2132, 12th August (Present Day)
Immeasurable tension hung in the air over the heads of Eleni, Cassia, and Nico, as they lay flat on their bellies; low-lying scrub and vegetation their only cover.
Eleni tugged on Cassia’s sleeve. Cassia turned. “I think we should keep moving,” Eleni said.
Cassia shook her head and held a finger up to her mouth, indicating silence.
Moments passed. Then minutes. Finally, Cassia spoke again, voice low and slow. “We’re too exposed here. Let’s sprint to those trees up ahead; talk there?”
2132, 12th August
Lyra eyed the full-length, powder-blue robe hanging in the transparent, hermetically sealed wardrobe. The exquisite garment, woven from the finest hand-spun silk, possessed an intricate pattern of artisan-painted bamboo, plum blossoms and fireflies.
The statuesque woman softly said, “Open wardrobe C.” This command caused a centre panel to slide open with a gentle whoosh as she reached out a hand, running her fingers down one of the long delicate sleeves. Lyra marvelled at the small insects that had produced the strands of this material. The silkworm’s hardened saliva created the complex protein fibres, some of which stretched up to hundreds of metres (over half a mile) long.
Silkworms have only one item in their diet: Mulberry tree leaves. When dyes are added to the leaves, pre-feeding, the silkworm’s biochemical pathways absorb and replicate that specific chroma in their fibres. The worms produce a neutral, creamy-coloured offering if left devoid of outside interference. Perfectly beautiful but not always desirable.
Decades ago, Mulberry tree leaves had been strategically engineered to be exceedingly high in protein, calcium, minerals and vitamins. The silkworm pupae (pre-moth) became an omnipresent and sustainable animal-based food source while also providing a textile for consumer clothing. A small percentage of the population cooked and consumed the pupae whole, but most used a multi-flavoured manufactured powder.
Mulberry trees possess characteristics that make them extremely viable in a variety of climates and landscapes, thus for a long time they were cultivated throughout the world for domestic production needs. However, as these trees require enormous swaths of open land—almost eight metres in-between each planted tree—most countries could no longer sustain that.
The GF (Global Federation), formerly The United Nations, was re-named and re-formed in 2058 after population explosions and extreme incongruous wealth divisions caused unprecedented, international unrest and conflict. As necessary resources—staple foods, crude oil, and clean water, in particular—became scarce, the most powerful heads of nations gathered at a summit to discuss severe resolutions and restructures.
Most countries joined the GF, even though new laws and power hierarchies were draconian and oppressive. Most felt they had no choice. The world was close to implosion, so, like a mother lioness controlling her catch, the elite-ruling class extended their claws from their sheaths and clamped down on the lower classes, like prey.
GF member nations imported their silk powder from the six countries with the largest production capability: China, India, Brazil, Canada (not part of the GF but still business partners), Australia and America. These countries still owned significant real estate, and silk powder was a top export for each.
The silky crepe slid over Lyra’s bare arms and torso. The lightness of it allowed the garment to catch the air as she walked toward the conference room, accentuating its billowing, cloud-like aura, igniting within her a sensual bliss. Once she entered the room, all eyes focused on her elegant movement; high status and ego were her inward and outward projections.
Lyra Adamos, High Companion of The Global Federation, took her seat at the head of the longest of the five dark wooden tables. Lyra would remain High Companion until her three-year term ended in August 2133.
The room itself was spectacular in terms of architecture and design, prepared years previously, with the knowledge that Athens was an upcoming location for High Companion Conferences, and Sessions for critical court rulings.
The vaulted ceilings featured a central arch, drawing the eyes upward. The ceiling, hand-painted by a contemporary Greek artist known only as Fleura, glowed with a background wash of pastel blues, yellows, and golds, while in the foreground were bright and bold Peony flowers and leaping dolphins.
The whitewashed walls, rough and rustic, met coarse curves of two interior doors. These traditional characteristics served as a stunning contrast to the marble and limestone floor, glistening with a newly polished shine.
Upon sitting and nodding salutations to the forty-six lower-ranked Companions, Lyra slammed the brown wooden gavel upon a marble block, proclaiming, “File 3GK is now open and in session.”
Citizens from all GF countries had activated their eyepieces to see and hear the monthly proceedings. It was not as if they had much choice in the matter. Had they not tuned in, the GF would fine them mightily; and their names, faces, and personal IDs would have been plastered across the sky in their respective countries for all to see and criticize. The forty-seven Companions (which included the High Companion) were from the largest Federation nations and seen as “caretakers” of the underlying 134 less-populated countries.
