Copyright 2012 by Dennis Butler
Copyright © 2012
All Rights Reserved
No part of this
publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form
or by any means, or stored in a database for retrieval, without the
prior written permission of the author. Short passages may be quoted
or used in reviews without permission.
This book is a work of
fiction. The story in this book, all the characters and all the
places are either derived from the author’s imagination or used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to real people living or dead or
incidents or events is entirely coincidental.
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Table of Contents
I: Brutal Earth
1: The Capsule
2: Welcome to the Kobe-Striploin Corporation
3: The Farm
4: The Hole
5: Love Can Blossom Anywhere
6: A Decision is Made
7: The Stadium
8: A New Friend in a New World
9: The Good Life at Kobe-Striploin Springs
10: A Friend and Messenger
11: A Plan Comes Together
12: Escape – 09/16/3854
13: Voyage to the Unknown
II: New Earth
14: A Dark Journey
15: Our Strange New World
16: Attack in the Night
17: An Announcement
18: Our New Home
20: A New Zoic Period?
21: The Hunted Becomes the Hunter
22: From the Desert to the Coast
24: Mountains and Giant Trees
26: The Cycle of Life
Part I: Brutal
truth is like throwing a handful of change in the air.
never know where it will land.
truth is lighter than lies.
always floats to the top.
is dedicated to the Occupy Wall Street movement
The Research Institute
at Turtle Lake, North Dakota had spent sixteen years developing the
Light Speed Vacuum Capsule (LSVC). The entire project which consisted
of three parts, spanned more than 30 years. The concept for time
travel was based loosely on the theory that if you traveled near the
speed of light with zero gravity and zero nearby mass, the passing of
time inside the capsule would slow down dramatically while the world
outside the capsule would continue to move forward in time at what is
perceived to be the normal pace. Even though the project naming
convention was based on traveling at the speed of light, the LSVC
wasn’t capable of traveling anywhere near that fast. However,
it was capable of traveling at much greater speeds than anyone had
Years of testing had
been performed and computerized monitoring results had been analyzed
and re-analyzed. The next phase after the simulated computerized
tests used a variety of insects and plants. The plants and insects
all endured the tunnel experience without any adverse side effects.
The experiments produced the expected results.
Once the insect and
plant tests were completed and the results documented, scientists
moved on to larger animals. Testing with rodents proved successful.
However, it was impossible to do a real test without a human. A
monkey or other animal couldn’t be trained to perform the very
limited tasks needed to maintain the capsule interior, but more
importantly, a monkey would not be capable of learning how to exit
the capsule. Also, the only real test would involve a test subject’s
reaction to the world when they exited the capsule after moving
forward in time. A rodent or monkey couldn’t tell the
scientists that their hair had turned gray during the short time
period they were in the capsule. There was only one way to really
determine if the project was a success. A human would need to pilot
The test to determine
if the first attempt at human time travel was successful was so
simple it was frightening. In fact, there really would be no
test. Success or failure would be determined by simply opening the
capsule. If the project was successful, the pilot would be gone;
somewhere in future Earth.
Scientist and test
pilot Lane Mason was the first human subject to be selected for the
project. The list of volunteers for the project originally consisted
of over two hundred applicants. The screening process took two years
and Lane was finally chosen for several reasons. First of all, he was
in perfect health and in the right age range. Lane was 22 years old,
he had no children and he was single, but more importantly, his vital
signs were consistently perfect even when subjected to long periods
of isolation. When asked how he maintained his calm sanity when in
isolation, Lane explained that he had a vivid imagination and could
retreat into himself. “Mostly, I just think about women,”
Lane usually told everyone. The other scientists knew there was more
to it than that. Lane was a perpetual jokester.
especially handsome or very tall but women usually liked him. When
his friends asked him how he managed to get so many dates, he usually
responded, “I just trick them into thinking I’m smart. I
memorize a lot of big words. Women like smart men.” Of course
there was more to it than that, but Lane never seemed to take himself
Lane spent three years
training and preparing for the project. Most of the training was of a
psychological nature. He would need to be prepared for extreme
isolation. It would be similar to being in solitary confinement, only
this confinement would last for ten years. Lane entered the capsule
on May 1, 2235 and the capsule launched six days later.
There were three main
components to the program; the tunnel, the capsule and the light
beam. It’s hard to say which of the components were more
difficult to develop. The tunnel was itself an engineering
masterpiece. It was constructed just over ten thousand feet beneath
the Earth’s surface. Construction began in 2203 and was
completed in 2234, taking almost 32 years to complete. Funding for
the program ebbed and swelled but the project always managed to
continue. The tunnel was built in a perfect circle which had a
circumference of 475 miles. Physicists had developed a process that
could create a vacuum and zero gravity inside the tunnel.
It wasn’t so much
the light beam that was engineered to speed through the tunnel that
was the real miracle, although that was a scientific wonder in
itself. It was the physicist from Japan who was the real genius.
Kazuki Nakamura was so far ahead of the main stream of physicists, it
seemed he had himself come from the future. It was Nakamura who
figured out how to encase the capsule within the light beam. This was
the basis and justification of the entire project.
the control room and the capsule began to deteriorate after the first
two weeks of the launch. Communication at that time was intermittent
and it was difficult to understand what the capsule pilot was saying.
