May 3rd, 2143
“In approximately 7 years, scientists predict the planet’s population will grow past what the Earth as a planet can sustain. Major world organizations, including The Upper Echelon, are said to be meeting later this week to discuss potential policy changes and contingency plans for the possibility of disaster. One man within The Upper Echelon is said to be preparing to propose the most dramatic policy to date on the issue. The results of the meetings will be published next week.”
The roar of the commoners doing their daily business was louder than most days. The thick mud had been trampled down into a sturdy walkway almost as if it hadn’t rained at all the night before. Isaac leaned against a corner store wall smoking a cigarette and sipping on a piping hot cup of coffee. The essentials, purchased with some scrap change that Naomi lent him.
The morning was chilly, but the sun’s rays warmed his skin. This was his morning routine now, as it had been for the last few weeks while he recovered at the clinic during the day. During the night, though, the group would convene to go over their plans. Each week the meetings would be more tense with the anticipation that the moment was drawing nearer. Noah was reluctant to join in on the meetings the first few times, but now he was almost as fierce as Naomi. Almost.
Naomi’s passion for the task at hand was exceptional. She couldn’t get over it, and now neither could Isaac. His fury grew as well. The long, passionate talks about the way the world is fucked up. “Under the table” is a phrase she used to describe the governmental system. A hierarchy that was stacked in the shadows.
The long hours of being hooked up to the tubes in the clinic. All because of a society he never chose to live in.
And even then, leaning up against the same corner store Leech had taken him a month before, he watched the heartbeat of The Byways. Brittle women in heavy boots, just to make it down the street. Fathers pulling their children in sleds behind them, so that they themselves won’t sink in the mud.
All of this lit a spark inside of Isaac that had been growing into a flame. The Byways were his home now, and even though he had only been there a short time he knew no one should have to live like this.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
That night, Isaac and Naomi sat in the clinic awaiting the arrival of the rest of their group. Due to the numerous scanners patrolling the area, Naomi had started to refer to all of the meetings and plans as Daybreak. It must have been her way of justifying the chaos that Daybreak was about to birth onto The Byways.
The clinic door swayed open. It was Noah, and he brought the rain along with him. That night, the water seemed to find any crack in the door and push its way in.
He came in and shook the wet cold off of him and started up some coffee.
“Where are the others?” Naomi hunched over with her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands.
“They should be here soon, I was just ahead of Martha and Jonas.” Noah sat the kettle on the burner. “How are you feeling?” He looked at Isaac.
“All healed up.”
“I meant about the plan.” Noah came and sat down around the wood burning stove. “Are you ready to head back there? To the factory?”
“I’m nervous, but the plan is in place and I want to get as many people out of there as possible.” Isaac sat a can of beans on top of the stove to warm. “I believe in Daybreak. Without it, I’m not really worth anything to this place.”
“You are worth something, Isaac, and you’re showing that by being a part of this.” Naomi placed a hand on Isaac’s shoulder.
He smiled, but an unconfident smile.
The clinic door opened and Martha and Jonas walked in. Martha was in her early thirties, Jonas in his late twenties. Both were what some people called replacement babies. After the Sentinels would take a families baby away every fifteen years, a family would feel empty, thus quickly having replacement babies to fill that void.
Martha took both their raincoats and draped them over a chair by the wood burner to dry. They both gathered around and waited for the last member of the group to arrive. The stove fire crackled and popped. Isaac’s beans sizzled in their juices as he plucked them off of the stove top to eat.
The five of their shadows danced around the room like some sort of ritual. Noah poured coffee and passed it to the group, his shadow eerily jumping around him as the fire flickered.
Naomi sipped on the hot coffee. “One of the last few good things in this shitty world.” She said while giving a little chuckle.
The others agreed, but they were too busy sipping.
The clinic door opened, letting the moonlight break the shadow ritual which was happening in the middle of the room. A man stood in the doorway with a hood over his head. Isaac had only come to know him as The Mole.
