**This is the follow-up chapter to my previous post, Welcome to Mars Expo 2065: A Glimpse into Our Dystopian Future. That was the prologue to my novel. I highly recommend that you read the prologue first before reading this first chapter. To read the prologue, please follow this link:
If the link doesn't work (and rarely does), please type in 'Welcome to Mars Expo 2065' in the searchbox to find it. Thanks.
Matias Romero ground his teeth as he watched the unveiling of Cap2 on his laptop. He listened to the video on his earphones while pretending to monitor the chatter on the social media website, Share-It.
“Ching Ying Min, you're up!” Enon said.
The camera panned to a short Asian man with a bowl cut, thick-rimmed glasses, and a smug smile. Matias gripped his seat so hard that the plastic cracked. “Oh, hi Enon.” The Asian man sounded like an American faking a Chinese accent. “How do you suppose the world's governments will respond to Cap2?”
The audience uttered a collective 'oooh!'
Matias drew his lips into a silent snarl.
The camera panned to a smiling Enon. “We will see.”
A split second later, Enon's head snapped backwards. He hit the floor. Blood gushed out of his face and chest. His body guards jumped onto the stage and formed a human shield around his body. The audience screamed. The camera swung back to the Asian man. He wrestled with a security officer twice his size. The Asian man picked up the officer and threw him across three rows of seats. The security personnel opened fire. A bullet ripped off the Asian's man's entire left cheek, revealing machinery underneath the synthetic flesh.
The video ended.
Matias breathed heavily as he stared at the empty screen. He clicked the re-play button to see the video again in slow motion. He winced when he saw the bullet penetrate Enon's right cheek just above the incisors. Another bullet went through Enon's heart. Matias shut his eyes and looked away.
Humanity just lost one of our greatest heroes.
He glared at the computer screen behind his laptop. Online comments flagged by users on the social media website, Share-it, filled Matias's computer screen. None of the comments pertained to Enon's assassination. It would be a while before anyone on Earth heard about it, given the state's control over the media and the internet.
He clicked on one of the red flags and read the flagger's comment. OMG. This guy is basically calling for a genocide against poor people. This is hate speech at its worse. It is dangerous, divisive, hateful, and evil. I am so shaken by his comment. And to think he goes to the same campus as I do. I don't feel safe knowing he's lurking nearby, poisoning people's mind with his hateful rhetoric. Oh God, my hands are shaking. I hope the Hug Therapy Centre is open tonight. I'm going to need some hugs to detox my system after being exposed to such venomous hate. Whoever he is, I hope he goes to jail.
Matias saw that the flagger was a second year gender studies major at the State Cooperative University. The original commenter called himself BlackPidgeon. Matias clicked BlackPidgeon's comment to see what was so hateful about it. This is gonna get a lot of flak, but somebody has to say it. Over a quarter of the population is a third generation welfare baby. STOP FORCING US TO GIVE YOU MONEY FOR HAVING BABIES YOU CAN'T AFFORD. If you can't afford him, and he starves, you don't get to blame the rest of us. We didn't do anything wrong. You are the one who brought him into this world to suffer. You are the one who's to blame.
Matias palmed his face. According to the laws, BlackPidgeon could face mandatory jail time for inciting hatred towards a vulnerable group. Matias glanced at the job description taped onto his cubicle. Your role as a member of the TTC's Peer Mediator Program is to monitor social media for hateful comments. When you encounter such comments, your duty is to denounce the comment and reaffirm that we are an open, inclusive and compassionate society. You must flag comments that meet the criteria for hate speech for further investigation.
Below the job description, Matias read the incentives section. Submit all of your counter-comments to your supervisor at the end of your shift. Your supervisor will award you fifty cents for every counter-comment that meets the acceptability criteria. Your supervisor will award you a one point boost to your annual GPA for every hate-preacher that you flag who is successfully prosecuted.