By the end of the third week, all communication was impossible. This
was further proof that the pilot was living in a different time
Aside from occasional
testing, no one at the Turtle Lake Research Institute had ever heard
an extended broadcast of the capsule alarm. At the time of the alarm,
the research team still had over two years before they were scheduled
to open the capsule to verify that the first attempt at human time
travel was successful. The alarm signaled one of two emergencies;
either the life support systems were malfunctioning or the capsule
speed had been reduced. The first thing the LSVC team did was check
the main control console. It would be impossible to change the
capsule speed by mistake since there was a multi-step process to make
any changes to the capsule navigation.
Dr. Leonard Samuelson
entered the LSVC control room to find a silent, stunned group of
engineers hovering around the main console screen.
“What is it?”
Dr. Samuelson asked.
“It appears that
Lane is preparing to exit the capsule,” Chief Engineer Grennell
stated. “The capsule just came to a complete stop.”
“If so, he is
more than two years early. I can only assume he is or was having a
psychological crisis due to the isolation,” Dr. Samuelson said.
“It appears it is
time to head down to the capsule,” Dr. Samuelson said. “Please
release the tunnel seals so we can breathe down there.”
“The seals have
already been released,” Chief Engineer Grennell said. “Lane
must have exited the capsule already. He would have released the
seals so he could breathe before exiting the capsule.”
“Oh yes, that’s
true,” Dr. Samuelson said. “We will now know if the
project was a success or a failure, within the next fifteen minutes.
I will go down with Dr. Wells and Assistant Engineer Oshiro. I’ll
radio back to you here at the console to confirm that the hatch has
Dr. Wells and Assistant Engineer Oshiro hurried to the elevator.
“This is hard to believe,” Dr. Samuelson said. “I
woke up this morning, just like any other morning and now the primary
purpose for my life; this project, will be proven to be a success or
failure within a few minutes. We will all be seen as geniuses or
fools. Our own judgment day is upon us.”
As soon as Dr.
Samuelson could fit through the opening in the elevator door, he
began running toward the capsule, which was about 500 yards down the
tunnel. “It’s stopped; there’s no light,” Dr.
Samuelson yelled as he ran down the walkway on the near side of the
tunnel. There were walkways on both sides of the tunnel and light
fixtures about every twenty feet so that the maintenance crew could
navigate the tunnel.
Dr. Samuelson reached
the capsule a few seconds before the others. “The hatch has
been opened.” When Oshiro and Wells reached the capsule,
Samuelson was standing just inside the hatch. He looked pale and
appeared to be about to faint when Oshiro grabbed his arm and stopped
him from falling.
“Lane is gone,”
Samuelson yelled. “This proves that the project was a success.”
Samuelson, Oshiro and
Wells all seemed to be in a state of shock as they looked around the
capsule. Oshiro started to speak but his garbled words made no sense.
He cleared his throat and his thoughts and tried again. “Although
this is what we expected, I still can’t believe it is true. I
can’t seem to get my mind around all the big questions. Where
is Lane now? What is he doing? Is he alive in a future world? What is
that world like?”
appears the project was successful, we have nothing really to show
for it,” Samuelson said. “People will want to know if
Lane is coming back. They will want to know what the future will be
like. Of course we here know that Lane is not coming back; backward
time travel is still impossible.”
“All we can tell
them is that Lane is somewhere in the future. We can easily calculate
what year he is living in, or should I say, ‘will be living
in,’ but that’s it,” Wells said.
time travel is possible in Lane’s new world,” Oshiro
said. “Wasn’t that part of the premise and justification
of this project?”
“Yes, but you and
I both know what the odds of that are,” Samuelson said. “Our
version of time travel is a one-way ticket.”
Chapter 1: The Capsule
take it anymore! Seven and a half years in here. I’m not
spending another two and a half years in this tin can!” I had
become completely comfortable talking to myself. I had spent almost
eight years in a capsule that was about the same size as the
apartment I had in my first year of college; about 600 square feet.
It wasn’t so much that I was lonely and beginning to experience
claustrophobic hallucinations; it was the question that haunted me
whenever I was awake: Was the project a success or did I waste the
best years of my life. It was May of 2242 and I was finished.
According to the project analysis, if I exited the capsule in
05/15/2242, it would be between 3640 and 3900; a millennium and a
half, into the future. It was really the curiosity that was killing
me. I guess that’s why I became a scientist.
I decided once and for
all that I would begin the exit process the following day. The next
day I awoke from another restless night. The sleep medication had
lost all its power and I never slept more than a couple of hours at a
time. I had been in the capsule for so long that I had to re-read the
exit procedures which I had not looked at in years. The process began
with the gradual reduction of speed. It took three days to slowly
reduce the speed down to what would have been the speed of a small
air-transport in the year 2235. The capsule finally came to a full
stop on the fifth day. After the capsule came to a full stop, I
proceeded with the process that would release the tunnel seals and
circulate air back into the tunnel.
I thought to myself as
I prepared to exit the capsule, no human should have to experience an
anxiety like this. I had no idea what I would find when I finally did
exit the capsule. I knew the tunnel had not been damaged because the
capsule still sailed along smoothly inside the light beam.
“What do I do if
the human race has become extinct?” I mumbled to myself.
“Suppose a solar flare or other natural disaster has destroyed
the surface above the tunnel?”
