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Story The Reluctant Anarchist Chapter-1
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2009

    The Reluctant Anarchist Chapter-1

    Martin walked down the crowded street not really paying any attention to the other Winter Break shoppers as they scurried past each other on their self-absorbed mission of consumerism. He’d already spent far too many credits and pretty much burned up what was left of his salary advance for the month. Besides it just wasn’t the same any more for him, it was far too commercialized, too ho hum and meaningless and to most folks it was just an excuse for a week off from work, those that had work. He remembered that Christmas had always been a great time when he was a kid before it was banned. Well not the holiday part, not the buying part – as that supported the economy and was considered a good thing; however they had finally managed to take the Christ out of Christmas and just flat out banned what was considered the discriminatory part, the religious part.

    What had once been a celebrated as the “alleged” birth of the “alleged” Christian Savior had been transmuted into what was now referred to as the Winter Solstice Celebration or simply...Winter Break. It was about the time when he became a teenager that the country had finally became completely secular and all open displays of religious symbols and thus religious holidays had been ultimately banned by the Supreme Court. The tax exemption for religious institutions soon followed and within a few years many of the physical properties that where once used for worship had been taken over by various city, state and federal agencies through the process of eminent domain and turned into homeless shelters, community centers or storage facilities. “A more productive use of these buildings….” The government folks had repeated their new mantra over and over and over again until most citizens actually believed it. Martin was really too young at the time to fully understand the changes that the system had forced upon them and while he sort of resented the loss of the jolly old guy in the red suit, if he represented a repressive component of a decrepit society maybe it was a good thing, but he didn’t really buy it for one second.

    He pulled his coat collar up in a feeble attempt to block the light snow that had just started to fall from finding its way down the back of his neck as it always seemed to and he dodged another fellow shopper with an armful of presents in too much of a hurry to pay any attention to where they were actually going.

    “One more stop and I’m done.” He mumbled to himself.

    He ducked into the candy shop and was immediately hit with the overwhelming smell of warm caramel, chocolate and hot apple cider. He took in a big snoot full of the enchanting aromas that assaulted him….delicious.

    “May I help you sir?” The matronly gray haired lady behind the glass counter cheerfully asked.

    “Ah….I’d like something special for my mother. Something with very dark and rich…maybe one of those truffle things?”

    “I know just the thing for you young man.” She gracefully moved down the counter and passed her hand over some lusciously dark colored orbs presenting them for his approval.

    He stared through the glass and picked several out and watched as the salesperson deftly wrapped each one and placed them in their own little box sealed with a small miniature ribbon.

    “Mom will love those.” He thought to himself.

    “Here you go young man, that will be twenty-three fifty.” She said as she handed Martin the package.

    He waved his multipass ID/Debit card over the scanning field and the register beeped. A metallic voice immediately responded.

    “Martin Swartz. Purchase for twenty three and one half credits, do you accept?”


    “Verified. Purchase of twenty-three and one half credits will be deducted from your account. Your remaining credits are….”

    “Thank you.” He cut the machine voice off. He already knew the damage he had done to his account over the last week with his seasonal buying and not only didn’t want to be reminded, he didn’t want to be embarrassed by the meager amount remaining in his account to be announced to a store full of shoppers.

    “Thank you Martin Swartz for shopping at See’s Candy.” The voice immediately replied.

    “Ah…yeah, thanks.”

    “Young man, you look a little chilled. Would you like a cup of our hot cider?” The gray haired lady asked with a smile.

    She offered a steamy hot service paper cup to him (Styrofoam had been outlawed for over twenty years) and the smell was too much to turn away. He sipped it cautiously until his mouth was ready for the warmth and then he took a small swig and allowed it to coat the entire inside of his palate before he swallowed the warm amber liquid.

    “MMMMmmm. That is good!” He mumbled.

    She leaned forward and in a whisper said to him. “You have a very happy holiday young man.”

    He took another sip and then he leaned closer yet, mindful of the cameras up in the corners of the room with their voice recorders running somewhere in the bowels of the earth and in the slightest of whispers he replied to her.

    “You have a Merry Christmas Ma’am.” And he winked.

    Her face suddenly lit up. “And you too Sir, and you too.”

    ll too soon he was back out in the dark and snowy night making his way to the tram station three blocks away, crunching his way through the freshly fallen snow with an arm full of gifts. That was a stupid thing for him to say to that old lady but he knew that it made her day. Oh well, it would probably cost him twenty or thirty credits for the “Intolerance fine”. Silly name for a fine anyways, after all just who was being intolerant? How harmful could a few little words like Merry Christmas be? Seemed kind of silly to ban such simple and harmless words, but the New Bill of Rights didn’t allow for such Hate Speech and if those microphones had picked up anything he’d know by morning.

    “Oh well….nothing from nothing…is pretty much nothing!”

    He chuckled to himself as he walked through the circle of light from the street lamp and glanced up at one of the ever-present cameras that monitored the community.

    “Now this has to be a pretty boring sector to monitor for someone.” He thought to himself.

    Even through he knew perfectly well that most of the cameras were not actually manned by a living and breathing person, just computer programs that looked for anomalies, anything that was out of the ordinary.

    The tram station was moderately packed as people scurried about on their way to and fore, their shopping over, or work done for the day, some going home, some going out. He walked through the inspection scanners oblivious to the myriad of computer functions that were taking place at that very moment. The RFID nano chips in each package told the sensors what they were attached to, the origin of manufacture, wholesaler, retail outlet and buyers identity, in addition to confirming to the monitoring systems that they were indeed harmless. At the same time the RFID chip embedded in the back of Martin’s right hand verified his identity, where he lived, worked, was born, any relationships or relatives that might be of interest to the state, his purchases that evening and automatically deducted the charges from his dwindling account for entering into the transportation system. In addition highly sensitive chemical sniffers and whole body scanners determined that he had not come into contact with nor was he carrying any that even resembled a weapon or bomb. In the five seconds it took Martin to walk through the security corridor he was determined to be of no threat to society or to the transportation system. He was just another mundane worker that had been out shopping and was headed home.

    Martin plopped himself down on the plastic bench seat that ran along the wall and sat his bags on the floor between his legs as the coach filled up and he leaned back exhausted from his shopping. A soft bell rang twice then a gentle woman’s voice filled the passenger cabin.

    “Stanford Station, next stop. Bong-Bong” And the tram slightly jerked and began to move forward.

    Martin stared off in to space not particularly paying attention to anything or anyone as he glanced over the constantly changing advertisements on the curved ad screens mounted up in the corners of the coach ceiling. Nothing there he wanted, needed or could afford right now…if ever. A tropical vacation scene popped up in the next ad.

    “Now there would be a nice place to be right about now” he thought to himself as his eyes dropped down and looked through the cabin windows at the snow rapidly flying past outside the speeding tram.

    It had been a long day at work and what seemed like a longer day shopping when he arrived at the dimly lit entrance to his complex. The buildings security scanners recognized him as he stood in front of the buildings main entrance door. They scanned the immediate area around Martin, finding no one else the door opened and he stepped through. Across the dark lobby and up the stairs he started. Eight flights to his landing, the elevators and escalators had long since succumbed to abysmal maintenance so that by the time he finally walked up the last few steps to his landing and approached his front door now both his arms and legs were tired. His apartment door much like the outer complex door failed to recognize him and he had to set down some of his packages in order to open the antique key locks he has installed after numerous attempts to get the landlord to affect the needed repairs. He finally managed to get the manual locks open and stepped into the cramped hallway entrance to his apartment, he was finally home.

    His apartment was dark and he used his elbow to flip the toggle on an antique light switch. A row of small low energy LED’s that were carefully strung up in the corner of the wall and ceiling where they met, came on and illuminated his way into “his cave” as he often referred to it. He dropped the shopping bags on the coffee table, kicked off his shoes and walked into the kitchenette. Martin reached over on the wall and dialed up the kitchen LED lights that slowly increased to a level he could see by and yet still remained quite subdued. It was not as bright as he would have liked it, but it did save on the wear and tear to his guerrilla photo-voltaic system and the meager golf cart batteries that he used to store the days gathered energy.

    Electricity was just too expensive to buy in any large quantities and the excise taxes placed on use of the local system grid was staggering. A friend of his, Seth, a supreme scrounger, worked for the local transportation system and had come across a small stash of road sign solar panels long forgotten in an out of the way warehouse and managed to “recycle” several for himself and Martin. While he couldn’t completely drop off the “grid” the panels hidden on his enclosed balcony managed to gather in enough juice daily to supplement his measly state authorized energy allowance and actually saved him a decent amount of credits each month. If he was ever caught “stealing” energy from the sun with his gorillia power set up at worst he would pay some hefty fines and probably be forced to pay back for all the stolen energy that he hadn’t purchased from the authorized grid. Oh well, he wasn’t too concerned about getting caught. Eight floors up and in a dilapidated forgotten apartment complex in a less than desirable section of the city that no one ever came out to inspect and no one really cared about. Who would know? Besides which his system was so small and his energy foot print so tiny that no one would pay any attention to it. So what, that from time to time he could watch a DVD or surf the Internet and even play a video game without his pocket book being too dinged. It was all part of living in the modern era. Everyone cheated to some degree.

