Most heartbreaking of all the sights on the way to the Dais entry points were those of families taking a no-doubt exorbitantly-expensive trip inside. The look of jubilant excitement on the kids’ faces, the sheer pride emanating from the parents, it made for an idyllic scene of gleeful bonding. Unless, of course, you realised that the mother, or father, or both, had either mortgaged themselves to the hilt or taken loans from some exceptionally dubious sources in order to fund such an expedition. Watching these people, evidently tantalised by the anticipation of experiencing, for just a few days, what their betters in society took for granted…it was all too much for Melissa.
“Lovely, isn’t it, dearie?”
The elderly lady had clearly mistaken Myung-Bo’s moistened eyes and trembling bearing for an appreciative reaction. Melissa, with practiced care, resisted the urge to verbally lash the sweet-natured old woman with the truth that, no, it wasn’t lovely actually, in fact it was fucking soul-destroying. Instead, she convincingly sighed with an affected wistful nostalgia.
“Ah yes, I’m just remembering how my father used to bring me to this heavenly place when I was a little girl.”
The lady – eighty? Ninety? Possibly a hundred, it was scarcely possible to tell, the seniors of the establishment looked after themselves and were looked after to such a degree that gauging age after a certain point was borderline impossible – smiled gently and rubbed Melissa’s arm supportively. Suddenly the journalist’s innate suspicion kicked in: What was such a woman doing out here anyway? Why would she want to delve into the dangerous exterior when she had everything she wanted inside? Who could she possibly want to visit so badly as to risk life and limb?
It was so easy to forget that the inhabitants of the Dais were blissfully ignorant of the circumstances of people outside their gigantic bubble. The smog-breathing masses were virtually non-existent, as far as they were concerned. Their perception of somewhere like Hounslow was that of a 20th Century astronaut considering the Moon – it was remote, barren and hazardous, sure, but that simply made it all the more fascinating. Plus, of course, with the wondrous safety features the Markssons had implemented, not to mention the technological prowess of the Authority’s security apparatus, what had any Citizen to fear?
“I’m sorry, but I really must be going – can’t wait to get back inside, you know how it is.”
The lady beamed.
“I know dearie. Glory be to the Authority for giving us such a beautiful home from home.”
Melissa felt a lump in her throat as it hit her; the woman was an expat – probably from the North. How had she not noticed the accent sooner? Must be losing her touch. A new-found respect and sympathy for the senior citizen arose; clearly, this was a lady who had battled and fought and scraped to survive, to escape what must had been a savage wasteland of utter barbarism.
When the waters had first begun to overwhelm coastal areas, as the Antarctic continental ice shelf dissipated into the oceans, the flood of humanity heading for highlands had been rapid. In the 2250′s, the highest reaches of the Republic of Scotland had been a popular destination for these ‘Climate Refugees’. The chaos, violence and murder had been uncontrollable. For decades. Then, the technology caught up, authorities began to get a grip on land reclamation, and the waters receded to manageable levels. It was too late for many, however.
Melissa, inwardly cringing, screaming, weeping, only nodded, as she turned from the deceptively-docile individual and made her way to the nearest of the multitude of electronic gates. She knew only too well that the heavily-armed guards were mainly for show – every person approaching the Dais were already scanned numerous times before getting within a hundred yards of the burly brutes. Nonetheless, the Authority appreciated the value of public perception; it was not enough to merely be invincible – they must be seen to be invincible. The citizenry had to be constantly reassured that the Dais was a bastion of impenetrability – an impregnable cloud nine.
The giant but slightly weary-looking sentry held up a palm as she drew near.
“Melissa Jean Myung-Bo?”
She nodded, with as much haughty self-importance as she could muster.
“18C Esker Court, Cityview Gardens?”
She nodded once more. He swiped, pressed and pushed at the ModuleLite® (Defence Issue) he held in his hand.
“You last left the compound-” Why did they call it this? They made it sound like a prison “- approximately four days ago at eleven-fifteen A.M. Can you tell me what the purpose for your stay in the hinterlands was?”
Melissa grinned icily.
“I was conducting research, on Authority instructions.”
With that, she pulled out the cheaply-laminated card bearing the signature of Olaf Marksson. The effect was immediate.
“Oh! Yes, miss – sorry, mum – I mean, ma’am – I mean, Citizen! Carry on through, right this way, is there anything you need me to carry…?”
Melissa Myung-Bo left the gibbering buffoon floundering in her wake as she calmly strode past, not even bothering to give him a last withering glance. Prick. They were all the same now: They might be extremely well-trained, built like hover-tanks and fearsome from afar, but they all displayed a grovelling, unquestioning respect for authority.
That would be their undoing.
The thought made Melissa smile as she pressed a thumb to the final Identification Point. A cooling breeze wafted over her, refreshing her now-beaming countenance as she entered The Dais. She was back inside, and her none-too-affectionate term for the place was on her lips;
“The belly of the beast…”
Solidarity, brothers & sisters… ☆