As I was trying to
control my breathing, I had another horrible thought. “What if
the ground-to-surface lift was damaged? How would I make it to the
surface?” The life support system in the capsule had worked
flawlessly over the years. I told myself that the same geniuses that
developed the life support system had also developed the lift. They
would have taken every precaution to make sure when I exited the
capsule, the lift would be waiting to take me to the surface.
According to the navigation system which also worked flawlessly, the
capsule had stopped within 200 yards of the lift, so that was another
I had been thinking for
a while that I would try and get some rest before I began my exit but
when I laid down on my cot, I was too excited to even close my eyes.
I rolled off the cot and dug out the backpack which had been at the
bottom of the storage closet and began packing all the essentials. I
suddenly got another knot in my stomach. My mind was racing. I was
thinking that whatever money I had in my bank account would be
meaningless. The bank had probably disappeared years ago. My
thumbprint would be useless. I would have no contacts and no money. I
would immediately become a homeless person. I wondered if there were
still homeless people. I had always hoped that mankind would evolve
to a higher standard, but in my heart I doubted it.
I referred to the
capsule specifications while going through the process of opening the
hatch. I decided I would keep the life support system running and
open the hatch. I immediately realized I hadn’t packed the most
important thing. I went back to the kitchen area and put three
hydro-lights in my pack and held one in my hand. I went back to the
exit hatch and shined the light into the tunnel. I could remember the
tunnel lighting, just like it was yesterday. There were soft yellow
lights about every fifteen feet on both sides of the tunnel. They
were gone. The tunnel was pitch-black.
I stepped from the
capsule hatch to the tunnel walkway while shining the hydro-light a
few feet in front of me. It was not only pitch-black; it was
soundless. I was actually hoping to see or hear a rodent scurrying
around. It would at least be a form of contact with another living
thing. I was thinking that perhaps I should have brought a house cat
along with me on the journey to “who-knows-where.” I
could have done it but at the time of the launch, I had no idea how
complete isolation would really affect a human. It was a fate worse
than death itself. The only thing that kept me from ending it all was
the hope of once again connecting with another human. I missed
people. I even missed all the assholes I had encountered throughout
my life. But most of all, I missed women. I wondered if I would ever
again kiss a woman.
My heart began to sink
as I approached the lift area. I remembered that there was blue and
red lighting around the lift and small white lights running up the
side of the lift tunnel. The lift was set to the side of the tunnel
and reminded me of some of the old city subway tunnels. The lift area
had reminded me of a subway platform I had seen in history books. I
reached the platform and spent a few hours slowly walking every inch
of the platform area, looking for the control console. I reached the
control room and shined the light inside. It didn’t appear to
be damaged. To the best of my recollection, the door was an
electronic sliding door that opened upward. It didn’t take long
to find the entry switch. I wasn’t surprised to find that it
didn’t work. I assumed that since the tunnel and capsule still
functioned, there was still power but I would need to find the main
I scoured the outside
of the control room and continued along the back wall until I found
what I believed was the main power switch. The switch seemed to be
frozen. It made sense; it had not been used in over a millennium. I
assumed the thing that made the capsule function flawlessly was the
fact that it was in constant motion; no time for anything to become
mechanically frozen. I decided I would go back to the capsule and
pack as much food as I could in my backpack but first I would check
the condition of the lift ladder. There was a ladder that ran all the
way to the top. I would need to use the ladder if I couldn’t
get the lift to work. The ladder seemed to be fine although the sight
of the darkness as I shined the hydro-light up the ladder made me
cringe. It was the last thing I wanted to do; climb a two-mile ladder
in the dark.
I returned to the
capsule, packed all the food I could carry and found the lubricating
oil I would need to loosen up the power switch back at the lift
control room. My assumption was correct. After saturating the switch
with the lubricant, I was able to get it to move. The sound of the
power kicking on and the lights beginning to buzz gave me a momentary
feeling of hope. The hopeful feeling left quickly as soon as I began
thinking about the reality of what was on the surface.
The door to the control
room opened smoothly. Again I was reminded of how brilliant the
engineers were who designed everything. Once inside the control room,
I studied the panel until I thought I had an idea of how everything
worked. As I sent power to the lift, I could see the lighting inside
the lift power up. There was a separate control for the ladder
lighting. I flipped it on and after some blinking and buzzing for
about thirty seconds, the ladder shaft lit up. Another wave of hope
swept over me.
I hoisted my backpack
over my back and walked the short distance to the lift. It took about
eight minutes ascending in the lift to get to the top, which was
actually the subterranean, lower level of the institute. The lower
level of the institute was completely dark. I wasn’t too
surprised that it seemed abandoned. I was more curious about why it
wasn’t dismantled. I dug my hydro-light out of my pack again
and found my way to the stairwell. The door on the next floor read,
“L-5.” I opened the door for a minute. Floor L-5 was dark
I continued up the
lower floors. Each floor was the same; dark and seemingly unused. I
was in complete darkness until I reached the main floor. It was then
that the heat hit me like opening an oven door. I was thinking that
it must be summer. The main floor had obviously been unused for a
long time. Dust and debris were everywhere. It looked like there had
been some flooding and all the exterior windows were gone. The glass
from the shattered windows was scattered over the floor.
As I walked through the
offices and laboratories I picked up any paperwork that was on the
floor or on the desks, looking for dates. One document was dated
2281. A few more documents had dates from the late 2270’s but
the most recent date I found was 2283. I assumed the project had
continued on for another 48 years. I wondered how and why the project
was ended. I thought that it would have been ended by the government.
