An Unknown Woman
Three middle-aged men, two dressed in plain grey uniforms and one in a grey uniform with red stripes alongside his sleeves, keep looking at the computer screen.
The monitor shows a woman in her 40’s sitting with her head bowed down and her long hair covering her cheeks, which makes impossible to see her face. The drones above the men’s heads are searching the database for the images of the Ecotopian fighters and the citizens of the New and Old World to find a match for the unknown woman. Even though the drones cannot scan her face, their advanced technology, in theory, should allow them to match her overall body shape with the archives records kept in the Above.
– “Are you certain she asked for me?” asked the man wearing the uniform with the red stripes.
– “Yes, sir. She asked for Patrick Brus several times. She didn’t cause any troubles when we captured her and said that she was only going to talk to you.”
– “ Hmmm… and she said she was from the Ecotopia, right?”
– “That is correct, sir. She also had all this equipment on her. Sir, nothing of this is ours. We checked all the catalogues, and none of our drones had any record of the equipment. Even the Above doesn’t have anything as advanced.”
– “Yes… Well… The equipment will have to be sent to our research team.” Patrick replies. Then he looks at the table, where the high-tech, hand operated only equipment is scattered randomly across. He picks up one of the radios and tries to turn it on. But all in vain; the radio just like the rest of the Ecotopian equipment can only be activated by the person it belongs to, in ways that the Old World hasn’t been able to decode yet.
– “Hmmm…?” – murmurs Patrick before throwing the radio back onto the table. “Hmm… I’m going to go in and talk to her. Make sure the Above gets the transmission.” says Patrick.
– “Shouldn’t we follow the protocol, sir? Shouldn’t the Above know before we engage with the enemy?”. In that very moment, the unknown woman turns her head up and looks right at the camera.
– “Yes, I’m… sure… I’m sure. Yes, leave it to me. I’ll deal with the Above.“ On the way out of the communication room, Patrick can already sense the fear rising up in his body while he struggles to take a deeper breath. He lets the door slip through his fingers, taking ages to close, which gives the mutated crawlies a perfect opportunity to slip in through the crack of the door.
The corridor leading to the interrogation room, where the woman has been kept, is covered with the cameras and droids every inch of the way. The signs of the never-ending revolution are still visible all along the walls, which are desperate for a new paint job; the ceiling is leaking, making toxic rain patches on the floor, which in turn allows the mutated crawlies to sneak into the building.
Patrick takes careful steps between the toxic rain patches while trying to calm his rapid breathing, which seems to be in some sick competition with his thoughts.
Closing his eyes and slowly counting to ten isn’t working. In the last desperate attempt to kill the panic attack, preferably before he starts interrogating HER, he reaches out to his pocket. He double checks the location of the droids and the cameras before pulling out the green plastic capsule.
His actions are as scrutinised by the Above as those of the ordinary citizens. There is no exception, not even for him, not for anyone who decided to stay behind on Earth.
Once in the dark spot, Patrick pulls out the pill from his pocket and quickly pops it into his mouth, right before reaching the interrogation room door.
The only way to get inside the room is by using the computer code, which changes daily. The Above makes the code accessible only to the highest ranking commander’s personal drones.
Without saying anything, Patrick looks up to his drone, which is already inputting the code in. Patrick knows that now he must carefully plan his every move. The key is not to rush, allow the feelings to come up high and then wait for the calmness to be restored.
Through the crack of the opening door, Patrick can already see who the unknown woman is. The memories of the long lost and forgotten past take control over his body and mind, intensifying his panic attack, which loves feeding off anxious thoughts and feelings. The only way to make sure the Above sees none of this is to wait until the first phase of the panic passes.
Patrick’s personal drone seems to sense what is going on with him and makes sure Patrick sits down on the only chair, right opposite to the unknown woman. When the door shuts behind him their eyes meet.
Maggie fights an urge to smile; it would give her away even before her plan could fully kick in. She knows that under no circumstances the Old World can find out what is happening to Patrick and as she has known him since the two of them were five, she knows what a massive undertaking it is for him to get the panic attack under control. If the Corporate Government knew about Patrick’s predicament, it is more than certain that he wouldn’t be allowed to hold such a high profile position within the ranks of the Old World. The Old World is all about productivity and perfection; there is no room for mistakes.
Patrick has always followed Maggie’s political career as much as he could, ever since the two of them chose the opposite sides of the revolution. From the start of the Ecotopian movement, she has been a very powerful figure in the New World. But what he couldn’t get his head around, was how the Ecotopians managed to hack the Old World’s archives and delete all the files, which the Old World had on her.
For a brief second his fearful mind engages with the idea that maybe, just maybe, the Ecotopians were finally winning the revolution. But he knows that allowing himself to stay on that path for too long would be very dangerous. After all the sacrifices he made for the Old World, he couldn’t merely become a non-believer.
Once the panic attack starts to ease (the blue pill always works), Patrick realises how often he has dreamt of that very moment and how much he had hoped for that moment to become a reality. Maggie was the reason he stayed behind on Earth. The whole Command Above thought that he had taken his duty as a protector of the Old World and its values very seriously and was committed to keeping the old order intact. But it was always Maggie that kept him on Earth.
And finally, she came back. He… he wanted to tell her how much he had missed her and how long he waited for her to come back… because… because deep down in his heart he always knew she was going to come back; one day she was going to see that Ecotopia has always been unrealistic and unsustainable illusion for dreamers. In that very moment, he was even ready to forgive her, forgive her for breaking his heart, for running away, and for choosing the wrong side of the revolution.
Maggie looked at one of the cameras, which was rusting away in the right top corner, then looked right back at Patrick.
