“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world: Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has! ”
Trying to break the fuel seal to activate the Global Positioning implant, Al smashed his upper arm into the concrete column in the prison’s gym for the third time. Backing away, he felt a warmish flow from the implant radiating outwards from his upper arm. The med-tech who implanted the device told him, “Don’t hit it too hard.” He guessed that might have been too hard. Now he was in some serious shit. He didn’t know if he damaged the transponder or if it had begun transmitting.
Chris told him the danger in taking this assignment from the beginning. He wasn’t afraid of the physical pain he’d endure if caught, he had been there before. They could kill him too. While he feared death, cause yeah, death is scary, he feared being re-educated even more. He seen a few zombies in his time, and that fucking mind wipe was scarier than death.
The pain started a few hours later. After three days the flesh over his implant had evolved in an angry red bump. He kept a shirt on to cover it. His arm throbbed painfully. Moving it caused a stabbing pain from his armpit to his fingertips. At night, he lay in his bunk, shivering, he pulled the thin threadbare olive green blanket up to his chin.
Ignoring the pain, he sat up. The springs inside the thin mattress squeaked as his weight shifted. The room spun around momentary before settling. He reached under the mattress, between it, and the steel wire frame of the cot. He grabbed his notebook and slid the pen out from the spiral. Trying to stop his hand from trembling, he began to write:
****** Day 3, December 21, 2241. I’ve been in the milking prison three days now. I traded sex for a pen and a notebook. I don’t know if my transponder is working. Or if the organization can pick up the signal to track and break me out before I am discovered. I have enough spermase to last two more milkings, maybe three. My arm is infected, I’m running a fever, I’m dizzy all the time and it’s getting harder to act healthy. I asked the other inmates for medical help, they treated me like slag. Can’t blame them, I’m not here long enough to have earned their trust.
Chris, my old friend, if things don’t work out, I hope this notebook makes it way to you, I want to thank you. Life is a series of events, some random, some planned, some lucky, some not. The thing is how we choose to look at these events in our lives and the decisions we make in response that creates our reality. In my reality, I never expected my life to have much meaning, to myself or to anyone else, and this mission, this opportunity you gave me, has allowed me to exceed my life’s expectations. No regrets buddy, not ever, you got that! Give them Hell.
Al’s wristwatch began to beep, it was 9:25, he had five minutes to hide his journal before his cell check and lights out. He inhaled and exhaled. He stretched his left arm, trying to alleviate the pain; it didn’t work.
He studied his shaky handwriting. If he didn’t make it, he hoped they would at least find his notebook. And learn that he waited instead of giving up. He nodded his head, if they learn that, then it was worth it.
He turned to a clean page in his notebook and wrote in bold letters,
When freedom is outlawed,
Only outlaws are free.
November 19, 2239 (two years earlier)
Christopher Arden stepped off the school’s shuttle bus on Queens Boulevard. Turning left, the abandoned corner house on MacKinnon Street had fresh graffiti spray painted on its boarded up windows read; “When Freedom is Outlawed, Only Outlaws are Free, BrotherHood”.
Chris shook his head, the TJ’s were at it again. He stared at the graffiti, trying to read the smaller writing underneath. Giving up he turned, and was startled to find a police officer just one foot behind him.
“Citizen,” She snapped. “That interests you?”
“No officer,” Chris’s stomach loosened, directing his eyes toward the sidewalk, the officer wore black military shoes. “I only looked for a moment, I’m on my way home.”
An unmarked car slowly rolled up to the sidewalk, its red and blue lights flashing, two plainclothes police officers stepped out of the car.
“What do we have here, a sympathizer?” The officer with the Sargent stripe medallion pinned to the collar of her blouse yelled to the officer standing by Chris. She and her other plainclothes companion officer walked over to them.
“I haven’t a clue Sargent, just about to investigate.”
“Let me see your identification,” The Sargent demanded.
“I’m on my way home from school. I looked at it for a moment, that’s all…”
“Your identification citizen,” She barked impatiently.
Chris pulled his wallet from his front trouser pocket, fumbled his ID and handed it to her.
“My girlfriend is the UN Borough director, Linda Rafael, she has an office in the 122, she’ll vouch for me.”
The sergeant squinted, her brown eyes glaring through him, pursed her lips. “Hmmp.. I’ll check that out.”