They had spent a large fortune on the project and they learned very
little from it. “If only they knew, I was here in the future,”
I mumbled to myself. As I thought about it some more, I realized they
probably did know that I was somewhere in the future but those people
who opened the capsule died over a thousand years ago. “It’s
too confusing to think about. When they opened the capsule door to
find it empty, I was already living in the distant future,” I
mumbled. It hurt my head to try and comprehend it all.
It was time to see what
kind of world we had created; time to find out what year it was. I
exited the institute from the main lobby. The sun seemed to be
straight up and it felt like it was at least 90 degrees. There were
no signs of life anywhere. The institute had been left to deteriorate
naturally. I decided it was too hot to begin walking so I went back
inside the institute and found some chair cushions which I put
together to form a mattress. I laid down and closed my eyes but as I
expected, sleep wouldn’t come.
A few hours later as
the sun was beginning to make its slow descent, I stepped outside and
headed for the main road that would eventually take me to state road
83. I continued walking as the sun set and finally felt more
comfortable. I rested every few hours as I continued through the
night. There were still no signs of life. I didn’t hear any
aircraft and I was beginning to wonder if the human race had become
extinct when I reached highway 83.
My heart began to beat
rapidly when I thought I saw a small cloud of dust in the distance. I
still couldn’t hear any noise but I was sure it was some sort
of vehicle traveling the opposite direction on route 83. I was
disappointed that the vehicle was moving the opposite direction but I
was relieved to know that the human race still existed.
I still remembered that
route 83 would take me to Bismarck so I continued walking south. I
figured it must have been around 11:00 AM when I decided to find
someplace to rest and get out of the sun. I laid down under a cluster
of oak trees and almost felt like I could fall asleep. I was dozing
in and out of a light sleep when I thought I was dreaming and heard
voices. The voices got louder and when I opened my eyes, there were
two men in gray uniforms looking down at me.
“Who are you and
what are you doing out here?” one of the men asked.
some ID,” the other man said.
I was groggy and
exhausted and a bit dehydrated but I managed an answer. “I lost
my wallet and my ID. My name is Lane Mason.”
“Did you escape
from Kobe-Striploin Farms?” the taller man asked.
“No. What is
Kobe-Striploin Farms?” I asked.
The two men looked at
each other briefly and shook their heads to indicate mutual
acknowledgement. “Get up. Let’s go,” the taller man
stated with authority.
“Where are we
going?” I asked as I got to my feet.
The shorter man grabbed
my arm and led me back to the vehicle. The doors opened as we
approached the vehicle and the shorter man motioned for me to get in
the back seat. I stepped in and immediately noticed there was a
barrier between the front and back seats and there were no handles on
the inside of the back doors. It was beginning to make sense. I was
in some sort of law enforcement vehicle.
The vehicle sped
off, rising about 25 feet in the air as it picked up speed. After
what seemed like about two hours we were sailing over what looked
like a livestock farm. As far as I could see in every direction there
were cattle. Beef steers had not changed much in thousands of years.
As we sailed along I could see cattle hands in bright orange jump
suits tending to the cattle. We continued on for several minutes. The
cattle ranch seemed to go on forever. There was a small barrier of
grass and trees and on the other side of the trees there were what
looked like chicken houses. We sailed over acres and acres of chicken
houses. There were long vehicles moving in every direction and people
in red jump suits moving among the buildings. It was then that I
noticed the guard towers. “Holy shit,” I thought to
myself. “This is some kind of prison farm and ranch.”
As we continued on, we
eventually came to what looked like a small city. There were miles
and miles of multi-story buildings that looked like apartments or
condominiums. Sailing past the apartments, we came to what could only
be a prison. I was thinking to myself, “a prison within a
prison; how nice.” As I had feared, the vehicle began to
descend and landed in a large parking area. The officers, or whatever
they were, got out and opened the door for me. The larger man asked
me to hold still for a minute as he came behind me. He grabbed my two
hands and secured them with some sort of restraint. It was not
uncomfortable like old fashioned handcuffs but I couldn’t move
my hands which were behind my back. “What the hell did I get
myself into?” I mumbled to myself.
The shorter guard heard
me and just smiled for a moment. “No one escapes from the
Kobe-Striploin Corporation,” he said with a little laugh.
Chapter 2: Welcome to the
I was led into a
processing area where there were numerous other inmates in a variety
of different colored jumpsuits. There wasn’t much talking as
each inmate was processed. One by one they placed their right hands
on what looked like a glass table for a moment. I guessed that the
device was used to read the person’s finger and hand prints.
After that, the next step must have been an eye recognition device.
Each inmate looked into what looked something like an old-fashioned
eye exam machine. The person monitoring the controls motioned for
each inmate to move along as he entered data into a computer system.
When it was my turn, I
placed my hand on the hand print table. I knew this is where there
would be a problem, since there would be no record of me anywhere.
After what seemed like two or three minutes, the technician looked up
at me. “What is your name?” he asked.
“My name is Lane
The technician pressed
a few buttons and I heard the machine say my name. I was thinking the
machine must have recorded me saying my name and highlighted just my
name. The technician sat back, put his hands behind his head and
waited. After a few minutes he looked up at me again. “Where
are you from? Are you from North America? Where did you get those
clothes you’re wearing?”
“Yes, I am
originally from New York City,” I said without much confidence.
