“How did it become to be like this?” Able asked Sharese as they set at the park chess table. Able moved one of his pawns forward.
“Well, you have simply made all the wrong moves” Sharese replied as she slid her bishop in position to put Able into check.
Able grunted, “I wasn’t talking about the game, but I am talking about our society.”
“Oh no, here we go. Getting ready for a rant there Able? Go on then brother, let’s hear it. I love when you get all political” Sharese answered running her fingers through her curly black hair.
“And you turn me on with that fine black skin of yours,” said Able.
Sharese is gorgeous. At 29 years old, a black female with a well-built body and very tone skin. She did some modeling for photoshoots. Modeling is her day job but she always had a militant political side to her which is how she got to know Able.
Able, in his mid 40‘s well educated and worldly, with a Master’s degree in anthropology, he spent a lot of his life traveling and studying other cultures. Still handsome for his age though his dark hair had been thinning and graying for the past few years. His toned body and his light Fu Manchu facial hair gave him sex appeal. He met Sharese at a Jazz club one evening by chance. They both shared a passion for listening to Jazz while sipping on fine bourbon. After a few sets and a few drinks, they began talking politics and the state of the country and became quick friends. Recently, they began meeting in the park once a week for a game of chess, a game that neither of them was very good at.
“No Sharese come on. Like we have discussed before look at what is going on. People who believe in myths, crackpot conspiracies, demons, and that homosexuals are the causes of natural disasters are now in power over our nation. These people are in control to make laws over hundreds of millions of people and have access to world-destroying weapons and technology are now running things. And the followers, Wow! Where did these people come from? People I used to know that once were somewhat reasonable now buy into all this quackery” preached Able.
“Speak it my brother, but careful how loud you know the Listeners are all amongst us” reminded Sharese.
Listeners were agents of Imperious (the authorities). They were said to be of divine origin, blessed with the ability to see and hear just about everything that went on. They could do this through manners of stealth that allowed them to blend in anywhere at any time and also have a mental connection with other entities and objects. One could never really know for sure whether another human, plant, or even an object may be connected to a Listener.
Able sometimes forgot about the Listeners. He, Sharese along with others didn’t believe in Imperious as the leaders of the so-called Free Democracy. They knew very well all the divine powers had been developments of technologies, psychology, and mental programming interwoven into every form of communication within the system.
Able began to hear a voice inside his head. The voice was that of Sharese.
“I am using the mental tap chip only for a minute though. Just keep looking at the chess pieces, keep playing, and listen. Tonight a group of nonbelievers is meeting at the Faraday Cage. I think it’s big news so come.”
Able then heard a small beep as the connection broke. He and Sharese had given each other mental taps so they could communicate with each other telepathically. To stay connected any longer would raise alarm from Imperious for using unofficial hardware. It was a State ran technology only they called it God’s Prayer. The mental tap chips were largely administered through churches by means of baptism. Once a person was saved and cleansed in the baptismal waters, nanobots that were within the holy water would stream into their body. These nanobots could implant all sorts of mods; from health diagnosis, personal tracking, and mental tapping. Most people used to understand that this was technology that created the voices they would hear in their heads, but after enough of Imperious brainwashing through media and advertisement they began to believe that it was divinely given.
Able moved his rook to block Sharese’s bishop, “You cannot move your rook like that!”
“Why not, I am pretty sure that was a fair move,” rebuked Able.
They argued over the moves for a bit then decided to read up on their chess rules again later. Chess was quietly being removed from society. The game was still around but was starting to be frowned upon by the believers. Believers think it was a game for elite intellectuals who were on the fringes of disobeying the Right Way. Able and Sharese had found a book on chess at an underground dealer of printed literature then located the last known chess table within the city parks to play on. It was risky to do such a thing but an outlet for their public defiance to the Right Way and the sublime authoritarianism of Imperious. Playing chess also got them connections to other nonbelievers.
Able was excited as he and Sharese finished their game. They got up gave each other a tight hug. Sharese whispered in his ear as they hugged, “See you tonight. Make sure you’re not followed and free your mind.” They uncoupled and each went in separate directions. “Free your mind” was becoming the motto of the unbeliever movement.
