Vand opened his eyes groggily. His body ached and his back felt stiff. His arms were warm from being pressed upon his face, and his brown hair concealed his eyes from seeing. His body longed for him to go back to sleep and sink back into the tiredness that brought him out of it. Somewhere out there, someone was droning on and on about meaningless things. Waking up would mean going back to the same monotonous routine of eat, sleep and school...
Vand quickly jerked up and several people sitting next to him looked at him with an amused look and their anticipation was written on their faces. He was in a classroom and not at his house. Three large windows allowed the sun to shine without hindrance into the room. An older man with gray hair stood at the front of the classroom wearing the teacher's uniform, writing something down. The teacher turned back, his smile barely suppressed.
"I'm surprised to see you up so early Mr. Grane, we are only almost done with ninth period."
The class laughed, and Vand let a flicker of an anxious smile leave his face. The bell rang and the rest of the class packed their bags as the teacher started to hurriedly write the homework on the board. The year 2159 YL was printed on the right hand corner of the board and the region was set to Section 11, or Chicago as the older generation liked to call it. The smartboard hummed with activity as it automatically transmitted the written information onto the internet for the students to eventually download. Then the teacher sits down and pauses for a second.
"Mr. Grane, may I speak to you for a second?" he asks, as Vand nears the door. Vand looks back and reluctantly approaches the desk.
"What is it sir?" he asked. The teacher averted his gaze for a split-second, then returned the gaze and paused.
"I don't know how to say this, but your last paper for the writing competition..." the teacher's fingers were drumming on the desk between him and Vand. "Well, the administration got it, and I'm going to be frank. They didn't like it." Vand quickly opened his mouth, but the teacher had anticipated it and quickly continued. "It was very well written, but the administration thinks it is... suspicious. They are not going to let you read it to the statesmen." Vand took a step back. When the teacher remainted silent, Vand took a deep breath and started slowly.
"I know that some of my points were quite aggressive..."
"Quite aggressive?!" interrupted the teacher while standing up. "They submitted your record and the paper to the terrorist investigation panel and it took every ounce of my power as a lowly teacher to stop them from arresting you!" Vand stepped back. A moment of silence passed. Finally, Vand spoke.
"I... I understand now. Thank you." Vand packed up his bag and walked out.
The brightness of the sun hit him immediately when he got out. In front of him, many students were mingling in the school courtyard. The massive space was decorated with a pathway going from the main entrance of the school building to the exit of the campus. A magnificent fountain stood at the center of the pathway, and the sound of running water was drowned out by the chatter from the students.
"Hey Vand, what took you?" asked a senior boy to Vand's left. Vand turned to face the speaker. The speaker was wearing the school uniform of grey sweater on top of a white shirt with dark green slacks.
"Hi Damien. It appears as if my paper for the writing competition got disqualified." Damien's eyebrows rose.
"You mean the paper that you spent more time on than school altogether? The one you made me reread at least ten times?" Vand laughed.
"Yeah, sounds about right. It's ridiculous. They almost arrested me for being a terrorist." Now Damien laughed. After the mirth died down, Vand continued. "I mean, who do they think they are if they can't take criticism from the very people they represent? What kind of bullcrap republic do they run if they don't even listen to the people they represent? Someone needs to do something about this."
"Vand, why do you care?" asked Damien. Vand paused for a second.
"Well, what else am I going to do? Sit around and watch some rich bureaucrats mess my country up?"
Damien nodded approvingly, but a girl quickly jumps between them.
"So you completely blast it out of the water with your words?" demanded the newcomer also in the school uniform. She was a little shorter than Vand and sported an slender build. Vand turned around in surprise.
"Yeah, I read your paper. I was surprised when the one you gave me to edit and the one you submitted were very different, but I didn't put it past you to do such a thing." Damien laughed. Three more students joined them.
"Hey guys, watcha up to?" asked a taller student. His brown hair was cut short and he sported an athletic build. The name "Marcus Avergrene" was printed proudly on the basketball jersey he wore instead of a school uniform. Next to him, a younger girl with the name "Neena Avergrene" printed on the school issued briefcase she carried was rapidly chattering with another girl with blonde hair and about the same age as her. The six friends quickly issue salutations to each other before setting off.
"Say, Vand," Neena starts. "Aren't your parents going to be home soon?"
"Yeah, they are coming home from the airport today," answers Vand. Neena jumps and Marcus sighs.
