(This might be largely unedited but that's because the "future" isn't fleshed out yet in my mind)
Monday, May 26th, 2186
“Print your name here please, full name.”
Aaron Dominic Janner.
“Okay Aaron,” the woman said, making the mistake every employer or registration service had made his entire life: used his first name.
“Dominic,” he said with a smile, an attempt to be polite. “Or Dom to make it easier.”
“Dom,” the woman replied with a smile.
The desired effect was achieved. As the woman tapped the screen, Dom studied her further. The badge on her uniform was the proud insignia of UNIEO, the United Nations Interstellar Exploration Organization. Instead of the famous globe cradled by two olive branches, this one had an astronaut on the left and a generalized Class E-V cruiser. Currently, there were only three Class E-V cruisers available to UNIEO, or ‘you neo’ as some pronounced it. Dom wanted to be on one of them.
Ever since the world focused on interstellar travel the demand for more researchers rose tenfold. Of course, the jobs with a constant demand tagged onto this: medicine, military, and management, the three m’s Dom’s father always mentioned as necessary. Pioneers would always need health, safety, and a boss to answer to.
Earth was no longer a massive concern, not when there were billions of stars that no one had ever seen before. With the discovery of Elera, everything had changed. People’s outlook on life, religion, trade, language arts…everything. The despondent debtors of the world now had another chance to make a living.
“Your social security please?” the woman asked.
As Dom began to pen the numbers on the tablet, he still couldn’t believe it. Elera was the first planet, besides Earth, that had life on it. Not microorganisms, not traces of billion year old water currents carved into rocks, but actual sentient life. Elerians. Creatures just as interested in humans as humans were in them. Surprisingly, not a shot was fired on that day, and every day since mankind had stumbled upon that planet eighteen years ago. Despite the horror stories and sci-fi thrillers throughout the centuries, Elerians and humans had only interacted peacefully.
“You could have done all of this online. That way you didn’t have to get dressed up.”
“I would rather not ma’am,” the man answered as he scratched the dark brown stubble on his chin. “Even with https or America’s finest internet services, I still trust my own hands. And I was in the neighborhood.”
“And…you know you’re a little late to the application process,” the woman pointed out, looking at Dom as if she was his disappointed mother.
“I just graduated,” he responded.
“No, with a PhD in Xenobiology, ma’am,” said Dom, turning the tables on the conversation. If the woman would have waited a moment she would have seen him write his birth date, July 4, 2158.
“Oh well congratulations!” she said, seeming to feign interest. “You look so young though!”
“Twenty-seven ma’am.” He offered a small chuckle.
“Did you do research?”
“I published the research on the lellalua.”
The woman simply smiled and nodded her head slowly, an attempt many made to understand something far beyond their scope. Writers did this when doctors mentioned sodium/potassium channels in neurons, and the latter did the same when the former mentioned Thoreau or Faulkner. They couldn’t begin to understand each other.
“The Elerian dart flower?” Dom clarified. “We had one shipped from Elera and we grew it in a greenhouse. It was like surgery trying to get it to reproduce. If you tapped it too hard it launched its anthers like darts. Just a defense mechanism.”
Yeah, sure lady…there could have a nuclear warhead attached to it and you wouldn’t be any more interested, Dom thought.
“Well, Dr. Janner, as I was saying people have been applying for this launch since last year. It’ll be a miracle if you get in.”
“Why was the deadline extended then?” Dom asked.
The woman paused for a moment, though he already knew she probably didn’t know why. In truth, Dom didn’t even know why either, yet he would take this chance since he had the opportunity to do so now. If he had applied last year, or even in his last semester, UNIEO would have passed him by for someone else who already had their degree.
“Well I’m not sure…but you’re all set for now, just sign and date here.”
“That’s it?” asked Dom, surprised.
“They’ll pull everything else up on their database,” the woman explained as he flourished his stylus. “They’ll find your schooling, your GPA, your research, criminal records…though I don’t think that’ll be a problem for you. This is you, right?”
The woman flicked her wrist and sent a picture of Dom, taken about three years ago when he had renewed his license. There he was, when he still hadn’t cut his college hairstyle. It was much shorter now, and way more manageable. Dom nodded for confirmation.
Dom began to wonder why no one was concerned about such a breach of privacy. Obviously, he wanted his research published and examined by great minds from all over the world, and his university would help in order to be associated with his name. But all it took was a name and a social security number and the UN committee had everything. Everything. Dom distinctly remembered his father bashing the United Nations at one point over the phone, when he told him of his goal. College has ‘disillusioned’ him into becoming a ‘space man’. Hopefully his phone records wouldn’t be consulted.