I didn’t mention that I was born in Great Britain. I figured
that would make them even more curious about my background and what I
was doing there in North Dakota. I completely avoided answering his
question about my clothes.
“Wait here a
minute,” the technician said as he got up and walked into an
office at the rear of the large processing station. After a few
minutes he returned.
“What kind of
work do you do? Are you a cattle hand or a farmer?” the
I had to think quickly.
I couldn’t tell him I was a scientist from the past. “I’m
a farmer.” I figured it would be less grueling work than
working with livestock, just in case they wanted to test me or test
my knowledge. The technician handed me a card with my basic
information and instructed me to go into the small waiting room on
the other side of the processing center. He pointed in the direction
I should walk and told me the sign on the door would read, “New
Admissions – Examinations & Cataloguing.”
“I wonder what
the hell that means,” I mumbled to myself. I found the office
quickly and sat in the waiting area trying to make sense of
everything. I took a look at the card he gave me. It listed my basic
description, “Lane Mason, age - 30, height - 5 foot, 9 inches,
body type - normal, eye color - brown, hair color - light brown.”
There wasn’t anyone else in the waiting room and after a short
wait, a woman in a white nurses uniform came out and asked me to
follow her. I was brought into a room that reminded me of the medical
scanning facilities from back in the 23rd century. One
technician operated the equipment and spoke to another technician who
entered data into a computer system. It appeared they were mostly
interested in my vital organs. I remember the first technician
mentioning my blood type and other details about my heart, liver,
kidneys and lungs. After the scanning was finished, the nurse came in
and led me down the hall to another office. The sign on the office
read, “New Admissions – Housing and Workforce.”
As I was walking to the
Housing and Workforce office, I was mumbling to myself. It had become
a habit. “What a fool I am. I should have stayed in the
capsule. Now I may be a prisoner on a work farm. I wonder what crimes
these people have committed.” I suddenly had a thought. I would
tell them I had committed no crime and they would let me go and I
would return to the capsule. I entered the New Admissions office and
there were two other men sitting there looking like zombies;
“So, what crime
have you committed?” I asked the person seated closest to me.
“What are you
talking about?” the man answered.
a prisoner here because you committed a crime? Why are you here?”
“Farming is not
so bad,” the confused looking man answered. “It beats
working in the chicken house. I heard that people who live at the
Edgewood Fishing Corp over on the east coast have to work 14 hours a
day. We only work 12 hours a day at Kobe-Striploin’s, plus my
parents trained me in farming from an early age. Also, Kobe-Striploin
has superior housing; better than the other five corporations.”
“Are those just
the corporations that are in the US?” I asked “What kinds
of corporations do they have in Europe and Asia?”
“There are five
in the US, Canada and the northern part of Mexico,” the man
said. “Listen,” the man said in a whisper as he came
closer to me. “Be careful what you say around here. I have a
cousin who is mentally handicapped, so I understand, but whatever you
do, don’t let the guards know you are handicapped.”
I was desperately
trying to make sense of everything. This man actually believed I was
mentally handicapped because I apparently had no idea how the world
worked. Well that was certainly true. I was thinking, “Could it
be possible that the world has become one big corporate controlled
prison?” It made sense in a sick sort of way. Corporations were
running the governments from behind the scenes back in 2235. After
they completely privatized prisons, the rest was probably easy.
People were already being imprisoned for minor misdemeanors like
jaywalking and cursing in public. Once you were in the prison system,
they kept increasing your prison sentence. When they reestablished
debtor prisons owned by corporations, I knew it was the beginning of
the end. All the big corporations had to do was step forward a few
steps to openly take complete control of the government.
“My name is Lane;
what’s yours?” I asked.
“My name is
Andrew. I’m being re-processed because my wife recently died.
I’ll get a single apartment. The larger apartment I live in is
not needed by me anymore. It will go to someone who is married and
possibly with small children.”
“Can I ask you a
really stupid question Andrew?” I asked quietly so no one else
could hear me. “What year is it?”
I then worked up the
courage to ask the question that I really didn’t want an answer
to. “Are all people of the world, corporate prisoner slaves?”
“We are not
prisoners or slaves. We are productivity specialists.”
“Is it like this
in other countries?” I asked, dreading the answer.
developed world is controlled by one of the two dozen multi-national
corporations. There are some primitives who live in the forests of
South America, Asia and Africa. That’s about it. Everyone else
lives and works for a corporation.” Andrew paused for a moment,
leaned into me and whispered, “You are not really handicapped,
are you? So then, who are you and where are you from?”
“If I told you
Andrew, you would think I was really handicapped,” I said. “Are
you paid for your farm work?”
provides three meals a day, plus medical care and housing. We don’t
have to worry about anything. All we have to do is keep working.”
when you can’t work anymore?”
corporations will transfer elderly workers to other, easier jobs,”
Andrew said. “If you have a physical problem that prevents you
from working, they will provide the medical treatment. Once it is
determined that you can’t work anymore, you are officially
“So you can live
out the rest of your life in comfortable retirement?” I asked.
“That doesn’t sound too bad.”
retirement for two years anyway,” Andrew said.
after the two years?” I asked.
“You are kidding
aren’t you? You know what happens.”
I didn’t push the
issue, but I could pretty well figure it out. After spending a
lifetime as a corporate slave, you are executed after a two year
retirement. I really wished I could go back to the capsule. I wasn’t
looking forward to a lifetime of farming, 12 hours a day.
