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What They Don’t Get (beginning)

This was the one I was working on now

 

What They Don’t Get (working title): Part 1

And so once again he shut the window. Luke didn’t know what the problem was each time, and he never wanted to ask. He’d see them out in the front or just walking around sometimes, and he figured to himself not to give them any other thing they didn’t need to worry about. And honestly he didn’t care; it wasn’t his business. He’d casually wave and be polite, and they would reciprocate with noticeable hesitation. Especially Mrs. Brooks. She always seemed cautious, but it wasn’t Luke’s idea to lead them on into what he had heard, what he knew, or what he didn’t; nor was it his place to. So he continued to smile and he continued to wave, and he just continued to shut the window when he needed to.

Every passing hour with every passing day, Luke would need to find a new topic of thought to get him through his work day. What his next meal was, what one of his coworkers, Leanne, had to say today during break about the glorious and o so thrilling agendas of her life, what happened in the last book he read, the next project he would inject himself into to excuse the potential he had given up as a younger man, why Mrs. Brooks didn’t just leave him; she was beautiful, she seemed smart or at least like she was smart in a previous life; there would be another life for her wherever she went, and he didn’t understand. Max had been working at The Department for Integrity in Higher Justice for almost sixteen years now since 2042, two years after its inception. He hated it; he despised it; and eventually learned to despise himself. He knew they were screwing people over and he knew it was just another notch in the long belt of cheap and backwards institutions the government had used to hang its individuals with. Luke used to be one of those individuals. At some point, along with most of the rest of the country, he grew systematically exhausted of trying to act or even thinking for himself. Now he was a part of it. He was one of the kinks and one of the cogs drawing oil to a great and omnipotent machine of suppression and corruption. However, they did pay well, and there was benefits.

At the end of everyday Luke would walk into the warp port, punch in his address code, and be transported back home where he would look for any excuse to justify his wasteful and lost existence. He hated himself. He hated himself for who he was, and he hated himself for what he lost. And he was scared to make any change he wanted. “What could I do?” he sometimes thought. If he wanted to start a different career and do something else, he would just be thrown into another Career Assessment and Training program and be lumped into another blockaded branch of a corporate and government ran typhoon of pedaling cattle nothingness. And he’d be back at the bottom of all that, scraping desperately to get back to a position he was already in. If he chose to try to fight, or do anything different, he would just be removed like the rest of them. Then he’d be put in a file that was kept at the Department for Integrity in Higher Justice, and compromise whatever security anyone that ever knew him had left. He was just another broken individual in a society full of them. He was actually grateful to still be rightfully miserable about it.

Transport/transition

So there he was last Friday of every month, 5:30 pm, every time on the dot. Not a minute before. Not a minute after. 5:30 was already the designated supper time. 5:30 for supper. 7:30 for breakfast. And 12:30 for lunch. This was one law though written with ———rational sense behind it. You were still in accordance with the law so long as you ate within the given hour for each meal. So really it didn’t matter whether you ate supper at 5:00, 5:01, or 5:58, as long as it was within the five o’clock hour. So Luke rarely ate precisely at the half-hour mark. He did this somewhat deliberately. He knew he’d be more comfortable eating his meals when he was suppose to, but he afforded himself this one personal act of minor rebellion everyday. And he still got a little kick out of it everyday. He sat down to most every meal, as lousy as it was, with a small smirk on his face. However last Friday of every month he sat down precisely at 5:30 for supper time. It was on the last Friday of December 2020, a few days after Christmas, when he was a sophomore in high school, when he had his last meal that wasn’t government issued. He still remembers that day with reverence, and holds that memory every last Friday of every month. He and his mother spent the day ________mostly at home cooking and cleaning up the holiday decorations they had around the house. He remembers running a couple errands and returning a few gifts for his mom, and then around supper time his dad and his sister came home to join them. Luke and his mom made a lasagna with real meat and a sauce made with real tomatoes. And last Friday of every month, no matter what, he made sure he was home to devote time with this memory, and still even now after all these years, he can see all of them sitting around the table, smiling with each other after lovely day, and enjoying dinner together. And he remembers looking up at the clock and it being exactly 5:30. He remembers that dinner and the look on everyone’s face, not the faintest idea that would be the last time he ever had lasagna. The next day was when the government announced its new ration policy, and introduced its clean house program in lieu of the next wave of the virus. By evening that night, every grocery store was sold out of all food items, and they never restocked with consumer based products again. Everything after that was run and managed by the government which only within a couple years turned into micro-packaged chemically based imitations of real food. That was the beginning.

