The Pale

frame-19

I don’t always talk about records.  Sometimes I do actual writing.  Here is a short screenplay I wrote about a year ago.  I apologize in regards to some of the formatting.

The Pale

FADE IN:
INT. HOME OFFICE - DAY
JEFF HENNIG, mid-twenties, gangly and sloppily dressed, sits
typing on a computer.  His son, RONNIE HENNIG, 5, with
shoulder-length blonde hair and tall for his age, bounds
into Jeff’s office.  He wears a red-and-blue baseball
uniform.  In his hand is an Iron Man figure.

RONNIE

Gotta go!

                    JEFF
          Hey buddy!  Just hang tight a

minute.

Jeff rolls his office chair quickly past his son, tousling
his hair in the process.  Still seated, he pokes his head
out of the door of his office.
                    JEFF
          Honey!  I know it’s my turn to
          drive but I’m really behind on this
          project, can you take Ronnie to
          practice today?
RENEE HENNIG, late twenties with olive-skin and the striking
features of an actress, walks into Jeff’s office.  She gives
his chair a playful bump as she enters the room.
                    RENEE
          What’s up with my two men?
Ronnie bounces from foot-to-foot animatedly.  He looks up at
his mother.
                    RONNIE
          Mommy!  Gotta go. Go go! Baseball!
                    RENEE
          Come on, monkey.
Renee shoots a sideways glance in Jeff’s direction as Ronnie
yelps with delight.
                    JEFF
          Thanks honey.  I’ll make dinner.
          Chicken sound good?
                    RENEE AND RONNIE
          We love chicken!

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: (2) 2.

Renee leads Ronnie out of Jeff’s office.  Jeff can hear them
rustling around in the living room.  Jeff hears the door
shut.  He puts his head down and goes back to typing.
Momentarily, he gets up and wanders into the living room.
He sees that the front door is unlocked. He mumbles
something to himself as he locks the door.
EXT. DRIVEWAY - DAY
The red Dodge minivan’s back window is covered with
stickers, all superheroes in action poses, but the van still
looks shiny and recent.  Renee buckles Ronnie into the
backseat.  Renee shuts the back door and gets into the
driver’s seat of the van.
INT. MINIVAN - DAY
The van moves quickly down the lightly trafficked four-lane
road.  Renee smiles, glancing at the scenery speeding by.
Ronnie is in the backseat, playing with his Iron Man toy.
                    RONNIE
               (softly)

Uh oh.

Ronnie’s toy slips out of his hands and rolls under the
front passenger seat.
                    RENEE
          Looks like we’re gonna be early,
          little man.
EXT. HIGHWAY - CONTINUOUS
The minivan moves down the road as traffic passes by on the
opposite side of the yellow dividing lines.  A white Ford
F-150 pickup truck approaches from the opposite lane.  The
truck suddenly crosses the centerline and hits the drivers
side of the van. The minivan lifts slightly and then lands
with a thud, rocking back and forth as it settles.
INT. KITCHEN - DAY
One year later, Jeff, now too-thin with visible bags under
his eyes, sits down at a kitchen table across from Renee.
Renee is still attractive despite the new visible lines on
her face.  She has a large scar running the length of her
left forearm.  Jeff drinks Diet Coke from a can.  Renee has
whiskey in a tumbler.
                    JEFF
          It’s early for that.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:  (2)

3.

                    RENEE
               (slurred speech)
          It’s cocktail hour somewhere.
                    JEFF
          You’re drinking too much lately. I
          need to ask you something.
                    RENEE

What?

                    JEFF
          I never told you but the day of the
          accident I noticed you forgot to
          lock the front door when you left.
                    RENEE
          What?  Who cares?  You were right
          down the hall working.
                    JEFF
          It’s not that.  It’s just...you get
          forgetful when you’re rushed. Did
          you...
                    RENEE
          Did I what?
                    JEFF
          Did you forget to buckle Ronnie in?
                    RENEE
          Fuck you!  I never forget to check
          Ronnie’s seatbelt!
Jeff screws his face up, grabs his plate, and walks down the
hallway into his office.  Renee watches as Jeff retreats
from the kitchen.  Renee begins to weep quietly.