“Thank you ma’am,” Dom said as he left the desk.
Hopefully all of his long years of schooling have finally paid off. Studying creatures that are not native to this world isn’t a profitable career if you never leave this world.
As Dom walked out of the office he began to think about how useful his schooling actually was. Most of his PhD was spent studying pictures, facts, and testimony provided by scientists that had been to Elera, in addition to the plant specimens that were obtained there. Dom had never been to Elera or spoken with an Elerian. All he could really do at this moment was return to a university and teach others what he had learned. With his published research he would likely find such a job without difficulty, especially at a school that wanted to expand its Xenobiology department.
Dom pressed the button for the maglev elevator, initiating the longest wait he had ever experienced with Otis’s perfected device.
His job experience was quickly becoming far too common in the world’s workorce, for everyone wanted to study Elera and its creatures. If he wanted to make a name for himself he would have to be the premier researcher of the Uqxhal and their way of life. These creatures, unlike the Elerians, found man first. They were already far ahead of man in technology, yet with such a breathtaking reputation no one had successfully documented enough research on them. The Uqxhal were very private, and because of their warrior-like nature few were ready to ask them for a chance at observation. In the ten years they had interacted with mankind, researchers had actually learned less about them. Most of the theories concerned observations about their physical appearance in relation to their behavior, but there was little proof supporting them. In fact, the theories had been revised many times over the years. Maybe an Uqxhal diplomat would one day assist in mankind’s unending journey to discover all it could about them.
Rather, he could observe Gie’an, but as soon as the thought entered his head he knew that it would be a frustrating task. The world knew far less about those enigmatic creatures, which the Uqxhal had revealed to them on a moon orbiting their home world. Most of this was due to the fact that no one could understand them, and more than a few researchers were annoyed by their odd methods of communication. The Uqxhal, who practically ignored the Gie’an, must have found it quite humorous when multiple teams of men and women had wasted hours on these creatures.
As the doors opened and Dom squeezed his way through the ‘important’ men and women, he directed his thoughts towards his other errand of the day: managing his bank account. He was so caught up in his thoughts that he barely noticed the glowing button for the first floor, and almost asked the man next to it to push it. If UNIEO accepted his application, he would have to transfer some of his funds to the bank at the UNSC, the United Nations Selene Colony.
The exchange rate from the American dollar to the best currency, the UN note, was atrocious. There was an immense plunge in note values across the world as the UN tried to consolidate every country into a single banking system. Kuwait and Bahrain’s dinars, as well as Oman’s rials, were the prime target for the bank, for they had remained the top three most valuable currencies since the early 2000s. Unfortunately, the UN had brought these successful bills down in order to bring up failing notes: the dollars, pounds, euros, and so on. The States were still trying to merge into this system, but a lot of people would lose considerable amounts of money. The seceded Republic had not, and likely would not change to this system.
Dom was going to lose a large chunk from whatever he transferred to the colony on the moon, but he would definitely recover from this. This job offered close to six figures starting, with who knew how much else in discovery bonuses, grants, and donations. All of that in UN notes. That would be enough for him to bail his family out of this country’s growing state of chaos.
Dom came out of his thoughts when he recognized the man standing next to him on the elevator. The man’s clean shaven head and face was always somewhere on a news station. Alidou Mohammed of Gabon, the head of UNIEO. He wore a black suit, which was probably worth more than Dom’s entire school education. An exaggeration of course, but still. Dom envied his blue tie, which was probably one of those extra soft synthetic silk ones. What he would do to have his salary.
He looked down at his own suit, one he had worn on a few occasions since college. It was a simple one, black blazer and pants, and for the sake of matching Dom had only worn a white dress shirt and black tie. Never in his life had he grasped the concept of matching, but his mom had told him time and again that it was a big deal. So he had worn the suit in the hopes that it would make a good impression on someone. And since the woman at registry couldn’t care less, perhaps it would work on the head of the committee.
“Mr. Mohammed,” Dom said, extending his hand and trying not to sound too much like an overzealous fan. “Dom Janner. I’ve been watching what you’re doing with UNIEO. Groundbreaking expeditions if I can say so. It’s an honor to meet you.”
“Wait…” the man said in heavily accented English. He pointed a finger at Dom and studied him for a moment. “Dr. Janner? The uh…you published research on the Elerian dart flower.”
“Yes! Have you read it?”
“Every word. My honor,” he replied with a bright smile and a hearty handshake.
