Stacie was headed for the Academy’s exit, walking down a long corridor same as all the others. Her stride exuded confidence, and rightfully so. Not because she was ultra rich or because she had a body that turned heads―all of which did inflate her ego. It was because she had transcended the expectations of naysayers and uncuffed herself from the prescribed lifestyle of the Eight, by joining the CDF.
Thrilled to be soon deployed on her first military assignment, her face beamed.
Lollygagging around the glass partition of the security office were three male cadets and one female. Stacie slowed her stride and came up behind them to see what they were so fixated on.
Planted in a chair was Cadet Wilmington with her hands bound behind her back, wearing a black sleeveless spandex half-top and shorts.
Uniformed in dark blue, a tall, broad-shouldered Academy enforcement officer loomed over her. Hellbent on getting a confession, he pressed a shock baton to her chest.
Electricity buzzed and crackled.
“Are you a Coalition plant, Telisha Wilmington?” the officer demanded.
Wilmington looked through her cracked-up spectacles with tearful eyes. “No! I already told you that!” she cried.
“Are you a member of any other anti-government group?” he yelled. The female officer at the worktable behind him inspected Wilmington’s uniform for nanosurveillance devices.
“I’m not a member of any anti-government group,” the terrified ex-cadet responded, voice shaking.
“You sure?” the male officer pressed. He delivered another jolt of electricity with his shock baton.
Wilmington’s flesh seared. “Yes, I’m sure!” Her face looked pitiful. “Now please stop! Please!” she shouted desperately.
Without a single inclination of compassion, the officer gestured for her to stand with his large hand. “Get up so we can transfer you to detainment.” Distaste filled his voice.
Wilmington stood, her knobby knees trembling.
Stacie “tsked,” shaking her head. When will these sympathizers learn? She walked away as the four cadets looked on, pointing and giggling.
“Stupid dork,” one of the male onlookers said.
Stacie exited the Academy, stepping out onto the front portico, under a gable-shaped awning of glass and white plastic.
Young male and female cadets in battledress passed by her, going and coming.
A blue-haired male awed at her Warrior Extraordinaire patch. “Wow!” he exclaimed. “That’s what I wanna be, Warrior Extraordinaire!” Stacie smirked, the gawker’s words pandering to her ego. She loved the recognition that came with such an accomplishment.
Under the lavish gazebos spread throughout the campus’ sprawling courtyard, cadets sat on benches, engaged in free-ranging discussion. Under one, two females shared a luscious kiss. When engaged in military functions, exercises, assignments, or operations, the CDF was a strict outfit; but when Guardians weren’t engaged in such activities, the CDF allowed blatant displays of affection while in uniform, conforming to Eden’s loose society and deeming austerity unhealthful. Hair color and tattoo restrictions were lax as well, nowhere near as regimented as the old Earth militaries.
A male made a pass at a female, pinging her cerebral implant. Access was denied. Salty, his face pulled into a pompous scowl.
Commotion broke out near the schoolhouse to Stacie’s left. She turned. Two Academy enforcement officers wrestled an eighteen-year-old male cadet to the ground.
“Get off!” the cadet yelled. His mop of teal hair brushed his face as he struggled for freedom. “I was just looking, that’s all!”
“Bullshit!” one of the officers blurted. “Now you’re gonna be out-processed!”
On the ground, near the cadet, was his tablet. He’d been viewing one of Arman Reza’s incendiary orations on the net, a nexus of cyberspace information and communication conveyance spanning Eden and Satellite One. Anytime one of Reza’s vidcasts was taken down by cyber authorities, it would resurface days later, and the upload source-location remained untraceable. No digital footprint whatsoever. Using the net as his pulpit, over time Reza fathered the Independent Movement with his vehement declamations of colony equality. Those declamations also helped incite colonies One, Four, and Six’s declaration of independence. Reza always wore a dark cowl and metal face covering, concealing his identity. He also spoke through a voice synthesizer, further ensuring he remained unidentifiable.