– “I’m willing to trade vital Ecotopian information with you as long as you will help me,” she said.
Maggie and Patrick
– “You need our help?” Patrick asked in disbelieve. His voice was calm and steady. His inner strength was indeed coming back. As always the blue pill has worked like a charm.
– “No,” says Maggie “I need your help, Patrick. No one else is to be involved from the Old World.”
– “This isn’t a decision I can make.”
But somehow he already felt like he was letting her down. He waited for her to come back for so long and… and in no time at all he is already disappointing her. But how could he possibly help her? The Ecotopians have a much better communication system than the Old World has ever had. In theory, his assistance wouldn’t be of much use or would it? What does the Old World have that she needs? – he wondered.
– “After all those years you still can’t make independent decisions. How frustrating it must be?!” – Maggie teased him.
Maggie has never been politically correct and never wanted to be. Her big mouth usually got her in trouble, and Patrick’s job was always to either get her out of trouble or calm the situation down so the two of them wouldn’t get a beating, which they did get often and a lot.
– “You haven’t changed much, have you?”
– “You want to know what the Ecotiopians are working on at the moment? It’s huge.” – she said with so much conviction that it was hard not to take her seriously.
– “Why? Why would you give up all this information?” Since Patrick’s anxiety attack passed, he felt strong enough to ask questions, even though the whole situation was way out of his comfort zone. He was interrogating the woman he loved, who should be his mortal enemy in this conflicted world.
– “The new technology will help us win the revolution. The New World will rule over the Old World, taking over every single inch of everything you have built in the Above and taking our land back. Is this what you want, Patrick? Is this what the Above would want?” The confidence and certainty in her voice were chilling, even for the Ground Guards listening in the communication room.
– “If you are so certain about your… whatever it is you are developing, what are you doing here Maggie? Why would you, from all people, give up that information?” – asked Patrick, who for the first time in his life couldn’t figure Maggie out and was very conflicted about her intentions.
– “As I said I need your help.”
– “What kind of help?”
– “I can’t say. With all this…” – pointing to every corner of the room: “…listening.”
– “Maggie, you want me to go to the Above and ask them to grant me permission to help you with something. And you won’t even tell me what that is. And all of that in exchange for the information about some technology you have or haven’t been developing that could or couldn’t change the course of the revolution, about which you don’t say anything more.”
– “That is correct.”
She touches his hands, which he quickly pulls from underneath hers. But her soft, warm touch lingers on, bringing back all the memories of their youth together.
– “Believe me; you want to help me. You know who I am. You know what kind of information I have access to, and you know you can trust me.”
His heart and thoughts are racing; his rational thinking has stopped the moment he knew who the unknown woman was. He wants to help her, and he knows he should help her. She is the only family he ever had after his parents overdosed. If it weren’t for Maggie’s family, he would have inevitably ended up in social care and never made to the top in the Old World.
In a spontaneous moment, filled with memories of their adventurous childhood together, Sunday brunches, and hot summers full of homemade food and baking smells, he turns to his personal drone and says.
– “Cut the…” – the drone delivers faster than Patrick can finish his sentence. It cuts the power to the main transmitter, which practically means that neither the Ground Guards nor the Above can follow the conversation from now on.
– “Maggie, as much as I am… happy to see you, you can’t be here; you can’t be talking to me. The Above will come and get you, and I won’t be able to protect you. Why are you here?” – He looks nervously at his personal drone who will restore the power any second now. Cutting the power off is risky enough but having it off for too long would mean that the drone would be scrapped. Patrick has been with his personal drone for years now and has no desire to get a new one, which most likely would be more controlling and more under the Above’s orders.
– “Your” – Maggie hesitates, takes a deep breath: “our children… are lost somewhere in the Old World. I have to find them before they do.” – Patrick’s personal drone restores the transmission.
Patrick is silent for a very long time. But this time he does not have a panic attack, he is not struggling to breathe, he is struggling to think how on Earth the Old World never knew about Maggie’s kids. And, how and why she never told him that he was a father. She knew how much he wanted to have children; he spoke about this all the time. He always wanted to give his kids what he never had as a child, a father.
Maggie looks at Patrick, who is not responding; she can’t read him, and that makes her scared more than anything else. Is her plan going to work? What if Patrick has changed so much over the years and he is not the person she once loved? What if is he going to use that information against her and the New Wold? Fear started growing in Maggie’s stomach. For a brief moment, she closed her eyes trying to stop the flow of the negativity. When she opened them, Patrick was looking right back at her with tears in his eyes. She expected him to say something; she needed him to say something, but instead, he stands up abruptly, knocking down the chair. The drone opened the door for him, and Patrick was gone.
The Last Time I Saw You
Patrick has always been a social smoker, at least he could be called that before the revolution. Under the Corporate Government people don’t socialise, don’t get together to spend time together. Now he smokes every time he is under pressure or when he can’t find a solution to his piling up problems. Living on Earth, in the Old World is far from easy. Of course the Above couldn’t possibly know that he had doubts or was undecided about many of the rules the Above started implementing onto the Old World. There is no room for mistakes or doubts in the Old World. Doubts and mistakes are the enemies of the state as much as the people who express doubts or are prone to mistakes.
He knew very well that the Maggie situation is impossible to sort out without betraying some of his beliefs. His privileged position in the Old World allowed him to have access to luxury goods such as cigarettes, which weren’t available in the Old World. If any of the luxury goods were around in the Old World, most likely they were smuggled from the New World illegally, often with the help of the New World government, or had to be sent by someone from the Above.
The people who were forced to stay on Earth in the Old World part of the planet had no access to services and the goods from the Above.
