Louis led the control room group across the lawn into the dungeons of the Ministry of Justice. They were to join the decision makers in the holding cells for questioning by Chad.
Two days of settling the city’s nerves were beginning to work. Some of the frightened folks were returning to work on their research, their technological innovations that would one day make people better off.
Louis knew that Chad had no intention of stopping this – they were all educated, at least from home. They were taught not only the current order but history lessons in what worked in the past. They were told that freedoms of people were of the highest importance – that freedoms were worth dying for, like those in the American Revolution.
Louis packed the now less-than-twenty group into one holding cell and locked it. Chad would be coming in any minute now to ask them what they did with all the extra abundance – all the other materials that were kept from people, stuff that people should’ve had a chance to acquire.
A door opened and shut. A bulky man with an angry face began talking.
“My father used to tell me stories of the abundance of people,” he addressed the prisoners. “That we had so much food, water and resources that we could feed billions. So I refuse to believe that our current meager rations are all that’s left of our civilization.” He shook his head at this last comment. “So, I need to know now – where do you keep your extras? Where is all the extra abundance that could have been auctioned or shared with everyone else?”
The crowd looked confused. Chad tried again.
“Where,” he raised his voice now – he was getting frustrated, “do you keep your extra stuff for yourself?”
Still no answer.
“Alright,” Chad said. “Where are the two decision-makers who decide allocation of goods? Come out here, now.”
Two scrawny young men in glasses stepped forward. “And the senior?” Chad followed-up.
An old woman in glasses stepped forth.
“Now, I’m going to ask you one last time, before I take things to the extreme,” Chad noted. “Where do you keep your extras?”
The old woman replied. “We don’t. We make sure that everyone has an equal share of whatever we produce. We also account for the conditions, environment and jobs that people in specific regions. For instance, judging by your farmer’s tan, we give you more water for irrigation. You receive twice as much water than most individuals do.”
“Lies. All Lies!” Chad’s voice rose to a crescendo. “You people keep things from all of us, so that you guys can live wonderful lives in this fabulous city and all of the rest of us out. Your beautiful formulas and calculations are only as beautiful as their creators, and no human ever escapes greed and panic!” Chad paused for thought before turning to Louis. “Organize another media meet-up. This time in front of the Department of Resource Allocation in the Hall of Decisions. I want the whole world to know what these people have been up to!”
Valerie, sitting in the adjacent cell and listening in on the interrogation, let out a soft chuckle to herself.
Several hours later, cameras followed Chad as he led the three Allocation personnel toward the big door. He gestured for the old woman to open the door with her key card. She obliged.
The door unhinged. Chad turned to the cameras and beckoned, “Behold, the lies of the administration led by science are exposed.” He led the group into the room.
Past the doors, three computer monitors were seated in front of a massive screen in a dimly lit room. In the servers on the far side of the room, computer algorithms were running faster than the speed of human thoughts, crunching out numbers for difficult calculations that humans could not possibly compute by hand. On screen, a large map with each of the designated provinces of the continent showed their population, function and allocations of resources based on the data.
“You see, when you ask of where the abundance went,” one of the younger two scrawny men explained, “you were talking about the time before the war. And yes, there was a lot then. Your father may have lived long enough to even experience it. But that has changed now. We can only plant with so much land and you – our farmers – are the ones who are on it.”
The other of the scrawny men helped the first explain further. “We really don’t get to choose. Our predecessors had written the code to equal allocation long before we even got to this position. It now computes equality based on surroundings, climate and need, and spits out numbers for us to double check. We only sound the alarm with the SC if there are any weird numbers or anomalies, but even that rarely happens.”
Chad took a moment to look at the screen. He was no mathematician, but he knew instinctively what they did. It was the equality they had been searching for. It was the most elegant answer to allocation of resources, simply because it did not use the human brain. Numbers, Chad thought. Numbers don’t lie. He realized that the media were in the room too and immediately turned to address them. “Turn off the cameras,” Chad said. Nobody moved. “I said turn off the cameras!”
Louis, who was watching the television when this happened, remained silent, but seemed deep in thought.
The media are a bit like wildfire. Once they get a small flame, their winds can turn that flame, however small, into the largest brush fire in history.