Able started walking back towards his flat in the basement of an old Victorian building just about 10 blocks away. As he walked he could feel the presence of the Listeners all about him. A park attendant conducting grounds maintenance looking in his direction rather than looking down at what he was doing or other people looking curiously in his direction. It may seem casual but really they were signs of passive-aggressive body language taught by the Right Way to intimidate suspected nonbelievers. Even digital ad banners posted along his walk began giving him a message. The digital signs typically broadcast advertisements targeted at the individual walking by, for Able they all kept giving him a similar message.
“Hello Able” a holographic image of a well-dressed clean-cut man appeared in 3D near the banner. His dress and mannerisms indicated he was an obvious believer and minister of the Right Way. The hologram minister continued, “We noticed that you haven’t been to church in quite some time. Remember the Right Way is what God wants of us and by coming into the fold, by going to church and being baptized we become one in Imperious.” Able shoved his hands in his coat pocket and bowed his head down staring at his footsteps rather than the images that continued to appear all along his trek home.
“Have a blessed day Able, and hope to see you in church soon.” So far it was not required legally to go to church and be baptized but it might as well be as much pressure they put on to do so. Sometimes he went to church just to give the appearance that he participated in the Right Way, but he still refused to get baptized.
Able arrived at his flat and unlocked his door with an old-fashioned key. Most residences were now equipped with bio check or implant scanners that unlocked the doorway to a house but they were still not required. He stepped onto a welcome mat at the entrance. The mat contained a simple scanner that quickly checked him for any possible foreign microprocessors that may have clung to him while out. If he was clean the word “Welcome” on the mat glowed green, if he was contaminated it glowed red. He got the device from a friend within the unbeliever underground, who swore to him that it was undetectable by Imperious scanning. The “Welcome” turned green and Able went into his room. Immediately his ball welcomed him home and asked if he had stopped by a church while out as if Imperious didn’t know already.
Able did away with almost all of his technical gizmos within his flat except for the ball. The ball is a spherical scanning device that is required to be in all private residences. According to Imperious and the church, the ball is a device for protection. It signaled authorities during any health emergencies, detections of violent actions, break-ins, or fire. Really the damned thing is a secure way for the jackass followers to keep tabs on anyone at any time. Able’s ball always reminded him each day his alarm went off that he should stop by a church and accept God into his life. Each time he sarcastically grumbled to himself, “More like accept the nanobots into the cerebrum.”
Able time to kill before heading to the Faraday Cage. Undergrounders called it the FC. FC was located in an abandoned warehouse in the old industrial district section of town. Able spent the rest of the afternoon reading his chess book and writing some material for the underground that he could pass around at the meeting. He kept his questionable material hidden under a floorboard in his flat just in case he got an unexpected visit by the authorities. He hadn’t been visited yet but knew friends that had.
He left his place early so that he could take a diversionary route to the FC. His planned to take an Angel from his block to a church located near the industrial district. He would spend about 15 minutes at the church listening to the Believer’s propaganda giving him a good alibi of where he had gone in case of later questioning. From there he would receive a Calling on his communication device that would excuse him from the church so that he could continue on to the FC on foot. A Calling was a message received from the higher order of the Believers and meant you were being summoned for a personalized meeting. While it wouldn’t be a real Calling, it was a hack provided through the underground that imitated a real one.
At about an hour before the FC meeting, he stuffed his questionable pamphlets into his trousers and put on his jacket, and headed out to the Angel pick up. The Angels are large-size drones that are capable of carrying 6 people in a shuttle compartment. There were stations located all over the city for such craft used for regular transportation but the Angels were specifically designed for church services. They are designed to look like cherubim. They ascend and descend with the sounds of angelic music and flashy white lighting. Able hated the things but he found riding them a surreal experience. Everyone in them always is well dressed and too polite. As the thing lifted off and flew to its location a holographic image of the minister of the services appeared in the center of the cab. He always praised Imperious and give a briefing of the night’s services that the Angel headed to.