OFFICE

Jeff tosses his plate of food violently into the garbage
can.  Jeff sits down in front of his computer and begins
typing.
INT. GUEST BEDROOM - NIGHT
The clock on the wall in Jeff’s bedroom shows 1:17 AM. Jeff
is sitting up in bed staring at the clock.  He stands up and
exits the bedroom and walks down the hall to his son’s room.
RONNIE’S BEDROOM

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: (2) 4.

Ronnie’s room has toys strewn about - a baseball bat close
to the window, three different superhero figures on the
brown lacquer 4-door dresser, and a still newish baseball
glove on the nightstand next to the bed.
The bed is covered in Iron Man sheets and blankets. Ronnie’s
Iron Man figure is on the bed close to the pillow, it’s left
arm missing since the accident.  Jeff sits down on the bed
and runs his fingers over the figure.
The air crackles.  The light coming in from the window dims.
Jeff tilts his head up and down and side to side. All light
disappears from the room.  The area above the bed begins to
glow a dull whitish-green.
                    JEFF
          I’m ready.
A shape takes recognizable form above the bed.  It is
Ronnie’s ghost.  Jeff tilts his head upwards and stares into
Ronnie’s face.
                    JEFF
          Why do you come to me?  What does

it mean?

Jeff is cut off by Ronnie, who picks up a book, and settles
onto the bed next to Jeff.  Ronnie points at words.
INSERT: "keep", "trying"
After a few moments of this, Ronnie disappears.  Jeff, with
a stunned look, lies down on the floor beside his son’s bed.
INT. MASTER BATHROOM - DAY
The next morning, Renee brushes her teeth.  She bends over
the sink to spit but suddenly stops.  Her eyes jerk and she
draws her head to the top of the mirror. She reaches her
right hand out towards the mirror.  She stands like that for
a moment and then shakes her head. She goes to pick up her
toothbrush but it is not by the sink where she left it.  She
looks around the bathroom and sees that the toothbrush is
now in the brush holder. Renee’s confused
INT. KITCHEN - DAY
Jeff and Renee are seated in the kitchen.
                    JEFF
          I called a counselor and explained
          our situation.  Maybe we should go
          talk to her?

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:  (2)

5.

                    RENEE
          Does it even matter?  Nothing I do
          is ever right.
                    JEFF
          She said we need to deal with our
          grief.  I just need to know if we
          can go back to the way we were.
                    RENEE
          I don’t know.  Can we?  You tell
          me.  Not going to call me a killer
          today?
                    JEFF
          That was once!  I was hurt!  I said
          I was sorry.  It was mean of me to
          say that.
                    RENEE
               (sarcastically)
          You meant it.  Don’t you think I’m
          hurt?  Don’t you think I blame
          myself?
                    JEFF
          I don’t blame you.
                    RENEE
               (screaming)
          You do!
Renee turns away from Jeff.
                    JEFF
          I’m going for a walk.
Jeff exits the kitchen.  Renee watches him leave, then
begins to make a sandwich.  Behind her, a fork that is
sitting on the counter next to the stove lifts into the air
and hovers.  After a moment, it drops to the ground with a
metallic clang.  Renee spins around quickly, scanning the
kitchen.  She sees the fork on the floor and picks it up.
INT. GUEST BEDROOM - NIGHT
Jeff is sitting up in his bed, and turns to look at the
green neon-backlit clock on the wall. The time reads 1:17
AM.  Jeff stands up and exits the bedroom.

HALLWAY

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: (2) 6.

Jeff’s slippered feet make little noise in the hallway. Jeff
pokes his head into his son’s room.  He looks at the bed,
not noticing that the Iron Man figure is gone. He then
stares out Ronnie’s bedroom window at the tree outside for a
moment, then continues towards the staircase.

