Jason stayed in bed while everyone else was heading outside. He could hear the people in the next room grabbing their things and rushing to the front of the building. He just stayed in his bed, hoping he would be forgotten. He didn’t want to go with the rest of them. The door to his room opened, and the bright, humming light flooded the darkness. He shielded his eyes, pretending to be asleep.
"Jason, honey?” A woman called. “We have to go now.”
“I told you,” Jason retorted. “I don’t want to go! That place isn’t for me! I don’t want to be a part of their ‘New Order’.”
“I know, honey.” She said “But if you stay here, they’ll lock you away. What good will that be?”
“I’ll run. They’ll never catch me!” He said.
“So for the rest of your life you’ll be on the run?” The woman asked. “That’s no way to live.”
“Come with me!” Jason commanded. “We’ll run together! It’ll be great!”
“I can’t.” She said. “Besides, I’ve already turned in all of my Money Cards. All I have left is my Identification Bracelet to show them at the gate, then they’ll take that, too.”
“I have some Credit Coupons I took from the marketplace.” Jason continued. “We can use them.”
“They’re no good anymore, Jason! Nothing is the same since the landings!” The woman argued. “You have to come with me! I’m begging you!”
There was silence for a few minutes. Jason got up and hugged the woman, kissing her on the cheek.
“Please,” She begged. “Don’t make me go there without you! I love you, and I need you!”
Jason hesitated a moment.
“Okay.” He said. “For you.” He packed his essentials, held the woman’s hand, and the two of them walked through the door. Jason was still struggling with the idea of giving in.
They joined the large group of people that was gathered in front of the facility. Things had changed so much since the landings. Everyone was forced to swallow the yellow “tabs” with each meal while the “New Order Soldiers” watched. Jason refused to swallow them, spitting them out after the soldiers had gone on. As far as he could tell, he was the only one that did so in his group. He was also the only one in his group that was rebelling against the “New Order”.
The soldiers walked in front of the crowd like sheepdogs. One soldier was issuing blue tabs to the people as they approached the fenced area. Jason took his and cheeked it until the guard turned around, then he spit it on the ground. Mechanized voices came from the overhead loudspeakers, warning all to stay behind the yellow line. Jason worked his way through the crowd to the boundary. On the other side of it, he could see a network of laser beams that acted as an invisible grid. He picked up a small twig and threw it into the grid. Immediately, it exploded and the pieces of burning matter fell to the ground. The soldiers turned and looked, as did the remote cameras that were mounted everywhere. Eventually, they returned their focus to the control of the crowd.
“Wow.” Jason thought to himself. He looked up ahead and watched the forward members of the group board the huge hover shuttles. As they walked through the gate, their ID bracelets were removed, and they were given an injection behind the ear. Once each shuttle was fully loaded, it rose up and climbed to a waiting mother ship, there were no sounds except the hum from the bright white light that shone from it’s undercarriage. Jason looked at the hundreds of mother ships that littered the sky.
“Where are they taking us?” He thought. He watched the directional monitors from the line. They were all the same. It was like standing in line at an amusement park and the monitors were giving instructions for the ride they were going on.
“Upon arrival at Elysium, you will be greeted by a Hospitality Ambassador.” The narrator announced as the monitor depicted a well-dressed man and woman cheerfully welcoming guests in a very human-friendly environment. “You will have the opportunity to dine among friends before retiring to your own private quarters.”
“What a crock!” Jason thought. He watched as the full shuttle lifted off. He had noticed that for a period of about five seconds during each shuttle lift-off, the laser grids were shut down. Jason watched as the next shuttle loaded up. Again, just as the craft was lifting off, the grids went down.
“…Five-thousand, six-thousand, seven-thousand.” Jason counted until the grids came back up. He tested it three more times until he was getting close to the staging area. He waited impatiently as the next group began to board. Jason grabbed the woman he came with and turned her around.
“Mom!” He said. “We have one chance to go! Come with me now!”
“No, honey.” She replied. She seemed as if she was in a trance. “I’m going to Elysium! I will have a new life there!” She was smiling.
Jason slapped her across the face. She kept smiling. He slapped her again. “Mom! Snap out of it!” She just kept on smiling and turned back to face the front of the line. “I love you, Mom.” Jason told her. “I always will.”
“Thank you, honey.” She said, smiling.
Jason knew it was useless. He edged his way to the brink of the yellow line and waited. The doors closed on the shuttle and he readied himself. The grids fell. He launched himself onto the staging area and sprinted towards the adjacent woods. Without a moment’s hesitation, the cameras turned on him and the shrieking tone of a buzzer sounded. The people in the crowd all stood there smiling at Jason as the guards turned and fired on him. Jason zigzagged to avoid the weapons fire, and was only a stride away from the safety of the woods before he was hit in the right calf by the hot laser blast.
He tumbled into the brush and tried to get up but fell again. He looked at his leg. It was blown off eight inches above his ankle. He lay back in the dirt and leaves, angry and frustrated. The pain of the injury had not yet hit him. He opened his eyes to see several weapons pointed at his head.
