2 People (Ecotopia Universe)

Chapter 1

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.


Chapter 2

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.”

    “Maggie?”

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.


Chapter 3

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.


 

Chapter 4

The Night

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.

FLASHBACK

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.

NOWADAYS

Upon hearing the door being unlocked again, she opens her eyes.

 


 

Chapter 5

Decision

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.


 

Chapter 5

Patrick’s Quarters

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.


Chapter 6

The Truth

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.

– “Patrick?”

– “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.


Chapter 7

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.


 

Chapter 8

The Trap

The team upstairs moved swiftly and quickly from one room to another, evidently looking for something, as sounds of the drawers being turned over kept echoing throughout the whole house.

Judging by his experience, Patrick felt that the group roaming around his house was not only well-organised but also working in coordination with one another. They surely weren’t random robbers hitting a random house.

Ever since Maggie was a small child, she hated feeling helpless. And now, in the most crucial moment of her life, when she needed to act fast, she was stuck in a room without a back door or secret exit. Each passing minute was adding to her desperation and the more desperate she was, the less clearly she was able to think. Within a couple of minutes, her distress started to reach its limits.

Needing to do something, act somehow, she decided that regardless of what was happening upstairs in the next five minutes she was going in. Luckily she still had her backpack and was able to log onto her ship’s system to request backup.

Patrick tried to track back his steps to see if he was responsible for dragging them into that spectacular mess. But he knew for sure that for the Corporate Government to track him back here, his personal drone would have to be up and running. Currently, however, the droid was non-operational and unresponsive, since the power to the main IT generator and the emergency supply systems had been blown up. At least this is what Patrick thought happened in London while they were leaving.

While he was trying hard to come up with some answers, Maggie whispered, – “I’m going in.”

– “What? You can’t go in. We know nothing of what’s out there.”

– “We have no time, look.” She pointed to her wristwatch, which showed 36 hours and ten minutes.

– “What the hell is that?”

– “This is how much time we have left.”

Patrick still couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that an educated, intelligent woman, a leader of Ecotopia could be so naive to believe in the theoretical concept of time travel.

– “To do what, Maggie?” Patrick wanted to know, although he already knew what she was going to say.

– “To find our kids, of course, have the blood transfusion and be on our way back to 1999 if that is possible at all.” – she replied with as much confidence in her voice as during her fearless negotiations with the Old World’s leaders.

Since Maggie was determined to act and do something, she swiftly opened her backpack, and as quietly as possible took out two small handguns.

– “I know that Ecotopia is much more advanced than the Old World but for heaven sake, time travel doesn’t exist Maggie!”

– “Why the hell do you think I’m here? Only because you have no tangible proof of the time travel, it doesn’t mean it’s unreal. I’m going in.”. She was just about to make her move towards the door when Patrick grabbed her hand. She stopped for a moment and closed her eyes. In that very instant all her senses remembered how his touch felt.

– “Maggie, Maggie, can you please wait? Can you give me a few moments to think? I need to think. I… I need to make a plan.” – Patrick was trying to buy him some time anyway he could.

– “I am afraid we don’t have that luxury anymore.”

Between all the whispering, discussing and arguing they didn’t realise that the noise coming from the house died down. When the silence finally reached them, without giving much thought, Maggie quickly entered the four-digit code on her watch.

Then, in a spare of a moment, she touched Patrick’s cheek and kissed him. It felt just the way it used to feel when they were young and careless before the revolution shaped their destiny. When the kiss ended, Patrick moved Maggie aside and stepped towards the door. He was just about to reach for the handle when Maggie’s watch started beeping. That distracted him enough for her to swiftly get ahead of him and open the door with a bang. She was expecting to meet the enemy, but there was no one waiting for them. Patrick was as surprised as Maggie was.

Without a moment to spare, Patrick grabbed his droid and started making his way towards the back door. However, neither Maggie or Patrick anticipated that the enemy would be waiting outside, surrounding the house.

Even though it was pitch black in the garden, they could both see the red light at the end of the weapons pointed at them. At that moment the escape felt impossible. Maggie dropped her guns to the ground.

-“Who are you?” – Maggie demanded to know. But no answer came back, neither nobody moved from the shadows.

-“What the fuck is that?” – she turned to Patrick feeling her anger reaching the boiling point. “Is that part of the Old World’s strategy? What the fuck is that, Patrick?” The only thing she could focus on was the ticking clock.

– “It’s not the Corporate Government. Since you turned up a few hours ago, everything in my world seems to be falling apart. I should be asking if’ it’s not the Ecotopians pulling some sick trick on me.”

Maggie was already angry but didn’t want to waste any energy on confronting Patrick. Instead, she picked up her guns and started walking away. When she was about to take the next step, a warning shot was fired.

– “Who the hell are you and what game are you playing? If you say nothing, I’ll keep on walking.”

– “Maggie.” – came finally from the shadows – “We know why you crossed over to the Old World and what you have discovered.”

Maggie said nothing but her mind was trying to figure out how the hell someone knew about the Time Loop if no one, besides a very few people directly involved in the discovery, knew about it all.

– “We also know where your children are” – the same voice said.

Maggie wanted to say something, but Patrick stopped her. He wasn’t sure what kind of game their captors were playing, but he surely knew that revealing such sensitive information was unwise.

– “We know you came here to find them to take them back to 1999.”

Patrick’s heart started beating faster. Maggie wasn’t crazy after all, and there was a real possibility that the Time Loop was real; it seemed that not only the Ecotopians knew about it.

– “The time is ticking and the longer we spend here, the less time you have to find your kids.” – Said the voice calmly. Maggie looked at her watch and asked.

– “How do you know about the Time Loop?”

– “We opened it.”

– “It’s impossible.” – replied Maggie.

– “Why? You did it, too. Your technology isn’t that advanced in comparison to what we can do.”

– “What year are you from?”

– “2447“ – replied the voice, while walking out of the shadow. A black mask covered her mouth; her long hair was tied up in a ban, her clothes were loose and dark, made from a heavy fabric neither Maggie nor Patrick could recognise.

From under the black mask, Maggie could just about to see that her face was covered in scares. While the woman was moving closer to them with her high tech weapon pointing at them, Maggie looked to the right from where her ship came oozing in.


 

Chapter 9

2447

In 2447 it was a common knowledge across many Galaxies that time travel was as real as space travel and the existence of many Galaxies. Unfortunately, it was often used as part of the warfare tactic against anyone who disagreed with the current cosmic state of affairs.

The reality of time travel wasn’t as glamorous as perceived by many; it was both mentally and physically exhausting for the traveller. It was not easy to come back and often the travellers would get lost in the past. Some of the nasty, full of hate, rough travellers used the time travel to disturb the Galactic co-existence of many species, as well as the progress of many planets and eco-systems. For the Galactic leaders, it was impossible to find those groups and punish them accordingly. In time, a lot of those groups would disappear somewhere amongst the Time Tunnels and time zones ending up somewhere, where they didn’t belong.

Some of those travelling tribes coming from the future were able to use sophisticated and advanced technologies to manipulate the less evolved species into complete obedience and, this way, altering the future. But no one could check what has been changed and what stayed the same.

The group of rough travellers that captured Maggie and Patrick had only one aim; to go back to the moment the time travel was discovered and manipulate the events in such a way that would not allow for it to have ever be discovered. Jenny, the leader of the group, believed that time loops and time travel was destroying the Galactic order and manipulated the future in too many ways.

Jenny, a young woman barely in her early 20’s, was born into slavery on Earth to two human parents. When she was still very young, her father managed to escape to Aqua Moons with her and her brother on one of the old-fashioned Ecotopian space shuttles. However, her mother wasn’t as lucky and died during the escape, sacrificing her life to protect the three of them.

Jenny has never forgiven her father for not trying to save her mother. She and her brother were allowed to stay on Aqua Moons after Galactic trial against her family was brought to the Aqua Moons court. The judge ruled that her father was going to be deported back to Earth and back to slavery. With each passing day, she was becoming angrier, until her whole life became consumed by revenge.

When she couldn’t contain her anger any longer, she left the secure and stable life that Aqua Moons offered at the age of 17. She followed her desire and finally got beautiful revenge on the people who killed her mother and caused so much suffering to her family.

While Jenny was pursuing a career as a Galactic criminal, her bother became a Galactic politician. For the sake of his political career, Jenny chose to break all ties with him. Of course, in moments of sadness she longed to see him at least one more time, but luckily those moments of humanity never lasted long enough for the wish to materialize. Jenny cared very little for her own life and was always willing to sacrifice it if that meant getting what she wanted to get.

The revenge Jenny was pursuing her whole life didn’t have a sweet taste she was hoping for. It felt bitter.

With each act of violence she committed, she was becoming more and more hooked on spilling the blood. However, the darkness of violence that was going to mark her life and become her legacy was creating more unhappiness in her life then she could handle. The emptiness and dissatisfaction started to overtake her mind, her spirit, and her body. In her destructive state of existence, which became her everyday reality, she was prone to mistakes that were lethal to many of her companions.

She was undoubtedly spiralling down when on one of the routine checks on Earth, she stumbled upon an old book with the Ecotopian markings on the cover. Markings that she remembered very well from her childhood and from all the books her mother had given them before she died. The book spoke about the history of the world from the moment the Ecotopian Society was created until they left the planet. Jenny found it fascinating and she found the real connection to those stories.

The book devoted one chapter to Maggie and her team, which opened the Time Loop for the first time and changed the course of the whole Galaxy. It depicted Maggie as a fearless warrior of the Ecotopian society who went back to 1999 with one goal in mind, to prevent the ecological degradation of the Earth. After reading the chapter about Maggie few times, Jenny started believing that her true calling was to stop Maggie meddling in the past and allow the Earth to run its, course even if it meant total Ecological catastrophe.

When the Ecotopians left the planet, they decided to leave nothing behind of their innovations and discoveries. That, in turn, allowed the Old World’s regime to flourished with its cruelty. However, the moment the Old World’s Corporate Government discovered the reason behind Ecotopians sudden departure it was too late to make significant changes towards renewable resources to save Earth. By then, most of the resources were gone and the Corporate Government retreated to their safe heavens up Above allowing the rebels to take over whatever was left of the dying planet.

By the time Jenny was born, a few families who had access to water were able to enslave the 99% of the reminding population. Fortunately, a few Ecotopians stayed behind on Earth to monitor the journey of the spaceships through the Galaxy and to make sure that the Ecotopians would and could reach the New Earth.

Since the Ecotopians feared that the Old World was going to follow in their footsteps to the New Earth, everything that had to do with their technological advantages was to be destroyed by the remaining Ecotopians.

However, one of the scientists, who stayed behind, had a change of heart and decided that some parts of the Ecotopian culture and knowledge needed to be preserved. She hid several Ecotopian spacecrafts all over the Earth, together with the instructions on how to use them and how to get to the outer space to continue towards the New Earth.

During her travels across the world, she met a Freedom Fighter with whom she had a child. He never lived to see his daughter grow up as he died battling the Old World’s regime. But Sarah kept on travelling, continuing her mission to leave the knowledge of the Ecotopian culture for the future generations to discover and use.

Sarah taught her daughter everything she knew about engineering and passed the Ecotopian values and ethos onto her daughter, who later in life passed it all onto her daughter.

Jenny always felt that she was much more than a mere slave born to human parents and now she had a proof that everything her mother protected so dearly over the years was connected to the Ecotopian heritage and that very blood was part of Jenny’s inheritance.


 

CHAPTER 10

The Battle of Wills

 

Maggie nudged Patrick and pointed towards her ship. Not waiting for his response, she started running towards the bushes, where the ship was attempting to hide away from the enemies’ eyes. She didn’t run far when something made her stop and look back. She only wanted to see how far behind Patrick was, but to her horror, he hasn’t moved an inch.

For a brief second, Maggie wondered, whether she should stay and wait for him or go. Pragmatic Maggie would have never waited; it could have been the last chance for her to escape, but the Maggie, who once loved Patrick, wanted to give him a chance to come with her.

For some reason, Patrick couldn’t move. Being in life-threatening situations was not a strange concept to him. The years of war and shortages numbed him to almost anything and everything, but on this very night, his decision-making abilities failed him. Somehow, he was scared and confused, trying to wrap his head around all that has happened to him on that very day.

Besides, he wasn’t entirely sure, if it was a reality or just some kind of simulation trick the Old World was playing on him, to check where his loyalty lied. He was rather sure that the overpowering and steadily growing confusion was immobilizing him, and preventing from making the slightest move towards Maggie. He knew that whatever decision he was going to make, it was going to define the rest of his, and possibly Maggie’s, life.

Romantic Maggie won the inner struggle and decided to wait. She took a deep breath and started counting to ten to give Patrick some time to make up his mind. It wasn’t much, but that was the only time she could spare.

He waited for that! The fact that Maggie waited for him, risking being captured was enough for Patrick to know that whatever was happening to his reality, he was willing to take a leap of faith and go with Maggie, regardless if she was real or not. He started running towards Maggie, while still holding on to his droid. She felt relief swiping through her body, swiftly turning back towards her ship and started running again.

The part of the garden, Maggie and Patrick were captured in, had no trees or greenery for cover. Since Maggie’s ship was quite far away to get to, it was a dangerous escape.

Jenny’s reaction to their escape was immediate. Without thinking much, she started firing at the ship, hoping to damage the vehicle enough to unable the two of them getting out of this island.

But that very night, the moon and the stars aligned with the runaways. In the very instant, when Jenny raised her weapon once again to fire, the clouds covered the moon making the darkness even deeper. The night made it too risky to aim at the ship without hurting some of her comrades.

By the time the clouds blew away, the ship had already gone, along with Maggie and Patrick. Jenny let out a roaring scream, and in desperate attempt to control the rest of her anger, she decided to burn Patrick’s house to the ground.

While she was watching the fire consuming Patrick’s life belongings, her crewmembers were already trying to track down Maggie and Patrick. With their advanced technology, they shouldn’t have difficulties with.

Jenny’s rage and firing rounds didn’t go completely to waste though. Somehow, one of her bullets found its way to the target. The ship started losing speed and altitude almost right after the takeoff. Luckily, the British Island wasn’t far off.

Maggie was an experienced pilot and the years of flying in challenging conditions paid off. She managed to crash-land her ship in the forest, leaving a small impact on the treetops. However, the violence of the impact and the speed they were travelling at severely damaged the ship’s interiors and only narrowly allowing Maggie and Patrick to escape. After assessing the damage, Maggie knew she needed her fellow Ecotopians to take care of the ship for her, while she continued her search.

– “The Ecotopians will know I crashed, and if we stay in this one spot, they will send someone to pick us up” – said Maggie, trying to pull something out from the ship.

– “How long would we have to wait for the pickup?”