The Above was created for the top 1% that made it to the top, and as for the rest, the Above couldn’t care less about their struggles. The Old World’s population mostly survived on artificial food that everyone had to work for in factories belonging to the Old World’s Corporate Government.
The Corporate Government came to the existing right after the revolution begun as a strong right-wing force opposing change, innovation, and equality the Ecotopians were calling and fighting for.
Patrick smiled to himself remembering the first time he smoked with Maggie. She was always the first one to experiment with life, passing her new discovered knowledge down to Patrick. Maggie was also the one who initiated the first kiss, which turned out to be one of the best days of his life. Lying awake in the middle of the night he often thinks about their first kiss, the first time they were together, their breakups, and passionate reconciliations.
Since the Corporate Government followed Maggie’s every move, it allowed Patrick easy access to all her files. He knew everything there was to know about her, or at least he thought he did. None of the Old World’s records ever mentioned Maggie’s kids. Could that be a trap?
Maggie was one of the first leaders of the revolution that sprang out of control, dividing Earth into two parts. The Old World, run and governed by angry middle-aged men, who firmly believed in the old patriarchal rules, and the New World with many women in power, who put the social progress ahead of their gains. One of the main reasons there was still no peace treaty between the two worlds was because the old patriarchal world didn’t believe women of the New World were equal and knew what they had wanted, even though Ecotopia has been thriving, while the Old World slowly and painfully dying.
Ever since they were children, Maggie believed in a fair society that could function successfully, thrive, grow, and develop their potentials accordingly. Maggie has always been driven by social justice and progress and equal society where wealth is spread amongst that society. Something the Old World’s elite could never understand or respect.
But for some unknown reason, or a reason only known to Maggie, she always shared her toys and sweets with other kids in the hood, who were less fortunate than the two of them. Patrick never liked sharing his stuff with others, but wanting to impress Maggie, he did. That need to impress Maggie led him to join the Corporate World fairly early in life. Little he knew that this decision was going to ruin his future with her.
By the time his second cigarette was finished, he was trying hard to remember when was the last time he saw Maggie. It must have been the time she got pregnant. And that must have been… must have been… when the Old World negotiated with the New World seven days’ peace… Yes, of course! After nearly ten years of fighting the Old World finally agreed with the New World to exchange their fighters and some of the family members of the New World fighters who hadn’t manage to escape. The New World was going to provide much-needed medications and seeds that the Old World struggled to produce. The negotiation only lasted a day.
During that time the Old World was already moving its headquarters to the Above and needing to keep their workforce on Earth, the Corporate Government needed supplies of seeds and medications.
The Above still needed the humans in the Old World who were their direct clients of all the products designed in the Above and sold for way too much money to the people down below, only to support the expensive lifestyle of the 1%. That short treaty was in place already eleven years ago.
Even back then, when they both were on the two opposite sides of the revolution, the sexual attraction between them was still undeniable. Sexually they have always been compatible, and every time they had sex, it was always mind-blowing. The sexual tension always made it hard for them to keep away from one another, even in the most challenging situations.
Before the revolution, Maggie broke up with Patrick on several occasions, but she still had a hard time keeping away from him. Splitting up and getting back together made having a serious, long-term relationship for Patrick impossible.
He remembers very well the passionate night they spent together just right after the negotiation was over. It was like the old times; sex, talking, then some more sex. Unfortunately, he made a mistake of falling asleep at some point during the night. When he woke up, Maggie was already gone. He wanted her to stay, he was even ready to defect to the New World, but she was gone.
Now, apparently, he was a father who never met his kids, who are gone missing somewhere in the Old World. The Old World was nothing like the New World. It was wild, dangerous, toxic and full of mutated creatures, starving people and drones which captured anyone, who travelled without the right documents, sending them straight to the massive work camps, full of unidentified people easily disposable to the system.
Feeling the pressure building in her body Maggie closes her eyes, and in an instant, her thoughts rush back to that last night she was with Patrick.
The logical Maggie should have never come to negotiate with the Old World. She knew that seeing Patrick couldn’t possibly end well, but there is always very little logic in love, passion, and desire. The negotiation took place on the Isle of Wight, which was agreed to remain a neutral zone at the start of the revolution. All the way there she tried to convince herself that her decision had nothing to do with Patrick.
Way before the revolution took over the world; they were both inseparable. He was her best friend, her love, her lover, and her whole life. At least this is how she felt before Patrick decided to join the Corporate World and then the Corporate Government, which Maggie still can’t even begin to comprehend. Why did he choose the wrong side of the revolution, having the opportunity to build a new sustainable society with her? Time after time she tried to start all over again, but none of the relationships felt like it did being with Patrick.
Having not seen him for years, Maggie had no idea how much he has changed and whether trying to persuade him to join the New World would be a wise move. The Ecotopian government didn’t keep tabs on the Old World’s officials, unlike the Old World did. What if Patrick was married and had a family? What if he was a part of the problem and one of the designers of the oppressive system of the Old World? What if he wasn’t the Patrick she knew all those years ago?
Ecotopians were very forgiving and always willing to give another chance to those who wanted to redeem themselves and join the right side of the revolution. But what if he didn’t want to join the revolution? What if he was rotten to the core, just like the Corporate Government was?
One of Maggie’s deep beliefs was that power and money corrupt people and turns them into slaves willing to do anything to get ahead. She lost many dear friends to glitter and glitz. But she still hoped that Patrick didn’t become one of them. She never even entertained an idea that maybe, just maybe, Patrick joined the revolution “just” to show her that he could build something on his own, without her help or her nudging him to do something worthwhile with his life.
For many years the Old World showed no interest in negotiating with the New World, so the offer to negotiate seven days’ peace treaty was met with the considerable scepticism in the Ecotopia.
