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As promised, here are the first three chapters from “Flight Grounded” and, scroll down for special excerpts about a character named Trix from “Anarchy in New England.”
Cliff gave it 4/5 stars on Amazon: This book gets off to an exciting start as Jake survives an airplane exposion and then is blamed as the perpetrator. As he is being hunted down, the book takes an interesting twist, entering into a Twilight Zone reality that turns perception on its head.
I am a big fan of the author’s first book Anarchy in New England. That book set a high bar in my mind. While I don’t feel that Flight Grounded is quite the same caliber, I feel that it is a good read. I really appreciate the author’s pacing (it is hard to put the book down), his rich imagination, and his commitment to human freedom and the message of liberty. These shine through in both books.
1 Awake on a Plane
I jolted upright in my seat. I remembered getting on the airplane, and fastening my seatbelt as the flight attendant went over the safety protocol, but I couldn’t pinpoint when I started to doze off. We were still on the runway, and everyone else around me had also fallen asleep, and remained unconscious. I looked to the next row, and the next row after that, and everyone was limp, fast asleep, with their heads sagging, and mouths agape. I was baffled; how could everyone have fallen asleep so quickly? We hadn’t even taken off yet.
The flight attendants were working their way forward from the back of the plane, with their rolling cart. It seemed like they should have been taking drink orders and handing out peanuts, but instead they were removing strange metallic helmets from their cart, and placing them on the passengers’ heads. IVs were dangling down in each row, where the oxygen masks should have been, and the flight attendants were inserting these into the arm of each passenger after they secured the helmet.
Fear gripped me. My heart raced, and the blood rose in my body until the sound of thumping and gushing water reached my ears. I was beginning to hyperventilate, and sweating profusely.
My throat was tight, my body tense.
“I need to get out of here!” I thought.
I ripped my seatbelt off, and stood up, but felt a tearing in my right leg, followed by sharp pain. Looking down at the seat, I realized there had been a needle in the back of my thigh, which had protruded from the seat cushion, and had injected me with something.
That is when the flight attendant in front of the cart noticed me. She seemed startled, turning around suddenly with a jump.
“Oh! Sir, please take your seat, we are getting ready to take off!” She said as she fumbled in the repurposed beverage cart for something.
The other flight attendant, behind the cart, gasped and covered her mouth, attempting to hide her surprise at seeing me awake.
The closer flight attendant started walking towards me cautiously with a needle in her hand.
“Stop!” I gasped, putting up my hands in defense as she approached, “What’s going on?”
“You’re just a little disoriented,” she said, inching closer, “You took some sleeping pills for the flight; they can confuse you sometimes. But just sit down, I have something here to help you relax.”
I never remember feeling so terrified. Everybody else on the plane sat like rag dolls, eyes closed, with no hint of awareness of their surroundings.
I thrusted forward and pushed the advancing flight attendant with all my might, carefully avoiding her needle. She fell hard to the ground, yelping in pain, and called out to the other flight attendant. I turned to flee down the aisle in the opposite direction. The flight attendant behind the cart ran back to the rear of the plane and picked up the phone. Momentarily, the pilot and copilot burst out of the cockpit, and began a stiff power walk towards me.
I had nowhere to go but the emergency exit on the side of the airplane. I ran two rows forward towards the pilot, veered down a row to the emergency exit and pulled the handle. The door sprang open, and the yellow slide quickly inflated with a hiss.
Without pause I jumped onto the shoot, and slipped down to the runway as cool air and adrenaline worked together like an unexpected slap in the face. The initial haziness which accompanied my sudden waking left me, and I could now be sure I was not in a bad dream. This was most certainly a bad reality.
I looked back to see the pilot standing at the door dialing his cell phone, as the co-pilot jumped down the slide after me. So I ran, away from where I thought anyone else would be. It was dusk, and all I could really see over my shoulder was the shadowy figure of the co-pilot gaining on me.
As I ran across the first runway, lights came on, and I heard a siren, or maybe multiple sirens. I could see some vehicles in the distance coming towards me. I ran diagonally, towards the closest fence. It was low enough for me to jump in one motion, but something grabbed me from behind, and tugged me back. It was the co-pilot, who was attempting to wrestle me to the ground. I gave him a sharp elbow jab to the jaw, and he went down. He was not knocked out, but stayed on his hands and knees, cradling his face. Using my muscles for anything besides working out was a change for me, and I was thankful to have had them when I needed them.
I sprang over the fence, rolling on the ground on the other side to avoid a hard landing after my foot caught the chain link. Then I continued sprinting, harder than I had since high school track, two decades earlier.
The next fence was higher, and the grass strip beyond it was dark and vacant. The metal chain link fence jingled as I jumped onto it, and started climbing. The barbed wire at the top gave me a bit of trouble, puncturing my arms in a few places, but since it was aimed at keeping people out of the airport, versus keeping them in, I managed to swing over, and climb back down the other side. I dropped about six feet to the ground, as airport security reached the lower fence, and rushed out of their cars in pursuit. But by then I just had one more small chain link fence to hurdle in the dark, and I was onto the unlit street. Just a few more strides hid me from the view of airport security behind a tall concrete wall.
Only a block away from the airport was a relatively busy commercial district, so when I reached the lights I could blend in with shoppers and diners. I stopped running and tried to act natural as the first cruisers screeched to a halt and police hurried out. They were all looking around intently, but I don’t think they knew what they were looking for exactly. I tried to calm my breathing, and act natural. There was sweat on my face that didn’t belong for a brisk evening.
Then, a shock wave rippled through the area, jolting the shoppers, diners, and pedestrians. There was an explosion from the direction in which I had come. I could see flames rise into the sky over the roof of a coffee shop, and burn out into smoke. I could feel heat from the blast as everyone around me flinched and some started screaming. My ears were ringing, and the whole scene seemed to slow down for a moment of tranquility, before snapping back to the same terrible reality I found myself in, with car alarms now joining the growing symphony of distress.
At least I had the safety of the frightened masses to shield me.
Looking nervous and confused was now expected. We were all running away from the blast, which had come from somewhere on the airport runway. Minutes passed, and some of the fleeing crowd began jogging, or walking, looking behind them with questioning expressions. People were exasperated, crying, asking others what happened, but no one knew.
I realized I was only a couple of miles from my brother’s house. With nowhere else to go, more scared and confused than ever in my life, I started in the direction of his neighborhood.
2 Stuck in the Mud
When I was eight years old, I decided to run away from home. I think it all started with the fact that my friends had TVs in their rooms, and one was allowed to watch pg-13 movies. The situation blew up from there when I was told to clean my room, which was already clean to my standards, including the fort made out of blankets tucked into the top bunk bed and draped over the desk chair, and the plush setup inside including pillows, more blankets, and various toys with a few stuffed animals posted for security.
We had plenty of woods in our backyard so I just started walking out that way, with a Batman backpack half full with candy and soda. I knew there was a river some ways back, and just figured I could make a new life for myself on the other side. At that time of year I figured the river would be low enough so I could probably just jump across, and maybe by the time my parents thought to look for me on the other side, the river would be raging again and they would be out of luck. I guess at age eight I just assumed my family would have given up that easily.