“Andrew, just a
few more questions, if it is okay; I really appreciate you sharing
all this with me. I haven’t seen any women. Where are all the
center is more like a prison.” Andrew continued, “Once we
are processed and you get your work and living instructions, you will
see plenty of women in the fields. We are lucky to have Sundays off
so if you do take a liking to someone, you can see her on Sunday.
There is also a row of churches on the north end of the apartment
district if you want to go to church. I heard some of the companies
in Eastern Europe make their people work seven days a week so we are
lucky in some respects. Also, the company throws huge parties for
Christmas and Charter Day.”
I was about to ask
Andrew about Charter Day when I was called up to one of the
admittance desks. The man behind the desk sat back and looked at me
for a few moments before he spoke. “It says here that you have
farming experience. We have no record of you working here at
Kobe-Striploin Farms. We crosscheck our database with
Brahman-Charolais Enterprises who do almost all of the farming in the
south and your name is not in their database either. Where exactly
did you work before?”
I had to think quick
and come up with something that couldn’t be verified. “I
was actually born in Great Britain. I farmed there with my family.”
“Was that with
Legumes Industries based in London?”
I knew my next answer
would either save me or expose my deception. “Yes sir,” I
said with a fake smile. I was thinking that I probably should
remember that name; Legumes Industries.
The man behind the desk
paused and stared at me for a moment. He looked over at the waiting
area which had become backed up with people waiting to be processed.
He must have known something was unusual about me but he seemed to
decide that he was just too busy to look deeper into my background.
He handed me two documents. One of the documents was a living
arrangement confirmation and the other was a work assignment. He then
handed me a map showing me how to get to my living quarters. He
explained where I could catch one of those long transport vehicles I
had seen from the Security Service air transport vehicle when we were
about to land.
As I left the New
Admissions office I saw Andrew leaving and caught up with him. He
smiled and asked to look at my documents. “Your building is
right across the street from mine. Come with me. I’m familiar
with the stretchports. I walked with Andrew as he led the way out of
the processing center. We exited the building on the opposite side
from where the police had taken me in. As we stepped out onto the
street, the view was surreal. Almost everyone was wearing brightly
colored jumpsuits or uniforms. No one wore normal clothing. It was
weird but the only thing I was thinking about was that there were
women. It was the first time I had seen a woman in almost eight
years. I was thinking that many of them looked really good in the
colored jumpsuits. I noticed that no one was overweight. Everyone
looked to have the perfect weight for their body type and size.
We walked a few blocks
and stood on one of several lines until a long vehicle stopped at the
front of our line. “This is our ride. Notice it says Buildings
45-60 on the destination screen,” Andrew said. “That’s
the stretch you will need to take whenever you are returning home.”
The vehicle was about 150 feet long and consisted of several cars
connected together; similar to what you may have seen at a theme park
back in the twenty third century.
As we rode along on the
stretchport, I kept thinking that it was all too much to comprehend.
It almost looked like a normal city we were in, although there were
no retail stores; just endless, almost identical apartment buildings.
I had to keep reminding myself that we were actually in a big prison.
“They had finally done it,” I thought. “The same
mentality that had produced the slave plantations of the colonial
period in the United States had taken control of the entire planet.”
I wondered if there was any kind of resistance movement. The people
didn’t seem unhappy. I was thinking that it must have been that
way for a long, long time. People were born into the slave world and
didn’t know anything else. To them, it was normal.
I was lost in thought
when Andrew stunned me back to reality. “This is our stop.”
As we stepped off the stretchport or “stretch” as they
were called by the resident inmates, Andrew pointed across the
street. “That’s your building.” Andrew looked at my
documents again and told me to go to the 18th floor to
find my apartment.
“Do I need a
key?” I asked.
Andrew looked at me
while shaking his head. “Put your hand up to the screen next to
the door handle and it will open up. Good luck,” he said as he
“Hold on one
second Andrew,” I called out and he turned around. “Thanks
for everything. May I ask you one more question? Is there food here?”
“Supper is at
8:00. Ask someone where the cafeteria is. You will hear a whistle a
few minutes before 8:00.”
I said as I turned and crossed the street.
When I reached the
lobby of my apartment building I was surprised at how quiet and empty
it was. Then I remembered that it was early afternoon and everyone
was still out at the farms, working. I managed to figure out how the
lift worked and took it up to the 18th floor. “Number
1827,” I said to myself. “This must be it.” I held
my hand over the screen as Andrew had instructed me and the door slid
open without a sound.
It appeared to have two
rooms and a bathroom but my impression was that the square footage
was actually less than the capsule I had spent eight years in. There
was a living area with a divider. On the other side of the divider
there was a tiny kitchen area consisting of a sink, a few cupboards
and a small refrigerator that sat on top of the counter. It was clean
and the refrigerator was empty except for an empty pitcher. The
cupboard was empty except for a few cups. I turned on the faucet and
it worked the same as plumbing back in the twenty third century.
The bedroom was just
large enough to fit a full size bed, a dresser, nightstand and a
metal wardrobe. Connected to the sleeping area was a small bathroom
consisting of a shower, toilet and sink.
Walking back to the
living area I realized that each room had an electronic clock built
into one of the walls. “I guess they don’t want you to be
late for work,” I mumbled to myself. The living area had a
couch and one chair and a small table with two chairs. The only
decoration was a print painting hung on the wall behind the couch.