KITCHEN

Jeff opens up the cabinet above the refrigerator and takes
out a bottle of whiskey, placing it onto the kitchen island.
He opens the freezer and grabs the ice tray and places it on
the island next to the bottle.  He walks over to the
cupboard next to the sink and takes out a tumbler.  Walking
back to the island, Jeff steps on something that makes him
jump.
                    JEFF
               (quietly)
          Ow!  Son of a bitch!
Jeff puts the tumbler on the island.  He bends down and
picks something up off the floor. It’s his son’s Iron Man
figure.
RONNIE’S BEDROOM
Jeff drops the figure onto Ronnie’s bed.  Jeff lays down on
his son’s bed.
INT. MASTER BEDROOM - DAY
Later that morning, Jeff walks into the master bedroom.
Renee is sitting up in bed, reading.
                    JEFF
          No work today?
                    RENEE
          I took a sick day.
                    JEFF
          Another one?
                    RENEE
               (curtly)
          Yes, another one.  I’m doing some
          research.
                    JEFF
          What kind of research?

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:  (2)

7.

                    RENEE
               (curtly)
          I’m looking for a divorce lawyer.
Jeff’s face contorts in concern and worry lines form on his
forehead.
                    JEFF
          I don’t think we’re there yet.
          Listen...Renee, has anything weird
          happened to you?
                    RENEE
          Like what?
                    RENEE
          I don’t know.  Anything strange.
Renee’s face changes slightly.  Her eyes darken.
                    RENEE
          There was something...no.  What
          aren’t you telling me?
                    JEFF
          Never mind.
INT. MASTER BEDROOM - NIGHT
That evening, Renee is in bed in the dark reading.  The
light from her iPad illuminates her face.  She looks at the
clock on the iPad and it reads 1:17 AM.  She turns to put
her iPad on the nightstand when Ronnie’s ghost materializes
above her.  Renee lays there stiff, staring up at the ghost
hovering above her head.

RENEE

          Jeff!
               (screaming)

Jeff!

                    JEFF (O.S.)
          What’s going on?  Are you okay?
                    RENEE
          Jeff!  Get in here, help me please!
Jeff crosses from the guest bedroom and stands in the door
frame.  Jeff looks at Renee and then follows her gaze
upward.  He sees Ronnie floating above Renee.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:  (2)

8.

                    JEFF
          Renee, Renee.  It’s Ok.  This is
          what I was trying to tell you
          about.
                    RENEE
          What do you mean, tried to tell me

what?

                    JEFF
          About anything strange.
                    RENEE
          Uh-uh.  No.
Renee bolts out of bed and runs past Jeff into the hallway.
Jeff looks up at Ronnie.

HALLWAY

Renee crumples in the corner.  Jeff bends over her. Renee
looks up at Jeff.
                    RENEE
               (hysterical)
          What is that?  Did you see that?
                    JEFF
          Shh.  I tried to tell you.
                    RENEE
          What?  This is more than something
          strange.  Is that Ronnie?
Renee struggles in Jeff’s grip but Jeff leads her back into
the bedroom.  Ronnie has disappeared.  Renee looks at Jeff
in confusion.  Jeff moves to hug his wife. Renee is stiff
but then lets Jeff hug her.
INT. KITCHEN - DAY
Jeff and Renee sit at the kitchen table.  The plates of food
haven’t been touched.  Renee looks sad and confused.  Jeff
looks contemplative.
                    JEFF
          I understand you have questions.
                    RENEE
               (growing agitated)
          Questions?  Like what?  Like, "gosh
          Jeff, how long have you known our
          dead son was visiting our house at
          night?"

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: (2) 9.

Renee violently pushes her plate of food away from her.
                    JEFF
          You would have said I was crazy.
                    RENEE
          I’m still not convinced you’re not.
          How can I explain last night?
                    JEFF
          We could both go to Ronnie’s room
          tonight.  He always seems to appear
          at 1:17 AM.
                    RENEE
          Why my room last night?
                    JEFF
          I don’t know.
                    RENEE
          How many times have you seen him?
                    JEFF
          Does it matter?