Joining the Telecommunication Technologies Commission, or TTC, Peer Mediator Program, colloquially known as the Fifty Cent Brigade, was a prerequisite for attaining membership in the Federal Law Enforcement Officer's Union. Matias's father wanted to steer him down this path, as it was the quickest and surest path to power. Matias only played along, if begrudgingly, to buy time. He had believed that Enon would one day bring freedom to Earth.
But now they've killed him.
With a grim face, he posted a reply to BlackPidgeon's comment. Brother, the Fifty Cent Brigade has flagged you. Expect a visit from the TTC.
The TTC forbade its peer mediators from acknowledging the existence of the Fifty Cent Brigade, but Matias didn't care. He wanted to give BlackPidgeon a fair warning.
Matias wrote to the student who had flagged BlackPidgeon. Your comment is pure verbal diarrhea. Mis-characterizing someone's position, stringing together a bunch of adjectives, and talking about how outraged you feel isn't an argument. It is sophistry. Then again, it's what you get paid to do, you fifty cent whore.
Somewhere in the office, a girl stood up and uttered a loud gasp. Matias narrowed his eyes. So that's the bitch who condemned an innocent man to jail.
He heard a footstep behind him. He turned around. His supervisor loomed over him. Mr. Gonzalez snatched away the thumb-sized plug-in device sticking out of Matias's laptop. The laptop displayed an error message. This device is no longer connected to the DSN. Mr. Gonzalez held up the device. “Is this a D-link, Matty?”
Matias stood up and glared at his supervisor. He clenched and unclenched his fists as he fought to control his contempt. “Hand it back. Now.”
Gonzalez twirled the D-link device between his fingers. “You used this device to access the Deep Space Network – a refuge for criminals, deviants and enemies of the North American Cooperative. That is a serious offence.”
Matias crossed his arms and said nothing. Solar Resources, a staunchly anti-government Mars-based company, created the Deep Space Network, or DSN, which was a network of satellites and spaceborne servers. Access to the network required a D-link that could communicate directly with the orbiting satellites. All Earth-governments had outlawed communication with the DSN due to the fact that they had no control over it. In response, Solar Resources made the DSN available for free for anyone who had a D-link, though access to certain websites hosted on it required a monthly subscription in runits, the Martian currency.
Gonzalez put the D-link in his pocket. “Just because your father is the Commissioner of the TTC, that doesn't give you free reign to do whatever you want. I will report this incident to your father. Given your history, I think you know what you can expect. Now go home, Matty.”
Matias felt his face burn. He grabbed his laptop and his bag and headed for the door. He walked past the cubicles of his Fifty Cent comrades. He caught sight of the girl who had flagged BlackPidgeon. He walked up to her. He read her name tag. “Samantha Glevissig. You like that comment I left you?”
She wrinkled her nose. “That was you? The hell's wrong with you? Gonzalez is gonna hear about this.”
Gonzalez marched over and pointed at the door. “Matty, get out!”
Matias stomped out of the computer lab. He strode down the main hall of the Science and Technology Centre, located on the campus of the State Cooperative University. He stopped outside a classroom to wait for his friends. He checked his watch. In a few minutes, the period would end. As he waited, he read the poster on the wall in front of him. This is a safe space. If feelings could get hurt, don’t say it.
The bell rang, signalling the end of the period. Students flooded out of the classrooms. Matias spotted his friends, Jake and Lucas, walking towards him. Lucas shouldered his school bag. “Matty, you look like you're ready to kill somebody. What's going on?”
Matias tightened the muscles in his face. “They killed Enon.”
Jake gasped. “Wait, wha-? Where did you hear this?”
Matias gritted his teeth. “I saw it on the DSN.”
“Who killed him?” Lucas demanded.
Matias twitched his face. “Enon threatened the power of governments all around the world. They all wanted him dead. As far as I'm concerned, they're all guilty.”
“You're casting a pretty broad net,” Lucas said.
Matias grabbed Lucas by the collar. “It doesn’t matter which one of them did it. They’ve all got the blood of innocents on their hands. Enon is just their latest victim.”
