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Submitted on 08/11/2020

Categories: Science Fiction Adventure Thriller

June 29, 2120

The government supplied cars never get too far into the desert. 

Even the ones with the raised carriage and thick tires, the ones that go to the designated construction workers who have to drive off road sometimes. They only make it ten or so miles past the border.

I don’t know why they get different cars than the rest of us. It’s not like they actually fix anything. I don’t think a new building has been built in this town since before I was born; there’s just no incentive to. It’s not like they get paid for it. 

I can’t blame them though. It’s not like any of us have done our jobs consistently, and I’m no exception. We only truly work during the government inspections that take place on the last two days of every month. They supply us with our required rations anyway: three meals a day for the next month (not one day more or less), a charger for each car, and the list goes on. We all get the bare minimum regardless of whether or not we’ve worked, so why should we?

This month’s ration includes something new, something we only get once a year: a fresh chip implant. They’re injected in the form of microscopic bots, the ones I’m supposed to manufacture, through a syringe, and they assemble themselves in the bloodstream, following the host’s arteries until they find the brain. They provide a long list of benefits, a list I memorized years ago. With the chip, we’re immune to diseases like cancer and HIV, and dangerous infections like ebola and salmonella. That’s how the chips started off, anyway. They were a sort of super-vaccine. 

The blaring of sirens catches my attention. I glance out the factory window, even though I know exactly what I’ll see. A small brigade of cars, presumably carrying federal agents, flies past, much faster than the 35 mph speed limit. They can do whatever they want, but if we violate the law, they lock us up for years. 

But that’s only when they catch us. I could get arrested for not arriving at work on time, but they don’t actually monitor us while we're at work in areas as remote as this. My coworkers and I usually just hold tetris tournaments on an illegal VPN. They haven’t figured out how to shut down the black market activity in this area yet. Days like today are the only days we work. 

“Get back in your fucking car!” screams a young woman on the street as the feds set up their first injection station. “All you want to do is control us!”

She’s standing right in front of a colorful sign reading Cold Creek Welcomes You! in bubble letters. 

“Bite it miss, or we’ll have to arrest you,” snarls one of the feds in a voice that says not again.

“You murderers!” the woman screams. 

One agent pulls out his gun, the other aggressively grabs the woman’s wrists and locks them behind her back. 

I pick at my lunch ration with my fork, trying to decide whether or not I should eat it yet. 

I look back out the window. A line has begun to form, and the agents are in the process of injecting a chip into the right arm of a passive individual, right into the crook of his elbow. He turns right and disappears down one of the side streets next to Town Hall. He doesn’t react to his new parasite at all. 

I glance down at my own elbow, and the slightly discolored spot in the middle from 17 years of chip injections. Past my elbow, my lunch ration, and its accompanying silverware, sits innocuously on the counter. 

Lightbulb.

I grab the fork and break off one of the flimsy plastic prongs. I have always been just as subservient as the others in line outside. 

Not anymore. 

I bite my lip and drive the prong into my elbow. 

Ow.

After leaving from the back of the factory, I walk back up Main Street. Main Street barely deserves to be called a street anymore, honestly. It’s covered in cracks and potholes, and you can barely see the pavement or the reflective lines in the middle through the desert dust. 

“Hey!”, shouts one of the feds, “Get in line!”

“I’m already injected,” I saw, showing him the wound on my arm. 

“What’s the name?”

“Hanna Velo.”

He scrolls through the names on the tablet in his hand. 

“You’re not checked off.”

“Must have been a mistake,” I say, trying not to let the anticipation building in my gut show.

“Show me your arm again.” 

I hold out my elbow and prepare myself for the feeling of cuffs on my wrists. 

Damn, I mused. I stabbed myself with a fork for nothing.

The agent scrutinizes the wound for a few seconds, then throws my arm down. 

“I guess one of the other stations made a mistake. Where did you get injected?” 

I glance over to the courtyard behind City Hall. To my relief, another line has formed there. 

“Courtyard,” I say. 

Before the fed can respond, a megaphone blares from the front step of City Hall, and another agent emerges, holding the woman who had been screaming earlier at gunpoint. 

“One of our fellow citizens has been sentenced to death, as she has been caught in connection with Free Market,” the fed shouts through the megaphone. Free Market, the same branch of the black market that had sold us our Tetris tournament VPN. 

“They’re trying to control us!” She struggles to say something else, her words inhibited by the microbots swarming in her bloodstream. Instead, she holds up her arm, where her injection wound is still fresh. 

“Jezero Crater… they kil-” she chokes through the inhibitors. “Mercury. Get to Merc-”

I squeeze my eyes shut as the crack of a gunshot fills the silence.

