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Finding A Moral Backbone

TsaiSep 18, 2016, 4:54:23 PM

**This is a continuation of my novel. To start from the beginning, please read the prologue Welcome to Mars Expo 2065: A Glimpse into Our Dystopian Future. This link will take you to the prologue: 


If the link doesn't work (and rarely does), type 'Welcome to Mars Expo 2065' in the searchbox to find it. 

Chapter 2: You Broke the Law

Lucas returned home after dropping off his friends. He slowed down his car just as he approached the driveway. Somebody had parked a black, government SUV here. Its license plate bore the flaming torch of the Better Business Bureau. Lucas felt his gut crawl. The Better Business Bureau wouldn't be here unless...  

The front door of his home flew open. Two men in black suits dragged his father out of the house. His father had his hands cuffed behind his back. Lucas instinctively jumped out of his car to rush to his father's defence. He grabbed one of the agents' arm. “Hey! Where are you taking him?”

The agent drew his sidearm and shoved Lucas aside. “Stand back!”

Lucas!” His father snapped. “Don’t fight them. Get inside the house. Your mother will explain everything.”

Lucas gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. He forced himself to stand idle as the agents shoved his father into the SUV. They backed out of the driveway and sped down the road. 

Lucas ran into the house and barged into the kitchen where his mother and sister consoled each other at the table. “Ma, what the hell is going on?” 

His mother extended her hand to him. “Come here. I'll have to explain everything to you too.”

Lucas stumbled forward and sat down next to his younger sister. 

His mother sighed. “Your father and I were afraid that this might happen.”

Lucas clenched his jaw. “Then why didn't you say anything?”

We didn't want to worry you. Besides, your father believed he had smoothed things over with the new Chairman of Central Committee.”

You're not making any sense to me.”

You cannot become the nation's largest food producer without the political backing of some very powerful men, but if your political patrons become the target of a purge, you will be among the first to go down.”

Lucas didn't understand nor did he care for politics. “What did they charge him with?”

Lucas, it doesn't matter. They're going after your father to cut down the financial backing of the old Chairman.” His mother sighed. “But if you must know, they charged him with price gouging. Raising the price of food beyond a certain threshold is a federal offence, one which they are willing to overlook until you find yourself on the wrong side of a political purge. Given the anger over rising food prices... your father was an easy target.”

Lucas's sister sniffled. “He's all over the news. They say because of him people are starving on the streets.”

Lucas turned to his mother. “Is it true?”

She shook her head. “Your father's a scapegoat for the rising prices caused by government currency manipulation. And the food shortage is the result of the price controls imposed on food producers like your father. How can he stay in business if he has to sell for less than what it costs to run his business? He loses no matter what he does.”

Lucas felt his blood boil. He could accept that the government was corrupt and deceitful. He had a harder time accepting that the people could be stupid enough to fall for government lies. “Is dad ever coming back?”

I don't know.”

What's going to happen to us? To dad's company?”

The board of directors will elect a new CEO, one that is friendly with the new chairman. As for us, it's likely they will confiscate everything, including this home.”

Lucas held onto his head to keep it from spinning. “How long do we have before they throw us out?”

I don't know. We'll move in with Nana. We'll figure something out.”

Lucas's mother reached over to stroke his hair. He pulled away from her and stood up. “No. We can't let them take everything away. This is our home.”

What can we do, Lucas?”

We'll hire a lawyer.”

We'll try, but I don't think any lawyer would be foolish enough to represent us.”

We'll take our story to the press. There's got to be someone in that industry who isn't in bed with the government.”

The corporate conglomerates that own the media use the media to push the government's agenda in return for policies that benefit their businesses. If they criticize the state, the state will regulate them out of existence.”

Lucas shook his head. The power to regulate is the power to extort. I'm starting to see why Matty hates the idea of government so much. “Then we'll take to the street and protest.”

The impoverished masses hate our family. They'll tear us apart.”

Lucas put his knuckles on the table and hunched over. The air around him felt heavy. He deflated his chest with a sigh. I feel so weak that I might just fall. He lifted his head and gazed at his mother. He searched for some spark of strength, but he found only despair in her baggy, tear-filled eyes. He shifted his gaze to his younger sister, who sobbed into her hands. He closed his eyes and inhaled a deep breath. After several seconds, he opened his eyes, tore himself away from the table, and marched out of the kitchen.

Where are you going?” His mother demanded.

Lucas kept walking. “I need to find myself a backbone. I’m not gonna find it here.” He stomped out of the house, slammed the door, and entered his car. He took out his visor, slipped it over his eyes, and made a call. “Matty? It's Lucas...”


