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The Eden Project | Episode 2: Man And Nation At The Breaking Point

ME2007VigilOct 19, 2018, 4:25:54 AM

This is a continuation of an ongoing series. Click this link for the episode list:


Episode 2: Man And Nation At The Breaking Point

Joel, Chuck and the other laid-off workers walked out to the parking lot. The air above the lot shimmered in the blistering heat of the afternoon sun.

Chuck grumbled, “Shiny new city my ass. They gon' stick us in the ghettos.”

Ryan, a scrawny man with a pockmarked face, hocked and spat. His mucus sizzled on the pavement. “Eden Project. Hmph. That's an affront, I tell ya. May God smite those multinational shits.”

“Why wait on God? We got fists, don't we?” Chuck kissed his right knuckle.

Ryan shook his head. “It don't feel right walking away without breaking a single one of those soulless abominations.”

“No job no dental benefits,” Joel said. “Don't you boys go losing your teeth, now.”

Chuck growled. “I ain't going home until I smash something today.”

“Let's crash at the Waterin' Hole,” Joel said. Hopefully, Chuck would calm down after dousing his anger with a heavy dose of alcohol.

“I could use a heavy drink,” Ryan said.

Joel heard a musical chime coming from his shirt pocket. He reached inside his coverall and pulled out his holo-lens. He slipped it over his eyes. His wife was calling. She knew not to call him at work unless it was an emergency. He wondered what the bad news would be. He didn't exactly have good news to share with her either. No. He wasn't going to tell her he'd just been laid off, at least not until he had some alcohol in his blood. He answered and spoke stiffly, “Suzy. Something wrong?”

“Joel, there's men outside. They're trying to break through the door.”

Joel stopped. Cold sweat rolled down his forehead. “Call the cops.”

“I did. They refuse to send help. You need to get over here now.”

Joel heard a loud snap followed by shouting.

“Get out of my home,” Suzy screeched. “When my husband gets here, y'all gonna get it.”

Joel's heart raced. His limbs shook. “Suzy, I'm on my way.” He dashed towards his car.

“Ma'am,” an unidentified male said on the other line, “put the phone down, stay out of our way, and everything will be fine.”

“Get out,” Suzy shouted.

The line cut out.

“Shit!” Joel opened the door to his car and got in the driver's seat.

Chuck and Ryan rushed over. “What's going on?” Chuck demanded.

“There's men at my house accosting my wife, and the cops won't help. Get in your trucks. Follow me.” Joel shut the door, turned off the autopilot and blasted out of the parking lot. He sped down the only highway leading back to town. The desert landscape zoomed past him in a blur. His hands shook as he gripped the steering wheel. He bared his teeth as he envisioned himself pounding the living tar out of those faceless intruders.

Despite speeding most of the way, he managed to make it back home without getting pulled over by a cop. There was a white box truck parked on the driveway with the trailer facing the open garage. There was also a white pickup truck parked on the curb. The pickup truck had the Armitage Security logo plastered on its door.

Joel slammed on the brakes and parked his car in front of the driveway. Two pickup trucks screeched to a stop behind him. He got out of his car and ran to the front door just as two men in white coveralls backed out with a green and black checker-patterned sofa between them. Before Joel could grab the nearest man, somebody yanked him back by his collar and shoved him towards Chuck and Ryan who were coming up behind him. Joel stumbled, regained his footing and turned to see who had accosted him.

An Armitage security guard wearing green and beige military camo stood with his hands on his hips. The man wore a green combat helmet, black shades, a bulletproof vest, a belt with a gun holster, and black carbon-fiber arm and leg plating. A black stun baton dangled by his left thigh. He made loud smacking noises with his lips as he chewed his bubblegum, apparently unfazed by the fact that he was outnumbered three to one.

Joel walked up to the security guard until they were within a hair's breadth of touching their noses. The guard had a few grey hairs on his goatee, and a scar that ran across his lips. Joel could smell the other man's coffee breath mixed with the faint smell of strawberry bubblegum. Joel growled. “Who the fuck sent you?”

The security guard fished a business card out of his pocket and flicked it towards Joel's chest. “Strickland's Collection Agency. You've got a mountain of unpaid debt, Mr. Monroe.”

“What the hell? I consolidated and refinanced that debt. I ain't late on my payments.”

The security guard shoved Joel away. “You broke the terms of the contract.”

“What terms?”

“You lost your job.”

Joel wasn't aware that was one of the terms, not that he had read the contract. “How do you know I lost my job? That literally just happened.”

The security guard shrugged. “I don't ask the devil how he conducts his business. I just do as he says.”

Chuck stepped forward. “Fuck you.”

The security guard rolled his neck. “I don't got nothin' against you three. Hell, maybe a few years from now, I'll be standing where you are. But right now, I got a job to keep. Don't make it any harder than it has to be.”

By now, the two repo men had loaded the sofa into their truck. They walked back into the house without making eye contact with Joel.

Joel expelled an exasperated sigh. “So are you guys taking everything?”

“Yup,” the security guard answered.

“Even the house?”

“You bet.”

“Where the hell is my family going to live?”

“I suggest you apply for social housing. You got a week before I come back. When I do, you don't want to be here.”

Joel no longer felt angry. He felt crushed by the overwhelming weight of life. “You got a name?”

“You can call me Saul.”