The ‘High Companion’ was at the top of the Federation pyramid. When an item was brought before the GF Session, the other forty-six Companions voted by a verbal yea or nay. If a tie occurred, the High Companion would have the deciding vote. This is why the choice of Companions was so vitally important in respective country elections.
There were twelve independent countries that declined to join the Global Federation: Switzerland, Denmark, New Zealand, Mexico, Finland, Cuba, Ireland, Italy, Philippines, Canada, Scotland, and Vietnam. These countries were bound together by a coalition called COIN (Cooperative of Independent Nations).
COIN held common philosophical absolutes that joining the GF would be odious for their citizens, resulting in excessive interference by that overseeing government. Citizens from GF countries were forced to apply for and carry ‘Permission Exit Visas’ to enter a COIN country. Exit Visas were not mandated by COIN but by the GF and were limited to a two-month absence.
To extend their interference, a mandatory chip device, called ‘The Stabilizer,’ was inserted through the iris and into the vitreous gel directly behind the iris, via a laser, into all citizens (including newborns) of the GF. The thought behind the usage was to keep citizens honest and free of negativity by creating a replica Hologram-self (officially called the ‘Outer Mind Hologram’), whose job it was to intercede when necessity arose.
In essence, this Hologram would look just like the individual it served, but its function was to negotiate and reverse negative impulses of that host. These Holograms could speak, haggle, and disagree with the ‘Origin-Self’ to attain the desired result: conformity to rules.
GF founders were the authors and copyright holders of this state-of-the-art device. They had financed, researched, developed, and ultimately deemed it “safe and reliable” via their own Medical Control Division.
This chip stored complete statistics such as date and place of birth, sex, work history, familial lineage and detailed checks on items such as voting choices and attendance on High Companion sessions. As one might imagine, it also included a GPS tracker.
All Federation Companion devices were deactivated, if desired, without question or judgement once individuals were voted into office. At the conclusion of their term, the GF automatically reactivated the chip via their Labyrinth Satellite Swarm System, specifically built and launched for the control, tracking and continuous data collection of the Stabilizers. As with all chip information, updates were commonplace, and occurred without citizen approval (or often even knowledge). Upon reactivation, chip updates automatically ensued.
Top-level Federation employees, as well as those in the high-ranking sciences, were awarded a temporary (up to five years) deactivation option once Tenure was achieved. However, approval of this privilege had to be sanctioned by the presiding High Companion and be carried out by select GF authorities.
This individual accommodation could be rescinded at the behest of any reigning High Companion. Taking the option was seen as a faux pas of sorts—a tell-tale sign that the person was not fully committed to the Federation’s ultimate commands—so very few sought approval for it.
In the mid-2070s, neuroscience came to a substantially more profound understanding of human brain function.
Researchers ascertained that while the human brain continues to develop well past the age of majority (twenty-one), the area of the brain in charge of executive functions, such as self-regulation, reasoning, impulse control, and the like, is well-enough along for one to know what one is responsible for and capable of. A unanimous vote was passed that while the Stabilizer would be inserted and operational in all Federation citizens, the Outer Mind Hologram function would not be activated until an individual’s twenty-first birthday. One upside to this control device was that continuous data collection helped advance and accelerate the brain research compendium.
Once activated, on said birthday, the Prefrontal Cortex was immediately alerted to negative leanings, and the Hologram would materialize before the offender and endeavour to re-direct the negative actions and impulses of the Host to an honourable act.
A simplified example of its use would be as follows:
Dario is in need of a new coat. He enters a shoppe and tries on several, but the one he likes best has a higher price listed on the scan code. Dario thinks, I could simply swipe a less costly scan code but take the more expensive coat, ending up with my desired choice at a significantly lower cost.
If Dario was seriously considering this action, it would mean that his Corpus Callosum (the part of the brain that connects the two hemispheres; a fibre bridge, if you like) would be, for lack of a better word, misbehaving. Dario would be thinking of justifications for why this action would be acceptable.
At this point, his Hologram would activate and appear before him, guiding him toward honesty and encouraging him to abstain from advancing toward an adverse and/or illegal activity.
Holograms were not always successful. In fact, more times than not, they were unsuccessful; but this glitch, according to the GF, would right itself as the AI continued to learn from the actions of the collective citizenry.
The insertion of the Stabilizer could only be carried out by select and trained GF medical agents, known as CHIPs (Certified Hologram Intracranial Placers).
However, there were citizens who felt this chip was too intrusive and were unhappy remaining within the Federation. Thus, by 2130, there came to be a determined Resistance group spear-headed by ex-Federation bio-chemist Hera Themos. The moral imperative? To aid those wishing to flee the GF by providing and distributing eye drops capable of scrambling the GPS locator in the chip, long enough for a person to escape to a COIN member country. This scrambling had the added and crucial benefit of curtailing the deployment of the Hologram.