I got to the river and stepped onto the dry part of the river bed only to find out it was not so dry. I sunk down about a foot and a half in the mud, which to a four foot tall individual was
a significant portion of my overall size. The worst part was that unexpectedly dropping so deep into the mud put me off balance. I fell forward, and both arms pushed almost as deep into the wet earth as my feet had.
At that point I started to panic and cry a bit, since I could not easily remove my arms from the mud. The thrashing only made me sink further in, until my face was touching the mud and I had to look to the side to avoid getting the sludge in my mouth. That’s when I felt something pull on my backpack, and lift me out of the muck enough to regain my footing.
It was my older brother by four years, Todd. He picked me up and started carrying me back towards the house, tears still wet on my face.
I weakly protested, “No! Mom and Dad just sent you to spy on me! I’m not going back!”
“They didn’t send me, Jake,” my brother said, like he was annoyed that I would even suggest that, “I just knew you would get yourself in some sort of trouble!”
Since I was ready to go back and give up on my new life, and also wash off the mud, I decided to let my brother carry me back home without more rebellion. The truth was I hadn’t planned much for running away, and basically just had some vague vision of living happily alongside wildlife and various woodland critters in the surely magical land across the river–I’ve always had a way of romanticizing things in my head.
But after the river crossing tragedy I had gotten my fill of adventure. I was relieved that my brother was carrying me back to the house because it allowed me to avoid the shame of crawling back myself. And it was comforting to know that I was never really alone out there, but had my brother watching, looking out for me.
As a kid, I could be my own worst enemy. I wonder how long I would have stayed out there covered in mud and crying if Todd had not taken matters into his own hands, and brought me back.
3 Breaking News
Walking towards my brother Todd’s house, I tried to act inconspicuous. Though I had been sweating, no stains were visible because I wore a light jacket. I was far enough away from the airport now that people would be hearing about the blast from their televisions and computers, rather than having witnessed it first-hand. I decided jogging or running would bring too much attention in the clothes I was wearing, so I put one hand in my pocket, and swung the other arm lightly, trying to act like I was just a normal guy out for a normal walk, though my face betrayed my anxiety.
I smiled at the few passers-by, walking their dogs and such. Did they look at me funny, or was that just my mind playing tricks on me? I glanced behind me and saw from the light of a streetlamp that a couple was looking back as well, but when we met eyes we just smiled and nodded. I picked up the pace.
Ahead of me, past the stop sign, I saw a police car drive slowly by, so I turned up a driveway until he was out of sight. When I reached the stop sign, I took a left.
I got to my brother’s house just as another, or maybe the same police car turned the corner coming in my direction. My heart began to pound again as I rang the doorbell. Seconds ticked by, as I felt the burn of cop eyes on my back. I could hear the tires crunching almost to a standstill as the sound of my own heart pumping blood beat in my ears. Panic flooded through me.
The door opened. “Hey Jake, I didn’t know you were coming over!”
I stepped inside, contorting my face into something that I thought might look like a smile, as Todd closed the door.
“Is everything alright?” He asked, his expression changing to concern.
I looked back out the window. The police car didn’t stop, it kept going, and sped up as it drove past the house.
I turned to my brother, and knew he could detect every ounce of fear bubbling from my pores. His brow was furrowed, he was waiting for an explanation. A grandfather clock pointedly ticked away the seconds in his foyer.
“You’ve got to help me! I don’t know what is going on,” I gushed. “I was on the plane to England, and then suddenly, I woke up on the plane, but everyone else was asleep, and being connected to some helmets and IVs by the flight attendants! I freaked out and ran, took the emergency exit, and they chased me. I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t know what to do!”
“Whoa whoa, slow down. Are you feeling okay? Do you need to go to a hospital? Do you have any numbness, do you know your name?”
“I didn’t have a stroke! I… I don’t know,” I slumped down onto the stairs, deflating. The TV in the next room was playing Jeopardy. I couldn’t put it all together. Everything seemed so blurry. “Maybe I should go to the hospital,” I said, cradling my head in my hands.
A news theme played suddenly from the television in the next room as the camera zoomed into a reporter at the news desk.
“We’re interrupting this program to bring you breaking news out of Burlington where the international airport has suffered what appears to be a terrorist attack, leaving over one hundred dead, and dozens injured. Here’s Audrey, live at the scene, with more.”
“That’s right Ben, a horrific scene here at the Burlington International Airport, where just a half hour ago, the plane that you see burning behind me, exploded. All passengers and crew on board are assumed dead, except for the man police say carried out the attack: Jake Evans.”
Hearing my name sent a shiver down my spine. My eyes shot towards the screen as my own picture appeared. I think it was the picture from my driver’s license.
“Jake!” Todd exclaimed, “What did you do?!”
“No!” I said springing to my feet, “This is a lie! That didn’t happen!”
Tears rolled from my eyes for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long. I clutched my head, trying to keep myself from a complete breakdown. My heart felt like it dropped out of me and fell somewhere out of my reach. My stomach clenched like a fist.
The newscast continued, like a steamroller over my life. “The suspect made his escape through the airplane’s emergency exit, and is now at large. He is believed to be on foot, and was last seen on surveillance in the shopping district just outside of the airport, heading south east. The suspect should not be approached, but if you see him, or learn of any information, immediately call the number below. We do not know at this time the nature of the attack, or the motivation of the bomber, but we will keep you updated as this tragic story unfolds.”
Todd stood shocked. “Jake, I don’t know what to say.”
“You know me!” I pleaded, “You know I would never do this! This is just a nightmare, I need to wake up. I need to wake up!” I was becoming hysterical.
“I know,” Todd said shaking his head and thinking, “And I believe you!” He paused, looking pale and ghostly. “But maybe the best thing to do is just turn yourself in, and let this all be sorted out. There must be some kind of mistake!”
“I can’t turn myself in! Something isn’t right here.”
“They might kill you otherwise, trying to apprehend you!”
I was pacing, shaking my head in refusal. “I would spend the rest of my life in prison, they want people to think I did this! I saw something I shouldn’t have. I don’t know what was going on on that plane, but I wasn’t supposed to know about it.”
“Who is they?” Todd still wasn’t sure what to think.
“I don’t know!” I yelled exasperated.
Todd paused, and thought hard for some time. “I know the best lawyers in the country Jake, we can get this sorted out.”
I sat back down on the stairs, shaking my head, crying but not making a sound.
“Something is really messed up about this.” I said, looking at him through tears. “Something isn’t right.”
The ticking clock counted the seconds as my brother breathed slowly and heavily. He started to say something, but shook his head and stopped. Tick, tick, tick went the clock. He paced choppily, looking like he was about to spring into action but was held back by an invisible force. Tick, tick, tick.
“Then we need to get you somewhere safe where you can explain yourself,” He said, grabbing his keys. “Let’s go now, while time is still on our side.”
