by: Lewis H. Montaug
The struggle for revolution comes to a head within the walls of the heavily guarded arsenal that is Terminus Station….
“Excuse me, Comrade? May I see your papers?” The taller of two, black-clad Ministry goons leaned down to inquire as I made my way across the sprawling hub of Terminus Station. “I do hope they are in order,” he barked, flashing me a sardonic smile from the railing of the jet-black security bridge.
“Ummm, yesss. Yes! My papers. Of course!” I answered at a gallop, not wanting to arouse further suspicion with delay. I glanced around nervously as I fumbled inside my coat pocket for my travel documents. The station was busy and I was anxious to avoid attention, especially from the multitude of travelers that flowed around me like so many plastic bottles caught in a fast moving current.
The people of the Homeland were the Ministry’s first-line of defense, a population as suspicious of each other as the Ministry was of them. Every shoulder brush or close-sounding footfall brought with it the potential for misfortune. It would only take one intrepid individual, a wealthy tourist or perhaps a pilgrim journeying to the Holy Lands, to brush up against my back, feel the hard shape of the Derringer secreted in my waistband and all would be lost. Pulling the documents from inside my coat, I handed the thin folios up to the goon, flashing my most non-threatening, amenable smile. “Here they are,” I offered obediently.
With well-practiced efficiency, the goon’s eyes darted from one portion of the glossy documents to the other. At every page, his gaze lingered just long enough for his marginal intellect to determine if all was in order. He passed his Tracer with a deft flick of the wrist across the documents, appraising the lines of glowing numbers as they scrolled across its miniature screen, their luminous green color reflecting strongly in the harsh angles of his polished armor. It was all there. Age. Height. Occupation. Homeworld. Marital Status. Every metric possible that could be measured and categorized. It was an unsettling experience to see one’s very existence reduced down to a series of glowing data points, something that the Ministry excelled at.
On the holographic and voice ID’s the goon lingered, tilting his head slightly and bringing his hand to his ear as he listened to a recording of my voice. Satisfied, he then continued on to the 4D hallmark, the hardest off all the biometrics to fake. The goon scanned it and then looked up to meet my stare, narrowing his eyes as I radiated back eager compliance, the perfect disposition for an obedient citizen of the Homeland.
Shaking his head slightly, the goon glanced back at my papers one final time before folding them lengthwise and whispering something to his partner. As my heart rate quickened he stepped down from his elevated position atop the sea of pilgrims, migrant workers, and emigrants shuffling passively by and came down to stand before me.
“Is there a problem officer?” I asked timidly. The goon’s expression was unreadable, so vacant that I wondered if he had even heard the question at all. He handed me back my papers and upon taking them, I noticed that his hand was no longer at his side but rather resting on the butt of his standard issue, hip-holstered electric bludgeon. Its blue-green glow gave off a faint humming sound, offering me no assurance that everything was in order.
“Could you please follow me over here, uh Comrade Yushev, er, Yuchen. Ah, what was it again?” The goon growled, motioning to a glass-walled cubicle beneath the security bridge. His voice no longer carried that polite tone usually reserved for those in customer service. Instead it was replaced with a halting, bark-like quality, as if I was a lowly Private being commanded by my Drill Sergeant to drop and give him twenty.
“Comrade Yushenkov.” I replied confidently, desiring to please and to convince him of my newly attained alias. “My name is Yevgeniy Yushenkov.”
“Ah yes. Yushenkov. That’s right. Well Comrade Yevgeniy Yushenkov. You are to follow me. Now. And without delay.”
The goon stepped in behind me and placed his hand firmly upon my shoulder, the close press of nearby travelers dissolving slowly away, creating a circle of open space around us. With his other hand he motioned repeatedly towards the brightly lit cubicle positioned adjacent to a support column for the sprawling security bridge. The rooms interior was stark white, nary a splash of color existing within it walls, and it shined with a metallic light that reflected off the banks of electronics and stainless steel instruments that lined its walls. In its very center was situated an ivory metal chair, gleaming harshly in the blaze of a double-row of fluorescence. It became readily apparent to me that I was to be put on display during my questioning. The Ministry loved a good show, public executions and interrogations were its status quo, and my questioning would ensure a powerful message was delivered to the countless citizens who drifted dutifully by.
