A New World
As the fifth and final alarm for the electric shuttle went off, I stopped running. I had officially missed the only eShuttle to The Factories. I was off to a rough start this morning; I woke up ten minutes late, almost forgot to get my energy ration and then was the lucky recipient of a random home sweep.
And now, thanks to that very home sweep, I was going to miss a day’s work, which would potentially put me on a watch list for ‘not contributing to the community’, I thought as I sat on an old bench. I sat there for maybe a minute, thinking of what to do, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I twist around to find a girl, maybe fifteen, staring at me. She looked terrified and so out of place in what looked like 21st century clothing. After all this time, yoga pants still did not look fashionable.
“Are you alright, Miss?” I ask her. In response, she opens and closes her mouth, like she has something to say, but doesn’t know how to say it. “Whatever it is, you can tell me. Not much surprises me these days.” Maybe she believes that or maybe she wants to see if it’s true, but whichever it is, she tells me.
“Do you know where we are? I just woke up, but I don’t have a clue as to where I’m at.”
For as confused as I am, I try to give her the best answer I can. “You’re at the eShuttle Ramps in the Central Sector.”
Somehow, she looks even more confused. “What country am I in?”
Just how ignorant was this girl? How could you not know what country you were in? “Um, The North Republic of America.”
“I’ve never heard of it,” she looks around, noticing things, “What year is it?”
Her eyes go as wide as I’ve ever seen and she gets this really long look on her face. “Are you sure?”
I nod my head in response. This had taken a very weird turn.
She looks straight at me. “That means I’ve been asleep for the last twenty years.”
Maybe I can still be surprised, I think, as I look around for the surveillance cameras that The Leaders use to monitor the conversations and general movement of the citizens. I spotted seven. This would complicate things. If this girl was telling the truth, that would mean she would remember before The Over-Taking and she would not be safe.
When The Leaders were notified of a girl in the Central Sector claiming to have been asleep for the last twenty years, and they would be, they would be fast to react… they couldn’t have someone among the sectors would could potentially spread ‘Southern Republic propaganda’. Meaning, they couldn’t have someone around who could spread stories of what America used to be like. My best guess is that they would question her, then attempt to brainwash her. And if that didn’t work, they would simply get rid of her. I couldn’t have that. If she was telling the truth, she would be safer in The Southern Republic of America. I was going to have to smuggle her there.
If I was to get her there safely and without drawing alarm, I would have to act like The Leaders would expect a ‘Good Citizen’ to. I would have to convince the surveillance cameras that I was taking her to a local authority. I just hoped that she was a good actor.
I stand up and gesture for her to do the same. “Come on. We have to get you to the police.”
“You think they’ll believe me?” she asks as we exit the eShuttle Ramp and head out to the sector.
“They might,” I tell her absentmindedly, still keeping an eye out for cameras.
The Sector was practically an abandon town right now, which was typical. Everyone was at their jobs, trying to get done what they could before the sun went down and the energy grid shut down, halting all work that used up energy. But just because The Sector was empty, did not mean that it wasn’t being monitored. Almost everywhere was monitored around the clock. And it wasn’t just monitored by cameras; you had guards posted at places too. It was a surveillance system designed to squash rebellion and free thinking, as well as to keep the citizens of The North Republic of America ‘safe’ from the South. We walked the rest of the way in silence. I think she was starting to realize the kind of world she had woken up to.
The police building could have passed for a store; it was small and out of the way. As we entered we were greeted by an officer stationed at the doors.
“Good day, Misses. How do you need help today?” His face was devoid of emotion, a professional requirement, but his voice gave away his curiosity.
“I would like to speak with Officer Connors, please.” This was the tricky part of my plan. If he didn’t cooperate, I’d have to go back to the drawing board.
The curious officer leaves. A minute later, he returns with Officer Connors, who gestures for us to follow him. He escorts us to a quiet back room, which upon a further inspection reveals it to be free of cameras. He looks between the two of us, waiting for one of us to start talking.