She read his ID, then returned to her unmarked car, the red and blue lights on the dashboard continued to flash. The three remaining officers standing by Chris began talking about work shifts and commanders. The Sergent emerged from her car a few minutes later.
“Okay, Chris, you checked out, you’re free to go,” She said easily, handing him his ID. “We are seeing an increase in BrotherHood activity in this area, so we are questioning anyone that may be suspicious.”
“No problem,” Chris said, keeping his eyes down in a respectful manner, backing away a few steps before turning to leave.
His legs trembled crossing MacKinnon street to Lefferts Boulevard. The sodium street lamps flickered to life, casting an unnatural amber light on the sidewalk.
‘Now Linda is probably annoyed with him, because that cop called her, shit!’ He thought, ‘next time keep your eyes down.’
The Salty Dog bar sat at the corner of Metropolitan Avenue and Liberty Street. The green canopy covering its outdoor cafe vibrated under the autumn wind’s onslaught. The outdoor cafe was abandoned, the bar patrons electing to stay snuggled warm inside. Chris entered, breathing in the scent of alcohol, perfume and cigarettes. Inside, the bar resembled an ancient vessel, its walls paneled with horizontal wood planks salvaged from scuttled ships. The natural grain of the wood held the faint scent of seawater. Brass nautical fittings were placed all around the bar. A large fishing net hung low from the ceiling holding odd assortments of sea fearing gear.
Anonymous conversations merged into a comforting background noise, glasses clinked together, and the voice of a drunk boomed across the bar. The main bar was edged with white rope six-inches in diameter, from the time before steel and titanium. Chris’s hand caressed the rope’s smooth lacquered covering. He wanted to feel the fibers of the rope. Every time he visited the Dog, he sat in different seats along the bar, searching for a single flaw where the lacquer coating was missing and he could touch the actual rope.
Chris nodded toward the bartender, who was rinsing a glass.
“Give me a Synthin Dale Five.”
“One ‘Five’ coming right up.” The bartender flipped a chilled mug and leaned it under the spigot. Rich amber liquid filled the space with minimal foam. “That’ll be seven dollars please.”
Chris handed over his debit card. When the bartender returned it, Chris read the card’s LCD display showing a transaction of negative seven dollars. For security, he locked the card for a maximum debit of one hundred dollars with an unlimited number of transactions.
After two beers, he switched to the stronger Syn 8 beer with eight percent alcohol. The two men standing to his right got louder with each drink, high-heel boys, dressed to the nines, tight clothes and heavy makeup. They both kept their wrist ID’s open for display, color green. They both were fertile.
The first boy had light brown hair with blond frosting and wore green satin pants with a matching vest. The tight pants revealed a more than ample bulge. His white shirt was unbuttoned half way down, showing off his bare, well-muscled chest. The bottom button of his form-fitting vest was left open.
The second high heel boy had bleached blond hair with black roots and wore equally tight crushed black velvet trousers. The bulge at his crotch wasn’t as large, but probably natural.
Chris admired the size of their biceps and defined pecs. Linda hinted to him on more than one occasion to work out, and he tried, but no matter how hard he worked out he never built any muscle or saw results. He wanted to ask how much time they spent in the gym to build those bodies, but the last thing he wanted was to give them the impression he was a Tommy Boy trying to make conversation.
The man in green satin said, “So I tell Kathy my fertility quotient is twenty-seven. Her expression goes completely blank working out the math.” He changed his voice to imitate a high-pitched mentally deficient woman. “Ah…let’s see if I sleep with him tonight, ah… my odds of conception are, um.”
His friend rolled with laughter.
Green satin man continued, “So she thinks that I’m seeding her, right. So she’s buying me drinks, and I’m drinking the best, ya’ know. We bar hop all over Manhattan. Around 3 am we’re back in Queens, and she’s getting out of her car to come up to my apartment. So I say, ‘Kathy, I’m sorry, but my girlfriend’s over tonight.”
His friend’s mouth opened. “Wow! You told her you lived with your girlfriend. What did she say?”
The green satin man paused to sip his drink for effect. “Her look was classic.” He positioned his body and held out his arms in imitation, then placed them on his hips, and in his high pitched voice said, “Oh, oh, I thought we…” He brought his voice back to normal. “Some of these women. They’re sad, well it was sad, really.”