"Well, it looks like I will not have to babysit her anymore."
The close proximity of the city and the school has led to frequent shopping trips by the students. The students quickly walk to their favorite street for stores and began their shopping. Two long columns of stores seperated by a wide brick path quickly greeted them as they got to their destination. In the middle of the pathway, a couple of trees were planted every couple of feet and were surrounded by benches. A huge viewscreen broadcasted the current news at the half-way point of the path. The sun shone brightly on the shoppers as they busily purchased their goods. Hours passed quickly by as the friends went store to store, spending their money. Overhead, many trains hurled past them on rails above the city, quickly transporting many people. The viewscreens flashed above them with recorded ads enticing the viewers.
Vand never had a taste for shopping. The feminine aspect of shopping never attracted him. After losing count of how many stores they have looked in, Vand exits and sits outside on a bench as his friends inside a shoe store looked around. All around him, people milled by, happily and content. Vand sighs. To his left, a short line had emerged for the Credit Retrieval Machine. Vand lazily turned his head. It had been a past hobby of his to look around and guess the history of those he saw. Damien emerges from the store and stands next to Vand's bench.
"I hate shopping for clothes," Damien states, with his head down. He sighs and looks down.
"Mmm hmmm," Vand answers, still concentrating on his game. In front of them, a family was happily strolling across their view. Two teenage girls were looking at the window of a store across from theirs. The line next to the CRM had grown longer and several people were anxiously muttering, looking at their watches. Finally, a middle-aged woman started to shout at the person using the machine. The man had rather large square glasses, and his black hair was neatly combed. He was dressed in a business suit, albeit with a crooked tie, and he nervously ignored the woman as he attempted to withdraw his credits. Damien scoffs.
"Man, patience just isn't in the vocabulary of some people's dictionary these days." He shakes his head. The line had now grown larger, and several people tried to calm the woman down. The woman was shouting something about her precious time, and the offending man just hung his head, apologizing.
"Typical rich Eleveners," returns Vand, unblinkingly watching the spectacle. "They are so wealthy that they cannot stand waiting for five minutes in a line, or think about anyone but themselves in that manner." The crowd was really stirred up now. No one was even using the CRM, they were just forming a circle. Several people gathered behind either the shouting woman or the offending man. "It's interesting," continues Vand. "The same people who have the best of what humanity has to offer acts the most like animals. Their only concern is themselves."
"Well, whatever the case it is, I have something to say." Vand turns to look at Damien. Damien never had anything much to say. Whenever he opened his mouth to speak, everyone listened because it was often important. "I'm joining the Section 11 police force." Vand's eyes widen and he leaned backwards. Damien had often gotten good grades and excelled in sports. There were definitely better jobs than joining the police force.
"Are... are you sure Damien?" asked Vand, weakly. Damien turned to look at Vand.
"My application has already been sent and approved, I start next month." answered Damien, resolutely.
"What about school?"
"I'm graduating early."
Both of them returned their view to the crowd. A second passed before Damien started to talk again.
"Look, the thing is, I see you and and Amber always arguing about patriotism or whatnot. I want there to be a country that you can argue about," he said, rapidly. Vand slowly turned to look at Damien again and Damien continued. "Kindness is still in the hearts of the people." The crowd in the CRM had began to disperse. A lone man had stepped between the two arguing parties and had formed a compromise. Just then, the viewscreen in the middle of the square flashed and silence permeated the shopping strip. In the distance, many other public viewscreens also broadcasted the same picture.
"What's going on?" asks Amber, who had just ran out of the store before suddenly inhaling her breath.
On the viewscreen, a large building sat smoking and the words "Liberty Office Building Target of Terrorist Attack" ran across the bottom. The viewscreen then changed to the pictures of the suspects, and the crowd started to murmer. The murmering became louder and louder as the air warmed up to their emotions. The six friends look at each other and leave. At the end of the shopping strip they part ways. Amber and Vand walk together to a bus stop and Amber sits on the bench, covering the whole bench with her feet. Vand leans against a post. The day was getting darker and the street lights had been turned on. Vand looked at the sky. It was dark, but the light pollution in the area outshone all the stars. They had been shopping for a very long time.
"Who would think that there are people out there in the world that hates freedom enough to kill a thousand people," ponders Amber, absentmindedly. Vand rolls his eyes.
"You're asking the wrong person," returns Vand, tiredly.
"I mean, the people at the Liberty Office Building never hurt anybody," continues Amber.