“Is there a problem officer?” I asked in my most non-threatening flavor, turning my head to look back in his direction. There was no way that I was going to follow him into that room, that much was abundantly certain. I knew what went on in there. It was a one-way ticket, a trip that I had no interest in taking. It was obvious my forged ID’s hadn’t worked. All these pleasantries now were merely for show, to get me to go quietly, and with as little commotion as possible. All bets were off after that on how I’d be treated.
I could feel the cool, hard press of the Derringer I carried tucked into my waistband on the skin of my back as I stuffed the papers back in my coat pocket. I was pleased that this new generation of dense-resin snub guns had gotten past the scanners, but its effectiveness was limited only to close-range. “Taste it’s fury!” was how it had been advertised. But all it could do was buy me some time. Once this goon before me felt its bite, I wouldn’t have long until the rest of the Ministry’s minions caught up to me.
Eventually, as all things are when it comes to the Ministry and its goon-squads, I would get caught. And the last thing any Comrade of the Homeland ever wants is for the Ministry to take an interest in them. Because once its interest is piqued, the Ministry never rests until someone ends up dead.
Ever since Minister Knox had wrestled control of the Homeland Council with his Autumn Coup de tat twenty years ago, declaring himself High Protector, his fanatical efforts to expand the role of the Ministry as the safeguarders of the people had reached maniacal proportions. Every citizen of the nation had overnight became a pawn in a game being played by a man who reveled in being the judge, jury and executioner for those who did him wrong.
“Please sir. If you would stop resisting this will be a lot easier on the both of us.” The Ministry goon offered strongly.”
“What will be easier on the both of us Comrade?” I asked, feinting unfamiliarity, my voice rising in tone, further arousing the curiosities of the ever-flowing crowd.
“Sir! We here at the Ministry appreciate a non-confrontational attitude amongst our travelers! Will you please step out of line?”
This is not a good start to my vacation, I thought to myself as the goon put his arm around me, dangerously close to my hidden pistol, and we began our slow, reluctant march towards the rather thick, unmarked glass doors. As we walked, the crowds parted before us, and I could for the first time see, rather clearly, the harshly lit, transparent and undisguised interior of a Ministry Interrogation Room.
I quickly analyzed my options, few as they were, and came to the conclusion that I would have to take my chances with the Derringer and make a break for it. It wasn’t a good plan, but it was the only one that I could conceive that offered me the prospect of avoiding a very public interrogation, and the fate of certain death. I began to reach for the pistol, and just as I wrapped my fingers around its textured grip, sliding my finger through its curved trigger, I felt the Ministry goon’s breath heavy upon the back of my neck.
“Sir, please trust me,” he hissed in a hurried whisper. “Just do as I say and we will get through this.”
His tone had changed entirely. Gone, it seemed, was the buffoonish thug that I was about to engage, replaced fortuitously with a cunning insider, a sympathizer to the revolution. My initial reaction was to not trust him, but what choice did I have, really?
“We have been expecting you. Comrade Tycho sent word. I will explain everything to you as I understand it. Just please, follow my lead.”
I ceased with my struggles and allowed myself to be led without resistance. Once we both crossed the threshold into the illuminated, exposed interrogation room, the disguised rebel sympathizer slammed the door behind him, and motioned for me to sit in the lone chair. As I situated myself into its uncomfortable frame, he began an exaggerated soliloquy, storming about the room. From the outside it appeared as if he was berating me, questioning me with all the vigor and zest that the Ministry demanded of its employees. Yet, within the room his tone was subdued, as he explained to me in careful detail the situation we found ourselves in. It was an impressive performance.
“Sir, my name is Comrade Aldila. Like I said, we have been expecting you. Mere minutes before you arrived I received an emergency communication from Comrade Tycho. He didn’t say why exactly, but his instructions were crystal clear – to obtain you by any means necessary and to keep you out of the Ministry’s hands until he arrives.”
“Wait,” I interrupted. “He is coming here…to Terminus Station?”
“Yes. He will arrive shortly.”
This must be important, I thought. Why would the leader of the revolution put himself at risk by walking straight into the one of the most heavily guarded travel depots this side of the known universe? Terminus Station was a hub of Ministry activity, a stronghold that was essential to their unrelenting hold on the people. From here they controlled shipping in and out of all federally regulated spaceports. On top of this, Terminus Station was the launching point of countless military engagements. It was a heavily armed fortress.
And why, I wondered, was it that he had sent me here? None of this was making any sense.
