Where will we be two millennia from now? Will we be looking at the world through our own eyes or staring into the minds of others?
-A sequel to The Visitor-
It was twelve-point after daybreak, time to start my shift.
For some reason, I couldn’t shake myself into gear that morning. The spot-grids were up in the dark haze of the sky around me, criss-cross patterns of infrared beaming up over the city in crimson cones of light.
If I could have changed anything about my life, it would be the moment I decided to move to a city. I would go back in time and fire a rad-beam into my own face. It would serve me right. I was a stupid kid back then, and six years later, I was a stupid young adult.
Looking back, I think I know what I was waiting for that morning. It seems obvious in hindsight, but at the time I didn’t know. In my mind, I was just standing around wondering when something interesting was going to happen.
A throbbing bass sound like two huge metal gears trying to grind down a building ripped out through the near-black air. That was all we got in the city: near-night and true night. Dawn was just a brownish tint in an otherwise charcoal sky.
Four spot-grids converged on one location, while the rest began an erratic dance across the sky. Where the response beams landed, the brown miasma of fog, pollution and ash glowed a deep red. It rippled and distorted as the heat grew, a nuclear explosion slowed down by ten to the power of a thousand.
I watched for what must have been two points. At fourteen-point AD, the air was white hot and a howling gale was whipping out over the city from the epicentre. There was a brief burst of a high-pitched klaxon, like fingernails dragging against my eardrum, and the noise and light show stopped.
What was that about? I wondered, making my way towards the roof exit.
The official line was “Airborne Insurgent Activity”. When asked why nobody had seen an AIA in their lives, the city regulators would say something about spot-grids taking care of them before they became a problem.
That line didn’t sit well in some people’s minds. I wasn’t about to disagree with it. I was one of the bastards.
Alright, you’re wondering which I’m referring to: regulators or AIA. It’s a good question, but one I’m not about to answer straight away. The thing is, it’s complicated. Are you asking what my job was, who I was or what I believed in?
I was a regulator. More specifically, an interceptor in the Samaritan Division. That meant I got inside people’s heads, intercepted thoughts and tried to piece together as much as I could. The suicide rate in my division? Somewhere around a hundred, a hundred and ten percent.
I was born out of the city. That’s not saying much. Giving birth in the city was an insurgent activity, accounted for by radiation risks and the fact that newborns don’t cope well without sunlight. Apart from that, I was human. That should tell you all you need to know.
I believed in nothing.
That’s where things started to go wrong.