INTRO: July 30, 2035 Eastern Region
A black SUV tracks slowly up an old mountain pass toward the Neola District. Cold rain occasionally drifts over, filling up potholes and threatening washouts. The driver takes it slow.
Two men, an older gent and a much younger one, sit behind the driver. They are on a mission. What they call a “foray” from their city office into the mountains.
The young man shifts nervously and rubs his legs in an effort to warm them. This is his first foray as an intern.
His mentor, a seasoned agent named Gus, smiles and says, “Don’t worry, Greaves. When we get there, I’ll do all the talking. You just keep the camera going. Alright?”
Shivering under his oversized GEEO-branded wind breaker, Greaves felt underdressed and underprepared. His face paled under his green cadet cap. Is this what being an agent is about? Riding into the back country for hours?
“Did you hear me, Greaves? You just hang back and keep the minicam going? OK?”
“Yes sir.” He went to rubbing warmth into his legs which made him look all the more nervous. Ever since the sky went cloudy, the global temperatures steadily decreased.
Gus offered his sympathy. “You know, I started out with the same jitters on my first foray. But after a while they just get to be routine. I don’t like it when these folks are called retros. They don’t know what they haven’t been taught to know. We’re offering them a whole new way of life.”
A wave of cold rain pinged the roof of the armored vehicle. The driver craned his head around. “We’re five clicks away from the first stop.”
“OK.” Gus gave the young man a pat on the knee. “Get your gear ready. And remember, son. After all, we’re the good guys.”
CLARA SUPRIYA RENICK
Clara Renick drove her hands back into the ever cooling wash water and thanked the Lord this was the last batch of laundry for the week. She stood at the sink with her back to the rest of the kitchen. A window above the sink let in the natural gray light which saved burning precious fuel.
She chanted an old Hindu mantra dedicated to the Source of all light. “Aum, Bhoor Bhuvah Svah Tat . . . Savatur Varenyam . . . “ Her Indian-born mother had passed down their clan’s traditions. The gods, the rituals, and the chants. Rejoicing about radiant light during such dark days stoked her hope and resilience.
When the rain had stopped, her children had begged to be let outside to play. Clara knew they’d get dirty in the muddy yard, but they needed to blow off steam. Blow off steam. That sounded like her Sam’s kind of phrase. She paused scrubbing to look at her hands. Once delicate and soft, now they looked like lobster claws, red, rough, sometimes so cracked from the lye soap, they bled.
Suddenly, chaos erupted outside in the yard. Chip, their dog, began howling in synch with one, maybe two children wailing. She’d just seen them pass by the window chasing each other. Intuitively, Clara knew what was going down out there. She sighed and grabbed a dishtowel. “Not again!”
When she stepped out the back door onto the stoop, Clara called Chip who bounded around the corner to sit at her feet. She patted the old mutt’s head. “If only they minded like you, boy.”
She called out again. “OK, show yourselves. All of you! Now!” Though small in frame and quite thin, Clara could muster a big voice that conveyed serious consequences if ignored.
Katrelle Renick at Nine
One by one they appeared. First came Chase, with mud all up and down his left side, including half his face. He and his twin brother, Jarvis, had garnered the lion’s share of their father’s genes, looking much taller and more brawny than most eleven-year olds.
Clara noticed a swelling around Chase’s right eye along with a bloody nose. He jabbed his thumb over his shoulder, “Ma, it was Katie. She fights dirty! She kicks and scratches and bites! You said–“
“Maaaaa!” Jarvis waddled up as if severely bow legged. Both hands covered his crotch. Tears channeled down his muddied face. “Maaaa. She kicked me in the nads, Ma! It hurts! It hurts!” He started to blubber.
“They got what they bought, Mamma! They’re so mean!” Mud covered the entire front of Katrelle, aka Katie, Renick from head to toe. Her eyes shone white and fierce. She kept her distance and pointed in their direction. “They tried to make me eat mud! Jarvis sat on me and Chase pushed my head into it.”