The Ecotopians were fully aware that the Corporate Government was moving Above. To build the Above, they spend 90% of all the resources they had left to accommodate the growing needs and demands of the 1%.
The Above turned out to be a bigger challenge then the Old World was expecting. Soon enough the need for basic supplies such as medications and seeds turned out to be greater than the Old World’s pride. The Old World’s population was already starving, and new limits on food wouldn’t help the regime to use and abuse the oppressed as they had done for years. The Ecotopian government knew that punishing the general population for the sins of their government will never build a strong and long-lasting relationship between the two worlds.
Their mindset was in complete opposition to the Old World’s mentality. The Ecotopians built their society on equality, respect, and shared responsibility; that belief helped the Ecotopians to create innovative, pioneering society, with collective mind and responsibility towards their own lives and Mother Nature.
Since the Ecotopians were always aiming for reconciliation, not for a longer and bloodier conflict, the negotiation was a perfect opportunity to show the Old World’s population that the New World was caring for everyone equally and not putting profit ahead of people or the planet. Deep in her heart, Maggie knew that the seeds wouldn’t produce the quality of food people deserved to eat. The soil in the Old World was very damaged and polluted. Even years before the revolution begun, it was already hard for the farmers to grow good quality food.
Maggie always had hard times understanding why anyone who has an option to cross over to the New World, would consciously choose the Old World with its limitations and ever-increasing poverty. Anyone from the Old World was going to be accepted by the New World as long as they managed to follow and accept the New World rules and accept the Ecotopia’s ethos and beliefs. People who didn’t believe in what Ecotopia represented didn’t belong in the New World.
During the negotiations, Patrick sat across the table from Maggie. They both tried hard to avoid eye contact just in case they gave away too much. The Old World didn’t take kindly to the New World and surely wouldn’t take kindly to women of the New World mixing with the high-ranking government officials of the Old World.
By the end of the negotiations, the Old World agreed to exchange the “prisoners” (as the medical personnel sent by the Ecotopians was called. The ordinary people had no access to the medical help in the Old World, and that was one way, in which the Ecotopians have been trying to reach out to the Old World’s population.) as well as some of the family members of the Ecotopian citizens who didn’t manage to escape before the Old World’s Corporate Government built the wall. During those seven days, the Ecotopians were going to keep the seeds and medications supply coming.
When the deal was agreed upon, Patrick suggested that Maggie should stay behind to finalise the dates and crossing with him. She surely did stay behind, letting her team go back to Ecotopia to start preparing the transports and temporary facilities for everyone who was going to cross over.
Once everyone was gone, Patrick walked over to Maggie. He didn’t say anything, just touched her hair, then her lips. Maggie closed her eyes while trying to control herself but the desire to kiss him was stronger than her.
After that kiss, Patrick quickly suggested a hotel nearby. Even though Maggie was in a relationship, her desire to be with Patrick was stronger than logic and loyalty to her partner. She never loved anyone as much as she loved Patrick.
After mind-blowing sex, they talked, had wine, ate real food (something even Patrick didn’t have access to very often) and had more sex. Just like it used to be before the revolution. Deep down Maggie hoped that Patrick would want to come with her and start all over again. Unfortunately, her hope was shattered when she saw his incoming message “Did you get the information we need?”
After reading that, Maggie’s heart stopped. ‘He just … to… all they had that night wasn’t real… He needed something… that was all…’ It was both surreal and way too painful. She got dressed as fast as she could and left determined to put that night and Patrick behind.
She cried all the way back to Ecotopia, trying to convince herself that Patrick wasn’t the same person that she knew so well and loved for so long. It was inevitable that he needed to change to survive the austerity of the Corporate Government. But using her was unacceptable.
Upon her arrival to Ecotopia that very night, she truly thought that the past was never going to catch up with her again. Soon enough she found out that she was pregnant, which made her beyond happy; she never even thought that her kids could have been Patrick’s as well.
Only a few weeks ago she found out that her daughter had a rare blood disease. The Ecotopian doctors needed to find a blood donor to help her daughter survive. However, after doing the DNA and blood tests on both: Maggie and who she thought was the father, it turned out that the DNA didn’t match. After hearing that, Maggie knew who the father was and what she needed to do.
Since she always believed in honesty, she told her kids and her ex-partner about that one night in the Isle of Wight. The next morning her children were gone. Not being able to hold them, comfort them, and be there for them made her weak, prone to mistakes, and willing to do anything to find them.
Upon hearing the door being unlocked again, she opens her eyes.
Patrick feared to make independent decisions, just in case that got him in trouble with the Corporate Government. Unfortunately, after all those years of service, he still had to explain his actions. Maggie indeed was right; the Above wanted to control everyone, especially people like him.
For a very long time, he believed that his priority in life, once Maggie was gone, should be the loyalty to The Old World. However, over the past few years of being permanently stationed Down Below, his doubts about the system and what it was trying to accomplish, started growing. He worked hard at times, not giving into the negativity of his doubts. There was so much about the Corporate Democracy (an illusion of democracy kept in check and control by a tight group of few corporations) that he didn’t agree with. But he would never express his concerns; he always kept himself to himself.
When he was at his lowest in years, Maggie had to turn up and offer to give up information that potentially could help the Old World win the revolution. However, he wasn’t sure that she was going to give up anything of value; at the end of the day, she was one of the creators of Ecotopia.
He didn’t really want or care for the information. What he wanted the most was to hold her and tell her how much he missed her. But the odds of Patrick confronting his feelings were slim; he was too scared to expose his soul, the fear of punishment the Old World instilled in him was stronger than any other feeling. In his mind the odds of her not feeling the same were high and that was painful in itself. The last time they were together, she left in the middle of the night without even leaving a note behind.