And that’s exactly what they did with Chad. They took his gaffe in the Allocation room and spread it far and wide, so that everyone in the continent knew of not only his coup but of his conviction that was hilariously proven wrong in front of his face.
But good stories in the media often lead to important stories that are under-covered. And all news agencies, save for the one that was most neutral and uninteresting to watch, had failed to report that a series of uprisings in the mining district now began to threaten the City.
Louis was awoken by the sound of an explosion from a distance. It was his turn to guard the prisoners, but he knew that the job was basically just a break from all the media coverage.
He turned on his radio to see what was happening. The screams that followed woke up most of the prisoners.
“Help! (static crackled) We’re under siege! Chad? Do you read me? Over!”
A long pause.
“Got you Dave, I’m leading my men over to help you defend. Don’t start a fight yet.”
Valerie decided to speak up at this point. “Looks like those miners have gotten into the city,” she said to Louis. “Likely all three thousand of them, since your border security hasn’t tightened.”
“Three thousand? Miners?” Louis asked in return. Clearly he had not been paying attention to the news.
“Outnumbered and likely outgunned,” Valerie continued. “How long do you think your buddies will last up there?”
Louis had registered Valerie’s comment but said nothing. His ears were transfixed on the happenings above ground.
Chad had arrived with about six hundred men to where Dave was. They were facing several battalions of invaders – maybe three thousand men, by Chad’s estimate, marching in from the gate that looked more like a pile of scrap metal now than an actual entrance. The small army and their equipment marched gradually but with force down the main road, headed towards the Hill. The city itself was very quiet, with nobody on the streets, like they expected this to come.
“Chad,” Dave stuttered, “uh, we’ve got a problem here.” Chad went over to see what was wrong. He looked into Dave’s monitor and saw something he had not expected.
“Is that,” Chad paused to take a better look. “Are those tanks?”
Fighting began at around midnight. Lasers flew between the defenders on the Hill and the incoming invaders on the highway. The three tanks behind each of the three battalions reigned down cover fire on the structures, almost destroying what used to be the Ministry of Safety.
Down in the basement of the Ministry of Justice, Louis and the prisoners were listening to his comrades fighting up top. The radio Louis was carrying was their gateway into what was happening up there, and a warning as to whether or not they should be worried about incoming invaders.
“Look,” Valerie spoke to Louis, almost pleadingly. “Your friends are not going to last very long up there. Let us help you. We have some of the smartest people in the entire continent sitting here and we can’t do shit to help ourselves out!”
Louis ignored her. He was listening in on what was happening up top. Dave’s voice came up, almost breathless.
“Look, Chad, I’m sorry. I don’t think I can make it. They lasered (gasping for air) me right in the lung.”
Chad’s voice came back up again. “You hang in there buddy, I’m going to send a medic over to help you.”
A brief pause later, Dave was back on. “Don’t bother,” he was trailing off. His words were becoming slurred. “They got me real good.”
“Chad? You (gasps for air) there?”
No response. The static continued for a few seconds before eventually a man came up over the radio.
“This is Edward of the Forgotten Miner’s First Battalion. We have been left behind in our Miners’ State and have been forced to take control of how things are run here. Chad Jennings has just been lasered in the head. If you do not surrender, you will be next.”
Louis immediately began unlocking the cell the prisoners were in.
Through some obscure underground access tunnels, the decision makers and security officials arrived back at the control room, accompanied by Louis.
They set up their command post back at the old command center, and sealed off the access tunnels from the Ministry of Justice side. At the command center, they turned on one screen to show the battle raging above.
News media outlets were flying on helicopters above, filming the ongoing battle. A thousand bodies lay dead on the lawns of the Hill as the invaders pushed closer and closer to the Ministry buildings themselves.
One camera caught a battalion lining up some of the defenders, seemingly preparing for execution by laser squad. The camera panned away just in time to keep violence off screens.
“As you can see,” the reporter continued, “the battle for the Hill continues as the defenders begin to lose ground to the Miners who have marched from their territory since two days ago. It looks like the defenders might just lose this battle, and the continent may have its second power shift in three days.”
Valerie turned to Louis. “You still think your friends are going to last long up there?”