RENEE

Yes.

                    JEFF
          Humor me.  Tonight?
Renee stands up.  As she does, her fork falls off the edge
of the table onto the floor.  Jeff stands up suddenly.  The
couple look at each other across the expanse of table.
                    JEFF
          You’re sure nothing strange has
          happened to you?
Renee turns and walks away from the table.
                    RENEE
          It was a fork!  Let it go!
INT. MASTER BEDROOM - NIGHT
Jeff sits on the edge of Renee’s bed.  The clock ticks over
to show 1:17 AM.  Jeff grabs Renee’s arm, and they both get
up and walk out of the bedroom.
INT. RONNIE’S BEDROOM - NIGHT
Jeff and Renee enter Ronnie’s room.  Ronnie appears above
his bed.  He looks in the direction of his parents.  He
smiles.  Jeff and Renee look up at their dead son with
wonder and confusion. Ronnie floats downwards until his feet
meet the floor, and holds out his hands.  Jeff reaches for
Ronnie’s left hand.  Renee stands motionless.
                    JEFF
          Take his hand.
                    RENEE
          What’s going to happen?
                    JEFF
          Take it.  Find out.
Jeff takes Renee’s hand and moves it towards Ronnie. Ronnie
grabs her hand, and both Jeff and Renee go stiff.
INT. MINIVAN - DAY - FLASHBACK
It is the day of Renee and Ronnie’s accident, seen from
Ronnie’s point of view.  Ronnie is playing with his Iron Man
figure, flying it around in front of his face.  The car
bumps slightly, and Ronnie drops the doll onto the floor of
the van.

RONNIE

Uh oh.

Ronnie unbuckles his seatbelt and hops off the seat onto the
floor.  He deftly grabs the doll from under the passenger
front seat, tosses it up onto his seat, and begins climbing
back onto his seat.  He is working on getting his seat-belt
back on.  His hands slip.
                    RENEE
          Looks like we’re gonna be early,

little man.

Just then, the white Ford F-150 hits the van, which knocks
Ronnie head-first into the passenger-side back window, which
cracks from the impact.
                    RENEE (V.O.)
               (screams)
          Oh god!  No!
BACK TO SCENE
Jeff turns from Ronnie and looks at Renee.

10.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:  (2)

11.

                    RENEE
          Oh, no, no, no.
                    JEFF
          I understand now.
                    RENEE
          Understand what?
                    JEFF
          It wasn’t your fault.
                    RENEE
          It was my fault!  I’m his mother!
               (sobbing)
          I was supposed to protect him!
Jeff opens his mouth and then shuts it again.  Ronnie lets
go of his parents’ hands.  Renee’s voice hitches and she
reaches her hands out to Ronnie, who is fading away.
                    RENEE
          No!  Don’t go yet!  Not now!
Ronnie fully fades away.  Renee drops to her knees and
begins to sob uncontrollably. Jeff kneels down and caresses
her hair.  Ronnie’s Iron Man figure has disappeared from his
bed.
INT. RONNIE’S BEDROOM - DAY
Fourteen months later, Renee and Jeff are looking into a
crib and smiling at a chubby infant girl dressed in pink. It
is Ronnie’s bedroom but most of the room has been
rearranged, and instead of Ronnie’s bed, the crib is now in
the center of the room, beneath a picture of Ronnie in his
baseball uniform.  Renee leans into the crib to pick up the
baby, removing the baby’s blanket as she does so.  Renee
stops suddenly and stares at her daughter.  In the infant’s
hand is Ronnie’s Iron Man figure with the missing left arm.
Just then Jeff glances down and also sees the figure in his
daughter’s hand. Renee hugs Jeff, then looks around the room
and smiles.

