The following essay was submitted by Christopher Pulcher-Coard from Santa Monica Community College as part of the Future of Technology Scholarship competition.
The pale green light flickered above their heads as they sat silently at the crooked dinner table. The crisp air seemed to permeate the thin walls of the apartment building. The two of them ate, facing the 25th floor window, looking not at the decrepit buildings and skyscrapers with vines for veins, but at the news playing on the glass.
“Look at this,” Yurick said, stabbing his spoon toward the female reporter. “Why?”
“ – which will be released for commercial use within the next two – three weeks, Flexicon predicts,” the reporter continued.
“I’d rather not,” his wife, Cheryl, responded, looking at the food in her bowl. “We watch the news every morning. Can’t we watch something . . . I don’t know . . . better?”
“ – privilege of having Frederick Berk, the CEO of Flexicon , join us this morning. Good morning, Mr. Berk.”
“Good morning, Ms. June.”
“You have to know what’s going on in the world,” Yurick trailed on, almost under his breath as his attention was on the TeleVac.
“So, with this new weapons release, what sets the new Flexicon weapons, or EnerWeaponry, apart from the handheld pistols of, what I’m sure will soon be, the past?”
“Well, Ms. June, as the name indicates, these pistols no longer use bullets in the sense of yesterday. Instead, they shoot capsules of supercharged energy which combusts, if you will, upon impact, leaving no waste, no shell, no bullet.”
“Almost like an incendiary round?”
“In a sense. Now, initially these weapons were designed for military use because, unlike bullets, they easily pierce the new standard of armor, carbon fiber. But now we’ve decided to expand the industry to the police force, and soon, to the average consumer, resultant of consumer demand.”
“And I’m glad you spoke of the carbon fiber because with the recent boom of 3D printing, people hardly buy clothes anymore, they simply design and print them-”
“Yes. This weapon does bring the threat of firearms back to the streets, but only if people decide to use them that way. This is a problem any gun company must face. Progress is simply a more efficient way to kill. It’s the nature of the business.”
“Yes, but surely you realize this will most likely end the recent decline in the murder rate?”
“I answer only to consumer demand.”
“Can you believe this!” Disgust overwhelmed him.
“Can we please change the channel?” Cheryl pleaded.
He stared at her momentarily before speaking again. “TeleVac off,” he demanded. The interview ceased.
“Thank you. It’s so depressing.”
“You shouldn’t try to hide from your reality,” his spite now turned to her.
“I’m not hiding, I just don’t want to hear it right now, while I’m eating,” she said. Exasperation brazen in her voice.
“They want the murder rate to rise.”
Yurick rose from the table, checking the time on the TeleVac.
“I guess it’s that time.” Yurick said, grabbing the coat that was draped on the back of his chair. “Will you do me a favor,” he asked. His voice almost cracked but she seemed not to notice. “Would you watch and record the news program that’s coming on later?”
She stared at him, expressing again her sentiment of not wanting to watch the news.
“It’s only a thirty minute segment… But you have to watch it as well” He realized how awkward he sounded. “I want to talk to you about it later.”
The lie almost broke him.
“Yurick…” she pleaded.
“Just this once.”
“Twelve o’clock sharp.”
He should’ve left fifteen minutes ago but he couldn’t bring himself to do so. He looked at his wife, admiring her youth, her beauty. He felt his heart ache for her; felt his eyes water for their future; felt pain for the life he would leave her with.
Gunshots rang in the distance but neither of them flinched.
“Shouldn’t you be going? You’re going to be late.”
“I know.” He leaned over the table and kissed her. She got up, walking him to the door.
“Have a good day at work, hun,” she said. He stared into her eyes one last time before his departure.
“Goodbye, Chery.” Her brown eyes flickered in the dusty sunlight. He turned briskly and walked off knowing that if he didn’t do it now he wouldn’t ever be able to.
He put his glasses on as he walked to the car. He turned over his shoulder, looking at her as she watched him go.
“Zoom, capture,” he commanded and the picture was captured by his FlexiVision glasses. His heart sank as he occupied the seat of his car.
“Good morning, Yurick,” it said having scanned his retina. He sat there for about five minutes, tears streaming down his face before he could bring himself to direct his car.
“Go to Uptown Commons,” he commanded. “News on.” He reclined his seat, his eyes closed as the car drove off.
“So, you are accompanying your shipment into space?”
The same female reporter droned on.
“Yes, I decided that the first shipment of Flexicon weapons to the commercial space station should be accompanied by their creator.”
The pompous smile on Mr. Berk’s face glistened on the windshield.
“I’m sorry, Cheryl,” he said to himself. “But if I don’t, nobody will…”
“Is this promotional action simply for personal gain as well?”
Mr. Berk’s face scrunched in disbelief of the assault.
“What is any promotional action done for, Ms. June?”
“Destination reached,” the car said, parking and shutting itself down. Almost immediately, a prompt on his FlexiVision glasses asked if he wanted to transfer the media from his car. He couldn’t bring himself to listen any more.
“Terminate,” he demanded. The prompt disappeared.
The streets were empty. His car shook slightly as a small ship flew overhead. Yurick glanced up, watching the blue fire spit from its exhausts. Regardless of how many times he saw it, the sight of those space ships amazed him. Just thirty years ago the idea of a personal space shuttle was simply a dream brought to fruition only by the magic workings of the film industry. Now, a space station several light years away was just a second home for most. He quickly became disgusted by the government’s efforts toward technological advancement while neglecting the neighborhoods they governed. But, they did live outside the polluted air.
The cool air hit him like a brick wall. He walked to the last building on the end of the littered block, a concrete structure painted white but long since stripped of its elegance.
He knocked on the door.
He saw the light in the peephole disappear and realized there was no turning back.
The door opened.
A man appeared in its place.
“It’s Yurick,” the man said, letting him in. The only light that hung from the ceiling could not cast out the darkness in the room.
Yurick walked to the only furnishing there. The three men who stood around the table simply stared at it.
“We know what must be done,” the doorman said. The men standing around the table were sweaty, their frames shaking. “It’s a noble thing, to sacrifice your own life for your generations to come. To be willing to put it all on the line for family; your children, your brothers and sisters, your wives,” he continued.
The four men simply stood looking at the duffel bag on the table. “The truly great thing about men, and about death, is that you can choose your time. You can choose to take your life over an affair, you can choose to wait until the Lord decrees your days done. But noble men, men of principle, don’t take their lives. They sacrifice them at the moment that their worth, their value, is at its greatest. And, that, my friends is the path we’ve chosen for months now.”
Yurick was now trembling and sweating with the rest of them.
“Our brothers are waiting on us to fulfill our duties. We mustn’t disappoint them. Let us put into ignition what our parents should’ve done in their time.”
Yurick grabbed the bag. For the first time, the three men raised their heads to look at him. Those looks praised his sacrifice, his honor, his courage; thanked his family for their loss; expressed to him their sorrow and shared his pain.
The dead men walked approached the door – the portal to their futures.
_ _ _
Ever since he had left that building the sweat on his skin wouldn’t go away. He sat at the thirteenth floor window of an abandoned corporate building listening to the applause of the crowd heard six blocks away. Yurick couldn’t understand why such a miniscule achievement had such backing, but the more the better.
The more hope this initiative built in the hearts of the citizens, the more hopeless they would feel when it was ripped away.
He rested the Flexicon cannon on his shoulder, waiting for his time to shine.
“Gallery, last photo,” The picture of his wife standing in the doorway appeared in his glasses. He felt tears settle in his eyes.
Small drones like black dots hovered over the runway recording the enthusiasm of the crowd as Mr. Berk walked to his private shuttle. A rectangular platform hovered just inches above the ground beside him, transporting the light luggage he was taking on his trip. News casters from various companies were present, highlighting the proceedings. Perhaps the most illustrious of all anchorpersons, Attkins Cooperson, was displayed live on a massive, transparent screen a good distance behind the shuttle.
Yurick couldn’t care about the showmanship of the event, he just wished the shuttle would take flight before he changed his mind. The EnerCannon weighed heavily on his shoulder. He couldn’t discern whether it was its actual weight or his reluctance attempting to seize control.
“Show t-“ his voice cracked as tears streamed down his face. “Show time.”
The blue light on the runway illuminated its path. Berk was already in his shuttle.
Yurick wiped his eyes clear.
“I had to,” he pleaded reason to his wife once more.
The shuttle blazed down the runway in a blur. It covered the ten mile strip in a mere matter of seconds and shot into the air with fierce speed.
Yurick’s hands were sweaty. His arms felt too heavy to lift anything.
“Target: Shuttle model number X5623T9. Name: Frederick Berk. Fire.”
Yurick watched the beacon of light spit from the cannon, intercepting the shuttle’s path; watched as the shuttle exploded and burned. The crowd went hysterical as the fire seemed to consume itself until nothing was left. He stood, his job done. He expected the police to teleport behind him at any moment, and just when doubt began to taunt his mind, a blue light blinded him. He saw not what followed but knew what would. He felt no pain as the two policemen set him ablaze, reducing him to nothing. He simply knew nothing.
_ _ _
The TeleVac turned on and Cheryl sat down.
“We knew their name, we knew their directive, but nobody could have anticipated the extent Anonyma have gone to today. Just moments ago, the shuttle of Mr. Berk, CEO of Flexicon Industries, was shot down along with various other technological factories. The ludicrous message? To stop the technological advancements of today for concerns of privacy infringement and modern technology’s impact on society. This is a huge blow to both consumers and the military as Mr. Berk was the sole possessor of the blueprints to his newest line of energy powered weapons, which was believed to be on the shuttle with him, along with the first shipment of weapons to be delivered to the commercial space station. The police have already detained those responsible for the attack. The list includes but isn’t yet limited to a Mr. Yurick Jones…”
The TeleVac burst outward as a body fell from the heavens.