    Martin opened the small high efficiency apartment refrigerator that stood under the kitchen counter, grabbed the pint of orange juice and drank right from the container.

    “Sorry Mom.” He thought.

    Suddenly something brushed up against his lower leg.

    “Evening Caesar.” Martin reached down and scratched the Tabby's head.

    Caesar was the one luxury that Martin felt that he couldn’t live without, “Companions” were not cheap. They were not cheap to buy, to care for, to feed and especially not cheap to pay the Companion Tax on, but it was one of the few concessions that Martin allowed for himself. Though the monthly visits from the local Animal Rights Ombudsperson was a pain at first, they eventually faded off to once a quarter and then once a year and now it had been some time since Martin had had a visit. Besides which Caesar was a lot cheaper than getting a girl friend and dealing with all the lawyers’ fees and contract negotiations required by law in case he should actuall have sexual desires towards that person. He could totally forget even thinking about getting married, only rich people could afford that and he was certainly not rich or ever likely to be, and he wasn’t high enough on the genetic food chain to ever be granted procreation rights. So for now, he had a cat, or rather…Caesar had his human.

    “Hey guy, it’s Friday night!” Martin began to move around the cramped kitchenette gathering up the necessities of making dinner. “How about we celebrate with a little meat tonight!”

    Caesar’s ears perked up and he meowed and rubbed himself up against Martin’s leg.

    “Yes we’ve been good all week. We deserve some real meat tonight… real as we can get.”

    Martin opened up his storage cupboard and scanned a few cans trying to read the labels in the dim light until he found the one he was looking for.

    “Let’s see. Free range pseudo organic transgenic chicken protein flaked. MMMMMMmmmm, imported, now that sounds pretty awesome there doesn’t it guy.”

    Within minutes Caesar was hard at work trying to get every last drop of flavor out of the now empty can as Martin fired up his little homemade alcohol cook stove on the kitchen counter and heated the freshly filtered rain water for the ramen noodles, dehydrated vegetables and pseudo chicken with reconstituted powdered cheese sauce. Friday was always meat night in the Swartz' household and Martin could even dimly remember back when meat was on the menu almost every night as a kid, real meat that is. But those days were long gone and all Martin had was a memory of what genuine meat tasted like. The Animal Rights people had seen to the demise of that.

    Martin sat on the couch and leaned forward over his small coffee table eating his bowl of pseudo-chicken and cheesy noodles and caught the last few minutes of the late night news. It was pretty much the same old banter emanating from the talking heads with plastic smiles filled with blazingly bright teeth, perfectly coiffed hair and the latest fashion look that had probably been recycled every twenty years since the style had actually originated. They always rattled on about how great things were going in the war on terrorism. How great the economy was doing. How great all the sports teams were….everything was just great, Great, GREAT, GREAT!

    Martin leaned back and looked slowly around his dimly lit tiny apartment and surveyed his little kingdom. It was basically just one big room; actually it had been an “executive hotel suite” in the dim distant past. It had a small kitchenette, so small only one person…and a cat could work in there at one time. His main room consisted of a hide a bed couch, a computer table, a wall of books on cobbled together bookshelves and a battery box over by the balcony sliding glass door and a small coffee table that served also as his dinning table, workbench and general catch all. He did have a private bathroom with a commode and a tiny shower that worked periodically and a small closet stuffed full of his few personal possessions and barely held the plastic storage boxes stacked along one side. Yep…it was seriously palatial…for a cat.

    “Great…huh?” He muttered as he looked over at his cat, now sprawled out on his back like a drunken sailor lying beside Martin.

    “What kind of cat sleeps like that?” He wondered.

    The weekend was uneventful. Martin woke up early as he always did just as the sun was starting to chase away the dark of night and made a cup of imitation chicory coffee. It tasted like crap but with enough powdered creamer and with a little black market sugar it was passable for hot brown water. Real coffee was far too expensive for his budget although once or twice a quarter he would indulge himself with a small cup of the “real stuff” from an old street vendor that hung out near his work. He then tidied up his little flat and began his checking all the little support systems he had incorporated into his mundane boring life.

    He checked the fluid levels and acid water ratios of his solar storage batteries. By meticulously caring for these third hand batteries he had managed to extend their function for over five years beyond their normal life span. He charted the findings and measured each ones electrolyte level. One of them was starting to show signs of finally giving up the ghost and he knew that he’d have to start looking right away for replacements. This current set had taken him nearly two years to locate and replacing them was not going to be easy or cheap. These hadn’t been rebuilt yet so there was still hope that he might not have to find replacements, but even rebuilding was not cheap and finding someone to do it was almost as difficult as finding new batteries. He would have to run by Seth’s place next week and see what his scrounger friend could come up with. Such conversations would be considered “shopping below the sidewalk” was best done face to face as all modern communication systems were closely monitored to prevent possible “terrorist traffic”.

    He checked the output of his homemade still that produced his fuel alcohol for his cooking stove and a little barter on the side. It was hidden beneath the bathroom sink and plumbed into the toilet’s water storage tank where the condenser coils wound through the tank’s cool water and then dripped out its precious product into an old glass jug. To the unskilled eye it was just a jug catching a small leak from the back of the tank. It was just about time to start a new batch.

    Martin cleaned Caesar’s cat box and took the refuse out to the small compost bin on the balcony. He had constructed the balcony greenhouse using recycled glass and Plexiglas panels, which created a small greenhouse that was packed full with a jungle of plants. He dumped Caesar’s contribution into the bin along with a few kitchen scraps and some contributions from the lunchroom at work. Along with chicory grounds and a few weeds he would pick along the walk home, Martin had managed to actually make a little soil periodically and keep a small family of earthworms happy. He then checked and preened his micro garden that survived eight stories up from dead soil below them at street level. He knew that he was breaking several proprietary laws by growing his little collection of plants. It seemed that someone, somewhere, usually a corporation, owned all the seed rights to all the plants on the planet, but Martin didn’t care. He was a small part of a vast network of rogue gardeners that swapped open pollinated seeds and plants. He wasn’t licensed to grow vegetables and that was another violation somewhere, but his tiny effort had no real impact on the world at large and was mostly overlooked by his landlord in exchange for a few ripe cherry tomatoes, a real carrot, and a pot of string beans every now and then.

    Part of the legal problem was that when the major seed corporations created transgenic or Genetically Modified Organisms and were allowed to patent the various DNA sequences of their new plants. No one accounted for the fact that pollen from these now patented organisms could and would spread to non-patented varieties. Since these patented gene sequences were someone’s property a kind of piracy began to take place when the patented pollen drifted on the wind or was carried by insects to unpatented species. By law the specific gene sequences belonged to the corporations that owned the patent on them, not the hapless farmers whose corps became accidentally polluted by the patented pollen. Soon there were no truly open pollinated seeds left and corporations controlled all the food production plants in the world.

    With the exception of rogue gardeners like Martin every food item on the planet was controlled, regulated, licensed, and taxed. Even the water that he captured from the roof run off to feed his tiny garden belonged to someone. His gray water and even his black water belonged to the city, or state, or someone. His worm bed was a violation of at least ten community ordinances and laws and if PETA found out about it he would surely serve some sort of detention on top of cruelty fines for feeding them feces from another species and despite his felonious activities his worms seemed quite content. His garden was green and happy. Caesar was definitely spoiled, the batteries would last at least another six months, the water filters were cleaned and reinstalled, his fifty-five gallon rain water barrel was full, there was at least a months worth of food in the apartment, he had plenty of toilet paper and a couple of gallons of “trading whiskey” ready to go. That was his life in a nutshell. Boring, mundane, but at least survivable…and he had a job.

    It wasn’t much of a job, but it was a job. Martin was a research specialist. Despite all the search engines, all the various computer programs that gathered up vast amounts of trivial information. Someone, somewhere still had to sort through all those search hits and decide what was truly valuable and what was absolute trash. One of the major problems of the computer age was too much information. Sometimes you had to think outside the box using convoluted logic, something that a human brain does best, in order to find the answers that someone, somewhere else is demanding to know. The down side is that it is incredibly boring work most of the time. The up side is that occasionally Martin would come across a bit of information that was personally valuable and he would then download it for later study at home.