THE END

Colonies, 3rd and Final Part

Bar pre-call

Part 3

     Perturbed and confused by the odd behavior of Alvis, Lorraine decided to stop for a drink on the way home.  “James,” she said into her wrist-com, which she set to message mode, “I’ve got something I need to take care of.  I probably won’t be home for dinner.  I love all of you.”  With that, she entered her favorite bar, the Unicord.  Walking in, she could see it was a slow night, with only a few patrons scattered about.  She ordered a Snorter from the bartender, Riley, whom she had spoken with many times before.  As she paid for her drink, Riley brushed her arm suggestively.  “Not tonight Riley, I’ve actually got real Ministry work to do.”  Riley ran a pick through her afro nonchalantly and turned her back away from the bar.  “Your loss.  But come see me anytime,” she replied. Lorraine didn’t reply to this, and moved to a booth at the back of the bar where she could have some privacy.  She looked again at the comm code on her wrist-com.  Her fingered hovered above the ‘authorize’ button, while all sorts of odd thoughts went through her mind.  Who was on the other end of the line?  What did they do?  Did they know about the murder?  How?  Was she in trouble?  Only one way to find out.  Lorraine pushed ‘authorize’.  What she saw on the other end surprised her more than all the other strange events of the day.

     “Yeah, who’s this?”  The face on the other end of Lorraine’s wrist-com was that of an older woman, maybe 63, although it was hard to tell.  The woman had dark black hair streaked with gray, cut short, maybe a little past her ears, with a dull brown complexion. Lorraine had never seen an older person except in pictures, which she supposed this was too, but different.  This one she could interact with.  “Hi, I’m Lorraine.  I work for the Ministry of-” at which point she was interrupted by the old woman on the other end of the connection.  “Let me guess.  You’re young, but not too young.  Close to moving up, but still in Twentytown.  Your Alvis shut down unexpectedly, and it won’t answer any of your requests.”  Lorraine looked into her drink, surprised.  How could she know all this? “Who are you?”  Lorraine asked.  “My name is Doris,” the older woman on the other end of her wrist-com said, “and I think I’m going to have to help you solve a murder.”  

     Lorraine assumed that Doris was a member of Sunset – Colony E.  Sunset was the last rung up the ladder of Colonies.  Once you got there, you’d completed your journey. Seeing as how travel between Colonies was only one way (up, never down, and never back), she didn’t understand how Doris could help her in any way.  So many questions. Almost as if she could read Lorraine’s mind, Doris spoke.  “Let me guess.  You know interactions between Colonies is forbidden.  You know travel is the same.  Well, newsflash kid,” Newsflash? That’s not a phrase Lorraine recognized.  “See, sometimes the Babysitters – sorry, the Kasparovs,” Lorraine could detect the sarcasm in Doris’ voice, “find something they don’t understand.  I’m from an older generation.  You might say I’m an outdated model if that makes you feel better.  But I remember the world before the Revolution.”  Lorraine had studied some of the history of pre-Revolution, but it fascinated her.  Animatedly, she spoke into her com “You did?  What was it like?  I’ve read it was a nasty, violent, socially intolerant place.”  Feeling like she was making a fool of herself, Lorraine slowed her speech before she spoke again.  “Everyone says I have an old soul, and I’m really interested in what it was like.”  

     Doris didn’t answer.  Doris figured it best if the kid didn’t know too much.  “We’re not going to be able to do this via com-link.  I’m going to have to come to you.”  Doris said. The look on Lorraine’s face when Doris said this was exactly what she expected, a mix of confusion and excitement.  “But travel isn’t allowed!  Interaction with different ages is forbidden.  How would you even get here?”  Lorraine was all at once animated again. She knew that Citizens understood when it was time to move up the ladder to the next Colony, but interaction between Colonies wasn’t something that was done.  Most people didn’t even think about the reasons as to why, because they were too busy living in the present.