The Angel arrived at the church’s landing station just outside the giant gaudy cathedral. The Angels were arriving three at a time, the number of craft that could fit on the landing pad safely, and dozens of people were walking into the structure who were arriving by other means of transportation.
Able headed into the building and found himself a seat on a pew bench in the far back nearest the entrance so that he could make his escape once he received his Calling. The service began at 8 pm always on time. The doors shut and Believers appointed by the church stood guard at them not allowing any exit or entrance unless a communication excuse was displayed by a participant allowing such an interruption. Right at 8 pm, everyone would be seated and quietly chatting to each other when the lights dimmed and the show began.
It started with lights and lasers like some sort of old-fashioned rock concert while heavenly music blared all around. The interior of the building is designed so that the seating completely surrounded a center stage where the minister would appear from out of fog and light through the floor. The minister soon rose shrouded within the fog and his voice boomed throughout the building as if coming from the air itself.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to tonight’s congregation! You will enjoy it immensely, but first, let us bow in silence and offer our prayers to the betterment of Imperious and our God blessed society. Come on keep them coming and keep the power of God flowing through Imperious. That’s it!” the minister continued as a large glowing ephemeral red orb appeared high above him in the air.
As believers bowed and prayed the mental taps sent signals to the orb. The orb would swell and grow larger as more people prayed for God’s blessing to Imperious. Quickly the globe began growing as the minister egged the crowd on. Once the globe reached an enormous size nearly filling the space above the minister up to the ceiling it turned a warm green color. The minister then yelled out praises, the crowd cheered, music played and much fanfare ensued for the next 5 minutes or so.
The crowd began settling down and the minister started in a calm voice.
“Friends there are blessings from God going out all over tonight. Can you feel it? Imperious and our way of life has been deemed worthy and I know you know it’s true. Yes, there are Callings going on all throughout our church tonight.”
Just then a communicator signaled and lit up from somewhere in the audience and that person stood up, followed by another from somewhere else in the crowd, then another. Soon there were around 10 people standing up with their arms raised above their heads in praise as if receiving a gift from above while holding their communicator up in one hand as it glowed bright green indicating they had been called.
Able was getting anxious knowing his communicator should be signaling any moment but the slight delay made him nervous, without his Calling he could not get out of the service. Soon his device came to life with a bright green light and soft tones of joyful music. He stood up holding his communicator up and imitating the others who also had received their calling. The minister gave praise to those called and they each filed out to an exit. Each individual may be called to a unique place so it was not asked where they were going or how they were getting there. A flaw in the system that the underground learned to take advantage of. Able was soon out of the church and on his way to the congregation he wanted to attend.
Able walked toward the Angel landing pad then turned down a side path that was cloaked by trees and shrubs. He followed a row of trees until he came along an old railroad track that led to the industrial district. This route provided good cover from any Listeners or surveillance that was common along main streets. It was about a 15-minute walk before he got into the heart of all the abandoned buildings of the industrial district.
The industrial district is a perfect cover for underground meetings as long as they are kept low-key. Largely forgotten about by the city and left to its own accord decades ago as large warehouses and factories became a thing of the past. Able followed the procedure of coming to a meeting of the underground by ensuring he wasn’t followed and going through a designated entrance when no one else was doing the same.
At the entrance, Able received contact by an unbeliever on the inside through his mental tap. What appeared to be just a wall dissolved into a doorway that he stepped through, the wall quickly reformed behind him. Just beyond the entrance sat a large Rottweiler but it was no ordinary dog. This dog had been genetically enhanced for the purpose of guarding such meetings. The Rot gave him a sniff and then sat back down indicating clear to enter. Inside there were roughly 25 people mulling about. The meetings are kept small so that those attending could disguise the location easier. He saw Sharese and went over to her.
She gave him a big hug, “Able so glad you came. It’s going to be so exciting. There is a member of Imperious Media here, an agent that believes in the cause. There are plans to get our message to the masses so that they can hear the truth. And he’s not alone apparently, there are others in high places who also are bending an ear. We’re doing it Able! We are finally speaking truth to power!” They smiled at each other and raised their clenched communicators in hand and yelled, “Free your mind!” Soon others joined in and all began to chant the motto, “Free your mind!”