“Well,” his friend agreed, “she wanted your seed. She wasn’t honest with you about it, was she? Listen, women make all the money, they run the world, they can afford to take us out. You didn’t owe her anything.”
“Yeah, I know, but she’s like thirty-eight, no children. So I thought I might give her a pop. I give her my work number, just being charitable, ya know. But I changed my mind the next day. I need the money from my pops, to pay bills, ya know. She calls; I brush her off. I’m not a pro and it’s not like she offered me any money. So anyway, she calls five times before she finally takes the hint. You’d think after being rejected once or twice, she’d get the idea.”
“Barren women at her age are crazy desperate. But hey, not your problem.”
“That’s what clinics are for.”
“She’s thirty-eight. She tried three times, none took. Clinics won’t do her anymore.”
“Hey, speaking of the clinics, that reminds me.” Green satin man leaned against the bar, reached over to pick up his drink. “They dropped my rate again. I’m only getting $125.00 per pop. And I have to wait three days between pops, or I only earn like $35.00. They said my fertility quotient dropped again to twenty-two. Are those bitches lying to me?” He took a pull on his drink.
“I’d believe it,” Blond hair man replied, turning and waving to the bartender for another drink. He turned back to his friend. “Seems every couple of months they’re telling me the same thing. I think they make the numbers up.”
Wow, Chris thought, these guys would shit if they learned his fertility number. His quotient hovered in the sixties with good mobility. If they were paying them $125 for twenties, what would the clinics pay him for his seed? He estimated $375.00, maybe even $500.00 per deposit. Twice a week, that’s at least $750.00-1000.00 a week. Not a bad, not as much as he earned on the Circuit, but personal servicing wasn’t an option any longer. The deposits are impersonal and anonymous, with no chance of running into your own offspring. And if he did, how would he know. He needed that after Dallas. But who was he kidding, Linda would never go for that. He shook his head and turned toward the bar, the bartender was there, waiting in front of him, holding his empty beer mug. He caught him eavesdropping. The bartender smiled and said.
“Ready for another?”
“One more for the road,” Chris responded.
“My name is Teddy,” The bartender outstretched his hand. Chris noticed the bartender’s Irish brogue, took his hand and shook it, “Hi, I’m Chris.”
“Those…two” the bartender hesitated, searching for the right words, “bar flies,” he finally said, tossing his head in the men’s direction, “are in here every Friday night. You wouldn’t believe some of the women I’ve seen them leave with. You might be leaving too early.” He shook his head, pouring a Syn-8 draft into a fresh glass.
“Well, look at them, their bodies. I had gone to the gym for three months straight and I couldn’t build an inch of muscle and it hurt like crazy, so I gave up.”
The bartender snorted, “That is a common problem my friend, but those two over there. Ninety percent silicon, plastic surgery, then more silicon and liposuction.”
“You’re kidding!” said Chris, turning his head to consider the men again. “That muscle isn’t real?
“Nope. I knew them when they were two skinny punks with fake IDs who stood around for hours nursing a soda trying to get picked up.”
Two attractive women entered the bar and stood in the foyer. While one woman handed their jackets to the coat check, the other woman scanned the bar and catching sight of the two high heel boys, jerked her friend’s arm and nodded toward the bar. They whispered to one another and laughed. Chris didn’t need to be psychic to read their minds. They strutted passed him, eyes fixed on their prey.
“Hi, you gentlemen together?” one woman inquired.
The high heel boys laughed. “No, we’re het,” said green-satin man.
“Waiting for girlfriends?” The other woman queried.
The bar flies smiled at one another. Blond hair with black roots spoke, “Not tonight.”
“Well, I’m Grace, my friend is Joelle. Can we buy you two a drink?”
Chris checked his watch and realized he better leave, he still had things to do before Linda got home.
Leaving the Dog he walked half a block to Ellen’s Grocery store. Pushing past the heavy plate glass, the warm aroma of fresh baked breads awakened his appetite.
He grabbed a small shopping cart by the ice cream freezer, and began walking down the aisles; he pulled a pint of milk off the shelf, followed by a pint of syn eggs, then butter. When passing the bread section he bagged two bagels for himself and Linda. From the refrigerator section, he selected a variety of prepackaged luncheon meats, a pound of thin-ham and syn-turkey, and a half-pound of syn-baloney and white American cheese.