     Doris spoke again.  “I’m scheduled to arrive there tomorrow night.  They won’t let me bring my wife so I’m hoping this doesn’t take too long.  I hate leaving her alone.”  At this Lorraine suggested “The rest of your collective will watch her, won’t they?”  “I don’t have a collective, kid.  One wife, that’s all.”  Lorraine had never met anyone with only a single partnup.  “How…” Lorraine didn’t know how to respond to this.  “It’s ok kid. You’d probably think it was quaint.  I guess in some ways it is. But, I maintain some nostalgia for the old ways.”  At this, Doris touched something on her wrist-com which sent instructions to Lorraine’s device.  “All you need to know is on there.  It tells you when I’m arriving and where I will meet you.  Oh, and you can’t tell your collective any of this. From now on you shouldn’t talk about duty in anything but a perfunctory way to them.” “Doris, why you?” Lorraine needed to know this.  “Because I used to be like you kid.  A detective.  Only back then, we had real crimes to solve.  Plus, I miss seeing young people. Sometimes.  Not often, mind you.”  Doris shut her wrist-com off.  Lorraine had a million questions, but she knew the comm code was probably disabled by now.  She would have to wait to see what happened next.  

 

Colonies, Part 2

Body-2

 A Short Story in Multiple Parts
  Part 2

    When Lorraine and Jenna approached Rollie’s location, they could see the Kasparovs blocking the area, not forcefully, but in such a way as to divert attention from Rollie’s location instead of towards it.  This obfuscation technique was known to everyone who worked for the Order Maintenance Division, but to anyone else (Standard Citizens, Artmakers), it was almost imperceptible, the way the Kasparovs were able to motivate people to look the other way.  Of course, that was also because there was rarely any need to use the Obfuscation Technique, so most people didn’t recognize it when it happened to them.

     Lorraine and Jenna stood on the perimeter of the Kasparovs, received their retinal scans, and were allowed to enter the circumference.  Inside the circle was nothing they were prepared for.  “Rollie,” Lorraine said, looking down at the rookie, who was kneeling over the Citizen, “we’re here.”  Rollie looked up at the two women with something approaching fear.  “Lorraine…” Rollie stopped talking and stood up.  As he did so, Lorraine and Jenna both gasped aloud.  “What the stang?” Jenna cried, “Is that a cease?  That’s a cease!”  Lorraine put her hand on Jenna’s arm to calm her.  Lorraine looked at Rollie for what seemed a long time.  Then she asked Rollie in a firm voice “Rollie, did you move anything?”  “No, nothing” Rollie replied.  The three M.o.I. officers couldn’t help but observe the pooled blood.  “Did you find wounds?”  Lorraine asked.  Rollie was staring at the blood on the ground, wide-eyed.  “Did you find wounds?” Lorraine asked again, more forcefully this time.  “Yeah…knife.  This is a murder.” Rollie replied, barely audibly.  Lorraine turned her face to look at the sky.  The sun was a bright orange ball shining down, glinting here and there off the high-glass towers where most people lived.  There hadn’t been a live-death murder in over 13 years.

     Live-death murder was rare, but Lorraine knew the Medis would be thorough in their review of the body.  Lorraine was happy to have the machines.  She figured this would be easy.  The Kasparovs would take over, like they did with all advanced cases.  They can just organize mindgrabs.  Whoever has the murder in their mindgrab gets questioned.  Lorraine and her team get the satisfaction of having helped put a defective away.  

