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.