“I need your help.” I begin. “I need you to make it look like you took her into custody. That she’s in the system and that in an hour, she’ll be transported to another police building in a different sector. I need you to make a long trail that would take someone looking for her a while to get through.” By the time I finish, it looks like his has a headache.
“And just why would I be doing this? Tell me why I should risk my life to help you with whatever it is you’re doing?” he asks in exasperation.
“Need I remind you that this would hardly be the first criminal act you’d be committing? I seem to recall walking in on you hiding some smuggled goods.” This was the tricky part. If he called my bluff or thought it would be better to accept whatever punishment came with The Leaders finding out about his smuggling, over the possible punishment of helping me.
He runs his hands through his hair and shakes his head. “Fine, I’ll do it. But after this, we are even. You can’t hold the smuggling over me anymore.” I nod my head in agreement with his request.
“What’s your name? I’ll need it to put in the system.” He asks her as he starts type things into the data base.
“Kate Sommers,” she says.
“Alright,” Officer Connors says after moment. “Everything is in. I’m assuming she’s going with you?”
“No, not immediately. I’m going to leave like I turned her over, then I’ll circle back when the day is over. You’ll need to hide her till then.” If I was going to fool The Leaders about her whereabouts, it would be much easier to get her out of the police building when The Sector filled up.
He stares at me as I get up to leave. “I'd get her a change of clothes that fits in more with everyone else.”
I turn to Kate. “Hang tight. I’ll be back to get you. Then I'll answer all your questions.” Seeing her nod, I leave, trying to be as normal as possible, to try to act like I’m not about to commit the worse crime of my life.
While I wait for the end of the day, I do my own random sweep of my house. I search my place up and down for bugs and cameras. I only find bugs. They are quickly relocated to my bathroom, where it’s least likely they’ll pick up on any conversations. It’s good that I live alone, because then the quiet will not be reported as suspicious. I head back out to The Sector at night fall. It looks like a completely different place. It’s full of people, which is perfect.
Instead of using the front doors of the police building, I go in through the back. I’m about to go find Officer Connors, when movement along the wall catches the corner of my eye. Kate is scooting along the wall. She has learned fast, she’s scooting along the wall with the cameras, actually underneath the cameras to remain unseen. True to his word, Officer Connors found her a change of clothes. It’s just a common overall. When she reaches the back door, she sees me and looks like she’s going to say something. I put my finger to my lips. It’s not safe to talk yet.
We make it back to the house quickly and without a problem.
“I’m sorry we had to jump thru all those hoops, Kate. It’s just the kind of world you’ve woken up to.” She nods her head in response.
“You said you’d answer my questions. So here’s one. What happen in the last twenty years?”
“Uh, a lot happened. Let’s see, you last remember 2015. We’ll around that time the country started to go crazy. There was a lot of political correctness, they started clamping down on free-speech and gun rights. The younger people of the generation weren’t in the know, ignorance was bliss, I guess.”
I pullout a stool and take a seat before continuing. ”Terrorism was on the rise. A lot of people got hurt or lost their lives in bombings and shootings, things like that. Then enough countries got fed up and they bombed the Middle East, essentially everywhere over there except Israel. All that’s left is a big crater now.
“Around 2017, America had become a surveillance state. They started arresting people for offending people.” Kate looks confused, so I elaborate. “Say you said something completely un-PC. Like I say to you in a private conversation, ‘that guy is going to Hell if he doesn’t change his ways.’ The surveillance cameras pick up on it and I’m arrested for a hate crime.” She nods her head.
