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Sep 17th, 2013
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  1. Citizen-Chip
  2. 1500450271
  3. 3267000013
  5. The military had turned on the area lights around the apartment complex, probably for a raid. But it meant that citizen 1500450271, Shinobu as his parents had named him, didn’t have to dress himself in the darkness. The steely light that was reflecting off the concrete put his clothes in a dull grey. The light was nice, but he had grown accustomed to prepping himself in darkness rather than paying for light.
  6. Standardized boots, standardized pants, and standardized jacket with his identification stitched directly above where it was tattooed to his breast. He couldn’t feel it, but he knew that his citizen-chip was still embedded just below his skin. Because he worked in a military factory he was allowed to cover his chest to protect his citizen-chip from accidents. If he were ever stopped, he would be legally forced to strip so they could scan him. He was just thankful that his position would give them pause.
  7. His uncle stirred from sleep as he zipped his jacket up to his neck. A coughing fit took him as he pushed himself to a seated position. “Is your sister back?” he asked. Shinobu paused in checking his utility belt to watch his uncle wipe the blood from his chin. The TB was getting worse every day. Soon there would only be Shinobu and his sister living in their apartment.
  8. “No uncle, she hasn’t returned from the food lines yet. She left before I awoke, so I do not when she will return. I hope it is soon.” Outside their apartment he could hear people running about, the rumble of armored trucks, and the constant thrum of wind turbines, but no one seemed to be approaching. Her footsteps were quiet, and he hoped he just didn’t hear her, but he doubted it. He would likely have to skip his meal again.
  9. “I know it is hard on you Shinobu, but you will have to endure. If your worthless sister is late again, you cannot risk your position in the factory,” his uncle said before he started to cough more.
  10. “She’s not worthless.”
  11. “She’s a whore for scum and doesn’t even get paid. If she weren’t blood I would throw her out myself.”
  12. Shinobu took a deep breath and double checked his attire to make sure nothing was astray. His tool belt was the most important to check because he was supposed to leave it at the factory, but they needed it for repairs so he had to make sure nothing ever went missing.
  13. “I need some credits, I’m out. What do you have to spare?” his uncle asked as he watched the metallic area lights fade in the growing sunlight.
  14. “I don’t have anything to spare, our utilities are almost out. It would be stupid for you to waste them,” Shinobu said as glanced out of the corner of his eye at his uncle.
  15. “Waste? You shut your mouth. I need the credits and damned if I didn’t earn them.”
  16. “You haven’t worked in years. I earned all of these credits.”
  17. “That’s because I got sick.”
  18. Shinobu tore the door open and glared. “You were unemployed for two years before you got sick.”
  19. “Brother!” His sister, Shiori, was standing on the other side of the door. She was clutching their three loaves of bread to her painted chest. Shinobu scowled as he noted several new designs and scribbles had been scrawled across her body.
  20. “Get to your work nephew, get to your work. We’ll take care of the utilities when you return,” his uncle said as Shinobu closed the door behind himself.
  21. “Do you not sleep?” he asked as he took his food from her.
  22. She looked down at her feet as she mumbled. “It’s safer to move at night, less soldiers.” The neon glare of the paint cover her body was enough to strain his eyes in the dingy hall. She was the only source of color in the mute complex. She stuck out, she didn’t blend, she didn’t keep her head down, she made herself a target, and it was just a matter of time until it caught up with her.
  23. “If you stay up all night, then how does it take you this long to get food? You should be the first in line and I’d actually be able to eat before leaving,” he said as he tore the loaf into bits. He scowled as he tried to catch the crumbs but failed. His hands were shaking too much. He took a deep breath and steadied his hands before continuing.
  24. “The people who get there first have watches. I have to gauge by the sun and there’s no way I’m just going to spend all night there,” she said as Shinobu consumed his meal. A moment later it was gone and hunger still clawed at him.
  25. “Well, find a way to get there on time. I need to eat.”
  26. “I know brother.”
  27. “You’re the one who should go without food. I’m the one who pays for it.”
  28. “I know.”
  29. “So cut this out, or get a job,” he said as he glared down at her.
  30. “You should go now.”
  31. Shinobu shook his head and looked down the hall. “Sorry.” He turned on his heels and began walking away without saying any more. He picked up his pace as he approached the exposed stairwell overlooking the sprawl beneath. There was a thin and rusting chain link fence covering the sides rather than concrete. The winds down the halls could grow incredibly strong, but the turbines at the far side were designed for them.
