19 Aug Chapter 10: Love

We leave our hotel early the next morning and go sightseeing. There’s lots of historic architecture and scenic spots to feast our eyes on. Laik soaks it all in while constantly bumping into things from not looking where he’s going. As we’re walking around he and Gian tell us about the officials they talked with yesterday and the progress they made.

LIKE LISTENING TO MUSIC WHILE YOU READ? HERE’S A SERVING SUGGESTION FOR THIS CHAPTER. PURCHASE»

Röyksopp & Robyn – Monument

We told the activists we’d meet them at their office in the afternoon. They said the best way to get there is by subway, so we find an entrance and descend into a truly incredible space—the ceiling over the train platform is made entirely of curved stained glass, lit from openings in the sidewalk above. A wooden subway car that looks like it could easily be over a hundred years old arrives and we get on.

Four policemen step on the train right before the doors close. As we start rolling they ask to see everyone’s ID and are moving up the car in our direction.

“Uh oh, we have company.” Rills tilts his head in the direction of the cops. “Maybe I can try to block them until the next stop? Diversion?”

Laik looks around nervously. “I don’t think that will work—it’ll look suspicious… I don’t know what to do, guys.” His voice cracks a little bit.

Gian touches my arm. “Cevs—do you have any samples of the drug on you?”

I feel around in my pocket. “Yes, one, I think.” I pull out a green hexagonal pill in a clear foil-topped blister pack.

Gian grabs it and slides it into Laik’s pocket. She whispers something in his ear as two of the officers walk up to us.

“IDs please,” the nearest officer says. We pull out our passports and hold them up. After the officer inspects Laik’s he turns to the cop next to him. “Sarge, this one’s from off-world and underage.”

The sergeant looks Laik up and down. “We’ll have to take him in.”

Laik clears his throat and takes the pill out of his pocket, his hand shaking slightly. “I, uh, normally take mine at dinner but I can take it now.” He fumbles while peeling back the foil but gets it open and drops the pill in his mouth. He smiles weakly while swallowing.

The sergeant squints at him and grunts. “I guess this one’s okay. We’ll have to check up on him later. Carry on.” He and his men move on to the next set of passengers.

I hold my breath until the subway car reaches our stop—or at least it feels like I do. Walking up the stairs to street level Laik stops me. “Cevs, the pill you gave me was from a recent non-working batch, right?”

“Yep,” I respond. He lets out a deep breath and I can see his whole body relax. He spins around on the steps and kisses Gian—no, he’s not just kissing her, he’s making out with her. Traffic behind them on the stairway is forced to move around as Rills and I smile at each other.

Once out of the subway we find the small storefront the activists are using as their office. It’s packed with volunteers of all ages who are eagerly awaiting the council’s decision. We get updates from some of them and discuss what we think will happen.

The phone rings and all conversation stops. A woman wearing a hat bearing the slogan ‘Thinking About Sex is Not a Crime’ picks up the handset. Everyone strains to hear the faint voice coming out the other end.

She lowers the receiver and says, “At the next legislative session they’re going to ban the use of the drug and all similar medications. We won!”

The room erupts in energy and noise. Gian kisses me as Laik hugs the stranger standing closest to him. Rills comes over after a bit to tell me that apparently the deputy chancellor had wanted to stop the treatments for years and was just waiting for political cover. Stupid politicians.

We however have a shuttle to catch, so we say our (mostly tearful) goodbyes and head in the direction of the shuttle terminal.

“That was great, what’s our next project?” Laik says. He looks like he’s walking on air.

Gian laughs. “Don’t you have some operations to operate at that company you supposedly work for? Last time I checked you had a full-time job that needs your attention.”

Rills grabs Laik and puts him in a headlock. “Cevs is going to fire you. Slacker!”

I smile. “Fire him? Do you know how hard it is to get good people these days? If anything he deserves a raise.”

Laik, still headlocked, squeaks, “I think of it as my job-within-a-job.”

I chime in. “All of you might not realize but Mizem has just lost a non-trivial chunk of revenue. Budget cuts for everyone!” Gian punches me in the arm. I respond, “Hey, someone has to be thinking of the bottom line!”

Rills spins around to face me. “I know how you can replace the revenue—get the Oliot to buy the drug. You can send it to them as an apology for making them horny all the time, just tell them this will cure it!”

