INT. TERUHASHI BULLET TRAIN
The crowded train car, a concoction of expensive perfume and cheap liquor thickening the air. GABRIEL is eyeing through the sea of heads lining the Teruhashi Bullet Train, the fastest and most efficient public transport system the country has ever seen, so efficient that this is the only place in the city where the poor and the rich brush shoulders.
He looks down at his phone and activates JH-REICK, the virtual companion named after engineer Jakob Helmer Reick. Through an earpiece, he hears the AI’s monotone greeting.
Good afternoon, Gabe.
I told you, no nicknames.
Gabriel checks the time at the corner of his screen, scrunching his brows as the number ticks forward.
He said 15:00, right?
Shoving through the passengers buried in their phones, a MYSTERIOUS MAN in a seafoam green trench coat squeezes into the space beside Gabriel on the seat, ignoring the annoyed groans of the other passengers.
Identified. Request 314. Alias:
Søren, has arrived.
Gabriel relaxes his shoulders as SØREN takes out his phone, opening his own JH-REICK. Gabriel watches the man’s screen. ‘AFFIRMATIVE’ flashes in neon green. Søren smiles.
I take it you were briefed by the higher-ups?
If you wanted an amateur, you should’ve asked for one. Confirm Upload.
Gabriel stands up. A confirmation beep rings as the train makes another stop. Pausing in front of the doors, he looks back only to see an empty seat.
INT./EXT. BIZET SUBSTATION - LATE AFTERNOON
Gabriel pockets his phone, shielding his eyes from the afternoon sun. As he climbs the stairs out of the station, he glances back to see if he’s being followed. Nothing. He shakes his head.
Continue down two blocks and turn right towards the slums.
EXT. CITY SLUMS - SHORTLY AFTER
The air is noticeably mustier. Gabriel walks by rows of sickly residents holding their phones out under the flashing, half-broken neon lights. Turning a corner, he sees a holographic tree illuminating the walls dividing the city slums and the palatial broadcasting station.
Artificial life in a place where people come to die… I swear there’s a metaphor in there somewhere…
Clutching his jacket pocket, he quickens his step, making his way towards the station.
INT. BROADCASTING STATION
Glass doors close behind him. Gabriel straightens his clothes and haphazardly runs his hands through his hair.
Keep an eye out for anyone.
I shall try with the lack thereof.
He joins the line of people waiting to pass through the security checks. Under the watchful eye of a SECURITY GUARD, journalists and staff members tap their phones on a screen before placing their belongings on a holo-scanner. Within his sweaty hands, he feels his phone vibrate.
Opening ID code.
Displayed on its screen is a barcode. When he gets his turn, he scans his ID code as he places his jacket on the holo-scanner. BEEP BEEP BEEP. Gabriel’s hands go cold as he turns back towards the guard, a red light flashing on the latter’s face. Gabriel curses to himself. Stone-faced, the security guard silences the alarm with a tap of a keycard.
(rolling his eyes)
Another messenger. You guys come in
by the hour, don’t you?
Wasting no time, Gabriel takes his jacket and secures his gun in its holster before slipping through the crowd, dodging the staff littering the corridors. He glances at the ceilings, careful to avoid the view of the security cameras. He unlocks the door to the stairwell and begins climbing the narrowing steps, skipping two at a time.
Fifth floor, hall to the right.
Broadcasting room is 5-D.
He carefully slips out onto the fifth floor, attempting to steady his breathing as he turns a corner, where a WOMAN in a white suit meets his gaze. Gabriel instinctively tips his head down.
Gabriel swiftly turns left toward the nearest hallway and readies his weapon. He hears the woman yell into her phone as heavy footsteps approach his direction. He fires at the woman, now accompanied by two men in white.
Gabe, the broadcast starts soon.
Numb from the adrenaline, Gabriel runs in the direction of room 5-D, a few bullets grazing his skin along the way.
INT. ROOM 5-D
He quickly locks and barricades the door as soon as he enters the broadcasting room, taking a moment to collect himself before flipping a switch. Rows and columns of screens roar to life along with the lights on the control panels’ knobs and keys.
2101 and we still can’t afford
He takes out his phone, opening Søren’s file. He begins to connect REICK to the system in an attempt to upload the file.
The door starts shaking violently, causing the furniture blocking it to rattle. The woman speaks sternly from the other side.
Looks like they finally got to you, Gabe. That file was meant for me.
And hand over our key to freedom to old imperious Regina?
The doors suddenly stop moving.
“Key to freedom”?
Is that what they call it now? Do you really think something like that exists?
Anything that finally gets us off these phones sounds pretty good to me.
He hears nothing from the other side of the door except the sound of the lock being picked. He turns back to the progress screen.
Truth. Ever heard of what that is, Gabe? Do you believe everything?
That’s ironic, coming from—
Gabriel stumbles to the floor as a burning sensation runs through his leg. Gunshots fired behind the door resound throughout the room. He howls in pain.
96% upload—disconnected. Analyzing wound.
See? The phones aren’t completely useless. They prioritize your life over foolish endeavors.
Gabriel struggles to stand, attempting to restart the upload. More bullets pierce through his ribs and chest. The door bursts open. Regina, now with armed officers, rush into the room. Gabriel collapses, his phone dropping alongside him.
This article is also published in The Benildean Volume 8 Issue No. 2: Reacted.
Regina walks toward Gabriel and picks his phone up. She chuckles as she scrolls through Søren’s file.
This was your saving grace? Disconnecting them from their REICKS? With a broadcasted code?
Gabriel attempts to reply, his voice strained.
Well, I knew you were never one of the smart ones but this is…
Regina kicks him in the stomach before dropping his phone in front of his face, stomping with the heel of her boot. Gabriel’s eyes blur with tears from the pain. Watching the light from his phone die out, he mutters something under his breath. Regina leans in closer to hear.
Could you repeat that? I’ve always been curious as to what the last words of a pathetic, traitorous man could be.
The screens in the broadcasting room turn black. Regina’s head shoots up, her gaze landing on a blinking green light on the control panel.