He sat down in front of her and offered her a cigarette, which she refused. He put the cigarettes back to his industrial, worn down shirt’s front pocket.
His droid was hovering about, evidently searching for something in a database and now and then getting frustrated when it wasn’t able to find what it was after. Patrick didn’t make any of this since the droid was behaving this way from time to time. The droid was an old-fashioned one, unlike the new droids it was durable and easily adaptable to new technologies. The modern droids, the Above was feeding the people Down Below with, were cheaply made but sold expensively and weren’t as half as good as the old ones.
Unfortunately, a life Down Below without a droid was like a life without oxygen. People were always so busy in the Old World trying to “make it to the top” that the droids lived everyday life for them so they could solely focus on “making” to the Above.
Patrick’s piercing gaze didn’t make her uncomfortable in the slightest; she always loved when he looked at her.
– “I’ll help you.” – He finally said when the silence between them became too unbearable. If it was twenty years ago, they would have been already on the floor doing it. But it was now, not then.
– “You will? Did you …?”
– “I’m the commander in chief Down Below, and I don’t need anyone’s permission to co-operate with the enemy. As long as that enemy is willing to give up important information that will help us wins the war”.
Maggie took a deep breath before replying with carefully chosen words.
– “Yes, I’m willing to give up vital information.” – What she thought was hers and the cameras, which were everywhere recording and following every move of every person, had no access to it. Down Below freedom of movement didn’t exist.
– “We’ll go to my quarters. Then sort out your travelling papers just in case you need those. In the meantime, you must tell me what exactly you are after and what you can offer us in exchange for my help.”
– “Thank you.”
– “I’m not doing this for you; I hope that is clear. I’m doing this for the right side of the revolution. We deserve to win.” He stood up abruptly as if he was trying to get away from his own words.
Maggie grabbed his hand and looked him straight in the eyes. She wanted and needed him to know that she was telling the truth. But how could she communicate what’s inside her soul if the cameras were watching her every move? Since she couldn’t come up with anything clever to say, she decided to let his hand slide, and in that very moment, the lights started flickering and the ground shaking.
Patrick looked at his Droid; it was already down. He quickly looked at the front door, which flew open before starting to close. Judging the situation, Maggie quickly threw her shoe at the door, which allowed them enough time to make through it to the other side.
– “What is that?” – she asked Patrick.
– “Must be the bandits. Or perhaps the rebels.”
– “Bandits? Rebels?”
– “We must get out of the building!!!” – Maggie was right behind Patrick, who was holding on to the droid with one hand and holding Maggie’s hand with another. When the ground stopped shaking, Patrick suddenly stopped, turned to Maggie and grabbed her arm.
– “Do you have anything to do with this?”
– “Don’t be stupid, Patrick!!! Ecotopians never attack. Besides, no one knows I’m here.” – she pulled away from him and managed to put her shoe on quickly.
He muttered something, slightly abashed.
Both started walking towards the exit. On the way out they had to pass by the control room, where they found both staffers dead. Patrick decided to enter the room; once inside he seemed lost to Maggie. Maggie bypassed him and went to collect what was hers. Patrick didn’t stop her. She quickly grabbed her radio and her gear. On the way out she pulled Patrick along. He surely didn’t expect her to take him with her. In a way, he was grateful that she found some compassion for him. The moment they left the building, it collapsed right behind them.
The shooting, screaming and fire seemed to be coming at them from every single direction. Luckily, Maggie managed to unlock the protective shield the Ecotopians designed to cover themselves from the unfriendly fire.
– “Stay right next to me, and we will try to get to Greenwich Park. I think I still remember the way.” – she screamed to Patrick. She was terrified even though she tried to act all cool. She was worried that her kids were somewhere amongst all that fire and there was no way of knowing or finding them.
– “It’s up the hill.” – Patrick replied while taking the first left that was a shortcut to the park. After what seemed like forever they managed to get to what it used to be the Greenwich Park; before the revolution made it look wild, disorderly, and dark; the whole place had a terrifying feel to it.
The Above made all green areas illegal, and the general public wasn’t allowed to walk or use the parks. The Corporate Government always used clever and manipulative propaganda to make citizens afraid and always obedient. The public believed that parks were places for the homeless and the gangs of rebels. However, to Patrick parks always felt empty, abandoned and a sad reminder of the past long gone.
When they finally managed to reach the top of the hill, with the remains of the old Royal Observatory, Patrick stopped to look towards the river. The whole north of the river was on fire. Maggie looked at him and as much as she wanted to give him time they had none.
– “Patrick! Patrick! Patrick! This way.”
He followed her without even knowing why. Soon enough Maggie found her ship moored in what it used to be the flower garden before the revolution destroyed everything that was beautiful about this place. Patrick remembered this place well. They had a picnic here once, and he even planned to propose in that very spot. But now the darkness covered what once used to be a beautiful little oasis in the middle of a lively prosperous city.
– “Here we are” – said Maggie making her way towards her ship. Every single piece of the Ecotopian equipment could operate only after a voice or a fingerprint activation. The ships and cars were no different.
– “Let’s get going before…” – started Maggie, while getting inside what looked like a small capsule.
– “Before the Above descends on the Down Below.”
Maggie stopped and looked at Patrick, maybe deep down he still remembered who he truly was.
The Flower Garden seemed peaceful and quiet when they walked through, but the moment the ship’s door closed behind them, the rebels surrounded them pointing all sorts of weapons at the two of them. Luckily, Maggie’s flying ship was big enough to fit the two of them and the droid. However, there was no space for them to move about at all.