    That is how he learned about vermiculture (growing worms), micro gardening, brewing, water harvesting and treatment, and the photovoltaic systems that now powered his little flat and many other areas of interest and potential use. Yet all that he had learned and all that he had applied was illegal and owned by someone else. It was forbidden to be found thinking outside the framework of the system. Like little drones citizens were expected to support and obey the decisions of the operators of the system. Thinking and especially acting independently was strictly forbidden.

    Later that Saturday afternoon Martin began to work on his side job which was repairing and reconditioning older personal computer systems and small electrical devices. Up in a storage attic several floors above his little flat, behind long forgotten boxes belonging to forgotten tenants he had created a little workshop in a back corner. He worked for little old ladies, gents, poor neighbors and folks that couldn’t afford the expense or for whatever reason didn’t desire to send their machines back to the original manufactures as required by law for repairs, modifications and mandatory upgrades.

    Folks that couldn’t afford the latest and greatest along with the excessive taxes of buying new. So Martin worked a small shadow business on the side that brought in a little extra income from time to time. Since all monetary transactions were accounted for on the international banking system and such transactions would quickly identify to corporate watch dogs and local, community, country, state and federal tax bureaus that Martin was engaged in some sort of taxable enterprise he most always worked for trade or barter value. A hair cut, a can of fruit, cat food, a homemade pie or whatever odd thing that he could use. He even accepted the ancient Federal Reserve Notes that still circulated below the proper lines of exchange.

    There was even the odd time that someone would offer his “real money” Precious metals that had been outlawed for personal use. Old silver coines and once in a great while even bits of gold. The universal currency since the dawn of time

    That is how he acquired his first vegetable seeds, the pots that he grew them in, his worms and even his strings of LED lights, little things here and there that made his life just a tad more comfortable and a little more tolerable. Besides it was fun to beat the system, even in such a harmless way there was still a slight risk involved by flying below the radar; despite that most everyone was doing it.

    Perhaps most of all it was these little intrigues made Martin feel like he was useful somehow and not just another cog in some giant ineffectual system. People came to him through word of mouth to fix their broken items and most of the time he could. He would never get rich, but that was all right because at least he would feel useful and that was more than many folks felt in the world today.

    Sunday morning was a gray overcast beginning that threatened to provide more snow according the weather report. Martin sipped on his morning cup of mud and looked out through the hazy greenhouse glazing to the gray/brown buildings that surrounded his little world.

    “What an ugly day.” He thought to himself.

    An hour later Martin was trudging along through the chilly morning air on dirty frozen sidewalks to a nearby dilapidated complex to make his deliveries. The filthy brown buildings stood like cold mausoleums to man and contained mostly older residents trying to survive on pensions and minuscule hand outs from the government. Like a peasant version of the outlawed Santa Claus he carried small laptop computers and electronic gadgets in a well worn repaired back pack slung over his shoulder. His first stop was an old widow lady that always had a little tea, the real stuff, to share with him and would somehow have a plate full of warm chocolate chip cookies or another homemade snack waiting for him when he arrived. Today was no different. She opened the door just as he made the top of the landing.

    “Good morning Martin.” She greeted him with a frail voice and the smell of fresh baked cookies wafting out the door.

    “Good morning Mrs. D.” He replied slightly out of breath.

    She held the door for him as he slid in around her and entered the kitchen.

    “Mrs. Dean I’ve told you a hundred times that you should wait until the sensors say it’s safe before opening up the door to anyone.” He mockingly scolded her.

    “Now Martin hush up. I knew it was you as you came up the stairs and besides the sensors haven’t worked for over a year.”

    “Do you want me to look at…”

    “Nope, just leave them be. I like them broke.”

    Martin raised an eyebrow.

    “Son I remember before we had all this nonsense and we were just as safe then if not more so, besides I’m too old to change now.”

    She set down a cup in front of him and began to pour some tea into it. The cookies were under a tea towel in the center of the small round table. Mrs. D’s apartment was just a little bigger than his own flat but had one luxury that he lacked; an actual bedroom. Mr. Dean had passed some time back he guessed, yet somehow she had managed to hold on to her apartment rather than be forced to down size as was usually the case.

    Their conversation was light and mostly about the weather, news or lack of it. It was difficult to really converse about daily events what with all the propaganda and happy news that was offered in the government controlled media. Freedom of speech was also a thing of the past especially if it offended anyone, or criticized something, so most folks were left with nothing to talk about except the weather.

    Martin pulled out an old battered laptop and a small rolled up flexible solar panel from his back pack.

    “Here you go Mrs. “D”. I’ve rebuilt the batteries and matched up a small portable solar panel so you won’t have to plug it into the grid. I had a heck of a time cleaning up your hard drive from that latest viral attack, but you’re up and running now. Please keep your firewalls up and that will help to defend against that sort of thing. I’ve also upgraded your software as much as I could, but I’m afraid your system is pretty much on its last legs. There’s just no more that I can do to work around its limitations.”

    She gingerly picked up the laptop and held it to her chest.

    “Thank you so much Martin. I do so appreciate all you’ve done for me. This is my only link to the outside world and the few friends that I have left. I don’t know how to repay you for all you’ve done for me.”

    Martin was embarrassed as he replied. “Oh don’t worry about that Mrs. “D”, it was no big deal, really. I had the extra parts lying around and the rest was pretty easy stuff. Besides…” He took a big bite of a cookie and savored the rich flavor that took him back to his childhood. “…where would I ever get such delicious cookies?”

    She left the kitchen and placed the repaired laptop on a small writing desk in the living room and disappeared into the bedroom. A few minutes later she returned with a plain wooden box and placed it on the table before him.

    “It was my husband’s humidor.” She said with her hand resting on the box.

    “Oh Mrs. “D” I can’t take something like that from you.” He said shaking his head. “No you keep your husband’s box. Really, these cookies are more than payment enough!”

    “Martin, you’ve been like a son to me, always there when I needed you, checking in on me and enjoying my cookies. I don’t have much longer on this world and I really want you to have this. It would mean a lot to me, so please don’t refuse an old women’s request. Plus there are a few other things I want you to have before the vultures descend.”

    Martin was dumbfounded. “Mrs. “D” do you need to go to the doctors? Are you feeling alright?”

    He started to stand up but she put her hand on his shoulder and gently pushed him back down into the chair.

    “I’m fine for right now. But…” She took a breath. “I’ve just been notified that my medical benefits expire in a month and after than I’m on my own, and…and… I have to give up my apartment and move to a retirement home. They won’t let me live here on my own any more.”

    Martin’s jaw dropped. He knew that his elderly friend was a diabetic and without her insulin it would just be a matter of time before her condition caught up with her. Essentially the state had just handed her a death sentence. There was no way she could afford her medication and there was no way for her survive such a move. He looked down at the ground.

    “I’m so sorry Mrs. “D”.”

    “Well…” She began as she sat down. “It was only a matter of time. They’ve been slowly clearing out this complex of us old people and I’m an old lady that has lived long past her usefulness in the world today.”

    Martin just sat there in silence not sure what to say.

    “So I have a few things that I want to pass on to you. Things I can’t keep any longer and things I want to go to someone that might find them useful.” She patted his hand.

    “Can you come by some time this coming week and bring a hand cart?”

    “Mrs. “D”, I’m so sorry. Isn’t there anyone you can appeal this to?”

    “I’ve already tried that young man this is now what I have to deal with.” She looked at him in the eye. “So will you please take this box for me?”

    He nodded his answer.

    “Oh and by the way…there’s some real cigars in there.” There was a glint of mischief in her eyes.

    Tobacco had long been outlawed and smoking condemned. Martin had never smoked in his life and really had no interest in it, but this was some extremely excellent barter material he was sure. If he was right Mrs. “D” had just handed him a small gold mine. He immediately thought that he just might be able to do some hard core barter and get his battered battery bank replaced and perhaps even upgraded. Yet, the realization that Mrs. “D” was going to be forced out of her home weighed heavily on his mind and during the rest of his rounds that day his mood was as gray as the clouds overhead.

    It was just before lunch as he was making his way back home that it began to snow again. Up in his gloomy attic workroom he sat the backpack down on the workbench and carefully extracted the wooden humidor. It was heavier and larger than he realized. He opened the top and his jaw hit the ground. It was full of large finely rolled cigars…she had handed him a FORTUNE! Well a fortune if he could find the right buyer. There were instructions pasted to the top of the humidor lid which he carefully read. He very gently lifted out and inspected each of the individually wrapped cigars.

    The box was modestly decorated with several types of inlayed dark woods in a simple but elegant pattern. It was a rather stout box to be sure and then he noticed something very peculiar. The depth of the inner box where the cigars were stored was not as deep as the overall box itself and it seemed to be considerably heavier than he would have expected a wooden box to weigh with all the contents removed. He was sure that there was a hidden compartment in the bottom of the box but could find no way to access it without damaging the box. Frustrated he sat the box back down and then decided to refill the water reservoir. It was when he lifted out the water container that he noticed what appeared to be a small button at the bottom of the space reserved for the humidifier. He put finger back into the box and pushed down on the recessed button. It took a little more pressure than he had thought would have been necessary but he felt the soft click and slowly lifted up the upper section of the box. That was when his jaw literally hit the floor. Nestled in the base of the humidor was a small pistol!

