Sharon’s gut wrenched when the thought bubble appeared on her screen, “Would you like to reconsider your search request?”
She typed, “I have a code.”
“The Premier has personally selected the following resources for your learning.”
Nine articles about euthanasia appeared on the screen. Before the title of each was the crisscrossed infinity logo of The Premier.
Sharon reviewed all the titles and clicked on “The Premier chooses Grisentia over self.”
Once on the landing page, she saw that it was an article from The Yumgar Times. As she thought about what Stephen, her once and still best friend that she was totally crushing on, had said about The Yumgar Times, she wondered how much, if any was true.
Before she began to read, another thought bubble displayed in her screen's top right corner: "By selecting first, the only link that gives wisdom direct from The Premier, you have received 3 Intelligence Points.”
She clicked to clear the bubble and looked at her Grisentia Societal Dashboard, “Governance 13743 pts - Responsibility 8755 pts - Intelligence 3433 pts - Social 8117 Environmental 5840 pts.”
Wanting to see what the points had done to her status, she clicked on “Intelligence.”
Listed on the opened landing page:
“In your class #4 of 31”
“In your grade at School 17East #51 of 613”
“In School 17East #233 of 2388”
“Of all 17-year-old Grisentians #78903 of 751632”
Another thought bubble appeared on the screen, “On average, you check your personal intelligence 13% more often than any of your societal rankings. The Premier recommends that all citizens place greater value on serving society than themselves. Would you like some recommended reading links sent to your GriMail?”
Knowing it would help balance her dashboard a bit and wanting to get off any of the rumored ‘Premier Watchlists,’ she clicked on yes and returned to the reading about euthanasia.
The article detailed The Premier's commitment to ending his own life if ever a time came when he questioned his ability to add more to society than he was taking. He challenged all Grisentians to do the same for the betterment of Grisentia. Especially in light of the cost of medical care for the aged and infirmed citizens. The article did say The Premier was confident that the always generous citizens of Grisentia would make the right choice so he would not have to do the only responsible thing and address it through edicts.
The bed began a subtle intermittent vibration, and Sharon looked for her phone. A notification on the screen told her Stephen was outside her house.
She typed, “Be right there.”
She opened her GriMail, downloaded each article on serving society, then shut her laptop and headed for the door. Before leaving, she told her parents she was off to study with Stephen and left the house. Her parents both assented but didn’t look up.
As she descended the stairs, “Where are we going?”
“To a meeting.”
“Is this with the people you told me about?”
Stephen looked around, “Yes. Are you sure you still want to do this?”
“Sharon, this is very dangerous. You would be arrested if you were ever caught or even rumored to attend one of these meetings. They don’t care that you are not eighteen yet. They will take you away from your parents. Brandon, who leads the meetings, said that no one has ever returned after being taken away. No matter what age,” he watched to gauge her reaction, knowing he was only giving her partial truths.
“I have never heard of anyone we know disappearing.”
“Do you remember the Flannigans?”
“Yes, they moved to Sherbia last year.”
“Did Mike or Lisa tell you they were moving?”
“Um, no. I think Mrs. Cavanaugh at school did.”
Stephen grabbed her hand and stopped, “Don’t you think it odd that, knowing them since we were kids, neither of them said goodbye?”
Her face lost color, “Are you saying they were taken away?”
He pulled her in and hugged her.
Surprised by the affection she had coveted but never experienced, she wrapped her arms around him and laid her head on his shoulder. Pulling only her head back, “What was that for?”
“I have wanted to do that for so long,” and he leaned his face towards hers.
Sharon forgot about everything and initiated her and their first kiss.
When he pulled away, “I didn’t plan that. Honest.”
Giggling, “I didn’t expect it. But I would be lying if I said I hadn’t dreamed of it for way too long.”
Letting her go, “This is so weird. I only stopped to tell you more about what to expect and what the costs of being involved in this meeting could do to you and possibly your family. Mr. Flannigan was our group’s leader before Brandon. His whole family disappeared in the middle of the night.”
“Why? Where did they go?”
“Sharon, the group is not exactly what I told you. I mean, they are a civil rights group, like I said. But there are groups like it meeting all over Grisentia. They are planning on standing up to the government,” again, he studied her, ready to send her back without going further.