2132, 12th August (Present Day)
Successfully hidden within the tree line, Eleni, Cassia, and Nico found momentary relief and security. Nico bent in two, his breathing laboured. “How did those guards know where to find us?”
Nico was referring to their team and the other fifteen escapees from their original group.
Cassia shook her head, perplexed. “I don’t know, perhaps a leak somewhere down the line? I understand that Hera is always meticulous with her safety precautions.”
Cassia’s group had not been the first to attempt the perilous journey to liberation and certainly would not be the last. Many citizens had already demonstrated their willingness to gamble on possible arrest and detainment. Some had been successful; many had not. Hera Themos continuously evaded capture.
Cassia shrugged. “Listen, we have to remain focused on getting to the Albanian border. We’re supposed to meet … ” Cassia pulled out a sheet of paper from her pocket. “Ergi. He’s a Federation guard. A confidante of Hera’s. He’ll get us through the border checkpoint into Albania and connect us with contacts there. That’s where we’ll get plenty of this liquid, and that’s where we cross to Independent Italy via Dafina Bay. And remember, she gave us a verbal code should we need it.”
Nico, who had regained his breath, added, “Hera said that two drops would scramble the chip’s abilities for about four hours. We’ve been gone for over an hour, so I say let’s get a move on.”
“Agreed,” Eleni said. “No time to think of the others now. We don’t know how long it’ll take to get to the border, and there’s not an abundance of liquid in this bottle. Let’s head … ”
The comrades turned to the sound of fast-approaching footfall advancing through the trees. All three ducked. All assumed the guards had pinpointed their location via GPS; they believed the drops had failed them.
Then, Nico called out, “It’s Zina, Dimitri and Cyrus!” He stood and waved to their fellow escapees. All embraced and breathed a momentary sigh of relief.
“We thought you’d been captured with the rest,” said Eleni.
The original eighteen were split into groups of three, as this approach held the highest success rate so far. Hera explained that those who travel in larger groups were captured quickly, more often than not.
The stratagem was consistent. They were to meet as one large group on the first night. The specific meeting place was never disclosed until a few hours beforehand. Hera would expound on the many details and distribute bottles of chip destabilizer drops.
Hera explained, “These drops should last until you reach Dafina Bay in Albania. Once over the border, you’ll be met by Albanian contacts. You’ll all receive a substantial amount of the destabilizer liquid before being transported across the bay to Italy by a hover vehicle. You can remain in Italy, to live as free citizens, or move on to any other COIN destination. Those nations are beginning to manufacture this liquid in a show of solidarity, for you who are to become refugees. You’ll have to use the eye drops until more advanced formulas are perfected in our labs, but rest assured, we’re diligently working to that end.”
The six three-person groups had agreed to her escape blueprint. Each would set out, at assigned intervals, in the pre-dawn of the following morning. If they chose to stray from the guidelines, the probability of capture would only be increased.
A pained grimace crossed Cyrus’s brow. “You were the first team to depart. We were next in line, and Zina had just finished administering our drops when all hell broke loose. We ran, of course, as did everyone else. I could see you three far ahead, barrelling up the distant hill.”
“Yes,” interjected Cassia. “I was in the rear and turned to look behind us. The Federation guards appeared out of nowhere. From what I could see in those few moments, the defectors were scattering in every direction. I was already fatigued but called out to the others, ‘It’s the guards, run faster!’ We high-tailed it up the ridge. At one point, I thought I heard a guard’s voice and I yelled, again, ‘Get down!’. We fell to the ground. The tree line was in close range but still a little too far away to sprint to, and all I could do was pray that the brush would conceal us if we were being pursued. Since it was still barely light, we were only able to see shapes and silhouettes, walking in one long line, heading toward a hover vehicle.”
“The good news for us,” said Dimitri, “was having received our first dose of drops, we were able to hide quickly. But, in all the chaos, the bottle slipped and fell from Zina’s hand, and we lost most of the liquid. It was no fault of hers, of course.”
Cyrus looked pleadingly to the other team. “We don’t have a lot left in the bottle. Please tell us you’ll share yours.”
Nico replied, ‘Sure, we can … ” but was interrupted by Cassia, who had taken on the responsibility of being the keeper—and dispenser—of the precious drops.
“I … we … want to, but we’ll have to see how it goes. We only have enough for the three of us to get as far as Dafina Bay. We’ve no way of knowing how long that will take. I hope you can understand if sharing isn’t an option.”