becoming an antagonist, like the Cleanser and so many others before? Different enemies have had different motivations, and different tactics, but one thing they’ve had in common is that they like to come up with arbitrary rules and limitations only to make the team’s lives harder, not usually because of any inherent unbreakable law of the universe. They hope to get her back on their side one day, but they’re prepared for the possibility that it may never happen. They are under the impression that they’ll work together on a permanent basis in the future, but time is in constant flux, and perhaps they were mistaken about the truth of that the entire time.
The doorbell rings, sending an alert to their phones, despite the fact that they never set up any sort of smarthome connections. The couple found a furnished bedroom near the back of the building to sleep in. It was the only one of its kind, leading them to believe that it was made that way specifically for them. Someone constructed this place, and they did so while it was both invisible and soundproof to the rest of New York. Friend or foe, it’s not random. They know what Leona was planning.
As they’re walking through the lobby, they can see two people through the glass doors. One is an IRB agent—or whatever it is they’re called—and the other is an oldish man holding a black bag that kind of makes him look like an old-fashioned doctor making a housecall. It must be the locksmith. Leona answers with a smile. “Hello.”
“Hi, ma’am, I’m Evander Martinez from Evandoor Locksmiths. I was called to get you into some rooms?”
“Floors, more like it,” Leona replies.
“Ma’am, where is Leona Matic?” the IRB agent asks.
“She’s busy with another project.”
“I would really rather speak with her, so I can be sure that this operation is authorized,” the agent requests.
Leona and Mateo exchange a worried look, then Leona sighs. I will go see if I can find her. It may take a little time.”
“We’ll wait.”
“Are you sure?” Mateo asks his wife. If she’s going to attempt to create an illusion mere millimeters from her skin for the first time, she may need, or want, some help.
“I’ll be all right,” she says.
Evander holds up his passport as Leona is walking away.
“We don’t need to see that,” Mateo says to him.
“I promise, I’m all up to code,” Evander says.
“I’m sure you are.”
“I’m willing to sign a nondisclosure agreement,” he continues.
“That will not be...” Leona hears Mateo say as she’s leaving the area. She assumes that his last word was necessary, and she’s wondering if Mr. Evander has some more things to say about this situation. He seems curious and interested, and nonjudgmental.
She rounds the last corner, enters the bathroom, and takes a breath in front of the mirror. She tries to shake the nerves and anxiety out of her body. “Okay, Leona, you can do this. It’s you. All you have to do is make yourself look like you. You know exactly what you look like, right? Who knows your face better than you? No one, that’s who.” She shakes some more, and jumps up and down like an athlete pumping themselves up before the big game. “All right, here we go.” Nothing happens. She doesn’t feel a thing, causing her to worry that Alyssa just shot some pretty lights into her chest, and didn’t give her any temporal energy at all. It was all just a weird joke. She’ll never know unless this works, at least a little bit. “I see now, that was asking a lot. Don’t change your whole body, or even your face. Hair color. You have red hair. Change your hair to red. Do it. Do it. Change your hair. Make it red.” She rolls her eyes, and turns away in frustration. “Here I am, trying to wiggle my big toe like Beatrix Kiddo.”
Leona glances back at the mirror, sure that nothing’s changed, and who should be staring back at her, but none other than Uma Thurman. She jumps back in fright, not because she’s afraid of Uma Thurman, but because she didn’t expect it to happen. It didn’t feel like she was changing. Though, that’s the thing, this isn’t shapeshifting. A perfect hologram of someone else has been wrapped around her body, but you can’t touch light, so it shouldn’t feel like anything. “Well, that sure is something, isn’t it? Problem is, I don’t think these people have seen Kill Bill. I need to look like Leona Matic.” She turns away again. “Here I am, trying to look like Leona Matic Alyssa McIver.” She faces the mirror again, but she’s still Uma Thurman. “So those aren’t the magic words, it’s something else.”
Mateo enters the bathroom, startling her again. “How is it going, honey?”
“Why are you here?”
“I was worried about you.”
“I’ve been gone for, like, two minutes. It’s a big building, and we have access to a few floors.”