On the menu tonight for Luke was two packages of Industry Standard soup #4, a sort of red paste soup that carried a handful of the pale brown shaded protein blocks that hovered lifelessly at the top of the thick red paste, and a couple forever wrapped white rolls. They were literally white rolls, white as a toilet seat. Luke was lucky enough to know what real bread was. He finished his meal, and sat at his desk to look at the files he had brought home earlier. He would spend the full hour he was allowed on each section. By law you were only allowed up to one hour per case file before you had to submit it for review, and move on to the next one. They say assignment in the beginning of each case is random and then moves on to different agents for accuracy and then on up to different levels of the Department for the best possible result, but there was one time awhile back when Luke received the same file. The same case and the same file, which he knew could only be a glitch. Each file was shuffled around to probably a half dozen or so before being sent up, and there were hundreds of agents. They had to be different agents, and the system assured that. Nobody really knew where or to whom each file was sent after they submitted it exactly, or ever asked, and it was against several laws which would lead ______to talk about anything. After your hour was spent, you moved on to the next subject. That’s just how it was. Luke brought home three files for three hours. While he was working, he always spent a little time in-between each case with the Mininews Hour, which ran the day’s current headlines, just to see if there was anything he could match with a case. Lots of times there would be subtle indictions hidden in the news reels about who was being hunted at the time. Then his nightly routine of exercise, a shower, and off to bed before the weekend.

Luke looked at the first case. Diane Cerabak. 38. Single. No kids. A clerk at the Department of Travel and Welfare, section 15. 487 Mainland Rd. Heirloom City, West, Blockade 8. Each page in every file had a header that transcribed any persons they lived with or were responsible for, where they worked, and exact location of residence. This was at the top of every page, followed by a full and complete detailed version of their attributes, as well as a lifestyle assessment. This was a description of their day to day living situation summarized by three scores. One that assessed their toll on government resources. One that assessed their risk as a threat. That could be anything from being a risk to self or others, or risk of criminality such as treason or conspiring to commit treason which was the willful exchange of any information outside the Appropriate Communications Guidelines and Regulations Act of 2035. And one that assessed deviancy, which was anything that wasn’t protocol for one’s job, and/or any unanticipated and unscheduled act outside one’s own home, or living quarters. Since people’s jobs took up most of their time and each job set forth their own guidelines and regulations in conjunction with federal law, and most all had ____policies____ incentivized programs to keep social activity within the work environment, people didn’t have a need to deviate from the work life, which already provided all a person would ever want or need. The only other space that wasn’t bound to the necessary schedule, or purchase of a time block, was a person’s living quarters or domicile, which included the neighbors on your block, and the residents on your floor if you were living in an apartment building. Each score was from 1-100, and no one was exempt, including all members of the Department of Integrity in Higher Justice. And since it was an internal position, Luke’s job was one of the few that did not have a social program. The only social activity afforded in the Department was during the lunch hour in the cafeteria or one of the TV centers. Luke had never gotten to see his own file, but he knew his deviancy score was higher than it should be because of when he decided to eat each meal. Deviancy was always a pretty common risk on each assessment, but the norm was usually between 30-50 and you needed a score of 65 or higher to be labeled deviant. Luke rarely saw many resource violations since basically all your needs were met by the weekly and monthly provisions. Threat risks were not a more common occurrence on people’s scores than deviancy, but there were more frequent violations by far. The average score on threat assessment if there was one was between 60-85, most of the violations fell/falling under the treasonous category and unlawful exchange of information.

