"I don't understand!" Wallace threw down the book bag into the corner of the living room with such grandeur that even his grandfather had snorted himself awake to stare at the spectacle before him. "I don't understand why we can't just be who we want to be without the Instructors giving a flying—"
"If you're going to start language then you can leave the house, Wallace." His mother, a short woman of about five foot one folded her thin arms across her chest and stared her son down who stood at about six foot three.
"Well sorry!" Sarcasm dripped from the other's tone like a venomous serum as he slumped onto the couch and eyed a wall so closely, it looked like he was trying to set it on fire.
"Now, what are you all in a huff about? It's your first week at the Comrades' Assembly and already you look like you're about to keel over and die of over frustration." Her mouth drawn into a tight line she sighed softly brushing gray hair from her forehead. Rose Attenbee had been the ideal New Earth Order woman, good looking even in her aging years, a model citizen (including having never once missed an Assembly in her youth, even showing up quite ill during a bout of the flu when her temperature ranged from 103 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit), had raised her son to be the same way.
The New Earth Order, or so what Earth was called after the not-so-hostile takeover in 2056 by the Comrades (no not Russian) an American group of men and women who sought to bring the world to a new understanding of Utopian peace and prosperity. Everyone's lives were regulated, men and women worked, children were sent to the Comrades' Trainees, and those who exceeded the expectations of those that the Instructors had for the children were sent to the Assembly upon their 18th birthday and taught to master the arts of Speech, Writing, and of course Fighting. The Comrades' Assembly were the ones who placed into the Brotherhood, a group (not small in size) of fit young men and women (both mentally and physically) to become the protectors of the New Earth Order. Rose Attenbee? She had done her tasks; she had received several Crosses for her outstanding performance in aiding in crushing the Rebellion. She herself could easily tell you that it was preposterous to want to live another way! Mrs. Attenbee's husband had been killed in such a way about 8 months after their son, Wallace, was born. The Comrades kept the place pretty strictly: Curfew was strictly 11pm, all children are to attend the Comrades' Trainees to learn the basics of the job that they would eventually grow up to work in, books were to be passed by the People of the Way (a publishing company set up by the Comrades) and would be burned otherwise.
"I can't stand it, mum." Not once did Wallace look away from the corner that he was gazing into intently. Not once did he look at his mother, and not once did he want to be recognized as the 'Comrades' Pet' which his previous friends had taken to calling him on the street when he passed by. "I cannot stand that life is so..." He paused and rubbed his forehead, "Dull!"
"Dull?" Rose tilted her head; she sat down on one of the wing-backed chairs and nodded for the grandfather who by now had ruffled his papers several times, to leave. "What's so dull about life?"
"Has it ever occurred to you, mother..." Here he lifted his gaze and turned his eyes directly so that they bored into his mother's, "That all this time you've been fighting for the Comra—"
"Not this again, I've told you once I've told you a million times..." Her voice was a low growl, "This is how things are supposed to be and how they will always be. Our lives are regulated, it keeps people happy."
"And you have not once asked yourself if perhaps this isn't the best way to live?" Wallace tilted his head slightly; he was tired of being cut off by the other and was certainly going to say his piece. "I mean come on….Gillian Springer's a brilliant young girl," Gillian he'd met a few times at the bus stop heading to the compound that the Trainees and to be Comrades were trained, "She could out-wit probably half of the Comrades without batting an eyelash but they will NOT consider her for her training in their ranks…" He frowned, "Why? Because she's a Thinker and they certainly do not like Thinkers." Thinker was a derogative term, something that the Comrades labled someone who opted to use their mind 'over and above what their minds were designed to do'.
"What do you expect, Wallace?" Rose spat back as she stood up briskly from her chair, "That child could be the next Rebellion starter for all they know, and if you start talking like this outside of this home you will be hauled in an executed for being a hidden Thinker." She softened her gaze, "Remember when we told you to play it smart? Particularly about your wild ideas and you listened as a boy?" She smiled seeing his nod, almost a gesture of submission, "It was to keep you safe, both my brother and I don't want to see you harmed by that which could make you a happy and wealthy young individual."
Wallace sat there in silence, the grandfather clock ticked ominously for about an hour before the bells chimed. Someone's speeder, a small motorcycle that used anti-gravity thrusters, had crashed into the neighbours' yard and possibly run over their dog by the barking sounds that ensued furiously. A slight smile crept over Wallace's face; that dog deserved it probably. He moved his gaze around the room, reaching into his pocket he slid out a small square of metal with a series of buttons that ran along the side. Pushing down a button that turned on the device, a small screen filled the center of the device and he used the directional pad along the side to move the cursor over to an icon labled 'Messages'. Hitting the button he smiled, the crudely typed message 'hi how are you' that was from Gillian was more than enough to make his day better. Gillian had been the younger sister Wallace never had; he would have (probably) had his father been alive after his birth. Gillian was a 14 year old girl who was just starting out, having been in the 'delayed' classes since she was forced into working with her mother's sewing company for about 4 years after she was supposed to be in school.