“You can see that in action here. Only, you probably won’t because everyone knows the punishment, so everyone just keeps their thoughts to themselves out of fear. But, getting back to topic, the surveillance state was what everyone thought brought about the Second Civil War. This time, the South and the North never join again as a nation. They’re completely separate, The North republic of America and The Southern Republic of America. They’ve despised each other for ten years; I don’t think they’ll become one nation again without a war or a revolution.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Honestly, the North is so power hungry that any peace treaty is a pie in the sky. In the North, we have all the PC police, the atheists, the climate change believers, the communists, etc. In the South, they have the free –thinkers, the religious, they even still have a government similar to the Founding era of America. And on top of all their differences of opinion, you’ve got the dirty tricks. In an attempt to squash the South, the North built dams on all the fresh water lakes and rivers that would go down to the South. The North also, periodically, tries to rush the Southern guards patrolling the boarder, in an attempt to get in and overtake the South. The south has a good defense, though. And I’m not just talking man power, but they create these videos about how life is in the South and how any of the Northerners are welcome to it, then they somehow play them in all the Northern sectors.”
We’re both quiet for a minute. All of this talk about the North and the South was probably making her more than a little homesick and maybe a little depressed, but depressing had been the last twenty years. And she had to know, in this new world, ignorance could lead to a lot of trouble.
“What about technology? It’s kind of hard to believe there weren’t advancements made over the years.”
“Yeah, that would be a correct guess. Even in the middle of a ten year stalemate, both the North and the South have Tech Advancement Centers. I can’t really tell you much about the South’s tech advancements, but in the North we have all sorts of things.” I gather up my hair in a ponytail and turn my neck towards her so that she could see the tiny scar, “Every North republic citizen has a microchip implanted at the age of 6. It claims you as property of the North. Sometimes they can track you with it, but it’s very spotty, thankfully. They call it an ‘emerging technological advancement’. It also works as a kill switch.”
Rightfully so, she looks horrified. “And people just let that happen?”
I let my hair go and turn to face her, “The people are more scared of what will happen if they don’t cooperate. They would rather live with it in their heads than have whoever or whatever they care about deal with the consequences. Would you like to see a cool piece of tech?”
She nods her head. I pull out the device from a desk drawer and hand it to her. “That is called an IdentiScreen. It’s like those Apple devices from before. But it’s also you’re I.D. You have to scan it at certain restricted places if you want to get in. Another way you are monitored, but it’s still pretty neat. You can keep it in your pocket and pull it out when you need it or get a case that wraps around your wrist and just have it there like a watch.”
“Is it a phone too?”
I shake my head, “No. the only way you can communicate with people is by actually talking face to face. Cell phone towers were removed because they took too much energy from the solar grid, which is the only kind of energy grid we have since it doesn’t harm the environment and uses a natural resource.”
She sets the IdentiScreen down and looks directly at me. “Why did you go thru so much trouble to keep me out of the system? Why do you believe me?”
“You were too sincere to be faking it.” She opens her mouth to object, but I keep on talking, “Trust me, in this world, you get pretty good at judging whether you are doped. And as for keeping you out of the system, that was all my pleasure. I try my best to cause trouble under the radar for The Leaders… If they want something, I try my hardest to keep it from them. It’s the least they deserve after labeling my brother a traitor to the republic and then killing him.”
“I’m so sorry,”
“It’s only a matter of time before they find out about me, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, But you will be long gone by then. You’re going to be safest in the South. You’ll be able to get help in figuring out how you were asleep for so long and why, you’ll also be able to adjust to this world you’ve woken up to without people trying to kill you. I’m gonna smuggle you there, it shouldn’t be impossible, people do it all the time.”
She nods her head and asks a question, “Why do you stay in the North if you know how to get to the South?”
I leaned into the wall as I thought about her question. She was right, I'd had the opportunity to leave many times, but I never did. "I think I decided long ago that my part in this mess was helping others get to the South. I think I'd feel guilty if I did otherwise."
She nods in understanding. Then she asks one last question for the night, "When do I leave?"
“We should be able to do it tomorrow night.” I gesture to the only piece of furniture in the main room, a couch. “You should get some sleep; you’ll have a big day tomorrow.”