Monitored vacations

Luke had no idea what happened to each person after he submitted a case assessment that was in violation. And there was no telling how many he submitted. A few a week, at least. He didn’t think about it. Or at least he made sure he avoided doing so. After some years he had a discipline not to assess any case by its merit, just by the score. And even ones he needed to look at more carefully and spend more time with, once he submitted the case, it left him completely. It was not his job to assess appropriate measures for each violation, just to determine if there indeed was a violation. Plus he knew he wasn’t the only one handling each case. Each case followed the protocol set forth by the Department, and the proper chain of command. He didn’t really believe this to be ____so_____ at all, but reminded himself assuredly anytime he needed to. So he managed, and succeeded. He died a tiny little bit every time with each case, looking at the case file, making the initial determinations based on where and who they lived with, then reading through all of it, taking notes, assessing the scores, adding each one up, even just opening the folder the first time he ____let out breath to do so. But he got each one done, and never looked back. And he was able to live like that. He kept his job, and had built up a reasonable amount of security in it. He didn’t have any debt. And he did all that he needed to. He wasn’t a bother to anyone, therefore not in any real immediate danger. He didn’t associate with many. He didn’t talk to very many people at all actually, let alone have any friends, or acquaintances outside the coffee and antiquated lunch chats. He kept to himself, did his job with efficiency, and stayed busy, not making any enemies with anyone. If you can’t avoid being seen, then avoid being known he said. And if you can’t avoid being known, then avoid being wanted. He often reminded himself in front of his rations box after returning home from work about how he was safe, and not in any trouble, before sitting down for supper ten or fifteen minutes before the allotted time.

It was a quarter past 9:00 when he opened the third and last case file for the night. He was already exhausted, but looked forward to his exercise afterward. He didn’t have much planned, just his nightly push-ups and sit-ups, and he was going to try to work in a few more stretches and call it a night. In spite of the lack of nutrition he knew he wasn’t getting, he maintained an exercise regiment every night and was in pretty good physical shape overall for his age bracket. The average age of death for males dropped by about a decade a long time ago and there hasn’t been much change since, but he felt fine, and looked relatively healthy too. Most men his age started developing a droop in their back or just had the look of a million years already washed all over their face. But physically speaking, Luke was fine, strong even. And he could only credit his routine he stuck to every night. Afterward he’d be able to take a shower and relax. You only had eight minutes before the hot water shut off, but that was one thing he genuinely relished in and enjoyed about each day. He was old enough to remember how everything was before, and this was one familiar luxury that survived the decades of regulations, restrictions, and loss. Luke knew every time he stepped foot in that shower, to enjoy it, to cherish it. And he did. It’d be off to bed after that, and usually that’d be enough of a departure from the day past to let him rest his eyes gently, and sleep soundly, in peace. That weekend he knew he had a couple more case files waiting for him at the Department, and while he was there he planned to schedule and purchase a few hours at the park if there was a slot available. There usually was, but he wanted to stay at least four or five hours to _________. He opened the case file, skimmed, and began reading. Then stopped.

This is impossible. He checked and looked again. Then skimmed each page. It couldn’t be. There is no way this could happen. He closed the file and flipped it over and examined both sides before placing it back down in front of him. He took another deep breath and told/reminded/let  himself not to act out of place. He opened the file once more and sort/kind of went through the same routine more casually before pretending to take his notes as he typically would. This was the same case. The same file he’d seen already twice before. Now a third time. He didn’t know what to make of it. It was literally impossible for this to happen, and he knew that. He read the name and did not recognize it other than having already seen the file. He did not know the address, and he’d never even been to the/that area before. It was a smaller sector toward the outskirts of the town, known for nothing but being even more run down than other neighborhoods. His occupation was listed as tele prompt engineer for the Mininews Network. Luke knew this wasn’t the same as before. He didn’t know what it meant, but