Maggie was anxious to make the ship take off as soon as possible. However, the closer the rebels were getting to the ship, the more nervous she was becoming. Patrick knew her well and remembered well how stress could influence Maggie’s thinking and actions. When they were still young, every time she got into a situation she wasn’t familiar with, she would become fearful and anxiously imaging what possibly could go wrong. Then Patrick would touch her shoulder gently to make her feel safe again. He wasn’t sure if his old method was going to work, but he did it anyway. He put his hand on her shoulder. She closed her eyes for a brief moment to collect her messy thoughts. When she opened them again, she knew exactly what to do
– “Hold on tight” – she shouted as if she was trying to overcompensate for the noise coming from the outside, which wasn’t as loud inside the ship as it was outside. Patrick looked around to find something he could hold on to, but there was nothing. The interior was minimalistic and simple; there was nothing in the ship’s design that could be considered unnecessary.
– “Patrick, just put your arms around me” – Maggie asked. He did just that and smelled her hair. He tried to control himself, but it was hard. He waited for this moment for so long, and she was so close but so unreachable at the same time. Finally, the ship skidded and went straight after at the rebels.
– “Where are your quarters?” – asked Maggie while trying her hardest to navigate through the darkness and thickness of the Greenwich Park. She didn’t want to put the blinding lights on, just in case the rebels were in possession of advanced weapons that could reach the ship.
– “Isle of Wight.”
– “Isle of Wight? That’s…”
– “Yes, it’s… the Southside”
– “Computer, take us to the Isle of Wight” – she said just before the ship started gaining more speed and leaving the burning London behind.
Patrick tried hard to understand what has happened in the past few hours but whatever his mind came up with made very little logical sense.
The fire was spreading fast across London, and Patrick knew that there were no resources Down Below to fight it; he started wondering if perhaps the fighting and burning was all planned by the Above and the Above weaponised the rebels. But he knew that to engage in these thoughts was too destructive and dark even for him.
Maggie’s ship was small but fast. It could cover great distances in the shortest possible time. Within a few minutes, they were already approaching the cliffs of the Isle of Wright.
– “Is there a place where we could hide the ship?” Maggie didn’t want anyone on either side of the Revolution to know what she was up to. Because the Isle of Wight was a free island, it was a haven for smugglers, traffickers, and dodgy characters, willing to sell their own families if that could help them progress to the Above. That kind of dishonest people could never make it at Ecotopia. Ecotopia was very picky when it came to allowing people to settle in within its borders.
– “Can you move the ship closer to that house?” – Patrick asked while pointing to what must have been one of the biggest houses at the island.
– “One of the perks of this job” – he added as if trying to justify himself.
– “You could have so much more than that in Ecotopia.” Maggie carefully glided through the darkness towards the house.
– “If you park it right between those trees and under the bushes, none of the satellites can pick it up.”
She did just that. Once they landed, she locked the whole operating system and closed the door using her fingertips. She put her hand on the tail of the ship and whispered: “Thank you.” This ship served her for many years and saved her life many times over. She always believed that she and the ship’s computer had some connection and the computer could read and feel her.
Patrick’s quarters not only looked magnificent from the outside but very impressive on the inside too. The exterior was old fashioned and preserved in a pristine condition, taking into consideration the limited resources the Down Below had. It reminded Maggie of all the old houses people lived in before the revolution. Ecotopians don’t build big houses for single people or one family. Ecotopia, unlike the Old World, was not about the consumption and big houses seemed like an indulgence to the Ecotopian government and society.
Inside the house, the modern appliances didn’t take away the charming and adorable pre-revolution luxury. Maggie kept looking around thinking “It must have taken Patrick years to collect all that and it was exactly like…” he interrupted her thoughts.
– “You must be starving.”
Maggie looked at him.
– “I can quickly fix us something.”
– “This house…” she started but couldn’t finish.
– “Yes, the same.”
– “But why?”
Patrick came closer to her and put his hand on her cheek. He felt safe enough to express his feelings a bit more.
– “Do you really have to ask?”
Maggie touched his hand. She wanted to kiss him, but instead, she said.
– “I… I had a long day… can I just shower first.”
She needed to focus and not get distracted by Patrick. She knew why she was there and it was much more important than her personal desires and needs.
– “Of course, let me… let me… I’ll take you. Just follow… me.” – he tried to find the right words, but it was hard to control his desire. Maggie followed him to a large, old-fashioned bathroom that was located on the lower floor
– “I’ll fix us something to eat, and you can tell me why you are really here” – said Patrick.
– “Your house is safe, right?”
– “The Above doesn’t know I live here. The Droid is still down, and unless they tracked your ship, we are safe here. At least for now.”
– “Of course for now” – repeated Maggie. “Thank you, once I’m done, I will… find my way…” – Maggie said while slowly closing the door. Once the door was closed, she rested her head on the door. On the other side of the door, Patrick rested his too.
The water has always been Maggie’s element, helping her think and make decisions when she felt stuck. Way before the revolution started, when the two of them still lived with Maggie’s parents, Patrick used to tease her about the amount of time she spent in the shower.
Of course, she has changed since then so much; her life became all about sustainability and preservation. However, now and then, she still loved indulging in a long shower or hot bath. She expected that this shower was going to be her last for a long time. She knew that once Patrick knows the truth, there would be not much time left for them to find their children.
Her whole plan was built around Patrick and she was truly hoping he wasn’t going to betray her. In the Old World, without him, she couldn’t do much or rather couldn’t do enough to save her children.
