Alex sat at the café sipping his coffee. The day had been long and hard. He recently finished his last shift for the week, a particularly gruelling one it had been. With the ‘events’ taking place, factories were expanding the work line.
Alex worked for Revive et Refresh. Like many companies of the republic they ensured that security and safety was a universal right to the people. Alex’s task was simple but time consuming. He was a map print man. There were currently 60 workers in his office. Thankfully, due to the ‘Events’, his department expanded to 80 people. It was nice to finally have support brought in. Even before the influx from the ‘Events’ population was getting to an unmanageable point. Now they were able to stay on top of everything. Unfortunately once the ‘Events’ finished they would only be keeping 10 new workers. Alex thought any extra help was better than nothing.
The server-tec alerted Alex that he was running close to the end of his patronage, in order to continue sitting he would have to purchase another beverage or deposit ten cents. He rifled through his pockets for change. Normally he would depart once his time expired, but today he wanted to enjoy his small reprise. He pulled out a five note and fed it into the booth. The unit thanked him for his service and began dispensing his beer.
Alex lived for these small, simple moments. He was a hard working republican, as most were, and couldn’t wait for these brief moments of relaxation. Too many people busied themselves with the hustle and bustle of Republican affairs. With the events so close it seemed more and more people were forgetting to stop and take their time to enjoy breathing. Alex himself often found he kept too busy of a schedule. As much as he enjoyed working for the republic, he always tried to find time to sit back and not get caught up in such a busy life.
The server-tec informed him he had five minutes left at the booth. It was a shame you could only sit for ten minute allotments. He wanted to sit and enjoy the evening. If he chose he could rent the booth by inserting ten cents for five minutes or buy another drink. However if he stayed too long it would prompt him to buy a meal or put a deposit on the table. They did not like people loitering simply to have a drink.
There were other cafes that Alex could have chosen, but they lacked a magnificent view. This one overlooked Alex’s entire home town. At this time of day, with the sun setting, pinkish and purple hues cast along the clouds. There was still enough light to illuminate the houses that populated the southern border and the tree line that led into the next county.
Towards the center of town the Repub-buildings, where Alex and many Repub-workers served, were visible. This time of night there was glimpses of movement about the street, no doubt sweepers cleaning up trash from visitors and work crews that populated the streets throughout the day. Thanks to the ‘Events’ the sweepers had received an increase in work force. The town was to look immaculate for visitors and ‘Event’ organizers.
The unit printed his receipt to prompt him that his time at the booth had expired. Alex put his cigarette butt out into the unit’s ashtray. The server-tec vacuumed the ashes and took Alex’s pint mug from him.
Alex began to walk away from the café when he felt a small tug at the bottom of his coat. Looking down he saw a little girl of seven or eight giving him an apprehensive look. Alex smiled curiously at the little girl.
“Can I help you?”
“Well…umm…” Then a tear slid from her eye making its way to her chin and falling to the ground. Her eyes welled up and then she began to bawl into Alex’s coat. Alex looked back to the café which was deserted. Another reason Alex preferred this café was because it was often peaceful and not very busy.
“Sweety, what’s the matter? Are you lost? Where are your guardians?”
The little girl eased of on her crying. Alex was relieved. Should one appear, he didn’t know how he would explain this hysterical child to a passerby.
The child wiped her eyes and nose on Alex’s coat. Alex scowled. He would have to wash it once he returned home. She looked up at Alex.
“I l-l-lost m-my bike. I think someone s-s-stole it. I don’t know where my parents are because my bike took me to the football game. And-a-and when I got back it was m-m-miiising!” When she finished explaining her predicament to Alex a fresh wave of tears took over.
“There, there.” Alex didn’t know what to do other than comfort her. He could help her find her bike, which if found, he was certain would be able to take her home. Most bikes had a decent memory bank. First he needed her to calm down so he could talk to her. “Okay, what’s your name sweet heart? The one you share with your guardians?”
The little girl wiped her nose on Alex’s coat again. Once her sniffles subsided she replied.