Anarchy in New England
*Warning: The following excerpts include spoilers about a character named Trix. These do not spoil anything about the larger plot.*
Rodger rates it 5/5 stars on Amazon: I read this book when it first came out and I loved it. I have since read it a second time and loved it even more. If you want to see what a world with “anarchy” could actually look like, then grab this book. He even answers the “what about the roads” question. I was left wanting more content in this world.
The story is fascinating as well, with intrigue, suspense, and conspiracy, and it ties very well into the new world that Jarvis created. Do yourself a favor and pick this book up!
An Excerpt From Chapter 1
On his way out of the building Mr. Barry saw a familiar and unwelcome face at the bottom of the steps to the sidewalk. It was the drug addict Trix who would make rounds a couple times a week in this part of town, because he could always manage to squeeze a few bucks out of the folks who found it worth it to slip him a few dollars in exchange for leaving them alone.
“I just need $5 to get back uptown”, Trix said to Barry as he descended the stairs.
Like hell, Mr. Barry thought to himself as he prepared to ignore Trix and brush past him, possibly hurling a witty insult at him… if he could think of one in time. But just as he opened his mouth to snarl something nasty at Trix, a client yelled his name from a half block down the sidewalk.
“Mr. Barry! How are you? Leaving early to enjoy the fresh air?”
Uhg. It was one of those good customers who barely cost him a dime or a minute of time, just paid to have an arbiter on retainer for his businesses. He had to be nice to him, it would be too easy to patronize someone else, and Barry knew the only reason he stayed with BA was that he had been with them for two decades. They always saw each other at the charity events, so the client wrongly assumed Barry to be considerate of his fellow man.
“Oh, hello!” Mr. Barry greeted the client with the same fake smile he wore on the call with Molly. “And here you are young man. Get yourself something to eat,” Barry continued, handing Trix a dollar, hoping his client would mistake it for $5.
“Thanks,” Trix said without expression, looking disappointed with the amount in his hand, as he walked away down the sidewalk. But Barry had misjudged his client.
“You know, you shouldn’t give those types money, nope, they’ll just use it on drugs, you know? It’s better to walk with them to a shop and get them a sandwich or something. Actually…” the client dug in his pocket, “I know you’ll be interested in this, being the charitable guy you are. Here’s a card for my new project. I’m working with a couple of advertisers to promote a clinic that helps people kick their drug habits”. He handed Barry a card. “If you just call this number you can donate money in someone’s name that will go towards their treatment if they show up, then the ball’s in their court, you know? If they don’t go for treatment within a couple months, it helps someone else. But I’m sure you’ll see him again, that’s the one they call Trix isn’t he?”
“Uh, yes, I believe so…”
“Well then you can let him know next time, he’s somewhat of a regular around here, right? Doesn’t hurt anyone, but it’s still sad to see young people killing themselves like that. Anyway I’ve got to run, business to attend to, you know how it is. Enjoy this weather!”
“Ah yes, I will… and uh, thanks for the…” Barry looked at the card in his hand and turned it over and back “…card.” He nodded and flashed an extra closed mouth smile to make up for the hesitation.
Mr. Barry made sure his client had turned the corner before he threw the card in the trash. As if he would waste money on some dope fiend when he had his own problems to deal with. He again daydreamed of the governments he knew from books, that would simply lock up those type in jail for doing drugs. Everyone in society would chip in to pay for it, and it kept most of these areas sanitized! If the addicts weren’t in jail, they were in the ghetto where they belonged, not living side by side with honest hard working people! But with all this extra wealth floating around these scum had options in this society.
How ridiculous, thought Barry, that I have to demean myself laboring day in and day out for my money, while Trix just begs and collects free handouts on every corner. Pathetic.
Barry waved his minitab at the receiver on the magnet tunnel terminal to order a level 1 pod to pick him up. It was there in a matter of seconds, and when the door slid open, Barry could see that it was sparkling clean, unlike the level 2, or God forbid having to take a level 3 pod!
These reverse magnet tunnels were vacuum sealed and shot pods–compact cylindrical capsules where up to ten people or cargo was carried–through the mostly above ground tubes which ran along highway medians, roads, old railways and the like. Drop off points were mostly terminals owned by various pod companies, though hospitals, security companies, and big businesses, as well as some extremely wealthy people had the tube built right into their buildings or houses. A few people had their own pod, but mostly everyone just ordered them at the terminal, and the closest pod in the quality level selected would come, unless you saved preferences for pod companies. Riders could use or refuse specific pod companies, but this could make the wait up to ten minutes if the closest vacant pod was 400 or so kilometers away.
Trix kept walking. He planned on taking the conveyor 17 blocks up town, but he needed the dollar Barry gave him in order to get an entire gram. Trix was a young adult, a bit too skinny with slightly sunken cheeks and set-back eyes with shadows underneath, and a tendency to slouch. His skin was paler than natural, and blue veins showed through in a few noticeable spots on his face. His natural hair color was black, though he had bleached it a month back. The roots were showing dark now, and his hair which grew straight up was leaning over due to its length, starting to cover his ears. His clothes were casual, too baggy, but not ragged, left over from when he filled them out, before the drugs had changed his look.
Many roads in the most populated areas had been restricted to walking, biking, and conveyors by the owners of the roads. Moving conveyor belts were built into some streets, set up in parallel rows of 3-6, each about 3 feet wide and traveling at a slightly higher speed than the adjacent belt. Pedestrians would access them through a gate with subscription or single payment options. Then they would step onto the first conveyor which traveled at a speed of about 5 kilometers per hour, with each parallel conveyor increasing by about 5 kph. In a 4 conveyor system, the furthest conveyor would travel at about 20 kilometers per hour, and a pedestrian would cross the three slower moving belts in order to get to top speed.
Connecting belts traveled at the slowest speed when riders needed to take a turn or divert in order to get to their destination. Most systems were made up of several miles of conveyors in the most densely populated areas of cities, or sometimes only a one or two mile loop placed downtown. This particular area had a vast conveyor system which would reach most parts of the city. In New England no official cities existed in terms of government, but people still referred to where they lived by town, city, or region, which designated no more than a geographic area.
Trix had managed to scrape together $10 (in various currencies) that morning from begging, and found another $2 on the ground. He earned $3 picking up coffees for some businessmen who were working outside of their building. If he covered Jim’s store for half an hour while Jim took a break he would get another $4, and that would get him a gram. Jim owned a small drug distribution store in the worst section of town–which only consisted of 4 blocks.
The same vacuum tube system that shuttled people all over the world hosted smaller magnet tunnels to ship goods. Most shopping was done from home, and many items were shipped on the spot and arrived just seconds after ordering. Jim sold drugs from his distribution center, packaging them as the orders came in online, and shipping through the small mag pod port that hosted pods the size of basketballs. But next to that port was a tube that hosted larger pods: spheres with a diameter of about 1.5 meters.
There were multiple size shipping tubes, and not everyone had them built into their homes. It was relatively inexpensive to have a small tube installed, but many centers existed that hosted larger tubes, and charged a fee for anyone who wished to ship something there to be picked up. Of course there were also store fronts that specialized in letting people see, feel, and try out products before they were sold. But Jim got orders on his website from all over the world, though his business was still small. For that reason, he also served as a shipping center where people could pick up their larger goods. The bigger the tubes, the more expensive it was to have them built into your building.