We laugh and laugh. My face has finally stopped hurting from all the laughing when Gian turns the corner and stops. I reach the same spot and see why—there are hundreds of people blocking the entrance to the shuttle terminal, and they don’t look happy. Many of them are shouting, and one is holding a sign that says ‘Outsiders, Don’t Mess With Our Children.’ I highly doubt the sign holder sees the irony in that statement.

A group of police officers are standing to the right of the protestors. They don’t look like they’re here to keep the peace—if anything, they look angrier than the rest of the crowd. Laik swallows hard and hides behind Rills.

We move slowly towards the terminal entrance but it’s clear there’s no way to easily get past the crowd. One of the protesters throws an empty bottle which lands at our feet and shatters, spraying our legs with glass shards. A few of the police take a step or two in our direction. Another throws a rock which almost hits Rills in the head. This looks like it could get really ugly really fast.

I turn around to scope out a retreat path. To my left I see a couple of kids walking towards us. They pass us in silence as more join them. The kids move out in front to stand between us and the protesters.

What starts as a handful of kids turns into a cluster, then a mob, and finally a formation. They are arranging themselves into a triangular wedge shape, pointed at the terminal entrance, with an open circle in the center that we find ourselves in. With purposeful steps the kids forming the triangle slowly start moving forward.

The protesters and the cops don’t seem to know what to make of this and the shouting dies down. When the tip of the triangle is almost at their feet the protesters are forced to move back and out of the way. Some of them try to hold their ground but I think they realize that using force against these kids would make them guilty of the exact thing they claim to be opposing.

The triangle point formed of bodies reaches the terminal doorway and bulges out. This pushes the hushed protesters back even further. All the while the open circle we’re in has been slowly but steadily moving towards the entrance. Soon the formation of kids has completely changed shape; the triangle is now pointing in the opposite direction. The inner circle we find ourselves in moves right up to the doorway to form an open path for us. As we make our way to the entrance, hundreds of hands reach out to touch us. I extend my arms to return the sentiment as multitudes of fingertips brush my clothing, my bare arms, my face. I turn to look at my friends—Laik and Rills are tearing up, while Gian is kissing hand after hand. It takes us ten minutes to walk ten steps, but it feels like an eternity of love.

We leave our hotel early the next morning and go sightseeing. There’s lots of historic architecture and scenic spots to feast our eyes on. Laik soaks it all in while constantly bumping into things from not looking where he’s going. As we’re walking around he and Gian tell us about the officials they talked with yesterday and the progress they made.

LIKE LISTENING TO MUSIC WHILE YOU READ? HERE’S A SERVING SUGGESTION FOR THIS CHAPTER. PURCHASE»

We told the activists we’d meet them at their office in the afternoon. They said the best way to get there is by subway, so we find an entrance and descend into a truly incredible space—the ceiling over the train platform is made entirely of curved stained glass, lit from openings in the sidewalk above. A wooden subway car that looks like it could easily be over a hundred years old arrives and we get on.

Four policemen step on the train right before the doors close. As we start rolling they ask to see everyone’s ID and are moving up the car in our direction.

“Uh oh, we have company.” Rills tilts his head in the direction of the cops. “Maybe I can try to block them until the next stop? Diversion?”

Laik looks around nervously. “I don’t think that will work—it’ll look suspicious… I don’t know what to do, guys.” His voice cracks a little bit.

Gian touches my arm. “Cevs—do you have any samples of the drug on you?”

I feel around in my pocket. “Yes, one, I think.” I pull out a green hexagonal pill in a clear foil-topped blister pack.

Gian grabs it and slides it into Laik’s pocket. She whispers something in his ear as two of the officers walk up to us.

“IDs please,” the nearest officer says. We pull out our passports and hold them up. After the officer inspects Laik’s he turns to the cop next to him. “Sarge, this one’s from off-world and underage.”

The sergeant looks Laik up and down. “We’ll have to take him in.”

Laik clears his throat and takes the pill out of his pocket, his hand shaking slightly. “I, uh, normally take mine at dinner but I can take it now.” He fumbles while peeling back the foil but gets it open and drops the pill in his mouth. He smiles weakly while swallowing.

The sergeant squints at him and grunts. “I guess this one’s okay. We’ll have to check up on him later. Carry on.” He and his men move on to the next set of passengers.

I hold my breath until the subway car reaches our stop—or at least it feels like I do. Walking up the stairs to street level Laik stops me. “Cevs, the pill you gave me was from a recent non-working batch, right?”

“Yep,” I respond. He lets out a deep breath and I can see his whole body relax. He spins around on the steps and kisses Gian—no, he’s not just kissing her, he’s making out with her. Traffic behind them on the stairway is forced to move around as Rills and I smile at each other.