Maggie started thinking how some years ago the Ecotopian government decided to refocus their efforts on research, instead of on following the political upheavals of the Old World. Unlike the Old World, the Ecotopians knew that the resources on Earth were not only limited but also running low and sooner than later they would run out for both: the Down Below and the Above. The Above couldn’t exist without the productive and strong Down Below. That could only cause global war and suffering unknown ever before.
Her hot shower slowly started turning into a cold one. Not only freedom of movement but also all the resources were limited in the Old World. She could never understand why, after all those years of austerity, limitations and suffering, the people of the Old World were still willing to put up with all those. She quickly jumped out of the shower, dried her body as fast as she could, and pulled out a spare jumpsuit from her backpack. Before leaving the bathroom, she looked at her mirror reflection and noticed a few more grey hair and dark circles under her eyes. The past 24 hours were challenging and the next 48 weren’t going to be easier. So there was no surprise for her to see how much she has aged over the past few days.
Patrick tried his best to cook with whatever limited food he found. When Maggie finally came to the kitchen, the dining table was set for a romantic candlelight dinner, not something Maggie expected but she was truly grateful that he tried, despite the challenging circumstances. The quietness and darkness of this place made Maggie feel uneasy. She has never been a fan of dark, quiet places; they always gave her chills.
Patrick served Maggie pasta with what looked like a tomato sauce but didn’t taste like one. However, she was starving; the last time she ate was when she left the Ecotopia, she surely didn’t mind the strange aftertaste. For the desert, they were going to share an apple, which Patrick put in the middle of the table. Real fruits were a true rarity. His droid was still off, which meant that the Above must have suffered a greater loss in London than Patrick expected, leaving the power grid still unrestored.
Patrick wished his everyday reality was like that; he waited for that moment for so long. He wanted a simple everyday life with her, nothing fancy, no revolution, no drama, just eating, talking, and being together for better and for worse. But he knew he couldn’t have that, not now, not ever.
– “Can we talk now?” – he asked wanting to destruct his imagination that was already making huge and gigantic, impossible plans for the two of them.
Maggie put down her fork, she had a sip of water and took a deep breath, as if she was trying to prepare herself for the confession of a lifetime, then she nodded.
– “Do you remember all those years ago when the Old World’s Corporate Government invited us for negotiations?” – she asked.
– “How could I forget?”
– “The night we spent together, do you remember that?”
– “Do you really have to ask?”
– “I got pregnant that night. I didn’t think I could but I did. Now we have two amazing kids. A boy and a girl.”
– “How do you know they are mine?” – he quickly realized what he just said and he immediately started apologizing: “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean… I didn’t want… It wasn’t meant to sound like that.”
– “I didn’t know you were the father until a few days ago. Our daughter’s DNA doesn’t match the DNA of her father. I mean my partner, my ex-partner.”
The awkward silence that fell seemed like the thunder.
– “What happened a few days ago then?”
– “I need you to listen to me very carefully before you … before you say anything…” – Maggie stopped trying to find the right words: “The Ecotopian scientists have found a way to travel in time. However, the time loop we can use for that type of travel is short and I only have 72 hours to find the kids, go back to Ecotopia, have the blood transfusion for Josephine before the time loop stops working.”
– “Maggie, are you serious?”
– “We have run the experiment a few times and it works. Besides, this is the only way we can try to save humanity.”
– “By time travelling? Maggie, I beg you.”
– “In order to stop the destruction of the rainforests, that your Corporate Government was in full support of, we need to go back to 1999. We must stop the triumphant march of the right wing, the plastic pollution, and the meddling of corporations. That is our last hope.”
– “Ecotopia is safe, you are well protected.”
– “Not for long. Remember that though we are divided by a fence, we still share the same piece of rock. The pollution the Old World keeps producing has been affecting us for years. We had to find a way to change the future. “
– “So, you are going to send our kids to the past to fix the future. That sounds like… like… lazy science-fiction.”
– “Our daughter has a rare blood disease and needs your blood if she is to travel. Otherwise, she won’t make it through the time loop or at least this is what our doctors think.”
– “Maggie…” but before he managed to finish, Maggie interrupted him.
– “Patrick, we both know what the Old World is and what it has done to the planet. In our current circumstances, we must believe in the impossible. When we were kids, did you ever think that this hellish destruction was possible? I didn’t! I believed in society and the good intentions of those in charge. We have been trying for years to find an alternative planet to settle on but so far everything that seems good enough is too far for us to even attempt to travel. As the humanity we’re not running out of time, we have already. And if I can save my children, I’ll do whatever I can and whatever it takes to do so.”
– “Why did you leave?”
– “Leave when?
– “After that night.”
– “You can’t be serious?”
– “I wanted to jump the ship, I was ready and willing to come with you.”
– “The message, Patrick, the message you got.”
– “What?? What message?”
– “The one on your phone, saying that…asking if you got the information from me.”
– “There was no message on my phone, there was nothing. You just left. No note, no nothing…” – Patrick stops mid-sentence and looks at Maggie. A very soft but distinctive sound can be heard coming from outside.
– “The Old World’s droids aren’t allowed to come that far without special permission. I’m the only one who can give them that permission.” – he starts whispering while making his way towards the window.
– “Downstairs! We need to get downstairs!”
Patrick swiftly moves away from the window, grabs Maggie’s hand, and runs towards the safe place. On the way out, Maggie manages to snatch her backpack. By the time Patrick closes the door to the safe place behind them, Maggie can hear footsteps approaching the house from the front and the back door.
The Time Loop
Six years ago, in the middle of the Ecotopian summer, the temperature dramatically started dropping; as a result of that, the bee population started declining significantly. At first, everyone in Ecotopia thought it was only a one-off, but when the situation happened a year after, the Ecotopians realised they were all living on a borrowed time. The New Government came to understand that the only way to survive was to find a new home for humanity.