He stopped by the fresh meat section, rib-eye steak was on sale for $167.79 per pound, a small green plastic sign stuck into the meat, Government Guaranteed cesium and radiation safe, with a U.S.D.A. green check mark next to it. He could purchase real meat on the black market, but you could never be sure of the cesium levels. Linda would never eat black market meat. Two small steaks weighed two pounds. That’s a week’s worth of earnings in a good programming week. But tomorrow was a double celebration, two year anniversary with Linda, and his interview with MetaSoft for a programming job, that he hopes to get.
At the front of the store, a clerk Chris didn’t recognize, wearing too much makeup to cover his pimples, pushed each item over the laser scanner with nonchalant precision. Chris unlocked his card, then swiped it in the cash register’s slot, stared into the retinal scanner next to the register. The bank confirmed his identity and available funds, approving his purchase. He lifted the grocery bag and walked down the block to his apartment building.
He slid his house card into the reader outside his apartment. The door lock clicked open. He dropped the grocery bag on the small foyer table. Chris leaned back on the apartment door, closing it. He glanced at the living room clock, it was, 7:18 p.m. and Linda would be here around 8:30.
Chris placed the food in the refrigerator, his arms ached from carrying the groceries home, he still needed to clean up the place before Linda got there.
He heard a commotion in the hallway, shuffling, banging, words being shouted. He opened his apartment door. There were two police officers escorting a handcuffed man from apartment 6E, pushing and pulling him down the hall.
The man from 6E was protesting.
“I’m innocent. I was set up. You set me up.”
Chris stepped further out of his doorway into the hall. A police officer who had been waiting by the elevator, rushed over.
“Do you have a problem citizen!” She barked.
“No, ma’am. Just wanted to see what all the commotion was about.”
The officer paused, scrutinized the apartment number on Chris’s door. “You are Christopher Arden, Director Rafael’s boyfriend?”
“Yes, but I call her Linda.” Chris smiled.
The officer nodded, “Treason,” she said loudly. “Your neighbor Mr. Williams is being arrested on charges of treason.”
The officers continued to pull Mr. Williams down the hall towards the elevator.
“You set me up! You gave me those books to read, then arrested me for having them. I never asked for them! I never wanted them!”
Another officer emerged from apartment 6E carrying a few books and a sleeve of loose papers. She turned and closed the door behind her.
As Mr. Williams passed Chris he yelled. “6D, listen to me, I’m being framed. The police are framing me. Tell someone, tell the news.”
“He calls you 6D?” The police officer cocked her head, furrowed her eyebrows making a puzzled face.
“Yeah, my apartment number, 6D. “Chris motioned to his apartment door lettering. “We don’t really know one another, just pass each other in the halls, he’s 6E and I’m 6D.”
“Good. You don’t want to be a friend of this character.”
The police officer carrying the books and papers approached Chris and the officer.
“Do you have a problem citizen?”
The police officer standing next to Chris answered.
“No, he doesn’t. This is Chris Arden,” The officer tilted her head toward Chris, “Director Rafael’s boyfriend in apartment 6D.”
“Sorry, I didn’t know.”
Chris glanced at the bundle the officer was carrying. A thick textbook was on top, light gray binding with a red band across the cover, inside the band was the title in white text; “American History”.
“No problem.” Chris answered, then questioned, “How do you know me?” moving his eyes away from the textbook and to the officer.
“Not to worry Chris,” She ignored his question, turned and began walking toward the elevator. The officers disappeared into the elevator taking Mr. Williams with them.
# # # # #
The doorbell awakened him, he glanced up, it was 8:42 pm. He staggered to his feet, rubbed his eyes while making his way to the front door.
“Hi!” She brushed the hair away from his forehead. “Busy day, huh?” she asked, wrapping her arms around him, kissing him on the lips.
“Yes”, he answered her kiss, folding himself into the soft warmness of her body pressing against him. They released after a moment and walked into the living room. She dropped her blazer onto the arm of the couch, removed her shoulder holster and placed it on the glass shelf that held a bottle of port wine and two crystal glasses. Turning around, she undid the four front buttons on her blouse, unhooked her bra and wiggled out of it. She tossed the bra on the arm of the couch on top of her blazer. Her breasts swayed as she stretched her arms upward.