Clara looked at both boys. “Well?”
Chase replied. “She started it, Ma. She threw mud balls and dared us to catch her. She dared us!”
“So, you let your little nine year old sister goad you into a fight?” Clara regarded Katie and wondered how such a powerful force could be contained in such a small vessel. It had to come from Grandma Supriya. Katie stood head to chest beside her older brothers, yet she rarely lost a fight. Clara often wondered if some great warrior soul, maybe even Kali herself, had chosen to reincarnate in this one.
Katie blurted. “Not so, Chase Renick! You came after me first! I told you–“
“OK! Enough!” Clara raised her hands for emphasis. “Look at you all. What a mess! Go clean up at the pump. You’ll wear those clothes the rest of the day while you do your outside chores.”
Katie (Kat) Age 9
The boys groaned. “But Ma,” Jarvis said, “That well water’s so cold! And we’ll freeze in these muddy clothes!”
Clara wasn’t buying it. She knew that her kids, including Katie, were hardy enough to play all day, even in the rain. “Well, then, you’d best be on your way to wash and get to your jobs. The sooner you’re done, the sooner you can strip down and come in.” She noticed Katie, hands on hips, still standing her ground.
“It’s not fair Mama! They pushed me!”
“Alright! Then, come over here. I have something to tell you.” The boys were turning to leave. “No, you boys stay right there.”
Katie came no closer than an arm’s reach. The mask of mud on her face had begun to dry out and change colors. Clara began. “Alright boys, I don’t care who started it, or who did what to who. What I do care about is keeping the peace in this family. Do you understand?” She looked intently at each child.
The boys dropped their heads. Katie glared at them. “That was a question! Do each of you understand?”
The boys muttered, “Yes, Ma’am”. Katie kept quiet, still seething.
“Katie,” Clara commanded. “Do you understand we need to keep peace among ourselves? That we are all we’ve got? Your father’s gone, our neighbors moved far away, and we have to hold on, together!” Clara’s voice broke. She held on as tears welled, blurring her vision. She felt a small hand gently taking hold of her fingers.
Katie looked up at her, the mud cast face made her dark-eyed gaze most intense. “Momma, I’m sorry. Please don’t cry.” The boys also came close and offered their sincere apologies and placed their hands on her arms and shoulders.
Her heart swelled. After a deep breath, she recovered enough composure to say. “Now, I want you to say to each other that you’re sorry. And mean it!”
Chase slowly turned to Katie. “I’m really–“
The Green Hats
Chip suddenly took off around the house and began frantically barking and howling. They all knew that meant someone had to be coming up the drive.
What timing! Clara thought as she regarded her motley urchins. Anybody they half-knew would likely understand. Widowed with three kids, living off what they could grow or gather. It was tough. Likely not anybody familiar. The very last person they’d known had dropped in months ago to say their goodbyes. Ellis Gable and his family been consigned to live in Progress City.
Odds on, it’d be strangers on some kind of mission. No one would casually slip off the main track to motor up their long and winding driveway all rutted and rocky. Their situation also made them vulnerable. None of this bode well in Clara’s mind.
Naturally, the kids started to dash off to see about the commotion. Clara called out.“Stop! Stop right there! I want you kids to go to the shed and wait. Quietly. We have no idea who’s coming!” Skip’s barking notched up a level. She waved them toward her.
Chase said, “Ma. What if you need help or something?”
Jarvis joined in. “How could we hear you from back in the shed?”
Turning to look behind, Chase exclaimed, “Hey, where’s Katie?”
Understanding their concerns, Clara relented. “Alright, you can stay here behind the house. But you stay until you are called. Got that?” They nodded. “And while you’re waiting, at least wash off your hands and faces.”
“What about Katie?” Jarvis asked. “Is she gonna be in trouble?”