Matias sat alone in the basement of his home in front of his father’s 3D printer. He glared at the glowing, green ion beam that swept back and forth inside the print compartment. With each sweep, the ion beam deposited a layer atoms in its wake. Layer by layer, this process gave rise to three objects inside the print compartment. In a few seconds, the printer would complete its work.

Matias's visor beeped in his pocket. He took it out and slipped it over his eyes. “Make it quick. I'm busy.”

Matty, it's Lucas...”

Matias listened to Lucas's heavy breathing. “Is something wrong?”

Yeah. The Better Business Bureau arrested my father on trumped up charges. You’re right. We need to fight back.”

I can’t free your father, Lucas.”

I don't expect you to. I just want to fight back.”

I'm at my house, printing what we need for our 3D printer. When I'm done, we’ll meet at Jake's and discuss our next move.”

I'll see you at Jake's.” Lucas ended the call.

The 3D printer beeped, signalling that it had completed its task. Matias opened the print compartment. A strong plastic odour wafted into his nostrils. He looked inside and saw three objects. The first two looked like oversized thermoses. The third object was something that Matias decided he should have in case he ever encountered trouble. It was a Mark V Solokov Gauss-pistol. He put all three objects into his school bag. He wiped the memory of the 3D printer so that his father wouldn't know he had used it. He exited the printer room and locked the door. He went upstairs to the ground floor.

Nobody else was in the house except his mother, and she was asleep in her room, all drugged up on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. She had treated him poorly throughout his entire life, and she had blamed her lousy parenting on her mental health problems. Matias would never see her again, and he would not miss her. He put her out of his mind and kept walking, intent on leaving home forever.

When he reached the front door, the lock jiggled. He froze. The doorknob turned. He threw his bag into the closet and shut the closet door. He faced the front door and scowled. The door swung open. His father stepped through the doorway. Matias twitched his face. “Back so soon, Josef?”

His father grabbed him by the collar and dragged him into the living room. His father threw him against the sofa. “I've received a call from the university administrator. She told me you gave your supervisor a concussion.”

Matias sat up and straightened his collar. “He sniffs out political dissidents for you to hunt down and beat up. He got what he deserved.”

You broke the law.”

I do not obey immoral laws.”

You don't care about morality. You wanted to show your power by smacking around your supervisor. You're a spoiled princeling. Do not presume to wield power you did not earn, Matty. That kind of behaviour gives ammunition to my political enemies.”

Matias stood up and stared his father in the eyes. “I spit on your politics. Now get out of my way. I'm leaving.” He turned his back on his father. Before he could take one step, he felt his collar tighten around his throat. His father yanked him back, and he crashed into the living room table. He rolled across the floor. His father pounced on him. Matias grabbed a light stand and swung it towards his father's knees. Josef caught the light stand and kicked Matias in the face. Matias kicked upwards at his father's crotch. His father caught his ankle, dragged him across the living room rug, swung him up into the air, and threw him towards the stairs. He crashed into the railings, bounced off, and hit the floor. Throbbing pain paralysed him. It drowned out everything else in his mind.

His father grabbed his arm and wrenched it backwards. He screamed as his father strained his shoulder to the breaking point. Something cold and metallic snapped around his left wrist, and then his right. His father dragged him away by the back of his shirt towards the basement door. His father opened the door and threw him down the stairs. He tumbled all the way down with his hands cuffed behind his back. When he hit the bottom, he heard the door slam shut, and then the click of the lock.

Matias couldn't see anything in the pitch black of the basement. He closed his eyes and remained immobile to minimize the pain. He didn't know how much time had passed when somebody opened the door again. The lights came on. He heard footsteps coming down the stairs. His mother crouched before him. “Matty, you shouldn't defy your father, and you should never raise your hand against him.”

Matias bit his lips to keep from screaming expletives at his mother. “He attacked me.”

How precious. You assaulted one of your father’s employees, and here you whine that your father assaulted you.”

Let me explain morality to you, you morally bankrupt airhead. Only the guilty may be punished. Remember that, mother, for you are also guilty of moral crimes.”

His mother bristled. She grabbed his hair, pulled back his head, and smacked him across the face five times. She slammed his face onto the floor, got up, and briskly walked away. The basement door slammed shut.

Matias rolled onto his back and tried to sit up. His abdominal muscles pulled against his injured rib, which caused him to cry out in pain. He dropped back down, rolled onto his side, and pushed himself up with his head and shoulder. He stood up straight.

He probed the darkness with his feet. His foot struck the leg of a table. He turned around and shuffled backwards until he hit the table. He probed its surface with his hands. He trailed the back of his finger over a dusty counter top until he encountered the cool, metallic exterior of a... bench clamp? He found the spot where two metal plates clamped together. He put the chains of his handcuffs between the metal plates. Slowly, he twisted the rotating lever to bring the plates closer together. The metal plates clamped onto the chains of his cuffs. The rotating lever got tighter. He exerted greater and greater force, and then the lever broke.