"I'm so sore from walking..." answers Vand, weakly. A pause runs between the two friends before Amber began to talk again.
"Vand, all you do is complain," she said, scoffing. "I don't remember the last time I had a real conversation with you." Vand let the conversation end there. Finally, the bus dropped them off and Vand went home. After saying hello to his younger brother, he shut himself in his room. His room had books everywhere, along with clothes and plates that use to contain food. A bed sat at a corner of the room, and another corner had a desk and chair with a computer and lamp on top of the desk. Vand dropped down onto the chair and logged on, he still had two hours before his parent's plane arrived. Many links to websites cluttered his desktop and he browsed through them mindlessly. After a couple of websites, he got to the terrorist registry website and searched for any terrorists related to Section 11. Vand quickly stiffened. Three suspected terrorists had stated the Section 11 airport as their target destination. Maybe going early might yield some benefits. He turned towards the door, carefully trying not to upset any uneaten food, then walked out. After quickly putting his shoes on and announcing his departure, he quickly ran out and hopped into his car and drove out of his neighborhood.
The big green holo-signs directed him to the airport from the expressway and he quickly pulled into the parking lot. He walked over to the entrance. A lot of people were streaming into and out of the airport as different security officers lined the sides. A middle-aged lady with her son was talking to an officer. Vand silently scoffed. The lady held out here handbag carelessly behind her. Any seemingly innocent passerby could easily reach their hands into the bag and pull out her wallet. The security officer she was talking to rattled off security policies with a subtle look that gave away his boredom. Vand passed the automatic doors and entered into the airport. He pulled out his cellphone and started to wait. Why did he even come so early? He started to flick through websites on the internet again. Suddenly he stopped. He had reached the terrorist registry again, and a picture on the website was eerily similar to a person sitting at the cafe. Vand quickly turns on his heels and hurriedly walked towards the cafe. Vand quickly trotted up to the cafe.
"Hello sir, mind if I sit?" ventured Vand. The man looked around at all the empty tables, then stared suspiciously at Vand.
"No problem," he relented. Vand slowly brought the another chair to the table and sat down. He ordered a coffee and leaned back.
"So, why are you in the airport today, sir?" ventures Vand, with his fist clenched underneath the table.
"I'm going back to Section 13 for a business trip." The man sips his coffee and his eyes stay glued on the magazine.
"Oh, what do you do?" asks Vand. The waitress brings the coffee and Vand takes it with his eyes never leaving the suspect.
"I'm an advertiser. Pays great but you travel a lot." The man suspiciously glances at Vand, then returns his gaze to the magazine.
"I bet that is fun," answers Vand. The man nods his approval. "Say, have you ever been to the region of Azadistan?" Vand caught the man's eyes grow wide for a split-second.
"Why yes, I have a house there," answers the man, turning to glance at Vand again for a full second. Vand's pulse began to race. He might be getting somewhere. Possible outcomes started to float through his mind.
"I've been curious about that place. How is it living their? I heard there have been some recent terrorist activities there." The man stiffened again, much noticeably this time. Vand allowed the tiniest of smiles to leave his face. The man stood up and started to speak soft enough for only Vand to hear.
"I know what you are trying to do, and I'm going to say it once. I am no terrorist. I am and have been a loyal citizen of the United States, even serving in the army. But you know what? Just because I come from a certain region and look a certain way, I'm crucified by the media with full support from the government. Everywhere I go, I get crap from people like you. People who think they are doing their country a service by screwing over an innocent man. Everywhere. Even friends and family members that I once thought I knew now shun me. You know what? I use to love this country, but now? 'We the people,' what a sham."
The man stood with his two hands on the table, leaning over Vand's shocked expression. Vand opened his mouth for an apology, but it would not come out. The man continued.
"I am a 'suspected' terrorist. Completely innocent. What happened to 'innocent until proven guilty'? Disappeared along with sense. Nowadays, some idiot broadcasts something on a home viewscreen and everybody goes crazy. Then some real lunatic goes and blows a building up and everybody forgets about that in three days." The man stared intently at Vand, then sighs. "I'm sorry, it is just that I get it so often." He pulls out a few bills before getting stopped by Vand. Vand noiselessly pays for the man's drink and his own and starts to head back. The man nodded his acceptance of Vand's apology before leaving. He quickly turns around. "Hey, you aren't as bad as the others," he offers. Vand nods then turn.