    Martin nearly fell out of his chair as he stared at the small absolutely illegal weapon. All privately owned firearms had been completely outlawed for over twenty years. His discovery could easily land him in prison camp for the rest of his natural life. He quickly snapped the hidden chamber closed and piled the cigars into the upper half, closed up the humidor, turned out the light, locked the door to his little attic shop and rushed back to his apartment.

    “What the hell am I going to do now?” He felt the panic flood over him.
    We have done so much, with so little, for so long....We can now do anything, with nothing, forever.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    south Texas Gulf coast
    Excellent start. I'm hooked! What is he going to do now? Well, I suppose we'll have to wait and see, won't we? I'd like to think that he's retained enough of his humanity that he doesn't see the 'small pistol' as barter material as well. (Did it come with ammunition, or is it a paperweight? That's right....we'll have to wait and see )

    Thanks, ShadowMan!
    It's kinda hard to work within the system when it's a septic system.

  3. #3
    Great start. Thanks

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Atlantic Canada
    Looking good! MOAR!!

    1Pe 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore of sound mind, and be sober unto prayer

    Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
    Joh 3:17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    State WA
    thank you, looking forward to more.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    nw mountains
    Wow, keep em comin. Thank you.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    The Last Frontier
    Wow, excellent story! Thank you for this terrific start, I can't wait to see what happens next!
    All that is gold does not glitter....

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Where fog and sun meet.
    I look forward to reading more. Thank you.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    SE Okieland
    Shadow Man,

    You write what may happen in the future if we do not protect the present....


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    THANK YOU for those kind words.

    So without further adieu.....enjoy Chapter 2
    We have done so much, with so little, for so long....We can now do anything, with nothing, forever.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Martin nearly fell out of his chair as he stared at the small absolutely illegal weapon. All privately owned firearms had been completely outlawed for over twenty years. His discovery could easily land him in prison camp for the rest of his natural life. He quickly snapped the hidden chamber closed and piled the cigars into the upper half, closed up the humidor, turned out the light, locked the door to his little attic shop and rushed back to his apartment.

    “What the hell am I going to do now?” He felt the panic flood over him.

    Chapter 2

    There was no way to turn this weapon in; both he and poor old Mrs. “D” would end up in prison or worse. It wouldn’t matter that neither of them knew anything of its existence prior to this moment. There was no way to sell it or even throw it away; he couldn’t access any of the normal modes of transportation to get it out of the area. He paced his apartment nervously. Playing on the fringe was one thing, his untaxed side jobs, his rogue garden, his alcohol still, making a little electricity on the side, they were all pretty much harmless, petty crimes at worst, but this, this was totally jumping from the fringe into the middle of the fire and quite another thing all together. Just having such a devise made him a terrorist! OH CRAP!! He had to think, he had to think!

    That night he slept fitfully with dreams filled with disturbing images of government troops breaking down his apartment’s door and dragging him off into the night never to be seen again. Finally the dreams faded and he drifted off to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, but he awoke tired and drained. He was no closer to a resolution as he dragged himself through the rest of the day.

    Several uneventful days went by and with the passing of each Martin became a little more relaxed. He was sitting at his computer console at work staring off into space when it hit him.

    “There was no way anyone could know of this gun.” He thought to himself. “It’s been fifteen years since the last mandatory turn-ins and mass round ups took place. If there was any record of its existence anywhere in the system it would have been hunted down. It would have been found by now.”

    All he had to do was…nothing. It would be easy to find a place to stash the contraband somewhere in his attic workshop. It's an old building in various stages of disrepair. Ok, it was a crap hole, but there were plenty of places to stash something small like a pistol. What with all the old storage boxes who would notice one more. He let out his breath and relaxed for the first time in days.

    Wednesday evening after work there was a light snow falling when he trudged over to the widow’s apartment. He had brought a small dolly and a pocket full of bungee cords as Mrs. Dean had requested. As he approached her door she opened it and motioned him to quickly enter.

    He left his dolly inside by the door and entered into her kitchen where she followed closely on his heels. She was agitated like he had never seen before.

    “Mrs. D is everything alright?” He asked.

    She looked very worried. “No…ah, no not at all.”
    She sat down beside him and wringing her hands lowered her voice. “They are moving me out by the end of the week Martin.”

    A tear began to slide down her old wrinkled cheek.

    “To that horrid place, simply horrid.” She began to sob and desperately tried to hold her emotions in check.

    “I went there to see my room. Oh my God it’s horrid!” She exclaimed. “What am I to do? All my things, all my husband’s things, reduced to just one suitcase, one closet and a night stand. My entire life….oh my Lord!”

    She was visibly shaken and quite distraught. Martin watched this frail old lady as she contemplated her bleak future.

    Martin felt totally frustrated and helpless. How could he possibly help this dear old lady? Nobody should have to face their final years in such an institutional nightmare. Oh he had heard that these elderly facilities were state of the art, painted bright and shiny filled with plenty of smiling faces from highly efficient staff, but that was the advertisement, but not reality. He held her shaking hands and tried to calm her.

    “Don’t worry Mrs. D, I’ll think of something. There has to be another way.” He felt like crap!

    An hour later he was trudging back through the unshoveled snow covered walkway dimly lit by the few remaining street lights in this part of the town. His mood was as darker than the night sky that was snowing even more on him. His feet crunched softly through the crusty snow and the air was sharp and cold on his nose as he pulled the dolly heavily filled with several boxes of books and whatnots that Mrs. D had insisted on him taking.

    He was truly exhausted by the time he got up to his little apartment slugging the heavy load up the eight flights of stairs. One step at a time. He had to get that damm elevator working. Caesar greeted him as usual but that did nothing to improve Martin’s foul mood.

    “How could they do that to someone?” He grumbled with his cat.

    After a quick meal of reconstituted something and a weak cup of synthetic imitation artificially flavored tea Martin still sulking over recent events with Mrs. D, began to break open the boxes to inspect their contents. There were a couple of cook books, gardening books…

    “Hmmmm John Jeavons, "How to Grow More Vegetables: Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine.” Now that was certainly an interesting title.

    He pulled another Jeavons book out. “The Sustainable Vegetable Garden: A Backyard Guide to Healthy Soil and Higher Yields”

    His eyebrows rose as he dug out more and more books. In a mild frenzy he quickly emptied the three boxes and stacked them high on his little coffee table which staggered under their combined weight and he began to survey these fantastic gifts from the little old lady. There were books on alternative technology, homesteading, raising rabbits, goats, sheep, cattle, and so on, building solar water heaters, blacksmithing, a book by Hugh Piggott, “odd name”, on How to Build a Wind Turbine, books on how to save seeds, and one on aquaculture. It was a virtual cornucopia of How-To books. There were home electronics manuals, home brewing, wine making, herbal remedies and… he suddenly stopped and stared at several large thin manuals in his hands.

    “The Anarchist Cookbook?” He looked at the next one.

    “Poor Man’s James Bond?” He wondered who James Bond was.

    There were a handful of other manuals on building improvised weapons, guns, ammunition and other subjects that Martin was absolutely positive were forbidden and banned. No wonder Mrs. D wanted to get these out of her house, if the authorities were to find this contraband. He quickly thumbed through them…

    “OH CRAP!” She had done it to him again!

    His heart started to pound in his head and he sat back trying to catch his breath. First the gun and now all these banned forbidden books. What the hell else did this woman have hidden in her little apartment? Who would have believed that, that kindly frail old woman could have ever been so subversive and now what was he going to do with these books. He looked down at the stacks straining his coffee table under their weight. He felt that vestige of panic beginning to tighten his chest and restrict his breathing, the apartment felt very small and growingly claustrophobic and he suddenly felt that he had to get air, he had to get outside quickly. He ran out his apartment up the stairs to the attic and with panicky fumbling hands he opened up the storage room and dashed to the access ladder and was up on to the roof and began pacing through the unblemished snow.

    Mumbling to himself he walked back and forth through the snow on the roof until suddenly he realized that he was freezing. He stopped and looked around through the falling snow. He liked how the world looked fresh and white beneath its cleansing blanket. Spring would come soon enough and the gray sooty streaked old concrete buildings would once again take on their depressed and dirty look, but for now their misery was covered under a blanket of quiet white purity.

    “So what the hell am I going to do now?” He asked the innocent snowflakes drifting past his face. His breath sent out a cloud of vapor in the chilly night air.