Wallace's message in reply to the girl was an answer and a question, that seemed to be all anyone could type out…what with the Comrades monitoring all communications, though usually not those of families like his own. The reply he received was an odd one: Under the Willow Tree by the Box Cars. "What the…" He sighed and shook his head; the willow tree and the box car were relics from 'ancient times', what the kids called the 1900s. The tree had been around since before anyone living could remember, and the box car was shown in like pictures in history books printed by the People of the Way.
Wallace glanced at the dull greenish glow of the digital clock that rested on a piano's cover. "6pm, I've got time…" He typed in the words: Over the hill and under the hedge. He smiled slightly, it was cute really…his companion's childish desires to have a 'secret code' for their meetings was mirthful to say the least.
He took up his bag on his shoulder and dumped out the contents, books and papers a PSD fell out in a helter-skelter. The PSD (personal studying device) was much like what you would call an iPad today, however, it literally brought things in 3 dimensional images that had sounds, and even smell (including taste if you were to study food) though it offered no sustenance.
Wallace's short trek down the steps out into the mud room hadn't gotten his mother's attention who was talking on her own phone to an old friend most likely. He had finally made his way towards the garage where he clapped his hands and listened to the familiar hum of the electric engine starting up on his Autrium. A four seater car that also had anti-gravity thrusters, and was usually silent as a graveyard; he made his way over to the door and fitted his hand over the scanner that was just under the window, there was a beeping nose and the door open upward allowing him to slid into the seat and the door shut behind him. "Where do you wish to go, Wallace?" The electronic voice was cheery and sounded like an old British Butler which Wallace had come to call Jerry. The AI had been around since Wallace was a boy, and usually it followed him wherever he went (though it inhabited electronics, and sometimes if Wallace asked it to, a body that looked like a human other than the 00110000100011100101 running in circles around the arms, legs, torso, etc).
"Well Jerry old buddy…I would like to go to the Willow and the Boxcar." Leaning back in the seat Wallace yawned as Jerry droned on about all the things he had to get done that day. The Autrium made its way down the busy streets towards the country lane. Once they were out of the city Wallace sat up, "Hey, Jer?"
"Yes young one?" The tired old voice of the AI asked as they turned towards the familiar river-side road that made its way past the sheep pens towards the boxcar.
"Do you ever feel?" The question hung heavy, AIs that even so much as developed a string of emotion were usually terminated immediately.
"I cannot feel, master. I am merely a program created for your services." The AI's cheery response was almost eerie.
"If you could feel, what would you be feeling about the Comrades and how things were run before they were in power?" Wallace waited for what seemed like an eternity, the AI had gone strangely silent. He couldn't feel? Sometimes he thought otherwise, Jerry was a program…fair enough. At the same time was it Rose who was there for Wallace all those years, or the AI?
"Well…" Jerry's memory banks were wide and far spread, history was but a trifle to deal with for him as he quite literally had been programed to know about all and any major events. "I would say things were…freer back when."
"Freer?" Wallace sat up and stared at a small black disk in the ceiling of the vehicle. There was a whirring noise as the camera that Jerry could 'see' with moved to look away.
"Yes….people could think what they want, when they wanted, do the jobs they wanted…" Wallace grinned from ear to ear as the AI chose his words carefully. "Now don't you go worrying your head about this, you have exams soon!" The AI was quick to chide the young human.
"Thanks Jerry, just what I needed…a buzz kill known as Exams." Sighing, Wallace slumped back into his seat. How could the AI be wrong? It wasn't programed to be wrong, but to think in order of events. If think was even what you could call it, Wallace shook his head he was too attached to this AI that could be changed at any moment. Or malfunction and try to kill him like Eric's had. That was not a pleasant thought, the poor boy was unable to sleep for over a month after and nothing the doctors could say or do seemed to help the issue.
The vehicle slowly ground to a halt at the side of the road; here Jerry said a cheery goodbye and opened the door to allow the young man out. Standing beside a weeping willow tree, in all her youthful and childish glory, was young Gillian Springer.
"Wallace, you're late." Her shrill voice was high pitched as one would expect from a girl who probably weighed no more than 83 pounds and was less than 5 feet in height. "You know you're awfully terrible for time!"
"My apologies, Gillian," Wallace chuckled as the young girl pulled off a very good impression of an annoyed mother lecturing a child.
"None needed," She grinned as she toyed with her long blond hair and ducked into the box car where she opened a well hidden compartment in the floor and pulled out her writings and maps. "Come." She said in a quick, low tone.
"Why what's in there?" Wallace raised an eyebrow as he jumped up into the door of the boxcar and sat down against the wall, he smiled slightly it was utterly fascinating how such a girl who had gone through so much as Gillian could be just as happy as any wealthy girl who had it far better off could be.
"This…" Tentatively she held out the small scraps of yellowed paper, and tarnished note books; an old weathered history book that was most definitely not published by the People of the Way was nestled between the old mess in her hands. His jaw almost dropped as he gingerly took them from her hands.
