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Chapter 7: Summer and The Resistance
A knock came at their apartment door. Connor opened the door and stepped aside for Javier. They formed two-thirds of The Resistance, as they called themselves. Their conspiracy group wasn’t nearly as serious as it sounded. Mostly they ate junk food and talked shit about the government. Summer set a bowl of chips and salsa on the coffee table.
“Hi, Javier,” Summer said with a smile.
“Hey, girl.” He smiled back, but it was forced, his voice unenthusiastic. Despite the half-hearted attempt, Javier had a nice smile with big luscious lips. He had thick curly hair tied back in a tight ponytail, high cheekbones, big brown eyes, and a thin build. If not for the strong jaw and the protruding Adam’s apple, he could pass for female.
“You okay, dude?” Connor asked.
Javier sat on the couch. “I got an SCS violation. Lost ten points. Whatever, I don’t give a shit about my social score, but they hit my fuckin’ UBI for 5 percent.”
Connor sat on one of the chairs opposite the couch. “Shit. That sucks.”
Summer sat in a matching chair next to Connor.
“Yeah. I also gotta a fuckin’ message from the SCA, reminding me that, by installing a chip, I could boost my SCS and my UBI payment.” The Social Credit Administration—in conjunction with the IRS—administered taxes, UBI payments, and social credit scores. “They’ve been trying to get me to install a chip forever.”
“The chip’s not so bad.” Connor held up his right hand. “I didn’t get the tracker option.” Between Connor’s thumb and index finger was a rice-size RFID chip that doubled as his driver’s license, birth certificate, voter registration, passport, credit cards, bank account, checkbook, car keys, and social credit score.
“Shit, I bet everyone with a chip got the tracker regardless.” Javier shifted his gaze to Summer. “You don’t have a chip, do you?”
“I’m chip-free,” Summer replied, holding up her hands and wiggling her fingers. “When I was little, my dad refused to let my school insert one, and he’s always been adamantly against them. I guess it rubbed off.”
“It’s dumb though,” Connor said. “We’re all still chipped, whether you carry the card or have the implant. You get bonuses on your SCS and a higher UBI payment if you get the implant. The extra Fed Coins add up over time.”
“Yeah, but you don’t have to take the card with you,” Javier said.
“It doesn’t matter. If they wanna find you, they’ll find you. You can’t buy anything without your card, and the facial recognition cameras are everywhere.”
“It’s the principle.”
“I guess.” Connor rolled his eyes. “What did you do anyway?”
“To get the violation?”
“I was arguing with this douchebag on Chirper about Psycho Island.”
“Did you want something to drink?” Summer asked, standing from her chair.
“Anything with alcohol.”
Summer went to the kitchen and grabbed a six-pack from the fridge. She knew Mark would be there soon, and she didn’t feel like getting up again. Her feet ached from the double she had pulled last night. She returned to the living room and set the six-pack on the table. Summer grabbed a beer for herself and sat next to Connor again.
“I told that punk ass the truth,” Javier said, shaking his head. “Nobody believes this shit until it happens to them. People think we’re safe because there’s no crime and the psychos get a one-way ticket to a fuckin’ island.”
Summer opened the can and stared at her beer.
Javier grabbed a beer, opened it, and took a swig.
“You have to be brain dead to think they’re only sending psychos to those islands,” Connor said. “Guaranteed they’re sending antigovernment activists too. They probably fake the psycho test.”
“A hundred percent,” Javier said. “I remember when I was a little kid, and people used to say all sorts of crazy shit on the internet. They used to talk about government conspiracies all the time. The Gulf of Tonkin, 9/11, Venezuela, Operation Paperclip, the fuckin’ Lusitania, the USS Liberty.”
“Operation Northwoods. Operation Ajax,” Connor said.
“Exactly. Now people are so fuckin’ afraid. I bet all those people who used to post those conspiracies were sent to the island. Nobody’s left to tell the truth.”
“I bet they sent Roger Kroenig there.”
“A hundred percent.”
“Who’s Roger Kroenig?” Summer asked.
“The ex-congressman who quit midterm because of all the corruption,” Connor said. “He disappeared five years ago. He was huge in the freedom movement.”
Javier nodded in agreement.
“Do you want this?” Summer asked, handing her beer to Connor.
Connor took the beer, his head cocked in confusion. “You don’t want it?”
“No, I don’t feel like drinking.” Summer thought of the life growing inside her.
“I always feel like drinking. I’m surprised it’s still legal.” Javier took another drink from his beer.
“Why would they make it illegal?” Connor asked. “It’s another thing that’s killing us off.”
Javier chuckled and grabbed a few chips from the bowl on the coffee table.
“Do you think they’re using the threat assessments to determine who to send to the island?” Summer asked.
Javier swallowed. “Definitely. The other thing they do is classify people as Unlawful Enemy Combatants. Once they do that, you’re done. No due process. No rights. Nothing. If they say you’re an Unlawful Enemy Combatant, they’ll do whatever the fuck they want with you.”
“The NSA flags certain words and phrases. I’m sure it’s easy to get caught in the net, even if you’re not an activist.” Connor gestured with his beer to Summer. “You should tell Javier about what happened to that guy at the hospital. The one with the yellow threat level.”
Summer looked from Connor to Javier. “We can actually see people’s threat levels. We use them so we know who to be careful with. A few weeks ago, we had a guy come in with a yellow threat level. Almost everyone we see is green and maybe a few blue, but rarely do we get a yellow. Usually when we have a yellow threat, the guy’s brought to the hospital in handcuffs. But this guy came in on his own, and he was a real pain in the ass. Superrude to the doctor and the nurses. We finally had a bot take care of him because nobody could stand to be around him. He broke some things in the room, and the bot reported him. Then he was gone. The police came and took him away. When I looked him up again, his threat level was orange. I’ve never seen an orange before.”