– “Too long.” Maggie was already climbing from the wreckage with her backpack and another bag that looked like a small survival supply kit.

– “There is an Old World’s unused station a few miles from here. We could get some supplies there and possibly try to find out where the kids crossed the border and which way they’re heading.” – Patrick suggested. He still felt conflicted, but he believed that he made his decision to go all in, and if he was all in, he needed to help Maggie, regardless of the consequences he would have to face.

Maggie surely didn’t expect that from Patrick. She thought he would need more evidence and more convincing, but perhaps the old Patrick she knew all those years ago, was still there, just waiting to be awakened.

Not wanting him to change his mind, Maggie opened a small flap on the side of her ship, which, like everything else in Ecotopia, only opened after the match of the fingerprints was completed. That was one of the ways for the Ecotopians to protect their ideas, resources, and technology. After that, the ship turned colour to greenish and brownish as part of the camouflage, allowing it to stay hidden away from the enemies’ eyes for as long as needed.

Maggie turned to Patrick:

– “The Ecotopian scouts will pick up the ship as soon as they can. We never leave behind anything that carries our technology.”

As her final act of goodbye and parting ways with the ship, Maggie put her hand on its nose and whispered: “Thank you.”

She only needed a few seconds to compose herself and face the reality of whatever was in store for her. She was a warrior, a fighter, and a mother, who above all loved her kids the most and as any mother was willing to go to the end of the world to find them and bring them home. She swiftly grabbed two torches from her backpack and passed one to Patrick.

– “They’re sensitive to human movement. So, if anyone follows us or will come too close to us, we will know. Patrick, lead the way.”

Patrick took the torch, while still holding on to his unresponsive droid. He looked up at the sky, found the Northern Star and moved away. Maggie walked right behind him in silence, carefully listening for any movement, both on the ground and above.

Hesitantly, she looked at her watch, which was showing 34 hours and fifty minutes. She was still able to control her anxiety but could feel the pain in her chest growing with every step and every passing minute — a feeling she did not have for many many years.

The moonlight was shining bright, and the forest seemed to be fully aware of two strangers making their way to a place that no one ever goes willingly to; a place that saw and was filled with suffering and grief beyond anything Maggie ever felt.


 

Chapter 11

Stranger Than Fiction

 

The journey for Maggie was marred by her anxiety, blocking her clear thinking and processing. She battled anxiety throughout her childhood and teenage years in the world that above anything else valued money and respected nothing but power. But ever since the creation of Ecotopia, she has believed her anxiety was under control. Until now, when her anxious thoughts played nicely to her most dreaded fear; that she was never going to be reunited with her kids.

Except for the emotional upheaval, Maggie felt the journey on the ground was pretty uneventful. A couple of times flying spotters (sophisticated drones that could detect movement on the ground) hovered above them but each time, just like Maggie said, the Ecotopian torches alerted them of the unfriendly eyes — giving Maggie and Patrick enough time to seek shelter.

The closer to the base they were getting the more unsettled Maggie was feeling, her feet becoming heavier with every step taken. Her body could feel that something dark and unfriendly was dominating this dead forest.

The Old World policy towards any green area was to either chop down the trees to build factories manufacturing artificial food, or to pollute the forests so much with the chemical waste coming from the Above that the trees were dying rapidly one after another. Only leaving a dry, lifeless skeleton behind of what once was a mighty and majestic forest full of beautiful creatures and life that is surely not coming back for a long time.

However, her need to find out at least some information about her children overshadowed everything else Maggie was feeling in that place. As an Ecotopian, devoted to practising mindfulness, her sensitivity levels were on high alert. She picked up anger and fear as dominating emotions that doomed place the moment they crash landed. Fear and anger never lead to anything good.

Patrick was in charge of the base for years before it was deemed redundant after the Corporate Government announced a massive victory over the Ecotopians and the rebels. He knew that there was no victory; the insurgents were just waiting for the right moment to strike back, while the Ecotopians were thriving beyond anything the Old World could have ever imagined or hoped for.

This place and years of cruelty weren’t his proudest, and it surely wasn’t a place he wanted to take Maggie to. The base was built to torture prisoners, spy on whoever was left on the ground and imprison anyone, who was disobedient and didn’t follow the rule book the Old World created for its citizens. But the eyes in the skies, which were built into the base to control the Old World, was the only way they could find relevant information about their children.

Ever since the base became redundant, Mother Nature slowly started claiming back what was hers. The washdown, brown colour of the base was nearly indistinguishable amongst the brown trees.

However, the main door leading to the base wasn’t covered in roots or overgrown plants, which made it easy for Patrick to open it. The moment he did, the stale air made Maggie feel sick. The first thing she noticed, while walking in, were the walls covered in numbers and names written in blood.

When Maggie looked at Patrick, he didn’t seem to be as shocked as she was, which made her quickly realized that this was the place where her fellow Ecotopians and Freedom Fighters were tortured, before eventually killed. She stopped and couldn’t move any further. She tried to say something but was unable to utter any words. This place represented everything she was fighting against.

Feeling Maggie right behind him, Patrick turned back and at that moment realized that she knew where they were. This strange place used to bring out the ugly side of Patrick. Countless times he vowed not to be manipulated by its dark evil energy, but it always led him straight back, pushing him to do unimaginable, cruel, and inhuman things in the name of the Old World’s order.

– “Do you still want to carry on?” – he asked. Maggie looked at her watch and nodded in agreement, even though she could feel in her bones that this very place was cursed and, somehow, they will have to pay the price for being there.

The door unexpectedly closed behind them, and their torches were the only source of light left in the base. Instantly Maggie felt cold; the deeper they were getting inside the corridor, the colder she was becoming. Patrick also felt the temperature dropping rapidly. He didn’t remember that happening before and couldn’t explain why it was happening.

He also felt that they were being watched and he could swear that he saw shadows moving along the corridor in the corner of his eye. He didn’t feel scared at all; at the end of the day, it was his territory. But he still wanted to be out of this place as much as Maggie did. It was strange, much stranger than he remembered. They picked up their pace.

Halfway through the corridor, the Old World’s architecture was full of long, dimly lit corridors, which core and sole purpose were to intimidate people. Suddenly Patrick stopped and opened the door to his left. It was as dark as everywhere around, but Maggie could clearly see dozens of screens all over the walls.

When they walked in, Patrick swiftly started scrolling through the log. This control room wasn’t just any control room; it was one of the eyes in the sky operation rooms that the Old World was so proud of and used for terrorizing citizens left on the ground. Maggie shivered, once again realizing that this place was representing everything she has been fighting against her whole life. And now she was here, looking for her kids.

– “Patrick?” – Maggie barely managed to speak, when she saw all the security cameras.

– “We can find the children this way. There is no time for… let’s just focus on… focus on the kids… please.“ – he replied quickly before Maggie could say anything else.

– “No need to explain.” All the hope Maggie had that possibly, just possibly, there was some good in Patrick, was now gone. His cruelty was all over this place. The souls and spirits of the people he killed were still stuck in these cursed walls, in this God-forsaken place.

– “I’m walking away” – Maggie said and was just about to head for the doors when Patrick shouted with excitement.

– “Here! Look here, right there!” – he was pointing to the screen.

– “They must have crossed over through the old bridge, one that connected us with the Old Continent. Nobody but the smugglers use that bridge.” – he looked closer and then continued. “They are heading towards London. Look at this footage. Look! Look here!”

Maggie came closer to the screen. He was right. The children were heading to London, cleverly disguised as the natives of the Old World. Patrick connected his watch to one of the screens to download the footage and maps. However, halfway through, he became distracted by a shadowy movement he saw on another monitor.

– “Who is that?” – Maggie asked

– “Don’t know. They are armed but don’t look like the Old World’s Troops.” – Maggie moved closer to the screen.

– “Neither like the Time Travellers. How much time do you need?”

– “A minute tops.”

– “Is there another exit from this room?”

– “No. But there is a panic room here.” – Patrick replied.

Maggie looked at him in disbelief. – “You can’t be serious.”

– “Why? Don’t you ever use panic rooms?”

– “You people are hopeless.” – Maggie couldn’t really believe how obsessed Old World authority was.

When the download ended, Patrick disconnected his watch from the monitor, swiftly changed eyes in the sky channel, and erased the past five minutes search history.

– “Take me as a prisoner.” – Maggie blared out.

– “Are you out of your mind?! I won’t do such a thing.”

– “That’s our only chance. You… you… your despicable actions are all over these walls. They will let you go, regardless of what they are.”

When the door flew open, Patrick was pretending to secure Maggie’s weapons. He was right, these weren’t the Old World’s Troops. But they also weren’t rebels. He didn’t know, who they were, and didn’t need to know as long as they knew who he was.

Patrick pushed Maggie ahead of him while dragging his droid behind. The corridor was filled with what he could only describe as something that was either a ghost or a hologram. They were dressed like the long gone barbarian native tribes from thousands of years ago. The incredible, arctic cold was coming from their motionless, skinny bodies. None of them moved or spoke. A lot of them had war scars and tattoos all over their see-through, pale faces and arms. Their eyes looked tired and hungry at the same time, which was equally fascinating and terrifying. Surprisingly, Maggie’s torches weren’t blinking as they usually do when other people are around. Her logical mind didn’t believe in ghost stories, but anything was possible in this place.

Patrick and Maggie were only a few steps away from the exit door when someone blocked their way. Patrick looked up at him and thought that he saw one of the prisoners in him. But how could they possibly be still alive?

The longer Patrick was staring at the person, the more agitated Maggie was becoming. She needed to act, so she made a small step backwards, towards Patrick, thinking that she would possibly use one of her weapons. But at that moment the figure in front of them moved aside, letting them go.


Chapter 12

Brief History of Ecotopia

 

The Old World has always been against supporting, thriving communities; it was always in their agenda to make different groups in the society disagree and fight amongst each other. Their politics managed to wipe out the middle class, pushing millions into despair and poverty unable to make any significant life change. The Corporate government that represented the Old World’s values was too ignorant to listen to the environmental experts, who kept red flagging their selfish actions that very shortly afterwards led to a total ecological disaster. The Old World’s corporate media backed up their government, choosing to promote climate deniers, who spread conspiracy theories about Eco Fighters terrorists, trying to take over the Old World.  People listened and millions of them believed in the conspiracy, instead of the facts.

An idea to create a new community came from the Organization, which was already a prominent group of conscious warriors and could no longer watch how the corporate world dismantled the natural recourses and the world one bit at the time. The Organization was created in 2012, and in some parts of the world was considered to be a terrorist group, only because they fought for justice while exposing corruption on the highest public and governmental levels. Nobody within the Organization wanted to start a revolution; they simply wanted to build awareness of what is going to happen to the whole world, if the corporate greed will continue running unchecked and unruly.

The revolution happened unexpectedly when the Ecotopians (the name they chose to represent their highest values) realized they could not reason with money. With that realization, the conflict between the two worlds views became too big to find any type of compromise. The corporations, though the power was on their side, significantly underestimated the influence that the Ecotopians already had amongst many highly developed countries. Countries, which collectively supported the idea of creating an independent state that would put the community and environment ahead of all the other needs the Old World prioritized.

When the Organization decided to move out of the British peninsula towards the south of the Old Continent, the Old World seized that opportunity to build a wall, dividing the Earth into an Old and a New World. The Old World also declared that helping Ecotopians or accepting goods from Ecotopia was going to be treated as an act of treason and prosecuted with the utmost severity.

While the Old World was counting money and making the richest lists, the Ecotopians worked hard on developing technologies that could help them lift above the Old Worlds technological advancement and break away from their oppressive and corrupt ways.

The founding fathers of Ecotopia wanted the new system to be self-sufficient, sustainable, and accommodating to various groups’ needs equally, while putting the environment and preservation of cultural achievements as their most important goals for the generations to come. Ecotopia never created a financial or intellectual elite; there was no hierarchy, no class system, no corporations. Everyone worked for the greater good of the whole community.

All Ecotopians, including the children, were able to put forward ideas to the governing body that was always elected on their social merits and deep expertise in their chosen fields. Ecotopia championed and supported universal income and the working week lasted only four days. Family, personal wellbeing, and creativity were the most valued aspects of Ecotopian lives.

In Ecotopia money is not the measurement of happiness, social status, or recognition. It is still used as one of the payment methods, but many people and services also accept goods as payment. A typical Ecotopian would start their day with meditation, followed by yoga and nutritious breakfast. People usually worked pretty close to where they lived so the commute wouldn’t take longer than 30 min. Many Ecotopians had their vegetable gardens, where they grew fresh veggies and fruits for their families and friends all year long. Ecotopia was an equal opportunities society, where everyone was encouraged to fulfil their potentials and follow their dreams and desires.

Ecotopians thrived, focusing on their inner happiness, developing their hobbies and talents within the community, which always encouraged developing and investing time in new projects. Shared hobby projects became vital for the community life and every Ecotopian citizen had to contribute to them.

This kind of pro-active approach allowed the Ecotopian technology in a short period to surpass the Old World technologically. Many innovative ways of planting, growing, building, and preserving have been developed, all of which were championing sustainable lifestyle.

Thanks to the social and technological jump the Ecotopians made, they started thinking way beyond Earth’s stratosphere and the relocation program begun taking shape. The closely monitored drone space travels allowed the Ecotopians to deepen their knowledge of space and a new planet that was very much like Earth was discovered.

In no time at all the Ecotopians started planning to relocate to the New Earth. However, in order for that to become a reality, they still needed to make a   significant technological jump to be able to relocate the whole Ecotopian population to another place within a very limited time they knew they had.

For a long time, the Ecotopians accepted people from the Old World with open arms as long as they were able to accept the Ecotopian lifestyle. Unfortunately, not everyone could. Many, who crossed over to the Ecotopian side at a later stage, couldn’t understand what Ecotopia stood for. Those people were always sent back to the Old Word without any option of ever coming back.

Ecotopia tried to keep the peace with the Old World, but unfortunately, it has proven to be an impossible task. The Old World was way too uncomfortable with progressive ideas, which could easily influence the Old World’s society’s thinking. The Corporate Government wanted and needed to keep their population in fear and uninformed, and the perfect enemy was the Ecotopians. Soon enough the Old World declared war against the Ecotopians; the war they couldn’t possibly win and one that in a short few years would dramatically cut the population of the Old World in half. The unnecessary military conflict with the Ecotopia gave the Corporate Government enough time to finish building the Above, which was the place where the 1% was planning to escape to continue their lives in blissful ignorance. When the war finally ended, the devastation suffered by the Old World was irreparable. However, by then the Corporate Government cared very little for the ‘little people’ of the Down Below.