Lucas shoved Matias away. “You're pissed. I'm pissed too. Snarling into my face isn't going to change anything.”
Matias breathed deeply to calm himself. “Sorry. I shouldn't have grabbed you like that.”
Lucas put his hand on Matias's shoulder. “Let's head over to TK's and blow off some steam.”
Matias pulled away from Lucas. “They murdered Enon, and you want to get drunk in a goddamn bar?”
Lucas splayed his arms. “Tell me what you want to do.”
Matias clenched his right fist in the air. “I want to avenge Enon.”
Jake stepped in and whispered, “Guys, this isn't the best place discuss this.”
Matias tore down the safe space poster and ripped it apart. “I'm done stepping around egg shells. I will talk where I want and when I want. And I will finish what Enon started. He created Cap2. Now it's our job to make sure everyone can access it, which means they'll need D-links.” He turned his head and saw Gonzalez walking out of the computer lab. “And Gonzo's stolen my only D-link. I'm getting it back.”
“You'll never get it back from him,” Jake said.
“Watch me. Lucas, grab your car. I'll meet you guys outside.” Matias followed Gonzalez down the hall. The TTC operative entered his office. Matias opened the door and barged inside.
Gonzalez sat down at his desk. “Oh, it's you. Come to beg me not to tell your father?”
Matias felt his blood boil at the sight of Gonzalez's smirk. He circled around the desk and stepped into his supervisor's personal space. “Wipe that smirk off your face.”
Gonzalez's smirk turned into a snarl. “Kinda embarrassing, if you think about it. You're a twenty year old adult who still gets beat by his father.”
Matias saw red. “Last chance. Hand back my D-link or I will maul you.”
“Oh, for fuck's sake!” Gonzalez slammed his fist onto the table and bent forward to stand up.
A switch flipped in Matias's brain. He grabbed a heavy desk lamp and swung it towards his supervisor's left temple. The lamp connected. The impact knocked Gonzalez over his desk. Matias hammered the lamp repeatedly into his supervisor's skull. He heard a crack, and then blood trickled down Gonzalez's forehead. Matias dropped the lamp, hands shaking. Bastard got what he deserved. He stuck his hand into Gonzalez's pocket. He retrieved his D-link device and tucked it into his jacket. He walked out of the office and shut the door behind him.
He walked down the hall. He brushed past his peers. He exited the university building. Jake and Lucas pulled up to the curb in Lucas's car. Jake stuck his head out the passenger's window. “You got it, Matty?”
“Yeah. Drive.” Matias climbed into the rear seat and shut the door.
Lucas tapped the control display on the dashboard of his electric car. “Where to?”
Matias shrugged. “Anywhere. Set it on auto-pilot. We'll talk in the car.”
Lucas entered a destination, and the car drove away on its own. “So how'd you get it back from Mr. Gonzo?”
“I knocked him out.”
Jake whirled around. “You what?”
“He wasn't about to give it up without a fight.”
Jake shook his head. “You’ll never be able to show your face at the university ever again.”
“Good. I have no intention of ever going back.”
“Jeez. Does that D-link mean that much to you?”
“It is the weapon that will destroy the Cooperative, and it is our key to freedom. From this day forward, it will replace this.” Matias took out his bank card and snapped it in two. “Now they can't track me every time I make a purchase.”
Lucas threw his hands into the air. “You're crazy. We can't take on the government.”
“When enough people sign up for a Cap2 account, they will abandon the dollar for the runit, which will accelerate the decline of the dollar. When that happens, the government might as well pay its enforcers with toilet paper. When the enforcers go, the whole system will collapse.”
Lucas shook his head. “They killed Enon for this, and Enon's a multi-trillionaire with his own city on Mars. What chance do we stand?”
“We have what it takes. Do you remember when we first met? We were high school freshmen. You and Jake recruited me for a brawl with the seniors. They'd taken their initiation rituals too far. Some of the freshmen girls got raped. You wanted to punish the guilty and put an end to that disgusting tradition.”
