Copyright © 2017 by John Wiber
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Speckled throughout the sectors there are specific areas where all telecommunications are blocked. These areas are known as dead zones. The interference is a result of mass storage influxes. Over saturation and grid overload; essentially, the State was collecting data faster than it could record it. And whenever the hard drive threshold was reached, pockets of interference sprang up throughout the system. These pockets were often small, sometimes only covering an area of a few cubic feet, and so these dead zones were not considered threats to the State. However, there were ways of detecting and measuring these zones, if one knew how to look. And some were large enough to hide in, at least for a time. No dead zone was ever permanent.
Hector and his small brigade had been camped out for six days now. The dead zones could be discovered with a simple radio wave transmitter. Hector and his crew had found what they were looking for in the back of an old warehouse in Sector B. Thanks to the economic collapse, and subsequent mass exodus, there was an abundance of abandoned buildings throughout the city, like so many dead trees standing idly in a field of mud, most of them with worn WIC banners across their entrances.
Hector grew more paranoid with each passing hour. Waiting for the banging on the door, for the screaming and gun fire and death. But as of yet, the black mask had yet to fall.
Fear is a black mask.
His father used to tell him that, back before the Fall.
The dark and damp room is for the most part empty, save for the junk furniture and other garbage that had been left behind. Luckily, they had found a couple cots tucked away at the back. There is a single lightbulb illuminating the room, the pull chord dangling and swaying in the dim light.
Hector wondered what people before the Fall would make of their situation, back when people talked openly on their phones and were free to move untracked throughout their daily lives. They wouldn’t even be able to comprehend…
It had all happened so fast. In one foul swoop; the economy collapsed, the borders were closed, and governments throughout the world brought in measures to protect their populations from unknown enemies.
And yet, it wasn’t sudden at all. It took years of subtle infringements, the smallest of legislative changes, just significant enough to make the news, but too insignificant to stay in the news. And even though anyone with a functioning brain could see what was happening, could see the path that was being taken, still, they did nothing.
I did nothing!
It was all so obvious now, in hindsight, but of course, wasn’t that always the case?
Hector wished he could go back. Back when the borders were still open and the detainment camps in the Mid-West were still simply fields of corn, canola, and wheat. Now the crops in those fields were made of flesh and bone and blood, and rather than grow throughout the year, these crops withered and died.
If only people could see how things used to be.
There were five of them in total.
There was Marco and Ajax, both original members of the People’s Army, and the last two remaining people Hector felt he could trust. There is one other person. He hoped they could act swiftly enough to save her, although deep down he had his doubts. It was rare that anyone ever saw the light of day again after being taken down to the bunkers in Sector A. He just hoped they hadn’t broken her yet. Being broken wasn’t a question; eventually, everyone breaks. The only question is how long will it take?
Just give us just a little more time, my love.
Marco and Ajax were both much younger than Hector, and looked up to him. Both had been born after the Fall, and knew nothing of life except for the current state of ultra-surveillance and tyranny. He had handpicked them for this special operation, which had been kept quiet even within the highest-ranking officials within the People’s Army. They had been infiltrated by the State, he was sure of it. This new group had no name, and so, they referred to themselves as the Nameless.
The final two companions were new to Hector, and had only joined them a few days ago. Thomas and Natasha had come from Sector A, and were the keys to this entire operation. Thomas had reached out to the People’s Army through an encrypted electronic message transfer, and in a stroke of pure luck, it had been Hector himself who came first upon the encrypted message.
For three nights and three days, Hector, Marco, and Rufalo had sat in the Dead Zone waiting. By the third day, they had lost hope. It was only a fifty-fifty chance that anyone ever made it out of Sector A undetected, and further still, only about a third of the people seeking excavation ever made it through the procedure alive, or without being detected. The sub dermal implants were attached directly to the nerve system in the spinal chord, and the slightest misstep during an excavation resulted in catastrophic complications, often leading to death.
Thomas was apparently a Computer Programmer from Sector A, which meant he had Top Secret Security Clearances as well as an understanding of how the State’s surveillance apparatus operated. Everything was connected, or so Thomas had told them, and so in order to bring the whole system down, they only needed to infect one particular area with the virus, and it would spread throughout the entire system. It was likely they were going to bring down the telecommunication systems of the entire world, but at this point, it was a sacrifice they were more than willing to make. Maybe it was time for humans to return to a more natural state. Although he worried this notion wasn’t simply a trick of the mind; a rationalization.
At least my rationalization comes from a wholesome place. Not like the states rationalizations; that humans on a mass scale were untrustworthy and stupid, and were far easier to contain and control when they were organized and separated like cattle. It was all for their own good.
That was how the State liked to rationalize things.
Thomas’s companion, Natasha, is wrapped in blankets upon one of the cots. Her skin is pale and she coughs periodically, a low and rattling cough from deep within her lungs. She sounds like a loose muffler.