“Did you eat anything today?” Jim asked Trix when he arrived at the store a half hour later.
“Yea they were giving away some new, like, burrito thing downtown”.
“What are you going to have for dinner?”
“Do we have to go through this everyday?”
“Do you have to get high everyday?”
“You’re the one selling it to me”.
Jim frowned. “Look, I only ask because I care. The church on Oak St. has a free dinner every Monday and Thursday, you should stop by.”
“I’ll be fine, I get enough to eat man”.
“Yea but you don’t get the nutrients you need! All I see you eating is crap”.
Trix was done with the small talk. “Do you need a break? Let me stock some pods for a half hour”.
Jim looked down sighing, “Alright” he said shaking his head a bit, “I’ll be back in 30″.
There was no real risk leaving Trix in charge of his store for a half hour. Jim had the security, and he knew Trix just wanted to get his fix. Stealing would mean time in confinement, without easy access to any drugs, and Trix was well aware.
When the half hour was over Trix took his gram and walked the block to his apartment.
It was an advertisers’ apartment commonly referred to as an adap. Free room, free water, free electricity, free heat: the only catch was that the walls were covered in advertisements for all sorts of products, most of which were sold in the store that filled the wide hallways at the entrance and exit of the building, or could be shipped directly to the apartment via small shipping mag pods.
Pretty much anyone could get a free adap, but Trix was at the bottom rung, ranked a low priority consumer because he hardly bought anything. Still, it was worth it for advertising companies to keep these apartments; the advertising was so targeted that somewhere around 97% of adaps proved profitable according to various studies. And anytime an adap tried to kick out someone who wasn’t buying anything, the public backlash was a greater threat to their profits than the few people gaming the system.
The apartments ranged in size and style. Even some very wealthy folks would get a penthouse adap at the top of the buildings where the advertisements were for luxury goods, services, and travel. But Trix’s adap was on the sleazier side due to its location. Adap dwellers had to spend a certain amount of time at home to keep it, but it amounted to little more than half the year, meaning those who travelled for work would use an adap sometimes instead of hotels. Other people were just extreme coupon-ers, and loved to get good value. Some college kids would get an adap to save money, or single moms so that they could be home for their kids. Trix had his because he liked to spend what little money he could gather on drugs.
He opened the door to his 2nd floor studio advertisers’ apartment and the wall screens flickered on. A mild voice greeted him by name, asking if he had given much thought to skin care lately, and maybe he needed some help clearing off the blemishes on his face. He hit the “off” button on the wall panel, which made the room go silent, though the walls still offered information on a dozen products at least.
Every 2 or three minutes one of the panels would switch to another advertisement, but generally only one wall contained video advertising. Trix’s whole apartment was 7 meters long by 6 meters wide, with a 3 by 4 meter section on the right of the entrance for a bathroom and closet. The 3 meter section beyond the bathroom was where the basic kitchenette was set up. The rest of his adap was pretty bare. Trix had a mattress with some sheets, a coffee table, and a TV. His kitchen was dirty with all of the few plates, pots, and pans he owned piled in the sink, as they had been for months. The trash emitted a fishy odor, and overflowed with takeout boxes, and wrappers left over from weeks of being ignored. Every couple of months Trix would find a day of inspiration, clean his adap–well, his version of clean–and look into getting a job, or rejoining UtopaCorp. It usually lasted until about 4 in the afternoon when he would break down and go to buy or find more drugs. He had been a daily user for less than 2 years.
At 18 Trix went to work for UtopaCorp since he didn’t have many other options. UtopaCorp was one of a few companies that would offer a job to practically anyone who wanted a job, and would follow UtopaCorp’s rules. Usually it was “hippies”, or people who wanted to party, who couldn’t organize their lives, or young folks who didn’t have many friends or family that joined up. The company would offer low take home pay, but take care of every aspect of their employees’ life. Apartments were included, and the advertising stayed in the halls so employees could relax without products being shoved in their faces. Meal plans were included for all employees, and a plethora of sports, clubs, and activities were planned by employee groups for down time and weekends. They worked more hours than most people–about 40 each week–but the jobs were generally easy, and employees had no stresses of paying bills, or worrying about…well, anything really.
UtopaCorp placed workers in one of their many roles, top-heavy towards manual labor and low skill jobs. The company would offer all sorts of contracts that made sense for different people. Some employees had practically no access to their wages, as specified by the original contract they signed, instead placing the pay into high-interest accounts to earn money and help them control their spending. Others would take all their money up front.
UtopaCorp was willing to structure employment in a way that worked for the individual, as long as they showed up when you were supposed to, and did the job required. Trix lasted a little over 2 years with the company before he couldn’t handle the structure anymore, and quit. He traveled with the money he had saved up until that ran out 8 months later, at which point he had already formed some bad habits from some of the people he chose to associate with. It was another year before Trix was unable to hold a job for more than 3 weeks, and that is when he became a daily drug user. Trix knew his 25th birthday was looming, and it depressed him.
He thought about how unfair it was that he was stuck in some crummy adap while so many in the world had so much. He felt sorry for himself that during his travelling days he could only afford level 3 pods while he watched snobby college kids grab a level 1 with their daddy’s credit. He heard you could order drinks in the level 1 pods, and they would pop up cold and fresh from the storage compartment below, but he had never been in a level 1 pod.
As Trix injected half a gram into his arm with an EZ-Ject syringe (which also appeared in an advertisement on the wall a few feet away), he fell into a nirvana like daze of imagining his life if he were rich.
Half dreaming, he imagined what it would be like to get a nano-bot injection of immune boosters that eliminate 97% of disease before the host even notices them, never having to feel sick, never having to wait 2 weeks to get rid of scabies with the topical ointment from the free clinic. He pictured himself taking a trip to a moon resort, driving the rovers over craters, and laying in a lounge chair under the glass dome, being waited on, while gazing at the earth from a perspective he would never know. Trix wanted to eat at the Hillside, and be invited to a party on Mount Olympus–the most exclusive venue in, arguably, the world, which actually was located on one of Mount Olympus’s many peaks.
As he came-to a couple hours later the telescreen was showing an episode of “Switch ‘Em” where a billionaire was being interviewed at his immaculate rural Georgia estate, preparing to switch places with a retail worker from the west coast.
“I think it will be tough to be essentially cooped up in the same storefront for 30 hours this week, but I know I can handle it. It will be an interesting experience–certainly something new to be going to work at a solid building everyday instead of just telecommuting online”.
Trix rolled his eyes as he flicked off the TV “Pff, asshole”.
He put his jacket on and walked downstairs to find something to eat. He briefly considered going to the church for dinner, then decided it wasn’t worth hearing the religious volunteers give their “God saves” spiel.
Instead he decided to head 15 blocks to the main food market, where he could fill up on samples from all the vendors; maybe even get a free beer if he saw someone he knew. I bet they don’t have beers at the church, he thought as he stepped onto the sidewalk, and lit a cigarette. He looked down and realized he only had 2 left. Tomorrow he would have to find enough money for another pack somehow. He didn’t bother picking up the dirty bank coin worth a half dollar that he noticed at his feet.