Over two years ago the Ecotopian population noticed that the pollution started to affect the trees, crops, and the insect population in their lands. Even though they were technologically much more advanced than the Old World, they still couldn’t stop the years of neglect and poisoning of nature. The unexpected environmental scare made the New World even more determined to find feasible solutions to travel to the New Earth. Maggie was chosen to lead the development team.


Chapter 13

How the Kids Got Away?

 

Josephine and Marcus were brought up in the strong tradition of Ecotopian core values of respect towards the natural world and every living thing. Nothing ever seemed too difficult or too overwhelming for them, that they couldn’t handle.

However, as much as Maggie wanted to protect them from reality, she couldn’t stop them from feeling that something unexpectedly wrong was happening to their immediate environment. They could see the signs nature was sending and it wasn’t that difficult to read between Maggie’s worried looks and unanswered questions. Josephine and Marcus were always willing to help out, but each time they offered their help, they were turned down and asked to join the community projects to work from within. But somehow working on the community projects didn’t feel fulfilling enough to either of them. The kids knew that whatever was causing change to the weather and the soil, at some point was going to affect everyone and everything around them.

When the kids found out about Maggie’s current work, her plan for the future of Ecotopia and the fact that their dad wasn’t their real dad, Josephine decided that the time to act was now. Even though Josephine was only ten years old, she was as stubborn and as driven as her mother. Without much planning, thinking or preparation, Josephine and Marcus decided to set off to find their real dad, in the hope that he was going to help them. In reality, Josephine didn’t consider any other alternative. In her child-like mind, responsible grown-ups do help when help is needed and fix things when it seems impossible to find common ground or workable solutions. Being brought up in Ecotopia where everyone is valued, respected, and where people selflessly help one another could have never prepared them for what the Old World stood for. The bits and bobs they knew about the Old World never mentioned the immense devastation, fear and loneliness that helped the Corporate Government keep the Down Below in increasingly poorer state for all those years.

The kids planned to sneak out in the middle of the silent and still Ecotopian night. Before the nightfall, they packed up their camping gear, together with other essential equipment they would need for survival. However, they didn’t predict the shortages of food and drinking water that were notorious in the Old World. How could they, coming from the land of plenty?

To sneak out of the Ecotopia, the kids took the flying scooters, which became a preferred method of transport used by the younger generation. Using an electronic map, which worked offline and left no trace behind, they made their way towards the only crossing there was still in existence. They wanted to get to the furthest reaching point on the continent, hide the scooters in the forest, and follow the path to the bridge. After the successful crossing of the bridge, they planned to head towards London where they believed their birth father lived. In a child’s mind, everything they do or plan is simple enough and doable. They don’t have the years of negative experience since life has been good to them; they always expect positive outcomes, regardless of reality.

Within a few hours under a cover of the night sky, the kids managed to reach the furthest reaching point of Ecotopia, unnoticed and unchecked. Once the scooters were safely hidden, they made their way towards the bridge.

That old bridge used to connect the Old World with the New World but was severely damaged the moment the Old World decided that the continent was the enemy of the Corporate Government. The New World insisted on the Corporate Government to mend their old ways of the past to save Earth and humanity from inevitable extinction. However, the Corporate Government always knew better and wouldn’t have anyone dictate what they should or shouldn’t do. Currently, the bridge was mostly used by the smugglers to smuggle provisions from Ecotopia and people from the Old World.

Josephine and Marcus surely didn’t fear the cold nights that became more frequent in the past two years. Besides, staying in the open, and out of sight of predators was not an alien concept to them.

However, what was very unfamiliar to them was the darkness and deprivation of what once must have been a magnificent forest. The closer they were getting to the bridge the less vegetation was around them. The dry hostile ground was full of twigs snatching under their feet, carrying the hollow noise across the barren land. Those were the first signs that things were very different in the Old World than in Ecotopia.

Josephine and Marcus had no idea that crossing the bridge could be a life-threatening experience. They could easily be kidnapped and disappear into one of the countless sweatshops the Above kept Down Below to control the remaining masses of the population. Being brought up in an Ecotopian bubble doesn’t prepare anyone for the austerity of the Old World, dysfunctional stands on humanity, and politics.

Crossing the bridge proven to be an eye-opening experience that stripped them from their childhood innocence bit by bit. The ruins that only slightly resembled what used to be the bridge were full of wobbly stones, which were better off left alone than stepped upon. When Marcus looked ahead, no end to that wobbly path could be seen from the shores of Ecotopia. After examining the state of the bridge, they both felt uneasy and scared but neither of them dared to express their fears out loud. Being brave, supportive and not afraid of challenges was how they were brought up and disappointing one another wasn’t in their nature.

Josephine decided that they should find some ragged clothes and put them over their Ecotopian uniforms, just in case they got caught or got themselves in troubles. She had this powerful feeling that somehow it could be their safety net if the trouble arises. Blending in with the environment was surely a good idea, especially in a place where everyone and everything had looked the same for years and strangers were not taken to kindly. It wasn’t challenging to find dirty, torn pieces of clothing. People often abandoned their belongings in a hurry and in desperation jumped into the sea in vain hope of reaching the safety of the Old Continent before the Corporate Government got them first.

Marcus was following in Josephine’s footsteps, who tried to step as gently and carefully on the stones as she could. However, with each step and each wobbled under her feet, Josephine developed a new anxious feeling that started to spread over her young body, influencing her decision-making mechanism.

Marcus didn’t like the thick fog that slowly was creeping around them, as if it was sucking them inside its swirly, milky consistency. The unsettling quietness of the crossing was petrifying, making their footsteps seem to be the only sound in the vast sea of undisturbed silence. Since the kids’ full concentration was on stepping on the right stones, they both failed to notices drones flying low above their heads and slight ripples on the water below them.

The drone and the sea ripples were part of the Old World’s the spying machine that was keeping track of their movement and thanks to their father’s invention, the eyes in the sky were recording their whereabouts. A specialized team of Old World troops sent from Down Below to meet the kids on the Old World’s side of the bridge. At the end of the day, it was a novelty for the Old World to have such young visitors crossing over. The Old World wasn’t going to let anyone sneak back (delusion of the Old World’s greatness still prevail over the reality), and that policy included kids. Those two could be of some value and maybe even could be used as bargaining chips with the Ecotopians.

If it wasn’t for the children’s physical strength and their high alert, crossing the bridge could have proven fatal for both of them. After more than five hours of exhausting and painfully slow crossing, they finally reached the other side of the bridge. Their small bodies emerged from the cloud of the fog into the unwelcoming shores of the Old World.

However, the path at the end of the bridge was covered with dead bodies. This sign profoundly disturbed Josephine and Marcus. But there was no time to talk about this or analyse the circumstances surrounding the event that led to all those people being dead. Unexpectedly from behind the grey bushes, a pack of young teenagers, just slightly older than Josephine and Marcus came out pointing old, rusty guns at them.

– “Who are you and what you want with us?” spoke a girl in a soft but commanding voice.


 

CHAPTER 14

On The Road

Maggie was glad to be out of the old, full of long-forgotten shadows, base. The naked skeletons of the trees seemed to be more appealing to her than the rusty base that has seen much better times. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, enjoying a gentle breeze on her cheeks. Patrick wasn’t sure if what he saw in the base was real, or possibly just some trick his imagination was playing on his tired mind. So much has happened in the past few hours that anything and everything was possible. Patrick wondered if there were real people in the base or just faces of ghosts that came from beyond to hunt him.

To distract his over-occupied mind, Patrick glanced at Maggie’s hands, which were still tight up. He quickly untightened her, kissing her forehead, while gently guiding her into his arms. Patrick’s unexpected emotional display caught Maggie off guard, but she didn’t object. He was surprised by his spontaneity as much as Maggie was. Everyone needs human connection, especially when your past is trying to catch up with your present. Maggie didn’t mind showing emotions. However, the clock was ticking, and she had no idea how far they were from London and how long it’d take them to travel there. Besides, finding missing people in a city torn to pieces, such as London is never an easy task.

– “We must go” – said Maggie while pulling away from Patrick.

– “Yes, yes, of course.” – he let her go and grabbed his drone a second later. The drone’s power was still down, which meant that the Above still hasn’t gained control of whatever was happening on the ground.

– “Are you all right?” – asked Maggie fearing that Patrick was cracking under pressure.

– “Yes, I just thought, for a second… but it cannot be.“ – Patrick stopped and began to wonder what if the Corporate Government was trying to play tricks on him. What if the reality he was experiencing was somehow distorted and he was walking right into some trap. His distrust of what was in front of him was influenced by years of propaganda and brainwashing the Corporate Government put him through, which has just intensified in the last couple of years. He often couldn’t distinguish between what was real and what was just created by the Corporate Government to confuse and catch unsuspecting people off guard. He knew that he had decided to follow Maggie regardless of whether his experience was real or not. He wanted to believe in Maggie, her story and her need for his help. He has been lonely for years and often silently wondered if he chose the right side of the revolution, sacrificing so much getting so little in return.

– “We need to keep going, Patrick.” – Maggie’s vague voice brought him back to reality.

– “Yes, of course.“ – Patrick brushed his thoughts, insecurities, and feelings aside, just the way he has been doing all his life. He took out his old-fashioned compass from his backpack. “We shouldn’t use your fancy equipment now. We don’t know if the Corporate Government is tracking your devices or not.” Maggie nodded in agreement, knowing that being careful in the Old World was what they had to do.

Patrick turned around and started marching North; Maggie followed him, hoping that however far London was, it wasn’t too far. And they weren’t going to be too late.

———————————————————————————

Maggie walked in silence, curiously looking at the remains of the once-thriving forest that used to be full of unique animals and plants. Dry patches of hallow trunks were left behind, where the trees used to grow. The trees starved to death, just like most of the animals. For years Maggie tried to understand why the greed of the Corporate Government deceived so many people. And why the Corporate Government didn’t want to see beyond their own personal interests. She never came to any conclusions or a more profound understanding of human motives. And she still wasn’t any smarter about it.

Suddenly Patrick stopped and pulled her down to the ground. They were in the open with not much cover about. The only way they could avoid being seen was to lay still amongst ankle tall grass. Patrick put his finger across his lips, listening hard to the whistling that was coming straight at them. Maggie froze imagining the most horrible and devastating scenarios that could possibly happen; in none of those scenarios she got reunited with her kids. The sheer thought of that made her want to act and act fast. Foreseeing what Maggie might do, Patrick put his hand on her back, making sure she wasn’t trying to stand up. He didn’t know who or what was approaching; he didn’t even realise that anyone was still using this old forest road. It could be anyone from smugglers, to the Corporate troops, to rebels, who seemed to be making a massive dent in the Corporate power supply.

When Maggie tried to look up, she could see the grass swiftly moving under the boots of the strangers. Finally, two pairs of large size boots stopped right in front of them. Suddenly someone poked Maggie’s body with a stick, making her jump right up facing the two strangers, who to her greatest surprise looked nothing like she had feared.

– “Who are you and what do you want?” – fired Maggie, while Patrick slowly started to reappear from the ground up.

The strangers were both only young children, carrying nothing but the walking sticks.

– “Are you from Ecotopia?” – asked the one, who looked a bit older.

– “Yes, I’m.” – replied Maggie, before Patrick had any chance to warn her that admitting to any connection with Ecotopia was punished by a lifetime in a work camp.

– “How can we get there?” – the boy asked again.

– “Are you trying to defect?” – Patrick asked sternly in his commanding voice.

– “Our parents are dead. We have nothing left here. We want to try to make it to the other side before we perish too. How can we get there?” – the boy looked at Maggie.

– “I flew here before my plane crashed.” Maggie didn’t see a reason to lie to the boys.

– “There is a bridge you could cross.” Patrick blurted out without thinking much of what he was saying.

– “Is that the only way?” – asked the boy, who didn’t seem to be at all surprised by what Patrick said.

– “If you don’t have an aeroplane, it is I’m afraid,” confirmed Patrick.

– “Do you have anything to eat?” – asked the other boy, who looked much thinner than his brother. “We haven’t eaten for a long time.”

– “You what?” – shouted Maggie in horror, before opening her backpack and giving the boys a couple of apples and power bars. “Those bars will keep you going until you cross the bridge and, if you get to the other side, the Ecotopians will take care of you.”

– “If we get to the other side…” – echoed the older boy.

– “You will if you keep heading south. This path isn’t really used any longer by any of the Corporate troops so it should be safe for you. But remember not to cross the bridge at night time. At night the smugglers occupy the crossing, and sometimes the Corporate Government sends troops down there to keep them at bay.” – said Patrick: “and remember “No whistling! You don’t want to attract the attention of the unwanted eyes.” – he added.

They were just about to part ways when Maggie asked.

– “Did you cross paths with a boy and a girl? They are not much older than you are.”.

– “No, we didn’t see a boy and a girl, but we saw a group of rebel kids heading to London. We hid from them because… we didn’t know, which side they were on.” said the older boy.

– “I saw a boy and a girl with the rebel kids. They had very strange clothes on, just like you.” – added the younger brother.

– “Oh, were they? Thank you. Thank you.” – Maggie said with as much gratitude as her tired body could master. “You two be safe, and I’ll see you in Ecotopia.”

The boys tried to smile, but it came out more like a sour grin than a childlike smile. The moment they started on their way, they dug into their apples and bars. Maggie watched them walk away for a moment before she joined Patrick, who was already heading in the opposite direction.

– “Did you hear that boy?” – she asked.

– “You cannot be sure it was them.” – Patrick replied with his usual scepticism.

– “I know it was them. A mother knows.”

Patrick didn’t say anything else; there was no point disagreeing with Maggie. She has always been pigheaded.

– “It was nice of you to give all this information to those kids. Do you think they will make it?” – carried on, Maggie.

– “I really hope so.”

————————————————————

After a few hours of uneventful walking amongst the graveyard of the once thriving and meaty countryside, Maggie started feeling anxious once again. The progress they have made so far wasn’t fast enough for her, and her hope of catching up with the rebels was slowly fading.

– “How far are we from London?” – she finally asked.

– “Far. I don’t know how far but we need some help getting there. Otherwise, we may not make it on time.” Patrick replied honestly.

– “What kind of help are you thinking off?” – Maggie wanted to know.

– “I could radio for help.” – suggested Patrick.

– “No!!!” – shouted Maggie: “It will ruin our chances of catching up with the rebels. Besides, you are a defector now.”

– “We might … ” – Patrick didn’t finish his sentence.

– “Look!!!” – Maggie interrupted him, pointing at something shiny some distance away. “What do you think that is?”

– “Let’s see.”


CHAPTER 15

Time Travelling

In the year 2447, time travelling wasn’t treated as a supernatural event as it was in the twenty-first century on Earth. By the year 2447, it was common knowledge that time travelling only worked if one wanted to travel to the past, but not to the future.