     Later that day, Lorraine punched up a command request on one of the ColonyVid machines at her station.  The Alvis presence appeared.  “Alvis,” Lorraine spoke into the Vid speaker, “tell me what happened this morning.”  As Lorraine waited for Alvis’ reply, she replayed the morning’s scene in her mind. The blood, the body, and the knife wound.  It could have been accidental, two Citizens playing with knives.  Accidents did happen, but if it was an accident, why weren’t there images?  Plus, most accidentals are easy to catch on a mindgrab, if they don’t come in on their own.  Accidents weren’t a crime.  But this didn’t feel like an accident.  Too much was wrong.  This disturbed her greatly.  “The victim’s name is Chase Millet, 29.”  29, a veteran.  Meant to move up soon.  “Alvis, was the victim killed in that alley?  Were you able to recover any fingerprints from the body?  And why did the ColonyVid not capture the crime?”  Alvis did not reply to Lorraine’s question.  “Alvis, please answer.  Do you need more time?  Alvis?”  Lorraine’s terminal shut itself down.  Lorraine stared at the blank screen in confusion.  Alvis was supposed to be available for commands at any time.  Lorraine reached around the back of the machine and turned it back on, and the face of Alvis appeared again.  “Alvis, why did you shut yourself off?  Please answer my question.” Alvis, the apparitional face on the screen, said nothing.  Lorraine waited a few moments, but the machine then shut itself off again.  “Jenna,” Lorraine said, poking her head up from her cube, “is your terminal working OK?”  “Mine’s fine,” Jenna replied. “Why, what’s going on?”  “I’m not certain I even know,” Lorraine said, slightly angrily.  “I think I’m going to go back to the scene.”
As Lorraine exited the Ministry, she punched up a code on her wrist-com.  James, one of her collective, answered and Lorraine could see his stubbled face. “James, listen.  I’m on my way to a crime scene,” she spoke into the machine, which made it look like she was talking to her hand.  James’ face lit up.  “Ooh, I just love it when something happens,” he said to her.  “There’s so little that ever goes on here.  Is it a big deal?”  Lorraine thought about this for a moment, her face screwed up.  Truthfully, she was still agitated that Alvis had shut down on her.  “Maybe I’ll tell you and the others when I return later.”  Not waiting for James’ reply, she shut her com off.  She didn’t really know why she had called him, since she knew she wasn’t allowed to talk about murders.  She had just wanted to hear a comforting voice.  

     As Lorraine was walking back to the crime scene (it was a beautiful day, after all) she marveled at how easy life was in the Colony most of the time.  All foods were available and free, Citizens were friendly with each other, and entertainment only cost time.  Most of her collective went out just recently to watch a couple of Artmakers perform, and they were thrilled by the musical performance.  One of the Artmakers covered an old standard,  “Luke Cage’s Theme” using only a rhythmachine and a bass module.  It was sparse and minimal, and she had thoroughly enjoyed the performance, although she still thought the original orchestral version was better.  

     She broke from her reverie as she reached the alley where the murder occurred.  It was completely clean.  Shadows were beginning to form off the angles of the buildings surrounding the alley, and one would never guess a crime had happened here.  She punched up Alvis on her wrist-com.  “Alvis, the scene has been scrubbed.  Do you have that information I asked for yet?”  Alvis’ face disappeared from her com at this request.  What popped up was a communications code, but one Lorraine had never seen before.  She’d never received an unknown comm code before.

End Part 2

Colonies, Part 1

New Colony Map

A Short Story In Multiple Parts

     On the day before everything she believed in changed, she remembered that the clouds looked like ice floes seen in old VR image-texts.  The clouds were broken in the sky against the moon beautifully; a natural phenomena not to be awed by, but for some reason that evening, as she sat outside smoking on the balcony, this wholly common occurrence seemed weighted with potential.  

     The following morning, a voice came over the com-link.  “You’d better come see this”, Rollie said.  He sounded flustered, worried even.  “What?”, she replied, sure it wasn’t anything all that out of norm.  Rollie was new and prone to hyper-acuity, after all.  His tests confirmed this.  His inter-com cut out for a moment, then it picked back up and started again.  “There is a…situation.”  Lorraine sat back in her chair, the white plastic with leather contouring to her frame, especially her cybernetic left leg. She didn’t think about her leg often, having been born with a defected one, which was removed and replaced a few times during her growth spurts with fresh, shiny, nerve-connected plastic and metal legs.  Lots of people had better parts.  Truthfully, she barely noticed it.   She absentmindedly clicked off the textreader, where she had been reviewing an old document from the Racist days, something called Combahee River Collective Statement.  It seemed odd to her now that people used to have to live with those types of labels.  Punching up the response node on the com-link, she replied “Could you be more specific please?”  Of course, if something were all that interesting, the ColonyVid would have reported it.  “I don’t know how to describe it.”  Lorraine began to think Rollie might not be a good fit for duties.  “Someone passed out?  Warped?”  Warp overload was common in Twentytown, nothing to be alarmed about.  Just the populace enjoying their new vice.  “No boss.  Something else.  The Kasparovs are here”