“Trix, how are you doing”. Officer Themis was just walking by, and his tone suggested he actually cared how Trix was doing.
“Just planning my next hustle,” Trix replied dryly.
“Just don’t hustle me.” Themis joked. “Hey you know Corner Cop Security still has a few grants available for people who want to get clean. You should see some of these rehab centers, it’s like a vacation. There’s–“
“Am I being detained?” Trix interrupted. Officer Themis let out a confused laugh, thinking Trix was joking.
“What, no?” Themis replied with a smile.
“Have a good day officer,” Trix said emotionless without smiling, and walked away towards the vendor district.
Officer Themis watched him walk away, wishing there was something he could do to help. As Trix turned the corner Themis sighed, shook his head, and continued the beat. Themis was offended and a bit hurt that Trix had asked if he was being detained. That was usually something people without security asked overzealous cops as a way to disengage.
An Excerpt From Chapter 4
Trix sat in his adap, watching TV. He was trying to hold off on getting high for a couple more hours so that he wouldn’t have to buy more drugs that day, and he could save the few dollars he had scrounged together. He was thinking about getting a decent meal for once. Of course his version of a decent meal was fast food–healthier than pre-collapse fast food, but still the worst option out there. When the wall with video ads popped up with an advertisement for the Sandwich Shack, showing a grilled fish sandwich from all angles, complete with fire potatoes and carbonated ice tea, his mind was made up. He flicked off the TV, and left the adap to stop by the Sandwich Shack.
Some Sandwich Shacks were small buildings, while others were just booths or kiosks with one or more stations, but none of them had full time workers. The busiest and upscale locations had a service technician standing by during peak hours, but most were only visited by company employees for cleaning and maintenance. The ingredients were shipped in through vacuum tubes fed directly into fast food units.
It was only one block for Trix to the nearest street kiosk for the Sandwich Shack; just 2 wall units right off the sidewalk, with nowhere to sit. Trix simply walked up to the screen on the sidewalk and ordered from the digital menu. Everything was automated, and his meal popped out next to him in the cubby with a clear hatch that unlocked when the order was ready. The hatch lifted, and Trix took his meal on the tray, and transferred it into one of the to-go bags provided.
Fried food had never made an immense resurgence since the New Dark Ages and the aftermath when cooking oil was more scarce, and would instead be used to coat potatoes–or more often dandelion root or jerusalem artichoke–and bake them causing a similar crispy effect. But grilling had been the most popular cooking method after the collapse, over wood fire usually, except inside Food Corp where they still used mostly electric stoves and ovens. Soda had turned into various carbonated beverages from flavored water, to the more typical sweetened drink, as well as a plethora of sparkling juices and concoctions.
Trix decided to take his meal a short walk to eat in a park paved with white stone, on a bench under some oak and maple trees. There was a fountain in the middle made of marble, with the water pouring out of a man’s cupped hands. It was the owner of the adjacent outdoor shopping plaza who had built the park to attract shoppers and allow them to enjoy the scenery while shopping or with their food, and he was vain enough to place his own marble likeness prominently at an entranceway.
Every bite of the fish sandwich tasted so delicious to Trix that he wondered for a second if he was high, before realizing the natural joy he was getting from a simple meal. So he slowed down and made sure to soak in the moment, a rare one that felt good without drugs. It was later afternoon before he got back to his adap, having taken the long way home to enjoy the weather for a nice walk.
He was also trying to prolong his time sober. He had nowhere to go but home, and knew that once he got home he would just get high. It depressed him, only because he had found simple joy in eating his lunch. Even when he arrived back in his apartment, as the advertisements flickered on talking about vacationing in Iceland, he actually scooped some of the trash that was on the floor into the bin, pushed it down with a greasy box, tied it, and threw it down the garbage shoot at the end of the hall. The shoot led to trash pods, transported to waste management facilities through the same main pod system used for travel. He couldn’t find any other trash bags though… in fact Trix wondered how he had gotten the last one.
Trix then spent another minute or two making things a bit neater in his adap, although it mostly amounted to moving things from one place to another, perhaps placed in slightly more organized piles. Then he flicked on the TV, grabbed his EZject, plopped down on his mattress, packed up the cartridge, and injected. Trix drifted off imagining himself in a geyser fed natural hot tub and taking a mud bath.
The agents did not wear any identifying insignia. Efforts had been taken to obscure where their pay stemmed from–their pay was kept off the books, as was their job description. The two agents wore suits typical of an investigator, inconspicuous, dark, with mundane silver-colored badges. They also wore sunglasses so no one could tell where they were looking. The sunglasses were screen lensed; the agents had all the best technology and any piece of relevant information literally right in front of their eyes, controlled by thought with EEG detectors. The first time they visited this advertiser’s apartment building they followed the GPS on their tiny screens, but this time they remembered where it was.
The two agents could be mistaken for brothers with their glasses on, because they were about the same height, late thirties, average to muscular build, strong-jawed, confident eyes, and a tendency to wear the slightest smirk on their face, as if they were getting the better of everyone they met. Their eyes, apart from the similar tenacity, showed the difference of the two that no one ever saw. The difference that was noticed by those who dealt with the two agents was their good cop/bad cop personas, and their hair. “Good cop” was referred to as Agent White who had the lighter hair, blue eyes, and a slightly smaller build, and “bad cop” was Agent Orange, dark haired speckled with gray, brown eyes and square shoulders. They were self branded names that the partners found humorous. They adopted this persona in order to fulfill their jobs, which usually bordered on legitimate, but on the wrong side of the line.
They would deliver messages and arrange certain meetings. They would hire particular types of employees for one time jobs, sometimes clean up a mess themselves, or do the dirty work in rough investigations. But officially they had no business with anyone. Those for whom they fulfilled contracts wanted to be able to distance themselves from the agents, if the need arose.
They walked through the wide hallway of the adap with kiosks and shops lining the walls, and took the elevator to the second floor. The advertisements were random, since technology in the agents’ glasses jammed the facial recognition which would have tailored the ads. They walked only a few feet down the hall before stopping in front of a door with chipping paint. Agent White knocked.
Trix was sitting up on his mattress slumped with his back against the wall, staring in the general direction of the TV. He was actually focused behind the TV, distracted by the ad on the screen wall in the background which was promoting some brand of toilet paper. There were some strange animated animals soaring through the sky with a rainbow trailing behind them. The EZject was lying on the floor a few inches away from his upward facing palm which was relaxed on the floor, his left arm hanging off the mattress.
At the first knock Trix didn’t seem to notice the slight banging on the door, and on the second he slowly turned to look at the door, as if he would be able to see through it. His mouth drooped slightly open with a little dried white drool on either side of his lips, his eyes half closed, with each blink lasting longer than usual. Trix felt like each time his eyes closed a wave crashed over his apartment, and as they reopened the wave receded back into the ocean, complete with the shwoosh sound of lightly pounding currents, and the feeling of being immersed in cool salty water with fractured light flickering through.