So much for that. The embarrassment was readily felt by Vand at his mistake. How could he be so careless? Heck, the terrorists just recently struck the Liberty Suddenly, an explosion rocks the building. Vand looks around.
People were running this way and that. The exits were congested with people, some of them security officers. The security officer with a buzzcut who had rattled off the security policies with ease was nowhere seen enforcing them. A handful of security officers had felt the call of duty and attempted to control the panic, but it was far beyond their control. Vand looks around. Where was his parents? He did not know what he was going to do, but joining in the panic was definitely not one of his choices. An irresponsible security officer had left his gun behind when he was fleeing, and Vand quickly picked it up. A security officer behind him quickly shouted.
"Hey boy! Drop the gun and get out of here!" Vand quickly ran. A metal detector started to beep wildly after he passed it. Big large signs for different terminals quickly passed him. The waiting areas were littered with abandoned luggage and belongings while their owners were quickly rushing towards the nearest exit. Vand looked around, all he needed to do was find his mom and dad, and then find a way out of the mess. Which terminal did they say they were getting off of? Time was getting short and desperation was reaching Vand.
"Hey kid! Get back here! You'll get yourself killed!" The security officers were persistant and were quickly gaining on him. Vand cursed. He had always looked upon physical education as a blowoff class. He silently swore to focus more on it when he got back. The sign for terminal 13C quickly passed, and Vand turned around. Suddenly, the floor behind him disappeared. The two security officers chasing him were quickly thrown forward by the blast. Vand spun around and dropped the gun. His mouth quickly dropped. In front of the hole was a huge bi-pedal walking machine. The machine was maybe 17 meters tall. An angular metal pod, like an airplane without wings, sat on top of the two legs. The two sides were several barrels that swiveled up and down. On its side, a green flag with a yellow torch in the middle denoted its side. Vand took two steps back and fell down onto his back, his eyes still set upon the machine. Without warning, the machine exploded. The two legs quickly crumpled, and it exploded again. Vand looked around in surprise.
"Are you all right, son?" A team of soldiers in fatigues approached him. The speaker was an older man with gray hair and several wrinkles. He carried a smile as he reached down to help Vand up. At his side, two men carried two big rocket launchers. Vand took a deep breath, then nodded.
"The modified Deep Impact Mobile Walker is a scary thing to see, even for soldiers. You'll be all right." Vand took two shaky steps forward, then saw the two security officers. They were lying face down, and several people in fatigues were treating them. The person barking orders at the medics finally shook his head. The two security officers were quickly covered in a blanket as Vand looked in horror. The only thing the two security officers had done was tried to keep Vand safe. Now they were dead.
"Come on, son, nothing to see here," muttered the older soldier. He grabbed Vand's arm and pulled him forward. Vand complied and walked forward. When he got to the exit, he found a ring of soldiers and people shouting at something. Upon closer inspection, Vand saw the person they were shouting at to be the suspected terrorist he had talked to earlier. Their shouts rang harshly across the now nearly deserted airport, and the suspected terrorist cowered. Vand moved towards him, but the older soldier kept a firm grip.
"No son, revenge is a sad, sad thing," says the older soldier, quietly.
"But he is innocent!" protests Vand, weakly. The people were moving in, and the soldiers were starting to push the people out to stop them from hitting the man. Their effort was half-hearted, however, and stray kicks and punches landed on the suspected terrorist. The suspected terrorist just held his hand above his head protesting his innocence.
"We'll determine that in the courts. For now, let's just get you home," answers the older soldier.
"What about my parents? Are they okay?" asks Vand, quietly. The older soldier gives Vand a puzzled look, then suddenly looks very grave.
"The first thing the terrorists destroyed was the airplanes." Vand looked around and found a working viewscreen. The status for the plane dropping off at terminal 13C was marked unresponsive. Vand dropped to his knees while the older soldier looked helplessly on. Whirling emotions stirred inside of him. How could his parents die? He began to sob. Finally, he looked up. The older soldier had disappeared. Hate began to overwhelm him. How could the government let this happen? Why would the terrorists kill his parents? Why must this happen to him? He turned to look at the suspected terrorist. The crowd had grown more fierce, and even some soldiers and security officers had joined in the beating. The soldiers restraining the crowd were really having a hard time now. Vand stood up slowly but surely. He finally reached his car and got it. The car roared to life, then sped on home.
Last edited by vindKtiv on Tue Dec 29, 2009 4:57 pm, edited 10 times in total.