Time travelling tunnels only opened in specific locations and at a very exact time. They appeared out of thin air and disappeared as mysteriously as they had appeared. Some of the time tunnels stayed open for more extended periods than others. Certain ones were large enough to allow big objects to move through, but others were so tiny that only a small insect could squeeze through.

Having access to and knowing how to read the coordinates allowing one to find where the time tunnel would open next was what made a member of the time-travelling group the unquestionable leader. To read and understand the language in which the coordinates were written wasn’t easy and required an analytical mind with a serious knack for problem-solving. How to apply that knowledge to various planets, locations and galaxies was also something all-time travelling leaders needed to fully understand to be able to travel through time with as few glitches as possible.

When the time travelling took off for the first time on the major scale, the travellers didn’t know how to control the destination on the other side of the tunnel. It took a long time, and a lot of trials and errors, before they slowly figured out how to get to the destination they wanted to get to.

The exact origins of time travelling weren’t really known. There was a strong belief amongst many that time travelling has always been an integral part of the universal fabric. Nonetheless, not all galactic beings were allowed to have access to that knowledge at the same time.

Since the whole Universe is built from energy, it’s believed by many that time travelling tunnels aren’t any different. That same pure energy that flows through every single particle of the Universe, enables time travellers to make their journeys. It meant that it was enough for the traveller or a group of them to think about the year and the destination they wanted to travel to, to be transported to that very place.

But only travellers who fully comprehended the power behind the energy could end up in whenever and wherever they desired. Otherwise, if they travelled at all, they would get somewhere random at the random time, or in the worst-case scenario would get stuck in the loop, repeating the same day over and over again.

Jenny had ended up in random locations and times a few times, before she finally figured out and understood how to will the energy. She used that leverage of understanding how the time travel worked wisely over her follow travellers, never compromising or losing sight of her mission. If she felt threatened by anyone in her group, she would leave that person behind without any regrets.

Unfortunately, the longer she travelled in time, the more suspicious and paranoid she became over the motifs of her travelling companions, often misjudging their actions.

Since time travel was a very powerful tool, using it too frequently had profound consequences on the traveller’s mental and physical health. Confusion and memory loss often left the travellers unable to understand and navigate new terrains and reality they ended up in. Ageing too quickly was another side effect that many travellers weren’t aware of. Often the physical ageing of the traveller’s body was invisible until it was too late to stop that process. Once the consequences of time travelling became wildly known, fewer takers were willing to sacrifice their lives for a very uncertain adventure.

At first, Jenny deluded herself that time travelling had no effects on her and none of the side effects applied to her. However, she didn’t register at first how cold and distant to others she became. That slowly led her to detachment from reality. The unstoppable ageing process for Jenny begun unexpectedly and caught her off guard. Yet even that wouldn’t make her change her mind abound completing her unrealistic mission. Costs and consequences didn’t matter anymore.

Her focus was solely on getting to her chosen destination in order to rewrite history and save her mother. Jenny was never interested in influencing any significant events that took place in the Galaxy. She feared that this kind of interference could compromise her timeline drastically, and that wasn’t a risk she was willing to take.

Time travellers were often lost souls, looking for some meaning to life in the galactic mess that surrounded them. Often, they had no one to go back to, so getting lost in one of the time tunnels wasn’t something they feared the most. Leading an uneventful and meaningless life was scarier to them than the unknown the time travelling brought with it.

In time, some of the overpopulated planets or planets popular with refuges used the power of time travelling to send those in need of help back without explanation or guidance. It was easier for the governing bodies to burden the past with unwanted elements while pretending that the current problems were dealt with accordingly. Jenny felt uncomfortable witnessing such a misuse of power and resources, but she didn’t feel strong enough to fight for the poor or underprivileged. She was no hero. Besides, she had her mission to complete.

Jenny has met many travellers, who wanted to join her; others trying to kill her, and yet some, who completely ignored her and wanted nothing to do with her. She also encountered many travellers unsure of the reality they were in and ones who believed that time travel was just a fictional imprint of a dream on their psychic.

However, none of that stopped Jenny from time travelling, while trying her hardest to keep her side effects under control.  And finally, one day, out of the blue, she arrived in the space and place where she needed to be to complete her mission. Her only hope was that she had enough time to stop Maggie from doing what she was about to do.


Chapter 16

The Division of the Worlds

Systematic hateful propaganda spread fast across the world, causing unimaginable, long-lasting damage. The idea of them and us entered the social and political stage, splitting friends, families and neighbours. Once that seed of division started growing in people’s minds and hearts, it never really left their consciousness. Soon enough people couldn’t distinguish fiction from reality and truth from lies. The more lies the general public was fed, the harder it became to untangle the truth. In many cases, the truth wasn’t simply attractive enough or was too harsh to get the general public to face reality.

Long-time before the division of the world, the corporations started influencing power by supporting individual politicians and political fractions, which led to the creation of the Corporate Government.

At first, the rise of the Corporate Government wasn’t universally visible. They acted in the shadows, slowly enslaving and addicting the population to their products, promoted by the political class. With time, the corporations got greedy and started to resist any kind of progressive change by spreading chaos and disinformation. The only purpose of this was to cause as much destabilization as possible to swoop in and create a world enslaved to wealthiest few.

Once the balanced fabric of the society was destabilized, the inequality between the poor and the rich grew enormously. This inequality was skillfully weaponized by the right-wing populist parties, which started making people believe that everyone but the government was to blame for difficulties, which implemented austerity and gave enormous privileges to the corporations.

The general confusion created by the propaganda tactics was the beginning of a spectacular end of many thriving economies. Unfortunately, many opposition politicians were too scared to challenge the populist and soon enough adopted the tactics used by the populists, adding only a bit of their own twist to those hateful rhetoric’s. The Corporate Government was successful for many years, keeping on top of the campaign against the truth and reality, spreading more and more elaborates lies and disinformation. In the process, many old democracies fell to the populists, willing to go to any lengths to stop the social revolution at its core.

However, one day an unexpected change entered the political realm; and it came from the most unexpected source. The children decided to take to the streets and to protest against the environmental inaction. At first, the protests were just “amusing” to the political class. But the angrier the kids became, the more often they skipped school. All these protests started creating massive problems for their parents, who weren’t able to work for corporations, which in turn encountered some substantial logistical and financial issues.

Kids can be stubborn when they want to be and reasoning with them is hard, especially when they don’t trust the people doing the reasoning.

No amount of media coverage of the natural disasters got the adults to act as fast as skipping school by protesting children.

That desperate act to save what was left of natural resources and Earth’s beauty started shifting the consciousness of a number of people. That, in turn, led the voting population to demand real change with their votes. The countries that allowed change to grow and expand were soon to form Ecotopia, which became a symbol of resistance to the outdated worldviews represented by the populist Old World.

Women who cared very little for money, influence and power; everything most of their male counterparts in the Old World loved; pioneered the social revolution aided by the Eco Warriors refugees. For years the Eco Warriors were the only ones defending democracy, social norms and the environment. For their uncompromised actions, they were monitored, prosecuted, eliminated and imprisoned. Within a few years, the Ecotopian manifesto became the only disturbing force in the bleak greyness of the global destruction of natural resources caused by the Old World, having to accommodate their corporate plans.

The Corporate Government’s priority was always to oversee the growth of their companies, regardless of the consequences of their actions. All the political decisions made on the local level were putting the corporate interest first, ahead of everything and everyone else. The politicians representing the corporate interests were perfectly content as long as the population voted for them and bought the goods the corporations were pushing; nothing needed to change. Besides, governing over confused population was much easier than rule over people who had opinions and ideas of their own.

To fight Ecotopians ideas, the Old World started putting restrictions on the products shipped to the Ecotopian countries, believing that they could destroy them economically. However, from the very beginning, the Ecotopians were investing in self-sufficiency and innovation, which helped them attract the brightest minds in the world, who wanted to build a socially-just society.

Few years after the polarization of the worldviews it became undeniable that the already strained relations between the Ecotopians and the Old World ceased to exist. At first, the Old World declared a war against the Ecotopians, which was supposed to act as a diversion from the enormous economic and sustainable struggle they were trying to solve at the time.

However, the war didn’t pan out the way the Corporate Government planned. So they pulled all their resources to build a massive wall as the last defining act to divide the progressives from the populists for good.


Chapter 17

The Corporate Government

The Corporate Government stayed in hiding from the public view for years before officially coming out of the shadows when nothing and no one anymore could have threatened their almighty, unchecked power grab.

At first, the secret Corporate Government aspired to maximize their profits fast with as little disruption from the environmental agencies or the general public as possible. However, soon they realized that only absolute power could give them what their hearts desired the most: the ultimate unrestricted ability to make a profit.

The influence those behind the Corporate Government longed for had to generate a long-lasting undeniable change to the society, which would solely benefit the corporate world.

You probably wonder how that was even possible in times of the unstoppable stream of information and news coming from every chunk of the Internet or social media. Well, the Internet and the highly influential social media, were skillfully used by the disrupters of social order, bringing propaganda and disinformation in front of the masses. That powerful propaganda and disinformation were able to confuse people and bring out the worst in humanity.

Before the propaganda war began spreading their tentacles over unsuspected human consciousness, the world’s economy collapsed. During the 2008 crash, many hard-working; law obeying citizens across the globe lost everything. Even the ones, who didn’t lose their skins, were still much worse off than before the financial crisis.

A lot of politicians used the economic collapse as an opportunity to manipulate those who had fallen on hard times. Unfortunately, the big corporate banks that were at the front line of the crisis suffered no consequences for their careless actions, unlike millions of people who lost their homes, savings and livelihoods.

In the years following the 2008 crash, the corporate mainstream media, together with the political class, which was financially tangled to the corporate world, began convincing the general public that the responsibility for their misfortunes wasn’t caused by the crooks in power or the monstrous lawless corporations. The cleverly run propaganda machine, which effortlessly entered the mainstream culture, blamed the financial collapse on the poor, who didn’t earn enough to pay more taxes and the migrants wanting to take advantage of the system.

In time, the world’s public opinion started believing those evil chatter more and more and began swinging their voting power towards the extreme right that always had one aim: to destroy progress at all costs, while championing the rights of a selected few. To achieve unrestraint power and influence; and their weapon of choice was to spread lies, fear and misinformation.

Unfortunately, the voices of reason and truth were very few and became easily overpowered by those not listening to facts and experts. The propaganda troops were tireless at screaming, shouting and abusing everyone and everything that didn’t agree with their world-view. That tactic worked beautifully, often scaring people with different opinions into obedience.

The inaction from the authorities over the disinformation propaganda drove many democratic countries into the hands of the climate deniers, who wanted to back roll all liberal achievements of the last century. Their huge advantage over the democratically elected authorities was the support of the corporate world and the mainstream media. The mainstream media only reported what their owners needed and wanted them to communicate.

By 2014 the political class cared very little about public opinion or facts. Pride and stupidity led them to denounce and prosecute the environmental scientists and activists, who were portrayed as number one enemies to the global order.

The negative media coverage was given to those scientists and activists by both: mainstream and social outlets, managed to convince the majority of the population that the climate change was an invention of a group of science fiction writers and nothing the humans did could impact the environmental decline.

Those who believed the facts, denying lies, kept on consuming while the corporations kept on increasing their profits. Even though the natural resources were running low and pollution-related illnesses and deaths were increasing.

Once the most influential and developed countries began dissembling their social fabric, the corporate government didn’t have to hide behind the political class any longer. Fearing no one, they came out of the shadows, taking on the role of the Global Government promising to create long-lasting prosperity for all.

What the Corporate Government didn’t foresee was the strong opposition of smaller nations to their corporate regime. Those countries refused to serve under the Corporate Government’s rules and broke off before the power was fully consolidated.

The small, progressive states were more than happy to welcome the Eco-warriors, environmental activists and scientists on their shores. Those strong forces of change, which took a stand against the cruel, power-grabbing corporate world were the architects of a new, free world called Ecotopia.


 Chapter 18 

Life in The Old World

The Corporate Government, made up of five members of the largest corporations, was well aware of the damaged their exploitative business practices were causing to the environment. Even though they had cutting edge equipment that monitored the climate conditions, the solid facts those reports produced were lost on the corporate representatives. No one wanted to believe that the weather could deteriorate so fast that it could impact daily life on a massive scale during their lifetime.

Even after the environmental situation worsened massively, the small group in power still opposed taking any actions, which could prevent further ecological degradation. Instead of taking proactive actions against the total collapse of the natural world, they used all possible means at their disposal to keep the population in the dark about the upcoming doom.

The rigid officials in the department of Social Distractions moved swiftly designing all sorts of distractions to divert people’s attention from pressing matters such as climate crisis or food shortages towards trivial subjects. Artificially created social media wars and reality TV took over from the scripted shows. Independent films and news outlets were outlawed, and journalists and filmmakers wanting to tell real-life stories that mattered were publicly shamed and prosecuted.

This tactic worked like magic; soon enough, the public began disconnecting from real life. Propaganda entertainment allowed people to look the other way without fearing the dark future catching up swiftly with the present. Under the Corporate Government, the voices of reason began disappearing across the Old World mysteriously. Unfortunately, only a handful managed to cross over and join the already established Ecotopia in hope to save whatever was left of a once-thriving planet.

Even though the Ecotopian government offered to help the Old World and was willing to create a supply chain, the Old World’s government was unwilling to cooperate with the Ecotopians. For the Old World’s patriarchal mindset, the Ecotopians were too progressive and too different from the old ways. The absent-minded public didn’t notice when the prices of all services went up. Neither they paid much attention when the water restrictions were introduced or noticed that the diversity of food began to shrink.

Ten years of the corporate ruling made people not only numbed to what was happening around them but also fearful of their livelihood that was entirely in the government’s hands. Any sign of resistance from anyone would cause that individual to perish, leaving no trace behind. The intimidated public didn’t oppose when the Corporate Government made weekly work in the food processing factories mandatory to close the food shortages gap. People were too tired, pre-occupied and scared to put up a fight when the bulldozers started clearing out green lands, forests and parks to build the food factories.

If anyone questioned the corporate decisions in private, their doubts were quickly eroded by endless promises of a bright future that would have never materialized. For the Corporate Government, the reality of daily struggles and hardships didn’t matter as long as the public kept on spending their hard-earned money. The distraction policy pushed the general public towards unprecedented overconsumption, which would have worked wonders for the corporate profits if only people could afford all those overpriced products and new gadgets.

With prices of all services and food going up, everyone had to work even harder to be able to afford the basics. Paying back the debts or bank loans became nigh impossible. Failing to pay back the sharks enslaved many families to the corporations they were indebted to. The corporations used and abused those in debt in any way they were pleased. The social activists or unions who could have stood up to the Corporate Government were driven away by the previous right-wing governments, who destroyed human and worker rights under false pretends of progress.