Luckily, The Space Program had been established fifteen years before and had attracted the brightest and the most progressive minds. Those scientists and innovators had managed to develop self-sustained solutions for water purification, food distribution, energy saving, distribution and recycling, which all could be used outside of the Earth atmosphere.
The scientists, engineers and innovators working for the Ecotopian Space Program were also able to send robots to far ends of the galaxy and receive transmission signals back from those journeys and planets, which allowed them to find the inhabitable planet for the Ecotopians.
Unfortunately, they still didn’t have the technology that would allow them to travel through space fast enough to make the journey to those two planets possible.
When the Space Program got stuck, some politicians and thinkers suggested that perhaps, moving the population to the Above, just like the Old World was planning to do, was a solution. But Maggie knew it was unrealistic, draining on the resources and unsustainable in the long run. All the resources would still have to come from Earth for many years before food production was established to sustain the growing Ecotopian population.
Searching for answers and solutions led the Ecotopians’ New Government to put together a small team of scientists, engineers, inventors and creators to try to find an alternative way of travel that could help save humanity from looming destruction. Maggie was put in charge of this team, which wasn’t operating under the Space Program authorities. It was an independent group with their own facilities and ultimate resources. Everyone on the team was very talented in their respective fields, committed, and willing to go to the end of the world to complete this impossible task successfully. However, despite their expertise and best efforts, after months of hard work, they struggled to make any significant progress in their search.
Finding a solution for: food storage, space, speed and powering of an enormous spacecraft turned out to be nigh impossible, especially with so high stakes: trying to move the whole population from one planet to another. Nevertheless, they’ve increased their efforts and one day something amazing happened.
While doing a routine experiment on increasing the travelling speed of small objects that could create a hyperjump, the team opened a loop that at first kept on changing in size from small and narrow to pretty wide before it settled in size. The loop looked like a living and breathing organism.
At first, they just observed its behaviour. When nothing unusual happened for a week, the team decided to send the drones in with their sophisticated and advanced navigation technology to collect some data from inside the loop (just the way they did it while exploring far ends of the galaxy for the Ecotopians).
The whole team gathered to observe the first drone flying through the loop. Once inside, the loop looked like a tunnel made up of white squares. The energy running through the tunnel was incredibly forceful, and some parts of the drone’s exteriors started to fall off. Soon enough the transmission ended, and the drone disappeared from the Ecotopian instruments.
The team ran the same experiment fifty-five times, each time upgrading the drone with the improved travelling and sensitivity equipment and each time the drone went further, before finally reaching the end, which was the 1999 New Years Eve countdown. To make sure they have discovered what they thought they did, five more drones were sent through the loop, and each arrived on the same day as the first one, sending the same short countdown transmission back to Ecotopia.
After this incredible discovery, an emergency meeting was called and a decision, fully supported by the New World’s Government, made; to try to build a capsule that could carry a human to the other side of the time loop. The materials used were the same cutting-edge, innovative ones that the Ecotopians used for their space travel with a simple, slick, practical design.
Since it was a very risky undertaking, the team decided to send one member of the team each week. Ten members of the team were going to travel back to 1999, each member specialising in a different field. The plan and the hope for the mission were to change the degradation and destruction of the Earth by attempting to influence political and social change and make the people in 1999 aware that the doom was coming sooner than anyone could predict.
The first person to go was Jessica, a futuristic engineer. Her mission was to set up a camp for the rest of the members and find out as much as she possibly could about that loop day. Alas, the transmission Jessica tried to set up in 1999 to get in touch with the Ecotopia failed, and she decided to send a message back in the capsule when the next member arrived.
During the first two runs, the time travelling was successful, and the capsule got back with no problems carrying the first messages from Jessica:
– The landing spot was Oxley Woods in London.
– She was caught in a sort of time loop and was repeating the same day over and over again. However, not all the events seem to be repeating themselves. If she decided to act on something different than the previous day, that action had implications and consequences on the next day, which proved that changing the events was possible.
– She thought that the best way to influence and force the change was to come up with a creative plan to change different events on the same day and this way affect the change.
– She managed to sort out accommodation for everyone to live in.
– The food in 1999 is polluted, but bees are not an endangered species yet.
– The Internet is just being born, and social media don’t exist, so the underlying anger and frustration is not fueled by the meddlers and trolled farms yet.
Unfortunately, few days after the second run, the time loop started behaving oddly, shrinking and then becoming wider and smaller again. Since no one could predict how the loop was going to act and how long it was going to stay open and stable, the decisions were made for the rest of the Ecotopian team to travel in the next 48 hours in case it was going to disappear altogether.
Before jumping in the capsule, every team member must have gone through a thorough medical check-up to make sure that their health condition was good enough to allow them to undergo such a strenuous journey.
Maggie’s children were also going to travel with her, but as soon as their medical checkups came in, it was clear that it was impossible. Her daughter couldn’t make such a risky journey unless she had a blood transfusion to help her body heal the damaged cells (the doctors believed that the transfusion was going to improve the little-known condition she had, but they couldn’t guarantee anything). It was also how Maggie found out that Patrick was her daughter’s father.
Maggie immediately decided to travel to the Old World to find Patrick, but before she could do anything, the children had already run off to look for him. It was agreed that Maggie was going to travel last, which should give her enough time to find her kids, Patrick and have the blood transfusion.
If Maggie didn’t return within the next 48 hours, the last team member, Daniel, was to travel and not send the capsule back, but keep it for the team stuck in 1999 to have some way of returning to Ecotopia, if it was ever possible to re-open the Time Loop again, if it, in fact, shuts down.