Before the riots started, Minister Knox was a well-liked representative of The Council. He talked simply and could relate to the majority of the populous owing to his lower class upbringing. But it was his Democratic stances on the issues and his passionate fight for the struggling citizens of the Homeland, that had made him a true man of the people. And when the workers revolt began it paid to be a man of the people, as the unions and anti-government organizations sought out open-minded diplomats such as himself as a potential leader. The uprisings began in the name of equality for all. The government, at the time, chastised the movement as a group of undercover Socialists, simply another form of planned state-capitalism with all the corruptive possibilities of the current government left intact.
Yet the people were standing strong. The vast majority of them resided deep beneath the poverty line and had struggled for generations to find their voice. Now, finally, they were finding a way to truly unite. They had on their minds the dream of a true classless society. To further distance themselves from the stigmas of the faulty Socialist movements of the past, they renamed themselves Egalitarians. And although the people were now considered equal, in essence, a voice was necessary, a presence to organize the protesters, and John Knox was the people’s choice. In the annals of History, one would be hard-pressed to find a better example of powers ability to corrupt than John Knox. He was a man who had helped lead the overthrow of the government in the name of equality for all, and then proceeded to swell its powers, commencing an era of Autocracy, Militarism, and the subjugation of the very people who had handed him his power.
Yet, a resistance endured. One that I tried to infiltrate for years, in order to fight for what I believed in. They were harder to find than a parking space in Munix City. Finally, when I had almost given up hope, it was I who was contacted with a letter. Yes, a letter! It was an archaic form of communication, one that had fallen out of favor with the populace, and I found it resting atop my coveralls one morning as I opened my work locker to begin my shift. The letter, handwritten in a beautiful, flowing script, stated that I had been properly vetted, and that the resistance required my services. It was signed by Comrade Tycho personally, the famed leader of the revolution.
“It is all going to happen fast,” Aldila continued. “From what I can tell, this is a big day for the revolution, one that has been planned for some time. And you have an integral role to play in this plot, one that is destined to turn the tides of our ceaseless struggle. Something is happening, and we are….”
Comrade Aldila was interrupted by a whooshing sound as the doors to the interrogation room slid open, and through it two armed Ministry Officers simultaneously entered. With militaristic precision they inspected the room, and then flanked each side of the entrance. “All clear Sir!” one of the officers barked. After a pregnant pause, a skinny, short man with glasses strode determinately into the room. He too, was clad in the Ministry’s garb, and although I had never met Comrade Tycho, I knew it to be him. He was far below average in height and weight, yet he reeked of confidence and power. He was a proud man, and his aura demanded your attention. A wave of intimidation washed over me, and a rush of saliva gorged my mouth causing me to swallow with a loud gulp. Before I could offer any sort of greeting to the longtime leader, he began to speak with urgency.
“We have little time. Three, maybe four minutes,” he began as he withdrew a chair from a desk along the far wall and placed it immediately before me. He stared me in the eyes and continued speaking in short bursts. As he talked, his hand disappeared into the interior pocket of his uniform, searching animatedly for something.
“I am Comrade Tycho. If all goes well, today will be a historic day for the revolution. And much of that will be thanks to you Comrade. I don’t have time to explain. But, your cooperation is appreciated.”
Finally, he found what he was searching for and from his pocket appeared two clear plastic syringes. With one motion he inserted the caps of the syringes in his mouth, biting down hard upon both and pulling them away, uncapping the fine needles sheathed within. He spat the plastic caps onto the floor and looked up to me with a worried smile. It was at this moment that I noticed something about Comrade Tycho that his determined attitude and general aura of confidence hid. When he looked me directly in the eyes, as he held the two syringes between us, it was apparent to me that he was scared.
“Comrade?” I attempted, but was immediately silenced by the palm of his raised hand.
“I apologize. Time is of the essence. What is going to occur now is something I cannot fully explain to you before it begins – but what you have to take to heart, is that it must.”
Before the word must had even escaped his mouth he embraced the syringes, one in each hand, and with a stabbing motion drove them into his upper thigh and mine simultaneously. I let out a shriek, one derived from shock more than pain, that I reeled in quickly. “This is for the pain,” Comrade Tycho said, and then suddenly everything around me fell dark.