“You’re right,” Louis said. “We had no idea what we were doing.”
“Oh no, you knew very well,” Valerie said, “you just had no idea what was coming after that.”
After a brief lull Louis asked, “so what do we do now? We’re basically sitting ducks.”
Valerie thought for a moment and said, “well, when we’re stuck here we’ve got nothing to lose, and when we have nothing to lose then we’ll have to go for an all-or-nothing approach.”
Louis seemed confused.
Valerie began to bark orders. “Shepherd, go to the armory and grab as many explosives as you can. Tie them into critical support structures across this building. Rose, begin fabricating remote detonators for every explosive charge that Shepherd can find. By our inventory count,” Valerie pressed some numbers on her dashboard. “That should be around fifty, but make fifty-five just for a factor of safety.
“Tech geeks, listen up. Let’s get a link up to the satellite feeds for all the major networks. I want to send a recording at a specific time to all the networks above.
Louis approached Valerie and inquired of her exactly what she planned on doing.
“Exactly an all-or-nothing approach to get us out of here. Calculated detonation of the entire building. We’ll make a recording of ourselves, revealing our location and sending it up to the networks to broadcast. We will lure them in through that broadcast and detonate once they’re all in here. We ourselves will escape into the city through the obscure tunnels.”
Louis nodded, agreeing with the plan.
About twenty minutes later, the explosives were rigged and the detonator lay in Valerie’s hands. She began to record her taunting message.
“Miners, hello. My name is Valerie Skhodran and I am the head of the security force here at the Hill.” Despite speaking to a camera, she spoke with assertive authority. “We are here, holed up in our command center, ready to defend our unbiased, impartial treatment of all. Those who wish to take power for themselves – and I am talking about you, Miners – come and get us – ”
The door to the command center flung open. Lasers began to fire in all directions.
Valerie was struck in the chest before clattering onto the floor next to Louis, who had ducked under the desk just in time before what would have been a decapitation.
With her dying breath, Valerie looked at Louis and said, “I think I remember you now.” She gasped for a lungful of air but only got what Louis thought was about a half-tank. “You were that kid in that tour, asking all the bright questions, right?”
“Then you should be smart enough to know what to do with this.” She handed him the detonator.
A handful of people were left after the massacre. Several decision makers, Louis, and two of the tech geeks were left unscathed but were rounded up in the corner of the room.
Edward of the Miners had walked in and inspected the carnage. He nodded in approval and approached the captives, knelt in a row beside a wall. He began to interrogate them.
“Where is the rest of our food? Our livelihoods? Our materials?” He asked in a low voice.
Nobody answered. Edward raised a gun toward Louis’ head. “Where is it?”
“You saw what was on the television. There is nothing extra. The scientists allocated it evenly and fairly among every person and every occupation.”
“News media outlets lie all the time to make us believe what we want to believe. Now tell me, where is the stuff?”
Louis was getting more and more agitated. “There is no stuff. Don’t you get it? You’re looking for more and more because of the human condition in you – the greed. There simply is nothing more because the scientists have all shared it with everyone!”
Edward took a careful look at Louis. “Weren’t you one of the ones who came here looking for answers?” Louis nodded. “Why are you vouching for them, then?”
“Because I saw what was real and it opened my eyes,” Louis replied.
“You found it then, didn’t you?” Edward asked. “You found where everything is and now you’re not willing to share it with us.”
Louis scoffed. “Are you fucking kidding me? Did you not get anything that I said?”
Edward paused for a moment and said to his subordinates, “there must be something. Here, in this building. Execute them. We’ll find it ourselves.”
A flash of light hit Louis in the chest and he fell to the floor, followed by a handful of other sounds of bodies thudding to the floor. In an instant, Louis knew what it felt like to be a scientist on the day they invaded.
His eyes could barely move as he lay motionless on the floor, his body getting colder and colder by the second. He felt a hand reach into his back pocket and retrieve the detonator, followed by a small amount of commotion among the Miners standing over him. The commotion was silenced.
With his dying breaths, Louis thought he heard Edward say, “this must be the device that can get us into the hidden chamber. Now it’s in our hands.” This was followed by the sound of a click.