“Glad to hear it!” answered Dom, matching his smile. “I just finished applying for a position as a xenobiologist for the organization.”
“You know you can apply online,” the man said with a chuckle. “No matter! I was hoping you would though. I’ve been watching what you did with Elerian organisms. You’re a smart young man. I think you’d find yourself more at home there than you are here!”
The glass elevator doors opened, revealing the spacious white tile lobby as well as the 1 United Nations Plaza outside. Dom could see hundreds of flags from every nation across the world, whipping in the wind.
Before he could comment, Alidou cut him off. “I have a meeting soon, but I wish you good luck with your application. We definitely need a man of your caliber.”
The head of UNIEO walked off, hoisting up his tablet in the crook of his arm and nodding hellos to those he passed. Dom smiled and soon exited the elevator as well. He was on a high now, for the man he wanted to work for said he needed his skills. Now whether or not it was an idle elevator conversation pleasantry, Dom wouldn’t know until he heard from the committee. But his father had always told him that face to face interaction was far more meaningful than any electronic communication device. People tended to remember faces more often, especially when new technology had made conversations far more impersonal. Even video communication paled in comparison to meeting the actual person.
As Dom passed through security and exited the renovated Ronald H. Brown building, he turned immediately to the right to head towards the bank. Chase was still in operation, sleek as always, and fortunately that was also his bank. For now. The World Bank would likely take over all countries affiliated with the UN currency.
All he needed to do was check his savings account and get the lunar transfer form, just in case. He could just check his accounts on his phone, but he needed to be present to physically sign for a transfer to the Selene station. For verification purposes, it would be easier than forcing someone to make a scan of two pictures and narrow the mistakes down to the last wrinkle. Sometimes those services messed up because the tech didn’t bother to physically look at both images. With his face on record for the account, he wouldn’t have to wait weeks for online verification.
Even if he didn’t get onto the next interstellar expedition, he could still probably benefit from securing his money on the moon. It was practically as safe as the fabled Swiss bank account…actually more so considering the people that lived on the moon and the riots in Europe.
Dom walked through the open sliding glass door and began looking around for the desk full of forms. There. He walked to the right and began looking through the slips until he found the form he was looking for. Satisfied with the ease of locating it, Dom soon found the emotion crushed when he saw the line ahead of him. Everyone and their mother were at this bank today.
He checked his watch. 2:14. Maybe he would get out of here in an hour at the earliest. Still, he had to do it. There was probably more to the form than met the eye anyway. Quickly, he slipped in behind a woman who was arguing with someone on the phone. As he waited, his eyes traced down the form, looking for requirements.
MUST PRESENT TWO FORMS OF IDENTIFICATION.
Crap…Dom had his driver’s license and his NYU card, but he doubted that a school id would suffice.
“EVERYONE GET ON THE GROUND!”
Dom quickly dropped to the floor as the first shots were fired. The bullets whizzed past his head, and fragments of concrete and plaster flew off in pieces as the lightning fast projectiles penetrated deeply. Everyone began to cry out in alarm, some more than others.
Adrenaline unloaded into his veins as Dom took stock of the situation. The woman in front of him was trying to crawl away, a gaping wound in her back. He surmised that the bullet had damaged, possibly severed her spinal cord, paralyzing her from the waist down. Once again a man screamed, this time demanding that she stop moving.
“Fascist!” the man bellowed, running forward and stomping his jack boot onto her neck.
Dom winced as the sickening crunch followed, and he couldn’t help but look up at her assaulter. The man wore a black, full head mask, proudly displaying a red insignia on the front. An A, struck through a circle. Above his head was a gas mask, ready to fall down should the SWAT come and tear gas the area.
It would do little good. Once the SWAT came through the door they would be ripped to shreds by these anarchists, for all of them would likely bunker down behind corners and furniture. Judging by the holes they had made in the walls, the bullets could be armor piercing rounds. These men, Dom knew there were at least six by listening to the pounding footsteps, also wore full body armor. Wait…was that riot gear? Most if not all of those pads had to be bullet proof. Where had they gotten such equipment?
“What are you looking at corporate white devil?!” the man shouted, pointing the barrel of his assault rifle at him.
Dom could see the man’s eyes below the mask, as well as some of his skin. This man was white too, yet he was persecuting him and everyone else as if he was another. Were they insane?
So he did all he could do in this situation: he covered his head with his hands and tried his best to look around with his peripheral vision. It had just hit him that the woman in front of him was dead. The man’s boot had crushed her spine and windpipe, leaving her to lie there like a fish out of its tank. Someone had died right before him. That had never happened in his life. Shouldn’t he go into shock?