“It’s Winston. Can you help me find my bike? I’ve only had it for a year and daddy said I can’t get a new one for a long time.”
‘Daddy said’, good, she had parents at least. That ruled out a lot of difficulties. He wasn’t surprised by her statement. It was true, bikes were hard to get once you have been assigned one. If you lose your bike or it breaks beyond repair the application process was long and tedious. To rush the system was costly, often five times the price of a new one. Alex had long ago given up on bikes, the Repub-metro was sufficient enough for his means. Once he was permitted retirement from the Republic he felt he would take up biking again.
“Okay then Miss. Winston.” Alex was doing his best to keep her cheered up. “Let’s see if we can find your bike.”
Luckily, Alex knew shortcuts within the Republic database to find such objects. Naturally when someone has registered a new bike the republic maintains surveillance of it for the bikes lifetime. The system was put into place to cut back on the amount of thefts within towns.
Alex worked in the same department as the people who maintained the trackers on the bikes. Quite often they would need to use map prints to help them track trails that only a bike could travel. For some reason they saw no need to upgrade their own maps. Alex supposed it supported inner office cooperation.
Alex walked them back to the café. Alex bought Miss. Winston a cherry coke which seemed to cheer her up a great deal. He had to log in and check for bikes registered to Winston. Then he would guess his little friends first name.
Nine-teen results for the last name Winston. Alex looked for bikes that had been registered in the past eight months. Four results. Looking through the list he saw one for a Tatalia Winston, age twenty seven, Henry Winston, age thirty-four, and Emily Winston, age seven.
“Emily?” The little girl looked up at Alex suspiciously.
“Mister how do you know my first name?” She held tight to her coke glass, inching towards the edge of the booth.
“Well miss Winston, your bike is registered to you. Your parents would have registered this one for you. It’s a way to stop bikes and possessions from being taken from you. Perhaps your parents haven’t explained this to you. Here look.” Alex moved his computer screen to show Emily the list of names. “That’s you and those are the other ladies and men who have bikes registered. And if we do this,” Alex selected Emily’s name and it brought up a map “you see we’re here,” Alex pointed them out at the café “and your bike is close by, just down there.”
It was true, the icon for her bike was flashing close by. Ten minute walk in a little settlement.
“Would you like me to help you find your bike Emily?”
Emily Winston bit her lower lip. She was still uncertain of Alex, which was understandable, but she seemed to know he was trusting. She told Alex that she would appreciate his help. The server-tec alerted them their time was close to expiring. Emily finished her coke and they walked back to the path to search for her bike.
Alex was curious who would steal a bike. It was a rare incident to see. Most people knew bikes were registered and could be tracked, that knowledge was the main prevention from stealing. Tracking the bike down was a rarely practiced extreme. Given her age, Alex assumed it was a friend of Emily’s playing a mean spirited joke. He couldn’t see another reason to steal a child’s bike.
Looking at the map, similar to the ones he designed, he saw they were approaching the house where the bike seemed to be stored. It was on the edge of town amidst ferns and overgrowth. The lawn of the house was nicely kept, same for the house, however the border of the property was a wall of greenery. Some places had slim trees which managed to compete for the few rays of light among the thick plant growth.
Emily shied closer to Alex, perhaps noticing that they were at the house where her bike was supposedly being held at. She turned her head away from the trees and ferns looking only at the house.
“Okay, Emily, I’m going to knock on the door, but I think it would be best for you to stick back here.” He was saying this mainly because he wasn’t sure what type of person would steal a child’s bike. Tec or not, she was still a child.
Alex walked up to the door and knocked. He heard movement from inside the house. The door was then opened by a clean shaven man wearing a dark red sweater. He sized Alex up with his eyes then asked what his business was calling at this hour.
“Well sir, I was enjoying my evening when this little girl,” Alex pointed to the opposite side of the street where Emily sat, “came up to me crying that her bike had gone missing. Naturally I searched it on my computer, perhaps I shouldn’t say naturally. You see I’m a Repub-worker for me it’s natural to search a standard safety tracker. Anyways I searched for Miss. Winstons bike, that’s her name you see, which I found after calming her down, it lead me to your quaint home.”