Year after year, the gap between the 1% and the rest of the population was growing so much that closing it could have never happened. When the Corporate Government couldn’t pretend that everyday life wasn’t affected by climate collapse, instead of looking for solutions and alternatives, they decided to build a temporary safe haven in the Above for the chosen 1%. The Above was going to shelter the wealthiest and the most influential from the suffering that would eventually consume Down Below. The Above was just a provisional solution to buy the Corporate Government enough time to find an alternative inhabitable planet and find ways of moving there.

The general public was too drained by years of struggle to pay attention to what the elites were building. Even though the architects of the Above systematically removed the remaining natural recourses from the Down Below no one could even care any longer.

After the 1% relocated to the Above, the life in Down Below became unimaginably tough. The natural disasters, untreated illnesses and infections followed by long spells of starvation shrank the Old World’s population drastically. The corporate farmers struggled to provide enough food for the Above, not to mention producing any nutritious foods for those, who stayed behind.

Obsessed with monopolies, the Old World’s government made growing your own food illegal and punishable by life imprisonment in the work camp if caught. But many people had no other alternative but to disregard the rules the Corporate Government put carelessly in place and tried to grow whatever they could. Even though the Corporate Government moved to the Above, they had no intention of allowing Down Below slip away from them. A massive surveillance program that was already in place was intensified giving Down Below army almost unlimited powers. With the help of their faithful drones, the military closely monitored the citizens and reported back to the Above of any disobedience or unusual activities. Little they know that under their very noses resistance was forming and growing.

When the Corporate Government solidified their power, they promised prosperity for every citizen. Instead, they delivered financial and social collapse, driven by unstoppable greed. The people of the Old World quickly forgot that life, before the Corporate Government spread their wings, was good, prosperous and pretty awesome.


 

Chapter 19

Kids on Their Way to London

 

Josephine and Marcus could feel the time running through their fingers. Being held captive by a group of kids not much older than the twins was a massive setback to their grand plan of reaching London as fast as possible. Since they sneaked out of Ecotopia unnoticed and no one knew they ventured to the other side of the wall, the chances of anyone coming to rescue them were pretty slim.

They were both scared and drained by the terrifying Old World, the children, who didn’t look and act like the kids back in Ecotopia and high possibility of never seeing their mum ever again.

Josephine’s vivid imagination consumed her thoughts with negative scenarios, bringing with them a sudden overpowering sadness. She was as afraid as any other ten-year-old child would have been in a strange place, far from home and people they loved.

– “Maybe it wasn’t such a brilliant idea after all.” – she started regretting her decision to travel alone. With each repetition, the words were gaining momentum awaking unknown before feelings of self-doubt and insecurity.

Marcus, who marched right next to her, seemed to be as terrified as she was. Josephine tried her best to brush off her insecurities and focus on her strengths to bring back her confidence instead, but under these circumstances, it was a gruelling task.

Suddenly the girl leading the group stopped marching. Everyone behind her stopped too. From that stillness, a vague sound of an engine hovering in the clouds above began to emerge. Josephine and Marcus instantly looked up curiously to see what that was, but none of the other kids followed. Instead, they all pulled their enormous hoodies up to cover their faces. Someone from the crowd passed a couple of the oversized hoodies to Josephine and Marcus and gestured for them to put it on, which they both did in an instant. The time was passing, the clock was ticking, but no one moved even an inch until the noise from the clouds slowly started to die down. There was a commotion at the front of the group, but neither Josephine nor Marcus were called to join the others.

-“What was that?” – Josephine asked.

-“Drones.“ – replied one of the girls, who walked beside them.

-“What do they do?” – Marcus was interested to know.

The girl turned her head to the side and stared at Marcus and Josephine for some time before replying again.

-“You don’t know?”

They both shook their heads in denial.

-“The place you from has no drones?” – she asked cautiously.

-“Drones haven’t been used since before we were born” – said Marcus.

-“Nice! In our world, drones can recognize your face. That, pointing to the hoody, is our only protection from the government’s spying eyes.” – said the girl in reply.

-“Where are you taking us?” – Josephine decided to use girl’s talkativeness.

-“To London. You might be worth something.” – said the girl.

-“Worth something?” – Josephine was excited that they were heading to London but didn’t like the sound of what she heard.

-“I’m sure the smugglers or the dark traders will be happy to pay something for you. You might be of some use to them; you are of no use to us.”.

-“But…” – Josephine wanted to protest, wanting to explain that they weren’t here to cause any troubles or be a nuisance to anyone but she didn’t. She knew there was no point arguing with someone as determined as those children were. Her heart sunk even further.

-“I don’t know where you are coming from but believe me, there isn’t anything as terrifying and vile as the Old World.” – the girl visibly drew immense pleasure from the effect her words had on their captives.

-“So, why aren’t we moving? I’m sure you want to trade us off as soon as possible.” – Marcus asked in a very challenging voice. He usually used that tone with mum when he wanted to see how far he could go. But it hardly ever worked with mum so Josephine wasn’t sure it would work with anyone else.

-“The drones are flying just above us; it means that the Down Below army is closing on us. If they catch us alive, we will all end up in a work camp, which is a death sentence to anyone whoever enters one of those places.” – concluded the girl before making her way up to the front.

Josephine was anxious and knew well that in that state of mind planning or coming up with ideas wasn’t going to happen. The seriousness of the situation outgrew her. The fairytale she created in her head before setting off from Ecotopia turned into a nightmare. Josephine knew very well what selling people to others meant, and she surely wasn’t going to become someone’s slave. Slaves had no choices, no rights and no way of deciding for themselves. This outdated offence against human rights has always divided the society but at the same time has always been part of the Old World system of oppression and control. Human slavery and trafficking were some of the issues her mum worked on when the world was still one whole.

-“Don’t worry, I have a plan.” – Marcus whispered into Josephine’s ear. Marcus always followed her, whatever plans and crazy ideas Josephine had so for him to take control of the situation was surely stepping out of his comfort zone.

-“How? What?” – asked Josephine with a twinkle in her eyes.

-“They want to trade. We have plenty we could trade. We just need to find the right moment to corner that girl, who has been talking to us. I have a good feeling she would want to get her hands on what we got.” – said Marcus with as much conviction in his voice as he could muster. He wasn’t going to give in. Not without trying as hard as he could. They already got so far.

The girl came back, and in that instant, Marcus noticed that she was hiding long blond ponytail under her hoody, which he thought was very pretty. The steps she took were small, but she still oozed confidence in the way she put one foot ahead of another. Confidence Josephine was desperate to bring back.

-“We are staying here.” – announced the girl.

-“So we aren’t going to London?” – asked Josephine.

-“Not yet. We have a hiding spot not that far from here.”

-“What about the rest of the group?” – Marcus was observing each member of the group dissolving into the thick milky fog. The girl ignored his question and just started walking in the opposite direction they were heading for the past few hours.

-“In a few short minutes, the Down Below army will be here. Believe me, you would rather stick with me than be captured.” – the girl barked at Josephine and Marcus who didn’t budge even an inch.

Josephine grabbed Marcuse’s hand. Her palm was sweating, and in that instant, Marcus knew that he needed to do everything in his power to get them out of this shamble. His sister needed him, and he was ready. Well, as ready as a ten-year-old could be to act on his ideas without fear and self-doubt that consumed him ever since he could remember.


CHAPTER 20

The Clock Is Ticking Fast

The shiny object in the distance was what Maggie and Patrick needed the most to speed up their journey. Already from quite afar, Patrick knew it was a Corporate Army car. But what bugged him was why would the army abandon a vehicle in the middle of nowhere. Were the troops running away from something, which wasn’t really that unusual in a current situation? Was the car a trap, not necessarily to capture them exactly, but anyone who wanted a piece of the corporate ownership?

Anything the Corporate Government did was rarely what it looked. They always said one thing and did something totally opposite. Patrick knew that anything could happen anytime. He needed to be on a full alert since finding an abandoned car could be as risky as running into the Corporate Troops.

Maggie couldn’t care less why the car was where it was. She just wanted to get going, and nothing else mattered to her. The clock was ticking away, and she only had about 30 hours left to complete her mission. But how could she possibly find the kids in that time, go back to Ecotopia, do a successful blood transfusion and go through the time tunnel? Even on paper, finishing all those tasks was unrealistic; in reality, it was even more improbable, but she was never a quitter.

Maggie was just about to open the door to the driver’s seat when Patrick blocked her with his arm. She stopped, looked at him and instinctively took one step backwards. Patrick pointed to the string placed across the door; Maggie froze. In contrast, Patrick was in his element. He pulled tiny scissors from his backpack and put his index finger on the string following it to a little green box that looked completely harmless. Inside the box, they saw five different wires, all connected to a green ball looking like posh chocolate confetti.

The Corporate Army always had to booby-trap abandoned equipment. The Above didn’t want anybody to have access to anything belonging to the Corporate Government. Especially the army equipment, which could have been used against the Above if anyone was planning a revolution.

Patrick swiftly cut in half the most see-through wire, that instantly deactivated the bomb.

– Now you can open the door.”

– “How did you know?” – asked Maggie who has long forgotten what it was like to be on the high alert day in and day out, fighting the Corporate Government and their cunning ways.

– “It’s what I’ve spent years doing.” – he couldn’t hide a hint of pride in his voice. All his life he wanted to impress Maggie to win her approval. Maggie got in the front seat but quickly recognized that she knew very little of the terrain and surely didn’t drive an old – fashioned car for many long years.

– “Maybe you should.” – she moved across to the other side.

Patrick managed to start the car on a fourth attempt. It felt to him like the fuel wasn’t reaching through the wires, a common fault in those old cars. Most likely, that was the reason for the vehicle to be left behind.

– “Right.” – Patrick checked out the map on a screen. Maggie hasn’t used screens for at least a decade. They were impractical, and if not connected to the Net, they simply didn’t work at all. – “We are two hours away from London.”

– “Two hours away.” – Maggie repeated in resignation and her heart dropped.

– “I’ll try my best to get there sooner, but the map shows that the Corporate Army has been dispatched in the forest. We also need to be on a lookout for our friends from the “future”, who are not that far behind.” – he was screaming now. Unfortunately, the car was louder than anything Maggie heard in a long time and surely hoping for an unnoticed presence wasn’t going to happen.

– “How do you know?” – Maggie also had to scream.

– “Their spaceship is nothing like anything in the Old World, so it’s pretty easy for that shape to stand out on the map. You see?” – Patrick pointed to the shape on the map – “It looks like the Corporate Government is slowly restoring the power supply as well. We need to hurry.”

Patrick started slowly and carefully navigated the uneven land, full of dents, traps and huge rocks densely spread across. Unfortunately, he had to stop the car before they managed to get too far. Maggie’s heart stopped too.

They could both clearly hear the roaring sound of the Above flying fleet. Her memories quickly travelled back to the not such distant past when the war between the Old World and New World was raging, killing humans, animals and the planet they lived on.

The roaring sound was getting louder by a second. Patrick thought that the Above somehow managed to track them down and were preparing to land.

– “Maybe the car was a trap, after all.” – he thought to himself.

– “Keep on driving. Don’t stop.” – Maggie cried.

– “We won’t get far.” – Patrick wasn’t used to fighting to the very end. Disobedience in the Old World was treated with a life sentence in the work camp. The work camps were created to dehumanize whatever humanity there was left in those captured and sentenced. Spending the rest of his life in the work camp was what awaited Patrick for his decision to help Maggie. The fear factor in his life has always been powerful. Fear stopped him from following Maggie to Ecotopia, it prevented him from fighting the Corporate Government, and now the fear told him that once again he failed Maggie and the kids, just like he always has.

But Maggie was fearless. She was a warrior mother, who wasn’t a stranger to pushing through the fear and anxiety. Her objective from the moment she started this mission was very clear: to bring the kids back to Ecotopia.

– “I’ll take over.” – Maggie shouted and Patrick quickly got out of the car and run to the other side. Even though Maggie didn’t drive for many years, it turned out that it was just like swimming. You could never forget it. She sped like never before and wasn’t as careful about the terrain as Patrick was. There was no way she would give up.

The looming sound of the fleet didn’t die, regardless of how fast she drove. Suddenly something unexpected happened. They reached a milky wall of dense fog that emerged from nowhere, covering the horizon in front of them.

– “You need to slow down.” – warned her Patrick, who until now sat in silence working hard on controlling his anxiety.

– “I can’t now.” – Maggie shouted back, pointing to her watch.

– “The fleet won’t be able to track us down in this fog. For some reason, all the instruments act up under these conditions. So far, none of the Old World’s scientists has been able to figure out what component of the fog effects our equipment to such an extent.” – revealed Patrick. He knew that if he weren’t going to give Maggie a good enough reason to slow down, she would keep on driving faster and faster. Her mind and thinking process were in the reaction mode, which has always been her weakest link and hard to control. Reluctantly Maggie slowed down.

Her frustration was growing by a minute. She was still no closer to finding her kids than she was ten hours ago. Once again, she was forced by the circumstances out of her control to do something she didn’t want to do. The fog, as well as Patrick anxiety attack, lasted for most of their journey. Since Maggie knew about Patrick’s anxiety and his difficulty to cope with unexpected turns of events, she kept silent, giving him the time and space to recover.

After almost an hour of driving in the fog, Maggie drove out of it with a great relief only to see the Travellers waiting for them. Maggie stopped the car, looked at her watch, which now showed 28,5 hours, closed her eyes and waited.

Jenny, the leader of the Travellers, came forward.

– “This time you are coming with us, Maggie.” – she said. She couldn’t care less about Patrick; Maggie was the one she wanted.


Chapter 21

In Between

Jenny and her troops were blocking the only path that could lead Patrick and Maggie straight to London. With the Corporate Troops right behind them, Patrick knew this standoff wasn’t going to come to a pretty end. The waiting game only made his anxiety increased beyond what he thought he could control. As a high-ranking Corporate Army officer, he couldn’t show any weakness to anyone under any circumstance. Anxiety in his patriarchal culture was a massive weakness that could classify him redundant and useless if anyone ever found out.

As always, in highly stressful situations, he had to push his anxiety to the darkest nooks of his heart. He needed to think fast on his feet. If the Corporate Army caught up with them, there would be no escape for anyone. Unfortunately, the fear and anxiety clouded his vision, and no ideas were flowing.

– “Why do you want me so badly?” – Maggie’s frustration was boiling out of every scrap of her body each second they were delayed.