Bang! One anarchist had kicked open the ‘secure’ ATM, probably after using the blast torch in his hand, and began pouring some liquid from a tank on it. Likely kerosene, or gasoline, or some other flammable chemical. Another was spray painting the red insignia upon the front it with his mini sprayer. When he stepped away, his companion took an automatic sparker to the fluid. Thousands of dollars, burned in an instant. They didn’t want the money; they wanted to get rid of it. More than likely they would be long gone before any squad infiltrated the area.
Another, probably the leader, ran forward to the bank teller, brandishing a concussion grenade. Dom recognized it from the ones that were being used in the revolution in England. There was always a death toll on the news and the anchor would chastise the defenders for using them. He pulled out a pistol of some sort and waved it in the woman’s face, preventing her from triggering the hidden alarm.
“Take the money!” she shouted, pulling bills out.
“I don’t want your money capitalist whore!”
He waved and two more men ran back behind the counter, packages at their sides. Dom had seen enough action movies and television thrillers to know that it had to be a type of explosive. They were going to blow the vault.
The man at the counter turned the top of the grenade and hurled the rapidly beeping device at the girl, but she ducked just in the nick of time. Dom had to suppress a yell though as he countered her dodge by simply putting his pistol over the counter and shooting wildly. She wasn’t going to make it. The man quickly retreated from the counter, probably to dodge the imminent explosion. Bouncing at his waist were at least a dozen incendiary grenades, likely packed to the brim with napalm.
Next to him, the anarchist walked forward, cheering loudly for “that capitalist to die”, and as he did the grenade exploded. It sounded like the earth was ripping in two as the counter exploded in a shower of glass, concrete, and wood. Had the explosion been unobstructed, more people would have died, but those closest to the counter made sickening pops as their body’s suffered the effects.
Dom had to look away, but as he did his eyes inadvertently traced the path of a flying piece of concrete. It slammed into the grenade thrower’s back, and though his armor didn’t allow bullets to penetrate it, nothing could stop the force from a forty kilometer per hour hunk of dense particles. It was physics.
The man crashed to the floor in a heap, seeming to lose consciousness. Was this a stroke of luck? Was this good fortune from above? Two men that were guarding the door rushed over to remove the rubble from their comrade.
Dom could have a chance now. He looked around, seeing that the two men were still trying to burn what they could by the ATM. Another two, they could be women, were spray painting the windows of the bank with the iconic A. Defacing the entire establishment to send a message.
Without thinking twice, Dom crawled backwards towards the exit, each second fearing for his life. Yet with each passing moment no boot crunched on his hands, and no barrel touched his head. When he reached the door, he was not surprised to find that bystanders had either run away, or stood watching. No one was calling the police, or if they had it had been a while back.
The two men had fully dislodged their comrade, but they were not helping him up. One of them unclipped his grenade belt and began inspecting every grenade that he had. He looked dead set on setting them off. Dom was wrong, they weren’t just defacing the place.
Without thinking about it, Dom pushed himself up and ran, sprinting down the street. He heard someone shout behind him, but no one shot. They wouldn’t need to. The anarchists had what they wanted: anarchy. And the backlash from burning down that bank would be considered more catastrophic than all of the lives they took this day.
Dom actually came across a policeman on his run, one at the entrance of the Ronald H Brown building. He came to a stop so quickly that he almost slipped on the sidewalk.
“I saw some dudes walk in with riot gear and start shooting, is everyone okay?” the officer asked.
Was he serious? “Anarchists are burning the building down!” Dom shouted, dumbstruck at the cop’s lack of care of an attack.
“Uh, I didn’t sign up to take down anarchists…I’ll phone the station and they can get riot control or SWAT or whatever…”
“They’re not holding hostages and stealing money they’re burning the money and the hostages!”
Dom couldn’t believe this man’s attitude, so he just kept running. He didn’t wait to see what the officer was going to say; he would rather live than die convincing a peacekeeping man that his job involved keeping the peace. NYPD’s finest must be few and far between these days. Perhaps they had all perished trying to be heroes against eastern extremists, western anarchists, gangs, and any number of religious and political fanatics that had risen during the recession.
Dom’s father was right. This country, and likely the entire world, was sinking. Despite what his father believed college had turned him into, he would probably tell him that he needed to get off of the planet. The only hope for a future lay somewhere in the stars.
Shortly, there was a deafening boom, and seconds later a roiling wave of heat.