     At that Lorraine stopped cold.  This wasn’t a Warp.  Kasparovs meant serious.  The defacto peacekeepers, the standard ‘bots, pretty much ran the policing in Twentytown – and everywhere else.  Karparovs were next level.  Lorraine had always assumed having humans on the job was some weird perfunctory role, people staying calm through duty. Because if the standard ‘bots couldn’t handle it, the Kasparovs did.  It wasn’t until later that she would come to view that idea as bizarre.   

     After the second Civil War of Ideologies, racial and sexual difference had finally been normalized, when it was finally accepted that people were all the same under the skin:  bags of meat, with the same internal organs and cancers, hormones and hungers.  Who you desired and who you connected with became more important than who you hated or feared.  Through a  series of pre-birth modification processes, the drives of humanity were isolated and corrected.  No longer would racial heritage warrant class division, hatred, or jealousy.  Sexual need was understood natural and not something to be feared.  Hatred was isolated and ‘fixed’ through scanning.  Corporate control of the populace was eradicated within a generation.  The human species could now progress free from the old systems of control, because what was discovered was that prejudice and repression weren’t inherited at birth, but through the process of accumulation.  The slogan on the front of each Ministry of Information building reinforced the Citizen Freeform tenet: “Our ancestors dreamed us up and then bent reality to create us.”

     As engineered babies replaced live births, the agreed-upon course of action was to isolate people by age range.  What was found through observation was that people, as they aged, accumulated more responsibilities, wealth, status, baggage.  Once it was decided that prejudices and restrictive laws designed to tell others what to do was a result of the fear of losing accumulated power and status, the Colonies, already an idea before that, were constructed.  

     Within a generation, all Citizens were divided by age.  Those under 20 were kept in Colony A.  Colony A included the birthing pens, developmental zones, and rebellious zones.  Colony A was the most divided of the Colonies, because of the massive shifts that occurred during development.  Most remembered it as 0-6, 7-11, 12-19, with plenty of ‘bot supervision.  When Citizens reached the age of 20, they went to Colony B, referred to as Twentytown.  Here, young adults were allowed to find duties, or be artists, or just hang around with others of their own age.  Auditory and visual stimulation were provided by the ‘bots, and by any humans interested in performing for others, but most people preferred to stay home with their collectives.  

     When it was found that people’s fear of their own sexuality and racial beliefs was constructed by repressive societal or parental teachings, those negative influences were removed.  Citizens became more comfortable in their own sexual desires, with sexuality becoming something to be celebrated, not hidden away for shame or fear.  This eventually led to the collectives, homes where 3,4, 5 or more people all lived together, male and female, and what went on between them was up to them.

     There were, of course, other Colonies after Twentytown, and Citizens could still learn about the past via their VR image-texters if they so desired.  All Citizens were also welcome to visit one of the many Ministries of Information, open all the time, but why?  Most of Twentytown primarily wanted to enjoy themselves.  Lorraine could see the beauty in that concept, but she herself liked duty and knowledge.  “I’m heading to you, Rollie,” she spoke into her com-link, “I have your location from your trackerpack.”  Lorraine stepped away from her cube and poked her head into one of the cubes near hers.  “Hey, Jenna,” she said, looking at a tall mocha woman in her mid-twenties, “Rollie says something weird is up.  It’s not on the ColonyVid but he seems freaked.  Come with me?”  Jenna turned, looked up at Lorraine and smiled.  “Sure.”  At this, Jenna stood up, grabbed her gear, and followed Lorraine over to the lifts.  Lorraine enjoyed Jenna’s company, and thought maybe she’d invite her over to her collective soon.

End Part 1