From the tablet, Reza’s modified voice said, “The Commonwealth Government is undeniably wrong for our . . .”
One of the officers stomped the tablet repeatedly, silencing the harangue.
Stacie shook her head at the youngster. Idiot.
Cadets milled around on the well-tended green spaces, chattering about what had just transpired.
Stacie spoke into her wrist PDA. “Options for transportation services.” A hololist materialized in midair, with an electronic warping sound. Stacie dragged a finger down the list, scrolling through various options. She touched the transport service of choice, debiting her way-fare. Within three minutes of her transportation request, a driverless capsule-shaped flyer descended, hissing to a smooth landing. The overhead flip-up canopy snapped open. More hissing. “Thank you for riding with Air Escort, the best in air-cab transportation,” said a crisp digitized male voice. Stacie settled comfortably into the exotic interior, made of high-grade foreign leather, complete with massage comfort seating. She recognized the flyer as being manufactured by one of her family’s acquisitions. The canopy snapped shut with a barely audible click. “Destination, please,” the automated chauffeur requested.
Stacie buckled up and answered with an address.
The nav-panel hummed to life—many-colored buttons blinking and go-lights flashing. Servos whined. The engine revved up. Electronics chirped, navigation programs charting coordinates toward Stacie’s given address. “Destination logged,” the automated chauffeur reported as the flyer steadily ascended. “Now proceeding. Please sit back and enjoy the ride.” The flyer cruised into an air lane with a declining whine.
Below was a magnificent panoramic view of Eden’s capitol, Cornerstone City, the epicenter of business, entertainment, politics, and commerce on the planet. The Academy, Parliament Building, Supreme Judiciary, and Chief Executive’s Manor formed the Quad and were located at the center of the booming metropolis.
Maglev trains raced through a network of translucent intersecting transit tunnels—dipping and climbing at high velocities. Flyers whisked everywhere. A mass of more antiquated transportation crawled to a gridlocked halt on the congested solar-paneled roadways—horns honking, pissed-off motorists yelling obscenities. Men and women in lavish attire ambled avenues of multifarious restaurants and storefronts. Behind clothing-store windows, holographic skins of mannequins cycled through the latest couture. Giant video banners across the city displayed colorful advertisements and infographics. In the major shopping district were large multiplex retail centers up to twelve storeys. In the residential district, swanky high-rise apartment buildings loomed over streets.
Unbeknownst to many, the Eight Elite’s handprint was all over the city’s construction.
Stacie’s flyer soared by a business complex ten floors high, predominately composed of glass and metals. A section of glass paneling darkened at the voice command of an employee in his office, so he could work in private.
Further out from Cornerstone, quiet rural suburbs provided relief from the hustle and bustle, for those who liked life a bit slower. To the east were colorful glades that were the home of popular hot-spring retreats. There were communal hot springs at these lavish resorts where men and women bathed together. Sounds of sexual revelry could sometimes be heard throughout the lodges all night, as physical intimacy was frank and highly encouraged in Eden society.
and some completely fabricated, to fool the masses.
“Here with me now is one of the protesters who participated in an Independent Movement rally here on Eden just an hour ago,” the reporter said.
A rotund man with a thick brown beard and fleshy face spoke at the camera. “My daughter lives in Colony Six. She tells me all the time about how Guardians and military vehicles are always roaming the streets.”
Yes, counterinsurgency operations are always ongoing, to catch the terrorists and defend the Commonwealth, Stacie wanted to yell at the screen.
“My daughter says people and herself have been unfairly stopped, questioned, and frisked,” the pudgy man said. “People in Colony Six were treated shitty before the war, and they’re being treated even shittier now. And because of net restrictions, colony inhabitants can’t expose the mistreatment and prove just how lousy their living conditions have become. The central government’s got everything under lock n’ key, to keep us on Eden oblivious to all the fuckery going on.”
Stacie scoffed. Stupid kook. She had heard enough. “Another station.”
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