*     *     *

My entire life is a lie. 

Everything I’ve seen is exaggerated, falsified by the chip. 

The sky isn’t deep sapphire blue, it’s a pale cerulean. The bushes aren’t bright green, they’re dark and desaturated, almost rendered black by the oppressive heat of the surrounding desert. And the sand itself is grayish, instead of orange. My old chip dissolved last night, and with it, my perception of the universe. 

No wonder the sunsets were always so brilliant; the colors of the sky were fake. 

The government’s control had even gotten to the people who were born before the chip. None of them remembered a June where the colors got brighter, a June where the government decided to fake their country’s beauty because even they saw the ugly beast it had become. 

Mercury. Get to Merc-

I didn’t understand the woman’s other words. I’d heard of a Jezero Crater before, but that was on Mars, and no one lived there to be killed. But the last part, about Mercury, makes sense. Mercury, Nevada, isn’t too far from here.

If only I knew what direction it’s in. 

*     *     *

Working at night without a chip is more difficult than I expected. I can’t see anything. I can barely see the rusted pickup in the distance, the car I’m going to steal to get to Mercury.  

I’m going to steal something.

Flashing lights in the distance color the surrounding landscape red and blue. I dive behind a withering bush to avoid the attention of the final departing feds. 

I watch as the car whizzes past, flying down the stretch of road at at least twice the speed limit. Plumes of dust, illuminated by the lights, rise in its wake. 

I stay behind the bush until the car is long gone, and all I can hear is my heart beating furiously in my ears.

Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum.

Once I’m sure they’re gone, I sprint towards the pickup and jump in, only to find the key still in the ignition. No one ever locks their cars, because why would anyone steal them? We all have our own, and they're all exactly the same.

Next thing I know, I’m shooting northwest across the desert, eyes wide against the dark, headlights off to hide my presence. The thin sliver of a moon up above is the only light along my path. 

I realize in the pale bluish light of the waning crescent that I’m finally free. 

*     *     *

As the sun rises and the sky fades from black to violet to pale lavender, I encounter a dune. My rusted, stolen truck sputters and pops, rolling to a stop at its base. 

Apparently, Mercury is supposed to be here. 

I heave a deep breath. This truck is meant for off-roading, but only on flat, desert terrain. 

Guess I’m walking. 

I’m panting as I finally reach the top. A white wooden sign catches my attention. 

FREEDOM IS ANARCHY

I’d heard the slogan a thousand times, but now that I know what true freedom feels like, I consider it for a second. 

I stumble over the top of the dune, past the sign, and my jaw drops. 

An entire city sprawls out beneath me. 

The pristine glass buildings, absent of the dust that pervades my existence in Cold Creek, glitter in the sunrise. Small pods, kind of like cars, but white and wheelless, float around needlepoint spires, and a few people, all dressed in pristine uniforms, mill around in the streets. 

What else are they hiding from us?

I slide down the other side of the dune, grateful for the shadows concealing me.

“You’ve been briefed about the Relativity, correct Lieutenant?” one of the pristinely dressed women asks. 

“Yes ma’am,” a young man responds. 

I slip behind one of the trees along the sidewalk. 

“Follow me.” 

Little does the woman know, she has a second, more unwelcome shadow. 

“You’re heading to the third 2040 presidential debate in Washington DC. October 22, 8:30 PM EDT. The course will already be set for you, you just have to check it. You are to assassinate the opposition.”

I stop for a second as I realize what the woman said.

2040 was 80 years ago. 

“The target is suspected to have created Free Market after the election,” the woman continues without a beat. I have to remember to dart behind a trash can to remain unseen. “Hopefully, if we eliminate him, we eliminate Free Market before its creation. Don’t worry if the Causality Directive alarm goes off; we’ll take care of it.”

Time travel?

The woman holds up some sort of card, and a door that wasn’t there before slides open. The quick glimpse I get of the space inside looks like a hallway of some sort. 

I panic as the door begins to close behind them. This is my only chance to make it stop: the chip, the safety, the equality, the job security, the control, the prosperity, it’s all a lie. For us fellow citizens (that phrase felt mocking now, rather than genuine), history begins in 2040. Everything that happened before had something wrong with it. 

I disregard the risk of getting caught and dive through the closing doors just as the two government officials disappear around a corner. I topple onto the floor as the door closes on my boot. I have to yank it through. 

For fear of losing the agents, I scramble around the same corner I saw them disappear behind. 

My jaw drops for the second time this morning. 