  32. Snow was covering the steps again. The countless foot tracks had melted the snow and left it a muddy slush. The high atmosphere was turning pink with the sunlight fighting through the area lights, the rays peering above the Himalayans. The photovoltaic cells covering the roof tops around him were catching their luminescence throught he clouds of steam. He didn’t have time to stop and look, but made a point of watching the shifting colors as he descended. He tried not to watch the military convoy gathering in the street below him.
  33. As he stepped out of the stairwell, a squad of soldiers were rushing out of their trucks. Shinobu slipped down an alley before they grabbed him. As he climbed over one of the massive, semi-super conducting cables, he could hear the soldiers ordering. “Assemble along the wall. There have been reports of infected individuals in this sector. Obscuring your citizen-chip is punishable by death.”
  34. “Hey, give us a fucking break,” someone said before the crash of a water cannon overwhelmed him. Shinobu peaked around the corner of a small transformer building to see the lineup. A good number of people were corralled by the soldiers and doing their best to shrink into the walls behind them. In the center was a young man about his age, soaking wet and dripping paint to the ground.
  35. “If you continue to resist you will be imprisoned and put to work clearing the K-3 Pass,” the commanding soldier said as another walked down the line making quick inspections.
  36. “You took my brother there and worked him to death you bastards!” the civilian shouted as he pushed forward. He swung out his fist, trying to hit the gas mask of the commanding soldier. The soldier caught his arm, twisted, and toppled him to the ground. Shinobu pulled back so he didn’t have to watch the soldier execute the assailant.
  37. Just as the gunshot ended the man’s life, Shinobu bumped into someone running down the alley and nearly fell. The man cursed and shouted something at him as he pushed past to see the lineup. The man was covered in paint similar to Shiori’s, and started digging through his satchel before his hands slowed and the man just stared.
  38. One of the soldiers was standing above the corpse, noting it on a clipboard. All of the soldier’s faces were obscured by their gas masks, but none of them seem fazed. Shinobu slinked away as the painted man swore and punched the wall till his hand bled.
  39. He wound through the alleys between hovels and storage buildings till he was on the very brink of Sector 91 and could see the blaze of the rising sun. He was already far too late for his work and couldn’t spare a moment to watch the last shred of natural beauty in the world, so he had to start running along the cliff edge.
  40. Halfway to the factory, down at the bottom of the cliff where they were constructing the K-3 Pass, he saw a quick swarm of bodies. They came from the shadows and clustered around a man who had fallen. The body was broken but Shinobu could hear him scream in pain. Before any of the overseers could move on the fallen man, the cloaked people scattered, and left the dying man bloody. It was common in the K-3 Pass; when your life became useless your body was scavenged for parts.
  41. That was how his father had gone. It still pained him to see, but there was nothing he could do about it; it happened every day. A moment later his mind was cleared and he was at the back of the line to scan into the factory. As he neared the chip scanner Overseer Chopra marched over to him. “You’re running late.”
  42. “I’m sorry sir,” Shinobu said as he looked at the clock to count just how much time he had left, a full ten minutes. The high efficiency fluorescent bulbs were flickering again. They seemed to be off more than on today. The flickering had caused three seizures in the past few weeks, but at least they were finally doing something about it.
  43. “This is a bad habit you’re forming. If you don’t meet your quota I can’t guarantee you will keep your position,” Overseer Chopra said as Shinobu opened his jacket and pressed his chest against the scanner. The machine changed its light to green and chirped as it displayed his information and logged him. “And make sure you report any mechanical failures. Muhammad nearly destroyed his station yesterday. May he recover swiftly.”
  44. “Of course sir. I’ll get to work immediately.” Shinobu watched out of the corner of his downcast eyes as a half dozen repair men milled about smoking cigarettes. The flickering didn’t seem to bother them even though they were supposed to be fixing it.
  45. “No, not there. I’m moving you for today. You’re taking over for Muhammad, right before the quality check,” Overseer Chopra said as he grabbed Shinobu’s shoulder and turned him to his new station.
  46. Shinobu stared for a moment and collected his words. “Muhammad was higher ranked than I am. All I did was adhere the straps to the masks.”
  47. “Well now you have to epoxy the radio chips to the inside. Tetsuo will be checking your work, you’ll learn quick enough,” Overseer Chopra said as he pulled his pack of cigarettes out and walked away. “Your pay will be increased accordingly until Muhammad recovers, maybe you’ll keep the position.”