Alex looked the man directly in his eyes. He had tried to maintain a respective tone, after all he couldn’t entirely blame this man of stealing the bike. He only had limited proof. However were he a correctional Repub-worker, which this man wasn’t aware of, he would have full authority to search the premises.
The man glared at Alex, he then through a disgusted look towards Emily.
“Yeah, I took the little Tecky’s bike. So what?” The man kept his tone low while taunting Alex “You don’t actually think she deserves it do you? I mean look at it? When did you get your first bike? Did you know we can’t even have kids. They won’t let us.”
Alex knew what he was facing. This man hated the Winston’s. He thought they should be put to death. There was something wrong with people like this man. At some point they had been harmed by someone like Emily or her parents and now felt a need to take it out on all of them. In Emily’s case she was lucky. Her parents would bare obvious design features from the past two generations. She was almost a perfect human copy. Once personality issues were worked out, like human children, she would be fine. The problem was growing up with people like this around you. That limited the possibility of growth. Men like this made Alex cold inside.
“Mister Roth,” Very old fashion name. It made sense that he was upset on the idea of not having kids. No doubt his genes carried a disease, not his fault but burden. Perhaps this is why he held a grudge against Tec-beings. “I cannot begin to judge your reaction to Emily, or people like her,” When Alex said ‘people’ Mr. Roth snorted in disgust, Alex continued on “But I’ll have you know it is an offense to steal. Now where might this little girl’s bike be? If you tell me I won’t feel inclined to report this. There’s no sense in creating more bad blood between you and Tec’s.”
Mr. Roth looked like he wanted to hit Alex. Alex was ready for it. He had very little patience for men such as Mr. Roth. The man decided against conflict as he his shoulders fell in defeat and he told Alex to wait a moment.
He walked the bike from a side room off of the main hallway.
“Thank you, I have to ask sir, Why take the bike?” Alex was expecting a Hateful answer and received something close to it.
“Well, sir, maybe you have a soft spot for these creations but I don’t. How many jobs do you think have been lost for hard working people? And now they’re prospering and buying bikes for their ‘kids’ their children,” he said children mockingly. He handed the bike to Alex and slammed the door in his face. Apparently he was done talking to Alex. He had been caught, he gave up.
Alex walked back to Emily with her bike. Sure enough it remembered the program to get back to her house. She thanked Alex for all his help and for the cherry coke. She was unaware to what had transpired between him and Mr. Roth, Alex decided to keep it this way.
As she rode away happy and innocent Alex thought back to himself. The sad part was old views like Mr. Roth would go away and disappear because they died out. Tec’s like Emily were essentially unable to hate in this way. Pride was possible but not envy. Fear was possible, as Alex had seen when he used her first name or when they had walked but the overgrowth around Mr. Roth’s house. Tec’s feared nature until they were able to understand it. To Emily those ferns had been terrifying.
For reasons like this Alex had felt compelled to help her. She was essentially a child, lost worried and unsure of anything. To her everything is foreign. That was why Alex felt the need to buy her a coke and treat her nice. People need more good experiences than bad.
She only knew to be cautious but not hate. It was a foreign concept. Alex had worked with many Tec’s, most were less human in view than Emily, and quite a few of them proved better colleagues than a human replacement. Even out of the new workers who were hired on in Alex’s department, three had been Tec’s. Hell, Alex had heard that in some towns Tec’s and humans were having children. It happened, after a while it really didn’t matter. The roller coaster had already lifted the brakes and they were on a non-stop track.
Alex lit a cigarette and walked back to his home. He wasn’t sure what he would do for the rest of the night. He supposed supper would taste good after this extra work had interrupted his wind down time. He had a private garden at his home. Most Republicans were encouraged to do this. Alex’s garden held tomatoes, onions, beans and lettuce. He had some chicken cutlets in the freezer he was sure would make an excellent meal. Perhaps he would even break out a tasty wine and invite a friend over and tell them of his day. What an interesting one it had been.