    On one hand he felt that what was happening to Mrs. D was so totally wrong that it was down right evil. How could the government kick an old woman out of her home like that? And it was essentially condemning her to a slow and agonizing death for the expediency of society by taking away her medical privileges. On the other hand, in a strange turn of events she had given him what he was sure amounted to terroristic seditious material at the very least. What was he to do? What the hell was he to do?

    The cold was starting to get through past the troubled thoughts spinning around inside his skull like a windstorm and he was finally forced to retreat back into the relative warmth of his unheated attic workroom. He pulled the roof hatch closed and descended the hideaway ladder, swung it back up and stood in the dimly lit room. Weaving around the piles of old boxes he made his way to his work bench and began working haphazardly on a small laptop computer trying to concentrate on the job at hand while he was still running the recent events across the back of his mind.

    With the exception of the questionable books her gifts were an absolute blessing of vital information for a mind like Martin’s, there was so much he could do with them. On the other hand, such outrageously seditious material in those other manuals he was sure could land him in trouble beyond belief if, and that’s a big if, he was ever found with them. He stopped and looked over at the cigar humidor that she had given him just last week. There in the bottom was at least a twenty year prison term or worse and now with the books…he didn’t even want to think about combination. He went back to work on the laptop.

    But twenty minutes later while he was waiting for the hard drive to finish loading its new operating system the widow’s box seemed to be calling him. He pulled it over, lifted out the water reservoir and actuated the release button. A faint click announced that the hidden compartment was accessible and the top half of the box swung up. The pistol was so very tiny, as were the bullets. How could something so small be considered so deadly by the authorities, but he knew it was no toy and he had to admit that it did have a slightly evil look to it. He lightly touched it with the tip of his finger. The metal felt cool to the touch while the polymer grip felt slightly warmer. He wanted to pick it up, but knew that he shouldn’t. So he did.

    He was looking at the writing on the side, ‘Walther P22’ he read etched into the side when the pistol suddenly went off. BLAM!

    “IT WAS LOADED!?!?!”

    His ears rung and he nearly jumped out of his skin, dropped the pistol on the workbench and fell over backwards out of the chair landing solidly on his back against a dusty box.

    “OH MY GOD!” He exclaimed as he thumped to the floor knocking the wind out of himself.

    The smell of burnt gun powder filled the small room and his ears were loudly ringing. What if someone heard this! Now he’d done it, now he was in real trouble! He laid on the attic floor frozen in panic for several minutes his ears straining for the sound of sirens and running feet until he realized that nothing was happening in the building around him. Slowly he got up and dusted himself off. With two fingers he very carefully picked up the evil pistol and placed it back in its box, closed the lid and pushed it to the far side of the work bench. That was when he noticed the tiny hole in the laptop computer screen.

    “Oh CRAP!”

    Martin woke up with a sudden start in the middle of the night. He listened to the thundering quiet that was his little world. Something had stirred him, but he wasn’t sure what that something was. He got up, went to the bathroom and did his business. Caesar looked at him with morbid curiosity as Martin stood there in his underwear illuminated in the dim glow of a single LED night light. He had been dreaming. What had he been dreaming about? The fog of sleep was slowly lifting and he remembered. Mrs. D! He had the solution…well sort of. He grabbed a small pad a paper that he kept near his bed for just such late night revelations.

    The next morning as Martin was getting ready for work he glanced at the note pad and recognized his late night scrawl.

    ‘Move D attic’

    “What the heck was that supposed to mean?” He wondered.

    His ride to work was uneventful. As usual the tram was crowded with blank faced mindless zombies bundled up against the inclement weather. For some reason Martin felt uncomfortable walking through all the various security sensors and scanners as if each was trying to probe his mind regarding the events of the past couple of days. He was sure that somehow “they” knew of his recent illicit acquisitions. He watched the ground and the heels of the person in front of him as he tried to calmly walk through the security tunnel. Twenty minutes later he was safely in his little computer cubicle with the damp feel of nervous sweat under his arms. He popped his head up and looked curiously looked around the large office room.

    “Nobody knows.” He thought to himself. “Nothing has changed, not one dang thing.”

    The work day ended uneventfully and once again Martin followed the flow of humanoid zombies back toward the tram station when he suddenly recalled his note from the evening before.

    “OH….that’s what it meant!”

    He quickly changed lanes in the preprogrammed human traffic pattern on the walkway and made for the far corner of the station. He boarded the downtown tram and forty-five minutes later stepped off and into an even more run down section of the city than he lived in. Here he had to really be on this toes. He found an operating phone booth in the graffiti covered tram station and gave a quick call. It rang several times before a gruff voice answered.




    “It’s Marty; can you pick me up at the tram?”

    “What for?”

    “Pick me up man…it’ll be worth your while.”

    There was a silence on the other end of the line.

    “Ten minutes.” Was all he said and then the line clicked dead. Seth was not known as a conversationalist, but at least he was coming to pick him up.

    It was a long ten minutes before the battered patchwork quilt of a delivery van pulled up to the curb with squeaking breaks and oil burning exhaust clouding out behind it. Martin quickly walked the short distance past the beggars and other questionable sorts jumped into the van and locked the door behind him. Seth was rolling before the door closed as several scrubby individuals were close on Martin’s heels.

    “Talk to me.” Seth ordered in his gravely voice as he swung the rusty hulk out into traffic.

    “I need you, or…actually your van.”

    Seth looked at him disapprovingly through his one good eye.

    “You said there’s something in it for me?” It was a command more than a question.

    Martin nodded his head. “A dozen mint condition Cuban cigars.”

    Seth’s eyebrow over his good eye rose in curiosity. “Cuban’s? Real Cuban’s?”

    The van lurched around a stalled car and jetted back into the flow of traffic. Horns blared at both Seth’s sudden move that cut off another driver and from behind them over the stalled vehicle now blocking traffic.

    “Genuine, honest to God real Cuban’s.”

    Seth grunted. “Who do I gotta kill for a dozen C-gars?” He asked honestly.

    “Nobody, just help me move some stuff.” Martin braced himself as the van seemed to ricochet down the pot-marked road. “...and help me locate some below the table meds.”

    “When?” Seth grunted.

    “Can you do it tonight….late?” Martin meekly asked.

    “Just how hot is this “stuff” we’re moving?”

    “Ahhh, er, it’s not, at least not yet.” Martin stammered.

    “Hmmm, not hot….a dozen real C-gars, what are you not telling me man?” The van swung wide around a corner and headed down a dark side street then quickly jinked left into an alley hit a trash can sending its contents flying. Seth didn’t even blink but kept the van racing down the narrow alley. He reached up and activated a remote and ahead a battered ugly garage door opened up. The van slid into the dark void and the door closed quickly behind them.

    Seth turned to Martin and scrutinized him intensely with his good eye. “Ok Marty, what’s the catch? Where’s da move and what kind of heat am I gonna have to deal with?”

    “No heat Seth, really. I just want to move something into my building…quietly.”

    Seth grunted. “Huh, over on your side of town. That means check points, papers….tonight and no heat?”

    “Honest Seth, no heat.”

    Seth opened his van door with a squeak. “Heat comes in all sorts of flavors Marty. Tonight you say?”

    “Yeah, it has to be tonight.” Martin sat nervously waiting for his reply.

    Seth started to walk away into the dark. “Come up and we’ll talk about this.”

    Martin followed the dark shadow moving away from him through the crowded garage packed with heavy metal shelves piled high with boxes of this and that. Seth was a scavenger or a trader as he like to call himself, he was actually more like a modern pirate. He was the middle man with all the connections and his fingers on all the goods. A little of this and a little of that, if you needed it, Seth probably had it or could get a hold of it…for a price. His living accommodations were just as cluttered as his garage. Piles of this and that, boxes everywhere, yet somehow Seth knew were each and every little gem he owned was, what it was worth and what it would bring on the black market.

    Despite all the efforts of The Powers That Be to legislate, liquidate, outlaw, and otherwise ban personal non-corporate independent enterprising small operators, a growing number of renegade entrepreneurs like Seth flew well below the radar and existed in a gray world that provided “things” that people wanted but could not get, and people always wanted what they should not have. Even the fat cats living in their high end protected palaces turned a blind eye to people like Seth as long as he didn't threaten their hold on the world. People like Seth could be useful to them. However Seth avoided anyone above the “Scum Line” as he called it like the plague.

    “Stick to your own and you'll live a lot longer. Stick to the shadows and avoid the light at all coast.” That was Seth's motto.

    The average folk never knew what went on below the Scum Line or that it even existed unless of course they were down and out. The tighter the system became the greater the number of cracks were created that people like Seth fell through. There were always sellers and buyers.

    “So tell me about these C-gars of yours Marty.” Seth began as he poured himself a drink of dark amber liquid from a dusty old bottle. Shot down a swig, coughed and filled it again.