Clara pulled out the proverbial dodge card. “We’ll see.” She shooed them on. “Now you boys go on and get part way clean.” She could now hear the crunch of of tires and an engine rumbling. “Almost here!”
She went around to the front and managed to drag Chip inside the house. He was old but still his size and instinct to protect could present a threat. She saw no sign of Katie.
So many thoughts came as to what she should do. Wait inside? Stand on the porch? Look for Katie?
She decided to stand on the porch and be able to see who was coming.
A gun? Actually, she kept several firearms under lock and key. These were Sam’s guns and likely illegal given all the permits and designations for use. She’d only used the pistol once, to scare off a fox in the chicken yard. Only in dire circumstances, would she consider using such a weapon. And yet.
Clara stepped onto the porch and closed the front door behind her just as the black SUV cleared the tree line. She still wore her apron and had put on a shaw.
She observed the SUV’s windows were tinted. It looked official but there were no insignias. Once stopped, the back doors opened and a man stepped out on either side. One looked middle aged while the other appeared quite young. Both carried some kind of pad. The letters GEEO were clearly displayed on their green cadet style caps and their green jackets. She pretty well knew now what she, and the family, were in for.
Before approaching, the older man shouted. “Is this the home of Samuel Franklin Renick?”
Clara Meets the DoGooders
Clara stepped onto the porch and closed the front door behind her just as the black SUV cleared the tree line. She still wore her apron and had put on a shawl. Chip whined from inside and pawed the door.
The SUV had tinted windows. It looked official, but there were no insignias. Once stopped, the back doors opened and a man stepped out on either side. One looked middle aged. The other appeared quite young. Both carried some kind of pad. The letters GEEO branded their green cadet style caps and their green jackets. She pretty well knew now what she, and the family, were in for.
Before approaching, the older man inquired. “Afternoon, M’am. Is this the home of Samuel Franklin Renick?”
Clara affirmed. “Sam passed away a few years back. The property is now in my name.”
The gent doffed his cap and looked to see his young companion do the same. “I’m so sorry to hear that, Mrs. Renick. We try to keep good records but with all the changes lately, it’s been a challenge.” He offered a smile.
Clara did not smile. “Will you gentlemen please state your business.”
“Pardon us for dropping in like this, M’am. My name is Gus Norton, this is my partner Candler Greaves. We did send out notifications to the town centers and Post Offices. But some folks missed seeing them. So, if you have a few minutes, we’d like to talk with you about this property and go over some paperwork? Can we do that?”
A slight drizzle began to fall. She thought, “Even Green Hats deserve a little hospitality. But they’re not coming in the house.”
“Alright. Since you’ve come this far to talk, I’ll listen.” She beckoned them up to the porch. As they climbed the stairs, she spied a brown-glazed creature flash from the woods to the back of the SUV.
For the Greater Good
They came up the porch steps. The younger man trailed behind a step or two. Gus offered his hand. Clara briefly shook. His hand felt warm and mushy compared to her cold lobster claws. She had placed herself in front of the entry door. “This is laundry day, and the house is a mess. I would have you come inside otherwise.”
Hearing strangers, Chip voiced his displeasure with menacing growls and occasional barks.
Gus eyed the door. “That’s fine m’am. We won’t be long.” The young man, Greaves, awkwardly gave a slight bow instead of a handshake and stood behind his boss.
Gus cleared his throat and began. “Well, Mrs. Renick, again I’m sorry for your loss, and for our records being so out of date. Can I ask you a few questions about your current family status?”
Clara, banged on the door. “Quiet!” Chip settled down to a low key whine. “You may ask as long as I know why you’re asking.
She found her attention diverted by a glimpse of the brown-splattered creature’s head poking from behind the SUV.
The two men facing her remained unaware, though Gus did say. “Ma’m you needn’t worry about this visit. Or our driver. He drives us around just cause he knows how to handle such a big fuel burner.”
