Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and violence.
“It has become appallingly obvious that our Technology has exceeded our humanity.”
The force that makes something happen or happen more quickly.
James walked through the crowd of people like he had his entire life, with his head down, hands in his jacket pockets, feet shuffling across the concrete road below him. Only this time there was a large bag on his back. But other than that he was still the same drone he had been his entire life. Worn dark green sweat-shirt that he had worn since he first lived on his own, padded jeans, and reinforced work boots, all as he had always worn. Except for the bag. It weighed him down, he had to hunch over more than usual to just carry it along, but he knew it was important. His brother wouldn’t have told him it was such unless it was of the utmost importance to the cause, but that didn’t ease the pit in James’s stomach. He looked up and saw the fork in the road that led people to the various parts of the city. He had always gone straight his entire life. That way laid the Industrial Quarter, where all the factories and assembly lines he worked were located. But today was not like the rest of his life, and because of that, he did something he had never done; he stopped walking. He stood there in the center of the fork. The three streets laying in front and on either side of him. Everyone who passed him paid him no mind, no change from how it had been since his first day on the March.
He pulled up his sleeve and looked down at his watch, the worn leather and blackened glass giving him some comfort. He saw that he had 15 minutes until he had to be at the location given to him. He looked back up around him, wiping his forehead, looking down at his sleeve as he saw the droplets of sweat arranged across his arm. He looked to his left, the lift to the Commercial Quarter, then to his right; which held the lift to the Burrows, where the security officials were located. He knew he had a decision to make. To his left lay the way to his veneration in the eyes of the cause, what he had been waiting for years to do. To his right lay a way to perhaps spare himself the wrath of both the cause and the security forces on his family and friends if he turned himself in. He sat there for a moment, just a moment.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, he saw nothing. No thoughts, no noise, nothing. Not even his breathing, just the maddening silence he had gotten so used to lately. He opened his eyes again and remembered the promise he had made to his brother, and so he turned and walked to the left. He stepped inside the old steel of the lift as he looked up at the city above him, stretching up farther than he could see, platforms and walkways all across the way. There were bright lights all across the way; banners for things that he could never afford or care to even notice, set into the buildings themselves. He looked back down as the lift started its descent. Lights began illuminating him and the roughly fifty others in that lift as they passed apartments, office buildings, brothels, or even the odd doctor’s office. They were moving too fast to take stock of, but James hardly noticed. He had more important things on his mind. The lift ground to a halt as he and the other eight or so individuals on either side of him reached forward and pulled up the metal gate that held them inside the lift.
James started forward and took in the Commercial Quarter like a small child in a store full of toys. There were moving banners all across the thousands of floors that made up the buildings in the quarter. The lift stood in an outlet of the quarter that led up to the Marching Grounds, buildings flanked either side of it that moved outwards roughly a kilometer and a half before moving towards the sides, the platform connecting them to the main platform of the quarter roughly four kilometers from the buildings. The platform that kept it was suspended by giant pieces of steel that held the smooth metal in place, almost as if it was hovering in mid-air. The quarter stretched forward in a rectangular shape with several outlets like the one he was standing in for several hundred kilometers. Vendors of all sorts offering foods, clothes, even cheap cyberware. James stepped out of the old lift onto the firm metal of the platform’s steps with the men on either side of him. Some of them women with their children, others were workers with free time who decided to buy some things with their friends. The thousands of kilometers worth of vending area was only outnumbered by the tens of thousands of people walking through the quarter. James did his best to move into the crowd, vendors on either side of him yelling over each other, saying their products were better even if one vendor was selling cabbage and the other was selling pants. James craned his head to each vendor, noticing some had cybernetic arms and others were wearing strange robes he hadn’t seen before. He listened to each of their pleas before accidentally bumping shoulders with another man with a thick black leather jacket, worn jeans, and work boots like James. His face was unkept, a scruffy beard across his face, his eyes black with bags so deep and low that James thought he had seen a zombie; an undead that is.
“Watch your step, mate.” The man said before turning his head forward again and continuing to the lift James had just left. James wasn’t fast enough to react before the man joined the sea of bodies, so he kept forward. Seeing a medium sized fountain before him, though the water had long since run dry. Inside were clothes of all types, oddly enough. Discarded by those who didn’t need them anymore. James knew what to do, his brother's instructions had been clear. Once he reached the fountain, he was to place the bag on the ground and open it up, he would receive further instructions inside. James did just that, he set the bag down, knelt over it and slowly pulled the zipper down. What he saw made his heart beat hard with several pauses: it was a bomb. More specifically, a bomb with a note attached. The note said only this:
“James, to activate the device simply input the code 6369, press the yellow and green buttons, and the timer will start. You will be remembered when we take back this city, brother.”