    “Ah, they are real Cuban’s Seth, all wrapped up and ready to go.”

    “So how is it that a computer nerd like you happens to have a dozen contraband C-gars man? That’s not your usual style? What’s the story? I ain’t risking my arse with some flaky story about just moving “some stuff”, what’s the gig?”

    Martin looked for a clean place to sit amid the squalor and overflowing boxes. Did he dare tell Seth everything? He thought about it for a few seconds. This pause didn’t sit too well with his “friend”.

    “Ok Seth. I need help moving an old lady into my building. She’s being cut off and tossed out of her place into a retirement house.” Martin took a breath. “I got the C-gars from her. Fixed a few things around her place, her computer and that’s how she paid me.”

    Seth gave him that look. “You taken in charity cases now Marty? What’s she to you?”

    “Ah, nothing…really. She’s just a nice old lady that I sort of felt sorry for and…”

    “Harrumph! You got too big a heart kid. Crap like that will get you in trouble. Da Gov don’t like folks butting into other folks business. They don’t like the competition.”

    Seth began his anti-government diatribe and it was forty-five minutes later before Martin could get in another word.

    “Insulin!” Martin interrupted him.

    “I need a steady supply of insulin also.”

    It was closely approaching two o’clock in the morning when the pair arrived at Mrs. D’s apartment complex. Several trips and four hours later the last of her boxes and furniture were safely stored away. The pair was exhausted. In six hours at noon when the housing authorities arrived to evict the seventy-five year old tenet they would find nothing but dust bunnies and empty rooms. Martin had commandeered one of the empty garages in his building for the bulk of her effects and moved just enough furniture up the nine flights of stairs into the attic to create a little apartment for his new neighbor.

    Mrs. D surveyed her new accommodations.

    “I know it’s not much now Mrs. D, but with a little work some paint and a little arranging of things you’ll have even more room than you had before.” Martin said to her, trying to give her his best fake smile.

    “You are such a dear boy and I shouldn’t be complaining…but…there’s no bathroom.”

    Martin stepped away for a second and came back with strange looking plastic box shaped object.

    “Here this will cover for a couple of days until I can get something else hooked up Mrs. D. It’s called a ‘porta potty’.” He looked for a semi-private place amid the stacks of boxes and sat it down behind some.

    “There’s toilet paper on the side here and…” He demonstrated how it worked.

    Seth gave a disapproving snort. He was ready to leave.

    Martin took the hint and walked back into the attic to his workbench and retrieved a wooden cigar box he had cobbled together and handed it to Seth. It was a close copy of the one he had received from Mrs. D. but without all the fancy woodwork and without the hidden compartment and its surprises. Seth inspected the contents and with a glimmer in his good eye he disappeared down the stairwell. They could hear his old delivery van backfire and cough to life and then he was gone.

    “I know it’s not much Mrs. D., but it’s the best I could come up with on such short notice.”

    She hugged his arm. “This will do fine for now young man, this will do fine.”

    In the morning the overweight Housing Authority inspector grunted as he climbed the stairs to the apartment. Wheezing at the last landing, he and the two security force officers knocked on the door of one ‘Mrs. Dean, widow, transferee to geriatric housing’.

    “No answer. I hope this is not going to be another suicide. I’ve already had two this morning.” The inspector complained.

    “Everything comes in three’s” Dryly commented one security officer.

    The inspector took a breath and prepared himself for what they might find behind the door.

    “Ok officer open it up.” The inspector ordered.

    The officer stepped forward and using his Federal Master Key unlocked the door to the apartment. The door creaked open to a hollow echo revealing just empty space. The three government employees just blankly stared ahead.

    “What the….” The inspector stammered.

    “There’s nothing here?” The first officer remarked as he stepped into the living room.

    “Nothing in here either.” The second officer answered from the bedroom.

    “Hmmm.” The inspector mumbled. “Haven’t seen this sort of thing in a while.”

    “Where do you suppose she went?”

    “Couldn’t have gotten far, she’s what…seventy-five years old. Are you sure we have the correct address?”

    The inspector double checked the door. “It’s the right place, but...”

    They checked with the few remaining tenets left in the building, nothing. No one heard anything, saw anything, and especially didn’t know anything. The inspector filled out his report in triplicate and sent it off to be transcribed into the system and the rest was filed in some obscure four drawer metal filing cabinet in a sub basement of the central housing authority building. There were no listed living relatives, no listed friends, no one to notify.

    Just another ‘where abouts unknown’ in the dead file drawer.
    We have done so much, with so little, for so long....We can now do anything, with nothing, forever.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    State WA
    Thank you, but you have 2 chapter two's.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Fixed it. Not sure how that happened.....
    We have done so much, with so little, for so long....We can now do anything, with nothing, forever.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    nw mountains
    This is getting down right good! Thank you.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Where fog and sun meet.
    Most definitely remember you posting this story elsewhere.
    I recall the story ended there and was not finished.
    Hope to read the rest here.
    Such a chilling story.
    Thank you for posting it here.

  16. #16
    Thank you for what looks like the beginning of a great story ShadowMan. Looking forward to more
    Last edited by stjwelding; 08-15-2016 at 06:26 AM.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    SE Okieland
    Shadow Man,

    Thanks for the chapter....

    Sometimes our sympathies overload our tushes....

    Will be interesting time for Marty and Mrs. D....
    Marty has more of a reason to live....


  18. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    The Reluctant Anarchist

    Chapter 3

    After a couple of weeks Martin finally began to relax. Mrs. D had set up housekeeping in her little alcove of his building's attic. Nothing had changed at his day job, same work – same ol' shit, just a different day in a long line of indifferent days. He realized that he was just another a tiny cog in the gargantuan impersonal machine. Like the billions of others, he crammed into the cattle cars of public transportation, stared off into oblivion as they numbly commuted to and from work across the megatropolis. Like everyone else he punched in, did is daily duty at his assigned workstation to earn just enough minuscule credits at the end of the month to survive to the next month, and then punched out, joining the herds of workers headed home. Each night he returned to his tiny dull drab apartment to rest and wait to begin it all over again in the morning. So this was life. Or it had been.

    Now his nights were killing him. The second he finished work he was on the move. Over the next couple of months he was out every evening running all over the place to pick up odd bits and pieces of plumbing, wood, tools, screws, and wire. There never seemed to be a moments rest. Carefully he managed to clandestinely tap into the building’s water system so that his new neighbor would have fresh water. Rigged her place with LED lights, moved most of her personal belongings up the nine flights of stairs and helped her unpack her life in her new home.

    Martin was lucky that the greater part of his dilapidated apartment building was pretty much unoccupied. So there really wasn't anyone around to notice his multiple trips up and down the stairwells as he moved Mrs. D into her new accommodations. Anyone that might have noticed him carrying boxes and odd bits of furniture would have thought nothing of it. It didn't pay to be too nosy. It was best to just to keep to yourself and mind your own business. The main goal in life in the modern age was to stay below the radar. Attract no attention. Attention always brought trouble.

    He had yet to figure out how to get hot water up to her living quarters, but then few tenants had hot water with any regularity either. He did have a few ideas he had gleaned from the many books that she had given him and he ended every day pouring through the volume after volume before he’d finally fade off to sleep with the book laying across his chest. His mind was constantly a buzz trying to figure out how to improve their living conditions without drawing any attention to themselves.

    He was treading dangerously close to corporate and guild territory with his clandestine alterations and non-authorized home improvement jobs. Ok, he was actually stomping all over the rules, what with his guerrilla electrical grid, modification to the buildings original plumbing; his water catchments and filter system. Of course his home brewing was strictly verboten as was distilling alcohol for fuel and drink…there was at least a dozen violations of safety laws, tax laws, environmental pollution and hazardous waste laws. Not to forget violating the various guild laws: Electricians, Plumbers, HVAC, Carpenters, Drywall, Cabinetmakers, Furniture makers, Interior Designers Guild and on and on. Then there was total disregard for the building covenants along with district, community, city, county, state, regional, national and Nor-Am Alliance zoning laws. Oh and PETA would probably get a piece of him for creating a threatening and unhealthy habitat for his cat, and if they ever found out that the Caesar liked beer…Pale Ale to be exact…well, probably better not to go there.

    Just last week Martin had fashioned together a composting toilet that promised to convert human manure into something suitable for gardening with, according to the book. He wasn’t sure about this idea at all and scrunched his face up at the very thought of it, but Mrs. D assured him that it would work. For drinking water he built her a simple plastic bucket using a ceramic candle as the water filter to insure her drinking water was safe and rigged up a makeshift shower out of an old metal pressure sprayer and one of his alcohol stoves. It wasn’t hot, but she was delighted with the warm water to finally bathe in.