“Take him to Corrections!” The lead soldier ordered the others in a strong mechanized voice. “He must be the one that’s been spitting out the tabs. Have him fitted with a humosthetic and a collar. He’ll do his slavery without the tabs!”
“Aye, sir!” The soldiers saluted the officer and dragged Jason away. As he was dragged from the woods past the staging area, he could see the group of people laughing at him, as they had watched the whole episode on the monitor. They were ridiculing him, shouting things like “You should’ve taken your tabs!” He could see mother, she was laughing as well.
“Where are you taking me?” He asked. The guards were silent. He was taken to a jail-like facility with strange writing on the doors and signs. He was placed in a small cell with a steel bed and no commode. He pulled himself across the floor and up onto the bed. The burnt smell of flesh that came from his leg was enough to make him gag. He lay back on the cold steel, and fell into a deep, shock-induced sleep.
* * *
Back at the staging area, Jason’s mother was standing at the gate waiting for her turn to board. The soldier at the ramp grabbed her arm and removed her identification bracelet while another placed a silver gun behind her ear and pulled the trigger.
“Oh! Heh, heh..” She said. “I must’ve bumped my head!” She felt the small lump behind her ear created by the newly placed transponder module. She climbed aboard the shuttle and was guided to a seat. She looked down the rows upon rows of seats that seemed to disappear into a haze. There were hundreds of passengers already in their seats waiting for the transition to be complete. She sat down and buckled up. After a short while, the shuttle began to hum, and the people on board were letting out cheers of excitement as they felt the craft rise.
Jason’s mother looked out of the large window at the ground below. All over she could see the mass destruction of the cities and homes, the torn concrete and steel was still smoking from the blasts. There was wreckage of fighter jets and artillery everywhere, the remnants of a battle fought in futility. But springing up everywhere, were several new “facilities” built amidst the rubble.
“Oh!” she said to the man next to her. “Isn’t it lovely?”
“It’s beautiful!” He replied. “Simply breathtaking!” They smiled together at the view as they climbed higher into the sky..
* * *
Jason was awakened suddenly by two soldiers that had him strapped to a gurney. They were wheeling him into a stainless steel room, where his right leg was propped up under some bright lights. The guards reached for some surgical instruments and began to tend to Jason’s injury. Jason screamed with pain as the guards cut and scraped at his charred stump.
“Haven’t you guys ever heard of ‘anesthetic’?” He shouted. One of the guards put his powerful hand over Jason’s mouth and pushed his head onto the table. The pain Jason was experiencing was agonizing. His heart kept pumping harder and faster until he passed out.
Hours later, he awoke back in his cell. His leg throbbed with pain. He sat up on the bed and looked down at his leg. There, on the floor at the bottom of his injured leg was a new foot. He reached down and felt it. The skin around the toes was smooth and warm. He could wiggle the toes, though it caused great pain.
“The pain will subside in a few days.” A voice boomed from the ceiling. Jason could see no speaker, but saw a tiny camera behind some glass. He leapt from the steel bed to the camera, and immediately began choking from the constrictive steel collar he was wearing.
“Another outburst like that, and you may be killed.” The voice said.
“What are you doing?” he screamed. “Why are you doing this to us?”
There was no answer.
“ANSWER ME!” Jason screamed at the top of his lungs. For several moments there was silence, then his cell door burst open. Two guards drug him by the arms to a large area that resembled a blacksmith’s operation. He was dragged through the steel door and thrown on the ground. He pulled himself up to a barred window and looked down into a large pit. There below he could see hundreds of people working under horrible conditions, building machinery and equipment.
“Do you know what you are looking at?” said a loud mechanical voice. Jason turned to see a large soldier standing before him. He was holding a weapon that was like the one that shot his leg off. He did not answer him.
“Those ‘people’ as you call them are our slaves.” The soldier continued. “They are content with themselves and their work. Unlike you, they give us no trouble.”
“Unlike me,” Jason retorted, “They took the mind altering tabs. I won’t be brainwashed!”
“Then you shall continue to wear the collar.” The soldier replied.
Jason grabbed the collar and pulled. “Screw this and screw you!”
The soldier touched his belt and the collar closed tightly around Jason’s throat, sending him to the floor, struggling to breathe. The collar soon relaxed.
“In time you will learn to cooperate.” The soldier said. “If you behave, we might allow you to take the tabs. Until then, you will feel the suffering and anguish that your friends do not.”
“Where are the rest of the people?” Jason asked. “Where is my mother?”
“The rest of your people have gone on to join the Intergalactic Slave Trade.” The soldier replied. “Your mother is among them. You would be too, had you not try to escape. But you would have died during the trip because you refused to take the tabs.”
“Slaves?” Jason questioned the soldier. “We’re your fricken’ slaves? What happened to Elysium? What happened to our own private quarters, and happy times that we were promised?”
“Those things will be there.” The soldier said. “But only in the minds of those who have taken the tabs.”
© Del Banks 2002