James sat there, standing over the bag before he saw a drop of sweat land on the murky green material. He tried to swallow a hard lump in his throat, but it was like trying to push a rock into a pipe half its size. James set the note next to the device, seeing the keypad and the buttons below it. He twisted a small switch on the side of it, which turned the display on. A large red line blinked, awaiting James’s input of numbers. For a moment his sight was so out of focus that he could see nothing except for the lit pixels that created that line. Watching them turn on and turn off, like the light in a child’s lamp who thinks he’s seen something in the dark. He raised his index finger shakily as he pressed the first six on the pad. It made a quiet click under his weight, he pulled it away and slid his finger across it to the nine. He pressed it before he heard a set of footsteps stop behind him. He heard someone’s shivering breaths over his shoulder before he heard a distinguishable gasp; he was caught. By the time he turned his head, the man was gone. He pressed the nine as quick as he could manage, sweat pouring down his face as he heard the man start yelling, what he was yelling was however not known to James. He heard people take notice and push others out of the way to get away from him. James quickly pressed the second six and moved his finger above the four.
“Corp-Sec!” He heard a voice yell from behind him, several others yelling things of the same sort, or simply telling people to move or get to a lift. He pressed the four as quickly as he could before pressing the yellow button with his other hand and holding his hand above the final green button, which was now dimly lit.
“You touch that bag one more time, drone, and I’ll crack your fucking skull!” One of the security officers said. He heard the sound of guns being drawn and loaded or cocked. He knew they were all pointed at him, he could feel the lasers on his back. He sunk his finger into the green button as he stood up, the display reading that he had 24 seconds until his demise. He turned to face the men, all of them appearing young to him, but his sight was still blurred. He could however see the glowing lines leading to his chest.
“All right, take one step forward and put your hands up, drone!” One of the men said.
James did not immediately comply. He took a step forward dizzily after a moment before looking around.
“I said hands up, you fucking drone!” The man said.
James slowly raised his hands, holding them about half-way up as he felt his hoodie pull his shirt up, revealing part of his stomach. He felt the cold wind upon his skin.
“Now, get down on your knees!” One of the men said.
James lowered one of his hands as he almost collapsed onto the metal.
One of the men walked over to James and pulled his arms together behind his back, placing a magnetic restraint on his arms.
One of the other security officials ran to the bag and inspected it, realizing what it was and that the timer was going down he turned to the man who had been shouting orders at James and gave a look of absolute terror.
“Listen here you little drone shit, how do we disarm the bomb?” The officer from before asked James as he pulled him up by his collar.
“I-I don’t know.” James said nervously, showing a look of terror almost matching the security official’s.
“Then maybe this will help!” The officer said as he pistol-whipped James. James felt his nose break.
“I don’t know!” James yelled in a whimper, his face now covered in blood with tears streaming down his eyes.
“You better tell me how to disarm that bomb or I’ll skin you alive and feed you to the gutter kids, drone!” The officer yelled as he grabbed James by the neck.
“I don’t want to die!” James choked out, the tears washing some of the blood away in thin lines down his face as he started wheezing from the lack of air.
“Leftenant, we have to get out of here!” One of the officials said. The officer let go of James and let him writhe on the floor.
“Come on, let’s get to a lift, move!” The official by the bomb said as he stood up and started running. One of the officials followed after him, but the other three stayed there, accepting their fate. James curled up in the fetal position.
“I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die.” He began muttering. Shaking his head at the notion as tears ran down his face. The official that broke James’s nose stood up and looked at the closest lift, seeing that it was full of people and was departing, leaving a thousand others to die. James closed his eyes tightly and tried to imagine the place he had always loved going to as a child in his mind. The officials all looked at each other and moved to shake hands. Nodding and bowing their heads in a small circle as they closed their eyes and waited.
“Not how I thought I’d go out.” One of the men said. The other two chuckled.
“So, how are the-.”
And within thirty seconds, three thousand lives were lost, incinerated by a bomb the size of a small child. Three thousand people who had grown in a world that was against them, who had fought from birth to survive a few seconds longer than the next person. Three thousand people who lived and breathed and slept for years upon end, all extinguished in less than a half a minute, all because one man chose to walk one way instead of another, and because that man had two things: faith, and a bomb.