    Lighting had been a problem as there were no windows in the attic to allow in natural light and even the few extra LED’s he installed severely taxed his limited battery reserves. He found how-to diagrams and Do-It-Yourself directions in a pile of old yellowing magazines that her deceased husband had collected back when they had first been married. With this new information Martin built “sun tubes”. The magazines, The Mother Earth News, were a wealth of amazing ideas, philosophy and information, all of which he was sure was restricted at the very least. He plumbed the sun tubes in through the flat complex roof and sealed them properly with nearly a half a bucket of roofing tar via Seth. During the night she would have to cover up in inner openings so that they didn’t attract any attention, but during the day her apartment was flooded with a bounty of bright natural light.

    Seth was more than helpful, after a fashion and a small bribe of a few more ‘C-gars’, in scrounging up an extra set of solar panels, a controller and couple of batteries thus reducing the strain on Martin’s limited solar resources. It was Seth that gave Martin the idea of creating a false wall in the attic to hide both his workbench area and Mrs. D’s apartment from prying eyes. Building the false wall was especially slow going since using any power equipment and of course hammering was totally out of the question. That left only quiet hand tools that also had to be scrounged up. All the drilling and screwing together of the salvaged materials seemed to take forever but withing a week Mrs. D had a snug little apartment carefully boarded up and hidden behind stacks of abandoned storage boxes and a rather solid looking wall. For Martin besides the pride of a job well done he also had a lot of very sore muscles and plenty of blisters to show for his efforts. When it was finally completed Seth gave his grunt of approval, took his C-gars and a Mason jar freshly made “shine” and left behind several bottles of insulin. Once all the storage boxes were restacked and properly arranged there was no evidence of what lay hidden behind them. Martin breathed a little easier...but still in the back of his mind, he worried.

    He thought it odd that no one seemed to have missed Mrs. D. Not her neighbors, which were few to begin with. All her relatives were gone or living outside the Alliance so communication with them was virtually impossible. Even the state and feds seemed to be unconcerned that she had simply dropped out of the system. He had never heard of, or let alone known a “non-person”. Well so far so good he thought and he continued spending every night deeply submerged in his projects and buried deep in his new library of ancient and illegal skills and information. After all it was fun and for the first time in his life he felt like he was actually accomplishing something important.

    Late one night while Martin was working at his bench on a circuit board he heard the commotion from somewhere down below in the building. Feet, lots of them and they were coming up the stairwells…fast. Both he and Mrs. D listened intently holding their breath, not daring to move a muscle. Martin could feel his heart pounding as the noise got closer and closer. Now he could distinctly hear voices echoing up the stairwell, angry and getting angrier and they as they came closer. They had to be just below them somewhere on the sixth or seventh floor, maybe even his floor. Someone was pounding on doors, more voices and then a huge crash. More voices and screams and yelling and some sort of a struggle. Then the sound of feet moved away, back down the stairwell and out of hearing.

    “What the hell was that?” Martin whispered faintly.

    Mrs. D just shook her head and he could tell that she was quite upset over the whole thing. It was all so quick. Who ever it was knew exactly where to go and then slam bam they were gone. Martin crept to the storeroom door and listened. He listened for what seemed like ages before he quietly cracked the hidden door to peer out the narrow slit. The landing was empty and the building was once again quiet. For several minutes Martin held his breath and strained to hear or see anything but finally his curiosity got the better of him and he slid out the door and quietly closed it behind him. He carefully inched his way to the guard rail and looked down into the central atrium of the complex. Empty. Not a sound. Tipping toe down the passageway trying to be as inconspicuous as possible he looked down the dark stairwell and saw nothing. One step at a time cautiously he made his way to the eighth floor and stuck his head out of the stairwell and scanned the passageways off the landing…nothing.

    Down another floor and he peeked out first left and then right before he saw the yellow tape over the doorway. He couldn’t see anyone in either direction so he slipped into the passageway and slinked over to the door. It was covered in Home Land Security Forces tape all right.

    “But who would they want in his building?” He wondered. “There was nothing here?”

    The door hung cockeyed by a single hinge that had not given way to the Security Forces battering ram. The whole door jamb on the lock side of the door was shattered. He tried to peek into the apartment beyond the door but could hardly see anything in the darkness there; however what little he could see looked like a tornado had hit the place or a bomb had gone off, the results were the same. Everything was everywhere. He could feel the cold breeze from the broken out windows and bits of snow were already blowing in on the floor. He wondered what the occupant had done to incur such treatment. Nothing ever happened like this in his building. People pretty much minded their own business and kept to themselves. In fact he wasn’t really sure just how many people actually lived in his building as he only ever saw a couple of people at any one time. Sometimes you could hear muffled sounds coming through the doors from the vid screens in the apartments, but otherwise it was usually a very quiet place.

    He made his way back up the stairs and reported his findings to Mrs. D.

    “What do you suppose was their crime Martin?” She asked. “Did you know them?”

    “I have no idea.” He shook his head. “Didn’t even know that someone was assigned that apartment.”

    Martin watched the news that night and of course there was nothing on it about what had happened. There never was. It was always good news at home and the threat of evil terrorists abroad.

    It was several days later that Martin noticed a new stack of boxes where now stored in the attic. The number written on them was 708.

    “Hmmm, that’s the number on the apartment that was just raided.” Martin thought to himself.

    Suddenly he realized exactly what all these boxes represented. His jaw dropped. All these boxes were people. It wasn’t the boxes that had been left behind as much as the people that were never coming back. That night he took down all the numbers on the boxes in the attic and then took a casual stroll around his complex. Every box was an “abandoned” apartment. Every apartment had been sealed shut and never used again. Nearly a third of the available living space in his building over time had been boarded up. How could “they” afford to do that? Why would they do it? He wondered. Martin was dumbfounded. He had never really paid any attention to the world around him in the ten years that he had lived here. There was an emptiness that filled the air. A feeling that something was terribly wrong and much more important that something was missing…people.

    Three weeks later Seth stopped by to drop off some more medicine for Mrs. D and was subsequently shanghaied into staying for dinner. It was a celebration of sorts, a compendium of the first harvest of the season. Tonight’s menu was baked herbed squab, fresh green beans, radish salad and new potatoes. Seth looked questioningly at the plate of fresh food. Nothing in the meal was reconstituted and thus everything was unfamiliar to him. He cautiously took the first bite of herbed squab after both Mrs. D and Martin had savored theirs.

    “MMMMMMMmmmmm.” He mumbled. “Dis is good!” He mumbled with a a mouthful of juicy meat.

    With each sample of the plate he repeated his praise and rolled his eyes. He leaned back and looked towards the heavens.

    “Martin…Mrs. D, this is the best meal I can ever remember. Where did you get this stuff? It musta cost a fortune!” He exclaimed.

    The pair smiled back at him withholding their little secret.

    Martin could no longer contain himself. “We grew it Seth. We grew it right here in this building!”

    “NO WAY!” A bit of partially chewed radish dropped from his mouth. “Here, right here? You grew this?”

    Martin shook his head.

    Mrs. D delicately speared another slice of the delicious meat. “Every bit of this meal was grown above the seventh floor.” She commented matter of factly before slipping the morsel in to her mouth.

    “Come on now! Do realize what people would pay for a meal like this? We could make a mint with this stuff!” Seth leaned forward quite sincere and gave them a glaring look with his good eye.

    Martin held up his finger and stepped away from the table and quickly returned and set down a pint of his special golden amber pale ale before his friends. Seth’s good eye nearly popped out. He quickly sampled a slice, rolled his good eye and then took a large gulp.

    “mmmmmm now this is a meal fit for a king.” He announced with a moustache full of foam. Setting down his pint on the table, placed his open hands on his forehead and bowed.

    “Martin you and Mrs. D have certainly out done yourselves….I bow to your magnificence.”

    Everyone giggled.

    “No, in all seriousness….that was friggen amazing. Pardon my French Mrs. D.”

    “In this case young man you are correct.” She gave his a wicked little smile and winked at him. “It was FRIGGEN AMAZING!”

    It took several minutes for the laughter to die down and the giggles to calm down.

    The meal ended all too soon and everyone adjourned to the living area of Mrs. D’s attic apartment. Martin poured another round of ale and Seth began to talk about recent events in Old Town and informed the pair that he was thinking about moving his operation out of the district. It seemed that there had been a rather recent increase in raids and arrests and it appeared that a possible major crack down was looming on the near horizon.

    “It’s like a boil,” Seth continued. “…you let it fester for a while, apply some heat to bring it to a head and then pop it like a zit and drain it out. We haven’t had any Federal trouble down there for quite a while and things are beginning to get a little crowded.

    “Crowded? But where do all the people come from?” Martin asked.