“Yes. That’s what I want. There has to be more we can do. They watch everything. They decide what we can read, what we can watch, and who we can be with. I think they are trying to control how we think. We have to stand up for our rights. Maybe we can do a march or something. Remember that book my parents had at our house in Junior High?”
“I do remember. Those books were all confiscated along with thousands of others. They were taken out of the libraries and bookstores. The Premier has been slowly eliminating anything that speaks of personal rights. Brandon has a way to get on the internet that shows what is available to everyone outside Grisentia. In many of the other colonies, people live free. Free to think what they want and do what they want. Food is available to everyone. They have rights that protect them from the government.”
“We have access to the internet too. What are you saying?”
“Yes, but The Premier blocks everything he doesn’t want us to see. The same way he tracks what you do when you are on your phone and computer, he tracks everywhere we go, everything we do.”
“Then how come he doesn’t stop the meetings?”
“Well, you know how there are spots where the chip monitors don’t have coverage? We can identify those, and the meetings are held in and around them. We also have devices to shield us even further from being detected. The blockers make it impossible for your chip to be located while you are in those spots. Each meeting is held with different groups of people than the ones before. We are shuffled, so The Premier’s analytics don’t see the same people going to the same dark spots.”
“This is crazy, Stephen. What if we get caught?”
Deciding that he would go all the way, tell her everything, and let her choose for herself, “That’s why I have to tell you everything before we go. This is a huge risk, Sharon. One I am willing to take. I can’t live like this anymore. I know about things that are even more terrifying. The government is out of money and doing everything it can to end what they see as a risk to its power or a drain on its resources. They are eliminating everyone that speaks out or meets with people they believe are subversive. The assignment you told me about today is new to the curriculum. The Premier won’t be making edicts because he has had anyone with long-term and expensive care treatments euthanized.”
Sharon held both of his hands in hers, “I’m afraid, Stephen. But I do want to go to your meeting. Let’s go. I want to hear what they say.”
“Okay, there is one more thing I have to tell you,” he looked her straight in the eyes, “You are going to see two people you would never expect to see. They asked me to warn you before we got there.”
Lips trembling, “Who?”
“WHAT? Why will they be there?” and she let his hands go.
“They did not want you to feel pressured into doing anything because they are your parents. They are part of the leadership. They are so brave. They wanted you to decide on your own to be a part of this or to get clear of it.”
“So they asked you to do it? This is too much. I don’t understand.”
He reached for her again. She let him pull her into him.
“No. I told them that you had asked me if I thought it was right the way we are watched, scored, and ranked by everything we do. I told them I thought you were ready to know what we were doing and make your own decision.”
“I don’t know if I am ready.”
She looked at him with fear in her eyes, and he kissed her again, longer and more passionately this time. She gave in to it.
When he pulled away, “I know. This is a lot. It's frightening, but there is still more. I had to know if you would be with me. I know you are the one for me, Sharon. I am crazy about you. I have been for a long time. I have been waiting for you to turn eighteen. I want you and me to be together. But I don’t want a life, even with you, especially with you, in a world where we are afraid to live, controlled in everything we do. And fortunately or unfortunately, we can’t wait for you to turn eighteen.”
She looked at him like he was crazy—a frown on her face. Then a smile, “I am so confused. I think you just told me you like me.”
“No, Sharon. I love you. I have been in love with you since your sixteenth birthday party. I have been killing myself trying to control how I feel while working with Brandon and your parents.”
She started to cry, “Then why are you telling me now? Are you leaving? Is something wrong? Do my parents know you like me? Or love me?”
He took a deep breath, “They know everything. And so much more. If you go with me to the meeting tonight, we won’t be going back home. Over the next four hours, about thirteen-hundred people will enter the building and leave within minutes. There will be doctors there who will remove our chips. We will leave with weapons. Not only us but also other groups all over Grisentia. Tonight is the end of our planning and the start of our doing.”
Shaking her head, “This is too much. What does that even mean?”
“It means tonight we say no more. In every province, doctors, lawyers, police officers, firefighters, council members, teachers, and laborers will take up arms and fight.”
“And…..we will too?”
“If you are ready to join me, yes!”
She turned, grabbed one hand, and pulled him in the direction they had begun less than thirty minutes before. “Are you afraid?”
He told her the truth, “Scared to death. But excited to one day say that the first night I kissed you was on Independence Day.”
“Independence Day…..I like the sound of that.”