“I got a call about you.” She moved to the center of the couch and sat, leaving her blouse unbuttoned.
“Sorry about that. I didn’t do anything, really”
“I know, they’re being overly cautious. Tell me about your day.”
“I was in the school library, going over my research, preparing for my interview tomorrow.”
“The odds of you getting a programming job are astronomical.”
“No, they’re not. I’m better than any of my classmates they already hired.”
Linda turned to look directly at Chris, “Your classmates are women.” She broke eye contact and gazed down toward the coffee table. “You should reconsider your place in the world.” She reached over and picked up the reader from the coffee table and scanned the headlines.
“Lyn, why do you take every opportunity to crush my dreams!” He paced the confines of the living room. Reaching the windows he smacked the curtains and spun around. “Why? Men are breaking into new fields all the time. Why can’t I be one of them?”
“I’m worried you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. ” She countered, shaking her head. “No one breaks through a glass ceiling without getting cut. But I won’t say another word about it.” She turned her attention to the reader and began to toggled through screens. “Is there anything to eat?”
Chris stopped in front of the coffee table and looked down at her. “I bought some bagels and cold cuts, they’re in the refrigerator.” He gestured toward the kitchen.
“Hmm, that’s nice,” she acknowledged, placing the reader on the coffee table, she shook her head.
“Nothing.” She turned, staring out the living room window, as if the building across the street suddenly became a fascinating work of art for her to contemplate.
Chris closed the distance between them, sat down beside her and gazed into her eyes. “No, you’re sad. I’ve seen it since you came in. Did something happen today?”
Linda turned away from Chris and shook her head.
Chris pressed. “Can you talk about it?”
“No… I can’t. Let’s just be together okay?”
She traced her fingers along the front of his trousers. She leaned over and kissed him. His lips parted and her tongue darted inside his mouth. She tugged his zipper down.
His arms engulfed her, he found her breast and gently began molding it in his hand. “I love what you’re doing,” he whispered in her ear. “But, let me shower first, I was cleaning and I feel grungy.” Giving her breast a final squeeze, he reluctantly pushed her hand away from his zipper and stepped back.
“Did you get your nails done?” she asked, holding up his hand to inspect his nails. His hand smelled of bleach.
“No, no time,” he said, pulling his hand away.
Chris walked toward the bathroom, but stopped to check behind the minibar for a bottle of their favorite Port wine. None, they must have drank it. He needed to stop by Tina’s liquor store before their big dinner.
“Chris!” she yelled, throwing the reader on the coffee table. “Don’t touch my gun.”
Linda jumped up, grabbing the holster from the bar and placed it in her handbag. Chris stared, jaw clenched, folded his arms in front of his chest.
“Listen,” She placed her finger under his chin and gently turned his head to look into her eyes. “I’m the UN Director for this borough. It’s a violation for men to handle firearms. It’s not me personally”
Chris tilted his head. “But I didn’t touch your gun, Lyn. I never touch your gun.” He unfolded his arms and walked over to the linen closet, “What are you so afraid of anyway? What’s your fantasy if I held your gun?”
“An accident.” She defended, “A stupid accident. That’s all it would take to ruin my career. I have to set the example.”
Chris removed a thick blue towel from the bathroom closet, then stepped into the bathroom. Leaving the door ajar, he unbuttoned his shirt.
Chris shouted, “I bought steak, real steak, from a cow, not some mealworm concoction, to celebrate tomorrow, its our anniversary and, hopefully we can celebrate a job offer from MetaSoft Corporation. That will make it a double celebration.” He turned the water knob clockwise, cold water cascaded out from the shower head.
“Black market meat?” she asked.
“No, never, cesium free, government approved and stamped,” Chris answered.
“I can’t. I have lots to do, plus a meeting tomorrow with the city director. Let’s celebrate Saturday. The weekend is always better” She began rummaging through the refrigerator.
Chris crushed the towel until his fingers hurt. “Just take tomorrow off. Have someone cover for you. It’s our anniversary and I want to spend the day with you.” thinking, especially if I don’t get that job.
Linda called back, “No, I can’t. I have a meeting with the city director, I have to go.”
“Fuck!” Chris slammed the bathroom door.
When Chris came out of the shower, he discovered Linda had left.