Once out of the subway we find the small storefront the activists are using as their office. It’s packed with volunteers of all ages who are eagerly awaiting the council’s decision. We get updates from some of them and discuss what we think will happen.

The phone rings and all conversation stops. A woman wearing a hat bearing the slogan ‘Thinking About Sex is Not a Crime’ picks up the handset. Everyone strains to hear the faint voice coming out the other end.

She lowers the receiver and says, “At the next legislative session they’re going to ban the use of the drug and all similar medications. We won!”

The room erupts in energy and noise. Gian kisses me as Laik hugs the stranger standing closest to him. Rills comes over after a bit to tell me that apparently the deputy chancellor had wanted to stop the treatments for years and was just waiting for political cover. Stupid politicians.

We however have a shuttle to catch, so we say our (mostly tearful) goodbyes and head in the direction of the shuttle terminal.

“That was great, what’s our next project?” Laik says. He looks like he’s walking on air.

Gian laughs. “Don’t you have some operations to operate at that company you supposedly work for? Last time I checked you had a full-time job that needs your attention.”

Rills grabs Laik and puts him in a headlock. “Cevs is going to fire you. Slacker!”

I smile. “Fire him? Do you know how hard it is to get good people these days? If anything he deserves a raise.”

Laik, still headlocked, squeaks, “I think of it as my job-within-a-job.”

I chime in. “All of you might not realize but Mizem has just lost a non-trivial chunk of revenue. Budget cuts for everyone!” Gian punches me in the arm. I respond, “Hey, someone has to be thinking of the bottom line!”

Rills spins around to face me. “I know how you can replace the revenue—get the Oliot to buy the drug. You can send it to them as an apology for making them horny all the time, just tell them this will cure it!”

We laugh and laugh. My face has finally stopped hurting from all the laughing when Gian turns the corner and stops. I reach the same spot and see why—there are hundreds of people blocking the entrance to the shuttle terminal, and they don’t look happy. Many of them are shouting, and one is holding a sign that says ‘Outsiders, Don’t Mess With Our Children.’ I highly doubt the sign holder sees the irony in that statement.

A group of police officers are standing to the right of the protestors. They don’t look like they’re here to keep the peace—if anything, they look angrier than the rest of the crowd. Laik swallows hard and hides behind Rills.

We move slowly towards the terminal entrance but it’s clear there’s no way to easily get past the crowd. One of the protesters throws an empty bottle which lands at our feet and shatters, spraying our legs with glass shards. A few of the police take a step or two in our direction. Another throws a rock which almost hits Rills in the head. This looks like it could get really ugly really fast.

I turn around to scope out a retreat path. To my left I see a couple of kids walking towards us. They pass us in silence as more join them. The kids move out in front to stand between us and the protesters.

What starts as a handful of kids turns into a cluster, then a mob, and finally a formation. They are arranging themselves into a triangular wedge shape, pointed at the terminal entrance, with an open circle in the center that we find ourselves in. With purposeful steps the kids forming the triangle slowly start moving forward.

The protesters and the cops don’t seem to know what to make of this and the shouting dies down. When the tip of the triangle is almost at their feet the protesters are forced to move back and out of the way. Some of them try to hold their ground but I think they realize that using force against these kids would make them guilty of the exact thing they claim to be opposing.

The triangle point formed of bodies reaches the terminal doorway and bulges out. This pushes the hushed protesters back even further. All the while the open circle we’re in has been slowly but steadily moving towards the entrance. Soon the formation of kids has completely changed shape; the triangle is now pointing in the opposite direction. The inner circle we find ourselves in moves right up to the doorway to form an open path for us. As we make our way to the entrance, hundreds of hands reach out to touch us. I extend my arms to return the sentiment as multitudes of fingertips brush my clothing, my bare arms, my face. I turn to look at my friends—Laik and Rills are tearing up, while Gian is kissing hand after hand. It takes us ten minutes to walk ten steps, but it feels like an eternity of love.


<< Chapter 9: DrugChapter 11: Childhood >>
2 Comments
  • Paul Kater
    Posted at 10:48h, 14 July Reply

    I took a while to catch up with life and all that happening, but it was worth sitting down and reading all the way up to here. 🙂
    Thank you for a great story so far!

    • Josh
      Josh
      Posted at 10:53h, 14 July Reply

      Thanks Paul, I’m going to keep the chapters coming.

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