A sleek white vessel in the shape of an elongated arrowhead floats above the polished stone floor of the hangar. The shining white fuselage gives way to a black underbelly, and something under there, presumably whatever was keeping the ship afloat, washes the pad under it in blue-green light. 

Suddenly, the bright fluorescent lights in the hangar turn off with a pop! Moments later, everything is red. Red lights. Screaming alarms. And a strangely calm synthetic voice over it all: 

CAUSALITY DIRECTIVE VIOLATED. UNFAVORABLE TIMELINE CREATED."

The walls I build every time the feds come in for their monthly inspections come crashing down, giving into the cracks that had led me to stab my arm with the fork a few days ago.

I’m fixing their mistake

I run towards the Relativity and jump in as the doors lift to let someone with the intention of restoring the timeline into the cockpit. 

Too bad I plan on fixing the timeline. 

As soon as I clamber in, a bunch of transparent displays pop up around me. I try to shake my head to get them out of my way, but they follow my eyes somehow. I press a couple of buttons, and the third one is the one that does something noticeable. 

Next thing I know, I’m blasting through the bay doors and into the desert in a ship that shouldn’t exist. 

As I continue increasing in speed, the desert begins to warp around me. The nose of the ship dips forward, but it doesn’t collide with the dull colored sand below; instead, the sand curves with it. In a few seconds, it’s warped enough that I can see the black underbelly, and the bright blue ring that had created the glow on the launchpad. 

A white sign sits in the corner of my vision.

FREEDOM IS ANARCHY

Total darkness envelops me as the Relativity twists out of reality. 

*     *     *

June 29, 2120

I step out of my hovercar after driving from my apartment a few blocks away. Skyscrapers reach towards the clouds all around me, sometimes disappearing into them as they float in the baby blue sky. I turn around to a tap on my shoulder. 

“Hey, is that one of those new designs from the Mars colony?” 

“Yeah,” I say. “I saved up for this one for ages. Figured the time has finally come, you know?”

“Way cool. Maybe I’ll be able to get one soon, I just got promoted.”

“Awesome!”

“Cool, have fun with that sick ride!”

The scissor doors close with a hiss behind me as I grab the keys from my bag to lock it up. The guy I’d been talking to disappears into the crowded sidewalk. A woman holding a burrito with a loud Taco Bell wrapper almost bumps into me as I enter the same crowd, holding a fresh coffee. 

A scrawling advertisement projects onto the building across from me. 

PURSUE YOUR HAPPINESS! CELEBRATE INDEPENDENCE DAY IN STYLE WITH HOLOGRAPHIC PARTY SUPPLIES!

I feel someone’s eyes on my back, but I ignore them. I take a sip of my coffee and savor the bitterness. I only like my coffee black, and my friends at work think I’m totally a monster. I think it’s because they’ve never had good coffee. 

“Hanna Velo.”

I whip my head around at the sound of my name, only to see a police officer. 

“Guilty as charged,” I say. 

“You have violated the Causality Directive.”

The last thing I see before the black fills my vision is the sky. 

*     *     *

June 29, 2120

“Get back in your fucking car!” screams a young woman on the street. “All you want is to control us!”

“Bite it miss, or we’ll have to arrest you,” snarls one of the government agents trying to calm her down. 

“You murderers!” she continues. 

One agent pulls out his gun, and the other grabs her wrists to cuff them. She continues to struggle. 

I pick at my lunch ration with my fork, trying to decide whether or not I should eat it yet. 

I look back out the window. This year’s chip injections have already begun, and government agents are in the process of injecting a chip into the right arm of a compliant individual, right into the crook of his elbow. He nods slightly, and turns onto a sidewalk. 

I glance down at my own elbow, and the slightly discolored spot in the middle from 17 years of chip injections. Past my elbow, my lunch ration sits innocuously on the counter. 

I guess I should eat now. I don’t know if I’ll have time later.

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4 comments

Elsa jude Gazzea
09:13 Aug 29, 2020

WOW!!! Cool Story!!!! I loved this. Was hooked from the moment I started reading about this action-packed sci-fi dystopian world you have created! I loved the characters and every small sliver of an idea in it. I'm amazed! This was so great and creative! Would you mind checking out my most recent story: "Midnight Sun" ? It's also set 2120😉😃 XElsa

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Claire C
14:40 Aug 29, 2020

Hi! Thanks so much! I'll definitely take a look at your story :)

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Janelle Hammonds
21:47 Aug 19, 2020

I absolutely love this world you've created and the questions it raises!

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Claire C
13:10 Aug 21, 2020

Thanks! I love writing sci-fi/dystopians because of how you can ask questions or make a point about the present through a fictional setting.

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