“Leona, you’ve been gone for more like twenty minutes.”
What? “Crap!” She realizes something as she’s looking at her watch. He didn’t seem to notice that he was talking to Uma Thurman. That’s because she doesn’t look like her anymore. She’s back to being Alyssa. Cool, so she can look like anyone but herself. “Are they pissed?”
“I let them in.” He shows her the security feed from his phone, which also just magically appeared when he needed it. “They’re sitting comfortably in the lobby.”
Leona nods, but she doesn’t really care. She’s not having a good time. “I don’t know if I can do this, Matty.”
He smiles kindly at her, and leans forward, planting a soft but passionate kiss upon her lips. When he separates from her, he’s looking at his wife. He smiles again.
Leona sees herself in the mirror. “How did you know that would work?”
“You’ve always disliked being affectionate with me in other people’s bodies. And hey, if it didn’t work, at least I would have gotten to feel what it’s like to smooch Alyssa McIver.”
“We are not using this power for roleplay.”
“No, ma’am,” he says with a faux serious face. He’s not so sure about that.
They leave the bathroom, and return to the lobby where they find the agent and locksmith unperturbed by the amount of time that took. Leona reintroduces herself, and assures the agent that he is free to go. They’ll be fine. If Evander the Locksmith turns out to be Evander the Assassin, she’ll just make herself look like a rageing gorilla, or something.
Once the agent leaves, they lead Evander up the stairs to the locked door that should take them to the residential levels. The first few levels are an assortment of offices, and similar spaces, and they combine to span the entire width and length of the plot of land. The upper levels are called spokes, but they could be thought of as wings. There are six of these spokes, in between which is open space. On top of the bottom levels is a roof that could be used for a garden, or short walking paths. This is very similar to main sequence architecture for standard megastructure arcologies, except half the size. Those are two kilometers tall, with twelve extra long spokes. The first levels are larger too, of course, and serve as communal areas for eating, socializing, and their form of shopping, which obviously doesn’t involve the exchange of money for goods.
It takes the man a good hour to break through. The lock was reportedly extremely complicated, and he apparently only kept going this far, because Leona is the king of the whole country. She tried to correct his perception, but he’s just one person. If that’s what people think of her, then she has an image problem, and she may need to think about hiring a publicist. Evander tried to step away to give them some privacy, but they ask him to press on, in case there are any more unruly doors they need through. They don’t need privacy anyway. All of this is going to become public knowledge at some point, as long as they clear any other hurdles standing in Leona’s way of doing with the building as she wants. If it doesn’t work out, then it really doesn’t matter what’s behind these doors.
They step through cautiously, and walk down the hallway. Everything appears as they expected except for the inside of each room. They’re of the refugee model, which is exactly what Leona was thinking for her goals, but main sequence arcologies have never really needed them. A basic rule of thumb is that a cuboid unit accommodates a single person. Now, that may mean that a hypothetical individual lives alone in a studio apartment layout, or it could be a family of five with a kitchen, a living room, a master bedroom, two bedrooms and a turfed lawn for a dog. That adds up to six units, but couples could also fit in a studio, or a family of six may only need four units. It’s the average that counts, and for the most part, the math works out pretty well, which is why estimating residential capacity is generally pretty accurate for these structures, even though they’re so customizable. Each unit is exactly the same size and shape.
The bottom floors were mostly not furnished, except for a few places here and there, like that little bedroom, one bathroom, and enough of the lobby to get by. The first unit they walk into is fully stocked with enough bunk beds for eight people. If they’re all like this, then we’re talking well over 600,000 potential residents. The bottom floors could be used for services, socializing, and recreation, but any unused rooms could be fitted with bunks as well to house even more people. They haven’t even checked for a basement.  Leona doesn’t know who might need to live in these units one day, but it may not be long before they can move in. The three of them spread out down the hallway, and check other rooms. They’re bunked up too. They manage to get the elevator working, and choose random levels to explore as well. All bunked up. All of them.
“Someone put a lot of effort into this,” Leona notes. “That’s either really good, or it’s really bad.”
“Perfect,” Mateo says sarcastically. “Another mystery. Add it to the pile.”

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