"What's this?" He asked his voice hoarse as he eyed one book in particular, the author's name was smudged but the title was 1984.
"They're books, you over grown clot pole." She sighed and put her hands on her hips as if she was looking at the most stupid human being on the face of the earth. She pointed to the book that had instantly grabbed his attention, "Read it, and you'll find that it seemed to be … uhm …." She was searching for a word that fit the statement, "Prophetic." She sat down with her legs crossed as the other slowly thumbed through the pages, his eyes widened as his lips moved to form words that were never spoken. An hour maybe two past before he put it down and stared at the bright eyed girl who was grinning from ear to ear.
"So…." He studied the worn pages and the old cover, "This guy…." He rubbed his forehead; it was too different yet so familiar. "Said we would be where we are today from the Ancient times?"
Again an eye roll, this time joined with arms folding, "Not Ancient times…it wasn't THAT long ago, you want ancient we have the stuff from the Roman ages to look at." A hawk eyed gaze fixed itself on their other's face. "But yes, he is pointing to a point in time…" She gestured wildly around her, "Where humans are being watched constantly by a 'big brother'…or Comrade…" She paused watching his face, he was slowly beginning to realise, "This book was far worse than what we are in now but…we will be, probably when you and your buddies from the Assembly take over." She growled at the word Assembly, like it was a curse word that was so terrible the one speaking it would die instantly.
"Oh come on, I know you think it's bad—"
"I don't THINK, Wallace, I know." The fourteen year old folded her arms across her chest glaring at the other as she sighed emphatically, it was obvious that she was annoyed or she hadn't of been so dramatic with her actions.
"Alright, so what if you are right? What can the two of us do?" It was amusing to say the least to be able to continue conversations like this, without the Comrades knowing, speaking and discussing about traitorous thoughts. "And even if we had a plan who could we trust?" Here he raised an eyebrow, she was grinning again. "Oh you can't be serious…"
"We can trust quite a few people actually; deep down everyone's disgruntled about this turn of affairs. A lot of people back in the slums are wanting to go back to the old ways; just no one's around to kick start this…" She was about to say rebellion, but thought better of it as the last rebellion had failed. "Reform."
"Reformation of the Comrades?" Wallace burst out laughing, it was absolutely absurd, "How can you even begin to hope to reform something so concrete as what the Comrades set up? You'll be caught and executed. You're already a Thinker." He didn't mean it as a jab, and the word caused the other to grin even wider than before.
"I'm a Thinker, yes." She nodded, "And damn proud of it to." Gillian flipped her long curls over her shoulder and grinned again, as if swiping hair back was the quickest way to assert her authority.
"Gillian," Wallace cautioned, "Be careful about who you talk to and brag to, please?" He frowned watching the girl he'd adopted into his 'family'.
"Worry wart…" Mumbled the blond child as she sat back against the wall after twirling about, it only just came to Wallace's attention that it was dark out.
"I am not, just cautious!" He chided and pulled out his phone, turning it on he could hear the AI grumbling softly through the speaker. "What time is it Jer?" He smirked as the phone flashed an angry red colour and then the time popped up: 9:14pm. "Dear lord." Wallace stood up and nodded to Gillian, "Do you need a ride home?"
"Nope, I live here now." Gillian grinned from ear to ear, "This is my base of operations therefore I belong here." She nodded proudly and walked over to her back pack, worn from over use it contained her blanket and some hunks of bread.
"No, Gillian…you can't live here it's much too da-"
"Dangerous? I thought of that so!" She grinned again and pulled a small pistol that fit perfectly in her hand, "Worst comes to worse…"
"GILLIAN!" Wallace was exasperated, "Those are ILEGAL! Are you trying to get yourself killed?!" His eyes were wide as he stared at the weapon in the girl's hands.
"I know they are, dummy." Gillian shook his head, "Are you always this obvious?"
"Well I….YES!" He stammered and reached out to take it back, but the girl danced out of reach.
"Come now, Wallace…I need something to defend myself with. Thinkers are going missing every single day." Gillian put on a cute little frown, begging to be allowed to keep this one sentiment of freedom.
"Fine, but if I hear about a girl with a gun in the Weekly, I will kill you." Wallace threatened as he headed for the boxcar's entrance. Could so obvious a place, actually be a good hiding spot? How could one tell, Wallace certainly couldn't.
Wallace made his way back over to his Autrium and slid into the driver's seat after Jerry let him in, he set the controls from Auto to Manual which rouse questions from the AI. "What is the meaning of this?" Jerry, if he had a face, could've been pouting.
"It's not that I don't trust you, Jer, but I'm out of practice." Shifting the Autrium into drive he sped along the roadways listening to Jer's recital of all the road rules and regulations, eventually he reached up and hit the speaker button off. Jerry, confounded, turned to his knowledge of device hoping and started speaking through the phone which was promptly turned off. "Sorry Jerry, I need to think for once without your opinions…" He mumbled as he studied the road ahead of him.