“Well, basically, we’ve come on behalf of the Global Environmental Ethics Organization to notify you that this tract of land is about to be annexed into the regional Wild Lands system. We’re reaching out to the affected communities with very substantial offers of compensation. And, most importantly, we are offering the prospect of you and your family becoming certified citizens of Progress City. You’ll have work, education, healthcare, and housing all provided. We can begin processing today, as soon as you sign a few papers. If you have–”
Clara swept her hand to interrupt. “And what happens if I don’t accept the offer?”
The Greater Good
“Well,” Gus drawled, “That gets pretty complicated, M’am, cause after the annexation, you don’t own the land or any of its improvements. We always encourage folks to consider the benefits versus the potential hardships.”
Clara could feel the rush of blood and frenzied anger. “What hardships do you mean?”
“The expense of hiring representatives for an appeal, paying rent, loss of any compensations. That sort of thing. But, Mrs. Renick please know we truly want to help you and help the earth thrive. It’s all about sustainability. Think of your children and their circumstances being vastly improved.”
She drew in a deep breath. “Gentlemen, I am going to ask you one time. Will you please get off my land? This land that has been in my husband’s family for six generations. We have owned it free and clear. This is our home. It may not look like much but it is ours and we love it.”
Gus turned to Greaves. “Candler, will you pass me the hard copies?” They’d rehearsed this possible scenario.
“I’m disappointed we cannot process this matter today, Mrs. Renick. I understand your attachment.” He took a folder from Greaves and handed it toward Clara who folded her arms and refused to take it.
Gus bent over and placed the documents at her feet. He raised up, replaced his cap, and said,”Mrs. Renick, you have now been officially served. I do hope you reconsider, M’am. It’s what’s best for all concerned. Good day.”
The men turned, descended the stairs, and headed toward their vehicle. On cue, the engine fired up. Gus had about reached his door when startled by the appearance of a feral, mud-covered aborigine.
Mouth of Babes
It spoke in a child’s voice. “Mister, you come from the city?”
Gus, felt slightly relieved knowing he was dealing with a curious child. “Hey there, what’s your name?”
“Katie. So are you from the city?” She persisted.
“Well, hi Katie. Yes we are from Progress City. Why do you ask?”
She pointed. “This rear tire is going flat”.
He looked to see the tire had indeed lost some air. “Oh, that’s not so bad. We’ll have the shop in Red Hill check it out.”
“If you make it that far. Ask them about your timing too. Your valves are clicking. If your engine light’s not on now it will be.”
Gus could not reconcile the wild child’s appearance with the fount of information she offered. “Tell me, Katie, where did you learn so much about gas burners?”
“Katie! Come up hear this instant!” Her mother called from the porch.
She regarded Gus as if he’d asked the dumbest question in the world. “I read!” She patted the SUV with her muddy hands. “Classic retrofit. GMC forty seven hundred, 8 cylinder, hi-torque, likely the last of the series. What they call a guzzler.“
“ OK, Mama. Coming!” She turned and dashed up the hill.
The SUV had begun tracking down the mountain. Gus finished tabbing on his desk pad and then looked at Greaves. “So, what did you think?”
“Is it always like this? Where the people are not so receptive?”
“Actually, this visit went very well compared to others. I’ve been chased by dogs, shot at, even threatened with being tarred and feathered. This Renick woman was about as hospitable as they come.”
“Oh.” Candler responded as he processed. He didn’t quite get the tar and feather thing but it reminded him of something else. “That little girl, uhhh. Katie. Unusual sort. She seemed to know a lot about mechanics.”
“After dozens and dozens of forays it stumps me how they can live in such fifth and poverty. I’ve seen all kinds. That poor child knows just enough to sound smart.”
“So, what’s gonna happen to them?”
“Well, one way or another, they’ll come around. Let’s just allow –“
The driver broke in. “Sir, the check engine light just came on. The low tire pressure warning too.”
A clatter arose from the engine compartment. Gus spoke over the noise. “Keep going, Sherman. We’ll stop off in Red Hill.” Then looking over at Greaves, he asked, “Did you get everything on the minicam? Including that little girl?”