On the third knock Trix finally responded, “Whoisit?” a bit slurred.
“It’s Agent White, open up Trix,” the agent said calmly.
There was a pause. “I don’t have to let you in,” Trix slowly responded without moving, in the same emotionless tone.
“Yea, but you probably want to,” Agent Orange chimed in, with a smirk infecting his voice.
Silence. The two agents exchanged a glance and waited.
“Its a job offer Trix,” Agent White added in a tone of comforting a sick child.
Another twenty seconds passed before the door was opened part way. and Trix’s tired face, still expressionless peeked out.
“Can we talk inside?” White said in the same tone.
Trix turned and walked into his apartment, leaving the door open for the Agents to come in. He sat down on his bed as the agents glanced around, again exchanged a quick look, and remained standing facing Trix as he lethargically lit a cigarette.
Agent White stood with his hands clasped, arms relaxed. Agent Orange stood with his arms crossed.
“We have a job offer for you Trix, but it’s a little more serious than last time. You’re not going to be simply transferring a suitcase.” White explained. Trix wasn’t looking at them. The agents waited for a response.
“So? What is it?” asked Trix annoyed, finally looking up at the agents with bloodshot eyes.
“Well, first…” Agent Orange took an envelope out of his jacket pocket, “We want you to see what we’re offering.” He tossed the envelope onto the bed next to Trix.
Trix took another drag on his cigarette, and left it in his mouth as he reached for the envelope without excitement. “Jesus,” it was an exclamation though subdued and emotionless. “Do I even want to know what the job is?” Trix flicked the envelope back onto the bed where Agent Orange had tossed it. A few of the fifteen notes were visible. They were each 100 unit notes from AtlantiTrade.
AtlantiTrade was a worldwide investment firm that traded stocks, bought up currencies, and issued their own currency. It was so widespread with so many various transactions taking place that it was a difficult currency to track, being preferred by those who didn’t want anyone to find out where particular funds came from or went. While the notes were coded to prevent forgeries, the codes were encrypted so that AtlantiTrade didn’t know which notes had been issued or redeemed by particular individuals depositing or withdrawing them from banks. One unit of AtlantiTrade was worth about 35 dollars. The agents were offering 1,500 units.
“So what do you think Trix, are you interested?” Agent White asked.
“You haven’t told me what I’m supposed to do”.
The agents hesitated, and glanced at one another. Agent Orange gave a slight shrug to White. “We need some files to be destroyed, and in the process, we need the owner of those files… deleted as well,” Agent White explained, while Agent Orange smiled and suppressed a chuckle at White’s choice of words.
“Pff.” Trix shook his head slowly without looking up and took the final drag on his cigarette, putting it out in the ashtray on the windowsill. “I’m not a murderer,” he said calmly exhaling the smoke, finally meeting eyes–or sunglasses rather–with the agents.
“Trix,” began Agent Orange, as a coach might begin an inspirational speech to an athlete, “sometimes, there are problems that can’t be handled in a normal way. Sometimes… the outcome of not going above the law would be worse than the suffering caused by letting things play out on their own.”
“Forget it, I don’t need your money”. It was tempting, but Trix wasn’t a killer.
The agents exchanged a short glance. “The money was to make this easy Trix, but we aren’t asking,” Agent White explained calmly. Trix just let out an exasperated sigh and shook his head once, still staring out the window.
A long twenty seconds passed before any of the three moved. Finally Agent Orange reached into his jacket, and pulled out a large antique metallic finished Colt .45, and grabbed Trix by his hair. Before he knew what happened, the barrel of the gun was under Trix’s chin and the loud click of Agent Orange cocking the hammer echoed through the bare room. Agent Orange was speaking loudly now, but articulately–not yelling. His jaw was clenched, and he was sternly instructing Trix.
“You are going to go to the address in that envelope, at the time and date it says. You are going to finish off the lady that lives there, and you are going to take her tablet, and take every hard drive in her house, and delete all her files on clouds. You will then throw hardware into Lake Quinsig, and take a pod out of New England. Then, you’re a free man. Are we clear?”
Tears were building up in Trix’s eyes and he made a sound that sounded kind of like yes.
“Are we clear?” Agent Orange was almost yelling now as he yanked Trix’s hair back harder and pressed the barrel more firmly into Trix’s throat.
“Yes!” Trix managed to choke out, his voice cracking, and Agent Orange immediately let him go, and re-holstered his gun without another word. Trix put his head in his arms, shaking, still sitting on the edge of his bed.
Agent Orange walked to the panel controlling the wall advertisements. He took a discrete card out of his pocket, and wave it in front of the receiver: there was money on the card, but nothing to identify the holder. He brushed through a few options screens, and picked a nice green field with flowers slowly swaying in the wind, and a blue sky with wispy clouds floating slowly by to replace the advertisements on the wall.
“Here you go Trix. I bought you an hour.”
Agent White squatted down to Trix’s level, and put his left hand gently on his shoulder.
“It’s just a job Trix, don’t let it get to you.” He patted Trix’s back and with his right hand, reached into his pocket, took out a baggie and put it on the windowsill next to the ash tray.
Agent White stood up, and left the room, followed by Agent Orange. Before closing the door Agent Orange looked toward Trix.
“Don’t make us pay you another visit Trix, and I’m sure I don’t have to explain how stupid you would have to be to run”.
He closed the door, and Trix looked up to make sure the agents were gone. With tears in his droopy eyes he reached for the baggie that Agent White had left on the windowsill, and filled up his EZject. As his body slipped into numbness, an indicator in White’s glasses went off. It showed him that the nano-tracker Trix had just injected into his arm with the drugs was active.
An Excerpt From Chapter 6
It was the date and time that the envelope had specified. Trix took a pod to the neighborhood where Molly lived, but got off at an earlier stop to walk. He had traveled in a pattern that made it hard to track his movements with the various security recordings that people and businesses ran. He travelled to a gap with no surveillance, and came out of it with his face obscured by his sweatshirt, hood, and makeup that would make facial recognition harder.
He was dreading what he had to do, but what choice did he have? It was either kill Molly, or be killed by the agents. Trix could not stop thinking about this deed every second as it drew nearer. He had considered taking the money and hiring security to protect him, but he was not convinced they would be able to. Agent White and Agent Orange could just wait until he ran out of money, and then come after him. He considered how they would find him, but knew what kind of technology they had at their disposal. Trix also would not even know how to describe the agents, or who they worked for, or if a security company would even be interested in taking the risk to protect him.
Each of the past five days Trix had ordered a pod, and almost entered a distant location. But in the end he always took the pod to a nice restaurant or a shopping mall, or to buy more and better drugs. In the week since Trix received the payment he had blown through $4,500 worth of the Atlantitrade currency. Part of this was due to his impulsive personality and drug addiction, but trying to distract himself from the job at hand was another big piece of it. Here he was, caught between a rock and a hard place, knowing that he would never be able to get rid of the guilt of performing this task.
Trix had bought a special mixture of drugs for this, to numb him to what he was about to do. He had also bought a number of drugs for afterward, to numb him to what he had done.