  48. Shinobu stepped forward and looked at his new station. “Thank you sir!”
  49. “Get to work dumbass, we both have quotas to fill,” the man to his right said as he breathed smoke into the air. “You have a bucket of parts next to you. Weld the chip in place and glue the mic. The more you fuck up the less I get paid, so do it right. My nine hours started already, get going.”
  50. Shinobu nodded and pressed the machine’s scanner to his chest to power the epoxy gun. His coworkers had already started their machines and the grinding of steel and the sparking of electricity grew and filled the factory as he took stock of his station. He was the last stop on the line before quality control and was already causing a backup in the line, so he zipped up his jacket and got to work.
  51. Starting with the metal frame, SMARTglass was placed, the air filter was fitted, the rubber seal was attached, the straps secured, it was dipped in acetone, and finally passed to him to attach the communications. His quota was the same as everyone else, eight hundred masks a day. All in all, this one factory produced almost every gasmask for the entire Asiatic Armed Forces. But there was one secret that every one of them had to keep.
  52. Hours passed as he quickly adjusted to the pace of his work. Tetsuo had to correct him in the beginning, but had grown silent since. Out of the corner of his eye Shinobu kept tabs on the niner, the only worker who didn’t have a quota. Tetsuo checked the glue, the fit of the SMARTglass, the strength of the straps, for imperfections in the prefabrication, the reception of the communications, checked everything but the air filter. Not once did he ever bother checking the charcoal air filter.
  53. “What the hell are you looking at? You’re going to hurt yourself,” Tetsuo said as he lit another cigarette. “My shift is over, so you’ll be on your own and I don’t want you keeling over as well.”
  54. Shinobu abruptly turned away and muttered an explanation as a repairman shouted something. The lights throughout the factory cut off. He looked up at the man hanging above the assembly line, working on the lights. He was shouting at him as electricity sparked through the air. A cable had broken and was swinging down at him, and struck him in the chest before he could react.
  55. Not much current, just enough to light part of the factory, but it flowed straight through his chest. Pain filled his senses for a moment before the power was cut and he dropped to the ground. Time grew hazy as Tetsuo ran over to him and began chest compressions. The people around him, those who could, were rushing to help. Tetsuo pulled away and was replaced by Overseer Chopra. Everyone jumped away the moment before more pain crushed his chest.
  56. Shinobu convulsed as his sense snapped back and his heart raced. “You’re fucking lucky,” Overseer Chopra said as he rocked back and sat on his heels. He let the defibrillator clatter to the ground and exhaled. Shinobu groaned and clutched his burned chest. His eyes shot open as Tetsuo muttered. “Oh shit.”
  57. Shinobu unzipped his jacket and tore it open to look at his breast. Where there was supposed to be his identification tattoo, there was only burns. “Get up, get up get up,” Overseer Chopra commanded as he pulled Shinobu to his feet and shoved him against the nearest scanner machine. The light turned red, error. He tried again, and got the same result. The third time, it failed but displayed ‘Card read error. Check your citizen-chip’.
  58. “You’re dead kid. The military will come to collect your corpse soon,” Overseer Chopra said as he stepped back and scratched his chin.
  59. “No, no. No, there has to be something,” Shinobu pleaded as he scanned himself again and again.
  60. “It’s the law. Your citizen-chip has been destroyed and so has your identification tattoo. Your identity can no longer be proven. They can’t make exceptions or there could be another outbreak,” Overseer Chopra said as he walked over and powered down the machine. “I’m sorry.”
  61. “Take my jacket and get out of here,” Tetsuo said as he handed Shinobu his jacket. As he looked at the offer, Tetsuo continued, “They can’t track you, go say your goodbyes.”
  62. “Aiding me is punishable by death,” Shinobu said as he removed his own jacket. Tetsuo and Overseer Chopra both had their faces contorted in thought and worry. They looked at him, but saw only a problem, not a man. An emptiness began to gnaw at him as he watched their examination of him.
  63. “What are you talking about? You stole this from me,” Tetsuo said as he ripped the burnt jacket away and tossed it onto the assembly line.
  64. “Get out of here Shinobu, the military will have been alerted about your chip dying by now,” Overseer Chopra said as he ushered him to the back entrance. Shinobu stumbled along as he zipped Tetsuo’s jacket around himself. At the door he took a look through the factory at his coworkers, but no one would look at him. Outside he could hear the military trucks rolling up to the factory to collect him. “We’ll buy you time, so get out of here or we’ll all be fucked,” Overseer Chopra said as he shoved Shinobu out into the snow and slammed the door behind him.
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