Candler swept the video scrub bar on his desk pad. “It’s all there, sir.”
Gus nodded. “You did good today, son. I can tell, you’ve got what it takes to make a fine agent.”
The vintage GMC 4700 rolled into the Red Hill motor pool lot with a flat rear tire and its V8 rattling and occasionally misfiring.
While the driver went to find a mechanic, his passengers waited in the back. Gus looked at the list of names on his desk pad and highlighted “Katrelle Renick, Age 9” . “Y’know , Greaves. We may have just discovered a little diamond in the coal mine.”
End of Chapter
As the Renicks entered the “Gate House”, a greeter ushered them to a line marked “Q-T”. It felt good to be out of the cold. A pretty young lady, dressed in a Kelly green frock, approached them with a tray. “Welcome to Progress City! Would you care for some organic hot spiced apple cider?”
The aroma of cinnamon and apple wafted toward them and they all accepted.
“Ma!” Katie exclaimed after a sip. ”This is the best ever!” In ten seconds, she’d drained the contents. Clara watched, knowing the next question. Katie held up the empty cup. “Is there more?”
From their inner city office, Gus and Greaves watched the closed circuit monitors as their recruits came into line. Greaves pointed to one of the screens. “There she is. Along with the family.”
Gus squinted, “Oh, yeah. Good eye Greaves! You see, it takes a while, but they usually come around. Without the mud mask, that Katie looks even more like a good candidate.”
They watched the Renick family pass behind the screen for their vaccinations and tagging. “We’ll let them get through the intake. Once they’re settled in their quarters, and after orientation, we can deliver the job assignments.”
Greaves looked at the list of names and assignments on his desk pad. “How do you think they’ll take to being separated?”
Gus grinned at his young sidekick. “Always the sensitive worrier, Greaves. Sure, they’ll make a stir, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. Once they get how much better it is here, they’ll adjust. Besides, once the forms are processed and they’ve been tagged, where else are they gonna go?”
Note skipped Day 13 for notes on character development.
Five years earlier (2025)
Drone cam skims water to city on horizon. Closes on NYC skyline. UN Building appears front and center.
Drone cam elevates and passes UN flagpoles and follows pedestrians into building, down corridor to meeting room.
Pass through walls as voices are heard coming from group of men and women circled near podium.
Camera approaches podium passing one seated individual. Room empty otherwise.
Image on screen behind group: planet earth encircled by dozens of satellites.
Tall dark-haired woman in elegant sari, gold bangles and jewelry. (Jeanetter Falime)
“Sir Henry. I agree we need to approach this proposal with all due caution, but time is of the essence.”
Elderly man standing opposite Falime, Sir Henry Blakemore (Nobel Scientist). “Correct, Madame Falime. We must also consider the practicality and expense of such a broad-range dispersal. Until we have the bulk of countries onboard with the sense of urgency and need for all but the poorest to contribute, I’m afraid this project is dead in the water.”
Third gentleman dressed in a kaftan, Anil Suzmann. “I would tend to agree with Sir Henry. The Harvard team certainly offers a wide ranging solution to the issue. They may indeed be onto finding the global solution to our issues. Imagine being able to take charge of our weather patterns on a global scale. My one concern, apart from what has already been stated, would be how it might be weaponized. And, who would be in control.”
A bespectacled little man, Dr. Kirkin Mohn, speaks. “If I may, we at the Harvard Institute are quite aware of the tactical implications and would, of course, cede the technology over to the World Council and the GEEO.”
The ranking member (Undersecretary Han Chin) raises both hands, saying. “So, it appears, we are mostly in accord, that the project is quite compelling but ,due to the obvious constraints of cooperation and financing, we may authorize more research but table any implementation for the time being.”
All but Dr. Mohn, nod in agreement.
You can learn more about the iCreateDaily 30 Day Challenges, here.