Walking through the neighborhood, a few blocks away from the address, Trix popped two pills which had similar effects to cocaine and pcp, but added an aloof downer effect that made him ambivalent but didn’t cause much disorientation. One block later and he felt like he was in a video game; another block and he couldn’t even remember what guilt felt like; just one block away he felt like a ninja assassin in a blockbuster movie who was about to fulfill his righteous destiny, before escaping to distant lands where he would have girls, wealth, and glory.
The plan was in his head; he had sketched it out before, thought about each step, and was now envisioning a to do list of tasks to accomplish his mission. Mission: now he felt like an old world secret agent, infiltrating an enemy data center and taking out a destructive target.
Trix briefly looked to see if Molly had any video surveillance out front, and it didn’t look like she did. He walked up to her door, and rang the doorbell, and stepped back.
Molly was working on her laptop in the living room with her TV on. She wasn’t expecting anyone, but didn’t think it was too strange for someone to stop by at this time; it was still before 21:00 and a weekend. Molly was typically engrossed in her work, even though she didn’t really have to be. But she enjoyed it, and was scrutinizing the details in Barry Arbitration’s review. Just one more piece and she could downgrade BA according to Business Ethics Review standards. She had looked over the same information multiple times, making tables, diagrams, and graphs to try to see some piece she hadn’t seen before. There were certainly dead ends, but every time she looked over the reports, she found another piece of the puzzle.
Molly figured maybe some neighborhood kid was selling something, or maybe a group was organizing a boycott, or maybe one of her friends was in the neighborhood and decided to stop by. She didn’t recognize the man standing on her front porch, but he didn’t look particularly threatening. It was typical of someone Molly’s age to let their guard down–she had only ever known a peaceful society where justice flourished.
Violence was not something on the forefront of anyone under 40’s mind, though more seasoned folks remembered periods of unrest much more clearly. It was partly due to the older generation’s use of self defense and refusal to be victimized that aggression had taken a long and steady nosedive over the last 60 years. Violence had reached its modern pinnacle During the New Dark Ages: the years following the collapse in the 2020’s. Only once organizations to protect individuals’ rights rose up out of demand was this trend curbed.
The first such company to form policing and protection agencies after the collapse was Food Corp, which was the biggest societal element leftover in New England. In fact, only a handful of communities with some semblance of law and order existed in North America for decades after the collapse.
Of course the New Dark Ages were not on Molly’s mind as she opened the door. Trix was smiling warmly as he kicked the door just as Molly began to open it, slamming the heavy oak into her left foot, which broke three of her toes, and toppled her onto the floor. As she screamed out in pain and horror, Trix quickly stepped inside and shut and locked the door. He very calmly and methodically bent down and grabbed Molly’s throat to stop her from screaming.
“Be quiet, and I won’t hurt you anymore,” he said in monotone as he let go of Molly’s throat.
She coughed and sucked in air, trying to catch her breath, hyperventilating from the pain and shock. Tears streaming down her face, Molly looked up at Trix terrified, and rapidly nodded her head in agreement, unable to speak.
“All I want is your cash and jewelry. Anything valuable.”
Even when Trix looked at Molly there was nothing behind his eyes. It was like he was staring at a boring slide show presentation, trying to maintain focus. Trix grabbed one of Molly arms and yanked her to her feet. She let out a short cry as some weight shifted to her broken toes, but quickly bit her lip to silence herself.
Trix removed a small black knife from his pocket, and made a “shh” gesture, putting the blade up to his lips in place of his finger. As he did this, he couldn’t help but let out a giggle, amused at his use of the knife in shushing Molly. He felt like he was in a dream, and this task was playing out easier than he thought; this was the drugs.
Molly began to lead him into her bedroom where she kept a safe, and as they crossed the living room Trix grabbed her foldable tablet, and put it into his backpack.
Molly thought it was strange that the man who had just kicked in her door was taking a year old tablet without much value, but she was still too scared to speak. Molly desperately hoped that the man would just take what he came for and leave; his eyes said he was on a mission. In her bedroom she opened her closet door and unlocked the safe.
Trix was rummaging through drawers and her desk. He found a flash drive in her bureau and a tablet was sitting on her bedside table, both went into his backpack. When Trix heard the click of the safe unlocking, he quickly sprang over to it and put his hand on the door to stop Molly from opening it herself. Nudging her out of the way, Trix went into the safe, and took an external hard drive that was connected wirelessly to the rest of the electronics in the house, and also stole the little amount of jewelry, a couple silver coins she had and one antique looking golden coin.
Molly also had a handgun in her safe which her dad had given her. She wasn’t really interested in guns, but he had insisted that she take it to be safe. She wished that she had kept the gun out in her living room, or at least concealed and accessible, but the chances of something like this happening were so small that there was no way for her to predict it.
Trix took the handgun, and cocked it. Molly let out a gasp and quickly covered her mouth, but Trix tucked the handgun into his pants.
“Show me the rest of your electronics,” Trix said, without expression. Even when his eyes met Molly, it was like she was not even in front of him. She noticed this too, that his eyes seemed to look through her, focused on nothing in her room.
“There’s… the TV in the living room… and another tablet in the kitchen… and a telescreen in the living room and kitchen.” Her voice was trembling, cracking every few words, with tears still running down her cheeks, and hiccups interrupting her speech.
It seemed like Trix was almost taken out of his trance for a moment, but he quickly turned away, about to leave the room, the drugs still suppressing his emotions.
Walking through the living room to the kitchen, Trix noticed an open window, as it was an unusually warm fall night. Trix closed the window. Molly all of a sudden felt like she couldn’t breathe. She was panicking, but she was so frightened and her mind was in such knots that she couldn’t pinpoint why.
“Please… please don’t hurt me,” Molly choked out between sobs.
“I told you I just want the valuables,” Trix restated emotionless.
Molly shot a glance towards the window. There was no reason for this intruder to close the window if he intended to leave after pillaging the rest of her electronics. Trix had taken the rest of the electronics and put them into his backpack. The only ones he couldn’t take were the telescreens attached to the living room wall and kitchen counter.
Trix pointed at the kitchen counter telescreen. “Log in.”
Molly swallowed hard, and did as she was told. Trix then pushed her aside, and started opening up various accounts, and deleting the contents. He opened the cloud storage, and purged it. He had to click multiple warnings about deleting information permanently. Then he had to go into the deleted files section, and purge those permanently. He went through this process on at least 3 different accounts, changing the password and email on each account when he was done. Molly was feeling sicker and sicker, not being able to explain why this supposed thief was interested in deleting her information if all he wanted was money and valuables.
She kept glancing into the living room to the panic button 15 or so feet away. She was too terrified to make the leap however, and was distracted by her feelings of terror that this was more than a robbery.
“And your portable,” Trix said, indicating that he wanted Molly’s pocket sized tablet. She walked into the living room to retrieve her minitab on a couch side table. Turning around she tried not to glance once again at the panic button, and gave her minitab to Trix. She was now only two steps from the wall mounted panic button.