“Saul, I can't move my family to one of those slum cities. You know what happens to women and children who end up there.”

Saul stopped chewing his bubblegum. He twitched his face. “If things don't change in this country, there's gonna be hell to pay. When that day comes,” he clapped Joel on the arm, right where Joel wore his CCP armband, “I'll fight on your side. But not today. If you know what's good for you, go back to your car and move it out of the way.”

Saul seemed like a good guy. Joel didn't want to pick a fight with him. With a heavy sigh, he nodded. “Just... I want to see my wife first.”

Saul tilted his head towards the door. “Go on.”

Joel turned to face Chuck and Ryan. “Thanks for coming guys. I'll take it from here.”

Chuck walked up to Joel and grabbed Joel by the shoulders. “We don't work together no more, but we'll stay in touch.” Chuck beckoned for Ryan, and the two of them walked back to their trucks.

Joel entered his house. His wife and children were sitting on the living room floor, sniffling and rubbing their eyes. The living room looked awfully big and empty without the furniture. Joel sat down with his family. They leaned forward and hugged him. He wrapped his arms tightly around Suzy and their two children.

Kayla, their nine year old daughter, cried into his left shoulder. “They're stealing our things. Why won't the police stop them?”

Joel winced. He wasn't sure how to explain it. “Because... they're not stealing.”

“Isn't it stealing when you take things that don't belong to you?” Asked Cameron, Joel's six year old son.

“See, I...” Joel let go of his family. He looked to his wife, but she averted his gaze. He looked down at his son who gazed back at him with big, tearful eyes. Joel looked up at the ceiling to keep his tears from rolling down his cheeks. “We bought a lot of things with borrowed money. If we can't pay it back, then we can't keep the things we bought.”

“Don't we have enough money?” Kayla asked.

Joel closed his eyes. “No.”

“What about my piggy-bank?” Cameron whispered. “I've hid it from those men.”

Joel couldn't hold back his tears any longer. He looked down at his son and hugged the boy fiercely. “Thank you, Cameron, but it's your money. I won't take that from you.”

“You gave it to me,” Cameron said.

“I know. So it's yours now. You keep it safe.”

“I don't understand,” Suzy said, shaking her head. “I thought we had refinanced our debt. We were meeting all our payments.”

Joel had been dreading this moment, but he couldn't keep his secret any longer. “Kissler's laid off the entire plant. All seven hundred of us. We've been replaced by machines.”

Suzy covered her mouth just as she sobbed. “What are we going to do?”

“They've got this city built just for us.” Joel hated himself for trying to sell this pipe dream to his family, but this pipe dream was all he had to offer them. “They're giving us a new home. We won't have to worry about food. Everything will be fine.”

“Social housing?” Suzy blurted. “Joel, that is not an option.”

“It's not social housing. It's different.”


“It's the Eden Project. You see, these companies have gotten together and...”

“Joel, if the government can barely afford social assistance, what makes you think these companies can do a better job?”

“Maybe the fact that they hardly pay any taxes? Or the fact that private companies are just more efficient.”

“Joel, you're not thinking. Where is the profit in taking care of the nation's poor?”

“It's good for their image.”

“Hogwash. The Eden Project is a lie.”

“Why would they lie?”

“To keep you from burning down that factory.”

Joel lowered his gaze. His wife was right.

The two repo men were back. One of them carried a dog-sized robotic pony that had pink fur and big round eyes.

Kayla leaped to her feet. “Stop. That's my pony. Daddy, don't let them take Beauty. Please.”

Joel got up and stopped the repo man. “It's a fucking toy. Is that really necessary?”

The repo man glowered. “It's got rare-earth semiconductors in it that's worth more than your sorry ass. Get out of my way.”

Kayla wept.

Joel felt like his heart had been ripped out of him. He glared at the repo man and growled, “Put. The pony. Down.”

The repo man ripped the head off the pony, causing Kayla to screech.

Joel punched the man squarely on the jaw, immediately knocking him out. A few seconds later, Joel was tackled to the floor. Fists flew into his face. He covered his face with his arms as he roared. The fists stopped raining down on him. He peeked through the crack between his arms. Saul was sitting on top of him.

“Are you done?” Saul asked.

Joel let his arms fall to his sides. He tasted blood. “Yeah. Sorry.”

Saul glanced at the unconscious repo man. He glanced at Kayla, who clutched her pony's severed head. He returned his gaze to Joel. “I'll let that slide, but now I'm down a man. You need to help the other guy move your stuff into the truck.”

“Fair enough,” Joel said.

“Is that man going to press charges?” Suzy asked.

“He won't,” Saul flatly replied. He stood up and turned to face the other repo man. “How many times I gotta tell your buddy to learn some fucking tact? Call an ambulance.” With that, Saul exited the house.  

The factory where Joel worked was inspired by Tesla's Gigafactory. I love Tesla, by the way, and SpaceX too! 

This story is set in the same universe as my first novel, Red Eden: Homeworld Bound. The Eden Project is set two centuries before the events of Red Eden: Homeworld Bound, so you'll get much of the backstory if you follow my new series. If you're interested, you can support me by downloading Red Eden: Homeworld Bound for free and leaving a review. Just click the following link:


If you're feeling really generous, you can support me by buying the e-book or hard copy on Amazon and leaving a review:


Thanks again for reading! Cheers!

Michael E. Vigil