Following on from Steven J. Guscott’s ‘Dreams’ comes a tale by Kristell Ink author, Paige Daniels.
The Day We Fight Back made us think. Why just a day? Let’s continue to raise awareness (yes, that’s a clickable link).
In the meantime, enjoy.
I shift my weight in the uncomfortable chair and look at the clock hanging on the dingy office wall.
1015, my appointment was at 930. Jesus, can these people be on time at least once?
I take a breath and concentrate intently on the paint peeling from the walls. I play a favorite childhood game of mine: making images from the stains and paint peels. The peel hanging over the water stain in the corner reminds me of a lion. Or is that space ship? I check the clock again:
1020, damn these people to hell!
Another deep breath and the smell of coffee, stale office air, and despair surround me. Back to my favorite game, but before I can get into deciphering the next paint chip the sound of a door opening interrupts my game. A tall lanky man with dark skin greets me with a weary smile.
I stand and he extends his hand. As we shake he says, “I’m Special Agent Michaels, you said you have some evidence for me in the Richards case.”
I sit in the chair across from the desk as he makes his way to the chair behind the desk. I tug at my blazer
and shift nervously in my seat. The man gives a long hard stare, which causes my stomach to toss and turn. I clear my throat and start. “Uh, yes.” I point to a stack of papers that is lying on his worn metal desk. “I know my father, uh Theron Richards, has already been convicted of espionage, but I need you to look at this evidence. If you would just look you’d see that…”
He doesn’t move to touch the stack of paper, but glares at them as if they’re a pile of dog crap. He’s silent for awhile then starts talking, “Ms. Richards ….”
I interrupt, “Um, Marissa, call me Marissa.”
He gives a sad smile and nods. “Okay, Marissa, I know this situation is hard for you. To see someone you thought you knew so well being exposed for something totally different. I appreciate the difficult time you must be having, accepting that your father was a spy, but Marissa…”
I blurt out, “No, listen to me, Special Agent Michaels, I know my father better than anyone else. He’s all I have in the world. I know this can’t be true. If you’d just look at…”
The man’s expression turns from understanding to irritated. “No, listen to me, Ms. Richards. We spent months building our case against your father. As an engineer for Whitcomb National Labs he had top level security access and access to many defense projects, projects that many of our enemies would find very interesting.”
“He took his job very seriously. He wouldn’t even talk to me about it. I know he would never…”
“Ms. Richards when you have the debt levels that Mr. Richards had it will sometimes make you very…desperate. With a daughter in college and a mortgage…”
“What are you saying? He wasn’t in debt. I’ve never met a man cheaper than my father. We had a very modest home, used cars, and we rarely took vacations.”
The man emits a low hissing sound as if trying to calm himself. “Ms. Richards, you heard the evidence in court he had friends on PalPage that were known Chechnyan terrorists and he was a member of a number of anti-American groups on various social media sites.”
“That’s what I’m talking about, Special Agent.” I point to the stack of papers on his desk. “If you’d just look I have copies of his debts, and you’ll see that he didn’t have a PalPage profile. He hated social media, said it made him too much of a target with his job.”
The agent shakes his head. “I believe we can dig deeper with our surveillance than you can. We scanned his frequent shopper and credit cards and found numerous questionable purchases.”
I knit my eyebrows and stare down the man. “Purchases like what?”
The man clears his throat. “I’m not at liberty to say.” He looks up at the clock and says, “Ms. Richards I realize we got off to a late start, but I have another appointment in fifteen minutes. My advice to you is to come to terms with this as soon as possible. Sometimes people we love disappoint us. Try to remember the good times. I realize that it will be hard never being able to talk to him again, but that is the protocol now with terrorists. It will be easier if you just…”
I stand and grab the stack of papers from his desk. I stare him down and then say, “No, it won’t be easier if I just accept it. He’s my only family. I can’t just let him go. This is not the last you’ll hear from me.”
I march to the door. Before I’m out he says calmly and quietly, “Ms. Richards there is no appeal when it comes to terrorism. His charges are irrefutable. In two days time he will be granted one last call to you and after that I recommend…”
“I’ve heard your recommendations, Special Agent, and I choose not to take them.” I slam the door behind me and walk toward the elevator.
I throw my purse and coat on the floor in the office and sit in the office chair in a huff.
I grumble as I power up the computer, “Damn assholes. I knew they’d never listen. Why did I even bother going there?”
As the computer goes through its power up sequence I turn on the television. There’s usually some form of entertainment on at all times in the house; the silence of the big house is almost madding. The news reporter drones on in the background:
In the espionage case that has rocked the United States for the last several months, Theron Richards has been found guilty of providing Chechnyan spies with massive amounts of defense department data. He will be remanded to the Terrorist Detention Facility for the remainder of his years.
I growl and turn the channel to another news outlet.
Senator Schaefer’s condition is worsening. Unfortunately, time is running out to find a proper donor …
Geez, is there any good news on. Another click…
Will the couple choose the house with plenty of room, the bargain close to work, or the country home?
That’s more like it.
I look down at the computer and there are twenty new messages in my inbox. All news hacks wanting an interview I suppose. I don’t even bother to check them. I open my internet browser and navigate, out of habit, to trusty ‘ol PalPage. There a million messages on my wall encouraging me, but there are two million more damming my family to hell. I put my face in my hands and start to weep. There’s nothing more I can do now. I point my cursor to the Log-Out option, but before I have a chance to click a message pops up on my screen from a faceless avatar.
I’m sorry about your father. I believe a grave injustice he has been dealt.
Who is this? I haven’t accepted you into my network? How can you send me a message?
Oh, there are many ways to manipulate data just like they did for your father.
What do you mean?
Did your father recently change insurance plans?
What? I…I think so, he changed it to GovCo. He said something about it being a mandate.
A file appears in the message window.
I must go, but I think you might find this is to be interesting.
I barely notice the sun as I take another sip of the steaming coffee waiting for me. I rub my aching eyes and hungrily read another page of the document my ‘friend’ sent me. The information in the document is incredible. According to this document there are a surprising number of new registrants to GovCo that have met with untimely ends or have been sent to the Terrorist Detention Facility.
In need of a mind clearing break, I log onto PalPage. More messages of hate and ill-will and there are a few telling me to stay strong. I check my personal messages and there is another document from the faceless avatar. I open it and start to scan. Tears roll down my face.
It couldn’t be. It has to be a coincidence.
A message pops up from the avatar.
What do you think about the information?
It can’t be true. It has to be a …
Coincidence? One or two incidents sure, but twenty separate incidents of GovCo insurance recipients meeting untimely ends at the exact same time certain well-to-do members of our society are presented with life saving transplants? Did you see the victims had the same exact blood types as the transplant recipients? Is that a coincidence?
But I just can’t believe.
What blood type was your father?
He was AB negative. The blood donation people were always calling here.
Care to guess what blood type our honorable Senator Schaefer is?
I feel as though the air is being sucked from my lungs. My hands shake as I type the next words.
So now what?
Marissa you’re AB Negative too. You need to get out now.
What are you talking about? I’m in my pajamas. You gave me all this information and now you tell me to get out. I want answers.
No time. Get out now!
I pop up from the chair. My legs are trembling, but before I can make it to the door of the office, my front door bursts open and a gang of screaming men in black surround me.
“Marissa Richards, down on the ground and put your hands on your head. You’re wanted on suspicion of espionage. You have the right to remain silent…”