“Okay,” Trix said, but didn’t move. He glanced at the door, he glanced at the window he had closed, and he briefly looked back at Molly. “Okay,” he repeated monotonously.
Molly was staring at him, frozen with fear, praying to whatever god might be listening that he would just leave. Trix’s hand shot down towards the gun in his waistband, like a cowboy drawing in a duel. In one swift motion he had raised the gun pointing it directly at Molly’s face, as she turned sideways and squinted, bursting into a renewed fit of tears. He was only 3 feet away from Molly, the gun closer, squared at her temple; he pulled the trigger.
The moment the trigger was pulled felt like an eternity to Molly, the fall of the hammer seeming to span meters. She had time to reopen her eyes, and look back towards Trix through her tears, down the barrel of the gun. She could see the rifled grooves of the cylinder, and as she blinked, she swore she saw her life flash before her eyes. By the time her eyes opened the trigger was pulled. She expected to hear a loud boom, see a bright flash, and have everything go dark. Instead she heard a click.
It took her a split second to remember that the pistol her father had given her was coded to her DNA, so that no one but she could fire it. Trix evidently had not realized this, because he turned the gun sideways, examining the slide to see what could have caused the misfire. Molly knew she had to seize this opportunity before he found some other way to kill her, like the knife he brought, but she didn’t think she would be strong enough to wrestle the gun from him. She launched towards the telescreen in the living room, flipped open the clear plastic hatch above the screen to the right, and slammed down the red button with a force sure to bruise her palm, then immediately thrust herself toward her bedroom, ignoring the searing pain in her broken toes.
By the time Trix realized what happened, and raced to pursue Molly, she was in her bedroom with the door slammed shut, locked. Molly then ran into the master bathroom, slamming and locking that door as well. She immediately started frantically searching the room for anything that could be used as a weapon to protect herself. It would be just a matter of minutes until police arrived.
Trix slammed into Molly’s door with full force. He pounded on it with both fists, and hysterically twisted the knob trying desperately to open the door. Trix backed up, and put his full force and weight, shoulder first, into the door. It rattled but didn’t budge. He again looked at the gun in his hand, trying to figure out how to make it shoot, but abandoned that idea quickly, placing it back in his waist band.
Looking around the room he searched for something that could be used as a battering ram, but his time was running out. He picked up a heavy stone statue of Buddha, and slammed the base into the door handle to Molly’s room. The first time the handle cracked. The second time a small Buddha shaped hole appeared in the door. On the third try, the bedroom door burst open, spraying splinters of wood onto the floor.
In the bathroom Molly heard the crash and began to sob harder, on her knees rifling through everything under the sink, still searching for the proper weapon. The scissors in her bathroom were too small to be an effective defense. There were no blunt objects, and no sharp objects long enough to do any kind of serious damage. She heard Trix slamming something heavy into the bathroom door.
Molly shot to her feet with a spray can of room fragrance, and as the door busted open and Trix rushed in, Molly sprayed the aerosol can of perfume directly into his eyes. Trix let out a loud scream of agony as the liquid burned his eyes. He stumbled back against the wall dropping the Buddha statue onto the bathroom floor, rubbing violently at his eyes. He tried to open his eyes, but it burned more, and he could only make out the outline of Molly. Trix lunged to block the bathroom door so that she had no escape route. He could hear the sirens, they couldn’t be more than 5 blocks away, and rapidly closing in.
Molly, seeing her exit blocked, opened the medicine cabinet mirror with full force, slamming it against the wall, and shattering it into pieces. With no time to spare, she grabbed the largest shard she could find, and raised it towards Trix.
Trix heard the shattering of the glass, and the sirens getting closer, but he could still only see in outlines and blurs. As Molly brought the shard of glass down towards Trix, he managed to turn towards the bathroom door, and the sharp piece of glass only grazed his back before ripping into his backpack, filled with the stolen electronics. Molly let out a sharp cry of pain as the glass shard she gripped penetrated deep into her palm. She let go and pulled her hand back, seeing blood spraying out with each beat of her heart.
She watched Trix flee out into the bedroom, and turn running into the living room. Molly sunk down onto the floor of her bathroom, and coddled her severely lacerated hand that was spurting blood, already pooling on the floor, and soaking her shorts. The sirens sounded like they were right outside now, and relief started to pour over her. Molly’s sobs were now a hysterical mix of terror, pain, and happiness upon the arrival of the police.
Trix was stumbling through the living room trying to see where he was going. He saw the bright lights of the cop cars coming through the front windows, and heard the slam of their car doors. He moved as quickly as he could through the kitchen to the back door, bumping hard against the counter on the way. He managed to open the sliding glass door, and escape onto the back porch as he heard Molly’s front door burst open as the police broke it down with a battering ram. He was past the bushes running through the neighbors lawn by the time another officer came running around the house, and saw the open sliding door.
“We need dogs! Get the Canine units!”. The officer’s voice was clear and loud.
As he barked the order, Trix could hear it clearly from the next street that he was now fleeing down. He saw headlights coming around the corner, and took a left turn down another road in the neighborhood to avoid the car. His sight was returning, though his eyes still burned red. Looking behind over his shoulder, Trix could see a skyship approaching where Molly’s house must have been. He couldn’t tell if it was a medical unit or a police unit. Trix was sprinting down the center of the road, when an SUV came around the corner toward him, and screeched to a halt.
Rolling down the window, the man behind the wheel who looked in his late 60’s yelled at Trix, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?! I almost hit you, you could have been-” He was cut off by Trix’s deep gutted yell, as Trix grabbed the gun out of his waistband, hoping the man would follow his orders, since the gun would not fire.
“Get out of the car!” The drugs were still in his system, but emotion could finally be heard in his voice, though it manifested more as anger than fear on Trix’s part. Instead of exiting his vehicle the man inside seemed to duck down, avoiding the path of the gun, while pressing a button that raised the window.
“I SAID-” Trix grabbed the door handle, but it was locked, so he slammed the window with the butt end of his handgun, shattering it in a spider web form, though the pieces stayed in place “..GET. OU-“
BAM! The glass flew out of the car, spraying all over the street. BAM! BAM! Two more shots rang out from inside the vehicle. Trix was still standing, but began to stumble back, feeling immediately lightheaded and more confused than the drugs could account for. He looked down at his body to see two large blood stains spreading on his shirt, and blood squirting out from what must have been his neck. As black closed in from the sides of his eyes, he tried to maintain balance. The older man from the car opened the door, and exited the vehicle with his gun still trained on Trix, but all Trix saw were swirling outlines as the world seemed to turn around him.
The brand new medical nanobots coursing through Trix’s bloodstream rushed to the areas of trauma, frantically attempting to stymie the blood flow, and repair the tissue, but the damage was too great.
Trix was somehow still standing but his face was blank as his useless gun slipped from his hand, and clinked onto the street. As the life left Trix’s eyes he took one final step back before his knee buckled, and he fell backwards. Feebly, Trix twitched his right arm in a final attempt to grasp something, and his limp body slammed onto the pavement like a bag of meat, mouth agape, eyes still open, as emotionless as ever.
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