Tommy watched the surveillance camera footage while he waited for Atari to come back, but as time passed, his return seemed less and less likely. He wandered out into the foyer. The vintage video games, with their hulking cabinets and simple graphics, appealed to him more than whatever Atari had been playing the day before. He tried one until he got the hang of it and then moved on to another, and played until dinnertime. Even though he was confined to the safe house, he couldn’t help feeling his time could be better spent. When Atari ambled through on his way back to Command Central, Tommy hurried after him.
“No, she’s gone.”
“Gone? She didn’t say good-bye.”
“Man, she never does.”
So much awkward. “Back in BG-098, I had a bunch of books I was going to read, but I had to leave them behind. Thought you might have some of the same ones here.”
“Books? With words? Really?”
Jerk. “Yeah. Until just recently, reading and studying was more Careen’s thing. But now that I’ve been in the Resistance for a while, I want the big picture.”
For once, Atari didn’t make a snarky comment. He pecked at the keyboard, and soon a black-and-white video came up on one of the screens. “Then how about we start with a history lesson. Back in the 1950s, they showed stuff like this to school kids.”
The opening cartoon featured a turtle in an air-raid helmet. The narrator’s voice sent a chill up Tommy’s spine.
“We all know the atomic bomb is dangerous, and as it may be used against us, we must get ready for it, just as we are ready for many other dangers that are around us all the time. ”
Atari cringed, wiggling his fingers. “Ooh! I’m so scared. No, I’m not. I’ve seen this one before.”
On the screen, a classroom full of elementary school children listened, eagerly attentive, as their teacher warned about the impending threat of a nuclear strike.
“First, you have to know what happens when an atomic bomb explodes. When it comes—and we hope it never comes, but we must get ready—it looks something like this …”
Tommy flinched at the bright flash of light on the screen.
“… duck and cover beneath a table or desk.” The children scrambled beneath their school desks.
“Can you hide from a nuke under a desk?”
“What do you think?” They watched in silence for a time.
The narrator’s voice was surprisingly upbeat, considering he was telling little kids they could survive a nuclear attack by covering themselves with newspaper or huddling in a doorway. Was this supposed to be comforting? Empowering? It was having the opposite effect on Tommy, who marveled at the futility of the instructions. “The man helping Tony is a Civil Defense Worker. His job is to help us when there is danger of the atomic bomb. We must obey the Civil Defense Worker …”
Tommy pointed at the screen, and Atari paused the video. “That’s what they told us—that we needed to take CSD for our protection. They wanted us to obey without thinking too much about it. Has it always been this way?”
“What do you think?”
“We didn’t need to take CSD. So how can we believe anything the OCSD tells us?”
Atari shook his head. “Don’t think in absolutes. Domestic security is a real concern. It’s not a joke.”
“Neither is lying to everyone about a fake terrorist threat.”
“Consider the lengths to which people like Stratford and Madalyn will go to gain control. Because when you understand that it’s all about control, you can see that, yes, it’s nothing new.” Atari shut off the video. “You can download and watch anything in our film database on any computer in the building. Start with the ones labeled Propaganda and Dystopia. They’re banned from the government-run networks, so you probably haven’t seen them. You should also check out the library one level up. We have lots of print books.
“If you’re serious about your education, try to absorb a little of everything—history, politics, economics, sociology, even music, film, and pop culture. The stuff about the fall of the Soviet Union in the late 80s is pretty interesting.”
Tommy took the stairs up one level to the library, which occupied the entire floor and was the largest collections of print books he’d ever seen. He pulled a few off the shelves—some he recognized from his dad’s home office, others from the stack Careen had been keeping in her room. He wandered over to a computer terminal and pulled up the film database. There were dozens of unfamiliar titles. This would definitely keep him busy. He hoped he wasn’t stuck here long enough to view them all.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish