Dominic bowed his head to hide his face. Cameras were everywhere, on top of traffic lights, bolted to building eaves, and the incessant buzzing of drones were always eyes for them.
He stalked the streets by night but they used infrared. Curfew was coming, so he had to find shelter before the “riot police” came out in force. The young thief (yes, he could admit it to himself) deliberately bumped into his mark. He was just young enough, affluent enough, and naive enough to believe it was an accident.
“Sorry, excuse me,” Dom murmured without stopping. He managed to lift keys and wallet. The rich hipster was walking toward a technically illegal, but covertly state-sanctioned all-night club. He wouldn’t notice his keys for a while, and unless Dominic had missed his guess, the sap already had a permanent account, so he wouldn’t be reaching for his credit cards either.
He’d been heading for a club, but coming from a garage.
Ten minutes later, Dominic was slowly and legally (well, at a legal speed) exiting the garage in a state-of-the-art sedan, turning left on Schindler Avenue heading toward the Orwell connector. In an hour, he could be in Idaho where the Governor hadn’t yet been pressured by the President into declaring Martial Law and placing the citizens directly under Federal control.
But he didn’t have an hour.
“Damn,” he cursed, spotting the red and blue rollers on top of three “Patriot” cruisers closing fast. “Must have been a camera in the garage I didn’t see.”
“Pull over,” the authoritarian voice squealed from the lead cruiser’s loud speaker. “If you surrender now, the slightest possible charges will be brought against you.”
“Bullshit,” Dom hissed between his lips. Then he swiveled the wheel hard right. Tires screamed like a burn victim as he guided this year’s silver Audi across three lanes, barely missing the collision barrier. Barrelling down the off ramp, he spotted some sort of industrial complex ahead, but to the right, there was forest.
“No good. Drones would spot me in there easy. But that smelting plant looks plenty hot.” The sing song tones of government police sirens serenading his frantic escape attempt, he threw the car into gear, engines whining under his demands, and rocketed straight into bright sparks and molten steel.
Dom slammed on the brakes too late and managed to duck down into the cushioned seats right before a large, steel girder violently intruded through the windshield, his seat back, and he heard the back window explode in shards of safety glass.
The air bags deployed saving him from death and even (too) serious injury. The driver’s door fell open and he managed to tumble out onto steaming concrete. He thought his ears were ringing, but it was an alarm. Frantic feet were pounding past him toward an emergency exit. He caught a voice screaming “Get the hell out of here.”
“Where are you, you bastards?” Dom was staggering almost aimlessly, but as his head cleared, sharp eyes started scanning for his adversaries. It was too bright. He would be seen, that is unless the troopers weren’t… “Bingo.”
There were six of them in carbon body armor wearing helmets with full face shields. Five of them slowed their unerring trajectory toward him and began slowly wandering.
However the sixth drew a handgun and pointed it at Dom’s head. The two figures were less than six meters apart.
“So one human to supervise five droids. Still don’t trust them?”
“More than I trust you.” The voice was muffled but definitely a woman’s, and it was familiar.
“Oh no.” Dom began to chuckle, not knowing whether to feel amusement or despair. “They didn’t send you, did they?”
“Luck of the draw, you bastard.”
“Now, now,” he chided, wagging his index finger. “After all we’ve been through together, Nancy.”
“Fuck you.” Her finger tightened on the trigger.
“We’ve done that hundreds of times. Was fun while it lasted.” He was disappointed that she didn’t issue the expected acid retort. Then he tried something else. Doubling his fists, he screamed, “Then pull the fucking trigger you God damned bitch! It’s what you’ve always wanted to do.”
Beneath the mirrored facial shield, her voice sounded gentle, even mournful. “Not always.”
“But then you found out you fell in love with a rebel, a subversive, a resister, and you couldn’t stand it.” He was still yelling in spite of himself.
“I have a job to do and a reputation and…”
“…and when your masters found out their top dog was sleeping with the enemy, you had to convince them you hadn’t turned.” He’d found, if not calm, then at least control.
“What else could I do? I love my country. I couldn’t turn my back on…”
“You love your government. There’s a difference.”
“There will always be a difference. There has to be resistance when the politicians become so corrupt…” He stopped when he saw one of the police droids who had ambled up a set of stairs, haphazardly sail into a vat of molten metal. It died without a sound. He looked and two others had managed to find their way back outside. They’d reboot and then call for backup. He had maybe ten minutes before the cavalry came. “Now where are the other two? Ah, there’s one.”
He’d been whispering, but she could read his countenance. Dom imagined that cute little quizzical expression crossing her pale face right before Police Droid 451 (he could read its name plate) collided blindly into Nancy’s back. Dom slammed down as the impact caused Nan to pull the trigger. He heard the round distantly ricochet and looked up in time to see his former lover collapsing under 140 kilos of plastic and poly-alloy. She’d be up in less than a minute which meant he had to be gone.
“Thanks for nothing, Nancy.” He was talking to himself and that was only after limping ten minutes through twisting conduits and smoking machine molds. Against all reason, he thought just maybe some sliver of whatever they’d once had between them had survived. But now he realized she’d been bought and sold by the state; a soulless automation, just like the other police robots. Maybe he could make it deep enough in the surrounding forest, and get far enough undercover to avoid the infrareds. Maybe some of the factory workers milling around in the assembly area waiting for the authorities were sympathizers. A lot of maybes. Then again, his whole life had been a toss of the dice. Just time for one more roll.
# # #
By some miracle, two weeks later, he was convalescing in a safe house, a room just above the “Old Ice House Pizzeria.” The name of the town on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille was called Hope, Idaho. Just a little bit of irony if you like that sort of thing.
He read through the contraband police report for the tenth time, still trying to convince himself it wasn’t a meme or satire. “I’ve got to hand it to you, Nan. Really, filing a report stating that the suspect wasn’t the wanted political radical Dominic Bonhoeffer?
“Why you cagey woman. You must have corrupted the camera data from the garage. Robots at the factory were fried anyway. You held off the search long enough for me to get away in the back of that truck. Good old Sylvester. Always some loyalists among the honest working folks. Got me across the border. Even gave me a little money. Have to pay him back someday.”
He switched off the iPad and put it down on top of the blanket to his left. His leg still ached some. The concussion had caused a bit of trouble, but what he had left of his more serious injuries were mostly scars and bruises now. “You really came through for me, didn’t you, Nancy? I guess that makes us even.”
Dom was swinging his legs out of bed contemplating a morning meal with his hosts when their eldest son Moses, just turned 16 yesterday, flung the door open and stopped at the foot of the bed out of breath. “Dom, Dominic. Damn. The newscast.”
Dom stood, wearing nothing but his boxers, ace bandage around his ankle. “What?” He didn’t really have to ask. He already knew.
“Governor Schumer, the press conference. The President.”
“So he sold out Idaho. Just like all but five other Governors have done. It was only a matter of time, boy.” Dom felt old but he was hardly ten years Mo’s senior. He took the teen by the shoulders and shook him slightly. “It was only a matter of time. Now we must be ready.”
As you might have guessed, the line is Dominic bowed his head to hide his face.
Yes, I was inspired to write a dystopian tale of a totalitarian future in America. I’m probably exaggerating (I hope I’m exaggerating), and I used some cinematic riffs you most likely recognized. Minority Report (2002), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), and THX 1138 (1971). They are all dystopian stories about a ghastly future, but they all end with a sense of hope.
To read other stories based on the prompt, visit Mister Linky.