Naomi had said that he was a defector from The Upper Echelon, someone that knows the most about their atrocities, next to Isaac. Apparently, he had been in the meetings and had been in the talks when legislation had passed. Now, he was a very different type of board member.
He was an older man, probably mid-forties. One of the few from The UE that had aged, due to his apparent disgust for Intravenous Incubation. Though, he said it wasn’t a fear of needles.
He sat down at the fire, grey eyes glistening and reflecting each spark. His beard was dark brown, but had started to become more grey than even his eyes. And his face had wrinkles. Common in The Byways, but not of someone from the Cloud City.
The Mole refused to give any other identity for fear that he would be found out. He figured if no one knew, then he was that much safer.
“Sorry I’m late.” He slid the hood from his head. “Scanners are out and about in force tonight.”
“We were just having some coffee.” Naomi said, downing the rest of hers. “Let’s get started.” She slid over an empty chair to use as a table.
Naomi was the de facto leader of Daybreak. It was her vision.
“Martha…Jonas…were you guys able to secure a van?” Naomi unfolded a hand drawn atlas sized map of the surrounding area and sat it on the chair in front of her.
“We were able to get one, I’ll just be forever in debt to the old man that owns it.” Jonas said.
“Well, hopefully that won’t matter when this is all over.” Naomi pointed to the map. “Noah, you and Isaac will take the van with Martha and The Mole to the factory. Park it here.”
An outline of the factory was drawn on the map, Naomi wanting the van parked on the back side.
“I’ve scoped it out, scanners don’t usually pass by that side, and Sentinels are only posted inside the factory.”
“You’ll be staying back here, right?” Isaac reaffirmed.
“Correct, me and Jonas will stay here and keep watch while we wait for your return. Once you guys get here, we’ll help unload the bodies and start checking their vitals.”
“Who’s driving the truck?” The Mole asked.
Everyone looked around before The Mole nodded that he would take the driver’s seat.
Daybreak continued to iron out every detail of the plan. Many cups of coffee were drank that night. The fire slowed to a smolder as the sun started to peak over the tops of the alleyways.
“Tomorrow night.” Naomi whispered in a realization this was actually going to happen. “Tomorrow night.”
None of the group said anything. They all came to the same realization. One by one, each member trickled out like the end of a long party. All, except for The Mole.
Isaac, mesmerized by the flickering fire, didn’t notice that the man had pulled up a chair next to him.
“I remember the days when you were either looked down upon or looked up to.” He stoked the fire with a stick. “Now you’re just looked through. But up there, in the Cloud City, up there the people only look inward.”
Isaac just stared into the fire, not knowing what to say.
“It was a beautiful city. Skyscrapers faded into gray clouds. The only proof they didn’t go on forever were the beacons of light illuminating through the fog.” The Mole leaned back in his chair, face towards the ceiling. “The city was built on change, but too much change can be destructive.”
“How long did you live there?” Isaac didn’t remove his stare from the flames.
“I’ve seen him.” The Mole whispered fiercely, not acknowledging Isaac’s question in the slightest. “I’ve seen The Crest.”
“What does he look like?” Turning to face the man.
“Success. A determination so strong, millions of deaths caused by the ink in his pen couldn’t break it.” The man’s breath protruded past his shadowy hood. “Perseverance. A man that had risen through the ranks of the legislative system, the likes of which had never been seen. Not for quite some time.”
His voice was soothing, but dreadful. The moisture in his boots sizzled next to the fire. The wood sizzled as well. The Mole stared at the ceiling, head back, and hands in his coat pockets.
“We have to end this. You need to lead us to The Crest.” Isaac watched the plumes of breath leave the man’s silhouette.
“What the hell do you think I’m here for?” He chuckled at the sound of ignorance.
Isaac leaned back in his chair, seemingly imitating the man. Eyes to the ceiling, boots sizzling, and reflecting on the task that was at hand.