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Assisted

by
Harris Tobias
Hold The Anchovies

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Harris Tobias
Peaceful Intent--Stories of human/Alien Interaction

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Harris Tobias
Time Wars & other SciFi Tales

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Gordon Rowlinson


"I Wanna See the Sun"

by Branden Szabo


The population of Boston II was kept at a steady 200,000. Whenever a new life was born, another was ‘retired’ by the local authorities to ensure there were enough resources to go around.  

Elaine Mathews was the guitarist in a punk rock band called Dead Girl’s Rapture, screaming into a microphone was the only thing that made her teenage existence worthwhile.  She became a ward of the state after her grandparents were ‘retired’ four years ago but her life wasn’t empty, she found a father in an old neighborhood gaffer named Max.  Max was the only person left in Boston II who remembered what the world looked like after the ecological disaster of 2061.  Sadly, he was ‘retired’ two days ago.   

The year was 2084 and Boston II was one of many underground colonies built by scientists in preparation for the environmental destruction caused by greenhouses gases.  People were given a choice: take their chances on the surface or flee underground.

The raw dirt above the city was hidden by e-screens that collectively displayed a mock image of the sky.  Elaine looked upward.  Some of the screens were broken, squares of snowy static interrupted the open blue.  It didn’t bother her; she wouldn’t have to suffer this fake sky much longer, today was the day she left the colony. 

Each district was governed by a sanctioned scientist who managed day-to-day business, up to and including decisions regarding retirement.   Elaine turned the old man’s head when she walked into his office.  She was wearing her stage costume: a loud sailor uniform that matched the fuchsia stripes in her hair.  Her skirt was so short she could flash her panties with a single step.

“Uh,” the man swung his head, breaking the spell, “It's Ms. Mathews, right?”  He shook her hand, "Doctor Caleb Beckett.  Good to see you."

“Ditto,” Elaine said curtly, “Gotta warn ya, I’m in a pissy mood today.  I haven’t been right since Max was retired.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  His retirement allowed Mrs. Barlow to have the son she always wanted, try to think about that instead.”

A muscle in Elaine’s cheek jerked.  “You know why I’m here?”

“I do,” Caleb leaned back and stroked his beard, “you want to leave Boston II.  I think that's a mistake.  Do you know what global warming has done to the environment up top?  Temperatures reach one-hundred and twenty during the day.” 

He drew his computer tablet.  “I confess I’m not a fan of … your style of music but I saw the band last week.  Dead Girl’s Rapture, right?  You wrote a song called ‘I Wanna See the Sun’.  I found it rather … troubling.”

Elaine crossed her arms.  “Ya?”

“In the song, you assert that … that …,” he could barely say it, “You claim there was no ecological disaster.  You claim the planet is fine.  Listen to the chorus: ‘Don’t lie to me, don’t try and make me run, I wanna see the sun’.  That’s morbidly ironic considering what carbon emissions have done to our climate.  If anyone saw the real sun it would kill them.”

Elaine steepled her fingers.  She didn’t want it to come to this.  She dropped the act and spoke like an adult.  “Sir, I meant every word.  Climate is determined by hundreds of factors, not just CO-two levels.  I think the planet is fine.”

“Excuse me!?”

“Everyone in Boston II was living underground when this supposed disaster struck, how do we know what really happened on the surface?”

“We told you what happened.  Anthopogenic global warming is a fact.”

“Then let me see it for myself.”

“Sounds to me like you’re questioning science.”

Elaine ran a frustrated hand down her face.  “I’m not questioning science, I’m questioning you.  In nineteen-seventy-one, doctor S.I. Rasool of NASA reported that dust from fossil-fuel burning would cause temperatures to drop.  Decades later these same scientists reversed themselves and said temperatures would rise.  They sold themselves to politicians who told everyone we had ten years left to save the planet.  When the clock ran out, it became twenty years.  Then thirty.  It seems more likely to me that you would sell us a faux disaster just to save yourselves the embarrassment of being wrong.”

She pulled back, she didn’t mean to be so verbal. 

Caleb’s hands were trembling.  “Who filled your head with this nonsense?  Was it Max?  He worked for the oil companies before the disaster, he was paid to lie.  Don’t underestimate the power of money.”

“The architects of Boston II have absolute control over the lives of two-hundred thousand people.  Some would argue that kind of power is more enticing than money.”  She waited a beat. “Please, just let me leave.  There's nothing left for me here anyways.”

The doctor e-signed the appropriate forms like a petulant child, “Fine.  You’ll be dead from exposure in three days.”

#

Elaine packed her things and hit the street.  Her heart was racing.  Max had seen the surface, she had every reason to believe him but even so, doubt festered.  What if she was making a mistake?   The colony would never let her back in if she changed her mind.

She needed proof, proof that the disaster was a lie.

The PA system chimed, a woman’s voice happily conveyed a message from the government: “Hello everyone, this is the afternoon report.  Boston II regrets to inform you that the following people have been selected for retirement: Gregory Sykes, age eighty-nine.  Shakita Bradford, age ninety-four.“

“Elaine Mathews, age sixteen.  Please report to the local authorities immediately.”

Elaine fell to her knees unable to breathe.  Retired.  “Caleb, you bastard,” she wheezed. 

Even in her hour of despair, she was victorious, Caleb’s attempt to conceal the truth from her only exposed it.  The colony gates were just up ahead.  She made her decision and smiled wide, like a child on the edge of graduation. 

Sixteen years underground was long enough. 



2017-09-07 17:05:31
r.tornello - Killing Granma is a way to keep the balance. See Hologrammy

2017-09-06 09:29:05
I like the set up for the story and all of it really. Except, well killing grandma is disturbing


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