2033, Fort Leavenworth, ExxonMobil Correctional Facility
Peter sat on his bed in his cell with a permanent frown, his smartphone in his hands, searching for another video to watch.
Apart from trying to keep abreast of what had been going on in the world since his, Michelle’s, and the other sympathizers’ arrests, he was using the videos as distractions from everything he had to be miserable about. As distractions, though, the videos weren’t of much use, of course.
He tried to forget his and Michelle’s treason trials and convictions. Their protestations, as well as those of their defence attorneys, that the Bolshivarians were trying to help the world, fell on deaf ears. Their counter-accusation–that it was the armies of the world that were the real war criminals, having killed hundreds of thousands of people with the nuclear bombs dropped on Santiago, Lagos, and Jakarta, all to draw out the Bolshivarians so they could be sprayed with bug toxins, killing not only the aliens but millions of human carriers as well–also fell on deaf ears.
He heard the clanking of metal on the bars of his cell. He looked up from his phone to see Culig, one of the prison guards, giving him a tray of food.
“Here’s your breakfast, traitor,” Culig said as he put the tray through a horizontal rectangular hole in the bars. “I hope you choke to death on your bacon and eggs,” he added, a typical comment from him.
Neither Peter, nor Michelle, Wendy, Pat, Valerie, nor Sid were allowed even to eat in the prison cafeteria, for fear they’d sit together at a table and reminisce about old times in Venezuela or Angola. Part of their punishment was to be deprived of friendly company for the rest of their lives.
He took his tray from Culig, thanking him with a scowl. He took it back to the bed and sat back down.
I miss Michelle, he thought. I miss her touch.
He found a video of a crowd of people on the streets of Paris protesting the nuclear bombings of the previous year. His grasp of French was good enough to know that they were also sympathizing with the slain aliens, for he saw placards that had such messages as, Tuer les Bolsivariens, c’est aussi un crime de guerre! and Pas de guerre nucléaire!
He was struck by the huge range of emotions he saw in the protestors…he was struck by the fact that there even were protestors!
Didn’t all those vaccines dope all the spirit of resistance out of everybody? he wondered. I thought all the sympathizers were arrested. This protest is commemorating the first anniversary of the bombings. This video was taken only last week! Surely it’s going to be deleted any time now; I’m surprised it’s still up. How is all of this possible? We lost!
Then he Googled more information, that of independent bloggers. He found one, published just a few days before, titled, “How the Vax Got Vanquished.” The writer said, “I went about every day like a zombie, just doing my job without any feeling or interest. Then one day, someone touched my arm, a carrier of the aliens. I saw the little lights go out of his fingers and into my body. I was so numb from the effects of the vaccines I’d been made to take that I didn’t feel scared; if my body was to be torn to pieces, I just thought, ‘Oh, well…’ But instead, I felt that emotional numbness fading out of me. I started to feel something I hadn’t felt in years…emotions. Energy. Drive. Passion. And most importantly, joy! A touch of the aliens cured me! I’ve heard stories from many other people who’ve had the same experience.”
They’re still alive, Peter thought. They’re not all dead, after all. And the article is still online.
He searched for more information to explain all these odd developments. He found a YouTube video, again recently published, of a woman standing before the camera and saying the following:
“We all know of how governments around the world have been testing people to see if they’re carriers of the Bolshivarians. It has been assumed that, by now, they have all been found and, on exposure, been killed–that is, the human carriers are shot, and the Bolshivarians are exterminated with the bug spray toxins.
“This, however, is far from the truth, as I’ve been tested and allowed to pass, alongside many other carriers.” To prove her assertion, she let the tiny dots of light flow out of her fingers and towards the camera screen.
They’re alive, he thought with a smile. They’ve been hiding, but they’re coming back.
“You sympathizers out there in the world,” she went on, “I say this hoping you’ll hear my words before this video is removed from the internet: don’t lose hope. We have non-carrier sympathizers conducting the tests and allowing carriers to pass them undetected. We’ll all be free sooner than you think.”
He was so excited, he’d forgot about his breakfast, which was getting cold. He started shovelling it down.
After eating, his newfound happiness caused him to let go of the tension he’d been feeling up until this morning. His initial excitement thus gave way to a sense of peaceful contentment, making him want to lie on his bed and meditate on his new hopes. Within an hour, he fell asleep.
He’d been napping until lunchtime when that clanking metallic noise woke him up. “Here’s your lunch, traitor!” Culig snapped at him. Peter didn’t scowl at him this time when he took his tray, surprising and annoying Culig.
About two hours later, Culig returned.
“Peter, get up,” he said. “We’re transferring you.”
“What?” Peter said, rising to his feet. He never calls me by my name. No look of hate in his eyes, either. Not much emotion of any kind.