“Man, they snatched him up. I wonder what you gotta do to get red?” Javier asked.
“Kill the president?” Connor asked with a crooked grin.
“Don’t say that shit out loud. You never know, I could be COINTELPRO,” Javier replied with a smirk.
COINTELPRO was an abbreviation derived from the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program—a series of covert projects conducted from 1956 until 1971, for the purpose of disrupting domestic political groups.
“Wasn’t that on The Underground last night?” Connor referenced the dissident vlog.
Javier nodded. “I love me some Braveheart.”
“I’m surprised they haven’t caught him yet.”
“I bet he’s not even in the US. He’s probably in South America, using a really good VPN.”
Connor’s phone buzzed. He tapped on the screen, his app showing the entrance to the apartment building. He tapped the green button, buzzing his guest inside. “Mark’s here.” Connor went to his apartment door, opened it a crack, and sat back down.
“You gotta ask Mark about this hive mind,” Javier said. “Some scary shit.”
“What’s a hive mind?” Summer asked. “Like everyone thinking the same thing?”
Mark Benson pushed into the apartment, shutting the door behind him.
“Mark, come over here and tell Connor and Summer what you told me about the hive mind,” Javier said.
Mark was tall and pale, overweight, slightly cross-eyed, with a big bushy beard. As Mark approached the couch, his BO wafted over Summer. It wasn’t as bad as usual. He sat on the couch with a groan.
“I have something much bigger to tell you guys,” Mark said, his eyes wide open. Mark grabbed the bowl from the coffee table, put it in his lap, and shoved a fistful of chips into his mouth.
“Seriously, dude?” Javier asked.
“What?” Mark mumbled, his mouth full.
“I thought you had huge news.”
Mark swallowed. “I do.”
“Tell ’em about the hive mind first.”
“Don’t you wanna hear about the biggest news I’ve ever had?”
This wasn’t the first time they’d been tantalized by the biggest news ever. Usually it was bullshit or something they already knew.
“I’d like to hear about the hive mind,” Summer said.
“Me too,” Conner added.
“Fine.” Mark acted miffed, but he loved being the center of attention and the bearer of conspiracy theories, even if it wasn’t in the order he’d like. “The hive mind is a Googleplex project, where they plan to connect human brains directly to the cloud. That would mean these people could speak any language on the planet, could quote any famous poem, and could access infinite information in a nanosecond. These people would be legit cyborgs.”
“Sign me up,” Connor said.
“Fuck that. They’ll use it to control our minds from the inside out,” Javier said.
Mark pointed to Javier. “That’s exactly what they’ll do, and they’ll have no shortage of sheeple to connect to the cloud.”
“They’ll have to get FDA approval,” Summer said. “That could take a decade.”
“Yeah, if it was for profit. This isn’t about profit. It’s about control. The government wants to use this technology. If they want it approved, it’ll be approved. You really think they give a shit about our safety?”
Summer shrugged. “The police do a good job protecting us. Women used to be afraid to walk the streets alone. I go running by myself without a care in the world.”
Mark’s nostrils flared. “Seriously, Summer? We live under the iron grip of tyranny, where criticizing the government might send you on a one-way trip to Psycho Island. We may have a low crime rate according to their statistics, but nobody counts all the rape and murder that happens on the island prisons? They don’t count that for good reason. I bet it’s apocalyptic there.”
“Mark has a point,” Javier said.
“Damn right I do.”
“I have a point too,” Summer said, her voice even. “It’s not black-and-white. Police officers and soldiers and even politicians, they’re people too. Obviously, you have some power-hungry A-holes, but you also have a lot of people who are trying to do the right thing.”
“I think you’re missing the point,” Mark said. “It doesn’t matter that some of these people are nice. Everything that they do is paid for with extortion.”
“Well, I don’t think—”
“What about the big news?” Connor asked, interrupting, eager to quell the growing disagreement between Mark and Summer.
Mark nodded, chewing lazily, like a cow on cud, building suspense in the process. He swallowed and said, “This is the biggest news I’ve ever had.”
The room was quiet.
Then Javier exploded. “Spit it out already.”
Mark said, “My sister got a job working for Jacob Roth, and she’s watching him.”
“The Roth banking family?” Connor asked.
“Yeah. I’m gonna have her install a nanocamera in his office.”
“I’ve never heard of Jacob Roth.”
“He’s the middle brother. The CEO of Freddie Mac. The other brothers and the father are the ones who really run things.”
“You really expect us to believe that?” Javier asked.
“It’s true. You can find him on Freddie Mac’s website.”
Javier blew out a breath. “No, do you really expect us to believe that your sister is working for him and that she’ll install a nanocamera?”
“I don’t know if she’s gonna install it or not. I’m gonna try to get her to do it though.”
“This sounds suspiciously like the time you supposedly talked to a former NASA scientist, and he admitted that we’ve never been to the moon.”
Mark blushed beet red. “That was true.”
“How about the FBI agent who said that the technology used to make thorium reactors came from aliens?”
“That’s what he told me. I can’t say if it’s true or not.”
“What about the time you met Naomi Sutton?”
Mark crossed his beefy arms over his chest. “I didn’t say I met her. I said I thought I saw her.”
“Come on,” Javier said. “That’s not true.”
“What do you guys think about her?” Summer asked.
“She might be the only honest politician in Washington,” Javier said.
“She’s a socialist,” Mark said, one side of his mouth raised in contempt.
“So what? What’s wrong with making the rich pay their fair share?” Javier asked.
“I kind of like her too,” Connor said. “She tells the truth. Or at least she seems to.”
Mark shook his head. “She’s just another statist out for power
and control over us.”