A uniformed man behind thick glass projected impatience. I immediately spotted a number of disintegrator guns built into the walls. I then realized I stood atop a steel grating that would allow for easy, vacuum-powered disposal of my gaseous and liquid remains, should it go that way.
Dr. Baker asked, “Where did you learn this ability?” “There is a training complex on Mars,” I replied. The nurse and the psych tech chortled involuntarily. Dr. Baker glared and said, “Maybe a jolt of electroconvulsive would zap some of that smart-ass out of you.”
I surmised grimly that I was to be put into the Homeless Reservation. I had never heard of anyone leaving there, alive or dead. People disappeared, never to be heard from again. Politicians had arrived at what they believed to be a final solution to the “problem” of homeless people.
After the battle, Zane recovered in an Army hospital, but the guilt never left him. In his recurring dreams, a white-haired, bearded prophet denounces him: “That bullet had your name on it.” His life is changed forever and the image of his friend Xavier was always in his mind.
The drug company knew about the undesirable side-effects but believed psychiatrists would prescribe the drug anyway, at least to those psychiatric clients who regularly made trouble. Enter Jonathan Baxter, who had gone off his medications several times and had been written up in his medical records as being uncooperative and argumentative.
When I die, or after I die, I want to look back at my life and see that I ate that cookie, I drank that vodka, I made love to that woman. I did not shy away from living because of the petty fear that death might come sooner.
The psychoanalyst had an agenda. Jonathan had been found to be too intelligent. Janice Williams, the therapist, had been told to use an intelligence reducing unit during the session. Janice’s commander, who went by a number and not a name — Alpha Centauri aliens didn’t use names — had ordered John’s intelligence reduced.
Stefa had told him that people were meant to sleep indoors and urged him to find a way to get off the street. She was so right. He had been on the street too long. He needed to talk to her and all he could do was curse at the wind.
He needed to put his affairs in order before disappearing. Earth was on the verge of being uninhabitable, and there would soon be an enormous die-off of most living creatures.. The underground country was a secret, and those destined to relocate there had to sneak out for fear of tipping off the masses.
More enforcement droids were coming with their weapons readied. But people had taken enough. Those who had been waiting in the long line so that they could continue their meager existences were angry. They surged at the enforcement droids and collectively smashed them to bits in a process of spontaneous rebellion.
“I remember staring at barbed wire and armed sentries,” Yuki said. “I remember being engulfed by scattering dust in the whirling wind. I remember laying in my bed at the Topaz internment camp wishing I could raise my voice and say people should not be mean to one another.”
Miles and I had a strange bond: I was a conscientious objector and he was a Special Forces guy. He took some shrapnel in Vietnam and walked with a limp. After the war, Miles became a wandering man for years on end, spending time in homeless shelters up and down the East Coast.