– “I’m changing the future, and the only way to do so is to stop you from travelling in time” – Jenny felt her body starting to shake slightly. She knew that the shakes increased every time she jumped through the time loop. To control her body during the episodes required large amounts of energy and concentration. She hoped that no one ever was going to discover her dark little secret. Jenny strongly believed that even a slight delay would destroy Maggie’s grand plan to travel back in time to help Ecotopia develop sophisticated enough technology to travel to other planets in the Galaxy. And maybe, just maybe, the painful reality they were experiencing right now would simply cease to exist.

– “How?” – Jenny surely had Maggie’s attention now. If this girl standing right in front of her was right altering the past could have changed the future. However, for that to become a feasible possibility, she had to go back as far as 1999.

– “We can’t… not now… we have no time!” – Patrick interrupted. Both, Maggie and Jenny turned to him.

– “The Corporate Army is right behind us. You want to avoid confrontation at all costs, regardless of how advanced your weapons are. We need to get going.” –Patrick tried to control his voice but could feel it rising ever so slightly.

– “Whatever, you can go, but she stays.” – barked Jenny.

– “Let her go and keep me instead.” – Patrick bargained.

– “I have no need for you.”

– “Come with us then. We go as your prisoners. Maybe we can help each other out.” – Maggie couldn’t help but notice how Jennie’s body twitched slightly now and then.

– “No. We wait here.” – Jenny ordered.

Maggie could feel the time pressure, and in her last desperate attempt to save the kids turned her back to Jenny and whispered to Patrick.

– “I stay, you go. Find the kids. They will take you back to Ecotopia. We have no other choice.”

A sign of horror crossed Patrick’s face.

– “Not without you.” – Patrick took Maggie’s hand and embraced her gentle fingers with such tenderness only a lover can feel and express. Maggie wanted to say something, wanted to tell him how long she waited for him. But all those years and lifetimes later it just felt less important. Nothing would and could change the distance between them, not even the love they felt for each other when the world was still undivided and within reach to save. She turned to look at Jenny to bargain once again for her freedom.

At that very moment, the mayhem began just the way Patrick feared it would have happened. It started with the roars coming from the above, which couldn’t be mistaken for something they weren’t. Knowing what was coming, Patrick swiftly passed the compass to Maggie and grabbed her hand running towards the fog.

– “It will help you find your way to London. Go! Find our kids!” – he screamed at the top of his voice. Whatever was going to happen to him didn’t matter. Regardless of how cruel the consequences of his actions were going to be, he was happy in knowing that he was a father and seeing Maggie possibly for the last time in his life was a dream come true.

In that brief moment, before parting ways, he realized how little they spoke and how much there actually was to talk about. There was so much he wanted to ask about the children but never did. He wanted to know how her life has been, whether she ever thought about him, was she happy with her choices? He heard stories about Ecotopia but never dared to ask any of his prisoners if the stories were true. Maggie could have put to rest his curiosity. But now it was too late, and yet another regret piled up on an altar of his regrets.

Jenny’s travellers were skilled in combat and fought many battles together. However, nothing prepared them for the ferocity of the attack coming from the above. Instead of picking up her weapon, Jenny ran across the land towards Maggie and Patrick, leaving her companions behind. She knew getting sentimental now wouldn’t help anyone. Besides, she was too close to complete her mission to get dragged into yet another senseless battle. Unfortunately, the travellers were too exposed in this barren land and were getting slaughtered.

– “Where do you think you’re going?” – Jenny asked, pointing her gun at Maggie.

– “To find my children. You can come with me if you wish to. Once we back in Ecotopia our doctors can check this condition of yours” – Maggie just wanted to get the hell out of this place as fast as possible. Patrick was trying his hardest to shield her.

Jenny was thrown off by Maggie’s decisiveness for a moment. Maggie looked at Jenny and nodded. Before immersing herself in the cover of the fog, Jenny glanced one last time at her travellers getting crashed. She tried to convince herself that going back now wouldn’t have helped anybody.

The two of them ran back into the fog. Patrick stayed behind. Maggie and Jenny ran and ran before Jenny could run no more. She sat down, hoping to regain control over her body. When Patrick reemerged from the fog, the killing spree was already over, while the flying spotters were searching for any survivors. Amongst the sea of bodies, Patrick was the only one standing.

By some kind of cosmic miracle, Patrick’s droid got the power back just in time to save his life. The droid instantly connected with the other droids, letting them know that Patrick was on the ground, unharmed and grateful for the rescue. Since he had no idea how to explain his presence there, he hoped that somehow, he’d be able to wiggle out of this mess unharmed. Two flying spotters appeared in front of Patrick to escort him towards the pickup place.

Slowly walking to his destination, Patrick made pace with the impending cruelty of his fate. Secretly he hoped that this would have given Maggie enough time to get as far from this place as possible. 


 

CHAPTER 22

THE VOICES

 

Jenny’s spaceship was gone; her travelling companions were most likely all dead and, along with them, her connection to the life she left behind. Once she realized what has just happened, her body started to shake uncontrollably while she struggled to catch her breath.

Maggie wanted to comfort her, but she could only bring herself to a gentle shoulder pat. That surprisingly calmed Jenny enough to allow her to take a deeper breath. It’s been a long time since anyone showed any affection or sympathy to her.

– “When we get back to Ecotopia, our doctors will do their best to help you with your condition.” – Maggie wanted to say something more, something kinder and comforting. But the raging anger she felt at that moment stopped her. She was angry with herself that, once again, she believed Patrick would change sides. She couldn’t understand whether his actions were driven by fear or loyalty for the Old World’s regime.

– “We are staying put.” – Jenny tried to argue, but her voice was weak and body in pain.

– “You want to stay, stay. Just don’t slow me down.” – Maggie was getting angrier and replied in a harsh manner she always used when stakes were high. She put her backpack on and took out Patrick’s compass from her pocket. She waited for the needles to settle before pointing South.

Jenny wasn’t used to being ignored, and she surely didn’t want to follow Maggie, but the position she found herself in didn’t give her much room to manoeuvre.

Maggie skillfully hid her negative feelings and emotions for years. She was fiercely protective of that part of her life. All this bottled anger became her driving force for action, while at the same time destroying her from within. Jenny could spot anger from miles away. She had her own unexpressed rage, mostly directed at Maggie. But seeing her so shaken and unsure started shifting Jenny’s perception.

In reality, Jenny never thought that Maggie had to deal with her own problems and never considered that maybe, just maybe, Maggie chose the lesser of two evils. Not even once it crossed Jenny’s mind that Maggie could have been conflicted, uncertain and overwhelmingly desperate to save whatever she could of the dying planet.

Maggie reminded Jenny of her own mum, who also was determined, unsure at times and exhaustedly terrified every day of her life while trying to figure out how to save her family from slavery. Maggie was scared that her window of opportunity has closed. Maybe after all the Old World was too big, too fragmented and too confusing for her to be able to find the children in time. To take her mind off the negative thoughts playing up in her mind, Maggie asked.

– “Do I really go back in time?”

– “In the version of the reality, I come from you went back in time and built the spaceship you needed.” – said Jenny.

– “How many versions are there?” – asked Maggie.

– “I don’t know; a lot I guess.”

– “Co-existing at the same time?” – Maggie was intrigued by the idea of countless realities occurring at the same time. The possibilities this knowledge could offer to the humankind were endless.

If a week ago anyone would have told Maggie that she was going to meet someone from the future, talk about the time travel and different dimensions that co-existed simultaneously, she would have laughed dismissing the very idea. But now everything has changed, giving her hope; something she has not felt for a very long time.

– “I remember one teacher on Aqua Moons mentioning that it was wildly believed that many realities co-exist at the same time. People’s personal choices determine the outcome of the reality.” – said Jenny. It was a bit disheartening to learn how little the people, who decided on the future of the whole planet, knew about the Universe and its laws.

– “Is this where you are from? – Maggie needed to talk.

– “No, of course not. I’m from the Earth, just like you are. But my Earth died a long time ago. All because of the actions you took.” – Jenny didn’t feel as relieved of her anger and frustration as she hoped it would.

– “What the hell did I do?” – Maggie stopped walking and turned to look at Jenny.

– “I’ve already told you. You built your spaceship and relocated, leaving the Earth and all the future generations to die.” – pain and sadness in Jenny’s voice broke Maggie’s heart.

– “Ever since I can remember… Ever since I was a child, I only wanted to save the planet, save what was left of it.” – Maggie tried to explain, but it was hard to defend actions that caused so much pain and suffering to someone.

– “Well, you didn’t. You chose “your people” and took off. Instead of fighting for the planet, you just ran.” – Jenny shouted.

Maggie wanted to apologize, but if she did, it would have meant that her whole life work was regretful. She wasn’t ashamed of her pioneering ideas and believed that she helped Ecotopia grow, and she surely wasn’t ashamed of wanting to save the planet. She tried for years to reach out to the Old World’s government, who cared nothing for the slaughter they were committing against humanity and nature. Wasting time and energy with the Corporate Government became too draining and too tricky.

So, when the natural resources began shrinking in the New World, the Ecotopians decided that relocation was the only feasible alternative to save at least a part of the human race.

– “My mum found an old Ecotopian ship, fixed it and made it ready for us to travel. She died protecting me, my brother and my dad, while we took off.” – Jenny tried to control her tears, which were pushing their way through her protective armour, leaving her very exposed and vulnerable. Maggie’s maternal instinct kicked in, and she wanted to comfort Jenny, tell her that everything was going to be fine. She extended her hand to touch Jenny’s cheek but instead she froze in mid-gesture. Somewhere amongst the thick fog, she could hear children’s voices. She knew those voices. They were the most beautiful voices in the world. Maggie started turning frantically, trying to locate the direction the voices were coming from.

Seeing her desperation, Jenny put her hand on Maggie’s shoulder to stop her from aimless spinning.

– “Allow me.” – she said.


 

Chapter 23

All Of a Sudden

 

The Corporate Army spacecraft was modest in design but well equipped, all keeping with the Old World’s somehow outdated standards. Patrick made his way towards the bridge, which was small, compact and able to fit only a handful of people at the same time. The commanding officer, much younger than Patrick, watched his every step projected on a big screen. Patrick lost track of the new generation of officers coming into the corporate army a long time ago. So he didn’t know who the officer was or where he was coming from. However, Patrick was hoping for a mature and long enough conversation to give Maggie much needed time to get as far away from this place as she possibly could. 

– “Officer” – Patrick extended his hand; the officer shook it.

– “You are lucky Mr Bruce that we didn’t proceed with the full attack as planned and your drone managed to connect with the central system.” 

– “Thank you. I’m grateful you saved my life, Mr.…? “

– “Thomas Johns.”

– “Mr Johns, a pleasure to meet you. Now do tell me what the Above troops are doing in our humble Down Below.” – Patrick was willing to go to any length to give Maggie the valuable extra time.

– “That is what I should be asking you, Mr Bruce. We’ve been looking for you all over the place. Would you care to tell me what you were doing here?” – Thomas seemed to already know more about Patrick, then Patrick realized.

– “When it all started, I was…” – Patrick started, but immediately got interrupted.

– “I know well enough where you were when it all started.” – blurted Thomas.

– “I was kidnapped by one of the operatives who started the uprising.” – Patrick carried on unfazed.

– “And how did they know about you?” – Thomas moved closer to Patrick, his eyes locked with Patrick’s.

– “Do you really think that the Ecotopians have no Intel on us?” – asked Patrick, moving away from Thomas towards the side window. Right below on the ground, he saw the scattered bodies of the travellers. If it weren’t by pure luck, Patrick would have been there. 

In that very moment, seeing the bodies of those young fighters, it somehow triggered in Patrick the full understanding of the immense cruelty and moral bankruptcy the Old World was built on. He knew well what the Old World’s government was capable of implementing but seeing it like this broke something in him. He also fully realized that he had been part of that cruelty for years, consenting to the iron fist of the Old World’s politics.

He didn’t know what triggered this sudden understanding, but whatever that was, he finally opened his eyes, just like Maggie wanted him to do. 

– “As a commanding officer of Down Below, you should have known that an attack like that was being planned. Why didn’t you?” – Thomas’s tone shifted. – “You failed”

– “I didn’t fail.” – Patrick was boiling on the inside. He knew what this chat was meant to accomplish. Johns was trying to shift the blame for the Above’s failure. – “The Above has been tying my hands and cutting resources for years. How can I successfully run any operation without having enough right people?” – Patrick replied as calmly as he could. His emotions were high. For years he has witnessed the Corporate Governments unwillingness to admit any shortcomings on their part. As always in a critical situation like that, the officials were on a lookout for a scapegoat. 

Patrick was aware that the Corporate Government wanted to get rid of him for a long time. This situation was a perfect opportunity for the Above to remove Patrick from his position. Permanently. It wasn’t going to be hard to find in his stead a younger and definitely more unconditionally loyal follower of the Old World’s order then he ever was.

All his life Patrick blindly followed the corporate rules and asked little questions in the process. He could have gone with Maggie to the other side of the wall at least twice. He could have had a life, a real-life with her but he never did. He wasn’t scared to be a part of the New World. But he was terrified of making a decision that could divert him away from his chosen path. He wasn’t a quitter and didn’t want to give up too soon, regardless of how wrong his path shaped out to be. Deep inside, he was afraid that someone was going to accuse him of changing sides too soon or giving up too fast or too easily. The social pressure he continuously felt, since he was a small child pushed him on a path of anxiety that was carefully masked away from the public view. He never truly trusted himself, and his frightful indecisiveness showed up in the most vital moments of his life.

However, seeing Maggie again, knowing that he was a father and should be responsible for other human beings, somehow unclouded his vision, helping him to understand how his fear and anxiety deprived him of a beautiful life with a woman he always loved and the kids he never knew.

– “So what were you doing here with Maggie?” – Thomas asked sternly. He was itching to hear Patrick’s answer, see him sweat, and trying to wiggle his way out and come up with excuses for not following the Corporate rule book. 

– “Maggie? The leader of the Ecotopia wanted to catch up with the people you just killed.” – Patrick was planning to lie as little as possible. It could always come backbiting him on the back in the most unexpected moments.

No witnesses were left alive, so blaming Maggie’s presence in the Old World on those who were dead wasn’t going to harm anyone. 

– “What did she want with them?“

– “You won’t believe me if I tell you.”

– “I’m rather imaginative; try me.” – Thomas was really enjoying this conversation.

– “These people, these bodies down there are from the future. She wanted something they had.” – Patrick was certain that Thomas wouldn’t believe in that story.

– “Hmmm, future…” – blurted Thomas, before adding – “We need to go.”

– “Go where?” – Patrick’s voice raised slightly in surprise. Thomas’s reaction wasn’t at all what he expected. He anticipated ridicule and laughter.

– “To the Above of course. They would want to talk to you.”.

– “About?” – Patrick was confused and couldn’t even hide it. Could it be possible that the Above already knew about people from the future?