The painting consisted of a rural farm scene at sunset or sunrise.
There was some sort of
electronic screen built into the wall, opposite the couch. I fooled
around with all the buttons until I heard a buzzing noise and the
device powered up. There was what looked like a movie playing. I left
it on while I went back to the kitchen area and filled one of the
cups with water. I was about to flop down on the couch when I
realized I had not opened the drapes. As I pulled the drapes open, I
could see there was a sliding door that led out to a small balcony.
The balcony wasn’t actually big enough to sit out on. It was
only big enough to step out and stand, unless you preferred to jump
over the side and leave the miserable world of Kobe-Striploin.
It was an impressive
sight from the 18th floor. Although all I could see were
other apartment buildings in every direction, it was still an
interesting view. It was quiet but I guessed that it would become
busy around quitting time.
I went back inside and
figured it was time to look at the work assignment. The document said
that I should report to section 32 in W-Farm 6 at 10:00 AM on
5/16/3853. I suddenly realized that I didn’t know what day it
was. The document had instructions on how to get to the farm; which
stretch to take and what time I should leave, but I wasn’t sure
if I had to report there the next day since I didn’t know what
day it was. I went back and looked at the clock on the living room
wall. There were a few buttons and I pressed the “display”
button until the date appeared: May 15, 3853. “I guess I won’t
have a vacation,” I said.
I went back in and laid
on the couch and blankly stared at the dumb movie that was playing
while thinking about what it would be like to work on a farm. I was
dozing off when I heard a beeping noise. It wasn’t coming from
the movie screen; it was coming from the wall clock. I went to the
clock which displayed a message that said to press the message
button. I pressed the button and a welcome message was displayed and
broadcast in computerized speech:
Specialist Lane Mason. Welcome to Kobe-Striploin Enterprises. We hope
you will be happy and productive here. Supper is at 8:00 PM in the
cafeteria on the first floor. We wish you well.
pretty informal for a prison welcome.” I spoke softly wondering
if my speech was being monitored.
I sat back down on the
couch and began to wonder how Kobe-Striploin Enterprises made a
profit. There were no consumers to spend money so how do the people
in control stay rich and powerful I wondered. I knew I had a lot to
learn before I began figuring out how to solve my most important
problem: how to escape Kobe-Striploin Farms and make it back to the
Chapter 3: The Farm
The sound of my stomach
growling kept waking me up while I lay dozing in and out of a light
sleep. I wished they hadn’t confiscated my pack when they found
me out on Route 83. I had some candy bars in it which I would have
gobbled up if I had them. When I looked at the clock it was only 4:00
PM so I still had four hours to supper. I wondered what that would be
like. I assumed it would be like prison food but I was so hungry,
prison food would have been okay with me.
Finally I heard what I
assumed was the dinner whistle at 7:45 PM. I didn’t waste any
time getting to the lift. I was alone on the way down but when I
stepped off on the first floor, I could see a small crowd of people
all walking in the same direction. I followed the crowd. Most of the
people were walking in pairs or small groups, talking about work and
other mundane topics. I wondered if people were permitted to
socialize after work. I wondered how much freedom they had, aside
from the fact that they were prisoners. I knew a corporation would
always do whatever would make them the most money. Happy people with
active healthy relationships would produce more product and that
would make the executives richer. I was deep in thought as I got on
the food line. I was thinking that I was indeed a stranger in a
strange land. I had so much to learn about the new and pathetic human
“If there were no
longer consumers, how could the corporations continue to thrive,”
I thought to myself. “I will need to make some friends and find
some people I could talk openly with,” I said out loud without
“I guess you are
new here,” I heard a woman’s voice say. I was stunned out
of my private world. Aside from my arrest out on Route 83, the
interaction I had with Andrew that morning was the first contact I
had with another human in eight years. I was still stuck in my
private shell and I was caught off guard when someone actually spoke
I turned around to see
a dark haired woman smiling at me. She had large brown eyes and
looked to be in her mid-thirties. Since everyone there was in good
shape and wearing the same jump suits, she appeared to be about as
attractive as hundreds of other women that were filing into the
cafeteria. “Umm yes, I just got here a few hours ago.”
“How do you like
it,” the woman asked as she handed me a tray and started
sliding her tray down the food service counter.
different,” I said without thinking that I would have to
explain how it was different. I followed the woman along the food
service counter and tried not to look out of place by doing whatever
I couldn’t very
well tell her I was a time traveler from the past so I told her I had
come from New York but I was born in Great Britain. “My name is
Lane,” I said.
the woman said. We shook hands and moved along the line. Dinner
consisted of beef stew and biscuits. It looked and smelled better
than anything I had eaten in the capsule. When Fran got to the end of
the line, she took a few steps and turned around and looked at me. I
took that as a sign that she wanted to sit with me. I was happy to
have someone to sit with. It reminded me of my first day at the
Brooklyn Academy back in New York and how lonely I felt.
The dining area was an
auditorium with a few hundred long tables. I followed Fran and we sat
at the end of one of the tables. I had to keep reminding myself that
the prisoners didn’t know anything different. For them, life
was as good as life could be. I took a few bites of the stew and was
surprised at how good it tasted. It was the first real food I had
eaten in eight years so anything would have tasted good.