“Please hurry,” Culig said. “We don’t have much time.”
Peter put his smartphone in his pocket and approached the bars. Culig never says ‘please,’ either, he thought. This is truly weird.
Culig opened the cell door. “C’mon, we gotta go.”
“Nobody said anything about a transfer,” Peter said as he came out of his cell. “What’s going on?”
“Everything will be explained later,” Culig said as they walked through the hall and out of the cellblock area. “For now, let’s just focus on getting you out of here, and fast.”
Culig is never this…nice, Peter thought. He also seems a little robot-like. Just two hours ago, he was his usual mean self. And now…?
Peter was even further amazed at how smoothly he got through the whole prison complex, all the documentation and requisition forms reviewed and accepted without a hitch. And this was all for a transfer he’d never been told about until just now. He thought to look carefully at the faces of all the people cooperating to make this transfer so effortless.
They all had Culig’s newly-acquired automaton-like body language. Had they all acquired these same traits, just this afternoon? And who gave them these traits, all of a sudden?
Could it be? Peter wondered, remembering all he’d looked at on his smartphone that morning. Nah, don’t get your hopes up too high.
He was taken outside, to where a dark green truck was parked by the outer entrance gate.
“Get in,” Culig told him. “Good luck, where you’re going.”
“What?” Peter said, looking back at the guard and seeing no trace of sarcasm (or any other emotion, for that matter) on his face. He got in the truck.
Now he felt an even greater shock…but a pleasant one.
“Peter?” a familiar, female voice called out to him. The driver closed the back door of the truck, leaving everyone in there in almost total darkness.
“What?…Michelle?” he shouted, straining his eyes to find her face in the dark of the truck. When he spotted her, he ran over to where she was sitting. They hugged and kissed.
“What’s going on?” she asked. “You don’t think they’re taking us out to be killed or anything, do you?”
“I don’t know,” he said, sitting down beside her. “My guard, who’s never nice to me, seemed nicer just now.”
The truck started moving.
“I know,” she said. “My guard seemed nicer today, too.”
“Did their mannerisms seem a little…mechanical to you, and I mean ‘mechanical’ in a familiar way?” he asked.
She recalled her mother’s initial mannerisms when she’d just been made a carrier, then made a mental comparison to those of her guards. “Yeah, now that you mention it, they were,” she said.
“I noticed the same thing, Peter,” another familiar female voice said in the darkness, to which his eyes were only now adjusting. “But I don’t wanna get my hopes up.”
“Wendy Callaghan?” he asked. “Is that you?”
“Yes, it’s me,” she said in a cheerful voice.
“Wow!” he said, then went over to hug her. “So good to see you…well, sort of, in the dark…again! Any other familiar faces in here? My eyes are still just adjusting to the dark.” He squinted and looked around.
“Over here, Peter,” Pat called out. Peter could barely make out his and Valerie’s faces, then their waving hands.
“Oh, hi!” Peter said, waving back. “Is Sid here?”
“Oh?” Sid grunted, waking up from a nap. “Did someone call me?”
“Yeah, there’s Sid,” Peter said. “Hi!”
Sid strained his eyes to recognize Peter. “Oh, hi, Peter.”
“So, where are we being transferred to?” Michelle asked. “Anybody know?”
Every voice in the back of the truck said, “No.”
“You’d think they’d have told us,” Valerie said. “Why didn’t any of them say where we’re going?”
“That’s what’s kind of scary about all of this,” Pat said. “Were they all nice to us because today is our last…Oh, I don’t wanna say it.”
Suddenly, the truck stopped.
There was an uncomfortable silence of several seconds.
“We’re about to find out, I guess,” Wendy said.
The driver opened up the back of the truck. Blinding sunlight shone outside. “Everybody out,” he said.
They all came out slowly, with shaking legs. When their feet touched the gravelly ground, they looked around, with a hand over each pair of eyes to block the sun. Now they had to adjust their eyes to the light…but they were afraid of what they would see.
No wall to line up against.
No firing squad.
Just the local bus station.
“What the…?” Peter asked.
“There are people in the bus station, our contacts, who will take you where you want to go,” the driver said, in as monotone a voice as Culig and the other guards. “Go in there, and you’ll find them.”
“Where we want to go?” Sid asked.
“Yes,” the driver said. “You’re all free now. We arranged it. But beware of the manhunt that’s coming soon; we might not be able to stop that soon enough, though we plan to. The people in there will help you, and we’ll do what we can to slow the manhunt down, as I said. Anyway, goodbye, and good luck.” A few little dots of light flew out of his waving hand. He went back to the truck, got in, and drove away.
Peter and the others just stood there, stunned.
After a few seconds, Michelle said, “I guess we’ll go into the bus station, then.”