– “Why, the people from the future, of course.” – said Thomas throwing a half-smile, half grim at Patrick.


 

Chapter 23

Life in The Above

Depriving millions of people of the essentials was the way the Corporate Government kept humanity, excluding the 1%, in the gutters for years. During that time, the construction of the Above was rapidly progressing. It was the project the ordinary people (make no mistake, these were the people with no financial backing, regardless of how innovative or intelligent they were.) paid dearly with their lives and freedom.

The Above was fashioned for only those, who could afford to buy their way out of the misery that consumed the Old World. Some of the essential workers, who kept the 1% going were also allowed to move up and live in the Above, of course as long as they were able to work and serve.

After many long years of manic construction, the move finally materialized. But surprisingly, the Above only slightly resembled how life before the revolution looked like. The war and the collapse of society and social norms changed everything; even the lifestyle of the wealthiest and most influential needed altering. What once was “normal” and taken for granted before the revolution was gone for good now.

Many who moved to the Above hoped the glamour, and obscene splendour would wipe out their consciousness of all the crimes against humanity and the planet the Corporate Government committed on their behalf.

To forget the past, the ongoing party infiltrated every ounce of the Above existence. The well-known old habits quickly took hold of the residents, who in no time started abusing the resources at hand. Without considering how limited and dependent on the Down Below their fragile existence was. The population of the Above didn’t want to know that their existence was closely linked to the survival of the Down Below.

Instead, the citizens of the Above chose to live in the oblivious bubble, not learning much from the past few years and the social and ecological catastrophe they propelled. Indeed, the rules in the Above were meant to be much more relaxed then Down Below, and the place was never supposed to be governed with an iron fist. However, pretty quickly, it became clear that people are just people, and if you don’t put strict restrictions and laws around them, they won’t know how to respect their freedom. The Corporate Government had enough to deal with, without having to worry about the chosen ones misbehaving and not following the rules that were in place for their own protection.

At first, the officials were reluctant to introduce harsh rules for the Above, but the longer the party lasted, the less choice they had. The resources that were meant to last a year were used up within three months. It came as a surprise for the habitants of the Above that the Corporate Government couldn’t tolerate the abuse of the resources. Unfortunately, those who destroyed Earth were never held accountable for the ruin and poverty their greedy ways of consumption produced. Most of them still strongly believed that their own exceptionalism allowed them to do what they pleased, regardless of future implications.

The Above propagated deeply conservative patriarchal values. Women had no say and no access to education, technology or jobs. Unless they already worked in essential sectors before the division of the worlds took place. Those, who were permitted to keep their jobs, had no significant input into the development or growth of the Above.

Architecturally, the Above with its confusing design wasn’t pleasing to a human eye. The natural beauty of Earth could obviously never be replaced. The Above was simply a confined space with no greenery, no animals or natural sources of water. Everything in this artificial heaven for the wealthiest was exactly that – artificial. Since it was built in a hurry, the cracks on buildings were visible after only a few years of usage. Since the tunnels connected all the building there was no fresh air to breathe. No surprisingly the structure was heavy-handed and lacking in soul.

Since the Corporate Government provided the residents of the Above with everything they needed to carry on with their privilege ways, motivation and growth wasn’t a priority. Very few were ambitious enough to do better or strive for life beyond pleasing their instant whims. The majority were detached from the reality way before the division of the worlds and the revolution took place; changing their ways now was unlike to happen.

Before the revolution spread like a virus, the wealthiest people of the Old World had enough money to save the Earth for the next generations. However hard financial sacrifices needed to make any visible progress were not appealing enough.

Patrick could barely breathe every time he had to visit the Above, even though he was offered a permanent residence in the Heaven for the richest. The decadence and emptiness of life in such confinement weren’t for him. He preferred the unpredictable, dirty Down Below.

He could never understand why so many had to sacrifice so much so that few could enjoy an existence that didn’t contribute to the Corporate World. He tried and failed to comprehend why the Corporate Government was still willing to protect the millionaires and billionaires of the Old World. The 1% of the 1% was standing on the shoulders of innovators, scientists and the massive army that kept the rest of the population of Down Below on its knees.

Over the past few years, Patrick grew disheartened with the Old World’s politics. But he never had enough courage to challenge the system he has been serving and protecting all his life. He feared that a shift like this could have crumbled the world he scrambled to create around for himself.

When Thomas Johns expressed a profound interest in the time travel, Patrick finally understood what the Corporate Government was trying to pull off. All along, the corporate plan must have been to run down Earth to such a state of deprivation and misery that the only way to escape was to time jump.

The Corporate Government must have known that the path they chose was of no return. One day they could all disappear, leaving barren Earth behind. Patrick looked at Johns’ strain eyes and clenched jaw. In that instant, he knew that he couldn’t let that happen, even if it meant he was never going to meet his kids, hold them tight and tell them how much he loved them. 


 

CHAPTER 24

J.T. Walton

Within a few very short minutes, Patrick was facing massive wooden doors leading to the Corporate Government’s presidential chambers. He felt pretty confident that whatever information he had about the time travel, it was going to be of high value for the Corporate Government. Still, he knew that his objective during the meeting should be to prolong it, in order to give Maggie and the kids as much time as he could.

J.T. Walton was the proud founder of the Corporate Government and a champion of the Old World’s regressive and restrictive rules. He was a charismatic leader, who at the start of his career was able to inspire millions of people with his vision of the Old World’s order. He was a wizard in social engineering, always able to get out of people whatever he wanted, which always made Patrick nervous about being around him.

Walton came from a long tradition of old money and was brought up in fear of progressive change. His privileged upbringing gave him a considerable jumpstart in life, generating a lifelong detachment from reality. He could never understand or sympathize with the ordinary people, which made him a perfect president of the Corporate Government. Over the years, throughout the ups and downs, J.T.’s stamp of approval or disapproval was highly visible in the Old World. Amongst his followers, he cultivated a culture and belief of himself as a visionary leader. There was no room in his vision for regrets or doubts, regardless of the consequences his misguided decisions had on the Old World.

Despite his advancing age, he was still in charge of everything that was happening and taking place in the Down Below and the Above. No major decision was ever made without consulting J.T. first.

For many years, prior to the construction of the Above, Walton knew that saving the Earth would require massive human undertaking stretched over many generations. He wasn’t prepared to lead that challenge towards a very uncertain outcome. Instead, the Corporate Government under his rule was to stay the course, despite the environmental collapse. Adjusting politics to scientific facts was perceived as a weakness amongst the active members of the Corporate Government. For a true leader of an Old World, a weakness wasn’t an option.

Walton always liked Patrick and enjoyed his company immensely. He watched Patrick rising through the ranks of the Corporate World; it always gave J.T. a huge pleasure to see how devoted Patrick became over the years. J.T believed that Patrick was humble enough not to care if he was recognized or rewarded for his service. Unlike everyone else who surrounded Walton, what always made him feel uneasy.

At one point, J.T. even began entertaining an idea that, perhaps, Patrick could take over one day. But it was way before he observed a slight shift in Patrick ‘s attitude. A lesser observer of human nature wouldn’t notice that Patrick was becoming disengaged and disheartened. However, a vigilant observer, like J.T., could see it, and witnessing Patrick’s change of heart put an end to that dream.

The catastrophic damage, caused by Corporate politics and policies, driven by the self-interest of a tiny group of people meant that restoring and rebuilding life in the Down Below was an impossible dream. Blinded by bling and unshakable belief in their own invincibility, the greedy bunch kept taking until there was no more to take.

Since Walton was chosen to protect the corporate interest above everything else, his temporary solution to massive problems in the Down Below was to build up and leave the damage behind. In no time at all, all the remaining resources were used up towards building the Above. There was no proof that the Above would be able to shelter people or withstand unpredictable weather patterns, but Walton knew that desperate times call for desperate measures.

Patrick noticed how much older and frail J.T. became since he saw him last. The man behind the huge wooden desk could hardly be recognized. Lack of sun and fresh air, however, polluted that fresh air may be, was surely taking a massive toll on him. Patrick waited for the old man to acknowledge his presence and to allow him to take a seat before any business could be conducted. This time, however, no words of invitation were uttered, which could only mean that the visit wasn’t business as usual.

J.T. Walton just looked at Patrick for a long time. Patrick’s father used to look at him that way every time Patrick dared to do anything that profoundly displeased him. His father was a controlling man and approved of very few things in life. Luckily, Patrick’s mother was a protective and loving parent, always putting his well-being first. Unfortunately, both of his parents died in a very mysterious way. He tried to get to the bottom of this for years, but his efforts came to nothing.

– “So?” – started J.T.

– “Sir?”

– “What does this woman Maggie know that we don’t?”

– “I don’t know, Sir” – Patrick’s reply came bluntly.

J.T. shifted in his chair and pulled out a screen from a pad onto his desk. An image of a boy and a girl trapped in a cave came up.

– “If you tell me what you know, your kids will be allowed to return to Ecotopia” – that surely caught Patrick by surprise. He knew showing fear would only give Walton an advantage. Instead, he played for time.

– “How long have you known?” – asked Patrick.

– “We’ve been keeping tabs on them since they were born.” – replied Walton.

– “How?!” – even though Patrick learnt how to control his emotions, he could still feel his anger rising.

– “Do you think we have no people on the inside? Do you think that everyone who lives in Ecotopia believes in this utopian wishy-washy crap?” – J.T. was visibly tired and has allowed his impatience to take hold of him.

– “Why didn’t you tell me?” – Patrick’s voice was rising, despite his best efforts to stay calm. Ever since he joined the Corporate Government, he believed in the measures it took to keep the society going. But now it was clearer than ever that his blind unquestionable devotion was a mistake.

– “And? What would you do with such knowledge? Would you try to escape to Ecotopia? We have eyes everywhere; nowhere would be safe for you. Now listen, very, very carefully. Either you tell me all you know about the time travel, and remember that I have to believe you, or you will never meet your kids, neither see Maggie again.” – when J.T. finished, Patrick noticed sweat running down the side of his forehead, which Walton wiped with annoyance.

In that instant and completely involuntary, Patrick switched to a survival mode. At the end of the day, that very government trained him for extreme life-threatening situations like the one he was presented with now.

– “You have half an hour to give me what I want. If not, well… you know what we can do” – Walton was visibly exhausted, saying these final words, and simply turn around to look out of the window at the greyness surrounding the Above.

Two armed guards were waiting for Patrick to escort him to a temporary holding room. A place he often used himself for those who were considered the enemies of the corporate order. When the door to the temporary holding room closed behind him, a small light in the middle of the ceiling started flickering. The Above was trying to save electricity in any possible way and cutting down on lights was one way of doing that. Since Patrick was in a survival mode, his anxiety didn’t surface as yet. But he wasn’t sure how long that would last, so he needed to act fast. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, slowly piecing together the map of the Above. He was nearly done when his watch beeped unexpectedly. He opened his eyes and looked at it, a door opening barcode was flashing with a thirty-second count down.

Patrick swiftly swiped his watch across the door handle, and the door opened. 


 

CHAPTER 25

We Are So Close

MAGGIE & JENNY

Jenny’s senses had gotten sharper since the beginning of her time-travelling adventures. It never ceased to amaze her how clearly she could hear and see even under harsh and unpredictable conditions. That special gift helped Maggie and Jenny through the fog, leading them right to the base of a mountain surrounded by the graveyard of trees.

– “How did you know?” – asked Maggie, awe in her voice.

– “If I’m not mistaken, the voices are coming from that cave right above us” –Jenny pointed upwards, where a faint light was dancing on the walls.

– “It’s going to be a long climb” – mumbled Maggie, assessing the high and steepness of the wall.

– “I’m coming with you”

– “No, darling. It’s too steep for you” – replied Maggie and opened her backpack to see if she had any climbing gear with her.

– “There must be another way. I don’t believe your kids were able to climb up this high” – Jenny tried to reason with Maggie. But Maggie was right; climbing wasn’t something Jenny could easily do at present. She felt her body becoming weaker and heavier with each minute passing.

– “You don’t know my kids. Those two are quite capable” – said Maggie as she tightened up the chalk bag around her waist.

– “You come back this way, right?”

– “Of course. I want to know all about your time travel. If we help each other, we might be able to reverse at least some of the damage. Stay on your toes, the armies of the Old World are resourceful” – said Maggie and began her claim.

Jenny watched Maggie slowly making her way up. However, when that became too painful she slid to the ground, exhausted. Since Maggie left her backpack behind, Jenny decided to search for weapons or anything else that could prove useful in case the enemy reappeared. Unfortunately, everything and anything that could have been useful in Maggie’s pack needed her fingerprint authorisation.

Amongst the unusable weapons and what looked like camping gear, Jenny found food bars. She completely forgot that she didn’t eat anything substantial for a while. She was used to starvation and Spartan life, but the Ecotopian food bar looked too tempting to pass. The first bite was divine. It tasted like Jenny only imagined a real food tasted like. It felt light and delicate on her tongue. Each bite created a craving for more, out of her control.

MAGGIE

Maggie felt moist under her fingertips. The cave must have been higher than she initially predicted. With only 25 hours left to accomplish even half of what Maggie hoped she would she had to pick up her pace.

PATRICK

Patrick didn’t have much time before the surveillance cameras, aided by the ever-present drones, were going to fish him out from the crowd. Luckily, he remembered his way towards the cargo yard, where he planned to steal one of the smaller aircrafts. He was halfway through, when his watch beeped again, pointing him in the opposite direction.

JENNY

Having her stomach full for the first time in many days, Jenny felt blissfully tired. She tried to keep her eyes open for as long as she could before the sleepiness overtook her body.

MAGGIE

After reaching the narrow landing leading to the cave, Maggie was certain that there was another way in. She wiped the sweat running across her forehead, before slowly feeling her way through the rocks.

The closer she got to the cave, the clearer the voice coming from the inside was. However, neither of her kids was talking. It was clear that if her kids were inside, they weren’t alone. In case of emergency, she had a small gun behind her jacket and two knives up her sleeves.

PATRICK

Patrick was standing in front of the small doors, with the code on his watch ready for a swipe across the reader. To his greatest surprise, what looked from the outside like a storage room, turned out to be an unattended observation room.

Two of ten screens hanging on the wall were showing Maggie up on a mountainside and Jenny asleep by, the same, mountain. Patrick swiftly zoomed in to see the coordinates of their location, before switching the image to another spot and clearing the history. He was about to leave when he heard movement on the other side of the door.

Since the room was tiny, there was no way he could hide. Instead, he took advantage of the bad light and moved behind the door. Once it opened, he was ready to fight whoever was on the other side. Fortunately, there was no need; Patrick couldn’t have been happier that a very machine created to spy on him was about to safe him from the people, who made and programmed it.