“It looks like
you are enjoying that,” Fran said and laughed a little.
hungry, as you may have noticed,” I said and Fran laughed
I noticed there were
people at another table dressed in white. Some of them had
stethoscopes draped over their necks. “Do medical people get
any special privileges?” I asked Fran.
“What do you
mean?” Fran asked.
“I mean that I
see medical people here. They must have worked very hard in school.
It takes years to become a doctor. Why would they do that if they
don’t get anything for it?”
take aptitude tests when you were finishing school?” Fran
“Oh yes,” I
said, knowing I was lying. “I guess I didn’t score very
high.” I had no idea how anything worked there. I wanted to ask
as many questions as I could without causing anyone to become
suspicious of me. “What if you don’t like your job?”
I asked, a little reluctantly.
“You really are
new, aren’t you?” Fran remarked. “There are job
descriptions and job openings posted at the farm depot. You can
submit a request for a different job if there is an opening.”
Fran seemed open minded
and with a full stomach I was feeling brave and asked the king
question of all questions. “Suppose you want to leave
Kobe-Striploin Farms; can you leave?” I asked.
“Leave to do
what; go where? There is nothing else, unless you want to live in the
wilderness. In any case, you aren’t permitted to leave unless
you get transferred to a different corporation; say in the south or
stop someone from leaving?” I asked.
“A twenty foot
high, electrified barbed wire fence and sharpshooter guards posted
along the fence in guard towers. Why? Are you thinking of leaving
curious. Does anyone ever try to escape? What happens to them? Are
they killed?” I asked.
“There is a
high-security prison farm and barracks. You don’t want to go
there. Prisoners there live in barracks with no privacy and they
don’t get any freedom to move around. They basically work and
sleep. They aren’t permitted even to go to church on Sunday.
Men and women are separated. It is really a prison so I suggest you
don’t try to escape. Also, most prisoners are people who
committed crimes. People who try to escape are usually shot and
I figured it was time
to change the subject and lighten up the conversation. “So,
which farm do you work at?”
farm 4 in section 32; how about you?” Fran asked.
in section 32 but I’m scheduled to report to farm 6. I’m
going to be part of the baling crew.”
too bad. It could have been worse,” Fran said. “Well,
it’s almost time for bed. I’m heading back to my room.
You are obviously single if you are here in the singles apartments.
Were you ever married?”
always been single; never seemed to find the right person,” I
said as we got up and started walking to the lift. Fran pressed the
button for the 12th floor and a few more people got on.
As the door opened up
on the 12th floor, Fran turned around and smiled. “I’ll
look for you tomorrow night in the cafeteria, okay?”
like that,” I said with a smile. As I continued on to the 18th
floor and my apartment I felt good that I had at least made a friend.
I hadn’t been with a woman in a long time and I wanted to think
about what it would be like to be intimate with Fran but all I could
think about was the image I had formulated of the twenty foot high
electrified fence and the guard towers.
When I got back to my
apartment I noticed I had left the entertainment screen on which was
broadcasting a report about an award being given to a worker for
outstanding workmanship. It appeared they had some sort of incentive
program to motivate workers. I wasn’t surprised. Incentives and
motivation would increase productivity and profits for the
corporation. I wanted to learn more about the people in charge; where
did they live, how many of them were there, who were they and how did
they become the elite. I had so many questions but I knew I needed to
get some sleep so I would feel rested when I arrived at the farm the
I did manage to sleep
although I woke up every hour during the night. I was already up and
awake when the wake tone sounded from the multi-function clock at
5:45. As I was getting dressed I heard the dining tone so I assumed
that meant it was breakfast time. I hurried down to the cafeteria and
got on line, looking around for Fran but I didn’t see her.
Breakfast was good and filling, consisting of as much scrambled eggs
and toast as you could eat, four strips of bacon, juice and coffee. I
was amazed at how the Kobe-Striploin Corporation could provide all
this and still make a profit. I hadn’t begun to figure it all
I arrived at farm 6
just before 10:00 AM. Everyone else was already working. One of the
men that appeared to be performing maintenance on one of the farm
vehicles looked at me and stopped what he was doing. As I approached
him I asked for the farm foreman.
“Are you the new
guy?” he asked. I nodded and he told me to walk around to the
front of the red barn where I would see an office building. “Go
to the office building and tell them you are just starting and they
will probably show you a safety film.” I thanked him and headed
around to the office building.
As I turned the corner
to walk around to the front of the barn, a woman jumped down from a
vehicle that I assumed was a baler or bale transporter. At that point
I knew next to nothing about farming. The woman stopped and looked
intently at me. I felt an immediate arousal as she pushed her hair
back and smiled. She had blue eyes and light brown hair that came
down to the middle of her back. She had a perfect shape that seemed
to be highlighted by the way the jumpsuit tightened around her
midsection. I waved and said “hello,” just loud enough
for her to hear me. She continued just smiling and looking at me for
a moment and then she climbed up and onto the vehicle and sat behind
The people in the
office seemed friendly and they offered me coffee and led me into a
room where I watched a two-hour farm safety film. I was trying to
focus on the film but I kept thinking that the whole thing was just
too weird. Aside from the 12-hour days, it didn’t seem to be a
horrible life. It certainly didn’t feel like I was a slave. I
was quite sure that the other people never thought of themselves as
slaves. Unfortunately for me, I came from a different time when
people were still free. The fact that the farm was surrounded by
electric barbed wire fencing would always be not too far from my