    “From all over.” Seth answered between sips of the fresh beer. “People just like you that got fed up with the system. People like me that would love to tear the system down and people like Mrs. D that got run over by the system. They got to go somewhere and Old Town is where they end up.”

    “You mean they just move? Without permission, no permits, no allowance?”

    “You know Martin for a smart guy sometimes you’re pretty dumb.” Seth growled back at him.

    “Tell him Mrs. D, tell him what it was like back in the day.”

    Martin slowly turned his head around and looked at the old woman.

    “Yes,” She sighed and looked at her hands folded in her lap. “…it was certainly different back then .” She paused and seemed to be looking back in time.

    “I remember when we could all just come and go as we pleased; before the religious wars, before the corporate wars, before the creation of the Guild Unions, the Hegemonies and Homelands. Before the North American Alliance, back when we were our own separate country. I can remember all those times that have been forgotten.” She said with a wave of her hand.

    The trio talked long into the night, well mostly the older two talked and Martin listened. He listened to a history that he had never heard of and had never been taught; about a world that he didn’t know even existed. That night when he lay in bed he wondered what was really true in his world.

    The next Monday was his Quarterly work review. Every worker was evaluated not only on performance but attitude, social contribution, personal conduct both on and off work. His production was noted to be slightly lower than usual and he appeared not to be as satisfied in his job as compared to the last evaluation period. Yes he was a little off. No he was not dissatisfied with his job (though he was privately beginning to question the validity of it). Yes he felt all right. No he didn’t think he needed to see the corporate physician. Yes his cat was doing fine. Then he was caught off guard by the next question.

    “I see from your travel surveillance records for the last month or so you’ve been spending a lot of time outside your usual district.” There was a pause. “Would you care to explain that?”

    “Well no.” Martin caught himself. “Er, ah, well actually yes I would. I’ve been trying to find someone that used to live near me.”

    “A relative.” His supervisor asked.

    “No, we’re not related.” Martin paused again. “She was just a friend.”

    “A girl friend?” His supervisor leaned forward.

    “Oh no…not a girl friend, she’s a little old for that.” Martin said absent-mindedly.

    “She was a nice old lady that I would, er, ah, sort of help her around the house. You know, move things, fix things. Just sort of help out from time to time.”

    His supervisor raised an eyebrow.

    “She…she needed little things done and sometimes she would bake me cookies as a treat. I liked her, she was nice.”

    “What happened to her?”

    “I don’t know Sir. One day she was there and the next she was gone.”



    “No forwarding address posted?”

    “No, nothing, just gone.”

    “Could she have passed away?”

    Martin thought for a moment. “I suppose so.”

    “Well Martin you seem quite upset over this and it appears to be affecting your performance. Perhaps I should recommend a visit to the company therapist.”

    “Oh I don’t think that is really necessary Sir. It’s just a small thing. I’ll get over it. Really I will.” He assured the supervisor.

    “Yes, I’m sure you will, still it couldn’t hurt. A little counseling to help you get back on your feet.”

    “No really Sir, I’m quite all right. It was just a bit of a disappointment, I’m sure I'll get over it, er, quite over it.”

    Martin left the office with a passing evaluation, one caution, an appointment to visit the company therapist and a feeling of impending doom. He knew they did special tests on you when you went to the therapist. Did they somehow had a way of knowing what was going on inside your head? The thought of that just creeped him out....and scared him as well. Heck, not even he knew what was going on inside there…and it was his head! He didn’t even know why he said what he said in there. Damm! But what was he going to do now. If anyone ever found out about his current activities, or Mrs. D, or anything else he was doing, there was no telling what the ramifications would be. Why did his supervisor have to insist that he see a therapist?

    He was feeling extremely paranoid as he walked back to his cubical and the remainder of the day seem to drag on forever. The entire trip home felt like eyes watching from every corner. He felt helpless and doomed. Never before had he been so sensitive to this overwhelming feeling of oppression. The air was choking with it and yet all those people around him seemed to be totally oblivious. Perhaps he could run away to Old Town. Seth might put him up, but if he did that who would take care of Mrs. D? Who would take care of Caesar and his plants and his pigeons and everything? He boarded the tram back home in a very sour mood. How could his fellow passengers not feel the oppressive weight upon them? Martin had never fully realized that he was being watched every minute of his life. How could he be so oblivious to it? The final walk home through the dirty wet snow seemed to take twice as long as before. He kept looking around trying to see what couldn’t be seen, suspicious of everything. Where were all the cameras? Did they know EVERYWHERE he'd been? EVERYWHERE? The thought sent shivers down his spine.

    Martin didn’t feel like he was really doing anything wrong. Oh sure he had bent a rule or two. Ok, three or four, but he wasn't a bad person. Well...basically not. He was however, tired of his life. Tired of the austere living conditions, even through they were the same for everyone else he knew. Why should people be happy with nothing? What was so wrong with having a few simple pleasures? Why should he feel guilty about that? Something was very wrong in the world, but what? Something? Everything?What was it?

    He didn’t care about the wars, or the intrigue, or politics. Was that wrong? He couldn't stand watching the “happy-happy” comedies or the lame drama shows on the Vid. They were not funny or intertaining, rather they were dull and boring. There is only so much politically correctness one can choke down. Who was Martin hurting by having a few simple green plants, a cold beer now and then. The Corporations? They were so filthy rich how would they miss the sale of a few beers, or a real tomato? He never understood the whole stealing of DNA. Didn't the tomato make it's own seeds? Shouldn't the tomato then get credit to own itself? Things like that didn't make any sense at all to him.

    Martin couldn't even afford friends. Friends were a liability. One phone call and Martin's meager but highly illegal world would come crashing down on him. That's why no one trusted anyone. Well there was Seth, but Seth lived below the sidewalks, he was off the grid. Besides, EVERYONE was doing something illegal today even if they didn't know it. How was that right? How can everything be illegal?

    Even companionship was an impossibility, a companion…a real companion with out all the paperwork, licenses, forms, and permission slips? Why was life so complicated? Why did one have to ask permission for everything? Did the rich elite have to ask permission? He really wondered about that.

    He didn’t go up and visit Mrs. D that night or the next. He sulked in his tiny apartment and just lay there staring up in the dark at his dingy ceiling. Of course he couldn't see that it was dingy in the dark, but he knew it was. He lived in a dingy world were everything was dingy. Martin wondered what life was really like out side the Alliance. Was there really a place without surveillance, without security, without forms, no guilds, no licenses, no permission slips? He wondered as he drifted off to sleep, a sleep filled with restless dreams and disturbing images. He seemed to be forever trapped and running at the same time. He couldn’t see the faceless images that chased him through the dark grey voids of his inner mind, but he ran from them in terror nonetheless.
    We have done so much, with so little, for so long....We can now do anything, with nothing, forever.

  19. #19
    Thanks for the new chapter ShadowMan I am enjoying your story, looking forward to more.

  20. #20
    Great job! I am sorry to say tat it seems all to true.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    nw mountains
    Thank you for a glimpse into what hildabeast wants for our children.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    State WA

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Thanks, ShadowMan! I just found your story and am really enjoying it. Looking forward to reading more!
    "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
    In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."
    Proverbs 3:5-6

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Dear Readers,
    I'm currently reworking the next parts of this story, so don't give up on it. MORE WILL BE COMING - shortly. THANKS!
    We have done so much, with so little, for so long....We can now do anything, with nothing, forever.

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Thank you, I was hoping there would be more! ;-)
    I didn't really bounce Eeyore. I had a cough, and I happened to be behind Eeyore, and I said "Grrrr-oppp-ptschschschz."

  26. #26
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    SE Okieland
    Quote Originally Posted by DIMDAL View Post
    Thank you, I was hoping there would be more! ;-)

  27. #27
    ShadowMan thanks for keeping us informed, looking forward to more.


  28. #28
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    The Last Frontier
    Glad to hear, this is really very well done. Thank you for your work, and I sure am looking forward to your next!!
    All that is gold does not glitter....

  29. #29
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    the boonies of Alaska
    Thank you for this very useful story; useful because it explores a possible future. The details are so clear that I can put myself into the scenarios. Unfortunately, I see some of these things present now in small ways.
    It's later than you think!
    (Fr. Seraphim Rose)

  30. #30
    Thanks. It also gives us some unusual things to think about.

  31. #31
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    I have just caught up on your story and find it most intriguing. Looking forward to MOAR. Thanks so much.

  32. #32
    Waiting for more please.

  33. #33
    Good story.

    "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."---- Robert A. Heinlein

  34. #34
    Patiently waiting. . . . . . .... .

  35. #35
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Very interesting. I hope you continue with it!
    Visit me on Etsy: ModernMaille

  36. #36
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    The Last Frontier
    You are an excellent writer, and this is a very well-done story. Please continue! And thank you for sharing your talent!
    All that is gold does not glitter....


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