The plan, devised by John Knox, was to drive the people against the the official party in control at the time, make them the enemy that the people clearly saw them as. It started simply. Initially it was mainly organized rallies and congregations of people en masse to exhibit the newfound power of the people, but slowly, and unbeknownst to most, it took a new shape. He, John Knox – the appointed voice of the oppressed – huddled together the most capable of the demonstrators, the ones who would do near anything for the freedom they so yearned, and put them to work. Though they oftentimes felt like anarchists, herds of defiant people acting in unison to further the rights of the working class, they were in fact being unknowingly grouped together, forming the beginnings of a fledgling army – yet they didn’t feel organized or repressed, so their passion remained unwavering.
John Knox’s sinister plan become evident the day his ‘Soldiers of Rebellion’ took The Communications Consulate. From there things began to rapidly change. The Ministry of Propaganda was formed and began to alter the story, though one would think that the very name of this Ministry would supply ample warning. The message they were slyly streaming into all media outlets was that John Knox actions, and that of his soldiers, were undertaken so that the working class would be safe. They were now direct orders from a de facto government that intended to wage war on all those that stood against it.
This wasn’t truly the case however, as the government was yearning to find a middle ground, and to find a solution to the uprising diplomatically – which could have actually handed some of the power that the working class was originally looking for over to them. But alas, Minister Knox, becoming increasingly irate with the governments slow implementation of his plans, and anxious to further consolidate his powers, ordered a seizure of all citizens weaponry, making the right to bear arms effectively illegal. Thus was born a powerful reign, one steeped in intimidation and terror that found Minister Knox solely in command of The Homeland.
I awoke a moment later, overcome with dizziness and a newfound fatigue. What was happening? When the fog subsided I realized that my right leg, and that of Comrade Tycho, had been immobilized in vice grip and that the two Ministry goons who had entered with him were holding me down.
“What is happening?” I managed.
Comrade Tycho, now wielding a six inch bowie knife, shot me a menacing glance, silencing me immediately. He then set about meticulously examining his caged leg with his fingers. Finding the location he was looking for, he surgically punctured his leg with the knife, burying its sharp point deep within. A thick flow of blood instantly sprung from the wound, soaking his pants and dripping onto the floor, creating a dense river of red between us.
As he probed within the wound with his knife, I became aware of a loud pounding echoing throughout the glass-walled room. Looking about, I noticed soldiers of the Ministry surrounding the room on all sides. The dull thumping sound morphed expeditiously into a mechanical grinding as rubescent sparks began emanating from the entryway. Two goons squatting before the doors were wielding a mechanical saw, slowly cutting their way through the thick security glass. Looking back to Comrade Tycho in fear, I watched with eyes wide as he continued to probe the two-inch wound across his calf.
“Aha, there it is,” he said as he removed the knife and now probed about his calf with his fingers. From it he dramatically pulled a thin metallic cylinder, which dripped heavily with his own crimson blood. He gazed upon it, smiling as if pleased with himself, and then locked his eyes with mine. “It won’t be long now. Fear not Comrade, it’s almost over.”
The white-hot orange and red sparks continued to fill the room with noise and smoke as the sound of Ministry forces continued to intensify around the interrogation room. They would surely be upon us in no time. Comrade Tycho, tightly clutching the metallic cylinder in his left hand, orbited the blade above my imprisoned leg. I had no doubt about what was going to happen next.
“And now Comrade, its your turn. Again, I thank you in advance for your courage.”
With that he plunged the knife deeply into my calf and began probing about. I cringed in fear of the pain, a natural instinct, yet couldn’t feel a thing. His security detail held me in place. The blade had slipped easily into my calf like a hot knife through butter and he quickly located what he was searching for. With ease he pulled from my bleeding leg a square object about the size of a coin. He removed a rag from his pocket and neatly wiped the object clean. With the blood freshly removed I could see that it was some sort of a microchip.
“How did that get there?” I asked dumbfounded.
“You wouldn’t remember Comrade. If you knew that you had this with you when you shipped off to Terminus Station, the mission would have failed. But the mission is not going to fail, and you Sir, are going to be a hero.
“What…What’s going to-to-to happen? I asked with a stutter.
“What’s going to happen Comrade,” he responded with a wry, wide-set smile, “is that we are going to finally win this goddamn war.”
He inserted the chip into the metallic cylinder, causing it to instantly spring to life. It began to hum and turned a magnificent green hue which glowed with increasing intensity. I shielded my eyes as the room around me began to shake. Through the blinding light I could see Comrade Tycho close his eyes and take a deep breath. Upon his face he wore a satisfied smile. I braced for impact and then everything went dark.