“What's that got to do with anything?” Lucas asked.
“It's why I befriended you guys in the first place. You aren't afraid to pick a fight with evildoers. That's what the world needs right now. I know what I'm asking of you is a heck of a lot more than some brawl with a bunch of high school brats, but the principles are the same.”
“So what's your plan, specifically?” Jake asked.
“The plan is simple. We sell D-links. Not only will we undermine the state, we'll get rich doing it.”
“Most people are zombies,” Lucas said. “Do they even know about Cap2?”
“The media will try to suppress the story, but everyone will hear about Cap2 eventually. They’ll want a piece of it, even the government. I think the government will force everyone to open a Cap2 account through a highly controlled channel that will allow them to monitor and tax everyone's runits. If the people want to keep their runits, they'll have to buy a D-link from us.”
Jake scrunched his face. “D-links are way more illegal than even the most hardcore drug. Would people risk mandatory jail time just to open a Cap2 account?”
“The alternative is sticking by the dollar. It has stabilized over the past few years, but we're about to leave the eye of the hurricane. Hyperinflation is coming back with a vengeance.”
“Okay, but you can't even buy D-links on the black market,” Lucas said. “So how do we get a hold of them?”
“I got mine from a 3D printer.”
“How?” Jake asked. “Only a handful of big corporations are allowed to operate printers.”
“My father keeps a 3D printer at home.”
Lucas raised his eyebrow. “Isn't that illegal?”
“He runs the TTC. The laws don't apply to him.”
Jake scoffed. “And he lets you use his printer?”
“I didn't ask for permission. When I get home today, I will hack his printer and print the components we need to build our own 3D printer. Of course, a printer's useless without cartridges.” Matias fixed his gaze on Jake.
Jake shook his head. “Oh, no. Don't even ask.”
“Your father runs the only company that’s licensed to distribute printer cartridges. You need to get him on board with this plan.”
“If he sells cartridges to anybody who is not a licensed dealer, he can lose everything. He's not going to risk it. Hell, I don't want him to risk it. Matty, drop it or you'll get us all in trouble.”
“I agree,” Lucas said. “I have no problems brawling with a bunch of rapey high school brats, but-”
“But if they wear the uniform, you'd do nothing?” Matias glared at Lucas.
Lucas scrunched his face. “That’s not what I was about to say.”
“I don’t care what you say. I care what you do. Answer me this: would you let a cop get away with murder?”
“Most cops are decent people. They won't kill you for no reason.”
“What happens if you refuse to obey the law?”
“They'd arrest you, of course.”
“And if you resist all the way?”
Lucas squirmed. “They'll kill you. But that's your fault for breaking the law and resisting arrest.”
“It's my fault for refusing to obey immoral laws?”
“What laws are you talking about?”
Matias held up his D-link. “Why is it moral for a cop to kill me if I refuse to hand over my D-link?”
“Because criminals use that technology to commit crime.”
“They also use computers to commit crime. Does that mean it is moral for a cop to kill me if I refuse to hand over my computer?”
“Not if you're innocent.”
“Then how is it any different for a D-link? Or 3D printers? Or marijuana? Or guns? If you don't have any evidence that I have harmed someone, keep your hands off my property or I will defend myself.”
Lucas held up the palm of his hands. “Fine, but if you have a problem with the law, taking it out on cops won’t change anything. They're just doing their jobs. Maybe in their minds, they think they're doing good.”
“I spit on good intentions. If you enforce immoral laws, you are guilty.”
“Yes, there are immoral laws, but there are also good laws. A cop can't pick and choose which law to enforce, and having no cops isn't an option. Somebody has to do the job or there would be chaos.”
“We need people to enforce morality, not laws. I admire that police officers have a strong sense of duty. Unfortunately, they serve the wrong ideas.”
“That's why we have democracy. Yeah, it's a mess right now because the politicians are totally controlled by the shadowy elites. But when it's working properly, democracy is how we work out which ideas are good and which are bad without resorting to violence.”