Patrick’s droid came prepared with a fresh set of clothes to allow Patrick to blend in with the rest of the Above population. The small chip at the bottom of the basket would allow Patrick to start one of the aircrafts, and that was his ticket out of this place.

It wasn’t easy for Patrick to manoeuvre between people cramped in small spaces, rushing in every direction. His heart was pounding fast while his anxiety rose. He was following his droid closely. After taking a few shortcuts and pushing through the crowds, they finally got to a small docking station Patrick didn’t even know existed. Upon entering the station, the alarm went off. Patrick rushed towards the only aircraft, but his droid stayed behind, shielding Patrick from the unfriendly fire. While waiting for his companion the aircraft got hit.

MAGGIE

Maggie was standing at the cave’s entrance, looking at a girl, who couldn’t have been much older than her kids. Marcus and Josephine ran towards her throwing their arms around her.

– “Mum” – whispered Marcus. Maggie touched their faces and wiped their gigantic tears.

– “We’ll never, ever do it again. We are so sorry” – Josephine promised solemnly, trying to control her sobbing.

– “It’s ok, all under control.” – Maggie attempted to comfort her daughter. – “But we have to leave right now.” – Maggie looked at the girl. “Come with us” – she added after a short pause.

– “I can’t leave my friends behind” – the girl shook her head.

– “We could come back for them” – promised Maggie. At that moment, they all heard something heavy crashing to the ground.

– “Hurry, I’ll show you the way” – offered the girl before putting down a small bonfire and hiding the few belongings she had behind the rocks. Maggie’s heart sunk when she saw how little the girl had and how precious those few possessions were to her.

– “Someone is waiting for us by the foot of the mountain” – said Maggie.

– “Follow me” – the girl turned a small torch on.

The three of them followed the girl down the steep stairs curved inside the heart of the mountain. When they reached the bottom, Jenny and Maggie’s backpack were gone. The smoke from the crash was visible for miles, easily attracting the eyes of the Corporate Army.

– “There is no time to look for your friend” – said the girl and started making her way East towards the Old Bridge. At first, Maggie was reluctant, but since she had no idea how to find her way around without her equipment, she put their faith in the girl’s hands.

– “I’m going to take you to the edge of the forest. From there you’ll have to make your way to the bridge alone” – said the girl, who knew her way around the dead forest like the back of her hand.

– “Thank you” – replied Maggie gratefully.

The girl didn’t say much for the rest of the journey. She was silently enjoying the warm feeling she had in her heart. A feeling she last had when her parents were still alive. Seeing this strange woman, who risked everything to cross the bridge meant something big. The girl didn’t know what exactly, but her gut was telling her that keeping this family together and safe was very important. A long time ago she learned to listen to her feelings and rely on their collective wisdom. It took them almost two hours to reach the edge of the dead forest.

– “This is where I leave you. The road through the marshland is the quickest and the safest. The Ground Guards never come this way. Try to avoid the flaying spotters if you can” – said the girl.

– “Thank you so much for all your kindness and help. We will fix all that. I promise” – Maggie took the girl’s hands in hers and kissed her cheeks before giving her whatever she could spare of her clothing and the equipment.

– “Hurry” – urged the girl, before disappearing in the milky silk fog.

Maggie grabbed Marcus’ and Josephine’s hands and together they braved the marshland.

SO CLOSE

Right before leaving the cover of the marshland and the few remaining trees, in the corner of her right eye, Maggie saw a rapid movement. She wasn’t sure if that was an animal or a human, but it spurred her to pick up the pace.

When the bridge came into their view, Maggie started running, dragging the children behind. Josephine and Marcus were close to exhaustion. They haven’t slept in days and were hungry like never before. Nevertheless, they knew that to end this nightmare, they needed to push harder. When they left their cover behind, two more people emerged from the marshland running towards the bridge. Maggie pushed Marcus and Josephine in front of her, turned to face her opponents, ready to fight to protect her kids. But she stood down as soon as she realised who that was.

– “Jenny?!? What happened to you? You were gone when we came down.”

– “I ate one of your food bars and fall asleep. Patrick woke me up” – replayed Jenny.

– “You must have been starving. Those bars usually replace a full meal for four people” – said Maggie.

– “Maggie?” – Patrick asked faintly while looking at the children.

– “Oh, sorry… Marcus, Josephine, this is Patrick, eeee…. your dad” – Maggie’s heart was pounding very fast now.

Patrick moved towards the kids. Both were incredibly quiet and didn’t know how to react at first. Then Josephine extended her hand, and at that moment bright flashing lights came from the sky, blinding them all.

– “Freeze! You are under arrest!” – boomed the voice through the speakers.


 

Chapter 26

“The Old Continent”

 


Chapter 27

On The Other Side of the Tunnel 


CHAPTER 28

Trust

Luckily, Josephine and Marcus were asleep in one of the hospital’s guest rooms. The children were so exhausted that even Maggie’s repetitive heavy steps couldn’t stop them from sleeping peacefully.

Maggie was pacing from one end of the corridor to the other. She had too many coffees, which, mixed with crushing tiredness, made closing her eyes even for a short power nap impossible. How could she even think of sleeping, if the past 48 hours turned her life utterly upside down?

For years she kept convincing herself that loving someone like Patrick was morally wrong. She always believed that Patrick chose the wrong side of the revolution, and for her, his choice was an unforgivable act of betrayal. Over the years Maggie tried to understand his motivation but could never find sufficient justification for his decision to follow the old world order. However, now she felt conflicted about all those feelings she had for Patrick. She was still angry with him but in the light of current events, her anger seemed irrelevant.

Patrick’s act of bravery made Maggie question her harsh judgment of his past actions. Also, she wondered if possibly she wasted all those years, trying to reassure herself that Patrick didn’t matter when in reality he was always the one.

In that moment of honesty, Maggie realised how much she wanted to tell Patrick but couldn’t. He was fighting for his life, and the possibility of never talking to him again was very real.

Her nervousness, worry and agitation left her confused and unable to make up her mind regarding her travel into the past. In a desperate attempt to calm down her galloping thoughts and distracting memories, she opened her backpack, searching for headphones. Music always had a calming influence over her erratic thoughts. But instead of the headphones, she found the book Jenny gifted her with.

The cover of the book was wooden with beautifully curved Earth motifs on the front and Ecotopian symbol at the back. The pages inside were yellowish, visibly exposed to too much sun and sand. Some pages were missing, and many others only had half of the writing legible.

Instantly, Maggie was lost in the tale of the future she helped to shape. But the future depicted in the book wasn’t rosy at all and the more she read, the less she liked it. She quickly lost track of time, reading about the cruelty and devastation that followed once the Ecotopians took off.

The book depicted the Old World’s collapse and the looting of the Old World and the Above once the influential and wealthiest citizens of the Above left, finding short-lived refuge in Ecotopia. However, years of abusing the natural resources left them clueless, when it came to looking after nature. Their selfish, vicious ego-driven characters quickly took over, leaving yet another trail of destruction behind.

Maggie was like a sponge, absorbing every single word she could encode (some of the writing wasn’t very clear and it was often spelt phonetically). She was invested in the book so deeply that didn’t even see when a doctor come out of the operating theatre.

Underneath his protective goggles, his eyes looked very tired but kind. He took his mask off and walked up to Maggie.

– “We did everything we could, Maggie. It’s up to Patrick to fight now.” — his words immediately brought her back to the present-day reality. She instinctively closed the book and tried to smile but couldn’t instruct her cheeks to lift ever so slightly.

– “Thank you.” -she finally replayed with gratitude. — Can I leave the kids with you for an hour?”

– “Of course. They are as much mine as they are yours.” — he put his hand on Maggie’s cheek — “What are you going to do?” — his gentle voice reminded Maggie why she loved him for so long. This time she smiled at him, put her hand over his and closed her eyes just the way she used to do when they were still together.

Maggie’s watch was counting down the minutes before the opening of the tunnel. Hurryingly, she put the book she read in the hospital inside the time travel capsule. On the floor of the capsule, she fitted as much of the Ecotopian high tech equipment, computers and drones as space and weight restrictions safely allowed. She knew that overloading the capsule may redirect its trajectory to another timeline, and she couldn’t risk that to happen. In her heart, she was fully aware of the potential consequences of her decisions. However, to save the future, she needed to make all those sacrifices.

With ten seconds to spare, she swiftly encoded the capsule door before taking her place behind the protective glass. The computers in the research facility were all going crazy from overheating, not something Maggie witnessed before. She felt frightened, nervous and restless. To calm herself down, she took a deep breath and instantly felt the air filling her lungs with the hopeful breeze of the new beginning. Unpromptedly tears began running down her cheeks. Through her tears, she caught the last glimpse of the capsule before it disappeared into the unknown.

Jessica had an uneasy feeling that tonight she needed to be in the Oxley Woods much early than any other night. Over the years she learnt to listen to her intuition and so far, it has never misled her.

Once she settled in her usual spot, she started nervously biting her nails, keeping the undisturbed focus on the spot where the tunnel usually opened. She didn’t want to miss the opening just in case nothing came from the other side.

The evening was just like any other. The Londoners were getting ready to welcome the new Millennium, while the Ecotopians were trying to design a space ship that could sustain life over a long distance and many years. Jessica didn’t share her doubts with anyone regarding their mission. True to herself, she waited for Maggie to show up, before discussing anything with anyone.

The tunnel opened suddenly and much earlier than any other time, and just like that the final journey from Ecotopia was completed. When after a few seconds the capsule’s door didn’t fly open, Jessica knew that Maggie wasn’t inside. Usually, anyone arriving through the tunnel felt so sick and out of breath that breathing fresh crispy air was the first thing they all wanted to experience.

In a flash, Jessica was by the capsule touching the reader with her fingertips. The door flung open. Her eyes scanned the inside and quickly noticed the book. She opened the book on the front page and found Maggie’s note that said:  “You will know what to do with all this, Jess. Our future is in your hands now. I’m sorry it’s all being put on you now, but I know that you are the only one, who can fix the future for us. Love, Maggie.”

A few weeks later

Maggie is looking at Patrick through the visitor’s window, while the hospital staff is getting him ready for surgery. Already unconscious Josephine is being wheeled into the operation theatre through the side door. When the nurse puts shutters over the visitor’s window, Maggie slowly walks to the waiting area and collapses on the chair next to Marcus. She puts her arm around his shoulder; instantly, he places his head on her lap and starts sobbing quietly.

– “Everything will work out, I promise.” — says Maggie, stroking his hair. “You have to trust me. You do, don’t you?”


 

CHAPTER 29

THE AFTER LIFE

1999

After many attempts to figure out how to re-open time travel tunnels, Jessica and the Ecotopian team finally succeeded. The day the time travel was consciously opened, marked the beginning of the operation Shift.

The whole operation was Jessica’s idea, but it was quickly adapted and significantly developed by the whole Ecotopian team. The basic concept behind the operation Shift was to send members from the 1999 team further into the past. Everyone, who was going to take part in the operation, would be responsible for taking concrete, targeted actions that in theory would have been able to influence future events.

The years the team was going to travel to were chosen very carefully, based on the social and ecological development of the planet and humanity. Some of the actions the Ecotopians would have to take were drastic, but they all believed that to save many, a few may have needed sacrificing along the way.

Four members of the Ecotopian team decided to stay in 1999 to figure out a way of travelling into the future. According to the book Maggie sent, it has never been done before. However, it didn’t mean that travelling into the future didn’t exist. The empty Ecotopian capsule moved between 1999 and Ecotopia without major difficulties. However, whenever the capsule wasn’t empty, the time tunnel wouldn’t grab the capsule in its swirl. As if the tunnel had some kind of consciousness of its own.

Those, who stayed behind in 1999 also needed to observe, if any meaningful change was taking place across the globe. The rapid shift of current political and social moods would be a good indicator of how successful the operation Shift was.

If the events of the 1999 New Year’s Eve weren’t changing and evolving in the way the team has envisioned, the four remaining members would jump through time and implement plan B, which was reserved only if the other team failed in their attempts.

For the operation Shift to work, everyone had to be sent into the past at the same time. However, they only had one capsule, and using it for different travels was impossible. In no time at all, Jessica came up with a very clever and neat design for a new capsule that could have carried them across. Unfortunately, time wasn’t on their side, and the idea was as quickly scrapped as it was developed.

After re-reading the book several times, Jessica finally understood that travelling without a protective armour or a vehicle was also a possibility. Alas, the risk of falling ill and dying much sooner than those protected during the travel was considerably higher. When Jessica shared her findings with the rest of the team, they collectively decided that the risk was still worth taking.

To open several time tunnels at the same time, each member of the team needed to be present in a different location during the opening moment. Each tunnel was going to lead to an alternative timeline, making it possible for everyone to time jump at the same time but end up in a different year.

The 1999 London team was to observe and record the whole experiment for as long as they could, keeping the recordings safe for the future generations, in order to prove that the Ecotopians tried their best to save the planet from the greed and power-grabbing Corporate Government.

Just before taking off, Jessica found out that she was pregnant. She didn’t say anything to anyone and decided to carry on with her mission. What she didn’t know was that lady faith had enormous plans for her daughter.

Ecotopia

Patrick showed amazing will power to live long enough to go through the blood transfusion that saved Josephine’s life. However, his wounds were too severe to allow him a full recovery and meaningful, graceful life afterwards.

Losing him proved to be a huge blow to Maggie, but being herself, she locked her feelings deep inside and lost herself at work, doing whatever she could to prolong the survival of the planet.

Thanks to Patrick’s blood Josephine fully recovered and turned her focus toward innovative medicine. Marcus, on the other hand, started experiencing vast yearning for adventures and exploration of unknown worlds. Maggie knew very well that she couldn’t stop either of them from doing what they felt so compassionately about. Her parents never stopped her from following her passion or expressing her opinions. And, as an effect, her actions changed the world.

She finally allowed Marcus to enrol into an experimental Ecotopian space program, when he was only thirteen. After he graduated at the age of twenty-three, he left Earth to find new, undiscovered worlds and never returned.

Josephine entered science program at the same time. In the years to come, she was the driving force behind creating sustainable living conditions in space stations.

Maggie never told anyone about the book or that the team of brilliant Ecotopian scientists and innovators was still stuck in 1999, trying to prolong life on Earth. Officially they were all missing in action. She kept the truth to herself, but each morning she woke up full of hope that her crazy plan, straight out of science-fiction novels was going to pay off and save humanity.

Within a few years since Maggie’s venture into the Old World and Patrick’s passing, the Above slowly but surely began allowing the citizens from the Down Below to travel and trade with Ecotopia. That policy change was the first indication for Maggie that Jessica found a way to at least give them a few extra years, possibly even save them all.

THE END