Her head was throbbing. She knew the cause, though it would be difficult to explain to anyone unfamiliar with the Dais or, more commonly, anyone for whom the gigantic compound did not elicit physical discomfort. It was just… There was something in the air that served to sicken her, some form of real or imagined claustrophobic pressure that made her sinuses ache and her eyes puff up. She knew it to be psychosomatic; research had told her of people who hated certain places with such fervency that the mere act of spending time in or around their loathsome locations cause them to suffer a very real and very ailing condition.
Melissa mused at the bizarre circumstance of her psyche that could allow her to circulate around areas like Hounslow, areas which were submerged in atmospheric pollution and riddled with disease, but give her maladies when in the nominally pristine environment of the Dais. It would be enough to make her smile, were the experience not so unpleasant.
If one were totally unaware of the current travails and travesty of justice endured by the inhabitants of the hinterlands, this place would appear beautiful. Even Melissa Myung-Bo had to admit that, albeit grudgingly and through gritted teeth. As she stepped along Wellesley Road, watching well-fed children playing with gay abandon in the lush gardens of their gleaming, attractive, spacious homes, there was no question that, if this image were recreated universally, humankind could finally have been said to have reached the zenith of its capability. That this were not the case, that it was so rare, that there existed such a disparity between this scene and the prevailing situation of the less-fortunate…that was what made Melissa simultaneously want to cry out in despair and roar with outrage.
The shining white carriages of Light Urban Dais Distribution service passed her by with less than a whisper of sound. Entirely automated, these modern-day trains ran with clockwork precision and immaculate reliability – serviced, invariably, by the labourers brought in from outside the compound. The LUDD network had been in operation for almost a quarter of a century, adding new lines and expanding exponentially with the Dais itself. It was a pristine, comfortable, relaxing mode of transportation, and both its passengers and workers appeared to feel abundant pride in its operation. Even Melissa was forced to admit; this was one area where the City Authority had spared no expense – and it showed.
Pausing to admire the passing tram, she pulled a slender grey tube from her jacket pocket, clicked the minuscule activation button on its side, and inhaled deeply from one end. One or two nearby children interrupted their frolicking to gawk at her as she blew out a perfect stream of bluish smoke before resuming her stride. Clearly, they had never beheld such a sight – to say that they lived a sheltered existence would have been true in a literal sense, but an understatement in reality. Sheltered was one thing – having absolutely no regard or even knowledge of a world outside their horizons was quite another. The parents of the Dais’ little ones kept their offspring as ignorant of the outside as possible, and why not? The whole point of this enclosed existence was surely to provide new generations with lives untainted with the folly of yesteryear.
Myung-Bo picked up her pace and continued to suck on the slender grey tube – known colloquially as ‘stems’ – while contemplating her next move. She could not contact Barnes while in the Dais, and her meetings with the Old Man and Letchkov were more than enough for one day – enough to keep the Spozi guessing, at any rate – so maybe it was time to head home and resume her work there. She nodded to herself. Get this last errand out of the way, and then Return To Base. Melissa smiled at the thought of the military jargon. Well, it does fit…
Presently, she arrived at her destination. Gunnersbury. Centuries ago it had been a train station, now it was the central processing hub for all information relayed to the Communik8® stations across the South-East. Everything newsworthy online, every up-to-the-minute bulletin, event or incident, every word deemed suitable for the public – and a good few that were not – went through here. The Communik8® had long ago – fifty, sixty years maybe? – become the device of choice for people who wanted to be kept abreast of the latest developments, capable of providing the sort of customised, user-specific twenty-four hour coverage that media barons from centuries past could only dream of. The Authority had wisely decided to collaborate with the C8 head honchos in order to maintain a healthy amount of influence over what made it to the screen…but C8 was still steadfastly independent, and fixated on their bottom line over all other considerations.
It was this lack of partiality – politically-speaking, at least – that brought Melissa to their door. She might not get the answers she was looking for, but she would certainly get some that neither the Authority, the Deepo nor the Spozi wanted her to hear.
That alone made asking the questions absolutely imperative.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…★