“Majority rule is not what determines right from wrong. In fact, the very idea of government is inherently immoral. Look out the window and see the empirical evidence for yourself. Where has the political process gotten us?”
Matias followed Lucas's gaze out the window. Along the entire street, homeless people slept on the sidewalk and in the alleyways.
Lucas averted his gaze. “It's gotten us nowhere.”
“Now answer me this: is it moral for me to beat you up if you refuse to hand over your money?”
“Of course not.”
“What if I'm a cop, and you're not paying your taxes?”
“What's changed? Is it the costume I'm wearing? Or is it the fact that some pasty, potbellied politician scribbled on a piece of paper stating that you have to hand over whatever he tells you to hand over?”
“It's... more complicated than that.”
“So it's moral to turn you into my slave as long as I make it seem complicated? Maybe that's why they keep dumbing down the public education system. The stupider people are, the easier it is to confuse them.”
“There are plenty of valid reasons to hate the government. I don't think taxation is one of them.”
“Taxation is the threat to break your body if you refuse to hand over the fruits of your labour to your political masters. That is slavery. Slavery is immoral. No government can exist without slavery. Therefore, all governments are inherently immoral and must be abolished. The very fact that the government has convinced the people that slavery is justified is what enables the government to justify any and all other acts of evil.”
“You can opt out of paying taxes by... not working.”
Matias scoffed. “And what will you do to survive?”
Lucas squirmed. “You get free education, roads, and healthcare from the government. If you don’t pay your taxes, you’re the one who’s stealing.”
“So anybody who receives government services but pays little to nothing into the system is a thief?”
“Exa-” Lucas shut his mouth. His face turned red.
Jake put his hand on Lucas's shoulder. “I got this. Anybody who has the means to pay taxes but does not do so is a thief.”
“So your definition of a thief is anybody who's richer than you who doesn't give you free stuff?”
Jake shrugged. “Isn't it immoral to let poor people die on the streets?”
“Who is causing them to die?”
“People who hog all the resources.”
“Who hogs all the resources?”
“People who have a lot of money.”
“If I grow my own food, that does not prevent you from growing your own food. It does not prevent you from going out to sea to fish. It does not prevent you from chopping down firewood and trading that with me for food. I am not responsible for how you choose to live your life. If you choose to do nothing all day, you cannot say that I hogged all the resources. I earned those resources. You didn't.”
“But the job market is a wasteland out there. The opportunities just aren't there. People are starving.”
“There is plenty of arable land, but some asshole called the King has claimed all the land without lifting a goddamn finger to earn it. And if you settle the land without his permission, the King will kill you because that land was meant for one of his corporate cronies. Even if the King grants you a portion of the land, you must hand over most of what you produce or he will kick you off the land. So I ask again: who hogs all the resources? The successful farmer who works hard and earns his wealth? Or the King who takes what everybody else produces?”
Jake lowered his gaze. “The King.”
“And who is causing the poor to die?”
Jake swallowed. “The King.”
“And what do we do about it?”
Matias glowered. “We kill the King, his corporate cronies, his soldiers and all his supporters for they are all guilty of murder.”
Jake gasped. “Matty, that's going too far. Violence will only lead to hell on Earth.”
“Hell is what happens to those who ignore morality.”
Lucas cut his hand across the air. “Shush. What you're talking about is dangerous.”
Matias scowled. “Nothing is more dangerous than unopposed evil.”
**Author's note: If there's sufficient interest in this story, I will continue posting chapters roughly once a day. Please subscribe if you're interested. Also, I would appreciate any feedback you can provide to help me improve my writing, my characters, my plot, and most importantly, the ideas I present. Full novel is available on Amazon.com (title: The Moral Foundation By Tsai Li), although I recommend you wait for the free chapters here on Minds, unless you really, really want to pay $2.99 (Amazon limits me to 5 free days every 3 months, and I've already used them up).
**To read the next chapter, please type Finding a Moral Backbone in the searchbox or click here for the URL (which rarely works):