Like so many before her, the excavation had been botched. The back of her neck was all red and swollen, so that it appeared a walnut had been tucked up beneath her skin. Yellow puss oozed from the split in her skin, and the flesh around the opening had turned a greyish black. She was dying. The stench of mortality hung in the air like a dense fog, enveloping them. Soon, we may all be dead.
On the other cot lies a man in uniform. The patch on his right shoulder reads: SSF. His breaths are shallow and short, a wheezing sound coming from his throat that indicates his trachea had been caved in. That would make sense, Hector thinks to himself, I did smash him pretty hard in the throat.
It had been a miracle the three of them hadn’t been caught.
Hector knew they were ill prepared for the mission. He would have needed weeks for additional preparation and planning, months maybe. But after what Thomas had revealed, he knew there was little time left.
We have to act now.
What Thomas had told him amounted to what his greatest fears had always been. The X——-, the People’s Army, the SSF, it was all a distraction. And while the masses remained focused on these seemingly prevalent issues, they failed to recognize the importance of what was happening right in front of their faces. The mass construction sites out in Sector C. The abandoned buildings in Sector B. These places were rigged with cyanide gas, tons of it. And soon, that gas was going to be released.
Even though Hector had always assumed as much, and even though most people, at least deep down, realize what’s coming, the thought still shocked and horrified him. They want to kill millions of people. Hundreds of millions. Our minds can see it, even if our consciousnesses refuses to acknowledge it. A survival mechanism, really. A way for the human mind to save itself from caving in with paranoia and despair.
So now, they had to act.
Marco was their Excavator. And Hector was to be the recipient of the SSF microchip.
“Let’s get this over with,” Hector says to the quiet room. Natasha coughs from beneath the blankets and Thomas looks on with a twisted face.
Marco is busy preparing his utensils: a series of sharp and silver instruments, including the grotesque presence of an industrial wrench.
“We should take his clothes off before the procedure,” he says. “We can’t have you showing up to the gates with blood all over your uniform.” Marco laughs maniacally then, a shrill and hollow sounding cackle, and somehow his disturbed laughter is oddly comforting, as if the presence of insanity reassured them they were in fact on the right track.
“Can’t we wait just a little longer,” Thomas says from the corner, his eyes grimly focused upon the gentle rise and fall of Natasha’s chest beneath the blankets. “I don’t think she’s got much time left.”
Hector watches a pale arm reach out from beneath the blankets, and Thomas takes her skeleton fingers in his and caresses them with his other hand. “It’s okay,” he croons, his eyes wet and glistening in the shifting light.
Who were they to argue with the man? It was him who had the key to their mission. It was Thomas who had instructed them from inside Sector A using encrypted emails. Hector reaches into his pocket and gently fingers the flash drive within. All he had to do was insert the drive into any outlet with direct connection to the security mainframe. This was of course easier said than done, as he had to somehow make it past the gates of Sector A.
Hector looks on at Natasha, and a pang of fear runs through his body. “You ever botched an excavation before, Marco?”
“No sir,” he replies nonchalantly. “Although all of them have been quite messy.”
“Ohhhhhh,” Natasha groans.
“It’s okay, Natasha.”
Hector, Marco and Ajax share a knowing nod.
“I’m scared, Thomas.”
“It’s okay, I’m here.”
“I guess you were right,” she smiles weakly. “We never should have trusted that old man.”
“It’s like you said, we didn’t have a choice.”
It is clear that Thomas is choking back tears, and just before Hector can suggest the rest of them step out for a moment, a brief stab of static pierces the room. Hector, Marco and Ajax all snap their heads towards the transmitter.
“They’re restoring service to this area,” Ajax says as he rushes over to the transmitter, frantically twisting knobs before hoisting the device up into the air over his head. He begins walking in circles, and the quick bleeps of static begin to increase in frequency.
“We need to do this now,” says Marco.
“It’s okay,” Thomas says, the tears now streaming down his cheeks. “She’s almost gone.”
“Ohhhhh,” Natasha moans.
“Let’s get his clothes off,” Marco says to Ajax, and they begin undressing the unconscious SSF officer.
“I’m sorry, Natasha. I’m so sorry, I failed you…”
“It’s okay,” she whispers in her final breath. “It was worth it. Just to live a few days without being tracked… to be free, if only for a little while…”
And then she died.
Thomas lifts the blanket up, nestling it underneath her head. He sits with his own head bowed for a moment, sighs, and then looks up at Hector.
“I’m coming with you,” he says. “You’re going to need my help.”
Travel to the year 2039 in this dystopian North America where the governments of Canada, America and Mexico have consolidated, and society is segregated into Sectors. A haunting glimpse of what could become of our increasingly militarized society, as the public's privacy is slowly reduced to absolutely zero in the wake of state-sponsored terrorism. Reunite with Thomas and Natasha as they prepare for the final offensive against Sector A. The risks are high, but not nearly as high as what's at stake; the lives of hundreds of millions of people...