Matias cussed.

He sat down against the wall and pulled his cuffs up from underneath his butt, and then he swept his cuffs up from underneath his feet. His hands were now in front of him. He lied down on his side and closed his eyes. Sooner or later, his father would come down to release him. That’s when I’ll make my escape.


Several hours passed. His stomach growled. He swallowed. His throat felt like sandpaper. He heard the click of a lock. The basement door opened. The lights came on. Matias squinted. Footsteps thumped down the stairs. A black pair of shoes stopped just short of his nose. His father crouched in front of his face. “Are you ready to end your rebellion?”

Matias licked his cracked lips. “Sure. Just give me some water.”

Of course.” Josef went back upstairs. A few minutes later, he returned with a four litre jug of water. “Open your mouth.”

Matias eyed the jug. “What the hell did you bring a whole jug for?”

His father glowered. “You said you wanted to drink, so drink.” Josef grabbed Matias by the jaw and forced his mouth open. Josef poured the jug of water down Matias's throat, except it wasn't water. It was vinegar.

Matias choked and tried to wriggle free of his father's grasp. “Stop!”

His father cast the jug away and grabbed him by the hair. “Your mother told me about how you spoke to her last night. I will not tolerate that kind of behaviour from my son.”

Matias spat in his father's face.

Josef slammed Matias's skull onto the floor several times and then proceeded to kick Matias in the ribs repeatedly. “Had enough?” Josef went over to the workbench, grabbed a wrench, and beat Matias with it. “Are you done with your rebellion? Have you finally had enough?”

Matias curled into a ball and yelled.

Finally, the hammering stopped. Josef threw the wrench onto the floor. The wrench bounced and landed next to Matias's head.

Josef panted. “Though I am loathed to admit it, you are beyond my capabilities as a father. Before the year is over, I will have you attend the military college. They will beat the rebellion out of you, and you will finally grow up. You must for the sake of our family.”

Matias grimaced at the thought of joining the military. He could not permit them to break him down and reassemble him into a mindless killing machine. That was a fate worse than death. He glared at his father. “I would never kill in service to the state… but I will not hesitate to kill those whom I deem to be guilty.”

His father grabbed him by the collar. “Is that a threat, son?”

Matias snarled. “Yes. You'd better shoot me dead right here, right now or I will kill you.”

His father glowered. “I should punish your further, but I don't think you can take any more of it. Get up. I'm taking you to the clinic. They will patch you up, and when you're fully healed, your punishment will begin again. On and on this will continue until you capitulate.”

Matias pulled his lips so far from his teeth he thought he must have looked like a demented demon. “Go on. Hit me again. Give me your best shot!” He grabbed the wrench and swung with all his might. The wrench connected with his father's skull. He heard a satisfying crunch, and then his father dropped to the floor. Blood trickled down his father's forehead.

Matias stood up. Pain radiated from his ribcage. He bent over and gasped. He dropped the wrench and grabbed his unconscious father by the collar. “The more you hurt me, the stronger I become!” He spat on his father's face. He dug through his father’s pockets and found the keys to his cuffs. He removed the cuffs from his bruised wrists. His hands felt numb, and they looked blue.

He climbed the stairs one painful step at a time. He stopped at every step to catch his breath. Five minutes later, he reached the ground floor. He dropped to his knees and cried, which only made the pain worse. He thought about all those times his father beat him so hard that he ended up in the clinic. Despite all those beatings, he had never allowed himself to cry like this, bawling like a wounded child.

But that's what you are.

Matias grabbed his hair. “Shut up. Shut up. Shut up!” He forced down the lump in his throat. He squinted so hard that he shut off his tear ducts. He blew his snot into his hand and cast the snot aside. He forced himself to stand up and march forward. He found his bag where he left it in the closet. He slung his bag over his shoulder and hobbled over to the garage.

He stood at the doorway between the garage and his house. He heard the sound of running water sloshing down the pipes. His mother was in the shower. It would be a while before she discovered Josef in the basement. I hope you and father rot in hell. Matias went into the garage, and retrieved his bicycle. He pushed it onto the driveway, hopped onto the seat, and peddled as fast as he could.


Matias arrived at Jake's house. He got off his bike and let it drop onto the driveway. He limped up to the front door and rang the doorbell. A few seconds later, Jake answered the door. He gasped. “Matty, what happened to you?”

Matias took off his bag and held it up. “I got... what we need… to build… our printer…” His bag slipped out of his grasp. He dropped to his knees and blacked out.